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11 things you should remove from your website this week

Your website can always be better and you can always provide more for your website visitors. We’ve compiled some items from our internal checklists to help make some changes.

1. Unspecific headlines deter skimmers, so flip them

Homepage headlines that don’t contain a number, place, or specific fact are frustrating to users. 

Even when you think you’re being specific, be wary of headlines like “38% experienced an increase in sales”. When you encounter a percentage always ask: “X% percent of what?” 

How to fix it: In most cases, the sub-headline is usually better than the primary headline. Flip them around. So something like this:

Experience matters

Get one-to-one personal training with instructors who have over 200 hours of on-the-job experience

Becomes this:

Get one-to-one personal training with instructors who have over 200 hours of on-the-job experience

Experience matters

2. Remove or move your social media icons

Most sites see about 40-50% of their traffic from social media sites. While Facebook is cratering in referral traffic, it still adds up. That doesn’t mean, however, you should be sending traffic the other way. We’ve learned and have started to move social media icons away from the top and sides of pages.

All of those social media icons in your header or in the top of your sidebar are just reasons to push people away to your site. Someone might think, “Neat, you have a YouTube channel” and then click it. Now they’ve left your site and for the next three hours they’re watching cat videos and fan-made mashups of Mad Men episodes.

So long as people are on your site there is a hope they’ll do more on your site like subscribe to a list, buy a product, make a donation, or write a comment. A user on YouTube is more likely to watch more YouTube videos.

How to fix it: Move all of the social stuff into the footer or way down into a sidebar. Keep them out of the header. If they must be in the header, consider turning them gray to remove color.

3. Suggested videos on YouTube embeds

Speaking of YouTube, make sure you toggle the “Show suggested videos when the video finishes” option OFF when you embed a YouTube video. This setting appears in the embed options when you click “Share” on any YouTube video.

When you don’t, you embed videos on your site that prompt the user to keep watching related or similar videos. This is often of your competitors. Don’t put your competitors on your website unless you’re smoking them in some key metric or feature.

4. Extra long paragraphs should be broken up

Long paragraphs make it hard for people to skim. A lot of visitors may read your site, but all of your visitors will skim your site. So make it easy.

How to fix it: Break up long paragraphs. Keep them to about 3-4 sentences. And vary the length of your sentences, too. This adds variety and flow to your writing.

5. Avoid photos of buildings, empty rooms, and stock photos that are too perfect

Everyone can spot a stock photo three web pages away. If I asked you why you can identify a stock photo you’d say it was because they’re not genuine, feel forced, and look staged.

So why do you use photos that don’t look genuine, are forced, and look staged?

How to fix it: Unless you’re an architect or engineer, avoid photos of buildings. Buildings aren’t interesting. It’s the people inside them that are interesting. The people in buildings do things. The buildings just keep the furniture dry.

Also, avoid over-thinking photos. Too many organizations fall into this trap of making every photo show happy people, all ethnically diverse, an even mix of men and women, and in a spotless environment. You’re not fooling anyone and no one “sees themselves” in those photos. No one’s that happy, either.

Just take a selfie or your own photos. It’ll be 100% genuine even if it isn’t as “pretty”. Better yet, hire a photographer for a day to come shadow everyone at the office. You’ll get a ton of photos you can use for years.

6. Don’t publish press releases

Unless your press release is written in such a casual way it can double as a blog post, don’t publish it. A press release is for journalists and contains details like “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”, has a boilerplate About section that’s redundant, usually contains a company-specific thing like an event you’re attending, and has boring quotes no one actually said.

How to fix it Remember that about 0% of your readers are journalists. Write the press release to fit the context of your site by removing About text and linking to your About page. Remove links at the end to visit the site you’re already on and instead link someplace useful within the site. 

Shorten the text and quotes so they’re genuine and realistic. Remove the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” junk and frame whatever you’re talking about for the benefit of your customers. Break up text into lists, sub-headers, and include block quotes and columns to break up heavy chunks.

7. Banish every PDF from your website

My tombstone will someday read, “No one ever got excited about a PDF document”. I say it at least 2 or 3 times a week. PDFs are large, cumbersome, and basically slap your mobile phone users in the face. Like press releases slapped into a blog post, PDFs are the lazy way out.

PDFs often come from other contributors or staffers to a site. They made some flyer in Publisher and now think the world will want this flyer on the Internet. Flyers belong on telephone poles and bulletin boards, not the Internet.

With few exceptions, like downloading a large report, a huge scan of archived documents from before computers existed, or renderings or blueprints, PDFs have no place on your website. Banish them. Ditto for publishing Word .docx files.

How to fix it: Go to google and type the following:

Site:yourwebsiteURL.com .PDF

Google will then show you how many PDFs are on your website. Identify them and make a plan for what can be deleted. For what can’t be deleted, make them into usable web pages. Copy out the text (or find the original document so you can copy it). Also, insert the images natively into a webpage. 

8. Move your testimonials out of your testimonials page and into your site

Testimonials provide a lot of social proof about a product or service. They can be helpful if the reviews are helpful and not trite, “This was great!”. It’s also important they’re not “too perfect and glowing” because they’ll be perceived as unrealistic.

Bundling all your testimonials on one page isn’t effective. These pages are rarely clicked on.

How to fix it: Remove the testimonials page and sprinkle the quotes and testimonials around the site. If someone makes a claim about a class or event you hosted, put the quote on the page that promotes that event.

If someone remarked about a product, put the quote on the product’s page.

9. Extra long forms ask for too much and get too little

The more questions you ask in a contact or inquiry form, the less response you’ll get. We once had a client that wanted to ask 28 pieces of information for an event registration. They even wanted to ask for an emergency contact — for a conference! They weren’t exactly going on a cross-country hot air balloon ride.

How to fix it: Just ask for precisely what you need. That’s usually the first and last name, email, and maybe an address for shipping. If you don’t intend to call people, then don’t ask for phone numbers. 

10. Banish the word “submit”

We’re guilty of this on a lot of our sites and we’re slowly changing them as we encounter the word “submit”. It’s a blunt, forced word that is too technical and emotionless.

How to fix it: Change “submit” to a more fitting verb, like “Send Message”, “Start Membership”, “Create Account”, “Find Stores”, etc.

11. Weak Thank You and confirmation pages

Confirmation pages and messages that just say “Thank you for your message. We’ll be in touch!” Or “Thanks for your order. We’ll get it to you right away!” Might as well say, “Sayonara”.

How to fix it: Beef up your thank you and confirmation pages to make more offers. If you’re selling products, promote new products that are coming soon or available for pre-order. Or, show accessories a person might have forgotten.

If it’s a contact form confirmation, offer a “next steps” page where you introduce the people who receive the email messages, what their response time is, and other ways they can find answers to questions (like a forum or knowledge base).

If it’s a Thank You for a donation, create a page that says “Here’s where your money is going” or “Here’s what you’re helping us do” that shows photos and videos of projects underway. It’s also a good opportunity to ask people to subscribe to your Twitter account or email list.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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