How I Spot an Amateur Website Owner in 2 Seconds Flat

You may think an ugly theme is one of the standards I use to spot someone new to site ownership. It’s actually not even on my criteria list. But 15 other things are. My clients and I can spot a newbie in seconds. It takes a trained eye to see all of the money a new site owner is leaving on the table. Take a quick scan of this list and then go review your site and see if you look like an amateur or a pro to your clients. I pull no punches here. This is a reality check about online success. So, if you’re easily offended about your online baby, maybe you should come back to this post when you’re ready to be rich.

Why Not Ugly

You may be wondering why ugly is not on my criteria list for spotting a new site owner. Because I’ve seen many sites from folks that I know are making at least half a mil and they have the ugliest sites on the planet, er, World Wide Web. If people are finding what they want and getting their fix, they will forgive an ugly site. If they don’t find what they want, they’re gone in less than five seconds. Pretty just doesn’t count for as much as you think it does. In fact, if I see a theme that I know someone paid top dollar to have customized and they don’t have the rest of the things on this list, I know they are a newb.

It’s All About Me

NOBODY cares about you when they first come to your site. They care about what’s in it for them. An amateur will fill the front page of their site with stuff that’s better suited for the lower third of their About page. Your home page should mirror your client, not you.

Comments on Pages

Comments are for posts, not pages. If you haven’t figured out how to turn on the Discussion tab in the text editor and turn off comments on pages, you have not invested enough time into learning WordPress fundamentals.

Inviting Hackers to Break Your Site in the By Line

Look at the little text just under a post title. Does it show a by line? Does it show your username login? Is it admin? That’s candy to hackers and an open advertisement to please come hack your site. In fact, you’re leaving the top half of the front door unlocked to make it easy for them. Rookie mistake that will cost you dearly.

Fuzzy Images

This amateur mistake is going to really make you look bad on retina displays. It means that you probably didn’t resize and optimize your images BEFORE you uploaded them. Oh, and file names of PG00001.jpg, that’s costing you like crazy too. See the SEO section.

Theme Competing with Content

Okay, ugly is not on the criteria list. In fact, you can have a beautiful theme that is so pretty it distracts you from seeing the content. Bad idea. The content is what actually sells whatever you are offering. Or, you could have a theme you’re trying to make so hip no one can read it, like black background and red text (that went out of vogue 10 years ago, by the way) or too little contrast between background and text, or too small a font.

No List Building

Every successful marketer worth their salt will tell you the same thing – the money’s in the list. If there is not at least one way, prominently displayed on your site to build your list, not only are you an amateur, you’re a starving one. This is Marketing Mindset 101 stuff. Put a sign-up form in your sidebar.

Sidebar Clutter

Speaking of sidebars, what’s in yours? Amateurs miss multiple opportunities to keep folks on their site longer by taking advantage of this valuable real estate. Worse, they send folks away from their site never to return. Check to see if these are in your sidebar: Meta Login, Archives, Blogroll, Category list that is 40+ entries long. Check to see if these are not in your sidebar: List Subscription, RSS Subscription, Social Follow, Recent/Popular posts, call to action of some sort. If you answered yes to any of the first list and no to any of the second list, find out why you need to make some changes. You’re leaving money on the table and losing your readers too soon.

Awkward White Space

Seeing weird formatting and lots of empty lines on your posts and pages tells me that you have not found a better text editor plugin and that you don’t know how to properly use the one you’ve got. That’s also a clue that you probably don’t know about a couple of the icons that keep folks on your site longer too. Using the text editor is WordPress 101 stuff. You wouldn’t believe how many folks have been blogging for two years or more who never know there is a second line of icons either.

Email Address Deconstructed

Bots that grab email addresses displayed on a site figured out a long time ago how to read a deconstructed email address that looks like me (at) mysite (dot) com and such. It’s a super rookie mistake and you’ll pay for it dearly in spam. There are plugins for that, get one and stop making your clients work to contact you. Better yet, make use of the contact form, that’s what it’s for. You can replace your e-addy with a link to the contact page.

Missed SEO Opportunities

There are 11 levels of SEO on every blog post. If you’re not doing at least 4 of them consistently, you must not care if you’re found in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). If you don’t know what those 4 are, you’re an amateur. If you don’t know what all 11 are, well, let me put it this way. It doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to find out as all the money you’re losing by letting your competition be found first in search. Beyond that, the static areas of your site are indexed on every page, such as your header, sidebar and footer. You need to be mindful of SEO there too.

