If you want to make sure your website is working as it should be and you’re not losing visitors and potential customers, here are 5 tips and tricks you can use to uncover common website issues.
1. Is your website mobile friendly?
Back in June 2012 Google stated that they preferred websites to have responsive design. Responsive design means the layout of your website changes to fit and display the best based on what device people are using to visit your website.
If the analysts are accurate, by 2014 over 50% of website traffic will be coming from mobile devices.
Not sure if your website has a responsive design? You could always try accessing it on your smart phone or tablet computer. If you don’t have access to a selection of devices, this great online testing tool will help – http://mattkersley.com/responsive/. Simply type in your URL and it will show you how your website looks on a variety of devices. Look how pretty Hallam’s new website looks and best of all, we’re making Google happy and making sure our website is easy to navigate for everyone visiting, whatever device they’re using!
2. How many of your website pages can Google ‘see’?
Your content management system will quickly be able to tell you how many pages your website has. But, how many of your pages does Google know about? To find out if Google has crawled and indexed your entire website you can do a simple ‘site command’.
Just search for – site:mywebsite.com and the number of pages Google has crawled and indexed is displayed below.
Of course, you may have specifically told Google you don’t want them to index some of your pages but if the number of website pages Google has indexed is much lower than you expect, this may suggest a problem.
How Google ‘sees’ you website and what human visitors see can be very different. To see your website as Google sees it, use the ‘info command’. Just type – info:mywebsite.com and choose ‘Show Google’s cache’.
Then choose ‘text-only version’ and you will see what Google sees when it comes to your site.
If you see nothing or a lot less than you expected then that suggests something is quite wrong!
3. Does your website have a virus?
You can find this out by having Google Webmaster Tools set up for your website. Webmaster Tools is essential for effectively managing your website. It provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google and can tell you about specific problems they’re having accessing it among lots of other things. You can even find out if your site has any Malware viruses on it.
Log into your Webmaster Tools and select ‘Health’ and ‘Malware’. If there is any malware on your site, Webmaster Tools will tell you here.
4. Have you got a custom 404 page?
A 404 page is displayed to visitors when a website page has been removed or altered, a page is no longer available or perhaps the URL has been typed incorrectly. A branded and customised 404 pages is helpful and encourages visitors to continue browsing your site instead of letting them leave disheartened. At the very least I would suggest integrating a search box to this page so people could easily search again for what they are looking for.
If you’re not sure if your website has a custom 404, type some random text after your url to force your 404 page –
If you don’t have a custom 404 page, visitors are likely to see a page like below –
5. Has your website got a sitemap?
A sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website. For optimum website performance every site should have two sitemaps. An HTML Sitemap (for human users) and an XML Sitemap (to enable Google to crawl your site easily).
Not sure if you’ve got a sitemap? If you have an HTML sitemap you will often find a link to in in the footer of your website or try searching for it in your content management system.
To find out if you have an XML sitemap, try typing sitemap.xml at the end of your URL.
Your XML sitemap might not look like much to you, but it’s what Google wants to see.
If this doesn’t find your XML sitemap it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have one, this is just one of the most common URL formats for it.
Both your sitemaps should be dynamic which means that they will automatically update when you add new content to your website.
Even if none of these tips are new to you, we recommend repeating these tests for your own website every 6 months, just to confirm all is well. Your website may have been updated and changes might have inadvertenty been made. Best to be safe than sorry!