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Wendy Buckingham / Creator, Life Coaching Professionally
By: Paul Buckingham
All too often that I hear a tail of website woe that may start with something like:
"The first thing I did was commission a website builder. He/she did a good job on my friend's site and it looks really good!"
That is the first website mistake! Commissioning a builder of a site with Wordpress or even just choosing one of the heavily marketed brands that promise low cost instant websites like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly or GoDaddy is not where to start.
As an analogy, you wouldn’t go to a builder and just say, “I want you to build me a house?”
You’d list the features you wanted, look at other houses with similar features and have plans drawn to make sure you were getting what you need. You would also make sure that the foundations were strong and that all the nuts and bolts were in the right place so everything worked.
The same principle applies to creating your life coaching website so that it actually does the job you want it to do. So before you even talk to a website person or investigate a website platform, get clear on what you want your website to do (attract clients), and the functions you need it to have to do this.
It is huge mistake to just say to a website designer “I want you to build me a website” because although they may be very good at design and building, they may know little about user-friendly site structure, SEO (search engine optimisation) or the many other factors that make sure your site will be actually found and visited.
If YOU don't know about these and your website designer doesn't also have real expertise then it is like you are building a house without a plan or a boat without an engine and a rudder.
And if you are not sure on what you need your website to do, browse other good life coaching websites to see what works and what doesn't in the way of information, layout and navigation.
Because platforms such as GoDaddy, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly advertise so heavily and have such a low cost entry level, life coaches often assume they are good platforms for using their website for promoting their business and you will get your site found by someone looking for your services. Unfortunately it's just not the case.
While these platforms are certainly stable and reliable, they may not adequately support you with the necessary quality education you need if you want to build a strong online profile.
Common marketing lines such as 'Build Your Business In 5 minutes" or Get Online For Free" and other similar phrases generally mean that there will be hidden expenses and a lot more work than you had bargained for to make the site efficient. This is why you need to be really clear on what you need before you invest or you could have an expensive website mistake.
One of the biggest design website mistakes is the use of slideshows which are often promoted as an attractive feature. They waste an awful amount of space, slow down your site speed (very important) and almost no-one clicks on them.
A SearchEngineLand study way back in 2013, discovered that only two thirds of one percent (0.65) of visitors clicked on the slideshow. Nothing has changed.
You may ask why website builders, including many of the heavily advertised platforms, use them so often if that is the case!? Because they look good! But they do nothing for your visitor or your site getting found by the search engines.
If you site loads really slowly your visitors may get impatient and click away. There can be any number of reasons for slow loading from oversized images to technically inefficient platforms. Whatever the reason, it affects the way Google and the other search engines rank your page so you need to find out why. Google has a very handy Page Speed Tester which will give you a good idea of how fast your site is loading.
Can you read this? Maybe you can. How about this?
Can you read this now?If you can, imagine a whole page of it.
The problem is that, even though you may be able to read text because you have
1) great eyesight
2) you are using a large desktop screen.
3). you are reading the page in good light,
there are many - quite likely within your audience - who may have poorer eyesight and this can effect their experience of your site.
So the issues are:
I'm not saying that you should not use nice fonts with a coloured background. Just do it judiciously and make sure it is easily readable.
This image is part of an excellent article by Conversioner.com about the emotional impact of website colours. You'll notice there is nothing very dark or dull, which is a common website mistake.
I've already talked about the impact on SEO of large slideshows and how they can slow the site down. The same applies to static pictures. This doesn't mean that you can't have judicially placed images throughout a site. However you want to make sure they are as light in weight (the information the file contains) as possible before you upload them.
This means using a free function such as Googles' Squoosh to lighten the weight before you upload it to your site.
There are many invisible website mistakes that can affect those with visual, auditory and other physical disabilities.
While it is difficult to cover all, take the time to add information to your images (called Alt Text) because those who are sight impaired and using a computer voice to read your content will need it. If you don't know how this works, your website support service will.
An excellent resource for understanding this area of accessibility is the work of the Web Accessibility Initiative, part of the World Wide Web Consortium.
The principles apply to anyone but if your coaching niche is specifically related to those who are physically impaired in some way, then this video from the same group is a wonderful introduction to all you can be doing.
