Your business’s website has to live up to some pretty high standards. On the one hand, it has to be effective at drawing interest, educating potential customers, and converting sales, without which you might go out of business. But on the other hand, it cannot mislead consumers, make false promises or guarantees, or otherwise fail to comply with a wide range of ever-shifting laws, rules, and regulations.
What you need is to get both of these hands working in unison instead of at cross-purposes. That means coordinating your marketing team, which ensures that you create effective sales materials, with your compliance department, which monitors and maintains your compliance with applicable regulations.
How can you keep marketing and compliance working smoothly together or—when they don’t—identify and correct any imbalance between them? By regularly auditing your website. The answers to these five common questions will help you get started.
1. WHY SHOULD YOU AUDIT YOUR WEBSITE AND WEBSITE ARCHIVES?
There are five significant reasons to audit or review your website. Audits allow you to:
- find and correct existing compliance issues,
- assess and improve your marketing efforts so you can reach and convert more customers,
- avoid future compliance issues by improving your review and approval processes,
- continually train staff on both the importance and the mechanics of compliance, and
- demonstrate good faith by proactively monitoring your compliance.
Note that some of these audits—such as those for existing compliance concerns—should occur on the current, live version of your website, while others—such as post-mortem reviews of marketing campaigns—may need to be conducted through an archived version of your site. You should already be archiving your website, but if you’re not, compliance audits are a great reason to get started.
2. WHEN SHOULD YOU CONDUCT AN AUDIT?
Al Capone isn’t exactly the sort of leader any reputable business looks up to, but his tongue-in-cheek advice to “vote early—and often” would have been better applied to compliance audits. Auditing your site early allows you to catch errors that made it online despite your review protocols. Auditing often enables you to create a virtuous cycle of continuous feedback and process improvement.
Create a regular schedule for audits, and supplement it with additional audits after any major marketing campaign or service rollout.
3. HOW SHOULD YOU AUDIT YOUR WEBSITE AND WEBSITE ARCHIVES?
Chances are your company already has a compliance auditing process in place with a neutral third-party auditor. Be sure that those formal audits include a review of your website content. You can probably take a DIY approach for your regular and campaign-associated reviews in between your formal audits.. Have someone navigate through your website to ensure that all required disclaimers are visible. Check that no unwarranted promises, unintentional guarantees, or unfounded claims have made their way into your site copy.
There are automated checkers you can deploy for ADA compliance, but don’t rely on those tools exclusively. Automated scans only catch about 25 percent of ADA compliance issues, so you’ll want to check that your website works as it should manually. Have a user—ideally someone who is disabled or experienced with disability navigation issues—verify that they can access the entire site and “translate” any visual or auditory content to another modality.
For post-campaign audits and other reviews of sites that are no longer live, it’s helpful to have your website archives in the form of fully functional website replicas. These replica sites—like what Hanzo creates with its Dynamic Capture method—allow a user to revisit the site exactly as it looked during a campaign. That functionality means you can navigate the site as a customer might have, spotting potential problems, and identifying successful elements.
4. WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR DURING A WEBSITE AUDIT?
The obvious thing to look for during an informal website audit is non-compliant content like we touched on above. If you don't find any issues with your content, that's great! If you do, though, consider how it got there. Did your compliance team have a chance to evaluate the marketing campaign early enough? Did marketing change anything in the language after compliance conducted its review? How could you change your process to ensure that the right people are reviewing content at the right time to prevent errors?
In addition to looking for compliance errors, have your internal auditor review both the process by which you created a marketing campaign and its results. You could ask questions such as:
- How did your marketing team design the campaign?
- When and how did marketing consult with your compliance team?
- Who posted the content and who approved it?
- How well did the marketing campaign perform?
- Did you see a measurable boost in clicks, views, calls, or sales?
5. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WITH THE RESULTS OF YOUR WEBSITE AUDIT?
So suppose you’ve evaluated your site and perhaps spotted a few errors or opportunities for improvement. What do you do now?
Your first essential follow-up action is to provide feedback about what’s going well and what’s not. Try to have a conversation with your team instead of sending an email that might lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings. From there, you might find that you need to revise your content-creation process or add a layer of review. If you’re struggling to get your marketing and compliance people on the same page, check out our earlier blog about the seven principles that can help those teams work together to accomplish their unique and shared goals.