When you buy a shiny new website, often your web designer fills it with demo data or example content just so you can see how your web pages would look when you add your words onto the page.

You then send through your copywritten pages to be uploaded onto your website to your web designer. Your website is assembled and then launched to much celebration, champagne and praise from your mum.

Lately, I have been doing more than a few website rescues, and plagues of hidden nasties have been turning up when I start excavating the website.

Many web developers simply “forget” to delete the dummy data on your website in their race to get your site out the door and your money in their bank.

The problem with example data

Example data can be a huge problem for your business. How?

Imagine you are Google and you pop in to look around a shiny new website for a local mechanic. The only problem is that there are 2 pages that talk about the mechanic and 12 pages that talk about web design.

Yes, these pages are filled with an awful lot of Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet’s, but the pages are indexed, have page titles that say web design and have headlines and sub-headlines that use words relating to web design.

You, as Google, take a further look around the site, and you find team pages that refer to web design team members – even though the text says Lorem ipsum ad nauseum.

There are web design projects in there, blog categories for web design and even projects relating to web design. There may even be links back to other web design pages.

What do you as Google do? What do you decide this website is marketing? 2 short pages with keywords about a mechanic – 12 pages with keywords about web design services.

Google is clever, but not infallible.

Google looks at content relevance and the keywords and phrases used on your website to make a decision about what the site is about. It looks at content relevance and the keywords and phrases used on your website to make a decision about what the site is about. Sorting hat

Congratulations! Google has decided that the shiny new website belongs to a web design company that moonlights as a mechanic … sometimes. Think of it like the sorting hat in Harry Potter – only with financial consequences.

Now imagine that you are the local mechanic with that shiny new website, and can’t work out why the phone isn’t ringing. When you search for the terms “mechanic in ABC suburb” on Google, your website appears on page 642. How would you feel about your results?

This was the situation that faced my client last week. Business was super quiet and when we started digging through the site, we found problem after problem.  They turned up in Google for strange terms, but not for the things that mattered to their business. Their website was untrustworthy as it had so much garbage in it!

Not deleting example data in a website before the site goes live is sheer laziness on the part of the web designer who built the website for you. They don’t know (or care) that their behaviour has negatively impacted your SEO.

If (and this is a really big if) they wanted to keep the dummy content in place for you to look at to remind you what your site is supposed to look like, they the need to mark those pages as no index, no follow to make sure Google knows to skip over indexing those pages. It isn’t rocket science. It is just lazy and dumb.

How can you spot leftover dummy data?

Step 1: Log into your WordPress website

Step 2: Work your way down the left-hand index. Click and look at what is in each section. The sections that you see will vary depending on the theme your website is using so will look different to this image.

Pay close attention to Services, Our team, Testimonials, FAQs & Portfolio. Also, look at the images in your media section. Are there any random ones there that don’t relate to your business?

Step 3: If when you click on “View” the page has some content that does not relate to your business, or if it is filled with Lorem ipsum, etc., then it is likely to be leftover demo content and can be moved to trash. If you trash something by mistake, then you can simply restore it from trash.

Other problems with example data

If your website still has dummy data in it, your web developer probably was also too lazy to do a lot of other essential set up tasks.

I can pretty much guarantee that if you have dummy data in your site, you will still be rocking a “Hello Dolly” plugin that has not been deleted.

You will also probably have:

  • Plugins that have never been set up correctly (there’s no point having a Google Analytics plugin if you don’t actually enter the Google Analytics code for your website),
  • Themes and plugins that haven’t been updated for months (if ever),

WP Updates

  • Poor indexing – Your site being indexed for all the theme code pages,

Poor WP Site indexing

  • Nil or very poor security set up on your site which may mean your site has been hacked and you are not aware of it,

malicious code

  • An author archive that is indexed by Google – even though there is only one author for the website,

Poor website indexing

  • Subscriptions to essential plugins or your theme itself that have lapsed. This means that you will never receive any code updates to those essential pieces of code, and your site will be more likely to be targeted by hackers.

Out of date plugins

Having demo data still on your live website is the proverbial canary in a mine. If you spot it, get someone to go over your website with a fine-toothed comb and fix all the issues that they find.

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle (BA - Psych/Industrial Relations) is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.