The 9 Biggest Industrial Website Design Mistakes
The old school frame of mind is that if you have a site, and it’s functional, then that’s all you need. As manufacturing continues to slowly embrace digital marketing, website design continues to increase in importance. A small investment on your website can significantly improve your brand and user experience. An improved user experience brings more opportunities for engagement with prospects that have an interest level in your manufacturing company. There are many different facets of web design to review, but here are the top 9 mistakes manufacturing companies need to consider when reviewing their own company website.
1. Responsive Web Design
Manufacturing companies tend to not have responsive websites. A responsive website means your website adjusts based on the screen size. Whether you’re on a tablet, desktop, or mobile you have one site that resizes depending on the device. One of the most common things we encounter with manufacturing clients is their site is not responsive, which is a bit shocking considering that responsive has been the standard for years.
There are two ways to see whether your site is responsive. One way to test your site is to look at it on a mobile device and see if it looks as good on a mobile device as it does on a desktop. The second way to test your site is to open up your site on a desktop web browser and go to the bottom right-hand corner of the web browser screen. When you get the diagonal two arrows just click and hold and then shrink your browser window down to see what it roughly looks like on a mobile device. If you stop halfway you will see what it roughly looks like on a tablet. If your site is responsive then images, font size, and positioning will slightly adjust.
If your site doesn’t change, then your site is not responsive, and this should be the first problem you want to address.
Many websites are built on platforms that aren’t responsive, and if your web designer tells you that you need a separate mobile site, you know they aren’t creating a responsive website. Using a CMS platform like WordPress for your website is a very simple change. There are still companies creating websites, whether customized or with a theme, that were not originally set up to be responsive. Perhaps the theme is a few years old and when the site was first launched responsive wasn’t a top priority yet, but anything created in the last year or two should be responsive. Typically, responsive is a very easy fix, and that needs to be addressed first because you are missing opportunities to provide the user with a good experience. Your entire message is getting lost because the site is not adjusting based on screen size and this creates frustration.
2. The Full-width Standard
The second mistake we’re seeing manufacturing companies make with their web design is even if their site is responsive, it’s not full-width. When you go to a site and everything is center justified, leaving space on the left and right sides, then a site is not full-width. The biggest issue that you have is you are losing valuable real estate. Basically, you’re cutting your website space in half, and this leaves you with fewer options. This also means there will be more vertical scrolling, and if you have a lot of content the general design of your site is poor.
Transition to full-width websites began around 2014-2015, so if your site was created in the last three or four years, or if your site was recently redesigned and is not full-width, then it’s time to update. Your brand will look more professional and cleaner with a full-width site. Full-width also allows your site to perform at the highest level of optimization. Whether it’s content, copy, video, images, or graphics, a full-width site is a must-have for manufacturing companies.
3. Mobile Optimization
The next mistake manufacturing companies tend to make is with their mobile version of their website has not been optimized. There has been a lot of buzz in the marketing world that mobile and voice search has exceeded the number of users that are on a desktop. While this may be true as a whole, the issue is there aren’t a lot of people out there that focus on manufacturing like we do, and we see the data doesn’t lie. Although mobile is increasing in frequency most of your target demographic is viewing your site on a desktop. Usually, they have a desktop at work, and they put in their hours at work, so a desktop is where they are viewing your site.
Statistically speaking, on average we see our clients and most of the companies we engage with have only about 22%, maybe at the most 30%, of their traffic coming from mobile. Normally, that’s strategic traffic that is on a particular platform or consuming content. They’re already on mobile and it’s easy for them to click and see your site from there. The mistake companies make is their mobile site isn’t optimized when it does become responsive to the mobile size. To optimize they either have to remove some content or they don’t have their site set up to be AMP friendly.
Google changed their algorithm in the middle-end of 2017 to where they are giving top priority, from an organic search standpoint to companies that have AMP friendly websites. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, then this is a simple plugin install with optimization. Mobile is important, but it should not be considered your main source of traffic. In this niche, unless you’re selling a product B2C, we would suspect that 70-80% of your traffic is still coming from a desktop. A lot of people would assume the traffic coming from LinkedIn is mobile because that’s the way people are consuming content, but that’s not necessarily the case. Manufacturing is one of the slowest industries to adapt to technology from a marketing perspective. You’re probably using technology in your personal life, but in your business life, you’re probably not viewing most sites from mobile.
