You can have a Robust Website

It is hard to believe that the oldest domain ever created is now 32 years old. In that period of time, sites have been and gone and successful sites have gone through ups and downs. What is it though that keeps a website going through the years? Depending on what type of service is offered, a vast majority of business can depend on how much traffic your website receives. As such, it is vital to be aware of the important components that keep a website robust and relevant.

Brand Strategy

Some of the most successful websites on the internet can make up to $27 per second. Often, as a small business owner, you may come to the conclusion that this type of money is just completely unachievable. I mean, how do they do it? Websites like Zynga and LinkedIn, that are earning the megabucks, have ensured that they have spent their time and money on creating a brand that is clear and recognizable. You must also consider whether your brand can stand the test of time, like some of the oldest domains on the internet which have been in use since the mid-1980s.

It is important, no matter what stage of business you are at, to have a robust and powerful brand that consumers understand. This is most often ensuring that your brand is simple yet effective in what it does. So LinkedIn, for instance, very intelligently, uses the features we have all come to know from social media and has applied it to professionals, looking for jobs and networking. Many features of their website design, cross over with the likes of Facebook and follow the same simple to us rules. As such, their brand identity is one that is strong and simple to use, thus gaining credibility in the market and more traffic through recommendations and so on.

Logos and Colors

One of the first rules of successful branding and in turn, website design, is to create a recognizable logo. Again, looking at the most successful companies out there in 2017, they all have a recognizable, simple brand design that the customer associates easily with. Apple is a great example of this, as is Facebook, which also uses a specific color to draw people to its brand. The same can be said of companies such as Twitter and Snapchat that in their design have used definitive coloring to make their brand and site, easily recognizable.

Although it seems simple and obvious, this approach is where a number of websites fall down. Getting the design right by choosing a simple and effective logo, will make you instantly recognizable and will reap benefits in the long term. In addition, choosing relevant and effective coloring to add to your brand is equally important. The connotations of certain colors will help to influence your site visitors. It is no coincidence that Facebook and Twitter, use a calming blue. While Snapchat, attempting to appeal to a potentially younger audience, uses a bright yellow.

Being Robust

It is an extremely aggressive market currently and without the right tools, a website can quite easily fall by the wayside. It is vital to get the correct ingredients you need to make sure your website is robust and stands the test of time. Luckily, there is help out there, where you can get the relevant insight required to keep your site getting the hits needed to be successful.

You Can Benefit from Advertising on Search Engines

Every year Google, Yahoo, and Bing make tens of billions of dollars through search engine marketing, also known as Pay Per Click advertising. According to experts, search engine advertising drives more new website traffic than any other online advertising method. This means that when you advertise on search engines you’ll attract more new customers to your website all the time. It’s no surprise that more than one-third of all marketing in the US goes to digital ads.

As a website owner, you want an effective marketing campaign with a high success rate; which is what makes advertising on search engines a perfect choice for you. You can even track the results of your ad campaign using Google’s AdWords. This will help you decide whether those specific ads are working for that demographic or do you need to choose a different angle to target them.

Here are a couple tips to help you get the best of advertising on search engines…

The text ad, it’s all about the message

Search engines show ads as text either at the top or the top right of the search results page. However, you’ll need to be aware that these ads have a limited number of characters.

That’s why it’s important to make your ad concise and loaded with keywords to get the searcher’s attention. Keywords are those words that best describe your business. For example, the word “flowers” is the perfect keyword for a floral business. You can make your ad stand out by putting your keyword in the title of the ad itself. So if you’re selling women jewelry then including the keyword “jewelry” both in the title and description of the ad would make the ad show up every time someone searches for jewelry. Which is exactly the kind of customer you want clicking on your ad and visiting your website.

Target the right audience

By default, some brands are suitable for everyone regardless of age, gender or location. But if you’re targeting a certain audience or a niche market then you want to tailor your ads for that clientele. You’ll need to identify your customers and choose which apps, websites and even web pages for your ad campaign. This is not as difficult as you think and marketing your website online is made easy with free tools. Tools like Google Display Planner are designed to make it easy for you to target the right audience for your ads. Through it, you can select the general interests of your preferred customers and let Google suggest the best websites to display your ad.

Sounds easy? It is.

Double Log-in Forms

 

I had an interesting idea. The authentication logic could require one or more failed log-ins using a specific chain of, possibly simpler, passwords. For instance, entering the password “abc123” would appear to fail, but would be required by the authentication logic. A subsequent correct password, such as “xyz321”, would then allow entry to the secured area. What makes this idea interesting is that to the bot or hacker the log-in attempt would appear to be a failure. What do you think? Would this improve security?

