Mobile Page Speed Now Matters

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Last week Google announced that it’s using mobile page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search results. Outside of the obvious reason that it’s 2018 and your website needs to be responsive (mobile friendly), it should also load fast for searchers.

In 2016 I wrote a series of blog posts on everything page speed. I did some because Google was using it as ranking factor and let’s be honest, your customers come first, not Google. But to achieve higher search rankings, you have to think of Google and their requirements. If you are interested in higher mobile search rankings, you should read my post on rankings factors for voice search.

The page speed series of blog posts was geared towards desktops versions of websites and not mobile ones. This post will outline a few ways to improve the page speed of the responsive version of your website.

Before I list those reasons, test your responsive websites load speed. I have had some issues with that site but WebPageTest is also a great resource. Be sure to select an option beside “Test Location” that is either “Android Devices – Dulles, VA” or “Apple Devices – Dulles, VA” for mobile page speed tests.

How To Improve Mobile Page Speed

As online shopping and browsing becomes more and more popular, people use just about every device to participate, often including their cell phones. In our fast paced world, online browsers are impatient and may not use your website if it does not perform quickly, especially on their mobile phone. If you run a business or organization that experiences peak user times or “busy seasons”, having a fast mobile web page is even more critical in these times when more people will be using the page.

Experts say that three seconds is the maximum time that someone expects to wait for a mobile web page. Anything over that time may cause your clients to open competitor sites, spend less time on your page, and have a more negative image of your brand. So, how do you get that mobile page speed below three seconds and keep it there? Here are seven tips:

Look At Server Response Time

The server is a key element in mobile page speed, and the longer it waits to respond to requests from the browser, the longer your page viewer will wait to see the content on your page. The time your server takes to respond is called the “waiting time” or “time to first byte”, and experts recommend this to be no longer than 200 milliseconds after a request is made. The best ways to speed up this time are to improve your web server software or configuration (through coding), enhance CPU and memory resources through improving the web hosting service, or reduce the resources that your web pages use.

Avoid Redirects!

We have all experienced redirects. These are the automatic instructions that move a web page viewer to another location without them having to click anything. The most common type of redirect, a 301, moves visitors from an outdated webpage to a newly designed page. Redirects take up time, so if you do not need to use them, remove them from your web pages. Often redirects are even slower on mobile networks as they are less reliable than a desktop computer network connection. The best way to start is by using tools such as a redirect mapper to see how many redirects your web page contains.

Measure Round-Trip Times

The round trip time of data is the amount of time it takes to be both transmitted from your device to the target destination and returned back to your device. While this interval depends on many factors such as the connection source, physical distance, traffic amount, etc, it is important to regularly measure the round trip time in order to get a clear sense of average times for your page. The longer the round trip time is, again the longer your page viewer will have to wait. One of the best ways to reduce this time is to combine scripts in order to avoid repeated trips.

Load Upper Half Content First

On a mobile device, it makes sense to load the content at the top of the page first, as this is what the viewer will see first. If you code your pages so the server sends data to show the upper content first, your lower content will have slightly more time to load as the viewer browses the already loaded upper half. This gives the perception that the web page has fully loaded faster even if some of the lower content has not appeared yet.

Place JavaScript At The Bottom Of HTML Files

JavaScript is an important aspect of a web page for interactivity purposes, but it can be a big problem for load times as it does not allow parallel downloads. When this content is loaded, other downloads will not happen. To make your main page content load slightly faster, it is a good idea to put the JavaScript scripts at the bottom of the page. Another way to slightly improve speed is putting the Cascading Style Sheets at the top of the programming file. These sheets show how elements will be displayed, so it gives the appearance that the webpage is actually loading faster as the layout will be loaded first.

Optimize CSS And JS

The more data on your page, the longer the page will take to load. This is why it is so important to optimize and minimize everything on your page, but most of all Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript files. This includes getting rid of redundant or irrelevant data that has no effect on your page function, but will improve the speed.

Compress Files

This tip will both increase and decrease load time. When data is compressed, it must be decompressed in order to be displayed. This means that the data will transmit faster, but the extra decompression step may take up more time. The trade off here is usually worth it, but this is something to keep in mind as it reduces page weight which is especially important for mobile pages.

Try out the 7 tips above to see your mobile page speeds go from over three seconds to under in the blink of an eye! If you need additional help optimizing your web pages, contact us today.

How Proximity & Diversified Reviews Affect Local Voice Search

how-proximity-voice-searchIt’s 2018 and voice search is on the rise. I’ve been reluctant to use it myself and blog about it. Early last year I did a few searches using Siri and the results were less than desirable.

