I recently tweeted about my sadness over two separate clients who had taken been advantage of so badly, the costs mounted well into the tens of thousands of dollars (yes, I actually do get emotional about this kind of stuff). These business owners could have been any ordinary Inc reader, eagerly running their up-and-coming companies. But in their enthusiasm and mainly out of ignorance, they made poor decisions that they could ill afford to bear. I actually see this kind of situation a lot so in this column I?ll share why this exploitation happens, what these issues reveal, and how can you avoid the same thing happening to you.
Everything?s Great Until Something Isn?t
Commonly, a business doesn?t know that something?s awry with their website or online marketing until a real problem manifests itself. It could start out small ? like orders decreasing ? or it could be major, like their website being hacked and they have no recovery or back-up plan. Unfortunately, the businesses that fall prey to these problems are those that can least afford to. They?re smaller businesses and the service providers they chose to work with were chosen for all the wrong reasons:? a friend?s relative, the one with the splashiest advertising or the one who gives the cheapest quote.
Generally these relationships start out well enough: dollars are exchanged and services are provided. Everyone?s happy, especially if sales are coming in. The positive sales scenario, however, can be one of the most dangerous because it masks that real problems exist: as long as leads or sales roll in, the business owner doesn?t even think there could be something wrong?until little cracks in Nirvana start to show.
Common Online Problems and Pain
If most online problems were clearly obvious, they could be readily identified and hopefully remedied by the business owner without the need for outside intervention. Unfortunately, many problems are imperceptible, undetectable or too technical or complicated for a typical business owner to confront. For example,
- Wrongly attributing website traffic and leads to a paid search campaign (like Google AdWords) when they?re really coming from organic search rankings (this is a common problem and leads to big waste of money)
- Inaccurately thinking the website was been optimized for search engines when it was built?and that the one-time SEO effort was enough or done properly
- Badly assuming that having links on your website to other websites or that having lots of inbound links to your website all helps your SEO
- Presuming that generating more content and doing so more frequently will automatically have a positive impact on your traffic
- Incorrectly concluding that leads are decreasing over time when leads are actually being undercounted due to missing tracking code on a new landing page
- Assuming marketing campaigns aren?t working because leads and sales aren?t happening when in fact plenty of traffic is coming to the website but the website?s just not converting that traffic. Causes for this lack of conversion could be:
- A poor user experience, causing the visitor to get confused or frustrated and leave before they transact;
- Lack of a clear path to conversion for the website visitor, most commonly caused by sending all online campaign traffic to the website?s home page;
- Poor messaging, website content, and/or lack of calls to action, all of which would clearly articulate to the visitor what you are, what you offer, why you?re different or better, why they should buy from you and how to get started;
- Requiring too much information from the visitor before they?re ready to buy;
- Broken links and other forced disruptions to the conversion process
- Mistakenly crediting campaign success only to on-site actions when in actuality most leads or sales come in through phone calls off your website but those calls aren?t being tracked or tracked uniquely for each online marketing tactic
- Improperly attributing too much success to the wrong online or off-line tactic just because you have recently introduced that tactic into your marketing mix; or, conversely, spending too much time, resources and dollars on the latest and greatest new marketing tactic without first mastering the tried and true ones
- Dangerously thinking that log-in access to your website?s content management system is all the information you really need to have to protect your website and its content
You Know What They Say About Assumptions
As I said earlier, a lot of these problems aren?t even evident until they start causing pain. The business owner has made too many positive assumptions or attributes successes incorrectly. I can?t really blame them ? how are they to know better? Who was really looking out for them in this process?? Unless the company has an inkling that something is amiss and engages a third party to do an assessment or audit, oftentimes, it?s only by accident or real pain that these problems become apparent.
I urge you to look for signs of inconsistent results, anomalies in your web analytics, or suspicions in your gut. Review the list of common pains above and be honest with yourself if you?re experiencing any of them. Please don?t wait until it?s too late and you?ve lost more money than you can afford.