Necessity is the mother of invention, and so search engines precisely Google was born for people to surf/search the web easily. With time Google progressed and the BOTGO we see today is the most kick ass way to find the best and most relevant content with in micro seconds. In order to keep up the super quick speed and most relevant quality content searches Google designs and roll out different algorithms timely, on the basis of which the websites are ranked in SERPs.
Website in order to rank well need to consider several different aspects which include on-site, off-site, social media branding and more…. Today I thought to list down the detailed SEO audit checklist that one should consider when optimizing a site for acquiring good spot in Google.
Architecture Level Analysis
Below is the list of domain level analysis that one should consider as step one when implementing SEO for any website:
- www vs. non-www:
There is no restriction on either use of www or non-www versions of the domain but once you have decided on any one. It is fundamental to stick up to it and redirect the rest of URLs to selected version of domain so that one format can be followed throughout.
It is recommended to redirect 301 all other versions to the recommended one.
- Home Page linking Consistency:
It is important for one to have a home page linking consistency throughout the website. There are some websites I see which does not consistently focus on link back to the home page from internal pages. While optimizing the website it is important for a consistent approach to link from internal to home page.
- Capitalization/Lower Case of URL:
This is another thing that is important while domain level analysis. Mostly websites that uses ASP as their functional language encounter the problem of different version of URLs. It is important to have single version of URL (mostly lower case) and if there is any URL with capitalization then it should be 301 redirected to the correct version i.e lowercase.
- Canonical Link Element:
In the modern era of SEO, duplication of content either within the site or external can be really dangerous as it reduces the overall quality of the site. In many cases, especially with ecommerce websites, it becomes almost impossible to create unique content. In that case it is recommended to use the canonical tag of the original page so that search engines can distinguish between the original versions of the content.
This is also one of the most important things that is either ignored or performed incorrectly by most. Although 301 is common redirect code but there are scenario where 302 is needed for several different reasons.
The idea is to create a sitemap and consider each URL that you need to redirect and then decide which URL fits for 301 and where 302 is required.
- Robots.txt File:
Robots.txt file is really important as it instructs and restricts Google bot from crawling different areas of the website that webmaster don’t want to get indexed. Most of the time webmaster updates the robots.txt file which is not fit for the website. It is highly important for a webmaster to look in to sitemap and see which areas of the website should be allowed and what should be restricted.
- URL friendliness:
It is fundamental to determine either your website URL structure is friendly or not. Your website should not have to have special characters in the domain name neither the URL should contain too many sub directories as it gets difficult for Google to crawl your page.
Keeping a short and sexy URL is the key to success here.
- XML sitemap:
Many people go for HTML sitemap and don’t give a serious look to xml versions of the sitemap. In my opinion having a HTML sitemap on the website have low or zero SEO value but having a decent and well written xml sitemap is important as it helps Google to better crawl your website and understand it a little more easily.
A highly optimized website should be technically fit and none of their page should produce any error on the technical level. Here is the list of thing that you should consider in the technical analysis of the website.
- Server Status:
Server errors are common almost on all websites, especially the one that are developed with dynamic languages like PHP and ASP. There are multiple types of status code available like 404, 410, 200, 500, 301,302 and more. Ideally if there are no errors on the page then each page status should be 200 but if that’s not the case then you must remove 4xx and 5xx errors from the website bring up 200 as the end result.
- External Links:
If you have a huge website that contains lots of links pointing out to different websites (which is a good thing) this is something you can face, especially if you are not continuously tracking your website for errors.
Linking out to a 404 page can destroy your image instead of building it plus this give a suspicious indication to Google that you are linking out to URLs that are no more present on the internet. It is advisable to continuously check your links that are pointing out and fix it accordingly in case of any problem.
- Page Load time:
Page load time is another factor that should be considered as important when talking about Technical level SEO audit. It is recommended to reduce the page load time by optimizing the code properly and making it SEO friendly.
The quicker your page will load the better your rankings and user experience will be.
