SEO Health Check – Can we future-proof our sites?

In the digital industry, there are constant scare tactics used that make us feel what we are doing just simply isn’t good enough. With the ‘death of SEO‘ and ‘Mobilegeddon’ it starts to feel like every latest update will be the start of the digital apocalypse. So how do we make sure we will survive?

dontpanic

The Initial Check

As we all know, there have been lots of big changes to how search engines work. So the first step is to ensure you’re covering the basics with your site. If you’re already sick, you’ll never survive once the Zombies attack.

Technical Integrity – The starting point of all site performance is related to the technical integrity of the site. A crawl of your site can give you huge insight into the technical side of things, which you wouldn’t necessarily notice from a user perspective. Using a tool, like Screaming Frog, will mimic the way search engines crawl your site so you can see areas where equity might be lost.

Look out for:

  • Non-200 status codes
  • Missing canonical tags
  • Duplicate or Missing Page Titles
  • Missing GA code

Quickly resolving issues, such as internal redirects and wasted crawl budget, will help boost your site’s overall organic performance.

Links – Whilst ‘link building’ might get you in trouble these days, it is still essential for websites to have links in order to rank – but not just any links.
In order to compete in the world of SEO, you need to have great content and great links to that content. If you’re looking for links which will support your SEO performance then you should check if the link:

  • Is as relevant as possible to the content and site audience
  • Comes from a popular (and trustworthy) domain
  • Has relevant, natural-sounding anchor text
  • Ideally is a ‘follow’ link

Google doesn’t want you paying for links, with money or freebies, or anything that might be viewed as unnatural. But, don’t let that stop you from reaching out for those important links; build a network of people that can help you get your content out there and the rest will follow. You can use tools like Kerboo to check your link profile, identify link opportunities and check your competitors’ backlinks.

Content – “Content is King”, I’m sure you’ve heard this saying by now. What that really means is that content is a top priority that you should put effort and resources into, ensuring that it performs as intended.  Whilst technical SEO sets the foundations of your site performance in place, the content can act as a supporting player and help your site go that extra step. To do this you need to create content that is:

  • Unique – Content must be unique within your own domain and also across the rest of the internet; Siteliner is an awesome free tool for checking internal duplication across a sample of your site
  • Useful – Try to inform, entertain or persuade with your content rather than just producing content for content’s sake
  • Engaging – Interactive & user-generated content tends to get higher levels of customer response
  • Fresh – Update your content often to demonstrate an active website which is up to date

siteliner-example

It’s difficult to go wrong with content as long as you always have a clear vision and goal behind your content creation. It’s important to keep things interesting and aim to be producing better than anything that has been produced before.

Follow the Latest Trends

In SEO there is constant change in what really sits within the ‘basics’. There are new advancements in the technology we use all the time – some of which stick around, whilst others disappear just as quickly. In the past year, there’s 3 that really stand out to me as ones that are here to stay. So if you’re not already doing the following then it’s time to catch-up:

Mobile Friendly – If your content is not served in a mobile-friendly way you need to act fast – everything is pointing to mobile-first being the norm. Google has been adamant about this and urges Webmasters at every chance they get. The tools Google provides are a good start but it’s important to also check yourself across devices. Mobile-friendly does not only mean the site being responsive but also must be easy to use, that means no buttons too close together and loads on a mobile connection. 

Mobile-Friendly-test

HTTPS – HTTPS (also known as HTTP over SSL) is a protocol for secure communication over the internet. Google is very passionate about ensuring a secure web and has been pushing webmasters to adopt this protocol. This involves purchasing an SSL certificate and migrating to HTTPS, a process that can cause multiple issues to inexperienced webmasters, especially from an SEO point of view. Google has indicated that pages served over HTTPS will be given some priority but so far the impact has been minimal. There is a massive shift to HTTPS however, and it is recommended for some sites, specifically news and e-commerce. The bottom line is that security is very important to search engines and users, so you should have a plan in place for adopting this protocol as soon as possible.

