When clients come to DOZ for help managing, strategizing, and delivering their digital marketing one of the first things we almost always recommend is a website audit.
The reason we do is simple.
A website audit is the fundamental first step to in determining where a client’s current digital marketing strategy is at, and provides the foundation on which to set targets for the future.
To anyone interested in developing a digital marketing strategy it’s an essential element, but from time to time some clients have baulked at the idea of a website audit. Their focus is on the future, on growth, and on developing a plan that works. Perhaps understandably, there is little motivation for focusing on what is not working.
In such cases, we explain the three most important reasons that every business needs to undertake a website audit.
Reason 1: Understand Where You Are Starting From
Try a thought experiment: imagine for a second your perfect holiday destination.
Maybe it’s a beach on a sun-drenched island, maybe it’s the Swiss Alps in the middle of a crisp, snowy winter, or maybe it’s a bustling big city, say London or New York. Got it in mind? Good. Now a question: how long does it take someone to travel to that holiday spot? The answer, of course, is that it depends on where that someone is traveling from.
It’s the same when it comes to crafting a digital marketing strategy. Whatever the ideal end-point is for your business and their marketing efforts, the time, effort, and cost to get there is going to depend on where exactly you are starting from.
And this is the first and most important reason you need a website audit.
A website audit allows you to identify exactly where you stand. It will analyze penalties already applied to your site, the potential for penalties to be applied by search engines for everything from mobile compatibility to duplicate content, it will analyze each and every tag on every page of your site, and it will check and re-check every image you have used for its impact on site design, site speed, and SEO.
A website audit offers a clear account of where a website is starting from, and this makes targeting that island retreat, Alpine chalet, or big city break less of a daydream and more of a realistic goal.
Reason 2: Strategize with SMART Goals
You’ve probably heard it before but it bears repeating: it’s not enough to set goals, you need to set SMART goals.
SMART is the mnemonic that is used to remind goal setters to make their targets specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Goals with these five qualities have bee proven to be far more effective targets than general, ‘gee, wouldn’t it be great if everything was better’ type goals. In other words, it is the difference between a goal of “make more money this year” and the goal of “make 5% more profit in the next 12 months than in the previous 12 months to provide funds for expansion”.
A website audit helps a business set these SMART goals in three ways.
First, as explained above, a website audit lets a business understand where they are starting from and thus determine whether a particular goal is achievable or not.
Second, by assessing all elements of a website piece-by-piece a website audit allows a business to make very specific goals. For example, a goal based on a website audit can specify what pages and what tags on those pages need to be addressed to further SEO efforts, a far better goal than ‘improve on-site SEO’ in a digital marketing strategy.
Third, by offering an overview of the entire website, a website audit allows the business and the marketing team to assess what is possible to address in the time available. Some elements might be addressed quickly – literally within hours – while other elements might take days, weeks or months to address. A good website audit will identify the parts of a website that should be addressed and prioritize such actions to help a business make better decisions about where to spend their most precious resource, time.
Reason 3: Prepare for More Extensive Audits
Do a website audit, set goals, make changes, hit targets – that’s it, right?
No. That’s just the beginning.
A website audit provides a foundation for building a better ‘home base’ for a business, but it is far from the end of the auditing process. In today’s digital marketing world there are important channels that businesses and brands own (their website, their product catalogues) and other channels that they ‘rent’ from others (social media streams, streaming video platforms). While the primary website of a business is a great place to start an audit, and while it is essential to get the primary website dialed in, these other channels need auditing, too.
A website audit, then, is the essential first step in the digital marketing strategy process, coming as it does before the essential second and third steps: a social media marketing audit and a user experience audit. Whether conducted concurrently or sequentially, these additional audits are the necessary next steps once the audit process on the primary website is underway.
A business or brand that is committed to implementing an effective digital marketing strategy always starts with a website audit, but they never end with that audit. And the experience of auditing a primary website helps make the future audits – social media marketing and user experience among them – easier to manage.
It should be no surprise that, in the light of solid reasons like these, our clients almost always choose to conduct a website audit before moving forward with their digital marketing strategy sessions. Whether it’s a two-person startup looking to gain traction or an international enterprise seeking an entry into a new national market, a website audit is the first step towards transforming the imaginable into the possible.
Have you conducted a website audit of your own? Or did you outsource the auditing of your site to a consultant? What was the most surprising thing you learnt about your own site? Let us know and join the conversation on Twitter!