A website audit is just like any other maintenance task - something that has to be completed, even if you don’t look forward to doing it. It’s easy to forget that your website is a working tool for your business, and just like a cash register or company vehicle, you need to make sure all the components are running smoothly.
Using one of the best website builders, a content management system (CMS) like WordPress via the best website builders for WordPress and the best web hosting services, or a web developer to create your site should ensure that you have the right security protocols in place, and that your site has been designed to a standard you’re pleased with. But things change.
New security threats develop all the time, information on your site goes out of date, and technology constantly evolves, and users will expect your website to function as well as those of its competitors. For these reasons and more, it’s best practice to audit your site annually.
Website audit: Security threats
Cybersecurity threats are continually developing. Even if you launch your website with the most up-to-date security protocols in operation, the ever-evolving threat landscape means you can never guarantee its safe to use at all times.
During a website audit, you can test the vulnerability of your website to both established and emerging threats. Whether you do this using an analysis program, or employ a dedicated penetration testing team to put your website through its paces, the end result will be a more secure site.
Today, a vulnerable site is not only a potential threat to you, your employees, and your users - it could severely impact your bottom line too. With data protection and privacy laws like GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) in force, failing to secure your users’ personally identifiable information can result in enormous fines.
Failing to comply with GDPR alone, for example, can land you with a fine of up to €20m ($23m).
Website audit: SEO considerations
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential consideration when creating a website. The trouble is, the task of optimizing the content on your website is never-ending. Trends and keywords are always coming and going, and these trends - if they involve your industry - can seriously impact your ranking if you fail to follow them.
Auditing your site for SEO is something that should be done as regularly as possible. It’s amazing how quickly your website can slip down the rankings, especially if a competitor site ups their SEO game.
You may not have considered SEO at all when creating your website. If this is the case, it’s worth investing in a dedicated SEO audit carried out by a professional team. Otherwise, you can do an audit independently using SEO analysis tools. Still, it’s best to leave this to the experts if your knowledge is lacking.
Website audit: Identify glitches
To provide the best possible experience for users, you need to ensure that your website is free of any glitches. By glitches, we're referring to things like bad pieces of code, broken links (internal and external) and pages, non-functional iframes, and other annoying errors.
These little issues are easy to miss during the day-to-day running of your website, but they can prove a serious problem over time. For example, imagine if your help site was accessible through a link on your home page, but the URL had changed in the time that you had linked it to your site.
This would look very bad for your organization, and cost you time and money in replying to direct comments via phone or email.
A website audit enables you to test all of the links, code, and page furniture on your site, so you can rest assured that nothing that requires fixing is left broken.
Website audit: Update the design
A design audit identifies all the aspects on your website that have changed or could do with being updated. By testing your site over the latest platforms and devices, and tweaking the design to fit, you can ensure your site is fully up to date and relevant when it comes to accessibility.
But a design audit doesn’t stop at compatibility testing. As time goes by, your business will change. These changes could be subtle things like new employees, a shift in sales focus, or more significant changes like new contact information or branding.
Regardless, it’s best practice to ensure your website only represents the most contemporary vision of your company. An evolving business grows in expertise, and this should be reflected on your website, for example, by displaying new testimonials or major new clients.
A design audit is also an opportunity to strengthen your messaging and streamline the overall design of your site.
A website audit is useful for many different reasons, and could mean the difference between losing, acquiring, or retaining a customer. With so much competition online, you need to ensure your site is optimized and capable of fending off your competitors.
However, optimization doesn’t stop at SEO. Your website audit should scrutinize every aspect of your website. You may even decide to choose a new web host if your current provider isn’t doing as it should - if that's the case, make sure you read our guide to the best web hosting services before you make your choice.
Further reading on website builders and web hosting
Discover nine SEO tips that can improve a site's Google rankings, and look at what impact web hosting may be having on your site's search performance: we ask does web hosting affect SEO, and outline five web hosting factors that can affect the SEO of your website.