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How Being Active On Google+ Will Improve Your Search Traffic

Posted Wed, April 24, 2013 by Julie Short


After Google Plus was launched a year and a half ago, it became clear it would alter a lot of things we knew about search engine optimization. It’s existence also changed the predictability of Google’s search engine. 

They added a personal element to search. Most small brands discovered over the past 18 months they don’t know how to work with this new element in search to increase traffic, and continue delivering quality content. In this blog, you’ll find some suggestions to utilize Google+ work for your search traffic’s benefit.

You’ve got to think about Google’s search engine like a giant web instead of an engine.

Before Google+, search traffic was much more predictable. While Google constantly changed their algorithm, search was a predictable flow; it was, keywords + backlinks + quality content + competition = winner. The Google+ era completely transformed the system, so you had to actually participate on social platform for more traffic. It’s a brilliant, dirty trick, but it’s their world and we’re just all trying to succeed in it and reach as many eyes as possible. 

In the past, a site with no history could, when created in accordance with Google’s rules, drive massive traffic. That’s a big reason a lot of people are still struggling with the new rules. Now, the process works in reverse. The more attention and authority you have the more traffic you receive.

You need to connect with your market on Google+, so they can drive traffic to your site. The larger your Google Plus network, the more chances you have to drive traffic. You want to activate as many people to advocate and share your brand. You’ve got to strive to be relevant instead of just existing in the Google universe. 

What You Should Do Now
First, start connecting with your target market on Google+. Add them to your circles. An easy way to do this is add shared circles from other Google+ users. You would be surprised at the number of users who have hundreds of people in their circle, and can provide you with access to their circle for free. All you have to do is add the circle to your list of circles. 

Second, join relevant Google+ Communities. If you want to find the best prospects for your business, you might want to consider joining Google+ Communities. If you have ever participated in a forum or Facebook group, you can easily use a Google+ community.

Third, add your name to Google Authorship. Google is starting to help bloggers increase their personal search relevance by creating Google Authorship. Google Authorship links content you write on certain sites to notify Google of your status as an author on a particular site. If anyone blogs on multiple sites you can increase your authorship, and in essence carry your Google reputation across the search spectrum.

Google+ has changed the search and social media game. Are more people still using Facebook for daily social media use? Yes. But, ask yourself how many people use Google on a daily basis. Driving the most people to your basic information is what you’re striving for. One of the best things about this is that you’ve got a great, low-cost opportunity with Google+ to drive additional search traffic to your website. 

Posted in : SEO/SMO/SMM | 
Tags : google+


Designing for Content, Not Screen Width

Posted Mon, April 22, 2013 by Julie Short

Some designers still heavily factor in screen sizes into the website design process. Some designers still think in pixels, but things have changed a lot in the last few years. The modern designer must put content at the forefront of the creative process. 

Does Size Really Matter?
Most people agree size matters, but over the last decade, technological advances have changed the game. Some spent countless hours designing to fit all the different screen sizes and trending devices people are using to access the web. Designers tend to develop a site according to screen width, i.e. 320, 768 and 1024 pixels. In reality, the opposite exists. 

Varying screen sizes makes it tough to restrict to one single common width size. Creating a bunch of designs based on the screen size isn’t a viable option either for designers. Normally, designers tend to create three static layouts that keep alignment with the nearest width. This approach is much better, when compared to the desktop only, static site as it caters to at least one column, a simplified version for the mobile and also a touch-friendly version for the tablet. 

Thinking In Percentages
Creating designs for your responsive layout requires you to set many of the dimensions in percentages. This approach ensures that your content grows and shrinks, on an even basis, depending upon the variable screen sizes and also on the screen size it is being viewed on. Your content will cover up to 90%, instead of maybe 50% of the screen. This is possible as the content is centered on a screen size that is a few pixels smaller than the next available breakpoint.

Choose breakpoints based on the area where your content breaks, instead of the device screen widths. Rather than creating a design and then trying to fit it in the screen slot, you should find out the width at which your content begins to struggle. If you start with a 1400 wide design and slowly shrink the browser until a content piece breaks the layout or gets close enough, then that determines the next breakpoint. It doesn’t really matter whether it is at 1200, 800 or 673, if the content works great, then you should not look at changing the layout. You might end up with strange numbers and also might have several breakpoints as well.

Content Focus
Earlier we talked about picking your breakpoints based on where your content breaks and not your screen width. Do it this way because there’s too many different devices out there with different screen widths and they keep making new ones. It’s impossible to decide on consistent breakpoints for all these devices. So, let the content be the deciding factor. 

Concluding Thoughts
The point is to not get hung up on how something looks on the latest iPad or the new Nexus, but to make sure your breakpoints are suited to your content and that your design looks good no matter what screen it’s on. Determining a set of definite breakpoints, for responsive projects is tough, as more and more screen sizes are making a beeline into the horizon every day. Relying on these tips will help your content br displayed in the best possible way. 

Posted in : Website Content | 
Tags : content


Clean Design: Keeping Your Homepage Free from Clutter

Posted Wed, April 17, 2013 by Julie Short

Client’s often want to cram it with as much content as possible on a website’s homepage. However, the designer is striving to maintain the integrity of the design. In this blog, I'll give you a few ways keep your homepage clean and why it's important to help your clients see the benefits of a clean design. 

