SEO optimisation

As a professional SEO agency, when we need to identify areas of focus and opportunities for future SEO optimisation, we always start with a thorough examination of the site to be optimised. This way we know exactly where we can make the most impact. The checklist below contains many of the areas we review.


Guide to SEO Optimisation

The SEO optimisation checklist below contains a large part of the areas we look at when examining a website. So if you're not sure how well optimised your site really is, go through all the points one by one and we'll give you some short and concrete tips. At the same time, the list also gives you a good idea of how complex SEO optimisation really is - and how many factors actually play a role in your ranking with Google.

If you're not so keen on simplified - and perhaps slightly technical - checklists like this, you can instead download a free copy of our new SEO book.

How is your content indexed?

1. Check the number of indexed pages

  • Do a Google or Bing search for "site:XXX.dk". This will give you a list of the URLs on your site that the search engine has indexed. At the top left, you can see the total number. This may be subject to some uncertainty, but it should be roughly in line with what you would expect.
  • Review the lists and see if any of your most important pages with many links are not included. If they're not, it could indicate that there are either problems with your indexing, or that you've been penalised for something - resulting in a lower (or no) ranking.

2. Check the indexed images

  • Do another "site:XXX.dk" search on Bing and Google respectively, but this time it should be an image search.
  • Record the number of images from your site that are indexed.
  • Check that both the image filename and alt-text have relevant keywords in them by searching for that word, and then see if the image comes up.

3. Review data from Search Console

Review all the reports you can pull from Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tool (BWT) respectively. Focus in particular on these key points:

  • Review all the messages for your site in both GSC and BWT.
  • Go to your site in GSC, select Search Appearance and then Structured Data Report. Review the report and correct any errors. Remember also to check HTML improvement.
  • Again, use the menu on the left of the GSC (it appears when you click into your site from the Search Console front page). Select Search Traffic and then Manual Actions, and note the number of links to your site in Links to your site-sections.
  • Stay in Search Traffic Section and review Mobile Usability Report. Correct any errors. Mobile-friendliness has a big impact on your ranking, so it's important that as many errors as possible are fixed.
  • In the menu on the left, go to Google Index Section and including Index Status Trend. See if anything has changed and print out the chart to compare the results later. Also check Remove URLs section, and follow the recommendations.
  • Go to Crawl Section and then Crawl Errors (web/smartphone). A large number of e.g. 404 error gives Google the perception that your site is of low quality, which can affect your ranking. You may also want to check Quality Rating Guidelines for more info.
  • Go to Crawl Section and then Fetch as Google and make a Fetch and Render test - both desktop and mobile. Check that all your pages are rendered correctly.
  • Go to Crawl Section and then txt.tester. Check if you get any warnings.
  • Go to Crawl Section and then Sitemaps. Check if there is a current sitemap in use - and if it has any warnings attached.
  • Go to Crawl Section and then Crawl Stats. Check how many pages are crawled per day. Does it look fairly stable, or are there movements you should be aware of?
  • Go to Security Issues in the left menu and see if you have any alerts.
  • Go into BWTs Reports & Data section and export Inbound Links and Search Keywordsso you can use them later for comparison.
  • Also review BWT's Crawl Information and see if you have any warnings.
  • If you're having trouble with malware, check out this guide on how to deal with it: www.searchenginenews.com/sample/content/was-your-site-hacked-recovering-from-a-google-malware-attack
  • How current is your caching data? Important and frequently updated pages should ideally be crawled frequently.
  • Are there other links that show up in the caching but don't show up when you access the URL in a browser? This could be a sign of malware or that your server has been compromised.

4. Do you rank in your own name?

  • Do a search by company name or something similarly specific that you 100% should probably rank for. If you don't rank, there may be either an indexing problem or a penalty from Google, and this should of course be investigated.

5. Check your error messages

  • Do a search on a page that you know does not exist, e.g. XXX.dk/blablabla. That should very well give you an error 404 page. Pages with errors on them should also generate a 404 message from the server. If you get other codes, you should investigate why and fix the problem.

