It’s a given that we have a website for our business these days, whether it’s a tech startup or a museum, a beauty brand or a consultancy; the quality of both the design and the content, however, varies significantly.
Those of us who are solopreneurs or early-stage startups are likely to be managing our websites ourselves, and although there are many platforms and tools out there now that make this possible it can still be difficult to reach the professional results that we are after. Even when we can afford to work with an agency, it’s important that we ourselves understand what it is we want in order to properly brief them.
Here are 10 simple steps to auditing your website in order to identify areas of improvement that you can address yourself or pass on to your agency.
1. The strategy
a. Who is your audience?
All effective marketing, and this includes your website, starts with a clear understanding of the “who” that you’re targeting.
Who is your ideal client or customer? What insights do you have about them, in terms of both demographics and psychographics? What are they looking for when they arrive on your website?
Understanding who your audience is and what they want is crucial to being able to meet those needs on your website.
b. What are your objectives?
Before we start reviewing your site, we need to understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve.
When it comes to your overall marketing efforts, are you looking to establish yourself in a new industry, to increase awareness of your product or service, or perhaps to increase engagement with your brand? How does your website fit into your overall ecosystem and what is its role? Is its function to demonstrate your credibility and establish trust? Are you trying to generate leads and build your email list? Is it about making sales online or driving people into your physical stores?
Make sure you’re clear on the objective of the website before you launch into the rest of the audit.
2. The home page
When a potential client or customer arrives on your homepage, you want it to be immediately obvious what it is that you actually do. If there’s any element of confusion, even your ideal customer may leave in frustration or indifference and your bounce rate (the % of people who leave your website having only viewed that one page) will be high.
What’s the ONE message you want your visitor to get, above all others? What’s the next step, the action that you want them to take? Is your home page currently meeting your objective?
This can get a little tricky if you have different customer targets and different service offerings all on the same website. The goal is the same, however: be as single-minded as you can be.
EXAMPLE: The 4-hour work week
This is an unusual example but potentially very effective. Tim Ferriss, of Four-Hour Work Week fame, has created a home page with a START HERE box where you are immediately encouraged to sign up for a bunch of freebies. To persuade you to do this, the rest of the page includes a promise of “10x your per-hour output” along with quotes from prominent media outlets including the New York Times and some impressive stats from Amazon. If you’re not convinced, he still has a simple navigation at the bottom pointing you towards his TV show, his blog, and his podcast.
3. The navigation
It’s not just the dreaded Millennials, everyone today has a short attention span. You want to guide your website visitors quickly and seamlessly along the desired path to their ultimate destination.
If they’ve arrived on the home page for the first time, what’s the next step you want them to take? If it’s a returning visitor who’s already done their research and now wants to buy, do you offer a fast path to purchase with a minimal number of clicks? What if they need more information, is it easy to find the FAQs or to get in touch with customer services? Is the menu at the top of the page self-explanatory? Keep things simple and straightforward.
Again, this can get more complicated if you have different paths you want users to follow depending on who they are and what they’re looking for, but even here: keep things super simple, make the message very clear, and provide a natural next step for each of your customer segments.
EXAMPLE: Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary’s website has a clever “First-time here?” button to direct new visitors that appears on your first visit only, at the top of his page. The rest of his menu is super clear: Blog, Recent Press, Books, Events; and the final item in the menu is a strong call to action “Hire me to speak”. You can go straight to one of those menu items, or you can keep scrolling down, where you’ll be able to sign up to the newsletter, find out more about Gary’s story and his media appearances, and follow him on social media.
4. The content
Does your website contain content that is relevant and engaging for your visitors? Does it answer all the questions they’re likely to have?
You want to create content for your site that sits in the sweet spot between your business objective and your customers’ needs. Understanding who your visitors are and where they are coming from will help you to create relevant content that answers their most burning questions and keeps them coming back to your site. Think beyond the most obvious brand and product content and ask yourself: what problems can you help to solve?
A part of this equation is what your users are actually searching for online. You can use Google Keyword Planner to see the search volume on different keywords and phrases in your industry. Sign up for a free account here.