AMP –  Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a framework to help improve mobile web experiences and reduce load times of rich media such as videos, graphics and GIFs. Google launched this project in hope to create a faster and more enjoyable mobile experience for all users. Google has now introduced AMP Lite to help with providing a seamless experience to users with limited bandwidth by reducing the data behind the content to boost page load time.The AMP Lite version is currently being rolled out in countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as users of low ram devices.

While AMP is not a ranking factor at this point, Google has started to show more AMP pages in mobile SERPs, so it’s one way to boost your traffic and brand visibility. Users can see if a page is served as AMP with a symbol and the letters AMP as seen below:

amp example serp

What’s next?

If you’re already successful at all of the above then it can be difficult to know where to go next with your SEO efforts. It’s easy to see an existing trend and adapt to it, but being able to see what is coming next in the world of SEO is much trickier. There are a couple of advancements currently in the background though so these are a good starting point:

Knowledge Graph – So Knowledge Graph has been around for a long time, but it’s important to stay up to date with it as Google continually adds more and more features to it. Some of the best analysis of different featured snippets was done by the team at STAT. But you shouldn’t just stop there; regularly monitoring the many types of snippet, and where you see them appearing, will help you to be one step ahead when it comes to owning these valuable positions in the SERPs. In the meantime, use appropriate markup on your data to help it gain these listings, and keep your explanatory pieces (step by steps, definitions, Q&As) simple. Using a TL;DR summary at the top of the page and then adding depth in the rest of the content should help both search engines and users recognise you as a useful source for the information.

Voice Search – With an increase of in-home devices and the popularity of any type of voice search increasing, it’s important that you are ready for this to take up a portion of your SEO attention. Your listings need to be in the best format for this type of search. There are a few good articles on this (for example this one on State of Digital), but limited testing has really been done. We assume that as the majority of these searches are on mobile that optimising according to the mobile-friendly rules will help, likewise with Knowledge Graph and attention to detail on Local Search. There are tools like Moz Local which can help you increase consistent references to your different locations. With a tonne of different partners, and more launching regularly, the comprehensive service supports local search performance – and consequently should help with your performance in voice searches too.

This article is just a very brief overview of some of the factors you need to consider when you are planning your future-proof SEO strategy. If you’ve been working in the sector long enough, you’ll remember the volume of sites that were hit by updates like Penguin and Panda, the result of tactics which were commonplace before the algorithm changes. Unless you can tell the future then it’s impossible to protect your site 100%, but you can give yourself the best chance by focusing on a good user experience for your current consumers and following the latest SEO changes. An awareness of all digital marketing trends, and reading lots of different sources on the subjects, will help you make better predictions and support you building much more solid strategies in the future.

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Hannah Thorpe

About Hannah Thorpe

Hannah Thorpe is a Director at White.net, with 3 years’ experience in content marketing and technical SEO so far. White.net is a digital marketing agency which works across SEO, PPC, Content Marketing and Digital PR.

  • Exactly what I needed. This was a good read. Thanks Hannah for sharing these tips!

  • Great post, just reading this after adding an SSL to my site, will see if it makes any ranking difference.

  • Thanks for the heads up! People are looking for information and we should take into consideration that giving these people the content they want can boost online campaign performance.

  • Thanks for informative tips.

  • Geir Brå Ellefsen ⚡️

    Great post. I totally agree that one should watch out for robots.txt errors, non-200 status codes, misconfigured canonical tags, missing GA code, mobile friendliness, pagespeed and other common issues. It’s just too much to keep track of when you have many clients. With the constant adding of new stuff to the list.

    After having seen way too many clients and other sites mess up due to developers forgetting something or human mistakes I decided to look for a way to automate health checks. Robotto.org is a great tool, but is too limited. There are also tools like Pingdom that will notify you when a site is down. But not really a tool to help SEOs monitor and alert when issues that needs instant attention are found. We have started to build some SEO health checks in Tiaki.io, but I would be very interested in ideas for more health checks that should be automated.