2018 Complete SEO Checklist to Ensure Success!
Are you by any chance new to the world of SEO? Or, an aged player frustrated at how little your SEO efforts have been working out for you? Well, whoever you are, you’ve stumbled to the right place.
Five minutes. Keep reading for just five short minutes. We’ll make sure you get everything you need to know about running a successful SEO campaign. Otherwise, you can forget this article even existed.
Why Audit Your Own Website?
The answer is simple: it’s the most natural thing to do to make something good – better.
Let me ask you – Why do we measure our weight, muscle mass, waistlines, number of wrinkles, pimples, scars, and post likes on Facebook or Instagram? It’s because unconsciously, we are also auditing our features to make our already awesome selves even better!
The same thing applies to websites, the only difference is that a website doesn’t have its own consciousness and therefore, cannot conduct an audit of itself. This is where your role comes in. And we’re here to guide you through it.
What Should I Be Looking For In An Audit?
Conventionally, specialists would tell you to look for errors, discrepancies, irregularities, and inconsistencies. But is that really everything we should observe on our websites?
How about the high-performing pages, positively received site features and everything else that makes your website great as it is? Should we overlook that?
No. We can put a heavier weight on the negatives but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can learn from the positives. If anything, high-performing aspects of your website should be closely observed to find out what, why, and how it came to do so well. Surely, it has a few distinct features that make all the difference. And you can point them out by conducting a SWOT analysis.
Specifically, these would refer to the aspect/page’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, respectively.
Strengths – Every website or page, good and bad, effective or not, have strengths. These strengths, or positive points, are parts that are already done right and may not necessarily need changing or omission.
Weaknesses – These are the downers or negative points that explain why your website is doing so poorly. This is where most of your efforts should be directed at. The alteration or improvement of your website’s weaknesses may as well be your ticket to SEO success.
Opportunities – When you’re doing a site audit, you get to see the entirety of your website in different angles. This would include the pages, links, codes, and other essential components that make up your website. When you thoroughly investigate, you get to see gaps, lapses, and various openings you can take advantage of to further your campaign’s development.
Threats – When there are opportunities, there are bound to be threats. That is the nature of marketing strategies. By doing a site audit, you also get to uncover these potential threats. This allows you to know what to avoid or perhaps devise countermeasures that can help lessen the impact of the threat on your website operations.
Here is a concrete example of how a SWOT analysis goes:
SEO Strategy: Using External Links
· Extensive sources of data
· Inclusion of relevant research findings
· Back up article claims with third party information
· Improve user experience
· Does not improve internal link equity
· Does not promote site exploration
· Improved relationship with other websites
· Second-tier links
· Bounce rate
· Spam or Malware Websites
· Inaccurate information
This is a rather short and less exploratory example but I hope it gives you the right idea.
As you can see on the table above, by using a SWOT analysis you can create a comprehensive review of one strategy or aspect of your website. You get to evaluate it in different angles that in turn, will help you see things in a broader perspective.
One very important thing to note with doing a site audit is that you need to remain objective. You don’t replicate or mirror a strategy just because this site is doing this, or because Mr. Know-it-all said it’s effective. Above all, trust your own judgment.
Moving forward, now that we’ve introduced you to the SWOT method, we’d like you to meet another good friend of ours that we also find helpful when conducting our own site audits:
Yep, another acronym – now isn’t that exciting? Just thought it’ll help with memory retention because this is a rather long article. Anyway, follow RANK GOOGLE and you’ll really be ranking Google SERPs in no time.
Sometimes, we tend to be so gung-ho about SEO that we just start SEO-ing everything without even approaching the method objectively. SEO, just like any other marketing strategy, supports and aids the growth of your business but should not be mistaken for the business itself. SEO increases chances for sales and revenues but in the end, it is still your product that counts.
So before even starting your site audit, keep your objectives in check. Recall why you started your SEO campaign in the first place? What did you want to achieve? And how much have you achieved so far?
If you started SEO without really thinking over your goals and objectives then no wonder your strategies aren’t working. It could be that you’re investing effort in wrong places with wrong intentions, or you simply don’t know where you are going with this thing.
Sit down. Think. Write.
Goals are better put in paper – or an online note, web document, or whatever is comfortable for you. Put it into words so that you can look back on it every time you hit a wall or fall in an SEO slump.
Analyze Current Website
How does your current website look? How does it fare with similar websites in terms of appearance and function?
See, not everything in your website needs a makeover. It could be that you’re already doing some things rights and simply need to improve other aspects. Here are some of the things you should take note of:
Nobody likes slow websites – especially if they’re in a hurry. I personally bounce right off when a website takes more than 10 seconds to load. You’re also in business so you should know how time is so precious for some people. Check your site speed through UpTrends or Pingdom. On average, a website should fully render within 7 seconds or less on desktop devices and 10 seconds on mobile devices. If yours is taking longer than that, then maybe it’s time to tap on a web developer or learn the trade yourself.
If you’re on WordPress, here’s an article on website speed enhancement. Try giving it a shot!
