Select Page

The Importance of Your Business Website

During a time where consumers are using their smartphones for approximately 151 minutes, spending time in front of a computer for 103 minutes, and utilizing a tablet for 43 minutes every day, you would think that having a well-constructed company website would be a no-brainier business decision. Yet, shockingly, over half of all small businesses still doesn’t have a website.

Aside from it being one of your best marketing assets for brand awareness and visibility, a website establishes credibility and creates a link of trust between your business and your potential consumers. Actually, when surveyed, 94% of consumers said that bad web design alone is the number one reason to mistrust a business or organization. That means that companies with a website that are just poorly designed, are missing out on a lot of prospective clients. This number doesn’t even account for a lack of a having a website altogether.

When companies are asked why they don’t have a website, the reasons most often cited are cost and a perceived lack of importance. These reasons can only be attributed to not knowing the true power and reach a website really has. First, the costs of having a website do vary, but the price is next to nothing when the value is considered.

Just yesterday I was in desperate need for decorations for an upcoming birthday party I am planning and when a local well known party store was sold out in the theme I required, I did what most consumers do. I took to the internet in search of an alternate store that might carry what I was looking for. However, it was every consumer’s worst nightmare. There was only one other party store in the vicinity, decreasing the odds that I would be bringing home my supplies day of. I had never heard of this second company before, so I decided to check out their website before driving over. Unfortunately for me and for that company, their website did not exist.

Like most consumers do, I had expected to find a website. When this company failed to deliver on that aspect, they were already disappointing me before they even had a chance to serve me. At that point, it didn’t matter if this company was truly credible or ran a fantastic business, they didn’t leave that impression on this customer. I didn’t have time to waste driving over to another store that might not carry what I needed, or might not even exist at all for that matter. So, I sucked it up and drove home knowing that I was going to have to order everything online from company #1.

The value of a website comes down to one really important reason that your business should care about:

POTENTIAL SALES

Your visibility among potential consumers plummets with every second you aren’t online, because you better believe consumers are.

Without a website, or with a poorly designed one, consumers are not going to trust your business. Simply put, the impact of your web presence determines the way potential consumers view your credibility as a business.

Consumers will purchase products online from a website when they cannot find what they are looking for locally. Why not be that company offering what they are looking for when local shopping doesn’t work out? If it’s not you they choose, it’s your competitor.

Nearly all consumers (97%) research and/or purchase products online. Even if they ultimately do not purchase from you, they are more likely to come across your name, which increases brand awareness.

If it’s your website that answers the consumer’s questions, you are building a relationship with your audience without even knowing it. Therefore, that consumer will remember that it was you that last helped them by solving their problem and will be more likely to come to you in the future.

Again, not just any website will be effective and your number one goal when creating your website should not be solely focused on sales. However, it is an important byproduct of utilizing a web presence as marketing tool that cannot be overlooked. Your company needs a website if you want to make consumers aware you exist, if you want to stand out, if you want to win out over your competitor, if you want your customers to trust you, if you want consumers to CHOOSE YOU.

Web Site Features Not Popular in 2014

Many Outdated Bells and Whistles are Web Site Features Not Popular in 2014

The Use of plugins and elements that bring nothing to the table for the real value of your website and that actually downgrade the total experience for the visitor should be avoided.  Many things like animated gif, Flash Intros and too much text are just a few things that are NOT encouraged for a 2014 responsive / mobile ready website.

Are there too many icons, pictures?  Widgets, sidebars, as well as Search Bars are now being phased out.

Keep your site streamlined and effective for the viewer browsing experience!

 

Intros and Splash Pages

Unless you are Coca – Cola or a High profile company that people expect to see a production video on entering the site, this is a bad idea!  Intro’s annoy people who are not expecting to see one and don’t work on all devises… like apple products to name one…  So, the experience is not only downgraded but diminished to the point of leaving your site before ever entering it.

 

Photo Galleries and Special Photo Players

Many of your Gallery slide shows don’t take into the account the viewing device that will be used… the slide show will either be too fast or not compatible for the viewing experience and this makes it a bad idea to create a SLIDE SHOW.  You can produce a gallery page should the viewer desire to review the images but, just not in the fashion of a slideshow or carousel image slider.

Stock Photos

When Branding your website the more you lean to official, personal, real life images of your business and the people involved in your business the more effective your site will be.  Many costumers desire to interact with a branded business that introduces its product, real people and business practices on the company website not a cookie cutter site with stock images.

 

Auto Playing Videos and POP UPS

There are many stats showing that the viewer does NOT like auto playing videos when viewing a website as it is serves as a distraction by high-jacking the viewers experience.  The viewer should be given the consideration to view the site and its content under their own terms.

POP-UPS are annoying when you are trying to read an article or view content and a popup blocks this experience… THIS IS NOT a VALUE to your viewer!

 

M.dot Sites

These sites are designed because a company website redirects its visitor to a mobile site design… Spend the extra time and money to develop a website that is responsive to all devices …YOUR CUSTOMER will thank you as their experience will be 100% improved! NO REDIRECT NEEDED!

