Dec 15, 2015
How to conduct a year-end website audit
The end of the year is a good time to start planning for the coming year. Whether you’re considering a website redesign or a web content refresh, now is a good time to conduct a web audit of your current site.
In my previous corporate career, I conducted web audits sometimes as often as each quarter to identify web pages that needed either updating or archiving. You may not have the need to perform an audit that frequently, but performing an annual audit is a must.
Here’s a four step method for conducting a web audit that may take you less than an hour to complete, depending upon the size of your website.
Step 1: Check your links
Checking for broken links is a housekeeping task that you may want to do more often than once a year. As tedious as it may seem, identifying broken links is actually an easy task.
Broken links do not serve you or your audience. Imagine visiting a web page with several broken links. How likely are you to trust this resource? How like do you think you are to return? Pages with broken links may appear outdated or neglected to your web visitor, so check for them regularly.
To get started, you need a link checking tool. There’s no need to manually click any links on your site. A link checker tool speeds up the task. There are many free tools and options available to you.
Using an online tool, such as the W3C Link Checker, you can copy and paste your URL into the tool to identify broken links on a single web page or your entire website.
The W3C Link Checker gives you a report that not only lists any broken links found on your site, but also includes other issues to be aware of, such as redirects—a topic for another article.
Alternatively, you can use a browser-based tool that checks for broken links. Major browsers usually have free add-ons, extensions, or plugins that you can install to check your links.
As a Firefox user, I like the LinkChecker add-on. It highlights broken and problematic links on a web page. Unlike the W3C Link Checker tool, however, the LinkChecker add-on runs on only one page at a time.
After identifying broken links, it’s time to take action to either fix those links with working URLs or remove the links if you can’t replace the broken URLs.
Step 2: Review your calls-to-action
Do each of your web pages have at least one clear call-to-action? If not, now’s the time to identify one for each of your web pages.
Beginning with your home page and then with every other page of your site, ask yourself the following.
Is there a call-to-action on the page in a prominent or easy to locate area of the page?
If a web visitor has to scroll the page to find your call-to-action, then it’s time to move it above the fold. If you have a particularly long page, then consider repeating the call-to-action at the top and bottom of the page.
Is my call-to-action relevant to the web page’s content?
You don’t want to distract your visitor from the task at hand with irrelevant calls-to-action. You want your content and calls-to-action to work together. With some pages, the former can drive the latter.
In some cases, this may mean removing a call-to-action from a page where it isn’t appropriate. For example, the primary call-to-action on a contact page is to contact you through email, phone, or possibly a contact form, and you don’t want to distract from that with irrelevant calls-to-action, such as a white paper download.
If you have more than one call-to-action, then choose the one most appropriate or relevant to the web page.
Do you have too many calls-to-action on a page?
Just as you don’t want to distract your visitor with irrelevant calls-to-action, you also don’t want to present them with too many calls-to-action. Doing so can lead to inaction.
With fewer options come more decisive action.
Limit your calls-to-action on a single page to one or two. Any more and your visitor may not know which action to take. Instead, the visitor may take the easiest action: to leave your page or website.
Step 3: Review your messaging
If you haven’t updated your web content in the past year, then now is a good time to review your messaging. Has your content grown outdated?
If your business has changed in the past year, are those changes reflected in your web content? For instance, if you acquired new clients this year, have you included a mention of them somewhere on your website?
If you maintain an online portfolio, does the portfolio reflect your most recent work?
You may also want to consider what updates you need to make for the following year to keep up with planned changes in your business.
Step 4: Review your analytics
If you haven’t already installed Google Analytics or a similar web metrics tool, then make it part of your web plan right away. Collecting web metrics not only shows you how well your pages are performing, but also enables you to make critical decisions about them.
In my corporate career, we managed hundreds and sometimes thousands of web pages. We used web metrics to uncover our lowest performing pages to either improve them or remove them. You can do the same with your web pages if you gather web metrics.
Here are a couple of the key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider:
- Page views. Identify the pages with the fewest page views. Look at a year’s worth of data, if possible, to find trends. For example, in some industries, web traffic drops significantly in the last two months of the year due to the holiday season. Make sure that the low page views that you find are not reflective of a trend like this.
- Unique visitors. Do your pages with the lowest page views also have the lowest number of unique visitors each month? The two usual coincide. Look for a gradual decline in numbers over a long period.
Armed with these metrics, you can determine if it’s time to archive or update a page. These metrics can indicate an issue related to search, content, or your website.
Visitors aren’t interested in the page.
If visitors are no longer going to a page on your site, perhaps the topic is no longer relevant to them. This may be the case if the page content is timely.
A good example is an event page for a workshop or conference that’s already taken place. In this example, the decline in metrics may look like a sudden drop in numbers. If a page doesn’t recover from the drop, however, then it may not be worth keeping.
Visitors can’t find the page.
Perhaps your visitors can’t find the page either through a search engine or on your website. If that’s the case, then the page may have a history of low web metrics rather than a gradual or sudden decline in metrics.
If users can’t find the page via a search engine, then the page may be using a keyword that your audience doesn’t use. You can remedy the issue by optimizing the page for a better keyword.
Another possible issue is the page doesn’t rank well. You can influence search rankings by adding more links to the page internally or via social media. Over time, the page rank may improve with more links to the page.
Visitors can’t navigate to the page.
It may also be the case that visitors can’t find the page after arriving at your website. Starting from your homepage, navigate to the page in question. If you find it difficult to locate the page through your website, you can be sure that your visitors do too.
If the page is an important one that deserves to be viewed, then make it easier to navigate to it. Create more links to the page from your other web pages or include a link in your primary or secondary navigation.
After performing your audit, take the time to create an action plan. Determine which pages need updating whether it’s to fix a broken link or to rewrite your messaging. Then prioritize those pages.
Identify your poorest performing pages and decide whether or not they are worth keeping. If they are, then add them to your priority list.
Lastly, don’t forget your calls-to-action. If you have offers, review them. Treat them the same way that you treat the web pages in your audit. Make certain that the content is still relevant and not outdated. Look at your download numbers and consider replacing any low performing offers with new ones if you can.