Category Archives: Websites

Keep Your Domain Game Strong: Setting Up Your HTTPS Address Improperly Can Cause SEO Issues

Setting Up Your HTTPS Address - Eminent SEO

Be honest: Have you ever tried to fix a problem and accidentally made it worse?

Perhaps you were trying to update your operating system on your computer to make it run faster, only to realize that the new OS isn’t compatible with all your most-used programs.

How about when you’re out to eat with friends and ask the waitress to separate the checks, only to find that you or someone in your party inevitably ends up paying more than they wanted, leaving sour moods and subpar tips for your sweet-natured server.

Or, maybe you added salt and spices to your favorite recipe, only to find out the you’ve ruined the flavor that you grew to love.

Well, when it comes to search engine optimization, there are a few ways that changing up the recipe can result in a less potent presence. Your website may not be broken, but improving your SEO is no simple fix.

The shift from HTTP to HTTPS has left many websites with losses that boil down to improper implementation. Let’s take a moment to address the most common SEO mistakes related to this upgrade, why they’re problematic for your website, and how to fix them.

Everybody’s Switching for the Weekend

34 Percent Google Search Results HTTPS - Eminent SEOAccording to the tech news website Search Engine Land, Google has been making a push for sites to move from HTTP to HTTPS, and reportedly 34 percent of Google search results now begin with an HTTPS prefix.

To give a little context for readers unfamiliar with the differences between HTTP and HTTPS, the former stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and describes the process of data exchange between your browser and the server of the website you are visiting. HTTPS contains the same acronym with an added “S” that stands for “secure.”

HTTPS sites are encrypted, which means they have an added security measure to protect confidential online interaction and transactions. Switching to HTTPS makes your site more secure, and Google anticipates many more sites making the switch to this type of domain in the coming years.

Why Would That Affect My Search Visibility?

By switching to HTTPS but keeping your HTTP site live, you run the risk of producing the same content, which would be counterproductive for your search engine rankings. Imagine cloning yourself, and then giving your clone the same name, address, phone number and social security number as you. Many of us are unwittingly doing this with our websites and their search visibility.

While the result is the same – keywords being searched and the user being led to your site – in the competitive field of SEO, the path that leads to your site is a significant factor in determining your site’s search rankings. The overlap of material on two different sites is called duplicate content, and is the biggest mistake web developers make when switching to HTTPS.

Two Roads Diverged in the Woods

Do you know about canonicalization? It’s the simple fix for multiple URLs that lead to the same piece of content or, more commonly, to the same website.

For example, the URL https://www.homedepot.com/shophammers links to the same content as https://www.homedepot.com/store/?home_improvement/hammers. Canonicalization is the process of creating tags so that all similar content points to a dominant site or page. This eliminates the chance of making search engines choose between different pages when delivering a search result.

Link Dilution

Predictably, this is called link dilution – when a single page appears to receive less traffic because it’s being split up between multiple sources. This is the problem that your website faces without canonicalization.

Think of Puff Daddy and all the names he’s gone by over the years. Basically, if he wants to gauge how much search volume he has garnered, then he’ll find a way to point names like “P. Diddy,” “Diddy” and “Sean Combs” to the name he’s going by now. If he’s not able to canonicalize all of his past and alternative names to his current moniker, then he won’t have an accurate picture of his total search volume.

Puff Daddy Mase - ESEO

Basically, proper canonicalization tells search engines which content you’d like them to see and judge for ranking purposes. Will there be alternative URLs out there that basically show the same content? Perhaps, but properly canonicalizing your content means that one source will get all the credit for the alternative versions, and then you’ll have a clearer picture of all related web traffic.

Searching Everywhere for You

These can be difficult concepts to understand, and it gets even more complicated when you consider crawl budget. When Google evaluates your website, it sends its search “spiders” (what better creature to navigate a web, right?) to help the search engine index all topics related to your site: keywords, headlines, synonyms, etc. It also gives you the results in an order that it thinks is most relevant to your search query.

For every website that Google encounters that might contain information useful to you, it searches all the subpages as well. This is known as your crawl budget – the number of subpages Google will sift through to find information useful to the searcher. When you have duplicate content and haven’t taken advantage of canonicalization, the search engines are working twice as hard to find the same information.

Imagine you’re a librarian, and someone asks you to highlight every mention of the word “cake” in the entire library. Now also imagine that someone has made copies of every book in the library, and you still have to find every mention of the word “cake,” including in the copies. You can imagine how much tougher the job would for the poor spiders doing basically the same task!

Give those spiders a break by tightening up your crawl budget and taking advantage of canonicalization. There are plenty of sites tell you more about indexing and crawl budget. Take some time to look those topics and learn more. Google lays it out pretty fantastically here.

What You Need to Do When Setting Up Your HTTPS Address

If You Dont Have Time To Do It Right John Wooden - Eminent SEOTo fix link dilution and other possible errors, Tony Edwards of Elite SEM, in an article for Search Engine Land, suggests 301 redirecting all HTTP URLs of your unsecured website to equivalent HTTPS versions.

This ensures that for every HTTP page of yours discovered by search users, they are automatically redirected to the new HTTPS site. This simple trick minimizes duplicate content and decreases link dilution.

Here are a few more steps that Edwards suggests to fix all of these issues:

  1. Ensure your HTTPS site version is added in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. In Google Search Console, add both the www and non-www versions. Set your preferred domain to the HTTPS version.
  2. 301 redirect HTTP URL versions to their HTTPS equivalents sitewide.
  3. Ensure all internal links point to the HTTPS versions sitewide.
  4. Ensure canonical tags point to the HTTPS URL versions.
  5. Ensure your XML Sitemap includes the HTTPS URL versions.
  6. Ensure all external links to your site that are under your control, such as social profiles, point to the HTTPS URL versions.

As far as the old HTTP version of your website, you might as well “noindex” or delete every page from Google’s crawlers once your new HTTPS site is properly set up and you’ve 301 redirected everything. This way, you won’t have to worry about Google and other search engines docking you points for having two versions of the same site live.

