There are two parts to SEO: Off-page and on-page. Off-page refers to the inbound links pointing to your website. And on-page refers to the keywords and content of your site, the META tags defined on each page of your site, the structure and layout of your site, its categories, the interlinking of pages within your site, and your site’s outbound links.
Much ado has been said about the nature of low-quality, spammy off-page SEO with an aim at manipulating the SERPS. In a similar vein, it is equally important to pay attention to your site’s on-page SEO if you want your blog to gain favorable rankings in the SERPS.
Here’s a list of 14 SEO questions you should be asking yourself about each and every single blog post page on your site:
1. Is your blogpost URL search engine friendly?
When crawling your website, one of most important data points a search engine gathers about each web page is its URL. The length of the URL, whether or not the URL contains intelligible words, and whether those words pertain to the topic of that page’s content, are all factors that play into determining how well your site gets indexed and ranked in the SERPS. URLs should be concise and should contain either a keyword that pertains to the body or could even spell out the title of the blog post page itself. WordPress and Blogger make this easy and automatic for you, through the use of permalinks, or “permanent links”.
2. Does your first paragraph focus on the main topic?
Relevance is the name of the game when getting indexed and rank. Search engines will frequently display content from the first paragraph of your site on the search results page. So you should make it not only compelling, but contextually relevant, along with one or more of the keywords you are trying to get the blog post indexed for (to be done sparingly so as not to be caught blatantly engaging in keyword stuffing).
3. Are you interlinking your posts?
External backlinks to your site are not the only ones that the search engines are interested in. Search engines also give credence and weight to the internal link structure of the blog posts within your site. Since search engines like Google view contextually relevant backlinks in a favorable light, why can’t these links come from your relevant blog posts?
Linking newer blog posts back to old, relevant posts is nothing short of an extremely effective way to pass link juice and PR to pages within your site. It also signals to the search engines that your site is being updated with fresh content, which promotes more frequent crawling and regular traffic.
4. Do you use outbound links? (Only relevant and of high authority)
One of the greatest SEO myths is that linking out to other websites somehow devalues your own site’s page rank and authority. However, the truth is that search engines favor outbound links, especially if those links are to other sites that are relevant, and are of higher authority. Why?
Because this sends a signal to Google that your website is aimed at delivering value to your readers. And if you include a link to a valuable site from yours, Google believes your site should be rewarded for it.
5. Are you using LSI for your post content?
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) refers to strategy of diversifying your keyword usage within a single web page. The old strategy of optimizing your page for a single page no longer holds the same weight as it once used to. Search engines, such as Google, are now giving more weight to pages that contain a diverse collection of keywords that are related to the primary keyword.
In plain English, this means that you intersperse synonyms of your primary keywords within your post content, as opposed to excessively overstuffing your page with the same keyword too many times so as to come across as unnatural or unreadable.
6. Are you being conscious of your post’s word count?
Fixation with word counts is yet another one of the biggest myths of SEO. There is no evidence to support the assertion that a piece of content on the Internet must be a minimum word length in order to achieve favourable rankings in the SERPS.
When it comes to word count, let’s set the record straight: size doesn’t matter. Quality trumps quantity. It’s okay for an article to be short (less than 500 words, according to the conventional definition of a “short” article), as long as it contains quality content, gets the point across, and it is optimized properly.
7. Are you making good use of header tags?
Content that is broken down into sections is a lot easier to read and digest not only by humans, but it makes it easier for search engine crawlers to digest, index, and rank content. Make sure your content is broken down into sections that are partitioned by keyword-optimized header tags. By header tags, we mean the <H1>, <H2>, <H3>… <Hn> tags used to format blocks of text to make them larger and bolder for greater emphasis and visual impact. (We recommend using <H1>, H2 and <H3> tags for maximum effect.
8. Did you optimize your images?
If you’ve got images embedded within your blog posts, then these are fair game for SEO as well. Make sure they are appropriately sized so as to optimize your blog site’s loading speed. Configure them with the ALT tag, which is where you can put descriptive keyword-rich text that gets indexed by the search engines. Many search engines now have the capability to return images in their search results. So why not take advantage of this and maximize your site’s exposure?
And to make life easier for users of WordPress, there are even plugins that will automate the job of optimizing your images for maximum performance:
- WP Smush It – compresses and converts images into formats that take up less of a footprint, thus improving image load times.
- CW Image Optimizer – Based on WP Smush It, but does the conversion locally as opposed to at a third party site.
9. Have you optimized your page for maximum load speed?
When Google crawls your website, one of the metrics it gathers is the speed at which your pages load. Google Webmaster Tools offers a feature that analyzes your site’s load speed and offers very poignant and specific recommendations on how to improve it. Look for the Page Speed tool within Google Webmaster Tools.
10. Do your outbound links represent a diverse mixture of nofollow vs dofollow links?
One of the biggest pitfalls of the pre-Penguin and pre-Panda world was to fall into the trap of believing that all of your outbound links should be nofollow, so as to preserve “link juice”, based on the fallacious premise that this would devalue your own site’s page rank. Since Google now has made it abundantly clear that they prefer sites to have a natural backlink profile, it pays to have both dofollow as well as nofollow outbound links from your website.
11. Does your page or post include all of the essential meta tags that the search engines use when crawling and indexing a site?
While there is much controversy as to whether and how much weight META tags carry in today’s world of SEO, the fact of the matter remains that they do bear some impact to your page’s overall SEO, though it does not influence it as much as it used to. Adding appropriate META TITLE, a META DESCRIPTION, and a META KEYWORD tag.
This will help the search engines identify, tag, and index your site more efficiently as well as boost your click-through rate rate. In fact, if you are running a news website and wish to have Google consider your blog posts for inclusion in Google News, you should make use of the STANDOUT meta tag.
12. Are you using a “show related posts” plugin?
As a corollary to #3 above, as it pertains to interlinking within the website, if you are using a CMS such as WordPress, then it is highly recommended that you automate the process of internal backlinking by using a “show related posts” plugin, that will automatically display posts that are related by category or tag. This will increase the amount of time that visitors will stay on your website, thus help engage the user better and thereby increase your blog’s conversion rates.
13. Does it have appropriate social sharing?
Sharing your sites on social networks adds a new dimension to your SEO strategy. If they aren’t already doing so, each page or post on your blog should include a toolbar with buttons that let you share it on the social network of your choice: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Digg, among others.
14. Did you claim your Google authorship?
You must have it done to claim every content, page you publish as an original author as well as add authenticity and credibility to your blog. Without speaking much, I’d like to refer you to best resources on this question..
Update : Google authorship is not considered anymore.
If your blog post page can answer these 14 on page SEO questions, then you will be in good shape to maximize your position in the SERPs.
Can you think of any other important on page SEO questions? If so, feel free to share your comments below. I’d like to hear from you.