If your small business doesn’t have a website, you’re inevitably missing out on potential clients and potential cash.
Already got a site? Good. Now, let’s talk strategy. Because the quality of that site could also be impacting your bottom line.
“Anybody can buy a Web platform and build a down-and-dirty site,” says Buffy McCoy Kelly, partner and creative director of local ad agency Tattoo Projects, recently ranked one of the top small ad agencies in the country by Advertising Age magazine, with clients including Hoover, the Dale Earnhardt Foundation and UNC Charlotte. “But an (unpolished site) definitely colors the way you look to the world. It colors your value to the consumer. And it can definitely hurt you.”
ShopTalk spoke with McCoy Kelly and other local experts in marketing, advertising and Web design to compile a list of mistakes small business owners often unconsciously make when developing and maintaining their websites. Here are their tips, and a handy list of what not to do:
Never miss a local story.
•Burying contact information:
The whole point of the website is to be a point of entry for a customer. So don’t hide your phone number and email address at the bottom of one tab, says Randy Smith, founder of Charlotte-based Synchronicity Web Designs. And make that email address a hyperlink.
•Failing to embrace “white space”:
White space is the artsy term for the blank area on printed pages, posters and websites. And in a layout, it can be as effective as type, says Torrie Savage, founder and owner of#thesavageway
, a consulting firm that focuses on social media strategy, marketing and branding for small businesses.
“We’re overstimulated, as online users,” Savage says. And if there’s too much vying for a user’s attention on a site, they won’t know where to go for the answer they needed. So simplify the visuals and focus on one or two key images and short paragraphs.
It’s a good idea to log onto your website from a different computer every once in a while, and make sure that there aren’t any links that lead to sites that don’t exist anymore, says Dawn Newsome, founder of Moonlight Creative Group in Dilworth.
•Logos that spin or flash:
All experts agree: Lose it now.
•Too many words:
“People think that a webpage has to contain half of ‘War and Peace’ or something,” Smith ofSynchronicity
says. But “people scan websites; they don’t read them. They’re looking for the best content in about the first top-third of what they read.”
Savage of #thesavageway says that in the “About Us” section, you should be able to give a crystal-clear picture of your business in one short paragraph, about four sentences. It’s OK if you need more space to describe complex, industry-specific products or services, she says, but do it strategically in other areas of the site.
•Typos and grammatical errors:
This is an easy way to alienate an audience, Newsome says. Have knowledgeable eyes scan your site to check for these potentially costly mistakes. It’s a service worth paying for.
•Failing to focus on search engine optimization (SEO):
You could have a beautiful site, but without industry buzz words, you won’t land high on a Google search, McCoy Kelly says. She recommends small business owners make a list of the top 25 keywords or phrases that define their business and industry. Then build a plan for how to best use those keywords consistently.
“My biggest pet peeve would be businesses that put up a site and never change it, and it’s it just sitting there,” Newsome says. “If ... your website is stale, the big question is ‘Is the business still around?’ ” Newsome says one way to show fresh content is to maintain a company blog that’s connected to your website. Another idea: Connect a feed of your social media updates to your site.
Similarly, if you’re going to post a calendar, update it. If not, nix it.
•A site that doesn’t mirror your company culture:
The Synchronicity site has a staff page with black and white photos, including one of Brady, the resident yellow lab. Don’t be afraid to be a little creative if that’s the culture of your business, he said. But if you’re an attorney or run an accounting firm, projecting a playful vibe isn’t your best tactic, Smith says.
•Failing to mobile-optimize:
“A lot of small business owners are designing for a desktop, but most of the time we’re on a phone or tablet,” Savage says. If you’re not going to develop a mobile app, invest in a site that works the same on mobile devices. Users hate it when tabs disappear at the top, or when they’re forced to scroll left and right on their phone, Savage said.
•Failing to incorporate social media:
If you’re active on social media (and you should be), make sure your social media icons are visible and clickable. Savage calls it “full-circle marketing” – when people can find your website via social media and find your social media presence via your website.
Buying a domain often costs just $12 to $15, but developing a top-notch website can cost thousands of dollars. But consider web work the same as you consider advertising, experts say. it’s an advertisement of its own. And a well-built website can also be a money-maker.
Smith of Synchronicity Web Designs cites work he did for one of his local clients, H&S Roofing. The company, founded in 1939, is highly respected in the community for its quality of work. But the quality of the website?
“It looked like one of the first websites ever built,” he said. So he asked the company: How many people are filling out contact form on the site each day, each week and each month? “None, none, none,” they replied.
Smith and his employees rebuilt the website with retro-style fonts and a “paper-like” effect for the layout, to give customers the feeling of an “older, steady, been-here, great-foundation company,” Smith said. And with some SEO assistance, the company is now among the top results when you search “roofing companies Charlotte” on Google.
And that Web traffic is translating to sales. The company currently gets contact forms from potential clients three to four times a day, Smith said, not counting all the people who picked up the phone because of the website.
Now that is Web optimization.