In our SEO Audit’s for clients (big or small), we check over one hundred individual items. We go as deep as we can.

What we check for in an SEO AUDIT – Checklist:

I’d like to share at a high level what we check for when we’re running an audit on a website. Here are the “buckets” of our SEO audit and a brief description of each so anyone can take this and expand on it. And let us know if you check something above and beyond that we simply forgot about:

complete seo audit checklist of items to look for

1. Robots.txt file

We know from Google that its search engine may or may not respect your entries in a robots.txt file, but it’s a great place to start.

Here are some of the things we look for in this bucket:

    • Does the file exist?
    • Does it specify where the sitemaps can be found?
    • Is there anything crazy listed (some regex is supported in the robots file and sometimes people put things in there that block a lot of great content)
    • Are you blocking appropriate content (e.g. you should block certain admin directories or gated content where applicable)
    • And there are many other things to check on a platform by platform level (hint, hint – magento?)


2. Canonicals

Canonical references (aka “canonical tags,” “canonical links,” or “canonicals”) are one of my favorite, underrated SEO items. In my experience, major ranking corrections have happened simply from fixing canonicals.

A few examples of what we look for with canonicals:

    • Do they exist on every page (“self-referencing canonicals”)
    • Are they formatted correctly (e.g. trailing slash? yes or no?)
    • Are there multiple on one page?
    • Are they correct/incorrect (e.g. pointing to non-indexable pages?)


3. URL and Site Structure

A URL structure really aids in customer experience. I know a lot of large content management systems (or custom enterprise websites) have unwieldy URL structures. There might note be anything you can do about it. However, if you are able to build out a great taxonomy and information architecture… DO IT!!!

Some hints of what we’re looking at with URL Structure:

    • Site Taxonomy (how are “things” classified on the site, are they set up to help the user find what they’re looking for)
    • Information architecture – really goes hand in hand with taxonomy…
    • Clean, short, and concise URL structure(s)
    • How much is the brand name in the URL (I’ll let you think more about that one)


4. Google Search Engine Operators

Use Google Search Operators to Find SEO IssuesGoogle Search Operators are designed to help users add logic to their search queries on Ahrefs has a good blog post that catalog’s a list of operators in use as of the time of this writing. Google’s search operators can really give some major clues on what wrong with a site. We have over twelve different operator queries we use to try and find issues. You should start with the “site:” and “inurl:” operators first. HINT: A good place to start is trying to find “admin” pages that shouldn’t be indexed. Start playing around with different queries (combine them) and see what you find. Share your operator combinations and I’ll share some of ours as well. 😉


5. Sitemap

A simple SEO checklist for a website sitemap:

    • Does one exist? Are there multiple? Is the sitemap added into search console?
    • Are they referenced correctly on the site or robots file?
    • Anything crazy in it – 404’d pages (hint: check search console)
    • Is there a visual/html and XML sitemap?
    • HREFLANG (if applicable)?


6. External Tools

External tools can help identify trends and patterns you might not think of. Yes, most of them cost money, but they’re worth the annual fee. Most of the SEO tools all do the same thing, so it’s a preference between Moz, Majestic, Alexa, Semrush, Ahrefs, etc. etc. etc. Find one that works for you; they all have an introductory trial.

A glimpse into the list of things we look out with external tools:

    • Keyword trends – not to be confused with a full-blown Keyword Research exercise.
    • Link Profile information (e.g. backlink health and trends).
    • Top and Trending Content.
    • Linked Domains (hint: spammy domains).
    • Overall Links – spot check them, you might be surprised what you find (malware, 404 errors, etc.).
    • And various other gaps.


7. Performance Testing

Check Site PErformance - seo audit

This can be a double-edged sword. You’re insanely excited to find performance issues with your site, however, fixing site performance issues found is where your challenge begins. Especially since at the beginning of 2020, Google’s search engine decided to really crack down on WordPress sites with bloated themes. Most of the performance tests guide you on how to fix the issues, the first two performance tests we use on a site are GTmetrix, and Google Page Speed. Google Page Speed test is more of a check after you’ve fixed everything from GTMetrix.


8. Site Crawl (includes Meta information)

This is another task where there are a million tools that conduct this sort of activity. If you’re new to using site crawls to find SEO issues, I might recommend using Ahrefs’ Site Scanning Tool called Site Audit. It’s easier to jump into vs. a scanner software tool you download to your desktop. SEO site scanners allow for a lot of technical SEO issues to be found without a lot of manual effort.

