Are you using your full SEO potential?
Here we've put together a detailed checklist you can use to assess whether you're using your website to its full SEO potential. The checklist covers the most important areas of search engine optimisation (SEO) and can help you identify any issues that may be negatively impacting your SEO.
Once you have gone through the checklist, we recommend that you write a prioritised list of actions and improvements you want to implement on your website. Some actions can be implemented relatively easily - others require more work and a greater technical understanding. If you are not so much into short checklists, but more into long, detailed texts, I recommend that you read the text on search engine optimization. Have fun!
- The quick overview
- Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- Content optimization
- Availability and indexing
- Website architecture
- Speed (load time)
- Mobile friendliness
- Google Analytics
1. The quick overview
Number of indexed pages
- Do a site:-search on Google (type "site:domæne.dk" in the search field).
- Check the number of pages that Google has indexed (i.e. the number of search results). This number can be quite high, for example if your website has a discussion forum with many posts.
- The front page of your website will not necessarily appear as the first search result. This may be because your website is inappropriately structured or your internal links are inappropriate. According to Google's John Muller you don't have to worry about the order of your indexed pages.
Page numbers in Google Analytics
- Check your page count in Google Analytics (select the 'Behaviour' menu, click on 'Website content' and then 'All pages'). Does this number match the number of indexed pages (from the previous point)? If the number of indexed pages is lower than your actual page count, it may indicate that Google has not indexed all your pages. Find out which pages are affected and why Google has not indexed them.
- Please note that the site:-search includes subdomains. The statistics in Google Analytics do not necessarily do this, and therefore the two figures can differ significantly. There can also be big differences in the figures if there are areas of your website that you have deliberately excluded from Google.
Placement in search results
- Do a Google search for your company name and any related keywords.
- Check that your website appears as the first organic search result and that the most relevant page from your website appears first. If your website does not appear first, this may be due to a penalty from Google as a result of poor or missing search engine optimisation.
- Check Google's cache for your most central pages (type info:domain.co.uk/undersite in the search box and click 'Show Google's cache' at the bottom).
- Check that the content of your website is displayed and that all navigation links are visible. Remember to also check the text version of the cached page (click on 'Text version only' at the top). If there is content that is not being cached, Google is having trouble indexing the content. This could be because you are using Flash on your website. Read more about cache.
2. Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- Check that your Title Tags are unique, relevant to the page content and a maximum of 55-65 characters long. Also be aware that there are no pages without a Title Tag.
- Read more about Title Tags.
- Check that your Meta Descriptions are unique, relevant to the page content and around 150-160 characters long. Also be aware that there are no pages without a Meta Description.
- Read more about Meta Descriptions.
- You can use the "HTML enhancements" tool in Google Search Console to check your Meta Descriptions and Title Tags.
3. Content optimisation
- Check that all the landing pages of the website - like the front page - have an optimised text content. There is no hard and fast rule for how long the content should be, but it should at least be as long as the content your main competitors on Google have on their corresponding pages.
- We often find that webshops have missing or too short category descriptions and product descriptions, which can have a negative impact on the ranking in search results.
- Read more about content optimization.
- Check that each landing page is optimised for unique keywords or search phrases. As a general rule, two different landing pages should not be optimised for the same keywords or keyword phrases. For example, we have created a specific landing page on Marketing agency in Copenhagen and another SEO agency in Aarhus to make it clear to Google what search engine optimisation services we offer.
- Be aware that the keywords or search phrases must match the content and purpose of the landing page so that you do not mislead the search engines and your visitors.
- The keywords or search phrases should appear several times in the text content of the landing page.
- Images (including image file names and alt text) must also be optimised for the selected keywords or search phrases.
- Read more about keyword analysis.
- Check that the content on your website is understandable and meaningful to your visitors, and that it influences them to take the desired action (e.g. buy a product).
- Make sure your content is laid out in easy-to-read sections with clear headings and an easy-to-read font.
- Even if the content needs to be search engine optimised, it is first and foremost your visitors (i.e. living people) that you need to write for.
- Make sure you use an H1 tag for your main headline on each landing page, and that the keywords or search phrases you've optimised the landing page for are included in the headline.
- Also, make sure that your headlines are well-written and appealing, so that your visitors are motivated to stay on your website and interact with the content.
- Read more about headings (headings).
- Check that you don't have the exact same text content on several different landing pages, and that each landing page can only be accessed via one web address. If not, you could be penalised by Google for duplicate content.
- Do a Google search to check if you have duplicate content on your website. Select a short phrase from the website and search for the phrase in quotes. The phrase should not appear in more than one place - whether on the same domain or on different domains. Repeat the process with a number of other randomly selected phrases.
- Be aware that in some cases Google interprets print-friendly versions of a page as duplicate content.
- Read more about duplicate content.
- Check that you have a significant amount of unique content on each landing page and that any ads (including text ads, banner ads, etc.) are not so numerous that they overshadow the actual content.
- Overcrowding your website with ads can have a negative impact on your visibility in search engines.
4. Availability and indexing
- Check that your website or parts of your website are not blocked in the robots.txt file. However, there may be cases where it is beneficial to deliberately exclude search engines from parts of the website.
- Read more about Robots.txt.
- If you use Flash, you run the risk that many users won't see your website and that search engines will have difficulty indexing it. The same problem can occur if you use iFrames.
- Cloaking (also called black hat cloaking) means that one version of your website is displayed to regular visitors and another version to search engine crawlers. Cloaking is against search engine guidelines and therefore your website can easily be penalised if you use it.
- So check that the website the search engines see is the same as the website your visitors see. You can read more about how Google sees your website here.
