4 Popular But Useless Website Tips You Should Ignore (And Do This Instead)

You want your website to have more visitors, your pages to convert better and your business to grow.

But as a small business owner, you don’t have the luxury of investing your time and money into stuff “just to see how it goes”.

Which raises an important question:

“How do you know that something you think of doing on your website will actually work?”

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to this question. Every website and business are unique.

Yet, there are things that you most definitely shouldn’t waste your time on (even if the article that tells you to was shared thousands of times.)

Here are 4 such popular but useless things you may feel tempted to do (plus their ultra-useful counterparts you should rather do instead).

4 popular but useless things that you shouldn’t waste your time on

(and what to do instead)

Time waster #1. Custom 404 page

You know, the cute “page not found” pages you’ll need to pay a designer to make or waste hours creating yourself?

"Page not found" example
This one is from GitHub. Aw, I really needed that article, but I feel so much better now when I see this little fellow! #eyeroll

Let’s be honest: How is a custom 404 page helping you achieve your goals?

People can still see your website navigation and can easily navigate back to the homepage, you know.

Instead, fix broken links on your website

…so that your visitors don’t even land on a 404 page.

There are plenty of free online tools that can do it for you. For example, BrokenLinkCheck.com.

Just type in your domain and click “Find broken links”. It will show you the broken links that point to your own pages as well as the ones that point to other websites.

Broken Links Check
An overview of the broken links on your website

Fixing the broken links that point to your own pages should be your first priority. It won’t only improve the user experience of your website but also your SEO, as you’ll have more relevant internal links that pass authority between the pages.

You can also remove or update the broken links that point to the other websites (especially if it’s an article you reference in one of your posts) to avoid irritating readers who clicks on it and lands on a 404 page.

Time waster #2. Custom unsubscribe page

These range from a cute puppy telling you that “you can never have too much of puppy ruv” to the videos where the company’s employees get punished and you are asked to resubscribe “to make it up to them” (what is wrong with you, Groupon?!)

Custom "unsubscribe" page example
OMG, give me a break, Email Monks!

Yep, this is exactly how it works. People will totally re-subscribe to your newsletter to keep receiving the emails they aren’t interested in because they don’t want a cartoon character to be sad.


Instead, create a custom “thank you” page

…with a call to action for your new subscribers.

Instead of trying to guilt people who aren’t interested in your offer into staying subscribed, you should ask someone who is clearly interested to take it a step further.

If you don’t have one yet, create a “thank you” page everybody who subscribes to your newsletter sees after they confirm their email address.

You can do this by specifying the URL to the page in your email marketing software.

In MailerLite, for example, you’ll find it here: Forms -> (Correspondent form) -> Edit -> Confirmation Thank You Page.

But don’t just say “thank you for subscribing”. Add a prominent call to action, for example:

1) Embed a 1-2 questions survey that will help you learn more about your new subscribers.

I used to have a survey on my “thank you” page, which looked like this:

Custom "thank you" page example with a survey
The “thank you” page I used to have till I got enough answers to my survey

There is a free way to do that with Google Forms (see detailed instructions here).

Now I have a different “thank you” page… because I got more answers to my survey that I needed. Which brings us to the second example:

2) Ask them to follow you on a specific social platform.

My current “thank you” page looks like this:

Custom "thank you" page example with a link to a social media profile
My current “thank you” page. Over 30% of my new subscribers click on this link.

It’s not possible to track how many of my new subscribers end up following me on Twitter, but I know that 30% of them click that shiny “Follow Gill on Twitter” link.

Pro tip: To track such clicks, set up an event and assign a conversion goal to it in Google Analytics.

3) Encourage them to check out your popular / recent posts

Want more eyes on your recent post? Encourage your new subscribers to check it out by including a prominent link to it on your “thank you page”.

You can also include links to multiple posts. I would suggest not to make it more than 3 links, though, not to overwhelm your new subscribers.

Pro tip: Place a photo of yourself next to the call to action. Studies show that people are more likely to do what they are asked if there is a photo of a person who is asking them to do it on the page.

