This article provides the steps to carry out a website health check to ensure your site's health is maintained.
For more information and recommended tools to use for each area, head over to our full article here.
What is a website performance health check and why is it needed?
Put simply, a health check allows you to check your site passes all the basic performance and security measures. Plus it enables you to analyse areas of weakness where you can improve site performance to gain better visibility and increase conversion rates.
Recent updates such as the new Google Page Insights update (take a look at our handy article for more info on this) provide 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 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 performance health check
There are five key areas that you need to cover when carrying out your website performance health check. These are: security, performance, search visibility, user experience, and monitoring and alerts. For more information on the recommended tools you can use to check each of these areas, head over to our full article here.
The security of your site deserves its place at the top of this list to protect customer data to meet ICO and GDPR compliance, and to protect your investment and organisation's online reputation. Website security checks include:
Vulnerability check – to help identify any security issues including out of date software and compromised code.
SSL certificate – check all elements of your site are being served over SSL (https) including media assets, code libraries, and tracking pixels etc, and that your users' connection to your site is correctly encrypted.
Firewall – 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.
Website speed and reliability have 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 include:
Load speed / core web vitals – make sure you’re consistently in the green zone of the Core Web Vitals and your mobile and desktop speed are optimal or you might be missing out to faster competitors.
Mobile – check if your website displays correctly on all devices and browsers and fix any responsive issues, as mobile first is now the standard.
Traffic tracking – spotting significant drops in traffic or abnormally large spikes is key as this is usually a sign that something is wrong. Traffic metrics to monitor include users, sessions, traffic channels, bounce rate and conversions.
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 as part of your health check:
Broken or empty links – check for any broken or empty links as these are very bad from a user experience point of view and negatively impact search rankings.
XML sitemap – check if your sitemap is formatted correctly and whether you need to make any updates and resubmit via Google Search Console.
Back links – check on your backlink profile to find out if they are from credible trusted sources and take action to enhance your profile, positively impacting your search visibility.
On-page optimisation – check all pages are fully optimised with SEO-friendly URLs, content, structure, meta descriptions, image alt text and meta titles within 60 characters.
4. User Experience (UX)
UX can sometimes be seen as less important than the 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 include:
Accessibility – check for 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 your content still engaging and converting users? Are there are any content gaps within your site where you need to create quality content to better serve your users?
Functionality – test all conversion methods thoroughly such as forms, downloads and email and telephone links to ensure they are working correctly.
5. Monitoring & alerts
Being alerted to potential issues in real-time so you can take decisive action is a must for any website owner. Choosing the right tools and most critical alerts is an effective way of ensuring you keep your website performing optimally. Tools we recommend include: Uptime Robot, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.
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. 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 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.
We know carrying out a website performance health check can be challenging, so if you need any support carrying it out, or implementing any of the fixes identified in your research, we provide a variety of support services that can help you with this. Feel free to contact us and we would be happy to help.