The 15-Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2021

The 15-Step SEO Audit Checklist for 2021

Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Jan. 04, 2021

The 19-Step SEO Audit Checklist

Today I’m going to show you exactly how to do an SEO audit in 2021.

In fact, this is the same process that’s helped me grow my organic traffic 88.18% over the last year:

Backlinko yearly organic traffic increase

So if you want to get higher Google rankings, you’ll love the actionable steps in this guide.

Let’s get started.

Step #1: Check To See If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

Mobile SEO is more important than ever.

Why?

First off, 60% of Google searches come from mobile devices.

Google searches – 60% mobile

Second, Google started using their Mobile-First Algorithm.

Google using mobile-first algorithm

This means that Google now uses the mobile version of your site for mobile AND desktop searches.

Google always uses mobile site for searches

The question is:

How do you know if your site is mobile-friendly?

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool.

Mobile-Friendly Test

Just pop your site into the tool…

Mobile-Friendly Test – Enter site

…and you’ll see whether or not Google considers your site optimized for mobile devices.

Google's mobile friendly test

Step #2: Make Sure Google Indexes ONE Version of Your Website

Did you know it’s possible to have different versions of your site indexed in Google?

It’s true.

For example, here are 4 different versions of the same site:

  • http://yoursite.com
  • https://yoursite.com
  • http://www.yoursite.com
  • https://www.yoursite.com

To you and me, those URLs are pretty much the same.

But not to Google.

And unless you redirect these versions properly, Google will consider them completely separate websites.

(Not good.)

Fortunately, this is easy to check… and fix.

Just type each of the 4 different versions into your browser.

They should all end up on the same URL:

Different versions of the same site

In my case, the “WWW” version of my site redirects to backlinko.com.

And when someone visits the HTTP version of my site, they get redirected to the HTTPS version.

All good.

If a version of your site isn’t redirecting properly, no worries.

Just 301 redirect it to the version you want to use.

Then, move onto step #3.

Step #3: Speed Up Your Site

Years back Google confirmed that your site’s loading speed is a ranking factor.

A site's loading speed is a ranking factor

And a while ago they rolled out a new update that makes speed even MORE important.

Google update makes speed more important

Here’s how to get your site to load REALLY fast:

First, clean up your site’s HTML code.

You can easily find problems with your code with PageSpeed Insights.

PageSpeed Insights – Homepage results

Pro Tip: Don’t just analyze your homepage. Make sure to also test popular pages from your site, like blog posts, service pages, and category pages.

Second, run a speed test.

This type of test actually loads your page… and lets you know about bottlenecks that slow things down.

WebPageTest – Results

I personally use WebPageTest.org. But GTMetrix is really good too.

Third, crunch your images.

Huge images can bring your site speed to a screeching halt.

That’s why I recommend compressing your images with a tool like Kraken.

Kraken homepage

Pro Tip: Upgrade your hosting. If you spend $10 per month on hosting, don’t expect fast loading times. A few years back I switched from a budget host to $200/month premium hosting. And the speed difference was insane.

Step #4: Find and Delete “Zombie Pages”

Type site:yourwebsite.com into Google.

"site:yourwebsite" into Google

This will show you how many pages Google has indexed:

Google – Pages indexed in SERPs

If this number is higher than you thought, you’re not alone.

In fact…

Many sites have 50-75% MORE indexed pages than they’d expect.

(I call these extra pages “Zombie Pages”.)

As it turns out, deleting Zombie Pages can get you A LOT more organic traffic.

For example, Sean from Proven deleted over 9k Zombie Pages from his site…

…which helped boost his Google traffic by nearly 50%:

Proven – Google traffic boost

Why does this work so well?

Well, Google has said that more content doesn’t make your site better.

Search Engine Roundtable – Google: More content isn't better

And when you delete Zombie Pages, you give Google what it wants.

Pro Tip: Deleting Zombie Pages also makes the rest of this SEO audit MUCH easier. Fewer pages=fewer problems

With that, here are the most common types of Zombie Pages:

Which leads us to our second step…

Step #5: Find and Fix Indexing Problems

Next, it’s time to find web pages that Google isn’t indexing.

To do that, fire up the good ol’ Google Search Console.

The “Index Coverage” report shows you a list of pages that they can’t index for some reason.

Index coverage report

As you can see, Backlinko is pretty much error-free.

All good right?

Maybe.

To double check everything is A-OK, I recommend a free SEO tool called Screaming Frog.

Screamingfrog

Screaming Frog crawls your site the same way Google would. And it lets you know about pages that it can’t access.

