I know. It’s a relief just to have your website just done and up, right?
Maybe you’ve invested a lot of cash into its design. Or maybe you lovingly and painstakingly built it yourself, or with the help of a VA. Now it’s up, and it’s your baby, and like any parent with a new baby, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
It’s natural. Looking at our own things, whether it’s a website, a blog piece we’ve written, a brochure, our living rooms–it’s difficult to stand back and assess them objectively. We’re too attached.
But in being that attached, you miss opportunities for better website conversions–you know, translating site visits into paying customers. Your site might scare off a prospect before you even get to say hello. Or maybe it creates confusion and ambiguity, sending that person into the arms of a competitor.
Chin up, darling, there’s good news: I’ve got 5 common mistakes most new business owners make with their websites, and the fixes.
And when we’re done? I’ve got a special treat for readers of the Mogul Mom.
So let’s check out those mistakes, yes?
1. Non-essential website pages
Do you really need a home page and an about page? If your home page serves up only a paragraph of text, and doesn’t usefully guide people to critical parts of your site, you might consider housing your “about” text here, too, particularly if your site is small.
Here’s an example of a good home page, by Lea Woodward:
See how it uses chunks to help steer people toward her various offerings?
If you don’t have an equal level of offerings, and your home page text almost feels like a placeholder, consider either making it the about page and nixing a separate about page or making it the home of your blog, if you have one.
And while we’re at it, any pages you have ‘under construction’? Those are like your granny undies — hide them from public view. If you’re working on a wordpress site, as many small businesses do, you can easily do this by changing your page’s status from “published” to either “private” or “draft.” If it doesn’t offer anything useful for a visitor, take it down.
2. You’ve left your personality at home.
Your site’s copy is bland. It doesn’t reflect your beautiful nature, quirky humor, and warm way with people.
If you’re a coach, consultant or otherwise work in a profession where your personality is integral to your work, it’s vital your site’s copy reflects this.
Oh, and by the way: you need your picture on the site somewhere, too, so your visitors feel a warmer connection to you. The sidebar or about page are two good spots.
3. Your navigation. Where is it?
I come to your site, and I don’t know how to get around. Your navigation is either difficult to read because of its low contrast colors, or the titles don’t make sense, or you aren’t helping gently nudge me to the best spots on your site.
Clear navigation is critical. Don’t get fancy here. It needs to be heavily readable, in a large enough typeface, and use short, pithy words. Put it somewhere near the top of the page, too,
Here’s a good navigation structure for a small business website:
About (but see tip #1! 🙂 )
Blog (if you have one. Or you could call it Articles, too)
Services (you are selling something, right?)
Products (if you have products, too, use both)
All those are clear words. They’re patterns. They might seem boring to you, like the words everyone else uses, but everyone else using them is a good thing. The expectations of your visitor are that websites follow similar patterns. If you jolt a visitor too much out of her comfort zone, she may subconsciously correlate that confusion with your business. And as any marketing master will tell you, “a confused mind always says no.”
4. Sidebar madness
Maybe you read an article I wrote before on Mogul Mom, about sidebar and site clean up?
A cluttered sidebar is one of the single biggest website crimes I see. And what it leads to is overwhelm. People’s eyes don’t know where to go, so they shut down completely. Everything blurs into nothingness.
Make your sidebar’s components purposeful. Use it to help navigate your blog, if you have one, and use it to collect newsletter sign ups, briefly describe your site, and offer ways to contact you (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
I’ll go into this a bit more in tip 5, but be leery of social add ons that add weight and more clutter (for example, huge Facebook “like” panels with 20 faces). While social proof can help give you authority, too much of it detracts from your ability to convert customers. It distracts.
5. Beware the bells and whistles.
Have you seen those fancy bars at the bottom of some websites that encourage visitors to add the site on Facebook or other social places? No matter where you scroll, they stay still at the top or bottom strip of the site.
I’m sure I could find a few marketing folks who will argue with me all day that those bars, and their cousins, help boost social presence, but I’m drawing a line in the sand here to say that the more bells and whistles you put on your site, the more authority you lose.
It’s hard to take a website seriously with too many moving parts.
Think about how big brands approach their sites. These are, in general, trusted brands, and everything on the site is created to further enhance the brand.
So you don’t see things like “my latest music!” that plays Eminem’s latest rant, or the aforementioned bar, or weird and fancy links. They distract too much from the main message and goal of the site. I know, it’s tempting to think they might help engage a visitor more or that the bells and whistles make your site look more sophisticated. But really, they don’t.
And here’s the other thing about bells and whistles: they slow down your site’s loading time. The slower your load time, the more likely a visitor is to jump ship.
As a side tip: watch the number of plugins you add into your wordpress back end. These can often contribute to slower load times, too.
A super special free offer for mogul mom readers
Now that you know some of the top website mistakes, I want to give three mogul mom readers the chance to get a public site review from me.
Two weeks from now, I’ll follow through on this post with a series of reader site reviews. Each week, after March 20, I’ll review one site right here on The Mogul Mom.
We’ll look at both what’s working, and what could use improvement on your site, and I promise to be kind about it.
So how do you get to be one of the 3?
Leave a comment below, and tell us some of the biggest website mistake you see on other sites. We’ll choose 3 readers randomly from the comments, and feature one each week for 3 weeks. Your site will get exposure, and you’ll get specific tips and tweaks to make it even better.
So, what mistakes do you see on sites around the web? Share them in the comments for your chance to win a free public site review.