The Ultimate On-Page SEO Checklist for 2024

Prioritizing on-page SEO helps make your website content more visible in online searches.

Let's walk through an on-page SEO checklist you can use to optimize content, complete with tools and best practices.

The Ultimate On-Page SEO Checklist for 2024:

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO enhances website content and its pages to improve search engine rankings and attract more organic traffic.

Also called on-site SEO, this process includes keyword research, internal linking, optimizing title tags, and more. We'll cover these on-page SEO factors and many more below.

Pro tip:

Get personalized recommendations for your website by entering your domain and target keywords into Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker.

On-Page SEO Checklist

Learn how to improve on-page SEO with this eight-step checklist.

1. Perform Keyword Research

Keyword research identifies and analyzes the search terms people use to find content in search engines like Google.

When you research keywords, you'll learn:

  • Search volume: How often users search for a keyword during a specific time frame. Semrush measures monthly search volume over a 12-month period.
  • Keyword difficulty: How hard it is to rank for the search term. Semrush shows keyword difficulty (KD %) as a percentage on a scale of 0% (easiest to rank for) to 100% (hardest to rank for) to indicate how hard it is to rank in the top 10 of Google for the analyzed keyword.
  • Keyword intent: What people want to know or do when searching for the keyword. Semrush tracks four types of keyword intent: navigational (N), informational (I), commercial (C), and transactional (T).

This data helps you create content your audience will find helpful. And more likely to rank closer to the top of search results.

As a result, keyword research is an important first step in improving on-page SEO.

Suppose an accounting firm conducts keyword research. During the firm’s keyword research, it may discover:

  • Every month, thousands search "tax preparation service" on search engines.
  • "Tax preparation service" generates more searches each month than "retirement planning services" but is also more difficult to rank for.
  • People searching for "tax preparer near me" are typically ready to make a purchase decision.

Start with a Seed Keyword

Seed keywords are broad topics and ideal starting points for keyword research.

Use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to find and research seed keywords. You'll find this tool under Semrush's "SEO" menu in the “KEYWORD RESEARCH” section.

Enter a seed keyword, choose your target country from the dropdown menu, and click "Search." You can also personalize your KD% to your website by entering your domain’s URL in the AI-powered feature box.

Keyword magic tool

You'll see a list of keywords related to the seed keyword, complete with intent, volume, and KD % for each. To narrow down the list and decide on keywords to target, start by checking the list of keyword groups. They appear under the “All keywords” heading.

“All keywords” heading

Semrush's Keyword Magic Tool orders these groups by the most commonly used terms in the keyword phrases or total search volume. These will give you a sense of the most important topics surrounding the seed keyword.

In this example, "free" and "return" are popular terms related to "tax preparation." Click the arrow next to any group to view subgroups and get more terms within that keyword group.

terms related to tax preparation

To find the best keywords for SEO, pay attention to search volume. The higher the volume, the more frequently people search for the keyword monthly.

Use the Keyword Magic Tool filters to narrow the list by search volume. Click the "Volume" drop-down and select any range to focus on keywords with a certain search volume level. You can also enter a custom “From” and “To” range if you want a broader or narrower range.

"Volume" drop-down

Factor in KD %, too. Competitive keywords have a high percentage and are generally harder to rank for. Click the "KD %" drop-down to see keywords with a "Possible," "Easy," or "Very Easy" score. You’ll also see you can add a custom “From” and “To” range to span multiple difficulty levels.

"KD %" drop-down

Click any keyword to analyze in Semrush's Keyword Overview tool. The "SERP Analysis" panel shows which pages rank for the keyword. 

Analyzing the highest-ranking pages for the keyword can help you brainstorm the type of content to create.

highest-ranking pages

Perform a Content Gap Analysis

A content gap analysis compares your site’s content against the competition to find on-page optimization opportunities. Use Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool to compare your site against up to four competitors.

Open the Keyword Gap tool from Semrush's "SEO" menu. Input your domain in the "You" box, and enter a competitor's domain in the second box. Click "+ Add up to 3 competitors" to input up to three more competitors and click "Compare."

Keyword Gap tool

The "Shared" tab lists keywords your site and all your competitors' sites rank for. Open the "Weak" tab to see keywords your site ranks lower for than all your listed competitors.

These “Weak” keywords can be great starting points. Following the on-page SEO best practices below will help you improve your site's position in search results and outrank the competition.

Continue your competitive analysis by opening the "Missing" tab. Here, you'll see keywords all competitor sites rank for, but your site doesn't.

The "Untapped" tab shows keywords for which at least one competitor site ranks, but your site doesn't. If these keywords are relevant to your business, they may also be worth targeting.

Use the "Volume" and "KD" filters to narrow your list, following the same logic used above.

