Welcome to the world-wide team of small entrepreneurs. You are joining a growing demographic and we are so excited to have you! We are a small marketing firm that has been in business for over 35 years so we know a thing or two about what makes a great website. As a newbie, we know you may not have the resources to hire a designer to build a stellar website for you. So to help, here are 10 common mistakes we see made in ‘do-it-yourself’ websites.
1. Not designing for mobile first.
Cell phone sales have been steadily increasing; as of 2012, more cell phones are sold worldwide than PCs. Additionally, since 2016, more people are accessing the internet via their cell phones than a desktop computer. This number has been increasing, with no signs of stopping. Google has noticed how so many people are using cell phones to access the internet and is starting to index those websites which are only mobile friendly. This is straight from Google: “Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content going forward. We aren’t creating a separate mobile-first index. We continue to use only one index.” With this information in mind, your website should be if nothing else, mobile friendly.
Take this one step further and develop your website for mobile first indexing. Traditionally, web developers program a website for the desktop experience, and then as more of an afterthought, make sure it mostly looks good and functions on any mobile device. Designing for mobile first means having the mobile experience in mind from the very beginning, programming the mobile version of the website FIRST. The desktop experience becomes the afterthought. This type of programming and design requires a reversal in thinking and in the way you have probably always done things. These days, if you don’t design your website for the mobile-first experience, you will not rank in the search engine results.
2. Using a platform without the ability to add SEO elements.
First of all, what is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In its simplest form, SEO gets the search engines to put your website up higher in the search engine results pages (or SERPs). As most people know, you only go to the 2nd page of the SERPs if you’re really desperate for an answer. If your website isn’t on the first page, no one is going to see it.
How do you get on the first page of search results? The easiest way is to start with your keywords. Keywords are the words people use to find your website. Carefully and thoughtfully adding keywords to your website’s content and the meta description will help boost your rankings. Along with being able to write meta descriptions, you also want to have the ability to customize the URLs of all pages, make different sized heading tags (see #7), put Alt tags on your images (see #5), create domain name redirects, and set some pages to “nofollow”. Some DIY website builders don’t offer these options with the free version. Be careful to check all the products your website builder offers, and ask specifically about their SEO packages.
3. Making a website and then never looking at it again.
Search engines, and your customers, like fresh content. Search engines search the internet for websites which match the keywords entered into the search bar. To do this, they send crawlers to index websites periodically, gathering information the search engines can use for those searches. You want to trigger those crawlers to index your site more frequently by updating your website with fresh content (such as blogs), links, and images.
If you think you can make a website and never look at it again, it will essentially die. When all is said and done, search engines stop crawling and indexing it without fresh content. This will cause your website to fall in the rankings. The further it falls in the rankings, the fewer people you have visiting it.
Blogging is a good way to periodically update your website, as is posting to your social media sites. Then link your social posts to your website. Taking pictures of the work you have done, and adding them to your gallery of work done is an easy way to change and add images to your website as well. You could even have a page dedicated to showcasing your work!
4. No SSL.
Again, what is an SSL? SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. Traditionally, if you collected sensitive client information ie credit card or banking information, you needed an SSL to make sure that information didn’t go anywhere else but your website. Now, Google is changing its rules and is requiring websites to have an SSL certificate. If you want to know if your website has an SSL, check the URL. If it starts with ‘https’ the “s” is for secure. We can help you put an SSL certificate on your website if you don’t have one. Here’s more detail on the necessity of this.
5. Using Stock photos.
You want your website to reflect you and your business. Using stock photos does the exact opposite. We all know the emotions a good picture can bring, and if you were there you have different emotions about a picture than those who weren’t. When you look at your BFF’s family vacation pictures, they are just that – pictures. But to your friend, they are memories. When she looks at them, all the smells and sounds of when she was there come back in full force. The same thing is true for your website. You want it to show you – your experiences and jobs you’ve done. Not someone else’s. You want to show your identity, and what makes you and your business unique. While your images don’t need to be high quality like stock images, they should be great quality.
