The Simple 4-Step On-Page Optimization Checklist

older man in gray suit showing younger woman in suit something on tablet in office environment

In fighting, if you can kick and punch well, you can win your tussle 95% of the time.

With on-page optimization, if you do four things well, you’ll have better on-site SEO than 80% of the websites out there.

The Big 4:

  • Title Tag
  • URL
  • Header Tag
  • Sufficient Content

URLs – Best Practices

Your URL is the most valuable place to place your keywords.  Each page of your site – including homepage – has a URL (this is different from a domain name).  Here’s an example of a categorical URL for RIVE Marketing:

url best practices


Here are the best practices when it comes to URL structure:

  • Keep them short – as short as possible
  • Have the keywords show as close to the left side as possible
  • Take out filler words (e.g. a, an, the, and, with, etc.)
  • Limit the number of keywords you incorporate (no repetition)
  • Avoid unnecessary categories and subfolders

This last bullet point is very important because I’ve noticed it’s a recurring pattern when company’s create sites: they love to create unnecessary folders.  In the end, the category structure runs two or three levels deep and some of the lower tier URLs will end up looking like:

While a products folder is likely a good choice for site organization purposes, the content folder is not – it’s redundant, takes away valuable URL real estate from the page topic (targeted keywords), and pushes the keywords to the right, lessening their impact.

Another common mistake is including the keyword multiple times in the URL.  Keep in mind your domain name counts towards your keyword count so if you have your keyword in your domain name, you usually won’t want to use it on the folder level.

For example, my domain is  Because of this, I will never need “marketing” in any of my folder level URLs.

Title Tag Optimization

You can locate your title tag by looking at the tab of your current browser.  If you hover over it, you can see the full tag.  In the HTML code of your site, the title goes in between the <title>[YOUR PAGE’S TITLE]</title> code.  Here’s the title for the RIVE Marketing homepage:

title tag optimization

I’ve elected to solely target my company name on my homepage and optimize for targeted keywords on my subpages.  What you write here varies on your unique situation but there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Use keywords lightly – you don’t need to include multiple variations
  • Keep your title tight and to the point; don’t try and stuff every last keyword in there
  • Every title on your website should be completely unique
  • Only use keywords once

Header Tags

The most important header tag is the H1.  This is represented in the code as <h1>[MAIN PAGE TOPIC GOES HERE][/h1>.

You should only have one H1 on your page.  Any other headers should categorically fall in line under level of importance.  For example, all primary subheaders should be H2s and any headers underneath the H2s should be H3s and so on.

Headers help organize your site’s content for Google and Bing.  Stylistically, they often serve the same purpose (organizing content for people visiting your site) but you definitely don’t want to use headers in this manner.

For styling, adjust your CSS code.  For on-page optimization, use your H1s and H2s properly.

Taking it Further

For all of the three vital elements above, you want to remix them so they’re a little bit different from each other.  We do this so as not to appear as if we’re overoptimizing for one keyword.

For example, one of my targeted keywords is “corporate marketing”.  It would be a horrible idea for me to make “Corporate Marketing” my exact title tag, URL, and H1 – even though this would technically be correct.

What you have to remember is in Google’s eyes this is tantamount to trying to game the system so you want to appear more relaxed, more natural in what you use for your elements.  You don’t have to go crazy with this but you do have to implement some finesse.

In my example, I will go with the following:

Title: Corporate Marketing

URL: (note how both keywords are included in the URL because of my domain name)

H1: Advanced Marketing for Corporations


The fourth thing I look at is page content: Is there enough content for Google to chew on?

It’s great to have an optimal header, title, and URL structure on your page but if you don’t give Google some content to chew on, there’s not a compelling reason for them to rank you.

For example, let’s say I publish this blog post and it’s got all of the elements lined up but there’s only 100 words of content in the main body of the page.  Google’s not going to rank it.


There are 50 other sites with full guides on on-page optimization – some over 2,500 words – so why would Google feel compelled to show my post?  Just because I have the basics in place — nope!

The basics (Big 3 talked about above) pave the way for an opportunity to rank but if there’s nothing rank worthy then it’s not going to happen.

To put the importance of good content in perspective, I’d rather have 1,000 words of text than a perfect title, URL, and header.

Text is the most important type of content but it’s not the only kind.

Media rich content is important.  By media rich, I mean your text is loaded with video and images (graphics, illustrations, pictures, photos, etc.)  Diverse content appeals more to Google as they know great content includes multimedia so you want to at least include some images in your content.  Of course, YouTube videos work well.

As a simple guide, if you have 1,000 words, 2 images, and a video in each page, you’re doing really well.  Couple that with the Big 3 above, and you’re cooking.

Of course, there is a lot more to on-page SEO like keyword density, LSI keywords, fresh content, alt tags, image file names, and authority links.

And then there’s on-site SEO (optimizing your site on a broader level) which includes siloing, schema, sitemap, and establishing topical relevance.

But when you’re evaluating the different pages on your website, if you can start with a good faith effort on the four things above, you’ll see an instant impact on your rankings.