SEO audits are one of the best ways to learn why you might not be seeing the SEO results you were hoping for. Google has over 200 ranking factors, which means there are lots of little things that add up to how well you rank within Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
Fortunately, the fate of your website is mostly within your control. Use this SEO audit checklist to improve your site’s web presence and bump up your incoming search traffic.
Page load time refers to how quickly the content loads on any given webpage. Obviously, the faster the better in this case, as bounce rates tend to increase and conversions tend to decrease, the longer the user has to spend waiting for information.
- Invest in a WordPress web host known for top performance—such as Kinsta.
- Ensure that your PHP version is up to date by consulting with your web host.
- Consistently update your WordPress version, theme, and plugins.
- Install a page-caching plugin like WP Rocket. Page caching temporarily stores images and web pages, reducing server lag.
- Implement the use of a content delivery network (CDN) such as Cloudflare to ensure that page load is consistent regardless of where a person is accessing your website.
- Regardless of which specific caching plugin you choose, ensure that JS/CSS minification and GZIP compression are used.
- Run a speed audit to search for your website’s specific issues using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, and Pingdom.
Website Technical Structure
While most SEO talk centers around content and keywords, your site’s technical structure is another big piece of the SEO puzzle.
Technical structure refers to how the various pages of your website link together. The easier it is for Google’s crawlers to navigate through your content, the better your rankings within the SERPs.
Here are some quick and easy tips to improve your website’s overall technical structure.
- Ensure that post name permalinks are enabled so that there is no code bloat to get in the way of ranking. To do this, go to Settings > Permalinks > enable Post Name.
- Check the box next to “Disable search engines from indexing this site” under Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility until you’re ready to officially launch the new WordPress website (then make sure that it’s not checked!).
- Activate an SSL certificate to ensure that your website is HTTPS compliant.
- Be sure to connect your site to Google Search Console. This will help you manage information about Google penalties and other technical SEO considerations.
- Make sure there is a backup solution in place, such as UpDraftPlus, or a similar offering through your web host.
- Crawl for broken links and set redirects when necessary using a tool like the Redirection plugin.
- If you publish a lot of content, consider configuring Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles.
- Submit a robots.txt and XML sitemap file to Google. WordPress does this automatically when using an SEO plugin like Yoast.
A key part of your SEO audit checklist, content and onsite SEO relate to the keywords you use to attract visitors, as well as the quality of your blog posts and web copy.
From social sharing to headline optimization, here are some actionable to-dos that will boost your site’s credibility:
- Install an on-page SEO/readability checking plugin such as Yoast SEO. Yoast is easily integrated into WordPress and highlights specific areas of content that can be improved.
- Create an editorial calendar to organize content marketing efforts and to ensure consistency (a Google ranking signal).
- Conduct keyword research using Google Keyword Planner (free) or Ahrefs (paid).
- Before starting a new piece of content, consider the keyword intent of the searcher.
- Aim for 300+ words per landing page to avoid being tagged as “thin content” by Google. The exact number for word count is in dispute by SEOs but this provides a nice guideline.
- Aim for ~1200 words (or more!) per blog post (per Orbit Media Studio’s survey regarding top blogging trends).
- Implement 2+ internal and external links per ~500 words.
- Use a related posts plugin like Contextual Related Posts to build more natural internal links and to reduce your bounce rate.
- Point links to external content to open in a new window.
- Tag any affiliate links as no-follow.
- Meta title and meta descriptions include your target keyword and are optimized for click throughs. Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer can help you create extremely actionable page titles.
- The page slug includes your target keyword (and eliminates non-keyword words).
- At least one subheading (heading 2) includes your target keyword.
- Incorporate semantic keywords so that Google can make better sense of your content.
- Optimize for the featured snippet by answering questions in your content.
- Use your keyword at least 4x per ~500 words to achieve an optimal keyword density (make sure you’re using your keywords as naturally as possible).
- Include a feature image, as well as images within the post to break up text and improve time spent on page (and ensure that the keyword is used in the file name and ALT tag of each one).
- Insert click to tweet calls to action to encourage social sharing.
- Incorporate schema markup to format and draw attention to your search snippets.
User experience (UX) is not only important to your success within the Google algorithm but also with regards to how your customers think about you and your website.
