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Top SEO Mistakes

3 Common SEO Mistakes

Ranking your web pages on search engines are usually the foundation to any digital marketing strategy. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to properly execute a solid SEO plan. This article is meant to provide you a quick and easy list that addresses the top 3 SEO mistakes and how to fix them.

SEO Mistake #1: Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the most seen problems with a website’s SEO. Webpages are considered duplicate if they contain identical or nearly identical content. Excessive duplicate content may confuse search engines as to which page to index and which one to prioritize in search results. Using duplicated content across multiple pages may lead to traffic loss and poor placement in search results, and it may even provoke search engines to ban your page. Keep in mind, duplicate content can obviously be due to writing the same content on various pages, but it can also result from duplicate pages or internal issues.

How to fix duplicate content:

  1. Provide unique content on the webpage.
  2. Remove duplicate content.
  3. Add a rel=”canonical” link to one of your duplicate pages to inform search engines which page to show in search results.

SEO Mistake #2: Duplicate and missing meta-descriptions

A meta-description tag is a short summary of a webpage’s content that helps search engines understand what the page is about and can be shown to users in search results. Duplicate meta descriptions on different pages mean a lost opportunity to use more relevant keywords. Also, duplicate meta descriptions make it difficult for search engines and users to differentiate between different web pages. It is better to have no meta description at all than to have a duplicate one.

How to fix duplicate and missing meta-descriptions:

  1. Remove duplicate meta-descriptions and provide a unique description of the page
  2. Provide a unique, relevant meta description for each of your webpages.

SEO Mistake #3: Low text-HTML ratio

Your text to HTML ratio indicates the amount of actual text you have on your webpage compared to the amount of code. This warning is triggered when your text to HTML is 10% or less. Search engines have begun focusing on pages that contain more content. That’s why a higher text to HTML ratio means your page has a better chance of getting a good position in search results. Less code increases your page’s load speed and also helps your rankings. It also helps search engine robots crawl your website faster.

How to fix low text-html ratio:

Split your web page’s text content and code into separate files and compare their size. If the size of your code file exceeds the size of the text file, review your page’s HTML code and consider optimizing its structure and removing embedded scripts and styles.

In Conclusion

There are a significant number of other issues that can arise when optimizing your site for search engines, but begin addressing the one’s mentioned above and you’ll notice a difference. Just remember to take your SEO fixes one step at a time. Patience will go a long way when it comes to SEO.

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How to know if you need a new website

If you don’t have these 4 things, you need a new website.

Online shopping has become one of the easiest and efficient ways to shop. That’s why more and more people are going online to look for products and services rather than going to a physical location. That means your company’s website is crucial to keep up with the times and capture your consumer’s business.

First impressions are everything

I’m sure you’ve heard that expression before. The same goes for your website. Consumers need good experiences so if someone goes to your website and it looks outdated or they can’t find anything, they will more than likely go somewhere else. You may not be hearing complaints about your website, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a problem. If you had an updated website, you could be getting even more traffic, leads, and sales. What we tell customers is to redesign your site every 2-3 years with periodic updates to ensure you’re giving your customers exactly what they want: content, user-experience, and appealing design.

Is your website optimized for mobile?

If not, you need a new website. Something to keep in mind is the importance of mobile. Whether you’re a manufacturing company or a retail company, your customers have phones. There are a vast number of searches every day on mobile devices so that means your site must be designed as such. Responsive design for mobile devices will ensure your consumers have a good experience wherever they look at your website and services.

Is your site SEO capable?

If not, you need a new website. Search engine optimization, or more commonly referred to as SEO, is where your site will appear on search engines. Consider this, you have a solid website, enticing brand messaging and a cool logo, but your website isn’t optimized so no one will ever find you to even see that. That makes all your previous efforts meaningless. Having a site that is ready for SEO is huge so if you don’t have a site that gives you that ability, you are already way behind the game.

Does your website take forever to load?

If so, you need a new website. If your site is slow, your rank on Google will be drastically lowered. Not to mention, people want things exactly when they want them. If your page takes forever to load, people will bounce off your site and onto your competitor’s.

