| Digital, SEO, Strategy
Basic checks for the health of your website
Your website is the foundation of your marketing activity and is the first experience many new customers have of your business. Whether your website is set up around purchases, downloads, or enquiry form completions, it should be working hard to convert visitors.
Just like a physical shop requires regular cleaning, restocking and the odd repair, your website requires regular checks to stay in good condition. Website management keeps your website performing as it should and provides visitors with an effective user experience.
What goes into a healthy website?
- An SEO strategy
- Unique, engaging content
- Clear user journeys
- Effective design
- Regular maintenance
Website checks and maintenance
Website management is a specialism and should be carried out by website developers or your digital marketing team. However, it is possible for someone with a basic understanding of their CMS to carry out routine checks. Here are some basic checks to improve the general health of your website.
1. Staging sites and keeping back-ups of your website
A staging site is a replica of your website that usually lives on an offline, non-indexed sub-domain. It’s used as a testing ground for new web content and development. Because it’s a direct replica of the live site, you can see how the website will react to certain changes before pushing them on the live site.
You should create back-ups of your website before you make any changes. Schedule a routine (we suggest monthly) backup of your website even if you aren’t updating your website regularly. But it is a must before any updates. Should the worst happen and your website goes down, or a plug-in update messes up the code on one of your pages, you can restore it to the last backup until you have a chance to get someone to diagnose the problem.
2. Updating plug-ins
Website plug-ins are the quick and easy way to add new features and functionality to an existing website, without the need for development work. Created by third-party developers, plug-ins run from your server but can call for scripts from other sources. They require occasional software updates to keep working effectively.
Outdated plug-ins can lead to errors and slow down page loading speeds. They pose a security risk as hackers may gain access to your website through the outdated software. It’s a good idea to tackle plug-in updates as they come up, as updates can conflict with your CMS and other plug-ins – you need time to resolve any issues that may crop up.
3. Checking contact forms are working
A broken contact form is bad news – think about the enquiries you could be missing out on! One of the easiest things ways to support your website is to regularly test the forms by filling them in and making sure the message goes through to the right person or data list.
4. Checking links haven’t broken
Broken links risk people getting lost, bouncing away and not finding the information they need. By regularly auditing the links on your website you can spot and fix any broken ones. Internal links have search value and create pathways around your site for users to find what they are looking for.
5. Checking pages can be crawled efficiently
Search engines send out ‘spiders’ or web crawlers to navigate your website and index your content. Ensuring that the crawlers can both access and efficiency crawl your website’s pages is crucial for good SEO. There are a few factors that go into your website’s crawlability, including making sure your website’s robots.txt file is properly configured, and generating and submitting an XML sitemap which lists the pages you want indexed.
6. Checking re-directs aren’t chained with other re-directs
Redirect chains, where one redirect leads to another, can confuse both users and search engines – as well as slow down your page load times. Regularly audit your redirects to eliminate these chains and you’ll ensure a smoother browsing experience for your visitors and make your website easier for search engines to navigate and index.
7. Checking page load timings
How many times have you clicked away from a slow-loading website? The speed in which your website’s pages load is key for user satisfaction. A faster website not only keeps visitors engaged but can also improve your chances of ranking higher in search results (so long as your content is genuinely helpful and engaging!), so regularly check your page load times and keep on top of any performance issues.
8. Optimising page crawl depth
Understanding the crawl depth of your website’s pages is essential for effective SEO and a positive user experience. Page crawl depth refers to the number of clicks it takes for a user to reach a page from an entry point, like the homepage. Important pages should be accessible within a few clicks and not buried too deep in the site’s structure.
9. Addressing mixed content issues
HTTPS is an encryption of data between the server and the browser. Mixed content occurs when a web page secured with HTTPS contains elements that are loaded through HTTP. You should regularly check for mixed content and make sure that everything on your website is using a secure HTTPS connection. Think of it like making sure all the windows and doors in your house are locked. If just one window is left open, it can make your home less secure. Securing your website with HTTPS ensures it remains safe and offers a secure browsing experience for your visitors.
10. Ensuring images are compressed
Large images slow down your page loading speeds, and many users will click away if a page takes longer than a couple of seconds to load. A simple way to improve page speed is to make sure images are compressed and resized to the correct dimensions. Compressing images reduces their file size while maintaining acceptable visual quality, which enhances page loading speed and reduces strain on your server.
11. Checking for unused scripts or CSS on site
One area where efficiency can slip through the cracks on your website is in the scripts and CSS used to design it. Over time, your website can accumulate redundant code that slows down your website and makes it harder to manage. It’s a good idea to periodically review your site’s scripts and CSS to look for any code that’s no longer necessary. Removing the code will improve loading times and ease your website maintenance.
A good example of this would be an old piece of tracking software you no longer use still sending data to and from your server. We’d recommend Google Tag Manager as a good way of keeping all your additional scripts in one place so you can quickly audit them at any time.
12. Making sure pages are linked together and there are no dead ends
Every page on your website should have a visible navigation bar, internal links and call to action (CTA) buttons. This makes it easy for a user to take the required next steps. Auditing your website to check each page is set up and properly linked with other relevant pages ensures no one gets stumped by a dead end that could cause them to navigate away.
13. Keeping blogs up to date
Your blog is a place to share regular news and information to engage your customers and prospects. Blogging brings in new search visitors and shows users more about your expertise and services. Updating your blog every month or so shows visitors you’re active and provides fresh opportunities to answer common questions and solve issues your customers might have about your products and services. Keyword research can also help you target the specific language and phrasings people use when searching for the answers to these questions on search engines.
14. Making sure passwords are unique and secure
Password security is crucial for safeguarding your website and user data. You should always enforce strict password policies for your team members and any website administrators requiring unique, strong passwords. You can utilise password management tools to generate and securely store passwords. Using easily guessable passwords like ‘password123’ should always be avoided!
To summarise, your website needs regular attention and care to maintain its effectiveness. It’s more than just a digital storefront, it’s your online identity. Having a comprehensive checklist for a healthy website is the best way to enhance your website’s user experience and strengthen its position in the vast online world. Remember, your website is often the first impression a potential customer has of your business, so it’s always worth investing the time and effort needed to keep it at its best.
If this article has made you realise you could use expert help taking care of your website, you’re in the right place. We offer a free website audit designed to tell you how your website is performing and uncover any issues you might have overlooked. We’ll provide you with a user-friendly report, complete with easy-to-understand traffic light scores and practical advice on how to enhance your website and social channels.
Get in touch for a friendly chat and to get the ball rolling on improving your online impact.
We're friendly - let's have a chat!
More of Sean's blogs…
See how to use local SEO for your small business. Get the details on reaching new customers in your local area.
| Opinion, PPC
What do Christmas albums and PPC have in common? The answer could prevent your PPC campaigns being one hit wonders...
| Case Study
See how Leeds manufacturer, Invicta, increased enquiries with a digital marketing strategy.