Content level Analysis
Content is the most important aspect of the complete SEO campaign so it is important to have a checklist of each single thing:
- Duplicate Content:
It is imperative for a website to have unique content on each single page of the website. The content should not be copied either from within or from different websites. Unique content will help increase authority as well as to get better visibility in search engine from the relevant key phrases. You can use tools like Search Enabler or SEOmoz to continuously look for duplicate content within the site where as Copyscape will give you an idea of duplicate content across different websites.
- Hidden Text:
Although hidden text is common factor to avoid but I still see some websites practicing it on some scale so I didn’t want to leave it out. When you are auditing a website for SEO, it is important to double check the website to ensure that there is no hidden text available on the site.
Hidden text has the power to through you in the red zone.
- Missing Titles and Description:
Never compromise on them! It is important for a website to have a unique title and Meta description on each page of the website. This sometimes becomes very painful if you have a big website with plenty of pages in it and it even get worse if you have an ecommerce portal.
Google considers Titles as an important SEO factor and description is highly tangible with reference to CTR. Having unique and compiling title and Meta tags will surely help you to have a win win situation so these things should be in the list of priority while performing SEO audit.
- Duplicate Title and Meta Description:
Similar science will be used here, if you have duplicate title and Meta description on the website, chances are that your over all rankings will have a negative impact by this. It is highly important for a website to have unique title and Meta description in order to perform better in SERPs against the targeted key phrases.
- Alt Tag on Images:
Google has been enhancing the experience of search all over and ‘Google Images’ is plays a vital part in this strategy. Google finds out about images from its file name, text around it and obviously from the alternative text aka “alt tag”.
It is important to have unique name for every image and do not abuse the Alt tag by inserting keywords in it or else this will work against you instead of helping you out.
- Links going out:
8 out of 10 are fine at times but it is advisable to check pages that contain too many links pointing to other pages or websites. If you see there is any way you can reduce the number of links pointing to the page go for it but doing anything that disturbs user experience should be avoided.
- Missing Heading Tag:
In my opinion heading tags still contain importance so it’s always great to have a H1 tag once on in the body. This becomes really easy for users to understand what to expect from the remaining content at the same time you can achieve some search engine love.
- Anchor Text:
The industry have been buzzing about diminishing effect of anchor text these days but in my opinion it still has a significant value in the eyes of Google and is considered as an important factor to determine the value of website against a certain keyword.
My idea is to use keywords and related words when pointing an anchor link to your website. However try to avoid the very same exact key phrases or general phrases like ‘click here’ on internal link anchor text.
Link level Analysis
Here are some of the factors that you should consider when it comes to link analysis for the website
- Total Links and Total domain pointing to you:
I know links have more to do with quality so quantity does not count much in here but still I guess authority of the total number of links pointing to the website and how many domains are pointing to the site give optimizer an idea of where to focus from now and get the link profile more natural and legit in the eyes of Google.
- External Followed and Non Followed Links:
This helps one identify the number of followed links pointing to the website. It gives a clear idea of how to go ahead with link building and what corrections are needed to fix the link profile if it seems spammy.
Pro Tip: It is also great to have the data of your core competitors; this can guide you of how to go with link building at least on the initial stages.
Social is also an important part of the overall SEO campaign so I guess there are few things that a website should have in terms of making sure that the website is fit for social.
- Sharing buttons:
Sharing is a strong factor but still neglected by most of the websites these days. In my opinion sharing buttons are one of the easiest ways to encourage your visitors to share your product on social channels like facebook, twitter, Google+ and others.
If you have an ecommerce website and social sharing buttons are not included on the website you are missing an important part that can affect your overall sales ratio.
No matter how big or small your website is, it is important to have Google Analytics installed on your website. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools keep a regular track of incoming traffic, sources of traffic as well as in case of any drastic change on the website.
Auditing is a difficult and time taking process but in my opinion this is a worth doing investment. There are many things in the audit that you should consider tracking on continuous basis.