Can you link social media on your website?

If not, you need a new website. We mentioned people go to your website to look at your services and may look up your website on their mobile device, but we haven’t talked about the power of social. A large number of people also want to know what other people have to say about you and whether they want to do business with your company. That means they may go to social platforms to make their decision. It’s important to be on social to funnel your potential customers back to your website. If you aren’t on social, that’s an opportunity to gain even more business, but if you are on social and don’t have a website that links with them, that’s just as bad!

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of reasons to update or get a new website, but if you don’t believe us, just look at your competitor’s website. Technology is always changing and so is the way people do business. If you want to ensure your business is future-proof and continues to do solid business, you may want to consider updating your website.

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6 Design Trends to Watch for in 2014

It’s almost the end of the year, and you know what that means. It’s time for 2014 countdown lists! These are Atomic’s predictions for the upcoming year’s major trends in web design. These trends entered the stage in 2013, and we think they’ll stay big in the year ahead.

1. Responsive design. We’ve highlighted responsive design before. But we believe it’s much more than a passing fad. As we enter the era of phablets and smart watches, smaller laptops and longer iPhones, we think responsive design (and, specifically, a move toward unification) is here to stay. It’s become clear that designers can’t possibly keep up with all of the screen sizes available. Instead, we need to be designing websites that scale to fit.

2. Flat design. Call it the Jony Ive effect. Flat design means getting rid of 3D-like effects like bevels and drop shadows, and opting instead for crisp, textureless swaths of color. It’s right in line with responsive design trends (flat colors load quicker), and with the release of iOS7 this fall, is sure to become a sign of the times.

3. Minimalist design. Remember when we all needed to show off our web design chops with animated buttons, pop-up windows, tons of photos, and type so bright you had to squint? If the number of minimalist sites we’ve seen lately is any indication, it’s time to give that up. Minimalism is flat design taken a step further, removing not just color effects but all unnecessary features and content. In 2014, think lots of black and white, simple menus, quiet animations, and definitely, definitely no WordArt.

4. Full-width background images. Not quite ready to face the look of a stark-white site? One way to make your site pop—but still stick with the times—is with a high-quality background image that fills the entire screen. This only works if it’s executed right, though—take some time to learn the CSS tricks you should know to make images look beautiful on responsive sites.

5. Print-inspired typography. Proof that print will never truly die? Nostalgia for a simpler, pre-Snapchat era? Whatever the reason, typography and layouts resembling print publications have being springing up all over the Web. Fortunately for designers, staying hip doesn’t have to be a design headache. Typography options are growing and using web fonts is easier than ever.

6. Parallax scrolling. Parallax effects go hand-in-hand with the scrolling website mega-trend. It means that different elements on a web page scroll at different speeds, giving a sense of 3D movement. To avoid giving your site’s visitors motion sickness, use parallax scrolling in moderation. Check out a few great examples here.

2014 is sure to bring its own crop of brand-new design trends (who knows what we’ll be reviewing this time next year?). In the meantime, if you want to be on the cutting edge in web design, these are the trends to follow. At Atomic, we’ll be keeping our eye on what’s next as we continue to deliver great design to our clients.

Is your site looking a little, well, “last year”? Contact Atomic to get your website with the times.

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Web Design Matters—But So Does What’s Inside It

Clients often come to us for a fresh, new look. Maybe their current website is out of date. Or maybe they’re launching a web presence for the first time. Either way, they’ve come to the right place.

But I’m going to let you in on a secret. A well-designed website alone won’t change anyone’s impression of you.

Here’s the truth about selling yourself on the web (or anywhere else, for that matter): image matters. You wouldn’t show up for a job interview in a stained t-shirt and cutoffs. Or greet your interviewer with a “sup, bro?”—right? The same goes for your presence online. The way you speak—and look—matters.

That’s why all the modern web design in the world is worthless if your content—everything that goes inside the design—is crap. I’m talking about things like:

• Super-dense, jargon-filled, corporate-speak. Nobody talks about “best-in-breed enterprise turnkey process workflow management solutions” when they speak. So why write that way? Explain what you’re selling in plain English, and readers will respond.

