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Are you busy? Yeah, who isn't? There is always more to do than it is possible to do. The reality is that many tasks will remain undone. I often hear, "if I could only get out of the weeds..." or "I should have remembered to do that...". And you would have remembered to do that if you focused on priority tasks.

The reason you might be so busy is that you are doing busy work. Step back once in a while, evaluate your progress, see the big picture, visualize the path to your goal. When you do that, you can see clearly how the marketing pieces fit in your plan. Some tasks may have become outdated and you haven't noticed. Some issues might have become a priority while you were not looking. You need to stop what you are doing at least once a year, look at the forest and determine if all the trees belong there.

If you went through your PPC and SEO annual evaluation in the first quarter, you have a good understanding of where your efforts are and what needs to be done. You know what your goals are for both SEO and PPC and you have created projects and tasks to achive those goals. Now, how would you know if you are successful? That's right - look at your analytics. Therefore, next up - your annual analytics audit.

Analytics audit

Why do it?

  1. It is impossible to make solid business decisions based on bad data. Do you trust your data? At least once a year you have to check if you are collecting that data correctly. That is just common sense.
  2. Another good reason is to make sure that you are evaluating performance based on the appropriate metrics. Your metrics have to evolve with your business goals and your marketing campaigns. How will your boss measure your success? How will you know you failed?
  3. Think about how you and your department can help achieve the company's business goals. Define metrics that will highlight your participation success. Next time you get to present at a board meeting, show off your department's performance.
  4. Tools you are using to measure your website performance change. The way they measure data changes. New features emerge, some features go away. The whole industry changes. It is important to adjust.

What to do

  1. Check the installation. Analytics code should appear on each page. If you have multiple domain implementation, don't forget to check it too.
  2. Is URL tracking implemented? Do you have process in place? Do people who distribute content know about your process? If you get a lot of direct traffic. If it seems out of balance, evaluate your direct traffic and fix problems.
  3. Have you set goals? Review your goals, goal values, etc. for errors and changes. Use life time customer value. Revise your monetary values for micro and macro conversions. I also suggest you talk to your sales team and go over the goals with them. Which are the most profitable conversions for them? Which conversions make up in volume? Take notes. This information might become handy when evaluating your traffic and learning about your visitors behavior.
  4. What are you tracking? Are your key performance indicators (KPIs) still apply? Tie your KPIs to your department goals and to the company goals. You have to think big here - you have to pull in the direction that the company is going.
  5. If you are an e-commerce site, examine your shopping cart integration. The data should accurately reflect profit per item, average order size, average revenue, etc. If you are not tracking shopping cart funnel, start tracking it. You need to know where shoppers are abandoning the process. Delete all outdated and completed tests that you do not need anymore.
  6. Are you still correctly integrated with AdWords, Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, e-commerce cart, etc? When you use multiple applications, something always goes wrong with the integration. Check that all the correct data is passed from one application to another.
  7. Evaluate profiles. Do all your profile filters still apply? Do you need all your profiles? People often filter out internal traffic (as they should). Are all your "block by IP" filters up to date? Are there any profiles you do not need anymore?
  8. Skim your custom reports. If you have automatic reports sent to you, confirm that you still need them. Who else is receiving reports and do they still want them? Talk to people who receive those reports. Is there anything you can change - frequency, data, recipients, etc? Have you incorporated new features in the reports and are they helpful to the report recipients? Ask your questions so that you can understand what decisions they need to make. Then, suggest KPIs that will be helpful.
  9. Review your annotations. Start using them if you don't. Seriously, annotate everything.
  10. Inspect your custom alerts. Do they reflect your current business situation adequately? If you do not use alerts, set them up. Learn from Avinash Kaushik how to leverage your custom alerts.

When to do it. You have to do analytics audit at least once a year. I prefer to do it after my PPC audit and SEO audit. That way all my goals are clear and it is easier to determine if I am tracking the right things.

Tools. Google provides a list of recommended site audit tools to speed up your project. I highly recommend WASP. I have been using it for years. I like the report format - it is easy to understand, compared to other tools. They have a free and paid version.

Usability Audit

Why do it? Things change: audience, words, trends, interests, topics. Content gets added, buttons get removed, links highlighted, etc. Once a year it helps to go through the clutter and get focused on the big picture again: why your website exists.

You need to apply the latest usability recommendations to your site as well. Technology changes too. Computer screens are getting bigger. If your website is designed for a smaller computer screen, it might look outdated and hard to use. You might have a website redesign project to plan.

What to do

  1. Start with the goals. Put together a list of your macro and micro conversions. Identify the pages that drive the most conversions. Can you do better? Of course, you can. Plot out a way to improve conversions on those pages. If the pages are doing well at converting your visitors, check how well they are ranking. Are they ranking for the keywords they were optimized? Can you improve ranking?
  2. Are your visitors becoming customers? How high is your bounce rate? Use analytics to identify the most important pages that have high bounce rate. Put together a plan to reduce the bounce rate. More often than not, usability is the issue.
  3. Conduct user testing. Gather data to establish the base line, define your parameters, outline your action plan and start testing.
  4. How does your site look on mobile devices? If you haven't paid attention to mobile traffic, it is a good time to start. Analytics will show you what percent of traffic comes from mobile devices. You will also be able to see what those devices are. Test your website for mobile and make sure the user experience is adequate.
  5. Hire a usability consultant. In my opinion, when you engage an outside specialist, you might learn something new about your audience, change your pre-conceptions, and uncover new possibilities.

When to do it. I recommend doing usability audit after analytics audit. That way you know what your most profitable pages are and you can focus on them first. You also have a good understanding of your micro and macro conversions, the most important actions and most profitable products. Test your sales funnels for those actions and products.

Tools. You will get great results with UserTesting.com. It allows you to select your target demographics to conduct your test. Get your test results in an hour. You can see videos of people going through your test, describing what they are thinking. You can even interact with testers after the test and ask them follow up questions.

Another tool I found useful is Feedback Army. The difference is that you ask questions about your site and get up to 50 responses from the reviewers. The questions have to be very specific. The reviewers pick tests and submit feedback. Each test is posted for 8 days, but you can start to get responses right away. The service is built on Amazon's Mechanical Turk. 70% of the reviewers are from the US.

Try GoMo by Google to learn about website compatibility with mobile devices. Test how your website looks, learn how you can improve.

Looking back

Half the year is gone and the the audits uncovered some revelations. You have new tasks, projects, and cleanups. But it is not about adding more work to your plate. It is also about eliminating unnecessary work and clutter. Audits should help you focus on the activities that help advance your overall goals. They force you to be useful.

Ready for third quarter? I will talk about content audit and administrative audit.