People are now into portable devices. Aside from laptops, smartphones and tablets are now easier to carry and more convenient to use. This is why it is also important that you make your website mobile friendly and make them accessible to people who’re on the go!
Ideally, you’d only want one website. Don’t create two separate ones for desktop and mobile use. Chances are, you’ll cut corners to fit content on your mobile site making it less comprehensive compared to its desktop version. This also complicates things with Google, as it may be interpreted as duplicate content.
Another factor you would want to consider is making your mobile site responsive. A responsive design would mean that your website can adjust its layout to any screen of any device. Having a responsive design can really help improve the user experience.
To know more about mobile optimization, here are a few resources to help you out:
Alright! So now that we’re done with the obvious checks, let’s probe deeper into your website’s functions.
Another area of concern would be navigation. No amount of keyword stuffing or content creation can help your website if it functions poorly. The best way to approach this criterion is to have a third-party evaluate the use of your website. Ask them questions like:
- Are all the important pages easy to find?
- Are the pages too long? Too short?
- Do the pages lead users to cash pages effectively?
- Is the website using too many click-on ads?
- Does the logo click back to the homepage?
- Is the header or footer taking up too much space?
We suggest keeping a website clean, simple, and easy to understand. A website that uses too many design features tends to look cluttered and disorganized. It’s better to be a minimalist in cases like this. Check this article out for tips on improving your website navigation!
When I talk about SEO, most people would think about keywords. Yes, even SEO has its stereotypes. But true enough; keywords do play a big role in SEO. It contributes a lot of weight in Google’s indexing and ranking decisions. While auditing your website, you should also check the following:
If you’re planning to jump into SEO marketing, one crucial thing to know is that not everyone competes in the same arena. Even keyword optimization follows a certain hierarchy which means that not all keywords are classified in the same level.
Basically, we have highly competitive and reasonably competitive ones.
Highly competitive keywords are tough to compete in. That’s because thousands of companies are optimizing their website using the same keywords. If you’re new to the market and your website and links are fresh off the bat, don’t expect to compete and win over aged and influential websites using the same keywords.
We’re not saying your content is not good enough to rank or that your SEO is pretty weak; we’re simply showing you that not all battles are made equal. We’ve seen many new websites struggle in vain because of this mistake. Start small but dream big. Start with reasonable keywords, target long-tail keywords to start. When you rank in minor searches, your site’s authority will grow and eventually, allow your website to stand on equal grounds with authoritative websites.
To maximize the effect of your keywords, make sure you check the numbers. If you have a density of 100 for a target keyword and feel like you’ve done a pretty good job, you might want to rethink how you approach SEO.
If you examine SEO closely, we are competing with estimates. So in order to create something better, you have to make your content superior in every criterion valuable to Google’s ranking process. This includes keyword density. And in order to objectively evaluate your keyword standing, you’ll need a benchmark.
Run quick scans on highly competitive websites targeting the same keywords as you – 8 to 10 websites will do. You can use tools like Moz or SEM Rush to help you out with this task. Check how many times a keyword appears on your target websites, sum it up, and get the average. Now you have your objective estimate. This numerical value is what you’ll be using as a benchmark for your website’s keyword density.
Competition between websites is a healthy online practice. After all, you can only validate information if you have several resources to cross-check it with. However, on-site competition is not – especially if some of your pages are competing for similar or same the long-tail keywords.
The reason behind why this practice is considered unhealthy for websites lies in Google’s rank selection process. Google heavily considers which keywords come up the most during the indexing and categorization processes. If more than one page in your website is optimized for the same keyword; it’ll just confuse Google and that could lead to your rank dropping.
It’s pretty common for this to happen to blog posts. After a few years of generating and posting content; it becomes harder to keep track. So always see to it that you check on your pages every now and then or find a technique to help you avoid this kind of problem.
For example, I also write loads of content and I usually file it under one folder. I maintain a rule to name my projects with the keyword I use – like “SEO Audit Checklist.” So every time I have to write something new, I simply run a search to find out whether I’ve ever written anything similar to the topic.
It’s nice to have a keyword-rich article. But placing too many of them makes the article sound awkward and unnatural.
So, is there a way to reduce the number of keywords but still reap all the ranking opportunities?
Yes, there is. You just need to know where to place them right.
When you have identified the keyword you want to optimize, the next thing to do is find the right location to place it in. Specifically, you’d want to incorporate your keywords into these parts of the article:
- Title – This is important! Mention your keyword once.
- First Sentence/Paragraph – It’s ideal to have the keyword mentioned in the very first sentence but if it’ll make your intro sound awkward, just blend it in somewhere in the first paragraph. This’ll help crawlers and indexers understand your website better.
- Subheaders – You know how often you come across blogs divided into smaller sections, more than keeping the article organized; it serves a good purpose for SEO. Place your keyword in as many subheaders as you can but make it sound natural!
- Last Sentence/Paragraph – Strengthen your keyword by placing it in the last paragraph – or the last sentence, preferably. This will affirm Google that you really are trying to get indexed for this keyword.
- Meta Information – Also include your keyword in the Meta title and description.
Generate (Relevant) Content
Google appreciates high-quality content and detests shallow, keyword-stuffed junk.
