Web Design, SEO and Conversion Conflicts

Web design and SEO are two elements that go hand in hand. When they don’t work in sync, there will definitely be a problem, which can be seen in your conversions. Even though these are two separate departments, it’s important that they work together. This is important to keep in mind whether you’re working with an internet marketing company or doing it in-house:

too-cool

What looks “cool” doesn’t always convert – Part of having an impressive website means having something that looks current, usable and identifies with your brand. From a pure design standpoint, it’s a good bet that most designers wish that ranking factors solely had to do with graphics and style. Unfortunately, it does not. Quality content is still king.

This is why you often see “ugly” or old websites that rank well. Website authority and age count for a lot, but so does the content and information it provides. Web design should be built to accommodate your content. Your site’s design can look super sleek and impressive, but users won’t convert if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Having good content isn’t good enough anymore – The SEO industry preaches quality content but your website will not succeed on writing alone. A good website design helps highlight the best information and attract more targeted customers. Many times, website design can grow into something that is more complicated than it should be. This is difficult when you have a fickle client. Remember to base all decisions on what would help a customer convert, rather than just pure aesthetic reasons or personal opinion. Just another reason to Meet

Meeting in the middle – It can get ugly when design takes an overwhelming grasp on a website. For most small businesses, you can’t purely depend on design for your website’s success. Even though on the surface, it might seem like the case because it’s the first thing people see. Before they read your content or browse your site, the site’s design leaves a lasting first impression.

The next part is where optimization does the job. A properly optimized and structure site ensures that users can browse seamlessly and find what they’re looking for. Both elements have to work together. One is seen as a science and the other as an art. But when you put them together, you get the best user experience and the highest website conversions.

Web Design Trends for 2014: Big, Bold and Unexpected

Design trends are always evolving. What’s old eventually becomes new again and what’s new quickly becomes old and trite. This year, we foresee a trend of big, bold and unexpected elements in web design. Take a look for yourself:

helvetica-font

Unexpected Type and Font

Helvetica? Please… there is much more variety out there. Introducing the idea of monospaced font type, where characters are all the same width. This is in contrast to traditional fonts that are all proportional to each other.

Something mundane as text, font size and color can certainly transform your website. Non traditional fonts will stand out among standard fonts and give your website a pop of personality. Handwritten, mismatched, matte and flat – the idea is to think outside the box, interesting, playful and yet professional.

Check this out: 20 Quirky Monospaced Fonts For Personal And Commercial Use

A Big Focus Encourages Scrolling and a Main Point of Focus

Gone are the days of 2, 3 or even 4 column design templates. Nothing says “cluttered” and “outdated” like a whole bunch of jumbled boxes on your screen. In a way, responsive design has forced designers to simplify. It has also forced designers to think about 3 different templates with 1 look: desktop, tablet and mobile. This works out to everyone’s advantage because responsive templates often point out one main area of focus.

This way, visitors are more likely to pay attention and scroll for more information. They aren’t confused or looking for more, but reading and focusing on the one point that’s in front of them… much needed in today’s world of technological distractions!

Check this out: Unorthodox Layouts: The Next Big Thing?

Bold Headers

You either hate them or love them but we can’t stress this one enough. Even at the tail end of last year, giant headers were making their way into the design world. A bold header leaves a lasting impression. A well thought out header is impressive because it combines the elements of being aesthetically pleasing, as well as completely functional. With a new, big and bold header, you can really incorporate all of the design trends mentioned above to your website home page.  And it also goes without saying that while bigger is better, you have to keep page speed and load time in mind with these giant headers.

Check us out on Facebook and let us know what you think!

Terrible Web Design Advice from Someone Who Doesn’t Know SEO

In today’s world, effective web design doesn’t exist without keeping the search engine friendly factor in mind.

But this doesn’t mean that there won’t be (so-called) experts going around offering the worst advice! Before you run off and update your website structure or design, here are some things you should watch out for… just in case something has been subconsciously implanted in your brain by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about!

terrible-web-design-advice

Terrible Advice #1: Big headers are great and visitors expect them and are used to scrolling. Generic advice like this sounds rational… until you think it through. This is bad advice because it depends on the industry and individual testing. You can’t be sure unless you have done extensive testing. Not to mention that websites are heavy above the fold don’t perform well on site speed tests, which is a known factor for Google’s search rankings

Terrible Advice #2: Don’t tell readers everything they want to hear, make them feel anxious and create open loops. Ermm.. why do you want to make visitors feel hesitant and afraid? As a business owner, you want to give visitors enough information to make them feel comfortable with your products/services. You want to let them know that you’ll be there for them when they’re ready to take the next step and reach out. Don’t withhold important facts or contact info because you want to seem mysterious.

