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Destroy Your Website in 13 Easy Steps

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"I know enough to be dangerous." Ever heard that one? Ever said that one? It's a common thing to say, but sometimes we should take it literally.

There are thousands of possible mistakes, but most of them are small and they do no long-term damage. But then there are the big screw-ups, the real disasters.

Here are 13 easy steps that are sure to destroy your website—choke off traffic, kill leads, and push your stats into the basement. They're listed in general order from bad to worse, from serious flaws to utterly devastating ones.

1. It's all about you. Your website should focus on you. Use language like "leading," "top," and "best" so visitors know how great you are. Remember, your website is an advertisement, not a platform for communication. The more self-centered, the better.

2. Buy an email list. Here's a quick way to hurt your brand and waste money at the same time. It's so obvious, I didn't even add it to my recent list of email marketing mistakes, but it gets a mention here. Remember when you told your mom you wanted to be a spammer someday? Now's your chance.


3. Nevermind mobile. Sure, a lot of people are using phones to access websites today, but that's no guarantee that they will be tomorrow. Responsive design takes time and costs money. Why bother? This mobile thing might be just a fad...

4. Add keywords and jargon. Write long pages filled with jargon and keywords. The more keywords the better. Don't worry about editing, formatting, internal links, or calls to action. Use big, dense paragraphs. Use a fun font like Comic Sans to keep people interested.

5. Add more stuff to your homepage. There's always room for one more offer. Add bright, eye-catching graphics to every part of your homepage. Make everything really big, especially your logo. Use animations on several parts of the page to make sure people see everything.

6. Don't use an editor. You're a good writer, right? Some people need an editor, but not you. Hiring a professional costs money—and, anyway, you don't have the time. You probably won't have typos that ruin the credibility of that page.

7. Save money on hosting. Web servers are a commodity. The cheaper the better. Don't fall for upsells like support and backups. They're just trying to scare you to get you to pay more.

8. Give Google the finger. Google loves a challenge, so don't worry about technical SEO. They're smart. They'll figure it out. Ignore SEO basics. A good title tag for your home page is "home." Or use the same title for all your pages. Better yet, put NOINDEX in your robots.txt file and you'll be all set.

9. Install lots of plugins. If you have a WordPress site, find and install plenty of plugins. Even if you're not sure what they do, install now and find out later. Don't worry, conflicts between plugins probably won't break your contact form, slow down your site, or break the design.

10. Let interns run your social media. No one represents the company better than the lowest-paid, least-experienced team member. Hand over the keys to all the social media accounts. Now you can sleep well knowing it's covered.

11. Don't test your lead generation form. You did all that work on your marketing. You spent the time and the money. You followed all the lead generation best-practices. After all that, it comes down to one, little piece of programming: the contact form. It takes less than a minute to test it, but you're busy. Do it later.

12. Lose track of your domain registration. The password is written down somewhere. You could find it if you needed it. You haven't gotten an email from your registrar, but that might be because your address changed. It's not going to expire, is it? And if it did, no one else would register it. My website and email probably won't disappear tomorrow.

13. Kill it before it's born. During the design process, make sure to form several committees to help. Of course, you'll need input from Sales, Marketing and IT, but also invite your friends, uncles, and cousins to give opinions and last-minute feedback on design. It's a good way to make sure you'll miss deadlines, incur extra costs, and possibly never launch at all.

Bonus Destruction: Help Getting Hacked

If you want to manage files on your server, you'll need an FTP program. Rather than pay for one or use something reputable, find a random, free tool. Now when you use it to log in, the FTP program will secretly add a backdoor for hackers. You won't even notice until days later when links to Turkish porn websites appear at the bottom of every page on your site.

Your Turn to Be Snarky...

There are so many things that should be on this list, but I had to force myself to stop. Now's your chance to give a bit of destructive advice. Design disasters? Programming time bombs? Content safety hazards? It's all fair game.