• Text wtih speling and grammer erorrs. If you’re looking to build credibility, this is a big one to watch out for. Writing blunders reflect majorly on your business. If you can’t be bothered to spell-check, what else will you overlook?

• COPY THAT’S WAY TOO SALESY!!! Visitors know you have something to offer. So you don’t need to beat them over the head with it. If your writing reeks like a sleazy used-car salesman, readers will bolt before you can say “BUY NOW!!!!”

• Low-res, grainy, out-of-focus images. Know that saying about what a picture’s worth? The same goes for your website. Photos that look like they were taken with a cellphone say “shoddy” and “unprofessional.” And if you’re trying to sell, compelling images are worth more than just words—they can make or break sales.

Looking and sounding your best online isn’t easy. And there’s no perfect way to do it—the style you choose should reflect your business’ values and culture.

Up to the challenge? Many companies (especially those with dedicated marketing/communications teams) take the task of producing high-quality images and content upon themselves—and they excel.

Others prefer to enlist the services of a professional copywriter. They may invest in stock photos, or hire a photographer to capture the ins and outs of office life. (Oftentimes, an outsider’s perspective is exactly what you need.)

Whatever you choose, Atomic can help. We can connect you with Web writers and photographers that will take your site from good to great.

You’re investing time and money in your image, so we know you want to look your best. Think of us as the friend you can always count on to tell you when you have spinach in your teeth. We won’t steer you wrong.

Want to be sure every piece of your image is on point? Call Atomic, and we’ll make sure you’re ready to impress.

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Don’t Be a Copycat: 3 Web Design Trends to Avoid

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Web design trends are changing fast. One week, a design technique is creative and cutting-edge. The next, it’s pathetically passé.

Why? Because the thing about trends is, once everybody catches on, they don’t seem all that cool anymore. (That doesn’t apply just to web design. Think of how quickly the Harlem Shake went from clever to ohmygod-make-it-stop overdone.)

I’m not saying you should pooh-pooh Web trends altogether. After all, ideas usually become popular for a reason: because they enhance user experience or offer new ways to present information. But if you’re a designer, try to understand why trends are useful before you imitate them blindly. Then, take those great ideas—and add your own twist.

Here are three trends I’ve noticed all over the Web lately. If you ask me, these are approaching Harlem Shake status. They’re all the rage now, but before long, they could make sites look out of date. Here’s how to use them without being just another hanger-on.

1. Continuous scrolling. As I wrote in a previous post, scrolling can be awesome for small sites, like product launches. Sites like this and this create a natural user experience where readers can passively scroll as they take in the “story” you have to tell.

On the other hand, one-page sites can be bad for SEO, because there’s less for Google to index. They can also be frustrating for users unfamiliar with the format or looking for specific info. If you must use a scrolling site, try anchor tags and “you are here” states to let the user know where they are on the page.

2. jQuery animations. JQuery is a great way to add a little something extra to your site. It can be used in so many ways, from animating drop-down menus to bringing background photos and other site elements to life.

The problem is that designers tend to go overboard. Too much animation can be overwhelming—and can lead to longer loading times, especially on mobile sites.

Here are examples from Apple and Tapmates of jQuery at its best. My advice: use animation in moderation.

3. Flat web design. Flat design—meaning sites without 3-D attributes like shadows, bevels, and gradients—has been huge this year. It’s great for responsive sites, since lack of texture means site elements can change format and load more easily. And flat design simplifies a site’s appearance, making users focus more on content. (It’s also part of a growing trend away from skeuomorphism.)

But I’ll be honest. I think flat design is often just an excuse for lazy designers to work less. The design possibilities in Photoshop are endless. And we should be creating sites that match our clients’ branding—not just ones that are easy.

If sites like this make sense for your brand, fine. But we shouldn’t be building them by default.

There’s no telling what trends 2014 will bring. My advice: don’t get too attached. Because if you think a trend is totally cool, chances are tons of others do, too. And if you want to stand out, you can’t just follow the crowd. To stay ahead of worn-out trends, you have to be ready to abandon convention and try something new.