Remember This

The internet is becoming exponentially more sophisticated. Don’t let your business suffer by neglecting to optimize your website for search engines (and users). Make your website secure by switching to HTTPS, but also be sure to take extra precaution and avoid the pitfalls discussed above. You, and your business, will be happy you did.

If you need help with setting up your HTTPS address, Eminent SEO can help you find a reputable certificate authority and take charge of the paperwork and many steps involved with making the upgrade. Just call us at 800.871.4130 to learn more!

Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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Why You Shouldn’t Neglect to Optimize Your Website’s 404 Page

Neglecting To Optimize 404 Page - Eminent SEO

A 404 webpage is returned whenever a user mistypes a URL, follows an errant link, or lands on a page that has moved or been deleted.

This type of page is only returned in the event of an error, so there’s little point in putting effort into your website’s 404 offering, right? Won’t users just hit the back button if they see a 404 page, whether they were on your website immediately prior?

Well, the answers to those two questions are no and not necessarily.

Companies who take the time to fill out their website’s 404 page can demonstrate the three following characteristics:

  • Their personality
  • Their level of creativity
  • Attention to detail

Filling out your website’s 404 page signals to your existing and prospective customers that you’re thorough and that you care about your website’s user experience. There’s also some strategy involved in how you attempt to direct visitors from your 404 page. And ultimately, there’s SEO value in how you handle your 301 redirects and when the 404 page actually appears. If numbers like 404 and 301 don’t really ring a bell, learn about all of the HTTP response codes in this comprehensive list from Mozilla.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Why 404 pages appear
  • How to lay out your website’s 404 page
  • Some top examples of 404 pages across the internet
  • When to redirect 404s and when it’s OK to leave them be

Why 404 Errors Happen

Ideally, a user would never land on a 404 when trying to access any area or any file of your website. But it’s going to happen eventually. Your domain doesn’t cover every imaginable combination of letters, numbers and symbols past your .com (or whichever top-level domain extension you use), so 404s are bound to happen every once in a while, no matter how well you cover your bases with 301 redirects.

404 pages aren’t the end of the world. Someone either just flubbed a character or two in manually trying to reach a page on your site, or maybe another website or social media user tried to link to your site but errantly copied the URL. Anyone who tries to follow a faulty link will land on a 404 under your domain.

Thankfully, Google doesn’t penalize your site for returning a 404 page here or there. But if you have an inordinate amount of 404 errors on your hands, then you have a problem. Running a site-wide crawl and then 301 redirecting any broken links will fix that issue right up for you.

Besides deleting a page entirely or slightly tweaking an existing URL, 404s can also happen when you move your entire website to a new domain. You need to 301 redirect every single old URL to the equivalent version on the new site. Links to your old address will get broken if you don’t redirect them to the new domain. Think of it like forwarding your snail mail to a new address.

404 Page Optimization

While you don’t want the search engines to index your website’s 404 page, your objective here is to entice users toward another section of your site.

Besides some snappy graphics and language that makes it clear that there’s a problem with the URL, your 404 page should also maintain the same menu layout as the rest of your site. This includes an easily identifiable button (usually your logo) that takes the user to your homepage.

Here are those strategies in action, as seen on our 404 page:
Eminent SEO 404 Page Screenshot

Our error page also includes a search field so users can type in a term if they’ve deliberately landed on our website expecting to read about a certain topic.

Google itself has a few suggestions for creating 404 pages, including the idea of adding links to your most popular pages, blog posts, etc.

Adjusting URLs and Redirecting

And finally, when it comes to optimization, there are two steps you should take that don’t deal with the 404 on-page content itself, but instead concern URLs.

First, cover your bases by directing any logical misspellings of your site’s main URLs to the correct address. What this means is if you have a Services overview page, your URL will probably will look like “www.example.com/services/.” If somebody just types in “service” at the end of that string, you should have them redirected to your Services page, rather than returning a 404 for such an innocent mistake.

Another example is if your About page is structured as “www.example.com/about-us/,” make sure you have “www.example.com/about/” redirect to the correct URL. Take time to do this for every major page of your site, rather than leaving your 404 page as catch-all for common misspellings or variations of primary URLs.

Second, although your 404 page will show up for every errant URL related to your domain, make sure it actually shows up if a user searches for it directly, such as if they type in “www.example.com/404/.” You’d be surprised how many websites with even the best 404 pages have failed to get this right.

Speaking of the best 404 pages, let’s look at some shining examples across the web that may give you a little inspiration on how to flesh out your website’s error page.

Awesome 404 Page Examples

You can tell that many companies and individual website owners have fun with their 404 pages. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a chance to show off your creativity and even the personality of your business. It’s also just one more place where you can reiterate your brand strategy, as you can see in our 404 example above.

While no 404 page category has been created yet for either The Webby Awards or the American Advertising Awards (fka the ADDYs), there seems to be a healthy competition on the internet for who can serve up the greatest 404.

Beware that if you try to use copyrighted material on your 404 page, you may get sued or at least asked to remove the content in question. Two sites on this TIME “Web’s Best Error Pages” list from 2014 have found out the hard way, as you’ll no longer see images from “Dumb and Dumber” and “Jurassic Park” if you click on the links provided in the TIME article.

Here are some exemplary static and interactive 404 pages that you can find across the internet currently:

Stellar Static 404 Pages

Heinz Error Page Ketchup BottleUniversally recognized ketchup-maker Heinz could probably use an update of its website, but its error page has been catching eyeballs for years, and is still top of the line. Not only does Heinz feature its iconic ketchup bottle in a metaphorical way, but the page is optimized in a manner that lets visitors easily navigate toward other parts of the overall site.


eHarmony 404 Page Screenshot
When you land on this page, it’s readily apparent which site it belongs to. The broken heart image easily ties into eHarmony’s overall brand. The page also gives you clear options on where to go next.


Mashable 404 Page Screenshot
Awesome. Mashable’s toe-ripping-through-a-sock image on its 404 page is unforgettable. A search field is also provided and the main navigation is right at the top. This media company certainly put much more effort into its 404 page than most other national news-related sites have cared to.