But with the popularity of Google Home, Amazon Echo and many more home assistants hitting the market, the time has come to invest in voice search for local businesses. Since this blog focuses on local SEO, I’m going to discuss local SEO searches from the standpoint of using Siri. I hope to do the same using an Andriod device soon.

In this post I will explain why your businesses proximity and the diversification of your reviews is important to getting better Siri search results. Here we go!

Location Services

Having location services enabled on your phone isn’t about getting spied on. Location services help Siri and other apps determine your location so they can help you. In the case of a local search, Siri will display businesses close by. This is why your businesses proximity to the search is an important factor.

Business Proximity To The Searcher

I blogged about the Google My Business results and why location and proximity are important for higher rankings or to even show up at all. The same applies to local Siri searches. Take the example screenshots below of a few searches for auto glass shops, transmission repair and pizza places.

While looking at these screenshots, the first and main thing to note is that Siri is using the Apple Maps app on my phone. As far I know, Siri uses Apple Maps by default and there is no option to switch to Google Maps.

“Transmission repair”

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“auto glass repair shop”

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“pizza delivery place”

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By looking at these screenshots you will see the proximity of all these businesses to my location. Once again Siri knows where I am as I have location services enabled. Most of the results are within 800 meters and 3.5 km’s from me.

So if you’re hoping to show up yet you’re on the other side of town and 10 km’s away, it’s not going to happen. Siri along with Google want to display the closest business to you. Not so much the best.

Diversify Your Reviews

Reviews go a long way and you should be focused on getting reviews for your business daily. We’ve been asking our clients to diversify the directories and sites that they ask for reviews on because it helps when potential clients do a brand search and see reviews on their Facebook, Yelp, and Yellow Pages listings on top of their Google reviews.

More reviews on directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages can help get higher search rankings within those directories as well. And nothing but positive things can happen when potential clients Google a business and see reviews from multiple websites. This builds trust and credibility.

Here’s a brand search for a client. Notice the reviews areas.

smiletown-dentistry-burnaby

Obviously you can see the Yelp and Yellow Pages reviews. But Google is now displaying other reviews in the “Reviews from the web” in what is known as the businesses knowledge panel on the right hand side of the search results. This is where business contact details from the Google My Business page are seen. For this to happen, you must ensure your business listings are consistent and up to date.

Once again, look back up at the screenshots from my Siri searches. You will see the business listings provided have reviews from Yelp and YP.ca (Yellow Pages). It’s clear as day why you should be focusing on diversifying your reviews from a Siri search perspective.

So what can you to do to improve your rankings for Siri local searches?

How To Get Higher Voice Searches

It’s a really simple three step process. Once again you cannot control the proximity issue so you’ll be targeting people close to you. And you can get higher rankings from a local Siri search by following these tips:

1 – Head to the desktop backend of Apple Maps, find and claim your business listing. Fill out all your business information including linking to your Yelp, Facebook & Twitter pages.

smiletown-burnaby-apple-maps

2 – Head to Yelp for business owners, find and claim your Yelp listing if it hasn’t been. Fill out the information in full including adding some nice photos since Apple Maps is using those photos for their listings.

3 – Ask your clients to write reviews on your Yelp and Yellow Pages listings along with Facebook page. More reviews on multiple sites is better than more reviews on one site.

WordPress vs. Website Builders

Wordpress-vs-Website-Builders

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about websites and the best way to build custom websites. There are many obvious reasons why you want a custom website. We build custom websites on WordPress but to many people, WordPress seems to be just another website builder. Whether you use WordPress or another platform to create your website, you can still end up with a good looking finished product.

So what’s the big deal? Technically, WordPress is not a website builder, it is actually a content management system, or CMS for short. If you aren’t familiar with using CMS’s, you may have a lot to learn. If you are looking for something that is a little easier to master, a website builder may be better for you.

Below I’ve laid out some comparisons of CMS’s such as WordPress versus website builders in order for you to decide what may work for you. It is a good thing to note that when choosing a platform to use, it depends on your comfort and your skills.

Ease Of Use

First, let’s talk about ease of use. If you use a website builder, you are pretty much guaranteed that it will be user friendly. Sites such as Weebly have easily managed page editors that help you add, move, or remove elements from your page in a flash.

On WordPress, you will not see this same visual interface. WordPress uses what is called a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to create a visual interpretation of the website. As far as ease of use goes, a drag and drop editor is much easier to figure out, especially if you are not that computer-savvy. WYSIWYG is basically like a Word document. If you can edit a Word doc, you can use WordPress and WYSIWYG. Below is a screenshot of the WYSIWYG post and page editor for Wordpres.

