It’s kind of like your dad just giving up on any sense of self-respect or sense of style.
You see him walking out the door to run errands with your mom and he’s wearing black socks with his flip flops, a Hawaiian shirt, and a fedora.
When you end up with stuff on your site that’s outdated that was probably not a good idea in the first place (think fedora and Hawaiian shirt) that’s how your site comes across – like you lost your self-respect and any sense of style you had is out the door.
You see, there are some things on your site that will stand the test of time. There are others that won’t.
If your website has been around for a while then you probably have some of these things on your website, so let’s get honest with each other and talk about what they are so we can see about getting these things fixed.
1. Scrap “follow us” social media icons in the header
Top-level social connection icons are bounce-inducing invitations for traffic to leave the site and go to a platform where they are easily distracted with the latest cat video.
Putting social media icons is like building an exit ramp to an interstate highway and enticing them to leave for the flashy fast food joint on the side of the road when what you really wanted them to do was keep going down the interstate to see you.
A couple readers were confused by this, so for the sake of clarity, let me explain.
The icons I’m talking about are the ones you see at the top of web pages in the header that website owners are using to link to their social profiles on Facebook and Twitter, among others.
These are a completely different tool than the icons you use for encouraging visitors to share your stuff on social media.
Using social media icons to encourage visitors to share your content make sense to place them in a relatively close location to your content.
In fact, there are social sharing icons right over there to the left. <<<
That makes sense, right?
So if you’re going to use these types of icons put them in the footer or on your contact page.
2. Delete embedded social media feeds
One of the greatest benefits of having your website is having a space online where you can control everything.
The point of social media is to drive traffic to your website using your social media channels. You don’t need to repeat what you’re saying on social media on your website.
Does anyone really care about what you have on your Twitter feed embedded on your website? Yea, probably not. If they did they’d be looking for you on Twitter.
This was a cool idea a few years back but it’s long since lost its appeal.
Instead, use social sharing widgets that encourage users to share your content to these social channels.
3. Stay clear of bad stock images
Cheesy stock photos are just that — cheesy. Everyone has access to stock image libraries these days and there are a lot of really bad stock photos in use.
Instead of using a stuffy, corny, cheesy wannabe-corporate stock image, find something that’s high-quality. That means no shaking hands, corny smiles, or contrived/forced images that tell your visitors, “I have no taste and this is the best I could do because I didn’t put much effort into this.”
If you don’t know how to pick good images then get some help from a friend who’s got some artistic talent and run your ideas by them.
Getting your high-quality images for use on your website can take a little more time and effort, but it’s worth it.
4. Get rid of email links
Unless you enjoy getting spam in your inbox, that is. Mailto links have been a bad idea since spammers figured out how to harvest email addresses.
In addition, they cause your website visitor to open an email program like Microsoft Outlook or Apple’s Mail and open a new email message.
It’s really an intrusive user experience and a bad practice for your own sanity.
Instead, use a web form on your website that allows users to send their message directly through your website.
5. Stop using PDF documents as content
It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. You Google that term you’re trying to find info for, and you click on a link that looks like it’s a perfect match and you end up landing on a PDF file.
How did you feel when you got the PDF doc instead of a page? Didn’t really like it, did you?
Not really a great user experience.
It’s common on sites that aren’t using a content management system and there are several problems with PDFs as content.
They’re not easily manageable. Whenever you need to make a change you have to replace the entire document.
Unless it’s an actual guide or some kind of actual document, your site’s pages and content really need to be created the right way, as HTML pages.
So if you’re using PDFs as content I recommend finding a more content-manageable way of handling this content.
Restaurants – I’m looking at you.
6. Get rid of tag clouds
As with many things on this list, tag clouds served a purpose in the past. But that really isn’t the case any longer, and they’re a visual indicator of a dated website that may not be receiving the love and attention it should.
Tags were super popular on blogs, especially.
Visually, tag clouds are a bit of an eye-sore. Organizationally, they’re even worse.
And although the idea of tagging content isn’t a bad one, there are better ways to do it, like using a good category structure.
7. Stop using auto-play music
Having music auto-play on your website was an interesting experiment 20 years ago. But that’s where it should have stayed.
Not only is it another instance of cheesy media being used, but you as a website owner are also making a big assumption that visitors will enjoy your particular selection of music.
You could potentially embarrass your visitors too. Say you’ve got a visitor who’s in a library and isn’t using headphones. Your site loads and their laptop starts blaring your favorite tune for everyone to hear.
That’s a bad look – that’s not what you do.
