In 2021, people are using the internet more than ever before, and so having a well-designed website has become essential.
To make sure your site stands out from the crowd, there are several tools at your disposal to improve the user experience and ensure customers return.
Website auditing, for example, is a general analysis of a website aimed at revealing the actions needed to improve your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO).
Other tools can offer ‘recommendations’ on how to raise website rankings when people carry out searches. Common issues that plague badly optimised websites include broken links, duplicate meta descriptions and titles, HTML validation, website statistics, error pages, and site speed.
For a user, experiencing these while on your website can turn them off, and this is where carrying out site audits becomes important. It applies to any online business and improves different aspects of a website.
According to AdvanceCT, periodic audits of your website are opportunities to improve performance and offer a way to ‘check-in’ to ensure that your site accurately reflects your organisation’s products, services, and value.
Keeping your website healthy
SEO expert Craig Campbell says there are several ways to carry out a website audit. It is not a simple blanket term; it requires you to break down what a problem is and consider the audit from there.
Campbell said: “You can’t just loosely say ‘we are doing a website audit’ – what are you auditing? Is it backlinks? Is it the content? Is it the website speed? Is it any potential technical issues with a website? and all of that would tend to be what I would call a website audit.”
Audits are a good way to keep tabs on the health of your website. As content is added, it could break other elements of the site without your knowledge. Without consistent checking, these issues could go unnoticed.
Campbell recommends doing audits regularly: “Generally they should be done on a month-to-month basis, the same way that you would audit your house; you can’t just leave your clothes on the floor, you have got to look at and see what needs to be done, and it is the same with a website.”
In a previous interview with DIGIT, Campbell laid out the importance of SEO for your site. Negative SEO could end up having an impact on customer engagement.
Why is website auditing a good idea?
When you are building and maintaining your website it is important to take note of how your competitors are building their websites. They may have rankings for different keywords, better URLs, and better content.
Campbell commented: “You can audit your website, and the benefits of doing so are that you’re going to get improved performance and you’re going to see gaps in your website. When you are doing a website audit, you might be auditing your website against that of the competition.
“You have to constantly do that because people are always challenging you. It is a competitive market online and people always use new technology, new calls to actions and automation. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your website is up to speed.”
Not only should you be ensuring that your website is working better than your competition, you need to make sure that it can compete, not just on a technical basis, but on a content basis as well.
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Campbell says that by using an audit to discover potential issues that put you behind the competition, you can make sure you are “building a roadmap to success,” and in doing so giving yourself a plan of action to go and implement something that your website may need.
However, it is difficult to stay ahead of the competition when the internet is such a used commodity. Maintaining a mediocre site in a saturated market could be the downfall of a business.
“I think guys that are successful are the ones that spend a bit more time auditing. Doing conversion rate optimisation and making that user experience a lot slicker, and a lot better because there’s a whole bunch of money out there,” Campbell said.
The pandemic has certainly had a huge impact on internet usage, with people now more inclined than they ever use websites to shop and buy online.
“You just need to make that journey simple and easy,” Campbell commented. “Believe it or not, some people just don’t do the basics that well and have massive problems with their website.
“If you want to be successful online, you need to have your quality barriers a lot higher than everyone else who are doing a mediocre job.”
A good way to raise these quality barriers is to fix issues within the website so that search engines will pick them out when someone searches.
Google is the most used search engine in the world. According to research by SimilarWeb, the site has been visited 88.36 billion times in the last six months.
This enormous platform is the place where your website needs to be noticed, and site auditing, Campbell said, it a good way to get it noticed.
When Google searches its bank of sites to find the most relevant to a searched topic, it will filter out any tagged negative SEO it finds throughout pages website pages. Campbell said that, if you are not regularly auditing to find these issues, Google will push your website further down the list.
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As well as this, issues such as broken links and an overall negative user experience will drive customers away from your website and towards your competitors.
Campbell said: “All of these things can have a massive, massive impact on your website. People make mistakes, and it’s good to audit that stuff because even if you read the most amazing article and then do a typo on a link, that will be a problem for Google.
“All of these small things that are common on a website are just stupid human errors that even I make on a day-to-day basis. That is why an audit is really important just so you are catching it at the other end.”
How do you audit your website?
“First thing would be to simply run it through Semrush, purely because that gives you a basic overview of the state of play of the website,” Campbell said.
“I would then start to look at the site speed. Tools like GTmetrix, or Pingdom, which will both give you an idea of how well that website goes. I also do a couple of manual checks. I always do a check where the website is hosted.”
The location of where your website is hosted is important, Campbell says. If your website is hosted in America, and you are trying to rank it well on Google in another country, then it would be better to have your site hosted in that country instead.
Campbell comes back to covering the basics. So often, he says, business owners fail to carry out the initial steps for building an effective website and it hurts them later down the line.
As well as this, a lot of businesses are not keeping up with the increasingly digital world. Businesses that traditionally carry out face-to-face transactions now cannot see customers in person due to Covid-19 lockdowns, and Campbell said there is a real need for them to start building an effective website for their business.
“People just don’t do it, and it is madness,” Campbell said. “There are so many things, basic things to generate more leads and more revenue, people are not doing. They are focused on a big fancy looking website that gets more traffic, but that is pointless.”
Failing to correctly tend to your site could have an impact on your business, especially in a digital world, but could it close a business down?
“100%, because if you don’t, and the competition does up their game, then you will be flushed out of the market,” Campbell said.
“It’s all about making life easier for the consumer, and if someone else does it, and you’re not, then you are going to be gobbled up and spat out, so you do have to keep up.”
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