Site audits- just what the Doctor ordered for an underperforming website

Site Audit- Doctor WhoAudit.

That’s a pretty un-sexy word, and it reminds you of accountants, the tax department, endless paperwork and plenty of hassle.

Relax!

I am talking about an entirely different kind of audit that you will actually look forward to.

This one does not involve a government department or accountants.

You don’t need to get involved in it, save for answering some highly targeted questions about your business goals.

And best of all, you get a solid plan that can improve your site and help you properly sell yourself.

I am talking about a site audit.

Why audit your B2B website?

One of the biggest reasons you need to audit your site is content marketing.

As more and more B2B brands are seeing the value of content marketing they are simultaneously realizing that their websites are not up to snuff and are about as appealing as a bowl of boiled oatmeal.

You know the type, right? A home page with stock images and a layout that was cutting edge in the late 90s, with a messed up layout.

Internal pages that are broken, incomplete, under construction and horribly out of date.

Oh, and my favorite: content that has been written a decade ago and reads like it was put together by a committee made up of a super cautious lawyer, a PR rep afraid of bad press, a marketing manager who sounds like a used car salesman and the engineer who is all API this and SMTP that.

These websites are hurting brands badly, kinda like how a overgrown lawn hurts the value of a property.

But even if your site is not that bad, you are likely not equipped for 2012. You probably can’t upload content regularly and easily without messing around with the code in the backend.

Your site looks godawful  on mobile platforms.

It does not play nice with video and other interactive elements.

And most importantly, your visitors don’t seem to be convinced by your message, tone or language . The site won’t be a lead generating machine and will do zilch towards building a list for email marketing.

What to focus on during a site audit

You want to focus broadly on 3 areas during a site audit

  • Design, looks and feel,
  • SEO,
  • Content and marketing message.

When you consider design and look and feel, you have to see a number of factors like

  • valid HTML and CSS,
  • user friendly navigation,
  • suitable fonts and color palette,
  • abundant whitespace,
  • presence or absence of Flash/ JS navigation,
  • loading speeds,
  • mobile friendliness and
  • cross browser compatibility.

When you consider SEO, you have to look at stuff like

  • broken links,
  • search engine friendly <title>, <H1>, <H2> and <meta-description> tags,
  • configuration of robots.txt page,
  • indexability,
  • tactics like keyword stuffing,
  • URL structure and
  • inbound and outbound links.

When you consider content and messaging look at

  • uniformity of tone,
  • presence of keywords,
  • duplicate content,
  • readability (e.g. metrics like Flesch Kincaid grading scale),
  • information architecture,
  • the resonance of the content with the market,
  • how “social” the site is,
  • spelling and grammatical errors,
  • structure of the home page and
  • performance of key pages like landing pages in terms of metrics like bounce rate and time on site.

Contents of a site audit report

A site audit report will include recommendations into specific areas so that the site can achieve its desired goals. Ideally, a site audit should be good enough for short to medium term, unless the priorities and goals of the owners have changed drastically.

Any site audit report that does not include a content inventory is incomplete. This should be a comprehensive inventory which lets the site owners know what digital assets they have (including whitepapers, case studies and videos), and whether they are performing as intended.

And finally, because the site will not exist in vacuum, and will be competing with other sites in the same space a competitive analysis of the competition has to be conducted. Check out the sites of the closest 5 competitors.

This process will roughly be similar to the site audit, and findings from the analysis will help you know your strengths and weaknesses.

Parting thoughts

The other day I exchanged mails with a marketer who was unhappy with their content. Lets call her Linda.

She said, “Our site is so bad that I tell people while giving out business cards that the site is going to be updated soon. But we don’t know how to start”.

If you are like Linda, you need a site audit like yesterday.

I offer a site audit service for B2B websites. If you are unhappy with your site and want me to go through it with a fine toothed comb and suggest changes drop me a mail here with the subject “Need site audit”

About Bhaskar Sarma

I am a copywriter and content marketer and I work with B2B tech companies to create great content that converts prospects to clients. If you want your ideal clients to think of you as a trusted solution provider instead of a vendor let's talk

Comments

  1. Sameer Agarwal says:

    Why do you think a B2B product really needs a website? I see Dropbox hasn’t changed (or built) a website in years…. 

