On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Fully Optimize Your Posts

Do you want to get better at search engine optimization (SEO) but don’t know where to start? This on-page SEO checklist is here to help you do better on search engine results pages (SERPs)!

We’re sharing the WordPress SEO checklist we use to optimize our posts. We even have some peeks behind the curtain about how we wrote this exact page!

Exclusive Bonus: Download the On-Page SEO Checklist to fully optimize your posts and get more website traffic!

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO tells Google what your post is about and how people use the page.

This is different from off-page SEO because the latter is what you do outside of your site. This includes things like backlinks and social media shares.

Let’s dive into this on-page SEO checklist to help optimize your WordPress site from start to finish.

Get Started: WP Optimization Checklist Part 1

You need to do many things before starting on-page optimization. These should be one-and-done, though you may need to check for updates.

1. Install Google Analytics

Every website should have Google Analytics.

Google Analytics collects data about who visits, how they found you, and what they do. It further lets you check bounce rates and changes over time.

Recommended Reading: How to Install Google Analytics for Beginners

2. Install Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows how search engines see your site. Analytics reports how visitors use it. Both matter to on-page optimization.

These reports let you watch AMPs, check how well your site works on mobile, and more.

Mastering Google Search Console: Everything You Need to Know

3. Install MonsterInsights

monsterinsights analytics homepage on-page seo

 

MonsterInsights provides real-time stats inside the WordPress dashboard.

Those stats show who’s on your site, what they’re visiting, how they discovered you, and more. It connects with Google Analytics to give a complete picture.

4. Install All in One SEO

AIOSEO on-page SEO homepage

All in One SEO (AIOSEO) is a WordPress plugin to help tick items off this on-page SEO checklist.

Set a focus keyword or set of keywords for a page or post. Then, AIOSEO tells you about your page’s optimization quality. It also provides actionable improvements to make.

Here’s an example of an imaginary page. This is what AIOSEO may show if your on-page SEO isn’t doing too well:

AIOSEO focus keyphrase doing poorly in WordPress SEO

Here’s how it can change if you follow some suggestions for improving your WordPress SEO:

Recommended Reading: How to Install and Set Up All in One SEO

5. Create an XML Sitemap and Submit it to Google

An XML sitemap is a list of all user-accessible pages on your site. It tells Google what pages to index.

This sitemap also lets search engines see which parts of your site matter most and how often you update.

Recommended Reading: How to Create a Sitemap in WordPress

6. Create a Robots.txt File and Submit it to Google

Robots.txt tells search engines which pages to index. Additionally, this is where search engines look for your XML sitemap.

Recommended Reading: How to Optimize Your WordPress Robots.txt for SEO

7. Install Schema.org Rich Snippets

All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets tells search engines what your SERP results should look like. Rich snippets can make your listing noticeable and up your click-through rate (CTR).

Here’s an example of a rich snippet with a thumbnail image and a star rating:

rich snippet result for easy apple fruit cake

 

Recommended Reading: Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Rich Snippets in WordPress

Content: On-Page SEO Checklist Part 2

It’s time to start marking off content items on your WordPress SEO checklist.

8. Use Google Keyword Planner to Find Keywords

Google Keyword Planner helps find keywords. You can see how many searches a keyword has, how tough the competition is, and which keywords may be best. It also shows how much to bid for paid keywords.

First, we chose “search engine optimization” as our keyword. It has 10k to 100k searches each month, medium competition, and bids of $5.59 to $25.30.

google keyword results for search engine optimization

Then, if we choose “on-page SEO.” It has 1k to 10k searches, low competition, and lower prices.

google keywords results for on-page SEO

Which one we choose boils down to our goals.

You need a free Google Ads account to use the Google Keyword Planner tool.

9. Use an SEO-Friendly URL

Most people and search engines prefer URLs containing your target keyword. Match the URL to the post’s title if possible, but make sure URLs aren’t too long.

SEO Made Simple: Where & How To Use Keywords in Your Content

10. Include Keywords in Headers

Your post’s first header (H1), usually the title, should include your keyword. Keywords should also show up in subheadings, but only when necessary. Don’t stuff!

Want a peek behind the curtain?

Our main long-tail keyword for this post is “on-page SEO checklist.” So, our H1 is “On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Fully Optimize Your Posts.”

After the H1, include keywords in headers (H2, H3, and so forth) when it makes sense.

You’re reading an H3 under the H2 “Content: On-Page SEO Checklist Part 2.” It makes sense to have a keyword in that H2 but not this H3.