Leave a comment with your top tip for burning down a website.


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is the strategic director of Orbit Media, a Web design company in Chicago. He's the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing.

Twitter: @crestodina.

LinkedIn: Andy Crestodina

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  • by Pete Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Let your boss run the process. You know, the one that starts off the conversation with, "I don't know anything about marketing or technology but..."

  • by Kimmy Burgess Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Well interesting post to ruin overall name of any site, but i believe one should rather try their best to gain good name under the market scenario, where usage of words should be done in a proper manner, so that post doesn't show any biasing nature

  • by Benny Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Cute. It would actually be helpful if you followed up with the opposite article, or a positive spin on each of the 13+ things you've listed here. Show me the wrong way, and then show me the right way!

    Of course this is a general piece and specifics may tougher, but this piece needs a twin! Think fraternal, not identical :)

  • by Kami Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    This post should go down in history as a perfect example of how to alienate and belittle the very readers who most need helpful tips. My thought after I read this? Who does he work for so I can be sure that I will never hire them so that I never have to work with him!

  • by Scott Caufield Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Superb advice, and great snark!

  • by Benny Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    @Kami, I think you're taking this a bit too seriously.

  • by Karen Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    This is hilarious and I have seen each and every one of these mistakes while helping build websites. In addition, please hide all RELEVANT information. Nobody really wants to know what your phone number or e-mail address is anyhow. Also, make your customers and potential customers go through 4-5 clicks to reach any information they care about. They have endless amounts of time they want to spend on your website digging for what they want.

  • by Michelle Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    14. Put as many calls to action on every page as possible. Get those visitors nice and confused so that they have no idea where to start, or what your company really does.

  • by John Webber Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Hey Andy,

    Was a bit confused when I first started reading but now I love your article.. .... Here are a few of my favorite tips for burning down a website.

    1. Have a nice Flash intro page all about how wonderful your are.
    2. Add music to your site that plays automatically when the page is loaded.
    3. Never put pricing on your website ... make people fill out a form to request a quote.

  • by Benny Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Don't forget the "Subscribe now" lightbox pop without an "X"! Users love being ambushed by your greedy subscribe requests!

  • by Steve Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Also, be sure to pop-up a DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A SURVEY ABOUT OUR SITE? box the first time someone visits your home page,

  • by John Wolforth Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Unless I'm missing something, the biggest way to wreck your website is to do it yourself! Just go on GoDaddy or a plethora of other hosting websites and use their AWESOME website building tools. I mean hey, I'm no home builder, but I remodeled my kitchen in only 3 years! And it looks great. If you look at it upside down. And in the dark.

  • by The Media Fairy Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Never, ever add fresh content or update the copyright date to the current year. I found the article quite entertaining, but then I speak fluent snark. =)

  • by Ken Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    The people who answer the phones know what your customers want to know. Make sure it's all on the homepage. Your products and services are so well known that website visitors will gladly browse through your site to find the product that solves their problem.

  • by Nick Kosar Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Don't ever try to track or measure anything: whether it's the content and the editorial schedule you're keeping, or less importantly, who is visiting your web properties, and how often, and from which platforms. Don't try to use shortlinks to measure your social reach or to even improve on it.

  • by Ryan Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Create a 20-minute video detailing every feature your product or service offers. Make it go viral by posting it on every page of your website and have it automatically play whenever each page loads.

    For added effect, try to make sure the video thumbnail shows someone mid-sentence, mouth hanging open.

  • by Dave Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Agree with Karen - you missed this one.

    Ensure the company telephone number and address is removed from every page - even the contact page. It's the internet. No one ever wants to talk with a company representative. Interacting with a "Contact Us" or "Sales" email address is by far preferred.

  • by Kenn Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Always pretend that your company or business is something they are not. Omit your mailing address, use a toll-free number, and host your site with a international hosting company. By doing this, you'll alienate any local business and compete on an international level. Be sure to do this even if you have no way of serving customers outside of your area. Good luck!

