I remember the first time I launched a website; it was my own website, a blog I had at the time where I wrote about life in my twenties. In retrospect, I should have written about my life with my head in the sand.
I was proud as punch of my design, thinking what I had created was amazing, dynamic, unique, and every other description of praise I could come up with.
But really, looking back on it, it was terrible. Just terrible.
I remember posting the link to my website on my own Facebook profile, my personal one, hoping all of my friends would love it, hit like on it, and share it around with their friends. In fact, I wasn’t hoping, I expected it.
A couple of days passed, I had two likes, no shares, and one friend message me to tell me all the mistakes I had made on my site, the worst of which was not editing my mobile website, which ended up looking like a mess.
I was mortified, embarrassed, but I still didn’t think I hadn’t done that bad of a job. I mean, I got the website live in the first place, how bad could the site have been??
Still, I tore the website to pieces, along with it all my hopes of being successful with blogging and designing altogether. It took a couple of weeks, and a few pep talks with myself, to realise that mistakes will happen. However, there are a few things I wish I had known when I launched my site that would have guaranteed me an instant hit, not an instant flop.
We are all first-time website owners at some point, and we have all made mistakes in launching our sites. Mistakes are perfectly ok to make when we first go live, however, if I can impart some of my experience on to you, and help you not make the big mistakes I made, you are sure to have a better first launch than what I did.
The good news? With a little knowledge (what I am about to impart with you), you can skip the first time mistakes I made.
Are you ready? Please be gentle with me, this has taken a lot of courage to admit my mistakes!
1. Seriously poor navigation
My navigation on my website sucked! Now, just to clarify, the navigation generally refers to the menu on your headers, where people can jump to different pages on your site. Also taken into consideration with your navigation is how easy it is to find your way around the site and get from one page to another, or one feature to another.
I will admit it; I didn’t test my navigation before going live, and I never imagined what it would be like for my visitors to use my site. I didn’t think about what it would be like to be one of my visitors trying to find things on my site, specifically. I remember naming my ‘Contact’ page something super clever like “Let’s Talk”, and thinking that people would know that was my contact page. Then I received feedback from a couple of visitors, asking me “how do I actually contact you?”
I was mortified! I thought I was smarter than my visitors, and in the end, I was the one who suffered. I tried to be cleverer than them, and be super creative. In reality, I was just confusing them.
LEARN FROM ME: When you are first launching your site, don’t make it challenging for your visitors to find what they are looking for or use your site for the functioning they need. Test your website with potential customers, and ask them to rate their experience navigating around your site. If you can do this prior to going live, you will better off in the beginning, as opposed to playing catch up like me.
2. Bad images
The images on websites have come a long way since I first launched my blog. Having said that, the ones I used on my first were dreadful, even for the time. They weren’t professionally taken images, they were photos from my phone when phone cameras were average at best, and they were really poorly lit. Essentially, they weren’t appealing.
No one would have bought the ideas and concepts I was selling because the images didn’t present them in a way that was attractive, nor did they convince my audience that I was legitimate and honest (yes, I looked dodgy, small-time, unprofessional). Images are such a sticking point on a website; they can really make or break the design.
LEARN FROM ME: I love using stock images when I am stuck. At least I know they are properly taken and are meant to be used on a website, in terms of size, resolutions, and composure. I now have a backup I can use, which is excellent, and I am more choosey about what images I use. I have also invested in my photography skills and equipment and, most importantly, sometimes I prefer no image until I can take the right one. I have set myself ‘image standards’ and I stick to them.
3. No SEO (NEVER AGAIN!)
When I first launched I watched my traffic like a hawk, probably obsessively too much. As I watched the lack of traffic, I wondered why no one was visiting my website. I know the site design could be better (let’s face it, it sucked), but why would that stop people from initially coming to the site. How did they know it sucked before even looking at it?!
That was when I realised that I wasn’t getting any traffic because I didn’t have any SEO in my site, nor was I doing anything to generate any traffic to my site outside of hitting publish. I thought I would reach the top of Google in a day, and that I would be inundated with traffic from the word go.
The reality check came when I started Googling this very topic, and I realised I had not given my site the essentials to succeed. You may think this is a mistake you haven’t made, however, I think there is always more you can be doing to boost your SEO, and you can always improve what you have now. I also believe there is always a section of your website that is lacking the essentials, a forgotten section of your design that despite your best intentions, you have accidentally forgotten to program.
LEARN FROM ME: Don’t neglect any part of your SEO, or think you can get away with not having certain parts done, or half complete. It just simply won’t work! Do your research, come up with your strategy, program it into your website, and keep on top of it. And you aren’t smarter than Google – you won’t be able to get away with not having it!
4. Zero social media
I didn’t think what I was blogging about needed a social media following. I thought I knew my (non-existent) readers well enough to know that they wouldn’t care about social media, nor would they be interested in reading my articles when they are on their social media accounts. How wrong I was.
At the end of the day, social media is a way for your business to interact with customers, so they can find out more about what you do, keep up to date with you, and provide another method of contacting you. No business can be without it, and no website can be sustained without them either! Once again, I was trying to be smarter than my visitors, and that backfired on me!
Unless your customers tell you otherwise, social media is an avenue every business should be exploring. There are so many diverse platforms designed to target specific industries and business types, there will at least be one that will suit your business.
LEARN FROM ME: Set up at least two social media accounts, with a Facebook Business Page being one of them. Set them up and use them all the time, posting regularly and engaging with followers. Once you have your social media established, link them to your website, using clear and easy to click links.
5. Spelling mistakes
Every piece of text I wrote for my site I wrote directly onto my site, through the editor I was using. With no spell checker on the editor, or in my browser at the time, my oh-so-precious text was riddled with basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Stupid mistakes too, ones that made me look like I was a pre-schooler who was writing the content.
Basic mistakes like spelling and grammar do happen, but for the few moments it takes to run your work through Word’s spellchecker, or have someone else read it for you, checking your words makes all the difference to your end result. Remember how competitive the website world is now; everyone and anyone can own a website, and you are competing with ever-shortening attention spans. Don’t make it hard to keep your visitor’s attention, or lose them with basic mistakes.
LEARN FROM ME: Spend that extra five minutes checking your content, proofreading, and editing. Yes, there will always be an error that slips through, but at least you will have picked up 99% of them prior to going live. If you make an active effort now, it will pay off later.
6. Super high expectations
I thought my site was the bee’s knees; I thought I was going to be at the top of Google in a day, I thought I could get 100,000 visitors in my first month, and I thought everyone would be talking about my site instantly. Why did I think this? Why did I think with the just the bare minimum I would be excelling??? Now, when I reflect, the logic doesn’t make sense.
I discovered the hard way that my SEO ranking, and the success of my site, was a direct reflection of:
- How hard I worked to promote my website
- How often I prioritized its importance
- How much money I invested in the success of my ranking
- How much time had elapsed since launching
Once I put my expectations in check, it forced me to work harder, to fix the mistakes that I had made, and push harder with my site’s traffic on a daily basis. It also required me to invest in consistency; I had to work on building my audience and professionalism each and every day, consistently, productively, and with set goals and purpose.
LEARN FROM ME: Get your expectations in check, and fast! Be thankful that each month your visitors go up by just a single person, and understand that you are competing with millions of other websites for Google’s attention. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a successful site wasn’t made in a day either.