In Digital marketing 101

Onsite SEO: a 10 step checklist to nailing it

onsite seo

Onsite SEO isn’t terribly sexy, but it’s hugely important to crushing it with your content. If you want to rank organically, onsite SEO is your best way of getting there.

Essentially onsite SEO is the foundations of your house. With dodgy foundations, the house is likely to come crashing right down.

So what matters to your onsite SEO? There’s a ten step checklist:

  1. Your URL
  2. Page Title
  3. Title Tags
  4. Headings
  5. Meta descriptions
  6. Media descriptions
  7. Social signals
  8. Website speed
  9. Internal and external links
  10. CTR, Impressions, Bounce Rates, and Time Spent Onsite

We’ve a lot to get through so sit down and grab a cuppa.

1. SEO your URL.

So: Search Engine Optimise your Uniform Resource Locator. Jazz up your URL, essentially, for search engines. How? The URL is your first chance to tell search engines what they are scanning. That’s very important to remember: Google (and Bing and Yahoo too but who even cares about this two bottom feeders?) scans your page and plucks out the parts important to the algorithm. Those important things are weighted up and your SEO value designated.

Your URL, then, should be keyword relevant (aim for truth too though or you’ll lose readers!) and should also tell both Google and your reader exactly what they’re going to read about. Quick tip, your URL doesn’t have to be the same as the blog title.

For this post, my title is the much more Google-able ‘how to do onsite SEO’. Let’s say you’re writing a post called ’10 ways writers mess up their query letter’ or whatever, that’s your title while ‘query mistakes’ could be URL.

2. Onsite SEO and Your Page Title

So your page format has a hierarchy:

  • URL
  • Title
  • Headings
  • Meta descriptions
  • Bolded content
  • Content
  • Media

Keep that hierarchy in mind. You have your URL, right, so the same set-up applies to your title. Keep it keyword relevant. Keyword research, obviously, is hugely important.

Don’t stuff your title with keywords. Keep it relevant. Simple. There’s slightly more benefit to putting your title keyword at the start. You have 70 characters to play with. In this post, my main keyword is, fairly obviously, ‘onsite SEO’.

3. Title Tags

Every single page on your website should have title tags. Your title tags are relevant to your industry/topic. Once you’ve got your title tags, it’s a simple matter of pasting them into the relevant places on your site. WordPress is particularly handy for this, as they tell you exactly where to put your title tags!

title tag


4. Headings

Headings are formatting tags and are really handy for laying out a post so it’s easy to read. On WordPress, Headings are part of the kitchen sink and range from H1 to H5: usually, H1s are pre-formatted in the CSS of the site to be larger and in bold, whereas H5 are usually the same font as the body of the post itself.


Be sure to include a keyword at least once in your headings, but again: don’t go crazy and stuff your tags.

5. Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions once had real SEO value, but not so much anymore. They’re still important though—for your reader more so than Google. The meta description is the block of text displayed in search engines that tells your reader what they’re going to read. Snappy meta descriptions will improve your click-through-rates.

6. Media

Video, imagery, etc., are great to keep your visitor interested. Engagement is far higher on visual resources. Even if you write well and interestingly, people get distracted. Multimedia exists to keep attention, but it’s also important to your onsite SEO/digital marketing.

Even though it can be tedious, be sure to fill in the Image ALT Attributes and the image descriptions. Search engines can’t read images. If you’ve chosen your images well, they’ll be relevant to your keywords. The ALT attribute actually exists to describe an image should it fail to load for whatever reason so it’s good practice to actually describe the image. A keyword, as always, is good so drop one in if it’s relevant. Same applies to all multimedia.

7. Social Signals

Social media is important to your onsite SEO. Why? Well, good content will be shared, AND it boosts keyword density across your site. The more content is shared, the more natural links you’ll get.

For me, I’m really bad at the social part of social media, so my referrals (for myself) aren’t exactly whopper. Key example of laziness trumping talent!

Curious about how a friend/rival/giant corp’s website is doing in social shares? Check out Buzzsumo. Tips of the trade!


pls love me back, JK

8. Website Speed

The effect of website speed on your rankings is quite small, but it’s still something to keep an eye on. There are a multitude of speed test tools available to use. Largely, a slow website is considered a negative if it’s slow enough to deter return visitors.

Upgrading your hosting, compressing multimedia, and clearing your cache will all help though sometimes a slow theme is just a slow theme, regardless of what you do.

9. External and Internal Links

A simple one: quality external links and internal links are the basis of link-building. Do blog tours. Guest blog. Author interviews. Request a link back to your site. A+.

10. CTR, Impressions, Bounce Rates, and Time Spent Onsite

I have a theory that everything Google provides information on in Webmaster and Analytics matters to your onsite SEO and your ranking. There’s no metrics available yet as to quite how much it matters, but Moz are forever testing and experimenting to try and gauge it. Bounce rate and time spent on your site tie in with quality content, while CTR is down to all your onsite factors.

The way I see it: Google want its search engines to provide the most relevant and accurate search returns to any given keywords. It’s why its penalties are so harsh: if Google’s results aren’t bulletproof, its users might switch to Bing or Yahoo or whoever.

Play nicely and you’ll be grand.

Follow me on Twitter for random tweets about Mean Girls, books, and TV. It’s not very exciting, but I did say I’m not so good at the social part of social media.

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