Let’s talk about your small business website for a minute.
(This post is for the side hustlers out there with websites, too.)
I started designing websites at the humble age of 12. I’m honestly not too proud of my first website designs, but I was twelve. I can now look back on two decades of work to share some insight. This is the beauty of a blog, right? Vicarious experience is free!
So what is holding your website back? Chances are it’s one or more of the below seven deadly small business website sins.
The 7 Deadly Small Business Website Sins Are:
- Not beginning with the end in mind. Although recent in origin, this seemingly profound proverb speaks much truth. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People ignited its own revolution in many areas. This little quote, originating in the book, distills a central truth of website design and development.I lost count of the websites that never developed a clear purpose. What is the purpose of your website? What is the plan? The answer needs to be more specific than “To make money!” or “Sell my product!” Is your website of the informational variety designed to encourage a retail space visit or a phone call? Or, do you want to deep dive into commerce and sell your product across the country, continent, or world?
You should develop a funnel to help your potential customer get to the next action that will satisfy them and make you money along the way. In other words, make a goal and set the website up in the best possible manner to achieve that goal.
Design your website around completing the following statement: I want customers who visit my website to ______________. The answer can be anything from making a phone call to sending an email to clicking on order. Having an answer is a must!
- Assuming my web design skills are good enough. Look, not everyone is a web designer. And that’s okay. There are a number of really great tools out there to help you design, but those tools will never supplant the knowledge and eye of a good web designer.I once walked three miles uphill both ways in the snow to design a website… Well not really, but once upon a time I used the Homestead site builder to build all of my websites. Personally, I thought the designs rocked. They didn’t. They stunk. I had no clue about things like typography, kerning, whitespace, and other stuff like colors that you can read for more than 3 seconds without getting a headache.
All of the commercials and ads for these products show amazing designs. Those designs are pretty amazing. Real designers also designed them. I had a friend of mine design a site which he proudly showed me.
I remember telling him that is was pretty good…if you’re three years old and this is your first website! No, I wasn’t really that mean, but I picked the worst items and helped him adjust. He was a hardcore do-it-yourselfer whose feelings I didn’t want to hurt.
It all goes back to core competencies. We can all perform basic book keeping for a time, but we’re not all gifted accountants. It’s like me trying to draw the Mona Lisa, but it turns out it’s an asymmetric stick figure. (I can’t draw.)
- Skipping SEO. Whenever you begin talking Search Engine Optimization (SEO), things can go south quite quickly for your small business website. SEO involves everything from the words on the virtual page, to alt tags for links and other details you’ve never heard about. And what you haven’t heard about can kill your rankings.Social media is a huge tool these days, but nothing beats FREE traffic.It’s a lot like that thing called passive income. You build it, and then it makes money without a one-to-one input of more time. In this case, you build the website or page and it lands in Google when someone searches for the thing you’re selling.
This is how SEO works. The proper combination of links, text, and other little details can mean the difference from your website coming up first or not even on the first 50 pages of a search. You are talking exponential differences in traffic, and traffic is what makes you money.
Back when I ran my large forum, I frequently adjusted and bounced around different rankings. Unfortunately my primary terms were relatively competitive since there were many active forums at that time. I competed with sites with tens and hundreds of thousands of users that pre-existed my forum for nearly a decade.
Yet many times I landed in the top 2-3 searches for some of the biggest terms. I’d have dozens of users signed up per day. Google would make an adjustment…or a competitors would…and suddenly I’m dropping to 7th or 8th in the results. My registration count would plummet to 1-2/day on a good day.
That’s almost one tenth of the signups, and this was for a free service where people didn’t have to pay money.That search engine traffic was essentially free traffic. My customer acquisition costs were simply limited to the amount of time I spent tweaking the site, but it could reverberate to hundreds and thousands of signups over days of positive results.
With SEO mind, a course like the ClickMinded SEO Training Course is invaluable! I took this course a few years back (it’s updated) from Tommy, who himself has a mile long list of credentials when it comes to working for huge websites! Even though I knew a ton about SEO, I learned even more!
