The Ultimate On Page SEO Checklist For 2020 To Increase Rankings

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel Now –>

Below are the 27 ranking factors you need to pay the closest attention to for on page SEO in 2020.

All of these factors either:

  • Directly influence your page
  • Impact a factor that does affect your page

I’ve left out anything you could consider not actionable, or outside of your control.

At the end of the list, you’ll find the five most important on page factors to get your website ranking highly in the search results, but here’s a quick preview:

27 On-Page SEO Ranking Factors

Let’s get started on improving your on page SEO

01: Your Primary Keyword At The Start Of Your Title Tag

Putting your target keyword at the start of your title tag helps you gain favour in search engines:

keyword at start of title tag example

 This is widely considered as one of the most important on-page factors.

Why?

Because it allows search engines to see what the main topic is going to be about, within the first few milliseconds of crawling your new page.

If you worried that you may not have the best page titles to send to your audience…

You can use Yoast to help you set up different title tags for readers and search engines to get the best value propositions. Make sure this factor is part of your content marketing process.

02: Your Page Title In H1 Tags

“<H1>” tags ensure that your keyword-rich title is crawled effectively by Google.

Google crawlers look for what is contained within HTML.

When the title isn’t inside these tags, it can be overlooked.

You don’t want that to happen.

WordPress websites should do this for you, but see if your theme is compatible. If you’re using another platform you’ll have to do this manually.

So in order to format this title tag:

h1 example

You’d add it into your blog posts code editing area and add the “<H1>” heading tags.

That should look like this:

h1 title code

You can learn more about heading tags over in this guide from W3Schools.

03: Include Primary Keyword In Your URL

A Google roundtable session in 2016 revealed…

 Having your primary keyword in your URL is a ranking factor.

Although it’s considered a “very small” ranking factor, I’d consider it part of your SEO best practices to add your primary keyword to all of your pages URLs from now on.

You can see that I do this for all of my URLs:

keyword in url

Keep in mind, every little helps when you’re trying to get to the top.

04: Length Of URL

The shorter and clearer your content’s URL structure is the more favourable it is to search engines.

Why?

This is useful to a search engines crawlers because…

  • It adds clarity to your page
  • It requires less time to crawl through your site map

length of url

You’ll also see a benefit to your users because it’s easy to remember.

05: Target Keyword In Your Meta Description

Your meta description tag is a factor Google pays attention to.

keyword in meta description
 
Optimising your meta description to:

  • Give an honest overview of what your page is about
  • Include your primary keyword

…Can help you boost your page’s overall rankings.

So pay attention to your meta descriptions and ensure your primary keyword is optimised!

Note: You can also use structured data schema markups to get your result to stand out from the crowd. Schema markup will, where appropriate, give your result more info such as star rating, pricing, stock availability and review stars.

06: User Experience Focused Content Structure

As part of your content strategy, your website content should be focused on user experience.

This means your blog content layout and formatting should allow someone to quickly and easily navigate their way through your content to find the answer to their query.

Factors which influence a users experience are:

  • Clear headings and subheadings
  • Visuals like images or visuals
  • Breaking your body text up into paragraphs
  • Using bullet points and text boxes

You should then aim to create a layout for your content that is easy to read and navigate.

Help users find the answer to their question as quickly and obstruction-free as possible.

Take a look at the image below:

user experience focused content

You can see my content contains…

  • Lots of white space
  • Easy to read headings
  • Bullet points
  • Images
  • Links

This will make sure the content easy on the eye and easy for a reader to work their way through.

As you saw in the What Is On-Page SEO? section

earlier.

Your user’s experience is one of the major focuses of on-page SEO.

07: Unique Content

Search engines work hard to reduce the amount of duplicate content in their results. This ensures the same content can’t rank for the same primary keyword twice.

If it detects the exact same content is being used on multiple sites, blog posts, category pages and a product page…

Only one of those pages containing the content will rank for it.

 It’s impossible to predict which one.

avoid duplicate content

You need as little duplicate content on your site as possible to avoid keyword cannibalization issues.

(Where your site turns cannibal and eats its own rankings, in essence)

And as Rand Fishkin points out over on Moz

It shouldn’t just be unique…  It should add unique value.

