How to do a website audit: a 7-step guide

5 October 2020 • Digital strategy, UX design, Web development

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No matter how well written, optimised or ranking your website is, it needs a check-up in the shape of a website audit.

But what is this? How should you do it, and what is it you are looking for when you conduct one?

A website audit can show up some surprising results. The blog post you thought would be a viral hit has no hits, or you may find that page loading speeds are slow and thus affect your bounce rate. A website audit turns a good website into an excellent one, with a great user experience.

A site audit will identify a range of website issues. It will highlight broken links, slow loading pages and whether your website is still at the top of its game when it comes to search engine optimisation. 

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How to conduct a website audit:

  1. What is a website audit?

    A website audit will examine the health and performance of your website and identify a range of issues.

  2. How are website audits conducted?

    There are tools available to help you audit your website.

  3. Content audit

    Conduct an audit of the content on your website.

  4. Technical audit

    Next conduct a technical audit to examine the performance of your website technology.

  5. UX audit

    Review the User Experience (UX) of your website.

  6. Website audit checklist

    Complete a checklist to finalise your website audit.

  7. Detailed website audit overview

    Follow these steps to learn more about the details of the website audit.

What is a website audit, and how often should it be done?

There are no hard and fast rules as to the frequency of a website audit, but most developers and marketers agree that conducting an audit once or twice a year will keep your website in great shape.

Nothing on the web stands still. SEO changes, for example, as search engine update and improve algorithms, and that means that some of your content may not be performing as well as it once was. Worse still, it could be holding your website back.

If your website is generating enquiries and attracting plenty of traffic, it is tempting to assume that all is well. But it may not be reaching its full potential. Eventually, not addressing these issues will cause your website to plateau or start to lose traction. And that means your competitors will be getting the jump on you.

How are website audits conducted?

A manual website audit is a lot of work, even for a small website. Imagine having to work through every single page and section on a large website, and you’ll soon see that a website audit can become a nightmare.

Fortunately, several tools can help. But first, you need to know what you are auditing and what the results mean.

Website content audit

The content on your website is important. Text with accompanying graphics and illustrations tell visitors what your site is all about. 

As well as being information-giving, content is also important from an SEO perspective. The keywords contained in page content, as well as blogs posts, give essential signals to search engine bots. These keywords and how well they are used send an array of signals – is your website trustworthy? Is it updated regularly?

Algorithms change too, and so content that is no longer performing or pages that draw no traffic are wasted. They could be updated to start showing signs of traffic, or it may be that they need to be ditched.

A lengthy process, there are many different tools to use to conduct a website content audit. These tools produce templates and a whole host of information. Once you have this, you need to understand it and makes the changes to content accordingly.

Contrary to what you may think, a content cull could pull your website back up the ranking.  

Website technical audit

Another common section of a generic website audit is checking the technical aspects of your site. This is a health check of your website and gives you the fixes needed in terms of some aspects of the site. It will check crawl errors, https codes as well as other technicalities such as page load times. Some tools can help you do this, but you need to clear which technical aspects of a website audit it is checking. 

See also →  What is automated user testing, and should you be doing it?

A website UX audit

UX – or user experience – is key in keeping people on your website once they have found it. It is important for all websites but for e-commerce sites, how your website looks and feel is even more important. This kind of audit highlights the less-then-perfect parts of your website that could be causing headaches for your users and stopping conversions as a result. You should be continually looking to improve user experience on your website

The website audit checklist

Audit any site, large or small, is a worthwhile use of time but knowing how to go about it is essential. After the process is complete, you want information and feedback that makes sense, that pinpoints potential problems and how fixing them will make a big difference. 

Step 1 – Choosing a site audit tool

These tools take the pain out of going through your website with a fine-tooth comb, snagging the areas that need to be updated or improved on.

Several different tools will either give you a holistic overview of your site or which focus on critical areas such as those we mentioned above.

  • Ahrefs – this tool looks at SEO and how well (or not) your site is performing. Once run across your site, it will give you a range of information and data. Their blog is full of useful articles that help you interpret what this data means and how to fix problems. 
  • SEM Rush – showcasing itself as an all-in-one tool kit, SEM Rush also performs in a similar way giving you vital information as to how to improve website performance.
  • Screaming Frog – this is a website crawling tool that also yields an impressive heap of information for your developers and designers to work through to improve website performance Like the other tools mentioned thus far, there are various packages and price points. 

These are just three examples of website auditing tools, and it pays to research and shop around. Premium or paid for SEO tools give a much deeper insight than free tools, as these scrape the surface of a website and nothing more. 

