Are you satisfied with the amount of traffic you’re getting to your website? What about the number of sales or leads? If your website is not helping you bring in business on a regular basis, you could be making one or more of these seven surprisingly common website mistakes.
How effective is your website? Is it attracting lots of targeted visitors? Is your site bringing in new business and new contacts daily? Are customers, purchasing agents, business partners and new vendors finding you on the web? Or have you spent thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on a website that seems to collect little more than electronic tumbleweeds and cyberdust?
Millions of web searches are conducted each day by consumers, business buyers, government buyers and purchasing agents. These searchers are looking to buy everything from software to hoof trimmers for goats. Chances are there are people searching the web right now for the products or services you sell. If your site doesn’t capture their attention and order, your competitor will.
Typically, these prospects use their smartphone or a computer and go to Google, Bing, or Yahoo. There, they type in a keyword or key phrase describing the product or service they seek. The words might be a brand name and model or part number, a service they need along with their geographic location (ie, junk removal, Smithtown, NY), or something more generic such as “how to get rid of spiders.” The listings they see on the first one or two search engine result pages (nicknamed SERPs by Internet marketing professionals), are usually the sites they visit to gather information and make their purchase. If your site doesn’t show up on that first page or two of results, or if your site does show up but is difficult to use, customers that could be yours will drift into some other company’s sales funnel.
Once they’ve found one or more potential sources for what they want to buy, many buyers go to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest to see if the company has a social media presence and if anyone is talking about the product or the vendor in social media.
But if your site isn’t showing up at all to your customers, or if your site has been up for several months and it isn’t bringing you leads, contacts or sales, then the problem may be that your site is guilty of one or more website marketing mistakes. Here are the most common – and the easiest to correct.
1.Thinking that a website is useless
Surprisingly there are still small businesses who think this way! I was at a dinner one evening with a small business owner who was complaining how difficult it is to get new customers and how much trouble he is having getting some of his old customers to pay their bills. I asked the owner if he had a website and was using it to attract customers. “We have a web page up, but we don’t do anything with it,” he said. “Our customers don’t look for our services on the web.” I looked at his website the next day. It was just a single page with little other than the company logo, phone number, and a photo of their facility. Next, I searched for a couple of key phrases that described what the business sold. Not surprisingly, my dinner buddy’s site didn’t show up in the organic (unpaid) search results. But a lot of his competitors did. In addition, a number of his competitors were advertising in Google and Bing pay-per-click ads. They apparently had discovered what my friend was missing: customers on the web.
2. Hiding your site from search engines
No one wants to hide their key pages from search engines. But that’s exactly what a lot of sites do because the people who build them either don’t understand how search engines work or are more concerned with visual effects than getting found on the web.
Search engines are hungry for text. The text on pages tells search engines what a site is about, so the search engine knows when to display it in response to search queries. If the search engine can’t find much text on your key pages and doesn’t find important keywords in alt tags and descriptions for your images, your site isn’t going to get found by people looking for what you sell. That was one of the problems with my dinner buddy’s page. It didn’t contain any of the key phrases that describe what the business sold. Not surprisingly, the site didn’t show up in the organic (unpaid) search results.
Here are just a few examples of text-poor, small business sites I’ve seen very recently:
- A home page that includes the name of the business, a huge magazine-quality photo showing an example of their work, and very little else.
- A home page that includes a video, a link to sign up for a newsletter and nothing else except the business name and slogan, which aren’t representative of the service being sold.
- Pictures and sliding images that don’t explain what you do. Artistic images and videos may look nice, but if they don’t immediately relate to what the visitor wanted to know when they reached your website, they are useless. A visitor who has to scroll around a page or click multiple links to find out what you do, or if your product does what they need, is likely to click away in frustration. Furthermore, those kinds of pages won’t help search engines know when to make your page show up in search results.
- Pictures of text instead of text. Yes, your brochure looks lovely, but a scanned copy of your slogan or selling points isn’t going to feed the search spiders any information about who should visit your site. If you had someone else create your website for you and don’t know whether or not they used text or an image of text in your brochure, try to select a portion of the text on the web page the way you’d select a portion of text in a Word document. If you can’t select the words, the text isn’t really text. It’s a graphic.