CSS-Tricks 404 Page Rip
CSS-Tricks is an online community for web developers, and its 404 page plays right into its audience. The only problem here is the page offers no links to the rest of the site, or anywhere else, for that matter. Great image, though. If you look at the meta title, it explains the concept of this 404 page: “You’ve ripped a hole in the fabric of the internet. Love, Chris from CSS-Tricks.”


Impressive Interactive and Non-Static Pages

Blue Daniel 404 Page Screenshot
There’s a lot to see but not a lot to do on BlueDaniel.com, home of Daniel Karcher Film Design Studios. The homepage is just one full-browser video with audio and no clickable buttons or text. The 404 page, however, is as great as any you’ll find. It takes place in a subway station and has a moving passenger train. The motion image features posters for the TV series “LOST” and film “The Missing,” and a subway sign that reads, “Please proceed to the main level.”


Tripomatic Desert 404 Page Screenshot
Online itinerary maker Tripomatic can also make a case for best 404 page on the web. This page features a full-browser scene of a sun and moon setting over a desert landscape. The scene goes from dawn to twilight to dusk, and it loops endlessly. The website’s navigation is not featured, but there is a large button to go to the homepage.


Blue Fountain Media Pacman 404
Can’t find a page on BlueFountainMedia.com (a digital marketing agency)? No problem. Just play “Pacman” instead, as featured on the website’s popular error page. The average time on page must be insane for this creative offering.


Hot Dot 404 Page Screenshot
Hot Dot Productions, a digital artistry firm, offers an error page that features a large “404” made out of tiny, pulsating dots. The page interacts with your browser as well, changing your vantage point of the manic dots.


MailChimp 404 Page Screenshot
Email service provider MailChimp serves up a 404 page that features its recognizable mascot in an eerie forest setting. Fog slowly creeps across the frame, adding to the uneasiness. If this scene creeps you out too much, you can easily access MailChimp’s navigation at the top or search the site using the field right above the green-looking monkey.


Tinsanity 404 Page Screenshot
This error page is currently the best thing about Tinsanity.net, which has no content at the moment and a homepage that only links to two other sites. This 404 page features a panicked cup-and-straw beverage that skips frantically across the screen. There’s also some (very loud) audio to go with it.


When to Redirect 404s

Some websites are coded in a way that any time a visitor prompts a 404 error code, he or she is redirected to the homepage. This is known as a global 404 redirect. Although this seems like a viable way to keep visitors on your site when a 404 is served, it actually frustrates many users. They might think it’s a glitch, or because they came to your website looking for specific information, showing your homepage instead does nothing for them.

Instead of employing a global redirect, just take the time to spruce up your 404 page and run a site crawl to help you mitigate how many times users are receiving this error code. If some of the 404s keep coming from in house (meaning you have a navigational or other internal link that is broken), make sure you fix the error right away.

But What if I Have Backlinks to a 404 Page?

A backlink audit will tell you if other websites are still linking to a deleted or moved page within your domain. For a refresher on backlinks and to see which tools you can use to run this type of audit, click here.

If any external sites are linking to what is now a 404 page on yours, you should be choosy about which links you want to keep. If the page has simply been moved, you can 301 redirect the broken link to the new address, but it’s actually better to contact someone affiliated with the site linking to you and provide them with the new URL for the link. Links that pass through a 301 in order to reach their destination lose a little bit of power in Google’s eyes.

The above tactic should only apply if it’s a link you want to keep. If a low-quality site is linking to what is now a 404 page on your site, it’s actually not detrimental to your SEO to let the link stay as is. Backlinks from highly authoritative sites are the ones you want to uphold. Low-quality inbound links that produce a 404 error can remain in limbo.

If you’ve deleted a page that still has a link you’d like to keep, try to find the most relevant content on your site to redirect it to, or you may even want to create a new page that features the information that inspired the link in the first place. From there, you’ll either 301 redirect the link to the new page you’ve created, or you’ll reach out to the webmaster of the other site to give them the URL for your new content.

Have Fun with It

Spend some time and have a little fun with fleshing out your 404 page. Granted, you don’t want your site to return a 404 response too often, but it’s not catastrophic to have it show up once in a while. Plus, some users might get a kick out of how much creativity you put into it.

If you’d like a custom 404 page built for your website or if you need help with redirecting 404s and seeing how often they’re showing up for your visitors, contact the digital marketing and design experts at Eminent SEO today by calling 800.871.4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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What is an SSL Certificate and Why Should Your Website Make the Upgrade?

What Is An SSL Certificate - Eminent SEO

Going off our last post on responsive design, another area where you should try to upgrade your website in 2016 is security.

Just as you likely enjoy logging into certain websites and knowing that your information and passwords are kept secure, so should you try to foster the same experience for each of your online visitors. Especially if your website has a shopping cart, you need to make sure that the sensitive information your customers enter doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Not only could you lose visitors by not having a secure site (even if they only log in to post comments), but many SEO-related ramifications are latent for websites that have yet to upgrade their security.

In this comprehensive blog post, we take a closer look at:

  • What exactly is an SSL certificate
  • The different kinds of security certificates
  • The rationale behind upgrading your site’s security
  • How you can approach the upgrade process

SSL Certificate Definition and its Usefulness

SSL stands for “secure socket(s) layer.” It’s a type of technology that establishes a secure connection between a user’s browser and the hosting server of the website he or she is visiting, so long as the website has a valid SSL certificate. The certificate is made up of a digital computer file or small piece of code. Generally, SSL certificates are only valid for one domain (web address) and corresponding server at a time.

When someone is visiting an SSL-certified website, they are essentially handed their own personal key to unscramble the content of the site and view it normally for the entirety of their desired session. All communication between the user and the website (or the hosting server, more specifically) during this time is encrypted, meaning hackers can’t spy on the user’s session, insert malware and steal personal information.

Besides individual websites, SSL is also valuable for sending and receiving secure email, files, instant messages and other forms of sensitive information.

How to Look for an SSL Certificate

To see if a certain website has an SSL certificate, open up the site and look to the left-hand side of the address bar. Look for a padlock icon and possibly some other information that precedes the actual URL of the site.

