In many ways, Website Audits are like Physical Exams. Most people don't look forward to them, but they are essential in providing you information on your website's health.
Since technology is changing every day, your website has to change with it. Running your site through audit tools is one of the easiest ways to ensure you are not left behind.
Also, a good audit will provide a full analysis of your website, and more importantly, a breakdown on areas which need improvement.
Now that we covered some basics let's look at a few free audit tools to help you get started, and see what improvements need to be made.
1. Google's PageSpeed Insights
If you are trying to improve your Google ranking, running your website through PageSpeed is a great start. It will give your website an overall score, and more importantly, outline all the key areas you need to improve.
It will also allow you to run two different tests (Mobile and Desktop). As we discussed in one of our previous posts, Google's search algorithm now prioritizes Mobile over Desktop. What does that mean for your business? Simply put, if you want to rank as high as possible in Google, your website must look great on Mobile devices (e.g. phone or tablet).
PageSpeed Report Example (using atlantic.com)
Website load speed impacts three important lead generation areas - usability, conversion rate, and SEO; therefore, if your website takes too long to load, you will lose leads, customers, and revenue.
How quickly should your website load? Most users expect a website to load in under 2 seconds; therefore, if your website takes more than 2 seconds to load, you need to look into ways to optimize it.
This is where tools like GTmetrix can simplify the optimization process for you - outlining website elements and how they impact the performance.
Furthermore, it provides a great waterfall view which allows you to easily spot bottlenecks.
GTmetrix Report Example (using atlantic.com)
In many ways, Pingdom is very similar to GTmetrix. However, it does provide some unique features. For examples, you have an option to test from a different city/country.
Why is this important? Because your website will probably attract visitors from all over the world. Even if you only operate in the U.S., you should never ignore website visitors from other countries.
Note: The 2-seconds rule/guide should not be used for all countries. For example, many regions in the world still use a dial-up connection, so it's unrealistic to set a 2-second goal for all international traffic.
Finally, website load speed plays an essential part in your Google ranking. Irrespective of how great your website content is, if it takes too long to load then you will rank poorly.
Pingdom Report Example (using atlantic.com)
4. Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog is a website crawler. In other words, it crawls website pages (URLs) and retrieves key page elements. For example, it can quickly find broken links and help you analyze page titles and meta descriptions, without having to review one page at a time.
Note: a free version is sufficient for most small businesses. However, if your website has over 300+ pages, then you may need a paid version.
Screaming Frog Report Example
Are These Audit Reports Too Technical For You?
If you find these reports complex and challenging to interpret, then you may need an expert to help you. For example, a company (or a person) that implemented your website should be able to address numerous audit findings. Or a digital marketing agency with technical expertise can assist you as well.
Note: Some businesses need assistance with website audits because audit recommendations often require coding (development work).
How Often Should You Perform An Audit?
For most small-to-medium-sized businesses, we recommend an in-depth audit every 12 months, or after a significant change (e.g., website redesign, content management system changes, etc.). On the other hand, a large organization will typically perform an audit less frequently, because large/complex site audits are extremely resource-intensive (people, tools, and budget).
As we mentioned earlier in the post, a periodic website audit is essential in providing you information on your website's health. And more importantly, it will give you a comprehensive report on the areas you need to improve.
If a website is part of your conversion funnel (i.e. it helps you attract and convert leads into customers), then periodic audits are essential. Technology, standards, and best practices are changing every year, so to stay competitive, you have to keep up with changes.
Take the next step and run your website through these audit tools!