Consistent Trend From SEO Audits
I've recently been busy performing SEO focused website audits for, so far, 11 small businesses based in North West England. As I write I have 3 more to start. These all stem from a campaign designed to make it easy for web site owners to get some insights about why their sites are not performing as well as they had hoped they would. You can check out one of the campaign landing pages here to understand the context of this article.
100% Put The Cart Before The Horse
I confess, I expected to find that many of the businesses will not have conducted any in depth fact finding (research) about their online markets. As it turned out 100% hadn't. They had by-passed the most important part of all successful website design projects. Some had used their judgment about what content their sites should contain and how it should work. Others had simply left it to the web designers to "get on with the job".
Not doing research is the same as putting the cart before the horse or building a house with no foundations. The results will always be disappointing.
36% Not Running Any Analytics
4 websites have no analytics installed. I might be able to understand this if the sites were very new but they're not. In fairness I am including one site in this set that does have Google Analytics script but no data was is being collected and hasn't been collected since May 2012, after a web site update. Another site did have analytics data but it predated a new site that went live in March 2012. The google analytics script has never been installed on the new site.
Having no analytics means it's impossible to quantify how poorly your site may or may not be performing. Couple this with no research and what you have is guess work.
86% Had Not Reviewed Analytics Within The Last 30 Days
6 of the 7 site owners that have analytics installed on their sites had not looked at the analytics within the past 30 days. For several they hadn't looked for more than 3 months. This may sound crazy when you consider that all the audits have been done for businesses who felt that their sites weren't performing very well. Counting the sites that have no analytics 10 from 11 businesses were basing their disappointment on one thing, the fact that their sites were not generating business.
Little or no business is one of the ultimate measures but having and using analytics data is key to understanding what's actually working and what isn't.
Broken Links in Abundance
All of the sites had some broken links. One site had more than 100! Several sites will have these broken links from the day they went live. The presence of broken links isn't a surprise but the evident lack of any regular checking for broken links by all businesses did surprise. Several businesses did say they were aware of some problems with their sites because other people had told them that some pages didn't appear.
Too many broken links on your site is damaging because Google will consider the site as not up to date. Consequently it won't treat your site as seriously it does your competitors.
Very Few Backlinks
Another unsurprising finding of the audits is that all sites had very few backlinks to their sites pages from other sites. What was a little surprising is that many of the businesses were aware that backlinks were important, and yet they had not put in place any activity to attain links from other sites.
Backlinks are very important and quality counts over quantity. This hasn't always been the case but it has been since Google implemented several major search ranking algorithm changes more than 18 months ago.
Back To Research
All the businesses I've audited web sites for need to undertake research before they can begin to take steps to get their sites to work harder and better for them. The research they do will:
- inform the content improvements they'll need to make to their sites
- surface where the opportunities are
- pinpoint the tougher challenges to tackle at a later stage
- identify the strengths and weaknesses of competitors
- provide focus to link building activities
- provide focus to social media activities
- provide focus to online marketing activities.
With good research it's possible to arrive at a commercial value in having a better performing site. Knowing this then lends justification to the investment that needs to be made. Without research it's all just guesswork!