The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Performing a search engine optimization audit (SEO Audit 2020) of your website is important for many reasons.

First, you can identify problematic areas that need improvement and create an action plan to correct them and second, a good SEO audit will keep your website up-to-date with the latest developments in search marketing and on top of the competition.

What is an SEO audit?

Before getting into the details on how to perform an SEO audit, it is necessary to understand the meaning of it and what to expect as the end result.

An SEO audit is a process for evaluating the search engine friendliness of a website in a number of areas. While there are various tools you can use to SEO audit a website, the best approach is to either perform the audit by following a guide (like the one you are reading now) or hire an SEO Auditor to do the work for you.

The SEO auditor will manually review the website and come up with recommendations of what needs to be fixed (because it is wrong) and what needs to change so that the performance of the website in search engines is improved.

Why it’s important to SEO audit your website on a regular basis?

Things change very quickly in the SEO industry and what is working today may not work in 6 months from now. Google reportedly makes thousands of updates to their ranking algorithm per year and an SEO audit, will help you stay in synch.

How to perform your own SEO Audit?

Now that you are convinced that an SEO audit is a must for every website, let’s see how you can perform your own audit.

After reading almost all available articles on how to SEO audit a website and testing a number of audit tools, I came up with a list that covers everything you need to check.

To make it easier to work with the list, it is separated into 20 sections:

  • Step #1 Remove Low-Quality Pages
  • Step #2 Make Google Index Only One Version of Your Site
  • Step #3 Fix Broken Links
  • Step #4 Check if your site is Mobile Friendly
  • Step #5 Content Gap Analysis
  • Step #6 Publish Quality Content
  • Step #7 Improve Page Speed
  • Step #8 Analyse your backlinks
  • Step #9 Avoid duplicate title tags
  • Step #10 Go after featured snippets
  • Step #11 Optimize for user intent
  • Step #12 Install an SSL certificate
  • Step #13 Check for crawl errors
  • Step #14 Have a simple site structure
  • Step #15 Improve your on-page SEO
  • Step #16 Internal & External Linking
  • Step #17 Track Your Progress
  • Step #18 Check your robos.txt file
  • Step #19 Check social reputation of a website
  • Step #20 Check for Google Penalties
  • Bonus Off-Page SEO Audit

STEP 1: Remove Low-Quality Pages

Speaking of SEO audit:

It’s not only about knowing about the errors that are holding your site back. It’s also about rectifying those.

You need to remove the pages that are low quality or provide no value to the readers.

So you may ask:

How to identify low-quality pages on my website?

It’s pretty simple, you will need to login to your Google Analytics and click on ‘Behavior >Site Content > All Pages

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

And go through the list…

You will come to know that there are pages that have a high bounce rate and low user retention time like this:

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

The reason why these pages are low quality is that no one wants to read it and people are not coming back.

You can do two things:

  • Either remove the pages
  • Or Rewrite the content so that it provides value to users

It depends on what you want to do with these pages!

STEP 2: Check if more than one version of your site is indexed

Your site has many versions like:

https://yoursite.com

http://www.yoursite.com

https://www.yoursite.com

It may not seem like a big problem and you will think that all of these sites are the same.

Unfortunately,

Google will treat them as separate websites and that’s not a good sign for you.

So, how to fix this?

All you need to do is to set up a 301 redirect from the rest of the pages to your main page. That’s it.

STEP 3: Fix Broken Links

I always say: Broken Links are dead-end for your on-page SEO. You need to remove these links or replace them with valid ones.

Go to Google Search Console and then to index > coverage and you will see if any links return a 404 error code.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Once you get the list of all broken links on your site, simply remove those links or set up a 301 redirect.

STEP 4: Check If Your site is Mobile Friendly

Google now runs on a mobile-first index and the algorithm strictly monitors if your site is fit for mobile ranking or not.

So, you need to make sure that your site is mobile friendly. You can perform a check for it through  Google Mobile Friendly Check

Just enter your URL and it will tell you if your site is good for smartphones or not and what are the errors that are preventing it.

Like this:

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

If you got a green signal then it’s good but if it gave you an error then you need to optimize your website for mobile devices.

Pro Tip: Use a theme that is both desktop and mobile compatible. So that you don’t need to create another version for mobile devices.

STEP 5: Content Gap Analysis

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Your website is meant for solving searchers problems and answer their questions effectively.

