Digital marketing

SEO Audit Check List basing on Google Store Website

22 October, 2019

google_store2

This article is dedicated to search optimization and a website SEO analysis. You will also learn how these procedures impact website promotion. So the plan is the following: First, we discuss the importance of optimization, after that, we cover the theoretical part, and finally, we analyze a ready-made website audit report. This free information about the SEO analysis will come in handy to everyone willing to develop their business and ready to use all modern approaches to achieve this goal.

Content:

Why are SEO and SEO analysis important?

Let’s imagine a man who decided to open a first-class pub with low prices, great assortment, and free striptease. He believes that all the mentioned benefits are enough to create a successful business, quickly build a client base, and start making a profit. But the reality is different. If nobody learns about the pub, its owner will never have a stable income.

A pub that nobody knows about.
audit_1

The unknown pub will periodically have some casual earnings and spend a lot of time on promotion. During all this time, the owner will have to survive relying only on his own budget. If the money ends, after several months, the business will be closed, set for bankruptcy auction, and sold for nothing.

An unknown pub is a place without customers and income.

audit_2

Now, we will try to save the situation. We take a photo of the pub, describe it with several short sentences, and place on the front page of a popular local newspaper. Simultaneously, we use other advertising methods to make sure the maximum number of people learns about the new place.

We add the information about the new pub to the front page of a local newspaper.

audit_3

Once the right sources feature the pub, the first customers will come almost right away. Then everything will depend on the owner. If he creates a welcoming atmosphere and provides a customer-focused service, the pub will quickly become a beloved and frequently visited place. On the next stage, a large number of visitors should convert to a profitable business that can be expanded and developed. Otherwise, even the best advertising will prove to be useless.

A recognizable pub is a place of satisfied and loyal customers.

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Let’s use the pub as an analogy to website launch, SEO audit, and check. In this case, to attract visitors, you will need to substitute newspaper ads with search optimization. SEO is a comprehensive process used to improve website ranking in Google and other search systems. SEO optimization → visits → sales increase.

According to aggregated data, users almost never open around 80% of websites because they aren’t included in the top ten of search results:

  • 1st place takes around 32% of clicks
  • 2nd – 15%
  • 3rd – 10%
  • 4-9th – 20%
  • 10th result already gets no more than 3% of clicks
  • 11th and all the subsequent results in total get no more than 20%. The 21st place has less than 1% of clicks (and it’s only the third page of search results)
  • Starting from the 4th page of search results, the CTR is so low that all user transitions may be considered a pure accident.

So if you want a competitive website, search optimization and SEO analysis are a must. SEO will help to promote your website to the TOP 10. At the same time, the SEO analysis will allow you to consolidate positions despite ever-changing conditions and the actions of your competitors.

Theory

After studying the theoretical part, you will know what is effective SEO and how to check it. You will also understand the interrelation between SEO and marketing, the importance of usability testing, and learn how to conduct a website audit check.

Before we start, let’s take a look at the existing optimization methods:

  • White Hat SEO: These are all the allowed methods used to promote a website and compete with other web resources. This is the SEO check we are talking about in this article.
  • Grey Hat SEO: These are the methods which aren’t explicitly forbidden, nevertheless they may result in a search penalty. If this happens, your website will be excluded from the search results and lose traffic.
  • Black Hat SEO: These are the forbidden methods used to promptly include a website into the TOP 10. Usually, such SEO techniques allow circumventing search algorithms and temporarily raise the SEO ranking of a site. Yet when the problem is detected, the gained positions are nullified and search engines may ban the website. The ban means that the website is excluded from search results. To fix the situation, you will need to migrate the content to a new website.

We have no idea who uses the forbidden SEO methods and what are their motives. Just remember that black hat SEO won’t generate a lasting result and permanent free organic traffic. Only regular audits and checks help.

White hat SEO also isn’t that simple. Search algorithms are constantly changing and updating their requirements. Thus, all the current recommendations may become absolutely irrelevant in a year. So if you plan to consolidate your top positions for a long time, you need to stay current on the topic, pay attention to trends, or hire an SEO professional. There is no other easy way.

White hat SEO is the only right method of website optimization. Everything else is evil.

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Also, we want to clarify the difference between modern and outdated SEO approaches from the very beginning:

SEO 1.0SEO 2.0
SEO was based on the idea of pumping the maximum number of keywords into a website. This helped to get a higher search ranking. Thus, websites were optimized only to get to the TOP 10 as quickly as possibleIt’s all about digital marketing SEO. A website is promoted based on a limited number of keywords used to attract relevant organic traffic. SEO check is conducted to increase sales and grow business
Almost all content was created for search bots, so the majority of user requests weren’t fully met. The websites with keyword-based content remained in the top until search systems filled this gap and started focusing on usersContent is created for users to fully satisfy their information needs. The optimization for search bots remains important but becomes more secondary (if the interest is really high, it may be even ignored)
Since web content was honed for search bots, website owners didn’t need to structure and regularly update it or use helpful information. If a website was included in the top, they did no audits and checks to further develop itSince all texts are written for users, they must have a clear structure and contain quality information. At the same time, content must be regularly published and supplemented with images or videos. Even if a website has a great ranking, it’s necessary to engage marketers to check the new needs of your audience and satisfy them with updated content
Numerous external links from low-quality resources were used for promotion. The links were placed on all platforms that can attract even minor trafficThe link-based promotion is still used, but today website owners focus only on quality platforms that can generate target traffic. In other words, the links are placed on the resources with real people. An external link audit is conducted to remove useless links and use effective platforms detected on the closest competitor websites instead
The growth of behavioral factors was achieved with fake reviews, clicks, and articles. SEO specialists conducted audit, found new gaps in search algorithms, and used these gaps for promotion. If you use such SEO tips now, your website is sure to be far from the top or may even be forever excluded from search resultsFake behavioral factors are useless since ROI becomes the key indicator of the effectiveness of an SEO strategy. This indicator evaluates whether the SEO audit and practices are worth the invested funds. If the website gets a better ranking and generates income, the ROI and the SEO strategy are effective, and vice versa. The manipulation and search for vulnerabilities are substituted with a deep SEO analysis of keywords including search tips and long-tail queries. Moreover, website owners carry out various usability audits that help to make a website more user-friendly
If there are no serious technical problems, an existing link mass and abundance of keywords will allow a website to keep its ranking positionTechnical SEO analysis is more important. It’s not enough to fix only the basic problems. You need to check numerous tiny issues which are not noticeable when taken separately, but all together they really matter. Automated systems that can monitor all website indicators 24/7 are also highly valued. If any page is excluded from the search index, you will be instantly informed about that to take timely measures
SEO audit is basic and used individually without an increase in sales or other conversion ratesSEO audit is supplemented with the measures taken to increase conversion. The key goal is to use the existing traffic to maximize the number of target actions (more inquiries, purchases, calls, etc.)
Promotion in social media was used only if it helped to improve rankingBoth search engine and social media strategies are used for website promotion

