Jenny K. Hill
Is your website working for you? How do you know?
Complete a website audit every 12-18 months to ensure that your website is keeping pace and delivering value to your organization.
First, what’s the point of putting yourself through an audit? “Audit” is a pretty ugly word, so why would you want to do one?!
Consider a website audit if you:
- Have noticed a drop in your search engine rankings
- Need to implement new key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Recognize that your site is running slowly
- Are sick of your site design
- Haven’t audited your site in the last 18 months
In an audit, you take a hard look at your website. You’ll look at the big picture things — like content and design — and you’ll also need to get into the nitty gritty of the technical elements of your site.
Let me walk you through a few must-haves for every modern website:
Google has favored mobile-friendly sites in its search algorithm since “Mobilegeddon” on April 21, 2015. And, in November 2016, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time. In the same year, 88% of local, “near me” searches happened on mobile devices.
So mobile matters for everyone. I have yet to encounter an organization that would not benefit from offering their content to site visitors in a mobile-friendly format. Even manufacturers who are B2B need to recognize that their customers are not chained to a desk anymore.
In a sales conversation this year, a prospect admitted to me that he’d recently received a call from the heart of Amish country. The first thing the caller said? “Your website sucks!” You do not want Amish woodcutters to be more technologically advanced than your company!
Responsive means that the layout of your website “responds” and actually changes its layout according to the size screen a user is visiting your site with. If you have a site with a responsive layout, you’re more likely to appear in searches completed on mobile devices, including tablets. If you have a static layout, you may not show up at all.
Now that most of the web is mobile friendly, Google wants it to be faster. We’ve all sat waiting for a site to load. Not fun. Consider — if your site loads slowly when connected to the lightning fast Internet we have in Chattanooga, how long will it take to display your content in Texas or Minnesota or West Virginia? Remember, people in Amish Country want a good web experience, too!
Check out your site’s mobile friendliness score at Google Mobile Insights. And double check your speed with gtmetrix.com. Both will give you a score and a list of things to fix to make your site faster. Your goal: 3 seconds or less!
There are many more technical elements we consider in a professional website audit, but these will get you going.
Now, let’s talk content!
You want to be found online — and I’d challenge that while you want to be found for some things, you don’t want to be found for everything. Often, the trickiest part of a website audit is looking at the content on your site and across the web and making sure it accurately represents you.
Let’s start with the easy stuff.
Your brand name. Search it. If you don’t come up when you search your name, you may be in serious trouble.
Take a look at this image. When I search Papercut Interactive, our site is first. Then, you see how other social media sites play an important role for us — Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are all in the top 10.
If you’re not ranking for your brand name, you may want to run a paid search campaign while you create additional content online for your brand.
The other item of major interest here is the column on the right. This is our Google My Business listing. Google My Business is at the heart of local search. It notes your location, hours, and reviews. If you don’t have a listing, set one up pronto!
I’m not going to talk about the aesthetics of design today — that’s too subjective for the purposes of this blog. But I will encourage you to think about how your site design is — or isn’t — driving conversions from your website.
Consider… what do you want people to do when they’re on your website?
Let’s look at The Chattery. This is an inspired nonprofit dedicated to offering fun, affordable classes for their community. Their calendar is packed every month with classes that are either analytical or creative (hmm…kind of like the parts of a website audit…).
What do they want people to do when they arrive at their site? Book a class! Knowing this, it’s great that they use a lot of their homepage to promote classes.
An idea for a website tweak: they could try adding a “Learn More” button to the class promos to encourage people to click on them. They could also add a “quick view” preview function so people could explore classes fast.
Now, let’s look at the class listing.
In the mobile view, things feel good and in order. They don’t want to have no-shows, so it’s good to have the register button below the description. But on the desktop view, it would be great to have a “one screen” shopping experience. Perhaps the register button could be moved into the left column. Perhaps the photo could consume less space or a different space so I can see more on the page at once.
Approach your site with your goals in mind and with a critical eye. You may be surprised what you find!
Tracking Your Progress
Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to collect measurable improvement data. Make sure your site has it and you have access to it.
You can configure your Google Analytics account to measure goals by tracking actions, such as landing on a thank you page or clicking a button. You can also track how engaged people are with your site by looking at session-duration and pages-per-session numbers.
Set up goals to track your big conversion — quote requests, phone calls, etc. — and check them each month to see how you’re doing.
When you complete a website audit, you may feel empowered and ready to move forward. But if your site is way off base, you might feel overwhelmed.
Keep in mind, maintaining a healthy, optimized site isn’t a once-and-done affair. If your competitor has a topnotch site, it could be that they’ve just achieved that. In a month, the standards will change, and they’ll be playing catch up, too.
Heck, while I developed this blog, Google’s page speed test altered its algorithm, and our ranking went from excellent to fair. Why? Because they’ve begun looking at the load speed if someone is on a mobile phone with a 3G connection!
It’s a little annoying to me to see our score droop, but it also means that we have actionable data to help build a better web, and that’s what we’re all about!
Make a plan to improve your site on a regular basis, and work your plan. Call a professional (Like Papercut!) for help when you need it.
Jenny K. Hill is a partner at Papercut Interactive, a web development and digital marketing company founded in 2001. Papercut services include website audits, custom website development, search engine optimization and digital marketing. Learn more at papercutinteractive.com.