In today's digital world, 99% of the time, it's your company website making that critical first impression on your prospective customers. Sure, you can update your navigation, integrate a more modern aesthetic, and blog your little heart out – but how do you know if your website is doing its job?
As marketers and business professionals, you've no doubt heard about the necessity of examining your analytics… But what does that really mean? Executing a genuinely informative website assessment can be a tricky process, and it's important to know what metrics actually matter. So to answer those quintessential questions about evaluating a company website, I got the L-D from Susan L-D, PMG Principal. Susan LaPlante-Dube's formidable expertise and valuable insight in this area have helped so many of our clients boost their website performance in just months.
We've compiled seven of Susan's best website assessment tips below.
1. How often should companies be assessing their websites?
A full site assessment involving a deep dive into your web analytics should be conducted every 12-18 months, assuming that you refer back to your analytics every month. The numbers tell a story – and by knowing and understanding what that story is, you can make important decisions about your marketing investments.
2. When assessing a website, what metrics do you look at first?
"There really is no one absolute first step," said Susan. "In order to understand the overall health of the website, you should be scanning a variety of metrics. This surface-level data informs you where to drill down and what to focus on. Though we all wish our website issues could be resolved with a few clicks of a button, you cannot fix up all of the problems at once; therefore, it's important to strategize and pinpoint the biggest wins."
Although every site will be different, we recommend beginning your website analytics audit with the following metrics:
#1. Conversions: Conversions indicate the quality of your site’s traffic – Are your leads / prospective customers not only finding you but engaging with you? When a person is perusing your website, you want to ensure they are given a reason to connect with you somehow.
#2. Bounce rate: Your website’s bounce rate truly needs to be analyzed at the page level, but a glance at the overall bounce rate can quickly tell you how thoroughly you need to look at individual pages. Bounce rate serves as another indication of whether or not the traffic driven to your website is of high quality.
#3. Returning visitors: Another top-level metric is the percentage of returning versus new visitors. In a business sense, returning visitors are “worth” more – They are typically more engaged, stay on the site longer, bounce less frequently, and view more pages.
For B2B websites, Susan recommends 35% returning visitors as a healthy benchmark to compare returning and new visitor metrics.
It’s also a good idea to check out about 12 months of your traffic data – Is traffic improving? Are specific sources of traffic performing better than others? Yet, this information should be tempered with data from other marketing metrics, as traffic figures can sometimes be misleading when making a comprehensive assessment of website health.
3. What are some common attributes people often overlook when assessing a website?
Many people do not understand the complete picture the data shows us. They look at one metric, such as traffic, and as long as it increases, they feel the site is performing well. But unfortunately, that is not the case.
Another item more people tend to forget is the notion of thinking like a visitor. Owners are sometimes so close to their business and their products and services that they don’t take a step back and make sure the site works for the person relatively unfamiliar with the company.
" Frankly, people do many things on their company website that places a barrier between them and their visitors, and these barriers are often revealed in your analytics. An example of something I often see is blog posts solely organized by date – no one coming to the site would find that helpful. Users won’t be able to locate content by category when they are looking for specific information."
4. Which metrics are actually NOT that important (the vestigial organs of marketing data, so to speak)?
"Traffic – it sounds silly, but really in the grand scheme of things, it's the least important item. Analyzing your traffic sources is helpful; I would rather see a website with low Traffic and really high conversions and high engagement than a site simply boasting really high amounts of visitors. Seriously though, we know Traffic is important, but it is a metric relative to time – not the key indicator of a website's health and efficacy.
Another metric I was recently asked for was keyword density – For all intents and purposes, that metric does not matter. Any search engine optimization expert will agree that you should not be concentrating on how often you can stuff a keyword into a page. When creating website content, you need to focus on writing for the reader! And not for the search engines."
5. Should analyzing competitor websites play a role?
"That depends on your objective… Maintaining an awareness of what your competitors are doing is important for any business, and website presence is inherently one aspect of that. Yes, qualitatively looking at your competitors' sites can be helpful – How are they messaging? Does it resonate? How are they engaging visitors? How easy is it to navigate their website? You can learn a lot about what you want to change on your own company site based on your user experience with those of your competitors".
"However," Susan says, "if you focus too much on other industry players, chances are you're probably not spending enough time on yourself. I really only look at competitive comparisons in passing – or when we see a big change in rankings or someone new enters the market."
6. What’s the advantage of having another set of eyes analyzing your site?
"Well, we are all too entrenched in what we do, and we can unintentionally manipulate the numbers to tell the story we want them to tell. A fresh pair of eyes will see things differently and point out issues you did not even realize were there. More importantly, an outsourced marketing expert will know how to draw parallels in the numbers to identify what action needs to be taken."
"At times, we have delivered an assessment, and people have responded with "Oh, well I knew that…" And they did – or at least they knew the numbers. BUT what they didn't know is what the respective data meant, and that two pieces of data put together tell a completely different tale. For example, I just completed a site assessment, and at first glance, the traffic looked incredible – it was regularly increasing, and even conversions were consistent at a solid 2%. But when I dug a little further, the site was experiencing a 71% bounce rate! Essentially, the more traffic this website attracted, the lower the traffic quality became."
"71% is a high number, so before you get excited that you have about 10,000 visitors crawling your site each month, it's critical to recognize that you are not actually marketing to 10,000 people when right off the bat, you lose 7,100 of them. With higher quality traffic, this company would likely see conversion rates skyrocket."
7. Do you use any digital resources to help with the assessment?
This is an easy one! Our go-to web assessment tools are HubSpot and Google Analytics – each of them alone is powerful, but combine them? There is no stopping your marketing!
There you have it, folks! Great website assessment tips from our one of our own in-house digital marketing superstars. Have more website assessment or redesign questions needing answers?
Check out our free eBook Redesign Unlocked: The 10 Keys to Reinventing Your Website for additional ideas and tricks of the trade. And feel free to leave a question below in the comments or contact us directly. We’re always happy to help!