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Site speed is important because people don’t like to wait long when they can click and switch to another site that loads faster. Albert Costill of Search Engine Journal(SEJ) looks at the issue in their ongoing series SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014? The answer to the rhetorical question is “yes, site speed is important,” and here is why:

  • Google’s algorithms take site speed into consideration when ranking results (and other search engines do, too)
  • People buy more if the site loads in two seconds or less (and leave if it doesn’t)

Many studies have been done on customer behavior and site speed, and most of the results are not surprising. People won’t stand in line to make a purchase unless they have no other alternative and online shopping provides many alternatives to the internet equivalent of standing in line.

Speed Things Up On Your Site

SEJ has some very practical advice for getting your web site out of the slow lane. Their first suggestion is making sure you have a host that is capable of providing the professional service you need for a business site. After that’s taken care of, there’s a checklist of possible problems that will slow down the load speed on a site:

  • unoptomized images
  • too many widgets/plugins
  • incompatibility issues
  • too many ads
  • bulky code
  • weighty design themes
  • external embedded media

There are many tools available to assess site speed and the article lists some of the ones considered most helpful. If your site is loading slow and you address some of the above issues there should be a pickup in speed that is immediate and measurable. Site speed continues to be important in 2014 and it will remain important as long as people dislike waiting in line.

For more insights into the effect web design has on site speed, visit http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php.

 

There’s been a growing emphasis on the mobile market since the late 90s and many business people have been ignoring the trend as a fad rather than a change in marketing. Those people are changing their minds, and Dr. Peter J. Meyers was one of the skeptics who has now decided that there’s a reason Why Mobile Matters – Now. His article on Moz looks at the factors that seem to have influenced Google and examines some findings in Mary Meeker’s annual state of the internet report.

Do Your Customers Use Mobile?

According to the findings, more are using mobile devices to access the internet now than ever before. There really doesn’t seem to be a trend away from mobile, the movement is clearly more than a fad. But it has serious implications for marketing to that increasing segment of your business audience who look for information on a smaller screen.

According to Dr. Meyers, “Google is designing a SERP that’s not only “mobile first”, but can be broken into fragments (like answer boxes and Google Now “cards”) that can be mixed-and-matched across any device or screen-size. Search volume across non-desktop devices will increase, and mobile in all its forms may become the first stop for the majority of consumer searches.” This means a change in the way we design web pages and optimize search results or those potential customers will not even see what we have to offer.

Mobile Matters Because People Are Using It

The challenge of marketing is always catching the attention and engaging the customer with the goal of a tangible result. Mobile marketing and the change it makes in the underlying structure of our internet offerings are just the latest in the ongoing challenge we face. As long as technology keeps changing, marketing tools will change, but the people we are targeting are still people. The customer is still the gauge by which all our efforts should be measured.

For information on marketing, web design and more, visit http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php.

Google penalizes web sites that have “thin” content, low-quality pages that are merely designed to build traffic by having keywords, duplicate content, lots of images or links, and other space-filling methods. They’ve been trying to weed out sites that are identified as thin sites, but sometimes a legitimate site (like yours?) has some pages that get caught in the effort and penalized.

Adrienne Erin has a good overview of How To Avoid Google Thin Content Penalties on SiteProNews. It starts with a clear definition of what is considered undesirable, then has some practical suggestions for screening your site to see if there is content that needs attention. Then she suggests you become ruthless and either improve it or eliminate it. Her tips for improving thin content are pretty straightforward:

  • rewrite it — go into greater detail about what makes this thing unique
  • merge some pages — take two or more “thin” pages and make them one good one
  • add interactive content — quizzes, surveys, imbedded maps, etc.
  • decrease internal links — a page full of useful information might just be too full of links, so unlink some things
  • go into greater detail to highlight differences in similar pages — regional offerings may have a lot of the same information that looks like duplicate content. Adding more detail improves SEO, too.

The less “filler” content on your site, the more legitimate it will be in the eyes of the search engines. What’s more important, it also will have more authority for your readers. For more information on quality web design, visit http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php.