Another peek behind the curtain?

We’re also focusing on “WordPress SEO Checklist.” This is why you see that in some H2s and throughout the text.

(We probably gave you blue car syndrome. You won’t stop noticing these phrases now!)

11. Put Keywords in the First Paragraph

Think of each header as a question, even if it’s not. Answer immediately, using the keyword or phrase.

With our title, the implied question is, “how do I get better at search engine optimization?” So, we answer it!

Our first paragraph is, “Do you want to get better at search engine optimization (SEO) but don’t know where to start? This on-page SEO checklist is here to help you do better on search engine results pages (SERPs)!”

Our answer restated the question and included the focus keywords.

12. Include Keyword Several Times Within the Body

Use keywords several times throughout your post in a natural way. Throwing in keywords without value is “stuffing,” and search engines and readers don’t like that.

In fact, Google can refuse to put you in SERPs at all if they suspect stuffing!

13. Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords relate to your keyword. They give an idea of what relevant things people search for, and the functionality keeps improving!

They’re at the bottom of Google search results. For example, if we search “SEO tools,” we see this:

LSI results for SEO tools to help brainstorm on-page SEO keywords

Use these as ideas for alternate ways to phrase keywords within the copy.

Recommended Reading: LSI Keywords

Keep Guests On-Site: WP SEO Checklist Part 3

14. Include Internal Links

Internal links are links to other pages on your site. If you take nothing else away from this step, remember:

  1. Include several (but not too many!) internal links early on.
  2. Sprinkle them throughout the rest.

This can decrease the bounce rate.

Bounce rate is how many visitors leave after only one page, and it’s an SEO ranking factor. Including internal links early can reduce bounce rate, as people go to a page on your site to learn more.

Internal links also tell Google which pages on your site relate and how to create a hierarchy. The more internal links a page has, the higher up it is in the hierarchy.

Google won’t crawl more than 100 internal links, and having too many can send up red flags. Plus, users could consider your site “spammy.”

Recommended Reading: Internal Linking

15. Link to External Relevant and Authoritative Sites

Back up claims, even if that means sending users somewhere else. Anyone can make up statistics or “facts.” Show users you aren’t doing that.

Sometimes, this means revising ideas or rewriting old pages based on new information. That’s okay and worth the time.

For instance, a peer-reviewed journal is usually a better source than an individual’s blog.

16. Make Sure Content is High Quality

In addition to using internal and external links, high-quality content means excellent readability.

Proper spelling and grammar are necessary for readability. Search engines care about it too. They even penalize websites for spelling, grammar, and other writing errors.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in spelling and grammar checks.

There are dozens of options to dig into spelling and grammar, too. Grammarly is one and has free through business pricing options. But, nothing beats an editor–or at least a second set of eyes.

Readability means the piece flows well and is at a reasonable reading level. Grades 6 through 8 tend to be the sweet spot.

Writing at this age level doesn’t mean your audience can’t read at higher levels. It means you know they may want to be able to skim and not have to look up every other word.

A site like Hemingway can help show how readable pages are.

17. Have a “Goldilocks” Content Length

“Longer content equals higher rankings” was once the rule. Now, it’s “make sure your content is the length it needs to be.”

Ideal blog post lengths vary. According to Wix, as of 2021, the average or ideal word lengths for different types of posts are:

  • Journalism: 600-800 words
  • What is…: 1,300-1,700 words
  • How to…: 1,700-2,100 words
  • Standard blog (including listicles): 2,300-2,500
  • Pillar pages and guides: 4,000+ words

18. Link to Important Pages from Your Homepage

Your homepage has the most “SEO juice,” so use it. Your most important pages should be one click away from your homepage. Those pages will then get more authority from Google.

Here, you can see two essential links from our homepage: “Get OptinMonster Now” and “contact us.”

OptinMonster homepage calls to action

19. Make Your Site Mobile Responsive

Many people use devices other than computers to browse the internet. So, your website needs to be mobile responsive.

If you aren’t sure if your theme is mobile responsive, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

20. Test Your Site on Many Browsers

Your site should also work well across different browsers.

BrowserStack does a thorough job of checking on this.

browserstack device testing homepage for WordPress SEO

Using Visuals: On-Page SEO Checklist Part 4

We read picture books when we were kids because the images helped us understand the text.

Want to know a secret?

Adults also love images that help with understanding and break up large chunks of text!

