Post Panda & Penguin On-Page Optimization Checklist
On page optimization is essentially any activity that will affect your search engine rankings that is done on your website. With Google changing their algorithm hundreds of times a year, along with other search engines, it’s important to stay up on these, and make sure you are doing all you can where you have the most control: on your site itself. I’ve compiled a checklist of what I’ve found to be the best ways to keep your on page in compliance, for best results.
Algorithmic & Principled Factors
Algorithmic factors are directly affected by Google’s algorithm. Though the exact algorithm is a tightly held secret, and is ever changing, through field testing, there is a wide consensus by most SEO professionals that these factors trigger signals directly within the algorithm itself, which directly affect search engine rankings. Principled factors are accepted by SEOs as factors that may or may not be affected by the algorithms themselves, but are best practices. Consider that Google has a full time staff who’s whole job it is to figure out how to work their principles into the algorithm. Lose the attitude of tricking the system, and play by these principles for the best long term results.
1. Title Tag
For anyone who knows anything about SEO, it goes without saying that the title tag is the single most significant way a crawler can determine what your page is about. If you are trying to rank for a keyword that is not in your title tag, good luck. I will note, however, to be careful with “overoptimization” of your title tag.
The title tag is displayed in both the search engine result, as well as the browser header, as seen below:
- Keyword Only | Brand Name
- Keyword & a Few More Words | Brand Name
- Brand Name | Keyword Only
- Brand Name | Keyword & a Few More Words
- Try to keep it 70 characters or under
- Include your primary keyword close to the beginning
- Use pipes (|) to separate page name from site name
2. Meta Description
Although not directly affecting all search engines’ results, it is not only best practice to utilize the meta description and meta keywords section for the affect on user experience, but also on click through rates. The meta description is what users see under your title tag as the description of the site. If your keyword is located in there, it will be in bold, further drawing the user’s eyes to it, and increasing your click through rates. The better your click through rates are at the bottom, the better Google will rank you.
4. Page URL
Although many sites with non optimized URLs do rank high in certain terms, the page URL is known to carry some weight in the validity of your page. The best practice is to show the hierarchy of the specific page within the URL, although it’s also been found just as effective for sites without much hierarchy to use simply the page name. It goes without saying you need your keyword in the URL. From a user perspective, if they see their keyword in the URL they’re more likely to feel that it is relevant to them, and thus increase your click through rate.
- Make sure your keyword is in the URL
- Use hierarchy if the category names are secondary keywords
- use hyphens or underscores to separate words in the URL
With Google’s Panda updates, they’ve started working signals that indicate good content into the actual algorithm. Now, instead of spammy, keyword stuffed pages, the algorithm started looking at page content more like a reader. You need to include your keyword(s) in the content, but not overly stuffed. You need to make sure that a machine knows what your page is about, but also that a human being can read it without sounding like a complete moron. We’ve all seen these useless pages during the days of spun articles and autoblogs. Stay away from spun content.
Tips & Best Practices:
- Include your keyword in the content
- Use correct grammar and spelling
- Use rich content (images, lists, text, media, etc)
- Use deep content (try to keep pages over 600 words)
- Don’t use spun content & use original content
- Make your content easily sharable
- Don’t over stuff your page with ads
- Don’t over stuff your content with keywords
- Use variants of your keywords
- Use H1, H2 and H3 tags only when it makes sense from a reader’s perspective
- Use alt= tags on images with a description of the image as the alt tag
4. Site Architecture
Make sure your site is running smoothly, and is working in your favor overall.
Tips & Best Practices:
- Make sure your site loads fast. You can use this free tool to test the load time.
- Include an XML sitemap on your site, and make sure it’s reachable from
http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml. This is totally different than a sitemap for users. It helps search engines crawl your pages better.
- DO Internal linking in navigation & in content. The more fibers stretching between the pages of your site, the better. Keep anchor text diverse to an extent. Think of how Wikipedia does it. Look at how many links are on their pages, all with relevant yet diverse keywords.
- Larger sites are seen as more authoritative.
- Use canonical redirects for pages with duplicate content
- Use a 301 redirect from the non www to the www site
- Upload a robots.txt file
Keyword(s) in title tag but not overused
Keyword(s) in meta description but not overused
Keyword(s) in the URL with the proper URL structure
Content is original and relevant to keyword(s)
Correct grammar and spelling
Rich content instead of just text
At least 600 words of text copy
Ads (if any) are not above the fold, nor overused
Keywords are not over stuffed, and there are several variants
Text content reads well and not spammy
Images have alt= tags
H1, H2, H3 tags are used correctly
Page loads fast
Site has XML sitemap installed (preferably linked up with Google Webmaster Tools)
Sitewide navigation has relevant anchor text
Internal linking is frequent & anchor text is diverse yet relevant
Orphaned pages are removed or redirected
No broken or dead links
Site is more than a few pages (larger the better)
Content is easy to share (social icons)
Canonical redirects link between duplicate content
301 redirect from domain.com to
Rich snippets implemented if relevant
Site is correctly viewed in IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome
Robots.txt file uploaded