Audit Your Website… You may be surprised by what you find
Holy Cow Batkids… Look what we found!!!
We recently completed a website audit for a client where we evaluated over 80 onsite factors that impact website performance for users and in search engine rankings, and we were amazed at our findings. I wanted to share some of the surprising results so you can learn from them.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at our client (who will remain nameless to protect their identity). They are a technology services company with hundreds of employees and a national footprint. They updated their 1500+ page website less than six months ago. The update included both a design change and a change in URL structure across the site. When it was completed they asked us to perform a Website Speed and Performance Audit to find and identify architectural issues that might need to be addressed. We didn’t anticipate finding many. To our surprise, we were wrong…
The Website Audit
Our SEO experts evaluated their website architecture and their content using specialized tools, complemented by good old fashion brainpower from our years of SEO analysis experience. We found that most of the factors we analyzed met SEO best practices. But there were other factors that clearly did not meet best practices from a user experience standpoint and from a search engine optimization standpoint. Our take away is that if an established company like this with qualified resources can have a not so favorable website audit outcome, there are most likely many others. Read below an excerpt of what we found. Hopefully, it might help you understand the possibility of similar issues present in your website.
In this case, we found hundreds of links not using best practices. These links used a “relative URL” rather than a “full URL.” Many of these broken links existed on their most visited website pages. A relative URL is a shortened version of the full URL which does not include the domain name. For example, href=”/contact-us/” is missing the “http://www.yourcompany.com/.” We generally assume this was an overlooked detailed during their recent website update. Another possibility is that relative URLs are frequently added to websites over time as more content is published.
Duplicate content can be a serious infraction to a website. Duplicate content in the eyes of search engines is different than duplicate content to site visitors. Thanks to Google’s latest algorithm updates, duplicate content is a bigger factor than ever before. In addition to the bad user experience duplicate content can deliver, it’s also bad news when one URL might be indexed in Google for multiple pages. Some duplicate content factors we analyze include website pages that are accessed using a combination of lower and upper case characters, or with or without the www, and with or without the trailing slashes: e.g., www.yourcompany.com, yourcompany.com/ yourcompany.com. If Google indexed these three URLs separately, that would be considered duplicate content…That’s very bad for search engine optimization.
We also found pages indexed by Google with a mix of casing (capitalization), and URLs with and without the trailing slash. We even found different URLs indexed for the home page! Egads!!! Besides discovering that Google indexed three different URL’s for the home page, these same three URL’s were used throughout the website linking back to the home page….(head shaking)….
Indexing refers to what the search engines discover on your website and how they record it (index it) in their system for retrieval by users who conduct a search. A few of the indexing factors we evaluate in a website audit include “nofollow” tags, “noindex” tags, how robots.txt is used, sitemaps and whether or not the server resides in a “bad neighborhood” in a server farm, whether it’s internal or external.
We were very surprised to find that several website pages with valuable content had “noindex” meta tags and therefore, these pages were instructing Google NOT to index them! More head shaking….Even though this a big deal, we were not too surprised to also discover that the development site and other subdomains were previously indexed by Google, AND the development site was an EXACT COPY of their production site…(more head shaking)….Our head shaking aside, these findings are not too surprising because these are fairly common problems in website maintenance. Several websites we have audited also had their subdomains indexed by Google.
Just a few years ago onsite optimization had a huge impact on search engine rankings. Although it is still important, it has less weight than before but certain factors like canonicals, internal linking strategies, and meta data still need to be audited and given due consideration.
Our website audit discovered improper use of canonicals on the main website pages. We also found internal links with inconsistent use of upper and lower case characters, and most pages were missing the meta descriptions. Are these uncommon problems? Not usually. But, considering this website was recently updated, it was unusual. Typically, these types of problems build up over time as new content is added to a website and more people touch the site through frequent updates.
Website Request Handling
When set up properly, websites communicate to other servers and to browsers how to handle pages that have been deleted or moved to another location on the site. It is very important that when creating new content, removing content or redesigning your website all URL changes be managed correctly.
In this audit we found over one hundred “302 redirects” instead of “301 redirects.” Internal links were not updated to the new URL. Instead they were handled by 301 redirection. And, there were 404 errors for pages that no longer exist. We also found several redirect chains with one URL pointing to another which redirects to another…..More head shaking….
Our website audit found that overall the site performed well but there was still room for improvement by minifying their CSS files.
We calculated an overall audit score after measuring each speed and performance category as either excellent, good, poor and very poor. Overall, the website scored 60 out of a possible score of 92, or 65%. We did not weigh the categories since each is important. However, we recommended that any category receiving a very poor evaluation and any factors singled out by our SEO experts as a significant issue be corrected as soon as possible. Many of the issues we identified can compound over time and can get more complicated to correct as more time passes and as more content is added to the site.
With the website audit now complete, the next step is to fix the errors as reported in the audit to improve the website’s speed and performance. Correcting these issues alone can have a positive impact on search engine rankings for some keywords.
A website audit can be very eye opening to any company of any size. We’ve created an ROI calculator to help you understand how improved search engine rankings can impact your top line revenue. Download our ROI calculator to estimate the ROI of improving the online discoverability of your website by as little as one or more keywords.
If you would like to learn how our website speed and performance audit can help you uncover problems with your website’s performance that may be costing your business new sales opportunities, click the image below.