By We Make Websites, www.wemakewebsites.com

Your website is one of the most important marketing tools you have at your disposal and in many cases it’s the first place a potential customer will look to learn about your firm. Here aresome common website mistakes to avoid so you can be ready for them.

Making a bad first impression

Just like in the real world, on the web, first impressions count. Your ‘bounce rate’ is the percentage of visitors that look at one page on your site and then leave. You’ll be familiar with the feeling of finding a site from Google then pressing the back button straight away, either because you can’t find what you’re looking for straight away or because the website is simply too ugly.

A good bounce rate is below 35% (although it varies based on industry sector), which means that two-thirds of visitors viewed more than one page on the site. A bounce rate above 50% is cause for concern. You can measure your bounce rate and other metrics by adding Google Analytics to your site, which is free.

The best thing you can do to improve your bounce rate is make the purpose of the website obvious. If you’re running an e-commerce site, your home page should get straight into the products, if you’re providing a service, you should have a short, snappy introductory explanation followed up by a call to action.

Lack of Focus

Make sure your website is built around one or two business objectives, such as to receive more enquiries, increase wholesale orders or to increase mailing list subscriptions. Ideally these should be measurable so you can compare your website performance at a later stage.

Ensure your navigation makes completing this objective easy. Provide clear calls to action to guide the user through the website. Don’t overcrowd your menus and keep pages simple.Keep text to a minimum - people skim-read text online, sokeep concise and in bite-sized chunks.

Not looking for feedback

When making your site, what seems completely obvious to you may not be so obvious to visitors. We all make assumptions about how the visitor will behave when designing a website and the only way to test if these assumptions are correct is to test with actual visitors.

The best way to do this is to sit down with a few people in your target market and ask them to use your site. Give them a task like ‘find and purchase product X’. With 3 testers you should be able to find most of the big problems on your site.

If you don’t have easy access to your target market, services like www.usertesting.com will do it for you.

No content management system

If you can’t update the content on your website easily, your site isn’t using a content management system (CMS). A CMS will allow you to quickly edit the pages on your site without the need for a web expert. This is cheaper and more convenient than the old approach to website maintenance, which involved having one technical individual make all the changes on the site.

Crucially, having a CMS will allow you to keep your site updated with fresh content which is important for search engines and to keep users coming back.

Getting in the way of a sale

When a visitor has made the decision to buy a product or make an enquiry, the last thing you want to do is make it difficult for them.

Typical mistakes include forcing users to sign-up to the site before making a purchase; not including common payment methods; asking for too many details on checkout or enquiry forms; and not making contact details prominent enough on the site. Only take the information that is necessary for the sale.

Not promoting your site

Getting visitors to your website is hard and requires time and effort. A low-cost and effective way of generating more traffic for your site is to write informative, useful or amusing niche content related to your business. Articles such as “Top 10 tips for X” work particularly well.

Social media is an increasingly important way of increasing traffic, so make sure you’reon Facebook and Twitter. You can use these social media channels to publicise your blog posts, announce new products or services and inform people about special offers. Another great way of incorporating social media into your site is to include ‘Like’ buttons on product pages. These help spread the word about your products organically.

Blogging and social media require a time investment so ensure you have capacity to handle them. A stale blog or Facebook page is worse than none at all. Consider using an intern or virtual assistant to help with these time-consuming but beneficial tasks.

Hopefully these tips will help improve your web presence and the first impression you give to online visitors. Often with just a few tweaks, your website can be transformed into an important part of your sales process.

For more information about We Make Websites, visit www.wemakewebsites.com or to find out how they can help you, contact the team on hello@wemakewebsites.info or call 020 3239 0084.