Top 12 Most Common Website Problems Today
The website that you build is the foundation on which all of your online marketing efforts will depend. It’s why monitoring and maintaining its performance is so important. Poor performance in any area can hurt your ability to convert visitors as well as your ability to collect reliable data, which is needed to adjust and improve future marketing efforts, not to mention business strategies in general. Keeping all of that in mind, we offer these 12 common problems that can negatively affect your website’s performance that you should be sure to monitor.
1. Messy Code
A lot of coding is involved in the building of a website, especially as you add more functions and features to your site. If your code is unorganized and messy, it can result in a variety of issues. Not only can it affect how your website is supposed to function, but it can affect the ability of search engines to properly index your site’s content, thereby hurting your search rankings. Some common website coding problems include:
Incorrect Robot.txt Files
Search engines like Google use bots to crawl through the content on any given site and to index it for search ranking purposes. Robot.txt files, also known as the robots exclusion protocol, lets web crawlers and other web bots know if there are certain areas of your site that you do not want to be processed or scanned. Web crawlers will check for robot.txt files before they begin crawling through the site. If you use robot.txt files incorrectly, the web crawlers may not read them correctly, resulting in the entirety of your site being crawled and indexed. Here are a few tips for using correct robot.txt files:
Robot.txt files must be placed in the top-level directory of your site in order to be found
Robot.txt files must be named in all lower case, such as “robots.txt”
Every subdomain must have their own robots.txt files
Indicate the location of any sitemaps associated with your domain at the bottom of your robots.txt files
Do not use robot.txt files to hide private user information as robot.txt files are publically available
Lack Of A Sitemap File
A sitemap is a file that provides web crawlers with information about all of the pages, videos, and other files found on your website. Creating a sitemap provides search engines with a road map to your website that helps ensure that they index everything you want them to. Sitemaps can also provide information on what kind of content can be found on each page (such as images or videos), when your pages were last updated, how often your pages change, and if you have any alternate language versions of your pages.
Without a sitemap, web crawlers may miss some of your pages. This can happen if you have content pages that are isolated or not properly linked to one another. Newer sites may have fewer external links as well, which can make pages more difficult to discover. Basically, a sitemap will help ensure that the search engines get the information they need about your website in order to properly index it and rank it.
Extreme Use Of Subfolders in URL Strings
A visitor that explores deep into your website may end up on a page with a URL that has way too many subfolders. This means that the URL is particularly long and has numerous slashes throughout. In many cases, it’s unnecessarily complicated and you should simplify the URL string. While a long URL string full of subfolders won’t necessarily hurt the performance of your site (nor will it hurt your page’s ranking according to Google), it will end up making it more challenging to edit your URL strings. It can also make it more inconvenient for users who want to copy and paste your URL to share with others.
Multiple 404 Errors and Redirects
404 errors are caused by broken links. A broken link means that the user cannot visit the page you are linking to, whether it’s an external link or an internal link, making their website experience difficult. 404 redirects are pages that load letting the users know that the page is unavailable. There are many reasons the page may be unavailable -- it may not exist anymore, it may have been updated, or the user may need to refine their search. It’s important to set up 404 redirects to let users know they are on the right page but that something was wrong with the link.
While 404 redirects are generally a good thing, if you have too many it can affect not just the user experience, but also your search rankings. Fortunately, you can monitor 404 errors using Google Analytics. This means that you can pinpoint 404 errors early on and fix them before they cause more issues for your users.
No HTTPS Found
When building a website, always use HTTPS protocol and not HTTP. This is especially true if you’re requesting personal information from visitors, such as email addresses or credit card numbers. HTTPS is much more secure and helps to encrypt any data that is transmitted from a user to your website, ensuring that if the data is somehow hacked and stolen, it cannot be used.
Secondly, when creating your URL, decide between using “www” and not using “www.” Most people can identify a website address by the “.com” and often don’t even type in “www” into the address bar anymore. However, using a “www” prefix remains technically accurate and helps distinguish your address from similar URLs for protocols such as FTP or mail.
Additionally, if your top-level domain is a bit less recognizable or ambiguous, then adding “www” helps remove doubt that the URL is a web address. If you don’t use “www” then you will need to set your root domain DNS A-record to point to the IP address of your web server. This can end up being a bit too rigid if you encounter issues with performance or availability. On top of that, cookies set for domains not using “www” will be shared throughout all of your sub-domains whether the application uses the data or not. It’s also worth noting that “www” prefixes are needed for certain applications, such as word processors and email clients that transform text to links.
