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      A Complete Guide to the nslookup Command

      The nslookup command is a useful tool for investigating domain name propagation issues. It allows users to obtain information regarding domain names and IP addresses from the Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure. This guide introduces and explains how to use the nslookup command, and provides several examples.

      What is the nslookup Command?

      The name of the nslookup command is an abbreviated version of “name server lookup”. nslookup sends a request to the local domain name system server asking for information from its DNS records. In response, the DNS server returns the IP address or relevant domain information for a specific website or server. However, it can also return the domain associated with a particular IP address.

      The nslookup command can be used in either interactive or non-interactive mode. It is available on Linux, macOS, and Windows systems, and provides several useful options. The command relies on the underlying TCP/IP and networking system tools.

      Here are some of the main purposes of the nslookup command:

      • nslookup quickly returns the IP address for any domain. It is considered one of the best tools for troubleshooting DNS problems. It is especially handy for situations where the IP address of a domain has recently changed, but requests for the domain are not resolving.
      • It is used to investigate suspicious domains. A good example is a web address designed to closely mimic an existing domain, for instance, in place of
      • It can defend against cache poisoning in which invalid domain information is sent to secondary DNS servers, known as resolvers.

      How Do DNS Lookups Work?

      Each DNS server maintains a list of mappings between domain names and their associated IP addresses. When a DNS server receives a DNS request for a particular domain name from a web server, it translates the domain into an IP address. It then returns the address to the web server, which uses it to request the web page. Every internet client uses DNS services to properly transmit outgoing TCP/IP packets.

      Typically a DNS responds to a request by retrieving information from its cache. The cache is updated when updates are received. If the domain name entry for a particular domain has been recently changed, the server might not have received the updated information yet. In this event, the nslookup command still receives the outdated information from the DNS. This allows users to see what the local DNS record points to and determine whether the DNS update has propagated fully.

      The nslookup command typically sends its request to the local DNS server. However, an alternate DNS can be specified, such as the root system within the DNS zone. Not all servers are accessible because many internal DNS systems are private and do not respond to external requests. Therefore, private DNS servers don’t respond to external nslookup requests.


      In actual practice, there are two types of DNS services. A recursive DNS service, also known as a resolver, maintains a cache of the domain name mappings, but does not process any updates.

      In many networks, a resolver initially handles DNS queries. If it does not have the information, perhaps because the entry has aged out, it forwards the request to an authoritative DNS. Authoritative DNS systems maintain the master DNS records and are responsible for keeping the tables updated. The authoritative DNS returns the IP address to the resolver, which relays it back to the original web server. The resolver also caches the mapping for future requests.

      What Information Can the nslookup Command Retrieve?

      A DNS server maintains several different types of domain records, covering topics including reverse lookups, mail servers, and time-to-live settings. Here is a list of all the available DNS records.

      • Address (A) Record: Lists the IP address of the domain. Each address for the domain is described using a separate address record, so a domain can have multiple addresses and “A” records.
      • Canonical Name (CNAME) Record: Lists any aliases for the host.
      • Mail Exchange (MX) Record: Provides information about the mail servers within the domain.
      • Name Server (NS) Record: Lists all primary and secondary name servers for the domain.
      • Pointer (PTR) Record: A pointer record enables reverse lookups. It lists the host name associated with an IP address.
      • Start of Authority (SOA) Record: An SOA record indicates the most authoritative host for the DNS zone. A zone groups together multiple domains within the same organization.
      • Text (TXT) Record: A TXT record contains notes about the domain. Administrators often use this field to verify ownership and prevent spam.
      • Time-to-Live (TTL) Record: This setting indicates how long resolvers should cache the DNS information.

      Before You Begin

      1. If you have not already done so, create a Linode account and Compute Instance. See our
        Getting Started with Linode and
        Creating a Compute Instance guides.

      2. Follow our
        Setting Up and Securing a Compute Instance guide to update your system. You may also wish to set the timezone, configure your hostname, create a limited user account, and harden SSH access.


      This guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with sudo. If you are not familiar with the sudo command, see the
      Users and Groups guide.

      How to Use the nslookup Command

      nslookup is available for the Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems. However, the syntax is structured slightly different on Windows. This guide focuses on how to use the command on Linux-based systems, but the commands are very similar on macOS. Information on how to use nslookup on Windows can be found in the
      Microsoft documentation.

      The nslookup command supports both interactive and non-interactive modes. Interactive mode is useful for script development, troubleshooting, and exploratory searches. The non-interactive command is better for quick searches for a single piece of information. The non-interactive command can be fully integrated into scripts and software applications.

      nslookup is pre-installed and ready-to-use on most Linux-based systems. If it is not, it easily can be installed from the command line.

      • Debain and Ubuntu:

        sudo apt-get install dnsutils
      • AlmaLinux, CentOS Stream, Fedora, and Rocky Linux:

        sudo dnf install bind-utils

      Using nslookup in Interactive Mode

      To use nslookup interactively, simply enter the command nslookup from a terminal with no additional parameters. The interactive prompt should appear.



