Credibility Killers: Does Your Website Lack Curbside Appeal?

My wife, who works as a real estate agent, uses a term to describe whether or not she feels a house will sell quickly or not: curbside appeal. No matter how good the neighborhood is, or how good the school district is, or even if the home is close to shopping and parks and other things people crave, if the curbside appeal of the home does not immediately grab your attention…forget it. Your home will not sell quickly. Whenever she takes on a new client, the first direction she gives to potential sellers is “make sure the front of the house sells itself.”

Websites have curbside appeal too; how well your site is done, and how accurate and current your information is presented, can tell much about your company. That is to say: the average potential customer looking to do business is very superficial; if your website is clean, organized and free from errors, they will most likely be drawn to it and may contact you for business. Have a website that looks out of date, riddled with old and inaccurate information and fuhgettaboutit; they will more than likely pass you right on by, even if your company is a well-run business juggernaut.

The image your company portrays on the Internet says much about the credibility in a potential client’s eyes: if you can’t maintain your own website, how will you take care of my business? If you are concerned that your site might be lacking credibility, read the following “credibility killers” for a website and see if your piece of the world wide web needs to upgrade its curb appeal.

Copyright Date is Wrong

You want to know a quick way to see if a company actively maintains their website or if it is forgotten? Scroll to the bottom of their site and check the copyright date. If it doesn’t have the current year, then it’s forgotten.

When I was between jobs 10 years ago as a result of a “workforce reduction” (i.e. layoff) I made some income by googling “Copyright XXXX” with the “XXXX” being a previous year. I would call up the company with the previous year on their website and offer to update or re-do it for them. Worked pretty well too: one company I called ended up hiring me full-time. (Feel free to steal this idea.)

Changing a year in the footer of your website after January 1 is something that you could easily train somebody in your organization to do, yet it amazes me how many companies forgo doing it. And it is more vitally important than you think: an old copyright date tells anybody who comes across your website that if you do not care enough to update this small portion of your business information – that literally millions of people can potentially see – then you probably won’t put the attention to detail in place for your clients. It screams: We don’t take ourselves seriously.

The About Us Page Says Nothing About Your Company

I want to ask you a question and I’d like you to be honest: If I went to the “About Us” section of your company website, would I be able to tell what your company does by reading the content of that section?

If your company is like many of the websites I have looked at lately, the answer is more than likely to be: probably not.

And that’s a shame, because if your site isn’t utilizing its valuable digital real estate in a meaningful way – telling me about your company in a brief elevator pitch – then you’re just giving me filler. And nobody likes filler.

In the Content Marketing world one of the favorite catch-phases is viable; or to be more precise, minimum viable. Abhishek Jain, Product Manager of Adobe Systems, defines this as “to maximize customer value while minimizing waste”. This is a more elegant way of saying “trim the fat”; if the content on your site does not communicate the core message of your company, it probably doesn’t belong there.  INC. magazine says “the primary purpose of your site’s About Us page is to provide information about your business and what it can deliver.”

Randomly choose the website of a company and read the “About Us” section and you will find that many, many business are failing to live up to the “trim the fat” philosophy. I am sure I can read about your company history or the bios of your executive team or your company customer philosophy (the grandchild of the dreaded 90’s stalwart, the mission statement), but I doubt I would find any information that would be useful enough to include on a business card.

Having a short, well-written story on the history of your company is not necessarily a waste of content, but it shouldn’t be the first (or only) thing that you include on your About Us page. Primary information on your About Us page should match what you have as your meta-data description that is used for Google search results; a sentence, 2 at maximum, that tells the purpose of your business. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you important?

After you have addressed these questions you should always include information on how your customers can get hold of you: physical address (if you don’t have any contact information, you could be losing sales), a phone number or email address where you may be reached directly.

Dead Blog

Ask any digital marketing professional and they will all tell you: writing content for your website is essential if you hope to get noticed in organic search. However, ask any digital marketing professional and they will also tell you: blogging and writing content for your website is a commitment; you must be prepared to write 1-2 original pieces of content per month, at a minimum. Anything less and you will not give your digital marketing efforts any advantage.

How many of in the digital marketing world have seen this scenario go down: Your company launches their new website, pledges to fill its blog with content and even promises to have the executive team (including the CEO!) write articles for it. Everything goes great for a few months and then reality sets in: people get busy, nobody has time for the blog and before you know it it has been 6 months since it was last updated.

Having no blog is better than having a dead blog: like the copyright date, it shows a lack of commitment. If you MUST have a blog and don’t feel you can make the commitment to it, hire a professional to write content for you.

Your Website has a Poor, Old Design or is Using Old Technology

This one should be pretty obvious: if the design of your website says “Hello! I’m from 1998!” then you are giving the digital impression of wearing the electric blue tux with a ruffled shirt to a formal event. You may have been cool back in the day, but you’re an embarrassment now.

Ditch the excuse that getting a new website design is expensive; using a WordPress theme you can get a new design for your business and hosting for less than $100. If you need some help getting it off the ground, you can find a professional to help you for as little as $5.

The fact that your website might be an eyesore could be the least of your problems; using an old technology coding language such as ASP (Active Server Pages) might leave you vulnerable to hacking; no potential client is going to put trust in you or your business if they feel you can’t even protect yourself. Having an old-looking site using vulnerable technology is an instant credibility killer; something your competitors can easily and inexpensively take advantage.

No Social Media

My 78-year-old father has a Facebook account that he updates regularly. Just 10 years previous, he had a flip-phone and typed with two fingers: he’s come a long way leaping into the digital age and he is light years ahead of many companies on the web who do not have a social media presence or do not have links to their social media accounts.

The question is: Why Not? Social media is free, easy to setup and use, and gives your company instant credibility: those who think that Facebook and Instagram are just for posting pictures of cats really don’t know what they are missing. Facebook now has 2 billion monthly active users and Instagram has close to 700 million. LinkedIn has over 500 million users (probably why Microsoft decided to buy them) a gain of over 33 million users since last October. Twitter? According to Internet Live Stats “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

It’s easy to decipher the point here: if you want to get yourself noticed, you have to go where the people are, and that place is on social media. Not participating on social media tells your potential clients that you not only have nothing to say about yourself, but you don’t want people to know about you; Nothing kills credibility faster than that.

Does your website lack curb appeal? Good news: it’s very easy to fix and get eyes on your company website quickly. What credibility killers to you see on the web? What do you think gives website curbside appeal?