You could be forgiven for thinking that nothing good ever came from the words “website audit“. An audit usually implies scrutiny, interference and evaluation. We tend not to enjoy these things in our business affairs. They have a habit of raising the hair on the back of our necks. However, an audit isn’t always something to be feared and dreaded.
In many cases, they can even help to make our lives and our operations better. Website audits, are an excellent way for you to ensure that your website is living up to its full potential.
If you’re currently undergoing a period of infuriatingly slow business, you can’t help noticing that conversions are down or you’ve noticed a gradual dwindling of profit margins, a website audit could be an invaluable tool.
If you do business in the 21st century, whether it’s through e-commerce or not, it’s almost sure that your business needs a website. No business is too small, to niche or too local not to need an online presence. Sure, a website can facilitate sales, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For many prospects, your website will be the first exposure they have to your business. It’s how they identify with your brand and from it they will start to build an opinion of your business. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
As such, it always pays to ensure that your website operates at peak efficiency. Open yourself up to the prospect of a website audit, and you may well find that it creates a range of solutions to many of your business’ problems.
What is a website audit?
If you’ve never heard of the term before, let’s clarify just what we mean when we talk about a website audit. There are many different kinds of audit (and we’ll examine them all later), but in simplest terms, it is when a third party service scrutinises every facet of your online presence.
They will laud you for what your site does well and suggest areas for improvement or further development. This can ensure that your online presence achieves maximum resonance with your target market while also ensuring that your business achieves its strategic goals. Of course, these outsourced service providers won’t work their magic on their site for free.
As a responsible business owner, you may well be a little skittish when it comes to additional overheads. However, as we will hopefully clarify, it is an expense well worth paying.
Does your business really need a website audit?
Right now you’re likely thinking “Sure, this may be true for many businesses, but my website is too small, too specialist to benefit from outside scrutiny”. You’re right to question whether any business expense is worth paying, but a website audit can offer a substantial return on your investment.
An auditing team can help to identify issues to which you may be completely oblivious to. Issues which could not only harm your search engine reach but also increase your bounce rates and reduce the chances for converting leads into customers.
All to often we make web design and development decisions from a purely aesthetic viewpoint. Of course, it’s essential to have an attractive website with an aesthetic that resonates with users, but even in the digital realm, beauty is only skin deep.
A visually impressive veneer may mask a range of issues which can hamper your site’s efficacy. Let’s take a look at the different types of audit a third party service can provide and how they may benefit your business.
Different types of website audit
There may be issues with your site that you are aware of. Likewise, there may be a plethora of issues beneath the surface of which you are entirely unaware. Just as there is a wide range of things that can cause your website to stall or lack, there is a wide range of different types of audit. These include:
- Red Flag Audits: Sometimes a website can have issues which potentially carry penalties from an SEO standpoint. These will cause search engine crawlers to keep their distance from your site. Assessing and repairing these can become an audit in and of itself although it is usually part of.
- Site Health Audits: This is a common type of audit, especially for those businesses which are new to the auditing process. Usually, they address specific issues which the business owner of webmaster has noticed like a downward trend in traffic or a steep drop in conversion rates.
- Competitive Site Audits: No business operates in a vacuum, and rightly or wrongly your website will be judged with how it matches up with that of your competitors. This kind of audit will compare your website to your leading competitors and identify opportunities for growth. Note that this is not the same as merely copying your competitors.
- Conversion Optimisation Audits: There is a range of reasons why conversion rates may slump. They range from common sense to the highly technical, from suboptimal Calls To Action (CTAs) to User Experience (UX) issues. This kind of audit will identify conversion issues of all kinds and help you to implement strategies to make them climb.
- Negative SEO or Attacked Site Audits: Sometimes a steep downturn in your site metrics is not because of anything going on in the site itself. Sometimes a site may be attacked by bad SEO methods. If your website is hacked, someone has sent spammy links to your site, or someone has linked to your site using unflattering keywords these can result in what is called Negative SEO. This kind of audit will identify the source of any such attacks and rectify them so that search engine algorithms no longer penalise you.
- Security Audits: No business is too large or too small to encounter security issues. While high-value sites tend to be at higher risk of malicious attacks, business owners of all kinds can find their online presences vulnerable to security risks. As such, it’s always worth getting an audit to ensure that your website is as secure as possible.
How often should I have a website audit?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule on how often your website should be audited, but it certainly pays to be proactive rather than reactive. If you only get your site audited after you notice a sharp drop in conversion rates or e-commerce purchases, you will only spend more and more time chasing your tail.
In a world where SEO changes rapidly, it pays to get regular audits to ensure that your site complies to the ever-changing values of search engines’ algorithms. If you can have a website audit every 3-6 months, you stand an excellent chance not just of ensuring that your site is issue free and SEO friendly.
What types of problems can a website audit help fix?
Now that we are familiar with the different types of website audit are available to businesses let’s take a closer look at the issues they can fix. There are many technical and non-technical problems which an audit may uncover. These include:
- Content and keyword issues: Many entrepreneurs understand the importance of keywords. Likewise, they understand the importance of posting content regularly. Unfortunately, in their zeal, they can get into bad habits that incur penalties with search engines. Duplicate or spun content, i.e. content that is copied and pasted from another website with only a few small changes can do way more harm than good to your SEO. Likewise, while keywords are great, when they are not appropriately represented in the body of the content this may also carry penalties.
- UX and navigation issues: The way in which we use the internet is changing. More and more of us are accessing the internet through mobile browsers and consuming content on the go. As such, your website needs to be completely responsive regarding mobile optimisation. This means that your UX must be on-point whether your site is viewed through a desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone. Since a wait time of just 7 seconds can increase your bounce rate by over 30% your site also needs to respond quickly to user commands whether they’re issued via touchscreen or mouse. This will also usually include ensuring that your CTAs are as effective as possible.
- Backlinks: We all know that backlinks are important for SEO, but not all backlinks are created equal. While backlinks from trusted, high authority sites are a big thumbs up, indiscriminate link building can do much more harm than good. As well as a lack of backlinks, backlinks from dodgy sources can also hinder your SEO.
- Crawl and indexing errors: Website crawlers are smart little bots, but they’re not magical. To make your content easy for them to find, it needs to be correctly indexed so that they know what it’s about. The good news is that search engine crawlers do this automatically when they navigate your site. The bad news is that some things can prevent search engines from properly indexing your pages. If your site has over 100 pages and only a handful are properly indexed this can result in penalties. Duplicate content, poor quality content or (that old chestnut) broken links can all be impediments to proper indexing. Fortunately, an auditor will be able to identify these issues and help you to rectify them.
Google loves issue-free websites
Google is the most commonly used search engine, and as such it tends to lead decisions made about SEO, web design and web development. If there’s one thing, Google loves it’s secure and issue free websites. It will penalise those that do not conform to its rigorous and ever-changing criteria.
Regular auditing will not only prevent you from getting into bad habits that lead to search engine penalisation but will ensure that you’re never caught short by algorithmic changes.
Hopefully, this post has illustrated the many and varied ways in which your website may not be living up to its full potential. Crashes in conversions, high bounce rates and poor search engine visibility are all signs of needing an audit. With the aid of a website audit, you can help to steer your website back on the right path. After all, a healthy website means a happy business!