Look back over the last few years and you may recall hearing about various changes made by Google in the way in which they rank sites. These updates have often sent SEO profs into a frenzy of ‘what ifs’, ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ and indicate the constant evolution taking place in the world of SEO. What this tells us is that SEO is a practice that constantly needs assessing, reviewing, refining and managing in order to achieve and maintain that top ranking position for your site.

SEOs should regularly work through an SEO audit checklist in order to identify any new issues that may hinder site performance. A tool like WooRank will audit over 70 different ranking signals and provides detailed explanations on how to optimize each element that may have been flagged as ‘needing improvement’. For a detailed description of each component in the SEO audit checklist, you can refer to our ultimate SEO audit guide.

Our aim today is to share with you our SEO Audit Checklist for 2018. Although we don’t know exactly what 2018 holds - who knows what Google has planned - we can, however, explain which elements are going to be important in 2018.

So, let’s do this.

SEO Audit Checklist

If you’re looking for a complete audit checklist the simplest way is to use a tool like WooRank. This will give you to a complete list of SEO factors that are either doing great, need improvement or in need of urgent attention. It’s as easy as typing in your URL (and almost as instant). And, the best part? It’s absolutely free.

If you’re interested in tracking SEO progress, competitors and rank over time (which you should be) then you’ll want to pay for a Project. Here you’ll get access to more detailed information, be able to track keywords and see how you compare against the competition.

Now that you’ve got a good idea of the things you need to work on, you can get to work. However, not all of the elements identified are quick fixes - some will require the development of a bigger, more detailed plan of attack. And not all of the SEO tasks carry the same weight of importance.

So, to help you out, we’ve developed a more precise SEO audit checklist that you should be concentrating on for 2018.

SEO Audit Checklist for 2018 (The Big Ones)

1. Structured Data Markup

Structured data markup is one the technology behind the semantic web and Google’s rich search results. The semantic web is an improved web which delivers more relevant search results to users and more qualified traffic to websites.

Structured data is a way of enriching content on a web page that makes it more machine-readable by linking entities together. Vocabularies like Schema.org (vocabularies are the structures you add to your data) allows search engines to create those fabulous rich snippets that contain data like star reviews, opening hours and prices. Not only do they make your search result more eye-catching, they also improve click-through-rate (CTR).

Despite numerous studies showing pages that use Schema markup ranked four times higher in SERPs, the adoption of structured data has remained slow, which means that sites that use structured data will ultimately perform better in 2018.

How to optimise

First, check if your site uses structured data markup in your SEO audit.

WooRank structured data in audit

If you’re ambitious and have some programming ability, you can create your markup manually by writing the code yourself and copying it on your pages.

Alternatively, you can use a structured data tool like WooRank’s Metadata Tool to create some JSON-LD code that annotates your content. If you really want to take advantage of structured data and prepare your site for semantic search, consider an automated tool like WordLift to enrich your content.

Once you’ve done this use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your markup.

2. ‘Secure-is-key’

Back in 2014 Google announced that sites that were SSL secure were going to be given a slight boost to rankings. Adoption was relatively slow to begin with because many believed that it would only really impact ecommerce sites. It is estimated that around 50% of sites that appear on page 1 of Google are SSL secure sites (including non-ecommerce sites), and is predicted to be around 65% by the time 2018 rolls around.

If your website still isn’t secure by now, you’re basically leaving rankings on the table.

How to optimize

Even if your site is secured, you should still make sure all of your old HTTP pages redirect to the HTTPS versions. You must also verify that your secure pages don’t contain any unsecured assets like

  • Images
  • CSS files
  • Videos

It’s possible these resources could still live on HTTP URLs. This leads browsers to put warning screens in front of users before they land on your page.

If you haven’t made the switch yet then we’d advise you to follow Google’s guide to migrating your site to HTTPS. Once you’ve done this you can use WooRank’s Site Crawl feature in the Project to check that you don’t have any HTTP assets on HTTPS URLs.

3. Target intent

Search intent is what the person using a search engine hopes to achieve through their search. People generally have four (depending on how you want to count them) when the use Google:

  • They want to go somewhere, but don’t know where it is or how to get there. The "place" they want to go could be an actual physical location like a store or it could be a specific page on a website.

  • They want to answer a specific question, solve a problem or just find general information on a topic. These people make up the majority of search engine users at any given moment.

  • They want to take a particular action. In the marketing world, this is often called "commercial intent" because people looking to buy a product online fall into this category.

  • They want to learn more about product or service before making a purchase.

See search intent in Google in action here.

Optimizing pages and content to match your audience’s search intent is vital to SEO in 2017 and it’s only going to get more important for SEO in 2018. On top of that, meeting people’s needs is just good marketing.

How to optimize

Start with your marketing personas and customer service. Ideally, your personas will cover customer goals, tasks and challenges. Your customer service teams will have a good idea of what sorts of questions people are asking about the products in your field.

Once you understand the needs people have in your niche, you understand the needs they are seeking to fulfill via Google search. Craft your content to meet these needs directly on the landing page: answer questions, provide solutions and embed any forms or shopping cart buttons.

Use Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report to see what questions people are asking to arrive your pages. Then, check your analytics to measure whether or not you’re meeting those intents. Time on page, scroll rate and bounce rate are all metrics to track.

4. Page speed

One of the biggest issues that will turn users off from your website and depress your rankings is slow load time. Half of all users will abandon sites if made to wait two seconds for a web page to load.

No one likes waiting more than a few seconds for a page to finally load, so Google isn’t really interested in recommending slow pages to their users.

How to optimise

A good SEO audit will tell you how fast your pages load and find any issues that are slowing them down. Some of the most common problems are:

  1. Unnecessary plugins, tracking codes, advertisements and on-page widgets. These are especially bad if any of them block your main page content from loading.

  2. Unoptimized images. Using HTML to change the dimensions of images is a common mistake. This doesn’t impact file size and therefore doesn’t improve speed. Instead, use your photo editing software’s compression to optimize images for the web. Many programs have "save for web" options when exporting.

  3. Uncached assets: Caching tells browsers to store files to load for the next visit. This means users don’t have to wait for an image or stylesheet to download every time the visit a page. This can vastly reduce wait time for repeat visitors. Check out Google’s guide to leveraging browser caching.

  4. Uncompressed assets: All modern browsers support gzip compression, which is a method of zipping files to reduce their size by up to 90 percent. Gzip compression needs to be enabled on your web server. Google’s got a great set of resources on how to do this.

WooRank SEO Consultancy

If you're looking for an SEO consultancy to carry out an SEO audit on your website, or you just need some extra support, Get in Touch!

Final Remarks

As always, the SEO world is seeing fundamental changes in the ways Google is reading and interpreting searcher needs, content relevance and user friendliness. Site owners need to be constantly looking for ways to enhance their sites to this end goal.

A comprehensive SEO audit checklist will give you a detailed overview of how your site is performing, but if you really want to get ready for the year ahead, SEO should be approached holistically. Focus on creating content that is high-quality, useful and valuable and then structuring your website in a way that helps Google find and interpret that content.