The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #10 – No Traffic Strategy

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 10Oh yea… we made it! We’ve gotten through all 10 pitfalls and with plenty of time to spare… and here’s #10! 

This one doesn’t really have anything to do with your actual website at all… but it is just as important as all the others, because if you have no strategy to drive traffic to your website, there really is no point in having it!

This is one of those questions we ask our clients. “How will people be coming to your website?” This really should be determined before even building your website, as it can greatly affect how it should be laid out.

Many companies have great websites with fantastic visual and call to actions, but they are not seeing the results they expected? Why not? Because there is simply no traffic going to the website! A website can only convert traffic that it receives. So how are people finding your website?

Without some sort of marketing to drive people to your site, your website would be like a billboard put out in the middle of the Sahara desert, wouldn’t it? It would be completely worthless and it won’t be seen by anyone… except the random gerbil and gazelle (yes, I used gazelle as an example on purpose and yes, they live in the Sahara desert).

So make sure you come up with a strategy to drive traffic to your site. It can be any number of marketing techniques including internet marketing. You could try search engine optimization, pay per clicks, social media marketing, content marketing, blogging, postcard mailings, speaking engagements, networking, radio and any other number of methods.

Just make sure you don’t have any of the other major pitfalls on your site once you do drive traffic to it!

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #9 – Coding Errors

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 9We run across improperly coded sites every single day and having that developer in me, I want to fix ALL of them! Sadly, I can’t just hack in and fix all the errors I see, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with making sure our clients have error-free websites!

Websites with coding errors are like sick websites. Something just isn’t right and until it is righted, it’s just not going to work properly. Symptoms may include the obvious broken page elements and layout, slow load times, lack of search-ability, browser incompatibilities and more (if your computer starts literally sneezing… run, because it is definitely NOT supposed to do that).

Most of the time these errors can be identified by running the w3c validator on a site to see what errors it catches, though not all of these issues can be caught that way. I’ve run into nightmare sites with hundreds and hundreds of errors and that is typically when I advise a complete rebuild instead of trying to fix the errors.

Run the test on your site and make sure you clear all out the errors. Your site will run better and the major search engines will be able to read and index it better too. Some sites have so many errors, they aren’t searchable by search engines, while some are searchable, but only partially. If search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing cannot read your website, they cannot list your website or if they do, you will not rank high. Should you wish to be found in search engines, ensure your search-ability is top-notch or you may be wasting your SEO efforts or budget.

One of the most common problems websites run into is browser incompatibilities. HTML is a language and web browsers interpret that language. The trick is many of these browsers interpret various HTML/CSS elements differently than other browsers. Having a website work and display properly in all major browsers can be quite difficult and is one of the key elements of a professionally built website. These browser inconsistencies aren’t always the result of actual errors, but there are specific techniques that just do not always produce the same results in all browsers, so you’ll have to watch for that and make sure your site looks right in at least Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #8 – Not Mobile Friendly

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 8As smartphones and tablets become a major part of how visitors browse the web, it becomes increasingly important to ensure your website comes up properly on any device.

Ever tried to pull up a website on your phone, only to find it was pretty much impossible to navigate, buttons were too small to tap, phone numbers didn’t call when you tapped them, and you had to zoom out and in to see anything? Maybe you’ve seen whole sections missing where Flash elements failed to display on your iPhone or iPad?

It can be maddening, can’t it!? You are sitting there being all responsible… trying to drive, text, eat a taco, drink a Coke and browse the web and the darn thing is too small to see. What a safety hazard!

We build all of our sites to be mobile friendly now. It no longer makes sense to leave out that tremendous market share. Sites that are hard to use or slow on mobile devices will lose that traffic.

Here are three solutions to the mobile issue:

Your simplest option is to just make some minimal adjustments to make sure it is easy to use on a mobile device. This typically includes making sure the buttons and navigation items are big enough to tap, that the site doesn’t break or shift oddly on small screens, staying away from Flash and keeping lots of open clear space. This works in a pinch and every website should at least present itself somewhat friendly to mobile devices.

The next step up is to have a mobile website. This is a different version of the site that mobile users are redirected to. It has an interface designed just for mobile users, loads faster and shows just the content mobile users need. This is good, except it requires you to maintain two websites and has a different URL structure because it is two websites.

