Have you ever complained about your visitors not signing up for your email list, or not buying from you, or not sharing your posts?
I have. I complained about it a lot when I first started blogging. And I know I’m not alone in this because a lot of my readers and students complain about the same thing.
“I have almost 500 unique visitors every day and I get maybe like two or three subscribers… what am I missing?”
That’s one of the emails from a reader. She had signed up for a blog consultation, and it only took me a few seconds to figure out what the problem was. She didn’t really make it easy to sign up for her email list. To begin with, it was mighty difficult to even find a sign-up form on her blog (a tiny form in her blog’s footer area was all I could find), and there was no incentive for subscribing either!
No wonder her email list wasn’t growing despite a decent volume of blog traffic.
That’s just one of the many questions I get from my readers. Often, the underlying cause of their concern — be that a lack of email-list sign-up, or a lack of engagement, or dwindling sales — isn’t the quality of their content or the aesthetics of their website, but a lack of awareness towards user experience.
This problem is so persistent in most blogs, especially new blogs, that I believe it’s time to address the issue.
So, in today’s post, I’ll show you how to audit your blog, so you can figure out why you’re not getting the kind of traction you want (and then fix the issues).
Before I go any further, I need to clarify who this post is for.
You see, there are professionals out there who charge tens of thousands to audit websites and blogs. Bigger companies hire teams of people to audit their websites. So, as you can guess, auditing is not to be taken lightly. The task of auditing can be (and often is) complex and technical and requires a deep understanding of buyers’ psychology and intention.
In short, a single blog post can never cover the breadth of a complete website audit.
That said, most beginners to intermediate bloggers do not need that kind of in-depth audit or spend thousands to get a professional opinion.
I have planned this post to help fellow bloggers with a few assumptions for brevity and clarity.
Why you need to audit your blog
Because it’s so easy to let go of your sights from your blogging goals and business ambitions. A periodic audit forces you to refocus on the things that are important, and it allows you a chance to realign your content with your actual goals.
What to expect from this post
Fellow bloggers will find this blog post useful, and upon reading, they should be able to do a basic audit of their blogs and identify the areas where their blog needs improvement/fixes. Please note that this audit is relatively basic, with beginners in mind who do not have a lot of technical know-how. This post will not make you a professional website auditor, but it has everything you need to know as a beginner to intermediate blogger.
After the audit, you can either correct the issues on your own. If the corrections require website technical know-how (although I have tried to keep the technicalities to a minimum, some of it is essential for optimum performance,) then fix those yourselves or hire a developer to perform the fixes.Also, I recommend that you perform this audit once every quarter, to ensure you’re headed in the right direction in terms of your blogging and business goals.
Now then, let’s get to it.
As you’ll see in the following sections, a blog audit has to do with making sure your website gives the best performance to its users. In my experience as a former website developer who has worked with WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and a few other platforms, WordPress (self-hosted, also knows as the .org platform; NOT the .com platform) is the only platform fit for professional, serious bloggers.
As your blog grows, you will find yourself needing features and functionalities impossible to achieve with any other platform aside from the self-hosted WordPress.org platform. Everything I will teach you in this post will be with the assumption that you have a self-hosted WordPress blog.
If, however, your blog is not hosted on a self-hosted WordPress.org platform, then that is the first thing I recommend that you fix. The sooner you take care of it, the easier your life will be later on.
If you already have a self-hosted WordPress blog, then feel free to skip the next sub-section.
Set up your blog on a self-hosted WordPress platform
It is, of course, best that you start your blog on a self-hosted WordPress.org platform. But if that is not the case, I suggest you take care of that as soon as possible. Regardless of what platform your blog is on (SquareSpace, Blogger, WordPress.com, or something else), you should be able to transfer the content without too much trouble.
Here are the steps:
I recommend purchasing hosting from SiteGround. Also, I suggest getting the GrowBig or the GoGeek plan. You may be tempted to get the StartUp plan as it is the cheapest, but the GrowBig and higher plans are significantly faster and better.
The GoGeek plan is also much faster with their ULtrafast PHP option (a feature you can turn on with just a couple of clicks, but it makes your website almost twice as fast.) If you’re a brand new blogger, you should be fine with the GrowBig plan, but if you’ve had your blog for some time and get 500-ish visitors a day, I strongly suggest upgrading to SiteGround’s GoGeek plan.
A lot of people do not pay attention to which hosting company they’re signing up for and go for the cheapest option available. Invariable, they regret later when they realize their site isn’t performing to their satisfaction. Trust me on this, unless you’re dead broke, please think of making this investment on an excellent hosting company and a good plan. You’ll thank yourself later.
