The WayBack Machine is a fascinating online resource. This internet archive contains 327 billion saved web pages from sites around the world, dating as far back as the mid-1990s. And while it’s tempting to laugh at early page designs or badly-written attempts at creating SEO websites, it’s important to remember that once upon a time there were no rules or precedents for this fledgling industry. Some trends worked and became established, others didn’t.
SEO faux pas
One reason to view historical web pages with respect is that your current website might itself contain elements that have fallen from favour. Like the elderly couple in a 1960s’ bungalow, unaware that carpeted bathrooms and burgundy suites have become deeply unfashionable, some companies persevere with landing pages and Flash animations. Did you know that anchor text is now frowned upon by search engines? For that matter, do you know what anchor text is, or how it was mistreated by disreputable marketing agencies?
Making a great impression
Consumers form opinions on websites almost instantly, and they’re not shy about navigating away if they’re met with outdated or ugly pages. A neglected site with broken hyperlinks hardly suggests a trustworthy business with its finger on the pulse. And if a firm won’t invest in something as critical as its online presence, why would it focus on customer service or next-day delivery? Would you buy from a company whose About Us page runs to a thousand words of imageless prose?
These are some of the tell-tale signs suggesting a website needs a content overhaul:
Visitors have to navigate past a landing page, also known as a splash page.
High Performing SEO websites are led by the content on their homepages, so having a blank page is highly detrimental to future ranking results.
The year listed after the © symbol isn’t 2018.
This might indicate the site has fallen into disuse, which could cause a downgrading in future search results. Other warning signs include outdated cultural references or News pages with no recent entries.
Flash content won’t display on mobile devices, which now handle the majority of internet traffic. As a result, most people won’t see your site properly, or understand it fully. With so many rival sites out there, they’ll quickly depart.
Certain fonts date a website, including the criminally overused Comic Sans.
Some fonts won’t display consistently, creating a strange appearance in certain web browsers. Scrolling or flashing text is another design fad best left in the 1990s.
This could include unnecessary plugins, superfluous CSS or even tables. These were popular for putting images and text in specific positions, but they display erratically and load slowly. Page loading times directly affect ranking results.
This is inadvisable for several reasons. Firstly, it’s intrusive. Secondly, it hogs bandwidth and harms page loading times. Finally, unexpected audio outbursts may startle or embarrass people, often causing them to abruptly abandon the page.
Separate mobile sites.
The popularity of platforms like WordPress (which now powers a quarter of the world’s websites) is partly thanks to responsive page designs that automatically resize. There’s no need to have a dedicated mobile site anymore.
Another problem with m. sites are they tend to mirror existing data on desktop platforms. Search engines are attuned to the slightest hint of plagiarism, and any duplicated material on your website could damage its ranking.
Conversely, some firms persist with websites designed solely for desktop audiences. Mobile visitors shouldn’t have to pinch and zoom to read the text or take their chances tapping tiny menu buttons and hoping the right one was selected.
Supreme, sophisticated content
A website’s credibility also relies on written content. Yet even here, trends evolve over time. It used to be the case that cramming each web page with keywords and long tails (phrases containing three or more words) was crucial for SEO website success. Nowadays, keywords should be used with care. Because web text was increasingly being written for the benefit of search engines rather than real people (making it difficult to read), web crawler algorithms were refined to estimate readability. The excessive use of keywords and long tails is called keyword stuffing, and it’s now heavily punished by Google and Bing.
Even so, a modern SEO website has to include keywords and long tails used by the public. These can be identified via analytics packages like Moz or SEMrush. Regular uploads of original content represent an ideal way to pepper news or blog pages with SEO terms, as do meta descriptions, image tags and page headers. These all provide signals to search engines that a page is relevant to particular search terms, deserving a prominent listing. And with an estimated 80 per cent of website visits originating from Google or Bing, content really is king when it comes to attracting new audiences.