Monday January 25, 2010, by Paul Blair
Whenever we are approached by a potential client to rebuild an existing website or undertake a search engine optimisation (SEO) programme, or to increase web traffic, we always recommend that a website audit report is undertaken first.
A website audit reviews the technical structure of a website and also reports on layout (for the user experience) and content and links for search engine rankings.
We consider the technical structure of the website to be the most important component of a website audit. If the structure is fubared, then no amount of content updating or link building can improve the visitor numbers or increase sales.
The results can be very surprising. We have completed website audit reports on websites with modern layouts and really nice designs, but built so that the website would only appear if the company name was entered as the search phrase. In this case, the only visitors coming to the site are people who already know the name of the company. This website would not attract new visitors because it wouldn't appear in any search results.
Another recently completed website audit was for a website that was technically sound, but the main navigation menu (which was at the bottom of the page) was different on every page. For a user this is confusing and frustrating, and it is easy enough to return to the search results to find the next website.
- Canonical URLs: multiple domain names that point to a website. Where a website has more than one URL, one should be chosen as the target URL and the other URLs should be pointed to it. This is a common problem and it reduces the page rank for the website, but it should be a simple matter for a developer to remedy.
- Use of images for text: where text is converted into an image instead of html text. Images appear as blank areas to Google's 'crawlers', so any text stored as an image will not return search results.
- Search engine indexing: web pages need to be 'indexed' by a search engine for it to appear in a search result. There are several different scenarios that would cause crawlers to ignore a site or to incompletely crawl a site.
- Slow page loading: overly complicated scripts, table-based programming and large images can cause slow page loading. This would mostly affect the user experience (and they leave the site) but can also affect search engine indexing.
Design and content:
- Where possible we test the keyword phrases used by visitors.
- Check whether the website conveys the right messages to visitors. It should be immediately obvious what the website is about.
- Check meta data - titles and descriptions - are present and optimised.
- We check that the overall layout is easy to navigate and give our opinion on the user-experience.
- Links are the single most important factor that impacts page rank. Google, and other search engines, use links to determine what the website is about and to measure website quality. Links to relevant industry-related websites are what count.
- We check as best we can the internal, inbound and outbound links for a website.
When the results show that the website is structurally sound, we always include recommendations to the website owner that they themselves may be able to implement. We make recommendations on content, meta data and external factors that will improve website traffic.
If the structure or other circumstances, e.g. high costs, dictate that the website is rebuilt, we guarantee to resolve all of the issues that we find in the original website.
The website audit report collates the tangible and intangible parts that form a website presence on the Internet and helps to focus effort and money on the areas where it is needed the most.
For a website owner that wants more business it is a great opportunity to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their website and to find the area to focus their efforts.