Having just completed a few website audits reminded me of the important role website audits play in developing and improving web presence, local or international, and also how important it is to do this the right way.
Why do a website audit
The first question, of course, is why to do a website audit. And while there are several possible reasons for this, the most obvious one is that is gives you a good snapshot of where your web presence is today and pragmatic advice, what needs to be improved.
Like most audits, the best way to do this is to have an external party do this: Not only will they know best what to check for, but they will also be able to benchmark your results against others, including your competitors, and thus put the results into a meaningful business context.
In my own work, website audits often occur at the start of a project, i.e. either before a website is localised for other markets or, if the website has already been localised, to assess how well this was done. The other scenario – and I have had a few of these recently – is on completion of a project or project phase, e.g. the development of a new website, the localisation of a website or the execution of some major e-marketing activities, to measure how well this is working or indeed to track down, why it is not working as well as hoped for.
Website audit versus SEO audit
While the two terms, website audit and SEO audit, are often confused with each other, it is important to distinguish between a website audit and an SEO audit.
An SEO audit is focused on website visibility, i.e. to check technical, structural, and content-related aspects of the website, and how well they contribute to the visibility of the website. So, in sum, this very much has a technical focus and a focus on visibility.
A website audit, in contrast, is broader and an SEO audit is just one part of a website audit.
A website audit, if done in the right way, should always be business-driven. The key question a full site audit seeks to answer is, if the website (or indeed the overall web presence) of the company reaches its business and marketing goals.
Website audit tools
There are a range of tools available to support and automate the process of a website audit.
These tools, and I have just tested and benchmarked some of them, are very helpful and should be used in the process, as they allow to save time and also automate some very mundane tasks.
However, it is important to be aware of their limitations as well as best way to use them:
1. Realistically, these audit tools only support the SEO audit activities of the overall site audit. They excel at looking and checking out data and structures and how these meet search engine SEO criteria (e.g. those of Google), but they don’t and can’t understand the business, so fall short on that side and lack any business context.
2. Website audit tools are automated tools with very little real intelligence. They check, if certain (SEO) rules are met or not. This degree of automation without any real intelligence also means that, depending on the tool, the results these tools yield, can highlight items that are not really an issues and, at the same token, miss issues that need to be addressed. Only an expert can interpret and evaluate the results properly and often the results are just the starting point of some further investigative work.
That said, and with these provisos recognised, SEO audit tools are useful indeed and even free SEO tools can be useful for a first check of the website.
In conclusion - the benefits of doing a website audit
So, as explained above, it is important to distinguish between a website audit and an SEO audit, the latter being a subset of the former.
It is also important to assess critically the use of tools, their strengths and their limitations. But that is by no way to say not to use them, but instead the advice is to be careful about which tools to use, how to interpret their results, and not to forget that they primarily provide information for the SEO-focused side of a website audit.
Doing a website audit is broader than an SEO audit and has many benefits. The main benefit of a website audit is that, if done correctly, it provides very clear and concise feedback for business management and marketing, as to how the website currently contributes to marketing, lead generation, sales and other business goals, and most importantly, an overview of what needs to be done do to better to meet business goals.
Overall, a website audit is a relatively small project and a good and indeed vital starting point before embarking on the design and development of a new or revised website or localising a website for new international markets.