Want a website unlike any other? Atomic’s designers can help create a site as unique as you are.

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Website redesign: Read if you dare

As Atomic’s business developer, I’m often the first guy clients talk about revamping their websites. You might think we start by brainstorming cool design ideas and interactive features. Our conversations are actually a lot more straightforward than that, though—but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Creating a new website is a little reading like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Remember those? You start with a mission. And every few pages, you make a choice that decides where the story takes you next. Before you know it, you’re fighting off mutant spider ants, space vampires, and killer slime. Make one wrong move and you’re in for a sure death. But play your cards right and you’ll live to tell an unbelievable tale (unless you get turned into a grasshopper, that is).

While CYOA missteps end with you getting eaten alive by sand dragons or abandoned in outer space, bad calls in web design can lead your site’s visitors to pretty bleak fates, too: unsure where to look for information, and lost in an abyss of subpages and links.

I’ll go ahead and spoil that story’s ending: After one failed mission, they probably won’t return.

Okay, maybe designing a new website isn’t quite a real-life version of Prisoner of the Ant People. But the choices you make at the beginning of the redesign process really do affect your end product—and whether user experience efforts fail or succeed. So I try to go over a few key questions with clients before we get rolling. Think of me as the narrator of your web design adventure. The choices you make are up to you.

These questions will help decide your site’s fate:

• What do you want your new site to do? Sell a product? Inform users about services?

Have people fill out a contact form? Decide your site’s main goals from the get-go, and you’ll be off to a good start.

• Who are your users? A review of your current site’s analytics will help you make some important decisions about your redesign. Are most of your users browsing on mobile devices? If so, build a responsive site. What terms are people using to find your business? Use those keywords in your copy. Understanding your audience’s needs will help you give them the best experience possible.

• How will you market your site? If nobody knows your site’s out there, it doesn’t matter how much great, user-friendly content you’ve got. You might as well await the lethal sting of a giant scorpion. Do you want to issue a digital press release or make use of other SEM strategies? How will you continue to promote your site once it’s live? We’ll plan your site with your chosen techniques in mind.

• Who will maintain your site internally? Launching your site doesn’t mean the mission’s over—far from it. Designate someone who can upload blog content, news releases, and updated company information regularly. Otherwise, you risk misinformation and broken-link black holes. Content management systems like WordPress are easy even if you don’t know code, but may require a little training at first.

A good user experience means more clicks, leads, and business for our clients. That’s why we ask customers these questions before getting started on a big project—and again during research and planning phases. The answers clients give help guide the layout, design, and information architecture of every website we create.

And when you consider that the alternatives include getting turned into bacon or becoming collateral damage in an interplanetary war, we think that’s a pretty important job.

If this doesn’t make you want to dust of your old CYOA books, I don’t know what will. (All plot references are real, by the way.) And if you want to avoid endings like these, talk to Atomic. We’ll help you guarantee mission success.

 

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Why designers should know (a little) web development

So, you’ve got a great design idea for a new website, and you’re ready to take it to a developer. Or so you think. The developer looks at your mockups, and he’s got a few questions. Will it use jQuery for animations? How will drop-down menus behave? What will be your links’ hover states and rollover styles?

If your answer to these questions is, “uhhh…” (or anything similar), listen up. If you’re designing for the web, it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing the actual coding. Knowing at least a little about the world of web development is now officially part of your job.

Your design files should allow a developer to easily pick your design apart, build it, and take it live. To do this, you need to speak developers’ language—so you can explain exactly what you want them to do.

Why’s this so important? Because if you aren’t clear about how you want things to look, certain features won’t be built into the live site. (I learned this one the hard way.) But knowing the basics of web development means you can communicate clearly. And that will make your life—and the developer’s life—a whole lot easier.

At a minimum, here’s what you need to know.

• Get some basic CSS3 know-how. Gradients, buttons, drop shadows, and even basic shapes and rounded corners can be built with CSS. And using CSS instead of images cuts down on the size of a site—meaning faster loading time. Design visual elements that can be reproduced in CSS (rather than creating clunky image files), and developers will thank you for it.