Screamingfrog – Overview

(For example, if you’re accidentally blocking a page with your robots.txt file… or the page has a noindex tag.)

So if you find a page that’s blocked, double-check that it’s meant to be blocked.

For example, we used to paginate comments here at Backlinko.

Backlinko comment pagination

And I did’t want Google to index every single comment page. So we threw a noindex tag on those pages.

Noindex tag

In this case, the pages that are blocked are meant to be blocked.

And once you’ve confirmed that Google can access all of the pages you want them to access, it’s time to…

Step #6: Check Your Organic Traffic

Now it’s time to see how much organic traffic you’re getting.

To do that, head over to Google Analytics.

Then, go to Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels.

Google Analytics sidebar

Hit “Organic Search”.

Hit "Organic Search" in Google Analytics

And you’ll see how many people visited your site from search engines last month.

Google Analytics – Organic visitors to post

Next, set the dates to the last 6-8 months.

And you’ll see whether or not your organic traffic is trending in the right direction:

Organic Traffic sessions trends

As you can see, my organic traffic has gradually increased over the last few months.

Now:

If your organic traffic is flat (or declining), no worries.

The goal in this step is just to establish benchmarks.

Things should start to improve once you finish this SEO audit.

Speaking of…

Step #7: Improve Your On-Page SEO

It’s no secret that on-page SEO is super important.

That said:

You probably don’t have time to optimize every page on your site.

Fortunately, you don’t have to.

Here’s what to do instead:

First, identify your 5 most important pages.

These can be pages that:

  • Target an important keyword
  • Get less traffic than they did back in the day
  • Already rank well… but have the potential to crack the top 5

For example…

I published a list of best free SEO tools.

Backlinko – Best free SEO tools

Besides the basics (like including my keyword in my title tag), I didn’t do much to optimize this page.

And because it’s already on the first page for my target keyword…

Google SERP – Best SEO tools

…it has a good chance of cracking the top 5.

Then, optimize your page with the strategies in this video.

Now:

If you’re REALLY pressed for time and don’t have time to implement everything from the video, focus on these 5 strategies:

  • Include your keyword in your title tag
  • Include your keyword in first 100 words
  • Add 5+ external links
  • Add 5+ internal links
  • Use LSI keywords

Once those strategies are in place, let’s dive right into step #8:

Step #8: Set Up Keyword Rank Tracking

Now it’s time to start tracking your rankings in the SERPs.

There are a million rank tracking tools out there.

But to me, the best out there is probably SEMrush.

Why?

SEMrush is awesome because it doesn’t just track the keywords you give it.

(Although it does that too.)

SEMrush – Keyword tracking

What’s cool about SEMrush is that it automatically finds keywords that you rank for.

SEMrush – Tracking ranked-for keywords at Backlinko

Nice.

There’s no doubt about it:

Backlinks are still REALLY important.

In fact, our study of 1 million search results found that backlinks correlate with rankings more than any other factor.

Backlinks correlate with rankings

And now it’s time to analyze your backlink profile.

Here’s how:

First, enter your homepage into a backlink analysis tool.

(I’m using Ahrefs for this step. But you can also use Majestic SEO or Moz Pro.)

And you’ll get a report on your links:

Ahrefs – Backlinks profile

Then, check out referring domains and Domain Authority.

Referring domains = the number of different websites that link to you.

Ahrefs – Referring Domains to Backlinko

Don’t sweat the exact number too much. You’re just benchmarking where you’re at.

You also want to take a look at your Domain Authority.

Ahrefs – Rank: Domain Authority

Every tool has its own name for “Domain Authority”.

(For example, Ahrefs calls it “Domain Rating”.)

But the idea is the same:

Domain Authority tells you how much authority your site has… based on a combination of the quantity AND quality of your backlinks.

Finally, look for toxic links.

To do that, check out the most common anchor text in your link profile:

Ahrefs – Most common anchor text

If you see a lot of branded anchor text (like “Backlinko” and “Backlinko.com”), you’re good.

Fortunately, that’s the case with my link profile:

Branded anchor text

But if you notice lots of keyword-rich anchor text (like “SEO blog” and “SEO training company”), that’s a sign of a toxic link profile.

Here’s an example of a link profile with spammy anchor text:

Spammy anchor text link profile

And if you want to dig deeper, take a look at some of your backlinks.

Ahrefs – Check backlinks

Most of your backlinks should come from REAL websites.

For example, you can see that most of my links come from blogs and news sites that write about digital marketing and SEO.

Ahrefs – Backlinko – Good backlinks

(Which is good.)

But if you notice that most of your links are from shady sites, you might want to disavow those links.

