Web design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are necessary parts of any business. It can be quite a daunting task for many businesses without the in-house resources to properly build and manage a functional web presence. Through this process, many people focus on the wrong elements of web design and SEO and tend to get caught up in outdated practices that can not only make your website seem irrelevant, but can also harm your SEO, keeping users from finding you on the web. There are many common mistakes that businesses make during the design process and the ongoing management of their web presence.
We have said it time and time again. If your business does not have a blog or does not actively update a blog, then you are falling behind. Blogging has become a majorly important part of SEO. Not only is blogging easy, but it is also a quick way to provide mass amounts of content relating to your business that Google will index. This indexed content will assist users in finding you based on their needs!
Beyond writing SEO friendly content, it is important to consider the setup of your blog. You want people to stay on your blog and read as much of your content as possible so that they are more inclined to contact your business and potentially utilize your services. What are some common design mistakes people make in their blog setup?
- Reduce clutter and focus on what is most important. Most blogging outlets have a slew of modules or widgets that can be used on your blog. Most often these are found on a sidebar on all pages. These widgets include: Most popular posts, Posts by date, Subscribe now, Social media sharing, and Posts by topic. These modules often complicate and clutter a blog, and much consideration should be taken to avoid clutter. Of course it is important to easily allow users to subscribe to your blog, and social media sharing is also very important, but posts by date can be very lengthy and almost never utilized by the average user. I’m not sure anyone would say they have gone to a blog and been interested in what was written in December of 2012. It is simply not how blogs are read. Furthermore, “categories” or “a post by topic” is another widget that can easily get out of control. If you aren’t actively managing your topics, chances are you have tons of them, which can be overwhelming for a user. Unless you have 5 or less topics of focus, consider removing this from your blog. Simply include a search bar so users can get the information they want without digesting a seemingly endless list of links.
- Empty sidebars are a wasted opportunity. As we just discussed, these sidebars can be overloaded with information, but having too little will also make your blog look weak and poorly planned. If you don’t have enough content when beginning your blog to have the widgets mentioned above, consider calls-to-action or a simple contact form. You could even focus more on linking to your social media pages.
- Include images in your blog posts. Images are a very important consideration for blog posts. Articles unaccompanied with images seem to fall flat. The purpose of an image is to bring readers in so they can discover the contents of your blog. Furthermore, avoid costly royalty fees, and use images that are properly credited or royalty free.
- Make authorship clear. A fairly new aspect of blogging is authorship and how it is displayed within Google search results. Businesses that utilize proper authorship will have that thumbnail image next to each one of their posts in the Google search results, as seen below:
It's easy to see the benefits of these thumbnail authorship photos within search results. They break up the monotony of the standard text based search result, making you stand out among the non-authored posts. Beyond this, the correct use of authorship provides a level of trust, and any business can see the benefit of that. People like to know they are reading content written by a “tangible” user and not some ghostwriter that may not be completely knowledgeable on the topic at hand.
Many websites fail to provide enough content on the home page of their website. They sacrifice content for what they believe are eye-catching or interesting design elements that they believe will draw the user further into their site's content. The home page of your site should be awesome and interestingly designed, but once you already have the user on your site, avoid making them jump through hoops to access the information they need.
- Avoid splash pages for your home page and, for that matter, all pages. Splash pages often have little to no written content and serve soley for the purpose of a flashy animation or cool graphic that you may think showcases your business to potential clients. In reality, it holds poor SEO value and creates another step for users.
- Consider your text to HTML ratio. This statistic refers simply to the amount of content you have on the front end (visible text) vs. the amount of behind-the-scenes HTML. You will notice that most pages that rank highly have a good amount of visible text on their pages. This has been a direct result of Google releasing the Panda update that focuses largely on content-driven sites.
- Conversion methods are a big area people leave out in exchange for an interesting home page. Some of you may see this as a no brainer, but it is quite often overlooked. The main point of any business's website should be to start a conversation with the user in hopes that you will later be able to convert them into a customer. You should be giving users an opportunity to make contact with you on all pages of your site, especially the home page. These conversion methods can be a simple form or a call-to-action button taking them to a specific are of your site based on their needs.
There are many aspects of design and SEO to be considered, and it is quite difficult to cover each one; however, there are a few more that I would like to make special mention of:
- Don’t build your site on a free subdomain or social media site. If you put all of that hard work into your website make sure it is under a domain that you own. Many people may not know any better or are simply looking to do things as cheaply as possible. This should be at the forefront of your budget as it is often something that does not cost a lot of money to do properly. The problem with using a free subdomain comes when you choose to move your site (which could be for many reasons). You will most likely lose all of your SEO built over time, as well as your important back links to your site. Correcting backlinks can be a very long and defeating process.
- Duplicate or non-descriptive title tags can also be something that harms your SEO. Many business websites do not take this in to consideration and have the same title for each page of their website. This makes it harder for a user to determine the content of each page on your website based on the search results they are using; furthermore, the name of your business is not of importance in your title tag. Usually users aren’t searching for you by name, and the name of your business holds almost no significance to them at this point.
- Link building is still a part of off-site SEO that holds some value. This may seem like quite the task, but it is often easier then you think to build a nice network of links to your site. If your business works closely with another business that doesn’t directly compete, or if you have a network of suppliers, reach out to them and simply request they include you on their website. You could even offer to do the same for them. Also, forget about link building services. These are a thing of the past and no longer help your site. These services provide tons of links very cheaply priced, but defeat the point. You want people to find these links on pages that relate to their needs.