The most effective and modern technique is for the site to be completely responsive. We call this responsive design or responsive layout. What this means is that the site actually adapts to the screen size based on certain parameters. This allows the same website to adapt and look differently on varying width devices. It is a much more complex procedure than the other methods, but works great on any device and eliminates the need for multiple websites for different devices. Our website is an example of a responsive website.

We recently had a client whose site had to be fully custom and fully responsive. We had to make sure that all of our conversion and design work was preserved on any size device. On some pages, a form would even adapt into a button based on screen size because there simply wasn’t room for it on the smaller screen sizes.

Responsive design is really where websites are headed and I expect mobile sites to completely give way to this growing trend.

We have a blog post all about it… click here to learn more about Responsive Design.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #7 – Slow Load Times

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 7Phew… we are seven pitfalls in! Didn’t think I had the stamina to make it this far, did you? That’s right, I’m a blog writing machine!

Okay, so I’m not actually a blog writing machine… in fact, I’m not really a machine at all. I’m a human being with feelings and… oh, sorry, I got off topic. What was it I was saying, again? Oh yea! Pitfalls! Let’s chat about #7!

We can all relate to this one. Does the following scenario sound familiar?

“Aha, that looks cool, I think I’ll click on that….”

(five seconds later)

“I’ve been waiting YEARS for this site to load, I give up!”

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve hit the back button because a website or blog post or image or comment box took too long to load. We just don’t have the attention span or time to wait for things to load anymore and neither does your visitor, prospect or client!

When a page loads slowly it wreaks havoc with its productivity, traffic, conversions and stunts any kind of growth it has. No matter how awesome your website is, it will never reach its potential if it takes eons to load.

I still remember when we began production on Space Coast Daily, one of our particularly large projects, the client said “… and it has got to run like a gazelle!” I later Googled gazelles and sure enough, they are pretty darn fast (50-60mph!), so we went to work and made sure the thing was fast. To this day, years later, when we make updates to that site we remind each other of that statement. (which is totally a great time for some shameless self promotion… if you are looking for a gazelle-fast website in Melbourne FL, guess who does that!?)

So how do you avoid the long load time issue? Easy! Pay us millions of dollars to fix it! Okay, okay… I’m kidding. There are a bunch of things you can check on your own or have your developer check on. Here are a few to get you started.

Optimize your images! Check to see if there are any really big images that can be reduced in size or optimized. Sometimes I see websites that have a 200×100 image on the site that is actually a 5000×2500 image that is just being resized with HTML or CSS. You, know what I’m talking about… that image, that when you click on it, blows up so big that all you see is a big eyeball on your screen instead of the whole portrait!? So much load time can be saved by resizing the image in an image editor like Photoshop or GIMP.

Your images can be further optimized by making sure you use the right file type. Images with flat illustrations or artwork are best as PNG and images with lots of colors like photos are best as JPG.

Once you’ve resized it and done some optimizations, you can also run it through Yahoo’s to get it even smaller.

Look for JavaScript Errors or Unnecessary JavaScript. Sometimes a site has lots of JavaScript running to accomplish simple things that really don’t need it. Sometimes it’s still there from features or plugins that have been removed and is just eating up load time.

If it doesn’t help your website, kill it. Remove it. Delete it. Have no mercy! Send it back to the darkness from whence it came!!! (oops, sorry… I got a little excited)

Also, take a look and make sure there are no JS (that’s short for JavaScript) errors being thrown. That can slow you down too.

Remove slow queries. Queries are requests sent to the database for your website; that is, of course, if your website has a database and is powered by a content management system like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

Sometimes a page loads really slowly because the code is taking a long time to ping the database and get all the content for the page. This is a hard one to track down, but it can be the downfall of many a website, especially once it starts getting lots of traffic and can even lead to server crashes. Sometimes you just have that demon (it’s evil I tell you) query that is wreaking havoc on an otherwise great website.

Make sure your hosting is good. Sometimes sites are just slow because the hosting is terrible. If you think this might be the case, contact your host and tell them your website is running slow. Ask them why. It can’t hurt. Sometimes they find a problem on their end and your site is back to being greased lightning!