Using Heading Tags as Decoration

If you use your heading tags to decorate your pages because you like the sizes and colors, you are most definitely an amateur. Besides making your page look like a circus, you are confusing the beegeebees out of Google.

Hiding Your Most Important Info

If your money pages are not front and center, don’t expect anyone to find them. If you expect someone to click a sub-link to find important info, reconsider your navigation strategy, soon. Visitors are lazy. They’re surfing in their house shoes while watching TV. DO NOT make them work to find what and how to buy from you.

One Call to Action

You know that old adage that folks need to be exposed to something seven times before it sticks. Online it’s more like 30-40 times. No kidding. You cannot repeat yourself enough. Just because you said something on one page doesn’t mean anyone has seen or paid attention to it. And, it’s not likely that someone is going to see all 30-40 places you post it either. The only place all those mentions add up is in your mind. You are the only one on the planet that has a wholistic overview of your site.

Wrap Up

Okay, now that you know some of the things to look for, did your site pass muster? The biggest compliment I receive is when one of my Scratch to Published clients emails me during the course saying they checked out their competition’s sites and see how they are doing it all wrong and how to do it better. After only a couple of weeks, they had a trained eye. In another week or so, they were expertly qualified to do a site review and see every place money was being left on the table.

The folks who are serious about using their online presence to make money don’t have sites that look like an amateur is behind them. They invested in themselves so they don’t waste time chasing shiny things that don’t work for their business.

Are you suffering from what you don’t know that you don’t know? Is it time to put your site on a firm foundation? Worried about the cost? Stop thinking about how much it costs. Start thinking about how much money you are losing every day and you’ll see that investing in your business pays for itself.

Ready to be a successful, confident, and profitable site owner in 2013? NOW is the time to start. Find the fit that is best for you then let’s get started.

What Every Site Owner Should Know could save you hundreds of dollars and months of frustration. Free with subscription to BlogAid News.

Google Plus Comments


  1. says

    Yes, I am guilty of a few of these (hanging head in shame)I am going to fix them ASAP so I can hold my head up and pass muster! Since I am changing over to a new theme, Prose, you post is perfectly timed for me! Thank you!

    • says

      Jerri, you’ll flip when you see the admin area on Prose. They have made a bold departure in their development philosophy and are now including LOTS of user configurable styles. A site redesign project is a great time to fix all those rookie mistakes too. We’ve all been there, done that, me included. You learn as you go.

  2. says

    Sheesh, you really do give us the lowdown here MaAnna. I know a few wordpress peeps, and although they know their stuff, this post tells it all. I’ll be in contact in the near future.

    • says

      Ha! It always does with site designers, Maria. Honestly, when I recommend folks to most of my designer buddies, I have to tell them not to judge the work by their own site, go look at the gorgeous sites on the portfolio page instead. I suppose it’s like judging a woodworker by their shop with tools and wood chips laying all over, yes?

    • says

      Thanks for your kind word, Marc. It pains me to see good folks waste a year and a bunch of money going the DIY route on what they think is the cheap. Ends up costing so much more in the long run.

  3. says

    Great post, MaAnna! I’ve shared it because you’ve made so many great points that bloggers really do need to know. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    • says

      Know what you mean by ouch, Minna. It takes everybody a while to get through that newb phase, usually about a year or so. Agreed that your visitors and wallet will bear out that making those changes were a good idea.

  4. says

    This is a useful post, however, for me it would be even more so to have some solutions stated as well. For example – using Header tags as decoration. What precisely do you mean by this and how can you rectify it? Also, I thought that having an author Byline at the top of the post – e.g. by C Jones was an important part of Google Authorship.

    • says

      Hi Caroline,
      Google indexes your heading tags. And, you only want to have one heading 1 tag per page. So, need to use them for SEO, not decoration. Yes, a by line is a good thing. Just ensure that it shows your real name, not your username. And if your username is admin, that’s a security issue whether it shows or not. The by line is derived and that is not where Google sources its info about the author. It’s by other info in the User profile and other places on your site.

      All of the things stated in this post are the very tips I teach in my one-on-one classes, which you will find here.

  5. says

    Superb! I was just saying yes, yes, yes for every point discussed in your informative post. I have done a bit of my job and ready to host my blog very soon.

    Thanks again for the super tips.