• Use standard fonts. Choose fonts from Typekit, Google Web Fonts, or another major font directory. Again, if you choose a font that isn’t common on most browsers, your type will have to be displayed as an image, meaning slower loading times—and frustrated developers.

• Go easy on the backgrounds. The same goes for webpage backgrounds. Go for a solid color—or a small image or texture that can be easily repeated. This will also help cut loading times.

• Be careful with images. If you’re a designer, Photoshop is probably your thing. Here’s a tip for sharing images with web developers: Use the Pen Tool to cut out all images that will need a transparent background, instead of using blend modes. If the developer goes to save the image and you used a blend mode, it’ll show up on the live site with one of those ugly, patchy backgrounds. Don’t let this happen to you.

• Keep responsive features in mind. As some screens get bigger, while others get tinier, you need to make sure your design can easily adjust to different browser sizes—or appear in a totally different configuration based on the device it’s viewed on. So make sure design elements can be resized easily or simplified for faster viewing on mobile platforms. But don’t forget a high-res photo for full-width banner images—that way, it won’t get pixelated if viewed on a huge screen.

And where can a designer learn development basics—fast? You can’t learn to code overnight, but sites like Codecademy and Smashing Magazine are a great place to start. Another cool trick I’ve learned: find a site you like, and peek at its code using the Inspect tool in Chrome or Firefox. Just right-click on an element, click “Inspect,” and voila—learn any site’s coding secrets!

Soon, you’ll be throwing around terms like “cell padding” and “pseudo-class selectors” with ease. And you’ll be happy seeing your design creations come to life—just the way you imagined them.

Want to see what our designers are capable of? Contact Atomic, and we’ll give you all we’ve got.

 

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Unification: The latest in responsive design has arrived

Web designers, it’s time for some spring cleaning.

Thanks to the rise of mobile devices, responsive web design (RWD) has been one of the biggest web trends of the past few years. (And it is great—I explained why in a previous post.) But like trucker hats, fanny packs, and other trends of yesteryear, the latest and greatest thing never stays that way for long.

As RWD has evolved, it’s birthed all kinds of design-related buzzwords. “Device-agnostic.” “Mobile-first.” “Adaptive content.” “Resolution-independent.” All of these have helped web designers communicate (or confuse) as they navigate the world of desktop, mobile, and everywhere in between.

All together now

Now, the next phase of web design’s evolution has arrived. So, of course, we’re in for a new buzzword: “Unification.” Unification rejects the idea of building separate mobile-only and desktop sites with content and layout tailor-made for each. As the name suggests, unification means just one site, with information and appearance that’s identical (or nearly so) no matter where you look at it.

Standard RWD typically calls for mobile sites that are condensed versions of a company’s primary, desktop site. People use mobile devices when they need quick info on the go, web designers reasoned, so let’s cut out the fluff and only give mobile users what they absolutely need.

Now that responsive sites have gained traction, and we’ve all had some time to figure out what they can do and how they’re being used, web designers have come to a few important conclusions.

First, mobile users aren’t necessarily “on the go.” Plenty of people use their smartphones to read the news, look up recipes, do research…all while sitting on the couch.

Second, as designers, we shouldn’t dictate what users are allowed to see where. Users choose what devices to display our sites on, and a full site should be available to them, no matter what.

A new approach

So does this mean a return to the pre-RWD era? Hardly. In assessing the value of mobile vs. desktop sites, designers came to a third conclusion—perhaps the most important of all:

User like mobile site. Mobile site good.

The great thing about mobile sites is that they’re inherently usable. They’re not bogged down with complicated menus and loads of text. They’re streamlined, simplified—and designed with UX in mind at every step.

This is the big breakthrough of unification. We’ll start designing one-size-fits-all sites for all devices—but they’ll look like mobile sites. Why? Because the user is, ultimately, all that matters. And mobile app-style interfaces make for some of the most user-friendly sites we’ve ever seen.

Sites will still be responsive, in the sense that image and column widths will automatically adapt to screen size. What will change is a slimming-down of content.

