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Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

For as long as Google has been the dominant authority in on-line search, there's been an entire industry dedicated to improving Google rankings: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists.

The gold rush saw countless businesses and individuals stepping up to the task of getting websites to the top of Google search results, and for many website owners, the call of an SEO specialist was an attractive one, after all, who wants to be anything but #1 in Google search results?

Alas, the SEO industry never enjoyed the best of reputations, as some "specialists" relied on fear tactics, and resorted to black-hat techniques and strategies to deliver their results.

One popular strategy was link farming, where websites filled with nothing but links pointing to one another popped up all over the Internet. Keyword stuffing was another popular technique, resulting in web pages repeating the same word or phrase over and over again, but not really providing any useful information to the searcher.

The consequence of such tactics was of course to lower the quality of search results.

A search for "Accountant Melbourne" for example, could return a website for an Accountant in Sydney that had taken on the services of an SEO specialist that was targeting (hi-jacking) the search phrases "Accountant Sydney", "Accountant Melbourne", "Accountant Brisbane", etc. Not very useful for someone in Melbourne searching for a local accountant.

So the eternal struggle between Google and SEO specialists began and has raged ever since. Google continuously modify and update their search algorithms to ensure that their search results return the most meaningful or useful websites being searched for.

Google's efforts have made it increasingly difficult for SEO specialists to make a living so perhaps it isn't surprising to see that the use of misleading information is sometimes used by SEO practitioners in an attempt to scare website owners into paying for SEO services that they don't fully understand.

One of our many valued clients, a Sydney based professional service provider, asked our opinion of some e-Mail marketing material they had received from a Melbourne based Internet Marketing company.

The e-Mail informed our client that "Google is on the cusp of changing its algorithm to favour responsive sites!" and went on to state that "On April the 21st, Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.".

The e-Mail then went as far to say "If your website is NOT responsive, you WILL get left behind." (bold and emphasis not added, it is exactly as it was in the original e-Mail).

The e-Mail then briefly explained what a responsive website is, and ended with "Get in touch with us before the algorithm changes on April 21st to find out how we can help you create a responsive site. The investment is worth considering if you want to be found online and generate optimum conversion rates!".

The e-Mail contained a link to back up it's claim that "Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal", which pointed to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, an article titled "Finding more mobile-friendly search results".

The article does discuss how Google will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal which will affect mobile searches, making it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages. The article then offers steps what website owners can follow to make their website mobile-friendly.

Strangely though, the article does not once mention the word "responsive", or mention anything about the explicit need for a responsive website to meet their mobile-friendly requirements.

We tested several of our non-responsive websites in Google's Mobile-Friendly Test, and all passed with flying colours.

We contacted the Internet Marketing to query their statement that a website MUST be responsive to ensure that it is mobile-friendly, and their response was that it was only an opinion that a website does not need to be responsive to pass the mobile-friendly test, and they did not wish to discuss this opinion with us.

It was also recommended that we do some more research into the topic. So we did.

A Google search for "does google favour responsive websites?" returns many recent blog articles with titles stating that Google does indeed favour responsive websites. Upon reading such articles however, you find that the term "responsive" is quickly replaced with the term "mobile-friendly".

Not one article showed any evidence that a website that isn't using a responsive design would be affected, let alone penalised by Google's algorithm change.

To say that "Google favours responsive websites" gives the impression that having a responsive website will provide an SEO boost, and deliver you a higher ranking in their search results, which just isn't true.

The statement is misleading, unlike the statement "Google favours mobile-friendly websites", which is completely true.

While a responsive website design is Google's recommended design pattern (because it reduces the workload for their googlebots), it is important to note that, in regards to Google search results, there is zero gain in having a responsive design website over alternative types of mobile-friendly websites.

There are many different ways to have a mobile-friendly website, and a responsive design website is just one of those ways. You could also have an adaptive website, or a completely separate mobile website.

The simple fact is, you DO NOT NEED a responsive design website to have a mobile-friendly website, but YOU DO need a mobile-friendly website to ensure that your website will be included in Google search results on mobile devices. Desktop search results will remain unaffected.

