WiseGeek.org offers excellent information, but in a terrible wrapper. While that’s probably great for their monetization strategy, any website trying to be an authority would do well to avoid their mistakes.

Those mistakes include:

Lack of distinct branding, forgettable brand overall, stock images that remove credibility, ads everywhere you look, disengaging copy, zero front-end accessibility and too much thinking required to go from page to page.

Snap 2013-07-29 at 17.29.50

You see that stock image? That’s about as trustworthy as it gets, right?! Oh yeah. Random guy in a suit holding his thumb up sure won it for me!

Although there are plenty of options to keep me entertained from here and that image makes it pretty easy to spot those options, I can’t be sure those links aren’t ads. The lack of branding and other trust-building cues makes me think anywhere I click could be a land mine.

Now if you ended up here by search engine the site looks pretty well put together. You can click on a drop-down menu on the upper right for more categories of content, but once you do that the mirage falls apart and you’re presented with a huge list of unsorted content. At this point, your typical web user would click away not wanting to read 30 pages of links before finding something interesting.

Clearly this is a website built to attract eyeballs for their advertisers, and nothing more. But they do that effectively with great search-optimized content and a super clean layout that has one focus – get them clicking out of the website. You can see that focus clearly with all the ads plastered everywhere and the total lack of specific related content suggestions.

My Advice

If you’re going to build an ad farm like this, don’t use stock images that cry out “I’m a fake!” And if you’re going to build a site for authority, don’t build it anything like this. Make your brand unique. Keep ads out of your website. Make it easy to find your best content and make great content geared toward helping your specific demographic.

Want your website critiqued? This is just the first installment, and a light one at that. Expect future critiques to be much more in-depth.

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