Category Archives: Web Basics

Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers

Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers:A mistake that is commonly made by businesses is that they create a site and then leave it static expecting people to find it and purchase products or contact them for leads.  In terms of SEO, generally, the fewer pages on the site the less effective it can be and the less specifically it can match what people are looking for.

Another mistake then is that businesses put up loads of content up on their facebook pages, images, short messages, competitions etc. and though effective in the short term, they quickly move from the time line and there is no long term SEO benefit.  By following the strategy below you can get that quick win and also get some long term seo benefits.

The three key aspects of SEO are:

  1. Find out what customers are searching for
  2. Ensure the pages of your site match these terms
  3. Get links back to these pages

Finding out what people are searching for is pretty easy using tools such as the google keyword planner.  So once you know this you can then discover how many competitors you have and how well they are doing on the search results page.

With a standard site you can really only focus on key phrases related to the content on those pages and you are limited in terms of what you can target.  With a blog however, you can keep adding pages to your site, so following is a Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers:

  1. Before you write the blog find out what people are searching for specifically
  2. Use that key phrase and slight variations of it when writing the blog, set the title to that, add it to the content, use it as the alternative description for images
  3. Be the first to share the blog entry on your facebook page or twitter account and ensure there are social share options on the blog so that they can share within their own networks.

You don’t necessarily need to write a blog about your business topics, though tips and tricks, guides, dos and don’ts can be helpful, but be creative.  One of the more popular blogs on this site for example is a ‘how to get to‘ type article.  This is very useful to people in my area and it will be potentially seen by someone looking to get a site done.  If they like what they read they may at a future date decide they need a website and they then are aware of or know about the brand and might feel like they can do business with me as a result.

The brilliant thing about wordpress is that there are plugins that assist with this functionality.  Plugins for social sharing, which facilitate sharing on practically all social networks and are highly configurable. Plugins for search engine optimisation, which provide keyword analysis, checklists and so on.  It can make life very easy indeed.

So in summary, before you make your next facebook post, think about whether it might be more beneficial for you to post it to your blog first and then share the link on facebook.

How do I know if my site is mobile/tablet friendly?

smartphoneIf you open your site on your smartphone’s browser and you have to scroll horizontally to view content or access menu items then the site is not optimised for mobile devices.  Most sites built two or more years ago for small businesses would not be mobile friendly by default.  Some are still being built today without considering mobile devices yet almost 50% of people access the web now via mobile.

tabletWhy should I make my site mobile friendly?

Your site should be mobile friendly because more and more people are accessing the web from devices such as smartphones and tablets today.  When people encounter a site that is not mobile friendly they become frustrated and tend to not use the site if at all possible.

Common problems users encounter include:

  • Menu items too small and are difficult to access
  • Popup boxes appear off screen and sometimes cannot be shut down
  • Images are not rendered at the correct size
  • Content is difficult to read without zooming

What is the recommended solution?

layoutWhen it comes to mobile website design there are 2 approaches:

  1. Adaptive design:  in this case a brand new mobile specific site is created and perhaps tablet version too
  2. Responsive design:  the front end of the site is created in such a way that the layout of the site changes depending on the resolution.  This is generally achieved using a technology called CSS3 media queries, whereby visual elements have different styles applied based on the screen width.

How can I make my site mobile friendly?

There are a number of solutions to make your site mobile friendly.

  1. Create a brand new mobile version of your site.  When users access your site from a mobile device this new site will be displayed.  This option has the least impact.
  2. Modify your existing site:  If your site is well implemented it might be possible to adapt the CSS and html to a responsive design.
  3. responsive desktop designProbably the best solution is to re-implement your site using a modern CMS (such as wordpress) with a responsive theme, which means that your site will work on desktop, mobile and tablet devices in the future your site’s theme can change as technologies become available because wordpress is designed in such a way to keep the theming of a site separated totally from the content.

If your site is not mobile friendly, do not worry, you are not alone.  I would encourage you to consider the options above though going forward as smartphones with browsers are here to stay and if you share your content on facebook

A plea to the world from a web developer, stop using IE8 or previous

I’m making this plea on behalf of all web developers across the globe.  Please, everybody, remove or upgrade versions of Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 and 9 to version 10 or better yet, there’s loads of other lovely browsers out there now, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and a plethora of others that you can install in minutes and they all work really well and are secure because they will upgrade themselves as new standards emerge.

