Five tips to make your mobile site SEO friendly

Five Tips to Make Your Mobile Site SEO Friendly

The trend for people to prefer using mobile devices rather than traditional desktop computers continues to increase, with important considerations for online retailers. According to web form publisher Formstack, conversion rates for smartphone visitors have been rapidly increasing compared to desktop conversion rates. To take advantage of this trend and remain competitive, you need to optimise your mobile site and ensure that it is SEO friendly. An optimised site gives your visitors a better user experience (UX), which leads to higher conversion rates and increased revenue. Here are five suggestions that will help ensure that your site is SEO friendly: 

Provide fast page loading

Your customers do not want to visit a website that loads slowly, especially on a mobile device. A page on your website may contain valuable content, but visitors will quickly leave when they encounter pages that load slowly. On average, the loading time for bounced visits is about 2.5 seconds slower than the loading time for sessions where visitors engage with a site.

You’ll receive more visitor engagement with a faster mobile experience, so analyse all pieces of CSS and JavaScript and every image and compress them where feasible. Also, use your cache for static items that load constantly, and be sure to minimise redirects.

 Minimise pop-ups

Pages on mobile sites that show intrusive pop-ups provide poor UX, which is the main reason that Google now penalises sites that use them. Since mobile devices have small screens, search engines use these penalties as an incentive for businesses to improve customer UX.

Non-intrusive pop-ups such as small banners and age verification boxes that don’t cover a large portion of the screen are fine and do not incur a penalty. However, any pop-up that drastically obscures the screen or requires a visitor to dismiss it before your site displays content will have a big impact on your site’s SEO.

 Design for all finger sizes

Be sure that your touch screen navigation allows users with both large and small fingers to easily scroll content. Catering to all visitors will provide a better UX, and don’t forget that people use both their thumb and their index finger when scrolling.

 Size titles and meta descriptions properly

Using action-oriented titles and meta descriptions that include relevant keywords are important for SEO purposes, but you need to consider how these items will display on a mobile site. Unfortunately, search engines can truncate titles and meta descriptions that are too long, thereby hurting your search engine rank, so limit titles to 70 characters and meta descriptions to 130 characters.

 Use simple page designs

Since mobile device screens are small, simpler is better when designing pages for your site. If you try to include too much on a page, UX will suffer, negating the positive effects of SEO. Provide content that is both short and focused, and be sure to use a clear call to action (CTA). Use simple menus. If there are numerous menus and sub-menus, visitors can easily become confused and decide to click out and go elsewhere. Also, make sure that any contact forms that you have are mobile friendly.

As the trend continues of more people using mobile devices instead of desktops, your success will depend on a mobile-friendly design that takes SEO into account.

How to Speed Up Your Ecommerce Website

How to Speed up Your e-Commerce Website

These days, advances in technology occur at a rapidly increasing rate. One of the most obvious changes has been the increasing speed of the internet, which mirrors the increase in the number of internet users around the world. If you’re an online retailer, making sure that your website loads quickly is not always easy. Many e-commerce sites experience problems that slow down their performance.

This fact should concern you, as customers are much less likely to purchase items from your online store if your website loads slowly. Even if you have a fantastic selection of items for sale, potential customers are likely to turn to your competitors if they experience undue delays in accessing your site. Even a one-second delay can cause you to lose revenue, so increasing your site’s loading speed deserves careful attention. Here are a few suggestions that can help your site load faster and make it more likely that you can convert visitors into paying customers and generate more income.

 Use caching technology whenever possible

Caching technology makes it possible for you to store critical information, such as search indexes, customer profiles and product descriptions, without making repeated calls to your database. By reducing unnecessary access to your database, you can utilise your server’s RAM to store data and dramatically improve response time, as input-output transactions conducted using RAM are up to ten times quicker than those conducted on a hard disk.

 Use a content delivery network

If you want to have a site that loads quickly, you need to use a robust content delivery network (CDN). There are several significant advantages of using a CDN if you have an international customer base, especially if you have conducted an analysis of your sales data to identify where your customers live. You can store content on servers located where your customers are, and customers can then load content from those servers rather than from one central server, thereby reducing your page loading time.