6. Not developing for Section 508 Compliance.
Section 50- what? 508 Compliance is an addendum to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires web developers to make websites accessible to people with disabilities. Mostly, hearing and sight impaired.
- Videos and pictures need to have captions.
- Images need to have Alternative (Alt) tags which tell a screen reader what is in the picture.
- There are just some colors that look better layered on top of each other than others, so there is also a section which defines what colors you can and should use together. Being aware of which colors present common problems is key.
- Red-green color blindness is the most common, followed by blue-yellow color blindness. If your website uses only red and green colors, someone who suffers from red-green color blindness won’t be able to read anything on your website.
- When you put a very bright color against another color, it really hurts your eyes.
We’ve all seen signs and advertisements like this. We want to stop interacting with that company. So why would you do that on your website, 508 Compliance aside?
7. Not using headings to break up the content.
Headings are kind of like headlines in a newspaper or magazine article. They tell the reader what the article is about and break up the article into bite-sized, easy to read segments. When you open a magazine, if an article is all just a jumble of words with no headings, it’s a lot harder to read. You probably won’t even give that article the time of day and just flip right by it. This is the last thing you want a reader to do on your website.
Headings not only help humans read web pages, but they also help the web crawlers read web pages. This is important if you want your page to be seen by potential readers. Without having a specific coding structure of heading tags built into the source code of your page, a web crawler can’t discern what info you want them to look for, and might not be able to retrieve it when the search query is made. Heading tags are broken down by numbers with H1 carrying the most “weight” for web crawlers. Having only one well-written H1 tag on each page will tell the crawlers what your page is about so they can retrieve it for the correct query.
8. No text on the homepage.
Your homepage is the most important part of your website. It is the first thing people see, and the gateway to determine if they stay on your website, or return to the search results. It only makes sense to tell them why they should go deeper into your website. What do you do that is unique to only you? What is your proven process? Why should they use your products, hire you, become a member of your organization? Why should they choose you over your competitors? These are the things your homepage needs to answer. If all you have on there are images, your potential customer is left to make their own judgments about who you are and what you do.
Just like using the heading tags, you don’t want to overwhelm your potential customers and only fill your homepage with content, either. This is not what your homepage is for. You want people to click on other pages of your website. Use calls to action -buttons or links- to bring them to other pages in your website. Doing so will ensure they stay on your website longer, increasing the chances they interact with your business.
9. Not optimizing your images.
What is image optimization? Optimizing images is a way of compressing the images so they are the smallest possible size while still maintaining the best quality.
What happens when you don’t optimize your images? We’ve all seen a web page which takes forever to load because the image is loading one inch at a time. In our fast-paced, highly competitive digital world, a slow loading image on your homepage translates to people leaving your website. According to AccuAgency, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Three seconds!!
So, how do you optimize your images? Figure out what size the image needs to be for the space you are putting it in — usually, it’s less than 500 pixels in either direction. Use an image optimization tool like PhotoShop or Gimp to size your images down before you put it into the website. Most website applications aren’t equipped to really optimize your images after they’re in the media library. Sizing them down first will make sure they stay the size you want them when you are ready to put them onto your page.
10. Some DIY website builders take ownership of your content.
If your website breaks, or if you want changes to your content, the tech support may be slim to none. Sometimes you don’t even know your website has broken! If you use a DIY web builder, they most likely have no way to protect your website from malicious attacks or to fix technical issues that may occur. And, if the unthinkable happens and your website gets infected, there’s probably nothing they can do to fix it.
Building your own website can be tricky, and sometimes you may find it better to work with a developer to give you a strong baseline to build your digital footprint. Art Unlimited has been working in the marketing and website development business for over 35 years. Our experience gives us the knowledge to work with you on creating custom marketing solutions within your budget. Plus, at the end of the day, you own all of your files. You won’t have to start from scratch if you decide to work with another marketing firm. Connect with us today to see how we can help you up your marketing game!