Just when you think you’re on top of your SEO strategy, Google comes along with a new update to mess it all up again.
Enter SEO hygiene.
Taking proactive steps to keep your site clean and running smoothly can help buffer against external factors, supporting your long-term goals for your site and marketing strategy.
So what is SEO hygiene all about? In this column, you’ll learn what it is, why it’s so important, and SEO hygiene best practices you can put to work right away to help improve your rankings and drive more revenue.
Let’s get to it.
What Is SEO Hygiene?
If you’ve never heard this term before, don’t worry; it will make a lot of sense here shortly.
Every day, people perform tasks for their own health and hygiene to make sure that they look and feel their best.
SEO hygiene is similar. You’ll be conducting routine checks on your own website or your client’s website and setting it up for long-term success.
The benefits of good SEO hygiene include:
- Higher rankings.
- Establishing yourself as an authority.
- Building credibility and trust.
- Increased revenue.
As sites or organizations grow in size, the concept of good SEO hygiene is increasingly important.
How Does Bad Hygiene Affect Your Site?
Driving organic search traffic to a site helps generate revenue, increase interest, and boost brand awareness.
When you don’t have a plan in place for your site’s hygiene or have not followed the procedures you do have in place, it can lead to major issues including:
- Loss of revenue.
- Lower search visibility.
- Reduced search traffic.
- Potential site penalties.
Anyone that has been in the field for any length of time has likely experienced traffic highs and lows. Updates, even if you’re not impacted in the long term, can cause wild fluctuations in rankings.
While some elements of SEO are completely out of your control, there are also those you have 100% control over.
Initiating proper practices and protocols can lower the risk of bad hygiene affecting your site.
Best Practices for Good SEO Hygiene
If you are reading this article, we’re going to assume that you have a good base knowledge of SEO and how it works. You should already be taking care of SEO best practices.
A few of the base items that you’ll want to keep track of are:
- Page titles.
- Meta tags.
- Keyword targeting.
- Headers and subheaders.
- Alt tags.
- Internal and external link building, etc.
But from a higher-level perspective, there are many things that you might be overlooking that can have a drastic impact on your site’s SEO.
The most important SEO hygiene considerations to have on your list are:
1. Clean Code
Code is the backbone of every website, and while an SEO manager may not know the ins and outs of all coding, you should be looking over the code that the end user (and search bots) will be experiencing.
Remember, Googlebot is no dummy; it will scrutinize the information and coding on your site.
Run your code through search engine inspection tools and spider simulators.
If a block of code isn’t being displayed or there are issues rendering a page, your site’s traffic can plummet.
A quick Technical SEO Audit of what search engines see when accessing your pages should be done for any coding change.
2. Content and Ownership
Website content can grow quickly, especially if you are doing Enterprise SEO.
And when more employees and shareholders are involved, various teams may be formed to generate more content. Certain sections of sites may be handled by different teams who do not communicate or collaborate.
When this happens – especially on the enterprise level – teams may start competing for the same keywords across multiple pages and even end up creating duplicate content.
Proper SEO hygiene means putting systems in place that help teams understand their roles and even communicate key content changes to pages.
You may want to go a step further by having one team manage all of the content and ownership from a higher level to reduce the risk of conflicts and wasted resources. This is also a part of SEO governance in a large organization or with larger teams.
At the very least, all new content should be looked over and analyzed to avoid conflicts.
3. Mobile-friendly Design
Site visitors need to have a smooth, streamline experience when visiting your mobile site. When new features or functions are added to a site, it’s important to have these features tested using mobile devices or simulators.
You’ll need to ensure that whether you use responsive, dynamic, or separate sites for mobile users, all changes are verified to work on mobile.
Redirect loops are easy to create, especially if multiple stakeholders are updating a site.
An SEO manager may add a redirect to a .htaccess file, while a developer adds their redirect as a header in the coding, and the server administrator handles them at a router level.
When this happens, one redirect may conflict with another, leading to poor user and bot experience. This puts unnecessary stress and load times on your servers.
All redirects should be tested and logged to ensure there’s less risk of redirect loops or issues existing in the future.
Running ScreamingFrog or something similar to scan for redirect issues will help you avoid potential issues.
5. SEO Quality Assurance (QA)
Quality assurance should be a routine part of every SEO manager’s job. When small changes are made to a site’s code, they can go undetected for weeks until the SEO owner finds that the small change led to a negative impact on the site’s traffic.
Procedures and logs, such as describing any changes to coding on a site using some form of a central database or management system, can help boost quality assurance.
The SEO owner can check off each new code integration to verify that there are no conflicting issues that may negatively impact a site’s performance.
6. Website Architecture
A website’s architecture matters a lot, and it goes without saying that you need to monitor changes to architecture closely.
You’ll want to keep navigations as easy as possible, but you’ll also want cohesion across your site. It’s important to monitor:
- Internal links.
- Navigation elements.
- Design principles.
- Headers and footers.
If architecture issues go unfixed for a time, they can lead to poor user experience and also make it more difficult for search bots to find key pages on your site. It could also impact your crawl budget.
When you have SEO hygiene best practices as an integral part of your operation, you’ll be focusing on the key most important part of your success: users.
Focusing on your site’s health and function is always what’s best for users and for any business – big or small.
As an ongoing process, add guidelines for your team to follow and review periodically. SEO hygiene is a long-term, continual part of your site’s success, so be sure to dedicate time and resources to it as your site continues to grow and evolve.
Your bottom line and traffic will thank you for spending the time to create a solid foundation from which your site can grow.
- A Complete SEO Checklist for Website Owners
- 50 Questions You Must Ask to Evaluate the Quality of Your Website
- How to Do an SEO Audit: The Ultimate Checklist
Featured image created by author, May 2021