Terrible Advice #3: Focus on pictures, videos and call to action because no one reads the content. Although we live in a world dominated by distraction, it’s a bit far to say that readers don’t read any content. Visitors can definitely tell if your content is badly written and will leave, no matter how pretty your pictures are!

Terrible Advice #4: Take a look at common threads of what your competitors are doing and do the complete opposite, you want to stand out! Competitors who are successful are successful for a reason. In highly competitive fields, it’s not unusual to see similar design, content and templates. For example, in more prestigious fields, it might be the norm to see certifications, associations and awards. Why would you take these off your website just because everyone else is doing it? It doesn’t mean that you have to conform to the standard but rather, analyze the things that are working and see why and make them your own.

There are plenty of so-called internet marketing experts who don’t know anything about coding, design or implementation of on-site best practices. Before you listen to just anyone, make sure that you see their past work, examples of results and ask why you should listen to what they have to say! Call us (323) 340-4010 and we’ll be happy to help.

Responsive Design Doesn’t Help with Rankings, So Why Bother?

Industry leaders are all pushing towards responsive web design this year. So, it really comes as a surprise that Google would directly comment on the correlation between responsive design as it relates to better rankings.

responsive-web-design

Although Google does demote sites that aren’t mobile friendly, it doesn’t mean the opposite if your website is mobile or tablet friendly. Sound a bit unfair? Well, here’s what Google’s John Mueller has to say about responsive design, “we don’t use that as a ranking factor.” See the full discussion here.

Why Bother?

If Google isn’t taking responsive web design into ranking consideration, many people will fail to see the benefits of adapting to it. Even if Google isn’t directly using responsive design as a ranking factor now, it may be a different story in the future. It’s better to get your website prepared now for all the craziness that could come in 2014 and beyond. Wouldn’t you rather be ready than have your competitors benefit from responsive design?

Responsive Design Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

With custom web design, responsive templates could be painstaking with 4, 5, or even 6+ different versions of your website design. Depending on your time, budget and resources, you can always go with WordPress or other CMS templates that easily integrate responsive design into them theme. Check out responsive WordPress themes here.

It’s Easier for the Developer

Let’s say you’re using a responsive WordPress theme. This means that all your website content and structure looks the same on the back end. There are no template/content issues to deal with like if you had a separate mobile site. Mobile sites that coded completely independent to your desktop site are becoming outdated. With more mobile phone updates and changes, it’s possible that your “old” mobile site no longer displays correctly on mobile or tablet screens. With a responsive design, you don’t have to worry about a separate site, as it’s seamlessly based on the main version of your site.

It’s Easier for Users

It’s can be annoying to go to a website with bare bones mobile site that redirects you to the wrong page or won’t give mobile/tablet users what they’re looking for. What’s even worse are mobile sites that absolutely don’t allow mobile users to visit the desktop version. You want to always give them the option. Nowadays, users expect content-rich desktop sites to be well-translated on a smaller screen. Think of it as a shrink to fit website that still keeps the main function of your desktop site, without all the bulk that mobile/tablet screens can’t handle.

Get Responsive Today

All in all, switching over to a responsive website design will benefit your business more than waiting it out. Have questions about a responsive design or a custom CMS? Call us at (323) 340-4010 or check us out on Google+.

What’s Causing Your Website to be So Slow?

Is your website slowing to a creeping halt? Is the mobile or tablet version even worse? Unfortunately, there are many causes of a slow website. Fortunately, they may be easily fixed… once you diagnose the problem.

slow-website

Your first stop should be Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This is a great tool for web designers, developers and SEOs alike. It’s important just to be familiar of the loading components of your site. Enter your home page and other internal URLS to find out each page-specific problem. Google will give you a score out of 100 for the mobile and desktop version of your website. Some helpful suggestions include leveraging browser caching, enabling compression and optimizing images. It’s always easier and faster to fix a problem when there are specific things to look at and correct.

Messy and unnecessary coding can be another cause of a slow website. As much as we like the convenience of a content management system you have to choose the right one and implement proper plugins and tools. As auto-generated things go, the coding isn’t always the most efficient way display something. This is a trade-off you make if you’re not familiar with coding. Bulky code means that you’re not making it easier for search engines to crawl your site in their language. And wherever possible, you’re going to want to make sure this is the case! Especially when it comes to navigation, images and other complicated programming.

Tt’s crucial to get a reliable web host and server, especially for large websites. One option is to opt for a content delivery network, where servers are spread out across multiple centers across the internet, instead of just a single location. Either way, you want your website up and running fast, all the time. Down time is inevitable but choosing a reputable host will help you avoid messy problems. Did you know that some websites can even start having problems with their site or pages being indexed because their site is down so much? Or at least down when Google gets around to crawling their site.

