SEO Tasks: A Guide to Focused Website SEO Maintenance
A down and dirty guide to SEO tasks to keep your website maintained for peak performance in search.
Website maintenance is probably the single most important aspect to running a successful online business and one, which requires not only regular updates but strategy as well. Often times running regular SEO tasks as part of your routine website maintenance can uncover a lot of overlooked issues that require a bit of technical expertise. Most business owners simply aren’t aware of the impact that changing technology has on their site’s performance and security. If you don’t have a dedicated SEO and tech team, this article will provide a focused guide on SEO tasks that will keep your website’s SEO maintenance on point.
There are two very important items you will need to be aware of, and those are;
- Core website system updates
- Search engine indexing of your website
Website System Updates and Plugins
It doesn’t really matter what type of website you’re running, there are always system updates and the chances that you’re using additional plugins is pretty high. One of the worst things you can do is neglect those.
If you happen to be on a Saas platform such as BigCommerce or Shopify then you’re not going to have to worry about the core system updates, because the software service provider will handle them for you. This is a huge benefit to business owners and will provide you with more time to focus on other SEO tasks.
If you run a self-hosted website such as WordPress or Joomla, website SEO maintenance gets significantly harder. Ideally, you would want to keep your system and plugins updated promptly. Many times business owners neglect to do this because there is a pretty good chance that running those updates could break your site :(
Unfortunately, neglecting this type of website maintenance opens your site up to a greater risk of being hacked, injected with malware, or being devalued in search for running out of date software.
If you have a custom theme, you are going to need the help of a web developer to keep your site updated.
If you’re not sure, here is a quick guide to help you decide whether or not you’re going to be able to run the updates yourself;
Typically, plugins that run purely in the Dashboard with no front-end interface will be safe to automatically update, including:
- Admin tools such as duplicate post or columns
- Broken link checkers
- 301 redirect
- Most form plugins
- RSS feed
- Database optimization
- Other monitoring plugins
- Image compression
- Patches and fixes to the plugins listed below
- Patches to themes
- Updates to the TwentySomething themes
- Genesis parent theme
Plugins that have a front-facing interface that you should update manually and then check the site carefully (or update on a staging environment to test first) include:
- E-commerce (e.g. WooCommerce)
- Mutli-language (e.g. WPML)
- Complex forms
- Events calendars
- Popups and lead generators
- Galleries and media
- Upgrades to any premium theme
SEO Tasks You Need to be running for Search Engines
The next type of website SEO maintenance you’re going to want to look at is how you can improve your website’s impact in search engines.
Google is constantly evolving their search engine and how website pages are indexed and ranked. Both technical website components as well as the quality of your website’s content are going to be evaluated by search engines.
Running an indexation analysis will help you gain an understanding of how Google views your pages as well as shed some light on any technical issues your website may have. Most websites have the same type of issues; duplicate page content across multiple URLs, internal search result pages, and other site content that just isn’t suited to be displayed in search.
An Indexation Analysis is Essential because:
- You want search engines to show the most accurate content you have.
- You can gain an understanding of what content is showing up in search results then you can gain an understanding of what content Google views as low quality that could be holding your site back from better rankings.
- Identifying where your content ranks in search can provide valuable insight into opportunities that would take far less effort to gain substantially higher rankings and traffic.
- You can identify pages containing broken elements like links, canonicals and schema.
- Identifying thin content pages or repetitive template pages.
SEO tasks such as indexation analysis are easy to run and won’t take much of your time. There are certain marketing tools that will help you identify these website issues, one of the best to use is Google itself. Google offers free tools to help webmasters improve site performance in a variety of aspects. If you don’t have your website set up with Google Search Console (formerly webmaster tools) — please do that now.
From your Google Search Console account you can quickly navigate to the Search Queries section. Next, choose the Top Pages view.
From here you can download the information for review and assessment, but even looking at this information in your browser you can fairly quickly identify both website pages and keyword terms and their position in Google search. This will allow you to do two things;
- Identify low hanging fruit (pages you can optimize) for a quick boost in rankings.
