At Atomivox, we begin every website redesign with an audit. Most of the time, our customers have never run a benchmark for speed, responsiveness, or clarity. On older websites with lots of pages, posts, or landing pages, they may no longer remember how big their website is! All they know is that their site isn’t performing the way it should be.
If you’re struggling to increase sales, clicks, and leads, your website could be the weakest link in your digital marketing strategy. A site audit may be just the thing you need to figure out what’s going on.
Before we get to that, we need to ask why it’s important.
Why does site speed, security and clarity matter?
We all agree that a slow-loading or confusing website is a nuisance. How many times have you tried to visit a new site only to sit there and wait? According to Google’s 2018 report, 53% of mobile users left a website that took just 3 seconds to load!
Or, you find something promising in search, but the website content is so confusing you can’t interpret what it’s about!
How vital are website speed, security, and clarity? Extremely important. Google penalizes slow-loading, non-secure, and non-responsive websites — a significant obstacle when you’re fighting for search position. Worse still, if your content is confusing or unclear, visitors bounce away to the waiting arms of your competition.
Krista Seiden, an Analytics Advocate at Google, writes:
Page speed is one of the most overlooked and yet most important factors in customer attention, retention, and ultimately, converting browsers to buyers. Ensuring that you’re taking measures to increase page speed or reduce lag can be the difference between failure and success.
Anna Foster recently compiled a beautiful infographic to explain the state of website speeds in 2019. And according to MachMetrics, service industry websites fair even worse! The load time for Automotive, Business and Industrial industries, technology and other service-based business sites is a whopping 10-second average!
* Source MachMetrics https://www.machmetrics.com/speed-blog/average-page-load-times-websites-2018/
Free Tools To Audit Your Site for Speed, Clarity, Security
So what can you do? Today we’re sharing four free tools to audit your website and optimize it for performance and conversions.
Tool #1: Perform The Grunt Test
The first tool in our arsenal isn’t a tool at all; it’s a method. We need to evaluate the written content on your homepage for clarity, especially the words in the header. Your header is prime real estate and super important. It’s the first thing visitors see and the main reason they’ll bounce away.
People won’t stick around if your content isn’t immediately clear.
Donald Miller calls this the grunt test. The idea being that your content should be so clear and concise, a cave dweller can understand it. To test this theory, I selected random search terms (keywords), a random industry, in a random city and chose some random links on the first search result page.
Here’s an example of what I found:
This random service industry website is clearly a manufacturing company. However, the website doesn’t tell us much about its products or services. As an outsider, their vague words and photos make it difficult to decipher what they do, let alone how they might help me. It may be crystal clear to them but it’s confusing for the rest of us.
They’re so close to their own business, they assume everyone else understands. “Decades of Experience” doesn’t tell us anything relevant and we’re burning too many brain cells to care. Sadly for them, this website fails the grunt test.
Tool #2: Evaluate Site Speed
Like we mentioned above, every second spent waiting for your site to load is precious seconds of lost business. The data is clear and irrefutable: customers do not wait for slow sites. Especially on mobile. They will bounce away and go find another provider who’s site loads faster.
The most effective way to guarantee rapid loading is a good quality hosting on managed cloud servers. Most companies looking for hosting get suckered in by low-cost web hosts. What they don’t realize is penny-pinching on hosting equals a fortune in lost business. Cheap hosting is just that, cheap. Before you optimize images and add caching plugins, ensure your business website is properly cared for — including great hosting.
With hosting out of the way, we’re now ready to move onto other optimization techniques. We use two great, easy-to-use websites to benchmark site and server speeds; Pingdom and GT Metrix.
Both websites are fantastic for measuring things like server load times, image sizes, and time-to-first-byte (server responsiveness). Best of all, they’re free and easy to use. Just submit your URL, choose a relevant server location, and submit. You’ll get a report that reveals issues lurking on your site or server along with suggestions to downscale media or delay certain scripts.
Tool #3: Scan Your Site Map
Ever wondered how big your site really is? If your website is several years old, there’s a good chance you have links, pages, or posts rattling around on your site, forgotten.
Before we ever do a website redesign or rebuild, we perform a site scan to reveal the size and depth of the website. Screaming Frog is a free link crawler (aka SEO spider tool) to survey your website and build an accurate map of your site.
With Screaming Frog you can: find broken links, audit redirects, analyse page titles & metadata, review robots & directives, generate XML sitemaps, visualise site architecture, and more. Best of all? It’s free for up to 500 URLs! What a deal.
Tool #4: Confirm Your Site Security
The final tool in our list comes in extra handy when trying to make a website secure. Have you ever wondered about the little green padlock in the URL bar? The padlock tells you that the connection between you and the site you’re viewing has been independently certified “secure” by a security certificate.
Red = non-secure
Green = secure
Why is a secure website relevant? In 2017, Google started notifying Google Console users that they would be flagging non-secure websites to visitors. It seems that most site owners ignored Google’s warnings. So last year, Google began displaying a red padlock and a non-secure warning on Http websites. To make matters worse, some SEO experts now believe that Google is downranking insecure websites in the Google search results. We know that Google started weighting SSL/HTTPS in their search algorithms back in 2014, so it’s a distinct possibility.
Bottom line? Secure your site.
Most modern hosts provide Let’s Encrypt security certificates which allow you to add a layer of security to your website for free. We include them in our Care Packages, for example. Once your security certificate is installed you can use Why No Padlock to find those pesky insecure elements.
Google will reward you and your visitors will thank you. Double bonus!
What’s Stopping You?
A digital marketing strategy is only as good as the weakest link. Use these four tools to get your website working like it should. If you’re looking for a partner to help you execute a digital growth strategy, let’s talk.