21. Use Multimedia

Search engines watch how many visitors interact with content. That’s why it’s a good idea to use multimedia. People like having more than blocks of text to look at.

For example, you could embed an Instagram feed using a plugin like Smash Balloon.

smash balloon instagram feed demo

Some other ways to incorporate multimedia include audio, video, and quizzes.

22. Include Comments and Reviews

Once you’ve drawn in your audience with high-quality content, give them a chance to engage with it. Let them leave comments and reviews. If leaving reviews doesn’t make sense, share reviews from other places.

reviews posted by OptinMonster for on-page SEO

Also, respond to comments!

Be aware of questions and criticisms. Respond to them. This provides clarity, and your reaction tells visitors about your company’s character.

response to comment on post

23. Optimize Image File Sizes and Names

Any images on your WordPress page should be the correct size and have a readable file name.

Page load speed is a significant factor in SEO. WordPress recommends following instructions for image size on your theme. Shrink images if they’re bigger than the theme’s restrictions.

Resolution is also vital. Images need to be clear but also not take long to load. High-resolution images usually mean slower loading speeds.

Many image optimization plugins and sites help with size and quality.

File names should also be readable and include the keyword. Many images download as something like “Screenshot2392.” If your keyword is “SEO,” and you screenshot a relevant graph from OptinMonster, change the name from that default. Something like “OptinMonster-SEO-graph” would work.

Recommended Reading: How to Resize WordPress Images Automatically

24. Use Effective Alt Text

Alt text helps people with low vision or blindness understand images. It also matters for SEO, but readers come first.

Use descriptive alt tags in images to describe what’s in them and include keywords when it makes sense.

WebAIM is one of the best resources for site accessibility. Accessibility is more than alt text alone, and you should strive to have an accessible site.

Recommended Reading: Alternative Text

25. Use Title Text

Title text appears when you hover over an image. Include keywords when it makes sense.

You can add alt and title text in WordPress when adding an image from the Media Library.

enter image alt and title text for WordPress SEO

26. Use Social Sharing Buttons

Google takes social shares seriously when determining how high a post should rank. Although shares don’t happen on your site, encourage them with social sharing buttons.

OptinMonster social sharing buttons

There are a lot of great free options for WordPress plugins for this.

7 Best Social Media Plugins to Boost Your Followers

Be Inviting: WordPress SEO Checklist Part 5

Optimize what searchers see on Google and what they read in your post. Here’s how to draw in readers using Google.

27. Keep Title Tags Short but Engaging

Title tags are article titles on Google searches. Google recommends making them the same as often as possible. If it’s not possible, make them similar.

H1s can be longer than title tags, around 70 characters, including spaces. Title tags should be no longer than 55-60 characters, including spaces.

Title tags should include keywords. If you need to deviate from your H1, try to put your keyword at the front of the tag.

Since you’ve installed AIOSEO, you can do this inside the Post Title field:

AIOSEO post title box for WordPress SEO

Modifiers can also be a great way to draw in readers. These are words like “best,” “offers,” “buy,” “cheap,” or “reviews.” They also help match users’ intent. People are more likely to look for “cheap vacuums” than vague terms like “vacuums.”

Additionally, numbers draw people in.

use-numbers

21 Headlines That Went Viral and How You Can Copy Their Success

28. Create a Great Meta Description

Meta descriptions are what readers see after titles. Think of finding an intriguing book title. The next thing you’re likely to read is the book jacket description. The meta description is similar but shorter.

Keep your meta description under 160 characters, including spaces. Anything longer gets cut off. Plus, include your keyword at least once in the meta description.

You can add it using the meta description field with All in One SEO:

AIOSEO meta description box to improve on-page SEO

Use power words to increase click-through rates in both the title and meta. Power words act as psychological triggers to take action.

Some examples include “eye-opening,” “easy,” and “effective.” But, don’t make promises you can’t keep! For instance, if something isn’t easy, don’t say it is.

700+ Power Words That Will Boost Your Conversions

Troubleshooting SEO Issues: On-Site SEO Checklist Part 6

Even if you check every box on this on-site SEO checklist, problems could arise. Here’s how to fix common issues.

29. Check Page Speed with Google Pagespeed Insights

Page load speed is essential to SEO. Use Google Pagespeed Insights to ensure quick loads on mobile devices and computers.

