You’ve been busy, working hard to grow your business. You probably know that it’s essential for you to keep up with the latest news in your industry and pay attention to what people are saying about you on social media.
But do you know that it’s equally as vital for you to maintain an up-to-date website?
This is where our annual website audit checklist comes in handy! So go ahead, take a few minutes now, and then relax, knowing that you’ll check things off of this list, so you don’t have to worry about them later.
This list is not a technical website audit list – there are plenty of those available on the web.
You definitely should know if your website load speed is slow, have the correct page SEO, or your page is mobile-friendly – find someone with experience to audit these technical items for you.
This checklist is for business owners and managers with actionable updates they can identify themselves without deep knowledge of web development and coding.
Most of these items can be updated through a WordPress-type website content management system (CMS). If your business does not use something like this, it’s worth looking into so you or your internal staff are empowered to make timely updates on your site as easily as updating a Word document.
Almost every one of these checklist items should be checked monthly. However, I realize that might be unrealistic for some business owners. You know your business and your team bandwidth best, so plan accordingly.
Check All Pages for Places Where “Years in Business” or “Years of Experience” are Mentioned
This is easy to overlook. If years go by and the text is not updated, you could be shortchanging your credentials. This is especially important on your “About Us” page.
Bonus tip: If this isn’t something you want to update every year, write something vague like “over 20 years of experience.”
Check Your Website Copyright Date
Typically, web designers will add the copyright message with a copyright date in the website’s footer.
If you are concerned about image or copy theft, an attorney can best advise you on what to add here, but the date is an important trust factor.
When visitors don’t see the current year in the web footer, they may assume the content is out of date. If they see a copyright date that is several years old, this may signal that the business does not keep their website current, and it might be a red flag.
Bonus tip: There is a way to add the date as a code that will automatically add the current year to your footer copyright date. This is a little more complex than just changing text, but if you are up for it, more info can be found here.
Make Sure Your Forms are Working
The reality is that many businesses do not see contact form submissions rolling in every day.
You might only see a few come through each year, but a website inquiry could be worth a lot of revenue, and you don’t want to miss out on even one opportunity.
How soon would you know if your website submission form suddenly stopped working?
Website forms can and often do stop working out of the blue, and it is more common than you might think.
It may be a WordPress update or a problem with the site CAPTCHA that prevents people from submitting the form. Suddenly, your submissions might be going to your spam folder or even disappearing into the ether altogether.
It is best to get someone outside of your organization to use their computer and contact information to test your forms, simply because using your email address and information might cause email spam filters to behave differently than normal.
Once you receive the forms, you can be confident they are still working. If not, prioritize getting them fixed so you don’t miss that next opportunity.
Bonus tip: It is also a good time to ensure the form information is useful to you and is not too long or has too many “required” elements. It might be that you aren’t getting forms because visitors see it as too much work.
Check to See if You are a Spam Magnet
We highly discourage displaying actual email addresses on any website as they can be indexed by web crawlers and added to email spam lists. These lists are bought and sold and are likely a primary culprit in a spike in spam emails coming to your inbox.
Additionally, if your website forms do not have CAPTCHA protection (the “I am not a robot” check box is one example of this), you could be getting so many false form submissions that you may miss out on real opportunities.
Use the annual audit to cut down on the spam magnets, and your inbox will thank you later!
Bonus tip: Configure your inbox to mark website form submissions as “important.” Since these are automatically generated emails, they often arrive looking like promotions or updates. By marking them as “important,” you can make sure they don’t get buried in the typical inbox clutter.
Check Contact and Location Information
This is the most obvious annual audit item and is also the most important. Those of us who study local search engine optimization (SEO) are obsessed with “NAP,” which stands for “Name, Address, Phone Number.”
These are the key elements of any website and are crucial to being found and contacted by potential customers.
Google also indexes the NAP information on websites and matches it with the Google Business Profile to create a better picture of a business for their local business search results page and Google Maps.
Bonus tip: You can format your phone number and address with coding to allow users on mobile devices to click-to–call or get instant driving directions. Ask a web developer to help with this.
Bonus tip: An annual audit is also a great time to audit your Google Business Profile listings. This is how you appear in Google Maps and in the business snippet found when Google users look up your business name.
Update Your Announcements
A website is the perfect place to put important announcements regarding the business. We found this especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, where changing mandates frequently changed mask requirements or common areas’ closures.
However, announcements often get put up on the website in a rush and are then forgotten. The annual audit is an excellent time to make sure that everything is still accurate or newsworthy. Your “brand new product” from 8 months ago might now be so brand new anymore.
Bonus tip: A solid social media presence is a better and sometimes easier way to convey minor regular updates if you don’t have someone on staff that can quickly and regularly update website announcements. Save the most important announcements for the website and use the social platforms for smaller news items with shorter durations.
Update Your Staff Listings
Business employee turnover happens, and often it is so stressful that the last thing business owners think about is updating the website. While it should be important to update right away, the annual audit is an excellent time to make sure all of the following are updated:
- Remove employees that no longer work for the company
- Add new employees
- Update any business titles and add new certifications or business experience
- Update the organizational chart
Does Your Website Match Your Current Brand Identity?
I’m biased as a digital marketer, but I feel that a company’s website should be the very best representation of their brand identity.
What is a brand identity? A brand identity combines visual and messaging cues that define a company’s style and voice. Brand identity goes beyond just a logo and a slogan.
The companies that execute this best are the most memorable and successful ones you know.
Sometimes, however, a company will update its logo and slap it on its website header without giving much thought to the rest of the website. In the case of one of our clients, they went through a considerable expense to repaint all of their service vehicles stunningly and memorably, only to not have their website match that visual (and even leaving pictures of the old trucks on their site).
A strong brand identity means that everything fits together.
