Best Practices for Website Functionality

Best Practices for Website Functionality

Springboarding off of our latest ebook on Website Functionality, we have compiled some key things to keep in mind when creating or re-building your website.

Starting a Dialogue

No matter what tips or tricks you learn to attract visitors to your website, never forget the end goal: to convert those leads into customers. A great way to do this is to start a dialogue with your visitors. A few ways to do this:

– An inviting contact us page. Don’t simply make your contact us page a list of ways to contact you. Put in a personal message, tell them a little bit about yourself and your staff, and most importantly, invite them to reach out. And then make it easy for them to do so! Studies have shown that websites that have their contact information somewhere on every page of their websites have significantly higher conversion rates than those that only list it on their contact us page.

– Website chat. This is a great way to boost your conversion rates, as we can personally attest. You’ve probably already experienced a chat window popping up on a website you’ve visited that asks you something like “how can we help?” or “what are you looking for?”. These chat windows can be linked to your mobile device, or really any device you want to dedicate to it. Once a customer sends a message in the chat, an alert will be sent to wherever you designate it. You can then respond immediately.

This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation, however. It’s as simple as asking what they’re looking for, listening to their response, and then inviting them to set up an appointment or send you an email to discuss it further. You can also set up automated responses to do the same thing whenever you are unavailable. This is a great way to connect with your visitors, and your conversation rates will grow like crazy.

Whitespace

This is one that is often overlooked, but is crucial to the design on your website. Whitespace is exactly what it sounds like: the empty white space on a website page. The trick here is to utilize the space on your webpage to deliver information, but not to overwhelm your visitors. Have you ever been to a website that had so much content on it that you didn’t know where to start? That’s exactly the kind of experience you want to avoid.

A good example is Google’s homepage. It’s almost entirely whitespace with their logo and search bar in the center of the page. But when you look at it, are you focused on the whitespace? No, because the whitespace is used to draw the eye to the actual content on the screen.

There is definitely a fine balance to this, however. Too little or too much can hurt your website more than it helps. The key to using whitespace is to not think of it as empty space, but rather dividers that break your content into neat little packages. Once you’ve done that, this leads to the next step, which is…

Scanning-Friendly Content

In today’s society, it is not enough to have the perfect content. Those neat little packages need to be labeled. The reason for this is a practice called “scanning.” The majority of visitors that find websites based on their search results are often looking for a specific piece of information, and if those visitors don’t find what they’re looking for within seconds of looking at a page, they return to the search results. They do so by quickly scrolling (or scanning) the page trying to find the keyword that brought them to your page.

Headers and subheaders are how you capture their attention. We’ve already shown you an example of this in our blogs. While each blog covers a topic, each sub-topic is bolded and uses keywords to grab your attention. It’s a lot like the exit signs on highways that display categories of what you can expect to find at each off ramp: food, gas, lodging, etc. Except in this case, the off-ramp is the content within your page. You simply have to label it clearly so that they don’t miss your exit.

Plus, as a bonus, organizing your content in this way makes it easier for the search engine crawlers to know what content is on your page and how to properly file your website in their index.

Navigation-Friendly Content

There’s nothing worse than taking an exit in a town you don’t know and getting lost trying to find your way back to the highway. Actually, there is something worse: the same experience happening to a visitor on your website. This can happen when a visitor finds a specific page on your website based on their search results and that page isn’t designed to be a starting ground for exploring your website. To avoid this, try some of the following:

– A well-designed sitemap. While having a sitemap is a must for every website, a well-thought out one is worth the effort, as you can use it as the springboard for all of your navigation for the website. Break your website into categories that use keywords that describe your website and your content. A sitemap is often where search engine crawlers begin their index of your website, so having it spruced up not only makes navigation easier, but makes the crawlers’ job easier, which means a better chance at a higher search engine ranking.

– Navigation headers. Many website design models allow you to create headers designed to create a miniature version of your sitemap at the top of each page. That way, no matter what page of your site a visitor lands on, they’ll quickly be able to find their way around your website and know exactly where they are. Most of these headers use your sitemap as a reference point, telling visitors what category and subpage of the sitemap they are on.

– Easy-to-click links. While having links to the other pages on your site are good to have, an easy to miss detail can make a huge impact on your visitor’s experience: the size of your links. That is, the clickable portion around your links. With an ever-increasing focus on mobile-friendly websites, this is a must. Any link that visitors have to zoom their screen in to click isn’t a link they’re likely to follow. In fact, it’s often a point of frustration for visitors, and if your visitors are frustrated, they’re motivated to leave your website rather than dive in further.

