You can only make one and it better count.
The same principle holds true for your website.
Part Two of The Business Tune-Up series is to conduct a Website Audit. When you started your business, your website design and creation was a large part of the process. You spent hours strategizing how your website would look and how your clients would use it.
Since your ‘hung your shingle out’ you have probably added content, links, blog posts, products or services. Your website has grown with your business – does it still work for your business?
Download the checklist, put yourself in the mind of a first time visitor and evaluate your website.
The checklist will guide you through the following areas:
How many times have you looked up a business website and immediately left? Why did you do that? Just like when you meet someone new, your instant impression is a physical reaction. You may eventually learn whether or not you like someone after time spent together, but your initial impression was based on how they looked.
Do you ever watch the Blind Auditions on The Voice? The hopeful contestant sings to the back of the judges’ chairs counting on their vocal talent to entice a judge to turn their chair around. The judges listen carefully. They may even form an idea in their mind of what they will see if they turn around. Their reactions when they first see the contestant tell the story: singers whose appearance doesn’t ‘match’ their voice get surprised, sometime shocked, reactions. The contestants have the advantage of getting their voice heard before anyone reacts to or judges their appearance.
Your website may have the absolute best solutions for a potential client, but they will judge your offerings first by the appearance of your website. That first snap judgement may be unfair, but it is reality. Online and offline, humans judge appearance. Make sure your website is attractive and inviting.
What’s your brand? Is it strong and apparent on your website?
Elements of a strong brand include:
- Your unique story
- Value proposition
- Visibility through content marketing, social engagement, and community involvement
Use your visual brand (colors, logo, header, buttons, graphics) and the voice of your content to help build and establish your brand.
Quality (Branded) Logo and Blog Header
Make an investment in your brand and your business by investing in a strong, relevant header and logo to represent your business.
While you can create your own blog header, you should probably leave it to the professionals unless you happen to be a design whiz. Strong brand graphics include:
- Memorable Logo
- Attractive color palette
- Professional typography
- Consistent color schemes across your social media accounts
Great Titles … for Everything
Captivating headers and titles will attract visitors to your content.
Compelling and relevant headlines also play an important role in the appearance of your website.
Practice writing headlines. Keep a list of headlines that grabbed your attention. Your list will be a handy reference when you find yourself in headline writer’s block. (Just remember: no plagiarism. Use your list to inspire your own unique headlines.)
Be scientific. Test headlines to determine your target audience’s response.
TIP: Test your headlines on social media as well.
Sights and Sounds: Include Video and Audio
Video and audio have become primary means of communication online. YouTube, Vimeo and other social video sites have changed the way we interact online.
People enjoy being able to put a face with a business. They also like to hear your voice. Consider including both video and audio content on your site. You might even include a simple welcome message embedded into your landing page and/or sales page.
Do your prospects and customers know what you look like? Add a picture to your website and show them. Make it a professional image that represents you and your brand.
Include photos of your team as well. If you have a team of employees or even contractors that your clients interact with frequently, add photos of them on your “About Page’. You may also want to add photos on your contact page.
You want your website that is both attractive and useful. Contract a designer if you aren’t comfortable with the design details.
Good design elements plus attractive and relevant graphics strategically placed throughout your site will create a visually memorable experience. Use graphics to increase your site’s functionality.
According to statistics almost five billion people use smartphones worldwide. Ensure your website is mobile compatible.
In addition, you can capitalize on this growing trend by creating a mobile application for your business and promoting it on your website.
Easy To Navigate
Make sure your visitors can find their way around your website quickly and easily. If you’re uncertain about how to accomplish this, then study websites that you visit often. Notice how they guide you through the site. Do they provide relevant and easy to recognize navigation tabs? Does the flow of the site seem logical? Is there a search function so you can head directly to the page or information you’re looking for?
Interaction / Comments
Does your website invite visitors to comment on your articles and blog posts? One of the best ways to not only measure engagement, but to also create it, is to take a look at the level of interaction on your site.
Engage them in conversation. Invite interaction and comments. You’ll not only learn a lot about your audience, you’ll help build a loyal community of customers.
Archives with Clearly Distinguishable Keywords
Archives are essentially directories for old content. No one wants to search through page after page of old content. They want to be able to find what they need with a few clicks of their mouse. Use keywords that accurately describe the subject of the content to organize your archives.
