Why I can’t audit your website without talking to you

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

This seems to be a question I get more and more these days: “What would you change on our website?”

Great question and I’m always happy to collaborate and work with companies on their digital strategy. I certainly can give some feedback on any website without knowing much about it:

    Why do you need that slider? It moves too fast or too slow.
    These links don’t work.
    Your social network buttons are so prominent and you don’t even post updates to Twitter. Why send people there?
    The site or something on it doesn’t work on mobile devices.

But at the end of the day, it’s hard if not impossible to truly audit a website without knowing the company’s goals. Or the website metrics.

Related: The easiest way to check Google Analytics revealed

I know many will say: We want to sell things – either a product or services. Businesses usually do. 🙂 But the website launch needs to fit into a specific strategy that is then carried through once it launches. In the growth-driven design framework, experts recommend launch pad sites, basically phased functionality sites.

The goal here is to see what works and what doesn’t before spending months upon months on planning-only activities. Strategic forward movement is necessary in digital marketing today!

How you can get a meaningful audit of your website

At first, I would recommend a phone call or meeting to discuss the following:

    Current state of the website and some historical information on how it was built, why the CMS, etc.
    Discuss current strategies and what the website should do for your organization.
    Who is it trying to reach?
    What are the key areas that need to be covered on the website and why?

As you may realize that conversation doesn’t need to be hours and can often be done in a few minutes. But it’s important to understand the background, goals and perceived barriers too.

Branding websites

Some companies create websites to have a presence, show up for their branded search and answer frequently asked questions. That’s okay in some instances.

Some of what I would analyze here in Google Analytics and Google Search Console includes:

    Where are visitors coming from
    What are visitors doing once they are on the site

Also, keep in mind that branded search and direct traffic keeps evolving how users go through that search experience. I blogged about why not to get too excited about branded SEO results too much before here.

Lead generation tools

Some websites drive leads for companies and are designed with that in mind. While certainly all companies want leads and business, building your brand and just being found when people look for you on the web is also a good goal. Especially to get started.

To drive leads we need to think about:

    Volume of relevant traffic
    Relevant calls to action
    Ongoing testing

For example, lead generation campaigns require some planning around user flow, content to match the actual stage in the funnel prospects are in and calls to action must be easy to follow.

I do see some websites that have way too many calls to actions. I know that’s easy to do and sometimes happens in an effort to please everyone in the room critiquing the designs.

“Yes, we can add that call to action for you and you and you and you.” And before you know it there are just too many CTAs for any prospect to even know what to do.

For example, when my new book launched I was looking at a number of ways to promote it. Certainly there are several avenues to go down for this as well for the user:

    Listen to my book’s podcast Content Performance Culture – available on all podcast channels
    Book me to speak about the topic
    Buy the paperback
    Buy the Kindle
    Download the Alexa skill

Certainly all these parts of the whole project were fun and some I’m proud of that I figured out how to accomplish – like an Alexa skill.

Of course, I have calls to action for the book on my blog as well as a popup. The popup, which you probably saw earlier when you started reading, is pretty clean and straight to the point:

When I sent out the announcement marketing email to my list I kept it simple as well. Similar call to action button with some content, but not too much:

Certainly best practices for web design do indeed exist to be followed. But how they are implemented or broken when necessary also depends on your short-term and long-term goals.

Finally, user behavior matters. I’ve seen team spent all this time on designing their homepage and few people actually visit the homepage. On this blog, the homepage doesn’t even show up in the top 10 as I show and discuss in this Periscope live broadcast.

So why would the discussion of the homepage be the No. 1 or 2 discussion topic? Certainly, the homepage needs to look good no matter the project type. It does have a marketing function.

People visit it and I usually start there when prepping for a sales call or job interview. I know others do the same when they first need to look at a company to buy something from them. But that’s not always the case for top of the funnel readers. They are more likely to come through articles and search.

From a pure number perspective, it can’t monopolize the entire strategy session when we focus too much on one aspect. In my example, the top articles had nearly 100,000 views last year. Knowing that, my website audit and strategy recommendation should include a look at those pages and how to update them to drive even more results.

That’s something that a blind web audit wouldn’t know. It’s hard to guess where high performing sections of the website exist without looking at the numbers.

To get the most out of our web audit and feedback, make sure it’s a collaborative discussion that includes business goals, functional area goals and data.

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