Most websites are ineffective. This is true in all industries.
Unfortunately, I see it more often in the construction industry because many still mistakenly believe that it doesn’t matter. Sure, you can get by with an ineffective website, but the fact is that an effective one gives you a powerful advantage over competitors. It puts you in front of a larger audience of potential customers and helps you to convince them that you’re the only logical choice for them to work with.
The key is to avoid some of the common web design mistakes that hurt your business. In doing that, you’ll transform yours into a business-generating machine.
Designing for yourself instead of your customers
Even though it’s yours, your website really isn’t for you, because in order to generate sales and/or leads, it needs to appeal to your customers, clearly convey your unique value, and inspire trust.
Most people simply treat their own website like a personal style choice. That’s understandable because it is your website, and it does exist primarily to help promote your company. However, while understandable, it’s still ineffective from a marketing perspective.
Many contractors prioritize information on their website that’s useless to prospective customers such as industry awards, how long they’ve been in business, and the story of how they got started. These things matter, but they should not be front and center. Many contractors also design their websites based on their own style, rather than what will appeal to and help convert visitors into customers.
The primary focus should always be on enabling prospects to vividly imagine how their lives will be better as a result of working with you. Your website should answer questions and concerns that they may have. Feature professional photography and short, well-produced videos to help reinforce that vision.
Failing to differentiate your company
Another area where I see contractors get it wrong is in failing to differentiate their company from competitors.
In today’s noisy marketing world, simply telling people what you do isn’t going to cut it. You need to show visitors exactly how your company is different from competitors. How it’s uniquely qualified to solve problems that others can’t.
Failure to do this results in being viewed as a commodity. Just another company that can perform certain tasks—no better than any other company. And with that comes a race to the bottom in terms of pricing.
You need to figure out what you’re best at, and then clearly convey that message with trust and authority.
Some ways you might differentiate your company could include:
- Specialization in a well-defined niche
- A proprietary product or service
- Unique capabilities, certifications, or designations
For example, when Michael Angstadt launched Flagship Fire, rather than following the path of most companies in the fire suppression industry, he chose to focus solely on special hazard fire suppression. This unique specialization is rare, but it’s also essential for certain environments, such as power plants, data centers, and telecommunications facilities. Because of this, his company is typically viewed as the most logical choice, both by the end customer as well as by other fire suppression companies who subcontract this type of work.
For another great example, look no further than this very website, which offers a suite of software products tailored and marketed specifically to help contractors find, bid on, and manage projects.
Sure, they could have added a bunch of extra features, integrated additional APIs to interact with more external systems, and included access to more data in other industries in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, but then their products would be average to a lot of people instead of being amazing to the right people. Here’s the thing—trying to appeal to everyone, or even to a very large audience is typically more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive because it makes it more difficult to differentiate your company from others and clearly convey your value.
That’s why it’s essential to exactly who you want to serve. Remember, the more tightly you define your niche, the better you will typically perform. From there, you need to figure out why your company is best suited to serve those people, and convey that message with authority.
Failing to optimize for page speed
Page speed has a huge impact on user experience—especially for users on mobile devices. Statistics show that the slower a web page loads, the sooner visitors will leave. In fact, Google states that over half of the visits made to mobile sites are abandoned if it takes more than 3 seconds for the screen to load.
That’s true whether you want them to contact you, buy something, or even simply read specific information. Page speed also has an impact on where your website ranks in search engines, so if it doesn’t load quickly enough, you won’t even have the opportunity to present your company.
I know, you’re probably thinking “Nah, I’m good here. My website loads super fast.”
I’m willing to bet it doesn’t load anywhere near as fast as you think. There are two reasons for this.
The first is that because it’s your website, you’re going to be biased. It’s kind of like a baby—everyone thinks theirs is beautiful, but the truth is that some babies are simply ugly and the parents are the only ones who can’t see it. The second is because you haven’t actually measured it, and you probably don’t know what an ideal load speed is anyway.