Take our site, for example. Your browser should show you the padlock icon and our full company name before the URL. Below is what it looks like in the Firefox browser. The way Chrome displays it is not much different.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

If you actually click in that area, you will be given even more information about the company that operates the website as well as the third-party Certificate Authority (CA) that verified and approved the site’s security.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how that information is shown in Chrome:

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Chrome Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On some websites, you may only see the padlock icon to denote an SSL certificate. This icon is still clickable and can show you the issuing certificate authority. Take one of our favorite websites for SEO-related news and advice, Moz, for example.

Moz SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

There’s a reason the business’s name doesn’t show up in the address bar ahead of the URL. I’ll get to that phenomenon later.

Another attribute to look for in a secure website is an “s” in the protocol of the URL. In other words, look for “https” instead of the previous standard of “http.” You’re probably seeing dozens, if not hundreds, of sites slightly updating their addresses in this manner. All the HTTPS stands for is “secure hypertext transfer protocol.”

You also might see HTTPS called one of the following:

  • HTTP over TLS
  • HTTP over SSL
  • HTTP Secure

What is Transport Layer Security (TLS)?

SSL has actually long been phased out by a similar technology called transport layer security (TLS). However, it’s still common for techies and certificate authorities to say SSL when referring to either technology. For some reason, the term “TLS certificate” never really caught on.

Both SSL and TLS are also known as cryptographic protocols. If you’re wondering, the internet is now actually up to TLS 1.2, while version 1.3 is supposedly in the works.

Different Types, Strengths of SSL Certificates

Not all SSL certificates are created equal. Some companies can even sign their own SSL certificate, although this isn’t the recommended route. Below is an overview of some of the most common SSL certificates on the market:

  • Self-signed certificate: A basic certificate generated for internal purposes and not issued by a certificate authority. This type of certificate obviously isn’t fully authenticated nor as strong as an SSL certificate issued by a CA.
  • Domain validated certificate: A quick verification check is performed to ensure the applicant owns the domain for which he or she wants an SSL certificate. The applicant can get away with not even being a valid business entity, however, which is why this kind is considered an entry level SSL certificate.
  • Fully authenticated SSL certificate: The business needs to pass a number of validation procedures and checks to receive this type of certificate for a domain. These certificates take longer to obtain, but they denote a stronger level of online security.
  • Wildcard certificate: For websites with several subdomains, a wildcard certificate is a sensible option to secure the entire collection. For example, Yahoo’s subdomains show up as sports.yahoo.com, news.yahoo.com, etc. Yahoo is secure domain, and may very well be utilizing a wildcard certificate.
  • SAN (subject alternate name) certificate: This kind of certificate is similar to a wildcard one, but it allows more than one domain to be included in a single SSL certificate. This type works for websites with one or more microsites, but it takes time for each domain to be verified and authenticated before a CA issues the certificate.
  • Extended validation (EV) SSL certificates: Websites with this type of certificate have met the highest standards for authentication. The address bar turns green in most browsers when a user visits an EV SSL-certified website. The true owner of the domain and its country of origin will be displayed in green in the address bar. For reference, check out our site, which recently received its EV SSL certification.

The SEO Value of SSL Certificates

Google is continually making moves to make the web a more secure place. And, by golly, what Google wants, Google usually gets.

HTTPS Pages First

In 2014, websites and individual web pages an HTTPS prefix began to get a leg up in the search engine rankings. Near the end of 2015, Google announced through its Webmaster Central Blog that it will start to index the HTTPS version of web pages first, as we wrote about in our January newsletter. Several websites have HTTPS and HTTP versions of the very same page. Even if a site’s navigation directs a user to only HTTP pages, Google will still soon take the HTTPS version of those pages, if available, and feature those in the search results.

Flagging Unsecured Websites

As reported on Motherboard last month, Google appears set to flag unencrypted sites as insecure in the near future. Presenters at the Enigma security themed conference in San Francisco postulated how this might look on Chrome browsers. As you may have seen on HTTPS sites that are actually not secure, Chrome will display a padlock icon with a red “x” over it to the left of the URLs of unsecured websites.

Here’s what the icon looks like if you enable higher security settings in Chrome.

CNN No SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

As speculated, Google may soon deploy that icon on all HTTP sites across the web for Chrome users.

Motherboard noted that Mozilla and Apple have also jumped on the web encryption train, and that the U.S. government has called for all .gov sites to be upgraded to HTTPS by the end of 2016. Ironically, Motherboard itself is not an HTTPS website, but who’s counting?

Upgrading Your Website to HTTPS

So, all of the big players on the internet already have their sites upgraded to HTTPS, right? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

News organizations seem to be lagging behind when it comes to obtaining their SSL certificate. Big names like CNN, The New York Times, USA Today and more all still have non-secure protocols – as of this writing, at least.

Other major websites are part-HTTP, part-HTTPS. If you type “Amazon.com” in the address bar in Firefox (or if you just search Google for “Amazon”), you will be taken to an HTTP homepage. All navigational and product pages are also non-secure from there.

Amazon HTTP No SSL Certificate

However, as soon as you try to log in or view your shopping cart, you will be taken to an HTTPS page.

Amazon Sign In Security Icon

Amazon actually does work it you type “https” at the start of its URL in Firefox, or if you type just “Amazon.com” in the Chrome address bar, so the company must be in the process, however long, of fully securing its massive site – or at least making sure the user only gets directed to HTTPS pages.

If your website has a shopping cart or any page that asks to user to log in and give some amount of personal information, then you need to look into get those pages secured right away. Users will flee if they can’t trust your website to protect their personal info. A 2014 survey in the U.K. found that 85 percent of online shoppers avoid unsecured websites when making a purchase.

Certificate Authority Options

Now that you’re surely convinced your website needs its SSL certificate, let’s look at some reputable CAs that can vet your company and issue the most reliable seals of approval.

Symantec, producer of the popular Norton AntiVirus software, claims to have secured two-thirds of all websites that have an extended validation SSL certificate. The annual price for Symantec to be your CA is quite high, though. Below are some other CA options, ranked by highest to lowest annual fee for a starter certificate:

Website Security for 2016 and Beyond

While Google has yet to announce that it will no longer feature any HTTP content in its search results, I wouldn’t put it past the web leaders to make such a move in the far-off future. Start upgrading your site’s security today so it won’t get left behind in search if Google ever decides to make such a drastic move.

