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How To SEO Audit a Website To Improve Google Rankings

17 step guide that you can follow to improve your article rankings — guaranteed

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have discussed 17 actionable steps below that you can follow to SEO audit a website yourself in 2020.

This is a step-by-step guide that I follow myself whenever I SEO audit my website or my client’s.

I’m listing the 17 steps below. Feel free to jump to the steps that you would like to check out.

  1. Check page-load speed
  2. Google should index one version of your site
  3. Improve on-page SEO
  4. Check whether the site is mobile-friendly
  5. Delete zombie pages (if any)
  6. Fix broken links
  7. Analyze your backlinks
  8. Check your website architecture
  9. Check the UX
  10. Check for technical issues with Robot.txt and sitemap
  11. Analyze your incoming traffic in Google Analytics
  12. Fix indexing problems (if any)
  13. Make sure your content is high quality
  14. Check if you are targeting the right keywords
  15. Avoid duplicate title tags
  16. Optimize your content for featured snippets
  17. Are you using your internal links?

1. Check Page-Load Speed

Google has already informed us in 2010 that page loading speeds are an important ranking factor.

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How to Check Page Load Speed?

The best tools that you can use are:

a. PageSpeed Insights — Google Developers

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All you have to do is just put the URL of all the important pages in your website and analyze their speeds.

Anything below 70 in “Desktop ratings” is poor and you have to optimize that page for better rankings. Remember to check the Mobile-version speeds as well.

b. GTmetrix — Website Speed and Performance Optimization

I prefer GTmetrix as is shows me relative insights as well. That means GTmetrix analyses your page speed with the millions of other pages being searched on the site as well.

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So, my site is doing better than 94% other sites that searched their speeds on GTmetrix.

For your reference, GTmetrix has analyzed over 582 million pages as of writing.

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Don’t forget to check the recommendations.

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How To Speed Up Your Site?

Check the list of recommendations in the image above. All of them are the ways in which you can actually speed up your site.

The most important and the easiest way to speed up your site is by compressing your images.

If you are a non-coder, you will have little idea about JavaScript and CSS.

But there are no excuses if you forget to compress the images you use in each of your pages.

How can you compress your images?

You can use a few free tools available online.

a. Kraken.io

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It is very easy to use Kraken. Just go to the Try Free Web Interface and input the image you want to compress. Download the compressed image and you are good to go.

b. Compress JPEG and PNG

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I have used compress jpeg and compress png before a lot. But after I started using Kraken.io, I’ve stuck to it.

You can use any of the sites. All of them are good.

2. Google Should Index One Version of Your Site

For those of you wondering what indexing is, this is how Google describes it.

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If a page is crawled by Google crawler, then it is indexed. An indexed page can be viewed by all of us. All the links we see in the search results are indexed pages.

Check the below links on your browser:

1. http://prasantabanerjee.com

2. https://prasantabanerjee.com

3. http://www.prasantabanerjee.com

4. https://www.prasantabanerjee.com

To us, all these links mean the same thing. But for Google, they are 4 different sites.

So, it’s important that you check each case for your site, and make sure they lead to one site as well.

If you check the 4 versions of my site they all lead to:

Home page

Is Your Website Secure?

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So, check that the 4 versions of your site lead you to https one.

How to check if you are secure or not?

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The lock symbol on the search bar before your website URL is a validation that your website is secure.

As per Search Engine Land, Google will provide our sites with a small ranking boost if we have a secure site. In this competitive SEO landscape, any small boost is appreciated.

3. Improve On-Page SEO

This is part of the website SEO audit process. Also, it is one of the most important steps and hence I’ve kept it in point 3.

Among the many steps, the below mentioned 5 steps are the most crucial of them all.

a. Does Your URL Have The Keywords?

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This is one of Neil Patel’s pages. As you can see he has used the keyword directly as his page link.

Not only him, but Brian Dean of Backlinko also follows the same trick. Even Ahrefs does the same.

Even if you can keep your URL short and sweet like them, always remember to at least add the keyword in it.

b. Check If The Title Has The Keyword

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Check the image in the previous point. I showed you how Neil used his keyword on the URL.

Well, the same keyword is used on the Title as well. You must never forget to add your keyword on the title.

c. Does Your Content Have Sub-Headings?

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This is the same article that I am referencing to (Neil Patel’s).

Sub-headings are important. The proper use of the H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags is crucial too for better readability and hence user experience.

Divide your content into sections and sub-sections. Check this article for example. Look how I’ve categorized the content into parts.

d. Are You Using Alt-Text On Your Images?

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I use alt-text wherever appropriate in my articles. Alt-text helps users who can’t see the image understand what was in there.

Also, anything that improves user-experience, helps in SEO.

