7 Common Mistakes on Service-Based Websites

One of my best friends is in the spiritual/psychology field and offers counseling services to clients online via Skype/Facetime. She’s amazing at it and has helped me uncover the root of some of my self-limiting beliefs and patterns.

But as I was chatting with her, Liz confessed that she and her industry peers were “clueless” when it comes to technology, marketing, and business-y topics in general. They were passionate about helping people, but needed some guidance in these other areas.

I checked out about 10 websites from her circle of peers and noticed some common mistakes. Although I looked specifically at Completion Process Certified Practitioners, other small business owners would do well to avoid these mistakes, too!

These tips apply to small business owners such as:

  • Trauma Coaches / Counselors
  • Health / Fitness Coaches
  • Business Coaches
  • Massage Therapists
  • Anyone else who provides session-based services to clients
  • …most websites in general (except maybe point #6)

Here are the 7 common website mistakes:

  1. Bad visual design
  2. Call-to-Actions out of whack
  3. Generic contact forms
  4. Filling spaces with random widgets
  5. Not respecting the reader
  6. Inefficient booking and payment process
  7. No opt-in “bribe”

1. Bad Visual Design

First impressions matter.

Sorry to be blunt, but if your website is straight-up ugly, a lot of people are going to bounce before they give you a chance to show them what you’re all about.

That’s not to say that there aren’t ugly websites out there that are popular (such as Craigslist), but they’re the exception, not the rule.

Ugly Website

Ouch! My eyes hurt. Can you spot all the design sins on this website?

Even if your website isn’t ugly per se, bad design makes your website harder to use and your content less appealing to read.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a DaVinci or a Monet to pull off a good-looking website.

Steer clear of the following website no-no’s:

– TOO MANY FONTS

Rule of thumb: stick to two typefaces max – one for headlines, one for body text.

If you want to use a fancy-looking typeface, make sure it’s still readable and only use it for your headlines. Your body text should use a typeface that’s easy to read and the font size should be no smaller than 12 or 14 points.

I’ll be writing more about typography in the near future (so stay tuned!).

– MISMATCHED COLORS 

Sometimes when you’re working with a site builder, it’s tempting to go crazy and use a bunch of different colors because you can. But just because it’s possible to make every page on your site a different color, doesn’t mean you should!

First, make sure the main content on your website has good contrast. You can’t go wrong with black text on a white background.

Next, consider any large photos or images you’ll be using. You can choose 1-3 accent colors to use for certain elements, like the background of your footer or your navigation links, as long as they don’t clash with the main photos on your site.

Check out Canva’s list of 20 color palettes for some inspiration.

– NOT ENOUGH WHITESPACE

Whitespace is the empty space on your website that lets your design breathe. It provides much-needed pause for your readers and instantly makes your site look more modern and clean.

Think about your house or your apartment and where you hang out the most. Sure, you might spend 80% of your time in 20% of your space, but if all that extra space were gone, you would feel pretty cramped and claustrophobic, wouldn’t you?

Hence… whitespace. By the way, unlike the name suggests, “whitespace” doesn’t necessarily have to be the color white.

– LONG BLOCKS OF TEXT

This ties along with the whitespace issue.

Have you ever looked at a paragraph that’s three times as long as a normal one and thought, “ooh, I can’t wait to read this!” Yeah, me neither.

This laziness for reading is even more pronounced online. People don’t read online, they scan – at least until they find something interesting enough to read.

So, while in high school, your teacher told you to write 5-7 sentences for every paragraph, I’m here to give you permission to break that rule.

A paragraph can be 3 sentences. It can be 2 sentences.

It can even be one sentence (gasp!).

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Neil Patel’s blog. Notice how easy it is to read through?

Bottom line: make your content scannable, and use bold sub-headings after every few paragraphs.

– BLOCKS OF TEXT RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER 

Unless you’re going for the magazine column look, I advise against having blocks of text next to each other in your main content area. They’ll compete for your reader’s attention.

Your sidebar is an exception, but it should be easy to tell your sidebar apart from your main content.

– SCREAMS “CHEAP & AMATEUR” INSTEAD OF “MODERN & PROFESSIONAL” 

This is a little harder to quantify, but some things are a dead giveaway.

Such as flashy gifs from the early 2000’s.

Such as a clipart logo.

Such as stupidly small videos that can’t be made fullscreen.

I know everyone has to start somewhere and isn’t going to have a million-dollar looking website on day one. But putting a little more effort and thought into your design will go a long way towards getting others to take you seriously.

2. Call-to-Actions out of whack

What is a call-to-action (or CTA, for short)? It’s an action phrase that tells the reader, or website visitor, what to do next.

