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Here’s a scenario for you: you have a new company and, naturally, you want to build a website to promote it. Let’s say that this company is a health food retailer. You know that you need to promote keywords and get other people to link to your site so that you can improve your search engine rankings, but… how do you go about doing that? Unless you are an SEO expert, it’s going to be fairly hard to get what you’re looking for and even if you are an SEO expert or champion web designer, there’s still a lot of competition out there.
This means that you need a targeted, focused strategy to promote your new health food business. A lot of people might, at this point, turn to Google’s keyword tools. These are free and so they’re very appealing to use. Yet with so many people doing exactly the same thing and the fact that, no matter how good they might be, Google naturally have their own interests at heart, it’s unlikely that this will be enough to ensure success across all platforms. This is why we at Ampheon Web Design London are big fans of Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com), which offers a much more comprehensive experience when it comes to keywords, link building and strategizing.
After all, if you are a health food retailer (or pretty much any other business you can think of), you are likely to have a lot of competition. With more than 2.1 million enterprises in the UK alone, it’s practically a given that you are going to be facing some competition, even in a niche market – and that’s without taking account of growing international competition as the internet expands and becomes more important to businesses everywhere.
One of the best things about Wordtracker is that it can help you target not just keywords, but what are known as long tail keywords. To take the above example, while some people will undoubtedly do internet searches for ‘health food’, more people will search for longer, more specific terms such as ‘health food shops in London’ or ‘local health food retailers’. These sorts of key terms are much more valuable to you in the long run as there is likely to be less competition for them and they will also be more specific to your business: it might be next to impossible to get to the top of the Google rankings for ‘health food’, but you might be able to get there for a term such as ‘health food retailer London.’
Wordtracker will be able to identify keyword searches for your terms and will offer you lots more results than a free tool will ever be able to. This makes your investment more than worthwhile as picking up increased, targeted traffic is important when it comes to translating site readers to sales. It will also be able to identify related searches that are still relevant to your terms. For instance, for the term ‘health food’, other related terms could include ‘nutrition’ or ‘children’s health’, ‘diet’ or ‘healthy eating’. These are all keywords that could help to boost your search rankings if you incorporate them into the content on your site and you are more likely to have success with them than if you just target one generic term.
Another thing that we love about Wordtracker is its tools that help with link-building. This is an important part of SEO and any SEO expert or web designer will tell you how crucial it is to get quality inbound links in order to boost your site. Not just any link will do, though. They need to be relevant to you. For instance, if Ampheon were to ask a women’s fashion blogger to link to our site, it probably wouldn’t offer much in the way of link value. If, however, we got one of our clients – someone with credibility, a good search engine reputation and good levels of traffic to their site – to provide us with an inbound link, that would be much more valuable.
This is the sort of help that Wordtracker can provide: using their link-building support service allows you to identify where your competitors have got their links from, which is really useful as it allows you to work out where you should target when it comes to organising campaigns. So, even though our health food retailer might be best friends with someone who works for a law firm, a link from them might not be ideal. Instead, the Wordtracker tool might suggest blogs related to the subject or local companies who might have an interest in promoting other businesses. For instance, universities often have sections on their websites that tell students what’s in the area. Here, they could include a link to the health food retailer’s site to highlight the fact that there is a health food shop in the area.
Of course, you might think that you could sort all this out yourself – and maybe you could, but it would take a long time to do, eating into valuable resources that you could be directing elsewhere to better effect. Using Wordtracker to do the hard work for you will cut down on the amount of time you have to spend identifying both good link opportunities and important keywords for you to target. You’ll benefit from better, increased levels of traffic and a better understanding of how you can promote your online business in the market you’re operating in.
This means that Wordtracker is useful for all companies: whether you are the biggest health food retailer in the land or just setting up in a little shop on a road off the high street, it can help you to identify likely avenues that will bring you more and better business. We here at Ampheon have considerable experience when it comes to web design and all things SEO and we are definitely of the opinion that Wordtracker is pretty nifty. Yes, you can get Google tools for free, but they’ll never give you the depth of information or level of detail that Wordtracker will give you. And, at a time when the internet is increasingly competitive, that sort of tailored support is invaluable.
