How to do a website audit in seven steps

Understanding how review your website and do a website audit will put you in a good benchmarking position, helping you work out what is important (or even, who to hire) for your web design project.

We set out our own seven step approach here, highlighting the important elements of a functional website and some digital tools we find useful.

What we will cover

Why do a Website audit?

Do you need a brand new website or is your current site just in need of some TLC? If you’re dissatisfied with your current site it can be tempting to just throw it out and start again from scratch.

However, there may be some benefits from your current website that may get thrown out with a complete revamp, you will only uncover these by paying someone to review your current setup. “Pay?! For what I have?” I hear you cry, okay, let’s discuss why to get a website review.

From experience the things we have found about a website’s performance that entirely conflict with the project plan are astounding, every piece of research and discovery meeting is met with a nugget of gold that changes the perspectives of the stakeholders.

One national advice website redevelopment project was entirely restructured after a discovery phase where we unpicked that 70% of incoming traffic came in through one page that had become so big that the client just wanted shot of the outdated information!

Enough said?

Is a website audit really necessary?

You might be tempted to wipe the board clean and build a new website from scratch, but unless you are a brand new startup, you would likely be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Sometimes we think of a website in terms of visuals, sometimes speed, occasionally by conversion or keywords were ranking for. Whatever angle you’re coming from, auditing your existing website will glean as much knowledge as possible from all the rich data you have been generating since you first launched your business online.

Agencies like ours use a range of cool digital tools to access those data, providing some fascinating detail about your online performance. This makes an audit valuable even if you decide to stick with your existing website.

While we don’t claim that this is the definitive guide on how to do a website audit, you won’t go far wrong if you follow a similar process.

How to do a website audit: 7 steps

We’ve audited many websites in our time and have developed a process that works well for us and our clients. In summary, the 7 steps are:

  1. Structure. Here we look at the technical set up of a client’s website through the eyes of search engines. Do their links work? Is Google indexing their site? Is it loading quickly and smoothly or is something slowing it down?
  2. Your users. How much traffic is the site getting right now? How do people move through the webpages? Are visitors being converted to buyers?
  3. Information architecture. The logical structure of a website. How is information organised? Is it easy or difficult for customers to find what they need?
  4. Content performance. How are the webpages performing on Google and other search engines? What opportunities could the business be exploiting? Are reputable websites linking to their site?
  5. Competitor analysis. Benchmarking performance. Which competitors have the lion’s share of web traffic in our client’s niche?
  6. Brand evaluation. Is their brand strong and up-to-date? Does their website follow their brand guidelines?
  7. Website style. Are they using the best fonts, colours and page layouts for their website?

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into how to do a website audit by looking at each step in more detail:

Step 1: Structure

We would start the audit process with a technical performance audit of your site. This will generate a baseline that we can look back at once we’ve fixed any technical issues.

Using powerful digital tools, we find out if your links are working, if your webpages are being discovered and indexed and if your site meets Google’s performance standards (i.e., fast loading, mobile optimised and user-friendly).

One issue we often come across is the indexing of multiple versions of a website. This is a small fix, but it can have a surprisingly big impact on a website’s visibility to search engines.

The tools we use:

For this part of the audit, we use Ahrefs. This is the ‘Swiss army knife’ of website auditing and will give us your website’s overall technical health score along with detailed SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) information about domain authority, keywords, broken links and your competitors.

Google Search Console is a free tool which provides information on website tag structure from Google’s eyes, feeding back indexing and user experience issues. If you built a site with us you will have had this setup, if not then just follow this guide to start reviewing your site.

PageSpeed Insights is another free tool that measures the speed of your website, it provides a ‘traffic light’ analysis of a website’s performance. Areas of concern are highlighted in red.

We also use various digital tools for auditing accessibility. These highlight issues such as poor colour contrast and interactive effects that may cause problems with assistive technologies.

Step 2: Your users

Next, we analyse how your visitors are currently using the website, Google Analytics is your best friend here. This includes looking at how many people visit the website, how long they stay on a page and whether numbers are trending up or down.

Have a look at the User flow area to take a closer look at the journey visitors take through your website and how well the process from visitor to lead to buyer is currently working.

If you use Google Ads, we can also compare your paid ad-generated traffic with your free ‘organic’ traffic and see how well that is converting.

The tools we use:

Google Analytics 4 is the most useful tool for this step of the audit process. The Traffic Acquisition report shows us what proportion of traffic is coming from online searches, while the Pages and Screens report will identify your best performing content.