Review your content and answer the following questions as honestly as you can:
- Does your content address a general, public concern that relates to your website’s niche?
- Can it be a source of reliable information worthy of citation?
- Are the issues and topics timely and relevant?
- Who can benefit from your content?
You can invite an SME or Subject Matter Expert to review the contents of your website with you to get helpful, third-party feedback.
Omit Site Errors
Site errors hurt user experience. It can lead to users to feel dissatisfied or maybe even annoyed at your website. You don’t want this to happen – especially if your goal is to make people stay for as long as possible on your website.
Here are errors you should really look out for:
Using this tag is crucial to prevent authority from leaking out of your website. Every time you decide to transfer your website to a new domain, use a 301 to automatically send users to your new website. Problems with 301s arise when you neglect to apply this very important rule. Without redirecting your old domain to the new one, you’ll end up with two active websites – or three, if you also forget to redirect to your security website.
For example, I have a www domain (https://www.tayloright.com). At the same time, I also have a non-www domain (https://www.tayloright.com). So now I have two separate domains. Using a 301 redirect, I can automatically transfer site visitors from my www website to my non-www website which is my preferred domain. After a while, I decided to get a certificate for my domain. So my preferred domain now is, again, different (https://www.tayloright.com). Before making this website go public, I apply another 301 redirect which means I redirected twice now – leading users to my secured domain/preferred site. Without the 301s, I’ll have 3 separate websites, each receiving a different flow of authority – a complete waste of authority if you ask me.
404 “Not Found” Errors
This error comes up when the URL entered is no longer available or has been transferred to a different domain name without a 301-r by the website administrator.
People usually frown upon 404 pages but sometimes, this kind of error can help with your website too! When Google bots do their rounds on your website and find 404s, they’ll take it down from Google’s index. If this is what you intend to do with the page, to get it taken down from the index, then 404s can definitely be of use to you.
Like duplicate keywords, duplicate content can also hurt your page rankings. Again, this confuses Google as to which one to rank and may just drop both altogether. Duplicate content is usually a result of plagiarism acts or neglecting the use of 301 redirects. We’re not accusing you of copying anything; it’s the other way around actually – they could be copied from you. You can run plagiarism checks on Copyscape or Siteliner to find on-site duplicate content.
Getting indexed is your first big step towards that first-page rank. Your website and all your other pages aren’t even candidates for the position if they are not indexed. You can identify non-indexed links by running them through Index Checking.
Here’s a Tayloright article to help you index your links fast!
Auditing your website wouldn’t be as effective or informational without a benchmark to compare against. In order to come up with benchmarks, you will also need to conduct an on-site audit for your top ranking competitors. By doing so, you can find out the following:
- Competitor Strengths That You Can Mirror
- Competitor Weaknesses That You Can Avoid or Improve On
- Untapped Opportunities You Can Take Advantage Of
- Areas You Can Healthily Compete With
To learn more about competitor analysis, click here!
You must be thinking, “Why should I Be Guiding Google?” Or rather, “How Can I Even Guide Google?”
Google is awesome and all but they have too much on their plate. If you make it hard for them to navigate your website, they’re not going to spend the rest of the day finding a way to crawl it.
You can guide google by:
- Fixing broken links
- Using more internal links
- Removing noindex and nofollow tags in places they shouldn’t be
- Making a sitemap
Google will definitely pay more attention to your site!
Link Profile Analysis
If keywords are stereotypical in SEO, so are links. Linking has a lot of perks especially when it comes to building website reputation and authority. It’s also a great way to increase organic traffic. How you place, organize, and map them out really affects how your SEO will perform. To make sure that you’re doing things right, make sure to check the following:
What kind of structure does your website follow? Is it effectively leading the users to your cash pages? SEO is just a means, our focus should still be in selling quality products that people will appreciate and come back for.
You can read this comprehensive article to know more about setting up your link structure!
Check what and who you’re linking your website to. It would be safe to check the Domain and Page Authority of external websites before you link to them. You can do so with the help of CheckMoz. Ideally, you’d want to link to websites with a DA of =>50.
How many links do your top pages have? Do other pages with a similar number of links perform great on your website as well? If so, you might want to mirror this practice with your succeeding entries.
External and Internal Links
A good website utilizes not only internal links but external ones as well. When a website refuses to link externally; it’s like saying, ” We’re the best and nobody else’s opinion matters.”
When we link out to quality resources, we are helping our users find useful information. This, in turn, fosters the growth of our website as a reliable, trustworthy source.
Evaluate User Experience
Search engines love users. And if you show that you care about them too, search engines will come to love your website as well. Examine how well your website takes care of its users. Always put yourself in their shoes during your website planning stages.
If you were able to follow the checklist correctly, consider this criterion good as done!
Our Final Thoughts
And we’re done! That sure was a long read. As you can see, SEO is not a gibberish collection of jargons that seems impossible to understand. When you approach SEO methods right, everything else becomes a breeze.
Learn everything slowly, apply everything carefully, and wait for results patiently.
Hope this SEO checklist helped you with your site audit!