Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top 10 Things Small Businesses Do to Mess Up Their Website



10) Failure to highlight a call to action - What is the purpose of your website? To get phone calls, emails, or online sales? Regardless of the reason behind your website if your website intends to promote your business, you should probably make it easy for the end user to perform whatever end result you desire.

If your website sells widgets through a store on your website, it is important to make big bright/dark buttons on your website allowing the end user to check out or add to cart. If your website promotes your medical practice, then you will want to make sure there is an easy and obvious way for the end user to call or make an appointment online. If your website promotes your real estate listings, then it would clearly be advantageous to have a clear button for your listings, and then an obvious way to contact you on each page of the listings. All to often, while surfing the website of someone I am considering buying from, I really have to hunt to find out how to complete the end result. Your phone number should not be buried deep in the website if you want me to call you.

The most important thing you can do on your website is make it very clear and easy for the end user to do what you want them to.

9) Irrelevant Data - While researching for a client last night, I was reviewing some of their competitor's websites. One such competitor was a realtor and if I didn't push through on the website I would have thought it was a website for a musician. There was all kinds of information about how she liked to play guitar and her other hobbies. Pictures on the site of her playing guitar. While there is something to be said by showing a human side to a business, she was wasting valuable seo space with irrelevant content. If I was looking to buy a piece of real estate I wouldn't have even let the page fully load before clicking the back button.

Content is king. You definitely want as much good, keyword rich, quality content as you can on your website. However, irrelevant data will be confusing and distracting from your target audience. The gimmick of being a guitar player dressed in hippy gear does not convey the confidence of being a professional business woman. Perhaps I will hire her to play for my next party, but she will not be receiving my next house commission. I have also seen websites that list content on alternate pages that have nothing to do with their website for the purpose of advertising commissions, or seo kickbacks. As a consumer, this is distracting and confusing, and takes away some of the trust I would have otherwise invested into my relationship with you as a seller.

8) Moving Parts - Remember in the 90's when all the cool websites had little animals running across the screen and flashing happy faces? How about scrolling text running across the top of the website? Well, the 90s were 20 years ago and the internet has progressed past the dancing banana. If you want to convey a professional and current image, then you definitely want to avoid the animated gifs and even to a certain extent flash. With the use of css and jquery, there are better ways to make the website interactive and tactile than flash and animated gifs (that are terrible for your seo and incompatible with some browsers).

Flash is a proprietary (Adobe) non open source software, that is not going to be viewable by a good portion of your potential clients, especially mobile ones. If you are taking up precious space on your website with flash, you had better have a good reason for it, and it better be fluent with the rest of your website.

7) Use Images Instead of Text - Think of Google as the supreme court judge of the internets. They pass judgement on every site. You want them to pass a positive judgement on your website. Google, the supreme court judge, is getting up there in years and has trouble seeing images very clearly. But the text, man, text is super easy for google to read because it goes through a translator that picks up every syllable. So, if you put your site together with pictures of text copy, the judge aint gonna see that too well. He is just going to move on to the next website and kind of forget that you are still sitting there holding your site up with a sort of embarrassed look on your face.

There are ways to associate text with your images, and you certainly don't want to get rid of the pictures from your site, because the images are often what makes the look and feel of your site pleasing to a potential customer. However, if you have an image where you could easily be placing text, replace it with text to allow the judge to get a bigger picture of who you are and what you do.

6) Treat Website Design like a Flyer - Considering the weight consumers today put on a company's website and online presence it is amazing to me when I see a website that looks like a flyer stuck to my door by a local landscaper. The truth of the matter is that if you are going to have an online presence (and you should) - if your website looks like it was designed by an amateur, that lack of professionalism will surely be portrayed as your level of professionalism in what you do.

While it may not make sense to expect a physician to have a beautifully designed website, or that it has anything to do with how good of a doctor you may be, it is how the world works these days. If I see a doctor's website that I feel was designed with a lack of attention, I am immediately thinking that they probably don't put attention on anything they do... Thus I am on to another website. Your website should not look like a flyer. Your website is an opportunity to capture your potential clients/patients/customers and give them a sense of who you are. A beautiful website may not mean that you are an amazing doctor, however I will be more likely to give you a chance to be my doctor if you prove that you care about what the internet world thinks of you.

5) Links that are as dead as a door knob - More often than not websites will contain a dead link. Either there was a page that has been removed, or a mistyped url in a link. In fact, I dont believe I have had a single client wanting a website redesign that I didnt find at least a couple dead links on. There are a problem with dead links. First of all, especially if you don't have a proper 401 page, your visitor may leave you in that moment having found them self bumped off your beautiful website. Second of all, if they aren't finding what they are clearly looking for they may decide your website isnt where they will find their answers. Third of all, in the mysterious google algorythm there is a place in the calculation for dead links. Google, the supreme court justice does not like dead links. So you no longer like dead links.

