When you first decide to start dedicating your time and resources to improving your website with SEO, the typical question you’re likely to ask first is where to start. And most SEO agencies, experts or freelancers will tell you to start with a site audit and then go from there.

But what does "go from there" really mean?

If you’re working on your website for the first time, or don’t have a ton of experience in the digital marketing realm, looking at the results of an SEO wellness check, even one as user-friendly as WooRank’s Reviews, can make you feel a bit like this guy:

The good news is that taking the next steps after reviewing your website’s SEO doesn’t have to be particularly difficult or complicated. All you need to do is come up with a nice data-driven process.

Basing your SEO task list off of your website’s data will allow you to make the best decisions on where to spend your time in order to maximize impact and, ultimate, return on investment.

In this guide, we’ll go through how to interpret various data points collected by WooRank and how you should build your task list for lasting and ongoing results. And by the end, hopefully, you’ll see that with a little bit of support in the right places, optimizing your site and starting a marketing campaign isn’t as daunting tasks as they might seem.

WooRank is dedicated to helping people improve their websites’ findability by optimizing:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Readability
  3. Usability

So we’ll take that same approach to interpret your website’s data and prioritize your SEO tasks along the same lines.

Note: This guide starts with the assumption that you’re using all of WooRank’s tools and features for your website. So it will cover using data from your site’s

  1. Project
  2. Site Crawl
  3. Keyword Tool
  4. Weekly Email Digest

If you haven’t got everything set up yet, not to worry! You can follow the getting started area of the WooRank Help Center for step-by-step instructions on accessing each feature. Feel free to take a minute to get everything set up, or read through the guide so you can hit the ground running.

Fix Accessibility Issues

Accessibility refers to whether or not people or search engines can successfully visit a page (or pages) on your website. And while there is no "accessibility" ranking factor or penalty, making sure your pages can load for the people or search engines requesting them is incredibly important.

After all, it’s kind of the whole point.

So when creating your website task list, fixing accessibility issues is the place to start.

Robots.txt issues

The place to start is in your website’s Review or Project. Make sure your website has a robots.txt file. First, your site should have a plain text file available by adding /robots.txt to the end of your domain. For example: https://www.example.com/robots.txt.

WooRank’s Reviews and Projects check to make sure your site has a robots.txt file where it’s supposed to be.

Checking robots.txt file

You need to go deeper than just having a robots.txt file, particularly if you’ve used any disallow commands to tell search engines not to access certain pages. The robots.txt syntax is pretty flexible so you can get pretty granular with your commands. But the more complicated your robots.txt file, the more opportunities you have to disallow pages you want appearing in search results.

Use the Site Crawl Indexing section to check for pages disallowed by your robots.txt:

Robots.txt disallowed pages in Site Crawl

In this section, Site Crawl will list every URL it finds that is disallowed by your robots.txt file. Check through these URLs to ensure you aren’t seeing any pages in this list that you actually want in search results.

You should also check the "Sitemap" column since pages you don’t want in search results shouldn’t be listed in your sitemap. (We’ll get into checking your sitemap a little later.)

Disallowed pages listed in site's sitemap

Not seeing any issues with your robots.txt file or directives? Great, move on to broken links.

Links are how users and search engine crawlers move from page to page. Broken links are links that send users to pages that can’t be loaded (the exact cause of the broken page could be any number of things). Broken links prevent stop search engines that are trying to move from page to page dead in their tracks.

Reviews and Projects will check the links on a given page to make sure the linked page loads properly. If WooRank does find a broken link, the Project will show the URL and HTTP status of the linked page:

Checking for broken links

Want to check for broken links at scale? Check Site Crawl’s HTTP Status section. You’ll find broken links uncovered by Site Crawl in 3 areas:

  • 5xx errors: These are pages that can’t be loaded because the server isn’t able to process the request.

  • 4xx errors: These are pages that can’t be loaded because the server couldn’t find a page at the requested URL.

  • Crawl errors: These are pages that can’t be loaded because Site Crawl wasn’t able to connect to the linked page’s server.

