As a digital marketing agency we deal with a wide range of clients from a variety of industries. Over the years we've seen a number of companies making the same mistakes with their website that have a negative impact on the selling potential of their site.
We aren't talking about technical SEO or common SEO mistakes, but simply mistakes with general website design, functionality and layout.
No Call To Action
It might sound daft, but many businesses make the mistake of not including a call to action on their website. It's a simple, yet obvious point that can make a world of difference. Users need to be told what to do and to be given a reason to do so. Even if it's something as simple as 'buy now', 'spend £30 and get free shipping', 'click here to get in touch' or something similar.
Failing to include a call to action is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
A Whole Website Built in Flash
This is something you'll hear SEO companies bang on about and we've been going on about it for years. Websites built entirely in flash are not only bad for SEO, they're bad for users. A simple fact for you – Flash does not work with Apple products. That means that every person that visits your flash-based website on an iPad, iPhone or iPod won't be able to use or see it as you intended. Log into analytics and see how many visitors you get using those devices. You'll soon realise the mistake you're making.
That's just 1 month for one of our clients. 29,648 visits with an iPad, 22,959 with an iPhone. Not only is that reason to consider mobile website design, but it's also a big reason to avoid Flash.
Excessively Large Images
Page load speed is important for SEO. Google knows that people have a low attention span and want things quickly; so slow loading sites will actually suffer in the rankings compared to their faster competitors. One factor in that affects a page load speed is image size (both file size and pixel size). Excessively large images might even be badly coded into the site so they are forced to a different size according to the layout, but the site still loads the full image in the background. You'll soon know if this is the case when you visit a site and you can see the screen scrolling as the image loads.
Images should be optimised so they load properly. If you want to display an image properly, but want people to be able to see the full, hi-res image then make use of thumbnails and 'click here to enlarge' options. It's surprising the difference it makes.
A website's content should be unique. If the content on your site is stolen from a competitor, Wikipedia or another site on the web, not only might you face legal action for copyright infringement, but you'll also be negatively affecting your rankings.
Google hates duplicate content. The logic is simple, if your content isn't unique, how do you hope to stand out from your competitors.
Taking this further – with ecommerce websites it's even worth thinking about writing unique copy for products on your site. If every e-commerce site out there copies and pastes descriptions from the manufacturers' website, how does anyone hope to stand out? Obviously you can't change the product specifications, but that doesn't mean you can't write something unique for the blurb.
Overly Optimised Webpages
This is something Google is clamping down on, but it's also a bad idea from a user perspective. Writing and creating pages for the search engines in order to get better rankings (exclusively) will negatively impact the look and feel of your site, as well as the usability.
Common mistakes include stuffing a page with keywords, having masses of internal links focussed exclusively on keywords, having multiple pages with similar content in order to rank for multiple variations of the same keyword and other similar (old fashioned) SEO techniques.
Yes, you need to optimise your site for the search engines, but don't forget the user. A number 1 ranking is no use if as soon as visitors arrive they instantly leave because of your ghastly website.
Duplicate content is awful. Google hates it. Not only content copied from other sites, but the same content on multiple pages of your own site. It's confusing for the search engines and the user. In e-commerce websites this can happen where the same page appears in multiple categories across the site. You might think this is useful for the user as it makes it easier for them to find what they're looking for, but it also looks messy and is utterly confusing for the search engines. What page do you want to rank for that product? How will Google choose? Some of this problem can be countered by using Canonicalization, but the best thing to do is think about how the navigation of your website is laid out and see if there are ways you could improve it.
Obsession Over One Keyword
This is a pet hate of mine because it's a dangerous game for businesses to play but it's also a trap many businesses fall into – an obsession over one keyword or phrase. Businesses quite often see this one term as the be all and end all of their online marketing. If they aren't number 1 on Google for that term then they aren't happy. But just because there are many searches for that term now, doesn't mean there always will be. Search trends change, as do the people using the search engines, the economy and even business itself.
If you rely exclusively on one keyword for your business, you're not only missing out on a wealth of potential customers from long-tail terms (less searched, but also less competitive) you're also setting yourself up to fail if, for some reason, your rankings suddenly drop or disappear altogether for that term. This is a problem many businesses found after the latest Penguin and Panda updates.
