As we come to the end of another year now is a good time to give your website a quick health check and make sure it’s ready for the year ahead. Here are 5 easy things to look at and what to do if they need fixing.

1. Speed
In the age we’re now living in everyone wants information in a split second and gets frustrated if they have to wait. We’re very much a ‘now’ society. With this in mind Google has really pushed on to include website speed as one of their major ranking factors. Forget Google for a minute (if you can), no-one likes watching a wheel spin as a site loads… if it doesn’t flash up in front of your eyes pretty quickly, most will move on to one that does.

There are various reason’s / excuses why your site might be slow; bad code, large images that haven’t been compressed enough, slow server… but the bottom line is that if it is slow you will be losing out. All our sites run on fast reliable servers and use the latest technologies to enable them to run fast and smooth… making your content readily available to your customers in a flash!

2. Mobile Responsiveness
This is a given but you would be amazed at how many sites still don’t work properly on a mobile or tablet. Apparently it is as high as 80% of UK sites are still asking you to pinch and zoom to view their content. I don’t know about you but I will leave a site instantly if it isn’t mobile responsive. Don’t get left behind… If you are in this category now is the time to talk to use about an upgrade.

3. Security
We all want our information to be secure and so does Google. This year has seen them really push hard on security to the point where they now say that being on https has become a ranking factor for websites. So if you’ve not got an SSL certificate for your site then now is the time to do something about it. So what is an SSL certificates? It basically encrypts the data sent between visitors and a website. So for example it helps keep your sensitive information, like credit card information from being intercepted. It’s essential to use an SSL certificate if you are selling online and now Google will even flash up security warnings on contact forms if there isn’t one present. As approximately half of the world’s web users are on Google’s own Chrome browser this is a big deal… would you enter your details on a site with a great big security message… I know I’d think twice.

If your site is hosted with us ask about getting an SSL certificate added for FREE. If you don’t host with us… we can sort you out as soon as you see the light and move to us :)

4. Promotion
Don’t think that once you’ve spent all that time and money building an amazing website it will automatically get lots of traffic, sell loads of products, or fill your hotel rooms… it won’t. Once you have a website that is only the beginning. You then have to market it… to tell your customers about your offering and convince them to buy from you. You need to do this in different way, frequently and in a creative way that will engage them. If you aren’t doing this one of your competitors certainly will be.

How many different ways are customers able to find out about your website – Google, Facebook, email newsletters…talk to us about things that work to increase traffic, both volume and quality, to your website. You won’t regret it!

Say what? GD what? If you haven’t heard about it yet then listen up. GDPR comes into force on 25th may 2018 and if you haven’t heard much about it yet you soon will. It’s a very big deal.

“The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU).”

Even if you only use Google Analytics or a simple contact form on your website you still need to be aware of this and comply.

Don’t leave it to the last minute and deal with it next May… start now and save yourself a whole load of stress and grief. Talk to us about your options and what it means to you and your marketing.

You might have read recently that blogging is old school and hasn’t been useful as an online marketing strategy for a long time. With the proliferation of social media sites that allow you to blog or post down your thoughts, why waste time blogging in a WordPress site, right?

While social media sites offer convenience and a readily available audience, think about this: would you ever build your castle in someone else’s land? I guess not. Building your audience on somebody else’s platform is only as good as the platform’s existence.

For a business, blogging, along with your own social media presence, is of utmost importance now, and in the foreseeable future. Here are our top reasons why:

Blogging drives more traffic to your website. Your blog is a great way to give your audience relevant, up to date content. If your content is useful, interesting and valuable to them, they might decide to share it with their online community. Obviously this would give you free additional traffic! On the technical note, search engines love fresh content. Regular blogging gives search engines new content to index, and can help to improve organic visibility across multiple keywords (that is, if you plug in those keywords wisely).

Blogging helps you to rank for those long-tail search queries and keywords. A regular website without a blog may find it difficult to rank this way. Your business website might rank for your industry-specific keywords (e.g. ‘IT Company in Lancaster’), but without more specific blogs might struggle to rank for longer terms such as ‘How to Recover Accidentally Deleted Files’. While long tail search queries are less common, they are generally considered to be get higher conversion rates.

Blogging helps to position you and your business as experts in your industry. A good business blog answers questions your consumers may have. If you create content that gives value to your audience, they will see you as a go-to resource and this can establish you as an industry authority.

Blogging humanises your brand and business. An ‘About Us’ page on your website is no match for a regular blog in terms of showing your personality and ideas. Blogging gives readers a better insight into your company, values, employees, ideas, and much more. A blog is a place where you get to share your voice and personality, building up trust and in the long run, increases the likability quotient of your brand or business.