Google does not care what type of mobile-friendly website you have. As long as your website is mobile-friendly, you do not need to rush out and upgrade to a responsive design website before the April 21st deadline.

The iASP™ system has been providing single-solution, mobile-friendly websites to our clients since 2006 that don't require content to be duplicated or for two separate websites to be managed.

So before rushing off to pay top dollar rebuilding your website unnecessarily, why not get an honest opinion from an honest company about the best web solution for your business needs.

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Try Google's own Mobile-Friendly Test or Get in Touch.


Further Reading:

Note: * denotes source of misleading information.



Got your own opinion about responsive vs. mobile-friendly? Do both terms mean the same thing? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs
What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), is the web address of resources such as web pages, images and files on the Internet.

For example, the URL of the home page of the iASP Central website is http://www.iaspcentral.com while the URL of the Blog section of the iASP Central website is: http://www.iaspcentral.com/Home/blog.aspx.

Search Engines like Google "crawl" the Internet and index all of the URLs they can find in a directory, that we then use to search for things on the Internet.

Like any listing in a phone book or an address book, the easier the number or address is to use, the more favourable the number/address is. Search engine indexes are no different.

So what steps can you take to create better URLs for your website?

  1. Make URLs Meaningful

    The more meaningful a URL is, the more useful it is around the Internet, and you create meaning by using keywords.

    For example - the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=123&catid=456&anid=789 versus the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=cotton-tee-red&catid=t-shirts&anid=discounted-items.

    Even though the two URLs are almost identical, the second URL uses keywords related to the page content instead of ID numbers.

    The use of keywords is an advantage for two reasons:

    1. It gives people a better idea of what to expect at the end of a link after reading the URL, which also makes the URL better for sharing.
    2. It adds weight to search engine rankings.

    Avoid "stuffing" your URLs with keywords however, as not only does it unnecessarily increase the length of your URLs, the practice of keyword stuffing is frowned upon.


  2. Keep them Short

    Like addresses and phone numbers, the shorter you can make a URL, the better.

    While the URL www.example.com.au/shop/products/electronics/remote-controlled/helicopters/commando-copter-2.html is a meaningful URL, and includes useful keywords, the length of the URL will become a burden.

    Just like the benefits of using keywords, shorter URLs make for easier reading and easier sharing, particularly on social media platforms with character limits such as Twitter.

    Furthermore, tests by some SEO specialists have shown that shorter URLs also improve the direct traffic to a website1.


  3. Use Hyphens Between Words

    There are many ways to handle multiple words in a URL. YouCouldJoinThemAltogether, but that just makes it look like one long word, which is not useful for search engines.

    Or_you_could_use_underscores, but best practice is to-use-hyphens-to-separate-words.

    The reason for this is Google. Actually, the real reason is the use of the underscore in programming, but Google (and now most search engines) have made this part of the way they index numbers and punctuation.

    Whatever the reason is, it has become universally accepted that hyphens should be used to separate words in URLs.


  4. Make URLs Lower Case

    Consider the URL www.example.com.au/about-us.html versus the URL www.example.com.au/ABOUT-US.html.

    Both URLs should point to the same page, but there is a very good reason for using lower case URLs - some web servers are case sensitive, meaning that about-us.html and ABOUT-US.html are interpreted as two different addresses.

    When a search engine crawls a URL, it will try both versions of the address and dependent on the type of web server hosting the website, it will index the results differently.

    You could either end up with a search engine resolving the two versions of the same URL as being two different pages, or, the search engine will resolve one version and see the other version as a dead page.

    In either case, the result is poorer Search Engine rankings that what could otherwise be achieved by using lower case URLs.


  5. Use HTTPS URLs

    In mid-2014, Google announced that a small Search Ranking boost would be given to HTTPS URLs. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Using HTTPS rather than HTTP allows web browsers and web servers to communicate to each other with an added layer of security and encryption.

    While recent tests by various Search Ranking professionals are showing that, at present, the benefit received by migrating to HTTPS URLS is so low as to barely be worth the effort, small differences can have a big impact so it is still worth considering the switch if you are able to - at the very least you will be providing extra security for your website visitors, and your website will already be in line to receive the ranking boost if and when Google does decide to give HTTPS URLs more weight in their rankings.


