Want to take a different approach to New Year’s resolutions this year? Let’s consider actually doing a thorough online presence audit of our business for the past year. By doing so we can then put in place the practices and policies that will actually contribute to improving our business in the year ahead.
How to do an online presence audit
In this article, we are going to cover basic online business and website practices that you can review and apply. These details need your attention and can help or hinder your success and ROI.
This requires you to take an honest self-assessment in regards to how you spend your time, what choices you’ve made, how you run your website and online business. Only then can we determine if these variables produced the desired results and if not, why not.
So grab a notepad and let’s get to work!
Starter questions to review the past year
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
What were your biggest online successes?
Jot down the things you know you did well and why. Look at ways of solidifying those processes and how you can build upon them.
Where did you fall short?
You know where you fell short — write that down as well. Only then can we make the appropriate corrections.
What were your online goals for 2019?
How did you do? If you didn’t note any specific goals for 2019, let’s make sure we identify what we want to accomplish in 2020 in as much detail as possible. If we don’t know where we want to go, how can we expect to get there?
Which goals did you meet, miss and why?
Any honest business owner knows the answers to these questions. Being forthright during this process will only serve to push you towards success.
This quick overview serves to help you quickly identify the pillars you want to concentrate on moving into the new year.
Jotting down the answers to the above questions will allow you to easily set the groundwork to build upon your successes and avoid unnecessary setbacks.
You also want to take note of what business activities and practices you enjoyed most.
If you are like me, coincidentally that is where you’ll find you were most successful. You’ll then have a better idea of what you truly want to do yourself and where to seek outside help or assistance to better compensate for your shortcomings or lack of enthusiasm.
Website look, feel and features
Technology keeps steamrolling ahead with or without us. You have to make the effort to keep up or you will be left behind.
How long ago did you update the look or feel (theme) and images on your website? Visual trends are being set all the time.
Site visitors travel around the web and get accustomed to how websites should appear and operate. And with that expectations are created.
Here are some questions to guide you:
- Does your site look contemporary? Does it provide the impression it was set up in 2019 or 2009?
- Are your content and photos (including your profile photo) current or outdated from years ago?
- Do you have the features visitors expect?
- Does your site include the functionality that makes doing business with you a breeze?
- What year is the copyright notice at the bottom of every page? Be sure to change it to 2020.
Do not overlook your website’s actual performance metrics. When was the last time you ran a speed and performance test on your website? GTMetrix.com is a good place to start.
We are so busy working on our businesses and building out our sites that the days fly by. We create, add, modify, and add some more. But it’s easy to neglect to check to see if any of those additions or changes may have had a detrimental effect on our website’s overall performance.
If you are using WordPress, do a thorough review of your theme and plugins to make sure they are all up to date and tested with the current version of WordPress.
Site navigation is also something that can grow to the point of taking on a life of its own. Did you know there is a thing called the choice paradox? Too many choices can actually lead to indecision and fewer sales or contacts.
Review your navigational structure and pair it down to be simple, concise, and more importantly, intuitive for your site visitors.
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I’m not going to get into a search engine optimization (SEO) tutorial here; there are excellent resources online for you to review for that. However, at the end of every year, it makes sense to analyze what we have in place and if our current efforts are adequate.
Those performance metrics that I mentioned previously are part of optimizing for search engines. Speed matters. Test, then tune.
SEO isn’t just a matter of adding keywords here or there or creating content for the sake of adding content. It’s about keyword research, knowing your market, and creating content your current and potential customers desire.
Use Google Analytics to explore your website’s statistics to learn how your visitors are finding you. This data can give you clues as to what’s working well and where you need to improve.
Google considers your E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) factor. You can read about that in more detail in Google’s Site Quality Rater Guidelines here. Then take the appropriate actions.
Inbound and outbound links
When auditing your SEO efforts, also review your inbound and outbound links and repair any broken links. Once you review that data you then know where you need to improve or can build upon what’s already working.
Related: How to perform an annual SEO audit
At the end of the year you want to review your policies and procedures to determine what, if any, of your policies require updating. You’ll want to review your policies that cover:
- Customer service
- Returns and refunds
- Privacy statements
- Customer data security and storage
- Lead-time and shipping policies
Review each to determine if they are good as is or require additional clarification.
During this exercise you may be surprised to discover outdated statements or verbiage that needs to be clarified.
It may also be a good idea to have a legal expert review all your policies to limit any potential unforeseen liabilities that may exist.
Email takes a lot of our time, many times unnecessarily. Not keeping up with your email responsibilities can have a negative impact on your business in so many ways.
Prompt and professional responses encourage those you communicate with to do business with you. Lack of responses with poor grammar or a lax tone can have the opposite effect.
Look for ways to organize your email activities to make you more efficient.
Folders and templates
Create folders to keep your emails organized in a way that works for you. Include a To-Do folder that you can file emails into and then follow through and do what needs to be done.
If you are being asked the same questions over and over via email, create templates or add those topics to your website’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. This applies to your product and service offerings as well.
Beef up your core pages to make sure all the details you know customers are seeking are included.
This approach will help to minimize your email volume.
Related: How to organize emails in Outlook
Security is a huge issue when it comes to eCommerce.
Going into 2020, one would think this to not be an issue — but I see sites that are not secured or have mixed content errors every day. So it is worth a mention.
We want to make sure that we have everything covered so that there are no browser warnings that can affect how your site displays and inhibits contacts or orders. Mixed content errors cause the user’s browser to note that the “Connection is Not Secure” and that “Parts of this page are not secure…”.
If you see this message when on any page of your website, you want to check all your URLs within your content on that particular page. Most likely you have an HTTP where you should have an HTTPS.
Product images and descriptions
Images that are larger than needed are one of the primary contributors to slow site performance. Generic product descriptions do not encourage sales or set you apart from similar products on other websites.
Social media branding
Not every social channel is a match for every business. And being on social media can be a time sucker.
Determining where you get your best bang for your buck is imperative to using your time efficiently.
Here, again, look to the data to expose where you are getting the most traction — and why. Then concentrate on that platform a little more, build upon what works, and try new things.
Review all your social accounts to make sure they have the same banner and profile images, too.
The end of the year is the perfect time to scope out the competition as we lay out our plans for the year ahead. We all have competition, at least at some level, and know who our primary competitors are.
Check out the other businesses in your niche to see what they are up to, what they may be doing differently, and what you can do better.
Look at their website, product offerings, social media activity and marketing efforts.
Think about how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. What can you do to make your business stand out from all the rest?
Your competitive blueprint should not be based on pricing alone. The race to the bottom isn’t always the best path to attain ROI unless you want to be viewed as a “budget” brand. If your pricing is higher, discover ways to offer value along with your higher price to work toward building a premium brand.
Put on your customer hat and think about what they want and what makes the process of doing business with you easiest for them. Then scope out what your competitors are doing to fill that need.
This exercise also helps you to discover potential competitive weak points.
Review, improve, repeat
So much of our success is dependent on reviewing what we’ve done thus far and what we need to do to continue moving forward. Then pushing through each challenge as it appears in front of us. That and the discipline to follow through on the issues we know will contribute to our ongoing success.
Now that you have documented and reviewed all of the above, it’s time to make your plan for 2020.
You want to write down your goals and how you are going to make them happen. The more specific the better.
Make checklists, spreadsheets or just take handwritten notes. Developing a system that works for you means you’ll be more apt to stick with it to reach your goals.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to online success. It’s in every little detail and choice in regard to what we decide to do or not do. Here’s to a prosperous year ahead!