Time waster #3. Catchy website tagline

I must sound like a broken record by now, but your website doesn’t need a catchy website tagline.

Fun fact: Unless you are a huge company that wants to improve brand recognition and customer loyalty, you don’t need a catchy website tagline.

So, if you are agonizing over your tagline  – or worth, you’re done agonizing and are now a proud owner of a tagline a la “we make you shine” – just stop and do this instead.

Instead, create a clear website tagline

…in 3 easy steps:

  1. Think about your ideal customers. Who will benefit the most from your services or products?
  2. Decide what the biggest benefit of your product or services is.
  3. Use one of these formulas to create a clear website tagline:
3 surefire formulas to create a clear website tagline
3 surefire formulas to create a clear website tagline. Try it. It really works.

The web is full of catchy website taglines that confuse people into leaving those websites.

Want to stand out and be memorable? Make your website tagline clear.

Time waster #4. Opt-in popups, welcome mats and slide bars

Shall we do a quick exercise?

  • Look up your average email click-through rate in %.
  • Look up your interstitial’s conversion rate (if you don’t have any, take an average opt-in conversion rate of 3%).
  • Calculate this number using both rates in %:

How many people need to see your opt-in interstitial for you to get 1 subscriber who clicks on the links in your emails

How many hundreds did you get? 300? 500?

This would be a number of people who need to see your popup or welcome mat before you get one subscriber who clicks on the links in your email newsletter.

An average for small / medium businesses is 1319 people (yes, seriously).

So, especially if you work with people one-on-one, don’t have a huge traffic to your website and care about your brand’s image, you shouldn’t be using interstitials.

Instead, trust your content

…and your subscribers to be smart enough to subscribe to your newsletter without being harassed into it.

Here are 4 good alternatives to a popup:

  1. A sticky header with an offer that goes beyond a free ebook.
  2. A sticky footer with a sign-up form and a compelling message.
  3. A strategically placed “subscribe” button within exceptional content.

You can see these methods in action here.

  1. But my favorite method of growing my email list without a popup is this:
  • Do keyword research and select a long-tail keyword you have a chance to rank for
  • Create ultra-impressive post targeting this keyword
  • Offer a free download within this post that includes the content of the post plus bonus.
  • Once your post starts ranking in search, enjoy new subscribers daily without lifting a finger.

Yet, this method will only work if you have an impressive lead magnet and not something people can find on Google for free within a minute.

I have 3 such lead magnets, with this website content checklist being a typical example. Each of them took me about 8 weeks to create. But now, when they rank in search I get multiple new subscribers every day without any popups or even sticky headers.

A quick summary

So here you have it: 4 things that aren’t worth your time (and 4 ultra-useful ones that are).

  1. Don’t waste your time on a custom 404 page. Instead, fix the broken links.
  2. Don’t bother with a custom “unsubscribe” page. Instead, create a custom “thank you” page with a call to action.
  3. Don’t agonize over a catchy website tagline. Instead, create a clear tagline and let one of the surefire formulas help you do it.
  4. Don’t use popups and other intrusive opt-ins. Instead, use sticky headers and footers, prominent call to actions and lead magnets that rank in search.

If I had to select the best one in terms of the least effort / most impact, I would say it’s a “thank you” page. It will take you half an hour to implement but you’ll notice its benefits immediately.

So if you have 30 minutes to spare in your schedule this week, you know what to do 😉

Leave a Comment

4 thoughts on “4 Popular But Useless Website Tips You Should Ignore (And Do This Instead)”

  1. Haha! I agree with fixing the broken links and thanks to you & Mrs. H. I have dropped my popup sign-up box (and good riddance) – but I do like a bit of fun on my 404 page and my unsubscribers get a really nice farewell. No, I am not asking them to resubscribe. I understand the moving on part 😉

    • Haha. You make it sound like fun. I’m almost tempted to unsubscribe from your blog just to see your “unsubscribe” page 😄 I would say if you have time to do things like this, go ahead. I was just saying this is not a must and if you are short on time, there are other things that will be more useful.

      So we finally convinced you to get rid of your popup, huh? Welcome to the other side!🤗

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