It is important to make your website fully usable by anyone who visits. One of the simple tools you can use to make this happen is a simple search field. There are different search tools you can use.
For example, Custom Search Plugin is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create custom searches. Maybe you want people to be able to search for quotes or tips on your site. You can use this tool to add functionality to your website and to help separate your business site from your competition
Fresh and Catchy Content
Create the best content possible.
Fresh content is recent and topical.
Don’t create content about something that happened five years ago or even five months ago. Produce blog posts, products, videos, e-courses, and services to address current needs. Remember, appealing content varies depending on your niche and your audience.
An important factor to remember when considering what makes something memorable is the voice and style you use to communicate to your readers. Are you serious? Funny? Controversial? What makes your content interesting, different, and valuable to your reader?
FAQ Page ( Frequently Asked Questions)
Include an FAQ on your website helps make it more user friendly.
Create a list of the most common questions you receive. (Ask your customer service representatives to keep a list as well). Turn the answers into a page on your website.
Your FAQ should be:
- Easy to understand answers
- Include clear instructions on where to find more assistance if the user’s questions aren’t addressed.
- Easy to find on your site
- Include links to other valuable pages on your site.
- Updated regularly
Don’t forget to use your unique voice. If you’re witty when you create blog posts then be witty when you create your FAQ page. Consistency helps strengthen your brand.
Top Quality Free Downloads
Who doesn’t love a freebie? A better question: who doesn’t appreciate high quality, useful, freebies?
Your free content needs to provide unique value and should solve a problem in an organized and efficient manner. Your freebies don’t need to be complex. Some of the best freebie downloads are simple.
Remember to brand your free downloads and use them to gently drive traffic to a sales page or the next item in your sales funnel.
Let other people create content for you. Every guest blogger, interview, or contributing author brings their audience with them and contributes to your credibility. You’ll gain traffic and followers.
Email remains one of the most powerful marketing tools. Use your email newsletter to connect with your prospects, build relationships and make sales.
Your subscribers are special – they have trusted you with their email address. Reward them! Your newsletter should provide exclusive content that is different than what you offer on your website. You can also offer special discounts, offers, and exclusive downloads.
Your newsletter also offers you the opportunity to be more personal with your audience. Let them know more about you and your life. Let your personality shine.
Encourage repeat visits by using newsfeeds to display the latest industry news.
RSS is a means of syndicating your content. It allows others to subscribe to your site and automatically receive new content and/or blog posts in their email inbox or via their favorite reader like Feedly. Offer both reader RSS and email RSS so that your visitors have a choice.
New Products and/or Services
Create a steady stream of top quality products and services. After all, your website exists to promote your business. To stand out from your competition, your business must offer excellent products and services.
Create a launch plan that provides you with the ability to talk about new products or services often, to discuss pending launches, and to offer promotions.
Controversial Content – Share Your Opinion
Some blogs seem to thrive on controversy. Others avoid it like the plague. There is a happy medium. Consider adding the occasional opinion piece. You have strong opinions about matters in your industry. Chances are your prospects and customers do too. By sharing your opinion in a professional and interesting way, you engage conversation and can create a lot of traffic and interest for your site.
You want visitors to your site to engage with your business. You must include a variety of methods to encourage visitors to participate.
Inquiry Form and Contact Page
How do visitors contact you for more information or with questions? Beyond your FAQ, you must provide a simple way for visitors to communicate with your business. An easy method to reach you keeps visitors engaged and connected to your business.
To facilitate your visitor’s engagement, create a contact page and/or an inquiry form on your site. They enter their email address, subject line, and ask their question. You or your customer service assistant receives the message and can promptly respond.
The contact page is simple enough yet it is very important. It should include your contact information even if it’s already been published elsewhere on your site. Include name, phone numbers, email addresses and physical address. Also consider including any social media links on this page.
Competition – Get People Involved
Competition has the tendency to ignite a fire of attention and sales. There are many ways you can use competition to add fun and flare to your business. For example, you might use it to build awareness of your Facebook page.
For example, anyone who “likes” your page could be automatically entered into a drawing to win a prize. Another type of competition gets your prospects involved and contributing, so you might have them share a story that’s relevant to your niche and readers can vote on whose is the best story. They could create videos too.
