SEO

My Site Evaluation Checklist

Last Update: 11/12/2019

We all have our bag of tricks in the industry. As time passes, I find that my bag is getting pretty big and cluttered. When I get stuck on an audit and need to kickstart myself, or when I think I’ve got everything, I like to use this list to make sure I’m not missing anything. This list is incomplete – and I’m constantly adding (and sometimes removing) items as I go. Hope it’s as helpful for you as it’s been for me over the years. 🙂

UX /CRO/User Journey Stuff:

  1. Does the site have a strong 404 page that includes a friendly message, a site search feature, contact information, and user pathways to key content?
  2. Have all e-mail addresses on the site been validated? This tool works for a small number of them.
  3. Do all outbound/external links open in a new window? If it’s WordPress, this plugin is pretty good to fix that.
  4. The site search feature is working properly, and a custom, helpful response is shown when no results are found.
  5. If it’s a WordPress site, ensure that the setting that makes images link to themselves by default is disabled.
  6. Does the blog have an RSS/E-mail subscription set up?
  7. Do all forms work properly?  Do they have an engaging thank-you message?
  8. Are all required fields in forms indicated with a visual cue?
  9. Does the language-selection feature lead you into a dead end, where you can’t switch back?
  10. Does the content of key pages match likely visitor intent?
  11. Is the home page super confusing? Can visitors immediately understand what the business is and if they are relevant to the visiting audience (service area, target industry, etc)?
  12. Is it time to recommend that they get rid of an auto-scrolling carousel on the home page?
  13. Does the site use underlined text where no link is present? How misleading is the text for visitors?
  14. Does the logo in the footer link to the home page, or does clicking on it do nothing?
  15. Is the logo on the left-hand side, where it’s more easily found?
  16. Are the items in the footer ordered in a logical, user-friendly way, or are they a cluttered mess?
  17. Do we have Terms & Conditions and a Privacy Policy, and if so, are they in the utility footer instead of the main footer? Is there also a link to the HTML site map there?
  18. Is the blog using Facebook/Disqus comments, or have them turned off, or is it making users fill out a clunky, high-maintenance form to leave a comment?
  19. Are the category/archives links on the sidebar of the blog likely to be useful for visitors?
  20. Are visitors being forced to prove they’re not a robot with clicks, rather than simply using a honeypot?
  21. Do text-heavy pages use a font size of at least 16pt?
  22. Do contact-form error messages use friendly, useful language?
  23. Is content in all caps and/or title case where sentence case would be more readable?
  24. Is the case form chosen for headers used consistently throughout the site?
  25. is there pure-black text on a pure-white background? (Bad for dyslexic readers)
  26. Does the shopping cart empty too quickly? (For example, the Magento default is after 20 idle minutes.)
  27. Does the shopping cart freeze if I add something to the cart before the product images start loading (observed on Magento)
  28. Is the language in the top menu simplified? For example, do we have “About Us | Contact Us” when “About | Contact” would serve just as well?
  29. Does the top menu have no more than five items wide, and five deep, if possible?
  30. Does each page have a CTA? Are they missing opportunities for a CTA above the footer?
  31. Is the language in CTA buttons as concise as it could be? How about in menu items – for example, can “Contact Us” be shortened to “Contact”?
  32. Are social media logos in the footer ordered so the ones of greatest interest to visitors are shown first?
  33. Can items like Site Map, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service be moved from the main footer to a utility footer?
  34. Would every page of the site work as a landing page if a visitor landed there as their first touching point on the site?
  35. Do the resources pages have some kind of search feature, if they’re large enough for one?
  36. Do icons on the site conceptually match the content they’re representing?
  37. Does the blog have a copious amount of categories that should be distilled down to 6-7 or fewer?
  38. Does the Siteimprove Chrome Plugin have any recommendations for ADA compliance?
  39. Are PDF’s ADA compliance – use this checking method.
  40. Does a video have a “WATCH VIDEO” button when simply having a play icon on the video itself would suffice?
  41. Do videos automatically play when the lightbox/modal opens, or do they require an additional click/touch?
  42. If it’s a YouTube embedded video (for example) does it bring up a slate of recommended videos at the end that could potentially be competitor’s videos?
  43. Are visitors on category pages overloaded with options? How can that be better sorted/organized for them?
  44. Is the most important content on core pages buried underneath trust content?
  45. Will visitors really understand what your acronyms or corporate language means? Is it something that can me removed or more clearly defined?
  46. How does the site look in different browsers (check how all fonts look in different browsers too)?
  47. Would a search box, or other design element, look better with a background color instead of borders? (try adding more space between elements as another possibility for replacing borders.) reference
  48. Can pure-grey text on a colored background be improved if it takes on the hue of the background color instead? reference
  49. When using icons that have more weight than the text, would it look better if icons were slightly lighter than the text for inactive states reference
  50. Would bulleted lists look better if they were checkmarks or arrows instead?
  51. Would longer forms look better if organized in a two-column format? reference
  52. Is the same line height being used for all text, or does larger text also get tighter? reference
  53. Is color use on content monotonous? Would it be better if body text was a lighter color than the heading?
  54. Would strategically bolding important words help the content become more skimable and palatable to read?
  55. Would a stock photo look better if we had someone on Fiver make a hand-drawn illustration of it instead?
  56. How can database-pulled lists and tables be improved by swapping information around in a more palatable way? reference reference 2
  57. Would radio buttons look better as selectable cards? reference
  58. Could a chart be improved for people with colorblindness by instead using different hues of the same color instead? reference

