When was the last time you truly analyzed your website from inside out to find opportunities for improvement?
If we had to guess your answer is probably “I haven’t” or “I just ran it through a free tool awhile ago.” If we’re correct and your answer consisted of one of these statements, then you’re doing a disservice to your website and your business.
There’s a lot to learn from properly analyzing your website on a consistent basis and it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming thing for you.
In this comprehensive website analysis guide, you’ll learn what an analysis should consist of, how to perform your own or how to go about getting one from an expert. Most importantly, we’re going to explain how to understand the results and act on them to improve your website.
There are many different ways to analyze a website, but ultimately the goal is the same…
To get better website results through data-backed improvements.
The problem, that we have found, has not been how to analyze a website, but rather what to make of the information after an analysis is complete. For this reason, we are going to detail the whole process for you.
Before we do though, let’s set the expectations for what a proper website analysis should consist of.
There are many website analysis tools (paid and free). What you want to avoid though is an analysis that only delivers very general information or just vanity metrics. Many automated tools, especially free ones, are notorious for spitting out vanity metrics and sending you off on a misdirected path.
Here are the questions you should be getting answers to from a proper website analysis:
An in-depth website analysis will answer all of these questions in high detail and will provide you with the objective data you need to make the best marketing and business decisions for your company.
Let’s breakdown each of these questions and (1) examine how a thorough website analysis can provide answers and (2) what to do with the data once you have it.
Above we outlined eight or so primary questions you should be looking to get answers to from your next website analysis.
Let’s drill into each one of these so you can start making educated improvements to your website.
There are many different elements that can be a part of website performance, but the three main ones that we encourage you to focus on are:
PAGE LOAD TIME / SITE SPEED are heavily weighted factors in the success of a website. If a website takes more than a couple seconds, on average, to load, then there’s an increased chance that visitors will exit the website and possibly never return.
HOW TO TRACK IT: The best ways to gauge page load time / site speed are to (1) use Google Analytics (Behavior > Site Speed) and/or (2) run speed test tools like GTmetrix and Pingdom.
WAYS TO IMPROVE IT: If your overall grade is below a B+ (85/100) or your average load time is more than 2.5 seconds, then you’ve got some work to do. Some excellent ways to shave down your load time are to…
BOUNCE RATE is still a metric that many webmasters do not understand. It’s not your website’s exit rate or how often a visitor leaves your website. The correct, and simplest, definition is the amount of single page visits to your website.
HOW TO TRACK IT: The quickest and easiest way to see your website’s bounce rate is to use your Google Analytics account (Audience > Overview).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: High bounce rates (usually over 50%) are typically caused by poor marketing that brings irrelevant traffic, shallow content, high website load times, complicated website navigation, broken / buggy / error-filled pages and elements and unimpressive user experience / design.
WAYS TO IMPROVE IT: To keep your website’s bounce rate as low as possible you want to make sure to…
CONVERSION RATE should be your single most important metric. Whether you’re selling product through an online store, presenting your professional services, seeking downloads or encouraging email list subscriptions, your conversion rate has the biggest impact on your website’s ROI.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Proper conversion tracking requires you to know what you want your visitors to do and how you want to capture that action. If you’re selling product on your site, then a common conversion would be a completed transaction that happens through the checkout and order confirmation process. For something like a lead registration you’d be utilizing a landing page form and a confirmation page. By using Google Analytics (Admin > Goals) you can set all different types of conversion goals to track.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Conversion rates fluctuate from 1% to 30% and up depending on the purpose of a website. Trying to meet the mythical conversion rate averages of 3% – 5% is somewhat pointless as (1) those averages may not apply to your business at all and (2) meeting an average should never be a goal. That said, anything less than 1% is a huge red flag and can typically be attributed to poor user experience, unconvincing copy, lack of strong calls to action and a terrible registration or checkout process.
WAYS TO IMPROVE IT: To optimize your website’s conversion rate you must…
Centering a marketing strategy around the wrong keywords can cost your business a lot of time and money. To ensure that you’re focusing on the correct ones you need to analyze the following data points:
ORGANIC TRAFFIC TRENDS are analyzed to answer this one simple question…is my website growing in organic traffic each month?
