Today I opened the Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) Monday Metro Business section and read an article titled “Website mistakes to avoid for small businesses”. It appears to have been picked up from an article in the Charlotte Observer.
Being in the digital marketing business I had to read it. Frankly I was disappointed – for two reasons. First, I was disappointed that the RTD didn’t reach out to a local company to write the article. There are so many great local companies in the Richmond, VA who are skilled at website development and small business marketing, and being published in a respectable media like RTD can really give a boost to a local firm. Had RTD contacted me to write an article like this, I would have dropped everything to seize the opportunity.
The second reason for my disappointment was the content of the article. It stopped way short of what businesses should think about relative to website development. The article went on to highlight three main areas that businesses should think about when developing a website to represent their company, as follows:
- Visual mistakes – make contact information obvious and easy to find, don't get too cluttered with your design, eliminate any dead links, and don't have logos that spin
- Content mistakes – avoid having too many words, don't have typos and grammar errors, attend to good SEO practices, keep your content and calendars fresh and up to date
- Big picture mistakes – your presentation should be consistent with your culture, make sure your site is mobile optimized, integrate social media, and don’t be stingy
I must admit the three aforementioned “mistakes” are valid and they are all critical. But, because websites should be developed for the purpose of enhancing awareness, generating leads, and making sales; the “mistakes” mentioned are far too basic. So, in my passion to make sure websites are developed effectively and to see businesses succeed, I am taking the “mistakes” mentioned in the RTD article to a whole new level.
Following are 5 more areas that a company should think about and invest in when developing a website:
- Do you know who your target customers are and what they think? Identify your target customers, what is important to them, what is not important to them, and what are the answers they are seeking when they come to a company like yours. Once you understand your target market and what they are seeking, make sure your website content answers those questions in a way appealing to your target market. There's lots of strategy involved in developing a good website, so don't scrimp on making sure it connects to your visitors.
- Are you blogging? Blogging is a form of social media and it is a great way to stand out from your competition. Make sure a blog is integrated into your website and post a blog at least once a week. Share your best stuff with your target market. Share things that are helpful to them. Do this and your website will remain fresh, become very attractive to the search engines, and will help connect you to your target customers.
- Is your navigation intuitive? Your navigation tabs and links should not have any mystery to them. Don't use your industry vernacular - use words that your customers would use. Don't be fancy or cool with your navigation because people won't know what the heck they are clicking on and they'll bounce off your website without navigating through it. Follow the rule - "don't make me think and don’t make me read”. Build your website from your customer's perspective, not yours. After all, you are not trying to connect with yourself - you are trying to connect to your future customers.
- Can your website visitors interact with you without picking up the phone. A study in the B2B sector recently found that 70% of a customer's buying decision is made before they even pick up the phone. Your customers can check you out without you even knowing - heck, we all do that. So, don't let all your website visitors get away without interacting with you through your website. Offer some valuable content that they can download in exchange for their contact info. Provide ability to chat online. Build in a way to get a quote from you, schedule an appointment or buy something through your website. Websites should generate leads and sales, so give your website visitors every opportunity possible to interact with you without having to call.
- Add Google Analytics to your website. It is very likely you won't hit it out of the park with the first version of your website - nobody does. That's where the data comes in. Keep track of your website visitor engagement rates so you know whether or not your website is achieving its objectives and working for you. Google Analytics is the "gold standard" of free website tracking software. It is easy to install.
Combine the advice from the RTD article with the four additional points and you will have a website that stands well ahead of most of your competition.