High Level Website Audit
I’ve done enough site audits recently that I’ve started to develop a mental process. I thought I should write down a *majority* of the things I look for to help my subscribers come back and audit their own site occasionally.
I won’t go through what everything below means, but I’ll give a high level overview and some of the tools I use to check it.
The below are the “concrete” things I check. There’s a lot of softer things I look at that I likely forgot or can’t put into concrete terms.
I’ve broken the below out into 3 irrelevant buckets to make it easier to consume. There’s definitely going to be some crossover between the buckets.
Design & UX
Landing Page Visual / Design Leads to CTA’s
In short, every page of your website (with very few exceptions) should have some action that you want your audience to take.
You may want them to sign up to your email list, read the next article, add product to cart, etc. Even if the page is 100% monetized by display ads, you still want them to view another page to load another set of ads.
I’d also be remise if I didn’t mention a professional looking design. While it’s probably my weakest attribute, you cannot have your website look perfectly stock.
Email Capture and Consumer Journey
You don’t necessarily have to have an enormous popup begging users for their email address. However, you should at minimum be allowing users to sign up for a newsletter.
Navigation and Site Architecture
There’s a lot to look at here and no perfectly correct answer on what it should look like. It depends on your categories, amount of content, etc. You’ll likely want to flatten your architecture and make sure every page is reachable by 3 clicks for a moderate size site.
You have two options here unless you’re an enormous website. Trust me. You’re not that big. ;)
If you’re on Shopify, you don’t have much of a choice in URL structure unfortunately.
Google Search Console will tell you if your pages are mobile friendly if you use the URL Inspection tool or look under Experience → Mobile Usability.
You should also visit every page/template on your site on mobile to see how users view your site on mobile. Check every part of your website. Navigation, links, etc.
Your website should be designed similar to other websites, but it *should not* look stock.
The quickest way to tell that a website is new or built by a beginner is to spot a default favicon and/or no custom branding of the site.
Meta descriptions and Title Matching Keyword Intent
First thing you need to check here is if the pages even have *custom* meta descriptions and title tags.
Second, do each of them match the intent of the searcher for the keyword you’re targeting.
Google rewrites roughly 70% of meta descriptions in the SERPs. I know. What about the other 30%? Reasons for this are here.
Does your title and meta entice the user to click on *your link* when they see it?
I either inspect the code, use SEO Minion, SEO Analysis by WooRank, or SEMRush audit tool for this.
Thin Content & Useless Pages
There’s a lot of reasons to have and keep thin pages. “I didn’t check it or think about it.” is not one of them.
Get rid of pages that aren’t providing value to your users. You can do this visually, but I’ve found an audit tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs better for this.
Alt Text on Images
Let’s me be honest here. This one I rarely do. It takes a lot of time and I usually forget. If you want to compete in Google Image Search or give more context to Google for your page, you should do this.
Proper Headings Breaking Up Content
Almost every page or email I send out, I write a brief outline first. I structure the big points in H2’s and if need be add H3’s and H4’s as sub categories.
I won’t make this it’s own bullet, but you should also have images/graphs/etc. breaking up content.
For a non-ecommerce site, you should be using some sort of SEO plugin that will add structured data to your site. To add to the basic structured data that it will naturally add, you should use FAQs, How-To, etc. wherever you can.
For an ecommerce site, structured product and review data is non-negotiable. Get this right.
Author Profiles if Multiple Authors
If you have multiple authors on your site, each author should have it’s own fully built out author page that details expertise and linking out to relevant profiles. This is not only to build trust for your audience but to act as domain authority signals to Google.
If it’s just you, have a fully fleshed out about page similar to the above.
Linking Between Pages
I use SEMRush site audit to check this along with visualizing how difficult it is to reach each page.
You should link your pages together to allow users to learn more, stay on your site longer, and pass PageRank and relevancy between pages.
Check for Broken Links
SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog are great for this. Not only are you missing opportunities to pass PageRank to your own pages, you’re also providing a poor user experience.
