If you’ve already done everything outlined in the first two blog posts of this series, then your website likely looks great and provides an outstanding user experience. However, it’s possible some technical aspects of your website could be preventing your business from being as profitable as you would like. Fortunately, doing a “technical audit” can be done without much difficulty. In fact, it’ll probably be much easier for you to do a technical audit than to do the User Experience Audit, which we covered in part two.
Throughout this blog post, we will share our recommendations on what to look for when doing a technical audit of your website. If you get stuck on any of the steps, just let us know.
Check the Quality of Your Hosting
There are many hosting options available to website owners. We often see a new website owner gravitate toward using a shared hosting package. This is the least expensive type of hosting, and is a common starting point. However, we have noticed this type of hosting often results in a slower website load time. As you know from part two of this series, having a slow load time can be detrimental to the profitability of your website. Your website needs to load in 2.5 seconds or less, if possible.
There are many times when a company has hired us to speed up their website. We have gone in and done everything we can to optimize the website speed, yet still be limited simply because of the hosting. Then, when the client changes their hosting, along with our other edits, they suddenly experience a massive boost in speed.
Not sure if your hosting is fast? Go to web.dev and run a test on your website. Once you’ve run that test, scroll down and you’ll see a list of issues that need to be resolved. If your hosting is slow, you’ll likely see an issue called “Initial server response time was short.” If you do see that, check with the company that’s hosting your website, and see if you can upgrade your package to something faster. If you need help with this, let us know. We provide very high-speed hosting services that are affordably priced.
End goal: Make sure your website isn’t running slowly due to a poor quality hosting package.
To learn more about the different hosting packages available to you, read our blog post titled Different Types of Web Hosting and What’s Right for You?
Is Your Website Secure?
When you purchase your website hosting package, you’ll also want to make sure there are security features included. I remember one client who hired us years ago to build a website for them. We weren’t hosting the website, but rather, just building it. Their hosting plan didn’t include sufficient security, and as a result, the website was hacked, shortly after being launched. They ended up needing portions of the site to be rebuilt.
From what we’ve observed, the cost to fix a hacked website is usually greater than the cost to just get proper security in place. Additionally, having proper security is going to provide greater peace-of-mind.When you purchase your website hosting package, you'll also want to make sure there are security features included. #MarketingAudit #WebSecurity #JLM @AskJoshLyons Click To Tweet
There are a couple factors you’ll want to look at when making sure your website is secure:
Check for an SSL Certificate
According to an article by ComodoSSLstore, 51% of website visitors will instantly leave a website that’s marked as “not secure.” The solution is to get an SSL certificate.
If you’re not sure whether or not your website is secure, you can test this very easily. Just go to your website. Then, look at the URL. Does it display “HTTP” or does it display “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL? The “S” at the end stands for “Secure.” Also, if your website isn’t secure, you might see the browser show “Not secure” next to your URL.
If your website isn’t displaying the “S” you will want to get that resolved. Simply go to the company that’s hosting your website, and let them know you want to upgrade your hosting package to include an SSL Certificate. Some hosting plans include an SSL Certificate by default, but others don’t.
End goal: Improve the website bounce rate, while also protecting visitors who interact with your website, by making sure your website uses an SSL Certificate.
Verify Your Website’s Regularly Backed Up
Having an SSL helps protect your website visitors from getting viruses or malware on their devices, due to visiting your website. There are other benefits your website visitors will experience as well, when you have an SSL certificate. However, it doesn’t provide protection for your own website from being hacked. Because of this, it’s important to have your website backed up on a very regular basis. Remember the story of the client we had who needed their website repaired, because it was hacked? If their hosting had provided regular backups, they could have restored their website to a previous version… to a version that wasn’t infected with malware. Unfortunately though, they didn’t have their website backed up.
If you’re going to spend a significant amount of money to have a website developed, then please make sure you regularly have backups being made. Simply check with your hosting provider and ask them if this is being taken care of. If it isn’t, ask them to start making backups.
A common backup process is to create a daily backup for a rolling window of 30 days. This is fine. It gives you a month’s worth of backups to which you can restore your website.
End goal: Make it possible to restore your website to a previous version, should you need to do so.
Make Sure You Have a Firewall to Protect Your Website
You’ll want to make sure you have backups of your website. But ideally, you won’t want to actually need to use your backups. If you can prevent your website from cyberattacks in the first place, that will make your life much easier. A firewall is designed to protect your website from hackers, malware, viruses, etc. It’s not a 100% guarantee your website will be impervious to attacks. In fact, UpGuard published a very interesting article titled The 57 Biggest Data Breaches (Updated for 2021). Even LinkedIn was breached in June of 2021, which impacted 700 million users!
