Nichola Stott from SEO agency TheMediaFlow runs through the five critical health checks for SEO success.
I’d urge any business owner with a website to extend this good habit to your website. Even if you’re using an SEO agency or regularly optimising new pages yourself, it's good idea to run an annual or twice-yearly MOT.
These are my top five things to check...
When’s the last time you ran a crawl of your own website? If you want to stand a chance of ranking number one, you need to be indexed, and if you want your pages indexed then searchbots must be able to crawl those pages efficiently. Invest in a tool called Screaming Frog SEO Spider which will crawl your site mimicking Googlebot behaviour and report back accordingly. It will be the best £99 you ever spent.
2. Fix Those 404 Errors
I have an innate distrust for people who never eat dessert. That’s just not normal, right? In much the same way, I have an innate distrust for a website without a single 404 error (unless you have a five-page website).
404 (file not found) errors occur naturally and intermittently throughout the life of a website for reasons such as content getting archived or pages deleted, without anyone realising the implications. It becomes a problem if these 404 errors build up to become a tangible percent of all your response codes as these become roadblocks for search engine crawlers.
3. Re-point your 301 Redirects
When you move house you can put a redirect in place with Royal Mail so that your post gets re-routed to your new home. If you move the location of a web page you can put a 301 redirection in place so that the equity (via link value) accrued in that old URL shifts onward (just like your mail). As these build up over time, or if multiple redirections occur, you risk leaking equity.
Use this time of year to go back to where you have pointed to an 'old home' and change the link reference so that it points cleanly to the new URL; thus increasing your overall crawl efficiency.
4. Check your URL Parameters
Retail sites, particularly in this sector where products may come in multiple versions and models, may have all kind of parametered URLs to help with filtering, pagination and currency. As an example this fictional page:
and this one…
are exactly the same, barring a display preference for market-appropriate currency. Search engines can struggle with these situations as they may struggle to determine the authoritative page.
You can treat such occurrences with the correct use of rel=canonical or via parameter handling in Google Webmaster Tools. Both solutions are advanced and should only be implemented by someone with good technical knowledge and experience. If in doubt seek a good SEO agency.
5. Duplicate Copy Checks
The longer you’ve been around on the web the greater the chance that some ass-hat has appropriated chunks or swathes of your original content for their own gain. On occasion, content can be duplicated entirely innocently for example if an equipment manufacturer supplies their entire product catalogue via the same feed to every single one of their retailers. This means you’re all fighting to rank the same content; again a major headache for algorithmic calculations of relevance.
Use a tool like CopyScape (few cents per URL) to see if there’s any significant levels of plagiarism of your content elsewhere on the web. If there is, now is a good time to change-up and refresh your content or alternatively if you hold copyright you may prefer to file a DMCA report on your imitators with Google.
About the author
Nichola Stott is the owner and Founder of TheMediaFlow, a multi-award winning SEO agency that specialises in combining technical SEO advice with creative marketing campaigns to bring more business to their clients through search. Nichola has worked in the search industry for a decade and was formerly head of UK search partners at Yahoo before leaving to set up TheMediaFlow.
Picture credit at top of article: Shutterstock (keyboard with a word SEO)