For years now I have consistently received inquiries from CEOs who wonder why their web initiatives are falling short of reaching their objectives. Because most of these inquiries come from executives suffering from web maladies of a similar nature, I decided to put forth a list of what I consider to be the 20 most common website mistakes hindering success on the Internet. The sad part about the following list is that none of these typical mistakes are difficult to remedy, yet most offenders simply fail to correct the issues and wonder why their Internet presence isn’t producing the desired results…

Without further adieu – 20 Reasons Your Website Doesn’t Work (in no particular order):

  1. Not Having One: If you’re a proud hold-out continuing to dwell in the offline world, WAKE UP! Not having an Internet presence is akin to not being open for business. Don’t think for a moment that you can outlast progress and advances in technology, and somehow end-up coming out ahead of the game…It won’t work. 
  2. Being a One-Trick Pony: The only thing worse than having no website is having just one. A website does not equal a web presence. To develop visibility, presence and influence you must use multiple sites, platforms and networks that work in collaboration with one another to create a digital “web.” It is not uncommon for a successful Internet presence these days to include ten, twenty, fifty or even hundreds of digital connection points. What you have to remember is to meet your customers where they are, and in today’s world they’re literally everywhere.  
  3. No Leadership: You’d be surprised at how many times a company’s Internet presence is still the number one corporate “hot potato” with either nobody in charge, or the wrong person in charge. Without leadership, vision and executive involvement, your web presence will be destined for failure. Hint: your web initiatives must be in alignment with, and serve as a key driver of your business objectives.
  4. No Aesthetics: While I’m not advocating form over substance, let me be very clear – design matters. Now comes the tricky part…what you think passes for great design isn’t as important as what your audience thinks. So, how do you know what passes for good design? Be open minded, seek advice, then listen. I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion great content that doesn’t get viewed because people can’t get past horrible design. I’ve also witnessed good content deemed less than credible because the design is clearly not credible. I’ll say it again – design matters.
  5. No Metrics: Nowhere is the axiom “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” more appropriate than as applied to the corporate Internet presence. If you don’t have a detailed analytics program measuring key metrics then you cannot even begin to hope to understand what’s working, and what’s not working…No metrics – no success.
  6. No Visibility: If you have a great website, but it can’t be found – you lose…If you don’t have page one visibility (either paid, organic, or preferably both) on major search engines under relevant search terms, then you’ve wasted whatever investment you’ve made into the creation of your website. No visibility, equals no traffic, equals questionable sustainability in today’s world.
  7. No Phone Number: If you really want to frustrate your clients and prospects try not publishing a contact phone number. Let me put it another way…if you want to send your clients and prospects directly to your competition just withhold your phone number from them. Smart companies provide multiple channels through which they can be contacted. If someone on your leadership team believes it’s more cost effective to play hide the pea with your phone number, then I would suggest that person doesn’t belong on your leadership team.
  8. No Social Acumen: Being anti-social in today’s market is the proverbial kiss of death. A website without a voice doesn’t doesn’t engender much confidence. Numerous studies have shown that visitors have a better opinion of companies who maintain an active blog, and actively engage in social networking. If your company doesn’t blog, tweet, and participate in other social networking platforms, then you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to engage with your customers, prospects and other stakeholders.
  9. No Opt-in List: Give your website visitors the option of opting-in to receive information and updates. This is the fastest way to identify those interested in what you do. There are few things as valuable for direct marketing purposes as having a large, targeted e-mail list, and nowhere can you build a better list faster than mining for subscribers on your website.
  10. No Executive Bios: People don’t do business with companies, they do business with people. If I can’t read-up on the team behind the brand, then I don’t know who I’m doing business with. If I don’t know who I’m doing business with, I won’t do business…
  11. Forced Registrations: If you force visitors to register prior to giving them access to your information, your losing valuable opportunities. Forced registrations out of the gate send website visitors away in droves. If your idea is to better qualify prospects by shielding access to your content behind a registration form then you are misguided in your thinking. Grant access to your information first, and people will gladly register to be provided full details of your offering. You need to earn the right to qualify a prospect or to mine for data by earning trust and communicating value. This cannot be done by starting with a forced registration. Engage first – sell later.
  12. Static Content: If the content on your website is ostensibly the same as it was 6 months ago, then you’re messaging that you either have a static organization void of innovation, or that you simply don’t care enough about your website to update it with fresh content…in either case you lose.
  13. Poor Quality Content: Content is still and forever will be king…If your website contains content that doesn’t add value to, and doesn’t properly address the needs of key constituencies, your website will not be successful. If you must pick between quantity of content and quality of content, choose the latter and not the former. However keep in mind that a combination of the two will afford you the most significant benefits. Hint- don’t create content for you – create it for your audience.
  14. Pop-ups: Today’s Internet is open, collaborative and consumer driven. Just like the topic of forced registrations mentioned above, attempting to control browsing habits through the imposition of unwanted interruption based applications is offensive to the majority of Internet users. If users want to be surveyed, polled, updated, etc., then they’ll subscribe to your opt-in list giving you their permission to query them.
  15. Poor Linking/Navigation: If you make visitors work too hard to find the information they’re seeking, you’ll lose them altogether as they’ll leave your site for more fertile ground. Navigation needs to be simple, intuitive, and functional. When you examine your analytics and notice that visitors leave your site after viewing only one or two pages, a likely cause is poor navigational architecture.
  16. No E-Commerce: Make it easy for your customers and prospects to buy from you. Don’t force them to order a catalogue, talk to a sales rep, visit a retail location, or to participate in other multi-step processes. Every web presence should have the ability to sell something. A website is capable of selling products, services, knowledge, information, subscriptions, advertising, and a virtually anything your mind can imagine. Make sure your website is e-commerce enabled.
  17. Bad Multimedia: When I land on a website I don’t want to be assaulted by cheesy music, bad video, or maybe the worst offense of all – total multimedia as a feigned substitute for a lack of content. Let visitors select multimedia elements of interest, but don’t force your presentations on them.
  18. No Community: If your Internet presence creates a destination, but not a community you’re missing a key part of the puzzle. There is a big difference between creating a desire to arrive and the desire to stay and then to comeback again and again. To create a community is to create trust, a sense of belonging, the feeling that people have a voice, and that you listen. A strong community is also social proof that you have something valid to offer. Miss this point and you miss big time.
  19. No Fun: Part of creating community is having a sense of humor and adding a bit of entertainment value. If you think your brand is too high-brow or too institutional to have fun – think again. Stodgy, stagnant, and elitist is just another way of saying you’re boring. Boring brands equal bad brands.
  20. No References: If you don’t provide references and testimonials you are simply creating an unnecessary barrier to success. Don’t tell people you’re good at what you do, let your work, and more particularly your clients tell them on your behalf. Nothing speaks to professional credibility like affirming voices – especially influential ones.

So, what did I miss? As always, I welcome your comments below…


Image credit: Seafarth & Shaw