      If you receive an error message when running the nslookup command, the network services might have been stopped. Reboot the system to reinitialize the process.

      The interactive prompt accepts requests for server information without requiring the nslookup command. To use nslookup to find the IP address for the English-language Wikipedia domain, enter the following:

      The local DNS server returns its own address along with information about the domain. The reply lists the canonical name of the server and its Ipv4 and Ipv6 addresses:

      Non-authoritative answer:	canonical name =
      Address: 2620:0:862:ed1a::1


      This answer is said to be non-authoritative because it is provided by the local DNS, not the DNS associated with the domain.

      To change the request type, use the set directive and append the preferred option. The following example sets the type for all further requests to ns. This instructs the nslookup utility to request information about the name servers used within the domain.

      set type=ns

      When nslookup sends another query about the domain, a list of nameservers is retrieved.
      Non-authoritative answer:	nameserver =	nameserver =	nameserver =
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      To exit interactive mode, use the exit keyword.


      Using nslookup Non-interactively

      nslookup can also be used in non-interactive mode, in the same way as other Linux commands. To use the nslookup command non-interactively, use the format nslookup [options] domain_name. The command returns the same information it did in interactive mode. This is the correct mode to use in scripts and applications requiring accurate DNS information.

      To display basic information about a domain, enter the nslookup command and the name of the domain. This example displays the “A” records for the domain. An “A” record lists the IP addresses for a web host.

      Non-authoritative answer:
      Address: 2620:0:862:ed1a::1

      To validate the results on a different DNS server, append the name of the server to the end of the command. This example requests the IP address of directly from a Wikipedia name server. The response contains the authoritative answer for the domain.

      Address: 2620:0:862:ed1a::1

      nslookup Examples

      Although users are most often searching for nameserver and IP address information, nslookup provides access to all DNS records. This section includes examples showing how to use nslookup to obtain more detailed DNS information.

      Specify the type of record to search for using the type option. Add the option -type=option_type directly after the nslookup directive and before any domain name. Replace option_type with the name of the record type. For instance, to view the nameservers for a domain, use -type=ns. The following example displays nameserver information for

      nslookup -type=ns
      Non-authoritative answer:	nameserver =	nameserver =	nameserver =
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      To view mail server information for a domain, set the type to mx.

      nslookup -type=mx
      Non-authoritative answer:	mail exchanger = 10	mail exchanger = 10
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      nslookup can also retrieve the official Start of Authority (SOA) record, containing vital information about the domain. This information includes the email address of the administrator and DNS parameters such as refresh time. Use -type=soa to search for this information.

      nslookup -type=soa
      Non-authoritative answer:
          origin =
          mail addr =
          serial = 2022030414
          refresh = 43200
          retry = 7200
          expire = 1209600
          minimum = 3600
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      It is often useful to compare SOA records between sites. The SOA record for has much lower refresh and retry numbers, suggesting the domain information might change more frequently.

      nslookup -type=soa
      Non-authoritative answer:
          origin =
          mail addr =
          serial = 2010161662
          refresh = 180
          retry = 60
          expire = 3024000
          minimum = 60
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      The TXT records are used to validate domain information. Use -type=txt to retrieve this information.

      nslookup -type=txt
      Non-authoritative answer:	text = "google-site-verification=AMHkgs-4ViEvIJf5znZle-BSE2EPNFqM1nDJGRyn2qk"	text = "yandex-verification: 35c08d23099dc863"	text = "v=spf1 ~all"
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      Use the option -type=any to view the full DNS records for a domain.

      nslookup -type=any
      Non-authoritative answer:
      Address: 2a00:1450:4009:81e::200e	mail exchanger = 10	nameserver =	nameserver =	nameserver =	nameserver =
      Authoritative answers can be found from:


      Some domains are not configured to return all information in response to this request, and only return the name servers. In this case, you must request each type of record separately.

      It’s also possible to ask for information about a particular name server. Use nslookup and the name of the domain, along with the canonical name of the name server. This example demonstrates how to find out details about Wikipedia’s name server.

      Address: 2620:0:862:ed1a::1

      To debug the information from nslookup, use the -debug flag. Debug mode displays the queries sent to the DNS server along with the replies received in response.

      nslookup -debug
, type = A, class = IN
          internet address =
          ttl = 600
      Non-authoritative answer:
, type = AAAA, class = IN
          has AAAA address 2620:0:862:ed1a::1
          ttl = 600
      Address: 2620:0:862:ed1a::1

      For more information on the list of available nslookup options, consult the
      Linux man page.


      Most DNS requests are sent and received using TCP port 53. To request DNS information from a different port, use the -port flag, for example nslookup -port=55 In most cases DNS servers are configured to refuse these requests, resulting in the error message communications error to connection refused.

