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.
Over on SiteProNews, Mark Garland has listed 50 Top SEO and Link Building Tips You Need To Be Using. Before his list, and it’s a good list, he makes some very good points about SEO.
- links for links sake won’t get you very far
- the only way to rank high is by genuine links to genuine sources
- nobody outside Google’s inner sanctum knows exactly what the algorithm is
- we do know that Google prioritizes relevant, high quality sites
So we need to be thinking of our content as the primary focus, and links as highlights of that quality content.
“Think of it in terms of the top 40. A song reaches the number one spot if it sells the most (for SEO purposes sales = links) but you can’t just take a collection of words, with no melody and try and get sales. In order to get to number one you have to start with a good song (for SEO purposes song = content). The song may not be to everyone’s liking but as long as a large enough number of people like it, then they will buy (or link to!) it.”
Marketing techniques, Search Engine Optimization, Web Design, and all the rest of the package really are useless if the song/content doesn’t appeal to anybody. Being an authority with easy-to-find information goes a long, long way to get your site ranked high. It’s the song most people want to hear, and you will find that your links are shared by quite a few people.
If you need help getting yourself into the “top 40″ and staying there, there’s help at reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.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 haven’t figured out that site speed is important, then you should consider why Google might introduce the Page Speed Suggestions Report inside Google Analytics.
This is a report that truly looks helpful.
When you’re inside your Google Analytics account, click on the Content – Site Speed section. Next, click on PageSpeed Suggestions. You’ll get a Page Speed Insights page, which should help you see how you can improve the necessary pages on your website.
Your Page Speed score will be a number between 0 and 100. The closer to 100 you get on that score, the better your page speed for the tested page. It’s important that you understand, however, that the tool doesn’t measure page speed. It measures the extent to which you can improve the speed of the page. A lower score means you can improve it a lot.
By analyzing the speed of your web pages, you can determine if you have too many graphics on a page, too much script, or a lot of videos. Too many ads, for instance, can result in a slower page speed.
As the Internet gets faster and faster, page speed will likely be a bigger issue for websites. That illustrates the importance of updating your web pages from time to time to take advantage of the latest web design practices. You should test all the pages on your website periodically to see how they rate on page speed.
It finally happened. People are now spending more time online than they are on television, and it’s all because of their mobile phones. Actually, it’s all mobile devices. That includes smartphones and tablets.
It’s interesting that online usage (computers and laptops) has remained steady since 2010 while mobile non-voice usage has steadily increased.
By the same token, TV viewing has remained pretty steady. It’s only because mobile usage has increased that total online activities have surpassed TV viewing.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of mobile usage, smartphones and tablets are running neck and neck in 2013. Both technology options have run neck and neck since 2010 with feature phone usage remaining steady. Since both smartphone and tablet usage has increased by more than an hour per day each, the percentage of feature phone usage has dropped to just 7.7%.
Why is any of this important? It’s important because marketers will have to decide where to spend their marketing dollars next year and the year after that. I don’t think mobile phone usage is declining any time soon. Smartphones and tablets will only become more popular.
If you haven’t started thinking about mobile marketing options yet, then you need to start thinking about that right now. QR codes, target=”_blank”>responsive web design, and SMS text messages are just three of your options. There are plenty more. But one thing is clear, mobile marketing is becoming more important.
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.
Google recently announced the publication of a new webmaster cheat sheet. So if you just built your first website and want to know how you can get it to rank in Google’s search engine, you should download this PDF right away.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s just a basic overview, not a full tell-all. In other words, it isn’t comprehensive.
The PDF essentially offers the following advice:
- Write a concise, informative page title
- Chose a domain name that is descriptive and easy to remember
- Write unique meta descriptions for each page of 160 characters or less
- Give images short and descriptive file names
- Write a keyword-based alt tag for each image
- Include an informative and descriptive caption for each image
- Keep your website’s content up to date and unique with fresh regular blog posts
This advice really isn’t earth-shatteringly new. Reciprocal Consulting has been giving this same advice for years. And remember, it’s still basic information. There is a lot more you can do to help your website rank in the search engines. For instance, you should build some inbound links to your site by sharing it on social media, encouraging your site visitors to share it with their friends, and writing guest articles and blog posts on niche-related websites.
It’s nice to know Google affirms what we’ve been saying for years now.
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
- 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.
As you get into managing your pay-per-click campaign, you’ll want to ensure that your landing page is optimized for search, draws the visitor in, and makes the sales pitch seamlessly with a strong closing statement – also known as a call to action.
Designing your landing page for PPC requires that you keep a focus on quality. Your quality score will determine where your ads are placed and whether or not your landing page receives respectable organic search rankings.