In general, choose a web server configuration setting that allows visitors to make a browser request using your domain with either “www” or without it.
2. Presence Of Broken Links
Broken links are links on your site that don’t work, whether they are links directing visitors to a page off of your website or that exists on your website. When you click on a broken link, you’ll be taken to a 404 page, which displays a message indicating that the page could not be found. There are several issues with having broken links. Visitors will be frustrated if they click on a link and it doesn’t take them to where they’re expecting to go. This reflects poorly on your site and on your brand. If you can’t maintain your website, how can visitors be expected to trust in the quality of your brand?
Broken links also indicate to Google and other search engines that you’re not keeping your website up to date. This can hurt your search engine rankings. When your rankings decline, so will your website’s exposure, resulting in fewer visitors.
Canonicalization is the method of identifying a specific URL as your preferred URL. The reason this is necessary is because there may be several slightly different URLs that take visitors to the same page. For example “domain.com” and “www.domain.com” or “https://domain.com?ref=twitter” All of these URLs may direct visitors to the same page, but because the URLs are different, web crawlers could be confused as to which one to index. By adding the rel=”canonical” attribute to the <head> element of your page, it identifies that URL as the one to index page content under. Canonicalization can also help consolidate link signals for duplicate pages.
Non-Specific Page Titles
Meta information, such as page titles and descriptions, are very important for SERP (search engine results pages). When your page shows up on SERP, the title and description provides the user with information about your page. Without a title or description, they will be less likely to click on the link. You will need to make sure your meta titles and descriptions accurately reflect the content on the page that the link directs users to. Make sure that every page has a unique title as well. Many websites make the mistake of using the same titles for numerous pages. Doing this will cause you to miss out on potential web traffic.
3. Poor Or Outdated Website Design
The overall design of a website needs to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Visitors will judge how your website looks, after all. However, website design trends change relatively often. This means that if it’s been a few years since you’ve updated your site, it’s likely now outdated. The more outdated it looks, the more unprofessional your brand will appear to be. You need to update your site regularly to adhere to modern website design principles. The following are some of the common issues shared by poor or outdated website designs:
Improper Use Of Subdomain and Sub-Folders
A subdomain is a way to organize your existing website into separate sections. For example, if you have a blog on your site, the subdomain might look like “blog.domain.com.” You might want to consider using subdomains if you need separate servers or different software to run different parts of your website. If you don’t need this, you’re better off using sub-folders. A sub-folder for a blog might look like “www.domain.com/blog.” Using sub-folders is generally the preferred method for these reasons:
Sub-folders allow your site to get crawled more often, which is helpful if you’re regularly adding new content.
It’s easier for visitors to go between sections while on your site if you use sub-folders, such as from your product pages to your blog.
It’s easier to use analytics tools to track website metrics since the data will be consolidated for your entire website.
Images That Lack Quality
Low resolution images are unacceptable. If your images are pixelated, it will reflect poorly on the quality of your brand. Only use high-quality images that are relevant to the content on the page you’re posting them on. Keep in mind that quality doesn’t just refer to resolution. Using unappealing images (such as pictures that are poorly lit or composed) will hurt your brand as well, no matter what resolution they’re in.
Confusing User Journey
When someone visits your site, you need to make it clear to them what you want them to do. If they find themselves on a page with no idea of where to go next, it means that your site is doing a poor job guiding them through their user journey. This will hurt your ability to convert visitors. Effective internal linking, an easy-to-use navigation bar and search function, and CTA (calls-to-action) on every page are necessary to help guide your visitors. Look at metrics such as high bounce rates to determine where there might be user journey issues on your site.
Obligatory And Difficult Forms
Forms are an excellent way to collect user information and obtain permission to nurture leads. However, visitors will be frustrated if your forms are needlessly complicated or if you present them as obligatory in order to complete certain actions. For example, a visitor may become frustrated if they add items to their shopping cart and check out, only to find that they have to register in order to finalize their purchase. You’ll likely cause many potential customers to abandon their carts by doing this, especially if your forms require multiple steps.
Make sure that your forms are simple. If customers are only required to provide their names and shipping addresses, they’ll be more likely to complete the form and complete the check out. You can then offer them the option of providing additional information to their profile later when it’s more convenient for them to do so. Allowing social logins (such as through Facebook) can help to greatly simplify the registration process as well. You should also consider having the option to skip registration altogether for those who don’t feel comfortable setting up a profile just yet by offering guest checkout.