6. Review robots.txt and .htaccess

  • Check which URLs are blocked in robot.txt. Blocked URLs are not ranked by search engines.
  • Check that no URLs are blocked that are needed to render pages, including images, CSS and JavaScript
  • Are there any URLs that should be blocked in robots.txt but are not?
  • Is there specific content that is blocked but shouldn't be?
  • Is there any blocked content in robots.txt that can be removed, e.g. content that has long since disappeared from the site and search engines?
  • Are there any 301 redirects or other commands in the .htaccess file that could be usefully removed? For example, a 10 year old 301 redirect hardly needs to still be there.

7. Review your XML sitemap

  • If you are using an XML sitemap - are you using it correctly and is it up to date?
  • Are you using update frequencies that still make sense?
  • Does the XML sitemap appear in the robots.txt file?
  • What methods are used to ping search engines when your sitemap is updated?
  • Are video, images or Geo Sitemaps in use?

8. Check if your site's navigation can be indexed

  • Check whether your menus are indexable, including whether they use JavaScript or Flash-based technology.

9. Check if your site works on smartphones

  • Use both your own smartphones and borrow models other than your own. Then access your site and see if everything works as it should.

10. Conduct a crawler test on your site

  • Use a so-called Desktop Spider, e.g. Screaming Frogss, to perform a crawler test on your site. Be aware if the crawlers reach all levels of your site.
  • If the crawlers in the test do not reach all levels, the search engines will obviously also have problems with this, which should of course be corrected if possible.

Duplicated content

1. Check if your content has been duplicated by other sites or services

  • Find a unique text snippet from a previous article (not a brand new one) and do a search on it. Does that text show up anywhere other than where it SHOULD be?
  • If you find copies of your content in the search, make sure you remove them if at all possible.
  • Use Google Image Search to search your images, if they are unique to your site, and see if others have copied them. Under Visually Similar Search Options you can see if someone has changed your image and then used a variant of it.
  • Do a search on company phone numbers to make sure no old and forgotten websites exist.
  • If your business has moved in recent years, perform a similar search on previous phone numbers and addresses.

2. Are all versions of your site indexed?

  • Search for "Site:XXX.dk" to see if both your www pages and any other pages are indexed.

3. Is the site indexed on an IP address or on hostname?

  • Find your site's IP address, possibly by using this page.
  • Do a search on Bing.com on your IP address
  • If your site is indexed on your IP, it means that you have duplicated content on your site. Make a 301 redirect from your IP address to your domain to avoid this causing problems.
  • Check if your site is indexed on hostname. You can do this by doing a search on a unique piece of text from your site and then adding -XXX.dk to the search. It will then show all places where that unique text appears other than on your own site. See an example of the search here.

4. Is your mobile site causing problems with duplicate content?

  • If you have a mobile site or some other kind of separate mobile design, check if it causes duplicate content problems.

5. Conduct a site:XXX.dk search

  • Be aware if at the bottom of the search results you get the text "in order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the XXX already displayed". If you do, it indicates that duplicate content exists on the site. By the way, be aware that the message does not always appear on the first search page, so click through a few to be sure it is often found on the last page of Google results.

6. Are there multiple URLs for the same text?

  • If variations of a URL are found, you may risk your content being indexed multiple times. Do a site:XXX.dk search on a unique text bite to see if any alternative URL structures come up.
  • Run a test through e.g. Screaming Frogs SEO spiderand review the results by title and URL to see if any are duplicated.

7. Check for duplicate content on additional domains, subdomains, subdirectories or secure servers (https)

  • Does the same content appear in multiple places?
  • Go to Google Webmaster Tools -> Search Appearance-> HTML Improvements -> Duplicate Title Tags report and see if any duplicate titles turn up. Duplicate titles often mean that duplicate content exists.
  • Are there other domain names pointing to the same content on the server? This can be a serious problem that many people are not aware of. Check if the company owns other domain names and do a site:xxx.dk search on them to see if they have indexed content.

