Website SEO audit is performed to identify factors, that are affecting the search engine ranking of your website or not compatible with search engine SEO guidelines.
There are about 200 factors that Google uses to determine the rank of a website on SERP but for a web owner, it is hard to maintain these factors together. Keeping this point in mind I created an accurate website audit checklist that I personally follow for SEO audit of my website.
In this article, I will share my website evaluation checklist so that you can also identify low performing areas and optimize your website accordingly for better search engine ranking.
Priorities user interaction
According to renowned Digital Marketer Neil Patel, “The best way to beat Google is to put users first.” and from the Google point of view, this statement is 100% correct.
The first priority of Google is to present the most appropriate content on the search engine result page based on the user search query.
Here, I am mentioning some important factors that Google uses to identify user interaction on a website and should be part of your site audit checklist.
- High readability
- Bounce rate
- Pogo sticking
- Comment and Shares
- Conversion rate
Readability of your content does not affect the ranking of your web page directly but indirectly it is a very strong ranking signal. An easy to read content targets a large number of audience and gets maximum shares on different online platforms.
After Google Hummingbird update, Google is now capable to understand synonyms and read content like a human. So, it is important to keep the readability as easy as you can.
Most of the visitors to your website won’t read the complete article, they will generally scan the article to get their relevant information, That’s why your content should be well organized, appealing and easy to skim.
Now, the question is, how you can check the readability of your content?
There are many ways through which you can examine the readability of your content. Here are some useful suggestions:
Use proper heading tags
Heading tags vary from H1 to H6. There are some guidelines that you should follow while using heading tags on your page. With the proper use of heading tags, not only users but search engine crawlers can understand your content structure easily and chances of getting higher search ranking improves.
You should use heading tags as per heading hierarchy guidelines. According to Googler John Mueller, “Heading tag is a weak relevancy signal“ but as per my experience, with the right use of heading tags, you can notice a positive variation in your web page ranking.
Use Table of Content
Clickable table of content helps users and search engine bots to understand the content structure. The table of content enables users to switch on the relevant information without scrolling. Eventually, it increases user experience and engagement.
Pages with a table of content could get additional site links and feature snippet ranking on the search engine result page which helps to improve the CTR. There are many plugins like Easy table of content through which you can add a customize content table on your web page.
Small Paragraph with white space
Long paragraphs negatively affect your readability because online users generally preferred to get relevant information as soon as possible once they landed on a landing page. In this scenario, a small paragraph with proper navigation helps users to switch on the most relevant piece of content. It is recommended that paragraph size should be between 3 to 4 lines.
Moreover, if you include white spaces in between your paragraphs you will give your visitors a chance to breathe while reading which takes the readability of your page to the next level.
Use Bullet points and Number listings
Bullet points and number listings not only make your content more informative but also Google likes these kinds of presentations. Genuine looking bullet points and number listings in your content give a signal to Google that your content is written with in-depth study and research.
If you refer to the 200 Google ranking factors written by Brian Dean then you will know adding bullet points gives a positive signal about your article to Google.
A picture says a thousand words, this phrase also works in blogging.
Adding an appealing multimedia file is way better than typing thousand of words. The presence of different kinds of content related multimedia files like Images, GIFs, Videos, Infographics, etc. helps both users and crawlers to understand your content more clearly.
As well as, uses of properly optimized multimedia files is a direct ranking factor as per Google SEO guidelines.
Unnecessary pop ups, Affiliate links and Ads
Excessive use of unnecessary Pop-ups, Affiliate links and ads (Even from adsense) decreases the readability. Not only users hate bombardment of ads, links, and popups but also Google dislikes this type of web pages. As per Panda algorithm update guidelines if you compromise with the user experience of your website then you could get a penalty from Google.
Definitely, you can use Pop-ups, affiliate links, and ads on your website but your first priority should be user experience and high readability of content.
Grammar and spelling
Wrong grammar, incorrect spelling, and improper use of punctuation reduces the readability score of your content as well as the brand authority of your website also gets affected negatively. You can use chrome extensions like Grammarly to correct grammar and spellings of your content.
Look, content readability analysis is a large topic but if you follow these points optimize your blog content accordingly soon you will notice better Google ranking.
Pro tip, that I use to check readability of my content manually.
Read your content aloud after writing, if you find your content readable then other readers will also find your content readable.Readability analysis Manually
Along with this, you can also use readability checking tools for readability analysis of your article.
Low bounce rate
This is the most important component of the Website Audit Checklist. The bounce rate represents the percentage of single interactions of a website.