Have you ever considered offering a membership for your business? Benefits you’re your members:
- Receive exclusive content,
- Exclusive products or services
- Member promotions
You can charge for the membership or offer it for free. The choice depends largely on your audience, niche, and goals. Consider offering a membership option for your site to help broaden your offerings and set your website apart from your competition.
Hosting events is a great way to not only attract attention to your business but get people involved with your business. Events creates relationships.
Consider hosting regular events. You can host regular monthly webinars, chats, and other events to educate your audience and promote your business simultaneously.
Add a promotional banner on your site to generate interest and attendance.
Optimized Newsletter Sign-Up Offer
How do you motivate people to sign up for your newsletter? An excellent sign up offer can do the trick. There are many options to consider. For example:
- Free report
- Free online tutorial
- Video series
Advertise your offer in a prominent location on your website. Experiment to see what type of opt-in form works best – pop-up, welcome mat, etc.
Exceptionally Effective Calls-To-Action (CTAs)
Include a call to action in every piece of content you publish on your website – even if you merely want someone to stay on your site and read some more. Tell your visitors what to do next and help guide them through your site step by step.
What are you doing to make the world a better place?
Getting involved in your community promotes your business locally and is great for business. Plus, you can invite your prospects to get involved in your community causes.
For example, if you have a pet related business you might get involved in a fundraiser for your local humane society and invite others to donate or get involved themselves.
Another bonus: your community involvement creates fun and interesting blog topics to share online.
Opportunity for Visitors to Help
Are you passionate about a cause? There are many ways you can integrate your cause into your business website. Taking this step not only helps raise money for something you believe in, it can help build your business.
A simple plug-in to help people click and donate, or a link to a cause you believe in, helps identify your business as a socially responsible one. More and more consumers are choosing socially aware businesses.
Additionally, if you have environmentally friendly practices then take time to identify those on your website. Sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s an approach that consumers respond to.
Ideally you’ll always have something going on, something that you can promote. A relevant and valuable promotion can create interest for your company. There are many opportunities for promotions including new product launches, sales, and holidays.
Awards Earned and/or Recognitions
Have you or your business has been recognized for anything relevant to your industry? Toot your own horn! Awards and recognitions give you a boost in credibility.
For example, “Best of the Web” winners proudly display their award logo right on the landing page of their sites.
If you haven’t won any awards or received any relevant recognitions, that’s okay. You’re certainly not alone. Consider including a campaign to win an award in your business planning. Get involved in your industry and get acknowledged
Relevant Industry Relationships
Relationships are what build business. You have relationships with your customers and prospects, your vendors, contractors and much more. Each relationship is an opportunity to leverage, grow, and prosper.
Relationships with relevant industry professionals can be significant. Interview your industry contacts for your blog, ask for reference quotes for your About Page, request quotes for a blog roundup, cohost a webinar, or co-create an e-course. Be creative with your industry relationships, and always remember to respect their time.
Testimonials are like money in the bank. Do you ask for other’s opinions when you purchase a new product or service? Do you ask for the name of a good plumber, hair stylist or doctor? You are requesting testimonials from people you trust.
As a business owner, positive testimonials on your website serve the same purpose. Testimonials are mini sales pitches made on your behalf by a satisfied customer. Who better to promote you and sell your services than an unbiased, happy customer? Use these testimonials wisely and place them strategically on your website.
How do you obtain a testimonial? Ask for it. Long-time customers would be thrilled to be asked to recommend your services. You can use email autoresponder to request feedback from people who have purchased products from you. Explore applications that may be available for your website platform to collect and showcase testimonials.
Has your business been featured on the news? Have you been interviewed by a local or national news program? Share the logo of that show on your website. And link to the video or article on your website. Imagine how powerful “As Seen on CNN” could be to grow your business.
Referral or Affiliate Program
Word of mouth marketing is a powerful form of third-party credibility. Consider creating a referral program for your business. You can reward referrals with money, discounts or product add-ons.
You might also consider creating an affiliate program. An affiliate program pays others a commission based on sales they send your way. It requires some additional legwork because you’ll want to provide them with materials to be successful, but it can pay off generously.
Have You Written A Book?
If you’ve written a book then list it on your website. Promote it and use it to help establish you as a credible resource.
Do You Have Credentials?
What makes you an exceptional source of information, services or products? Include your credentials on your website in the form of a biography or on your About page.
Obvious Target Market
Who is your target market? When your target market visits your site, is it obvious that you’re talking to them?
