Having a great website, and a proper online presence in general, is one of the most desired goals among online business owners and the most elusive one to achieve at the same time.
Here’s the deal. I’ve been in website building/design (in one way or the other) for more than 10 years now. I’ve seen a number of “next great thing” techniques come and go. And unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of businesses failing along the way too.
The topic of online presence and website failure is extremely brutal on business owners. For example, if you’re online on a personal level, with a small blog or something then if it fails, it won’t have any negative impact on your life other than leaving a bad taste in your mouth, so to speak. But for a small online business, one that’s just started building its client base and reputation (like all kinds of freelancing businesses, consultants, etc.), failure consequences can be life-changing serious, in a bad way.
This is something we all want to avoid (well, I have a business too, so keeping my online presence above the surface is in my best interest as well). Let’s start by going through these 7 common reasons why online businesses fail. The list applies to freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, etc.
1. Thinking that design is all that matters
This is quite a common misconception when building a website. Back in the day, when people were amazed that “web design” as a concept is even possible, everyone got easily impressed by yet another cool feature you can put on a website. These days, however, it’s no longer the case.
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In short, your content is your design. And the only task of the actual graphical design elements is to not mess up your content presentation.
(Idea originally expressed by Chase Reeves…credit where credit’s due.)
2. Thinking that social media is all that matters
“Hey we need to post this on Twitter!”
“Hey we need those social media share buttons on the site!”
“Hey we need to create a great Facebook page!”
…and on and on and on. How much of this sort of advice can you listen to in a day?
Here’s a news flash, nobody cares about your social media presence if you’re not posting anything original. And in most cases, links to your website are not to be considered original.
Besides, a recent social media survey by Social Media Examiner proves that social media is not good for sales. So if that’s what you’re after, consider integrating your website with other tools instead of various social media platforms and buttons.
3. Believing fake SEOs’ false advertising
This might just be the most destructive step on this list. The problem with SEO is that it’s a double edged sword. It does work extremely well when yielded by a skilled professional who knows what they’re doing. But at the same time, it can cut your arm off (i.e. your business) if you’re not careful.
If your site’s been online for more than a couple of weeks then you’ve surely started receiving some of those emails:
“Hey. We’ve found your site xxxx.com on Google and from what we can see, you’re not getting the most out of your search engine presence. We can help you to increase your rankings by applying the newest and most modern SEO practices on the market.”
Believing such promises is only asking for trouble. The thing with top SEO professionals is that they don’t really have time to send such emails. They have their hands full with their current clients. So if you want to get through to them, you have to do the searching yourself and not wait for them to come to you.
4. Not having anything to keep people coming back to your site
This is somewhat a sad fact about most websites online, but the majority of the visitors that stumble upon a given site, never return to view it again… Ever!
The average attention span is decreasing every month and it’s mostly due to the information overload online. So how to stand out? Some possibilities:
- Email is one solution, as in email newsletter. You can convince people to subscribe to your email updates and then communicate with them on a weekly/monthly basis. You can set up a newsletter via MailChimp, for example.
- RSS subscription is still a possibility. Even though Google Reader is dead now, you can still encourage your visitors (just plainly ask them) to subscribe via tools like Feedly.
- Finally, regular interviews and podcasts seem like a trendy new thing. The key is to have some experts or other interesting personas interviewed about a specific topic. People are always interested to hear about other people’s top insights.
5. Not having an outreach backend
Once your business gets some traction and you’ll have a sizable number of prospective clients coming in, it’s really easy to lose track of how your client proposals are performing. Actually, you won’t even know who’s already been offered a service, who’s still waiting, and who’s been forgotten altogether (sorry, Randy, if you’re reading this).
There are some CRM-like plugins available for WordPress, but from what I can see, they don’t provide much features for the period before the client has been sealed, so to speak.
The solution that seems the most suitable to handle client proposals nowadays is Bidsketch. It’s an online tool where you can send, manage, and monitor your client proposals. Another cool feature is that your clients can approve or decline your offers straight inside Bidsketch.
6. Not presenting your services clearly
This might sound quite surprising, but the fact is that not every freelancer, consultant, or online business owner has the presenting-thy-services part quite figured out.
The main mistake is using too much marketing talk and too little down-to-earth details and raw facts. For instance, instead of using the dreadful long form sales page for every service, why not just present a clear comparison of your various plans?
7. Jumping from idea to idea
Finally, we have a very common mistake that almost all online business owners make at some point. Myself included. It’s jumping from idea to idea without fully following through on any of them.
I’m closing the list with this particular thing just to warn you, or better yet, encourage you to take full action on your current projects and ideas by working productively, without searching for their better alternatives right away. It’s simple, you won’t succeed if you’re not willing to get to the bottom of everything you do.
So, what does your online business log say in the “steps to failure” department, are you guilty of making any of the above mistakes?