Finally, a new year is here! This is the time when many people begin their fitness goals, and also set an appointment for a complete physical exam. It’s a wise move, instead of going to a doctor only when sick.
Why not also check the health of your online assets?
Your website might be underperforming or even outdated. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong, do a website audit now to keep it in peek digital condition for all those visitors and sales!
But before you begin, determine what your goals are, aside from increasing conversions and visitors. Is it to create more awareness or improve customer retention? You might also want to cut back on unnecessary spending and redirect your budget towards adding more videos or articles on your website. Also, you may be curious about your competitors’ backlinks.
With your goals in mind, you get a better idea of the tools you will use. There are several for free, but the ones you need might cost money. These days, we all have to spend wisely.
Moving on, here are some effective ways to refresh and improve your online assets.
1. Evaluate Your UX (User Experience)
Your webpages have many parts that can be improved to provide a smoother user experience. These are all interconnected, and you can’t afford to have a weak link that gives reasons for your visitors to bounce away to your competitors.
Check your loading times
Excellent and engaging content will not matter if your site takes too long to load. Maybe you can get away with slow loading times if you’re selling products that are popular or in demand, but even then, you must still have a great user experience.
You can find out how fast your website loads with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
According to a study by Akamai, almost half of visitors expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. Also, the longer people wait, the higher the bounce rate is. Speed is definitely one of the factors that determines your search ranking.
If you have a WordPress website, the easiest way to speed up your website is by using a caching plugin. These plugins store or “cache” a snapshot of each webpage. That way, when a customer visits a cached page, they see a fully created snapshot. They don’t have to wait for all code, programming, images and other elements to load.
W3 Total Cache is our favorite caching plugin, though there are many others.
While you’re at it, check for any problems with your website on mobile devices. I suggest using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Take a look at your navigation bar
Your audience visits your website for one purpose. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, can they easily find it? Make sure your navigation is easy to … well … navigate.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure every single piece of content is only one or two links away from your home page. This can be done with a top navigation, a list of links on the side, and the bottom. In mobile, the ubiquitous “hamburger” icon is the standard for all links in the top navigation bar.
Add or simplify your menu. Another rule of design thumb is to have no more than eight links for the top. If your website is quite large, group content into clear tags or categories, and offer a search bar.
Finally, ensure your advertisements aren’t too distracting. Sure, you earn from these, but you want your content and products to stand out first and foremost.
Use HTTPS for your site.
You may be unaware that many people don’t trust sites with URLs that start with “HTTP” only. They may browse but will not give out personal information like e-mail addresses. The “s” stands for secure encryption, which is guaranteed by an SSL certification. If Google sees two pieces of similar content and strength of authority, they will choose the secure site first.
If you want more conversions and rank higher in search results, purchase an SSL certificate. Most good hosting providers have the option of SSL security with all plans, but if they don’t, check out providers like SSL.com and Namecheap.
Support for Adobe Flash Player has ended. If you use it for animations, movies and other multimedia, it’s time to replace it, as most modern browsers no longer allow it, and smartphones such as Apple’s iOS never supported it.
Assess your web hosting plan
Is your hosting provider still reliable? It’s a given that in the past year, there has been a surge in web traffic. The last thing you want to see is an “error 500” because your host’s server is often overloaded and down.
I’m sure you’ve chosen a host that will be up 24/7, rain or shine. But, your 2GB storage, which was enough before, might not be the case now. Your strategy for 2021 may include an increase in multimedia and streaming. These will require more storage and increased bandwidth, so it could be time to choose a different plan.
Also, review your web host’s support. This includes providing security (SSL certificates), customer service, and website backups. The best providers create backups daily, so you always have the most recent version of your site if something goes wrong.
Finally, a large factor in your website speed is the speed of your website host. If you’ve optimized your website, added caching plugins and done other things to decrease your page size, and you still have a low score, it could be a weakness of your web host.
Your goals for 2021 will determine your technical requirements. A monthly fee of $50 can become $100 because of new needs. Negotiate when possible or shop for a new web hosting provider. There are hundreds out there.
