We're pleased to announce a new addition to our hosting infrastructure to further enhance the quality package that we deliver to our clients. Most people don't think about this aspect very much......but it's absolutely critical. It's the foundation of our business, and also your business.
Simply because, if your web site isn't live, and your mail service isn't operating, then your business can grind to halt. So the challenge of delivering that level of efficiency on a 24/7/365 basis is a big one. It's certainly not something that's achievable on a shoestring budget or by cutting corners. And it's not a gig for part-timers that's for sure.
As a quick overview of what's involved, you need to be aware that Web Hosting is normally delivered using a LAMP Stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). All of these are open source and provide what is necessary to deliver the content of your site when they are installed onto a web server that's connected to the major public networks worldwide.
However, there are alternative commercial applications that can replace those base elements listed above to provide better performance and security. And we have just replaced the open source Apache component with the commercial server application known as Litespeed Web Server.
The key benefit of LiteSpeed is it's ability to deal with heavier traffic, utilising less memory and CPU resources than Apache. It can also handle DDOS attacks with more efficiency, and has full mod_security compatibility. The LiteSpeed Web Server can serve thousands of clients concurrently, and it's highly optimised code serves static and dynamic content much faster than a standard Apache server.
If you've been a client for many years, you already know that we've constantly invested in our hosting infrastructure. As far as we're concerned, this is a critical core element of our business. So let's recap on our progression over the years!
2003: Web Hosting Reseller Account.
2008: Our first Virtual Private Server (VPS) in London.
2010: Our second Virtual Private Server (VPS) in Michigan.
2012: Our first Dedicated Server in London.
2014: Our second Dedicated Server in Michigan.
2016: Conversion of servers to run on Cloud Linux operating system in order to deliver greater security, efficiency, and stability.
2017: London Dedicated Server replaced with a new, more powerful server containing 32GB RAM, 32 CPU's, 6 x 480GB SSD Drives RAID 6.
2019: Conversion of Servers to use Litespeed technology to further enhance our level of service.
So as we keep moving forward......so do you! All clients using currently supported PHP versions are now running on Litespeed. Unfortunately we are unable to provide this facility for those running on deprecated and withdrawn PHP versions. However, once old sites are replaced and are using current PHP versions they will be upgraded to Litespeed.
Now here's an interesting point that I'd like you to consider:
Back in 2003, for a cost of €150 a year you would receive 150MB diskspace and 5GB bandwidth.
Fast forward to 2019 and for €150 a year you receive 10,000MB diskspace and 150GB bandwidth.
That equates to €1 a megabyte in 2003, compared with €0.015 a megabyte in 2019. That's 65x the diskspace and 30x the bandwidth of 2003 while paying the same price.
Can you think of anybody else that you do business with who can say the same thing?
Of course, it's a fact that the mass purchase of diskspace and bandwidth have got cheaper for us to buy over the years. But throughout those years we've passed those savings back to our clients........while still continuing to invest in improving and enhancing our hosting infrastructure. This is absolutely necessary, because in IT, if you're not moving forwards.....then you're going backwards! Failure to do so is occupational suicide - just ask MySpace, Altavista, Lycos and all the other failed business models from the dotcom boom of 20 years ago.
We already have another initiative planned within the next year.......and if you're a WebSpain client then you can be sure that you'll be a part of it!
Please note that our hosting infrastructure is only available to our current web design clients using sites that we have built.
Now here's 3 questions:
1. Did your web developer personally contact you prior to the day and explain these principles?
2. Did your web developer implement these changes prior to 25th May?
3. Did your web developer make all the necessary changes to your site to ensure you were compliant without billing you for their services?
If you answered "Yes" to all three then you're obviously a WebSpain client. As I've said in the past, not all web designers are created equal. This is just another example of how we always go further in the area of client support.
As far as GDPR will develop in the future, there are no guarantees that the stipulations, or even the interpretations, won't actually change. And at this point it remains to be seen how closely the regulations are actually going to be enforced.
No doubt there are millions of website owners out there that haven't got a clue about all this.......because their web developer never bothered to bring them up to speed about their responsibilities. You'll be able to spot them quite easily if they don't have a "specific consent" option in their forms. Potentially, organizations not in compliance could face hefty penalties of up to 20 million euros, or 4 percent of their worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher - so this isn't something that you can leave to chance.
