October 18, 2016 | Sarah Danks
Web Performance Audit Checklist
As with any type of online marketing, having a website isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of strategy. There are a myriad of factors that work together to create a pleasing and effective web presence.
While you can always hire a web marketing company (ahem) to do the dirty work for you, there are also some do-it-yourself checklist items to look for to see if your website is pulling its weight.
When we perform audits for clients or potential customers, we focus on a few key areas:
- Usability and overall design
- Technical components
- SEO: both on- and off-page elements
Every website is different, and each client is unique, but the basic bones of each of those aspects needs to be in place for a site to be effective.
So, without further ado, here’s our basic “checklist” we run through in our audits.
Design & UX
In general, your website design should accomplish the following:
- Present a cohesive brand identity that best represents the key qualities of your business.
- Incorporate a robust information architecture (IA) and smooth user experience (UX) for optimized visitor conversion.
- Be responsive with regard to design and functionality for all devices (smart phones, tablets, HDTVs, etc.)
Here are a few of the items we look for when auditing a web design that can affect performance:
How’s the look and feel? Does it feel like an outdated design circa 1997? If so, time for an upgrade.
Does the color scheme support a conversion color? If you don’t know, it might be time to upgrade to a new color palette that clearly defines a stand-out conversion color to draw visitors’ attention to your calls-to-action (CTAs).
What kinds of images have you used? Do they convey the business well? Do they look professional?
User Experience (UX)
Visitors should have an easy time finding content and navigating through your website. How’s the navigation — is it intuitive? Is it easy for visitors to get to key content areas?
What’s the layout like? Is it consistent? Does it highlight messaging, content, CTAs?
Is the contact information prominently displayed and easy to see?
Mobile-friendliness is now a prerequisite for Google — are visitors on ANY device able to a) find, b) use and c) navigate through your website easily?
I.e., is it optimized for mobile?
Your website should be aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and mobile-friendly, which basically translates to “accessible via any device.” That includes desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, TVs…
It’s not just enough to have a website that’s pretty and easy-to-use; there are also lots of behind-the-scenes things that can affect web performance:
- Domain age – how “old” your domain is can affect its performance. The longer you have it, generally, the better it does.
- How many version of your website exist? (how many iterations???)
- Meta directives — wtf are these
- Robots.txt file — do you have one? Is it set up correctly?
- XML sitemap — do you have one?
- Crawl errors/problems —
- URL redirects – are you using proper redirects for old page versions?
- Site speed — how quickly does your website load for visitors?
- Form functionality – is it easy to use? Is there a confirmation page? Is it trackable?
- Analytics — Are you using an up-to-date version? Are you (properly) tracking goals?
There are many behind-the-scenes technical aspects that factor into a successful website. Once you know the tools to use to check all these items, keep an eye on them to make sure everything’s in place and running smoothly.
On-page Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is how a website attracts organic visitors (visitors searching on search engines). This section outlines any on–page content optimization issues that could affect a site’s performance.
Do you have a keyword strategy?
Geographic footprint — is it apparent where your business services its clients? And/or where business wants to gain clients?
Title tags are a very important part of SEO. Are they well-written? Concise? Focused?
Meta descriptions – these help with click-through from the search engine results pages (SERPs). They should be written in such a way as to entice visitors to want to click to your web page to read more. So, make sure your descriptions are informative and well-written. They’re a great opportunity to make the best use of SERP “real estate.”
Header tags (<h>) help break up content to make it easier to read; they also tell visitors — and search engines — what the next paragraph/section is about. So, are they focused? Are you using keywords?
URL naming convention – Are your URLs clear? Concise? Well-organized (i.e., follow the site’s structure)?
SEO is — or should be — a vital part of ANY website. Who doesn’t want their pages found on search engines? But, there are some best practices to follow in order to make that a possibility. Make sure you’re using keywords, title tags, and header tags to best advantage.
Off-page SEO is often referred to as link “building,” but these days it’s more about link acquiring. Incoming links (also referred to as back links, inbound links, 3rd-party links) to your website tell search engines that your site has been given a “vote” of credibility. This section outlines any off-page/link building issues that could affect site performance.