You can check out and compare a full features list for all three of SiteGround’s shared hosting plans here.
Buy new or point existing domain
If you have been using a free domain on your current platform (for example, myblog.squarespace.com or myblog.wordpress.com or something along the line), then you have to buy a proper domain now. As a serious blogger, you must always have your own custom domain.
You can get a domain from SiteGround as well, or from a third party such as NameCheap. I recommend NameCheap because having your domain and your site on different platforms is always a better option from a website security standpoint.
If you already have a custom domain from some company, you can simply point your domain to your new host. You will find a tutorial for pointing domains here.
Set up WordPress
Now you should set up WordPress on your new hosting account. For pointing your domain to SiteGround and setting up WordPress, I will point you to my blog post that has a step by step tutorial for how to set up a WordPress blog on SiteGround.
Transfer your existing blog to WordPress
Once you have set up WordPress, you can transfer your current blog to your new platform. The process of moving varies based on your existing platform, so I recommend doing a Google search for detailed tutorials or consulting a developer for this step.
This may seem like a lot, but trust me on this, the sooner you take care of it, the less headache you will have down the road. So yeah, do it now!
Back up your blog
One common mistake bloggers make is that they do not back up their website. This can cause a lot of problems down the road. Your site could get corrupted due to a bad plugin, changes to a live site may have to be reversed, or really… a bazillion things can happen to your site requiring you to restore your entire blog from an older version.
There are different ways to create a backup of your site. I recommend two of them. Make sure you have both in place!
The first is done on the server-side. A good hosting company will do it for you. It will automatically back up all your files and database at a set interval. For example, my recommended hosting company SiteGround creates a backup of your entire website and databases every day! If you’re on the GrowBig or higher plan, then you can restore to an older version of your site with just a click, free of charge.
Even though it is often sufficient, I personally prefer to not put all of my eggs in one basket. Which means I have a secondary method for backing up my website. I suggest you do the same. You can easily create a secondary backup with a plugin.
I personally use and recommend UpDraft Plus, a free backup plugin. You do not need to create a backup every day with this plugin since your host is already doing it for you (assuming you’re with SiteGround; if you’re with someone else, check with them to see what their site backup policy is); biweekly backups should be sufficient.
Also, make sure to save a copy of this backup to an external storage place such as Dropbox or Google Drive or something similar. You can set it up with a few clicks on UpDraft Plus. You can refer to my blog post on how to set up UpDraft Plus if you need help.
Make sure your site is secure
As much as I love and recommend self-hosted WordPress, it does have some vulnerabilities due to the platform being open-source.
You can, however, easily remedy that with a few security features in place. Here’s what to look for (and fix, if need be):
- Make sure you’re hosted on a great hosting company. Often times a good hosting company such as SiteGround will have its own security features in place.
- Your site should have SSL protection. In other words, your website URL should have the “https” prefix, and not “http”. A good hosting company will offer a basic free SSL certificate via LetsEncrypt, which is sufficient.
- A good host alone isn’t always sufficient either. Using CDN (Content Delivery Network) can often save you from common DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. The good news is that some good hosting companies, SiteGround included, offer free Cloudflare CDN. On SiteGround, you can turn it on with just a click!
- A third-party website security platform is also a great way to make sure your site is always monitored. For most beginner to intermediate bloggers, a free plugin like Wordfence is often sufficient. But as you start to grow your traffic, chances are that your site will get targeted for malicious attacks more often. If that happens, consider something more potent like Sucuri or SiteLock’s premium services.
(Note: If you use a service like Sucuri to protect your site, note that they also offer CDN services, in which case, make sure to turn off Cloudflare CDN if you had it turned on previously via your hosting company. You do not want to have two of these turned on at the same time.)
Ensure a fast loading site (Speed optimization)
This is one of the most important things I check when auditing a site for user experience — website speed. Nobody likes a slow site, and believe it or not, most websites lose customers (and readers) if they’re too slow to load. Search engines are also pretty nitpicky about website speed. If your site is too slow, chances are that your site’s ranking will be compromised.
Ideally, you’d want your website to load within 4 seconds, lesser the better. Start by checking your site loading speed on GTmetrix, and then make fixes as necessary.
Now, site optimization will depend on various factors, and honestly, all the different variables are beyond the breadth of this blog post. So, I’ll touch on a few things, and ideally, if you have these things in place, your site should load fast enough.
