Here are 10 different steps to perform to verify that your website is healthy. It is a good idea to keep your websites healthy because it is a factor that Search Engines take into account to rank your website.
Note that this is often referenced as SEO (Search Engine Optimization,) although this is not exactly what will get you additional hits from search engines. It’s more to do with the technical aspect of your website than the content so it is an important aspect but only because many mistakes of the sort will get you penalized. However, true optimization is when you make your content better to capture more clicks.
A good example of better content is one where you go back to a page to edit a few sentences. Especially, if you include a link, even an internal link, and you just have it on a few words, the link will usually not have much of an effect. Now, if you sell the link, that is, if you edit your text to entice your readers to click on that link (especially useful to send them on a page where you have more affiliate links if it is an internal link!) now you are more likely to get a click and that will help you quite a bit in improving your income over time. This is true SEO.
Now, on with the 20 Steps!
1. Broken Links
It is more than common for links to decay. After a while, your website will have old links that are just useless, but in many cases, the destination page was moved or deleted and the link ends up breaking at some point.
Such links are a negative as far as search engines are concerned. It’s really good practice to come in and fix them. In that regard, WordPress offers a good Plugin called Broken Links Checker (I talk about it here).
The advantage of this plugin is that it is capable of sending you an email so you don’t have to check the website periodically. Instead, you can sleep well and if a problem arises, it’ll tell you. You don’t have to intervene right away, but again, if you let broken links accumulate, it won’t be good for your website as a whole. This is used as a signal that your website is not really “alive”.
Fun Fact — Another name for a broken external link is a “Rotten Link”. In some situation, this is viewed as having had a reference that was a proof of what you are talking about in that page area. However, Link Rot is still viewed negatively by search engines and should be avoided.
2. Domain Status
There are several aspects on a domain, such as its age, that will affect Search Engines. However, most of these, there is nothing you can do about them.
The one thing you must make sure of, though, is to renew your domain name once due. Most domain names cost between $10 and $50 a year. So hopefully you can at least afford that much out of pocket for the first renewal in case your website has not yet generated any money.
To not forget the renewal date, make sure that you either have the Auto-Renew feature turned on (I have not yet seen one domain name provider which doesn’t support this feature!) or make sure that the provider you selected sends you emails about renewal. Note that if you use BlueHost, they offer the domain name as part of your website package so there is no stress with that one. I used GoDaddy and namecheap and both have both features: renewal notices and auto-renewal.
Please don’t get caught by scammers saying that your domain name needs help and pay extras like $90 or even $2,000 for nothing. They can’t easily steal a domain name (not without convincing you of transferring your domain to them), however, charging you random fees happens often.
3. Target Country Hosting
Although that may not seem like much, it is a good idea to host your website in the country you’re targeting. Of course, if you offer goods internationally, then you probably want to host in the main country (probably yours.) The search engines do check the geographic location of the server to have a better idea in which index to add you. So in that sense, it is a good idea to appear in the right country.
Note that this is not a huge factor so you should not worry about it too much. However, keep in mind that if you host your website 40,000 kilometers away from your country, the transfers are going to be slow for most of your visitors. So it has an effect on your website speed which is definitely a factor Google takes into account.
There is one exception for this one. There are some small countries, especially islands like the Bahamas, that do not offer lightning-fast Internet connections. In such a case, I would consider using a server in a mainland country near your island or around your small country.
4. Page Size
Most of us do not have a good way to test the size of a page in terms of Mb of data transferred to view a page. There are tools out there that do that (check out my page about the Google Speed Test online utility), but without going that far there are three things that will help you quickly determine potential problems in that regard:
- How long is the page? Is it more than 10,000 words?
- How many images are present on the page? How large are each image?
- How complicated is your theme? (Does it include images? videos?)
Just plain text is not likely to be of much concern. However, high-quality images are. When you upload images from your smartphone and they were taken at the highest resolution, they are likely over 4,000 x 3,000 pixels in size (mine gives me images of 4,128 x 3096). Unless you are selling those, such images are way too big for 99% of the websites out there.
Use a tool to resize your images before uploading them (you will also save some of your bandwidth!) A good size for the main image is 1,200 in width and whatever height that comes down to keeping the perfect ratio. Images within your text can be 900 pixels in width.
Finally, some themes look really good. However, many make use of large images, many of them. If you create a page with just a small piece of text (“Hello World”) save it, then clear your cache completely and attempt a reload. If that is slow, then your theme is likely the culprit.
Still would like to use a tool to know how long your pages take to download? Try F12 and click on the Network tab. Once there, go to your pages. Again, to test as if you were a first time visitor, make sure to clear your cache first. How the data is shown varies quite a bit from browser to browser. If you can’t find the total amount of time it takes, check out the documentation of your browser.
5. Duplicated Content
If you created your own website you should know whether you duplicated content or not, or… do you?
