Why You Need a Mobile Ready Website (and what you can do about it)

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 Whether you’re just setting up your first website or you’ve been a webmaster for years, you need to make sure you are able to get your content out in front of as many people as possible.  Today more than ever, that means having a mobile ready website.  There is really no denying the fact that mobile traffic is growing at an astounding rate, and if your site doesn’t look good to these browsers, they won’t be staying on your site very long.

Reasons why Mobile Ready Sites are Essential

According to a recent Comscore Study, there are 143 million internet enabled smart phones and 71 million tablets in the United States alone.  The vast majority of these devices are used to browse the web on a regular basis. In fact, a growing number of people are using these mobile devices as their exclusive way to get online.

In addition, surveys have shown that when someone visits a site on their mobile device and it doesn’t look or function properly, they most likely won’t go back to the site from their PC.  In fact, it is much more common for people to enjoy a good looking site on their mobile device, and then move to a PC to complete an activity than it is to have someone go from bad mobile experience to a PC.

If you are using your website for business reasons, according to Search Engine Journal it is estimated that by next year there will be approximately $400 billion in revenue generated through mobile websites.  This is up from just $139 Billion in 2012.  That growth is expected to continue for quite some time, showing that any business that is hoping to capitalize from digital marketing absolutely must be thinking about the mobile experience.

Types of Mobile Ready Sites

If you want to make sure your website looks great on mobile devices, you have two main options to choose from.  You can either have a separate site that is made specifically for mobile devices, or you can have what is called a responsive design that is made to look great on both mobile and desktop displays.

Separate Mobile Site

If you opt for having a separate mobile version of the site, you will essentially have two sites loaded on your web hosting with some code that will quickly determine what type of device is attempting to access your site, and then display the proper version.  You often see this option when you look at a site and it has M.Sitename.com or Sitename.com/mobile/.  While it may seem more complicated, it is actually a fairly simple process.

In many cases, a desktop version of a site will actually come with a mobile version as well.  This way you just upload all the files and it pretty much takes care of itself.  Whenever you add content to your site, it will automatically be formatted and displayed on both the main desktop and the mobile version of your page.  This makes it quite easy.

Of course, you will have some additional configuration options based specifically on the mobile version of the page. If you are using a WordPress platform, for example, you will likely have a category for choosing things like the color scheme and other factors.

Responsive Web Design

The other option, which is growing in popularity recently, is to have what is known as a responsive design.  These pages look and function almost identically whether you are on a mobile device or a traditional desktop.  The important point is that the page was designed specifically to look and function great on any device.

There will be some differences, of course, but nothing that the typical webmaster has to worry about. Things like color schemes, menus and other commonly adjustable items will all look correct on either a desktop or a mobile device.

For most people, the biggest benefit to this option is that it does make it extremely easy to have a great looking site no matter who is browsing your site.  You don’t need to worry about troubleshooting problems on more than one version of the page, or even making sure that a mobile site looks as good on an iPhone as it does on an Android tablet, or any of the other devices out there.

Now is the Time

If you don’t already have a modern mobile ready site, now is the time to make the move.  You simply can’t continue to function online with any hope of success when you don’t have the ability to serve users on mobile devices.  Fortunately, InterServer hosting is setup to fully support all types of mobile websites, and provide users with a fast loading page no matter what device they are using.  With that in mind, it is just up to you, the webmaster, to make sure a mobile ready site is available to display.

An Introduction to Ad Retargeting

Whether you’re using your website to sell products, make money off of advertisers or you just want to share your message with others, you need to make sure people are constantly coming to your site.  There are many options available for driving traffic including SEO, eMail marketing, display advertisements and others.  One of the newest, and most effective, options is known as ad retargeting.

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The simplest way to explain ad retargeting is to say that this is a concept that identifies people who have been to your site at least once, but then left.  You then have advertisements displayed to these individuals to attempt to bring them back to your page.  It is most commonly used on ecommerce sites where people look at a product, and then browse away while thinking about whether or not they want to purchase.  Displaying an ad for that product can remind them of it, so they come back and buy it.

