Today, I'm going to walk you through a checklist of the most important SEO elements of your website step-by-step.
So, I want you to go through each step to ensure your site is fully optimized.
Let's get started…
Check #1: The Version of Your Website's Domain
This is the first actionable step that you need to perform.
Which version of your site is indexed by Google?
There are 4 possible versions and chances of seeing your site domain:
But, your site should have only one version.
To check this,
• Go to google and insert your domain name. Or,
• Go to your preferred browser and enter your site domain and see how it loads.
This may not mean anything to you but it means something to Google - especially when you want Google to properly index and rank your website.
If your website appears to be in 2 versions, Google will treat it as 2 separate sites. And could lead to duplicate issues.
All of these versions should resolve to a single URL - and if not, you may have to 301-redirect other versions.
On my site, when someone visits the "www" and the "HTTP" version, he or she is redirected to the "non-www" and "HTTPS" version which I have redirected to.
#2. Check for Your Organic Traffic
Why do I need to check this?
To see and take note of things like peak or trough in your traffic - and whether or not it's trending in the right direction.
To do this, head over to your Google Analytics account and sign in.
Go to Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels and then Organic Search.
Once you’re in, make a note of it or a screen capture for future reference.
#3. Check for Site Errors
Any error on your site can affect its visibility on search engines. Errors can be:
- Crawling error
- Indexing error
But luckily, this isn't hard to find and fix. Google as a way of informing you of any related errors that may affect your rankings.
To check for errors, go to Google Search Console, sign in if you're not and click on coverage.
Have you got any errors on your site? take note and head over to your site.
But one more thing before you go to your page…
#4. Check if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
It's important you check this at the onset of your site audit. So, if you find out that the site is not mobile-friendly, you could plan to hand the report to the developers and have them fix it while you continue with your on-page optimization.
Or, take note and work on it by yourself.
Your site optimization is not complete without mobile SEO. In fact, over 60% of searches on Google come from mobile devices. And there's a mobile-first algorithm that first checks before ranking your site.
Now that you've taken note of these steps, let's go into the pages of your website.
#5. Check Page Title
Page title length: Most search engines will truncate your title if it's more than 70 characters.
An incomplete or shortened title may be unappealing to users - and may not persuade them enough to click on it.
So, it is essential that you check for the character limit of your title and make sure it agrees with Google.
Keywords In Page Titles:
Putting your primary keyword close to the beginning of your title tag is considered one of the most important on-page SEO. Because:
- It makes it easy for search engines to quickly see what the topic is all about.
- When results are returned to users, they can easily know whether the content on your site will address their questions or challenges - should the rest of the title characters be cut away.
If optimizing your page title seems difficult, I recommend you use Rank Math SEO or the Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure you check this on all of your pages before moving on to the next step.
#6. Check Your Pages URL
Length of URLs: short URLs are easy to remember and more favourable for search engines to crawl.
Ensure you clean up the URLs by removing unwanted strings and making them user-friendly.
Keyword in URLs: don't forget to include your target keyword in the URL.
Keywords in URLs are considered part of Google ranking factors.
#7. Check Meta Description
Why do I need to check this?
A meta description is a snippet from your content and what you show to users - or instruct search engines to show users will affect how people click to your site.
The space Google provides on search engine results pages (SERP) is limited and you should optimize to make use of this little space - to make a good first impression and possibly persuade searchers to click on your site.
Meta Description Length: your meta description must be descriptive enough and should be kept between 50-160 characters.
Although, this can be any length... but the fact that Google truncates meta description >160 means you've limited space to describe the content on your page.
Keywords in Meta Description:
Note, this doesn't mean you should stuff keywords in your meta description.
A meta description may not be part of Google ranking signals but, they still have an eye on it.
When optimizing this, ensure your target Keyword is strategically placed and use synonyms where necessary. And more importantly, make it enticing to attract clicks.
To augment your meta description with more information like - star ratings or review stars and pricing, consider using a schema mark-up.
#8. Check for Thin Content
Thin content signifies less quality within your site.
You should either improve it or get rid of it. But, you can as well merge them to make great content.
What's thin content?
Thin content is content that has no value - no depth of knowledge to add to readers - and lacks quality and is usually irrelevant to the searcher's intents.
Focus on publishing useful content on your website to avoid being hit by Panda.
Nothin content? Then, it's time to optimize for readability.
#9. Optimize Content for Readability
To optimize content for readability, you should check for:
- Content layout and
- Content formatting
This would allow users to easily scan or read through your long piece of content.
How to make your content for visitors to easily find and navigate to the specific part that answers their questions.
- Create lots of white spaces.
- Structure content into headings and subheadings.