      How to Use nslookup for Reverse Lookups

      Although nslookup can find the IP address for a domain, it can also reveal the domain mapped to an IP address. This is referred to as a reverse DNS lookup. To perform a reverse lookup, apply the nslookup command to the IP address under investigation. The following example illustrates how to find the domain that is mapped to the address


      The output displays the IP address in reverse order, so is transposed to in the display. The octets are presented in reverse order due to complex technical reasons involving the domain tree specification.

   	name =
      Authoritative answers can be found from:

      A second alternative is to use the -type=ptr option and the address in reverse order to find the domain. The pointer record confirms the domain owns the address in question.

      nslookup -type=ptr
      Non-authoritative answer:	name =
      Authoritative answers can be found from:


      The nslookup command is used to discover DNS information about a domain. It can work in either interactive or non-interactive mode, and is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows servers. nslookup can return the IP address for a domain, along with information about its nameservers, mail servers, and State of Authority record. It can also handle reverse DNS lookups for translating an IP address into a domain. For more information, see the
      Linux nslookup man page.

      More Information

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      useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of
      externally hosted materials.

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      On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO: Complete Guide & Essential Tips

      Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complex and ever-evolving field that can certainly be confusing for beginners — and understandably so. With over 200 ranking factors and new “rules” being added by search engines all the time, it can be tough to know where to start.

      Well we’re here to shine the light on the situation for you. You see, there are two main “categories” of SEO — on-page and off-page. One refers to things you can directly control such as optimizing your website’s title tags and headings, while the other refers to external signals such as others linking to and sharing content from your site.

      When you understand the foundations of these distinct optimization types, you’ll be able to develop a comprehensive and balanced SEO strategy. Knowing how to cover all your bases, from image optimization to link building, can help ensure your site’s organic search success.

      In this complete guide, we’ll introduce you to SEO basics and explain the difference between on and off-page SEO. Then, we’ll share different ways you can improve both to boost your site’s rankings. Let’s get started!

      Why SEO Is Important for All Websites

      Before we get into the specifics of on-page and off-page SEO, let’s discuss the importance of search engine optimization more broadly.

      On a daily basis, the average online user will conduct a wide variety of searches on the web. From looking up directions to the nearest shoe store, to learning exactly how many steps are in the Eiffel Tower, most of us turn to the search bar as a reflex. In fact, more than 50% of online traffic comes from organic search.

      When it comes down to it, SEO is so important because all websites have the same goal – to be found and seen. A web page’s search rankings have the power to drive traffic, generate leads, and boost conversions. Therefore, SEO is relevant to almost every aspect of your online marketing strategy.

      The Difference Between On-Page and Off-Page SEO

      Now that we’ve covered the SEO basics, let’s dive into the differences between on-page and off-page SEO.

      What Is On-Page SEO?

      Also known as ‘on-site SEO’, on-page SEO is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to all the page ranking factors you can manipulate or optimize on your website. These elements can include the content on your product and service pages, blog posts, landing pages, and microsites.

      On-page SEO encompasses title tags, meta descriptions, heading structure, content, image optimization, accessibility, and overall website performance.

      What Is Off-Page SEO?

      As you might expect, off-page SEO or ‘off-site SEO’ includes all page ranking factors beyond your website.

      For instance, ‘backlinks’ (or ‘inbound’ links) are links on other web pages that direct back to your website. When your site has lots of backlinks from credible sites, they can benefit your search rankings because these pages can pass on some of their authority to you.

      This is a classic example of off-page SEO, but there’s more to it. Off-page SEO is not as straightforward as on-page SEO. However, it includes concrete SEO strategies for social media, domain authority, and more.

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      10 Ways to Improve On-Page SEO

      It’s time to go into more detail for on-page SEO. Here are 10 factors to consider when optimizing your web pages for SEO!

      1. Create High Quality Content

      Creating high quality content is one of the most effective strategies for boosting your chances of appearing higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). After all, Google’s algorithms are designed to provide users with only the best and most relevant content.

      Keep in mind that quality includes everything from appearance to practicality. Your ultimate goal should be to create visually appealing, accurate content that will serve a useful purpose.

      For instance, if you are starting a blog, you might want to make sure you have a clear niche and stick to it. That way, you can work on growing your knowledge and establishing credibility in your subject area:

      gardening website example of high quality content

      Similarly, you’ll want to produce new blog posts regularly because readers and Googlebots alike favor fresh content. You may also want to develop a brand style guide and reference it when creating new content. This way, your audience can feel reassured by consistency.

      Calls to Action (CTAs) are also vital if you want your content to inspire your readers to make a move. Other indicators of high-quality material include images and reader-friendly text, but we’ll dive more into those later.

      2. Use Target Keywords

      Using target keywords on your page is one of the most straightforward SEO tactics you can implement. However, you’ll need to consider your intended audience before you can find target keywords.

