Google Panda – What to Think About

Posted on December 5th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

panda-relaxation-849343-mGoogle Panda is a change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm. It was first released in 2011 and has seen a number of updates since its release. The change was made in an attempt by Google to lower the ranking of low-quality websites and provide higher-quality sites to the top of the search results.

As a result of Google’s Panda updates, many website owners have had to change their approach to search engine optimization (SEO) and develop a strategy to improve the content of their websites. By now, most website owners know about Google Panda and the impact it can have on their search engine rankings. However, many may not know what to look for to determine if their websites have been impacted.

A good sign that you’ve been impacted by a Google Panda update is a noticeable decrease in site traffic. As a result, it is important to continually monitor your website traffic to be able to detect a decrease. If you know you have been impacted, it is equally important to monitor traffic, so you can gauge whether the measures you’ve taken to correct the impact are working.

As you consider Google Panda, you may want to consider working with a SEO professional to help you assess your website. A comprehensive Google Panda audit of your site will help you identify problem areas and address them. Ideally, this will help you correct these any problem areas before your website is impacted by an update, but an audit can also help you recover.

An audit of your website should gather data, evaluate pages for content to keep, modify or trash, perform a technical audit using webmaster tools and optimize each page to Google’s current standards.

After you’ve worked with a web professional to audit your website, you’ll have a clear understanding of what you need to do to either avoid getting hit by a Google Panda update or recover if you’ve already been impacted by an update. Finally, you’ll need to develop a longterm strategy to monitor and address Google’s ongoing updates, Panda or otherwise.

Has your website been affected by a Google Panda update?

Easy Rounded Corners with CSS Border Radius

Posted on December 4th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Rounded corners are used to enhance the appearance and usability of web design elements. While there are different ways to achieve rounded corners, CSS Border Radius is an ideal method. CSS makes for clean design and Border Radius is easy to implement.

The CSS Border Radius property makes it easy to create rounded corners in web design elements. It eliminates the need for corner images or multiple div tags. Currently, it has widespread browser support. However, like anything, you’ll want to work with your web designer to ensure it is implemented properly so as to account for any existing discrepancies across browsers.

borderradiusCSS Border Radius is implemented using four border-radius properties including border-bottom-left-radius, border-bottom-right-radius, border-top-left-radius and border-top-right-radius. This enables you to have a great deal of control over the corners of all your design elements. These border radius properties can be expressed in length or percentage.

There is a website that makes generating CSS Border Radius incredibly easy. If you’re trying to test out the design of an element, it might be a quick way for you to play around with different numbers until you achieve just the right radius. Once you’ve honed in on a radius that gives you can work with your web designer to implement the CSS into your  design elements.

Rounded corners are often used for text boxes, buttons and other interactive page elements. If you’re looking to improve the usability of your website, implementing rounded corners on interactive elements can be a good start. Users often look for rounded corners as a visual cue for interactive elements.

While you may not want to use rounded corners for all of your design elements, when used selectively, to achieve a specific objective, they can be quite useful. If you want to include rounded corners into your design elements, discuss implementing the CSS Border Radius property. It’s a great way to create rounded corners without slowing down the performance of your website.

Do you use rounded corners to enhance your website’s usability?

Alternatives to Flash for Tablets

Posted on December 3rd, 2014 by John Giaccotto

smartphone-icon-1340911-mMobile devices have signaled the death of Flash. Most iOS and Android devices do not support Flash. As more and more people access the Internet from tablets and other mobile devices, web developers need alternatives to Flash. Otherwise, most mobile users will experience poor functionality on websites designed using flash.

Fortunately, HTML5 is a viable alternative to Flash for tablets and other mobile devices. HTML5 is the future of the Internet. The time to start transitioning away from Flash has come. If you want to position your website for a future where an increasing number of users are accessing your website from mobile devices, you need to consider using HTML5 in place of Flash.

Unlike Flash, HTML5 performs well across platforms. Users can shift from desktop to laptop to tablet to smartphone without noticing a difference with HTML5. For example, online video presents a problem for mobile users when it is executed using Flash. However, HTML5 offers mobile capabilities as well as semantic markup. The possibilities for using video for entertainment, shopping and advertising is wide open to all platforms with HTML5.

With HTML5’s semantic markup, web bots can crawl video clips as their own page. Videos can have title tags as well as everything else that goes along with a standard page. This makes it easier for viewers to search for specific video clips. Naturally, the advantages of this are limitless for business owners looking to reach their target demographic with engaging content and advertising.

