Google’s New Responsive Design Algorithm Changes: What Does Responsive Mean for Your Site and Rank?

 

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If you keep up with the latest Google algorithm changes, you’ve probably heard about the announcement on mobile design. Google recently announced that it will use mobile usability as a factor for its website ranking. This means that your website could be affected if you don’t have a responsive or mobile-friendly design. Website designers are familiar with what it takes to make a site mobile, but this article highlights what webmasters need to know if they don’t have responsive design experience.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive design automatically formats and lays out elements of your web page dependent on the user’s screen size. In the old days of web design, webmasters had to create pages that fit large desktop monitors. These desktop monitors gradually became larger, so webmasters were able to create wider and larger layouts. Broadband also became available, so webmasters could create large images without worrying about the user’s download speed.

The opposite is happening with website design trends. Users are moving towards smartphones and tablets as a means of browsing the web. Sure, desktops are still used, but these smaller devices are quickly becoming the predominant form of browsing. If your website uses large image files and designs based only on desktop users, mobile users will have difficulties using your site. Frustrated users mean a loss in sales, and now Google has announced that its bots will detect sites that aren’t mobile friendly.

With responsive design, your site layout maneuvers to different areas of the screen based on the mobile device’s screen size. In other words, the same layout fits a smartphone, a tablet, and a regular desktop monitor.

The basis of responsive web design is CSS3. CSS3 is the latest version of cascading style sheets. CSS is the de facto in website design. All of your font styles, layouts, colors, and images are controlled by CSS. CSS3 offers a new type of action called media queries. Media queries detect the user’s screen size and lay out the website design accordingly. Media queries are only available with CSS3, so if your site doesn’t use the latest style sheet version, you won’t be able to work with responsive website designs.

HTML5 is usually integrated with CSS3, although it’s not a requirement to work with responsive designs. HTML5 makes it easier to work with media. The latest HTML version uses new tags such as video and audio that make it easier to create media-rich website designs.

Another issue with smaller screens and mobile devices is bandwidth. Although mobile devices have advanced in hardware and software, bandwidth is still very limited on mobile devices. Also, mobile device users still pay for data and most smartphone plans don’t offer unlimited data. Even companies that claim to offer unlimited data start to throttle users who take up too much data usage each month.

Limited bandwidth means you must consider the size of your website files. Images are usually the most difficult for webmasters to streamline. Reduce the size of old image formats and the quality of the image suffers. You won’t be able to avoid image quality reductions when you work with .jpg or .gif files, but you can create vector images to guarantee quality with any image size. With vector images, you can resize the file to a larger or smaller image size without losing its quality. Vector images usually have an .svg file extension, although there are others that you can work with.

The rule of thumb when working with responsive designs is to always work with the smallest screen first, and then lay out your website design for increasingly larger screens until you reach the biggest desktop monitor you want to support. You can limit the screen sizes you support, but tablets and smartphone manufacturers continue to change screen sizes to compete. For instance, the Apple iPhone used to have only one size for each new version, but Apple released two screen size options with its latest iPhone 6. The same can be said about tablets. Tablet manufacturers offer a variety of sizes that you’ll need to consider when you work with mobile website design.

Do You Have Any Other Options?

You do have options other than responsive website design. Responsive designs are the preference of most website designers, but the other option is a mobile version hosted on a dedicated subdomain. This type of site is called an “m site.” An “m site” gets its name from the common subdomain used. Most website owners put a separate mobile site on a subdomain such as “m.mydomain.com.” The “m” indicates to users that the subdomain is a mobile version of the main desktop website. An m site was the original method of serving mobile content to mobile devices, but then CSS3 and media queries offered responsive design.

If you choose an m site, you’ll need to work with an entirely separate solution from your main desktop site. M sites also work heavily with canonical tags. Canonical tags indicate to search engine bots that two pages are identical and one of them is your preference. Canonical tags are used similarly for m sites and desktop pages. For instance, suppose you have a sales page selling widgets on a desktop app and a separate page selling the same widgets on a mobile subdomain. The canonical tag indicates to the bots that the mobile page is the same as the desktop page.  Google also uses the “rel” element to link mobile and desktop versions. The “rel” element points the bots to the alternative mobile page related to the desktop page. Working with these two tags can get confusing, and webmasters can easily make mistakes. This is another reason why responsive design is preferred over separate m sites.

 

Are There Any Other Considerations?

Search engine rank is always a priority concern for webmasters when they release a new design. No one can guarantee that you’ll keep your existing search engine rank. Most people see a bit of a dip in ranking, and then it returns to where it was before the new design changes.

It’s also important to test your changes before they go live. Any errors can severely hurt your search engine ranking and sales, so have a tester go through the site and give you feedback. You never want your coder to also do testing. Coders know how the site works and often don’t find errors that your users will find. It’s best to have a third-party tester ensure that all parts of your site are working properly.

With the right designer and a little bit of patience, you can have a great mobile site. With Google making changes to its algorithm, you’ll need to consider mobile site design if you haven’t already. Just a loss of one place in search engine rank can greatly affect your sales and income.

 

Interserver WHMCS Module

Interserver has recently developed and released a new API designed to make managing reseller accounts through the popular WHCMS billing system easier than ever.  For most people who operate as web hosting resellers, one of the most time consuming and difficult parts of their day is managing the billing and tech support that customers demand.

With this in mind, the technical staff at Interserver has created a new API (Application Program Interface) that will make it so resellers can perform the most common tasks quickly and easily, right from a single interface.  The following are some of the key tasks that will be able to be completed simply using this API:

  • Automatic Purchases
  • Automated Billing
  • Manage Interserver Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
  • Customers can Stop/Start/Reboot servers
  • Reinstall the Operating System

Essentially, this will give resellers the ability to quickly manage all of the most common tasks from a single location.  It will also make it easier for their customers to perform these tasks more easily, which means fewer calls to the technical support teams.

To help promote this new API, Interserver is offering a special 10% off coupon to anyone who integrates the API with the WHMCS on their website.

About Interserver: Interserver.net has been an industry leading web hosting service since they first opened in 1999.  They are focused on providing high quality hosting service to all their customers, and have also offered colocation and managed services since 2006.

About WHMCS: WHMCS launched in 2005 with the goal of helping to combine billing and support services for web hosting companies.  They have quickly grown to be the leader in the industry, offering high quality integration and automation options for cPanel/WHM and other platforms.

Module Download: http://interserver.net/Interserver-WHCMS.zip

Module Documentation: https://interserver.net/resolve/Knowledgebase/Article/View/297/0/interserver-whmcs-module

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.

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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.