4xx and 5xx errors
- Check your website for 4xx errors and 5xx errors. The most common errors are 401 (Unauthorized), 403 (Forbidden), 404 (Not Found) and 500 (Internal Server Error).
- Check that you have added an XML sitemap of your website to Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console. Add a similar sitemap to your robots.txt file if necessary.
- Read more about sitemaps.
Google Search Console
- Use the 'Transit error' function in Google Search Console to see if Google encounters any indexing errors on your website. The 'Security Issues' feature can also be very useful.
5. Website architecture
Web addresses (URL's)
- It is advantageous if your URLs contain relevant keywords and do not contain meaningless parameters such as 'page-id-417'.
- However, changing your URLs can have a negative impact on your traffic, so as a general rule, we recommend that you only change your URLs if they are highly inappropriate.
- Read more about URLs.
- Check that the front page of your website links to any sections or categories, and that the sections or categories link to any subsections or subcategories.
- Check that any product pages link to the relevant category pages.
- Check that you make use of internal links - not only for menus and navigation, but also in the texts of the website itself. Internal links make it easier for users to navigate around the site and easier for search engines to index the site.
- Read more about internal link building.
- Check that the pages linked to in the footer of the site can also be accessed from the main menu at the top of the page. As a general rule, the footer should contain only a few links and not be used as an actual menu or sitemap.
- Check that you don't have dead links on your website. Remember to check both internal links and outbound links.
- You can use the tool deadlinkchecker.com to find dead links on your website (free).
- Read more about dead links.
- Check that all link addresses are written in full (http://www.domæne.dk/underside). If you only write the relative web address (domain.dk/underside or just /underside), problems can easily occur.
- Check that you are using 301 Redirect for any redirects and that the redirects are working properly.
- Read more about redirects.
6. Speed (load time)
- Check the load time of your website from both desktop and mobile devices. If load times are very long, not only does it affect usability, but potentially your search engine rankings too.
- You can read Geoff Kenyon's excellent post on load time here: Site Speed - Are You Fast? Does it Matter for SEO?.
- Read more about speed optimization.
- Make sure you use GZIP compression on your website where possible. You can test your website here: www.giftofspeed.com/gzip-test.
- Also check that your CSS, JS and HTML files are compressed. There are a number of so-called Minify tools you can use for free to easily compress your files.
- Check that the loading speed of images and graphics is not so slow that it affects the loading time of the website.
- Read possibly Google's guide to image optimization.
- Read more about image optimization.
- Use a good and fast web host. If you have a lot of traffic on your website, you may want to buy a dedicated web server (i.e. a web server that is 100% dedicated to you as a customer). This way, you reduce the risk of the web server being overloaded.
- Visit your website on mobile devices with different browsers and screen sizes, and check that everything (especially navigation and any checkout process) works as it should.
- Do a Google mobile search for selected pages on your website and check that Google has marked the pages as mobile-friendly (look for the text 'Mobile-friendly' immediately below the headline in the search results). If Google doesn't consider your pages mobile-friendly, this could affect your search engine rankings and therefore organic visits.
- Read more about mobile-friendliness.
Redirection to mobile website
- If you have a mobile version of your website (e.g. m.domain.com), make sure you use a rel="alternate"-tag on the mobile version and a rel="canonical"-take on the desktop version. This ensures that the right version of your website is displayed to the right visitor.
- Read possibly Google's guide to redirects.
- Check that you are using an HTTP Vary Header if you are using dynamic display (to display different web pages at the same URL depending on who is visiting the page). By using an HTTP Vary Header, you help search engines understand that content varies depending on who visits the page.
- Read possibly Google's guide to dynamic display.
- Check that Google Analytics is linked to any separate mobile pages.
- Check that you have set up land-based targeting in Google Search Consoleif your website targets users in a specific country.
- Check that you use hreflang tags on your website if your website targets users who speak different languages.
- Read more about hreflang.
Different versions in the same language
- If you have different versions of your website in the same language (for example, one version for English speakers and one for Americans), make sure that the different versions are unique in terms of content. That way you avoid being penalised by Google for duplicate content.
- Check that your URLs are written in a language that reflects the country your website is targeting. If you have different versions of your website targeting different languages, this means you need to write your URLs (the part after your domain name itself) in different languages.
- Check that any prices on your website are in a currency that reflects the country your website is targeting.
9. Google Analytics
- Check that the tracking code for your Google Analytics account is set up on all pages of your website.
- Consider whether there are pages you don't want included in Google Analytics. For example, if some pages generate an unnatural number of page views and therefore distort your statistics.
- Check that you have set up Site Search in Google Analytics. This will allow you to see internal search data from your website.
- Read possibly Google's Guide to Site Search.
Google Ads and AdSense
- Check that Google Ads and AdSense are properly connected to Google Analytics if you use Ads or Adsense. Read if necessary Google's guide to Ads and Google's guide to AdSense.
Own IP address
- Check that your own IP address is excluded from Google Analytics. This will prevent your own (and your employees') visits to the website from being counted in the visitor statistics.
- Read possibly Google's guide to excluding internal traffic.
Hand tracking (event tracking)
- Check that you have event tracking set up in Google Analytics. This can be very useful if you want to collect statistics on specific user interactions (related to a purchase process, for example).
- Read possibly Google's incident tracking guide.
Demographics and interests
- Check that you have enabled the Demographics and Interests reports in Google Analytics. These reports provide information about the age, gender and interests of your users and can therefore give you valuable insights into your (potential) customers.
- Read possibly Google's guide to enabling Demographics and Interests.