4) Heck No! We dont have time for SEO! - SEO. Search Engine Optimization. If you are building your own website, then I implore you to not just know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization but to really do your best to design with SEO in mind and take some simple steps for increasing your seo. While there are easy ways to get on the first page of google (adwords), the only free way is by investing time into seo.

In order to properly design for SEO you need to know what meta tags, content, backlinks, and directory submissions you need to be working on. You need to perform keyword research in order to determine the best tactic for wording things right to reach your target audience. While SEO takes time, and can be daunting in many aspects, it is not hard to do. I definitely recommend checking out some SEO websites like Search Engine Guide and Marketing Pilgrim. If you would rather let someone else handle your SEO, so you can stick to running your business, then give us a call.

3) Failure to monitor the analytics of your website - While I can understand you may be busy, I dont know, performing heart surgery... It is of the utmost importance to not just make a website and leave it there, but to monitor the traffic sources, the visitors, and your performance overall. I have often learned more about my website by looking at traffic routes than by looking right at the website. You will discover dead links, sometimes undesired backlinks, popular pages, where your traffic is coming from, and even figure out where your visitors are performing the call to action and where they are falling off the map. Seeing where your sales are coming from, and what traffic is bringing you the biggest bucks, will help you determine where to invest your money. 

Google has a free service called Google Analytics. You can sign up for this service and insert a little code on your website and it will do all the monitoring for you. If you don't have time to login and check the health of your website, then you can always have it email you periodic reports. You can also use Webmaster.google.com for additional tools and sitemap uploaders so that you can get the most bang for your google free buck. If you truly don't have time for this additional work load, then hire someone to handle it for you. Foo Webs has a number of reasonably priced SEO packages and would be glad to take you on as our next client.

2) Hire a Cheap Web Developer - While you certainly want to spend your small business money wisely in this economy, you don't want to go for the cheapest bidder. You may want to find a web developer who is less expensive, but you don't want cheap. If someone is offering to build you a website for $99, then they are probably not going to do much of a better job than you or your 12 year old son. Take your time selecting a web developer. Make sure that the person you hire is knowledgeable, experienced, and can handle not just your design but the full development, seo, sem, hosting, and registration in case you have a need in the future. Ask for references.

While you want to make a wise choice and not overspend, remember that web developers are highly skilled professionals. The standard industry hourly rate of a web developer is $85, some are higher and some are lower. If you want a decent website take that into consideration so you don't walk in with expectations of someone to spend 40 hours on your website and charge you $50 total. The best options are among the freelancers who have skill but not the overhead of charging you for their big office and employee. Hey, FooWebs is a home based web development company that would be glad to not overcharge you for an amazing website. :) But seriously, take your time and select the right company. I have had many clients come to me after spending money with someone else and told me later that they wished they had spent more time selecting a web developer from the get go so that I wouldn't have been their second choice after they have already dropped a lot of cash.

1) Build their Own Website - Since the beginning of Microsoft Frontpage, small business owners have been making their own web pages. While I certainly try to DIY as much as possible to save a buck (pats self on back for fixing shower plumbing issue a couple months ago), there are some things that are better left to the professionals. It doesn't mean that you aren't capable of learning things such as php, css, sql, or photoshop... it just means that your time would be better spent doing what you do for a living. As a small business owner your time is valuable. You are not just running the business, managing employees, networking, but often also shouldering a load of the work yourself. Do you really have time to learn programming and waste your precious time trying to figure out what ftp program you need to upload your files?

Consider this. Even if I charged you $85 for an hours of work. What I can get done on your website in one hour is probably tenfold what you can accomplish, if you are not an experienced web developer. If it took you just 3 hours to accomplish what I could in one hour that means you are spending $85 for 3 hours of your time. While that may be underestimating, I have been coding for 13 years so I can probably get done in an hour what a beginner would accomplish after a day or two. But lets just say 3 hours. That is about $28 per hour. You pay more for a car wash and i would venture to guess in those 3 hours you could make a lot more than $28 per hour for your business. So really, the way to save money and make money is to hire someone to build your website for you.

However, if you are interested in learning programming and how to build a professional website, then I encourage you to pick some some books and really enjoy the field. If you have an eye for design and detail than you will certainly be able to build a beautiful website for your company by just investing time into the learning and developing process. Though, I beg you, don't let your company website be reflected by a wysiwyg or a website that you build in Word and just throw up hoping it helps your business. My clients have told me over and over that the website that I have built for them have brought them so much business they would not have a big portion of their clients without it. So, can you really afford not to hire someone to build you a professional website for your small business?

Regardless of the decisions that you make as a small business owner - I wish you success. :)

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