Over the years, I’ve found some very common mistakes that many small businesses make when it comes to their website. 

I’ve worked with several businesses who call me to help with their SEO and getting more traffic to their website, only to discover they don’t have a traffic problem, they have a website conversion problem. 

When it comes to your business’s website, you have two challenges:

  1. Traffic: You need people to find and click on your website. Whether it’s with organic Google search, paid ads on Google or Facebook, or backlinks (referring domains), a great website is useless without visitors.
  2. Conversion: When someone visits your website, you need your website to capture their attention and generate interest in your products or services. Your website should act as a funnel that guides visitors to take action by contacting you or making a purchase then and there.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled this list of the most common mistakes I see small business owners making with their websites. 

Avoid these website design mistakes (or fix them) to ensure a positive user experience for your website visitors and more sales for your small business.

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7 Website Design Mistakes and How to Fix Them

1. Using Too Many Words

One thing we have to understand when creating any form of written marketing content for the internet is that less is more. 

This goes for your website homepage, your bio or about us page, a caption for a social media post, or an email communication. 

If it looks like it will take more than a few seconds to understand it, it simply won’t get read. 

Why it matters…

Visitors to your website, your social media accounts, and subscribers to your email newsletter aren’t actually reading your copy. They scan your copy. 

And if the page doesn’t instantly appear scannable, the visitor will bounce back out to Google search and pick another website, scroll to the next post in their Instagram feed, or unsubscribe from your email newsletter.

The text on your homepage, service pages, sales pages, and landing pages all have to be quick and snappy. They must get to the point quickly.

These pages have to look scannable at first glance.

Do this…

Break up the page with subheadings and keep paragraphs to just two or three sentences – max. Give the reader sentences and paragraphs that are quick and easy to consume. (Like this one.)

Leave plenty of “white space” on the page to make it less intimidating to the visitor.

If you must elaborate on a point or topic, put it in a blog post. Blog posts can be more extensive and detailed, and in fact, often need to be to satisfy the reader’s search intent fully. 

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Henry Ford

The same goes for your website copy. Break it up into smaller, easier-to-consume segments.

2. Focusing on the Wrong Hero

Remember Star Wars? I’m talking about the first one, “A New Hope,” with Obi-Wan, Luke, and the first time we ever heard about this thing called “The Force.” Or, was that the fourth one?

Who’s the hero of this story, and who’s the guide? By the way, this is the same theme for 99% of all blockbuster movies of all time. The reason is simple: it’s what resonates with audiences.

Luke is the hero in Star Wars, and Obi-Wan is the guide. So, who’s the real star of the movie? The one who is at the center of all the movie’s advertising and promotion?

Luke, the hero, is the center of the story.

Obi-Wan is the guide. A very important character, and integral to the success of the story. But, the story doesn’t revolve around him. The story is about Luke.

Why it matters…

Your business is no different. As the business owner and practitioner, you are the guide, not the hero.

The hero is your client. Or, your potential client. The visitor to your website looking for a solution to a problem is the hero in the story of your business.

Be honest…

Now, look at your website. Specifically, look at the homepage. Tell me: who’s the hero on your homepage? Does your homepage revolve around the hero or your ideal client avatar, or is it all about the guide and her knowledge and expertise?

More questions…

  • Is the first photo on the homepage an image of a happy client looking blissful (because you solved their problem?) Or, is it a photo of you?
  • Is the first headline a snappy summary of what life will be like for your client after working with you, or is it all about you and your business?
  • Do the words under that headline quickly articulate the problem that your prospect has, and do you provide an easily understood explanation of how you solve this problem? Is the purpose of your business effectively communicated?
  • In less than 35 words?

Prospects aren’t buying the product or service you’re selling. They’re buying the result that your product or service brings to them.

Go deeper…

Visitors to your website need to know exactly what you do and how you do it within only a few seconds of landing on your homepage, or they’ll bounce back to Google search and click on the next suggested business.

Google takes notice of this, too. The more often visitors quickly bounce from your website, the lower Google will rank your business in the search results.

So, your homepage better be telling a compelling story. A story that’s easy to understand, relatable, and interesting. There’s nothing more interesting to anyone than a story about themselves. 

Therefore, the easiest way to keep an ideal prospect on your homepage and keep them reading is to make the website about them.

3. Using Technical Jargon

The importance of quickly and clearly articulating an understanding of your client’s pain points and conveying how you solve this problem can’t be overstated.

We know by now that the hero of the story is your client and that the messaging must convey the sense that your business is the answer to their most challenging problem.

The funny thing about your ideal prospects is that they know they need your help, but they don’t understand the technical details of how you perform your work. 

That’s the job of content marketing, aka value-based marketing. Teaching what you know for free is a great way to establish trust and credibility with your prospects and generate leads.

Why it matters…

You have to remember your audience doesn’t have your expertise and probably has no idea what those technical terms and acronyms you’re throwing around on your website mean.

Believe me, you don’t want a client who thinks he knows as much as you do about your work. The DIY crowd shouldn’t be your prospects. I share more about this topic in another article.

For now, just know this: Any time you explain something on your website, it should be extremely easy to understand. Like 6th grade easy.

Pro tip: That’s a good test, actually. When revising the copy on your homepage or service pages, have one of your kids or your niece or nephew read it. Ask them what they think. Do they get the jist of your business?

Let’s Fix It…

Try organizing a focus group of people you trust. They should not be current clients and should have no technical expertise in your industry. 

Ask them to look at your homepage. Give them 30 seconds to scan it, and then ask them to tell you what your business does.

