Why websites fail: an overview

Websites don’t come cheap. Even the cheap ones don’t come cheap. So investing a lot of time and money in a website only to have it perform badly or not at all is gut-wrenching for any business owner.

You did everything right, right? You paid someone to set it up because you know websites are important and you wanted yours done properly. It certainly looks good. So why aren’t you ranking number one on Google? Why isn’t the phone ringing with orders? Why aren’t you getting any hits?

This does happen. I know of one business website that was still waiting for its first hit six months after it launched. Another business changed its hosting service and template, and traffic on its site literally stopped overnight.

If your website isn’t an ace performer, the good news is that it’s fixable. Let’s look at how and why sites fail, and then talk about ways to help turn them around.

 Three ways that websites under-perform

Poor website performance usually manifests in one of three ways:

  1. No hits (i.e. no visitors)
  2. People visit the site but don’t stay (high bounce rate)
  3. People visit the site and stick around for a while but they don’t do anything else (low conversion rate)

If your site isn’t getting any hits, it’s probably because no-one knows it’s there. That’s a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) issue.

If you’re experiencing a high bounce rate, your visitors aren’t finding what they were looking for. This points to confusion around your branding.

If your visitors spend time on the site but don’t convert that into the action you want them to take, they may not be sure what they should do or where to go next. That indicates a problem with your content.

These issues are often inter-related. If you’re not really clear about what you’re offering and exactly who you’re targeting (i.e your branding), your content will be hit-and-miss and that means a big chunk of your SEO will be too. The result will be a website that’s not pulling its weight.

How to help your site perform better

It’s not possible to identify and fix every aspect of a dysfunctional website in a simple overview like this but we hope the following tips and techniques help.

If SEO is the main problem

  • Make sure the site is authenticated with Google.  Your web designer should have already done this but check anyway.
  • Google announced at the end of 2016 that it was going to start penalising sites that aren’t fully optimised for mobile devices. If your site isn’t optimised, fix it. Today. Seriously.
  • Google also penalises sites for keyword stuffing and duplicate content. Don’t do those things. They’ll hurt your rankings.
  • Create a free Google Business listing and include your business address on Google Maps.
  • Use Google Analytics or other site stats to monitor the hits that you do get. Make a note of the search terms people are using to find you. These can then form the basis of your SEO keywords and key phrases.
  • Do everything you can to promote your site. Don’t leave it up to search engines. Your website address should be part of your email signature and all signage. It should also be prominently displayed on your business card. Let your light shine!
  • Make use of social media to drive traffic to your website every chance you get.

We’ll cover more about SEO in future posts, so come back often!

If branding is the main problem

Branding is all about knowing exactly what your business offers and who you’re trying to target, and then crafting your message just for them. It’s a big subject and, when you don’t have $25,000 to pay an ad agency to organise it for you, it can be a daunting one. But if you’re looking for somewhere to start, try these:

  • Do an online search for “brand persona”. You’ll find a raft of  questionnaires that may give you ideas about your key message and the sort of language you can use around that. Some will even suggest colour schemes for your workplace!
  • Do the same for “client (or “customer”) persona”. The more detail you can create around your ideal clients, the easier it will become to create content for them.
  • Or just go here!

If content is the main problem

Your site’s content is its workhorse. Good design attracts visitors but great content makes the sale. If you want your site to perform well, keep these points in mind:

  • Your content should focus on your clients and the problems or issues they have that you can fix. It’s about them, not you.
  • Make sure that every piece of content is relevant, accurate and useful. If it’s not, be ruthless and either get rid of it or re-work it. People hate having their time wasted.
  • Never lose sight of what you want your site’s visitors to do—pick up the phone and call you? Fill in an online form? Go to another page on the site? Tell them. These are your Calls to Action.
  • Update your content regularly and/or find new and interesting ways to re-use it (infographics and slideshows work well).

 Other performance issues

There are many reasons why websites under-perform. We’ve outlined the three most common but they’re by no means the only ones.

Maybe your website is a tyrant, demanding too much of your time and effort. Or perhaps the site’s set-up costs blew out so much that you now fight back tears every time someone says, “return on investment” (ROI). These scenarios are fails too because your expectations aren’t being met.

But take hope—we can help you fix these issues too. We’ll show you how creating a content strategy and schedule could win you back time and save you some effort. We’ll also show you how, with great content, proper branding and sound SEO practices, you can drive more traffic to your site, ultimately increasing your ROI by converting those visits into good, honest sales.

Niki Morrell

Niki is the creative director of Bold Communications and co-founder of Good Honest Content. A former radio host with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, she's been helping Kiwi and Aussie businesses with content marketing and strategy since 2012.

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