Blog Post

Onsite SEO Checklist -- What To Include On Your Website


Onsite SEO is very important! Google’s algorithm updates, like Penguin, have transformed the SEO industry (over the years) and for many years, there was a tremendous shift from onsite SEO to offsite SEO tactics (aka: link building). However, onsite SEO has come back into the spotlight and has once again become significant! Watch this Daily Brown Bag to learn beneficial onsite SEO tips and what to include in your onsite SEO checklist.


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Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to be talking about onsite SEO. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good morning, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. Onsite SEO is a popular topic. Of course, it’s where SEO started way back in the early days when you really could just do onsite and good things would happen. And then there was a tremendous shift to offsite SEO, or what people call link building, and for many years that was very, very popular and even more dominant than some of the onsite tactics. This is a frequent discussion, Chad, in our SEO reseller community. A lot of folks coming through shopping for a white label SEO program or partner are very interesting in what you do onsite and what you do offsite.

The Importance of Onsite SEO

I think this issue has come front and center… I know it has with the Penguin releases over the last few years, where some of the abuses and manipulation in link building, in particular over anchoring and anchor text (just how a lot of people used to signal good offsite SEO), has been discouraged and even penalized by Google.

Onsite SEO has become very, very important again as people really can’t do link building the way they used to. They really need to earn placements and have less control over their anchor text. Onsite SEO becomes something that all of our SEO resellers really need to tune into, and use as a signal for Google to really tell them what keywords you should be categorized at. And I think that leads us into our Brown Bag today, Chad. What are some tips and tricks we can share with the white label SEO community here?

Onsite SEO Tips & Tricks

As you said, onsite is a complete discipline that people can spend endless hours on optimizing every little nook and cranny of a website. But what I wanted to talk about today is just high-level -- really when you’re first looking and trying to do an assessment to try to understand just where is a website in terms of its onsite optimization: how good is it? I always start with:

  • Understand Keywords. Of course, Adam, as you said, there’s even a debate about whether people should really have target keywords. For most people, it’s still important to understand what people are looking for, and what you want your content to be about. So, for the purposes of your basic onsite review, you need to start with, “What is this website trying to talk about? What keywords are important for the people who would be using the website?” Start there.

  • Evaluate the Content. Again, very high-level, before you get into the nitty gritty of title tags and descriptions. Does the current website have the content that it needs in order to answer the questions of the keyword searches people are going to be using? What I like to do is actually go through the website and take those keywords and do a little trick in Google. If you do [site - the website you’re looking at]: in the title and then, in quotes, put the keyword (ex. google.com: in title: “SEO for small businesses”)... What I want to do is see, “Is there a page on this website today that has the target keyword in the title of the page?” It’s a quick little trick, and it allows you very quickly see the keywords that I’m trying to target, do I currently have good pages that already match those pages or do I need to dig deeper to see if, maybe, one exists but is not yet optimized?

  • The next thing you want to do is take that analysis and figure out what content is missing. What is the gap between the keywords you’re looking for and the keywords that exist or the content that exists on the website? And fill that gap. Again, this could be taking current content and looking at it and finding places where it’s not as descriptive as it could be and making it more descriptive by adding in those keywords that describe it better. In some cases, it may be completely rewriting content. A lot of times what we’ll see is that there will be a “Services” page that has a bolded list of a bunch of services and the reality is that that’s usually not enough. So it’s very important sometimes to go through and create individual pages for each one of those services. A lot of times that’s all you really need to do to take a website that’s not very well optimized and get it to something that is much better optimized. Once you’re past that initial analysis, you can get into some of the details.

  • What is the Page Title? We like to see the keyword in the title.

  • Look at the Meta Description. Again, ideally, you get the keyword in there, but also use the meta description as a way to maybe invite someone in to read more. You want to make it interesting and compelling, almost like writing ad copy.

  • Then, within the page itself, do you have the type of visual cues that are going to engage somebody and also help the search engines? Things like h1 tags. Are there nice section headers? Are there images on that page, and are the images relevant and, in some cases, are there ALT tags in those images that support the primary keywords? Again, a lot of this is very much common sense. There’s not a whole lot of science, but, again, if you follows these pretty simple recipes we’ve described, I think you’re going to move your onsite SEO a lot.

  • One final point here, there are a few technical nits we always like to look at with onsite SEO. One is site load time. Adam, as you said, this has become increasingly important as a factor for two reasons:

    1. Search engines know that -- and Google knows that -- the slower a site is, the less fulfilling it is for the audience. Therefore, not only because your audience wants to have a site load fast, the search engines also want to promote websites that are fast.

    2. Make sure your site speed is satisfactory. We always use a site called webpagetest.org -- gives you a very good test.

  • My final suggestion is use a service either like Open Site Explorer (that’s a product of Moz) or log into your Webmaster Tools, if you haven’t claimed that, and look for 404 errors. I’ve seen this a lot -- someone will have switched from an old site to a new site, and they forgot to point the old pages or 301 redirect, the old website pages that had good content and had attracted links in the past -- they forget to redirect that to the new page. It’s a very simple change that can have some fairly dramatic results on your rankings. So those are our tips for today.

Onsite SEO Takeaways

Excellent, Chad. Those are very helpful. Again, I know SEO has changed dramatically in the last few years. I’m in the 4:00 p.m. Q&A session with our white label SEO community members, and they’re often saying, “Oh, I want more keyword rich anchor text. I want to use offsite signals to signal to Google that I rank on this.”

Of course, everyday we’re discouraging people from trying to manipulate those. If you read the Google guidelines, the Webmaster Tools guidelines, and know the recent algorithm updates from Penguin over the last few years… those things are just out of bounds these days, which puts a greater emphasis on all of those things that Chad just covered for onsite SEO to really signal to Google the right keywords, where you should be categorized, and then you need to earn your popularity through great PR placements without leveraging that anchor text like people used to several years ago. It’s just the way things are today. Onsite SEO is very important. All of our SEO resellers need to know this and need to understand this as they sell the product, as they consult with the client, and as they do the initial tweaks to the website to make sure it’s positioned correctly.

We sure appreciate you joining our Brown Bag today. It’s great to see you, and we hope you’ll hit subscribe so we can visit again soon.