Written by Esther Willinger, President of Eden Advertising & Interactive Inc.
Without a doubt a web site is the online hub of any business today. Whether you have a bricks-and- mortar company, an online business or a combination of the two, most people will use the web to search, verify, learn more, understand and interact with you and your business. Without a web site you are practically non-existent to the virtual, yet very real online world.
Having your web presence in top notch condition should be of primary importance to anybody who cares about their business and how their web site can positively or negatively affect it. So how do you ensure that you are getting the most out of your website? First you must learn what not to do.
Here are the most common web site blunders that you should avoid to ensure that your web site is maximizing your online potential:
1. Domain names that don’t match your business name
Having a different URL than your actual business name or product is confusing and harder for people to remember. It can be challenging for people to find your site especially if the URL for your business name is taken by another company, thus sending your traffic elsewhere. The faster and simpler you can get people to your site, the better.
- Even if you get your URL to match your business name, buy variations that people may misspell or hyphenate to avoid competitors that may want to take advantage of your marketing efforts.
- Avoid using hyphens in your main web address as it’s hard for people to remember the hyphen, thus you’ll be sending people elsewhere or doing free marketing for somebody else’s web site.
2. Template sites that don’t reflect your company’s image
Template sites may be good for start-ups that have low marketing budgets and need to have some basic level of web representation. However web site templates, especially the free or cheap ones may be very limiting in design and overall interface capabilities, as well as limited functionality.
If your business has been around for years and you have any marketing budget at all, it would be wise to design a site that truly reflects your brand, company image and quality of products or services you provide.
First impression of a web site says a lot about a business in a visitor’s mind, so make sure that you don’t cheap-out on your web site design and image. Make sure it truly represents your business in every way.
3. Poorly written copy
Believe it or not, people really do read, so what your web site says and how it says it is actually very important.
- Avoid having your copy written by an internal staff member who is good at writing professional business letters or technical documents. A web site should be written in a way that speaks directly to your target audience. Therefore, whether you’re speaking to business executives, secretaries, seniors, moms, students, etc., make sure that copy is written in a way that is approachable and comfortable to your target yet still embraces your brand.
- Avoid saying “Welcome to…” on your home page. That is very 1990’s. We’re in the 21st century. Make sure your copy gets right to the point and is captivating from the very first headline and intro paragraph.
Catchy headlines with one or two paragraphs of content is enough on most pages. Only get into lengthier details on pages that you need to. Leave something to be desired so that people can contact you to do business, unless you want them to purchase immediately online.
- Avoid copy written by people who live outside of Canada, especially if English is not their first language. As Canadians, we spell certain words differently and we may use different terminology that is unfamiliar or unnatural for non-Canadians.
4. Black hat SEO tactics
Getting to the top of Google for key word phrases related to your business or products is crucial in generated targeted leads to your site. However, ensure that you are only using up-to-date Google best practices, aka “white hat” practices. If you get emails from companies overseas claiming they can get your site highly ranked on Google, you should immediately avoid these propositions. Firstly, you may notice that the emails themselves are poorly written. A big part of getting ranked highly on Google involves writing content that is search engine optimized. However, the content must still be written well in order to represent your business properly and get visitors to actually want to do business with you.
Also, many of these companies are known to use “black hat” SEO tactics, which Google can easily detect and ultimately penalize your site - resulting in getting “black listed” from Google entirely. Once this happens, it could take significant time and efforts to recover, and you can possibly lose your rankings indefinitely.
5. Outdated site
Customers and Clients need to know that they are dealing with a company that is current and continually progressing. If you have a news section or blog on your site, make sure you dedicate the time and resources to update it at least monthly, if not more often. If you don’t update your site, people will wonder if you’re still “with it.”
Also, a site that is regularly updated with fresh and current content has a better chance of getting ranked positively on Google if you’re also implementing proper key word strategies.
6. Broken web site or broken links are simply a big NO NO.
Make sure your web site and all its pages are always working. After any new uploads, changes or updates, have somebody go through the site and test your links. You don’t want to find out from a customer or supplier that something is not functioning. Remember your web site represents you in every way so if something is not functioning, it leads to “Is your business functioning?”
- If you redesign your site, make sure you do 301 redirects of old URL page names to new URLs so that you don’t lose Google rankings of old pages that no longer exist (and would appear to look like a broken link on Google).
7. No clear call-to-action.
Ask yourself what are the key things you want people to do once they’re on your site? Call, email, submit a form, fill-out a survey, sign up, visit your store, make online purchase?
Whatever actions you require - design your interface and write your copy to easily lead visitors to take those actions. Therefore if calling is important, place your phone number visibly on every page of your site. Make sure your contact page easy to find with all the necessary contact information including online map, address, phone numbers, and inquiry form.
If making a purchase online is important, make sure your shopping cart links are easy to find. More importantly make sure your shopping cart is very user-friendly and provides a seamless and positive online shopping experience.
Whatever desired action you require, build your whole site, from design, functionality, copy and strategy in a way that creates a positive online experience for your visitors, and make it simple to turn those visitors into your customers.
About Esther Willinger:
Esther Willinger is the President and Creative Director of Eden Advertising & Interactive Inc. Founded in 1998, Eden focuses on creating effective online and offline advertising solutions for clients across all chosen media. Esther is passionate about delivering customized marketing solutions for her clients that will ensure they meet their marketing and growth objectives.
For more tips on how to keep your web site current and effective, follow my blog: www.edenadvertising.com/blog