Here are 5 solid principles to keep in mind when designing your landing page:
- Attractive Page Design – Let’s start with design. Your page has to immediately be attractive to a user. If it isn’t, they’ll back out and go somewhere else. Make sure your images don’t obscure the text, make it easy to navigate or scroll through, and be sure you choose the right fonts and graphics.
- User Experience – Site visitors will not wait for pages to load. Make sure yours load fast. Also, include Buy Now buttons that are easy to use and functional. Every element of your page must be easy to use and encourage interactivity.
- Keep It Simple – Get rid of any unnecessary elements. Everything must point the user to the final sale. Include plenty of white space around the Buy Now button to make it visible.
- Grab Your Visitor’s Attention – Use big fonts and eye-catching colors for headlines, subheads, and calls to action. Make sure your Buy Now and Order buttons are clearly visible. Draw your site visitor’s eyes to those parts of the page you want them to focus on.
- Make It Social – Include social share icons on your pages to encourage visitors to share your page. And show your social proof badges as well. People respect marketers who can prove their social worth.
The best way to succeed – at anything – is to exercise continuous improvement. And the best way to do that is to measure what you do. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and change what doesn’t. That’s what Website Optimizer can do for you.
Google’s Website Optimizer is a method of testing and tracking your online marketing experiments so you can see what is working and what is not. You can use it to test your landing pages using an A/B testing model or conduct a multivariate testing experiment. Which model you use depends a lot on your marketing campaign.
The Website Optimizer is particularly effective with pay-per-click advertising campaigns. It lets you know how your campaigns are working.
If you have a desire to increase your website traffic or sales conversions, decrease bounce rates and CPA (cost per acquisition) rates, determine the best website design, or see which landing page is most effective, then Website Optimizer is a handy tool.
It’s imperative to test what you’re doing to see if it is working, whether you are engaged in a social media campaign, search engine optimization, or pay per click. Once you figure out what works and what doesn’t, it’s a matter of tweaking until you get it all just right. Think of it as making small adjustments until you get the right mixture of the right elements in your online marketing plan.
One of the most important parts of search engine optimization is also the part that is most often downplayed by the SEO community and by webmasters in general. Almost everyone is fixated on the technical aspects of SEO – keyword research, keyword density, meta tags, alt tags, etc. But you don’t often hear about how important creativity is in the SEO process.
When I speak of creativity, what I’m really talking about is bringing something unique to web pages. That’s something unique in the web design as well as in the content delivery.
Creativity is important in the SEO process because it makes your website unique, not only to visitors but also to the search engines. You want to feed the robots with information the can’t find somewhere else. You can do that in one of two ways.
The first way to be unique in your content is to provide information that no one else provides. That’s a bit difficult, but it can be done. You want to look for opportunities to bring to light information that no one else has access to or has left ignored. If you can do that, then you can take advantage of the creative aspect of search engine optimization by providing unique information.
The second way to present unique content is in the presentation. This one is much easier to implement than the first method. You can take care of the presentation by focusing on web design, site structure, or content presentation elements on the page – for instance, use of videos, infographics, or other interesting visual and non-visual content delivery elements. You can also add rich snippets to your page to increase your search engine optimization possibilities.
Creative SEO can be handled in any number of ways, but it’s a very important aspect to SEO in the 21st century. Make your website unique.
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.
If you want a sure-fire way to kill your website and ensure that it doesn’t get traction in the search engines or that visitors stop by for a quick look and leave, then follow these web design principles.
- No social media icons – Leave off the social media icons. No one’s going to share your content anyway. Truth is, people do share content. And they’re sharing it more all the time.
- Don’t include graphics – No one likes pretty pictures. Fill your web content space with nothing but text. Lots of it. Heck, go even further and don’t break for paragraphs. Do everything you can to make your web pages gray.
- Noindex, nofollow – Add the meta tag “noindex, nofollow” to every page on your website. It won’t get crawled or ranked by the search engines and no one will ever find you. You’re sure to live out the rest of your life in obscurity.
- Talk down to your readers – You’re smarter than they are. Show it. Readers love it when web content talks down to them, puts them in their place. You’ll get lots of repeat visitors to your site with that. Not.
- Don’t do any internal linking – Links are overrated. Why would you want your web pages to link together? Why encourage site visitors to visit more than one page? They came to your site to see the page they’re on, so keep them there. Actually, studies show that website navigation is one of the most important things for site visitors.
If you noticed the inherent sarcasm in this post, good for you. Now, don’t you think it’s time to learn how to really design web pages?
