Bio: Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com. She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.
I just knew that something was wrong with my website. No one would believe me. But the numbers didn’t lie. Here’s my story and what I learned from the process. Hopefully, this will help you fix your website.
When something is wrong with your website, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on and where to go for help. In this article, I’ll cover how to find out what’s wrong with your website and where you can go for help.
My Personal Struggle With a Sick Website
I’ve had my website since 2008, that’s fairly ancient in internet time. And since I’m not a technical or SEO expert, I’ve made many, many mistakes over the years. I can’t believe I’m going to share them — but here are just a few:
I ignored SEO for too long.
For the first five years or so I basically ignored SEO. I didn’t understand it and I’d heard that if you write for the reader, you should be ok. Let’s just say that ignoring something doesn’t make it go away.
I didn’t organize the site very well.
There was a lot of old, thin content that was perfectly fine back in 2008 but isn’t very good today.
The site has been hacked twice!
I’ve done some fixes, but there are still some issues in there somewhere.
I let outsiders in to help — but they screwed it up
After the hack, I wanted to fix some of these issues with SEO and tried to save money by hiring an outside person. This was a fiasco.
Traffic started to drop...
After setting a goal to grow my traffic and engagement, I figured that I needed SEO help. But, I didn’t understand enough about SEO to find out what was really wrong and how to fix it.
The multiple SEO people I talked to just kept saying write more, better content. And I was doing that. But traffic continued to drop.
Something was definitely wrong. I didn’t know what, but it felt like I was driving my car with the parking brake on.
The list goes on and on, but I wanted to lay out my “ugly” right here so you can see that I’m a lot like you.
How You’ll Know if There is Something Wrong With Your Website?
Here is a short list of a few things that might indicate that there’ something wrong with your website.
- You notice a drop in calls or website visitors.
- It takes a long time for your site to load on a desktop.
- When you enter your website on mobile, it takes a long time to come up.
- When you open your website on mobile, it loads slowly and the text is small and hard to read.
- Not converting the visitors you get.
As I shared, I’ve been there. And I’m sharing what I’ve learned in this journey (so far) that might help you as well.
Do a Simple Diagnosis on Your Website
Rather than just trusting your intuition, it’s best to “check the oil” of your website and peek under the hood.
For this, you’ll need to get familiar with Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Here’s what I’ve learned: the most reliable tools to diagnose Google issues are Google tools. The good news is that Google tools are free. The bad news is that they can be hard to read and understand.
Google Analytics will give you information about your visitors’ behavior on your site. Google Search Console will tell you about Google’s behavior on your site.
Believe it or not, 80% of your problems can be identified from a close look at these two tools.
I know you’re not a technical expert. I’m not either. But I’ve learned that there are certain things you HAVE to know, otherwise, you won’t get the help you need. Or worse, the help you find, will not actually fix your site.
Look for Trends on Google Analytics
The first place you want to go to is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool offered by Google to help you analyze your website traffic.
You’ll find everything you need to know about Google Analytics on the “Google for Beginners” page.
Once you’ve set everything up, take a look at the traffic coming to your site and notice any trends up or down.
Google is constantly updating its algorithms with a focus on improving user experience. In other words, when someone asks a question or searches for something, they get the best answer to their question at the top of the Google search results.
You’ll want to pull a 6-month time frame of data so that you can see if there is a cycle or some type of change in your website visits.
Compare a recent time period to a past time period and note what changes there have been.
You can also check to see if your drop in traffic was due to a Google Update. You can see a history of Google Algorithm updates on Moz. If your drop in traffic matches closely to a recent Google update, you want to read up on what the update was and see what you need to do differently.
Check Google Search Console
Next, head over to Google Search Console. While Google Analytics is more user-focused, Google Search console reports on your site’s performance on the search engine.
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.
What you can learn from Google Search Console:
The queries and questions people ask where your site is a result.
The pages that get the most impressions and clicks.
Identify your lowest ranking pages.
See how your site is indexed (how does Google see your site, and your pages)
Find issues with your site on mobile
Identify the pages that have the most backlinks (most authoritative)
If there’s something wrong with your website, you’ll most likely see evidence of it on Google Search Console.
There are many, many other ways that Google Search Console can give you a peek inside the performance of your website.
Unless you’re checking your analytics regularly, you may not notice that there’s a problem until you see some type of drop in your business. That’s why it’s a good idea to make checking these analytics regularly important.
What Makes Your Website Sick?
If you build a house and let it sit there without maintaining it — things will ultimately wear out and break down. The same is true of your site.
If you aren’t updating your site and keeping it safe and secure, you could get hacked. Think of this as an “infestation”. Someone was able to break through a wall and infest your site with bad code. That means you’ll have to get a web developer to serve as an “exterminator” of sorts to clean all of that up.
A “bloated” WordPress theme or bad coding:
Some WordPress themes can be very “code” heavy. Developers call that “bloated” and it often impacts the speed of your site and the performance.
Many popular WordPress themes that come with a lot of layout options are considered bloated. This happens when you include all the layout options. You can minimize this bloat by eliminating or turning off any features that you don’t use.
Another contributor to bloat is large images. Images are a double-edged sword because today’s high-resolution screens require big, beautiful images. The good news is that there are tools like TinyPng that will help you reduce the size of your images without sacrificing sharpness.
Not Mobile Friendly
I see a lot of small business websites that are not mobile-friendly. More and more people are accessing sites from their mobile devices. So it’s critical that your visitors can easily see and use your site on a mobile device. That means that if your site is a miniature version of what’s on a desktop — that’s not good enough.
You can test to see if your site is mobile-friendly on Google.
Google doesn’t see all your pages
With billions of websites and even more web pages, Google only has so much time and bandwidth to index all of them. So, every website is allocated a “crawl budget”. That means that Google only has so much time and bandwidth to spend on your website.
Learn More: How Do Search Engines Work
Too many plugins:
WordPress themes use plugins to add customized functionality to your website. The more plugins you have, the more “outside” influencer you’re adding to your website. Plugins that aren’t secure make your site vulnerable to security breaches and hackers. They can also slow your site down and mess with your website performance. Nine times out of ten, if you’re having a problem on your site – it’s a plugin.
Think of your website host as the “apartment” where your website lives. And, like most apartments, they might be nice — or not so nice.
You want to give your website the nicest home that you can afford. Here are a few tips on choosing a host:
- Look for a “medium” sized host. Some hosting companies get too big and you end up paying more money for less service and support.
- Make sure they get good ratings for customer service.
- Avoid private hosting services.
Read More: Web Hosting Fundamentals
Don’t Abdicate Responsibility For Your Site
If there is anything I’ve learned as I go through the process of fixing my site, it’s that you, as the business owner, have to know and understand the channels that drive customers to your business.
Sure, you can and should ask for help. But you have to know enough about the basics of website functionality so that you can LEAD the effort.
Take the time to read and research what trusted sources say about what you are experiencing.
Talk to numerous technical experts such as website developers, technical SEO professionals as well as content SEO practitioners. Like most things, you’ll find that many issues overlap. The process can become overwhelming, but if you don’t care to know what’s wrong with your website, how can you expect others to help you fix it?