You are either building websites and looking to optimize them, or you own a website and are looking to increase conversions.
You can evaluate website quality without having to access the code as an IT professional has a variety of scanners and tools available. This article will show you the cheap and free tools we use internally at Your Next Agency. To run the scans, I will use the homepage of our agency website.
Disclaimer: Automatic scans can be a great way to identify potential areas for improvement. However, it is important to understand what you are doing, as there are many benefits to improving. Yes, just like in real life. You can add caching to make it more difficult to delete the cache when content changes.
Although this article may seem a little technical, if you have a good knowledge of the scanners you should use, you can open a conversation with your developer to discuss optimization possibilities.
A quick overview of the tools:
- Screaming Frog
- Security Headers
- SSL Test
- Mail Tester
- Structured Data Testing Tool
This scanner is the most used and most important. This scanner is often confused by Google PageSpeed Insights which only tests one of the five categories. Lighthouse tests for Performance, Accessibility, and Best Practices, SEO, PWA (Progressive Web Application).
My opinion is that the first indicator is the most important and most difficult to obtain. This requires optimizations such as page caching, fast server response, modern image formats, and page caching. It is important to prioritize the Opportunities section, even though Google claims it doesn’t directly impact the score.
A high Lighthouse score improves user perception. Faster website -> happier users -> surprise! Google also gives higher rankings to websites that are high quality. Implementing these recommendations is easy.
Here are some points to remember:
- The score and performance of scripts like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel are dramatically reduced by using tracking scripts. You should think twice about whether you require the data from 5 different Analytics platforms.
- The score can change over time. The Lighthouse tool is updated at most once a month. There are more checks and a different distribution of scores. Your website and tracker codes are changing. Sometimes the website load may change every time you run the scan.
- To scan your website, you should install the most recent version of the CLI. The Lighthouse version is approximately 1 month ahead of the Chrome dev tools version.
Screaming Frog can help you fix any technical SEO mistakes. These audits are performed for clients by Your Next Agency regularly. Screaming Frog is a great tool if you are involved in a site redesign or a content-rich website.
Although it isn’t free, the free version may be sufficient for small websites. However, its price of PS149/year is significantly lower than other SEO tools like MOZ, SEMRush, Ahrefs, and MOZ.
You have 25 tabs to choose from, as you can see in this screenshot. This gives you the best set of tools for making sure your website is SEO-friendly. Here are some examples of issues that you can easily spot:
- Broken or redirected internal and/or external links
- Links without a proper canonical tag
- The sitemap does not contain links for those links
- Links that aren’t properly indexed
- Hreflang tag for multi-language websites
- Too short or missing titles, descriptions, or h1ss
- Missing image alt tags
- Etc, etc.
It becomes complicated quickly. But once you know where to look, you will find this tool extremely useful and can save your life.
This tool analyzes HTTP security headers and is probably my favorite. Some prevent XSS attacks while others stop malicious websites from loading your website in an iframe. Many scanners focus on SEO and performance while security is often overlooked. When these headers are taken care of, I believe it will show the developer or agency’s skill in evaluating the quality and usability of the website.
However, remember, especially when tightening up your security while your website is still in active development, some headers like Content-Security-Policy can become a source of frustration. If your marketing team uses Google Tag Manager, and the script does not load, this could be frustrating.
In 2020, it is no surprise that all websites must use secure connections. Modern browsers mark websites that do not have a certificate as unsafe. Even though all websites are now secure, it is still possible to tell a good website apart from a bad one.
This tool scans both your ipv4 connections and ipv6 certificates. To get an A+ score, there are some things you should check:
- Is your web server up-to-date and only supporting strong ciphers If you need to serve older devices that don’t support strong ciphers, this isn’t something you should allow yourself. Remember, it’s a trade-off.
- Does the website have the CAA record? This means you’ll need to identify the authorities that can request SSL certificates.
- Is your website using the HSTS header This header tells browsers that your site should only be accessible via HTTP, making a man-in-the-middle attack nearly impossible?
It can lead to serious consequences if you don’t check that the website is sending emails correctly. This can lead to emails being tagged maliciously by Google and ending up in spam, or even not delivered at all.
My experience is that dealing with user complaints about not getting email is one of the most frustrating tasks for a programmer. It is difficult to troubleshoot it if you don’t have access. It is important to set it up properly. This service allows you to send an email to a specific email address, and they will tell you if there are any problems. You can think about DKIM, Dmarc, and SPF. You can also find out if you have been blacklisted by certain providers. Some extra tips:
- SMTP is slow and inefficient. Use services such as Mailgun, Postmark, or SendGrid.
- To track down problems, ensure you have at least one day of the retention period.
- Send website emails from a different domain than your real provider. Use a subdomain.
Marketers who send a lot of newsletters often use this service. However, the transactional emails for a website must follow the same rules. So give it a shot!
This is the last tool on this list. I chose to mention an SEO tool by Google. Although search engines have improved in understanding content, they still need your help. This scanner might have two issues: (1) it may not recognize structured data, or (2) it might be invalid.
This tool will show you how to fix the problem. However, it is much more difficult to understand when to use it. These are some tips to help you get started.
- Add a web object to each page with all information about your company.
- Add a breadcrumbs object to every page so Google can understand the structure of your site.
- A listing on your website (e.g. news articles, products, events, etc. If you do, make sure that the object is appropriate for it.) Google does not recommend any solution if you are using digital services in New York, such as the one we use on this website.
- A CMS plugin makes it easier to manage structured data. It can be difficult to manage structured data within the code. It is easier to manage structured data in the code, and it will be easier for you to do it. Craft, which we use internally, has everything set up so you don’t have to even write code.
Concluding, I would like to emphasize that while the mentioned scanners simplify your life a lot, they only offer a part of the solution. You will still need humans to evaluate the website for both technical and non-technical parts:
- Is the content clear?
- Is the tone of voice appropriate for the target audience?
- Is the UX intuitive or not?
- Is the functionality functional that cannot be tested outside (e.g. Are the forms and integrations functioning?
- Etc., etc.