Written by: Mark Praschan
Businesses change. Customers learn. Technologies evolve. Your website needs to adapt too.
Clear Eyes… Can’t Lose
Website audits are all about looking at your site with fresh eyes and identifying strengths and weaknesses. No website is perfect so it’s time to get honest about where you need to improve.
It’s best to perform a comprehensive review of any website at least once every 12 months.
Start Where You’re At
The world’s busiest websites have large teams of engineers and analysts constantly refining every detail. That’s something that small businesses simply don’t have access to.
You and your team may not be website experts, but you can still review your site’s performance in a number of key areas. Here are just a few of the categories to consider.
In the website industry, the term “accessibility” usually refers to making the web more usable for users with disabilities (ex. auditory and visual impairments).
Organizations like the Website Accessibility Initiative are doing great work on this front, but I’m talking about accessibility in a broader sense. Can users actually access the information on your website?
Is Your Site Down?
The average website is “up” or accessible about 99.4% of the time. That sounds wonderful until you realize that the other 0.6% represents about 52 hours per year that your business might be down. Worse yet, if you’re using unreliable web hosting, you might be well below the average.
To see if your website is up and running right now, you can use an online tool like IsItDownRightNow.com which tests the provided address (or URL) from a third-party server.
There are also a number of online service providers providing “uptime monitoring” that will send you alerts if your site goes down for a small monthly fee.
Once you’ve determined that users are able to get to your website, it’s time to think about performance and site speed. Most of your business’ potential customers are likely to abandon your website if it takes more than a few seconds to load.
The easiest way to check how quickly your website is loading is by using a free tool like Google PageSpeed which rate your site’s mobile and desktop experiences on a scale from 0-100.
There’s an incredible amount of technical details that affect that score, but the purpose of your website audit is to get a quick gauge of where you’re at.
- Pages with a score of 49 or less (what Google considers a “failing” grade) are likely providing users with a poor experience and should be improved.
- Scores of 50-89 are considered “average”. They represent sites that can still benefit by improving performance, but it’s not quite as critical.
- Webpages achieving scores of 90 or more are plenty quick and have likely already been optimized for speed. Don’t stress about getting a perfect score (it’s almost impossible)… take your passing grade and move on to other areas.
A site’s appearance is one of the most important facets of a successful website, but it’s also one of the most difficult to quantify. What makes a good design?
Think about your target market and your ideal customer. What sort of “look” should they expect to see from your business? Websites for law offices and those for video game retailers should look wildly different.
Less is More
There are endless ways to complicate a website’s appearance. Don’t add flashy bells and whistles to your site at the expense of distracting visitors or watering down your message.
Think of your website as a nice conversation between friends rather than a trip through Times Square with a thousand signs shouting for the users’ attention.
Traffic / Analytics
Your site can feel like a 1-on-1 conversation, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have as many of those connections as you can. Do you know how many visitors are coming to your site each week or month?
By far the most popular tool for gaining insight into site visits is Google Analytics. Once you have this up and running for a while, you’ll be able to find answers to all the “how many…” and “which pages…” questions you can think of.
There are plenty of articles with ways to increase traffic, but a website audit is about getting the baseline, seeing where you’re at right now.
Search Engine Optimization
Businesses of all sizes pay SEO specialists a combined $80+ billion dollars every year to make sure their sites are found at the top of search engines. You can’t become an expert overnight, but there are a few concepts that will help get you started:
- You want other sites to link to you (especially high-quality, popular, and relevant sites)
- You should have high-quality content on your website
- Take the time to craft great page titles and descriptions for search engines
There are now more website visits occurring on mobile devices than on traditional computers like desktops or laptops. This means that you should probably be thinking of your website from a mobile-first perspective.
Be sure your website is usable and looks good on devices of all makes/sizes. Try using your website on any phones, tablets, and computers you can get your hands on.
It may also be a good idea to use online tools or hire a professional to help ensure your site is performing as expected is a mobile-first world.
Can someone who has never seen your business or website before understand what you do within the first 3 seconds? It may sound ridiculous, but that’s about as long as users take before deciding if they continue scrolling/reading so it’s important to refine your message and be concise.
This one is very difficult to do without getting help from someone outside your business. Ask family members and friends to explain what your business does and for whom. If it’s not painfully clear, you probably need to improve the copywriting and presentation of information on your site.
What is your website actually trying to accomplish? If your primary goal is to promote brand awareness and inform users, your site shouldn’t be set up the same way as if it were primarily driving sales or leads. That’s just one example, but be sure that your site is aligned with your overall business objectives.
Judging your website through each of these lenses will help you take a snapshot of your website’s current performance. Record the results of your audit. Some of the more objective topics are easy to record and measure. For more subjective topics, you can at least jot down your notes and perhaps give yourself a score 1-10.
Once you have some awareness of how your website is performing in various areas, you’ve established a baseline. From there, you should be able to determine the following:
- What improvements do we need to make right away?
- What do we want to accomplish in the next 3 months?
- Where do we want to be in 12 months?
Website audits are time well spent. The more honest and more impartial the feedback, the more valuable it will be. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, or even a website professional to assist.
“Businesses change. Customers learn. Technologies evolve. Your website needs to adapt too.”@MarkPraschan of @WebsiteAMP
About the author:
Websites / Ecommerce – Caro, MI
I help small businesses succeed on the internet.
I’ve been building websites professionally for 20 years and I specialize in WordPress, Ecommerce, and membership/subscription websites. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Fortune 500 companies, main-street solo-preneurs, and everybody in between.
As an owner of a small small business myself, I know how to work through the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that small businesses and entrepreneurs encounter. I’d love to talk about your next website project.