 

One of the tasks a webmaster often faces with trepidation is moving content around without taking a hit from Google. So many have expressed this that the official Google webmaster blog has addressed it in the post on Making Site Moves Easier.

3 Kinds of Content Migration

There’s really just two basic categories of site move, but since the second group has two subdivisions, there may as well be three:

  • site moves without URL changes
  • site moves with URL changes
  • site moves to responsive web design

Each kind of move will mean following different instructions, and Google does a good job of explaining the steps.

The Price of Site Moves the Wrong Way

It may seem like there’s no consequence to just shifting around your content on your site on the human level. After all, if your site is logical to you changes will probably will be logical to your customers who are regular users. But the search engines are not reading your site on the human level, and that will affect where your site comes up in the page ranks.

Humans tend to do a search and look at the first page or so. If you want new users, you will need to be found. Moving content around without keeping an eye on the Googlebot will change the way your site comes up on Google. That will change who sees your site.

It makes sense to follow Google’s instructions when you do site moves because then you will be doing things the way their search engine operates, and that improves your chances to be where you want to be in the rankings.

For more insights on web design, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

The word “audit” can bring up some bad memories, but it really is an important process when it comes to keeping your website functioning the way you want it to. This is because it’s like a content tuneup for your site.

Search Engine Journal has a step-by-step explanation of How To Conduct A Content Audit On Your Site that is extremely helpful. It’s a very easy guide worth bookmarking, because content audits should be part of your regular site maintenance just as tuneups are needed to keep a car running smoothly.

If you are not consistently fixing the small problems and replacing outdated items on your site, then it gradually bogs down under an accumulation of minor issues that become overwhelming. This accumulation of minor issues might not seem like much, but getting rid of them usually results in a boost in traffic and rankings.

What might need a tuneup on your site?

  • page title and url
  • description
  • content
  • keywords
  • alt tags
  • last updated
  • internal links

An audit is simply taking a closer look at the individual components of something. In this case, that closer look is with the ability to do something about what you find. Many times a site will have content or links that were good when it was first put up but has expired or needs to be redone. Once a regular content audit routine has been established, it isn’t difficult to keep up because you are only having to fix what has developed since the last time.

No matter how well a website has been designed, it is going to need regular maintenance to stay effective. Content audits are like tuneups for your site to keep it running smoothly. For more information on web design, visit http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

Copyblogger just posted an article by a behavioral investigator named Vanessa Van Edwards on nonverbal hacks that can capture attention and convert traffic on your site. It’s an interesting look at human nature and our automatic responses to visual triggers. The reason that nonverbal communication is so important in web design is because people don’t read what doesn’t catch their attention. So the greatest content in the world will go unread by most folks if they don’t notice it.

Research has shown it takes five tenths of a second to make a good first impression online. That means visual rather than verbal is the first thing to pay attention to as you decide how to set up your website. Here are the six wordless ways you can do it:

  1. Understand eye patterns, and set up your headings and buttons in the normal F-shaped way that readers tend to process information: upper left corner, across, down, across, down. This is how we read text in English. (Non-English readers may not automatically do this if their normal script is written right-to-left.)
  2. Photos and videos should show your hands and positive facial expressions. This generates trust without saying a word in any culture.
  3. Guide actions nonverbally with images showing hand gestures or eye directions (looking to the video or button you want them to click).
  4. Utilize the research that has identified where visitors focus: logo, main navigation menu, search box, social networking links, primary image at top of page, written content, website footer.
  5. Take advantage of all the studies on color and psychology and match the colors of your site & logo to the main idea of your brand.
  6. Simple beats over-cluttered every time. Every time.

For more on ways to improve your site’s web design, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

 

Net Neutrality is a topic that is hard to avoid if you are at all interested in internet marketing (and if you have a web site, you should be interested!) Copyblogger did an excellent job on the subject with Sonia Simone’s article “What Neutrality Means For Your Business, and Why You Need To Act Now To Protect It“.

It basically comes down to the fact that there’s a push to have fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet highway, and it will take a lot more money to go fast. People prefer fast when they are online.

