Site Building Fact vs. Fiction — 6 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong While Building Your Business Website
Guest blog from HostingAdvice.com, a leading provider of how-to guides, news, and reviews on all things hosting.
Modern businesses are expected to have a website, and most, if not all, business site owners get something wrong their first (or 15th) go at building an online brand.
There’s nothing you can do about this. If you’ve made one of the common mistakes in web design and development, you’re done for.
Let’s boil it down to just the facts. I’ll cover myths and truths about site building and how to leverage your host’s resources to get a website up and running with minimum effort and maximum reward from a design, branding, and functionality perspective.
1. You Went for the Bogus Free Host
It’s human nature. Whether you’re on the hunt for the latest episode of “This Is Us” or scouring the internet for web hosting companies for your business, the first thing you do is turn to Google when embarking upon a new project. What’s more, we don’t just want to find the best service to get the job done, we want it to be free. We all love free, and there’s no shame in that.
Unfortunately, free doesn’t bode so well for business owners when it comes to web hosting. You’ll find reviews of the top free hosts, and in the same Google search you’ll find experts insisting you cough up a few bucks a month for hosting if you want a substantial professional web presence. Having explored the most popular website builder platforms, I’d check out iPage reviews to fulfill your site-building needs for your business. Offering high functionality at a low cost, iPage is the better value deal in the long term.
2. Your Images Are Hindering Performance or Aesthetics
This is a weird one to grasp at first, but consider this: Your website has a measurable weight to it. Each folder you upload, each image you add, each post you publish has a file size (e.g., 120KB, 50GB, etc.), and those bytes add up. Just as a carb-heavy diet of donuts and burgers will catch up with the fiercest of metabolisms, meaty media files weigh down your site—dwindling its energy and slowing its performance.
Put your website on a media-restrictive diet:
- Crop and resize images; don’t rely on auto-resize tools like the WordPress uploader.
- Save images for the web.
- Don’t go crazy with images or videos, and don’t forget to optimize GIFs if you use them.
- Measure your results with Pingdom Website Speed Test or WebPagetest.
Aim to keep each page at or under 1MB, keeping in mind that images account for roughly two-thirds of the page’s weight. As of 2015, the average webpage weighed just under 2,100KB.
3. Your Content Needs a Copy Editor
Everyone needs an editor, period. If this is just a pet project or your business doesn’t yet have the capital to invest in a copy editor, at least have a friend read over your web copy before you publish. If your friends aren’t exactly the type you’d trust to distinguish between your and you’re, then at least give your eyes a second go at your writing. Once you finish a piece, take a break before doing a final proofread.
4. You Didn’t Keyword Optimize or Think SEO
Writing just to write is for journaling and texts to your BFF. Writing for the web is a completely different animal. Online readers are impatient (lazy, frankly). They skim headings, prefer lists over literature, and will bounce if you don’t give them what they want in approximately 0.4 seconds. As arbitrary and hopeless as I just made the process of writing successful web copy sound, it’s actually a fairly mathematical, logical ordeal. You just have to know what the variables are and how they work in the formula that determines the quality of online content.
- Site HTML structure (W3schools has great guides to HTML, headings, etc.)
- Keywords and their placement in headings, image text, anchor text, and copy
- Internal links, external links, permalinks, and anchor text
- Image formats, size, alt text, titles, and captions
- Mobile site (mobile-specific vs. mobile-friendly designs)
Search Engine Land did an amazingly quirky and creative job of outlining these variables by illustrating them with The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors here.
- Use an SEO-compatible theme and a plugin like Yoast to ensure best practices.
- Do Keyword Research using SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Webmaster Tools.
- Build links to your site, and build with purpose (attention to quantity and quality).
- Optimize your images for optimal page load speeds and user experience.
- Build a mobile version of your site (here’s why); see if your site is mobile-friendly here.
For more lessons on the math behind SEO, some awesome teachers include:
Together, these pieces work to spit out not only a great reader experience but an attention-grabbing piece of content. You’ll capture searches, and that means traffic. Yay!
5. You Didn’t Think About Mobile
In April 2015, Google released the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm, giving sites with mobile-specific or mobile-responsive designs an extra boost in search results. Phase II of that update rolled out in May 2016, and it supposedly increased the ranking signal’s effect.
Needless to say, Mobilegeddon is real, and to ignore mobile’s rise over desktop as a website owner is to miss out on nearly 60% of Google searchers. All of this, coupled with Google’s experiment with mobile-first indexing, means mobile optimization should be firmly on your website development radar.
6. You Didn’t QA!!
This is a pet peeve of mine. Quality assurance should be the be all and end all of your website development and maintenance process. Even if it feels redundant, click on every link. Ask friends to test out your user experience. Aim for pixel perfection!
Site QA Checklist:
- How does the page look? (consistent styling, quality images, appropriate voice, etc.)
- Are images properly formatted, sized, and qualified with alt text and titles?
- Are we using HTML headings appropriately?
- Do all links function properly? (no 404s, opening in new windows where appropriate, etc.)
Now, repeat this checklist on your mobile device. Do not assume if it works on desktop, it’ll work on mobile. If you’re a perfectionist, you should check out your pages on multiple browsers, too.
About the Author:
Alexandra Leslie manages HostingAdvice.com as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.