Reviewing your website

Recently I received an email from a client which went something along the lines like this

“Also, wanted to catch up to see how well or otherwise new website is working. Would it be possible to do some sort of review about how we are ranking, what is working and not working and what we should be doing to improve hits etc etc?”

These are great questions – and I really understand the sentiment behind what’s being asked here – so let’s dig a little deeper into my thinking here..

Setting the scene

We’ve been operating since 2001 so we now host / support* lots of WordPress websites. Many of these are on an entry level package which, whilst catering for the basics, doesn’t really allow us much scope in terms of proactive work each month. Heck we would love to be doing tonnes of ongoing work (website updates, Google Analytics reports, conversion tracking, new tech installs etc) but, if the budget isn’t there, then it’s simply not feasible.

(*we treat ‘hosting’ and ‘support’ as two very different services).

So, when this type of question pops up sometimes (for folks on a limited agreement), we feel a bit sad for them because, in the ideal world, they wouldn’t need to ask such questions as they would already be getting all the answers but, as I say, you get what you pay for.

What does ‘working’ mean?

Going back to one of the client’s questions: getting a good definition of what ‘working‘ means would be a good start. Obviously we need the website to be up and running with good availability – a well built website, hosted with a reputable, suitable hosting company, and well looked after, is pretty much all that is needed to tick this box.

But working means different things to different people.

Working probably means “what value is this adding to my business?” – it’s certainly a better question to ask than one involving t hits, or sessions etc.

Working means that when your target audience website visitors* land on any page of your website, they quickly understand who you are and what you do. Furthermore, you want them to swiftly realise that you can be trusted with their business. And, most importantly of all, you want them to easily know what you want them to do next; which is typically to contact you in some form (it’s amazing how many websites make this crucial aspect hard!).

(*remember: not everyone visiting your site is your target audience)

For the client’s site in question, I logged and took a look at the lead capture forms on the website (one of our American clients refers to these as ‘lead magnets‘, which I really like) – specifically I was looking at the for submissions which people had made (we tend to always use a form technology which also saves a copy of submitted forms on the server; as email can be a bit flakey & fickle, having a stored copy of such emails is a great safety net).

I was able to see that the website was regularly receiving high quality leads (not just spam) from all forms – which was great news. In the ideal world the client would be tracking these leads in their Custom Relationship Management (CRM) software and attributing their capture fully or partially to the website – this would help the client better calculate the return on investment (ROI) which the website was generating. The fact that we were getting leads also told me that the website must be attracting decent traffic (but more of that later).

Note: submissions of website forms are only part of the picture – website visitors can also get in touch with you by ringing up directly or simply grabbing the email address from the website – these circumstances need to be taken into account when calculating website ROI.

So, we know that the website is working.

How are we ‘ranking’?

This is another great question. What the client is talking about here is how the site is ranking in terms of pre-agreed search phrases – i.e. the words people type into Google so that they find your website.

However, as a rule, we don’t normally agree these phrases with clients – for one thing, we don’t specifically class ourselves as a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) agency. Heck, don’t get me wrong, we know our websites rank well, we know what we need to put in place for rock solid SEO for a website – but we don’t really go in for things like keyword research etc. Our SEO approach with clients, during the website design / build phrase is more like this:

We’ll encourage the client to plan and write their website copy in succinct, practical, friendly language, in a tone of voice appropriate to what the target audience expect. We’ll encourage the client to plan to include internal and external links in their copy. All website content should be useful – if it’s not helping your target audience achieve their goal, then it’s probably hindering.

Content which is prepared in light of the above will  also be very fruitful in terms of SEO. Google are very keen that you write content which is useful & engaging to end users; don’t just write for search engines.

Please don’t get me wrong though, I am not saying that keyword research does not have its place; no, no, not at all! It’s just, in my experience, many clients either don’t have the budget to properly execute such an exercise, or aren’t really going to be able use the results properly – i.e. many might be writing their own copy so being able to interpret the results of keyword research, and weave the relevant phrases into the relevant pages, and then measure the results – that’s beyond the level of budget/effort that many clients are ready for.

Note: at a simplistic level, the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress has the facility for you to record which keywords relate to a page so you can then measure the ‘keyword density’ – however, you do need to tread lightly here as, as the Yoast SEO experts say themselves, ‘Keyword stuffing is not a great SEO strategy‘.

Another thing to bare in mind is this: what’s the point of improving your website’s ranking for certain key phrases if you do not know if those very phrases are actually useful to your business in the first place? Put another way, if you are going to trim your sails of your website copy in terms of a phrase that you hope will attract more lucrative traffic, then how are you going to measure this? Because, if you don’t, then all you’re doing is improving your visibility for a certain phrase (probably to the detriment of another phrase – perhaps a more lucrative one!), without knowing if that is actually delivery results.

This is where conversion rate optimisation comes into play.

Put simply conversion rate optimisation (CRO), is all about measuring how good your website is at converting website traffic into sales or leads.  What I like about this phrase is that we are now talking a language which many businesses and business owners are better placed to understand – talk about hits & sessions and their eyes glaze over, talk about leads, well, that’s something more tangible.

My point here is that if we’re going to optimise for certain phrases, then you want to make sure you are measuring your website effectively (especially with CRO in mind), so that you can actually track that these phrases are adding value, and that you are not wasting your time.

The issue is this though: to properly plan out and implement this measurement and reporting, to make sure everything is in place, and is working correctly, that is not a two minute task – not by a long stretch. Most sites have just an out-of-the-box, plain vanilla implementation of Google Analytics set up on their site; CRO needs much more planning and implementation than that.

A further issue is that for many sites, with a modest level of traffic, they may well not be getting enough data through the gates to properly take a reading – i.e. with only a moderate level of traffic, it is not easy to prove that a certain phrase is useful. One option here might be to run a paid advertising campaign whose goal is not necessary to generate new leads, but initially to see which phrases generate traffic which exhibits more positive behaviour on your website (again, planning for goals and measurement is key here). The results of this test could then really help focus your SEO keyword list.


Final Thoughts

I hope that has given you something to think about in terms of measuring & assessing your website. For me and the team as Glass Mountains, it probably means we need to do a better job of selling ongoing support retainers which allow us to do the greater scope of work which we want to give our clients.


No Comments

Leave a Reply