2015-03-25

There are some areas of life where mistakes should best be avoided, and this is true when it comes to operating a website. You can certainly learn from your mistakes when you have a website, but if you take the time to do your homework, you can avoid making mistakes altogether. So what are some of the most common website mistakes, and how can you deftly sidestep them?

1. Don’t Under-Plan Your Website

You wouldn’t open a restaurant without first exhaustively creating a business plan. From its very inception, to its target market, promotion, launch and ongoing growth, you would certainly research each and every conceivable stage of operations. It needs to be the same when you start a website.

Perhaps the single most component of successfully growing a website is content marketing. Original quality content is key for building awareness of your page, establishing your credibility and authority in your chosen area, as well as improving your search engine rankings. Quality content is king, and marketing is a proven way of establishing dominance.

2. Don’t Assume that Longer Pages are Better

The rest of the internet, with its cute kitten videos and celebrity gossip, is just one short click away. It’s important not to demand too much concentration from your audience, and pages that are too long can be a definite turn off. A long page with a huge amount of text can be too much effort, meaning that you’ll simply be unable to hold your audience’s attention for long enough to deliver your intended message.

Your text should be well-written, and displayed in easy to digest chunks. You may even benefit from breaking up the content into appropriate sub groupings, which can then be allocated their own pages. It’s important to understand that many readers will ultimately just skim the page, so don’t underestimate the importance of subheadings and bullet points.

3. Don’t Exclusively Focus on Your Products or Services

Yes, the likelihood is that your website exists solely to sell a product or service, which makes it like countless other websites in your area of expertise. What makes you different? A straightforward website that simply offers the product or service in question will fail to differentiate itself from its competitors. What makes your website (and by extension, you and/or your company) unique?

Pay attention to branding, and don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your web based enterprise. Do you have a company or personal philosophy, or a particular reason why you decided to start offering the product or service? Personalisation makes for a far more unique experience for the consumer.

4. Don’t Forget That You Need a Clear Call to Action

Users have found your website, and the heartiest of congratulations to you, but the battle is far from over. What do you want from them now? Whether it’s a purchase, a lead, or a subscription, you need to clearly nudge them in the direction of the next step. The design and content of your website will have hooked their interest if they’ve made it this far, and yet you need to add a progression to the next level of interaction by including a decisive call to action – a simple and straightforward next step for your relationship with the user.

5. Don’t Use Slideshows If You Want Your Homepage to Work

Slideshows might be aesthetically pleasing, but that’s about it. In terms of delivering a message, they’re inefficient. The information is certainly there, but don’t assume that a viewer will be looking at the slideshow from the moment the page loads. They might glance at it and begin to read it, only to have the slideshow move to the next segment. It’s far from a certainty that the viewer will attempt to go back and read the item, so it’s best to do without this method of displaying information. They look pretty, but they’re pretty useless, and they can diffuse your ultimate message. Your website can do without them.

6. Don’t Write for All 100% of Your Website Traffic

Well crafted copy should be aimed at a specific market, so attempting to write something that is aimed at 100% of all users who arrive at your website can result in a message that is unfocused and bland. Write content specifically for the smaller number of visitors who are likely to be conversions. A message that is targeted at your niche group is far more likely to result in a higher conversion rate.

7. Don’t Forget That Your NAP (Name, Address, Telephone Number) Needs to Be up to Date

It’s a fairly simple step, and yet it can be easily overlooked. Has your company or any internal departments undergone a change of name? Have you moved to a new location or changed phone numbers? Your NAP needs to be clearly displayed and updated as needed, since it’s so easy to lose a customer forever should they be directed to an incorrect location, or are unable to contact you via a method of their choosing.

8. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Site’s Blog

Your website’s blog is an integral part of your overall success. A blog is where you can personalise your site, and therefore, differentiate yourself from your competitors. It’s where you can add fresh and interesting content that engages with your potential conversions in the way that a straightforward ecommerce platform cannot. Your blog should have regular scheduled updates, with content that is relevant and well-written.

A blog is an aspect of operations that many websites outsource, and if you’re incapable of producing an interesting blog, then you should certainly consider farming the task out to a professional writer. A good writer will be able to create engaging headlines and titles, with an article that is written utilising SEO, and yet is still personable and promotional (but not too promotional – a blog is different from an advertorial).

9. Don’t Forget About Your Internal Pages

It’s not all about the homepage! Do your internal pages contain titles and content that is relevant? Internal pages need to be rich with information, as these individual pages can actually figure into your search engine rankings. With a lack of usable information, these internal pages are essentially dead weight. Make these pages work for you by including the relevant information about your product or service that would be expected on a specifically titled internal page.

10. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Mobile Traffic

It’s amazing how many people are glued to their smartphones while out and about. You might see a group of people at a bar, totally ignoring each other as they intently tap away at their phone. They might be shopping for a new product or service, but are you prepared to receive them? Your website needs to be responsive to smartphone based web browsers, meaning it needs to be configured to load quickly and display quickly on a screen of any size. If your page cannot be adequately navigated using a smartphone, then you could potentially be missing out on a significant amount of traffic and conversions.