Blogging supports and reinforces your social media presence. You cannot maintain a consistent social media presence without good, high-quality content. While it is good to share the content of others, you are just directing more traffic to their site. At some point, you’d want a share of that traffic, too. If you have a blog and share it on your social media platforms, you drive more people to your site. You also win clicks, leads, and visitors when your posts are shared.

In addition, if you have a regular newsletter, your blog posts can come in handy. Part of your email newsletter content can be the top blog posts for the month. Incorporating your blog posts in your social media and email marketing campaigns can bring great results to your business.

So with all these benefits, blogging remains a key aspect in your overall marketing strategy.

There has been a lot of chat in the online community about Google’s Mobile First-Indexing. If you have a website that isn’t mobile responsive should you be worried? Technically, yes, because as the name suggests, Google will create its rank and search listings based on mobile content.

Here’s what you need to know about Mobile-First Indexing:

Mobile-first indexing explained.
Google has stated that mobile searches now exceed desktop searches. However, Google’s algorithms are set to evaluate rankings and search listings based on the desktop version of a particular site – causing a discrepancy in search results especially for those who took the time to make their websites mobile. To fix this, Google will now look at the content, link structure, etc. of a mobile site first if it is available. If you don’t have a mobile site, it will revert to your site’s desktop version but may rank your site behind those that do.

Mobile-responsive sites are your best bet.
The good news is that if your website is mobile responsive there is no need to do anything else. Just make sure that all SEO factors are in place – proper link architecture and structure, good and high quality content, etc. However, if you do have a different mobile version of your website that carries just the basic content compared to your desktop version, you should have a rethink… as the mobile site is the one Google will crawl and focus on.

To be safe, make sure your website is fully mobile responsive with exactly the same content as your desktop version.  

Hidden content on mobile sites is fine.
Good user-experience is best practice!

Design elements that hide your content, such as accordions will now be crawled and the content read by Google. You will not be penalised for creating a site that is designed primarily for mobile users.

Mobile-first indexing is still at the beginning stages of roll-out.
Google has started rolling out the mobile-first indexing policy. They haven’t specified dates yet for a full roll out but it’s going to happen very soon. It is still in the experimenting process but if all goes well, it will be rolled out in the next few months.

In 2017 it is highly likely that Google will only use the one indexing model – mobile.
At the moment, and during  rollout and experimenting phase, Google will use two indexes to determine search and ranking results: desktop-first and mobile-first.

BUT – we won’t know which. When Google is confident that  their mobile-first indexing is working, they will drop the desktop-first index.

So what does this all mean?

Mobile-first indexing is still in an experimental phase – but it is coming!

Be prepared for such this huge change in how Google ranks your website by making sure it is mobile-responsive.

More people are using their mobiles to search now than using a laptop or desktop – so don’t fight it, embrace it!

If you would like to find out more about how to start optimising your site for mobile, you can follow Google’s recommendations listed on their blog post.

A lot had predicted the death of Search Engine Optimisation, but SEO is nowhere near its demise – it has just changed its form in the last few years.

Gone are the days of keyword repetitions through content and meta tags, and no longer do countless directory and social bookmarking submissions counted as quality link building. Rankings – as what was once believed to be the goal of SEO – is not the be all end and be all these days.

What then should we expect in the world of SEO now, and moving on into next year?

Localisation is now more important than ever.
Search results vary due to different factors. When a person is logged in Google, more customisations in search results occur such as location, city, preferences, interests, etc. From country to country or city to city, search results vary too. Make sure you optimise for geographical location in the content and meta information.

SEO is less about ranking, it’s more on the return of your investment (ROI).
As search results now vary based on your location, it gets more and more challenging (and quite impossible!) to obtain top rankings in all cities, countries, etc as these are factors beyond our control. At times, high traffic and ranking do not necessarily mean more conversions. It’s now also important to set up Google Search Console, optimise your Google Analytics, and start tracking and reporting. When all has been set up, that way you can really drill down into the data and understand what’s working and what needs more attention.

Mobile responsive, and now there’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page).
You may have heard this over and over again: more and more people are using their smartphones and tablets for shopping, searching, etc. If your site is not mobile responsive, you are sure to lose a large chunk of the mobile-using market. Now, as well as being mobile responsive, there is AMP to consider. Google introduced AMP last year to address the importance of speed in the mobile platform. The AMP format removes all the extras from a site, allowing it to load as quickly as possible. So it’s worth considering incorporating the AMP framework into your mobile sites.

HTTPS encrypted websites are now a ranking factor.
A while back, Google announced that securing your website using HTTPS is becoming a ranking factor as this search engine giant is really pushing for secure websites. At first, it was only for ecommerce sites but just recently, with security being a top priority, all websites must be HTTPS encrypted. Unsecured websites show signs of untrustworthiness, and as such can affect a website’s ranking position.