If they are confused in any way, start refining your messaging. Replace words and terms that they don’t understand with layman terms.

Go Deeper…

Repeat this with every page on your website. The service pages, the about us page, etc. Don’t worry about blog articles – they can be technical, and I share more about maximizing the value of your website blog in another article.

Refine, refine, refine… until you can show your website to anyone and they immediately get what you do.

4. No Calls to Action

Be clear about your offer. Make it bold and catchy. Illustrate your unique value and how you solve a very specific problem for your clients.

Include calls to action that are strong and compelling, and stand out from the rest of the page.

Ask them to take the next step. It might be purchasing a product you’re offering, a service, or maybe you’re asking the visitor to sign up for your email newsletter in exchange for a free offer or lead magnet.

Every page should have an objective to convert a visitor either to a buyer or a lead. If they buy now, great. If not, ask them for their email address and permission to follow up.

It’s a numbers game…

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

Generally speaking, if your messaging is developed correctly, about 3% of the first-time visitors to your website will make a purchase or request your services. 

That means 97% bounce but might purchase in the future. You must have something to offer this 97% to keep them engaged as a lead for a future sale.

The larger market…

This is where a high-value content offer or lead magnet comes in. Make sure you’re offering something for free to those who don’t make a purchase the first time they visit your site.

CTA checklist:

  • Use buttons that stand apart from the rest of the page. Refer to the color wheel and select button colors that stand in contrast to your brand colors. Example: For a predominately blue website theme, use orange for the color of your CTA buttons.
  • Calls to action can include: buy now, lead magnets (free offers,) and contact us.
  • Every page on your website should include at least one CTA.

5. Missing Testimonials

According to Search Engine Watch,  72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.

Why it matters…

A little peace of mind goes a long way, and testimonials from your clients will help visitors validate a decision to take the next step and contact you. Social proof is extremely powerful.

Stick to the plan…

This is not an area to over-indulge. Keep them short, only two sentences. Include their name and use some catchy icons like five stars to bring attention to the fact that these are highly positive reviews.

Pick three of your favorite client testimonials that speak to specific benefits of working with you, or that overcome a common objection.

An exception to the rule…

If you feel compelled to include lengthy testimonials, try to pick one catchy sentence and make that a headline for the testimonial. Then you can include the entire testimonial below the headline.

Include a photo of the client to go along with their testimonial, too! This will amp up the personalization of the testimonial and add a truckload of credibility.

Pro tip: For the ultimate testimonial, make it a video. Ask clients to sit down with you and record a brief 20-second video testimonial. This can be recorded in person or remotely via Zoom or a similar app.

They don’t need to be professional, or cinematic quality, but a little effort goes a long way.

6. Not Disclosing Prices

What happens when visitors to your website can’t find pricing?

They bounce back to Google search and click on your competitor’s website.

It’s true. Think about it! How important is pricing to you when shopping for a product or service? It’s one of the top three most important factors. 

Sure, shoppers want quality, trustworthiness, positive reviews, expertise, etc. But, every business will claim those things and have proof (just like you) to back it up.

Why it matters…

One of the quickest ways to alienate a potential customer is to avoid disclosing your fees. Even if pricing is custom, you can still articulate a pricing expectation.

This doesn’t go for every business. A trial lawyer or family law practice can’t share pricing because literally, every case is different. But, most service businesses or anyone selling a product should share pricing upfront.

It’s ok to be flexible…

It’s understandable that for certain businesses, especially service businesses, it’s not always possible to share an exact price upfront. 

The scope of services and projects can vary, so for those businesses, I recommend sharing a typical range of pricing along with a disclaimer that you quote each project individually.

You can still attract premium customers!

Disclosing pricing doesn’t mean you have to be the lowest-priced. Quite the opposite.

I’ve owned a service-based business for 15 years, and I can say with certainty that I’ve lost just as many potential clients by quoting too low as I have by quoting too high.

The key is knowing who your ideal customer avatar is, and pricing your services specifically for them and their needs.

So, affluent prospects will expect to see higher prices (and they’ll have higher expectations,) and lower budget prospects will expect to see lower prices (but, they’ll still have high expectations.) 

I digress.

7. Linking to Social Media Accounts

This is something nearly every business does, and it has got to be one of the biggest mistakes you can make with your website.

Why it matters…

When someone visits your website, you have them right where you want them. You’ve spent thousands of dollars or thousands of hours (sometimes both) advertising your business, dialing in your SEO, and creating content to attract visitors to your website.

Then you put buttons in the header or footer of every page of your website that invite visitors to leave and visit [insert social media brand here].

This is insanity!

Stop the insanity…

“But, we want them to follow us on social media,” I hear you saying.

No! You want your social media followers to visit your website, not the other way around.

Promote your social media links on your website, and prospects will visit your social media profiles – then they’ll be sucked into the ultimate distraction and rabbit hole that is social media – never to be heard from or seen again.

“Encouraging visitors to leave your website is a poor conversion strategy.” ~Captain Obvious


Phew! That was a lot of words from a guy that preaches brevity. 

Remember, blog posts can be long when needed. 

Now, go turn that small business website of yours into a lead-generating machine, and make your prospects the hero of the story.

Epic Journey Media - Jeff Hamm

About the author:

Jeff Hamm is the co-founder of Epic Journey Media, a digital marketing agency that specializes in affordable and functional website designs, SEO management, and lead generation for small businesses.

He’s also the award-winning host and producer of The Best of LKN and The Best of Charlotte podcasts and has published podcast interviews with small business owners every week since 2020.

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