The 5 most common mistakes small businesses make with their website

When I talk to small business people about creating or updating their website I come across the same mistakes over and over again. Here are the top 5:

Free!1. Falling for “Free”

Free is such a powerful word – “Free Beer” must be the most beautiful two word sentence in the history of man! However, as my mum used to say “you get what you pay for” and that is never truer than with websites and web domains. Free often means “Free for 6 months, then you pay twice as much as anyone else”. Free also means “bare bones” and unfortunately also means “ad supported – with your competitor’s ads!” The worst scenario is that free often means temporary “we can withdraw your site at a moment’s notice if we choose”. Don’t get drawn into “Free” – it may be too expensive!

2. Having the neighbor’s kid do it*.

Kids are great – I have four myself and they are all much smarter than me. They can probably all program/code better than me. Kids also have no experience about your small business and don’t understand the concept of what’s important and what isn’t on a small business website (see What your website needs (and what it doesn’t) – a checklist for small business owners). Also kids grow up and move away. It might have been a good idea to use them when they lived next door but now they live in Seattle, Shanghai or Timbuktu, getting them to make updates to your website can be a “little tricky”! *This also holds true if you get “someone online” to do your site.

3. Not paying attention to SEO from square one.

I see it every day – small business owners eyes glazing over when the discussion turns to SEO (search engine optimization. Also see SEO – why does small business have such an issue with search engine optimization?) People don’t want to think about it so assume that the web designer will “take care of it”. While the visual design of the site is very important if your designer doesn’t talk about SEO at the first meeting and doesn’t explain what they are going to do – find someone else, it really is that important.

4. Visuals over content.

“I want the site to look awesome” is something I hear all the time. “How about some flashing text or a self-starting movie?” As I said above the design is very important but as I point out again and again Google cannot read either images nor flash movies. The site might look great but if Google sees an empty page (which happens all the time!) then NOBODY WILL EVER FIND YOU! If attracting new clients is important to you, then paying attention to text-based content will be the most critical part of your site – over and above just the awesome visuals.

5. Not owning their domain.

When you set up your first website you’ll often ask for help from a professional or a friend who’s done it before. Its much easier for them to set up the domain in their name than it is to do it in your name – so they do it that way. Fast forward two or three years when you want to upgrade or move your site you suddenly find out that all the contact info for your site still points to them. And now you’re not in touch with them and you find you can’t do anything because they’re unwilling or unable to help you. You’ve just discovered that you don’t own your own domain! From the get-go make sure that you are listed as the registrant for your domain – you can check your status at Networks Solutions WHOIS page.

Have a question about any of this? Worried that you are making these or other mistakes? Please contact me and let’s have a chat.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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