They may spend most of their time as rivals, but Google has recently joined forces with Bing and Yahoo! to create schema.org. This is a new website that aims to improve the quality of the internet through the creation of a more robust data mark-up system for webpages. Until now, all of the search giants have had their own systems for this, which has often made it tricky for web designers and webmasters to decide on an exact mark-up schema, but it is hoped that having a shared system will not only make these decisions easier, but also improve search results.
Schema.org uses a microdata format that will be familiar to most webmasters who have previously marked up webpages for rich snippets. For those unfamiliar with this, rich snippets are those pieces of information that help to identify what your site is about and provide a large amount of information in a short space (such as an item that comes up on a search engine with not just the page title, but a picture, description, reviews and other data). Using the microdata format across the whole of schema.org is designed to make the process of marking up rich snippets more consistent.
One of the main benefits of schema.org is that it uses a vocabulary across all participating search engines, so there is less chance for confusion over double meanings or unsupported jargon. It also helps to identify sites more easily and, therefore, means that websites benefit from the categories they choose. For example, under the Schema vocabulary, a restaurant would be – in the broadest category – a ‘thing’. This would allow the web designer to include a name, description, URL and an image in the mark-up information.
The restaurant, however, is not just a ‘thing’. It’s also a ‘place’ a ‘localbusiness’ and a ‘restaurant’. All of these add extra detail to the mark-up information so it can be located in different – yet still relevant – categories. There are lots of other common categories that can be used for different webpages, depending on the content that is included within them. For instance, if you were writing a webpage about a celebrity, they would fall into the ‘person’ category, while a charity could be a ‘place’, ‘local business’ and ‘organisation’. When it comes to creative works there are options for ‘book’, ‘recipe’, ‘TVseries’ and more.
Generally speaking, the more categories you are able to select when you are marking up a webpage and the more information you can provide for each of your selected categories, the better as it provides a richer range of data for the search engines to utilise when they are searching for relevant results. Schema also allows you to view sample HTML for many of the categories so you can work out which ones would be relevant for your site and how you might need to adapt it in order to properly fit in.
Once you have selected all of your categories, filled in all of the information that you are able to and have completed your coding, schema.org recommends that you test your webpage mark-up using a code compiler so you can make sure it is all working properly and will have the intended effect. One thing to bear in mind is that when you use schema.org, you can only mark-up the visible part of your webpages – the bits that your readers will see – and not any of the hidden page elements.
Schema also works to take the ambiguity out of other parts of websites: as well as offering a common vocabulary for webmasters to make use of, there are also standard formats for time and date. This is important when you consider that different countries often use different formats when it comes to the date, so that while 10/6/11 in the UK would undoubtedly be read as the 10th June 2011, in the US it might be interpreted as the 6th October 2011. The standard format offered by Schema means that the inputted information is unambiguous and therefore easier for machines to understand. Something similar can be done with time.
This can be useful if, for example, you were promoting an exhibition or a concert that was taking place at a particular time and date. You would obviously want it to be very clear when the event was taking place and for the information you give to be understood by any machine – and therefore web user – that picked it up. You can do something similar with, for instance, recipes or anything else that might take place over a specific period by using the Schema format to specify how long something will take (such as a recipe that needs cooking for an hour or an event that lasts for four hours).
There is also a meta tag option, which can be used for web content that you can’t mark-up in the normal way due to how it is displayed on the webpage. For instance, if you have a product review on your site and the information is displayed through a five-star graphic, then you could use a Schema meta tag that includes details of the graphic so it is incorporated into your mark-up of the rest of the page. You can also include link data to third party sites to make it clearer to search engines the sort of information you have described on your page (such as linking to an encyclopaedia reference that contains further details).
Overall, schema.org helps to standardise the process of marking up webpages by introducing a common format for Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This has the effect of making life easier for web designers and other staff in charge of the process as they will be able to be much more specific in their coding, rather than trying to come up with a solution that works for all the different search engines.
While Schema is not specifically designed to improve web ranking, including rich snippets in your mark-up can help your search results to display more prominently, which is always a good thing. Plus, as the features of the site develop and more options are included in it, it makes sense to make use of it now so you will continue to benefit further down the line as new developments are made and new features added.
You may have thought that wallets have always been ‘mobile’, but the concept of the mobile wallet has just reached the digital age. On 20th May 2011, the QuickTap system was launched. It’s the brainchild of Orange and Barclaycard, and the idea is that customers can pay for purchases under £15 using their mobile phone. Of course, in order to use the system, you have to have a special phone (a Samsung Tocco Lite) and be a customer of both Orange and Barclaycard. As long as you meet the criteria, however, you can make what are known as ‘contactless’ payments, which are supposed to make paying for your shopping much more efficient.
