How to audit your website as a web designer or developer

8 min read
Nathan Reimnitz

The full scope of benefits that come from website audits and their variations is massive. Audits for managing your online presence are an opportunity for you as a web developer or designer to analyze, refresh and adapt your site.

The goal is to improve your online visibility, discover and grow new revenue sources, and enhance the overall experience customers have while interacting with your brand.

If you’re already auditing your website’s functionality and online presence periodically, then you’re definitely off to a great start. However, if you haven’t been prioritizing your performance metrics in those audits, this post is written with you in mind. This means you may think you've been conducting full, comprehensive audits, but if you’re not looking at the right metrics that align with Google’s upcoming major search algorithm changes in May, then the analyses of your website will soon become incomplete.

Google changes the game

Last year, in May 2020, Google announced their future algorithm update, which for the first time would start weighing the user experience of web pages from a performance perspective via Google’s Core Web Vitals, or CWVs, amongst other ranking factors called “page experience metrics.”

Their algorithm update deploys in May, 2021. That’s a nicely timed one year after the initial announcement, which was intended to give you as the designer or developer ample time to optimize the performance of your website and to ensure you’ve achieved passing marks for these metrics.

An announcement of this nature from Google is surely front-page news, but it’s also sort of expected. The online giant has introduced plenty of algorithm changes over the last 15+ years that have affected user experiences, from search engine page organization to engagement optimization.

A significant change of this kind from Google confirms the direct correlation studied by other industry researchers between positive user experience and conversions.

Ever evolving platform algorithms may seem like a lot to keep up with, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult task to stay current. Falling behind the curve on major updates like this is simply no longer an option.

Perhaps you’ve heard this famous proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The same holds true in regards to auditing your online presence as a web designer or developer. Odds are, you didn’t start years ago — and that’s okay. In that case, your best bet is to get started now.

What comprehensive web presence audits entail

Comprehensive web presence audits are quite a bit more than just performance optimization. The process involves an in-depth analysis of how your website functions across all current platforms by testing the features and functionality your users experience.

Reviewing everything from your brand’s image, to content optimization, and even security, will provide you valuable insight into your overall online presence.

There are many great resources (listed below) that will help walk you through front-end website audits, SEO audits, social media audits, and more. The processes outlined in these resources will help you improve your visibility online, repair issues, discover new revenue sources, and ultimately improve your customer’s experience overall.

There’s only one catch to remember as you’re sifting through these articles: They are all laser-focused on analyzing and auditing your past without taking your future into account. That future — if you remember — is going to be based on Google’s Core Web Vitals and “page experience metrics.”

It’s worth noting here that Google’s new metric updates don’t discredit the above resources in terms of performing comprehensive web audits, but rather puts them at a lower priority than performance. The caveat is just that: Google will simply start holding your poor performance against you, come May 2021.

How to get started with your website performance audit

Fortunately, when it comes to monitoring your website’s performance metrics there’s some great FREE benchmark testing tools (listed below) available online. Each of these tools will help you identify your problem areas and provide actionable recommendations to help you avoid penalties or other performance-related catastrophes which will begin negatively impacting your organic search rankings in May.

All of these performance benchmarking tests are extremely easy to use. To use any of them, simply copy/paste your website’s URL into the box, then run the test.

Just like your website, the results of these tests will be unique.

Whether your test results surprise you in a positive (or not-so-positive) way, you’ve already completed the first step in your performance optimization journey. Now, it’s time to analyze and prioritize their recommendations.

Any items listed in red will be the highest priority, followed by the orange items. As web designers and developers, these recommendations should all make sense. But should you run into anything you don’t completely understand, I’d highly recommend consulting with an expert.

For those of you who’ve used WordPress to build your website, here’s some great off-the-shelf performance-optimization plugins to help you get started:

Why auditing your online presence before May 2021 is so important

Here’s the thing: Google’s page experience metrics and Core Web Vitals can get awfully technical, awfully quickly. Even for designers and developers who are familiar with this territory, taking action on these performance action-items can get pretty complicated.

If you haven’t considered how these new CWVs will impact your online presence, then please consider this your official wake up call.

Understanding your website’s performance metrics and actively working to improve and maintain them will ultimately give you the biggest leg-up with regard to your online visibility once Google’s new algorithm changes go into place. It’s worth noting here the metric updates don’t discredit other comprehensive web audits. It simply prioritizes performance above all else. The caveat is just that: Google will simply start holding your poor performance against you, come May 2021.

As a result, your website’s organic search rankings could get pushed off the first page of search results. In the uber-competitive world of web design and development, this could be the difference of landing your next client — or not.

So, how do you ensure you don’t fall behind the curve of this major search algorithm change? By periodically and consistently evaluating both your website performance and online presence using our recommended tools. If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is — but that doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming.

It can be helpful to get started by breaking your audit down into manageable, daily or weekly sprints in order to help you track your results and findings as you go. The second step is to then prioritize your sprints, which we highly recommend putting a performance audit at the top of that list.

Reminder: Web presence auditing is an ongoing process

There’s no such thing as a finished product when it comes to maintaining and evolving your online presence. Simply put, staying in line with current trends and changes in web environments is critical to the success of your business.

Failing to continuously monitor and enhance the performance of your web presence will eventually result in a decline of your brand value to your customers.

As we approach a very purposeful, dramatic change in search visibility with Google, if your website doesn’t meet the minimum threshold for page performance metrics, you’re going to have an exponentially harder time ranking organically. Not prioritizing these new standards for 2021 (or even ignoring them) simply isn’t an option.

Come May, your search rankings are going to reflect how performance-focused your business actually is. Now is the time to ensure you’re providing the fastest experience — and therefore highest value — possible to your audience.

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