- Use bullet points.
- Use images to replace text when you know the information can easily be passed in an image format or infographics.
- Use hyperlinks - internal and external.
Many people usually omit this in their checklist but it's part of what affects users' experience - an important Google ranking factor.
For a better understanding of how to optimize your content, read my article on on-page optimization.
You can see how I structure every piece of content on my site - and include all the things I mentioned above.
#10. Keywords in Content
Keywords In First 50 Words: when optimizing content with Keywords, first you would want to ensure that your primary keywords appear within a few words. The sooner your primary Keyword appears… the faster crawlers would determine the context of your content.
Synonyms In Content: you should not forget to research for synonyms of your primary Keyword and ensure that they flow naturally in the content.
Keywords In Headlines: your top-level headings wrapped in H1 tag should contain at least a synonym of your primary Keyword.
Subheadings In H2 Tag: there's a need to maintain consistency in your heading tag. If the main heading is in the H1 tag, then subheadings should be in H2 tag and H3, H4, H5, H6 tag
The point here is do not skip an H tag. For instance,
Headings in H1 tag and the next subheadings in H3 or H4 tag is not good one for your SEO.
#11. Check for Image Alt Attribute Tag
Image alt attribute tag describes an image within the HTML of a website for web accessibility (for the blind and visually impaired).
Or, to show what the image on a webpage is about if for some reason the image fails to load properly.
Search engines also use alt text to understand the content of an image. Therefore, ensure every image is optimized for better user experience and for search engines' relevance check.
#12. Check for Internal Links
When people hear link building, what comes to their mind is only backlinks and when they optimize their websites, they often forget to look into the internal linking of the web pages.
Internal Links are links from one page to another page on your site. So, they're within your website - unlike outbound links.
Internal linking is essential so as to spread authority across the pages of your site.
And when Google crawls your site, it would be easy for spiders to move from one page to the other until they crawl through all of your pages.
You should use appropriate Keywords and make sure to link to only the relevant page for that particular Keyword.
#13. Check for Outbound Links
Outbound links are a part of link building that helps search engines determine the overall quality of your content.
Hyperlink out to trusted - and authority websites within your niche with appropriate anchor texts for:
- Case studies.
- Quotes and
- Other research articles
And ensure that the appropriate dofollow or nofollow tag is placed. Ideally, you should nofollow all external links and use the target "_blank" attribute - which will make any external links open in a new tab.
#14. Check for Broken Links
Broken links are bad for your SEO. And can greatly affect the user's experience.
Make sure you check all links across your website and links going out to other websites (external links) to see if none leads to a 404 error page.
#15. Redirecting all Error Codes
Some pages on your website may become redundant for whatever reasons. And if you can redirect them to active pages, you would see a significant boost in your rankings - and a massive reduction in bounce rate.
301 - permanent redirects.
302 - temporary redirect.
400 - when a server can't understand the user's request - and can't reach your page.
403 - users are not authorized to view your page.
404 - page not found. Usually, the page has been taken down by the owner.
500 - internal server error. You may need the site developer to fix this.
How to check
Go to Google Search Console, identify any errors found on-site and fix them.
#16. Check for Bad Backlinks
Backlinks are good but links to your site from poor and low authority websites will damage your rankings and may incur penalties from Google.
Have you got any bad links?
How to check.
#17. Is Schema in Place?
Schema mark-up is a type of code that you can put on your website to help search engines properly index and show accurate information to searchers.
Whatever information you provide is used to label your content.
To check this…
#18. Check Page Speed & HTTP Status
Improving page speed will increase your conversion rate. No matter the level of optimization you might have done, if your site doesn't load fast, you're not likely to attract more traffic.
Fast loading sites…
- Increases sales
- Generate more traffic
- Generate more leads
- Convert well
- Reduces bounce rate
HTTPS is also very important for ranking your website on Google. Also, users are likely to leave your site immediately after they see the non-secure sign at the address bar.
#19. Check Sitemap
Getting indexed is a step to ranking and as such it's important you ensure that Google can easily crawl through... and index all the pages of your website.
- Are all pages on your site indexed by Google and other search engines correctly?
- Is your Sitemap submitted into the Google search console?
#20. Check Robot.txt
The robots exclusion protocol, simply known as robots.txt file, tells web robots (most often search engines) which pages on your site to crawl and not crawl.
As little as it is, it can make or break a website's performance on search engines.
How to check
To check robots.txt presence use a tool like "Robots.txt Checker"
#21. Check for Duplicate Content
Check for duplicates -
- Meta description
- Duplicate body content
Duplicate content will not cause your website to be penalized, but it does confuse Google and may affect the rankings of certain pages of your site.