This is an important question because definitions vary depending on who is providing the audit. If it is a search engine optimization or SEO audit, it would be different that if it was a holistic website audit.
An SEO audit is the most standard of site audits. Most SEO audits look at three things: on-page, off-page, and technical performance.
An on-page audit starts with the basics: keywords, tags, page performance, and internal links. The easiest first step is to review the tags, which are the title, main header (h1), sub-headers (h2), and the meta description.
We analyze these elements versus best practices for length, keyword usage, semantic keyword usage, and consistency. For example, there should only be one main header tag (h1), and it should be no longer than 55-60 characters.
The next place we look is keyword and semantic keyword usage and density in the page content or blog post. We flag any over or under usage and create a list of changes that will improve SEO performance.
When considering the content on the page, you also need to evaluate the content in a wider context of the site. You want to ensure that you minimize the amount of duplicate content. You also need to ensure that the content is original and not plagiarized.
After we review the website content, we explore the internal and external links. We ensure the number of links are within best practice guidelines. We also look for any broken links, so we can fix them.
The last step is to review the page results on Google Analytics. The key page metrics we note are bounce rate, time on site (or page), traffic by source, and a few other metrics that serve as a proxy to user experience.
This step focuses on external links TO our page. Here, we also look for broken links. However, these links require us to contact the external site linking our page to let them know they have a broken link.
Often the site has an update or makes some minor changes, which accidentally breaks the link. If you are polite and persistent, you can usually motivate them to fix the error.
Page speed is one of the key factors evaluated in a technical web audit. Page speed can have a significant impact on mobile website performance. Because of this, page speed is a major ranking factor in search engines and search results.
The other aspects of a technical audit include ensuring that search engines can find the site and the site makes it easier for the bot to crawl the site.
This type of audit includes all the steps of an SEO audit. However, it also includes auditing advertising performance. These audits include an analysis of the effectiveness of the advertising, landing pages, and marketing funnel.
When evaluating the effectiveness of paid advertising, we use industry specific benchmarks for each advertising platform and campaign. The metrics evaluated are click through rate, cost per click or action, and other similar metrics.
Next, we examine the effectiveness of the landing pages. We look at bounce rates, time on site, pages per session, along with other factors. We study the effectiveness of different calls to action, designs, and offers.
Finally, we explore the marketing funnel effectiveness vs. competitive benchmarks. You evaluate the conversion rate through each step of the funnel: visits to leads, lead generation to prospects, prospects to customers, and so on.
Your website is the single most important marketing tool you have. Therefore, it is important to ensure that it is working as well as it should. An audit allows you to see what is working and what needs to be improved. Without one, it is very difficult to know where to start if you want to improve your performance.
If you use a professional, they will provide you with a website audit checklist. On this checklist, they will list all the areas that they plan to review. You will want to make sure that this audit checklist covers most if not all the areas mentioned above.
When the audit is complete, the auditor will provide you with a detailed report of findings. Audits vary in quality and complexity. A basic audit will probably include just the findings and some benchmark comparisons. A high-quality audit will include the findings, degree of difficulty or impact, and suggestions for improvement.
Once you have the completed audit report, you will need to assess how much you can accomplish internally versus those that will need external help. Several of the on-page items, like tags, for instance, are relatively simple to fix. In contrast, most of the technical fixes require some specialized knowledge in coding. Therefore, they can be fairly complex.
Regarding prioritization, we argue website design technical issues, like slow mobile page speed, are the most important to fix first. A poor user experience trumps superior on-page SEO or great external links.
If you want to try your hand at doing an audit on your own, there are several software packages that provide auditing tools. HubSpot and SEMRush are two, and there are many others.
Each has its own “university” of training tool you can use if you enjoy understanding the technical aspects and fine points of website audits. Fair warning, it requires a significant investment in time and effort. However, if you enjoy working with the website backend, you may find it interesting.
Almost all SEO agencies will do an SEO audit as part of their onboarding process. It will probably be part of your initial ‘start-up’ fee. It is a good practice to ask to see their website audit checklist before you sign up. You can learn a great deal about their sophistication based on the depth of their audit.
For an SEM or paid advertising full audit, you will need to look for a full service digital marketing agency. The same rules apply as with an SEO agency. However, the overall output is likely to be more robust.
Most audits are not done independently of signing on with an agency. There are few that will do free-audits as part of their lead generation efforts.
These can be useful, but will be at the basic level. They are great places to start. Then, you can decide whether to employ them to fix the issues.
If we leave you with one idea from this post, I hope it is that a website audit is critically important for any website owner. It’s hard to know where to optimize or improve if you do not know what is underperforming.
The next thing that I hope you take from this is the importance of understanding the type and depth of audit that you run. The better the quality, the more actionable the results will be.
Finally, ProStrategix provides audits as part of our packages. We run comprehensive audits that we believe are both informative and actionable.
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Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile
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