Your website is your baby. It impacts your reputation, generates leads, builds credibility, and answers questions, and more. If you’re not a developer or an SEO, there’s a chance that your website could have problems that you don’t recognize and that Google is penalizing you in search rankings. Here are seven common mistakes businesses make on their websites that end up knocking them down in search engine rankings:
1. WordPress Themes
Some popular WordPress themes are very slow to load and will kill your site’s load speeds. This not only ruins the user experience on your website, but it also puts you on Google’s proverbial “naughty list.” Your Google rankings will suffer quite a bit if your site doesn’t load quickly enough. WordPress themes aren’t the only culprit. Any website builder (especially ones that allow you to build a website using minimal code – this includes Wix and Weebly) can be vulnerable to slow load times. How can you solve this problem?
Google is much harsher in its judgement of what “slow” is than most humans are…so checking your site speeds by just visiting your website and counting seconds it takes to load isn’t a good way to measure.
- If you haven’t build your website yet – Choose your theme based on the list of fastest loading WordPress themes for this year. If you search online, you’ll always find lists of the latest fast-loading themes. Review a few of them, and choose a theme that best suits you. Some may require more coding, which can be a turn-off for the do-it-yourselfers who don’t code, but the long-term benefit worth the trouble of finding someone who can code.
- If you’ve already built your website – You can check your site speed here with Google’s site speed checking tool. The tool will tell you if your website is loading slowly, and will give you links to any resources on your page that are slowing it down. If a lot of the links that the speed checker gives you have the words “theme,” “wp,” “wordpress,” or if they have the actual name of your site’s WordPress theme in the URL, you know that your theme is contributing to slow load times.
- If you’ve built your site already, you have two choices: migrate to a different theme or try to speed up the site in other areas to compensate for the slow load times your theme is causing.
2. Pesky Plugins
Some plugins can cause slow load times, which harm Google rankings. What’s worse – if plugins are not regularly updated, this compounds the problem. Out-of-date plug-ins can cause technical errors on the back-end of your site and this can cause Google to flag your site. It can also hurt your user experience.
- Decide which plugins you really need and get rid of the rest. If a plug-in you need is causing an issue, and you can’t find a way around using it, time to call a developer to find a solution for you.
- Update your plugins regularly.
- Check your site speed (as described above) and make sure your plugins aren’t slowing your site down. If they are, it may be best to uninstall them and find quicker loading ones to replace them.
- Use the Google Fetch and Render tool within your Google Webmaster Console. This tool enables you to check the “rendering” of your site (your site looks to Google vs how it looks to users). If there’s any difference in the two images you see, you have a problem with rendering and a troublesome plug-in or an out-of-date plugin could be causing this.
If you notice that the areas that aren’t rendering correctly are the areas where you’ve used plugins, then your plugins are causing rendering problems. Consider updating them and if that doesn’t work, get rid of the problem plug-ins and replace them with others.
3. Your URL doesn’t start with “https.”
If your URL starts with “http” instead of “https,” Google has likely flagged your website as “not secure.” Even if your site doesn’t collect confidential information from others, Google will still see the lack of security as a determent to your users and this will impact your rank.
To fix this, you can call your website host and tell them you’d like to purchase an SSL encryption for your site. The monthly fee for hosting a site using SSL will be higher, but it will still be affordable. There are other types of security that developers and hosts can add to websites, but if your URL does not start with an “https,” at the very minimum, Google will not view it as secure, and neither will your users.
4. Image Sliders
Sliding banners can hurt your websites in several ways. I get it…sliding banners look cool. They add a “wow” factor that can make us fall in love with our homepage. They’re a problem though. Here are the reasons why avoiding sliding is best:
- Sliding banners often cause Google to flag websites. Why? They slow down page load speeds and this harms Google rankings and diminishes user experience.
- Readers will ignore any photos or calls to action that aren’t immediately visible on the first photo of your slider. Here’s a stat to remember: Only about 1% of users actually click on calls to action that are rotated into and out of view on the sliders. Ignoring calls to action on the photos following the first will kill your conversion rates and user experience, and this will harm your search rankings.
- Sliders often don’t work well on mobile. This can ruin the user experience and lose you points with Google.