HOW TO TRACK IT: Google Analytics is one of the best and easiest tools to get the data you need by using the Acquisition report (Acquisition > Overview or Channels) and either comparing specific date ranges or expanding the date range to an extended time period (e.g. 6 months). Your line chart should be steadily increasing up and to the right.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If your organic traffic has plateaued or fallen off over an extended period of time, then your website could be (1) victim of an ineffective keyword strategy, (2) lacking quality, relevant content or (3) penalized (assuming all organic traffic has gone to zero).
WAYS TO IMPROVE IT: To help your website’s organic traffic trend upward you need to…
ORGANIC TRAFFIC ENGAGEMENT evaluation is one of the best ways to gauge whether or not you’re focusing on the right keywords. Positive trends may mean you’re gaining ground, but they don’t necessarily mean you’re gaining ground in the right direction.
HOW TO TRACK IT: By digging into your Google Analytics (Acquisition > Channels > Organic > Behavior / Conversion), Google Webmaster Tools (Search Traffic > Search Queries) and possibly some supplemental tools like SEMRush (Organic Research > Position Changes), you should have no problem determining whether you’re on the right track or not.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The red flags you’ll be looking for when evaluating organic search traffic will be (1) high bounce rates, (2) reduced session durations, (2) reduced impressions / rankings and (3) reduced click through rates.
WAYS TO IMPROVE IT: To optimize your keyword strategy you need to first know who your target audience is and what type of information they want and need. Once you have this information, then you can refocus your keyword strategy on keywords / pages that meet the following criteria…
PAID TRAFFIC ENGAGEMENT evaluation is obviously specific to those running paid advertising campaigns (e.g. Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, Display ads, etc.)
HOW TO TRACK IT: If you’re paying for traffic from another source, then you need to be closely following how your money is getting spent and what type of ROI it is producing for you. There are many metrics to track for engagement, but ultimately, conversion rate / ROI are the only ones that matter unless you’re just paying for branding.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Some metrics that will immediately tell you whether your campaigns are not effective are (1) cost per click increases without higher conversions, (2) cost per acquisition cost increases, (3) paid traffic bounce rates and session durations worsening and (4) increased impressions without increased traffic or conversions.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: To maximize your paid advertising budget you need to run smart, targeted, efficient campaigns. Best practices for achieving this are to…
Often times the most obvious elements can go unseen and thus ignored. Unfortunately, the consequences of missing these elements can mean the difference between a successful website and a wasted effort. How a website is structured dictates which fate your website will realize. The following structural elements must be tracked and optimized for a positive outcome:
USABILITY may be more of a subjective metric, but it is by far one of the most critical elements of a successful website as it directly affects engagement and conversion rates.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Since usability is more about visitor experience, navigation and ease of use some different reports and tools are needed to gain valuable insights on this metric. One such report is offered by Google Analytics (Behavior > In-Page Analytics). Alternative tools like CrazyEgg, KISS Metrics and Qualaroo can offer similar data points like where users are clicking, what information they’d like to see and what appeals or does not appeal to them.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: The best way to avoid these pitfalls and make your website as user-friendly as possible are to…
PAGE AND LINK ERRORS are often ignored and hardly ever fixed. This results in visitors getting error pages and usually being forced to leave the website due to confusion or frustration. On top of this, these errors can negatively impact a website’s earned SEO value.
