With 2020 coming to a close, it is the perfect time of year to reflect and anticipate. Reflect on what went well throughout the year, and anticipate what needs sprucing up in order to be successful in the new year.
For many of us business owners, it is a good time to take stock of our website and marketing programs to see what is working and what needs improvement. If you are considering a new website, the best way to convince the rest of your team is to do a thorough audit and analysis.
We understand how difficult it can be to consider the cost of a new website, but you know it will take much more than a fix to your website woes and digital marketing metrics. You will need to invest in your business, and your website is the best place to start.
Before you begin, you will need a few specific tools and a process to evaluate your current website standings. It likely sounds daunting, but it is totally doable and will be worth it. There are many tools that will help you audit your website, such as SEM Rush and Hubspot's Website Grader.
If, after your audit, you and your team decide to invest in a new website, please do not hesitate to contact us. It is, after all, our specialty. But before you get started, find out why a website audit is important and how to do one with a few simple steps.
Why You Should Audit Your Website
We highly recommend doing a website audit in order to identify any website related issues. It will help determine whether your website is fully optimized for search engine traffic, has broken links or files, optimal load-time, user-friendliness, as well as the status of the content.
In fact, doing routine site audits is important because it allows you to notice the amount of traffic you are generating. The more traffic that you drive to your website, the more likely you are to increase sales. Not addressing any of the issues that you find during your website audit could mean a plateau or even a decrease in website traffic, therefore a decrease in sales.
How To Conduct a Website Audit
Running a manual site audit is a lot of work that even seasoned SEO professionals struggle with. When it comes to older and larger websites, the task is even more difficult to endure. There are more pages and resources to audit, and with an old website comes a slow load time. This is where an audit tools becomes absolutely necessary, although the manual edition must exist for an effective audit.
Choose an Audit Tool
There are many website audit tools out there nowadays, including SEM Rush and Ahrefs. There are more niche tools such as Screaming Frog and Sitebulb that exist as exclusive audit services. All of these tools do cost money, but have the best reputation for being thorough, accurate, easy-to-use and comprehensive. Although there are free audit tools out there, we recommend using a paid audit tool for more capability and reliable.
Each one allows you to do the following:
- Scan your website for any technical problems
- Identify on-page and off-page SEO issues
- Check for broken files and internal or external links
- Find weak or duplicate content
- Assess page errors, page load speed issues, and pages blocked by robots.txt
- Generate a checklist of problems to fix
- Using an SEO tool (or several) is the best way to identify any website issues and generate a report of problems that need to be fixed.
Run Your Website URL Through the Site Audit Tool
Now that you have decided on a site audit tool, it is time to enter your website URL into the site auditor. The site auditor will then crawl your website, looking for issues and reporting on each one with a comprehensive report. Keep in mind, that every tool is a bit different in how they display the results.
By having a report on hand, you will be able to more easily identify what needs to be fixed and check items off as you go. Most reports allow you to search by category, making it easy to move from one issue to the other.
Find Technical Errors
In your final report from your chosen audit tool, you will see a list of technical errors. Your technical errors are what has the largest impact on SEO, but even if you aren't prioritizing SEO for your website, fixing these issues will help your website run more smoothly and be more user-friendly.
Technical errors can include:
- Crawl errors: These appear when the tool identifies pages that are unable to be crawled by search engine bots
- HTTPS status: This determines whether your site’s SSL certificate is up-to-date (i.e. “http://” vs “https://”) and whether your site is safe for users to access
- XML sitemap status: Your XML sitemap is essentially a map for search engine crawlers. This determines whether your sitemap is formatted properly, includes all updated pages, etc.
- Site and page load times: Find out whether your site and pages load quickly (or slowly). Slow load speed can impede user experience
- Mobile friendliness: Is your website accessible via mobile devices? Are there any glitches or accessibility issues?
- Broken images: Make sure that all images show up correctly on your website and don’t show a broken link
- robots.txt file: This checks whether all of your pages are being indexed correctly (and if the pages you DON’T want to be indexed aren’t being indexed)
- Broken links: Find any internal or external links are “broken” (i.e. aren’t accessible to users or the page it is pointing to no longer exists)
Most of these technical issues are simple to fix, and are not very time-consuming. Due to the fact that there are many errors that can occur, you can understand why we recommend regular site audits.
Identify SEO Issues
As previously mentioned, oftentimes a technical issue can overlap with an SEO issue. In reality, all of these issues can affect SEO in one way or another. In this section, we will include anything that was not included in the technical section of the site audit.
Common issues identified in an SEO audit include:
- Duplicate, short, long, or missing title tags
- Duplicate, short, long, or missing meta descriptions
- Missing or duplicate image alt text or title text
- Google Analytics code missing
- Presence or absence of H2, H3, etc. headings
- Missing or incorrect schema.org microdata
- Non-optimized internal links and anchor text
The site auditor will specify which issues need to be addressed and how. This could mean re-writing your page titles, writing longer meta descriptions, adding H2s, and more.
Although some of these issues may appear insignificant, we can assure you that they will play a role in your site SEO. In addition, you should be targeting your focus keywords correctly by including them in your title tags, meta descriptions, etc.
Analyze Design and UX
It is extremely important to analyze your website design and user-friendliness in order to continue to drive traffic. Both things are important because they help determine how a user interacts with your website, how they communicate with you, and how long they stay on your website. Depending on these results, it will determine whether your customers convert when visiting your website.
There are several indicators when determining how your design and user-friendliness is performing. For example, site navigation and page depth will indicate whether your site is easy to use and how easy it is for them to find what they are looking for. We highly recommend that the majority of your content exists within 3 clicks away from the homepage.
When you make it easy for your website visitors to find what they are looking for, your customers are more likely to convert. If your site navigation uses confusing terms, your content is buried in your website, or your design is a mess, it can frustrate your users and force them to leave your website before following through on a call-to-action.
Assess Website Content
As you've probably heard, content is king. Having a great SEO strategy is not a place to cut corners. During your thorough website audit, it will identify which pages are ranking for your focus keywords, and which pages may not be ranking at all. In addition, it will identify any pages that have shallow content or duplicate content.
Ultimately, every page on your website should serve a purpose. Therefore, the content on each page should be written based on that specific purpose.
Some best practices for SEO content include:
- Content adheres to the overall page goal and purpose
- Content is concise and helpful to users
- Content has well researched keywords that match search intent
- Content is well-organized and structured according to SEO best practices
- No spelling or grammar mistakes
- No “filler” content (i.e. all content serves a purpose)
- Content includes helpful bullet points, numbered lists, and pictures as needed
- Content is optimized for mobile (short paragraphs with white space)
- Include internal links to relevant pages and external links to reputable websites
- Content is unique and isn’t duplicated or plagiarized
Generate a Checklist of All Site Issues
Last but not least, you will want to create a comprehensive list of all the site issues that need to be fixed. This will keep you organized, and allow you to check things off as you go. As we previously said, most tools will generate a digital report for you to check off as you go, along with basic instructions on how to fix the issues. You can also share the checklist with other members of your team, making it easy to prove to your team that a new website is crucial.
Having a checklist of all technical, SEO, design, and content issues makes it easy to keep track of what work needs to be done. It keeps you on task, encouraging you to focus your attention where it needs to be and ensuring you do not miss any important details.