Whenever I want to get a prospect’s attention I send them a short video where I go through their website and point out a few areas they can improve for some quick conversion wins.
And let me tell you, the minute you tell them they’re doing x, y, and z wrong, and that it’s losing them money, they reply real fast.
In this post, I’m going to cover the 15 most common mistakes I see on business websites.
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1. Sliding images (lol)
I really wish people would stop using these.
Automatic Image Sliders or Carousels seem like a good idea…
“Moving images, cool!”
“Everyone loves pictures, right?”
…Until you realize they nobody interacts with them and they are awful at conveying information.
In a test conducted by Notre Dame University, only 1% of visitors clicked through from the carousel, and of these, 84% only interacted with the 1st slide!
UI/UX guru Jakob Nielson tested the homepage carousel for Siemens.
The title of the post gives it away.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, here’s what you should do instead.
DON’T USE SLIDERS.
Present all the information on the page vertically, without requiring readers do anything but read from top to bottom.
2. Asking the reader to take more than one action
“Read our blog.”
“Follow us on social media.”
“Subscribe to our email list.”
“Check out our special offer.”
“Download our free report.”
“Book a call with our sales team.”
Readers on your website are bombarded with too many calls-to-action.
And because of this, no action is taken.
Any time you introduce complexity, you also introduce confusion.
Confused readers don’t take action.
Confused readers don’t buy.
Here’s what you should do instead.
You follow the Rule of One. (Watch the video)
It’s a copywriting principle you can use to improve conversions on your website.
- One Reader – you write with one person in mind
- One Big Idea – your copy is focused on one big idea (“save time” or “save money”, not “save time and money”)
- One Promise – you promise a specific result and back it up with data; the more specific promise, the more proof you have, the more readers will believe it
- One Offer – you ask them to do JUST. ONE. THING. (e.g. download a free report)
The Rule of One makes is very easy to write targeted landing pages and even blog posts.
It’s a bit harder to do on your homepage.
3. Email collection is not a priority
This is a real pet peeve of mine.
According to Campaign Monitor (who reference Venture Beat), every $1 spent on email marketing will giving $38 in return.
And it’s been this way for over a decade.
Here’s the thing about email:
It’s the handwritten letter of our time.
Done right, the only thing more engaging is, well, an actual handwritten letter.
But wait, there’s more.
Once you have someone on your email list, you never need them to come to your website ever again.
That is, unless you care about vanity metrics like pageviews.
A reader who gives you his email address has raised his hand and said,
“I like you, let’s hang out sometime.”
It’s an open invitation to talk to them on the regular.
4. Social media follow buttons
First, no one cares about your corporate social media accounts (unless you create next-level good social media content.)
This is why most company social media accounts have awful follower counts and atrocious engagement.
Second, what is your objective when you post on social media?
If you said, “grow brand awareness”…quit your job right now and go be an accountant.
(No offense to accountants, lol)
You want people coming back to your website so you can show them your offer.
To get more leads…to get more sales.
So, if that’s the objective, when they’re on your website, why the heck would you ask them to leave your website and go somewhere else? (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, etc.)
You’re also violating the Rule of One (see point #2.)
5. Mission and Vision statements (lol)
Nobody cares. Nobody cares.
No one cares about your “mission” and “vision.”
They care what you can do for them.
Now, I’m not saying your mission and vision aren’t important.
I hope they’re the reasons why you started your business…and not something you brainstormed after the fact because “we need a mission and vision statement.”
The problem here, is you not communicating your business from the perspective of your buyer.
- What pains are you removing from his life?
- What dreams are you helping him achieve?
- What uncertainties do you give him clarity on?
And you need to communicate this in the words your customers use.
Here is where you need to understand and define your buyers.
And I’m not talking about, “males, 25-35, working in IT, salary of AED 25,000, reports to CIO.”
This type of demographic information is superficial and doesn’t help you create content.
You need to focus on what I like to call Pain-Based Personas.
This means you pay attention to the emotions your buyers feel.
- What keeps him awake at night?
- What frustrates him?
- What humiliates him?
- Where does he want his life to be in one year?
- What is the worst-case scenario if he doesn’t achieve his goals?
- What does he want more than anything else in the world?