Wordpress-post-dashboard

Other ease of use elements includes the ability to insert new themes or plugins without using code on website builders. To do this on WordPress, you may need to change code, and not everyone is savvy with this. Another thing to consider is the difficulty of performing simple actions on WordPress. The interface itself can do many wonderful things, but the challenge may be finding out just how to do them.

Flexibility

The second element I want to discuss is flexibility. One of the best things about WordPress is that it can be used for a variety of website needs- whether that be a blog or an online store. As you just saw, sometimes the cost of this flexibility is the ease of use. Because WordPress can just do so many different things, it is bound to get a little complicated. If you are using a website builder, you generally need to be a little more picky and choose one that will suit the type of website you want to create. Some website builders will power small business websites or personal websites, while others are more suited to power large multi-page sites. For unconventional types of websites, you may want to look to WordPress as it can change to meet your specific needs.

Themes & Plugins

Next, themes and plugins is an element to consider. Due to the large number of people using WordPress, there are plenty of themes and plugins readily available to you. If you want your website to perform a certain action, there is probably a plugin that will let you do it. But with this volume of themes and plugins comes with some that do not work that well. Some of these plugins may require extra tweaking which defeats the purpose of the ready to go plugin. On the flip side, website builders may not have as many themes and plugins available, but the ones they do have always work.

SEO

Many people want to know what is better for SEO. Having done SEO for a few past clients websites who used Wix and Weebly, they’re SEO is pretty good. You can add page titles and descriptions for each page. We did not notice that their websites were impacted negativly from using their platforms.

For a few reasons though we love WordPress for SEO simply due to the fact we love the Yoast SEO plugin. There are a lot of great features to that plugin and the major one is being able to create templates for page titles and descritptions for pages. This saves a lot of time as a template can be used to ensure pages and blog posts have the proper SEO information filled out. Wix, Weebdly and other website builders don’t offer this.

Yoast also has a feature that allows you to see all of your Google Search Console data from your WordPress dashboard. This saves the hassle of logging into your Search Console dashboard.

Again, we believe that the website builders have pretty good SEO but WordPress and Yoast are a step above.

Hosting

Finally, let’s talk about hosting. When you use a website builder, your domain name gets connected to the builder and is already configured. With WordPress, you need to find your own web host. It may also require some reading up on FTP, which is a way to upload your WordPress files to your newfound host. A benefit of finding your own host is that you are able to download your WordPress content and move it to another host, while website builders will host your site forever. If this puts you in unfamiliar territory, you may need to recruit a friend or face a learning curve.

The big takeaway is that choosing between a website builder and a CMS like WordPress heavily depends on you- how much time you have to invest, what your current knowledge of computer code is, and what you want your website to do. If you have an unconventional idea but aren’t sure if you have the skills to navigate WordPress, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of online tutorials that can get you started.

Contact us if you have any questions or learn more about our WordPress design and development service.

Most Valuable On Page SEO Tactics for Small Business Success

small-business-seo-tipsTo get your small business site in front of as many potential customers as possible, you need on page SEO. Search engine optimization is vital to your growth and success. With proper on page SEO tactics you can boost online visibility, external links, keywords, and most important of all, organic traffic.

The top three marketing tools a small business has are . . .

  • 54 percent email marketing
  • 51 percent website traffic
  • 48 percent social media marketing

On page SEO can make a big impact on your bottom line, not just by increasing traffic, but by also cutting your marketing spend in half. Do you run PPC ads on Google? With stellar on page search optimization in place, you can rank page one without running ads.

Make search engine optimization a priority in 2018 with the following SEO tips for small business online growth and success.
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Get Local with Your Small Business

Mobile has become the preferred search device for products and services, making it essential to have your small business listed. In fact, 50 percent of mobile consumers who will visit a store they found in local search results within a day.

The first step is to set up a local listing on Google My Business.

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When someone searches for products and services similar to yours, they will see your business, website, and also get featured on Google Maps. Leverage other local listing sites like Yelp or Angie’s List as well. The more local listings, the more your small business will appear in SERPs.

Local listings are also the perfect platform for your customers to rate and review your business, products, or services. This is more important than ever, since online consumers check ratings and reviews prior to making a decision to buy.

Make Your Small Business Site Mobile-Friendly

The New Year will usher in a few changes for on page SEO, and one of them is Google mobile-first index. This will give priority to mobile friendly, fast loading sites when a user searches via mobile. This is very important for future business growth and success, especially since most consumers are now more mobile than ever before.