And that’s what Google and most search engines out there look for when they rank websites at the top.

You need to fill the spaces in the content by providing high-quality information that other websites don’t provide.

And that’s what content gap analysis means.

Here’s how to do content analysis:

First, you need to find what’s the best content ranking for your target keyword

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Second, go through their posts to get an idea of what type of content is working great in your niche and see what’s missing.

It’s time to move to the next step.

STEP 6: Publish 10x better content

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

It’s time to put that content analysis into practice.

You know that ‘Content Is King’ but it should be like this:

Quality Content is the king!

And this is 100% true when it comes to Google rankings. Google prefers a site with fewer but quality content.

It asks website owners to publish only quality information on their website.

So, how to create 10x better content?

Now, here your knowledge comes into play!

You know what’s working and now it’s your turn to write a better post than that.

Include more tips, stats and case studies and make sure you make it an interesting one.

Good job you just created a 10x content!

What you will see?

You will rank higher after you’ve built some high-quality links

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

STEP 7: Improve Your Site’s Loading Speed

Page speed is a confirmed Google ranking factor.

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So, you need to make sure that your site loads fast or else users will bounce back quickly.

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Having a good site speed helps you provide a great user experience to your users and it is very important.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Large companies like – Amazon have tested that every sec their site loads slowly they lose $1.6 billion. That’s a shit load of money, right!

So, a significant decrease in the page load time also boosts your conversion rates.

And here’s the step by step process to speed up your site :

First, Run a test to analyze your site’s code.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Pagespeed

You can use tools like ‘Google Page speed Insights‘. It will analyze your site’s code and give you a score according to that.

Also, analyze other pages of your site and not only on the homepage.

Second, Run a speed test

You can use ‘Page Speed Checker‘ to test the actual loading speed of your website in different regions.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Pro tip:

  1. Tips to Speed Up WordPress Performance in 2020
  2. How To Fix Slow WordPress Hosting On GoDaddy

Third, Squeeze some images on your website

Images take time to load and slow down your site. If you are using so many images on your website.

Make sure they are all optimized. If you are using Blogger then you need to compress your images before embedding them in your posts.

If you are on WordPress, then it’s pretty easy for you as you need to install a plugin called ‘Smush It‘.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

This plugin will help you in optimizing your images by resizing them while maintaining the quality of the image.

Fourth, Unload unwanted plugins

If you are using WordPress for maintaining your website, then chances are you may have been using a lot of plugins.

But the problem is…

Not all plugins are required to load on a particular page. So to avoid it you need to install a plugin called ‘Asset Clean Up

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

It will help you in unloading unwanted plugins on your pages.

Note: You can unload plugins like the contact form on all pages except contact page

Fifth, Caching can help

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Caching can help a lot to make your site load fast for your returning visitors. Whenever a user visits your website a copy of your page is stored as cache in his/her browser.

So, whenever the users visit the same page again a cached version is served to them, making your website load fast.

  • You can use plugins like – WP Total Cache to implement caching on your website.
  • If you’re not using WordPress you can simply use Cloudflare to cache your website.

Pro Tip: How to Install and Setup W3 Total Cache (Best Guide)

This is a very important step in this SEO audit guide!

As you may have heard that links can make or break your website.

Keeping that in mind, a spammy backlink to your website will harm it beautifully.

So, link analysis becomes necessary!

What are spammy links?

The links which come from spam websites that are not related to your niche like – gambling, casino, judi, togel, poker, etc are called spammy or shady links and they can have a bad effect on your site’s SEO.

I also advise you to check from which anchor text

So, how to find these bad links?

Head over to Google Search Console and then to the links section. Here you will see the list of all inbound links and also the list of websites linking back to you.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Just make sure that all of these websites are real and if you find any spammy website just disavow it using ‘Google Link Disavow Tool

Then you’ll need to create a .txt file with the list of links you want to remove.

Here’s how your file should be like:

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Lastly, submit the file to the disavow tool and done.

It will take anywhere from 48 hours to 2 weeks for Google to disavow those links.

But, once done you’re good to go.

STEP 9: Avoid Duplicate Meta Tags

Duplicate meta tags also pose a threat to your Google rankings. Make sure you don’t write the same title and meta description for posts that are quite similar.

