That day, the first ever website was born.
While the website was basic at most, it was the just the start to connecting millions of people to endless amounts of information.
Now there are more than 700 million websites on the internet and every 60 seconds more than 5,067 web pages are created (Tweet This Stat). A lot has changed in 22 years. Think about it. Without Berners-Lee's masterful creation, social media and search engines wouldn't exist. As companies, how the heck would we have marketed ourselves?
Oh yeah: ads, telemarketing, fancy brochures, and door-to-door sales. All the things consumers love and enjoy! Cough.
For most businesses, a website is the Grand Central Station of marketing -- connecting branding, social media, email, lead generation, ecommerce, and more. But not all websites are created equal. Out of the millions of websites we've analyzed through MarketingGrader, 72% received a failing grade of 59 or below (Tweet This Stat). Yikes! There's no question that since its introduction, the website and the technology behind it has evolved. The question we should be asking is: have marketers?
Here's Where the Problem Lies
The way we market online, and the way we build websites, hasn't evolved with the huge change in buyer behavior we've experienced over the past decade. Buyers today want to consume information when and how they want it. They want to be educated and entertained but not sold to. Instead of adjusting to this change, we stuff our websites with content no one really cares about. Or with annoying pop-ups. Or we force people to buy when they're not ready. Or we make it really difficult to find the right information. Or we focus more on SEO or making our sites look pixel-perfect than creating a delightful user experience.
What does this all mean? Quite frankly, we've turned our websites in the ads, cold calls, and brochures of 22 years ago.
The good news? This can be fixed! Here are 10 deadly reasons why so many websites fail. Granted, not every website will commit all 10 sins, nor is every site perfect -- but every one you can avoid turns your website into a better website.
Out of the 10 reasons why a website fails, here are my top three takeaways:
1) Most websites treat everyone the same.
Just because advertising is mass-market doesn't mean your website should be. Each visitor on your website has different needs or is in a different stage of the buying cycle. Then why treat everyone the same? A website that contains great content plus context delivers a more personalized and delightful web experience.
For example, let's say I'm shopping for a new car. I'll visit the website of a major auto company for the first time and then browse around the website. Then I'll play around with one of those handy online tools that enables me to customize a car and its options and know how much it costs. Next, I'll even request an appointment with a local dealer to talk about a specific make and model. At this stage, it's clear I'm in the buying process.
But what happens when I visit the website 5 days later? The website treats me as if I'm a first-time visitor! If I were this company, I would instead say, "Hi Jessica, welcome back. How's your search for a new SUV going? Did you know about our new leasing promotion on this car? Check it out."
Quite a different experience, isn't it? If the company knows what pages I've visited and even that I wanted to speak with sales, why wouldn't they use that information to personalize the website for me?
Netflix is a great example of a company doing personalization right. When I visit Netflix, it knows what movie or TV show I just watched and asks me to rate it. Then it recommends new shows that I might like, as well. I love that.
You don't need to be a Netflix to create more personalized experiences. Using dynamic content in even smallest ways helps to show visitors that you know them. Context helps marketers connect the right information to the right visitor at the right time.
2) Most websites focus on me-leadership instead of thought leadership.
When visitors arrive on your website, it's important to clearly state what you do or offer and why visitors should stay on your website instead of hitting the back button. But too often, websites turn into promotional brochure-wear where it's all about "me, me, me" and not about the actual customer. That might be why the average bounce rate is 60-70%.
Even with a good SEO strategy and a beautiful design, a website needs to be regularly fed with great content that positions you as a thought leader and not a me-leader. The primary function of a website is to attract visitors, convert leads, and delight customers through rich, relevant, and valuable content.
This means turning your website into an inbound marketing machine with fresh offers (whitepapers, guides, videos, discounts, etc.), landing pages, calls-to-action, new media, social conversation, and other content assets. By doing this, you grow traffic and leads organically without having to rely on paid campaigns and you build a loyal following of fans and evangelists.
At HubSpot, we started this inbound marketing blog and developed The Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing even before we had a product to market. Once we launched the HubSpot software, we already had a subscriber base we could market our product to. Seven years later, we now have more than 200,000 blog subscribers, 555,300 likes on Facebook and 311,660 followers on Twitter, all because we put valuable content at the center of our marketing.
KunoCreative is another great example of thought leadership in the agency space. They've created top-notch offers and stellar blog posts that speak to their audience, such as this one on storytelling in marketing.
Buyers today are looking to companies for their expertise. They don't care how many awards you've won or how amazing your last press release was. Here's a guide to Creating Killer Marketing Content to get you started.
3) Most websites are still ignoring mobile.
I browse the internet on my iPhone or iPad more than I do on a desktop computer. So does the majority of world, apparently. It's estimated that by 2014, more people will access the web via a mobile device than a PC (Tweet This Stat). It amazes me how many websites are still not optimized for mobile despite the growth trends in this area (here are 23 eye-opening mobile marketing stats you should know). A study by MarginMedia found that 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. I guess I'm not the only one.
Mobile optimization is critical because it improves usability when browsing with a finger and not a mouse. Another study found that 46% of mobile users report having difficulty interacting with a web page, and 44% complain that navigation was difficult (Tweet This Stat).
Here's a success story. Last week I was checking my Facebook feed on my mobile phone when I noticed a friend liked a post that caught my eye. The post was for a company called BlueApron, a service that delivers fresh food and pre-organized meals and recipes right to your door. For a busy person like me who rarely has time to go grocery shopping, I had to research this service further.
In just one browsing session I decided to join BlueApron and sign up for the weekly service. And I probably wouldn't have done it if they didn't have a mobile version of their website. It was super easy to navigate through and the check-out process was a breeze (by the way, more proof that yes, you can acquire customers from Facebook).
Companies like Desk.com, ESPN, ModCloth, Julep, CBS, HuffingtonPost, and many others have developed exceptional mobile experiences and more companies should follow their lead. The best part about designing for mobile: It helps to boost revenue! 62% of companies that designed a website specifically for mobile increased sales (Tweet This Stat). What's not to love about that?
Sure, the website may be 22 years old, but in an age where buyers are in control, your website is more important than ever. If you focus on creating a website that highlights your thought-leadership by leveraging valuable content with the right context, and that is openly accessible for any device and channel, then you’ll have yourself a website that wins.
To learn more on how to build a great website that leverages these tips, download this free ebook: The 4 Essentials of Every Great Company Website (And How to Design Yours).
Originally published Sep 12, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017