A legitimate SSL certificate for your website not only helps with organic search engine rankings, but it also lets your visitors know that they have found the authentic domain for your business, rather than a specious alternative that scammers often like to create.

If you’re short on time to undergo the often arduous, long-winded task of receiving an extended validation SSL certificate, Eminent SEO can find and work with a trusted CA on your behalf, as part of our Website Development Services.

In our next post on developments to look for in 2016, we’ll explore the difference between mobile websites and mobile apps and let you know which one is more worthy of your investment going forward.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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When to Launch Your New Website Design

This entry was posted in Design, Websites and tagged , on by .

When to Launch Your New Website DesignYou finally took the plunge and decided to re-design your website. Whether you’re redesigning it because it isn’t mobile responsive, or you simply just had an outdated website – bottom line is you needed to make this leap.

Now comes the common questions: When do I know if it is complete or not? Did I include everything I should? Does my website sell my product effectively?

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed when it is time to transfer your development site into a live environment that users can view and the search engines can index. Always stick to your bottom line – does your website spell out what is unique about your company and reveal your brand’s selling proposition immediately? If not, you may need to work on the design a little bit more to ensure it is influencing your audience through the correct messaging.

What You Need to Know Before Launching Your New Design

Stop Focusing on Little Content Tweaks and Focus on Your Overall Message

It can be daunting to go over every single piece of content on your website, especially if you have a larger site. The good news is, minor content errors can be fixed after it goes live. Instead of worrying about minor content errors, focus on understanding the goal of each page. Does each page represent something crucial to your business and is it sticking to your brand messaging? If your website clearly defines what you do, how your business is unique, and where to go to purchase – you’ve got your most important bases covered.

Don’t Let Your Website Design Take 6 Months to Accomplish

We see this all of the time. Companies will take months to complete a simple re-design that should’ve taken 30 days. There can be a number of reasons why this happens, however, business owners need to think of the bigger picture at stake. The longer you take to push your website design live, the longer it’s going to take to gain any return on investment from the new design. You can keep running the marketing campaign to prevent any huge losses, but you need that new design in order for your updated marketing strategy to be successful.

Your Website is a Constant Work in Progress

Most website design agencies will utilize modern design principles when designing your website. However, a lot more goes into a design than “pretty” graphics. It’s more about the psychological aspect of how users are navigating through your site. How do users feel when they land on a web page? Your website is a constant testing ground for conversion since you won’t know how users navigate your new website design until it’s actually live. Look closely at the conversion funnels in your Google Analytics to identify where you’re losing users. Re-designing, re-writing and re-optimizing internal pages of the site may be a constant work in progress until you’ve reached a conversion rate you’re happy with.

Forward Thinking is a Must

Content development and site architecture can be a large piece to a website design. You have to think about now, and the future, when developing the site architecture and content. Make sure your voice is consistent, your site architecture is easily expandable, and your content all leads to one main conversion goal. You also need to be forward thinking, so that all of your other marketing collateral and strategies align and meet your short and longer term goals.

How to Know If Your Website Design Is Ready to Go Live

Don’t let all of the little things get you off track. The real goal of the website design is to show off your product or service and show why your brand should be chosen. When your content messaging clearly defines your product or service when you hit the site – your content is ready to go.

What about everything else? To know if your website is good to go, it must be thoroughly tested for quality assurance.

What to Test Before Launching Your New Design:

  • Test all contact forms to ensure emails are being received.
  • Test the shopping cart to ensure products can be easily purchased without any glitches.
  • Manually click each page on throughout the navigation to ensure it is pulling up properly.
  • Manually click all links on the site to make sure none are broken.
  • Make sure all of your images and videos are properly sized to prevent slow loading times.
  • Check everything on mobile separately to ensure a quality mobile experience.
  • Make sure all of your pages are properly siloed in the navigation, meaning the URL coincides with the parent category.
  • Install all of your necessary plugins for SEO and social media.
  • Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console on the new site.
  • Install any other tracking metrics, such as Call Tracking Metrics.

These are just some basic things to look for before pushing your site live. For a full list, check out our website checklist.

Closing Thoughts

Always go into a new design project with a plan and forward thinking. The whole point of re-designing, or designing a new site from scratch, is to show off what’s unique about your business. Be prepared to explain your unique selling proposition to your web designer, so that they can understand your vision. From there, your website design agency should be able to take your vision and turn it into a beautiful, modern design that is also practical for your on-going marketing strategy.

Looking for custom website creation services that can increase your website traffic and conversions? Call our website design specialists today: 1.800.871.4130

Lacey Chic

Account Manager at Eminent SEO - Passionate About Digital Marketing. I love music, pitbulls, traveling, hiking, yoga, and learning.

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5 Reasons Why Your Website Isn’t Producing Sales

This entry was posted in Websites and tagged , on by .

Website Sales

Experiencing high traffic volume, but low conversion rates? It’s probably because of your website. Your website is the face of your business, your online storefront, your brand identity. You want it to be a good representation of your business. When it’s not, you’ll experience very low conversion rates.

There are several important variables that go with how well a website operates and also its ability to produce quality leads. If your website isn’t constantly being updated with the best conversion practices, it will fall behind and your competitors will surge ahead of you. Below are some reasons why your website might not be producing sales:

1. Your Content Isn’t Attracting the Right Visitors

When it comes to website marketing, you need to have a solid content strategy in order to attract visitors that can convert into leads. Researching keywords that focus on producing conversions rather than just high volume is the first step. Next, you want to integrate your target keywords into the content. This includes your blog posts, social media content and your optimized website copy. All three areas should be consistent with your keyword strategy.

2. Your Website Is Outdated

Car designs have dramatically changed over the years, and still do each year. Why? So the manufacturers can eliminate any glitches in the motors and to keep up with the design trends. You can easily compare websites to cars because they both need the same things: updated designs, updated systems, on-going maintenance, etc.

Having an updated website includes elements such as: a clean, up-to-date URL structure that clearly lays out the path for users to navigate, a mobile-friendly design, a website content management system (CMS) that is search engine friendly, and much more. Just because you can easily build a website in a platform that is “drag and drop”, for example, doesn’t mean that it is search engine friendly. Sometimes using these very simple CMS systems isn’t the best plan for your long-term website strategy because they have limited capabilities for SEO.

