SEO is always the case you cannot skip when you have anything up and running.
Be it a blog for fun, sharing information on a particular topic(s), an affiliate blog to sell out the products against a commission as well as become an authority, and so much more.
And that cannot be won by just writing content after content after content.
Although content is the backbone of any website’s progress. Writing it through the proper SEO practices is the only best possible way to reach your target audience.
But what actually involves following and complying with SEO standards. And when you follow each and every step from the beginning, you do not need to run through the SEO audit because you have been doing it just right from the very first day.
Today, we are going to list the ultimate SEO checklist for you which will consist of the very basics to all the incredibly advanced SEO steps.
Do not believe in the fact the backlink is the only known and valid SEO practice and doing it is all about doing the proper SEO but it takes a lot of work, sweat, and effort to mark everything checked for the right SEO.
SEO Audit to Make Your Site Healthy and Complying with Best SEO Practices
The world is full of competition, and skipping to work in the competitive niche should not concern you.
There are valid reasons to still work in the highly-competitive niche even if the sites that are already ranked there come with unbeatable kinds of numbers/stats.
If you promise yourself doing it right and consistently, you can outrank even the major competition.
All it depends on your effort, smartness, and the dedication of not plugging out due to you not getting results initially.
Not that you need to be versed in practicing SEO for some time. Even if it is your first attempt, make sure to stay dedicated and inspired even if the results look gleamy.
Do not panic by looking at the competition, rather stay put and focused to give your best shot!
Let us start with the SEO Audit; find out what is there, their details, and the ways to fix them up for real!
We want you to clear up all the issues your site might be facing to make sure it is error-free and is ready to roll the SERPs and reach the optimum results you are expecting out of SEO.
The SEO Audit majorly consists of the following five pillars;
- SEO Basics
- Keyword Research
- Technical SEO (a most important part of the audit)
- On-Page & Content
- Off-Page SEO
We will be detailing each and every pillar with their sub-branches, so be ready for that!
1- SEO Basics
SEO basics consist of the ultimate basic step that your site needs to go through in order to install and set up the required services/applications/settings.
Assume that you have WordPress (self-hosted) installed because we will be majorly focusing on this entire audit using WordPress.
a) Install and Setup Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
The first step is you need to install GSC and Bing Webmaster Tools and configure them with the best settings.
Follow the on-screen steps to register the account, and the verification instructions to enable both webmaster tools.
Set International Targeting:
If you have a geo-specific site, especially the affiliate blog, and want to target a specific country with your content.
Through GSC: Go to GSC Dashboard > Legacy Tools and Reports > International Targeting > Country and pick your targeted country from the drop-down list.
Through Bing Webmaster Tools: Bing does not support Geo-Targeting anymore.
b) Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the needed tool you must not forget to add.
But we do not stress installing/setting it up from day one because the traffic does not yield the moment you have set up the website. It generates after you have put in some content, keywords ranking up at SERP, and then it starts racking some traffic.
So, get some content first, and do not worry about you not having any traffic at the moment. Give time for the content to sit up and rack the traffic organically.
To install Google Analytics, follow the on-screen instructions, verify the site, and you are done.
Still, do not obsess yourself looking at it and worrying about no-to-less traffic. Rather focus on providing quality content and lots of quality content.
c) Install an SEO Plugin
Either pick RankMathor Yoast SEO. Both are equally powerful for practicing SEO, especially during content writing.
Anf configuration-wise, both plugins are super easy. Make sure you step up to configure permalinks because it cannot be undone after you have established the site and start publishing the content. Any change in the permalinks could severely cost you.
d) Submit Sitemap
The sitemap comes with all the public links to represent the structure of your overall website to the search engines.
Be its pages, posts, etc. indicating what link in the post, and what link is the page actually helps the search engines to analyze your site structure.
If you use RankMath or Yoast SEO plugins, they both are able to s
elf-generate sitemaps which you can copy its link and submit on Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Get Sitemap Link from Yoast SEO:
- Go to WordPress ACP
- Look for ‘XML sitemaps’
- If it was set to ‘Off’, click on ‘On’ and refresh the page
- Now click on ? sign and then click on ‘See the XML sitemaps’
- On the next window when it opens the XML sitemap, copy its link and go to Google Search Console
- Head to Index > Sitemaps and enter the last part of the sitemap URL which you copied from your site
- Press ‘Submit’
Get Sitemap Link from RankMath:
- Go to your WordPress ACP
- Rank Math > Sitemap Settings
- On the ‘General’ tab, you should be able to view the link of sitemap which you can open/copy it
- Now to submit it on GSC, head to Index > Sitemaps and enter the last part of the sitemap URL which you copied from your site
- Press ‘Submit’
Best Configuration Steps for Sitemap:
Allow the following;
And all the rest of the stuff including taxonomies (categories, tags, formats, etc.) and archives are subject to your personal preference to include/exclude in the sitemap.
