I almost did not make my first website.
It seemed like such a daunting task: Taking care of the budget, domain name, hosting server, SEO, content, images, and a bazillion tiny factors that impact a website. So many moving pieces!
But as the title suggests, I did make one – After a lot of deliberation and effort. It still was not error-free.
In this post, I will talk about the mistakes I made with my first website so that you do not make them.
Let us jump right in.
Domain Name & Domain extension
The domain name you choose becomes your brand name.
You want Google to show your website on rank #1 when you look up your brand name
So would you ever select a name used by tens of other websites? Of course not!
I did that. That was probably the biggest of all mistakes I made with my first website.
I chose a brand name with all ten results on Page #1 with a partial match. As of Jan 10, if you search Digigrow, you will find my website ranked 3rd, not 1st. That was after a lot of effort in generating backlinks.
To make things worse, I chose a domain extension of ‘.co.’ It is okay, but ‘.com’ has a universal appeal.
Once you like a domain name, do the basic Google search to see the competition you have for the brand name.
For example, you have to compete with the e-commerce giant and a giant rainforest if your brand name is Amazon.
If a brand has taken that domain name, you must analyze its domain authority. If it is too solid a website, change the planned domain name, no matter how much you like it.
In addition, if available, choose .com extension. However, if your business is specific to a country, you can choose the country extension.
Choice of Web host server
Page Speed is usually the last thing on mind while building a website.
I had no clue how important a ranking factor it is.
As a result, I had no idea how important the server response time was to page speed.
Let us roll back a little.
Page speed is how fast your webpage loads. You can check your page speed here.
Google likes it fast. How fast? Well, Your page should load in 3 seconds!
I tried to optimize my page speed: I compressed my images, reduced my asset consumption, removed unnecessary code, set up AMP on the website. But a slow server load speed put off all my efforts. It was akin to pulling a cart with wheels that roll backward.
I made the mistake of going for the most popular web-serving host.
You should check out which of the hundreds of servers uses the latest hardware.
Do not just go for price; see the value you get for the price. My server was cheap though it goes off for maintenance way too often.
I would recommend Hostgator or Namecheap. Both are solid brands that deliver on all fronts.
The job of plugins is to make your life easy. And most of them do that.
However, plugins are chunks of code that interact with the preexisting code of your WordPress theme and the other existing plugins.
If you are someone like me who barely codes, you need to be watchful. Plugins are like human beings; they are great individuals but often do not get along.
I have had my webpage broken because I used a page speed plugin. It was compatible with my theme, but still, I had technical issues. That was one of the few mistakes of which I am not ashamed. I learned a lot while fixing the errors caused by plugins.
A plugin rating is not enough; you need to check their reviews.
In addition, try to work with as few plugins as you can. Plugins come with their JS/CSS code that hampers your page load speed. Even after you disable/ delete a plugin, you need to take care of the code they may leave behind.
A lot of plugins may not be the value for the tradeoff. Be watchful.
Chasing the competition
Look, I understand the need to get inspired by top-ranking pages.
As someone just starting with SEO and website design, that’s a wise choice.
I did just that. I took a note of every website on page 1 for my keyword, observed what they were doing, and implemented it on my website.
However, I disliked what they did. My competitors had stuffed keywords to the extent that it was comical. They had too slow pages and loads of text on every page.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t like my website. I trimmed it down without any noticeable impact on my SEO.
Do learn from those who made it, but make sure you’re meeting Google’s Webmasters Guidelines.
Ensure that you add value to your visitors, not just to the crawlers.
Keep your originality intact, and over time, your efforts will pay off.
I can understand why you may want to avoid backlinking. Off-page SEO is probably the most monotonous aspect of the whole campaign.
If only On-Page SEO could have cut it! But it doesn’t, and it realized it too late.
I didn’t build any backlinks or citations for good three months after my website was published. And I kept wondering why it did not show up on Google for so long! Looking back, it is so evident that I should have built backlinks: One of the most cringe-worthy mistakes I made with my first website.
Here’s the deal, Google does use the sitemap you submit on Google Search Console. However, it’s not the only way it learns about your website.
It traverses the web and checks the websites discovered in the previous crawl. Imagine if you could get your backlink from one of those pages, you will rank faster.
Start small with backlinks – go for the low-hanging fruit. Some high DA websites offer a backlink free of cost. Analyzing your competition will reveal quite a few of them. Ahref’s backlink checker is Gold in bold letters when doing a competitor analysis.
Next, start writing some blogs on your website. You see, many quality websites won’t link to your homepage or services page as they want to have links fit into the guest post you write for them. You need to have some content on your webpage worthy of a backlink.
Be prepared for rejection. You may write to 40-50 content owners and get responses from 1-2. Of those, you may end up getting just one quality backlink. But that backlink will do much good for your website.
There you have it, a small list of mistakes I made with my first website.
You must keep reading more about the design and SEO of your website and keep optimizing till you find the next shortcoming.