The Explore section provides a range of customisable visualisation tools including user path and funnel exploration.

Microsoft Clarity is a heat-mapping tool that shows us exactly where people are clicking and scrolling on your webpages, while Attention Insight uses AI to predict how any design changes will impact on visitors. This next-gen tool boasts a 96% accuracy rate!

Of course, all of these require being set up previously to gather data, as well as effective conversion points. We can also deploy specific tools for tracking conversions (i.e. sales, forms or phone calls).

Step 3: Information architecture

As a website grows, its structure can become disorganised and difficult to navigate. This step of the audit is designed to understand a logical hierarchy of the pages and often leads to an overhaul your navigation bar.

The best way of achieving this is through user involvement, with each page written down on individual cards, you can begin to organise them into logical groups and label them. This can be a fun exercise and you can get stakeholder engagement from team members and customers.

The tools we use:

SEO tools like Ahrefs will give you insights into internal links. Other than that it’s more about hands-on time with stakeholders. Don’t underestimate the importance of a correctly structured label for user engagement on a website.

We offer our clients various workshop options to help them. These include user need statements, card sorting exercises and MoSCoW analyses. We present the data, together with our findings and recommendations, in a multi-page document.

Step 4: Content performance

This is the first of two search engine optimisation (SEO) steps. You can investigate how well your webpages are ranking for specific high value keywords in your industry. These are keywords that attract a lot of relevant traffic – in other words, traffic that is likely to convert to a lead or a sale.

Then carry out some keyword research to identify opportunities to create or optimise existing content for new keywords. This strategy should bear in mind the various stages of the customer journey and help you identify any gaps that you currently have in the process.

Backlinks are another area we look at during this step. This is where a third party links to your website. Links from reputable sites will increase your own domain authority (DA) which has a powerful effect on how highly Google ranks you.

The tools we use:

There are some free tools you can plug into your browser to gain keyword insights but it does require expert analysis to understand keywords and build an SEO strategy.

Ahrefs have a free backlink checker that might be useful.

Between the technical setup, the content and how popular your content is (by how many backlinks you have) we now have a good benchmark for the SEO standing of the site.

Step 5: Competitor analysis

Our second SEO step focuses on your competitors. We will benchmark your performance by comparing your online ‘traffic share’ with that of the industry leaders.

We look at both the number of visitors a website gets and how relevant that traffic is because there is little value in boosting visitors if there is no uptick in sales as a result.

It’s also interesting to see investment in backlinks, AdWords or content creation over time and spot competitors that are stagnant or on the charge!

The tools we use:

Again our Swiss army knife Ahrefs does a great job of this behind the paywall, but you can find other tools with free trials like similarweb that will give you useful insights.

Step 6: Brand evaluation

Having completed the technical and content elements of our audit, we switch focus to branding, the dessert. This includes analysis from a professional brand expert for both visual elements and your company’s values and mission statements (your “why”).

If you have a brand guidelines document, we will refer to this to ensure that your website is ‘on brand’. If not, we can help you to develop or refresh your brand. This will ensure that you start your website build off on the right foot.

If you have them, we will make use of customer personas, fictionalised ‘characters’ that represent a typical visitor to your website. This will help us to spot potential conflicts between your site’s branding and your visitors’ expectations.

The tools we use:

At the time of writing there doesn’t seem to be a good AI feedback tool (no doubt it’s on its way), so I would advise that you take your brand to your customers and do some market research to understand what they like, or don’t – and how it chimes with their experience of buying from you.

Step 7: Website style

Finally, we audit all aspects of your website’s visual style. Are the fonts easy to read? Would a different combination of fonts work better? Is content structured in the best way using headings and layout elements to break up text?

Going back to the customer journey, do the webpage templates have a suitable layout for their purpose. For example, landing pages should be designed with a clear CTA whereas informational articles work better as part of a blog, which can include categories, tags and other organisational elements.

Are you using original video and photography. Most businesses will benefit from high quality visual content on their website.

The tools we use:

There are some tools out there that will give you feedback on many of the elements of this audit including the visuals like nibbler, bear in mind that these are automated so be sure to take the more emotional elements of the feedback with a pinch of salt.

Would you benefit from a website audit?

From discovering your market to fine-tuning your lead generation strategy to polishing your brand, we find a website audit to be an inexpensive start to us getting to know you and giving you actionable insights.

If you have any further questions about how to do a website audit, please get in touch. We would love to find out more about your business and future plans.

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