Does your solar website still use pop-up ads to offer a free rooftop PV assessment? Or robotic text stuffed with keywords for SEO that reads like garbage to humans?
No wonder your traffic isn’t where you want it to be. And no wonder your salespeople complain that your site isn’t generating any good leads.
Inspired by a piece by Corey Eridon at HubSpot, “15 Things People Absolutely Hate about Your Website,” I decided to apply some of his lessons to the solar power world.
To get the list down to a more manageable number, I’ll leave off the obvious problems, since even your boss probably already knows that your links should work properly and that pop-ups don’t work anymore (if they ever did).
But many solar companies still seem to think that other shortcuts or cheap tricks will get them leads and customers online. These nine more subtle fails will still turn off your visitors online:
1. Automatically playing multimedia when a page loads
Surprise audio is the worst. Imagine that your website visitor is sitting in her cubicle on a Wednesday at 11:15 am, trying not to draw attention to the fact that she’s checking out costs for residential solar on company time. Then imagine how she feels when your website starts automatically playing a cool tune or the voice of your CEO in a video. In a panic, she’s going to close that browser window faster than you can say “Lost Sale!” It’s not as bad to autoplay a video with the sound muted, but on a mobile device that video will take up valuable bandwidth. If a visitor wants to play your video, let her push the button herself. Autoplay is bad for your visitor and your solar company.
2. Generic stock photography
Everybody knows that those people around a desk don’t work at your company. And everybody knows that the generic happy family in front of the ranch house aren’t your customers. The web visitor might wonder, do you have any customers yet? Or aren’t your customers satisfied enough to let you use their real faces? Your office staff is less important, but take the trouble to use real shots of customers. Get testimonials while you’re at it too.
3. Using a contact form in place of other contact methods
Here’s where I differ a bit from HubSpot — they think you shouldn’t just use a contact form but should also list your email addresses for the public to see. I disagree. Putting an email address on your website opens it up to spammers, who can quickly fill your in-box with junk email for discount Viagra and offers of cash disbursements from Lagos, Nigeria. A contact form really is the safest way to communicate with total strangers online. But you should also offer a physical address (both for credibility and for reference in case a vendor or other person you already do business with can easily drive to your office) and a phone number for more serious prospects to reach a live salesperson.
4. Unintelligible “About Us” page
First, don’t be creative about this page’s title. Web surfers are used to seeing a page on any site called About Us and will be slowed down or flummoxed if your intro page is called Company, Backgrounder or Profile. Second, edit out jargon so that ordinary people can figure out what you actually do. For example, as a “solar developer,” do you install solar panels on rooftops or do you just provide financing for others to do the job? You need to translate solar installer and electrical engineering jargon into regular English. But you also need to avoid business-speak cliches that set off visitors’ B.S. alarms, such as those from the Corporate B.S. Generator: “monotonectally iterate client-centric initiatives” or “synergistically maximize distinctive partnerships.”
5. Not including social buttons in your content
It’s hard to believe that some companies still can’t bother to put buttons that let visitors share the company’s content on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you use WordPress, there are like a bazillion plugins that let you do this in about five minutes. If people want to do your marketing for you for free, make it as easy on them as possible.
6. You don’t have a blog
Blogging is the best way to boost your on-page SEO and it’s also a great way to form a relationship with website visitors, to help them to remember you after that first initial visit to your site to check you out. No time to blog? Well, it’s not that hard, if you find ideas for blog post ideas and write short and publish often. Of course, you can hire out your blogging to a freelancer or marketing agency — that will be cheaper than hiring someone in-house just to blog (Obamacare, anyone?) and more effective than those pay-per-click ads you’ve been wasting so much money on for years.
7. Sliders that take forever to load
In 2003, photo sliders on websites were cool. Today, web visitors tend to ignore every slide after the first one, because they think they’re ads. That would be harmless enough, except that with more visitors using mobile devices, bandwidth has become valuable again, and sliders may use more bandwidth on a phone than they’re worth. Slim down your slider to 3-4 slides or dump it altogether.
8. Using Flash
In the hands of a skilled web designer, Flash can make a solar website beautiful. But since search engines have a hard time reading Flash content, it might keep your website from getting indexed. That will destroy your SEO and can bring new web traffic to a halt. And if a visitor is looking for something very specific on your site, he’ll get annoyed if he has to wait for your 10-second intro to finish up — especially if he’s looking at your site on a phone and the Flash is slow.
9. Not knowing what to do
As HubSpot says, this is the worst offender. A visitor can overlook things about your site that turn them off like stock photos or even make it hard to view on their phone like a slow photo slider. But if a visitor isn’t given an (easy) action to take on your site, chances are she’ll just look around for a while and then leave. As HubSpot’s Eridon puts it,
Include clear headline copy, jargonless page copy that explains the value of what you do, and one clear primary call-to-action per page that shows visitors how to take the next steps — whether that’s subscribing to your blog, getting a free trial, watching a video, or any other action you hope visitors will perform on your site.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group