2. Create High-Quality, Relevant Content

Publishing high-quality content aligned with your audience's search intent gives you a better chance of ranking closer to the top of search results. Content quality is a crucial on-page SEO component.

When you create content, prioritize experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

  • Experience: Show first-hand experience with the topic. Share unique opinions and include original images or videos reflecting personal experience.
  • Expertise: Prove the author has topical expertise. List credentials in the author's bio or naturally incorporate their knowledge into the content.
  • Authoritativeness: Demonstrate the site's reputation in its industry or niche. Semrush Authority Score measures site authority and trustworthiness on a scale of 0 to 100.
  • Trustworthiness: Ensure the content and website are credible. Review content for accuracy, cite other reliable websites, and include security-focused elements like encryption for payment processing.

Although E-E-A-T isn't a Google ranking factor, it is part of Google's Search Quality Rater Guidelines. In other words, real people use these guidelines to review the quality of the content that appears in search results.

Further reading: What Are E-E-A-T and YMYL in SEO & How to Optimize for Them

Use these tips to create quality content:

  • Perform extensive research
  • Get insights from subject matter experts
  • Focus on information gain instead of simply copying content from top-ranking pages in search results
  • Use data to back up points and claims
  • Make it easy to read
  • Include plenty of relevant visuals

As you write content, incorporate the keywords you identified in the first step of this checklist. Include them naturally in the text. Avoid keyword stuffing or unnaturally forcing them into your content.

Use Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant to create high-quality, optimized content. Open this content optimization tool from Semrush's "Content Marketing" menu and click "+ Analyze new text."

Analyze new text

Input at least one keyword and click "Get recommendations."

Get recommendations

If you’ve used this tool before, you may need to click Set a new goal. Then, enter your keywords and clickGet recommendations.”

Set a new goal

On the "SEO" panel, you'll see a list of recommended keywords for your content.

Monitor the optimization score in the upper right corner as you write your content. High-quality, optimized content typically has a score close to 10.

Monitor the optimization score

To improve your content, focus on the four areas this tool monitors:

  • Readability: Align the difficulty level of your content with audience expectations. Replace overly complex words.
  • SEO: Include your target keywords and other recommended keywords. Insert links to reliable sources to increase authority. Add alt text to images to make your content more accessible.
  • Originality: Write original content. Review it for plagiarism before publishing.
  • Tone of voice: Keep the tone consistent throughout. Remove or replace overly formal or casual sentences that don’t align with your brand voice.

3. Optimize the Title Tag

A title tag is an HTML element specifying a webpage’s title. It appears in the browser tab. Like this:

title tag

And as the clickable headline for a given result on search engine results pages (SERPs).

search engine results pages

Title tags tell search engines what your content is about. Search engine bots use them to understand how relevant your content is to users' searches.

That means title tags can affect how your pages rank in search results.

They can also affect organic search traffic volume and click-through rate (CTR). Searchers may consider your title tag when deciding whether to click on your article in search results.

To optimize title tags:

  • Include the primary keyword. This helps searchers see the page aligns with their intent and may increase clicks.
  • Add context. A descriptive title tells search engines and searchers what your content is about.
  • Keep it between 50 and 60 characters. This ensures the title tag displays fully on the search engine results page (SERP). If your title tag is too long, it could get truncated in the search results.


Use Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker to optimize existing title tags on your website. The tool's "Idea Tasks" tab provides actionable insights and suggests pages that lack target keywords in the title tag.

On Page SEO Checker

4. Craft an Enticing Meta Description

A meta description is an HTML element that offers a brief webpage overview. It can appear below the page's URL and title in search results.

Like this:

Meta Description

The meta description you specify doesn't always appear on SERPs.

Search engines may generate a meta description based on the user's search query and the page's content to replace the meta description you set for the webpage.

To increase the chance your meta description appears on SERPs, follow these tips:

  • Describe the page’s content. Help searchers understand if the page aligns with their intent.
  • Include a call to action. Tell searchers what to do next. Like "Shop now" or "Read more."
  • Keep it around 105 characters. This ensures the meta description won't get cut off in desktop or mobile search results.


Review existing meta descriptions with Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker. The "Idea Tasks" tab shows pages that could benefit from a more relevant meta description.

On Page SEO Checker

5. Create an SEO-Friendly URL Slug

A URL slug is the part of the webpage address that appears at the end of the URL. It's a unique element that defines the page.

Here's the URL for the Semrush blog post Link Building for SEO: A Guide to the Basics:

SEO-Friendly URL

The URL slug is "link-building/" 


It appears at the end of the URL after ""

URL slugs are an essential aspect of on-page SEO for two reasons:

  • They're search ranking factors. Google's John Mueller has confirmed the terms in URL slugs are  a lightweight factor in SEO.
  • They can improve the user experience (UX). A descriptive URL slug provides helpful context for searchers. It also increases trust that the destination page covers a relevant topic, especially when users share the link with others.

