The Importance of a Mobile-Responsive Site in 2016

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We’re closer to 2017 than 2015 right now, and at this point, it’s almost a certainty that you know your website needs to be mobile-responsive. If you’ve never heard the term before or simply haven’t had the chance to update your site since this quality became essential about three years ago, this article is for you.

What is a mobile-responsive site? Simply put, it’s a website that looks great and functions well on any device — no matter if you’re viewing it on a large computer monitor, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or an iPhone 4.

Why is having a mobile-responsive site absolutely vital to online success? Read on to make sure your business is prepared for mobile searches.

The Google Change that Sparked a Trend

Back on April 21, 2015, Google released an update to the way they generated results for search queries, giving heavy preference to mobile-friendly sites and penalizing those which did not have a responsive website. This update had such significant impact on search engine rankings that it has been referred to as “Mobilegeddon” and “Mobilepocalypse.”

Even if you don’t get the majority of your traffic from “organic” rankings (non-paid results from Google or another search engine) and you’re not worried about losing traffic from search engines, you’ll still want to ensure your site meets current standards.

The number of people utilizing mobile devices for search has climbing for several years now, and in the last year and a half, it finally beat out desktop traffic. It was predicted to surge to at least 50% of all web traffic in 2016, and as of this February, it was already up to a whopping 56% of all traffic.

Ensuring your users have a great experience on your site is easy — just make sure your site is responsive so they don’t have to utilize the cumbersome navigation techniques that were required a couple of years ago. Remember “pinch and zoom” — the way you used to have to navigate your way around a web page?

Does My Site Pass the Test?

It’s pretty easy to test out if your site is mobile-responsive — just pull it up on your cell phone and take a look around!

  • Is it sized for your mobile device (the particular phone or tablet you’re using)? Do you have to scroll left or right to view the whole site or must you pinch to zoom? Or is the site easily visible on your phone or tablet?

One site that’s nailed this aspect of responsive design is Swiss hotel Badrutt’s Palace: http://www.badruttspalace.com/

  • Does it have a mobile menu — a menu that drops down, with plenty of space between each button, rather than making you try to click a link that is too close to others?

Responsive Website Responsive-Sites-Img-1
A great example of a mobile-friendly menu can be found on https://molekule.com/

If you don’t have your phone to hand, you can also pull up your site on your computer and follow these quick steps:

    1. If the browser (internet) window is in full-screen mode, click the middle of the three sizing buttons (between “close” and “minimize”) on a pc, or click the far right of the three sizing buttons on a Mac to make it smaller than full screen.

 

  1. Drag the edge of the browser window to one side, making the window smaller. As this window gets smaller and smaller, a mobile-responsive site will adapt and change to fit the size of the window, whereas a non-responsive site will not.A non-mobile site will simply begin cutting off once the window becomes smaller than the full site, and you’ll have to scroll left or right to view the entire site.At the beginning of the mobile craze, many businesses simply built two sites — one for computers and one for mobile devices. If the smaller version of the site you’re seeing is quite (or completely) different than the desktop version (what you see on the full-size computer screen), it’s mobile-friendly, just not mobile-responsive.Having a mobile-friendly site is extremely important but it’s usually not enough anymore. Google prefers sites that are fully mobile-responsive. That means that they were built with responsive web design so that the overall design of the site stays the same, no matter what your device or screen size, but the site smoothly adapts to fit your screen size.

    Here’s the final step you can do to tell if your site is mobile-friendly or fully mobile-responsive:

  2. Leaving this first window open, open a second, full-screen window with your site on it. Compare the two versions — the smaller, mobile-sized window and the full-screen window — and determine whether or not they are the same site, sized accordingly, or two separate sites.If you are seeing two different sites, it’s time to get a mobile-responsive site. If you’re unhappy with your site’s design, whether on desktop or mobile, we can help you, too. Call Visual Edge Design for the fresh design you’re looking for.

Keeping Up with Google: More About Mobile

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Please tell me that you updated your website to be mobile-friendly in time for Google’s change on April 21st… you did, didn’t you?

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll assume that you didn’t – and I better explain what I’m talking about.

Most people with websites know that they have to be built so that they give Google what it needs to know to offer their sites properly in Search Engine Result Pages (called SERPs). This is the list of pages provided after you’ve typed an inquiry into the search box and hit Return or Enter.

There are many technical details included in any website, out of sight of the general public, that permit Google to get the information it needs to properly index your website. If you have a hair salon, your ideal is to appear high in the search result for salons – not hairdressing supply stores, hair replacement or any other category.

