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

An SEO audit helps improve a website’s search performance. It fixes technical, on-page, content, and link issues.

There’s no universal SEO audit process. All website owners should check for a few basic issues.

This guide explains 14 of them.

1. Check for manual actions

Manual actions occur when a Google reviewer decides your site doesn’t follow webmaster guidelines. Your site won’t appear in Google’s search results.

Manual action is rare unless you’ve done something egregious. If you have one, you’re dead before you start.

Google Search Console’s Manual actions report lists manual actions.

If it says otherwise, read our Google penalties guide.

2. Check organic traffic

Google’s search algorithms are constantly updated. Many updates target link spam or content quality.

Organic traffic drops that coincide with Google updates may indicate specific issues.

The August 2018 core update affected health, fitness, and medical sites that lacked expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T). Barry Schwartz, a blogger, dubbed it “Medic.”

The update destroyed sites like this one:

Google Search Console shows free organic traffic trends. Set the Search results report to the past year or two.

In Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you can also overlay known Google updates to diagnose issues.

This site’s traffic dropped after a core update.

If you notice a traffic drop after a Google update, check our Google Algorithm Updates History page.

3. Check for HTTPS-related issues

HTTPS transfers visitor data securely. It helps secure passwords and credit card details and has been a Google ranking factor since 2014.

If your website uses HTTPS, visit it. If the address bar has a lock, it’s secure.

Certain pages and resources on some websites don’t load securely. We recommend checking for HTTPS-related issues. How?

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is free.

Site Audit crawls websites.

Report Internal Pages

Check the “Protocols distribution” graph for HTTP pages. All-green graphs are ideal.

Under “Issues,” look for “HTTPS/HTTP mixed content.” While your HTML loads over a secure HTTPS connection, images load over an unsecure one.

Read our HTTPS guide if you encounter either of these issues.

4. Check that you can only browse one version of your website

Your website should only have these four versions:

http://domain.com

http://www.domain.com

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

The other three versions should link to master.

Google sees all four as separate sites. Multiple accessibles can cause crawling and indexing problems. It can sometimes dilute link equity and hurt rankings.

Install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar and type each URL version into your browser to make sure they all redirect to the same “master” version.

http://ahrefs.com redirects to https://ahrefs.com.

If not, use redirects.

5. Check for indexability issues

Google can’t index pages with this warning, so make sure they’re not important. If so, edit the meta robots tag.

Check the report’s indexable URLs.

If it’s high, investigate.

Given that Ahrefs has 500 blog posts, 2,164 indexable URLs seems high. Clicking the number reveals that it includes our blog in other languages.

If we exclude author, category, and pagination pages, the number of indexable URLs is accurate.

6. Check for mobile-friendliness

Since Google switched to mobile-first indexing in 2019, mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor everywhere.

Easy mobile-friendliness check. Open Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report. It shows which URLs are mobile-unfriendly.

If you don’t have Google Search Console, use Mobile-Friendly Test.

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

7. Check page speed

Since 2010, desktop page speed has been a ranking factor; mobile since 2018. There’s no official threshold for how fast a page should load, and there are many proxy metrics.

Google PageSpeed Insights shows many metrics.

Start with a tool that gives page speed metrics. Ahrefs’ Site Audit is free with an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account. How?

Site Audit crawls websites.

Performance report

More green is better here. If you see a lot of red, speed up your page.

8. Check Core Web Vitals

Google measures user experience with Core Web Vitals. You shouldn’t obsess over them because they’re a weak ranking signal. Still, check your site’s performance.

As this report uses Chrome User Experience (CrUX) data, you may see a “Not enough data collected” or “Not enough recent usage data” message.

Check the Lighthouse scores in Ahrefs’ Performance report. This is lab data, not Google user experience.

9. Check for broken pages

Broken webpages are bad. If these pages have backlinks, they lead nowhere.

Visit Site Audit’s Internal pages report and click “Broken” to find broken pages.

Site Explorer can find broken backlink URLs. Plug in your domain, go to the Best by links report, add a “404 not found” filter, and sort by referring domains.

Site Explorer shows accidental URLs.

Three domains link to this URL:

Never existed. Linkers used the wrong URL. It needs a “s”

Here’s how to fix broken links:

10. Check for sitemap issues

A sitemap lists pages to index. Redirects, non-canonicals, and dead pages confuse Google.

To check sitemap issues, go to Site Audit’s All issues report and click “Other.”

You’ll find:

Sitemap dead links.

No sitemap index.

Sitemap non-canonicals.

11. Check basic on-page elements

Your site’s indexable pages should have title, meta, and H1 tags. These on-page elements help Google understand your content and increase clicks.

To find issues, use Site Audit’s Content report’s “Issues” tab.

724 pages on the site above lack a title tag. Google shows them in search results, so the site could lose clicks.

It has the same number of missing or empty meta descriptions and H1 tags.

Google shows meta descriptions in search results, so write one for every important page. Missing H1 tags indicate a poorly coded theme.

Click an issue and select “View affected URLs” to see affected URLs.

Sort the report by organic traffic to prioritise fixes.

12. Check for declining content

Rankings aren’t permanent. When content is outdated, search traffic drops. Refreshing and republishing content usually fixes this.

Top Google searches plummeted in 2021.

We didn’t update the post for over a year, so it’s outdated. We updated and republished the piece, which boosted traffic.

Find declining content in Google Search Console:

View search results

Compare date filter

Choose “Last 6 months to previous”

Tab “Pages”

Order the table by “Clicks Difference”

Our list of most-visited websites has plummeted in the last six months. This needs an update.

Our free SEO plugin for WordPress automates this process. It checks for slow pages and suggests fixes.

It suggests rewriting our list of the best keyword tools because it used to rank in the top three but now doesn’t even make the top 100.

13. Check for content gaps

Missing subtopics causes content gaps. You don’t rank as highly for long-tail keywords or your main target keyword.

Find content gaps easily:

Site Explorer accepts URLs.

Content Gap report

Paste the URLs of competing pages.

Click “Keywords.” You’ll see which keywords these pages rank for but not yours.

Some of these may be subtopics you’ve missed.

When we do this for our “what is seo” page, we see that competing pages rank for many SEO-related keywords.

This is interesting because we covered it in our definition.

We didn’t say SEO stands for this. Our rivals did.

We should be more explicit about this.

14. Check for other technical issues

Technical issues can hurt your rankings. To check for other SEO issues, crawl your site with Ahrefs’ Site Audit.

Ahrefs’ blog has a redirect loop.

Redirect loops are rare. Without a crawl-based audit, this issue may have gone unnoticed.

Over 2,400 images lack alt text.

The number of affected images suggests a flaw in our processes. Want to know about Effective Blog? Check out The Most Effective Way To Write A Connecting Blog Entry.

Final thoughts

This SEO audit identifies three areas for improvement.

Technical SEO issues can boost your site’s search performance.

On-page SEO issues can increase organic clicks.

Content opportunities can boost page and keyword rankings.

Read our guide to conducting a technical SEO audit for more information.

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By MuhammadJunaid

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