Monday, March 20, 2017

Frames

Much like Gertrude Stein’s painter, web designers have hopes for their framed web designs but are very often disappointed. This is because framed websites do not fit the conceptual model of the web where every page corresponds to a single URL. Consequently designers must use a variety of tricks to overcome the disadvantages and if you miss a trick there can be unpleasant results.

Designers’ intent on using frames may use the NOFRAMES element which can be used to provide alternative content. However not the useless alternative content provided by so many designers such as “This site requires the use of frames” or “Your browser does not support Frames” which is a great way to prevent your website being found on a search engine. The correct use of NOFRAMES is described in the W3C document Frames in HTML documents.

Apart from having to provide alternative content the other major problem is what happens if a search engine query matches an individual frame on a page? The search engine simply returns the URL for that frame and if a user clicks the link then the page will not be displayed in a frame because there will be no frame set corresponding to that URL. Designers get round this by detecting when a content page is trying to display outside its frameset and redirecting to either the home page or to a framed page that loads the orphan into an alternative frameset. If you really want to know how to do this you can read a description of the technique using JavaScript in Give orphan pages a home.

Also framed sites have a problem with obtaining inbound links because it is not easy for someone to link to one of the content pages. Either they must link to the home page and give directions to the page they want to point to or they must bypass the frame arrangement. If it’s not easy to link then only the very determined will be prepared to go to the trouble of doing so.

If you want the framed look but don’t want the problems you can achieve it through cascading style sheets. Stu Nicholls has an excellent example on his website CSS Play (and there are lots of other interesting experiments with cascading style sheets on Stu’s site).

The bottom line is this, if your web designer uses Frames seek a better and more experienced designer and if you find Framed sites attractive in spite of the problems ask yourself why your competitors do not use them.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Flash

Triumph and dismay are two feelings Flash designers know well. The triumph comes with mastering a rich diversity of features in a difficult technology and producing a visually appealing result. The dismay comes when the SEO wants to remove the Flash components from the website they have just designed!

Initially a simple tool for delivering low bandwidth animations over the Web Flash has evolved into a platform for delivering complex applications and rich media content. Now Flash is able to deliver far more than animations or short video clips.

Flash has become the delivery mechanism of choice for educational and complex business applications. Universities use Flash to great effect for delivering entire lectures with quizzes and assessments in real-time. In commerce Flash is used for everything from cattle auctions to virtual laboratory experiments.

However its use on websites has declined and there are two reasons for this. Firstly every usability study ever done shows that web surfers dislike Flash intensely, particularly Flash intros. Secondly Flash is a visual experience and search engine robots are blind, which means the SEO of Flash sites is problematical. Sites designed around Flash or with Flash intros and Flash navigation are often developed at the request of clients who do not know any better and the developers have not sought to educate them.

Take for example the following site that is completely built in Flash. Although there are several pages of information, because the navigation and the content are all in Flash the search engines are only aware of one page. Here it is in a reduced size window.

This site cannot even be found for the organization’s name and might just as well not exist. Flash enthusiasts might claim that this is just a poor implementation and that it is possible to optimize Flash sites. It is true that there are a variety of methods used to optimize Flash sites and these include placing the Flash inside invisible framesets or using invisible layers in Cascading CSS to present content to the search engines. Macromedia even have Search Engine SDK but in reality none of these methods is entirely effective. Sometimes you will even see a Flash site duplicated with an HTML version for the search engines but the bottom line is, why bother with the Flash site at all if users don’t like them.

However although this may be (or maybe not) effective as a product demo it does nothing for the search engines. If used it should be placed on a normally optimized page and not considered as a replacement for text. Even then whether something like this is worth spending time and money on is a mute point.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sitemaps

Sitemaps can be of two kinds; a page or pages on your site that lists the pages on your website, often hierarchically organized or ‘Google Sitemaps’ which is a process that allows site owners to submit urls of pages they would like to have included in Google’s index. The two kinds of sitemap serve slightly different purposes, both important.

A conventional sitemap is designed to help the human visitor if they can’t find what they are looking for and also to ensure that Googlebot (Google’s Web Crawler) finds the important pages of your site. A well executed example of this kind of sitemap is Apple’s sitemap. From the optimization point of view a page like this presents an opportunity to link to your own pages with appropriate anchor text (see the last paragraph of Internal Links). If you have more than a few pages on your site then a sitemap can only be advantageous.

Google Sitemaps however is a solution to a problem that Google has with crawling the entire web. Googlebot spends a lot of time and resources fetching pages that have not changed since it last looked at them. Crawling billions of pages to find that the majority are the same as last time is not very efficient and Google Sitemaps has been designed to improve the process. The idea is that site owners submit a sitemap to Google and next time Googlebot visits their site it knows where to go and look for changed or new pages.