More and more people look to search engines to find content, instead of a site's homepage. The search engine takes the user directly to the information they require and can completely bypassing the sites homepage. Obviously, this deep linking seriously reduces the prominence of the homepage. 

Add to this factor the rise of RSS feeds and more people accessing information via mobile devices, and you begin to see the focus shifting from the website homepage towards the individual pages of content. That is not to say homepages are no longer important, they are simply not as important as once they were and so do not justify the level of competition they receive in some organizations.

Don’t rush the homepage
By starting with standard textual pages, which makes up the majority of the site, you get to set the design style before it gets diluted by the land grab for homepage real estate. Once the client is on board with the design they will perceive it as being more important and so are less likely to allow it to be railroaded by content demands.

A homepage should reflect the sites content at the highest level and signpost the user to key content deeper in the site. In the majority of projects I work on the client hasn’t finalized all of the content in the initial design stage. It is hard to create an effective homepage until you have a full understanding of what content it is meant to signpost and represent.

Communicating the importance of white space
In the case of homepage design the heart of the conflict between designer and client is often a perception of the importance of white space. Every designer knows that white space is a fundamental tool of good design, but designers often won't express why whitespace is necessary in a way the client can associate with. 

Or in other words; the more you add, the less importance anything has. Designers sometimes sell white space on the basis that it looks better. Instead sell it on the basis that every item you add to the page detracts from the main message. 

You might want to suggest that a user has 10 points worth of attention they can give to the homepage. Every “module of content” added to the homepage takes a minimum of 1 point. More points should be assigned to more important elements. This approach will quickly show that the more you add to a page, the more likely important elements are going to get lost in the crowd. Use this as a method to focus the clients mind on what is important.

A clean homepage will help users navigate a site easier, make it look better and keep the visitor's focus on important content. 

Posted in : Websites | 
Tags : website design


Design Basics: Embracing Constraints

Posted Mon, April 15, 2013 by Julie Short

If you’re a creative person you might believe you are at your most creative without any constraints. In reality however, this isn’t true. Your creativity needs a focus. If creativity guides you without any boundaries, it’s easy to go overboard. Constraints limit the actions that can be performed by the user and increases the usability of the design and reduces the probability of operational error. Restrict yourself to just a few design elements and a set deadlines to positively direct your design efforts. 

The Hazards of Creative Freedom
The greatest gift a client can give is creative freedom. On the other hand, the worst thing a designer can do is allowing themselves total creative freedom. It should be in the client’s interests to leave the designer to do their thing because a good designer can identify the key elements required to make the project a success. The client can tell us the problem they need a website to promote a new product and it’s up to the designer to create a solution. The good designer gets to the design stage with a big list of constraints from the discovery phase: they know the demographic, branding guidelines and, through various conversations with his contacts there. For the responsible designer, the truly open brief doesn’t exist. And even when they have got a set of constraints from the client, they might well impose still further constraints upon themselves.

Time
The first constraint to put upon yourself is time. Speed helps in the early stages of a design because you get down key concepts without focusing on details. Working fast also helps switch your brain functions. It encourages use of the right side of your brain and it’s the right side of the brain that does the creative heavy lifting. If you have a serious time limitation, you aren’t able to rationally analyse your work. You simply don’t have time. Instead, if you force yourself to rely on the subconscious and intuition, you will be using the, creative, right side of your brain. You can produce acceptable designs working from the left side of your brain, but they will have been processed rationally, based on existing solutions. Force yourself to use the right side of your brain and you can get away from these rationalised processes and make decisions based on instinct and gut reaction - and it’s here the original and innovative processes can take place.

Separating Creativity and Art
It’s worth noting that there is a separation between creativity and design. Exactly what we’re calling these is semantics, but the above process is one to encourage free, unrestricted, thought with the goal of promoting innovation. This is the creative process. The design process requires you to take the creative work and pull it into a more cohesive shape. For a website designer this requires assessing how the creative designs can also be usable, functional, designs. We’re building websites not making art.

Your design should guide the user through the process. It shouldn’t overly embellish. Sometimes the embellishments are appropriate, but you need to understand why they’re needed. Understand what elements (font, colour, image type, text size, line weight) are required for the design and embrace them. These are the constraints that will allow your creativity to really shine and offer site visitors the best usability experience. Try utilizing symbols to creatively increase site usability. Symbols are useful for categorizing, clarifying and cautioning users about certain actions. A good example of symbols being used for constraint in design would be the error sound that a site makes when an entry is incomplete or invalid. This serves as a warning to the user that additional actions are necessary.

Focus
Setting limits is not solely about not using design elements. It is much more about focusing on the few genuinely important elements that are required to convey the message of your website, and adding in other design elements only when they support the key elements. Choice doesn’t give us freedom. 

Constraining user behavior instead of enabling it may initially seem counter-intuitive, by limiting user actions they can actually focus on perfecting those limited options. Understanding and implementing constraints will help users engage your design with minimal error. Too much choice is often confusing, disabling and dissatisfying.