You can use tools like – Tweak Your Biz Title Generator to get great variations of your title tag

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Avoiding duplicate meta tags will keep your site SEO healthy and makes ready to compete for your target keyword.

STEP 10: Optimize For Featured Snippets

Featured snippets get a ton of clicks and traffic. This is because it appears on top of every organic and most of the users click on that.

It is termed as position 0 by Google as it appears above the organic results.

Here is one of the pages from my site occupying the featured snippet spot.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

How to optimize for featured snippets?

  • Make sure your website is Mobile Friendly
  • It has a secure ‘https’ connection
  • Easily digestible content ( include headers to break your content)
  • Smart internal and external linking
  • Answer questions in your post

STEP 11 Optimize for User Intent Signals

Google values its user’s intents a lot. This means if a person clicks on your listing and quickly hits the back button.

It tells Google that your post was unable to solve their query and guess what your rankings will drop like a stone.

How to avoid this?

Well, you need to consider the following steps to optimize for user intent:

a) Have short & sweet paragraphs in your posts,

Having short sentences makes your post easy to read and more interactive.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

b) Break your post into headers and subheaders

This will help users quickly find what they are looking for. It also helps in improving the readability of your posts.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

c) Have more visuals that help in explaining the concept

Having more illustrative images and videos will help you in sticking the user to your website.

People generally don’t want to read long-form content especially if it has no images.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

So, make sure you have enough and relevant visuals in your posts.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

You should move your site over an https connection. Google gives a little rank boost to sites who serve over a secure https connection.

Primarily, any page that captures any type of user information should have an encrypted connection.

Cloudflare is a great service that provides a free SSL certificate and CDN to serve your content in different regions.

STEP 13 Look for crawl errors

Crawl errors are a bad sign for your site’s SEO.

It means that Google crawler is having some problems with crawling and indexing pages from your website.

How to find & fix these errors? (if any)

It is pretty easy to identify & fix crawl and indexation errors. Here’s how to do that step by step:

a) Sign in to your GSC account and head over to Index section > coverage

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

b) You can see the pages with issues. If everything is alright, you will see 0 in the error tab.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

If you get any error, you can simply follow the procedure suggested by Google and let them validate the page. This will fix your pages facing issues without any trouble.

You can also view how many pages Google crawled in a specific period with the help of crawl stats.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Also, make sure you are submitting the correct sitemap file to the Google Webmaster Console.

You can use tools like Rank Math SEO.

STEP 14 Have a simple site structure

The last of this SEO Audit is to flatten your website structure and this is very important for SEO.

Having a simple site structure helps Google identify which pages are important on your website.

When your site structure is super complex, like the one in the image below. It becomes very hard for Google in finding all the pages of your website.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Website Architecture

Instead, you should have a flat site structure and your important pages must be only 3 clicks away from the home page.

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The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

You can add internal links to several pages to connect them. In some cases, you may need the help of a developer to make your site’s navigation simple.

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SET 15: Improve Your On-Page SEO

On-page SEO plays a vital role in improving your search engine rankings and get more organic search traffic.

That said:

You need to look at your SEO strategy and on-page optimization techniques.

And, I know that you don’t have enough time to optimize all the pages on your website!

So here are 10 essential techniques you should focus on:

  • Always long-tail keywords ( for long term benefits)
  • Use your target keyword in the first 150 words
  • Optimize your title tag around your keyword
  • Have short and keyword-rich Urls
  • Link out to other quality articles ( relevant ones)
  • Add internal links ( link to important pages of your site)
  • Use LSI keywords
  • Build quality links ( helps to boost domain authority)
  • Have relevant alt tags in your images
  • Update your old content

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

Just like checking for broken links, checking the quality of your internal and external links is also important for a successful SEO audit.

Here’s how to determine quality of your links:

  1. Make sure you link to your most popular page
  2. Link out to other relevant sources out there
  3. Don’t add too many links
  4. Avoid using same anchor text again and again
  5. Always have 3-4 quality external and internal links

All this will help you in smarter linking.

STEP 17: Track Your Progress

You can’t just implement strategies and wait for amazing results!

Yes, this is true.

To beat your competitors you need to analyze your progress and apply new techniques whenever needed.

You can use tools like:

Google Analytics: to track your traffic, bounce rate, dwell time and user acquisition.

Tracking your progress is a great way to know when you need to switch or think about a new strategy.