      For example, if you run a craft blog, your ideal reader might be parents of children under 12. You could hone it down further to parents in the Pacific Northwest. Once you know your audience, you can find target keywords using tools such as Google Keyword Planner.

      You can start by introducing keywords that you anticipate your target audience may use. Then, see what similar words and phrases are produced. Choosing keywords with high monthly search volumes but low to medium competition is often best.

      It’s also wise to choose a diverse range of keyword types and lengths. For example, you may decide to use some shorter, medium-competition words. On top of that, you could select some lengthier keywords that are highly specific. These are called ‘long-tail keywords.’

      For example, if you run a candy store in Wisconsin, you might choose ‘candy shop’ and ‘candy store’. Then, for long-tail keywords, you could use ‘best candy shop in Milwaukee’:

      Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool
      Google Keyword Planner

      Once you have your keywords, you can place them anywhere on your site. You can add these phrases to blog posts, your About Us page description, product details, and anywhere else you like. However, you’ll want to avoid keyword stuffing.

      Essentially, you can use keywords anywhere you see text on the front end of your site. We’ll get into less visible locations for keywords later.

      3. Optimize Images

      Users prefer high-quality images, and search bots favor lightweight, SEO-optimized ones. Let’s consider a few ways you can ensure your photos are helping your search engine rankings.

      To start, it’s best if images are clear and high-resolution. Beyond that, you can compress image files so they are not large and heavy. Whenever possible, you may want to use a compression tool such as TinyPNG:

      TinyPNG online image compression tool

      This free tool enables you to shrink down PNG, JPG, and WebP files so that they don’t slow your site’s loading times (more on this later).

      Another simple way to optimize images is by adding ‘alt text’ (alternative text). Simply put, alt text is a summary of an image that users on the front end can’t see. It serves two essential purposes.

      Firstly, alt text increases your site’s accessibility by enabling users with impaired vision or complete loss of sight to interact with images. Assistive technologies (such as dictation tools) can help some visitors listen to the descriptions of your visual media files. Furthermore, bots can’t see pictures, but they can read the alt text.

      How you add alt text will depend on the Content Management System (CMS) you use. With WordPress, the process is simple. When editing your site in the Block Editor, just select the block for an image and find Alt text in its settings. Here, you can easily type in a brief image description and input some relevant keywords.

      4. Create Internal Links

      Whether you run a blog or a multi-page website, you will likely deal with many unique links. An ‘internal’ link is a URL that leads to another page on your website. For instance, you may have a footer with links to your blog, contact page, and other essential information.

      When creating your web pages, it’s a good idea to include internal links wherever possible. Of course, this process should always be done naturally. These internal links are crucial because web crawlers use them to jump from page to page while scanning information.

      In fact, if one of your web pages doesn’t have any internal links leading to it, it’s considered an ‘orphan page’. Search bots can’t find it. Therefore, it can’t be indexed, and it definitely can’t be ranked.

      Furthermore, internal links can keep users on your website for longer. This increased time on page may lead to conversions, lead generation, and more. Lastly, and most importantly, internal links help provide a positive UX.

      For instance, in a blog post explaining a complex subject, it might make sense to link to another one of your articles elaborating on a related concept. Additionally, internal links can help users navigate around your site as they search for specific details, such as contact information.

      5. Optimize Permalinks

      While we’re on the subject of URLs, let’s discuss permalinks. These are the permanent URLs that represent your pages, and they are also crucial for strong SEO.

      When creating new pages, you’ll want to ensure that your URLs are straightforward and intuitive. For example, if your domain is, your other pages might have URLs like and

      If you run a blog, your URLs may need to explain more complex information, but remember to keep things simple.

      For instance, for an article titled “How to Declutter Your Bathroom in 10 Simple Steps”, using the full title would be too lengthy. Instead, you could use

      Using concise permalinks is best. In fact, certain ‘stop words’ (prepositions, articles, connectors) are ignored by search engine bots. Therefore, they should be left out. It’s also wise to include any relevant keywords in your permalinks.

      6. Consider Readability

      Whether your content is brief or lengthy, readability is an important ranking factor. Your articles and pages should be well-written. It’s best to write directly and concisely, using shorter sentences and vocabulary that fit your audience.

      Additionally, you can use headings and subheadings to organize your content. These elements are essential if you’re producing lengthy how-to guides or listicles:

      WordPress heading structure

      Headings also create more opportunities to insert relevant keywords. Furthermore, you’ll want to ensure that sections are neither too short nor too lengthy. Quality content tends to be skimmable without large blocks of text. You can also use those high-quality images we mentioned before to break up the text.

      7. Utilize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

      Meta tags are bits of HTML code that signal to search engines how they should read your content.

      Title tags and meta descriptions are examples of these, and key for helping search engines understand how to rank your website’s content. These meta tags generate information that will appear to users in the search results and might encourage them to click on your page.

