Website Audit: Is Your Site Ready for the Holidays?

Yes, I know Christmas is like two and half months away, and not even those over-excited department stores have their decorations up yet! So preparing for the holiday season now might come across a little overeager to some of you. But let me break it down for you: for most businesses, and creative entrepreneurs especially, Christmas is probably going to be your busiest time of year. And with Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales all leading up to it, it's not like November is going to leave you with much free time either (not to mention the fact that you'll probably want to prepare for the post-Christmas sales too).

Bear in mind, this is also the time of year when us web designers and our marketing friends get booked out FAST, as everyone rushes to get their websites, promotions and online stores ready. Which is why now really is the time to get a jump on your competition and make sure your website is in tiptop condition, before all those customers come flooding through your online doors.

You’ve convinced me. But what is a website audit?

The idea behind a website audit is that you do a full analysis of all the factors that affect your website’s performance. Most professionals tend to think of these audits exclusively in SEO terms, checking all the little “behind the scenes” elements that can affect your ranking in search results, like page speed and mobile friendliness.

When I’m conducting an audit however, I prefer to take a look at the state of your online business as a whole – after all, you could be at the top of your game when it comes to SEO, but that won’t matter if visitors are turned off by your site as soon as they find it. So here’s the exclusive little checklist that I’ve created for myself over the years – I hope you find it useful!

Step One: Check Those Marketing Channels

This step always surprises clients; after all, they’ve asked me to review their website, not their marketing strategies. The thing is though, your website and your marketing are not wholly distinct entities, functioning separately from each other. Your marketing strategies will affect your website performance, and vice versa – they’re symbiotic, so I can’t review one successfully without taking a look at the other.

Not convinced? There have even been times when after taking a quick look at the marketing strategies, I’ve found my clients’ biggest problems right away: and there was no need to start tinkering with their websites at all. Their priority was actually that they needed much more visitors, and the marketing strategies they’d been pouring their time, money and energy into were just not working.

Now as you go through the rest of the steps, imagine doing all this work when your biggest issue is traffic numbers. Bet a quick marketing review doesn’t seem so silly now.

Step Two: Prioritise Those Pages

Chances are, there’s a lot of pages on your site that need some work, which is why it’s so important to define the most important pages for your business. I start by opening Google Analytics and reviewing the top visited pages for your website, then organise these by engagement. For example, if over half your website visitors view your homepage, but most of them tend to exit from it, that’s a big red flag right there that your homepage isn’t working hard enough to draw them further into your sales funnel.

Step Three: Use Your Eyes (and Everyone Else’s!)

Armed with a list of your “priority pages”, I go to your website itself and start reviewing the following factors that could be causing their poor performance. Things like:

  • How long does the page take to load?
  • How mobile friendly is it?
  • How engaging is the copy, and is it free of spelling and grammatical errors?
  • How easy is the text to read; does the overall typography draw you in or turn you off?
  • Are visitors confronted immediately with long blocks of text, or is information broken down for them into short, snappy paragraphs and bullet points?
  • Are the images high quality, or are they small and pixelated? (Don’t even get me started on underexposed and blurry photography, or – worst of crimes for a creative entrepreneur! – images that still display a watermark.)
  • Overall, is the design and site navigation clean and easy to follow, or is it a confusing and cluttered mess of options?

But I don’t rely on my experience alone! That can actually be a double-edged sword – things that seem obvious to me may not be quite so transparent to the more technologically challenged visitors your site may receive. That’s why I always advise clients to ask their friends and family to review their website too – the less familiar they are with it, the better!

Remember when asking others to review your site, you want them to keep it simple: initial impressions rather than detailed analyses. What grabbed their attention? What pages did they find themselves drawn to or lingering on? Were there any areas of your website they find confusing or difficult to use?

Step Four: Break Down Those Barriers

By now, you’ll probably have quite a long list of changes and fixes to make to your website, and in some cases your marketing tactics too! In fact, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, right? No idea where to start?

The answer is simple: just start breaking down those barriers to conversion. By which I mean the obstacles your website visitors are facing when it comes to making that purchase, or filling in that form: whatever a conversion looks like for you.

Write down every single tiny change you need to make, all in one place – I find Trello ideal for this, since I can write down each task on a separate card and have a clear, drag and drop overview of changes; but whatever system works for you is fine.

Next, go through your list and assign a “barrier size” to each issue you’ve found. At the same time, make note of how easy each item is to resolve. For example, is your website impossible to use on mobile devices? Well, that’s a pretty massive barrier to conversion, but at the same time it also requires a large chunk of your time and resources to resolve. It might just not be possible to focus on this now, in which case, you can leave it to one side for now and move onto the next item.

What about that typo in the middle of your homepage? Well, it’s probably not a huge barrier to conversion, but it only takes like two seconds to fix, so what are you waiting for? I tend to encourage clients to focus on those quick fixes first before tackling larger problems – not only does it clear a bunch of tasks off your list very quickly, thus reducing your sense of overwhelm, but seeing the progress you’re making actually motivates you to break down the bigger barriers as you come to them.

Want me to audit your website?

I only have a couple of website audit slots left in my calendar this year, so if you’d like me to go through your website with a fine-tooth comb, please don’t hesitate to reserve your slot! Or if you want to learn how to use Google Analytics to prepare your own website audits, step right this way – I’ve created a free guide you can download right here.