When you first launched your website, you probably didn’t have the time or budget (yet) to spend on making it totally unique. The important thing was to get the website going so you could start your marketing efforts, drawing in visitors, and making money. Now, maybe you aren’t drawing in as many visitors you want. Or you are, but your bounce rate shows they’re leaving quickly. One of the reasons could be your site looks too generic.
It’s important to visually set your site apart from others. While it’s good to follow some rules when it comes to website design and content creation, you also need to know when to deviate from the norm. This post offers a few examples of ways a website can become generic, and what you can do to give it a unique edge.
Please note: This is a contributed post, but all opinions are my own. View full disclosure policy.
Your Site Design Relies Too Much on a Cookie Cutter Template
Who doesn’t love a good template to make a task or project a little easier? Especially with website designs. If you don’t have the skills to build a site from scratch, they’re great for ensuring your site isn’t a total mess while you’re getting started.
When using a template, customize it as much as you can to help distinguish it from others using the exact same layout. As your business grows, try to find more room in your budget to pay for some premium theme templates and plug-ins to create a unique experience for your online visitors. If you can afford it, you could also hire a web designer to create a site built according to your specific needs.
You Only Use Stock Photos
Look, free stock photos are great. They’re quick and easy to use, they add visual interest to blog posts and, hey, they’re free. But you aren’t the only one using them. That’s why you shouldn’t rely on them for your homepage, and definitely not for all your social media content.
Only using stock photos will, at best, make your website seem dull and cheap. A site visitor might take one look and decide your business isn’t profitable enough to afford unique images, so their money is probably best spent elsewhere. At best, they might not think your business is legitimate and trustworthy. Thankfully, you have a few options:
- Pay for premium stock photos. There will still be other sites using the same images, but not nearly as many as the free stuff.
- Invest in growing your own photography skills. Buy a decent camera, take a course (believe it or not, there’s a lot more to quality photography than just hitting the shutter button), and get some editing software.
- Hire a photographer to create a brand image bank. These photos will be totally unique to you and fit your visual brand perfectly.
Unique photos are particularly important when it comes to products. Even if you’re selling third-party products, you should consider taking your own photos of them.
Your Branding is Too Similar to Someone Else
Your website needs to have a distinct visual brand. At some point, you probably did your research on how comparable brands have set themselves up visually. After all, there’s a reason why you see similar colors and symbols used within each industry.
This list of color palette generators includes several tools (many of them free) I personally use and recommend, like Paletton’s science-based color generator.
While looking at what elements will identify your brand’s industry is good, you should avoid outright copying things like your logo or color scheme from competitor websites. Not only will that stop your website from standing out, but it could also leave you open to a lawsuit (particularly if a competitor has trademarked their logo or color scheme). This also includes slogans and taglines.
It’s Not Clear What You Do Differently
Every business needs a USP (unique selling proposition). This is something you offer that is unique to your competitors. Maybe you focus on a specific product or service. It could be a particular location you serve. Or you might appeal to a specific audience that your comparable businesses don’t.
When a visitor arrives at your site, they should see what your USP is right away. For example, if you’re a wood crafter using only recycled wood for your creations, put that on your homepage. And don’t make it small, either. Remember, it’s what sets you apart from others in your field–so make a big deal out of it.
Your SEO Strategy Relies Only on Popular Keywords
SEO strategy is a finicky thing. What worked six months ago might not be as effective now. So it might seem like a fool-proof plan to focus on popular the most popular keywords when writing copy for your site. After all, these keywords have higher monthly search volumes, so a lot of people are searching for them.
However, most of your competitors will do the same thing. A better strategy for smaller and newer businesses is to focus on the slightly less popular keywords that are still being searched but aren’t being focused on by your competitors. You are much more likely to outrank your competitors when focusing on these. Working out exactly which keywords to focus on could require you to work with an SEO marketing company that knows your niche. For example, if you run an HVAC company and you want to identify the best keywords, it could be worth hiring a company that specializes in HVAC marketing. You can also use keyword research tools to help.
I like to use the free tools by Moz for myself. While you’re limited to 10 queries per month for the free version, it’s easy to work with. I keep notes of each search, then schedule one day each month to explore new keywords.
Your Product or Service Categories are Too Broad
When categorizing products and pages on your site, try to avoid lumping everything into generic labels. Yes, you want everything clear and easy to understand so people can navigate your site easily. But try to think outside the box and look for ways you can improve this experience for your site visitors.
Say, for example, you have an online clothing store that also sells shoes. Think of how most people use filters to narrow down what they’re looking for: gender, color, occasion, style, and size. What other sub-categories might your customers appreciate? Heel height, narrow or wide fit, laces, vegan-friendly materials? Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes (ha!) and browse a competitor’s site. Figure out what frustrates you or slows you down, then tweak your website to fix those problems.
Your Brand’s Backstory Doesn’t Inspire a Connection
Your website may also feel generic if there is no attempt to build a backstory to your brand. Providing a personal bio or an about us page can be a chance to tell people about who you are, why you started your business, and what you stand for. This can help to give your brand a personality rather than just being another faceless company.
For those in creative industries, it can be especially hard to turn yourself into a brand and talk about your creative work as something people should invest in. I like to help creative entrepreneurs define their brand’s story so they can share their amazing work with the world.
The Bottom Line
When you’re starting to figure out your business, it’s smart to look at other brands who do what you want to do and draw inspiration from them. But once you have your feet under you, take a look for opportunities to make yourself stand out more. If it’s something you struggle with, hire an expert who will take all the guesswork out of it.
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