But there's one area where the GDPR isn't clear at the moment.....and that's HTTPS/SSL encryption on websites. The GDPR regulations specifically state that all user information received must be stored securely, and all reasonable precautions must be taken in terms of it's security at point of contact and thereafter.
To me, that would infer it's necessary to have all connections encrypted rather than unsecured......despite the fact SSL Security isn't directly referenced. So my personal recommendation (as I've been saying for 3 years) is to ensure that you have an encrypted connection to your site.
Google has been saying this throughout this period, and now with the introduction of GDPR the onus is on you personally to ensure that you are seen to be complying with the legal responsibilities that you now have. Also, from July onwards, Google Chrome browsers will begin to flag every website that does not use HTTPS encryption with the warnings 'Not secure' prominently highlighted in the address bar. That's a business-killer if ever there was one.
Failure to secure peoples' data in the past was just seen to be unprofessional......now it breaks European law. There's a big difference. Seriously.......just don't take any chances on this because the stakes just got a lot higher.
Very often, we don't notice the changes that happen progressively throughout the course of our lives......because they're not instant, they're gradual. The same applies to our websites.
We've just replaced the WebSpain site, and despite it being less than two years old, it was starting to date considerably compared to others in our field. That prompted me to visit the Wayback Machine which periodically takes snapshots of sites over the years.......to see just how sad some of the earlier versions of WebSpain actually were compared to today.
What I found made for scary viewing......as an example, this monstrosity is from 2010!
I cringe looking at it. It's a bit like bringing out your old photos from the 70's when you had big hair and even bigger flares! It feels like I've put a photo of my dirty underpants online.
But the reality is that the type of presentation you see there was par for the course in 2010. That was all we had to work with back then because the technology that is available today didn't exist. Mobile websites? No such thing!
We normally replace our site every 18 months so there's been about 4 or 5 updates since then.......but comparing the 2010 presentation to today is a real eye opener! Things have changed a lot in 8 years.
I want to emphasise that it's not a case of we've got better at what we do.....it's a case of the technology and applications available to us to work with are now on a totally different level to back then. And like real life, it didn't happen overnight......it was a progression over those years, but at a much faster rate. The mobile era was the game changer, but even that technology at this present time is much more advanced than it was 5 years ago.
Now ask yourself this question if you are a client from recent years:
Would you have even contacted us to find out more information if our website still looked like that?
Highly unlikely......because we would have looked like amateurs or a defunct business. It's the kiss of death at point of discovery!
The fact is, if you can't immediately present yourself as a professional then you will not be taken seriously. Besides looking unprofessional, old sites will also be riddled with security issues and running on slow, outdated, and vulnerable PHP versions on servers.
PHP have announced that later this year, versions 5.6 and 7.0 on the server will be discontinued and unsupported. So if you're still running an older site then this could present problems.
The red dot denotes expiry of those versions......contact us if you want to know whether you're affected! This new WebSpain site runs on PHP 7.2, which as you can see is supported till the end of 2020.
So to summarise, running outdated and obsolete sites can not only adversely affect your business in terms of client pereception, it also puts you and your users at risk of hacking and phishing attacks. Stay current!
Make sure you present yourself as a live, thriving business.....not as somebody who's trapped in time! And definitely don't wait until you plummet to the depths of obsolescence and embarrassment of the WebSpain 2010 site. Because everyone will be laughing at your site in the same way as most of you are now laughing at my old one!
It appears that 2018 has started with an avalanche of Spam e-mails from self professed SEO Experts, Marketing Consultants, Promotional Analysts.....and various other surreal titles that these people dream up. And the content of these mails all contain serious warnings.
The mails usually emanate from the Indian subcontinent, and for reasons best known to themselves these individuals will be doing business under some ludicrous pseudonym like Buck Rogers, Rhett Butler, or Troy Tempest.
Their modus operandi is basically to panic you by forecasting imminent doom for you and your business due to multitudes of technical problems with your site! And they'll know all this just by getting the e-mail address off it! Because that is all they've actually done!
This approach can be viewed as an unethical and misleading practice designed to take advantage of end users who don't understand the technical aspects. Or maybe they're just that inept that they believe it themselves. Either way, they want your money.....and they'll tell you anything to get it.
Their usual sales pitches, based on total fiction, go along these lines:
1. Your site can't be found on Google. Call me cynical, but I don't think they've thought this one out very well. Because if you can't be found on Google, how did they find you? Crystal Ball? Ouija Board? The Voices in their Head?