Remember that the more stuff that goes in your sitemap, it increases the number of indexed URLs and sometimes triggers the duplicate content issue.
e) Creation of Robots.txt File
Equally important as having a sitemap, the robots.txt file acts as the barrier to allow/disallow the search engine bots to access the specific URLs.
- If you have Yoast SEO, go to your WordPress ACP
- File Editor
- Create a Robots.txt file if you do not have one
- After that, just populate what you need to allow and disallow to the search engines and then click on ‘save changes to robots.txt’
f) Find Manual Actions from Google Search Console
Go to Search Console > Security and Manual Actions > Manual actions and find out there is anything reported that needs fixing.
g) Ensure Your Website is Indexable
We are not talking about the individual content but the overall website.
On WordPress, go to Settings > Reading > Uncheck ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ if it was already checked/selected > Then click on ‘Save Changes’ to make sure the site is indexable.
2- Keyword Research
Before starting with the content, the success of SEO lies in what you should write on.
For that, the proper Keyword Research is the phase you should never neglect.
So, what makes the keyword research, we will find everything out in good detail.
a) Find Your Competitors
Your competitor is the blessing, and having a strong competitor is a good sign!
That means your niche has a good future and you can stay within it for years to come.
But there’s a difference; ask from yourself.
- Is your competitor lingering with the branded/micro-niche website?
- Or does your competitor have a micro-niche website?
Branded websites can easily be outranked by having a micro-niche site. But micro-niche sites are hard to compete with (but not impossible) given the fact you can invest some good time, write quality content, and try to conquer the keyword gap.
b) Find Your Money Keywords
The SEO audit is not about correcting the site’s issues but to enhance your overall performance.
So, the money keywords are vital. Look for the keywords that start with ‘Best’ and ‘Top’ containing good search volume.
Go with +800 per month in search volume if you are happening to write the content from someone. If you are doing it alone, we do not see any reason to evade the money keywords even with a search volume of 10/m.
c) Long-tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are best to add to informative content. And it is the bestest ingredient to rank your money site over information-based content. The more informative content you publish, the better it will align your site into SERP.
Your money keywords-rich content cannot get you links but informative ones really can.
Focus on long-tail keywords, win the trust of search engines and tell them you got everything covered on your site (authority!)
d) Map the Keyword Map
Before you write, get the list of associated/related keywords that go hand in hand throughout the content.
Writing content is not about making it longer but making it purposefully lengthier serving the intent of overall content by not veering off from the main topic.
You have one primary/focus keyword, and you have then ten more supporting keywords to make just one piece of content worthy enough for the readers and search engines.
e) Look for Intent of the Ranked Pages
Categorize the pages and tag their serving intent for the ones who already rank in SERPs.
Commercial pages should clearly possess the commercial content from top to bottom.
And then the informational pages should have the informative content and no forcing of selling something.
Go with a clear purpose. And do not consume the precious content to just lengthen up the pages.
f) List Questions
A good way to find the Question-based content is to directly search for the query and go to ‘People also ask’.
Make the individual post on that question if the search volume is good. If not, add it into the new posts bearing the relative content.
g) Analyze the Difficulty Pattern to Rank for Selective Target Keywords
If your niche is cluttered, having high competition, winning the spot is somewhat tedious.
Instead, look for the target keywords with low difficulty(even with the low search volume)
3- Technical SEO
The real essence of SEO audit, do not let anything skim on this important Technical SEO part.
To conduct the audit, we use ScreamFrog to point out the issues (low to high-intensity ones) so that the plan could be initiated to fix each and every one of them.
a) Use HTTPs
Kinda mandatory, using the HTTPS for your domain is good for security and is one of the ranking factors (a minor one) for sure.
b) Check for Duplicate Versions
Open Screaming Frog > Config > Content > Duplicates and run the query. It would then list the duplicate pages with 100 percent content.
