SuperMedia/Dex Media Local Search Engine Marketing (Pay-Per-Click) – An In-Depth Report (Read Before Signing Up)

If you are a company serving a local area, especially a small business, and you’re considering working with Dex Media (formerly SuperMedia and Superpages) to help increase your online visibility, read this blog before signing up for their services, particularly their “Search Engine Marketing” (SEM), which utilizes Google AdWords. Google AdWords is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing, but Dex Media may call it something else since PPC tends to have a negative connotation. Generally if you’re paying more than a couple $100’s a month with Dex Media, you’re probably in a Pay-Per-Click program.

I’ve written other blogs about SuperMedia and Pay-Per-Click ads, but this blog includes some new enlightening information and more details that may help you make a more educated decision on whether you want to work with Dex Media.

About eight months ago a client came to me saying he had signed up with Dex Media’s Search Engine Marketing program. He was already getting fantastic results from organic (not paid for) rankings we had set up for him, but he wanted an extra boost for the coming spring season, and the Dex Media sales reps were very persuasive. He signed up for a one-year contract and said although it was extremely expensive, he was getting more phone calls, but couldn’t be sure if it was due to Dex Media since they had just entered their busy season anyway. I decided to research his Google Analytics statistics to see how many website visits were actually coming from the new Dex Media ads. I was delighted to see that visits to his website had more than doubled overnight, but then logic set in and I recalled the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true…”. So I spent some time in his Google Analytics account researching his website visits, sources and referring sites for those visits, cities and countries where visitors were coming from, etc. I found that the extra visits were coming from one city in one state far away in which my client had never done business. Literally over 700 visits were from ONE city nowhere near his company. I dug a little deeper and found that for every visitor from this one city, the visitors’ “Network Domain” (Internet Service Provider, or ISP) was supermedia.com. Network domains include ISP’s such as Comcast, Verizon, and NetCarrier, as well as large companies that have their own in-house ISP, such as Bank of America, Microsoft, and of course, SuperMedia.

About a month ago another client called me to tell me that he had also signed up with Dex Media. After a few months his monthly cost went through the roof, so he decided to do some Google Analytics investigations of his own. He called to ask my advice because he couldn’t believe what he found. This time, the extra visits weren’t coming from another state in the U.S., they were coming from West Bengal, INDIA! Once again, the Network Domain for all of these visits was supermedia.com.

Why are these suspicious visits so important, and how can they hurt you if they are “fake” visits?

  1. The most obvious issue is, of course, that Dex Media charges you for each click to your website from a version of your domain name that they alter so they can track the clicks. The more clicks, the higher the cost. If you have 480 visits in one month from West Bengal, India, and Dex is charging you $1 per click, that’s $480 that Dex Media gets from you.
  2. These visits hurt your organic ranking. Because of the high bounce rate (the visitors jump onto your site and immediately jump off), search engines may start dropping your site in their rankings in favor of your competitors’ websites that have lower bounce rates, because a high overall bounce rate signals that your website has some issues that make visitors want to quickly leave the site. It can take a long time for your website’s search engine rank to return to normal after it’s suffered from high bounce rates, and some sites never fully recover.But why would these suspicious visitors leave so quickly? If someone is truly interested in your services, they’ll stick around for a minute or so, read what you have to offer and visit some of your other pages. But if someone is only getting paid to visit websites, then the more sites they visit, the more they get paid. In fact, there are tons of services where you can pay someone as little as $5 to drive thousands of visitors to a website within just a few days! These services use a huge network of workers from countries like India and China to continually jump on and off websites. Think of how much money a company can make by paying someone $5 to drive 1,000 visitors to your website, while charging you $1 for each of those visits. That’s a 20,000% profit!

