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3 Critical Website Pitfalls You Must Avoid

Not so long ago, Matthew Carpenter, a young Australian entrepreneur launched a truly wicked online business. For a small fee, anyone could have an envelope filled with glitter delivered to a person they would likely never want to speak to again

The Basic Website

Like many budding business people, Carpenter put together a basic website to sell his service.

And, like many budding business people, he didn’t plan for success.

Ryan Hoover at the website, Product Hunt declared Carpenter’s endeavor, ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com, “The ultimate troll product,” while Redditors were upvoting the site at a furious pace.

Shortly after launch, the site went viral and the orders started pouring in.

But his website crashed and his bargain-basement email storage limit was quickly exhausted, leaving him racing to delete unneeded emails while hundreds of new emails were hitting his inbox every hour.

Have You Properly Thought Your Idea Through

And then there was the logistics of processing the orders — glitter, envelopes, ugh!. Clearly, Carpenter had not properly thought this business model through.

But don’t’ feel sorry for Carpenter. While he had a few trying days, he claims his revenue exceeded $20k before shuttering the website. And he sold the domain name for a whopping $85,000.

Is It Easy to Build a Website?

It’s fairly simple to build a website in this day and age. But it’s not so easy to build an exceedingly good one that fulfills its purpose and meets business goals.

In this increasingly sophisticated digital age, an effective website is likely to be an important key to the success of most businesses.

While there are many mistakes people make while developing a website — like poor navigation, too much clutter, or inconsistent branding — the most critical pitfalls may not be the most obvious.

#1: Scams

Quick question: what is the most important part of any website?

Arguably, the domain name is the single point of failure for nearly every website. Lose control of your domain or let it expire — and no one will be able to find your website.

If you don’t know where your domain name is registered, who has access to it, and the name of the registrant, I recommend taking action to find out today. This is one of the first exercises I go through with every new client and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of domain name security.

Domain Name Scams

When you register a domain name, it’s typically through what’s called a registrar, like GoDaddy.

One of the quickest ways to lose your domain name is by falling prey to a scam called domain slamming.

This is a scam in which the offending domain name registrar attempts to trick domain owners into switching from their existing registrar to theirs, under the pretense that the customer is simply renewing their subscription to their current registrar.

Here’s an example of a letter I’ve received many times:

As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification for your business Domain name search engine registration. This letter is to inform you that it’s time to send in your registration and save.

Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.

Please Note

A legitimate domain registrar would never send a notice like this. In fact, most registrars use automated billing in which the default setting is to auto-renew each year. The only notification one would receive is if the billing failed.

The easiest way to protect yourself from a domain name scam is knowledge: You will know, or someone you trust knows, where and how your domain name is registered.

Your website provider should also be able to tell you where your domain name is registered and clarify if the letter or email you’ve received is legitimate.

Search Engine Scams

Another popular scam today is perpetrated by less-than-scrupulous organizations posing as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies who guarantee a number ranking on “all the search engines.”

It’s important to understand how disingenuous guarantees are with regards to search engine rankings.

Companies providing legitimate search engine optimization consulting and development services rarely ever provide guarantees (and virtually never use it as a marketing tactic).

Why?

Visit the webmaster guidelines for Google or Bing.

The search engines expressly warn against it. Visit the webmaster guidelines for Google or Bing and you’ll find they provide clear instructions on how to submit a site and what factors go into how that site is ranked. There is no priority submission, special relationships, or special treatment for anyone.

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google or Bing.

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for "burn fat at night" diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

Additionally, search rankings are inherently unstable because so many dynamic variables are involved. Say I perform a search for "SEO Company" in Washington, DC, then drive four hours south to Roanoke, Virginia and execute the same query, I'm likely to end up with a very different ordering of results or different results altogether.

A similar principle applies when I’m logged into my Google account where I get personalized results based on my search history.

Here’s a snippet from an email that I’ve received before:

I was reviewing your website and noticed that website has a good design and it looks good. But it was not ranked on GOOGLE for most of the keywords. I didn't find your website on the first page with your business keywords/ phrases. We can help you do better in all search engines by improving ranking. We are a leading search engine optimization service provider in your area. We also offer the most competitive rates for this service.