The value of the bounce rate varies from 0 to 100%. Lower rate of bounce represents that your web pages are highly engaging, and satisfying search intent of users
Bounce rate is a subject of debate between SEO experts. Google says that because of highly manipulative metric they do not use bounce rate as a ranking factor in their algorithm but according to SEMrush bounce rate is among the most powerful Google ranking factor.
I have done a case study to inspect whether Google uses the bounce rate as a ranking factor or not and I have summarized my results in this post, Does bounce rate affect SEO.
In short, as per my study, bounce rate is not a direct ranking factor but if bounce rate of any important page of your website is high then your conversion will be low and Google will never put a low conversion site on the top of their SERP.
Hence, bounce rate of some important pages like home page, price page and conversion page should be in your SEO audit checklist.
Pogo sticking in SEO is defined as when a user clicks on a result of SERP and after landing on that particular web page due to unsatisfied content he bounces back on SERP by pushing the back button.
From the SEO experts’ point of view, high rate Pogo sticking is more dangerous than a high bounce rate. If large numbers of users are bouncing back on SERP by pushing the back button then it gives a clear indication that your web page is not satisfying the user’s search intent.
In common words, High Pogo sticking means, your web page is not satisfying the user’s search intent. During your website audit, you should cross-check whether your multiple landing pages are satisfying the user search intent or not. If you will not target the pages of your website then they will not satisfy the user’s search intent and you will face a high rate of Pogo sticking regularly.
To avoid a high rate of Pogo sticking, you should create more targeted landing pages that satisfy user search intent with appealing page design and structure.
Comments and Shares
Search engines give priority to highly engaging websites and to examine the engagement capacity of a website many search engines use user-generated comments and shares as a direct metric of user involvement.
Have you ever observed the total numbers of comments and shares on a single post of top websites of your niche? In the SEO niche, websites like Backlinko, Neil Patel, Moz, search engine Land, etc. get thousands of comments and shares on their single post. That’s why these websites always appear on top ranks.
Initially, while your website is getting less traffic then you can use Facebook ads, backlinks strategies, social share icons, etc. to enhance traffic to your website but once your site becomes a popular brand then you need not worry about numbers of shares and comments.
The conversion rate is defined as the percentage of the total number of conversions to the total number of visitors. Let’s take an example, if a website is receiving a total 300 visitors and out of them 60 visitors are converting or satisfying the goals then the conversion rate will be [(60/300)x100] = 20%.
Cross-checking of the conversion rate of different conversion funnels present on your website is an important part of the website SEO audit because Google gives better ranking to a high conversion website.
You can check the conversion rate of your website through the following formula:
Conversion Rate = [(Total number conversion)/(Total number visitors) x 100]
You could never get a higher ranking if the conversion rate of your website is low. Under this circumstance, you can follow these guidelines to improve the rate of conversion of your website.
- Add genuine-looking Pop-ups
- Use testimonials and reviews
- Create target pages and focus on the target audience
- Use SSL certificate on your website
- Add live chat option
- Use A/B testing
If you concern about user experience then there are lots of things where you should focus on but from the site audit point of view, this checklist for understanding the user behavior is more than sufficient.
Quality of Website
After user interaction audit website quality audit should be your second priority. A high-quality site generates high revenues, creates trust and authority, provides reliable information, and many more things.
While you are examining the quality of your website these points should be present in your checklist:
- Website structure
- Fast Loading Speed
- Mobile-friendliness or usability
- Direct Traffic
- Repeat Traffic
- Brand + Keyword
- Presence of important pages
- Website Uptime
- Dominating Keyword
- Brand name visibility
Let’s understand these above given points one by one.
Good website structure positively supports both UX and SEO. A well organized and structured website helps search engine crawlers to understand the relevancy, relation, and structure of your website. The structure of your website also helps to improve authority and search engine trust. If your website is well structured then you could get site links on the SERP for your website which improves brand visibility and trust of your website on SERP. Hence, when you are inspecting the quality of your website you can not ignore the importance of website structure.
For better examination and planning of a website structure you should keep the following given points in your mind:
- User Scan
- Use of category
- Use Breadcrumbs
- Internal linking
- Site Architecture
- Schema markup
- Use the heading hierarchy
- Pillar and support content
- Update old content
Fast Loading Speed
In 2010, Matt Cutts, one of the most popular software engineers in Google confirmed, a website that loads faster on user’s browsers gets a higher ranking than a slower website. This means site loading speed is a direct ranking factor of Google.
You can understand the importance of loading speed and ranking with the following given image…
- According to Amazon, with only 100 ms increment in their website loading speed, they observe 1% increase in conversion.
- Shopzilla improves its page load speed from 6 sec to 1.2 sec because of this improvement revenue and page traffic increases from 12% to 25% respectively.
