When it comes to the frequency with which you should audit the on-page SEO health of your existing website, there is no clear-cut formula. In many ways, it can be a little like getting a health check-up for yourself; many people put it off until there is pain or discomfort.
If you are a real stickler for SEO then there is a good chance that you have been optimizing as you go, making sure that every new post has all of its metas in order, consistently staying on track with your keyword focus, and making sure that you place 301 redirects as needed.
However, this is the perfect world scenario and it doesn’t always go that way, and even with ongoing diligence there can still be nagging little issues that sneak in. Wayward CMS’s create crazy duplicate pages, someone accidentally adds an absurd canonicalization within Yoast or a myriad of other micro problems can edge their way in.
Setting aside some time to take stock of your existing site and perform an on-page SEO check-up should become a regular event within the life of your website.
The Benefit of Having Existing Data
One of the best things about checking up on an existing site is that you already have data that you can work with. You already know which pages are performing well, and which ones may need a little attention.
It goes well beyond having a clear picture of where you are starting from.
Which Titles and Metas Have the Worst CTR?
In this day and age your rankings are becoming more and more intrinsically linked to how well your entries are performing within the SERP itself. You can read more about the data backing this up on a Moz whiteboard Friday video
The benefit you have of knowing which pages currently have the worst CTR (this can be checked from Google Search Console by the way) is that you now know which pages should get a little spruce up.
The main way that you are going to be able to improve the CTR to your pages is similar to the way that an AdWords copywriter increases their CTR on their Ads. You are going to change the parts of the page that display on the SERP and then see whether you have written a version that makes people click through more frequently.
The parts of your page that will show up on the SERP are your title tag and meta description. You can try re-writing these in a way that makes people more likely to click into your page.
For bonus points you can investigate using some structured data such as schema markup to make for an even better looking result on the SERP!
Which Pages Have a High Bounce and Abandonment Rate?
In much the same way that CTR is affecting site rankings within Google so too is the dwell time of visitors to your site.
Dwell time is essentially how long a user stays on your site after clicking a result in the SERP before they return to the SERP again.
If they click in, take one look and decide that they need a different (should also be read as ‘better’) result, then they will have an extremely short dwell time. They leave the SERP and very quickly return to find a different site to help them.
You have the benefit of seeing which pages have higher bounce rates and shorter session durations, which will allow you to adjust them accordingly. There are plenty of ways that you can try to make your content more favourable and less ‘bouncy’, the data will simply tell you where to shift your focus.
Common Problems that Occur in Existing Sites
Just like running a car for a long time, the ongoing use of your website is likely to leave it running a little rough over time. There are a few nagging issues that will keep popping up on your site no matter how diligent you are in your day to day activities.
Broken Links and 404 Pages
Broken internal links or broken links leaving your site are just a matter of life, they happen and no matter what you do they will still always rear their ugly head from time to time. Sometimes you delete a page, move a page, change a URL or simply mistype a link. These things happen and they probably always will. Taking some time to crawl your site and check for any broken links is a must.
Sometimes it is the diligent who end up causing problems. Many SEO wise people understand the importance of placing 301 redirects when a URL structure has changed and this will always be best practice. A redirect chain can occur when URL’s have been updated multiple times in a non-stop process of due diligence.
An example of this may be something like:
- You start with an existing web page
- You then decide that this page should actually be sitting under a different path or directory, so you change the url to
- Being the diligent SEO that you are you put in your 301 redirect from the first version to the next, just making sure that the correct page will render even if the old link is hit.
So far this isn’t a problem. It becomes a problem down the track though when you migrate the site to use HTTPS instead of HTTP.
Suddenly you have a forced 301 for every single page as the system pushes all HTTP pages to the new HTTPS. Meanwhile, any links that are pointing at Exampleurl.com/first-instance are now being redirected from a HTTP version to a HTTPS version, and then redirected from the old URL structure to the new URL structure.
Its not just a HTTPS migration that can cause this, its just a common incarnation of this problem.
Missing Meta Tags, Alt Tags and More
Even the most diligent content producer will occasionally have a deadline they need to meat and simply overlook some of the smaller details such as writing a meta description, adding some alt text or making sure that the title tag isn’t just a rendition of the H1.
Little problems that mount up slowly over the life of an active and growing website.
With a modern CMS you will be surprised by how frequently duplicate content can rear its misunderstood head. You can see a great collation of causes of duplicate content here on this Yoast blog https://yoast.com/duplicate-content/#causes.
Either way, you do not want to have duplicate content issues, so it is best to be checking for these regularly.
On-page SEO is not a static concept, it will forever remain in flux as the goal posts are changed and the website grows and evolves.
Taking the time to do a check-up on how your on-page is sitting can be a very useful and important step towards maintaining your existing rankings or gaining better rankings into the future.