Posted in : Websites | 
Tags : website design


Email Marketing: Getting More Email Signups from Your Website

Posted Wed, April 10, 2013 by Julie Short

An email database is an important marketing tool. A large database allows you to proactively communicate with a large number of your customers, but before you launch an email marketing campaign you’ve got to build the list. Your website is the easiest way to gather email addresses from interested parties. Be sure to convince people to want to subscribe to your emails. You have a better chance to retain them in the long run if they find value in your emails and chose to sign up.

Incentives
Once, I signed up for a company's newsletter for $1 off my bill every month. A lot of customers will connect with you for a small value. This value doesn’t have to be monetary, but most customers need an incentive to receive another brand email in their inbox. They are probably already receiving a lot of similar emails. Think long term. Signing up is half the battle. You want them to actually open your emails. Get creative and find an angle. Exchange with them something you have of value for their email address. This value could be exclusive, behind-the-scenes access or even exclusive coupons.

Regular Newsletter
Your goal isn’t only to build a giant email list. You only derive value from it if the people in your list care about what you send them. If they delete every email you send, your effort was a waste of time. A regular newsletter’s purpose is to maintain and boost long-term relationships with your subscribers. After a list is built, this is an opportunity to communicate, compel them to buy and continue to offer the value they initially signed up for.

Online Archive
Some subscribers want a preview of what they’re getting into before they commit. Maintain an online archive of past newsletters and email correspondence to let interested visitors see what they should expect in the future. If your newsletter or emails typically offer value, an online archive can help you grow your subscription list.

Multiple Signup Locations
Different people decide to commit at different points in the perusing process. You can’t know when a certain visitor will want to sign up. Place the form obviously on the web page. Make it easy for them to find a way to sign up without having to search for one specific page. Try integrating your value proposition into a “Hello Bar” and drive attention immediately to signing up. A “Hello Bar” is a small bar that stays fixed at the top of a page while you’re on a website.  

Give Them a Reason to Trust You
Most people are jaded by the bad practices of other brands, businesses and spammers. Provide your subscribers every assurance you aren’t one of those brands. Under your signup form or on a signup page, let them know how often you email out and what they should expect. Brands that email every day, especially frivolously, annoy the typical consumer. Provide a link to your privacy policy. This will tell people how you intend to use the information you’re collecting. Show subscribers you have nothing to hide, you will protect their private information and that you won’t share it with any third party.

Posted in : Email Marketing | 
Tags : email marketing , content


Building a Website Better Than Your Competition

Posted Mon, April 8, 2013 by Julie Short

So, you’ve got the same product, similar pricing and offers as your competitors? Business is all about competition. With an effective call to action, your website should attract potential clients and encourage them to buy. You’re looking for any and every advantage over rival businesses. In this blog, I’ll give you a few ways to differentiate your website from your competition.

Google Analytics can provide you a lot insight into your website (traffic, conversions, etc.), but it will also compare your results to your industry average. This insightful tool will give you an idea of how well you’re doing digitally when compared to others in your industry.

If you’re in a highly competitive industry, you’ve got to have a website that sets you apart from your competitors. Give your customers a digital value they can’t resist.

SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is necessary for your website to compete. Several factors impact how your high your website appears in search results and if your competition appears first. Concentrate on content creation. Regularly posting fresh content makes your site more appealing to search engines and their automated indexing programs. Also, new content is an incentive for visitors to return to your site after the first visit. Pay attention to the keywords you’re using in your site’s content because it factors in. Focus on the search queries that yield the highest total traffic. To determine the most effective keywords, Google Analytics or Google's Webmaster Tools program provides traffic data for different search queries. Effective SEO strategies are constantly changing. It’s crucial to monitor the trends, SEO news and your site’s effectiveness. You may be due for an overall site update to stay competitive.

Design
Your website’s design should complement your content. A site’s design should be attractive without being distracting. A clean design, with lots of white space, no dense copy and clear offers will translate well to your unique visitors. Avoid huge blocks of content. A homepage isn’t the place to provide the essay about your company. The homepage is merely the gateway. The important information and deals should be differentiated and jump out to the visitor. The site design should facilitate the buying process in the best way possible.

Easy Communication
Don’t make your customer jump through a lot of hoops to know more about your company and to connect with you. Make communication as easy as possible. Some sites require a visitor’s email address before viewing key information about a product or service. The casual customer, who is shopping around, could be driven away by this action. Too much personal information too soon causes customers to be sensitive. Include a contact us page on your website with an in-browser contact form. Eliminate the need for your customer to go through another step by having to open their own email to connect with you.

Strong Central Message
Successful websites aren’t cluttered, employ a clear call to action and have a strong central message. Give a direct, concise summary of what you’re about, what you offer and why you’re the best choice over your competition. Assume they know nothing about you and what you do. Give them all the information necessary information to choose to do business with you. Also, clearly state the next step in the purchasing process. If they can buy, sign-up for services or get a quote through the site, make it very clear and obvious. You will want to direct customers to the next step at every possible avenue on the site.

Posted in : Websites , Website Content , SEO/SMO/SMM | 
Tags : SEO , web design


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