This week has been my favourite time of the year. It’s nothing to do with Christmas: It was the interview episode of The Apprentice where the 5 remaining candidates get the pleasure of having every aspect of their progress businesses past and present, business plan and general characteristics by 4 of Lord Sugar’s key aides.
I watch this every year, not because I’m mean, but because nothing gets past these 4 musketeers. They analyse everything from how accurate the candidate’s market research is to how realistic their figures are. And they always look at the candidate’s current business website and for about 80% of the time, there are flaws.
Last year, out of the 2 finalists that went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners, one hadn’t updated her website for about 5 years and the other one had an accreditation displayed on his website which shouldn’t have been there. ironically both of these budding business owners, went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners.
This year was no exception: There was the hangover cure guy who boldly claimed on his Amazon page that he’d sold over 1 million sachets, when realistically he’d only sold 47,000 and the Tennis events organiser that had listed half her events on her website as cancelled. And my personal favourite: Camilla, the nut milk entrepreneur whose original online branding was so provocative that it bordered on soft-core porn.
My son, who was also watching this with me, was looking up their websites on his iPad and we both had a good look. And indeed there are flaws. There were superficial flaws such as a logo that had been cropped to the extent that you couldn’t read the company name, a website that was clearly designed just for desktop users and my critical eye found that one of the slogans was “Just another WordPress site.”
I’m not saying Claude Littner, Linda Plant, et al are looking at your website right now, but like it or not, humans are naturally curious species beings. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that after meeting someone either in person or interacting with them online, I’m straight onto Google or Linkedin to find out more about that person and their business. Making it all the more important to keep your website and social media profiles updated.
Even after 18 years of working in the web industry, it kills me when someone dismisses updating their site saying “no one is looking me up online” Wrong. So wrong. People are looking you up whether you want them to or not. If your website or online profile aren’t up to scratch, it is going to reflect badly on you, whether you are #1 in Google #1000.
So take half an hour on a regular basis and look objectively at your website and social media profiles: Are they up to date? Is there anything new you can add? Are you emphasising your achievements? And more importantly, is it truthful? Can you back up your achievements (with accreditations, testimonials and media coverage)? Even better ask a friend or colleague to take a look. What do they think? Sometimes a fresh set of eyes makes all the difference.
it is the final tonight and I wish the final 2 candidates the best of luck. It is hard to tell who is going to win this year. I have looked at both of their websites this morning (Sunday) they have both been updated since Wednesday night, so its anyone’s guess.
If you own or are responsible for a business website, it makes good sense to perform an audit at least every 6-12 months to ensure that your web pages are still alluring and your content is still up to date. A lot of advances have been made online, so even if your website has been revamped in the last couple of years, your good intentions already look dated.
Tend to your website like you would tend a garden: Sure you don’t have to be in it every single day, but regular tending to keep it fit for purpose. For example, remove the weeds and the plants that didn’t take. Maybe once a month add something fresh.
So many times I have seen unattended websites that are the garden equivalent of overgrown grass, thriving weeds and the rusting remains of an old car!
But before contacting any web designer, with a long list of what needs to be done, have a look at what you currently have online and perform an audit on your website. Here’s a quick how to guide:
You know something is amiss with your website when you (or your sales team) stop referring people to the website for further details. You may instead be using Twitter or Facebook to keep your client base updated on the latest buzz. That is fair enough, but don’t forget they will out of curiosity look at your website as well. And what’s to say you cannot include social media updates on your actual website? You can.
Every business has a quiet time: For business to business companies, this could be in the time between after Christmas and before new year; around March and before the financial year or during the 6 week Summer holidays. For online shops, this could be after both Christmas and the January sales. Whenever your quiet period where there are few distractions, this is when you should focus on this task and take the time to assess your website.
This is where you need to roll your sleeves up and look at your website objectively. Start at the home page: Does this still look stunning? More importantly does it still reflect your business?
From here, go through the other pages of your website: Do you still offer these products/services? Is the content still persuasive?
Also is your news page, portfolio and/or blog updated on a regular basis? How long ago was it updated? If they are not already, your social networks can be set to automatically update every time you post on your blog.
If your website performs an online function, (for example, completing a form, making a purchase, etc), does this still work ok?
In general, is your website easy to navigate? What is the general feel of the site? Is it still good? Try to put yourself in your customer’s position when going through your website: Would they be impressed or disappointed?
Any serious website owner should be set up on Google Analytics, as this can reveal a lot more about your website, how visitors find your website and how they behave on your website.
NB: If you are not on Google Analytics yet, then every hosting provider does provide basic analysis data from the control panel (but take this quiet time instead to get registered and setup on Google Analytics).
I could dedicate an entire article (even a few) to the various functions and filters of Google Analytics, but for now, The main areas to focus on should be:
Another area you should analyse on Google Analytics, is how people are viewing your website. There may only be about 30 people per month viewing your website using a tablet or smart phone, but this figure is anticipated to get bigger. Also these could be the visitors that want to buy from you or find out more information, so make sure that your website can accommodate the mobile user.
View your website on both a tablet and a mobile: How does your site look? Is it still easy to read and to navigate? Can you perform everything on a handheld device that you can from a desktop? You should.
If your website is set up using sophisticated software (for example WordPress, Joomla, etc), one final word about security: 2014 has been known for online security breaches from vulnerabilities in software to brute force attacks (link to 2014 hack list). Brute force attacks are automated but target your administration panel using simple passwords, and have been rife since the start of 2014 (ask your hosting provider, they may already have security measure in place to eliminate this).
So can your login be easily guessed? Now might be the time to create a more secure password.
Even better is your website software up to date? Software companies regularly revise the software to include all the latest security patches which keeps the nasties out. You can check the latest version of software by logging into your admin panel. Most software providers post a message on your admin panel when there is a new revision available.
These points alone should give you a clear idea on what needs to be improved on your website. Updates to the pages could easily be made by you or a members of staff, but the more involved areas, such as updating the software or re-development to accommodate mobile devices can simply be handed to your web developer or IT department.
This is a brief guide to get you started. DVH Design will shortly be compiling a more in-depth step by step analysis checklist for you to use on your website every year. Please contact or comment below if you would like this document when it goes live.
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