Common examples include:

  • Learn more / Read more / Find out more / See more posts about…
  • Book a session / Schedule a consultation / Contact me
  • Sign up / Register / Save my spot
  • Join the community / Become an insider
  • Download now / Get the goods
  • Shop now / Browse… / Check out the latest…
  • Buy now / Add to cart / Checkout
  • …and many more variations.

Without a good call-to-action, you risk leaving your reader hanging and wondering where to go next.

It’s like they hit a dead end.

If you don’t give them a reason to stick around, they’re going to bounce (and that’s a technical term, by the way)!

Call to Action button examples

Image: MailBakery.com

Here are some common CTA problems I’ve seen on practitioner websites (and how to fix them):

– NO CTA’s on some pages

You don’t need to be annoying about it and have flashy “Book Now” buttons all over your website, but every page on your site should have a call-to-action.

At the bottom of a blog post, invite your reader to sign up for your email list for a free resource, or suggest more posts for her to read. On your About page, direct people to contact you or view your testimonials.

– HIDDEN CTA’s that are hard to find

What good is a call-to-action if no one sees it?

I know a lot of people who work for themselves tend to be introverted and feel squeamish about self-promotion (myself included).

But, if you look at your website as though it’s your very own salesperson, you can let it do the selling for you.

So don’t be shy about making that little blue contact link into a big, bold (but still classy) button. No one’s going to hate you for it!

– TOO MANY CTA’s on the same page, in the same area

Having several CTA’s on your website is not a bad thing, but you have to be careful so they don’t compete for attention.

I’ve seen home pages with a newsletter signup, a big contact button, and a shop now banner all within a few pixels of each other. Talk about analysis paralysis for your reader!

Instead, choose the main action you want visitors to take and make that one stand out, while making secondary CTA’s less intrusive.

– BAD CTA’s that actually encourage the reader to leave to another website

Yes, I’ve seen this happen on a service page, which is the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to close a sale!

I’m not saying to never use outbound links where appropriate, such as in a blog post to give credit to someone or mention a helpful resource.

But, don’t put a big button telling people to follow your photographer friend on the same page where you’re trying to get people to book a session with you (is your friend doing the same for you?).

I think it’s just our generous nature that we’re always trying to help out, but be sure to do so in a way that doesn’t sabotage your own efforts.

Check your website and see if you need a CTA intervention!

3. Generic contact forms

If someone on your website makes it to your contact page and wants to get in touch with you, congrats! That’s awesome, but don’t celebrate just yet. You need to increase the likelihood of this person going through with contacting you.

So often, I see uninspiring contact pages with the same dull contact form, usually something like this:

Contact form example

There’s no personality, nothing that shows you’re excited to hear from them, and nothing to indicate when the person can expect to hear back.

Also, instead of the generic “Subject” and “Message” fields, consider adding one or two questions to pre-screen prospects. For instance, which of your offerings are they curious about? What are they hoping to get out of working with you?

Getting a little bit more information from a prospect on the first point of contact can eliminate at least one round of back-and-forth emails.

It also reduces the number of inquiries you get from people who aren’t serious about working with you and makes people feel like you care more about them. Win-win!

Your visitor has made it this far already; don’t give them a reason to turn around!

4. Filling spaces with random widgets

I see a lot of websites with messy sidebars and even messier footers. These areas tend to accumulate all manner of digital odds and ends.

It’s like collecting thrift store knickknacks and putting them around the house because they’re kinda cute, until one day you realize you might have a hoarding problem (not that that’s ever happened to me…).

While one or two strategically placed pieces can work well, too many ensures that nothing stands out except for the overall mess. The same concept applies online.

Common random widget offenders include:

– SOCIAL MEDIA BUTTONS DONE WRONG

At best, they might be generic icons with the standard “Follow us” message. At worst, they look totally cheesy and desperate.

Sometimes I see a ridiculous number of buttons with obscure icons that hardly anyone would recognize. Or there’ll be a “Like our page” widget that shows how many likes/followers there are.

Pro tip: Don’t use widgets that show how many followers you have if it’s not very many, yet. You can always change that when your audience grows a little more!

Bloated Facebook icon button

Wow, 3 Facebook buttons within a larger button! In case you missed the message…

 

Long social media icon bar

WordPress isn’t a social media platform, and who even shares anything on Google Plus?

– NEWSLETTER SIGNUPS DONE WRONG

Sometimes the signup form is too small, or it has too many input fields.

Often, there’s no specific reason for people to join, other than a vague “get our updates” type of message.

And it’s usually not custom-designed, so it just blends in with the rest of your widgets… like a toad in a pile of dead leaves.

– WORD TAG CLOUDS

Am I the only who thinks they’re just a space filler?

Tag cloud widget example

Look through your sidebar and footer, and check if there are any items that are not adding value. Be selective about what goes on your website; don’t clutter it with random widgets!

