Part 2, Why Bad Websites Happen to Good Companies: Creating a Website that Doesn’t Accurately Represent Your Company
Maybe you saw another company’s website and decided you wanted one just like it. Same bells, same whistles, same cheesy photo of two disembodied hands sealing the deal on the homepage. So you reworked your content to fit into a container that was created for another company’s web presence.
Or maybe your company has only one employee (you), and you’ve decided that in order to compete, it has to appear bigger. So you carefully craft an online identity that gives visitors the idea that you have "people."
Maybe you’re an employee of a company whose business is harmful to the environment, and you think that if you initiate and publicize some kind of "green" program on your website, no one will notice the dead fish directly downstream from your manufacturing plants. Or that publishing a code of ethics on your website will innoculate you from criticism (Enron’s Code of Ethics booklet can be purchased on eBay, "never been used").
Whatever reason you might have for trying to appear as something you are not, please don’t do it. Sooner or later, you’ll be found out, and with social media’s ability to spread the word, your credibility will be difficult to rebuild. If your market doesn’t trust you, you’re done, particularly as a small service business, or any business for which alternatives exist. Effective online marketing begins with respect for your market, and attempting to fool them is not an indication of respect.
Instead of trying to pretend your company is something it’s not, embrace or deal with the issues that caused you to misrepresent your company in the first place. Instead of copying another website, try to analyze what you like about it and bring some of those approaches into your website, adapted to your own unique message or strategy. If you’re a one-person-shop, tout your agility and flexibility, or whatever other real strengths you possess. And if your company is dumping toxic chemicals into the local river, just stop it! But please, don’t pretend you’re green.
For more posts in this series, see the “Bad Websites/Good Companies” category at right.