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Constantly Playing the Google Game

If you view the world of SEO as a game, then it is one you constantly need to play thanks to Google. In fact, it has been shown that Google can make over 500 changes to the algorithm that decides the search engine rankings over the course of a single year.

Now, not every change is huge or going to completely disrupt how you rank, but subtle changes do tend to add up to something that is much bigger, and that is where the problem lies. Also, nobody knows the direction that Google will be heading in next, so staying on your toes with your SEO strategies is going to be important.

But here’s something else that makes it even more difficult than before, Google has a habit of keeping its cards close to its chest.

You could say that they are quite correct in taking this approach, but it does make our job so much harder. Often, websites will suddenly vanish from view as a result of changes to the algorithm leading to SEO experts scrambling around trying to work out what on earth is going on. However, there are times where the site will bounce back all on its own accord a short while later leading to even more head scratching than before.

At times, Google becomes your friend and warns you of a massive update coming. They also then give it names such as Panda or Penguin, but that’s only with the large scale changes and, to be honest, those are easier to handle.

So what does a website owner, or SEO expert, do in these instances? How can this entire approach by Google be counteracted?

Clearly, one approach is to follow the rules to the letter. It makes sense that if you stay well within the lines that the chances of you being caught up in small changes and them having a negative impact are slim. However, if you go up to the line to such an extent that you are positively surfing along it, then you run the very real risk of having your fingers burnt.

You see, it’s unusual for Google to drastically change direction to such an extent that the majority of websites would then be affected. That would just be bad news for them and would cause such an uproar that they dare not risk it. That’s why they tend to tip toe around making small changes here and there which, over the course of a year and hundreds of changes, does add up to something substantial.

The idea is that, by taking this approach, Google allows people to make the changes gradually leading to smaller dips in rankings that can then easily be recovered. Now, this isn’t a post praising the virtues of Google, far from it, because hundreds of changes over the course of a year is a bit too much to keep track of, but it is an attempt to stress that things may not be as bad as you initially thought.

Staying Ahead of the Game.

For us, the key is in staying ahead of the game and, admittedly, that is not always as easy as you would like to think. However, having a clear strategy in place for your SEO and the future success of your website does make life easier as does having a Plan B, C, and even D.

Your approach to SEO has to be flexible to accommodate those changes that could occur at any point. If you are too rigid, then any movement is going to throw you into a quandary as you wonder what to do next and desperately attempt to avoid having to scrap your entire approach and start anew.

You must accept that changes will occur. The sooner you do that, then the easier it becomes to deal with them. Know that they will often happen without any prior knowledge, which is why you need to monitor things on a regular basis and drop the idea that your plan today will still be the perfect plan this time next year, it won’t.

Dealing with Google and SEO is indeed a dance. It’s a dance where Google leads and you are trying to avoid standing on their toes so they don’t go into a mood and send you back to the sidelines. The best thing that you can do is to become an expert dancer, or hire the services of someone who knows how to keep pace with them and stay in line with the rules. Anything else just puts your entire website at risk and Google will not think twice about punishing you, which would be a huge shame.

By studying a range of websites, it makes it easier for you to begin to come to terms with things that are categorically wrong with so many. Often, a website can look as if it’s too crowded as if somebody has tried to put far too much information on the one page, and what is the result? A website that can be extremely off-putting.

Now, this isn’t to say that this approach will not always work for everyone, far from it. However, you need to really put some thought into all of this. After all, what do you prefer as an individual when you go to the website of any company? Do you prefer being able to land on there and feel stressed out as you simply have no idea where to look? Of course not, and who would?

That’s why the title of this blog is ‘Simplifying Your Website Could Be the Best Decision Ever’ because that statement does indeed speak the truth. In fact, it is now even more important than ever before thanks to the use of smartphones and tablets. Gone are the days where your only concern was how your website looked on a 17inch monitor and it has been replaced by something far smaller.

In other words, if your website is crowded, then how can you expect those individuals surfing it on their iPhone or whatever to then make sense of it all?

So, what could be your way forward? Well, there are several key points that are worth considering that may very well help you out of this rather difficult situation.

Use a Call to Action.

People no longer want to sit and wade through reams of information just to get to the reason why they are there in the first place. Instead, people are impatient and just want to get to that destination, so it makes sense for you to provide them with this call to action and make it as bold as possible.

This will actually increase the click-thru rate that you get and will actively encourage more people to do the action that you want them to do. It is actually crazy to think that a number of individuals will often bypass this and feel that they need to sell something over and over again. If that’s you, then stop it.

Reduce the Number of Pages.

