On-Page SEO Audit Guide

On-page SEO is the process of improving search engine rankings and traffic by applying improvements on a website’s HTML. It’s often viewed as the most basic aspect of the entire optimization process, but it’s also one of the most impactful. Without sound on-page SEO, a website with otherwise good ranking potential can find itself underperforming in Google’s SERPs.

On-page SEO isn’t necessarily difficult to learn, but many novice practitioners of the craft here in the Philippines tend to struggle with it. On one hand, on-page SEO can become tedious and work-intensive on big websites where there could be hundreds if not thousands of pages to optimize. On the other hand, some aspects of on-page SEO require basic English writing skills to do well – something that not all Filipinos have.

If you need a checklist of things to accomplish and tips on how to do each one well, this post is for you. Here are the key areas you need to focus your attention on when performing an on-page SEO audit:

 

  1. Choose a SEO-Friendly CMS

If you’re building or re-developing a website prior to starting your SEO campaign, you can save yourself from a lot of headaches by going with a content management system (CMS) that’s known to be SEO-friendly. This means that out of the box, the CMS needs to have the basics covered such as the ability to edit title tags, add meta descriptions, mark up headline text, and so on.

Some CMS and ecommerce platforms may not have this from the get-go, but can be enhanced by extensions and themes that supply the desired functionalities.

Some examples of popular, SEO-friendly CMS platforms include WordPress, Shopify, HubSpot, Magento, Drupal, BigCommerce and more. These are mature platforms that have added default SEO features over the years, or have active developer communities that publish and update SEO extensions regularly.

 

  1. Canonicalize URL Slugs

The URL slug is the part of a webpage’s address that comes after the root domain. For example, in www.searchworks.ph/seo-services, it’s the part that says :/seo-services/.” The slug is a ranking factor on Google due to the fact that it an be used to indicate the webpage’s content theme.

URL slugs can also provide search engines with clues on where a webpage belongs in a website’s overall topic taxonomy and page hierarchy.

When a URL slug uses real words that anyone can read and understand, it’s described as being “canonical.” However, not all CMS platforms make the URL slugs of their published pages canonical by default. Instead, the root domain is followed by a slug full of characters pre-determined by the CMS, but don’t make sense to human readers. An example of a non-canonical URL would be something like www.searchworks.ph/post-1658-5aj-03.

If your website’s pages have non-canonical URLs, it’s up to you to change that. The process varies from one CMS to another, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s do it on WordPress – the most widely used CMS on the web:

To make your URL slugs canonical by default:

WordPress Permalink Settings

  1. Log in to the back end of your WordPress site.
  2. Go to the left hand menu and find Settings > Permalink Settings.
  3. Choose Post name. This fetches a post or page’s title and sets it as your URL slug by default.

For the most part, this setting should do all the work you need to do on URL slugs for you. However, if you want to dictate what the URL slugs will say down to the last character, you can go with this:

Post Permalink Editor

  1. Log in to the back end of your WordPress site.
  2. Go to the post or page whose URL slug you want to edit.
  3. Choose Post name. This fetches a post or page’s title and sets it as your URL slug by default.

For posts that you haven’t published yet, editing a webpage’s permalink should be a very straightforward matter. However, if you’re changing the permalink of a published webpage, be aware that you are creating a new webpage because of the new URL. WordPress will then redirect the old URL to the new one with your desired slug.

 

  1. Optimize Title Tags

The title tag is the most powerful on-page SEO ranking factor bar none. This text isn’t visible on a webpage unless you switch to page source view and you know where to find it. However, it’s also the text that search engines use as a listing’s clickable, blue headline. Needless to say, it provides search engines and human users alike a very good idea of what to expect from the page where that title tag can be found.

On most CMS platforms, the title tag is derived directly from the webpage’s visible title or main headline. However, the two can be distinct from each other at the discretion of the webmaster. It’s not common, but it does happen especially when a page’s main headline is too long and needs abbreviation.

On WordPress, the title tag of any page can be modified by installing the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. Once this is set up, every post or page will have this at the bottom of their edit screens:

Yoast-Title Tag Editor

You can see several fields here where you can type, including the page’s title tag. You can also set a default title tag formula here if you’ve decided on a titling convention for a specific post or page taxonomy.

Keep in mind that a good title tag has the following qualities:

  • Provides an effective summary of the webpage’s conten
  • Is 60 characters long or shorter (spaces included)
  • Mentions the page’s main keyword as early as possible
  • Is not overly stuffed with other permutations of the main keyword
  • Conveys the intent that the page caters to (navigational, transactional, informational, etc.)
  • Mentions the website’s brand name (optional)

Note: title tags can exceed 60 characters, but anything beyond that count is likely to be truncated by the search engine and thus, the omitted keywords will not count towards the webpage’s ability to rank.

 

  1. Optimize Meta Descriptions

Just like title tags, meta descriptions are not visible on a webpage unless you view the source. However, it is visible on the search results as the black text just below a search listing’s title. Unlike the title tag, a webpage’s meta description doesn’t directly impact its ability to rank on the SERPs. It does, however, serve other important purposes.

