If you hear the word ‘audit’ and immediately start running through a series of time-consuming tasks in your head, you certainly aren’t alone. This association has largely developed from complex imposed audits that have been designed to satisfy a strict financial or industry regulator or other third-party.
But audits don’t have to be troublesome. In fact, as they can reveal a wealth of interesting information and useful insights that can be applied in a variety of different ways to benefit your business. Audits should be viewed as an opportunity and not an inconvenience.
Auditing your website is an essential component of effective digital marketing. In addition to informing your strategic approach both now and in the future, this process will also ensure that the foundations of your digital presence are strong and ready to be built upon successfully.
There are a range of different audits that can look at specific issues, such as a security audit which will evaluate how vulnerable your site is to potential cyber attacks. In this article, however, we will be covering the process of conducting an initial website audit. So, without further ado, let’s jump straight in.
What is an Initial Website Audit?
Initial website audits will look at the general health of your website. It will evaluate your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts and determine whether there are any problems that could be limiting the effectiveness of your overall digital presence.
This type of audit has two clear objectives:
- To identify potential issues and suggest ways to address those problems quickly and efficiently
- To interpret data gathered by analytics tools and identify ways in which this information can be used in future decision-making processes
Effective SEO is a continuous process and conducting regular website audits will help you to ensure that your most important digital asset is reaching its full potential.
Below you will find a selection of common site issues, broken down into categories to give you an idea as to the things you should be looking out for.
Evaluate your Navigation Menu
If your website doesn’t have a functional and intuitive navigation bar, the chances are that your visitors are going to struggle to locate the information they are looking for quickly and efficiently. It is important to question whether your current structure:
- is clear
- links to every important page
- is free from clutter and superfluous information
- provides easy access to contact information
It can sometimes be difficult to see potential issues when it is your own website. This is why asking your family, friends, colleagues or customers to engage with your site and flag up any issues they come across can be such a valuable process.
Determine how Mobile-Friendly your Website is
As more than 50% of people are now choosing to browse online using a mobile device, ensuring that your site is delivering a seamless user experience (UX) to every visitor is essential.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool will help you to determine whether there are any alterations that you need to make to deliver the best possible experience for your mobile users. We recommend testing your homepage first, but it will also be worth checking other pages as well, particularly if your website runs a selection of vastly different components such as a WordPress blog alongside a Shopify hosted ecommerce store, for example.
Evaluate your Sitemap and robots.txt File
Your robots.txt file determines whether every webpage is being indexed correctly by telling the search engines which pages you want them to crawl and which pages you want them to ignore. Your sitemap is what search engines will use to understand the structure of your site and the kinds of information each individual page contains.
Although it isn’t mandatory for your site to contain these two files, the creation process is incredibly simple and you will see tangible benefits from taking the time to integrate them into your website.
Ensure you are using HTTPS
An SSL certificate ensures that your website is secure and that all data transferred to and from it is encrypted. If you are collecting user data and/or accept payments via your website, you need to ensure that you are doing everything possible to keep your customers’ information secure.
As long ago as 2014 Google stated that HTTPS is an important ranking factor so if you want to secure a more visible ranking position, obtaining an SSL certificate is vital.
Optimise your Site Speed
2016 research found that more than 50% of visitors will leave a site that takes more than 3 seconds to fully load and Google has used site speed as a key ranking factor since 2010. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool will tell you how fast your site loads for both mobile and desktop users.
If you are met with less than ideal figures, taking steps to optimise your webpages will help you to engage a higher percentage of your visitors and deliver a variety of significant benefits for your site.
Evaluate the Quality of your On-Site Content
Everything from your ‘about us’ page to the content you share on your blog needs to deliver value to your visitors. In real terms this means it should be:
- Well written
- Skimmable and includes helpful lists, bullet points and supporting imagery
- Easy to understand
- Free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
Optimising your content from an SEO perspective also means integrating relevant target keywords and carefully researching and utilising appropriate title and header tags.
Addressing Broken Links and Pages
Being met with broken pages and links can be a frustrating experience for users. In addition to giving the impression that your website isn’t being properly maintained, these easy-to-fix issues might also be interpreted as a sign that your business is untrustworthy, which could impact your reputation long into the future.
If you come across either of these on your site, it will be worth identifying alternative valuable webpages or sources to which you can redirect your visitors.
Refine Meta Titles and Descriptions
Every webpage needs an original meta title and description. These HTML tags will be visible in Google search results (SERPs) and should be carefully optimised to deliver the best results.
Although you should ideally include your target keyword in both your title and description tags, your primary objective here should be to craft compelling descriptions that entice search engine users to click through to engage with your content.
Identify Orphan Pages
Orphan pages are those which are not integrated into the internal link structure of your website. Although they might exist, visitors to your site won’t be able to find them and unless they are included in your sitemap, Google also won’t know that they are there.
If they don’t deliver value, you might want to consider removing them, however you will likely find it more beneficial to audit their content before incorporating them into the overall structure of your site.
When your audit is complete, you should endeavour to compile a checklist featuring every issue that needs to be addressed. This will ensure that you know precisely what needs to be done and that all necessary refinements are completed efficiently and thoroughly.
Setting yourself up for SEO success is vital in today’s competitive marketplaces, so work through these refinements methodically to ensure that nothing is overlooked.