Pelland Blog

Ten Common Website Mistakes to Avoid

July 29th, 2019

The biggest mistake that many small business owners might make would be to build and maintain their own website. Sure, companies like GoDaddy, Wix, Weebly, and Vistaprint make it look like an easy task that anybody can handle, but do you simply want a website or do you want a website that can effectively compete online? Playing part-time webmaster when your business is at stake is clearly an example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

The next temptation is to hire one of the thousands of amateurs who hang out a “webmaster” shingle simply because they can navigate their way around the basic use of a CMS website building platform. That might be the computer repair shop in town that is trying to keep itself busy or even a family member or that “nice kid who knows a lot about computers” down the road. Inevitably, these people know very little about how to generate effective online buying decisions, and they absolutely understand zero about your particular business and its competitive environment.

Whether you insist on building your own site, or whether you simply want to keep an eye on your webmaster, there are a few common mistakes that you will want to avoid. Usually these mistakes are errors of omission, but they can also be reflections of careless work habits.

  1. Ignoring Mobile Devices: Checking the Google Analytics of two client websites in recent days, I was astounded to see that over two-thirds of traffic was now coming from users of smartphones, with conventional desktop and laptop computers coming in third to tablets. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you are turning away a tremendous portion of your market. Do not be deceived by the fact that almost any website may be viewed on a smartphone. There is a big difference between being able to view a site and actually engaging in a non-frustrating experience. Has your site abandoned the use of Flash (a popular way to present dynamic website content until support was dropped by iOS and Android devices), is content scaling down to the size of the display, does the navigation work with pudgy fingers, and can users tap a phone number displayed on your site to initiate a phone call?
  2. Google Analytics: Yes, that comes next on the list. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to have a website without the advantage of running Google Analytics. It is a free tool, it is easy to install, and it provides a wealth of extremely valuable information regarding the visitors to your site, traffic sources, and much more.
  3. Using Templates and Ignoring META Content: I am amazed at how many website titles display as “Just another WordPress site” because the webmaster did not take the minimal time and effort (or perhaps did not have the knowledge) to substitute an appropriate keyword-based title for the default template setting. A site’s title tag is critically important in organic search, and nobody is ever going to search for the term “just another WordPress site campground”, so it should be clear that having that as your site’s title will put your park at a severe disadvantage. Without naming names, I just found campgrounds suffering from exactly this failure located in Wisconsin Dells, WI; Marcellus, MI; Crossville, TN; Antonito, CO; Fletcher, NC; and Calvert City, KY.
  4. ADA Compliance: Many of the factors that determine whether or not a website is ADA compliant involve the same META content that search engine robots love. These include image ‘alt’ tags and a site’s language tag. Other factors are part of a site’s mobile-friendliness, including scalable text. Your site should also maintain a proper contrast ratio between text and background colors, the site should be navigable by keyboard, and videos should be captioned. Very importantly, let people know about any accessible accommodations and facilities at your park.
  5. Orphans: I am not talking about Mickey Rooney and Boys Town. I am talking about pages on a website that fail to link back to the other pages of the site. Sort of like a dead end in a corn maze or a hall of mirrors, orphan pages are very frustrating to site visitors.
  6. Broken Links: Formula 409 is a well-known cleaning and degreasing product that has been around since the 1950’s, but 404 error messages on a website are about as popular as a “door-buster” item at Walmart that is out of stock the moment the store opens and the sale begins. People see these frustrating messages when they click on a broken link, typically because a page has been deleted without updating its incoming links.
  7. Unencrypted E-Mail Links: You would not display your credit card number on a poster in Times Square, and you would certainly not hand out keys to your home or automobile to total strangers, so why would you display an unencrypted e-mail address on your website? Without encryption, the message to e-mail address harvesting spam robots is “Here I am. Come get me!”
  8. Broken Graphics: One of the telltale signs of a beginning webmaster is broken graphics. If graphics are linked to files on a local computer, they will appear normally, but only on that computer. Anybody accessing the page from any other device anywhere in the world will see a broken graphic link.
  9. Slow Loading Images: Have you ever visited a website, only to watch images slowly loading, as if they were being slowly painted onto your screen? Almost inevitably, it is because the person maintaining the site has used enormous photos on the pages then has those images being scaled down to size by the browsers of end users. The enormous files are being needlessly downloaded, then resized, when properly sized and optimized images would have loaded immediately.
  10. Out of Date Content: You would not buy a gallon of milk that was past its expiration date, would you? Well, why would you expect people to “buy” what you are selling on your website if its content looks like it is way past its “best used by” date? Specifically, rates and schedules should show the current year. Particularly when it involves pricing, nobody wants to make a buying decision when there is pricing uncertainty.