Open Graph Protocol
While this is built into most website builders, a lot of people forget to add the image.
When a link is shared on social for your site, the image needs to be there to entice users to click.
SEMRush can check for this but it’s just as easy to share the link on a social channel to see if the image appears.
Custom 404 Page
This is two fold. First you should have a custom 404 page to lead visitors to another page on your site. If it’s just “not found” visitors will 99% leave because they were looking for a specific page. This is your opportunity to try to keep them engaged on your site.
Secondly, you should periodically do a backlink analysis on your 404 page and build redirects to similar pages that the users were trying to find.
Privacy, Terms, Shipping, Returns, Etc Pages in Footer
This is partially to signal that you’re a real business. The other part is that Google and other platforms will not allow you to advertise your products without these pages.
SEMRush Technical Audit
Your CMS should create these automatically. You may have to tweak some things in these files as the need arises. You’ll generally find the need to tweak them based off of something found in Google Search Console (below).
While I don’t check this regularly, if you find issues/bugs on your site that you can’t explain, it’s worth it to take a look.
You can find JS errors by opening up your console on your site. ctrl+shift+j for windows users.
Check to make sure you have the appropriate tags and that they’re firing correctly. I use the Google Tag Assistant Legacy and GTM/GA Debug browser extensions.
See the full article on implementing Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console.
Google Search Console Checks
Check out my post on Google Search Console. There’s a wealth of information in there that will help you improve your site. Much of it overlaps with the rest of the lister here.
URLs Canonical Correctly
This is one of the fastest ways to tank your rankings quickly. Confusing Google on which page to rank will lead to neither page ranking very high.
I use Link Redirect Trace or SEO Analysis by WooRank browser extensions to check for this quickly.
Landing Pages Sending 200 Code
When a page loads, it sends an HTTP code. The Link Redirect Trace extension always tells me the status code of every page as I’m clicking through the website.
If the site doesn’t have custom email, it’s alright not to have these. If you do have these, it’s likely that you’re going to have delivery issues with your email.
I’ll usually use the SEO Analysis by WooRank Extension to check this.
Another easy tool to check this and the rest of your DNS is Google’s Toolbox Checker.
I generally don’t check the SSL unless Chrome doesn’t give me the lock icon when I visit a site.
If I do have to check it, I will utilize SSL Shopper.
While you should be checking this while you’re checking your site speed, it’s important enough to break it out. Some websites have so many, so many incorrectly sized, and so many uncompressed images, that it can really mess with site performance.
While you can download an image and check the size manually or use Chrome dev tools, from a compression point of view, I’ve found no easier tool than tinypng’s site analyzer.
In addition to compressing the images, you should also look at resizing them to make them smaller.
URL Resolve (URL redirects to the correct domain)
There’s a few reasons to make sure this is correct.
When someone types domain.com into their browser, it goes to http://domain.com. You need it to resolve to the proper https://domain.com or https://www.domain.com depending on what you’ve chosen.
If you or someone linking to you leaves out the “s”, you want your visitors directed to the correct URL.
Google will index non secure or www URLs if they’re not resolved or canonicalled correctly. This will lead to duplicate URLs potentially being ranked and loss of rankings from it.
You’ll lose pagerank from links. If links are pointing to a non-secure version of your site and it’s not resolved and cononicalled correctly, you’ll lose the valuable page rank coming from that link.
The above is a high level list of things you should look out for. When looking through the above, other things will catch your eye that you need to dive into that aren’t mentioned above.
If you’re going through this list and have found quite a few things wrong with your site, don’t fret. Almost nobody gets everything correct. I personally started building this list out because it’s easy to overlook many of these things on your own site. I started to build it because I needed a list for my own sites that I’ve overlooked.
If you’d like me to do a full audit for your website, please follow that link.
If you have any questions on the above, leave them in the comments. I’ll be answering questions on the above over the next 24 hours.
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Disclaimer: Nothing written here should be construed as legal for financial advice of any kind. These are opinions and observations, written by an anonymous cartoon Opossum, built up over years working in e-commerce & affiliate marketing.