If you want to enable the ‘Near Duplicates’ to make sure to fix the similar content to let search engines decide which version to index.
So, enable ‘Near Duplicates’ by going to Config > Content > Duplicates and selecting the Similarity Threshold by any percentage. The lesser you set, there is the probability to find many pages hosting the duplicate content.
c) Fix Crawl Errors
The best place to find crawl errors is to go through Google Search Console.
Go to GSC Dashboard > Index > Coverage.
Populate Error | Valid with warning | Valid | Excluded and everything will pop up in the Details tab showing what issues you are facing with the crawler.
Be it Not Found (404), Server Error (5xx), Indexed, not submitted in the sitemap, and many more.
Go through the best practices online and try to fix all the errors.
With more visitors turning towards smartphones, the site renders differently on Desktops and Smartphones.
Find what slows down the site speed using Pingdom, GTmetrix, and Google PageSpeed Insight.
f) Fix Internal and External Broken Links
Broken links are hard to cope with. They are broken and cannot live again.
Using the Screaming Frog, find the internal broken link.
- Go to ScreamFrog, type in the site URL, and Start the process
- Head to Response Codes > Filter > Click on ‘Client Error (4xx) to list up the broken internal links
- And fix them either by writing the content using the same broken link OR just redirect them to the homepage/about us page
g) Fix HTTP links on HTTPS Pages
If your website serves HTTPS, there is no need to have any object hosted with HTTP.
How to fix HTTP link on HTTPS pages, you should go through the following;
- Go to Ahrefs > Site Audit > Tools > Page Explorer
- Click on ‘Manage Columns’
- Select ‘Internal outlinks’
- Go to the ‘Internal outlinks’ tab and look for HTTP as this tab would list all the HTTPS and HTTP versions of internal links on that specific page by editing it and replacing HTTP witHTTPSPs to all those links
h) Mobile-Friendly Site Version
Mobile is important. The visitors on mobile want fully optimized, supercharged, and faster websites to visit.
You have to equally spend the resources on bringing your website mobile-friendly because it is the era of small screens aka smartphones.
i) Use of SEO-friendly URL Structure
Just forget about the advice to use any other URL structure. No fluff, no category and date should be there. Clean permalink and that is what the H1 title of your content should be.
Using the keywords directly into the URL permalink is an outright SEO practice that works super best!
j) Utilize Structured Data (Schema Markups)
With the advancement of the search engines, we now come with the feature to mark our specific section of content to enlighten what it is specifically about.
Be it the List, How-Tos steps, Video, and much more.
Google serves those structured data and likes the webmasters to use it properly and effectively.
k) Look at 302 Temporary Redirects
Since 302 Redirect is not a permanent solution, this is the reason it has to be set up temporarily.
Did any changes on the page(s) and you just want to redirect them for some days, use 302 Redirect and remember to change back the URL when the purpose is served?
Again, do not forget not to remove 302 redirects!
l) Fix all the Redirect Chains and Loops
Go to Screaming Frog > Reports > Redirects > Redirect Chains to access the Redirect Chains tool and it would list all the redirect chains and loops and filter to pick either 301 or 302 pages to play with.
Since the redirect chains and loops are crucial to harm your SEO strength, you have to fix them before you start to hit with the impact.
Fix them by applying the proper redirects to avoid complexing the search engine crawlers.
4- On-Page & Content
Clean and precise content is what the readers and search engines love.
So, let’s get everything that involves with On-Page and Content and write the content the right way from the very beginning;
a) Fix Title Tags
Take your Title tags and find them if they are returning issues such as duplication, missing, and truncation.
Whatever is the problem — Go again to Screaming Frog > Type in your Website URL & Run the report > Go to Page Titles tab > Select Duplicate or Missing from the Filter drop-down list and fix those listed pages by going to them and editing on your website.
Also, you can either select ‘Over 60 Characters’, ‘Below 30 Characters’, ‘Over 545 Pixels’, or ‘Below 200 Pixels’ to help truncate them to the ideal length of what search engines generally support.
b) Fix Multiple H1 Tags
Must admit the multiple H1 tags are just not right to have from the SEO’s standpoint. So, keep one and give another level of heading tags instead.
To find and fix multiple H1 tags, simply go to Screaming Frog > Type in your Website URL > Click on H1 tab > Click on Filter and Select ‘Missing’ to list the content missing H1.