Here’s an entry-level list of items we look for with an SEO Site Crawl:

    • 300/400/500 level http status codes (errors).
    • List Canonicals per page.
    • Redirect Chaining issues.
    • NoIndex/NoFollow/NoImageIndex/etc.
    • Page Titles (missing, too long, too short, duplicates, multiples).
    • Page Descriptions (missing, too long, too short, duplicates, multiples).
    • Headings (missing, too long, too short, duplicates, multiples).
    • URL structure (weird characters).
    • Images (optimized? file name, file size, alt attributes?).
    • And so much more, check out your own scanning tool for all it’s features.


Check for Social Markup in your SEO Audit9. Social Markup

This one is interesting, a lot of people forget about this. Social Markup is important because it controls how users see your content when someone else shares it. More shares = more visits. And with each share you want to try to control the experience. You might not be able to control everything or what the user says, but you can do your best to specify imagery, links, titles, and descriptions. Ensure the following is installed: OG (Open Graph) tags, twitter card, and Pinterest. LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok use the OG tags (where applicable), but that might change.


10. SCHEMA (aka Microdata, aka Structured Data)

Schema is over ten years old now and we’re all still neglecting to use it. Schema helps tell engines what your page is about and the important items on the page to take note of. In another article about website mistakes to avoid, I gave an example of a recipe blog page and how important it is to tell google a specific page is a recipe so it’s not left trying to figure things out on its own! 

Here’s a peek at what we look for on a site when it comes to schema:

    • Is it inline or json?
    • If inline, are correct itemtypes showing at a minimum?
    • Is the organization node present at a minimum?
    • Is the webpage node present at a minimum?
    • If it’s ecommerce – are product details present at a minimum?
    • There’s so much more to schema, don’t get caught going down the rabbit hole…


Other SEO Audit items and how to start your own audit/analysis

Hopefully, this checklist of ten items is a great place to start. Feel free to share it with whomever and if you ask questions, I will dive deeper into a topic if you’d like. 

It’s also important to note that we ensure Google Analytics and Search Console are set up and we also suggest other tools (e.g. Quantcast) if we feel they’ll help as well. Or Mobile-first checklist items, this is a common problem with most clients. We also dive deeper depending on the type of site. If it’s a blog, we might ensure post authors and dates are present (with the appropriate schema). Ecommerce we dive really deep (breadcrumbs, internal search, gridwalls, oh my…). OR international sites it’s really important to get HREFLANG implemented.  The list goes on and on. The Gist? Get started with our list of ten SEO checklist items and BUILD FROM THERE! In no time, you’ll have a list that dwarfs ours and I look forward to hearing all about it!


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Whether you’re a small business just looking for a brochure website or a large corporation with a sophisticated, enterprise-sized site, below is a list of 5 major mistakes to avoid when building a new site (or retrofitting an existing one).


#5. Typos: content typographical errors, especially with keywords.

website mistakes - typosThis issue really is a two-headed monster.

Typos and properly formatted content.

Typos are a signal that your content isn’t up to snuff. We always teach clients to treat your content like a finally tuned engine that is properly constructed in a nested format. Forgetting to pay proper attention to grammar is a common mistake websites make. I think we can all attest to making this mistake, heck this article probably has a spelling mistake or two (darn it The Point? Always throw your content into M$ Word, then, and then do a final proofreading before posting live. Hopefully doing those three things is enough to catch 90% of your typos.

Typos in Keywords.

If typos are bad, making typos in targeted keywords on a page is a tad worse. SEO Hacker has an interesting article about misspelling keywords and/or the many variations of certain keywords in search. I like thinking of content for a page on a website like a chapter in a book. While Google has told us the <H1> tag isn’t as prevalent as before, I still use it like a chapter heading in a book. Put your keyword in the heading and describe what the page is going to be all about. Then genuinely write all about that topic/item without misspelling the main keyword or variations of it.


#4. Broken Links throughout your website.

broken links in your website - website mistakesBroken links on your site are links that simply don’t work for any number of reasons. Broken links impact a website’s overall link profile (external and internal links that aid in calculating domain authority).

Main causes for broken links on a website:

  • A link to an external site no longer works (maybe the site is taken down, or the page no longer exists) resulting in a 404 error.
  • An internal link (a link to another page on the site), no longer works resulting in a 404
  • A bookmark (<a> tag “name” attribute) was removed to the link to the bookmark no longer works.
  • Link expired, sometimes link placements will expire and be removed
  • A plethora of other reasons…

Ahrefs’ blog has a great post about how to find and fix broken backlinks. This activity of ensuring a new or existing site doesn’t have broken links should fall under the site maintenance bucket. Scanning and fixing broken links should happen monthly or at least quarterly.