11. Don’t Fall Victim to the Poor Navigation Trap

Having a website that is difficult to navigate is like inviting guests to your home, letting them get lost, become bored, and leave – never to return. Your website design needs to allow for quick and simplistic navigation, meaning that a user should never become lost. If a user becomes lost, you’re bound to lose them as a potential customer, and this is simply unacceptable. A clearly visible navigation bar needs to be present, prominently placed so that it can be seen on a screen of any size. Don’t forget the sitemap either – this should allow users to quickly and easily jump to any page within your site.

12. Don’t Use Poor Quality Photos and Images

Your website might be the first introduction a potential customer has to your company, and so any imagery used on your website needs to be top quality. Ensure that photos and images are crisp, and anything that is blurry or pixelated should not be used. If you need original photos to illustrate a product on offer, ensure that the subsequent images are of the highest quality – even if it means you’ll need the services of a professional photographer. For other images, you can utilise many of the free online databases that provide stock photos that are free of copyright. Don’t simply “borrow” images freely from the internet, as this is not only illegal, but it can make you look unprofessional.

13. Don’t Use Videos That Are Too Long

Well-made videos that are on-message can certainly enhance your website. The video can be redundant if it’s too long, no matter how well-made it might be. The video exists to engage your audience, not to test their patience. If you have a long message that you feel needs to be conveyed to your audience, consider breaking it into shorter videos of an episodic nature. Videos that follow a logical narrative structure, such as an instructional video, can comfortably be a few minutes in length. Anything else should only run for around 60 to 90 seconds.

14. Don’t Even Think About Starting a Website Without SEO

Your website looks great, is easy to navigate and makes for a highly pleasurable browsing experience. If you haven’t considered SEO in your website design, then your beautiful website is likely to become adrift in the vast seas of the internet. SEO needs to be factored into website design from the very beginning. A SEO expert will be able to help you with the discoverability of your website, and build this into its very design. Think of SEO as being the foundation of your website, and not its roof.

15. Don’t Forget That Users Value the Need for Speed

How quickly does your page load? If It’s more than a few seconds, there’s a strong possibility that your users won’t wait, and they will in fact become your competitor’s users. A few factors are out of your hands, such as the device being used to access your page, as well as the speed of their internet connection. You need to make it as quick and easy as possible for your users to get to the content they need, and as such, some redesign might be necessary. Does your homepage need quite so much imagery or that introductory flash animation? A page that loads slowly is a page that can be a major hinderance.

16. Don’t Be Tempted by Keyword Over-Optimization

Imagine a group of primitive villagers living in the shadow of a volcano. The volcano erupts and the villagers are terrified. What have they done? How can they appease the angry volcano spirits? If you go down the road of keyword over-optimization, you’re one of the villagers, and you might end up feeling the wrath of the angry volcano spirits, also known as Google.

A sacrifice is in order, and the sacrifice is generally the offending website. Keyword stuffing seems almost logical, but is best avoided. Do not stuff a page with keywords in order to achieve a higher page ranking. Google’s algorithm is highly effective at identifying pages that add extraneous keywords to content, and in some cases, it can lead to the page being removed from Google search results.

17. Don’t Include Unnatural Links

Buying links is not a great way to boost your page’s ranking. The quality of inbound links can play a significant role in increasing your ranking, and yet these purchased links are not of sufficient quality to be of use, and can in fact be highly detrimental. Google views these purchased links as “unnatural” and in a similar fashion to the way they deal with pages who indulge in keyword stuffing, they can remove pages from their search results if the page has blatantly built unnatural links via purchase. Focus on natural, Google-friendly link building through methods such as guest blogging.

18. Don’t Forget About Google Analytics

Google Analytics are free to use, and yet the tool perhaps has a tendency to fade into the background. It’s there, it’s free, it’s a very recognizable brand, and yet it’s easy to forget that it’s available. It’s a vital, ever-present tool that can be your best friend when it comes to gauging success and seeing where you need work. If you don’t know so much about analytics, then Google is a great place to start. It’s user friendly and customizable, and the data can be as exhaustive as you want.

19. Don’t Be Anti Social When It Comes to Social Media

If your website was a person at a party, would it be meeting new people and networking, or would it be lurking in the corner (wishing it was at home eating chips on the sofa)? You need to unlock the potential of social media by being… well, sociable. If you’re not active on social media, then you’re missing out on potential traffic.

Your website needs a well-maintained social media presence; one that links to your website. Social media is a vital way to reach new customers, many of whom might not otherwise find your page via a traditional search. You can advertise your page with paid advertisement but there are many ways and tricks on how to promote your blog or website for free.

20. Don’t Use Headlines That Directly Talk About Your Product or Service

Users generally visit your website looking to solve a problem. If you’re selling a piece of exercise equipment, then the headline needs to be alluring, so “Here’s how you can be trim and toned in just 5 minutes per day” works far better than something like, “Acme Ab Master 5000.” It’s really that simple.

There you have it! Make sure you follow these simply tips when you work on your own or on your client’s website and you won’t have problems. Do you have questions? Leave a comment below.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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