Below, you’ll learn:

  • What a website audit is
  • When to perform it
  • What to include in the audit
  • What steps to take after the audit
  • How to choose an audit tool 

What is a website audit?

A website audit is the process of running your site through various checks in order to benchmark its performance, flag issues, and spot opportunities for improvement.
Typically, the auditing procedure will involve the following steps:

  1. Run automated scans using crawlers and other testing tools.
  2. Supplement the above findings with deep-dive manual checks.
  3. Produce a top-level report with your findings and recommendations.

Ideally, the outcome of any website audit should be an actionable roadmap of fixes and improvements.

When should you perform a website audit? 

There are many situations where a website audit makes sense. These include:

Poor digital campaign performance

The success of your digital marketing campaigns rests on the health of your website. If you find that your marketing initiatives aren’t yielding expected results, your site may well be the culprit. A website audit can help you spot what’s hampering your efforts and to find solutions.

Underperforming lead generation efforts

Similarly, if your site’s failing to generate the expected amount of leads, an audit can uncover the underlying reasons for this.

Loss of rankings

If SEO is a priority channel and you see your search rankings plummet abruptly, a website audit can identify any emerging issues that may have caused this.

Website migration or redesign

If you’re planning a major website redesign or a site migration, auditing your website is a must. You’ll want to know how the migration has affected your site’s performance, especially if there’s a risk of something breaking in the process. Make sure to perform a website audit right before and after the migration, so that you can compare the two snapshots.

Competitor benchmarking

Whenever you want to compare your site to an existing or new competitor, a website audit helps you do so in a quantifiable, consistent way. The scores you get from any given scanning tool will be directly comparable, so it’s very easy to obtain a 1-to-1 picture of how you and your competitors are doing.

Even in the absence of major changes, it’s good practice to schedule regular website audits into your calendar (e.g. quarterly or bi-annually). This lets you spot issues early on and map out your site’s historical performance, which is great for tracking progress over time.

website audit illustration

What should be included in a website audit? 

A robust audit will cover most, if not all, of these performance areas:

Technical SEO audit

The technical SEO audit looks at the crawlability and indexability of your site from the perspective of search engines. It answers questions like:

  1. Are your key pages indexable?
  2. Have you included these pages in your sitemap?
  3. Is your robots.txt properly configured to allow your site to be crawled?
  4. Is your site structured in a way that lets important pages be found via internal links or navigational menus?
  5. Do your URLs return any error response codes?
  6. Technical SEO is critical to test because it can single-handedly undermine your entire organic traffic strategy. If search engines can’t crawl your site and discover your main pages, your site
  7. will be virtually invisible in search results.

Content audit

The content audit is about the quality and relevance of your on-page content. Here, you’ll be looking to see:

  1. Is your content sufficiently detailed and helpful?
  2. Is the information you provide up to date?
  3. Do you have any duplicate content that may affect your search rank?
  4. Is your copy free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  5. Do you have broken links on your key content pages?
  6. Can readers skim, read, and understand your content easily?

The quality of your content is critical for a well-performing site. Bad content results in a poor user experience, low search rankings, and loss of conversions.

Backlinks audit

The backlinks audit is where you review the amount and quality of incoming links from external sites.

In general, you want your site to have as many backlinks as possible, provided they come from reputable, high-quality sources. The higher the amount of backlinks, the better your chance of ranking high on Google and other search engines.

One exception is the case of so-called “toxic” backlinks. These come from poor-quality or outright illegal places including spammy forums, pirate sites, and so on. Having a high proportion of toxic backlinks can negatively affect your site’s rank. If you’re in this situation, you can always disavow bad links within tools like the Google Search Console.
During your backlinks audit, pay attention to the quality of the links you’re getting. You can often use this to identify high-authority sites to solicit more links from, as well as spot any bad links you’ll want to disavow.

Website performance audit

Another critical component of site performance is how fast your pages load on different devices. Slow sites lead to a poor experience for your users, reduce your conversions, and eventually lower your search engine rankings.
Site speed has always been a key ranking factor for Google. Recently, it also started taking core web vitals into account. A site’s core web vitals deal with how long it takes for your pages to appear in a visitor’s browser and how soon they are able to interact with your on-page elements.
All of this makes a website performance audit a necessity. Test how fast your key pages load for your users and what steps you can take to improve them.

Website security audit

Performing a security audit helps ensure that your site is protected from unauthorised access and other forms of cyber crime. By leaving your site vulnerable to such attacks, you may compromise sensitive company and customer data. In the worst case scenario, you may even lose the entirety of your site content.
During website security audit, you’ll look at:

  1. Use of proper SSL certification to encrypt sensitive data during online transmission
  2. HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to protect your site from various hacking methods
  3. Any links to unsafe domains that may compromise your site and your visitors’ safety

Website accessibility audit

To provide a truly inclusive website experience, your site should be fully accessible to users with disabilities. They must be able to view and navigate your pages on par with everyone else.
Not only is this the ethical thing to do, it also opens your business up to a broader audience. Finally, making your site accessible ensures compliance with web accessibility standards like WCAG and any local regulations regarding equal access.
During a typical website accessibility audit, you’ll at least run an automated scan to catch any obvious deviations from acceptable accessibility practices.

