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Three Deadly Reasons Most Websites Fail

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Consider this: There are about 700 million websites. But to most of us, only a tiny fraction of those sites exist because we jump from bookmark to bookmark, scanning our favorite homepages and refreshing our feeds.

People are loyal to websites that draw them in because, simply put, the majority of those 700 millions sites are just plain bad. Of millions of websites analyzed by Marketing Grader, a whopping 72% received a grade of 59 out of 100 or below, which essentially means 72% of websites are failing to attract new visitors and convert leads.

Marketers everywhere are asking, "Why do so many websites fall short?"

Although websites were introduced over 20 years ago, the vast majority still function on old-school paradigms established in the 1990s. Most websites today act as digital brochures or a brand silo, offering little substance. Even if a website has a good balance of design and utility, few companies are building websites that serve their primary purpose: to attract visitors, convert leads, and delight customers with rich, relevant, and valuable content.

A website should be a company's salesperson, and it should be the core of a firm's marketing machinery and thought-leadership strategy.
I see a lot of companies getting hung up on one aspect of their website that needs fixing, such as better SEO or a sleeker design—one of those old-school paradigms. Today's buyer is looking for a website that delivers a personalized, integrated experience every step of the way.

Here's where most websites are getting it wrong and how you can get it right with your own site.

1. Most websites act like an online brochure instead of a thought-leadership resource

You've spent all this time and money building a beautiful website, optimizing for search and testing the PPC waters. But your bounce rate is high, you conversion rate is low, and your traffic and leads are flat or dropping over time. What gives?

Even with a sound SEO strategy and user-friendly design, a website is an engine that runs on remarkable content being pumped into it day after day.

As I noted earlier, the goal of a website is to attract visitors, convert leads, and delight customers. Your business won't see those benefits unless you turn your website into an inbound marketing machine that presents your brand as a thought-leader with fresh offers, landing pages, calls-to-action, new media, social conversation, and other content assets. By creating such content, you grow traffic and leads organically, without having to rely on paid campaigns.

Take as an example. The company had a beautiful website with a lot of great product info, but its sales reps were starving for more leads. After attending an inbound training bootcamp at HubSpot, they quickly changed course. They developed a resource library full of useful, educational, and valuable content in the form of whitepapers, webinars, and blog posts. All of those efforts significantly contributed to growing the number of new leads for the business.

In the end, you want to own the Web, not rent it. A website that harnesses inbound marketing attracts customers to your business and turns a static site into something visitors actually want to "consume" and interact with.

2. Most websites are one-size fits all instead of dynamic

Back in the day, websites were created with a "set it and forget it" mentality. Like advertising, corporate sites were a vehicle for broadcast, not conversation. But in this attention-scarce economy, buyers expect to receive relevant information that's tailored to their specific wants and needs.

Though many companies begin by investing in content marketing, that's only half of the equation. Content plus context delivers a personalized experience to people who interact with you online. Many marketers today think of context only in the form of email. They obsess over list segmentation and relevant copy to specific audiences. That works until the person receiving the message takes any action outside email and finds a non-contextual website, mobile app, landing page, and call-to-action.

The best example of context done right is Amazon. When I return to Amazon, it knows who I am and addresses me by name. It knows what I like and recommends products that interest me. Now, not every website needs to be as complex as Amazon. Even a little personalization goes a long way. You can tailor a buyer's experience with your website to their industry, their job role, the content they've consumed, or stage in the buying process. Show them that you know them.

Today's buyers require a personalized experience. They don't like to be treated like everyone else. Context helps marketers gain a larger share of attention from prospects and helps move buyers down the funnel.

3. Most websites are built for the company, not the customer

If you've ever been involved in a website redesign, you know the process usually involves many stakeholders, from senior leadership to internal employees and perhaps an agency. But when was the customer—the person you're supposedly building the site for—ever asked to weigh in?

Many websites do a great job of highlighting how awesome they are; but, I hate to break it to you, your customers don't care... They land on your homepage hoping to solve a problem, answer a question, buy something, or to be entertained. They aren't there to hear you talk about yourself, to see how many awards you've won, or to put your product pages on their must-have reading list.

Your website may be pretty, but if it doesn't provide what the customer wants, despite how much marketing power you put behind it, you will have failed. Do you really want to end up like Digg,, or the original MySpace? All of those websites offered good services and were powered by advertising. But, in the end, they couldn't retain their audience.

A customer-focused website makes it easier for you to earn someone's interest than to buy it.

Techvalidate is a great example of a website that meets the specific needs of the buyer. This site clearly addresses the problems it solves and provides rich content for prospects in the discovery, evaluation, and ready-to-buy stages.

All it takes is a little bit of research and the decision to create a more user-centered design. Do so, and your customers will love your website and think, "This is for me!"

* * *

Some people say "the website is dead." Is it, really? Sure, the website may be 20+ years old, but in today's convergence of Web, social, and traditional media, your website is more vital than ever.

If you don't avoid these three deadly mistakes, your website will struggle to see results. The key is to not think of a website as just a website. Think of it as a media channel. An extension of your brand. And a voice for the customer.

If you focus on creating a website that harnesses content plus context and puts your customer at the core, then you'll experience an increase in returned visitors, leads, loyalty, and word-of-mouth. Go ahead. Give it a try.

