You might think audits are about as much fun as having teeth pulled or cleaning out the pantry, but when it comes to your website, collateral and messaging, an objective audit could save you hundreds of wasted hours and thousands of dollars. We dig into the pantry and find a silver lining on the much-maligned audit.
Don’t start with a clean-out
Everyone hates audits, whether it’s tax or compliance or internet security. Like cleaning out the pantry, they fill us with dread. We know we’re going to find stuff that’s smelly and embarrassing, but we must do a big clean-up to get rid of stale, outdated stuff ... or so most Content Creation advisers tell us. Wrong.
To use a cooking analogy, if you want to create meals that make your friends go ‘wow, that’s fantastic!’ cleaning out the pantry is not where to start. You want to start with knowing what great ingredients you already have, which ones are in good shape and which aren’t – rather than tossing the lot out. Even a shriveled-up relic could remind you of a wonderful dinner – why it was great and what you could improve next time.
It’s the same with creating content: you need to know what you have now, whether it’s up to scratch or not and what to do to make it great. An effective, targeted marketing audit will do just that, whereas chucking the lot out will be painful; it will take lots of time and money to start again.
Don’t worry about SEO … yet
Do you have friends with designer kitchens equipped with industrial stoves, workbenches and all the right gear – yet the food they produce is mediocre? They’re paying attention to the wrong parts of the process. Sure, a $500 knife that can cut a feather in thin is impressive, but it won’t make anyone a better cook; it may cut food faster and maybe fingers as well. Regardless, its owner will insist on sharing eye-glazing details about the incredible features of the $500 knife.
That’s what you get from most digital marketing agencies when you ask for a website performance audit: a mind-numbing analysis of your website’s SEO status, endless spreadsheets and long lists of incomplete meta descriptions, anchor text issues, broken links and more. In addition, they’ll tell you about all the clever apps you have to buy to get your website's performance up to speed, and then monitor it daily. As if you need another job.
Of course, SEO, backlinks and the rest are vital for web rankings and traffic, but focusing on them first is like serving dessert before the entrée. Higher
rankings and more traffic will mean nothing if your messages, content and conversion tools don’t engage web visitors. You’ll just attract and lose
more of them. You need to fix the basics first, and then ramp up rankings and traffic, not the other way around. A targeted Marketing Audit will do just that.
A Messaging Strength Audit should test your Competitiveness
A website is a lot like a restaurant. To get browsing passers-by to consider eating there, the restaurant must look attractive and show people inside having a good time. The menu has to list appealing options and prices that make clear who the target audience is. However, if lowest price is the only offer, the reverse applies: the cheaper and uglier the website, the better.
If the restaurant is one of many in a precinct, the objective is to attract more passers-by than competitors. It’s like the story of 4 pizzerias in Manhattan: one puts up sign up that says ‘Best Pizzas in Manhattan, the second trumps this with ‘Best pizzas in New York’ and the third raises the stakes to ‘Best pizzas in America’. It’s a tough call for the fourth guy, but he’s smart and puts up a sign that says ‘Best pizzas on this street’.
Along the same lines, the big question a Messaging Strength Audit should answer is this one: will your messaging be strong enough to exploit your advantages and convince visitors to stay, or will they click off and go to competitors?
Among the other 100 or so questions a Messaging Strength Audit should answer are these:
Does your messaging make clear
- Who you are, what you do and who should care?
- Who else you've helped to solve problems which are similar to theirs?
- How your solution is demonstrably superior to that of competitors?
If the answer isn’t a resounding ‘yes’, then your gorgeous new website or your faithful old one is working against you, like a drunken diner running amok outside a restaurant.
You need to ensure that your website focuses on why your solution is the only one that matters, to the visitors you want as clients. Then you can optimise for search, backlinks and the rest of the good stuff that will bring more like them. Find out more about Messaging Strength Audits here.
A Website Strength Audit should test your Conversion
Using the restaurant analogy, once the passer-by has made her choice, the restaurant must deliver on the promise. If she goes inside and finds the food is ordinary and the service so-so, she won’t come back and she’ll tell her friends why not.