Whatever your thoughts on this development, it does raise an important issue – namely that of the growing trend for mobile internet devices. As of the end of 2010, there were an estimated 5 billion mobile phone contracts in the world (although we presume at least some of these were for phones sitting defunct in drawers and down the back of the sofa). Smartphones are now said to be outselling desktop computers and, increasingly, people are using those smartphones to access online services. Despite all this, there are still relatively few businesses that have developed specific websites for mobile devices. The tendency is still to think in terms of what we could call the ‘mainstream internet’ and not pay quite enough attention to the potentially huge mobile internet market.
Mobile marketing is something that businesses increasingly need to take note of. It’s said that in 2009 alone, mobile advertising revenues grew by 85%. With the introduction of the iPhone and increasingly sophisticated Android devices, it’s highly likely that the boom has grown even further since. So, if you run a business that is looking to develop its online strategy and make the most of popular technologies, what are some of the things you should be thinking about in terms of mobile phones?
Mobile websites. Somewhat obviously, mobile websites are one of the biggest issues to consider. As more people use their internet-capable smartphones to access the internet on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever before that they can access your site from their phone. After all, if they are looking to use their phone to buy some clothes online and have the choice between using a site that’s been especially designed for mobile phones and one that hasn’t, they’re more than likely to go for the tailored site. Regular websites tend not to display properly on mobile phones due to the smaller screen size, making them hard – if not impossible – to use. You can still keep the basic design of your site for the mobile version, but it would definitely be useful to talk to a specialist web designer to work out how it can be adapted.
Smartphone apps. You will no doubt be aware of the vast array of apps you can now get for smartphones. Arguably, Apple has cornered the market in this respect, but Android and BlackBerry also make use of mobile apps. Increasingly, businesses are designing their own apps that their customers can download and use on the go. Some of these apps are for entertainment only, while others offer services that customers might find valuable. For example, Tesco has a shopping app that allows you to do your weekly shop from your phone. You can get satnav apps to help you find your way to places and others that allow you to access services from certain businesses. There are issues to consider in terms of pricing (that is to say, whether you intend to charge for your app or not), but it is an increasingly popular option and a potentially good marketing move for businesses.
Social media. One of the biggest uses of mobile internet relates to social media. Lots of people access their Facebook and Twitter accounts from their phones, so this could be a good chance for businesses to develop their marketing and engage with their customers. Any business that doesn’t have social networking accounts is missing out, so this is definitely an issue worth considering more generally as well as in relation to mobile marketing.
Location capabilities. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about how businesses can utilise local search during the London Olympics next year. This is an important aspect of mobile internet as it offers opportunities for companies to not only strengthen their current business but also seek new business. Local search often links to social media, as it allows people to ‘check in’ to places using the social networking accounts on their phones. When they check in, they can then often receive rewards such as money off vouchers and, in return, you benefit from their business.
Overall, mobile internet services are set to become more important over the coming months and years. For now, businesses aren’t penalised too much for not making use of the capabilities, but as more and more companies do catch on and start using mobile marketing, it will become more important that others follow or else risk being left behind. With so many options and potential for good results, it certainly makes sense to make the most of this growing trend.
For a free quotation on Mobile Application Development, contact us today.
A while ago, we wrote a couple of posts on what is known as the Google Panda (or Farmer) update. For the uninitiated, this was an algorithm update released by Google that was designed to improve the search engine rankings of good quality sites by weeding out sites considered to be low quality so they couldn’t reach the top of the rankings just by being good at SEO. Naturally, websites that are filled with good content don’t have anything to worry about from this update or any of the others that Google has released since. Low quality sites, though, have been affected.
This is great news for web users as it means they are more likely to find what they are searching for on the internet and they can trust search results more, but what about those websites that try really hard to get it right but still fall foul of closely guarded search algorithms? Just as some chefs refuse to give out details about their best-loved recipes, search engine giants such as Google look after their algorithms just as closely. This obviously makes good business sense for them, but if you are the owner of a website that has been affected by the Panda update despite your best efforts, it would be helpful to know where you’re going wrong.
So, when it comes to building high quality websites that will help you to do well in search engine rankings, what do you need to consider?
