Building a website yourself can be a great way for a startup or small business to begin their online presence and save money.
Today’s website builders are simple to use and offer drag-and-drop features and pre-built templates that allow even a novice to put together their own site and make it look great.
In this article I am going to go over the 9 most common mistakes people make when building a website so your site can not only look great, but works for you too.
#1. Unique Page Titles
The page title, or “title tag”, is a short description of your page that shows up at the top of your tab in your browser, shows as the big blue link in search results (or purple if visited!) and is also what people will see when your page is shared on social media.
The title tag is actually identified by a piece of code in the back-end of your website, but most website builders give you a way to input this easily. Search on your website builder for ‘title tag’ and it should tell you how to add it.
The title is a great way to tell people about your services and who you are, but there are some general rules to try and include too:
- You want to keep the title at a maximum of 60 characters (including spaces).
- Give each page on your website it’s own unique title. If you arn’t sure you can stick to the general rule of : “Topic of Page | Company Name”.
- For Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes, try to keep your important “keywords” at the beginning of the page title. Be aware that search engines will punish you for “stuffing” keywords, which is when you include your keyword in multiple ways just for the keywords-sake.
You can go to Google and make this search: “site:[your url]” (for example, doing this search for my website would be “site:https://glade-seo.co.uk”). If your website is indexed with the search engine, it will return a list of all your pages. Here you’ll be able to quickly see what all your page titles are.
If you haven’t sent any specifically, Google will do their best to place a title for you— but it’s often not as optimised as you’d like it to be.
This is a simple task that can improve your search engine rankings as well as your visitors user experience.
#2. Meta Descriptions
When you were working on your page titles, you should have seen under the title in your listing in search engines is a small paragraph of text— this is called a “meta description”.
Just like title tags, meta descriptions are specified by a special tag within your website’s code, and any website builder should allow you to edit this bit of text.
For the meta description you have up to around 160 characters to use.
Meta descriptions don’t have a direct effect on your rankings in search results, but they have a secondary one.
A compelling meta description needs to also describe the content of that page. This will help to have a higher click through rate— and click through rate is a ranking factor. It is important to give people a reason to want to visit your page to learn more.
Like page titles, you want each meta description to be unique, so avoid using the same ones.
#3 Heading Tags
You have 6 heading elements you can use: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6— but many people don’t bother with anything past H4.
Headings are not only a great way to visually break up long bits of text on your website, they also give importance to the words within the heading to let search engines know what your page is about.
Yoast has a very in depth (but easy to understand) article that explains how to use headings on your website, so we’ll keep this to just a few simple rules you should follow:
- Each page should only have one H1 tag. This headline should be the main topic of the page.
- As the number in your tag gets higher, the importance gets lower. H1 being the most important, and H6 is the least.
- It’s good for your heading tags to contain keywords— but make sure they are written so that visitors understand your content first and foremost.
- Make sure that you at least include the H1 tag on every page of your website (though most pages will have several H2’s and H3’s.
#4 Image Size
Image sizes are usually the biggest factor in a slow-loading website. Understanding how big a photo is (and if it’s appropriately sized for your website) can be difficult. When it comes to websites, you want the smallest image size possible or it can slow down your site.
Your website’s loading time is vital, not only to visitors, but to Google too. The faster your page loads, the more people will use it, and the slower it loads, the more quickly people will leave.
There are ways to optimise your images, for example, some hosting companies like Siteground have a free image optimiser. There are also tools and plugins like Smush that can do it for you as you upload your images to your WordPress site.
#5 Image Alt Tags
While we’re on the subject of images (and now that you have optimised images on your website) you’ll want to consider your image alt tags.
Alt tags are bits of code that describe what your images are using text. This is critical for people who are visually impaired and for those using a screen reader, but adding alt tags also has other benefits.
If you assign an alt tag to your image, Google is able to more quickly understand what your image is. If your images correlate with the subject of your website, that gives Google more trust in your website and confidence to share it with people searching for your products & services.
