One of my favorite restaurants in Baltimore is Pazo, a stylish Spanish tapas place in Fells Point. The food there ranges from simple – marinated olives, sheep’s- milk cheese served with green apple and dates – to sublime – Kobe beef brisket ravioli with lava beans – and everything in between.
My one quibble about the place is the menu: It’s a bear to read. Items are more or less stacked on top of each other in similar font sizes, under confusing headings. And it’s long and unwieldy. I’m used to it now, but the first few times I was there I had a hard time focusing on it. My eye traveled around the page randomly until a menu Sherpa – aka, waitstaff – appeared.
Have you ever visited a website that’s similarly handicapped? Or perhaps I’m describing your own business’s site? The home page seems rich with possibilities, like Pazo’s menu. But the navigation is terrible; it’s tough to make heads or tails of it because there’s a little too much going on.
Or maybe there’s another reason your website stinks:
You don’t have clear goals.
The goal of your site is to attract people, and to invite them to get more involved with your organization, whether or not you sell directly to them online. Regardless, you want visitors to stick around a while, and get interested in you and what you sell.
Have you identified the primary goal of your site? Is there a secondary goal? What action do you want site visitors to take? Being clear on what you want people to do when they land on your site informs everything else: The design, navigation, content, search engine strategy and so on.
You aren’t measuring anything.
Do you know how your site is converting your browsers into buyers? Do you know which pages perform best for you? Or what content they are interacting with the most? Are you using online analytics tools, as Jill Fehrenbacher suggests, to measure the traffic to your website, track online conversions, and measure ROI on your marketing campaigns?
You put cool before clear.
Every element on your home page should support the goals you’ve identified. That means avoiding design elements that might be cool but are ultimately distracting. (My pet peeve: web pages that speak to me.) Put clarity – useful, predictable, efficient, logical – before creative – cool, splashy, flashy, beautiful.
Your content is stagnant.
Your site is simply a brochure for your business, and it isn’t evolving or updating. That means you don’t have regularly updated content like a blog or other content: You aren’t creating new pages for Google to index. Companies that blog have far better marketing results, and a lot more authority with search engines.
It’s all about you.
And it’s not, therefore, about your customers. You aren’t solving problems for them, or you aren’t demonstrating in an honestly empathetic way how your company and its products or services can ease their troubles, shoulder their burdens, ease their pain, as we write in our new book, Content Rules. Demonstrate how your products or services live in the world in a tangible way.
You don’t have any customer interaction.
Incorporating a blog or other social content with your site gives your customers a sense of who you are. Speaking to your customers directly, in your own voice, offers an enormous and rich opportunity to educate your customers on how you can help them, and why they should rely on you. Regularly refreshed content that has a sense of purpose and personality builds trust with your would-be customers, and it makes an excellent platform from which to build a relationship.
You can’t update your site without a tech guy.
Can you update at least some elements of your site without calling IT? That’s where a blog or other social platforms comes in handy, because you can update them without bothering anyone else. Why is that important? Because you want to be able to update at least some parts of your site frequently and easily, both to save budget and to create a more up-to-date flow of content – for all the reasons we’ve discussed.
You sound like everyone else.
Is your site full of corporate jargon-rich nonsense? Or, does it sound like it was written by a human? Most companies spend more time worrying about the design than they do the words on the page. But the most memorable sites convey personality and perspective in the home page content, and so immediately set themselves apart as different. Try this test: If you masked your logo and site design, could you still tell – by the voice you use – that it’s your own site, or would you sound like any one of your competitors?
You didn’t optimize.
Can search engines find your site? Are you targeting certain keywords, and how well are they pulling for you? See these six SEO fundamentals every business should know.
Isn’t mobile accessible.
The mobile web is exploding, and your company should keep up. Here’s a great tutorial to creating a mobile version of your website.
What else would you say?
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author of Content Rules (Wiley, 2010). Follow her on Twitter @marketingprofs.