    The underlying assumption behind a website is to just ‘publish’ content. All of it – in as pretty a format as possible. Themes, templates, CSS, HTML – it’s wonky if you ask me. Startups don’t need to worry about SEO – they need to worry about how sticky their home page is. 

    A website is no longer a repository – it’s a face. And if its not interactive – it’s not valuable. Check out Klout if you’re still unsure. 

    And finally – content dies quicker than a flower and if any webpage remains unchanged for more than 3 weeks – it’s because no one is reading it. Google analytics throws most people off cause it shows how many landed – but what you need to read is the bounce off from that page. The proof of the pudding lies there. 

    • Here is the thing. Your average B2B marketing manager is not going to be touching site audits with a ten feet long pole. Majority of them are not qualified, and even if they are there is no time.

      But after listening to a lot of people talking about content on their sites not working and wanting to get a revamp but not knowing where to start I thought it would be nice to give a sort of a roadmap behind the process. That said, I don’t think anyone’s going to run their code through the W3C validator.

      As for Google Analytics, you would want to look at a number of other metrics besides bounce rate to get the bigger picture. Avinash Kaushik has the whole 411 on this issue over at his blog, but you are right. It’s too intimidating for the average marketer. That said, there are ways to make the data more human readable, using custom reports and such other tricks.
      IMO an ideal website should be based on a CMS like WordPress. Set it up once, optimize it and make it easy for the client to change and upload the content regularly.

      • CMS is good. Google Analytics is not. Kissmetrics and Hubspot make it fun – but that’s the SECOND HALF of the problem. 

        What got me to this post is exactly what I was buried down with a few years ago. Companies asking for a ‘new website’ and not knowing what was ‘needed’. Wishlists don’t end do they ! :)

        If a tech marketer reaches out for a website audit – they’re probably looking up an empty keg. There’s no beer here to salvage. 

        A new website is a brilliant excuse to get your product face-lifted. It’s a good excuse to write new content. And its a half decent excuse to create buzz. 

        But its an awesome excuse to tell a story. Which is actually what is needed. Everything else can wait. 

        But as with all challenges – unless a b2b marketer realizes that publishing has come awfully close to marketing – their websites will look not much different from competition. 

        Let me also add – though we’re throwing lots of assumptions and speculations about – building a presence on the web isn’t only about content. There’s the design piece which is critical. 

        A few years ago we were hired to build web content for a tech company and we were 3 weeks late. When asked we said the design guys didn’t show us where the content will fit. The design team said without content they didn’t know what to design ! 

        If it was easy – I guess a lot of us would have it solved eh ? 

        • Bhaskar Sarma says:

          I haven’t had experience with either Kissmetrics and Hubspot but yeah, people rave about them a lot. But when you are worried about budget, you have to make do with Google Analytics.

          I agree with you that a website is only the starting point in the whole thing that is online presence. You can have the most brilliant website but if you don’t have a robust presence on the networks where your markets hang out or an ongoing email marketing campaign running it won’t make a difference to the bottom line.

          And when it comes to telling a story, most companies kinda suck at it. People don’t seem to want to talk about their success stories and case studies, and if they do, they gate them behind a form. Talk about self goals.

          Regarding that thing about design and content, I think you should look at this case study about responsive design http://builtbyboon.com/blog/responsive-design-case-study. I believe that’s how it will be done in the future.

        • I don’t have experience with either Kissmetrics and Hubspot but yeah, people rave about them a lot. But when you are worried about budget, you have to make do with Google Analytics.

          I agree with you that a website is only the starting point in the whole thing that is online presence. You can have the most brilliant website but if you don’t have a robust presence on the networks where your prospects hang out or a backend to nurture your prospects and leads there will be no difference to the bottom line.

          And when it comes to telling a story, most companies plain suck at it. People don’t seem to want to talk about their success stories and case studies, and if they do, they gate them behind a form. Talk about self goals.

          Regarding that thing about design and content, I think you should look at this case study about responsive design http://builtbyboon.com/blog/responsive-design-case-study. I believe that’s how it will be done in the future.

Trackbacks

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