Pro Tip: Spammy links are a normal part of any link profile. So don’t stress if you see a few black hat links.

A few years back Google stated that they don’t “lose sleep” over broken links.

Google: "GoogleBot doesn't lose sleep over broken links"

That said:

Broken links are bad for user experience… which CAN hurt your SEO.

(More on that later.)

With that, here’s how to fix broken links on your site:

First, find broken pages on your site that Google can’t index.

You can find this info in the Google Search Console’s “Index Report”.

Google Search Console – Index – Coverage

I stay on top of broken links, so I’m in the clear.

Here’s what you’ll see if your pages are giving Google 404 errors:

Google Search Console – Index errors

Sometimes you deleted pages for a reason (for example, you deleted a bunch of Zombie Pages).

If so, you don’t need to do anything. Google will eventually stop reporting these broken pages as problems.

But if Google can’t access a page that you want to rank, you obviously want to get that page back up ASAP.

Next, use a tool to find broken internal and external links.

You can use Ahrefs…

Ahrefs – Broken links

…or a free tool like Broken Link Check.

Online Broken Link Checker

Both work.

Step #11: Competitor Analysis

Now it’s time to spy on your competitors.

Here’s how to do it:

First, find your competitors’ best keywords.

You can easily find this info using SEMrush…

Backlinko – SEMrush – Best organic keywords

…or Ahrefs.

Backlinko – Ahrefs – Best organic keywords

Needless to say:

If your competitors rank for these keywords, you have a good chance to rank for them too.

Which makes them GREAT keywords to target.

Second, check out the pages that are ranking for those terms.

Then, figure out what those pages have in common. That way, you know what type of content works best in your niche.

For example, if you look at some of my highest-ranking pages…

Backlinko – Best ranking content

…you’ll notice that my content:

  • Is long-form (3k+ words)
  • Contains custom visuals and illustrations
  • Cites research studies, data and statements from Google
  • Isn’t super technical

Finally, see who links to those pages.

To do that, pop a URL into Ahrefs.

Ahrefs – Check competitor backlinks

And take a look at the links pointing to that page.

Ahrefs – Look at links pointing to page

This tells you who the influencers in your niche are. That way, you can start to build relationships with them.

(Which will come in handy when you get started with link building.)

Step #12: Make Your Content 10x Better

Back in step #7, you SEO-optimized your most important pages.

And now it’s time to make the content on those pages 10x better.

Why?

It’s simple:

To rank in 2021, your content needs to kick butt.

With that, here’s how to make those pages 10x better:

1. VERY short intros.

No one wants to read long winded introductions like these:

Long intro

Instead, keep your intros short and sweet:

Backlinko – Optimize for voice search – Intro

2. Small paragraphs.

People don’t read online. They skim.

And small paragraphs help skimmers consume your content better.

Use small paragraphs

3. Lots of subheaders.

Subheaders help break up your content into digestible chunks.

Use subheaders

Use them early and often.

4. Use visuals, images and video

Multimedia makes your content MUCH more compelling.

(Plus, visuals help people learn and understand.)

For example, in this SEO checklist post, I use lots of images:

SEO checklist post – Images

Visuals:

Use visuals

And videos:

Use video

And because my content is easy to read and understand, the average user spends 05:08 on that page:

SEO Checklist – Average time on page

Step #13: Optimize For UX Signals

RankBrain is Google’s AI algorithm.

Unlike the old Google, RankBrain measures how users interact with your site.

RankBrain uses UX signals

Which means:

To rank in Google today, you need to optimize for UX Signals.

In other words, your content needs to make users happy.

When you do, Google’s going to give you a HUGE rankings boost.

For example…

A while back I noticed that this post on my site wasn’t ranking that well.

Backlinko – "SEO Campaign" old post

(It was hovering between the 10th and 15th spots for my target keyword: “SEO Campaign”.)

SEO Campaign – Historic ranking

And when I looked at my content, I realized why…

My content didn’t give people searching for “SEO campaign” what they wanted.

Instead of steps, they got a case study of ONE specific strategy:

SEO Campaign – Only one case study

My post also had lots of outdated screenshots:

Outdated screenshots

In short:

Because my content wasn’t optimized for UX signals, Google buried it.

So I decided to overhaul the entire post.

Specifically, I:

  • Replaced the case study with a step-by-step guide
  • Included more actionable tips for beginner and intermediate SEOs
  • Added examples from several different industries
  • Lots more

In the end, I had a piece of up-to-date content that was a PERFECT fit for someone searching for “SEO campaign”:

Backlinko – SEO campaign

Sure enough, because my content is designed to make Google searchers happy, my page quickly went from #15 to the #4 spot in Google.