Of course I’m not accusing Dex Media of anything, and it would be libelous for me to say that they are guilty of charging customers for fake clicks or engaging in any type of scam or fraud. I’m simply presenting facts and statistics from Google Analytics reports and leaving it up to you to draw your own conclusions. And to help you with that, I’ve even included some screen shots of my client’s Google Analytics results.

blog1Screen #1

Screen #1 above is my client’s Google Analytics results for a one-month period showing the countries that visitors came from. The United States visitors are from people who are interested in what my client is selling. This is obvious from the normal looking Bounce Rate of 46.38%, pages per session of 2.79 (visitors looked at 2 to 3 pages on the site), and average session duration of 2:13 (visitors stayed on site for an average of 2 minutes and 13 seconds). Compare this to the India visits, with a bounce rate of 99.79% (almost 100% of the visitors jumped on the site and immediately jumped off), only 1 page per session, and less than one second on the site. Also, look at the overall Bounce Rate of 78.50%, which has been jacked up by those high India bounce rates (anything more than 50% is too high); it’s this overall number that can hurt your search engine rankings (see #2 above).

blog2Screen #2

As I drilled down to the individual cities in India in Screen #2 above, we see that almost all of the India visits came from the Network Domain of “SuperMedia”. Also note the overall bounce rate of 99.79% for those India visits!

blog3Screen #3

And just for fun, we can see in Screen #3 above that only 6 of the visits in that one month period were actual clicks to the Google Ad, from people located in the states in which the client does business. Actually, make that 5, since it appears that the PA visit was someone who probably clicked the ad by mistake (see the 100% bounce rate and 0 visit duration?). My client paid about $1000 in this particular month. For 5 clicks. That’s $200 per click, and with no way of knowing if those 5 people even called the client or purchased their services!

SUMMARY

In summary, when thinking about working with a company, do your homework. Search the company name and then add “scam” or “fraud” or “reviews” at the end of it; i.e. Company ABC scam. For instance, this site http://www.consumeraffairs.com/business/dex_yellow_pages.html has tons of reviews from consumers about their experiences with Dex Media/ SuperMedia, going back 5 years, almost all of which are 1 star reviews. Another similar site is http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/directory/dex-media.

When you’re paying any third party company for pay-per-click ads, you should know exactly what you’re paying for. Never rely on the company’s own statistics. Always have Google Analytics installed on your website, and don’t give the third party company the password, as they will then have the ability to alter your Google Analytics reports to filter out information they don’t want you to see. Pay-per-click is tricky, and I don’t recommend it, but you can set it up through Google AdWords yourself directly and cut out the Dex Media middleman. Maintaining a Pay-Per-Click campaign on your own is complicated and time-consuming, however, and it’s very easy to check the wrong box and end up paying too much. Please read my other blog on Pay-Per-Click and why it’s not a good solution for most companies.

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Why You’re Not Ranking in Search Engines for All Your Keywords

I received this frantic email from one of my clients last week (he owns a small home improvement company):

“I just Googled builders and I was not on top!!! My company wasn’t even there!!! What can we do??”

My response is as follows (company name and search terms are changed for client privacy):

“Builders” is not one of your website’s search terms. As far as search engines are concerned, “builders” is a different word from “builder” or “building”. So even though you’re ranking for “building contractors” because that’s part of your company name, you won’t automatically rank for the word “builders”.

You provide a lot of services, mostly remodeling. If you search for building contractors [city and state] you’re on page 1 (#3 listing), and your Google Places listing is also in the #1 spot in the Google Places listings. If you search for remodeling [city and state] you’re on page 2. If you search for [more search terms], you’re on page 4. But you’re not ranking for all of your keywords/search terms for the following reasons.

A website with separate pages for each service can rank for the services on each of those separate pages, but your website doesn’t have separate service pages. A typical website without separate service pages will only rank for one, maybe two, services, as well as one or possibly two locations. Search engines read website content, page titles, and page descriptions from left to right and top to bottom, and give priority to the first keyword they see, and second priority to the second word, and so on. By the time you get to the third or fourth word, if your competition is using your fourth word as their first word, they will rank above you. For instance, “architectural design” is around the 10th word in your website description, and is in the middle of the first paragraph of your website. Any of your local competitors that have “architectural design” as their 1st to 9th word in their title, description, or first paragraph, will generally rank above you (all other things equal such as online marketing, social media, website popularity, incoming links, website coding, etc.)

