Website audit tools

How to Conduct a Website Audit: A Beginner's Guide

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Introduction

Hello there! This little website audit checklist will get directly to the topic. Why audit your website? Well, checking its health does not need any reasoning behind it. Don’t be misled: the website audit is not only about SEO. It is about design and UX, lead generation process, ease of administering the website, and website content.

You’ll see what functional areas you can and should improve and learn how to audit your website. This article is written by a content editor for content editors, website admins, and website owners who need to explain to their tech colleagues what’s wrong with their website.

Be lazy—we’ve done half of the job for you!

A little tip before you start

We understand that your website probably has dozens and hundreds of web pages. It’s impossible to check them all at once—you have other things to do after all. Website auditing is important, so you’re in an “either-or” situation: choose up to ten pages that drive your business to its goal (the main page, a contact page, and pages of the most popular products/groups of products) and check them first by yourself or entrust this work to us.

seo

Design and UX audit

Your website design welcomes your users and makes them leave or stay and do what they came for. A few years ago (human basic psychology has hardly changed since then), Google conducted research that revealed that it takes a user less than a second to assess a website’s attractiveness. Additionally, research participants labeled more complex websites as less attractive. What does it all have to deal with proper functioning?

The thing is, a brain prefers thinking of stuff that is easier to comprehend. Forget about complex designs that do not help a website guest. Or lose a newcomer.

Website design audit

Use this checklist to create your own design audit template.

  1. Make it responsive and mobile-friendly. Make sure the website renders well on all devices: users can easily do what they came for on desktops, mobiles, tablets, and so on. 
  2. Your website adheres to the accessibility design requirements — design rules that allow people with impairments to use your website without any problems. 
  3. Web design aligns with the company’s brand book and aesthetic.
  4. Stick to minimalist design. “Less is more” has been the motto of current design for many years now and it is here to stay.
  5. Put the most common elements where the user expects them to be, for example, the logo is in the top left corner, and the shopping cart icon is in the top right. More on cognitive fluency.
  6. Visually, the pages and individual blocks have a uniform style and are proportionate to each other.
  7. Site elements are homogeneous meaning the same elements, such as logo, search box, footer, etc, are identical on every page they appear on.

UX audit checklist

  1. Make sure the very first thing a user sees on your home page is a straightforward description of your company’s services and/or products.
  2. A page structure is easy to distinguish: the title, headers, footer, and content division help a user navigate the page.
  3. No more than 7 or 8 links in the navigation menu. The most important sections come first since users remember the first and last list items well
  4. Сustomize your navigation. The user should be able to get to the most demanded pages from any point on the website.
  5. If appropriate, use breadcrumbs and duplicate the main menu sections as footer links.
  6. Design leads the visitor to CTA links and buttons. These elements should be visually distinctive from others.
  7. The CTA is placed within the first ⅓ of a user’s screen. CTAs should be sparse on the page.
  8. Make sure content density does not discourage the visitor: it should be divided by headings, images that help understand the content and white space. Long text should be paragraphed with a space between paragraphs greater than the line spacing.
  9. The user flow should be very flexible: the user should be able to skip a step, go back to any stage, undo an action, fix errors, and so on. Don’t make your users go through the process again because they’ve made a typo—it’s not user-centric.
  10. The website should immediately check the validity of the data the user has filled in form fields with.
  11. Make canceling certain actions easy and always request confirmation before the user decides to take an action, such as emptying the cart.
  12. After the order is placed, do not leave the user alone. Show them what the next step is and how they can track their order.
  13. Work on your 404 page. It must have links to the main sections of the site and/or search.
  14. There are no dead-end pages. Every page should have links to other pages, even if it’s quick links or a section with recommended products.

If you follow the instructions above, you can see these parameters changing:

  • The bounce rate decreases since the navigation is clear and users understand what to do next.
  • Session duration grows.
  • Users execute the main CTA.
Website audit service
Web design and UX audit checklist

Lead generation process audit

The lead generation process follows the design and UX topic. As we have already mentioned in the checklist, the design must help to convert visitors into leads.

