- 69% Of Responsive Websites Take An
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- Why Responsive Design Matters
Published on April 15, 2011
Last week, we bought you a blog post on some top tips for building an ecommerce site. This week, we thought we’d look at online marketing. After all, this is an increasingly important area of business as more and more people look to the internet to find information, research companies and conduct their personal business. So, if you own a business and are thinking about running an online marketing campaign, what are the most important things to think about?
1. Have a good website
Before you even think about developing specific campaigns, you need to make sure you have a good online base. As one of our clients once told us ‘if you turned up to a meeting in a shabby or homemade suit, how could you expect to be taken seriously’. This means it’s really important that your website is of top quality, is informative, easy to navigate and appeals directly to your potential customer base. All of this is something a good web designer will be able to help you achieve and it will lend your online operations a feeling of quality, which your customers and clients will value and trust.
2. Have a blog
Having a company blog is important for online marketing as this can be a good way of promoting your message, particularly to your core audience who are more likely to read your blog on a regular basis. As well as your own blog to promote campaigns, you can link with other blogs or even pay for others to write blog posts for you to get your message heard all over the web. This is important, particularly if you are trying to promote a particular product or service, as people often look at third party websites to read reviews and check that you actually do what you say you do. A few well-tailored blog posts, with important keywords targeted, will help you to achieve this.
If you link your blog post with your social media and search engine optimisation efforts, you can find that your site will take off in ways you’d never expected, reaching new readers and potential clients effortlessly.
3. Use social media
Social media is another growing online trend and offers a good way of disseminating your message to a wide audience, particularly if you are hoping to engage young people or a specific section of the online market. Remember, though, that social media isn’t just about the obvious things such as Facebook pages and Twitter; you should also look for industry-specific forums where you can target your marketing to a particular audience. Other countries might also have local social media sites, which would definitely be worth tapping into.
4. Tailor content to your audience
As with so many things online, content is really important as this is one of the main ways of selling your online marketing campaign. Think carefully about who your audience is and the best way to engage them. Do you need to split your campaign into strands and produce different content for different groups, or are you just targeting one key group?
5. Search engine optimisation
You also need to make sure your online marketing campaign can be easily found on the internet. This means thinking about the key search terms that relate to your marketing and promoting them in articles and blog posts. If you post marketing material on other forums or blogs, make sure they have links back to your website as this is not only good for offering people more information, but links are also important for SEO.
6. Network with other companies
Networking is also important. Identify companies who might be able to help you promote your online campaign. For example, if you have any partnerships with other businesses, they might be able to write you a blog post or include a link on their website that links back to your site, getting your message out there and into new networks.
7. Build your customer contacts
Of course, your customers or clients (current and potential) are the ones you are hoping to market your campaign to, so it helps to make your contact base as wide as you can. Do you have an email newsletter to update your customers with news and information? If not, this might be something you could consider to build your list of contacts and maximise the chances of your marketing being a success.
8. Have a hook
Whenever you’re marketing anything, whether online or offline, you need to make sure you have a hook. Why should people care about your campaign? What’s your selling point? How are you going to draw people in? One way of doing this is with promotional material and perhaps a specific graphic or logo that people can identify with your campaign. This is something a web designer will be able to help you with and you can use it as a base to build an interesting, innovative campaign.
9. Analyse results
Once your campaign is underway, you need to analyse the results to make sure it’s working. Consider using software such as Google Analytics to work out how many people have viewed your campaign, how they found it, how long they spend reading about it and so on. This will give you a good idea of how successful it is and whether you need to make any changes.
10. Make changes and be flexible
Finally, if your analysis tells you that something isn’t quite working, do something about it. Use the information you’ve learnt to build on what you’ve got and make your campaign, bigger, better targeted and more accessible. While you should never stray from your core message, constant updating and revision will help keep your content fresh and relevant and maximise your chances of achieving the results you want.
Published on March 29, 2011
We wrote last week about the Google Farmer / Panda update; changes to the Google search algorithm that’s had an impact on around 12% of searches since it was launched in the United States, lowering the rankings of low quality sites and ‘content farms’. First analyses show that the Farmer update has been largely successful, with improved search results and the impact falling where it was intended to.
This is all great and it bodes well for when the update is rolled out in the UK and across the rest of the world over the coming weeks and months. One issue, though, has made us think a little bit and has got us wondering what might happen if some, shall we say, ‘unintended consequences’ occurred as a result.
That issue is the Google Chrome Personal Blocklist. You are no doubt aware that Chrome is Google’s web browser, launched to challenge the likes of Internet Explorer and Firefox. The Personal Blocklist is a recently introduced enhancement to Chrome, which allows users to download some software that then, as the name suggests, lets them block certain websites from appearing in their Google search results. So, if they were to do a web search through Google but the top results turned out to be low quality sites such as content farms, they could then block those sites so they wouldn’t appear in their search results again. Any blocked sites are also sent to Google for analysis, and Google admits they may be used as a ranking signal in the future.