If site owners use Google Sitemaps it will reduce their machine time and reduce their bandwidth i.e. it saves them money. Also site owners get their new content indexed quicker and a reduced load on their servers by Googlebot not fetching unchanged pages. Google have provided a sitemap protocol and an automated process for the whole procedure.

Google Sitemaps does not replace the established Googlebot crawling procedure and should be used to solve specific problems, such as:

  • If you need to reduce the bandwidth taken by Googlebot.
  • If your site has (accessible) pages that are not crawled.
  • If you generate a lot of new pages and want them crawled quickly.
  • If you have two or more pages listed for the same search you can use page priority to list the better one.
  • Google have an extensive help and explanation of the procedure at About Google Sitemaps.

August 5, 2015

Google has renamed Google Sitemaps to Google Webmaster Tools under the new heading of Webmaster Central.

April 15, 2016

Google, MSN, Yahoo and ASK have recently announced support for sitemap auto-discovery via the robots.txt file and have agreed on a standard sitemaps protocol.

By adding the following line of code to your robots.txt file the search engines will now auto-discover your sitemap file.

Sitemap: http://ift.tt/XxxkvM

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why Local Search is Important for Your Business

As much talk as there is about Internet Marketing breaking down boundaries and flattening the world, most commerce is still defined by physical space. For instance, consumers are still going to search for businesses in their area. Because of this, the importance of Local search cannot be overstated.

Local search sites are supported by advertising from businesses that wish to be featured when users search for specific products and services in specific locations. For example, if you live in New York City and you search for “lower west side Manhattan bakery” you are going to get the top Local searches. Local search advertising can be highly effective because it allows ads to be targeted very precisely to the search terms and location provided by the user.

Optimizing your Local Internet Marketing has existed for a long time. 20 or 30 years ago, it was done by businesses putting out adverts in the Local publications. Now consumers search online. And the power of Local searching is only getting bigger, as more and more people search for products or businesses on their smartphones. (Someone looking for a nearby restaurant on his/her iPhone, for instance.) So the idea of the Local search hasn’t changed, just the medium has. Social media marketing demands your business change its approach, too.
One out of five searches on Google is related to location. So make sure your business has optimized content on its site in order to have a high ranking for Local search results.

Here are some benefits of high ranking in Local search.

  • Less competition for your keyword.
  • You’re narrowing your search to your specific location, so you are no longer competing with others around the world. This gives you a chance to shine and better chance to rank.
  • Popularity of Local search is increasing.

We mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Much of the future of consumer browsing will be done on smartphones. In the age of smartphone apps, you want to make sure that your site is optimized for Local search. If someone is on his/her car and is looking for your services, you need to make sure they don’t drive an extra 10 miles to go to your competitor when he/she could have found you.

Targeted traffic means increased conversion rates.

By consumers narrowing down their search and finding your site, the conversion rates naturally become higher. Now, here are the key things to remember about Local search.

Keywords and Location

One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make it not choosing the right keywords. Use the Google Keywords Tool to look up what keywords people are using for your service.

Title Tags

Be sure your most important keywords are at the beginning of your title tag, and that it includes your targeted location keywords.

Header Tags

They have a lot of impact on SEO.

Internal Linking/Inbound Linking

Internal linking allows both consumers and search engine robots to navigate through your site’s pages smoothly and logically. Inner linking allows the robots to find your most important pages faster besides only relying on the sitemap. Inbound links are basically other sites pointing to your site as a reference. Inbound linking allows the search engines to evaluate how popular and how important your website is.

Sitemap/Robots.txt

Always be sure that you have a proper Sitemaps and Robots.txt set up on your site. This is strictly for the search engine robots to completely understand the structures of your site and any restrictions or directions you have for it.

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Blogging for SEO

One of the pillars of Search Engine Optimization is content generation. It’s a simple formula, really. Your site must produce fresh, unique content. This is what the search engines love the most.

Google will rank sites based on the popularity of your content. That’s why your site must create content!
Blogging is probably the best way to create content. It gives your site a way to make more of everything- pages, posts, links, keywords, etc. The more content you have, the better your chances of ranking high on Google. This is why so many business sites have blogs!

Here are some tips to blogging for Search Engine Optimization.

Write what you know.

If you’ve never maintained a blog before, you might be unsure of what to do. But don’t worry. The blog is designed to give your readers information you know and they want. That means writing about your business! You’re the expert, so feel free to schedule a series of blog posts that cover all topics you can think of. Be theoretical as well as topical. Write about the nuts and bolts of your business, as well as newsworthy info that matters to your business and your customers.