There is some potential for your content to get duplicated even when you take precautions to avoid such problems. For example, this website home page duplicates the pages in full if I forget to add the “Read More…” tag in my content.
There can also be problems where the same page is accessible using several different URLs.
The Yoast SEO plugin helps with at least making sure that your site has no page appearing more than once. It probably won’t help you with the front page potential fiasco, though.
6. Browser Compatibility
Although some say they have tools that check browser compatibility, be worry about them, they often are software replication that checks compatibility in a fully automated way. Not a human verifying that the website looks decent on each browser.
Two important things here: if you attempt to use a very advanced theme, you increase the possibility that your website doesn’t work right very quickly. Using one of the default themes and not adding plugins that “enhance” the theme should get you where you need to be.
As for verifying compatibility, I do it myself once in a while. Especially once the website is up and going. You don’t have to check each and every page. Make sure the home page and a few others are all working as expected one each browser you can put your hands on. Remember that most are free to download and run so you can really test many quickly (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, on Desktop and a smartphone should get you going. If you have a Mac, testing Safari is a good idea too.)
7. Text in Image
The main image that is shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media websites should have little text on it—unless it is a cartoon. Facebook has clearly mentioned that way more people click on images without any text and therefore they check for text over images and do not show such images as much (and yet we see those memes all the time, still…)
So make sure to make use of images that do not include text or very little. This is expected to increase your number of clicks.
8. Refresh Tags (but who uses that still?!)
In the old days, people would use a special HTML tag to refresh a page once in a while. It is called the Refresh META tag and it looked like this:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5; url=https://example.com/">
The “5” means the refresh will happen after 5 seconds. When present, the url=… parameter indicates that your browser will redirect you to that other page. This was a cheap way of redirecting a user to another page. Now we expect servers to use a 301 or 302 code which is transparent to the end user. The Refresh tags are actually viewed negatively by search engines. If you have an old site or somehow added such tags to your existing site, just make sure to remove them. If you need a redirect, look at the Redirection plugin instead.
9. Too Many Redirects
Whenever you create a website, you are not unlikely to change the name of the page and make sure that the URL changes alongside. This is a very good idea.
By default, the Redirection plugin is going to redirect your users to the original page if it still knows about it. You may also add a 301 or 302 redirect manually (something I recommend if you change the URL of an old page.)
Over time, though, you could end up with multiple 301 in a row. Say you had a page about cars that you named “How to Fix your Squeaky Doors”. At first, you entered this other name: “Fix Squeaky Door” so your URL ends up being “fix-squeaky-door”. Since you replaced that title, you want to change the URL and create a 301 from “fix-squeaky-door” to “how-to-fix-your-squeaky-doors”.
A few months later, you want to change the name of the page again because you now have 10 ways to fix squeaky doors: “10 Ways to Fix Your Squeak Doors”. So you go ahead and create a new 301 redirect from “how-to-fix-your-squeaky-doors” to “10-ways-to-fix-your-squeak-doors”.
This means you now have two 301 redirections when the user goes to the first URL “fix-squeaky-door”. since that will first send people to “how-to-fix-your-squeaky-doors” before sending them to the new URL.
To fix the problem, edit that old 301 redirection and change the destination to the new URL.
Note that any number of 301 have no effect if no one ever linked to your old page. If that’s the case, then you should just remove the 301. Unfortunately, all Redirection implementations I’ve seen so far count the number of times such a URL is hit, but it includes hits from search engines. In other words, you can’t be sure that a 301 is now not necessary except…
The Google Search Console has a section that shows you all the pages that link to your site. You can search per page (i.e. whether a certain page of your website has external links pointing to it.) If you find external links pointing to your page, you can check and see what URL they use. If none of them use the old URL, remove that 301. It’s not necessary anymore.
10. Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml
Google and other search engines make use of these two files to check out your website.
WordPress automatically includes a valid robots.txt so there should be no problem there if you are using that Content Management System (CMS). Otherwise, you can see your robots.txt file by specifying it in your URL:
Note that when you installed a CMS in a sub-directory, for example, a blog under a folder named /blog/, then the robots.txt generated by that CMS is ignored. That’s a case where you want to verify that the robots.txt file is correct.
The sitemap.xml file is not automatic with WordPress. You have to install a plugin. Follow the link for more information about that. The sitemap.xml will be complete, meaning that all the pages will be included so you do not have to worry about it otherwise. Still, you can check it by going to your website sitemap.xml page list this:
In most cases, especially for smaller websites, you do have to use a (complicated) tool to verify that your website is working as expected.
As a result, this helps you save money because often such tools ask for a small charge. Some even offer on-going verifications to make sure your website continues to perform at its best over time. Watch out because such can end up being quite costly and unless this is already your livelihood and you have thousands of pages, it’s unlikely to help you with your Internet Affiliate endeavor.