Welcome to the Friday Fives series. Each week, I ask selected Tweeps a question to answer in five parts. This week’s question:
What are five common and easy-to-fix website/blog mistakes?
This week’s answers come from:
- Jon Buscall Jon Buscall is head of Jontus Media, a digital marketing and content creation agency in Stockholm, Sweden. He blogs at JontusMedia.com/blog.
- Michelle Quillin is part of New England Multimedia, an internet marketing company specializing in building WordPress websites and blogs, setting up social media profiles and training businesses to use them well, and producing web videos for brand marketing. They can be found on Twitter, as @NEmultimedia.
- Myself, Neicole Crepeau I’m the Online Strategist at Coherent Interactive, and specialize in social media and website and mobile application design. I’m @neicolec on Twitter.
Here are these expert’s tips:
- Writing Dull Headlines Okay, I know not a design issue but the content of a site is vital and especially the headlines of each page of your site or blog post. I’ve seen traffic skyrocket on my own site since I started to write headlines that have a bit of sensationalism thrown in. If your titles don’t intrigue or connect with visitors within a second of their arriving, you’ve lost them.
- Forgetting call-to-actions Many sites look beautiful and are clearly the work of good graphic designers. But for your prospects to find you, you need specific call-to-actions that are visible above the fold. If you’re getting web traffic but no conversions it could be that your call-to-actions aren’t strong enough. It takes a fine balance to find success so track your data carefully and tweak where necessary. Oh, and hire a copywriter if necessary!
- Overloading your sidebar One of my personal pet peeves is a sidebar drowning in affiliate links. It just oozes desperation, especially when it’s consultants or small agencies doing it. Too much crap in a sidebar also slows page load times, which is a great way of sending traffic scuttling away from your site.
- Forgetting to create unique squeeze or landing pages Bloggers often make the mistake of using generic “Page” templates for their squeeze pages and landing pages, complete with a sidebar and navigation. The Premise premium plugin makes it easier to add custom pages designed to help sell your services, build you direct marketing list, etc. Although not perfect, it puts the focus on generating the lead with a clear series of call-to-actions and practical design. Try it!
- Over Focusing on Design and ignoring SEO The design of your site IS important; however, don’t put all your resources into design if you’ve not got a budget to take care of SEO. Custom title tags and meta descriptions can do a lot to improve the way your site performs in Google and catches people’s eye. Theme frameworks like Thesis and Genesis provide custom fields in WordPress to help you craft unique SEO copy as does the SEO All in One Pack plugin. Although design will help you brand yourself and may get you noticed, without generating enough traffic you won’t get anywhere.
Most internet users are an impatient lot. We want our information, and we want it now. Unfortunately, many websites and blogs seem to be designed with the expectation that the brand is so amazingly awesome and intoxicatingly attractive, its site’s users will spend oodles of time looking for the information they want. Guess what? Most of us don’t have brands with that sort of desire built in. So we’ve got to get the information we want our audience to have in their hands – as fast as possible – or risk losing our opportunity.
With that in mind, here are 5 common and easy to fix website/blog mistakes:
- Not informing the user about your brand’s focus or services as soon as they land on your page. My first impression of you is vital. As soon as I land on your website, who you are and what you do should be apparent. Don’t make your readers have to hunt for it, read a lot of text, or click around your site to figure you out – because they probably won’t.
- Not having your website’s URLs optimized for each page, using keywords separated by hyphens. You want this: http://newenglandmultimedia.com/how-to-add-a-youtube-channel-to-a-facebook-page/, not this: http://www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=1068 (I have no idea whose website that is, but they were on page 65 of a Google search. ‘Nuff said.).
- Not having a clear, obvious, and immediate way to reach you if your website is for a product or service. Have your phone number and a contact form – or a clear link to a contact page and a call to action (“Click here to contact us!”) — at the top of every single page of your website. If a user has to take extra steps to find out how to contact you, they’ll get frustrated by the experience, and may go elsewhere.
- Do you have a blog off-site? Do you want people to read it? Make sure you have a link and a call-to-action about your blog (at least a “Check out our blog!”) on every page of your website. Don’t make me ask you on Twitter, “Do you have a blog?” because most people won’t even go that far. Remember, we’re impatient.
- If you want me to connect with and follow you on the social media platforms you’re on, please make sure your social media links/icons are big enough to draw my attention to them, and located at the top of your website’s pages, or at least at the top of your landing or home page. I won’t scroll around looking for social media icons, and if they’re tiny little things located in some obscure corner of your site, there’s a good chance I won’t see them.
- Putting up barriers The user clicked a link to get to your website because he or she wants something in particular. When you play a video, display an ad, or pop-up a registration form, you risk losing that user. At the very least, you probably annoy your visitors. And for goodness sake, if you’re still playing sound or videos upon loading the home page, please STOP NOW!
- Ignoring conventions Users have come to expect that websites operate in specific ways. When you break the rules or just forget them, you make it harder for people to use your website, and more likely they will leave. Make sure your logo links to the home page, that you put asterisks next to required fields in forms, that when people navigate to new pages in your website, they open in the same window, and so on.
- Consistency between pages One way users navigate your website successfully is through consistency between pages. The header and main navigation should always appear in the same location and contain the same top-level elements. If you use a sidebar for secondary navigation in one place, use the same method in all places.
- Not doing basic SEO work If you aren’t going to hire an SEO expert or a website developer who understands SEO, then educate yourself on basic SEO. Make sure you have created landing pages for each of your key audiences. Use SEO friendly URLs with keywords in them. Use the standard HTML tags that Search engines check for. Write copy that includes keywords in your headlines and text, at least on your landing pages.
- Overcrowding your pages Thankfully, most website designers have moved away from the packed look of the 90′s and early 2000′s, and are using a more streamlined visual design. When your page has tons of graphics/ads, lots of different areas of text, and many headlines and links, the user doesn’t know where to look on the page. It makes it hard for them to scan the page (which is what most users do versus reading) and hard to find the information or navigation they need. It also makes it much harder for you to give emphasis to your key calls to action.
Use a streamlined design and limit the number of elements on a page. Use the same font or font family throughout and no more than four or five different styles for emphasis (bold; bold, font size 14; bold, font size 16, green; and so on).
Do you design websites? What common mistakes do you see?
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