Whether you’re a small business just looking for a brochure website or a large corporation with a sophisticated, enterprise-sized site, below is a list of 5 major mistakes to avoid when building a new site (or retrofitting an existing one).
#5. Typos: content typographical errors, especially with keywords.
This issue really is a two-headed monster.
Typos and properly formatted content.
Typos are a signal that your content isn’t up to snuff. We always teach clients to treat your content like a finally tuned engine that is properly constructed in a nested format. Forgetting to pay proper attention to grammar is a common mistake websites make. I think we can all attest to making this mistake, heck this article probably has a spelling mistake or two (darn it grammar.ly). The Point? Always throw your content into M$ Word, then grammar.ly, and then do a final proofreading before posting live. Hopefully doing those three things is enough to catch 90% of your typos.
Typos in Keywords.
If typos are bad, making typos in targeted keywords on a page is a tad worse. SEO Hacker has an interesting article about misspelling keywords and/or the many variations of certain keywords in search. I like thinking of content for a page on a website like a chapter in a book. While Google has told us the <H1> tag isn’t as prevalent as before, I still use it like a chapter heading in a book. Put your keyword in the heading and describe what the page is going to be all about. Then genuinely write all about that topic/item without misspelling the main keyword or variations of it.
#4. Broken Links throughout your website.
Broken links on your site are links that simply don’t work for any number of reasons. Broken links impact a website’s overall link profile (external and internal links that aid in calculating domain authority).
Main causes for broken links on a website:
- A link to an external site no longer works (maybe the site is taken down, or the page no longer exists) resulting in a 404 error.
- An internal link (a link to another page on the site), no longer works resulting in a 404
- A bookmark (<a> tag “name” attribute) was removed to the link to the bookmark no longer works.
- Link expired, sometimes link placements will expire and be removed
- A plethora of other reasons…
Ahrefs’ blog has a great post about how to find and fix broken backlinks. This activity of ensuring a new or existing site doesn’t have broken links should fall under the site maintenance bucket. Scanning and fixing broken links should happen monthly or at least quarterly.
#3. Forgetting about Schema (aka “Microdata” or “Structured Data”).
If you’re asking, “What is schema?” you’re probably not alone. There are a lot of us around that are still unaware of schema. Schema is roughly ten years old now, and it’s really starting to pick up steam with search engines. Schema is an additional content tagging technique that helps inform search engines exactly what the content on a page is all about.
The easiest example to illustrate how schema works is with a blog recipe page. Google may or may not be able to figure out that a specific blog post is actually a recipe, but imagine if you could tell Google’s search engine that it’s a recipe and to treat it as such in search results. That’s the power of schema.
Google put out some developer guidelines for schema they “officially” support (they call it “structured data,” these words are synonymous). Their guide instructs how to format schema code for Google’s search engine. If a website is powered by WordPress, there are many schema plugins that automatically implement schema coding (although some additional manual selections may be needed from time to time).
The point? After ten years schema is here to stay, and it really helps search engines take the guesswork out of trying to figure out what your website/webpage is all about.
#2. Not implementing your site for Mobile layouts FIRST.
It’s been a while since Google’s search engine began considering a website’s mobile layout first (over desktop). Great info from Moz on mobile-first search engine results. And responsive design methods really started to catch on when browsers started supporting CSS media queries (around 2008/2009).
What is a website that considers a mobile-first layout?
It really is as simple as it sounds. Your website works perfectly on a mobile phone. Think of how you hold a phone in the palm of your hand. One usually surfs the web in a vertical (portrait) layout. You surf twitter in portrait mode. You scroll through Instagram in portrait mode. Everything is done on a phone in portrait mode (except watch videos). A website made for mobile first will display the content of the entire website (and all its pages) perfectly on a mobile device in portrait mode. Seems simple right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Most website designers build websites for desktop first. And a site built for a wide layout will look too small and usually break on a phone.
Design your site for a mobile portrait layout first.
#1. Ignoring Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Probably one of the worst mistakes for any website (new or old) is ignoring SEO. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. The sooner you start training and taking part in marathon after marathon, the sooner you’re in the race for good! At the very least you need to do these three things on every page of your website:
A. Ensure Meta Title and Meta Description are filled out.
This might be a daunting task if you manage a large website with many pages. This still needs to be done. Your title should be 35-45 characters long (I try not to go longer because of mobile phone viewports even though technically you can push it to roughly 60 characters). Try not to go further than 140 characters (including spaces) on the description. If you can’t tell people what you’re page is about in the original length of a tweet, you should probably break up the page into multiple pages (or try again).
B. Optimize images.
Images should be optimized on three levels:
- Image filename
- Image file size
- Image “alt” attribute
Optimize an image filename
The image filename should describe the image (if possible). So if you include an image of an apple on a page about “how to eat an apple,” name the image something like: eating-an-apple.jpg. Or, if you’re on a large content management system, something like eating-an-apple-8283238923.jpg is fine as well. Do the best you can.
Optimize image file size
No image on a website should exceed 150kb (unless your site is a library of desktop wallpapers, or photography). Icons, background images, thumbnails, etc. try to keep all your images below 150kb. Use online compression tools, photoshop, whatever you need to in order to get that file size down.
Optimize image alt tag (aka alt attribute)
With an HTML <img> tag, you can add an “alt” attribute to describe what the image is about. So if we named our previous image eating-an-apple.jpg, we might describe the image further in the image alt tag. E.g. <img src=”./img/eating-an-apple.jpg” alt=”How to eat an apple – granny smith green apple” />.
C. Setup Website on Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Our SEO Audit and Analysis checks over 100 things so you might be asking yourself, “What about content?” or “What about site performance?” or “What about Social Markup?” etc. etc. etc. So why focus on meta data, image optimization, and tracking?
The truth is, these are things that I believe you should have at a minimum and to start with. So if we’re starting at zero, start with this.
So why Google Analytics and Search Console? Both are fantastic tools to continue making your site great. Understand what users are consuming, how they are interacting on your site, and what else should fixed on your site (new or old). Setup your Google account, embed the analytics code on your site, and setup search console at Google.com/webmasters.
The biggest mistakes to avoid on your website…
Do you agree? Disagree? What is your biggest mistake you’ve ever made on a new or existing site?
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