Five Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Website

By Laura Mauney

Is your relationship with your website stuck in a rut? How about a makeover? Consider giving one or more of the following gifts to rekindle the excitement…

  1. Responsive Design
  2. A “Mobile Friendly” label in search results on smartphone browsers means far more than good-looking graphics and a user-friendly interface at the website.

    Just as wireless routers freed us all from the chain of cables we used to string all over homes and offices to get multiple computers online, tablets and smartphones have freed many of us from our desktops and laptops altogether, giving us easy access to websites, email, and even office and design applications, from almost any location.

    A Mobile Friendly web design makes a site easy to read on a smartphone.

    A Mobile Friendly web design makes a site easy to read on a smartphone.

    “Mobile Friendly” means that a website includes the CSS elements required for “responsive design,” a set of simple formatting instructions that make every page on the site fully accessible on all devices.

    “Responsive design” basically enables websites to auto-format for easy reading in multiple window sizes, including wide screen monitors, nine to seven inch tablets, and tiny smartphone screens. Users are thus able to read every single word and view every single image easily on a mobile device without having to magnify, scroll, or squint.

    Responsive design is not the same thing as a mobile app or a “mobile site.”

    Apps are downloadable software built for specific purposes, such as ordering products online, checking bank account info, playing games, and watching movies.

    Mobile sites, all too often, are stunted versions of master sites. Mobile sites are fine for quick access to a limited amount of information. However, if a non-responsive master site is linked, any user who attempts to access the master site from the truncated mobile site may wind up on a miniaturized page.

    Responsive design can be accomplished in a couple of ways:

    1. Simply add the required code to the existing CSS stylesheet and header tag. See W3 Schools – Responsive Design for more information.
    2. Update the site entirely using a cloud-hosted or open-source website CMS (content management system) like Squarespace, WordPress, or Drupal, all of which include responsive elements automatically in the core code for most, if not all, design choices.

     

  3. Well-Written Meta Titles and Descriptions
  4. Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions are the information that shows up about a website in organic search results, and serve as two of the most critical components of successful website SEO (search engine optimization).

    Meta titles, in particular, enable search engines, like Google, Yahoo and Bing, to quickly identify and interpret the content on the webpages.

    A strong Meta Title will include the website’s name combined with an intelligent phrase that contains a target keyword related to the actual page. The title should be written in 60 characters with spaces, or less. Here’s an example:

      My Lovely Website | All About Meta Titles

     
    Meta descriptions serve up default text in search results. Though search engines often pull descriptive text from actual content on a webpage, Meta descriptions offer website owners an excellent means to define a site for the public, and even encourage users to click-through.

    A strong Meta description will include at least one complete sentence that concisely summarizes page content, phrased to prompt a user to click. The description should be written in 156 characters with spaces, or less. Here’s an example:

      Tell your story. Improve business. Increase traffic. Learn how to write strong Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions in a few easy steps.

     
    While writing, keep in mind that almost everyone using the Internet took the same language arts classes in high school and college that SEO writers took. Mistakes will be noticed, and will definitely discourage business. Follow grammatical rules and spell words correctly.

    Warning: keyword packing and keyword repetition may seem like a “too-clever-by-half” way to outsmart Google’s algorithm (as if), but in reality Meta titles and Meta descriptions that contain nothing more than keyword lists, or incessantly repeated keywords, look pretty ridiculous in search results, and can give users a bad impression of the company sponsoring the website.

     

  5. HTML5 for SEO
  6. Though intelligent use of keywords that are related to the page content is a core component of the SEO development process, correct HTML5 tagging is what enables indexing bots to scan and interpret a page quickly. The faster the scan, the more likely a page will show up in higher ranked results for related keywords.

    HTML5 tags are the not the same thing as the #hashtags used in social media.

    Whereas #hashtags help people find specific content and images on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etal, HTML5 tags help automated search bots more easily comprehend and record website content.

    The same concepts that apply to strong print marketing apply to strong HTML5 implementation, and include:

    Hierarchical Headers that are:

    • Concise
    • Informative
    • Keyword rich.

