17 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your Websites

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We see dozens of guides and tutorials on how we should make our websites better to rank, convert, and perform. On the other hand, there’s so much wrong-doing, it can be easier for you to STOP doing some things to get better results with your online presence. Below I’ve outlined the 17 most popular “sins” I’ve identified on my customers’ websites within the last 2 years.

17 things

1.    Stop posting pathetic useless promotional content

I do realize, some “boring niche” companies find it pretty hard to create a content strategy and produce fascinating content on a regular basis… But it’s not an excuse for publishing something-of-no-use to anyone. The frequency doesn’t matter that much, focus on the needs of your users, customers and followers. Need inspiration? Take a look at these companies creating great content on “boring” topics.

2.    Stop stealing lame stock images – they are not so super effective anyway

Yes, you got me right – there’s not much sense in stealing stock images. On the one hand, you are abusing someone’s copyright. On the other, many stock photos look rather lame and boring (I just can’t stand anymore the pictures of a team of professionally smiling people).

stop stealing lame stock images

Image credit

Sorry, I don’t believe these guys 🙂

Dozens of studies and experiments prove that users are more attracted by amateur pictures that look true-to-life, though they can miss a polished glamorous look. As James Chudley put in his guide on using photos to sell:

  •   Show off your product’s benefits
  •   Make visitors laugh
  •   Tell a story and show how to do something (step-by-step guides with pictures simply rock!)
  •   Be consistent and professional.

3.    Stop ignoring your readers

I’ve seen it everywhere – an interesting post with great points and a dozen of user comments that are left unnoticed. Isn’t the author interested in what readers think? Why not answer their questions, if any? Or, if you didn’t plan to spend time on comment discussions, why did you decide to have a commenting module in the first place?

Talk to your readers, appreciate their opinion, ask them questions, give them links to the related content – this is the way to build up a healthy community!

4.    Stop using big words

If your target audience comprises mostly PhDs, then I may be wrong. If not, consider using simpler wording for your website copy and blog posts. Here are just some examples to give you the idea:

use instead of utilize

near instead of close proximity

help instead of facilitate

for instead of in the amount of

start instead of commence

And since I mentioned the topic of words, don’t forget the mighty five: you, free, because, instantly, new – they won’t do any magic to your pages, but they proved to be more effective regarding conversion rates.

5.    Stop writing “novels”

Users scan texts – it’s a well-known fact still ignored by the majority of bloggers and website owners. Why? Sometimes, because they’ve heard that for the sake of SEO, they should have a lot of text… Or they wanted to write more than their competitors…

Whatever the reason, the result can be pretty sad – your page bounce rates will escalate with the amount of plain unformatted text.

But what to do if you need to cover a large topic? First of all, think of a Wikipedia style and use:

  • Table of contents
  • Internal links
  • Relevant images and photos
  • Make paragraphs concise and short (1 idea per paragraph)
  • Format the page to make it easy to scan


Additionally, you can split really large articles into parts – just don’t forget to link the posts with one another.

6.    Stop using tiny fonts

Well not only tiny, the yellow text on the blue background would make me close the page even faster. The thing is that many websites are designed by designers (and it is logical), however some designers underestimate the importance of text and implement smaller fonts. As a result, we get a beautiful page, but a page we don’t want to read (and even scan).

Did you know that making your content font size a bit larger can even impact the conversion rate?

7.    Stop requiring a registration unless it’s really necessary

Users naturally avoid situations they feel might compromise their privacy. Asking them to register is one of such situations they feel skeptical about. Mike Fisher makes a very good point on registration in his post:

If you need to require registration, make sure that users

  • Understand what they’re getting after registering
  • Believe it’s of significant value to them
  • Know that their personal information will be safeguarded

Offering users to register with their existing Facebook/Twitter accounts can be a good idea, as it simplifies the procedure, however you should still remember the three points mentioned above.

8.    Stop overusing Flash

Just a couple of days ago I discussed a website redesign with the owner of a small dog food shop. When I asked how she wanted the website to look like, she replied:

“I guess there should be some long red curtains and you have to click to open them. After that you’ll find yourself in a cinema hall where dogs and cats are sitting and watching a film about the food for cats and dogs.”

Well, the idea itself may be not so brilliant, but we realize that in most case we’ll need to use the Adobe Flash technology to create something of this kind, which is NOT search-engine-friendly. On the other hand, will this fascinating Flash intro persuade me to purchase more items? I think a smart offer or a coupon discount would work much better!

