8 Tools You Need to Audit Your Website
Whether your website is brand new or several years old, you should be running regular audits to see how it is performing. For a new website, this gives you a benchmark with which to compare its performance over the next few years. If it’s an older website, an audit will help you determine what needs to be fixed or improved.
Here’s how to take the pulse of any website using helpful (and free!) tools that will analyze your website’s page load speed, mobile-friendliness, accessibility, and SEO performance.
Page Loading Speed
You’ve experienced it: you click on a link on your phone or laptop and…nothing happens. You wait 1 second, 5 seconds maybe, then you click the back button and move on.
On average, studies show that users expect a website to load in under 2 seconds. If your website’s pages take longer than that, you’re likely losing out on potential traffic. Let’s find out how fast your site loads with these tools:
#1: Google Pagespeed
Google has a browser-based page speed ranking tool that will test any URL and rank it based on the factors that affect page load speed. Google ranks your page on a scale of 0 to 100 where our recommended minimum score at First Ascent is above 70.
A great feature of this tool is how it separates the performance ranking of your website’s mobile version with the desktop one. This is important since a growing number of users view websites on their mobile devices (more on that later).
Google Pagespeed doesn’t tell you how long it took to load the page because of variables that depend on each user like their connection speed and location. Instead, Google Pagespeed lists reasons that affect load times since these are easy to quantify and judge. Plus, you’ll get tips on how to fix the issues discovered.
Pingdom’s page loading tool is another option that offers more in-depth information.
To start a test, enter the URL of the site you wish to audit and choose from different servers located around the globe. Offering this option is a huge plus for international websites, as it gives owners a better idea at how their site might perform when accessed from a different continent.
You’ll get a performance grade after you run a test as well as more detailed information on files that were tested, what tests were run, and performance insights. Many of the data are color-coded so you can quickly pick out performance bottlenecks and find a solution right a way.
Responsive (or Mobile-Friendly) Testing
Being mobile-friendly or not is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. This is how you can test your site’s usability on mobile.
Start by running your site through Google’s Mobile-friendly Test. This will load your site, as seen by Google, and test it against rules and best practices for mobile devices. It will then show you a screenshot of your site’s first frame on a mobile device and offer advice on how to improve your website’s user experience (UX) on mobile.
Two common issues on mobile-unfriendly sites are tap targets too close together and unreadable text. Links, or tap targets, that are too close together often leads users to accidentally click on the wrong link. Unreadable text, meanwhile, is typically found on sites that don’t resize to be mobile-friendly. This is usually because the whole desktop site is simply shrunk to fit the mobile screen, making the text too small to be legible. So if your user must pinch-zoom to navigate around your site, it’s not mobile-friendly and is not performing as well as it could.
Next, run your site through Responsinator. Responsinator is a simple web page that loads your site in representations of the most common devices. While Google’s tool checks mainly for mobile-friendliness, this one checks how responsive your website is, or how it’s displayed on a range of devices. You can quickly test your site on multiple devices, and navigate through your site. You might then discover that while your mobile site looks great on an iOS device like the iPhone X (or what Responsinator jokingly calls the iPhone eXpensive), that might not be the case on Google’s Pixel 2, which runs on Android.
Did you know there are standards for accessibility on the web? Accessibility means that people with disabilities, such as color-blindness, full-blindness, and deafness, can still access your website. For example, Some people with disabilities browse the web through screen readers that read aloud to them the content on the screen. Roughly
20% of people qualify as having some form of disability and would benefit from accessibility on the web, so make sure your site’s easy to use for one-fifth of your audience. Here’s how to check if your website is accessible.
AChecker is an accessibility checker similar to the other browser-based tools we’ve seen. Input your URL and it will show you the rules that your site has passed or failed. These are divided into Known Errors, Likely Problems, and Potential Problems.
Since the list of issues might be a lot to pore through, try focusing on the larger errors. Sometimes the minor errors aren’t as necessary or can be redundant. Also, some design decisions (such as low color contrast) will break accessibility rules. If this is the case on your site, you can instead use the results as a guide on design tweaks you can do.
#6: WAVE Web Checker
WAVE Web Checker is a more interactive accessibility checker. If your website caters to people with disabilities or you simply want it to be accessible to more people, this tool will help you get there.
Recommendations are marked with icons representing passing or failing of rules next to the affected elements. This gives you a quick and easy way to have a visual rundown of the site.
You can also dig deeper into the evaluation of your website with WAVE’s detailed explanations on errors, why these matter, and how to fix them. Plus, it gives you an outline of the page so you can have a visual representation of what’s wrong and where it is exactly.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is critical to bringing organic and free traffic to your website through search engines like Google and Bing. SEO is a large and complex topic, complete with experts, gurus, hacks, best practices, poor practices, and everything else in between.
Mastering SEO is difficult, but implementing the factors that give you 80% of the benefit is easy. The site checkers below let you check best practices that your site meets, help make sure you didn’t miss anything, and educate you along the way.
#7: SEO Toolbox
SEO Toolbox is a professional, monthly subscription service that performs a very thorough check against known good and bad SEO practices. It also has a free trial program for those who don’t want to dive fully into the tool yet. The free trial allows you to run checkups on five sites, which should cover your site and your closest competitors. It checks for the site title, description, keyword density, headings, robots.txt, sitemap, SEO-friendly URLs, and much more. At the same time, it provides a good description of what each requirement is and why it’s useful. Like its name suggests, SEO Toolbox is chock-full of analysis and monitoring tools to check your website’s SEO.
#8: SEO Centro
When your free trial of SEO Toolbox expires and decide it’s not the one for you, it’s time to move over to SEO Centro, a free alternative to popular SEO checkup tools. It may not be as pretty as SEO Toolbox, but it shows essentially the same information.
When running a test, focus on the “warnings” and “errors” section in the first half of the report. These will give you the most benefit for the least amount of SEO effort. SEO Centro also lists statistics about your site’s social media presence and keywords your site may rank for based on your site’s content, offering you a snapshot of your site’s SEO performance and potential.
Now your toolbox is full!
Time to take your website’s pulse! None of these tests are the end-all, be-all, written-in-stone rules. Sometimes design, development, or financial decisions have to be made that compromise some of the rules in these web checkers, and that’s okay.
Since different tools typically take different approaches at analysis and metrics, it’s ideal that you use a combination of tools rather than relying on just one. Doing so will give you a clearer and more accurate picture of how your site performs.
Overall, regularly perform a website audit to keep you aware of your site’s current status, and guide you in identifying performance issues and what you can do to fix them.