For example if your content is teaching people how to cook rice, it should show them a new way to cook rice and not the way every other blog post on the internet is showing them.

08: Content Reading Level

Google used to tag content as:

  • Basic
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

…based on its reading level.

From a copywriting point of view, a lower reading level as close to basic as possible is advised for most websites. This will make sure your content is accessible to the most amount of people.

Download Here

But depending on your niche this could change.

A scientific journal would be expected to have a higher reading level than other sites. The same goes for a broadsheet newspaper and a tabloid newspaper.

Now it used to be that Google allowed us to get a break down of our reading level-

content reading level

That was removed as an option but it does mean that it’s something Google is paying attention to.

You can use the Rank Math (see my Rank Math review) or Yoast SEO plugins to get a look at your reading level now-

readability score

And irrespective of whether this is an active ranking factor or not – it’s a deciding factor for your visitors which have a direct impact on your rankings like dwell time or bounce rates.

09: Primary Keyword In First 50 to 100 Words

From an SEO standpoint, the sooner your target keyword appears in your content…

The sooner a search engine’s crawlers can determine what your content is about.

keyword usage example

Many new SEO copywriters and bloggers forget about this…

They put the primary keyword right near the end of their introduction or even later in their blog post.

Be sure to check before you publish your blog content, if it’s within in the first 50 to 100 words.

10: Subheadings In H2 Tags

Using header tags for your subheadings allows search engines to build a clear picture of your page, and the sub-topics you’ve written about.

headings for seo

Not only does this add structure to your web page for search engines, but all of your human visitors will also love it as well.

11: LSI Keywords In Content

LSI Keywords help give context to your content which basically just means words and phrases that are related to the topic you’re talking about.

There is much debate about whether they are still useful or not but they are still baked into my processes as I write this.

Let’s say you’re targeting “Podcast Microphones”. Your LSI keyword phrases may be:

  • Best podcast microphone
  • Podcast microphone setup
  • Cheap podcast microphone
  • The Blue Yeti microphone

Sprinkling these LSI keyword variations throughout your content will make sure it feels more relevant.

Which may also give you a boost of website traffic from other related keywords.

12: Synonym Rich Content

It’s possible for web pages to rank for primary keywords that aren’t even used on their page.

This is a byproduct of “Semantic Search”.

 This is where a page ranks for a synonym of the main topic of the page.

This often happens for topics which are closely related to each other or which have different dialectical sayings or spellings.

For example…

“Hoover” and “Vacuum Cleaner” are two words that relate to the same topic. But Google could choose to rank a piece of content focused on Hoovers to also rank for Vacuum cleaner terms.

synonym rich content

Performing keyword research, finding primary keywords with an achievable keyword difficulty and search volume that can then be optimised for synonyms can help you gain more traffic through multiple keyword use.

13: Keyword Order

The order a keyword is searched for and where it appears on your page affects rankings.

People often use variations of a search term although they have the same user intent.

So it’s important to cover your bases.

Let me give you an example:

A group of people are looking to buy the book – Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. If four people search for it, they may use the target keywords in any of these four forms:

  • Tribe of mentors tim ferriss
  • Tim ferriss tribe of mentors
  • Tribe of mentors by tim ferriss
  • Tim ferriss tribe mentors

Despite the fact they all want the same thing…

 This word order can affect where you show up in a search ranking.

Especially in a highly competitive niche.

To combat this you should contain a mixture of keywords with a good keyword density throughout your content to ensure you maximise the reach of your optimized page.

14: Use Of Outbound Links

Outbound links can help search engines determine the overall value of your content.

Citations, quotes and links back to research articles & case studies about the topic you’re discussing help add authority to your page and show you’re trying to add value.

Make sure you use a relevant anchor text and pay attention to the dofollow and nofollow tag (check source code).

Note: Place links to trusted authority sites in your niche.

15: Internal Linking

Internal link building is one of the most under utilised strategies in SEO, but it’s something you should pay attention to.

Internal links are links from one page on your site, to another relevant page on your site. You should use a range of anchor text.

Take a look at this example from my what are keywords page-

internal linking example

When I wrote a section about how keywords signal search intent, it made sense to link to my types of keywords page.