If your home page and site consist of mostly graphic images, change it. Intersperse text with the graphics. Make sure the image sizes are compressed enough so they don’t make the page load slowly. If you are displaying some kind of infographic or other very large image, use a thumbnail (ie, small) version of the image, and instruct visitors to click the graphic to see the full-sized version.
3. Not using the right keywords, key phrases, and synonyms in the pages on your site.
Keywords and key phrases are the words people type into the search engine when they are looking for a product or service. To get found in search engines, your website needs to contain text that includes the query terms your customers are most likely to use looking for what you sell.
For instance, if your company, Johnson Technologies, sell voice recognition software called VoiceConverterNow and you target the healthcare industry, your prospects may be searching Google, Bing, and Yahoo for terms like “medical voice recognition software” or “voice recognition software for hospitals.” They might also be searching for a term like “voice-to-text” instead of voice recognition. Unless you’re a very well-known leader in your industry, they probably won’t be searching for the name of your company or for the specific name of the product. Neither will they be searching for terms such as “leading provider of voice-to-data conversion systems in the medical community,” or other puffery you might be tempted to put in brochures or VC presentations.
Similarly, if you are an individual who provides copy-editing services to self-publishers, your site isn’t likely to get found if it talks about your expertise as a remote assistant who tunes clients’ work so their words are music to their readers’ ears. (But you might get some people visiting the site who were looking for piano tuners.)
To maximize your chances of getting found in search engines, be sure your web pages include common keywords and phrases associated with the product or concept being described on the page. Appropriate keywords should appear in the page title, meta tags, headlines, and body of your text.
4. Using social media pages as a substitute for your own website
Social media is a critical component of business marketing. Just about every marketing person you speak with will tell you that you must have a social media presence, and you should. But you shouldn’t be using social media as a substitute for your own website. The reasons are many, but the primary one is that you don’t own the social media and you don’t own your social media contacts. While you should be interacting with and engaging with prospects and clients on social media, your focus should be on driving them to your own website and presenting them with some type of offer that will encourage them to give you contact information so you can reach out to them when you want.
5. Making it difficult to understand what your business sells and what features the product or service offers.
Web searchers are impatient. They expect to be able to tell what you sell and where to click for details the moment they land on your website. They want that information in plain English with lots of short paragraphs and bulleted lists. And they want facts and product features, not vague lists of the benefits of buying from your business. You probably won’t get a lot of inquiries for your environmental testing laboratory if your homepage states your philosophy of doing business and your services page makes claims for the reliability of your results – but never talks about the type of testing services you offer.
6. Making it difficult to place an order or check out from a web store.
You’d think that online merchants would make shopping as easy as possible. Unfortunately, many don’t. “Buy Now” and “Checkout” buttons are often difficult to find. Customers are often asked to register and divulge personal information before they can place a single item in their shopping cart. And the order and confirmation process is sometimes long and confusing. Topping off all those problems, some merchants don’t provide phone numbers customers can use if they prefer to call in an order instead of placing it online.
As a result, shopping cart abandonment rates are high and conversion rates are low. According to figures published by, the shopping cart abandon rate varied by industry from 69% to 81% in the first quarter of 2018.
To identify and fix problems in your shopping cart, try this exercise: if you accept incoming phone orders, take them yourself for a few hours. Type all called-in orders into your online shopping cart. Make a note of everything in the ordering and checkout process that annoys you or slows you down. When you’re done, send your list of annoyances to your programmer and have her fix the problems and bottlenecks.
7. Not getting permission to contact web visitors again.
Conversion rates vary by website and product, but on the average, under 4 percent of visitors to a website make a purchase. In other words, roughly 96% of the visitors to your site don’t buy during their first visit. A handful may bookmark your site so they can find it again in the future, but most of the people who leave will simply forget about your site.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do about that sad statistic: Give the visitor a reason to give you their email address and other contact information before they leave your website.
What kind of reason? There are many. Among them: offer a free newsletter; ask customers to sign up to be notified about special offers; offer a free, downloadable whitepaper about a subject related to your prospect’s needs; or even offer a free mini-course. When you deliver the newsletter or other material you offered, you get additional opportunities to market products to interested prospects – prospects who otherwise may never have returned to your site.