New Year Website Audit

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

With the start of the New Year fast approaching, now is the perfect time to go over your web projects and do a little housekeeping.

Sometimes things get out of date or pushed to the bottom of the to-do list when you are busy during the year – and with the year we have had in 2020 it’s worth putting in a little effort to be able to begin 2021 with a clean slate and a good platform for your online presence.

New Year Website Checklist

Lots of these tasks are quite simple and once out of the way, will leave room for new growth – check out our 13 simple ways to improve your website for the New Year.

  1. Update Your CMS And Plugins. Most people using WordPress or similar content management systems will be guilty of letting it lapse a few versions, which is understandable – updates can cause functionality problems with existing content and plugins, so they can be a bit of a hassle. However this means you’re missing out on upgraded security and functionality, so it’s usually a matter of taking the time to sit down and get everything working with the latest version.
  2. Fix Webmaster Errors. The Google Webmaster Tools offer a comprehensive analysis of the status of your website, allowing you to see it through the eyes of a search engine. Most of the time it will be technical errors such as missing pages or broken links, but it will also alert you to more worrying problems such as malware or compromised pages. These can drastically affect whether your site is displayed to searchers or not, so it’s definitely wise to tidy these up for the new year.
  3. Review Backlinks. The fact that major search engines dislike poor quality or spammy links is no secret, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that you have them. Use a backlink profiler such as WebCEO to build up a list of sites linking to you, then analyse them to see if they’re worth the connection. Getting links removed can be a tricky business, but with increasing penalties for bad links it’s worth it in the long run.
  4. Speed Check Your Website. Page speeds directly affect user experience and site reliability, Google provides a great page speed tool offering insights on how your site loads, and from there you can implement strategies to tighten up and improve loading times. A slow site can deter visitors by making them wait to view your content and get the response they’re looking for. You can test your website’s loading speed on a site such as GTMetrix. Ways to improve page speed might include reducing image sizes, streamlining page content, or possibly change your hosting plan.
  5. Create A Site Map. In order to gain a better understanding of your website as it stands, forming a solid site map so you know how large your website is and what the search engine robots will find when they crawl it is a great idea. A site map also allows you to keep track of the progress on every page, and make a full spreadsheet analysis. You can use a tool such as Screaming Frog to do this.
  6. Check Keyword Rankings. Make a list of the all of the keywords you’re targeting on each page of your website then check the rankings using a tool such as What’s My SERP. This allows you to see which keywords are performing well and which ones are falling short. Identify which ones you need to focus on more over the coming year.
  7. Analyse User Metrics. Make sure you are providing an enjoyable experience on your website and have good user metrics. These include low bounce rate, time on site, returning visits and click through rates. Take time to review these stats and work to improve them.
  8. Remove Duplicate Content. While you usually won’t be penalised for having duplicate content on your site, its best practice not to give Google any reason to decrease your rankings. Spend time to make sure you’re not targeting the same keywords across your website or closely related terms. Make sure your URLs do not have duplicate parameters. For more information see this excellent guide about possible duplicate content that could be holding you back.
  9. Analyse Your Content. Your content is what’s going to sell your products and convince people to stay engaged with your website. Read through it to ensure it’s free of spelling and grammatical errors, that all descriptions are concise and to the point, and that all necessary information is available. Are two pages doing the same or very similar jobs? Is there a point at which it might be unclear which one the user should visit? Over the year a lot of new content may be added without too much checking of how it fits into the site as a whole. Use this chance to review and collate. For a more in-depth analysis of your content, work through a content audit.
  10. Get Some Feedback. One of the best ways to get a good idea of how your website is perceived is through real user feedback. This can be obtained on a site such as UserTesting. This data can be very useful when making changes to your website.
  11. Befriend The Trash Can. Check through and ensure any disused pages have been properly moved to the trash or removed from the site – in a CMS like WordPress you can still retrieve trashed items, so don’t worry about losing them forever. Just get them out of your way.
  12. Clean Up Your Media. Images and video files are the largest elements of a website so it’s best to keep these as organised and efficient as possible. Use helpful tools like PicResize and Tiny PNG to resize and optimise images. If possible, use the same URL for the same image across the site, and save them as appropriate file types – graphics appearing on every page such as logos and banners will often be smaller and load faster as gifs.
  13. Update Your Dates. It’s good to check any year sensitive dates mentioned in your site. Do your copyright lines in your footer still mention last year? Do you have a booking page where dates need to be updated? Do you have content that is out of date?

If you’ve let your website lapse a bit, now’s the right time to tidy up loose ends and comb through your content to give yourself the best advantage possible going into the New Year. Any website can benefit from an audit as new best practice standards are changing constantly and you should be looking to tweak and update your website at least annually to keep it current with the latest trends and developments. 

Decided your website needs a major overhaul – then take a look at our 4 top tips for redesigning your website for 2021 below.

4 Top Tips For Effective Website Redesign

Thinking about giving your website an upgrade for the New Year? Keeping your website fresh and modern is essential for engaging customer interest. An up-to-date website signals an active business that is on board with the latest trends.

A website redesign can sometimes be tougher than creating from scratch however. There are tough decisions to be made; mixing the components that are already working well with new elements can be a tricky balance.

The hardest part about deploying an effective website redesign is often judging the balance between old and new. It’s useful to consider combining your site rebuild with a business plan review and then ensure there’s a strong relationship between the two. Consider the following key points when planning a major overhaul.

  1. Reidentify Your Target Audience. Chances are your business has changed significantly since you developed your previous website. Perhaps you have discovered your niche, or conversely have opened up new audiences and avenues of business. A website redesign is an excellent time to reconnect with your intended audience and decide what content is the most important on your website going forward.
  2. Review Your Content And Goals. Similarly, you may now want your website to do different things. Would a blog add to the customer experience and boost SEO? Are there new products or ways of making purchases you could include on your website? Should you add more video? Analyse the way you want users to interact with your site. Creating outstanding content is the key to getting a website firing on all cylinders.
  3. Keep The Essence Similar. If it’s too strange and new, you may risk alienating existing clients with a complete website overhaul. You don’t want to make people feel like they’re dealing with an entirely new company. To ensure the design flow, you may want to keep some of the old elements such as the colour, logo or overall page structure and rejuvenate and refresh them instead.
  4. Always Keep SEO Factors In Mind. This is the number one mistake we most often see when people decide to redesign their website. Any changes to your website can profoundly affect search engine rankings due to the restructuring of the site. If possible keep the page URLs the same and use 301 redirects for any page URLs  that have to change. Review what pages are popular and important on the old site and make sure these pages exist in the new site.

Once you have the above audit information, you can make informed choices about how to develop your website going forward and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If you need help with your website audit or to delve a little deeper into the audit process, Avatar offers a comprehensive auditing service.

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Mark started working in the Internet industry in 1994. He went on to startup New Zealand Tourism Online, Avatar and other companies. Mark enjoys meeting with clients and strategising online marketing solutions.

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