2. No metatags on the pages! These are the keywords that can be put in the header of each page.....visible to search engines only. Problem is they've actually been obsolete for over 10 years!
Just see what Google said back in 2009: Google does not use the keywords meta tag. So putting in metatags is irrelevant! Nobody can see them and search engines don't use them! But these "experts" are quite happy to charge you to put them in anyway.
3. Not enough Keywords! These are still relevant today but in a contextual and natural manner, and used in moderation. Don't look to jam them in wherever you can or you'll end up getting penalised for poor quality content.
Simple rule to follow: Deliver information on your site in a natural manner as if you were speaking to somebody face to face. As an example, if you are an estate agent in Spain would you actually stand in front of a prospecive client and say something like this? "Property for Sale Spain, Best Spanish Property, Spanish Property Costa del Sol etc etc". Of course you wouldn't.....so why do it on your website?
Google has analysed your site as a human would since 2015.....using it's Artificial Intelligence System RankBrain. So just write for humans because that's what Google wants. Jamming keywords will only diminish your credibility as far as Google is concerned.
4. A specific type of website application is better for SEO! Totally wrong! Google doesn't care whether you use Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, or even basic HTML. They are only interested in the end result.....which is whether you have a quality site that delivers value to users. The actual software application that is powering it is irrelevant. So somebody using this pitch will be trying to get you to order a new website from them by dangling the carrot of SEO enhancement.
5. You don't have enough H1, H2, H3 tags on your site! While it is still good practice to use them if required, the practice of stuffing them everywhere has no bearing whatsoever. And may even be viewed as spammy in some cases.
Basically, it's the quality of the content covered by the tags that is evaluated.....not the tag itself. Start putting them everywhere with insufficient depth of content to warrant it sends a clear signal to Google. And not a positive one.
6. Social media likes and shares boost search engine rankings! The simple act of liking or sharing has no bearing on your site's search engine positioning at all. If it drives traffic to your site then that is a different matter and is viewed as a positive signal. Social media activity is highly recommended to get your business and brand directly in front of potential clients ......thereby eliminating them searching on Google where your rankings may not be so good. There's more ways than Google to generate business these days.
But selling you Social Media promotional services under the guise of it somehow enhancing your presence on Google is incorrect. You'll only enhance your presence on the Social Media channels....nowhere else.
So what is the Reality?
The reality is contained in Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. What they stipulate as essential requirements are Page Quality, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, Supplementary Content, Quality User Experience, Functionality, Mobile optimisation, SSL Security, and Page Loading Speed. Remember that there's a wealth of articles on this site that cover these areas.....and all with links to Google for validation.
As I always say, we do not provide SEO services......we just build websites properly based on Google's guidelines! Nobody elses's!
We follow their directives and then implement those processes in the best way possible for your business.
So what Buck Rogers says, what a Kiddie Blogger says, what the man in the pub says, or what a friend of a friend who knows about this stuff says......they're not relevant to me! Don't let them be relevant to you either!
I'm not keen on using the phrase "SEO" as it's been so abused over the years that it's meaning and interpretation has become lost. Personally I'd say that the majority of the points in this article relate to building a website properly in the first place, and then actually populating it with content that users want to read.
But here's a list of essential components that make up what would be interpreted as a professional website by Google and other search engines.
1. Website Security (HTTPS): This is a ranking factor now, and Google recommends switching to HTTPS to also help with demonstrating professionalism, increasing conversion rates, and building trust with users. It's no accident that 65% of sites that hold the top three positions have implemented HTTPS.
2. Content Length: Content length for sites in the top three positions are on average 45 percent longer than content on sites in 20th position. But beware of writing masses of "padded" content to increase page density......the key is to write content of a necessary length to be relevant and match user intent.
3. Keywords: These are obviously still relevant today......but the era of jamming them everywhere on the site is long gone. If you do this you'll end up in the Sin Bin! So you need to use long tail search strings incorporating keywords contextually (within sentences) when required. Use them sparingly.....do not go overboard on this.
4. Website Traffic: Interestingly, traffic from search engines does not appear have any major impact on rankings. It's direct traffic that matters......so share your content across Social Media. If Google tracks a lot of traffic coming from other sources it will potentially revise your positioning because your site appears to be popular.