Face it, the number of people using mobile for web browsing is only going to grow. The mobile market is already growing at an incredibly rapid pace. If you want to be able to reach users on tablets and mobile devices, you’re going to need to adapt your content for mobile devices. In this case, it means you need to shift from Flash to HTML5 and other viable alternatives to provide an optimal experience for tablet and smartphone users.

When is the last time you’ve used Flash to view a video?

Are you using Google’s new Universal Analytics?

Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by John Giaccotto

universalanalyticsWant to make better use of your Google Analytics account? We all do. The good news is that Google has introduced a new set of features that changes the way data is collected and organized in Google Analytics called Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics will allow you to gain a better understanding of how users interact with your website. It offers more features and better insights.

User ID
Universal Analytics allows you to connect multiple devices, sessions and engagement data with User ID. User ID is a unique ID that you can use to associate multiple sessions to one user in your reports. As a result, you’ll be able to get a more accurate look at user count, user experience and access to new Cross Device reports.

Tracking Code
Universal Analytics offers a tracking code with increased flexibility. You will be able to collect data from any digital device. There are three new versions to meet your specific technical requirements. The new collection methods allow developers to set up and customize tracking codes with ease. Additionally, cross domain tracking for websites is considerably easier to implement and more accurate.

Universal Analytics offers additional configuration options including organic search sources, session and campaign timeout handling, referral exclusions and search term exclusions. Plus, you can create custom dimensions and custom metrics unique to your business.

Universal Analytics offers enhanced eCommerce reports that allows you to better analyze user shopping and purchasing behavior. You’ll be able to assess internal and external marketing and gauge the performance of your products/services.

You can work with your web developer to get set up with Universal Analytics. It is a two step process to upgrade from classic Analytics. While it may take some time to get going with the new features, it will be well worth your investment in time. The new features will allow you to gain additional insights and more accurately track key metrics.

Are you already using Google’s new Universal Analytics? What is your experience so far?

Serif or sans serif fonts? What’s more readable?

Posted on December 1st, 2014 by John Giaccotto

serifReadability is an important web design consideration for your website. If the fonts on your website are difficult to read, users will not bother. Instead, they will turn to your competitors for information, products and services. Therefore, you need to make it a priority to ensure that the fonts on your website are readable.

As you’re considering which fonts to use on your website, you might be wondering how serif and sans serif fonts compare in terms of readability. Both types of fonts are readable. However, serif fonts are more readable in print form, while sans serif fonts are more readable online.
Since sans serif fonts are  more readable online, you need to consider using them for your website content. Obviously, there is no hard and fast rule. In some cases, your web design may benefit from using serif fonts for headings and other embellished design elements. However, try to stick to sans serif fonts for your main blocks of text.

As users increasingly rely on mobile devices for web browsing, readability is growing in importance. Small screens necessitate the use of readable fonts. This means you’ll need to evaluate your website for readability on computers as well as mobile devices. Work with your web design professional to ensure that your choice of fonts is readable across browsing platforms.

If you are using a print stylesheet for your website, you may want to consider using a readable serif fonts for the printer-friendly version. Serif fonts are easier to read in print and can enhance the readability of the resources you make available for users in print form. If you’re not sure where to start, look at Google Fonts. Google offers a wide range of fonts that you can preview and assess for readability on your website and in print.

In addition to looking at your font choices, you’ll want to take other measures to improve the readability of your website. Many websites are too busy. This makes the text content difficult to read. Get rid of the clutter on your website and provide ample white space in your overall web design. Break up large blocks of text into smaller paragraphs. Use headers and when possible use lists and bullet points. Many web users scan pages for content. Make your content easy to scan and digest.

What other ways can you make a website design more readable?

Apache Vs Windows Server – What’s the difference?

Posted on November 30th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

Web server software is used to process requests and deliver data. All websites use web server software. The two most popular server softwares are Apache HTTP Server and Windows Microsoft Internet Information Service (Windows IIS). Your website is most likely using either Apache or Windows. What’s the difference?

httpd_logo_wide_newApache HTTP Server
The Apache HTTP Server is an open source web server application. It was developed by the Apache Software Foundation. Because it is freely distributed and has an open source license, users are able to edit the code. This is beneficial because users are continually working to improve performance and further its development.

Apache can be run on nearly any operating system. However, it is typically used with Linux, a popular open source operating system. Apache combined with Linux, MySQL and PHP database and scripting language form what is known as the LAMP web server solution.