Your website title is:
AAAA Building Contractors – Remodeling [city and state]

And your website description is:
AAAA Building Contractors provides Restoration Renovation Remodeling Additions in [city and state] including Architectural Design & Structural Engineering

You rank for building contractors because that’s the 2nd and 3rd word in both the title and description. Remodeling is the first keyword after the company name in the title, so you’re ranking for that. But it will be difficult for you to rank for Additions, Architectural Design, or Structural Engineering because those terms are at the end of the description. But it’s not that simple… If 20 of your competitors decide that they want to rank for building contractors in your city and state, then you can lose your page 1 ranking, especially if those companies are doing more online marketing and social media than you are. And the next time Google updates its search algorithm, you could also lose your page 1 ranking. This last reason is why tweaking those seo terms on your website occasionally is so important, as it can help maintain and/or improve your search engine ranking (this is a service we provide).

So even if we do everything right with your keywords, title, description, tags, etc., external influences like your competition and search engine algorithm updates can knock you out of your spot, as can lack of ongoing marketing, lack of social media presence, and “stagnation” (no website updates).

If you want to rank specifically for “builders”, I can target “builders” as your main keyword. But keep in mind that you’ll drop in the rankings for “remodeling” and/or “building contractors” if we move “builders” to the front of the line. UNLESS you have separate pages for each service that you want to rank for. I always suggest separate service pages to prospective clients, but that of course increases the cost of your website, and most clients tend to opt for fewer pages to keep the cost down.

Another thing that’s holding you back is lack of social media presence. You have a company Facebook page with no current content. You should be making at least 2 search engine optimized posts per week. Search engines index the posts and can rank your website higher as a result. I do offer a Facebook posting service, which often makes a difference in my clients’ search engine ranking.


Is that “Domain Name” Email Legitimate?

scamsIf you’ve recently registered a new domain name (website address), renewed an existing domain name, or one of your domain names is coming up for expiration, you may have started receiving emails about your domain name. BE CAREFUL, as some of those emails may be spam.

Domain name information is public. Anyone can do a “whois” search to get details about your domain name, such as the registration, renewal, and expiration dates, as well as your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Two good “whois” lookup sites are http://www.netsol.com/whois and http://who.godaddy.com. Visit either of these sites and type in your domain name, then click search to view the public information for that domain. Spammers have access to this information too, and they use programs to alert them whenever a change has been made to a domain name. So if you’ve just registered or renewed a domain name, or it’s coming up for expiration, you would naturally assume that any email you get about the domain name is legitimate.

Read any emails you receive about your domain name thoroughly. If it asks you to click on a link or a button, hover over the link first without clicking it. When you hover over a link, the link address appears in the bottom left corner of your browser. Does the link look “suspicious”? Does it include words that have nothing to do with domain names? For instance, an email I received asking me to submit my new domain name showed a link address that included the word “gameday”. But some emails are trickier, and they may include a very real sounding link.

If you click on the link in one of these emails, you will most likely be brought to a page where you’re asked to buy some service. In the email I received, I was told that a company with the official yet generic sounding name, “DomainServices.org”, would submit my domain name to the top search engines for only $97 after a $300 coupon discount. All I have to do is enter my credit card information. If you fall for this scam, at the least, you’ll be throwing money away because “search engine submission” services do nothing; they’re a throwback from 15 years ago when such services did make a difference. You’ll also have no proof that the company did anything at all, since your website will get indexed by search engines automatically either way. And of course, at the worst, and a more likely scenario, is that you may end up becoming a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft.

How can you protect yourself against these kinds of scams? You can pay for “private registration” for your domain name through your domain registrar. It’s around $9 for each domain name per year, and it hides your public information in whois listings. But the best way to protect yourself against these scams, and all email scams in general, is to be aware, read the email in detail, hover over the link, and don’t provide your contact information or credit card number through links in unsolicited emails.

If you’re still not sure if that email is legitimate or not, contact your domain name or web hosting company, or the person who set up your website.


Instagram for Business

instagramIf you’re a business owner who takes photos of your work on the go, then the best and easiest way to take those pictures is with your smart phone. For extra versatility, and a social media boost, use the Instagram app on your phone to take photos. Your web designer can even add an Instagram page to your website so that your photos appear on your website as soon as you take them!

