When was the last time you went to the dentist?
Likely, it’s been a while.
Because let’s face it:
Most people hate going to the dentist.
It’s a nerve-wracking—and often painful—experience.
You might think you’re going in just for a clean and checkup, but if they find anything wrong with your teeth, then it becomes a long (and expensive) process to fix.
If you get the same feeling in the pit of your stomach when thinking about SEO health checks as you do when thinking about going to the dentist, you’re not alone.
But performing an SEO health check doesn’t need to be as painful as you might think.
By the end of this article, you’ll be better equipped and more motivated to complete regular checkups on your website.
How Often Does Your Website Need an SEO Health Check?
Speaking of regular, just how often do you need to check on your website’s SEO?
When it comes to your dental health, the more often you go to the dentist, the healthier your teeth will be. This, in turn, means that cleanings will be less painful, and you’ll have fewer costly issues to deal with.
The same is true with your SEO health.
The more often you go through your website’s SEO profile, the easier this process will be. Your website will stay healthier, and you’ll be able to catch and fix issues while they’re still small, before they turn into something much larger and harder to fix.
A good interval for regular SEO health checks would be at least every 6 months. For larger, high-traffic websites, you’ll probably want to do a health check even more often.
So, let’s dive in to this painless four-step process to make your SEO health checkups easier than ever!
The Essential SEO Health Check: 4 Steps for a Quick and Painless Checkup
Step #1: Check for Signs of Negative SEO
Negative SEO is like a cavity. Identifying the problem early and getting ahead of it will save you a lot of pain in the future.
Taking care of negative SEO quickly will help you prevent or recover from any penalties, which is why this is such an important step to cover.
Look for Spam Backlinks
We’ll talk more about doing a general backlink checkup in a later step, but for now let’s focus on finding those spam backlinks.
An influx of spam backlinks is the biggest indicator of a negative SEO attack, so it’s important to tackle this first.
The simplest and most effective way to do this is by using a tool like Monitor Backlinks to audit your website’s backlink profile.
(If you don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account, pick up a 30-day trial here to follow along for free!)
Just head to the Backlinks tab to see a complete list of every backlink pointing to your site.
You’ll see that some links are flagged with a warning symbol in the first column, which means they show signs of spam.
If you click on the warning sign, you’ll see more information about why each link has been flagged, as well as some options you can take (disavow the domain, or mark the backlink as good/bad/pending/ignored).
Once you’ve inspected all these flagged links more closely, I’d recommend marking it as either Good or Bad.
If you were to mark it as Bad, you’ll see a red thumbs down appear in the place of the warning symbol, like this:
You can unmark backlinks easily as well, by clicking on the symbol again and selecting “Remove marking Bad.”
Once you’ve gone through all the flagged links in your backlink profile and identified the spammy ones, it’s time to do something about them.
Monitor Backlinks has a super-easy-to-use disavow feature, which allows you to quickly rid your website of spammy backlinks that could be contributing to negative SEO.
Just go back to all the spam links that you marked as Bad in the previous step. These should be disavowed so that Google doesn’t consider them when crawling your site, preventing you from any penalties.
Select all these links with the checkbox in the left column.
Then, click “With Selected” in the top drop-down menu, followed by “Disavow.”
Navigate to the Disavow tab to find, check and export your disavow file.
Then, just submit it to Google’s Disavow Tool in order to get those backlinks removed and keep your website penalty-free!
At this point you should also check to make sure that any previous disavows are still in effect. The bad guys who are serious about negative SEO can also delete your disavow file, so it’s important to check every once in a while to make sure it’s still there.
Report Duplicate Content
Another way to stop negative SEO in its tracks is to check for and report duplicate content. Imposters can set up websites which use your exact content, bringing your SEO down.
You can use Copyscape to quickly and easily check for any duplicate content across the web for free. If duplicate content is a serious problem for you, you might want to consider signing up for the paid version which also alerts you when it finds new copies of your content.
