Whether it’s building new sites, auditing old ones or researching competitors, I spend a lot of time critically reviewing websites, and I’m here to report - I have some pet peeves! Now if you’re someone who built your website yourself, then I’m not faulting you. These things aren't necessarily obvious unless you're in this industry, which is why I’m sharing them. But I’ve also seen sites created by agencies that are missing these items as well - so let’s get into it.
- SSL Certificate
- Mobile Responsive
- Site Speed & Performance
- Title Tags & Meta Description
- Google My Business Listing
- Google Analytics
Why You Need a Favicon.
Before we dive in, let’s answer “what is a favicon?”. A favicon is a small icon that appears in the tab of your browser as well as some search bar results, and bookmarks. So now that you know what a favicon is, let’s get to why it's important?
It helps the user identify your site. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have less than 5 tabs open at a time. Favicons are a quick and easy way for a user to navigate back to your site if they’ve navigated to another tab.
It gives the site legitimacy. For me, a favicon is like a jacket, belt, or jewellery. Sure, you can have an outfit without one, but it just doesn’t seem quite complete. A website is the same. The little touches give it a sense of completion and professionalism. And given that 3 out of 4 people judge a company’s credibility based on the design, it’s important to get those details right.
It reinforces your brand. A favicon is another opportunity to display your brand (or a simplified version of it). If a user bookmarks your site, then your brand will be displayed each time they look at the bookmarks bar or list.
Why You Need A SSL Certificate.
Have you ever noticed the little lock symbol beside a URL? More importantly, have you noticed that some sites say “not secure”? What does this mean? In short, a secure site has a SSL certificate which stands for “secure sockets layer”. It means that the connection between web browser and web server is encrypted which makes sure that any sensitive information like emails, usernames, passwords and credit card numbers remain secure. Another way to differentiate which sites and do not have SSL certification is to look at the URL. Https sites are secure, while http sites are not. So, why is this important?
Browsers like Chrome will issue warnings on sites that do not have a SSL certificate. Sometimes they’re subtle like a “not secure” indication in the URL bar, but sometimes they’re warning pages that may deter people from getting to your site at all.
SSL certification is a ranking factor. Google has indicated that their algorithms will favor https pages (or pages with a SSL certificate). Non-secure sites will be given less weight, even when the content is high quality.
You need to account for your existing http pages as well. More likely than not, your existing pages are http. So you not only have to obtain a SSL certificate, but you also have to remember to make sure that all your http pages redirect to https. This ensures that users get to the secure version of the site.
Why Your Site Needs to Be Mobile Responsive.
Have you noticed that some sites are easier to use on mobile than others? Mobile-friendly sites are sites that will work functionally on mobile - the font is a decent size and the text fits the width of the page without having to scroll, but it’s really the bare minimum. A mobile-optimized or a responsive site is one that is built with the mobile user in mind and will reformat itself based on the device. It doesn’t merely just shrink images and fits text into the page but restructures the format of the site to the most optimized layout for mobile. So why is this important?
More than half of people use mobile to browse the internet. This means that more than half your users are having a less than optimal experience on your site. This isn’t just annoying, this is a reflection on your company and brand. If your consumers are frustrated, then they are more likely to associate those emotions with your company in general. This is even more important for ecommerce sites where a poor experience may result in loss of sales.
It impacts your search ranking. In 2015, Google started rewarding websites that were mobile friendly with higher rankings, making the mobile experience all that more important. But starting last year, Google announced that they would be using mobile-first indexing meaning that Google is looking at your mobile site for its ranking cues before it ever looks at your desktop version.
It’s about more than just mobile. The name is a bit misleading, but website responsiveness is about more than just mobile. It’s also concerned about screens of different sites - from iPads to 13 inch monitors to split screen. Not all mobile devices are the same size, and not everyone likes to have their browser windows at the same size. This means that you have to consider a variety of widths and heights for your site.
[portfolio on desktop vs mobile]
Why You Should Care About Site Speed and Performance.
You’ve all experienced the frustration that comes with a slow loading site, right? As technology advances, users also expect faster and faster load times on sites. How does this impact you?
User experience matters. Half of users will abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. That means that half the people that reach your site may not ever actually see your site as they wait for it to load.
Site Speed is a ranking factor. Because users care about site speed, Google does as well. Google recognized that users tended to abandon sites that performed poorly, and as a result they started to factor in website performance on desktop in 2010 and for mobile in 2018.
