Whether you’re ready to undertake a new website development project or you’re wondering if it might be time to make a change, a content audit is the best way to get started. An effective website content audit will give you a good sense of issues that are visible to your site visitors, as well as to the “eyes” of search engines. Here are the steps to follow for your next audit.
Start with a sitemap
In order to get an effective picture of what’s really on your website, you need a comprehensive sitemap. There are two primary types of sitemaps:
- Visual sitemaps represent pages as they’re seen by humans. These typically follow your navigation menu.
- XML sitemaps are the coded structure of your site as seen by search engines. This indicates how organized your site really is, and sends a signal to search engines which pages you think are important and want indexed.
There are various tools on the market that will convert your XML sitemap to a visual sitemap, such as Writemaps and Screaming Frog. The sitemap will guide your audit, giving you an idea of what needs to be done in terms of overall architecture while serving as a checklist for your page-by-page audit.
If your website is custom-coded by a professional web design agency, your visual sitemap and XML sitemap should be very closely aligned—however, this isn’t always the case. If your site was built using a drag-and-drop editor or if it’s an older site that has had many hands involved, chances are the XML sitemap doesn’t match the visual sitemap. It’s possible that neither one aligns to your UX needs.
When looking at both your visual and XML sitemap, determine whether your user journey is clear and your navigation is as simple as possible.
Analyze your website content
Depending on the size of your website, the content audit is likely the most time-consuming part of your overall audit. With your sitemap in hand, it’s now time to go page-by-page and consider your user experience from both a visual and written perspective. Here are a few things to look for as you’re going through:
Grammatical and spelling errors
Regardless of what your brand voice may be, you need to use consistently proper grammar and spelling. Typos and clunky language reduce the readers’ trust and look unprofessional. Ensure everything is correct and easy to digest.
Inaccurate or outdated information
If your site isn’t current, it isn’t useful to your visitors—or to your inbound marketing efforts! Be sure that you’re offering the most current information about your products or services. If you’re citing statistics or facts, make sure they’re current with sources from the last two years.
Duplicate content on multiple pages
In order to get the best value from your site, your users shouldn’t have to read the same information over and over again. On top of potentially losing your audience’s attention, duplicate content can cause one of your pages not to rank in search engines. If you need to have duplicate content, use a canonical tag to tell the search engines which version is most important.
Current & relevant imagery
Your visual content is just as important as your written content. Not only can attractive imagery keep users on your site longer, but image search is becoming a bigger part of SEO. It’s usually preferable to use your own photography, but make sure it reflects your company as it is today—dated images can drag down the look and feel of a site. There’s also nothing wrong with using stock imagery, but try to ensure that it’s fresh, visually appealing, and matches your brand guidelines.
Use an SEO site audit tool
In addition to looking at your content for voice, tone, and relevance, you need to ensure that your site is set up for SEO success. There are many tools you can leverage to crawl your site for SEO and technical errors, such as SEMrush and Moz. These errors, if uncorrected, may impact search performance and user experience.
Your SEO audit tool should generate a list of errors to fix, which you should have in-hand alongside your content audit and site map to begin building your website project plan. An SEO site audit should include the following areas:
This includes any and all factors of your web design that determine search engine performance such as keyword density and topical coverage, title tags and meta descriptions, image alt-text, header tags, and user-friendly URL structure.
This refers to any SEO tactic that isn’t directly built into your site design, such as backlinks, social media promotion, and brand mentions, all of which contribute to PageRank, domain authority, and organic search ranking.
Broken links & redirects
Both internal and external links are important for building your site’s credibility. Broken links that resolve in 404s or frequent redirects (known as redirect loops) will give users error messages and reduce your site visibility, hurting your SEO performance. Try to replace any broken links with the old page’s closet equivalent.
URL best practices have changed over the years, so it’s important to make sure you’re following current standards. Use an appropriate breadcrumb structure to indicate exactly where a user is on the site, but avoid lengthy URLs that have a lot of words or use multiple parameters. A proper URL structure is also a good place to include keywords and show the relationship between pages, such as www.example.com/topic/detail-page/.
Duplicate or weak content
Looking at content from an SEO perspective is different from looking at it from a brand voice perspective. In the past, content generation for ranking was largely about quantity. No more. Today’s websites need high-quality content that covers topics holistically and satisfies not just keywords but the searcher’s intent behind them. The more low-value content your website has, the less chance it has to rank. An SEO audit tool will help you identify what content search engines view as falling into these categories and needs pruning.
Page errors and load times
Most SEO best practices follow user experience best practices. If your website pages load slowly or your users get frequent error messages when clicking links, they’re likely to navigate away and find your competitors. The rise of mobile search has also made page speed a priority for people searching on slower cellular data. For all of these reasons, search engines reward faster load times.
Put your website content audit into action
It’s not enough to just make a list of all the things wrong with your site—once you know what changes need to be made, take action! Whether you need help conducting an audit or you know exactly what changes you want and need to execute them, a web development agency can turn your website into a well-oiled machine. At Bayshore Solutions, we develop websites of all sizes, from single landing pages to enterprise-level eCommerce sites. Ready to take your digital presence to the next level? Reach out to our web development experts to get started.