We work with a lot of small business clients. As you probably know, small business owners are generally DIY folks. Like most aspects of their business, they tend to take a DIY approach to their websites. These are the mistakes that we regularly see.
Prioritizing Social Integration over Email Integration
Most small businesses recognize the importance of connecting with (or being available to) current and potential customers. Knowing this, they will often go to whatever lengths necessary to promote and integrate their social media accounts into their website. What they tend to not do is use their website to collect email addresses of current / future customers.
Generally, I believe that they don’t plan to use email marketing because they don’t have an established list to send to. This is why we recommend that they begin collecting email addresses even if they don’t have immediate plans for email marketing. This allows them to build their list and once they are ready to begin using it, they will have an audience to send to.
I believe this trend of ignoring the potential of email is changing as the “in your face” email list builders are becoming more common place. The more clients see them on competing website, the more they ask for them on their own websites. They may not understand the ROI of email and how it compares to social but they do recognize trends when they see them.
Using Stock Photography Instead of Real Photography
It’s undeniable that the web has become homogenized. Small business sites tend to feature the same layout - header, hero image slider, three selling points, footer. Part of this is due to the fact that many small business sites are built by the owners (DIY FTW!) and the easiest way to get a site up and running is to install WordPress and find a theme that looks good (or fits with current trends). Being DIYers they tend to gravitate toward stock photography which is cheap and readily available.
The problem with this is that by the time you are done, you have a site that has no distinction. How can your business stand out when you have a generic theme and generic photography?
This is why we recommend that, if nothing else, they invest in a professional photographer to capture the essence of their business and really show off the people that make their business run. In most small businesses, the employees are the competitive advantage, so we like to give customers a face to connect with the business.
Not Enough Testing
As web developers, we understand that there is no magic bullet when it comes to user experience, search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. It’s a series of small wins that make a website great. We also know that it’s hard to keep up with all of the factors that influence a site, it’s ability rank well and provide a good customer experience. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there that you can use (often for free) to test your site.
One of our favorite free tools is Woorank. Woorank looks at your site from an optimization, mobile-friendliness and social integration standpoint and provides recommendations on how to improve your site. For a free tool, it packs in a lot of data.
Another tool that we’ve found helpful is the Think With Google, Test My Site tool. This tests mobile friendliness and speed (both desktop and mobile) and provides tips on what to fix. This is a great test for a DIYer to bring to a developer to help improve the performance of a site.
The PageSpeed Tool (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) is a similar tool that is geared toward developers.
When developing a site, it’s easy to get caught up in content development and business goals. Tools like this allow businesses to see how search engines view their sites and make improvements accordingly.
One of the great things about the internet, is the ability to “do-it-yourself” and with just a few tweaks, most businesses can create a solid web presence that connects with customers.