This solution offers the advantages of lower costs, flexible programming and enhanced security. With this open source solution, there are no software licensing fees to worry about and the programming can be tweaked as the user sees fit. Plus, since most malicious security threats target the vulnerabilities of Windows, it is often a more secure option.

microsoftlongWindows Microsoft Internet Information Service (Windows IIS)
Windows IIS or Microsoft IIS as it is commonly called, is second in popularity only to Apache. IIS features a number of services including File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Hypertext Transfer protocol (HTTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) among others to facilitate the management of websites. Recent versions include modules for security, filtering, caching, compression, redirects, logging, diagnostics and integration.

Microsoft IIS is only for Windows systems. As a result, a Windows server is required. This will increase the running costs for your website. It is also important to keep in mind that it will also make your website more vulnerable to malware attacks. IIS has a reputation for being less secure.

While this is partially true, ISS is supported by Microsoft. You will benefit from the support of Microsoft’s .NET framework, ASPX scripts, media pack modules and in-depth diagnostic tools. Plus, although Windows is often the target of attacks, Microsoft large enough to continually monitor and make security updates when necessary to keep Windows servers protected.

Ultimately, you’ll have to work with your web developer to determine which web server is best for your website. Apache and Windows are both exceptional web server options. In many cases, it will come down to cost, security, operating system and scripting preferences.

What web server do you currently use?

Should you have a separate Stylesheet for Print?

Posted on November 29th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

laser-1055954-mChances are good that you work hard to provide visitors to your website with valuable information and resources. This is an important step in creating a strong online presence for your business. Over time, you will have established your website as the “go to” source of information in the industry you serve.

This is great. However, is any of the information you provide offered in a print-friendly format? Many people who are browsing the web desire the ability to print out useful content. One way to offer a print-friendly option for visitors to your site is to include a stylesheet for print.

You can really enhance the usability of your website by including a stylesheet for print. Visitors to your website who desire the ability to print content will be able to do so much easier with a print stylesheet. Plus, they won’t have to print entire web pages just to get a few paragraphs of text. A print stylesheet allows you to offer your website content to visitors in a print-friendly format.

If you’re not using stylesheets for print, you should be. They’re quick and easy to set up and will boost your site’s usability by leaps and bounds. Perhaps you’ve seen a print-friendly button on some websites. While this is a step in the right direction, a stylesheet for print eliminates the need for users to the button before printing and on the button and wait for the print-friendly window to load up. Why put visitors to your website through this hassle when stylesheets for print are so easy?

Print stylesheets function nearly the same as regular stylesheets. The only real difference is that they only get called up when a user prints a page. A small portion of code needs to be inserted into the top of every web page on your site in order to make a print stylesheet work. The code should look something like this: <link rel=”stylesheet” href=”print.css” type=”text/css” media=”print” />. You can work with your web designer to set up your print stylesheet. In the example, this stylesheet is print.css.

When setting up a separate stylesheet for print, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, you’ll want to remove unwanted items from the website version to make it printer-friendly. In general, all you will want to print is your company logo, contact information and the page content. The headers, side columns and footers are often unwanted by users for the print versions.

In addition to removing unwanted elements, you’ll want to format the page for print. Web  pages aren’t laid out for print. As such, you’ll want to reformat the content so it looks good on a printed page. You may also want to consider changing to a readable font for print and making any links visible in a black and white printed page.

Do you currently use a separate stylesheet for print?

Why Privacy Policies are Essential for Online Businesses

Posted on November 28th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

shredded-33009-mIt’s a huge world wide web out there. Anyone can set up a website and present themselves as a reputable business. This can be a scary proposition for online shoppers. In a world where identity theft is prevalent, Internet users are understandably wary of websites and shopping online.

Web savvy shoppers often look over a website for some visual clues to determine whether or not it is trustworthy. To start off with, your website needs to have a professional web design with your contact information. However, this is not enough. Online businesses need to include a privacy policy. A privacy policy will demonstrate to visitors that you are a reputable business that has taken measures to protect their privacy.

What is a privacy policy? A privacy policy is an essential element of any business website. It clearly states your views and procedures on the collection of visitor information. While a privacy policy is a legal document, it needs to be easily understood by visitors to your site.

The key components of an effective privacy policy include:

Tell your visitors about your organization in this section of your privacy policy. You also need to inform visitors of any unique information or functions of your website in the introduction.