And in a while it hit the #1 spot:

How to Launch an SEO Campaign post in SERPs

Very cool.

Step #14: Flatten Your Website Architecture

Your site architecture is simple:

It’s how the pages on your site are organized.

As it turns out, your website architecture is REALLY important for SEO.

Why?

Two reasons:

First, site architecture helps search engines find and index all of your pages.

When your site’s architecture is a big ol’ mess, Google’s gonna have trouble finding all of your pages:

Complicated site architecture

But when your site architecture links your pages together, Google can easily find and index your entire site.

Good site architecture

Second, architecture tells Google which pages on your site are most important.

In general, the closer a page is to your homepage, the more important it is.

Closer to homepage = More important

The question is:

How should your site’s architecture look?

Well, I know I said that this SEO audit wasn’t going to be super technical.

So I’m going to keep this super duper simple…

You want to keep your site architecture flat.

In other words, not like this:

Deep site architecture

Instead, you want it to look like this:

Site architecture – Flat

(Super flat.)

Or put another way:

It shouldn’t take more than 3 clicks to go from your homepage to any page on your site.

Any page should be fewer than three clicks from the homepage

In some cases, you’ll need a developer to completely overhaul your site’s navigation.

But you can also just add internal links to different pages…

Link Building – The Definitive Guide

…and add links to the sidebar:

Add sidebar links

As long as users can reach any of your pages in 3 clicks or less, you’re good.

Step #15: Launch a Skyscraper Post

The last step of this SEO audit is to publish a piece of content using The Skyscraper Technique.

Why?

It helps Google quickly find and index all of the changes you just made.

For example, look at the spike in “Pages crawled per day” whenever I publish something new:

Backlinko – Pages crawled per day

And this video will show you exactly how to execute the Skyscraper Technique process:

But as a quick recap, here’s how it works…

First, check out the top 10 results for a keyword that you want to rank for.

For example, some time ago, I published a piece of content called: “27 Ways to Increase Website Traffic”.

Backlinko – Increase website traffic

Before I wrote a single word, I analyzed the first page for keywords like “how to get more traffic”:

SERPs for "how to get more traffic"

The content I found was pretty good. But nothing special.

Next, publish content that’s 5x better than what you found.

I took things up a notch with my post.

How?

I included lots of detailed steps:

Increase website traffic – Detailed steps

Screenshots:

Increase website traffic – Screenshots

And techniques that are working RIGHT NOW:

Increase website traffic – Techniques working right now

Finally, it’s time to promote your post.

This is key.

When Google sees a flood of people (and links) coming to your site, they say: “This site is blowing up right now. We need to send Googlebot there right now.”

(As I mentioned earlier, this helps Google quickly process all of the changes you made to your site.)

In my case, I sent out a newsletter to my email subscribers:

Increase website traffic – Newsletter

And promoted it on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter:

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter promotion

Bonus Step #1: Get More From Your Internal Links

Internal linking is one of the most underrated SEO strategies on the planet.

The question is:

How do you internal link the right way?

It’s simple:

Make sure you link to high-priority pages as much as possible.

Link to high-priority pages often

Pro Tip: You might find a handful of non-important pages in this report. For example, you might have lots of links pointing to your privacy policy or contact page. That’s usually because you link to those pages from your site’s navigation or footer. Don’t sweat it.

Bonus Step #2: Use a Site Audit Tool

I tried to keep this SEO audit process as non-techy as possible.

But if you want to dig deeper into your technical SEO, I highly recommend using an SEO audit tool.

Which tools do I recommend?

Actually, I use and recommend two.

The first is Seobility.

Seobility – Site audit tool

Unlike most audit tools, Seobility is VERY easy to use. Plus, the reports are simple to understand and take action on.

seobility – Report

Even though SEMrush is mostly known as a keyword research tool, it has a surprisingly in-depth site audit feature.

SEMrush – Audit

Bonus Step #3: Optimize for Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets can DRAMATICALLY increase your organic traffic.

Featured Snippets can increase organic traffic

For example, a while back I got this page to show up in the Featured Snippet spot.

Google SERP – Channel description – Featured snippet

And organic traffic to that page shot up like a rocketship:

"Channel Description" organic traffic increase from Featured Snippet

How do you get your content in the Featured Snippet spot?

To show up in the Featured Snippet, you need to…

  • Have your content optimized for mobile
  • Have HTTPS installed
  • Use lots of headers (H2 and H3 tags)
  • Include short answer to questions (42 words)
  • Link out to authority resources

That’s about it 🙂

Now It’s Your Turn

That’s it for this SEO audit process.

