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On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Optimize for Search Engines

On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Optimize for Search Engines

The best bloggers don’t only have excellent writing skills. They also take responsibility for their content’s performance in search engines. To do so, you’ll need to know what SEO is, particularly what we call “on-page” SEO.

What Is On-Page SEO? How to Improve Your On-Page SEO Title URL Meta Description Keywords and Semantically Related Words Header tags (H1, H2, etc) Internal Linking Duplicate Content Crawlability Page Loading Speed Mobile-Friendliness Content length Readability Video Content Images Social Sharing Buttons Markups Final Thoughts

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing content and HTML source code to clearly define what your webpage is and what information it is providing. 

Some aspects of your webpage that can be optimized include the page title, headers (h1 and h2 tags), URL, text content, meta descriptions, internal links and more.

How to Improve Your On-Page SEO

If you are new to SEO, you may want to start with the basics. To rank higher in Google search, web page structure needs to be optimized both technically and writing-wise. 

An optimized page will be easy for your intended audience to find on Google and then be satisfied after reading/viewing/experiencing it.

The basics of how to make that happen boil down to staying focused on the searcher’s query (aka your primary keyword) and making the page easy to read, skim, understand, and share. 

Google is pretty good at understanding written passages and related topics within your webpage’s text, but there are still plenty of ways to send Google positive signals that make it easier for the search engine to find and understand your content.

Below, we’ve collected a list of important on-page elements you can optimize as well as some SEO tools and resources for on-page SEO services and content optimization. 

Here are the on-page aspects we are going to cover in this article:

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The best writers understand the power of a good title. It’s at the top of our on page SEO checklist and is critical for attracting the user’s attention and increasing the page CTR. 

If a title does not correspond with the user’s intent, they will most likely not click and read your article.

The title should be there not only for users, but for crawlers as well. So make sure you have title tags on your page. Also notice that while your H1 tag and title should not necessarily be repeating each other, you would still want them to be related.

Related Reading

How to Write Title Tags

How to Generate Content Ideas with Topic Research

Related Tools

On Page SEO Checker gathers information about the correct H1 and title tags and checks keyword stuffing there.

Topic Research offers you the most resonant headlines, with the most backlinks, related to your topic.


Before anything else, your URL should be quick and clear (please avoid weird number and random letter combinations!). 

And, just like your title, the URL is a perfect place to put your keyword.

One tip: avoid placing the year in your URL (for example, www.example.com/best-evergreen-content-2017).

If you want your content to be evergreen (aka a webpage that will remain optimized for search year after year), then it is best to keep the year out of the URL. 

An example of this is any “best-of” list. If you want your website to rank for “Best wireless headphones 2020,” you can make your title “Best Wireless Headphones 2020” and the url slug /best-wireless-headphones.

This way, when the next year comes, you can use the same page to target “best wireless headphones 2021” by simply updating the title of the post to “Best Wireless Headphones 2021” and you’ll avoid having to change the URL and set up a redirect. 

However, there may be some cases where your content is specifically tailored to a year, like if you wanted to write an article about “Craziest events of 2020,” you are likely not going to repurpose this same content in 2021 to target “craziest events of 2021.”

If you do decide to change the URL of a webpage, don’t forget about adding a proper redirection to avoid 404 mistakes and save the SEO value of your old page.

Related Reading

How to Write URLs for SEO

A Comprehensive SEO Guide to 301 Redirects

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit checks all the URLs on your website for length, for underscores, and helps you make sure none of the URLs has too many parameters in them.

Meta Description

A well-written meta description can help you to stand out on SERPs and appeal to people browsing through the results page. A poorly written meta description can lead to people glossing over your result and choosing something better on the SERP.

Related Reading

What are meta descriptions and how to write them

What not to do when writing a meta description

Related Tools

Semrush On Page SEO Checker provides you content ideas and SEO tips for your meta descriptions.

Keywords and Semantically Related Words

This does two things: First, it affirms to the searcher that this page is in fact related to what they were searching for, and secondly, it sends the same positive message to Google, which can help your page’s ranking.

Building out content on your website in order to grow your online presence through this basic method is known as content marketing.

To improve your understanding of the idea of semantic search, check out this recorded webinar with Ross Tavendale, Tommy Griffith, and Tristam Jarman on keyword research.

Related Tools

SEMrush SEO Content Template gives you a whole list of semantically related keywords for the ones you plan to create content for. There you also get examples of content the top-10 ranking websites put on their pages.

SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks if your text is optimized with your target and related keywords and can connect directly to a Google doc, Wordpress, or check within SEMrush.

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool gives you a huge list of keyword ideas based on your single seed keyword.

