In the rush to secure their slice of internet real estate, many business owners are overlooking the basics and missing out on the full benefit of what a website can do for them. Here are the five biggest mistakes we observe for NZ website owners, and what you can do to make sure you avoid them.
First of all, it has to be said that it’s commendable a business takes the time to recognise the power and potential of the internet and gets a website at all.
Back in 2014, a survey showed that over half of SMEs didn’t have a website at all and most cited lack of time as the reason why. Interestingly, it wasn’t cost, which is somewhat surprising considering so many website providers will sting you for thousands to get even a basic website. The other thing that makes this interesting is that most business owners (particularly sole traders) don’t value their time, pouring an excessive amount of time into their work but never accounting for it. Which leads me to believe that the real reason a lot of business owners shy away from getting a website is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of being ripped off, fear of looking stupid as they step out into this intimidating world of online commerce.
True, things can go wrong but with the right advice, a trusted provider and some persistence they can all be put right. I would proffer that the bigger fear should be not being online at all. Businesses without a website will struggle against competitors who have wisely invested in the world wide web, patiently building up their online presence over the years.
So, to help you put your best foot forward, pay heed to these five big mistakes new websites owners often make.
1 – Lack of commitment to their website
Anyone who has created a new blog with gusto, and then six months later revisits that blog only to see digital tumbleweed, can identify with this. Sure, having a website seems like a no-brainer these days but after the initial flurry of enthusiasm it just all seems too much like hard work. With no one pushing you to fully integrate your new website into your everyday business it ends up being relegated to a lonely corner; neglected, underworked and overpaid. If your website was an employee, it would be the talented one with oodles of potential that gets sick of being ignored and leaves for an employer that appreciates their skills.
The solution: Be prepared for (and accept) the level of commitment required to get the best from your website. A website shouldn’t just be an add-on, it needs to be a whole new way to approach how you do business. It needs to be a major part of how you reach new customers with advertising, promotions and lead capture. It needs to be something you are prepared to dedicate at least 10 minutes every day to review and think about changes you could make to keep the website as an integral part of your whole business. This commitment needs to be ongoing, we’re talking years not just weeks – hence the need for commitment.
2 – Bad advice
The internet is a two-edged sword. Full of information that can be helpful but at the same time not all that information is good, in fact sometimes it can be downright dangerous. Advice relating to online marketing has been around since the dawn of the internet and topics such as SEO have been done to death. Purveyors of website products and marketing services are every where and the variation in prices and what is “recommended” can start to make your head spin, particularly if it feels like most of it is in a foreign language.
Unfortunately, in this state of information overload and veritable head spinning, a business owner can end up making poor decisions, going with their gut, falling for a telemarketer or choosing an overpriced local business. They may even go with a DIY option, believing it to be cheaper (like Wix or Squarespace) and sign up for something that is not only more expensive than the website packages we offer, but are then stuck with a contract that lasts for years and a half-finished website when they find it’s not as easy as they were led to believe.
Solution: Before you commit to anything make sure you first understand what you need. Ask around, and ask several different website providers, to make sure you’re getting your facts straight. Keep a record of the information you collect and don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. Do all this before you commit to anything. Be very wary of anyone cold calling you – if in doubt just hang up. Websites are a growth industry and unfortunately that does attract a lot of cowboys and fly-by-nighters – don’t get fooled, it’s your money and you should be comfortable with the website provider you end up choosing. We’ve been in business since 2008 and have built hundreds of websites – we’re committed to giving our clients the best possible service at the lowest cost.
3 – Not writing effective website copy
Website copy (the text on the page) is your opportunity to communicate directly with an audience of prospective customers (prospects). Now it’s not fair to expect every business owner to be a natural born writer, to understand the nuances of writing for the web and expertly communicate the wonders of their business with powerful sales persuasion. But there are some basic guidelines that can be followed to make sure the text on your website is at least presentable and effective.
Common mistakes with website text include not proofing for even basic spelling and grammatical errors, not staying on topic, not having a clear call to action (CTA, a specific action you want the reader to take) and probably the main one – writing too much! Website visitors generally have a short attention span so keeping text concise, brief and to the point is critical.
Solution: When putting together the text for your website, stick to the facts, bullet point the key things you want readers to know about your business. Think about the feelings you want your text to convey (do you want to come across humourous, professional, empathetic or concerned? Check out this helpful guide for having a clear voice and tone guide). Split up topics on to separate pages (better for SEO) and be clear about the action you want visitors to take, such as contacting you, buying something, or downloading a brochure.
4 – No marketing plan or branding
If there’s one thing that a lot of business owners misunderstand, it’s marketing. Often lumped in with advertising, it’s seen as an optional extra, an unnecessary expense, even an indulgent waste of money, the domain of wasteful multinational corporations.
But marketing is not all champagne and private jets – at its most basic level it’s about creating (and maintaining) the face of your business. What do you want people to think of when they think of your business? It’s been said that the two key elements of making a sale are trust and desire. It’s the reason consumers buy from the big brands in droves, when a smaller, lesser-known brand may have a cheaper, better product but they haven’t gained the trust of the masses. Marketing, of which branding is a key part, is instrumental in building up both trust and desire.
Without branding, a business becomes a faceless identity, with nothing to distinguish it from the competition and no leverage to build that all-important trust factor. Without branding, your website can also end up without clear direction or design – lack of primary colours, fonts or a logo.
Solution: If you’re serious about developing your business, invest in branding. Get a logo, think about your business’s “window dressing” and how you want to be perceived in the marketplace. Most importantly, be consistent. Develop your marketing and brand plan, and stick to it across everything – advertising, signage and, of course, your website.
5 – Not promoting their website
Probably one of the biggest (wrongful) assumptions that new website owners make is that their website will get discovered simply by being live on the internet. So they push it live and then wonder why they’re not getting any visitors. It’s like getting a flash new sign made for your business then keeping it in the garage, and blaming the sign for not doing its job.
Solution: It’s important to understand that it takes time and effort to build up your website’s discoverability in Google. Our websites all have basic SEO-friendliness, we make them easy for Google to discover and index (with a sitemap included). There are a lot of things website owners can do to spread the word about their new website, the key is to be proactive, and be persistent. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get the overnight results you might be hoping for, it takes time and hard work to win in Google’s search rankings – but it can be done!
If you need a new website, or just some helpful advice (questions are free!) then get in touch, we’d be happy to help – and to make sure you don’t fall victim to any of these common mistakes.