Buying/Building a New Website Just For The Sake of it
Having a new website is nice and yes, you do have to move with the times. But the old adage of 'if it isn't broke don't fix it' can also ring true in business online as much as it does elsewhere.
There is nothing wrong (in theory) with having a new website built as long as it improves on the current model. Many businesses make simple mistakes with the design of the new website, forgetting the value of their current site, the history of the links that have been built to it over time and the customers that actually enjoy using the current site.
The worst mistakes in SEO terms when creating a new website involves rebuilding the new site with complete different URLs and forgetting to redirect the old style URLs to the new. So for example, let's say there's a website selling hats. The company's site is http://www.thebighatcompany.co.uk/, on the old site their pages had strange URLs and were .asp pages for example http://www.thebighatcompany.co.uk/product01-2011.asp. It makes sense to change these URLs to something more user and search engine friendly when building a new website, for example http://www.thebighatcompany.co.uk/red-baseball-cap-kids.html. This new URL makes much more sense, but what if the old page had built a great deal of popularity over the years and had many external links pointing to it. Forget to properly redirect those links then anyone following them will end up at a broken page on your site. Hopefully you have a custom 404 error page to deal with this if it happens, but it's still not ideal and potential customers might go elsewhere because they are impatient and haven't got time to waste.
Without proper migration you'll probably find your website is suddenly showing a multitude of 404 error pages where none existed before. Google say this won't negatively impact your search engine rankings, but it certainly won't do you any favours as customers (old and new) will be presented with problems when trying to buy your products based on old links in emails, bookmarks, forums, socially shared by friends, etc, etc. A bad user experience is hardly what you want for your new website. It's important to give this a high priority if and when you get your website redesigned.
It is also worth considering navigation when redesigning a website. Think about how many potential visitors you'll get from mobile devices. Smartphones are more and more prevalent and you'll be surprised how many people will visit your site from their phone. It's important to keep the site as user-friendly as possible. If you aren't going to opt for having a mobile site designed alongside your normal desktop site (we'd recommend that you do), then you should really consider simplifying your navigation to enable easy browsing around the site with pinch and zoom or clicking links with the tip of a finger or thumb.
Excessively Long/Ugly/Awkward URLs
It's important to balance search engine optimisation with user optimisation. This principal applies throughout your website. Obviously descriptive URLs are helpful in the search engine results because they make it clear what the page is about (to both the user and the search engines) but going overboard can lead to excessively long URLs that are hard to type, difficult to remember or won't copy and paste properly into email or instant messaging clients.
URLs that are designed in folders, with excessive query strings, product ID numbers and other elements that cause it to be complex can hinder your search rankings and ruin user experience. For example –http://www.thebighatcompany.co.uk/category/product/?pid=248-CO8250BE.html is not really descriptive or helpful to anyone. Similarly,http://www.thebiggardencompany.co.uk/products/gardening/gardeningpicturegalleries/9369447/2012-Shed-of-the-Year.html?frame=2264462 is both long and awkward. It is likely to get broken when emailed and not work properly.
Short concise, user-friendly URLs are always preferable. It's also important to remember to properly redirect the old URLs if you are thinking of changing them or you risk losing previous links built to that page!
Deleting a Current Page And Replacing it With Another
Believe it or not, in different circumstances this happens quite a lot. A product is changed and a business owner deletes the page and creates a brand new one to incorporate the changes. You'll sometimes see this with seasonal businesses on offers or pages that might not be relevant at that specific time of year. So the owners delete the page and make a new one when the time is right. Seems logical?
No, it's not logical and it certainly comes into our list of mistakes you can make with your website. If a page/product/service is popular and good enough then over time it will generate inbound links naturally over time. If you then delete that page, people following it (and search engine spiders) will just reach an error page. Repeat this process on several pages on your site and you're suddenly looking at more and more error pages which Google will cast a judgemental eye over and your customers are likely to grumble about before going to your competitors.
It is always better to keep the page and update it with relevant information. If that's something as simple as product changes then it makes much more sense. For seasonal services you can always use placeholder text to explain when the services are available. Deleting the page just causes confusion and problems.
These are just some of the ways you can make mistakes with your website. Obviously it is not an extensive or definitive list. To talk to people who know how to get the most out of your website online, get in touch!