Following are easy instructions for using Instagram for business purposes:

To Start using Instagram:

  1. On your phone, download the Instagram app from the Apple App Store (iPhone), Google Play Store (Droid), or Windows Phone Store (Windows Phone).
  2. Once the app is installed, tap the Instagram icon to open it.
  3. Tap Register with Email to sign up with your email address OR Register with Facebook to sign up with your Facebook account. Make note of the email, username, and password you used.
  4. Once you’ve installed and registered the app, you can begin taking pictures.

To Take a Picture with Instagram:

  1. Tap the Instagram icon on your phone to open the Instagram app.
  2. When Instagram opens, tap the middle button (square with a circle in the middle) at the bottom to go to the picture taking screen.
  3. When you get to the picture taking screen:
    1. Select flash by clicking on the lightening bolt icon on bottom right. There are 3 flash options:
      • Lightning bolt with an “A” next to it – Automatic (the app decides)
      • Lightning bolt with a circle with a line through it – Flash Off
      • Lightning bolt with nothing next to it – Flash On
    2. Click the big round button at the bottom to take a picture.
      • You can use an existing photo from your phone’s gallery by pressing the icon to the left of the big round button and choosing the photo.
      • You can do a couple of things to the photo after you take it:
        • To straighten or rotate photo, tap the rotated square icon with a line through it, on the bottom left side.
          • Rotate: In the next screen, tap the round icon on the bottom left rotate. Keep tapping the icon until the pic is rotated the way you want it.
          • Straighten: (iPhone or Droid only) Drag your finger across the number grid at the bottom to right or left until the pic is straightened the way you want it.
          • After the pic is rotated or straightened, tap the blue checkmark on bottom right.
        • To brighten and enhance, tap sun icon at bottom right (not all phones).
        • You can also apply artistic filters, but these are not necessary for job photos.
  4. After you’re satisfied with the photo, tap the Next or arrow button at the top right.
  5. At the next screen you can add a photo description and share the photo on your Facebook or Twitter page.
  6. After you’ve added a description (if you want a description), tap the Share button or checkbox at the top right. And you’re done!

To view your photos, go to your profile by tapping the person icon at the bottom right.

To delete a photo, go to your profile, tap the photo you want to delete, tap the three dots on the bottom right, then select Delete. Deleting of photos can only be done from your phone.

Photo Descriptions

  1. To add a description after the photo has been taken, go to your profile, tap the photo, tap the comment bubble under the photo, add the description, then click the arrow to the right of the description.
  2. To delete a comment, press and hold the comment then choose Delete Comment.
  3. You cannot edit a comment, so if you wish to change it, you must delete it and add a new comment.

IMPORTANT

  • You cannot search for photos you’ve taken, sort photos, or put them in any particular order. They appear in the order in which they were taken.
  • Everything in Instagram is done from your phone. You can access Instagram on a desktop, but you can’t do anything with the photos on the desktop app. The only thing you can do on the desktop app is add comments to photos (but deleting of comments must be done from phone).

SECURITY CONCERNS

ALL photos taken with the Instagram app will appear on the website Instagram feed immediately after they’re taken. Therefore, it’s important to add password access to your phone to keep it secure, to prevent unauthorized photos being taken with Instagram.

Hashtags for Extra Security

  • For an extra level of security, you may wish to add a hashtag only to those photos you wish to appear on the website feed. For instance, if you’re a roofer you could add the hashtag #roofing to photos of roofing jobs. Your web designer can add the #roofing hashtag filter to the Instagram web page code so that only pictures with the hashtag #roofing will appear on the page.
  • If you plan to add descriptions to Instagram photos and have those descriptions appear on the Instagram web page, you’ll need to add the description first and the hashtag second; otherwise, the hashtag will appear as the photo description.
  • If you wish to have separate pages for photos of different types of work, you can add different hashtags for different photos. Your web designer will add a separate hashtag filter to each Instagram web page. For instance, if you want one Instagram web page to show only roofing photos, you would add the hashtag #roofing to photos of roofing projects. If you want a separate web page to show only siding photos, use the hashtag #siding for siding photos.

Google Visually Similar Images and Other Sizes

googlesimilarimageContrary to popular belief, Google’s “similar images” and “other sizes” features are not gone, they’re just harder to find. Several years ago Google came up with a way to return images that look visually similar to an image you’ve found through Google Search, as well as find that image in other sizes. Then in 2013 the features “seem” to have disappeared, but in fact they were just buried.

