After dutifully checking his list, the story goes, Santa Claus has a tough decision to make each year — who has been nice and who has been naughty? Who deserves presents and who should get coal?
If you run a website, you may find yourself caught in a similar bind when reflecting on the past year.
You may wonder: Has my website been in sync with visitor and search engine trends? Or has it shown bad behavior that, if it isn’t hurting the site now, is bound to sink it eventually?
Here are 5 signs your site may be coal-worthy.
1. Poorly written and spun content: You probably already know this, but it still bears repeating: Your site needs high-quality content! Search engines are systematically weeding out lackluster pages and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be letting up. You need to back away from keyword heavy gobbledygook; it won’t get you very far.
2. Overly promotional content: Some have called 2012 the year of the story. Through a variety of mediums, individuals and organizations have tapped into the tried-and-true practice that has connected people for all of recorded history: storytelling. In the future, the stories are only going to get more engaging, a study by the research consultancy Latitude reports. They will be interactive and powerful; they will immerse you.
In other words, the message isn’t about your merits. Instead, it’s about celebrating the merits of anyone who experiences the story. It’s not about promotion; it’s about forging deep, loyal relationships through compelling narratives.
3. No measurable goals: It’s difficult to gauge a website’s performance without concrete benchmarks. Even heavily qualitative goals — for example, the desire to deliver unadulterated awesomeness — can find a quantitative match, whether it’s social shares, comments, eBook downloads, or other aims. Once you’ve figured out how your abstract goals translate into proven figures, you’re in a better position to know whether your site is measuring up.
4. Not writing enough, or writing too much: It’s a delicate dance we have to perform in this age of digital content. On the one hand, search engines tend to privilege new content, with one Google Fellow likening search results to cookies coming out of the oven: “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh.”
So, content creators have to produce frequently in order to keep up.
But let’s not get carried away. Sure, fresh cookies are delicious, but only if they’re prepared well. If you’re in such a rush to produce cookies that you bake something that’s barely edible, not too many people will want to eat them. Even if you master the art of rapid cookie production, you also need to consider consumption needs. One can only consume so many cookies before they fall ill. Make sure you’re not producing so much that your audience is growing overwhelmed.
5. Creepy customized ads: No one likes to feel stalked, but that’s the impression some web users get when they land on a site with advertisements that are so fine-tuned to their search habits that it’s downright creepy. Moving forward, savvy websites will harness the power of data to customize visitor experience without running programs that are so personalized it’s off-putting.
What do you think? What are some coal-worthy offenses to avoid?