You have a great idea for a business, there’s a gap in the market and you’re excited to launch.
The first step is building a website, and you need it fast.
So you hire the first web designer you can find. Your website goes live and you’re over the moon!
But just a few months later your website STILL isn’t getting any traffic. And you’re left scratching you head, wondering what on earth has gone wrong.
There are usually a few reasons for this, but more often than not, it’s simply because your site hasn’t been built with search engines in mind.
Like it or not, we’re all at the will of the search engines and if you choose to ignore them, they will ignore you.
Firstly, let me explain what SEO is. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of making your website more visible on the natural search engine rankings i.e. the unpaid results from a search.
I’ve listed below seven common web design mistakes that businesses make that can affect their rankings drastically. The good news is you don’t have to be a techie to avoid these common pitfalls
Lack of written content
The most common mistake I see when auditing websites is a serious lack of content. Without getting too technical, search engines use your content to assess how “useful” your website is for their users.
A lack of relevant content on your website leads search engines to believe your website offers very little information and is therefore less valuable.
The solution is simple: produce more relevant content. The way to do this is to create content that addresses the problems of your target market. Write copy that speaks to them directly and try to avoid talking about yourself or your company too much. It’s also a good idea to add a blog to your website to keep your content fresh and up-to-date.
Website not mobile friendly
The amount of people using their mobile devices to browse the Internet has never been higher, which is why it’s crucial that your website works well on mobile devices without the need to drag and zoom.
In April 2015, Google announced that they would treat mobile friendly websites more favourably in mobile search results. Essentially, you could see a drastic drop in rankings if your website isn’t compatible with mobile devices.
Considering that mobile searches have now surpassed desktop searches in the US, I’d say this is a really important factor that you need to get right.
Check to see if your website is mobile friendly using Google’s free online tool. If it’s not, there are WordPress plugins you can use to make your website responsive, such as Jetpack. It’s in your best interest to make your website accessible to all users. If that means spending money to get it right, then that’s exactly what I’d recommend you do.
Page load speed
I would always suggest using good quality images on your website, however, beware of the image size. If they’re too large then they could impact your rankings. This is because large images take longer to load causing your website to slow down and feel sluggish. This might not be a problem if your website visitor has a super-fast broadband connection, but in reality, most people don’t.
People expect their information fast and page load speed is extremely important to your users, which makes it important for search engines too. Search engines will measure your page load speed time. If it takes too long, expect a hit on your rankings.
You can use Pingdom to check your page load speed to find out if images are slowing down your website.
In future, resize your images before uploading them to your website using photoshop or another photo editing tool. Alternatively, if you use WordPress, you can use this free plugin that helps you resize images once they’ve been uploaded.
Not using a CMS
A content management system (CMS) gives you the ability to make changes to your website without the need of a web developer.
WordPress is the most popular CMS and its user-friendly platform makes it easy to edit and add pages. It’s also a search engine friendly system, that allows search engines to read and breakdown your website easily. Search engines change their algorithms (the way they analyse websites for rankings) fairly frequently, so you will need to edit the SEO options on a regular basis.
Without a CMS editing your website can be very difficult, it can also end up costing you a lot of money if you need to pay your web developer to make changes.
Before getting a website designed, insist that it’s built using a CMS such as WordPress. If your website has already been built, then you can usually pay a one off fee to have it converted onto a WordPress platform – making updates a piece of cake!
No social media integration
Search engines use social media signals to help them determine how trustworthy and credible your website is. The more activity on your social media platforms the better. It shows search engines that your content is valuable.
Some web designers won’t always add social media sharing buttons to your website without you asking them to. Without these button, it makes it more difficult for people to share your content and, in-turn, it’s harder to build trust with the search engines.
Ensure that your website has social media sharing options. Likes, comments, shares, retweets and pins count as little votes, that show search engines your content is valuable. SumoMe is a great tool that allows you to integrate social media sharing easily.
Bad URL structure
The way you label your pages will impact your rankings. Search engines value URL structure highly.
It’s a good idea to use keywords in your URL i.e., words that are related to the product and service you’re describing on the page itself.
Bad example: www.website.com/page-83633/info/2-22-116-5339/
Good example: www.website.com/topic-of-page
When mapping out the pages you want on your website, make a note of the URL you want to assign to each page. Your web developer will ensure that the pages are set up correctly. Alternatively, if your website is already built, then you can quite easily amend the URLs in the back end of the website. Another reason a content management system is useful!
Old fashioned website builder
Over the years, we have seen significant changes in the way that websites are built. As technology and expectations move forward, some web building platforms get left behind.
Websites built on Flash and sites that use Frames are prime examples of this. These outdated platforms were very popular in their day but are now are no longer supported by some search engines.
Speak to your web developer and ask how they intend to build your website. Explain that your website needs to be built on a platform that’s supported by the major search engines.
And that’s it! As a result, if you follow these simple rules before investing in a web developer, then you can be sure that you have the right foundation for building a search engine friendly website.
Finally, have you made any of these costly mistakes before? I’d love to hear from you, so comment below.
Martin Huntbach – Digital Marketing Specialist
Martin runs numerous online & offline businesses including Jammy Digital, a Digital Marketing Agency in Manchester, UK. Martin also teaches small to medium-sized businesses how to improve their online presence via an online training program & live in-person workshops. Mr. Huntbach is a registered contributor to the Huffington Post where he shares his knowledge on running a business and entrepreneurship. His blog offers helpful resources that you can find here The Online Masterclass.
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