First, a meta description provides searchers with an expanded idea of what a webpage contains. If you mention your keywords in it, they’ll appear in bold characters in a search result. This makes your listing more eye-catching and more likely to get clicked on by a searcher.

Second, click-through rates (CTR) is a ranking factor. The better you write your meta descriptions, the better your CTRs will get. The better the CTR of a page, the more likely that Google will see positive usage signals in it and consider moving you up in the SERPs.

A good meta description has the following qualities:

  • Must encapsulate the essence of the webpage and give searchers a good idea of what to expect.
  • 160 characters or fewer (including spaces)
  • Must mention the webpage’s main keyword.
  • Should attract a searcher’s interest and entice him to click.

While it’s possible to leave this field blank and still rank well for a target keyword, it’s not something we recommend. Leaving the meta description blank means you’re letting Google decide what text on the page to use as your meta description.

 

  1. Optimize the Main Headline (H1) Text

The H1 HTML markup alters the look and size of designated text while indicating to search engines that it carries more weight than other alphanumeric strings on a webpage. Like the title tag, the H1 text of a page is there to set expectations among readers on what to expect from the rest of the content. Unlike the title tag, though, the H1 text is there to be seen by readers and to attract their attention.

Typically, CMS platforms make the titles typed by authors the default H1 text on the page. However, not every CMS does this and you’ll have to check the page source or run a Screaming Frog scan of the webpage to see if the biggest, boldest text in it is marked up with H1 tags.

A good main headline for a page has the following qualities:

  • Brief and direct to the point
  • Mentions the main target keyword of the page
  • Accurately reflects the essence of a webpage
  • Is NOT accompanied by other text marked by the H1 tag in the same webpage

You can easily see the H1 text of every webpage on your site using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. From there, you can export them to a CSV file and open them on Excel for easier data management.

 

  1. Optimize the Body Text

The body text on a page is also a major ranking factor. The quality of the content, its length, the breadth of topics covered and its relevance to the target keyword all matter to search engine algorithms.

There is no single right or wrong way to write content because literature is art and therefore, subjective in nature. However, many tests and case studies have shown that search engine algorithms tend to favor webpages that have body content with these qualities:

  • Demonstrates expertise and trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • Written with proper grammar and syntax.
  • Original and written by humans.
  • Mentions plenty of entities such as people, places, statistics and other precise information.
  • Properly formatted with appropriate use of headings, subheadings, bullets, bolds, italics, etc.
  • Has good text to image ratio.

And while some SEOs say that longer content with higher word counts is better, it’s not always the case. Google has enough intelligence to know that not every webpage’s intent is the same. For articles and blog posts, longer may indeed be better. For ecommerce category and product detail pages, maybe not so much.

 

  1. Image Alt Text

Alt text is a HTML element that’s used to mark up images for identification and accessibility reasons. As far as search engines are concerned, however, this element also helps their algorithms determine what’s being depicted in an image file.

This is a part of SEO that many websites neglect. For many webmasters, it doesn’t seem worth the effort to inspect every image and type a description. To SEO-savvy website owners, however, this is an area where they can gain a small edge over the competition.

You can audit the alt tags of every image in your website using Screaming Frog with the following steps:

  1. Open screaming Frog and go to Mode. Choose Spider.
  2. Enter your home page’s web address in the URL field and hit enter.
  3. Wait for the crawl process to finish. This can take minutes to hours depending on your website’s size.
  4. After the full crawl is complete, go to Screaming Frog’s menu and click on Bulk Export > Images.
  5. Save the exported file as a CSV and open it with Excel.
  6. In the spreadsheet, you’ll see the web addresses of every image that the tool found along with their alt text.
  7. Separate the ones with alt text and those that don’t have it.
  8. Write new alt text for the images that don’t have them.
  9. If the existing alt text don’t seem to have good alt text, you can also rewrite them.

SF-Image Bulk Export

These are some best practices when writing image alt text:

  • Make it brief. 60 characters should be more than enough.
  • Mention keywords pertaining to what’s being depicted in the image.
  • Be accurate with your description. Don’t mention things that are not depicted in it.

Additionally, you can also put captions near your images to give readers additional context while sending even more relevance signals to search engines.

 

  1. Internal Linking

As the name suggests, internal linking is the process of placing hyperlinks from one webpage in your site to another. Editorially, it’s done to entice readers to read related content in the site. In SEO, however, it’s done to boost indexation and to facilitate the flow of PageRank between pages.

Internal linking is a pretty straightforward process. Basically, it’s all about linking text in a content piece to a webpage that’s about the anchor text. Here are some best practices:

  • Place a reasonable amount of internal links in one webpage. A ratio of one link for every 300 words is a good benchmark.
  • Use suggestive anchor text. Make sure that the destination page is really about the anchor text that you used to point to it.
  • Make sure the internal links are Dofollow.
  • Make sure you’re linking directly to a page with a 200 OK server response code. Avoid linking to URLs that are either dead (404 Not Found) or redirected (301/302 redirect).

Ultimately, on-page SEO isn’t the hardest part of the optimization process but it can take some time and effort to do well on larger websites. As long as you know how to use tools like Screaming Frog and you’re well-versed in the SEO functions of your CMS, you should do just fine.

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Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.