On the face of it, this is a really useful tool and it seems to be working well so far. Google says that people have benefitted from better search results, which really should be the ultimate aim.
Another thing to note is that the sites most affected by the Personal Blocklist are largely the same sites that have been impacted by the Farmer update.
Google says that it didn’t use Personal Blocklist data to inform the Google Farmer / Panda update and they can most likely be trusted on this – the Blocklist hadn’t been around long enough to be incorporated into the Farmer update and is still in an experimental stage. So it does appear to be a coincidence that backs up the success of the Farmer update, which seems to have been based around analysis of user click data and web content quality (such as sentence structure and keyword placement). If both web users and Google are coming to the same conclusions about websites, then something must be going right.
But some evidence still shows that those sites most commonly featured on Blocklists then fell down the Google rankings as a result. So, we were wondering… what if everyone decided to block Google? Admittedly, this is a far-fetched possibility and would never actually happen as it would be foolish to abandon one of the best and most extensive search engines out there. But if everyone did do it, what would happen??
Scenario 1: Nothing at all. But, it’d give the Google engineers something to smile about in seeing their technology in action.
Scenario 2: On a personal level, searching for Google on Google wouldn’t show any results. But, on a global level things carry on as normal.
Scenario 3: On a personal level, searching for Google on Google wouldn’t show any results, and on a global level Google’s Page Rank is reduced algorithmically and it receives a +100 positions penalty (we bet there’s about 12% of US web sites right now wishing this was the case!).
Scenario 4: You can’t access Google via Chrome at all.
Scenario 5: Google sulks decides it doesn’t like people anymore, and targets the primate market instead. After all, according to the Infinite Monkey Theorem give enough monkeys typewriters and they’ll reproduce a work of Shakespeare, so give enough monkeys access to Google and who knows what our genetically close cousins could come up with…. so Google Monkeys anyone? (Please Matt Cutts of Google – can the next update be codenamed Google Monkeys – after all we’ve just had Pandas!)
OK, so we’re speaking in jest here, but it does raise a real point: should you just block websites because they’re low quality, or for other reasons too? For instance, should people take a moral stand against certain companies by blocking their sites through Chrome’s Personal Blocklist and punishing them through reduced search rankings?
After all, for all the good that business has bought the world, it also has its darker side and barely a week goes by in the news without some report or other about underhand dealings and morally suspect happenings. The internet has proved to be a useful tool for protest before: what if blocking websites could be used in much the same way; to lodge a protest against a company or even Government?
It might not make much of a real impact on businesses just yet – if people were to block sites en masse for reasons of moral or ethical nature, it would most likely be big business bearing the brunt and so they’d be able to withstand any action, especially as Chrome is still a minority web browser (sorry Google – we love it, but it’s still true). Additionally, it would be unlikely to make it into a ranking signal unless the site being blocked was suspect. But on a personal search level if the site no longer appeared in any of an inpidual’s results, and if done en-masse, it might just make a point. This could be true noticeable if the site in question used Google Webmaster Tools and the owners saw a drop-off in page impressions.
Of course, the most likely scenario is that all will continue as before: the Farmer update will roll out across the rest of the world and improve search results by weeding out low quality sites, and people will continue to do much the same thing with the Chrome Personal Blocklist. It does raise the issue, though, that sometimes technological advances have more potential than we can ever realise at first. It’s certainly one to ponder.
If you’ve any thoughts on this article written by Ampheon Web Design London, we’d be delighted to hear them. Why not post your comment, or alternative scenarios below!
Published on March 18, 2011
When you search for information on Google, you might find from time to time that the search results aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. You sometimes find yourself faced with web content that is below par and nowhere near as useful as you might expect. Google recognises that this is a problem, so this is why they’ve introduced what is known as the Google Farmer (or Google Panda) update.
What exactly is the issue?
The content issue is largely caused by what are known as ‘content farms’. These are clusters of sites that have low quality content but often do well in search results because they optimize keywords. Then, the more people that click through onto these results assuming they’re relevant to their search terms, the more popular they become, even though their content is lacking.
There is also an issue with websites that produce only small amounts of original content. Sometimes these are legitimate sites, with RSS feeds that are fully authorised, but other times they’re sites that have simply copied information from elsewhere.
Google wants to improve the quality of the sites it shows you when you search for something, hence the introduction of the algorithmic change known as Google Farmer (or officially inside Google, ‘Panda’)
What is the solution?
While Google isn’t officially targeting the Farmer update at the issues described above, the changes they are making primarily affect content farms and sites with ‘shallow’ content. They’ve done this by tweaking their search engine algorithm so higher quality results feature higher up on their lists. This change has only taken place in the US so far, but it’s reportedly had an impact on around 12% of US search results and is currently undergoing international testing, so it should be rolled out around the world, including the UK, soon.