      Here’s an example of a title tag:

      example of title tag appearing in web browser tab

      Now let’s look lower down the page to see a meta description:

      meta description example in Google search results

      These elements are critical if you want to boost your search engine rankings. Without them, your page’s content will be advertised with a chunk of the first paragraph on the page. Furthermore, web users will have a hard time navigating back to your page when using multiple tabs in their browser.

      To easily add title tags and meta descriptions to your posts, you might want to try out a free WordPress SEO plugin. Yoast SEO and All In One SEO (AIOSEO) are popular choices.

      8. Monitor Site Performance 

      Site performance also plays a crucial role in search engine rankings. Here, we’re mainly talking about speed.

      As you can imagine, users looking at the search results don’t want to be led to pages that are slow or don’t work correctly. In fact, Google has created what it calls Core Web Vitals. It assesses page loading times, interactivity, and page stability to give you a Core Web Vitals score.

      If you’d like to check how your site performs, you can test it using tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights:

      Google PageSpeed Insights - Core Web Vitals Results

      Simply enter your website’s URL and see how it does. If your site needs some performance improvements, you can try implementing caching or lazy loading. Even better, you could ensure that your web host uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN), though this may require changing hosts.


      9. Prioritize User Experience (UX)

      As we approach the end of our on-page SEO strategies, it’s time to discuss UX. This concept is behind most other optimization tactics because the ultimate goal is to make a website more user-friendly.

      On top of quality, performance, readability, and strong internal linking, there are a few more specific ways to create a positive UX for your site’s visitors.

      A huge part of UX is linked to usability. Therefore, smooth navigation is particularly important.

      To make exploring a multi-page website easier, it’s best to use a prominent navigation menu either at the top or left of your page:

      example of accessible website navigation

      Additionally, you may want to create a search bar feature and include helpful links in your footer. All these elements help users navigate around your site without scrolling.

      10. Optimize Pages for Mobile Devices

      Last but not least, if you want your pages to rank at the top of the search engine results, they must be mobile-optimized. This is because most internet users prefer to use their smartphones or other handheld devices.

      There are currently more than 4.9 billion mobile internet users globally, and the number is growing. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Google declares mobile-friendliness a must for SEO. Plus, with the rise of m-commerce, any online businesses that neglect their mobile visitors are likely to miss out on significant sales.

      There are a few very simple ways to ensure your website is mobile-optimized. For starters, you can opt for a mobile-friendly WordPress theme. That way, you can set it and forget it.

      If you expect to customize your site extensively, you may want to use a WordPress page builder that has mobile previewing and modification settings:

      BeaverBuilder website page builder tool

      Beaver Builder is a popular choice that offers responsive designs and editing features. It’s also easy to use with a drag-and-drop interface.

      How to Improve Off-Page SEO (3 Essential Techniques)

      Now that you know everything about on-site SEO, let’s explore how you can improve your rankings by other means. Keep in mind that the following section is briefer, simply because you have more control over on-page than off-page SEO.

      1. Build Backlinks (Domain Authority)

      Backlinks to your site show Google that your content is credible. That’s why building backlinks can enhance your website’s ‘domain authority’. Your site accumulates a positive reputation through how many backlinks it has.

      Gaining backlinks takes time and quality content, but you can use some measures to actively participate in the process. For instance, you can write guest posts for other credible blogs in your niche and link to your content

      You can also monitor your site’s mentions online and request that any unlinked instances be credited. Furthermore, some common formats that get linked to include how-to guides, “best of” listicles, and even infographics.


      You’ll want to be careful not to participate in anything shady when building your inbound links because you can be penalized by Google. Since backlinks require time and effort, we recommend using tools such as Ahrefs, which has a backlink checker.

      2. Support Social Proof

      Another way to build trustworthiness is to provide simple evidence. ‘Social proof’ typically refers to things like reviews and testimonials.

      You can create a Google Business Profile for your company or website to gain social proof. This platform has a review feature built-in:

      Google Local Search results

      Other types of content marketing can also serve as social proof. For instance, conducting a survey and then publishing your findings is excellent evidence of your legitimacy and professionalism.

      Additional forms of social proof include testimonials and partnerships with other credible brands or individuals. For example, some companies collaborate with influencers in their niche to build more social proof.

      3. Grow Your Online Presence on Social Media

      On the subject of influencers, social media is perhaps one of the most important channels where e-commerce businesses can further build their off-page SEO.

      That’s because you can share quality content on any social media platforms you use. This material can include stunning images, target keywords, and links:

      Instagram business page

      Ultimately, social media is the place to build a brand, so we recommend developing an entirely separate (and complementary) social media strategy. All of these efforts will contribute to your off-page SEO because social media posts and pages can appear in search results.

      However, you’ll want to consider which platforms your target audience uses. For instance, if you are appealing to millennials, you might want to focus on Instagram. Whereas with a younger audience, you may prioritize creating content for TikTok.

