If you’ve spent thousands of dollars getting a new site built and still have nothing to show for it, you’re not alone.
Perhaps you’ve had 4 or 5 websites built before finally getting one that barely does what you need it to do.
Sadly, too many businesses have a heck of a time getting their websites built.
And yet, having a functional and effective website is essential to doing business, from being seen as credible to increasing leads and sales.
As a copywriting and content agency working with small businesses, we’ve heard all the horror stories there are to hear about building a new site or working with developers.
And since we specialise in digital content, we’ve worked with our fair share of developers – and learnt a few valuable lessons along the way.
Here, we commiserate over some of the worst website woes that SMEs go through and offer some actionable advice on how to move forward.
Top issues with building a website
- Knowing who to trust
You’ve been shopping around for a web developer and have come across one online that looks good.
This developer has worked with some leading brands whose logos are plastered on their home page. They even have some good testimonials from companies you’ve heard of.
The developer is offering their services at a reasonable price given their apparent expertise. And, after speaking to someone from the company, you feel confident they understand your website needs …
But a year after hiring this developer, your website still takes what feels like minutes to load and you wonder how they ever got all those fancy logos and testimonials.
This experience is all too common, making it hard to know who to trust.
And if you haven’t built a website before, how do you know which questions to ask to sort the good developers from the bad? Here’s what we suggest.
How to choose a developer:
- Be sceptical
If the developer has a big brand logo on their website, they may have done a small job rather than said brand’s current fully functional website. Feel free to enquire about such “social proof” to find out what the real story is.
- Read Google reviews
Disgruntled customers often turn to Google Reviews to warn others off a bad developer. Be sure to type the developer’s business name into Google and scope out their rating and reviews.
- Speak to prior customers
Ask the developer if you can reach out to a previous customer that they built a successful website for. If the dev is as good as they say they are, happy customers will be glad to endorse their work.
- Get a referral
Reach out to your network of business partners and associates.
Does the shop next door have a great ecommerce site? Does your supplier have excellent page load times? Does your marketing agency have stunning branding?
Find out which developers they have used, who they recommend, and who to steer clear of.
2. Not building for conversions
Your website is going to be a kind of hub for your online marketing and sales.
This is why it needs to be built with conversions in mind, whether they are simple lead captures through an exit intent form or direct purchases from your online store.
Many small businesses and developers spend too much time focusing on aesthetics and not enough time focusing on conversions.
While you don’t want to forgo looks completely, conversions should be a priority during the site building stage because having to go back to fix things will cost time and money.
The first step is to create a digital marketing strategy. This helps you work out what features your website will actually need.
To give just one example, if you’re going to use Google pay-per-click advertising to target people who abandoned their carts, you’ll need to track those people by installing Google Analytics to your site.
Tip: Google Analytics is your Conversions Essential
Installing Google Analytics to your new site is extremely handy for a whole range of marketing wonders.
We recommend installing it, even if you’re not sure which marketing strategies you will end up using.
If you’re getting a site professionally made by a supplier, don’t assume they are installing Google Analytics. You’ll need to proactively check.
Learn what’s possible with Google Analytics in A Useful Guide to Google Ads and Analytics for Beginners
Tips for building a website that converts:
- Make sure navigation is user-friendly and intuitive
- Pare down number of pages and menu items to bare essentials
- Use lead capture forms
- Offer irresistible giveaways in exchange for emails (discounts, giveaways, ebooks, webinars, etc)
- Write effective calls to action (CTAs)
- Allow website visitors to sign up to your newsletter
- Build with an eye to using social media & paid advertising re-targeting later down the track
- Have one topic/product per page to help with segmenting audiences
- Create separate Thank You pages so Analytics Goals or Events are easy to track
- Minimal contact form fields to avoid abandons
3. When the site you paid for is inaccessible to you
You’ve just had a new site professionally built and it’s looking great.
Only problem is that you want to change a product description or update an image and you’ve got no idea how.
Your website should be easy to use, whether it be to highlight the latest shipping disruptions or to publish a new blog post. Having the freedom to make updates is important.
