Guest Blog: Five website mistakes that are keeping you from closing (and how to fix them)

If your website is done well, it should make you feel like you have a salesperson on your team, working her tail off as your own personal hype woman. You don’t even have to have a super fancy, custom-built website to make this happen. In fact, I’m a huge fan of Squarespace and all of its built-in features. But you do have to have well planned content that guides your potential customers through your site and encourages them to take action before they click away. Below, you’ll find five common mistakes I see small businesses making on their websites — along with easy-to-implement solutions.

Mistake #1: You don’t clearly state what you do.

A first-time visitor will form an impression of your website within 50 milliseconds. The problem I see so often is that there is no mission statement, the mission statement is vague or fluffy, the text is too small, or the page is so busy that the mission gets lost.

Solution: Add a clear mission statement.

First you’ll need a mission statement. Your mission statement should clearly state who you help, what you help them achieve, and how you do that. It’s easy to get bogged down in making this cute, clever, or perfect — but what’s really most important is that it’s clear and succinct. We’ve all been at a networking event where we met someone and after they gave us this beautifully fluffy, adjective-full explanation of what they do — we’re left thinking, “huh?” Don’t be that person! Keep it simple, and keep in mind that you can tweak it in the future.

Here’s a simple mission statement formula you can use:

“We help [your audience] who are struggling with [your audience’s pain point] achieve [intangible results] by [describe your service or deliverable].”

For example:

“Wellstruck helps entrepreneurs who are struggling with imposter syndrome achieve clarity and confidence by providing them with business strategy and brand design.”

And once you get the hang of it, you don’t have to stick to the formula exactly. For example, Beth does a great job of explaining what she does:

“Beth Lawrence, CMP is an award-winning event producer and experiential strategist who helps companies create connective experiences in the form of corporate events, trade shows, and experiential marketing.”

It’s worth noting that even events need mission statements!

Once you have your mission statement, put it at (or near) the top of your home page. Design-wise, you can give it more importance by making it large, using a font that is easy to read, using a point size that is legible, and making sure there is some clear space (aka white space, or breathing room) around it. Be sure to view it on mobile as well to make sure it’s clearly legible there!

Mistake #2: You don’t highlight how you’re different.

When people visit your website, it’s likely they’re comparing you to a few of your competitors. Don’t make them dig to find the reasons you’re uniquely qualified to do what you do. So many entrepreneurs are shy about highlighting their strengths out of fear of feeling slimy or salesy — but if people come to your website, this is the stuff they want to know! It’s what will help them make their decision about who to hire (or which events to drop money on this year).

Solution: Highlight the things that make you unique.

There are a number of ways you can communicate the things that make you, your business, and/or your event different from your competition:

  1. Your values — I recommend having 3–5 brand values that you highlight on your home or About page.

  2. Your story — On your About page, share the story of how you got to this point, and be sure to include any of the unique experiences or qualifications you picked up along the way.

  3. Your niche — If you have a specific audience or industry, highlight it in your mission statement and describe it in even more detail on your About page, or a Who We Help section. I’m a big fan of including a bulleted list of “pain points” to help you better explain the audience you serve (e.g. “We help people who are struggling with A, B, and C).

  4. Your method — If you’ve perfected a special process, talk about it! This can go on your services page, or if your website is for an event — highlight the format of the event (and perhaps touch on what’s special about the format).

  5. Your style — If you have a true style, let it shine through in the design and copywriting tone of your website.

  6. Your location — For events and businesses that serve a local audience, make your location prominent (even if that location is online!). Include it in the footer (this is good for your SEO, too!).

Mistake #3: You don’t mention next steps.

This is one of the top mistakes I see on small business websites! I often come across beautiful sites with lovely pictures of their work and awesome testimonials. But then there is no mention of how to buy! Fortunately most websites do — at the very least — have a Contact page. But then that Contact page usually has a vague, open-ended contact form. A vague message form is asking your customer to do too much work. Make it easier for them. Don’t make them think so much. Don’t give them any reason to leave without taking action first.

Solution: Add a call to action on every page.

