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by Lucy Griffiths on 29th December 2009
The trouble with first impressions is that you only get to make one. This is rarely truer than in the fickle world of Internet marketing.
Search engines demand that certain codes and statutes are abided by, whilst human visitors are notoriously varied in their expectations. However both are looking for one basic principle, quality.
Of course ‘quality’ is very much a loaded term. But when it comes to developing a website there are a few things that you can do to appease both the search engines and your visitors. To help you out we’ve put together this quick quality checklist to get you started.
Page Load Time
With site speed becoming a ranking factor on Google it is now doubly important that you improve the load times for your pages. Visitors can be persuaded to look elsewhere if your site fails to load in a reasonable timeframe and now Google could well punish you for it too; so to ensure that your site matches both requirements, take the time to reduce, well, time. For information on how to improve site speed see our post entitled 10 Tips for Reducing Page Load Time.
All Images Work
If images fail to load, it can often appear as though a website is poorly maintained and gives an unprofessional appearance to visitors. Whilst a search engine won’t downgrade you due to this, it could deter visitors from exploring your site any further and see your bounce rate go stratospheric. Regular checks could prevent this, although if it is unavoidable ensure you have an ‘Image Coming Soon’ replacement on hand. Alt text is also important to ensure that when they don’t load, people and search engines understand what ought to be there.
Content makes up a huge part of the general perception of a website. It helps search engines understand what it is that you do and performs a similar service for human visitors too. Ensuring each page has its own unique content will help SEO efforts and ensure that visitors aren’t met with the same recurring message.
One H1 Heading
A heading tells us the context of a page, and works in much the same way for search engine crawlers. Each page should only have one H1 heading so as to ensure that there is no confusion. If you have too many conflicting messages, they could end up jumbled and undermine your optimisation efforts.
Links are working
It sounds simple, and really it is, but all of your links should work. This includes internal and external links, as we can all be frustrated at not getting where we wanted. It can also mean that your pages aren’t indexed properly and could appear that your site is poorly maintained.
Main pages are only one click from homepage
This is self-explanatory; however, you want to ensure that visitors landing on your homepage are able to get to your ‘money’ pages as quickly as possible. The more time they spend having to look for something, the more likely it is that they either won’t find it or just won’t have the patience to do so.
A link to each page of your site
An effective navigation that allows a visitor, be it a search engine or human, to get to each page of the site quickly and easily no matter where they are on the site is hugely important. One way you can achieve this is through creating a Sitemap, which can be linked to from your site’s footer.
Strong call to action
One for the humans this; but a strong call to action that is well positioned on your page can turn an interested visitor in to a customer. If it isn’t clear what the message of the page is or what you wish a visitor to do, the likelihood is that they won’t bother [see: Sales Copy Missing a Call to Action is Like a Joke without a Punch Line ]
Ensuring accuracy of content
Sometimes all it takes is a quick skim through or a spell check, but you have to ensure that your pages aren’t littered with misleading copy or spelling and grammatical errors. Neither will give a particularly good impression.
Multiple domains can be confusing. However, where there is no permanent or temporary redirect in operation (301 and 302), it can also be classified as duplicate content. This could see your rankings suffer and PageRank distributed to unwanted domains.
Themed 404 page
When one of your pages cant be accessed due to a broken or expired link, users will be confronted with a 404 page. You should look to create your own 404 page, which has been designed in the style of the rest of your site so that visitors don’t consider navigating elsewhere with the impression that your website is defunct.