Do you remember the last time you checked up on your website? If you haven’t audited your site, it has been some time since the last audit. If you plan to redesign your website soon, use this guide as your ultimate audit checklist to ensure your website is prepared for optimal search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion results.
In this post, we will walk you through our comprehensive 15-step website audit checklist and template that you can use to improve your ranking in search engines and drive more traffic to your site.
What is a Website Audit?
A website audit is an evaluation done to give the web admins an in-depth knowledge of their site’s health, efficiency, and speed.
Evaluating these aspects gives web admins a better view of the performance of their websites, identifies places they may work on to improve the site and identifies the possible factors that might be deteriorating the site’s performance.
Website audits might include technical performance, search engine optimization (SEO), website content, user experience (UX), website design, and accessibility, among other things.
While a templated, all-purpose website audit can be a useful starting point, a proper website audit must also consider the website’s unique needs, operation, and structure — each website is unique. Begin by identifying the essential aspects of your site (and business). If you plan to work with an SEO expert or hire professional website audit services, ensure you give them complete information about your company’s goals and present issues before they start auditing.
Website Audit Checklist Guide
- Step 1: Get primary data from Google Analytics
- Step 2: Ensure Google is indexing only one version of your site
- Step 3: Confirm whether your website is mobile-friendly
- Step 4: Boost your site’s speed
- Step 5: Eliminate low-quality and nuisance pages from Google’s index
- Step 6: Use Google Search Console to fix indexing issues
- Step 7: Find and fix broken links to stop 404 errors
- Step 8: Examine the backlinks (and disavow bad links if need be)
- Step 9: Test your site against a user accessibility guide
- Step 10: Enhance on-page SEO for your most valuable content
- Step 11: Ensure your content satisfies your audience’s needs
- Step 12: Organize your site navigation
- Step 13: Analyze your competitors’ sites and spot content gaps
- Step 14: Create cyclical website performance checks and alerts
- Step 15: Create keyword position tracking
Try as much as possible to follow this checklist in order.
Step 1: Get Basic Data From Google Analytics
The first step is to understand how your site is currently performing. This will provide you with baseline information, which you may revisit later to see if things have improved.
It would be of great use if you had already set up a Google Analytics account. But if not, use this official guide to help you get started on the right foot.
You can first look into your organic search traffic. To filter out organic website traffic from Google Analytics:
- Go to Acquisition
- All traffic
- Channels section
- Click on the “organic traffic” link
The organic search traffic may show a slight increase in traffic from week to week, which is normal.
It’s crucial to read over your website’s Google Analytics analytics and figure out the mix of your regular visitors. You’ll also want to confirm:
- Are there any seasonal traffic patterns?
- Are specific traffic channels increasing or decreasing? Can we pinpoint the modifications in our marketing strategy that led to the changes if that’s the case?
- Which of the site’s pages is the most popular? (You can find these details in the Behavior > Site Content reports).
Step 2: Ensure Google Is Indexing Only One Version of Your Site
Most website owners are unaware that search engines can index up to four site versions. This is because these are four different URLs from the vantage point of a Google crawler:
You need to access your site settings and redirect rules to ensure all four versions are merged into a single version.
Your users should be able to load your pages over the secured protocol, which needs a valid and correctly installed SSL certificate.
It makes little difference whether you prioritize the www or non-www prefix. Consistency, on the other hand, is crucial. So, choose one version (www or non-www) and ensure all your internal connections reflect it. If you go with the www, be sure all non-www URLs redirect to the www URLs.
Replace “example.com” in the above list with your site’s root domain, and type the four variations into the browser to test your current settings. They would resolve to one version if your configuration process were correctly done.
For instance, if you enter “http://grillpluto.com,” the URL resolves to both the secure HTTPS version and the version with the www prefix.
Step 3: Confirm Whether Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
It is now more essential than ever to ensure that your site is easy to access on mobile devices for two reasons:
- Since 2017, the percentage of users searching or viewing the internet on mobile devices has fluctuated around 50% (and is growing).
- In 2018, Google implemented mobile-first indexing, prioritizing a web page’s mobile user experience over its desktop user experience.
Fortunately, Google provides simple, free tools for testing URLs for mobile friendliness. And if any issues affecting mobile-friendliness are found, you’ll be advised on ways to resolve them.
