On Page SEO checklist

Tagged as: web

Websites need to well expose the data to Search engines so that your site can come up in search results page (SERP). There is On-Page (what a website code should do, like structured data) and Off-Page (the things which you need to do outside the website, like Social media presence).

Focusing only on On-Page SEO for now, since I have a feeling that good content with proper On-Page SEO itself can get your site come up. Putting up a checklist for this:

Page Title and Description

  1. Every page should have a unique and meaningful title which reflects the content of the page, made for humans to read - a phrase of few words (not just keywords for SEO, mind it Search engines are becoming smarter).This title should reflect in title tag in the head tag. Appropriate length is around 70 characters, since many search result pages truncate to this length.
  2. Identify a short and accurate description for the page. This should be provided in the meta description tag of the page (more on other meta tags following below). Appropriate length is around 160 characters, since many search result pages truncate to this length. This may or may not be complete sentences. Whatever you think will make meaning to your user (when they see the result in search engine page) should be the thumb-rule. Sometimes name of the author or the price of a product are also good candidates to be part of this.
  3. Keywords relevant to your page could be placed in the meta keywords tag. It not very clear off late whether search engines do rely on this any more, but I guess it doesn't harm unless you put Spam keywords here. If you actually do keyword research before writing an article, ensure to naturally incorporate these into the content than dump it in the meta section (or you may be seen as Spam).

Good URLs

  1. Use good user-readable URLs, since they are displayed in search results and so it makes search engines to rank this relevancy. Gone are the days where the URLs are unknown numbers. The content on the site should be structured well. In case of my product, Airing Pods, it is categories and podcasts. This categorization result in the URLs as pods and cats. I generally derive the page dependent part of the URL from the title by a process called slugify (just search for it). See some of the URLs here: A Podcast Page, A category Page. General advise is to use hyphens as separators.
  2. Use Canonical URL (you need to read a bit on it). In a nutshell, for a unique content, there should be only ONE URL and all others should redirect to this with a 301 (permanently moved), so that we don't confuse search engine. Eg: This is the page for Serial podcast. Try variations of the same URL by removing the www and may be remove the trailing slash as well. Both of it will redirect to the original one. This redirection is equally important since users too tend to mistype.
  3. Robots and Sitemap: User robots.txt file to tell the crawler what not to be crawled and where the sitemap.xml is. Use the sitemap.xml file to list all the pages on your site for making it easy for crawler to make more understanding of your site. Remember to use the Canonical URL in the sitemap. Use a good sitemap generator, so you don't make syntax mistakes.
  4. Avoid un-necessarily long URLs or those with session ids etc, they make no relevance to user or search engine (let the technical details go where they belong)
  5. Avoid broken links. Broken links are are sign to search engines that your site is not well maintained and same applies to user perception.
  6. 404 page. Provide a custom 404 (page not found) page which prompts the user to say search for what they need, or take them to a valid page etc. Don't leave user with that scary technical message from your web server.

Good Content

  1. Generate content for humans and not search engines. Good content drives traffic, search engines are very smart these days. If you have a tough call to make between user and search engine, then favor user.
  2. Heading Tags - H1 to H6. These tags tell the search engine the structure of the page. So use these appropriately only for the headings. There are some who suggest that on a page you should have only one h1. Though there is no real proof, logically this makes sense as it quickly helps to identify what is the most relevant text on page (rather than a group of similar relevant items).
  3. Use good anchor text for links. ("here is it" is not a good one)
  4. Use alt text for image. Remember we are authoring for humans and there are lot of people who needs accessibility support. It is natural to think that Search engines will also give us the credit.
  5. For videos, provide as much meta data as text (even transcripts will help) along with it. Crawlers typically depend on text to index.
  6. Avoid duplicate content between your pages. Say if you have an About section on your site, keep it a different page with a link to it from other pages, rather than including the content itself on every page. This is something which I need to improve for Airing Pods

Others

  1. Page should load fast. This is a very important guideline. There are various tools you can use to test the page speed and see how you do. Users don't like slow pages. Typically users wait between 2-5 second before moving on. Is users don't like, search engines too don't. I will write separately on page speed guidelines, but the highlights are: Use fast DNS, combine images into sprites, put as many things on CDNs, reduce the bloat in your page or images, Combines JS and CSS files, Minify them, use as much static pages as possible (compared to database backed), use as much caching as possible, use good servers and so on.
  2. Provide a favicon for the page
  3. Use no follow attribute on links where appropriate, one common place is comments on blogs, Don't pass on your search ranks to bad and spam sites.
  4. Make Mobile friendly pages. In the current era where Mobile traffic is so high, search engines could rank these pages higher. Recently Google stated showing a Mobile-Friendly indication on search results on mobile.
  5. Use an Analytics tools to measure. You cant improve without measuring.
  6. Register in Search Engine Web-master Tools to see more insights into what a crawler sees and even to catch broken pages.

I will try to keep this a live list, based on new learnings and others feedback.

You might also want to see the tools useful for SEO/Speed Test: SEO Checkup Tools

Tagged as: web
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