Keep it fresh and unique. Put it in your own words.

We can’t stress this enough! Google doesn’t simply reward content. It rewards NEW CONTENT. So make sure you aren’t copying another site, word for word. The chances are, you might be blogging on a topic a competitor has already written about. There’s a lot of content on the web, and you might not be the only business in your industry with a blog. That’s not a problem! You can write about similar things, but make sure you aren’t copying what the’ve written. You can get into copyright trouble for that. But more importantly, IT DOESN’T HELP YOU WITH SEO. YOU NEED FRESH, UNIQUE CONTENT. For SEO, just make sure you put everything in your own words. That’s what counts!

Blog early and often.

  • Blog regularly. Like every business day.
  • Keep it short.
  • Blog posts should be 150-250 words each. People aren’t willing to spend too much time on a blog. They are scanning, not reading in-depth. So keep it punchy and to the point.
  • Be playful.
  • You want to be informative, first and foremost. You want people to come to your blog for insider information. But your blog must be entertaining and informal. Feel free to tell jokes, and include colorful stories and photos.
  • Be yourself.
  • Popular blogs are the ones that take on the personality of its author(s). So be yourself.
  • Include photos and videos.
  • The more visual the better. People will read your blog if breaks up the text with great images.
  • Remember those keywords!
  • All your site’s content MUST BE OPTIMIZED. Always, always use your keywords in every single blog post. Use the 3-5% keyword density formula!

Use Social Media.

Last but not least. Make sure all of your blogging is sent out to your Twitter feed, your Facebook Page, your LinkedIn profile, etc. This is easily than it seems. Just set up the RSS feed in your blog. That will allow all of your posts to go directly to your social media platforms.
Follow that list and you’ll do great!

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

First Impressions

For years usability studies and server log file analysis have tended to indicate that home page web designers have just a few seconds to create a favorable initial impression on the user. New evidence contained in a soon to be published paper suggests that a few seconds may be a gross over estimate.

Gitte Lindgaard and her colleagues from the Human Oriented Technology Lab (HOTLab) at Carleton University have conducted studies to ascertain how quickly people form an opinion about webpage visual appeal. The paper is to be published in the March-April 2016 issue of Behaviour & Information Technology.

Three studies were conducted in which subjects were presented with brief glimpses of previously classified home pages and asked to rate them for visual appeal. The results were highly correlated with assessments made over much longer periods of time and indicated that visual appeal can be assessed within 50 milliseconds. This is an astonishingly short period of time given that a normal human blink lasts 200–300 milliseconds.

Gitte Lindgaard and her colleagues have given the paper a rather apposite title “Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!”

In practice this means fast downloading home pages, limiting the graphics and providing information in the simplest way possible. If you are explaining, you are losing.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Five Questions for Web Designers

If Frank Lloyd Wright were alive today I wonder what he would say about web designers’ mistakes. I get to see thousands of prospective clients and their competitors’ websites over the course of a year and although web design is improving I am still left thinking that 95% of web designers and web design firms just don’t understand the basics.

I have had to become an expert in diplomacy while explaining to prospective clients that the website for which they have paid hard earned money is (to put it politely) not as good as it might have been.

There seem to be five web design and build failures that come up again and again that require discussion with website owners. I rarely if ever get to talk through these points with the designers so I have listed them here as questions.

If you are thinking of having a new site or revamping your existing site you may want to make sure that these questions will be unnecessary before you appoint someone to carry out the work.

Here are the five questions for web designers:

1. Why don’t you learn what goes in the HEAD element?

Just because your client is unlikely to peruse the HEAD element doesn’t mean you should ignore it or fill it with garbage.

2. What’s so difficult about producing search engine friendly urls?

Dynamically generated urls can cause problems for search engine crawlers and may be ignored. Why not generate search engine friendly, human readable urls instead?

3. Why large logos?

Logos that take up 25% of the home page are a waste of valuable real estate. Users want to see what they came for not pictures of models staring up at the camera.

4. Do you leave blank alt tags for a reason?

Alt tags really do have a purpose. They are for the many users who use talking browsers, screen readers, text browsers or browsers on small devices.

5. Why don’t you use web standards like W3C?

Did you know that separating structure from presentation makes it easy for alternative browsing devices and screen readers to interpret the content? Or that using semantic and structured HTML makes for simpler development and easier maintenance? Or that less HTML means smaller file sizes and quicker downloads? Or that a semantically marked up document is easily adapted to alternative browsing devices and print? Or that if you use standards and write valid code you reduce the risk of future web browsers not being able to understand the code you have written?

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