      Improve Your Site’s Visibility Using On-Page and Off-Page SEO

      Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complex and dynamic field. That can make it challenging to get started with both on-page and off-page SEO strategies. However, it’s essential to prioritize these optimization methods to boost your website’s visibility.

      When it comes to on-page optimization, you can start small, implementing keywords, internal links, and high-quality content. Later, you can advance to elements such as title tags and meta descriptions. For off-page optimization, backlinks, testimonials, and a strong social media presence are essential.

      If you’re a beginner in SEO,  you might want to forget the site audits and leave them to the professionals. Check out our DreamHost Pro Services and free up your time to focus on the creative side of your business. We offer specific plans for SEO marketing that will help you rank higher on SERPs. Plus, we have an SEO toolkit to take your site to the next level!

      Search Engine Optimization Made Easy

      We take the guesswork (and actual work) out of growing your website traffic with SEO.

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      The Complete Website Maintenance Checklist (20 Things You NEED to Do This Year)

      Affiliate Disclosure: DreamHost maintains relationships with some of our recommended partners, so if you click through a link and purchase, we may receive a commission. We only recommend solutions we believe in.

      Your site may be running smoothly now. However, there’s no guarantee that it will perform at this optimal level forever.

      Similar to a vehicle, your website requires ongoing work to keep it in tip-top condition. That’s why we’ve created this complete website maintenance checklist for your WordPress site.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why maintenance is the key to a high-performing, secure, and profitable online presence. We’ll then share a whopping 20 maintenance tasks that you need to do this year. We’ve organized the tasks based on how often you need to complete them to keep your site spick and span:

      Let’s get started!

      Why Site Maintenance Matters

      If you neglect important maintenance tasks, then the consequences can be disastrous. During the first six months of 2021, the Wordfence Web Application Firewall blocked over 4 billion malicious requests. With people actively trying to break into WordPress websites, even a small lapse in security could put your site at serious risk.

      WordPress maintenance isn’t just about spotting the big issues, though.

      Over time, small problems can gradually diminish your site’s performance and search engine rankings. By pinpointing and addressing these minor errors early, you can reduce the negative impact they can have on your site.

      Maintenance also involves evaluating various aspects of your site. This puts you in a strong position to identify opportunities to optimize your content and drive more conversions. In this way, you can keep your site ahead of the pack.

      Get Your Site Up to Date

      Technology is constantly moving forward and keeping up can be a chore. We’ll upgrade your outdated, insecure software to get you back on track.

      Weekly Tasks

      Let’s start with regular maintenance tasks. Here are five things we recommend you perform every single week.

      1. Review Your Metrics

      Most successful websites record a range of data. This includes tracking how visitors behave, your best traffic sources, and the content that drives the most conversions.

      By regularly analyzing your metrics, you can pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. Here, speed is everything. To remain competitive, it helps to review this data weekly.

      The Google Analytics dashboard.

      When viewed in isolation, you may struggle to properly evaluate your performance. If this is the case, you might also want to review your competitor’s metrics.

      2. Back Up Your Site

      Creating regular backups is one of the most important items on your to-do list. If you fall behind, then you risk losing all of your recent work — or even your entire website.

      While you can create backups manually, some hosting providers can perform this vital maintenance task for you. For example, at DreamHost, we offer automated daily backups.

      If you need to back up on-demand, you can also create a copy of your site with a single click. We store all of your backups in a central location and offer easy one-click restore for added convenience.

      3. Moderate Comments

      A lively comment section encourages visitors to interact with your site. However, comment sections can have a dark side. Attackers may try to trick you into publishing malicious content in the form of comment spam.

      Some comments may also contain irrelevant or offensive content. This can reflect poorly on your website. For this reason, you may want to use a comment moderation plugin such as Akismet Anti-Spam.

      The Akismet Anti-Spam plugin.

      You can also hold all submissions in an approval queue, using WordPress’ default settings. Visitors will expect their comments to appear on your site within a reasonable timeframe. If you withhold comments for review, it’s smart to check this queue at least once per week.

      4. Update Your Themes and Plugins

      According to research, 86% of hacked WordPress websites contain an outdated plugin or theme or even an outdated version of WordPress. This makes sense, as updates often contain fixes for known vulnerabilities or new security features.

      To keep the bad guys out, it’s smart to regularly check the WordPress dashboard for any available updates.

      The WordPress updates dashboard.

      While we’re including this task in our maintenance checklist, you may want to consider enabling auto-updates for your themes and plugins for added security. Assuming that you’re running WordPress 5.6 or higher, you can also enable auto-updates for WordPress core in the Dashboard > Updates menu.

      5. Scan for Malware

      WordPress has a good reputation as a secure platform, but no software is perfect. To keep your site in tip-top shape, it’s important to check for malware. Our DreamShield add-on can automatically scan your site for malicious code on a weekly basis.

      Activating the DreamShield add-on.

      If DreamShield detects an issue, it’ll notify you via the DreamHost panel and via email. This email will contain step-by-step instructions that show you how to resolve this problem and restore your site to optimal health.

