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Five basic business website mistakes and their solutions

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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A business website must be up, functional, findable, known, and accountable. That should go without saying. Yet, those five seemingly obvious qualities are precisely the ones many small business websites lack. I’ve focused here on these basic mistakes, because they’re so widespread, yet so easy to fix.

1. Not having a business website. These days, a website is like a listing in the phone book. If you don’t have one, you’re not in business. With the rise of free and cheap website building and hosting resources, there’s no excuse for even the smallest small business to lack a website.

On the other hand, some people wait (and wait and wait) to unleash an incredible, hypothetical, website. They believe that a brilliantly presented, exhaustively comprehensive, tour de force of a website will instantly draw traffic and profits. They are probably mistaken; meanwhile, here in the real world, the lack of a web presence leads to invisible, but very real lost opportunities.

Solution: create your business website. If you don’t know where to start, the review section of this website contains valuable information on low-budget website building and hosting resources.

2. Not having a functional business website. Having an “under construction” placeholder will attract you no business. Having a splash page with your name and contact information is better, because it can show the look and feel of your brand identity. To be functional, however, your website should convey the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your business: who you are, what you do, where you’re located, when you’re open for business, why choose you over a competitor, and how to contact you.

All this information could be contained on a single home page. But, having multiple pages with expanded content helps your website convey more information, personality, and (most important) persuasion. In addition, increased relevant content helps improve your website’s ranking in most current search engines, which largely disregard meta tags, animations, and even graphic design.

Solution: develop meaningful content for your website. It needn’t be fancy or take a long time. In fact, here’s how to write your website content in 60 minutes.

3. Misspelling words in meta tags and on submission forms. Many people forget to check the spelling of their meta tags, or make typographical errors when filling out a submission form. If you misspell keywords, then your website won’t come up as a result of a correctly spelled search. If you misspell a word on a search engine or directory submission form, then your website listing itself could contain a misspelling.

There’s a prominent paid-position website listing on a major search engine, for a business consultant, with the word “professional” misspelled in the website title. Yikes! It was probably misspelled once, on the website submission form - and now it’s there for all the world to see.

Solution: check the spelling of everything. Check your meta tags. When you submit your website to search engines and directories, check and re-check what you’ve written in the form. I find it easiest to have a pre-written, spell-checked, reality-checked document containing the entire website URL, website title, keywords, and descriptions in 10-word and 25-word variants. I can cut-and-paste from this document into any submission form with confidence.

4. Promoting the website to the wrong audience. Many small businesses don’t need a global search engine strategy. After all, not every business lends itself to doing business worldwide, using the Internet.

Realistically, the typical small business or entrepreneurial enterprise has a limited area in which it is cost-effective to do business. That limit might be imposed by internal factors (such as the desire to stay small) or external factors (such as government regulations, shipping costs, or currency conversion issues). Doing business locally is usually easier, and therefore more cost-effective and ultimately more-profitable.

Solution: promote your business website locally. Put your website URL on your flyers, business cards, signs, phone book listing, invoices, and even your after-hours answering machine message. You could even send out a press release to the local newspaper telling about your new website.

5. Failing to track where traffic comes from. Promoting your website costs time and money. It’s difficult to allocate your marketing budget wisely unless you know which ads and promotions your online customers respond to.

You need to be able to tell which advertisment or promotion generates the most website hits. Once you have this data, you can use it to compare one ad to another, or to test the effectiveness of a new advertising medium. That makes sure you’re squeezing the most traffic out of every website marketing dollar.

Solution: use a tracking code. If you have a way to log traffic (often included with your website hosting package), then you have a way to track responses. Simply add a tracking code to the URL you use in each ad or promotion. The tracking code is a slash and a question mark, followed by whatever code you want to use. It looks like this: www.yourwebsite.com/?ad1. Use a different code for each ad or promotion. You’ll find the results in your log files. Important: don’t confuse traffic with sales.

You don’t need a fancy website to implement these solutions - a basic one will do just fine. It will be up, functional, findable, and - locally, anyway - known. It will generate data you can use to evaluate your marketing efforts. Even though it might look simple, it’ll cover the marketing essentials and do most of what a flashier website will do. And that’s basically all you need in a website.
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