The 3 Most Likely Reasons Why Your Website Is Failing

Last Updated Apr 22, 2011 5:45 PM EDT

There are few things more disappointing for a business than a website that fails to deliver results. Visitors may come to the site, but the site fails to convert visitors into clients and customers. There are dozens of reasons why a business website fails to deliver, but I've found there are three key factors that come up again and again.

1. Your website does not build trust.
Trust is a primary driver of sales online. It has a tremendous impact on whether or not a visitor becomes a customer. Before she is going to make the decision to call you, fill out your online form, or make a purchase, she must know that she can trust you. If she hasn't heard of your name before and just happened to come across your website by searching for your product/service, then you must prove yourself through the design and content of your website. The two work together.

The design of your website must look modern -- or at least like it was built within the last three years. Signs of antiquity include (but are not limited to):

  • a narrow column width
  • fonts such as Comic Sans or Papyrus
  • animated gif images
The design should reflect your industry, while being unique and in line with your company brand guidelines. Your website must also be well maintained. For one, that means that it should work in all new browsers (without breaking).

As for content, you should show as many press mentions, awards, certifications, affiliations, security badges, case studies, testimonials, high-profile clients, leadership profiles as you can. Whatever is going to establish you as a reliable company will help you gain the trust of your visitors -- especially those coming to your website for the first time.

2. You're sending all of your traffic to your home page.
Websites, unlike brick-and-mortar stores, do not require visitors to enter through the front door. Instead, they allow visitors to go straight to a web page that may or may not correspond with their interests; if it does, it has a much greater chance of engaging them and turning them into a customer.

When you send out an email to a prospect, do you send them a link to your home page or to a page that directly addresses their needs? When you run an AdWords ad for a specific service you offer, do you send visitors to your home page rather than the page that describes that service? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, then you are guilty of poor traffic segmentation, and it's costing you dearly in lost opportunities.

I believe the reason why most business owners send all traffic (including SEO, social media, newsletters, paid ads) to their home page is because they simply don't have confidence in their website's sub pages. Most web companies treat sub pages as an afterthought, placing the most emphasis on the home page planning and design. More attention should be paid elsewhere.

The further down the sales funnel a visitor travels, the more important each subsequent page becomes. For example, on e-commerce websites, the most time should be spent on planning the product and checkout pages. The home page should only serve as a means of directing traffic to other sections of the website that visitors are interested in.

To effectively make the best use of traffic to your website, you should be segmenting your traffic into different categories and sending those individuals to specific pages. This is especially true for visitors who've already been to your website. They really don't want to see your home page again.

If you haven't already, create a landing page strategy. A landing page is any page on your website that visitors "land" on or click on through an ad, newsletter, or a search engine result. You should have a landing page for each type of visitor:

  • Prospective customers looking for one particular service
  • Prospective customers who need a more general category of services
  • Existing customers who you hope to upsell
Each landing page must be able to, on its own, sell a visitor on your product or service or effectively take the visitor to the specific page that will. Think of it as creating separate home pages for each service. Unbounce has a great landing page resource library if you'd like to learn more.

3. Your call to action is nearly nonexistent or poorly worded
Each page on your website should have an objective: move the visitor one step closer to taking a desired action. To do so effectively, you need an effective "call to action" on each page: a prominent button or link that moves the user along. It's got to be easy to find if you want it to work. A lot of websites just have a bunch of information on their page with no clear next step. Don't rely on the "Contact Us" link at the top of your web pages. There should be a call to action visible as soon as the page loads as well as at the bottom of the page, where many users end up after reading your content.

The call to action not only needs to be visible, it also needs to be something that the visitor actually wants to do at that point in time. When was the last time that you went to a website for a professional services company and found a big button that said "Request a Consultation" right on the home page? You haven't even figured out if they provide the service you need and they already want you to request a consultation. It's too early. Wouldn't you rather see something like "Browse Our Services" or "Read our Case Studies"? Once a visitor has entered a sub page, it is more likely that he is ready to request a consultation. Only then will a strong call-to-action work.

For more on how to word an effective call-to-action, check out this recent post.

Do you fear that your website is failing? Leave a comment below and I'll provide you with tips to help it succeed.
Alhan Keser is the Chief Marketing Officer of Blue Fountain Media.

  • Alhan Keser

    As head of marketing at NYC Web design company, Blue Fountain Media, Alhan Keser is an expert at leveraging ROI factors to grow online businesses. He's helped companies such as P&G, OppenheimerFunds, the NFL, Sony, and HarperCollins achieve better results on the Web. He's also been known to ride his bike across America and survive on a steady diet of bananas.