In an age where commerce is increasingly conducted online, few business owners dispute the importance of building a website. That said, a substantial number of organizations project an air of unprofessionalism by failing to refine their digital presence.
In particular, small business owners are particularly susceptible to several pitfalls because they lack the time or talent to avoid them.
While larger companies have bigger budgets to build a compelling online presence, their smaller counterparts can still take steps to address some serious, unforced errors. Taking the time to tackle these issues one by one can pay dividends and will give your organization an edge over ones that fail to do the same.
As a content writer, here are the six most common problems that I encounter when looking to revamp content for small and medium sized businesses.
1: Taking Too Long to Load
According to Google, 53% of mobile browsers will abandon a website if doesn’t load within three seconds. In their report, “The Need for Mobile Speed,” researchers analyzed more than 10,000 mobile Web domains and discovered that mobile sites loading within 5 seconds earn up to twice as much mobile ad revenue.
When compared to sites that take 19 seconds to load, faster sites also enjoyed 25% higher ad viewability, 70% longer average sessions, and 35% lower bounce rates.
These findings from 2016 largely align with my experiences as a member of a younger generation accustomed to instant results. Given that speed has become a given, slow sites unfairly or not appear antiquated and shoddily constructed.
To avoid these perceptions, consider improving your hosting plan and employing a minimalistic design. Strongly think about using a dedicated hosting over shared hosting, as the latter becomes increasingly untenable as a site grows in size and popularity.
A minimalistic design is also easier on the eyes and doesn’t overwhelm people, who are only so willing and able to process so much information at any given time. Use images and videos selectively and optimize them for viewing on the Internet. Tools like Photoshop, Gimp, and ImageOptim can compress and crop pictures to cut down on file size.
By comparison, walls of text won’t slow your site down as much, but less is still more. Depending upon your business, it may be better to consolidate detailed information into documents that can be downloaded from your site. Downloads are also easily tracked, so an added bonus of this arrangement is gaining insight into prospects most interested in your products and services.
2. Not Optimized for Mobile Viewing
The ubiquity of the smartphone has unsurprisingly led to a seismic shift in Internet usage habits. In 2018, a slim majority (52.2%) of all web traffic was generated by mobile phones, up from 50.3% the previous year.
While this figure has dipped slightly in 2019, it’s unwise to design a site that loads poorly on phones. Most prospects will not take the time to view your website from a desktop computer; they will simply seek a competitor who’s already taken the necessary steps to win their business while on the go.
Google has an aptly named tool available here to assess the degree to which a website is mobile friendly. The feedback provided in the output pinpoint the precise issues that cause pages to load poorly.
Commonly, websites appear awkward on mobile devices because they were designed before the ascendance of mobile browsing. If problems are too numerous with a current site build, consider starting from scratch and using user-friendly DIY solutions like WordPress or Squarespace. Templates and plugins with both providers are generally mobile friendly and developers abound with expertise with both should you wish to outsource this work.
Efforts to make sites snappier and more responsive generally make them better suited for mobile viewing – be sure to consult with a web designer and SEO experts for the best results.
3. No Call to Action
Some sites successfully take care of the technical details like speed and mobile-browsing, only to stumble on the basics of communication. Perhaps the most common error is neglecting to add a clear call to action.
Websites should strive to serve as more than digital landing pages – capitalize on the attention of a customer or prospect by inching them closer to a sale. If you don’t sell products online, clearly and prominently post contact information and compelling reasons to engage with your business.
Taking my own site as an example, I provide a succinct description of the primary service on the homepage along with a prominent “Hire Me” button that links to a contact form.
For e-commerce sites, consider generating a sense of urgency by borrowing tactics that have always had historical success like sales and limited time offers. A clear navigation system and search bar are indispensable, as are relevant images and product metadata.
Indicating a limited number of items in stock has personally gotten me to pull the proverbial trigger on purchases several times and leverages our psychology. People hate missing out on things and can better justify a purchasing decision in the present if they believe that option won’t be around in the future.
