I am often asked to perform a review or analysis on an existing website. Sometimes the client hopes to discover the marketing weaknesses and strengths of their site. Sometimes, they are hoping I can identify opportunities to improve website effectiveness. There are numerous reasons, but the process is still pretty much the same.
Basic website review: A basic review provides a overview of the effectiveness of the client website through external observation. I look at their website through search engines and as a visitor to the site. I primarily view the site using the conventional internet access plus a variety of tools and methods. The objective is to see the website the way the world sees it. The following is an example of a report I recently prepared for a client. The domain name has been changed for privacy.
Review of the Website: SampleSite.com
Search Results: When searching ‘sample site Manassas Virginia’ in Google, the first result for samplesite.com is on page 5 with no links to other sections of the website. There is vast room for search engine placement improvement. The good news is that the website appears to be on a WordPress platform which makes for easy and effective search engine optimization (SEO updates).
Title: The title “Sample Site” is only 12 characters long and does not take full advantage of the ability to add more description of the site and company.
Meta tags: The meta-description tag is missing from the site. You should include this tag in order to provide a brief description of your site which can be used by search engines or directories.
Domain age: Your domain name was registered for the first time over 4 years ago. The older the domain name, the better as it indicates website stability.
Main menu: There is one main horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page which makes the website simple to use. The navigation bar reads left to right which is natural, logical and easy to follow.
Secondary menu: There is no secondary horizontal navigation bar at the bottom of the page. This means the user reading the bottom of the page must scroll back to the top of the page to navigate to the next page.
Links: All the hyperlinks on samplesite.com are live and all pages are quick to load.
Intra links: There is minimal intra-linking between pages which does not help keep the user contained to the website.
Breadcrumbs: At the top every page there are breadcrumbs with hyperlinks which makes it easy for the user to backtrack and not get lost.
Layout and color scheme: The layout is simple but effective with a white background and a blue color theme that works with the logo and does not distract from the content.
Logo: The main site logo stays at the top left of the page when navigating around the site which makes for design consistency.
Slideshow: The homepage features a 3 image slideshow which could be better utilized to provide more useful information. The slideshow takes up valuable ‘real-estate’ above the fold and yet offers no real content.
Homepage: The homepage has a top heavy feel with too much white space below the fold.
Theme: The website design appears to be a generic or un-customized WordPress theme, which unfortunately tends to create a somewhat dated, unprofessional look.
Favicon: No favicon present. A favicon is an often overlooked but essential piece in any website. It helps your viewers to recognize your page amidst the other tabs and pages they might have open in their browser. Favicons are very important from a branding point-of-view.
Links: The hyperlinks appear to be the same color as the titles which might be confusing to the visitor.
Image to text ratio: There is a good use of images and not too much text. This is excellent because you want to get away from pages that are just a giant wall of text, as only the most committed visitors will bother to read it.
Freshness: SampleSite.com has a page titled Announcements. The last announcement was dated 2012. Visitors have expectations to find the latest information and the content must be kept up-to-date or it will give the impression that the website is stale or that nothing new is going with the company. Either keep the page updated or remove it.
Blog: No blog on the site. Because the content of most websites is static, never or seldom changing, having a blog gives you the opportunity to keep your website content fresh. This is a key elements in search engine placement! Google bots continually visit your website; if your content is old and stale, you will lose page ranking placement.
Search bar: If there is a search bar, I couldn’t find it. A search bar is an essential tool which makes it easier for the user to find their desired content. If a user can’t find what they want on your site, they’ll leave, so make sure your search function exists and works well.
Other: Generally, it is easy to find information on the website. However, the Location page returned only a map and no address. Even though the address is on the front page, a location page should always include the full address, phone number(s) parking information and areas served.
The disclaimer on the homepage contains important information but might be off-putting to your visitors. I recommend creating a Policies page for that content.
This site would benefit from a page of Client Reviews.
I recommend the use of two plugins: XML Google Sitemap and All In One SEO. An XML sitemap provides search engines with the structure of the website and immediate notification when the site is updated. All In One SEO optimizes your titles for Google and other search engines, generates META tags, and helps avoid the typical duplicate content found on WordPress sites. You want to make sure that you attract the right audience by using appropriate keywords in your copy, page titles image titles and file names.
Linking to other posts and pages on your site from within content is a great way to improve bounce rate. If a reader comes across a link to another related post while they’re reading, they’re highly likely to click over to it. Don’t rely on them finding content on their own. NOTE: Only do this if it’s relevant to the content.
Create a blog and keep it current. This helps to show Google your website is fresh and current. What to post? Industry news, photos, informative videos, helpful tips, opinions and editorials. Quote a small excerpt from another related website and then link to it.
Do you use Google Analytics or a plugin that provides the search terms that visitors use to find your site? Google Analytics is a bloated, cumbersome tool that provides significantly more information than the average small company could ever need or use. A much simpler and effective tool is a plugin called StatPress. This plugin will provide you with search terms that organic search visitors type in to find your site. Use this tool to improve your content and update SEO meta data accordingly.
Create and use a favicon for branding and easy identification.