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A definitive checklist to optimize on-page SEO

A lot of early digital marketers from the 2000s era will resonate with the growth hacking todo lists found around the internet to optimize your site for search engine optimization (SEO). Metrics surrounding backlinks and keyword counting were king and some of us even experimented with black hat ways to get Google to acknowledge our existence.

Much has changed since those times. Google’s mantra of providing valuable answers and a good user experience for their Searchers has conquered all and with the advent of AI and machine learning, Google spends more time understanding your content instead of relying on specific site structure or meta descriptions.

Just because Google is smart enough to focus on your content doesn’t mean structural SEO is dead.

What these changes do mean is that we should leverage our time and resources in the most efficient ways possible. Meaning, build your structural search engine optimization strategy right, deploy it across your entire site and press forward building wonderful content (revisit annually or as needed when search engines make major changes to algorithms).

Easy, right? Easier if you had an enumerated list of what to, huh? Here’s what we did when built our site and structural SEO strategy:

1. Headers (no pun intended)

Not nearly as important as it use to be, but Google and Bing use <h1> header tags (though <h6>) to structurally understand breaks in content and top-level concepts. While you’re at it, make sure your template/themes/CMS leverages other important tags like articles, image alts, and other schema-based things.

2. Site speed & accessibility

Remember that Google mantra? User first.

Google measures everything; including, how fast your site renders for their Searches. Faster loading means a happier Searcher. Use things like Google’s PageSpeed to make sure your site is in the green (on both desktop and mobile). If you’re able to implement things like AMP to make Google even more likely to choose you, more power to you!

Remember that accessibility is also an important metric for their users. Make sure your content is readable by users of all capability levels.

3. Webmaster tools, crawling, publishing

Each search engine has a webmaster’s admin tool that will allow you to measure your sites pages ranking, request the search engine to crawl and index your pages, and share your XML sitemap so they’re guaranteed to find you.

If you’re using a platform like WordPress that has a built in update services, take advantage of it! In WordPress under Settings > Writing, you’ll find a place to update your services. For those who don’t know, these websites are essentially distribution lists and every time you create a new piece of content, these lists get pinged with the announcement of your new blog to share with the masses.

Feel free to steal our Update Services list:

4. SEO Plugins

On the last point, if you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, many of them come loaded with widgets/plugins that can help setup structural SEO points. We use All in One SEO Pack although Yoast SEO is a pretty popular one, too.

These will let you control some of the finer points of on-page SEO, like:

  • Page title structure and settings
  • Webmaster verification
  • markup
  • NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW rules
  • Meta generation
  • XML sitemap generation
  • Robots.txt