Now, the fight over Net Neutrality is ongoing and nobody knows what will ultimately happen. We each have a small say in the matter, but there’s a lot that is out of a business owner’s control. Nevertheless, there are things that you can control about your site speed.

The way you choose to design your website will affect the speed it will load, which will affect the number of visitors on your site. 

Internet users are usually impatient people. Even a half of a second will make the difference between someone who reads your information and someone who mutters unmentionables and closes the page to go elsewhere. The top things that can slow your site speed are all good things, but you have to weigh the cost:

  • buttons, widgets, forms, and anything that connects to another site
  • ads and the cookies that bloat them
  • images and elaborate themes
  • codes that do things in the background

If the small voices lose the Net Neutrality battle, small business sites may need to pare down to stay competitive. A well-designed site is already important, but in the future it might be vital.

Get expert help in website design at reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

Your web site is the way many of your customers first get to know what you offer and how it will benefit them. Ideally, that site comes up on the first page of a search engine (SEO, we are looking at you!), but the experience a first-time visitor has on your home page will determine whether or not they come back.

How is your message displayed and delivered? Today’s multi-device using customers are using laptops, phones, and more, to read email, surf the net, and view ads. A clear technological understanding of how that works and what won’t work should define how your message is put out there. For instance, a dancing bunny with wiggly balloons to click on is actually difficult to program successfully because a lot more information is needed and more can go wrong. That same bunny sitting still might be better for your purposes.

Is your web site easy to figure out on different devices? Since there will be users with varying speeds and bandwidths, simple is better than flashy. A good search engine is essential. The home page should have the most commonly sought information right there, easy to see. Tabs or links for further information should also be easy to see and should work when clicked on. Get feedback from your customer base and use it to improve their experience on your site no matter how they visit.

Are you using your data dynamically? There’s more to metrics than click rates. If you aren’t analyzing the right data for the right information, you are simply learning how to play with software and numbers. Know what makes a result statistically significant and numbers start to mean something real. Today we have access to an overwhelming amount of unique data that can improve specific business practices, but it has to be handled correctly.

You could try to figure all this out by yourself, or you could delegate the bulk of it to professionals who already are doing successful web design for others. 

http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

 

In the middle of a great post at Moz on mobile-friendly websites, Bridget Randolph points out;

“We are increasingly living in a multiscreen, device-agnostic world.

And this means that “mobile” can’t just be an add-on anymore…Mobile is not a separate channel; it’s a technology. So although at this point there’s “no such thing as mobile” for the user, don’t be fooled: Making it easy for users is really hard. We can’t be lazy. What we need to be doing is asking the right questions.”

Her advice covers 4 phases of the customer journey: discover, explore, buy, and engage. Each category has a lot of good ideas to consider, case studies to look at, and it is set up in an easily read format that is classic technique portrayed. You could use it as a textbook example of how to explain a potentially complicated process.

Every time you add a channel to your enterprise, it is a good idea to do it in a way that works for the devices that will be used to access it. Mobile devices are different in experience than a laptop, for instance. So why would it be wise to take the laptop design to the mobile device without changing anything? Short answer: it isn’t.

So how does that look for web design? It looks like using dynamic serving, different HTML based on user agent while a single URL is used for simplicity. You want to be thinking about the consumer’s experience, and that means a smaller screen needs a different design in order to be effective.

  • How easy is it to find the “order” button from a phone?
  • How hard is it to navigate your site on a tablet?
  • Can the user go from one device to another in a seamlessly synced experience?

Testing all the devices your customers use, the way your customers use them, is a very good idea. We live in an increasingly multi-device, mobile-savvy culture and business has to keep up with it by designing your site appropriately for all the channels your customers will access. You can get help with your web design at reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php.

If you go to Amazon.com and look for a product in any category, you’ll discover that their navigation taxonomy is quite robust. You can search the site by keyword to find the product you want. Usually, you’ll get a list of products that match your search criteria, then you’ll be given a list of navigation options (usually in the sidebar) that allow you to narrow your search to name brands, sizes, prices, types of products, etc.

