Conducting a yearly (and sometimes even a quarterly) website audit for your business is always a good idea!
It allows you to make sure you are putting your best foot forward when a potential client visits.
Why? The reality is we have less than five seconds–yes, five seconds–to let potential customers know they are in the right place.
It’s not a lot of time.
That means you need an extremely clear website to get visitors to stay longer. It also means your brand messaging, design, and pagespeed all need to work in harmony for your website to be effective.
If these three things aren’t working together simultaneously, you’ll have visitors leave your page immediately, which means your bounce rate will be high and those potential clients most likely won’t come back again.
Let’s dive into the different ways you can audit your website to ensure you’re giving your business a fighting chance to pass that five second test.
THE 4 PILLARS OF YOUR WEBSITE AUDIT
Now that you know just how quickly visitors are making a decision once they land on your site, we need to make sure they can quickly and easily understand what you offer and who it’s for.
The Grunt Test
Donald Miller, founder of StoryBrand, refers to this evaluation as the grunt test.
Essentially, he says the homepage of your website should be so straightforward a caveman could answer these questions from looking at your website:
- What do you offer?
- How will it make my life better?
- What do I need to do to buy (or work with you)?
I like to take this a step further and also identify who the website is for.
This messaging should all be above the fold (aka above the break line before you have to start scrolling on a site).
Making sure you have strong CTAs (also known as Call to Actions) on your website is important in letting the visitor know where to go next.
By using CTAs, you are also answering Donald Miller’s third question: what does a visitor need to do to buy or work with you?
When a visitor lands on a site, the design must guide them to the next place they should visit.
If we don’t tell them where they should go next, or, worse, have a dead-end on a page, we are not providing an effective user experience. This will likely result in the visitors jumping ship since they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Sometimes changes and tweaks to a brand are made, but the website is updated last (or not at all).
Make sure the branding on your site is consistent with all your other touch-points, because if the visitor feels like there is a disconnect, they instantly have doubt about the credibility of your brand and are more likely to bounce after only visiting one page.
Use Visual Hierarchy
As humans we work in predictable ways, and this includes the way we scan and read a website.
Most people use two different types of scanning patterns.
F-Pattern – is used for text-heavy websites like blogs. Readers scan the content in a vertical line down the left side of the page while looking for keywords and other items of interest in the first few sentences of paragraphs.
Z-Pattern – is used on pages not built on the text, such as homepages and services pages. This pattern comes from reading left to right, and readers first scan a horizontal line across the top of the page. Once it reaches the end of the horizontal line it moves down and to the left. This creates a pattern that resembles the letter Z.
The Z-pattern is great for homepage design and also encourages putting the strongest call to actions somewhere along the Z pattern.
An often-used best practice is to include a CTA in the top right corner of the navigation bar with another in the center of the homepage. This will likely catch the eye of the reader following that pattern.
Make it Responsive and Easy to Navigate
Eliminate clutter and anything else that can distract a visitor from getting lost on your site by removing or moving any unnecessary content in the navigation bar or hero section below the fold.
If it’s not a high priority, consider moving it to the footer of your website.
In today’s world of smart devices and mobile connectivity, it is imperative your site is mobile friendly.
Some brands have adopted a mobile first strategy because of the number of visitors on their site from a mobile device.
Data shows visitors to my website are browsing on desktops and mobile devices equally, so both are important in my case.
Make sure your site is designed with the device in mind; always keep the user experience at the forefront.
What’s one of my weird website pet-peeves? Sites with a less than 16-point font as the body text. If I’m trying to read a website’s content on my phone, I don’t want to strain to see it.
I believe people are now accustomed to scrolling, so I’d much rather bump up the font size and make them scroll a bit more instead of making them squint to see the text!
The design and effectiveness of your site is important once someone actually lands on your site, but driving traffic is just as vital.
Make sure you are optimizing your website’s content for search engines like Google, Pinterest, and YouTube, which is a great way to ensure you are showing up in search results when potential clients are looking for your services.
Leverage On-Page SEO
If SEO is completely outside of your comfort zone, check out this post where I breakdown SEO terms and their definitions. I’ve also got this post where I provide a helpful guide to implement search engine optimization best practices.
To sum it up, here are a few ways to optimize your content and ensure your website is being effective:
- Optimize your content for using your keyword in a sentence and in your ALT text description
- Use relevant keywords in the URL and title of the page or post
- Make sure that keyword is used in your headings and throughout your copy
- Update the meta description to provide an overview of the content and include the relevant keyword. (Bonus tip: add the answer to the question you answering directly into the meta description!)
- Make sure you are writing your content for both humans and search engines! Google is smart, and they know when you are keyword stuffing your content. Google also evaluates the time a visitor is staying on your page. So write specifically for humans, but keep best practices in mind.
Tech + Security
The backend of your website is just as important as the frontend.
If your site takes a long time to load, you are going to lose visitors. Remember, they are making a decision about the site and the information provided in less than five seconds.
People have short attention spans, so if you’re site takes too long to load, they’ll most likely leave.
These four tips will keep your site safe, secure, and running smoothly and will help you complete a successful website audit.
- Ensure all plugins are up-to-date
- Backup content regularly (or pay for a service that does it for you)
- Ensure you’re using the latest version of WordPress
- Ensure image sizes are optimized to decrease load time
- Recommend: WP Smush
PRO TIP: add a monthly calendar reminder to make sure WordPress and all of its plugins are up to date.
If you leave these plugins sitting active on your site without being updated, you are essentially leaving the doors and windows to your home unlocked, which makes it easy for people to break in.
It’s also important to make sure you are optimizing your images for web use, meaning they are no more than 1000 pixels wide and set to 72 dpi.
If you are using hi-res imagery throughout your site, it will take a long time to load and cause a bad experience for your visitors.
I know that’s a lot of information–there is a lot that goes into optimizing your website–but now that you know what to do and what to look for, you’ll be on your way to rockin’ that website of yours and growing your biz!
download the Website audit guide
evaluate the effectiveness of your website to help you clearly communicate what you offer and who it’s for
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you audit your website? Tell me in the comments below!