Site Speed

  1. Are the images optimized for file size, and/or are they larger than they appear on the page?
  2. Are images in the correct format, not stretched out or warped to fit their box, and free of pixelation?
  3. Are images hosted off site? Move them to the site’s hosting instead.
  4. How has site speed changes impacted traffic and conversions?
  5. How is its score using Google’s Speed Test? How does it test on WebPageTest and GTMetrix? This is a cool resource to link to.

Technical SEO, IA, Indexation

  1. Does the site have a sitemap that’s referenced in robots.txt, as well as a html site map? Is the sitemap submitted in GWMT and Bing WMT?
  2. Does the logo link directly to the home page, or is a redirect involved?
  3. Is the site disallowing URLs in the robots.txt file when it could be “noindex, follow”ing them?
  4. All noindex/disallow tags present during development have been removed.
  5. Do all images have alt text?
  6. Make sure the site is not using the meta keywords tag.
  7. Do all pages use an H1? Are they using JUST one per page?
  8. Are H2’s being used properly?
  9. Do all deleted content pages have proper redirects in place?
  10. http:// redirects to http://www, or the appropriate location. – Good resource to send the devs
  11. Discover how many redirects are used to enforce URL conventions.
  12. Does any alternate version of the site exist – for example, if I add .html, .asp. /index.php, or other versions of the site at the end?
  13. Are there persistent URL tags that follow visitors through the site that are creating tons of duplicate content in the index?
  14. URL conventions are in place for trailing slashes and capitalization.
  15. Good resource to send the devs
  16. If the site is HTTPS, is it using HSTS? Check chrome://net-internals/#hsts, and if static_upgrade_mode: and/or dynamic_upgrade_mode: is set to dynamic, then it’s set up d — OR just use this tool.
  17. Is HSTS Preload in place? Submit it to https://hstspreload.org/
  18. If HTTPS, is the meta referrer tag implemented?
  19. Does the site have an “abandoned” HTTPS or HTTP site that does not redirect or rewrite?
  20. Does the site have spammy outbound links?
  21. Has the site been hacked?
  22. Is .htaccess formatted properly?
  23. Does the site create “soft 404” pages?
  24. For WordPress sites, does every single image on the site have its own, indexed gallery page?
  25. Do images have SEO-friendly file names?
  26. Do images have seo-friendly title tags? If so, get rid of them.
  27. Do folders have short, concise names that are human-readable and readable from search?
  28. Does the site use bread crumbs, and if so, do they use bread crumb schema?
  29. Is the site using schema, including “sameas” schema to link to all social media account pages?
  30. Do pages have self-referencing canonical links? Do they work when you mess with the URL, or do they just reflect whatever URL you happen to be on?
  31. Do pages use duplicate metadata or content?
  32. If they’ve done a recent migration, do they have a top of top-traffic pages that 404 now? How many pages that used to earn traffic now 404?
  33. Does the 404 page actually deliver a 404 message?
  34. Does the site use 302 redirects where it should be using 301’s?
  35. Is the blog, or other sections of the site, on a separate website and/or subdomain?
  36. Is the site not linking to the blog from any significant navigation/footer location?
  37. Is the site making inappropriate use of the nofollow tag?
  38. Does the sitemap pass a crawl analysis in Screaming Frog?
  39. Is the sitemap located in the root folder, or the parent folder of the URL’s being indexed at least? See this link for why it needs to be.
  40. Does the site incorrectly use “noindex” in the robots.txt file?
  41. Does the site have any redirect chains that should be fixed?
  42. Is the site still using TLS 1.0 or 1.1? You can check this out via Google Chrome’s developer tools, which will show it as a warning. Google will block connections to a website using these and show a warning instead starting in about March 2020.
  43. Check Google Developer Tools to see if there’s any other technical issues that should be reported.
  44. Does the website support rich results?
  45. Does the site use send-to-a-friend links with unique query attributes? If so, make it stop.
  46. Does the site have non-https pages indexed? Check on a Google search with (for example) site:bbc.co.uk -inurl:https