Unfortunately, though, there are times to switch hosting and find a good provider that has good servers, support and can handle the traffic your website has.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #6 – Poor Presentation

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 6It’s all in the presentation!

How I present something can completely change your perception of it. If I have a carpet cleaning business and I knock on your door to try and sell you on cleaning your carpets and I am covered in mud, wearing jeans filled with holes and smell of smoke and alcohol… then asked you “hey, I clean rugs… wanna hire me?”, do you think you will actually be hiring me to clean your home’s carpets? Absolutely not!

But what if I came to your door dressed neatly, well groomed with a very nicely designed brochure and business card and said “I’m with Awesome Carpet Cleaners, International; we clean carpets, like new! May I have a moment of your time to show you what we can do? I promise it will be awesome.”

What a difference!? The same service? Maybe. But the second try, I’ve got a better presentation, right? Plus, I had an awesome company name (come on, you know it was awesome).

Same thing with your website. You might have a great service or message, but if you do not present it right, you lose them! I see this every day… people with awesome products and services, but no presentation, or the wrong presentation altogether! They have such potential, but their marketing simply isn’t telling the story properly.

Your website’s presentation is how you present the brand, the imagery, the call to actions, the navigation, your products… everything. It has to be dressed neatly, well groomed with a nice design that is organized and put together. It has to instill confidence and it has be clear and concise.

Granted, this all begins with your branding and company image, so make sure you have a good solid company image before going too far with your website. A great logo is absolutely a must and good imagery can be all the difference. If you don’t have a solid brand yet, think about getting it worked on.

You have five seconds to impress your visitor. Will you?

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #5 – Confusing Navigation

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 5This one is really a simple fix in almost every situation. Ever been to a website and you really just weren’t sure where to find something? Maybe the menu was in a weird place or it had a thousand sub menus that made you feel like you were trapped in the labyrinth doomed to eternal wandering! Yea, we’ve all been there when it really just isn’t obvious how to get where you want to go and you feel lost.

I was taking a look at a website recently and simply could not find the menu. I finally had it pointed out to me. There was a little “button” that when you clicked on it, slid out across the screen and opened up into a menu. Please don’t do that. No, no… seriously, just don’t do it. Take it from your friendly local web design agency… it’s just a bad thing to do.

Keep it simple. Make sure the menu is in an obvious location in the header with clear concise titles and sub menus, keeping the sub menus to a minimum and being concise with those as well.

Be sure to provide alternate navigation methods at least in the footer, but also possibly in the sidebar or on certain pages in the form of call to actions.

If you have to sit down and show your prospect how to navigate your site, you are doing it wrong! It should be easy and fast to navigate your site. Don’t let a confusing navigation ruin an otherwise great website.

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #4 – No Conversion Methods

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 4Welcome back to another installment of website pitfalls from your favorite web design company in Melbourne, FL. We are your favorite, aren’t we? Well, if not… then you need to come by the office so I can bribe you with coffee and snacks. Then, surely, we will be your favorite! Anyways, enough nonsense… let’s get to the real meat and potatoes (oh man, now I’m hungry).

We talked about the need for directing traffic with call to actions, but now it’s time to convert them into a lead, sale, subscriber, etc. and do it with purpose!

This is one of my favorite points to illustrate during a speaking engagement. I’ll be presenting to a room full of business professionals and I’ll come to this point and I will tell them to imagine they all desperately want to buy a “widget”, an imaginary product and that I am a “widget” salesman. I tell them that after I finish my sales pitch, I want them to agree to buy my “widget”. Then I start… “Hi! Have you been looking for the perfect widget? One that works day and night and never breaks? The best of the best? Well, I just so happen to sell widgets. See, here is all kinds of information about widgets (I show them a blank sheet of paper). Aren’t our widgets amazing? You probably want to buy one or two or a thousand.” then I immediately turn tail and walk out of the room! I even shut the door if there is one. I know the point has hit them when I hear the roar of laughter.

It’s a fun way to drive home a point and to get a few good laughs. I came back in and ask what I did wrong. “You didn’t let us answer” or “You didn’t finish” is typically the response I get. What I didn’t do is I didn’t give them a chance to buy. I didn’t close… I didn’t go for the conversion. Sales 101… ask for the sale!