Important Considerations on Website Accessibility

 

When you launch a new business or startup, one of the most exciting and creative tasks at hand, is that of building your very own website. You know the style and look that would favor your business and you think of including exciting features such as multi-media solutions, but one thing you should not neglect, is website accessibility.

The Law and Statistics on Website Accessibility

Currently, the law is an a standstill regarding the precise stipulations to be required of all websites. In January, 2017, the federal government showed signs of adopting a set of standards called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA, but so far, the current administration has yet to put them into place. Courts have also been divided on the matter, with some stating that the American Disabilities Act (ADA), created to ensure that the disabled do not suffer discrimination, does apply to websites, and others deeming that it does not. Rather than waiting to see what lies ahead, however, it makes sense to opt for an access-for-all website from the word go.

Why Accessibility?

In the United States, around 56.7 million people – that is 19% of the population – have a disability. Giving these people the tools they need to work, live and enjoy their lives, is a matter of corporate responsibility. Very few visually impaired people, for instance, have graduate degrees yet over 40% of them are part of the workforce. By making resources, services, and information  more available to all web user, we can help balance out existing inequalities. From a practically perspective, we do know that the ADA regulations will eventually move forward. Therefore, it is better to be up to standard from day one.

Where to Begin?

WAVE Chrome Extension will be very helpful at identifying accessibility problems in your site. You can also have a look at WCAG 2.0 to see some of the most important considerations and make sure that your site works as well on mobile devices, since for many web users, mobile is the main point of online access.

The Specifics

Web accessibility involves having specific users in mind and catering content to them. For instance, the hearing impaired will benefit when you provide text alternatives for any content provided in video or sound – if you can, it would be fantastic to have sign language included in your videos. Many people with vision issues, meanwhile, use are screen readers, which provide a clear text alternative to images. Use an ALT tag so the readers can do their job. Text should be large, clear and uncluttered; preferably, use black text on a white or light hued background. Also, be sensitive to color blindness, avoiding the use of blue/green/yellow colors to denote different choices.

A third group to keep in mind are persons with epilepsy; use flashing imagery and saturated reds little or forego them altogether; any image that flashes over three times per second can actually trigger a seizure. Finally, keep those with cognitive impairments in mind; don’t make it hard on them by setting time limits on your content, always provide clear heading and subheadings and let them easily access the structure of your web, to make it easier to find that they are looking for.

Designing a truly accessible web page is a challenging goal, but one that is definitely achievable when you rely on the right team, take time to research into the needs of various disabilities, and make changes as you go along.

Why You Need a Responsive Website

While working toward obtaining a Management Information Systems degree, I managed a small apartment complex with my wife. Our neighbors were quiet and seemed relaxed in our peaceful park-like environment. We didn’t have to go far to do our job, since only a sliding glass door separated the living room from the small office add-on that protruded into the parking lot. We held office hours only two hours a day, but since our apartments were mostly filled and the residents were content, we didn’t have too many visitors. Rather than using this additional time to study for classes, I used it to dream up ways to make money. Thus, SiteHatchery was conceived here and a company was born.

My first web design gig was done in this office on a Windows XP computer with a 14 inch monitor. If your own experience with computers dates back to the early 2000’s, you might remember working with something like this:

I remember being frustrated by the poor internet connection, and the tiny screen. The monitor was a beast. It weighed like an anvil and took up half the desk in depth. Larger and thinner screens were quite expensive at the time, at least to me, so I just resolved to struggle with what I had.

My parents heard of the struggle and wanted to help encourage my decision to start a business. To my great delight, they bought a laptop computer to replace the relic I had. It was a large 17 inch HP laptop. It was heavy, but portable. There was so much extra room for designing and developing websites, and it was also nice to meet with customers remotely and do work in coffee shops. Here’s a picture of the actual laptop I was given when I graduated in 2004, now used by my kids as an inoperable toy:

While I prefer using larger monitors, many of you may like to use smaller and more portable computers. Several years ago, Best Buy only had a single 17 inch laptop in their store. It was a great shock to discover that the tiny 13 inch laptops were in such high demand and, according to the Best Buy rep, 17 inch laptops were becoming largely irrelevant.