If you do find any duplicate content, you can report this to Google by filing an infringement notification.
Step #2: Check Your Content
Your content is the backbone of your SEO strategy. It’s essential to regularly check on your content to make sure it’s performing at top capacity.
Update Old Content
As time goes by and things change, your content may gradually become out of date. For SEO, this is a problem.
For example, let’s say you wrote a cornerstone post that’s the ultimate guide to a certain topic. This post has drawn in tons of relevant, authority-building backlinks, which in turn boosts your SEO profile.
However, a year or two after you wrote the original post, the information it contains is no longer the most up to date, and some isn’t even accurate anymore.
Soon, you’ll begin to see the number of backlinks to that page drop as people replace their link to your page with a link to a more up-to-date post on that topic.
That’s why it’s so important to revisit and update cornerstone content with lots of backlinks.
If you click on the Reports tab in Monitor Backlinks, you can see the “Top Linked Pages” report about halfway down. This report tells you, in an easy-to-read graph, which pages on your site are earning you the most backlinks.
These are the pages to focus on in your health check. Update the content and replace out-of-date information to continue drawing in new links.
Revisit Your Targeted Keywords
Your SEO health check should always include an analysis of how your pages rank for their targeted keywords. If a page is ranking lower than before, dive in to find out what the issue is and bring that ranking back up.
You can use Monitor Backlinks to watch your rankings with certain keywords and check your average keyword position. Just head to the Keywords tab:
Scroll down the page to add keywords to track, and to keep an eye on how you’re performing for those keywords compared to your competitors.
Check for any big drops, and double-check that you’re still targeting the right keywords.
Over time, the popularity of certain keywords changes, which means your posts might be better off optimizing for a different, related keyword instead. Research related keywords to find that low-hanging fruit to improve your ranking.
Check On-Page SEO Signals
You’ll want to check all the essential on-page SEO signals, as well as make sure that your pages are using their targeted keywords in the right places, such as:
- Meta description
- Image alt text
- H2 and H3 headings
The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is a great tool to help you stay on top of this. It allows you to check all these on-page signals for each page as you write, and calls attention to any issues you need to fix.
Update for Better UX
A good user experience is essential for SEO, as the goal of Google and other search engines is to provide a good experience for the user.
Google favors websites that make users happy, so make sure your website complies.
First, you’ll need to check any ads that are on your website. Pages that have excessive amounts of ads or interstitials that severely affect UX will not make Google happy.
And remember: Your pages should be just as user-friendly on mobile as on desktop.
Next, make sure that people don’t have to click too many times in order to find the page they want. Ideally, users should never have to click more than three times to get to their destination.
If you have important pages that require more than three clicks to find, you may want to consider reorganizing your website navigation.
Step #3: Check Your Backlink Profile
Ah yes, backlinks! Google loves good backlinks just as much as dentists love good teeth.
We’ve already talked about disavowing spam backlinks to protect against negative SEO. Now, it’s time to dive in to your whole backlink profile to find out what’s working and what’s not with your link building efforts.
Analyze Your Best Backlinks
It’s a good idea to periodically check on the backlinks that are most important to you: those with high authority and with .edu or .gov extensions, especially if they’re dofollow.
During your SEO health check, revisit those links to make sure they’re still coming in, and analyze any links that you’ve recently lost to see if you can get them back.
With the Backlinks section in Monitor Backlinks, you can filter your link profile to focus on those with the best metrics.
Use the filters on the right to pinpoint your most valuable backlinks (click “Filters” to expand).
I’d recommend filtering for metrics such as:
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Trust Flow
- Citation Flow
You can also use the “Status” filter to show only followed links.
Another important thing to check in this step is your links changelog, under the History tab. Here, you’ll be able to see any links that you’ve lost, have gone down or changed status.
If there are valuable links showing up here, you should investigate why they changed and try to fix them.
