By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
Sometimes, it pays to ask a friend or colleague for an honest opinion. The resulting answer may sting a bit, but in the end, you are saved from potential embarrassment and can put together a better alternative with the information you receive.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s post, Website audits. When was the last time you really looked at your Website from the perspective of a first time visitor? Or is it even possible for you to do that, since you were involved in its creation or have lived with it so long that it’s comfortable? You can find what you are looking for, so visitors should be able to as well, right?
Not necessarily. If your Website is more than a few years old, and not reviewed and updated regularly, you could probably benefit from a Website audit. A thorough audit will uncover problems that you may not be aware of, provide suggestions for improvements and even help ensure your content is effective and consistent with your firm messaging. Some of these issues will be easy to fix while others may take more work. But regardless, it will give you a great list of areas to address so you get the most from this incredibly important marketing tactic.
So what is involved in a Website audit, you ask? There are a number of way to tackle it, but we recommend starting with the following areas:
Navigation and Structure: Take a look at how the information is organized and see if it is easy to find what you need in a few clicks. Is the navigation bar located in the same place on each page? Is your logo clickable to the home page from any page within the site? Is the important information on each page “above the fold” or do visitors have to scroll to find what they need?
Appearance: Is the site well branded and consistent with your other marketing materials? Is the use of colors, fonts and images consistent throughout the site, and is it easy to read? Is it unique yet still appropriate for your industry and audience? Is there good use of white space to help readers navigate the content?
Content: Can visitors tell at a glance what you do? Are your key messages front and center and consistent throughout the entire site? Is the content easy to scan, making good use of subheads and bullets? Is there too much content or not enough? Is it written from the reader’s perspective and benefits-focused? Is it easy to find your contact information and links to your social media pages? Is there a call to action?
Basic Search Engine Optimization: How easy is it to find your site on major search engines? Are keywords used appropriately and liberally, but not so much that the copy is awkward to read? Are there metatags for each page, and does the page header use keywords as well?
This provides a good start, but <shameless plug> it pays to have an outside company do the audit for you. It’s particularly important to find one that understands what your firm does and the industries you serve. Or if nothing else, have trusted colleagues or even clients help with the process so you get outside input from impartial sources. Otherwise, you might be leaving the house in an outfit that does nothing for you and could even hurt your reputation.