Website SEO audit

How to perform an SEO audit
Part 2: General SEO

How to perform an SEO audit. Part 2: General SEO

In my previous article, part 1 of the How to perform an SEO audit series, I showed you the steps you could take to evaluate the SEO of your own – or someone else’s – site. The first steps were all about content SEO and user experience. In part 2, I’ll dive deeper into the general SEO part of the audit. Later, I’ll conclude the series with part 3, where I’ll look at site speed and engagement. Enjoy auditing!

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General SEO

There are several things that you can check quite easily in your SEO audit, without any effort – if you use the right tools. Keep in mind that tools are here to help, not replace your common sense and your product/brand knowledge. One of my go-to tools is Screaming Frog SEO spider. Yes, there are a lot of alternatives, like Ryte, but for a quick check-up, Screaming Frog SEO spider suffices. It’s a handy tool that can do a lot of relevant checks, even its free version.

Page titles

Page titles should focus on a specific topic and be branded at the end. That’s what I would primarily focus on here. In Screaming Frog:

SEO audit - Screaming frog - page titles

Check for duplicates, missing page titles, and if these are indeed constructed as ‘page title – branding’. Walmart does a nice job at this, as you can see. Read up on page titles here.

Meta description

The meta description is your invite to your website. SEO value? Well, a good meta description will attract more people to your website from Google or Bing, for instance. Now, please note that your meta description is a suggestion for that search engine, not something it will copy every time your site is shown in the search result pages. It has to be focused and clear, and align with the search query. More on meta descriptions here.

SEO Audit: meta description

In Screaming Frog, it’s easy to see if meta descriptions are duplicate, like in this screenshot, or missing. Walmart had only a few duplicate meta descriptions, to be honest, in my quick check. Most pages have a unique description.

Canonical URLs

The canonical URL tells you / Google what the source of a page is. If you copy this page to your website, please set the canonical URL of your copy to this page and Google will understand it has to rank my page, while still very much informing your site’s visitor.

SEO audit: canonicals

Again, Screaming Frog comes in handy. Check for missing canonical URLs and see (if your site has a ‘processable’ number of pages) if the canonical URLs align with the regular URL for a page.

Screaming Frog can do so much more, but let’s leave it at that for now.

Quick Panda & Penguin check

Panda and Penguin are algorithm updates by Google, focused on serving more quality websites in their search result pages. Panda focuses on thin content and banners, among other things, where Penguin checks if the links to your website are natural links that make sense.

In your SEO audit, a quick check for Panda would be to step back from your computer screen and look at your website. Is there a surplus of banners? Is your sale filling up all the space all the time, before any interesting content? Make sure there is a good balance. I’d say four banners above the fold is a lot.

For Penguin, use for instance Majestic’s SEO tool to do a quick check of backlinks, and see if you find any shady websites linking to your website. Disavow these websites in your Google Search Console.

More on Panda and Penguin here. Note that Google says these are ongoing updates these days.

Template code

A lot of SEOs will tell you to fix the foundation of your website, meaning the template. I think content is the foundation of the website and your template(s) should serve that content. I read a comment by someone just last week stating that these template code related things are the only things you need for SEO – think again. As mentioned over and over, we believe in a holistic approach, taking a lot more into consideration. But that doesn’t mean that your template can be crap. Far from it. / JSON-LD

Structured data is essential these days. It’s your page summary in re-usable chunks of content that Google loves. Add data via JSON-LD, we have written about that before. If you want to check data for a certain page, use a schema validator. Google that, there is a variety of them. If you want to add structured data, please use JSON-LD as Google prefers that. Google will also inform you about structured data in Google Search Console.

Want to know more about structured data? We have a course on structured data as well – go check it out.


I could have mentioned breadcrumbs when discussing site structure as well, but they are part of your template, right? Add breadcrumbs to make sure people know where in your site structure they ended up, and realize these are also valuable internal links for Google. In your SEO audit, check for breadcrumbs, and see if these are also returned when checking for structured data, so you know they are served to Google the best way possible.

The mobile version of your website

Mobile-first. It’s coming. And I still feel that a responsive website, in addition to all the AMP and so, is essential. One site to maintain. To start off, simply reduce your browser screen’s width and see what happens. Then, open your mobile browser on your phone and visit your website. Click to your main product page, click to your contact form. How does your homepage look? Does everything work like it should? Does it load fast? Make sure you get the mobile experience you want.