This is how Moz.com explains why alt-text is important.

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e. Check If Meta-Description Is Written Properly

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Keep your meta-description small, clear, and include the keywords without making if look forceful.

So, check if you have your keywords in the URL, Title, and meta description.

4. Check Whether Site Is Mobile-Friendly

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Google is now focusing on mobile-first indexing. And if Google wants us to focus on mobile-friendliness, what do we do? We focus on mobile-friendliness.

Never disobey Google.

How To Perform a Mobile-Friendly Test?

The Mobile-Friendly Test — Google Search Console helps you with it.

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As you can see, my site is mobile friendly.

If you are making your site using WordPress or Wix, then your site is automatically made mobile responsive.

If you are making it from scratch without the help of third-party sites, then make your site responsive with the necessary code adjustments.

This is especially important because more and more searches are happening over mobile devices. You can see it from your analytics too.

The majority of the incoming traffic use mobile devices.

5. Delete All Zombie Pages

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Google says “ putting out more content doesn’t make your site better “ according to Search Engine Roundtable.

So, we don’t need to keep useless content on our site. I regularly clean my site of the junk.

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I try and test new things on my site and see how things go. If it doesn’t work, it’s a zombie for me and I delete them.

You can use the Removals tool in the Google Search Console for such actions.

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How to check what pages are indexed by Google?

You can just type “site:yourwebsitelink” on the Google search bar to find all the indexed pages your site has.

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6. Fix Broken Links

There are several sites that help you with broken links detection. I found 2 websites especially helpful when it comes to checking broken links.

a. Ahrefs

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If you have the money to spend, Ahrefs is a good place to invest. The free version shows only 10 outbound and 10 inbound broken links.

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You have to pay to see all the 15,520 broken links that entrepreneur.com has.

b. BrokenLinkCheck.com

This is an award-winning free broken link checker.

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As you can see brokenlinkcheck.com shows you all the broken links any website possess. here I tested again with entrepreneur.com.

Find the broken links that your site possess and fix them.

7. Analyze Your Backlinks

Backlinks are very important when it comes to site authority and Google rankings.

I personally use 2 tools to analyze backlinks:

a. Small SEO Tools — Free Backlink Checker

b. Ahrefs — Free and Paid versions available

Ahrefs — Backlink Checker

Again this is a paid tool. However, it lets you see 100 backlinks for free. If your site possesses less than that, then you will see all.

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I analyzed the backlinks of a website called “Your Story” using Ahrefs.

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As you can see, the top 100 backlinks can be accessed in the free version.

Brian Dean and the Backlinko team analyzed 11.8 million websites and found that backlinks were the number one factor that determines your Google rankings.

Check the entire article out if you are interested.

Also, the Number #1 search result on Google had 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2 to #10.

Credits: Backlinko

8. Check Your Website Architecture

This is a pretty straight forward point. Make your website architecture as simple as possible. There are 2 points you need to remember:

1. Make the site structure a flat tree 2. Make every page accessible within 3 clicks away from the Home page

If you design your website keeping these 2 points in mind it will help users have a better experience surfing through your site.

Also, don’t make unnecessary complications such that Google crawlers have a hard time crawling through your pages.

A simple site is equal to better rankings. But the 3-click rule is an unofficial rule with no definite evidence. Still, designers follow this rule in hindsight.

This is what Wikipedia has to say.

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9. Check The UX

This is kind of the continuation of the previous point. After you are sure your website is clean, clear, and easy to surf, you have to check the UX of each page, each of which together makes up the complete site.

UX or User Experience by definition means “ person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service” as quoted on Wikipedia.

If suppose you use click-baits to bring in users to your site and the content is not something they were looking for, guess what will happen!

You will have a high bounce rate and lose rankings as well.

Furthermore, Google today is far more aware of what the user is actually looking for. They are now using machine learning to learn the meaning behind the words.

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Google’s Rank Brain update allows them to understand user satisfaction.

10. Check For Technical Issues in robots.txt and Sitemap

You can access your robots.txt file at yourdomain.com/robots.txt. Now definitely if you have it only then you will get something like this:

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Robots.txt guides the search engine crawlers on what they can crawl and what they can’t. Sitemap, on the other hand, helps search engines understand what pages you have and how your website is structured. A sitemap is nothing but an XML file.

If you are using a plugin like Yoast SEO in WordPress, you can create your own Sitemap file.

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11. Analyze Incoming Traffic on Google Analytics

Analyzing your incoming traffic is a crucial step. The insights such as from which channel is the majority traffic coming from, what devices they are using, which countries do they represent, which pages are being seen most, etc. will help you in understanding your readers better.

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Take note of every important topic that can impact your traffic. Keep a close eye on the key aspects mentioned above. And you are good to go.