Also consider incorporating product suggestions on product pages to pick up ancillary sales. Simple as the idea is, many simpler storefronts fail to emulate this strategy – one among many that helped propel companies like Amazon to the forefront of e-commerce. The easiest customer to sell, as experienced salespeople will tell you, is the one you already have.
Finally, if you have customer e-mail addresses, a reminder regarding an abandoned cart cannot hurt your cause. At worst, it goes ignored. At best, it closes another sale and bumps your conversion rate up, which then improves your return on investment.
4. Riddled with Errors
Good looks never go out of style. Think of grammatical errors like acne – very avoidable aesthetic issues that can mar an otherwise beautiful appearance. With enough pimples, you can sadly turn off a lot of people who would otherwise be interested. Take it from a guy who experienced adolescence.
If time is limited or writing is simply not your strong suit, there’s little shame in seeking the services of a talented writer and editor. These professionals, beyond helping your business realize its potential, are often familiar with best practices by competitors and can provide valuable, industry-specific insight.
While the cost of collaborating with a freelance writer may seem expensive, it pales in comparison to the cost of losing sales from those unimpressed with your website. As shallow as it seems to judge a page based on simple errors, it’s important to remember that a website is all some people have to form an opinion about you.
With so many options and so little time, the importance of a strong first impression has never been greater. Stakes today are certainly higher than in the past, but the potential to grow a business by marketing online is equally promising.
For a few laughs, take a look at some particularly awful typos compiled here in a blog post on HubSpot. Then, sincerely reflect on how embarrassing mistakes like these are for a brand – and think about what it’s like to be immortalized for not being able to spell.
Don’t be sloppy online!
5. Broken Links and Dated Content
To continue the appearance analogy, think of dated content like wearing clothes from forty years ago to a party where everyone else is with the times. While you’ll certainly distinguish yourself from your peers, your newfound notoriety will likely be negative. Similarly, new beats old on the world wide web.
Indeed, search engines like Google rank results higher when site content is consistently refreshed. Although this preference seems like a hassle or unfair, it’s logical. As a search provider, Google succeeds when it supplies searchers with content most relevant to their queries. Considering how often the world changes, relevance often means “what information is most recent.”
One way small businesses can leverage this trend is by curating a blog or distributing newsletters on a monthly or quarterly basis. Giving customers information they never thought they actually needed is terrific way to differentiate your business from the competition. Customers reward sincere effort and strong service with their continued patronage.
As a site grows and evolves, it’s also important – perhaps essential – to ensure that the links still lead to the correct content.
Broken links are like doors that open into a brick wall; it’s a disappointing and sometimes frustrating experience for visitors to websites. Some will tolerate an error or two, but many will get discouraged and give up entirely on your site if they can’t find what they seek quickly.
If linking to external content, be sure to check if that information is still available on the linked website. Remove the connections if the material isn’t available anymore; you’ll save visitors to your site time and gain their appreciation.
Note that broken links should always be avoided internally, too. When updating your site, test and ensure that connections between pages behave as normally. Since your domain is perceived to be entirely under your control, web surfers will blame you if issues arise.
Finally, if you include a year in the footer of your website, make sure it’s the current year.
The key to succeeding online is seeing your website as an asset rather than a liability. Solid sites are hallmarks are modern, professional organizations – you’ll struggle to find one today that’s an exception to this rule. Part of their success stems from taking the time and effort into building a digital presence that complements their physical business.
Of course, the process of designing and implementing a website can seem overwhelming. But every climb to the summit of a mountain starts with a single step. And for a journey of this nature, it’s a trek that can be done with the support of professionals and colleagues.
Consider enlisting friends and family with skills in these areas or recruiting freelancers to fill gaps. Independent web developers, graphic designers, and writers very often welcome more work and can provide quality results at reasonable price points. By delegating work to appropriate provider, you can devote your attention to other urgent matters that need solving.
As a professional business writer, I love working with small and mid-size companies with their communications. To learn more about my areas of expertise, click here. To reach out and collaborate, click here!