Don’t get sucked in with generic advice that big companies give out for the price of your kidney… A good Website Audit can be performed by yourself in no time!
So what are they key steps involved in auditing your website?
1: Make sure you are using reliable Hosting
Starting from the ground up, this is generally the very first step to take when setting up a website, and so it should be critical that you have Hosting suited to your needs. Choosing the right Hosting provider can seem daunting to some. With a plethora of choices out there how do you know what is the best one for YOU? There are several factors to look for with when choosing your Hosting:
Support – Does your Hosting provide support within the same country as you or do they outsource for pennies on the dollar? How quick are they at responding to your queries, and are they genuinely helpful or just reading from a script?
Server Location – Your Hosting should be in the same country, if not region, as your target audience. This increases your websites loading speed since there is a shorter distance from your server to the end user. Otherwise you may want to look at using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to target global/long distance audiences.
VPS vs Shared Hosting – Most businesses opt in for cheap hosting, not knowing what they are purchasing. To simplify what Shared Hosting and VPS means, I want you think of a factory farm with chickens all squeezed in together sharing and fighting over resources. This is your hosting. Don’t be fooled by the amazing size of GB storage offered, a website generally is only about 500mb in size and, unless you are routing your emails through the server, you’ll never really see this number increase.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Servers and gives you a more premium deliverable through your server. Think of it as free-range chickens. You share the space with other chickens on the same network and this is limited to a certain amount of chickens. (Love how your website is now a chook.) Once you hit capacity a server needs to be upgraded for more chooks to share in more resources, so you you will always be catered for.
Are you paying for SSL?
As of 2018 Google made it mandatory that your rankings will be effected if no valid SSL is present. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and in Laymen’s terms it’s basically the little padlock next to your domain name in your URL. This tells Google that your website is secure.
It’s true that you can have different levels of security, but unless you are a massive global company with hundreds of thousands of visitors a day you can get away with a standard SSL.
The problem with most hosting companies is that they charge for SSL implementation for about an extra $100/yr, just because they can. It takes about two button clicks and pretty it’s automated to set up…
You do need to have SSL regardless of how big or small your website is. At Spiral Orb Designs we sell Golden Hosting for Golden People (who love their open spaces to graze) by offering free VPS hosting and free SSL for our Web Care clients, we also do offer VPS services as paid offerings. You can enquire about our hosting here.
2: Check your traffic
Traffic is something we all want to know about. It is the statistics of how many people are viewing your website and how they are interacting with it. Setting up your Google Analytics can be pretty easy and with Google Tag Manager and G4 Analytics, the system is becoming even smarter (and self-aware – kidding… perhaps?) to track more accurate results.
This will all be done through your Google account but you can also feed the results into the back-end of your website through plugins (not always recommended for performance reasons). Once visible, you need to reflect on your numbers and what they mean.
Here’s a break down:
Users: How many active users are using your website.
Sessions: This is how many times an active user has visited the website from the same IP Address.
Pageviews: How many total hits your website has received, even if it’s from the same user multiple times.
Bounce Rate: This is how quickly visitors jump on your website and leave. Google has been evolving and releasing new products because one of the known issues is bots visiting the website and effecting the statistics. Generally the higher the bounce rate, the worse off your statistics.
Session Durations: This is how long your average user spends on your website.
Alongside these statistics it’s also effective to have a software tool such as HotJar to track your Heatmap analytics. These analytics will actually show how people physically use your website! This includes their scroll or hover activity as well as what they are clicking on. Perfect for fine-tuning your website growth needs.
3: Optimise your website speed
How quick is your website loading? General good scores are about 80 for mobile and about 90 for desktop. You can work out your website’s speed with Google PageSpeed Insights.
There is software out there that boosts these scores on your behalf, some free, some at cost, but all potentially beneficial.
4: Spam and Security
Spam can really be a pain for anyone with a website. Regular spam filters and security software can mitigate the spam pool that comes through from your website. Your contact forms are also a problem if not setup correctly.
Spam occurs through bots finding common loop-holes through generic mediums. Most spam is automated through common email names (i.e, [email protected] [email protected]), weak reCAPTCHA settings (which is Google’s way of securing real form submissions from bot attempts), and various other automated processes.