In the early 2000’s, smart phones were trending. I upgraded a Palm 3C with a Blackberry smart phone. The full keyboard was amazing, and it was nice to be able to manage emails and a calendar from the device. Websites were shown slimmed down to a mobile site and were hardly usable. Browsing the internet was such a horrible experience that I didn’t do it much.

Then, something amazing happened. My mother-in-law presented the best birthday present: an iPhone. I dreamed of this, thinking how amazing it would be to show full desktop-like websites to clients on a small screen wherever without having to pull out a mammoth laptop.

However, as the trend toward smaller screens rose, responsive websites were born. Responsive design really began to increase in popularity not too long ago. The idea behind scaling and reorganizing a website to fit smaller screens was introduced only in May of 2010 by Ethan Marcotte in his A List Apart article (here). It began to take off in 2012, only 5 years ago! Now, having a responsive website is a requirement for every new web design project.


Why do you need a responsive website?
Simply, you need a responsive website because most people are browsing your website with portable devices. Desktop websites are built for larger screens and they may not look good or be usable on smaller devices. Since more than 50% of users are browsing your website on a mobile device (see this), you might be missing out on an opportunity to reach your customers effectively. Following this user trend, Google also gives responsive websites a boost.

Why Your Website Should Have the Latest Updates


In this post, I’ll explain why it’s important for your website to have the latest updates from the platform vendor. Most of my examples and discussion will be centered around WordPress, since many of my clients are using it for their content management system (CMS), though the principles will apply to any major platform.

Security
The first and most important reason for keeping your website updated with the latest code is: security.

Since I started developing about a dozen years ago, several of my customers have complained about viruses or malicious software being embedded on their websites. Typically, means that the website gets redirected, or code gets embedded into a page. Bots will attempt to gain access to the website to capture your customer’s payment information, get admin login details, or even to scrape content. Hackers love to spend their time trying to find new ways to exploit or uncover vulnerabilities in a website or a CMS. This is why it’s so (so!) important to keep things up to date regularly.

WordPress is a great way to manage a website. It’s the most popular CMS in the world. In fact, of the 10 most popular CMS platforms, WordPress has about 59% of the market share and represents almost 28% of the top 10 million websites (Wikipedia reference). While I would recommend WordPress for most of my customers, a negative is that the source code is completely exposed, since you can freely download it from WordPress.org. This, combined with the overwhelming popularity of the system, it becomes a primary target for hackers. Luckily for us, though, the software has been rigorously tested and continuously developed by a massive world-wide developer network, since it’s inception in 2003.

Forced Third Party Plugin Updates
Most of the malicious software I’ve hunted down can be traced back to vulnerabilities in third party modules or plugins, such as calendars, sliders, or galleries. Because of limited resources, limited reach, or just poor management, third party software is usually not tested and updated as frequently as is the parent CMS platform. Once a hacker has exposed a vulnerability with a particular plugin, it simply runs a script to search for accommodating websites, and then attacks. These viruses can be particularly hard to nail down because it often replicates itself or inserts lines of text or JavaScript code onto pages.

When you update WordPress, outdated plugins may no longer work. Also, there is an indicator that shows whether a plugin has not been recently updated. This forces third party plugin developers to continue to update their software so that it does not become irrelevant, or get bad reviews.

Performance
Another reason why it’s important to keep your website’s code updated is that newer versions may have improved performance. Essentially, this means that platform developers spend a lot of time trying to make code faster so that your website loads more quickly and takes fewer resources to render a web page.

Your customers WANT your website to be fast. For this reason, Internet companies have invested billions in infrastructure and people will gladly pay their higher subscription fees. If your website is slow, this is a sure automatic turn off to your customers. They’ve been trained to think that way.

Google has also been a force behind the industry’s push toward faster websites. A faster website will generally rank better than a slower website. Google has built this metric into their search algorithm.

You need to have a fast website. Since your CMS developers are likely working hard to improve performance, you need to take advantage of their updates that address this important objective.

Bugs
Another reason to have a plan for updating your code regularly is that software bugs may be present. The term “bug” is just tech jargon for an error in the code’s logic that might cause problems. In my own experience, though I thoroughly review code, write unit tests, perform interface testing, and stage releases, I can tell you that it’s impossible to account for every single issue that might crop up ahead of time. The great thing about a platform like WordPress is that there is a huge group of programmers that regularly test for bugs. Not only this, but it’s massive user base will also report bugs that crop up during use.

Have a Plan
For the reasons mentioned, it’s vitally important that you have a plan in place to update your website regularly.

