Do you enjoy reading mission statements?
How about “welcome to our website” headlines? Photos of jigsaw puzzles and handshakes?
That’s weird, because according to the vast majority of small business websites out there, this stuff is the friggin cat’s pajamas. Why would anybody publish pages this way, if nobody likes it?
Because they failed, that’s why. And if you don’t want to fail too, here are ten things you probably shouldn’t do on your website.
1. Flash-driven design
Oooh – it moves!
I would have liked to think a few years ago that I wouldn’t be including this as the first item in such a list, but I guess some things improve a little slower than we’d like.
Let’s get this straight: Flash-driven design kills your search engine visibility. That means Google won’t love you. Google won’t even see you. Not even if you do your hair just right and wear your skinny jeans.
Not convinced? Jakob Nielsen, maybe the foremost usability expert in the world, says Flash is 99% bad. Think you’re home building website is in that good 1%? Lovely thought, but no. Not only are you shitting on Google’s head, but also the heads of your users. And that’s foul.
2. The Flash intro movie
This is the retarded cousin of the full-Flash website.
“Hey, what if we had our logo come in from somewhere off in the distance, really slowly…and then, once it’s fully visible, we’ll have the words, ‘integrity’, ‘innovation’ and ‘experience’ fly across…then we’ll-” STOP IT!
How long do you think you’ve got to grab you user’s attention? Hint: it isn’t 2 minutes. More like 10 seconds.
Most people won’t wait for your intro movie to play. They’ll either skip it or leave. So do your users, and yourself, a favor and ditch the idea.
3. “Welcome to our website”
This is another thing that should have gone the way of the pog but still seems to be clinging like crap on a yak.
People don’t like to read much online. They just don’t. So most of your copy? They’re going to scan it (if you’re lucky).
Why do you want to squander an already-tiny attention span on a headline with a central goal of reminding people where they are. You’re begging for a “no shit” response.
Unless your design is completely ass-backwards, people should have some idea of where they are just from glancing at the top of the site – where your logo and, ideally, a tagline or short description of your business should be.
“We operate a fleet of vehicles…”
“Our team of experts is trained in…”
“We are certified to work on…”
Listen: nobody cares.
Your users are interested in the answer to one core question: what’s in it for me?
If your content doesn’t answer this question in short fashion, you fail. End of story.
5. Saying too little
OK, so we know people don’t particular enjoy reading website content.
But the idea isn’t to shut up entirely and communicate with hieroglyphics or vague statements like, “we create business solutions.”
Get direct about what you do, especially the value you provide, and tell the story of how you help your customers.
This isn’t a resume cover letter where you need to herald your achievements and qualities (nobody reads those either). This is your one chance to get through to a human being on the other end who may need, or want, what you can provide. Speak to them openly about what you’re offering, and give them the information they need (like social proof) to make their decision.
Give them a clear call to action, and then shut up.
6. Content that ignores search traffic
No, SEO is not the goal of content – but it’s a nice by-product if you do things right.
If you don’t do any keyword research before you start creating your content, you’re ignoring an opportunity to tap into the language your market uses to describe their problems (and the solutions they have in mind).
The language you use to describe what you do doesn’t matter when it comes to marketing. You’ve got to use the language your customers use.
When you do this right, the content on your pages matches the keywords your customers use to search. Then you’ve got a fighting chance to show up in the search results in front of people who need your stuff.
7. Overly-technical content
Similar to above, when you’re engrossed in technical work every day your language can start sounding like Klingon to the rest of us.
When you talk about your business the way your industry trade journals do, watch for the blank stare.
“We’re experienced in flux capacitor repair and carry top-of-the-line moisture evaporators…”
Does it really matter to you what’s technically involved in what your plumber does to make the poop go away like it’s supposed to?
You may love the technical side of your work, but if your language goes over your users’ heads you’ll lose them. They already will read only 20% of the copy on your page – do you want that 20% to be words they don’t understand?
8. No clear call to action
Once you’ve answered the question, “what’s in it for me” (see #4 above), your work moves to answering another question: “what do I do now?”
Nothing loses a user faster than the lack of a clear call to action.
And including your address and phone number somewhere in your footer does not qualify.
Big, beautiful and shiny buttons work best. The point is to make it obvious.
It isn’t that your users can’t figure it out by looking around. They’re smart people. The problem is, every one of us is a lazy bastard when it comes to web browsing. Make us work or think, and we get spiteful and leave. We could figure it out, but we won’t.
9. Zero inbound links or promotion
OK this one strikes a particular chord in me.
I help small businesses get more targeted web traffic (primarily through search engines). And many of the people who come to me have no idea that getting traffic can often be more work than building the website.
There is no such thing as a good “location” online. There’s no foot traffic. Nobody is going to happen upon your website – they have to be pointed to it.
If you take no steps to promote your website, and attract no links to it from other websites, you’ll flounder around in a tepid pool of nobody-loves-us.
Part of marketing online involves actually spreading the word (I know, novel concept). Having a nice looking website is a fine start, but if you want anybody to see the thing need a strategy for building links and attention.
10. Hiding your people
Who works for you?
Do they matter?
If you don’t think so, you’re probably a shitty boss. Hit yourself.
If they matter, why don’t you give them faces on your website?
One of the few advantages of being a small business is the close-knit, quirky personality that lends personality to your marketing (if you let it).
People want to hire other people they like. So let your people shine.
What kind of sad mistakes do you see small businesses making on their websites? Share in the comments.