5. Not respecting the reader

Not respecting the reader can take many forms, but it often includes:

  • Only talking about yourself on your “About” page
  • Only talking about the features of your services, not the benefits or outcomes for your clients
  • Not speaking your customer’s language
  • Using lots of random photos that have nothing to do with them or your service
You might be thinking, “I’m confused, I thought I was supposed to talk about myself on my About page?”

Well, yes, but not only about yourself.

Whether they are conscious of it or not, your customers are asking themselves “What’s in it for me?” at all times. Marie Forleo’s acronym – WIIFM – makes it easy to remember the “radio station” that’s playing in our heads.

So while it might be cute to talk about your cat, Mr. Fluffy, or you might be tempted to talk at length about your credentials, be sure to dive a little deeper. If people can’t see how you’re going to help them, they’re not going to buy from you. Your About page should serve to let people get to know you and confirm that you’re the right service provider for them.

On a similar note, your services page should not just list the features of your services, but the benefits for your clients in their language.

It’s not enough for a life coach to say they’re going to help you “step into your power” or “love yourself.” What does that even look like?

Do your clients stay up late at night wishing they could “step into their power”? Or do they wish they had the guts to take their side hustle full-time and finally ditch their soul-sucking day job?

Another pro tip from Marie Forleo is to use the “movie director” test when you’re writing your sales copy.

Would a movie director know how to film a scene of your client “stepping into their power”? Probably not.

But a strong woman marching out of a dreary office for the last time (and giving her tyrannical boss the finger on the way out)? Now our director has something to work with.

If your clients daydream about it, weave it into your copywriting. Click To Tweet

By the way, unless you’re a business coach for hardcore cat ladies (which is cool if you are!), one photo of Mr. Fluffy on your website is more than enough. You can always share (a little) more personal photos on Instagram.

6. Inefficient booking & payment process

It’s surprising to see how few serviced practitioners have an easy way for people to book a session with them online. Usually they direct prospects to a generic contact form (see point #3).

It’s fine if you want to screen people before they book you. But, if you can at least allow people to easily schedule a short, preliminary consultation with you, you’re more likely to get people interested.

Use a tool to such as Calendly to let people choose a slot on your calendar. Better yet, a tool like Acuity can handle that plus accept client payments right when they book you, so you’re not awkwardly asking people to send you money to your PayPal account.

If someone’s ready to buy from you, don’t give them a reason not to – make it easy! The more barriers you remove from the sales process, the more success you’ll have.

7. No opt-in “bribe”

Lead magnets, content upgrades, email freebies… they go by many names, but my favorite term is the “opt-in bribe,” as coined by Daniel DiPiazza, author of Rich20Something.

I’m talking about those things you see on website opt-in forms where you’ll get something free in exchange for entering your email address, such as an ebook, checklist, mini e-course, video, coupon code, weekly newsletter, etc.

When the offer is valuable, it’s hard to resist – who can say no to free?

Yet so many service providers either don’t have an email opt-in on their website at all, or it’s just a generic “Sign up for updates” type of thing. Sorry, but unless you’re my favorite band, getting “updates” isn’t enough to entice me to fill out your opt-in form and give you my email address.

Worse, if you don’t have an email opt-in form at all, you have no way of keeping in touch with the people who expressed interest and visited your website. You’re basically counting on those people remembering your website and coming back without being reminded, which seems pretty risky to me.

So what can you do? Well, if you haven’t started an email list yet:

  1. Sign up for an email marketing account and set up your first email list. There are tons of companies, but MailChimp is free for new businesses and fairly simple to figure out.
  2. Put an opt-in form on your website someplace above the fold (the area that is visible near the top, before scrolling). It’s okay if you don’t have an opt-in bribe yet, but let people know what type of content they can expect to receive from you. For instance, instead of “Sign up for updates” or “Sign up for my newsletter,” say “Get juicy relationship tips in your inbox every Friday.” Specific beats vague, every time.
  3. Create an opt-in bribe! Consider what you can offer to your subscribers that’s valuable and that you don’t share anywhere else. Can you make a short guide for them? A 5-day email course? A discount on their first session with you? A video of you explaining a topic in depth? Get creative!
  4. Set up your email marketing account so it automatically sends your “bribe” to your new subscribers. Be sure to customize the welcome email they receive.
  5. Don’t let your email list get stale. Be sure to check in with your subscribers periodically, preferably once a week, or whenever you publish a new blog post or YouTube video. You may also choose to set up an autoresponder sequence when you have more content to share, so it’s more hands-off.

I hope this has been helpful to you!

If so, follow me and leave a comment on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/linda.albertini.design/

Now it’s time for me to follow my own advice and get #7 set up (hey, I never claimed to be perfect! We’re on this journey together).

 

Want to work with me? Let’s talk!

 

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