Be on a good hosting company
Just like website security, website speed also starts with your hosting company. SiteGround, once again, is one of the best when it comes to delivering fast websites to its users. Especially now, since they have moved their servers to Google’s Cloud platform, their websites are even faster!
The GrowBig plan should be good enough for most new bloggers, but if you’ve had your blog for some time and get 500+ visitors daily, consider upgrading to the GoGeek plan. SiteGround’s GoGeek and higher plans now have a feature called Ultrafast PHP, which cuts down your website loading time significantly!
Optimize your images
Large image files are often the biggest culprit behind slow-loading blogs. I suggest image optimization in two levels:
1. Optimize images before you upload them
Upload images that are no more than twice the largest size of the image shown on your site. For example, I know that within my blog posts, the largest size for the featured image is a little over 700px wide. So I upload images that are 1200px.
Also, it is better to upload .jpg images rather than .png as the latter tends to have larger file-size.
You can use an app like Canva to control the image and file size.
2. Optimize images further with a plugin
An image optimization plugin can further improve your site speed. I love Optimole because they have a lot of optimization options. For example, you can use this plugin to further compress your images while maintaining quality, use it to serve your images using CDN, do optimizations based on the user’s device, etc.
Optimole is a premium plugin with a stripped-down but decent free version. Another free alternative I’ve used previously is Smush.
Use a caching and performance-enhancing plugin
Hands down, my favorite caching plugin is WP Rocket. It is a premium plugin and worth every penny. There are free caching plugins out there that you can use. For example, SiteGround has its own caching and optimization plugin called SG Optimizer, which is totally free.
But personally, I love WP Rocket (and use it on this blog myself.) I find it a lot more intuitive and user-friendly, even more so than SG Optimizer.
Proper caching and optimization are some of the most important things you need to do for your website. Slow websites are not only a source of annoyance for your users, but search engines like Google do not rank slow sites either. When set up right, a plugin like WP Rocket can make your site load twice, and often three times faster. So please, do not skip this step.
Here’s an example to show you exactly how important it is to use proper caching and optimization. The next two images show you my website speed score–the first one with proper caching and optimization, and the second one without.
With caching and optimization:
Without caching and optimization:
As you can see from the screenshots, using caching and optimization with WP Rocket makes my website load more than twice faster than without (2.5 seconds with WP Rocket, as opposed to 6.8 seconds without it).
I have a tutorial on how to set up WP Rocket and the settings best for making your site super fast-loading, in case you need the help.
Use a high-quality WordPress template
Using a good template has more to do with how it looks. A good template will provide on the aesthetics, as well as performance, so pick wisely.
I cannot recommend Astra enough. I love this template. Even if you do not use Elementor (which does come with a bit of a learning curve), the Astra theme comes with a lot of features that can help you make your blog look unique. It is a well-coded theme, and you can rest assured that with all the customizations available, you’ll never have to change your theme again!
Astra has a free version (which in and of itself is super awesome!). Still, if you want expanded customization abilities, features, functionalities, and widget options, then you can easily upgrade to Astra Pro.
But of course, it is not the only good theme out there, but it is the one I use, so I’m slightly biased. Feel free to look around before you commit; just make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable theme foundry. A couple of other places to go theme shopping are StudioPress and Restored 316.
Check if your website is optimized for search engines (SEO)
We won’t be talking about keywords here, like, for real. This ain’t 2010 anymore.
When it comes to SEO, there are a few things I check right off the bat.
- URL consistency
- Broken internal or external links
- Error pages (404)
Let’s take a look at these, and if necessary, fix them right away.
Make sure your blog is responsive and mobile-friendly
As a former web designer and developer, I’m used to making sure that all pages across a website are mobile-friendly and responsive. Basically, regardless of the device size and type, your website should look, feel, and function perfectly.
There are two things I like to do to check and make sure that my website is mobile-friendly and responsive.
1. Check for responsiveness
Easy and free. Go to https://www.responsinator.com/ and type in your website URL to see what your site looks like on different devices. To be sure, check a few pages (home page, a regular page, a blog page, etc.) This page shows you how your site looks like in various different devices, so if any of them look a bit wonky, make sure to fix that.
2. Make sure Google thinks you’re mobile responsive
Another thing I do is check with Google directly to see whether the search engine thinks my site is responsive or not.
Go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, and type in your URL.
Fixing responsive issues:
If your website isn’t responsive, chances are that you’re using a bad template. The best way to fix responsive issues is to make sure you have a good theme from a reputable theme foundry.