Quality content wins over keyword variation and density
Back in the day, SEO content had to contain keyword variations, both short and long, and with a density of 3% to 5%. As we move forward, Google now puts more emphasis on relevant content that engages readers. While keywords must still be the backbone of SEO, these should be placed strategically, tastefully and seamlessly throughout the content. When creating content, always remember to write for the people reading it, not the search engine robots.

Over the years, web designs have changed. With majority of people using smartphones and tablets, not all information has to be ‘above-the-fold’ anymore. People don’t mind scrolling – it has become a natural way of life to do so.

While you may be ready to join in the bandwagon and have a website designed with the trendiest features, think again. Not all that’s popular can have a positive effect on SEO and online marketing. There are several things to consider, especially when you plan to market your website. After all, you have to market your website, right? What’s a website for if you don’t bring in the traffic through digital marketing?

web-design-trendsHere are the top three trends you may want to think twice … or thrice before using:

1. The Sleek & Clean Hamburger Menu

Notice the 3 stacked lines in websites, which when tapped, will show the navigation menu? That’s the Hamburger. While it does the job in removing clutter especially when you’re aiming for a minimalistic design, it has a terrible impact on SEO. Believe it or not, a lot of people do not know what The Hamburger is. This results to extremely high bounce rates. Next, it reduces discoverability of pages – which is critical for e-commerce sites. Lastly, it is not measurable. You cannot determine where users are clicking, which is a very important information so you know which pages appeal to your audience. As a golden rule, do not compromise discoverability for good looks.

2. The One-Page Site

The one-page website, as the term suggests, is an entire website in just a single page that loads all the information dynamically. A simple click or a tap, a content block will appear. There’s no need for scrolling as everything is basically in that single page. For the user’s end, it is incredibly simple to use because they do not have to sift through multiple pages to find what they are looking for. But on an SEO perspective, this is a nightmare. First of all, these dynamic sites take longer to load and we know that slow loading sites do not look good in Google’s eyes. Next, Google stresses the importance of internal linking. With a one-page site, there are internal zero links. Lastly, search engines take into consideration the number of pages that are indexed. With this design, all that is indexed is just one page – which again, is not good in the eyes of Google.

3. Infinite Scrolling

With all the social media profiles and pages we all go through, infinite scrolling is something our thumbs naturally do on our mobile phones. Since most people browse websites on their smart phones or tablets, even web pages now have an infinite scrolling design. It’s good for end users as all the data is in a single, long page. There is no need to go through several pages. SEO wise, however, it’s a different thing. Too much JavaScript is required for infinite scrolling and we all know that search engine bots cannot crawl nor read through JavaScript. Just like the one-page site mentioned above, there are no pages to be indexed in this type of design. Lastly, it’s also not good for tasks which require a user to take action, thereby affecting conversion.

As you can see, following trends is not usually a good thing. Think again when jumping into what is popular because sometimes, old, tried and tested methods still work best for you and your business.

An interview with Rand Fishkin from Moz being asked all the tough questions. Questions like “what is is the role of an SEO? how to measure SEO results?” and “what are the future trends in online marketing for 2015?”. Recorded in October 2014 but still a lot of very relevant stuff in here.

Rand’s insights were excellent as usual.

Each year there seems to be more and more  food and drink festivals, and as an out and out foodie I’m really loving it!

So how do Independent food and drink businesses go about marketing themselves in this era of supermarket offers and special deals? How do you make your products stand out from the rest? Here are a few questions and suggestions that you will hopefully find useful / thought provoking:

  • Have a clear strategy and plan – this involves understanding your target market, your competition and how you get your products in front of your audience.
  • How good are your marketing materials – packaging, point of sale, posters, flyers, website etc..
  • Are you capturing your customers’ and your potential customers’ email addresses? If so are you sending them a regular monthly e-newsletter?
  • Are you using Social Media to full effect? – This will primarily be Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • How good is your website? Is it set up to sell, and are you easily found in Google search results?
  • Do you write a regular blog?
  • If you travel to festivals and markets – can your customers easily see when and where to find you?
  • Do you give your website visitors reason to keep coming back to your website – free downloadable recipes, how to videos etc..
  • Do you stage events to promote your products?Just a few ideas and questions to get you thinking about your marketing. You may already be doing some or even all of these things, if you are then great. The question is how often and are you able to quantify how effective they are?

By now, most site owners realise the importance and value of SEO in the development and growth of their site. A properly optimised site is going to rank better in the search engines, see more targeted traffic being directed over, have a higher conversion rate and much more. However, SEO is incredibly long term and nothing can rush time. It takes time for a site to build a good trust factor with the search engines and until that happens, most of your off-site SEO efforts are going to produce minimal results.

If you recently launched your site and are already looking into SEO, here are a few things you should focus your time and energy on.

