The Importance of Site Structure Maintenance
This week I am at SearchLove Boston and we always have a give it up session. No tweets, just the best tips. Well I am breaking the rules and telling you one of them … my tip. It’s in no way dark or shady, it’s actually a housekeeping tip that very few companies actually do consistently.
Tip: Every 6 months, recrawl your site and fix broken links and internal redirects.
Seems easy right? Right. Then why in the world is this a big deal? I hear some of you now. Don’t close the window just yet (unless you are doing this already, if so, have a great day!). The rest of you, hear me out. This one task can not only reduce your workload in the future but it’ll also help with indexation and internal link equity flow. This could mean that your pages will rank slightly better. How? Glad you asked.
We all crawl sites, but that is typically only at the beginning and then only again when we make a major change to the whole site. That can mean 1-5 years between site crawls. When redesigning a site, it’s always a good idea to crawl the new site to ensure everything is working correctly. Some URLs might have changed (hopefully not many) and testing the code is just good practice.
The issue comes when you haven’t crawled your site in years and find that there are now redirects going to redirects, going to broken pages. This is especially prevalent when the site has thousands or millions of pages. A website of that magnitude has a number of people changing things. Marketing, outreach, IT, PR, the list just goes on and on.
The time savings comes when you do this crawl every few months. If you catch internal redirects and broken pages every 3-6 months, there are fewer things to fix. Do it all at once during a site change, and it’ll never get done. Fixing redirects is just not high on the list of things to do during a site launch. It’s like gaining weight. I am not a fan of weighing yourself everyday, but stepping on a scale every month is generally a good idea. 5 pounds is easier to manage than 30 pounds.
Strengthen Pages and Rank Better
Internal redirects are not the end of the world, we all know to do 301 redirects when URLs change or go missing. What is sometimes missed though is after the redirect is put in place, the internal links to that old URL from PDFs, newsletters and blog posts remain. They are just redirected. Years later, that link equity is just not flowing as well, and some of those content pieces could be really strong. But their link equity is going through a filter. Your main pages are not getting as much link equity as they could be getting.
This is especially important for long tail search. Product pages just don’t get as much external link equity and many rank just from internal link equity. The better internal link equity flows to these pages, the better they will rank.
In addition to strengthening your pages, fixing broken links and those internally redirecting also has the potential of helping with indexation. If you remove some of the roadblocks for the search engines, they can then spend more time going deeper into your site. This isn’t guaranteed to happen with your site, but isn’t it worth a try?
BONUS: Link Karma
We don’t just have old links to our own stuff, many sites are linking to other sites that have gone through URL changes. Crawling your site will show you where you are linking to a redirected URL on another site. Take the time to go and fix those as well. This might save a user from a 404 and you from fixing that 404 someday. It is also just nice to help clean up the Internet a little.
Steps to Site Structure Maintenance
Step 1: Crawl Site (I prefer Screaming Frog but Xenu works well)
Step 2: Download report of 300 errors and 400 errors. These reports from Screaming Frog will give you the offending link and what page on your site hosts the link.
Step 3: Use SEO Tools for Excel to identify where the redirected links are going using the HttpStatus command in the Onpage menu.
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until all the redirected URLs return a 200 status code.
Step 5: Fix broken and internal redirects.
Remember, do this every 6 months at least and you will be saving yourself time and increasing site performance.