When you're building a brand-new website, it's understandable that you're in a hurry to bring it live. But before you display your genius to the whole world via the Internet, you'd better double check a few things. If you don't, you're going to give everyone the wrong impression – and quite possibly sabotage your potential for success.
As Stoney deGeyter observed, it's often the little things that cause sites to go south. With web developers focusing on the visual aspects of the website and SEOs looking at keyword research, keyword integration, and link building, you might be surprised at what gets missed. And there's no comfort at all in the fact that many of these missed items show up as glaringly obvious errors to your site's visitors.
Let's start with spelling and grammar. You might assume a spell checker catches everything these days, but it doesn't – and the only spell checkers I know that can also catch grammar reliably are composed of flesh and blood, not silicon. That means it is your job, not the computer's, to double check for mistakes in spelling and grammar.
Pay attention to the spell checker, but check one more time AFTER you think you've caught everything. Do this whenever you add new content to your website, and also whenever you change its content. It may not seem like a big deal if there is only an error or two, but it looks unprofessional, and anything that hurts your professional image also hurts your credibility online. That's the last thing you want.
The second thing you should check before going live with a new site or new content is HTML validation. “Validating your code is not entirely important for optimization, but it will ensure that there are no coding problems that can prevent search engine spiders from properly indexing your pages,” notes deGeyter. Yes, it can be a pain, especially when many “errors” that turn up don't actually affect the way your pages display in a browser and don't prevent the search engines from “reading” your pages. But it's still worth doing.
If you don't run that HTML validation check, how will you know whether or not your pages carry code with serious issues that need resolving? Also, if you've never validated your code, how will you know if any changes you make to your pages later cause their own problems? “If you leave code unvalidated, you may change something that creates one or more potentially harmful validation errors and never really know about it,” deGeyter observes. If you make a point of validating your HTML, you save yourself from one potential SEO issue.
Finally, we come to the issue of broken links. Yes, broken links can happen over time no matter what you do. Internally, whenever you move, rename, or delete pages, you can cause broken links. Externally, they happen when a site to which you're linking to makes changes or goes away. Either way, if you send your visitors somewhere via a broken link, you make them unhappy...and on top of that, it “makes a pretty significant statement about your ability to keep information current and up to date,” writes deGeyter.
It's the kind of statement that, once again, reflects very badly on your professional image. To nip this problem in the bud, make sure you run a broken link check regularly – about every month or so – to find these issues. Once you find them, make sure you fix them!
All three of the checks I've pointed out here – spelling and grammar, HTML validation, and broken links – deal with fiddly details. But sometimes it's the details that matter most. These are the details by which visitors get to know you online. Get them right, and you project an air of credibility and professionalism. Get them wrong, and visitors will neither trust you nor take you seriously – and that's the last thing you want. Good luck!
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