Most website owners have wondered at various times how effective their websites really are, especially owners of E-Commerce sites where web traffic leads to sales dollars, and ultimately success or failure. With that kind of importance attached to optimum performance of a website, it seems reasonable to ensure that it should be operating at peak efficiency.
The problem is, how do you know whether or not your website is functioning at its absolute best? You can get some indication by the volume of traffic visiting your website, but that is far from being a definitive answer. Your website might in truth be functioning poorly, yet traffic and sales are still respectable or even pretty good. Conversely, the website might be performing very well, yet other factors are hindering conversions.
There’s really only one sure way to know just how well your website is performing which is by having a website audit conducted. There are several aspects comprising website performance, and some of them are not generally considered by owners seeking to improve their online presence. Almost everyone is aware of the impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on a site, causing it to appear higher in search rankings, but SEO is not the only important factor in performance. From a marketing standpoint, some considerable benefits can be achieved by conducting a thorough website performance audit, coupled with actions to correct any shortcomings identified in the process.
Here are a few benefits of a website audit:
- The technical aspects of your website will be on a sounder footing relative to its infrastructure, and your site should be easier to navigate once users have landed there.
Any missed SEO opportunities will be remedied, and by extension, website traffic should be increased because your online presence has grown in search rankings. In addition, it will provide an opportunity for you to focus on the right kind of targeted traffic coming to your site.
An audit will help you to re-evaluate your conversion rate, and take steps to improve landing page appeal, calls-to-action, and conversion rates, which means sales.
- Now that we understand the importance of an audit, we can take a look what elements make up a website performance evaluation. Website performance analysis consists of reviewing all technical factors that contribute to its response time, as well as the content that serves to hold the attention of users. Within these two broad categories, there are numerous elements that need to be audited to determine if everything has been done to ensure peak performance. Performance audits come in two flavors, front-end audits and back-end audits, and between the two, the front-end variety is the more commonly undertaken because it’s more directly related to page-loading speed and efficiency.
Front-end auditing involves:
- Setting baseline performance benchmarks so you have something to measure progress against
- Preparing an executive summary of findings with appropriate recommendations for improvement/enhancement
Back-end auditing involves:
- Setting baseline performance benchmarks to measure progress, but on back-end equipment like servers instead
- Identifying and analyzing server configuration, middleware, and content management system modules
- Locating slow database queries, potential SQL targets for optimization, and identify instances where indices would improve speed of table scans
- Preparing executive summary of overall recommendations
On a more qualitative level, a complete front-end website audit should also evaluate the content and substance of the site. The following are some areas of evaluation in a content quality audit.
- Content should be reviewed for readability, ability to maintain interest, usefulness of information, user satisfaction, and identification of next steps, e.g. calls-to-action
- SEO practices should be analyzed to determine which keywords result in the most leads, how well the best keywords are being used, and a review of SEO elements such as URLs, meta-descriptions, and page titles
- The design of the website should be optimized so that it is as friendly as possible to users, since poor navigation leads to vanishing users while easy-to-use web pages keep a user interested.
- Design factors also include not cluttering up pages too much, so that the message you intend to convey remains clear and digestible. All processes on the site such as a shopping cart module, must be intuitive and easily managed by users
- The site should be optimized for lead generation and conversions, primarily through its calls-to-action, landing pages, and marketing offers or promotions
Finally, to complete your website performance audit you need a technical assessment of both the front and back-end of your website.
- Your website design should be responsive for mobile users, since that segment of the user population has now grown even larger than desktop users
- All errors should be handled internally, so the user doesn’t see error codes during navigation, because it will only take a few popup errors to convince a user to navigate somewhere else
- Any factors which are contributing to your site going down must be identified, because downtime is time when your message is not reaching users
- Identify how your website pages are being crawled and indexed by search engines, so you can exclude parts you don’t want to be indexed
- Ensure that your site has public and XML sitemaps, the former for users to assist with navigation and the latter for search engines to allow them to quickly evaluate a site’s framework
- As you can see above, there is a great deal that goes into assessing all aspects of a website’s performance, but it is well worth the exercise, because it can result in a site much more appealing to users and increase business opportunities. There are many companies who have the expertise to conduct these audits, and will even do them free of charge, because the likelihood is there will be some remedial actions necessary, which the company could then be contracted to implement.
In just about all cases, the cost of optimizing your website will be well worth the investment, in terms of its much improved performance. To start your website performance audit with SF AppWorks, request a consultation below and stay tuned for our new E-Book on Website Performance Evaluation coming this month.