The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll start seeing responses from readers like,
“It was like you’re reading my mind.”
“As I was reading I felt you were talking to me.”
6. Sounding corporate instead of human
You suffer from the Curse of Knowledge.
You think your reader understands your corporate speak and jargon.
Here’s a perfect example:
“Our work is founded on a rigorous understanding of every client’s institutional context, sector dynamics, and macroeconomic environment.”
WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?
Don’t expect your readers to understand your highfalutin words.
(Highfalutin is an example of highfalutin.)
Write at a 3rd grade level (max 5th grade.)
It is not a mark of knowledge and understanding to use sophisticated words.
It’s pretentious, is what it is.
Understanding is the ability to explain complex material in words a 5-year old can understand.
7. Cute and clever taglines
Without clarity, no one knows what you’re talking about.
Watch this video:
Before you add any color to your copy, make sure it is 100% clear:
Whenever I write website copy, for example, I tend to follow a messaging hierarchy like this:
- What do you do?
- Okay. Why should I care?
- Am I alone in caring – or do others (preferably others like me) care?
- You’re starting to win me over. But I’m skeptical. So show me: how do you do what you say you do?
- And if I believe you and your process / solution, how will my life improve?
- I’d like to believe you, but first tell me: why is it safe for me to believe you?
- Okay, let’s say I believe you. Now what?
Until these are perfect, you will not see me add a smidge of spunk or moxxy.
8. Messaging like an iconic brand
No one knows who the frack you are or what it is you do…
But you want a tagline like, “Think Different.”
It doesn’t work that way.
One time, I had a prospect contact me asking for clever ad taglines like these for their social media posts:
The only problem was, I had never heard of them.
If I don’t know who they are, you can bet there are at least 10,000 others who don’t either.
What came to mind first?
You’re thinking of an iPhone right?
That’s the difference.
Here’s a handy guideline to use when writing Unique Selling Propositions or Taglines for your business:
9. Too many web pages
10. Thin content on web pages
I’ve bundled these two mistakes together because they’re related.
Tell me if I’m wrong here, but this is how I see the conversation going.
Someone reads a few blog posts on SEO, shows up to work, and heads to their IT or web-dev team saying,
“Hey, we need more web pages because the more pages we have, the more pages we can rank for on Google. The more pages we rank for, the more web traffic we’ll get!”
Slow down, chief.
The real answer is, it depends.
A e-commerce website will obviously need way more pages than your local barbershop.
The point is, you want the pages and more importantly, the content on those pages to be:
It’s damn near impossible for you to optimize your pages for most of them, let alone all of them.
Well, I guess you could try, but are you willing to spend the kind of money needed to do it?
Much better for you to focus on the fundamentals.
One in particular:
Help your readers.
You focus on that and your SEO will pretty much take care of itself.
Look at Brian Dean of Backlinko, for example.
Dude gets over 200,000 website visitors every month (that screenshot is old.)
And he does it with just 41 pages on his website (38 are blog posts.)
The reason why he gets so many visitors with so few web pages is because creates magnificent ultra-long-form content pieces that are the definitive, best-in-topic posts on the subject.
11. Your reader doesn’t know what to do next
Recently, I checked out the website of a major business jet operator.
Overall, one of the better websites I’ve critiqued.
They have a superbly done jet/helicopter search module where they show you which jet or helicopter is right for you based on flight distance, number of passengers, on-board beds, and charter availability.
Just one problem:
Once you pick out a beautiful jet, and you’re happy that it’s the right one for you…
THERE’S NO CALL-TO-ACTION.
Do I fantasize about flying on this plane?
Do I print this page out and frame it?
Am I supposed to call you?
Or should I fill out a form and have your sales team call me?
What do I do next?
Don’t make me spend my valuable time trying to figure it out.
(And if I’m looking to charter a jet, you can bet my time is very valuable.)
What’s the bottom-line impact of your business losing customers because of dumb mistakes like this?
Well, if you’re in the business of chartering jets to big-shots, you’re probably LOSING somewhere in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 (or more, I’m being very conservative) PER MONTH.
This is money you could have made, but did not make, because your website…
Doesn’t have a call-to-action.
(Yikes. Hope the CEO of the above company doesn’t read this post. Heads are gonna roll…lol)
12. Not answering your reader’s question, “Why should I care?”
You know what the single most persuasive word is in every language known to man and djinn?
