Small business websites: the six most common mistakes and how to fix them

1. Having no website (or having an old one)

Almost 90% of kiwis use the internet daily, and over half of us research new products online before buying (Consumer Barometer with Google, 2015). Yet, at Zeald, we know there are many businesses that don’t have a website.

Key to running a successful business is understanding your customer and what they want. A website is a great way to start doing this.

Once people are visiting your site, you can gather information about them. You can see where they come from, what they do, and begin to understand why they leave. This information is critical to not only evolve your site but your business as a whole.

Some organisations rely on word of mouth and/or print media to generate business. Others rely solely on a Facebook page or other social media. These approaches to marketing aren’t inherently wrong, but they could be more effective with a website as a central hub.

For example, social media can be great for generating new leads and interacting with people, but it is constantly changing. As a user you have little or no control over design and what information you can or can’t display. When using social media for your business, make sure to also direct people to your website, where you have the most control.

Potentially worse than having no website at all, however, is having an out-dated one.

Few things will turn people off a business faster than a website that looks like it was built in 1992 and hasn’t had an update since. You’re better off pulling that old site down until you get something up to date.

2. No responsive design

We no longer live in a world in which the desktop computer is the only portal to the internet.

According to Consumer Barometer with Google, more than 70% of kiwis now use a smartphone, and over half use their smartphone at least as often as their computer.

In the same study, Google found that, on average, each person uses three different devices to browse the internet; usually a computer, a smartphone and a tablet – each with its own screen size and resolution.

It’s important, then, that your website displays properly on each of these. That’s where responsive design comes in.

Responsive design is a way of coding a website so it automatically changes the way it is displayed depending on what device is accessing it. Historically, websites were designed for viewing on a desktop computer and therefore looked distorted on other devices. A few years ago, the way around this was to create an entirely separate website specifically for mobile users.

Now, through the use of complex code, a single website can adapt to any display. It’s a ‘one size fits all’ approach to website design, and is a necessity in this day and age. Google even ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in mobile search results.

If your business is still using a website designed solely for desktop computers, then that needs to change. Think about how you browse the internet. Are you going to try to navigate a website on your mobile device if it isn’t loading properly?

3. No responsive design

Many small businesses we work with think that once their new website goes live that’s it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To run a successful website, you need to be regularly monitoring the metrics, and making changes accordingly.

If you don’t have access to your website metrics, don’t know how to find them, or have just ignored them, then this needs to be addressed.

Metrics are crucial to improving the performance of your website, as they can pinpoint exactly what elements need attention. Below are the top five metrics you should be looking at:

Traffic sources

Knowing where your traffic comes from is a sure-fire way to focus your advertising efforts accurately. If 90% of your visitors come from Google searches, then you probably want to step up your AdWords game to make sure you’re reaching as many people as possible.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate, also known as abandonment rate, shows the number of visitors who leave (or ‘bounce’ away from) your website/webpage after only viewing one page. This is usually displayed in percentage form, as in, the percentage of visitors who ‘bounced’ off your website. The average bounce rate is about 41%-55% (statistic from Rocketfuel). There are exceptions, but generally speaking, anything less than that and you’re doing quite well. Anything higher and you may need to look at what could be improved.

Exit pages

Similar to bounce rate, exit pages will show you where exactly the customer journey ends for your visitors. While bounce rate will only measure abandonment of a single page, exit pages will show you where a potential customer left your website, after clicking through a few pages.

Page views

This is the number of pages that a visitor clicks on during their time on your website. You can also track how long, on average, a visitor spends on specific pages. With this information you can build a better idea of the customer journey through your website and find areas to improve.

Visits/Unique visitors

This is the statistic every new website admin wants to know. How many people are actually visiting my website? How many for the first time? Both statistics are readily available through analytics.

4. No call to action

A call to action (CTA) is a phrase that is intended to motivate the reader to take action. On a webpage, a call to action would be something like ‘sign up’, ‘buy now’ or ‘click here’. Without a clear, compelling CTA, visitors to your website may not know what they can do there nor what your business can do for them.

5. Trying too hard

Let’s start off by saying, if your site automatically plays music…STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Nobody wants random music starting in their browser, especially when it plays again from the beginning if they click on anything.

People generally start putting music on their website for one reason: they realised it was possible. The same thing happened when auto-playing video came around (please stop this too).

The lesson here is that you don’t have to add something to your website just because you can.

Adding all the latest features to your website just causes clutter and subsequently slows it down. This applies to images as well. The highest quality image isn’t always necessary and often contributes to excessive load times. A successful website will load quickly and give visitors what they need: a solution to their problem. Keep it simple.

6. Using social media unnecessarily

As mentioned above, social media is very useful for  connecting with your audience on a personal level. And just as it’s important to link to your website from these accounts, it’s also helpful to link to them from your website. Among other things, it extends the reach of your website.

But remember that you don’t have to cover all the platforms.

As with mistake #5, just because all these different social media platforms exist, doesn’t mean you need accounts on all of them. Different platforms work for different businesses. By all means try them out, but be sure to remove the account and any associated links if they don’t take off. Find out what works best for your business.

If you think that your website may be guilty of any of these digital deadly sins, but aren’t sure how to change your ways, the Google Certified experts at Zeald are always happy to sit down and talk it through.