If your allergies haven't told you already, it's springtime! Usually that means it's time for spring cleaning – but what does that mean for your home online? (Also known as your nonprofit's website because, let's be honest, you practically live there.) As your resident online cleaning specialist, I recommend checking for broken links and meta tags.
Broken links – just like ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, we all have them. They can happen for a variety of reasons – someone took down a page without telling anyone, you restructured your site which changed some URLs and you didn't catch all the links. The important thing is that you never want a user to land on a 404 error page, so you've got to periodically check for broken links. The problem with broken links is that they're hard to find, but no worries, there are some tools out there to help:
Once you're found the broken links, fix them! Set up a 301 redirect and point each one to the most relevant page that's still live or your website's homepage if there is no other alternative.
Meta Tag Audit
Another important aspect of search that people are often missing on some (or all) of their pages are meta tags. Meta tags (and the title tag, which isn't technically a meta tag) are important because they are what Google and other search engines will pull to use for your website's search listing – the little blurb that shows up on the search engine results page. That blurb is quite important – it's the first representation of your website on the internet for searchers – and if you don't have the proper tags in place, Google will pull its own info from your page's content. While it can be fine for Google to pull content from your page, it can also be bad – I've seen Google pull the first 160 characters from a legal disclaimer on the bottom of a page. So the best practice is to have all the proper tags in place.
The important tags:
Unfortunately, I don't know any fancy tools to check all your page's meta tags (if anyone does, spread the love! Leave a comment below and enlighten us all). When I've done this in the past, I've set up a spreadsheet, picked my way through the site's XML Sitemap (which should have all the pages of your site), ticked off which pages have which tags, and updated as I went. Don't have an XML Sitemap? Add that to your spring cleaning to do list! Learn more about XML Sitemaps and other important aspects of your site.
The age-old problem of spring cleaning – carving out time to do it – is still an issue here. If you're like most nonprofits I know, time and resources are always tight. But just like at home, once you've cleaned things up a bit, you'll feel a lot better, knowing that (even for just this moment) your site has been cleaned up to tip-top shape.