Every Webmaster, be they a clueless newcomer or a bonafide pro, needs to get stuck into some good website housekeeping once in a while. Your website is your shop window; your most significant asset that needs to look, talk and act the part.
Logging in once every blue moon to delete some queued spam comments is simply not enough. Your website needs to remain fully functional, user-friendly and relevant to your niche, product and audience. It’s your responsibility to ensure your CMS (Content Management System), plugins, content and outgoing links are all kept up to date.
The start of a new calendar year is the perfect time to do some good website housekeeping and assess where you need to make improvements.
So hold those new contracts, projects and spreadsheets – before you do anything, clean up your website!
VKN Digital’s Essential Guide for Good Website Housekeeping in 2017
1) Review your Analytics
Get your early spring clean off to the best possible start with a deep analysis of your website’s data. For this you can use a number of analytical tools but the most popular, by far, is Google Analytics. The reporting tool is now so advanced and user-friendly it would be ignorant and almost certainly damaging not to use it.
You can learn a great deal from Google Analytics, such as where users are coming from, what they are clicking on, landing pages, exit pages and what type of device they are using to get there. You can then draw insights based on these observations and take action accordingly. For instance you may want to make your site more mobile-focused, add more content around a particular topic or update popular pages with more calls to action.
2) Check Your Backlink Profile
Now that you’ve checked out your own links, it’s time to assess the quality of the web pages linking to your site.
It’s important to know exactly who is linking to your website and whether or not these links bring value. For instance, you’ll want to report and remove any spam links from potentially damaging sources, and perhaps show a little gratitude to anyone who is sending quality traffic your way, either by leaving a comment or returning the favour.
You can use Search Console to track other web pages linking to your site so you can assess their quality and domain authority. The higher the authority, the better rankability your site will accrue. You could use tools like Ahrefs, Moz Open site Explorer or SEO Spyglass to check exactly which and how many domains are linking to your site, what rank authority they have and compare these with your competitors’ backlink profiles.
3) Do a Link Audit
Quality links leading to authoritative, functional pages are fundamentally important when it comes to SEO. Unfortunately, web pages expire and urls change often, so it’s up to you to make sure your links don’t point to such pages. Otherwise the user will be redirected to a 404 page – the cardinal sin of Webmastery – and likely never return to your site again.
As you check your external links, ask yourself these questions:
- Are the links pointing to quality websites with high domain authority in your niche?
- Does that page attempt to rank for an exact keyword you are attempting to rank for? If so, you should differ or extend yours slightly.
- Do the links have meaningful anchor text? It’s important the anchor text is relevant and descriptive of the link destination so the user knows what to expect.
It’ just as important to check your internal links. Go through existing content and link posts and pages together where appropriate – try to feed sub topics into a broader topic to help increase rank of that post. Suitably placed internal links create stronger site maps and therefore better rankability.
4) Check your images
We all learn a few tricks along the way as Webmasters, especially when it comes to dealing with images. From sourcing to uploading, scaling, attributing and optimising, there is much to learn and perfect. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when you check older posts to find terrible images with very poor accessibility.
Alt tagging is very important for SEO, but often misused by Webmasters who think all that’s required is the keyword they want that post to rank for. The trick is to be literal in your description of images – as though a blind person were engaging with your content. This is what Google wants. Simply writing the keyword you want that post to rank for will not help generate more traffic.
Image scaling is also a gallingly time-consuming yet important exercise. One of the major reasons for slow site speed is oversized images. As a rule your images shouldn’t be larger than 800x600mp. Try to centre them in blog posts so content looks neater.
5) Tie up loose ends
Often, Webmasters don’t realise how much ‘flabby’ content they create on their websites. This is content that is basically never seen but still indexed on search engines. It’s excessive and adds no value. It just makes your website ‘overweight’.
Flabby content tends to be made up of urls created by images, tags and categories. Images need urls but don’t upload them just for the sake of it; make use of them or they are pointless. Tags and categories are useful for internal navigation but not if they are only used once or twice across the whole site. This just generates surplus urls with no value.
It’s important you do not delete underused tag and category pages, since they’ll already be indexed on search engines and when re-crawled return 404 pages. This is obviously bad! The best solution is to redirect them to the post urls they are relevant to.
6) Check for spam
It’s not just easily removable spam comments you need to watch out for. Spam can also appear on your site in the form of malicious code that may have entered through an outdated plugin or CMS version. This kind of spam is harder to track (I know from personal experience!)
Sometimes Google will display a warning message beneath your content in search results if your site has been hacked with spam. This would severely impact your traffic and the cleaning process at this stage is very complex. Therefore, it’s a good idea to run a ‘site: search‘ (hubspot.com) using popular spam terms terms like ‘viagra’ and ‘cialis’. If you find these terms popping up in your content then you’ve been hacked and need to remove the malicious code.
Google and WordPress are constantly improving their anti-virus and spam-detection software but inevitably hackers are finding new ways to infect websites. Recently there was a massive spam hack which affected the Language metric in Google Analytics. ‘Language’ showed up as ‘VoteForTrump’ (medium.com) and generated a lot of traffic from spammy sites. Always be aware of suspicious peaks in traffic on your site.
7) Check Social Links
Is your content easily shareable? Make sure you have social share buttons visible in your content, preferably at the side of the page so they don’t interfere with the content and are always in view. This is a crucial area to consider when cleaning your website.
8) Review your CTAs
Check to make sure you have a variety of relevant, intriguing and action-inspiring CTAs (calls to action) throughout your site. Anchor text needs to be on-brand and veer from the predictable. Examples like “Join Now”, “Download Now” and social sharing buttons like, “Like us on Facebook”, “Follow us on Twitter” are not particularly creative. If your CTR (click through rate) from your most important CTAs is low, try something like “Transform your business with X now!” or “Begin your career in X today!” to see if there is any improvement.
More importantly, make sure your CTAs look great and are easily noticed. Without clear and well-placed call to action buttons, your visitors may not take any action at all.
It’s also great practice to add a brief note explaining a little about your business, with a link to your contact page, at the end of posts. Like this:
Vivienne K Neale Digital is a digital marketing agency in Hertfordshire, UK. We aim to help SMEs overcome marketing hurdles and create compelling digital content that drives results. If you need a leg-up with your content marketing or website management, get in touch via our contact page for a free Skype consultation 🙂