 Reduce page size

Images can be a major contributor to page size. If you reduce the size of images and other embedded objects, you can reduce the page’s loading speed considerably. You need to find the correct balance between using rich graphics and page loading speed, with the objective of maintaining a loading time of three seconds or less.

Make your site mobile friendly

These days, more than 50% of website traffic occurs on mobile devices, and this trend continues to grow, making it important to ensure that your website provides mobile users with a reliable and fast service. Also, if you don’t optimise your website for mobile devices, it is likely that you will experience lower rankings in search results, which could adversely impact your sales. Since mobile devices have less processing power than desktop computers and can have difficulty rendering complex pages properly, it is crucial to ensure that your site loads quickly with complete functionality on mobile devices.

 Use efficient coding

Efficient coding can reduce the number of HTTP requests that your site makes, thereby improving the time it takes pages to load. By storing frequently used information, they don’t require reloading on every page.

Following these tips should help your site load faster and improve both customer experience and sales.

The importance of an SSL certificate

The Importance of an SSL Certificate

Cyber security is now a major concern for both online businesses and internet users. Website visitors want assurances that a website is secure before they decide to access it, and an SSL certificate issued by a certificate authority provides online businesses with the ability to assure visitors that the site is safe.

When you obtain an SSL certificate, a third party (the certificate authority) has stated that your website is secure and that visitors can trust it. It is imperative that you obtain an SSL certificate if your site sells products or services to visitors, provides visitors with the opportunity to become members of an organisation, or asks visitors to provide sensitive personal information on online forms.

Once you install an SSL certificate on your website, all interactions between your website and your visitors are encrypted, meaning that they are secure. This security makes it almost impossible for a third party to gain access to the information being exchanged between you and your visitors.

SSL certificates maintain security by providing both a public and private key. The public key enables the encryption of the connection between your site and your visitors, while the private key enables the decryption. The information exchanged remains secure because it is quite difficult for a third party to obtain both randomly generated keys to gain access to the information.

If your site does not have an SSL certificate, major internet browsers will warn visitors that your site is not secure and suggest that they do not enter, and most visitors will choose not to access your site once they receive that warning. Once you purchase an SSL certificate, visitors will know that your site is secure by the information displayed in your website’s URL on their browser: a green bar, a padlock and the HTTPS designation. Therefore, you really don’t have any choice but to purchase an SSL certificate if you operate an online business.

You have several options available as to which type of SSL certificate to purchase. You can get a single domain SSL certificate to protect one domain or a multiple domain SSL certificate if you have more than one domain. You can purchase a wildcard SSL certificate to protect every sub-domain under your main domain, and you can purchase an organisation SSL certificate that validates your company’s credentials, including your email address and other vital information. Finally, you can purchase an extended SSL certificate, which is the most secure and requires the certificate authority to conduct a background check to validate your website.

In addition to securing your website, obtaining an SSL certificate has several other benefits. An SSL certificate adds credibility to your website with search engines. They will designate your site as secure, and this increased credibility will help drive traffic to your site. The increased traffic will then improve your SEO ranking, which will also help your business to grow.

Obtaining an SSL certificate is a win-win situation for both visitors to your site and your business.  Just make sure you remember to use an SSL monitoring service to alert you when your SSL certificate is due to renew.

Large Adverts Slow Websites

Over 40% of Online Advertisements are Too Large and Slow Down Websites

According to a report by Ad Lightning, a digital advertising analysis firm, over 40% of online advertisements exceed industry standards, which frustrate visitors to websites with slow-loading pages.

Large ads have been a major issue with online publishers who have been struggling with how to curtail what many call “fat ads.” The oversized ads have a major impact on the ability of website visitors to see them as they can’t view them if they don’t load properly.

Business Insider and other online advertising publishers have been notifying advertisers that they cannot guarantee that viewers will be able to see ads that exceed the limits of the advertising industry’s guidelines.

