The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Using Brochure Design
Way too many SMBs treat their websites like they’re just online versions of their print brochures. Don’t let your business site fall in this category! Web is not print. These types of sites lack two-way interaction, rarely track what happens on the site and, most importantly, they don’t implement clear call to actions that convert random visitors to buying customers.
– Juha Liikala, WebVehicle Oy
2. Not Having Strong Call to Actions
A lot of SMBs focus their website copy around their products and services, and the benefits they bring. While educating potential customers is good, sometimes businesses forget to tell visitors what to do next. Always include a strong call to action to let people know what the next step is, such as calling to set up an appointment or filling out a form.
3. Ignoring SEO
I am guilty of this mistake myself. SEO doesn’t mean “black hat” and hiring an expensive consultant. Sometimes, it just means simple things. Picking good TITLE tags. Picking a good link structure. Mentioning the right keywords in your content. Using some of the newer markup standards like Schema.org. These are very simple steps that can have a huge impact on organic search traffic.
4. Paying for Design, But Not for Copy
I know business owners who spend tens of thousands of dollars on the designs of their websites, but then cobble together copy or have someone entirely untrained take a stab at it. Every piece of a company’s website needs to be polished and professional “” especially the words. Pretty designs will make buyers feel good, but great copy will convince them to spend money.
5. To Blog or Not to Blog
Small businesses can utilize their blog as a way to tell their story to customers and potential customers. However, there is nothing worse than a blog on a business’s site that was last updated in 2009. If you choose to have a blog, make sure you are consistently posting to it (1 time per month minimum), otherwise pass on your blog. If you don’t blog, consider actively using Twitter instead.
6. Not Initiating Interaction
Having a non-intrusive “chat” or “feedback” box on your website is a great way for users to interact with your business or your brand. This allows people to start a relationship with your business right away. And in case they need more information or have questions, they have a medium to easily reach you, rather than closing your webpage and never returning.
7. Failing to Define Their Brands
People may not always notice when details are off, but they’ll notice something is wrong in general. If there are inconsistencies with the brand’s voice in terms of the color, the font or the copy, it will come across and impact a visitor’s likelihood to return.
8. Don’t Forget a Human Face
Too many businesses don’t include a single picture of a person at the company on their website. We like to do business with people that we know, like, and trust – and it’s hard to form any of those when you can’t even picture someone’s face. Put a picture on your website so that people can feel a connection with you, you’d be surprised how much it can boost your sales.
9. Lacking Customer Engagement
Most SMBs focus on getting a website up that is splashy and makes you want more. However, the key is turning a visitor into a customer, and then a customer for life. Websites need to be made so you can capture more data about the customers, such as a simple form that asks them what they are interested in, how often they would like to be contacted and what news they want to receive from you.
10. Contact Forms
I absolutely hate filling out contact forms, and I’m less likely to do business with someone who makes me fill one out. Simply list an email address, and I’ll write an email to you – rather than fill out a form, never knowing if you’ll receive it.
11. Capture Leads, Follow Up
They don’t capture the email addresses of the people who have visited their site. Most first-time visitors will not result in a sale for you; however, if you use their addresses and follow up with quality information and offers, you can convert a large percentage of those leads into buyers.
12. Forgetting a Phone Number or Address
If you are a business that relies on local business, whether it be foot traffic or requiring that the client meet you for coffee or come to your office at one point, make sure you include where you are located. If you are primarily an online business, consider listing a phone number along with your email address. If you’re interested in having people contact you, make it easy to find.
13. Designing Their Sites Without a Goal in Mind
Some leaders make their sites an extension of their business cards and don’t have a direct goal. Every website should have a purpose “” whether it’s to generate a lead, generate a sale, build brand exposure or give more information. Home pages should be turned more into converting landing pages.
14. Using Flash Intros
Too many websites have intrusive Flash intros, which take too long to load and mostly annoy the customer. These sites will also not load on certain smartphones and tablets. Keep sites simple whenever possible.
15. Assuming Disorganization Isn’t a Problem
Disorganization is a major issue when it comes to website layout and design. If your site is disorganized and cluttered, the viewer’s mind will be, too. This is a sure way to drive traffic away from your site. Instead, build a clear and concise page that reflects simplicity. The modern consumer likes simplicity. Keep it short, simple and sweet! Tell them exactly what you want them to do.