These are only 10 common mistakes that webmasters frequently make. The overall best advice is to avoid working with that webmaster in your mirror (or that clever kid down the road) and to choose one of several professional companies that understand the campground industry and with reputations you can trust. You have better things to do than look for mistakes on your website … or to deal with the consequences of those mistakes.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Optimize Your Keywords Tags

April 6th, 2008

Every webmaster know that a properly entered keywords list in the META tags of a web page, particularly the Home page of a site, is a critical step in the SEO process. What not everybody knows is how to present the information within the tag, as well as how to insure that it is as complete as possible. The following are a few tips.

List your keywords in order of importance, all on a single line, separated by commas and including appropriate words and phrases from the following categories:

  • Industry-specific: Your product or service and major terms which describe or relate to that product or service. For a family campground, examples might include campground, camping, RV park, RV resort, camping resort, family campground, family camping, tenting, travel trailer, motorhome, fifth wheel, pop-up camper.
  • Geographical: Examples should include your city or town, nearby cities and towns, your county, your region, your state. For a campground, you might add topography to the list, with pertinent terms such as mountain, farm, lakefront, rural.
  • Nearby Destinations: If you have a business which attracts a drive-up clientele and you are down the road from one or more major attractions, ride on their coattails. The list should include all major attractions within a reasonable driving distance of your business.
  • Your Amenities: This should include all features and amenities which your business offers which may be decision-making factors. Examples for an online store or service business might include free installation, lifetime warranty, all natural, free shipping. Examples for a campground might include swimming pool, cabins, cabin rentals, pull-thru sites, 50-amp, miniature golf, mini golf, entertainment, horseshoes, bocce, bocci, bingo, etc.

In compiling your keywords listing, be sure to include alternate spellings (such as bocce and bocci) and common misspellings … even misspellings of your own business name. I often comment that consumers do not need to pass a spelling test in order to spend their money on your product or service. The bottom line is to make it easy for them to find you, whether or not they already know who you are, in an online search.

As I have already mentioned, it is important to list your keywords sequentially, with the most important terms coming first in the list. There is no limit to the total number of terms listed, but you should be careful to keep them pertinent to the content of your page, in order to avoid diluting the impact of your most important terms. It is also important that you do not engage in the practice (or even appear to be engaging in the practice) of keyword spamming. Use each word only once, do not use singular and plural variations of the same term (if the pluralization simply adds the letter “s”), and do not use the same word repeatedly as part of more than three keyword phrases (keywords made up of more than a single word).

Whatever terms are important enough to be included in your keywords list should also be incorporated, inasmuch as is practical, in your first paragraph of text on a page, any headline tags, ALT tags, the page description tag, and embedded links. I will write more on these subjects in upcoming posts.

One way of checking to be sure that you have not missed any important terms is to perform a quick search for the phrases that best describe your type of business to see which sites appear at the top of the organic search results on Google. You may also want to refer directly to the websites of your major competitors. Check the source code on each of those sites to see if there are any terms which are also appropriate to your website which you may have otherwise overlooked.

Finally, if your site is running Google Analytics, or any similar analytical software, keep a close monitor of the search terms that your current site visitors are using to find your site online. Be sure to include those same terms in your page’s keywords list. By doing so, you will help to maintain (or possibly improve) your site’s organic search engine ranking for those terms that are already proving effective at sending traffic to your site.

This post was written by Peter Pelland