Just like responsiveness and full-width, it is important that you provide the viewer with the best user experience by making sure that your site looks professional and clean.
There are a lot of optimization areas, but mobile optimization is absolutely important.
4. Evaluate Site Content
On average manufacturing, websites have roughly 200-250 words of content on any particular page. Regardless of the reasons why, they are lacking content either because they took the approach of less is more, or it’s because they didn’t have a professional that could produce their content. This small amount of content isn’t enough to drive any sort of organic rankings on search. It also doesn’t provide enough information to the user to get them to click-through the website.
Google wants to see a minimum of 300 words, but with higher competition in themes and phrases, you really want the number of words to be 500-2000. A higher number of words ensures that you’re going to get higher organic rankings for the themes and phrases you’re going after. Content also provides the user with enough information about your value proposition and your capabilities to help them decide if it’s worth engaging with your company.
The biggest hurdle we see is companies aren’t producing enough content. With all of our manufacturing and industrial web design projects, we offer a content writing service because we understand that producing content is a significant burden on the client. Most companies aren’t comfortable writing their own content, nor do they have the internal resources to handle their content. Another issue we run into with content from our clients is even if they are able to produce content, we don’t see it in a timely manner. In eight to nine weeks, depending on the complexity of the site, we can produce a new site with fresh content. Typically, we rewrite their website content from scratch or we reword and consolidate pages to aid in the flow of their website.
A challenge to have enough content isn’t all a company has to worry about, you also have to make sure your content is presented well. You don’t want your site to look like you literally “threw up” information on the viewer. You have to ensure that your content is relevant and optimized for search. You want a clear value proposition, but the pages also have to be broken up with call to actions, graphics, images, and background colors. The website should not appear like it is a giant article. To provide the user with a better experience it has to be a combination of creative and technical with visuals to break up the copy.
Conversely, you have to be providing your user with relevant information. The pushback we tend to see from clients is that with too much information people aren’t going to scroll all the way down and they will lose interest. Although this could be true for some, you can’t make that assumption for all your prospects. Certain tools can do heat map tracking for scrolling and clicks, which shows how people engage on your site and what percentage of people stop engaging. You can audit and optimize further after a new site is launched, but first, you have to begin tracking it with recent SEO upgrades.
As we’ve discussed, Google cares most about content, so you have to produce as much relevant content as possible on a page. Google does understand that if you’re talking about one subject that there are a lot of other related subjects and themes, which you can naturally blend into your site. Manufacturing companies with higher positions in rankings are producing well written, complementary subjects and themes that are increasing or holding their position. Therefore, on a new or updated site, content needs to increase on almost every webpage. This new content has to be blended with a lot of creative so it’s visually appealing and doesn’t look like a big chunk of an article.
5. The Importance of Graphics
The standard for most manufacturing websites, whether they’ve been updated recently or are outdated, includes some sort of photo gallery or array of photos to show capabilities. Since manufacturing companies are slow to adapt to new marketing trends, you’ll notice custom graphics are not the most creative. You have to find a way to visually blend content and creative, and if you don’t have enough creative you’ll have a bland website. These manufacturing companies tend to have sparse websites because the agencies they hire either don’t fully understand what the company does, and they can’t supply the proper graphics, or the agency just isn’t very creative, to begin with.
For your creative to be effective an agency really does need to understand the process, technology, value proposition, and capabilities of your manufacturing company. To create a better user experience, the agency also has to have the resources to create custom graphics that can break up of the content on your site. What often ends up happening is a company may update their website, it may be responsive, and they hit a couple of the points earlier in the article, but the site is not creative. This is when you should turn to an agency that understands what will be most effective and efficient in your industry. Graphics, video, and images enable your site to deliver a unique value proposition, and aid in how you convey your message to the audience.
At 5 Fold Agency, we can determine the best creative approach to making your website not just technical, but visually appealing.
Video has proven to be a premier source of client engagement, and not just classic company overview videos where some shots of the facility are thrown in with employees being interviewed, but videos as background images. Background videos with no sound playing or background images that are highly graphical can be very effective visuals. Often manufacturing companies don’t have recent videos or images or they don’t have someone qualified to shoot new assets, so they have to turn to a second source. We have the resources to come on site and shoot new visual content, either video or still images. We know how to shoot, what angles are important, and how to capture images that are more visually interesting. The last thing you want to do when spending the time and money to create a new site is use outdated images. New graphics, images, and video should be incorporated into the new site as much as possible to increase your overall user experience.
