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Prevent Digital Decay: 7 Practices to Optimize Your Website’s Health and Longevity

Toothbrush, floss, and laptop

I have yet to meet anyone who loves to floss…and no one less so than my father 🤣. But since we all know it’s important to prevent gum disease and cavities, many of us do it anyway, if somewhat grudgingly. We know that the long-term benefits outweigh the ongoing hassle, and we’d hate to find ourselves in a dentist’s chair undergoing a costly—and potentially painful—procedure that we could have prevented with just a little more preventive care.

Still, it’s easy to get distracted by more pressing priorities and let flossing slip to the bottom of our “to-do” list.

Much like our teeth, credit union websites need regular care and check-ups to stay healthy. But in the midst of marketing campaigns and strategic priorities, it’s easy for credit union marketers to neglect them from time to time.

The danger is that you may find yourself performing major surgery for a preventable problem that started out small, costing your department a lot more time, energy, and money in the long run.

Here’s a seven-part annual health check to ensure that your website is getting the care it needs. We’ve also included a “top health tip” for each section, outlining the highest-impact, lowest-effort way to improve your website’s digital health.

Think of it like your physical or routine dental cleaning. And don’t worry — there’s no flossing involved.

1. Broken link scan

Links often break without our knowledge. Perhaps a third party site has changed its domain name, or perhaps an internal page or blog post was modified in a way that impacted the URL. Either way, it’s never a fun user experience when we think we’re traveling to a certain destination and are confronted by a 404 page instead. An annual scan can help you catch and fix these pesky broken links.

Top Health Tip: We use DubBot to do these link scans. SiteImprove is another high-quality tool we recommend.

2. Site speed audit

We all know that faster websites perform better, and yet it’s all too easy for them to become sluggish over time. Plus, the goal post can shift. Google updates their criteria for what it means to be a “fast site” a few times a year, and what was best practice one year might not be the next.

Identifying and addressing the sources of bloat can significantly impact your conversion rates. According to Portent, the highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between 0-2 seconds, and website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time.

Page speed optimization is very much a weakest link in the chain kind of issue; there are a myriad of things that can slow the whole site down, and whichever is the slowest can drag the whole site down with it. It is best to use an iterative process where you find the slowest thing on the site and fix that and move on to the next slowest.

Using Google PageSpeed insights, we found that third-party integrations were significantly slowing down one client’s site. To address this, we audited all of the third-party scripts on the site with the client. We had to make some hard decisions, but we were able to significantly reduce what we were loading. As a result, the client’s desktop and mobile speed scores increased by 20 points and 23 points respectively, getting them out of the “average” and into the “fast” range. Other fixes can include compressing images and text and working with third-party providers to increase the efficiency of their integrations.

Top Health Tip: audit your 3rd-party tracking codes via Google Tag Manager – this is the most common offender in slow-loading pages.

3. Security audit

Beautiful, user-friendly, on-brand websites are wonderful, but we all know that the largest risk to a website’s health is its security. One gap in your security measures could cause your server to crash or your website to become severely compromised.

When we conduct security audits for our clients, here are some of the key questions we ask:

  • Is all of your software up-to-date? Keeping plugins up-to-date is especially important for WordPress websites.
  • Are your firewalls active and up-to-date with the latest configurations? Hopefully we have a web application firewall at the network level with something like CloudFlare.
  • Are you using the best browser headers to make sure that browsers can take advantage of important security features?
  • Do you have functional backups that are properly stored in separate infrastructure from your web hosting?
  • Is two factor authentication set up for your admin login?
  • Is there a tool to monitor uptime and continually test the availability of your website, applications and servers?
  • Is there a tool implemented to scan external malware?

Top Health Tip: Outdated software is the top cause of security issues on just about any system, so if there’s one question from this list to focus on first, it’s making sure your software is up-to-date and you have a plan for keeping everything up-to-date with the latest versions on a regular basis.

4. Content audit

When was the last time you took a good look at most of the pages on your website? It’s likely you see your homepage a fair amount throughout the course of a typical work week, but of course, your visitors are landing at many other destinations. A content audit will motivate you to carve out some time to examine the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other pages that comprise your website, and to identify incremental improvements that can make for a more streamlined and seamless user experience.