HOW TO TRACK IT: What’s funny is that checking for and fixing link errors is relatively simple. There are some fantastic tools that will crawl a website and spit out a report of broken internal and external links, images and more. A couple of our favorite are ScreamingFrog, Integrity and the Check My Links Chrome Extension.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It’s pretty obvious what a broken link or an error page are, but what may not be as obvious are the different causes of these issues, such as (1) changes in page URLs, (2) users commonly misspelling / mistyping URLs and (3) linking websites going offline or removing backlinks.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Some best practices for reducing, preventing and cleaning up link and page errors are to…
STRUCTURED DATA, or microdata, continues to become more important as major search engines and social networks look to pull more accurate information from websites to provide their users with more accurate information and better experiences.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Although structured data is a newer development, compared to most traditional web standards, there are already a few handy tools to check and validate proper use. A couple that we particularly like are the Data Markup Helper from Google, Validator from Yandex and the Schema Creator Plugin for WordPress from Raven Tools.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Some disadvantages of not using structured data on your website are (1) social posts pulling incorrect headlines and images, (2) not receiving richer, enhanced search snippets (e.g. menu results) and (3) not having a more organized, well-labeled code base for possible future algorithm changes that favor structured data.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: By using the tools listed above you can easily get started with structured data on your website. Not only will this implementation benefit your website now, but it could very well give you a leg up if and when structured data becomes even more prevalent and important so make sure to…
Of all of the requests we get for website analyses the one element that gets asked about the most is SEO. More and more businesses are familiar with the acronym and the importance of having an effective SEO strategy in place. The following factors are critical for SEO success, which is why we include them in our in-depth analyses:
ON-PAGE ELEMENTS are the fundamental building blocks of a sound SEO strategy. These elements are relatively easily to check for, but do require a basic understanding of what search engines look for.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Viewing and tracking on-page SEO elements can be done through a few different ways like crawling your website with ScreamingFrog, using Developer Mode on your favorite browser or by simply looking at the HTML of each page of your website.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The biggest red flags to look for when analyzing on-page elements are (1) duplicate title tags and meta descriptions across pages, (2) missing header tags and image attributes and (3) improper internal and external linking.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: As you analyze each critical page of your website you’ll want to make sure that oversights are not plaguing your website. More importantly, you will want to get to work by…
TECHNICAL SEO is just as important as the right on-page elements. To an experienced SEO, finding and resolving technical SEO issues is second nature. To most other people, it can be confusing and overwhelming. Surprisingly though, most technical SEO issues are fairly easy to spot and resolve…if you know where to look.
HOW TO TRACK IT: As with on-page SEO elements, viewing and tracking technical SEO can be done through a few commonly used tools like ScreamingFrog (or any website crawl reporting tool) and Developer Mode on your favorite browser. That said, one place you’re going to be spending more time than with on-page is with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There are a lot of different technical SEO red flags to be aware of, but some of the most critical are (1) canonicalization issues, (2) missing or improperly setup HTML and XML sitemaps, (3) incorrect robots.txt and (4) poor implementation, or lack thereof, of redirects.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Knowing what to fix and how to fix technical SEO issues can mean the difference between your website being properly indexed and ranked or not. As mentioned, there are many things to check for and optimize, but if you’re looking for quick wins, then start by…
Whether or not you think content marketing is just another trendy buzzword the fact is this; content marketing works extremely when you know what you’re doing. And since content is so vital to the success of a website we believe that it should an integral part of any website analysis. More specifically, these content strategy elements need to be tracked and analyzed:
CONTENT QUALITY is something that a lot of marketers throw around. It can often be annoying to hear over and over again, especially when there’s no context provided or any specifics as to what “quality” actually means. Our explanation below should help, but make no mistake…quality is certainly something you need to be focused on.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Quantifying content quality can be a bit challenging unless you know where and how to look. Some helpful tools for gauging content quality revolve around readability. Some tools we like are Hemingway App and Scribe for WordPress.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though “quality” is more of a subjective metric there are still some common issues to look out for that can be quantified, such as (1) length, (2) formatting and (3) uniqueness.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: When auditing the quality of a website’s content you can fairly easily spot the issues reported above. Fixing these issues should be very straightforward at that point. For quick wins, make these improvements to your most important content…
CONTENT ENGAGEMENT is one of the easiest things to track, but often the most forgotten or ignored metric. Knowing how well a piece of content leads to your defined goals and objectives should be one of your top priorities in any website analysis.