It also helps you understand if your experiments work or not.

STEP 18: Check Your robots.txt file

Robots.txt plays an important role as it tells Google bots that which pages on your site are important and should be crawled and which pages shouldn’t.

But…

The problem is, not every page on your website is good from an SEO’s perspective.

And you do not these pages to degrade your rankings.

So what should you do?

It is very simple – have your robots.txt file created and updated.

Now, if you don’t know how it looks like, here it is:

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

You can access or edit this file from your WordPress admin>seo>tools>file editor or if you want to just view the file visit: youriste.com/robots.txt.

Whatever you don’t want Google bots to crawl and index, just disallow them.

STEP 19 Check the Social Reputation of a website

It is always beneficial to chek the social reputation of a website.

Website’s with high social engagement rates are the best as a share or a mention from can give you a indirect SEO boost.

Yes, it will not affect your rankings directly but will help you in gaining authority within the community.

Also a link from those sites will give you a rankings boost.

STEP 20: Check for Google Penalties

The first step is to check whether your website is penalized by Google.

If your website is under a manual or algorithmic penalty, your rankings will be negatively affected.

Note: If you will get a google penalties/Spam, read this article Google Penalties: How to Find, Fix, and Avoid in 2020 (Best Guide)

You should find out when the penalty was imposed, why your website was penalized and create an action plan to correct the issues and remove the penalty.

There are two easy ways to check for Google penalties.

  1. Login to Google search console and then select ‘Manual Actions’ from the left menu. If there is a manual action imposed on your website, you can see the reason(s) here.

The 20 Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2020

  1. The second way is to compare your Google organic traffic for the dates Google released an algorithmic change. A sudden drop (or increase) in organic traffic is a clear sign that your website was affected by the changes.

What to do if you are under a penalty?

If the above tests indicate that you are indeed into trouble, then the best approach is to find out as many details as possible about the Google updates and adjust your SEO audit accordingly.

For example, if a site is penalized by Google because of thin content (very popular these days), then in the on-page SEO audit section, you should check the quality of your content and either improve, redirect or remove pages that don’t meet the quality standards.

Bonus: Off-Page SEO Audit

Off-Page SEO refers to methods and techniques you can use to promote your website on the Internet. It is usually referred to as link building.

SEO Backlinks are considered by the Google algorithm as ‘votes of trust’ and websites with good quality backlinks tend to rank higher in Google results.

Off-site SEO is important but if you are not careful of what you are doing and if you don’t know exactly what you are allowed to do and what not, it is also very risky.

Low quality incoming links can be a very good reason for Google to penalize your website

Off-Site SEO checklist

Although there are only 3 items in the checklist, you need to do a bit of analysis before having a clear picture about your off-site SEO current state.

Evaluate your incoming links and identify toxic links

You can find out about your incoming links either by using a tool like Google Search console.

While reviewing your incoming links report, answer the following questions:

  • How many unique domains are linking to you?
  • Which of these domains are considered trusted domains?
  • How many links are pointing to your home page and how many links to your internal pages?
  • Which of your pages have the most incoming links?
  • What percentage of the links is keyword based?
  • What is the ‘toxic score’ of each link?

Depending on the answers, you may have to take some corrective actions so make sure that these are included in your action plan.

For example, if only a few domains are linking to you, you need to get links from related domains so you need to create a list of possible websites to be used for guest blogging or blogger outreach campaigns.

If you don’t have links from trusted domains you need to get in touch with the leaders in your niche and let them know that you exist (it’s easier said than done but if you get noticed by the big fish you have more chances surviving in the pot).

If all the links are pointing to your homepage, you need to ensure that links are pointing to your internal pages as well. You can do this by either removing links from the home page or by building more links to the internal pages.

If all the incoming links are keyword based (and Google did not penalize you yet) you need to urgently change them by making them more natural by using your domain name only, your full post title and things like ‘click here’,’ link’ etc.

Unlike on-site SEO, off-site SEO is not a straightforward task and that’s why you need to know exactly what you are doing.

Links are important if you want high rankings but you really don’t have to go out and build links like crazy.

Instead, you should concentrate your efforts in building good websites (with good content) and links will flow in naturally.

Conclusion

For all those who have made it to this point, congratulations! If you follow the recommendations above, it is almost certain that you will improve your rankings and organic traffic levels.

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