First, this is what we mean when we say Website Audit:
It’s when a web design company approaches you (cold), and offers to do a “digital health check” on your site.
What we do not mean is when you regularly check your website for things that are out of date or broken, or when you look at all your online listings to make sure the info is accurate. Obviously this is a good idea and you should do it.
So with that out of the way, let’s dive into why free website audits / health checks are a giant waste of your time.
Website Health Checks Are Just A Lazy Sales Tactic
These free offers are nothing more than a foot in the door to make a sales pitch.
And they are worth about as much as they cost.
Guess what? If you check ANY website on earth you are going to find some things that could be improved. Big deal.
Also, it’s not like these checkups take any care or attention or actual knowledge.
What really happens is that an entry level sales rep plugs your site into a pre-programmed tool that scans it for the most generic things.
Then they cunningly mark each category with a grade or color (sometimes both), and email it to you.
Look at all those red colors and bad grades! Wow, if only you scored better — on a test you didn’t know existed before today — then your website would be top of Google and wildly successful, right?
Just give us some money and we’ll fix all those bad grades…
You get the point.
But since some of these things have a thin veneer of truth behind them, it’s probably a good idea to give you some specific examples.
A big part of these audits is the SEO portion.
That’s because everyone wants to be higher on Google. We’ve even had customers who already ranked first for their main keyword ask us if they could be higher!
So you take this desire for more traffic, which is reasonable at its core, and then you imbue it with the magic phrase “SEO Report” and it’s supposed to be very exciting and important.
But there are some problems with this.
One is that they are tracking performance against generic keywords that they are assuming would be good for you. They might be at best industry-specific, which isn’t saying much. It would require an in-depth analysis (costing either time or money) to first even identify some suitable keywords to target.
Another problem is that there are some serious inconsistencies with SEO tools. Especially in cases where they try to estimate traffic from important keywords.
We have used more than a few of the expensive industry standard SEO tools, and their organic traffic estimates have been way off what our actual numbers were in reality.
To top it off, sometimes these audits compare your site to “competitors”.
Unless they actually asked you for a list of your top 3 competitors, they are, again, just taking a generic stab in the dark based loosely on your industry and area.
Finally, the report may return “SEO errors”.
While some errors are actually critical, most errors on an SEO report are fairly insignificant, and correcting them would have no impact on your traffic.
They can be “errors” in the technical sense, with little real world effect.
Which brings us nicely to the next major topic…
This is the best scare tactic of the year, for sure.
We’ve already debunked the idea that page speed is holding back a local business website in another article.
To sum it up, unless your website is old and very obviously brutally slow, you don’t need to worry. Being “obviously slow” means that you can physically see it struggling to load when you bring it up on your desktop or mobile browser.
In other words, you don’t need a special speed test to tell you it’s slow.
When you are beyond that point, there is very little evidence to show that any speed improvement is going to significantly affect your search engine results or your ability to generate web leads.
In a perfect world you’d want the fastest site possible. That is obvious.
But page load speed is not holding your small business back from massive riches, nor is page speed alone a good reason to change your website provider.
While not technically on your website, we have seen some digital audits that measure your presence on social media.
They will say things like “you have no link to Facebook on your Home page”, or “people can’t find your business on Twitter”.
Okay, before we go any further, it’s going to sound like we’re discounting social media. But we’re not.
If you have identified that your customers use a particular social media platform then by all means look into it.
At the very least, you can set up a business page on Facebook or LinkedIn.
So we are not against social.
What we are against is the idea that it is a silver bullet, or that just being on it is going to drive business, or that you need to be on every single platform.
Because it’s not, it won’t, and you don’t.
Let’s say that years ago a bunch of customers told you they were on Facebook. So then you signed up for an account, listed your business, and posted regularly. A good portion of them engaged with you there, left you reviews, and shared your stuff with their friends (resulting in some referrals). Everything is good with the world.
Now let’s say a sales rep sends you the free audit report and it gives you a bad grade or a warning because you don’t have a link to Twitter, or that people can’t find you on Instagram.
Now you feel bad. Does this mean you are failing, or missing out on something?
There are different demographics on all those platforms. They have different strengths and people have different expectations when they use them.
So just saying that you “need to be on X platform” shows how generic and useless the report is.
And even if it would be a good idea to be on a certain platform, you still need the time or budget to produce solid content for it.
What To Do Instead
Hopefully by now you are not impressed by offers to do a free website health check or audit.
Here is the bottom line:
If someone approaches you to redo your website, maybe they are truly offering a better service or the same service at a better price, or some kind of benefit.
But you don’t have to let them define the terms of success.
How would they know, anyway? Have they done extensive research on your industry, your business, and your particular customers?
The health check offer is just a thoughtless and systematized way of pretending to care.
Instead, ask them to do something that shows some care for your goals. Or that takes some time to consider your current business situation. Or really anything that demonstrates some effort, like testing if they are even listening to what you are saying.
For example (this is just one tactic, of many, you could use):
Ask them to identify one major thing about your site (or the service you get), say how they would do it differently, and then explain how that would help your business specifically.
If the answer is clear, and you could see how that would help, then you should consider their offer.
But a long laundry-list of vague “changes” they propose from the checkup report?
Just trash it.