I strongly suggest that you only update the website yourself if you first download a backup of the website files and database. I suggest that you do not let WordPress or other platforms update automatically since someone really needs to test thoroughly after the updates are run to be sure nothing is broken. One of my customers had a website hosted on their own server. They clicked the Update button and it destroyed their website. Unfortunately, they did not have backups available on the server and their website was completely lost. The lesson: know what you’re doing before you click the button.

If you would like SiteHatchery to update your website monthly, let us know and we’ll get a plan in place for you.

URGENT: They might be listening


Danger! Danger!
This is important: If you do not have an SSL certificate, most browsers are telling your customers that your website is insecure. It only costs $75 per year. Just let us know if you’d like us to install one for you.
Why You Need an SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate scrambles the data that flows between your website and the web server. This keeps the bad guys from doing anything useful with the data that’s in transit.

Sound complicated? Maybe an analogy will help…

I’ll sometimes grab a few snacks at a convenience store that’s located a couple of blocks from my home. Upon check out, the cashier asks for the phone number that’s linked to my rewards account. Would this bother you? It bothers me! Why? Because the internal struggle always ends with me broadcasting my precious phone digits to everyone within earshot. It feels kinda creepy. Here’s the thing: I could avoid all this awkwardness by simply swiping a member card (of course, I have to bring it first).

An SSL certificate is kind of like a member card. I can pass data through without anybody being able to listen in.

You might be thinking that your website doesn’t need an SSL certificate because you don’t have any data that needs to be kept private. For instance, your website might not have a contact form, member accounts, or payment information that is being processed.

However, there are good reasons to have one anyway…

If you do not have an SSL certificate installed, Google and Firefox now tell your users that your website is insecure. They really don’t care if there’s nothing to lock down. This will scare some users off your website. You really don’t want that!

Not only this, but having a secure website actually helps your website perform better in Google searches. That’s right, Google gives secure websites a little bump, making it slightly easier for people to find your website when people search.
Is Your Website Secure?

It’s pretty easy to tell if your website is secure.

Here’s what a secure website looks like in Chrome.

 

Here’s what an insecure website looks like in Chrome.

 

 

Before long, Chrome will change it to look like this!

 

 

What should you do?

If you’re website does not have a green “https” in front of the URL, then you need an SSL certificate. Contact us today. We’ll get one installed for you.

Overcoming The Struggle To Create Great Content For Your Blog

The latest and greatest trend in online marketing is the bold declaration that content reigns supreme. With good content (and plenty of it!), you’re told, you can reach any audience and accomplish any goal. Powerful as this form of marketing can be, it comes with one enormous pitfall. It requires you to create a steady supply of fresh website content. How do you get started?

The Challenge Of Content Marketing

The reason why content marketing shouldn’t be entered into lightly is that it is very much a double-edged sword. Although it can be supremely effective when done correctly, a misguided or lackadaisical attempt can waste your time and even end up hurting your website. To do content marketing properly, you have to guarantee two things about your content: It should always be worth reading and it should be updated regularly.

Striking a balance between these two goals can be difficult. Sacrificing quality in the name of speed is dangerous. Giving up on frequent updates can hamstring your marketing and rob it of its promotional power. As a general rule, you shouldn’t force your content simply to meet a schedule. If you must sacrifice something for the sake of pushing out an update, post something short but worthwhile. A brief piece of content can always serve as a “teaser” for a more ambitious post down the road.

Why You Need A Map To Success

Although the previous paragraph was full of cautions about the dangers of sticking to a schedule, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. If you use it correctly, a schedule for content delivery can actually be a tremendous asset. By setting up a schedule, you’re starting to build a content pipeline.

Scheduling your content gives you a better grasp of your needs. You can start taking advantage of economies of scale in your production process. If you know you need half a dozen different pieces in the next week, devote a full hour to brainstorming topics. Conduct your research in batches.

Once you have a schedule, you can also start varying your content effectively. Don’t just specify given amounts of content within given spaces of time. Identify the themes and topics that are most important to your audience and make sure you return to them on a regular basis.

Finding The Right Ideas

It’s more than likely that your goal in building a steady content stream is to attract more people to your website. That means search engine optimization is vitally important. Don’t neglect the power SEO can have to inform your content creation process, though! When you conduct keyword research, consider the different terms you come across as potential topics for new content. Reaching out to embrace an idea sparked by a new keyword may bring your site to the attention of a whole new audience.

