Every year, Chicago Cubs fans energetically declare, "This is going to be our year!" And yet ... I can't help but feel that deep down, they don't really believe it.
Sometimes I get the same sensation when business owners declare, "We want a great website!" I can't help but feel that deep down, they really don't believe a bad company site hurts them. So let's count the ways.
1. Lost Leads
Nothing hurts worse than when prospects embrace a competitor -- and a bad website will drive them into their arms faster than anything.
Site deficiencies that typically cause prospects to abandon a site include:
- Confusing navigation
- Overly busy, carnival-style page design
- Jargon-riddled, inwardly focused content
- Limited ability to interact -- e.g., a single, generic contact form
- No credibility statements (such as BBB Approved, Established 1975)
- Slow page loading
Number 4, ability to interact, is a really big one. Prospects are rarely so impressed with a company or so urgently in need of help that they will take extraordinary steps to initiate contact. If your site doesn't make making contact easy, your online lead generation strategy is done for.
2. Lost Traffic
Even when a site manages to avoid the deficiencies noted above, lead generation suffers mightily when the site's SEO functionality is out of date or nonexistent. When a site lacks visibility for organic search, people who need a company's product or service will never know the company exists. Instead, they will do business with a competitor -- quite possibly one with an inferior product. Common problems with onsite SEO include:
- No title tags, or poorly optimized ones
- Poor or nonexistent internal linking structure
- No 301 redirects for pages that have moved
- No preferred domain (www vs non-www)
Issues like these affect Google's ability to understand and properly rank site content. This is why people who think great content alone results in good rankings are wrong.
3. Weakened Image
Every company wants to project an image of excellence: reliability, innovation, efficiency, high quality, responsiveness, etc. Why then would a firm publish a website that projects an image of unreliability, stagnation, inefficiency, poor quality and unresponsiveness? But this is exactly what happens time and time again, when a firm gives lip service only to building a great site. Typical examples:
- Unreliability is conveyed when a site has haphazard navigation, leadership that goes unmentioned and unnamed, and contains content with factual errors and incomplete information.
- Lack of innovation is conveyed when a site has a company history or news page that ends in 2001, and employs overly formal content style and outdated design and SEO techniques (such as keyword stuffing).
- Inefficiency is conveyed by confusing navigation and design, inconsistent content style and grammatical errors.
- Poor quality is conveyed by any of the factors noted above.
- Unresponsiveness is conveyed by generic contact forms, no focus on customer needs and no personalization.
Presenting a poor corporate image does more than undermine lead generation efforts. When customers perceive site deficiencies, it undermines customer retention, or at least makes customers more open to a competitor's pitch. The customer may stay with the firm in the end, but perhaps with reduced prices or on less favorable terms.
Walk the website talk
The first step to having a great corporate site is recognizing the risk of not having one. A good starting point is to track certain metrics on the company site as it stands:
- Traffic patterns. Are they stagnant, growing or shrinking?
- Form submissions. Are the number and quality of online leads going up, down or nowhere?
- Pageviews. Are site visitors exploring your site, or mainly sticking to the home page?
- Time on the page. Are visitors spending time on pages, or quickly clicking away?
If you are underwhelmed by the results, chances are good that your prospects and customers are also underwhelmed.