Wrapping It Up

Obviously, there is much more to website functionality than what we have discussed here, but our hope is that this will give you a basic understanding of the process and a few ideas of where to start. If you have any questions or would like to discuss a plan of how to implement this process for your website and start boosting your traffic, we’d love to talk with you about how we can do this for you.

SSL’s are No Longer an Optional Add-On

SSL’s are No Longer an Optional Add-On

When we wrote our e-book that was released a few weeks ago, we mentioned that Google’s emphasis on SSL in their rankings would only continue to increase. In the last two months, we’ve seen a major shift in the way Google is handling websites that don’t have SSL certificates installed. Here are the highlights:

– Every non-SSL secured website has officially been logged and flagged in Google Chrome.  Every single one.  What this means is that if your website does not have an SSL certificate installed, a box that says “not secure” comes up next to your web address in the address bar.  And while it may not seem like an issue if a user isn’t using Chrome, other browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer have begun to follow suit as well.

– Non-SSL secured websites are now dropping off of Google’s search results, and it may be due to visitors, not Google directly. That “not secure” flag can cause visitors to leave your website shortly after visiting or once they notice the warning. Both of these factors (“bounce” rates and time spent on your website” are major factors in Google’s ranking algorithms that will lower your website in the rankings, slowly at first, but gaining speed as more and more users establish this pattern.

– To tie this in with our SEO blog from last week, Google is also ramping up their focus on the content quality of websites. Specifically, the EAT principles (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). They’re now placing an emphasis on websites that have very apparent contact information, a privacy policy and terms of service, and share links to other websites and vice versa. Google is now looking at website content and checking to see if: 1) the content is authentic, 2) the content is accurate, and 3) the content is trust-worthy (this is where having other websites link to yours comes in).

While that last one doesn’t deal specifically in SSL, it was a big enough change that we thought it warranted throwing it in here for your consideration. As you can see, Google is making massive changes in how they view and rank websites, and SSL is at the core of it. It’s no longer an optional add-on; it’s a necessity if you want your website to be seen by others.

SEO & SSL

SEO & SSL

Why SSL should matter to me if I want to be ranked on the first page of Google?

 

As with many things related to website search engine optimization (SEO), the answer comes back to Google. There are many search engines out there to choose from, but Google is the top choice and has been for the last decade. What that means for your website and your SEO practices is that if you’re wanting to boost your rankings in web searches, you have to follow Google’s lead.

In 2014, Google announced that they would have an increased focus on websites that use SSL and HTTPS encryption as part of their dedication to provide safe, secure websites to users in their searches (SSL and HTTPS work hand in hand to provide top notch security for websites).

Google stated that having a website with SSL would have little to no effect on SEO practices, as it would only use it as a tie-breaker between two websites that ranked the same in listings. However, in the last few years, there has been a small, almost imperceptible shift in rankings towards websites that use SSL encryption, as well as hints dropped by Google executives that that shift will only continue to grow in the upcoming months and years. In plain language, it is now very important that your website has an SSL, and it will only continue to increase as time goes on.

Today, 60% of all first-page Google results are SSL-encrypted websites. Internet browsers now show a glaring red X next to the website name in the address bar if a website is not SSL-encrypted. Chrome and Safari take it one step further by giving you an error message whenever you click to follow an un-encrypted link, warning you that the website is not SSL-encrypted and your data is vulnerable. In some cases, based on your security settings, it will prevent you from even accessing or seeing the page itself.

That fact alone has changed how website design and SEO are viewed today. A few years ago, you’d often only see SSL-secure seals on websites that offered products or had an online store. Today, you’ll notice more and more of those seals on non-commerce websites. In the last month, I’ve come across them on blogs, news websites, and even Wikipedia. Even if you aren’t selling anything and provide only information on your website, Google no longer views a distinction between informational websites and commercial websites. Their sole focus is on the visitor’s security, and in order to have a chance at good rankings and keep them, you’ll need to as well.

Editor’s note

In the month since this blog post was written, we have seen another push by Google towards an SSL-only future: websites without an SSL have started dropping from Google search results.  This is a huge change, as it is no longer a tie-breaker, but rather a mandatory requirement if you want to stay in the race.  

Choosing an SSL Certificate

Choosing an SSL Certificate

How to Choose the SSL Certificate That’s Right for You

 

Today, let’s talk about the different types of SSL certificates and how to decide which one is right for your website.