Keep a file of potential content topics and add to it frequently. Inspiration can strike in a host of different places and you can always spare a second or two to jot down a fresh idea. Be particularly attentive while you’re working on other content pieces. It’s often more effective to hang onto a tangent idea and turn it into fresh content than it is to incorporate it into one huge post. The more you make a habit of this, the more resources you’ll have available when it’s time to generate more content.

Spending Your Time In The Right Areas

Always remember that great content beats decent content. A post that attracts 10,000 readers is way more effective than ten posts that get 100 readers each. This doesn’t just mean refining and polishing your content itself, either. You need to structure each piece for maximum impact.

Make all of your posts inviting and easy to read. Provide your readers with easy sharing features so that they can help spread the word. Many blogs zero in on their best bits and call them out as ready-made “tweetables.” Spend some extra time on the most attention-grabbing parts of your piece (the headline, the description, callouts, etc.) and craft them to appeal to both search engines and human readers.

Creating great content is an art rather than a science. Though this means there is no formula you can use to guarantee success, it also means that your skills will improve over time. Keep plugging away at your content and you’ll find your material steadily drawing in bigger and bigger audiences. The entire creation process will speed up considerably as you practice. With enough dedication, crafting great content will become second nature to you.

Jonathan Leger has been a successful Internet Marketer for over 11 years. He owns an SEO Tools suite at KeywordCanine.com and is the creator of a number of well known and respected software and service applications such as The Best Spinner, INeedArticles and more.

3 Reasons Your Website Needs Videos NOW

Does your website have videos? Are they something you plan to get around to “someday”? Or do you wonder, why bother if you already have good content in the form of text and still photos? I think you need to get videos on your site sooner than later, and here’s why:

1. Perfection doesn’t matter. It’s more important to get it up than to get it perfect. While it’s true that you could–and, in some cases, might want to–spend thousands of dollars for a professionally produced video, in many ways it’s actually better for your video to have a more casual feel.

Potential customers don’t usually go to a company’s website to watch the same commercials they can see on TV. They are seeking information to supplement what they already know, or they want to get an “inside look” that puts a personal face on the product or service they are considering or have already bought into.

For example, one popular feature on many retail websites is the “warehouse walk,” in which an employee (of any position; just personable) walks through the warehouse and gives customers a sneak peak at the latest product lines or designs that will be shipping out soon. It’s a great way to connect with your audience, and it can prompt a lot of feedback as customers talk amongst themselves in the comments about the new stuff.

2. It’s easier than you think. If your time or budget doesn’t allow for the hiring of a video production company, consider hiring a student or intern, or simply doing it “in house.” Of course your video’s quality won’t look as professional, but this could actually work in your favor because customers often prefer “real” over “slick.”

You could actually get by with a $150 Flip video camera or, in a pinch, a video feature of a regular digital camera. While it’s likely that web-based videos will eventually transition to high definition, at this point it may be overkill and you can avoid investing in HD equipment and memory-hogging pixels and editing functionality.

Similarly, you could drop dollars on top-tier video editing software such Final Cut or Vegas, but those come with a learning curve and you can probably get by with whatever your camera or computer came with, or a cheaper product.

If you’re just aiming to record and share PowerPoint presentations or something you’re doing on a computer screen, you don’t even need a full editing suite. You can buy screen rendering software for Mac or PC, or just use a free web-based tool such as Jing or ScreenToaster.

Video podcasts are another possibility. You could use them as a teaching-tool or product how-to. Who knows? Your video could even “go viral.”

3. Video helps you get more traffic. Most search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that Google’s algorithm automatically ranks videos higher than other, similar content. It could be that Google considers sites with video to more dynamic in some way, or it might be self-interest because Google owns YouTube.

Additionally, any time you create a video and upload it to YouTube or another reputable service and then embed it on your site, you’ve created an “authority link” or backlink that should also help you in the rankings. Plus, people may find you through YouTube and continue on to your site, which means traffic and potential sales.

Remember, search engines can’t “see” the words that are spoken in videos, so in order to have your keywords and content crawled just like text would be, add text by doing one or more of the following: pasting a transcript into the YouTube text box, enabling YouTube’s automatic captions feature (which has mixed results), or hiring a video transcription service for about $3 per video minute. Also, be sure to fill out all the metadata fields that you can, such as the title, description, tags and category.

If YouTube doesn’t fit your needs, consider other video sharing sites such as: Blip.tv, Revver, Viddler and Vimeo. Do you already have a favorite? Please let me know in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a free Sitehatchery T-shirt!

Posted by: Sitehatchery.com – a Chico web design company providing web design and development services nationwide.