Since first generation websites, the Internet has evolved into a complex, strategic environment for businesses, where leveraging an effective online presence can help your company grow and prosper. Amazingly, still too many businesses, big and small, think of a website as just a “must-have” cost center. Only a few companies recognize their websites as valuable investments that can help them expand profitability, achieve organizational objectives and boost their marketing and sales efforts.
After several years helping companies across all major industries develop effective websites, we have come to identify a set of fifteen (15) common reasons why websites don’t sell and deliver the results organizations expect. We invite you to use this list as a basic reference guide to assess your current online presence. Should you see your company’s website suffers of one (or more) of these symptoms, maybe it’s time to bring an expert on board.
- Poor Web Design. You may be the best at what you do, but if you don’t project a clean, professional image online, people won’t hire you, as simple as that. You’re in the realm of subjective perceptions and the way you present yourself online can make or break you. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and online that means you have less than 5 seconds to do it right.
- You do what? If you don’t quickly convey the kind of business you are in and the products and services you offer to customers, you will repeatedly lose visitors. Sounds like another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many business websites still leave you looking at them for minutes wondering, “What does this company do?”
- No Call-to-Action. Without a main call to action (CTA) -a request/direction to ‘do something’-, customers won’t know why they are visiting your website or what your company has to offer. Remember a conversion only happens when a customer who is viewing the site takes an action your marketing intended. This typically means a purchase, filling a form and submitting it, signing up for a newsletter and/or completing some other goal for the site.
- Outdated Content. Content is the heart of a website. Having useful, informative, seo-friendly, share worthy content updated regularly is key to boost your traffic, improve your visibility online and promote conversions. Outdated content not only increases bounce rates and negatively affects search rankings, among other things, but also gives visitors a wrong impression that positions you as a lazy company nobody wants to do business with.
- Lack of Web Usability. Too many business websites don’t pay attention to web usability and make it real hard for users to navigate them and find the information they’re looking for. Exploring a website should be an easy, intuitive process. Designing all information-based processes properly is a strategic task that should not be taken lightly. The objective, like Steve Krug, a known web usability expert, would say “Don’t make me think”.
- No SEO. Don’t be part of the 30% business websites that cannot be found in online searches because their websites earn a Google Page Rank of zero or have no Google Page Rank at all. Helping your potential customers find your company through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is important. With keyword data, meta descriptions, page titles and SEO-friendly content, among others, your website can stand out from the rest.
- Not Mobile Ready. Mobile is predicted to overtake desktop Internet usage by the end of this year. Recent studies not only show that over 70% of mobile searches lead to online action within an hour, but point out that 4 out of 5 consumers today use smartphones to shop. But the reality is that over 60% of businesses do not have mobile sites or do not even know if their websites are mobile-capable.
- Social Media Links Wanted. Is your online presence social? Allowing your current and potential customers to share their experiences with your brand via social channels, enables information about your business to reach people you might not have otherwise targeted. Leverage the power of social. Put social media to work for you integrating social widgets and apps to your website!
- Visual Noise. For some reason, many companies think that loading a website with as many “creative” design elements as possible, such as a busy background wallpaper, an embossed company logo, wild patterns, animations and even in some cases favorite tunes as background music, will add interest to their business websites. The reality is that all those things interfere with the messages to be communicated and scare visitors off.
- Invisible Contact Information. Did you know 93% of small and medium businesses do not display contact email addresses on their websites and 49% lack any phone numbers at all? Visitors need to be able to contact you with information requests, questions, complaints, and/or suggestions. A ‘Contact Us‘ page is like an Internet business card that should be always available from any part of your website and have your key company’s contact information. Make it easy for people to contact you and give them options (ex. contact form, department emails, twitter, facebook, telephone numbers, fax, among others), instead of making yourself invisible.
- No Image Optimization. It’s true, a picture paints a thousand words, but if your web graphics are not optimized for the Visual Web, it will mean higher hosting costs for your company and a poor visitor experience which can lead to less visits and no returns. The more storage space on the server you need because of larger files and the more bandwidth it’s needed are variables you need to address with optimization from start.
- Broken Links and 404 Error Messages. Before launching your website and making it public, make sure every link works or get ready to lose a lot of visitors quickly. Avoid giving your visitors “404 file not found” error messages, or broken/incorrectly labeled links that end their browsing experience abruptly. For large sites consider adding a form so visitors can submit a broken link, which lets them become part of the solution and know you are on top of any problems they discover.
- No Web Standards. Building a website compliant with web standards means simplifying and lowering production and maintenance costs, while delivering a site that is accessible to more people and more types of Internet devices. Sites that follow these guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) will continue to function correctly as web browsers evolve and new Internet devices come to the market.
- Ignoring Metrics. Over 75% of businesses do not use analytic tools to measure their websites’ performance. If you don’t monitor your metrics (such as average time on pages, bounce rates, entry and exit pages, top content, keywords, referrals, etc.) you not only miss the opportunity to make your website more effective toward those who visit you most and those you’re not reaching, but you’ll lose a lot of time and money managing your online presence blind-folded.
- Got Website Backup? Consider this scary scenario: your website is hacked and your business is suddenly brought down affecting sales and overall operations. Possible? Yes! Almost 50% of small and medium businesses have been cyber attacked at least one time, with down time and restoration costs averaging $10,000 or more. Amazingly most businesses still do not use backup services to protect their data. It is a real, costly nightmare scenario that can break your business and strike anytime. To avoid any disruption, protect your information assets and get back online within minutes if your web server goes down, consider website backup a mandatory strategic investment.
In this social, visual era building a successful, effective website presents you with a great opportunity to grow your business and build a global audience that supports your brand. To get the most out of your investment and build a memorable, effective online presence that sells, you must start treating it like a business. Just keep in mind that a business website can be a powerful strategic weapon that can have a huge impact on your bottom line, but only if it’s designed, developed and maintained properly. Ready to optimize your website and take it to the next level?
About the Author: Ernesto Sosa is a seasoned Marketing and Digital Strategist, Founder and President of SOWEB. You can follow him on Twitter @ernestososa.