HOW TO TRACK IT: As mentioned, content engagement can and should be tracked very easily. This can be done simply through Google Analytics (BEHAVIOR > SITE CONTENT > ALL PAGES). Be sure that you have critical goals and events setup or else you’ll just be looking primarily at vanity metrics. Another tool that can be helpful to gauge social engagement is BuzzSumo.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When reviewing your site content reports you’ll want to be focusing on these metrics: (1) average time on page, (2) bounce and exit rates, (3) social activity and (4) conversion rate.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: As you collect and analyze engagement data your end goals will be to improve your content to produce more conversions and encourage more social sharing. To accomplish these goals we recommend that you…
If you want your website to rank well and have diversified sources of traffic then you must invest the time and resources into a sound link building strategy. Backlinks from relevant, authoritative, community backed websites round out a comprehensive SEO strategy that is set to provide long term results. To determine if your link building strategy is working, then here are some important metrics to track:
BACKLINK QUALITY used to be overlooked in search of backlink quantity. You used to be able to influence search rankings by sheer volume of backlinks. Fortunately that has died out as quality has become a more important signal for search algorithms – algorithms that continue to get better at sniffing out spammy or low quality links.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Since backlink quality has become such an important metric to track in the SEO community there have been many tools developed to measure this metric. Two of our favorites are Open Site Explorer from Moz and Ahrefs. By using the link analysis components of these tools you can get a quick picture of the actual quality of your backlinks.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When using these tools to evaluate each backlink you want to make sure that each link (1) is coming from a high authority domain, (2) is coming from a high authority page, (3) is not using spammy or misleading anchor text and (4) does not have hundreds of other backlinks from the same page going to other websites.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Some solid ways to attract backlinks that meet these criteria and have the best potential value for you are to…
BACKLINK PERFORMANCE, much like content engagement, is important to track as the data that’s readily available to you will tell you if you link building efforts are worth your continued time and resources.
HOW TO TRACK IT: To track backlink performance you can simply refer to your Google Analytics stats (ACQUISITION > ALL REFERRALS). This report will breakdown all referral traffic and let you dig into your data to determine if those referral sources are actually benefiting your website.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As you’re reviewing your data some signs of poor performance to keep an eye out for are (1) little to no traffic from acquired sources, (2) little to no engagement (shares, conversions, sales) from links originating for acquired sources and (3) little to no improvement in organic search traffic / rankings.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Since backlinks come from sites that you have no control over it is in your best interest to do as much research beforehand to ensure that your links will perform for you. Some excellent ways to verify that certain backlinks will benefit your site are to…
When it comes to social media, or most other online marketing strategies, you have two choices; (1) jump in head first and make it work for you or (2) insist that it doesn’t work and get left behind. Unfortunately, we still find many businesses that prefer the latter. For those that have jumped in and want to continue improving their social media strategy, then here are some specific elements to track:
PRESENCE as a metric in a website audit is strictly about knowing which social networks to focus on and having the proper setups, designs and optimization in place on each of these accounts, profiles and pages.
HOW TO TRACK IT: There is no tool or report to reference that will tell you which social network to focus on or whether or not your account was setup correctly, but with a little guidance and common sense you’ll be able to check off this task. The best and first question to ask yourself is “Where do my target customers and prospects spend time online?”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Once you’ve figured out where to create your social media accounts and you’ve setup your pages and profiles, you will then need to ensure that your accounts are guilty of the following; (1) incomplete information, (2) not using custom, professional profile and cover photos, (3) not taking advantage of backlink opportunities and (4) not utilizing vanity URLs.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Setting up a social media account is easy; however, doing the setup completely and correctly is something that many businesses still seem to ignore and/or struggle with. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a better social media presence…
ENGAGEMENT is probably the most relevant and important metric to stay on top of when it comes to social media strategy audits. As social media ROI becomes easier and more transparent as things develop this may change. Until then one of your main social media strategy objectives should be to encourage the most / best engagement possible.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Tracking social media engagement is actually pretty simple thanks to a slew of tools, plugins and widgets available to marketers and webmasters. Each social network (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) provide their own engagement reporting tools, which are actually quite good. If you’re looking for something than centralizes most of the data you need in one place, then you can use Google Analytics (ACQUISITION > SOCIAL > OVERVIEW) or you can check out reporting tools like SumAll, Domo or Social Report.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When tracking engagement and analyzing your data you will want to keep an eye out for these red flags; (1) few to no likes per post, (2) few to no comments per post, (3) few to no shares per post and (4) very brief session duration per receiving page.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: Once you’ve gotten the proper tracking and reporting in place, then you can try some of our social media engagement tips to see how they affect your current deficiencies;
PERFORMANCE, as mentioned above, has traditionally been one of the more difficult metrics to track with social media – specifically ROI. For this reason many businesses continue to put off social media as a viable online marketing strategy. This can be avoided by knowing what to track, how to track and where to track social media performance.