HTTP status and crawl errors in Site Crawl

Nofollow links are hyperlinks that contain the rel="nofollow” attribute in the anchor tag (the HTML tag that contains the link URL). This attribute tells search engines not to follow a link to its destination page.

Nofollow is strictly for search engines — humans will never see it (unless they decide to look a page’s code) and it doesn’t impact how a link works when someone clicks it.

These links can be useful in telling Google which links matter and which ones they should ignore. However, nofollowing a link can prevent Google from finding pages you might want it to.

With Site Crawl, you can find a list of nofollow links on a site in the Indexing section by checking the box for "Nofollow" under “Noindex Type”:

Nofollow links in Site Crawl

As we said, there are reasons you would want to nofollow links on your site so these might not all be errors. Instead, you should check the URLs listed under the Nofollow section and make sure you actually want them all nofollowed.

Is your site fully accessible in the way you want it? Great!

Time to move on to making all that accessible content more readable for Google.

Fix Readability Issues

It’s important for your site to be more readable so Google can better interpret your content and its relevance to users’ search queries.

You can verify some site-wide readability factors using your Review or Project:

  • XML sitemap: Is your sitemap (or sitemaps) specified in your robots.txt file, in line with SEO best practices? Is it actually accessible at the specified URL and using correct XML syntax?

    Validate sitemap syntax and structure

  • Alt attribute: Google and screen readers use alt text to "see" the content of an image. It’s how Google tells if an image is relevant to the page’s content as well as to a searcher’s query.

  • Structured data: Structured data refers to the methods of using specific types of code to label the content on your pages using machine-readable language. If you aren’t using structured data on your site, you should start doing so. If you are using structured data, check to make sure it’s been added correctly to your site.

    Checking structured data with WooRank Project

Canonical URLs

Canonicalization refers to the process of deciding on the definitive version of a page or URL and adding a bit of code (known as canonical tags) to all the other versions of that content linking back to the definitive one.

While canonicals aren’t impactful for human users, they’re an important part of making your website more readable for Google since they help explain the relationship between pages on your site. To that end, fixing canonical errors is an important task to prioritize.

To find problems with your canonical tags, simply check the Canonical section of your Project’s Site Crawl results.

First, fix the obvious canonical errors:

  • Conflicting canonicals occur when the URL listed in a page’s canonical tag can’t be properly accessed.

  • Sitemap mismatched occur when canonical tags list URLs that don’t match any URLs in the website’s sitemap.

  • Open graph mismatches occur when the URL in the page’s canonical tag doesn’t match the URL listed in the page’s Open Graph markup. Open Graph is a type of structured data used to show information about the page when it’s shared on social media platforms.

However, canonicals can be implemented correctly from a technical standpoint but still cause issues because they don’t contain the URLs you meant for them. That’s why Site Crawl has lists for the self-referencing and non-self-referencing canonicals it finds.

If you have a lot of URLs to check, you can export them as a CSV for easier analysis.

Export Site Crawl canonical data

It’s a good practice to regularly check through your canonicals to make sure they’re all pointing where you want them.

Hreflang tags

If you have an international and/or multi-lingual website, there’s a good chance it’s using hreflang tags. Hreflang tags point search engines toward versions of a page in other languages (so the French version of a page in English) or meant for users in different countries (for sites with different pages for the US and Canada, for example).

Hreflang errors are located within Site Crawl’s Canonical section:

Hreflang data in Site Crawl

This section will show hreflang tags that link to pages that can’t load.

Fixing these errors will help make sure Google is showing the right content to the right users.

Fix all of your readability issues? Didn’t have any surface in the first place!

Awesome! Time to check on problems that are making your website less user-friendly.

Fix Usability Issues

As you can probably guess, usability refers to how easy and enjoyable it is for a person to use your website, complete an action and/or consume your content. Since Google’s ultimate goal is to rank the "best" pages, making sure a website is accessible is super important from an SEO as well as conversion perspective.

