Imagine a newly installed garden at the peak of summer: luscious green grass, a small bed of candy-coloured flowers and a water fountain tinkling quietly in the corner. For a while, that garden will continue to be beautiful all on its own. The grass will remain trim, the flowers bloom and the fountain will continue to stream water.
But after a while, time and the elements begin to have their way with your beautiful garden. The grass will become unkempt, the flowers will wilt and the fountain will become clogged with leaves and dirt.
Without maintenance, a garden is just like a business.
Your once bright and blossoming business strategy can quickly become stale and limp, bad habits can sprout like weeds and too much of your time and energy are focussed on keeping on top of the unruly grass.
Think of a digital audit as part of necessary pruning and maintenance to keep your business blooming. Here we’ll describe the facets of a regular digital audit, and the ongoing benefits they can provide.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Audit
An SEO audit will gauge how well-optimised your website is for search engines. How effectively this is done determines how a search engine indexes your site and whether it will be shown as a high-ranking result in search queries.
The audit is conducted by inspecting the three main SEO pillars; Technical, Content and Authority.
- The Technical section of the SEO audit focusses on identifying visibility and accessibility issues as related to the site’s architecture, markup, and server configuration.
- The Content section of the SEO audit focuses on analysing keyword usage and content issues in key on-page and mark-up elements across all relevant properties.
- The Authority section of the SEO audit focusses on diagnosing external authority metrics, such as inbound links and social signals, and comparing them to your competitors, based on those agreed upon by both parties.
How well your website performs in each of these three key categories will tell you a lot about it’s SEO health and can help guide what to change in order to improve it.
But maybe your website is brand new? Surely it’s okay then? Not necessarily.
Google changes its search algorithm frequently in an attempt to better understand us and what we are searching for. So even if you have had an SEO audit as recently as a year ago, Google’s rules may have changed and your site might no longer be so well-optimised.
Neglecting SEO is like shooting yourself in the foot financially. Your services might be exactly what someone is looking for but you are missing out on their custom because they cannot find you online – all because your site is not indexed correctly. For this reason, it is imperative that all businesses undergo an SEO audit regularly and engage in SEO services.
Did you know that organic traffic drives 53% of all traffic? Source.
You should continually question what you think you know about your customers. What are they looking for? Are you giving it to them? Have their needs changed? These are key questions that will allow you to be proactive when planning your business strategy.
One of my favourite examples of when a business has done this well is Netflix. Can you remember how they started out? They were a mail-order DVD rental company! It seems odd to think of them that way now but it is easy to forget that that was a sustainable, successful model for them during that initial period.
However, Netflix were not content to sit on their hands. They noticed key factors relating to their audience that they could build upon:
- Netflix saw that people were not put off by the relatively low resolution that streaming offered compared to that of a DVD (tellingly, it was around the same time that YouTube took its first strides towards becoming the internet giant that we currently recognise).
- They realised that customers were willing to trade off a little visual clarity for the sake of convenience. Streaming offered customers the luxury of choosing a film and being able to watch it instantly – this was lightyears ahead of the previous model that dictated a film must be chosen well in advance and removed the opportunity for any potential postal issues that might affect the timeliness of delivery.
Recognising these factors allowed Netflix’s business model to speed away from their competitors. That initiative propelled them towards the current behemoth status that they enjoy today.
Did you know that according to a study by Stanford University, 75% of users make judgements about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design? Source.
This audit provides you with a set of data that helps understand your competitors: where they are successful, what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. This valuable insight can guide how you tailor your own strategy and ultimately get the edge over them.
If we look back again at the time of Netflix’s streaming boom, they had a competitor that was better-placed to take full advantage of that same situation – but because they were complacent, they missed the golden opportunity that Netflix seized.
Blockbuster Video had the monopoly on renting movies at home and abroad in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. They had an established customer base, they were trustworthy and had an enviable market share. Yet despite all those factors, and despite the clear migration of customers from physical rental to streaming, Blockbuster maintained that their existing model was safe and that there would always be a place for the customer who enjoyed the experience of visiting the video store and perusing through their selection of movies.
An audit of their competitors would have been the warning shot Blockbuster needed. Because they missed this, they acted reactively, and by then, it was already too late – they had lost their standing and customers had already moved to Netflix. Since then they have seen their business dwindle away to almost nothing, with only one solitary Blockbuster store remaining open, down from an astounding 9,000 stores that used to operate in the US alone.
Did you know you can get a credible view of your competitor’s traffic using SimilarWeb? A 2015 study by Rand Fishkin found SimilarWeb to be the best performing to actual, however recommended using a combination of sources to paint the closest picture of your competition (source).
Pay-per-click (PPC) Audit
Perhaps more than any other method of advertising, PPC is the easiest to do badly. By its definition, you are paying potential customers to come to your site. In order for you to turn a profit, it’s vital to convert those visitors into paying customers.
A PPC audit makes sure your ads and website are designed for the optimum return on your investment. To do this means inspecting key components and evaluating their effectiveness.
For example, your ad might be great and may draw a potential customer to your site – and you may have the product they are looking for – but if your landing page does not mirror what your PPC ad details, or if it does not communicate your brand or services effectively, then that person may leave the website. A PPC audit would identify this and give you the instructions on how to remedy that issue.
A PPC audit utilises data to evaluate how successful your ads are. These can include a Quality Score (a rating given by search engines to determine the quality of your ads) or your Click-Through Rate (the percentage of people who clicked on your ad compared to the total number of people who saw it). These are hard numbers that can be drawn upon over a period of time to determine what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.
Social Media Audit
The purpose of this audit is to identify what social media platforms work for you, and which are perhaps eating up too much of your time and resources.
Sometimes this is an easy distinction to make.
For example, you might find that if you run a small cosmetics company, it’s not worth your while to invest a considerable amount of time into running a Twitter account when an image-focussed medium like Instagram is likely a better way of showcasing your business.
But sometimes the answer is not as obvious.
Did you know that recent studies have shown that 86% of women will research a product on social media before making a purchase? (Source).
Online fashion retailer ASOS is aware of the above. Consequently, they have a very active Twitter account with more than one million followers. This allows them to have a say in the online conversation about their products. A peek at their timeline reveals countless examples of ASOS interactions with customers who have bought from them previously, each highlighting how happy they are with their purchase.
Equally however, Twitter also offers ASOS another useful function. Because the clothes retailer are aware of their youthful target demographic, they adjust their social media output accordingly. This may affect the terminology used in social media posts (slang, GIF and emoji usage), or highlighting promotions or causes that align with their brand or audience.
Like ASOS, a social media audit can help you identify new platforms for your business that perhaps you hadn’t thought of – or recognise which ones are taking up more resource from your business than they are worth.
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