So, your website isn’t guaranteed 100% protection. However, including a good firewall will significantly help protect your website. Make sure to check with your website hosting provider and verify you do have a firewall in place to protect your website from cyberattacks.
End goal: Protect your website from becoming victim to cyberattacks.
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Check for Website Updates That are “Behind the Scenes”
While the content and design of your website might be updated, there are other backend aspects of your website that should be updated as well. There are a few areas to look at when doing this portion of the technical audit.
Is Your CMS Updated to the Most Recent Version?
WordPress is by far the most popular content management system (CMS) in the United States. This is what’s used to update the design and content of most websites. You can learn more about CMSs in the first blog post of this series. If you do use WordPress, log into the backend of your website. In your dashboard menu area, you’ll be able to see a link for “Updates” at the top. Click that link and you’ll be able to see if your version of WordPress is outdated. If it is, make a backup of your website and then click the update button.
The reason you want to backup your website is because sometimes the update can cause issues with how your website is displayed. You’ll want to be able to have access to a copy of the website, in case you need it. Also, it’s a good idea to have your developer push the update button for you. Then, have them review your website after the update, to make sure everything still looks fine. If there are any issues, they can go in right away and correct the coding as needed.
Even if you don’t use WordPress, your CMS will likely have occasion updates. You’ll want to update your CMS whenever a new version is released.
End goal: Make sure your CMS is up-to-date. There are multiple benefits that can come from this, including features, functionality and security.
Is Your Theme Updated to the Most Recent Version?
Your CMS is what you use to update your content. But you are likely using something called a “Theme” for your website. The theme, also sometimes called a template, is the design of your website. When your website was created, you might have browsed a variety of themes, to see which website design you liked best. Then, you installed that theme into your CMS and updated it with your content, to make it reflect your business. While the CMS sometimes has an update, that is unrelated to your theme. You’ll need to update the theme as well, as often as an update becomes available.
Again, if you’re using WordPress, you’ll be able to go to the “Updates” page through the menu. This time, you’ll look specifically for any “theme” updates that need to be made. Again, make a backup of your website. And ideally, have your developer do this for you. As with the CMS update, you’ll want to review the website after the theme update is made, to make sure everything looks fine and nothing is broken.
If you aren’t using WordPress, log into the backend of your CMS and see if there is information related to your theme. If there’s an update available, you’ll want to get that taken care of.
End goal: Make sure your theme is updated to the most recent version.
Check Your Plugins (For WordPress Users)
Chances are, if you’re on WordPress, your website is using plugins. A plugin is essentially a third-party software that’s installed onto your website to help enhance your website in some way. Each plugin can also have updates made. As with the CMS and theme, you’ll want to follow the same process to resolve any open updates that need to be completed.
Check for Plugin Updates
One of the biggest reasons to update these aspects of your website, including the plugins… which often require updates, is because of security. When a new version is released, the developer will share details on what was updated. These details will include information about security concerns that were corrected. This information is available to everyone, including hackers who would wish to exploit a plugin’s weaknesses. If they read what the security holes are, and they see your website isn’t updated to protect against them, they can use this information to attack your website.
This is often the reason some websites are compromised, despite having a firewall in place. Don’t invite a security breach by having outdated plugins, theme or CMS.
Verify You Actually Need Each Plugin
Additionally, check and make sure you actually need all the plugins. If you can remove them, do so. Aside from being a security risk, when not maintained, plugins can slow your website down. Some of the slowest websites we come across have a lot of plugins installed on them. Best practice is to use as few plugins as possible, and rely more on quality coding to develop your website. To this point, when you hire your developer, it’s best to hire someone who is mindful of using as few plugins as possible.
End goal: Protect your website from cyberattacks and ensure features and functionality are in top condition.
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Final Thoughts Regarding Your Technical Audit
The backend aspects of a website are often overlooked, since they aren’t as noticeable. However, missing an SSL, having an outdated plugin, or not having a firewall (among other things) can make a massive impact on the profitability of your marketing. Make sure the technical aspects of your website are up to par. And if you need help conducting a technical audit for your website, let us know. You can connect with us via our contact page or through the contact form below.
Also, be sure to check out the other blog posts in this series, to ensure you’re getting the most out of your marketing.
As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.