Slow websites aren’t just frustrating for consumers but search engines are looking down and downgrading websites with slow load times. Even if your website is a beautiful piece of art with unique, quality content, it won’t count for much if it takes forever to load. Of all the other online marketing problems out there, don’t let this be one! Take a look at our web development and other SEO friendly services and let us know if you’re having problems with a slow website.

Search Engine Friendly Drop Down Menus

Navigation is one of the most important factors of a successful website. This is where drop down menus can hurt or help your website. As a general rule of thumb, mega drop down menus aren’t really known to be SEO friendly or helpful for visitors. Here’s a quick rundown on drop downs.

dropdown

Organizing all of your site content can be a huge challenge. Sticking it in another place on your menu doesn’t hide the problem and it certainly doesn’t help the user experience. This is where the mega drop down and submenus were born. More doesn’t always mean better and this is especially true for drop down menus, except for certain industries, such as e-commerce.

In any case, most if not all drop down menus use a major overhaul.

User Experience
Having multiple drop down menus can be confusing as people don’t know what they’re looking for. As you might have heard, give a person too many choices and they might not choose at all. There’a always the possibility that being overwhelmed or confused can cause visitors to leave your site all together.

Having long drop down navigation or secondary drop downs can be difficult to navigate if they’re not coded properly. For example, some secondary drop downs will disappear if you accidentally navigate away before clicking on the thing you’re looking for. Although this sounds funny, many people don’t have such good hand-eye coordination and long drop downs aren’t going to be a welcoming factor of your site.

Consistency
Although there are no rules for organizing drop down menus, there are certain things that people look for. For example, the left most item and header image should take users back to the home page. The contact button and other location information is typically located on the right hand side. It’s important to be consistent, especially if you have different drop down navigation in different parts of your website.

Even little things matter, like little arrows indicating that there are more items in a sub menu. If you use some design elements in one place, it’s important to remember to use them consistently throughout your website.

Load time
More items means more time to load. Although you could potentially solve this problem by using Javascript, it’s not really recommended for SEO purposes.

As if having more links wasn’t enough to slow down your website, some sites are now adding pictures to drop down menus! This isn’t helping with your website load time. Test your own website(s) by using Google’s PageSpeed Tools.

SEO
Speaking of SEO-friendly, it’s important for search engines to properly crawl all the links in your drop down menus. Having so many items could also give a bad signal to search engines. Especially if there are a lot of repetitive keywords and phrases, as this could indicate that your website is top heavy (with links) and keyword stuffing.

To Add or Not to Add?
Capturing website visitors is not an easy task and you don’t want to scare them away with monster drop down menus. Make a good impression by presenting clean drop downs. With the recent trend of simple and responsive web design, some sites are forgoing drop down menu navigation all together. What’s your take? Add drop downs or not?

Say It Ain’t So… A Google Mobile Site Speed Penalty?

Get the “Mo” in SoLoMo ready because Google is yet again ready to change rankings of mobile search results. Isn’t it shocking how many updates are rolling out this summer? Don’t hold your breath because more are expected before the season is over.

Google’s Hints
While it hasn’t always seemed official/explicit, it looks like mobile site speed will be an important factor in Google search rankings on smartphones. For some time now, Google has been urging webmasters to prepare for this change. Although sites won’t be out right penalized for slow mobile sites, they may face a demotion in rankings and that’s never a good thing. Will this mean that SEOs will soon have two things on their plate: desktop and mobile SERPs?

Along with slow mobile site load time, Google is also looking to crack down on typical mobile mistakes that webmasters might make. For example, forwarding landing pages to the mobile home page instead of mobile versions of that specific page. Also using a lot of Flash video since it’s not viewable on iPhones or phones that use Android 4.1+. Take a more in-depth look at what Google has to say about mobile ranking factors from the latest post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.

To Be Responsive or Not?
Responsive design
sounds like the way to go to take care of most of these problems. Unfortunately, depending on the size of your site and resources available, it might not be so easy to get a mobile responsive site up and running. Quality control and consistency is also important for responsive web pages as you want a seamless browsing experience. If you’re not ready or willing to fully commit to a responsive website, it might not be time just yet to go that route. But remember, the longer you wait, the sooner you might be forced to face Google’s mobile search ranking factors.

Find Out What’s Best for Your Site
Is your website mobile friendly? How many people are actually coming to your site via a mobile device. Some business owners might be surprised to find out that there are more visitors coming to the mobile version of their site than the normal, desktop version. If this is the case, it’s all the more reason to invest more into an efficient mobile site. If you’re looking for input or alternatives, it’s helpful to know that there isn’t a “right” answer for all websites. It’s arguable that for some industries, like e-commerce, responsive web design could actually hurt the user experience. Contact us today and let us know any questions you might have. We’re here to help!

