Ten Don’t’s for your Small Business Website

Any small business creating a website needs to keep a number of things in mind. While each particular situation will require specific additions, this list is a great place to start.

1. Don’t forget to set goals for your website and define metrics for success.
If you don’t know what success for your website looks like, how will you know when you get there? Prior to building the site, you need to decide what you want the website to accomplish, and define your metrics for success or failure. This paints the picture of the destination, so that you have a reasonable chance of getting there.

2. Don’t build the entire site in Flash.
Designers love Flash because it gives them complete control over the look and feel of the website. Unfortunately, the search engines have a hard time indexing Flash sites. While they’ve gotten much better over the last year or two, I still have yet to see a Flash site ranking for even a moderately competitive keyword.

Flash elements within a page are perfect fine, however. Just don’t make the entire site out of Flash.

3. Don’t pretend that a MySpace page is a website.
If you’re building a website for your band, perhaps a MySpace page makes sense. But don’t pretend that creating a MySpace page (or FaceBook or LinkedIn page) is the same thing as creating a website.

Having a website that runs on its own domain gives a sense of legitimacy that every company should want.

4. Don’t have a redirect in front of the homepage.
I see this one a lot. Someone goes to:


…and the site redirects her to:


…(or some other page).

There are a number of problems with this. First, it’s another chance of confusing the search engines. If Google can’t index a page (or site), you can be darn sure it won’t return it for a search query.

You can use a search engine friendly redirect, but it’s not clear that all linking benefit passes through this.

People will tend to link to the domain of your site, not a page within the site. Make sure you’re receiving the entire link benefit you’ve earned by having the homepage load under the base domain.

In addition, it seems these redirects are often done because the page is in a temporary location. If you later move this page, you then lose the link juice coming into that page directly (or at least part of it if you redirect the old page to the new page).

Ideally, visitors coming into the homepage of your site should just get the domain, not the page designation.

5. Don’t use a splash page.
I’ve been fighting against these since at least 1995. A splash page is a page that comes up when you go to what should be the homepage of the site. It generally is a big graphic or flash animation that someone at the company thought was really cool. The splash page usually redirects to the true homepage after a few seconds, but sometimes you are forced to click on a link to get there.

Splash pages are a distraction and delay the visitor from getting to the content he really wants. And they’re also yet another chance to confuse the search engines.

6. Don’t have the site play music by default.
Many of us find websites with music (or any sound) to be annoying at best. Imagine if your prospective customer is surfing your website while at work, and suddenly the music from your site comes blasting out of her speakers.

Do you think you’re likely to get that order?

If you site must make noise, default to muted and allow the user to choose to turn it on.

7. Don’t put up a site that is just brochureware.
You’re site might be beautiful and have great ad copy, but if it is not transactional, how will you know if it succeeds? For an e-commerce company, this is easy. The sales on your site are the transactions.

For most everyone else, it’s a bit more difficult. The transaction on your site might be contact form. You might go a step further and give a valuable white paper in exchange for contact information. Or, your transaction might be an online demo.

A bricks and mortar store might have a coupon on its website for customers to print out and bring in.

The fact is that you need some sort of transaction on the site that can be measured. Ideally, you should also be able to ascribe some value to it, so that you can track the ROI of your marketing efforts.

8. Don’t neglect to install an analytics system.
If you don’t know what’s going on with your website, you can’t know what is succeeding and what is failing. At the very least, you should set up Google Analytics on your website. While it’s somewhat limited, it’s also free.

Alternatively, you could install one of the entry level analytics systems such as HitsLink. It’s quite a bit more powerful than Google Analytics, and starts around $50/month.

9. Don’t forget to proof read the copy.
Few things look more unprofessional than misspelled words and grammatical errors. Be sure to read through your copy for mistakes. Better yet, have someone who hasn’t read the copy before do so.

10. Don’t just assume people will come to the site.
Once your site is live, you need to actively drive visitors to it. Have a plan (with designated and preferably detailed budget) for generating interest in your website, both online and offline.

If you follow this advice, you’ve greatly increased the chance of your small business’s website succeeding.

And I’ll let you in on a secret: these rules apply to the websites of large companies as well.