Website audit checklist
Use this website audit checklist to understand how your website is performing … and how you can improve it
Now you can run a complete check on the health of your site to identify potential issues or areas for improvement using this website audit checklist. Performing an audit of your website is something all businesses should undertake from time to time and unlike most financial year-end audits, it’s something you can easily undertake yourself.
1. Why perform a website audit?
You wouldn’t buy a brand new Mercedes and then not service it for years, so why expect your web site to carry on running smoothly without a proper MOT?
A typical website audit can bring lots of benefits but the key ones are:
1.1 Review Your Site Content
Think back to that article you published a couple of years ago. Is it still relevant? Is it still factually correct or should it be updated? Does it still target the correct keywords? An audit is a good time to review your content and prioritise which pages to update (high traffic pages with high bounce rates are a good place to start).
1.2 Check Your Site’s Technical Performance
“My site’s always been a little bit slow” is an oft-heard expression but with a proper audit, you will be able to quantify just how slow it is and how it compares to your competitors.
1.3 Improve SEO
In additional to reviewing content, your audit provides the ideal opportunity to analyse all your search engine optimisation (SEO) settings such as Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, making sure that relevant keywords are included.
1.4 Improve Conversion Rates
Attracting visitors to your site is only half the battle; understanding reasons why they aren’t converting is equally important. By looking at your analytics data, you’ll be able to discover which pages visitors exit from the most. You’ll also be able to look at other factors influencing conversion rates such as relevancy of landing pages to your search terms and effectiveness of call to actions.
2. Free Tools For A Website Audit
Here are some popular free tools that you should find useful when performing a website audit:
2.1 Google Analytics
Most websites have Google Analytics coding installed (if you don’t Right Direction Marketing can tell you how to install it today) and is a fundamental tool for understanding how visitors reach your site and what they do when they get there. We can’t possibly cover all the data reports available via Google Analytics in one article, so we’ve just highlighted a few areas from the Behaviour Menu which should be included in your audit:
Site Content > Exit Pages allows you to check what proportion of your visitors exit at a particular page. Start with pages showing a high number of Pageviews and relatively high Exit Rate.
In-Page Analytics provides a helpful visual breakdown of where visitors click on a page, giving you insight as to which are the best-performing call-to-actions and how much click-through activity is above the fold.
Behaviour Flow visually summarises how visitors move through your site and helps highlight potential navigation issues; for example, do customers visit the FAQ page from a particular landing page if you’ve forgotten to include delivery information on that landing page?
2.2 Google Webmaster Tools
This helpful tool gives you a range of information which can help improve your web site performance. Here are some important statistics to keep an eye on:
Search Traffic > Links to Your Site tells you exactly who is linking to your site. Can you find similar sites who might be willing to link to you? (Another great tool for checking links to your site is Open Site Explorer. This tool enables you to check the number and quality of links to your site, plus you can get ideas for additional links by comparing with upto four of your competitors).
Google Index > Index Status shows how many pages have been added to Google’s index. Is this the number you’re expecting? If not, check the robots.txt Tester in the Crawl menu to make sure you’re not asking Google to ignore important pages.
Search Appearance > HTML Improvements to highlights what duplicate Descriptions and Title tags exist and what’s needed to correct them. Duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions can also be checked under HTML Improvements. Make sure that you have unique Title Tags and Descriptions and that the main focus for that page (ie the keyword) is included in the Title tag and description.
3. Other Areas A Website Audit Should Cover
3.1 Keywords Do you have unique keywords that are the focus for each page? Have you included your keywords in the url, Page Title, Descriptions, Headings and Content … and don’t forget your Image File names and Alt Text. We’d recommend that you take a reality check here; remember not to cram in your keywords at the expense of writing something coherent and interesting.
3.2 Usability The old adage that websites should be built for humans, not search engines is never truer than when it comes to reviewing a site’s usability. Some areas to pay particular attention to are:
Navigation – do the click-throughs provide easy and relevant results? Do customers see what they’re expecting to see on each navigation tab?
Checkout – obviously a really important process for all e-commerce sites. You need to ensure there are no surprises during the checkout process (delivery charges, availability etc). In a recent study by eDigitalResearch and IMRG, 26% of shoppers placed an item in their shopping cart just to check delivery costs!
Call to Actions (CTA’s) are vital if you’re going to persuade customers to do what you want them to do on your site, such as buy something, download a document, supply their email address etc. A review of your CTA’s can uncover some of the reasons why a site may not be converting well – for example, do you promise a 50% saving but only give 25% off when customers click through?
3.3 Technical Issues
Is your site mobile friendly? Many sites are now being built using ‘responsive’ coding ie the main site is visually adaptive to which device the visitor is using (desktop, smartphone, tablet etc). Alternatively, you could opt for a separate mobile site. Whichever route you take, with 50% of traffic coming from tablets and mobile devices, it’s vital that you’re aware how potentially half your visitors are seeing you online.
Other simple technical issues to consider: Is your site error free? Check Webmaster Tools for ‘pages not found’ or use this 404 Checker Tool. Do you have sufficient internal links to enable visitors to easily navigate through your site from the content as well as the navigation bars? Do your social links work? Can content be Liked or Tweeted easily? Do you even have a Google+ account?
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to work out that a slow site won’t be as attractive to consumers as a fast one. Use this Page Speed Tool or visit Webmaster Tools to see how fast your main pages load and follow the helpful instructions on how to fix things.
A sitemap is simply a list of all pages on your site that you want the search engines to crawl and index so that they show up in searches. An audit will determine whether your sitemap is visible and highlight any errors that need fixing. Again, in Webmaster Tools, go to Crawl > Sitemaps to check that your sitemaps are being submitted and your pages are being indexed.
The term canonical refers to the page that you’d like Google to see as the preferred url where you can access exactly the same content through different url’s. As an example, the url’s below both show green dresses but are arrived at through different navigation routes. If this is not fixed, Google potentially will view these as being duplicate content which is not what the search engine likes to see!
We don’t have time to go into canonical in depth here but we’ll let Google explain the canonical issue.
4. When to perform a web audit?
It’s best to do an audit around the time you’ve got your ‘strategic thinking’ hat on. E-commerce clients often perform an audit in the New Year with the festive sales (and associated issues) still ringing in their ears. But anytime outside your busy trading period that suits you is fine.
Plan your website audit now!
Good luck using this website audit checklist, we hope you find it useful. Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive and there may well be other areas of your website that you want to check on. However, this checklist should act as a good starting point for anyone who wants to keep a closer eye on how their website is performing.TEST