Friday, 30 March 2012 09:19

DIY Web Design Mistakes #2 - Splash Pages & Title Tags

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Flash is a true child of the 90s: Excessive, unwieldy and self-indulgent.

Seemingly overnight, otherwise normal sites were suddenly bristling with motion effects, even those that had resisted the previous onslaught of animated gifs. 

And nowhere was this phenomenon manifested more frequently than the animated splash page.

Given the limits on bandwidth in these early days of the internet (I was still on dial-up when Flash was first released!) it's incredible that we thought it a worthwhile use of our data.

In truth, splash pages of any kind have never been worth the cost

We don't measure that cost in bandwidth however. 

It's measured in lost customers.

The splash page easily represents the biggest barrier to entry any site can place in front of its visitors. It's well documented elsewhere that just having a splash page, even with a 'skip intro' link, can increase bounce rates enormously.

If you don't allow visitors to skip it's an absolute disaster.

Splash pages are borne of the understandable passion a business owner has for their enterprise. They care about what they do, they want to express how much it means to them and give it an appropriately magnificent gateway so that the rest of the world can appreciate it too.

Except those same business owners absolutely loathe being forced to sit through the splash pages of other websites.

Splash pages, especially the animated variety, are the most self-indulgent work you can throw on the web. 

When we search for content online we want relevant results and fast information. We open ten tabs at a time and immediately close the ones that don't give us what we're looking for at a glance.

Splash pages kill your conversion rate and annoy your audience.

Google agrees, at times even including a 'skip intro' link in the actual search result!

For example:

Splash page example SEO listing

This designer has made three crucial mistakes:

  • Using a splash page
  • Giving the page a title of 'Flash Intro'
  • Not reviewing their search results listing

This last point was the subject of DIY Web Design Mistakes #1 - in this case the only non-Flash content on the page is the 'Skip Flash Intro' text, so that's all that shows up in their search listing. What a waste.

This business is losing out not only on the valuable SEO potential that a keyword rich page title and an informative search result can bring but then proceeds to annoy the few visitors who do arrive with an animated splash page!

Further, the main menu of the site lists the 'Flash Intro' as the first menu item - ahead of even the home page:

Poor user interface

I suspect this comes down to the use of Plesk SiteBuilder to construct the site, so I won't be overly critical of the designer in this case. It's still a terrible, terrible waste of the primary menu position.

Keyword rich title tags are vital for SEO

In researching this post I realised that websites with poorly optimised page titles simply don't appear in search results for generic terms.

It's only when you start to search for specific business names that you see these sorts of mistakes.

But as I've explained in my previous post, "Businesses, Brands and Effective Keywords" using your own business name as a search term is a fruitless endeavour:

Outside of your existing clientele no-one knows who you are.

To try to rank #1 for your own business name can be quite easy. To rank highly for the terms people are using to search for your kind of business is a lot harder.

While page titles and splash pages won't cure all your SEO ills, they need to be part of the overall strategy for your site.

It's important to remember that while SEO focusses on getting traffic to your site, equally important is what happens once visitors are on-site.

Clear page titles, accurate search descriptions and simple navigation all contribute to a good search result, in addition to keeping visitors on the page once they arrive.

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