How You Can Use Site Audits to Grow Your Business
Pam Foster “grew up with the Web,” and along the way, she created a way to get her foot in the door with new clients and land more writing work. She explains how she got started using this tactic, and how you can use it too …
Back when companies started to establish their presence online, she was part of the marketing staff for a Blue Cross Blue Shield company in Maine. In the early days of the internet, a website was only a brochure online. There were no links, and no sales messages.
Later, she worked for a veterinary company that built a true marketing website, the first one she was involved with. That was in the late 1990s, “before SEO was even a big deal,” she explained.
Pam left the corporate world to become a freelancer, but she took that web experience with her. That experience also helped her to develop a secret weapon that’s grown her freelance web-writing business — the Content Site Audit.
Now AWAI’s Director of Training, Pam met with a group of members to talk about using Site Audits to support and expand their businesses. Here’s a recap of what she had to say:
Birth of the Content Site Audit
The Site Audit concept evolved as Pam worked with clients who were frustrated because they weren’t selling online or didn’t have the traffic they wanted. While on the phone, Pam would pull up the site and start looking around.
“Before you know it, it turned into a consultative call,” and Pam found herself getting off the phone call to dig deeper. After taking a hard look at the site, she would send the client a report listing opportunities to fix the issues that were holding him back.
Eventually, Pam created a checklist and turned the consultation into a more formal process.
“The Site Audit isn’t a look at the technical aspects of the site,” she explained. “Mainly, I’m looking at content and the user experience.”
If a client wants to improve her website but doesn’t know where to start, or if she’s redesigning the site and doesn’t know how to fit the new copy in with the design, Pam offers to conduct a Content Site Audit.
The Audit Starts with Research …
After the initial conversation, Pam asks the client to fill out a questionnaire, or brief, describing the goals of the site, the target audience, and what action the client wants site visitors to take.
Other questions delve into how the company’s products stand out from the competition, and appropriate keywords and key phrases.
… Then Digs Deeper
Once she receives the brief, Pam looks at the site again, this time with her checklist and the client brief in front of her.
She doesn’t review every single page, just the pages that are most important — the homepage, About, and product category pages. “I can tell pretty quickly what’s missing,” she noted.
Her checklist includes 21 points. Much of it was derived from Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert, who had created a 100-point Site Audit checklist. However, many of his points involve the technical aspects of the site so she omitted those, focusing on content and navigation.
… And Ends with a Report
As Pam looks over the site, she takes screenshots to add to her report. The screenshots show the client clearly where the troublesome areas are, and where the opportunities are for improvement.
Pam submits a comprehensive report as a Word document. It’s usually about 10-15 pages long. “It gives them a roadmap of what to fix,” Pam pointed out, “but not how to fix it. That will be my job!”
In addition to the improvements suggested in the Site Audit, Pam has found it will often lead to more projects.
One of Pam’s Site Audit clients was a medium-sized energy company in New England.
“They started out with clunky navigation,” Pam told us. “I recommended how to make the navigation and user experience easier, and how to make the content more streamlined. They were also missing local information, something that would really make a difference.”
They hired her to fix those issues, and then the project expanded.
“They did a redesign and hired me to rewrite every page. At $500/page, that adds up! If a page had a special offer, premium, or guide, I wrote or revised those pieces as well.
“They also hired me to do their newsletter and that opened the door for all kinds of projects. The client had a decent marketing budget, but nobody in-house to do the work. I worked as virtual team member with their web developer. I had fun, and the programmer was thrilled to have someone with copywriting knowledge as part of the team.
“I worked for them for six years until they were bought out. It gave me a great track record, as well as samples and testimonials.”
Pam budgets about 10 hours for a full Site Audit. When she started, she charged $1,000 per audit, but her fee is now $2,500. “It’s not a bad hourly rate,” she noted.
Pam sometimes uses a pared-down Site Audit as a lead-generation tool. It takes her about half an hour — she suggests not spending more time than that, or providing a lot of reporting.
In this mini-audit, she makes suggestions on five points. She keeps it simple and positive, and finds ways to applaud the client for what is already working.
“It’s a great way to earn their trust and confidence,” she noted.
“The report is a sales tool,” Pam explained. That means that, in addition to providing helpful information for the client, you need to present the information appropriately.
She likes to go through the report with the client, so she sets up a phone meeting with the marketing manager, web developer, and anyone else who’s impacted by the site and how well it’s working. Depending on the organization, that might include a sales and customer service manager, or even the company owner.
By the time she’s done walking through the audit and answering questions, the client is ready for a presumptive close.
For example, if you’ve shown that their pages don’t have headlines and pointed out the benefit of having an optimized headline on every page, you simply ask, “When would you like to proceed and have me write those headlines for you?”
“That creates the assumption that the work will go forward, with my help,” she explained. “Most of the time, there’s no hesitation, it’s just a matter of answering questions about fees or maybe submitting a proposal.”
Attracting Site Audit Clients
Pam offers a Site Audit to prospects who contact her but aren’t sure exactly what help they need. She explains how the Site Audit will help them determine their needs, and explains what she’ll provide.
If they turn down the audit, she offers them something else.
“You’ll know in that first conversation whether they’re a good candidate for a Site Audit,” she noted.
You don’t have to call it an audit, either, she pointed out. “For the pet industry, I called it a checkup. The vets could relate to that.”
A Site Audit is a good way to get paid twice, Pam reminded us, and then have a clear roadmap for yourself, for the client, and for the developer.
After her success with providing Site Audits, then getting paid to improve the client’s site, Pam created an AWAI program to help others add Site Audits to their client offerings. It’s a step-by-step program to teach you how to offer and carry out audits for your clients, and you can see the details here.
Do you have any questions about getting started with Site Audits? Let us know in the comments.
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