Give Your Blog a Checkup

By Steven Snell

When you first started your blog you probably spent a lot of time seeing how it worked and making sure that your visitors would have a positive experience. But blogs are like people, cars, and just about anything else, they need an occasional checkup. When was the last time you tested your blog to make sure it still performed as intended? Here are 8 things you can do check and improve its health.

1. Test Load Time

The load time of your pages is extremely important. If your pages do not load quickly enough, visitors will leave and go somewhere else. This is especially important if a high percentage of your visitors come from StumbleUpon or other social media sites where users have very short attention spans.

Many bloggers test page load times when they first start their blogs, but over time widgets, plugins, and other items that slow down load time may have been added. It’s a good idea to compare the load time of your blog with that of several other blogs to know where yours stands. This can easily be done with the page speed checker provided by Self SEO.

2. Check for Dead Links

If you’re like most bloggers you probably include a lot of links in your posts, both inbound and outbound. Those links may have worked at the time the post was published, but do you know if they still work? Dead links are especially common with outbound links. The blogs and websites you link to may shut down, changes their link structure, or remove a page, all of which will result in dead links.

Checking your blog for dead links is easy with a free tool like Dead-Links.com.

3. Validate HTML and CSS

In order to give your visitors the best opportunity to use your blog in multiple browsers and operating systems you should use valid HTML and CSS coding. Many validation issues will not actually cause problems for users, but valid sites have the best chance of performing well in all situations.

The W3C provides tools for validating HTML and for validating CSS.

4. Optimize Your CSS

Even valid CSS code can be a mess. You may have started with an optimized CSS file, but over time you may have added new code and stopped using some of the existing code. CSS files that are not optimized create a larger file size and possibly slower loads. Two free tools that you can use are CSS Optimiser and Clean CSS.

5. Test in Multiple Browsers

After you have validated and optimized your code, it is a good idea to test your blog in multiple browsers. Use Google Analytics (or a similar program) to see which browsers your visitors are using. You should at least test in the ones that are most common. BrowserShots is a nice resource that will show you screen shots of you website or blog in a large number of browsers. With BrowserShots there’s no need to have all of the browsers installed on your computer for testing.

6. Run a Spider Simulator

It’s always good to have an idea of how search engine spiders are seeing your pages. You can do this with a spider simulator, like the one provided by Summit Media. This tool will check items that could help or harm a spider’s ability to accurately determine the contents of the page.

7. Delete Unused Files, Pages, and Images

If you’re like me you’ve probably uploaded a number of files (especially images) that you never wound up using, or that you stopped using. In most cases, leaving these files around will not cause a problem. However, it makes maintenance easier, improves organization, and decreases the overall size of your blog if you delete files that are not being used, and that you have no plans to use in the near future.

8. Clean Up Comment Spam

Most bloggers use a tool like Akismet to prevent comment spam. Unfortunately it’s not possible to stop all spam. There are most likely some comments on older posts that have slipped through the cracks. Go back through your old posts, or scan through the comments in your dashboard to check for inappropriate ones.

WordPress users can also read the WordPress Blog Maintenance Checklist for further Checkup steps.

By going through these steps a few times a year you can be sure that your blog is functioning optimally. Are there any other tests or checks that you perform on a periodic basis?



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42 Responses to “Give Your Blog a Checkup”

  • wasim

    Thanks for these tips, I’m going to try several of them now that I had not hear about before such as the “Spider test”

  • TelepathicPebble

    Thank you very much for the tips.
    Check my blog out. I hope I’m doing well. =]

  • Stasigrii

    Hello, very nice site, keep up good job!
    Admin good, very good.

  • Stasigr

    Hello, very nice site, keep up good job!
    Admin good, very good.

  • Ricardo

    pass away

  • Ebay Blog.net: Make Money Selling Online

    Link mentioned in “5. Test in Multiple Browsers” is really useful!
    I’ve never heard about service which allows to check a site in different browsers without having to install then.
    Thanks!

  • alones

    I’ve applied checking loading time to my blogs.

    It is very import to prevent visitors from giving up as you said.

    You can see the my test result the following url.
    http://alonesworld.blogspot.com/2007/09/check-you-blog-or-website-speed-by.html

  • Dave Starr — ROI Guy

    Excellent article. In addition to the tester you recommend I have had very good luck with LinkChecker 0-6-1″ a standard FireFox plug-in. Easier than going to a separate site or downloading and installing third-party software.