5. Bounce Rate: This relates to the time users spend on your site. If you get a visit from a user and they leave immediately....that's a negative. But if they stay on the site and visit numerous pages....that's a positive. How do you retain users? Just write good content as I've always said.
6. Pages per Session: This is closely linked with Bounce Rate! Because the higher number of pages a user visits per session demonstrates to Google that you have content on your site that is of value and relevant to the search query they entered.
6. Backlinks: But unlike years ago it's not quantity.....it's quality! Do not have links on bad sites or Google will assess you at the level of the bad site that you've "buddied up" to. Essentially you've shown them that you're keeping bad company. And whatever you do, do not make reciprocal links with other sites because you'll both get canned.
7. Page Speed: Users like fast pages so don't bog your page down with auto-running videos, multiple large images, or resources that load from other sources like Social Media streams. Yes.....you need to make it look attractive and professional.....but there is such a thing as overkill.
8. On-site Optimisation: Factors such as meta descriptions, meta titles, H1 and H2 tags etc are still relevant and should be used accordingly. But be aware these are not a "Band Aid" for low quality content. If your content is assessed as poor then no amount of on-site optimisation will help you.
9. Mobile Compatibility: If you don't have this in place by now then you're probably not even in business any more. Around 55 - 60% of searches come from mobile devices.....so without it, most of your target market has gone.
Now review those points, and look for the pattern! As always, that pattern is quality content! It's never been any different......in fact Bill Gates predicted this back in 1996:
"Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet" and "If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will".
Admittedly there were ways that unscrupulous individuals could cheat their way to high rankings years ago, but since 2012 those practices will end up making you invisible on search engines! My advice is to beware of web agencies promising you instant high rankings - because you'll end up disappearing without a trace on all searches for a very long time. It will be the Kiss of Death!
So just play by the rules (I always have) and generate quality content that addresses your visitors' questions and specific areas of interest......and then distribute it across Social Media to expand your target audience.
Are you popular on Google? Irrespective of your current status on the search engines, do you actually know what needs to be put in place to get a good ranking? The problem is there's so much conjecture, speculation, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies, that it's difficult to know who or what to believe!
Let me clarify our position! Unlike many others we do not offer additional SEO services. We just build websites properly, rather than put something together than sell a range of payable add-on services to maximise profit and generate perpetual income. We have no vested financial interest in advising you in this area.....so we just give you the truth!
That being established, you'll see by the wealth of information on this site that I've advised people on best web practices for many years. But the problem is that the game keeps changing all the time. Additionally, Google are never really specific on what trigger factors are the most important at any given point......because the more people know, the more likely it is that unscrupulous self-appointed "SEO Experts" will try to cheat the system as they were doing 10 years ago.
So it's been a much debated topic for many years....but now the researchers at SEM Rush have published what I would consider to be the most conclusive data that I've seen in recent years. What they did was analyse data from 600,000 global keywords via a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This process checked the pages’ positions in search results against a list of ranking factors. The objective was to conclusively determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs.
12 factors that influence page position were analysed in order of importance: from the most influential to the least. Then they limited the scope of the analysed data to the first 100 positions for each keyword.
The end result is a 40+ page PDF document which requires a lot of analysis to get to the real determining factors involved in search engine placement. But don't worry, I've been right through it in some depth to summarise the results. It covers all the bases, and the results are irrefutable.
Out of the 12 factors Google analysed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one! In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it is likely to rank. But it appears that search engine traffic is not the predominant factor in improving your ranking, it is organic traffic from other sources that seems to have the biggest effect.
What is organic traffic? This would refer to social traffic, referrals, and direct traffic. So what they're saying is if you create great content that people want to read, then you have to get it in front of your audience via social media, mailshots, and placement on other sites that are considered to be of high value. That will then drive organic traffic to your site that Google will track.
The next element is the users' time spent on your site. If they visit your site and navigate through multiple pages reading numerous articles then that's a positive. If they get there and immediately leave (because your content is poor quality or the user experience is lacking) your bounce rate goes up and that is considered to be a negative. Simply because this sends a clear signal to Google that your site is not meeting users' expectations. Google want to deliver the best quality results, so if your content is sparse and lacking in any value they're just not going to recommend you. Simple as that!
Referring domains! The pages that rank higher have more backlinks from quality domains. Just a warning here! Do not under any circumstances share links or buy links.....you need to earn them from influential sites! How do you do that? Produce quality content that people will link to.....as I'm doing with SEM Rush.
