How to do a Website Audit
March 25, 2020
Audits are one of the most important parts of any marketing strategy. Without knowing where you are and where you’re falling short, how are you going to know what you need to do to get results, or, even more importantly, what you need to do first?
A website audit can encompass various things, from technical factors to do with the developers, to SEO (search engine optimization) and CRO (conversion rate optimization). We’ve broken these different topics down in this post. In it, you’ll learn how to do a website audit and what some of the most important factors are for you to take into account.
Let’s dive in!
If while reading this post you have any questions, or you want to get us to do a website audit for you, shoot us a message or give us a call! We’re always happy to have a chat and see how we can best support your business’s success!
What is a website audit?
A website audit is an overview of your web design and marketing currently. It covers a wide range of factors depending on your marketing strategy and the main reason for auditing your website. Although some audits will cover all aspects of a website, most concentrate on a specific marketing channel.
Most often, an audit is done by a marketing agency, contractor, or your internal marketing team. There are free and paid tools that offer you website audits, and although these can be beneficial for getting a general idea of your website, they won’t provide you with the complete information you need to make the right decisions.
Why is a website audit so important in digital marketing?
When you’re trying to get results, it’s vital that you can measure your progress. Without being able to do so, you have no idea if you’re improving or not. Measuring your current position also shows you what you need to improve most. That’s also why some shallow audits may be done for free by software, whereas large in-depth audits done by digital marketing agencies may cost thousands. The more detail and data you can get, the more effective your improvements will be, and the quicker they will take effect. A cheap audit is expensive in the long run!
An audit allows you to understand what you need to improve and makes it possible for you or your team to prioritize your tasks. It can be the difference between a 50% improvement in three months or a 50% improvement in three years. More commonly though, it’s the difference between a 50% improvement in three months or no improvement at all!
What does a website audit include?
This is a hard question to answer since there are various reasons for doing a website audit in the first place. Unlike an audit of a PPC advertising campaign or one of your social media channels, your website has various uses in different marketing channels. Your website is both a marketing channel in its own right when you consider search engine marketing, but it is also an extension of your other marketing campaigns.
When you run a direct mail campaign, people are sent to your website. When running PPC ads, people are being sent to your website. It’s the same for pretty much all of your marketing channels, and that’s why it’s so difficult to answer this question.
One thing we can say is that a good website audit will cover at least a few hundred factors, ranging from technical aspects of your website to content and branding aspects. The more factors and the more detail included in the audit, the higher the price will be and the better your results will be. An audit that only covers so-called site-wide issues may only cover 100 or 200 factors. An audit that covers pages individually too will usually cover these same 100-200 factors, but also an extra few hundred factors for each page of your website. As you can imagine, this is a huge amount of work!
Should I do a website audit myself?
In most cases, it can be beneficial to run a few tests yourself to check your marketing agency, freelancer or internal team. Always read through audits you are provided with carefully to understand what is being done on your website.
Doing a website audit yourself probably won’t be very effective, but it can be done. If you’re a start-up or your budget won’t allow for an agency or freelancer to do an audit and manage the campaign, following the steps in this post should help you to cover most of the important factors. However, even if you are looking to hire an agency, reading this post will help you to understand what they are doing and help you find out if the agency is working in an effective fashion.
Struggling with finding clients for your business? - Check out our post on how to find customers for your business first!
The 4 things to keep in mind
When doing an audit, it’s important to keep your goals in sight. There are a few different aspects of your marketing that require some special attention when doing a website audit. We’ve listed these below with a little more information about what the most important things are to keep in mind.
Functionality and speed
The first things you need to keep in mind are the technical aspects of your website. A site needs to load within a reasonable time and work on all devices. Here are a few of the most important things to consider when auditing the technical aspects of a website:
Your website should load in three seconds or less, but anything under five seconds is generally considered acceptable. The faster the better is what research has proven, and even a load time of just a few seconds can increase the number of people who click away before seeing your website properly.
Auditing your website’s speed can be done using tools like GTmetrics, Pingdom or Google page speed insights. All three of these work great, and it’s advised to use all three to ensure you get the most complete picture of your website’s speed.
Ever noticed how some websites start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Well, the https version of a website is secured using an SSL certificate. This certificate encrypts all traffic and form submissions on the site, which makes it harder for hackers or others with bad intentions to get hold of the details you share on the site.
