While much of how Google ranks a website is shrouded in mystery, Google provides plenty of information about the health of your website. Here are 5 tools anyone can use to optimize their websites.
How Google ranks a website is largely a secret, but that doesn’t mean Google keeps us in the dark when it comes to our websites. If you have questions about your website or traffic, it’s likely that there’s a tool you can use to find answers. Maybe you’re asking questions like…
Where does most of my traffic come from?
Are the pages of my website indexed by search engines?
For what searches does my site appear in Google?
What are the most viewed pages on my website?
How many people visit my website on mobile devices?
Why does it seem like one of my pages isn’t converting?
There are easily accessible tools that we can use to answer each of those questions, and a few of them even come from Google.
For many, the problem isn’t that Google shares too little information; it’s that Google shares too much information. In this article we’ll share five tools that we use to check on the health of our website, and the specific information we pay attention to when using that tool.
Here are 5 of Our Favorite Tools for Auditing a Website
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that provides information around how your website is performing in search results and provides insight into errors that Google has found on your website that might hinder its performance.
There’s a lot of information that can be found in Google Search Console. If someone is new to the search console, we typically suggest:
– Submitting Sitemaps: Sitemaps are basically “maps” of your website designed for search engines so it’s easier to understand the structure of the website, and locate and index pages and resources.
– Viewing Performance: Spend some time in the Performance tab to see the queries, or searches, for which your website appears.
– Identifying errors: It will take some time to determine what errors are high priority vs. what’s not. If you do see lots of errors in Google Search Console, it might be worth hiring an SEO to investigate for you.
It might take some time for data to populate after verifying your website with Google Search Console.
- Google Analytics
Google Analytics will provide detailed information about your website’s traffic.
Whereas Google Search Console can answer questions like, “In what searches does my site appear?” and, “Are there any errors preventing pages on my website from indexing?”, Google Analytics answers questions like, “How many users are visiting this page each day?” and, “Where is most of my traffic coming from?”.
We’ve found that many who are new to Google Analytics quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of information that’s provided. For those new to Google Analytics, we suggest:
– Spending some time in the Âcquisition and Behavior sections. The former will give you insight into where traffic is coming from, and the latter will help you understand how users behave on your website. The metrics in both of these sections are relatively easy to understand.
– Using a tool like MonsterInsights (WordPress plugin) that aggregates data for you. There are plenty of tools available that provide more user-friendly dashboards but are still based on the data collected in Google Analytics. MonsterInsights is our personal favorite for WordPress, but plenty exist.
A word of warning: Don’t let all this information overwhelm you. You don’t need to become a data scientist the first time you ever open Google Analytics. Try to learn one thing about Google Analytics each time you open the tool, and soon enough, you’ll feel right at home using the data provided. This is true of all the tools we discuss in this article!
Website Speed Test
A website speed test can help you measure the time it takes for a specific page on your website to load. Website speed, or lack there-of, is often one of the most common culprits in lower conversion rates.
It’s typically recommended that website owners aim for around a 2 second or less load time; however, this can be challenging to achieve on websites that are media heavy (think photographers and videographers that have a lot of media assets on their websites). At the very least, website owners should do what they can to make sure the perceived loading time is as quick as possible.
Our favorite website speed tools are GTmetrix and Pingdom. Both are easy to use and will provide reports for free. If you’re new to these types of reports, some items might not be easy to understand. For most users, we typically recommend:
Optimizing images: This is something anyone can do and often makes the biggest impact.
Installing a caching tool like WPRocket if you’re using WordPress.
There might not be too much you can do beyond depending on what website platform you’re using. Platforms like Showit, Squarespace, and Wix will not give you access to your server settings. That’s also the advantage of those platforms, however; you get to leave it to them to ensure their sites load quickly and run smoothly!
Mobile Friendly Test
This is a simple test to run. But if your website fails, it can potentially be one of the more difficult things to fix if you’re not a website developer or designer. If you’re using a modern website builder such as Showit, Squarespace, or Wix, you *likely* be fine. Those website platforms provide responsive, mobile versions of your website.
One of the reasons this test is worth running? Google is rolling out a major update in March 2021 in how it indexes websites. Basically, desktop versions of websites will no longer be indexed. That means any information or resources that are only available on the desktop version of a website will be dropped from Google’s indexes completely.
Yes, Google has been a “mobile-first” search engine for years now; however, this is yet another big step in a direction that makes it that much more important to have an awesome mobile version of your website.
Complete a Website Audit using a Website Audit Tool
A website auditing tool will provide you with a 360 degree view of your website’s health. It’s often the most efficient way to identify and correct any areas of concern versus trying to make sense of what you’re seeing across different tools.
And that’s the biggest benefit of a website auditing tool: It can make sense of data that’s found across the four tools we’ve mentioned above. This can be a huge timesaver.
For instance, Google Search Console might reveal the keywords for which a page on your website is appearing, but an auditing tool like SEMRush will help you identify which of those keywords are opportunities that should be pursued.
We’d recommend running an audit at least twice a year. Our favorite tools are SEO Powersuite and SEMRush; however, those tools might be ‘too much’ for the average user (both in terms of cost and the information they provide).
There are free tools available for those who just want to get an idea of their website’s health. Check out SEO Analyzer by Neil Patel and SEMRush’s free site tool (although, free tools are typically just lead gen tools for the businesses that provide them).
An important note: While an auditing tool will make things easier, it’s often still worth it to hire an SEO specialist to complete an audit and fix the errors found on a website. With that said, it’s a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of SEO even if you plan on hiring a specialist.
A Few Thoughts on Optimizing a Website
Optimizing a website is an ongoing task. There are quite a few things you can do as you go, such as optimizing images and videos when loading them into blog posts. However, it’s also probably wise to do an audit a couple times a year to catch any errors that might be ‘flying under the radar.’
Don’t let the technical aspect of website optimization prevent you from doing anything at all. If you’re just starting out and bootstrapping it, focus on the things you know and try to learn one new optimization technique each time you go to optimize your website. If you have the budget, consider hiring someone who can optimize your website (and bonus points if they’ll also educate you along the way!).
Fortunately, each of the tools we mentioned above—with the exception of some of the auditing tools—are free and easy to set-up! It doesn’t take much intentional time inside of each tool to start learning the basics.
In today’s episode Krista joins me for a discussion about 5 tools you can use to optimize your website and assess your websites health. One of those tools is going to be of particular relevance due to a big announcement by Google.
Find it Quickly
- 2:30 – Website Health and why it’s important
- 3:17 – Tool #1 – Google Search Console
- 9:49 – Tool #2 – Google Analytics
- 16:29 – Tool #3 – Website Audit
- 24:00 – Tools for Audits
- 25:26 – Tool #4 – Speed of Your Website
- 32:30 – Tool #5 – Google’s Big Update
- Yoast SEO
- SEO Press
- Rank Math
- Monster Insights
- SEM Rush
- Blog Stomp
- Tiny JPEG/Tiny PNG
- Short Pixel
- WP Rocket
Save it for later…