If you’re an online business or a brick-and-mortar business with a website, chances are you should’ve already audited your website.
If you haven’t, now might be the time to consider it.
Websites are complicated, and you should give them the deserved time and attention.
A website audit not only helps you improve the experience for your users; it also helps with SEO and conversions.
In this article, we’re going to give you a step-by-step website audit checklist to help you optimise your site’s performance to drive more traffic and boost rankings.
A website audit involves auditing your website for SEO, content, technical and user experience issues.
You may be unknowingly disrupting the user experience or stopping Google from crawling and indexing your site.
But, without checking, you’ll never know.
SEO is one of the most effective channels to drive organic traffic. Your website directly impacts your overall SEO efforts; so it pays to audit your site regularly.
This website audit checklist will help you:
• Uncover what changes need to be made on your site (and why)
• Understand how well optimised your site is for SEO
• Benchmark your site’s performance
• Keep your site well-maintained for the future
Thankfully, you can fix many of the common issues with a website with basic knowledge of how websites work.
A slow website means a poor experience for your users. Your site’s speed influences conversion rates.
Don’t believe us? Well, ask yourself this:
The expected page loading time needs to stay beneath 3 seconds. Anything over that and you could be losing 11% of your conversions for every additional 1 second of page load.
It’s bad for sales, and it can interrupt your digital marketing goals.
The easiest way to check your site’s speed is to use an online website speed checker.
There are plenty around.
Here are some of our favourites:
What you’re looking for here is any standout reasons for slow site speed. Most site speed tools will give you the reasons for slow loading times and then make recommendations on how to fix them.
Note: if your business has an eCommerce store, having a poor design, or slow page load can dramatically reduce revenue.
This image is using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
We always recommend starting with your homepage.
This is because most of your website’s traffic will come through here. Making improvements where people visit the most will always be a more effective way of improving your website’s performance.
Pro tip: as of May 2021, Google will use your site’s mobile version to analyse your site’s performance and determine where Google can rank you. We suggest aiming for a score of 90 and above for both mobile and desktop.
The only major drawback of PageSpeed Insights (and many online tools) is that they only allow you to audit one page at a time. Meaning, unless you have a few days spare to enter thousands of pages into a speed checker manually, you need a better solution.
Unfortunately, images are one of the main reasons for a slow website.
Whilst auditing your website for speed issues, we always recommend paying close attention to:
• The size of your image files.
• How many images are on a single page.
• The total combined size of your images.
• The file size of your images
Your server is where everything on your website is hosted.
It’s a crucial part in making sure your site is both secure and fast. Each time a user visits your website, the browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) will request files from your server.
How quickly your server responds is known as time-to-first-byte (TTFB). Search engines are impatient so, if your server response time is anything above 0.3s, Google could demote your website for it.
• Make sure you have a dedicated server
• Invest in a good hosting provider
Your site’s design should be treated as your shop window.
Nobody (well, most people) will trust a design from the 90s. We always recommend reviewing your site’s design every 2-3 years. It’s here you can quickly identify if your site needs a refresh or complete redesign.
But auditing your website’s design isn’t about making it look pretty.
It’s about SEO, accessibility and, conversions.
When you audit your website’s design, there are a few ‘must-have’ items on our checklist.
• Are your call-to-action buttons clear and unintrusive?• Does your colour scheme compliment your brand?
• Is your font selection easy to ready?
• Is your site mobile responsive?
• What website coding language does your site use?
The expectation of websites in 2021 from users is higher than ever.
They want a site to load fast,
Your website should be healthy without any foundational issues. During a website audit, you must pay attention to how fit-for-purpose your platform is.
Technical SEO and auditing your website for technical issues can get complex pretty quickly, which is why, at this stage, we recommend hiring a professional web developer.
You can end up doing more harm than good if you try to fix issues you don’t have an understanding of.
We use a mixture of auditing tools such as:
• Screaming Frog
These site auditing tools offer deep insights into how your website functions. However, as part of this auditing checklist, we’ve highlighted the most common (and annoying) technical issues to watch out for:
• Broken pages
• Page redirects
• Broken internal links<
• Tag and category pages
• Missing Robots.txt
• Missing XML sitemap
If your website isn’t secure, you’re putting your users at risk. As people become more aware of data-handling, you could deter a potential customer by not making sure your site is reliably secure.
You can find out if your site has an SSL certificate by:
1. Checking with your hosting provider
2. Checking if your site returns ‘not secure’ in the address bar
3. Google prevents you from visiting the page
The emphasis on website security has never been greater. This is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ this is a must. If you don’t install or buy an SSL certificate, you could find that your website slips in the search rankings pretty quickly.
Or, you won’t be able to rank at all.
Maintaining your website is a basic and yet overlooked step of any website audit.
If you want to improve your website’s performance, you always have to do the basics first.
This could be:
• Updating any databases or plugins
• Refreshing your content
• Updating copyright, T&Cs, privacy policies
• Website backups (weekly or monthly)
• Core upgrades (CMS updates)
Now, we know that constantly monitoring your website when you have 1,000 things to do isn’t always easy. Not only that, but website maintenance can become a headache if things go wrong. To make your life easier, we offer monthly website maintenance plans from £250 per month.
Whenever we hear the word ‘virus’ or ‘malware’, we think of our computer being taken over by hackers.
Whilst this isn’t the Matrix, it can happen.
It’s estimated that 30,000 new websites are hacked daily. Most of these websites exist on WordPress.
If you’ve invested in a cheap WordPress theme, now might be the time to consider building a custom website on WordPress.
It reduces your risks and protects your customers.
