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Website analysis: your go-to optimization resource
An introduction on how to analyze websites so you can optimize your site's performance in relation to user behavior, SEO, speed, competition, and traffic.
Last updated28 Sep 2023
Almost every guide to website analysis will tell you that you can evaluate a site’s performance by doing any or all of these actions:
Run an SEO audit
Test website speed
Carry out competitor analysis
Analyze website traffic
They aren’t wrong, and we cover the same practices later on in this guide. But we think website speed, SEO, and competitor and traffic analysis only ever tell part of the story behind your website’s performance.
The missing piece in your website analysis is understanding your visitors, users, and customers, and giving them what they came for so they don't just land on your perfectly optimized site—they stay on it, use it, and keep coming back. And that’s where our guide begins.
What is website analysis?
Website analysis is the practice of analyzing, then testing and optimizing, a website's performance.
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 loading speed or optimizing a landing page with lots of traffic for more conversions.
→ Eager to start improving your website already? Explore our curated list of website optimization tools!
A user-driven approach to website analysis
We can all agree it's important to have a site that’s fast, ranks well on Google, and doesn’t have major usability issues. We can also agree that it's equally important for your business to understand your competitive landscape and maximize the web traffic that gets to your site.
Standard website analysis helps you achieve all of the above—with a caveat; it won't give you a clear competitive advantage because your competitors are doing it, too. They all have access to the same SEO, performance, and traffic tools you use as well.
But here’s another insight you can leverage that’s 100% unique to your website: your users’ perspective.
Finding out how they got to your site, what they want from it, how they’re experience it, what’s working or not working for them—this will give you the holistic insight you need to build a great experience for the people who visit your website day in and day out.
5 ways behavior analytics contributes to website analysis
Your users are the extra source of insights you need to grow your website and business—through interaction, they know what’s working, and what’s not on your website. Behavior analytics tools (like Hotjar 👋) help you analyze this user behavior and answer valuable business questions, such as:
Where on a page do people get stuck and struggle before dropping off?
How do people interact (or fail to) with individual page elements and sections?
What are they interested in or ignoring across the website?
What do they actually want from the website or product?
Let’s look at some of the noteworthy ways your overall website analysis strategy can benefit from including behavior analytics.
1. See how users interact with a page
Knowing the number of views a particular landing page receives will only get you so far—far more important knowledge lies in understanding your users’ behavior. What’s working for them on the page? Where are they struggling? Naturally, you’ll want to examine the functionality of your page(s) to uncover (and start fixing) potential website issues.
Heatmaps are a great way to understand what users do on your website: they aggregate behavior on a page by highlighting the buttons, CTAs, and other elements your visitors interact with, scroll past, or ignore. They’re an effective data visualization tool that can make an impression on even the most numbers-averse among us.
→ Find out how you can boost engagement with these website engagement tools.
2. See how users navigate your site
If you’re looking to increase web traffic and visitor retention for your site, you’ll want to watch and track how users interact with it. Beyond heatmaps, recording individual user experiences across several pages can give you more detailed insights into how your entire site performs.
Session recordings show you how people navigate between different pages and help you uncover potential bugs, issues, or pain points they experience throughout their journey. They document various behaviors like mouse movement, clicks, taps, and scrolling across multiple pages on both desktop and mobile.
💡Pro tip: Want to know where to start improving your site? See what your users see with Hotjar Recordings and filter by Frustration score to view session replays of users who had a bad experience.
Watch how users behave on your site with session recordings
3. Get real-time feedback on how users experience your site
To collect hyper-targeted feedback on what users love and hate about your website, try introducing some feedback widgets. You can uncover how to better meet their needs when you listen to the thoughts they share about their experience.
Feedback widgets, like Hotjar's Feedback tool, can be used as a floating widget or embedded on the page to capture real-time feedback on how users feel as they experience your site. With Hotjar Feedback, you can effectively eliminate the age-old problem of not knowing just what the user experienced—no need to replicate any bugs, you can simply pull up the recording of their session to see exactly what happened.
💡Pro tip: collect compelling visual feedback by enabling users to highlight parts of the page they like or hate, so you can spot areas for improvement more easily.
With feedback widgets tools like Hotjar, you can find out what went wrong (and where) during a user experience
4. Gather targeted feedback
There are other website feedback tools that you can use to pinpoint potential pain points: maybe the user found a particular portion of text unreadable or a convoluted pricing page confused them. On-site surveys—surveys that are placed across your website pages—will help you collect in-the-moment responses from users about what they’re actually looking for or trying to do.
Using feedback tools like Hotjar Surveys is a straightforward way to make sure that your team’s decision-making includes the voices of your users. Connecting with users also creates a more human experience so they can feel more engaged with your business.
