The 2016 Essential SEO Audit Checklist

A DIY checklist of SEO best practices for self-auditing your own website. Use this checklist to help give your business a healthy presence on search engines.

the SEO audit checklist

In the ever-changing world of SEO, it is important to make a habit to take time every now and then to ensure you are following best practices. Doing so increases the likelihood of maintaining a healthy presence in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and thus increasing organic traffic for your business. Whether you do your own SEO for your website or you just want to ensure the person running your SEO program is firing on all cylinders, the best way to do this is to conduct periodic SEO audits. An SEO audit will ensure that each aspect of your site's SEO is optimally configured.

Below we’ve outlined an essential framework to take the guesswork out of your next audit.

Keyword Research

Strong keyword research acts as a compass, pointing you in the direction of the keywords that will bring you the greatest return for your optimizations. On the flip side, if you do all the work to rank for a set of keywords with no search volume (aka keywords no one is searching for) then you will get little return for your efforts.

  • Has comprehensive keyword research been conducted to identify the keywords with greatest search volume?
  • Has your keyword research been mapped with existing pages so that each key page has target keywords identified?

Technical Optimizations

Technical optimizations are the foundation of a strong SEO strategy. Without these items in place, you will likely not fair well in results.

  • Has an XML sitemap been created and submitted to Google/Bing Webmaster Tools?
  • Does this sitemap contain all pages you want indexed?
  • Is it sitemap updated as soon as new content is created?
  • Does your site use breadcrumbs?
  • Is your robots.txt file telling search engine spiders to ignore any key pages that you want to see indexed?
  • Do you have any duplicate content?
  • If so, are you setting up canonical tags or redirects to alleviate this issue?
  • Have you searched for any broken links on your website?
  • If you do have broken links, have you made plans to properly redirect or fix them?

Meta tags

  • For the page title, does each key page have a meta title? Is your page’s focus keyword in the title? Is the title under 60 characters?
  • For page description, does each key page have a meta description? Does the description contain your target keywords? Is the description under 150 characters?
  • For headers (h1), are your target keywords present in your headers?
  • Are you using keyword-informed image alt tags where relevant?

URLs

  • Are your primary keywords included in key URLs?
  • Do you use dashes between words in your URLs? Ex: tacos.com/tacos-are-delicious instead of tacos.com/tacosaredelicious
  • Does the non-www version of your site redirect to the www (or vice versa)?
  • Do content and navigation items show when JavaScript, CSS, and cookies are turned off?

Ranking

In order to complete a comprehensive audit of your website, it is important to analyze where you currently stand in the SERPs.

  • Use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to inventory the keywords your site is currently ranking for and what is driving the most search visits to your site.
  • Compare and contrast what you rank for vs. what you decided you WANT to rank for in your keyword research
  • Does your site show up when you search for your brand name?

Website Performance

This is important from both a ranking perspective and a user perspective. Search engines have indicated they are more likely to reward fast, mobile friendly sites. Similarly, users have come to expect fast, easy to use experiences. If a site takes too long to load, many users will abandon and go elsewhere to complete their task.

  • Is your site responsive for mobile users?
  • Is there a “mobile-friendly” notation next to your page in mobile search results? If not, this could be effecting your click-through-rate
  • Do you have fast page-load times for key pages?
  • Does your site render properly on all browsers?
  • Is caching enabled?
  • Are images optimized and compressed for the web?

Off-Site Factors

Off-site SEO is just as important and you'll need to check this as well.

  • Do you have brand alerts set up so that you can conduct outreach for brand mentions that are un-linked?
  • Do you have a strong backlink profile with a variety of good quality backlinks?
  • Do you have any inbound links coming from poor quality domains? If so, try to have these links disavowed & removed.
  • Do you have any paid backlinks pointing to your site? Have them removed!
  • Do you have a diverse array of anchor text pointing back to your site?
  • Do you have inbound links coming from an array of domains with high authority?

Competitive Research

Competitive research can give you ideas for improving your SEO efforts – are there high-volume keywords that you didn’t think of during your keyword research? Are there sites willing to give out links that you hadn’t considered before? Ask yourself the following questions to get ideas for how you could further improve your SEO strategy.

  • What keywords are your competitors optimizing for?
  • What keywords are your competitors ranking for?
  • Who do you compete with in ranking for your targeted terms?
  • Where are they getting links?
  • Where are the sites that you compete with for ranking getting links?

Quick Tip: Professional tools like SEMrush virtually remove the need of performing an SEO audit yourself and are very beneficial for helping you determine what to do. These tools will automatically notify you with a list of optimizations. It's that quick and easy!