With the new requirement to be mobile-friendly, Google is acknowledging the fact that a growing proportion of searches are made on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, it was in 2014 that the number of mobile searches began to exceed those from desktops.

To give you an idea of the power of Google, right now, around the world, Google processes more than 100 BILLION searches each MONTH. Google is offering search results in 40 languages and this number keeps growing. So satisfying Google’s needs is definitely part of the game of having a successful website.

What Should Your New Mobile-Friendly Website Look Like?

So what does any website need to offer to comply with Google’s new rules?

  • The type should be large enough to be readable when viewed when the page first opens on a mobile device. If your site it not yet converted, your type may appear quite small until a person uses the pinch function to make the page larger. That was good enough for 2014 but not for 2015.
  • Links must be far enough apart that a person can hit the right link on the first try while viewing your website on a smartphone. If your site has not yet been converted to mobile-friendliness, it is probably hard for your customers to tap the link they want.
  • It does not use any software that is normally not available on a smartphone, like Flash. Flash is special software offered by Adobe that offers self-running animations used on the opening pages of high-end websites. While it’s an attractive feature, Flash animations may soon become a thing of the past. Flash has proven to provide opportunities for hackers to infect people’s systems with destructive software. In fact, Flash has just been banned from the widely-used browser Firefox meaning that websites that use Flash will not work on Firefox.
  • When your website opens, it should automatically be sized so that no one needs to scroll to the left or right.

In the first days of smartphones and smaller tablets, none of these features were required by Google. But the one thing that Google is known for is constantly (as in never, ever stopping for a moment) striving to offer a better browsing experience.

If you want to see some excellent mobile sites, here’s a few that recently won the Webby Awards, the highest honor a website can receive. Take a look (using your smartphone, of course) and compare it to your website to see how yours measures up.

  1. houzz.com. This home design site quickly sorts you into the right category – looking for home designs? A professional to help you? Want to buy stuff? Or just look at pretty pictures? Clean, easy to read, big links. Just right.
  2. marshallheadphones.com. Highly legible, offers you their top products right off the bat. Simple, nothing to distract you.
  3. virginamerica.com. This airline website wastes no time in asking you how many people are traveling and where you want to go. They specifically rebuilt their website – even the mobile version – to enable people to book their tickets in half the time of a typical airline site.

If you have not updated your site, you are currently being penalized by Google which means your site appears farther down in those SERPs we were talking about. To keep your name in front of people who might be looking for your products, call Visual Edge Design and get them on the job of making your site mobile-friendly!

Google Shifts Online Community to Mobile-Friendly Search Results

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When Google sneezes, the entire worldwide online community says, “Bless you.”

That’s another way of saying that many businesses live and die by their rankings in Google search results. So if Google makes a change in the way they index websites and offers search results, smart webmasters everywhere are quick to catch up. Very often, this has meant many webmasters putting their heads together to decipher the changes that must have been made. That’s because Google often makes these changes without prior announcement – sometimes without any announcement at all.

This time, however, it was different. Google announced a major change months ahead of time. Back in February, Google staff announced that as of the 21st of April, sites would need to be mobile-friendly to compete for top search result placement.

That announcement on the Google Webmaster blog stated:

“We’ve made it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages and we’ve introduced App Indexing to surface useful content from apps.” What does this mean, exactly?

1. As of April 21st, websites configured to display well on smartphones or tablets as well as desktops and laptops will have an advantage. Google wants to serve up results with a good appearance and functionality on all devices so obsolete sites will start to rank lower in mobile search results. (Desktop search results will not change.)

2. Google will also offer search results obtained from “relevant apps.” We’ll explain what that means.

Google scans websites for specific information that tells them what that website is about. Some websites also double as applications that people can use to help them get information, take action or make choices and they may sign into these apps as needed. These website/apps include Pinterest, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, Etsy, Walmart, Yelp, Zillow, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Autotrader or ABC News. Until now, these apps were not scanned to include their information in mobile search results. Now, information from these sites will be given preference over sites that have not been updated to perform as well on a mobile platform.

We’ll give you an example to show you how this will work. Suppose a person has the app TripAdvisor installed on his smartphone and he performs a Google search for restaurants in San Francisco. Among his search results could be a few listings from TripAdvisor. If he clicks on one, he won’t be taken to the restaurant’s site, he’ll be taken to the mobile-friendly Trip Advisor app where he can read reviews for that restaurant.

Google always has its eye on the future. Phones are mutating into slim portable computers, which means that an increasing number of people do their searches on their phones. In fact, in 2014, MORE people are doing mobile searches than desktop searches. Google’s mission is to provide quality relevant content – and now, being mobile-friendly is an essential part of that quality.

