It’s time for a bit of tough love from That Wordy Bird!
In this blog post, I’m going to be tackling the Seven Deadly Sins of Small Business Websites, highlighting some of the most cringe-worthy – and costly – errors you can make on your small business website, and showing you how to fix them.
1. Coming soon! Under construction!
Let’s start with an easy one: having a holding page where your website should be. It doesn’t matter whether your website’s “Coming soon!” or “Under Construction” – why are you linking to a site that isn’t active and sending your potential clients to a dead-end?
I’ve come across small businesses that have kept a holding page in place for years on end, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Either have a website or don’t, but for the love of all that’s digital, ditch the holding page and delete any social media links to a site that isn’t there.
Solution: Remove the site, and any links to it, until you have time to get it up to date. Or, just get it up to date!
2. Fussy Design Does You No Favours
If you’re not the most adept with web design, the quickest way to advertise yourself as an amateur is to go too far with your website. Scrolling text, stats counters, flashing images and a colour scheme that you think says “confident” but actually screams “clueless”.
There is – and never will be – anything wrong with a nice, neat, neutral website that’s:
- Easy to read
- Easy to navigate
- Easy on the eye
If you’re not sure where to start with your website, think chic, sleek and streamlined. The last thing you want to do is pull some wacky branding out of thin air in a bid to look cool. Unless you’re a design specialist, it’s 99.9% sure to fail.
Solution: either get a web designer on board, or get yourself a WordPress site. They’re easy to build and manage, and there’s a great range of clean, chic free WordPress themes to choose from.
3. Picture Perfect?
A well-placed, eye-catching image can give a web page a real boost, draw your reader’s attention and support your written content. Choose the wrong images, though, and you’ll achieve the opposite. Some of the worst picture sins:
- Blah stock photos: Everybody knows that the blonde woman in the head-set isn’t you, those hunky guys shaking hands were never at your office, and that the super, high-tech globe with fancy lines around it is only on your website because you couldn’t think of anything else to fill the space. Busted.
- Family pictures: Humanising your business is great but it’s rarely a good idea to blur the lines between personal and professional. Unless your business is family run or you make a living from, say, “mummy blogging”, put those happy snaps away and keep it professional. No significant others, no holiday snaps, and please no babies.
- Stolen photos: I’ll keep this one brief: stealing other people’s photographs and using them on your business website is low. Like, really, really low. If you can’t afford to pay for pictures, take your own or use free images. There’s no excuse for stealing other people’s work, so don’t do it.
Rich media like photos are a great – and necessary – addition to your website, so use your imagination, choose images that will make people smile or look twice, and make sure you source them ethically.
Solution: Use websites like Creative Commons Search to find interesting, relevant photos that are free for use – usually with attribution. Or, create your own images using an image editing platform like PicMonkey.
4. Web Content Catastrophes
One of the surest ways to get people clicking off your website faster than you can blink is by filling it with badly written content – it’s been suggested that a single spelling mistake could cost you up to half of your online sales.
The problem is, no one sets out to fill their site up with content that stinks. But, if you’re not an expert, it’s not always obvious what works and what doesn’t. If you’re going to write your own website content, you need to tread carefully.
At the very least, your website content needs to:
- Be search engine-optimised (think headings, meta data, links and keywords)
- Be free from spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax errors
- Be correctly formatted
- Contain strong, clear calls to action
- Grab the attention of your target audience
- Be written for a website, not a printed page
- Be written for people, not search engines
Solution: get a specialist website copywriter on board, or – at the very least – set aside some time to really neaten up your online content by chopping out mistakes and clumsy phrasing.
5. It’s Nothing Personal
Let’s start with a newsflash: your website’s not about you. Everything you choose to include on there, from the words, the design, the images and the tone, has to be oriented around your customers and prospects. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Sure, it’s important to communicate your unique selling points on there, and yes, it’s vital to have a clear brand and tone, but when it comes to personal vs. professional, professional should win every time.
Really love a scrolly font that’s a bit hard to read? Get rid.
Tempted to include your life story on your website? Think again.
Love your website but getting no visitors? The problem isn’t them; it’s your website.
Find yourself becoming emotionally attached to your business website and getting defensive when suggestions are made for big changes? Well, Houston, that might be a problem.
Solution: Take yourself out of the equation and have a think about what’s best for your business. Get objective advice on social media, swallow your pride and implement those changes!
6. Go Mobile or Go Home…
A recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute showed that 57% of UK web users surfed the net on a mobile device last year. That’s increased threefold since 2009, making mobile devices the second-most popular way to get online – even more popular than work computers.
So why is it, then, that so many businesses seem content to leave their websites languishing on the World Wide Web like some kind of online fossil?
Do their customers enjoy the challenge of reading teeny text? Is their target market made up primarily of Lilliputians? Or are they just lazy or behind the times when it comes to keeping their website suited to their customers’ needs?
Solution: talk to a designer about getting a responsive (or “mobile optimised”) website, or – if you’re using WordPress – swap your current theme for a responsive one.
7. Drawing a Blank on your Blog
A study by the makers of content-sharing platform, Passle, surveyed 500 businesses in a bid to find out how many of them blog.
The results? While blogging has been shown to increase business revenue by up to 60%, only 12.5% of businesses with a blog update it more than three times a year.
Worse still, 80% of companies don’t have one at all.
There are so many reasons to have a blog, and so many not to, yet the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. Having a blog that’s populated with nothing but tumbleweed tells visitors to your site that:
- You might have gone out of business
- You’ve had no thoughts or ideas in the last however-long
- You’re not accessible
- You’re not interested in communicating with your customers
- You’ve got nothing to say about developments in your industry.
Keeping up with a blog isn’t always easy, but it’s always worthwhile. It’s great for SEO and it gives you plenty to talk about – and share – on social media.
Solution: draw up an editorial calendar, come up with some ideas that will interest your customers, and get writing. If you don’t have time, hire an SEO copywriter to get your site up to date!
A website isn’t an optional addition to a business anymore – for most of us, it’s a crucial part of connecting with customers. So, just as you wouldn’t run a shop from a dark and dingy back room, you need to make sure that your website is doing your small business justice.
With a few small but mighty changes, your website can build your brand, get people talking about what you offer, and win you new business. Give people a welcoming website to visit, populate it with engaging, readable SEO website content, and cut out the crap.
For more information on how to transform your website from bloody awful to blooming marvellous, call That Wordy Bird on 0161 818 6263 or email email@example.com