'Hot' companies fail with web design, SEO

It was only last month when small online businesses blamed the limitations of the UK's current postal system for hindering their ability to grow.

In fact, a third of 700 UK-based companies tracked by eBay pointed the finger at Royal Mail, saying the postal service's shortcomings had slowed their expansion.

The online auctioneer, whose customers rely on the post, has backed their concerns by putting 'improved postal services' at the heart of its "manifesto" for online businesses.

But fresh data from BT suggests that online business, specifically the fastest growing ones in the UK, might have themselves to blame for their poor growth prospects.

Having scrutinised the 'Hot100' - the top firms of 2009, the company found that almost half are potentially missing out on sales due to broken pages on their websites.

An even greater need for freelance web experts was signalled by the 96 per cent of the examined firms who admitted that their website was not search engine optimised.

In other words, 9 out of 10 of the UK's fastest growing firms, with combined sales of more than £4.3bn, are yet to make their websites "easily indexable" for search engines.

More than four out of ten admitted to misusing or not using meta tags, meaning they have not told the likes of Google what the pages on their website are about.

"As more and more [people] are looking online to conduct their daily lives both personally and professionally, these businesses are really missing a trick,” BT said.

“These companies are top of the class for sales", said Ivan Croxford, a manager at BT Business, "but at the bottom when it comes to capturing potential customers online."

BT said signs of a successful site included a review of its code structure, content and linking strategy to afford it the best chance of outranking its rivals in search results.

In testing the Hot100, the teleco checked domain settings, gauged whether the site could be easily accessed by search engines and checked the correct tags were in place.

“Making some really simple changes.... generated over 2000 targeted visitors", said former BBC Apprentice finalist Claire Young, whose e-business was marked down in the BT study.

Pointing to the changes she subsequently made to Elegantvenues.co.uk, she said "it was a cost effective exercise that brought quick results and more potential customers."

Freelancer web developers with client companies who still remain to be convinced about the web might refer them to one other study by Safe Collections, a credit rating agency.

It found that one in ten private sector firms would refuse to 'do business' with a company that had no website, equating to 16 per cent of the Hot100 according to BT.

Yet in another show of strong feeling for postal services, as many as half of the firms polled by the agency said they would not trade with someone who only displayed a 'PO Box' address.


16th June 2010

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