And now I’d like to hear from you:

Do you have any questions about this process?

Or maybe you have a cool tip that I didn’t include here.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

306 Comments

  1. Raj Sidhu Avatar Raj Sidhusays:

    Hi Brian,

    You seem to have some content missing about SEMRush in the Bonus Step #2: Use a Site Audit Tool – other than that ….EPIC as always

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Raj. I just checked and that step looks right to me.

  2. Old but gold Brian. Just saw on my email your update and I will waste about 3-4 days for sure to check what is new. Thanks for great articles

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      1. Outstanding as always, Brian. You are Appreciated!

        Keep kicking ass & as always:

        #MakeItAmazing

    1. Hey Barry,

      I know, isn’t it funny when he writes something, the length of time we spend enjoying it and putting it to action?

      I love it!

      Thanks,

      Chris

  3. Hey Brian,

    Great article my friend!!

    I’ve been working on the “Optimize for Featured Snippets” which I find super rewarding.

    Thanks,

    Chris Pontine

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Chris. I’m with you: Featured Snippets are huge. I’m still learning, but so far it looks like one of the fastest ways to get more Google traffic.

  4. Thanks Brian.
    After the August major update i lost almost 70% of my organic traffic. But i have recovered almost 50% of traffic by your tips. Like: Deletion of Zombie pages, adding good external links, Social signals, improving content.

    Regards.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Shivam. Has that helped get your site back on the right track?

      1. Shivam Avatar Shivamsays:

        As always. Your guidance has always helped me in rankings.

  5. Divyanshu Jangid Avatar Divyanshu Jangidsays:

    Another great post from You. Looking forward to see a post on technical site audit to become pro in site auditing.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks. I wanted to make this SEO audit process accessible to everyone. That said, I plan on publishing more technical SEO stuff in the future.

  6. I do SEO audit for my clients. I have looked for a great guide for it. At least I have found it in my Mail. I’m a huge fan of your blog 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy to help.

  7. Great article Brian, as you always make the best articles. This is even for beginners friendly and they can learn a lot. For us old is good to remind time to time from some as you that must take care about basics, you know duplicate meta tags and other thing. Its funny but its true.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks.

      You’re right: as sites grow they end up running into issues (like duplicate content). That’s why it’s important to do an SEO audit once every quarter.

  8. Hi brian
    about “zombie pages” –> do you really trust what the command”site:” returns ?
    I am notr sure that GG give you ALL the pages that are really indexed ( and then NOT zombie pages…)
    Do you really confirm that this is THE command to delete zombie pages ?
    Thanks your excellent article !

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Bernard. The site:website.com isn’t 100% accurate. But it’s a fast and easy way to see if you have too many pages indexed. If you want to get every single page , you’ll want to look at the GSC and your sitemap.

  9. Hi Brian,

    Awesome piece of content..as usual..

    However, if possible, I would like you to expand a bit on your “zombie pages” tip..we run a site where are definitely enough pages to delete (no sessions, no links, probably not even relevant with the main theme of the site, not even important for the architecture of the site)..Nonetheless, I am not very sure what is the best technical decision for these pages…just deleting them from my CMS, redirecting (if there is a relevant alternative) or something else? Unindex them on Search console? what response code they should have? ..

    Can you pls elaborate in technical terms what the next steps should be?

    Thnk you very much in advance.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Aris, good question. Basically, when it comes to Zombie Pages, you have two options:

      1. Delete the page
      2. Redirect to a related page

      So if you have a related page, I’d redirect. Otherwise, in my opinion, you probably want to delete the pages.

      Noindexing is only for cases where the page provides value to users… but not to search engine visitors.

      Does that make sense?

      1. Aris Vourvoulias Avatar Aris Vourvouliassays:

        I am only confused with the very last noindexing part, Since I am not sure how can I make this separation (useful for the user but not for the SEvisitor).. For the other part I think you were clear.. Since I can’t find a page to redirect without misleading the search intention of the user.. Probably deleting is the only way to treat these pages..
        One last question:if you delete a page how fast you assume Google Spider will stop showing the meta data of the page to the users?

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Exactly. At the end of the day, if the page doesn’t provide value in any way, it’s best to delete it. In terms of how long it takes, it depends on the authority of the site and page. Usually within 2-3 weeks.

  10. Hi, Brain Sir like always you publish a great stuff again. But I have one question related to S.E.O Tools, that which one should I use for keyword research ubersuggest or keyword everywhere chrome extension?

    Please Help Me.

  11. What is the best way to find these zombie pages? And is no indexing them the same as deleting them?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Candi, there’s no easy process unfortunately. At the end of the day you need to go one-by-one through lots and lots of pages.

