As a small business, your website is an essential component of your marketing strategy. Potential customers visit your website – with most looking to have their questions answered quickly.

A solid, well-planned website will provide helpful information to those visitors and eventually convert them into paying customers. Get your website wrong, and its value will be little more than a glorified business card.

Avoid stunting your bottom line by avoiding many of these common mistakes that we find occurring in many website design projects:

1. Not understanding your target market

It is critical to your website’s success that you fully understand your target market, before delving into the web design process. You need to know who you are trying to entice, and what information is most relevant to them.

Most business owners think they have this answer covered by stating that their ideal client is “a tech-savvy 30 to 40 year old male”. Unfortunately, that isn’t specific enough these days. You need to understand the mindset of that “30 to 40 year old male” when it comes to your products or services.

Demographics alone is not enough to truly understand your target audience.

Demographics alone is not enough to truly understand your target audience.

You really need to dig deeper and understand what their concerns are and the problems that they are looking to solve by utilizing your product or service. Are they likely to be well versed on your subject matter, and be at the final stages of the purchasing cycle? Or perhaps they are completely foreign to your product or service offerings and need an introductory overview so they can get their bearings?

For example, putting detailed product specifications on the website of a Heating & Cooling Contractor is irrelevant to anyone other than an HVAC contractor. They are certainly not your target market – they are your competitors. In this case, the potential customer is a homeowner who is likely without heat in the middle of winter and are generally looking for a trusted contractor toresolve their immediate needs. The fact that their new furnace is rated at 50,000 BTUs is inconsequential.

Failing to identify the specific needs of your target audience will result in many abandoning your website for another whose marketing approach is more inline with your clientele.

2. Not providing clear calls to action

Another common mistake that we see on a lot of small business websites is that there is a lot of information, but no “call to action”. The user is left to his own devices to figure out the next course of action or page to click on. If you’ve got a special promotion on for the current month, don’t just tell visitors about it – tell them how they can act on the offer and take advantage of it. While you can’t force a users action on your website, you can certainly influence and guide them through the next step in your conversion path.

Don't confuse visitors with too many choices. Make sure your calls to action are clear.

Don’t confuse visitors with too many choices. Make sure your calls to action are clear.

The use of colour, contrast, and typography can dramatically affect the course of action a user will take on your website. Using A/B testing (or split testing) is an effective way to determine if even subtle differences in a design can have a significant effect on conversion. In this example, you can see how adding two little words (“it’s free”) next to a website’s call to action button led to a 28% improvement in user sign-ups.

3. Ignoring the importance of your on-page content

This is by far the number one issue we see with websites. Everyone wants to put the time and effort into the design side of things – the part that looks pretty. But very few clients have that same enthusiasm for the text content on their website.

Stop recycling old content. Your new website deserves something fresh!

Stop recycling old content. Your new website deserves something fresh!

However, the content on your website is the most important part. Not only is it the main method of communicating your product’s information, but it also sets the tone for your whole businesses. Your content must be written in a web-friendly format by making use of clear headlines, sub-headlines, bullet points, and where appropriate, tables and charts. Readers on the web prefer to scan text to see if it is relevant to them and not necessarily read everything like they would a book or an essay.

We realize that not every business owner or marketing coordinator has the skills to write effective copy. Even if you do, you will often underestimate the amount of time involved. Just because you can write, does not mean you can write well. If that’s your case, then take advantage of a professional copywriter that can help craft compelling text that really resonates with your target audience. The Vancouver Club is a great example of beautiful content that really connects with the visitor by putting them in the first person, creating an emotional connection to the brand.

4. Building a blog

We often hear our small business clients express interest in adding a blog to their website. When asked why, the answers usually include at least one of the following:

  • Most company websites have one
  • My customers will benefit from what I have to say
  • It will help me with SEO (search engine optimization)

So why is building a blog a problem? Because most businesses don’t put any thought behind their blogging strategy. Having a blog on your website where the most recent article is 18 months old does more harm than good. These “digital cobwebs” suggest to potential customers that if you can’t follow thorough on something simple as blogging, then perhaps a similar attitude will exist with the services you offer.

If you include a blog on your website, you must have a plan in place to actively publish new content and engage with commenters. New content must be useful and be helpful to your target audience of potential customers. Simple 200 word postings are not going to win anyone over as they have little value to your readers.

5. Letting personal preferences get in the way of business decisions

As a business, the purpose of your website is most likely to convert visitors into paying customers (or donators/volunteers in the case of non-profit websites). Every decision about your website’s look and feel, should be driven by business objectives. Colour selection and photography should connect with your target audience and their preferences – not yours as the business owner.

Unfortunately, far too often, personal preferences of the business owner or marketing executive will influence the final result of the website’s design. Just as you may not like a blue font heading, someone else (an actual buyer of your service), may not like the colour green that you prefer.

Beware of providing feedback that is based on personal preferences.

Beware of providing feedback that is based on personal preferences.


In Conclusion

Your company’s website is often the first impression that visitors have of your organization. Having a well thought out design with clear marketing messages will help users find the information they are looking for – and ultimately become one of your customers.