Website designs also need to be updated every few years to stay up with today’s technology and design trends. Designs are changing for a reason, mainly because people are changing the way they use websites. If your website hasn’t been updated in a while, it’s probably outdated and not helping your business as much as it could be.

3. You Don’t Have the Budget for Website Marketing

This is something we come across a lot from smaller businesses that can’t always afford a fully managed solution. Your website marketing should be your primary focus if you expect to get more sales online. Are you investing in hiring more sales people? Why? Cold calling is an outdated sales technique. To stay up with today’s evolving marketing trends, you need to invest more into inbound marketing. It is one of the most cost-effective solutions and it always produces a strong return on investment when done correctly.

When someone is actively searching for a product or service, chances are they are a qualified buyer looking for a reputable company. If your business is lacking in online presence while they research, you’re going to lose out on sales. Think about yourself as a consumer. Would you want to have someone call you randomly with a sales pitch, or would you rather do the research yourself and contact the company with the best offer?

4. Your Website Isn’t Optimized for Conversion

The smallest things can make someone bounce off of your site. Example: it takes too long to load, your brand message isn’t clear and concise, the font is too hard to read, the background image overpowers the content, the contact information isn’t predominant, users can’t find what they searched for originally. These are all examples to consider when determining if your website is properly optimized.

Some ideas to help make your website more conversion-friendly include:

  • Add a video explaining a huge piece of important content on your site. You need the content for search engines, but the users would rather watch a video than read a long article.
  • Split test important landing pages with pay per click. It can be as simple as changing the wording in a header that encourages users to convert. Do some split testing with content changes to see which pages convert at a higher rate and make changes across the site as you find what works best for your specific audience.
  • Add trust badges and testimonials. These give users a better sense of who you are and add to the credibility and trust of your business and brand.
  • Make the phone number or contact button a primary focus in your header and multiple areas of each page of the site. This makes it easier for your potential customers to contact you without searching through the entire site.

These are just a few suggestions to keep in mind when looking at your website from a conversion perspective.

5. You Aren’t Nurturing Your Website Prospects and Leads

How many times have you filled out a form on a website and never heard back from anyone? When you don’t respond to each lead through your website with at least an email, you’re losing out on sales. If you have someone who is interested enough to fill out a contact form, that should be considered a warm lead. Those leads may not be in the buying stage yet, but they may be ready to buy in the future. Add them to an email drip campaign where your company can stay in front of them with quality content. It’s all about delighting users with content that is relevant to their interests that will keep them coming back to your site, and then nurturing them until they are ready to buy.

Closing Thoughts

If you aren’t investing a dedicated budget to your website management and marketing on a monthly basis, chances are you aren’t producing the amount of sales you need. Online marketing is a continual process of testing, researching, optimizing, and nurturing. When managed properly, your website will become profitable and your sales will continue to grow over time.

Need a strategy that is going to help your website produce sales? Learn more about our website creation services here.

 

Lacey Chic

Account Manager at Eminent SEO - Passionate About Digital Marketing. I love music, pitbulls, traveling, hiking, yoga, and learning.

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3 Creative Ways to Keep People Coming Back to Your Website

This entry was posted in Websites and tagged , , , on by .

Website Design Humor

You are familiar with the “standard” website. It usually contains a home page, about us, services/products, a contact page and sometimes a blog as well…

*YAWN*

A few years ago, this was enough to keep people’s attention. But fast forward to 2014 and you’ll see that this “standard” website format isn’t really enough to stand out in people’s minds anymore – and it’s certainly not enough to keep them coming back for more.

So, you have to find a way to offer your services/products while still being useful AND interesting enough to make people want to visit your website time and again.

Repeat visitors is what’s up. Trust me.

So, how do you do that? Here are a few ideas:

1.       Develop a Useful Tool

You have to be somewhat careful with tools. So many websites have them that even they are losing their novelty to some degree. However, if you can come up with something your users actually need this is a great way to create repeat visitors.

If you decide to make a tool, make sure that at minimum it does something different enough from other tools in its niche that it stands out. And, if it’s possible, create an entirely unique tool no one else has…

For example, there are tons of mortgage calculators online, but the one at Bankrate is more comprehensive than others we looked at because it allows you to calculate how much faster you can pay off your mortgage by paying additional amounts each month. And, it also gives you a precise amortization table that shows how much in interest and principal you pay each month for the entire life of the mortgage.

Website Tool

Cool.

2.       Make Your Blog (More) Interesting

Think about the standard blog article – it goes 500 words, maybe less, and you might come away with a tip or idea…

However, if you really want to take your blog to the next level, considering diving deep into a client case study, giving a step by step tutorial on how to use one of your products, provide research, statistics and references.

Check out some of the KILLER blog posts on moz.com like:

How to Use the Information Inside Google’s Ved Parameter

HOLY CRAP! Now that is a blog post!

And who doesn’t love an awesome video blog, like the well know “White Board Fridays” hosted by Rand Fishkin of Moz every Friday:

Building SEO-Focused Pages to Serve Topics & People Rather than Keywords & Rankings – Whiteboard Friday

Some people are intimated by reading (or writing) lengthy article like blog posts – but many bloggers are finding success with video blogs in place of the traditional articles. Your audience can really relate to you in a live video post and you don’t have to be a professional to make a video for your own blog. If you can operate a smartphone or a computer, you can make a video. Plus, it’s fun.

3.      Gamify Your Site and Encourage Competition

Over 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 will use gamification sometime in 2014 to increase sales and increase customer retention. What’s interesting is that Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification, said the reward most customers desire the most is simply status above their peers….

Hrm. That seems easy (cheap).

But how can you apply gamification to a fairly run-of-the-mill business website? Take a look at how florist Teleflora has gamified its entire online store. Customers earn points by reviewing products and answering questions in the Q&A section, among many other actions. As they do so, they get more impressive badges and are acknowledged publicly on a leaderboard:

Gamifiy Your Website

LinkedIn also uses gamification, but in a more subtle way.  It tells you your profile strength as you fill it out more. You get different ratings as you fill it out, ending up with an “All-Star” rating once it’s complete.