      That said, the easiest process is to login to Google Analytics and sort pages by visitors. And start with pages that get very little (or no) traffic.

      Unless the page has a purpose for users (but not SEO traffic), I’d delete vs. noindex. But it’s ultimately your call.

  12. That’s absolutely great Guide Brian;

    For me, I’m not a pro but confusion I always get the point on speed optimization;

    Minification
    Image compression
    Website Design

    Are those only way to optimize them or is there anything else you would specifically work on?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks. One thing I didn’t mention is your web hosting. You get what you pay for. That can make a massive difference.

  13. Hey, Brian! Just started following you and SO glad I did! I’m planning a site audit at year end (this is year one of my site), and this guide is going to save me so much time researching. Quick question: Do you use a plugin to manage your zombie pages? Or do you delete them manually? If you do use a plugin, what’s your recommendation?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Awesome, Shanna. Depending on the lst tie you did an audit you’ll probably find lots of stuff to fix. They’re really helpful to do 1-2x per year.

      To answer your question: yup, I delete them manually.

  14. Yusuf Avatar Yusufsays:

    Hi Brian Dean, a great post, but my question is different from the topic or maybe the same I don’t know, hopefully you would respond.

    Now I am running a WordPress blog and curious about whether to index or no-index the categories (For tags I set it to no-index), will the categories be better to be excluded from search’s index or it’s better?

    Will the categories being indexed causing the duplicate contents and as the result effecting our blog’s performance in SERP?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Good question. I recommend noindexing category pages in most cases. So it sounds like you’re all set.

  15. Such amazing valuable information put together! How long does this take you Brian. We really appreciate it. I will do an audit on my site with the info & make sure I’m ranking high. Thanks again, as always!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Darshana. Happy to help.

  16. What do you do after deleting the zombie pages? Do you need to do a redirect (301) or something else to avoid having a bunch of 404 errors?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      It depends on the page. If you have a very closely-related page, redirect. Otherwise, I recommend 404ing it.

      1. Cristy Avatar Cristysays:

        If we delete multiple pages, is that creating a new SEO problem with so many 404s? (assuming there are many) Thanks for the post!

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Cristy, I recommend rolling this out over a few weeks to monitor and make sure everything is going OK. I wouldn’t delete 10k pages overnight

  17. Brilliant piece of content again! I think that many people are underestimating Step #1, but at the same time, it is critical. Less is more especially in the SEO world.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Well said, Ivan.

      That’s one of the few SEO strategies that works pretty much every time.

  18. Deleting pages? :-S A bit of a dangerous advice. Always redirect.

  19. Dude this is so good I can’t believe it’s free! I’m going to tackle this tonight. My blog is about 30 days old so I’m just learning. Your website and emails have been invaluable. Thank you!
    I’m using All-in1-SEO because Yoast breaks my menu every time regardless of theme. Have you ever heard of that?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Craig. I’ve actually never seen that before. Both plugins work great so you should be good with all in one.

      1. Craig Avatar Craigsays:

        Thats good to know, thanks again. I was worried it wasn’t as good but you’re the second person to say that.

  20. Once again, amazing article Brian 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Cheers David. I’m glad you liked it.

  21. Thank you Brian. Your research and presentation are very helpful. What steps do you take to flatten a site’s architecture when they have hundreds of thousands of pages. Is there a process you follow to prioritize, organized and add/remove pages?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Good question, Doug. I hate saying “it depends”… but it really does 🙂

      How you go about that depends on your CMS, development team and current SEO status (for example, if you’re killing it, you may not want to change things).

  22. Will be showing this to one of our new SEO interns as mandatory Wednesday readings. Thanks Brian!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Ryan. Happy to help

  23. Prokhor Sikder Avatar Prokhor Sikdersays:

    Usually I don’t waste time to read “long” posts like this. But,when it is written by Brian Dean,than you are not wasting the time. Because it helps you all the time.

    Thank you man !
    Loved it.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks 👍👍👍👍

  24. Could you help me understand this benefit of Yoast Premium, which for me would be the key benefit.

    The fact that you can optimise for more than 1 keyword, what exactly does that mean?

    Would I be able to do the same myself, if I manually entered the keywords into the meta data like here https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_meta.asp ?

    Or are we talking about something else?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Christine, I’ve never used Yoast Premium personally. “Optimize for more than 1 keyword” means that you can optimize for multiple keywords per page. I haven’t tried it so I’m not 100% how that works. My take is that Yoast’s free version is good to start with.

