5 step website health check to maintain site performance
In the same way that our car, boiler or fire alarm require regular servicing, it’s critical that the health of your website is regularly checked to ensure optimum performance, effectiveness and reliability. This self-help guide arms you with the necessary tools and techniques to carry out a website health check to ensure your site’s health is maintained.
As technology, user behaviour, and the Google Algorithm have an unparalleled pace of change, we recommend regular checks to protect your site, online brand, and reputation.
In this article, we will explore
- What is a website health check and why is it needed?
- Key elements of a website health check
- Search visibility
- User experience
- Monitoring & alerts
What is a website health check and why is it needed?
Put simply, a website health check allows you to check your site passes all the basic performance and security measures. Plus enables you to analyse areas of weakness where you can improve the site performance to gain better visibility and increase conversion rates.
With recent updates such as the new Google Page Insights update (take a look at our handy article for more info on this), provides more reason than ever to carry out a performance health check of your website.
We recommend you carry out a website health check monthly, but also maintain daily monitoring of elements such as traffic, and performance indicators to see if there are opportunities for improvement. We also recommend doing a thorough website audit annually to do a deep dive into each area more closely to see where you need to optimise your site to better serve your users.
Key elements of a website health check
There are five key areas that you need to cover when carrying out your website health check. These are security, performance, search visibility, user experience, and monitoring and alerts.
The security of your site deserves its place at the top of this list, irrespective of whether your site demands highest security to protect customer data to meet ICO and GDPR compliance, or whether you need to protect your investment and organisations online reputation.
Website security checks & tools
We recommend these tools to help identify any security issues including out-of-date software and compromised code.
Use this tool to check all elements of your site are being served over SSL (https) including media assets, code libraries, and tracking pixels etc, and that your user’s connection to your site is correctly encrypted.
If your site includes an application level or cloud firewall, for example, Cloudflare, Wordfence or Sucuri, you should regularly check that the service is running as expected, is up to date, firewall rules are maintained, whitelists are updated and the self-learning features are doing their job. You can do this by checking with your provider.
Website speed and reliability has always been of high importance to provide the best user experience and greatest chance of conversion. With the addition of the Google Core Web Vitals benchmarks (May 2021), your website performance is now even more critical and can impact your organic search performance.
Website performance checks & tools
Load speed/core web vitals
This tool will rate your site out of 100 for desktop and mobile speed and performance and provide suggestions for areas to improve these numbers. Make sure you’re consistently in the green zone or you might be missing out to faster competitors.
This tool will help identify if you have large images, legacy tracking pixels or coding problems that are slowing down your site.
Mobile responsive websites are no longer optional, but industry standard. Does your website also display correctly on all devices and browsers? Check the mobility report to highlight problems with mobile responsiveness of your site
It’s vital to track and monitor traffic to your site and how this changes over time and is impacted by the macro and micro environments. Spotting significant drops in traffic or abnormally large spike is key as this is usually a sign that something is wrong and needs investigating. This tool allows you to monitor your traffic metrics such as users, sessions, referrals, bounce rate, geography and much more.
3. Search visibility
There are many areas that are encompassed by search visibility or more commonly known as search engine optimisation (SEO), and it is an integral part of ensuring your website is visible to your target users. There are a handful of technical SEO elements that we recommend checking regularly using Google Search Console, and we have included some alternatives tools also to check these specific points:
Search visibility checks & tools
Broken or empty links
Broken links are very bad from a user experience point of view, but from an SEO perspective broken links restrict the flow of link equity throughout your site which negatively impacts search rankings.
XML sitemap & Robots.txt
This tool allows you to check if your sitemap is formatted correctly so you can check to see if you need to make any updates and resubmit via Google Search Console.
This tool allows you to test and validate your robots.txt to check is any URLs are blocked or which are being scanned by search engines.
This allows you to check on your backlink profile, to find out if they are from credible trusted sources and allow you to take action to enhance your profile positively impacting your search visibility.
It’s a good idea to ensure your pages are fully optimised with SEO- friendly URLs, content, structure, meta descriptions, image alt text, and meta titles within 60 characters. Some good tools to test these elements include:
- Searching for site:yourdomain.com will list all of your sites indexed pages and make it easy to check the meta titles and descriptions for all of your pages.
4. User Experience (UX)
UX can sometimes be seen as less important than other areas covered so far in the website health check. However, monitoring and optimising your user experience is just as important as it ensures you are making the most of the traffic landing on your website. This is vital to increase conversion rates and ultimately support business growth.
Website UX checks & tools
The Wave Toolbar browser extension will highlight problems with elements like colour contrast, poor use of H-tags, missing Alt-tags, bad aria landmark labelling and other accessibility issues which will impact the user experience of your site.
Content is a huge part of the user experience. Is your content engaging and converting users? Are there any content gaps within your site that you need to create quality content to better serve your users. This heat mapping tool will provide an additional layer of user behavioural data that will allow you to analyse your content.
There is nothing more wasteful than getting users to your site, but the conversion methods you have set up aren’t working correctly. Test these thoroughly and consider adding in additional lead capture options to increase your conversion rate.
5. Monitoring & alerts
Being alerted to potential issues in real-time so you can take decisive action is a must for any website owner. Setting up email alerts can be seen as just added noise to your already overflowing inbox, but choosing the right tools and the most critical alerts to be sent is an effective way of ensuring you keep your website performing optimally. Tools include:
- Uptime Robot – You can set up alerts to be warned if your website goes down, if your SSL certificate needs renewing, keyword monitoring to check for missing text and availability of network devices.
- Google Analytics – provides an excellent alert feature to notify you of significant changes for example to the average time on site, average page load time on a mobile, bounce rate, and by specific traffic source, goal conversion rate, organic traffic, transactions and revenue. You can also make this data as granular as you need, by tracking the above metrics by certain pages, geography, device type, and many other elements. This should be an early warning system that could suggest an issue.
- Google Search Console – You can use this to monitor the more technical performance aspects of your site including mobile usability issues, breadcrumb issues, coverage issues, site structure issues and changes in traffic.
Monitoring your website performance
Finally, having a central point of truth to collate and visualise all this data is key. There are many tools that allow you to do this, but we recommend Google Data Studio. With this tool, you can pull in data from an array of sources including Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Search Console, HotJar, social media platforms and many more. See the full list here.
You can then set up custom dashboards focusing on the KPIs and metrics that are most important to you and your business. This will allow you to be more productive with your time as you have all the data you need in one place, allowing you to analyse and make decisions on improvements for your website performance in less time. Find out more on how to take your reporting to the next level in our guide on Google Data Studio.
Here’s a quick demo report we’ve created to give you a little flavour for what is possible from Google Data Studio.