LinkedIn All Star

The fun functions of your website don’t have to make sales directly. By simply having them available you increase your niche authority, keep visitors coming back and Google, in turn, will reward you with better search rankings.

And isn’t that the point?

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing work in 2005. I'm a {very} busy mom of 4 and I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I love coffee, wine, food and other people who enjoy the adventure of seeking out the best places to eat and drink. In my free time (what's that?) you'll most likely find me studying philosophy and spirituality, cooking for my family or relaxing with a nice glass of wine, a funny movie and the people I love.

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Happy 15th Birthday to Google

Google's 15th Birthday

Google – Are You Really 15 Already?

Believe it or not, this Friday, September 27th marks the 15th birthday of Google!  For a search engine, that’s like being a 90-year-old human.

Because it serves up the search results better than any other search engine currently available, Google has a dominant position in the marketplace.  How dominant is it really?  The numbers are staggering (according to Statcounter, a service like the Nielsen ratings, except for the web)

  • Google has 89.93% of the world’s search market, with Bing coming in second at 3.89%
  • It controls 78.32% of the US search market, with Bing taking 11.87% and Yahoo 7.96%

Astonishing, no?  But, just like every other company, there was a time where it was just another idea.  How’d Google go from an abstract concept to one of the largest corporations in the world?

Google’s Story:

  • 1996 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin a research project as PhD students in Stanford that attempts to create a single, universal digital library.  During the process, his supervisor, Terry Winograd encouraged him to stick to the idea of studying the number of nature backlinks to pages on the web (sound familiar?).  Page and Brin eventually came to the conclusion that using “PageRank” was a better method for ranking web pages than ranking pages based on how many times a search term appeared on each page.
  • 1997 – Google.Stanford.edu is brought into existence
  • 1998 – Google is incorporated.  Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, writes out a check to help fund Google before it even exists!
  • 2003 – Microsoft approaches Google, discussing a partnership or merger, but it never materializes.  Aren’t we all thankful that didn’t happen?
  • 2004 – Google goes public, despite some hesitation from Page and Brin who did not want to give up control of their company.
  • 2013 – Google is now worth $292.5 billion and strives to not only dominate search, but also to become an all-around technology leader.

Even Google is Capable of Disasters…

Even though it dominates search and has what is clearly an exceptional idea, Google has done many things that haven’t worked.  Check out a couple ideas that fizzled:

  • 2010 – Google Buzz – This integrated into Gmail and allowed users to share photos, links, messages, and updates.  A Harvard student actually ended up suing Google, claiming Buzz violated many privacy laws.  The idea has since been scrapped in favor of Google+.
  • 2009 – Google Wave – Wave promoted its ability to allow users to collaborate and edit work in real-time.  It never attracted a significant following and eventually went by the wayside.
  • 2005 – Google invests in AOL – Back then, Google sunk $1 billion into AOL to take control of 5% of the company.  It later sold that stake in 2009 for $283 million.

Google Still Does Search the Best

Even though not every idea Google has tried has worked, it still does search much better than any other engine.  Let’s all be thankful for that, wish Google a happy 15th, and look forward to what the company comes up with next.

Team Eminent SEO

Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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Top 5 Benefits of a Website Audit

This entry was posted in Audit, Websites and tagged , , on by .

What do you think of when you first hear the word “audit?”. For most people in the business world, this word conjures up powerful fears because many times audits are not a good thing (if you have ever Top 5 Benefits of a Website Audit - ESEO Monsterreceived a letter from the IRS in the mail, you know exactly what I am talking about… *gulp*).

However, in this case, performing an audit of your website and online brand is a very good thing and essential in developing a solid website and marketing strategy.

Think of it this way – whenever you fine-tune a process at your business, you’re technically auditing it in order to address the issues and improve its performance.

The same idea applies to your website, which if it isn’t already, soon might just be your main source of business.

If you have an internet marketing company audit your website, you can (or should) expect at the bare minimum to evaluate and suggest recommendations to improve the following:

1) Conversion Rates (AKA “Sales”) – Let’s face it; this is what you want any internal audit you perform to do, right?  A website audit should examine your top landing pages and their design, content and calls-to-action to ensure they maximize conversions.  It’s not a simple process – it can take months to figure out what really works for your website.  However, through strategic planning, testing and analysis, an audit should lead you to increased ROI’s.

2) Better SEO – SEO has changed drastically in recent years. Google actually makes about 500 changes to its algorithm per year (whoa!). What works now will likely be much different than what works next year, or even next month for that matter. Good SEO always focuses on providing the best user experience first and pleasing the search engines second. Focusing on users first also protects you from constantly analyzing every last detail of your SEO. Just remember, Google wants to serve up the very best websites. If your user experience sucks, your bounce rates and repeat visitors will be low and that is data Google will use against you. A good website audit will evaluate your SEO and how it overlaps with your user experience so you can find a good balance that makes your users AND Google happy.

3) Enhanced Usability – The design and functionality of your website is limited only by your imagination (and the team of experts you hire to execute your ideas). However, an overly complicated design, busy web pages and too much information are actually bad for your site. If your website doesn’t tell your visitors they are in the right place in a clear and concise way, they will leave quickly – and likely never visit again. A website audit can help you nail down the areas of your site that should be simplified, so you can determine what structure, content and function works best for your users.

4) Stronger Content – A technical website audit will check things such as bounce rates, time on site, page views, etc. – which are extremely important areas to improve upon for better search engine indexing. However, people AND search engines come back to your website repeatedly because of the quality of the content you have to offer.  Auditing your content helps you understand which types of content they like, as well as how they like to view it (words, images, video etc…). An audit can help you decide on a solid content strategy for your website and blog that will focus on what your users want specifically – and happy users in turn lead to better organic rankings with the search engines.

5) Improved Organic Search Visibility – In order to increase your search engine rankings you have to first understand what you want to rank for. Good organic search rankings start with a solid keyword strategy. Once you understand your market and competition, you can develop an on-page SEO plan which will integrate your target keywords into specific areas of the content and code of your website. Google and the other search engines determine what your website should rank for based off of the content and on-page optimization of your website. If you don’t tell them what you are an authority for, how will they know what terms to serve you up for? A website audit should include keyword discovery and research which should then be integrated into your on-page SEO and off-site website marketing.

