Digital Marketing can be hard, and it is changing all the time. We get that it can be frustrating and that there is a lot of bad advice that is out there.
That’s one of the reasons we started doing Total Online Presence Audits – to provide information to our clients based on real, diagnostic data. Understanding how you really stand in regard to your online presence can make a big impact on the strategy and the specific tactics that you should consider making your business grow and thrive.
When we conduct a Total Online Presence Audit, here’s what we look at:
All these factors individually can make a big impact on your business, but when taken as a whole they can be transformative.
There are key elements that a website needs to have. We’ve included this checklist to help guide you to ensure your home page is designed to provide the most impact.
1. Most Home Pages are Missing Key Elements and Are Not Clear
The home page of your website needs to be crystal clear and communicate effectively what you do within 3 to 5 seconds. Many of the sites we’ve audited failed this test, and the also did not have clear calls to action to ask site visitors to do something. If calls to action were used on the home page, they were generic (like Contact Us).
Calls to action need to be clear and direct – like Buy Now or Schedule a Consultation – or they need to be transitional (where someone is not ready for the direct call to action) but are looking for more information to help them along the customer journey. Transitional calls to action can be “Download Our Guide” or “Sign Up for Our Webinar” --- something to help them understand that you understand their problem and that you have a plan to help them achieve success or avoid failure.
Too many websites are still basically online brochures and focus on the company and it’s products and solutions --- NOT what they prospective site visitors problems are. This is a big missed opportunity and hurts website conversion rates.
Of all the recent audits we’ve done, none of the websites we’ve examined described a plan that the business uses to help the customer solve their problem. By adding a plan (like a 3-step process plan) eliminates a psychological barrier for the website visitor to take the call to action.
2. Most Websites Have Not Implemented HTTPS Properly
While we found that several sites had purchased SSL certificates, they were not implemented correctly or at all. This resulted in mixed content issues where Google still considers the site unsecure.
Many sites have not even purchased an SSL certificate. Or they purchased the SSL but never implemented it.
This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed because it can lead to identity theft.
Google will be indicating that a site is unsecure very soon in a blatant way. In fact it does this already as indicated in the image below
Sites that are using SSL implemented correctly display the green padlock, say Secure in the URL bar and show https:// for the URL as shown in the image below
SSL encrypts the data as it is being transmitted over the internet. Learn more about what SSL is and why it is important for secure web browsing. You must have an SSL certificate on your site to display https://. Not properly redirecting the non-https URL ((non-canonical URL) to the https URL (canonical URL) is another common mistake we found.
3. Most businesses are not blogging, or if they are the blogs are not effective Blogs are critical for search engine optimization. Blog posts are a great way to address keyword gaps for search rankings with content. Long-tail keyword phrases are typically addressed from an SEO perspective by blogging. Blogs are great at providing helpful content that addresses customer problems and helps to educate potential customers.
Thin content (fewer than 300 words) on blog posts severely limits the ability of a blog post to help with SEO. In fact, most experts recommend that the minimum length for a blog post to help with search rankings is at least 750 words and typically more than 1500 words. The blogs that we found didn’t really seem to have purpose. They weren’t written to be effective for SEO, the titles indicate that there was little consideration for optimizing the blog post to address gaps in SEO. Often the posts weren’t even helpful for the reader because of the lack of content as well as the fact that they didn’t have a clear purpose. Most blogs seem to be written just to add content to the site but without any clear reasons why. The blogs were not strategic and lacked SEO best practices.
4. Bad Data is Hurting Businesses Having your business accurately have the Name Address and Phone Number (NAP) information on several key directory sites across the web sends strong signals to the search engines. Unfortunately, the businesses we audited had a lot of bad data about their business on the directory sites they were on. We also found that most businesses lacked a comprehensive directory profile. They are missing opportunities by not being listed on important sites that send strong trust signals to the search engines, hindering local search results. Bad data, or lack of data, both erode local SEO. Businesses need to make sure that their NAP is accurate and consistent, and on 30+ directories, to typically get a boost in local SEO. While several businesses had claimed their Google My Business (GMB) Page, they didn’t fully optimize it (missed opportunity) and/or they had duplicate Google My Business Pages. We recommend that businesses take full advantage of their GMB by adding photos and videos, completing the business information section as completely as possible, and by leveraging the Google Post feature. We also recommend cleaning up and removing or merging duplicate GMB pages to create one definitive GMB page per location.