Speed can decrease over time. Don’t just assume that your site performs well because it worked great when you built it. Over time your site can get bogged down with old code, unformatted images, and unused plugins. So your efforts to stay current and push out new content may all be for not if people are too frustrated waiting for your site to load to see it.
Why You Need to Have a Title Tag and Meta Description.
The title of your website appears in the tab, as well as the results page on a search engine. A meta description appears under the results page on a search engine and acts like a snippet preview into your site. We see people miss this step all the time. So why is it so important?
It tells users what your site is about. Your title and meta description are literally a preview to your website. If a user is scrolling through results and can’t quickly tell if your site matches what they’re looking for, they’re much less likely to to click on it. It’s kind of like setting up a store, but not bothering to put out any signage or a front window display. Sure, people might come in and see if you have what they need, but they’re just as likely to keep looking.
It’s an opportunity to use keywords. Your meta description specifically is a great opportunity to add content to your site and focus on some keywords (though we recommend only picking a few). Additionally? Google rewards this by bolding keywords in the meta description to signal to users that this site matches the term(s) they are looking for.
Why You Need to Use Alt-Tags
An alt-text or alternative text is a short description put into the HTML code of your site to describe a non-text element (most often an image). If, for whatever reason, you have a broken image or an image is unable to load, then the alt-text will appear instead. So why is this important?
Robots’ can’t understand images. Search engines use robots to crawl and inspect websites in order to determine what content they contain so that they can then rank them appropriately. But robots cannot understand images, instead they rely on the alt-text to tell them about the image.
It shows up if there’s an issue with the image. If an image is unable to load, alt-text tells the user what should have been there, which can provide them with some additional information.
Why You Need a Google My Business Profile.
Have you ever seen the little map that pops up on Google that lists local businesses when you search for something? Those are Google My Business profiles. Why do you need one?
People search locally. People are more likely to look for businesses that are close to them and not being on that map means that you may not come up in someone’s search result.
It impacts your ratings. Google knows that people tend to look for businesses close to them and use the address on your GMB profile to rank the businesses that are close to the searcher higher than those further away or that do not have an address.
You don’t have to publish your address. This is probably the number one reason people with home or service-based businesses give me as to why they don’t want a GMB profile. Except, you don’t have to publish your address. Google now allows you to publish a service area instead. You likely won’t rank as well as a business with an exact address, but surely it’s better than not being on the map (literally!) at all.
Why You Need Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are tools that you can use to better understand how your site is performing. It provides information like how many users are coming to the site, what pages they’re looking at, how long they’re looking at specific pages, how your site performance is doing, if there are things that are negatively affecting your search rankings etc. So why is this important?
You cannot make data-driven decisions without data. Clients ask us all the time - what can we do to get more views, more sales, more conversions? We cannot answer those questions with any real confidence without data to support it. It also limits our ability to understand why a certain change worked - or if it worked at all. Did updating the location of your call to action really lead to a lower bounce rate? Or is the uptick that we’re seeing seasonal and would have happened anyway? Having data to support decisions going forward and verify that past decisions were good ones is invaluable.
Analytics take time to accumulate. Realistically, you need at least 30-90 days to accumulate real, meaningful data. Why so long? Because patterns, fluctuations and anomalies are really hard to decipher without a bigger context to place them within. That’s why we will install analytics on your the old website when we rebuild sites for clients and suggest a longer runway for the website build - so that we can make informed decisions.
Google Search Console will give you warnings. Google changes its algorithms and requirements all the time. GSC will send you updates and warnings about these changes so that you can stay ahead and make sure that your website continues to rank well.
Privacy policies are often overlooked, especially by small businesses who don’t really feel like they need one. But if you are collecting any information on your site, then you need to have one. Why?
You are more likely than not collecting data. More likely than not you’re collecting some form of data. Whether it’s a contact form customers are filling out, a newsletter signup, or just having analytics on your site, you are now responsible for communicating to your users how you’re using and protecting that data. The degree of what you need to disclose will vary based on local law.
It’s the law. Speaking of local laws, all governments will have some sort of standard when it comes to protecting your users’ privacy. In Canada, this is governed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The US has both federal and state laws, with California having the most stringent requirements.
How are you feeling about your site right now? Hopefully you’re feeling pretty good and you have most things on this list. But if you don’t and want help to update your site or would like a personalized review of your site, feel free to reach out to us!