If You Haven’t Had One in a While (or ever) Now is the Time for a Website Audit

If you haven’t had a brand or website audit in the last year, now is the time! Yesterday’s search environment is much different than today’s and even relatively minor changes can have a large impact on your site’s search performance and conversions.

Click here to find out more about the Eminent SEO audit services, or better yet, give us a call at 1.800.871.4130… we are waiting…

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing work in 2005. I'm a {very} busy mom of 4 and I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I love coffee, wine, food and other people who enjoy the adventure of seeking out the best places to eat and drink. In my free time (what's that?) you'll most likely find me studying philosophy and spirituality, cooking for my family or relaxing with a nice glass of wine, a funny movie and the people I love.

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5 Reasons You Need a Responsive Website Design

Responsive Design from ESEO Banner

“Response design” – it’s a fancy term for a simple concept:  making sure your website functions well across all major devices people use to browse the internet these days (smartphones, laptops, tablets, iPads and PCs).

In 2011, approximately 1.15 billion of all internet users browsed the web with a mobile device, which compares to the 1.3 billion that viewed the internet with a desktop computer. Fast forward that to 2014 projections, which have about 1.9 billion mobile internet users, compared to about 1.7 billion desktop internet users (according to DigitalBuzzBlog.com’s infographic).

So, now you see from a high level why responsive design is no longer an option… it’s a MUST!

5 More Specific Reasons You Need a Responsive Website

Even though the market demands responsive design, there are many more reasons to develop one, including:

  1. Google demands it for good rankings – Hey, Google’s all about serving up the highest quality results for searchers.  Part of quality means Google evaluates your mobile website design. Search Engine Journal, a leading online magazine on the latest search engine news, notes Google refers to responsive web design as its recommended mobile configuration and even industry best practice.
  2. Easier to manage SEO – The alternative to a responsive design is to create separate websites for separate device types.  If you’re an adept business person, be aware that this requires 2 separate SEO campaigns.  Why not condense both into 1 and cut your internet marketing efforts in half?
  3. It’s cost effective – Not only is responsive website development a good business practice from an SEO perspective, but it’s good from a design perspective too.  Could you imagine how much it would cost to design a separate website for laptops, smartphones, and PCs, and then optimize and manage each for years to come?
  4. Makes life easy for searchers – Today’s instant gratification consumer won’t try to figure out how to best view your website.  If you serve it up for any device they might view it on right away, they’re much more likely to stay around and subscribe to your website.
  5. It’s easy to find critical information – A desktop/laptop design, which has plenty of viewable space, makes it easy to find your contact information and to navigate around your website.  But, if you only designed for a PC, then the design may not display as well for mobile users.  If they have to exert additional effort figuring out how to contact you or use your website, how likely are they to eventually become paying customers?

Responsive is Quickly Becoming the Standard, so Why Not Act Now?

If you don’t already have a responsive design, it’s clear you’ll need one in the very near future. By acting now, you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches down the road.

Doesn’t that make good business sense?

Eminent SEO offers full Mobile and Responsive Website Design and Development services. Give us a call if you need help moving your site into 2013! (800) 871.4130

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing work in 2005. I'm a {very} busy mom of 4 and I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I love coffee, wine, food and other people who enjoy the adventure of seeking out the best places to eat and drink. In my free time (what's that?) you'll most likely find me studying philosophy and spirituality, cooking for my family or relaxing with a nice glass of wine, a funny movie and the people I love.

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4 Reasons Why Website Design is More than Looking Pretty

When you think of a website design, what do you think of?  If you’re like most people, you think of the colors, the buttons, the pictures, and the animations.  Basically, you think about how “cool” the website is.

Even though the coolness of a website is very important (do people really want to engage with uncool websites?), there’s much more to website design than creating a pretty layout.  In fact, there’s much more to it than I can even cover in this blog post.

Is Your Website Responsive?If you’re a business owner, why do you purchase someone else’s services?  You do that because that service either 1) makes you more money or 2) saves you money now.  Your website has much to do with how much money your company makes, especially in the digital age where consumers use tablet PCs, smartphones, laptop PCs, and desktop PCs to conduct 90% of the purchases they need to make.  Here are some more ways in which your web design helps you increase your sales:

  1. Responsive Website Design – The mobile device market is exploding in usage.  Just look at how many people had smartphones just a few years ago – virtually no one.  Now, who doesn’t?  “Responsive design” is a term referring to websites designed to look visually appealing and to be fully functional on all device types – tablets, iPads, smartphones, PCs, laptops, and desktops.  If your design isn’t optimized for all of these devices, you’re missing out on sales.
  2. SEO Friendly Website Design Websites can be designed more (and less) effectively for search engine optimization.  For example, text on flash pages can’t be understood by Google.  Flash also causes slower load times, which Google takes into account when ranking websites.  For the keywords you’re targeting, you should have at least 1 page dedicated to each primary keyword.  The list of SEO-friendly ways to design your website goes on and on, but these examples demonstrate why it’s important to design also with SEO in mind.
  3. Calls-to-Action – Many websites come up short in showing their visitors what action they need to take.  Even though it seems obvious, people are more likely to take your desired action if you tell them what to do.  If your site lacks a clear call-to-action, then people are much less likely to become paying customers.  Pretty websites are engaging, but if they don’t compel visitors to take an action, then they’re just as effective as ugly websites.
  4. Trust Signals – By using the icons of respected authorities like the BBB, icons of well-known clients you’ve served, icons of awards your company has won, icons of certifications or accreditation’s you have, etc. you build a large amount of trust with visitors.  Because trust makes buyers more apt to submit their credit card or pick up the phone and call, trust icons are extremely important for anyone looking to increase their website conversions.

There’s Much More to Effective Website Design, But That’s a Start…

Design is much more complex than this, but hopefully these tips give you the basic idea that a pretty web design is only pretty.  A well-thought-out design, however, increases your sales in an era where everyone shops online for what they need.