Common issues from our client content audits that we’ve caught and recommended fixes for include:

  • Inconsistencies in capitalization for headers and calls to action
  • Missing or misplaced calls to action
  • Large blocks of text that would be better “chunked” across columns or bullets
  • Opportunities for additional or more relevant images
  • Opportunities to develop new page components that help present copy in a more user friendly way

Top Health Tip: When we conduct content audits for clients, we use a tool called BugHerd to make notes directly on website pages. If you don’t have time to do a complete site audit, start with your top 5 most visited pages and your top 5 product pages.

5. User testing

User testing is not quite as onerous as it might sound — and it can be a lot of fun! This process is essentially equivalent to having a secret shopper on your website that makes sure your digital branch continues to meet user expectations. As few as four or five user tests can help you identify at least 75% of your website’s usability issues. By the same token, zero user tests will consistently provide you with zero insights.

When we do user testing for clients, we focus on a handful of priority pages, asking testers to perform simple tasks, like learning about eligibility requirements for joining, figuring out how to open a checking account, and determining whether they would refinance their auto loan with the credit union. The issues we uncover generally have fairly easy, cost-effective solutions that can significantly improve a client’s user experience, such as:

  • Moving eligibility requirements further up a “Join” page
  • Adding a comparison table to a Checking page to clarify what the account options are and who they are for
  • Creating a separate product page specific to auto loan refinancing

Top Health Tip: Services like MazeUserbrain, or Userlytics make it easy to set up tests and save you the trouble of finding your own testers.

6. ADA Scans

We recommend conducting an ADA scan at least annually; some clients with larger websites conduct them quarterly or even monthly. We also use DubBot for ADA scans, which not only helps us identify broken links but also a host of other quality assurance and compliance issues. Once we have run the scan, we:

  • Annotate issues that are false positives and/or false negatives, which we manually review to determine whether or not they need to be addressed
  • Implement coding fixes to comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards
  • Build a list of content related issues and/or third party issues (if applicable) that the client team will need to address to be fully compliant
  • Provide training and supporting documentation on maintaining compliance
  • Provide a letter, when all issues have been addressed, confirming that the site meets WCAG 2.1 Level AA standard compliance

Credit unions often think of ADA compliance as exactly that — compliance. It’s a list of items you have to grudgingly check off to avoid “getting in trouble.” Yet shifting from a compliance to an opportunity mindset, putting the needs of your disabled members front and center, can inspire innovative solutions that foster new opportunities for engagement and create a better member experience.

Top Health Tip: Generic calls to action, like “Learn more” or “Read more” frequently get flagged in our ADA scans. To ensure the ongoing accessibility of your website and to save yourself trouble later on, make sure that everyone who is making page updates understands the importance of context-specific CTAs, like, “Explore our Checking Account options” or “Learn more about Auto Loan Refinancing.”

7. Annual Analytics Assessment

Many credit union marketers are already looking at their website analytics on a monthly or quarterly basis. This is a great practice and one you should certainly consider if you aren’t doing it already. We also recommend an annual analytics assessment, as some trends or patterns may need more than one or a few months to surface, or may simply come into sharper focus with more accumulated data to draw from.

Annual analytics reports that we’ve conducted for clients have included:

  • Year over year (YOY) pageview trends — including which product pages saw increases and which saw decreases in traffic
  • Traffic channel trends, and which lead to meaningful subsequent engagement with the website
  • Link clicks to third-party applications and link clicks to download mobile apps
  • Geographical traffic trends

Data like this can help inform the changes you make to your website or digital tools to help you achieve related marketing goals. If, for instance, link clicks to third-party applications from mobile have significantly increased, but your application is not mobile-friendly, you may want to consider switching to a vendor that offers a better mobile user experience. Alternatively, if a product page has seen a massive increase in pageviews, but link clicks to the application haven’t increased, this might be an indication that you should consider optimizing this page for conversions.

Top Health Tip: There’s no need to look at all the data. To save yourself hours of mining through potentially irrelevant metrics, decide on 5-10 data points that would be most helpful in informing your current marketing priorities. Building a report using Google Data Studio can make it easy to continue monitoring these key data points over time.

The end of 2022 is nearly upon us, and chatter at your credit union about 2023 has likely already commenced. By carving out some time in Q4 for these seven preventive practices, you can rest assured that not only will your website begin the new year in good health, but also that you’ll have the insights gleaned from audits, scans, tests, and data to inform next year’s projects and priorities.

Along the way, perhaps you’ll be inspired to floss more, too.

Co-author: Kerala Taylor

This article originally appeared on CUInsight.com.