Adding Retargeting to your Marketing Strategy

As you can see, ad retargeting is an extremely powerful marketing technique.  In almost all cases, however, it can’t be effectively used as a standalone advertising strategy.  Instead, you want to combine it with other advertising and SEO efforts.  This way you will have a steady stream of new visitors coming to your site, and then those that ‘get away’ without completing the conversion you desire will be drawn back in through the retargeting ads.

This way you will get a second chance at selling them.  Many businesses that have used ad retargeting in conjunction with SEO, display ads or social media marketing have found that they were able to convert a much higher percentage of visitors than ever before. Most experts agree that this is because many people will come to one site while doing research, but then when they are actually ready to buy they end up finding another site. With retargeting, the chances are much higher than those doing research will find their way back to your site to complete the sale.

Add Retargeting Configuration Options

There are many ad networks that offer retargeting, and each of them will have different configuration options to set up. The following are some of the most important factors to be aware of when setting up a new campaign.  Keep in mind these features will be called something different with each ad network, but they typically do the same basic thing.

  • Number of Times to Retarget – This setting will allow you to specify how many times you want to attempt to retarget a specific user. If someone comes to your site, then leaves, then comes back again through your ads and then leaves again, do you want them to see your ads still?
  • How Long to Retarget – Settings like this identify how long the retargeting ads should run. If someone comes to your site on a Monday and then leaves, for example, you may only want to show them retargeting ads for a couple of days or you might want to do it for a month.
  • General or Keyword Specific – You can typically decide whether you want your retargeting ads to show all the time to that user, or only when they are searching for specified keywords again.
  • Successful Conversion Retargeting – Many ad networks allow you to start retargeting customers who actually made a purchase from your site. You may want to wait a week or two, and then start showing them your ads again to bring them back to make another purchase.

There are, of course, many other options to choose from as well, but these are some of the most important to be aware of.  Like all advertising campaigns, retargeting requires that you take the time to properly set it up in the beginning so you can get the best results over time.

Common Retargeting Mistakes to Avoid

While ad retargeting is a fairly easy option to set up, there are some common mistakes that marketers tend to make.  Look at the following potential pitfalls that people fall into when setting up new retargeting campaigns, and try to avoid them as much as possible:

  • Ad Quality – Some people mistakenly think that because the potential customer has already been to their site, they don’t need to invest in a great looking ad. This is a mistake and can actually push potential customers away.  Take the time and effort to make a great looking ad for your retargeting campaigns.
  • Overwhelming (or Underwhelming) Customers - Some people think that once someone has been to their site they need to open the floodgates of ads to bring them back. On the other hand, some people think that they can be successful with just showing the individual a retargeting ad once will due.  In reality, you need to find a good balance.  Most experts suggest you show potential customers about one ad every other day in a retargeting campaign.
  • Neglecting Analytics - Most people pay a lot of attention to the analytics of their advertising campaigns, but for some reason they don’t pay attention to the data gathered from retargeting campaigns. This is a major mistake, and one that is easy to avoid.  All reputable retargeting ad networks will provide extensive data with your account so make sure to look at it regularly so you can optimize your campaigns.
  • Using Generic Ads – This is a big mistake for people who are attempting to drive sales of specific products. If, for example, someone comes to your site to look at a pair of running shoes, you don’t want to show them an ad just for your site (if it is about athletic clothing in general).  Instead, make a specific ad for shoes.  This way you can give people an ad that is likely to draw their attention better.

The most important thing is that you need to make sure you are constantly learning from both your failures and your successes.  With time and effort, you can grow your ad retargeting campaign into the most successful marketing strategy possible for your website.

What is Net Neutrality & Why Website Owners Should Care

Whether you are just starting a new website for the first time, or you’ve been publishing content online for years, you’ve likely heard a little bit about net neutrality. Most people, however, aren’t really sure what it is or how it could affect you and your website.

As website owners, it is very important to take a little bit of time to understand the pros & cons of net neutrality, and try to keep up on any possible changes in this area of law.