5. Online Reputation is a Missed Opportunity The good news is that none of the businesses we’ve audited had a composite negative review score. The bad news is that almost all of the businesses had fewer than 5 reviews total. Online reviews are among the most important things a business can do for local SEO. We also found, not surprisingly that none of the businesses we audited had set up a review funnel to stimulate reviews or had any formal review monitoring and response process. Businesses need to take control of the online review process. Having a steady stream of authentic positive reviews can make a huge difference for online presence.
6. Businesses Struggle to Determine Similar Competitors When we asked businesses who we should compare them to online, it was almost an apples to oranges comparison. Businesses struggled to give us similar companies in terms of services and size to thoroughly review the competitive landscape. We frequently would run analysis against a much larger competitor, so the competitive analysis was usually skewed. Another thing we commonly encountered was that the businesses we analyzed had a difficult time specifying a specific service delivery area that they could effectively compete in. It’s tempting to try to be found for everything in the broadest service area you could serve. But that is usually unrealistic. Businesses need to be specific in what the do and what areas they serve.
7. The Inbound Link Profiles Need Work If one thing was consistent, the businesses we audited did not have many inbound links, and certainly had even fewer high authority links. Of the businesses we worked with, none had an inbound link building strategy. Inbound links continue to be a top-ranking factor. It is difficult to build quality inbound links without strong content. When another website links to your website for natural content-driven reasons it serves as a testimonial to the search engines that your site has something of value on that topic. Not all inbound links are equal. It’s important to develop a strategy and process to encourage links from other websites to content on your website.
8. Social Media Performance is Underwhelming
Of the businesses we audited, they had a small social media audience, little engagement, and very little reach of their posts. The competitive landscape analysis typically showed that they were will behind their competitors.
We found social media posting to be very sporadic, and with no coherent strategy. We find that posting content that has interest to the community and that is visual has to be incorporated into the mix, as does a paid social media strategy to increase reach and engagement.
While we didn't specifically audit paid social media, we found no evidence that the companies that we audited were using paid social media to boost content to a targeted audience and drive traffic to their website.
The majority of the websites we audited did not have the Facebook remarketing pixel on the website. Having the Facebook pixel always a business to use website visitors to create a customer audience to run ads to --- the benefit of this approach is that you are only running ads to those people who were on your website (or even a specific page on your website) so you know that they are interested in your business, or a specific product or service that you offer. This approach allows you to get the most out of your Facebook ad spend by reaching a highly relevant target audience.
Social media certainly wasn’t the silver bullet for the businesses we audited.
9. On-Page SEO — the Low Hanging Fruit — is Not Being Done
Critical on-page SEO elements were often missing or were not well thought out. Internal links, missing alt attributes on images, missing H1 tags, not ranking for important keyword phrases, having duplicate meta descriptions… these were all common problems. Schema markup was not used on any of the sites we audited effectively.
On-page SEO are the things that you have the most control over for your overall website SEO, and when these are not done, or not done well, it erodes confidence it the accuracy, relevance, and trustworthiness of your site.
Every page you have on your site should be optimized around a keyword phrase and semantically similar phrases. This requires a focused, thorough effort. Focus on a keyword phrase and reinforce that phrase in the meta title, meta description, web page copy, header tags, alt attributes for the images on that page, the page url, and internal links between relevant pages of your website.
Using schema markup helps each page of your website be properly indexed for search by the search engines
Few businesses have a truly effective online presence. This goes beyond just having a website. You have to include social media, SEO, directories and citations, inbound links, online reviews on the right sites, quality content, and the way your website is designed for clarity and conversion. For this businesses that invest in developing an effective online presence, there will be a big competitive advantage. Most of their competition aren’t doing it well either, so there is a great opportunity for the businesses that do. Local businesses can usually outperform a franchise-based large business. The key is to be specific and to take advantage of local SEO best practices.