If we summarize all these characteristics and highlight the key one, the main distinction of the modern SEO strategy is ROI. On its way to the TOP, a website must start generating more profit. In case the optimization doesn’t increase income, a website owner should allocate a budget for other promotion methods or change an SEO agency. Now, when you know the primary goals of SEO, let’s move on to the details. Below you will learn how to conduct a website audit and analyze the results in analytics.

What is SEO and how it differs from contextual advertising?

seo optimization

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is a set of actions and checks taken to increase website ranking for certain keywords in different search engines. The bottom of the search → TOP-10 → TOP-3 → TOP-1. If you enter any query in a search engine and click Find, contextual ads will appear above all results. These are competitor websites which have paid to take a part of your traffic without any SEO efforts.

That’s why many website owners question the necessity of SEO promotion and SEO audits. Isn’t it easier to get the necessary results with contextual advertising, even though it’s not free? There is no right answer suitable for all cases. Everything depends on the situation. If you have chosen your subject and plan to work in this direction for over a decade, opt for SEO. If you are just trying out a niche, contextual advertising is more convenient. Anyway, choosing a promotion method always remember about your goals:

SEOContextual advertising
A low-quality website that cannot answer direct user requests will never be included in the TOP 10. Moreover, even a well-designed website with regularly updated content doesn’t always get the leading positions. SEO is a complex process which requires constant effort and checksAlmost any website, which does nothing illegal, can use contextual advertising for promotion. You just need to customize the necessary number of ads and pay for them
If a niche isn’t oversaturated, on average it takes around 2-4 months to get to the TOP 10. When the competition is high, the expected term increases to 6-12 months. In some cases, the first noticeable result will appear in several years. Everything depends solely on the level of your competitorsThe whole procedure takes one day
If you invest in SEO promotion, a website will be able to simultaneously take top positions in all existing search engines. Additionally, you will generate organic traffic which is absolutely freeIf you buy Google ads, your website will be displayed in the top search results only in Google. To promote the web resource in other search engines, you need to start optimization, conduct audits, or purchase more ads
If you pause SEO website promotion, even with the change of search algorithms and highly active competitors, a part of traffic will remain. The prior optimization efforts will save the website, so it won’t get lost in the searchAll ads will disappear right after you stop paying for them. In this case, if a website wasn’t optimized, it may fall back into the lowest positions and lose all its traffic

The owners of newly created websites often combine contextual advertising and SEO promotion. This approach is called SEM or search engine marketing. Here how it works: first, almost all visitors come from ads → then SEO starts working and the traffic becomes free → the contextual ads are removed → the funds that were used for ads are poured into the business or promotion for new keywords. The final choice should depend on your goals.

The main components of website SEO

complexity of SEO

To define the key components of SEO check, we need to understand the SEO ranking algorithm:

  1. Search bots regularly check the web saving the information about all existing websites.
  2. Based on the collected data, every website is assigned a value that may be compared to a book page number. The main difference is that users can find the necessary websites not only by their name but also by their content.
  3. After that, the websites are ranked. This is done with complex formulas, which are constantly updated, consist of hundreds of parameters, and are unique for each search engine.
  4. Every day search bots check the behavioral factors on the ranked websites. For instance, they monitor how visitors interact with a website, what elements they notice and/or skip, and why they leave.
  5. When users are active and interested, the ranked website improves its ranking and has better positions in search results. And vice versa, if the behavioral factors get worse, the website loses its positions and rating.

The described algorithm shows that the quality of SEO depends on content and usability:

ContentUsability
A website must include unique information which has useful tips and fully answers the corresponding request entered by a user. Today long publications that require close reading and detail the topic are highly popular. Videos, audios, and graphics are also appreciated. The more time a visitor spends on a website, the better search systems will evaluate this resource. When the same query happens for the next time, such a website will consolidate its leading positionA website mustn’t contain viruses or be displayed as a simple one-page image (flash). It also shouldn’t include any damaged elements, broken links, or similar issues. If something doesn’t work, even great content won’t save your SEO ranking. In addition, make sure your visitors can easily navigate and find the necessary information with a usability audit. Learn more in the article What is Website Usability Testing and How to Do It?

To evaluate the content quality and usability, it’s necessary to regularly audit the key conversion rates. If the indicators increase, SEO optimization is effective. To learn more, refer to the article What Is Conversion Rate Optimization and How It Affects Sales Growth.

How to implement an SEO strategy

steps to conduct seo

This section covers the main stages of website SEO. Remember that these steps may vary depending on the project, competition level, target audience, and other factors.

You should conduct a website audit to assess the current positions of your web resource. Ideally, it’s better to develop an SEO strategy before the website launch. In this case, an SEO specialist may help to save time, cut costs, and avoid unnecessary problems.

