Tips on How To Improve Your Website – Checklist

At the dawn of the internet websites were created without much thought as to what changes, if any, would need be made in the future. To keep your website relevant, gaining new links, keeping users satisfied and getting traffic from search engines, you need to have a maintenance plan. As with any maintenance plan small improvements performed regularly are better than large radical changes made infrequently.

Perform a Content Audit

If you only do one thing from this checklist performing a content audit on a regular basis should be it. Regularly check for outdated content, prune back or eliminate dead or useless pages/sections. Keep your website as big as it needs to be, no bigger, there’s not a lot of value in having lots of pages users never visit, and search engines don’t send traffic to.

Improve Internal Linking

It’s important you use your internal links wisely and inbound link equity effectively by creating link hubs wisely. There should be some shift in terms you auto link as new content gets added and old content loses popularity.

Clean Up Your URL Structure

Your URL structure is largely defined by your CMS, however you usually have options. Shorter is better than longer, directory/folders are nice but not necessary,and you should avoid dates or numbers sequences that look like dates whenever possible. Avoid parameters if at all possible, and stay away from mobile subdomains. Depending on what you are doing “wrong” and how “bad” it is you want to think before making any huge radical changes or fixing what’s “broken”. Using the rel=”canonical” tag can help solve some of these problems, but it’s a best to get it right, and not use band aid solutions for bad information architecture.

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

In 2011 I wrote how I felt giving your website mobile compatibility should be your number 1 IT project, I still feel that way. While devices like the iPad were designed to be consumption devices, consumers are using them to make purchases. Creating a dedicated app may get you up to speed faster, but in the long run its more maintenance, and doesn’t solve the problem of a bad user experience for users who don’t have the app. Use one URL, serve the content & style sheet via user agent detection, do not use parameters or mobile subdomains.

Stop Renewing Domains You Aren’t Using

Anyone who has been in the industry for a while, likey has a sizable domain portfolio, while $10 a domain may not sound like a lot of money, every hundred domains you register is $1000 a year. If they don’t have any exact match, high keyword value, aren’t earning you any money, and you aren’t going to develop them in 5 years, don’t renew it and stop throwing money away. This of course doesn’t apply to vanity domains or misspellings you may be holding for trademark or branding purposes.

Re-Evaluate Your Microsite Strategy

Microsites are an often abused SEO tactic (see When is Using Microsites a Good Idea). Chances are at some point, you have dabbled and have microsites out there. If you are over the spam line, or dancing right next to it, it might be time to pull the plug, especially if it’s not bringing you traffic or income (directly or indirectly). Maybe you have microsites covering two aspects of a niche, is it big enough to require more than one website, can you dedicate the time to running multiple microsites? If something is costing you more in time or money than it is generating in revenue, that’s usually a good indicator it’s time has come to an end. Not every website can last forever, some get a good 3, 5 or 10 year run, some longer, but few can last forever.

Look into Speeding up Your Website

Look into making your pages and site as whole as fast as possible. The days of flash are gone, and if you are using Ajax or other scripting technologies sure you are using them smartly (see tips for Ajax for SEO). Eventually shifting to HTML 5 should make its way onto your priority list.

Develop a Testing Platform

Everyone who is involved in website publishing, marketing, or optimization, should have 1 or 2 test sites. Ideally these should be real websites that are public, have real information, and aren’t sitting on an authority domain. You want them to be low maintenance and have low commercial intent, it makes it so much easier to run and build links for. A yearly local community project/event makes an excellent topic.

Re-Evaluate Your Social Media Strategy

At this stage there are very few websites niches that wouldn’t benefit from being involved in social media. You need to look at your social media game plan and make sure you are getting something out of it and it is worth the time investment (see Is Social Media About Conversations). Look into tools like Raven Tools, Hootsuite, and Bufferapp to help you automate, get more done with less time investment.

Pay Attention to Important News and Trends

It’s important to stay on top of news or trends in the industry, but it’s easy to spend to much time reading news and information and not doing any work. It’s important to know about major changes like Panda or when the Atlantic writes about the glut of infographics and Matt Cutts shares it, it’s not important you follow the daily drama ego stroking that permeates the tech industry on sites like techmeme. Set a daily limit to how much time you spend on keeping up to date, use services like summify to help you extract the most value in the least amount of time.

So what are the takeaways from this post:

  • Perform a content audit regularly, keep your website lean and mean
  • Maximize your inbound link equity with smart internal linking
  • Look at your URL structure keep it clean and make sure it’s not creating problems
  • Make Your website as mobile friendly as possible, don’t take shortcut solutions that will haunt you later
  • Re-evaluate your microsite strategy, use it where it makes sense, kill it where it doesn’t
  • Consolidate your domain portfolio
  • Look to increase your page speed, kill flash use Ajax where necessary and look to shift to HTML 5
  • Develop a testing platform
  • Re-evaluate your social media strategy, look to get more value with less time investment
  • Pay attention to important news don’t waste time on things that aren’t

photo credit: Shutterstock/ Jean Valley

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