13 Costly Website Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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Small bizIf your small business doesn’t have a website, you’re inevitably missing out on potential clients and potential cash.

Already got a site? Good. Now, let’s talk strategy. Because the quality of that site could also be impacting your bottom line.

“Anybody can buy a Web platform and build a
down-and-dirty site,” said Buffy McCoy Kelly, partner and creative
director of Charlotte, N.C., ad agency Tattoo Projects. The company was
recently ranked one of the top small ad agencies in the country by
Advertising Age magazine, with clients including Hoover, the Dale
Earnhardt Foundation and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
“But an (unpolished site) definitely colors the way you look to the
world. It colors your value to the consumer. And it can definitely hurt
you.”

The Charlotte Observer spoke with McCoy Kelly and
other local experts in marketing, advertising and Web design to compile a
list of mistakes small business owners often unconsciously make when
developing and maintaining their websites. Here are their tips, and a
handy list of what not to do:

Visual mistakes:

—Burying contact information: The whole point of the
website is to be a point of entry for a customer. So don’t hide your
phone number and email address at the bottom of one tab, said Randy
Smith, founder of Charlotte-based Synchronicity Web Designs. And make
that email address a hyperlink.

—Failing to embrace “white space”: White space is the
artsy term for the blank area on printed pages, posters and websites.
And in a layout, it can be as effective as type, said Torrie Savage,
founder and owner of (hashtag)TheSavageWay, a consulting firm that
focuses on social media strategy, marketing and branding for small
businesses.

“We’re overstimulated, as online users,” Savage said.
And if there’s too much vying for a user’s attention on a site, they
won’t know where to go for the answer they needed. So simplify the
visuals and focus on one or two key images and short paragraphs.

—Dead links: It’s a good idea to log onto your
website from a different computer every once in a while, and make sure
that there aren’t any links that lead to sites that don’t exist anymore,
said Dawn Newsome, founder of Moonlight Creative Group in Charlotte.

—Logos that spin or flash: All experts agree: Lose it now.

Content mistakes:

—Too many words: “People think that a Web page has to
contain half of ‘War and Peace’ or something,” Smith of Synchronicity
said. But “people scan websites; they don’t read them. They’re looking
for the best content in about the first top-third of what they read.”

Savage said that in the “About Us” section, you
should be able to give a crystal-clear picture of your business in one
short paragraph, about four sentences. It’s OK if you need more space to
describe complex, industry-specific products or services, she said, but
do it strategically in other areas of the site.

—Typos and grammatical errors: This is an easy way to
alienate an audience, Newsome said. Have knowledgeable eyes scan your
site to check for these potentially costly mistakes. It’s a service
worth paying for.

—Failing to focus on search engine optimization
(SEO): You could have a beautiful site, but without industry buzz words,
you won’t land high on a Google search, McCoy Kelly said. She
recommends small business owners make a list of the top 25 keywords or
phrases that define their business and industry. Then build a plan for
how to best use those keywords consistently.

—Stale content: “My biggest pet peeve would be
businesses that put up a site and never change it, and it’s it just
sitting there,” Newsome said. “If … your website is stale, the big
question is ‘Is the business still around?’ ” Newsome said one way to
show fresh content is to maintain a company blog that’s connected to
your website. Another idea: Connect a feed of your social media updates
to your site.

—Outdated calendars: Similarly, if you’re going to post a calendar, update it. If not, nix it.

Big-picture mistakes:

—A site that doesn’t mirror your company culture: The
Synchronicity site has a staff page with black and white photos,
including one of Brady, the resident yellow lab. Don’t be afraid to be a
little creative if that’s the culture of your business, Smith said. But
if you’re an attorney or run an accounting firm, projecting a playful
vibe isn’t your best tactic, he said.

—Failing to mobile-optimize: “A lot of small business
owners are designing for a desktop, but most of the time we’re on a
phone or tablet,” Savage said. If you’re not going to develop a mobile
app, invest in a site that works the same on mobile devices. Users hate
it when tabs disappear at the top, or when they’re forced to scroll left
and right on their phone, Savage said.

—Failing to incorporate social media: If you’re
active on social media (and you should be), make sure your social media
icons are visible and clickable. Savage calls it “full-circle marketing”
— when people can find your website via social media and find your
social media presence via your website.

—Being stingy: Buying a domain often costs just $12
to $15, but developing a top-notch website can cost thousands of
dollars. But consider Web work the same as you consider advertising,
experts say. It’s an advertisement of its own. And a well-built website
can also be a money-maker.

Source: MCT Information Services