Brand compliance audit

Your website doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a reflection and a major component of your overall brand. In fact, for many visitors, your website will be their very first experience with your brand.
As such, you need a brand compliance audit to make sure your website is consistent with your existing brand guidelines. Does it use the right brand imagery and colours? Is the written text consistent with your brand’s tone of voice guidelines? Does the site content and the way it’s presented reflect your brand identity?
This type of audit is unique to each company and will have to involve input from your communications and marketing departments.

UX and CRO audit

Finally, you’ll want to audit your user experience and conversion rates. The ultimate goal of most sites is to convert visitors to customers or generate leads for marketing teams.
As such, you need to make sure that your customer funnels are optimised and that users can easily find what they’re looking for.
During the UX and CRO audit, you’ll review things like:

  1. Your entire user journeys: Are there any bottlenecks to fix or navigation paths to optimise?
  2. Your contact and lead generation forms: Do they work as intended?
  3. Your call-to-action buttons and other conversion elements

What is next after a website audit? 

The finished website audit isn’t a goal in itself. It’s just the first step in an ongoing process to make your site better.

After you’ve completed the audit and compiled all the necessary data, you’ll move on to analysing the results. You should decide which of the identified issues must be resolved ASAP and which ones can wait.

In order to be able to track progress, you’ll also want to define KPIs and other metrics that reflect your business goals. Once you have a prioritised list of issues and improvement metrics, it’s time to allocate resources responsible for implementing the changes.

It’s a good idea to schedule a repeat audit at some point in the future. This lets you compare the results and see if your site is improving as planned. 

website audit siteimprove reports illustration

How to choose the right website audit tool? 

Every website has a different set of needs and goals, and the information web teams seek from a website analysis varies accordingly. For example, using the same auditing software to assess a university website, a nonprofit charity, and retail online business will likely produce very different results. Evaluating site health should be a universal concern for all organizations whether private sector, public sector, or NGO.

The true benefit of an audit really becomes clear after the fact. Once you’ve audited your website and start to implement changes, you not only improve your online presence but your operation as a whole. In the modern era, nearly every element of your organization is impacted by how you present yourself on the internet. By choosing the right audit tools, you create a more trusted picture of your online presence. An audit is not only a starting point but also a definitive guide to managing your website’s content.

There are a number of useful audit tools you can use for your website. Some of them drill down into very specific detail. While that type of precision is great, a general content audit is a logical place to start.

A website audit tool takes an overall inventory of the material that lives on your site. It is an efficient and accurate way to map your information architecture and to understand your site structure. This mapping is often a big part of why an audit goes hand-in-hand with a website redesign. However, it’s always a good time to make an accounting of your site content. Here are a few important website audit tools to keep in mind.

Misspelling and broken link checkers

A good website tool audits more than just the raw content on your site. It also measures your website’s health by looking for common errors such as misspelled words and broken links. Studies show that consumers are far less likely to trust a page featuring noticeable errors. So, a site auditing tool that includes a misspelling and broken link checker is a must-have.

Digital marketing evaluation

A website audit offers excellent insights into your marketing operations. Taking inventory of your site content demonstrates how well marketing automation tools like analytics and database management programs are performing. For content marketers, an audit can also inform lead generation efforts and provide guidance for social networking campaigns.

Sitemap generators

Building a sitemap is an excellent way to keep an inventory of what content is located on your site and where it’s found. In fact, it’s a good idea to configure two separate sitemaps. An HTML sitemap creates easier navigation for both search engines and human users. An XML sitemap helps crawlers such as Google and Bing crawl and index your website more quickly. Siteimprove’s auditing tools include automatic sitemap generators that provide priceless insight into your inner workings.

Automated audit reporting

Software that offers automated audit reporting makes it easy to present concise, accurate, understandable information to upper management. This reporting, in turn, improves your chances of getting management buy-in for any big projects or significant adjustments reflected in the audit. An automated report also significantly cuts the time and effort required to organize your findings, freeing your team up to make the alterations that matter.

Real-time auditing

Whether you’re working with an e-commerce store, a government site, a K-12 education institution, or any other kind of website, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of change. A website is a living thing that’s constantly evolving which makes real-time data more relevant. Your website audit tool should include up-to-the-minute data that helps you keep errors at a minimum, read into data shifts as they’re happening, and stay ahead of potential issues before they become unmanageable.