We have written a lot about mobile websites, feel free to browse these other articles for more information:

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Heading structure

This might be the least of your worries these days, to be honest. HTML5 allows you to add an H1 to every block element and Google will probably figure out your main heading in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, a good heading structure helps you structure your page’s content and allows Google and your visitors to scan your page and grasp the general storyline. Check if your heading structure makes sense, both visually and in semantics. More on headings here.

Part 3 is next: Site speed & Engagement

This concludes part two of the SEO audit series. In this part, you’ve learned how to analyze the general SEO of your site using several tools as well as your judgement. If you followed along, you’ve probably found several issues on your site that you could improve on. That’s exactly what an audit is meant to uncover, so all is well. Make a to-do list and start working! In part three, we’ll go over site speed and engagement. Stay tuned!

Read more: ‘How to perform an SEO audit. Part 3: Site speed & engagement’ »

16 Responses to How to perform an SEO audit. Part 2: General SEO

  1. nexvan
    By nexvan on 11 December, 2017

    hi Michiel Heijmans, Thank you for answering
    Thank you for the points you mentioned.
    Yes, in the future of the name are used and more insight is added.
    Yes, Sure

  2. nexvan
    By nexvan on 8 December, 2017

    Hi, I’m so sad that you delete the comment. I’m not a robot and I read your content

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 11 December, 2017

      Hi Nexvan, I’m guessing what happened is that you submitted a series of very short comments, are not using your real name and therefore the comment seems to be placed just to have your link here – like spam. If this was not the case, please accept our apologies. But for future comments, please use your real name, and add some more insight / opinion to your comment, and I am sure this won’t happen again :)

  3. Christopher
    By Christopher on 8 December, 2017

    thank you it was a great help for me.

  4. Ronaldo Stewart
    By Ronaldo Stewart on 7 December, 2017

    Page titles and meta descriptions are one of those aspects that play a big role in optimization but are sometimes forgotten. Many users starting in SEO forget that it’s one of the first places to include important keywords. Awesome series Michiel from you and the Yoast team!

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 8 December, 2017

      Yeah, you are definitely right, Ronaldo. You can always improve your titles and meta descriptions. Thanks for the compliment!

  5. Simone Nijboer
    By Simone Nijboer on 7 December, 2017

    Joost, Marieke and other members of Yoast, I just want to thank you for all the fantastic articles that you write week after week. It is incredible how much effort you put into educating us. Fantastic.


    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 8 December, 2017

      You’re welcome, Simone! We love sharing knowledge and it’s great to see people love it :)

  6. nexvan
    By nexvan on 7 December, 2017

    thank you

  7. Mihai
    By Mihai on 7 December, 2017

    Just great. This will help a lot of users understand how to apply SEO.
    For the part with the Mobile version? WDo we really have to setup a new website just for mobile? The responsive template will not do the work anymore?
    If Google keeps playing with our mind and time will lose user interest for indexing.
    Thank you.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 8 December, 2017

      Hi Mihai. Mobile is very important. There are a lot of things you can do to improve your mobile site. But if you are scared that your new responsive template won’t work, please don’t be. Google has said many times that if your site is responsive you are on the right track.

  8. Digember
    By Digember on 6 December, 2017

    Very helpful article. These are the best suggestion for optimizing your On-page. However, I don’t use breadcrumbs on my site as it was causing duplicate content link problem. I just de-indexed them. Will it cause a problem to my site’s SEO?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 8 December, 2017

      Breadcrumbs can help people navigate on your site. However, if they give you trouble you could leave them out. But think long and hard about it.

  9. Richard Kennedy
    By Richard Kennedy on 6 December, 2017

    Excited to see what your opinion is on site speed affecting rankings, are you going to cover SSL during this also?


    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 8 December, 2017

      Hi Richard. Google definitely looks at site speed and I’d advise you to do everything in your power to improve it. If not for Google, your visitors will thank you! HTTPS can also give your site a speed bump and is getting increasingly important these days. Read this if you want to find out more about HTTPS:

      • Sandro
        By Sandro on 9 December, 2017

        When will SEO by Yoast change their meta description character limits? According to Google, meta descriptions can contain up to 320 characters now.


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