So you want to duplicate this type of sophisticated navigation system on your own website. That’s good. Amazon is definitely the model to follow. But there is one big issue to think about as you build your e-commerce website.

First, nix the dynamic URL parameters. They aren’t going to help you. Each product on your website should have a keyword-based URL, and that goes for the categories and specific page navigation options too.

For instance, if your customer comes to your website searching for socks, your search page should have the word “socks” in its URL. Giving the customer the option to click-through to pages for “tube socks,” “athletic socks,” and “ankle socks” without including those descriptors in your URLs could lead to duplicate content issues, especially if your customers can arrive on any product or category page from multiple locations on your website.

Every page on your website should have a single URL before you start adding dynamic parameters and session IDs. Otherwise, you’ll have navigation issues.

One of the latest developments for website design is responsive design. This is a term that is used to describe a website that is accessible from any device and allows the user to experience the website whether viewing it from a desktop machine, a laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet, or some other device. The website responds to the device it is being viewed from.

>Responsive web design is about more than simple accessibility. It also has some SEO benefits.

For instance, responsive websites eliminate the duplicate content issue. If you have a website in HTML that was designed for computers and a separate website that was designed for mobile devices, you’ll either have to rewrite the content for the second site or potentially deal with duplicate content issues in the search engines. There’s no way around it. Even if your mobile site is a subdomain of your main site, you’ll have to face the duplicate content monster.

You also only have to do SEO on one site. If you have two sites, that’s twice the SEO work.

Thirdly, if you have a traditional website and a mobile website, then you’ll have to build links to both sites. Link building is a time consuming activity. You will most certainly duplicate your efforts in social media promotion and other link building activities if you have a dedicated mobile website.

Going forward, responsive website design is going to be one of the most important trends for website development.

Testing is one of the most important aspects of creating new web design. If you have a current website and think you can improve upon it, how shall you go about it? You should test new designs against your old design and see which one performs better.

There are two types of website testing that are popular and recognized by most industry experts: A/B testing and multivariate testing. Which one is right for you?

In general, it depends. However, I think A/B testing is appropriate for most circumstances.

A/B testing is where you take one component of your web page and you test it against a new version of it. For instance, you take your page headline and tweak it slightly then present an A/B test to see which one users like the most. The A version is usually the current web page published. The B version is the one with the new headline. You don’t test any other components on the page.

Multivariate testing allows you to test multiple components at the same time. You can add a new headline, move your lead photo from the right to the left side of the page, and make your sidebar wide and narrow.

Testing multiple variables at the same time can give you an idea about different versions of your page, but it won’t necessarily tell you which variables users are attracted to. In the above scenario, for instance, users might like version B of your web page more than version A, but do they like it because of the headline, the image or the sidebar? All you can is they like the combination of elements better.

This is why I recommend A/B testing over the multivariate testing most of the time. Still, it’s OK to use multivariate testing because the end result is a better website that visitors love.

If you are designing your small business website, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to use a theme or build your website from scratch. That is, will it be in HTML or based on a template?

Even if you choose a template, it’s still based on HTML. The difference is, you’ll be using someone else’s framework versus building your own.

There are pros and cons to both approaches.

If you build your own website from scratch, then you control every element. You also take ownership of the problems. So you have to make sure that every element is useful. Your navigation needs to be easy to follow. Your infrastructure needs to be helpful to your site visitors. The design needs to be attractive. And the content needs to be top-notch.

In many cases, these things are already done for you with a website template, but you still need to check them out. Some templates, for instance, offer little to no SEO benefit. But how do you know if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to test them?

This is where a professional web designer can help you. It might be less expensive to have your designer build from a template, but you’ll get a much better website if you allow them to build it from scratch. A good designer can get you a unique look that makes your company look professional and ready for business.

Your call, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons to every business decision.

You’ve decided it’s time to update your website design. Good for you. There’s just one problem. You’ve achieved some pretty high search engine rankings over the years and you don’t want to lose them. What should you do?

