Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, is the process of improving aspects of a website so that it can rank higher in search engine results.
On-Page SEO refers to the elements of this practice that you can control and implement
directly to your webpage. If you are unsure whether you need On-page SEO, read our general SEO Checklist
If you’re new to On-page SEO, all the factors involved in optimising a website can seem a little daunting. From website structure to keyword optimisation, there are many ways to make changes, so we have put together these easy to follow steps for beginners so you can learn how to improve your on-page SEO.
What is On-Page SEO? (And Why Do You Need It?)
On-Page SEO describes the process of optimising your content to make your website more visible to search engines and human readers. The more optimised, relevant and informative your content is, the more likely it is to rank higher on search engines. Technical SEO is a complex subject, but in this guide, we will focus on a simplified list of tasks that improve on-page SEO.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Here is your basic checklist to support On-Page SEO. Each topic offers explanations and examples to ensure SEO success.
Improve Website Structure
How you display content and how the pages connect is an important step in improving your on-page SEO. A sound website structure helps users find their way around your page and encourages them to stay. It will also help Google to index your site quicker and understand what your website is about.
Your website should also have a hierarchy, highlighting the most important pages. You can find a more detailed explanation of site structure and its impact on On-page SEO here.
Here are some simple steps you can take now to improve your website structure.
Create a menu structure
- Firstly, think about the services or products you offer.
- Put all of the services or products you sell on individual landing pages and describe them in detail.
- Link these landing pages to your main menu and ensure that the menu is accessible from all pages. You can place links in your written content. For example, if when describing your product you mention a related service, you can link it in the content like this:
“We sell flat-packed furniture and we also provide a furniture assembly service if required”. In that example, you would link your assembly service page to the words “furniture assembly service”
Delete old content
Outdated content should be removed to keep your website clutter-free. Search engines crawl your website to understand your site hierarchy so removing old, irrelevant content will give Google the best version of this hierarchy to look at. The user experience is also improved when visitors can navigate through your site and find recent content.
When removing old content, you need to create a redirect link to point your visitors to the new, replacement content. This is a necessary step because although you may have deleted the content on your URL, the actual URL still exists in Google’s index and can still appear in the search results.
Effectively removing old content can be done in a few steps.
- First, make a note of the URL you want to remove, then go into your website admin and delete it.
- Next, look for your most relevant content to replace the old content and make a note of that URL.
- Then use a redirect plugin to add your replacement URL. Redirect plugins are available on WordPress and other CMS (Content Management Systems) software. One example of a redirect plugin is Redirection. Yoast SEO Premium plugin for WordPress also features a redirect manager and you can learn more about how to use it here.
- Finally, this new URL needs to be added to your website’s robots.txt file. Accessing this file on a website is usually a web developer’s job. You can learn more about robots.txt files here.
When you’ve completed the steps, the next time someone discovers your old URL and clicks it, they will be automatically redirected to your replacement URL.
Make a sitemap
A sitemap is a file that helps search engines quickly and successfully crawl your website. This file maps out your website and signals to crawl bots (the programmes that search your site) which pages are important and how they are linked on your website. There are several steps to creating a sitemap but using a plugin is a much simpler method.
If you are using a WordPress site, you can use a plugin like the Yoast SEO plugin which will create the sitemap for you. Another alternative is the XML Sitemap plugin, and you can find similar plugins on other CMS.
It is important to be aware that plugins can slow down your site so using too many different plugins can sometimes be a hindrance. This is why multi-purpose plugins are sometimes better.
Some steps to making your sitemap if you’re not using a CMS:
- Use a sitemap generator to create your sitemap online. Simply input your URL and the generator will create the sitemap.
- Upload this file into your FTP under the name sitemap.xml or similar. This step can become complicated so it is best to leave this task to a web developer or someone with experience with sitemaps if you can’t access a plugin.
Create Headings using HTML Tags
Headings help to organise your content into easily readable chunks and enable the reader to scan your content to get a sense of the theme. From an SEO perspective, using headings in your writing will help Google to identify the relevance of your page based on the HTML tags.
It is good practice to style your written content and use headings to break up the paragraphs and sections. 6 types of text headings can be used. Typically, heading 1 through to heading 6 are defined by font size ranging from large to small.
On the backend of your website, in the source code, these headings become HTML tags as shown in the example below. Google will look at these tags when assessing the relevance of your web page giving the most weight to the H1 and the least weight to the lowest heading level on the page.
