Website Graders

I lost… I lost? Wait a minute – I’m not supposed to lose! Let me see the script!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Mel Brooks’ ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’. When I think of Website Graders, this scene comes to mind. The shock that contractors often times feel when they put their site through a website grader is very similar to what Robin feels like in that scene. 

What’s wrong with this picture? I spend all this money and I get the equivalent of a ‘D’? What gives—is my website truly this bad?

I’ll save you the suspense and let you know that the answer the grader gave you doesn’t reflect how well your website it doing. Understand, the grade you receive isn’t an accurate reflection of how well your site actually performs; it’s only telling you how well it conforms.

What’s wrong with this picture, indeed?!

Don’t think for a second that all these “free” graders are out there because of their designers’ overwhelming sense of altruism. You guessed it—they’re out to make money! And they’re doing so by trying to make you feel singled out, embarrassed, confused, upset and afraid. When people are emotional, they tend to have tunnel vision and not put too much thought into what they’re doing. The fear that you’re doing something wrong can cloud your judgment (queue any disaster movie ever – you know, the part where you yell “Don’t do it!” at the screen). They want you to buy the services that they offer that can fix your “horrible issue”.

Can you breathe underwater?

I don’t know about you. but I haven’t grown gills yet. These graders are, in effect, grading fish on their ability to climb trees. Does a fish need to climb a tree? – No, fish need to be able to breathe underwater and swim. Graders will mark you down on many different categories that don’t have any bearing on your site’s performance. Even worse, sometimes, they’re just outright bad or lie. 

A prime example of this is the common fixture question, “Do you have a blog? You don’t? – Grade lowers drastically.” Overwhelmingly in our industry, blogs don’t have a good ROI. This is because we’re not in an industry people really care about. The only ones passionate about reading HVAC blogs would be us. Your average Joe doesn’t tweet when Lennox releases their newest high-efficiency model. #OMGLennoxIsAwesome is not a trending hashtag. People don’t normally care about us until they’re uncomfortable. Now, this isn’t to say that Social Media shouldn’t be part of your brand focus. But, it’s important to be smart with your money, to understand what’s really going on, and then determine where you should be spending your money (and how much of it). 

Another example graders judge you by is load time. This is one that actually is important, but the grader grades all websites on a one-size-fits-all standard. When was the last time you bought shoes and the side of the box read “Everybody” instead of “12 Wide”? HVAC websites, and other websites, have a certain set of expectations that Google’s search algorithm is going to use to vet if that information is being delivered. It’s not a changing-by-the-minute news site. Google knows that and they’re going to take that into account when they look at you. Speed and good content do not always hang out together. We do everything we can to help your website be as svelte as possible and still have enough “meat” where it can deliver the information and customer experience that Google values.

Here’s a final example that is often overrated and misunderstood: “Is your website secure? Does it have security/HTTPS?” This is another really common one that doesn’t matter for actual security reasons since your domain doesn’t receive secure information like social security numbers. Google has talked about it as a potential ranking signal, but to just initiate it for this alone creates other issues. There are plenty more. 

Now, it’s time for us to have some fun with this…

It’s not me – it’s you!

If you’re looking at a grader, throw a handful of your competitors’ sites in there. Try other contractor sites in there, too. If you want to get crazy, throw the Grader Site into there as well! This is one of our favorite things todo because, guess what, the one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t really fit anybody!

Is there anyone I can trust?

Value the opinion of those who are in authority or are putting their necks out on the line for you. Notice, I didn’t say anything about trust. Trust is earned over time by establishing and nurturing relationships and validating them. Ask, why should I trust you? This principle is why we offer our 90 Day Money-Back Guarantee. We realize that you’ve probably been misled at some point in time before now or are jaded coming into this for some other reason. You don’t really have any reassurance other than speaking with us when you sign up, so we offer to refund your money if your results don’t line up with your expectations (something we’ve been asked to do only twice in 15 years!)

“…if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
— Albert Einstein

Furthermore, this is why we don’t have any long-term contracts. Many of our competitors do have long-term contracts–a great way to tie you and your money up for a long time. By the time you can actually quit, they’ll have already moved on to the next guy. These companies eventually leave a poor taste in the mouth of consumers and fade away into obscurity or are bought out by competitors.

If you are looking to analyze your website, the first place to turn to is your current analytics. Get a good grasp from someone who actually understands what they’re looking at before you start to look to improve your website. You wouldn’t ask a color blind guy how green your grass is, would you? Make sure they can explain things to you. Your company should be able to speak with you using words and concepts you can understand. 

Use tools that primarily focus on actual results, not verdicts. Verdicts are opinions. There isn’t a tool that’s specifically designed for HVAC and Contractor sites (if you find one, let me know) so these tools are generalized by necessity. Google’s Mobile Friendly-ness Tester is a good tool to make sure your site renders well on mobile (from Google’s perspective). Pingdom is a good tool that analyzes how long it takes for your site to load. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is Google’s grader but, again, it doesn’t do anything to take into consideration what type of website you have. The verdict PageSpeed Insights gives is based off of all websites. 

Bringing this all together, when you’re looking at the results that you found or someone is showing you, it’s crucial to understand what you’re looking at. Next, you want to think about the circumstances in which you’re viewing the info. Like I mentioned before, we have conversations where our clients were approached by a competitor and wanted to convince our client why we’re not worth they’re money. We don’t have any issues sharing your statistics with you and speaking with you on how you may be able to improve your ranking and your website conversions. It should be any SEO’s main priority that their client understands what they’re spending their hard-earned money on. If your web company can’t, I suggest you find someone who can.

If you ever find yourself in one of these scenarios, we recommend that you ask yourself these questions to avoid getting “had”:

  1. Does this website grader have a bias or an angle they’re trying to “sell” me on?
  2. If this person wants my business, is it possible they’re trying to deceive me? Nah… That would never happen!
  3. Does it pass the “gut” test? You know, when something just doesn’t sit right.
  4. Do you feel like you’re being frightened or educated? Fear is the strongest motivator for people to make hasty decisions.
  5. Does it make sense? Can they explain the statistics to you?
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