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Why Audit Your Website?
There are several reasons to perform an in-depth website review. SEO and content marketing are the most popular reasons. Using the right tools and processes, you can identify “gaps” and/or “misconfigurations”—both in website structure (technical SEO and user experience), and website content.
There is a world of difference between a website that appears to work, and one that has been tuned and maintained for optimal operation.
We believe in taking a holistic look at your website during the audit. Most free resources focus on the SEO component of a website audit. However, that’s not the only thing we think you should focus on if your website is part of a growing business.
Website development and technology have dramatically changed in the last few years. Back when I started we would build websites using a text editor and FTP, today many people who build websites do not ever touch code. This means a lot of what is presented to the visitor, or search engines, has not been done intentionally for the best results.
In our experience, we’ve found that WordPress has become a fantastic foundation for blogging, e-commerce, and membership sites, and it will remain a leading player for a long time. Even so, “out of the box”, even WordPress has some changes that need making right away.
This post goes over the basic points you need to understand before you undergo a website audit, starting with why you need one and the various components you should check.
Do You Need a Website Review?
Many website owners and bloggers wonder why they need a site audit and the benefits they’ll gain by conducting one, right up until they look at their analytics (or checking account) and see a massive, unexplained drop.
Our experience has shown that most web designers build websites with a focus on visual design, and to a lesser extent the content, without regard for indexing, backlinks, markup, metrics, or even usability.
How many times have you wanted to reserve a table at a lovely-looking restaurant but can’t find the official site, or when you do find them, their menus are several years out of date PDFs that look weird on your phone?
A cool design might be a great way to get your brand in front of people who already know you, but it doesn’t really help you get found online by people who are searching for you, your content, products, or courses.
If you evaluate your WordPress website based strictly on website design, it might appear just fine or even top-notch. While the web design and layout of a blog are essential to user experience, there are many more factors that contribute to your site ranking and digital marketing performance that you should consider.
We are not all web developers, but in this digital-focused time, we all have to be writers. That’s why we avidly believe in a content-first approach rather than a singular focus on the Google algorithm.
You should, of course, do keyword research, but focus on creating high-quality content that’s properly optimized for search, and make sure the technical and design elements of the website enhance the user’s ability to consume that content.
We’re sure you will find success with this website audit guide because it’s not a theoretical approach to improving website rankings. It is a practical, hands-on approach that uses the same proven website audit strategy that we implement for our customers. That said, just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you have to, get an SEO Keyword Report – or reach out if you would like us to help more in-depth.
Properly labeling images, defining page title tags, entering meta-data descriptions and meta tags in HTML headers, internal links (using meaningful anchor text), and properly using H1 and H2 tags for headings, and careful use of redirects are a few of the base WordPress SEO guidelines that people should know and consciously implement.
Having SSL, a responsive design, valid Robots.TXT, calls-to-action, and as mentioned, high-quality content, are all important factors in your website’s performance as well. And yet, we find so many websites don’t have these basic on-page elements in place, let alone consider off-page concerns.
Develop a Website Review Strategy
Don’t be fooled by SEO audit blog posts from webmasters or marketing agencies that claim to audit sites in a few minutes (probably mostly using their favorite SEO audit tool.) This isn’t going to be easy and search engines change the secret sauce of their ranking factors reasonably often.
Depending on the size of your site, the process to complete a full audit of your website can take a lot of patience and time. Many tools actually have a maximum size, at least on the lower-priced plans.
It’s important to know that a website audit is an iterative process. We believe you should audit and fix, then audit and fix, and then repeat that process until you achieve the results you are expecting.
Be sure to develop a website review plan before you begin.
We believe that having a strategy implies using an implementation plan. Our website audit strategy addresses the fundamentals of several audit types. You should know how to implement each of these audits in order to effect positive change for your website.
We use various commercial and self-built tools to address SEO, performance, and security.
- SEO Audit and Link Coverage
- Performance Audit (including Pagespeed Insights)
- Security Audit
- Technology Audit (including negative SEO issues)
- Conversion Audit
- Content Audit (and Organic Traffic against most-wanted target keywords and Search Engine Rankings)
Let’s break out each of these audit types and what you need to be aware of when reviewing your website and ensuring it’s performing at its full potential.