According to Google and almost any other internet authority, a lot of it is to do with trust. People need to be able to trust your website and the content on it. This doesn’t just mean keeping it free of bugs and viruses, but also developing your site to be a good authority on the topic about which you are writing. For example, what qualifies you to write about a particular subject? Does that come across in the content you write? Those sites that feature ‘shallow’ content tend to be the ones most affected by Google Panda and other algorithm updates, so even if you are expert at SEO and keyword placement, you need to make sure what you write actually says something, too. You can read more about site content in our previous article 'Unique Content: Why Site Text is THE Most Important of SEO Tips'.
In a recent blog post on their updates, Google asks a question that encapsulates the essence of this well: ‘Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?’ This is not just important for e-commerce sites but for all sites as it relates to a wider issue about trust and image perception. When people use a company’s website, they are buying into the business as a whole and so it’s important that the online face of the company comes across well. As well as making sure all your articles are factually correct, have good grammar and are relevant to what you do, they also need to be relevant to your brand.
All companies have a brand image – some spend more time on it than others, but they all have one and so you need to keep this in mind when looking to develop a high quality website. Do your web design and the style of your web content reflect your wider image? If someone reads your website, would they easily be able to associate it with the way they know your company offline? These might seem like philosophical questions with no straightforward answer, but they are definitely worth considering when it comes to creating your website.
Keeping all of these things in mind, here a few tips that might help you in building high quality websites and improving your search engine rankings:
Think about the big picture. This is also advice that Google offers in the blog post mentioned above and it makes sense. A lot of attention has been given to the Google Panda update – with good reason – but it is not the only algorithm update and nor is Google the only search engine. Think holistically about your website to see if it is meeting its aims and whether it provides a good experience for web users.
Don’t forget the details. The overall impression given by your website is really important, but the individual pages matter, too. The content on all of your web pages needs to be relevant and of a high standard. If it isn’t, then this can have a negative impact on your search rankings even if most of your site is really good. One bad page can also change how web users see your site, so it’s worth spending some time going through the website to make sure everything is of a high standard. Ask yourself questions: if you were looking for information on a specific topic, would your webpage give you the answers you were looking for? If not, it might be time to think again.
Write for your web users. We’ve said this in previous articles, but it’s worth saying again: you need to write your website for the people who will be using it, not the search engine algorithms. Write for your audience and you’ll most likely do well in Google rankings anyway because your focus will be in the right place.
Learn from your competition. Look at other websites to see what works and what doesn’t. What would inspire you to share a webpage with a friend? Are there any sites you find really inspiring? Are there any you think are dreadful? Why? How can you make your site better? In websites as in face-to-face business: the need for innovative, high quality work matters on the internet just as much as it does elsewhere.
We’ve been saying for as long as we remember; nothing is more important than the content on your web site. You can build links galore and undertake all manner of search engine strategies, but without good-quality content, any gains you make in search engine positions will be short-lived.
The issue of content came into focus again in 2010 and is set to intensify throughout 2011. Of course, to begin with your site must have content, but what constitutes ‘content’ as far as the search engines are concerned? There are two factors you should consider; content should be:
If you run a web site that sells cleaning products, why would you then include links to your favourite personal sites or just have images of the products with no text? We’ve come across all types of sites in the past with clients wondering why they don’t get ranking and this is just an example of something that really has happened!
First, a page without text is practically blank to the search engines (the same, to a degree, can still be said of Flash-generated pages too). To the search engines, an image is just a picture. Certainly, some very clever image recognition software might be able to work out what the image is about, but that’s not going to rank you very well even if it were being used. Much better is to lay the ‘food’ out in front of the search engines in a way that’s easy for them to see and easy for them to understand. And that means using text – plain and simple.
Whilst there is no minimum length for the text on a web page, bear in mind that the more text you add, the more you can create a relevant page of information with both your keywords and synonyms of your keywords. If your page has just 10 words, creating relevance would be hard work. Our recommendation is that for each page you want the search engines to find, work to a minimum of 300 or so words.
And that includes the home page. True, if you’re a large, established corporation you don’t need to worry too much about text on your home page as you’ll be able to build relevance in other ways, but the majority of sites aren’t at that level. That means you’re competing in a crowded arena, and with your home page being the main page the search engines use to understand the relevance of your whole site, if you don’t have text on this page then you are missing the best opportunity you have. We have worked with many clients where they want to keep the home page clean and pretty, but then wonder why optimisation efforts are slow (or fail) to bear results.
