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Did you know that you have an employee that works 24/7, never sleeps, is constantly selling your company to anyone who asks and asks for nothing in return. Who is that? Your website. OK, so it’s not really an employee and while it seems like it works for free, it does require your attention at least a couple of times per year.
While websites are a lot cheaper and easier to design and launch these days, they aren’t as “set it and forget it” as you might think. This is why you need to take your website through an “AUDIT” at least once per year. Things change so fast online these days that it doesn’t take long for something to break, not work well and ultimately chase — yes CHASE customers away.
This is a comprehensive guide to doing a website audit. This isn’t something you’ll do in one sitting. I’ve broken it down into four separate audits. I’d recommend that you take on each one every quarter and keep it going year after year so that your website does exactly what it’s supposed to do — get you new customers.
What’s a Website Audit and Why Do You Need One?
Although the term audit? has many negative connotations, it’s an essential step to managing your website on an ongoing basis. In order to enhance the user experience (UX), these periodic checks must occur with a detective?s mindset.
Do you suspect there’s a problem in your sales funnel? Are customers complaining about page load times? Even if there’s no immediate issue with your site, you can fine tune certain aspects to prevent problems down the road.
Let’s discuss four ways that you can go about auditing your website to the benefit of site visitors.
1. How to Do Your Own Structural SEO Audit
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) dictates the structure of your website, supporting it in a similar manner as the spine supports a human?s body. To ensure you’re getting the most visibility on search engines like Google, you need to review your web pages for on-page SEO best practices. Here’s where to start:
Step 1: Keyword Check
- First up, let’s use your keyword tools to evaluate keyword performance. Google’s Keyword Planner and SEMRush will show you which keywords are trending, and most importantly, the monthly search volumes per keyword. They will also provide suggested bid prices (i.e. cost per clicks), in the event you want to pay for traffic using Google AdWords.
- Review your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts (both free) to determine which keywords are driving the most traffic and leads to your site. Make sure you have enough high quality content on each web page that incorporates your keywords (more about this later).
- Make a list of your top 50 keywords, including their search volume and competition (low, medium and high). Next, we’ll check to see how these keywords are incorporated into your website.
Step 2: URLs, Page Titles, and Paragraphs
- With the Google Analytics data in front of you, it’s time to make necessary alterations to other elements of your on-page SEO strategy.
- Begin by examining URLs to make sure they also include your most important keywords. For example, if you’re a finance company and one of your main keywords is ?financial services? then you might want to switch your URL from www.company.com/services to www.company.com/financial-services
- The most important page for SEO is typically your homepage, since it’s often the primary landing page for users. Make sure the Title tag summarizes what your site is all about and includes your #1 keyword.
- Content is the #2 SEO signal in Google’s algorithm, so review your web copy, blog posts, services and about us pages to make sure your content is well written, topical to your target market and includes your keyword targets. You should repeat your keyword no more than 2% – if you write 100 words about finance then you should only mention the keyword ?financial services? twice.
- Once you’ve made sure your keywords are present on the most important pages on your website, use a tool like SERP?s Rank Checker to see where your site rank for your target keywords. Are you on the first page or the 100th? It matters because 80% of all clicks occur on the first page. Google’s algorithm changes daily so check back often to see where you stand.
Step 3: Meta Tags
- The Title tag is just one of many Meta Tags Google checks to learn what your website is all about. Other important tags include the Meta Description, Header 1 and Alt Tags.
- All of your Meta Tags and descriptions should be written with your target market in mind, first and foremost. Write for people then search engines.
- For search engines like Google, include your keywords at least once in each Meta Tag. If you don’t mention the word ?financial services? in your Title, Description, Header and Alt tags then you’re missing an opportunity to tell Google you’re all about financial services.
Step 4: Be Patient
- The typical search engine considers more than 200 factors in its algorithm, and the weight of those factors are updated daily.
- It often takes several days for SEO changes to make an impact on your search engine rankings. Once you’ve optimized as many on-page elements as possible, wait it out to see real results.
- Keep in mind that SEO is a long game, it can take months and sometimes years to rank #1 for a single keyword. The secret is to build a website and then continue auditing and optimizing that site for Onsite and Offsite SEO.
2. How to Do a Content Audit of Your Website
Before we begin, let’s get something cleared up. Content and SEO are really NOT separate things. They need each other, they are two sides of the same coin. I really love this description of the relationship of content to SEO from Kissmetrics:
Because content communicates your brand to your customers and search engines alike, it’s important you’re setting the right tone and sharing your story in the right light. Positioning your business for success requires compelling and creative content, and a content audit is the perfect place to begin.
Step 1: Create a Spreadsheet of Your Content
- When starting a content audit, you’ll first need to get all the content together in one place. The easiest way to do this is by using a crawling tool like Screaming Frog or Kapost to find all the URLs on your website and have them automatically listed for you. Otherwise you can manually create a spreadsheet containing each URL you’re tracking, which shouldn?t take much longer than using a crawling tool.
- Within the spreadsheet, be sure to dedicate the first column to the URLs of your blog posts, press releases, video interviews, podcast episodes and anything else you’ve created for your customer – this is the content we’ll be auditing.
Step 2: Gathering Data
- Determining which type of data to collect in your right hand columns is up to you. You may want to check content in relation to your SEO strategy, or see how effective it is for your content marketing activities. Here are examples of what data points to check for each:
- SEO Content Checks:
- Inbound Links
- Image ALT Tags
- Target Keyword
- Meta Description
- Word Count
- Content Marketing Checks:
- Page Title
- Categories or Tags Used
- Type of Content (article, video, infographic, multimedia, etc.)