- According to 39% users’ performance is more important than the functionality of a site.
[Source: Smashing Magazine]
Now the question is, How to inspect the site loading time or speed?
There are many online tools available through which you can check the loading speed of your website. Some of the most popular tools are:
- Google Speed insights
- Pingdom Speed check
- DT matrix
I personally prefer the Pingdom speed check tool because this tool provides speed data based on the worldwide server location. Add your URL and select server location in the dashboard and you will get speed performance in that particular Geolocation. You will also get some suggestions that you can implement on your website to improve loading speed.
You can improve the speed of your website in the following ways:
- Use compressed images and prefer jpeg over png.
- Hosting server of your targeted location
- Prefer CDN (Content distribution network)
- Use HTTPs over HTTP
- Use less number of plugins
- Compress your website HTML codes
- Remove white spaces in your codes
- Install Plugins likes Lazy loads, WP rocket, etc.
- Use catch files
I hope, now you understand the importance of the presence of loading speed in your website audit checklist.
63% of organic searches on Google come from mobile devices. After many kinds of user-friendly tools like Google lens, voice search, and mobile-first indexing criteria of Google you cannot neglect mobile usability inspection of your website.
Mobile-friendly sites get a higher rank on Google mobile ranking and because of 63% share of mobile devices in Google search, you will get a large amount of traffic.
To examine the mobile usability of your website you can use Google Mobile friendly Test tool.
Along with this, In your Google search console dashboard, you can check if your site has any mobile usability issue. To check the mobile-friendliness of your website open your GSC account and click on the “Mobile usability” option present in the sidebar.
If you are facing any kind of issue with the mobile usability of your site or you want to improve your mobile-friendliness then you can refer Backlinko’s post on Mobile SEO.
When a user directly enters a website URL in his browser and visit that particular web page then this kind of traffic is known as direct traffic.
According to the study conducted by SEMrush, direct traffic is a very strong SEO signal. If a large number of users are entering your website with direct searches then Google will treat your website as a brand and will trust on you which eventually enhances the ranking of your keywords.
To check statistics related to direct traffic you can refer your Google analytics account, Here, in the sidebar under the acquisition section click on all traffic and then click on source/medium option.
If you want to receive direct traffic then you have to present the best content in front of users and share as much as you can to enhance your brand visibility.
When a previous visitor again visits that website then this kind of user is treated as repeated traffic for that website. If a website is getting a good amount of returning traffic then from SEO point of view it will be good for your website.
Returning users sends a positive signal to search engine about your website that your contents are informative, reliable, trustful, readable, etc. In this way, they will build your brand, and Google always prefers brands, than newbies.
To check the number of returning visitors head over to Google Analytics, click on the behavior option present in the left sidebar and then click on the New vs returning.
To improve the repeat traffic on your website you should provide the best user experience to your new visitors with your content and website.
Presence of Important pages
There are some important pages that should be present on your website. For example…
- Home Page
- About Us
- Privacy and Policy
- Terms and Conditions
Domain uptime is a percentage of how much time your website was available for full operation. If because of any server problem your Domain Uptime percentage is low then both conversion and reputation of your website will be affected negatively.
Google also dislikes high downtime domains and because of that, your ranking will also get affected.
If you are also facing a low uptime percentage for your domain then you should contact your hosting provider to resolve the issue as soon as possible. If they can’t then you must change your hosting service provider.
HTTPs stands for secure hypertext transfer protocol. With HTTP request and respond browser sends a request to the server and brings information to load on the user screen from the server.
Secure HTTP encrypts all communication between browser and server so that hackers could not access confidential information in between. Google also gives priority to secure websites on their SERP.
You can easily purchase an SSL certificate from your hosting service provider or for free services you can use lets encrypt.
If you will not install an SSL certificate on your website then on the user’s browser Not – secure icon will be shown which affects your website trust and reliability among the visitors.
Brand name visibility
On the Google search bar enter your domain name as a keyword and check the first result that you get on the search engine result page.
Is it your website? If yes, that’s great, keep doing awesome work.
Let’s take an example of one of my favorite blog masterblogging.com
If no, then you need to improve the authority of the home page of your website.
Getting the first results with additional site links for your domain related searches is a strong brand signal among users. So, you should cross-verify your domain name related searches.
When a domain connects one of its web pages to other web pages with the help of clickable hyperlinks then in SEO terminology this is known as the backlink.
Need not to say, backlinking is one of the most strong SEO factors. A high-quality backlink sends a large number of relevant traffic to your website which eventually enhances the conversion and brand visibility of your website.
Google likes quality backlinks, now the question is how to inspect the quality of backlinks of your website.