When choosing a tool, you want one that:

  • Scans your website thoroughly for a technical and content audit
  • Identifies on and off-page SEO problems
  • Checks for broken links, both internal and external
  • Finds weak or duplicated content
  • Assesses page errors, page loading times and any pages blocked by robots.txt
  • Generate information and a checklist of problems that need to be fixed

Should you use more than one website audit tool?

Many web developers use more than as it can yield different and interesting results. Essentially, you want a checklist at the end of the process that is useful and helpful in updating and improving your website. Many tools offer a free trial, something that is worth trying out to see what information you get back, how easy to read it is but also how easy the tool is to use too. 

Step 2 – Running your website address (URL) through the tool

With your free trial complete and your paid-for tool all set up and ready to go, you need to run your URL through the tool. 

With this in place, press the ‘start’ button. You might need to leave the program to do run through its processes. Depending on the size of your website, this can take some time.

Once complete, it will give you a breakdown of what needs to be fixed. Opt for a tool that has an easy to understand end report that allows you to quickly find and change the information or data it is highlighting. 

Step 3 – Dealing with technical errors

A technical website audit is similar to an SEO audit. It looks at a slightly broader picture, picking up on issues that will be impacting negatively on the SEO performance of your site.

The errors it picks up may look like this:

  • Crawl errors – this is an error that shows search engine bots are not able to crawl and index the page. This means it is missing out on driving traffic to your site.
  • HTTPS status – this shows whether your sites security certificate (SSL) is up to date. If it is, your URL will have a prefix of https://, if not, it will be Http://. This is important for security, not just yours but people visiting your site.
  • XML sitemap status – a sitemap is essential for search engine crawlers. This shows your site is formatted correctly.
  • Site & page load times – we are impatient, and so when we land on a website that takes ages to load, we simply navigate away. Impeding user experience, your final report will show page and site loading times.
  • Mobile-responsive – roughly half of the people who visit your site will be using a mobile or tablet as opposed to a PC. Just how responsive is your website to mobile? A website audit will tell you.
  • Broken images – it isn’t just content that can be broken, graphics and images can be too. You may not realise that an image is not loading nor how it is impacting on your website.
  • Robots.txt file – you might not want all your pages indexing but of those that you do, are they being indexed correctly. This part of the audit will tell you.
  • Broken links – finding internal and external broken links is essential because there is nothing worse than clicking on what seems like an interesting link only to find it no longer exists…
See also →  What is website personalisation, and why is it important?

In some cases, you can fix many of these errors on your own. For more technical aspects, you may need a developer or technical wizard to deal with them.

Step 4 – SEO problems

Many SEO issues are covered under the website technical audit, but there are some aspects of SEO that need to be checked as they are not covered in step 3. An SEO audit will pull things like:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions that may be duplicated, short, long or missing
  • Missing or duplicated image alt text or title text
  • Missing Google Analytics code
  • The presence or absence of H2, H3 headings and so on
  • Non-optimised internal links and anchor text

Some tools will also check for keyword cannibalisation too. This is where different blog posts or pages on your website come up for the same query on a search engine. This tends to happen when blog posts or content are similar.

You might think this is a good thing – having 2 or more pages ranking is surely a good thing – but what they are doing is competing against each other. This is affecting SEO – and not in a good way.

Step 5 – UX and design website audit

The overall ease and accessibility of your website play a key role not just in search engines finding it but something even more important – your customers being able to use and interact with it.

Tools will analyse how users interact with your website, how you communicate, e.g. live chat, for example, as well as how long they stay on your website and whether they become customers or not. 

The results will cover aspect such as how easy your site is navigated, does the buying process ‘make sense’ or how long it is. These components affect how people view and use your site, and if they are putting people off, your sales and order will be lower than they should be.

Step 6 – Website content

Great content is not just about SEO, although that is a bit part of converting people into customers. Too often, businesses cut corners when it comes to content, a move that negatively impacts the performance of your site.

A good audit will show which pages are ranking and for which of your keywords. It will also show pages that are not ranking at all. This could mean a content cull, or it may mean that some or all of your content needs updating. 

Every page on your website should serve a purpose, but because sites are living things, content and pages are added but not always with deeper thought as to how it will affect the performance of other pages. 

Step 7 – The checklist…

With the audit done, you’ll be faced with a report and analysis that could give you a number of shocks and surprises. All you need to do now is work through the errors and suggestions for improvement by updating your website…

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