Website audit: Get your website marketing-ready


Your website remains the central hub of most digital marketing strategies but its effectiveness depends on it being properly designed. This section looks at how to check your website and improve it so that it will better support your digital marketing efforts.

Why a website is still important


Surfing the www

You need a home on the web where anyone can go to find out about you, your books and your business. And in spite of all the hype surrounding social media, the best general-purpose online home is still a website.

  • Anyone can access it, anytime
  • It’s open to search engines
  • You can do more things with a website than with any other digital marketing tool
  • You own the website address and control the content — unlike social networks, for instance, which own the web address and restrict what you can do with your content

It’s the sometimes-unglamorous Swiss army knife of digital marketing and it forms a central hub that draws the other strands together. For this reason, you need to give it the attention it deserves, especially in areas that affect its usefulness as a marketing tool.

Website Marketing Audit: Check that your website is marketing-ready


Many websites were built without a sound understanding of their use in supporting an active digital marketing program. If this sounds like your website, here is a simple marketing audit checklist for your website and some tips on how to make it more effective as a marketing tool.

#1. Goals: Focus the website on delivering key marketing goals


You should start with two very basic questions: What do you want the visitor to DO, and how easy is it to do it?
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Websites can do a lot of things and provide a lot of information and herein lies one of the biggest dangers. It’s easy to become a grab bag of information with little thought to getting those hard-won visitors to actually do something that will help our marketing aims.

Do we want them to sign up for our newsletter, or Like our Facebook Page? Download a sample chapter of a featured title? Follow a link to Amazon? Go to the online catalog? Request a review copy? Learn about our expertise in a niche? We probably want to do all of this and more but what we should do is:

  • Set key goals and the associated actions we want visitors to take
  • Make sure our website offers a path and a clear call-to-action to get the visitor there

Because a visitor spends very little time deciding whether to stay on a page, you have to make a clear, immediate impact.

Tip: When there are several goals for visitors, a common technique is to use landing pages. These are web pages built to fulfill a single purpose and designed to lead visitors through a process to get them there. They’re often assigned special, descriptive web addresses which can be linked to from outside the website as well as from internal website links. We’ll look at landing pages in a later section.

#2. Content management: Make sure you can update the site easily


Check that users can easily add and update marketing-related content on the site, and that those users know the basics of web copywriting and image editing.
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The users who are responsible for marketing should be able to update most of the website content quickly and directly with little need for support from a web designer. This is easy if your website is built with a modern, user-friendly content management system (CMS) where pages can be created and updated online with a Microsoft Word-like editor. Many older websites were built on foundations that make it difficult for non-technical users to fulfill this essential requirement. We’ll show you a modern content management system in action when we look at the web’s most popular CMS, WordPress, in the section on blogging.

While a CMS will make it easy for users to add and update content, you should make sure they get some basic training in web copy and image editing. This will ensure that, even without the hand of a designer, your website will retain a professional appearance, be readable onscreen and be optimized for search engines (see below).

Tip: Add a blog. Many publishers’ sites are built using software which presents books in a catalog form. This software — usually a type known as shopping cart software — is ideal for managing large numbers of products but is much less effective as a digital marketing platform. A lot of sites get around this problem by adding a blog which is linked to the site but runs on a separate application that’s optimized for creating and marketing online content. The most widely-used blog software is WordPress which is also a very effective content management system and will work for very small, or very large, sites.

#3. Content sharing: Make it easy to share website content


Check your website for features that will make it easy for users to share your key content.

Sharing tools - Penguin Canada website

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A good CMS makes it easy to share your articles with others on the web – one of the most important features for digital marketing. One of the best ways is to add social sharing tools to pages. These special buttons or links make it quick for visitors to share a page with their connections via Facebook, Twitter, email, RSS feeds, and other methods.

Most importantly, you should check that images and copy are made for easy sharing and re-use by site users such as bloggers, booksellers and readers. For instance, it’s bad to bury book details and images in PDF documents — plain HTML with text and images (ie web pages) is much better. And you should offer links to high resolution versions of key marketing images such as covers and author photos.

