We see many small business websites fail their businesses, maybe even yours. It’s 2022, and your website isn’t just an online brochure anymore. It’s a potential customer’s first impression of your small business. In many cases, it’s your salesman. And it should be the hub of your small business’ digital marketing strategy.

So here are the top 10 ways we see small business websites fail. In no particular order….

1. A Vague or Missing Tagline

Lead conversion experts at HubSpot have identified the tagline  – the short statement on what your business offers – as one of the most critical pieces of content on your small business’s website. And to solidify a good first impression of your company, your website needs to offer that tagline within the first 3 seconds of a visitor arriving at your site.

This means your tagline needs to be above the fold (seen without scrolling, even on a phone), tight, clear, and convincing. You need to quickly explain:

  1. What you offer
  2. How it will improve your customers’ lives

Too many websites either take too long to state their case or tuck this information below the fold, onto an about page, or somewhere else. When we designed the website for our client Bespoke Beauty Loft, we made it obvious that they offer haircuts and how those cuts are different with the tagline: “Building confidence through beautiful hair.” And we prominently placed the tagline above the fold.

Is crafting this type of content easy? No. Mark Twain once quipped, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” It takes time to craft messaging that’s concise and convincing enough to hold a visitor’s attention in our fast-paced, digital world.

2. No Obvious Call to Action

You also need to quickly show your audience their next step – your Call to Action. This is the classic “Buy Now” or “Learn More” button. In too many websites, the CTA’s are buried below the fold, hidden in a “Contact Us” page, stated passively, or not made to stand out on the website pages.

In Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller argues that you shouldn’t ask your website visitors to burn too many calories trying to figure out what you do, how it will improve their lives, and how they can get it. If you do, you’re probably losing customers. And when it comes to CTA’s, you can’t assume that your website visitors will just know what to do. He writes,

“They [our website visitors] can’t read our minds and they don’t know what we want, even if it seems obvious. We have to clearly invite customers to take a journey with us or they won’t….Most people think they’re overselling when, in truth, their calls to action fall softer than a whisper.”

Make your CTA’s clear, obvious, and post them frequently on your website. Yes, there is some finesse to doing this well. That’s where working with a qualified website designer can help.

3. Your Only CTA is Asking Too Much Too Soon

Now, all of the above being said, sometimes you can ask a visitor for too big of a conversion before you’ve built trust. Remember your marketing funnel?  You need two types of CTAs on your website: a direct CTA (e.g. “Buy Now”) for the bottom of funnel leads and a middle-funnel CTA (e.g. “Download a Coupon”).

Not every website visitor is going to be ready to jump into the deep end of the pool with you right away. Many will need to wade in slowly with a middle-funnel conversion then fully convert once you’ve built more trust.

Don’t miss out on potential customers by only asking them to jump in the deep end. Offer a lead magnet (a free product, insight, or tool available in exchange for contact info), encourage them to follow you on social media, and invite them to sign up for your newsletter. Then prove to them with stellar content that you’re worthy of their investment.

4. Missing Validation

Your customers want to be sure they can trust you before they commit to converting with you. Establishing trust begins online because 97% of consumers are researching small businesses online before they commit.

Too many small businesses miss a huge opportunity to establish trust with their customers by omitting customer quotes, 5-star reviews, portfolios, case studies, and other sources of validation from their websites. And don’t make your customers search for them: include them throughout your site. It’s not good enough to say “we’re a partner you can trust.”  You need to show, not tell.

Check out this HubSpot blog for more information on digital marketing with customer reviews and testimonials.

5. Your Blog Isn’t Helpful

Writing helpful blogs further establishes trust with your prospective customers. Many small businesses either don’t post blogs at all, post sporadically, or treat their blog posts as a PR opportunity. Here’s why that hurts your business.

In addition to boosting SEO, one of the top purposes of posting blogs on your website is to demonstrate to your customers that you are the best option for helping them solve whatever problem they’re facing. You should offer helpful information on your product and service as well as helpful information on topics related to your product or service. And these blogs should be worth your customers’ time – not 1,000 word rambles stuffed with keywords.

