spring cleaningSpring is upon us, blackberries are budding with cute white flowers and its time to do some cleaning.  I’m not talking about your house, though; I’m talking about your website.  When was the last time you checked to see how your site was doing?  If you invested in optimization but haven’t looked at it for a while, is your site still optimized?  When was the last time you checked to see if your links work?

Just like your house, your website can (and will) gather clutter as the years go by, so it’s good to look it over at least once a year and make sure you’re still on track.  Now, this isn’t just about site optimization, it’s also about site quality, and the following information can help with both.

Website Optimization

Search Ranking Check
If you haven’t checked your ranking in the search engines lately, do so.  Go ahead – type in your keywords in the search bars.  Is your ranking better or worse than it was last year?  If it’s better, your site optimization is in good health.  If it’s worse, you need to add some new content or choose different keywords.

Content Check
How old is your content?  Has it been around since Ronald Reagan?  If your content has cobwebs, you’ll need to make sure it’s still relevant.  If it’s not, it’s time to – you guessed it – add more content.  If you only have a certain amount of pages you can use on your site and can’t add more content, rewrite what you have so that it becomes relevant.

Head Check
In almost every web page, or at least the index page, there is a <head> tag.  If you look at the code on your page, you should only see a few lines in between the <head> and </head> tags.  If you see a lot of code – java script ends up in here a lot -, check with your programmer and see if it can be called from a separate page.  Search engine crawlers only see about 100 kilobytes of data from your page; if your site is optimized but has a lot of code in these tags, you’re loosing a large part of your optimization benefits.

Header Check
Again, look over your code and web page.  If you have headers, make sure they have the header attribute (h1, h2, h3, h4…) and that your keywords are nicely nestled in the text.  If you have headers and you’re missing these attributes, again, talk to your programmer.  Those search engine crawlers put a lot of weight on the text within those tags.

Website Quality

Slow Pages
Slow loading pages are one of the main reasons visitors don’t stay on your site.  Nobody wants to wait for what seems like hours to look at a web page, no matter how interesting they think it might be.

One of the main reasons for slow pages is the size and amount of images.  If you have a lot of images, chances are that your site is loading slow.  A website auditor program can help with finding out which pages are slow and which aren’t.

Broken Links
Nothing is more irritating than clicking on an interesting link, only to be led to the “oops” page.  Check your links; if you have a links or partners page, go through and see if any have disappeared or moved.  Also, as time goes by you may add pages and take them away.  In this case, you want to make sure that the pages you’ve taken away no longer have links leading to them.

Orphaned Files
As you take pages away, sometimes all people do is remove the links from other places on the site.  This means you now have an orphaned file sitting on your server.  Orphaned files have no links to them at all.  A large amount of these can slow down your server time.

With a little bit of patience and time, you can once again have a clean, smooth site by paying attention to these key areas.  And if you come across something else while you’re working (which you probably will), take the time to fix those, too.  Remember, a healthy site is a happy site; Happy Spring Cleaning!