Even if you have a lot to say, cut down on the number of pages. By simplifying things, you need to streamline as much as possible, so that’s where the likes of bullet points and bringing things together under common categories will work well.

For example, say you have a number of services. Some people would go ahead and have a different page for each service, but that is like web design suicide now. Instead, it would all go under the one banner of ‘Services’ with a brief summary of each thing all on the one page.

Don’t Get Fancy with Navigation.

There has been a recent trend to have all kinds of fanciful navigation methods, but that’s only going to complicate matters. This is especially true when they have included hidden menus because people will just get fed up trying to find something and go elsewhere.

The best approach is the old tried and trusted menu. People know what to expect, and they know how to work it so you really are onto a winner with this.

Be Careful with Typography.

There are a number of websites that seem to be in some kind of competition to use as many different fonts as possible on the one page. However, that’s just sore on the eyes and the website itself actually looks a mess.

You are best to stick to a rule whereby the fewer the number of fonts, the better it is. In general, try to have just two or three and mix it up by using some in bold, italics, or using h2, h3 and so on. There’s just no need to try to be all artistic like this as it just annoys people and makes your website look far more complicated than it actually is.

Remember the Text Size.

The final thing we will mention is the text size. It must be easy to read, and yet some people will have a font size that is far too small so that when it’s transferred to a smartphone it becomes impossible to ready it.

Increase the font size by a few points and cut back on the number of words instead so it no longer seems as cramped. Be succinct with what you are saying and get your point across as quickly as possible as that will only bode well for your potential conversion rates.

These are just a few things that we feel anybody should look at doing with their website, and it’s up to you as to which ones you need to use in order to make those changes. A simple website is a winning website and surely you want to be a winner?

cost-of-bad-design

It is understandable for you to be excited about getting your new website out there for the world to see, but this is certainly a case where patience is indeed a virtue.

To stress this point, we can look at the actual cost of bad design. Now, we aren’t saying that we will be looking at exact figures, but this is more about discussing the negative impact that poor design can have on not only your website but also the way in which you are perceived.

Bad Design from a Technical Point of View.

Getting your designer to just throw something out there without too much thought or care for the end product is just not something that you want to be doing. It’s important to remember that your website is the key form of advertising that you will be doing online, so you should want to take some care over it so it represents what you are doing in the best light possible.

If you put pressure on a designer to just produce something that is barely functional, then you run the risk of encountering a website that has not been adequately tested. This can mean that there is code contained within it that is just not going to work smoothly leading to broken links and even worse if you are not careful.

There can be bugs and additional performance issues that have a negative impact on the way in which the website works. This will hardly be something that will then appeal to the visitors who will be expecting something smooth and functional without having to screw their eyes up wondering what on earth they are trying to look at.

Also, additional pressure to get a design completed will lead to poor choice of colors or fonts. There could potentially be a mix of images at various sizes and resolutions that are difficult to comprehend.

It is a real mess. But it gets worse.

Bad Design from a Business Point of View.

We have only really hinted at the mess it can make from a technical point of view, but you are probably more concerned about the business aspect. Well, as you might expect, it’s bad news.

It has been shown that bad design leads to you effectively bleeding business. Visitors to your website see the poor design and are instantly put off. They view you as just not being too concerned with the fabric of your website, and this is then translated into the fabric of everything else that you do.

It does not inspire confidence in what you offer, and trust can be gone in an instant. This break in trust is especially true when they know that your competition has a plush website that works and delivers everything that they would expect.

Think of it this way. Poor design often means that things are all over the place. Nobody knows where to look or what message you are trying to portray. Think about how you would react if you walked into a real store expecting something that is functional and able to provide you with the product or service you need, only to be encountered with boxes all over the place and broken windows.

What would you think? The chances are you would walk away.

Also, if you do rush out a new website, there is a pretty good chance that you will end up spending more money and more time trying to rectify everything later on. Is it not worth you spending that time correctly from the outset than trying to repair a giant hole in the future? By then, the damage has mainly been done, so it’s not exactly worth taking that chance, is it?

Finally, and this should come as no surprise, your sales will drop accordingly. As we said, nobody is going to feel excited about buying from you if their first impressions are poor thanks to the bad design.

It is known that a healthy percentage of buyers will make their decision from the moment they set eyes on the website. If your shop front looks as if it has been looted, then people will run away and spend their money elsewhere. All of this just comes from your reluctance to give your designer the correct amount of time to do their job correctly.

Overall, what we are really saying is that this is a problem with planning. A problem with arranging your time and setting out to have a website designed well in advance. This allows for the correct research and development to take place before everything is revealed to the world. Things will work smoothly, and your visitors will love what they see leading to a boost in your sales rather than you committing some form of commercial suicide.

website launchIt’s not exactly rocket science to know that launching your website is going to prove to be a key moment, but even though this is obvious, it’s still amazing how many people do it wrong.