Unfortunately, 15% of users out there are still using IE according to stats I obtained from traffic to my website slang.ie.  From approx 30K visits, almost 5K or them came from versions of Internet Explorer.  It’s still the third most popular browser with Chrome and Safari in positions 1 and 2 respectively and Firefox and Android in 4th and 5th place.

A huge shift has occurred but there are still some stalwarts out there stuck in their old ways and US POOR WEB DEVLOPERS HAVE TO PULL OUT OUR HAIR TO DEAL WITH THE FEW WHO INSIST ON USING OLD VERSIONS OF IE.

ie-usersThe graph on the left shows a break down of the 15% of users still using IE from versions 6 to 10.

Can you believe that 1% of IE users still use IE6?  Do these users still use dial up modems to connect to the internet too I wonder?  6% use IE7!!! guys, if you’re viewing the web with IE6 or 7 you’re missing a huge part of the experience.  Nowadays pages can be animated, include media as part of the HTML 5 standard, have loads of lovely graphics and effects such as rounded corners and drop shadows, and you’re using this clunky old technology that renders boxes and things in a different way than every other browser that read the W3C Standards document.

WHY? Because Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team were not interested in standards other than their own and they obviously enjoyed torturing independent web developers and designers like yours truly over the years.

I can’t believe 33% still use IE8 and 42% use IE9. Guys… hello… firefox, chrome and other browsers don’t have different versions, they just upgrade themselves automatically… please just upgrade to the latest now or switch from it completely.  For the love of god and all that is holy please do it so that our clients don’t ask us to support it any more.  I’m sure some developers have contemplated self-harm after trying to get the padding of a div to work consistently across various browsers.  You, the general public, can stop this madness today and protect our kind today with the click of a button.

Even wordpress, the ultimate content management system has a new theme called 2012 and it works beautifully with all browsers, if you modify it though, your changes won’t be seen on versions of IE8 and previous, unless you code up a separate .css file that specifically deals with the non-standards based shenanigans that one has to endure for a small percentage of people who obviously don’t even like the internet.

Anyway, apologies,  rant over.

If this post gets 1 billion shares I’m sure many many people will update or change to a different browser, so share it using the buttons below and who knows, perhaps you’ll save some poor developer like me a lot of heart ache going forward.

Even if one person upgrades as a result it will be worth it, for them.

Don’t lose web traffic when moving/migrating website

This article might help you avoid and SEO disaster when moving / upgrading your website.

A client came to me last week disgusted that he had moved from no. 1 on google for his search term to nowhere after his website had been “upgraded.” He also noticed his traffic and leads were significantly down and was amazed that this could happen.

This can happen quite easily if you move from one platform to another, perhaps your old side used .htm pages for the various pages of your site e.g. contact.htm, services.htm etc.  When you move to a CMS like wordpress the new url for the same page might be /contact, /services etc. as the pages are generated dynamically and do not need the .htm extension on the file name.  The result is that Google had indexed your old files and when you moved it has to re-index the new pages and all the links and weight these old pages had are lost.

If you have employed the services a responsible and experienced web developer they will not miss this trick and they will add code/a file to your web site to redirect all these old urls (web addresses) to the new urls so that Google also knows that these new pages are upgraded versions of your old pages. The strategy normally taken is to place a .htaccess file on your web server with rules to perform a 301 redirect from the old page web address to the new address.

In addition to setting up redirects, the pages should be SEO optimised also to ensure that they are at least as good as the old pages.  Ensure titles are unique, headings are in place and content contains keywords etc.  Also ensure meta information is as before or better.

If you migrate to wordpress, there’s a nice little tool called Redirects, which essentially does the same job as a .htaccess redirect file and often works fine for small sites that are being migrated to the wordpress platform.

In conclusion, if you decide to upgrade your site, make sure that you ask your developer to ensure that they do everything in their power to ensure all your efforts in terms of promoting your site are not lost when they perform a site migration by putting in place a redirect strategy.

 

Search Engine Site Explorer

We’ve created a new tool for small businesses and individuals with sites < 50 pages to check their sites for common SEO mistakes.