When you fix the missing H1 by editing all the pages/content, go to filter and select Duplicate, Multiple, and fix all the H1s on the results.
c) Fix Duplicate and Missing Meta Descriptions
Go to Screaming Frog > Type in URL > Go to ‘Meta Description’ and pick a filter to either select Missing, Duplicate, Long, and Short meta descriptions and fix all of them.
Meta Descriptions do not put weight on the SERPs as much but they are required to give the search engines a better understanding of your site structure.
d) Run for Content Audit
Content Audit is something that you should be processing time-to-time to align your content according to the best practices.
This way, you can enlighten yourself and the content team on what it is missing, what needs to be added, and what needs editing to fine-tune the content quality.
It is not like competing with the competitor but adjusting the content to improve results.
Go to SEMRush > Content Marketing Dashboard > Content Audit > Enter your website URL > Start Audit
What issues you see on the next page with the respective pages, fix them and enjoy the error-free content while further improving their quality.
e) Optimize Images
Give them the name, ALT tags, and define sizes/dimensions to make sure you have optimized all of the images giving proper properties.
Go to your WordPress ACP > > Media > Library > Click on all the images and see if they are missing on names, ALT tags, etc.
f) Play with Internal Linking
Compiling the content, do not forget to interlink to other relevant posts. Get to add up to 2 to 3 posts into a new content.
g) Fix Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword Cannibalization issue so severe for your SEO where two separate posts could be serving the same intent.
So, it makes the search engines get puzzled and examine which one to rank high into SERPs.
However, many tools can list up the keyword cannibalized URLs but the quickest and better one is to go to Google Search.
There, type your website URL with a topic to find what pages are ranking for that same topic in the title/URL.
For example site:moz.com “keyword research”
See, it takes three separate content bearing ‘Keyword Research’ with at least two serving the same intent.
h) Up-to-date Content
Changing the ‘Updated on’ to reflect the date does not mean the content is up-to-date but it rather relates to you having added the new chunk of content.
Just do not play with the titles, etc. Take a look at the content pieces to add/edit because the information keeps on changing from time to time (especially the How-Tos-type of posts)
5- Off-Page SEO
The last part of the SEO Audit, off-page SEO takes your website to the next level. After the content, then comes the turn of employment practices to conduct off-page SEO.
a) Analyze Competitor Link Profile
How powerful is your competitor, it is to analyze the link profile to know his strength.
Link profile or better state the Backlink Profile of your competitor tells exactly how your competitor is doing (backlink-wise.)
We will take ahrefs to do analyze competitor link profiles by going to ahrefs > Site Explorer > Competing Domains
Once you have the competitors lined up, take their URL and go back to Site Explorer > Paste the Competitor’s URL Click on ‘Backlinks’ and select ‘One link per domain’ which will show up the backlinks the particular content has earned so far.
b) Go Through Link Intersect Analysis
Go to ahrefs > Site Explorer > Backlink Profile > Link Intersect
Specify all the competitor URLs which will then list up the sites which link to the competitors but not to our website.
This opens up the link-building opportunity to specifically target those websites in return for probably winning a backlink from them as well.
c) Get the Unlinked Brand Mentions to Turn into Links
There are many places where you can get the naked brand mentions of your website. What we are talking about is the plain unlinked brand mentions which you can revert to those sites requesting them if they can turn those mentions into links to your homepage.
This way, it is the best way to get backlinks from such sites because they already love you/your content.
Go through this exclusive guide from ahrefs detailing to find unlinked brand mentions and turn them into links.
d) Find out Link Building Opportunities
There are lots and lots of link building opportunities that you can follow;
- Guest posts
- Find broken links of your competitor that were linked on a website
- Write in-depth content and try to win the links from the websites that have linked to the inferior pages (less wordy)
e) Be on Google My Business
Whether you are an affiliate site, informative site, or whatever you are; you can still claim your spot on Google My Business.
Add your site upon GMB and enjoy the local users reaching out to your location which can also give you a good user stream.
Conclusion of SEO Audit!
It is not about having a site and forgetting what you are missing. At any point, there is the possibility of hitting the severe issues to minor ones which need fixing to perform better on SERPs.
The little and minute issues can have a severe impact on your website and that is for sure.
Take the bet and go through SEO audit time-to-time to improve your site’s structure and performance.
Going through the difficulty to run an SEO audit yourself, talk it out with us and we’d hopefully manage something for you!
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