36 Actionable Checks

Optimize Sitemaps & Feeds

Analyze Google's Cache

Monitor External Forces

Verify Search Appearances

Observe Effects of Other Audits


Saved Audits

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OK | NOT Check Findings

How are our sitemaps?

This is the "indexing" portion of our index & indexing audit. The next many steps will make sure that we're putting our best foot forward using all the XML tools at our disposal.

Is there a sitemap?

See if you can find a sitemap.

  1. Load site.com/sitemap.xml (that's usually where it's located)
  2. Load site.com/robots.txt and CTRL+F for "sitemap"
  3. "View Source" on a page and CTRL+F for "sitemap"

If no sitemap is found, we need one:

  • Is there a content management system? If so, use that (or a plugin).
  • Is the site not managed by a particular platform? If not, generate one.

Is any content missing from the sitemap?

If you're not totally certain, or you're not sure what's missing:

  1. Crawl the site with Screaming Frog (Freemium)
  2. Paste the list of URLs into Beyond Compare (free), or if there's a small number, into any web-based DIFF tool.
  3. This will provide you any URLs are still missing from the sitemap.

Do all URLs in the sitemap resolve a 200 status code?

To check the full sitemap:

  1. Open the sitemap using any web browser.
  2. Copy and paste links into a spreadsheet.
  3. Launch Screaming Frog and set to Mode > List
  4. Upload link spreadsheet
  5. Log your findings of any URLs that are not status "200 / OK"

Leave these results open for the next step.

Are there any duplicate URLs in the file?

Screaming Frog will automatically de-duplicate sitemaps. After running the test above:

  1. Generate a new sitemap under Sitemaps > Create XML Sitemap.
  2. Check new sitemap against old site map
  3. Note the difference in # of assets.

Is the sitemap valid?

Google and Bing will each take a stab at this in the two steps ahead, but the only 100% trustworthy validator belongs to the W3C.

  1. Enter the sitemap(s) URL into the W3C validator.
  2. Record any errors to the right.

Is the sitemap submitted to Google?

In Google Search Console:

  1. Go to Crawl > Sitemaps.
  2. Choose the correct verified property (domain).
  4. Do it.

Is the sitemap submitted to Bing?

In Bing Webmaster Toolbox, navigate to Configure My Site > Sitemaps

Verify that BWT gives the "Success" message after.

Is the sitemap larger than 50,000 assets?

The simplest way to test is to load the sitemap in Google Chrome, and CTRL+F for the site's domain name. This instantly reveals the # of elements in the top right corner.

If so, it's necessary to divide it up the using a sitemap of sitemaps.

Is there a robots.txt sitemap pointer?

Google and Bing will do a decent job discovering your sitemap, especially if you submitted it to them. But they're not the only crawler on the block.

So, it's best-practice to point any other spiders in the right direction by adding the following line to a file named robots.txt accessible at site.com/robots.txt.

Sitemap: https://www.<b>site.com</b>/sitemap.xml

Do we use all relevant sitemap types?

Google supports five varieties of sitemaps, even though most only create web sitemaps. The five formats are:

  • web
  • images
  • video
  • news
  • mobile-only

Repeat the above audit items for each type that's relevant. Documentation.

Is there a granular sitemap strategy?

This advanced tactic that won't help rankings (directly), but provides extra SEO intelligence.

The idea is to create multiple sitemaps. It's implemented just like the "greater than 50,000 URLs" instructions above, but by creating individual sitemaps by categories, products or services. Doing this will cause Google Search Console to display crawl speed for each sections. This reveals their individual crawl budgets.


APPROACH #1 (for services or content-focused websites): sitemap.social.audits.xml, sitemap.seo.audits.xml, etc.
APPROACH #2 (for ecommerce or product websites) : sitemap.products.xml, sitemap.categories.xml, etc.

How are our RSS feeds?

RSS feeds serve a similar role as a sitemap, but carry extra benefits for fresh content.

We'll check these out too in the steps ahead.

Is there an RSS feed for the blog?

See if you can find an RSS feed.

If not, this is a massive missed opportunity. Then next several steps will involve properly configuring a blog or news operation for rapid indexing and greater syndication.

Does the feed pass XML validation?

Once again, test:

  1. Go to the official W3C tool.
  2. Enter the full URL of the RSS feed.
  3. Record any errors to the right (use a Google Drive link if there's many).

Is RSS referenced in the meta?

View Source on the blog homepage and CTRL+F for "/rss". Somewhere in the HEAD section, there should be a line like this:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS Feed for northcutt.com" href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/northcutt" />

Google might locate an RSS feed without this, but there are countless other services that index blogs that won't. Those other services link to you. Google crawls their links. Therefore, this tag matters.

Is the RSS feed linked?

Check the footer and sidebar of the blog. Try both the blog's index and an individual post.

Is there a link to subscribe via RSS somewhere near the other subscription tools? There should be.

Is the feed using Feedburner?

We recommend it. This provides a lot of extra subscription options such as email and direct integrations. But if so, make sure that the default feed has been properly redirected.

If the site is using WordPress, as will be the case 98% of the time with blogs, assure that /feed/ redirects to the appropriate location. If not, use a Feedburner redirect plugin.

Are there problems in popular feed readers?

Load up the feed in a major RSS reader. We recommend Feedly if you don't have one yet. Things to watch for:

  • Weird, junk text (character issues)
  • Missing images
  • Strange line spacing
  • Other poor aesthetics

Does the blog use automated feed pinging?

This can accelerate indexing of fresh content.


This is enabled by default in WordPress under Settings > Writing, but often not with other platforms.

There are 16 more steps in this audit.


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