We’ve provided Atlanta web design services for over 17 years, and it’s amazing how many of the same mistakes we see, especially with small business website design.

For most small businesses today, their website is the hub of their online marketing and many times the first impression a potential customer gets of your business.  Here are 10 mistakes that we’ve seen many times that temp users to bang the “Back” button and leave your site.

1. No Professional Logo

Many small businesses think that because of their size it’s not important to have a professional logo or believe it’s too expensive to design a logo. Instead, they simply put their company name in Times New Roman font on the top of their website and call it a day.  But a logo is an essential element in your company’s identity and branding. Even if you’re a small business owner, you should invest in a professionally designed logo. And you can do that affordably using online resources like 99Designs.com where you can get a logo starting at a few hundred dollars. We’ve had many clients over the last few years use this service with fantastic results. Most have spent between $500-700 for their logo.

2. Poor Content

Too often small business websites suffer from poorly written, inaccurate or anemic content. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seem small business websites where they simply copied their tri-fold brochure content onto the website because nobody in the company had the time or ability to write it.  But you can find a freelance copywriter to help with your content development needs very affordably.  Sometimes writers charge by the page or the hour. But for only a few hundred dollars, you can often get the bulk of your primary pages professionally written.  This is an investment you should budget for when considering small business website design.

3. Confusing Navigation

We all remember “mystery meat” Thursday in elementary school where you were served meat and brown gravy – yet you never really knew what kind of meat was under the gravy.  Confusing navigation and labels are like “mystery meat buttons.”  Don’t try to be cute or creative with your labels and navigation.  Users are looking for the “Contact Us” link not “Start a Conversation.”  Don’t forget the KISS acronym: Keep It Super Simple (yes, we know that’s not exactly how it goes, but it’s nicer!).  Don’t make your users think.  Consider each audience and what you want them to do on your website. Do you want them to fill out a contact form? Register for a whitepaper? Subscribe to a Newsletter? Schedule a consultation?  Make the “path to conversion” as simple and straightforward as possible. And make sure you are speaking your customers’ language. Don’t use your own industry jargon if it’s not familiar to your customers.

4. Unreliable Hosting

Reliable hosting doesn’t have to be expensive, and most small business websites without any significant level of back-end functionality will perform perfectly fine on a shared hosting account from any number companies. We host all of our clients at WPSimpleHost. But often we talk to small businesses who have their website hosted with some unknown company because they got a $2.99/month deal on hosting.  But if you have a problem or  a question you’re up the creek because you can’t get anybody on the phone, and if you do you need a translator to understand the support person who can’t actually help you.  Unreliable hosting can negatively affect your website’s performance in search engines if it takes too long to load, has significant downtime, or if the hosting company doesn’t keep up-to-date on security patches and server updates.

5. Static Website

Another mistake we’ve seen many Atlanta small businesses make is having a completely static website – meaning your website content never changes.  Sometimes small business owners build a website and forget about it, leaving the same products, services, staff and specials up for years – even when their business changes.  But today, building small business websites on WordPress, for example, enables you to completely manage your website’s content, images, navigation, etc.  When you’re thinking about building a small business website, think about what content needs to change and how often. Make sure your web designer builds the website so that you can manage it, and train someone (or two or three!) people in your organization to update your site on a regular basis.

6. No Offline Marketing of Website

So you have a new small business website. Now what? Certainly there are things you can do to promote your website online, but too many folks neglect the simple things they can do offline to drive more traffic to their website.  If you sell books, for example, have some bookmarks printed with your domain name.  If you’re a local butcher shop, tell people about your “exclusive online specials.” If you get phone calls with questions, direct customers to your website for more information. Also, be sure to include your domain name in all of your customer-facing documents and communication: email signatures, letterhead, printed on your front door and signage, etc.

7. Neglected Local SEO

Many small businesses serve a limited area – maybe only their local community or a few surrounding cities. It’s important for these businesses to be found online, and one important thing they can do is to be listed in local directories like Yelp, Angie’s List, Kudzu, YellowPages, etc.  Additionally, ensuring your business is listed in Google Places is important, as these businesses are displayed in search results when local users search for related products or services.  Finally, many small business websites neglect basic SEO on their website, yet there are many things they can do themselves to help increase their exposure online.

For more information about search engine optimization, check out our Top 20 SEO Tips for Small Businesses.

8. Selling on Social Media

I often hear complaints from small business owners that “social media doesn’t work.” But we find out is that many small business owners set up a Facebook page, join LinkedIn and set up a blog and get frustrated because all they do is sell. Social media isn’t about simply popping online asking for someone to come to your website to purchase something: it’s about engagement, community – conversation. If you have 20 years of carpet cleaning experience in Atlanta then start a blog on your website with tips to remove stains, comparisons of various products, etc. Share testimonials on Facebook or take a few videos with your iPhone showing homeowners how they can get melted crayon out of Berber carpet.  Become a trusted resource and GIVE rather than ask 5 to 1 in social media.

9. No Phone Number or Address

This is so obvious it shouldn’t even be on the list, but you would not believe how many times over the years we’ve looked at a small business website Contact Us page to find only an email form and, if lucky, an email address.  Be sure to put your company phone number and location on your website. This establishes credibility, but more than that (to state the obvious!) it gives your customers a way to contact you.  There have been many times where I’ve personally banged the “Back” button and moved on to the next website because the only way to contact the company was through a form or by email. Some customers want the assurance of talking to a real person or knowing you’re a real company.

10. Coming Soon Pages

We’ve all seen them, right? You click into the “Specials” page on a website that was built in 2006 and there’s a flashing, “Coming Soon!” in the middle of the page. Don’t do that.  Seriously. Don’t do that.  If you don’t have content for a particular page on your website then don’t put it in the navigation until you do.  And often this problem can be avoided by 1) hiring a freelance copywriter to write your content or 2) ensuring you have a CMS like WordPress so you can update the website yourself rather than waiting weeks on a web designer.   Now there’s one caveat to the “Coming Soon” page. If you’re working with a professional web designer and have a solid launch date on your new website, then you may want to post a coming soon page – with the date of the new launch and a subscription form for users to sign up to be reminded when the site is live.

Can We Help You?

So, there you have them. As we’ve written this list we’ve thought of many others mistakes small business make on their websites: uses images from Google image searches, not setting up Google Analytics, not defining their audience or goals, using pop-up windows, linking to PDFs without warning the user, etc.  Maybe that’ll be another blog post.

If you have a small business website and are in need of some help, we’d love to talk with you. Whether it’s a total website redesign or simply helping with SEO and online marketing, give us a call.