1. Sanity Vs Vanity – The No. 1 Website Mistake
I could talk all day about websites, but don’t worry; I’m not going to. Instead, let’s look at the big picture. And it doesn’t get much bigger than how your website looks.
Most clients who come to me wanting a new website say something like; “it needs to have the wow factor” or “it needs to look better than all of my competitor’s websites” or “I want to use these colours because I think they look good together”. I’m sorry to say, but this is all just vanity.
I have helped many clients who have spent painfully large amounts of money on a website to make it look amazing. And yet they come to me wondering why it isn’t working. This is certainly NOT the fault of the client. The blame lies solely with the companies that enable this kind of culture.
Websites are a tool for a job, not a canvas for a painting. When engaging a company or an individual to build/edit your website, focus on precisely what the website needs to do to make your company successful. Ask them how the website will drive sales and how the website will generate leads.
The most successful websites tend to be black on white or white on black with a dash of bold colour (orange maybe?). There’s a reason why paper is white, and ink is black… It’s easy to read. Please don’t use busy and colourful backgrounds; visitors will leave your site in droves.
My Top Tips to Avoid a Website That’s All Sparkles and No Sales:
- Spend at least 30% of your budget on a good copywriter. Having excellent sales-focused copy will make you more sales than having the best-looking website. If someone comes to me with a £1000 budget, I’ll make sure at least £300 of that goes on a professional copywriter.
- Don’t assume that if you spend lots of money on a website that it’ll be successful and make you lots of money. In fact, in my experience, the smaller results-focused agencies are better than larger commercial ones.
- Following on from that, find someone who will work with you long term. Avoid a company that will forget about you as soon as the website is signed off and settled.
- Website building software like Wix and Squarespace are not your friend in most scenarios. Yes, you can build a great looking website quickly and cheaply, but it’s a false economy. I suppose you could compare it to giving me a pen and paper and asking me to design a building. I might be able to draw something that looks half good, but it’s probably going to fall before it’s even finished.
2. Content Is King… Well Sometimes
You may have heard the saying ‘content is king’. Digital Marketers and bloggers use it all the time! But let’s drill down into this and see firstly ‘what does it mean’, and secondly ‘is it true’.
What does it mean?
Content refers to any form of information you publish online. Here are a few examples:
- Social Media post
Pretty simple right! So why do they say it’s king? Well, the logic generally goes; more content = more eyes = more sales. However, it’s not quite that simple.
The thing I want to focus on here is quality and quantity. From my experience, this is where the most significant mistakes happen. I get a lot of people saying ‘I’m blogging every day, but I’m still not making sales!?!’.
Well, I’m sorry, but maybe your content is a bit crap. But honestly, we’ve all done it! Time waits for nobody, and trying to rush content out is not going to end well. Yes, your SEO prowess will play a role in this. But sending high-quality traffic to your blogs using social media is easy… as long as your content is good!
My Top Tips for Content That Works
- Make sure you’re allocating enough time to write content and make creatives even if you have to publish less often.
- Get a copywriter and website manager on board if you can; freeing you up to worry more about the meta managing, rather than the micromanaging.
- Don’t neglect post sharing. Reposting is an excellent way of keeping the content ‘out-there’ while you spend time writing your articles.
- Approach people to write guest blogs on your website. You’ll be amazed by how many people will say yes!
3. I’m Going to Build a Website and Make Lots of Money!
I don’t want to spend much time on this; it’s pretty self-explanatory. But you’ll be shocked at the amount of soon-to-be business owners who think publishing a website will ring the money bell.
They’re in for a pretty big shock!
My Top Tips for the Website Newbies
- If you want a successful new website; investing a bundle of time and money is essential. Make sure you’re either willing to spend months growing it to profitability or have the pockets to invest in advertising and optimisation.
- Don’t commission a cheap website! It’s tempting to hop on Fivver, but you’ll end up with a waste of space website. You get what you pay for! Instead use free social media accounts, word-of-mouth, crowdfunding and good ole’ fashion hustle. If you can’t raise the money you need for a professional website through those means, it’s probably not a viable business.
4. Lights, Camera, Action!
OK, so we have our lights (the website), we have our camera (the audience), and now we need some action!
And when I say action, I mean call-to-action (CTA). If I had a penny for every website with either;
a. Enough buttons to make 20 websites or
b. No clear CTAs
…then I’d need a very large piggy bank!
