If you own a business, you should own a website. Our world has evolved substantially since the early days of the internet, making it essential for you to have an online presence. When potential customers look for reviews about your business, they aren’t going to read a trade magazine. When they seek out your phone number or address, they won’t thumb through a phonebook—they’ll go online. And if you have a website that includes reviews, product information, and other business details, you might be able to catch them before their attention wanes and they head elsewhere. Pop quiz: How many hours did you spend today staring at a device’s screen? Because so much of our day now occurs online, it’s natural that business does as well. “The first reason why small businesses need a website, even if your business has 5 employees or fewer, is because that's where so many of your potential customers are for so much of the time,” explains small business expert Susan Ward. “For instance, a study by comScore Canada found that Canadians spend an average of 36.3 hours browsing in 1 month's time, while Americans spend 35.2 hours online every month. (This study also found that Canadians spend more time online each month than anyone else.) …In both the US and Canada, 88.5% of people are internet users. All of which means that there are a whole lot of eyeballs that could be visiting and interacting with your small business's website—if you had one.” Even if your business already has a website, there’s always room for improvement. Let’s look at some of the common issues that limit the effectiveness of small business websites. The Most Common Business Website Errors Just as there’s a wide range of quality and effectiveness with small businesses, the same can be said for their websites. Simply having a website accomplishes nothing—in fact, if the site is outdated, poorly designed, or fails to protect user information, it can actually harm your relationship with customers. Whether your business has had a web presence since the year 2000 or you’re just now contemplating creating your first site, there are some common mistakes to avoid. 1. Simply Checking a Website off Your List Many entrepreneurs hear that websites are important, so they create one without strategy or effort—just the tired slog that comes with obligation. If you want your website to perform at a high level and bring your business along with it, you’ll need to do more than simply create a generic site. Start by outlining your primary goals for your website. Once you know where you want to go, you’ll be better able to find the tactics that will get you there. 2. Not Considering the Visitor’s Perspective You’ve undoubtedly visited websites in the past—you’re reading this article online right now, after all. Think of the best sites you’ve visited. What made them so nice? It’s likely that, among other things, they were pleasant to look at and easy to navigate. It’s easy to stray from the visitor’s perspective when shifting gears into “creator” mode, but centering your visitors is crucial to your success. Start by offering a clear and interesting introduction to your business. “It is important to let people know who you are and what you do right away so they don’t feel confused when they visit your small business website,” says Forbes. “Make sure your main homepage banner (also known as a ‘hero image’) and subsequent banners are visual representations of your services, and also that you have an introductory text blurb near the top of the page that describes who you are and what you do. Additionally, make sure both your main and footer navigation menus have ‘About Us’ page links easily accessible so people can click them and read more about your business in-depth.” Your website should include engaging visuals and be easy to navigate. It should also have a consistent style. In short, your website should be of a high enough quality that if you visited it for the first time, you’d stay for a while. 3. Neglecting the Copy It’s understandable that website design gets most of the attention. After all, it’s the most immediately impressive aspect of the site, and it often requires skills that the average person doesn’t possess. But you should never relegate the site’s copy to the back burner. Great web design gets noticed—and great web messaging gets heeded. When you make copy a priority, you’ll already have some killer headlines and copy blocks to reference as the design unfolds. In this way, the 2 components of the website work together to elevate the overall result. 4. Paying Unnecessary Fees Whether you hire a professional to create a custom site or use a template from a service such as Wix or Squarespace, there will always be add-ons to consider. Some of these purchases, such as an SSL certificate, can be quite beneficial. Others are intended chiefly for the benefit of the person selling it to you. Before paying for anything related to your website, make sure that the feature is necessary. Then research to see if it’s available for free from another reputable source. You’d be surprised how often this is the case. 5. Not Having a Promotion Strategy After putting countless hours and a sizable financial investment into your website, it’d be a shame to just let it wither on the vine. You’ve got to promote that thing! Long before your new website has gone live, brainstorm at least a dozen ways that you can promote it. Perhaps you’ll invest in low-priced social ads. Or you might write guest posts on a popular blog and include the link in your byline. Whatever you do, make sure your promotion matches the efforts you put into creating the site. 6. Not Keeping Your Website Updated Another common issue arises when small business owners launch a site and then move on to other important tasks. I know that your attention is being pulled in a million different ways as an entrepreneur, but you should still ensure that your site is continually updated. “Both content quantity and freshness are important to search engines, so it’s important that you create a plan to publish quality articles and/or blog posts on your site and on external sites that link to your site,” says business technology expert Allison Bowlus. “If you want to rank highly in search engine results and encourage people to return to your site again and again, you will have to update your website with new and relevant content as frequently as possible.” And it’s not just about SEO. Going back to the idea of seeing things as your audience does, think of how you’d react if you visited a site that obviously hadn’t been updated since your last visit 7 months earlier. First, you might think that the company is on hiatus. Second, you’d quickly realize that there’s no reason to stick around because you’ve probably already seen everything you’d care to see. Avoiding Mistakes and Building Success The errors listed here are common because they’re so easy to make. Small business owners are among the busiest people on earth, so it’s understandable that they sometimes fail to “finesse the finish” when it comes to their websites. But this presents a prime opportunity. You can help your business stand out from the crowd and attract new customers by developing a website that looks as good as it performs. If it’s easy to navigate, shares a clear message, and features fresh content, you’ll create a magnet that brings customers back again and again.