Lead generation audit

  1. The page has a clear call-to-action (CTA): a button, a link, or a form depending on the type of landing page you have.
  2. No more than 3 calls-to-action for a page.
  3. Users shouldn’t have to search for the CTA. Make the action you want users to take easy to find and clear to see.
  4. Every page should have a compelling headline that hooks the user, creates a sense of anticipation, or promises something desirable.
  5. Provide proof points that articulate the benefits of your offer. Put them simply.
  6. Collect and integrate testimonials and other types of social proof that validate your brand or product. When faced with incomplete information, we tend to make choices similar to those made by people we consider similar to ourselves. More on ways to optimize the conversion rate.
  7. Your website should contain lead magnets — a digital asset or content that is given to users for free in exchange for their contact information. You can provide e-books, checklists, promo codes, trials, white papers, you name it. 
  8. Minimize obstacles for the user by requesting only the essential information and reducing the number of fields and clicks required.
  9. If website visitors change their minds and leave a particular CTA unfinished (for example, a contact form left half-filled), you should give them another opportunity to reach you. Show them a pop-up offering a free consultation or a knowledge base post.

Like in the previous section, if you follow the instructions above, users will execute the main CTA. If something hinders them, there should be a tool that helps users complete the action. Conversion will grow, and if it doesn’t, go back to the web design and UX section and check what’s wrong.

Content audit

Let’s assume the page structure is wisely designed and users understand what actions they ought to perform to get what they came for. A menu does navigation work perfectly, and all that is left is to not push the users away with content issues. They do read it, they really do!

Content audit checklist

  1. Google still considers content quality to be the main driver of SEO. Writing quality content is time-consuming and expensive, but it is the basis of good SEO and growing the site’s audience, which later converts into leads.
  2. Content is relevant to the user’s intent and other content on the website. It’s an obvious point, yet a common mistake. Keep the page goal in mind when filling it with content.
  3. Content is logically structured and doesn’t confuse users. Use Jakob Nielsen’s “Inverted Pyramid”: give the most important info first, then proceed with supporting details, and only then add related information.
  4. A post should be at least 1,500 to 2,000 words. Longer posts are favored by search engines for their comprehensive content and are preferred for backlinking, as they are viewed as authoritative and make the linker appear knowledgeable.
  5. The text must have headings, blocks, paragraphs, images, graphs, subheaders, lists, bullet points, etc. for visual structure. 
  6. Provide author information. Author bios help establish transparency and authoritativeness by showing author credentials or even past work. It is crucial for business from the YMYL sector.
  7. No spelling and grammar mistakes.
  8. No extra content; only what drives a visitor to the CTA.
  9. Review top-visited and most converting pages and refresh the content timely.
  10. Read comments and reply to them, both negative and positive. Using them, you can understand how users perceive your content and engage them in discussion for the sake of a lower bounce rate.
  11. Use heat maps to check how users interact with content and use Google Analytics to learn the average number of visited pages per session.

One more extra tip. SEO consultant Aleyda Solis has developed the Content Reusage Framework that helps content writers and marketers repurpose their pieces. The flow chart shows that you don’t have to be writing new stuff all the time to fill your blog and social media with content.

Content improvement also facilitates the main goal execution: CTAs are being clicked/filled out/completed.

jakob-nielsens-inverted-pyramid
Jakob Nielsen’s Inverted Pyramid

SEO audit for beginners

search engine optimization part makes your content visible to a wider audience. There are many technical operations you can do so that your content is found by more and more people. Some changes, like editing headings and the content itself, and inserting links can be implemented without the programmer’s supervision, while others might require a specialist's help.

Technical SEO audit checklist

  1. Set up a tracking tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush to track what’s going on with your website: keyword rankings, traffic, entrance pages, exit pages, etc.
  2. Add schema markup. Schema markup is a special code you add to your website to help search engines understand your content better. It's a form of microdata that creates an enhanced description, known as a rich snippet, which appears in search results. Test your structured data.
  3. It should take a user no more than 3 or 4 clicks to get from the home page to other important pages. They should be easily accessible through well-placed, descriptive internal links. This is necessary for the correct distribution of link juice and convenient website navigation.