#3. Forgetting about Schema (aka “Microdata” or “Structured Data”).

If you’re asking, “What is schema? you’re probably not alone. There are a lot of us around that are still unaware of schema. Schema is roughly ten years old now, and it’s really starting to pick up steam with search engines. Schema is an additional content tagging technique that helps inform search engines exactly what the content on a page is all about.

The easiest example to illustrate how schema works is with a blog recipe page. Google may or may not be able to figure out that a specific blog post is actually a recipe, but imagine if you could tell Google’s search engine that it’s a recipe and to treat it as such in search results.  That’s the power of schema.

Google put out some developer guidelines for schema they “officially” support (they call it “structured data,” these words are synonymous). Their guide instructs how to format schema code for Google’s search engine. If a website is powered by WordPress, there are many schema plugins that automatically implement schema coding (although some additional manual selections may be needed from time to time).

The point? After ten years schema is here to stay, and it really helps search engines take the guesswork out of trying to figure out what your website/webpage is all about.


#2. Not implementing your site for Mobile layouts FIRST.

website mistake: forgetting to designing your website for mobile-first layoutIt’s been a while since Google’s search engine began considering a website’s mobile layout first (over desktop). Great info from Moz on mobile-first search engine results. And responsive design methods really started to catch on when browsers started supporting CSS media queries (around 2008/2009).

What is a website that considers a mobile-first layout?

It really is as simple as it sounds. Your website works perfectly on a mobile phone. Think of how you hold a phone in the palm of your hand. One usually surfs the web in a vertical (portrait) layout. You surf twitter in portrait mode. You scroll through Instagram in portrait mode. Everything is done on a phone in portrait mode (except watch videos). A website made for mobile first will display the content of the entire website (and all its pages) perfectly on a mobile device in portrait mode. Seems simple right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Most website designers build websites for desktop first. And a site built for a wide layout will look too small and usually break on a phone.

Design your site for a mobile portrait layout first.



do not ignore seo - website mistake

#1. Ignoring Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Probably one of the worst mistakes for any website (new or old) is ignoring SEO. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. The sooner you start training and taking part in marathon after marathon, the sooner you’re in the race for good! At the very least you need to do these three things on every page of your website:

A. Ensure Meta Title and Meta Description are filled out.

This might be a daunting task if you manage a large website with many pages. This still needs to be done. Your title should be 35-45 characters long (I try not to go longer because of mobile phone viewports even though technically you can push it to roughly 60 characters). Try not to go further than 140 characters (including spaces) on the description. If you can’t tell people what you’re page is about in the original length of a tweet, you should probably break up the page into multiple pages (or try again).

B. Optimize images.

Images should be optimized on three levels:

  • Image filename
  • Image file size
  • Image “alt” attribute

Optimize an image filename

The image filename should describe the image (if possible). So if you include an image of an apple on a page about “how to eat an apple,” name the image something like: eating-an-apple.jpg. Or, if you’re on a large content management system, something like eating-an-apple-8283238923.jpg is fine as well.  Do the best you can.

Optimize image file size

No image on a website should exceed 150kb (unless your site is a library of desktop wallpapers, or photography). Icons, background images, thumbnails, etc. try to keep all your images below 150kb. Use online compression tools, photoshop, whatever you need to in order to get that file size down.

Optimize image alt tag (aka alt attribute)

With an HTML <img> tag, you can add an “alt” attribute to describe what the image is about. So if we named our previous image eating-an-apple.jpg, we might describe the image further in the image alt tag. E.g. <img src=”./img/eating-an-apple.jpg” alt=”How to eat an apple – granny smith green apple” />.


C. Setup Website on Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Our SEO Audit and Analysis checks over 100 things so you might be asking yourself, “What about content?” or “What about site performance?” or “What about Social Markup?” etc. etc. etc. So why focus on meta data, image optimization, and tracking?

The truth is, these are things that I believe you should have at a minimum and to start with. So if we’re starting at zero, start with this.

So why Google Analytics and Search Console? Both are fantastic tools to continue making your site great. Understand what users are consuming, how they are interacting on your site, and what else should fixed on your site (new or old). Setup your Google account, embed the analytics code on your site, and setup search console at


The biggest mistakes to avoid on your website…

Do you agree? Disagree? What is your biggest mistake you’ve ever made on a new or existing site?


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