A Simple (But Effective) 14-Step SEO Audit & Checklist

An SEO audit improves search performance. It fixes on-page, content, and link problems.

No SEO audit is universal. Website owners should check for basic issues.

These 14 are explained.

1. Check for manual actions

A Google reviewer takes manual action if your site violates webmaster guidelines. Google won’t index your site.

Manual action is rare unless egregious. Having one is fatal.

Manual actions are a Google Search Console report.

If Google penalizes you, read our guide.

2. SEO traffic

Google constantly updates its search algorithms. Link spam and content quality are often updated.

Google updates may cause organic traffic drops.

The August 2018 core update affected sites lacking expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T). Barry Schwartz nicknamed it “Medic.”

Updates destroyed sites like:

Google Search Console shows traffic trends. Set Search to the past year or two.

You can overlay Google updates in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to diagnose problems.

After a core update, traffic dropped.

Check our Google Algorithm Updates History page if traffic drops after an update.

3. Check HTTPS problems

HTTPS secures user data. Since 2014, it’s been a Google ranking factor for passwords and credit card details.

Some websites have insecure pages and resources. Check HTTPS issues. How?

Ahrefs is free.

Site Audit spiders websites.

Page Report

Check “Protocols distribution”for HTTP pages. Ideal graphs are green.

Look for “HTTPS/HTTP mixed content” under “Issues.” While HTML loads over HTTPS, images load over HTTP.

If you have either problem, read our HTTPS guide.

4. Check that only one website version is available.

Your website needs four versions:

http://domain.com

http://www.domain.com

https://domain.com
https://www.domain.com

Master should be linked in three versions.

Google considers them separate sites. Multiple accessible affect crawling and indexing. Link dilution can hurt rankings.

Install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar and type each URL version into your browser to check for redirects.

https://ahrefs.com forwards http://ahrefs.com.

Redirect if necessary.

5. Index problems

Google can’t index pages with this warning, so avoid them. If so, edit meta robots.

Check indexable URLs.

Investigate high temperatures.

2,164 indexable URLs seem high given Ahrefs’ 500 blog posts. Clicking the number reveals our multilingual blog.

Counting indexable URLs is accurate if we exclude author, category, and pagination pages.

6. Mobile-friendly?

Mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor since Google switched to mobile-first indexing in 2019.

Mobile checker. Open Google’s Mobile Usability report. It shows an unfriendly URLs investment

Mobile-Friendly Test replaces Google Search Console.

The result should apply to most, if not all, pages if they use the same design and layout.

7. Page speed

Desktop page speed is a ranking factor since 2010, mobile since 2018. There’s no official page-loading speed threshold and many proxy metrics.

PageSpeed Insights provides metrics.

Start with a speed-measuring tool. Ahrefs Webmaster Tools includes a free Site Audit. How?

Site Audit spiders websites.

Report performance

Greener is better. Red means speed up your page.

8. Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals measures Google’s user experience. They’re a weak ranking signal, so don’t obsess. Check site performance.

As this report uses CrUX data, you may see “Not enough data collected” or “Not enough recent usage data”

Ahrefs’ Performance report contains Lighthouse scores. Not Google user experience, but lab data.

9. Broken pages

Website errors are bad. They have no backlinks.

Site Audit’s Internal pages report has broken links.

Site Explorer finds broken backlinks. Plug in your domain, go to Best by links, and sort by referring domains.

Site Explorer displays mistaken URLs.

This URL has three links:

False. Mismatched URLs. Missing “s”

Fixing broken links:

10. Check sitemaps

Sitemaps list indexable pages. Dead pages, redirects, and non-canonicals confuse Google.

For sitemap issues, click “Other” in Site Audit’s All issues report.

There’s:

Link sitemap.

Unindexed sitemap.

Non-canonicals sitemap.

11. Verify page basics

Title, meta, and H1 tags should be on indexable pages. Google understands your content better with these on-page elements.

Use Site Audit’s “Issues” tab to find issues.

724 pages lack a title tag. Google lists them, so the site may lose clicks.

Meta descriptions and H1 tags are missing or empty.

Write meta descriptions for every important page to appear on Google. Missing H1 tags signal bad coding.

Click an issue to see affected URLs.

Prioritize fixes by organic traffic.

12. Examine waning content

Rankings change. Outdated content reduces search traffic. Refreshing and republishing fixes this.

2021 saw fewer Google searches.

The post hasn’t been updated in over a year, so it’s old. Republishing the article increased traffic.

Google Search Console decliners:

Results

Date-filter comparison

Select “Previous 6 months”

“Pages”

“Clicks Difference”

In the last six months, our most-visited websites list has dropped. Update this.

Our WordPress SEO plugin automates this. It checks slow pages and recommends fixes.

It suggests rewriting our list of the best keyword tools because it used to be in the top three but now isn’t.

13. Content gaps

Subtopic gaps cause content holes. Long-tail keywords and your target keyword rank lower.

Easy content gaps:

Site Explorer is URL-friendly.

Gap analysis

Copy rival URLs.

Click “Keywords” to see which ones rank higher than yours.

You may have missed some subtopics.

We see that competing pages rank for many SEO-related keywords on our “what is seo” page.

We defined this, so it’s interesting.

SEO doesn’t mean this improvement we didn’t, We should clarify.

14. Other technical problems

Technical problems hurt rankings. Ahrefs’ Site Audit can find other SEO issues.

Ahrefs’ blog loops.

Loops are uncommon. This issue may have gone unnoticed without a crawl-based audit.

2,400 images lack alt text.

Number of affected images suggests a process flaw.

Final thoughts

This SEO audit suggests three improvements.

Technical SEO improves a site’s search performance.

On-page SEO can boost clicks.

Content boosts page and keyword rankings.

For more, see our guide to technical SEO audits.

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