It’s great to be able to offer your website visitors some security, but in almost all cases, it’s actually mandatory! Due to the GDPR and a lot of other laws/legislation introduced by other countries over the past few years, it’s more vital than ever to protect personal data provided by your website visitors.
Having an SSL certificate is also a ranking factor for SEO. The warnings displayed by certain browsers also means that if you don’t have one, the chances of people trusting your site are small. Luckily, SSL certificates are easy to install and don’t cost a lot of money at all!
Accessibility and layout
The simple act of checking if all your pages are working and are easy to navigate can make a world of difference to your website’s performance. It’s important to check if all pages are laid out in a way that’s easy for people to understand and that all pages are working properly.
Making sure your website functions properly on mobile is vital to a good performing website. The majority of people online are using a mobile device, so there’s no getting around it. You can check if your site is responsive using a tool that tests responsiveness, or a tool like the Google mobile-friendly test.
These tools work really well for individual pages as well as entire websites, but it is always advised that you access your website on a few different mobile devices to check to see if everything is working properly. Important things to check are:
- The navigation menus
Are they easy to read and click on smaller devices? Are there any issues in how they look/work?
- The font size & images
Is all content legible and is it easy to read on a mobile device? Are all images still easy to see?
- The site structure
Does everything look ok on mobile? Are there any objects on the pages that overlap or look messy?
Although this isn’t something that a lot of cheaper audits will cover, a good website audit will always cover the content and information provided on a site. Not only is it important that your website visitors can find all the information they are looking for, but it’s also vital that the information is provided in a way that’s easy for your visitors to find and use.
The first thing you need to do is map out what information people visiting your website will need. Do this on a site-wide basis first and take the primary navigation menu into account. Afterwards, work on a page-by-page basis, and check to see if all information that someone will need is available on all your pages.
If someone has to click through to your about us page to find out whether you’re open or not, then go back to your services page to see if you also offer another service they need, then click through to your contact page before they see a phone number, you’re making it difficult for your visitors to get all the information. If it’s all easily accessible on one page then your website will be far more effective. This may mean that you have to repeat certain information on all pages of your website!
Important things to think about are:
- Opening times
- Contact information
- General overview of services
- Good navigation
Depending on the products/services you offer and the page we’re talking about, you may need a lot more information, or some of these may not be relevant. Having an FAQ’s page for more information is also a good idea.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
When it comes to CRO, there’s not much more to do after you’ve completed the previous few steps. If you have all the information that a visitor may need on every page, and this information is easily accessible, then you’re almost there!
Make sure your pages are scannable, have a lot of white space, and add the most important information to the top of a page. Adding a call to action (CTA) to each page has been shown to increase conversion rates. It’s important to make sure that the button used for this sticks out, and that there aren’t any distracting banners or images that might move your visitors focus away from these buttons.
When it comes to increasing your conversions, there’s a huge part of general information and following “best practice” can have a huge impact. Once you’ve finished this though, it’s important to work with a marketer or marketing agency in order to A/B test and really start optimizing your site!
Search Engine Optimisation
Good SEO is based entirely on SEO audits, and it’s for this reason that website audits are so important for a good SEO campaign. There are hundreds of ranking factors when it comes to SEO, if not thousands. There’s no need to include all of these in a basic audit, and some have already been covered in previous steps, but there are still a lot of factors that are important to consider.
- URL structure
Your URL structure is important for SEO and usability. Make sure your slugs, which is the part of the URL that comes after your domain name (i.e: www.thisisyourdomain.com/this-is-the-slug/), are formatted in a clear and concise manner. Irrelevant numbers and letters should be avoided, and it’s best practice to include solely the keyword you are targeting in the slug.
- Google analytics
There are a lot of things provided in Google analytics which should be included in a good SEO audit. Some of these include your page’s conversion rate, traffic numbers and stats, bounce rate, and the flow of traffic between pages. This is important for seeing which pages are effective and which aren’t, and thus allows you to optimize the pages that will have the most impact first.
- Google search console
The same is true for Google search console, and some of the most important things to take into account in an audit are how your pages are performing in Google (impressions, click-through rate, clicks), crawl rate, penalties and manual actions, errors, indexation and your sitemap. Many large site-wide issues can be detected using Google search console.