Content length! Short articles which just gloss over and generalise on subjects are not going to cut it. Research suggests that content should be at least 1000 words in length (this article is 1150 words) and go into subjects in depth. But be aware that content length is only important for your page’s success as long as it is valuable, well-written, and optimised. Also, in your articles you must link to recognised sources to validate your points as I'm doing in this article. If you don't do this then the content could be evaluated as your opinion rather than documented fact.
The next factor is HTTPS/SSL! I've been saying this for 3 years now......get an SSL in place! If you look at the chart you'll see that the more popular the keywords are, the more probable it is that the top positions will be occupied by HTTPS domains. So if you have high quality content, then having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important.
Keywords! As you can see from the chart, having keywords in meta descriptions, titles, and content is still relevant. But it appears to be that on-page SEO now has less importance than it has in the past! It seems that all the catchy meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags in the world are going to be of little help if the quality of the content that it references is of very little value.
As I've always said, even back in the days when people could cheat their way to the top, content should be the core of your online business.
Don't waste your time with self indugent trivialities and stupid gimmicks on your website because nobody's interested....least of all Google.
Of course, website optimisation is still important in order to deliver the content in the right way. But if the actual content you're presenting is garbage or plagarised from other sources, then the search engines (and users) will evaluate you accordingly.
I exploded the myth years ago that there is no SEO Magic Bullet and this research (which is probably one of the most extensive ever released) proves that to be in the game from now on you have to generate quality content and market it. Capture big audiences across all the Social Media platforms and build your brand. That's the world we live in now!
To summarise, you need to generate great content, market it wherever you can, and drive traffic to the site. That all starts with Content Creation and then moves on to Content Marketing! And it's an ongoing job......not a one off!
So as paradoxical as it sounds....in order to gain popularity, you have to be popular!
Imagine this scenario! You've got a new website on a new domain. It looks great, it works well, and you've generated some quality content. So you sit back and wait for it to show up in the search listings......and it doesn't appear.
Weeks go by, you check every day, and still no sign of it appearing so you start getting worried. You ask yourself what's wrong with the site?.....why is Google ignoring it? At this point people usually start panicking and think that all their dreams of success are over before they even started!
Well the good news is there's no need to panic! The bad news is that you're going to have to wait a lot longer! Maybe up to 6 months! Because you're in the Google Sandbox!
What is Google Sandbox?
Quite simply it's a filter imposed on new sites. It’s purpose is to restrict ranking, especially for high-competition keywords, until the site is more established and can display a proven quality and trust factor. Look at it this way.....would you recommend a tradesman to a friend unless you're absolutely convinced of their professionalism, reliability, and integrity? And this is exactly the same thing!
It's interesting to note that Google actually deny there's a Sandbox. But they have a history of being deliberately vague in divulging information about their algorithms and evaluation processes.....so their statement has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Therefore, you just have to accept that with a new site and new domain you will have to wait to reap the full benefit of the work you've done.
What can you do to speed up the process?
Basically it comes down to demonstrating quality and trust. Make sure your site has regular quality content added, have SSL Security in place, and generate more activity across Social Media Channels.
With Social Media you can still be getting in front of people without Google's help.....so put your efforts there. A little and often is the best method. But don't start a Spamfest or you'll find yourself restricted on there as well!
Whatever you do, do not employ one of these self-professed "SEO Experts" who relentlessly bombard you with unwanted mail. That will cost you money and it won't end well. You could find yourself on Google's blacklist very easily and it could take you years to get off it. There is no quick fix in this situation....other than pay for Google Adwords. But that can end up being quite expensive so only go there as a last resort.
My message to those people with new sites and new domains is you have to be patient. Follow best practices in the way the site is built, keep generating quality content, and take advantage of the outreach that Social Media can give you. It will pay off in the end!
We've always tried to stay ahead of the game on all the potential changes and advancements within the web industry. Our goal is to inform our clients of anything that they need to know, in order to ensure that they are secure, and in a better position than their competitors. The protection of clients' interests is always at the core of what we do.
But that can only happen if these news articles are actually read, and appropriate action is taken. They are of benefit to everybody.....and after all, do you really want competing businesses leaving you behind?
Are they worth reading? Well let's look at a few things that actually came to pass!