Check out this graph to see why this is such an important issue for Google.

CaptureGraphBlog

The days of throwing up some interesting content and some attractive images and expecting them to draw business are long gone – if they ever existed at all. If a website is part of a company’s success, that site must keep pace with the changes the online world goes through. For a website to consistently rank high in Google’s search results, it must be continually updated in appearance and functionality.

This is no small task. Pages must be designed to load quickly on a mobile device. A mobile site must emphasize the functionality that your customers will want on the fly. For example, if your customers will search for products on your site, the search function will probably need to be redesigned to enable easier use on a smartphone. The same with a purchasing function. What you’re looking for is conversions – that’s when visitors to your site “convert” into buyers, subscribers, fans or whatever it is you want them to do. That conversion process looks and acts different on a mobile device and your site must accommodate these roaming visitors.

If you haven’t already done it, you should have your website maintenance company convert your site to a mobile-friendly structure and thoroughly test it for any errors. Google has provided the tools for analysis and guidelines for conversion. If you haven’t tended to this task yet, call Visual Edge Design today to get started.

Graph from http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/

Greater Mobility Means Your Clients Could be Looking at Your Website From Anywhere in Town

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The big news of the moment is the increase in internet use on mobile devices. In 2014, the number of mobile users finally matched the number of desktop users and in 2015, it’s expected to keep climbing steeply. The number of desktop users is only expected to make minor growth in 2015.

In 2014, both these numbers were at roughly 1.6 BILLION users. This is a dramatic change from 2007 when desktop users numbered about 1.1 billion and mobile hovered around 400 million.

So what does this mean to you? It means that location is more important than ever. Not only should potential customers be able to easily locate your business in their geographic area, it becomes even more important if you think of all those mobile people looking for your business while they are away from home. This indicates a need for a special kind of optimization for your existing website.

Research indicates that between 80% and 90% of consumers search the internet before making a purchase. Some of these people will be making these searches while they are sitting in their car, trying to figure out the best place to go get their (haircut, new shoes, dog grooming, car repair, insurance, lawnmower, etc.). Your website not only should show up high in the search results for your category, it should show up even higher in the search results for the area they are in.

A few years ago, did you ever try searching for a local business like a florist or hardware store? You wanted to find a place you could walk into right then and walk out with the bouquet you needed in your hand. Until about two years ago, the top listings in the search results were always national companies. They had the money to invest to beat out smaller local companies. Google realized that people need to find businesses close to them much of the time and changed the way they provided search results. Now, if you search for a florist in Clearwater, Florida, your top search results will actually be local businesses. That’s because Google realizes those are the most relevant search results for most people making that type of search.

So if you have multiple locations for your business, you need to be highly accessible to people searching for vendors in every one of those locations. Say you own a string of auto repair shops located along Route 66. You’ll need to have specialized websites that show up well in the search results for folks in Flagstaff, St. Louis, Amarillo and Tucumcari. What’s more, those websites also need to be designed to show up well on mobile.

So when Jason is sitting in his car on the shoulder of Route 66, trying to figure out where to get a new battery for his car because it just barely started the last time, the website for your auto repair shop should be the first thing he sees on his smartphone when he does a desperate search looking for immediate help.

We can help you keep up with the demands for accurate local search and mobile both. This industry is changing fast and to keep on top, you need to update your site regularly. Just call us for a review of your current site and we’ll let you know what we can do for you to keep you #1.

Using Facebook to Promote Your Business

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In the US, if an adult is online at all, there’s a very good chance he or she is on Facebook. Seventy-one percent of these online adults include Facebook in their social media activity. Of course, some are far more active than others. More than 120 million people in the US are on Facebook every day and 179 million visit once a month or more. The number of people accessing Facebook via smartphone is growing fast, too. Now, more than 140 million people access Facebook at least once a month via their phones.

Pretty much every business should have a Facebook presence. It’s really not difficult but of course, to get anything out of it, you have to be smart about it and you have to be consistent.

The first thing you need to do is to create a Facebook Page for your business. This is formatted differently than your personal Profile page. Some of the functionality is different and there are some great services added to these pages that help you maximize the benefit of your time spent maintaining this Page.

If you have not done so yet, create a Facebook Page. Add a picture of the building your business is in, if applicable, to the banner across the top of the page. In the small profile image space, post an image of yourself or your staff.

It’s important to make your Page as complete as possible. So fill in the About page as fully as the questions apply to your business.

Some people create a banner for the top of the page that includes both images and their phone number. Don’t make it a flagrant advertisement. Remember that the purpose of Facebook is engagement and interaction. You’re going to invite people to enjoy your online presence, not hard sell them.