8. Check for duplicated images

  • Upload an image URL from your site to Google's image search at images.google.com and see if the image shows up on other sites.

Read more about duplicate content.

Load speed

1. Take advantage of Google Page Speed Insights

  • Test some selected pages, e.g. the front page or a category page, in Google's Page Speed Insights. Note your ratings for both mobile and desktop.
  • As a minimum, your site should load faster than your competitors', but beyond that, the ideal score is somewhere between 80-100 for both mobile and desktop. Of course, feel free to correct the things that are suggested.
  • If you use Google Analytics, go to Behavior and then Site Speed Reports. At Average Page Load Times you can see which of your pages are loading the slowest, as well as the bounce rate. Take note of the pages that load the slowest and those that have the highest bounce rate and change them to perform better.
  • Still under Site Speedgo to Speed Suggestions Reportwhich will display the pages listed by number of page views. Again, make a note of the worst performers so you can fix them.

2. Test your website's response time

  • According to Google itself, sites that have a load time of 20 seconds or more risk falling in rankings. That's why it's important to test how fast your site loads. For example, use. webpagetest.org to analyse with. Here you can also benchmark yourself against other sites. Webpagetest.org is free (as are many other speed tools), but there are also low-cost paid tools, typically costing a few hundred dollars a month.
  • Test Cold Cache and Hot Cache. At webpagetest.org you get a load time for first visit and for subsequent visits. Test both your entire site and individual, important pages. Note your load time, first byte and number of requests for both First View (Cold cache) and for Repeat Views (Hot cache). As a starting point, you should hit 2-3 seconds on First View and 1 second on Repeat Views.
  • Take note of the scores your site gets for each category. A well-optimised site should get an A across the board. Do the test every time you change your (main) pages.
  • Pay particular attention to pages with high Time to First Byte. These pages may have backend problems or similar challenges that need to be resolved. A slow load time is extremely annoying for the user and is said to have an impact on both your ranking and your site quality. Ideally Time to First Byte be less than 200 ms, if possible. However, be aware that the result may change depending on how busy your site is during the test period.
  • Under Start Render you can see the time that elapses before the user can see that the page is starting to load. A slow start will almost always result in high bounce rates, so do what you can to fix the things that make your site slow.

 3. DNS server tests

  • DNS errors can cause serious performance problems. Test your DNS for free at pingdom.com
  • Your DNS response time greatly affects how fast your site loads in general. Less than 10 ms on average is a good response time - if it's over 100 ms, you should try to fix it. Check your DNS performance via ultratools.com/tools.

Read more about speed optimization.


1. Have you indexed text on your front page?

  • Lack of indexed text can cause serious problems for your Google ranking. A good rule of thumb is that if you can press CTRL A and then CTRL C and copy text from your site into a text editor - then the text can be indexed.
  • You should ideally have 1500-2500 words on each of your pages, although there will of course be pages where this is impossible. But use it as a guideline. The absolute minimum is 150 words, but preferably more. A short text with many links risks being perceived as spam or at least low quality, which means you will drop in Google ranking. Of course, you should also make sure that your keywords appear in the text on the pages.
  • If you have pages where it is impossible to put more text, one solution could be to set them to meta noindex. This means that they will not be indexed by Google and thus will not count in your ranking - but on the other hand they will not trigger any penalty if Google considers them low quality.

2. What is perceived as quality content by Google?

  • Bing has explicitly stated that their search engine does not like spelling and grammatical errors. Google doesn't go that far, although they have said that you shouldn't worry about spelling mistakes in the comments on your page. However, Google does not say anything about the content itself, but all indications are that spelling mistakes etc. can drag you down in rankings, because many spelling mistakes are perceived as low quality content.
  • Pay attention to how your content is reading. Does it seem like an article from a newspaper or magazine - or does it seem like spam?
  • Does your content seem credible?
  • Does your site have many articles with roughly the same content, but with some keywords replaced? Both Google and users will take this as a sign of low quality.
  • If you have an e-commerce site, is there content on your site that seems frivolous and could prevent people from trusting you enough to give you their credit card details?