- Page Visits
- Bounce Rate
- Time on Page
- Calls to Action
- Social Media Shares
- You may also want to record the date when the next content review should take place, to make sure you’re tracking changes as content matures and new posts are added.
- Once you’ve decided on the right data points for your audit, it’s time to collate the data into your spreadsheet. Great data collection tools include:
- Google Analytics – for content marketing information like pageviews, bounce rates, and sales funnel data points.
- Screaming Frog – for SEO information like page title tags.
- Moz – for landing page data, URLs that received organic search visits, etc.
- Social Metrics WordPress Plug-In – for gathering social media data.
Step 3: Draw Conclusions From Your Data
- Your data won?t be pulled overnight. It can take days, weeks, or months to gather enough insight to form a conclusion. But once you have the numbers in front of you, it’s time to take actions. Here are some examples:
- If you are seeing higher conversion rates on video posts and higher bounce rates on pages with written content, you’ll know that videos are a much more effective method for your marketing strategy.
- If page visits are significantly lower on your transaction page, there may be an issue earlier on in your sales funnel.
- Once you’ve taken some necessary actions based on your data collection, consider doing a content audit of a competitor’s site. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, and the amount of data you can uncover is fairly limited, but this research is important and can help you gather further insight into your own content strategy. MajesticSEO is a useful tool for measuring the amount of links pointing to a competitor’s content pages.
3. How to Do a Design Audit
Your company’s design audit investigates the impact of all of your brand’s visual elements in conveying your intended brand message. Content is just one element, and everything from the colors to the font has an impact on whether a customer calls you, opts into your email newsletter, checks out online or shares a blog post with her friend. Here’s how you should check the design elements of your website.
Step 1: Collect Your Marketing Materials
- In order to understand what aesthetic changes need to be made to your materials, you must first collect them. Consider items like:
- Web Forms
- Facebook Pages
- Ad Creatives
- Once everything is there, it’s time to contact an expert for assistance.
Step 2: Consult A Web Designer
- Anyone can drop in a pre-designed WordPress theme for their website, but having a skilled web designer at your disposal is invaluable when creating a custom design that positions your business and brand in a distinctive light.
- A skilled designer needs to know elements of your brand’s ethos in order to create their most effective creative work. Things you and your designer should discuss include:
- Brand Message
- Mission Statement
- Target Audience/Demographic
- Locations of Ad Campaigns
- Competitors? Websites (for reference purposes)
- Favorable Color Schemes
- So where can you find a Michelangelo of web design? Here are a few resources to consider:
- Upwork – allows you to connect with freelancers remotely. Free to join but includes two paid versions with more options for finding premium talent.
- Sortfolio – provides simple navigation for scrolling through designers? portfolios. Allows you to type in exactly the design scheme you’re looking for.
- Coroflot – it’s not free, but allows you to keep postings up for 90 days. Homepage features cascading images produced by freelancers, similar to the layout of Pinterest.
Step 3: Focus Group the Changes
- The most influential opinions come from your consumers. When the design audit and subsequent redesigns are complete, share the new branding on Twitter, Come check out our newly designed website and post your thoughts!?
- Some tools where customers can offer feedback include:
- SurveyMonkey – allows you to select surveys based on the types of feedback you want. They also have back-end programs that can provide data analysis and consumer response info.
- Google Forms – allows you to choose from a set of curated themes to set the tone of your survey. Can easily add YouTube videos and bring in multiple collaborators to edit the survey.
- Swagbucks – a popular online survey tool among millennials. It rewards survey takers with free gift cards and cash.
4. How to Do a Usability Audit
Once your visitor has made the decision to stick around, because of compelling content and engaging design, it important to monitor her interactions. How does your audience respond to your website? Are they navigating from page to page fairly easily or are there roadblocks along the way? Are they converting or leaving your website without ever returning? Getting them there is hard, but keeping her onsite is even more difficult. Here’s are a few enhancements you can make.
Step 1: Load times
- You don’t need to perform any analytics research to see how quickly your pages load. Begin by checking for yourself. Clear your cache and try loading your website like it’s the first time. Is it fast enough for you? Everything from your web host to the content on your web pages can impact the speed of your site.
- Next, try running your URLs through a few different page speed testers. Websites like Web Page Test or Pingdom are great resources for learning how above or below average your site is loading. They can also offer solutions to loading problems.
- On pages that are running more slowly, check if there are large images or video files that are responsible for the lag. If so, run them through an optimization tool like io to make the files smaller in size without sacrificing quality. The smaller the files on your website, the quick your website will load.
Step 2: Consult Google Analytics
- Google Analytics can give you vital information about your websites usability. You can measure bounce rates, click through rates, average time on site and other traffic signals to understand what happens in between the period when users arrive and leave your website.
- Study the data and identify the pages where users are exiting quickly because the content is not relevant, page design could be better optimized or load time decreased. There will be a lot of guesswork on your part so make sure you develop a system for tracking your changes and testing their effect on your websites usability.
- Test everything. A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) is comparing two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. You want to test fonts, font sizes, colors, call to actions, button sizes, button colors, button locations, short form and long-form copy, background images, navigational links, contact form fields and anything else that could influence how a user interacts with your website.
Your website is a love letter to your customer, and the ultimate goal is a closed deal – you want to sell your product or services. But before you can convert, you have to drive visitors using search, keep them engaged with content and design, and make sure the sites usability doesn’t get in the way of your ultimate aim. Auditing your website is one way to test and refine your website to engineer the best user experience possible.