I’ve already shared some of the WordPress templates with you above (Astra and StudioPress themes, for example) that are high-quality and responsive. If you’re purchasing your template from somewhere else, make sure you check a live demo for that theme and read the fine prints and confirm that the theme you’re about to purchase is indeed responsive.
Test if Google can crawl your website
It is a simple test.
- Open a browser
- In the search bar, type this: site:websiteurl.com
Make sure to replace websiteurl.com with your domain name. If your website is properly being crawled by Google, you should see your website pages on the search results page.
Fixing crawl issues:
If it looks like Google isn’t crawling your website, then it’s likely that your website is brand new, and Google hasn’t started indexing your site yet. To speed up the process and to continue monitoring your site’s health in the future, make sure that your sitemap has been submitted to Google’s search console.
If it hasn’t been added yet, here’s how to do it:
- If you’re on WordPress, an SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math will automatically generate a sitemap for you.
- To get your sitemap from Yoast, click on SEO > General in your dashboard, then, under the “Features” tab, find “XML Sitemap.” Click the question-mark icon next to it to expand more options and then click on “See the XML sitemap.” This will open up the sitemap to a new tab. Copy this link of your sitemap from the browser address bar.
- Now go to Google’s search console and then follow the prompts to add your sitemap. It will ask you to add your domain first and then verify you’re the owner. Once that’s been confirmed, you’ll be able to add the sitemap.
Check for URL Consistency
There are four variations of a domain name that should all redirect to just one URL.
Here are the four variations:
Ideally, all four of these variations should redirect to either https://websiteurl… or https://www.websiteurl…
For example, all the variations of my blog URL point to https://www.thesideblogger.com.
To check, simply type all these variations in a browser and check that they’re all redirecting to one single URL (starting with https://).
Ideally, when you install WordPress in your host, this 301 redirection is done automatically on the host’s end. This is yet another reason why you should be on a good hosting platform like SiteGround. But if for some reason, all these variations are not pointing to a single URL, check with your host (their support should be able to help you do that).
Check for broken links
Few things are as annoying for a user as clicking on a link to find out the page doesn’t exist. Often people change links. Maybe you have changed a link on your own site but forgot to redirect it, or perhaps you linked to an external site, but they’ve changed their URL without a 301 or 302 redirect. Either way, you want to minimize broken links as much as possible, so check for them regularly.
To check for broken links, often people use a broken link checker plugin. Personally, I don’t like this plugin solution because it’s an extremely resource-heavy plugin and tends to unnecessarily load and slow your site.
I like this free broken link checker tool instead.
Check for 404 errors
404 errors occur when you have a broken link on your own website. This can happen when you delete a page from your site but do not set up a redirect. Or maybe you’ve changed the URL or a page but forgot to set up a redirect.
Firstly, you should always pay attention to these changes and set up 301 redirects as soon as you change a page URL or delete a page altogether. You can do so quite easily with this 301 redirect plugin.
But well, we all make mistakes sometimes regardless of our best intentions. So, it helps to check for 404 error pages when performing an audit.
To check, you can once again use Google’s search console. Assuming you’ve already added your sitemap to Google’s search console, you should see any 404 errors under Index > Coverage.
In the example above, two error pages are showing under Index > Coverage. If you scroll down on that page, you should see the pages with the errors. If you click on one of the errors, you should see the URL of the error page. Find these pages and fix them as necessary.
Do a content audit
A content audit is a cumbersome task. It is especially so when you’ve had your blog for a while, and you have a lot of content to go through. And that is precisely why you should perform a content audit at least once every quarter.
This cumbersome task becomes much simpler if you keep the following in mind at all times.
- Read through the content of the pages mentioned above every quarter to ensure the information therein is always current, accurate, and relevant.
- Try not to have too little content on any single page. For example, let’s say that you have a contact page with only a contact form or an email address. If so, add more relevant content to that page. Maybe create an FAQ section for anyone who may be trying to get a hold of you. Aim for at least 500 words on all existing pages on your site.
- Ensure that each of your pages has a meaningful title and meta description. You can use a plugin such as Yoast or Rank Math to set up customized titles and meta descriptions.
- Make sure all your blog posts are current and relevant. If not, you’ll start to see a drop in ranking for your pages. Also, Google and other search engines love it when you regularly update your old content. So, do so! Check out this blog post on how to revive older blog posts to boost your traffic and ranking.
- You should have some kind of call to action (CTA) in most, if not all, of your pages and posts. You want people to engage and interact with you, take action (subscribe to an email list or buy something, or leave a comment) on your website. Make it easy for them to do whatever it is you want them to do with CTAs.