Search/Social Appearance

  1. Does the site have strong meta titles in place, with no duplicates?
  2. Does the site have 155-character or less meta descriptions, and 140 or less for blogs?
  3. All planned Twittercard/OpenGraph data is in place and working properly.
  4. Ensure that PDF’s have metadata.
  5. Are all social media sites linking to the most current (usually HTTPS-version) URL?

Analytics

  1. Does the site (and the blog) have the GA tracking code set up?
  2. Is Universal Analytics & Tag Manager installed, or is it the old GA code?
  3. Are alerts set up in Google Analytics?
    • Set up a filter for spikes in abormal subdomain traffic
  4. Is GWMT and BWMT set up on all pages?
  5. Is Google Tag Manager set up?
  6. All forms and applications generate a thank you page or code that is trackable in Google Analytics, and include a noindex, follow tag.
  7. Does the site have multiple GA codes installed, or multiple instances of the same one? Use the Chrome Tag Assistant to check for hidden ones in external files or via Tag Manager as well.
  8. If I do a hostname-filtered search in Google Analytics, do any unexpected domains/subdomains come up in the results?
  9. Are the goals being reported in analytics aligning with the back-end goal reporting/what is actually coming through?
  10. Is a recent copy of the page saved on the Wayback Machine? (Helps with troubleshooting.)
  11. Does GA show any signs of bot traffic spikes (check time on page, country, etc)?
  12. Do they have language spam or lots of “C” language traffic (A bot language)? Good code to filter out C – (?:^|\W)c(?:$|\W)

Local/International SEO

  1. Is Hreflang in place?
  2. Has Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics been set to communicate the service area?
  3. Is there proper language alternatives for content, or opportunities to build those that are not being used?
  4. Has a Google My Business and Bing Business page been set up and look great?
  5. Are they set up with the BBB?
  6. Do they have an off-site presence on all niche industry pages, especially the ones where competitors exist?

Off-Site Stuff:

  1. Is the content duplicated or plagiarized on other sites?
  2. Does the site have a lot of spammy inbound links?

Mobile

  1. Does the site pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly test?
  2. Is horizontal scrolling necessary to see the content?
  3. Are tap targets super close to one another?
  4. Are icon sets and link lists translating well from desktop to mobile?
  5. Is there any awkward spacing?
  6. Does the site use justified text? How disruptive is it to the mobile UX experience?
  7. Is the hamburger menu persistent, or do you just leave it at the top when you scroll down?
  8. Is the hamburger menu in the top-left-hand corner of the page?
  9. Do all forms convert well for mobile keypads (number keypad for phone numbers, email keypad for email with the right input types)? This would also cause contact forms on desktop to autocomplete with mismatched information.
  10. Does the mobile menu have all the important navigation and CTA items that the desktop menu has?
  11. Would this be a good website to replace the hamburger menu with a menu floating at the bottom instead, where it’s more accessible for thumbs?
  12. Rather than simply inherit the desktop design, can any modals be moved to the bottom of the screen (closer to thumbs) to make them more convenient and accessible to use?

Misc/Small Stuff:

  1. Does the site have a favicon?
  2. Are bulleted and numbered lists formatted for both the website and the blog in the CSS?
  3. Do a Screaming Frog scan of the site with Lorem Ipsum and Hello World in the custom search options.
  4. Do a quick Screaming Frog scan for curly quotes/smart quotes and see if they’re rampant (‘ ’ “ ”).
  5. Is the copyright date in the footer the correct year?
  6. What does web.dev say?

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