Header tags (H1, H2, etc)

One of the easiest and most common methods is to use clear headings to break up sections of your text with a nested hierarchy system.

Header tags should be nested in descending order from H1-H6, with H1 being the most general heading and H6 being the most specific subheading.

Here’s a quick example of how you should use these tags:

<h1>New Jersey Produce</h1>Body text related to H1 (Fruits and vegetables grown in New Jersey in general)

<h2>Jersey Tomatoes</h2><p>Body text related to H2 (Jersey tomatoes), which is a category of produce from New Jersey.</p> 

<h3>Roma Jersey Tomatoes</h3><p>Body text related to Roma Jersey Tomatoes, which is a type of Jersey tomato.</p><h3>Heirloom Jersey Tomatoes</h3><p>Body text related to Heirloom Jersey Tomatoes, which is another type of Jersey tomato.</p<h3>Beefsteak Jersey Tomatoes</h3><p>Body text related to Beefsteak Jersey Tomatoes, which is yet another type of Jersey tomato.</p>

<h4>Where to find Beefsteak Jersey Tomatoes</h4><p>Body text specifically about where to find beefsteak Jersey tomatoes. This is an h4 because it is specifically only about the above category and not about roma or heirloom Jersey tomatoes.</p>

<h2>Jersey Blueberries</h2><p>Body text related to blueberries from New Jersey. This is now back to an H2 because this category is on the same level as Jersey tomatoes, our other H2.</p><h2>Jersey Peaches</h2><p>Body text related to peaches from New Jersey. Again, this is now back to an H2 because this category is on the same level as Jersey tomatoes and Jersey blueberries.</p>

Related Reading

HTML Headings Elements: How Many H1 & H2 Tags Per Page?

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit helps you avoid a lot of troubles with H1 tags: it will tell you if any of them are duplicated, missing, or in abundance on the page. Any of these things can become an issue in the eyes of Google.

Internal Linking

In case you don’t have time to dive deep into link building, internal linking may be a good place to start helping your pages get found.

Related Reading

Internal Linking: A Guide to Building a Strategy that Works

Related Tools

SEMrush On Page SEO Checker lets you know if the page has any internal links leading to it.

SEMrush Site Audit helps you identify errors related to internal linking on your website and find ways to fix them.

Duplicate Content

Our SEO Mistakes Study found that over 45% of websites had some pages with duplicate content, and 50% of websites had duplicate titles. This won’t give you a penalty, but it is a signal to search engines that your website has little to no value for your readers – something they won’t appreciate.

Related Reading

The Most Common On-Site SEO Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Duplicate Content SEO Advice From Google.

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit provides you with a list of all pages with duplicate content on your website.


Make sure that your website is not blocked from crawling, otherwise, you’ll have done all your SEO work in vain. 

To do so, check to make sure you are avoiding the following instances that could damper crawlability: 

Broken links 

Not enough internal links 

Missing a clear sitemap.xml. 

A noindex tag implemented

Related Reading

27 of the Biggest SEO Mistakes Damaging Websites in 2020

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit not only checks if all the pages of your site are crawlable, but also provides you with the info about all necessary tags (e.g. headings, <meta> tags and other important HTML attributes).

Page Loading Speed

In SEO, page load speed plays a crucial role. It’s not even a second – it’s a millisecond delay that can force a user to close your article and go to another website. 

Sometimes the reasons for delays can be simple, such as images with large file sizes on a page. In other cases, the issue can be more serious, including problems with your server. 

Here’s a quick list of things that could slow down your page speeds:

Having a large amount of HTML on the page

Redirect chains and loops

Uncompressed Javascript or CSS files

Large Javascript or CSS files

No matter the reason, it’s crucially important to be aware of any page speed issues.

Related Reading

Marrying UX and SEO: How to Optimize for Time on Site and Page Speed

How Website Speed, SEO, Content, and Schema Affect Rankings [STUDY]

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit checks your website’s page load speeds and identifies related errors while advising how to fix them.

Google Pagespeed Insights also makes it easy to check your page load time and offers ideas to help speed things up.


Of course, responsive design and mobile website development require time and effort. It’s not something you can do in a day but it is worth every second you spent on it. 

Mobile-friendly websites have a strong priority in mobile SERPs ever since Google officially switched to mobile-first indexing in 2020.

Related Reading

Mobile SEO is a Must: How to Stay Competitive in Mobile-Friendly World

Related Tools

Google Mobile Friendly Test checks the website mobile-friendliness.

SEMrush Site Audit can crawl the mobile version of a website and checks for over 40 possible AMP-related issues. 

Content length

You have to be sure that your content is long enough so it is adequate for readers and search engines, but keep in mind that there is no exact ‘perfect’ content length.