3. How easy is your text to read?

  • Take a copy of your text, run it through notepad, and then copy it into e.g. Dale Chall Online Tester. How will your text be evaluated? If it is at a low grade level, this may have an impact on the quality rating of your text by search engines.
  • Consider whether your attempt to make SEO texts has affected the experience of reading your text.

4. Are you overusing your keywords?

  • Is there an excessive use of keywords in your texts, image alt-texts and in your links? Does it give the impression that your content is spam rather than serious content?
  • Does your site inspire enough trust that the reader will engage with it and perhaps especially share their credit card details with you?
  • Are the outbound links on the site relevant to the overall topic and content of the site?

5. Review your Meta tags

  • Review your Meta Keywords. These words are no longer used by search engines, so don't spend a lot of time filling them in. Be aware, however, that they are sometimes the basis of any internal search engine the site may have.
  • Review your Meta Descriptions. Does each page have its own, well-written description? You may want to use Google Search Console to track whether you have similar Meta Descriptions, which will be perceived by search engines as duplicate content.
  • Check your Meta Robots Tags. Under noindex you should only be able to find pages that should not be indexable.

6. Get an overview of your Title tags

  • Each page should have its own unique title tag. Use Google Search Console to find pages with duplicate title tags.
  • Is the main keyword of the page as far left as possible in your Meta title? This is very important for your ranking on the word.
  • Are any of your Meta Titles longer than about 70 characters? If they are, only the first part of the title will appear in the search results and will therefore not have the same effect. If your Meta Title is too long, you may also risk Google replacing it with a shorter one.
  • Have you used your keyword so many times in your title that it seems spammy? Then get it changed. On the one hand, such a title will discourage people from clicking through to your site, and on the other, you could risk Google penalising you by dropping you in rankings.

7. Are your images SEO-optimised?

  • Is your keyword used in the file name?
  • Do you use the keyword in your image alt-text?
  • Do you remember to use keywords in the titles of your image pages, e.g. galleries?

 8. Is your text formatted correctly?

  • Do you remember to use headings (H-tags) on your highlighted texts, e.g. subheadings?
  • Is your text generally formatted for easy and comfortable reading?

9. Advertise

  • Be aware of how many ads you generally have on your site.
  • What is the split between ads and content? What takes up the most space on the site?
  • If more than 50% of the content above the fold consists of ads, your site may be considered low quality by Google, which can have a negative effect on your ranking. On desktop, the top 1280*1000 pixels are considered to be above the fold - on mobile it's much less.

10. How does your site work in different browsers?

  • Access the site using both new and old versions of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari, and be aware of errors on your site in some versions.
  • Can you use the site if you turn off JavaScript and CSS in your browser?

11. Mobile-friendliness

  • Access the site via different types of smartphones. Does it work? Also test with different sizes and types of tablets. If you don't have access to several variations of smartphones, you can test your site via MobilePhoneEmulator.com, where you can choose the screen size you want to test on.
  • When accessing the site from a smartphone, can you still (easily) find contact info for your company, and does the navigation work?
  • Can you watch any videos on your mobile? If your videos don't work on a mobile, it will drag down your ranking.

12. Do you follow Schema.org's guidelines on Rich Snippets?

  • Check that your markups are formatted correctly. Test it using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.
  • Check for obvious errors in e.g. name, address etc.
  • In general, check that your markups follow the guidelines of webpagetest.org

13. Do you use Facebook/Google + Open Graph Tags?

  • Do you use Facebook and/or Google+ social buttons on your site? - And is it just on the front page or the entire site?
  • Test how your posts look when shared on Facebook using Facebook's open graph object debugger. You can also use Google's Structured Data Tester.
  • Does the content look reasonable, is it unique, and is all text formatted correctly?
  • When someone likes a post or product from your site, does the liked content appear correct?
  • Do all Open Graph Tags refer to the same page, or do they refer to specific pages? The latter is the most correct.