Little things like page titles and subheadings tell users and the search engine what your pages are about, while live chat makes it easy for customers to connect with a real person and get their questions answered in real time—increasing the possibility of a conversion!
- Add a site tagline (Settings > General > Tagline) to make it easy for users to understand what your website is about, regardless of which page they first land on.
- Add live chat to make it easy for customers to get in touch with you quickly.
- Audit your efforts with a usability test using a platform like UserTesting or Fiverr.
The second part of the UX equation is involved with website navigation. When visitors come to your website, you want them to be able to find what they’re looking for without much effort.
A few things to consider:
- Make sure that people can find most internal pages within three clicks maximum. Add breadcrumbs that delineate where people currently are and where they came from.
- Ensure that links are descriptive of the content they point to.
- Be sure that your links follow the general heuristic most users are familiar with. For example, link to your “blog”—not “news”.
There are literally thousands of WordPress integrations available to help users capture leads, share information to social media, and access analytics from their website’s backend.
A few to-dos worth including on your SEO audit checklist:
- Google Analytics tracking code has been placed in the header.php file within the <head></head>
- A contact form plugin, such as Contact Form 7, has been installed to protect sensitive email address information.
- Learn how to improve the user experience by analyzing recorded sessions through Inspectlet.
- Install social sharing buttons, such as those offered by a plugin like Social Warfare, to encourage people to share your website content.
- Install Bing Webmaster Tools if dealing with a primarily US-based audience.
Local SEO is essential if you’ve got a brick and mortar location or want to target customers within a specific neighborhood or city. Some tips for making yourself more visible in your community:
- Sign up for Google My Business.
- Make sure you have a “contact us” page with your complete business name, address, phone number and email for each of your locations.
- Ensure that your NAP data (name, address, phone) is consistent across all social media accounts and other web mentions. Use a tool like Yext to fix inconsistencies across listings.
- Consistently remind customers to write reviews on Google, Yelp, and other review sites.
Search Engine Journal offers a more complete local SEO checklist if your SEO audit checklist efforts will be to benefit a local business.
It’s 2018. You can’t forget about mobile or you’re missing out on a major chunk of your potential market. Worse still, Google penalizes those who neglect to optimize for mobile—so desktop users might have a hard time finding you, too.
A few things you will want to keep in mind with regards to this aspect of your SEO audit checklist:
- A mobile-responsive WordPress theme has been created or customized.
- It’s possible to navigate the main menu with enough space to cut down on accidental clicks.
- Email popups don’t deploy immediately—they are a function of exit intent or time on page/percentage of page viewed.
- Check for your website’s mobile issues using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Even if you are super diligent about uploading relevant images to your website, it’s easy to forget about the little stuff adds up. Search engine rankings do consider things like meta tags, alt tags, and keyword use in file names.
- Every image incorporates keywords into the file name, ALT tag, and title.
- Every image has been optimized by using a plugin like Imagify. If you don’t use a plugin to optimize images, reduce file size through the use of a tool like TinyPNG.
- Enable a lazy load plugin, such as Lazy Load (straightforward, right?), so that anything below the fold loads only when people scroll (improving overall page load time).
SEO for ecommerce isn’t too different from SEO in general. But, failing to secure top billing in the Google search can lead to missed sales opportunities and lost impressions.
Here are a few ecommerce-specific items that will help when going through your SEO audit checklist:
- Add canonical tags to products with duplicate content—such as the men and women’s version of a t shirt product. Ideally, you’ll create unique descriptions for each piece of content.
- Optimize product and category pages for target keywords.
- Make sure your keywords are relevant to your brand and products—if you’re ranking for broad keywords you might catch a lot of searchers looking for “healthy snacks” or “outfit ideas”, only to have them bounce.
Final Thoughts: SEO Audit Checklist
With over 200 Google ranking factors, managing your site’s SEO is no small feat.
But, as you can see, there are so many things you can do to take the fate of your website into your own hands. By leveraging this SEO audit checklist, you’ll be able to create content your users can find and easily navigate once they’re on your website.
This SEO audit checklist serves as a reminder that SEO and content marketing work together. Focusing solely on content writing or navigation or tagging isn’t going to place you on top of the search engine heap.
Need help getting your website in tip-top shape? Get in touch with Ocean WP. Whether you need help with UX, navigation, or your ecommerce shop, we’re here to help.