One study recently found that the average word count of content on a first page of Google was around 1400. However, if the search query implies someone is looking for a quick answer, don’t bore the users with a super-long content piece. 

Google’s John Mueller dispelled the rumor a few times saying that word count alone will not get you to the top of the SERPs. 

Related Reading

The Anatomy of Top-Performing Articles

Related Tools

SEMrush On Page SEO Checker will provide you with the information about your (and your competitors’) content length on a page ranking for a particular keyword.

SEMrush SEO Content Template tells you how long your future content should be so that it’s on the level with your competitors’.

SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks if your text complies with the recommended content length based on your top rivals for a given keyword, right in your Google doc.


Readability level depends on different factors. Not only style, grammar, and syntax, but the design and structure of the text — everything that can influence our perception, will play a role. 

If you want to check your text’s readability score, there are some SEO tools that can help.

Related Tools

SEMrush On Page SEO Checker helps you make sure that your content is not less readable than your competitors’.

SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks your text for readability right in your Google doc or WordPress editor mode and sets you a readability goal based on your top rivals for a given keyword.

Video Content

Adding videos to your page can also help structure the page and get more attention. It also attracts an audience that prefers visual content.

While videos won’t boost your page’s SEO like backlinks or placing the keyword in the page title, it can help satisfy your user intent. Some people prefer videos and some people prefer reading text – this also depends on the query. 

For example, the user behind the query “how to change oil in car” is more likely to want a video than the user searching something like “what year was the constitution written.”

Related Reading

Advanced Hacks for YouTube SEO

Related Tools

SEMrush On Page SEO Checker checks if websites with a higher position for a particular keyword have video content on their pages.

SEMrush Social Media Tracker provides you with detailed analytics for your video content and its performance through all social networks. 


Images that are too large can slow down your site speed – one of the most powerful components of a good user experience. So be sure to reduce your image file size as much as possible while still retaining a clear image. A good rule of thumb is to try to match your images to your site’s maximum display dimensions. 

Google suggests using the following open-source tools to adjust image size:




Descriptive image file names and the use of ALT tags can help images from your page appear in Google image search results and help those that are visually impaired understand the page better.

Some content management systems will have a built in field to enter an alt tag when you upload an image. Below is an example of how that may look.

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Related Reading

Image SEO and Alt Tags: 7 Advanced Tips to Increase Traffic

10 Must Know Image Optimization Tips

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit checks all the images for the presence of ALT attributes in the page code.

SEO Writing Assistant can check for the presence of ALT attributes in a new piece of content you are writing.

Social Sharing Buttons

If an opinion leader or someone with a big scope of followers likes or reblogs your content, it could lead to your audience growing.

Related Tools

SEMrush Social Media Tracker searches for your rivals’ blog posts that gather a lot of user interactions and helps you get some ideas for the topics and formats of your future content.

Click to Tweet allows you to share the main statements of your article. Choose a quote, insert it into Click to Tweet; embed generated a link to your blog and you’ll get a tweetable, noticeable quote with Twitter logo on it.


We’ve already talked about the importance of your content's SERP appearance. Markup implementations can increase your CTR, and the best thing of it, that microdata can be applied to different types of content no matter what topic you are covering.

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Look at this great example. Both sites are using Schema markups to provide more information to the user: a list of ingredients, reviews, cooking time, and even calorific value. 

This extra helpful info can help with your CTR on the SERPs.

Related Reading

What is Schema? Beginner‘s Guide to Structured Data

10 Rich SERP Elements You Can Leverage to Make Your Brand SERP Sexy

Related Tools

SEMrush Site Audit gives you information about the percentage of pages with implemented markups: Schema.org, Twitter Cards, Open Graph, Microformats. The tool supports almost all structured data items in Google’s documentation (excluding those in beta).

Google Structured Data Testing Tool checks if there are no mistakes in markup implementation on your page.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, here is your blog optimization checklist to follow:

Create a catchy title.

Write a clear URL containing the target keywords. Avoid randomness or adding the year.

Make your meta description informative and succinct. 

Use your target keywords within the first 100-150 words. Use semantically related concepts throughout the rest

Structure your text by using H1 to H6 subheadings in descending order.

Spice up your content with videos, GIFs, and pictures that can keep people interested.

Respect your reader and find the optimal text length. Make the text easy to read and understand.

Enrich your text with internal links to helpful related webpages on your site and around the web.

Provide your reader with social sharing buttons.

Make every piece of your content unique. Avoid duplications.

Make sure Google’s crawling bot can reach your article.

Test how long it takes for your page to be ready. Even milliseconds matter sometimes.

Make the article page mobile-friendly, so your audience can read it everywhere. 

These SEO best practices can help you, too. Good luck!

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