14. Canonical tags

  • Bruges rel=canonical on your site, and if it does, is it being used correctly?
  • Does your internal link structure match the canonical version? For example, if you prefer to use www.XX.dk rather than XX.dk, do your links go to the version with or without www?
  • Are there any places where a rel=canonical-tag links to the same page that the tag is on? If so, this should be changed.
  • Also keep in mind any content you may have in other formats, such as PDFs, videos, etc. Their canonical tags should use the same version as the domain name.

15. Master the use of Iframes

  • Iframes as well as regular frames are not good for your ranking. Make sure the use of these is as limited as possible. Iframe tags are very common, for example in the form of a Facebook Like button, but should be avoided on content that needs to be indexed.

16. Beware of JavaScript

  • Search engines typically have a problem reading JavaScript, and in general you should not expect content based on JavaScript to be indexable.
  • Similarly, JavaScript navigation can make it difficult or impossible for crawlers to access your site.

17. Do you have any hidden text on the site?

  • Content that uses CSS display:none or hidden will be ignored by Google to some extent. For example, Jquery tabs on a product page. So make sure you don't have important text listed in these hidden sections - to the extent possible, of course.
  • Is there other content being stored - perhaps without you thinking about it? For example, a text in the footer that has the same colour as the background and therefore cannot be seen? This sort of thing can in some cases result in a penalty from Google, so be aware if they are there!

18. Remember the date in your content

  • Does your content show the publication date and any update date? Both indicate a high quality site and therefore positively affect your ranking.
  • Is the copyright year in your footer up to date?

19. Especially for you with Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites

Sites that need to handle either payments, credit card info, health info or other personal information are called YMYL sites by Google. For this type of site, Google has extra strict quality requirements, as shown on page 9 of their General Guidelines. This type of sites is therefore expected to have at least the following on their site:

  • Privacy Policy Terms of Service
  • A well-functioning customer service and/or contact pages
  • Well-functioning order forms
  • A good and descriptive "About us" page
  • HTTPS for pages with personal data

Read more about content optimization.

Your site's architecture

1. Click depth

  • On average, how many clicks do you need to make from the front page of your site to the crucial pages?
  • What is the maximum number of clicks to find the most important pages? Assess whether it is too difficult to find the right pages.

2. Content structure

  • How many categories are there?
  • How many subcategories are there?
  • How many product/detail pages are there. Compare with the total number of indexed pages on your site (see part 1) and assess whether a sufficient number of products are indexed.

3. Navigation

  • How many links are there in the main navigation menu of the page?
  • Are there more than 100 links on your most used pages? More than 100 is just too many and may spread the link juice a little too thin.

4. Your links' text structure

  • When you link between your own internal pages, do you remember to use the relevant keywords in the link text?
  • On the other hand, remember that if your link texts are overstuffed with keywords, it can seem like spam and negatively affect your ranking. So look at your link texts and assess whether they make sense or whether they seem frivolous and too packed with keywords.

5. Do your redirects to the mobile site work?

  • If you work with a site structure where you redirect content to a mobile platform, for example via an m.xxx.dk site, check that these redirects work correctly. For example, a subpage on the desktop version should not redirect to the mobile site, nor should 404 error pages redirect to mobile.
  • If a mobile user lands on the desktop site, are they properly navigated to the mobile site?
  • If a desktop user lands on the mobile site, are they properly navigated to the desktop site?
  • Will tablet users be redirected to the mobile site? Assess whether this is the best solution for your site.

6. Have you remembered SEO-friendly URLs?

  • If your site has very long URLs and/or Session IDs, be wary. These can cause problems with both crawling and duplicate content.
  • Short URLs are easier to use and easier for others to link to
  • Descriptive URLs, i.e. URLs where the title of the content is included, can help both ranking and click through rates.

Local Search

1. Is your business verified by Google?

  • You have the opportunity to rise in ranking if someone in your local area is looking at the service you provide. You can find out more about this opportunity here.
  • Be aware if your business is listed at several different addresses.
  • Is the contact info correct?