Using A Marketplace Theme
Avoid using pre-designed templates for your e-commerce page. This often results in a disconnect between your brand image and your e-commerce platform, causing confusion to potential customers. For example, they may be unsure as to whether they’re on the right page and if they’re even on your site anymore if the e-commerce page looks completely different than the rest of your site.
4. Slow Loading Time
Slow loading times can absolutely kill the website experience of your visitors. Few people have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load--especially when they’ve become so accustomed to how quickly other high-quality websites load. If your site won’t load, they can find a site that will. Generally speaking, the majority of your visitors will expect your page to load within two seconds. If it takes more than three seconds to load, expect to lose around 90 percent of the visitors trying to visit that page. 79 percent of all visitors who experience slow loading speeds won’t come back to your website.
If that wasn’t bad enough, losing visitors as a result of slow loading times will cause your bounce rate to spike. The bounce rate is a metric referring to how many people leave your page without engaging further. A high bounce rate will hurt your search engine rankings.
Many factors can affect your speed, from the use of visual elements (such as videos and animations) to the lack of mobile optimization, which can affect loading speeds on mobile devices. You can test the speed of your pages using the Google’s Page Speed Online tool to determine whether your pages are loading quickly enough. There are lots of guides out there that will provide detailed steps on how to improve your page loading speeds as well.
5. Problematic Landing Pages
Landing pages are vital to your ability to convert leads. They help reiterate the benefits of your offer, keep leads focused, and guide leads to conversion. If your landing pages are poor, odds are your conversion rate will be too. The following are some of the biggest mistakes you can make when setting up your landing pages:
A Catch-All Landing Page
Creating a single landing page that all of your leads are directed to is about as effective as not having landing pages at all. A landing page needs to be relevant to the content that drove your leads to the page in the first place. For example, if a PPC ad offers a product at a discount, the landing page should highlight the product and the offer. If it’s just a generic landing page, leads may be confused as to whether they’re on the right page or not. This can result in a high bounce rate. Make sure you create a unique and relevant landing page for every CTA.
Although it’s your CTAs that help drive leads to your landing pages, the landing pages themselves need to have CTAs on them as well. The last thing you want is for leads to be unsure as to what they’re supposed to do once they’ve arrived on your landing page. Include a CTA that clearly outlines what action you want your leads to take on each specific landing page you create.
Not Setting Thank You Pages
When you convert a lead through a landing page, be sure to thank them. A thank you page will help your leads feel appreciated. This is important because once they’ve submitted a form, you’ll want to begin building your relationship with them so that you can successfully nurture them through their buyer’s journey and beyond.
6. Mobile Incompatibility
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2018, roughly 77 percent of Americans owned a smartphone. Around 20 percent of American adults only use their smartphones to access the Internet. Additionally, 52.2 percent of the world’s web traffic is generated through mobile phones. This means that a significant amount of your website traffic will be coming via mobile devices both now and in the future.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it will affect how it’s displayed on mobile devices. If your site doesn’t display properly, load quickly (or at all), or is difficult to navigate on mobile devices, you’ll lose a massive number of potential leads. To top it off, Google ranks pages for mobile separately from desktop, meaning that a lack of mobile optimization can hurt your ability to bring in web traffic. While there are many ways to improve how mobile friendly your site is, the most effective way to ensure mobile optimization is to use a responsive website design. Responsive design ensures that your site will display properly no matter how big or small the screen is.
7. Lack Of SEO Optimization
Visitors aren’t going to come out of nowhere. Your website needs to be properly optimized for SEO (search engine optimization). Proper SEO optimization helps search engines correctly identify your content and can help to increase your rankings on SERP, thereby increasing exposure to your target audience and bringing in more web traffic. Poor SEO optimization will hurt your ability to find new leads.
Outdated/Under Optimized Content
It’s not just about keywords anymore, it’s about adding value with substantive, helpful information to give prospects the information they’re looking for. Build trust and improve website engagement metrics to indicate a positive experience to Google.
SEO isn’t just about adding keywords to your content. There’s a lot more to it than that. While using relevant keywords helps, Google is more concerned about whether the content you’re providing is relevant to its user queries and that it’s of high quality. To determine this, Google and other search engines look at several ranking signals, such as how many external links your page has obtained from quality sources (external links indicate your content was good enough to link to) and how much a visitor has engaged with the page (such as by staying on the page for a long time, commenting on content, sharing the page on social media, “liking” it on social media, or clicking a link embedded in the content).
