An Inc. article came across my Flipboard this week about something I’m very interested in: web audits. It’s a topic that falls in the gray area between art and strategy for me, but what makes it interesting is that it’s kind of like the metaphor of the blind people describing the elephant: different people take different data away from it, and they can all be right (albeit incompletely informed).
A web audit is exactly what it sounds like: an analysis of your website’s content, performance, strategy, audience, and search engine optimization (SEO). The goal is to identify what’s working, and what isn’t, and align it with the current strategy.
I had a call this week with a client who launched 10 years ago with a password-protected member area. Since that time, we’ve made more content available to the public, revised another area that was underutilized, and the software costs ballooned (does that part sound familiar?). We wouldn’t necessarily make the same call today as we did when the circumstances were different. So why are we re-making that decision today by continuing, when we could focus those resources elsewhere? We scrubbed it and focused on our video, content strategy, and social engagement, which are all finding nice traction.
But doesn’t a web audit need to encompass every aspect of the experience? Yes. In this case, we established a plan for the year in the first quarter. Web strategy is a lot like a brand discipline; you can put whatever you want into it at the planning stage, but once you’ve committed, it’s the boss of you. That structure allows different contributors to focus on their area of expertise and all work from the same playbook.
From my roots in design and tech, I like to dig into different metrics than some of my peers when it comes to auditing websites. Here are my first three stops:
1. Popular content
It’s an easy starting point to look at what’s working, but it’s not just about what’s working. When I look at a Google Analytics website report, I’m always fascinated by two aspects: the distance between items in the top 10 pages, and the absence of content we thought would be there (but isn’t).
The top 10 is kind of a misnomer because #10 can be 99.9% lower than number one. So I always dig into what kind of share our top pages get as they compare to each other. Second, why are we not seeing that deep dive article I did on 90s candy in the top 10? If we expected something to find an audience and it didn’t—why was that? Is the audience building, but slowly? Does the SEO stink? Did we misfire on the audience’s appetite for this topic? Let’s learn something from it.
2. Exit pages
It’s funny how nobody likes to think of any of their content as an exit page. Surely everything is interesting and engaging! But when we’re intentional about the customer journey, we’re hoping for no surprises here. Ideally, we’d see nothing but bottom-of-the-funnel pages here, but in reality, this is a learning opportunity. Your audience is sending you a message here, let’s learn all we can from it.
Seeing the share of your audience fall into little buckets of mobile, tablet, and desktop is a looking glass into more than just a device. Without overreaching, we’re seeing demographic information that pertains to age, when, and where our audience is visiting, and perhaps most importantly, building a trendline (spoiler alert: mobile goes up!). The majority of our customers are headed toward a mobile-first future. We don’t want that revelation to be a surprise.
Take the first step
I don’t mean to oversimplify. Web strategy is complex, client-specific, and ever-changing. But it shouldn’t be intimidating. Surround yourself with good counsel, integrate your web strategy with your overall marketing efforts, and be intentional about monitoring the data. There are great insights to be gained. If you’d like to talk more about what these insights mean for your web strategy, call or email and we’ll unpack it together.
Kristopher Sullens is an art director, web developer par excellence, and JWM’s office tech superhero.