Resonant Releases the February Monthly Website Audit Scores for the Outdoors Equipment Sector
As promised last month, Resonant is using its DigitalCrux database to provide the outdoor equipment industry with a robust, consistent and independent assessment of the relative strength of retailer and brand websites over time. So, it’s now time for the first set of comparative month-on-month scores for both outdoors retailers and outdoors brands.
Outdoors Retail Website Audit Scores - February 2019
The obvious point to deal with first is the absence of a score for Blacks this month. The short explanation is that the audit threw up some changes (probably accidental) in Blacks’ technical implementation that affect the audit scores quite a bit and it didn’t seem helpful to publish a one-off wobble before Blacks have a chance to rectify things. It’s a shame, given their strong content and offsite SEO efforts (reported here).
Beyond that glitch, there evidence from a number of retailers that they’ve been tidying-up post-Christmas. For example, Cotswold have seen improvements across the board on elements as diverse as missing image tags and many areas of duplicate content, although the number of changes suggest that it might be limited to new product listing being done properly, rather than a spring-clean of the site as a whole.
This tidying-up is also apparent at AlpineTrek, although they’ve yet to benefit from a significant amount of work and still have a wide spread of sub-optimal content and meta, including many page titles too long for Google’s taste and plenty of missing metadata (used by search engines to understand content).
In contrast, Ellis Brigham are showing weakness in their website quality and, partly as a consequence, in their search visibility, too. What’s disconcerting is that there is clearly work going on to improve the site, as plenty of improvements can be seen on visible and meta content, indexed pages and backlinks. This is unfortunately substantially outweighed by several major technical issues, including the implementation of xml sitemaps and robots files (if that sentence lost you, feel free to move on…).
Outdoors Brands Website Audit Scores - February 2019
For the major brands, the picture is similar, with most companies apparently using the period between peak and the trade shows to tidy things up. Berghaus continued to build on their class-leading performance through pretty impeccable management of a relatively small website (just over 300 active pages) and rectifying one major gremlin. The area most likely to bite Berghaus is the performance on smartphones, which is fairly mediocre - I’ll be dealing with the crucial nature of this in an upcoming article in Outdoori.
Montane is the exception amongst the monitored brands, with a significant 7 point decline. So, what’s going on, as I expected their audit score to improve given that there’s work going on to deal with a lot of content, multi-country and meta issues as well as offsite SEO work. The drag on performance comes down to some avoidable site glitches, including a big increase in inaccessible pages (still there as I write) that impact our scoring system significantly. Like Berghaus, Montane will have to address smartphone performance, but their implementation is technically fairly efficient.
Overall, the good news this month is that most outdoor players are moving slowly forward, rather than backwards, even if the overall standards are ‘middling’.
Hopefully, you won’t be too surprised to learn that the outdoors sector does lag behind the standards of website technical design, build and maintenance in more digitally-centric product categories such as fashion apparel. It might be more concerning to learn that, with some exceptions (scores over 60), even big outdoors players lag behind categories such as housewares and furniture (in the latter case, over 80% of revenues are still store-based).
As a final point, it’s worth noting that, whilst smaller websites and high scores don’t necessarily go together, the best performing brand site in the audits (Berghaus) carefully manages its site size to maintain control, whilst the best performing retail site (Gaynors) uses a very simply-structured CMS platform to manage lots of pages relatively easily, even if it’s not as flexible as some systems.
As the data builds over the next few months, I’ll be picking out specific areas of good and bad practice. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions, please get in touch.
How Does the Website Score Work?
Some readers will be familiar with companies that offer or even send unsolicited ‘audits’ in an attempt to sell you website upgrades or SEO services. These scores are very different and use a very deep and broad set of indicators that combine the good, the bad and the ugly of a website’s platform, technical implementation, content and user experience. It also take into account the changing requirements placed on websites over time, such as smartphone performance.
It’s the same system that Resonant has used for a number of years for large ecommerce clients (although they obviously get the benefit of very detailed breakdowns of their strengths and weaknesses).
Fundamentally, improvements in audit scores, especially relative to close competitors, nearly always lead to measurable improvements in performance - the trick is to improve those areas that will most contribute to your business objectives, which might be product engagement and mobile-focused stockist signposting for brand owners or intuitive navigation and fast page-loads for retailers.