12. Fix Indexing Problems

I have already explained what indexing is in the second point. How would you know if there is a problem with indexing?

Type site: yoursite.com on the Google search bar. Check if the recently posted article has been indexed or not.

It worth mentioning that you can manually request Google to index your recently updated page.

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After clicking on URL inspection, input the link of the recently updated page for inspection. Google will let you know if it has been indexed or not.

If it’s not, then you will find a “Request inspection” button. Once you put your request Google will index your page in a few minutes.

You can also check if your site is having problems with indexing or not.

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Go to Index Coverage and you will be shown the errors and warnings if you have any.

For example, my site has no errors as of yet.

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13. Make Sure Your Content is of High-Quality

There are a few points to consider when writing or analyzing your already written content.

Short Intro with a Hook

If you are writing an informative article such as this one, your content’s power is in the information distributed across the sub-headers.

So, don’t drag your introduction to this topic for long. 2–3 lines with a hook is enough.

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As you can see above, I’ve used just 2 sentences as my introduction and straightway taking my readers to the hook, which in this case is the gist of all the points in this article.

Sub-Headers

Use the H2, H3, and H4 tags to its full potential. Break your content up into as many small sections as possible and make each sub-section an actionable step.

If you take this article, for example, I have broken it up into 17 section. Each section is further broken up into sub-sections wherever possible.

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Keep Each Paragraph Short

There are 2 reasons to keep each of your paragraphs short and simple:

a. Most of your readers with be reading from a mobile device, and

b. Almost everyone these days skim through your content. They don’t read.

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Informative articles such as these should be made easy to read and easy to skim.

Check how I’m breaking the paras in the above image.

Add Images, Visuals, and Videos

This is especially true for informative articles. If you are writing a short story, one image at the start is good enough.

You have to understand who are your readers.

Are they avid readers and writers, or can they be anyone who may not be good in English but has come to get some sort of information?

The readers of informative articles such as this will be anyone who just wants clarification for their problems.

So, I make it easy for them to consume the content through images, visuals, and videos.

Below is a screenshot from this article itself.

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Check For Duplicate Content

Plagiarism results in penalties for your post. Your article won’t rank as high as it should.

Hence it is really important that we check for duplicate content in our articles and make it as unique as possible.

You can use smallseotool.com or Grammarly to check for plagiarism. I personally use smallseotools.com since it is free and one of the best.

There are better-paid alternatives that you can always go for as well.

Plagiarism Checker — smallseotools.com

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Grammarly

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14. Check If You’re Targetting the Right Keywords

Keywords help Search Engine crawlers understand what your content is all about.

So, targeting the right keywords is important for your article to be categorized and displayed to the right audience.

What do I mean by “right keywords”?

This is how Ahrefs define the right keywords:

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How to research a keyword?

Well, keyword research is a mixture of using tools, manual searching, and personal instincts.

For starters just use a tool and keep the above mentioned 3 points to target the keywords.

There are 100s of tools for keyword research available in the market. Few of the honourable mentions are listed below:

Google Keyword Planner

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Ahrefs — Keywords Explorer

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Moz.com

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KeywordTool.io

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Keywords Everywhere

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KWFinder

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Soovle

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If you want to dive deeper, check these articles out:

  1. How To Do Keyword Research for SEO — Ahrefs’ Guide
  2. The Guide To Keyword Research — Neil Patel
  3. Keyword Research — The Beginner’s Guide — Moz.com

15. Avoid Duplicate Title Tags

See how the title and meta description differs when I search for “California new” on Google.

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You can use any of the plagiarism checkers that I discussed in point number 13 to check whether your title is duplicate or not.

Writing compelling titles and meta-descriptions are crucial for attracting potential readers to click.

16. Optimize Content For Featured Snippets

This is how a featured snippet looks like:

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It holds a position before the first Google ranked search result.

That proves how important featured snipped is. Ranking 1st in Google rankings is not enough anymore.

You have to try for the featured snippet now. This what Google has to say about this feature.

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Try to answer the question in the search query as quickly as possible. Use around 40 words to answer.

17. Look If You’re Using Your Internal Links

Internal links are the bridge between your current post to your other relevant articles.

See if you any of the other articles that you have already published can be linked to your current article to explain things better.

Use your internal links wherever possible.

That’s it. Those are the 17 steps that I follow to SEO audit my website.

Hope this helps. Please share and bookmark this article for future use.

You can also read:

How Do I Feel After Journaling For The Last 2 Years

Originally published at https://prasantabanerjee.com on June 13, 2020.


How To SEO Audit a Website To Improve Google Rankings was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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You posted, read, and shared articles on social justice, but then you fell into old habits

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How I’ve Gotten Marketing Experience, as a High School Freshman.

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