17th August 2018
Seven Sins of Sloppy Website Housekeeping
It’s not just your house that needs a good clean once in a while – if you’re running a business, your website should be kept tidy, too. And like your house, if you don’t look after your website by tidying it in consistent, small steps, you’ll come home one day to a big mess you won’t want to clear up. A messy website is unprofessional and doesn’t give off a good vibe to visitors, so you won’t want to let it get in any kind of bad state.
Today we’re taking a look at some things you shouldn’t do if you want to practise good housekeeping on your website. While housekeeping could include taking measures to ensure your website is secure or fast, among other things, for now we’re sticking to usability and aesthetics – and a little SEO. Here are seven deadly sins you should steer clear of if you want your website visitors to be able to use your website easily, and ultimately, make a purchase or get in touch with you.
1. Tagging your products with inaccurate attributes
Site search functions. They can be extremely useful or incredibly frustrating, and this depends on what’s going on in the back end of your website. If you display products on your website and your customers can look through categories, carry out a search and filter the results, then each product should be in the correct category and have accurate attributes associated with it. For example, your search may enable people to filter by colour, brand, style, size, type, and so on. So a red hat shouldn’t turn up in a search for green shoes because someone has labelled it as red in the back end of your website. It seems very obvious but you’d be surprised how often the wrong products turn up in search results on various websites.
There is plenty more around the subject of creating a search function that’s actually useful – see our previous blog post for more tips on on-site search usability.
2. Duplicating or creating empty blog categories
Similarly, blog posts on your website should be in appropriate categories and have the correct tags. Some systems require you to type in a category for your blog post when you upload it, and if you type in an existing category, that blog post falls happily into it. If you type in something slightly different, the system might create a brand new category which contains that single blog post. Which is why you might see a website with one blog category called “Smartphones” and another one called “Mobile Phones”, or one category spelled correctly and another with a typo in it. This can happen with some search functions, too, and it means a user has to look in every possible category in order to find something, when they should be able to look at just one. Get rid of superfluous categories or tags and put everything in its proper place.
3. Posting articles and blog posts without dates
Have you ever looked for some information online, but when you find something useful you have no idea whether the information is up to date? Some blogs or articles don’t have publication dates on them. This doesn’t matter too much when it comes to evergreen content, but if you need information on something that often changes – such as software, or a regular event – you want to know whether what you’re reading is still true or out of date. This is something you would usually set up when your website is created, and the date is then usually automatically populated when you publish something. But you should also consider whether information has changed since you wrote an older blog post and if your readers would benefit from an updated version – which you could then put a note on to say when it was updated.
4. Leaving outdated information on the website
Similarly, outdated information on your website can make it look untended to. If your homepage is still telling people to book at your restaurant for Christmas and it’s nearly February, it doesn’t look like you’re taking very good care of your website – so does that mean you aren’t taking good care of your business? Pay attention to those details, especially where it could be confusing. For example, take down any special offers that are no longer valid, else customers may try to use them and be disappointed when they are refused.
5. Duplicating content and pages
Duplicate content across your website can hurt your SEO rankings, as well as your site’s usability. In terms of SEO, pages with the same content pose a problem because search engines can’t easily determine which page to rank more highly, or which to leave out of search results entirely. This means that search engines rarely show multiple versions of the content, and the page that loses out doesn’t get the visibility it otherwise would have if the content had been unique. If you have multiple pages with the same content, this could also be confusing for your visitors. Ask yourself why these pages are the same, and consider setting up redirects or canonical tags.
6. Using undescriptive image names and alt tags
It’s not just the words that are important on your website – images are an important piece of content because they illustrate to visitors what you mean, who you are, or what you have to offer. If for some reason the image doesn’t display, the text associated with the image will have to do the work instead. The title tag, the name of the image and the alt tag all have important roles to play in explaining to a user what the image is if they hover over it with their mouse, if the image isn’t displayed, or if the user is blind or partially sighted and using a screen reader. Images also have a lot to say to search engines, if you let them. The alt tags tell the search engine what it is a picture of, so that the image can appear in search results. Using sloppy labels and titles for your images can look unprofessional and do you a disservice when it comes to SEO and CRO.
7. Using inconsistent phrasing
Do you refer to your product as one thing on one page, and as something different on another? Inconsistent phrasing could confuse the reader, so be clear or they may think you are talking about two different things. For example, if you have a shop that is in a small area of a larger town, refer to it the same way each time you talk about it, or visitors may think they are two different shops.
Consistency is also important if you are trying to target a specific keyword for SEO. Some keywords will have more search volume than others, so stick to them if you have decided you have the best shot at ranking highly for them.
Need some help managing your website? Get in touch with SilverDisc!