10 Mistakes To Avoid With Your Small Business Website
Tips to help you make more connections and sales opportunities from your small business website
By Cary Weston
Here are ten mistakes to avoid when creating your small business website.
Creating your website is an investment in your business. When done right, it should be a powerful part of your overall marketing mix. Too often, businesses make the same mistakes when building or maintaining their website.
If you’re planning a website development project, be sure to keep these ten areas in mind. If you currently have a website, use these ten as a checklist and see how you measure up:
Top Ten are (read below for more details on each)
- Not thinking about the customer
- No purpose for the site
- You don’t even know they were there
- Too much fancy stuff
- Navigation is not consistent
- Tell people who you are
- Field of dreams mentality
- No cross promotion
- No planning for the future
- Basic contact content is hard to find
1. NOT THINKING ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times: You don’t need a website. Your customers do. Build your site with them in mind. All to often businesses get too caught up in trying to list everything they do and who they are that they forget about who’s visiting the site. A simple rule to follow: if it doesn’t pass the “so what” plan, get rid of it.
Now that doesn’t apply to all pages on your site, of course. But it should apply to the majority of it. Especially the high traffic pages, like your homepage. That real estate is precious, so make sure your message matters to your ideal customer base.
2. NO PURPOSE FOR THE SITE
This goes hand in hand with number 1. Before you move forward, be sure to have a plan. You should have a purpose for you site and build it to match that purpose. Can the purpose change later? Of course it can. But if you try to build a site that is all things to all people, you’ll end up with a site that is nothing to those that matter most - Your customers!
Here’s a hint: think about your ideal employee. What would they say? What could they do? What could they handle for you in terms of communicating with your client? With that in mind, build a website that becomes your 24 hour employee.
3. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW THEY WERE THERE
Even without a reason to return, what many sites lack is a way for visitors to tell you they visited your site to begin with. Consider this: would you build a showroom with no employees? Of course not - there would be no purpose. But, building a website with no way for the customer to interact is the same thing.
Does this mean you have to have expensive e-commerce and shopping components? No. Not every business can justify nor needs this level of web presence. However, little things like “how to” articles [take this one for instance], newsletters, free consultations or special offers are great ways to initiate contact from a visitor.
4. TOO MUCH FANCY STUFF
More often than not, when one or more of the mistakes on this page are made (usually lack of purpose, content and understanding of who the site is for) you’ll find a website that is full of flashing neon banners, scrolling text, pop up ads and banner ads. The reason? Rather than plan with substance, the website was designed to either impress on sizzle or to show off the latest trick a web developer has learned.
Keep in mind that your business website should be a place that represents your business in the proper way. Most businesses can do more harm than good when elements of flash and heavy elements are introduced into their website just for the sake of being there. Is there a place for flash, moving objects and sizzle? Oh yeah - and there are lots of terrific examples out there to point to. Unfortunately, there are many bad examples as well. And that’s not good for business.
5. NAVIGATION IS NOT CONSISTENT
Just like painting yourself in a corner, websites with poor or inconsistent navigation often leave visitors wondering how they got to where they are and how to get out.
This one is easy to solve, but surprisingly often overlooked. Just remember this: Never assume your visitor knows anything about your website or the browser and design your buttons so your visitor can go anywhere at any time.
6. TELL PEOPLE WHO YOU ARE
Communication is so important and yet it is done so poorly so often. Remember that you want people to find out about you, not research you. What I mean is by visiting your site, I should know what you do in a matter of seconds. Yes, seconds. Whether that is through clever photography or text or graphics, it doesn’t matter.
Remember this: people don’t like to read [it's amazing you've made it this far!] - say whatever you need to say in simple, clear and concise terms so everyone gets it. National newspapers are written at an 8th grade reading level. You’re site should be too.
7. FIELD OF DREAMS MENTALITY
I was debating whether or not to include both 7 and 8 as one but they really are different problems, so we’ll keep them as is. When someone builds a website and then does nothing to help their own cause by following basic steps, they are essentially thinking “If I build it, they will come”. Hence, the Field of Dreams mentality.
Your website is competing with millions of pages on the web and you need to give it some help to get found. Meta tags, descriptions and keywords help your site to be “found” by search engines. Building the site is not good enough. Make sure you have keywords and descriptions that pertain to your website, but not in too general a term. For instance, if you are a real estate agent, using “Real Estate” is going to put you in a group of thousands and thousands of websites. But, if you live in New Hampshire and you use terms like “waterfront property in New Hampshire”, you suddenly are defining your terms to fit your site.
8. NO CROSS PROMOTION
If you follow this guide and don’t make these mistakes, your website will be a very useful marketing tool. Now you need to tell people about it. Put your website address on everything! Your business cards, your brochures, your invoices, your cash register receipts, TV, radio - whatever!
Even though your website will be “found” by Internet searchers, remember that a high percentage of your visitors will be folks that have seen your website address somewhere other than the web. Now - where are they going to see it? That is up to you.
9. NO PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Most people evaluate the website project by looking at how much it will cost. I agree that this is important. But you must consider other factors when building your site. One of the most important is scaleability Your business is going to grow, your website is going to have to grow with you.
Make sure you’re asking yourself “how will this site serve me in the future?” A little aforethought now will help you not only save money but time in the future when its time to add pages, content and additional features.
10. BASIC CONTACT INFORMATION IS HARD TO FIND
This one is the most amazing to me. I can’t believe how many people don’t put their phone number or email address out in the open where it can be easily seen and used. You would be surprised how many people use the web as a phone book. Not putting your phone number or email where people can see it tells them you really are not interested in hearing from them.
Think about that.
- Cary Weston is a partner of Sutherland Weston Marketing Communications in Bangor, MaineConnect online:
Company's Web: www.sutherlandweston.com
Company's Twitter: www.twitter.com/SWMC_inc
Cary's Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/carywestonYou can find him on Google+
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