9.    Stop blending advertising within the content

It’s a little bit frustrating to be lured by an interesting guide or a case study to find out you are just being offered a new copywriting course, an SEO e-book, or paid consulting. Even when you run a pay-per-click campaign, do not lie to users in ad copies – their frustration will fire back so hard.

10.  Stop testing your website in 1 browser only

Pretty self-explanatory. No matter how rare you use IE, it’s still very popular with users.

stop testing websites

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11.   Stop using unreadable captchas

There are some horrible captchas out there… Fortunately, you can use some friendlier versions of them, like these ones:


12.   Stop being afraid of linking out

We should blame the search engines for this one – there were times when people where linking out to the related useful content they wanted to share with the users. Now, what we have today is the COMMON belief in BAD external links. How much PR am I going to lose? What kind of anchor should I choose?

Does this website link back to me? Or maybe I’ll just mention it in text without inserting a link?! Now take a look at Wikipedia articles and you’ll get the answers. Linking out is totally fine.

13.   Stop ignoring the social mentions of your website

Here’s the big truth: even if you don’t have any website-related accounts in social media, you can still be discussed there! Sometimes, you just need to search for your website mentions (either directly or setting up specific alerts with the tools, e.g. BuzzBundle) to discover positive, neutral and negative comments and discussions.

14.   Stop cluttering pages with badges and counters

Well, you can showcase your awards and achievements on the “About” page, but it’s not a good idea to clutter all pages with this information. And most users do not care if they are number 159,780.

15.   Stop lying to customers

This one’s crucial: when you lie to your customers (for instance, do not disclose full payment details), it can cause a catastrophe, burst out on dozens of forums and blogs where people would describe you as a scammer and discourage others from using your service/product.

stop lying to customers

16.   Stop auto-playing video and audio

That’s annoying and feels like my private space is being violated – I want to decide myself whether I want to watch or listen to anything on your website.

17.   Stop planning – start doing

There’s a lot of internet marketing and strategy dropped on you daily – dozens of ideas and plans to implement. The big question is – are you doing it? Some people take planning so seriously, they never get down to actually implementing the useful stuff. If this is about you – stop planning and start doing something right away, this is the only way to see what really works and make things work better for you.

So what do you think, which sins are worst and which ones you’d like to add to this list?

Inessa Bokhan
Inessa Bokhan is the co-founder and chief internet marketing manager at SEOlots , a startup SEO agency. She’s been working as a copywriter (software development... Read Full Bio
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  • Siegfried

    good compilation, I HATE all things you mentioned
    I hate when people change default wordpress comment form and remove website field – it is cruel!
    best regards!

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Thanks, Siegfried! As for removing the website field, this is sometimes the only chance to protect blogs from spam in the comments 🙁

  • Kate

    Great article! One of my favorite tips…stop planning and start doing. Enough of having meetings, calls and scheduling appointments to make decisions to start taking action. When it comes to marketing, sometimes you just have to give things a try and test them. Like Seth Godin says “Ship it”. It will most likely not be perfect, but you can always change things and keep moving forward.

  • Bren

    Without a doubt the most annoying is the audio or video that starts automatically. It is so much worse when you cant find the pause or stop button. I have the reflexes of a cat when audio starts, straight to the back button.

  • Jaydeep Kapadia

    You are right. Most of the internet marketers are sharing content which not a worth even. Content without readability is like you are sharing something which is not useful. If you are running an E-commerce website, you have to describe each product in a simple way that encourage buyer’s to buy. In brief, a website gets more attention, if it has

    1) More Readability
    2) Easy to navigate
    3) Responsive design
    4) In brief but well explained product or services
    5) Hassle free Payment procedure

    Thanks..!! for sharing valuable post……

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Jaydeep, thanks for adding the great list!

  • Jalis web agency

    Of course, I hate all the things mentioned but +1 to music autoplaying (it is like spamming my ears and I will live within 5 seconds) et generic photos that you can see everywhere. When you great for example a website for a French company it is just awful to see pictures of people that do not look natural at all and that do not represent French people at all.

  • Mike Byrne

    Hi Inessa,

    Thanks for the post. For point 11, I would go further and say stop using Captcha’s altogether. People shouldn’t have to prove that they are human. It should be the website admin’s job to find an remove any automated responses.

    • Himanshu

      Could you provide alternatives , in case if we don’t use Captcha to prevent our website or blog from spammers and automated systems?

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hi Mike! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Ideally, yes, you are right – it might be better to get rid of captchas. On the other hand, imagine Web resources that get thousands of comments per minute – physically, an admin wouldn’t be able to track and manage all of them.

