The March Website Audits for Outdoor Retailers and Brands are now Available
March represents the first opportunity to see 3 month’s of audit data and to therefore get some sense of the direction of travel for the way in which each of the 16 audited outdoor retailers and brands look after and develop their websites.
Outdoors Retail Website Audit Scores - March 2019
This is the second month that I’ve chosen not to show an audit score for Black’s as part of the retailer metrics, due to some technical issues with their website that significantly and possibly unfairly affects their score.
Beyond this, there are some shifts in both directions for key retailers. It’s worth noting that, as the scoring system has weightings for different aspects of website performance, very small changes in scores can be the result of lots of minor tweaks and failings - often ones that will have greater obvious impact down the road.
A case in point is one of the lower-scoring retailers in the group that operates internationally. They are by no means the worst in the sector for website maintenance, but their website has increasing instances of duplicated content and dead pages and also some use of technologies that are deemed out-of-date by search engines. On this latter point, at least 3 of the retailers still have frames or Flash components on their sites. There’s no need for these to be present these days and they represent a security risk as well as affecting how third-party technologies view that website.
Both Cotswold and Snow & Rock have shown continued score improvement. Whilst both have issues with visible content and meta data, they generally run ‘clean’ sites from a technical perspective and there is clear evidence of attempts to keep on top of the necessary housekeeping. However, it’s still worth bearing in mind my past comment that audit scores above 80 are always achievable, if the corporate will is there and the prize is worth having.
Outdoors Brands Website Audit Scores - February 2019
Based on last month’s comments about Montane’s decline, the first thing to note is their upward swing. Measurable improvements have taken place in both their visible content and meta data , so some spring cleaning has been done. There are still plenty of areas for clean-up that would improve performance, including implementing redirects for the significant number of dead pages.
The most obvious star performer this month is Rab, with an unusual jump from 48 to 70. There is lots of evidence of a major clean-up of the website, possibly including the removal of many unnecessary pages with duplicate content and meta data. Interestingly, Rab has also made small improvements to its smartphone implementation by ‘minifying’ some code (i.e. pages load faster).
Berghaus have the best technical implementation for smartphones in the sector (still with potential for improvement) and this helps to cement their consistent sector-leading overall score. However, the March audit did show that this normally tightly-managed website can dip when a few content errors slip through.
As smaller players, both Alpkit and Paramo face the challenges of implementing technology tweaks and maintaining strong website management with limited budgets and human resources. This is evident in their overall scores - which reflect the detailed analysis I see - that point to difficulties in being consistent in content management and technical development. Both could improve their smartphone user experience with some low-cost changes and both have missing and duplicate content that cause search engines and other monitoring tools to penalise their good work.
Most websites in the sector could improve their performance and maintain it relatively easily - for some, the lack of progress may be due to skills or funding whilst, for others, it may be prioritisation of other commercial opportunities. I suspect that, for some, neither really applies. In the end, I’d suggest that, when online content influences so many purchases and directly accounts for over 20% of sector transactions, the weaker average audit scores for the outdoor sector, compared to other consumer goods sectors, doesn’t reflect well on our ability to adapt.
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.