On page SEO audit checklist

  1. Use keywords in headings and the text itself. Keywords are words and phrases that users type into the search bar to perform a search. The way you describe your product, propose your service or word your article should coincide with the way users might search for this information.
    To check what exact terms they use for it, use Ahrefs or Semrush. Unfortunately, there are no free services, but if you are serious about SEO, you will need to invest. Plus their educational courses are free and easy to understand.
  2. Write a captivating meta title for every page. This is not the H1 of your page. This text appears in search engine results, the title bar of a visitor's web browser, the visitor’s bookmarks, etc. The visitor chooses whether to click on your website or not in search engine results based on this title. Incorporate keywords into this title, but it should still be easily readable. The recommended length is 55–65 characters, including spaces.
  3. Make your meta descriptions compelling. This description of the page content appears under the title in search engine results. Incorporate keywords into this tag, but it should still be easily readable. The recommended length is 160 characters, including spaces. Meta tags are obligatory for every page you want to rank.
  4. Use descriptive URLs. It should be easy to read for both people and robots. Don’t forget to incorporate a keyword into it.
  5. Interlink the pages of your website. There should be a lot of internal links leading to the most important pages of the site. Do not scorn the related articles section at the bottom of the page, etc. 
  6. Backlinks are important, but it is hard to get them naturally until you’ve gained your internet weight. But linking to other relevant trusted sources also helps. Put at least one external link in every content post.
  7. All images should have descriptive image file names and alt texts. Yes, Google reads those. Always use - as a separator in filenames. Never _.
  8. Use the right anchor text. Anchor text is clickable words used to link one web page to another. It should include keywords related to what you are describing. Don’t use phrases like “Click here” or “the link”. You can check anchor texts of your internal links with Screaming Frog.

What SEO gives you:

  • First of all, you understand what drives your traffic and what your traffic sources are. Then you impact them!
  • You understand how users find content similar to yours and now organic traffic grows because you use tags and keywords wisely.
  • The bounce rate decreases.
  • A visitor spends more time on your website than before due to internal linking.
  • After all, your rankings must be higher than before an SEO tuning.

Website maintenance checklist

A technical website audit is crucial for identifying underlying issues that could be affecting your site's performance, search engine visibility, user experience, and security. There is no point in honing on-page SEO when your home page takes 15 seconds to load. With our checklist, you will be able to find performance gaps on your own and speak the same language with your web development team.

Website performance audit

To be honest, it is hard to conduct a website maintenance audit if you don’t have any knowledge of a website’s inner workings. But it will certainly help you communicate your needs with the dev team.

  1. Google must crawl all pages on the site so that the user can find them using search. Information about the number of indexed pages and pages with errors can be found in the Google Search Console’s Pages report. To check for violations, go to the Security Issues and Manual Actions reports.
  2. Make sure you’re using HTTPS. For search engines, https://www.sample.ru, http://www.sample.ru, and https://sample.ru are three separate resources. The first version should be chosen as the canonical domain name. 301 redirects should be set up for the other options.
  3. Add a robots.txt file. It contains a list of pages you don’t want search engine crawlers to see, such as the admin panel, shopping cart, thank-you pages, internal search results, and other technical files.
  4. Add a sitemap.xml file. XML sitemap helps a crawler find all pages that should be indexed. Pages you have marked no-index in the robots.txt file should not be included in the sitemap.xml file.
  5. Check or enable the data caching. Drupal has a page caching feature in its core.
  6. Broken links to pages with a 404 server response hurt behavioral factors. You can check for such links using online analyzers. For example, the Brokenlinkcheck tool audits up to 3,000 website pages for free.
  7. Only three of the five Core Web Vitals metrics that were analyzed in the lab and field studies had any correlation with higher ranking: First Input Delay (FID), Total Blocking Time (TBT), и Time to Interactive. More on Core Web Vitals.
  8. Google doesn't use page speed as a ranking factor, but it does use page experience signals (partly grouped under Core Web Vitals) to assess the quality of a website’s UX and the helpfulness of its content. As SEO specialist Malte Landwehr says, “There is no such thing as page speed or loading time. Today, the web is highly asynchronous.”
  9. The architecture of your website needs to be logical to allow Google and human visitors to navigate it easily. Making your website an organized, hierarchical structure with well-labeled parts makes it easier for the users to find what they are looking for.
  10. Optimize images. Compress images using optimizers like Compressor.io or Kraken.

Have done everything according to the checklist but no dramatic change? The last resort is doing the front-end refactoring, Google Analytics check-up, and the UX audit. Reach out to experienced front-end developers for this task to avoid further foot-dragging.

A little tip before you go

Ease of administering and editing the website

When you’ve done everything for a user, consider checking how easy it is to manage a website and perform everyday routine tasks. There’s no particular checklist for that because it mostly depends on the CMS you use. Make sure administrators of your website can create content pages without the help of a programmer. Make sure admins can present content the right way, too: for example, in Drupal, they can upload images, embed videos, and align text.

Farewell

Now you’re set to conduct your first website audit. Don’t omit steps and soon you’ll see how better things are going. If you know the things that we might have missed in this guide or need our advice, let us know.

And, of course, we offer a website audit service so feel free to contact us for a non-obligatory consultation. Happy auditing!

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