Image search has also become more widely used— and those search queries are mostly driven my and image’s alt tag.
Again, you’ll need to search for how to assign alt tags to your images in your website builder (just Google it), but once you find the right place, it’s a simple exercise.
Simply (and briefly) describe what is in your image. If you have a photo of a man walking a dog, your alt tag could be “man walking dog”.
Keywords are great here, but it’s most important that you accurately describe the photo as if you were having to describe it to someone who couldn’t see it. Because your images should correlate with the content of your website, you’ll likely end up with appropriate keywords anyway.
#6 Index Your Website with Google
Unless your website is specifically set to NOT be found in search results, Google will eventually find it and index it. However, we can speed up that process as well as monitor what Google is finding (like any errors or opportunities for improvement) by submitting your website to their index.
To do this, you’ll just need a Gmail account to sign into Google’s Search Console.
When you visit the link above to go to Search Console, you’ll need to hit the blue “start now” button to get started.
Once you’re signed into your Gmail account you’ll want to hit the “Add property” button. From there, Google will walk you through the process of getting your website submitted (and verified). Sometimes this can be a bit tricky, and the variables are more than I can include in this article. If you get stuck, there are lots of great videos on YouTube for getting your website setup in Search Console.
There are many tools inside Search Console, but the most important are:
- Submitting your sitemap
- Monitoring your “coverage” (which looks for errors)
- Monitoring your “performance” (which will tell you a lot of information about how you are being found in Google’s search engine).
I’d always recommend doing some more reading on Search Console, as it can be a very powerful tool for understanding and improving your website’s rankings in Google— for the purpose of this article just make sure your website has been submitted and verified. This will speed up the process of Google “crawling” your website and indexing all your pages so that it can serve them to visitors.
#7 Mobile Usability
Most website builders today use “responsive” technology, which means your website will adjust its layout depending on the viewers screen size.
While the number keeps climbing, around 60% of website visits are not from mobile devices (like smartphones)— so it’s critical your website looks and performs flawlessly on a small screen.
If you haven’t already, load your website on your phone and go through each page and find any issues and rectify them quickly.
There are a few common mistakes that novices make when it comes to mobile display on websites:
- Fonts not appropriately sized. Sometimes you’ll find a heading on your website looks fine on a desktop, but it’s way too large on mobile causing words to break in the middle of them (becoming hyphenated) or having to scroll long distances just to read one headline. Your headlines should still be bigger than the body copy on mobile, but not as big as they would be on your desktop.
- Content wider than screen. Sometimes the content of your page will be wider than the width of your phone, causing the user to be able to “scroll” horizontally (as opposed to just vertically). Your website should never scroll horizontally on any device (except for websites that are specifically designed to do this— chances are yours isn’t).
- Need to zoom? If you find yourself trying to pinch and zoom into your website— something isn’t working properly. All of the elements on your website should respond to the screen size and still be legible.
#8 Your website is for your customers, not you!
It is natural for us all to present information in a way that makes sense to us, the expert.
It’s hard to look at something you know so well from an “outsider’s” point of view but it’s something you’re going to have to do if you want your website to resonate with your visitors. Bringing in friends and family to critique your site can be really helpful to gain a different perspective.
Of course you want to be proud of the way your website looks, but it’s not your taste that’s most important— it’s what your audience wants. You need to approach designing and writing content for your website from the mind of your ideal customers. Building your website from this perspective is so important as your website visitors need to understand immediately the service or products you are offering and be attracted to what you are offering.
Building a website can get very complicated very quickly. But these 8 common mistakes and advice around how to fix them should help.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” website, and even us in the industry are constantly striving to improve our websites. In fact, Google loves to see a website that is constantly improving itself— and now you have 8 issues tow work on!
If you feel you need some help to improve your site, contact me for more information and I would be glad to help!