This adds extra value to the reader because it gives them an extra resource to read.

But it does something else too.

It helps make my site much easier for crawlers by giving a new access point to another part of my site.

And if that page has some good link juice, it makes sense to share that power between pages.

increase your search traffic

16: Working Links

Make sure that all of the external & internal links across your site are working and not leading to 404 pages.

Not only does this waste link juice, but it also does serious damage to the experience your users get, which has a knock-on effect on many other metrics.

17: Optimised Image Alt Tags

Images aren’t just about web design, alt tags help Google to interpret the images on your page.

Because image crawlers can’t identify every image with 100% accuracy, it’s better to help them figure out by adding tags to your images.

Take the below image as an example:

optimised image alt tags

Most website image uploaders would give this image a default alt tag like:

IMG_DIGI_0435678430.jpg

But this is hard for a crawler to understand.

Instead it’s better to use descriptive alt text to explain what the image is. Such as:

  • My personal workspace
  • Macbook and coffee cup
  • Old wooden table with modern laptop

You get the picture. (Literally.)

These tags can also contain target keywords to help add relevance to your page.

You can sprinkle them throughout the images on your page but don’t stuff them.

18: Mobile Responsive Website

In 2015 Google began to penalise sites which aren’t mobile friendly.

Meaning if your site doesn’t format on a mobile device, you’ll struggle to rank highly.

This was compounded further by the rollout of mobile first indexing in 2018.

mobile responsive website

You can check if your site is mobile friendly by using this mobile friendly test tool.

19: Fast Site Speed

In 2010 Google announced it would use website speed as an official ranking factor.

take site speed seriously

 A slow website can cost you both rankings and money in the long term.

It’s a factor you should be taking seriously because it’s in your full control and you can usually increase your websites speed significantly in a couple of hours.

20: HTTPS Security

In 2014 Google announced websites with HTTPS encryption would be given priority.

And that this signal may get stronger over time.

If your website isn’t HTTPS yet, now is the time to switch.

21: Length Of Dwell Time

Dwell Time is the amount of time someone spends on your page consuming your content after finding you through search results.

Let’s say I want to check the Google search results for “How to cook jasmine rice”.

I pop that into Google and because I’m human, I click the top search result:

jasmine rich search example

What’s going to happen when I land on that page is one of three possible outcomes:

  1. I’ll leave immediately: I’ll take one look at the content and say, “Nah, not for me”
  2. I’ll spend a few minutes there: I’ll read the content and think, “Okay, this is helpful”
  3. I’ll spend a long time there: I’ll read the content and think, “Yes! This is perfect”

This can help Google or any other search engines determine the quality of the content.

If the majority of people leave immediately, it’ll be tagged as poor content.

If people spend a few minutes it’ll be tagged as average.

And if people spend a long time there it’ll be excellent.

You can improve your dwell time by improving the quality of content and using different SEO copywriting techniques throughout your writing.

22: Bounce Rate

The official line from Google is that bounce rate doesn’t affect rankings.

But Moz has some interesting data to show that it correlates with higher rankings.

If you don’t know what bounce rate is…

It’s how many people come to your page and leave before visiting another page.

bounce rate

You can improve your bounce rate by-

You can check out your bounce rate in your Google analytics.

23: Length Of Content

Long-form content consistently outperforms short-form content in search rankings.

In fact, Brian Dean at Backlinko found the average blog post length that ranked number on the first page was 1,890 words.

If you take a look around my blog too, you’ll find that most of my articles start at between 1 000 & 2 000 words and even go all the way up to 10 000 words.

importance of content length

What counts as a “long” word count will change between niches.

 But try to aim for as long and in-depth as possible.

24: Depth Of Content

Depth of content is my way of saying your body content shouldn’t be “thin”.

Whilst your content should be long, it should also contain a depth of relevant information which helps people get the answers they need.

Let’s say there are two articles about cooking jasmine rice. The first one says:

  • Step #1: Boil water
  • Step #2: Put rice in water
  • Step #3: Wait until rice is soft
  • Step #4: Eat rice

Whereas the second one says:

  • Step #1: Boil the water and add two pinches of salt
  • Step #2: Rinse the rice before you add it to the water
  • Step #3: Put the rice in the water and stir for the first two minutes
  • Step #4: Begin to…

…You get the picture.

