Learn How to Evaluate a Website Like a Pro

February 5, 2021

I’ve been blessed to be in the digital marketing industry for close to a decade. I’ve had a wide range of changes in my personal and professional life during that time; when I think about how I viewed the Internet back in those years, it’s almost like I was seeing with a different set of eyes.

When I got my first career job I was lucky to be around some really talented and experienced colleagues. We were in the Premium SEO Department at a large digital marketing agency. That meant there was a constant stream of new client websites that needed to be evaluated.

It seemed like one of the more experience guys would crack a joke about the bad design, horrible strategy, pathetic messaging or rankability of a particular site on a weekly basis. Seeing how this was in a semi-group environment, I would usually give an uncomfortable giggle. However, the truth of the matter is I didn’t really get what made the website good or bad.

I’m not sure when it happened, and it wasn’t all at once, but at some point I obtained a certain amount of digital clarity. That clarity gave me the ability to quickly form an educated option about a website at first glance. The keyword here is “educated,” because anyone can quickly form an opinion about anything at first glance.

Understanding the fundamentals of effective web design, just like anything else, will take some time. Below are the 3 things I recommend for evaluating a website:

1. Organic Strategy & Current Online Footprint

Looking at the current organic footprint strategy is by far the easiest part of our evaluation. Seeing how this is a very broad category, we’re going to break it into three pieces.

A. History of Optimization & Organic Trends

Looking at what a brand has done in the past can be the most important part of an analysis. You need to see if they hired the CMO’s doofus next-door neighbor to do their SEO back in 2012. If that was the case, they probably got an organic penalty placed on the domain, which would obviously change the way you went about things.

You’re going to want to use SEMRush for the first part of your analysis. This will show you the ranking trends for the last several years. It’s going to be very important to note massive drops at certain dates. If the site was hit with a Penguin or Panda update, it will definitely reflect in the SEMRush data.

B. Basic Onsite Optimization

Taking a few minutes to review the most basic forms of SEO will immediately tell you if the company has an optimization specialist on the payroll. These optimization tactics would include the following:

  • Smart Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
    • Building a good title tag is more than just using keywords. If it’s a national company, you’ll want to include the brand. If it’s local, you might want to try adding the phone number. Try a few things out and go with what works.
  • Optimized Website Copy
    • Take a good look to see if the copy is formatted for the reader or just for the search engines. Evaluate if the messaging draws you in and makes you want to take action.
  • Quality Internal Linking
    • Internal linking distributes Google’s “link juice” throughout the site. Make sure you’ve constructed a website that facilitates all pages getting crawled.

2. Smart, Engaging Messaging

Google is obviously looking to rank websites that are most relevant for a particular query. Over the years, a wide range of metrics determined relevancy. However, as search moves into the 21st century, Google will be looking to reward thought leaders and forward thinkers.

Google is starting to take the performance of a website as a core part of organic placement. If the messaging and copy is poorly written, users are sure to bounce.

When you’re looking at a site, check to see if it clearly identifies its competitive advantage in the marketplace. Is there something that makes their website and product special or is it the same old thing?

3. Design, Design, Design!

The visual elements of a brand and website have never been more important. The look of your site has a very real effect on how people view your company.

When evaluating a site, think if the design is appropriate for the particular industry. Look at the spacing of the different sections. Was it built with a scrolling homepage or the old school, frozen layout?

Having an eye for what makes a quality website takes a little bit of time and practice. However, with a little work, you’ll find yourself developing real opinions and thought about a particular brand and its online collateral.

Be sure to check out SEOWhistleBlowers free Branding Audit, which evaluates the effectiveness of your brand’s overall design, website, social media and advertising collateral.