Website Critique – 4 Lessons From Critiquing A Troll
In late 2015 I finally decided to stop being anonymous on the internet. I stopped using multiple internet handles, changed my name on Facebook to my proper name, and decided if I was going to build something of value on the internet, then I was going to put my name behind it.
That means something. It means that whatever you put out (blog posts, software, products of any sort), it has to be damn good. It means that people will learn who you are and what you are about. You will be expected to attend conferences and people you have no idea who they are will come up to you and start chatting. Even if you are an introvert, if you put your name behind something, then you have to handle it and learn from it.
It also means you are going to have people HATE you simply for being in the public space. There is absolutely no avoiding this.
I have had my fair share of hate over the years simply on the internet and on many of the affiliate sites that I run, but today I got a special one:
If you are not familiar with Reddit, then basically someone started a thread 7 days ago asking if any has been left rude comments on their blog/affiliate site.
I had responded with a few screenshots of blog comments I have gotten over the year as well as some more recent Reddit comments from angry people of how I run the Merch by Amazon subreddit. 6 days later, this guy found this thread (more than likely following me and what I have recently commented on), and left this comment:
Yeah but you’re actually a piece of shit Neil, there’s a difference, i think you’ve been told that on all social platforms available to man. Facebook, skype, reddit, discord, you name it, must be something wrong with everyone else eh 😉
This guy searched me out just to call me out by name.
What I’ve learned over the years of running multiple internet companies is that there is going to be a large majority of people worrying about what other people think, and then there are going to be people who are actually out there doing and building.
While you may want to kick back and ask “Are you serious? Are you actually taking time out of your day to search me out and comment on my stuff?”, the better option is to simply not care, because in the next few months, you will barely remember who left these comments and it has NO effect on goals.
Now, every time I do get one of these comments, I do a quick dive into who and what they are doing. I do this because I want to get a quick glance into what they are doing that they have this much time.
I poked around for a few minutes, and thought to myself. People could actually learn a few lessons from this.
So, I am going to take this random insult from an internet stranger, and turn it into a learning experience to highlight a few tools used to gauge how a site might be performing, and some best practices.
Site Critique – 4 Critical Lessons
When it comes to Reddit, you can click on a person’s username to see everything they have posted and commented under that name.
In all about 10 seconds, you can tell exactly what his project is these days, and that he is spamming the platform:
*Tip: If you are going to spam a social platform, do not do it on the same profile that you actually use day to day.
Lesson One: Provide Value
No matter what you are building online your main objective is to provide the best value. Period! There are many ways to build value, but I can assure you spam is not one of them.
Sure it can lead to traffic, but long term, damages your brand and damages what you are trying to build.
Begging for reviews so these get counted in the meta data in Google, drive a few visitors, and hopefully end up ranking for the name of the product is all this post is trying to do.
Zero value added here.
The key to adding value is alleviating people’s problems and pain points. When you are building an affiliate site, the visitor is not sure if they really want that product or not. If you are a good affiliate marketer, you will teach your traffic how whatever you are promoting is actually the right choice and how it will effect their lives by fixing the issue they are having a problem with.
On Reddit, I know a thing or two about how this works.
This is the second most popular post of all time in the Entrepreneur sub. This happened because almost everyone who has inventory hates it in one way or another. It is cash intensive, sometimes it is heavy, and many times you are dealing with suppliers and co-packers and the entire thing is a damn mess. It is basically enough to give anyone a headache.
I showed people how to sell on Amazon without inventory or inventory costs, and I dropped a 6,000 word guide on EXACTLY how it is done.
This solves a problem in their lives, and because of the effort put into it, it still drives traffic to this day and helped a lot with recognition of the brand I was building.
Now, in terms of the website from the guy being an asshole on the internet (surprise!), there is zero content, zero problem solving, and really zero emotion at all.
The site is all about Dapps, which are decentralized applications, which are built on blockchain technology. The area is really interesting, but the point is that these are simply apps. Apps help people and make their live easier or provide entertainment.
The site in question, simply gives descriptions of the application and is trying to curate user reviews.
Anyone can write a description of something, but it takes actual effort in order to go into detail on how this specific application is going to help the end user. Dropping a few thousand words on each Dapp on how it works and how it can help Redditor’s would have made a MUCH better post, and I can guarantee would have actually had some discussion and reception.
Lesson Two: Reasonable Load Times
When you are running a website, you will run into a lot of people who are extremely anal about load times.
Yes, better load times can help you rank over your competition, but it is also not the be all end all. If your content is no good, you should focus on that first, and site speed later.
However, when I clicked onto this website I noticed things seemed a bit off. The page was taking forever to load. Once it did finally load, I popped it into two tools to check site speed:
These both work pretty well to give you some tips on what you need to improve to speed up your site.