Collected Information
Inform your visitors about the types of information you are collecting in this section. Clearly lay out any information you are collecting. Include information collected in forms as well as information logged by servers like IP addresses and hostnames.

Collection Method
Detail the methods used to collect information on your website. Provide visitors to your website with a detailed description of how information is collected on your website.

Information Storage
How is the information collected on your website stored? Is it securely stored? What measures have you taken to protect stored information? Visitors to your website want to know that their information is safe and secure.

Contact Information
Provide your contact information. Offer a range of options including phone number, email, online form and a physical address for written inquiries.

By taking the time to put together a comprehensive privacy policy, visitors to your website who may be wary can read through it and be confident that their privacy is safe and secure. Transparency on your part will establish trust and build confidence with visitors to your website. In turn, this will result in an increase in user engagement and conversions.

What information should you have in your website footer?

Posted on November 27th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

blue-website-buttons-2-5-1369224-mIn web design, the website footer is often overlooked as an afterthought. However, it is a very important element in the overall design of the website. Sure, it’s not the most prominent area area of your website or the most impressive, but it is a place that users generally expect to find information about your business.

Ever have trouble finding contact information or a physical location for a business on their website? Yeah, me too. If all else fails, I generally scroll down to the footer. The footer is a standard place to include important information about your business.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t include this information in a more visible place on your website. You absolutely should integrate this information into a prominent call-to-action on your website. However, when people are in a hurry, they often scroll down to the footer to find vital information.

Your website footer should be simple and clean. It should include basic information about your business. You can include the basic information in the footer itself or you can link to a contact page. If you maintain an active presence on social media, you can also include social media links in the footer.

If your business has a physical location, include the address in the footer. The same goes for a phone number. Make it easy for users to find this information by keeping your footer clear of lots of clutter. A simple navigation bar, social media icons, your business’ physical address and phone number should suffice for most business website footers.

Include any legal information and disclaimers in your footer. People generally include copyright information and any legal disclaimers in this area. Just like fine print on legal documents, users will look to the bottom of the website for this information.

Footers are sometimes used to provide links to related websites, helpful resources and other information that is of use to website visitors. You can use this area to link to business associations, industry partners, related businesses or any other websites you think would be of interest to your web visitors.

Do you have certifications or other credentials to show off? Your website footer is the ideal place to place these certification badges. Often placing these badges in the footer will help establish trust with visitors to your website. Work with your web designer to create badges that fit within the overall design of your site to make the footer as streamlined as possible.

What other information should you provide in your website footer?

5 Tips to Speed Up Your Website

Posted on November 26th, 2014 by John Giaccotto

pagespeedThe speed of your website plays a large role in your success online. According to KISSmetrics, 47 percent of consumers expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less and 40 percent of Internet users abandon a website that takes an excess of 3 seconds to load. If this is not startling enough, consider that even a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7 percent reduction in your conversions. In view of these facts, it is clear that you need to speed up your website any way you can. Here are 5 tips you can take right away:

1.Optimize Images
Your images might be slowing your website down. Work with your web development professional to help you evaluate and optimize the existing images on your website. Optimizing your images for the web is quick and easy. You’ll be able to optimize any images you plan to add to your site on your own once you understand the process. However, if you need help, just ask your web developer.

2.Simplify Your Web Design
Work with your web developer to clean up your web design. Images, stylesheets, scripts, etc. all require a separate HTTP request. As a result, pages can take longer to render. Your web development pro can help you minimize the number of page elements you have, use CSS in place of images, consolidate multiple stylesheets and reduce the number of scripts on your pages.

Large pages filled with high-quality content are often large. They can slow down page load times if you’re not careful. Work with your web developer to enable compression on your web pages. Compression will help speed up the load times of large pages.

4.Browser Caching
As you browse the web, elements on the pages you’ve visited can be stored on your hard drive in a cache. This is a temporary type of storage that enables your browser to load pages without having to send additional HTTP requests to the server. Instead, it can simply load up the cached elements. As you would expect, this speeds up page load times considerably. Ask your web development pro to enable browser caching as a way to speed up page load times for your repeat visitors.

The term above-the-fold comes from the newspaper publishing industry. The most important content in the paper went above the fold, because it was the first thing people saw when they picked up the paper. The same idea carries over to web pages. Work with your web developer to streamline your above-the-fold CSS for fast load times of this content. This can be achieved by using a short inline part for above-the-fold elements and an external for the below-the-fold deferred content.

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