Neutrality

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that data on the internet should all be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), no matter where it is coming from or where it is going.  Proponents of net neutrality want laws put in place that say that these ISPs can’t discriminate based on the type of data, even if some customers pay for faster service. The worry is that large companies like Google (YouTube) and Netflix could pay for priority service.  If put in place, this would effectively slow down the speed at which traffic is processed for smaller sites.

Currently there is no law that requires that ISPs or other telephone companies transmit all the data equally.  Despite this fact, however, there has only been one example of an ISP slowing down certain types of data.  This occurred when Comcast slowed down, or throttled, the traffic that was used in peer-to-peer sharing services for certain customers.  They did this because these services are primarily used by those who are downloading illegal music and movies, and they take up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth.

Benefits of Net Neutrality

Even proponents of net neutrality agree that putting new laws in place to prevent ISPs from throttling traffic, or providing priority service to certain companies is a preventative step.  The main benefits of having net neutrality laws on the books would be that it will provide a certainty to companies and individuals that have an online presence that the ISPs won’t begin charging extra for getting traffic.

The internet has grown and developed at such a remarkable rate because, in part, of the fact that website owners could count on the fact that people could easily get to their site without a problem.  If ISPs begin ‘playing favorites’ it will be more difficult for new websites to develop, which will stifle innovation.

Disadvantages of Net Neutrality

There are many people who are against putting net neutrality laws on the books too.  Some of the problems associated with these types of laws include the following:

  • Prioritizing Traffic is Necessary – Some argue that when there is a surge of traffic, ISPs must pick and choose what gets processed first in order to keep critical services running.
  • Large Data Users Using Bulk of Traffic – Currently everyone is getting the same priority of service.  A company like YouTube or NetFlix doesn’t have to pay any more than a small website.  This necessarily means that smaller companies end up paying more than their fair share.
  • Solution without a Problem – Another common complaint by opponents of net neutrality is that it is a solution to a problem that does not exist (yet).

Why should Small & Medium Sized Website owners Care?

Net neutrality is a fairly complex issue with passionate people on both sides.  For many website owners, it seems like something that won’t directly impact them in any significant way.  In reality, however, changes to net neutrality laws could have major impacts in how site owners manage their sites.

If ISPs begin to charge for priority service, it you may experience some of the following issues:

  • SEO Concerns – If your site begins to run slowly or even stop responding from time to time, it could have a negative impact on your site’s rankings in Google.
  • Higher Fees – Currently most websites don’t have to directly pay ISPs for their traffic to be processed.  This is because hosting providers, like InterServer, pay these costs.  If the ISPs start charging for priority service, however, the individual website owners will likely have to pay higher costs each month.
  • Additional Technical Concerns – Thanks to webhosting services and easy to use software, it no longer takes a tech wiz to make a website.  If site owners need to start worrying about how their web traffic is being processed, it will require a certain level of technical knowledge to track properly.
  • Outbid – The reality is that if ISPs allow companies to pay for priority service, nobody will be able to outbid the major players like Google, Facebook, NetFlix and Amazon.  They could effectively make it so only their sites would load with any reliability.

Following the legal trends regarding net neutrality is something that all website owners should be doing.  Whether you are for these types of laws or against them, the reality is that they will have a bigger impact on the life of website owners than most others.  This means you should take the responsibility to keep up to date with the news, and contact legislators when necessary to let them know what you want in this very important matter.

Make Site Changes Easier by Editing within phpMyAdmin

Many people use CMS systems such as WordPress, which store data in sql tables within a database. This is also true of ecommerce solutions which consist of WordPress plugins, and for other systems such as Joomla and Magenta. If you have a store which is part of a blog site then typically the data for an ecommerce plugin will be in a separate database from that which contains the blog.

There are a number of problems that can be eliminated by editing data directly in the database using phpMyAdmin.

1)   You can add information even when it won’t normally ‘stick’. A short while ago I was trying to add products to a site that already had a lot of them and was running on a slow host. (If you need a fast host try Internetserver). To compound the problem I was on my laptop, working over a Wi-Fi connection.

