I put down my editing pen after the second last proofread over the web copy that I had written for a cabinetmaking website. Ten webpages. One long day. Loads of coffee … and did I mention the 48 websites I combed through for research?

With every web copywriting project, I explore a stack of small business websites, and I keep seeing the same mistakes being made across website after website.

I am not talking about the websites that are simply dated. I am talking about the little teeny tiny mistakes that throw off the user experience and are unwittingly turning away potential clients … And it drives me crazy because these website mistakes are so easy to fix!

1. It’s Not All About You!

I know you are proud of your business, and your website, but if every web page talks about how wonderful you are, your history and your fabulous family, I am afraid that there is no room in the relationship for anyone else. It is the online equivalent of “Enough about me, what do YOU think about me?”

Websites should be all about your customers and their needs. Your website needs to answer all the questions that your prospective customers ask. Imagine the customer is standing in front of you and you are talking directly with them. Answer their questions and stop talking about you!

There are copywriting techniques that can be used on pages such as the “About Us” page that still turn the conversation back to the customers, but always remember to talk with your audience.

2. Your Menu is Scrambled

Many small business websites have their navigation menus designed by the same person who files using the protocol “I will put it under P for paper.”

There is a custom and practice for the order of website menus. If you mix up the order, you make the customer confused.

A confused mind says no

What is the order? Home on the extreme left. Contact Us on the extreme right.

The bits in the middle are usually ordered by importance, with the most important bits towards the outer edges.

Don’t make people hunt for your contact information! You are not playing hide and seek and you don’t win a prize if the person can’t find you. If you want people to contact you – then put your contact page in the right place in your menu!

Don't hide contact info. You're not playing hide & seek. There's no prize if you're not found.Click To Tweet

Read more about ways to sort your navigation https://blog.kissmetrics.com/common-website-navigation-mistakes/

3. Silence is NOT Golden

Many small business owners are people of few words. They are no-nonsense types who believe that less is more. This results in web pages with approximately 10 words on them per page that are simple dot point lists of their services (e.g. we make kitchens, laundry cupboards and vanities.)

To see why this is a problem, let’s look at warm, fuzzy recruitment analogy.

Let’s pretend you are hiring for a receptionist role. When you are recruiting for a new employee, you look at the resumes of the candidates.

In front of you are two candidates.

Candidate One

Job History: ABC company.

Job duties:

  • Receptionist

Candidate Two

Job History: ABC company.

Job duties:

  • Receptionist – Responsible for answering and directing calls for a 20 line switchboard within 3 rings; Managing the bookings and catering for 5 conference rooms delivering a 95% customer satisfaction rating for the rooms; Arranging multiple courier pick-ups and deliveries ensuring 100% overnight delivery of all parcels; Entering all incoming mail into the CRM within 2 hours of mail delivery.

If you had both resumes in front of you, which would you interview?

Your website is you applying for a job and your client is your potential employer.Click To Tweet

Your website is your resume for your company. The copywriting on your website needs to show not only the bare bones of what you do, but provide enough details to help a potential hirer know precisely what you do and why they should hire you.

The mantra I use for website copy and for resumes is the same.

Tell people:

  • What you did
  • How you did it
  • How you know you were good at it.

If you only provide one-word answers and your competitors have more robust responses, you are simply not competitive and your phone will not ring.

To paraphrase an Australian politician: “Your website is not a 3 word slogan. You need to advocate your case.

Words matter. They matter to your clients and they matter to Google. Yes, you do need words for your website! Lots of good, rich and interesting ones.

4. The Scrapbooked Site

This is the mirror opposite of the “Silence is not golden” website. With these websites, the owner obviously has the ability to add bits of words to their site. And they do. Lots of words. All over the place. And in no particular order.

These words have a few additional quirky traits.

Either they hunt as a very tight pack of words, not allowing any white space to be seen amongst long blocks of black letters, or they are scattered along the page like confetti after Mardi Gras, making it hard to work out one continuous thought.

The grammar, spelling and the tense of the words used on a scrapbooked site can be best described as professional as a macaroni necklace threaded on wool.

These sites often reflect creative owners who have loads and loads of interests but can’t quite nail down what their business is really about. As a result, the site ends up as a colourful, eclectic mix of random findings, and the home page tries to knit all the threads together: “We are carpenters who also do a bit of basket weaving and artisanal bread baking.

Unfortunately, what is a wonderfully exuberant creative jumble for the owner is like wading through custard for visitors. They can’t work out where to start – let alone where or what to buy.

5. Your Photos Suck

Don’t have photos of your business? Race out and grab the nearest stock image to fill the gap. The problem is that once your customers start doing research across different websites, they will begin to see the same images over … and over … and over.

In the cabinetmaking website research, I saw the same kitchen photo appear across approximately nine websites. Now unless the kitchen was built by an army of trades in an unparalleled show of fellowship that probably involved a few Hobbits and a golden ring, it is pretty darn obvious that this was a stock photo.

Why is that an issue?

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If I am getting a kitchen done, I want to see examples of your work and not the work of Shutterstock. Using a stock image and pretending it is your work is sort of like me using a photo of Kim Kardashian as my Tinder photo (… if I was on that site … and I am not … but Kim may be).

Click To Tweet

Overdone Stock Photos

But don’t get off feeling virtuous if you are not in a trade. If I see one more set of stock photo handshaking hands representing customer service I am going to stab the said hands with a salad fork!

Other overdone stock images:

  • Businessmen pretending to be Superman and ripping a perfectly good shirt,
  • Teams of people paid to jump for joy and pretend to look happy,
  • Intense looking at a piece of paper,
  • Drawing mind maps on clear glass while looking moodily through the glass,
  • Arms high up in the air showing celebration or that you don’t have BO,
  • The thumbs up sign in all its variations,
  • The ridiculously good looking call centre woman,
  • The multicultural team of people who have no personal space issues and insist on huddling while they talk.

Bad stock photos can negatively impact any business.

There are also some stock photo models that have made a killing through their photography fees. They are everywhere! If you use any photos of these models, know that every second website also has them – promoting everything from male enhancing tablets to childcare centres. Don’t use their photos!

Bad stock photos

Use real looking people – preferably ones of your own people and your own business (unless these people work for you … and then still don’t use their photos). Support your local photographer and book in a photo shoot of you, your team and your business!

Need a more effective small business website?

Contact us to explore how we can help you power up your online presence.

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