  1. First, you need to select priority topics which can be used for website promotion. After that, the seasonality of each topic and the impact of other factors on traffic quality are checked. This step allows large online stores to develop a long-term promotion strategy for all product categories, whereas other websites get a chance to predict the traffic after the SEO strategy implementation.
  2. Work out your website structure. This is one of the most time-consuming types of work since you need to estimate how to publish a large volume of content in the future. It’s also necessary to remember that after the planned SEO strategy is implemented, you may need to add new material. Make sure it will match the existing resource. Everything becomes more complicated if the structure already agreed by a website owner doesn’t correspond to the required SEO plan.
  3. Develop a semantic kernel. A specialist carries out a detailed SEO analysis of user requests and prepares the selection of keywords.
  4. A technical task for the first SEO texts is prepared.
  5. Specialists conduct an SEO analysis and fix small technical details after the audit. This stage allows detecting the flaws of the first publications to properly optimize content in the future.

If a website is already launched, an SEO specialist will take other steps:

  1. The specialist analyses the website ranking based on its initial positions. First, the keywords are checked for high-, medium-, and low-frequency search requests. Next, it’s necessary to audit competitors (check their topics, link profile, structure, and main landing pages). After that, the primary subject of the website is compared with search results data to estimate user demand and seasonality. When an SEO analysis report is ready, the SEO expert can develop a suitable SEO promotion strategy and calculate the budget for its implementation.
  2. The website structure and critical errors are fixed based on the audit.
  3. Website keywords are analyzed to develop a new semantic kernel.
  4. The existing SEO content is fine-tuned based on the updated semantic kernel. Specialists prepare a technical task for future Seo-adapted publications.
  5. Copywriters and all other employees who prepare content are explained how to make it more effective. They must understand the benefits of SEO and the quality standards for every text. To quickly get the desired effect, it’s enough to create a general checklist which briefly lists all SEO copywriting requirements.

The sooner your website get its SEO strategy, the faster the first positive results and free organic traffic appear. There are no exact deadlines since everything depends on the complexity and technical state of a project as well as the pace of change. Your developers will need to find time to implement the recommendations offered after the audit.

  • Conduct an audit of internal optimization. Review the existing page URLs and make sure they are user-friendly. Use filters to indicate the rules for adding new URLs, tags, and other visible links. Remove duplicate pages, add a sitemap, check the loading speed of the main pages and server response time. When necessary, adjust languages, change pagination, add reviews markup and additional information on all product pages.
  • Set interlinking. Properly organized internal links turn website content into a logical structure, simplify navigation, and help promote the main pages. The more links are leading to a page, the more significant it becomes in the eyes of search engines.
  • Audit and optimize your content. Review the text in the main sections and on website pages. Check if there is no keyword stuffing and every article is clear and easy to understand. Add alt tags to all images, graphs, and videos. Evaluate the layout quality and check the H1-H6 headings. Don’t forget to use meta tags and descriptions (if necessary, install a plugin to generate them automatically).
  • Customize indexing. To cut the crawl costs, the root system must locate robots.txt and sitemap.XML. A robots.txt file shows search bots which pages need to be indexed or ignored. A sitemap.XML file helps search bots understand the website structure. A crawl budget is the maximum number of pages a search bot can process during one visit. If the crawl budget is spent on junk links, a part of optimized pages may be not included in search results. As a result of the unconfigured indexing, search bots will add to the catalog a lot of technical pages, exceed the crawling budget, and slow down the website promotion.
  • Conduct a usability website audit. Audit the design, color scheme, fonts, navigation, image quality, content structure, menu logic, and other elements related to website convenience. Also, check if the website is mobile-friendly. In 2019, over 60% of traffic comes from mobile devices, whereas only 20% of websites are responsive. Make sure your users don’t have to return to search to find the necessary information on another resource. To find more details about usability testing, read What is Website Usability Testing and How to Do It? This article also includes examples of usability testing and UX analysis tools.
  • Report your findings and configure external optimization. Select reliable platforms with real people to promote the website by increasing the number of quality links: more thematic platforms → more clicks from interested users → higher website authority for search bots → faster promotion in the search.
  • Define conversion indicators. On this stage, it’s necessary to engage additional specialists and set extra metrics to evaluate the quality of search promotion.
A website gets to the TOP 3A website gets to the TOP 3
More ordersMore orders
Income increaseIncome drop
The implementation of an SEO strategy has increased the sales conversion, the website is developing correctly, and you need to stick to the planAn SEO strategy has lowered the sales conversion, the website is developing in a wrong way, so you need to find a mistake and change the plan

In addition to sales conversion, there are many other indicators to check website effectiveness and the quality of expected target actions. To find more details, check out the article What Is Conversion Rate Optimization and How It Affects Sales Growth

  • Conduct step-by-step on-page optimization. On-page optimization is an unavoidable procedure you will have to carry out after every significant change of search algorithms. For example, if a search engine stops indexing the articles without videos, you will need to manually edit every published text and supplement it with a relevant video. Otherwise, your website will quickly lose its positions giving its place to better optimized resources. To avoid this, you need to conduct a regular website audit. It will help you to keep the traffic, correct current mistakes, and learn about new SEO rules as soon as they come into effect.

How to do an SEO analysis?

A website audit is a multi-stage check that should be conducted at least once every 1-3 months. This SEO analysis solves a whole range of tasks. In particular, you can:

  1. Eliminate obvious technical issues.
  2. Get additional recommendations for on-page optimization.
  3. Improve commercial and behavioral factors.
  4. Work on your link mass: remove broken links, refuse from spam platforms in favor of quality advertising platforms.
  5. Expand your semantic kernel: introduce new sections, prepare new keywords, add more content and useful functionality to the site.

