The New SEO Audit in Google Lighthouse – a Quick Review

After digging around a bit in the Google Lighthouse performance report, I was excited about the new SEO audit that was about to drop. I was hoping it would provide some new interesting insights and maybe have some new factors I would be interested in.

The audit is now accessible in Chrome Canary (Chrome 65). Unfortunately, having looked at it, I am disappointed. It doesn’t cover much more than the basic SEO tools that have already been available on the market. I couldn’t resist comparing it to the SEO Quake Chrome extension which provides a much wider look at the on-page SEO factors.

For those who haven’t used Google Lighthouse yet: you can access it from Chrome DevTools through the “Audits” tab.

So, what do we have in the new Google Lighthouse SEO tab? I ran a sample audit for

As you can see, our website does pretty well. The audit checks some basic SEO features, including a few checks devoted to mobile friendliness.

According to this new Chrome DevTools feature, as a website owner, you should pay attention to:

  • Adjusting the font size to the screen size.
  • Adding a viewport meta tag to optimize your pages for mobile screens.
  • Using the HTML <title> element.
  • Using the HTML <meta name=”description” content=”x”> tag.
  • The status code (if you want the page to be indexed, it should respond with the status code 200).
  • Using descriptive anchor texts for internal linking.
  • Using valid rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” tags.
  • Using valid link rel=”canonical” href=”x” tags.
  • Making certain a page isn’t blocked from indexation with the meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” tag.
  • Avoiding plugins.

The last recommendation is unclear and, unfortunately, Google doesn’t provide further explanation regarding this issue. I hope it will be developed in future releases.

You can see for yourself that SEO Quake also checks most of these things:

However, there are a few differences:

  • SEO Quake checks many more factors; however, some of them are outdated.
  • SEO Quake doesn’t check for font legibility.
  • SEO Quake doesn’t check how descriptive the anchor texts are. Although it provides information about the anchor text for every link, so you can check it.
  • SEO Quake checks the <html lang=”x”> attribute, but doesn’t check hreflangs.
  • SEO Quake doesn’t check if a specific page is available for indexation, it only checks if there is a robots.txt file uploaded.

The last one is the most important difference in my opinion – it’s easy to overlook the fact that a page is blocked from indexation in the search engine. However, it would be great if Lighthouse was also checking if a page is blocked in the robots.txt and if it has a canonical tag to another page (these things influence indexation as well).

I chose SEO Quake for the comparison with Google Lighthouse as it was the first tool that came to mind, but I am not saying it’s the best. There are many, many more browser extensions, and free and paid tools that cover the same features.

The Google Lighthouse SEO audit also recommends you check if a page is mobile-friendly using the Mobile-Friendly Test and validate the structured data through the Structured Data Testing Tool and the Structured Data Linter.

In conclusion

The new Google Lighthouse SEO audit report is definitely not revolutionary. It brings attention to some of the SEO factors that could already be found in Google’s Guidelines from many years ago.

As an SEO Specialist, it probably won’t be useful. SEOs have quite an extensive set of favorite tools and this specific Lighthouse report doesn’t provide any additional value. Another thing is that we rarely check on-page SEO factors on a page level. However, if you are a website owner or a developer of a small to a medium-sized website, this new report may prove to be helpful. Even if you already know Google’s Guidelines, you may sometimes wonder if you are implementing them right. The newest version of Lighthouse will give you clear, albeit limited, feedback on that.