A lot of these issues can be fixed by simply optimizing issues and using a browser caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache.
Site speed is NOT the be all end all like I said, but when you visibly start to notice how the site loading seems to be lagging, it is time to take a look into this.
This info-graphic by section.io is a great example of exactly why people should care just a little about site speed. With a load time of almost 11 seconds, this website is losing way over a third of their traffic.
In this case, it looks like the name servers are actually routed through Cloudflare and they are most likely NOT hosting this site. The reason people do this is because Cloudflare is basically a free CDN (content delivery network) which will cache the static resources on your website or blog.
This does not help you when the root site is hosted on a complete potato.
I used to be a huge fan of starting off your sites on shared hosting with something like Hostgator or Bluehost, but the more experience I gained, the more I realized how this is not a great way to go. Instead you can get a CHEAPER VPS (virtual private server) to run your site off of. It will handle more traffic, hiccup less, and cost you less.
If you are not technological literate to set up your own server to run something like WordPress, you can use a host such as Cloudways (where this site is hosted). They act as a proxy to these VPS companies and give you a nice UI to set up the site without playing with any code.
It might not always be the server the site is sitting on. When you are using WordPress, it could just be a REALLY poorly coded theme.
To test this, I first needed to know what theme this site was using. Conveniently, there is a site called What WordPress Theme Is That or you can simply take a look at the site source code.
We can see the name of the theme and a bunch of plugins the site is using. The more plugins your site is using, the slower it is going to be, so only having a few essential plugins will help improve site speed.
With a quick google we land on a theme on ThemeForest:
Click on the Live Preview link below the theme, and then run that URL through GTmetrix. Right out of the box, the site is pretty slow.
To see if it is the server, or the actual theme, run it through Pingdom’s speed test: https://tools.pingdom.com/
This tells us that even though the theme is not THAT fast, that the biggest issue is certainly the server.
Move over to a VPS as soon as possible actually optimize your images/caching. This should not take very long and will actually lead to less visitors backing out.
Lesson Three: On Site Content
The idea and layout of the site itself from the homepage is not that bad.
A search engine that will help you find the perfect decentralized application for your needs.
This actually has a lot of potential, but when you click through on the content, that changes.
The layout of the actual content pages is pretty damn good:
Front and center you have video where you have the chance to educate the visitor, you have a blurb on what the Dapp is, a sidebar that draws your attention to getting paid and leaving reviews, and then content below.
The one thing this could use would be an actual email optin that was better designed, or any kind of exit intent popup. People in the crypto space are PASSIONATE so having them on a list could do wonders for a business like this.
When you look at the actual content on page though, things are pretty grim. Each and every page has just taken the video from the Dapp they are displaying or one off YouTube.
This could be actual user content of people using the Dapp, explaining it, how it can be used to help you, and going through all the features and why they are important. Video is such a goldmine because it allows you to educate your visitor who does not like to read, before you connect with them (grab their email).
The content below is not much better. It simply describes the Dapp without any sort of review, pros or cons, or anything useful at all.
If I am going to install something, or run a program, tell me WHY I want to do that, not a description of what it does. That does’t help make my decision making process any easier.
The fact is, this is simply not going to rank for anything, because there is a lot better content out there that someone actually cared about. You have to care about your content, or find someone that will. Otherwise you will be fighting an uphill battle.
Lesson Four: Quick Site Estimates
When you are analyzing websites, there is no way to get the exact statistics of how they are doing. There are some tools to help us estimate though!
After everything I have said above, I might be completely wrong and this site is killing it! So here is how I determine that.
First, I head over to semrush.com which if you sign up for a free account, you can grab 10 searches. Ahrefs is the leader here for sure, but for quick checks, you still have to pay and a monthly sub is expensive for most people.
Right away I see they have a few backlinks but are not really ranking for anything nor getting any traffic.
The first, similarweb is going to estimate traffic based on category and Alexa rank. Alexa rank is certainly not a great way to estimate traffic at all, but this can still give you an idea. For some of my own websites, this estimate is very close to the real number.
This is what an actual website that is doing well would look like:
You can get a lot of good FREE information from similarweb.
Spyfu is the other free solution I like to quickly check:
and for comparison, the same website from above (Themeforest)
It looks like I was right and this site really has some work to go before they can grab some search engine traffic.
Those YouTube videos I suggested earlier though, are an EXCELLENT way to start getting traffic to your site before Google starts to pick up.
Wrapping It Up
At the end of the day, a lot of what you see and read online when it comes to business seems to be a bunch of 8th grade school yard bullshit.
Stop caring what people say about you and your business (if it is actually constructive criticism, then you should 100% care AND listen).
…to the people who spend their time doing this kind of thing, just get out of the way and let people do their thing.