  25. Hi, Brian. Thank you for the great article. I have a question about the part about 4 website addresses. Ours currently is set to https://www., and we would like to change it to just an https:// as the main website. Will this hurt our current link profile, or will everything stay the same? This might be a foolish question, but we are a bit worried. Thank you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Margot, that’s a really good question. As long as you 301 redirect from WWW, you should be good. That said, there’s always a small risk with any change. So it might not be worth the risk if you’re crushing it with SEO right now.

      1. Thank you for such a quick response. We will look at our current SEO profile. Thanks again for such a great article.

  26. I my case, I can say that my older blog is full of zombie pages because Google shows in index about 5,000 results, even if my blog has only about 1,100 articles.
    I guess that the difference (about 3,900 results) are represented by tag pages some of them bringing traffic, but most of them just laying there without producing any traffic or income.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Dan, that’s why I recommend noindexing tag pages. WordPress usually creates them by default so they’re hard to delete.

  27. Ashwani Kailiya Avatar Ashwani Kailiyasays:

    Its very very helpful

  28. A few years back we decided to move our community forum from a different URL (myforum.com) to our main URL (mywebsite.com/forum), thinking all the community content could only help drive additional traffic to our website. We have 8930 site links currently, which probably 8800 are forum content or blog content. Should we move our forum back to a different URL?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Matt, it depends on how well that worked for you. Did the forum help you get more traffic?

      1. I’d say yes. For the most part, the discussions in our forums are related to the product or the lifestyle. At the time we migrated (i think 2015), we were fairly small with less than a 1000 unique visitors on both the forum and website combined, monthly. We now have 60K or more unique visitors monthly.

        I was just curious reading the section on zombie pages if the extra content from the forums is a bad thing in Google’s eyes.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          In that case, I’d keep them. If the page brings in traffic (or links), it’s worth keeping. So I’d say you’re good.

    1. What would be the purpose of/reason for moving back to a different url? If its been a few years, I’d leave it alone unless you watched everything decline since moving to the main url. Moving the forum to a new url now would probably be a bit chaotic, not only for your main url but for the forum itself…. Only reason I could imagine myself moving the forum in this scenario would be if all those links were really awful and unrelated to the url it currently sits on…

      With all that said, I’d want to take a much closer look at all the analytics data before making any real recommendations.

  29. Another masterpiece Brian, your post comes to the right time. I have a client his site has lots of issues that I know can be solved only by technical seo.

    However, I did everything thing I know but I also know that there is something I am missing. After reading this post I think I’ll be able to figure put those problems.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Umesh. I hope this helps

  30. Yet another great addition to my research/read list.
    Brian, you are the man of out times. This November, I’ll be speaking at WordCamp and I can’t wait to share part of your SEO wisdom.
    I deeply appreciate every effort you pit in to craft this insane content. It takes nerves.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks man!

  31. Hey there, Brian. This is such a timely article! This audit is exactly what I needed this week. It’s extremely comprehensive. I am a total fangirl of all your the content you publish!

    Also, thanks for including using the updated GSC in your audit. I am still getting used to learning the new console.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Hannah, No problem at all. I’m happy to help.

  32. Alison Avatar Alisonsays:

    Thank you for your recent post which looks fabulous as always.

    To be honest I am a little confused. Step one is to delete zombie pages from your site.

    I went to site:yourwebsite.com and found I got lots of listing with

    ,,,,,/page/103/

    listed which obviously looks odd.

    I want to delete the zombies but I can’t see a link explaining how. Your link to
    Sean from Proven deleted over 9k Zombie Pages from his site…

    goes to The Complete SEO Checklist For 2018 and I cant see the steps

    Thank you

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Alison, good question. Those blog pages are actually fine to keep. In our case, there are like 15 of those pages. It’s only a problem when you’re talking about 100+ pages.

  33. Hello Brain,
    This is amazing information about SEO audit.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Nitin

  34. I read and made changes to my site. Sited my site on Google and found zombie pages and deleted them. Noindexed some pages that would never have been done without reading your step by step guide.

    Super helpful article. Thank you Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Way to take action so quickly, Leon!

  35. The depth of your articles impresses and amazes me. I love all the specific examples and tool recommendations. You discuss the importance of backlinks. How important is it to use a tool to list you on directories (Yext, Moz Local, Synup or JJUMP)? Will Google penalize you for listing on unimportant directories? Is it better to avoid these tools and get backlinks one at a time and avoid all but a few key directories?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Karen.

      To answer your questions: it depends on the business. If you’re a local business that’s trying to rank for local keywords (“___ in Boston”), those citations are really important. Google probably won’t penalize you for it as long as you’re not spamming. That said, I’d focus on really relevant directories to be on the safe side.

