It takes a long time to build a great website and get it optimized so that lots of people can see it. You need design skills, strong content that people actually want to see, then you need to create a plan and execute it by working your network. All these things take time and energy, sometimes a lot of them. But its really easy to undo all that hard work with just one or two little things that will completely ruin your site - whether its from an SEO or a usability standpoint. Really, if you have a site with great rankings, but is terrible to use, youre not going to accomplish your goal anyway (make money, raise awareness, etc.).
Heres just a short list of some things that can really do you in:
1. Music or Videos Playing Automatically: When you are watching TV or listening to the radio, you expect commercials, theme music, or other forms of audio and visual interaction and/or advertisement. Despite the fact that the internet is a powerful source of audio and video content, consumers are not used to getting hit" with these media forms as soon as they log onto a website. The effect is disorienting at best, annoying (or downright enraging) at worst. There are more than a few users out there who will just shut down a site entirely if they encounter a video that starts playing automatically or a site with theme music playing in the background.
If you have a message to deliver in the form of a video, display the video prominently (but not annoyingly) with the controls (Play, Pause, etc.) clearly indicated. If you want to enhance the mood of your site with music, do the same: provide a player, and let the user control it. Providing a selection of music (instead of one track endlessly relooping) can be another improvement.
Lastly: if youre going to add videos to your page in the way we recommend, make sure that their meta data is properly optimized for SEO.
2. Cant Find Contact Info: Youve gone through all the trouble of building a site and driving traffic there, dont blow it now by making it difficult for your potential customers to actually get a hold of you. No matter how well you lay out your website and how much information you provide, there will always be a question here or there that you didnt anticipate (Pro Tip: when you encounter these, integrate them into your on-site FAQ ASAP. Dont have an FAQ? Pro Tip #2: Make one!).
The right answer to this unanticipated question could not only create a conversion (good!) but turn that person into a lifelong customer and a brand-champion (better!).
To avoid this little pitfall, make sure that your contact information is listed clearly in your top-nav and/or sidebar (whichever one you rely on more / use - or put it both places!). Dropping it in the bottom right corner of the front page isnt a bad idea either - this was a common practice for many years and many readers still look for the contact link here.
To make things even more idiot proof you might even add a call to action somewhere in the welcome text of your landing page: Cant find what youre looking for? Contact Us immediately and well get back to you right away! Pro Tip here: set up an autoresponse to your contact e-mail. Keep the reader/customer engaged.
3. Ads: Do we even have to say this one? Anyone who has been using the Internet for long enough has already become more or less immune to ads as anything other than a distraction. If Im on your site for ecommerce purposes, then I presumably already want to buy from you (and not be redirected somewhere else to buy from somewhere else). Dont muddy the signal by cluttering up your pages with ads for other people (or even yourself). Just let the user get in, get what he or she needs, and get out.
4. Outdated Design: Outdated can mean a few different things to different people. The first kind of outdated is when the site just looks like it was built in the 90s and never touched. Light colored text on a white background, flashing colors, and old-school fonts (read: Comic Sans) are all things that tell your site visitors Hey, I made this site and never bothered to look at it to see if it was usable! Thats definitely not the message that you want to send to your audience.
5. Not Updating: The next kind of outdated is conflicting messages. You put up a banner like: New Products Coming Fall of 2010! or Check back every Monday for fresh content! meanwhile, its spring of 2011. Maybe you even added new products, but never bothered to update the front page text. Similarly, if you say anywhere on your site that you upload new content every Monday (another Pro Tip: let your readers know your publication schedule. This keeps them coming back regularly), then you better make sure that you get that content out regularly.
6. Excessive Flash: Flash can be problematic for a variety of reasons. While its not the death-knell for SEO (there are ways it can be integrated with your pages without killing your rankings), it can be a drag. Sometimes Flash can slow your page load time, and its come out that Google is using page load times in its search algorithm. Simply put: longer load time = lower Google rank.
On another level, users just dont want to deal with Flash sometimes. Just because you can use it in a specific place doesnt mean that you have to or that its the best option. Keep your site lean and clean. Your customers will be happier for it. Just let them get right to the content or the shopping area. The fewer clicks between your front page and the checkout screen, the better chance you have of making the sale.