Complete on-page SEO audit checklist
Before I get into how you do an on-page SEO audit, I’ll quickly explain why you would need to do one.
So, search engines like Google use keywords, images, headers, and other elements of your website to check if your page matches a new search request.
If Google decides you’re a match it pushes your page up the SERP list, if not, you go to the bottom of the pile.
If you stand any chance of getting to the top 1-3 pages in Google search organically, you need an SEO strategy.
And the first step is to do an on-page SEO audit. And on-page SEO refers to the things you can do on your own website to improve your rankings.
Another type of SEO is off-page or off-site SEO which refers to anything you optimise outside of your site like backlinks, social media and PR. But we’ll save that for another day.
Now you know why you need to carry out on-page SEO, let’s get into how to do an on-page SEO audit.
Your on-page SEO audit checklist.
- High-quality page content
- Page Titles
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt text
- Page URLs
- Internal linking
- Mobile responsiveness
- Site speed
High-quality page content
Your page content is the center of on-page SEO. It tells your visitors and Google what your website and business are all about.
To create high-quality content you need to understand what your potential visitors are searching for and choose relevant keywords and topics to include in your content. You can use tools like AHRefs and SEMRush to do your keyword research and build a keyword list that you want your site to be ranked for.
The next thing to think about is where your content fits into the buyer journey and how you can use your keywords on those pages.
Use the SEO tools mentioned above to see what keywords your pages are currently ranking for and check if they’re appropriate for that page. If they are, that’s great, if not, you need to work on adding more relevant keywords to the page content.
When you’re writing your content or updating existing pages with high-quality content, here are some best practices to stick to:
- Use both short and long-tail keywords
- Include relevant and engaging images or video
- Write your content with your target audience in mind
- Use your content to solve problems for your audience
- Include CTA’s to help direct users to the right place
Your page title or title tag is the HTML title tag that will appear in search results. It tells both Google and your users what that particular web page is about.
You can make the most of this by including your keywords in your page title to make sure that page is ranking for the right intent. Decide which keywords you want that particular page to rank for and add them as naturally as possible to your title.
How to optimise your page titles:
- Stick to a maximum of 60 characters so your title displays properly in search results and isn’t cut off and try to put your keywords first.
- Don’t be spammy. Google will penalize you if you’ve stuffed keywords into your title, so make sure it reads well and makes scenes and is relevant to the content on the page.
- Only use one title tag per page and put it in the head of your page, not the body.
There’s some debate over whether capitalisation matters in page titles and if it affects SEO. Some say it does and others say it doesn’t matter. I tend to capitalise the first letter of a word as it’s easier to read when sifting through search results.
The headers on your pages are there to help organise the content into more readable chunks and to help search engines figure out which part of your content is most relevant to a search query.
Add important keywords to your headers, in particular, your <h1> as this is what the overall page is about. Use similar keywords in your <h2> headers to break up the content and make it more scannable.
Your meta description is the snippet of text that appears under your page title in search results. It is a brief description of the content on that page and helps search engines to understand the context when crawling sites for a search query.
Include your keyword or phrase in your meta description and make sure it forms an engaging sentence or two that will encourage users to click.
Image alt text
Image alt-text tells search engines what your image is about. Adding alt-text to your images will make sure Google can display your content in image-based results and text results. It’s also great practice from a UX perspective too, as it makes your content more accessible to screen readers.
The key to good image alt text is to make it specific to that image by describing what the image is and making it relevant to the wider page content.
Use your keywords sparing so they form a cohesive sentence.
There’s a bit of debate over whether page URLs have a big impact on search rankings, but whether they do or not, it’s good practice to make sure your page URLs are concise and relevant to the content on that page.
If adding your keywords to your URL will help users understand what is on that page, then definitely do that. Also making sure your URL, your page title, and meta description are all in sync will make your page much easier to search and more trustworthy to click.
From a Google perspective, it’s good practice to make URLs as simple as possible. This is so visitors don’t get put off by long URLs and to stop your URL from being truncated in the search results. When I’m editing my page URLs I start with my page title and then see what I can remove so it still makes sense and is relevant to the page. For example, any numbers, special characters, and unnecessary information.
The aim is to keep them short and sweet and relevant to the page.
An internal link is a hyperlink in your web page content that goes to another helpful and relevant page or resource on the same website or domain.
They can be links from a category page to a helpful blog article or a link from one blog post to another relevant post on a related subject.
The idea of internal linking is to keep users on your site for as long as possible and guide them to the information they’re looking for. The last thing you want on a web page is a dead end.
Websites that are mobile-responsive are designed to reformat what you experience on a desktop to an easy-to-navigate mobile-friendly version. Not just shrinking everything down, but making clickable items bigger, and resizing and reformatting images and text.
When you’re designing a new website or reviewing an existing one, its mobile responsiveness is a super important factor to consider, because mobile responsiveness matters.
Mobile devices account for around half of all website traffic worldwide, which makes sense. It’s the first thing I pick up when I want to search for something online. My laptop tends to sit quietly unopened in a drawer.
So, with that in mind, you want your site to look as good on a mobile as it does on a desktop. And the UX needs to be on point too. We want quick and easy navigation and user journeys when we’re on our phones. Text and images need to resize accordingly and buttons need to be accessible.
You can test out your own site’s mobile responsiveness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Whether you’re viewing a site on a mobile device or desktop, you want it to load quickly. And it’s not just the users that value speedy page loading, Google cares a lot about user experience and if your site is slow, it will know.
So, when it comes to on-page SEO, page speed counts big time.
As you continue to add content to your site, it’s always worth checking in with your site speed, there will always be ways to improve.