I’ve had clients who were determined to have music and we had to have frank conversations about why this is a bad idea because it’s yet another unnecessary feature that’s intrusive for the user’s experience.
If you absolutely must have music on your site give your user the control as to whether or not they want to hear it, and whatever you do, do not set it to play automatically by default.
8. Delete empty social sharing counters
Showing a lot of social shares seems to be a bit of chest-thumping “look-how-awesome-I-am” bravado. We get it – it’s nice to have a bunch of people respond and share your content. As someone who produces content myself, I appreciate each and every share I get.
But what if that post I created doesn’t do well and it doesn’t get a lot of shares? Then it seems like I’m telling the world, “hey, this piece sucks and you can tell because no one is sharing it!”
It can also serve to damage your credibility in the eyes of your audience. If they look at your content and see how many times your content has been shared, and that number is equal to zero, how much are they going to trust your content?
It may not be fair, but it can be generally true that visitors may dismiss your stuff, even if it’s great, if they see zero shares on your social sharing counters.
Instead, just remove the counters altogether.
9. Toss your sliders in the trash
Or, for that matter, sliders pretty much anywhere.
Sliders are incredibly ineffective. First of all, research has shown that very few visitors actually use the slider the way you intend. But when they do, it’s almost always the first slide they click on.
They dilute your marketing message. So instead of having a clear call to action, you’ve got a rotating billboard of different calls to action and make a big mess while you should be focusing in on what your primary call to action actually is.
They’re bad for SEO on a few different levels, not the least of which is because they slow down how fast your page loads because you’re loading additional images.
Even if your slider is super fast, you’re still loading those additional assets, and that takes time.
Couple that with your mixed marketing message that’s killing conversion opportunities and isn’t focused like it should be, and you start to get a clear picture of why they’re a bad idea.
Instead, focus on one clear, jargon-free title, one clear intro message, and one call to action for your header section and forget about the sliders.
10. Get rid of unclear headlines
This one is closely related to the previous point about sliders.
You have to remember that the first question a visitor is asking when they land on your website is “what’s in it for me? Am I in the right place?”
You should have a clear picture about who your ideal website visitor is, and by knowing that you should also know what language they speak and what questions they have.
If you’re not speaking their language in a way that’s clear, that everyone can understand they’re going to bounce.
If your headline is filled with jargon, or is otherwise unclear, the likelihood of them sticking around is slim.
Instead, focus on getting super clear about how you deliver value so everyone who lands on your page – whether it’s your homepage or a different page – can tell what it is that you do and how you help them solve their problem, fast.
11. Don’t use years in the date on your blog post posts
When you show too much detail in the date on your post you can very easily be telling your visitors that can your content is dated and they need to leave right away.
If you’re regularly producing content then it’s enough to use just the month and day. That way users can see that you’re keeping things moving and posting regularly.
If you do not produce regularly, then you can remove the date altogether, because there is no need to have it.
There are some authors who post sporadically and may produce 5 posts one month, then only one post the following month, and then maybe nothing the month following.
To each their own – you have to do what works for you in terms of your content producing schedule.
12. Toss out long paragraphs
Your college English composition professor may love your carefully crafted, long, elaborate paragraphs.
But your website visitors do not.
On the web people tend to scan content instead of read carefully, and a great way to catch their attention and keep them moving through your content is by using shorter paragraphs with shorter sentences.
I have to admit, this has been a struggle for me in the past. I have to check myself, and make sure I’m not rambling.
But I’ve found – as many others on the web have found too – that shorter sentences tend to keep visitors involved more.
If you’ve got long-form content there is a time and place for that. Like if you have product documentation on your site. But even then, you should be striving to shorten paragraphs so that they’re more scannable.
13. Leave press releases to the press outlets
This one can be touchy, but unless you’ve got a press kit section on your website you need to stop posting your press releases to your site.
Just posting your press release as you would post it to any of the newswire services is a bit lazy. It just feels weird.
That is, of course, unless you’re a news agency or something like that. Then it may make more sense. But are you really a news agency? Really?
Instead of just adding them to your site as they are, what if you crafted the press release into a nice piece of content? How much time would it take to repurpose that release as an article?
When you take the small amount of extra time you lose all the jargony sounding press release language and make the piece applicable for your audience in a way they’re inclined to understand more clearly.
Press releases may look and feel official and authoritative, and they are, but only in the right context.
14. Get rid of old, dead links
Do you know if the links you’ve created in your website content are still good? Are you sure none of those external links haven’t moved?