To create SEO-friendly URL slugs, follow Google's URL structure guidelines:

  • Use simple and descriptive words. Aim to describe the page's content with words all your users can understand.
  • Keep it concise. Limit the slug to five words or fewer whenever possible.
  • Use hyphens to separate words. These symbols separate each word and improve readability.
  • Use localized words when relevant. The words in the URL slug should appeal to the target audience.
  • Avoid using anything other than ASCII characters. ASCII is the most popular text data format on the internet, including in URL slugs. Use UTF-8 encoding for punctuation, emojis, and non-standard characters like Chinese or Arabic.
  • Avoid using long numbers as identifiers. Long numbers in a URL don't provide context, decreasing the user experience.

6. Structure Content Using Heading Tags

Heading tags are HTML elements that define headings and subheadings on a webpage.

Like this:

Structure Content

They're important for on-page SEO because they add structure and context to webpage content. 

Heading tags:

  • Make webpages easier to navigate and make it easier for visitors to skim and read your content. As a result, they improve the user experience.
  • Make webpages easier for search engines to understand. Search engines scan headers to analyze content and deliver more relevant search results.

A webpage can include up to six types of heading tags:

  • H1: The main heading and page title
  • H2: A main subheading (like "SEO Basics Checklist" in the example above)
  • H3: A subheading under an H2
  • H4: A subheading under an H3
  • H5: A subheading under an H4
  • H6: A subheading under an H5

You don’t need to include every level of heading tag on your webpage. Instead, include as many levels as you need to structure your content and make it easy to navigate.

However, webpages should always include header tags in the order listed above and avoid skipping levels. For example, a subsection under an H2 should be an H3 (not an H4, H5, or H6).

7. Add Internal Links

Internal links are hyperlinks leading to other pages on the same site. They're typically linked directly in on-page text using anchor text.

Like this:

anchor text

In the example above, "SEO" is the anchor text. It links to another page on the Semrush website.

Internal links provide navigation for site visitors. These links point to related information and useful resources.

They're helpful for search engines, too. Internal links make it easier for search engine crawlers to analyze your site structure and understand how your pages connect.

These links also pass authority or PageRank throughout your site. Pages with a higher PageRank score can pass authority to other pages via internal linking.

Google uses PageRank to gauge a webpage’s importance. A higher PageRank can improve how a website ranks.

To build an effective internal linking strategy, define your site's pillar pages. These pages cover broad topics and have a relatively high search volume.

They're the center of the topic cluster. A topic cluster is a group of pages that cover related themes.

For example, a website about marketing may have a topic cluster that focuses on social media marketing. The pillar page would cover the broad topic of social media marketing.

Then, define the pages that fit into the topic cluster. These pages should cover subtopics related to the pillar page.

For example, the same website may have related cluster pages about social media algorithms, short-form video, and social media analytics.

Add internal links from the pillar page to the related cluster pages and vice versa.

When you insert links, use descriptive anchor text. Optimize anchor text by keeping it short and relevant.


Use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to perform an on-page SEO audit and review internal links on your site. On the "Internal Linking" page, the "Pages passing most Internal LinkRank" panel reveals the pages passing the most authority from outgoing links. They're a good starting point for identifying pillar pages.

Semrush’s Site Audit

8. Use Image Alt Tags

Image alt tags describe the content of an image on a webpage. Think of them as image descriptions.

Also called alt text, these tags help search engines understand what image files show. They also help visually impaired visitors navigate your site.

To optimize image alt tags, describe what each image contains. Be as concise as possible. Include relevant keywords, but avoid keyword stuffing.

Avoid adding unique alt text to decorative elements that don't require image optimization. Instead, give them an empty alt tag.

Like this:

<img src="decorative-image.jpg" alt="”>


Use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to find missing alt text on your site. Go to the "Issues" tab and filter by "Warnings" to access a list of all the images on your site that lack alt attributes.

Semrush’s Site Audit

Audit Your Website for On-Page SEO Issues

To find and fix optimization issues, start with an audit. Create your own custom on-page SEO checklist and discover which pages to prioritize based on best practices and competitive analysis.

Create a free Semrush account to improve your on-site SEO efforts. Start using Semrush's On Page SEO Checker today.

About the Author
Djanan Kasumovic, a dynamic force in digital marketing, leads as the Head of Growth at Influencer Marketing Hub. His distinguished career includes roles at high-profile companies like SnappCar, a leader in European car sharing, Travelbird, Kids Luxury Group and B&S. Djanan has been at the forefront of innovative digital marketing processes, mastering areas such as AI content production, AI marketing, and AI influencer marketing, establishing himself as a pioneer in these fields.