There is absolutely nothing wrong with a small business wanting to create its website. In fact, we encourage start-up businesses to do it themselves so that their marketing budget can be used to quickly attract customers using other methods. Sometimes DIY is the right answer.
However, there are five common mistakes that most business owners make when they create their websites. It’s not your fault. You don’t build websites for a living. The good news is they are easy to fix and can help your website perform its job way better.
Mistake #1 – Not using customer-focused copy
Your copy should focus on your ideal client 100%. It’s easy to slip into talking about yourself. It’s your website and your business, why should it not be focused on you right? But you could not be farther from the truth here.
Websites are all about your customer. Speak their language when you write. Keep the information you give focused on them and not you. Address their problems.
You can quickly identify this mistake by counting the number of “We”, “I”, and “Our” that you use in your copy. Compare those to the number of “You” and “Your”. If the “We” outnumber the “Your”, the text is probably not focused on your visitors’ problems.
Another part of this mistake is jargon. It is easy to slip back into tech speak and confuse your customer or turn them off entirely. You know your product or service perfectly. But you can’t expect your customer to know what any industry terms are.
To fix this mistake, start with the counting test I described above. Think about the “We” statements and how you can turn those into something your customer cares about. You don’t have to replace them all but try to keep a lower number of “We” compared to “You”.
Read your entire site and replace the jargon you may have used with a term your ideal client knows. I am not saying you can’t use any. But they either need to know the definition, or your copy needs to explain it.
I also recommend talking to your ideal customer. Do some interviews and see what terms and words they use to describe their problem. Take notes and use these golden words in your copy.
Mistake #2 – Unclear call to action
Another mistake I see is not giving your visitors clear instructions or the opposite and overwhelming them with instructions. Your website needs a clear call to action (CTA). You want to have them do something.
It’s easy to forget that you want them to do something and assume they can read your mind. Or visitors will know where to go next. Some examples of a call to action are “Book a call”, “Learn more”, and “Donate”.
Ensure you place the call to action in the right spot and surround it with the proper context. For example, if you use “Learn More”, it needs to be connected to text that is explaining something. It should make your visitor curious enough to learn more. The same as “Read more” follows the intro of a blog article on many sites.
Also common is the over-use of calls on your site. If you throw out six different paths to go, and each seems just as likely as the last to have the information I am looking for, then they all fail. It’s too confusing for your visitors to guess which path you want them to take.
You can use more than one call or you can repeat that call on a page. But don’t hammer the call text repeatedly. Remember context. And change up the way you say it.
This is also important for accessibility. Someone with a screen reader does not want to hear ‘Learn more’ ten times down the page.
For example, on the home page of this site, at the very top right you have one call to action, “Get Started”.
This call clearly says, if you are ready, go here to get in touch to start the process of working with us.
On top of the header section of the home page is a different call. This one says, “View Plans”. It’s aimed at visitors who know they are after web design and are looking to get the prices. A little farther down, you get “Schedule a call” allowing them to move forward if they found the right information. There is also a “Learn more” to gather more information about the services described right above that button. The “Learn more” is also a secondary color, indicating the schedule button is more important.
It’s all about flow. Think about what you want your site visitors to do and place clear calls throughout your pages. Provide your visitors with a clear and not overwhelming path to follow so more of them will complete the action desired.
Mistake #3 – No contact information
It always amazes me how many businesses hide their contact information. Don’t you want your visitors to get in touch with you? It’s not a game of hide-and-seek. Your business contact information should be easy to find.
My favorite spot to place contact information is in the footer. You don’t have to put all of it. But give the basics so someone who needs to reach out can do so without wasting time.
This is especially important if you have a physical location people can visit. Your address should be prominent on the site so people can get to you. And that address should be mobile-friendly or clickable to bring up a map.
Think about all the ways your customers might want to contact you. Compare that with your preferred methods of contact. Then provide the relevant information to your site visitors. Make it clear how to get information through a contact button in the menus or by placing the information in the footer.
Even if there is information you don’t want to share, like your exact address, give a city and state to help visitors looking for someone local. Never underestimate what factors people may use when choosing a company and provide everything you can.
Mistake #4 – Poor About page
Believe it or not, your customers want to know more about you. But not for the reasons you are thinking.
What they want is to know you have the experience and ability to help them with their problems. They don’t care where you went to school unless that tells them about your skills in fixing their problem. They also don’t care that you have three cats or five dogs unless that information lets them know you can be a trusted veterinarian.
Everything on your site is customer focused. The about page is no different. It should present how you are the expert who can fix the problem or how you have created the best product to suit their needs.
The funny thing with the about page is most people think it’s not a sales page, but it truly is. You are not going into details about the product but the details of why you and your business are uniquely qualified to offer a solution. It should still have a call to action at the bottom directing them into the flow.
And if you think no one reads the about page, you could not be more wrong. When you remove all the home and service page hits, the about page is the next busiest page on most websites. Even more than the contact page most of the time.
You need to have a well-written about page that continues to nurture the visitor into how you and your offering will solve their problem.
Check out this article on how to write a great about page to see in more depth how to fix your about page.
Mistake #5 – Not staying on brand
A brand is super important to your business. What you portray on your website should match the feel of your store and your interactions with your customers.
I see this one time and again. Small businesses think they need to put on a face for their website. Act all professionally when their style is relaxed. Or they want to use crazy color choices on their website when their product and store scream cool pastels. Busy vs simple. It all matters.
There is no need to try to impress anyone. And if you think a photo of your entire team in suits will instill trust in your ideal client when you show up to meetings in jeans, you are very much mistaken.
Your brand should match the clients you want to work with. There is no reason to make your brand stuffy when you hate being that way. Nor should you make your website stuffy when your brand is not that way either.
Being on brand is all about not being fake. It is about being true to your business and who you are.
Choose photos for your website that match your brand. Use the same colors you do in your marketing as your store and products. Be consistent.
While I recommend a professional photo shoot, don’t go off-brand. I know of a business that went out and rented an expensive office, borrowed a mac when they hate macs, and rented a suit to get a photo shoot done.
And in the end, they ditched every photo because it did not fit them or their style. They dressed up because they thought it would build trust but it was all a lie. It attracted the wrong people, and they hated the business they started to create for themselves.
Be yourself. Let your weird shine. The right people for you will find you.
Bonus Mistake – Having a website just to have one
Don’t get me wrong here. I strongly believe that every business should have a website. But you must use it if you are going to have it.
Many businesses out there have not made changes to their website in years. The hours are all wrong, they no longer offer those services and so many other problems.
Your website should be putting your best foot forward to the world. If you are not interested in keeping it up to date or sharing it with the world, you are better off not having one at all.
I know this sounds counterproductive, but it’s true. If you don’t update your site, it will hurt your chances with future customers. When your hours are wrong, and they show up expecting you to be open, yet your business is not, you just lost that customer forever.
A website you don’t share is just an expense. Ditch it and move on. Your website should be a 24/7 salesman for your business. Use it and reap the benefits.
Keep it up to date, add fresh content and share it out. Put it on your business cards. Post your website on social media. Or bring it up in conversations.
Making mistakes is normal for everyone. And choosing to go the Do-It-Yourself route is always an option. But if you look over your website and find these mistakes, put a little work into correcting them so your site will perform better.
Your website should be an investment and not an expense. Many of these tips are something you can fix in an hour or two. So, take the time today to improve your site.