      Protect Your Website with DreamShield

      For just $3/month, our premium security add-on scans your site weekly to ensure it is free of malicious code.

      Monthly Tasks

      By monitoring your site’s speed and search engine performance, you can stay one step ahead of the competition. With that in mind, here’s your monthly website maintenance checklist.

      6. Test Your Site’s Speed

      Your site’s performance has a huge impact on its success. Studies suggest that 40% of people abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Even if visitors do stick around, a sluggish website is unlikely to impress potential customers.

      Page speed can also impact your SEO, particularly with the launch of the Core Web Vitals project.

      You can test your site’s speed using a tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix performance monitoring tool.

      If you’re concerned about your Core Web Vitals performance, Google has also created a dedicated reporting tool. This evaluates your site against the specific Core Web Vitals metrics.

      7. Create New Content

      Regularly publishing interesting, relevant content is a tried-and-tested way to convert one-off visitors into loyal repeat customers. Content can also position you as an expert in your industry, which is great for conversions.

      It isn’t just people who read your posts and pages. Search engines will also use this content to understand what your site is about. So by regularly publishing materials such as blog posts and articles, you can maximize your chances of appearing in relevant search engine results.

      To ensure that you’re winning the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, you may want to consider partnering with an experienced SEO team. Our experts can create and publish a stream of five-star content tailormade to support your keyword strategy.

      8. Improve Your Site’s SEO

      With 40–60 billion searches happening on Google in the U.S. every single month, SEO is one maintenance task that you can’t afford to overlook. As an established site, chances are you’ve already identified the keywords that you want to rank for. However, keyword popularity can change over time, so it helps to check whether you need to adjust your approach.

      You can view the current search volume using a tool such as Semrush’s Keyword Overview or Keyword Magic tools. We’re so confident that you’ll love using Semrush, we’ve partnered with them to give you a 14-day pro trial for free. [f]

      Semrush & DreamHost Start your free 14-day trial

      Once you’ve made any necessary changes to your keyword strategy, you’ll need to review every part of your site to ensure that it’s helping you rank for those terms. That’s no easy feat!

      To help you out, we’ve created the DreamHost SEO Toolkit. With over 100 automated checks and verifications, you can use this add-on to create a personalized SEO plan. It can also help you implement your SEO strategy via powerful on-page optimization tools. You can add SEO Toolkit to your hosting plan for just $4.99/mo per site.

      Quarterly Tasks

      Let’s take a look at some website elements that are too often overlooked. Here are seven tasks to perform every quarter.

      9. Change Your Passwords

      A strong, complex password is essential for preventing unauthorized access to your website. When creating your password, it’s essential that you follow all the latest best practices, such as using two-factor authentication.

      Even if you’re following the rules, it’s still smart to change your password every quarter. Then, even if your password does get compromised, it will minimize the time the hacker remains inside your hacked account.

      Hacked Site? We’ll Fix It Fast

      With our Hacked Site Repair service, we’ll remove any malicious code and restore your website so it’s back up and running fast.

      10. Check and Fix Broken Links

      Broken links can occur for many reasons. For example, you might delete a page or implement a redirect incorrectly.

      They may be common, but these URLs are disastrous for the User Experience (UX) and your SEO. When search engine bots encounter a broken URL, they’ll crawl that link to verify that it’s broken. This wastes precious crawl budget.

      You can scan for broken URLs using tools such as Semrush.

      Semrush’s Site Audit feature.

      Semrush will scan your site and display any broken URLs in the Crawled pages section.

      Sometimes, you may be able to fix a broken link by manually adjusting the URL. Alternatively, you can use a plugin such as Redirection.

      11. Delete Unnecessary Plugins and Themes

      Every theme or plugin adds code to your website, which is a potential loophole for hackers to exploit. In fact, themes and plugins account for 96% of WordPress vulnerabilities.

      It’s a good idea to regularly take stock of the themes and plugins installed on your site and delete any you no longer require.

      You may be tempted to simply disable the software in question, just in case you need to reactivate it at a later date. However, hackers may still be able to access deactivated code, so deletion is always the safest option.

      The WordPress plugin management page.

      You can further reduce your attack surface by removing any images, videos, or audio files that you no longer require. To achieve this, connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client, then head to the wp-content directory to locate and delete those unnecessary files.

      12. Optimize Your Database

      WordPress stores all of your data and content in a database. The larger your database, the longer it will take the server to retrieve information from your tables.

      By optimizing your database, you can reduce the server load and boost your page load times. You can optimize your database using phpMyAdmin. DreamHost customers can access this tool via their hosting account.

      Logging into phpMyAdmin through your DreamHost panel.

      In phpMyAdmin, navigate to Databases. You can then select the database that you want to optimize.

      13. Test Your Site’s Forms

      Many websites use forms to capture leads and drive conversions. Some forms also deliver core functionality, including login forms.