Have someone you trust but are not familiar with your company view your business cards, sales collateral, and website to see if everything works together. And even if it does but is all outdated, it might be time to consider updating your brand identity altogether.
Bonus tip: Take our Brand Personality Quiz to determine if your current brand profile needs to better represent your company.
Avoid Broken Links
Maybe a blog from last year linked to a news article that is no longer there. Perhaps one of the vendors linked on your site went out of business.
There are lots of reasons why your site could have broken links on your site that go nowhere.
Broken links can lead to a bad user experience, and they are easy to fix. While there are many free ad-supported broken link checkers, we recommend a broken link tool from Ahrefs to scan and identify your broken links. When you find them, you can remove them or update them. Internal links should just be updated to the most relevant current page.
Bonus tip: While looking at your website’s outbound links (links to other websites), make sure that they open up in a new browser window, so visitors are not leaving your site when clicking on the link. You work hard to get website visitors and don’t want to give them an exit door.
Organize Your Website Domain, Hosting, and SSL Information AND Check Renewal Dates
I have written previously about the essential components of any website, which include important items like domain registration, web hosting, and your site security certificate (SSL). These crucial components are ones that you are very likely paying a monthly or annual bill for. They may renew automatically or need a manual online renewal. You will have one or more ways to access the account admin and billing portals in most cases.
Despite how important these are for the day-to-day uptime of the website, you would be shocked to hear how many businesses have no idea where they can access these services, how much they are paying, or when the renewals are. When we begin a web design project, we ask for these credentials in the kickoff meeting because it often takes weeks for small business owners to identify who keeps this information in their company.
They also count on employees or the original website designers to keep this information for them, but this is a mistake. People in an organization can come and go (and leave with your passwords). For the sake of security, web design companies should not keep your account credentials unless you have an ongoing relationship with them.
Every business owner needs to know precisely which services are with what company, own the main account login, and have calendar reminders of when the items renew.
Sometimes one company will provide all these services under one login and one bill, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions. These might have been added as services at different times with different companies. Take the time to centralize this information at the executive level – make a secure spreadsheet with the provider name, login info, costs, and renewal dates. If you want extra security, use a password management system such as LastPass to keep this information secure and share it securely when needed.
Bonus tip: Also, make sure you review and update your credit card information on file if you have “auto-renew” selected on your account. We have seen many instances in which domains have expired (and websites have gone dark) because the auto-renewal billing information was not updated.
Feed Your Blog…or Kill It Off
Having a website blog or news section with just a few posts where the last post is from 2 years ago is not better than nothing. In fact, “nothing” is much better. Your site seems stale, your company seems like it isn’t newsworthy, or it looks like you don’t care about how you look online.
We believe a strong content marketing program can be one of a business’s best investments for its website. This can be done with just a little bit of effort (see “6 Easy Ways to Win at Content Marketing“), or it can be outsourced by working with a copywriter/content marketing company.
If creating a content marketing program internally, you need to commit to it. Have your employees brainstorm ideas at the next company meeting. Compile and trim the ideas until you have some great topics, then create a content planning schedule (access our free online marketing calendar template here). Identify who is writing and who is editing and make sure everyone is accountable.
If you don’t feel like this can be done, or you are not willing to set aside the budget for an outside content marketing company, it is time to remove the blog section. Make the useful old blogs into regular everyday page content (like a “RESOURCES” page), and just say goodbye to the rest.
Bonus tip: If you commit to your blog and content marketing program, we find the best way to find new topics is to ask the sales team if you have one. Because sales team members are often talking with current and prospective clients, they are the ones most likely to know what is on the mind of people in your target audience.
Bonus bonus tip: If you decide to retire the blog, make sure that you redirect any blog pages to high-quality, relevant, active pages of your site – or your home page, if that makes sense. A web developer may need to help with this. However, it is essential to link to the blog content that is going away.
Set Your Website Goals
OK, this one is a little broad, but stay with me. Your website should not be considered a “necessary evil” by leadership. It probably shouldn’t even be considered just an “online business card” unless you are not actively planning on growing or changing your business in the near future.
Your website represents a HUGE opportunity to do amazing things for your business and should be treated as such.
I have been the Chief Digital Strategist of a web design and online marketing company for over ten years. If you were to ask me at any one time what’s next for our website at The Loop Marketing, I could talk your ear off about things we are excited about adding.
Look at your overall business goals, and then be aggressive about finding ways to have your website help you reach them. Below are a few ways that improving your website can align with company goals.
- Add a technology to offer instant quotes
- Allow potential customers to book sales consultations online with calendar management tools like Calendly
- Update your product photos
- Add video to show your competitive advantage.
- Add or update awards and certifications.
- Review your place in Google searches and look into a search engine optimization program if you need to be more competitive
- Use a content marketing program to become the industry thought leader.
Track marketing initiatives:
- Install Google Analytics tracking for all pages on your website to measure how your website is performing.
- Add new call to action features and see how they are used.
- Make sure your website has the information people commonly would ask about, like hours, services, location, etc.
- Add prices or price guides on your site to allow sales teams to refer customers to it.
- Add an in-depth FAQ or wiki to the site to answer advanced questions – this is also great for helping search engines serve the correct information from current and potential customers.
- Automate marketing activities and follow-ups so you only spend time on marketing qualified leads.
- List your current open positions on your website and allow candidates to apply online.
- Create a page that shows that your company is a great workplace – 75% of active job seekers are likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand (Glassdoor).
- Show off your team on the site by skipping stock photos and using real images – your current employees will appreciate being visible, and prospective employees will get a real sense of employer authenticity.
The annual website audit checklist is a great way to ensure that your business stays relevant and up-to-date.
What items on this list would make the most significant difference in your business? What items have you found while auditing your website that should have made this list? Let us know in the comments!