Your website is the same. It has to be appealing to visitors, it has to make clear what you do, and your service must be as efficient and unobtrusive as a good waiter (especially the automated steps).
An effective Website Strength Audit will answer this big question: Is your website strong enough to convert visitors to leads? In other words, will they stay and act or will they just read and go? Once your messaging is strong enough to attract visitors away from competitors, your conversion funnel needs to be strong enough to move them to action.
Here are some of the 100 or so questions a Website Strength Audit should answer:
- Can visitors find themselves, their problems and your solution to fix them?
- Are the actions they could take clear, compelling and hard to miss?
- Are these actions easy, low risk and likely to move visitors into your funnel?
If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these and similar questions, your conversion funnel is working against you – like a sloppy waiter who talks so much that diners lose interest in ordering. Once you fix the conversion funnel, you can hire a competent digital mechanic to tweak the SEO, get you more backlinks, fix the metadata and so on.
By the way, these digital fixes are not ‘set and forget’; they’re an ongoing process, because Google frequently changes its algorithms (500 - 600 minor changes a year, according to MOZ; Searchengineland.com provides a concise list of the major ones). Fixing your conversion funnel is much easier although testing and optimising will also be required. Find out more about Website Strength Audits.
A Collateral Strength Audit should test your Influence
‘Content will always be king,’ says search guru Robert Adams. ‘It’s ‘one of the major anchors that tethers you to Google's relevancy algorithms.’ Adams adds that ‘thin content with errors, or duplicate content and spun content can really hurt you … without great content, you can forget about your chances to rank.’ Sure, but great content also moves visitors to action while lousy content only hurts your brand.
So what is great content? Originality and substance are important to Google, as is quality over quantity except when it comes to length: longer content ranks higher, so long as it’s also relevant and insightful. According to backlinko.com, ‘the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.’ Personality is also important according to Hubspot. People want to deal with people who are real, who speak directly in plain words. After all, if they wanted bland diatribes and meaningless padding, they’d read political speeches.
So, clearly web content is critical, but it’s just the entrée. Once visitors have engaged with your website, you need to deliver the right content in the
right format at the right time, to draw them into your sales funnel. You want to keep them active and satisfied until, like the diner, they’re ready
to say ’I’m done; I’m satisfied, I'm ready to pay the bill.’ It follows that the rest of your collateral needs to be original, substantial, of high
quality and in the right quantity.
It's these criteria and more that an effective Collateral Strength Audit should assess. It should answer this big question like these: Is your collateral strong enough to influence readers to keep taking the actions you want?
Apart from assessing each collateral piece, an effective audit should also ask:
Does your collateral suite:
- Cover the sales funnel evenly – or are there gaps, overlaps and drop-offs?
- Include objective, comparative and promotional content – and deliver each at the right time?
- Tell a cohesive, sequential, persuasive story –that compels readers to act?
Do you want to educate visitors and keep them in a never-ending email embrace, or do you want to qualify them in or out, and influence the ones you want to become clients? An effective Collateral Strength Audit should tell you what you need to do.
The Bottom Line
Marketing must deliver ROI and growth, not consume resources and deliver pretty infographics or impenetrable reports.
If your website, messaging and collateral are strong, you can build a resilient, hard-working growth engine that attracts, engages and converts the right kinds of prospects. It will keep others interested until they’re ready to engage, and free you up to focus back on the business.
If you think your messaging, website or collateral are not as strong as they could be; if they're not attracting, converting or influencing as many buyers as you’d like, an audit may be just what the diner ordered.
But beware of self-serving audits that tell you what's wrong, and what apps and services you need to buy to fix it. The cost of the audit might be the
tip of a very large iceberg.
For best value, choose an objective, systematic audit that tells you what you can do yourself, in-house, with no strings attached. That's our approach.
Find out more about Technoledge's Marketing Audits.
They could really save your marketing bacon.
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