Much like your car needs to go in for its MOT, the health of your website can deteriorate over time without proper servicing. Unfortunately, many webmasters will wait until the figurative wheels come flying off before realising an audit may be in order.
Again, much like your vehicle – identifying and rectifying problems with your website early saves expensive repairs down the line and ensures optimal performance.
The Importance Of Audits
The purpose of a website audit is to give webmasters a complete and detailed analysis into their sites health, performance and speed.
Assessing these areas will give you a full picture of the current effectiveness of your site, show where you may be able to further optimise and improve your site – and identify issues that could be causing damage to your site’s health.
Different Types Of Website Audits
Broadly speaking, a website audit is a full analysis of factors that impact a websites visibility for search engines and ease of use for users. But a full website audit is not always necessary, below are some of the most common types of audit and tips from our team on when you may require one.
Technical Audit – Whilst good quality content and backlinks will help get your site ranked, if there is a technical problem – all your effort could be in vain. Technical audits focus on best practice for site visibility and ensuring that all website meets all search engine requirements for crawling and indexing.
Common offenders we tend to pick up in these technical SEO audits include numerous broken internal links and redirect chains, inconsistent XML sitemap, robots.txt file blocking Googlebot, inadvertent content duplication, keyword cannibalisation and poor or non existent backlink profile to name a few. If your website refuses to rank well on Google then a technical audit to understand why is a good place to start.
SEO Audit – An SEO audit measures how well your website is optimised for search, this can include analysing keywords, link profiles, traffic behaviour, goal conversions, meta data and image and video optimisation.
An SEO audit measures how well your website is optimised for search, this can include analysing keywords, link profiles, traffic behaviour, goal conversions, meta data and image and video optimisation. There are also many technical aspects that will need to be audited.
Contrary to what some people believe, there is no silver bullet in SEO, with hundreds of ranking factors affecting your website’s performance in search results, an audit will help to set you on the right path. Google is constantly working to produce the best and most relevant search results for its users, so it is important to keep up with them. An audit produced with the tools and knowledge to uncover the right issues will be invaluable to your business.
Content Audit – Whilst content is often reviewed as part of an SEO audit, stand alone content audits can also be insightful, delivering strong insights into what messaging and tone of voice is converting and what isn’t.
If you’re having a rebrand, acquiring / merging with a new business or having a new website built – a content audit is essential for ensuring your brand identity remains consistent.
When conducting a content audit, you’ll not only be able to ensure your tone of voice reflects who you are as a business, but also identify what content is driving conversions and what could do with a refresh.
Other smaller more targeted audits include: UX (user experience audit), backlink audit, code / markup audit, social media audit, conversion rate audit and competitor audit.
Your Users Can’t Navigate Your Website Properly
When you‘re looking at your website all day every day, you will have no problem navigating round the site – this makes it easy to overlook any problems a user may have. Common features of hard to navigate websites include:
- Too many items in the navigation bar – instead of listing all your services in one place, try to organise them appropriately in dropdowns – keep the amount of tabs in your main menu to a minimum.
- Overlinking – users should not have to click more than 3 times to reach their desired page. This also applies to search engines, which are less likely to crawl hard to reach pages.
- Every page should have a clear way to return to the homepage (clickable logo etc).
- Overload of information on the homepage that dilutes useful information.
- No search function (essential for e-commerce websites).
- Hard to contact you – think social icons, phone number clickable on mobile, clear address and email address.
- The full screen ‘sign up now’ pop up before your user has even made it past the homepage.
User testing as part of your audit is an effective method of ensuring your website is user-friendly, it generally involves users recording their screens and fulfilling specified ‘tasks’ on your website and feeding back on the process – for example; ‘navigate to the blog’ or ‘purchase X item’.
Your Website Isn’t Properly Optimised
The breadth of SEO means that this covers a whole host of things – all of which can be uncovered and rectified by a site audit, basic checks include:
- Areas for optimisation in content – thin, useless content will need updating, redirecting or removing.