2. External quotes and reviews

  • If some external sites reproduce quotes from you or link to you - do they use relevant keywords in the text?
  • Are the reviews on various review sites very similar and thus in danger of being perceived by Google as duplicate content?
  • Are onsite reviews marked up with org/review tags?
  • Notice the date of the last review - do new ones keep coming or has it been a long time since anyone wrote about you?

3. Vote your address and phone number

  • Does your business address and phone number 100% match your site and the information that appears on Google Place Page. This is an important factor in Local Search for Google.

4. Does your name contain a reference to the local area?

  • This can have a positive effect on. local searches

5. Do your H-tags or breadcrumbs indicate your local area?

  • This can also have a positive effect on local searches.

6. Does your site use KML files? And are they verified in Google Webmaster Tool?

7. Is the company name, address, phone number and contact info on all pages of the site?

  • Make sure that all the above contact info is visible on all pages. This is recommended by Google themselves for their quality rating, and it also affects your ranking in local searches.
  • If possible, make sure your contact info is marked up after org guidelines.

8. Do you have specific subpages targeting local searches?

  • Make sure you have specific subpages targeting local searches. For example, we offer SEO in Odense and SEO in Aalborg, and we have therefore created a separate sub-page for each of these cities,

Secure Server Errors / HTTPS

If your site uses SSL security certificates (read more about HTTPS), be sure to check the following:

1. Check your padlock

  • If the padlock icon appears with a cross over, a line over or with a red mark, it is a sign that the certificate does not work.
  • When you click on the icon, do any error messages pop up? If they do, they need to be fixed, of course.

2. Run an SSL server test

Use Qualys SSL Labs Server Testand pay particular attention to the following:

  • Do you get at least a general rating of C? If not, there are things on your site that are causing problems and need to be fixed.
  • Does the configuration support TLS 1.2, TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.0?
  • Under Authentication Section, note when the certificate expires
  • Still under Authentication Section, note if the certificate uses SHA2 or SHA-256withRSA. These are the ones Google recommends to use.
  • Does Authentication Key show RSA 2048 bit? If not, the certificate needs to be updated
  • In the Protocol Details section, note which Vulnerabilities are being reported. Be aware if any of these need to be fixed.

3. Scan the site for unsafe content

  • Use Jitbit.com/sslcheck or an equivalent scanner to detect any unsafe content you are not aware of.

Video and pictures

1. If you have videos on your site, are you using an XML Video Sitemap?

  • Video sitemaps can promote and improve the chances of the video showing up in organic searches.

2. Are you using an XML Image Sitemap?

  • As with videos, image sitemaps can improve your chances of being found in organic searches.

Read more about image optimization.

General things in addition

1. Test your forms

  • Check all your forms to make sure they are working properly. Also make sure that all information is sent to the right people.
  • Also check that all email addresses etc. are correct in the forms, e.g. in your contact forms.

2. Review WHOIS contact data

  • Is your whois domain registration public? It should be, and of course you should make sure that all the information in it is correct. This is one of the recommendations of Google's Quality Rater Guideline.
  • Be aware of when your domain is due for renewal and who is in charge of carrying out the renewal, and make sure that this person is aware of the responsibilities.

3. What is your site's uptime?

  • Would you be aware if your site went down? If you don't already have such an agreement, check out some of the many sites that offer to monitor if your site has gone down.
  • Some of these companies also offer to send you an email if the content on your site suddenly changes. This is also worth considering. In any case, think about whether you will notice if your site is hacked and something embarrassing/unpleasant is put on it instead of your normal content.

That's it! The whole list. We know it's a lot to take in, and it usually is. SEO agencies like ourselves, working on SEO assessments of this scale. But with the right knowledge and persistence, it's also possible to conduct an assessment yourself. Just start at point 1 and go from there.

Happy working!


Henning Madsen

Founder, CEO & Head of SEO

Se forfatter

Get help with SEO

Do you need help with search engine optimisation (SEO), or are you considering whether it makes sense for your business to focus on SEO? Contact Henning Madsen for a no-obligation discussion about your SEO project.

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