 

SEO Elements You Need In 2014

Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers write:

With so many significant changes in the world of SEO over the past year, it can be hard for non-SEO professionals to keep track of what’s still relevant and what isn’t.

Fortunately, while Google completely replaced their previous algorithm with Hummingbird, their gold standard for webmasters hasn’t changed: they want us to provide the best content and the best user-experience possible.

But what does this mean in 2014? What on-page factors are still relevant, both for readers and search engines?

1.      A Frequently-Updated Blog with Awesome Content

Just a few years ago, blogs weren’t thought of as a way for companies to publish content, build their brand, grow their audience, and build authority in their field. Now, they’re an absolute necessity.

In my own testing, I’ve already seen a 51.38% average increase in Google organic search traffic since publishing daily blog content with custom images, offering valuable insights. For more information about how important a blog is for SEO traffic, see “Why an Active Blog is Necessary for a Successful SEO Initiative,” and “10 Steps to SEO-Optimizing Your Blog Articles.”

2.      Google Authorship Integration

Google Authorship is Google’s way of verifying authors of content, curating that content, and establishing a sense for how much expertise (and authority) should be awarded to any individual author. Author rank is a concept that steps from this; the thought that authors with Google Authorship integrated gain credibility or “rank” based on their publishing history. It’s currently unknown whether author rank currently exists, but it’s a safe bet that Google will eventually implement it as a ranking factor, if it hasn’t already.

Other benefits of Google Authorship integration are enticing as well. Perhaps the next biggest benefit is Authorship Markup, which results in the author’s Google+ profile image being displayed next to the search result, within the search results page. Studies have shown that this helps draw the eye, attracting more clicks.

Here’s what that looks like:

authorship-markup

3.      Optimized URLs

We’re still seeing preference given to static, keyword-rich URLs, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Best practices for URLs include:

  • Under 100 characters in length
  • Words separated by hyphens or dashes
  • URLs should include no more than 3 subdirectories
  • If you’re looking to rank for location-based keywords, be sure to include those in your URLs
  • E-commerce sites should append tracking or product numbers at the end of the url (and should certainly not use numbers as a replacement for keywords)

4.      Title Tags

The title tag has consistently been one of the most critical ranking factors, and remains so for 2014. Your title tag is likely going to the be clickable text that appears in search results, making its optimization important for reasons far beyond SEO; it’s one thing to rank highly in search results, but if your title tag isn’t enticing, it won’t get clicked.

When choosing your title tag, try to include your keyword naturally and strategically. It’s usually a best practice to use your company name as part of your homepage’s title tag. For internal pages, include it at the end of your title tag rather than at the beginning; this helps with branding.

Your title tag should ideally be less than 65 characters, and again, if you’re targeting local keywords, be sure to use these here as well.

5.      Heading Tags

Heading tags are still one of the key factors Google uses to decipher what your page content is about. Fortunately, if you already have a good handle on how to use proper headings to improve reader experience, the same principles hold true in terms of what the search engines like to see.

Each page should have one – and only one – H1 tag. Your H1 tag indicates the main topic of your page, and should be the first element on your page. In fact, your H1 tag will often automatically become your title tag, depending on what CMS software you’re using, and what custom SEO plugins you have installed. This is generally considered to be a best practice.

Breaking up long chunks of content with relevant headers will ensure your readers can quickly scan your content, and will help Google understand the progression of your content as well.

Use your keywords in your header tags (H2, H3, etc.), as well as in your H1 tag, when it’s logical and natural to do so. Don’t force it! The key is keeping it natural and helpful.

6.      Alt Image Tags

Your image tags are still important for SEO; not only do they reinforce the relevance of the text content on the page, they also have a chance to rank in Google Image Search. But whereas, long ago, alt image tags were commonly thought of as primarily an SEO tool, marketers need to be keenly aware of using them primarily as a tool for labeling images for the visually impaired.

Where appropriate, your images should contain your keyword. If you’re finding that your images consistently aren’t relevant to your keyword, then maybe it’s time to rethink which images you’re choosing, rather than trying to ‘make’ them relevant.

Make sure your alt image tags are highly descriptive and give readers a clear understanding of the subject of the image.

7.      Keywords in Content

This is another factor I don’t see changing at any point in the future. Proper incorporation of keywords will be a natural result of good copywriting, but it never hurts to spell out the best practices in terms of frequency of use.

Keywords should be used throughout your content. Variations of your keywords (known as LSI keywords) are also important.  For more information on LSI keywords, see my article “How to Find LSI (Long-Tail Keywords Once You’ve Identified Your Primary Keywords.”

As with all the elements in this article, following these guidelines will go a long way to attracting both your human visitors as well as the search engines.

8.      Appropriate Depth of Content

We’re definitely witnessing a move toward Google preferring longer, meatier content, otherwise known as ‘long form’ content. Anyone can slap up a 400-word blog post and optimize it for a keyword or two, and Google is keenly aware of this.