To use Google’s “visually similar images” and “other sizes” features, do a search for an image on Google. Click on the image. In the next page that shows the image, click the link underneath the image title on the right side that says “Search by image”. You’ll be taken back to Google search and on the top of the page you’ll see the image you chose, links to other sizes (if available), and a little farther down you’ll see the link to “Visually similar” images.


Google Search Ranking Factors

googlesearchGoogle Search uses a 200-factor algorithm when deciding where to rank a website in its search listings. This algorithm changes slightly from time to time, and nobody knows exactly how the algorithm works. If Google publicized it, then people would find ways to abuse the system to get their site to the top of the listings. But Google does provide an overview of some of the factors that they consider. And tons of research has been done by third-party companies.

This list is a summary overview of some of the more important factors that Google Search considers in ranking websites. I’ve taken many pages of research and condensed it into as short a list as possible, excluding factors that web designers have no control over and those that may be too technical for the technically challenged. Some of these factors are more important than others, but you should strive to incorporate as many of these into your website as possible.

FACTOR DESCRIPTION
Domain Name
  • Age: Old domains and websites rank better than newer.
  • Registration Length: Register your domain name for as many years as you can (5-10 years is better than 1-2 years). Fly-by-night companies often register for only 1-2 years.
  • Length: Strive for shorter, more concise domains. For instance, for the company “Miller’s Excavating LLC”, the domain “millersexcavating.com” is better than “millersexcavatingllc.com”.
  • Keywords: Your domain name should contain your keyword(s). For instance, the domain “millersexcavating.com” is better than “millersllc.com”.
  • Exact Match: For the company “South Jersey Excavating”, the domain “southjerseyexcavating.com” is better than “southjerseyexcavators.com”.
Website Address (URL)
  • Length: Strive for shorter, more concise page addresses. For instance, for the company “Miller’s Excavating LLC”, the URL “www.millersexcavating.com/excavating.html” is better than “www.millersexcavating.com/
    weprovidelotsofexcavatingservices.html “
  • Keywords: The page address “millersexcavating.com/excavating.html” is better than “millersexcavating.com/ page1.html”
Title Tag Each page should have a title tag, and the title should contain your keyword(s). Also, the keyword(s) should be as close to the front of the title tag as possible, so for the company “South Jersey Excavating”, the title “Excavating in South Jersey” is better than “South Jersey Excavating”.
Description Tag Keyword(s) should appear in the first 100 words of the page content, and should be used often throughout the site. But going overboard is bad.
Text Content
  • Quality Content: Make sure the content on your site is helpful and of high quality, rather than just “marketing fluff”.
  • Amount of Text: The more text, the better, but to a point. Too much text can bore readers. And pages consisting of only images or Flash (no text) will not rank well.
  • Original Content: Your content (text, images, etc.) should be original, not copied from someone else’s website.
  • Grammar and Spelling: Avoid lots of misspellings and poor grammar.
  • Reading Level: Wording should be at a basic reading level, rather than advanced, technical, or overly sophisticated wording.
Page Loading Speed Pages that load faster rank better than slower loading pages (WordPress websites often load slowly).
Content Updates Search engines prefer sites with recently updated content. And frequency of page updates is important. Search engines prefer sites that are updated monthly rather than annually, weekly rather than monthly, or daily rather than weekly.