      I mentioned the alternative solution – antibot sliders (like on an iPhone or Android phone), here there are some more solutions: http://www.getelastic.com/6-captcha-alternatives-to-improve-conversion/

      • Himanshu

        Thank you for suggesting Captcha alternatives, they are going to help me further.

  • Jeremy Vest

    Love this post! All C Level executives should be required to read this!

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Thanks Jeremy! True, executives should be the first to look through these points 🙂

  • Sam

    Absolutely agree with point no 4. There is a fine art to making copy simple without sounding dumbed-down. A lot of business owners think that using big words = sounding professional

  • Gui

    So many annoying things on the Web… but you’re so right about linking out. This is only Mister Google’s fault ! It is the most stupid thing to write content about, say a study, and not even link out to this original study.

    Auto playing videos and songs to me are at the same level of spam as overlay video/banner advertising . You read an interesting article and suddenly a video pop ups and cover your whole screen. Often you cannot even find the X to shut this down or/and have to wait up to 30 seconds?! Well I don’t want to wait, I leave !

  • Andy Kinsey

    Great Article I agree with them all, one thing I would also add is to write in natural tones and not try to feed the bots. They are like birds, you feed them again & again and then they crap on you one day – only then do you learn your lesson

  • Birgit Platschka

    thank you very much for this lists of ‘ what not to do ‘. You are right, there are so many things we get bombarded with on a daily basis. You know, things to make our site better.

    As the saying goes; less is more – and be yourself.
    Thank you again,

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Thanks, Birgit!

  • drew

    Very good compilation of things, great user experience and an interesting read are the qualities that can pull a huge crowd to your site. And as we move further we are just going to learn and improve ourselves and websites will become more better and better.

  • salvatore

    Great content here: no promotional useless stuff, just make useful pages for your users, use free outbound linking, do not ignore social and … be yourself, I’d like to say 🙂

    They something say that “SEO is dead”, but articles like this demonstrate the exact opposite in my opinion.

    Thanks for this useful article, Inessa!

  • salvatore

    something=sometimes, sorry for mistake 🙂

  • Adele Tiblier

    Stop asking me to fill out a survey about my experience on the first page of my first visit to your site…oh, and please remember that I said “no thanks” the first time you can stop asking me on every subsequent visit.

    • Mike Byrne

      I think this should be added to the list. I agree, popup surveys when you arrive are very annoying.

  • Sam

    Great, helpful, funny post. So much of this comes down to being human before being a salesman. And good taste. Good taste is hard to come by 🙂

  • Venchito Tampon

    If we focus on our search users (getting what they want from our website), then we can better rank in SERPS. Thanks for sharing this post. 🙂

  • Charise

    Excellent post! You nailed it!

  • Jennifer Cunningham

    Enjoyed this post. I agree but didn’t have the courage to say some of the things you said. But now I can post it on fb and refer back to your article. Thanks for such good points.

  • hanna

    This is a great post, I agree with Adele, filling out survey forms is really frustrating. This should be included in this list.

  • Paul

    Excellent list.

    I’d add a few more, mainly in the area around removing control from the reader – excessive popups, popups that can’t be resized (designers, note, people use different screen resolutions as well), popups where the close window facility is not clear and positioned top right.

    And if I see a page that is trying to sell me something, whether it be product, service or just expertise, and that page has glaring spelling mistakes then I don’y usually bother reading on. If you can’t be bothered checking the basics, I can’t be bothered looking. I’ll excuse some errors on some blogs or forum posts but I won’t let them by on a so-called professional site.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hi Paul! Thanks for you comment – you are totally right regarding popups and especially proof-reading. When I started as a junior copywriter many years ago, I was taught to get back to the just written copy the following day and take a totally fresh look at it.

  • Muqtada Khalid

    I came to this post to find one thing that i do or dont want to use in an ecommerce website and that is pricing section of the services a company is rendering, let me know your thoughts on it that should i use the pricing section for the services i m rendering. For example you can click on my name to this comment will take you the example page where i have mentioned it but still i m little curious of its permanent usage. Looking for your feedback.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hi Muqtada! That’s a very interesting question. In your case I’d suggest not using the price section on your website. In most cases (as far as I could understand) you don’t work on fixed prices, and your customers can get frustrated if the project cost turns out to be bigger than the one mentioned on a website.

      However, for the websites that do offer fixed price services, the price section is a must-have, as the question of a price is always on the FAQ list.

      Good luck with your business!

  • Eric

    I realize this is an older articlew but still very relevant. Thanks!

    A big annoyance that you didn’t mention is the nonsensical practice of disabling the “back” button on customer browsers. If I have to restart my browser after getting trapped on a website, I will NEVER go there again and certainly never buy anything from the site. Just sayin’…