By Dianna Huff published November 5, 2010

The Three Biggest Mistakes Companies Make with B2B Websites

In the early days of the Internet, web content was an afterthought. The main focus was the printed product brochure. Once the brochure was complete, it was then added to the website, usually in the same format in which it was printed.

Because of this history, some B2B companies still consider a website an “online brochure,” a misconception that causes a lot of trouble.

Today’s B2B website is a living, breathing, dynamic marketing asset. It’s the first thing people view when doing a search or following up on a recommendation made on social media. As such, it’s a real-time extension of your business culture, your marketing and sales department, your help desk, and your HR department – to name only a few functions.

Because the website is so important, B2B marketers and business owners really need to ensure that their sites are up to snuff before beginning a social media campaign or developing a content strategy because the website needs to support these activities in order for them to be successful.

But, where do you start when developing or updating your website? Here are the three biggest mistakes I see companies make. Focus on fixing these three issues with your website before developing your social media and content strategy.

Poor messaging

On the Home or Products/Services pages of your website, you need to state exactly what you offer and how it will benefit people. Yet too often B2B websites are full of goobledygook language such as, “We’re the leaders in providing scalable integrated digital gizmos for industry verticals.”

To determine if you have the right messaging, ask people outside of your company and industry to view your site. If they don’t “get it,” change your messaging until they do.

You’ll also want to consider how your company is positioned compared to your competitors. Do your messages sound the same? Are you using the same tired buzz words and industry jargon? Even worse, are you using the same stock photos?

Non-existent or faulty SEO

One of the first things I look for when talking with a prospective client is whether or not the website is optimized for search engines. Usually it’s not, and when I point this out, I’m told that they paid a web designer to “throw some keywords in the meta tags.”

Not understanding the importance of SEO is a huge mistake. You can find people who will argue SEO is dead but the bottom line is this: we all search for things using keywords. If your content isn’t optimized around the keywords people use, then they won’t find your content, period. (And no, I don’t think social media is a replacement for SEO – but that’s another post.)

If you don’t have the skills to figure this out in-house, find a good SEO copywriter.

Lack of content

Having an abundance of e-books, white papers, webinars, podcasts, video, etc. is good. Yet before you get to the content wealth stage, you need to ensure you have lots of “bread and butter” content including:

  • Services / product info – I recommend that for each service or product you offer, you have a page of content describing it – versus cramming everything onto one or two pages. Having more pages also makes it easier to optimize for specific keywords.
  • FAQs – Multiple FAQ pages regarding different aspects of your business answer people’s questions as well as drawing them to your site via search.
  • Case studies / testimonials / client lists – Third-party endorsements help prospects decide whether they should do business with you.
  • Articles / e-newsletter / blog – Whether you have all three or just one, this type of content educates site visitors, shows your expertise and gets passed around via social media.

Your B2B website is the best marketing asset you own. Help your website help you increase sales by ensuring that you communicate the right message, that people can find your content in the search engines, and that your site helps move people to the next step in the sales cycle.

Author: Dianna Huff

The founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, Inc., Dianna Huff creates and implements thoughtful marketing strategies that help small, family-run industrial manufacturers grow and succeed. She's also the co-author, with Rachel Cunliffe of Cre8d Design, of 101 Ways to Market Your Website, a guide for small business owners, consultants, freelancers -- anyone with a website. You can follow Dianna on Twitter @diannahuff.

Other posts by Dianna Huff

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  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    You really can’t stress #3 enough. All brands now have to be creators of content. Web users expect more from brands than just a brochure site with some information. They expect fresh, new content that’s helpful, relevant, and engaging.

    The longer brands/companies remain with the brochure site, the further and further behind they’ll fall. The gun has already sounded. Either get busy living (creating content), or get busy dying (becoming irrelevant).

    Jon Thomas
    @Story_Jon

  • http://www.grt2studios.com/blog GRTaylor2

    Content is king but keyword latent content holds the keys to the kingdom. All content needs to be of value and developed with a goal in mind. (NOTE: generating revenue is not a goal, it’s the byproduct of meeting or exceeding goals.)

  • http://www.reportcontentwriter.com/ Rachel Agheyisi

    Helpful reminders, Dianna. Good content works in so many ways (directly and indirectly through viral sharing) that make the time and thought investment well worth it. The challenge is being consistent — keeping content fresh, focused, and relevant to the defined audience!

  • Andrew

    I would also add lack of storytelling and persuasion, lack of architecturally sound experiences that drive customer engagement, demand and conversions.

  • http://www.dhcommunications.com Dianna Huff

    @Jon — You are absolutely correct. It’s a topic I write about frequently on my own blog.

    @GRTaylor — Yep! All the content in the world won’t help if it’s not optimized correctly.

    @Rachel — You used the right word, “investment.” Your Website requires a real investment of time and money.

    @Andrew — Yes, those are all important, too. However, I had space limitations. :-)

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Dianna,

    I think an overlooked bit of content on websites is the “About Us” page. It’s a great place to tell a story about your company or your career and really connect with your customer. A well written story is so much more enticing that a boring corporate history or bio. You can always have a link to your LinkedIn profile to get the essential but boring details out of the way. A compelling and fun About Us page can snag a few customers.

    Cheers,
    Sarah

  • http://www.dhcommunications.com Dianna Huff

    Sarah — Yes, I completely agree! It’s one reason I talk about fixing my VW Bug in my About Us page and why I always encourage my clients to write more personal About Us pages (I get lots of resistance though).

  • Laurie Dunlop

    Dianna, you make three excellent points. However, we’ve found that many B2B websites ignore many of the fundamental basics. Some of those basic “behind-the-scenes” but vital components are:
    Use a secure, reliable, and fast enterprise website host.
    Use smart navigation, making it easy for visitors to use your site.
    Make sure every link works.
    Include keyword search of the site.
    Incorporate scalable information architecture.

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