Why most websites don’t work – a simple way to evaluate your websites effectiveness

I wrote this article back in 2004. I was going through my archives and found that the points I made 6 years ago still plague many websites today. For anyone who missed the article when it was first published, here it is again:

Why most websites don’t work…

The Internet is a huge opportunity for small and medium sized businesses for many reasons.

1. The Internet does not recognize size. If you are a small 2 person accounting firm, the Internet won’t know that, you can compete online with the larger firms and have a better chance of winning the business online.

2. The Internet is flexible. You do not have to pay big bucks each time you want to add a new service offering to your website. You can update information, add promotions, and add full color pictures (ink isn’t extra online) and images for no additional charge.

3. The Internet can extend your geographic reach. If you have a product that is not limited to the immediate Bellingham area, the Internet can help you sell in all other markets.

4. The Internet is cost effective. Having a professional website with necessary functionality does not cost tens of thousands of dollars anymore. In most cases you can see an immediate return on investment by adding information your sales people can refer potential clients to, having an time-saving informative FAQ section to free up your customer service reps, with appointment setting functionality, e-commerce and more.

This opportunity often goes untouched by business owners, even if they have a website. Too often businesses will put up a website with the following problems:

1. The website has no clear objective: when putting up a website you need to question everything. What would a website achieve for my company? Who is my company targeting and why would they visit our site? How will a website impact offline business? Start with a solid marketing objective and strategy.

2. The website is technology focused: Website development is often delegated to IT people. This does not ensure a superior web presence for your company. Your site will likely lose its marketing focus and may not be using technology that is user friendly. Develop a culture of designing customer focused online solutions.

3. The website is poorly written: Online, the written word builds relationships. Writing for the web is different, “corporate” or formal writing can come across stuffy or pompous on the web. Be flexible, but don’t be unprofessional. Always check and re-check your spelling and grammar. Bells and whistles may grab a customer’s attention, but words make the sale.

4. The website has a poor design: The design of a website can make or break a website. CyberAtlas reports that “65% of Internet users surveyed won’t patronize a poorly designed site – even that of a favorite brand.” Take a look at your website, is it easy to navigate (rule of thumb to use here is that no matter where a person is on your site, they can always make it back to the homepage within 2 clicks), are the colors appropriate, does it load quickly?

5. The website has no clear call for action: Do your visitors know what to do on your website? Have you given them a good reason to do it?

6. The website is invisible: 85% of Internet users start their search online with a search engine. If your website is not listed under the appropriate keywords for your industry your website is essentially invisible on the web. Having no traffic on your website is a huge missed opportunity.

7. The website doesn’t work: Choose your hosting environment carefully and test everything. Get other people to check it. Ask your hosting company for site logs to find pages that have errors, and check all of your links and forms regularly. Your reputation is at stake, demonstrate attention to detail.

8. The website has poor maintenance: Does your website say “Last updated September 2001?” Is it filled with under construction and coming soon pages? Your website should reflect your changing business. Update it often.

Having an Online presence is a necessity for any business that wants to be a major player in their industry. There are many ways to market your business online. Through Search Engine Optimization, email newsletters, high-touch relationship marketing and Search Engine Marketing you can make your website an investment that pays you dividends.

Use the 8 common problems above and evaluate your website. If you were a customer of your business, how would you answer the questions? If you are happy with your answers, congratulations, you are maximizing your investment on the web. If not, it might be time to revisit your website to make sure it is working for you and not against you.

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