There are three main types of SSL certificates:

  • Domain Validation (DV)
  • Organization Validation (OV)
  • Extended Validation (EV)

All three types give you the full range of SSL security for the most part. The main difference between them is based on the process used to issue the certificate, which is often an indicator of how seriously the purchaser of the certificate is about your security when visiting their websites.

 

Domain Validation

– What it is: A domain validation certificate is just that: an SSL certificate that has been verified by a Certificate Authority that the domain has been confirmed to match the owner’s information. Basically, that the domain is who they say they are and the purchaser of the certificate has been verified to be the owner of the website you are visiting.

– What it gives you: With a DV SSL, you will receive the SSL security seal to use on your website, as well as the padlock in the address bar of website browsers. These certificates are quite easy to purchase and you can often have the certificate installed on the same day.

– Who typically purchases these: These certificates are the cheapest ones on the market. The majority of customers that purchase these are small business owners that either don’t receive a large amount of traffic to their site or have a small client base, such as local businesses that do much of their business in person. Informational sites are also frequent purchasers of DV SSL, as their websites don’t deal with private information.

– Drawbacks: The main downside to a DV certificate is that when you go to the padlock in the address bar to find out more information about the company that purchased the certificate, you’ll find that there is none. All a DV certificate provides is proof that the domain matches the owner. While this is not an issue to most, tech-savvy visitors to the website may be a little concerned about the lack of information of the company behind the certificate. Since it is the cheapest SSL certificate to purchase, they may wonder if the company chose DV due to it matching their business needs, or if they’re running a scam and bought the DV to make it appear legitimate.

 

Organization Validation

– What it is: As you may have guessed, an OV certificate means that the Certificate Authority has not only verified the domain that purchased it, but also the organization behind it as well. This process includes running the names of the owners of the organization through several different government databases to make sure nothing is fishy. The organization itself is also run through the same process to ensure everything is on the up-and-up.

– What it gives you: Visitors to your website will now be able to see details about the SSL certificate, such as who purchased it, which Certificate Authority issued it, how long the certificate is valid for, and other details.

– Who typically buys these: Businesses that are looking to provide their customers with peace of mind about their security on their site often purchase these. Again, while the security is basically the same, these certificates give visitors more details to peruse, essentially pulling back the curtain and letting them see more information about how the certificate was obtained and validated. Small to medium size businesses often purchase these, and their client base often extends beyond a local range.

– Drawbacks: These certificates will be a little more on the pricier side and the process to obtain one takes a little longer, due to the vetting process behind it.

 

Extended Validation

– What it is: EV certificates are, you guessed it, certificates that go above and beyond. All of the security checks of DV and OV certificates are used, as well as additional checks that require detailed information about the business that is then verified. It also requires a physical address for the business to ensure that the purchaser of the certificate is an actual company with a brick and mortar base of operations.

– What it gives you: Holders of these certificates will have the tell-tale sign of an all-green address bar. This is SSL’s way of making it obvious that this website takes your security very seriously.

– Who typically buys these: Organizations make up almost all of the purchases of EV certificates, such as banking and financial institutions, or any organization that deals with a significant client base and a large amount of personal and private data.

– Drawbacks: This is easily the highest price point of SSL certificates, and it can take several days to obtain one due to all of the security checks involved. Aside from that, however, there are no drawbacks. This is the highest level of SSL security you can find.

 

CHECK OUT OUR FREE E-BOOK:

To learn more about the importance of SSL for your website, we have released our first e-book, How to Improve Your Search Rankings with SSL. If this sounds interesting to you, simply plug in your email address in the form below. You’ll be added to our mailing list and will receive the first e-book, as well as be notified when the next blogs and e-books are published. We look forward to taking this journey with you!

New Content Series + Free E-book

New Content Series + Free E-book

New Content Series + Free E-book

We are excited to announce a regular series of free, original marketing resources and guides! Each month, we will be releasing a new e-book that covers a different aspect of marketing and how it can be applied to help grow and sustain your business. We will also be launching a blog that will feature posts that dive into the details of important aspects of each e-book topic.

 

How to Improve Your Search Rankings with SSL

To start off our series, we have released our first e-book, How to Improve Your Search Rankings with SSL. In this content series, we’ll be taking a look at what makes websites secure and the top player in the market: SSL. We’ll discuss why it is vitally important to the success of your business, as well as provide you with a brief overview of SSL and the different types of it, how to choose, purchase, and install SSL on your website, and how having SSL can actually help grow your business.

If this sounds interesting to you, simply plug in your email address in the form below. You’ll be added to our mailing list and will receive the first e-book, as well as be notified when the next blogs and e-books are published. We look forward to taking this journey with you!

 

 

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