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14-step SEO audit checklist
1. Website speed
Not without a reason we start our SEO audit checklist with improving page loading speed. This is one of the main Google ranking factors that many people still tend to forget about. Website speed affects not only SEO, but UX as well, as users simply hate websites that load too slow.
There are many elements that have a significant impact on page loading speed.
Once you discover what is slowing down your page load time, try to optimize it. Or ask your web developer for help, as this often requires more advanced knowledge.
The main elements that affect website speed:
- unoptimized images;
- slow Server Response Time (SRT);
- long redirects chain.
SEO audit: how to check page loading speed?
Do you want to improve page loading speed? Google has prepared a custom tool called PageSpeed Insights. It will indicate to you exactly which elements of your website need to be optimized to make pages faster.
Google has officially confirmed that from March 2021 mobile versions will be indexed first. You need to make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
Millions of users around the world use mobiles to access web pages. If you don’t optimize your website for mobile devices, you will lose many opportunities for mobile traffic.
These elements have the best impact on whether a website is optimized for mobile devices:
- website speed;
- responsive design;
- voice search;
- dynamic serving.
How to check mobile-friendliness?
Google has introduced the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. You will be able to quickly test if your site is mobile-friendly. If not, it will indicate which elements should be improved.
In Google Search Console you will find the Coverage report. It will show you if your website has any mobile crawl issues.
3. SEO audit: indexing errors
If Google is unable to crawl your pages, they won’t appear in search results as simple as that. That’s why you should identify all indexing errors and other technical issues.
How to check indexing errors?
There are several ways to check if all your pages are crawled and indexed:
A. Site: Search
This is by far the fastest and easiest way that doesn’t require any advanced knowledge or dedicated tools. That’s all you need to do. Enter the following command into Google: site:website.com.
Google will show you exactly how many pages are indexed.
This is an excellent solution for websites that have a few hundred pages at most. Results for enormous websites may not be entirely accurate.
B. Google Search Console
When discussing mobile-friendliness, we mentioned the Coverage report in Google Search Console. That’s exactly where you can find all the information about indexing issues.
You should check this report regularly and remove all indexing issues as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may lose valuable web traffic.
C. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is a great tool that will crawl your entire website and identify all errors. There, you can also check the status code of your pages.
You should only see the HTTP 200 status response code. However, if Screaming Frog shows 404 or 5xx status codes, you’ve got something to worry about.
4. SEO audit: redirects
We can’t overlook redirects either. In general, you can have 4 versions of your website:
- https:// www.website.com;
The problem starts when Google is not instructed which version of your website is the main one. As a result, the search engine indexes several versions as it considers them to be separate websites.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. You can implement 301 redirects that will always bring users and Google crawlers to the main version.
How to check redirects?
Do you want to check that the redirects on your website are implemented correctly? There are actually quite a few great tools to use.
Google wants users to feel safe when browsing the web. The search engine favors all websites that encrypt data and provide full security.
Currently, practically every online store and other websites where users can enter their sensitive data should have the SSL certificate implemented.
If you still haven’t switched from HTTP to HTTPS you should do so as soon as possible. Google officially confirmed that HTTPS protocol matters for ranking in search results.
How to check website security?
The easiest way to verify the website security is to check if it has a green lock in the address bar.
6. SEO audit: sitemap XML
A sitemap is not mandatory, yet a highly recommended file that contains all pages within your website. Google will recognize Sitemap XML as one of the ranking factors.
This file can boost your SEO as the sitemap shows Google crawlers the proper architecture of your website. Definitely makes indexing easier. Also, ensures that Google doesn’t overlook any of your pages.
If you run the website in several language versions you should create a separate sitemap file for each of them.
How to check Sitemap XML?
There are 2 ways that we recommend:
A. Web address
To check the sitemap not only for your website, you can enter the following URL: https://website.com/sitemap.xml.
This method works almost every time. The search engine will immediately display the sitemap file of a particular website.
B. Google Search Console
This is a much better and more efficient way. In Google Search Console you can not only check sitemaps but also manage them:
The Sitemap report can be found on your Google Search Console account in the Index section. There, you will check all your submitted sitemaps and the most important information.
7. SEO audit: robots.txt
This is another file you should never forget. You don’t want Google crawlers to have access to all pages? You can specify such pages in robots.txt and block them from indexation.
Robots.txt is useful for online stores and other websites where users log in to access their panels. The list of websites you want to block from being crawled depends on your website type.
How to check robots.txt?
A. Web address
The first way is quite similar to the one we recommended for sitemap XML. You can simply check this file by entering the following URL: https://website.com/robots.txt
B. SEO tools
Many SEO tools or Chrome extensions also give you the possibility to quickly verify the robots.txt. We recommend SEO META in 1 CLICK. A great extension that shows the most important on-page data, including robots.txt.
8. SEO audit: structured data
Google loves structured data. It helps crawlers correctly interpret the most important elements of your website. As a result, Google will show much more information in your snippet.
The type of structured data you implement depends primarily on what website you have:
- online stores: product schema;
- food blogs: recipe schema;
- film blogs: movie schema.
There are many schemas that you can implement! Make sure that structured data is entered correctly and fix errors if necessary.
How to check structured data?
Google has released a great free Structured Data Testing Tool. It will tell you if your structured data is implemented correctly and if it needs to be optimized.