Conclusion

After almost 20 years providing content management systems we understand that website administrators generally don't know the first thing about page URL's, and that's why the iASP™ content management system takes care of most of the considerations above automatically.

If your current solution does not support this level of control please contact us to arrange a no obligation demonstration of the  iASP™ platform.

While your page URLs may not be the number one priority when working on your website, a few simple considerations can make a huge difference to Search Rankings.



Resources:

  1. Does URL Structure Even Matter? A Data Driven Answer
  2. 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs
  3. HOW://DOES.YOUR.URL/AFFECT-SEO?
  4. Keep a simple URL structure
  5. Dashes vs. underscores
  6. Never Use Capital Letters in URLs
  7. Report: HTTPS URLs Have No Discernible Ranking Benefit In Google Currently


How do you structure your website URLs? Discuss your URL strategy with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

I remember fondly when I "built" my first website. It was back in the late 90's, and it was a GeoCities website.

For the readers that didn't have the Internet so far back, GeoCities was like the Wix or the Weebly of the time.

You can see what your website would have looked like as a GeoCities website using the GeoCities-izer tool. Try it with www.google.com.au

GeoCities was a free website provider with all the tools, bell and whistles one needed to build a state-of-the-art, first class website.

Easily the best feature that GeoCities provided however, aside from the marquee text and fluorescent font colours, was the exhaustive library of animated gifs.

Every GeoCities website used them to great effect, literally (and I don't mean figuratively) displaying dozens and dozens of animated gifs.

Often, the best part of a visiting a GeoCities website was waiting for your web browser to load every gif file, keeping in mind that most Internet connections were 56Kb/s back then.

Sadly, as the popularity of GeoCities started to wane, and around the same time that Flash became popular, animated gifs were ditched like an empty milk carton out a car window on a long, quiet road.

Readers, I have exciting news, as the animated gif looks set for a come back.

In what appears to be a throwback to the heyday, website owners are once again embracing the now "retro-coolness" of adding animated gifs into the content of their websites.

There have even been vocal calls for Facebook and Twitter to add support for animated gifs into feeds and on user pages.

And we here at iASP Central embrace this new movement for many reasons:

  1. Animated gifs are an effective way to catch attention on a page. hot gif
  2. Animated gifs are supported on Apple devices, a major advantage over Flash animation. hot gif
  3. Animated gifs are smaller in file size than video. hot gif
  4. Animated gifs don't require a special player to be installed. hot gif
  5. Animated gifs are treated as images and so can be added almost anywhere into hot gif
  6. Animated gifs are really easy to make. A lot easier than a video, or a Flash animation. hot gif


 spinning earth gifdancing baby gifspinning earth gif 7up spot gif



Are you thinking about adding animated gifs to your website? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.



Page Views: counter gif


Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Last week we gave you our Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015, which took a snapshot of the predictions from some of the industries' thinkers and influencers.

In our review, we found that improving social commerce is a big part of the plan for this year.


The term "Social Commerce" has been around for the best part of a decade, and refers to the use of social media to support and influence the buying decision of consumers while they are using social media platforms.

The customer was still required to leave the website to complete their purchase however. The platform wasn't the marketplace, just another marketing channel.

This seems set to change in the very near future though, with announcements from the three most popular platforms - Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest - that they will all be introducing shopping services for their users.

Very quickly, social media will transform from a marketing channel, into a marketplace.

Or will it?


There are some major limitations in being able to purchase products on social media platforms.

For example, it will be difficult to convince consumers to purchase a bottle of Coca Cola on Facebook. People buy that product when they are thirsty and want to consume shortly after. Buyers won't wait for it to be delivered.

People won't buy their groceries through social media either.

Woolworths might post an offer for a particular item; but allowing the customer to buy it then and there will result in a loss of the sales they would otherwise gain when the customer shops at one of their stores or on their website; not to mention the delivery nightmare single-item sales will create for them.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum.

Items such as high-end electronics or white goods, where consumers invest a lot of time researching and comparing similar brands and products before purchasing, will also be difficult to offer for sale on social media platforms.