The data I entered just would not save no matter what I tried; the connections just kept timing out. I went to phpMyAdmin, copied some rows from the product table and edited the names, prices, and descriptions to make new products, and the problem totally disappeared.

2)   You can add a lot of information in less time. Sometimes the interfaces in various ecommerce solutions are great for small stores that are only selling twenty products but are slow when you are adding hundreds or even thousands of products.

3)   Occasionally there are glitches in the plugin interfaces, so that you can’t enter all the data on a particular device without continually changing your font size and scrolling all over the place. As we use more different kinds of phones, tablets and browsers, it becomes hard for the developers to take all of our needs into account, and I have seen this glitch even with one of the most highly rated WordPress content protection plugins. You can get around this by using phpMyAdmin to make your changes directly in the database.

4)   If you become proficient enough you will be able to write sql queries to make many changes at a time, such as increasing all your prices by 10%. Here is an example.

Tip: Keep in mind that in phpMyAdmin you can drag columns next to each other to make things easier. For example drag a column with the prices you are changing right next to the column with the product names.

If you are unfamiliar with phpMyAdmin, I suggest you install a copy of WordPress on your site with a test blog on it. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with phpMyAdmin without having to be constantly in fear that you will mess up your main site. There is one important difference between editing within a CMS such as WordPress and editing directly in the database – there is no undo! That’s right once you save a change to your database you can’t just restore the table by pressing CTRL-z or CMD-z. You can only fix the problem by importing a backup of the table or by importing a backup of the whole database.

Now that you have your test blog in place, let’s get started:

First, build a few posts with some unique text within your blog. Let’s make three posts that all have the text “Sam jumped on the elephant.”  Go ahead and publish the posts.

Now that we have our 3 posts we want to backup our database. The reason for backing up our database even though this is just a test blog is to get in the habit of doing so. With a full backup of your database and an additional backup of the tables you are working in, it is much easier to fix your mistakes. Go to your cpanel and look in the databases section for phpMyAdmin.

 myphpadmin

When you open myPhpAdmin you will see a list of all your databases

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I happen to know that the database for my test blog is wrdp11, so I will select that database in the list on the left.

You can see now why the next time you add an installation of a cms like WordPress or Drupal, it would be a good idea to give the database a name that you will remember so you can find the correct one. You might even think that it would be a good idea to rename all your present databases with more memorable names. You could do that but there are all kinds of pitfalls. An easier way is to browse through the data of each database until you can figure out what it is being used for and then compile a list or a small spreadsheet.

Click on export at the top. You can just leave the default settings of quick and sql. Click go and save the file.

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Now let’s save one of the tables. Select the wp_posts table on from the list on the left. (later when we search you will see that this is the table that contains our 3 posts containing the word ‘elephant’).  Again select export, click ‘go’ and save the file.

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Now let’s search for our text and replace it. I’m going to look for the phrase ‘Matt jumped on an elephant’ and replace it with ‘Matt Jumped on a trampoline’.  With the name of your database (in this case _wrdp11) selected go up top and click on ‘Search’. Type in the search phrase, change the setting to ‘the exact phrase’ and click ‘select all’ to search all the tables. If you don’t see any results use ‘all the words’ instead of ‘exact phrase’.  (This will often find things that you can’t match with exact phrase due to spacing problems.)

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I see 3 matches inside the wp_posts table.

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Click on ‘browse’ next to the listings. Now look in the ‘post_content ‘ column, click on the content in each row, change it and then click on something in another  cell within the table to save your change.

Although this method works for making a few changes, what if you had thousands of them – for example if you were changing all the prices on your store? We can make a lot of changes at once by clicking on ‘Query’ and entering the following:

update wp_posts set post_content = replace(post_content,’Matt jumped on an trampoline’,’Matt  jumped on  a large trampoline. ‘);

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We just changed each occurrence of  ‘trampoline’ to ‘large trampoline’.

