Posted November 26, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Website Mistakes by Niche Gourmets

Working with websites on a daily basis is somewhat frustrating for me. You see, as a niche gourmet myself I tend to surf a lot of the hot sauce websites on the net and am quite shocked at the number of bad mistakes (either design or code wise) that exist, even within a select handful of websites. If you are in this list, consider it free advice. I thought about writing this article without examples so as not to offend anyone, but then that wouldn’t really drive home the point, now would it? If I can spot these mistakes then so can your customers.

1. Sound – Do not use sound effects/catchy tunes that play when a visitor hits your homepage (or any page for that matter). 80% of the time the noise and or jingle is going to scare away your customers before they even get a chance to look at your products. Plus it’s just annoying. There is no need to tell users what website they are on.

2. Cross Browser Verification – With over 100 million downloads, FireFox is the 2nd most popular web browser in the world. (Internet Explorer is #1 of course.) You’ll find the more internet savvy your customers are, the greater chances of them being a FireFox user. Have you ever stop to cross-check your site in FireFox? You should – with each and every page you develop. CSS errors are quite common but fortunately are also quite easy to fix.

3. 404 Pages & Incomplete Pages – Never ever use one of those annoying construction zone .gifs – Simply don’t put the page up and don’t link to it until it’s ready to be seen by the world.

4. Making it too hard to buy – If you’re a niche gourmet looking to make it big and get your own following of customers, you need to make it easy for them to buy your products. Do not make a customer call or email for your product pricing and/or ordering information. Yes, some devout few will hunt you down in the middle of Antarctica for another hook up but 95% of visitors will leave your site and find a site that’s willing to let them checkout online. PayPal works well for folks with only a few products and lower sales volume.

5. Bad Images / Copying Images – Yes it’s easy to right click and copy images, but it’s also easier then ever to take good digital photos. Do not copy photos from other sites – especially images with copyright imprints on them. Don’t know how to take good product photos? Tough. Learn to or pay someone to take them – copying images will only get you in trouble down the road. Owners of copyrighted photos can go as far to reach out to your ISP or hosting provider and shut your site down completely. And if you are caught using copyrighted images on eBay your listings can be pulled down through the use of eBay’s Vero Program.

If you have bought the ‘rights’ to a set of photos you may find you are in for an unpleasant surprise. Half of the time permission has not been granted for the use of those photos and if the copyright owner spots you using them, you will have to take them down, no matter what you paid. It’s your responsibility to investigate the source of the photos before purchasing, otherwise you may face legal action down the road.

6. Spam Tactics
a. Duplicate Domains – Tsk, tsk – Publishing your site on two different domains is never a good idea. Having duplicate sites can cause one or all of your sites to be banned in one or all of the major search engines, plus you wind up confusing your online customers.
b. Spamming Blogs – Blogs are more popular then ever, with something like 10 blogs being created every minute (maybe much more). But as nice as blogs can be for reviews and general knowledge share, it is never wise to traipse around online, leaving ‘please come to my site and buy something’ comments everywhere. It’s perfectly okay to leave comments on blogs with your company information, provided you actually have something to say that’s worth a damn. But did you know most blogs now use the no-follow tags in the comments section due to the abuse spammers have put them through? Chances are, all the begging for visits will just be a waste of your time.
c. Hidden Text – Just don’t do it. Long gone are the days of white on white paragraphs with 100’s of keywords. Below the fold is very common and easy for customers to spot. And if your customers can see it, then your competitors can see it which means they can also report it. And if the spam report is actually read, then one morning you will wake up, check your sites rankings and find nothing, not even a trace of your website within the search engine databases. Google can be a mean beast that way.

7. Animated Gifs – Along the same lines as those dreadful ‘Under Construction’ .gifs with flashing lights, any animated gif is just a bad idea.

8. Page Titles & Meta Tags – Hello people, if you have a website, please o please make sure your title tags and meta tags describe your company. No, you don’t have to optimize them for search engines but you do need to optimize them for your visitors. The title tags are the links that appear in the search engines and the meta description is often the page description (this varies from engine to engine). My ‘favorites’ are those that completely miss this step in the website building process and thus the title on their company website is ‘Title’

9. Too Much Flash / Flash Intros – Flash is bad for search engines. Flash may be very pretty and come with all sorts of bells and whistles for your customers to play with, but really, if your site is 100% flash – then your customers are going to have a pretty hard time finding you.

10. Not Having a Website? – This is a no brainier. If you have a sauce or a product on the market, or are even thinking about putting one out there, buy yourself a domain name. At least setup a one page blurb about your company with working contact information. Also, setup a company email. I loathe seeing company emails being sent from Yahoo or Hotmail accounts (and now Gmail). Think of it this way, if your domain is in your email address, that’s just another way to promote your site.

11. Long / Hard to understand domain names – Sweat ‘N Spice certainly falls victim to this one. When telling someone to go to Sweat ‘N Spice .com they typically reply ‘Sweat AND Spice .com’? So to prevent any misdirected customers, I simply purchased the domain SweatANDSpice.com and set up a redirect on it so that it automatically directs visitors and spiders to the SweatNSpice.com domain. Problem solved. And since the redirect is a 301 (permanently moved), there are no duplicate domain penalties to be had.

12. Old stuff. When your site is so out dated that visitors can no longer remember the last time they saw a different product on the home page, it’s definitely time to sit down and do some work. If your customers don’t feel that you’re up to date and constantly updating the product lines and associated items, then they will find another store to buy from.

13. Copying Anything Else – Need I say more? Hell, if your going to copy something so blatantly, at least do it with a bit of style (Copy of MoHotta). Sometimes the copycat websites are legitimate spawn of the original, but then that brings us right back to the duplicate content penalties & confusing your customers.

There are plently more to list, that’s for sure. If I’ve missed one of your ‘favorite’ offenders, please drop a note below – this may render a follow up article…

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog