It’s a new year and a new day for your company website. Up until recently, most businesses treated their sites as an exercise in “what’s the most content we can include before the whole thing just explodes?”
Now we are a bit more savvy about web design, having grown out of our teenage experimental phase. We know that our websites are more than ornamental, and have the power to contribute to the growth and success of our businesses.
So, with this newfound insight in mind, here’s a list of all the things we can safely remove from our websites in order to keep things current, and on track.
1. Ego-centric copy
One of the biggest missed opportunities I see on websites is copy, (particularly headlines) that are unspecific and not marketing driven. Great web copy is an art form, and should address the fears and pain points of your users, while explaining the benefits your product or service can offer them.
One common way businesses miss the mark is by using headlines and creating content that simply shout about the greatness of their products and services. Unfortunately, braggadocious statements don’t connect with audiences. They don’t care if you’ve been “Achieving Excellence Since 1952.”
Instead, structure your headlines and supporting copy to address benefits.
2. Email links
Sure, you want to offer an easy way for customers to email you directly from your website, but email links come with a whole bunch of problems.
First of all, when somebody clicks on one, it opens up an email client, which people may or may not use for email. At that point, they must right-click to copy the email address, and then paste it into whichever email client they actually use. Talk about taking the long way around. In addition, these links are regularly crawled by robots, making you a wide-open target for email spam.
You probably already use contact forms on your site, which is the better option. Here are advantages of email forms:
Emails sent using forms are trackable
Emails can be replied to with an autoresponder
You can add specific ‘qualifying’ fields for senders to complete
If you don’t currently use contact forms, you should, for all the aforementioned reasons. If you have email links on your site, just remove them. If you must include a written email address, it should not be linked.
3. YouTube suggested videos
I’m a huge proponent of using online video. It can do so much to build trust with your audience. But when you embed a YouTube video, pay attention to what happens once the video ends. A grid pops up, displaying “suggested videos,” which ironically enough, usually has very little to do with what was just played.
The last impression you want to make is an unprofessional one, and unfortunately, you just can’t control what YouTube will display. Chances are, they may even show a video from one of your competitors. Here’s what you can do to fix it:
From the video player on YouTube, click the “Share” option
Click “Show More”, which will open up more options
Scroll down, and uncheck the “Show suggested videos when the video finishes” option
Grab the new embed code, and you’re all set
PDFs used to be a workaround for uploading new content. If you wanted to add a new list of services, rates, or menus, you could just replace the existing PDF with the updated version without having to touch any code.
Today, practically all websites use some kind of content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, this is simply not necessary. I’ve noticed restaurants are especially guilty of this practice, opting for downloadable PDF menus simply because they have gotten used to them.
A few other problems with PDFs:
They are hard for search engines to read
They can’t be directly edited using your CMS
Visitors can’t easily share them socially
With WordPress, or a similar CMS, anything you have in a PDF can be transferred to html using an HTML and CSS editor like Adobe Dreamweaver or free online tools. This will integrate your content and the end result is easier to edit, read and share.
5. Social media icons in your header.
All businesses with a social media presence want more followers/subscribers. But at what cost? Any time a visitor on your site leaves, odds are they won’t make it back. Even if they do click-through to follow your company, they will probably get distracted once they get there.
A better option is to implement social sharing buttons strategically throughout your site. This can work in any number of ways. People can share your site as a whole, or they can share individual pieces of content, such as blog posts, images, products and landing pages.
This keeps your visitors where you want them, with the added benefit of your content being shared. You can still keep social links, but I would recommend moving them to a less prominent place on the page, such as the footer. And make sure the link is set to open in a new tab.
After all, your social networks should be driving traffic to your site, not the other way around.
I can’t believe I still have to add this to the list, but I still see (or hear) this from time to time… and it, is in my opinion, unforgivable. Adding auto-play audio to a website is typically done more for the website owner than for the audience, usually because they just think it’s a cool touch.
The problem is, unwanted audio will make visitors flee fast. They may be at work, and afraid they will get into trouble, they may already be listening to something else, or it may just be an uninvited interruption.
Any type of audio on your site, whether it be part of a video, or on its own, should only play when the user has initiated it by pushing a play button.
7. Obvious stock photos
Large, striking photos can work wonders on a website. They have even been shown to increase conversions. Unfortunately, bad stock photos can have the opposite effect.
People’s B.S. meters are just too calibrated, and they can spot anything inauthentic a mile away. This lack of reality can actually make people trust your site (and by extension, your business) less.
Instead, invest in high quality and custom photography. There are a variety of price points. And if all else fails, iPhones take decent photos these days. “If an iPhone is good enough for Bentley, it’s . . . good enough for you. This entire promotional video, in all of its cinematic brilliance, was shot using. . . yup. . . an iPhone. Better yet, it was edited on an iPad (Car Crushing).”
Your website should be the biggest marketing tool you have. It can be used to drive traffic, get qualified leads, and increase sales. In order to keep it running at top performance, a little light housekeeping is sometimes required. By removing these outdated elements from you site, you will build more credibility with your audience, while seeing a healthy increase in conversions.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Wes McDowell, Founder of The Deep End Web Design in Chicago, is a web design and Internet marketing specialist. Wes works with businesses to help them achieve their goals using the power of the Internet. In addition, Wes enjoys keeping current on user experience, and social media, and loves sharing his knowledge through blogging and his podcast. Connect with @wesmcdowell on Twitter.
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