Here’s an example of HTML tags based on this page:
<h1>On-Page SEO Checklist For Beginners</h1> – (this is the title of the page and the theme of the article)
<h2>What is On-Page SEO? (And Why Do You Need It?) </h2>- (This is the subheading)
<h3>Improve Website Structure</h3> (This is a lower level subheading)
Although there are 6 levels of heading available, you don’t need to apply all of them to your content. If you have subheadings of equal importance then they can use the same heading.
Note – This rule doesn’t apply to the H1 heading. There should only ever be one H1 title tag on your page.
Here’s an example, on this page the first subheading “What is On-Page SEO? (And Why Do You Need It?)” is most important after the H1 title, so it is written in the H2 text. The next subheadings “Improve Website Structure”, “Create Headings using HTML Tags” and so on are in H3 text as they are all of equal importance. Further explanations of HTML tags can be found here.
Create User-Friendly URLs
A complicated, long-winded URL is more likely to be ignored or forgotten by not only the user but also by search engines.
Your URL (Uniform Resource Locator) represents the address where your content resides online. The URL is broken down into segments: the protocol, the domain, and the sub-folder.
In the example, https://www.awebsite.com/pages
- HTTPS – refers to the protocol i.e the way data is transferred over the internet
- www.awebsite – refers to the domain name of your website
- .com – is the top-level domain, this can look like .co, uk, .org or .net.
- /pages – refers to the subfolder. Information located under these subfolders can have additional subcategories for example https://www.awebsite.com/pages/documents with /documents being another subfolder.
A clear and easy to remember URL will indicate what your site is about before the reader gets there and will help them to find the information they are looking for.
What Does A Bad URL Look Like?
A bad URL is too long and therefore has too many subfolders.
Here’s an example of a URL that is too long :
In the context of URL structure, a “/” represents the level of your website that contains your subfolder. So, looking at the above example:
- “awebsite.com” is your top-level, the domain level.
- “/pages” is on level 1 of your website.
- “/pages1” is contained on level 2
- “/sectionA” is on level 3
- “/documents” is on level 4
- “/doc1234” is on level 5
The content we want to see is “doc1234” and in the eyes of Google, this page isn’t very important because it is found 5 levels deep into your website.
The idea is not to have too many sub levels. The lower the level, the lower the importance of the page with regards to Google.
What Does A Good URL Look Like?
A better URL to highlight the page “doc1234” would be
It is now contained on a higher level of the website and therefore deemed more important to search engines. Read more about URLs here.
Use Keyword Optimisation
The practice of researching and selecting the best and most relevant keywords for your content is called keyword optimisation or keyword research. Keyword optimisation helps you to target the words and phrases that are being searched for most often so that you can use them on your site and drive relevant traffic to your website.
Researching keywords can be time-consuming but it is incredibly beneficial to your on-page SEO. Find out more about how to do keyword research.
Where can I put my keywords?
Once you have selected your relevant keywords, it’s time to plug them into your content. Your use of keywords must be balanced so that your content remains clear and makes sense.
Place keywords in your meta title (another HTML tag – visible in the source code – that tells Google your page title), your heading and subheadings as well as throughout your page. Be mindful that your content doesn’t become spammed with keywords.
Check Your Website Speed
Since Google’s Algorithm Speed Update, the time it takes for a page to load is a factor that can affect your on-page SEO. Conducting a website speed test can show you how quickly your website is displaying its content.
Best practices suggest optimal page speed should be 3 seconds or less. A fast loading site will encourage visitors to stay and look around whereas a site that has a slow load time is frustrating and is a hindrance to the user experience.
The way your page is styled, the size and quantity of your images, the HTML coding and the addition of videos and files can impact your site performance. Learn more about increasing page speed here.
Increasing website speed reduces your bounce rate (the rate at which visitors leave a site after clicking it). Users are likely to stay and look around a website that loads quickly. This is great for the overall user experience but a fast website also boosts rankings in the eyes of Google. You can use Google’s own PageSpeed Insights Tool to test your website page speed.
With WordPress or other CMS sites, you can use caching plugins to help you to optimise your website speed. A cache is a piece of software that will store away copies of your files so they can be served up to your visitors quickly. There are plugins available that will do this for you if your website was built on WordPress.
Some popular caching plugins include:
- WP Rocket
- WP Super Cache
The steps detailed in this guide will help you to improve your On-page SEO when you incorporate it into your marketing strategy. Consistency is key to seeing successful results so you’ll need to apply each step regularly. Ideally, you need to do these checks for every piece of content you produce and use the guide to review and update older content.
At SEM Consultants Ltd, we offer a complete SEO package that will manage your On-page and Off-page technical SEO so we do all the ongoing checks for you. We are a PPC and SEO agency and we also provide Social Media Management and Web Design.