#4. Usability: Design for readability — and small screens


Test your website’s display and usability using a number of different devices and screen sizes including smartphones and tablets.
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Modern web design practice takes into account the increasing use of mobile devices to access websites. Facebook, for instance, already receives almost half of its visits from mobile devices. Your website should be very readable, well-structured with clear navigation for each screen type.

The emerging practice of responsive design presents a website with different layouts depending on the visitor’s screen size. In fact, the move to relatively simple, light-weight pages (unladen with big graphics) reverses a key web design trend of recent years. For ebook marketing, this certainly makes sense.

Try it. This course is built using responsive design techniques. Try re-sizing the browser window, making it progressively narrower. You’ll find, for instance, that:

  • Wide images, such as the clouds image below which is just over 900 pixels wide, will shrink to fit
  • Text wraps and retains a larger size
  • The top menu changes to a mobile-friendly version when the width of the browser window falls below a preset size.

Note that some responsive features require an up-to-date browser to work properly.

Clouds - 909 pixels wide

Designing with good usability in mind will also make your site text-friendly and shareable, and will put you on the right track for the next important element, search engine optimization.

#5. Search engine friendliness


Check how your site appears to users of the major search engines.
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As we’ve seen, a whole marketing art and science has grown up around search engine optimization (SEO) — ensuring your site ranks highly on search results pages.

Here’s a simple check to see how your site performs on major search engines. For each major search engine (Google, Bing and perhaps others in your market), test some search queries that you think readers would use when looking for your categories, authors or publications:

  • See where your site appears on the search results pages. Ideally, it should be one of the first two or three links since few links below this are clicked.
  • Check what appears, especially the headline and the snippet of text in the description. Is it compelling and relevant? You might be surprised to see how poor or irrelevant this vital copy is if your website copy hasn’t been optimized.
  • Type site:mysitename.com into the search box. A results page will appear with all the pages that it indexes from your site. Check that your key pages are indexed with good headline links and descriptions.
Tip: Optimize each page for search engines. It’s important to remember that you optimize pages, not sites so search engine optimization should happen at the point each page is created and be tailored for that specific page, not just generic search terms. Most of the things you do with this goal in mind will also make your site more human-friendly, so good text-oriented design and ‘discoverability’ go hand-in-hand.

A simple, immediate improvement — make a great ‘About’ page


The About page is a staple of all websites and many people treat it as just a service page that every website must have. But it’s not, and on most small websites the About page is one of the most visited pages on the site, often the most visited page after the home page. People want to know who they’re dealing with and after years of using the internet, they’ve learned that every website has an About page. Often these are first-time visitors who’ve just bounced on to your site from a search engine and might not read anything else.

Here are some ways to take maximum marketing advantage of a great About page.

  • Link to it prominently. Don’t just bury a small link to your About page at the foot of the page. A good place is often right next to the Home link so you can’t miss it.
  • Craft it carefully. Put some time into crafting it; add some images as well as text, and use it to sell. Don’t just treat it as a dull, factual bio.
  • Use it to promote other parts of your site. Place links on it to other high value parts of your site so these visitors (who might not have come via your home page) spend more time looking. For instance, if you’re building an email list, add a sign-up box to the About page, or a hyperlinked call-to-action that goes to your sign-up page (‘Sign-up for a preview of my new book, coming soon’). Weave in text links to other pages on your site so they’ll click on them as they read about you.

New website or website makeover


If your website was built without meeting some or all of these four key requirements, it might be time to consider a makeover, or even a new website.

But first, review your market and consider your wider digital marketing strategy and goals. Your website — and your allocation of resources to use it effectively — will be more effective if it’s designed to support your overall plan.

 

Question icon

Rate your own website (or a competitor) against each of the FIVE checklist points and identify areas for improvement based on the tips and suggestions above.

 

1. Goals

— Pass / Fail

Areas for improvement:


2. Content management

— Pass / Fail

Areas for improvement:


3. Content sharing

— Pass / Fail

Areas for improvement:


4. Usability and readability

— Pass / Fail

Areas for improvement:


5. Search engine friendliness

— Pass / Fail

Areas for improvement:


 

Resources


HubSpot’s Marketing Grader (http://marketing.grader.com). Now that you’ve reviewed your website, try this free online tool. It will analyze your website and deliver a report that grades its marketing-readiness and offers tips on where  it works and where it can be improved.

Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.

 

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