Here’s a test you can do quickly to find out if your website copy is good or garbage:
Count how many times you use the word “you” and how many times you use the word “I,” “we,” “our company,” or “[company name].”
If you use too many of the latter and barely any of the former, your website copy is garbage.
Your website copy is good if the You’s outnumber the I’s/We’s by 5:1 or 10:1.
As a reader on your website, I don’t care about you.
I care about me, and what you can do for me.
How is your product going to make my life better, make me a better version of myself?
Figure this out.
And tell me.
In plain English.
Make me care.
13. Social media sharing buttons
Why do you have social media sharing buttons on all your pages?
Are readers going to share your About page?
(“Hey guys, check out this company’s Mission and Vision statements. Amazing!”)
Here again, you’re introducing distractions and violating the Rule of One.
I’m going to go one step further and say you shouldn’t even include social sharing buttons on your blog posts.
For three reasons:
- Your blog post, in most cases, isn’t worth sharing anyway
- If it’s so good it’s worth sharing and there are no sharing buttons, people will share it manually (or use tools like Buffer or Meet Edgar.) I mean, I have Buffer and I still share manually the overwhelming majority of the time.
- Would you rather have one additional social share or one new email subscriber? Why not make clicking the CTA for your lead magnet the only action you ask them to take? (Rule of One)
14. No analytics or re-marketing pixels installed
It used to be the case, back in the day, that whenever you wanted to
- install Google Analytics,
- verify your site on Google Search Console,
- include the Google Adwords script or Facebook pixel,
- or do any kind of web-code-type-stuff related to marketing…
You had to go to your IT department or web developer and ask them to add code your website.
Then, the IT guys would huff and puff and tell you it’s waaaay more complicated than it really is (it’s literally Cmd+C/Cmd+V), it’s gonna take 2 weeks (takes < 60 secs), yadda yadda yadda.
Now, we have Google Tag Manager.
Or the header/footer scripts module in every commercial Content Management System (e.g WordPress or Hubspot’s Website Builder.)
With any of these tools, you can add your analytics and re-marketing code snippets yourself.
No more wasta-ing your IT guys and gals.
Why are Google Analytics and Google Search Console important?
Because you want to know
- who’s coming to your website,
- how long they stay,
- what they are doing while on your website,
- which webpages are most popular,
- and what keywords you’re ranking for.
Why are Adwords and Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin re-marketing pixels important?
Because you can show your content to people who have visited your website before.
- Qualified people see your content on social media more often
- More repeat visits to your website
- More people sign up for your content offers and become leads
- Your brand becomes stronger and stronger in the mind of your readers
- The more data you have the better and more informed your digital marketing decisions become.
- The more interactions you have with your readers, the more likely they are to become your customers.
15. Your website is SLOW
You have less than 3 seconds to get your reader’s attention before he leaves your website, never to return.
According to a study by Forrester Consulting:
- 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less
- 40 percent of consumers will wait no more than 3 seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site.
- 52 percent of online shoppers stated that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty
- 14 percent will begin shopping at another site, and 23 percent will stop shopping or walk away from their computer.
- 79 percent of online shoppers who experience a dissatisfying visit are less likely to buy from that site again
Think about it logically:
A slow website means less conversions.
Less conversions means less sales and less $$$.
If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1-second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
Like they say…”Money talks.”
This was a long post so I’m going to summarize the mistakes in bullet points so that it’s easy for you to remember what not to do.
- Sliding image carousels (lol)
- Asking the reader to take more than one action
- Email collection is not a priority
- Social media follow buttons
- Mission and Vision statements (lol)
- Sounding corporate instead of human
- Cute and clever taglines
- Messaging like an iconic brand
- Too many web pages
- Thin content on web pages
- Reader is not given any clear indication what to do next
- Not answering your reader’s question, “Why should I care?”
- Social media sharing buttons
- No analytics or remarketing pixels installed
- Your website is SLOW
Put them all together and your website, a digital asset you have invested time and money into, is hemorrhaging $$$ big bucks.
Ok, Nabeel, now you’ve got me worried. How do I fix my website?
Don’t worry…I’ve got you covered. 😉
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