If operating a successful website is the heart’s desire of every online business owner, how come so many online businesses fail?
You become excited at the prospect of making money while you sleep, or you’re thrilled at the thought of carrying your message far and wide, into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Then, after about a year of paltry sales, or no more than a handful of comments on your blog, you begin to feel frustrated and confused – all that hard work for nothing! Many of you start thinking of giving up at this point, convinced that your brilliant online business idea is nothing more than a castle in the air.
And for the most part, you would be right in believing this. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking! You see, in most cases, it’s not that the business idea was bad, but the problem lay in its execution. I’ll let you in on a truth that to us, as web designers, has proven itself time and time again.
When it comes to planning their business website, the biggest mistake online business owners make is that they try to create the website they want, not the one they actually need.
This is the number one reason why so many online businesses fail.
So now that you know this, what can you, as an online business owner, do to avoid making this mistake?
We’ll tell you. But first, you have to do one thing. You must get clear on what the purpose of your website is. Do you want to sell a product, be a trusted source of information, get people interested in what you have to offer? In order to answer these questions, you’ll need to refer to your business plan. If you don’t have one, please, for the love of all that is good, get one. A business plan may seem like a daunting prospect but it has many benefits, including that it will get you to clarify your ideas.
OK, so I assume you now have your business plan in hand. You now have clarity as to the purpose of your business. With this clarity, you’re now ready to be objective and make that important distinction between what you like and what your business actually needs.
Now for web design 101. A website has three main components: domain name, content, and design. We will concentrate on domain name and design. In part 2 of this series, we will focus on content.
With domain names, the basic rule is that they should include the name of your company and/or a keyword of the products or services offered. They should be short, memorable, easy to spell, and reflective of what your business is.
The biggest mistake people make with domain names is that they choose one that has nothing to do with their business.
Imagine you have a flower shop in Manhattan and you decide to call your business website fleur.com because you just love the French word for flower. Unfortunately, search engines have no feeling for this kind of aesthetic. What will end up happening is that your website will not receive as high a rating as it could, were your domain name to include the name of your company and perhaps even a keyword of the products or services you offer. If, instead, you were to call your domain name something like flowershopmanhattan.com for example, you would receive a search engine rating in your favour, pushing your website up in the search results.
There are exceptions of course, such as Etsy and eBay, which are very successful online businesses despite their nonsensical domain names. However, unless you can absolutely guarantee that your website is set to turn into a global brand that rakes in millions, you should not follow Etsy and eBay’s domain name lead.
The bottom line is that search engines will take the keyword from your domain name and rank your website based on this keyword. A domain name that contains the keyword of its business is looked upon favourably by search engines.
Now let’s take a look at the design aspect of a business website.
You don’t have to be a web design genius to know that how your website looks is of paramount importance to its success.
A well-designed website gives potential customers what they’re looking for. However, many online business owners ignore this piece of sage advice and do the complete opposite. They allow themselves to be led by personal taste at the expense of usability.
When prospective clients come to us for advice on optimising their already existing business website, we ask them this key question: What do you earn your money with? In other words, what’s the main reason you want people to visit your website?
And what we often find is that their answer is not reflected in the design of their website. To illustrate, we will make use of two real-life examples. A property agent came to us for help with this website. When asked the above question, he replied that his main business is, as you would expect, selling properties. On the navigation bar of his homepage, in order of importance, he had body corporate services and four other services listed before his main business, which is property sales. He had made the major mistake of placing what he liked before what he needed. The result was that when prospective clients visited his website, they didn’t know he had properties for sale that might interest them because they couldn’t see any as soon as they opened his website. Consequently, not many property buyers were contacting him.
A personal coach contacted us for help with his pre-existing business website. We found that his about page was full of information about his services but contained no information about him, until we scrolled to the very bottom of the page and there, almost as an afterthought, was his personal profile and photo. As a personal coach, he needs to pique people’s interest by selling himself first, and his services second. He is the face of the business and hence, he needs to put himself at the center. Once potential clients feel as if they know him, like him and trust him, then they will be inclined to read about what he can do for them.
In our experience, you almost always only get one chance to impress a potential customer. A poorly designed website will turn people off, and they will probably never return. There are too many other sites out there for them to choose from. Your main business is what you want to highlight because this is the main reason people would want to visit your website. This is what your website should be optimised for.
As we’ve hopefully managed to illustrate, you need to think about what the priorities are for your business. The higher priority content needs to come before everything else, and it needs to be easily accessible, not hidden. Navigation through the site should be intuitive, with the most important sections of the website easily accessible through one click.
Now that you have a clearer understanding on how to create the business website you actually need as opposed to the one you want, we’ll to tell you how to plan great content for your business website. Click here to read: Avoid This Business Website Mistake Part 2.