It could be something as simple as the site owner entering your URL incorrectly, or sometimes it’s a bigger problem that you can’t do anything about, like the linking site going down.
Check Your Internal and External Links
Your internal links should always be as relevant as possible. Whether you’re linking to other posts on your blog or to landing pages within your website, the links must always be relevant.
When you do your SEO health check, you should also keep an eye out for new content on your website and find relevant places to link to it from other, stronger pages with more link juice.
You’ll also want to check the anchor text on these links to make sure it’s not over-optimized.
When it comes to your external links, you’ll want to make sure that the content you’re linking to is still relevant and up to date. Are there newer, better pages that could replace some of your current external links?
All these simple checks will help you develop an even more powerful backlink profile.
Search for Broken Links
This is also a good time to check for any broken external links. This can happen without you knowing, when a page that you were linking to gets removed.
Using Monitor Backlink’s free HTTP Header Status Checker, you’ll be able to easily find any broken links within your website.
Start by typing in your domain, and checking the box underneath that says “Check the HTTP Status of all the links found in the website.”
Then, watch the resulting list for any 404 codes.
When you find these broken links, replace them as quickly as possible with other relevant links.
Step #4: Check the Technical Stuff
As the final step in your painless SEO health check, you’ll want to go through the important technical bits and ensure that everything is the way it should be.
This will make your website technically healthy, which will make Google happy!
Update Your Site Security
Google has recently been paying more attention to site security, as shown by the July 2018 update to their Chrome browser. Now, Chrome displays a warning that a website is “not secure” if it doesn’t use HTTPS.
While this isn’t an algorithm update, it is a clear sign of how Google feels about site security. Making your website secure is important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you run a website where people need to input payment information.
If your site is not secure, this could lead to less traffic and fewer sales.
How can you fix this?
You’ll need to purchase, activate and install an SSL certificate for your website. Depending on the web hosting you use, they may be able to help you through these steps, so get in contact with them to see.
Check Your Robots.txt File
This file is essential because it allows Google to crawl your website correctly. You want to give Google and other search engines the right access to your site, so checking your robots.txt file should always be a part of your SEO health check.
The best way to do this is by using Google Webmasters Robots Testing Tool.
By checking your robots.txt file with this tool, you’ll see if there are any errors, as well as suggestions for improvement.
Do a Speed Test
Site speed has always been an essential part of a good website, because it’s an essential part of UX. That means Google will consider your site speed when ranking your pages.
On your Monitor Backlinks dashboard, you’ll see a quick overview of your site performance right at the top, including your PageSpeed score:
Hover over the icon for more information, or click the orange button to see your full report from Google Webmasters PageSpeed Insights.
If you click through, the PageSpeed Insights tool will tell you how fast your website loads on both mobile and desktop, as well as giving you suggestions for optimizing your site speed on both.
Check for 302 Redirects
When you must have redirects on your pages, it’s always better to have 301 redirects. This allows any link juice to flow better than with a 302 redirect.
To check your page status, go back to Monitor Backlinks’ free HTTP Header Status Checker, and this time look for any pages that return a 302. These should be changed to a 301 redirect for the best SERP results.
Google has some more information about using 301 redirects here.
Perform a Mobile-Friendly Test
Since Google’s 2015 mobile update, they’ve become much stricter about the need for mobile-friendly websites. If your website doesn’t perform on mobile as well as it does on desktop, your rankings are going to suffer for it.
To make sure your website is in the clear, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check whether or not your website is compatible with mobile devices.
Running a quick mobile-friendly test at the end of your regular SEO health check will ensure that your website is ready for the new world of mobile search.
SEO Health Check Wrap-up
That moment when you’re able to get out of the dentist’s chair is always one of relief.
So, how do you feel after finishing your SEO health check?
With these four basic steps, you’ve been able to cover the most important aspects of your website:
- Negative SEO
- Technical SEO
Do a checkup like this at regular intervals to catch “cavities” when they’re just starting, and make SEO issues much easier to solve.