The customer still needs to leave the platform to do their research and comparison, and so you lose the benefit of offering the product for sale on the platform in the first place.


Realistically, the new shopping feature being added to social media platforms will primarily suit one-off, impulse purchases.

Products that businesses are already "selling" on social media such as clothing items or fashion accessories, but who then need to arrange payment and delivery for the goods separately.


For the majority of businesses that are on social media, it is likely that being able to sell directly to their social media audience will not be any more practical or convenient than it is now, and it is not likely to change their social media strategy.


For the most part, eCommerce and social commerce will remain much the same as it is now. In the short-term at least.



Resources:



What do you think about the social media 'Buy' button? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

2014 was a grand year for eCommerce, both globally and locally in Australia. By the end of the 2014 financial year, on-line retail sales in Australia hit AU$15.6 billion, growing 8.6% from the previous year.

On-line stores were no-longer a cheap and tacky looking website with poor product images that left a feeling of uncertainty and doubt in the shopper, but were now professional websites that gave the customer everything they needed and more.

Australian retailers were quick to recognise that eCommerce was no longer a nice-to-have addition to compete with the store up the road, but was now a must-have part of their business if they didn't want to lose their local customers to overseas competitors.

Many industry players have made their predictions for eCommerce trends, and we have reviewed them to distil the most popular predictions for 2015.

An Overview

The overview for eCommerce is that 2015 looks set to maintain the pace gathered in 2014, improving on the lessons learnt from the previous year, and preparing for a big leap coming in the next few years as new technology becomes more widely available and affordable.

Greater Focus on Mobile

Overwhelmingly, a major focus on mobile was the #1 trend prediction.

Mobile shopping habits in Australia are currently shifting from on-line browsing to on-line purchasing, and on-line stores will adapt to this shift.

The focus will be in improving the shopping experience for mobile devices, making it easier and more convenient for customers to shop and purchase on their mobile devices.

Increase in Targeted E-Mail Marketing

Along with the increase in mobile shoppers, e-Mail marketing will also become more important.

It was reported last year that 55% of mobile web users in Australia now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online.

That means that 55% of mobile web users read their e-Mail on their mobile phone, a very direct channel to communicate to customers.

Like websites, e-Mail will become mobile friendly so as to be easier to read on smaller screens, and will become more targeted.

Personalised Shopping Experiences

With an increase in big data being collected around the Web, tailored shopping experiences will become the next big-thing for eStores.

Individualised prices, product recommendations and sales incentives offered to individual customers, timed perfectly for when that customer is in the market to buy a product.

Some industry figures are also predicting personalised products, allowing the customer to essentially make their own product before purchase, similar to what the eStore Shoes of Prey is already doing.

Social Media Selling

Social Media is always a necessary channel to engage customers, and will always be the second best way to maintain long-standing relationships with them.

Very soon however, social media will become the next marketplace to sell directly to your followers.

With both Twitter and Facebook announcing and testing "Buy" buttons on their platforms, retailers will need to be at-the-ready to jump on board as soon as the feature is officially launched.

Of course, the issues of payment, inventory control and order management will be a huge factor in how fast it will be adopted.

Omni-Channel Integration

As technology advances, stores that have both physical and on-line shops will combine the shopping experience offered at both locations.

The most obvious example will be Click-and-Collect purchases, where the customer purchases on-line, but then picks up their order in-store.

Another example - stores that allow customers to pay for their in-store purchase using their mobile device rather than queuing at a checkout.

NFC payment technology such as ApplePay and the similar solutions now being provided by the larger banks will assist this; as will the growth in popularity of mobile/digital wallets.

Greater Competition

In 2014 it became the "norm" for eStores to offer free shipping for all orders, as well as free returns.

In 2015, we will see more eStores offering these incentives as standard, and more, such as same day delivery and loyalty bonuses.



In summary, e-Commerce will become fiercely more competitive in 2015.

We should see larger, better designed eStores popping up and more imaginative strategies to attract customers being played out by retailers.

We expect to also start to see a blur between in-store shopping and on-line shopping.




Resources:



Do you have your own predictions? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.