Every family has one: Whether it’s your youngest nephew, your oldest daughter, or your third cousin, you probably try to shuffle the dreaded problem child to the end of the table at Thanksgiving. They can be spoiled, attention-starved, or just plain destructive, but the one thing they all have in common is that, sometimes, it’s hard for their parents to see the problem. The same is true for business websites.

All websites have problems—some are simply more serious than others. Just as the problem child will inevitably cause a Christmas blow-up years down the road after one too many eggnogs, a problem website will hurt your profitability in the long run.

The good news is that websites are much easier to fix.

These are the five most common types of problem websites, and advice on how to whip them into shape:

Bad Websites: The Evil Stepchild ExampleThe Evil Stepchild

This is the kid who sets fire to ants with a magnifying glass and throws your neighbor’s cat into the pool. An evil stepchild website is not in step with the rest of your family—it might clash with your organizational culture or core values, and it makes you look bad to customers.

Your website should clearly convey the services and products you offer, while telling your audience who you are and what you care about. Customers want to do business with a person, not an entity, and it’s important that your website is on-message with your company’s brand so you can attract your ideal customers.

If your website is an evil stepchild, make a list of your business’s core values and infuse this information into your website’s content. Look beyond the products or services you offer and focus on what your business is really all about. Holding the evil stepchild accountable to house rules might stop others from shunning your kids at the playground.

The Middle Child

The middle child is sandwiched between the privileged firstborn and the baby of the family, who hogs all the attention. He spends a lot of time trying to get attention, but he has a tough time articulating his needs and identifying what makes him special.

The middle child website has lofty goals and a lot to say, but he lacks direction. As a result, prospective customers have a hard time seeing how the website’s services are relevant to their needs, as well as what the next step is in the purchasing process.

To fix a middle child website, focus on the solution your business can offer prospective customers. Give them a reason to come to you, and put a clear call to action on the site. Whether you’re selling insurance or nail clippers, this is absolutely indispensable because if you don’t tell your customers what you want them to do, they won’t take action.

The Spoiled Child

The spoiled child has the newest toys, the best clothes and the ugliest attitude. He has everything he needs to be successful, but he can’t get past his own ego. The spoiled child website is flashy but fails to convey the value of your business. If your website looks great, but your customers have no context for the product, they aren’t going to buy it.

Yes, it’s important to have attractive website design—but not at the expense of effectively communicating your product’s value to your customer. Think less about how amazing you are and instead focus on developing good, substantial content that shows why your product is relevant to your customer. If the spoiled child can’t think about others for a change, he might need a timeout.

Bad Websites for Businesses: The Baby ExampleThe Baby

The baby of the family is adorable. Everyone thinks she’s cute and fun, but nobody takes her seriously. This type of website is a feel-good site that makes people smile, but it’s so preoccupied with being liked that it downplays the value of the product or service or lacks substantial content.

Don’t rely on charm alone to make a sale, and don’t assume customers know you’re great at what you do. You have to tell people what you offer, why it’s valuable and why you’re good at it. Don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers, either; this is not a dinner party, and business is not about being liked. In fact, most people would rather hire a strong, effective businessperson than a likable pushover without substance. If you let the baby of the family skate by and make her siblings pick up the slack, she will have a rude awakening later in life.

The Well-Behaved Child

On the surface, the well-behaved child does everything right, and that’s precisely the problem. The well-behaved website tries to be all things to all people and, the truth is, it’s just plain boring.

These websites don’t take risks, aren’t remotely fun and no one really wants to buy from them. The only customers well-behaved websites attract are people who play it too safe to actually make a purchase. 

When you have a great idea or a strong service, you need to draw a line in the sand and be willing to excite people. Becoming more polarizing means you may lose some people along the way, but you need to be okay with that. Encourage the well-behaved child to articulate his opinions, say what excites him, and explain what bores him—just let his personality shine!

Unfortunately, great ideas, brilliant products and dedicated employees are not enough to make a business thrive. Often, businesses believe their struggles are the result of a big problem when, in reality, they just aren’t communicating the right message to their ideal audience. Luckily, once you figure out what kind of problem child your website is, it’s relatively easy to mold it into the “model” child that will increase profits and bring in customers.

[ Images via ollyy | Shutterstock ]

AvatarMatthew Goldfarb

Matthew Goldfarb is a professional copywriter who has spent the past 12 years creating award-winning ad campaigns for some of the largest companies in the world. Now, he is bringing those same concepts to small business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere through his company, Corporate Renegade.