Images and Videos Sites with images and videos rank better than those without. Sites with embedded YouTube videos rank much better due to the media content, and the fact that Google owns YouTube.
Website Layout, Pages, and Coding
  • User Friendly and Organized: Website layout should be user-friendly, organized, and easy to navigate.
  • Number of Pages: The more pages on your site, the better, but to a point. A 4-page site is better than a 3-page site, but a 20-page site is no better than a 15-page site.
  • Coding Errors: Avoid lots of HTML errors or sloppy coding.
  • Bulleted and Numbered Lists: Provide lists (such as list of services you provide) in bulleted or numbered format.
  • Broken Links: Make sure links on your site are working, and that the content you’re linking to is available.
  • Image Alt Tags: Alt tags added to images help search engines determine what the image is about.
  • H1 Tags: An H1 tag in the body of the page is considered a “secondary title tag”. Styled H1 tags rank better than non-H1 text.
Contact Information Add your company’s contact information (phone, fax, address, etc.). If the contact info matches your whois info (the contact info for your domain name), that’s even better. And a separate contact page is better than no contact page.
Social Media
  • Company Social Media Profiles: Companies with social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) rank better than those without.
  • Social Media Shares: The more shares, likes, posts, tweets, comments, etc. on social sites about your website, the better.
  • Age and Rank: Shares and likes from high-ranking and older Twitter and Facebook accounts count more than those from newer or unpopular accounts.
  • Facebook Shares vs. Likes: Facebook Shares of your page are better than Facebook Likes because they’re more similar to a backlink.
Sitemap A sitemap helps search engines effectively and accurately index your website.
Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics These two programs help your website rank better in Google.
Backlinks (Incoming Links from other sites)
  • Quantity: The more incoming links your site has from other sites, the better. Very important factor.
  • Quality: Links from high-ranking, popular, reputable sites are better than those from low-ranking sites, and backlinks from “link farms” or other spammy sites are bad.
  • Relevance: Links from sites in a similar industry are better than those in a different industry.
  • Age: Backlinks from older sites are better than those from newer sites.
Outbound Links
  • Quality: Adding links to high-ranking, reputable sites helps send trust signals to search engines (which is why the social media links on your site are so important).
  • Relevance: Outbound links related to your industry is a search engine relevancy signal (i.e. links to Owens Corning, GAF, and CertainTeed if you’re a roofer).
  • Quantity: Too many outbound links are bad.
Reciprocal Links Reciprocal linking/link exchanging (I’ll link to you if you link to me) used to be the best way to gain ranking, but now it’s considered spammy.
Bounce Rate Bounce rate measures how quickly a visitor “bounces” off your site. A high bounce rate is bad. Bounce rate can be high if the site isn’t displaying properly, is difficult to navigate, contains music that plays automatically, or contains uninteresting content. Interesting content, videos, images, many pages, and contact forms keep the user on the site longer, lowering the bounce rate.
Domain Authority and Page Rank Sites that get more traffic tend to have a higher domain authority and page rank, and will rank better.
User Reviews and Site Reputation Negative reviews on other sites can affect your website’s ranking.
IP Address Flagged If your IP address is flagged for spam (for instance, you send unsolicited emails), then any website on that IP address may lose their ranking.