    Short paragraphs and well-structured sentences that:

    • Are grammatically correct
    • Include intelligently used and correctly spelled keywords
    • Are properly punctuated.

    Bullets, captions and text attributes that:

    • Highlight important concepts on the page
    • List out rote items in an easy to read format.

    Image tags that contain:

    • Alt text that describes the image in words
    • Title text that describes the image in words.

    Link tags – including internal navigation links – that contain:

    • Title text that defines the link source and summarizes its content
    • Target tags that open a second browser ONLY if the link jumps the reader to a new website.
    •  
      Warning: avoid excessive and random linking as a means to highlight keywords on a page or provide word definitions. Random links that toss a user off the page before its content has been fully read is annoying to readers, confuses indexing bots, and, though it may improve bounce ratios, can cause users to exit the site faster out of frustration.

     
    Of course, there is much more to HTML5 than the items listed above. Solid information about implementing HTML5 can be found at W3 Schools and Lynda.com. The Microsoft Manual of Style additionally provides great information about structuring web content for SEO.

     

  7. Online Branding
  8. The web-o-verse is rife with opportunities for websites to brand free of charge and via advertising. By “brand,” I mean literally pounding a company’s site name or business name into users’ memories so that the name can be easily recognized anytime, anywhere, and, ideally, remembered when a user desires to seek the company’s product, service or information.

    Branding can be reinforced through Meta Titles, descriptions, image tags, title tags, and top level page headers (H1 and H2).

    To brand using Meta titles and Headers, always include the website name plus a keyword based tagline tied to the website’s product set, business objective, or subject matter, as in:

      My Lovely Website | The Place to Learn About Branding

     
    Branding also can be expanded through accounts at LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media site that can be used to promote business. Posts and status updates on social sites should occur routinely; a few times a month at the very least. If the website includes a blog, posting links to posts at social sites can help generate more traffic.

    For any company selling anything, branding via paid ads for search, content, and digital / print publications can help strengthen and increase responses to social site updates, and can further improve click-throughs on organic listings.

  9. Happy Visitors
  10. Friendly, well-written, and well-structured content is as much about establishing a pleasant and welcoming tone as it is about NOT wasting a user’s time with a lot of nonsensical keyword packing, poorly written sentences, and irrelevant information.

    Websites need to be inclusive to be genuinely user-friendly, for one thing. Homepage content should respect the intelligence of users, target each of the four personas, and avoid gender and ethnic barriers.

    Websites designed to solicit business should also make it easy for users to interact. Abiding by the three-clicks or less rule that was proven so long ago by pioneer ecommerce developers is one way to ensure interaction.

    The three clicks rule provides users with the ability to find and buy a product, or request information or a quote for a service, in three clicks or less. The ability to make contact should be available on the home page proper, via the top level navigation menu, via the footer, and on all product or service webpages.

    Finally, following up with emails and phone calls to site visitors who submit lead forms, price requests, contact forms, and newsletter signups is the equivalent to fulfilling an online order, from the perspective of a site visitor, anyway.

    In our ever spammy world, it is easy to forget that many people who contact websites are genuinely interested in acquiring more information or establishing a working relationship.

    Snobbiness and prejudgment hold no place in the world of commerce. If a brick and mortar store that sells scarves barred customers at the door based on an arbitrary presumption that customers wearing shirts with collars would not buy a scarf, well, that store wouldn’t stay in business too long, would it?

Happy Holidays from Laura Mauney!Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! I wish everyone and your families all the best. Many thanks to those who read my posts. I also thank the professional colleagues who had faith in me this year, and additionally thank and credit those who shared with me some of the information I’ve discussed in this article, including Dr. M. G. Samet, K. Morgan, D.F. Glynn, J. Kidd, G. Canning, R. Mauney, and the fabulous team at Cinespia.

Find a copy error in this article? Tell me about it, please!

About Laura Mauney

Laura Mauney is a writer who thinks she is a photographer. Professionally, she specializes in online marketing, and creating, organizing and managing creative assets and user-friendly information for websites. She is also a mother. Her photo blogs include Flowers in Urbia and Trees in Urbia.

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