The more engaged visitors are on a page, the more likely it is to rank high. Focus on creating content that is informative, of high quality, and relevant to your target audience in order to build trust and encourage engagement.
Incorrect Use Of Header and Meta Tags
The headers you use to split up your content is important for a variety of reasons. Proper use of headers (including the relevant use of keywords) allows visitors to scan your content and get a general idea of what it’s about. These headers also make it easier for search engines to identify what your content is about and to index and rank your pages accurately.
Meta tags are important as well, as they have a similar function as headers. While meta tags won’t show up on your web pages themselves, they will show up on the SERP. A meta tag is essentially a snippet of text that provides a short summary of the content found on that particular page. It gives both search engines and users an idea of whether your webpage is relevant to the user query.
Crawl Path Issues
Search engine bots crawl through every page of your site to properly index it and rank it. They function by entering your site from several potential entry points (back in the day, they would start from the homepage and work their way through, but they are more advanced now) and crawling outward. If you have poor site architecture, it can cause crawl path issues--meaning that these bots may end up missing pages completely. This can end up hurting your search engine rankings.
There are a few ways you can eliminate potential crawl path issues. First of all, use a flat site hierarchy. This means that your homepage links to your category pages, which link to your subcategory pages, which link to your detail pages. Implementing a site map will make it much easier for bots to crawl (and will make navigation more friendly for visitors as well). However, errors in your sitemap, such as format errors or adding the wrong pages, will cause problems. You should also monitor your site regularly for broken links, which cause roadblocks in your site’s crawl path.
8. Cluttered Homepage
Your homepage is the introduction to not just your website, but to your business. As such, you need to make sure it leaves a good first impression on new visitors. One of the more common mistakes businesses make on their homepage is trying to present too much information. This causes it to become cluttered. A cluttered homepage can be overwhelming and difficult to read, making it hard for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
It’s not uncommon to have duplicate homepages. This happens when you have multiple URLs that lead to the same homepage, such as “www.domain.com” or “www.domain.com/index.” This can confuse visitors, but it can also hurt your ranking since Google will consider each URL as a separate URL. To avoid this, don’t forget to add a canonical tag to your main homepage URL.
Complicated Site Navigation
The ease of navigation has a big impact on a visitor’s user experience. If your homepage is so cluttered that a visitor has trouble finding the navigation bar, then you have an issue. Your navigation bar should always be immediately visible when someone arrives on your homepage. You should also avoid having too many categories and subfolders in your navigation bar. While it’s good to be organized, visitors become frustrated if your navigation bar has a dozen options with drop down menus with dozens of other options. This will make it too complicated for them to find what they are looking for. Limit your navigation menu to the most important links on your site.
Non-Specific Page Titles
Your page titles indicate what content is available on any given page. Using non-specific page titles can not only confuse visitors (they’ll have trouble finding certain pages or figuring out what page they’re on for future reference), but it will make it more difficult for search engines like Google to index your website. When creating specific page titles, use relevant keywords and keep it under 70 characters.
No Contact Information
If a visitor is thinking about contacting you, you don’t want to give them the time to think twice about it. Nor do you want them to get so frustrated trying to find your contact information that they just give up. Display your contact information clearly on your homepage. Most professional websites not only have a separate contact page that visitors can click on, but will display basic contact information (such as an email address and phone number) at the top of every page on their site.
Presence Of Entry Page
The entry page is the page on which a visitor first lands when they visit your website. While the homepage is often the entry page, it’s not always the entry page. For example, if you’re running PPC (pay per click) ads, include a separate landing page for the ad. This landing page would be an entry page. You can use analytics tools to determine what pages are functioning as entry pages most often. This can allow you to identify different entry pages so that you can optimize them to increase their ability to nurture and convert leads.
9. Security & Certification Problems
Don’t assume that just because you’re not a giant corporation that you won’t be exposed to any security threats. Hackers these days often go after smaller businesses because their security is often poor. An unsecure website can pose serious problems -- not only can it result in compliance issues, but if your security is compromised, it can cause a PR nightmare that will hurt the trust your audience has in your brand. Obtaining an SSL certificate (resulting in the HTTPS protocol) will encrypt the data transferred between your visitors and your site and solve all these security headaches. However, you’ll also want to be aware of the following common security issues
Exposed Email Address
You’ll likely be collecting the email addresses of your leads and customers, and you wouldn’t want these emails to be stolen and sold to third parties. Using HTTPS will certainly help protect this information, but you’ll also want to take extra steps as well, such as regularly updating your firewalls and anti-virus software. There are lots of other security tools that you can implement as well that can not only help strengthen the security of your site, but also notify you of any vulnerabilities that you need to address and of any breaches before they cause too much damage.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your email address isn’t exposed. You’ll want to post your email address on your site so that potential customers can reach you. However, you won’t want spammers to harvest your email address, resulting in an inbox packed with unsolicited emails. Encryption techniques are available that allow you to publish your email address on your site in a format that will prevent it from being harvested.
