How to do an online presence audit to start 2021

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Time to take stock

Want to take a different approach to New Year’s resolutions this year? Let’s consider doing a thorough online presence audit of your business for the past year. By doing so you can then put in place the practices and policies that will actually contribute to improving in the year ahead.

No doubt about it, 2020 was a year full of obstacles for anyone running a business. 

But it’s a new year and the right time for a fresh start. 

How to do an online presence audit

In this article, we are going to cover basic online business and website practices that you can review and apply. These details need your attention and can help or hinder your success and ROI.

This requires you to take an honest self-assessment in regards to how you spend your time, what choices you’ve made, how you run your website and online business. Only then can you determine if these variables produced the desired results and if not, why not.

So grab a notepad and let’s get to work!

Starter questions to review the past year

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

What were your biggest online successes?

If your list begins with “surviving,” congratulations! Jot down the things you know you did well and why. Look at ways of solidifying those wins and how you can build upon them. You also want to take note of what business activities you enjoyed most.

Where did you fall short?

You know where you fell short — perhaps you were slow to get creative about meeting customer needs in a way that didn’t expose them to health risks. Whatever the misses, write them all down. 

Remember that 2020 was an impossible year for everyone, so don’t beat yourself up. We’re just taking stock.

What were your online goals for 2020?

How did you do? If you didn’t make any specific goals for 2020, be sure you identify what you want to accomplish in 2021 in as much detail as possible (learn how here). If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you expect to get there?

Which goals did you meet or miss and why?

Any honest business owner knows the answers to these questions. Being forthright during this process will only serve to push you towards success.

This quick overview serves to help you quickly identify the pillars you want to concentrate on moving into the new year.

Jotting down the answers to the above questions will allow you to easily set the groundwork to build upon your successes and avoid unnecessary setbacks.

If you are like me, coincidentally that is where you’ll find you were most successful. You’ll then have a better idea of what you truly want to do yourself and where to seek outside help or assistance to better compensate for your shortcomings or lack of enthusiasm.

Related: Build a strong brand strategy in 3 steps

Website look, feel and features

Technology keeps steamrolling ahead with or without us. You have to make the effort to keep up or you will be left behind.

Laptop with Honest Junk website shown on it
Image: Tina Lagdameo, Honest Junk

This requires you to review your website visuals, layout and functionality.

How long ago did you update the look or feel (theme) and images on your website? Visual trends are being reset all the time.

Site visitors travel around the web and get accustomed to how websites should appear and operate. And with that expectations are created.

Here are some questions to guide you:

  1. Does your site look contemporary? Does it provide the impression it was set up in 2021 or 2009?
  2. Are your videos, text and photos (including your profile photo) current or outdated from years ago?
  3. Do you have the features visitors expect (e.g. the option to make their own appointment online)?
  4. Does your site include the functionality that makes doing business with you a breeze (e.g. a guest checkout option)?
  5. What year is the copyright notice at the bottom of every page? Be sure to change it to 2021.

Do not overlook your website’s actual performance metrics. When was the last time you ran a speed and performance test on your website? GTMetrix.com is a good place to start.

Take the time to check everything

We are so busy working on our businesses and building out our sites that the days fly by. We create, add, modify and add some more. But it’s easy to neglect to check to see if any of those additions or changes may have had a detrimental effect on our website’s overall performance.

If you are using WordPress, do a thorough review of your theme and plugins to make sure they are all up-to-date and tested with the current version of WordPress.

Site navigation is also something that can grow to the point of taking on a life of its own.
 

Did you know there is a thing called the choice paradox? Too many choices can actually lead to indecision and fewer sales or contacts.

Tim Hortons navigation bar at top of website
The Tim Hortons navigation is elegantly simple: Order | Catering | More | Log In.

Review your navigational structure and pair it down to be simple, concise, and more importantly, obvious to your site visitors.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Websites + Marketing helps you spend more time on the tasks that will have the most impact on your business. How? This website building solution features GoDaddy InSight, a smart learning system that provides data and guidance based on your business industry and goals. InSight’s algorithms create a custom Action Plan tailored to your business. You get a custom InSight Score using performance data like website traffic, social media activity and online sales — benchmarking your business to others in your industry and region, with similar online tenure.

SEO considerations

I’m not going to get into a search engine optimization (SEO) tutorial here; there are excellent resources online to learn about that. However, at the end of every year, it makes sense to analyze what Google search box shown on a tabletyou have in place and if your current efforts are adequate.

Site speed

Those performance metrics that I mentioned previously are part of optimising for search engines. Speed matters. Test, then tune.

Relevant content

SEO isn’t just a matter of adding keywords here or there or creating content like blog posts and videos for the sake of adding more stuff. It’s about keyword research, knowing your market, and creating content your current and potential customers will love.

Review your content and either update or delete it if it is not getting a response.

 Use Google Analytics to learn how your visitors are finding you. This data can give you clues as to what’s working well and where you need to improve.

Google considers your E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) factors when deciding if it will promote your site to searchers. You can read about that in more detail in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Your goal should always be to increase all three in Google’s (virtual) eyes.

Inbound and outbound links

When reviewing your SEO efforts, also review your inbound and outbound links and repair any broken links. 

