A-Z of Web Business Mistakes

This is in no way intended to be a definitive, be-all-to-end-all list, but hopefully some may find it helpful. I’ve certainly made some of these mistakes in the past. We’re always learning and the best instance of learning is when you learn something you may be doing wrong, admit it, and come out more knowledgeable from the lesson or experience.

I would love to hear other ideas of what should go on the list or if you disagree with anything on the list. I’ll be sure to add more as I go along, but here’s the list I’ve created so far:


Analytics not being utilized.

In my humble opinion, I think most every website should use Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s powerful, and it’s useful. You can analyze a mountain of info about the traffic to your website: where they came from, how long they spent on your site, what keywords they used to get there, etc.

I’m probably selling Analytics short of its usefulness, but it’s an important tool to analyze your SEO efforts and if you’re paying for third-party ads, it’s important to make sure you’re actually getting what you’re paying for by seeing how many hits you’re getting from that source.


Blue borders on linked images.

Hideous blue image borders are nearly a thing of the past. But, in case you missed the memo, I think it should pretty much be mandatory to have this small snippet of code in all CSS stylesheets:

a img{border:0}


Counters seen publicly.

It’s frightfully ugly, unprofessional, and out-dated to display visitor counters anywhere on your website.


Donations misuse.

PayPal donation buttons, we’ve all seen them. I find it appropriate for organizations and charities, or people that provide open source scripts and so on to accept donations. But, if you don’t actually do anything to benefit anyone and are just looking to score a few free bucks by putting a “donations” feature on your site, this is incredibly tacky and you will lose credibility.


Excess fluff.

I enjoy reading something of substance. When I read an “About” page of a company and they go on and on about how they are the best and most definitive leader of some industry (regardless of whether it’s true or not), I instantly think the opposite and how unappealing statements like that are. Today’s average internet user is much savvier and is turned off by fluff. These days, people are more engaged by honesty, especially if a company acknowledges its flaws. It’s a sign that they care and want to give it to their customers straight.


Flash being used for an entire website.

I don’t hate Flash. I do however, hate the idea of Flash being used for an entire website. Flash has its perks and purposes, for embedded music, video, and other features on a website. But, the bottom line is that probably 90% of all-Flash websites are neither user-friendly or SEO-friendly.

It is possible for Flash to be SEO-friendly and crawlable, but this is hardly practiced. Here are the downsides to the typical all-Flash website:

  • It’s dependent upon the user having an up-to-date working version of the Flash player with their browser. If they don’t, they’re seeing a broken website.
  • Depending on how “heavy” your Flash is it can take too much time to load. If the user doesn’t have a fast enough connection, they’re gone.
  • Typical un-optimized Flash isn’t crawlable by search engines, therefore you’re missing out on content and keywords being indexed into Google for your website.
  • Say someone wants to copy an excerpt from your site or copy down an address or phone number for further use like searching for maps or directions, the text isn’t capable or active in that sense and they’ll need to manually jot info down. This is annoying for users.
  • There are no actual separate pages, only virtual ones. So, if you’re say 4 “pages” deep into this Flash website and want to bookmark the page, you’ll find that since most Flash is self-contained it never actually left http://www.website.com/ to a sub-page. Therefore, if you go back at a later time, you’ll likely need to reload the Flash, watch an intro, and then re-navigate to your destination. That is, if you remember exactly how. Also, the same symptoms apply if you press “Back” in your browser; it’ll just reload to the beginning again.

The list goes on. Before anyone mentions it, it is possible to prepare your Flash pretty well for all those scenarios. However, the average Flash designer does not even think about going through all that trouble.


Google Webmaster Guidelines not followed.

SEO isn’t such the mystery people make it out to be. Google actually wants you to do well. They want you to have a healthy, prosperous website. It’s better for the web and better for Google. Keep it white-hat and organic, put a little effort in, and follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. They are there for a reason.


Home links to index.html.

Whether it’s index.html, index.htm, index.php, default.asp, or whatever, it’s bad practice to ever link to your homepage in that fashion. It’s always best to link directly to: http://www.website.com/.


Images not being utilized for traffic.

Images usually go neglected for everything, but their visual purpose for the aesthetics of the website. But, if named correctly, given a good and relevant alt and title tag, it can serve as a good source of traffic through search engine image searches. Here’s a good example for how you could utilize an image of someone swimming in an ocean:

<img src="images/swimming-in-an-ocean.jpg" alt="Swimming in an Ocean" title="Swimming in an Ocean" />

Also, larger images of a good resolution fair better in results.


Joining in competitor rivalry publicly on your site.

It can happen to anyone. Sometimes a fellow professional in your field, a competing business, or even a client can get you riled up or some disagreement. That’s life and it happens. But, you should never publicly defame anyone or their business online and tell people to steer clear of them. I don’t care how wrong they are for whatever reason, just don’t do it. First, it’s likely illegal. Second, it doesn’t help your appearance of professionalism and credibility to try and bash others.

If you have a personal blog and really want to get it off your chest, you might do so in an anonymous way. No names and no specific indicators of the business. It can never help you and you certainly do not want to provoke retaliation. If you’ve truly been wronged ethically or legally, there are the proper channels to handle such problems, but it should definitely be handled privately. Of course, reviewing products and services is another matter entirely and is usually acceptable.


Killing the competition too aggressively.

This goes hand-in-hand with marketing fluff and competitor rivalry. In your marketing language, sometimes it’s okay to say things like: “the other guys” or “no one else”, but specifically targeting a competitor by name to more or less show how incompetent they are and in effect, show how great your company is, may not be attractive to some potential customers.

A company with integrity that uses honest and friendly tactics might be more appealing than one that draws its strength by putting down others, at least to me. I like the “proof is in the pudding” approach. Here is our product, here are its features. Let them speak for themselves without the need for political-like, shady attacks.


Losing PageRank from the www vs non-www battle.

This might be the number one neglected aspect of a website, more so than anything else. http://www.website.com/ and http://website.com/ are technically two separate pages. Depending on how people link to you, it can split your PageRank. Although I think that Google has gotten a pretty good handle on this, I think it’s still important to pick whether you want www or non-www and stick with it and be consistent. For Linux servers, I recommend using the .htaccess approach:

RewriteEngine on 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^website.com [NC] 
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.website.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Drop this code in Notepad, change website.com to your info, save as “.htaccess” and upload to the root folder of your website and this will enforce www on all your webpages.


Monetizing too much.

A few ads here and there are fine, but this whole in-between page ad where you have to click to go to your destination is horribly aggravating. It’s worse than pop-up ads in my opinion, which by the way, no legitimate website should still be using either. You lose credibility with those kind of tactics.

But, the king of all no-nos is hostage pop-ups. When you attempt to leave a website and you’re forced to click on the box in some fashion and sometimes it really won’t let you leave. You might have to kill your browser process altogether to get away from the thing. If you’re practicing such a method on your website, and your website is actually somehow a legitimate website that isn’t just spam, or trying to take advantage of or hurt people, you need to remove that immediately.

Most people that experience such a hostile tactic are likely going to blacklist your website and never go back, back-firing your efforts which are completely counter-productive anyway. As soon as the law catches up with the internet to that extent, that method will most certainly be illegal, not to mention that you could probably already report a website to their host for such activity and have them shut down.


No title tag info.

One of the scariest things I could find on a page is either a blank title or a title that reads:

“Untitled Document”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration :), but a mistake never-the-less.


Overcrowding pages.

If a user feels claustrophobic on your site or simply doesn’t know where to look, they might get frustrated and just leave. If you have a lot of links, look into a drop-down menu. If you have tons of content, split it up into separate pages (I’m starting to wonder how long this article is getting).


Pop-up traditional use.

I’m not just talking about pop-up ads (which should never be used), but “learn more” or “tip” pop-ups. They should no longer be handled in JS pop-up windows or new windows. There are plenty of great methods using CSS and divs and maybe a little JS to get the job done. These are good pop-ups that won’t get blocked by browsers.

Here are some good sources:


Questions going unanswered.

If you use a contact form, you should first, make sure that it works and second, have copies of emails forwarded to your personal email. Personally, I have many business endeavors that have different email addresses, but I ultimately have them all forward to my personal email. That way, I only need to check just that one email account to check all emails and I don’t miss anything or waste a bunch of time checking multiple email accounts.

Sometimes, you have a big company or a lot of traffic and you want to filter people as much as you can through contact forms. But, I find it terribly inconvenient when I can’t find an actual email address for a company so that I can contact them on a more direct and professional basis.


Reciprocal link overkill/misuse.

Just in case you weren’t aware: link pages are now frowned upon by Google. You shouldn’t link to just any page just because they’re willing to link to you in return. If you even do link to a website, there should be a good reason. Perhaps you’ve partnered with them in some fashion?

Regardless, if you do link to someone, it should be relevant. For example, if you have a website about boating, don’t link to a website about video games. It won’t make sense to your site visitors, it won’t make sense to Google either.


Social media not being utilized.

Stop procrastinating, get it done right now, set up an account for: Facebook, Twitter, etc. I don’t care if you’re selling laundry detergent, you need to have your stock social profiles.


Too simple or too complex.

I know that’s a little vague and broad, but if your website isn’t engaging enough, why should anyone stick around? If it’s too complex, making it hard to find anything or easy to get lost or annoyed, no one is going to stick around.


Underestimating the competition.

Again, I’m not saying you should attack your competition, but instead compete by assuming that the competition is always bettering themselves. So, you need to continually be bettering your own business as well. SEO and marketing is a neverending process. Don’t ever look at a competitor’s website and think:

“My website looks way better. Nothing left to do.”

While it’s of course good to try and have an aesthetically-pleasing website, it’s much more valuable to offer people substance and genuineness.


Valid code being neglected.

Today’s respected standards-compliant webpages are done with W3C validated. There are tools to make the validation process easier:


Widget overkill.

Sometimes, too much, is well, too much. If you have a weather widget, news widget, games widget, slideshow widget, etc. all taking up your website’s space in lieu of original content and features, your website will start to look a little too chaotic and unprofessional.


XX/XY chromosome alienation.

Sometimes, a product is specifically aimed toward men or women because it is only for a man or a woman and that is their intended demographic. That of course makes perfect sense. However, often based on the way we write as a female or male, we may inadvertently alienate the opposite sex from a discussion or feature or product by how we word things. Also, because of my growing up in the US, my cultural background and references may be influenced mostly by US media culture. But, I try to keep my writing open-minded to all people around the world who may find interest in it.


YouTube over original content.

I see a lot of blogs where every post is just a music video or something, in place of original content. A YouTube video should never be the focus of an entire post or page, it should merely compliment it. The video is already the focus on YouTube, you’re just sharing a duplicate of the video. However, I will add that if it’s a really compelling video that you just have to share with your readers, go for it. Just try not to make it a habit.


Zero tolerance for criticism.

You’ve got to be able to take criticism. If you can’t, how can you ever learn and build from that knowledge? Most criticism is indeed not very constructive, intended only as an insult. But, when someone really does present valuable feedback to you in a polite, intelligible way, try to listen and keep your ego at bay.