Now, you are probably sitting there wondering how you can go wrong with this kind of thing. Surely you just put the website live and that’s it?

Well, if you do believe that, then you are one of the many people that have just been missing out on the main point.

In order to get to this point, you need to have jumped through various hoops and got over a range of obstacles before you are in the position to launch your website. Thankfully, there are various tools that will often prove to be rather useful with all of this, so if you are at that point of getting ready to launch your site, then this could be an interesting post.

Now, we are going to also skip past a few of the early stages such as getting the correct domain name and hosting, because those are common sense and you will have already done that. Instead, we are talking about taking things further and to the point where you are ready to unveil your master creation to the world.

After all, you want the great reveal to go well and not to just sink without a trace, don’t you?

The Key Tools to Move Forward.

As we said, we are skipping the hosting and domain name stuff, but we are going to jump right in just after that particular point and start with an SSL Certificate.

An SSL Certificate is going to help encrypt various aspects of your website and users are well aware that it gives them some added security, which is something that they love. You will see the padlock and the domain name starting with https rather than http as a sign that it does indeed have this certificate.

It used to be the case that it cost you money for this certificate, but that changed in late 2015 where it’s now free. As it costs you nothing, there’s no reason for you to not have it and some hosting companies provide it anyway, so you might not even have to do anything extra. However, the confidence it gives your users in visiting your website is well worth double checking.

Monitoring Tools.

If you thought that you put your website live and then that’s it, then think again. Instead, things can go wrong at any point even if it’s not your fault, and yet, you might not even be aware of it and, as a result, will be missing out on potential clients or customers.

That’s why we do recommend that you take full advantage of website monitoring tools that do this automatically and report back to you. They run constantly, so even if you are asleep then you can rest assured that this software is keeping a close eye on things. You will then be made aware of any issues when you log back on and can then take the appropriate action.

Error Tracking.

Even though you may have tested your website to the point of exhaustion, that doesn’t mean that you will have potentially caught all of the bugs and errors. That’s why it may be worth your while investing in error tracking tools that will let you know when users have encountered a problem.

This is important because you want to rectify those errors as quickly as possible since that user may have just decided to go elsewhere thanks to their bad experience. You don’t want that situation to replicate itself time and time again, do you?

There are several tools out there that can do this job, but do just double check how much they charge before signing up.

Web Analytics.

Finally, there are web analytics tools and we strongly recommend that you use them. They are going to provide you with so much information on how people are using your website allowing you to then make the appropriate changes in order to improve usability and reduce bounce rates.

Now, even if you are unsure as to what the different stats are telling you, it will at least put you in the picture of where people are coming from, what they are looking at, how they are getting there, and so many other rather useful snippets of information. It will also make it easier for you to create a marketing plan that will work all because of the details from these tools.

These are just the basic things that we recommend when you are going to be launching your website although there are others such as file storage and the ability to create emailing lists and send out bulk emails to those individuals. However, just launching your website without putting any kind of thought into it is just not an option at all and by doing this, you are just increasing your chances of things becoming a failure.

Your website security is important to you as well as your visitors. In today’s world of cyber-security, adding an SSL Certificate to your website can help protect you, protect your visitors, build trust, and as a little bonus – give you a little SEO rankings bump.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encrypts data to allow secure connections from a web server to a browser. The SSL helps to keep prying eyes from seeing the conversation between you and the website you would be doing business with. In the past, an SSL was commonly needed to protect credit card information, social security numbers, bank accounts, and any other personal sensitive information. It is always expected that any online store, bank, job application, or doctor’s online patient forms have the well-known green lock displayed next the website URL.

But there is nothing sensitive on my website. Why do I need an SSL?

There are added benefits to an SSL Certificate, as they are becoming more popular in today’s web. Customer experience is vital to any company. By adding an SSL to your website, are you building immediate trust with your potential clients. The moment someone visits a website that is proudly displaying the secure lock next to their URL, the visitor can see that you not only take your site and your security seriously, but you also value theirs.

Google recognizes the need for more vigilant cyber security and have started giving increased SEO rankings to those that are utilizing the tool. Google SEO standards are another can of worms, and this one step may not launch you from page 7 to #1, but using this tool that improves your site security and gives you a little boost in SEO is an easy win-win situation.

Here at Webfoot, we utilize the SSL certificate for many reasons, and we encourage everyone to do the same. We will soon require all clients hosting with Webfoot to have an SSL on their website.

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