The most common ways hackers can impact your website are:
• Through outdated plugins
• Vulnerable hosting providers
• Easily accessible admin pages
• Weak passwords (yep, this still happens)
• Code that’s sent through emails to track your key logs
When you audit your website, this isn’t always easy to spot. One quick way to check is to type:
• site:yourwebsite.com into Google and look at the results that are returned.
Hackers will usually find ways to impact your online presence by using anchor text spam or by injecting links into your pages without you knowing.
If, during your search, you see any pages returned with odd page titles (i.e., any foreign characters, anything porn-related or keywords relating to another business).
Whether it’s a blog post or a service page, you should always audit your website’s content quality.
No matter how great your business is, it can be seriously damaged by allowing low-quality content to exist on your site.
Basic checks include:
• Is your content informative and well-written?
• Could the user skim through your content easily?
• Is your content broken up by headers and images?
• Is your content free of spelling mistakes and poor grammar?
• Is your content a duplicate of another page?
If you own a small website, you can always audit your content manually. We wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you have 30 or fewer pages on your website.
However, a more in-depth website audit using site audit tools would be more effective for a larger website.
Content marketing is a great source for lead generation and returning business; invest in it wisely!
You may think that your page titles carry no importance. When in fact they’re hugely important for both informing the user and search engine what your page is about.
It’s also straightforward.
Your job here is to find pages that have:
• No page title at all
• Duplicate page titles
• Page titles which are either too short or too long
• Pages which are keyword stuffed
Making sure your page titles are well optimised can help influence SEO by increasing click-through rates, which generates more traffic.
The easiest way to find this manually for small sites is to review each page and ensure no page has less than 500 words of content.
Advertising on your site is a great way to generate revenue by monetising your traffic.
But not at the expense of the user’s experience with your brand.
Google hates website who put greater emphasis on ads than they do their own users.
Which is why it’s important that you:
• Reduce the number of ads you have above the fold
• Don’t use full-screen (interstitial) pop-ups
• Don’t trick users into clicking banner ads
• Balance the ratio of informative content vs ads
A quick test to try yourself would be to visit your competitors and see how they utilise ads on their pages. If your website experience is more disruptive than theirs, you need to make a change!
Another low-quality signal that Google looks for.
Duplicate content means having similar (or the same) content across multiple pages. This normally happens with eCommerce stores who have 100 or 1,000s of products.
Without getting too technical, there are ways to resolve large-scale duplicate content issues without rewriting large amounts of content.
The easiest way to check for duplicate content is to:
1. Go to any page on your website and copy up to 35 words of text
2. Wrap your text in quotes (“like this”)
3. Enter it into Google
4. See if more than one page is returned
We recommend doing this for different sections of each page and your page titles.
Duplicate content can exist in:
• Your page titles
• Your meta descriptions
• Your image ALT tags
• The content on your page
If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, it’s the process of generating organic traffic into your site through Google.
However, if you’re already focused on growing your organic visibility, you’ll know how valuable SEO can be.
Making sure your SEO is website friendly should be a key component of all website audits.
We recommend that you check:
• Keyword usage and targeting
• On-page optimisation
• Your page titles and header tags
• Your URLs are user-friendly
• Your site structure is easy to navigate
• Your site loads quickly (as mentioned earlier)
Your organic traffic can tell Google how popular or how trusted your business is.
You can apply that to any business.
If you own a brick and mortar business and people often visit the competing businesses, rather than yours; what kind of signal would that send your customers?
More importantly – how would it impact you?
Here’s a basic set up to see if your website is SEO-friendly:
1. Ensure you have Google Analytics, and Google Search Console installed (if you’re unsure how we can help)
2. Record impressions, clicks and, average position over 30 days.
3. See how Google currently ranks your website. Do you regularly rank page 1? Or do you rank page 5?
4. Adjust your pages using this website checklist (focusing on content and site speed) and see if Google re-evaluates your website.
How many times have you been to a website and found it frustrating to find what you’re looking for?
Imagine Google having to do that 1,000 times over.
Imaging your users clicking through 8 different pages before they find what they’re looking for. Or being sent ads every time they open a new page on your site.
What’s the likelihood that the user will be coming back?
We’ll give you that answer for free: zero.
Your site’s navigation is the most used area of any site.
It’s where users go to find what they’re looking for, and it’s how Google understands the hierarchy (or importance) of your pages.
Having bad site navigation can result in increased bounce rate and reduced conversions.
Your website design should cater to every user that visits.
The benefits of having an easy-to-use site architecture are that it supports crawling, indexing and ranking.
All of which is a necessity for bringing organic traffic into your site.
Bad website navigation will:
• Exclude important pages
• Have too many pages (over 100 links)
• Not be mobile responsive
• Text is too big or too long
• Internal links are hard to spot
All of the above points could result in somebody leaving your site.
We know it can sometimes be last on your list of items to check, but we urge you to pay attention to how users use your site menu on both desktop and mobile.
Bounce rate means how many people visited a page and left without interacting with that page.
It would be best if you looked bounce rate at in context.
When you audit your website’s performance, keep in mind that some pages should have a high bounce rate. And some shouldn’t.
For example, pages that might have a high bounce rate:
• A page dedicated to answering a single question
• A page detailing lists of recommendations
• A contact us page (with no submission form)
Pages you don’t want a high bounce rate on:
• Any page that should be informing a user’s decision as part of their research/buying journey.
Just as UX plays a part in making navigation easy, your page should engage your users and keep them on your site longer.
The longer your users on your website, the better Google believes the page is.
We hope this checklist has given you enough of a foundation to begin reviewing your site.
Feel free to download our website audit checklist for you or your team to use.
Remember, the key aspects of any website audit are:
• Setting expectations/benchmarks
• Focus on website performance
• Reviewing your content
• Making your site user-friendly
• Making your site SEO-friendly
• Find your website’s weaknesses and fix them
• Hire a web developer if it’s too complicated
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