S.W.O.T. Your Website

Whenever I hear the word “analysis”, I immediately have to fend off the urge to take a nap.  The fact is, for anyone who is attracted to the ease of establishing an online business, the quickly changing environment of the Internet, and the excitement of constantly starting new projects, analysis sounds far too much like what we would do if we were holed up in a stuffy board room filled with…well…analysts (sorry – I have nothing against analysts personally).
But even I have to admit that proper analysis is necessary.  Actually, when an analysis is done, it can actually lead to far more entertaining and exciting pursuits.  The fact is, when you do a proper analysis of your website, you get a better idea of where you are and which directions you need to go.  A proper analysis is really just taking measurements of your activities and planning your next activities.
With that in mind, and for all my like-minded friends who yawn at the word analysis, this article will introduce a simple, fast, and extremely effective analysis you can do on your website today.  The entire analysis will take between a half an hour and an hour, but I promise it won’t be boring or difficult to do.
It’s called “S.W.O.T.”.  S.W.O.T. stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats”.  In short, you are going to make four lists – one for each of the elements in the SWOT analysis. You should write it out in bullet-point format and keep your thoughts short.  Most importantly you must be honest and objective.
One thing you will find as you move through SWOT is that each steps gets progressively more important.  As such, each step should require a bit more time and evaluation.

Evaluate Your Site’s Strengths

Most people have absolutely no problem identifying their site’s strengths – these tend to be the things that we work on the most and most like to brag about.  Since this is such an easy area to evaluate, it is a good one to start out with.
  • Do you have great search engine rankings?
  • Is your concept solid?
  • Do you have a highly in demand product?
  • Does your site excel in customer service?
The goal here is to know what you do well and identify it.  Get on your braggadocio, drag out your trumpets and horns, and hang the banners to your success – these are areas of your website you can be really proud of.

Evaluate Your Website’s Weaknesses

If you have had enough of patting yourself on the back, now it is time to do something truly more difficult – identify the weaknesses of your business.  Once again, it is crucial that you be honest in this step.  What is it that you do not spend much time on?  What is it that you do not do well?
  • Is your conversion rate low? (or do you even track your conversion rates?)
  • Is your customer response time slow?
  • Do you lack any differentiating factors from your competitors?
  • Are you in a crowded and highly competitive niche?
  • Are you working in a highly limited niche?
  • Do you track your finances?
Identifying and admitting weaknesses is not as easy as identifying and listing your strengths, but it is far more important. Don’t be ashamed of the weaknesses and do not be scared of them.  Every website has weaknesses, identifying them is a proper step to reducing their exposure or fixing those weaknesses.

Identify Your Opportunities

As a general rule, most Internet entrepreneurs are “idea” people.  We love to dream of the next big thing (or small, opportunistic niche idea).  This step is designed to identify and prioritize the opportunities that your business can pursue.  Some of these opportunities may address the weaknesses that you just identified.  Others may be simple changes you can make to increase profits.
  • Have you optimized your conversion rate?
  • Do you track your conversion rate?
  • Can you easily add new product lines to help upsell your customers?
  • If you ship products, have you considered including a coupon to encourage re-orders?
  • Could you take orders over the phone?
  • Could you add a reference library to help create brand loyalty?
Be sure to think on two levels for this step: identify “low hanging fruit” and also dream big.  Your “low hanging fruit” will be those things that you can implement without much difficulty at all.  Optimizing your conversion rate is often one of those areas that is often ignored.  If you identified tracking your finances as a weakness, once you do start to track your finances, you may find that you are spending money in areas that are useless – eliminating those would be “low hanging fruit”.
At the same time, be sure to dream big as well.  Can you open up internationally?  Can you use your current site to launch into something much bigger?  These are your longer term goals.

Find Those Things That Threaten Your Business

This step may be the most crucial and important of the entire SWOT analysis.  For anyone who has been online for some time, we know that Internet businesses are the ultimate “blue sky” asset.  While they may be cashflowing considerable money one month, a simple change in a Google algorithm can cause them to become worthless the next month.  Identifying your threats, and planning to help eliminate those threats, is crucial.
  • Are you relying only on Google for your website’s traffic?
  • Do you have too many sales concentrated in too few customers?
  • Do you have too many products coming from one vendor?
  • Is your business reliant on the success of another business (e.g. Myspace background and wallpaper sites)
  • Is your business in a legally questionable area?
It can be so easy to try and “ignore your problems” away.  For example, many people stop checking their bank accounts when they know the funds are getting low – seeing the reality of their situation can simply be too scary.
Smart online business owners, however, face their weaknesses and threats head on and do everything they can to neutralize them.  If you find that you only rely on Google for web traffic, then find another source of traffic (email newsletter, social media, PPC, etc).  If you have too few customers representing all of your sales, put in place a plan should those customers leave.
Knowing your threats will also help you determine how much you should invest, both time and money, into a project.  No one today would start up a website offering Myspace backgrounds, but just a few years ago it was an extremely profitable niche.  What does your niche look like?

Digest the Information

Once you have finished you should have four lists which, when combined, paint a thorough picture of your business.  But lists in themselves are useless unless they are acted upon.  Smart business people do analysis, but they also plan for action, take action on plans, then do a re-analysis on the effectiveness of their actions.
At first your lists may be a bit daunting.  You may have identified weaknesses that you can’t overcome.  There may be limited opportunities.  There may be real threats to your business which could turn everything upside down.  But then again, there may be workable solutions to reduce your threats and weaknesses.  You may have some great strengths which will make up for your weaknesses and could possibly be strengthened more to marginalize those weaknesses.  There may be quite a few pieces of low hanging fruit that will have a substantial impact on your business.
The point is this: now you know.  You know how healthy your business is and you know what direction you should head.  You can take off your analyst hat and put on your entrepreneur hat again.  You can create, modify, plan, and take action.  In the end, you can be more successful than ever.


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