I was doing market research today on small businesses and noticed a few common mistakes when it came to to their web site.

  1. They don’t keep control of their domain names.This is a big one. I have worked with so many people to try to get their domain name back that has either expired or they lost control of that I should start domain recovery services.Your domain name is the online doorway to your business. Without it, no one is going to be able to find you. Don’t have someone else manage your domain name. If you absolutely just don’t want to deal with it, make sure that you and your company are listed as the official registrant and list your web manager as the administrative, technical, or billing contact.
  2. They don’t include their domain name on their other marketing materials. I’ve seen businesses spend thousands of dollars a month on a Yellow Page ad that doesn’t list their domain name. Billboards with a phone number, but no web site address.And my favorite, business cards with a url that goes nowhere. If you don’t have an actual web site up, don’t say that you do. It looks flaky.
  3. Focusing on the pretty and ignoring the content. Of course everyone wants a site that looks good, however designing for print is not the same as designing for the web. How the graphics and content are displayed can determine how effective your web site is.One of the sites I found did not have one single character of spiderable text on the entire web site. Not one. No, I’m not kidding.When I first looked at it, I thought it was a bunch of images masquerading as a web site. Actually it would have been better if it had been. At least then there would have been some text and links in the image map.

    The entire site was Flash. It didn’t look like it at first because there was absolutely no interactivity other than calling up a new page when a menu item was clicked.

    If you’re reading this and don’t understand why any of the above matters, images are to search engines what paintings are to a blind person . . . absolutely irrelevant.

  4. Not Keeping Their Web Site CurrentOne of the worst things you can do to your business’s credibility is having obviously outdated information on your web site: old phone numbers, old addresses, employees that moved on in the last century, “specials” dated from two years ago, and so on.
  5. Making Wholesale Changes to Their Web SiteThis may seem like a contradiction to #4; however, you can do just as much damage to your rankings in the search engines by making changes to it as you can to your credibility by doing nothing at all.Believe me, I’ve done this before. I was updating and changing the structure on one of my hobby sites which ranked really well for certain terms. Since it was just a hobby site, I didn’t want to spend the time on updating it properly and redirecting the old pages to the new.

    So I just switched it . . . and the SERPs and traffic tanked for two months. It’s a very good example of what not to do.

    If you have pages on your business’s web site that rank well for certain terms, be very careful of making changes to the key components of the page.

    There are a lot of web solutions out there today that make it easy for a business owner to maintain a web site themselves. This is a plus in that it makes a site more affordable for some and can more accurately reflect the services and offerings of a business.

    The danger in this is that it also makes it easy to make major changes that can drastically affect rankings.

    One of my clients is very comfortable with updating their web site . . . which is great. They rank pretty well on several key words in their industry, but quite frankly I’m amazed that they rank at all because they are constantly changing page titles and categories. Those poor pages don’t have a chance to gain any authority at all before they are redone.