Tip: If you do not have Google search console linked up to your site, stop reading this article and go and do that first. It’s the only place you can check for manual actions and penalties. If you want to perform in Google, then there’s no getting around it.
Audit your backlinks and the important metrics that come with them. Referring IPs, the number of quality links, anchor text distribution and quality of the links are important metrics to watch. A good SEO audit will also provide the average metrics for the various keywords you’re targeting in order to base your decision making on.
Important: do-follow/no-follow, anchor text, domain scores and the number of links are all irrelevant if you do not know what the standard is in your industry and for the keyword you are targeting. It’s not 2012 anymore and you cannot expect to improve your rankings by simply building more links.
A surgeon won’t perform heart surgery without looking, and all industries are starting to work more scientifically. Psychiatrists are starting to use brain scans to view the organ they work with, pharmaceutical companies are leveraging genomics and proteomics to get the best data they can, and philanthropy is becoming statistically driven instead of driven by random good intentions.
Why? – Because it’s effective!
SEO is a science. You’re working with an Algorithm that implements artificial intelligence, that changes every day and that no marketer understands fully. One keyword may need 80 do-follow exact match anchor links, while another keyword might need none at all. Although this method is far from fool-proof, it beats the common “build more links” tactic that most companies leverage.
Don’t forget to audit your internal links too! These are even more important than your external links.
- Duplicate content
Use tools like Siteliner and copyscape to check for duplicate content within your own site, as well as on other sites around the web. Duplicate content is an area of SEO that can get very complicated, but unless you’re a marketer yourself or are working closely with an agency or expert, the following rule is worth following:
Try to avoid duplicate content as much as possible outside of the sidebar, footer, navigation and other “common content areas”. If pages do need duplicate content, try to make sure the majority of the page is still unique to avoid any issues with search engines.
- Crawlability and architecture
Use a tool to check out if your site can be crawled properly and make sure to check your robots.txt file to see if there are any pages being unnecessarily blocked. Your site architecture is something we have already covered in the functionality/speed part of this post, so we won’t go into it again!
What marketing channels are you using?
After you’ve covered the most important general aspects of a website audit, it’s important you drill down into your various marketing channels. Below, we’ve covered some of the most commonly used online marketing channels and what to look out for.
Remember: If you haven’t completed the previous steps first then it’s not much use auditing and trying to optimize your website around these specific channels. If your site is slow or the information your visitors are looking for isn’t included, then you’re wasting a lot of time and money optimizing these following things first. Start with the most important parts and then work your way down!
The traffic you generate from social media should get the information they need. Always link to the appropriate pages of your website and make sure that all the information is there. In your website audit, make sure people can easily find your social media pages in order to improve your social media performance too.
Also, it can be effective to make specific pages for visitors coming off social media pages. This isn’t the case for most businesses, but it could be for yours!
Things to think about:
- Check for social share buttons to infographics, images, quotes and other shareable content on your site.
- See if your visitors can easily find your social channels regardless of the page they enter your site on.
- Could you benefit from specific landing pages for certain social channels or things you link to on your social media channels?
- Do your pages provide the right information for visitors coming from social media channels?
When it comes to advertising, landing pages are vital. It’s best practice to create a properly optimized landing page for all of your advertising campaigns. Things to check in an audit are:
- Do I have the right landing pages for my advertising campaigns?
- Are these pages easy to navigate, scan, and do people know what to do next?
- Will these pages convince your visitors to take the action you want them to take?
- How can these pages be improved?
- Are the landing pages being tested using A/B testing software to optimize them optimally?
Need more help with understanding when to use PPC advertising? - Our post on the two times you should be using PPC advertising is the place to go!
Traditional marketing and sales
Much of the same things apply for traditional marketing and sales. These will sometimes require specific landing pages, but other times having the right information on your site is enough. If you follow the previous auditing steps, these two aspects of your marketing strategy should also be covered.
Although a website audit is essential to understanding a marketing campaign, it’s not the best of ideas to try and do one yourself if the goal of the audit is to base your marketing campaign on it. Even for smaller companies, it can be beneficial to outsource the audit, even if the marketing campaign is run internally.
Need help with your website or are you looking for an agency that can help you with a high-quality audit? – Shoot us a message and let’s have a chat about how we can be of value to you!