Your target market are the people who your products and services are designed to help. The people whose problems you solve are your target customers. If you haven’t taken the time to define your target market, do it now! Download the Target Customer Profile Worksheet here.
Produce a Target Market Profile, then craft your website to appeal to that ideal prospect.
This audit has already referred to your About Page several time. A good About Page can seal the deal for potential customers. On the other hand, an About Page that isn’t dynamic and doesn’t relate your vision may turn away potentials customers.
Most people, when visiting a website for the first time, will click through to your About Page to find out:
- Who you are
- What the site is about
- Learn if there is a real person or company behind the scenes
- Find contact information
- And basically see if your personality and philosophy is in line with theirs
- Consider including information about your company’s vision and mission.
Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
Unique Value proposition (also called your Unique Selling Proposition, USP) is what makes you different. You may offer a similar service or product as another business. What do you do that separates your business from your competition?
Potential entrepreneurs are often hung up on what makes them unique. How do you define your UVP? Start by answering these questions:
- What are you offering?
- How does it solve customer’s problem?
- What is different about it?
- Why should someone buy from you rather than your competition?
If you have done extensive market research, then you know what problems your customers are facing. Make sure you thoroughly understand what your target customers want and what your competitors are already offering. Then you will be able to identify exactly what you can do differently or where you can add something more. Put all of that together and you have your Unique Value Proposition.
TIP: The Quick and Easy Business Plan offers more information about how to define your UVP and how to use it in your business.
Do you have a media page? A media page is designed to help provide the media with the essential information they need. Approach it with the belief that the media will come looking for you and will want to learn more about your business. Here are just a few of the elements to include on your media page:
- Company Mission and History
- Product List
- Company Bios
- Company News and Press Releases
- Brochures, Logos, Images
Invitation to Friend/Follow on Social Media
Social media is as essential for most industries as a website. And merely having a social media “presence” isn’t enough; you have to let people know you’re active on social media by inviting them to interact.
There are many ways to accomplish this; one of the simplest is to extend an invitation. Include “Follow Me” links on each page of your website.
Social bookmarking not only adds value to your visitors and prospects, it also helps boost your traffic and brand awareness. By adding a social bookmarking function to your site, your visitors can bookmark using the bookmarking service of their choice.
There are several top quality WordPress plugins that make social bookmarking easy. You can add buttons for the primary sites like Digg, Delicious and Reddit. When someone bookmarks your site it’s added to their account, where other users can browse, vote, and share.
Social Media Sharing
Make it easy for your readers to share your content and products with their friends. Include sharing buttons on your blog. Consider using a program like Sumome for simple sharing buttons.
You can’t build a skyscraper without a proper foundation and framework. The same is true for your website. Although your visitors won’t see the foundation, your attention and time spent here will pay off.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the strategy and toolbox of tactics that drive traffic to your website. There are many tactics to embrace including linking, keywords, content, social media and more. Spend some time learning how to include keywords in your product descriptions and blog posts. Or hire an SEO expert to fine tune your website.
An analytics program tracks every single visitor and their activity on your website.
Analytics will help you:
- Fine tune your SEO strategy
- Build stronger relationships
- Better understand your clients and prospects
- Create highly targeted content.
Google offers a free version of analytics software that is easy to use. You embed the code into your blog or website and then you can track your website activity. You can see which pages receive the most visits, where your visitors come from and much more. Analytics is an essential tool for any serious business owner.
Relevant and Strong Outbound Links
Many people are frightened of outbound links. They’re worried that they will be sending their visitors away. The key to good outbound links is to link to websites that are complimentary and that you have a relationship with.
For example, if you have a dog training blog you might link to your favorite dog toys website or your favorite dog breed information site. Choose relevant sites that aren’t in direct competition with you. These outbound links should also only be with professionals that you have a connection with. Ideally they’ll also help promote you by linking to your site or by promoting you on social media.
Make sure your customers’ information is protected by an appropriate level of technology. Employ a secure shopping cart and payment system.
Inform your customers. Share your security protocol and policies. If you have SSL (Secure Socket Layer), then tell them you have it by displaying the logo.
Fast Load Times
Invest in a good webhost and make sure the graphics you’re uploading aren’t so large they slow down load times. People are impatient and generally won’t wait more than a few seconds for a site to load.
Good Luck with your audit.