5 Common Website Mistakes

Having evaluated and been a part of the creation of at least fifty websites, I have learned some fundamental rules that should be a part of every website, regardless of the business or industry.  Many, many business owners that I talk with, who built their websites some years back have fallen into making some of the same mistakes and I thought it might be helpful to bring some of these up now.  Website development has changed pretty dramatically in the last few years with a strong move toward websites that invite the visitor to participate and become engaged.  Gone are the gaudy, Flash-driven websites that were more show than substance.  Here’s my list of common mistakes:

  1. Not building your website on a Content Management System. You’ve heard the story before, “My webmaster, who built my site, decided to move to Tahiti and now I can’t get anything done.”  Or, “Every time I request a change, it takes three weeks before it happens.”  Unless you are a programmer and understand HTML or XHTML coding, always have your website developed on a Content Management System or CMS.  This will make it as easy as typing in Microsoft Word to add content, upload images or add additional pages.  There are a number of CMS platforms, some free and some that cost.  There are advantages and disadvantages to all CMS platforms so be sure you understand what you’re getting and that who you hire knows the platform well.  The main thing here is that you are in control.
  2. Not owning your website domain. I can’t tell you how many times I find that an owner’s website address (or domain name or URL) is registered in the name of their webmaster.  If this is the case, even though it’s your business, you have absolutely zero control of that domain name and for all intents and purposes, you are not the owner.  If you have spent years building equity and recognition of that domain name, yet it is in someone else’s name, you could be held hostage.  Always have your name and address as the “administrative contact” and your website developer as the “technical contact.”  That way they can talk to the domain registrar on your behalf, but you are still the owner.  If it’s not that way now, stop reading and call your webmaster and request the change, now!
  3. Keeping your website content static. If you don’t keep the information you have on your website fresh and new, there is no reason for someone to come back to your site and be exposed to any new offers or specials you may have.  They’ve seen all they need to.  Your site is just an electronic brochure.  Plus, if your site stays static then the search engines will also have no reason to come back and index the content of your website so you will not be rewarded with inclusion in the “first page” search results.  Search engines crave new, original content.  Blogs, news releases, white papers and announcements are all good ways to keep your content updated and changing.
  4. Not having a number of methods for collecting information about your visitors. Some experts claim that there should be up to four ways to capture critical information about the people that come to your site.  This can be in the form of having them register to receive a newsletter, request a contact, download a free whitepaper, receive a coupon, or enroll in a seminar.  By collecting this data, you can start to build a database of potential buyers, who although they may not be ready to purchase now, could be later and by knowing how to reach them, obviously with their permission, you can stay in front of them with future offers or information.  It’s always important to be building your pool of leads.
  5. Making your website difficult to find information or to navigate within. When it comes to your web presence the rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible.  Visitors to your site need to be shown where to find the information they are looking for.  They need to be guided as to what you want them to do.  Everything, especially the navigation, needs to be very intuitive and straightforward.  This is not the time to test how smart your visitor is.  Some would say to keep it to about the third grade level, and this would include the text as well.  The old K.I.S.S. principal definitely applies to websites.

Here’s a bit of a bonus as well.  In today’s world, everyone is using search engines to find the people, information, companies and locations that they are looking for.  If you cannot initially do a full Search Engine Optimization of your site, budget for that down the road but at least make your site is as “search friendly” as possible.

I hope this helps and if you have comments, please let me know.

David Soxman

The CMO Outsource

You’re Really Not Ready for Social Media, Are You?

The social media pig

There’s an old saying in the opera business, “Never teach a pig to sing because it will frustrate you and irritate the pig!”

I bring this up as I recently had the pleasure of talking with a company that provides professional services, specifically architecture, which has enjoyed a long history of providing innovative, functional designs and building planning for their clients.  They have enjoyed the luxury of great word of mouth referrals that have meant a continuing stream of business, which has fueled growth and provided good salaries for many employees.

This firm is now at a crossroads.  There is a concern that there are many opportunities, for which they are well qualified, that they are simply not hearing about.  There are deals happening that they aren’t aware of until an RFP goes out and they’re in the situation of bidding for low profit work, and as we all know, you can starve to death answering RFP’s.  They are significantly more successful when they can get involved in the early stages of planning, to be able to influence design and staging decisions in their favor.  What’s more, their pool of referred leads from existing clients is either not providing a sufficient number of high quality leads or that well may be starting to dry up.

Into this situation I introduce their website that is some number of years old, is primarily a static online brochure, is hard to navigate within and doesn’t provide easy ways to capture leads nor to encourage any visitor interaction.  Any efforts at search optimization are minimal at best.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In preparation for meeting with this firm, I was curious to see what kind of conversations from the architectural industry existed in the blogosphere.  Having looked at a number of aggregator sites, and doing some simple keyword search, I was able to conclude that there are ample opportunities for this firm to begin to become engaged in a dialog about their industry and for which they have a passion.  There are questions being raised and design theories being discussed that would enable this firm to present themselves as not only experts, but also as concerned professionals in the advancement of their art.

My biggest mistake was to use the words, social media.  The immediate response was, “Well, we’re not big believers in Twitter and Facebook, we just don’t see how those apply to our clients, what’s more, those involve so much time that the payoff is hardly worth the effort.”  It didn’t surprise me to then hear that the principals of the firm thought their website was just fine, that it was not really all that important and no money needed to be spent there.

I had one of two choices: try to teach the pig to sing or simply walk away.  I chose the latter.

I have found an interesting series of seven B2B case studies put into a well organized ebook by the good folks at MarketSherpa and available at Hubspot.  If you go to page 56 of this ebook, you’ll find a case study of a professional services firm, an accounting firm, who used social media and SEO to build a lead generation machine that drove direct sales.  In fact, they saw their website traffic increase by 68% and generate 10 to 15 leads per month!  The old website generated no leads at all.

You can choose to ignore what is happening in marketing right now.  You can say that it’s just not for you, and maybe it’s not.  But if there is a conversation taking place out there in your industry, and you’re not part of it, then you’ve lost a big chance to stand out.  You’ve also probably missed a great opportunity to grow your business.

Well, are you ready?

All my best,


The CMO Outsource