Below you’ll find the algorithm of a comprehensive website audit roughly divided into six stages. All these stages should be considered as recommendations and implemented only when necessary. Want to grow? Try everything. If there is no time, go straight to a technical SEO audit. The technical check will help to detect key problems and preserve the initial website positions for some time.

Stage #1. Analyze the demand and competitors. Understand the location and average age of your users and define the type of devices on which your website is opened the most frequently. Evaluate website convenience. Analyze the interests of your audience, and make sure they match the topics covered on the website. Expand the semantics: collect unused queries from the existing semantic kernel and find new keywords with the help of Google AdWords, Wordstat, or any other keyword planner. Make a website audit report and use the collected data to create additional sections, landing pages, and publications.

seo audit

Create a list of your competitors manually or using special services. Collect the information about the age of their websites, the number of indexed pages, and the number of backlinks. Find the correlation between these parameters and the organic traffic, and rank the websites from highest to lowest. Pay special attention to leaders. Check their top pages, interesting functionality, and content to understand what they use to keep visitors. Test all great solutions on your website leaving the best of them.

Stage #2. Conduct a technical SEO audit of the website. In most cases, a technical audit is a part of SEO analysis. Now you need to check the indexing of pages, remove duplicates, evaluate the condition of tech files, and make sure the website is secure. Here are the general steps:

  1. Analyze all reports on the ranking of your web pages in Google, Bing (or other search engines) webmaster dashboards. Pay attention to errors and the ways to fix them.
  2. Check the indexing of pages. Take a look at the server response code, broken links, URLs of external links, and decide whether redirects are necessary. Record the errors, present the page analysis as a report and hand it over to your developers.
  3. Audit the pages that weren’t indexed in Google or other search engines. Most often, this happens because of the problems with a robot.txt file or the page isn’t relevant and doesn’t answer the entered user request. Sometimes a page may be penalized and removed from the search results. Every case requires an individual analysis to detect the real problem.
  4. Check your website for duplicates, partial duplicates, and mirrors. Duplicates are exact copies of website pages displayed in search results under different URL addresses. Partial duplicates are content fragments fully repeated on different website pages. Mirrors are websites with different URLs but absolutely identical content. Duplicates must be deleted, redirected, or closed in any other way. Partial duplicates must be deleted or modified to make the duplicate content unique. Mirror websites must be joined. That’s it. If you ignore such problems, search engines may incorrectly determine the relevance of the pages, which will result in poor indexing. Search results will include the pages that will negatively affect the behavioral factors and reduce the overall rating of the resource.
  5. Check the robots.txt file manually or using validators. It has to close only the pages that mustn’t be monitored by search bots.
  6. Check the sitemap file. Make sure the dates, attributes, and priorities are correct. The path to your sitemap must be specified in the robots.txt file and only the pages that need indexing must be displayed. Test the sitemap file using a validator and make a final check for any other system errors.
  7. Test your website speed. You need to check both the home page and the main sections of the website. Sort the checked pages by load time and define the slowest ones. Analyze the selected pages to understand why they take so long to load. There are various services to help you with that.
  8. Audit the website layout. To do this, check the website in different browsers, on different screen resolutions and device types. After the general testing, you need to manually go through all the typical pages to make sure every element works.
  9. Check whether your website is convenient for mobile users. In this case, validators will come in handy. They will show if all website pages are displayed correctly on various devices and in different operating systems. After the automated testing, it’s better to repeat the same actions manually.
  10. Audit micro markup. To do this, scan the site using a validator, select the pages with micro markup, and fix mistakes.
  11. Type the name of your website or business in search, and make sure there are no negative reviews. If someone has left a negative review, react to it. For example, you can provide a detailed reply, ask to delete the review, or take any other relevant measures. In case you decide to ignore the feedback, the key conversion rates may decrease.
  12. Check whether there are no viruses on the website and it isn’t included in various spam bases.
  13. Check the IP addresses of neighboring websites. If any of them is engaged in fraud, it’s better to pick a new IP address.
  14. Make sure you use quality external links.
  15. Audit behavioral factors and make sure nobody from your team manipulates them.

At the end of the technical audit, type your contact information in search and make sure third-party resources don’t use it. In case they do, immediately take action to remove this information from their pages. Start with a phone call or an email. If a third party ignores your request, contact your lawyers and get ready for a lawsuit.

Stage #3. Audit on-page optimization. Here are the key parameters that must be checked on every page.

technical audit

  1. Analyze URL addresses. Non-English websites should transliterate URLs. Also, URLs shouldn’t be too long and must include intents and keywords. Word gaps should be substituted with a hyphen instead of a space. Also, pay attention to keyword stuffing practices: if a domain name includes a keyword, don’t use the same keyword in a URL.
  2. Check titles and descriptions. A title must have no more than 60 characters, include keywords, intents, and nudge users into clicking. A description must consist of short informative sentences (up to 155 characters) which include keywords and supplement a title.
  3. Check the H1-H6 headings. Headings shouldn’t be used in the elements of design and functional elements. An H1 heading must be used only once per page, whereas for the remaining headings a clear hierarchy must be kept (Н2 → Н6). Don’t combine headings with other tags (italics or bold) – cascading style sheet will be used for that. Where possible, optimize headings with keywords that don’t result in spam.
  4. Analyze the content on the pages that generate the highest volume of organic traffic. Check the texts for uniqueness, spelling errors, and keyword stuffing. Make sure the keywords in the articles look natural and aren’t highlighted in semibold.
  5. Go through the main website pages to check the optimization of images. Make sure all files are stored on the website’s hosting to avoid losing them in the event of a third party server failure. Fill in all image alt attributes, briefly describe the image content, and, if possible, add the relevant keywords to the description.
  6. Customize page interlinking. You may use links within the text, refer to a similar product in the online store or related articles on information websites. Internal links are relevant in any situation when they help to satisfy a user’s need. Make sure to get rid of useless links as they are absolutely ineffective.
  7. Work with snippets. Check titles and URLs. The website must also have a favicon in good resolution. Add your website to Google My Business or other available online catalogs of businesses. Make a readable register of the site name in the search. Try adding an advanced website snippet and use Google star rating on all available pages.