- Weed out low quality pages that drag down your overall performance in search.
Cannibalization is the process of analyzing unwanted pages, which cover the same or similar topics. Any website that published content on a regular basis will run into this issue. I run into this issue myself, but I look at it as a golden opportunity to improve my rankings. How?
I find that often times I can go back and consolidate similar information into one awesome updated post. This is a huge performance benefit as it generally allows me to increase the length and quality of the post; which Google loves. It provides me with the opportunity to freshen my content and re-optimize my content for whichever keyword I’m targeting. I simply 302 redirect the old pages to my one awesome new page and viola — it’s a ranking win.
Doing an in-depth analysis to find cannibalization issues can become quite difficult as you accumulate pages on your site. The most common process to identify these issues is to use Ahrefs:
- Paste website into Site Explorer;
- Go to the Organic Keywords report;
- Export all keywords to CSV (note: it will also make life easier if you delete any irrelevant data/columns);
- Open the CSV in Excel (or Google Sheets). Then sort the keywords A-Z;
- Manually sift through the file and highlight all duplicate keywords;
A quick down and dirty trick I use a lot is to simply run a Google site search and add a keyword modifier at the end to bring up all similarly themed pages on a given site. I’ll do a quick run through and pull out older outdated pages that can be combined into one awesome page.
Experiment with the new technologies
Like I mentioned above, search engines like Google are always updating and improving, and your website should be updating along with them to ensure you’re delivering the best content in the best format.
Here are some recent technology updates that you should be taking advantage of.
- Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP: It is the most widely used technology which is the method of building quick pages and loads them when the user accesses it through mobiles. This is the first mobile indexing initiative as introduced by the Google. Many people just hesitate to check out the test. However, these are quite good and help your site to move forward in the search engine ranking.
- PWA or progressive Web apps: This is the newest technology introduced which are not meant mainly for the search purposes rather to provide app like experience to the user without downloading anything. Many renowned apps have PWA oriented content which help users in many ways.
Check Your Linking Practices
Achieving a top search ranking for your website’s target keywords isn’t always easy. The difficulty is certainly magnified if you make one or more of the following SEO mistakes.
Whether they are internal or external, allowing broken links to remain on your website may hurt your search optimization efforts. Search engines work by crawling websites, using links to find new pages and other sites. If your website contains broken links, however, the search engines won’t be able to perform this critical function.
The good news is that you don’t have to manually check each and every link to ensure they work. Just visit http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/, enter your site’s URL into the box at the top of the page and click “Find broken links.” The tool will then reveal whether or not your site has broken links, and where those links are located.
Linking to Non-Credible Sources
Think carefully about the sites to which you link. Linking to irrelevant sites that are riddled with spam may have a negative impact on your own site’s search rankings. If you are concerned about the possibility of visitors linking to low-quality sites, use the no-follow tag to prevent search engines from following them. Most of the major content management systems (CMS) already use the no-follow tag for visitor comments by default, protecting the site’s integrity.
Writing Content for Search Engines
Another all-too-common SEO mistake is writing content for search engines rather than visitors. It’s no secret that Google, Bing and Yahoo analyze the text on a webpage to help determine where and how to rank it. But this doesn’t mean that you should stuff X number of keywords into your articles for the sake of trying to rank for those words. This tactic may have worked in the past, but the search engines have since updated their ranking algorithm to prevent this manipulative practice.
Don’t make the mistake of purchasing links. Even if you have good intentions, Google views paid links as a violation of its Webmasters Guidelines, and thus may penalize your website for it. You might be wondering how Google would know if you paid for a link. Well, being the world’s largest and most successful tech company, it is more than capable of distinguishing between a natural/organic link and a paid link. You may sneak a couple paid links by undetected, but the Big G will eventually spot them and penalize your website as a result.
The SEO tasks listed above will help you become the Search Genius SEO, necessary to keep your site maintained and optimized for search. I find that it helps to think of your website as car… keeping it regularly maintained will help keep it from falling apart.