Another update has also gone live to deal with the websites that have high quantities of copied content. This hasn’t had such a wide impact as the Farmer update, but reports suggest it’s definitely made a difference.
Are there any issues with the update?
On the whole, the Google Farmer update is positive to the Internet user’s experience as it makes it more likely that web users get good search results that are relevant to what they’re looking for and that are of good quality. Sites with low-quality content are more likely to fall down in the rankings as a result, which is a good for web users and website developers who put a lot of effort into their sites, as these will naturally benefit.
One issue that does arise, however, is the fact that websites are constantly under development and so might register as being ‘low quality’ for a time, affecting their search results. For example, if a website is trying to start a debate amongst its users, it might just post a short piece of holding text on a page to start things off. Until people comment on the page, though, it could be viewed as low quality by the search engines.
How can this be avoided?
One solution here is to block pages until you’re certain they’ll pass the algorithm’s analysis and to put as much effort as possible into generating good, useful content. As a rule of thumb, make the text on each page on your site unique and at least 300 words long. This means that when the Google crawls the pages, they’re more likely to prioritise them in search results. If you keep your websites up to date and filled with high quality information, the site will also be scanned more regularly, meaning that any changes you make will be picked up more quickly and therefore your search engine positions will alter faster.
You can also make sure you don’t have too much advertising on your site. Of course, advertising can be a good and practical thing to have your site and just because you have it, it doesn’t mean that the site will appear to be ‘low quality’. However, too much advertising can make your site appear like a content farm, lacking unique content, and detracting from any content there is on the page. If Google sees your site in that way, then the results could be damaging to your positions.
One of the main things you can do to make sure your websites benefit from the Google Farmer update is to make sure you tailor your content for your users, not the search engines. It can be all too easy to structure content around certain keywords that register highly in search engine results, but as Google makes more and more changes to favour high quality content, this strategy is increasingly risky. Make sure your users are getting useful, relevant content that’s tailored to their needs and you should have no problems in getting the results you want to achieve.
A final thought is that of writing the site text itself. We have come across numerous ‘professional’ website design companies where the site text has been lifted word-for-word from our site. And, of course, we know we wrote the original text! Upon contacting the directors of such companies, very often they claim that the authoring of the site text had either been outsourced or an employee of the company had been given the task of producing it. So, if you’re responsible for your company’s web site, make sure that whoever you get to write the text does so by writing unique text and not text taken from other sites (which in itself is a breach of copyright anyway).
If you’d like further advice on the Google Farmer update, have noticed a drop in your own Google rankings, or just need general web design advice, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion.
Published on January 20, 2011
A question we've frequently been asked is, does a mobile version of a web site create duplicate content issues on Google? The answer, if done correctly, is apparently not. The main things you should consider are:
- Consider making a separate web site for your mobile content, and not just as different content served up under your main URL. For example, m.yourdomain.com.
- It is okay to redirect users based on the user agent their browser is sending. So, if your site detects an iPhone or Android user agent you can redirect to your mobile site automatically.
- Google has a specific user agent for mobile site indexing called googlebotmobile. Again, it's okay to redirect this agent automatically. However, don't redirect based solely on the IP of this user agent as that could create cloaking issues.
If you follow these three key rules, you should find yourself on the rigth side of Google and not suffer any penalties as a result of duplicate content. For more information, watch the following video from Google:
Published on December 21, 2010
It's official. In the latest of a series of Webmaster videos, Google has confirmed that it does use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to rank sites. Of course, it's just one of a large number of ranking signals, though, so don't rush out and just focus on building up only your social presence. We know that Google's been using social sites for ranking some live results, but this video confirms that this is now being extended to the wider search results.
There is a caveat though. In the same way that Google can identify if you're artificially building large numbers of links, they say they can identify if you're buying up Twitter and Facebook followers too. This is quite possible, because if your followers are indexed and followers of your followers, it would be possible to build up a pattern of interest and identify if the people following you have any real interest in what you do. This could also be confirmed on how regularly your posts are retweeted or shared to followers of your followers.
So, as always, it is back to basics.
- Start by making sure you have something on your site worth reading, and that's unique. Google isn't interested if someone's said it before, unless you can say it in a different way
- Make sure when you tweet or post to Facebook that you include a link back to your web site, such as to a relevant article you're referencing
- Contact your clients / customers, your suppliers, your friends and encourage them to follow you. Of course, people sometimes need a reason to do that, so make sure that what you're offering will be of interest
- Join interest groups where you can post updates (including automatically) or include links to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. in your profile; sites such as LinkedIn or UKBusinessForums.
- Post and tweet regularly to keep your followers' interest, but don't overpost to the point of spamming them
- Be patient. Unless you're really famous in your industry it's unlikely you'll have thousands of followers overnight. Social media takes time and effort to be effective.
You can view the webmaster video below:
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