The following is a guest post by Ken Myers. His bio is at the end of the article.
Getting a website online is a huge accomplishment, and one that takes quite a bit of work. From learning about coding to finally committing to an online presence, there’s no shortage of things you need to do to successfully make a site go live, and it’s easy to feel like your work is done once the site is up and running. Unfortunately, though, that’s often just the starting point.
These three common mistakes are why you’re not only preventing visitors from finding your site, but actually driving traffic away from your site altogether:
You’re giving your visitors an easy way out
Getting visitors onto your site is a huge achievement, but many business owners are negating this by immediately ushering them back onto the web. Once you’ve captured a visitor’s attention, you need to keep it. This means providing everything a potential client needs on your own site.
The SEO benefits of inbound and outbound links often have website owners going overboard. Links to social media sites and external articles can end up leading visitors off your site permanently, rather than luring them back to it. Once a visitor is on your site, you want to keep them there. Creating a strong narrative that guides them through the site is a great way to accomplish this.
Another way to keep visitors is by providing them with the information they’re seeking on your site, not directing them elsewhere to obtain it. Finally, external links should be displayed in another window so that your website is a still on their screen. Give your visitors a reason to stay.
Your site is cluttered
Take a look at some of the web’s most popular sites. Reddit, Yahoo, Facebook and Google may not seem like they have a lot in common, but based on looks alone, they do. Each provides a clear layout with lots of whitespace. A new user can easily find their way around the site. An experienced user can quickly navigate to wherever they want to go.
It’s said that you only have five seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. Visitors don’t want to search for the information they are looking for, and they certainly don’t want to learn to navigate a confusing layout. They want an easy, quick way to find information. Providing necessary information in a straightforward manner is imperative to keeping visitors engaged.
Drop down menus and unnecessary sidebar additions are the worst offenders for clutter, but other niggling items like an excess of social media icons and underlined text that doesn’t link anywhere can also turn visitors away. Additionally, ads can be a huge turnoff for visitors if they detract from the actual site information. Make any ads on your site discrete. Create lots of space and ensure that each piece of information is imperative to your visitors.
The Weather Channel website is a well-known website that would benefit from de-cluttering. By shifting the actual information users are searching for (the weather) into the upper half of the screen and placing ads and articles in the center screen, users can be easily confused by the site. The pop-up ad also detracts visitors from getting the information they need. While The Weather Channel may be able to get away with poor website design, a small business will only see lost traffic and sales.
Your site doesn’t have a clear narrative
Creating a successful website is a lot like telling a story. The author needs to guide the reader through the plot and lead them to the final conclusion. Instead, too many website owners treat their site like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, letting clients blindly stumble around their site in hopes that they find the right information.
The Honda Project Drive-In is a fantastic example of a website that provides a clear direction for visitors. In the summer of 2013, Honda committed itself to saving the American Drive-In through the Honda Project Drive-In. The website wanted visitors to do three things: vote for a drive-in to save, donate to the Project Drive-In fund, and view the schedule for pop-up drive-ins scheduled at Honda dealerships. Each page on the website guides visitors to the next objective. With the scrolling menu, users could clearly see what they had visited and what was left to see on the site. This excellent use of a strong narrative ensured that Honda was able to give its full message to the visitor.
Each page should have a call-to-action that leads visitors to the next step. The home page should clearly and concisely tell readers why they found the right site for their needs. Whether it’s offering house cleaning services or promoting a blog, visitors should be able to immediately identify what they’re viewing and why it’s important to them. From there, visitors should be invited to follow up by learning more at the “About” page and should be encouraged to contact the business if they have any questions, comments or concerns. If you don’t give visitors a task, they’ll leave.
Creating a website that not only attracts visitors but also gains repeat guests is imperative to ensuringits success. By following these simple steps, you can create a friendly, warm site that engages your viewers instead of driving them away.
Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.