- Images not properly tagged – this is how search engines know what the image is.
- Meta issues – ensuring all pages have unique and relevant meta data.
- Headers – Ensuring H1’s 2’s and 3’s are used properly throughout the site.
- Mobile responsiveness – mobile traffic now outnumbers desktop traffic – you need to make sure your site functions properly on mobiles and tablets.
- URL structures – ensuring all your pages have proper URL structures.
- Indexability – ensuring that all relevant pages on your website are indexable, and blocking those that do not need to be indexed, for example, a ‘thank you’ page.
- Duplicate content – Identifying and rectifying any pages with similar or identical content.
- Broken links – both external and internal 404’s will need to be rectified/redirected.
Your Website Is At Risk Of Penalisation From Search Engines
Some established websites may have taken part or worked with SEO companies that provided them with black hat SEO methods back in the day; this could include link farming, keyword stuffing, cloaking or similar.
All of these methods may have worked to increase rankings and traffic at the time – but websites that partook may now find themselves being hit with penalties from search engines as their algorithms become more intelligent.
A site audit can identify and correct anything that can lead to a penalisation before it does, or rectify the cause of the penalisation should the site be hit with one.
Your Website Is Taking Too Long To Load
People are lazy, if your website takes longer than 5 seconds to load you’ll probably see a higher bounce rate, lower pages per session and a higher cart abandonment rate on e-commerce sites.
More importantly, Google knows people are lazy and have indicated that site speed is a ranking factor – meaning that sites that take longer to load could find themselves being pushed down in the SERPS.
You can test your site speed using Google’s own Page Speed Tool which will give you insights into the current level of optimisation on your website.
During an audit, the most common reasons for site speed being too high will be identified, these often include:
- Properly formatting and compressing images (think of those 2mb images cooped up on your blog posts).
- Reducing the amount of redirects – this creates additional HTTP requests and slows load time.
- Minifying JS and CSS files by eliminating unnecessary characters and comments from the CSS.
- Reviewing the amount of plugins on your site – one for all you plugin junkies out there.
You Want To Peek On Your Competitors
Knowing what online strategies your competitors are carrying out is paramount to staying on top of your industry, and a good site audit should include some competitor analysis.
This will start with identifying your main competitors (if you don’t already know them) and almost running a mini audit on them including their content, social activities, targeted keywords, backlinks and organic / paid search activity.
Analysing your competitors gives you the information needed to give you an idea of where you stand in comparison to them – allowing you to alter and improve your online strategy if that is what’s necessary to become more successful than them.
How Often Should I Have a Site Audit?
A regular, scheduled audit provides a benchmark for future improvements, and ensures you catch and rectify any major issues that are going to cause problems down the line.
We recommend an annual audit for small websites and a bi-annual audit for larger websites. Additionally, a site audit should be carried out after a site goes live to rectify any immediate issues and increase the speed of which the site becomes indexed.
Why Pay For an Audit When You Can Get One Online For Free?
You’re probably aware that a quick search for ‘free website audit’ reveals a whole host of free audit tools available – there’s no harm in using these tools, but they are a lot less effective than a proper audit.
Back to cars, your cars got a warning light on the dashboard, the budding mechanic inside you rightly does some research, finds out the meaning of the warning light thus successfully diagnosing the problem, but you’d still take it to a trained mechanic to fix, right?
Additionally, what if the warning light on your dashboard has malfunctioned, or is showing a general warning for what could be a number of different issues?
So, whilst these online audits are free for the most part and give a reasonably accurate high-level insight of your website’s performance – they are generic, simple and can be misleading or confusing to somebody without the expert guidance to properly rectify any issues they throw up.
Need A Hand?
Site audits are invaluable, but they take time and require expert guidance to be effective. If you think it’s time for your sites MOT, or you’ve noticed a big drop in traffic and rankings – we can help, we understand that no two site audits are the same – so we’ll tailor yours to suit your goals.
Give us a call on 01793 766040 or talk to us about auditing your site today.