When we sit down with a client to do a website audit, it could be because they’re unsure whether they need a new website. Or maybe they invested in a total redesign a few years ago, and they’re wondering if it’s time for a refresh. Maybe they’ve been regularly making updates, and they’re concerned that the backend isn’t functioning the way it’s intended. Or maybe their brand has evolved, and they’re not sure whether it represents who they are today.
Regardless of their motive for the audit, the client’s goal is to understand what’s working and what’s not. They want to reach the right audience, and their top priority is a website that shows up on Google when users are searching for their services, expertise, and/or products.
That’s our goal, too, and we want to help the client see their website from the perspective of a visitor. Someone landing on their page will go through the thought process of, “Does this website give me the info I need? Does it do it in a way that’s intuitive? Am I able to find the next steps I’m looking for?” It’s incredibly hard to back up and ask these questions when it’s your own website.
That’s why website audits exist. We look at the website from both a 36,000 foot view and an under-the-hood perspective. We get into the data to understand if the website is actually serving visitors. And we walk clients through the entire process to understand which next steps are necessary after the audit.
We also understand audits can be an intimidating process and, often, we’re asked how clients can make the most of a website audit. They wonder how they can prepare so we understand exactly who they’re trying to reach and with what information. They want the most actionable steps possible to hit the ground running as soon as the audit presentation closes.
Before you even get started, the first step is to make sure you’re working with a team that understands that a successful audit starts crawling the website before the first conversation. We require access to the entire backend of our clients’ websites because if all the pieces aren’t right, then none of it’s right. A pretty website or a website written solely for SEO won’t cut it. So if you want to set yourself up for audit success (and to make the most of your investment!), here are the four questions you should think about before the audit gets underway.
Does your homepage speak to who you are today?
Brands, like people, evolve over time. If your website was built prior to a recent rebrand or, even if you have made small tweaks to your logo or tone, then it’s beneficial to think about whether your website still represents who you are.
Start by looking at the visuals. Does this still align with your logo, color palette and imagery? Does the overall use experience align with where you are as a company today vs. when you first launched? Then, look at the messaging. Is the copy and tone still in the voice you use across platforms? Are these words still those that you’d imagine your brand saying? Color and copy trends change (anyone remember millennial pink?). It’s important to make sure these feel accurate and relevant to who you are and who the world is now.
Plus, you’ve probably done incredible things since you last built your website! Are those represented? Let’s brag about you.
Is your target audience still the same?
As your brand and website evolve, so could your target audience. Consider whether the target audience you had in mind when you originally built the website is still the same. Has it changed as you’ve changed? Think about it this way. You were younger when you launched, has your audience aged, too?
This comes into play both in terms of branding and user experience. You want visuals and copy that will appeal to your target audience, but you also want the functionality to appeal to them, too. Knowing the demographics and usage patterns of your target audience is critical. Think about whether your audience typically visits on desktop or mobile — this will impact the next steps coming out of your audit.
Are you getting the right leads?
If your website is functioning as it should, you should be getting the right leads to your website. This is where you can come to the audit prepared to talk about the type of leads that are landing on your website and whether they fit into your target audience.
Whether or not they’re the right people will come into play during the audit when we look at SEO, but it’s helpful to know anecdotally from you. This will be validated when Semrush (one of the many tools we use to evaluate the health of a website) reveals errors in tags, speed, and other factors that could impact how Google crawls your website and serves it to the search engine. If any of this is difficult, it’s going to push you further down the search results. What you’ve actually seen day-to-day should turn up in the audit.
What does the next step in the journey look like?
A lead’s journey doesn’t end with landing on the website. We need to know what happens after they arrive. What comes next? Are they taking the right journey through the website? Access to Google Analytics is key here so we’ll be able to dig into the data to understand if your visitors’ journey aligns with the ideal journey.
Website Audit in Action
To get an idea of what a website audit looks like IRL, let’s look at a project we did with one of our favorite non-profits and always-prepared clients, Women Giving Back.
In 2018, we worked on their fully custom website. But they evolved and grew over time, and their website was no longer speaking to the Women Giving Back of today. Not only had their brand evolved, including fonts and colors, but they added an impressive list of accomplishments and projects. All of this needed to be reflected on their website.
Here’s what we did.
- Looked at at their Google Analytics to get top performing pages and least performing pages to get an idea of how people were currently navigating through their website
- Determined the most popular pages, as well as the pages that need to be more accessible because people are navigating to them
- Examined behavior flows to see where they go after they land on the website. Is this where we want them to go? Are they taking the actions that we want them to take?
- Compared the reality of the user journey to a proposed navigation and page layout update that emphasized the ideal user journey
- Assessed where there was opportunities to thoughtfully integrate new messaging in an impactful way to showcase the additional missions the organization had taken on since the launch of the original website
- Audited imagery, fonts, color palettes, and tone of voice to make sure it was consistent and aligned with the brand guide
All of these pieces came together for a successful audit that gave clear cut next steps around the updates that needed to be made. A full website rebuild wasn’t necessary, but a face lift and rebrand will ensure the Women Giving Back website speaks to who they are today.
What happens after the audit?
After you’ve made the investment in an audit and reviewed the results of the website audit, the first thing to do is realize that no website is going to have zero errors. And not every error is a bad error. Brands change, plug-ins have to be updated, bugs have fixes, and every piece of the website has to function to its latest and greatest. These are all opportunities to fix and optimize the experience. And, with an SEO contract that provides regular maintenance and crawling of the website, these errors will become fewer and farther between.
But the most important steps to come out of a website audit include finding the balance between art and science. A visually beautiful website alone won’t cut it, and the audit will prove that point, but a website that’s written with technical AI content, designed solely for SEO, won’t cut it either. Google doesn’t realize you have a beautiful website and it also knows when you’ve used generic AI to create your content.
Our website audit will put the research and thinking behind a beautifully designed website. It will give you the data to understand why you need to make an investment. Whether it’s missing tags on images, broken links, or a user experience that doesn’t match with your target audience, the website audit will alert you to these issues and put you on the path towards a more effective and engaging website — and, most importantly, a website that ranks higher and targets the right leads.
Following the audit, it could be a possibility that a new website is the more cost effective and efficient option. But that’s time and an investment that you don’t want to make unless necessary — and the website audit will give you the facts to make an educated decision.
If you’re interested in talking more about website audits and determining if it may be time for you to audit your website, email Hannah@redthinkingllc.com and let’s chat!