The more depth of information there is…

The more valuable it will be perceived by a search engine’s crawlers.

25: Use Of Multimedia

Using images and video content can help to…

  • Increase dwell time
  • Decrease bounce rate
  • Increase your social media shares (social sharing buttons help)

It can also increase the perceived value of your content, and attract backlinks.

Images and video content brings in a wider target audience.

26: Freshness Of Content

Having fresh, up-to-date content can help you improve your rankings. It can also breathe life into content you’ve written in the past.

Google shows the date of the latest update for an article in its search results:

content freshness

This means that Google (and your readers) cares about how up-to-date your content is.

From personal experience, I know that I’m more likely to click on a more recent link. So keep in mind, it could help to improve your click-through rates too.

27: Spelling And Grammar

Google have pointed out, you should ensure your spelling, grammar and font type makes sense.

spelling and grammar

Whilst the odd mistake and error won’t destroy your website…

Illegible content that doesn’t make much sense will be perceived as low value.

That’s the 27 on-page SEO checklist I would recommend you follow to make your search results stand out and increase your website traffic.

The Top 5 On-Page SEO Factors

From an SEO perspective, not all factors are created equal.

And some on-page SEO factors have stronger weights in the algorithm than others.

So here are the top 5x on-page factors for you to focus on (click the link to jump to that section of the guide) for a solid content marketing strategy:

  1. Mobile responsive: Ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices.
  2. Website speed: Make sure your site loads quickly and efficiently for users.
  3. Keyword at the start of your title tag: Get your target keyword into your headline, preferably towards the start.
  4. Internal links: Create internal links between this page and the other relevant pages of your site.
  5. Length of content: Make sure your content is as long and as in-depth as possible.

If you focus on these five factors you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

top five onpage seo factors

But be sure not to neglect the other SEO performance factors for too long.

On-Page SEO Checklist

If you’d like a more actionable way of applying these SEO best practices to your site…

I’ve put together a free on-page SEO checklist for you to download.

It shows you all of the factors featured in this article, which you can use for reference when you’re preparing content for your site. (I print it off and keep it next to me).

on page seo checklist

Ensure you use this within your content marketing strategy & SEO campaign!

Wrapping It Up

You’re able to control each on-page SEO factor from this on-page SEO checklist.

And some of the changes can be made to your site in as little as 60 seconds to get your website in front of your target markets.

If you’re short on time you should focus mainly on:

  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Your website speed
  • Putting the primary keyword at the start of your title tag
  • Internal links
  • The length of your content

 But you will have to address other factors at a later date.

When you’re editing your content to prepare it for your site, make sure you have a copy of my on-page SEO checklist handy.

This will help you adjust your content and ensure it’s fully optimised before you publish.

And if you are really struggling to complete an on-page SEO checklist you should take a look at my Surfer SEO review which takes the hard work out of it all and if you don’t want to invest the time… consider an SEO consultant.

Now you know which on-page SEO factors you should be focusing on, it’s time to complete an SEO audit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is on-page SEO important?

On-page SEO is the foundation layer of search engine optimization. It helps search engines spiders to understand your website and content to gauge it’s quality and relevance to searchers. It is important because until you build a website that Google loves, it won’t be rewarded with search traffic.

What is On-Page SEO and off-page SEO?

On-page SEO is all of the factors that you can control on your website such as content, your H1 tag, images and website speed. Off page SEO are all of the ranking SEO practices that happen off your website, such as link building, social sharing or any other form of promotion through social media platform and other, intended to increase your search visibility.

What is included in On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO includes, but is not limited to – title tags, meta descriptions, keyword research, header tags, content, site structure, user-friendliness, load time and more! Please see the full 27x point on-page SEO checklist in my tutorial above for a detailed list of factors.

How did you do on-page SEO?

You should start by doing a simple SEO audit to uncover any existing on-page SEO problems that need fixing. Once you have done that, just work through each of the on-page issues and fix them once at a time.

189 Shares
Share189
Tweet
Share