This section of the audit does a domain health check. It looks at the domain name, DNS servers and the server(s) hosting your website, ensuring there are no problems that might be affecting your site's performance and highlight optimisations that might even boost a little.
How Expiration Works
The process of domain expiration is a controlled one. Once your domain expires your registrar will keep your domain for you for a number of weeks, allowing it to be registered again without any inhibitors. Once this grace period has expired the registrar will keep the domain for a small number of months, generally 3, to ensure that any valid claim to the domain can be honoured. Once this process expires the domain broadly falls into two categories. Valuable or not. In the latter case it just get released back into the ether - allowing anyone, including drop catchers, to register the domain again. In the former case the domain becomes the property of the registrar or an associate who will auction the domain at some stage.
Domain Expiration and SEO
Search engines have a particular view about domain name registration periods. Domains are used for all sorts of different purposes, many of which are temporary. These include purposes such as testing websites, promoting time limited products (such as films, music and computer games) or even as company websites, who launch and then fail - 80% of UK SMEs fail within 1. As a result, registering your domain name for an extended period sends a clear signal to to the search engine that you are committed to your domain name and don't mind investing time and money in it - which, after all, is what the search engine is doing by crawling and indexing your site.
We check to see how long you have registered your domain name for and make a suggestion if we think there is any benefit to changing your domain name registration strategy.
We suggest you register your domain for as long as you can reasonably afford, in keeping with the intended use of the domain. We tend to suggest 5 years as a good time period, although most registrars offer 10 year renewal too.
DNS tells various things connected to the Internet how to find services your domain might be offering. So for a browser trying to find your website, the browser will contact the top level controller (such as ICANN) to ask them where your DNS servers are. The browser then contacts your DNS server which then uses something called an A record (or possibly a CNAME or even an AAAA record) which ultimately translates into the IP address(es) of your web servers which the browser then uses to connect to your web server. There are a host of other types of response that DNS servers will produce depending on who is asking and why (for example, email uses MX records and not A records). As you can see, it's quite complicated and we haven't even got into response times, availability and the possibility of data inconsistencies between DNS servers.
We run a comprehensive check to make sure that your DNS servers are in good health, there are no security issues and that all your ancillary information, such as Google Webmaster verification, SPF records and the like are all present and correct... or not present, as the case may be.
DNS is generally little understood by most webmasters. They tend to use the DNS services provided by their registrar, set it up initially and then tend to ignore it from one end of the year to the next, infrequently updating small items on demand. There is nothing wrong with this approach, however, we tend to advise our customers to be more active, using a specialist third party DNS provider, rather than their domain name registrar whom often provide this service with little support, care, attention and most importantly, resilience.
Our report will also provide technical fixes for any issues your DNS set-up may be exhibiting. Although these may or may not directly affect your SEO, a clean and efficient DNS is a fundamental part of a performant website and should be monitored closely.
Web services on the internet are generally provided on things called ports. These are generally (but not always) predefined so that the thing (your average Apple Mac knows about 13,921 predefined ports) connecting to the service already knows what port to connect to without the user explicitly stating it. For example, to access a secure web page a user's web browser will automatically connect to port 443. Conversely an insecure web page will come from port 80, email from ports 25, 143, 220, 585 and more, DNS from port 53 and so on.
We check what services you are advertising to the outside world to make sure they are in keeping with what you think your servers are supposed to be offering. This secures your systems from compromise and potentially spots a compromise if one has occurred.
Website security is a very complicated and specialist area outside the remit of this audit. We do, however, suggest you do not expose any other services (such as email or FTP) on your website infrastructure if at all possible, reducing the likelihood of an attack on that service affecting your website. If you use cPanel or allow interactive logins (SSH) to your servers make sure you secure them with a firewall and add Two Factor Authentication or even Multi Factory Authentication wherever possible. A server hack, such as a ransomeware attack, can result in your web server being unavailable for days or more and the outage can permanently damage your SEO rankings.
A Bit of History
When the Internet was settling down and starting to gather mainstream adoption, some of the influential thinks of the time advocated a naming convention to allow people to more easily navigate the services that might be on offer from various domains. They suggested naming conventions that might help users get to the right location. The approach suggested that if a user wanted to go to your website they would put
www. in front of the domain name or if they wanted to access your FTP server they would put
ftp. in front of the domain name. This approach never really caught on as some technology became redundant, others were too specialist for this to make any sense and, well, most people didn't really understand what this all meant. Vestiges of this policy still exist despite the lack of adoption. One of these is that some websites start with
www. and others do not (those that do not are commonly called naked domains are bare domains).
Why it Matters
www. subdomain or the naked domain is a matter of personal preference. Which choice you make is less relevant than making a choice and then rigorously adhering to it, ensuring that Google and other search engines do not perceive your content to be duplicated, plagiarised or otherwise in a negative light because it can see it on more than one domain. Google does this as domains and subdomains (and the domain with or without
HTTPS for that matter) are considered separate websites and are processed accordingly.
The Audit checks to make sure that the site is only using one version of the domain and that the [ideally] other 3 versions, point to the main version correctly as a single redirect.
Our audit will produce a detailed report of any redirect issues detected.