I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your website sucks. Here’s why.
WordPress and other free blogging platforms have ensured that anyone can start a website; but making a successful one is another question entirely. We’ve already covered 10 essential first steps to take with WordPress, some ideas on how you can go about making your site popular, and how to blog with for search engines without becoming a content mill.
Today I wanted to tackle it from the other side: some reasons why your site might not be doing so well at the moment. We get a lot of these kind of queries on MakeUseOf Answers, so check out this list first before you ask why your site isn’t doing well.
You have poor spelling or grammar
This point is the most overlooked, yet undoubtedly the most important of all.
Most web users are seeking authoritative information on a topic – whether or not you provide the necessary credentials is inconsequential, but the illusion is quickly shattered by poor spelling or grammar. In real life a poor grasp of the spoken language will immediately give you an impression about someone’s background and abilities, so too will poorly worded text online.
Your content will be simply be ignored – a good grasp of spelling and grammar is your pass card as a functioning member of society, and the same is just as true on the internet.
Finding your own writing “voice” is a long process, so I’m certainly not advocating you give up immediately because your writing isn’t perfect – but do make sure you have a clear grasp of spelling and grammar.
The best way to do that? Read. A lot. Of real books. Then read all our writing tips, too.
Your site is ugly
Website design is not about the nitty-gritty technical details of CSS and HTML, nor is about years spent studying design textbooks in college (though both certainly help). It’s about having an eye for what looks nice, and a basic understanding of usability. It’s about colour theory of complimentary, triad, or monochromatic colours (Tim walked you through one such tool to help there). It’s about realising that grey text has its place, but not for the main content you want the reader to focus on.
The easiest way to ensure you’ve got it right is to purchase a good theme which some pre-defined colour variations included – the designer probably knows what works, and has produced something already pleasing to the eye. A lot of themes now come with features to completely customise every colour used – stay away from those unless you know what you’re doing!
It does of course help if you’re able to adjust and tweak elements of the theme yourself; you can’t always trust widgets to display ideally in your particular setup. Learn how to use the browser developer console and you’ll quickly be able to fix the most common CSS problems without needing to know everything about the topic.
Unless your content is 100% unique and Google was unable to find any other results, users are quickly going to run away from garish and unreadable designs.
The content is dry, shallow, or worse still – copied
I forget how many terabytes of information is generated every day on the internet, but I suspect a large proportion of it is simply a regurgitation of existing knowledge.
As a writer and website owner, it’s your job to either
- create fresh, original or unique content
- add value to existing content
- present existing content in a more concise and clear way
Do one or more of the above, and your website is a useful addition to the internet – a critical step on the path to being successful. Do none of the above, and your site is a worthless leech of creative potential, republishing the hard work of others without even adding anything.
When presented with two versions of the same underlying tutorial, I will choose the one with better pictures, schematics and a parts list. It is of little concern to me who came first – I will choose the one which offers the greatest value to me, the reader.
Successful content doesn’t need to be dry either – it can also show the character of the writer quite clearly. You needn’t hide behind some dry technical documentation style of writing – show me you’re human with a real personality, and that might just differentiate your site from the next Google result. Just don’t make your personality and opinions the central topic; again, they are a voice to your writing, not a goal in and of themselves.
Take a critical look at your own website now and ask yourself honestly if you offer something better than the alternative. If you don’t, see how they do it, and see what you could do better than them. Then do that. It’s simple enough in theory.
You’re trying to cheat
Cheating on the internet is easy, whether that means copy-pasting someone else’s content, auto-blogging from an RSS feed, or keyword stuffing your footer in a misguided attempt to fool the search engines like it’s 2003 all over again. The thing is: Google knows. Google knows exactly the game you’re playing; it knows all the tricks in the book by now; and it will silently de-index your website, destroying any chance your site ever had of being successful. What seems like a fantastic shortcut today will come back to haunt you tomorrow – and in many cases is completely unrecoverable. That’s it: your domain and website will be worthless overnight, all because you thought you were more clever than a team of the world’s smartest engineers with more data at their fingertips than your mind can possibly fathom.
Don’t try to cheat Google; play fair, and you’ll be rewarded.
You lack passion
Some people will start a website in the hope that it will generate masses of Adsense revenue without much work. The dream of working from home appeals to them more than the subject matter they will tackle. Some will even go to extreme lengths of researching potentially lucrative niche markets and the so-called “long tail searches”. They don’t blog because they love the topic or because they feel they have something unique to offer the world – they do it because they think it’s an easy way to make money. Advertisers will be lining up with bags of cash and free products for the mommy blogger living the work at home dream! Right?
Wrong. Like most things in life, you will succeed only if you have a true passion for what you do. Passion is very hard to fake, and it pervades everything you produce. If you don’t care about what you’re writing about, it will be immediately obvious to readers. Demonstrate that passion skillfully in your writing, however, and the reader will feed off your energy, enthralled.
This particular point cannot be rectified: if you don’t passionately care about your subject matter, please give up now.
These are the five main reasons I constantly see when evaluating sites, and I’ve been guilty of them too at times. I hope I haven’t sounded too harsh, but a healthy dose of criticism is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered. Take the time to critically evaluate your own web projects today, and I promise you’ll be better off for it.
That said: don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. Our greatest skill is the openness to continually learn and better ourselves. If you have any more ideas on what makes a bad website, share in the comments – or if you’re brave enough, post a URL to your site.