In addition to the listed options, there is a bunch of other methods of on-page optimization. If you have enough time to puzzle them out, don’t hesitate to use and implement them. The more fine-tuned is your SEO, the higher your website is.

Stage #4. Analyze traffic. This stage will open additional opportunities to develop the website and attract organic traffic. Here is how to conduct an audit:

seo traffic

  1. Check and analyze the CTR of the clicked requests. To do that, rank them upwards, remove the entries with least impressions and enter the remaining requests into the search engine to understand how your website looks. If you don’t have time to analyze all requests, start checking with the high-frequency ones. In most cases, a poor CTR is caused by an inaccurate snippet or the low-quality information on the page. If you decide to edit the snippet, make screenshots of all previous versions, and return to the original options in case of any issues.
  2. Analyze cannibalization: when a search engine displays several pages of your website for a single request. During the check, pay special attention to the pages that get approximately the same amount of traffic (except for cases when this is done intentionally and when a part of the traffic is taken by AMP pages created for quick display on mobiles). If you detect cannibalization, improve the relevance of the necessary pages by adding new text and additional links.
  3. Analyze keywords with the help of analytics. Pay attention to high and low conversion requests, low bounce rate requests, requests that generate most conversion traffic, and the least effective requests. Collect the data and think which keywords can be added to attract more visitors.

Analyzing the traffic give special attention to the pages that haven’t been included in the index or have lost their positions for a certain request. This may be caused by a new strong competitor, search penalties, or low-quality content. Don’t worry! Once you take measures, users will come back.

Stage#5. Run an analysis of behavioral factors. They show search engines how satisfied are your website users and to what extent the content matches the entered requests. Here is a plan to analyze behavioral factors:

seo behavior factors

  1. Take a look at exit pages. These are the pages where users decide to leave your website. For example, if an online store’s exit page is a cart page, everything is correct. If users leave a website before going to a cart page, there may be a problem with other transitional pages. In this case, conduct a manual check of the problematic sections and try to fix the problem.
  2. Work with user statistics. Define the average number of views per day, average time spent on the website, the most popular sections, and the pages with the highest bounce rate. Watch your users and find out how they interact with the website. The more data you collect, the more problems you will manage to fix. Plerdy heatmap is a great way to deal with that. Read 39 Benefits of Plerdy Heatmap to learn more about this tool.
  3. Examine traffic sources and make sure there is positive dynamics. If the traffic remains at the same level or declines, open the source and try to understand why users have stopped visiting your website.
  4. Analyze the main conversion rates, select all pages that have some problems and find out their causes. Conversion is crucial for your business success, so never ignore it. To learn more about conversion, read the article What Is Conversion Rate Optimization and How It Affects Sales Growth.

To improve behavioral factors, all websites should publish their contact information and include an About Us page. This increases user trust and helps to achieve better ranking in search results. Also, you may add information about shipping, payment methods, warranty, support team, product returns, and other useful services. Supplement all your content with photos, videos, maps, reviews, and a Q&A section. Don’t forget to specify prices, tell about your services, and provide real cases.

Stage #6. Analyze external links. Internal links are extremely important since they can cause search penalties and other problems. Therefore, you need to constantly monitor your link mass. Use this action plan, to control everything.

links analysis

  1. Check diversification and make sure the links don’t come from the same source.
  2. Manually test all links for spamming: Click a link and evaluate the quality of a linking platform. If the quality of the resource is questionable, you should immediately close the link.
  3. Check whether the links are evenly distributed among website acceptors (the pages they are linking to)
  4. Compare your link base with the link base of your competitors. After such an analysis, you will probably have new ideas regarding website development and find new link platforms.

Now you know how to conduct an SEO analysis and understand the principles of search optimization. In the next section, we will test this knowledge and analyze a real sample of a technical audit.

Practice

Before starting a website audit, it’s necessary to examine a website, fix obvious mistakes, and prepare a checklist for content analysis. After you analyze and finalize it, the checklist should be attached to a site audit report. This way, you will see what has been done or fixed and what still needs improvement. The audit should also give additional recommendations on how to fine-tune the website.

Let’s prepare a checklist for a content audit

The preparation of a website audit checklist is one of the most time-consuming stages of entire SEO analysis. You cannot just take a ready-made template and use it. Every website is unique and needs a separate algorithm of analysis. Therefore, you won’t be able to compile a decent checklist without a profound website analysis. In our sample, we will go through the following steps:

  1. Analysis of the main website mirror and URL format
  2. Analysis of robots.txt and sitemap.xml files
  3. Analysis of HTTP headers and the 404 error page
  4. Analysis of broken links
  5. Analysis of clean URLs
  6. Analysis of title, description, and keywords meta tags
  7. Analysis of optimized headings
  8. Analysis of page speed
  9. Analysis of micro-markup
  10. Analysis of pagination pages
  11. Analysis of extra code on website pages
  12. Analysis of duplicate website elements
  13. Analysis of the sequence of product page links
  14. Analysis of image optimization
  15. Analysis of extra outbound links
  16. Analysis of indexing of technical pages
  17. Analysis of a website link mass

Take a look at the completed checklist. This analysis includes only the technical characteristics of a website. If you strive to become one of the search leaders, you need a much deeper check. The main information and components of this check are described in the theoretical section of this article.

Technical SEO audit of store.google.com (based on the compiled checklist)

In this section, we will go through each step of the created website audit checklist. In case you come up with any questions after studying this material, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments.

1) Audit of the main website mirror and URL format

A website must have the main site mirror that can be used with or without the www prefix. Other mirrors must be 301 redirected to forward the traffic to the main website.

