In the first 5 posts in this website upgrade series, we’ve focussed almost entirely on the future. We’ve been working out what you and your users need and want from an upgraded website but not looking at your current website - both how it performs in its own right and how it compares with your competitors.
Now, it’s time to benchmark your current site. But what do we actually mean by benchmarking?
Benchmarking, in terms of your website, means figuring out how your site compares to others, whether that’s others in your industry or comparing your old site with new. It can give you invaluable insights about how and why your business is at its current level (both good and bad!), any competitive advantages and the effective ways to improve your website’s performance.
For the purpose of upgrading your CMS, we’ll be benchmarking your existing site to ensure that when your new website is live, your KPIs and metrics are improving. Rather than just having a new, pretty website!
Your upgraded site should bring more leads or customers and work smarter at achieving your business goals.
Whether you’re thinking about upgrading your website or not, there’s never a better time to start benchmarking than right now and here’s why...
If you don’t need to be sold on the merits of benchmarking, our guide on the basic benchmarking tools and metrics may be the blog for you.
Making Informed Decisions
There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing your website would benefit from, let’s say, making it easier for visitors to donate online. If you don't have the data to back up your instinct or experience, decision makers may see it as a ‘let’s throw money at it’ claim. Providing them with the data means they can make an informed decision.
So, running with the example, if you’re wanting to improve your donation process you need to be able to show your bounce rate for each page throughout the donation process or even your cart abandonment rate.
Visitors that are dropping off through the donation process have bought into your charity’s mission or cause but have likely found the process too difficult to complete and gave up.
Decisions become data driven and are more likely to lead to success.
Creating buy-in from the decision makers is one challenge that data helps you overcome. But once you’ve made those changes and spent money (or time) implementing them, how do you prove that the investment was worth it?
Benchmarking your current site means that you’ll be able to give senior management data on how well their money was spent and what their ROI is. If you haven’t invested the time while the data is right in front of you, you may find yourself trying to frantically find retrospective figures ready for a meeting where you’re justifying that money was well spent and is going to help with the business’s objectives.
By having the data ready and continually monitoring it, you can be cool, calm and ready for a meeting where you can prove why it was worth spending the money or justify why you’re not seeing the results you expected just yet.
The right and wrong way to benchmark
When supporting our clients in upgrading their CMS, we often find that their first thought is wanting their new site to look like other sites they’ve seen (which may not even be in the same sector).
For example, we have worked with a number of charities and have found that many enquiries which come through start with conversations like “we want our site to look like [insert a large charity’s website]”. The charity may have a completely different mission which won’t necessarily translate well to your cause.
This type of benchmarking is feature-driven rather than goal-drive and will not produce the results you may expect. Your benchmarking should be based on what your customers want, not what your competitors are doing.
If you’re not achieving your KPIs, you need to look at the data and develop an explanation as to why your previous site (if you’ve recently upgraded) or a competitor’s may be doing better than yours and experiment with this on your own site. Edit one element of your current website at a time and see if your results improve. If they do, great but if they don’t it may be worth reverting back and trying a new element. Give each change opportunity to work before making a decision, these things take time and results won’t appear overnight in most cases.
Benchmarking is not just for upgrading your website
Whether you’re considering upgrading your website or not, benchmarking can help you achieve your business’s KPIs in a much more informed and structured way. Starting is the hardest part to benchmarking, once you’ve invested the time to understand what metrics are important to your business you’re on the road to success.
Think of benchmarking like a road trip - every so often you’ll want to stop, re-fuel and take a break. Breaking it up into smaller tasks will help you get to where you need to be in a much more productive way.
In our blog on how to benchmark, we take a look at a simple step-by-step guide on how to benchmark along with a list of basic metrics and tools to get you started.
To see the rest our website upgrade series, take a look at the links below:
Step 1: Your SMART Website Goals
Step 3: Writing User Stories
Step 4: Documenting Site Features
Step 6 part 1: Don't guess... Benchmark... The Answer is in Your Data
Step 6 part 2: Benchmark Metrics and Tools To Get You Started