MasterCard Biz: My Homepage Sucks

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(This post originally appeared on MasterCardBiz.com)

You would think my website’s home page would be cool and modern and up to date because my company is in the technology consulting business (we sell customer relationship management and other sales and marketing software). But it’s not.

In fact, my home page sucks. Don’t believe me? Go to my website and see for yourself. And if you’re still unconvinced then just listen to what Pat Walsh has to say… because your home page may suck too. And Pat’s advice could help.

Pat and his wife Peg run The Walsh Group, a boutique-marketing firm located near Philadelphia. Pat’s been in the business for so many years now that he frequently finds himself being one of the oldest guys attending conferences. You’re really not that old, I try to tell him. Nowadays any twenty-something can call themselves a marketing professional just because they tweet a few times a day. But he’s not convinced. It’s no matter to me. Pat’s one of the best marketing guys I know, and a friend. Such a friend that when I asked him to take a quick look at the home page of my website he agreed on the spot.

Friends don’t beat around the bush. And neither did Pat. It’s quite clear that he thinks my home page sucks. He didn’t tell me that directly, but it was evident in his comments. He’s right. It does suck. I knew that. He’s validating. I’m updating my website frequently with new information I really haven’t done much by way of design in years. I know this. You probably know this about your site too. But specifically, why does my home page suck? Pat gave me three reasons.

1. I have no metrics. I do no tracking. I couldn’t tell him how many people visit my site. I don’t know who clicks and where and how often. I make no use of any metric tool, even the free ones like Google Analytics. “Anybody can say they don’t like the look of a website,” Pat said to me. “But for a professional marketer the most important question is: is it working and are there metrics to prove it? With metrics, if any changes are made we can track whether that change was helpful or not. Otherwise don’t spend a dime more on the website.”

2. My home page is too busy. A typical visitor will scan your home page for an average of 7 to 15 seconds and decide if they want to go deeper. The first thing a visitor wants to know is “can you solve my pain?” Does my home page answer that question? Not according to Pat. “Your video is good, but it doesn’t address your visitors’ issues,” he said. “There are too many messages.” When asked what they want most out of a website, most surveys conclude that around three quarters of visitors just want to be able to find what they’re looking for easy and fast. According to Pat, my home page is too busy, with too much text, and too many navigation menus. Users can’t get their answers as easy as they should.

3. It’s out of date. “Your brand is that you are a technology company Gene,” Pat said. “You are judged on the use of your website technology. And yet your website looks outdated! The current trend in website design is more whitespace, more visuals and more customer needs being addressed. Check outSalesforce.com’s website as a great example of a more up to date website in your industry.” He’s right. My website is out of date. Hell, I think I’m out of date. Just ask my kids. Technology, design, moods and trends change all the time. A good website is redesigned every couple of years. I haven’t redesigned mine in at least six years. And it shows.

So what about you? Are you treating your website as the critical tool that it is? Are you giving it the respect that it deserves? Are you tracking even the most basic level of metrics? Are you making sure your home page is clean, easy to read and providing your visitors with the information they need fast and easy? And is it looking like a website should look today…or are you still stuck back in the glorious ‘00’s. Like me. Pat thinks my website sucks. I agree. So what about yours?

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. He writes daily for The New York Times and weekly for Forbes, The Huffington Post, Inc Magazine, FOX Business, and Philadelphia Magazine. His columns are read by thousands of small and medium sized business owners around the country. Gene has also written five books on business management, specifically geared towards small and medium sized companies. Nationally, Gene frequently appears on, FOX News, Fox Business, Bloomberg, and CNBC discussing matters affecting the business community. Gene owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a highly successful ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. You can find Gene online at GeneMarks.com

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