Hacks can also occur under the radar if you don’t have a great security system to monitor your site, in which case you’d better have a backup in place!
5: Visual and Front-End Optimisation techniques
You may have the Elon Musk vision, but if you have an outdated and visually lacking website then you’re going to have a tough time getting leads through the door! Below I’ve listed some things to look out for and ways to improve your website’s aesthetic and User Experience.
- Your Banner – The banner in the Homepage of your site is arguably the most important aspect of your website’s visual identity. When a user clicks on to your page it’s the first thing they will see and, as such, should be utilised to the fullest degree! Make it bold, engaging, visual with a great image. Your banner should generally include a short tagline about your website and what you do, and a Call to Action to prompt the user.
- Copy – Keep to the necessities and you will have a far greater chance of engaging your user and generating leads! Too often I see sites using paragraphs of text with so much irrelevant content that it gets very difficult to finish reading as the user. Keeping your headings short and your body paragraphs concise leaves more room for creative input for your layouts, typography, images, and CTAs to keep your user attentive and engaged.
- Imagery – When you head to a new website one of the first things that will catch your eye is the images being used. Including images is a great way to break up lots of text and keep your audience stimulated. Some great free stock resources include: unsplash.com, pexels.com and pxhere.com
- Hierarchy – Deciding what information your user should be seeing first is imperative in relaying the purpose of your site and how the user should be navigating your content. What services are you providing? What are you selling? Why should I go with you over your competitors? How can we get in touch with you?
- Fonts – It is important to choose high quality, reputable fonts for your website as this will be your key method of conveying information to your audience. For your headings you’ll generally want something bold and eye catching to give hierarchy to your website’s composition and help lead your user through the page. You’ll also want a font for your body copy which will be your more typical Calibri, Open Sans, Montserrat (personal fave). Just make sure your font is in line with your Branding guidelines to keep that trust and consistency!
6: Is your website’s Functionality performing as expected?
A weekly or fortnightly audit can do wonders for the health of your website and making sure everything is working correctly. Testing buttons, page links, and your contact forms will be super important from time to time especially as updates come up, which we’ll talk about in point 7.
Make sure not only to test your desktop version but mobile too as there is a responsive connection between desktop and mobile, so some elements may present differently than expected to the end user.
Overall you will want to ask yourself if it’s a good user experience. Coupling this with your Heat Map data will do wonders for your website’s growth and performance.
7: Backups and Updates
If your website doesn’t follow a good web care plan, most likely there is no backup process occurring. Your server may store backups of your system, but this is not as reliable as local backups and can act in unexpected ways.
A server backup will backup all of your files and data, so recovery can take a while and most likely there will need to be a few bugs to fix up on the back end.
A website backup is using either a plugin or a cloud software tool to backup your website. A great tool will also be able to backup in increments (which backup the difference for updates, therefore saving in backup storage and allowing for more frequent occurrences). Plugin or external system backups can also easily bring your website back online efficiently and effectively.
WordPress core, Themes and Plugin updates are 3 variations of updates your website will undergo periodically. To make sense of this, WordPress is kind of like your Windows 10 or MAC OS software. Your Theme is like the system updates that benefit the computer as a whole, and your plugin updates are all the updates your custom installed programs regularly require.
It is always important to backup your website before performing large updates such as Core or Theme updates. If updates are left unattended you open the door to two things:
1. Your plugins may break the website because it hasn’t received the latest updates in sync with the regular updates the core comes with…
2. You open the back door for hacks to occur through outdated plugins and therefore outdated security protocols to support the current version of your website.
So where to from here?
We understand the importance of web care. We are diligent in the care of our website and our clients, and with a rapidly evolving digital world, this process needs to occur more and more frequently.
This post gives you pretty much everything you need to consider when auditing your website, so be sure to revisit and go through one step at a time to make sure your website is performing at peak capabilities.
Is your time too important for such tasks?
Well that’s why we created the Web Care program. Not only are you getting Australian servers covered for you, daily backups, daily security checks, bugs and issues all fixed at no extra cost as they arise… We know you by name and you have someone who will answer your call at any time for web related questions. We have your back!
It’s a truly concierge style offering that we believe all great business owners should have.