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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Three Deadly Reasons Most Websites Fail

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image of Mike Volpe

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