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11 May 2012

Top 5 Mistakes Businesses Make with their Websites

Web 2.0Today, millions of businesses around the world have websites, but only a fraction of those businesses know how to leverage Web 2.0 – the second generation of web development and design.  A website that has been optimized for Web 2.0 can:

.: Generate new business leads 24/7 for your company
.: Increase customer loyalty and revenue
.: Reduce expenses
.: Help the business manage risk

Here are the Top 5 Mistakes Businesses Make with their Websites:

#1 Thinking of Your Website as an “Online Brochure”

It is a huge mistake to treat your website as if it were an online brochure – a few pages of static information about your company that you can send prospects to look at.  The Web should be considered one of the most important components in the way you do business, and in the way you acquire new business leads.  A Web 2.0 website makes use of second generation technologies such as wikis, blogs, video, email marketing, auto-responders, and CRM (customer relationship marketing) applications.

#2 Not Knowing Why

It is amazing how many websites are built simply because some executive told somebody to do it – without telling them what the site should achieve.  Granted, these days you need a website simply to be considered a professionally run organization.  Thus, it is OK to make a “business-card site” with a small amount of corporate image building.  However, doing so is not the most effective use of the Web, and a site along these lines should only be built as a result of an explicit decision by management not to invest in active use of the Web for business.

#3 Designing for Your Own Use

Internally-focused websites cause companies to end up with home pages full of mission statements, photos of the CEO, and corporate history.  Remember that your company is not the center of the universe for your customers.  The site should be designed with customers’ needs in mind; do not build a site that your top executives will love – they are not the target audience.

#4 Forgetting to Budget for Maintenance

As a rule of thumb, the annual website maintenance budget should be about the same as the initial cost of building the site, with fifty (50) percent as an absolute minimum.  If you simply spend the money to build a site but do not keep it up-to-date, your investment will turn out to be wasted.

The Web changes so rapidly that a redesign is needed at least once per year simply to avoid a completely outdated look and to accommodate changing user expectations.  Maintenance is needed throughout the year to bring fresh content online, and to reorganize and revise old pages.

#5 Wasting Linking Opportunities

The Web is a linking medium: the hypertext links are what ties it together and allow users to discover new and useful sites.  Most companies have recognized this phenomenon and regularly include their URLs in all advertising, press releases, and even in the products themselves.  Unfortunately, most of these URLs are overly generic and do not provide users with any payoff that is related to the context in which the user found the URL.  Don’t link to your homepage in PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, and invest in landing pages.  If a potential customer gets interested in a new product or offer, you should not force him/her to figure out how to navigate from the homepage to the product page.  Instead, link directly to a landing page from the ad.  Also, seed press releases with specific URLs that support your message: reporters may follow these links for additional detail and online publications may use specific links instead of generic ones to better serve their users.

Conclusion

Second-generation web technologies, such as wikis, blogs, video, email marketing, auto-responders, and CRM applications, make it possible for your business’ website to do more than act as a passive, online brochure.  Search engines such as Google have changed the way people look for service providers and vendors to buy from.  By understanding and implementing Web 2.0 technologies, your business will be better positioned to survive and grow in this new marketplace.

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