Cleaning house

Though I am an avid collector of site statistics, spending hours playing with Google Analytics on both my personal website and the ones I run for the university, I don’t really do much with the stats. They don’t drastically shape the way I run my sites, and though I find them intriguing, I don’t do much beyond becoming intrigued. And because I have Google Analytics running, it doesn’t often occur to me to log into Google’s Webmaster Tools to see how things are going on that end. I’ve got a sitemap in place and everything’s solid, but until recently I never thought much about the health of my site.

All 198 errors are 404s, for the love...

When I do look, however, I notice that things aren’t as wonderful as I’d like. GWT tells me that there are 198 errors, which sounds pretty serious, and I’ve read elsewhere that an abundance of errors like this can really hurt a site’s pagerank. What’s worse, that number (198) is pretty new. The amount of errors seems to be growing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, what with the recent overhaul of SilverPen and all, but a lot of pages aren’t being found. Even more frustrating, a lot of the pages that can’t be found are ones that never existed to begin with. I also find it odd and rather perturbing that Google uses the sitemap as more of a handy reference than as the set of instructions I had intended it to be, so it is indexing some subdirectories and sites I don’t use or particularly want indexed. I’m not entirely sure what Google’s smoking.

I decided to clean things up a bit to see if I could reduce the number of errors I have listed. I didn’t hit all 198 issues, but the ones causing the most errors and some of the more obvious ones have been fixed, often with either a 301 redirect or by editing the page to fix whatever was wrong with it. I’ll know in a few weeks whether this helped or not–unfortunately, you can’t just reset Google’s findings and tell it to crawl your site again.

Remember back when SilverPen was actually five blogs (Reader, Writer, Tech, Theology, Main)? That was only 1.5-2 years ago (though it definitely feels longer), but let me tell you, it was a bad idea. The whole thing, total failure, shouldn’t be done again. As I have been wont to say lately, “If I knew then what I know now…” *shakes fist and waves cane in the air*. I have been slowly working to reintegrate the blogs back into one, because in addition to those five there was also a later poetry one, and one for stories about the elven character Arias Stormsworn, and one for entries directly related to being newlyweds (written by both April and me). At long last, I have all those shut down, cleaned out, and brought under one roof.

They were really bugging me, not just because of the page errors, but because they represented security risks. Because I wasn’t using or signing into them, the software and plugins got further and further out of date, and that is always a hazard. What’s more, I felt I had this creep of databases and RSS feeds that was getting out of hand. When I look at my DBs and I’m not sure which is which, that raises a flag for me. Now everything is pared down where I know what is what and it’s all solid. In addition to all this, I also signed into April’s site and added some plugins to manage her SEO and tighten everything up, which should help with SilverPen Publishing’s overall health.

I have discovered the wonder of how WordPress manages RSS feeds, so I have created a couple of specific feeds for the items that need them. If I’d known this was possible years ago, everything might have been different. Still, I won’t let that get me down. It’s nice to have everything cleaned up and ship-shape.

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