Mobile Compatible Websites: If you go back to 2012 we were the first Brit web designers in Spain to have a mobile compatible site, and the first to provide mobile compatible sites to our clients as standard at no extra charge. Now everybody does.
We said at that time that mobile compatibility would eventually be Google's priority! And sure enough in April 2015 Mobilegeddon occurred.....where any non-mobile sites were dropped in the listings. We then speculated that Google were likely to adopt a policy of Mobile First where they would be looking for a mobile site first and foremost. And sure enough, that happened in January 2017.
HTTPS/SSL Websites: In August 2014 we published the article SSL for SEO where we discussed Google's new emphasis on HTTPS/SSL encryption on all sites to protect visitors from identity theft and phishing attacks! And that Google were likely to prioritise these sites in listings due to them providing a safe and secure environment for users.
At that time around 15% of sites in the top ten had this in place. By this time last year the figure had risen to 30%. Currently, latest studies from MOZ show that this has now passed 50%. Projections are that this is going to continue to rise to around 65% by the end of this year. Does your site have the green padlock in the address bar to reassure users and Google that you are actually a professional?
Security: Over the years we've continually emphasised that security is the most important aspect of what we do. We will not run obsolete software on the servers, and we will not permit outdated website applications, or sites from other designers, to be put on our servers. We've strongly recommended that every client's site is always up to date and that they put a commercial security firewall in place....because I can guarantee that every day somebody is trying to break into it.
And now Google has come out and said exactly the same thing: "It’s best to take a preventative approach and secure your site rather than dealing with the aftermath". Do you have a security firewall on your site?
SEO: Look back on here over many years and you'll find numerous articles telling people the REAL truth! We've always built websites properly following all Google recommendations and guidelines......and emphasised to clients that they must generate quality content to get good results.
Unfortunately, others just spewed out a torrent of disinformation to assist their "hard sell" business plans......and many people got their sites blacklisted by Google as a result of these "initiatives". Not to mention how much they paid for these services in the first place.
I'm sure people actually thought I knew nothing about the subject (despite the fact that this site has dominated Google for 10 years).......but then Google came to my rescue! Because they finally published their Search Quality Guidelines which validated EVERYTHING that I'd been saying for years. So when somebody tries to sell you an SEO Magic Bullet.......just refer to that article. Because it blows that myth out of the water.
So that makes FOUR major web developments affecting you and your business within the last five years where we were ahead of the game. And we kept you ahead of the game too! Get informed! Don't let your competitors get ahead of you in areas like this.......because if they're better informed than you, then they're more likely to do better business than you. There is no substitute for Knowledge! It's not about Web Design.......it's all about Business!
When clients come to us for a website they generally have a list of expectations or requirements. Of course, that helps us to identify exactly what needs to be implemented in order to meet their requirements......but one important thing is always missing in their estimation at that point! And that factor is User expectations!
People tend to focus solely on what they want or what they like, with no regard to what potential users actually expect when they visit a website. That's where we come in.....because we make it absolutely clear what aspects need to be prioritised! However, some people don't want to listen and will take no advice whatsoever. All that matters to them is what they want, to the point of total exclusion of their potential users' requirements.
If you take this course of action then your website is unlikely to succeed......irrespective of how attractive it looks. Because if people can't figure out how to use it, or can't find anything on it, they'll leave and never return. Simply because you prioritised what you wanted over what they wanted.....thereby making it difficult, irritating, and time consuming for visitors!
So what is it that users expect?
1. Site Speed! Don't overload pages with giant images or introduce additional elements where data is retrieved from outside sources. Things like Live Chat boxes, Facebook and Twitter streams, Weather forecasts etc are an example of this!
Be aware that if you insist on bogging it down with resource intensive elements, slow page loads are going to be the end result. You'll then get a high bounce rate (which Google tracks) so your site rankings will drop as a result! Keep it as lean as possible, and avoid irrelevant, superfluous, and self indulgent elements that deliver no value to the user whatsoever.
2. Intuitive Navigation! Ensure that you have clearly visible and intuitive menu and sub-menu structures, along with categorisation of the elements contained within. Basically, don't throw everything into one place and then expect users to be able to hunt for what they want. Make life easy for them.......then they're more likely to bookmark the site and return in the future.
3. An Organised Site! No enormous paragraphs of text that go on forever! Short, sharp, straight to the point, introduce benefits, and accompany it with a great quality image to get their intial attention.