Once you review all this data you then know where you need to improve or can build upon what’s already working.

Business practices

At the end of the year you want to review your policies and procedures to determine what, if any, of your policies require updating. You’ll want to review your policies that cover:

  • Customer service
  • Returns and refunds
  • Privacy statements
  • Customer data security and storage
  • Lead-time and shipping policies

Review each to determine if they are good as is or require additional clarification. You may be surprised to discover outdated statements or sentences that need to be clarified.

It may also be a good idea to have a legal expert review all your policies to limit any potential unforeseen liabilities that may exist.

Email organization

Email takes a lot of our time, many times unnecessarily. Not keeping up with your email responsibilities can have a negative impact on your business in so many ways.

Learning a few new habits can save you time and increase your opportunities.

 Prompt and professional responses encourage those you communicate with to do business with you. Lack of responses with poor grammar or a lax tone can have the opposite effect.

Look for ways to organize your email activities to make you more efficient.

Folders and templates

Create folders to keep your emails organized in a way that works for you. Include a To-Do folder that you can file emails into and then follow through and do what needs to be done.

If you are being asked the same questions over and over via email, create templates or add those topics to your website’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. This applies to your product and service pages as well.

Beef up your core website pages to make sure all the details you know customers are seeking are included.

This approach will help to minimize your email volume.

Ecommerce analysis

Security is a huge issue when it comes to eCommerce.

Make sure your entire site is protected with HTTPS (SSL) encryption and that there are no mixed content errors.

Going into 2021, one would think this to not be an issue — but I see sites that are not secured or have mixed content errors every day. So it is worth a mention.

We want to make sure that we have everything covered so that there are no browser warnings that can affect how your site displays and reduces contacts or orders. Mixed content errors cause the user’s browser to note that the “Connection is Not Secure” and that “Parts of this page are not secure…”.

If you see this message when on any page of your website, you want to check all your URLs within your content on that particular page (learn how here). Most likely you have an HTTP where you should have an HTTPS. 

Product images and descriptions

Next, review your product images and descriptions to make sure they are optimised and current.

Images that are larger than needed are one of the primary contributors to slow site performance. Generic product descriptions do not encourage sales or set you apart from similar products on other websites.

Related: 11 important image SEO tips

Social media branding

Not every social channel is right for every business. TikTok, for instance, is most popular among 16 to 24-year-olds. If your customers aren’t in that age group, TikTok would be a waste of time. 

And being on social media can be a time sucker.

Person at a desk looking at Instagram on a smartphone

Determining where you get your best bang for your buck is imperative to using your time efficiently.

Here, again, look to the data to see where you are getting the best response — and why. Then concentrate on that platform a little more, build upon what works, and try new things.

For your branding efforts to be successful you want to make sure that there is a consistency in look and feel across all your social platforms. Same colors, logo and personality.

Review all your social accounts to make sure they have the same banner and profile images, too.

Related: Kill it on social with Over

Competitive intelligence

The end of the year is the perfect time to scope out the competition as you make plans for the year ahead. We all have competition, at least at some level, and know who our primary competitors are.

Check out the other businesses like yours to see what they are up to, what they may be doing differently, and what you can do better.

Look at their website, product offerings, social media activity and marketing efforts.

Now think about what this means for you

Think about how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. What can you do to make your business stand out from all the rest?

Your competitive edge should not be based on pricing alone. The race to the bottom isn’t always the best path to attain ROI (return on investment) unless you want to be viewed as a “budget” brand. If your pricing is higher, discover ways to offer value along with your higher price to work toward building a premium brand.

Put on your customer hat and think about what they want and what makes the process of doing business with you easiest for them. Then scope out what your competitors are doing to fill that need.

This exercise also helps you to discover potential competitive weak points.

Review, improve, repeat

So much of our success is dependent on reviewing what we’ve done thus far and what we need to do to continue moving forward. Then pushing through each challenge as it appears in front of us. That and the discipline to follow through on the issues we know will contribute to our ongoing success.

Now that you have documented and reviewed all of the above, it’s time to make your plan for 2021.

You want to write down your goals and how you are going to make them happen. The more specific the better.

Make checklists, spreadsheets or just take handwritten notes. Using a system that works for you means you’ll be more apt to stick with it to reach your goals.

There is no ambiguity when it comes to online success. It’s in every little detail and choice in regard to what we decide to do or not do. Here’s to a prosperous year ahead!

Judith writes — a lot. She has three blogs, including Every Day E-mail Etiquette and Business E-mail Etiquette, and was dubbed “Miss Manners for the Digital World” by Earthlink (and now is fondly referred to as "Miss eManners"). She has been interviewed for TV, radio, print and online articles. Judith also has authored three books and a popular eBook on the email etiquette. Her consulting blog at The IStudio® covers every angle of successfully doing business online. She shares her over two decades of real-world know-how and experience from online business best practices to eCommerce to marketing and proper technology use. When not working on her own projects, she helps Netrepreneurs to embrace WordPress and the online arena for all it can be. Judith also lends a helping hand as a Community Founder on the new GoDaddy Community Forums. She is known for her no-hype approach. Judith's motto? "If I'm not having fun; I don't do it." You can find her on Twitter @IStudio.