“You have to have a web strategy.” These days, that’s an overriding mantra that small businesses hear, to the point that you might feel like you’re going to drive off a cliff if you don’t hurry up and get a website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook business page, and anything else you can think of.
While it is true that you need to have a presence online, and important that you don’t put it off for too long, many people seem to panic and ignore the second word in “web strategy.” Simply throwing things at the wall can be even worse than having nothing, and with that in mind, I’d like to detail the 6 most common mistakes I see small businesses making online.
Going optimization crazy. You have a website, but no one is coming. What to do? One potentially helpful route is to add SEO to your content. Search engines like Google can tell you which words people search for most when looking for content like yours. Following logic, adding those words should increase the number of people who see your site… and adding lots of those words should make it jump up astronomically, right? Well, maybe at first, but doing SEO well is an art, and not too many people are going to stick around if “Highland Heights attorney” appears on every line of text. It’s bad writing, and people will tune out quickly.
SPAMming. Most people know what SPAM is in the email sense of the word. Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t seem to understand that constantly marketing via their Twitter and Facebook pages is basically the same thing. This is a tough one, because obviously as a business you joined social networking sites to advertise and raise brand awareness, but if you do it too much, you’ll annoy your followers and lose people. You need to think of social media as a way to connect with customers first, and as an advertising method second.
Dropping the ball. The problem with setting up things that require constant content and maintenance is that you have to maintain them and provide constant content. You can’t have a website and not answer the email you receive, and it’s just as bad of an idea to start blogging, Tweeting, or posting Facebook messages on your pages and then stop because you’ve lost interest or the time to do it.
Blinging out your site. Unless you are a graphic designer or in some similar visual medium, no one is going to care that your site has bleeding-edge design tools that make it look amazing… for the top-of-the-line computers that can actually load it. As a business, you want to maximize the number of people who can access your site and have the design serve as the delivery box for the content. To continue the analogy, you don’t want that box to be dinged up or to be mismatched with the actual content – which is the actual reason people will stick around.
Overreaching. With all of the many tools at your disposal for fairly low cost, it can be tempting to want to make a splash online in some way. Just be careful how you do it. If advertising suddenly nets you more clients than you can handle, or a sale causes a run on a product you make, you might end up having to deal with angry customers or a huge profit loss. Think hard before overstepping your bounds.
Plants and silencing. The nature of the internet is that you can get an immediate reaction to anything that you do. When response is positive, this can be a great boost for business. But when it’s negative, business can decline – or at least we fear that it will, which makes us panic. Some businesses have tried to shut off commenting instead of proactively responding to negative remarks. Others even employ “plants” to make positive comments and reviews. Neither one of these strategies is a good idea. People generally don’t like to feel like they’ve been silenced; let them vent and try to answer their concerns as best you can. And never – ever – employ plants. Most people can spot them a mile away, and it makes you look desperate and silly.