Please find the SEO Site Explorer Tool Here: http://www.waterfordwebdesign.ie/seo-tools/siteexplorer.php

Simply enter your websites URL in the box provided and our tool will scan your site and report back detailing your page title, meta description, h1 tags.  It will tell you if there are repeated titles (a big no no) and meta tags, and whether any of the titles exceed the recommended lengths specified by the W3C and Google.

Another handy feature is the fact that it shows all inbound links to these pages and the anchor text shown on them which is another important SEO fact.

If you have a content management system you should be able to make these changes and re-run the tool again to verify that your site has been updated.

Please note that we do not accept responsibility for any changes you make to your site based on the recommendations of this tool. It is a guide only but at the very least it will give you a snapshot of your site as it currently stands and will highlight potential areas for improvement.

Feedback very welcome.

Internet Explorer no Longer Top Browser

For as long as I have been checking statistics for websites, which is over 15 years now, Internet Explorer has always been the most used browser worldwide, without exception.  In fact maybe 7-8 years ago I would estimate it had well over 90% of the market share.

In recent years, several competitors have come along, Firefox & Chrome in particular.  Of course Safari has always featured because of the Apple following, however the champion of the ages has always been Internet Explorer (even with all the flak it received over the years because of its interpretations of internet standards, particularly CSS). That is until now.

The game is up.  Their rule is over. The monopoly has ended.

For the first time in my professional career there is a new king of the hill, a new champion of the ages and that is Google Chrome!!!

Following are the statistics from Google Analytics for one of my websites (www.slang.ie – Irish Slang Dictionary) from this morning, the 19th of April 2012.

Internet Explorer No Longer Top Browser

Internet Explorer No Longer Top Browser - Stats from Slang.ie

Slang.ie yields a good sample set because of it’s generic nature.  Most people find the site through search and come from various devices and locations (approximately 50% from Ireland).

As you can see from the Pie Chart above, Internet Explorer has fallen to second place behind Chrome which now has a significant 27% market share.

Internet Explorer is only marginally ahead of Safari (which is available on ipods, iphones, imacs, macbooks etc. etc.), by less than 1%

Firefox comes in next at almost 16%, which is 6% lower than Safari and this is followed by Android browsers significantly lower at 5.42%.

Compare this with the same period 3 years ago:

As you can see from the above Internet Explorer and Firefox are the biggest losers with IE down a whopping 50% from 48% of the total to 24% with Safari and Chrome gaining most significantly up almost 300% and 250% respectively. Based on this growth it may not be long before Safari is top dog???

I can’t really stress enough the significance of these changes, we finally have a competitive browser market with some really fantastic alternatives. From a consumer point of view this is very advantageous, because it means these companies will duke it out to provide the best features possible which will result in better security, more efficient downloading, faster browser experience, less bugs and so on.

Which browser do I use? To be honest, all of them. As a web developer I need to test clients websites on as many browsers as possible including mobile browsers.

My current favourite, probably due to habit at this point is firefox.  The reason I like this is down to a tool called firebug which allows me to analyse html and css quickly.  Similar tools are available on the other browsers and I do use them but I’m comfortable with firebug. My biggest gripe with Firefox is that it can eat up memory but again that’s probably down to me being lazy and having 50 tabs open at any given moment.

I do use Google Chrome quite a lot, it’s very clean, which is great for screenshots of websites and it also does not have separate input box for inputting search terms and urls, which makes a lot of sense.  My favourite feature is the incognito search because it allows me to perform searches without it knowing anything about my preferences so that I can get a true indication of a websites position on the search engine results page (SERP).

Obviously on apple devices I use Safari, I’d be lost without it on the iPhone.  I am not currently a macbook or imac owner so I can’t offer much comment on Safari’s features on desktop computers however.

Internet Explorer is by no means dead however, it is still used by a significant number of users and always will I guess.  Recently they have added developers options which are really great, you can view websites as they would look on previous versions of IE and the javascript and css/html analysis features are vastly improved on previous versions.

So which browser will win out in the end?

I guess Google have a nice way of promoting their browser across all devices so if they do produce chrome for all the devices out there they should continue with their trend of market dominance in this area, however don’t count out the others, it’s all to play for at this point.