1. SEO Audit
We all know having an SEO strategy is important. A lot of SEO is now weighted by page speed, but we’ll get into that when we address auditing your site’s performance. For our purposes, when we refer to SEO, we are referring to things like your title tags, SEO titles, meta descriptions, alt text, and redirected and broken links.
Your SEO title and meta description are what people see on SERPs (search engine results pages), so it’s very important that you have this metadata set for each of your pages and posts. Yoast is a great plugin that helps you with such technical aspects as your XML Sitemap, plus makes your on-page SEO elements easy to manage.
You can go through page by page, checking that nothing is missing, or use Yoast’s bulk editor tool to add/update SEO titles and meta descriptions all at once. From your WordPress Dashboard, go to SEO > Tools > Bulk editor (must have Yoast SEO plugin).
Another option is to run site audit tools such as:
- Screaming Frog
Of these, we particularly like Sitebulb, it generates a detailed report that shows all issues and assigns a priority level to each so you know where to focus first.
Be aware that traffic estimates from all third-party tools are only that, estimates. Many people get their treasured content to rank only to find the phrases they are ranking for do not provide the torrent of traffic they were promised!
2. Website Performance Audit
A site’s performance audit is an analysis of multiple factors that contribute to response time (i.e. speed-related). That being said, this is closely intertwined with your infrastructure and technology so pay special attention to the next section as well in regard to performance. A website performance audit may look at the following factors:
- Site Speed
- Page Speed/Size – Learn more about why page speed matters.
- TTFB (time to the first byte)
- HTTP requests
- First Contentful Paint
- First Meaningful Paint
- First CPU Idle
- Time to Interactive
- Max Potential First Input Delay
- Total Blocking Time
- Largest Contentful Paint
If you find you have slow load times, start with optimizing images since bulky images can slow down your site, and typically this is a problem area for most website owners. To decrease page size, we recommend aiming for under 1 MB, and optimizing your images can help with this a lot. With help of free WordPress plugins such as Imagify and EWWW Image Optimizer, you can reduce the size of your images without losing quality. Imsanity is another great plugin that actually prevents huge image uploads.
Here are a few more actionable steps you can take to improve your site speed.
- Reduce server response time.
- Implement Google Tag Manager to offload your scripts.
- Correctly position render-blocking CSS and JS.
3. Website Technology Review & Technical SEO Audit
Beneath the fancy designs of a site, there are many underlying technologies that allow it to run efficiently and effectively. This is the foundation of your website, and if it doesn’t work, then nothing else can. Read more about how we approach website development and the importance of website infrastructure to learn more.
Here are some technology components you need to make sure are working in unison:
- Hosting – A proper hosting site ensures quick load times and server up-time. If users are bogged down by slow load times they may never make it to the site.
- WordPress – We highly recommend that you select WordPress as your content management system.
- Backups – Do you back up your site on a regular basis? Make sure you have this capability and you are doing it. This is your safety net– if something does go wrong, your site can be restored quickly.
- Compatibility and Mobile Usability – Is your site fast, responsive and mobile-friendly? Test for mobile users using multiple browsers (Chrome/Safari etc), and both smartphones/tablets, plus both major operating systems (Android and iOS at the time of writing) of mobile devices.
- Clean coding – Are the correct HTML and proper headings being used? Do you have broken links anywhere on your website?
- Tags – Are tags in your blog being used properly? If not, this can be a major navigation and SEO downfall.
- URL – Do visitors retrieve the same site with or without typing in “www”? If not, this could cause confusion and be detrimental to SEO.
- Plugins – Review your plugins to ensure the ones you are using are trusted and 100% necessary. Plugins can be a great help but they can also slow down your website or even introduce incorrect structured data schema without you realizing it.
- Theme – Page Speed was our priority when building Mai Theme 2.0. Choose a theme that scores in the high 90s on Google’s core web vitals out of the box. Mai Theme does.
4. Website Security Review
A secure website is crucial, not only to your business and profits but to your clients as well. Even if you’re not dealing with monetary transactions, it is still your responsibility to protect your client’s data, such as email addresses, names, and affiliations.