      An example of a login form.

      Since they’re so important, it’s wise to check that your forms are functioning correctly. We recommend reviewing the entire submission process, including ensuring that you’re logging user input correctly.

      14. Test Your Checkout Process

      If you accept payments via your website, then the checkout process is at the heart of your business. If there’s an issue with this process, then you could be missing out on countless sales. In the worst-case scenario, your system may be completely broken, which will bring your revenue to zero.

      With this in mind, we recommend verifying that your checkout is working as expected. Most payment solutions have a dedicated testing mode, including the popular WooCommerce platform.

      During testing, it’s smart to look for any opportunities to improve the purchasing process. A complex payment process can prevent customers from crossing that finish line. In fact, 34% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they’re forced to create an account.

      If you can streamline the payment process as part of your review, it may do wonders for your bottom line.

      15. Check Your Social Media Links

      Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience and retaining your existing one. By frequently posting across social platforms, you can keep your company at the forefront of your followers’ minds and ensure that they remain engaged over the long term. Many websites feature prominent social media buttons, including links to follow your accounts and share your content.

      Social sharing buttons on the DreamHost blog.

      However, when dealing with third-party tools, there’s always a chance they may change how they process your requests. They may even implement technological changes that affect your site’s social content.

      If your social URLs are broken, then you could be missing out on countless followers and shares. Therefore, it’s important to check them once in a while to make sure that they work.

      You’re Cordially Invited

      Join DreamHost’s Facebook group to connect with like-minded website owners and get advice from peers and experts alike!

      Annual Tasks

      You don’t have to perform these tasks multiple times a year. However, we recommend setting aside the time to perform them annually.

      16. Schedule User Testing

      This is where you evaluate how intuitive your website is by testing it on real-life users. Chances are you performed at least one round of usability testing when you first designed your website.

      However, the way people interact with websites has a tendency to evolve over time. New technical innovations, devices, or browser updates can dramatically change how your typical internet user interacts with your website.

      To ensure that you continue to provide a good experience, we recommend scheduling annual usability testing.

      17. Review Your Domain and Hosting Renewals

      Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you can make. A good domain will become an integral part of your branding.

      Now, imagine losing this essential part of your online identity. If you fall behind on your renewals, then you might try to access your site one day, only to discover that your domain has expired. Therefore, it’s smart to check your domain and hosting renewal status.

      Even if you activate auto-renewals, we still recommend manually verifying that everything is set up correctly, particularly your payment information. If your credit card has expired, the renewal will fail, and you may lose access to your domain or web hosting.

      18. Update Your Header, Footer, and Legal Policies

      Your header and footer are prime digital real estate. Typically, you’ll use these elements to display useful information, such as your contact details or opening hours. If this information is out of date, then you may lose out on conversions.

      The DreamHost footer.

      If you make any significant changes to your operations, you must immediately update the header and footer. However, it never hurts to perform an annual check just to ensure that no changes have slipped through the cracks.

      The header and footer also appear across your website. This makes them perfect for putting your most important pages at the audience’s fingertips.

      While reviewing these elements, consider removing any links that are no longer relevant. There may also be some new content that deserves a top spot in your header or footer.

      Most websites feature various legal policies, including a privacy policy and copyright information. Laws can evolve over time, so it’s always worth verifying that you’re in line with the latest regulations.

      19. Review Your ‘About’ Page

      A compelling About page can convince customers that you’re a company worth doing business with. It can also give people a sense of who you are as individuals.

      The DreamHost About Us page.

      Despite its importance, too many companies write their About page and then never revisit it. To ensure that this page is always representative of your company, it’s worth performing an annual review.

      An example of an About Us page.

      You can look for opportunities to add exciting developments, such as a major new client. You might also update any outdated information, such as changing an employee’s bio to reflect their new job title.

      20. Perform a Content Audit

      Publishing engaging, relevant content signals to visitors that your site is active and that you’re an expert in your field. This content can also help you improve your search engine rankings.

      To ensure that you’re getting maximum value from this content, we recommend performing an annual content audit. This is where you catalog all of your site’s content and evaluate its performance.

      This way, you can identify the topics and formats that attract the largest traffic and drive the most conversions. Conversely, you can pinpoint the content that doesn’t appear to resonate with your target audience. This is invaluable information that you can use to refine your content strategy.

      Ready to try the WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist?

      The hard work doesn’t end just because you’ve published your website. Running a successful WordPress site requires ongoing effort — and regular maintenance.

      By breaking this challenge into 20 tasks, you can keep your site in tip-top shape without becoming overwhelmed. In addition, if you add the right tools and services to the mix, you may be able to further reduce your workload.

      Running a website isn’t always easy, so why not let us lighten the load?

      Our DreamCare Service puts a team of DreamHost experts at your fingertips. With our 24/7 professional website monitoring, managed updates, and monthly security reviews, you can be confident that you’re smashing every item on your maintenance checklist.

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