On-site SEO Checklist

All the major search engines take account of the different components of your web pages but on-site SEO is fairly similar across them all. Since – at least in theory – you have total control over these factors, it pays to make sure that as many as possible are correct.

Important on-site SEO items:

Title tag

This is the title of the page. It appears at the top of the browser screen you’re on as well as in any tabs you have open. It is also the blue clickable link that you’ll see in the search results. Which makes it one of the most important tags you can use. Each page title should be crafted for the content of the page, ideally with the most important keywords closer to the start of the title. The maximum length displayed in search results is around 65 characters.

Description tag

This is sometimes used by the search engines for the main text below your title link. Make it good, with either a teaser of what your page is about or some kind of call to action. The maximum length displayed in search results is around 160 characters. Remember that search engines can decide to use other text from your page if their algorithm decides that will better serve their users. If you’re fortunate enough to have a listing in Dmoz or the Yahoo! Directory, this description is sometimes used instead although you can over-ride that by using a meta tag in your pages to tell the robots of your choice.

On-site SEOKeywords in your url

If you have a choice, it’s generally considered good to use your keywords in your url. The major search engines bold the keywords in their results to give searchers confidence in the results they’ve been given.

Heading tags

After the title, headings are one of the most important on page SEO items. Think of them in much the same way as you’d see headlines used in a magazine story. One main headline (the H1 tag) plus a few other sub-headings. If your page layout looks messy with the default heading size then you can use CSS to change it so that it fits better with the rest of the look and feel of your site.

Image names

You’ve probably noticed that the search engines offer an image search and that images sometimes come up high in the results, depending on what you’re searching for. Because analysis of the contents of images is still in its early stages, sensibly naming your images and giving them meaningful “alt” tags helps the search engines to correctly classify them. It also reinforces what your page is about. So take the time to change the name of your images from the default numbering system used by your digital camera to something that a human (or a robot) can understand.

Write naturally

Don’t stuff your page full of keywords! That might have worked in the very early days of the web – back when Google was just a twinkle in its creators eyes – but it will work against you nowadays. Write for humans first, search engines second (if at all). The search engines have analysed literally billions of pages of text and know what words are related to other words, even down to the context. So if you’re talking about an apple on a computer page it will be given a different meaning to a maths problem page or a healthy eating page. The search engines are usually smart enough to work this out. So just write naturally and let the robots figure out what you’re page is talking about – most of the time they’ll get it right.

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