Launching a website brings out the crazy in all of us.
We stay up late hacking away at it. We agonize over every pixel. We have typo-related meltdowns.
But the glorious day comes when it’s done and launched.
Yet nothing different happens. Sales and inquiries are still slow. The bounce rate is still high. You’ve just spent a lot of money and lost a lot of sleep, all to no avail.
That’s because there are a handful of common mistakes that most entrepreneurs and small business never realize they’re making on their websites. Frankly, we focus on the wrong elements, and we miss the important stuff. I’ll walk you through the seven most common website mistakes and what to do instead.
Website Mistake #1: You Don’t Clearly State What You Do.
It’s a website, right? Of course you’re going to tell people what you do.
But most of us are simply too close to what we offer, and it makes us blind to the disconnects, over-explanations, and unclear language.
Get radically simple and clear in the way you describe your business. Cut out detail. Then cut out some more. It should hurt.
It may take you a while to find the words that capture it clearly and simply. But when you do, your website should pass this test:
Find a casual acquaintance who doesn’t know your business. Let them look around your home page for 5-10 seconds. Then, shut the laptop and see if your friend can tell you exactly what you do and how you help them.
Website Mistake #2: You Haven’t Connected With Your Customers’ Problems
Why do customers end up choosing you instead of a competitor? We like to tell ourselves it’s because our product or service is simply the best out there and everyone can see what a special little snowflake it is.
But that’s not how it works.
It’s because your customer had a problem, and they believed your product or service would solve it.
Unfortunately, a lot of websites never speak to their customers’ problems.
If you’re a dog trainer, you’ve got to talk about the pain of having a disobedient dog. The chewed-up shoes, the soiled carpet, the embarrassment at the dog park.
If you’re a landscape designer, you’ve got to explore the pain of having the worst-looking yard on the street. Raised eyebrows from neighbors, endless weed-pulling, not enjoying your time outside.
Get specific about your customers’ issues right there on your website. They’ll pay attention and stay on your site when they see that you understand exactly what they’re struggling with.
Website Mistake #3: You’re Talking About Your Company’s History, Story, or Awards
You know who’s happy that your company-sponsored softball team, the Fightin’ Taters, won the league this year?
The Fightin’ Taters are.
But your prospective customers really don’t care. They’re busy restaurant owners trying to find a potato supplier.
They also don’t need to know about how your grandfather spent his last dollar to buy a potato field and became Idaho’s Most Trusted Provider of Yukon Golds.
Don’t put this stuff on your home page. It’s just clutter.
When people are reading your softball news, they’re NOT getting the message that your potatoes are going to skyrocket their restaurant’s sales of fries. It’s distracting them from what you really want them to do — which is to call Salty Bob in the front office and place a huge potato order.
Website Mistake #4: You Haven’t Proven that Your Solution Works
Even if you’ve got your messaging perfectly dialed in, customers won’t always take your word for it.
That’s why you’ve got to provide what’s called “social proof” — evidence from outside your business that what you’re doing works.
Ask your existing customers for short, specific testimonials that showcase how they’ve won big because of your product or service.
Highlight the recognizable brands that have chosen you. Call out statistics that prove your success (but do it sparingly, because not everybody loves statistics).
Just make sure you’re pointing to people outside your business who can vouch for you. It’s a key part of building trust, which keeps people on your site longer.
— Chris Laping (@CIOChris) August 10, 2016
Website Mistake #5: You’re Using the Wrong Images
Your amazing brain can process an image about 60,000 times faster than it can decode text.
That means that the images you use on your website will be the first elements your customers understand — not the words you write.
Choose images that show what you do — and even better, that show the transformation you provide.
Let’s go back to our dog trainer example. A lot of trainers would be tempted to put their own picture front and center.
But a better choice would be a photograph of a woman smiling, walking her dog down a peaceful street. Bam, this is what happens when you buy.
Website Mistake #6: You’ve Got Massive Blocks of Text
People don’t really read word-for-word online.
As an author, this slays me. But it’s true.
Instead, they scan. You’re probably scanning this article right now, which is why I wrote it with headlines, pull-quotes, and short paragraphs to help you out.
In fact, I saw a super-depressing Nielsen study that showed your visitors only read 20 to 28 percent of the words on your site. Yikes.
That means you have got to scrap the long blocks of text. They’re scary, and people will skip them because it’s too much work.
They’re not being lazy. They’re just busy, and reading on a screen takes more brainpower than reading in print.
Break up your massive text blocks into shorter paragraphs. Hire someone particularly ruthless to edit them down. If you go past three or four lines of copy, make sure you’ve got a very good strategy for it.
Website Mistake #7: You’re Not Asking People to Take Action
The most common reason websites falter and fail?
They don’t boldly call people to act.
I talked about this very thing with Brian Clark on this week’s Building a Story Brand podcast.
I half-joked that I could go to a business and say, “I want you to sign a contract that you’ll give me 10% ownership of your business if I can double your business within 12 months.”
They’d sign the contract and I’d say, “Put a ‘BUY NOW’ button on your website and write me a check.”
Or maybe it’s Donate Now or Inquire Now, but you get the idea.
You’ve got to make it the most obvious thing on the site. Put it in the right-hand corner. Make it a color that pops. Keep it on every page. It will do wonders for your website’s effectiveness.
Carve out 30 minutes at a coffee shop this week to give your website a review. Go point by point and see if you’re making any of these mistakes. Yes, they’re common, but the good news is that most of them are easy to fix without redesigning your site.
Make these tweaks this week and you’ll see a substantial lift in your website’s results.
Podcast produced by: Tim Schurrer
Additional editing by: Nick Jaworski