A bad web presence can be worse than none at all
If you look around online, you’ll find no shortage of experts telling you that EVERY business needs to have a website. That if you haven’t developed a strong online presence, you’re leaving money on the table. That if you’re still relying on word-of-mouth or traditional advertising, you’re a dinosaur on the verge of extinction.
A lot of people heard this kind of talk, got frightened, and rushed out to throw something up online. The thing that all these experts don’t tell you is that it’s not enough to just have SOMETHING online. If you’re not taking care and doing things correctly, you can end up with a mess on your hands.
But don’t worry. We’re going to help you avoid these 3 rookie mistakes and get your online marketing back on track.
1. Outdated or unprofessional design
Your website is a combination of a storefront, a business card, and a salesperson. Everyone knows it’s a good idea to make sure that your storefront and business card are carefully design to present your business in the best light, and most people would fire any salesperson who looked sloppy, acted rude, and offended customers.
However, for some reason, a lot of small business owners think it’s acceptable to have a website like this:
This is a website design straight out of the 1990s, and it’s not going to impress anyone who comes to their site looking for more information about the business. Compare it to something like this:
Which do you think makes a better impression on potential customers? That first website may have been acceptable 15 years ago, but now it triggers alarm bells for people. People will wonder if the business is legitimate, or whether it’s even still open.
If you have a website that looks like this, you’re sabotaging your business with one of the worst possible first impressions. If you don’t have the ability to improve your website on your own, this is an area where spending money to get some professional help is definitely justified.
2. Your website is about what YOU need
A rookie mistake made by a lot of small business owners is thinking that the reason they’re getting a website is to make themselves look good.
The purpose of a website is to make things easier for your customers and for your prospective customers. Sometimes this can also make things easier for you, but that shouldn’t be your first priority.
Far too many small business owners make their websites all about THEM. I don’t want to shame anyone in particular with a link, but I’m sure you’ve come across a site that is clearly more about the owner’s ego than it is about helping customers. Maybe there’s a big photo of the owner on the front page, maybe there’s a big rant about how special or unique the business is.
Whatever it is, it’s putting the owner’s needs before the customers'. If you want a website that makes a great impression, you have to understand why customers are coming to your site in the first place. If you run a restaurant, it may be that they’re looking for your menu or wondering when you’re open. If you’re a massage therapist, they may be trying to book an appointment.
Figure out what your customers (and potential customers) are looking for, and put it front and center. If you’re focused on making yourself look good instead of giving consumers what they need, you’re risking losing customers forever after they get frustrated and close your site.
3. Focusing on traffic instead of conversions
A common mistake among business owners who are new to online marketing is thinking that the goal is to get as much traffic to their websites as possible. After all, the goal of traditional advertising is to get as many eyes on your ads as possible, right? With this in mind, many business owners will do everything they can to bring visitors to their sites.
The most common way to do this is through SEO. Business owners optimize their website to improve their search ranking for a wide range of keywords. The problem comes in when you start trying to trick people into coming to your site by ranking for keywords that aren’t related to what you’re actually doing.
Years ago, there was a very misguided SEO practice called “keyword stuffing” in which sites would just write popular search terms over and over again on their websites, hoping that they would be able to trick someone into clicking on their site. Google and other search engines punish this practice now, so it has become much less common, but you will still see people trying to optimize their sites for deceptive keywords.
This has the potential to be disastrous for a small business. Google’s goal is to deliver relevant results to their users. When they deliver search results, they use a number of metrics to evaluate whether or not their users are finding the results useful. If someone clicks on the link to your site, then immediately clicks back to the search results to try something else, Google interprets it as a sign that your site doesn’t match what they searched for.
While it’s possible to temporarily boost traffic to your site in this way, in the long run it can have an extremely negative effect on your search ranking.
And this is all aside from the fact that your focus shouldn’t be on traffic – it should be on relevant traffic. In other words, your goal with SEO shouldn’t be to bring the largest number of people to your site – it should be to bring the people who are looking for what you’re trying to sell. Focus your SEO efforts on search terms someone would use if they were trying to find your product, and you’ll be much more successful.
A professionally designed website might be the answer
There isn’t a whole lot of room for error in the world of online marketing. A few slip ups, and your website can disappear from Google altogether, or worse, actively damage your reputation. If you’re not confident in your ability to manage the nuances of website design and online marketing, then it can definitely be worth the investment to work with professionals.
Have you made any of these mistakes with your website? Have you had any other bad results from marketing your business online? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on Twitter.