Search engine optimization is a never ending process, you will need to continuously check if things are in place and if your site’s SEO settings are in order. It is a continuous process because Google and other search engines continuously add newer things to search signals and a website has to keep those signals up to date to ensure that the website is compliant and the site’s SEO is up to date.
Now how will you ensure if your site’s SEO is done correctly or not? How would you ensure if all the things in your site adheres to Google’s search quality guidelines? The answer is – you will need to perform an SEO Audit Report
I have prepared an SEO checklist for 2017 and here are few things you should check to ensure your website’s seo is done properly
Check If Your Website Is Added and Verified in Google Search Console?
The first thing you need to check is whether you have verified your website in Google search console or not. If you have not done it yet, it is a huge red flag since you will miss important insights from Google search quality team on how to optimize your website’s seo for best results.
If your website is not verified in Google search console yet, please read this article – how to verify your website on Google search console.
Check If Google and Other Search Engines Can Crawl Your Site?
The best way to check this is to paste the URL of a blog post or page in search engines and see if that URL is shown or not. There are tools out there which helps you check whether search engines can crawl your site or not, but by far the best way to check is to paste random URL’s of your website in Google and other search engines and see if the website shows up or not.
Check If Have you Created an XML Sitemap?
Does your website or blog has an XML sitemap? Have you added that XML sitemap to Google search console?
If you are using WordPress to power your website or blog, you can use the XML Sitemaps WordPress plugin. If you have a static website or you are using another software to run your blog or website, you can use this generic tool to generate an XML Sitemap
Once you have generated the XML Sitemap, please upload it to your website’s root directory and then add the XML Sitemap in Google search console.
Check If You Have Created an HTML Sitemap
An HTML Sitemap is again not an absolute necessity but it is good to have an HTML sitemap on your website which let’s humans navigate across your site from a single page. See the HTML sitemap of this website to get an idea.
For large sites, it can be quite a hassle to create an HTML sitemap since a site with hundreds of thousands of pages will have a very big HTML sitemap. If you are using WordPress, you can use the very useful Simple Sitemap WordPress plugin.
Is your Site Free From Broken Links?
Your site should be free from broken links, be it internal links or external links. If you are using WordPress to power your blog, you can use the Broken link checker WordPress plugin to check and remove broken links from your website.
If your website is not powered with WordPress, then use this website to check pages which has broken links. Then fix those broken links one by one and ensure that no page on your website has any broken link in it. It does not matter whether that link is internal or external in nature, the bottom rule is that the website should be free from any links which points to a 404 not found page.
Have you removed Paid links or Text Links that point to Spam Sites?
Did you earlier took money from someone and inserted paid links in your site’s content? Did you link to spam sites in one or several of your posts?
Check all the pages of your site for spam links. The best way to do this is to manually check each and every page and remove those external spam links (this is also called a Link Audit) If the site that you are linking to appears spammy, low quality or irrelevant in nature, please remove that link.
In case your website has thousands of posts or pages, it might take a couple of months to complete the link audit. But I would strongly advise you to follow this before you proceed further. Also, do not use an external tool to check for external spam links. Link audit is best when performed manually by a human eye. So take out that time and perform a thorough link audit across all the pages of your website or blog.
Does Your Website Have a Friendly Permalink Structure?
Your website must have a friendly permalink structure since permalink structure affects SEO to a great detail.
The most friendly permalink structure is – www.yourwebsite.com/page-name.html
Please note that the .html extension is not significant. In case your website does not have a page name extension, it won’t hurt the rankings. But in case your website’s permalink structure is something like this (www.yourwebsite.com/001/898343?id=874) then it’s a problem.
If you are using WordPress, you should go to Settings > Permalinks and choose the “Post Name” permalink structure. For other content management systems or static websites, it depends how that specific content management system works and how the pages are created, so you will have to dig around until you are able to fix that problem.
A friendly permalink structure is not an absolute necessity but it is good to have a friendly permalink structure for best results.
Do You Have a Robots.txt file placed at the root of your website?
Please note that a Robots.txt file is not an absolute necessity. There are sites which do not have a robots.txt file and they are doing fine with the SEO of their website.
But in case you have one, please check the content of the Robots.txt file. It is possible that the robots.txt file is blocking the search engines from crawling some parts of your website.
Under no circumstances, you can have the following content on your site’s Robots.txt file
This actually tells search engines not to crawl and index any of your pages, so go ahead and check the robots.txt file and verify if the content in that file is not blocking search engines from crawling different parts of your site.
Do you have Unique Title Tag In Every Page on your Website?
Every page in your website must have a Title tag.
Open a page of your website, right click and select “View Source”. This will open a new tab with the source code of that page.
Look for the <title> tag in that source code, usually placed in the <head> section of that page. If you do not see the <title> tag, then there is a problem.
There are two rules here
- Every page should have a title tag.
- The content of the title tag should be unique. That means, no two pages on your website can have the same title tag.
The best way to check for duplicate title tags is to check your Google Search console (check under HTML Improvements section). If Google finds duplicate title tags across your pages, it will most likely send you a message in Google search console.
If you see pages listed with duplicate title tags, you should edit the title tag on those pages and ensure each page has a unique title tag.
Do you have a Unique meta Description In every page of your website?
Just like the title tag, every page on your website should have a unique meta description. It is of course not mandatory to have a meta description tag in all your pages but please ensure that if you do have a meta description tag, no two pages have the same content on the meta description tag.
Do you use a Canonical URL on every page of your website?
The rel=”canonical” tag helps prevent duplicate content issues across your website. If two pages of your site have similar content, then you can use the rel=”canonical” element to tell search engines which is the preferred version that should be shown on search engine result pages.
Suppose you have a landing page on your website which has three different versions – landing page A, landing page B, landing page C. All these three pages have the same content but different designs and UI elements.
In this case, your website has three pages with same content which can create duplicate content issues. Hence, it is a good idea to use rel=”canonical” on all the three pages and point these three pages to the preferred version (let’s say A). That way, search engines will ignore the other two pages and will show only the preferred version on search engine result pages.
The syntax of using rel=”canonical” is given below (it should be used before the </head> section in your website’s theme.
Have you no indexed unnecessary parts of your website properly?
Not all the pages of your website needs to be indexed in search engines.
While it wouldn’t hurt to have everything indexed but it is usually not the best way to do it. The reason being – not everything needs to be in the index of search engines which does not return value.
It is possible that certain sections of your website are only collections and do not have enough original content in it. It could be author pages, archive pages, tag pages and category pages for posts. These pages are best not indexed and crawled by search engines because these pages do not have content in them.
It would be best if you use the noindex,follow tags and ensure that these pages are not indexed.
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>
If you use WordPress, you can use the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin to achieve this.
Finally, Review your website with an SEO Auditor
If you are not tech savvy and do not understand things yourself, it would be a good idea to hire an SEO audit expert and get your website or blog checked. There are literally hundreds of things which you need to check and a professional SEO auditor can help you out by doing a thorough audit of your website and blog and suggest you the changes that needs to be done.
It won’t hurt if you do it yourself but if you have some money to spare, it is indeed a good idea to hire a professional and get it done, so you would be absolutely sure that the SEO of your website is fine and nothing is as badly screwed up as you think it might be.