About 80% of small business websites lack a Call to Action (CTA) above the fold on their homepages. Yikes! You should have a clear CTA on every page of your website. A CTA can simply guide people to other pages of your site (which is also good for SEO! ); encourage them to buy; or nudge them to stay in touch. Here are some examples of specific CTAs:

  1. Learn more about us (link to About page)

  2. See who we work with (link to About, Portfolio, Testimonials, or Client List)

  3. Check out our services (link to your Services page)

  4. Buy tickets (link to Ticket/Sales page)

  5. Schedule a call (link to your scheduler — I love Acuity)

  6. Subscribe for X (link to e-news subscription sign-up — tell them what to expect!)

  7. Enroll now (link to course enrollment page)

  8. Submit an inquiry (link to a form with a couple Qs to help learn about them)

Additionally, I recommend you include a clear CTA in the footer of your site that tells your audience how to take the next step towards buying whatever it is you offer. That way it’s always really easy for them to take that next step.

And lastly, anywhere you describe a service (or ticket or event), include instructions for how to take the next step. I often see people include a brief description of each of their services on their home page — with no link underneath that description. Tell them what to do next, or you’re leaving money on the table. This isn’t slimy sales, rather, this is helpful guidance for someone who has made it this far on your website by their own choice. Now make it easy for them! (Do I sound like a broken record yet?!)

Mistake #4: You don’t have any social proof.

Anyone can shout till they’re blue in the face about how great they are. But what really matters is that other people are saying great things about you. This is why it’s so important to have social proof on your website — which is a fancy way of saying testimonials and/or case studies. If you don’t have any testimonials on your website, it’s time to make it a priority!

Solution: Send your clients a feedback survey.

Rather than send your past clients or event attendees a plea for testimonials (which can feel awkwardly presumptuous), send them a feedback survey. Let them know how much you appreciate them, and that it would be so helpful to your growth to get some feedback from them. You can even consider offering them incentive (e.g. “Complete your survey by XX date for a chance to win a gift card.”).

Not sure what to ask in your feedback survey? I wrote another whole post about this topic: Questions to Ask for Better Testimonials.

Once you get your answers back, you can reach back out to your clients and ask if they would mind you using their answers for a testimonial on your website. Bonus: ask them if they mind sending you a headshot you can use (because testimonials carry even more weight when they’re accompanied by a photo of the person being quoted!).

Then post these testimonials throughout your website. Don’t forget to include a CTA underneath each testimonial!

Mistake #5: You provide too many options.

When you’re trying to make money, it can be tempting to include everything but the kitchen sink on your list of services. Unfortunately, though, when I’m seeking out help for my own business and I get to someone’s services page and it’s a huge long bullet-pointed list — it’s overwhelming. And it also makes me question whether there’s a clear process for all of these items — whether you’ll really guide me through it. Then I get overwhelmed, and seek out someone else who better explains their signature services. I’ve had this conversation with several others, so I know I’m not the only one who feels this way!

Likewise, if I’m going to an event (like a conference), and there are so many simultaneous speaker tracks that I feel like I’ll be missing more presentations than I’ll actually get to see — that feels like a bummer. The number of choices or ticket options can put me into decision fatigue (it’s a real thing!).

Solution: Help your audience make a decision.

Consider limiting the number of ways a client can begin working with you. Then, once they’re in the door and they’ve worked with you once before — you can pull back the curtains on all the other wonderful things you can do for them.

If you are afraid of limiting the number of services you list on your website, the other option is to offer a quiz or consultation to help guide them in the right direction for where to begin. You can even put a big headline link by your services that says something like, “Not sure where to begin? Schedule a free inquiry call!”

Lastly, you can help guide your audience to the service that is right for them by putting a little more information under each service listing. Describe who it’s for, what they’re likely struggling with, and what the process looks like. Give them enough information to get them thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly how I’m feeling and exactly what I want. Take my money!” And then — you guessed it — tell them the next steps!

The next step is to block out a couple of hours on your calendar to make these things happen, keeping in mind that done is better than perfect. Keep in mind, you can always test and change things in the future, too. Pretty soon you’ll start to see the magic of having your website that works like an employee of the month.

All Photos by Quarter Moon Co.


Sarah Zero is the founder of Wellstruck, a business strategy and design company that helps entrepreneurs who are struggling with imposter syndrome achieve clarity and confidence so they can charge what they’re worth. Her clients describe the experience as “business therapy” and “like having a business partner.” Subscribe for one actionable tip each month from Wellstruck.

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