Spring is starting to roll around again, temperatures are rising and the anticipation of growth is in the air. If you want your site to continue to survive and thrivie throughout the year it’s important that you give it an SEO Spring Clean as it were to ensure that your sites core SEO is properly in place. Without a thorough annual cleaning you run the risk of your site underperforming in organic search and with that a loss of traffic, leads and business. This SEO checklist will hopefully serve to give you a good starting point for items to check as part of your SEO spring clean.
SEO Isn’t Just A Once A Year Thing!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes here it’s important to point out that WordPress SEO isn’t just a once a year thing. Like going to the gym just once a year won’t help you hulk up just tending to your sites SEO once a year won’t give it the best chance of success but is much better than doing nothing. We recommend that our clients add about one post a week as part of the ongoing SEO effort which then also feeds into their social media marketing and online marketing in general. This is being mentioned now as don’t want to create a perception that SEO is done just once a year – as that isn’t the case. Anyway, that that caveat out of the way, let’s get to SEO checklist.
SEO Checklist For Annual Spring Clean
Ok so, in particular order, here are some of the areas that should form the basis for your SEO checklist to make sure your site is in a healthy SEO shape.
- Indexing Status: Check to see what Google has indexed for your site. Head to Google.com and search for “site:yourdomain.com” to see what Google has indexed. Have a scan of the SERPs and make sure that only pages/posts/products you want indexed are indexed. Also click through to the last page of results to see if Google is omitting a lot of pages from the results – you don’t want Google to omit anything and if it is that’s a sign of too many low quality pages being submitted for indexing.
- Titles/Meta Descriptions: Over the course of the year the the standards for title/meta description length may have changed. As the devices people use change Google changes the character/pixel widths for titles and descriptions and so each page/post on site should be checked to make sure it’s compliant with current standards. A tool like ScreamingFrog is great for finding pages/posts which no longer comply with standards for titles and meta descriptions. On the topic of titles/metas it’s also important to ensure that they are well written and that you have no duplicates or blanks – if you spot any sort it out!
- Sitemaps/Robots: Throughout the year as new plugins get added to sites they may create their own post type which in turn may result in that post type getting added to your XML sitemap. This, my friend, is something you don’t want as you only want your sitemaps to contain pages/posts which you want Google to index. Check your sitemaps to ensure no stray taxonomies or post types are included in it. Also check your robots.txt to make sure that it is keeping up with current best practice as some changes may also be required here. Also, if you’re linking to your sitemap from your robots.txt and you’ve recently switched to https then make sure to update your robots.txt file.
- Site Speed: As more and more users are using mobile devices to access the web, and the tolerance of users for slow sites decreases the importance of having a site that loads quickly increases. There are a variety of factors to site speed like server power, site setup, caching, CDN, minification etc and instead of being guided strictly by the Google Page Speed score (which is almost impossible to get 100% on) have a look at the actual load times of your site from a tool like Pingdom.
- HTTPs: Avid readers will have seen us talking about SSL and more SSL as of late but we were beating the drum about it for good reason. SSL is becoming a more important factor for SEO and can also help increase a users trust in your site and so to not have an SSL at this stage, well, doesn’t make sense.
- Images: Throughout the course of the year many new pages and posts may get added and sometimes images may be hurriedly added to the site without properly resizing, compressing and optimising. Having super sized images can be bad for load times and so they should be checked to make sure they are sized correctly so not an SEO negative in that regard. Tools like Smush can help with onsite compression but should also size images correctly before uploading. On top of that you should check the filenames, alts & titles for images to make sure they are SEO friendly. It’s the small actions, repeated over and over, that can make the difference for your sites ranking, so do it!
- 404s/Server Errors: Check your GSC (Google Search Console) to ensure there are no 404 or server errors. If you have pages which are 404ing then either resolve the broken link or 301 redirect to a page/post on site. The number of 404s a site has reflects on the overall level of maintenance of a site and needless to say the lower the 404 count the better for SEO. On top of that, from a UX point of view, sending customers to dead ends via broken links isn’t going to improve their perception of your site or business, take 404s seriously and eliminate them.
- Backlink Audit: Now is a good time of the year to do a backlink audit and see who you have linking to you and if you identify any spammy links they should be disavowed. As part of the audit you should also think of sites that could or should be linking to you and compile a list of target sites – be it business suppliers, niche bloggers, distributors, brand advocates, etc- to contact and create content or compelling reasons for them to link back to you. Tools like Semrush can be very useful for backlink audits.
General Onsite SEO
The basic fundamentals of onsite SEO should never be overlooked. Once you have all the other SEO elements mentioned above in order you should make sure that what is on each page and post is the best it can be from an SEO point of view. Tools like Screaming Frog can help you make sure that the onsite SEO basics like: having proper titles and descriptions, use of header tags, having no duplicate tags, no missing image alt tags – amongst a host of other things – are as they should be.
Your Annual SEO Audit & Tune Up
The above SEO checklist should hopefully form the basis for you to be able to do your own annual SEO audit and see what needs to be improved. From there you should be able to tune your site up as once you know what the issue is you can then work to resolve it.