In the current moment of social distancing, business restrictions, and phased re-openings, your website is more business-critical than ever. It’s your showroom, sales force, and customer service center, digitally pinch-hitting for your people who can’t yet fully return to the office. A website audit is the #1 action you can take to ensure your site is working its hardest for your business.
Why do a website audit?
Your website was never meant to be a “set it and forget it” affair. By its digital nature, it’s always ready to be revised, updated, added to (or subtracted from), and otherwise optimized as needed to advance marketing and sales goals. (Or respond to external factors—most businesses stood up dedicated COVID-19 messaging as the pandemic took hold this spring.) And with CMS platforms like WordPress and HubSpot, it’s easy for practically anyone to update website pages.
But—especially for SMBs—once the site goes “live,” attention inevitably turns to other business matters. Weeks, months, even years can pass before needed, critical updates are identified.
If it’s been at least six months since you launched your website, a website audit can reveal significant opportunities for improvement—and opportunities for growing your business.
What happens in a website audit?
When we engage in website audits for Digital Marketing customers, we focus on three key areas:
- Technical performance
- Search performance
- Visitor engagement
Auditing website Technical Performance
Website user experience (UX) starts with technical performance. If your site isn’t technically high performing, then both search performance and visitor engagement will suffer. A good website audit will assess these technical performance factors:
- Site speed. Simply put, how fast your pages load. Your visitors will only wait so long before they leave. You can quickly see if you’re up to snuff with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Your site’s loading at a respectable clip if its desktop score is at least 70 and mobile is at least 50.
- Broken pages. Broken pages happen when a page on your website no longer exists. Also known as 404 errors, links to this content can be internal or from external sources such a Google search result or bookmarks. Google hates 404 errors and penalizes accordingly in its search ranking algorithm. Be sure to have 301 redirects in place to mitigate the impact.
- Broken links. These are links to external, third-party content that no longer exists. While you don’t control that content, you DO control the links on your website to that content. A link checker tool will find any broken links on your website.
- Mobile or not? In Q2 2020, mobile devices accounted for 48.76% of all US web traffic. While that’s down from Q1’s all-time high of 50.51%, it still indicates the necessity of having a mobile-ready web presence. And does anyone really think mobile devices will become less important going forward? (I’ll have more to say about the importance of your mobile site shortly.)
- Effectiveness of your site’s mobile design. Many bells and whistles of website design don’t translate well—or at all—to mobile. Very often, older websites render poorly and lose functionality when mobile devices try to access them. “Responsive design” practices address these issues to optimize mobile performance.
Auditing website Search Performance
Organic search—”Googling it”—is critical to drawing new visitors to your website. And it’s competitive. You’re never guaranteed to rank #1, but you must give every page on your site its best shot. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constant process that starts by auditing these attributes:
- Keywords. Which ones does your site rank for? Which ones do your competitors win? Where are opportunities to move up in search rankings? It’s a complicated game and the rules (that is, Google’s algorithms) keep changing. But I can tell you this much: Content that ranks high is authoritative and relevant. Stuffing your pages with keywords in every sentence, paragraph and subhead (the old-school style) will NOT win you love from Google.
(By the way, we’re big fans and users of the Yoast plug-in for WordPress on our customers’ sites and our own. While it won’t guarantee #1 search rankings, it gives you extensive guidelines for optimizing each page. Which brings me too…)
- Webpage metadata. Leveraging keywords thoughtfully and strategically in your site’s “back end” is how you get the attention of search engines. First nail down the metadata holy trinity of title tags, page description, and on-page headlines (H1s) and subheads. Then work on URLs and image alt-text (more on that in a moment).
- Again, your mobile presence. Google now indexes mobile optimized sites first—so your site needs to bring its “A” game to phones and tablets.
- Featured image optimization. Search is about more than the text on your pages. Images, properly optimized, can help your rankings. Think about your own search experience and how often you’ve found what you were looking for because you clicked on an image.
- Featured snippet optimization. More than half of all searches are “zero click” searches. You’ve experienced it: You search and the information you want is right there on the search engine results page (SERP). Featured snippets are how you compete to win this game.
- Robots.txt and XML sitemap. While these sound wonky, a robots.txt file simply tells search engines which pages they should or should not index and an XML sitemap is essentially Waze for search engines. Both are super-important to your search engine results.
Auditing website Visitor Engagement
Visitor engagement encompasses many metrics: How long visitors stay on your site, how many pages they visit, their various journeys through your site, the data they give you, their interactions with your content—even where they scroll and click on certain pages. By auditing and analyzing visitor engagement you can begin to strategize on converting visitors to leads and customers.
- Site Analytics. Google Analytics is the industry standard for viewing the full range of activity on your site, from visitor numbers to how they’re finding you to where they’re going and how long they’re staying. Plus it’s FREE. We also like HotJar for the page-level UX insights it delivers and HubSpot for its daily report identifying anonymous visitors to your site (there are free versions of both).
- Site Architecture. Is your website’s navigation easy to, well, navigate? Does it link to your most important content? Is it gummed up with unnecessary stuff? Do visitors always know where they are on your site? Can they easily choose where to go next?
- Content. A content audit will not only inventory all your web pages and other content assets, but also evaluate it for brand-faithfulness, clarity of messaging, and resonance to your target audiences. If you haven’t updated content in a while, there might be some very out-of-date messaging that no longer speaks to your company’s brand—or may not even be factually accurate
- Offers and Forms. Are they optimized to encourage visitors to share their email address with you? Be careful to not ask for so much information that you’re discouraging form completes. With dynamic forms that auto-populate information that’s already in your database, you can always ask for additional information the next time around.
- “Stickiness.” This is an assessment of how hard your site works to keep people from leaving before they convert to a lead. Do you spotlight the content on your site that actually turns a visitor into a lead, or do you bury it?
Just one more thing when you audit your website:
Nearly all of the website audit points I’ve discussed here are technical. But there’s an aspect of every website that affects both search performance and visitor experience: Readability.
Make no mistake: Google is totally turned off by rambling sentences and paragraphs that feel a foot deep. Wouldn’t you be? Scannable subheads, easier-to-digest sentences and paragraphs, and bulleted or numbered lists all help readability, engagement, and search rankings.
Every website has valuable secrets to reveal.
A thorough website audit can inform strategic, revenue-driving business decisions that can extend across the full spectrum of your Digital Marketing efforts.
Every StitchDX website engagement begins with a website audit. You’re invited to receive this in-depth analysis of your site at no charge, and with no obligation. Learn more.