Getting the Most out of Your Website Performance Audit
A website performance audit is a full analysis of your marketing, usability, and search ranking.
Audits are no sunny afternoon picnic. For your team, the task may be equivalent to getting sound-blasted with unexpected microphone feedback.
Like feedback, a positive gain loop between a microphone and a loudspeaker, building up your site’s SEO with content, keywords, and ads increases your visibility to your audience. When the system overloads you’re left standing awkwardly on a stage with ringing ears and a lot of dead air.
Websites work the same way. More content, more elements, and more infrastructure don’t automatically equal more traffic – sometimes (a lot of the time?), more means slower, harder to navigate, and less compatible across devices.
The quest of the audit is simple: what’s working for your site, and what’s going against it?
Table of Contents
It’s Time for Your Performance Audit Review
Audits are about raising the bar not only for your accessibility but for your technical performance. They allow the opportunity for you to analyze how your framework and your site content come together to elevate your usability.
A website audit will dig into:
- Page Content
- Conversion rates
- ROI Calculation
- Site Speed
- Mobile Device Compatibility
- Indexed URLs
To do this effectively, break down each element from the perspective of the end user. Consider things like; is there a clear path from the product to the shopping cart? Are there too many pop-ups asking for the visitor’s information, are any of the elements confusing navigation?
How Do You Do a Full Website Performance Audit?
Auditing doesn’t have to be a mind bender. Start simple and get organized.
The list of potential questions you want your audit to answer is endless and it’s easy to ramble on, so set your scope and define what you need to know.
- Is my site easy to navigate – what do users click on and how long does it take for them to find what they’re looking for?
- How is my site performance? Is my page speed where it needs to be? Do all my elements function properly? How is the user experience?
- Is my SEO effective for all my pages? How is my Google ranking? Is my content contributing to my searchability? Am I on any blacklists?
- Are my conversion rates where I want them? Is my marketing generating the right kind of leads? Am I making money?
- Are my records up to date? Are my domains set to auto-renew? Is my SSL faltering?
Collecting Your Data
If you’re running say, a SaaS company – a great place to start is with your support team. What kind of tickets are your users generating? Are there any trends in client feedback that merit some closer analysis or page restructuring? Direct feedback from the user is valuable.
Website monitoring is also an indispensable tool for collecting comprehensive data. Monitoring your Entire Site checks that your site is UP and accessible by your users, add in Page Speed Monitoring to get a total performance baseline plus handy automated audit logs you can reference. There are a few convenient ways to control and access logged data:
- Status Pages
Status pages provide metrics of your manually added checks and also give a statistic for total Uptime (during the current period), Downtime, and number of outages. For audit purposes you can also see the average response time and current status for each check as well past incidents.
- Alert History
For detailed information and graphs showing Uptime, Downtime for checks, the alert log is your resource. You can also access Real-Time Analysis and Real-Time Check Status from individual check screens to get a current display of check states.
Give you visibility into all of the changes made to a check.
Remember, we’re focusing on Performance – so what does data from regularly scheduled checks contribute to user experience, SEO, and conversions?
Let’s say you’ve just developed a new page for your site and added new interactive elements. Ideally, the page was built with performance in mind – but a performance audit will confirm that the page is UP with monitoring in place, that load speed is on par with the rest of your site, that new elements perform as intended, and that the page engages the end user. We can check this in more detail with Real User Monitoring (RUM).
Grab that Session Data
And you thought we were done with data collection…By this point you’re probably rubbing your screen-dried eyes thinking, Where have all the good times gone? But we can take our website audit a little deeper for a bigger payoff via user session data.
Users aren’t running around your site with their arms up shouting, “Catch us if you can!” Their general activity is something you can track and use to improve. Applying user session data through RUM checks (via HTML snippet), gives you a real view of your site traffic and user activity. You can also use RUM checks to check your speed and optimization for desktop and mobile devices.
Tip: Use Uptime.com reporting to inform your website audit.
In the same vein of incorporating session data, don’t hesitate to bring in external resources like Google Webmaster Tools. There’s no law that says every aspect of your audit has to originate in-house.
Website Performance Audit Checklist
Alright, let’s stop and take stock. The data has been collected – what else is on the list? Remember, the goal is to boost visibility and usability with marketing in mind.
Here’s our List:
- General assessment/audit goals ✔
- Audit logs and reports✔
- User session data✔
- External aids i.e. Google Webmaster Tools✔
- Domain Health – run checks simultaneously
- Checked and monitored new pages and site features
- Is everything UP?
- Speed Test
But I Feel Fine
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Monitoring your entire site in one easy step is a must, particularly when you perform any kind of audit. In the same way that you go for a general physical, monitoring your entire site will tell you simple things like:
- How’s my DNS?
- Is my SSL about to expire?
- Is my site UP?
- Am I on any blacklists?
- Do I have a virus?
- Are all my elements performing?
Don’t put all the work in on an audit only to fall victim to something that’s easy to catch.
Check Your Speed and Your Miles
Next up: Get a baseline for your page speed with a speed test.
Load speed affects search ranking, so part of our audit focuses on providing visibility of the elements that contribute to this degradation in performance. The speed test can be used to suss out if a sudden dip in sales from a particular location is due – at least in part – to page speed by testing speed from a variety of locations.
Geography is just another layer to consider during your website audit. Your site may load fine in New York, but take over 100 seconds to load properly in Australia, so when you examine your site, consider the entire reach of your business.
Using Your Website Performance Audit: Working Out the Kinks
You’ve made it through the audit, now what? Now, you REAP.
Review your audit, make sure you’ve answered the questions you established at the beginning
Ensure your data has all been collected and is accurate
Apply updates, edits, and fixes based on the analysis of your data
Plan for the future – save out your processes & establish best practices for continuous auditing
How Often Should I Do a Website Performance Audit?
It’s not unusual to fear the legwork involved in a full website audit. If you have a smaller business model, every six months is a reasonable expectation. For larger companies, once per quarter is the standard.
Auditing gives you a baseline for strategizing changing SEO trends, marketing campaigns, increasing site usability and evaluating your infrastructure. Having auditing practices in place will simplify your quarterly process. Here are some tips:
- Set a timeline for auditing and stick to it – don’t let analysis bog you down (that kind of defeats the purpose)
- Incorporate other audits, like a network audit so you keep your entire site structure running smoothly
- Create open communication channels among your team – open dialogue between your front end and back end crews will only ease the process
Auditing is a little different for each company and each website. There are a lot of third-party businesses that will conduct an audit for you but then you miss out on all the knowledge gained by rolling up your sleeves and working through the process. What are some of your tried and true strategies?
Minute-by-minute Uptime checks.
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