Beware of some discount developers who offer “custom” sites.
If the price looks too good to be true, it might be because they lock you out of the ability to make your own changes, making you pay for updates later down the track.
If you’re building yourself, be mindful that some platforms are easier to use than others.
Although WordPress is the biggest and most customisable platform, it can be harder for non-professional developers to use.
4. Slow speeds
We’ve all been there. Frustrated by a slow-loading page, we hit the back button and choose another site …
This phenomena is called “bounce” and happens when a slow-loading website or page causes visitors to leave before they’ve even arrived.
Google has worked out that the probability of bounce increases by 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds.
On the other hand, the highest converting ecommerce sites have page load times between 0-2 seconds.
As you can see, site and page speeds matter a lot — to users and Google. If your site is too slow, users will leave and Google will penalise you by de-ranking you to search results oblivion.
Unfortunately, slow load times are one of the most common problems that our customers have with their websites and developers.
Main reasons that sites take too long to load:
- bulky images
- “heavy” video or animated content
- too many plugins
Make sure your website has only the essential plugins, that your images are sized to achieve an ideal “page weight” of 500KB, and that pages load faster than 2-3 seconds.
5. Forgetting SEO
When a customer types your business name into Google, your website should be on the top of the list (or very close to it!)
This lends credibility to your business and allows users to quickly and easily grab the information they need, such as opening hours or location.
The next most important thing is ranking well for your product/service keywords so that your business is discoverable to casual browsers and new customers.
The techniques we use to achieve good Google ranking are called search engine optimisation (SEO).
Sadly, too many businesses and developers leave SEO out of the website building process. And, once the site has been created, it’s harder to fix bad SEO.
Check to see that your developers are using these SEO strategies and you should be on the right track:
- Use keywords in headings, subheadings, page titles & image alt text
- Have one page per product or service
- Code with HTTPS not HTTP for improved site security
Building your own site? Get your SEO right with How to Create a Website that Customers (and Google) will Love
6. Being mobile-second
In 2021, 55% of web traffic worldwide is from mobile devices. That’s a huge jump from just over 30% in 2015!
If you’re working on your business from behind a desktop computer or a laptop, it can be easy to forget that most customers are accessing your business via mobile.
Even if your customers are mostly accessing your site from their desktops, as may be the case with some B2B businesses, you still need to create a mobile-first website. Here’s why.
Google looks mainly at the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking. That means your website will rank higher if it’s “mobile-first”.
A mobile-first site will:
- Have a mobile friendly design
Text is large enough to read and the images fit comfortably on screen without the need for the old finger-zoom trick
Simply enter your URL to see what needs improving
- Is “responsive”
When your site’s layout changes to best suit the device it’s being viewed on
Make sure your developer is giving you a website that is mobile-first.
7. Copy and content chaos
A lot of small businesses don’t realise that their developer won’t provide copy and content. Instead, the developer may ask you to provide words and images.
When this happens, you may feel confident enough in your writing skills to be able to do the copywriting yourself.
But, even if you excelled at English at high school or wrote long dissertations during your bachelor’s, writing for the web is its own art.
Writing for a website involves using strategic keywords, headings, page titles, meta descriptions and alt text. Without these things, you could be telling Google that you don’t want to be found.
Doing your own copywriting may seem like a good way to save money but, if it was as easy as that, we wouldn’t have specialists like TCC devoted to it. J
By hiring a copywriter to write your website, you get someone who will understand what words go where so that Google ranks your site front and centre.
A copywriter will also use branding, tone of voice and storytelling to engage your ideal customers, increasing leads and conversions.
If you need a website built, remember to factor copywriting services into your budget. The expense will pay for itself by delivering real return on investment.
How to Build a successful website
Whether you’ve had your fair share of website woes or are just embarking on your new website journey, you can launch a successful website that works for your budget.
With so many great platforms around to help small businesses create a functional site, it’s easier than ever to do it yourself – even if you have no expertise.
With careful planning and research, you can avoid website headaches such as slow speeds and bad usability.
Put mobile-first, conversions and SEO at the top of your priorities and you’ll be on your way to website success.