While the digital landscape is in perpetual turmoil, with new companies and apps bubbling up and then just as quickly popping, one thing has remained constant over the last two decades or so: a great company needs a great website.
However, as a business owner or CEO, not just the website but the entire marketing department is only one of dozens of moving pieces to keep your eye on. How can you tell if it’s time to devote some resources to your website? In other words, how can you tell whether your small business website is “good enough for now,” or if website problems may actually be hurting your bottom line?
Here’s a simple checklist for CEOs and business owners to get a good handle on whether their website is a brand asset or a detriment.
Note: this guide does not focus on e-commerce websites. If your website is also your online store, you’re probably already spending plenty of time optimizing it! (And if you’re not, check out this great article from VWO on how to make sure your e-commerce site. isn’t leaking leads or sales.)
1. Design and User Experience (UX)
Is the website easy to use and navigate, and does it look professional?
“Easy to use and navigate” is non-negotiable. A website visitor needs to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. This involves clear language in your navigation bar, clear language on all your buttons, and useful “you are here” markers like breadcrumbs.
“Professional,” however, can be a moving target depending on what industry you’re in. Some industries simply tend to have a lower standard of what counts as a professional website. I’ve seen plenty of websites that could be improved by a web design overhaul, but other issues in the company – updating the quoting system, hiring more salespeople – took much higher priority. Your website needs to meet the needs of your customers in your industry, not the expectations of web design professionals.
Alternatively, if you’re in an industry with lower standards of web design, investing in a slick and modern website could be a powerful differentiator to set you apart from the competition.
What’s missing from the site? What could be removed? What could be repurposed? Is there any weak content or duplicate content?
Here is where you need to be clear on the strategy for your small business website. Who are you trying to reach, and what is the message?
Remember that the economist Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Your website content needs to be written with your customers’ pain points in mind, explaining how you can solve their problems rather than just saying how great your products are. If your content isn’t customer-centric, you may be missing out on sales. (Fortunately, updating content is one of the easiest website fixes to do.)
What keywords does the website use? What keywords should it be using to reach the target audience? Is every page optimized around a keyword?
Strategically optimizing every single web page around a particular keyword or phrase is possibly the single most effective way of making sure people can find you online. Thousands and thousands of articles have been written about the best way to connect with searchers, and you can do a very deep dive into keyword strategy.
The bottom line, however, is this: does each web page have a point it is trying to make? And are you using the right language, so people who search for your content can find it?
4. On-Page SEO
Does each page have keywords, content, content structure, and meta tags and descriptions that will entice visitors?
Simply ask your web person, “Is every page of my website optimized?” Each page needs defined keywords, headers, meta tags, meta descriptions, and image alt-text. This is another relatively quick fix, although you do need to make sure that you’re choosing the keywords to focus on thoughtfully.
5. Link Building (aka Off-Page SEO)
Does the site have a robust backlink profile from other websites with high authority? Are there plenty of internal links between the pages?
Google likes websites with “authority,” and a big indicator of authority is how many other websites and webpages are linking to you. You can easily make sure that there are plenty of internal links between the pages in your site. Checking your backlink profile is a little more complex, but if you just aren’t ranking high enough for the main searches your customers use, it may be worthwhile.
Also, note that recent Google algorithm changes have shifted to reward sites for quality backlinks AND penalize sites for spammy, low-quality backlinks, so you’ll want to ensure that you disavow bad backlinks and reach out for good ones.
6. Technical SEO
Is the website secure? Do the pages load quickly enough? Are the pages AMP-ready? Are all pages correctly indexed with Google and Bing, with no crawl errors? Is there a sitemap for search engines? Is there schema markup? Is the URL structure consistent and clear?
I occasionally meet people who actually enjoy working on technical SEO. I am not one of them. But these technical elements will only become more and more important as web marketing becomes more complex, and they must be addressed.
You need to make sure your page load speed is good enough. (Kissmetrics explains, “nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.”) You need to make sure that Google knows about your sitemap. These elements, and pretty much all of technical SEO, are non-negotiable if you want to compete.
Does the website look great and load quickly, no matter what device the visitor is using?
We passed the mobile tipping point back in 2016. That’s when more people began accessing the internet through a mobile device (usually a smartphone) rather than a desktop computer. And the mobile purchasing tipping point is on the horizon. Does your website look good on everything from a 4-inch smartphone to a 40-inch monitor?
You can check very easily. Go to your website and then make the browser window really narrow. The layout should shift to accommodate a mobile-size screen. Here’s how Etsy does it:
Are there broken links, missing images, or 404 and 301 errors?
Your web person (or you) can scan your website with a free tool called ScreamingFrog to ensure nothing is currently broken on your site.
9. Traffic and Bounce Rate
How many people visit your website, for how long, and where do they spend their time?
Google Analytics is your best friend here. First, ensure that Google Analytics is correctly installed on your website (a simple task for anyone who knows basic HTML), and then take a look at your numbers.
You can use this information to set goals on web traffic and visitor conversion. (“Conversion” in this case means simply “the website visitor took the action you wanted them to take,” whether that was visiting a particular page, downloading something, or filling out a form.)
You can also infer visitors’ intent from their behavior. For example, if three times as many people go to your “Biking Shoes” page as your “Running Shoes” page, that’s an indication that you may want to spend more time developing your biking products.
10. Marketing Integration
Are visitors asked for their email address? Is there a content offer in exchange for the email address? Does each page have a thoughtful Call-To-Action (CTA)?
It’s simple: if you don’t ask your website visitors to take action, you’re losing money. Maybe you want them to call you, or download an e-book, or sign up for your email newsletter. Whatever it is, ask! Every page should have a clear CTA that lets the visitor know what you’re hoping they will do next.
The Bottom Line
As a CEO or business owner, your time is incredibly valuable, and you have dozens of priorities competing for your attention. If you’re worried about your website’s quality and effectiveness, this list should give you some peace of mind. When all ten of these issues are taken care of, then your website should be just fine for a while.
(Shameless plug: if you do discover that your website needs some work, check out our Marketing Services — ONE Department is always happy to help!)