The April Website Audit Review for the Outdoors Sector Just Released
We’re now 4 months into Resonant’s tracking of 16 of the outdoor sector’s leading brands and retailers and it’s probably worth reminding ourselves of why these audits are important and what we can do with them.
The first thing to clarify is that, whilst these overall scores give a strong indication of a website’s direction of travel across numerous quality factors, and are good predictors of future usability and search engine performance, they are only an indicator. However, their usefulness is greatly increased by comparing the scores of competitor sites over time, simply because relativity matters - maintaining a steady score (which takes effort) is great if other are having problems, but not so great if their scores are improving.
Of course, even if you don’t know why your site is scoring poorly in relative or absolute terms, just knowing that it’s happening should prompt investigation and further work.
The second key point, which I always include some detail on in my accompanying narrative, is that the scores are built up from granular analysis of lots of factors that highlight the necessary ‘to-do’ lists in detail. Similar tools are available to your digital team or agency (at a cost), if you’re not a Resonant client.
For example, as of last night (4th April):
Gaynors had 202 pages linked on their website that couldn’t be found (but down 400 on last month). This clearly affects user experience, but also Google’s rating of site quality;
Ellis Brigham had 765 pages with duplicate titles and 1032 pages with duplicate descriptions. These elements appear in search engine results and other referring resources, so are important to users, but dupe content also confuses search engines and often leads to multiple pages being ignored (maybe including the pages that you actually want to be indexed).
Paramo had 126 pages linked within their website with completely duplicated content - again, confusing for search engines, confusing for users - and almost certainly creating under-performance for the website.
I haven’t picked particularly bad offenders here, just 2 brands and 2 retailers at random in order to illustrate that, behind the audit score, there is a multitude of actionable information (and insight into competitors websites!).
So, without further ado, here are the scores for retailers (hover over the columns for the actual scores):
Outdoors Retail Website Audit Scores - March 2019
I’m still not reporting Blacks’ data, as they continue to exhibit technical issues that overly downgrade their score (as explained previously), so it’s worth focusing on Go Outdoors who, despite driving strong traffic flows to their site and offering very strong promotional incentives to transact, have a website that is weakening in technical and structural quality over time.
To be fair, it’s a very large website to manage - Resonant monitors 10000 pages and there are plenty more - so keeping things tidy is a challenge and making major changes in technology isn’t easy. Go Outdoors has a fairly complex technology stack, which may contribute to the presence of some outdated technologies that impact search engines and audit scores (such as Flash and frames).
Decathlon also seems to be struggling to manage its website, albeit from a higher base, so they may warrant some comments next month. Whether the consistent improvements for Cotswold and S&R are coincidental or the result of some concerted work within O&CC Group is hard to discern, although their just-announced restructure seems to point to a more integrated future approach. One to keep an eye on.
Outdoors Brands Website Audit Scores - February 2019
It seemed likely that this month’s key take-out on the brand side of things would be Arcteryx’s impressive and consistent improvement or Berghaus’ new benchmark performance in the sector at 85, showing the benefits of a small and actively-managed website. However, the Rab number was a real surprise when it appeared this morning, so it deserves some analysis (the analysis was even re-run, just to make sure).
Rab’s website was migrated to the Magento 2 platform last month. Whilst this is a very effective and progressive ecommerce platform, perfect migrations don’t happen - although a good, well-planned migration to M2 will normally deliver immediate improvements. In particular, I expect to see good improvements in page speeds and perceived user experience (10+ points at least on Google’s PageSpeed index). Unfortunately, Rab aren’t benefiting from this and, given that speed and technical implementation are significant audit elements (see my previous article on the subject), this accounts for a decent chunk of the loss in audit score.
The speed issues are serious enough to cost them traffic and ecommerce conversions but I won't comment further, as we have been in contact and I understand that a significant amount of remedial development work is already underway.
At this point, it’s probably worth reiterating a comment I made some time ago - with major platform changes now happening every 3 years on average and given that I would always recommend that planning starts at least 12 months before site launch, most companies and dev teams should accept that pre-migration and post-migration activities are the norm, not the exception, and that risk management in these processes is as important as the focus on new functionality. To give some kind of context, my own ‘good migration’ playbook, developed over 10 years, has 4 pages of workflow just for on-site SEO.
Until next month…..
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.