If you’re considering a website makeover of your existing website, and you’re wondering where you should start, doing a website audit will be a good place to begin.
Why do you need to do a website audit?
A website audit is necessary to guide you through the steps enabling you to delve deeper into your website and assess how effective your online marketing efforts have been. The website audit will help you analyse from a website design and development perspective the various elements on your website which need improving or can remain before getting a complete website makeover. These are numerous details that you need to consider, but they are all equally important.
So, get a pen and start jotting down a few notes, your website audit will highlight any areas you need to review and specifically identify which areas you need to fix. Keep in the back of your mind as you are going through this audit, your focus should be: how you are going to fix this, rather than how did this happen – this can-do attitude will be beneficial for a more successful website makeover.
Layout and Website Design
- Does your website use a consistent format? If you look at your headings, hyperlinks, bullet points, navigation, headers, footers, typography style, text – do they all look the same throughout your website?
- Does your website have an acceptable amount of white space? White space helps to reduce cognitive overload for your reader, it makes it easier for them to digest and understand the information they have read. Look at your paragraph length, usage of bullet points and sub-headings. Is there enough white space on each web page to clearly read and see your content?
- Are your calls-to-actions logical and sequential? Consider how your reader is going to navigate through your website, and what call to actions they will be reading to guide them on their way. Is each call to action written for the reader to know what they need to do next?
- Has your website got too much bling? It’s understandable to want your website to sparkle, but not at the cost/experience of your customer. Try to keep some of these ‘features’ toned down, so you don’t overwhelm your customer with too many visual distractions.
- Is your content well-organized? Look at the information within your sidebar, is it compatible to the content in the main body of the page? If your customer only read the sub-headings on the web page, would they understand what the page is about?
Branding and Use of Imagery
- How are your chosen colors represented? Make sure your website’s overall color scheme matches, highlights your logo and is a compatible color palette. Looking at the colors online, it is different to seeing them on paper, so choose colors which are easy to look at and relaxing on the eyes.
- What does your typography look like? Many websites and businesses have a preferred style of font, size and type for various design elements on their website. Is your font style and type easy to read on different devices, large or small? Is it applied consistently throughout the website?
- Does your website have a favicon? You may not have noticed this small icon, it’s a small image which appears beside the website name of your website in your bookmarks list or favorites toolbar. It is useful because it helps to reinforce your brand when you’re viewing bookmarks or favorites and looking for a specific website or link.
- How is your business reflected in its use of images and videos? Have you only used generic stock images to advertise your business online? Each image, video or visual content must reflect and describe your business brand, product, service or industry favorably and accurately.
- What tone of voice are you using to communicate with your customers online? Every business and individual has a unique tone of voice, so review every web page and see if you can detect any variation in style. Write in a friendly, engaging tone. Use the same language you know your customers understand and will resonate with.
- Does your website have an ‘About Us’ page? Some websites have this page on their websites and use it as an opportunity to introduce their story to their customers i.e. who they are and what they do. Other websites create small author bios and offer a call to action at the end of their blog posts. Either method is acceptable. If you decide on retaining an About Us page, consider including testimonials or success stories, and an overview of key achievements and milestones in your business.
- Is your content ‘fresh’? Search engines bots are continuously scanning websites to check for content that has been published recently. Websites that has content published regularly are given a higher ranking than websites which are infrequently updated.
- Are you publishing relevant content? Is your blog and other pages relevant to your industry or business expertise and target market? Your primary goal is to write for your customers, not purely for the purpose of attracting search engine bots.
- Is your content written in an engaging and interesting style? Write your content in a friendly light tone which inspires your customers to want to share and discuss their thoughts with you on social media.
- Have you written quality content? Have you done any research and presented facts from others that supports your point of view? Is there sufficient depth in your articles to make them worth reading? Demonstrate to your customer that you possess the knowledge of an expert.
- Is your content written grammatically and free from spelling errors? Re-read through your content and check that it is grammatically correct, and there are no spelling mistakes or typos.
- Is your content easy to read and digestible? Have you used a combination of paragraphs and bullet points in longer sections to break up the text? Sub-headings are also useful for making reading easier and understanding text online.
- Is the reading level appropriate? Keep in mind that the average reader of your website does not necessarily have a PhD degree in your niche and does not have the same level of understanding as you do in your specialist area. Write your content in a straightforward simple style that encourages readers to stay on your website. If customers do not understand your content, they will not stay on your website.
- Have you published copied, duplicated or scrapped content from another website? Search engines want to deliver original unique content and try to filter out variations on the same topic. This also includes content that has previously been published on other websites.
- Does your website use an excessive number of ads or sponsored content? Websites which publish ads before their content are downgraded by search engines because it is deemed to be a poor user experience.
