Scary Pumpkin with Fangs

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are on the ground, the pumpkins are out, and tonight toddlers and teens alike will roam the streets, each in search of their own spooky (or mischievous) adventure.

For those of us who have outgrown the lust for hoarding sweets, or the fear of Halloween spirits, October’s end seems slightly less eventful. (As Canadian indie rockers Sloan observed, the 31st is notable for a significantly less delicious reason.)

But if you miss the thrills and chills of Halloweens past, fear not: the web is full of scary things! For this week’s post, we present to you the three most frightening practices we see for brands trying to improve their SEO. Have a look, stifle your screams (or don’t), and let us know what else you’ve seen.

1. Sickeningly Beautiful Web Design.

This is counterintuitive, I know. Why wouldn’t you want a gorgeous-looking website?

Well, the problem isn’t sites that are pretty. It’s sites that are pretty at the expense of everything else.

Hi-res photos are great. Slick, compelling, and punchy copy is wonderful. But remember this: your website is not a magazine. If people can find their way there, sure, they’ll be wowed by the fruits of your design expenditures. But search engines are still robots. They use algorithms to find things, and they don’t rank sites by pixel per inch.

Long story short: don’t throw out what you know about SEO just because your designers and copywriters want something a certain way. Work with them to strike the best balance between titles, tags, and site copy that still reflects the slickness of your brand image, but still includes enough explicit keywords and phrases for Google to be able to give you credit for what your company actually does. Slogans are great, but save them for your images and print ads!

2. Advertisements that should never have made it through the 90s.

One would think that, with all the data we have about digital ad performance, annoying banner ads would have died out long ago. They’re obnoxious, they usually show you stuff you don’t care about, and they all tend to look horrible. Not likely to generate clicks, and nor something likely to make people want to use your site.

Unfortunately, these are somehow still a thing.

Another real kicker is the utterly irrelevant side bar ad. I do a fair amount of online window-shopping, and consequently I see a lot of retargeting. It’s annoying sometimes, but other times it’s useful. If I decide I want to buy that Telecaster after all, the ad makes it real easy.

That kind of advertising is one thing. But I don’t think I’ve ever entered the words “weight loss” into my search bar, and I can guarantee I haven’t been looking for any tips for a skinny belly, let alone the “Amazing super fast!” ones. And yet I probably see this ad eight to ten times a week. (I bet you do, too.)

This may not be an SEO concern, strictly speaking. But it’ll sure make people leave your site in a hurry – and what’s the point of great SEO if nobody sticks around long enough to find out what you even do?

Please, please, help us win the war on dumb ads! Don’t host them on your site. We are all collectively so much better than this.

3. Sites that refuse to adapt for mobile.

Most site owners these days seem to have cottoned on to the fact that lots of people who have fancy cell phones often use those wonderfully convenient devices to browse the Internet.

Some, however, have not.

Imagine the scene: You’re going downtown. You just heard about the coolest new pizza place, and you are thirsting for some thin-crusted goodness. You consult Siri. She takes you to the site… and half the page will not appear. Lines are breaking. Images do not appear, or dominate your slender screen.

If this doesn’t scare you, it should! Mobile search is supposed to overtake desktop search by 2015. And smartphones sure aren’t going anywhere. If your site isn’t up to date, you’ll lose customers as soon as you find them. Build a mobile version of your site, or consider a responsive redesign. Your users will thank you.

What other terrifying, haunting, or just plain weird practices have you seen still hanging around the web? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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