- Getting greedy. I bet you knew an actual sin was coming. This one rides piggyback with #1. I’ve seen too many people try and do everything. When you lack focus and clarity on what the site’s purpose is, this one tends to come right behind it.What I mean by getting greedy is you try and land every customer you can by appealing to everything, even things you might not do well. And you end up appealing to precisely no one.
I realize this is a bit hazy, so let’s try and example.Let’s say you produce Acme Widgets for sale on your small business website. Acme Widgets are very useful, and they’re often used in conjunction with Acme Smidgens.
Smidgens are not something you really have a handle on, but you started stocking some rough ones just to help people assemble their Acme Gadgets.You know your competitors are better designers of Smidgens, but now half of your website is devoted to something you built a handful of times and not very well.
This is when you get greedy, and it drags you away from what you do well, likely impacting that core compentency.I’ve seen builders who aren’t certified or don’t really perform certain tasks list them on their website just to get interest. Don’t do this. You risk your reputation when you show up shaky and unprepared.
- Figuring out the worst possible domain name to use. This is one of my personal favorites. I’ve seen people come up with some pretty terrible domain names in my life. Domains are sort of like phone numbers. You don’t want your future customer directed to dial 37 extension digits to find your sales team.You don’t want them entering in www.mycompanynamefullywrittenoutinc.com either.Domains are competitive and often your chosen .com is already taken, particularly when you have a common name. This is somewhat less of a problem than it used to be given all of the new extensions, but the issue remains.At the end of the day, here in the US, .com is still king.
What do you do if .com is taken? Look for variations that will work. If your name is Smith Company and SmithCompany.com is taken, think about SmithCo.com, Smith.com, or GoSmithCompany.com as possible choices. Get creative.
Some companies make excellent use of “domain hacks” which are clever ways to make your domain stand out. See if there is a .th extension and register smi.th. This is called a domain hack, which just names a creative way of coming up with an unexpected domain by using the extension as part of the term.
See if your chosen industry has a domain extension. If your Smith Co. Hardware Store, check up on smith.hardware or smith.store. These can be just as valuable from an SEO perspective to ensure your domain has keywords. Aside from coming up with something memorable and short, keywords also matter and will help with your SEO.
So head on over to Namecheap and look up a great domain if you don’t already have one. I’ve used Namecheap for nearly a decade, and they have top notch support and some of the best prices around!
- Understanding a website is a force multiplier and will introduce a maintenance cycle. I might be preaching to the choir on this one, but if you are a small business who operates locally, your website multiplies your efforts.In other words, your small business website will multiply your service or product experience.This means that if you do things well, your website will go well. It also means if you have a poor delivery process or other issue, your website will magnify those hiccups.When you get a big shiny new machine that performs some miracle task, what does it normally require? Maintenance! Otherwise, it will break.
We maintain our cars, lawn equipment, and other big toys. We also need to maintain our websites. Content should be, at minimum, periodically refreshed with new copy (text) and images. Never neglect the chance to upsell to existing customers or highlight a new product.
You would probably be surprised at the clients who don’t understand that a website expands the scope of work. It’s not a tool to set-it-and-forget-it. Websites must be kept up-to-date and must fit in with an existing plan.
- Failing to use social media effectively. Last, but by no means least, social media is more than just the next buzzword or fad. Facebook reaches more users than any other website in the world. Places like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, tumblr, and others aren’t too far behind in the grand scheme.Study the advantages of social media and come up with 1-2 social media sites you want a presence on. (It’s fine to pick just one to start!)Treat those sites as official channels for your business or side hustle. Post on them regularly, interact with users, use them in your marketing plan, and make sure to contribute more than relentless advertisements for your product or service.
Share articles, links, and other helpful content that demonstrates your knowledge, problem solving ability, and other means. Provide avenues for them to purchase your product or service by driving them to your website.
Avoiding the Sins
Breaking the seven deadly sins of a small business website can sink an otherwise profitable proposition for your business or side hustle. These aren’t fixes for when you have the time someday. Their current presence requires a fix. Spend the necessary time ensuring the practicality of your website and you will reap the rewards!