If we open the main page with the www prefix, a 301 redirect isn’t activated. This is already a problem that needs to be fixed.

A nonworking 301 redirect on the main mirror page.

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In case we open the page with the http protocol, a 301 redirect is properly activated. There is no need to take any additional actions.

A page with a working 301 redirect.

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If a direct link is used to open the website, a 302 redirect is displayed. It is usually used to temporarily redirect traffic to another page, whereas in this case, the redirect leads to a country selection page.

A page with a working 302 redirect.

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Report. The main website mirror has been formed with some mistakes. The used 302 redirect needs to be deleted and substituted with a 301 redirect.

2) Audit of robots.txt and sitemap.xml files

A website must contain robots.txt and sitemap.xml files. If they are missing or not set, there will be problems with search indexing.

A robots.txt file has been added to the site and indicates which pages mustn’t be indexed by Adsbot-Google.

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Since the robots.txt closes the pages from Adsbot-Google, they must also be closed from AdsBot Mobile Web Android and AdsBot Mobile Web. If this is left unconfigured, the website won’t be properly indexed on mobile devices.

Robots.txt doesn’t close the pages from AdsBot Mobile Web Android and AdsBot Mobile Web.

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One of the pages closed for indexing is displayed with a 405 response code. Most likely, the PHP script transferring data to the site is damaged.

The damaged page with a 405 code.

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All URLs ending with “/category” or “/product” must be closed from indexing. Otherwise, the pages will display a 404 error.

A 404 error in “/category” and “/product” URLs.

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To index catalogs starting with “/category” or “/product”, you need to change the robots.txt. Add a self-closing tag to all URLs: “/category” → “/category/’ and “/product” → “/product/”.

We correct the robots.txt and add a self-closing tag to URLs.

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A sitemap.xml file has been added and configured for 36 languages supported by the website. This equals to 1917 translated pages. The website developers also added an alternate attribute and an hreflang tag to avoid duplicate pages.

The sitemap is adapted to 36 languages and displayed without duplicate pages.

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For some main pages, the value of the priority tag dropped from 1 to 0.9. Priority is a relative indicator used by search engines to define the sequence of page indexing. The higher the value of the priority tag, the sooner the page will be indexed. Therefore, you need to manually check the pages with decreased priority. If these are key pages, make sure to change their priority value. If there is no need to index them asap, don’t do anything.

The decreased priority value.

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URL addresses are listed with GET parameters. A GET parameter is the segment separated with a “=” sign and displayed in the URL right after the question mark “?”. GET parameters can lead to duplicate pages and waste the crawling budget.

GET parameters of URLs.

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Also, the pages with GET parameters include a canonical attribute which helps search bots to prioritize the URLs for indexing. Check if this attribute is working. If yes, the duplicate pages won’t be displayed.

A canonical attribute in the URLs with GET parameters.

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We test the URLs with GET parameters using a validator to see that no issues have been detected. This means that the pages are properly indexed and no changes are needed. In case in the future something goes wrong, and duplicates appear, the website owner should, first of all, check canonical attributes.

The check of the canonical attribute in a validator with positive results.

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Report. The robots.txt and sitemap.xml files have been added but need minor customization. Such changes will improve the indexing of many website pages.

3) Audit of HTTP headers and the 404 error page

If a website doesn’t have the requested URL address, a server must return a 404 error. The design of the 404 error page should allow visitors to continue using the website. If not, the resource will just lose traffic.

A 404 error page is added and programmed to redirect users to the website.

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If needed, you may customize the 404 error page with text and unique design matching your website. Otherwise, browsers will use a standard design.

A 404 error page in a standard Google’s design.

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The analyzed website has several errors in HTTP headers resulting in the incorrect server response to the 404 error. If you enter an inaccurate request on a page with GET parameters, instead of the 404 error, a page with a canonical URL be displayed (a duplicate page, which was previously closed from indexing).

An inaccurate request loads the page with a canonical URL.

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All URL addresses with this problem need fixing and editing. As a result, instead of a 200 error, a 404 error must be shown.

Problematic URLs must display a 404 error instead of a 200 error.

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A 200 error means that the page has been indexed and is evaluated by search bots. When a website has a lot of such pages and nobody deletes them from the base, this will negatively affect the promoted pages.

Another example of a problematic URL where a 200 error must be substituted with a 400 error.

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After a 200 error page is changed to a 404 error page, search engines will need time to automatically remove it from the index. The time period varies depending on the search system. Some websites have waited for a year to have their pages merged. To avoid such issues, conduct a regular audit and use a 301 redirect for the pages that aren’t deleted for a long time.

A URL with a properly configured 404 error.

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Report. A 404 page is added and displayed in standard browser design. There are several errors in the HTTP headings and problems when entering inaccurate requests on pages with GET parameters (instead of a 404 error a 200 error is displayed).

4) Audit of broken links

Broken links lead to non-existent pages, documents, files, or images. This harms behavioral factors and slows down website promotion. Therefore, make sure all broken links and detected and removed in a timely manner.

The URL check in Screaming Frog SEO Spider – all 1741 links work.

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Report. There are no broken links. This is proven through the manual and automatic Screaming Frog SEO Spider checks.

5) Audit of clean URLs

All website pages should have clean URLs or user-friendly URL addresses. For example, instead of “- site.com/?pag=1&24%” use “site.com/catalog”. Relevant words in the URL provide search engines with more information about the page. In addition, they are more convenient for users who see the names of links in snippets.

On the analyzed website, most pages have clean URLs, but there is a tiny shortcoming. If users browse the pages through the country selection page, the URL will be displayed with GET parameters during the whole session.

GET parameters make URLs difficult to read.

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When we open the Phones page and select Pixel Cases, a page with accessories appears with several default filters. Such a technical solution results in an unreadable URL address.

Automatic filters create unreadable URLs.

