If you’ve just assumed a communication leadership position in your company, you will likely want to conduct a digital marketing audit.
If you’ve landed a new job as director of marketing or communications, you’ll need to do a digital marketing audit.
If you’ve just discovered that people are trash-talking your brand online, you’ll probably want a digital marketing audit.
What Is A Digital Marketing Audit?
A digital marketing audit is an in-depth examination of an organization’s online communications in order to identify strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and obstacles, establish benchmarks, and provide insights and direction for future marketing efforts.
The finished product is typically delivered in the form of a written report, a presentation, or both and summarizes the findings, including the good, the bad, the ugly and recommendations for improvement.
Depending upon need, the audit may also include sets of data compiled while conducting the audit.
What Is The Purpose Of A Digital Marketing Audit?
The short answer is: To know what you don’t know.
The long answer is: It depends.
It depends on what you want to know. Let’s break this down into the typical scenarios in which you would need to do an audit.
Why Conduct A Digital Marketing Audit & Why Is It Important?
There are several reasons why you might want to conduct a digital marketing audit.
Digital platforms and channels are always changing and evolving. Google continually updates its search algorithms, for example. Social media channels, too, change their algorithms to emphasize or de-emphasize various factors. For example, with the rise of TikTok, competing channels are now emphasizing short-form video content. These are evolutionary changes.
But sometimes we are faced with revolutionary changes. That is what we are facing at this present moment with Generative AI. When such a massively disruptive technological innovation appears on the scene, it’s a good idea to conduct an audit to understand how that disruption is affecting you and to begin to plan how you’ll deal with it.
Conducting an accessibility evaluation as part of a digital marketing audit is crucial. Ensuring your digital presence is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is not only a matter of compliance but also an essential element of ethical and responsible digital marketing.
A digital audit is a fantastic tool to use as preparation heading into an annual planning session for the year ahead. It can help focus the discussion among senior leadership on weaknesses to be shored up, strengths to be built upon, and new opportunities to be exploited.
You may be planning a new service or product launch. In which case, a digital marketing audit can prove invaluable in understanding the competitive landscape, inform your go-to-market strategy, and help in positioning your new offering.
Change In Personnel
Digital audits are often initiated with the arrival of a new CMO or Director of Public Relations or Communications in order to help them get the lay of the land in their new role.
Other examples of changes in personnel that might trigger a digital audit include the loss of a digital marketing team strategist, or the restructuring of a unit or division requiring a team to reorient and get on the same page.
Another instigator of digital marketing audits is the need to review performance of recently concluded marketing campaigns. This can take the form of an annual review in preparation of future planning or acclimating a new CMO to the current state of marketing efforts.
It can also take the form of a review of a recently conducted campaign.
Sometimes the competitive environment dictates a change in key objectives or new leadership will adjust key performance metrics, which can trigger a fresh look at an organization’s digital marketing efforts.
There is a clear need to take a fresh look at digital marketing efforts when the overarching strategy behind those efforts changes. An overhaul of strategy can occur as a result of many of the changes we just mentioned.
A crisis that prompts a need to respond with communications or simply understand the nature of the threat will often trigger a digital audit. Think of any recent backlash against a brand’s behavior on social media and you’ll get a feel for what is involved. By understanding what people are saying about the brand, communicators will have an informed basis from which to respond.
While many communicators will view the discovery of negative online reviews and ratings as a crisis situation, it typically is not. Unless those negative comments have been prompted as the result of an actual crisis.
Negative reviews are usually the result of inattention and represent a bad situation but not one that cannot get resolved with the help of a digital audit.
Changes In Partnerships
Finally, a digital marketing audit is typically initiated when a partner agency is being appraised. An audit is also typically iniated when an organization hires a new agency to help the new partner get up to speed.
What Should Be Included In A Digital Marketing Audit?
What should be included in your digital marketing audit? Again, it depends on what you want to accomplish.
At the very least, you’ll want to include all your owned channels (website and/or mobile app, email communications, podcast) and your shared properties (social media channels, YouTube/Vimeo).
Additional elements to include, depending upon your needs, might be:
- All of the above for your competitors
- Analysis of target audiences
- News media coverage
- Share of Voice for news coverage, social media conversations, and search visibility
- Share of Shares – Comparison of content shared via social media
- Social listening for brand or topic mentions
- Keyword research for brand or topics
- Search engine visibility
- Website & social media analytics and conversion rates
- Content marketing analysis and key messages for your brand and competitors
- Advertising strategies of competitors
What Are The Critical Factors In A Digital Marketing Audit?
Most digital audits will include four critical factors.
What are the critical objectives your digital marketing efforts are meant to help accomplish? It could be as specific as “increase ecommerce sales by 5%” or as general as “drive new organic search traffic to our website from likely customers by creating compelling content that appeals to them.”
Your goals could be narrowly tailored to audit-specific outcomes: “Find and appraise all our digital assets.”
The audit analysis is an assessment of the nature of your digital marketing presence and/or efforts, broken down into two basic components: Quantitative and qualitative analysis.
The quantitative analysis is the crunching the numbers part. This can include:
- Google analytics data,
- Social media followership and engagement metrics,
- Share of Social Media voice,
- Share of Search engine rankings,
- Email marketing metrics such as open rates, and
- Digital advertising metrics such as click through rate
The qualitative analysis interprets the audit findings. It identifies strengths in your digital communication efforts, obstacles that are hampering your efforts, and opportunities that can be exploited.
Some things the qualitative analysis can uncover are:
- How your audience engages with content on social channels,
- The nature of social conversations about your brand and/or competitors,
- The type of content that is driving search engine traffic to your website,
- The messaging on and usability of your website and/or your competitors website,
- The effectiveness of your digital measurement protocols,
- The degree to which your email subscribers act in response to your email campaigns, and
- The degree to which your digital advertising campaigns are driving conversions.
Finally, what do the audit finding say about the success of your digital marketing goals and how might the findings inform your future strategic direction and plans?
This section would typically include recommendations.
What Is The Most Important Part Of A Digital Marketing Audit?
Anyone can collect and compile data but understanding what that data means requires a completely different set of skills and experience.
Ideally, the person overseeing the audit has deep experience in all aspects of digital marketing so as to be able to connect the dots between different tactics and channel use. Failing that, the team conducting the audit should have 5-10 years experience with the digital channels they are auditing.
What Are The Steps For Conducting An Audit?
- Define your goal(s) for the audit
- Identify what you need to learn from your audit (landscape analysis? competitive review? employer reputation? etc.)
- Identify the digital channels you want to examine
- Identify what type of expertise you’ll need to conduct the audit
- Assemble your in-house team or vet marketing agencies to do your audit
- Calculate your budget
- Draft a timeline for completion
- Let your audit team get to work
- Review the findings
- Plan to implement recommendations
Need help with your audit? Let’s talk!