Having a great website is essential if you want to be competitive in today's digital business landscape. For this reason, it's important that you audit your website periodically (ideally four times per year, depending on the size of your website) to make sure your website is operating as smoothly and effectively as possible. A website audit involves a full analysis of all the factors that affect user experience and search engine visibility. The goal of a website audit is to identify where you can improve your website's performance, so you can ultimately convert more of your visitors.
Before we get too far into the website audit process, it's important to have an understanding of a couple fundamental terms. How well your website is designed and operates is usually referred to as "user experience" or "UX," which some think is a self explanatory term, but is best summarized as how intuitive the website's layout is to a visitor. How well search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing read and index your website, is referred to as "visibility."
There are tons of free resources online that you can utilize to make your website audits faster and easier. Each tool is designed with its own specific purpose. For example, SEO audits, user experience audits, and content audits are all separate components of a comprehensive website audit, each sub-audit has different criteria that it looks for and therefore requires different tools. We'll talk about each type of audit, what to look for, and what tools to use.
SEO (search engine optimization) audits are arguably the most important audit you can perform, because if search engines can't find your website, then people are much less likely to find your website and it won't matter how great your user experience or content strategies are. So it's important to monitor SEO performance and identify any problems that need to be fixed.
Because SEO audits are so important, they are also more common, which is why there are so many SEO audit tools out there. HIVE Digital Strategy offers an excellent free SEO tool that we encourage you to take advantage of. You just enter the URL of the website you want audited, and we email you the analysis of your site's weaknesses and offer possible solutions. Of course Google has free tools that allow you to measure your website's performance, the most notable being Google Search Console, which gives you an overview of how "healthy" your website is, and if there are any red flags that need to be addressed. Moz also offers a free listing score for businesses, which is generated based on criteria that Moz has deemed to be most relevant.
However, as great as free tools are, the data they produce means little to nothing if you don't know what to look for when auditing. So without any further delay, here are some variables to comb through to ensure your website is optimized for search engines:
- What keyword are you focused on for this webpage? Make sure you know what keywords you want to compete for, then map each of them to a single page of your website. To fully optimize your keyword usage, be sure to use the keyword in the page's heading tags, URLs, and meta tags.
- What is the word count for each page of your website? Believe it or not, search engines will give you higher priority on their results page if they think your website is more relevant than a competitor's website. To be viewed as more relevant you have to have at least 300-500 words on your page, you should also use the keyword that you chose 2-3 times on said page.
- Have you submitted contact info to Google My Business? Doing so can help increase your rank on Google's results page.
- Is your website secure? Search engines take this into consideration when processing relevancy and prefer an https:// (secure network).
- Do you have downloadable or sharable content? Having something that people can download can boost your search rank because you'll probably have more words on the page where the download lives (because you'll want to explain what the downloadable content is), and if the download is actually helpful to people you'll have more people seeking out that webpage just for the download.
- Do you have a sitemap set up? Even the most intuitive navigations are not fully optimized until a sitemap is set up to help search engines index your site.
- Do your URLs make sense? If they don't you might be scaring people away before your page can even load.
- Are your header tags relevant? If not a search engine like Google will likely give you much lower search priority.
- Are your images transcribed for search engines to read? Search engines cant read text on pictures, they only see a pdf. Thats why transcribing your images (especially infographics) helps search engines determine relevancy.
- Are you tracking relevant data? Linking your website to tools like Google Analytics helps you identify who your audience is, and allows you to make more meaningful content, and use more relevant keywords.
User experience should be a high priority for any website owner, because if someone visits your website and they can't navigate or use your website in a way that makes sense to them, then there is a good chance they won't convert/purchase, won't return, and they will probably leave with a negative view of your company. To avoid these consequences, we have prepared a few things to consider when auditing for user experience.
- Are your webpages loading in a timely manner? Anymore than three seconds and you should look into downloading a plugin (if your website is on Wordpress) to speed up load time.
- Is your main navigation easy to use? If it isn't then you're probably turning away visitors and missing conversion opportunities.
- Is your website flooded with advertisements? Having too many ads on your website can be seen as a red flag for most users. At the very least it's a nuisance to have your content fighting for your visitor's attention.
- Are there too many calls to action? Similar to having too many advertisements, too many lead capture options can disengage and scare off potential customers.
- Does your website look and function well on a mobile device? Now more than ever website visitors browse the web on mobile devices as opposed to browsing via desktop. If your website offers a good user experience on desktop and not mobile, then you're losing half your audience.
Content audits are not only important in their own right, but they also complement SEO and UX performance. Without a bulletproof content strategy your website might not have an identity, and it won't be doing you any good. Things to look for in a content audit:
- Is your content engaging, helpful, and informative? You have to ask yourself, why would someone visit my website?
- Do each of your pages have at least 500 words? This overlaps with SEO performance, but is still very relevant to your content strategy. Because having a lot of content to offer a site visitor, means there are more reasons for them to come back.
- Is your content tailored for your audience? When you do get website traffic, make sure you keep those visitors there for conversion opportunities by providing them with content that they enjoy. For this reason, it is crucial that you know who your audience is, and what they want.
- Do you have relevant images to support you content?
- Is your content easily sharable? Adding social sharing buttons can help circulate your content, and ultimately bring in more traffic to your website.
Going through all these sub-audits and thinking through the many variables may seem like a daunting task if you've never done a website audit before. Keep in mind that after your first comprehensive website audit, it goes much faster the second time around. If you have determined that you need a comprehensive website audit but would feel more comfortable having a professional do it, or you've done the audit and need help correcting issues that you've detected, HIVE Digital Strategy is here to help.