How many incoming links does your site have? And, more importantly, what’s the quality of said links?
Moz Domain Authority Score
Moz has created a Domain Authority scoring method. In their words, “Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.”
This score essentially represents the quality of back links to a website. Most websites score anywhere between 20 and 30 (out of 100). If your score is lower than that, you need to think about bolstering your site’s link profile.
While it’s not recommended to go out and purchase scads of incoming links, it is important to keep track of the ones you have, as well as ensure you’re doing your part in content marketing to acquire relevant, high-quality back links to bolster your website’s performance — and get or maintain a good Domain Authority score.
First of all: every business has competitors. Secondly: oftentimes you can learn a lot by peering over the fence to see what they’re doing differently than you are — and how it could help your own bottom line!
So, find some of your competitors’ websites, and then do a side-by-side analysis with your own to see how you rate:
What are their domains? How “established” are their domains? What’re their Moz Domain Authority scores?
There are a few ways to snoop around your competitors’ back links — such as a,b,c. How many incoming links do they have? What kinds? From what types of sites?
We don’t put much stock in checking on competitor rankings, because there are so many factors that come in to play…
…but it can’t hurt to “Google around” and see how you rank — so to speak — against your competitors. You’re often competing for the same keywords, after all.
We don’t like to spend a lot of time trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” but it can be helpful to know how your competitors stack up in comparison to your own website. Also, since you’re often competing against each other for the same types of business, it doesn’t hurt to poke around and see what you could be doing better based on what their sites look like.
Local SEO + Social Engagement
This section outlines local/social engagement issues, profile inconsistencies and visibility concerns to look for.
Local search engines
Do you have a Google My Business listing? If not, create one. Write a good title, provide a descriptive overview of your business.
Do you have a Yahoo Local listing? If not, get one started. Choose relevant business categories. If a listing already exists for you, verify it and add photos.
Are you on Bing Maps? A standard listing is fine. Put in hours of operation, description of business, etc.
Internet Yellow Pages
Might sound weird to be talking about “yellow pages” online, but hey — use everything at your disposal, right?
Superpages basic listing — have one? If so, claim your listing, add descriptive information, company logo and imagery. Be sure to review the categories selected for your business.
Yellowpages listing — got one? Add a description, use proper email address, etc.
DexKnows – even a basic listing is fine. Choose proper primary description tags, description, etc.
Facebook – Do you have a business page? Is it set up correctly? Are you posting? If so, are you getting likes? Do you know what your audience likes/engages with/shares?
LinkedIn — do you have a Companies listing? If so, use descriptive text, add relevant info, post, etc. And, while we’re talking about LinkedIn, what about Groups? Could your business benefit from group discussions/networking?
Twitter — Do you have an account? What’s your avatar? (PS: no eggs allowed!) Are you actively Tweeting (RTs, comments, likes)? Are there Twitter chats that could benefit your brand?
YouTube — Do you have business videos? If so, you need to consider putting them onto a YouTube channel. Use informative descriptions, tags, name, etc.
Yelp — Does your business have a listing? Be sure to add logo, hours, photos, business description, etc.
Citysearch — Is there a listing for your company? Unlock the page and choose relevant categories, add description and photos.
Whether claimed or unclaimed, each local or social listing provides an impression of your business for a prospective client or information seeker. To find what’s out there already, use Google to search for any business listings to ensure that the information regarding your business name, address, phone number and website address are consistent; this will impact visibility in search results.
There’s a lot more that goes into a business website than mere design — it’s important to know this in general, but also when you’re looking to audit your web presence.
Keep an eye on several key factors when judging your website’s performance:
- Design and user experience
- Technical issues
- On-page SEO
- Inbound links
- Local / social engagement
And, it doesn’t hurt to see how the competition is faring, either. While you can never truly know how your competitors’ websites are performing (without access to their Analytics reports, anyway), you can take a peek at a few key elements and see how they “rank” next to your own business site.