WordPress once was thought of as nothing more than a blogging platform. It was considered – and still is – the premiere blogging platform on the Web. There’s good reason for thinking of it that way. No other blogging platform offers the same level of design flexibility with search engine optimization benefits and maximum functionality.
Today, however, WordPress is thought of as more than a blogging platform. It is a blogging platform PLUS. And that plus is a big deal.
It is being billed today as a content management system. That means you can use WordPress to upload all of your website’s content and you can build a full-fledged website using it to manage your content from beginning to end. However, there are some pitfalls.
As an example, if you use WordPress’s media upload features and you decide to move your website to a new server or host, then you’ll have to migrate those photos and images and if you aren’t careful you could lose them. It’s much easier to make a website transfer with a traditional HTML website. You simply drag and drop your folder to the new server and you’re done. It’s not that easy with WordPress.
That’s just one example. Designing WordPress also comes with its own set of headaches. For instance, are you going to use an off-the-shelf template? Be careful because a lot of them are not optimized correctly for the search engines.
You could use a premium framework, but those cost money. You could end up spending as much money to design with a WordPress site as you would to pay for a custom HTML design, and have fewer headaches.
While I wouldn’t say don’t use WordPress for your next web design as an absolute imperative, it’s important to know the dangers and pitfalls before you make that decision.
You could call 2011 The Year of the Panda. Panda in this case is a reference to Google Panda, the algorithm update that killed hundreds or thousands of websites instantly, many of them big name websites. It also did in some microsites.
And that makes us ask the question, are microsites good for SEO?
My answer is, they can be if done right. The problem so often is that website designers do not often do them correctly.
So, What’s A Microsite?
You can build a microsite that targets a narrower niche within your broad company website’s niche. But what has killed many SEOs trying to use microsites is they linked them all together in a massive link building scheme. Google caught on and all their sites were de-indexed. Rather quickly.
If you build microsites, build them as standalone webites, not as link satellites for your larger site.
The Real Benefit Of A Microsite
The real benefit to having multiple microsites is not that you can use them to build links to your major corporate website. The real benefit is that you can use them as separate websites that achieve search engine rankings on their own.
If you have three microsites that each target their own specific keywords, that’s 6 times the number of opportunities to rank well for the keywords that you are targeting. That’s in addition to the ranking opportunities of your main website. And that’s if you don’t link them together.
You have to make sure your microsites aren’t associated with each in any way. Treat them like separate businesses and promote them as such.
There are a lot of website design companies online that purport to build you a custom-designed website, then use an off-the-shelf web template. Sure, they modify the template, but that’s hardly “custom.”
Web design isn’t rocket science, but it’s not exactly Cracker Jack box thinking either. There is some creativity involved.
A good web design company can take your company image, your logo, your brand, and design a real website that captures the personality and essence of your brand. It is unique. It is custom designed in the truest sense of the word.
When you are in the market for a custom web design, take the time to interview companies first. Find out what their web design strategy is. Do they take an off-the-shelf template and modify it or do they truly build you a website from the ground up?
Last Christmas shopping season was a record-breaking season. In fact, Cyber Monday (November 29, 2010) was the biggest online shopping day in history topping $1 billion in sales. Are you ready for this year?
Whether or not we’ll surpass that landmark day in online sales this year is a big question, but it’s not out of the question. In fact, it’s quite possible.
Online sales have increased year over year for the past three or four years. The trend is developing. More and more people are getting comfortable shopping online and the Christmas season is the time when they are most likely to break down and whip out their credit cards. Online merchants should be ready. And if you’re not ready by now, you’re not likely to be ready.
What’s it take to succeed in online commerce? You have to have a website ready to take orders. That means you need an attractive web design with clear and easy navigation and a safe and secure payment system. The No. 1 factor in whether online shoppers are willing to buy from you or not is whether you build trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.
Cyber Monday is just around the corner. Are you ready? Let the shopping begin.
Many small business owners spend so much time worried about web design concerns they often forget about the importance of web hosting. That’s a fatal mistake and it could cost you.
It’s not that web design isn’t important. It’s very important, but let’s draw an analogy. Should you design a nice big and beautiful house and start building it before you’ve bought the real estate to put it on? What if you design a house that requires a half acre lot, but you’ve bought a 1/4-acre lot instead? See the problem?
With web design, your problems can often be just as bad. Design your website and choose the wrong hosting for it and it can hurt you in the long run. You could have frequent service outings that take your website off line for periods of time and frustrate your customers. Or you could see your website getting hacked often because of lax security. All because you chose the wrong hosting company and the wrong hosting service.
When you are in the planning stage of your website, consult your web design company for their recommendations on web hosts. You could save yourself a lot of headache down the road by picking the right hosting company to begin with.