If you want to improve the efficiency and visibility of your business website, then your first step should be a thorough website audit.
An audit provides a complete and detailed analysis of your website’s health, performance, speed, security, content and everything in between. It then lists the measures to be taken to increase your traffic and leads/sales, resulting in higher profits for your business.
In other words, an audit of your website reveals issues with your website, and how to fix them, so you can grow your business.
Let’s take a look at what should be included in an audit of your website, as well as costs, and some free tools that are available if you want to tackle it yourself.
What should be covered in your website audit?
Essentially, there are five key sections to a website audit:
- Technical – focuses on best practices for online visibility and ease of use
- Content – focuses on brand identity, and what messages are converting
- Design – focuses on consistency with your brand and across the site
- SEO – focuses on how well your site is optimised for search engines
- Security – focuses on detecting weaknesses that hackers can exploit
How do you audit a website?
1. Identify the current state of your website
The best way to identify the current state of your website is to use Google Analytics. You want to check the traffic sources for your site, as well as which channels outperform others and identify the most popular pages or posts.
- Assessing both the amount of traffic and its source helps you identify whether your current marketing strategies are generating traffic. Knowing this information can help identify new target markets and opportunities to increase traffic to your website
- When you identify the most popular pages or posts on your website you can also focus on driving more traffic to them and hopefully, increase conversions and revenue
You also need to ensure that Google is only indexing one version of your site. This means that no matter which variation of your website URL someone types in, it should always take them to the primary URL. For example, whether they use “http” or “https”, or whether “www” is present, the user should always instantly be forwarded to one specific version of your URL. If this isn’t set up properly, search engines may think you have multiple websites with identical content, and your rankings will be lower.
Your website must of course also be very mobile-friendly and meet all general user expectations such as a modern design, simple menu structure, relatively standard layout (e.g. logo top left, contact info top right), and so on.
This information will give you baselines that can be used to decide whether the changes you have made, following your audit, have been successful.
2. Improve your website’s speed
With page speed being one of Google’s ranking factors, it’s vital that you maximise the speed of your website. Generally, speed loading times can be improved by optimising images, caching pages and using a CDN (content delivery service).
Optimising images is achieved by compressing the image files and resizing them to the optimal dimensions, reducing the amount of time it takes to open these images in your browser. This improves page load times and can help improve SEO rankings.
Caching pages means that when you return to a website that you’ve viewed previously, data has already been preloaded, so it loads faster in your browser. Essentially, the server stores a HTML file of the page and the next time you want to view this page the server can just send you this HTML file without wasting time processing the data and converting it into a HTML file again.
CDNs actually cache the content of your website in a network of multiple servers around the world. These CDN caching servers are separate from the hosting server and when you request a page, it’s delivered to you from the closest CDN server, resulting in rapid loading times.
We’ve included three free speed testing sites at the bottom of this post, all of which identify corrective tasks to improve your site’s speed as part of your website audit.
3. Remove poorly performing pages from being indexed
Do you have pages on your website that are low quality? For example, pages which have very low views (as per the data in Google Analytics), very little content, or generally aren’t what a user would want to see. Of course, one option is to go and improve those pages.
But if you don’t have the time to do that right now, you may want to simply stop the pages from appearing in search engines at all.
To do that, first you need to check to see which pages are listed (“indexed”). Head to Google and type in “site:” followed by your domain name. For example, “site:yourdomain.com.au”.
If any of the poor pages you’ve identified are appearing in the search results, you can set up an account with Google Search Console, add your website, and then request that certain URLs are removed from indexing.
Later, when you’ve improved the pages, you can request that they be indexed again.
4. Make sure all pages and posts are indexed correctly
Use Google Search Console to identify any indexing issues across your content (pages, posts, products, categories, etc).
Google Search Console provides a breakdown of your site’s indexing status along with any errors. Fixing these issues helps with ranking your website.
The fix for each issue can vary considerably, but in many cases it may just require re-saving the page and/or regenerating and resubmitting your sitemap file within Google Search Console.
5. Analyse backlinks, fix broken links and 404 errors
There are various factors that can reduce your rankings in the search engine results pages and therefore your online visibility, including:
- Backlinks (links on other websites that point to your site)
- Broken links (hyperlinks on any website, including your own, that point to a URL on your website which no longer exists)
- 404 errors (an error page on your website which indicates that whatever the user was looking for can’t be found)
Identifying poor quality backlinks can be complex, but it’s explained well by Neil Patel, and you can use various SEO platforms such as SEMRush to analyse and fix issues with low quality backlinks.
