How to Perform an On-Page SEO Audit [Updated for 2021]
Learn how to perform an on-page SEO audit with this step by step guide with examples.
The main goal of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to a website by improving its positioning in search engine results pages (SERP) for relevant searches.
SEO is a mid/long term strategy, which means you won’t see the results right away, but gradually your efforts will pay off and you’ll start seeing organic traffic coming to your website.
When starting an SEO project, the first step is to define your strategy, then optimise on-page ranking factors (internal factors that you can control) and move on to off-page ranking factors (external factors that don’t depend on you necessarily).
In this article, we will focus on on-page optimisation, which has an impact of around 40% on your website's ability to rank.
On-Page SEO Audit Process
On-Page SEO Checks
1. Check If Your Website Has Been Indexed By Google
Pages that are not indexed do not appear in search results. Indexing occurs when Google accesses and crawls a page and adds it to the Google index.
How to check if your website has been indexed?
Simply search for your website on Google by typing 'site:yourdomain.com' into the search box, for example, 'site:strategypixel.com'. The search results will show all your indexed pages.
As you can see in the example above, Strategy Pixel has about 46 indexed pages at the moment. If nothing shows up for your website's domain, this means your website is not indexed.
2. Check If Your Website Has a Sitemap
What is a sitemap?
As Google explains:
A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site.
How to find a website's sitemap?
To find a website’s sitemap, simply add '/sitemap.xml' to your website’s domain: 'yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml'. For example, 'www.strategypixel.com/sitemap.xml'.
Alternatively, search the sitemap in the robots.txt file: 'yourdomain.com/robots.txt'. The easiest way to find it is to press Control+F or Command+F on a Mac and search for 'sitemap'.
It is not essential to have a sitemap for the URLs to be indexed. However, it is recommended to have a sitemap to improve the crawling of larger or more complex websites.
3. Prevent Google from Indexing Certain Pages
There are pages that, for various reasons, are not desirable to be included in Google search results, for example, search results pages or legal information. You can prevent Google from indexing a page by:
Preventing indexing with the meta robots tag
To prevent most search engines web crawlers from indexing a page on your website, place the following meta tag into the HTTP header: <meta name='robots' content='noindex, follow'>.
Using a robots.txt file
A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can't request from your site. This is used mainly to avoid overloading your site with requests.
Learn more about the basics of robots.txt in the introduction to robots.txt documentation from Google.
On-Page SEO Checks
1. Title Tag
The title tag is an HTML element that, as the name suggests, identifies the title of a page. The title will appear on the search engine results pages and is one of the most relevant on-page factors.
How to Audit Your Website’s Titles?
There are several tools out there that can help you do this task. At Strategy Pixel, we use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool as it is simple to use and allows you to crawl 500 URLs for free.
Enter your domain in the search box at the top and press ‘Start’. Once the crawl is over, you’ll be able to see all titles under the ‘Page Titles’ tab. Click ‘export’ to download it as an Excel file.
Title Tag Best Practices:
Keep titles within the optimal title length between 30 and 65 characters.
Write a unique title per page that is clear, concise and specific.
Include the most relevant keywords.
Concatenate at the end with your brand’s name.
Example: Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword (optional) | Brand Name
2. Meta Description Tag
The meta description tag is an HTML element that summarises the page content. You should think of it as an extension of the title and use it to provide the user with additional information.
How to Audit Your Website’s Meta Descriptions?
Using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool mentioned above, you’ll be able to see all meta descriptions under the ‘Meta Description’ tab, click ‘export’ to download it as an Excel file.
Meta Description Best Practices:
Keep titles within the optimal meta description length between 70 and 160 characters.
Write a unique meta description per page.
Include the most relevant keywords and provide additional information about the page.
Optimise your meta description for conversion by including a CTA (Call to Action), for example, ‘Discover’ or ‘Shop’. eCommerce websites can use it to provide relevant information, such as discounts, shipping costs, delivery times or returns information.
3. Meta Keywords
Meta keywords tags are HTML elements used to provide search engines information about what a page is about. Nevertheless, nowadays meta keywords are not relevant to SEO. It is recommended not to use meta keywords and to eliminate them in case you have them on your website.
To check if your website has meta keywords, check the ‘Meta Keywords’ tab in the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool.
4. Heading Tags
Heading tags are HTML elements that range from H1 to H6 and indicate the hierarchy of a page’s content. H1 refers to the first heading, which is the most important and should be unique per page.