  36. Anonymous Fan Avatar Anonymous Fansays:

    Hey Brian,

    I am going to keep myself anonymous here as my competitors are watching very closely.

    I started implementing your suggestions in Jan 2018. I’ve increased my traffic from Google from 4,000 to 9,000 daily clicks in 7 months.

    The impact of what you share is unbelievable.

    Too good to be true, but true.

    Please do more SEO that Works courses through the year. I missed out and I want to enroll!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Congrats on your success! Also, we’re launching a new version of STW in a few months.

  37. Just what I was looking for, but I noticed in Bonus #3 for the snippet guide, you list to use multiple H1 and H2 headings… Shouldn’t it be H2 and H3 because you only want a single H1 tag per page, right?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks for the heads up, Dan. You’re absolutely right: that’s a typo. It should be H2 and H3.

  38. Vivek Kumar Avatar Vivek Kumarsays:

    Hey Brian, Great Article. I always read your blog and it is helpful for new bloggers. Is is possible to use SEO/Keyword on blogger blog.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Vivek. Yes it is but you definitely want your own domain.

  39. @brian -on your next blog post- you should target on SEO Reporting 😉

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Tejas. I’ll look into that.

  40. A wonderful post, everything is clear and understandable. Now I need to find the time and apply all the steps to my site)) Thank you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Vilkov. If you’re strapped for time you can always do 2-3 steps to start with and go from there.

  41. Michael Fielding Avatar Michael Fieldingsays:

    Hi Brian,

    Great article, as always!

    Quick question. I know this report isn’t meant to be overly technical.
    However, how would you suggest dealing with faceted navigation? I’ve been adding the noindex tag to pages with 2+ faceted elements, providing they don’t target any useful terms i.e. through colour, size etc.

    Be interested to know your thoughts.

    Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Michael. In my opinion, you’re doing the exact right thing. Noindexing most search result pages (especially when more pages are created with faceted navigation) is your best bet.

  42. Wao, another great tutorial, Thanks Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Happy to help, Vikas

  43. Hi Brian

    Wow! Your article is really well done and really gives the keys for our website to be perfomant!

    To see the free backlinks, do you like backlinkwatch.com? We can see 1,000.

    Thank you very much for your help 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Benoit

  44. Great one, Brian!

    Question about Zombie pages. Is putting as “no-index” the same as deleting? 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Gerric. It’s kind of the same.

      The issue with noindexing is that the pages still exist. So it makes the remaining steps harder. So I recommend deleting them in most cases (there are exceptions).

  45. Yam Avatar Yamsays:

    Your content is clear and concise. I love it!

    One question: with zombie pages, how do you deindex tag pages to ‘delete’ them? I’m using WordPress.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Yam. You can do that with the Yoast SEO plugin

  46. Gabby Avatar Gabbysays:

    Awesome guide! However, about short URLs.. I get that’s how you’d want to structure them if you have a blog site like yours, Brian, but what about if you’re a business and have different services. Should you structure your URLs like this?

    Version 1: https://www.website.com/service/service1
    Version 2: https://www.website.com/service1

    Which version is best?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Gabby, if your URLs are already long, I wouldn’t change them. It’s probably not worth the risk. So if they look like that already, I’d keep them like that… even if it’s not ideal.

  47. Brian, this is as ever absolutely fantastic! So much stuff to work through but it is all good! Do you have any other blogs on backlink analysis? I am using Moz Pro, and if you have anything to help me understand things a bit better it would be great.

    Regardless thanks for an excellent post again!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Steve. I don’t have any posts that deep dive into backlink analysis.

      1. No worries, you provide so much vital information and I just wanted to know your posts are always appreciated.

  48. Tim Avatar Timsays:

    Thanks for the post, Brian!

    I’m wondering how to delete zombie pages. I’ve been to my WordPress site but can’t seem to find where all of these pesky pages are? Any tips?

    Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Tim, it depends on the page. If they’re category or tag pages, you can noindex them with Yoast (they’re a pain to delete). Everything else should be a post or page in WordPress.

  49. Sam B Avatar Sam Bsays:

    I learned a ton here, thank you! Question about the 3-clicks-deep site structure: does this also apply when you have a blog post in your archives, but you have to click through a few archive pages to find it?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Sam, I’d say no. It’s more for normal pages that people access.

  50. Uddin Avatar Uddinsays:

    An offtopic Brian,

    Do you suupport Breadcrumbs? As they create internal links to the main page…but passes some link juices to middle pages (unimportant) as well?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Uddin, it depends on the site. For ecommerce sites breadcrumbs can make sense. For most other sites… not as much.

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