Cross Browser Testing
It’s safe to assume your target audience is accessing your site through different web browsers. Do you remember not long ago when you would encounter websites with the advice “best viewed with X browser?” Thankfully, we rarely see these advisories now, as most modern browsers (desktop and mobile) will render website code in very similar ways.
However, not all website elements cover all the bases. Imagine putting a lot of work into creating a great layout for your home page that doesn’t work on another popular browser.
So, here are a few testing tools and I suggest using at least two.
- Selenium. First of all, it’s free and is not only for automating applications for testing purposes. You can use Selenium with Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari. You also need to use cloud services, which will allow you to conduct tests without installing emulators.
- BrowserShots. If you want screenshots of your webpage in different browsers, then this is the one for you. It’s also free and user-friendly. There’s a queue, but waiting times aren’t long.
- BrowserStack. You can get started by testing different OS and browser combinations. With an account, a free trial includes 100 minutes of automated browser and mobile app testing. You also receive 5000 screenshots per month for visual testing. Paid plans start at $20/month.
2. Audit Your Content
Even your raving fans are going to tire of you if your content becomes dull or irrelevant. Regularly review and update or refresh if necessary. Here are some of the questions you should ask while reassessing your content.
- Is your content still relevant?
- Which articles or blogs elicit the most feedback?
- Are the titles or headlines clear on what you’re trying to convey?
- Do your landing pages still lead to conversions?
- Do you need to revise your CTA (call to action)?
- Do your images and videos remain compelling?
- Does your content help visitors solve a problem or answer a need?
- Would your visitors stay longer if your webpages were shorter?
A great way to update or refresh your content is through A/B testing. Which updated element works the best?
Remember, your website exists to add value to other people’s lives. You reap the returns only when your first priority is your target market.
3. SEO Optimization
Are you using the right keywords for your business? What results in higher conversions – short or long-tailed keywords? If you rely mainly on “free” organic traffic from ranking in the search engines, SEO will definitely be the lifeblood of your business.
Manually tracking all your keywords is not only impractical but time-consuming. Instead, check out these tools that can help you.
- Ahrefs. This is an excellent tracking and highly-recommended tool. It’s also used for website audits. You can discover what your competitors are doing and make comparisons with your website. Fees start at $99 a month. For $7, you can try it out for 7 days.
- MonsterInsights. If you want the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress, then this tool is it. You can find out your site’s click-through rate and the position of your keywords on your search console. Take note, though, that you’ll need to connect this to Google Analytics. Plans start at $99.50 a year ($8.30 monthly).
- SEMrush. This is also a fantastic tool, and a competitor to Ahrefs. You can track your keyword rankings and those of your competitors. This tool includes a featured snippet section and keyword tagging. You can analyze your backlinks and monitor your SERP daily. Plans start at $99.95 a month.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider. The free version offers a lot of useful features, such as helping you rewrite page titles. Screaming Frog can also conduct a site crawl to check for problems that prevent search engines from properly indexing your content.
4. Conduct a Backlink Audit
When was the last time you checked the links pointing to your website? There are always good and bad ones, so it’s best to do an audit regularly.
You may be wondering what the “bad” links are. These are from shady, spammy and poor-authority sites. Watch out, as these can lower your search rankings, though Google mainly just ignores them.
Google’s Search Console allows you to see all of your links. A couple weeks after you register with your website, click “search traffic” then “links to your site.” You can review each to see what other websites link to you.
SEMrush has a backlink audit feature as well that can identify links that may be detrimental to your website.
I also suggest checking out Majestic, another backlink audit tool similar to Ahrefs and SEMRush. You can try it for free. Simply enter your site’s URL in the search bar and you’ll get tons of useful data. Majestic’s plans start at $49/month if you wish to do more, such as find the backlinks from your competitors.
Follow these steps and you’ll be starting the year right for your online business. You’ll discover your website’s strengths and areas that need improvement. Here’s wishing you more success this year!