I aim for a web page to load in under 2 seconds. I generally allow a slightly longer load time for a website’s home page for two reasons.
- In some cases, additional media may need to be loaded on the home page. A video, multiple images, or an interactive map, for example.
- The homepage is a more general page, so internal pages that contain deeper content will often tend to rank better anyway. In other words, your home page is typically not your strongest SEO asset.
Explaining the process of improving page speed is both extremely technical and extensive, and goes a bit beyond the scope of this article. So instead of going into detail here, I’ll direct you to an in-depth article I wrote about improving page speed over at Search Engine Land.
Ignoring mobile responsive design
Responsive design is an essential part of marketing today because of the explosive growth in tablets and smartphones over the last several years. In fact, today, mobile traffic accounts for more than half of all web traffic!
I’ve heard more than a few people in the construction industry tell me that “mobile doesn’t matter because contractors don’t sit around staring at their phones all day.”
I will concede that most contractors don’t spend anywhere near as much time browsing the internet on a mobile device as the average person might. However, when they do, it’s often to perform a critical and time-sensitive task. This might include looking up manufacturer specifications, ordering additional materials or equipment, or even finding a particular type of subcontractor to handle a problem they encountered on the job site.
But it goes much deeper than making it easy for your potential customers to browse your website.
Google has placed an emphasis on mobile responsive design over the last few years, and more recently, rolled out their mobile-first index. Without going too deep into the technical details, this means that if your website isn’t responsive by Google’s standards, it won’t rank well compared to other websites that are.
As with page speed, this is a fairly complex topic, but most aspects of responsive design fall into one of two categories:
Mobile devices typically access the internet on a cellular connection, which is significantly slower than the internet in your home or office. As a result, it’s critical to ensure your website loads as quickly as possible—especially on mobile devices.
A website that’s simple to use on a desktop or laptop can easily become unusable on the smaller screens of mobile devices. Especially when it comes to interactive elements like maps, sortable tabular data, web-based tools.
Today, an effective website needs to load quickly and adapt instantly to make it easy for visitors to use it, regardless of the device it’s being viewed on.
Overlooking SEO considerations
Being visible in search engines is important to most businesses. Whether designing the first website for a brand new business or redesigning an existing website for an established business, there are a few critical factors that if handled wrong, can tank a website’s ranking in the search engines.
Changing image names
If a particular web page already ranks well, changing the names of images on that page could make it drop. Especially if the web designer doesn’t understand SEO. (And unfortunately, most don’t.)
I’ve seen a lot of clients hire a web designer who doesn’t understand SEO to redesign a website that was already ranking well. During the redesign, they replaced old images with new, arbitrary image names that provided zero SEO value, like image1.jpg.
This seemingly insignificant detail removes a vital piece of context that search engines use to determine where a particular web page should rank.
Deleting pages or changing page URLs without redirecting them
It’s not uncommon to delete or move some pages during a redesign. Inexperienced web designers will often simply delete them. Web designers who don’t understand SEO will often simple delete pages or move them, which changes their URLs, and then consider the task complete.
This can be a huge mistake because some of those pages may already rank well, and may even have inbound links from other websites pointing to them, or may have been bookmarked by visitors.
When you delete pages that already have inbound links, you’ll lose all of the SEO value from those links. This will typically cause an immediate and dramatic loss of ranking and organic traffic.
The problem goes beyond that, though. Visitors who click those links or bookmarks will reach a dead end. That creates a negative user experience, which is important because Google has confirmed that user experience is a ranking factor.
The correct way to delete pages is to first redirect each one to the most relevant page that currently exists, then delete each one. As for moving pages, which includes anything that changes the URL of that page in any way, you must redirect the old URL to the new one.
Jeremy Knauff grew up in the construction industry, and today he runs Spartan Media, an agency that specializes in digital marketing for the construction industry. His company provides web design, search engine optimization, social media, and more, to help companies create more exposure, earn more customers, and build the business they deserve.