5. Social media
You want people to be sharing your material, whether it’s a blog post, a podcast, or another type of content. Have you implemented sharing buttons so that it’s easy for your users to post directly to the main platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on?
Are the images and text being pulled correctly when you do share? You can use the Facebook Debugger tool to check why content is not being properly shared on Facebook.
Apart from sharing, you probably also want people to follow you on social media so that you can continue talking to them. Is it clear on your website how to follow your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your YouTube channel, or whatever your main social networks might be?
6. Other channels
Speaking of your social media networks, are you being consistent in the look and feel of your brand across your various channels? If personal branding is important for your business, are you using the same or similar profile pictures across the board? Are other tangible elements like your logo, colours, fonts, and background pictures consistent?
Ultimately what you’re trying to do is create a distinctive and cohesive brand experience for your consumers over a period of time and over different media. In theory, this means that if you hide your brand name then your consumer can still identify the elements as being associated with your particular brand.
EXAMPLE: Kimra Luna
Kimra has recently come to the fore with an impressive story of going from unemployment benefits to making a 6-figure income online. She now has a very strong brand, which is instantly recognisable first of all thanks to her own personal look and secondly due to the colours, fonts, and overall look and feel of her materials. You can love it or hate it, but it’s a cohesive brand.
7. Your images
It’s all very well to have a lot of text that explains the details of what you do but a picture, of course, tells a thousand words. Images on your site will help you to tell your story in a much more emotional way.
Look at the photos on your site and ask yourself: What are these images telling me? Are they bringing to life the benefits that you offer your clients and customers? Are they representative of the kind of people you work with? What emotion are they stimulating in you? Are the colours warm and comforting, light and inspiring, or dark and menacing?
Don’t undo all the good work you’re doing with the written content with dull or off-putting imagery.
8. The data
a. Behavioural data
Google Analytics can be quite overwhelming for a beginner, and even for website professionals: there’s more data than you can dream of ever needing! The best way to approach this is to identify a few key metrics that will measure what you want to measure. In fact, most of these metrics that you should be looking at when you’re starting out will appear on the main landing page of Google Analytics:
Users – Unique visitors to your website
Pages/session – Average number of pages that someone will visit in one session
Average session duration – Average time spent on the site in one session
Bounce rate – % of people who leave the site having only visited one page
% New sessions – This is the proportion of people who are visiting for the first time.
If you scroll further down the page, you can also see the demographics of visitors including their language and country.
Looking over to the menu on the left, the Acquisition section can be very interesting. Click on the Overview and you’ll see where your visitors are coming from: organic search, paid search, social media, direct (typing in the URL), or referral from other websites.
Another section that can be useful is Behaviour: in the Overview you can see the pages on your site that have the most views.
b. Technical data
If you’re a little more technically advanced, you may also want to review the speed of your website with one of these free tools and address the areas identified as issues:
Look into Google Analytics to determine the split of visitors who are viewing your site on their desktop versus on their mobile. This will vary by industry but the overall trend of course is that more and more website traffic is mobile driven. You want all these things that we’ve looked at so far to apply on mobile too: clear messages, simple navigation, easy to find what you’re looking for.
Use Google’s mobile friendly test to get a quick feel for whether or not your website performs in this area; and, of course, you can try using the website on your own mobile!
Rather than create a whole separate mobile site, which will require a different design as well as different content, the best approach is usually to have a responsive website. A responsive website will adapt to the screen size of your device – website providers like WordPress have a number of readily available responsive themes that do all the work for you.
Now we don’t want to just make these improvements to your site and then leave it for another five years… Likewise there’s no point in launching a blog, or creating lots of social media profiles, if you aren’t going to be creating content for these on a consistent basis.
What can you do to make sure that the website is updated on a regular basis, both in terms of content and usability? Can you schedule a regular website audit in your calendar? If you have a team, who is responsible for updating the site? What structures can you put in place to make sure that your website is maintained at the professional standard that you set for other areas of your business? Set yourself up for success with a systematic approach.
Download this free overview of the 10 simple steps to auditing your website HERE.
If you feel you need help in this area, get in touch to arrange a professional website audit that will give you clear recommendations on how to improve your site to support your business objectives.