Do a user intent and experience audit
This is by far one of the most challenging parts of an audit, especially if you’re auditing your own site.
And it is also exceedingly difficult for me to say how to conduct this part of the audit because each blogger will have their unique business models and their own audiences and users with unique needs.
That said, I’ll do my best to help you with some examples.
You see, we are naturally biased towards what we create. So, it is difficult for us to see things from a user’s perspective. But still, I’m going to try and give you some helpful tips.
Before you begin this part of the audit, ask yourself these two questions:
- What does your user want from you?
- What do you want from your user?
You should do the best you can to satisfy the answers to both of these questions.
For example, let’s say that you have a blog about the vegan lifestyle. Maybe you write about challenges that vegans face in their day to day life. Perhaps you like to share vegan recipes. Perhaps you also have a one-on-one coaching service for fellow vegans. When you’re auditing your blog, you have to keep in mind how you can best help your audience, while at the same time, make sure you sell your coaching service to your audience as well.
This can mean having the right resources at the top (do you want your audience to see your blog posts first or your coaching service first), this can mean choosing your navigation menu items carefully, this can mean arranging the content of your homepage in a way that facilitates your end-goal.
Jon Morrow’s blog Smart Blogger is one of the best blogging resources out there. I know, I know. Yes, he and I, we both blog about blogging. He’s my direct competition, so you may be wondering why I share his content. But honestly, I don’t care. Jon is someone we can (and should) all look up to. If you’re a blogger/writer, do check out Jon’s blog. For real!
As far as his blog is concerned, it has one of the simplest yet most effective designs.
The blog has a navigation menu bar at the top with the most prominent pages listed in that menu.
Directly below, there is a hero section with a creative message that directly targets Jon’s potential customers.
And underneath that hero section, there is a list of some of the most popular blog posts on Smart Blogger.
And that’s it!
There’s no fluff, but it’s an effective design. It accomplishes both of the objectives I mentioned above. It gives Jon’s audience what they want (learn how to be a successful freelance writer and easy access to the in-demand blog posts), and it provides Jon what he wants (email list sign-ups that also act as an entry point to the sales funnel for one of Jon’s most popular online courses for aspiring freelance writers.)
Effortless Gents is a men’s style and fashion blog by Barron Cuadro. I love his blog’s design because it’s just so, so smart!
You can tell right away what he is trying to do from how his blog is set up.
His audience wants to learn from him about dressing well. From his top navigation to his hero section to every other prominent space on his homepage, you’ll see Barron trying to teach his audience how to do just that — improve a wardrobe, how to better dress, how to wear one piece of clothing in five ways.
As for Barron, he monetizes his blog with affiliate marketing and brand sponsorships. Right along with him teaching others how to dress, he is also sharing links to the products he wears himself or talks about.
One other thing Barron is doing quite obviously is trying to build an email list. You can also see this throughout his blog. Barron has a free eGuide for dressing better, and you can find various obvious and some clever ways Barron’s giving his audience a chance to sign up for his email list in exchange for the free guide.
All in all, Barron’s blog is designed to cater to both his audience’s needs and his own needs. It’s perfect!
Things to pay attention to
Again, it’s hard to say exactly what to do because every blog and business is unique. That said, here are a few tips:
- As a blogger, you’re likely trying to grow your email list. Do not have just one lone form tucked away in your footer or an equally understated area of your blog. You need to make it easy for your readers to sign up for your email list. Here are some places to consider: The navigation bar, the hero section, the footer, the sidebar, at least one other area within your homepage, inside individual blog posts, within other pages.
- Make sure your readers have a sense of what you want them to see. Readers need something from you, but often they may not realize precisely what they need. So, make it easy for them to figure out what they need to do when they land on your website. Be purposeful with every single thing you put in your blog and where you put them. When auditing, ask yourself if your audience sees what you want them to see.
- Make it easy for your readers to share your content on Pinterest and social media. Use a free plugin like Sassy Social Share so that people can share your blog posts wherever they want with just a click of a button. Also, make sure that you have shareable images on all of your blog posts and on pages that you want people to share.
That’s it for now. This is by no means a complete site audit checklist. Again, it’d be impossible for me to write a single blog post on all the things that go into a professional website audit. But even so, if you continue to check for these things periodically (once every quarter is recommended), you should be good.
So, tell me, do you audit your blog often? Have you learned anything new in this post that you didn’t know before? If you have any questions regarding a blog audit, feel free to share that also in the comments.
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