Think about these three considerations before you do anything:

  1. Keyword Research – At the heart of your SEO are keywords. You’ll need to analyze each page on your website for keyword usage. Are you ranking for keywords that aren’t searched for any more? If so, your SEO could be outdated. Or perhaps you have pages that still get great traffic for keywords that are still being searched for. Make a list of all the keywords you are ranking for and how much traffic those pages are getting. Also make a note of any relevant keywords you are not ranking for.
  2. Conversions – Traffic is great, but conversions are better. If you have web pages that get a load of traffic, especially from search, but no conversions, then maybe you just need to rewrite the content. Compare your conversions to your search engine rankings and traffic.
  3. Content Anomalies – This is a broad category of content problems that could include duplicate content or low-value content. Perhaps you have a large number of pages with little content on them that could be beefed up a bit. They’re targeting good keywords but just don’t have enough content. Make a list of your web pages that might have some version of a content anomaly and determine what you can do to improve them.

It’s important that you improve web pages that have content problems in your redesign, but it’s also important not to significantly change the content of web pages that are ranking well and converting well. So make your lists and analyze your content before you commit to the redesign.

Let’s face it. We live in a world where beauty matters. I have seen ugly websites get a redesign and improve visitor interaction immediately. The website’s bounce rate lowers, its unique visitors increases, and conversions increase. The same thing can happen to your website.

There are some very simple things you can do to improve the look and feel of your website. Here are 3 ways to improve your web design easily and reap the benefits.

  • Associate your brand with colors – Not too many. Pick two or three colors that you want site visitors to associate with your brand and use those to design your website. Over time, those colors will be associated with your website and brand. Make sure you use specific colors by hex code and not just generic colors like “red” and “yellow.”
  • Write content for the web – People don’t read the same way online. Make your paragraphs short, use bullet points and subheads, and use short and simple sentences. Make your content “scannable.” People will stop and read what they find interesting.
  • Use graphics – “Gray” content might be interesting, but it’s going to be a lot more interesting with graphic enhancements. Use images on your content to break up the content and to add a visual element. Be sure to choose images that correspond to the content.

If you improve your website’s visual design, then you’ll see a huge difference in your conversions and how visitors interact with your website.

When I ask clients what they think the most important element of web design is, I usually get one of several responses.

  • The header
  • Navigation
  • Attractiveness
  • Usability, or functionality
  • Shopping cart
  • Conversions, or calls to actions
  • Search engine optimization

These are generally the most often stated elements by people who don’t design websites. Even web designers will often repeat one or more of these often spoken responses. But the truth is, the most important element of web design is none of these.

So what is the most important element?

In a word, it’s content that speaks to your ideal customer.

Notice that I didn’t just say “content.” That’s because content in and of itself is just a tool. It can be effective or ineffective. It can be the right content for your target audience or the the wrong content.

If the content on your website isn’t written to attract your ideal customer and then close them, then it’s not good content. Period.

The bottom line is, you have to lead your ideal client to the sale. That means your content has to be targeted to appeal to the ideal client and convince them that you have the answer to their most pressing questions. In other words, it has to solve a problem. If your content doesn’t convince your ideal customer that you have the solution to their biggest problem, then you won’t get the sale.

That’s why content that speaks to your ideal customer is the most important element of web design. It’s what gets the sale.

One of the most important tasks to get right in modern web design is site structure. If you do it wrong, it can kill your business. Get it right and it will make your business.

So how do you structure your website so that you drive traffic where you want it and help each page rank optimally in the search engines?

First, you should start with keyword research. What search terms are people searching for within your niche? Make a list of the most searched for search terms. Then pair those up with the right search terms for your business.

Now, group your keywords into categories. If your website is focused on commercial real estate in Key West, for instance, you might have a category for new construction, another category for retail business, one for industrial, and so on. Keep all like keyword terms together in one group.

In each group, take the broadest keyword search term and make it the group leader. That keyword term will be the top level navigational element and will be at the top on your navigation menu.

It will help if you draw a diagram of your website before you start building it. Get your presentation skills ready and draw out your website so you can see it visually. Don’t do any web design work until you have your site structure defined.

When it comes to website design, there are very few absolutes. But I would argue that there are some, namely, the elements you choose to place above the fold.

