Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Long gone are the days when the only metric that mattered was how much revenue a business generated.
Now, businesses must keep on top of so much more than revenue generation. As disruption culture takes root and society changes, so do tastes, consumer behavior, business culture and how companies approach cross channel transition.
The mere fact that online transactions have exploded in the last couple of years is enough for businesses and companies to reckon that they continually have to check the state of their websites and digital transformation.
It is with this background that businesses should prioritize ongoing audits of how their websites are performing, yet developers spend 50% of their time fixing issues which could have been avoided according to Vitamin T. Yet another astonishing statistic shows that out of the 283 respondents questioned by ClickZ on consumer expectations when they visit a website:
79% said that they place the highest level of importance on overall site/app experience as well as page load time.
With all these and then some to consider, website audits are critical and necessary, yet many businesses overlook them. While cost is a factor, for most businesses, the price of a single audit is negligible when compared against the fact that, a solution to prevent unnecessary failures and create an intentional and strategic user experience has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%. - Forbes.com.
To conduct a successful audit, there are seven defining reports every business needs:
Website Health Report - checks website performance. Is it responsive? Does it load in under 2 seconds? and is it easily found?
Social Media Audit Report - checks social media assets to reveal what's working, what's problematic, what can be improved and what needs to be discontinued.
Traffic Analysis Report - checks where your traffic is coming from, on what device and also how you stack up to the competition.
Security Audit Report - assesses your security policy, potential threats and security controls on your website.
Competitive Analysis Report - benchmarks your business against those of your competitors.
Technical Audit Report - audit items that affect user experience and rankings (page loading speed, utilization of outdated technologies and inadequate optimization for mobile devices)
Content Audit Report - understand how your published content is performing in the digital world.
Once a decision is made to conduct a complete Website Audit (the above reports can be performed in a single project, or broken into smaller manageable projects at various stages). Here are some do's and don'ts to guide you along the way:
DO a Website (SEO)Audit before embarking on a new or redesign project.
To get a complete view of your customers and where they live in the digital space, it pays to do a Competitive Analysis Report before design begins. A competitive analysis report will answer questions like:
Who else is selling this product in my targeted market?
Who are my Top 5 competitors?
How does my strategy differ, or is similar to my competition?
What type of content are they publishing?
What does their Social Media look like?
What does their SEO structure look like?
How can I outmaneuver them using the knowledge gained?
There are many free tools available on the internet to conduct a basic Web Audit. One of my favorite tools that I run to do an initial 2-minute check on potential clients is Website Grader by HubSpot. Website Grader as a tool is far from ideal and provides only the bare minimum like website performance (load time) and SEO ranking (not very good, but you will get the point).
For a useful and comprehensive audit, you will need the services of an SEO agency such as Multicultural Solutions with a broad range of options from top-notch platforms or another SEO agency.
DO analyze Design and User Experience (UX).
Few businesses give this critical issue the seriousness it deserves because few understand what it means or what it does. Simply put, Design and User Experience, often referred to as UX is:
Every interaction your business has with people on your website, mobile site, apps, and online properties or services. - Think With Google.
The goal of good UX is to make sure that users do what they want to do when they come into contact with your website. For example, if a business offers ongoing workshops, a user should be able to easily find where to sign up for a workshop, pay the stated fee, and what to expect after the transaction is complete. This is especially important because when visiting a webpage:
People take into account how much relevant information they are likely to find on that page relative to the effort involved in extracting that info. - Nielsen Norman Group.
Ultimately, the goal for employing good UX analysis is so you can keep visitors to your site for more extended periods, which usually leads to conversions. A website with a high bounce rate means something is seriously wrong because visitors see no value in sticking on a website for more than a minute. When good UX has been employed, it can effectively anticipate how visitors will move around the site and capture them at the right time when they are ready to buy.
DO Choose Meaningful Metrics.
When all is said and one, the chosen metrics must be relevant to business goals. It's easy to want all the information and platforms available, but do you need to have that Twitter account? Does your business need a LinkedIn page? where do your customers live in the digital space? What difference has it made to your business that you have 10 000 Facebook fans? Are they engaging? Are those fans converting? To choose meaningful metrics, it helps to have a clear understanding of how those metrics impact business goals.
The fact is, in today's business environment, there are too many metrics that Managers have information paralysis. Metrics like page views, open email rates, bounce rates can look useful but, when analyzed further, are often not an accurate measure of success. Dig deeper into which metrics genuinely support your success and are relevant to your business goals.
It's safe to say most businesses know the one or two English words customers associate with their business, but do they know the synonyms of those same words that immigrants in their communities might be using? For example, when I first came to America, it took me a while to get used to saying "fries" and not "chips." "Cookies" and not "biscuits."
Depending on where you live in the country, it is worthwhile to consider these terms, especially in local search marketing, so you can have an idea of which variation of the keyword is popular in what part of your market, which brings me to the question of time. Website Audits take time. They take even more time if you want to implement the recommendations as you have to continually test and retest to come up with a winning formula.
For example, let's say you have the keyword, "Nuts." As a business, you need to know your customers well enough to understand how they search for "Nuts". Do they search for specific nuts? Do they search for nuts associated with a location? "Cincinnati Nuts," "Amish Nuts," "Spanish peanuts," and so on? Why is this important? It is important because a generic word like "nuts" will result in thousands of search engine results pages (high volume SERP), whereas a specific term like "Spanish peanuts Cincinnati" will result in better-localized results.
Better yet, anticipate your customers' questions and create an "FAQ" page.
Last but not least on the Dos -
DO Make Sure Your Site is Indexed.
How can you tell if your site is indexed? To do a quick check: enter the URL of your domain with "site" before the domain address - "site:mywebsite.com." If your site is indexed, you will see it appear along with all indexed pages. The following diagram shows my indexed site:
Did I leave out any important "to do" before a website audit? Please share it in the comments so we can all benefit. Thank you.
Now for the Don'ts: [You can insert the opposite of all the Do's]
DON'T Limit Accessibility for no Good Reason.
While not every page has to be crawled during a website audit, all sources of traffic must be considered to get accurate information and data. Before an audit, work out any office politics around access and passwords. Understand that if you are using another business to do an audit, they have worked with many other businesses and are true professionals. If you are still worried about information sharing, draw up an NDA, and have all parties sign.
DON'T Create a New Website You Don't Need.
Sometimes as people, we start to feel rusty when we have been looking at the same thing for too long. It's the reason home design shows are popular. The same goes for websites. A business might have a relatively popular website with pages that rank well on Google but feel the need to get a new site to get that cool video banner. Before you go that route, consider a site lift. Leave all pages as indexed and do cosmetic lifts to font, images, look, and feel. The exception to this rule is if you put a 301-redirect plan in place. If the decision was to start all over without any redirects, then let some time pass for indexing and crawl-ability.
Finally, regardless of what you hear, the simple truth is that website audits are a must. At least once a year. If you're not auditing your website, you're leaving money on the table, letting your competition run a-mock, and missing out on potential new customers.