Step 4: Boost Your Site’s Speed
Like the mobile compatibility step above, webpage load time is another aspect to evaluate and find ways to improve. Website pages that load fast come with excellent user experience, making web pages a key ranking factor used by Google.
The latest Core Web Vitals update emphasizes the user’s experience of how a web page loads, making it more critical. Additionally, the Core Web Vitals update pays attention to how stable web pages look as they load and how long it takes for elements on a page to be responsive.
Fortunately, you can use some free tools to test your site’s speed and efficiency against these criteria.
You can start by running your URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool.
This tool reports desktop and mobile performance and utilizes file and lab data. You can take field data from your actual users if your website gets a lot of traffic. On the other hand, the lab data is gathered in a controlled area and is available to all websites.
Furthermore, you may look into other performance and speed testing tools like:
Keep in mind that you might get different results from this software. You may even get different speeds for the same URL from test to test using the same device because each time a test is done, there will be other things going on — they use real-world users.
The outcomes and technical tips will guide you in the right direction for ways to boost your site speed.
Most of the time, chances to improve your website will arise from these two places:
- Optimizing the page load time, for example, through optimizing pictures, utilizing caching, and use of content delivery networks
- Shifting to a better web hosting provider
Step 5: Eliminate Low-Quality and Nuisance Pages From Google’s Index
This is arguably the best step, as it simplifies the remaining parts of site improvement.
Website owners are frequently surprised by the number of URLs Google has crawled on their site.
You can open Google and type in “site: yourdomain.com” to see the number of URLs a search engine returns. The result is often higher than the total number of valuable blog posts or content pages on your website.
Google has constantly reminded website owners that having sub-quality content in the group of pages crawled by Google is not helpful and will harm their search rankings in most circumstances. At the very least, most of Google’s “crawl budget” will be squandered on indexing poor-quality, low-value pages.
This is not to say that you should remove these pages from your website. However, it would be best to mark them with no-index tags to exclude them from indexing by search engines.
Pages that may be of low quality but are frequently indexed by default include:
- Pages in the taxonomy archive for groups or tags
- Paginated archive pages
Step 6: Use Google Search Console to Fix Indexing Issues
Let’s now look into what Google is indexing on your site and any indexing problems the crawlers have in relation to the previous step.
To check out indexing problems for your account, go to the index option, then click on the coverage. Here, you’ll be given a summary of the indexing position of all URLs on your website that Google knows of, plus the details of all errors.
Once you have identified and rectified the errors on your website, go to the “Details” section of the page and click on the error to “Validate” your work. This process may take a few days to finish.
You can also check details about URLs that are omitted from indexing by going to the gray “Excluded” page. Ensure there aren’t any pages that were accidentally left out!
Step 7: Find and Fix Broken Links to Stop 404 Errors
Broken links often lead to a bad user experience. It’s therefore essential to try to resolve any broken links that may lead to the “404 page not found” error on your site.
Go to the coverage report on the Google Search Console Index (step 6). You’ll see information about broken links in the “Errors” tab (red).
However, you’ll need different tools to look for broken external and internal links your site may have. Some professional site audit tools, such as Semrush, offer excellent broken link checking in their website audit services.
Alternatively, other free tools such as Broken Link Checkers can do the job.
Step 8: Examine the Backlinks (And Disavow Bad Links if Need Be)
Backlinks are the links that direct the audience from other websites to pages on your website.
While backlinks are crucial indicators that contribute to your site’s visibility in the search engine, it’s essential to remember that not every backlink is beneficial.
If you want to look at your backlink profile, you need an effective tool like Semrush. It can classify suspicious backlinks as “toxic” or “potentially toxic.” If a backlink to your site has been categorized as potentially toxic, you need to follow Google’s guidelines to confirm if the risk is sufficient before disavowing it. For “toxic” ones, you’ll need to dispute them immediately.
Having a few spammy backlinks in your link profile is common and not something to panic about. However, if you start to get a lot of spammy, low-quality backlinks, your domain authority will begin deteriorating. And that’s when you should do something about it, and fast.
Note: Never pay for backlinks. Instead, invest your cash in quality content and publish frequently.
Step 9: Test Your Site Against User Accessibility Guide
At this stage, you can use a tool from WebAIM (free) to assess your site’s accessibility.
Open the WebAIM’s WAVE tool and insert a URL from your site. You may run the tool on various pages on your site to ensure all of your default page layouts are appropriately configured.
