Top 5 tools for a thorough website health check

Just like servicing your car, or getting the GP to give you the once over, it’s essential that organisations regularly carry out a website health check.

Changes to SEO rankings, customer trends and technology mean that even a website that was created in just the last year or so needs inspecting. A poorly performing website will negatively affect your ranking and even those few customers that still come through will be left infuriated at slow loading times or dead links.

Bugs and glitches might be picked up by customers or employees, but less obvious matters that may affect the website’s performance, including important matters such as data security, might require an expert eye. While retaining a website developer or marketing agency could prove expensive, thankfully there are loads of free and low-cost tools out there to help with optimisation.

A poorly performing website will negatively affect your ranking and even those few customers that still come through will be left infuriated at slow loading times or dead links. Click To Tweet

Top 5 issues for your website health check

Carry out a regular website health check by examining these five key issues and employing these leading tools…

Speed

Customers do not want to hang around and will punish those who make them do so. Research from Google’s Doubleclick published in 2016 suggests 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load. It added that Ancestory.com recorded a 7% positive rise in conversions after improving the render time of pages by 68%, reducing page bloat by 46% and reducing load time by 64%.

Speed can also affect the number of visitors who discover your website, as Google said earlier this year that ‘Site Speed’ will be used as a ranking factor when its mobile-first index goes live in 2018.

Try this: Pingdom can help you test your site speed.  Or Google’s Pagespeed tool, which is nice and simple, will calculate the speed with which your page loads on both mobile devices and PC. It will also make suggestions as to how you can speed up your loading times, although implementing the changes might require the services of a web designer.

Errors

An unreliable website is annoying for visitors and makes your organisation look unprofessional. In fact, a site with a tonne of broken links and 404 errors can often look as though it isn’t even in use anymore. Linking out to expired external URLs isn’t great for user experience, and again implies perhaps that as a resource, your site is getting out of date. Would you make a purchase through a site that didn’t seem to be well maintained? Wouldn’t potential customers be almost certain to avoid handing over sensitive payment data to a site that seemed broken?

Try this: If you want to get on top of error handling and other crawl issues, start by getting a Google Webmaster Tools account. Take a look at ‘Crawl errors’ found via the ‘diagnostics’ panel after you’ve verified your site. Paying particular attention to the ‘Not found’ and ‘Timed out’ reports, it is wise to test each error with a http header checker online. Perhaps the market leader is Moz, which includes Crawl Test as part of its Moz Pro subscription – they offer a 30-day free trial. Moz’s bot inspects the page code to report on fundamental SEO factors like Title tags and locate potential SEO impacting errors like 404 status codes (page not found) and much, much more.

Safety

Global online commerce depends upon trust. While suspicion of online banking and payments has decreased over the last two decades, that’s only because security standards through HTTPS domains have risen. Companies involved in data breaches put their customers at risk and ruin their own brand, as seen recently when Equifax compromised the personal and financial data of around 150 million consumers – half a million of whom were in the UK.

SSL Certificates – that’s Secure Sockets Layer – provide secure, encrypted communications between a website and an internet browser. An SSL Certificate is a badge that let’s all of your visitors or potential customers know that the information they submit via your site is safe. SSL Certificates protect sensitive data, such as credit card information, exchanged during each visit, from being intercepted from non-authorised parties. Make sure you don’t put your business and customers at risk by regularly checking SSL Certificates.

Try this: There are countless SSL Certificate checkers on the market each of which will diagnose problems with installation. You can verify the SSL certificate on your web server to make sure it is correctly installed, valid, trusted and doesn’t give any errors to any of your users. SSL Shopper is one site that can carry out these checks, but shop around to find the right solution for you.

If you are yet to buy an SSL Certificate for your site then check your hosting package before you purchase one. SSL certificates are almost always included as part of your package or become available by upgrading your hosting package. Pantheon is one such hosting platform.

Layout

In an attempt to improve the user-friendliness of your site, check the readability of your pages. Are they easy to follow? Are calls to action and other important nuggets prominent enough? If it doesn’t quite work, maybe it’s time to talk about the F-Pattern and the Z-Pattern.

The F-Pattern is a page layout philosophy, backed up by research from Nielsen Norman Group, which contends that readers will diligently absorb from left to right at the start of a block of text, and increasingly scan as they continue. Their reading pattern thus follows an ‘F’ shape. Hide an important piece of information or link on line No.12 and you are forcing readers to work hard to discover why they should click through.

People don’t read text in a word-by-word manner, so front-load with links, information and CTAs in the first two paragraphs. The F-Pattern also confirms the importance of sub-headers as readers will still pick out those major words on the left-hand side of the text.

Those pages that are not primarily text driven should deploy a Z-Pattern. Ideally, you want people to see your most important information first and your next most important information second. Thus, important elements should be placed along the scanning path and visitors should be presented with the right information at the right time.

Following a Z shape, the end of the letter (at the bottom right) is an ideal place for your primary Call to Action.

Try this: It’s important that text on your website makes sense and engages visitors, so why not deploy a free tool to check readability? Readable.io says that a site has just “seven seconds to grab someone’s attention,” and offers free and premium tools for testing the standard of writing. WebPageFX’s Readability Test Tool is another tool worth considering.

Of course, if you already have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, then you’ll already have access to their readability function which highlights particularly long sentences or excessive use of passive voice which is a much less engaging experience for your visitors.

Mobile

The importance of a flawless mobile site cannot be stressed enough. Around half of all internet traffic now comes via mobile, with handheld devices overtaking desktop for the first time in 2016. With mobile-friendliness now a ranking factor with Google, it’s essential that website owners should put a mobile-first approach at the core of their strategy.

Mobile UX problems can be identified by the layman – we’re all consumers after all. First up, visit your website and have a good look around. Consider if it’s easy to navigate and whether buttons are easy to spot and large enough to click. Make sure your mobile site is not just your entire website squeezed in that little screen. Toning it down colour-wise also helps.

Try this: Google’s Mobile-Friendly test evaluates your site on various aspects that matter for the user’s mobile experience, like site speed and font size.

If you feel your website could be doing more, GrowthMinds can help transform it into your business’ window to the world and an opportunity for growth. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch for a chat.