A few on page SEO mobile-friendly tips for your small business are:

  • Make your site’s content readable on mobile devices, including the text and font you decide to use.
  • Avoid software that is not mobile-friendly like Flash.
  • Think like a user visiting your site by ensuring your pages are easy to scroll and navigate.
  • Make your CTA buttons and anchor text links easy to see and not in the way of a users scrolling thumb.
  • Ensure your page load time on mobile is optimized and under one second.

To check these potential on page SEO pitfalls, turn to Google. Google has a number of tools you can use to check just how mobile-friendly your site actually is . . .

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

Think with Google Test My Site

Google PageSpeed Insights

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Create Unique SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions

Google algorithms are always on the hunt for duplicate content and poorly constructed SEO titles (page titles) and meta descriptions. These issues could cause your small business website and pages to drop in ranking.

The first step to better on page SEO is to look at your page titles and meta-descriptions. You want to tell Google exactly what your page is about, and why it fulfills search intent.

Make a list of all your title tags and start looking for duplicate keywords, and subpar title descriptions pages that promote your products or services. Then get a little creative by replacing those duplicate keywords using online tools like SEMrush’s Phrase Match.

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To highlight this important on page SEO tactic, here is an example from Brilliance, for product page best practices, listing a number of keyword rich options.

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Time to Make On Page SEO a Priority . . .

Your small business can’t afford to ignore proper on page SEO tactics. These 100 percent free changes can decrease your need for large PPC ad spend while also providing a better user experience for your site’s visitors on both desktop and mobile. How will you make on page SEO work for you in 2018?

nick-rojas

Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto. You can follow him on twitter: @NickARojas

Difference Between Web Design & Development

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One of the common misconceptions out there is that web designers are the same as web developers. You may think they do the same thing when in fact there is a difference between the two. Let me explain below what each person does.

Web Designers

A web designer is an expert with graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and uses these graphics to create certain themes or looks for a website. The designer’s creation is then attached to coding and uploaded online. It is important to note that not all web designers are experts at writing code, and they do not always deal with the coding that their designs will be attached to.

Sometimes designers do not even meet the team who will help their design go live. Web designers are creative and imaginative, and need to have an eye for aesthetically pleasing images. Supplementary education for a career in web design includes graphic design, or other arts classes such as photography. Many designers even study classical art techniques in order to better understand colour, use of space, or audience. One of the most important things for a successful web designer is a portfolio of their work, used to showcase what they are capable of to potential employers.

Once a web designer finishes a website, they will have to hand the website over to a web developer to code it to a live, functional website.

Web Developers

Although some parts of a developer’s job can overlap with a designers, there are some aspects that are completely different. The main job of a web developer is to work from the back-end of a website in order to build the frame, a frame which the design is then placed on.

Developers are very well trained and know coding languages as well as HTML, Javascript, JQuery and CSS. Rather than make the site look aesthetically pleasing, developers are more focused on making a website that runs smoothly and works well. Developers often study computer science, computer programming, and anything related to computer technology. In order to do this job, you need to enjoy tweaking the smallest details and performing tasks that may seem redundant to some. Developers also often have portfolios, and although they will look vastly different from a designer’s portfolio, they serve the same function.

So, it is clear to see that both jobs have a specific function in completing a greater goal: the creation of a website or online interface. In order to make a site that users enjoy, the design must be appealing, and the development must be sound so that it runs smoothly. When both these elements work in harmony, the user is more likely to return to that site.

Now for the complicated part: it has become more and more common for designers to delve into learning code and for developers to begin learning design theory. This is great for those who are exploring both fields as they have a greater skill set, and it is great for employers who may only have to hire one person for two jobs. It is possible for someone to be both a developer and a designer, and this makes them a hot commodity.

A benefit of this merge is that it is becoming much easier for developers and designers to communicate effectively. Due to the amount of jargon in the fields of design and computer science, it can be easy to fall into an explanation that someone outside of the field does not understand. A way that many designers and developers combat this is to avoid jargon as much as possible, and show each other rather than tell what they are looking for. As more people cross over from design to developing and vice versa, these techniques may not be needed as much.

So, now you know the difference between web developers and web designers, and how that distinction is quickly blurring into one title. Although it is very possible to do both tasks well, most people will always be better at one job, and they usually make that their primary focus. Remember, don’t always assume that a designer is a developer, or vice versa!

Contact us if you have any questions on web design or developement.