Many SEO experts suggest the following guidelines to check the quality of backlinks…
- Create Backlinks from different domains
- Get backlinks from the relevant source of your niche
- Use anchor text
- Prefer .gov or .edu TLD names
- Get links from high authority website of your niche
- Too many guest posts are not good for SEO
- Get links from the content of the page than from the comment or widget section
- Get backlinks from relevant pages
- Try to get Backlinks from Wikipedia and other trustful websites
- 60% of total backlinks should be targeted to the home page of your website
- Get links for your brand name
Moreover these above given points, you should cross check the backlink velocity graph of your domain which should be growing.
You can use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to check the domain velocity graph. In the Ahrefs tool just enter your home page URL and click on the overview section present on the left sidebar.
Now scroll down and you will get your domain velocity graph.
This is just an overview of SEO backlinking. Backlink creation is a huge topic in SEO and for that, I will soon create an individual post.
Site ORM stands for online reputation management of your online assets. ORM helps your website or other digital assets to build a positive image of your brand, so that, you can improve the brand trust of your product or services among your potential customers.
Online reputation management is not about getting positive reviews from your customers while If you are responding to their queries and complaints as soon as possible with a nice tone of voice and good intention then it also comes under reputation management of your brand.
Google and other search engines never want to rank a scam website on the top of their search result. Hence, nicely done ORM also builds the trust of your brand among search engines and in the long term helps your website to gain high conversion. This is an important part of the SEO checklist.
You can build a positive reputation for your website in the following ways…
- Add testimonials in your website
- Ask your customers to give rating or reviews
- If you are getting any negative review never delete it while responding to it as soon as possible with a nice tone of voice and right intention and try to fix the problem without any delay.
- Give support professional services to your customers
- Never disrespect your competitors
So, these are some key points that you can use to manage the online reputation of your brand.
In a recent era, if you are running an online business then you cannot ignore the importance of social media platforms. You can understand the significance of social media with the following given stats…
- In the first quarter of 2020, there are about 2.6 billion monthly active users were available on Facebook.
- Twitter has a total of 330 million monthly active users in 2020.
- Instagram has a total of 854 million active users in 2020.
People are spending their time on social media platforms so targeting your potential customers on social media with sponsored ads or with a follower page is an important part of the business.
Now, the question is, why you should add social media management in your website audit checklist?
It is true that Google does not take the social signal directly as a ranking signal but indirectly it boost the ranking and traffic of your website to the next extent.
Wondering why? Here is the answer…
On social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Quora, etc. if your content is getting high engagement and sharing then it will send a signal to Google that people are loving your content and in this way, you could get a higher ranking.
Moreover, if the number of fan base and followers of your website is large then it builds authority and trust for your brand in search engines.
I hope, now the significance of social media activities is very clear to you.
You can also get traffic on your website from the images that you use on your web pages. This is the one of the most underrated part of SEO.
While optimizing their images webmasters only think about Alt tag, which is important but there are some other things that you should optimize as a part of image optimization.
If you will optimize your image properly then on the image tab of Google SERP you could rank your image on a higher position and get relevant traffic on your website. Image optimization is very simple than complete page optimization.
While you are uploading your image then you need to add ALT tags, Title tags, description about your image. That’s it. You can also add URL as a backlink but it totally upto you.
A properly optimized image gives an exact idea about your content to search engine crawlers which also helps to boost the ranking of your website.
Excess of anything is bad, and the same word goes for SEO also. Some webmasters start focusing on each factor of search engine optimization, they create a huge number of backlinks, stuff keywords in their content, over-optimize their title and meta tags which eventually hurts the ranking of their website.
Google likes natural activities. Over-optimization is not a good SEO practice sometimes you should ignore some less value SEO factors because.
Look, there are more than 200 SEO factors but if you start giving priority to all factors then eventually you lose human touch on your website.
Optimization of a website is important but you need to priorities some factors of SEO so that you can do more focused efforts and get fast results.
Website norms violation
Last but not the least, If you are running an online business then you have to follow many norms, rules and regulations, policies, etc. given by W3C, governments, Search engines, etc.
You should not involve in any scam, spamming activities. Selling illegal products or offering illegal services could impose penalties on your website and once you get penalized for any wrong activity it will not only affect the reputation of your brand but also you will lose all rankings from the search engine result page.
So, you have to cautious for all activities that you are performing online and during your website audit you should check all kinds of activities that you are performing online.
I hope, now you are able to do a deep SEO audit on the basis of above given website audit checklist.
These are some important points that should be involved in your SEO audit checklist. There are many areas that you should inspect while auditing your website but if you will focus on the above-given factors of SEO and take appropriate actions you will soon get an increment in the overall ranking of your website.