It’s a hard truth of the web: websites are constantly in a state of decay. The digital landscape changes so fast that, even if your website launched only months ago, it may already have issues affecting performance, speed, usability, or how well it supports your business goals.
If you don’t have in-house staff or a trusted digital partner proactively watching this for you, a periodic website audit is a useful and economical tool to help you stay on top of your website’s health and make smart decisions about enhancements that will most directly help advance your business and customer goals.
Website audits are also useful for determining the size and scope of your best next steps when it comes to bigger decisions about managing your digital presence. Sometimes, we get people coming to us wondering if they need a full redesign and rebuild of their site. An audit helps us make an informed recommendation and, even if we do see that planning for a redesign is warranted, there are usually small updates and enhancements revealed by an audit that can help extend your site’s useful life. We’re firm believers in making your current site work for you as long as possible.
Saying “website audit” is a bit of an oversimplification, because there are several different angles we can use to assess website health and recommend improvements. When we do an audit, we customize our approach to focus on the aspects that are of most concern to your business and/or play the biggest part in the job you’re asking your website to do. All of our audits result in a collection of recommendations, categorized by expected effort and complexity, and sorted into a clear and actionable suggested prioritization of “do this now, do this next, do this later.”
Some different focus areas we can put into a website assessment include:
Technical SEO: Can search engines crawl and index your site?
You can have the best, most useful content in the world, but if the nuts and bolts aren’t in place to allow search engines like Google to find and index your content, you may never get ranked in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Technical SEO audits focus on making sure your website can be effectively crawled and indexed by search engines. We look at things like broken links, presence (or absence) of page titles and descriptions, effective use of header tags and on-page information hierarchy, your XML sitemap, robots.txt file, and other related structural/technical concerns that contribute to SEO fundamentals.
SEO content: Are you findable based on how people search?
If you’ve got the technical SEO issues well in hand, the next step is taking a closer look at how well your site is set up to optimize findability for your desired target audiences, based on the way they think about what you (and your direct competitors) are offering.
When we do a SEO content audit, we’re looking at both your current analytics and at your website, assessing things like traffic patterns, goal conversions, keywords, themes, and site metadata. Google is always changing how they measure the best and most relevant search results, so it’s important to work with a partner who stays up to date with what they’re currently looking for.
User experience: Is your site doing the job it needs to do for you and your users?
Unless you come to us with a specific concern that warrants a more specialized approach, we’ll often propose more of a general audit that covers a lot of ground, albeit with a bit less depth. When we do an overall website user experience assessment, we’re benchmarking your site against established best practices, tapping into our own experience, connecting back to conversations we’ve had with you about your goals and concerns, and looking at the following things:
- Brand identity, value proposition, and overall impression expressed by your site
- Design, look/feel, and overall user experience
- Navigation and site search
- User interface best practices and patterns
- Overall paths to conversion, and ease of conversion based on expected user goals
- Landing page and other key page effectiveness
- Content, microcopy, and messaging
- Accessibility and ADA compliance
- Site performance and speed
- Competitive analysis and how you stack up against top competitors
A general website user experience assessment always results in a lot of good food for thought, and is often what we’ll recommend as a starter project so we can make the most impact as quickly and economically as possible.
Performance: Is your site’s technical setup creating issues with speed or reliability?
One last type of audit we’ll mention is around speed and performance. This is a very important area, but it’s often overlooked. While reduced speed and performance can have a significant detrimental effect on user experience, they don’t always directly affect the front end presented to your website visitors.
When we do a performance assessment, we’re looking “under the hood” at your site’s code and technical design. Using speed tests and other performance indicators, along with a direct review of your site’s setup, we dive deep into where your site may be throwing errors or slowing down due to bloated or outdated code, plug-ins, integrations, or libraries. Sometimes, with just slight tuning, we can make a world of difference.
The website audit: A low-excitement but high-value tool for your site’s health
While website audits aren’t flashy or very exciting, they are definitely impactful and can be an excellent investment in maintaining the long-term health and performance of your digital presence. They can also be a very useful tool towards making good business decisions around when to pull the trigger on a full redesign or rebuild.
Interested in talking about an assessment on your current site? Contact us today; we’d love to help.