If there was one over-riding issue for life coaching websites it is that the content is all about the coach - not the reader. The visitor has come to you for help and, while they want to know about you what they REALLY want to know is that you understand their issue (in general terms) and that you can help them.
Review your content ruthlessly and, if you are unable to do that, seek the help of someone who can help.
How many times do you see coaching websites that have the same or similar pictures from a another website or picture library. Stand out by taking your own, creating your own or - um - paying for some pictures that are just a little different.
Canva for example allows you to pay just US$1 for a picture and they also have many excellent items that are free. You can crop and/or add your own wording making the picture really original.
Equally, Unspalsh.com has a a wide range of free images which are well worth looking at.
These are significant hidden traps that can affect your website.
One of the most significant privacy laws to come into place in the last few years is called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Basically it requires site owners to ensure that visitors know what they are asking for when they give away their email addresses. Even though this was European focussed it affects everyone because your visitors may either be in Europe or a Euro citizen.
Here' a brief outline of what you need to be compliant, and avoid a this website mistake. It applies if you are asking visitors for their email address for any reason but it also affects your relationship with Google.
Because Google seems to dominate our daily internet life it's hard to imagine that we could ignore it. Yet many website owners do not give Google enough attention. This is why most websites get almost no visitor traffic without advertising.
Ignoring GDPR, (Tip 11), having a slow website, having content that is hard to read or not relevant to your intended visitor are all reasons why your website will not fair well in the search engines and you will not be found. Take the time to understand what Google needs and it will transform the way your site gets found by your potential clients.
Many coaches will have a website but little other online presence. This article will help you resolve that mistake. Created again by SiteSell it covers 23 ways to earn free traffic and many don't even involve Google!
My client Lexie, (not her real name) a high school English teacher, had a wonderful idea for an online business. It actually inspired me! She was setting up a an online facility for teaching English to Japanese and other Asian students.
She knew there was a demand for this and saw this business niche as a way to get out of face-to-face teaching, which she was not enjoying, and to provide for her into retirement
Unfortunately, by the time she came to me to coach her through the process, she had already commissioned the website to a local designer.
One of the first things I asked Lexie was “is your designer able to handle the SEO (search engine optimisation) component of the website?”
Despite my prompts, and emphasising the importance of a website for an online business being functional, engaging and easily found - as well as looking good - her answer was vague.
She also didn’t want me to see the website until it was finished so I had no option but to go along with that. I was her coach not her website person!
Lexie was wonderfully proactive in the other aspects of setting up her online business. She created a really snazzy logo, sourced and engaged suitable teachers to take the flood of enquiries she was expecting when the website was launched. All the systems and schedules were in place and she had asked the designer to set her up a a booking system for eager Asian students.
During our coaching sessions, however, Lexie did admit she had some issues with the designer not doing what she asked, did not have the right idea about the visitor experience and putting in stuff she hadn’t asked for. We had several conversations to help her resolve this but she still insisted staying with the designer was her best option.
I would add that this website was not a “cheapy” no frills website such as Wix or Weeby, but was costing her thousands of dollars to have built. The designer had also locked Lexie into a plan where there were costs for every change made to the content.
Just before launch date I got to see the website. It was visually quite impressive, with huge moving pictures and lots of gimmicks. It looked good - but apart from not having the SEO keyword components to enable it to be found, it had scrappy content, didn't engage the visitor, was hard to navigate and had no real call to action.
I knew she was heading for a website disaster and there was nothing I could do to help her.
So launch day for the website came with much anticipation.
Two weeks later Lexie is on the phone in a panic - the anticipated flood of enquiries and bookings had not come - not one.
Despite my warnings, she had been convinced that in the words from the film Field of Dreams “If you build it they will come”. They hadn’t!
Also Lexie and the designer had overlooked the fact that it needed to have a translation facility so its could be read in Japanese and other Asian languages - her target market.
Lexie regretfully realised, her expensive website simply had not been designed or built to do the job of an online business.
There was nothing else to do but for Lexie to extricate herself from her website designer and more or less start again. It set back the launch of her her new online business months at considerable cost to her both financially and emotionally.
This story is not unique. I often hear similar sad and frustrated tales from coaches who have built a good looking website that simply doesn’t do the job of helping create a profitable coaching practice.