6. Search Engine Optimization
When evaluating a new client’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) we often see that it was not set up properly. Oftentimes, the agency didn’t fully understand what the manufacturing company does, or they didn’t understand to highlight the companies’ particular skills. This means the target demographic is never reached, leading to missed opportunities.
You can determine whether your SEO has been set up correctly by looking at the meta title and meta description. The easiest way to check is by hovering your cursor over the tab in the browser. Typically, the title shows up as “Home-Company Name” or “About Us-Company Name”. Another way to check is by going to Google Search and typing in site:domain (Ex. site:abccompanyname.com) into the search box. From there you’ll be able to see what pages Google has indexed and you’ll be able to look at your meta title and meta description. Google constantly updates their algorithms and search criteria, so a site produced four years ago will most likely be completely outdated. Updating your websites with relevant key themes and phrases, updating your webpage content, and putting a content marketing strategy into place will greatly help your overall SEO, but maintenance is always needed.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is after they set up their site correctly and they see a little success in the beginning, they stop maintaining their SEO. Monthly SEO is not a quick fix. You can’t change your ranking overnight, but if you do your research properly or are working with an agency that understands your market and how to leverage that, then it makes it a lot easier to increase your positions. Make sure to audit your website and look for any issues with speed, broken links, incorrect redirects, and images that aren’t optimized. These issues directly affect your SEO performance.
5 Fold Agency is a manufacturing marketing agency that can help you utilize your SEO and create meaningful content. By doing this, you will see your company rise in its position and ranking on Google, and you will reap the benefits that SEO provides.
7. User Experience (UX)
Lackluster UX (User Experience) is another mistake manufacturing companies tend to make. The UX encompasses the graphics, the content, the images, the layout, and different organizational aspects of the menu structure. In general, most existing sites don’t have the best user experience for the visitor.
The most common mistakes in UX we see is that the level-1 (top row) and level-2 (first sub row) menu structure is not completed correctly. Oftentimes, companies have a significant amount of pages to cover each one of their capabilities. Each one of those pages has minimal content, and this isn’t helping your overall SEO strategy. It isn’t necessary to have every capability broken down unless 750-1500 relevant words can be said about that capability. You have the menu basics, home, about us, contact us, careers, a quality page if applicable, and then you get into capabilities or services, and this is where you break it down to a less in-depth menu structure. We continuously see a significant number of items in a menu structure, and companies will have 60-80 pages built into their menu. What this ends up doing is losing control over the path that the user will go down, and you want to try and control that as much as possible. When you control the user’s path, you can direct them to go to a specific page, and then on that page, lots of answers to their questions are presented instead of giving them 40-80 options of what they can click. You want people to spend time on your site, but you don’t want them getting lost and confused.
Start reorganizing with the homepage, which encompasses all that your company does. Next, break down sections from the homepage for people to click to view your capabilities or other level-1 pages. Once you get to those level-1 pages, make sure that each page doesn’t lead to 20 different pages with 150-word paragraph and a couple of bullet points that are your capabilities. Every internal page, whether it’s your capabilities, your quality statement, or about us, should be as well designed as your homepage. What we often see is a homepage that may look great, but when you go into the internal pages of the site they seem like an afterthought. These internal pages are where you’re going to want to direct advertising traffic. You don’t just want to send traffic to your homepage, but to internal pages that are relevant to your ad.
Consolidating your website is key. Think about reducing the overall length of your menu structure, and do not go wide with your capabilities page unless it makes sense. If you have ten main capabilities, then you really have to ask yourself if each is enough to be a standalone page. Do you have enough content, images, dropdowns, galleries, calls to action, case studies, white papers, etc.? If you have enough to make a solid page about that capabilities, then do so, otherwise consolidate that page with another. Just because you only have a paragraph or a row of information doesn’t mean you need to lose that content or your message, but you do need to merge it with another capability that is also lacking content. You want to make it easy for the user to navigate your website, and you do that by setting up proper internal links on your pages to lead them from one page to another.