Start a Blog
Start blogging right away. Start with at least one blog post a week and see if you can work up to one a day within the first year of your blog’s life. That may seem like a huge ordeal now, but you’d be surprised at how easy it gets to write a 350-500 word blog post with practice. You’ll learn how to better formulate your thoughts, present a single idea and flush it out entirely with time. If you aren’t confident in your writing ability or are struggling to come up with topics, turn to your employees and co-workers for help. The worst thing you could do is launch a blog and then not routinely update it with fresh content.

It takes a long time to hone your writing skills, find and develop your niche, build your reputation and attract loyal readers to your blog, so don’t expect to see major results fast. However, just like your site, as your blog ages it earns more trust from the search engines. Individual blog posts can start to rank for targeted keywords, increasing your online brand presence.

Build Your Social Network
If you are just getting onboard the social media marketing train, you’re in for a surprise! Social media marketing takes a lot more time than most companies realise, and it needs a solid strategy to run on. Don’t walk into social media blind and hope you’ll figure it out before something goes wrong. Take the first year of your site’s life to really develop your social profiles and connect with your target audience. What kind of content are they looking for from you? When is the best time to engage them? Which sites do they spend most of their time on? If you want your social media marketing efforts to be effective, you need to understand the behavior of your target audience so you can better reach them.

Focus on On-Site Optimization
The first year of your site’s life should really be spent focusing on the site itself. Don’t worry too much about developing a full blown link building strategy just yet; it’s more important to make sure your site is in the best shape it can be! Work on creating great webpage content, developing an internal linking structure that helps keep your visitor engaged, tweaking your landing pages to improve their conversion rate and so forth. Your website is going to be the hub of the rest of your Internet marketing. It doesn’t matter how great everything is off-site if your website doesn’t measure up. At the end of the day, it is your website that is going to convince visitors to act. Does it matter how many show up or how they got there if you website fails to convert?

Plan an Editorial Calendar
Content pretty much fuels all of your SEO and social media marketing. Without great content, you don’t give your target audience a real reason to check out your site, profile or blog. In addition to all the content you have to create for your sites, you also need to start looking into 3rd party sites where you can publish guest content. Take the first year of your site’s life to build relationships with industry bloggers and other site owners that allow guest articles to be published on their site. Identify which popular industry blogs cater to your target audience and start laying the groundwork to get one of your articles published there. If you can create an editorial calendar for you to follow, you’ll be able to get a jumpstart on your content marketing.

Christmas and the New Year celebrations are but a distant memory so now it’s time to get down to business. We all know that in digital marketing, the game changes constantly. What worked for you last year may not work at all in 2017. So keep right up to date with our top tips on how to update your digital marketing strategy for the year ahead:

Start with the basics – Set some GOALS.
Not having goals for the year could spell disaster for your digital marketing strategy. If your campaign doesn’t have clear-set goals for the year, you may find it difficult to write your content, plan your emails and set your social media strategy. Goals can be as simple as “getting more people in my geographical location interested in my product” or “go global.” With defined goals, your content will become more cohesive and appealing for all audiences.

Pick the right communication channels.
In addition to your goals, you should determine which channels or platforms work best for your company. If a popular company is doing so well in a particular marketing channel, it does not mean that it will work for you too. Don’t just try to recreate another company’s actions as their target audiences and goals may be different. Do some social listening, know which platforms your audience participates in, and build your campaign around them.

Learn to talk back – digitally, that is.
One common mistake that companies often make is to simply post a lot of content and then forget about it. Try to use social media the way it was intended – for communication and personalisation. Respond to tweets, comment on your audiences’ posts, and find other ways to communicate with your followers. If you do this right, your company will become a part of their lives and your brand will be seen by their circle of friends.

2017 is the year when marketing gets more personal so it is best to start talking back digitally to your audience.

Go Live.
In one of our previous blog posts we mentioned that Facebook Live is a game changer for social media marketing. This still holds true this year, along with other platforms such as Instagram Stories, Snapchat and Periscope. In fact, digital marketing this year is about closing the communication gap to as close to zero as possible. The digital marketing landscape is drowning with content and with so many options on what to watch and digest, going “live” helps capture the audience. Knowing that if they don’t watch you right away, the moment will be gone can bring an immediacy to your message. The idea that something that may “disappear” in a short while could help them to focus and watch your live stream now.

The Google mobile-first policy for website ranking.
The Internet was abuzz when Google announced their mobile-first indexing policy. If you are starting your digital marketing strategy without considering the mobile-first indexing, then you are setting up your company for failure. The majority of internet users consume content on their mobile phones these days, so in 2017 make sure that you are targeting your mobile audience.

If you would like an informal chat with us about how we could help you with your 2017 digital marketing then please call us on 015242 37774 or email [email protected]

This is a really useful 10 minute video by Google search team explaining how to approach a new website project. As well as covering how to set up the site so that Google can index it they look at site architecture and thinking about your customers, and how they might use your site.