My site wasn’t ranked for most of the keywords? Which keywords? How would they even know?

Here’s another:

This email is being sent out to you because search registration for yourdomain.com is pending.

Please register these domains to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo ASAP to avoid late fees.

Registering for search engines would help you show up in search results and increase your online presence.

You can register your domain at link given below:

We sincerely appreciate your business! If you require anything, we are at your service.

Remember:

If you do not register your domain with the search engines, it may not appear in the search engine listing when people are looking for you. Failure to complete your domain name search engine registration by the expiration date.

Roughly ninety-eight percent of all search traffic goes through Google and Bing. And listing a site with either search engine is a simple (and free) process.

Google: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

Bing: https://www.bing.com/webmaster/home/

But for many business owners, this is unknown territory filled with mystical words like meta tags, SERP, and keywords. And unfortunately, they will gladly pay a fee to make sure their site appears in the search engine listings. But hiring a company that sends unsolicited emails is unlikely to accomplish this objective.

#2: Choosing the Wrong Platform

When we discuss website platforms, we’re mainly talking about the content management system or a CMS. Some CMS are built into the hosting application, which simply means the CMS cannot be separated from the hosting provider. This is true of many do-it-yourself services like Wix, Weebly, or SquareSpace.

Selecting the proper platform for your business needs is vital to the long-term success of your website. Not all website platforms are the same and there are hundreds from which to choose.

The main consideration is that the CMS should fit the business objective of the website. For example, if your objective is to sell products online, you should use a CMS built for e-commerce — not a blogging CMS that’s been modified for e-commerce.

Keep in mind that the choice of a CMS will likely determine the web development company — few companies are experts in more than a couple of CMS platforms.

Good Options

For most small businesses, there are many good options. But for companies with large, content-rich websites, hiring a consultant for a business case analysis is money well-spent. Migrating site content from one system to another is always a tricky proposition and one that can get expensive in a hurry.

And this is where many business owners realize they’ve decided poorly — it’s not typically evident early in the website’s history, but when the business grows and the website needs to scale accordingly.

 Some considerations when evaluating a CMS:

  • SEO technical issues like custom page URLs and image names
  • Ability to export site content as a database
  • Ability to update design/template
  • Ability to control content on certain devices /screen resolution

BTW - most of these features are not available with many of the DIY services.

#3: Unfriendly Screen Resolutions

A website that is not optimized for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is likely to have a detrimental effect on a business. Mobile traffic is increasing exponentially. Ignoring these devices puts a business at a competitive disadvantage.

Indeed, turning a blind eye to the proliferation of mobile devices can be detrimental to a site’s search engine rankings. Both Google and Bing factor mobile-friendliness into search results.

“Starting April 21, 2015, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”

- Official Google New

How Will You Know if a Website is Optimized for Mobile?

How do you know if a website is mobile-friendly? Well, if you have to pinch and zoom to easily read the site content, it’s likely not.

How do you reconcile this? There are a couple of ways to achieve a friendly screen resolution solution.

For existing sites, there are services that replicate your site’s content and serve it up from their server when it detects a mobile device. While there are several services available for websites of most any size, this should be considered a stop-gap or temporary solution.  Why? In most cases, a mobile version of your website means a copy of your website, which means managing two websites. Moreover, there are possible search engine optimization ramifications.

The best practice for a mobile-friendly site is through a design process called responsive web design. This allows a website to adapt to different screen resolutions through a “fluid” design that either nudge content down on smaller screens, displays alternate content, or completely hides it.

And because most the screen sizes on most mobile devices are relatively standard, a designer can say, display navigation links as finger-friendly buttons on phone-sized screens.

Wrap Up

Today, websites vary from the simple, one-page brochures to complex, cloud-based sites integrated with dissimilar software. And clearly, there are many other factors for consideration within the web development process than I’ve discussed today.

But there are few details that can have such an impact on the success of a website than falling prey to scams, choosing the wrong platform, and ignoring your mobile audience.