1.1 Site is up

Of course you’ll want to make sure your site is accessible. Importantly, it needs to be accessible at all times – if your site intermittently goes offline, that’s a high priority to fix, as well.

1.2 Site hasn't been hacked

There isn’t a magical way to tell (though keeping an eye on your bandwidth is helpful) but the best way to avoid this is regular site maintenance. Keeping your CMS up to date by using its latest version is important. Ideally, the files powering your site are checked into some kind of version control system so your site admin can tell if anything’s been changed. We strongly recommend that, if you’re using a CMS, you use a hosting service that specializes in hosting that CMS for lots of customers.

1.3 Site ranks for its own name

Google your own name and see if your site shows up. If it doesn’t show up at all, that’s worth looking into. (If your site is brand new, it does sometimes take Google a little while to index.)

1.4 Site uses the latest version of its CMS

Be sure that you’re using the most up to date version of your CMS, just as you keep your laptop and phone operating systems up to date. How do you know what the latest version of your CMS is? Check out download page or release notes – for example, here’s where the latest version of Wordpress is available. Keeping your CMS up to date isn’t just about security. An up-to-date CMS will have the latest features, which can make your content team more efficient. It may also have better performance.

1.5 No manual penalties

It’s unlikely, but worth looking into, whether Google has levied any manual actions against your site. You can see this in Google Search Console.

1.6 Administrative pages are marked as noindex

Most CMSes have a page that your users log into to administer the site. (For example, in many Wordpress installs, this is /wp-admin/). Be sure this page is not indexed by Google.

1.7 No pages return error (5XX) codes

When a visitor (or a crawler) requests a page from your web server, your server returns some content – and it also returns a status code that says whether the request for content was successful (200), whether the request should be forwarded somewhere else (301 or 302), or whether the requested resource was not found (404) – among many others. A response code in the 500 range means that the request caused an error on the web server side. This shouldn’t happen and often indicates some kind of misconfiguration in the website.

1.8 The site uses HTTPS

In addition to being a ranking factor, https:// is an important indicator of trust for your user. It should be used for all sites. If your site can be served over both http and https, redirect all visitors to the https version.

1.9 Content is not thin

Later sections of the audit get into this question in more detail, but in general, this is a subjective assessment that asks whether there is substantial content on your site. For example, if you have a short homepage, and a few blog posts that are fewer than 300 words each, you would consider that site as having thin content.

1.10 Support and contact pages are easy to find and up to date

It should be easy for customers to find your support page, and for visitors in general to have a way to contact you.

1.11 Clear value proposition on the home page

Visitors who land on your homepage should be able to get an immediate sense of what your company does.

1.12 Homepage is easy to get to

It should be easy to get to the homepage of your site. On most sites, this is accomplished by having your company logo navigation bar item, which appears on every page of the site, link back to the front page. A common failure mode for this item is blogs where the corporate logo in the navigation bar links back to the front page of the blog.

1.13 Pages are free of content and rendering errors

This is a subjective assessment as well, but we are always on the lookout for typos, graphical elements that appear to show up in the wrong place, incorrect fonts and positioning, and so on.

1.14 Site has a favicon

Favicons make it easier for visitor to identify your site in bookmarks, in their tab bar, and in search.