The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Many companies have an online website presence and are doing exceptionally well, boosting their business, and making profit. For others, however, they are not doing so well, and they cannot understand why, despite marketing efforts, social media, Google Adsense, and other forms of advertising. Despite the efforts, the conversion rates are low, the profits are minimal, and business is hardly sustainable if it keeps going the same route. So what are some of these failures and boundaries that are preventing companies from reaching their potential in making a massive profit?
A client of mine recently discussed with me that there is going to be a big demand for flood vents, especially in flood zones – which is over 30 million homes that will be in demand. A flood vent is a permanent opening in a wall designed to protect houses by allowing the unobstructed passage of water automatically in and out of a building thereby preventing water pressure buildup that can destroy walls and foundations. Homeowners who install these flood vents will have the opportunity to reduce their flood insurance. Since there are not many companies that specialize in installing this equipment, those companies that actually do will be in great demand, and currently, there are only about four companies. This client showed me the websites to each of these businesses and showed me that 2 out of 4 of the contact forms did not work. 3 of these websites are paying for Google Adsense, yet they may have forgotten to check to see if their websites were fully in order before spending all their money on advertising efforts.
This same client of mine then took me to a few lawyers’ websites who were offering their services. There were three issues:
- Either the lawyers did not have any contact form at all and listed only an email address that did not work or;
- the contact form was present, but the button did not go anywhere or;
- they provided a disabled phone number or a brief unfriendly voicemail.
Now my client had wanted to reach one of these lawyers for information and a consultation, but could not do so. If the lawyers do not know about the errors on their website and make no attempt to correct them immediately, the website is essentially useless to them, and causing them to lose thousands of dollars. This client and I were discussing marketing efforts and the failures of many websites that could do really well, but don’t because their web guy is not on top of things. Their website may be out of date, it may lack any maintenance, or have no social media at all, or even lack any hint of customer service or frequently asked questions (FAQ). Much could be done to improve these websites, but the longer these websites remain outdated and lacking of information, the more likely it is these business websites are losing customers at an unsustainable rate to stay in business.
Imagine if Amazon.com, Ebay.com, or Paypal.com went down for a day—these websites would lose millions of dollars. These websites have a whole staff team dedicated to ensuring that no matter what happens to these websites, they are always up for business 24/7. Every second costs money and every second is an opportunity to make a sale when you are on the Internet and a business catering to a world-wide audience.
The real cost of website errors means that you are not only losing clients, but you are losing clients to your competition. Just because your store is down or not open for business online does not mean there are not other stores that are not open. Where you lose a customer, someone else will gain a customer. If your potential customers cannot get a hold of you, they will always go to the other guy, and once the other guy has them—unless the other guy really messes up—the potential customer you could have had is gone for good, and with that customer, their reviews, their experiences, and their potential unintended advertising which they do through word of mouth to their friends, family, and co-workers.
If you are a company owner depending on your website for business, make sure that you hire someone to maintain it or go through it several times before releasing it to the public to ensure that everything is tested and works, including the contact form, the listed phone numbers, all pages, and orders. Any new pages or products must be thoroughly tested. If something does not work, it needs to be fixed immediately. General maintenance should be constant and downtime should be extremely minimal. You should know the times your website is busy and do any upgrades during the times the site has very few visitors on it. A phone number listed on the website should lead to a real live person during business hours and either a friendly voice message or you personally after business hours.
Website errors – such as a 404 error, a slow server, or a server down for maintenance can cost you and your business a lot of money. Every second counts for the potential to earn profit. It may be worth it to hire a web developer, not only to update and maintain your website, but to keep an eye on your business as well. It is a small price to pay for making sure your online business is up and running and open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days of the year.
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.