About the author: Cian Foley is a web developer based in Waterford Ireland, having worked in Telecommunications research for 10 years, Cian brings highly technical knowledge to local businesses wishing to build an online presence. Cian currently runs the UTD Web Design Agency.

Display different website on iphone by detecting the device’s user agent browser

I am currently building a site for a client and they want a slightly different or simplified version of their site on iphone.  In order to achieve this we must detect what is called the “user agent” or the type of device accessing the website through the browsers they are using.

I am building the site in PHP so here’s what I do:

//function to detect if an iphone has accessed the webpage
function isiPhone()
{
  $user_agent = $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT']; //get the user agent

  if(preg_match('/iphone/i',$user_agent)) //find this string in the UA
  {
    return true; //return true if found
  }
  return false; //otherwise return false
}

If you want to make the function more specific to find user agents from other browsers e.g. preg_match(‘/android/i’,$user_agent) will find android devices.

Once you’ve detected the device you would then redirect the user to a different version of the site for mobile consumption.

Hope this helps :-)

What are QR Codes?

The QR stands for Quick Response and basically these codes were created by the automotive industry (Toyota) as a better means of tracking than standard barcodes as they are quicker to scan and decode.

Since the advent of apps on smart phones such as the iphone and android phones and game consoles such as the Nintendo 3DS QR codes have found multiple new uses.  Essentially you can store any sort of data within a QR code but the most common use now is to store internet URLS.

For example this blog post’s URL is http://www.waterfordwebdesign.ie/what-are-qr-codes/

If you were reading this article on a newspaper or were reading information about the website on a flyer it would be slightly inconvenient to open your browser and type in the URL and it would be prone to human error.

QR Codes to the rescue

As well as posting the link I could also print the QR code with the article or flyer.  To get a QR Code all you have to do is go to one of the many free QR generator sites e.g. http://www.qrstuff.com/

For the link above this produced:

If you now go to your phones app store and download a QR scanner and scan the above QR Code you will be brought to this article on your iphone.

This one will bring you to UTD Web Design :-)

Add Spam Protection to a Web Form

Often when submitting to websites you will see that nasty little thing that you have to type two words into to get the form to submit.  These nasty little things may save you receiving a lot of junk requests.

The industry standard as used by Facebook and Google is a technology called recaptcha which can be added to an existing form fairly easily by your web developer.

Here are the steps involved:

  1. Register your website with recaptcha and get public private keys here https://www.google.com/recaptcha/admin/create
  2. Download the software library (here is the php recaptcha link)
  3. Within your web form include the recaptchalib.php file
  4. Echo the function recaptcha_get_html(‘your public key’) within your web form
  5. Put in checks to determine if the code is valid

Here is a simple example:

<html>
<head></head>
<body>
<?php
require_once('recaptchalib.php');
$publickey = "your public key";
$privatekey = "your private key";

$resp = recaptcha_check_answer ($privatekey,
                                    $_SERVER["REMOTE_ADDR"],
                                    $_POST["recaptcha_challenge_field"],
                                    $_POST["recaptcha_response_field"]);

if ($resp->is_valid) 
{
    echo "Success";
} 
else 
{
    echo "Failure";
}
?>
    <form method="post" action="">
<?php echo recaptcha_get_html($publickey, null); ?>
    <input type="submit" value="submit" name="submit" />
    </form>
</body>
</html>

And that’s it, just be sure to call recaptcha_get_html within your form.

 

FREE SEO Test For Your Website

If you want to evaluate whether a webpage on your site is optimised for the main keywords customers are using to search for your products or service, we created a handy little tool for you to try here: Free SEO Analysis Tool

Basically what it does is searches for the keywords you specify within the areas of your page that Googles evaluates content too such as title, headings, images, meta description and so on.  It then generates an indicative score based on this evaluation.

Embedding the keywords people are searching for is critical to the success of your site.  By not having the keywords people are searching for on your site means that Google has little or no way of matching your site with a search phrase.

It is worth noting here that there are other factors too in SEO terms that can affect your site’s position on the results page including:

  1. Competition
  2. Back links to your site
  3. Trust
  4. Social networking likes
  5. Age of your site
  6. Overall quality of your site content
  7. Your site’s link structure

This tool is intended as an initial evaluation tool for a single page on your site and is no substitution for a full in-depth SEO analysis.