You must keep on top of your website technology security updates, and keep plugins and themes constantly patched with the latest changes. Out-of-date software, along with lax file system security settings, are the main way that websites get defaced or worse.
As well as doing the right things, be seen to be doing the right things also:
- SSL Certification – A website that begins with “HTTPS” is secure; if it begins with “HTTP” it is not. To obtain SSL certification, your site must go through a validation process.
- Terms & Conditions – Terms & Conditions protect you legally should a dispute arise. They relay to the visitors of your site what they can expect from you and vice versa. They also simply serve as a disclaimer.
- Refund Policy – Do your products have a refund policy? It is very important that the refund policy is clear and easy to locate.
- Copyright Notice – The importance of copyright goes without saying. Ensure you have one.
5. Conversion Optimization Review
In marketing, the definition of conversion is getting consumers to respond to your call to action. A call-to-action can consist of joining an email list, registering for an event, buying a product, or all of the above. Successful websites convert website visitors from potential customers to active customers.
Here are some things you use to increase conversions on your site:
- Clear call-to-action buttons – Your call-to-action (CTA) should be clear and obvious. There should be no confusion as to how to contact, buy, or register. Use CTAs on all your web pages. Don’t reserve their use for just your home page.
- Analytics – Google Analytics gives insight into sales, conversion rates, and how your site is found and used. This, in turn, allows you to understand how/if your call-to-action is being responded to.
- Links to social media – Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are frequently browsed by almost everyone. Does social media for your site exist? Is it up-to-date? Social media sites are a great way to gain new customers and build credibility among existing ones.
- Blogging – Blog posts found through organic search can drive a lot of traffic to your site. An engaging blog builds a community around your brand where users regularly visit your site for new postings and important information. This increases your company’s expertise and credibility.
- Contact Page – Include important contact information such as phone number if applicable and a contact form.
6. Content Audit & Site Architecture Review
All of the items we’ve just discussed primarily have to do with the technical aspects of your site. A content audit is different. This refers to assessing your content for gaps, thin or duplicate content, content that is very similar that can be combined, and content that can be refreshed to promote more traffic. It’s more than your “website’s SEO” because, of course, content is for humans.
I would argue an SEO content audit is perhaps the most involved of anything others on this list, and you should go into the process full well expecting it to be lengthy and ongoing (unless yours is a very small site with minimal to no blog presence). Part of this process may also include a full-scale assessment of your categories and tags.
Use Google Search Console to pull your site’s last year of clicks, impressions, and CTR, to determine which are your highest-performing pages and queries. You’ll want to make sure at a minimum that these pages are fully optimized and on par (or above) with your competitors.
Do a Google search on your posts’ keyword/topic to see how your meta descriptions or excerpt snippets are displayed, what others have written, what points they discuss, and how they’ve laid out their posts for ideas on how you can improve.
Remove thin content that no longer has value (again look at this same data just mentioned for a better idea), and combine content that is very similar for more well-rounded posts.
And as far as new content, make sure you have a solid content strategy in place, backed by concrete goals and an understanding of your target audience. This will help you in coming up with new ideas.
One of our services is working with clients to assess their content and traffic and provide a detailed content strategy from which they can begin to refresh their content and better define their goals. Contact us to learn more.
Don’t Just Review it – Test It
Here are a few free and paid testing tools and link checkers available online to quickly analyze the above factors on your site.
We suggest using one or more of these tools as a final check after you’ve reviewed and feel you’ve made the necessary changes. Alternatively, you can scan your site before making any adjustments, so as to get a solid idea of your “before” picture (and scan again later for the “after”).
Final Thoughts on Website Reviews
While it can be tempting to believe your website is fine the way it is based on looks, intuition, and “gut” feelings, conducting a thorough website review of your conversion optimization, technical aspects, and security capabilities will ensure that what’s going on behind the scenes is not fighting against what’s in the forefront.
Even more powerful is if you keep track over time and develop your own SEO audit checklist.
Most of all, make sure you understand your audience, what they want, and how your brand fits in.
You have a vast array of powerful tools and information at your disposal to ensure their needs (and yours) are being met. Use them.