  • by Gilda Steiger Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Great snarky post! Every one rings true!

    For those companies with international clients - use one of the free automatic translators to translate your site, or better yet, let Google do it.

  • by Lisa Mon Jan 27, 2014 via web

    Great advice and snark!

  • by Anupam Tue Jan 28, 2014 via web

    Awesome list. I have 1 to add. My favourite. Use FAKE TESTIMONIALS. Real ones take effort

  • by Harry Gardiner Wed Jan 29, 2014 via web

    Great read! Had a laugh reading it until I realised how much it bugs me that site owners still make these silly mistakes.

    My best tips for destroying your website:

    1. Duplicate long bodies of copy on every page in order to give the reader more to look at. It doesn't matter if it's all same, that just reinforces your brand.... Right?!?

    2. Actively accept unfiltered guest contributors and comments. Don't censor your audience with a comment filter, let them actively express themselves by posting directly onto your site. Crowdsourcing is all the rage these days.

    3. Quality editorial design is only for premium blogs! You don't need to worry about how your site looks, and whether or not your users can navigate it properly. If they're not smart enough to find their way to you blog posts then they don't deserve to read them. (seriously though, editorial design is so important, yet so many people mess it up: http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/blog-editorial-design/)

    Keep up the great work!

  • by Rahul Wed Feb 5, 2014 via web

    Awesome article. Loved it.

  • by krishinc Thu Feb 6, 2014 via web

    Interesting post , It can help you when you take this article positively and don't make a mistake. Article shows perfect example which types of website activity happening in a market.

  • by Maya K Fri Feb 7, 2014 via web

    Loved most of the snarks except for Kami of 1/27... My modest contribution to the list: plaster your photo on every page you can, list your "services" instead of offering your clients solutions to their own business problems, and last but not least, never give your clients an idea of what steps to expect to follow if they decide to work with you :-)

  • by dr p Mon Feb 10, 2014 via web

    Am I the only reader who hasn't crossed the Digital Divide? I finally "got" that these were prohibitions, after unraveling the negatives to get to the excellent positive suggestions.

    I'm not a DIY, but here's my 2 cents about a way to destroy a website before it's even born.

    Hire an expensive marketing company, ( a Google affiliate) purporting to target mobile users, marketing itself as completely familiar with the needs of small medical practices, but over promises and totally under delivers. In the only call I had with my supposed "representative", I was assured that website construction was included in their high price, and that she was au currant with my profession.

    What I got was a generic template with prewritten content , (key words had been" validated by" some study or other.) Great way to lose your license and your livelihood! I messaged her not to put in online yet (which she did) Her emailed response:"I have 161 clients. I don't have the bandwidth to write your website for you". I know I know..caveat emptor...

    I've since seen comments on other sites with similar complaints about this company. I'm now looking for a consultant through MarketingProfs to help me figure out this expensive, and time-consuming quandary.

  • by Carl Hartman Tue Feb 18, 2014 via web

    14. Don't hire a marketing professional to do your web site, all you need is a web designer. As we all know web designers and graphic artists know everything about marketing. You don't need any marketing strategy, just a great looking web site.

  • by Alan Tue Feb 18, 2014 via web

    How about throwing up a giant pop-up window - on every single click you make on the site - asking you if you want to become a member? A bit like marketingprofs is doing right now.....

  • by Kameel Vohra Sat Mar 8, 2014 via web

    Remember to hide your contact details, obfuscate email addresses, and avoid publishing an address or delivery/service coverage. That way you're sure to drive away any potential clients.

    If you've got a web form, ensure nobody checks the details it sends for weeks.

  • by B Tue Apr 22, 2014 via web

    Gifs and auto-music with no volume control are fun ways to really make an impression! Make sure the gifs are violently oscillating and the music is very loud.

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