4. Aesthetics! When a visitor gets to your site you've got less than 10 seconds to make a positive impression. If your site looks a hideous and cluttered mess while resplendent in a myriad of migraine-inducing dayglo colours then you probably haven't got off to a good start! Your site must attract visitors straight away......first impressions count! But be aware that this is the point where you now need to actually validate yourself professionally, which brings us to the next point.....Value!
5. Value! In this context I'm referring to delivering on what you initially promised when you presented them with an attractive looking site!
On the intial front page intro you should be clearly defining what you deliver! But it's no good just saying it.....you need to actually deliver it in terms of quality written content that informs, educates, and advises.
Examples of poor value would be spurious unsubstantiated claims, ludicrous cliches, and sales pitches....all accompanied by a couple of generic paragraphs and a blurry image that you copied from Wikipedia! If you go down this route then site visitors (and Google) won't take you seriously.
6. Mobile Compatibility! Over half of the searches on Google now come from mobile devices.....so if you don't have a mobile site by now then you're not even in the game! Every site we've built since 2012 has been mobile compatible as standard and at no additional cost. Mobile must be at the core of everything you do!
7. Safety and Security! Visitors want to know that their identity, information, and even their computer is not at risk from malware, browser hijacks, viruses, trojans, hacking, or phishing attempts. Google is very interested in this factor as well........and everytime they visit they're running checks on your site to ensure that it's safe for visitors.
They're very clear on this.......all sites should now have SSL encryption in place to protect visitors. If you don't, then realistically it'll only be a matter of time until you drop off the radar on the search results. After all, do you think Google are going to send it's users to websites that they consider to be unsafe? And without SSL in place to provide an encrypted connection for visitors then your site status with Google is unsafe!
As you've seen, all those points were categorised as User expectations! Are User expectations important to you?
Maybe not.....but what if I changed the title to Google expectations? Would that now get your attention?
Because the fact is that what Users expect and what Google expects in terms of front end viewing is exactly the same thing!
So stop thinking about what You want.......and think about what Users want! Because your Users, and Google, will take you a lot more seriously if you do!
Google has now started sending out warnings to users that are running outdated and vulnerable software installations. Which is what we have been doing for years in order to ensure our clients are not at risk.
This action from them has probably been initiated due to the continual problems caused by webmasters who just don't take security seriously. There was recently a mass defacement involving hundreds of thousands of websites using the Wordpress content management system (which we don't use) called the REST API Vulnerability. And no doubt this has now driven Google to take this action.
The message users are receiving (depending on what software they're using) is this:
"Google has detected that your site is currently running Joomla 2.5, an older version of Joomla. Outdated or unpatched software can be vulnerable to hacking and malware exploits that harm potential visitors to your site. Therefore, we suggest you update the software on your site as soon as possible".
So let's just recap on the warnings Google are now issuing:
1. Sites should be mobile compatible.
2. Sites should have HTTPS/SSL security.
3. Sites should be running up to date and secure software.
I'd also add that every site should have it's own security firewall installed......which could well be the next step Google will take.
Let me emphasise that Google are not saying that you have to have a site of the technical complexity of Kyero or eBay etc.....they're just making it clear that it should reach a basic level of professionalism and responsibility.
Saying that......I've actually had people who are knowingly in the position above actually ask me how they can improve their Google positioning. Just let that sink in! They fail all of the basic criteria that Google requires, they've received multiple warnings to that effect.....yet they want to be recommended by them.
Bottom line is if you can't demonstrate professionalism in your online presence then Google (and users) will just not take you seriously. Think of it this way: Most of you at one time or another will have experienced the damage caused by viruses, trojans, ransomware etc when your computer gets infected by malware. Where do they come from? From infected websites on the internet!
Google want to get this under control, and they will now penalise sites who refuse to accept their responsibilities regarding security. They're certainly not going to be recommending sites they class as dangerous to their users.
I'd go so far as to say that they will eventually take the view that if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem......and you'll end up becoming invisible. Others are following too.....because I've had warnings flash up from Facebook that I may be leaving there to visit a site that is classed as dangerous. So all the big players are getting behind these security initiatives.....it's not something you can ignore.
If you're a client, then we've already notified you of your status in each of the criteria. If you're not a client, then your current web developer should have kept you up to date on all these developments to ensure you were protected. If they haven't, then get in touch and we can run some checks for you.