Keep one non-rotating picture or video in your header and include important information and calls to action on that photo or video. If you do choose a video to sit above the fold, make sure it’s a short one (30 seconds or less is best) and keep the file size small if it’s embedded into your site. This will keep your above-the fold content load times short…another thing that Google and users love. Once your video or image is there, test your load times and make sure they’re not slow.
5. Organizing Navigation Menus Incorrectly
What are your main business offerings? Whatever they are, your navigation menu items should be named after your service offerings. Not only that, but your navigation menu items should be named after the most valuable target keywords that contain your service offerings. (If you haven’t done keyword research, consider doing it if you want to boost your site’s visibility.) If your website doesn’t have navigation menu items organized this way, you’re losing ranking potential.
Solution & Example:
Say you own a law firm and you do divorce law, adoption law and estate planning. Say the most valuable keywords for these services are “divorce lawyer,” “adoption lawyer,” and “estate planning legal help.” These three terms should be in your navigation menu. How can you make this happen?
Either list these three service keywords across your main menu right alongside “home,” “about us,” and other main pages, or have “services” on your main nav. menu and list “divorce lawyer,” “adoption lawyer,” and “estate planning legal help” as sub-items under the “services” menu.
6. Thinking Responsive Design = Mobile Friendly
Responsive design is absolutely necessary to make any website mobile-friendly and make Google and users happy…but is it sufficient? No, it’s not.
A site can be responsive, but still offer a less-than optimal mobile experience. Make sure your user’s mobile experience is just as smooth as the desktop one…and emphasizes the right calls to action, visuals and verbiage in the right places…and eliminates any possible confusion.
Remember that mobile requires a lot of scrolling, so keep your calls to action and important information high enough on the page to be visible above the fold on mobile…not just desktop. Responsive design won’t accomplish all of this for you automatically.
About 71% of internet usage in the U.S. happens on mobile phones. Even if your audience is notoriously desktop-focused, the chances that your potential customers will view your website at least once on mobile are high.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and take a trip through your mobile website. Does it make sense? Can you find everything you’re supposed to find, using only the information given to you on the website? Are you seeing information that would convince you to buy your product?
If you see room for improvement, make changes to your site with the mobile-using customer in mind. This may mean extra coding on the back end, but a bit of extra work is worth not alienating around 71% of your audience.
7. Misplaced Calls To Action
What are your main business goals? Most businesses have primary goals and secondary goals. If your calls to action aren’t visible enough or aren’t placed underneath information that convinces your users to click them, then they’re useless. Your conversion rates won’t improve and this will keep your bounce rates higher than they should be. All of these stats can negatively impact your search rankings and user experience.
Think through your calls to action. For instance, if your primary goal is to sell your offerings and your secondary goals is to collect information from potential customers to remarket to them, design your site this way. Make sure your calls to action urging customers to make a purchase and to fill out a form are immediately visible on your site without scrolling. Also, ensure that the visuals and verbiage above the calls to action say whatever they need to say to convince customers to click those calls to action. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many websites don’t follow this rule.
The Hidden Villains – Great Looking Sites That Are Garbage Underneath
Many judge websites by the look and feel. If a site looks great, has information relevant and useful to the audience, and makes us say “ooh” and “ah,” then it’s a great site. This misconception is why many “great” sites end up with poor Google rankings, low conversion rates, and are unable to reach their potential in helping businesses meet their goals.
These sites are the hidden villains of the website world. They’re fun to look at, but they’ll hurt your business…and you may never even find out. A truly great site should have a thorough technical audit and should be optimized on the front end and the back end.
About the Author
Chiara Tedone is an SEO and content marketing manager. She develops and implements content and SEO strategies across all internet platforms, including websites, blogs, social media, email, online ads and more. Her strategies help companies improve their credibility, raise Google rankings, gain leads, nurture leads, increase brand awareness and conduct PR, all online. Chiara has developed and implemented strategies for mid-sized and small businesses in the following industries: restaurants, retail, education, healthcare, professional services, fitness, non-profit, animal care and sports.
She graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. in 2007 with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Spanish. In 2016, Chiara graduated from the University of South Florida with an M.B.A. and a specialty in Marketing. Visit Chiara’s LinkedIn profile for more info!