If a lead looks at your blog and it hasn’t been updated in several months, it looks bad and raises a red flag. And if your blog is just self-promotion and press releases, your leads frankly just don’t care. Be helpful and share regularly.

6. Dated or Cheap Looking Design

Too many small businesses have a bad habit of creating a website then not updating it for the next 5 to 20 years. Or, not investing properly in a design that will entice customers toward conversion. You know the look: clip art, a flat design that looks like it was coded in the early 2000s, or out-of-vogue features like scrolling header images and wide side margins.

Here’s why that’s bad for your business. Like it or not, your potential customers care about the look of your website. One study found that 38% of your customers will stop interacting with your website if it’s ugly. Ouch.

Your website is your business’s first impression. Don’t lose customers because it looks bad. Keep it fresh, clean, and modern. (And don’t use Wix!)

7. Your Website Takes Too Long to Load

Modern people are busy and impatient. And if your website takes too long to load (more than 1-2 seconds), they will simply take their business elsewhere. But worse, potential customers – particularly those using mobile devices – may not even find your business online because Google penalizes slow loading sites with lower rankings on SERPs.

Slow loading websites are costly: One study found that slow websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in sales globally each year. Another study found that 39% of website visitors will stop engaging if website images take too long to load.

Sometimes flashy features detract from your website because it bogs load speeds. Or, your gorgeous images might take too long to load on most internet browsers because they’re too big. Don’t ask your customers to wait for you. Your competitor is just a click away.

8. Big Navigation

Your website’s navigation is one of the most important elements of your website design. It leads customers through your site and establishes a clear hierarchy of the most important pages for their buyer’s journey.

Your navigation needs to help lead your customers through a simple story about

  1. What you offer
  2. How it will improve their lives
  3. How to get your product/service

Some website design experts recommend limiting your website’s primary navigation to 7 items. But we generally recommend clarity and simplicity, not a specific number. And we recommend not falling for SEO hacks like adding every single website page to the navigation. The clunky UX isn’t worth it.

Check out this HubSpot blog to learn more about website navigation best practices. And if you want a second opinion from a fresh set of eyes, we can help.

9. Poor Mobile Design

If your small business’ website isn’t designed for mobile visitors, then you’re probably frustrating at least half of your customers since generally more than half of website visitors come from mobile devices. And expectations for your mobile website are high: 85% of adults believe that a business’s mobile website design should be as good if not better than the desktop version.

Too many small business websites don’t adjust quickly to mobile browsers, requiring visitors to swipe sideways to view text or scroll past unnecessary images and text to get to the most important information. And like me, I’m sure you’ve also been frustrated by being unable to click a phone number or address to quickly call or automatically open a navigation app.

Check what your website looks like on your own smartphone to check its performance. Not sure what you’re looking for? We can help.  Don’t lose customers due to a frustrating mobile experience.

10. Misspellings and Inconsistent Title Caps

Misspellings and inconsistent title caps might seem small, but they impact a user’s impression of your businesses. Spelling mistakes and capitalization inconsistencies look like you didn’t care enough to ask a friend to copy edit your site. And if you don’t care that much about your business, why should your customers?

We get that it can be hard to catch these copy errors. When you’ve read your website copy multiple times, your eyes miss seeing things. One of my high school English teachers recommended reading copy backwards to help catch misspellings. Here’s a handy tool to double check for proper title capitalization.  But the best advice is to just ask a fresh set of eyes to take a look at your website.

Get Fresh Eyes on Your Small Business’ Website

We’re offering free website reviews for small businesses and startups to help catch these and other website pitfalls. All you need to do is send us a link to your website, and we’ll send you a 7-10 minute video review. That’s it!

And we won’t send you further marketing information unless you ask us to. We know small business websites are vital, and we want to help yours be the best it can be!

You can sign up for your free website review here:

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