We all want fast, usable sites that Google can crawl and index for the right terms. But we shouldn't ignore what happens later: once people do get onto an optimized website, they have to decide whether or not it’s worth staying.
In this chapter, we look at website analysis from both perspectives. First, we share a few valuable checklists to help you nail the basics of website speed, SEO, traffic, and performance, and then we cover our step-by-step method for running user-driven analysis, with a free checklist you can download and start using today (you can jump to it directly if you're curious).
Website analysis can look like an overwhelming task: there are so many potential metrics to measure and thousands of tools you could use to do it.
A website analysis checklist will:
Classic website analysis employs traditional analytics tools, SEO investigation, page speed tests, and performance evaluations to make sure all the important components of your website are in optimal working order. It’s ideal for finding major technical or stylistic issues and understanding basic trends about your website’s traffic flows.
You can perform a comprehensive basic website analysis by following these 5 approaches:
Analyzing traffic helps you monitor the flow and activities of users on your site and identify the most successful pages and traffic-generation techniques.
Use a traditional analytics tool like Google Analytics to look at traffic patterns on your site. Some key questions to focus on are:
Knowing the popularity of different pages and which ones draw in the most visitors or convert the best can help you re-evaluate your marketing campaigns and allocation of resources.
✅ Recommended Google Analytics checklist: this Google Analytics checklist — The Complete 2019 Edition will help you go through precise steps when implementing, reviewing, and extracting data from GA.
Because SEO is a vast discipline, an SEO audit can take multiple shapes. Here are the three most common types of analysis you’ll want to run:
There are certain elements every page should have in order to rank well in Google. Make sure that every page on your site is formatted correctly with:
Draw up a list of pages that are lacking in proper SEO structure, and make plans to optimize them to increase your rankings and traffic.
✅ Recommended SEO audit resource for online stores: BigCommerce has a simple SEO checklist that covers the basics and helps e-commerce sites be in a good position to be found—and ranked—by Google.
It’s not enough to optimize your website for SEO internally; you also need to understand how you stack up against other sites in your niche. This can be broken down in two ways:
Looking at domain strength is a necessary but surface-level action. To really understand what’s happening beyond an aggregate level, you want to see where competitors are getting backlinks so you can replicate their strategy in a way that works for you.
For example, you might see that sites in your niche are constantly listed on resource pages that mention adjacent tools. You can reach out to those exact sites if you aren’t already mentioned and linked (this is link building 101)—but also, take that learning to find similar sites you can then reach out to.
✅ Recommended SEO checklist: this complete SEO checklist for 2019 from Backlinko will take you through all the steps required to perform a thorough SEO analysis of your website.
Websites that load slowly risk lower Google rankings, in addition to driving away frustrated users—it’s a lose-lose situation.
There is no need for a checklist here: simply check your load time using WebPageTest or Google’s PageSpeed Insights for both desktop and mobile devices. In addition to telling you how quickly your site loads, both tools will also give insights on how to speed it up.
For a practical example of what this looks like: here is wikipedia.com passing the page speed test with flying colors.
It's crucial for your webpages to function just as well on mobile devices as they do on computer screens, for at least three reasons Google officially shared:
Most importantly: Google rolled out the mobile-first index in 2018, which means that pages are evaluated for all devices based on their performance on mobile. So if you have a killer desktop experience but suffer on mobile, all that matters is mobile for your search rankings.
The first, necessary step of your analysis is making sure your website is mobile-friendly: that it looks and functions well on any size screen, and that it loads fast on mobile. You can do this check through a tool like Google’s mobile responsiveness checker.
Established analysis methods and checklists like the ones above are crucial to bringing your website to a solid place performance-wise, but they are limited when it comes to making sure that the people you brought to your pages actually stay there.
User-driven analysis fills that void by focusing on actual visitors—and, specifically, on:
Read ahead for a step-by-step overview of user-driven analysis. We’ve also slimmed this information down into a handy one-page checklist that you can immediately download (click on this link or on the image below) and start following.
Find out what’s bringing people to your website so that you can capitalize on the most lucrative traffic sources and make an action plan for less robust ones.
Instead of guessing or making assumptions, you can discover your visitors’ drivers by asking them to describe what they are looking for on your site, and why, in their own words.
Set up a quick on-page survey on your most visited page. Pose open-ended questions to your visitors that address the following:
Keep collecting answers until you feel you have a representative sample of your visitors.
Use the data you’ve collected to create user personas who reflect your typical users. Personas will help you better understand who your website users are and what they are trying to achieve.
Here is an example of a persona from Smallpdf, a PDF editing app, who created a series of representative personas on the back of a few simple questions:
Figuring out the factors that cause users to leave your site can help you address their concerns and keep them on the page longer. To isolate these barriers, you can use a variety of behavioral analytics tools.
Using Google Analytics or Hotjar’s Funnels tool, you can build conversion funnels and collect data on how customers move from page to page on your website; running funnel analysis will help you identify the high-traffic exit pages where you lose most of your visitors.
Once you know which page(s) your visitors are leaving from, take a closer look to get an overall idea of what may not be working. Analyzing a strategically placed heatmap can help you can investigate if people are:
Once you know where people are dropping off, you can watch how individual visitors interact them using a session recordings tool. Take notes on whether people:
Pro tip: instead of just focusing on people who leave, review sessions of people who do make it to the final destination—comparing the two can help you spot obvious and useful differences in behavior and help you get closer to a solution.
Based on the above steps, you may already have a semi-clear idea of why your visitors are getting frustrated or losing interest; now it’s time to ask them directly.
Method 1: feedback widgets
To start with, set up an on-demand feedback widget on your site, like Incoming Feedback, that allows people to express their immediate love-to-hate reactions.
Let it run in the background and collect your visitors’ opinions. You can then filter and review negative feedback left specifically on your drop-off pages (but hold onto the positive feedback information, too, for later).
Method 2: on-page surveys
An alternative way to get feedback is to create a simple on-page survey and place it specifically on your drop-off pages.
Have this survey appear halfway down the page or when users are about to click away. Ask straightforward and direct questions, like:
Taken together, this feedback and behavioral information about your users can help you identify the major roadblocks or barriers that drive them away—so you can work to eliminate or minimize them.
Lastly, collect feedback from visitors to better understand the hooks, or selling points, that persuade them to stay on the page and eventually convert, and their fears or objections to taking action.
Set a quick on-page survey to hear from people who have just converted (for example, signed up for your page or bought a product) to find out what persuaded them to take action. This will help you discover the major selling points of your website, which you can then emphasize going forward.
Pair this with the positive feedback you collected from the feedback widget tool (go back to step 2) to understand the features and motivations that persuade your users to stay on the site.
This is particularly relevant if you have an e-commerce website: a few days after your customers have completed an action, send them a follow-up survey to ask about any concerns or fears they had before converting.
Some potential questions you could ask them are:
This may not look immediately applicable to website analysis, but the answers can give you very practical hints about what is still missing on your (by now, very optimized) site, and what else you could/should be doing to win even more people over.
As you go through this checklist, your website’s strongest and weakest points will become apparent. Some areas might need further investigation, but you should have enough information to make informed decisions on the areas of your website that need improvement.