    These guys:
    http://www.pingdom.com/
    Have atool that measures the page loading time segment by segment … you try something like this and you may decide against MyBogLog, BlogRush, etc. that eat up so much of your reader’s page load time.

  • alones

    Referring your post, I wrote a similar post in korean.
    http://alones.kr/blog/789

  • alones

    Thank a lot!!

    Recently, I encountered a problem. The rendering time of my blog is too long.
    By my friend, I found the problem. A widget script caused it.

    If I early see your post, I could avoid the problem before my friend said.

    BTW, Thanks ^^

  • Slugmut

    Wow, thank you for the tips, I fixed my site up quite a bit now.
    Thanks,
    -Slugmut

  • Catoneo

    Great !
    Thank you.

  • The Monetizer

    Thanks for these tips, I’m going to try several of them now that I had not hear about before such as the “Spider test” 🙂

  • Steven Snell

    Dave,
    That’s a good suggestion. A 2nd set of eyes doesn’t hurt.

  • Dave

    I would also suggest an exchange of services. Have someone check out your blog and you do the same for them. Sometimes you can miss the most obvious thing after you have been looking at it for several months.

  • Steven Snell

    Everton,
    Thanks for the mention of upgrading plugins. That definitely should have been included in the article. Sorry I overlooked that one.

  • Grant Griffiths

    Great post and I will certainly remind our customers to give their blogs a checkup.

  • Egon

    Absolutely. I try to put at least one image on each post on Egonitron.com, but on my other site AutomoBlog.net it’s about cars, so including TOO many images is really easy. It’s all about your subject/niche.

  • Scoot

    Very good advice. I have an issue with keeping my images down to a minimum. I personally like a clean site but I know that visitors like to have a few pics to see.

  • Egon

    I should have included a disclaimer with this. Some of my tips above require that you know what you’re doing. BE CAREFUL when going into your database, and only delete tables that you *know* you don’t use anymore. This is not a place to fiddle around. Same with deleting images (thumbnails) because if you’ve used a few that you maybe forgot about, you now have a dead image on a post.

  • Egon

    Great post Steven 🙂

    A few extra tips:

    1.) One thing I do occasionally is go through and optimize my database. If you’re familiar with phpMyAdmin, go in and first delete old tables you aren’t using anymore, possibly from an old plugin or something. After that, run the optimize database script. I like things to be as clean as possible.

    2.) If you traded links or bought links somewhere on another site, keep them all in a txt file on your computer. Every month or so, run those URLs through this tool to make sure those pages are still linking to you: http://www.webconfs.com/reciprocal-link-checker.php

    You’d be surprised at how many pages have deleted your link over time.

    3.) Go into your plugins section and go to the homepage of each plugin to make sure you have the most recent versions. Sometimes the author will have released another version that is significantly improved from the one you’re using.

    4.) Make sure your images aren’t too big in file size. if you have the time, run though your most popular posts (or more) and run the images through an optimizer. Also make sure to optimize each image from now on to keep loading times down. I love this tool: http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/imageoptimizer/

    Some images you can reduce by more than 50% in file size with little difference in image quality. Be sure to delete the old image from your server and replace it with the optimized version.

    4.) WordPress automatically created a ‘.thumbnail.jpg’ image of each regular image you upload. Many people never use these (including me,) so if you need some extra storage space on your server, go into ‘/wp-content/uploads/’ to free up a surprising amount of storage IF YOU DON’T USE THUMBNAILS, especially if you do use images a lot.

    Man, I should have written my own post about this 🙂

    Any corrections, Steven or Daniel?

  • Everton

    upgrading plugins is one that most people forget to do. Many exploits fixed by WP upgrades remain open if you don’t upgrade your plugins.

    Upgrading can also give performance improvements and new functionality.

  • Daniel

    Frank, good advice.

    This applies to stats, scripts, plugins and php code snipets.

  • Frank

    I’d also suggest checking your whole web site in general. You may have installed some cool “web stats” or the latest php gizmo, then decided not to use it. Then weeks or months later your site is compromised because a bot found that old software and took advantage of it.

  • Deron Sizemore

    Thanks for the dead links and spider sim link. Never heard of them before. Will come in handy.

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