How to conduct a website analysis
Whether you’re looking to drive sales, generate leads, collect user data or build your brand, a website analysis makes sure your site is meeting your business objectives.
It typically has two parts: a strategic component and a technical component.
“It’s easy to think ‘website’ and jump straight to the technical piece, but the strategy part is the foundation of the exercise,” says David Girolami, Senior Business Advisor at BDC.
The strategic piece of the assessment organizes your website to reflect your business goals, ensuring they’re aligned. That way you can know what to measure going forward.
The technical assessment looks at everything from site architecture and page loading speeds to the quality of the user experience: all the moving parts contributing to your goals while supporting your specific customer journey.
Why you should analyze your website
A good website analysis tells you if your investments in your online presence are paying off and points out where you may need refinements to connect even more effectively with customers and prospects. What you discover will have an impact on everything from sales and service to customer support.
Different companies have different needs from and expectations of their websites.
“If you’re an e-commerce company, your site is a transaction-focused means to direct purchase of products or services. It has to make purchasing easy and get customers to checkout in as few clicks as possible,” says Girolami “If your site is more about lead generation, it has to offer different things: value-added content such as case studies, white papers, or a rich FAQ knowledge section. The entire experience should drive the user toward those views, subscriptions, or downloads.”
Since websites are dynamic, the need to stay up to date and adapt to new demands is continuous. Girolami advises doing a strategic assessment every quarter or so and technical assessments on a monthly basis.
Website analysis–Elements to consider
How to analyze the effectiveness of your website
Across the strategic and technical aspects, there are four main steps in a website analysis:
1. Identify the target market for SEO
To understand the effectiveness of your site you need to be clear about who you’re trying to reach.
Look at your site visitor demographics to gain insight into different buyer types or personas: what is each one trying to accomplish, what are the problems they’re trying to solve, and what do they expect to come away with?
“It’s about pain and gain. What’s the pain point the customer is feeling, how can you alleviate it, and what do they expect to gain?” says Girolami.
With those insights, you can then answer important questions such as:
- Is the site clearly focused on the right user segments and their needs?
- Is the site architecture designed to deliver an appropriate user experience?
- Is the site optimized to be found and promoted by search engines like Google (i.e., does it have good search engine optimization, or SEO)?
- Is the site content relevant and optimized for users and SEO?
2. Understand the customer journey
Beyond having different profiles, different visitors may come to your site at different stages of the customer journey: awareness, evaluation, conversion, and retention. Once you know who is visiting, you can take steps to ensure the site is meeting their needs at each stage: What do they need to know and what questions do they have?
Digital analytics tools can help you go even further in understanding how users interact with the site.
“You can see where people are spending their time, even down to where their mouse hovers longest. You can gain a very fine-tuned sense of what interests them most, or what might stop them from moving forward from one journey stage to the next,” says Girolami.
3. Optimize the design
Based on the previous two steps, you can then take a fresh look at the way your website is structured. If you have some very distinct user personas to address, you may need to segment your site to stream people to the content they’re looking for.
“Say you run a computer repair shop, and you serve both general consumers and business customers. In that case you may want to have separate sections on the site for each to visit, since they’re likely to have different kinds of questions and expectations. That lets you keep the experience for each group tidy and seamless,” says Girolami.
Other questions to ask at this stage are:
- Does the site follow best-in-class design trends?
- Is it relevant compared to other sites in your industry category?
- Is the site designed to be ‘mobile first’ — i.e., does it display well on a phone or tablet?
Content clustering is another way to improve the performance of the site, especially with search engines.
“Companies sometimes end up with similar information, or even products, described separately on unique pages,” Girolami says. “When a search engine looks at those pages, it may have a hard time knowing if those products are truly different or just a single product with multiple options, or different pages of information that align to a common theme, all scattered in different places within your website or not linked together in a logical way. These mistakes can compromise your search ranking.”
Grouping similar products and information together helps solve that issue.
4. Check if the technical aspects are up to date
Finally, there are a number of technical aspects and parameters to evaluate:
- Is the website fast enough to meet users’ needs?
- Do all the links work?
- Is there a sitemap that people (and search engines) can follow to find key pages?
- Is the site protected, for example, with secure socket layer (SSL) protocols? Whether you operate an e-commerce site or not, is it compliant with data capture and management rules?
- Is content updated regularly? This helps to push up the site’s page ranking on search engines.
Technical and strategic elements meet in the case of SEO and keyword research, which can provide guidance on how to integrate and organize content to make it more search friendly.
Additional tips for conducting a website analysis
When it comes to gaining customer insights, Girolami’s advice is to take advantage of market research available in the public domain.
“Companies like Ibis World, Techavio, and Forrester analyze customer behaviour as their core business, and make many of their reports available to download,” he says. “Taking a look at these studies can be very helpful in understanding better how to reach your target customers through your site or other opportunities that lead to your website.”
Because websites blend strategy and technology, Girolami says it’s a good idea for most businesses to bring in some expert help to conduct a successful analysis, and to have a professional technical resource to maintain and support the site over time.
“Plug-ins, templates and the like need to be monitored and updated regularly. They change constantly, and getting out of sync can diminish the user experience or cause the site to break down. Regular maintenance prevents that,” he adds.
What comes next
The ongoing insights gleaned through regular website assessments help ensure your business plans are being served by your website and reflect the real behaviour of your customers online. BDC can help you with our free website assessment tool.