Business Insider Chief Revenue Officer Pete Spande said: “If something is a ten-times-larger file size and takes ten seconds to load, viewability is a very difficult thing to expect when something is so far out of spec.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has set a maximum threshold of 300KB for online display ads. However, Ad Lightning’s report indicated that 41% of the ads that they evaluated on thousands of sites exceeded that threshold.

Almost 10% of the online display ads were larger than 5MB. To put that in perspective, that represents the word count of Shakespeare’s collected works, and advertisements that large often load slowly or not at all.

Business Insider is one of many publishers that have been criticising advertisers for creating ads that they stuff with animation and other data-intensive media. “Lighter ads with less animation just perform better. It’s not just about viewability,” Spande said.

Websites also load faster with smaller ads. Page loading speed has become a critical factor for user experience as more visitors tend to leave a site without engaging if a site does not load quickly.

Facebook and Google have been instrumental in advocating for faster page loading times as they have seen how quickly visitors leave a site with poor performance. Facebook has been encouraging publishers to post articles directly to its platform to keep people on their business social pages, and Google has recently begun to give a higher ranking in search results to sites that load quickly.

“Consumers experience these issues in ways that reflect on the publisher much more than the advertiser,” Ad Lightning said in its report. “On average, advertising doubles the amount of time it takes to load a webpage. Offending ad quality issues often delay page loads significantly longer.”

Ad Lightning also found that advertising networks with large ads were slow in delivering ads to websites because of the number of requests required. Every online display ad goes into an auction with advertising networks that then place bids, which are called requests. Codes placed within the ads then track how well the ads perform regarding response rates and other analytical reports.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has set a guideline of a maximum of 15 network requests. However, the report found that the current average is about 60 requests.

Newspaper Websites Slow to Load

Largest Newspapers Worldwide Hurt by Slow Loading Time on Mobile Devices

You would think that the largest news sites would perform exceptionally well on mobile devices, but this is not true in most cases. According to a study conducted by mobile industry intelligence firm DeviceAtlas, the average time that it takes a major newspaper site to load is about 10.5 seconds, with the worst-performing sites taking from 19 to 22 seconds. This poor performance is very costly for the newspapers, as Google estimates that 53% of mobile device users only wait three seconds before abandoning a website that doesn’t load.

To conduct its performance test, DeviceAtlas used a Chrome plug-in to simulate a Nexus 5X smartphone, a mid-range device that was released two years ago, with a connectivity limit of 1.5 Mb/s. DeviceAtlas also used a proprietary tool that visualises a website and measures website page weight over low-end, mid-end and high-end mobile devices.

For its test, DeviceAtlas chose 50 daily newspaper websites from around the world from 18 countries, including Australia, Austria, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the US. DeviceAtlas chose the individual newspapers to include in the study based on their circulation figures.

The key results of the performance tests are as follows:

  • The average load time on mobile devices for all tested websites was 10.5 seconds.
  • The average page size on mobile devices was 1.35MB.
  • Of all countries tested, India experienced the fastest average load time at 7.7 seconds.
  • URL redirection was employed by 30% of the websites overall and by all Indian websites.
  • It cost $0.39 (£0.30) for a user in the US to access wsj.com based on average prices of mobile data plans.

To keep things in perspective, a study by Google found that about 53% of visitors to websites will abandon them if it takes more than three seconds for them to load completely. Most of the newspaper websites tested exceeded that time, leading to increased bounce rates and fewer pages viewed on mobile devices. DeviceAtlas noted that most mobile users read news content on the go with less than an ideal connection speed, making the test standard of 1.5 Mb/s realistic.

DeviceAtlas found some interesting differences in load times between countries and regions. Indian newspaper websites had an average load time of 7.7 seconds, which was significantly better than for Spain (12.8 seconds), France (11.4 seconds) and the US (10.4 seconds). Every Indian newspaper website used some type of mobile URL redirection, which indicated that these sites had been optimised for mobile devices.

According to DeviceAtlas, the mobile market in India consists of mostly low-range and mid-range mobile phones. The top five mobile phones used in India included the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, J7 Duo and Samsung Galaxy J2, none of which are high-end phones. Also, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, about 44% of internet users in India only use mobile devices to connect.

The report also showed that mobile users incurred significant costs to access the largest and slowest newspaper websites. The highest cost was $0.69 (£0.54) for a user in Canada to access latribune.fr. The main point from this finding is that it will cost you more to access a newspaper website that has not been optimised for mobile use.

Keeping Your Website Fresh & Updated

Making Sure Your Website Is Always Updated

Congratulations. You’ve designed your website, and it’s now live, giving you a very powerful marketing mechanism to promote your business. However, your website will only be useful if you keep the content current. Keeping your website up to date is called website maintenance, and it’s vital to provide both your customers and search engines with new content. Think of maintaining your website the same way that you think about maintaining your car – you must check it on a regular basis to make sure that it’s running smoothly.

When you update your website’s content regularly, current and potential customers are more likely to visit your site again to see if you have anything new to offer. Also, search engines regularly visit your site, and if they find your content unchanged after visiting it many times, they are likely to downgrade your rank in search engine queries.

When should you update your website? You certainly don’t want to spend money and effort to make changes that don’t add any real value to your site. Here are some good reasons to do so:

  • Update your site when you receive new licensing, accreditation, add significant new capabilities, or make any changes or additions to key personnel.
  • Update whenever you add a new product line, change prices or begin to provide new services.
  • If you have just completed a new project, include a description of it on your website. Also, update when you receive any significant new testimonials from your customers. You should ask you customers for reviews after you complete a project or sale and post them on your website, as these present a positive image to potential new customers.
  • Add fresh content to your blog on a regular basis. Visitors are more likely to return if you continually add interesting content, and search engines will also rank your site higher.
  • If you’ve issued a press release, be sure also to include a copy on your site.
  • Update your copyright statement annually.
  • Test and validate any links on your site on a regular basis to be sure that they direct properly.
  • Update your “About” page to keep any dates and timeline references current.
  • Update your homepage to highlight any changes that you make on your site to make it easier for visitors to find them.

These are all excellent reasons to update your website. When you make maintaining your website a top priority, your reward will be higher search engine rankings and increased sales. After you have decided to update your website, your next choice is how to make those changes. There are two steps required to maintain your site.

First, you need to do a preliminary edit of your website offline. You can do this easily by copying and pasting the material that you wish to change into a word-processing program and make the desired changes.

Then, you have to decide whether you wish to make the changes online yourself or hire a professional web designer to make them. If you are computer savvy and you only wish to make changes in text, there are several software programs available that you can use. If you are planning to make more complicated changes, hiring a professional could save you a lot of time and frustration.

Avoiding a Website Crash - Virigin Money

Avoiding a Website Crash – Virgin Money Giving Runs into Trouble

 

Virgin Money Giving experienced a website crash during the London Marathon, and that crash was both embarrassing and costly. In the short term, the crash prevented people from providing support to the marathon participants promptly. In the long term, Virgin has taken a hit in brand reputation that may take a while to recover from.

Of course, Virgin is not the only organisation to fall victim to website crashes or slowdown. During Black Friday last year, many large online retailers suffered the same fate. Even a degradation in site loading time can have detrimental effects as serious as a website crash. Customers will abandon a site that is slow to load and take their business elsewhere, and search engines will downgrade the ranking of sites that have a track record of frequent crashes or slow loading time.

You need to be proactive to keep your site up and running. Here are four steps that you should take:

1.  Plan for the worst-case scenario

Most businesses know when they will experience peak traffic based on previous experience. If you are on online retailer, you know what volume you experienced on previous peak days such as Black Friday, and this should be your starting point for planning for how much traffic your site should be capable of handling to allow for a major spike in traffic.

2.  Identify potential bottlenecks

One you determine the peak traffic flow that you wish to accommodate, identify any bottlenecks on your website that might prevent you from handling it. Then, load test each to see if any of them fail, and make appropriate changes to eliminate those bottlenecks. Be sure to do this well in advance of when you expect your peak traffic to hit.

 3.  Conduct a final check

After evaluating the individual potential bottlenecks, conduct a complete load and stress test on your site and apps using the maximum anticipated amount of traffic plus an additional amount of traffic to give you a margin of safety. A complete professional load test will simulate peak traffic amounts easily and quickly and will show you exactly what failed if your site does not pass the test. Once your site passes the final check, you can be confident that your site is ready.

