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How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

Whether you're a startup or an established business, the company website is an essential element of your digital marketing strategy. The most effective sites are continually nurtured and developed in line with changing business needs, trends and customer buying behaviours. To stay ahead of the curve, schedule a regular time to review the website and plan changes that will increase traffic and generate more leads. This beginner's guide on how to review a website sets out eight key factors to consider when assessing the performance of your website or that of a competitor.

Company websites are no longer the preserve of ecommerce businesses. Whether you sell on or offline, a website is an essential element of your digital marketing strategy. According to research by Forbes, 82% of smartphone users conduct an online search before making a purchase in-store.

The most effective websites — that is — the ones that drive traffic, generate leads and have a healthy conversion rate, are those continually monitored and adapted to meet changing needs. Creating a company website is not a one-time job. There are a number of key elements that should be regularly reviewed and potentially updated. Your website should evolve as the business develops and buying trends change. 

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock and make changes. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk you through the fundamental steps of how to review a website, whether your own or that of a competitor. 

1. Consider the audience.

When reviewing a website, it’s important to keep the target audience in mind. Your website might be an awesome display of technical wizardry, but if the target audience is seeking simplicity and ease of navigation, this would be the wrong approach. Review the website through the eyes of the intended user. If possible, ask a test user who fits the right profile to give their opinion. Set them some tasks and ask a few questions to find out if the website is providing the intended user experience or not. 

2. Check the site is well optimised.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of making a website easily accessible to search engines like Google. Websites that are well optimised will rank higher in search results. Many small changes can improve the overall SEO of a website. “Optimisation” often refers to the appropriate use of relevant keywords.

Make sure to optimise page titles and descriptions, use ALT text on images, format content correctly and use H1 tags, provide a good website speed and ensure the website link structure is in order. Check out Hubspot’s ultimate guide to SEO for a more detailed look at this aspect of a website review. 

3. Find out how the site ranks for key terms.

Google Search Console is a free tool that provides useful insight into how Google views your website and how well it is performing. Linking search console to Google Analytics provides an even greater depth of data to inform website developments. The “Performance Report” shows how the site ranks for target keywords. It provides data such as the number of visits received from each term, the location of the user and the type of device they used.

Keywords are at the heart of SEO and it is important to regularly review the terms you are targeting to make sure they align with your offering and the most popular search terms. 

4. Identify and redirect broken links.

Broken links provide a poor user experience and they can reflect badly on a company. A broken link is when a user clicks on a link only to reach an error page, such as “Oops, this content no longer exists”. It’s important to regularly check for broken links because of their negative impact on user experience, which is a factor employed by Google’s ranking algorithm.

There are plenty of free tools you can use to search for broken links, such as Google Analytics, Sitechecker, InterroBot and Screaming Frog. Once you’ve identified broken links, use a CMS (Content Management System), such as Wordpress, to redirect them using the most appropriate error code.

5. Make the most out of social media. 

Social media provides a fantastic opportunity to amplify your content and business message. When reviewing a website, be sure to check relevant social media accounts have been set up and that they are used appropriately.

It’s not necessary to sign up to every social media platform, but it is important to reach your audience where they are, which means engaging them on their preferred online spaces.  Check social media “buttons” are placed prominently on the website homepage, blog and key landing pages.

Make good use of hashtags and bring content to life with images and videos. Social media is a brilliant listening tool — find out what your target audience is interested in purchasing, where and how they like to shop and keep on top of trends. 

6. Run a content audit.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content generates three times more leads than paid search ads. But it’s not sufficient to churn out any old content each day or week. Content must be high-quality. That means it should be a good length, well-formatted and bring something new to the conversation that is helpful or interesting to website visitors.

You should review content regularly and, when appropriate, updated. An often missed trick in content marketing is updating well-performing, yet out-dated content. You should not pull a blog that is driving huge numbers of traffic and ranking in position one on Google because it’s dated 2016.

Instead, review and revise the content to make it current and add the date you amended it. When the Google crawlers spot new content on your site, there will be a spike in traffic — a quick win for minimal effort. 

7. Optimise for mobile.

Internet use on mobile phones has been steadily increasing in recent years and in 2019, the global mobile phone internet population reached 63.4%. Since 2015, having a mobile-friendly website has been a Google ranking factor.

Google provides a free tool for website owners to check how mobile-friendly their site is. The results are given for individual web pages, so users should try a sample of different pages of the website. The speed of a website on mobile is also crucial. It is another ranking factor and nothing will have people bouncing off your site quicker than a slow page load time.

8. Is the web design appropriate and user-friendly?

The design of a site is probably the first thing a visitor will notice about a website. Does it look professional? Is it clear what service or products are on offer? Company branding should be consistent across all marketing efforts, from office signage to the website.

Consistency breeds consumer familiarity and trust in a brand. A website must not only look good but be easy to navigate. Usability is of paramount importance to Google and poorly designed sites will slump in the rankings.

A website visit often represents a user’s first interaction with a brand. This first impression is all-important for attracting new customers and developing a strong brand reputation. Providing high-quality, relevant content and making sure the site is user-friendly across devices will increase repeat traffic and help to boost conversions in-store or online. Routinely reviewing your website requires minimal effort, yet it can return substantial results. 

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