On the left side of WAVE Pannell, you’ll find a rundown of errors, warnings, and accessibility factors that have been identified on the page. Click on the ‘Details’ tab to see more details on the page features that need various checks.
You can also get additional information regarding specific components by clicking the web page’s overlaid badges.
Step 10: Enhance On-Page SEO for Your Most Valuable Content
At this stage, we’re looking for SEO enhancements at the page level.
You can start by choosing a few of your website’s most valuable pages to concentrate on. Here are a few great places to begin:
- Blog posts or pages with target keywords that are essential to your business
- Pages that can improve your business if they get more traffic
- Pages or blogs that already have a significant search presence but have the potential to get more traffic
First things first, be sure to optimize the target keywords of your most important pages. Make sure the target keywords are relevant, have the right volume, and are competitive. Alternatively, you can use free keyword research tools such as Google Search Console, keywordtool.io, and Google autocomplete.
Second, ensure your pages are well linked to other related internet pages. Crawling and indexing websites is accomplished by following links. Therefore, ensuring that your pages have these connections is crucial. Include the following:
- Internal links to related material on your website
- External links to trustworthy sources of the pertinent information on other websites
Finally, ensure your audience can easily skim-read your content:
- Make your paragraphs and phrases as concise as possible
- Whenever applicable, use bulleted or numbered lists
- Make use of subheadings that are clearly defined in terms of their position in the hierarchy of text
- Include as many visual aids as possible, such as charts, graphs, and videos
Step 11: Ensure Your Content Satisfies Your Audience Needs
Google prioritizes the pages that offer the best user experience. This includes addressing the user’s inquiry or delivering the most relevant information on the topic keywords they are looking for.
The amount of time a user stays on a page after clicking the search query is taken into account by search engines for ranking purposes. For example, if people immediately return to the search and click on other options, the Google ranking logarithm will assume the page didn’t satisfy their search needs.
So, look at all your most important pages and figure out what a prospective user might be looking for when they key in your target keyword or phrase into Google search. Then, ensure the page delivers the visitor’s needs, if not surpass them.
Step 12: Organize Your Site Navigation
The easiest way to understand your site’s architecture is through its navigation structure: how pages are clustered together and sorted into a scale of importance.
It is critical to have a clean, straightforward website architecture for these three reasons:
- It is simpler for consumers to comprehend the niche of your site and to access the content they seek
- Search engine crawlers can quickly locate all of your content and precisely index the website
- It informs Google (and your visitors) about which pages are more significant and those that are less important
Step 13: Analyze Your Competitors’ Sites and Spot Content Gaps
Analyzing your highly ranked competitor’s content is essential. You can use tools such as Semrush to “spy” on your competitor’s site and figure out the organic keywords they are highly ranked for.
With Semrush, you’ll only have to type in a domain into the Organic Research tool, and you’ll get all the top organic keywords that the site is using—plus an estimation of the organic traffic they get.
After you’ve looked at a few competitors’ websites, try to figure out the gap in their content. For example, find out the target keywords your competitors are ranking for but are missing from your ranking. Consider using these keywords or key phrases when creating new content for your site.
Step 14: Create Cyclical Website Performance Checks and Alerts
Suppose you subscribe to a professional SEO software, you can pre-set a periodic website audit that will regularly check your website and notify you of various concerns we’ve discussed in this post.
Again, Semrush tools can come in handy here.
The Semrush Website Audit dashboard sends out a weekly scan and an email alert when the number of errors, cautions, and notices across over 100 audit checks change.
Step 15: Create Keyword Position Tracking
If you’ve spent time researching keywords and optimizing your site content, you’ll want to see if your rankings in Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are improving or declining.
To track the positions of your target keywords, use tools like Semrush’s Position Tracking tool (or an analogous keyword position tracker).
If you spend a lot of time and money fixing SEO problems on your website, you’ll want to know if those efforts make any difference. You’ll want to see if your fixes have led to more traffic and better search rankings.
Using Google Analytics allows you to see the changes in traffic. Log into Google Analytics, click “Acquisition,” then “All Traffic.” Then click “Channels,” click “Organic Search,” and you’ll have the insights to determine if your efforts are bearing fruit.
Some tools and software platforms offer “website audits,” “website checks,” or “website SEO audits.” What’s more, some of these tools and platforms are even free!