Nowadays, it’s common sense that any small business that’s looking to succeed needs a website. Contrary to popular belief, however, building an effective small business website is not a simple undertaking. The initial implementation of a website is only the beginning. Having a successful small business website requires strategy, maintenance and monitoring to create a positive user experience and ultimately, to generate leads. In order to understand the elements of a successful website, it’s helpful to know the common pitfalls of small business websites.

Let’s discuss some of the most frequent problems with small-business websites.

Avoiding Analytics

The key to increasing a website’s success is understanding and benchmarking its current activity. Gaining insight into how visitors behave on a website can greatly influence the changes that are needed down the road.

So, where to begin? Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s universally accepted, and it provides a wealth of information. Curious about when the most people visit the site? Is it on the weekend or a weekday? At night or in the early morning? Even more, consider purchasing decisions. Do consumers in Atlanta purchase more often or spend more money than consumers in New York? Google Analytics can tell you all of that and much more. This invaluable tool provides website analytics and business data—enabling small business owners to identify what’s working on the website (and what isn’t).

For WordPress users, a single Yoast Plugin adds all tracking codes necessary to the entire website with a few clicks, including advanced options like demographic profiling. No coding is needed. Once the basic Google Analytics profile is set up, make sure to track conversions via the Goals section of the platform. A conversion is generally defined as whenever a website user takes a desired action on the site, such as when a visitor submits their personal information via a contact form, thus generating a lead.

Ignoring User Insights

Once Google Analytics is installed, it is time to start analyzing the buyer’s journey on the website. The buyer’s journey is defined as the pages a user views on the website before the conversion occurs. Using Google Analytics, identify the path that users most frequently take upon arriving to the website.

When evaluating the buyer’s journey, it can be interesting to see the unconventional steps that users take to convert. For instance, users may go from the home page to the contact page, but then back to the About page, before deciding to convert. Try to put yourself in the potential customer’s mindset, and at each step, ask if the content on each page is helping them to make a decision and choose your business. If it’s not, then changes need to be made.

Also keep in mind that one of the most important points of the buyer’s journey is the customer’s first pageview during his or her first visit. This is where impressions are formed of a business. Within 5 seconds, a consumer will decide whether a small business is worth pursuing, or whether it’s time to move onto the next vendor. With that in mind, strong attention must be paid to a website’s homepage – which is usually the page with the most entrances on a website – and its landing pages, in order to make that first impression as positive as it can be.

Not Encouraging Conversion

Now that you’ve used Google Analytics to identify the path that most users take before converting, it is time to analyze the main key-performance indicators (KPIs) on these pages to determine if there are additional elements that can be improved.

Start with the first page in the conversion path, which is usually a landing page or the homepage. Consider its bounce rate, defined as the percentage of people who left the page instead of continuing into the remainder of the site. Perhaps there’s a way to grab users’ attention higher on the page, with an enticing call-to-action, which will get users to take the next step in the ideal conversion path. Show users where to go, what to do and how to do it.

For all pages in the conversion path, aim to get the bounce rate below 50% as a starting point. To identify areas in which to improve, look at each page and see what might be causing users to leave. Some questions to ask are:

  • Is it the navigation unclear, causing users to feel unsure of how to continue?
  • Do forms ask too many questions?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action on the page that asks the user to take the next step, or is it buried in a cluttered sidebar?
  • Are there multiple calls-to-action that overwhelm or confuse the user?
  • Could a page in the checkout process that asks the user to consider adding products to their basket, turning them off?

All of these answers will help to patch the “leaks” in the conversion funnel.

Once the bounce rate is in a better place—remember, the work will never be “done”—look at ways to increase relevant traffic coming to the site. Digital marketing efforts, such as search engine optimization (SEO), social advertising, search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC), or email marketing, can create inbound links to a website, generating a spike in visitors and ideally converting them into customers.

Lack of Maintenance

Many small business websites are filled without of date content. Let’s say, for example, that a small business owner has mastered the bounce rate, increased inbound marketing, and sees an increase in traffic coming to the site. A visitor arrives to the homepage and sees an old coupon or discount offer. That conversion is immediately lost.

Nothing is more unprofessional than having a website that’s out of date. It shows little concern or care on the part of the business owner about their appearance. It can be likened to showing up to a customer’s home with a van that leaks oil, or handing out last year’s brochure. The question is: how can you avoid out-of-date content without spending excessive amounts of time on the website each day? The answer is an annual marketing calendar.

As a small business owner, your time is valuable.. There are ways, however, to bring efficiencies to the mundane task of keeping a website up to date. Knowing a year in advance when seasonal campaigns will begin and end, and where changes on your website will need to be made, is invaluable. Planning ahead will help better manage time down the road. A simple way to begin this process is to put reminders about seasonal website changes and campaign start and stop dates in your computer’s calendar, email calendar, project management tool, or whatever system currently being used. You’ll be glad you did.