Anything above the fold, that is the area that can be seen on any computer monitor in any browser without having to scroll down or over, is prime real estate no matter what website we are talking about. If you want to make the most of your website design, include these 5 elements above the fold.

  1. Your company logo – It goes without saying, but your logo should be above the fold. Preferably, it should go in the header. But you definitely want your website visitors to see it on your page, for branding purposes if anything.
  2. E-mail opt-in form – Do you have a mailing list? If so, make sure your opt-in form is visible above the fold. You will get a lot more opt ins.
  3. Navigational elements – People who visit your website want to find stuff quickly. Make it easy for them. Include your website’s navigation above the fold.
  4. Content – If the only thing your website visitors see when they arrive on your website is your header, then you will lose a large number of them. Make your header visible, but don’t let it take up the entire real estate above the fold. Include some valuable content in that space as well.
  5. Contact information – If you want people to call you, add your phone number to your website in a visible location above the fold. If you want them to Skype you, then make sure your Skype address is visible above the fold. Whatever your primary means of contact is, make it visible above the fold.

>Website design is a creative exercise. A lot of things can be left to the imagination of your designer, but make sure these elements are above the fold on every website you own.

Do you have a book in your head? You can translate that book into formats that are easy to read in the palm of your hand. The two leading e-book publishing formats are Kindle and e-Pub. By targeting your manuscript to these formats you will reach about 90% of the e-reading public.

E-books used to exist in PDF and HTML, and that was it. But that was before Amazon revolutionized the publishing industry with its Kindle.

Amazon has the Kindle Direct Publishing program that allows anyone – yes, anyone – to upload a Word document and have it reformatted for the Kindle. Then you can sell it on Amazon and keep 70% of the profits. Likewise, Smashwords will take your Word document and put it through its Meatgrinder churning out a manuscript in as many as 10 formats. Those include:

  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • Kindle
  • E-Pub
  • PDF
  • RTF
  • LRF (for older model Sony Readers)
  • Palm Doc
  • Plain Text (download)
  • and Plain Text (view) – viewable as a web page

So what do you do after you’ve published your book in these formats?

The first thing you do is build a website to promote your book. Then you want to drive traffic to your website, but instead of offering the books for download on your website, you’ll offer a link to Amazon and one to Smashwords where people can go to download your book.

There are two reasons why you do it this way. First, even though your book will have a description and other marketing information at both Amazon and Smashwords, having your own website allows you to include more sales and marketing material than either of the other two services and to present in a format that you have more control over.

The second reason you want your own website for marketing purposes is because you can take advantage of the Amazon and Smashwords affiliate programs.

Amazon pays you 70% royalties on every sale. Smashwords pays you 80%. But you can make more money if you sign up for their affiliate programs. That way you can promote the books on your website and receive a sales commission for each copy you sell in addition to your royalties.

If you want to be a published author, you need a hub – a home on the web. That’s what your website does for you. Become an author today.

It used to be that all you had to think about when building your landing pages was how to optimize your titles and headlines, images through alt tags, keyword usage, and a having strong call to action. Is that all you have to think about today or is there more to it now?

I think that landing page optimization has changed and primarily it has changed because users are more savvy now than they used to be.

For sure, Internet users overall care more about design and layout today than they used to. At one time an ugly landing page could still make money, but because most niches now are embattled in some pretty stiff competition, if your web pages don’t meet a certain design standard, then your competition is going to win. Users will bounce from an ugly site to a more attractive site and make a purchase there even if your product is better.

For that reason, web design is much more important today. You want your site to be optimized well and have a strong call to action, but you want it to be beautiful too.

Aside from that, you also want to pay much more attention to metrics. What are you measuring, and are you sure you’re measuring the right things?

For starters, you should know how much of your traffic is converting. You should also measure your social signals, e-mail opt-ins, and anything else that could potentially lead to a conversion. You have to know what web design elements are working for you and eliminate any that aren’t. This often requires A/B testing or multivariate testing in some form.

By testing your landing pages for better optimization and conversion you signal to the world, and your in-house team, that you are serious about building your brand. It all starts with effective web design.