Here’s what it looks like for mobile results:

mobile results on Google PageSpeed insights

And here’s how it looks for desktop results:

Desktop Google Pagespeed insights results

One of the quickest ways to keep your website speedy is using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

5 Best CDN Providers to Speed Up Your Website (In-Depth Comparison)

30. Check Google Search Console for Errors

You’ve already installed Google Search Console, so let’s put it to good use! Check for 404/500 errors, duplicate content, missing titles, and other technical errors.

31. Use AIOSEO to Find Even More Technical Errors

AIOSEO does more than traditional keyword and SEO checking. With their Pro and Elite plans, it monitors for 301 redirects, 404 errors, and other dead-ends. It lets you know if things go wrong and can even send users to the correct URLs when they click old links.

AIOSEO 404 monitoring

Fixing 404s and other dead links quickly can make it easier for users to find what they need and maintain trust in your company’s attention to detail. Search engines also dislike dead links, and having them can harm your visibility.

 

32. Use Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Screaming Frog SEO Spider finds broken links, redirects, duplicate content, and other problems.

On-Page Optimization Is About People

Always write blog posts for people first. As great as search engines are, they aren’t customers. Plus, search engines update algorithms to behave like human brains.

You should have fully optimized posts if you completed the WordPress SEO checklist. Search engines will know what search terms posts should come up for and easily index your site.

Readers are also more likely to stay on-site. Optimized sites are readable, trustworthy, and valuable.

Search engines care about readership. Keeping posts focused on readers before computers is the ultimate best practice.

Exclusive Bonus: Download the On-Page SEO Checklist to fully optimize your posts.

Angie Meeker is the General Manager here at OptinMonster. Remember, start with the end user's goals in mind and you'll never go wrong.

Comments

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  2. suzi whitford July 12, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    So much good stuff here Mary! I’m saving this as a checklist for all future posts! <3

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      So glad you can get use out of this checklist again and again. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Suzi!

  3. I have couple of questions . I will be thankful if you can answer them quickly.

    1) say I am targeting a keyword through my blog . At the same time I can see people searched for some other terms whose meaning is similar to my main keyword.

    So you think it’s a good practise to include them in same blog or write a different blog to target them.

    2) I have technical how to do article site , each blog of me contains atleast 5-6 images . I have around 40 articles right now and I am adding articles on regular basis.

    When I should go to the option of VPS for hosting ??
    When I should go for option of buying a CDN like maxCDN??

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 14, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Great questions, Abhijeet!

      1) If two keywords mean the exact same thing then I think it makes more sense to target both in a single post. Each post you write should add new value to your blog, so you don’t want to just keep repeating the same information over and over again. However, if two keywords mean related but different things, and you can write two different blog posts targeting each keyword, then go for it!

      2) I doubt that you need to switch to a VPS or buy a CDN right now. If you can afford it, then go for it, but if you are on a tight budget then I would stick with the shared hosting for now and use a free CDN for now like CloudFlare. It’s not as good as MaxCDN, but it should probably be good enough for you right now.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Hello,

    Nice article and well documented. Please could we have a PDF checklist of this. Thank you.

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 14, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Hey Lyke! You can download the PDF checklist by clicking on the image with the orange “Download Now” button at the bottom of the post. Enjoy! 🙂

  5. Now this is an awesomely comprehensive list! Thanks for putting it together Mary.

    The yoast plug in is a life saver, can’t say enough good things about it. It really makes SEO accessible and easy to do (and the color coding does keep you going!)

    Love the CTR market method- will do finitely have to try that in my next campaign.

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      So glad you’re enjoying it, Sophia, and thanks for your comment! 🙂

  6. Many of them was yoast plugin seo terms !! :/ But useful 🙂

  7. WOW….!!!! Covered all the aspect of SEO.

  8. Mary, thanks a lot for such a wonder checklist. Will bookmark it as reference and will get its PDF printed 🙂

    Going to explore this blog more!

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 30, 2016 at 1:43 am

      Yay! I’m so happy you enjoyed it, Zohaib. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  9. I’d love to download the checklist but both links point to “#” and not to a PDF. This was a very comprehensive article and I will enjoy sharing it with my clients!

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez August 8, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Hey Lisa! The “#” link is correct, but it should still open a lightbox with the optin form… Is your browser using an ad blocker?

  10. I am just trying out some bits I learnt about SEO, I was surprised by how it was so technical-luckily I had a few good sites though

  11. Bang on the money Mary. Wish I’d written it 😉
    I’ve bookmarked it for clients to refer to as it explains the scary and mysterious art of page-based SEO very clearly. When I start explaining it, their eyes glaze over!