Click Submit Query and look up top. You will either see a green bar telling you how many rows were changed or a message that we have made an error in the query. Let’s look at the syntax.  update always stays the same, the database is the one that we have selected so we don’t need to include it in the query, wp_posts  is the name of the table, set does not change, post_content is the name of the column, it is followed by the old text and the new text.

There are two drawbacks to this method.

1) You must know the table and column that contains the data before you can write the query.

2.) You cannot make any spelling mistakes.

For these reasons it is often easier to search and replace manually if you only have to change a few pieces of data.

Tip: If you are trying to write a query that will increase all your prices by a certain percentage, then look at the example link above under 4).

In this next example we are going to look at a WordPress content protection system called Digital Access Pass which allows sites to sell content by protecting posts and files, so that only people who purchased access can see them. This plugin also allows you to build emails, choose one of them and deliver them on a specific day to people who purchased a particular product. The interface works fine on most computers but for some reason on my laptop I can’t drag the box that says ‘click and drag me’ and which controls the day a message is released. Although I could figure out in which table most of the data is stored by browsing through the table names, I had no clue how to specify which emails the purchasers of each product receive and which day they are sent on.

I’m going to build a short message and add it to one of the test products.

(The window that says ‘click and hold to drag’ will not drag on my laptop but I can view it by making the font display in my browser very small.)

As a first step I create the email then I add it to a single product and give it a day of delivery of 299. Because I know the pricing structure and the other numbers in the site, I’m confident that my search will only find one or two occurrences of that number. If I get more then I will go back, change the number and then search for the new number.

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A search reveals that there is only 1 occurrence of the number 299.

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By clicking on ‘browse’ next to the match we can see the content of the other columns in the table for our match and figure out what to change. In this case we would change the product ids in order to add the email to other products, the start date to change the mailing day and the display order as needed.

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If we click on Copy (under Options, in blue towards the middle of the page) a page opens up that will allow us to make all our changes.

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When you are done making changes click ‘go’ at the bottom of the page and the new, modified copy of this table row will be added to the database.

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Let’s recap what I did here so that you can do the same thing with other ecommerce plugins or with other content management systems like Joomla or Magenta.

1) I entered some data that I believed to be unique by using the interface provided with the plugin software.

2) I searched for the data using a global database search. If I came up with too many matches I would re-enter a different value and search on that instead

3) Once that I know where the data is I can copy that row. myPhpAdmin will display an interface to let me change some of the data in the row I just copied before adding it to the database. It usually will also auto-increment the index column so I won’t have to edit that.

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In order to work with myPhpAdmin effectively remember to practice on a test blog first, and to always back up both your whole database and the tables you will be working with. The more you learn the more time you can save yourself. There are many tutorials available on the net on writing queries to run in myPhpAdmin.

There is also a wide selection of both physical and cloud based books available on myPhpAdmin on sites like Amazon.com. You can choose from low cost introductory books that will enable you to learn simple tasks to more expensive and comprehensive manuals.

Five Social Media Mistakes to Avoid on your Website

If you own, or are working on starting a website that you want other people to see, you will definitely need to harness the power of social media.  In many ways, proper use of social media today is just as important as search engines like Google, and for some sites, it can drive just as much traffic.

While most website owners know that social media is an essential tool, most of them don’t really understand how to put it to good use. In fact, most webmasters make the same common mistakes over and over again, which can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of their social media marketing. Look over the following five mistakes, and make sure you’re not making them for your site.

1 – Mixing Business (site) & Personal Accounts

Mixing Business

In most cases, your website should have its own page that is not associated with your personal page.  While you can typically manage a business or website page from your personal login, that should be the extent of the association.  You don’t want to have everything mixed together or it will only cause confusion and annoyance for everyone involved.

When you have your personal account commenting and updating the website page, your friends and family will see every update.  This will quickly get them annoyed with you, and they will end up hiding all your posts.  In addition, if you’re not posting from an official name that is dedicated to the website, the followers of your page may get confused.

This is an easy mistake to avoid, so make sure you take the time to always post from a dedicated website social media account whenever possible.  It will take a little extra time up front, but it is well worth it in the long run.