💡Pro tip: Hotjar has a survey for just about every occasion (and a bank of survey questions to borrow from). You can learn:
Surveys come in all shapes and sizes—engage with your users the way you want to
5. Interview users to understand their experience in even more detail
Analyzing how users interact with individual pages or site as a whole is a source of valuable knowledge. It becomes even more useful when you pair it with an understanding of why users take the actions they take.
You can collect more nuanced feedback to analyze by actually talking to your users—getting first-hand insights from them and asking follow-up questions to get to the bottom of why they aren’t ‘feeling’ your site, so to speak. If you’re worried about finding people to talk to, don’t sweat it: nowadays, products like Hotjar Engage make it easy to recruit interviewees and turn user insights into achievable actions.
💡Pro tip: focus on spotting key user engagement insights while Hotjar Engage seamlessly hosts, records, and transcribes your user calls. Don’t forget to have your whole team join the call.
Use interviews to connect with your users and shed light on their more in-depth needs
Any combination of the website analysis tools mentioned above will help you identify drivers that lead people to your website, the barriers and the obstacles they encounter, and the hooks that ultimately make them stay and convert.
→ Check out the next chapter on user-driven website analysis for a more in-depth list of methods.
4 more types of traditional website analysis
Traditional website analysis generally falls into 4 categories:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
1. SEO analysis and auditing tools
SEO analysis takes many forms, and the most common actions include:
On-page SEO audits
Website search engine ranking analysis
On-page SEO audits
On-page SEO auditing helps you check your website for common technical issues that can affect search engine performance, like missing <title> tags or broken redirections. This kind of analysis is usually performed using specialized tools—some of which are automated to provide helpful suggestions (like Google's own Search Console), while others are highly customizable and allow you to perform advanced analysis (like Screaming Frog).
Website search engine ranking analysis
If you’ve already dipped your toes into SEO, then you know just how important keyword research is for making sure people find your site when browsing search results. 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 also show you all the found keywords you rank for (for example, Ahrefs). Usually, these SEO checker tools also show how your website performs in different locations, e.g. United States vs United Kingdom, and across different devices such as. desktop vs mobile.
Analyzing your website's backlinks helps you find out which pages link to your site and with which anchor text, so you can compare your backlink profile to that of your competitors. This information will also inform your link-building campaigns. Most SEO tools have a backlink analysis feature built-in (Moz, Ahrefs, MajesticSEO, and so on), but you can also find a list of your backlinks in Google Search Console.
→ Did you know this guide includes an industry round-up of the top recommended SEO tools?
2. Website speed and performance tools
There are two main problems with slow-loading websites: users don't like them, and, as a result, neither do search engines. That's why speed testing is a second key area of website analysis.
A good general rule is to gather some data about web page speed—for example, what elements of it are too slow, too large, etc—and then use this information as a starting point to make the website faster.
There are many free tools available you can use to analyze website speed. Google's PageSpeed Insights 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. You can also use one of the following tools:
Website performance analysis helps you determine if your site is slow, fast, or average—but it also lets you diagnose why. You can also test mobile and desktop separately, and get an overall performance score and color-coded breakdown of the main areas and severity of the issues reported.
By analyzing key metrics like page size, load time, http requests, image compression, and browser caching, you can access the data you need to speed up your site and give your users a smoother experience. Even better is conducting ongoing website performance monitoring, so you can make sure updates aren’t making things worse.
→ We cover more website performance tools later on in this guide!
3. Competitive analysis tools
Almost all online businesses 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, quantifying the threats they pose, and finding opportunities and advantages that can be uniquely leveraged in your business.
Researching competitors is a key part of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). For ecommerce and online businesses, competitor analysis can be distilled down into two key questions:
How do our products/services compare to others in the space?
What are our competitors doing in terms of messaging?
Manual research is an effective way to collect and analyze data relating to a competitor website. You can get started very simply by just recording a few key insights and SWOT points 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).
→ Discover more competitive analysis tools in this guide’s industry round-up!
4. Traffic analysis tools
If you’re looking into your competitors’ web traffic, you’ll definitely want to analyze your own. 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 (e.g. from organic search or social media), how popular your pages are, which traffic sources convert better, and where on the website you lose potential customers helps you double-down on successful digital marketing campaigns and invest resources accordingly.
Most websites use traditional website analytics tools like Google Analytics to measure website traffic, but there are plenty of popular alternatives available, like Matomo and Open Web Analytics (OWA). To understand the why behind the what, try integrating Google Analytics with Hotjar, or try us in combo with Mixpanel to discover funnel drop-offs.
The bottom line is, traffic analysis is your key to identifying opportunities to lower a page’s bounce rate and optimize your valuable funnels. It’s worth your while to analyze where and why users drop off on your most important flows. Hotjar Funnels makes it easy to highlight the best tactics from your highest-converting flows, so you can emphasize what’s working.