It’s time for a website health check – TechRadar

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As we settle into the new year, businesses are busy setting targets for their online revenue, conversion, and awareness-driving efforts for the year. With online sales experiencing steep growth over the past two years (aided by pandemic-related changes in consumer behavior), companies are naturally looking to maintain this growth and make new improvements for sustained momentum. Of course, taking the right steps in this first quarter of the year will provide some much-needed assistance in making those targets a reality by end-of-year.

About the author

Craig Dunham, CEO of Deepcrawl.

If building more awareness and driving more conversions are priorities for your team, it’s time to get serious about your website’s overall health and search performance. In research Deepcrawl conducted with Econsultancy, we found that 89% of marketing leaders agree that organic search will drive more revenue in the future—and nearly half of respondents estimated that organic search already influenced more than a quarter of their organization’s total revenue. 

To set your business up for success in the months to come, Q1 is the perfect time to conduct a website health check that can identify exactly which changes you’ll need to make to your website this year to drive more revenue from organic search. 

Why online retailers should start the year with a website health check

As the eCommerce landscape grows increasingly competitive, marketers cannot afford to rely solely on paid channels to do the heavy lifting when it comes to customer acquisition, conversion, and online sales. This is especially true today, with new privacy concerns driving down the potency and value of many digital advertising platforms. To succeed in driving awareness and conversions, your website needs to work as hard as you do. 

A healthy website is one that performs well in organic search, creating more opportunities for conversions. Improving your website’s health and SEO can have a powerful impact on return on investment for businesses who take the time to prioritize these organic channels. But to rank well in the search engines, you’ll need to first understand where improvements can be made on your site. 

Implementing strong search engine optimization strategies for your website is a slow and steady process and one that requires regular maintenance and analysis. In an increasingly search-first world, it’s not only worth the effort, it’s a vital step in maintaining competitiveness and increasing market share. Of course, creating stronger SEO for your website requires a solid foundation to begin with, so you need to start with a deep understanding of your website’s current health.

Key areas to audit in your website health check

1. Check for website crawlability and indexability issues

Onpage SEO provides the foundation for ranking well in Google and other search engines. This involves many of the ‘unseen’ elements of your website, such as your underlying website code, robots.txt directives, HTTP status codes, and Javascript rendering issues. A core part of technical SEO is ensuring your website can be both crawled and indexed appropriately by search engines, so they know best how to rank the website in response to relevant user queries. It’s not enough to build a great-looking site; if it cannot be properly crawled and indexed by search engines, few people will ever see it. If search engines aren’t showing users your website, you’re leaving a lot of potential for conversions on the table. 

Your website health check should look for crawlability and indexability issues to ensure your site can show up for users in search. This will involve reviewing your sitemaps, making sure you have canonical tags in place for duplicate content, and ensuring your noindex, nofollow, and disavow controls are not blocking any important webpages from being crawled or indexed. 

2. Analyze page loading and website speeds

Website loading times are a determining factor in bounce and click-through rates—and with last year’s Google search updates putting even more importance on Core Web Vitals like page speed as part of their ranking determinations, it’s never been more important to address this aspect of your website’s overall health. To satisfy user expectations and lengthen the time users spend on your site, page loading has to optimized for speed, while retaining all the navigational and technical functions that make a website really ‘work’.

A 2021 study showed that pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that load in five seconds see their bounce rates increase dramatically to 38%. Therefore it is imperative that websites adhere to the under-two-second benchmark to increase their likelihood of driving online revenue. Page speeds are a top priority in website health and related issues should be fixed as soon as possible, as additional reports have shown that 46% of users are not likely to revisit a site whose performance they deemed poor. 

Several tools exist that can help you assess your site’s overall speed and your individual page loading times. Google PageSpeed Insights and Google Analytics are accessible and reliable examples, but eCommerce businesses whose websites have a huge number of pages to analyze may want to seek out a more robust SEO analytics platform—luckily, there are some great SEO solutions available on the market today. 

3. Optimize with mobile in mind

Internet use has seen a dramatic and well-documented transition away from the desktop and towards mobile browsing in recent years. Statista reports that  54.6% of internet browsing in Q1 2021 was performed on mobile, making mobile optimization  an unmissable facet when seeking to improve your website’s overall health. 

Optimizing for both mobile and desktop is crucial when catering for differing user patterns, and accessing the broadest range of potential customers. The primary goal of mobile optimization is to enable site visitors to easily navigate and convert on all device types. So, when adding, changing, or removing website features, remember how important it is to think about mobile users. 

Your site content, navigational elements, and website architecture are primary considerations when ensuring your website is mobile-friendly. Once more, there are  tools to help assess your site’s mobile performance optimization.  Google’s Mobile Usability Reports, available through Search Console, can be useful in assessing how your site runs on mobile devices and provides ratings and guides for improvement. 

4. Make sure your content is structured to compete in the SERPs

While last year’s Google search updates have put a strong focus on user experience and Core Web Vitals for SEO, don’t forget to check the content-related elements that contribute to your rankings in the search results. Make sure your title and h1 tags are addressing your keyword targets, internal linking is in place to promote your most important content, and meta descriptions and schema are in place to drive click-through rates from the search engine results pages (SERPs).

5. Address current website issues and plan for future optimization

Once you have actionable insights garnered from your website health check, it’s time to address any problems you’ve found and establish suitable processes to ensure your team has a strong SEO plan moving forward. You may also want to consider adding a dedicated SEO tool to your MarTech stack this year to help create efficiencies through SEO automations. Having SEO automations in place can save your internal teams quite a lot of time and help prevent website updates that might negatively impact your search results from going live in the first place. 

For technical SEO issues like site speed, Javascript rendering issues, broken links, and site architecture improvements, you’ll likely need to work with your web development team to fix these errors. SEO is a constantly evolving discipline and your teams will need to keep up with the latest developments in search engine technology to stay at the top of the search results. Make sure your web development team is informed about your health check results and keep them involved regarding new SEO processes you’d like to put in place. A seamless relationship between SEO teams, marketing departments, and developers is crucial when you want to address SEO problems quickly (and can help prevent future SEO issues from arising).

The benefits of a website health check

Your website health and organic search efforts are about more than just optimizing one specific sales channel. Conducting in-depth website health and SEO audits can provide vital insights into your customers’ behavior, your competitors, and larger industry trends and developments. 

Having a solid understanding of your website’s health alongside its performance within the wider search landscape can help you better understand what consumers are looking for, what pain points your business can solve for them, and help you keep track of competitive threats.  Having regularly scheduled website health checks will also allow you react quickly to any changes in your search engine rankings or website performance, helping you to  avoid any potential losses in awareness or conversions. 

SEO today is about much more than just keywords. Digital marketers and business leaders need to gain a holistic view of their website’s overall health in order to identify and optimize the specific areas that will lead to maximum impact both in terms of your search visibility and your opportunities for driving revenue. 

We’ve featured the best SEO keyword research tools.

Craig Dunham

Craig Dunham is the CEO of Deepcrawl.