I love lists. They keep things simple and bring order to the universe. Today I've decided to share my list for on-page optimization.
☐ The mission
Why is this page/post being created? I'm hoping it's not because it's Monday, and the boss wants to see a new post go online every Monday morning.
Who is in the target audience the content is being written for? Is there a specific buyer persona you are writing for?
How will this page be promoted after it goes live? Does it deliver a welcome and brilliant solution for the pain point expressed in an online community or in social conversations?
Upon review of the page/post mission, does this article deliver truly useful information for the target reader? Is the content uniquely valuable, or just a regurgitated version of the same tired information potential they can read anywhere?
Have you included a call to action so visitors can fulfill their part in your article's mission?
☐ The title
The title you give your page is extremely important. It should include your primary keyword search phrase for the article so that search engines can index it correctly. If it doesn't hinder you from creating a captivating headline, you may also want to include a secondary keyword.
It needs to intrigue the person scrolling rapidly through search results or their social media stream. A well ranked page in Google still won't get any visits if the content looks boring.
Your title should be unique. No other page or post on your site should have the same name. It's a good idea to Google the title to see if it's already in heavy use. If so, you'll want to tweak it so it stands out from the crowd.
If your site's template does not use tags for titles, this is something you may want updated in the style sheet. Titles should not exceed 70 characters in length.
☐ Meta description
It is generally held in the SEO community that descriptions do not affect Google rankings directly, but they do influence the number of clicks search results receive.
This is the ad copy for your new page. It must intrigue the reader and leave them wanting to read the rest. You will want to keep these between 150 and 160 characters. Your primary keyword phrase should definitely be in there. Try to include a secondary keyword.
If your content presents a secondary keyword phrase, a subtitle is a good way to include them in tags.
☐ The meat of the article
Your primary and secondary keywords should appear in prominent positions in the content as well. A good placement for the primary would be in the first sentence of the article, supporting the title above. The secondary is often placed in the first sentence below a subtitle including that keyword. Light use in other paragraphs with variation is good, but I would avoid stuffing your content with keywords.
☐ Photos and video
Adding a photo to the page adds interest and gives you another place to include your primary and perhaps secondary keywords in the filename(s) and ALT description tag(s).
If you are including video, placing an embed code snippet to display an externally hosted clip, from YouTube or Vimeo, is a missed opportunity. Displaying a video file that resides on your server allows you to include keywords in the filename. You will also want to consider including a text transcript. If including the transcript in the page detracts from the flow of your article, a “Read Transcript” button that opens a modal window above the page is an elegant solution for readers and search engines alike, providing the code you use includes the transcript text in the page source code.
☐ Schema markup
Schema.org is a collaborated effort by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! to improve the internet by developing a structured data markup system recognized and supported by the major search engines.
On-page markup gives search engines a better chance of understanding the information on your web pages to deliver richer results through the use of the schema.org vocabulary and microdata. If you have on-page Schema markup language implemented on your pages your chances of being found for relevant information improve.
☐ User experience (UX)
Does your new article provide attractive visuals that support the text, in a simple, clutter-free design that's easy to use and enjoy?
If you're a blogger that puts affiliate banners or AdWords panels embedded right in the content you may want to rethink your strategy. They don't convert nearly as well as textual recommendations made by an author considered to be an authority on the subject, and they can drive visitors away forever. People arrive at your site's article pages and blog posts, expecting the information promised. So give them what they came for without making them wade through annoying advertising. A good rule of thumb is to keep product and service marketing pages separate from article information.
☐ Responsive design
It's important that your content looks great on multiple platforms and in all popular devices, screen resolutions and browsers.
Do you have buttons in close proximity to the content that make it easy for visitors to share your new content in their favorite networks, providing social proof of its value?
Does your site have an internal linking or tagging scheme that makes the new article easy for search engine crawlers to find? Have you added it to the sitemap.xml file or set up software to do this automatically when it goes live?
☐ Canonical URL
The first thing we check when working on new client websites is canonicalization. We don't want Google detecting duplicate versions of any page on a site. By definition, a canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content. For any page you're optimizing, there should be only one URL for search engines to pick up while spidering.
If you have never checked this for the site or page you're working on you can test for a canonical URL by entering the page address both ways: domainname.com/my-new-page.html and www.domainname.com/my-new-page.html. If everything is set up right, one of those URLs should resolve to the other.
☐ Duplicate content check
It's a very good idea to enter the new article URL in Copyscape. If your content is flagged as containing duplicate portions of something already out there you'll want to put your editor's hat on and make some revisions.
Are there any on-page optimizations you include that you believe have helped increase search engine rankings?