14 Ways Your Website May Be Giving You a Bad Reputation


When people come to your site, you’re implicitly asking them to believe in you. You may want them to feel secure enough to buy your product or to hire you or to understand that your reviews are balanced and honest. Even if you have nothing to sell, you still need new users to know that what you write is credible so that they will become regular visitors.

The trouble is, it’s all too easy to send wrong signals to users. Here are some subtle – and not so subtle – ways your site might inadvertently be doing that:

1. Your Site Takes Too Long To Load

Suppose there are two cab companies – one uses a fleet of sleek BMWs, the other some battered old Fiats. Which would you trust more?

So it is with site loading time. A fast loading site feels like it’s going somewhere and that the people behind it know what they’re doing.

The Fix

Using a cache system will greatly speed up your site by reducing the number of database calls needed to serve each page. Recommended plugins for WordPress include Total Cache, WP Super Cache and Quick Cache.

You can reduce site loading time enormously by combining a cache plugin with a second plugin to minify (compress) your HTML code. This feature is built-in to Total Cache but isn’t activated by default.

Image intensive sites will also benefit from compressing image size using a system like WP Smush It which can shave off 10% or more from image filesizes.

Bonus: All this is great for SEO too. If you’re using Google Analytics keep an eye on Content > Site Speed to see how your site speed improves.

2. There Are A Bazillion Widgets In Your Sidebar

All those shiny widgets may look pretty but if they’re using Javascript (and most do) they’re slowing your site more than you think. In any case, too many widgets just screams MySpace 2002 at users.

The Fix

How about going cold turkey on the widgets? Do you really need them? Are they helping you communicate with your users? If not, they really should go.

3. Broken Links and Images That Don’t Load

No one intentionally puts a broken link on their site, but stuff gets moved around and links get broken. The same can happen with image links.

The Fix

Get into the habit of checking for broken links once a month or after a major site redesign. I use Link Examiner, a free program that spiders an entire site and generates a report of broken HTML or image links along with the page they’re on. It doesn’t look pretty but it gets a vital job done.

4. You Have No Contact Form

Not having a contact form – or at the very least a page with your contact information – sends the signal that you’d rather be anonymous. Subconsciously, visitors will wonder why you don’t want to be found.

The Fix

Add a contact form and test it thoroughly to make sure it works. Don’t forget to include other ways you can be contacted like Skype and messaging services if that’s your style.

If you’re not up to building a contact form yourself, there are some easy-to-use WordPress plugins that can do the hard work for you.

5. No Images of the Writers, Owners or Contributors

Unless you’re a typographical genius, a website without pictures looks weird.

People like to know who they’re dealing with. That’s especially true if you’re an ecommerce site. Users cannot help but wonder, “Who are these people I’m giving my credit card info to?”.

But it’s also true if you’re selling services or want clients to hire you. Potential customers are reassured when they can see who’s at the other end of the website.

The Fix

Sprinkle some good quality people images around your site, but be careful not to make the images too big as that can look egotistical.

A human photo is a useful reassuring presence on support pages and order forms, implying that someone is around if something goes wrong.

6. You Have No ‘About’ Page

Not having an ‘about’ page is another blunder that sends the subconscious signal that you’re trying to hide something.

The Fix

A good ‘about’ page isn’t necessarily a long one. Just a couple of paragraphs will let potential customers know who you are and how you might be able to help them. It’s also a great place to introduce the members of your site or business with a mini bio and photograph.

7. Site Design Glitches

Even if you’ve spent a lot of time refining the design, it’s easy to miss something that diminishes the trust you’ve built up through your content.

The Fix

Check for problems that may be small but can derail the visual flow of your site. The problem could be as simple as a header image that doesn’t quite line up, or a font size that’s too small to be easily read – especially when used in footer links to privacy policies and other legal type pages. Too small a font makes it look like you’re trying to hide something.

8. Too Much Design With A Capital ‘D’

Everyone loves a beautifully-designed site, but when it looks like you’re using design to hide a lack of content, you’re in trouble.

The Fix

Be honest with yourself. Is your design so big it makes your content look small? If so, scale it back a little bit.

No one’s saying make it boring, but users need to be able to easily find the basics like site navigation and the content they came to your site for.

9. Too Many Ads

Users accept that websites need advertising to survive, but too many ads make you look like a desperate, begging salesperson.

The Fix

It may be counter-intuitive, but more ads doesn’t always mean more money. Be a bit more sophisticated with your use of ads, and you might well find they perform better.

One full ad showing above the scroll is not a bad guideline.

Hang on, you say, this very website has a lot of ads running in the sidebar. That’s true, but they’re positioned in such a way that they don’t intrude on the content, which is the key thing.

10. Spelling Mistakes and Grammar Mishaps

This is one of the quickest ways to lose all credibility – bad writing makes you look like an idiot, and no one wants to be involved with one of those.

The Fix

Run everything through a spell checker but then check it manually. No spell checker will tell you when you’ve written there when you meant their. Ask someone you trust to check your content – another pair of eyes will usually find something you’ve missed.

If you can’t do that, print the content out on that old-fashioned stuff called paper. Seeing it in a new form often means you’ll see mistakes you’ve become used to skipping over when you’re seen your writing on the screen for the 98th time.

11. The Comments Section Is Empty or Full (Of Spam)

What users see in the comments section they will assume is a reflection of the kind of people hanging around your blog.

No one wants to hang around a bunch of spammers, and an empty comments section on an established site makes visitors wonder why you’re so unpopular.

The Fix

New blog? Only a very small percentage of readers actually comment, so consider turning off comments until you get a bit of traffic to avoid the ghost town effect.

To kill spam, make sure you’ve got Akismet or another anti-spam plugin installed and set up correctly. If you’re getting particularly targeted by spammers, consider automatically closing comments on posts after a certain time. WordPress users can go to Settings > Discussion to do this.

12. Your Popup Overlays Popup Too Much

The Problem: You get to a site and are just getting into what looks like some pretty good content when the page dims and up pops a newsletter subscription box.

You click it off. No harm done. But then it happens again on the next page. And the next.

Many marketers say their conversion rate is sky high with overlays, but once per visiting session is probably enough. Even better, why not set it to appear after a second page view or for returning visitors? They’re both signs of engaged users who are those most likely to sign up.

13. Ban The Brochure Speak

Are you, “Facilitating innovative solutions to help clients achieve a new paradigm”? Yes? Then stop. Stop it right now.

Even if you’re representing a corporate entity, you’re still a human talking to another one, so you need to write like one. Otherwise, you won’t make a connection with the reader, which is vital for gaining trust.

The Fix

Ask someone else if they understand what you’ve written. Sometimes what’s obvious to you is confusing to someone else.

Keep your writing simple and to the point. That won’t make it less business-like, but it will be a lot more readable.

14. Your Site Doesn’t Have A Personality

We can’t help but prefer to buy things from people we like. Even if you’re not directly selling a product, you’re selling yourself as reliable consultant, freelancer or source of information.

If your site doesn’t reflect something of your personality, you’re missing a chance to be likeable.

The Fix

Don’t be afraid to show a little of your personality in your content. Some types of site will lend themselves more to this than others, but anything you can add to help users feel they are getting to know you will boost the confidence they have in you.

A little sprinkle of light humour, if that’s something that suits you and your site, can go a long way.

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