Top Ten Website Mistakes for Small Businesses

What's wrong with your website?Most small businesses will benefit from a website – if it’s done right. Below are the top ten things to avoid when building your website.

1. Talking to Yourself

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a website and thought “huh?”. It’s clear that the website was designed and written with the business owner in mind, not the audience. While something may be interesting to you, the real question is “Is it interesting or useful to my audience?” If it isn’t, don’t include it!

2. Using Default or No Meta Data

Have you ever looked at the Google search engine results and been unable to figure out exactly what a listing is about? That’s because the meta data (e.g., page title, description) are either missing or garbage. It may seem like a little thing as you’re building your website, but without the right meta data, no one’s going to visit your site.

3. Posting a Company Brochure Online

Sure, it’s nice to know a bit about the company’s history and structure, etc., etc., etc. But where a website really differs from print media is in the ability to generate immediate action that could lead to new business. Don’t just make your website a dry, factual, and passive experience for visitors. Engage them, excite them, compel them to action – whether that’s emailing you, downloading more information, or forwarding your website to a business colleague. Leave the corporate brochure for your print campaigns and use the web for what it does best.

4. No Inbound Links

Hmmm, why do no other websites point to yours? Usually it’s the result of one of two things – (1) the website content is unappealing or (2) you’ve never asked for a link. Unique, interesting, relevant, frequently-updated content tends to attract links from other sites. Publicity and promoting your website content (especially if you have a good blog) also generate inbound links. Don’t rely on the search engines to bring in all of your website traffic – inbound links from related sites are a great source of qualified visitors.

5. Few Outbound Links

There seems to be a fear that if you link to other sites, visitors will leave your site forever. Visitors expect outbound links – they see it as a measure of your website’s usefulness and credibility. If there are no links, they wonder what you’re trying to hide. And the search engines drop you down the search results. Keep your outbound links relevant and reasonable and you’ll be rewarded for it.

6. No Keywords, or Same Keywords on Each Page

Many sites have no keywords at all, or use the same keywords on each page. While Google has confirmed that they don’t consider keyword tags when ranking sites, keywords do help you focus the content of your site and, more importantly, of each page. And Google does consider keywords used in the page content. You may know what keywords you want to be ranked for, but unless you use those keywords, how will the search engines know? Use unique keywords on individual pages and a combination of the most important keywords on your home page.

7. Using Duplicate Content

If it looks good once, why not use it over and over again? Because duplicate content is just that – duplicate, the same, boring – and totally discounted by the search engines. In a world where content is king, only unique content is going to move you up the search engine results.

8. Not Submitting to Local Search Directories

This is such a simple thing to do, yet so many people don’t do it. If you’re a small business with a local customer base, how can you go wrong with having your website and contact information included in the many FREE local search directories??

Note that submitting to local directories is different from submitting to search engines – I generally wouldn’t bother with search engine submission (and I certainly wouldn’t pay for it).

9. Not Using Tracking or Analytics Scripts

If you’re not tracking visitors to your site, how do you know what’s working, what’s not, and where visitors are going? How can you intelligently update your site to draw in more business? You don’t need fancy statistics, but you do need to know where people are coming from, the keywords they’re using, what pages they’re hitting, and how long they’re staying.

10. Technical Problems

Many small business websites are built from a free template and/or are created by “my brother’s son-in-law’s cousin’s kid.” While the initial cash outlay may be small, the longer-term impact on the bottom line is typically negative. So many of these sites don’t use standards compliant XHTML or CSS, aren’t accessible, have multiple ‘glitches’, are difficult to navigate, can’t be updated, look unprofessional, and the list goes on… Never underestimate the importance of technical knowledge and skills in creating a professional and fully-functional business website.

And now over to you - Which of these mistakes have you made or seen others making? What did you do to fix it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Ricardo Bueno on August 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    The biggest problem I see is that people treat design/layout/structure like an after-thought. Everything is put together hap-hazardly.

    Of course, that’s not always the case. But take my industry – Real Estate – for example, so many Agents don’t take their online presence seriously. They don’t take the time and money to actually invest in looking good. But only because they don’t think it’s that important. They treat it like “I’ll get to it when I can.” When really, you’re digital footprint is just as important as if you were operating out of a brick-and-mortar store. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s less important.

    So think about it… What kind of experience do you want to serve up to consumers? The Ritz Carlton experience? Or Motel 6? (Though, I’ve stayed at a Motel 6 or two, heh).

  2. Colene Chasser on September 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Keep working ,remarkable job!

  3. Essential Content Every Website Must Have on October 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    […] course, as you build your website, you’ll also want to avoid the most common website mistakes that small business owners […]

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