By Kathryn Tuggle | Main Street
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Although most small businesses would love to have a professional, easy-to-navigate website with a strong social media presence and high-res photos, little things such as paying employees and finding new clients always seem to get in the way.
While some companies have spent thousands of dollars perfecting their digital brand, others haven’t had the money or the time. Unfortunately, it shows. In today’s digital age, a small business’ website is the face of the company, and having a strong online presence is essential.
On the Internet, there’s a fine line between “good” and “good enough,” and it’s not always easy to know when your website is due for a major overhaul. We checked in with experts to find the top five indications yours needs a facelift.
1.Your site isn’t ready for tablets and smartphones
“Like with any business offering, knowing your audience is vital to producing a great website experience,” says Barbara Apple Sullivan, chief executive of Sullivan, a New York City-based brand engagement and strategy firm.
“A company must tailor its digital offering to suit its customers and prospects: If research reveals your customers are digitally focused and spend 12 hours per day on a tablet, optimize for the tablet experience,” Sullivan says.
With the explosion of the smartphone market, there’s no question more people than ever are using their handheld devices to browse the Web, says Kevin Poor, creative director for Dix & Eaton, a public relations firm that specializes in website makeovers.
“If a company’s site does not provide an adequate mobile experience, it will miss an opportunity to capture the attention of a potential customer,” Poor says.
Today’s sites should always scale to the width of the browser whether it’s on a big desktop or a small smartphone.
2. You have too many social media options
“Social media can be very powerful, but it can also be a big hindrance for brands,” says Noah Ross, executive creative director for New York-based advertising agency Launchpad.
“If you’ve ever gone to a website and seen five-plus social media icon options, chances are at least one of them will be a dud when you get there. This problem lies deeper than just the website, though. It lies in the social media strategy.”
Ross says companies shouldn’t be involved in social media for social media’s sake. They should choose their communication platforms “purposefully” and build a strong strategy around them.
“For example, if you’re in retail, Pinterest may be a great place to focus your energy so that you can gain visual exposure of your products in a share-heavy network. But please don’t also start a Flickr, Vimeo, and Twitter account if you’re not going to man those stations with an equal amount of energy and continuity,” he says.
Even though your site may look great, leading clients to a Web presence that’s not up to par will never reflect well on your brand.
3. You have an out-of-date blog
“Blogs are one of the riskiest features to include on a brand’s website because of the misunderstanding of how much time it will truly take to maintain,” Ross says.
“The minute a customer visits the blog on your site and sees that you haven’t posted in two months, you’ve just communicated that you can’t maintain your own marketing strategy,” he adds.
Companies with outdated content on their site appear to be “dropping the ball,” no matter how strong the content may be, Ross says. It gives the impression that a company just doesn’t care enough to make the effort, which is the last thing a brand should convey.
4. You’re noticing a decrease in traffic
“If you’re noticing a decrease in traffic and search engine rankings it could mean that you are not creating enough ‘buzz’ online,” says Eric Covino, CEO of Creative Signals, an SEO and Web design company.
“It may be time to re-examine not just the site’s content, but its usability as well, to make sure both are compelling enough for other sites to talk about and link to,” he explains.
Companies that are seeing a decrease in pages viewed per visit may need to think about how easy their site is to move through. Users may have a hard time navigating it or they may not find the content relevant.
“With so many tools readily available, all businesses should be using analytics software to track their website’s metrics,” Sullivan says. “Whether it’s where traffic is coming from, what pages users click on most or how much time a visitor spends on each page of the site, all of this data is meaningful and can yield valuable insights about your company’s offerings.”
5. You have out-of-date photos or graphics
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but classics are easily identifiable. If your site looks like it was built in 1999, then your users will use it the same way and they’ll question themselves with every step,” says Mike Haley, VP of strategy for AmericanEagle.com, a Web design and development firm.
“Your site needs to look current, but it doesn’t have to look like a Monet or Van Gogh. As long as you manage your brand identity and display it in a clean, friendly format, users will enjoy using your site.”
Even if you think your photos are fine, keep in mind that they don’t have to be blurry to be outdated. Ask yourself if your site looks older than those of your competitors.
Even if your images are “new,” it’s never good to use stock photos if you can avoid it.
“A company must be objective in realizing its website isn’t up to par with today’s standards — warning signs can include generic Web content, including text, images or photos,” Sullivan says.