Imagine you opened a shoe store, but didn't put shoes in the window, post your hours of operation--or even have a sign describing that you sell shoes.

You'd never run a shoe store that way--but you might be doing exactly that with your business if your website is hard to navigate, lists outdated information or buries vital information. Your prospective clients or customers will go elsewhere.

You no longer have any excuse for owning a bad website. When's the last time you visited your site, like a consumer would?

Go visit your site and check these basics:

  • Do all the hyperlinks work?
  • Do your images load correctly and immediately?
  • Is all your content timely and up-to-date?
  • Do your back-arrow buttons actually go back?
  • Is your contact information correct?
  • Do you have a mobile version of your website that's easy to navigate?

Unless you can answer "yes," to every question, you've almost certainly lost clients or customers already.

Remember: your online presence is the first impression visitors get about your company.

That's why a good website does more than just function properly. It needs to offer a compelling, interesting experience. More than half of people leave a site within 15 seconds of arriving, according to Chartbeat, an analytics tracking firm. That means most sites offer no reason for people to stick around.

Your site needs to hold people's attention and keep them coming back for more. That means you must create content that encourages longer visits, so you can embed your marketing messages that will be seen and read. It's essential for growing your business.

Content should tell visitors about your company, your values and your industry, and update it as often as possible. Also, invest in mobile, and hire an expert who can help your site get attention when people are searching for your company or products and services your company offers.

And of course, pay attention to design: does your website look dated? You might need to refresh your colors, logos, font choice, or motifs. (We're reviewing ours right now for this reason--maybe you need to, too.)

Finally, be willing to spend the money it takes to create and maintain an appealing, useful, friendly website. Want an example? Check out one of the most popular features on my firm's site--our GPS (Guide to Portfolio Selection). Users answer a few easy questions to quickly see the kind of investment portfolio we'd recommend. It's fast, fun and free. Our site also contains my blog, a timeline of key milestones in my firm's 30-year history, access to podcasts of my weekly radio show, information about my books and how to obtain them, seminar content and how to gain immediate access to our financial planners.

Our goal is to offer a comprehensive website. Your goal should be the same, designed for your needs (which of course might differ dramatically from mine).

Your online presence is not just as a place to groom new clients or customers, but a way to tell your story. And like all classics, if your story is told well, people will come back for more.

Published on: Apr 20, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.