Last Updated Sep 02 2019

Website analysis: the user-driven approach

To know if your website is performing well, you can: 

  • Perform an SEO audit
  • Test website speed
  • Research competitors
  • Analyze website traffic

In this guide, we cover the above practices which come under the umbrella term of ‘website analysis’—but we also show you that website speed, SEO, and competitor and traffic analysis only tell you part of the story behind your website's performance.

The missing piece is understanding your visitors, users, and customers, and giving them what they need so they not only get onto your perfectly optimized site—they stay on it, and use it, and keep coming back.

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What is website analysis?

Website analysis is the practice of testing and analyzing a website's performance in relation to SEO, speed, competition, and traffic.

Any site can benefit from some form of website analysis if the results are then used to improve it—for example, by reducing page size to increase overall speed or optimizing a landing page with lots of traffic for more conversions.

4 types of traditional website analysis (according to Google)

Traditional website analysis roughly falls into 4 categories: SEO, speed, competition, and traffic.

1. SEO analysis and auditing tools

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SEO analysis takes many forms and includes everything from on-page technical audits to backlink tracking. 

 

On-page SEO audits

On-page SEO auditing helps you check your website for common technical issues that could affect your search engine performance, like missing alt attributes on images. This kind of analysis is usually performed via specialized tools—some of which are automated to provide helpful suggestions (for example, SEOOptimer), while others are highly customizable and help you perform advanced analysis (like Screaming Frog). 

Website search engine ranking

Search engine ranking analysis shows you where your website appears for specific keywords on search engines like Google or Bing.

Some rank trackers will calculate your website performance based on a keyword of your choice (like Serpbook), while others will show you all the found keywords you rank for (for example, Ahrefs). Usually, these tools also show how your website performs in different locations (e.g. Google.com vs Google.ca) and on desktop vs mobile.

Backlink analysis

Analyzing your website's backlinks helps you both find out which pages link to your site and with which anchor text, and compare your backlink profile to that of your competitors. Most SEO tools have a backlink analysis feature built-in (Moz, Ahrefs, MajesticSEO, etc.), but you can also find a list of your backlinks in Google Search Console. 

 

Editor’s note → this guide includes an industry round-up with the best/most recommended SEO tools. Check them out! 

2. Website speed and performance tools

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A second key area of website analysis is speed testing. There are two main problems with slow-loading websites: users hate them, and, as a result, so do search engines. 

You can use many free tools to analyze website speed: 

  • Google's PageSpeed Insights tool is a good starting point, and will show you key speed metrics like First Contentful Paint (FCP), which is the time it takes for a browser to start displaying content
  • GTmetrix
  • Pingdom
  • WebPageTest 

Website performance analysis helps you determine if your site is slow, fast, or average but also lets you diagnose why. You can also test mobile and desktop separately, getting an overall performance score and a color-coded breakdown of the main areas and the severity of the issues reported.

By analyzing key metrics like page size, load time, http requests, image compression, and browser caching, you can get the data you need to speed up your site and provide a lightning-fast experience to your users. 

Editor’s note → this guide includes an industry round-up with the best/most recommended website performance tools. Check them out! 

3. Competitive analysis tools

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Almost all online businesses will have competitors who offer a similar product, service, or experience to the same target audience. Competitive analysis is the practice of identifying and analyzing competing companies and quantifying the threats and opportunities you can leverage in your business. 

Researching competitors is a key part of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). In addition to the threats competitors pose, you need to know what else is on the market in order to know what's unique about your business. 

For e-commerce and online businesses, competitor analysis can be distilled down into two key questions:

  • How do our products/services compare to other sites in the space? 
  • What are your competitors doing in terms of messaging?

Manual research is the most effective way to collect and analyze competitors' websites, recording data on a spreadsheet for easy comparison. 

Competitor analysis tools like SEMRush or SimilarWeb can also help you discover insights about how popular competitors' websites are (traffic volume) and how customers find them (traffic source).

 

Editor’s note → this guide includes an industry round-up with the best/most recommended competitive analysis tools. Check them out! 

4. Traffic analysis tools

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Traffic analysis helps you monitor the volume and activity of visitors to your website, and determine your most successful pages and traffic generation techniques. 

Knowing where website traffic originates, how popular your pages are, and which traffic sources convert better helps you double-down on successful marketing campaigns and invest your resources accordingly.

Most websites use traditional analytics tools like Google Analytics to measure website traffic, but there are plenty of popular alternatives available, like Matomo and Open Web Analytics (OWA).

 

Editor’s note → this guide includes an industry round-up with the best/most recommended website analysis tools. Check them out!

The user-driven definition of website analysis

There's nothing wrong with standard website analysis. It’s important to have a site that ranks well on Google, is fast, and doesn’t have major bugs, and it’s also important to understand the competitive landscape and what other sites people compare yours to. You must run this type of website analysis—but there is a caveat: you’re not going to get any competitive advantage from doing it. 

All of the above is a must-have that your savviest competitors are probably already doing—they all have access to the same SEO tools, performance tools, etc. you use as well. 

So the best way for you to compete and stand out is by analyzing your website from a truly unique perspective: that of your users.

You can do so by adding a few more website analysis tools to your toolkit:

  • Behavior analytics tools (such as heatmaps and recordings) to understand how people behave on and interact with your website
  • Feedback and Voice of the Customer tools (such as online and on-site surveys) that help you discover what they like, dislike, and need from your website and business

A combination of these tools will help you Identify the drivers that lead people to your website, the barriers and the obstacles they encounter, and the hooks that ultimately make them stay and convert—that’s our user-driven definition of website analysis, and it’s what we’re going to cover in the rest of this guide.

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