When dealing with a web design or marketing company, you may hear the term website health check, but what does that actually mean?
A website health check involves checking various technical things relating to your website that can affect your search engine rankings if there are any issues.
Website health check process
Checking the health of a website involves the following:
Can the search engines actually crawl your website? Are there any issues that would stop the search engine spiders from being able to crawl and index your website?
There are various things that can stop search engines from being able to crawl your website. Such as the robos.txt file. This is a special file that lives in the root of your website and tells the search engine spiders what can and can not be indexed.
Example robot.txt file
User-agent: * Allow: *
This simple file tells the search engine spiders that they can index everything. If you want to disallow some files or folders from being indexed, you use the “Disallow:” keyword, with a list of files and or folders you don’t want to be indexed.
Site structure issues
Another thing affecting website crawlability is your site structure. For example, if your site contains pages that are not linked to any other pages (called orphan pages), then the search engines will have difficulty accessing them.
Internal linking issues
Another issue that can affect site crawlability is internal linking or lack of it. Search engine crawlers (aka spiders) travel through your website following links. So, it can only find the pages that you link to from other pages.
So a site with a good internal linking structure, i.e. linking pages together that are on the same topic will allow the spiders to deep crawl your site, discovering all of your content.
A site with poor internal linking will cause the spiders to hit a dead end, resulting in content getting missed and not indexed.
Faulty redirects or looped redirects would stop a search spider from correctly indexing your site. If you have one page redirecting to another, and that same page redirecting back to the first page, that is a looped redirect and will cause the search engine crawler to give up, or probably time out.
Server-related problems that cause server errors (such as Server 500 errors) will also prevent search engine spiders from correctly accessing all of your website content.
Does your site have a valid SSL certificate installed? If not, it really should do because Google now penalises sites not served over HTTPS.
Since 2019, Google has enabled mobile-first indexing by default on all new websites. So, if your site does not work properly on mobile devices, you will not get the rankings it deserves.
Does your website have content that is identical, or very similar on multiple pages on your website? If so, the search engines will struggle to know which page should be indexed for which keywords, and you will get different pages competing for rankings. This is also called keyword cannibalism.
Website health check tools
There are loads of tools to help you check the health of your website. Basically, any SEO tool that is any good will have one. You simply enter your domain and the tool will crawl your site and report any errors you need to fix.
Here’s to name a few:
Ahrefs site audit tool
At the moment of writing this article, the Ahrefs site audit tool is free (but with limited features). Click on that link and enter your domain.
The results look nice with clear instructions on what you need to fix on your website pages.
Semrush website audit tool
There is also a free website audit tool from Semrush. Click that link and then click the “Try it free” button. Select the “skip trial” option on their prices page.
The results look nice, are easy to read and the issues you need to address are clearly laid out.
Serpstat site audit tool
I couldn’t find out if Serpstat has a free version like the others. In my opinion, this one is not as good as the others. It doesn’t look as polished or fancy. It still has the same overall goal though, to show you what needs fixing etc.
SEOptimer is a new one for me and I only came across it whilst writing this article. I entered a domain on their site and in a minute or so the results came in. The results look nice and everything is easy to read.
There are literally hundreds if you search for “website site audit tool”.
Website health check software
There is one piece of software worth mentioning. This is not specifically an online tool, you have to download it and install it on your computer.
The Screaming Frog software has legendary status in the SEO world. It was built by a UK-based SEO agency called Screaming Frog. They have both a free and a paid version, but the free version is enough to see if you have any important errors to fix.
The Screaming Frog results are different to the other online tools though. There isn’t a list of things you need to fix. There is simply a table of pages listing all of the technical details of each page crawled, such as the title tag length, the meta description length etc.
You need to have some technical knowledge of these types of things to know exactly what you need to fix. This is why I would only recommend Screaming Frog to SEOs who already know their stuff.
There you have it, that is the basis of what a website health check is. If you are a beginner just looking into what a website health check is, I would recommend going with one of the online site audit tools. Those tools tell you exactly what you need to fix and on which pages etc.
If you are more of a seasoned SEO, download Screaming Frog because it gives you all of the technical data about your website pages.
If you would like us to perform a free health check on your website, get in touch!
Did we miss anything? Comment below!