Heading tags best practices:
Write a unique H1 per page within the optimal H1 length between 20 and 75 characters.
In eCommerce websites, the H1 should refer to the product’s name, H2 to additional information about the product and H3 to related products.
5. SEO Friendly URLs
Make sure your URLs are SEO friendly. That means they are understandable for both search engines and users.
How to Optimise Your URL Structure:
Keep your URLs short and concise. They should be descriptive so users can easily relate to the content.
Each URL should contain the most relevant keywords.
Unique URLs, so there are no different URLs for the same content.
Use lowercase and safe characters.
4-5 terms are sufficient for a descriptive URL.
Check this infographic guide to SEO-friendly URLs from Search Engine Land for more detailed information about URLs optimisation.
6. Canonical Tag
The canonical tag is an HTML element used to indicate search engines which URL is the ‘preferred’ version of a page.
It is essential to implement these tags when you have a single page accessible through multiple URLs. For example, a page with both mobile and desktop versions, so search engines do not consider it duplicated content.
Canonical tags are placed in the head section of a page. Example of a canonical tag:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.strategypixel.com">
How to Check Canonical Tags?
To check if a website has canonical tags, right-click on the webpage and select inspect. Then click Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac and search for 'canonical'.
7. Open Graph Tags and Twitter Cards
Facebook's Open Graph (OG) and Twitter Cards are meta tags that allow you to customise the way your content is shared on social networks. By implementing these tags you can customise the title, image, description and more.
Why are Open Graph Tags and Twitter Cards important?
Ensuring that shared content on social networks is of quality increases the chances of driving visits to your website, so it is recommended to implement Open Graph tags and Twitter Cards on all pages so that content shared on social media is displayed correctly.
How to Check Open Graph Tags and Twitter Cards?
To check if a website has open graph tags or Twitter cards, right-click on the webpage and select inspect. Then click Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac and search for 'og:' or ‘twitter:card’.
8. Keyword Density
Keyword research is one of the fundamental pillars of your SEO strategy. Each page of your website should aim to position for one or two keywords at most.
Additionally, your content should include LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords related to your target keyword.
Target Keyword - luxury watches
LSI Keywords - bracelet, case, crystal, movement, automatic, quartz, water resistance
These keywords reinforce your target keyword and help search engines identify the page’s main topic.
What is Keyword Density?
Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword appears on a page as a ratio or percentage of the total word count on that page.
How to Check the Keyword Density?
You can check the density of keywords on the different pages with the SeoQuake plugin. After installing the plugin, visit the page you’d like to check and click the ‘density’ icon.
What Keyword Density is Ideal?
You should aim for a keyword density of less than 3.5%, to avoid 'keyword stuffing' that could get you penalised for keyword spamming.
Include a Descriptive Title to All Images Containing the Most Relevant Keyword
Make sure all your images include a descriptive title with a relevant keyword and are placed in relevant pages to the image subject matter or near relevant text.
Add a Descriptive Alt Text to All Images
Alt text is an HTML attribute placed within the image tags used to describe an image. This attribute is used by search engines to index images properly.
Moreover, image alt text improves accessibility for visually impaired users as well as those who have images disabled in their browsers.
Image alt text should be descriptive, containing the most relevant keywords, and concise.
Optimise Images for SEO
Images have a direct impact on web loading times so it’s important to compress them before uploading them to your website.
Use tools such as TinyPNG to compress images without losing their quality and aim for an image size between 50-70 KB.
When it comes to the image type when possible go for JPEGs rather than PNGs as they are usually more SEO-friendly and have better compression levels.
10. Structured Data
Structured data is relevant to help crawlers (e.g. Googlebot) identify, classify and index the website's content.
Structured data is a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.
To learn more, see Google's documentation on how structured data works.
You can check if a website has structured data with the MozBar in the 'Markup' tab.
11. Page Speed
The loading speed of a web page is one of the most relevant ranking factors. Several studies show that users leave a website if it doesn't load in less than 3 seconds.
By performing an on-page SEO technical audit, you’ll be able to access the current state of your website and define an action plan to optimise it for SEO.
On-page ranking factors are the ones you can control and have an impact of around 40% of your website’s ability to rank.
If this is the first time you’re performing an SEO audit of your website, I recommend you to start with these 5 optimisations of easy implementation and high impact:
Title and meta description tags.
Redirect pages with 404 errors.
Image size and page loading time.
Now that you’re in-the-know, do you plan on performing an SEO audit after reading this post?