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To change the URL in the section with automatic filters, we separate all words in the hyperlink with underscore “_”. This will make the page more convenient for search engines and users.

We add underscores and create a user-friendly URL.

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Report. Almost all website pages have clean URL addresses. However, there are several shortcomings related to the use of GET parameters or automatic filters in the product catalog.

6) Audit of title, description, and keywords meta tags

The title of a page is indicated with a title tag. It’s visible to both users and search bots. Using this tag, people select the websites that are the most relevant to the entered request. That’s why you need to make sure the title is unique, informative, and nudges users into making a click.

The tags checked on the main page are displayed and work correctly.

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A description meta tag supplements the content of a title. The description can be expanded to several sentences that briefly describe the main idea of the viewed page. The description is important for search engine promotion and must be used on every page. If a website has a lot of pages, and you cannot indicate descriptions manually, use programs that can do this automatically.

The tags checked on the category page are displayed and work correctly.

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A keywords meta tag lists all keywords used on the viewed page. Without this meta tag, search engines will need more time to find relevant results and will always prefer the websites with keywords indicated in their admin panel.

The tags checked on the product page are displayed and work correctly.

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Report. On all pages of the analyzed website, title, description, and keywords meta tags are used and optimized. They should keep up the good work.

7) Audit of optimized headings

Headings form the structure of a page and make its content more friendly to users and search engines. Headings have a six-step hierarchy and appear from the largest (H1) to the smallest (H6).

The analyzed website has pages without an H1 heading or with H1 duplicates.

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To create simple and convenient navigation, the size of headings shouldn’t be chaotic. Change the hierarchy from H1 to H6 only if this really helps to structure the content. You may check out the headings of this article as an example.

Most H1 duplicates are used on the product pages.

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One more thing…a H1 must be used only at the beginning of a page. So first you add a Н1 heading, and then plan the hierarchy of H2-H6 headings.

H1 headings are not customized on the main and category pages.

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It is recommended to supplement headings with keywords. But remember that this is only a recommendation, so don’t add keywords if they are inappropriate or irrelevant. Try to preserve the readability of your content and remember that, first of all, it is written for users.

H1 duplicates are sent to a separate block with a “display:none!important” attribute.

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Report. Many headings aren’t optimized. To fix this, we prepared a separate document with all URLs that have problematic H1.

8) Audit of page speed

75% of users close a website if its pages load more than 4 seconds. Moreover, 50% of users expect websites to download in less than 2 seconds.

If you don’t meet this standard, you risk to lose a part of traffic and search ranking. The page speed is included in the list of parameters taken into account by search systems when they rank websites.

Below is the check of the main page speed using GTmetrix. This is the US website version. We will also check the version for the UK.

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If a website is small, it’s better to test all its pages. To do this, you can use Tmetrix, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and Google PageSpeed Insights. If there are a lot of pages, you will need a random check. In our case, we have tested the main page, category page, and product page. During the check, take into account the sources of user traffic and collect the data for both desktop and mobile devices.

Below is the check of the category page speed using Pingdom Website Speed Test. The example features the UK version. Similarly, we will check the US version.

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Let’s check the average speed of the selected pages on desktop devices. The average response time of the main page is 1.8 seconds, category pages – 4 seconds, and product pages – 2.8 seconds. On mobile devices, these pages take more than 4 seconds to open.

Below is the check of the product page speed using Google PageSpeed Insights. This is the UK website, but we will also check the version for the US.

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Report. The website has a lot of problems with page load time. Only the main page opened on desktop devices satisfies the standard. Other pages are too slow. The mobile website version has also failed the check, and all its pages must be optimized to work faster.

9) Audit of micro markup.

Micro markup helps search bots and other functional programs to navigate the structure of a website. Otherwise, the information will be processed more slowly and the indexing will take additional time. To avoid such issues, make sure the search system of the website includes micro markup.

Micro markup greatly varies and is selected for every website individually. However, the most common types are breadcrumbs and document rating stars. We will also add Open Graph micro markup, which is used for social networks and easy content structuring.

The website doesn’t have markup for breadcrumbs.

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Micro markup is added as HTML code that contains special attributes and doesn’t require additional export of files:

Sample source code for setting breadcrumbs

Google Audit sample 001

Sample source code for marking up category pages

Google Audit sample 002

Sample source code for marking up the main pages

Google Audit sample 003

To find the necessary HTML code, use Schema.org, a resource of semantic micro markup. In 2019, this is a standard maintained by all large search systems.

All website pages have only one Schema.org micro-markup. The source code includes too little data to create a convenient structure.

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The Open Graph micro markup is properly configured and includes the title, type, site_name, url, description, and image.

The check of the Open Graph micro markup.

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Report. The website doesn’t have breadcrumbs and the HTML code lacks data. The Open Graph micro markup is configured correctly.

10) Audit of pagination pages

Pagination pages are the pages which aren’t promoted in search engines and used to display a catalog of products. Customizing pagination pages, make sure they don’t result in duplicates and additional meta tags. Otherwise, this will adversely affect website indexing in search results.

Pagination pages aren’t set and switching between the product pages is implemented with the help of scripts.

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Report. Pagination pages aren’t configured. This harms the website usability and doesn’t allow using the best SEO practices.

11) Audit of extra code on website pages

If there is an extra code on your website, search engines will have a harder time studying its content. This will harm the indexing time of problematic pages and may increase the load speed. To avoid this, make sure to monitor and remove all extra code.

Large block styles must be added to an external CSS table.

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Most often, extra code is displayed because of long comments. You may also have problems with the descriptions in style or script tags and other violations.

Different scripts need to be migrated to an external JavaScript file.

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Report. The website has unnecessary elements of source code. They are displayed on the pages with extensive descriptions of style blocks.

12) Audit of duplicate website elements

Duplicate pages reduce the uniqueness of published content and have a negative effect on website ranking in search results. Identical text fragments are often found on the filter and pagination pages with numerous product cards that need a brief description. All such duplicates must be detected and removed.