So, don’t be shy and work that content. But, don’t just write for the search engines. Getting the site visible on the search engines is one thing, but don’t forget that when real people reach the site you’ll want them to do something – and that means having content that sells. If you’re not expert at writing site content, consider hiring one – that little bit of extra expense could easily make the difference between having a lot of visitors and no sales, and having a lot of visitors and a lot of sales. It also justifies the return on investment on your search engine optimisation activities. Make sure though that any content writer you employ really does create unique content (copy and paste a sentence into Google with quote marks around it, and this will quickly identify if it’s unique) as there are some less scrupulous ‘copywriters’ out there.
Another top tip is to work on short easy-to-read sentences. This is for two reasons; first, the search engine’s indexers will find it easier and faster to understand the relevance, and that may mean faster position improvements and second, in the global world we live where automated translation is frequently used (Google Translate being just one), shorter sentences translate better. For a potential customer who doesn’t speak your site’s language as their first language, they might run it through an automated translation engine and the shorter the sentences, the better it will read for them, and the more chances you have of making that all-important sale.
Try to keep each page focussed to one or two topics at most, and create as many pages as you need to cover the relevant parts of your business. Don’t cram the 10 services you offer onto one page, rather create 10 separate page, with each discussing each service in more detail. That way, the search engines will be able to build individual relevance for each service you offer.
Finally, keep in mind the relevance of the whole site. As mentioned at the top of this article, don’t start adding information that has no relevance to what your site is about. Be focussed on creating two levels of relevance. The overall focus is what is the site about, who is it aimed at and what do you want site visitors to do when they get there? The second, level is what an individual page is about, who is it aimed at, and does it fit into the overall site relevance scope. If the answer to the whether if fits into the overall scope is no, then remove the page.
Google defines duplicate content as:
… substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.
Hopefully you'll know (but in case you don't) - duplicated content causes ranking problems. But, more recently a Google employee released a little more information on what it could consider to be ‘appreciably similar’.
In a recent webmaster query response, the employee responded to a question about duplicate content. In the response, the employee went on to state that although the wording of the site in question was not exactly a duplicate of another site, there were strong similarities. The two phrases in question were:
“The Prince serenaded Leighton Meester during his concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (Jan. 18).”
“Leighton Meester gets serenaded by the legendary Prince during his sold-out concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (January 18).”
The Google employee noted the similar phrases “serenaded”, “New York City’s Madison Square Garden”, and “Tuesday night (Jan[uary] 18)”.
Whilst the response discusses other similarities, such as linking to images from the same third party site not related to either page in question, this does raise a question about how Google’s semantics engine is working.
If, indeed, Google can see the phrases above as being ‘appreciably similar’ then it becomes all the more important not simply to take another’s content and adjust it, but to re-write completely. That is, creating your own content with your own words.
And that is ultimately what the search engines want; content that is going to be unique and meaningful to a user. If two sites have effectively the same content but just presented with slightly different wording it is going to make a judgement on which to rank well and which is piggy-backing off the original version. If two sites have entirely unique content, even if on the same topic, then each will be judged and deemed for their respective merits.
We should also take note of Google’s use of ‘blocks of content’ in the definition of duplicate content. This means you might feel okay reusing a few sentences or paragraphs here or there from a web site to boost your own content (we won’t go into the copyright issues that can create here!) but bear in mind that the search engines’ semantics engines are probably sufficiently refined enough now to be able to detect much more that you might think they can spot.
This came into focus again with a recent blog posting by Matt Cutts from Google where he discussed webspam – the junk that appears in the web results. Matt highlighted that in 2010 there were two algorithm releases to reduce the effectiveness of sites with ‘shallow or low quality content’. But, the same article referenced that this is something of a work-in-progress and further updates will appear - particularly in 2011 with:
“…one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content”
As we now know, this major change has so far come in the form of the Google Panda / Farmer in March / April 2011. So, if you haven’t reviewed your site content for uniqueness, relevance and depth recently, now would be a very good time to do so to ensure that whenever the next algorithm changes come along, you can rest assured that your site will pass with flying colours.
In closing, Google recently released a blog posting that gives a lot more guidance on content and structure preparation for your site. If you haven't seen it already, we strongly recommend reading More guidance on building high quality sites.
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