For many companies, what comes next is a lot harder than getting the page all set up. You’re going to need to engage people’s interest in order to attract their business. Facebook is all about building an awareness of your business. When you do this skillfully, you bring viewers into a relationship with your business that can result in them walking in the door or visiting your website to learn more about your products or make purchases.

If you’ve ever spent any time on Facebook, then you know that plenty of people are running ads. You can certainly do this but you can also build up a lot of recognition for your company by interacting with potential customers on Facebook.

You’ll need to get a lot of people to Like your Page. If you have a Profile, log in as yourself and then search within Facebook for your new business Page. On the left side of the page, there should be a feature near the top that shows who has Liked your Page. There will be a small link under it that says “Invite your friends to like this page.” Your Facebook friends will be available through this link. Go through all your friends and family and invite them all to Like your business Page. Then get a couple of family and close friends to do the same (preferably people with large friend lists) and you will have a good start.

Once you have a following, build greater awareness of your company, its products or services and your philosophy of business (quality, customer service, etc.) by posting regularly. Focus on creating engaging content that would be of interest to anyone who might become a client or customer. Post testimonials from current customers, images of new products, notifications on sales or special offers and helpful information to help people understand how your products can improve their lives. And don’t just talk about what you sell. You can get very popular by frequently adding information about your field. If you’re a car repair shop, post notices about a new speedway opening or recalls from major manufacturers. Remind people how and when to winterize their cars. If you have a hair salon, post images of celebrities with trendy new hairstyles or tips on how to keep one’s hair from being damaged by sun or winter cold.

Just think of that friend you have who always knows the latest news and fills you in. He doesn’t push the information on you, just offers it. And it’s always interesting. Model your comments after someone like this.

Managing a Facebook page and advertising is an extensive subject that we don’t have the room to cover here! There are many books written to help a businessperson get up to speed and Facebook itself has many tutorials. If you’re going to get started, just focus on spreading good news and generating a greater awareness of your products and services and that will be a good start.

The Google-Mandated Migration to HTTPS: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

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Most people know that Google is the biggest search engine in the world. More people use Google to locate the data they want than any other browser – by far! What this means, then, is that businesses are dependent on the way Google offers search results. When Google shifts the way their programming selects and offers results – called their algorithm – businesses had better pay attention and keep up with those changes. They risk falling in the search results if they don’t. 

To give you a little background before I explain what HTTPS is, in the past four years or so, Google has made a number of significant changes. Sometimes they explain what has changed and sometimes they don’t.

You may or may not know that you can use a service called Google Analytics to watch how many people visit your site, how many pages they visit, which pages perform better than others and similar data. When Google makes these shifts, you can very quickly see if your site is performing better or worse.

Here’s an example of how Google’s modifications can change a company’s result. In August 2013, a site I’ve been working with saw its results decline severely. We all studied the changes and made some changes and the site began to climb slowly. In May of this year, Google made another change and the company saw the number of visitors to the site jump up considerably, back to the prior year’s level.

Now, Google is encouraging all site owners to switch to a different website technology – HTTPS. As motivation for this change, sites that use this more secure system will rank higher in the search results that Google offers up.

HTTP refers to the language used for building websites. It’s this language that enables you to place live links on your web pages that carry you instantly to a new page. When you add the S to HTTP, this refers to Secure Socket Layer, an encryption process. When you send information across the internet on an HTTPS site, your data is encrypted and is unavailable to whoever might be snagging information from this traffic. If you have an HTTP site, the data is freely available to anyone who can trap these bits of data.

Shopping and banking sites are normally HTTPS. You might be browsing on HTTP pages and then when you go to buy something, that new page is HTTPS.

To see this in action, go to Amazon.com. Find a book you might like to buy. The address at the top of the browser window will start with “www.amazon.com.” Add the book to your shopping cart and then move on to checkout. Now the web address starts with HTTPS.

So shopping carts and confidential reports to government or law enforcement agencies (for example) use this more secure foundation for their sites. Google wants ALL sites to shift over to this system.

When preparing your site for this change, your content and design remain exactly the same. Some of the settings of your site will change and you’ll need the the service of a company that offers this security protocol. The good news is that we can handle this for you. All you need to do is tell us that you’re ready for this shift.

Remember, this change should make your site rise in the Google rankings and that is valuable. A better position in Google search result enables you to put more dollars in your pocket. And your customers who know about the increased security offered by HTTPS know you are offering them a more secure browsing experience. In these days of hacked websites, that’s valuable.

By making this change now, you will have an advantage that millions of other sites do not yet have. Call us any time and we’ll let you know exactly what will be involved in updating your site to HTTPS.