I see tons of great websites that forgot to ask for the sale, that forget to close the deal. They present great content, good navigation and call to actions to drive visitors to the right pages, but then make it so hard to buy, sign up, register or whatever it is that visitors leave without doing anything!

This is remedied quite easily; make sure you have a call to action that asks the user to take that final action you want them to take. Maybe it’s to fill out a form to request more information, maybe it’s for them to use an online scheduler to schedule a call or consultation, maybe it’s for them to click “buy now!” or to subscribe for something… maybe the whole goal is just to get a Facebook like. Whatever the goal, don’t forget to have an easy and obvious way for the visitor to become a conversion!

If your website is designed with the idea to sell or generate leads, but has no real method to do so… you cannot expect it to meet its goals! Many business owners build a website, put up their information and expect the leads to flow in.

Common methods to convert would be to have a contact form, perhaps an email newsletter signup, an eBook download (in exchange for email), a product shopping cart, a registration form or even a quote request form. There are many ways to convert a visitor; make sure you have several setup.

We’ve got another blog post that goes into real detail about lead capture methods (click here to check it out).

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #3 – Content That is Not About THEM

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 3This is one of the big ones that really kills websites. In fact, it kills entire marketing campaigns. When your marketing is all about you and doesn’t relate to your target market, you have a serious communication problem ahead of you and will very quickly find that you’ve been tuned out.

Anytime you are presenting a message to a prospect, you need to make sure you are speaking to them and their needs. They don’t care who you are or what you do until they understand that you can solve a problem they have or can make their life better in some way or another. “What’s in it for me” is what they want to know first, not who you are or what you do.

The beauty of it is that once you’ve proven that what you have is something they want, once you’ve identified a pain they have and a solution you have that solves that… they will seek out information about you.

Here’s a great example with a simple marketing piece we did recently to help let all the fine people of Melbourne know we are their web design company of choice. Our brochure is a simple, yet creative, square trifold piece. The interesting thing about it is that it does NOT do what most brochures do, which is to spend the majority of the time talking about our company. What I’ve learned is that no one really cares about me and my company until they realize we have something of value to offer them… then once they see a big enough benefit, they seek out the rest of the information.

The brochure copy (or content) is Them-Centric instead of Me-Centric.

Let’s define the differences real quick: Them-Centric copy focuses on keeping “them”, your target demographic, your prospective client or customer, as the center. When you put the client first, they take notice faster and you keep their attention longer. When you write Me-Centric copy, you and your business is the center, which doesn’t have as much attention-holding power.

Back to the brochure… we start the process of identifying with the prospect without selling them anything. We have our brand and logo on the cover with the simple slogan “You are awesome at what you do. Ready for a website just as awesome?” We have not said we build websites, but we have implied it… we’ve also implied they are awesome and people like being awesome. Come on, who doesn’t like being awesome… admit it, you like being awesome.

So now they flip it open and they see two things. On the left is a statement that starts getting them thinking about how a website can help them: “Imagine what would happen if your business had an awesome WordPress website that generated leads, created conversions and made people want to share it.” That page also contains two testimonials from some of our favorite clients. On the right, which is the inner flap, is a letter from me briefly talking about who we are.

Everyone that flips through our brochure, without exception, skips that inner flap and immediately opens the brochure all the way to reveal the last two pages which lead the reader down the path of wanting a website, without ever saying “hey we sell websites!” In fact, we don’t say that we build websites anywhere in the brochure except for briefly in the letter from me.

The center page says “Now imagine that website also impressed your visitors and incited them to take action with a crisp modern design.”

And the final page says “It would be huge for your business, wouldn’t it?” and provides our phone number and website nice and big. Samples of our work are also shown on this page.

The cool thing is this… once they read the rest of the inside, without fail, they always go back and read that flap with the letter from me about who we are! Once they realize we have something cool to offer, they instantly care who we are! It’s pretty cool to watch it happen consistently.

We do this on our website as well, in fact, we use the same copy along with some handy call to actions to drive visitors to the pages where we will convert them.

It’s the same with you and your company. Your job isn’t necessarily to communicate who you are as much as it is to communicate how you relate to your prospect, how you have a solution that meets their needs, their pains. Once you connect with them, they will look for more information about you.