Out-Of-Date Copyright Legislation
Protect the content you create for your website from being used without your permission, by copyrighting your website and display a copyright notice to help deter infringement. However, because you’ll be constantly updating your site, it’s important that you routinely update the copyright, especially if it’s been a few years since you’ve done this.
W3C Markup Validation Non-Compliance
The W3C(World Wide Web Consortium) is an international body that develops standards for the web. Be sure that your site remains in compliance with the standards established by the W3C by using their Markup Validation Service.
10. Not Periodically Backed Up
Even if you take the security of your website seriously and take every precaution to protect your site against hackers, you should always plan for the worse. If a hacker is able to penetrate your security, they could potentially destroy your entire website. As you can imagine, this could be incredibly problematic. It’s why you should back up your website periodically. This way, if your site is hacked and destroyed, you can retrieve a recent version of your site. It may be missing some newer content, but at least your website won’t be down and out. If you regularly update your site, then you should back it up on a weekly basis.
11. Tracking Codes
You need to know how your website is performing to identify problem areas that need adjusting, such as website issues or marketing issues. In order to monitor the performance of your website, you will have to implement tracking codes. Tracking codes help you track visitors who come to your website, thereby allowing you to collect valuable data that includes how many people are visiting your site, what pages are being viewed the most, where visitors are coming from, and more.
No Usage of Tracking and Analytics Codes
Incorrect Implementation of Tracking Codes
The incorrect implementation of your tracking codes will also hurt your ability to collect visitor data. There are several common mistakes that can result in improper implementation. For example, the code snippet may accidentally be duplicated because it was pasted twice or because something went wrong during the migration to a new implementation of Google Analytics.
Another common mistake is to forget to implement subdomain tracking. If visitors are going from one subdomain to another, Google Analytics will identify two separate sessions if you didn’t implement subdomain tracking. If you have two individual domains that visitors travel across, then you will need cross-domain tracking to ensure that the same visitor isn’t counted twice.
Not Using a Tag Management Solution
Manually adding tracking code snippet to every page is a time-consuming task and one that can result in errors as a result of how repetitive the task is. Using a tag management solution, such as Google Tag Manager allows you to implement and update tracking code through a user interface instead of having to copy and paste them to every page individually. Not only does it make it easier and faster to add tracking code, but it allows you to identify where code is missing or has been incorrectly implemented.
12. Social Media Integration
Social media is an important component of any inbound marketing campaign. Considering that billions of people around the world use social media, you’re missing out on a huge audience if you don’t have a social presence. However, it’s not enough to just set up a Facebook or Twitter page. Your social pages need to be integrated with your website as well.
Broken or Missing Social Media Links
Make sure that you add links to all of your social media pages to your website. Ideally, they should be located on every page of your site so that visitors can visit your social page no matter where they are. If you don’t have links to all of your social pages, it could really end up hurting you. For example, a visitor might be interested enough in your brand to follow you on Facebook after exploring your site for a bit. By clicking on your Facebook link, they can go to your Facebook profile and follow you. By following you, they’ll have access to all of your Facebook updates--and your business will have potential exposure to their entire friends list. This is also why you need to make sure that all of your social media links work.
No Share Buttons for Key Pages
In addition to adding links to your social media profiles, you should also add social buttons to your content. For example, if you add a Facebook share button to your blog posts, it will allow visitors to instantly share a blog post that they like to their Facebook feed without leaving your website.
Indulge The Buyer
The bottom line is this: the fewer issues your website has, the better the user experience will be. And if your user experience is good, then you will be more likely to convert new leads and to keep potential buyers engaged. Although it’s important to rank well on search engines, it’s more important to make sure your website caters to the needs of your audience. If your visitors are happy, then odds are it will have a positive impact on your rankings as a result.
While there are lots of analytics tools that can help you pinpoint certain issues with your website, one of the most effective ways to determine whether your website has major problems is by navigating through your website yourself and noting any issues you come across. If you’re having trouble going through your own website, there’s a good chance your visitors are experiencing the same thing.