When you’ve been building websites for as long as we have (since the late 90’s for me) you get an instinct for what to look for in a website but it’s always handy to have a reminder to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Websites have become very technically challenging over the last few year. Mobile responsiveness isn’t a new thing (we were building responsive-ish sites as early as 2004) but it’s vital these days and pure responsiveness is getting harder to achieve across all devices just because there are SO MANY and a plethora of browsers available doesn’t help. For example, is your viewer looking at your site on an iPhone with Safari or Chrome? Or perhaps they’re on an older MacBook with Firefox!
Then you have to think about conversion – is your site built to make the most of your visitors and turn them into customers? What colours do you use? Where are the call-to-action buttons – left or right of the screen?
What about SEO? Are you optimising each page for a targeted key phrase? Are all your image filenames optimised?
The potential checklist for everything you could check on a website is pretty long and could be very in-depth if you wanted.
For the most-part though, it doesn’t have to be too detailed. Just having a high level overview of your website could be enough to improve conversion rates and drive more traffic. Just checking a few basic things can have a massive impact on the value of your website, turning from a waste of server space to an active marketing channel for your business.
This is why I’ve put together a Website Audit Checklist – a high level, quick review checklist that anyone can do to spot the basic issues with many websites. We also have another, more in-depth, report that we can run that looks specifically at how well your site is optimised so once you’ve completed this checklist ask us about running our SEO Audit and i’ll be delighted to do that for you (for free too).
The Website Audit
So let’s get down to the checklist. What should you be looking for on your website? Use the form below to grab a copy of the checklist and then follow the instructions below to understand how each point is relevant to your site.
Describe your target audience – As any marketing consultant will tell you, understanding your audience is key if you want any of your marketing material to be effective. Knowing what buttons to push to get them to take an action will ensure you’re making the best use of your marketing spend and converting more prospects into sales. Take some time to really think about your customers, who they are, what they enjoy, how they live their life, what problems do they face and what issues do they want you to solve?
How do you solve your audience’s problems? – Related to #1 this is where you’ll consider how you actually solve their problems. Quite often we’re so quick to tell our audience about how great a business we are (how long we’ve been in business, how many employees we have…) we forget to actually show visitors to our sites how we actually solve their problems. Think about this for a while.
How do you want prospects to contact you? – This might sound like an obvious question to answer but it’s worth thinking about it for a moment because getting loads of phone calls may sound good but could you handle them all? Would you prefer email contact that you can push through a CRM system? Or, do you want some pre-qualification to be done before prospects contact you which would suggest having a questionnaire that they complete before contacting you? It’s worth thinking about because you’ll set up your website to push visitors towards that preferred contact method so if it’s phone, a large phone number clearly displayed on every page is the way to go. If you want them to complete a form you will need clear call-to-action buttons on every page to direct them to the right place to go.
First contact – having reflected on your target audience and how you want to interact with them, take a look at your home page and try to look at it as someone in your target audience, struggling with the problems that you solve and ready to contact you (I know it’s hard). What are your first impressions? Is it obvious what action to take?
Is the contact method clearly shown? – Do you have a clear action for visitors to take? Bear in mind that users normally read a page from left to right in an “F” pattern (that is, left to right then back to the left and back right again”) so the rule of thumb is any action you want the user to take should be positioned to the right of the page and mid-page.
Open your site on a mobile device – The fact is, more and more people are browsing the web on their phones with smaller screens and in portrait orientation. However, most websites are designed in landscape first on desktops or laptops with mobile views treated as a secondary priority. For older websites (i.e anything over a couple of years) there’s a good chance that they’re not mobile responsive or had any thought about how a mobile user will interact with the site. It’s a lot different using a site with fat fingers instead of the pin-point accuracy of a mouse and you have to consider what information a mobile user might want compared to a desktop user.
Start working through all your pages – Having looked at your home page take time to review all your internal pages for layout, call-to-action, mobile responsiveness and read through the copy – does it answer your visitors pain points?
Social media share buttons – Depending on the type of business you’re in, customers may do a lot of research before buying and may want to review purchase decisions with another so having easy ways to share your page will help in that process. Social Media share options are vital in this inter-connected world and can often include share by email options for less public sharing.
Your contact page – Over the years we’ve seen the Contact Page of websites pinned to the rest of the site almost as an after-thought. However, for prospective customers this is probably the most important page on the site so it’s worth spending time on getting it right and making sure the details on it are correct (you would be surprised how many times we’ve seen incorrect phone numbers and email addresses that don’t work on a contact page). If your page has a form, TEST IT. You need to use an email address that isn’t connected to your website domain because that can be a sign of spam and be filtered by email systems so ask a friend if you can use their email address and try out your form. If you don’t get an email from your site, check your spam folder first and if it’s still not there get your web designer to check and if necessary, speak to your hosting company to see where the issue is.
Let’s get a little more in-depth – Now we need to look deeper into how well each page is optimised for SEO. Now, this isn’t a really deep check – this stage is designed to be a high level overview of each page to make sure the basic requirements are there. Pick a unique key phrase for each page and check each page following the points in the checklist. To check the source code of a page, right click on your desktop and click View Page Source. Finding <h1>, <h2> etc tags may be tricky so press CTRL and type an F to bring up a search box and enter <h1> in there. That will help you quickly find what you’re looking for. This also applies for the page title – just type “<title>” to find that – it’s usually at the top of the source code.
Legal requirements –
1. Under UK law (and other countries have similar requirements) you have to display your company information on your website and that includes a physical address, telephone number, email address, company registration number and, if you’re VAT registered, your VAT number.
2. Since the EU passed the Cookie Law directive a couple of years ago you have to tell your visitors that you’re saving cookies on their pc (if you’re not sure, ask your web developer). This doesn’t apply to e-commerce sites as it’s implied that this is the case by the added complexity of providing e-commerce functionality.
3. Your site should be accessible for people with a disability just as any shop or workplace should be. Years ago this was a lot harder to do but these days screen readers are a lot more capable but you can still make things easier for users with visual impairment.
4. It’s not a legal requirement to have a copyright notice on your site but it’s worth just pointing it out to anyone who might fancy pinching your content.
Your copy – This is where I always ask someone else to read through my copy. I’m terrible at self-proofreading my own writing (as you’ll no doubt guess from this post). Check for the obvious spelling and grammar issues but also read it from a visitors point of view – do you talk about yourself too much? Do you answer the questions that visitors would have?
So hopefully that audit will through up a huge number of changes that you’ll want to go back to your website designer with but it’s all good because you’re on the road to making your site more effective for your business and hopefully, if it hasn’t created any leads for you in the past, it will start delivering good quality leads.
By Russell Davies, Lobster Digital Marketing, Cardiff