3 often-missed SEO health checks

An SEO has lots of options when it comes to discovering and diagnosing site issues. Here are 3 health checks to help dig a little deeper!

Sitemap.xml Noise

Bing has officially announced that any more than 1% “noise” in your XML sitemap is detrimental to your site’s SEO health. This includes any entries that 404, 301, 302, 5xx, shouldn’t be indexed, or are duplicate to another entry.

If you are not currently using an XML sitemap, download Screaming Frog SEO Spider, run it on your site, and choose Advanced Export | XML Sitemap (Screenshot)

Upload that file to the root of your site and reference it on the last line of your Robots.txt file. That last line should read:

Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml

Where www.yoursite.com is your domain and sitemap.xml is the name and location of your sitemap.xml file.

If your site already has an XML sitemap, upload it to Screaming Frog in List Mode (Screenshot), run it, and do some error fixing!

Legacy Redirects

If the site you’re working on has gone through multiple iterations or URL structures, this is a super important check. Most site transitions or updates are done without SEO in mind, and it is not unusual to see 50%-75% drops in organic traffic after a re-launch.

If you find your site in this situation, working backwards to find old, incomplete redirects may be the most important SEO fix you can do, as it will reconnect lost link values and in some cases, lost rankings.

Your best bet is to find a listing of all your old URLs from an old site crawl, an old sitemap, or a site backup. If none of these are available, aggregate as many URLs as possible from sources such as Google Webmaster Tools (only gives you 1000 URLs in the 404 report), a Screaming Frog crawl, ahrefs.com, and Open Site Explorer. Create an aggregate list and plug it in to Screaming Frog.

Look for patterns in your 404 pages and create redirect rules to handle as many as possible. 10% or 20% of your 404 errors will need to be handled manually or through a bulk redirect upload, but the work is well worth it. El Toro has performed this task for clients with well over 10,000 404 errors, and has doubled or tripled SEO traffic from this exercise. Contact us if you need a hand – we have automated many of the manual processes in this exercise.

Down links or Devalued Links – Link Attrition

A third often-missed SEO Check is all about the off-page. Over time, links to your site will come down due to site redesigns, webmasters limiting their external links, by accident, or on purpose.

Check out Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer and export their Incoming Links Report. Add to this list any links that you have actively earned, inbound links from Google Webmaster Tools, Ahrefs.com, and any other tool you like. Run a Screaming Frog Crawl on the output using a custom filter. The custom filter would search for:

href=”http://www.yourdomain.com href=”http://yourdomain.com href=”www.yourdomain.com href=”yourdomain.com

in the incoming links’ source code. If there is no match, you have the perfect opportunity to reach out to that site and request your link be put back up!

In Summary

There are always unique ways to check your site’s SEO health, and these are by no means the first or only ones to be done. I suggest you create a checklist of all the possible tests you know of to be done on your site, and hit them on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.