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Mike Volpe is the CMO of HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software company with over 11,500 customers in 70 countries.

LinkedIn: Mike Volpe

Twitter: @mvolpe

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  • by Janet Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    How about some specifics? What's going to work for a trendy boutique is not what's going to work for a manufacturing company. Besides which, all of your examples are tech-oriented. How about some advice for the rest of us?

  • by Cheryl Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    Interesting, but I would like to see more examples outside of the tech arena. What about companies that sell services rather than products e.g. consulting firms, finance companies, etc.? Any advice for them?

  • by Nicole Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    Hi Janet,
    You're right, the article is less relevant to those not specifically solving the problem of a tech company web re-vamp. Which is ironic, because it's exactly the point of the article. If it's not relevant to you, it doesn't how much you invest in SEO keyword research or pay per click or social media skip away quickly from the site.
    Here are a few ways you can take this advice and make it work for your site -
    1. Ask your best customers...why do they choose your trendy boutique (or business, or service)? Figure out what problem you solve for them. How you can be of greater value to them (trendspotting fashion advice, posted weekly? Peer to peer connections? Seasonal fashion inspiration? Secret sales?)
    2. Rephrase that into new key messages for your site to attract new prospective customers.
    3. Send out fresh and interesting content that drives them back to fresh and interesting things on your website.

    It's not easy to go beyond a digital brochure for some businesses, it takes a commitment to knowing your customers and translating that into valuable information. But if you consider the value of repeat customers, and the ability to find and attract more just like them, you'll understand why this is important.

  • by Nick Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    My reasons for why a website fails.

    1. The client is not serious with their business let alone their website.
    2. The client comes at you with an insane budget of $100 or even asking you to barter.
    3. The client than goes to the cheapest amateur sucker who is willing to put together a website that a monkey can do better at.
    4. When telling them that they have to invest a minimum of 80 hours a week and they only put in 20.

  • by Shona Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    Great article! I feel that as time goes on (I've been using the internet on a daily basis ever since '95), websites are missing the mark more and more in regards to what they offer to their audience/customers. It's unfortunately really. Today it is now easier than ever to get a robust, feature-filled site up and running. Yet so many are falling short.

    What any company should do is perform some basic market research on what does (or could potentially) traffic to their site. For example, it could be to get their contact/location information....or to see photos of their product. Make that information easy to find (I've wasted way too many minutes hunting and pecking for a simple phone number to the main office on websites). Then also provide "hooks"....inciting content that makes them curious for more. This is just basic, common knowledge (well it should be). Too bad there is too little utilization of it.

  • by Rick Whittington Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    This article could not be more accurate. In our 7 years of website design and marketing experience, we've seen the 3 reasons mentioned in this blog post occur across every industry imaginable, especially numbers 1 and 3. Great blog post!

  • by Matt Anderson Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    How do you handle creating important/engaging content between what's on the website and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)? Can it be the same content or should it be different...?

  • by James Clouser Mon Aug 26, 2013 via web

    Great article.

    I especially agree with #3. In general, it's challenging for biz owners to shift focus from their products and services to their market. I spend a lot of time with my copywriting clients on this.


  • by Randy Milanovic Mon Aug 26, 2013 via iphone

    Marketing Grader (HubSpot) is a decent tool for a quick comparison. It scores everything from incoming links to social connections. Here's a tip though: websites with blogs score significantly higher than those that don't. If you don't have a blog, and keep it full of great content - you still just have a brochure. In my experience, a website scoring above 70 consistently is positioned to attract more visits, and rank higher in search. Include lead capture and voila, you have a site that stands a chance to deliver ROI. (KAYAK online marketing is a certified HubSpot Partner Agency based in Calgary Canada)

  • by Brent White Tue Aug 27, 2013 via web

    Great article in how to engage your visitors and to make sure your site doesn't end up on a list you certainly don't want it to be on. It's funny how many times this comes into play in different aspects of business, but in designing your company's website, it comes down to taking the time to put yourself in your customers shoes and to try and think of what they want and need from your site, and not what you want from them.
    Brent White
    Freelance Marketing Gigs

  • by Torkild Smith Wed Aug 28, 2013 via web

    Great article and thanks for sharing.
    The problem with most website owners is that they expect customers to buy first time which is not the case.
    No visitors are ready to buy when they get to a website first time. They shop around often for weeks before they settle for a purchase.
    The websites that fail to understand this is trying to fit a square block into a circle.
    The website that ultimately wins is the one that offers the best UX to their visitors by having great content and leaving the visitors content. And that is not easy to do!

  • by meshack Khosa Wed Aug 28, 2013 via web

    This is an excellent article. Enjoyed it.

  • by Gracious Store Sun Sep 1, 2013 via web

    A good website should be dynamic and customer friendly. Navigation should be pretty easy for customers

  • by Spook SEO Fri Jan 17, 2014 via web

    I am agreed with point number 3 that most websites build for company not for customers. Websites stuff only useful for company not for customer so this is authentic reason.

  • by jessicageorge Wed Dec 7, 2016 via web

    from your post i got technical kind of information for how to attract the customer via the internet and through the internet application how to serve valuable things. it makes easier and very helpful.

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