Nostalgia and Yearning for Websites of the Past

“Retro”, “vintage” and “antique” are some words that describe the nostalgia we often get about reminiscing about familiar things in our past. But yearning for the past can also bring up some other not-so-flattering terms, such as “tacky”, “outdated” and “old”.

“Everything old is new again”
This pretty much accurately sums up the history of music, fashion, movies and all things related to design. But how do you go back without going too far back? This is a tricky line to walk, especially when building something as important as your business logo or website.

Familiar Elements
Luckily, going back to a time of simple, clean design element is on point nowadays. Trends that include:
– One page design
– Minimalist navigation
– Big, round buttons (great for social media)
– Large photos
– Prominent logos/branding

With a New Twist
Add some modern elements that make it easier for visitors:
Responsive web design
– Fixed navigation (at the top, bottom or sides means less scrolling!)
– Infinite scrolling
– Sliding header panels

Like any other trend predictions, we can only stick to what we think will do well. But 2013 definitely looks like a year where designs from the past will inspire bigger and better things for the future. Let us know what you think and make sure to check out our online portfolio.

Read more:
50 Fantastic (Nostalgic) Retro Website Designs
12 Totally Awesome 90s Websites
These Huge Brands’ Early Websites From The 1990s Looked Terrible
2013 Color Trends on the Web

X Marks the Spot: Where to Put Contact Forms

Conversions, customers and contact forms go hand in hand (in hand). The worst thing you can do is to not show any contact information all. The next worst thing is to put your contact form in a bad spot that hinders user experience.

When it comes to contact forms, you have plenty of options and can even choose a combination:

Pop-ups: These can either be really effective or really annoying. Barging in on a visitor who has just landed is extremely distracting. It might even encourage them to leave. On the other hand, there are different options to choose from… such as, contact forms (or third party live chat windows) that slowly fade into the screen after a visitor has been on the page for X amount of time.

The advantage of this is that you can even review Analytics for time spent on page and adjust when the contact form pops up to retain more visitors.

Header: Having a contact form at the top of the page is helpful because it’s the most logical place people will look. At the same time, it is also taking up space for something else that could be more important. Make sure to keep in mind what language you use, as it’s one of the first things visitors will see if it’s at the top. (“Contact Us”, “Submit”, “Send” etc.)

Sidebar: Contact forms in this space are often smaller than in the header or on a page of its own. This is perfect for a simple, short contact form that requires minimal information. Perhaps, it’s just a small form for a Newsletter Signup or to request a free download. Even though these aren’t technically contact forms, they’re still helpful ways to provide useful information to relevant visitors.

Footer: Contact forms at the bottom of the page often serve as a reminder to visitors to make contact before leaving. It can be helpful or overly aggressive and cluttered, depending on your design. Like the sidebar contact form, make sure to keep it short and sweet if you’re just trying to capture some of those straying visitors.

Dropdown menus: Sometimes, contact (or evaluation) forms are rather lengthy or require space for open ended questions. In this case, you’ll want to to keep the form on a page of its own. It’s still important to have this information in an easy-to-find place in your drop down menu. You can also use a short footer or sidebar contact form if you still include something that’s visible on every single page.

There’s no one “best” place to put your contact form. You can test different forms on similar pages, use eye tracking studies, or even ask for feedback to find out what your customers like. What’s your personal preference on contact pages? Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about forms, conversions or SEO friendly web design.

5 Timeless Landing Page Optimization Tips

Landing page optimization is important for organic, paid and mobile search. Here are some tips that will pretty much always be relevant for optimizing a landing page:

1) Think fast: Is your landing page loading fast enough? A slow loading page/site can deter potential customers from returning to your site. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobitest to see the improvements you can make.

2) Add user-generated content: Testimonials are an easy way to add an element of trust and reliability. Check out some more ways to earn visitors’ trust.

3) Easy to find contact information: Having prominent, easy to read numbers and click-to-call options is a must-have, especially for mobile landing pages. A Google study in 2011 shows that 61% of mobile users call after a local business search. This also means having short and easy to fill out contact forms.

4) Test everything: A/B testing, in-page analytics, eye tracking studies, surveys, and even focus groups. There are many different ways (for different budgets) to test the effectiveness of a landing page. It’s crucial to update landing pages and look for ways to make them better.

5) Don’t over promise – This doesn’t necessarily mean lying but the content needs to have a clear focus. When customers click and land, they should get what you’ve promised. Having a clear call to action with related headings, sub headings and bullet points make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for and will likely increase their on page time and even encourage them to make the conversion.

Related articles:
Optimizing PPC Landing Pages: Maintaining Scent
10 Foolproof Ways to Earn Your Landing Page Visitors’ Trust
101 Landing Page Optimization Tips