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- corporate web sites
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- online reporting
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- web 2.0
- tone of voice
4 May 2012
Corporate web site rankings – do they matter?
Senior Consultant | Read all Martina's posts
Do you manage a large corporate web site? If you do, then you’re probably aware that, over the last few weeks, you’ve been able to check out how your site has been performing in newly released site rankings from Investis, KWD (formerly known as Hallvarsson & Halvarson) and Bowen Craggs.
These rankings haven’t come up with the same answers; then again, they’re not asking the same questions (as far as we can tell, more on that in a moment).
- KWD’s European Top List 2011-2012 ‘measures how well the largest listed companies by market cap respond to target groups’ expectations’ (there's also a UK-specific list)
- Investis’ IQ Rankings is ‘benchmarking corporate websites against good practice and their peers’
- The FT Bowen Craggs Index looks at ‘corporate web effectiveness’ across 81 companies worldwide.
So there’s plenty out there that looks at online corporate communications performance (and yes, we’re in on this too with our FTSE100 social media index). But what should we make of these web site rankings? How useful are they for improving corporate web sites?
We’ve tackled what we see as the problem with web rankings before; Mark doesn’t mince his words in this post from 2009. Generally speaking, the issues haven’t really gone away and include:
What exactly the rankings are looking at and whether this is clearly expressed. What are the criteria and how have they been chosen?
What site users tell you in surveys is certainly a useful guide to priorities but it’s not the be all and end all – for example, as this article from IR Magazine argues, communications-wise, institutional investors and analysts can be a conservative bunch who ‘set the bar very low’ and ‘might not know what they are missing’. So they're perhaps not the people to go to for ideas about how online corporate communications might develop.
What’s more, corporate sites need not only to meet various audience goals but also to support a company’s communications / business goals. This is the kind of thing that’s perhaps harder to mark and will ultimately be company specific. It could be things like the web site’s role in communicating the corporate brand, building reputation, supporting commercial activity and connecting up various aspects of a company’s online communications.
The ranking methodology should be transparent. Where do the numbers actually come from? A description is helpful as far as it goes but specifics are more transparent. Are assessors ticking a box or making judgements? The methodology should tell you.
If an organisation is producing rankings which include its own clients, then this should be made clear.
It's helpful to state when the reviews were taking place. Sites do change, and not just as a result of a complete rebuild.
So what are web rankings good for?
Corporate web site rankings provide a talking point, benchmarking is undoubtedly a useful exercise and yes, of course, it’s always nice to do well. It's only human nature if, when you see a new set of rankings, your first instinct is to check how your site has done.
But for rankings to be more than just a beauty pageant, we have to go beyond that first instinct and always consider what they’re evaluating and why. Rankings can give us ideas and identify trends – that’s exactly what Bowen Craggs says its Index can be used for – but, taken in isolation as lists, they should probably always be viewed with a pinch of salt to hand.
If you really want to know how your site is performing, you need to go beyond rankings and look at your analytics – and those analytics should be clearly tied to your web site goals.
Performance evaluation shouldn’t be a one-off either. Corporate sites should be constantly developing so they can continue to meet the evolving needs of both your stakeholders and your business. That means performance evaluation needs to be an ongoing commitment too.
For the record, this is where our clients appear in the rankings mentioned:
KWD Webranking 2011-12 (UK list)
1: Centrica; 4: Tesco*; 12: Tullow Oil; 15: InterContinental Hotels Group; 17: British Land; 20: Imperial Tobacco Group; 21: Kingfisher; =28: SABMiller; 39: Rexam; =57: Cairn Energy*; =57: Wolseley*; 61: Petrofac*
Investis IQ Rankings (UK list)
1: Centrica; 9: Kingfisher; 12: SABMiller; 22: Tesco*; 34: British Land; 35: Tullow Oil; 38: InterContinental Hotels Group; 43: Imperial Tobacco Group; 50: Rexam; 58: Petrofac*; 61: Wolseley*; 73: Cairn Energy*
FT Bowen Craggs Index
No clients listed.
*We have recently started working with these clients and launched new sites for them in 2012. KWD carried out its survey before we started working with the companies; Investis rankings are for Q1 2012 so we can assume the new Wolseley site may have been reviewed but not the others.
Any statements made in these blog posts are the views of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of The Group.