We all know how important it is to proactively care for our bodies if we wish to stay healthy. We schedule our annual physicals, go to the gym, and get regular dental cleanings.
But are you taking similar steps to maintain your business’s digital health? Key digital assets, like your website and app, are as essential to your brand’s wellness as your blood pressure is to yours.
During the pandemic, business moved almost exclusively online, and while in-person sales and marketing efforts are back, many people are still working and buying from home. In fact, 61.2% of marketers report that they’ve increased the number of channels they use in the past three years.
You need a top-notch digital presence to remain competitive.
So, if you haven’t given your key digital assets a checkup recently, now’s the time. With Google Lighthouse, you can quickly run vitals on your most important digital assets and shine a light on any weak spots.
What is Google Lighthouse?
Google Lighthouse is a free, open-source tool for checking your website’s performance. Many sites look fine from the outside but have issues lurking under the hood. This is particularly true for those quick-and-dirty websites, built years ago without much forethought as to how it would need to scale. As search engines, coding and development best practices, and customer expectations advance, these sites see big drops in performance.
Lighthouse brings all those imperfections to light. It scores your site’s performance on desktop and mobile, and it can even assess progressive web apps.
When you run the audit, Google Lighthouse produces a color-coded rating for four primary focus areas: performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. You’ll see a red, yellow, or green score for each category, with green being good to go and red meaning there’s serious room for improvement.
Along with its rating, Google Lighthouse also specifies any detractors from your score and suggests fixes to move you from the red or yellow zone up to green.
Curious about what each of the four focus areas comprises? Let’s take a closer look.
When it comes to site performance, the name of the game is speed. Slow-loading websites are deadly. If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, you’re looking at a conversion rate under 29%; the rest of your visitors are bouncing back to Google or a competitor’s site.
Like an Olympic swimmer jumping off the block, you want to eliminate any drag on your site’s performance out of the gate. Reducing the number of items that can pull down your page’s load time gives your performance a major boost.
Accessibility is becoming a significant focus in website design and development—as it should be! You want as many users as possible to be able to navigate your site.
When it comes to on-page elements, Lighthouse wants to ensure everyone can engage with your content. That means high-contrast text for the visually impaired and captioned videos for those with hearing or auditory processing challenges.
As for background factors, HTML has a role to play. Alt text, title and heading tags, and HTML language attributes are all audited as part of the accessibility test. While these elements are hidden for most site visitors, they are essential for those who use screen readers to access your site.
Next up is the grab bag category of best practices. These are general dev items that don’t fit squarely into other areas. Things like relying on a deprecated API or using HTTP rather than HTTPS will dock your score.
When you think of general development, speed (beyond what you see in the performance category), and security, this is the audit where Google Lighthouse considers those factors.
Many of the issues that compromise security and speed are present on sites created years ago that rely on outdated methods to keep them running.
Security has become an area of increased concern for consumers, so it’s time to update to current best practices. Chrome browsers began publicly flagging HTTP sites as non-secure way back in 2017. If you’re still not switched over to HTTPS, not only are you leaving yourself and your customers open to vulnerabilities, Google is calling you out on Chrome. Yikes!
Like security, SEO is another area that requires regular attention.
If your SEO is weak, you’re not going to do well in SERPs, will be ineligible for position-zero or the knowledge panel, and will not appear in voice search.
It’s not enough to simply optimize your homepage and call it a day. You must evaluate each page on your site, and if you’re running an e-commerce website, there could be hundreds of them!
Do all of your pages contain the appropriate metadata? Are your links crawlable? Is your robots.txt valid? These are the types of factors Google Lighthouse considers in its SEO audit.
How the audit works
Google Lighthouse runs audits on a page-by-page basis. This provides you the flexibility to check specific pages you know have room for improvement or to do a total audit if you’re overdue for a checkup. How you choose to use the tool depends on your needs.
For each page on which you run the audit, Google Lighthouse will pull together a comprehensive list of issues, plus an overview of all the ratings the page passed with flying colors.
The good news is that Google Lighthouse provides tons of actionable insight into how to improve your site. But that means you need someone with the know-how and bandwidth to read and interpret the issues and execute fixes.
Oftentimes, tactical improvements precipitate a broader strategic discussion. You want to build a website that works for your audience, so you need to know who your ideal customers are and what they expect from their online experience with your brand. An agency can help guide these discussions and execute necessary updates.
With so much business happening online, ranking in search and providing visitors with a best-in-class experience has never been more critical. Want some outside support to get your website in excellent health? Give us a shout.