As search engines become increasingly more intelligent, there is a clearer impression of what the ideal website looks like in order to rank on results pages. Website owners must conform to a certain degree of criteria that benchmarks a search engine and user’s expectation of what an ideal website looks like; anything else is discarded.
Imagine a website as a store in a cool shopping center. The center (search engine) aims to deliver the best experience to customers to keep them coming back. If your shop is tatty, unwelcoming, over-priced or underhand, the shopping center will not divert customers in your direction. Search engines work in a similar way. So, it really pays to be diligent, meticulous and thorough when it comes to the ‘shop’, or your online website. In this article, we discuss ten ways you can invigorate your website through some simple yet effective spring-cleaning tasks.
1. Link Rot
Your website’s authority is mostly dictated by external sites that link back to your domain; they effectively vouch for you. Similarly, you provide reference links to other websites to reinforce the information you convey to users (as per the Google guideline for clarity and transparency).
Web pages have a relatively short life-span averaging 100 days! The consequence is link rot; the phenomena where hyperlinks stop directing to the original page (for reasons such as deleted pages, moved pages, closed websites, even expired domains). Though this is not detrimental to your website, it pays to keep an eye on clutter pointing to/from your website; you want to give both visitors and search engine crawlers the most smooth, seamless experience possible (as this will impact your page rank). So, pull up your sleeves, and do a digital clear up that will make Marie Kondo proud.
Tip: Use this broken link checker to identify and fix dead links on your website.
2. Broken Functionality
Sometimes, it can be really small malfunctions on a website that affect its performance. An effective move to take a step back and view it from the eyes of a general website user. Is your intended conversion path clear? Do CTA (call-to-actions) buttons work? Is your Contact Us page clear and straightforward? When did you last test the contact form on your website? Or the checkout process? Or the sign-up form for the newsletter? If you want users to engage properly with your website, you must look at it objectively. Spare an hour a week to go through your pages and see what you may otherwise be missing or overlooking.
Furthermore, this is a really great opportunity to consider the ways that you can enhance the user experience of your website. Maybe some extra detail in your text, or more clear navigation to encourage users to visit more than one or two pages. These are the make or break action points that could encourage either more or fewer users to engage and convert.
3. Outdated Content
Content in a digital context provides something of a snowball effect; the longer duration of time that organic, original and relevant content is available, the more users view it, the greater the authority it ranks for. For this reason, revisiting and updating old content is a far more valuable way of utilizing your website. This particular process is informally referred to as zombie content optimization, i.e., reviving old ‘dead’ content.
In addition, reading through your content gives you time to notice silly spelling errors or poor grammar. It also provides an opportunity to realize gaps in your content; moments where you could add fresh and intuitive information for your website users.
4. Cluttered Navigation
Imagine yourself moving into a brand new, empty house. As you move your things in, the house becomes busy and full. Ideally, you would organize the move so that boxes are placed into their prospective room. Then, over the course of the moving-in period (and as the house becomes more lived-in), you will visit every room and place each individual item in its specific place; tidily and orderly. You want to maintain house pride, organization and a space of harmony.
Your website requires the same care and attention. Inevitably, over time, your website will grow and flourish. Where at one point you may have only had a few top-level pages, eventually you may have many more each owning a plethora of subcategories. It is incredibly important your website navigation remains clear and concise for two reasons; the first is to the benefit of your user. Their experience must be seamless and enjoyable. Information should be adequately displayed (such as the expectation of a website to be transparent), and the user must be well-guided with obvious CTAs; handhold them to a point of conversion.
The second reason is that a search engine will rank you by the way your website pages interconnect and ‘flow’. Page equity and authority is drip-fed from the home page into all the different channels of your navigation menu. Keeping this spick and span is really important as part of your website spring clean.
5. Missed SEO Opportunities
SEO (search engine optimization) requires a great amount of attention to both upkeep and protect a website. Tools such as Screaming Frog and SEMrush allow you to see the exact on- and off-page errors that are hampering your websites performance. You will gain a comprehensive view of your page titles, meta tags, H1 & H2 tags, image alt text, redirects, and how they are perceived in the eyes of the search engine. As you focus your attention on SEO, you will optimize these areas to become compliant with search engine guidelines (guidelines which have been influenced hugely by Google as the over-reigning search engine giant).
Tip: You can use the free tool Varvy to perform a quick SEO audit to find out how compliant a page is with Google’s guidelines.
6. Security Vulnerabilities
As our world shifts ever-further towards a digital landscape, there has been a growing need for new security innovations. As such, modern online governance defines what security means in this context. Website owners are encouraged to use HTTPS (as opposed to HTTP) for an extra layer of security (see Let’s Encrypt for free SSL/TLS certificates).
Your CMS (content management system), such as WordPress or Joomla should be updated to the latest version as part of your website spring clean. The update task should also include any installed plug-ins. Keep the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect of your website dust-free, fresh and on-point.
7. Poor Performance
Your website speed has a detrimental effect on how users engage with your pages. Let’s put this into perspective; as the load time of a page goes from 1s to 5s, the probability of users bouncing (leaving) increases by 90%.
So, use PageSpeed Insights to check how fast your website currently loads, then follow the suggestions to improve the score. Another consideration would be upgrading your hosting plan if you have outgrown the existing solution. Finally, uninstall plug-ins you don’t really need as these will only slow the website down.
Another of Google’s updates was to introduce Mobile-First indexing whereby the search engine would rank those websites that were responsive to mobile users higher. As the Digital Age has progressed, and smartphones provide just as much efficiency as desktop computers while on-the-go, mobile traffic has surpassed desktop. Google encourages website developers to “Make sure that Googlebots can access and render your content” as part of complying with the Mobile-First update. If accessing your website from a smartphone is sluggish, then you will want to look at updating your system.
9. Unstylish Design
Website users applaud simplicity, aesthetics and contemporary design. This is especially true for younger generations who rely on instant gratification; if your website layout doesn’t reflect these expectations, then you may want to consider a rebuild. Make certain that all the most important information you want a user to see is before the website ‘fold’. It will ideally be captivating yet straightforward, informative yet attractive. An outdated design is a huge turn off for visitors and reflects poorly on your brand.
Tip: Conduct a website design audit as described here.
10. High Bounce Rate
Your website Bounce Rate is an incredibly important metric to consider during your website spring clean. This figure is a measurement of how many visitors come to your site and leave it (bounce) straight away. There are certain factors that inevitably affect Bounce Rate, such as the ‘wrong’ or unintentional traffic arriving at your site (this can be reduced through content optimizing where you fine-tune how your website is ‘seen’ by a search engine, for example).
It is also reflective of how well users respond to your website. Therefore, a high Bounce Rate often means that there is something wrong with the site that drives visitors away. A good place to start is by checking your site’s Google Analytics account; here you will gain vast clarity on website performance and determine those pages with high Bounce Rates. From the information that you cultivate, you can optimize these pages to better match visitors’ expectations.
While we have discussed the various ways that you should conduct a spring-clean, in an ideal world, your website should receive on-going care and attention to ensure its continued efficiency and performance. Using the tools that we have suggested in this article, you can maintain a consistent eye on your website both on- and off-page. Providing continued upkeep lends you the opportunity for a highly regarded website full of originality, authority and wholesomeness. This provides great foundations on which to build and grow.