9. SEO audit: on-page optimization
So far, we have focused primarily on the elements of technical SEO. Let’s take a closer look at on-page elements, as they also have a huge impact on your ranking in search results.
The most important on-page aspects you need to optimize include:
- title tag;
- meta description;
- URL structure;
- heading structure;
- HTML emphasis tags;
- internal and external linking.
We know it’s impossible to optimize all your pages at once. Especially if you have hundreds or even thousands of pages. In this case, start with the top ones that have the highest potential to drive your web traffic.
How to check on-page elements?
Screaming Frog will be the perfect tool to identify all the elements that require optimization. With the free version of this tool you’ll only be able to crawl up to 500 URLs.
Even that is enough to get a full picture of your on-page performance.
10. SEO audit: internal & external linking
One element of on-page SEO is optimizing both internal and external linking. We think it is absolutely worth paying more attention to this issue.
You need to ensure that all the links that lead to your other pages should be introduced correctly. Here are the biggest issues, when it comes to internal and external links:
- broken links: links that lead to nowhere. They occur when you add a link to a page that is removed after some time, but the link is still there;
- nofollow attribute: tells Google robots not to follow the link. Such a link will not contribute to rankings. You won’t pass link equity;
- anchor text: it’s clickable text on a link. It is recommended that the anchor text contains keyword that describes the page to which the link leads.
How to check internal & external linking?
Do you want to identify all broken links on a page? Check My Links will definitely come in handy. To check if external links have the “nofollow” attribute, use NoFollow.
This is a great and easy-to-use SEO browser extension.
11. SEO audit: backlinks
Without backlinks you won’t achieve massive success in Google. Many SEO experts claim that link building is one of the top 3 Google ranking factors. Your backlinks should:
- come from trusted domains with high SEO parameters;
- be natural;
- increase gradually;
- be diversed.
How to check backlinks?
When it comes to planning and monitoring the link building process, there is no better tool than Ahrefs. With Ahrefs, you can check things like:
- the number of referring pages and domains;
- domain rating;
- new and lost backlinks;
- types of backlinks.
With Ahrefs you can fill in your backlink gap. Analyze the backlinks of your strongest competitors.
If you’ve ever carried out a link building process, you’ve heard of Moz more than once. This tool provides the most important SEO link building metrics.
12. SEO audit: competitive analysis
Do you want to achieve massive success with SEO? You can’t stay behind your competitors. That’s why competitive analysis and research is one of the most important elements of an SEO audit.
When conducting a competitive analysis, you should:
- identify your strongest competitors in Google;
- compare website performance:
- website quality;
- the number of backlinks and referring domains;
- Alexa rank;
- web traffic;
- the number of keywords in search results;
- the number of indexed pages in Google.
- find common keywords;
- fill in the backlink gap;
- analyze their content.
How to analyze competitors?
To identify competitors:
- Ahrefs: the competing domains report in the Site Explorer tool;
- SEMrush: the competitive research section in the Organic Research tool.
To conduct keyword research:
- Ahrefs: organic keywords in the Organic Research tool;
- Moz: Top Ranking keywords in the Keyword Research section.
To analyze backlinks:
- SEMrush: Backlink Gap in the Competitive Research section;
- Ahrefs: Backlinks in the Backlink profile section.
13. SEO audit: content analysis
Have you ever heard of content pruning? This strategy involves finding pages with low-quality content and removing them from the website.
Google values quality content that responds to user needs. Sometimes removing some pages that aren’t relevant and don’t drive web traffic can bring a lot of good.
When you’ll be analyzing the content on your website and company blog look after:
- content 100% unique;
- informative content;
- right length of the content;
- content visually appealing;
- right heading structure;
- images, videos or infographics;
- paragraphs lenght;
- blog comments moderated.
How to analyze content?
There are lots of SEO content analysis tools that will come in handy for you. Personally, we recommend the following tools:
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider: to find broken links and other technical issues;
- Grammarly: the content tool to check grammar and spelling errors;
- Google Search Console: to analyze your content performance in search results;
- SEMrush: to optimize your existing content;
- BuzzSumo: to discover new content ideas.
14. SEO audit: User Experience (UX) signals
If you provide the best user experience, you will boost your SEO. Google has confirmed that the new algorithm, Page Experience, will be introduced in May 2021.
User experience signals will be one of the ranking factors. If your users are not fully satisfied with your website, it will affect your position in the search results.
You should analyze how users interact with your website and based on that optimize your website for UX. Analyze the following metrics:
- dwell time: the amount of time users spend on your website before they return to SEPRs;
- bounce rate: how many users left your website without any interaction;
- organic CTR: how many users who saw your website in the search results clicked on it.
How to analyze UX signals?
You can find all the data on UX signals you need on your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.
A. Bounce rate
The bounce rate column can be found in almost every report in Google Analytics.
B. Organic CTR
To check organic CTR go to your Google Search Console account. You can check the average CTR in the Performance report.
Conducting an SEO audit is a great starting point before developing a long-term local SEO campaign. Do you want your optimization process to bring the best possible results and increase your visibility?
You must first find out what exactly needs to be optimized.
We hope that with our 14-step SEO audit checklist for 2021, you will be able to evaluate your performance. Do you want your SEO audit to be conducted by experienced experts? Contact us. Our SEO specialists will be happy to help!