Being Them-Centric on your home page is absolutely paramount because that’s when you need to prove the most that your website is worthy of their time.

“Marketing isn’t about you at all, it’s about your prospect” is something I’ve often said to my clients in consultation sessions. We have to stop treating our marketing as if it is being designed for us. Speak to your prospect.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #2 – No Directing of Traffic

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 2Ever enter a busy intersection where someone was directing traffic? Ever wonder what it would be like if the traffic cop decided to quit and walk away? No one would know where to go and it would be a disaster!

Ever looked for a store or office location and couldn’t find it because it wasn’t well marked? Maybe you couldn’t find the entrance… or, worse, the exit!?

Ever walked into an office and the lobby was empty with no one to tell you where to go? Then you have to decide if you should just sit down or go exploring!

This is what happens to many many websites. People arrive in the front lobby (the home page) and wander around a little. They aren’t sure where to go next and will really just tend to wander around until (you hope) they actually get to a place on the website where they find what they were looking for and turn into a sale or conversion… or, and the more likely event, they get lost, confused and frustrated and leave your website when that dream product they have been looking for all their lives (the one you sell) was actually just two clicks away!

How your visitor navigates your website should never be left to chance. Start by identifying the most important pages on your website and listing them in order.

Decide which ones will turn into leads, sales or conversions for you. Now it’s time to drive traffic to those pages!

When visitors come to your website, there should be several call to actions, an obvious communication to the visitor to take a certain action. A call to action (or CTA for short) is different depending on the application, but really is all about getting that user to take an action. For now, we are talking about directing traffic, later we will talk about CTA’s in regards to getting conversions, but first we much drive traffic to where we want them.

Once you know your most important pages, be sure your home page has 3-5 call to actions (most of the time these are buttons) to drive visitors into the most important pages of your site.

Never rely on your menu navigation for visitors to use to get to those pages… because it leaves too much to chance, especially if you have lots of pages.

Next, make sure that no page is a dead end. It either has a conversion method on it or has a call to action that takes the visitor to the next step in the process. Sometimes you need a few pages in between to get the visitor to where you want them, but remember that you only have their attention for so long.

When people land on your website, they need to know that you have what they are looking for… and they need to know, fast! If you don’t provide an easy and fast way to help them find what they are looking for, they will leave and you will lose the prospect.

There is coaching team that are colleagues and dear friends of mine and when they first came by to visit our web design office here in Melbourne, FL… and when they came upstairs, one of the first things they said was “Wow! You even have a call to action in your office!” referring to a banner at the entrance that says “come see us upstairs”, leaving no doubt where a visitor will find us.

Never leave your visitor with doubt regarding where to go next on your website.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #1 – No Goals, No Plan, No Purpose

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 1So, let’s address the biggest killer of websites and really part of the reason the other nine even happen…

No goals, no plan, no purpose, no reason for existing! It’s a recipe for a very depressed poor little website. Hey, websites have feelings too! Alright, maybe they don’t have feelings, but in all seriousness, websites fail the majority of the time for the same reason that over 80% of small businesses fail… no real solid plan based in reality.

If there are no goals set and no plan laid out for a website, it is very very difficult for it to produce results and ultimately, websites without goals and plans tend to just sit there and do absolutely nothing!

So make sure you SET GOALS for your website.

Even if you already have a website. SET GOALS and make a plan to start generating results from it. Otherwise, why have one? Just like every other aspect of your marketing, it should be growing your business. It should have a purpose.

Before we ever begin a project for a client, in fact in the initial sales consultation we are asking them… what is your goal with this website? What do you want to accomplish? Because we know that without a goal, the whole website project is just a shot in the dark with only a HOPE that we get it right.

It helps to take a step back and look at your business or organization. What are your goals there? What are your overall marketing goals? What kind of goals for your website would grow your business? Start there.

Many websites are built as purely informational sources, some are built to sell online, others are built to capture leads and still others are built to drive traffic and sell advertising. What is your website’s purpose?

Determine that and then set goals, a timeline and a strategy to achieve that goal and you will be on the right path to having an awesome website!

We’ve got another, more detailed, blog post that talks about your website goals, plans and messaging to turn your website into a vehicle for business growth. Click here to take a look.

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