Creating and managing your online business requires you to follow the same basic principals of any business - relying on sound Business Strategies. There are however, a few practices that differ or that just are unique to an online business. Here we share our views and experience with you to help you develop a more effective and profitable online business.

An audit of your website can deliver improved performance and results

Just as we review our business processes looking for efficiency gains and improvements, so to review or audit of your website should be performed on a regular basis. Invariably this is necessary because of changes in your business, technologies and/or your market. Too often we see websites that are no longer aligned to business goals and market needs.

In determining whether an audit of your website is necessary you could start by asking yourself the simple questions;

  • Has my website been reviewed and updated in the last 18 months
  • Are we regularly updating our website content
  • Are we measuring website activity AND analysing the results regularly

To a large extent, an audit of your website is something you can do yourself however in some areas you will most likely need to involve your web developers or an external Web consultancy.

Before looking at what you need to do to perform an audit of your website is probably worthwhile understanding why it is necessary and the benefits of carrying out an audit.

Why a website audit is necessary

Sadly, most businesses build their website pouring in lots of money and effort than just leaving it there waiting for the leads to coming. As I regularly say, "this is like sticking your neon billboard up in the middle of the Simpson Desert". An exercise in futility.

There are a number of factors that influence your website all contributing to the need to possibly rethink your site structure, branding and content. These can include;

  • The changing needs of your market
  • Changing market segmentation
  • Changes in your competitor profiles
  • Your own business changes by way of objectives, branding, product range and delivery
  • Technological advance and with web delivery platforms
  • Market expectations of how websites should deliver content
  • Changes in the delivery channels for marketing your products and services
  • Changes by the search engine providers

Over the past 1 to 2 years we have seen huge ships in business websites with the growth in the use of mobile computing, new web technologies and delivery platforms (HTML5, CSS3), the changes made by social media channels and lastly builds changes to its search engine algorithm (panda and penguin).

Many of these changes have invalidated current website designs and SEO strategies. In some instances they have led to the direct downgrading of many websites SEO ranking.

What you can gain from a website audit

The benefits are wide and varied and the results can be significant or indirect stop it is important to understand that generally, no single change leads to a significant result on its own stop some of the benefits to be gained include;

  • Improved performance - search engines are not only concerned with content but also efficiency of your site, organisational structure, SEO friendliness and robustness.
  • Enhancing SEO - factors not originally considered significant have had a dramatic shift in importance and at the same time some old practices are now irrelevant or even worse, detrimental to your SEO rankings
  • Conversion - is one thing to attract traffic but how effectively that traffic is converted to sales prospects? How well you bring them into the sales lead process nurturing the relationship? How well does your website deliver to your overall site objectives?

Conducting your website audit 

1) Assessing your content

  • Is content current and relevant to your business and your market
  • Does your content delivered to the market's needs a solution to a problem
  • Are "calls to action" clearly articulated
  • Are your pages following SEO best practices
  • Does your Google analytics highlight errors
  • Are your pages optimised on identified keywords into the results demonstrate success with these
  • Are basic on-page SEO elements such as title, meta description and URLs in place
  • Is your site content updated regularly

2) Web credibility and authority

This is all about your presence on the Internet in places other than your own website. Where and how references to your site found elsewhere adding to your reputation in a positive manner.

  • What is the mix and quality of references to your website in other locations
  • What is the size of your "social footprint"
  • What is your "influence" factor
  • The nature of your inbound marketing
  • How effective is your digital marketing

3) Technical Assessment
This will most likely require technical input from your own or another Web developer will stop it using an external party be sure they know what is required, have the capabilities to truly assess your site and can do so impartially stop you might firstly see a preliminary audit before engaging in a complete audit engagement. Sectors to be considered would include;

  • Is your site mobile friendly and should be
  • Is the site is free of errors such as broken links and missing pages
  • Are all urls seo friendly and optimised for your keywords
  • Is your site reliant on flash or java code
  • Is your site structure optimised search engines
  • You will pages load in a satisfactory time
  • Is your site being regularly crawled by search engines and are appropriate site maps and robot files in place

4) Business processes
This is how well your site integrates with your business processes and supports those processes.

As we said earlier, you most likely review of business processes for efficiency gains a regular basis. The nature of your business, your market and even your product mix changes as well.

If any of these to have changed, is the content and structure of your website still relevant? Do your website features support your business processes or are they making the process more complex? Can your website be updated to bring about business process improvement?

With changes in web technologies many business processes can be incorporated for much lower costs now than you may have had to consider a couple of years ago.

5) Website maintenance and management
An aspect not always considered or overlooked is your ability to update your website. Not just content but the ease with which you can extend functionality by enhancing current features and upgrading to new features.

Another factor gaining greater prominence and relevance is the security of your data. Are you encrypting secure content (particularly online payments)? Is your server secure, how well protected if your site from packets? A growing concern is those websites running on open source content management systems (CMS) platforms such as WordPress and Joomla! Incorrectly configured and failure to be regularly updated can leave the door open to hackers on some of these sites.
In order to deliver a total solution, any websites rely on the use of several services;

  • Web hosting and content
  • An e-commerce engine for online shops
  • E-mail marketing
  • Blog site
  • Discussion forums
  • CRM systems for managing customers

Invariably, these are separate systems each with their own databases that all need to be kept in sync. There are considerable disadvantages which can outweigh any benefit from such an approach. Ideally you want a solution that delivers all the systems through a simple single platform such as Adobe Business Catalyst.

It is well worth your time to consider your overall business and Internet strategy and examine the relevancy of your current web infrastructure to those strategies.

Top Left Designs is a total Web solution provider who works with clients in identifying strategic plans for putting their businesses online and then delivering websites and digital marketing packages orientated to the needs of its clients. We can assist businesses in the website audits, development of web strategy and delivery of a total integrated Web presence aligned to your business and marketing needs.

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