52 Actionable Checks

Optimize Word Placement

Structure Great Code

Identify Unnatural Patterns

Weed out Duplicate Snippets

Elevate Novelty Scores



Checklist

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OK | NOT Check Findings

Before we begin

There are a few things you need before starting this checklist. We recommend doing keyword research before moving further, making sure to match all content with keyword goals. Then making sure you have the software necessary.

Do you have defined keyword targets? Do you have defined keyword targets?

If not, handle that first.

Are the primary keywords properly represented in the sites architecture? Are the primary keywords properly represented in the site's architecture?

If not, get that corrected before working on this.

Are there opportunities for disambiguation? Are there opportunities for disambiguation?

If there are opportunities to fully and elaborately split off "secondary keyword goals" to their own pages, make sure that's been handled.

Do you have Screaming Frog SEO Spider? Do you have Screaming Frog SEO Spider?

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a site crawling tool used extensively in this part of the audit. Download SEO Spider from https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/ and license it (if necessary). If you already have it, make sure it's up to date.

Have you configured Screaming Frog SEO Spider? Have you configured Screaming Frog SEO Spider?

Launch the SEO Spider app on your computer. Navigate to the Configuration menu, select "Spider," and make sure the following values on the "Crawl" tab are checked:

  • Follow internal "nofollow"
  • Follow external "nofollow"

Then navigate to the Configuration menu, select "robots.txt" and "Settings" in its submenu, then review the following settings:

Choose "Respect robots.txt" from the pulldown menu.

Ensure "Show Internal URLs blocked by robots.txt" and "Show Internal URLs blocked by robots.txt" are both checked.

Finally, enter the site URL you want to crawl at the top and click "Start" (the crawler's results are reviewed in the steps sections below.

Do you have an up-to-date copy of Google Chrome? Do you have an up-to-date copy of Google Chrome?

Browser instructions in this part of the audit are specific to Google Chrome. If you have another browser you know how to use the equivalent functions we specify below, you may use that. Otherwise, we suggest downloading and using Chrome.

Page Titles

These are shown in the Overview tab (in the right pane of the SEO Spider), under "Crawl Data" and "Page Titles."

Are all page titles present (none are missing or empty)? Are all page titles present (none are missing or empty)?

Typically the most visible portion of your search ad, the title tag's words are also given extra weight.

Are the title tags brief and effective? Are the title tags brief and effective?

In the right sidebar of Screaming Frog, look for title tags longer than 554 pixels (or however many pixels that the current release of Screaming Frog shows you... this number changes constantly). Text in a longer title text won't display and will get cut off on Google's result page with a "...".

Google admits (and testing confirms) that they still reward keyword use as a ranking signal beyond this limit. In extreme cases, that can lead to a keyword stuffing penalty. Moz has identified the maximum length of the title tag to be 600 pixels. You can use their SERP tool to see if your title will be truncated.

In most situations, though, you'll just want a good, unique page title that doesn't get cut off and uses the most relevant primary keyword.

Are the title tags descriptive and not too short? Are the title tags descriptive and not too short?

Not necessarily harmful, but this suggests that the keyword value could be higher. Keywords in title tags seem to be given more weight towards relevance than any other placement. Note any titles listed as "Below 200 Pixels," but log an issue only if you see missed keyword mapping opportunities or a technical problem.

Are all the title tags unique? Are all the title tags unique?

Note any listed under "Duplicate" in your review. Google devalues instances of duplicate content and penalizes it if it's manipulative. The title tag is treated with an extreme level of weight towards keywords, so it's worth fixing.

Do all the titles lead with the primary keyphrase? Do all the titles lead with the primary keyphrase?

When it comes to keyword placement, earlier seems to get better results. Thumbtack.com has shown keywords earliest in the display title win out (since Google will sometimes not show the actual title tag, but one they make up).

For advanced campaigns, a 30 to 60-day test may be needed to compare the before/after results. For most implementations, though, the ideal format is:

Page Primary Keyphrase | Page Secondary Keyphrase | Brand

Scan through the Screaming Frog results and log instances where the word placement doesn't match pairings from the Keyword Strategy audit.

Are pipes the only delimiters in the title text? Are pipes the only delimiters in the title text?

The ideal delimiter or separator for keywords in title tags is the "pipe" symbol (the "|" symbol, which is usually placed above "\" on the right side of a keyboard).

Other symbols (dashes, less-than, and greater-than signs, and ampersands, for example) can confuse a reader or code validation process. Non-ASCII characters will not render correctly for many, so avoid them.

Scan through the Screaming Frog results and note all not using the pipe.

Meta Description and Keywords

These are shown in the Overview tab (in the right pane of the SEO Spider), under "Crawl Data" and "Meta Description" and "Meta Keywords."

Are all meta descriptions filled-in? Are all meta descriptions filled-in?

Meta descriptions often a part of your "organic search ad" in Google. Not only should the site have them, but they should also be given close attention to, and before/after tests for CTR are necessary.

Scan the Screaming Frog results first to ensure all pages have them, and then review the existing ones.

Are all the meta descriptions unique? Are all the meta descriptions unique?

Like duplicate title tags, this affects rankings, user experience, and CTR.

Scan the Screaming Frog results to fix any duplicates found.

Are all the meta descriptions brief and efficient? Are all the meta descriptions brief and efficient?

This can hurt, especially when the tag appears to be exceedingly long or if a missing character leaves the tag appearing open. Since descriptions longer than 160 characters are not displayed, they should be tuned to look good in Google and not end with an ellipsis.

Scan the Screaming Frog results to see if there are any long descriptions needing attention.

Do all the meta descriptions lead with a keyphrase? Do all the meta descriptions lead with a keyphrase?

The "first third rule" seems to apply to meta descriptions as much as it does to titles. Even if not a direct ranking factor, it may help CTR when a search query is bolded in a search ad (which is a Google-recommended best practice for Google Ads, and if it improves a Google Ads Quality Score, it's worth a thought for organic).

Ensure the meta description of a piece leads with each content piece's primary target keyphrase to test it. If that still isn't convincing, a 30-day before/after CTR test on Google Search Console should make the difference clear.

Have you confirmed no meta keywords are being abused? Have you confirmed no meta keywords are being abused?

Screaming Frog will show the meta keywords on each page for you to review. Google makes it clear they don't rank using the meta keywords, and our tests confirm this. Abusing the meta keywords is a common webspam practice (despite being ineffective), and because of that, a site could be flagged as webspam if it's seen as abusing meta keywords.

We recommend using 2-3 relevant meta keywords that also appear on the page (Google is not the only search engine or web crawler). However, if there are reasons not to use them, there may not be a need.

There are 32 more steps in this audit.


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