 4.  Have a backup plan

Sometimes, circumstances beyond your control can thwart even the most comprehensive plan, and your site will still crash. Therefore, it’s best to have a plan to help mitigate the damage if your site does go down. Consider using a website monitoring service so that you will know promptly if your site does crash. Prepare a communications plan so that you can inform your visitors and customers why your site went down, what steps you are taking to get the site back online, and how long you expect it will take for you to resume normal operations.

When your website goes down, it’s the equivalent of a brick-and-mortar store locking its front door. Taking steps to keep your website up and running during peak traffic flows is crucial in maintaining your reputation and keeping your customers from going elsewhere.

How to Avoid Domain Hijacking

How to Avoid Domain Hijacking

After you register the domain for your website, you might take pride in owning your company’s online address. However, from a legal standpoint, you don’t own it. While you can register it, thieves can hijack it from you. Domain hijacking does not receive a lot of attention, but it is a real threat. Domain hijacking is also very frustrating, as it is relatively easy for thieves to hijack a domain, and once they get control, it can be very difficult and expensive to regain it.

Domain hijackers take advantage of security weaknesses at your domain registrar, your email service or your own security practices. The technical details are quite lengthy, but basically, thieves get control of your domain by convincing your domain registrar that they are you. Then, the thieves transfer your domain to their own account, usually with a registrar located in a different country. Thieves hijack domains for several criminal reasons, but the usual motive is to take control of your domain and then sell the registration back to you.

Domain hijacking is very costly. According to Symantec, a US-based security software company, the annual cost to firms from domain hijacking is about $400 billion (£310 billion). Many high-profile domains have been hijacked in the past, including Google, Forbes, Twitter and the New York Times.

If thieves hijack your domain, recovering it can be very difficult. If you think that you have been the victim of domain hijacking, you should immediately notify your domain registrar. In some cases, your registrar can help you regain control of your domain if you can prove to their satisfaction that it has been hijacked. However, in many cases, the only recourse that you will have is a lengthy and costly litigation procedure to try to regain control.

Of course, the best way to deal with domain hijacking is not to have it happen in the first place. There are steps that you can take to minimise the risks:

  • Choose your registrar wisely. There are hundreds of domain registrars in existence, so be sure to conduct your due diligence to make sure that your domain registrar is reputable.
  • Keep your contact information current. Most registrars use email to keep in contact with their clients and to reset passwords, so be sure that your registrar has the correct email address for you.
  • Create a secure password. Weak passwords are one of the main reasons that domains get hijacked. Be sure to choose a password that is not easy to guess, and only provide access to the password to individuals in your company who absolutely require it.
  • Use a private personal identity. Thieves often do an internet search to find the contact information for domains, so consider registering your domain using the WHOIS Privacy Service, which will keep your contact information private.
  • Monitor your domain. Frequently check your domain for any unauthorised changes, and promptly notify your registrar if you notice anything unusual.
  • Lock your domain registration. Most registrars will allow you to lock your registration, which will prohibit a third party from transferring, modifying or deleting it.
  • Renew your domain on time. Be aware of the expiration date for your domain registration and renew it before it expires.

By taking these steps, you can help avoid the expense and hassle of attempting to recover a hijacked domain in the future.

Why Visitors to eCommerce Sites Don't Make Purchases

Why Visitors to e-Commerce Websites Don’t Make Purchases

There is a good reason why brick-and-mortar retailers spend a lot of time and effort on their counter displays and store windows. Their goal is to provide their customers with as much visual content as possible to entice them to buy their merchandise. The same principle holds true for online retailers. A recent study by international e-commerce consulting firm Episerver demonstrates just how important the content of a website is to convince visitors to become customers.

Episerver surveyed 1,112 consumers who had made an online purchase within the past year. The company found that 98% of the respondents had not made a purchase on at least one of the sites they visited due to incomplete or incorrect content. When aggregated across all sites visited, a percentage breakdown of the specific reasons for not making a purchase were price concerns (65%), difficult-to-navigate website (42%), found a product that better suited needs elsewhere (39%), difficult check-out process (34%), slow loading website (29%), incomplete content (21%), incorrect content (14%) and non-personalized shopping experience (4%).