Key words and SEO
- Does your content contain appropriate key words? Think about the words or phrases that customers type into the search box on your website to try to find a post or specific page. Would they have found the content they were looking for? Look at your Google Analytics account and look at the actual searches and key words/phrases they are typing in and the number of searches that are being performed. Use a combination of these key words and phrases in your website content.
- How often have you written the key word in each web page or post? Use no more than two key words in each web page or post and keep your post on a single topic. Bear in mind you are writing for a human being who may use different combinations of your key phrase, so include those words or phrases for natural SEO usage.
- Have you avoided ‘key word stuffing’? Many search engines use an algorithm that ranks websites poorly which are deliberately written in a style that tries to manipulate and skew search results through overly using key words. This is known as ‘key word stuffing’. Your content should focus on using relevant key words and phrases appropriately and in the right context.
- Does your page and post headings accurately reflect the content? Each heading you write should clearly summarize the topic and be keyword focused. Ensure the first heading uses the H1 tag and subsequent sub-headings use the H2 tag.
- Is the key word used in every web page URL? Every web page should contain the key word or phrase in the URL to encourage search engines to rank the page higher. Doing this will also encourage your customers to remember your content and entice them to share it on their social media networks.
- Does your website use meta descriptions and meta titles appropriately? Meta description text are the short sentences you see/read just before you click through to the website in search results. It should be persuasively written to encourage searchers to want read more and click through to your website. Use the key word/phrase at the beginning of each meta description of each web page or post, try to write no more than 155 characters.
Meta titles, like meta descriptions, should be keyword rich without deliberately key word stuffing. The key word/phrase should align with the topic of each post and keep to 55 characters.
Usability and Optimization
- Is your navigation obvious? All websites should have a standard header (primary) navigation below the logo and website name. The most important pages should be listed in this banner area. If your website uses a drop down menu, good website practice insists that sub-web pages should be no longer than three levels deep. Use obvious naming conventions
- Does your website layout employ a standardized style? There are many different website designs, look and feels, but when you have a second look you will begin to see there are some similar design elements. For example: all websites utilize these sections – a dedicated header, have content and a footer. Many websites have a sidebar either on the left or right side of the content or sometimes both sides.
- Does your website look the same in all browsers? Check your website across many internet browsers – does your website look and work consistently across all browsers? Look at your website on Edge, Chrome, Firefox and other major browsers.
- Does your website use frames? Many older-looking websites were designed using frames and created with internal scrollbars. Frames have created many problems for modern-day browsers making it difficult for search engines to crawl through the website, and un-friendly user navigation.
- Does your website use Flash? Many website developers were very keen on using Flash to make websites more animated. Unfortunately, it is very challenging for search engines to index and crawl through these websites that use this type of code. Additionally, it is not supported by mobile devices like iPhones or iPads.
Mobile Responsive Designed
- If your website is already mobile responsive, have you looked at it on different devices? Does your website look good across different devices like: smartphones, tablets, and iPads, etc. Is the content easy to share, navigate and forms easy to complete?
- Have you used larger sized images on your website? Large horizontal style websites look really good on a desktop computer, but can be difficult to load and view on a mobile device. Consider the size of the image, and the time and bandwidth required to open web pages with large images.
- How long does your website take to fully download/open in a browser? Depending on how your customers access your website (i.e. their mobile data plan or their desktop/laptop computer home internet) will vary the different rate/speed that your website takes to open. Run a speed test to see how long it takes to open.
- How integrated is social media into your website? Your website should have easily recognizeable social media icons which are linked to your social media accounts, and use the standard social media sharing buttons which enables you to easily share your content on different social media accounts.
- How often/frequently do you update your social media accounts? Social media relies on interaction. Primarily between you and your customers and sometimes your customers talking to each other. This means you need to actively connect with others, share content, leave a comment, tweet.
- How do you respond to comments? It is equally as important to respond to positive helpful comments as it is to the negative critical comments. You need to promptly respond to any negative interaction so it doesn’t harm your online reputation.
- Are you using the right social media networks? Are your customers using the same social media networks you are publishing your content on? Given the variety of social media networks which you can engage your customers, choose carefully. Analyse which social media networks you know your customers are currently using. Look closely at the social media networks which you have the best interaction on and focus your efforts on improving that engagement.
How did your website audit perform?
Phew! So now you have come to the end of your website audit and uncovered a bit of muddle, don’t worry. It’s all fixable given enough time, hard work and a little love and attention. I hope you’re not feeling too overwhelmed and defeated with what you have uncovered.
The second article in this series will take you through the process of setting goals, before you speak to your web designer or developer.
Take a look at the other articles in the ‘Website Makeover – A Five Part Plan’ series:
Part 1: The Website Audit
Part 2: Setting Your Goals
Part 3: Choosing A Professional
Part 4: Defining The Scope
Part 5: After The Relaunch