  12. Michael Brandon October 6, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Hi,
    Really nice and informative post. It is really helpful for me to find out which factors are missing to improve my ranking.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    1. Glad you find these helpful Michael 🙂

  13. This is incredible! It is so true that on page SEO is essential to get top in SERP and pleasure to see such an in-depth report on it! When optimizing your website to grow traffic, it helps to have an SEO checklist or plan to follow to get the most out of your experience and effort.

    Fascinating stuff, I only stumble across you in the last couple of days. Keeping up the great content. I admire your way to describe the post, but one of the quick questions is what you would like to say about the keyword density and content length required in a post? Is keyword density also essential for SEO nowadays?

    Anyways, thanks again for this article. Bookmarked.

    1. Hey Vrishna, I’m so glad you found this post useful! To answer your question: yes, content length and keyword density does matter. The longer your content is, the better. However, don’t overdo it with the keywords by “stuffing” them. Basically, if it makes sense to include a keyword then do so.

  14. Hmmmm… did you read the post, Chris? I’m not sure what infographic you are referring to. Points #16 and #17 are both about internal linking. Keeping unimportant pages from being indexed by Google is covered in #6 (robots.txt file). 🙂

  15. Hello,

    Thanks for sharing these great techniques. Will definitely help in making a post perfect.

    -Ashutosh

  16. Divine J. Tylor December 4, 2016 at 4:58 am

    Hi Mary Fernandez
    Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge and experience. But I think you missed describe about keyword stuffing and content length on your check list. However, covered all aspects of on page SEO.

  17. Hey Mary,
    Thanks for share on-page SEO checklist to improve rankings. You focus all kinds of on-page factors definitively. It help to get rankings quickly and also drive huge traffic. Thanks again.

  18. Thank you for the fruitful SEO checklist! I am always looking forward to learn new things! I would like to add my On-Page SEO checklist! Please review it! http://www.webpixeltechnologies.com/on-page-seo-checklist/

  19. I see you registered https://optinmonster.com/on-page-seo-checklist-how-to-fully-optimize-your-posts/ for a few years, was that for
    search engine optimisation?
    On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Fully Optimize Your Posts – The newest addition to my RSS feed!

  20. ON Page Optimization is one of the most important SEO part for ranking your website on major search engines. You can also check http://www.seocompanyindelhi.org/ as they have optimized their on Page even if they have less content. They use Heading tags in proper sequence. Have a look on their website.

  21. This is really an informative and enjoyable article. There are different on page SEO techniques. All these issues are crucial for ranking better on search engines. On page SEO helps us different ways but the most important factors are it make our blog search engines and user-friendly. Thanks for sharing such a great article.

  22. Aliya Thabassum April 12, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Hi Mary Fernandez,

    First of all it is an excellent article no doubt it is excellent for beginners in this industry. It helped me alot to understand the basic concepts clearly. Again thanks a lot. I tried putting all this checlist in my website. If any suggestions please reply…..

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall April 12, 2017 at 6:42 am

      Thanks, Aliya. As a follow-up, you might find our guide to using keywords to improve SEO useful. 🙂 Please follow us on Twitter to keep up with our latest tutorials and guides.

  23. Please make it to where your articles can be pinned. You have great content. I’d like to create a pin board to keep up with all of it 🙂

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall May 9, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Hi Gin, the data shows that offering too many share buttons actually reduces the number of shares, so we tend to focus on the social media platforms where we get the best results. However, even without a button on our site, there are lots of ways to pin. Here are some of the pinning options Pinterest recommends. We’ve got a great article on growing your email list with Pinterest, too.

  24. Hi Mary,

    You’ve very well covered all the aspects of on-page SEO. CTR magnet method was something new to me and thanks for pointing out to Brian’s video. It was another masterpiece.

    Tweeted it 🙂

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall March 7, 2018 at 10:34 am

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Shafi. 🙂 Our latest article on this topic covers social media and SEO – check it out!

  25. Thanks for sharing the on-page checklist. It seems you have forgotten to include content length per page. The overall explanation is good and very informative.
    I will definitely implement this checklist on my website.

    my question is that how many keywords we can target on one page?

    1. Nathan Thompson
      Nathan Thompson April 21, 2020 at 4:56 am

      Hey Sandeep! A good rule of thumb is to target one main keyword per page but to include a few LSI and related keywords to help Google better understand the nature of your content.

      1. This is so helpful. Thank you

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