Company websites are often run and managed by a wide range of teams and owners. Everyone, from C-level executives to customer support, hold some stake in how the website content is distributed, what is displayed, and what should take priority.
Over time, more stakeholders continue to be added as a company expands its operations. While these ownerships are a natural course of evolution for businesses, they present a unique headache for webmasters and SEO teams. Maintaining order and best practices across a sprawling website gets harder over time as SEO experts hold claim over all parts of the website.
Inevitably, some website changes will go unnoticed, be miscommunicated, or otherwise lost as everyone adds a piece they deem important. As a result, webmasters and SEO teams are faced with a dilemma of monitor the website without indulging in the micromanaging of others.
Changes keep compounding
Working with the idea that all teams will diligently report all the proposed and implemented website changes to the SEO team is a bit naive. After all, not all changes may seem so important as to warrant disturbing someone else’s work. Some changes may seem purely technical and, to a person without SEO knowledge, outside the scope of optimization.
So, website changes inevitably slip by accidentally and non-maliciously. Over time, minor changes or missed opportunities (such as a misformed meta title, an erroneous canonical URL, and many others) will start piling up, and the SEO and health of the website will start buckling.
Sometimes even major changes to a company website might slip by, such as a change in the header or footer. Some teams in other departments will rarely attribute the same importance to changes to these parts of the website as is required, so the changes will seem insignificant.
Enumerating all cases and events where changes might go unnoticed is nearly impossible. But you probably can remember a time when something important had been changed on a company website without ever being brought up to the rest of the team.
Neither can all the potential impact of website changes be outlined. Everything can happen - from minor drops in performance to an algorithmic penalty. So, there's a good reason to keep everything in check to ensure that all changes follow SEO best practices.
Unfortunately, that puts SEO teams in a tricky situation. There’s no way to establish a role that monitors changes effectively. Even if such an approach were viable, that would essentially mean hiring a dedicated micromanager for other teams. We all know that would not be a good idea.
Motinoring options you can try
Establishing strong processes for information sharing is a viable option for monitoring website changes, but it doesn’t solve the issues of micromanaging teams.
Unless every team in the company has a great understanding of SEO, minor changes will still slip by. Information sharing processes, though, will likely prevent significant changes from going unnoticed, which is a good thing.
Automation is another answer to the issue. Most of us take huge strides to monitor the performance of our competitors’ website, keep a watchful eye on their changes, and analyze any new content that crops up. So, why not do the same for our own websites?
Getting started with automation
There are various ways to implement automation (or self-monitoring tools) that would notice any inadvertent or unsolicited changes on a website. For the tech-savvy and daring, web scraping is one such option that can be relatively easily applied to an owned website.
Web scraping usually runs into issues due to spam CAPTCHAs and IP bans as the process naturally sends thousands of requests. None of the issues, however, are as pressing if you own the website. Any monitoring bot running can have its IP address whitelisted to avoid bans and CAPTCHAs.
Additionally, scraping solutions break often due to unexpected layout shifts or major website design revamps. Neither of these issues also are as pressing when you’re running a scraper on your own website because the website design changes happen less unexpectedly.
So, using a pre-made web scraper to monitor your own website is significantly easier than it is when scrapping competitor sites, and it won’t even necessitate the usage of proxies that usually run up costs. Basic parsing solutions like BeautifulSoup can be included, although not necessary.
Leveraging DIY website scrapers
Building your own do-it-yourself web scraper and using it to monitor changes on your website isn’t difficult either. All it takes is to collect the needed data and run a comparison against one stored previously. With a few loops, any difference, if it exists, can be outputted for review.
But taking the do-it-yourself (DIY) route is not really necessary, especially if budgets aren’t a concern. There are plenty of ready-made web scrapping tools on the market that do just what I described above, except they also include numerous quality of life features.
Personally, I’ve used ContentKing ever since it launched a few years ago. Not for any particular commercial or marketing reasons done by the company behind it, but because of one feature I hold dearly - real-time alerts.
Additionally, with pre-built scrapping tools, you get various useful integrations into other software, which minimizes the time spent working through large backlogs of data. All of these features could be built into a DIY scraper, but it’s a lot easier with existing toolsets.
Website changes can potentially have both a positive and negative impact on a website’s performance and SEO. Since many stakeholders who lay claim to the website, its content, and distribution won’t be SEO experts, changes can be made without receiving a notice.
To avoid any long-term issues with such changes, continuous website monitoring is necessary and should be implemented. This will help to counteract any potential SEO and performance hits, while enabling you and the team to have a constantly fresh understanding of the state of the website.