If your site is currently not ranking well, and is made up primarily of short, generic articles, it may be time for a revamp of your current content. Ensure your content is well-written, and keep in mind that blog posts should generally be a minimum of 1000 words. This is particularly true if you have hopes of ranking for Google In-Depth Search (where I’d recommend a minimum of 1500 words).

For more information on creating content that resonates with your audience, see these resources:

  • Why No One is Reading What You’re Writing
  • The Confluence of Content and Social Media: Insights for Success in 2014
  • 10 Steps to Creating a Mobile-Optimized Content Strategy

9.      Appropriate Topical Targeting

Whereas we have typically focused our SEO practices on ‘keywords’, I believe we’ve seen a shift towards ‘topical targeting’. For instance, rather than focusing a page on one or two specific keywords, we should be crafting our page to address a particular topic or theme.

This will mean that our pages will be optimized for multiple, related keywords. While this has always been a best practice in the SEO industry, it’s one that has often been ignored in favor of targeting one or two specific keywords.

Organizing your content around topics is not only good for SEO, but is beneficial for improving your readers’ experience, attracting inbound links, and can significantly bump up the ‘share-worthiness’ of your content as well.

Conclusion

As you can see, some important SEO elements really haven’t changed much over the years, while others have. Perhaps our understanding of their importance has, but Google’s goal has remained the same all these years: to provide the most valuable and relevant content to the people who are searching for it.

Ensuring that your topic and keywords are clearly identifiable in your content, URLs, and header and image tags isn’t difficult (though it does take time), and will go a long way toward ensuring the best possible organic search rankings for your content. But most important of all, ensure that you’re publishing awesome content on a regular basis. That’s the foundation of on-page SEO in today’s modern era of SEO.

Designing A Website For 2014

Designing A Website For 2014

It’s been about five years since the last redesign of my website, Hitched. A lot has changed since then, most particularly the rise of mobile. While we made sure our website was mobile compatible all those years ago, it wasn’t (and still isn’t) optimized for smaller screens. Needless to say, we’re working pretty hard to correct this as quickly as possible.

As we have been working to give our website a fresh coat of paint, I’ve come across some current design trends that we may or may not implement, but wanted to share with you.

Continuous Scrolling. This is a design element that Forbes already implements. As you scroll down the page you are automatically taken to the next story without clicking. Since you continuously scroll, this changes other elements of the design. For example, when you get to the second article, unless you also add floating navigation and other elements, you lose the all-important “top fold.”

Larger Fonts. While we haven’t done a major redesign in years, a few months ago we quietly increased the font size on our article pages. Next year, I expect the font will get even bigger. One major reason for this is the improved screen resolution and greater screen sizes of the computers and other devices now used; which makes the standard font sizes of yesteryear seem puny.

Responsive Mobile Design. I mentioned earlier how mobile is effecting all web design. Walker Sands, a public relations firm found that mobile devices account for 28% of total website traffic in Q3 2013, up 67% from the same time last year. Our numbers show that mobile now makes up nearly 60% of the total traffic on Hitched. This trend has been going up for years and will continue to do so in 2014. The way to design for this in the past was to create a mobile-specific website, but now websites have the ability to be more responsive and to adjust accordingly to the device and screen. This means publishers don’t need to maintain two completely different sites and can instead focus on just one that responds appropriately.

Flat Design. It seems mobile really is driving everything. Since Apple AAPL -0.11% released iOS 7 with a complete flat design overhaul, the flat esthetic has quickly creeped into desktop and website design (to be fair, Windows went flat first). For example, we use the social sharing site AddThis and earlier in the month they updated their sharing buttons to a new flat design. It seems the flat design offers more than just a new look, it also boosts performance. AddThis mentions that the new buttons are 40% smaller in size than their previous glossy ones. This actually makes a lot of sense considering a flat design eliminates all the gradients and shadowing that can quickly eat up precious kilobytes.

Parallax Scrolling. The first time I saw Parallax Scrolling used on a website was in 2012 on the New York Times feature story, “Snow Fall.” Since then, other websites have been using the technique and it seems that in 2014 it will be a standard design feature. If you’re not familiar, Parallax Scrolling presents the webpage as multiple layers whereas the background layer scrolls at a different speed than the foreground layer (in fact the background layer may not move at all). Other techniques can also be used in conjunction, such as animation to offer some truly unique and dynamic effects. We recently posted our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide and included a new stylus called Pencil from FiftyThree. I mention this because their product site very effectively uses this technique to breakdown and explain the Pencil. It is my hope that this and the other design trends help to serve as inspiration with your next redesign.

 

~ by Steve Cooper (Forbes contributor)

BEWARE: Domain Registry Services letters

 BEWARE: Domain Registry Services are back to sending their letters to MOVE & CONTROL YOUR DOMAIN etc. for three times the cost as a COURTESY!!!!!

Domains are @ $9-$12 on GoDaddy WHY pay $35  READ YOUR INVOICES and KNOW WHO your service provider is.

1725088_630799730307846_221507565_n