Is Your Website Outdated?

If your company has an outdated website, it may display incorrectly, could hurt your search engine rankings, and can drive off prospective customers.

oldcomputerWebsite technologies are always changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep up-to-date with every changing trend. However, a website that was designed more than four years ago can hurt your company in several ways. Very old, deprecated code may display incorrectly on some newer browsers. Obsolete code can confuse search engines, wreaking havoc with your search engine ranking. And if your website looks stale and behaves oddly, or worse, doesn’t display correctly, prospective customers may assume that you don’t pay attention to detail and may be reluctant to hire you to do their own work. Remember, your website reflects on your company!

So how do you know if your website is outdated? In general, if your site contains any of the following elements, it’s probably time for an update: tiny text, very short pages, jagged images, animated gifs, music, individual menu buttons, menus on the side of the page rather than the top, a “links” page, a “guestbook” page, sites built with Flash, gaudy backgrounds and lots of different fonts, “intro” pages, visitor counters, and websites built with tables.

Read on for details about each of these “tell-tale signs”:

  • Tiny Text – The most obvious sign of a very old site is tiny text. If the text on the site is very small, much smaller than text you see on most other sites, the site was probably designed before 2006. If the length of the page is unusually short as well, the site may even be older, perhaps pre-2004. Monitors were smaller years ago, and resolutions were also lower. This resulted in larger text, so standard screen text sizes were smaller.
  • Jagged Images – “Bitmappy” images with rough, jagged looking edges, or pixellated colors and gradients, were typical prior to 2004. Again, this is due to monitor resolutions. In 2002 half of all monitors still displayed only 65,000 colors. But since 2009 almost all monitors can display 16.8 million colors.
  • Angular Design – Angular, squarish, and “futuristic” design elements are pre-2002. See an example HERE (I can’t believe these are still available).
  • Animated gif’s – Animated gif’s (small animated images), “mouse trails” (stars or sparkles or anything else that follows your mouse), scrolling text, and falling snow were considered progressive until about 2004.
  • Music – Music and audio, especially if it starts automatically, is generally pre-2006.
  • Underlined Menu Link Text – Navigation menu links made up of only underlined text is pre-2003.
  • 3-D Buttons – Individual navigation menu 3-D “buttons” were standard before 2006 (see example HERE). Buttons that look like colored glass are from 2006-2008, but chunky buttons with a “stone” or “marble” texture are much older.
  • Menu on Side Instead of Top – If the main navigational menu is on the left or the right side of the page instead of at the top, the site is probably older than 2007.
  • Links Page or Guestbook Page – Websites with a “links” page or a “guestbook” page are generally pre-2005.
  • Flash Sites – Websites built mostly with Adobe Flash are generally pre-2007, but unfortunately some sites are still being built with Flash because that’s the only code the web designer knows. Flash is passé as a web development tool, some newer browsers and smart devices don’t support it by default, and search engines cannot index Flash content (read more about Flash and SEO.)
  • Gaudy Backgrounds and Fonts – Gaudy decorative backgrounds were trendy from 2002 to 2005, but some newer websites unfortunately still use them. Same with lots of different font styles and colors.
  • “Intro” Pages – “Intro” pages (a page that appears while the actual website is loading) were necessary before 2005 due to slower computers and heavily animated or Flash websites that took a long time to load.
  • Visitor Counter – A visitor counter showing the number of people who have visited your site is generally pre-2005. If you want to see detailed information about your website’s visitors, and not just a visitor count, use Google Analytics.
  • “Welcome to Our Website” – “Welcome to our website” or “Thank you for visiting our website” are outdated phrases. Welcome to “Company Name” is still okay, but welcoming visitors to the website itself is as passé as “surfing the web”.
  • Tables – When you right-click on a website and select “View source”, you can view the website’s source code. Websites that have been designed and laid out primarily with tables (you’ll see a lot of <tr> and <td> elements) were generally designed prior to 2006. However, many newer websites are still designed with tables because the designer is not familiar with current coding standards. These sites may look inconsistent in different browsers and may have rendering issues. They may also look rather plain and generic, since tables allow very few formatting options.
  • Capitalized Coding Elements – Sites with lots of capitalized elements in the coding (i.e. <TR> instead of <tr> and <BODY> instead of <body> are generally older than 2005.
  • Missing Tags – Websites missing the “title” and “meta description” tags are generally very old, but unfortunately there are still many new sites out there missing these crucial SEO tags.

Newer website elements (2007 to 2010) that are starting to phase out are:

  • Menu Dropdowns – Menu dropdowns or flyouts, where hovering over a menu item brings up a sub-menu, cannot phase out fast enough! Dropdowns have been around since 2002, and are still showing up on current websites. However, since the advent of smart phones, sub-menus have gone out of favor. Have you ever tried to “hover” over a menu item on a smart device? Newer mobile devices translate a light touch as a hover and a heavier touch as a click, but trying to get the pressure just right can be frustrating.
  • Search Bar – A search bar on your website may be okay for very large sites, but a site under 10 pages does not need one.
  • Tag Cloud – A tag cloud is a bunch of keywords in various sizes that appear on the side of a website. These were common around 2009, but quickly went out of style. An example is HERE.
  • Lightbox Photo Gallery – “Lightbox” photo galleries, where clicking on a photo brings up a larger version of the photo and the website background darkens. These came on the scene around 2007 and still appear on many websites. They’re a big improvement over prior photo gallery layouts, but lightbox galleries are still clunky and require too many clicks.
  • Hard-To-Find Menu – Tiny hard-to-find navigation menu. The main navigational menu should be easy to see, but many websites have so much content on them that the only space for a menu is all the way at the top or bottom of the page, and in a small font. When web designers started stuffing websites full of unnecessary content in 2007, essential elements like the navigational menu took a backseat to the bling.
  • Huge Top Image – Huge top images that take up most of the page became popular in 2009 and are still common today. But they’re starting to go out of favor (thankfully) since they slow the loading of a page and take up valuable space that should be used for informative text for visitors and search engines.