Your homepage and your landing pages should have one clearly defined action. Yes, you can get away with more than one depending on the situation. But most of the time, one is plenty.
It needs to be big, it needs to be bold, and it needs to be clearly labelled. Please don’t use ‘submit’ or ‘click here’. Dull buttons are not attractive, and you’ll miss out on vital clicks.
My Top Tips for a Button to Rule All Buttons...
- Make the button sexy! It has an essential job and needs some love!
- If in doubt about colour. Green is great! Green means GO!
- Try and have one clear CTA per page. And make it visible as soon as the page loads (above the fold).
- If you need to repeat your button after each section (can be powerful), then make it consistent. Don’t change it every time; it’ll confuse the reader.
- Sell every click. If you want someone to click a button or link, you have to sell it. Make it clear what will happen after the button gets clicked. And make the button text enticing!
- If possible, adding some movement to a button can make them irresistible. But don’t overdo it.
- If you have two buttons together (not advisable but can work), then make it clear which one you would prefer they clicked. For example; [SHOP NOW] [ABOUT US]. Make the ‘shop now’ button bolder and more colourful to attract attention and make the next move obvious. Your reward will be more traffic to your store.
5. Slow and Steady Does Not Win the Race… This Time!
Speed matters for victorious websites. Time and time again, research has shown that slow pages cause disappointing conversions. I’m sad to say it, but very often blood, sweat and tears are poured into a website for it to be slung, unceremoniously, onto a cheap server (that most likely also contains a thousand porn sites).
Three key factors determine a server’s speed: Location, resources and competition. Here’s a quick 101 to help you understand.
- Location. If your server is in America and your users are in the UK, your website will suffer. The only way to make this work is by having a powerful global caching system (like Cloudflare). But ideally, you should make sure to find a host server nearest your users.
- Resources. Server specs vary widely. If your website is slow, maybe you have an underpowered server. For low traffic websites, this isn’t so much of a problem. For high traffic websites; make sure you have the best of the best.
- Competition. All hosting companies will put hundreds, and more often thousands of websites onto one server. As long as the server has a lot of resources at its disposal and it’s set up correctly, there shouldn’t be a problem. But hosting companies will squeeze every last drop of performance out of a server before firing up a new one. And this is where the problem lies. More often than not, servers are slow because they are overcrowded. It’s as simple as that.
Top Tips for a Website Usain Bolt Would Be Proud of...
- Use the Pingdom Speed Tool to get an accurate measure of your page speeds. Avoid Google Page Speed Insights unless you like looking at complex data.
- Don’t skimp on hosting. Cheap hosts can be slow. Yes, there are good quality cheap hosts, but truthfully, you’ll be making sacrifices for the low ticket prices.
- Ask your web developer. They usually can point you in the right direction.
- Never set up a server or VPS yourself unless you know exactly what you’re doing. I run servers myself and have done for many years. They are like bad-tempered children!
- I’m not going to suggest hosting companies here; any recommendations should be specific to your needs. I do offer hosting services, but it won’t suit everyone. If you would like some good options, then leave a comment with as much info about your site as possible (size, traffic, platform etc.) And I’ll point you in the right direction.
A Few Noteworthy Mentions That Didn’t Make the Cut...
- Security! Especially if you’re using WordPress. I have helped victims of hacking and, in my early days, was hacked myself. It’s a prevalent and ever-growing threat. Wordfence is a fantastic freemium security plugin for WordPress and should be the first plugin activated on your website.
- Fonts. Make sure you use legible fonts. A pet hate of mine is illegible text on websites. Yes, it might look pretty, but visitors will promptly leave. Make it big and easy to read!
- Images. Only use an image if it’s relevant. A great picture will help the viewer to understand the information on your website or show off a product. Less is always more (unless you’re a photographer… then you can go mad!).
- Image size: Take some time to learn about optimising images. It’ll make your page faster and save disk space. I’m going to write an article about this soon, so watch this space.
- Compliance: In Europe, we need to comply with GDPR laws and supply a cookie banner at the very least. Make sure you know the laws and regulations in your country and stick to them. It’s not worth the risk.
- Plagiarism. Take inspiration from other websites and content, but never directly copy them. If you do, at the very least, Google will pick up on it and give you ranking penalties.
If you have any questions relating to this article, I will answer them. Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.
Until next time