Another problem noted by the study was inconsistent customer expectation based on website content, with 37% of the respondents stating they had received a product that looked different from the product they saw online. Also, 27% of the respondents said they had received a product that did not match the description on the website.

These inconsistent expectations also had a significant financial impact on the retailers, with 48% of the respondents saying they had returned a product that had not met their expectations. The study noted that returns cost retailers billions and that the amount is expected to increase as the volume of online sales continues to increase.

The study also found that 92% of the respondents visited a website for the first time for reasons other than to make a purchase. About 45% said that they visited a website to search for products and learn more about them, 26% visited to make a price comparison, and 11% were looking for more information about a retailer. Only 9% said they made their first visit to a website specifically to make a purchase.

The study concluded that online retailers needed to spend more time on concentrating on website content and the quality of the interactions consumers had with their site.

Commenting on the study, Ed Kennedy, Episerver’s senior director of commerce, said: “Our study shows consumers really care about content when shopping online, not only the quality and accuracy, but also how it’s delivered to them. Complete and accurate content is now table stakes, and brands looking to go above and beyond must consider personalization.

“What shoppers see on a website or mobile app, and how it is delivered to them, can make or break their final decision to make a purchase. Consumers expect the content they’re shown to be relevant, accurate and, increasingly, customized to their preferences and location. To compete in 2017, strong content is no longer negotiable.”

Websites of 40% of UK e-commerce firms experience downtime during seasonal traffic peaks

Websites of 40% of UK e-Commerce Firms Experience Downtime During Seasonal Traffic Peaks

According to a recent report by international data services provider Cogeco Peer 1, about 40% of major UK e-commerce firms experience periods of website downtime during seasonal traffic peaks. The findings come from a survey of over 100 e-commerce decision-makers at major UK online retailers.

The survey also found that 48% of the respondents thought that their companies were not completely prepared for increased website traffic during peak selling seasons, while 56% noted that their website experienced slower loading speeds during seasonal peaks in 2016 and 2017.

Commenting on the survey, Cogeco Peer 1 Vice President and General Manager, EMEA Susan Bowen said: “Retailers and brands are facing considerable challenges when selling online: from how to compete with the likes of Amazon and how social media is transforming shopping; to harnessing the power of automation and maintaining a uniform, effective online presence 24/7. The figures in the study highlight the need for UK retailers to act if they are to take full advantage of the revenue opportunities available during seasonal peak spending periods.

“Tech is an underpinning element to the success of all online retail brands today. Deciding when to make an upgrade is critical. Struggles during Easter can be a powerful indicator that this technology is creaking under the strain and holding retailers back during the biggest spending weekends of the year. It’s a tough question, but retailers all over the country need to ask themselves now, whether the tech infrastructure they are using is fit for purpose and whether it can support them through 2017’s seasonal shopping peaks.

“Brands can be as creative as they like with advertising and social media communications, but without a tech infrastructure that can meet the most strenuous demands of today’s online consumers, UK e-commerce brands will continue to miss out on these vital revenue streams.”

The results of the survey confirm the need for online retailers to ensure that their websites can handle increased traffic as more customers turn to purchasing items online rather than at physical stores. A study conducted by PwC and Local Data Company last year found that in the first half of 2016, over 2,600 brick-and-mortar stores on the UK’s high streets ceased operations. The closure rate averaged 15 retail outlets each day, which was an increase from 14 outlets per day recorded in the same time frame in 2015. The biggest net decrease in retail outlets in the country occurred in Greater London, where 164 stores closed their doors. This trend emphasises that retailers must take steps to maximise their revenue during peak online selling times, such as Cyber Weekend.

Peak online sales periods, such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Boxing Day and Easter, added over £7 billion in sales to the UK economy in 2016. These peak periods represent a large percentage of annual revenue for e-commerce firms, so maximising their revenue during these periods can often make the difference between having a profitable year and experiencing a loss.