HOW TO TRACK IT: It used to be much more difficult to determine whether or not a social share or like actually had any type of inherent value that positively affected a company’s bottom line. Now, thanks to reports provided by Google Analytics (ACQUISITION > SOCIAL > CONVERSIONS) it is fairly simple to tell if your social media efforts are paying off.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Since performance is all about what affects the bottom line, then the two main things you need to be looking for when evaluating social media data are (1) conversions and (2) conversions that lead to revenue.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: To optimize your social media strategy for more conversions, specifically ones that lead to more revenue, you need to first determine what social media strategy is right for you. Once you’ve done that then you will know…
We may be listing this one last, but the right reporting and tracking should most definitely be a top priority for any website / business owner. As you’ve probably noticed throughout the other website audits components, being able to analyze the right data is critical to making the best marketing decisions. Here are the main tracking elements you need to have setup properly (at minimum):
ANALYTICS can be reported many different ways and through many different tools. It’s hard to argue though that any tool is more common or as widely respected as Google Analytics so we focus our website audits based off of that data. Of course, whenever possible, we pull data from other sources and tools as well and recommend you do the same.
HOW TO TRACK IT: What makes Google Analytics such a powerful tool for tracking website data is that it does a great job of appealing to both novice and advanced users alike. The reports can be analyzed to see very high level, easy to understand information or the data can be sliced and diced by analytics experts to pull out insights that less experienced users may overlook.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As for red flags to look for when auditing a site’s tracking setup, in this case Analytics, the main things to look for are a bit obvious; (1) has the tracking code been installed properly on every applicable page, (2) has conversion tracking been setup correctly to record leads, sales, etc, (3) have filters been applied to prevent unnecessary traffic from skewing reports and (4) have dashboards been setup to quickly access / analyze common reports.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: To avoid these common oversights and to ensure that you’re able to work with the best data you will want to make sure to…
WEBMASTER TOOLS has evolved dramatically over the last few years into one of the more useful website tracking tools available to marketers and business owners. One of the biggest issues we see with Webmaster Tools though is that it either commonly gets ignored or is never setup in the first place – such a shame either way. There’s some incredibly powerful information in Webmaster Tools, make sure to take advantage of it.
HOW TO TRACK IT: Two of the main places to manage and monitor your website with the major search engines are Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. From these two accounts you can track site issues, crawl issues, speed / performance recommendations, search query information and much more.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As you go through your website’s Webmaster Tools accounts there are certainly some major things to keep an eye on to improve your website and to prevent controllable problems, such as (1) warning messages about malware or site penalties, (2) drops in impressions and clicks from organic search results, (3) drops or errors with indexed pages and (4) poor page speed grades.
HOW TO IMPROVE IT: If you’re constantly monitoring your site through your Webmaster Tools accounts then you will have a much better pulse on how your website is performing in the major search engines. In addition, you will be able to find opportunities for improvement such as…
This comprehensive guide was certainly a hefty one, but even if you take away one or two action items you will be on a much better path to seeing improved results from your website.
That said, the reality is this…unless you’re an in-house marketer and your sole responsibility is to drive performance from online initiatives, then you really have no business using up your valuable time to do your own thorough website analysis.
We certainly appreciate your enthusiasm though.
Instead, you should be concentrating on the job responsibilities you can directly control and are the best suited for to help your company’s bottom line. Time spent anywhere else is a disservice to yourself and your company.
For that reason, we encourage you to take advantage of our offer to get a FREE website analysis / consultation from one of our experienced web strategists. We do this on a daily basis and would love to use our time to help save yours.
Are you ready to finally get key insights to improve your website from a thorough website analysis?
Vinny La Barbera
August 21, 2014
Thanks for reading our post. I hope you find this comprehensive guide useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please feel free to let me know. Enjoy!