The analyzed website doesn’t have duplicates. We don’t count as duplicates the pages that display the website in different languages and are configured with canonical and alternate attributes.

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Report. There are no duplicate pages. We don’t count as duplicates the pages that duplicate content in other languages.

13) Audit of the sequence of product page links

If a website includes an excessive number of improperly configured links, this will certainly result in other critical errors, such as duplicate pages, decreased website load speed, and search indexing issues. Therefore, you need to constantly analyze the sequence of all links and remove the unnecessary ones.

On the analyzed website, the sequence of links is correct. There is only an tag for each product, so when you switch to another photo, the URL remains unchanged. 

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Report. The link sequence to the product page is implemented properly. They should stick to this approach without adding unnecessary links to the created catalog.

14) Audit of image optimization

Every image must have a name and an alt attribute. This helps search engines to process the content of a website and allows users to understand the content of an image even if, for some reason, it isn’t displayed. Additionally, for better optimization, you may use a title tag (a short text that is displayed when an image is hovered).

All images are optimized and have an alt attribute indicated.

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Report. The website images are optimized. Each file has a name and an alt attribute. After some other changes required on the website are completed, website owners can also set a title tag and improve optimization.

15) Audit of extra outbound links

Don’t link to other resources when this is irrelevant or unnecessary. Outbound links may result in traffic loss and make the website less attractive to search engines. At the same time, there are situations when links to landings, forums, social media, and other related resources facilitate website promotion.

The website includes outbound links to 14 external resources. These are Google’s subdomains and authoritative sites.

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Report. No problems with the optimization of outbound links were detected. All URLs are properly added and correctly displayed.

16) Audit of the indexing of technical pages

Technical pages must be closed from indexing not only with a robots.txt file but also using the meta tags in a HEAD element. Also, you need to add a «rel=”» attribute that disallows following the links on closed pages.

Bing and Google index the pages with GET parameters despite the indicated “canonical” attribute. If you ignore this, there will be duplicates on the website.

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The URLs with a “/config/” file forward not to a product but to a purchase page. Such links must be closed from indexing. To do this, first, remove the “canonical” attribute, and then make changes to the robots.txt.

The problematic URLs with the “/config/” file and “canonical” attribute.

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The Authorization page isn’t closed from indexing. To fix this, let’s remove the “canonical” attribute and correct the robots.txt.

The authorization page was indexed and included in search results.

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The Order history page isn’t closed from indexing. Again, we remove the “canonical” attribute and make changes to the robots.txt.

The Order history page was indexed and displayed in search results.

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By default, the Search page doesn’t contain information, so it also needs to be closed from indexing. Therefore, we remove the “canonical” and configure the robots.txt.

The Search page was indexed and included in search results.

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17) Audit of a website link mass

The site has an extended link mass since Google Store products are sold in 36 countries around the world. It is referred by 32,399 domains with Google Play being the most active (3,313,316 links to Google Store).

The list of the website link base.

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Except for Google Play, all domains with a “dofollow” attribute are leading to various blogs and forums (32,404 links in total). There are also 5,746 domains with the “” attribute. These are mainly online stores and information portals which should not be necessarily crawled by search bots.

The list of domains with “dofollow” and “” attributes.

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Report. The website link base is well-developed and doesn’t contain malicious resources. Some links are closed with the “” attribute, but this is done purely for convenience and doesn’t affect safety.

Create a concise checklist for an SEO audit

At the end of the technical audit, you need to create a checklist which would briefly describe the results of the check:

1Main website mirror and URL formatThere are mistakes in website mirror creation and one page has a temporary 302 redirect
2robots.txt and sitemap.xmlThe files are added but require customization
3HTTP headers and a 404 errorThe 404 page is added and displayed. There are some problems with HTTP headers and URLs with GET parameters
4Broken linksNo broken links
5Clean URLsThe main website pages have clean URLs, but there are shortcomings related to GET parameters and automatic filters in the product catalog
6title, description, and keywords meta tagsThe meta tags are added, displayed, and don’t require changes
7Optimized headingsThe website has a lot of problems with H1 headings. To fix this, a separate file listing all URLs was prepared
8Page load speedMost website pages take long to display both on desktop and mobile devices
9Micro layoutThe micro layout is added but lacks data to form a clear search system
10Pagination pagesPagination pages aren’t set and switching between the product pages is realized through scripts
11Extra code on the pagesThere are fragments of code that need to be deleted or moved
12Duplicate website elementsNo duplicates
13Sequence of links to product pagesThe sequence of links is implemented correctly
14Image optimizationThe images are optimized
15Unnecessary outbound linksAll outbound links are correct
16Technical pages indexingSome technical pages need to be closed
17Website link massThe website link mass is developed and doesn’t contain harmful resources

To make your checklist really professional and reliable, create it simultaneously with the SEO audit recording all shortcomings and necessary changes. Otherwise, you may forget many important nuances after completing the full technical audit.

Remember

  • If you open a pub but nobody finds out about it, you will have no clients and revenue.
  • If you launch a website but don’t conduct SEO, you will never get to the TOP 10 and generate income.
  • If you don’t carry out regular SEO audits, you won’t be able to consolidate your position as a search leader and the competitors will outpace you.
  • Effective SEO is only about allowed methods used to promote a website and compete with other web resources. Any manipulation has a short-time effect and sooner or later results in the loss of gained positions.
  • SEO includes a set of practices that improve website ranking and raise the resource from the search bottom to TOP 10 → TOP 3 → TOP 1.
  • SEO is a must for everyone who plans to develop their website for at least 10 years. It’s inevitable to have free organic traffic.
  • Content and usability are the main components of SEO.
  • A customized and fully optimized website requires regular SEO audits. Only analysis can help to find out about current problems and opportunities for future development.
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