If you don’t know, then you need to make getting a link report as part of your regular website maintenance and support plan because broken links make your site feel old, and leave your visitors with the impression that you’re not keeping up with things.
This goes for both links within your website as well as links to external sources.
Sometimes, you may get an email from an ambitious SEO expert who wants you to link to their content in place of the old link. It’s a common practice for SEOs to seek out broken links if it fits what they’re trying to optimize for.
Of course, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to link to their resource. But you shouldn’t rely on someone else to find those links in your website. it should be part of your regular website maintenance plan.
15. Remove the suggested videos at the end of your YouTube videos
You can’t control what YouTube shows the visitor when they’re done watching your video.
It could take them to a cat video. Maybe it suggests a dance video. Or even worse, it can suggest your competitor’s video.
That would be bad.
You can disable this function when you’re getting your embed code from YouTube.
There are also other platforms available to you as well, like Vimeo, or Wistia. Even Facebook has a video option now.
16. Trash the testimonials page and do this instead
No, I’m not saying get rid of your testimonials altogether.
Everyone knows that testimonials are right up there with word-of-mouth recommendations in terms of value when it comes to validation for your website and business.
What I am saying is if your website has a page devoted to solely to testimonials you might want to re-think that.
I’ve seen sites where they have an entire page dedicated to the rave reviews of their customers and fans, and while it’s great that they have all that validation for their business, having it on its own page just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
For testimonials to have the most impact they need to be displayed in context.
Instead, use your testimonials throughout your site – everywhere that it makes sense.
17. Get rid of opt-in forms with too many fields
I get it. You want to collect all that info before you send out that lead magnet so you can qualify whether or not that visitor is a legitimate lead or not.
After all, it’s important information to know – what their phone number and address are, what their address is, what their job title is, et al.
However, unless you just like avoiding people submitting that form, you need to trim it down – way down.
The number of fields on a web form can drastically affect your conversion rate on that form.
For simple opt-ins, you don’t need all that information. A name field and an email field are sufficient, and even the name field can be optional.
There are times when more fields are appropriate – like if they’re submitting a questionnaire. There is a time and place for more in-depth forms, and the quality of leads those kinds of forms can produce.
But generally speaking, when it comes to simple lead magnet delivery, and capturing emails and filling your funnel with prospects, less is more.
18. Get descriptive with your call-to-action buttons
How many thousands (and thousands) of websites have you seen where the call-to-action is a simple “submit” button?
I can’t even begin to imagine the millions of websites that leave this basic default text in place.
Because it’s really meaningless, and quite frankly, is lazy.
I’m not throwing stones though – I’ve done it too.
The big point here is that you’re missing out on an opportunity to encourage the visitors on your site with a glimpse of the benefit they’re going to get by actually clicking that button.
It’s a cue to encourage them to click. Tell them what they’re going to get when they click on that button.
Online marketers have known this forever, and it’s something that I believe can benefit every website.
19. End of the road thank you pages
Several years ago I was listening to a podcast with Pat Flynn and he talked about what to do after someone opts in to your form and that has stuck with me ever since.
When a website visitor has clicked through on your opt-in (or other) form, they’ve just demonstrated their willingness to hear from you and connect with you, so why would you just stop at that point, as if that was the end of the road, and that they should now leave?
Doesn’t make sense does it?
You’ve just piqued a visitor’s interest enough to where they have engaged so now it’s time to keep them engaged and keep them moving through your site and ways they can connect with you.
Your thank-you sequence can be a gold-mine for connecting with your visitors.
Russel Brunson and ClickFunnels have created an entire business out of this concept of flowing through a funnel and giving visitors opportunities to perform different actions.
In a conversation regarding conversions with my friend John Dennis a few years back he pointed out that visitors at this stage are in a state of hyper-engagement, and are far more likely to click through to follow you on social media, more likely to read an offer, and more engaged overall, so keep feeding them what they want.
Did I miss anything? Anything you would like to add to the list?
The thing is, many of these issues are present on older websites that haven’t been updated in a long time.
If you’re looking to start a new web design project then you really need to go into it having an idea of what’s involved.
I’ve got seven primary strategies and steps I use to build out new website projects, from big sites with custom post types, custom fields and fully bespoke custom themes, to small sites and personal blogs.
If you’d like to learn the strategies and steps I use to build a new WordPress site then you will definitely want to download the Ultimate WordPress Start-Up Guide here.
In this guide, I show you the behind-the-scenes things I use every day as a web developer so you can see all the things you need to start a new website project with WordPress right at your fingertips.