Journal

Probably the Best PLC Website in the UK?

Posted: 4th October 2011 | Filed under: Projects
Author: Paul Ockenden, Chairman of CST Group

Sitemorse logo

There’s an independent website testing company called Sitemorse. It tests websites for things like code quality, functional errors, accessibility, and hosting speed. Basically, it’s the most authoritative quality benchmark for UK websites.

Sitemorse sells its testing service to large companies to help them improve their web presence, but it also regularly performs checks across whole industry sectors. One of the biggest surveys it does is to test all of the websites for companies listed in the FTSE All Share index, publishing the results a league table every quarter. You’ll find the Q3 2011 results here.

Marston's PLC website home page

If you do click through you’ll see our client Marston’s PLC at the top of the table with a score of 9.9 (out of a possible ten). That’s one of the highest scores ever recorded by Sitemorse, and it’s a score that both CST and Marston’s are particularly proud of!

Marston’s website beat the pants off competitors such as Enterprise Inns (539th place) and JD Wetherspoon (501). It also trounced such household names as Mothercare (540), Halfords (538), Gartmore (526), JD Sports (520), Rolls Royce (518), GlaxoSmithKline (516), Rightmove (514), Debenhams (503) and over five hundred other FTSE listed companies.

What’s critical, as far as I’m concerned, is that various studies have shown that a poorly performing website can have a negative impact on a company’s share price. And to be fair, that’s hardly rocket science – it stands to reason that if city analysts and pension fund managers find problems with a website it’s sure to affect how they feel about that company. If I was the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Exec. or Chairman of any of the companies in the bottom half of the Sitemorse table I’d be asking some very serious questions of my website team. Either that or arranging delivery of their P45s!

Marston’s PLC has been at the top of the Sitemorse charts before – we’ve achieved that on two or three previous occasions. But what makes the Q3 2011 score so special is that this was a brand spanking new site. When we spoke to the folks at Sitemorse they told us it’s almost unheard of for a website to go straight to the top of the table with such a high score.

Marstons PLC website screenshot inner page

The Big Secret

So how did we do it? What were the tricks we used? What’s the secret to creating a website that scores so highly across all of the test areas? Actually, it’s not a secret and I’m happy to tell you – we got to the top of the Sitemorse table by, to a large degree, ignoring Sitemorse! We just built the best possible website, making sure it was error free, that it was usable by disabled people, and that it was hosted on suitably sized servers. There were no tricks.

It’s a bit like getting good Google rankings (which, incidentally, Marston’s also has!). You can use various cheats to fool Google and get your site nearer to a top spot on the front page, but Google almost certainly will find out, and your website will be penalised. The best way to get good Google rankings is to build a great site with properly structured mark-up, and then keep that site updated on a regular basis. It’s far better to have an actual good website, rather than tricking Google into thinking you’ve got one.

The same appears to be true with Sitemorse. Create a quality website, free from functional, HTML or CSS errors, make sure the site is fully accessible, and host it well. There’s no need for tricks – as with Google, a quality site will rise to the top of the Sitemorse league tables. If there is any magic it’s more to do with CST’s policy of recruiting only the brightest and most talented web professionals.

If any of the companies I’ve listed above (*) or indeed any other company that didn’t fare well in the Sitemorse survey want to have an informal chat about how we might help them move up the rankings, please get in touch. I’d love to have a chat with you. We have a range of options available, from consultancy reports through to working with your existing agency to help them improve the site, or even taking over your web presence and building you a new super-duper high scoring website. We’re happy to fit around your budget. Just don’t leave it too long, as that poor website isn’t doing your corporate reputation or your share price any good!

(*) with the exception of Marston’s competitors, of course!