Speed

Since July 2018, when Google introduced the Speed Update, a page’s load time has impacted its rankings in mobile search results (although the true extent of this impact is a bit fuzzy).

If you have a page that isn’t as fast as you’d like, the WooRank Project or internal page Review can help find issues that are impacting a page’s speed:

  • Minification is the process of stripping out unnecessary characters and spacing from code on a page, which can decrease the amount of time it takes a browser to read that code.

  • Compression replaces the redundant code in a file with a unique identifier. This speeds up how long it takes a browser to download and load a file from a server.

  • Caching allows browsers to store files locally on the user’s computer, meaning it doesn’t have to redownload the file when someone visits a page more than once.

Projects and Reviews inspect URLs for any files that haven’t implemented any of the three practices above so you can help make your pages load faster:

Minification, compression and caching in WooRank Project

Mobile friendliness

Mobile friendliness refers to how well a page loads for a user on a mobile device and how easy it is for that person to use the site. Mobile friendliness is hugely important for the usability of your site. It’s also a direct ranking factor Google.

Check a page’s mobile friendliness using the site’s Project or internal Page Review. The Mobile section will display individual errors that impact a page’s user-friendliness for mobile devices.

  • Touchscreen readiness finds buttons and links that can’t easily be clicked using a touchscreen.

  • Plugins data finds files and content that require special programs to display (such as Flash or Silverlight).

  • Font size legibility will tell you if you need to increase the size of the text on your page to make it readable on smaller screens.

  • Mobile viewport errors will impact how the page displays on a mobile device and whether or not users have to scroll to the side to read the page.

Mobile friendliness mobile SEO section

Mobile friendliness is super important for both users and SEO, so it should be your top usability priority after page speed.

Security

SSL security is a technology that creates an encrypted connection between a user’s browser and a server. Using SSL security makes your site safer for the people using it. Google also applies a (very slight) boost to sites using HTTPS in their URLs when ranking search results.

If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you can add one yourself or hire an expert to do it for you.

Even if your site has an SSL certificate, that doesn’t mean it’s completely secure. Since websites contain all sorts of different files and assets that are stored at their own URLs, your pages could contain files that aren’t secure.

These files could be images, videos, scripts or something else entirely.

Having HTTP files on an HTTPS page makes it less secure for users and less attractive to Google.

So once you’ve verified that your domain is secure, jump over to Site Crawl to find any assets that aren’t secure.

HTTP URLs on HTTPS pages

Redirect issues

Redirects are a useful and necessary part of running any website. They help maintain a good user experience for people and link juice for SEO when you (inevitably) have to move pages around or migrate your site. However, things can go wrong with your redirects that impact a site’s usability.

  • Broken redirects send users to pages that return a 5xx or 4xx HTTP status. In other words, they send users to pages that don’t work. These should be your top priority when fixing redirects.

  • Redirect loops happen when you add a redirect to a page pointing to a URL that has a redirect pointing back to the first page. So users will just bounce back and forth between redirects. Forever.

  • Redirect chains occur when you add a redirect pointing to a URL that also redirects to another page. These can happen naturally and aren’t necessarily big errors. However, they can slow down page load time so you should seek to eliminate chains whenever possible by linking directly to the final URL. Fix chains after you’ve fixed any broken redirects and loops.

Check the 3xx Redirects area of the HTTP Status section of Site Crawl to find the redirects our crawlers found and surface the errors mentioned above:

3xx redirect errors

Next Steps

Fix all the errors and issues uncovered in your Project? Great! Good job. You’ve built a solid foundation for your marketing to stand on while promoting your website.

Assuming that you’ve fully set up your Project by adding Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Facebook, it’s time to take those next steps to improve website traffic and Google rankings:

  • Find new keyword opportunities to appear in more search results

  • Find existing opportunities to rank existing pages higher

  • Start tracking rankings, traffic and user behavior to better achieve business goals

  • Regularly check in on your website’s SEO health as you make changes and publish new content

And the good news is that with WooRank, you’ll get the tools and support you need to help each step of the way.