Updated March 6 at 4:06pm

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Avoiding website mistakes

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In this age of social media and digital everything, you can’t afford to be a website weakling. If your competition has a killer online presence, and you don’t, you lose. Today’s consumers look online more than ever before. Even business owners who think they don’t really need a “best in class” website are missing more than they think.

Here are common mistakes that small businesses make with their websites, and how to fix them:

• Crummy content. Thanks to the rise of social media and changes in how search engines operate, it’s now more important than ever to have high-quality content on your site. Off-topic and poorly written content won’t show up in search and makes your site look second-rate. Avoid industry jargon and keep it conversational. A service such as HubSpot.com can help.

• Social scarcity. No website is complete today without some nod to social media. At a bare minimum that should be a link to your Facebook page, but could and should also include Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and your own blog.

• Obvious omissions. It’s stunning how many websites lack obvious info such as contact information, hours and location, or seemingly try to hide it. Don’t make people hunt for a “Contact Us” page. Display your preferred means of contact prominently across your site. If you make it easy for people to call or email, they will. Be sure you have a process in place to follow up all inquiries.

• Offer-less ordering. If you want people to sign up, order or otherwise engage, you need to encourage it with some type of offer or call to action. You could, for example, offer free trials, discounts or a newsletter. Tell people what you want them to do.

• Laughably link-less. If people can’t find you online, you’re toast. One thing that makes Google (and other search engines) take notice is how many quality sites link to yours. Other sites are more likely to link to yours if you offer helpful information such as tips, white papers, newsletters, a blog or other items. Sending out regular press releases on your business is one way to build links. You can also seek links from professional associations, clients and vendors.

• Unborn updates. Incorrect or outdated info on your website spells certain doom. If your latest press release is 3 years old or other content is clearly aging, customers will wonder how up to date and vibrant your business really is. Review and update all content on your site regularly to keep it fresh and timely. •

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