2 – Not using Paid Advertising

Paid advertising

Even if you have thousands of people who ‘like’ or ‘+1’ or follow your social media account, each post you make will only be seen by about 10% of the total number of people associated with the account.  There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but the bottom line is that 10% is not that many.

In order to drive that number up to 100%, and even beyond, you need to use paid advertising.  Yes, this will cost you money, but it is really quite affordable. Of course, if you are not making any money with your website, this might not be the best idea.

If you are, however, it is absolutely essential, and here is why:

  • Targeted – You can choose exactly who sees the ‘sponsored’ post
  • Effective – Social media paid advertising has been a proven way to drive traffic and build followers
  • Easy – You can set up advertising on a post in just a minute or two
  • Customizable – You can choose exactly how long the ad should run, how much you want to spend, and even what hours of the day you want it running

Most people won’t want to use paid advertising to promote every one of their posts.  Instead, only use this tool when you’re posting something especially interesting.  This will help you gain additional followers, so that 10% who see the rest of your posts will be an even bigger number of people.

3 – #Hashtags

Twitter Hashtag

Love them or hate them, hashtags are here to stay.  As someone who is looking to drive traffic to your website, you are almost certainly using hashtags incorrectly.  Almost everyone either uses them WAY too much, or WAY too little.

The bottom line with hashtags is not that you should put a # before each key word in your post, but that you should try to jump on trends to gain additional viewers.

For example, if you wrote a post about how to buy athletic shorts, you may have wanted to use the hashtag #worldcup2014 in your post (while the world cup was running).  This would get your post in a lot of lists associated with the world cup.  Of course, the people who read these lists will be interested in athletic shorts, so it is a good fit.

Before writing any posts on your social media accounts, you should go look at the top 100-200 trending hashtags at the moment, and try to use as many of them as you can.  Of course, you want them to fit in with what you’re posting too, or you’re just wasting time.

4 – One way Conversation

One Way Communication

While blogs and websites are typically a great way for you to get your information published and seen by a lot of people, social media is supposed to be a two way conversation.  While you may initiate most of the conversations with your posts, you need to be watching what other people are saying about them.  When someone comments on your post, try to respond to them right away.

Even just going through and liking their posts, or thanking them for their comments will help to show them that you’re actually a real person.  This will help you to build a relationship with your followers.  In addition, the more interactions you can get on your page, the more your posts will show up in the dashboards and news feeds of your followers.  The bottom line here is, you should always be communicating back and forth with your social media followers.

5 – Too Focused or Too Distracted

Social mediaThere are dozens of different social media sites out there today.  Most website owners either make the mistake of using only one (typically Facebook) or else spreading themselves too thin and trying to engage with people on every single social media platform they can find.

You really need to strike a good balance that works for your schedule and site.  Virtually every website should have an account on the following platforms:

  • Facebook – This is the largest social network in the world, it is essentially a requirement for all websites.
  • Twitter – Same here, you really must have a Twitter account.
  • Google + – Like it or hate it, Google + is here to stay.  In addition, it will almost certainly have an impact on your sites SEO than any other social network.

Depending on the type of website you’re running, you may want to consider adding accounts on these popular social networks:

  • Pinterest – This site is invaluable if you are running any type of site that could benefit from sharing images.  It is extremely popular and can drive thousands of users to your site.
  • Tumblr – Another huge site.  Many people will simply auto-post their content to Tumblr for easy traffic and back links.
  • Instagram – Again, this is a great image sharing platform, and if done properly, you can drive a lot of traffic.
  • LinkedIn – For any business/professional websites, this is an excellent option.

Choosing which of these sites you want to participate on can be difficult, but if you attempt to do them all, you’ll end up doing them all poorly, which won’t help you in the long run.  Figure out how much time you can spend on social media, and then only join as many sites as you’ll be able to keep up with.

Avoiding the Mistakes

If you work hard at avoiding each of the above listed mistakes, you will turn your social media efforts from a waste of time into an incredible source of traffic for your website.  While it isn’t always going to be easy, it is well worth the effort.