Really place yourself in the shoes of the person visiting your site. Sometimes it’s hard to see the trees through the forest, but you have to take a step back and think outside the box. If you didn’t work there if you didn’t know anything about your company, what are the most relevant points that you want to get across to a prospect? If you’re in contract manufacturing and you have machines or equipment, what would be the first question someone would have when viewing your site?
Answer what your capabilities are with your machinery, whether it’s size, materials you can process, or equipment types. Typically, the first three things someone is going to want to know when they enter your site are;
- Do you have the capabilities to make what I need?
- Do you currently make what I need for anyone else in the industry?
- What separates you from other companies?
Answering these three questions immediately will ensure the user will have a good experience on your site.
8. Continuously Update Content
A common misconception is that once your site goes live and it’s been indexed by Google and crawled, it’s getting traffic, the SEO is optimized, and the site is designed well, then that’s all you have to do. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The next step you need to focus on is updating your content. After the site has been indexed you’re going to get certain rankings based on your on-page SEO. Let’s say Google puts you on page 3, page 4, page 12, and page 15 based on your site phrases. If you do not update your website with new content, then you’re going to stay at those page positions. New content that you can continuously update can be in the form of:
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Blog Posts
Once a new site is published people don’t continue updating content regularly, and you have to in some capacity whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly and not just in the form of newsletters. A lot of manufacturing companies produce newsletters that are monthly or quarterly, which simply isn’t enough.
Some type of content marketing plan needs to be put in place to keep your content on track. Hiring an agency like ours to manage and produce content for you is your best option. To get onto the first page of Google, they need to continuously see updates to your site with new pages added and new content added in order for them to push your site’s rankings. Once your site is indexed you’ll see fluctuations in your rankings, but if you’re not producing consistent content those fluctuations will be minimal.
New content has to be relevant, so hiring someone you can allocate that task to, whether internally or with an agency is required. You need to think about the person reading your content, and what value you’re providing them. This can’t strictly be what your company can offer or what you know off the top of your head. Your writing shouldn’t be all about you, it’s about the reader and continuously delivering valuable information. Not only does creating relevant content provide respected information to your viewers, but it also increases your brand awareness. Once you have content you can distribute it through email marketing, newsletters, and social media like LinkedIn. This enables you to continue to build out your network of connections, and those connections will share your relevant content as well. Having a content marketing plan in place can help you surpass the competition and be viewed as an expert in your industry.
9. Ditch the Worthless Features
Marketing agencies often distract the viewer with worthless features on websites. Worthless features can be pop-ups, live chat boxes, sticky boxes that stay in place as you scroll, etc. These are all disruptions that people overlook or get annoyed by. Although some of these features might work for certain industries, these tactics don’t work for manufacturing companies. Something as simple as a pop-up asking “Are you sure you want to leave, sign up for our newsletter!”, can be off-putting.
Don’t always take the opinion of a marketing agency, especially one that hasn’t spent time in the manufacturing space. Agencies often come to the table with a one-size-fits-all mentality, and they believe that tactics for a doctor’s website or a lawyer’s website or a B2C companies’ website will also work for manufacturing. If they don’t truly understand your business, then they don’t fully understand how to properly market your business.
If your site is already published or was recently updated, then anything that is a distraction from the main value proposition, any fancy calls to action, pop-ups, or sticky boxes, we’d advise you remove. Unless these features are serving a specific purpose, and the data is showing the quality people you want to hit your site are actually using these features, then we suggest a clean focus on your message, not a focus on distractions.
Stay Ahead of the Competition
Evaluating your website can help you stay ahead of the competition. Currently, the manufacturing industry is behind when it comes to embracing what proper web design can offer. Really take a magnifying glass to your website and see if you’re these mistakes. If you’re making any of them, it’s time to make an investment in correcting your website. Providing the user with a better experience and valuable content will not only help boost your search positions, but it will also elevate your brand to the next level.
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Kyle Milan is a well accomplished Industrial/Manufacturing sales and marketing professional with over 18 years of experience. He is the CEO of MFG Tribe and a Sales and Marketing Strategy & Social Media Marketing expert. He has published several articles at major news media outlets on various topics of; Inbound Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing & Advertising, Industrial Marketing, Manufacturing Marketing, and Entrepreneurship.