For broken links, again you can use various SEO platforms, otherwise there are plugins for most websites that allow you to perform a scan of your site. This then gives you a complete list of broken links. Some WordPress plugins even allow you to go through each one and quickly provide the new link, and it handles everything in the background for you.
You can use Google Search Console to identify 404 errors. From there, you will need to investigate the cause of the issue. It may be an error on your website (such as a form that isn’t submitting properly), so you would need to get your web developer to resolve this. The other main cause of a 404 error that the URL of a page on your website has changed at some point, in which case you need to set up a “301 redirect”, so that when someone visits that old URL, they’ll automatically be forwarded to the correct new URL.
6. Improve on-page SEO
There are some fundamental steps you can take to ensure the quality of the content on your website. For example:
- Within each page on your site, add links to other related pages
- Adding pages to the relevant menu(s) or footer links
- Adding a meta title and meta description
- Adding content, including headings and bullet points to make your content
- Ensuring your SEO software in the website is configured correctly
The end goal is that users can easily skim-read your content, but they can also read everything easily and understand how it all comes together.
In addition, it’s essential that you research and incorporate keywords (search phrases) which can help bring traffic to your website. Keyword research is beyond the scope of this article, but there are many great resources and tools online to find keywords suited to your business and implement them on your website.
7. Check user-friendliness of your content
Does your content provide visitors with the information they need? If people click away from your site quickly because they don’t find what they are looking for, this will negatively affect your rankings. This is because if a high percentage of visitors leave your website in a short amount of time, or after viewing only one page (known as a “bounce”), this affects your search engine rankings.
Think about who you want to bring to your website. What are they looking for? It might be information about a topic, an answer to a question, a specific product or service, getting a quote, making a purchase, and so on. Ensure all such options are easily discoverable in multiple ways, such as on your pages, in menus, in the site search, in the footer, and so on.
In the same way, you need to ensure that when visitors arrive on your website after finding you via a search engine, they will immediately see what they expected to.
As part of your website audit, review every page on your website and put yourselves in the shoes of your visitors. Will you find what you’re looking for?
8. Assess website navigation
The architecture (also known as structure) of your website needs to be simple, ensuring that visitors can quickly access the information they require and that search engines can easily crawl (discover) and index (list/track) each page or post. The easiest way to assess your site’s navigation is to ask someone who is not familiar with your site to search for specific products or information.
The hierarchy of the pages on your website should be organised in such a way that it makes sense to both people and search engines. For example, if you have a “Services” page then you should create subpages for each individual service, and place hyperlinks on both pages (so they link to each other). This hierarchy/structure needs to be reflected in your navigation menus as well.
Of course, for many websites it’s also important to have a search feature. This can be a general site search, or you could (also) have one specifically for certain parts of your website, such as a product listing. And, rather than the user having to go to a search results page to find what they’re looking for, you can set the search to instantly return results as the user types.
9. Check web accessibility
You should make every reasonable effort to make your website easier to use for visitors with a disability. Some of the adjustments you can directly make include using larger fonts (or allowing users to adjust them), using high contrast colours (or allowing users to switch to a high contrast mode), adding descriptive “alternative text” to images on every page, and more.
You can use the Wave Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool to perform an analysis of your website. This tool provides a comprehensive report identifying any features or elements that need to be improved.
Most of the changes you’d need to make to improve accessibility would rely on your web developer, but there are many plugins available for websites that quickly add accessibility features too.
10. Run regular reports
To keep your website running at optimal levels, you run regular website audits using various marketing and SEO platforms. Most platforms will allow you to schedule an automated audit, and this can include not just your website but also your search engine visibility and other areas like social media.
Compare each audit to monitor your progress, and determine whether the changes you’ve made in between audits has resulted in an improved score.
Does it cost money or is it free?
If you use the free tools listed below, an audit of your website doesn’t cost you anything. However, it can be very time consuming and if you’re not highly proficient with websites and search engine optimisation techniques, it can be quite intimidating. At GO Creative, we offer a free website audit, saving you an enormous amount of time and effort.
Free website audit tools
If you do want to perform your own DIY website audit, here are some free online tools that you can use: