60 Common Website & SEO Errors
Plus some tips about what to check for in a website.
These common website design errors are the sort of things we avoid in the first place
or fix in websites designed by others that we update and overhaul.
This list of website errors is by no means complete but gives you some insight into the pitfalls of having a poorly designed website.
 If you build it they will come:
Err not really, that was just a line in a film. You see this phrase repeated endlessly by website designers. It could not be further from the truth. If you want visitors to your website and if you want to be ranked highly in the search engines, you have to work at it, and keep working at it. Unlike painting a picture, website SEO is never finished, you need to keep up with changes in how the search engines rank websites.
Good Website SEO is a combination of:
(a) Onsite SEO.
(b) Offsite SEO.
(c) Constant monitoring of your search engine ranking and making modifications, as required.
 Are you using the right keywords to optimise your site?
In many cases websites are optimised for the wrong keywords. You need to do the research to find out what keyword phrases people actually use to search for businesses in your particular field. In many cases you will discover that keyword phrases that you thought were important, are in fact rarely searched for; the opposite is also true.
 How well does your website show in Google, Yahoo, Ask and Bing?
You should test the effect of searching for your keywords on a regular basis in all the major search engines. Your website position in the search engines will fluctuate and needs regular monitoring.
 Broken links:
This is the number one error that we find when auditing websites. You click on the link within the website and you see an error message telling you that the page cannot be found. This delivers a very unprofessional image to people visiting your website. It is likely that Google will also mark you down in the search engine rankings, as Google expects technically perfect websites. There is no excuse for broken links within a website.
 Broken images:
Again a common error found within websites. Instead of a picture being displayed you will see something like the logo below. Again this is easily checked for by professional website designers and there is no reason for a website to have broken image links.
 Picture only websites:
Sometimes you will visit a website that appears to be displaying the usual mixture of text and pictures, but on closer inspection, even the text is actually contained within a picture. If there is no real text displayed within a website, Google has no clue what the website is about and the site will feature very poorly in the search engine results. There are ways to partly fix this, using what are called ‘Alt’ tags, used in combination with the website title and description, but as a rule your website should contain lots of relevant text. This is what Google likes!
 No relevant keywords in a page:
If your website content fails to mention your product or service, it is not surprising that your website ranks poorly within Google. There are lots of tricks relating to where you place your keywords on a page and that is what we excel at. Simply stuffing a page with keywords will not achieve the desired result, and may even hurt your listing within Google, as it may interpret too many keywords as an attempt to spam the search engine listings. Google takes a very dim view of attempts to spam it.
 Number of back links:
Do you know how many other websites link to your website? Google does. The more back links to your website the better, within reason. Also the quality and source of the links is important to Google. If you suddenly gain hundreds of links overnight, this can trip the spam alert at the search engines and you can end up in a worse position within the search engines than before you started any SEO activities on your site.
 Google Page Rank:
Do you know what your Google Page Rank number is? In fact do you know what the Google Page Rank means? Google rates all sites using hundreds of different criteria and comes up with a number for your website. 0 is bad while 10 is the highest value. We can check your Page Rank and suggest ways of getting it increased. The higher the Page Rank the more likely that your website will show up higher within the Google search engine results. Many websites we audit have a page rank of 0 or 1, which is not good!
 Alt tags:
Alt tags (short for Alternative tags) is a way of telling Google what a picture is about. As far as Google is concerned a picture is just a picture. Google does not know what a picture is about, unless you specifically tell Google using an Alt tag. It is amazing how few website designers go to the bother of using alt tags, which is a pity, as proper use of alt tags can have a big influence on your listing within the Google search engine results.
 Website Title:
The web page title is very important. It should be relevant, the correct length and different on every page within the website. It is surprising how often we see inappropriate web page titles, no titles at all or a title that says something stupid like “HOME’ or in the case of really lazy website designers ‘TITLE GOES HERE’.
 Website Description:
As with the web page title, in many cases the Description is missing or incorrectly used.
 Website Keywords:
While many search engines no longer use Keyword Meta tags, some still do, and they should accurately reflect page content, but you must be careful not to use too many of them.
 Ease of Navigation and menu issues:
Many websites are hard to navigate. This means that it may be difficult to move from page to page, or back to the home page. This is such an important aspect for your website visitors and it is a shame that we see so many poorly constructed menu systems.
 Spell checking and grammatical issues:
It is vital that you check the spelling within your website. The correct use of grammar is also important. If your website is full of these type of errors, it gives a poor impression. Your company looks unprofessional. Correct spelling is also important for Google. Google will notice this!
 Flash and java issues:
If your site uses flash or java to enable site navigation, make sure that you use the technology carefully as you may find that some search engines are unable to follow the links and as a result will not list most of your website pages within their search engine listings.
 Website appearance in different browsers:
You may find that your website looks radically different in different versions of the same web browser (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer) and may look completely broken in totally different browsers, such as Firefox or Chrome.
 Computer monitor size and screen resolution (left-right scrolling).
Many websites are not properly designed to look good on a range of different screen sizes. If that was not bad enough people tend to use a wide range of screen resolutions which can drastically affect the way a website is displayed.
Have you ever noticed that some websites have a small icon associated with the website. This is down to a small file called Favicon. It can show up in the title bar and also next to items in a Favorites list. It is a great branding tool.
 Google analytics:
This is a free tool from Google that allows you to analyse visitors to your website and track how they interact with your site. Has your website been enabled to show Google analytics data? If not you are missing out on a vital source of information about your website.
 Heading tags:
Proper use of heading tags within your HTML code can play a vital role in onsite keyword SEO. Many websites we audit are completely devoid of any heading tags.
 Site map:
A site map is incredibly useful for visitors to your website, especially if it is a large website, with a wide range of products or services on the one website. A site map, properly formatted can also be used by a search engine to more efficiently index your site, so that all your website pages are listed within the search engine. It is also important to have properly formatted XML site map files to help the search engines index your entire website.
 Open Directory Project:
Did you know that a submission to the Open Directory Project, is one of the most valuable links you can get in terms of your website’s SEO? They reject most sites and only accept sites that are technically near perfect and contain high quality information, presented through a professionally designed interface that is easy to navigate.
 How many pages of your website are indexed in Google?
Do you know how to see exactly how many pages that make up your website are listed within Google? You would expect Google to know about your home page, but the more pages within your website that Google knows about, the better. The example below shows a site promoted by us, and as you can see Google has listed data for about 10,300 pages within the website.
 W3C validation:
W3C is an organisation that sets website standards. Do you know if your website passes W3C validation? Do you know how to check?
 Home page printability:
Many websites do not print out well. In fact I have seen many websites that invite you to ‘click here to print this page’ and it still does not print correctly, with either lots of blank pages coming out of the printer or the extreme right-hand section of the page not printing.
 File names:
The name of a file can be a valuable clue to Google, as to what the file contains. For instance if you have a picture of a motor car and the picture file is called 0001.JPG this does not tell Google anything. On the other hand if the file was called CARS-FOR-SALE-IN-PERTH.JPG, then this can help considerably with your website SEO. The same principle applies to the naming of all files and folders within your website.
 PDF file size Issues:
If you use PDF files, there are many ways of reducing the size of the final PDF file. The larger the file size the slower the PDF file will load on the screen or download to a hard disk.
 Copyright statements and Privacy Policies:
 Do all the major search engines know about your website?
Remember that apart from Google there are a few other search engines that your website should be listed in, such as Yahoo, Bing and ASK.
 Flash file sizes.
The larger the size of your flash file, the longer it will take to load. Many sites use flash banners that have enormous file sizes. This can be very frustrating for your visitors.
 Google map:
Do you have a Google map included on your Contact Us page? This allows visitors to zoom in and out and also means that they can find you more easily
 Google Places page.
This is a fantastic way of getting your website listed in the local service or products section within the Google results. The majority of websites do not use this feature at all and many of those that do use it, do not take full advantage of the SEO opportunities afforded by the Google Places feature.
 Underlined text:
Within a website underlined text by default indicates a clickable hyperlink. If you underline text in your website that is not a hyperlink, then this is very confusing for website visitors.
 Page Under construction.
This has to be the number one annoyance to website visitors. If your pages are not finished don’t publish them, as a page under construction notice conveys a very amateurish feel.
 Flash or graphical intro pages:
How often have you visited a website to be greeted by a meter that tells you a flash introduction screen is loading, which often seem to take forever to load and once they do load actually display little relevant information. If you are lucky you can click on a ‘skip intro’ button. Do not use intro pages as they just annoy website visitors.
 Text used within links:
The correct use of keyword text within a hyperlink can play a significant part in your on-page keyword SEO strategy. In many cases this SEO opportunity is wasted when the hyperlink contains words such as ‘click here’.
 Online payment system and security issues:
If visitors see some sort of error message when they enter your secure payment area on a website, they will leave in droves, as everyone is worried about getting ripped off on the web, and an error message concerning security is the last thing they want to see when they are getting their credit card out.
 Home page file size:
Do you know the combined file size of your home page? By combined, I mean not just the HTML page itself, but all the associated graphic, CSS and flash files. The longer a page takes to load, the more likely a visitor will click on the Back button and visit a different website.
 Java issues:
If a visitor to your website has disabled Java in their local browser, how will this affect your website? Will the menu systems still work? If you must use Java, at least have an alternate menus system that visitors can use.
 Contact page:
The contact page is vital as it is one way that you can convey trust to the website visitor. If you have only an email contact and no phone number or physical address, you will find that many visitors will leave your site and find another site that does have these details.
 Display your prices:
Many websites do not display prices. Often you are invited to send an email for a quote. This is a quick way of annoying potential customers. In many cases they are searching the web for details of a particular product or service and want to see the price.
 International issues:
If you are interested in international sales, make sure that you provide full international dialing codes, so that customers outside the country can phone you. If you have a toll-free number that only works within your country, make sure that you provide an alternative number that people can ring from outside the country. Beware that spelling can be different in different countries, for example people in the USA, UK and Australia can have different spellings of the same word, and in some cases the same words can have different meanings in different countries.
 Opening links in new windows:
As far as possible, you should avoid opening links in new windows. The exception to this is where the link opens a picture or PDF file, in which case you should consider this, as otherwise closing the picture or PDF window may cause the entire browser to close and you have just lost a visitor to your site!
 Text size:
A lot of websites display text in a font so small that it is hard for many to read. The way a website looks, should always be tested in a range of screen sizes and screen resolutions.
 Use of styles:
You should use styles to impose standard formatting on all the pages within your website. As far as possible, avoid ‘inline’ text formatting.
 Use an external CSS file:
You should use CSS to format your styles in your website, and it makes no sense to embed the CSS information repeatedly at the top of each page within the website. Create an external CSS file and link all web pages to that file. This makes website maintenance much easier.
 ‘404 Error page’ handling:
Make sure your site automatically redirects ‘404 Page Not Found’ errors, to a landing page, such as your site map page.
 Blind alley pages:
You have probably visited a website where you have clicked on a few pages of interest, and then realise that the only way to visit more pages within the website is to click on the Back button to view the menu system again. These are called blind alley pages and annoy visitors. A well designed website should not have any blind alley pages.
Simple advice, Do not use popups. They really annoy visitors and in many cases will now be automatically blocked.
 Background Music:
Do not have music playing automatically in the background when someone visits your website. It is very ’90s’, and annoys visitors, especially if they are viewing your website in a busy office.
 Do not use hidden text to try and trick the search engines:
Everyone knows that having keywords on your web page is important as far as SEO is concerned. A very old trick is to have lists of your keywords repeated over and over at the bottom of the page, formatted to display in white text on a white background. Google hates this type of spamming and is on the lookout for it. Far from improving your website’s position with the Google Search Engines results, you could find that your site gets severely penalized by Google. Do not try spamming Google, they will find out!
 Use standard fonts:
Remember that a computer will only display the fonts installed on that particular computer. If you specify the use of a font within your web page that is not available on the computer used by the person visiting your website, then a different font will be substituted, and the way the text is displayed and formatted may not be at all what you had hoped for. Use a small number of web standard fonts.
Do not use frames within your website. Frames are an old technology and come with a host of issues, none of them good.
 Do not use auto run videos:
Like many others I find it really irritating when you visit a website and a video starts playing automatically. Have videos that visitors can click on to see and hear if they want, but do not run them automatically. Do not try and be clever and hit them with an advert as soon as they visit your site, it is very counter productive.
 Do not use animated GIFs:
The use of animated GIFs is so ’90s’. They look cheap, devalue your website and just annoy your visitors.
 Keep content up to date:
By all means have up to date offers and information on your website, but make sure it stays up to date. I have visited countless websites informing me about a special offer that expired weeks, months or in some cases years ago. If you have very outdated content, your creditability takes an instant hit.
 Beware of seasonal messages:
While it may be temping to offer your website visitors seasonal or holiday greetings, be careful how you do this. I have seen countless instances where when searching for information in Google in the middle of the year, I see offers related to Christmas or the New Year displayed in the Google description of search engine results. There are ways to display a seasonal or holiday message without Google picking up the seasonal message and associating the message with your website in the search engine results.
 Low contrast between the text and background colours:
If the text colour is very similar to the background colour, then the text can be very hard to read.
 Beware of background graphics:
As people viewing your website are using higher and higher screen resolutions make sure that any picture that is used as a background, still looks OK even at the very high resolutions. In many cases the background graphic may start to repeat across the page, which can look very amateurish.