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There are a lot of misconceptions about websites within the small business community. Here are four mistakes we see business owners making every day:
Misconception #1: Your website is an online brochure
Sure, when the web was first emerging, a website was the equivalent of a brochure online. News flash – we’re no longer in the 1990’s. Turn that Pearl Jam song down, put that flannel shirt back in your drawer and update your website! Treating your website as if it were a virtual tri-fold is a huge mistake. So many print brochures are created with great effort and toil only to sit on the shelf. Don’t let your website sit on the shelf collecting dust.
One of the biggest advantages of the web is that it allows for two-way communication and it can be constantly changed and updated at a very low-cost (unlike a printed brochure). Update your site; promote it; use it to start conversations amongst your prospective customers. Your goal with your website should be to create a community – a community of people interested in and looking for your products and services.
Misconception #2: You can only have one website
I don’t know who started this idea that you can only have one website, but they should be found, gagged and locked up. Because so few small businesses invest in accurate analytics and tracking, few realize that they have many different audiences coming to visit their website. Instead of trying to make your website all things to all people, why not create niche websites that speak directly to a particular audience? Suppose you own Joe’s Print Shop. Do you think that people visiting your website directly (those that already know you enough to be able to type your website address – by memory – into their web browser) should be greeted with the same virtual sales rep as someone searching Google for “printing companies in mytown, USA”? Of course not! Someone that knows you can be treated much differently than someone interested in your product or service, but that has never heard of you prior to visiting your website.
If you want to be found by people in the research phase of a buying decision, you have to create massive amounts of helpful content. On the other hand, massive amounts of helpful content can be distracting to someone who wants to buy now. You can blame having one website on time or budgets, but if you find a business that is employing the multi-website strategy and ask them if it’s worth it, I think nearly all will tell you that it’s working so well that they’ll never go back to the single-site mentality.
Misconception #3: Focusing on the design instead of the content
Unless you are selling web design services, you should pay little attention to the design of your website. There are hundreds of “themes” of websites and any one of those can serve as a perfect template for your business. Ad agencies and creative firms would have you believe that a fancy website design is the difference between your $1MM widget store and McDonald’s. Don’t believe them. The differences extend well beyond your website design and your marketing budget (sorry)!
Pick a “standard” design that works for your business and then focus on what’s really important to your success – content. Generally speaking, when it comes to marketing performance, a 100 page website will outperform a 10 page website and a 1,000 page website will easily trump both. Don’t believe me? Set up a test of your own. Install accurate tracking on two websites. Start with 10 pages on each site. On one website, focus your time/money on a fancy design – but keep the site at 10 pages. Use a “basic design” on the other site and instead spend your time/money creating page after page of relevant content 500 words per page x 100 pages. Then review your analytics and tell me which site gets more traffic, generates more leads, revenue, profit, etc. I already know what the answer will be.
On the web, relevant content is king.
Misconception #4: I know what’s happening on my website – I ask my customers
How many visitors do you get to your website each day? Is it their first time to your website or have they been there before? Where do your visitors come from? What keywords do they use to find you? Which pages of your website do they find confusing? Do you really know the answers to any of these questions? You should.
You’ve heard it once and you’ll hear it again – “you can’t effectively manage what you don’t accurately measure.” If you don’t know exactly how much traffic you receive today, where your visitors come from or your website’s true conversion rate, you are losing business – no question. What do we mean by true conversion rate? Of XXX visitors to your website, exactly how many contact you – either via online form or via phone. Outside of direct visits and visits from branded search terms, where do most of your contacts come from?
You can’t set S.M.A.R.T. goals if you don’t know exactly where you stand today, but recognize the value of tracking isn’t in the data or the pretty graphs and spreadsheets – it’s in the action you take as a result of seeing it. If you need help determining what the best metrics are or how to derive action from them, that’s easy to fix. There are many companies that can cost-effectively provide this information for you – Blue Corona is one of them!
What are your website goals for 2010? If you don’t have them defined, I’ve just given you the perfect small business New Year’s Resolution!
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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