Audit Your Website – For Beginners

I wan to share with you some tips to audit your website, meaning, how to find issues and fix them yourself. These come in handy if you are starting out and can’t afford a professional yet, or you don’t need a big audit, but there are things that you know could be better.

Ready to learn how to audit and optimize your website yourself?

SSL Certificate

What is SSL? You sometimes see a lock on the address bar while browsing websites. If you look up to the bar right now, you can see that my website has that same lock. This lock represents secure websites. When you don’t see this lock, you might find a message saying not secure. This does not mean you’re entering a dangerous zone unless this site handles with people’s payments and private information. If a website does not have SSL, it will not have the security to process that information without a threat.

Recently search engines want to make sure that every website has a valid SSL certificate; whether they manage e-commerce, private information, or not. Therefore, websites without SSL enabled might rank lower on search engines because 1) they do not have this requirement and 2) people tend to walk away from a website that could threaten their security. Google and other search engines take this very seriously. All the websites, no matter what information they handle, should have an SSL certificate. Search engines will like you if you do.

SSL Shopper

Many of us don’t know that you can get free SSL from many places. I didn’t know this at first and I purchased a big package for one of my websites. Granted, the package I bought is specific to work on domains and subdomains, which I needed. But if I would have known I could get a free SSL certificate, it would have been cheaper to buy individual domains for my subdomains than buying that big SSL package.

So, as mentioned, depending on your host you can receive a free SSL certificate for your domain. Now, if you wonder whether your website has one already, you can find out quickly by using SSL checker. You insert your domain in this page and the program will go through your website and inform you which links, images, and content are not being delivered securely. With this report you can go ahead and make the necessary changes so that your whole website appears safe for the public and you get the little lock.

Website Speed

A lot of websites load very slowly. You know that when you visit a website that takes too long to load, you leave it and look for what you want somewhere else.

GTmetrix

I’m at risk of sometimes having a slow website because I like to use large images with very high resolution. You can use tools like GTmetrix, to keep track of how long it takes people to load a website. To use GTmetrix, you insert your URL and click on Analyze. It will take some time because it will load your whole website and analyze what makes it slower. It will give you suggestions on what to modify to increase your website’s speed. Once you know what slows down your website, you can determine whether you can make the changes yourself or ask for a professional to do it instead.

Smush

As I previously mentioned, I love using big images on my website and I will not stop doing it. But I have a plugin installed on my WordPress website called Smush that helps with this. Every time I upload an image, Smush takes the image and resizes it to what I need it for my website, and deletes any unnecessary information from the file. It does not delete any part of the visual, but it removes background information that add “extra weight” to the image, and thus, the loading time.

Hosting

A great part of your speed may also depend on your hosting. If you have fixed the suggested issues and your website still loads very slowly, look into your host. Look into what other people are saying about it in reviews and blog posts. Depending on what you find, you might want to move your website somewhere else that provides better speed. If you want my recommendations, check out my post on Hosting for Creatives.

Other issues reported by the speed checkers might relate to CSS, JavaScript, and coding in general. If you don’t know these areas, better hire a professional.

Responsiveness

Make sure that things work on your website. A couple of weeks ago, I was interested in maybe getting help with some things, so, I remembered someone who offered the service. I was in bed, with no intention of being on my computer, but thinking of visiting that person’s website on my phone. Once there, I could not access her menu no matter how much I tried to click on it. And yep, I did not get up to try to access it from my computer. I got distracted with something else, and nothing happened.

If you have not optimized your website for mobile browsing, you will lose clients. Make sure to check your website on different devices to ensure that your menus, footer, and everything else works and is readable. This is pretty much what an audit does—seeing how the experience on your website is like.

Check your SEO

There is a lot to SEO (search engine optimization) and I can only give you quick tips. I use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. It has a red-orange-yellow traffic light system that guides you through the process. Depending on the content I’ve written, it shows a red light or a green light. When I have a red light, it recommends me what to edit to optimize my content for search engines. The green light indicates that the content heads in the right way and also includes suggestions at the bottom. It is often telling me to shorten the paragraphs and run-on sentences, I wonder why, haha. Once I fix the issues, it scores my content as more readable. It also indicates me when my images don’t have an alt attribute, or if I’m not including keywords sufficiently, or if I should add more internal or external links.

Website Preview

Yoast SEO lets me choose and preview how my website looks like on search engines and social media. For example, if I were to share my website on Facebook, I know exactly what image and text description will pull up. When you customize how people preview your website on the web, you can choose the words and images that will help you attract the audience you want, instead of letting the a machine randomly select it. You can learn more about How To Set Up Your Website’s Preview in this other post.

Yoast SEO makes sure that you have optimized content for search engines and for the people who read it. When readers consider your content clear and easy to follow, they will want to read more from you.

User Experience

For this tip, rather than doing it yourself, have someone else do it for you. Ask anyone that is not very familiar with your website to go through it, either on a computer, phone, or both. Have them point out to you things that may not work well, things that do work but might look a bit off, or things that they don’t understand. Ask them to share with you any questions that come. Having others—a friend, roommate, spouse or anyone else—share with you their experience will greatly contribute to your audit because they will spot things that you might not, due to your familiarity to the website.

If you enjoyed reading these tips and want to learn more, check out my Website Must-Haves series. I hope to see you around!

Getting your website launch-ready?

I have a free video training and workbook with recommendations and tutorials to help you get your website in shape! (Whether you’ve launched it yet, or not!) Interested? GRAB THE FREE WORDPRESS, READY, GO! MINI COURSE

Welcome to the Stargazed Studio Blog! A space where we expand on topics relevant to our business and our clients, dive deep into our resources and work systems, share tutorials, prompts, and parts of our business journey, and recommend you things we love to use ourselves.

Author
Sara Obando

Date
September 3, 2019

Categories
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Sara Obando

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