Small businesses owners are savvy. They know that in order to grow their business they need to be on the Web. And that means creating a Web site to establish a home base where customers can go to find them, interact with them and even make purchases online. Small business or not, the Web has given everyone the power to establish themselves and become a “brand” online.

And most small business owners do a pretty good job of establishing that Web presence. However, there are also some very common missteps that a lot of SMB sites make. Here are four of the most common mistakes I see on small business Web sites and how owners can avoid them to improve their business.

Bad Design = No Credibility

Building a professional looking Web site is one of the most powerful ways to gain instant credibility with visitors. When someone lands on your site, they’re going to take one glance and immediately use it to determine whether or not they can trust your business. If your site looks too templated, too ugly, or like you just threw it together in an hour with things not in their proper place, they probably won’t find you trustworthy enough to do business with. And they’ll leave for a competitor.

Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert Web designer to create a credible looking Web site. There are plenty of low cost or even free WordPress themes like Thesis that site owners can use to help give themselves the basics in professional looking Web design. If you don’t trust yourself to design your site, put up flyers at the local colleges asking for some cheap help. A college or even high school student in need of some real world examples to add to their resume or portfolio will likely jump at the chance to help build a local site. The goal of your Web site is to naturally attract the people who will be looking for you. You want to make sure your site is giving off the right message and will pass that 5-second test.

Your Conversion Funnel is Too Long

If you’re an e-commerce site looking to increase conversions, try removing some of the unnecessary steps cluttering up your conversion funnel. Count how many screens there are between when a customer puts a product in their shopping cart to that final confirmed checkout. Is it more than three? If so, you may want to check your analytics to see how many visitors are abandoning from the shopping cart. Typically, each additional hoop that you make a customer jump through to buy something, the less likely it is you’re going to make that sale and the more likely it is someone will leave your site prematurely.

A lot of the small business Web sites I’ve come across try to get as much information about customers as they can before they let them go. They want all sorts of demographic information so that they can sign them up for a newsletter or better market to them in the future. While I understand your need for this information, take the hit and remove some of it. Let them make their purchase and then create follow up emails or other marketing to help you collect additional info. Putting too many steps between click “buy” and not actually letting a visitor buy something is a big usability error for a lot of SMB sites.

There’s No Method Behind The Madness

Before you create your Web site, lay out a strategy behind it. What is the purpose of the site? To educate? To sell? To build a community? To simply form a presence? Whatever your goal is, that’s going to have a large say in how it’s developed, how things are arranged on page and the type of Web site that you create. Unfortunately, many small business owners (and large business owners, for that matter), don’t take this into consideration before building out the Web site. They get so wrapped up in just getting something out that there that they end up creating a site that isn’t usable or useful to searchers.

Your first step in creating your Web site is to outline the goals for that online presence. From there you’ll be able to identify your calls to action and key content themes so that you can build around them. You want to know how the site will be used so that you can incorporate your navigation in a way that will be intuitive for users. You want to create content that will reinforce what you’re trying to accomplish, it should be informative, and it should put people on a path to do whatever it is you want them to do. If you don’t create a Web strategy before building the site, you’re going to lose your focus and value for users.

There’s No Reason To Re-Visit

The fatal flaw of virtually all small business Web sites is that they offer no reason for someone to ever revisit the site. You got the email? The phone number? Good, because that’s all this site has to offer.

In order for your site to be interesting to users, there has to be some degree of dynamic or changing content. If everything is static and stays the same, why would someone come back? And as the search engines start looking at user interaction to determine rankings, these factors become more important. Find ways to incorporate dynamic content onto your Web site. Whether it’s a site coupon that updates monthly, changing video content, a blog, some type of widget providing news, etc., create something that will get people engaging on your site and make them keep visiting. By providing this type of content, you also give them incentive to become “members” of your site and to register — thereby getting you that valuable demographic information you lightened up on to increase conversions. Slick, eh?

Those are some of the biggest problems I see with small business Web sites? Any common flaws that particularly get you?