Guest Blog: Digital Audits – A Tool to help Predict Future Consumer Actions
We marketers spend powerful amounts of organizational resources to find, communicate with, motivate to act, and drive to action completion members of our target markets. Our toolkit is an integrated bag of media that is in a consistently evolving condition. The media choices made by our consumers can often act like earthquakes…moving underground in ways we cannot see until “the big one” hits.
Predicting Earthquakes and Buyer Behaviors
Earthquakes and target markets have a lot in common. We know they are ready to act, we sort of know what makes them move, yet we really never know exactly when, how, or what drives them.
The movement of the earth can be somewhat predicted by using tools like GPS and bio-markers. Yet, these things, and other tools, cannot exactly pinpoint when and where an earthquake will occur. The stages of an earthquake are known and described by the Elastic Rebound Theory. But, the theory alone cannot predict what is going to happen. Together, however, the tools and the theory can help better identify the coming quake.
We marketers are becoming ever more capable of getting a deep understanding of our specific target market members. Digital audits analyze the footprint and consumer touch points of the organization. This is one tool that can help us begin to understand the underlying movement and motivation of our markets helping to predict future actions.
Why Use Digital Audits
Digital audits are helpful because they gather deep and rich data about people looking for solutions on our various digital footprint touch points…web, mobile, one screen, two screens, three screens and more. Research from Forrester tells us that 93% of all online experiences begin at a search engine. Optimized search leads have a 14.6% close rate while direct mail and print struggle to reach 2% according to Search Engine Journal. And, digital searches gather data that provides a current and well-rounded view of the people looking to us for help. Searches are current and people in need use specific words in their searches to find information to meet the needs they have today.
What is a Digital Audit?
A digital audit examines the digital footprint of the organization and often competitors in the business vertical. It details:
- Visitor characteristics and attributes;
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO);
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM);
- Social platforms;
- Current organizational brand presence and actions; and
- Recommendations for improvement.
Site traffic is analyzed by a variety of attributes including traffic counts and the demographic profiles of those coming to the site. Social platforms are analyzed for use, effectiveness, and content, both institutionally and by competitors. Site Meta tags and all underlying code are analyzed for effectiveness and efficiency.
How to Conduct a Digital Audit
There are a variety of ways to conduct a digital audit. The outcome desired of the audit will help to determine what tools and tactics should be employed. At the minimum, the overall SEO health of the website should be analyzed along with how well the site performs and renders on the devices of the user. This includes site speed and the discovery of any technical errors that inhibit the user experience.
Beyond these fundamentals, an analysis of the conversion funnel should be completed. This describes exactly how the users of the site move through the content to a defined completion point such as registering as a student with the college.
Another point of analysis can be how the social media web and the users of social media view your institution. How social networks are used and what the conversations are about the institutional brand should be included.
More complex digital audits will analyze your brand against competitive brands and drill down deep into the points-of-parity and points-of-difference between competitive brands as viewed by consumers.
A robust digital audit includes both machine and human expert analysis that leads to actionable recommendations to improve the health of the institutional digital footprint. This analysis and recommendation step can then then be used to inform not only the digital footprint, but all media and communication touch points with target audiences through the creation of Personas that put a real human face and name to the data.
Dr. Paul Carringer is an associate professor of marketing at Columbus State Community College, adjunct instructor of marketing at Franklin University, and the president of Caring Marketing Solutions, a full service PR, advertising, and production company established 22 years ago and located in Grandview, Ohio. You can contact Paul at email@example.com.