Dropping the excess

Things are getting cleaned up around the web. Companies are starting to ask themselves, “If this isn’t important enough for my mobile site, why am I including it at all?” Unified sites compel designers to feature only what’s truly needed—to give users the most no-frills, awesome experience possible.

Unification is still in its early stages. But it won’t be long before we start seeing sites like them all over our tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, and hey, maybe even our Google glasses. That is, until the next big thing comes along.

Want to be sure your business’s web presence is keeping up with the times? Talk to designers at Atomic to get in the know.

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Moving Beyond the Fold

Clients often tell me that they think their sites scroll too much. “People are too lazy to scroll,” they say. “We want all of our most important content visible at once.”

I hear what they’re saying. Designing “above the fold” used to be huge in web layouts. But unless you’re still living in the early 2000s, this way of thinking just isn’t relevant anymore.

Designing above the fold means content has to fit in a space the size of your computer screen. That seriously limits design options—and can make your site look crowded as everything gets tinier and tinier to fit. Exactly how much space do you have to work with? That’s hard to judge, too, considering the countless screen sizes, resolution levels, and devices someone might want to view your site on.

I’m not saying you should load down your sites with never-ending blocks of text. The new generation of scrolling sites uses movement to tell a story. They’re perfect for introducing a new company or product: you can walk users through what your product does and how it works, then lead them right where they need to go to learn more—or better yet, buy. These sites are animated—but they require viewer interaction in order to come to life. Check out these examples to see what I mean:

http://www.zensorium.com/tinke/

http://www.milwaukeepolicenews.com/

http://a-class.mercedes-benz.com/com/en/index.html

Sites like these seem like they’d be complicated to build, but they’re really not: most of the effects you see can be created using just jQuery and CSS (get started with a framework like Blueprint or Foundation). Like any new trend, scrolling sites have their kinks: some techniques are only supported in current modern browsers, and adjustments have to be made for mobile displays.

But personally, I’m excited about what scrolling sites have to offer. I could click around sites like these all day and never get bored—they’ve got the power to hook even the laziest of web surfers. And I keep going back to show other people how awesome they are. As a developer myself, I know that’s music to a site creator’s (and client’s) ears.

Is your site trapped in a scroll-less rut? Contact Atomic, and we’ll help you set your site free.

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Hooray for the Hub

A few years back, I was working as special projects manager for the City of Dayton. The city needed a firm to take on a unique assignment: creating a website for the Ohio Aerospace Hub. Dayton earned the Hub title in 2009, an initiative to draw aerospace-related jobs, education, and economic development (read: cash money) to the region.

Researchers partnering with the Ohio Aerospace Hub are up to all kinds of crazy stuff: advanced sensing, drone technology, cybersecurity, you name it. The Hub needed a website to show off its research to the world.

But the website had to do more than just inform. The Ohio Aerospace Hub will require significant investment over time—not to mention an A-team of scientists and engineers to get things done. Now, we locals already know how cool Dayton is. But the city wanted to raise its profile by attracting a new segment of people: techies, creative types, entrepreneurs, and businesses keen on Dayton’s new aerospace economy. That’s a tall order for one little website—but Atomic was up to the task.

In the search for the perfect firm for the job, Atomic really set themselves apart. (It also led to my job here—but that’s a different story.) Throughout the development process, there was great collaboration between the guys at Atomic, the director of the Hub, and all of the partners involved. The result: an awesome site—that got people talking as soon as it launched.

And it’s not just Daytonians taking notice. International publication fDi Magazine held its first annual Digital Marketing Awards in 2012, sizing up economic development sites worldwide on design, innovation, and social media strategy. More than 50 organizations entered the contest. The Ohio Aerospace Hub won 12th among websites overall, and third among Economic Zones, a category for initiatives within a city, state, or country.

I’m proud of what our team has accomplished. Now, Atomic is ready to help the Ohio Aerospace Hub move forward as its research products take flight. (Plus, maybe they’ll finally let us give their latest gadgets a try. Fingers crossed.)

We can’t wait to see what the Hub does next.