I generally only go to the garage when my car doesn’t switch on or if there’s a noise that can’t be hidden with the radio. But that’s not how I treat my website!
I like to oil my website engine well before it breaks down. How often do you do maintenance on your website?
At least once a quarter, you should go through a checklist of items because you never know what might have happened to your site, or what you could improve.
In this article, we outline seven website maintenance tasks that are specifically related to the SEO of your site.
1. Are Your Page Titles and Descriptions Configured Correctly?
The page title (known as the meta title) is important from Google’s perspective because it is used when indexing the content on your website. For this article, for example, there are big differences between these two titles:
Website Maintenance: 7 SEO Maintenance tips to oil up your engine
7 Maintenance Tips to oil up your engine
In the first title, I use keywords that I want to rank for: ‘website maintenance’ and ‘SEO maintenance’. In the second, I don’t give Google – or potential readers – any idea what the content is about.
The page description (meta description) is not used as part of Google’s algorithm for ranking your site, but it is displayed in the search results after the title so it’s important that you create a good, detailed description. If you don’t create a description, Google will pick some content from your page and use that as description instead, which is not good!
To do an analysis of your page titles and descriptions, go to Google and type ‘site:”name of website”‘. Replace “name of website” with your website name (and don’t include the quotes).
Are your page titles relevant? Do they have relevant terms that help Google to understand what you are trying to rank for? Are your descriptions compelling enough?
Action: Review and update to make sure your titles have relevant keywords and your descriptions are enticing enough.
2. Are There Pages Indexed that Shouldn’t be?
It’s great to get your pages indexed by Google, but only if they are the right pages. Why would you index pages such as a ‘thank you’ page? What value does this provide to anyone, if they find it?
You always want to present good information to people searching Google so, any time you can improve their search experience, you should take action.
In the previous point, we used the command ‘site:”name of website”‘. This shows you the majority of pages indexed by Google; it’s not a totally accurate list, but it’s close.
What you want to do is go through this list and identify any items that should not be indexed.
Instead of going through 10 at a time, I change the Google list to display 100 search results at a time (see Google search settings). From my list, one of the pages I came across was ‘confirmation’, which is similar to a thank you page. This page is no use to anyone, so I de-indexed it.
I use Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and there’s an option to de-index the file within the advanced settings. If you don’t have this option for your web pages, you’ll need to ask your developer to set the no-index flag.
Advanced Tip: If you want to extract the Google results to a spreadsheet (which I did above), use the plugin called ‘Simple Google Results‘, which will extract just the directory name from the listing.
Action: Find pages that shouldn’t be indexed and de-index them.
3. Review your robots.txt
When Google comes to your site, it will check for a file called robots.txt. This file gives information to Google about your site. For example, it will point Google to your sitemaps and it will also tell Google which directories it shouldn’t index.
In the previous point, we talked about not indexing individual posts. But what if you wanted to ‘no index’ full directories?
Here’s an example of how you disallow full directories:
Disallow: /wp-admin/ Disallow: /wp-includes/ Disallow: /wp-content/plugins/
Here’s an example of a website telling Google about the sitemaps.
Sitemap: http://www.wpbeginner.com/post-sitemap.xml Sitemap: http://www.wpbeginner.com/page-sitemap.xml
Action: Review the pages that are indexed on your site and, if there are full directories that shouldn’t be indexed, disallow Google’s bots from crawling these directories.
4. Review your Sitemaps
You want to make it very easy for Google to find pages that are indexed on your site, so you need to provide a directory listing of files you want to be indexed. These are called sitemaps, see the image below.
In the sitemap, you let Google know about the pages to index, how often you want them re-indexed, and when they were last modified. If the file was not modified since the last time it was indexed, Google doesn’t have to waste time re-indexing.
Action: Make sure you have a sitemap for your website – if you don’t currently have one, create it. To check if Google is reading your sitemap correctly, check Google Webmaster Tools. This will show you the sitemaps that Google finds on your site, along with any errors/problems.
5. Assess Your Website’s Performance
The speed of your website is really important so it’s worth evaluating it. There are various tools and ways of measuring this. One of these tools is Pingdom. When you provide your website address, Pingdom will show you how quickly it downloads. You should test your home page, but also try any one of your blog posts that is long and full of images.
When you run this tool, it will show you a long list of every element that is loaded on your page, and it will show you the load times. If you want to view this at a high level, select the ‘page analysis’ section and you’ll see some really interesting information.
Here’s one part where you can see the time spent, per domain, loading the page. You can see in this screenshot that most of the elements are on RazorSocial.com. But some are from external websites: ‘www1.moon-ray.com’ is our marketing automation solution, OntraPort. Over 10% of the load time is related to this tool.
Also, we recently implemented ‘Naytev’, to test out their tool that optimizes the updates that site visitors share to social media. As you can see, this takes up 2.75% of load time. By removing this tool, we could reduce our download time.
You can also view the load time as broken down by type of content. As you can see, images take up a lot of the load time:
Action: Identify the areas that are causing performance issues and correct them. You will probably need help from your developer but you can resolve some issues yourself. For example, reduce the number of images, reduce image sizes, remove plugins that are causing delays etc.
Website maintenance is really important. Your car falls apart if you don’t get regular maintenance, and your website will too.
When was the last time you did a website health check? What other tasks would you add to the list?
Maintenance photo by Shutterstock
I’d love to hear from you.