We all know the importance of a high ranking when it comes to internet searches, but the components of those rankings can often be overlooked. Many web creators throw around a lot of SEO buzzwords and talk about boosting rankings, but how often do they get into specifics? Here at Swift Digital Marketing Agency, we dig deep. We know what it takes to achieve and maintain a great ranking, and we use this knowledge to give our clients rock star results!
Importance of Page Speed
Page speed is just one example of a ranking component that we've mastered. Google actually dings pages that load too slowly, causing them to drop in rank, even if they are excellent by every other metric. Additionally, your visitors will find interaction with a sluggish interface frustrating to deal with. This will, in turn, harm your engagement metrics causing your ranking to decrease even more... (see where we're going with this?).
Don't let something as straightforward as page speed cause your rankings to drop. No one wants to see a spike in abandonment rates for any reason, especially something that is so easy to fix! Let us help you measure and increase your loading times, and make your site more attractive to search engines and prospective customers.
You can count on Swift Team as your SEO partner. We use clean code and techniques that greatly increase page speed, giving your rankings and UX a boost. Work with us and see your page speeds, rankings, and engagement metrics outshine the competition month after month!
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High-quality web design is essential to the success of any business’s website. Your visitors can perceive trust, authority, security and more just from the look and feel of your website. If it is slow to load, complex to navigate, or hard to read, you may lose valuable visitors and potential customers.
Today’s consumers don’t waste time on poor quality websites. There is so much information, and so many websites popping up every day – if your website isn’t up to scratch, your visitors are just a few clicks away from other competitors.
Web design have the considerable task of combining beautiful designs, with functionality and authority, while helping site visitors easily find the information that they need.
So how can this be done? And what separates a poor website from a winning one?
At Swift Digital Marketing Agency, It begins with nailing the most fundamental aspects of website design – but these aspects are often the ones that are botched the most.
The Most Important Elements of Web Design are:
In this article, we’ll cover the most important elements of web design that will help you make the most out of your online presence.
1. White Space
Your design should be simple, clean and accessible. White space, or the area between design elements, gives your site room to breathe and makes elements easier to find for readers. White space is not always white, it’s just the name for spaces between elements or content.
White space is being used more and more as websites evolve. The use of big spaces and line spacing in the text helps each button and each word stand out better. Space can also be used to increase the feeling of the importance of an item, creating a focal point for the user’s attention.
In general, similar elements should have consistency in spacing. Start with elements such as the navigation and move on to develop your content on the page. Using grid-based layouts keeps your designs tidy and maintains balance and consistency across the pages.
2. Colour Schemes
The colour palette on your website will directly influence your visitor’s opinions of your site. When choosing a colour scheme, you should pay attention to your industry and brand, and discern the colours that best represent your business.
For example, while a healthcare company might want to use shades of blue or green to signal health and wellness, a local florist may choose black and white to contrast with the vibrant colours of their products.
Once you’ve chosen a dominant colour, you should consider how your colour palette should look. You could choose an analogous colour palette, with a few colours that are closely related, or complementary [contrasting?] colours, say, for when you want to draw the audience attention to a particular button or piece of content.
3. Unique Typography
When choosing typography for your website, the same considerations of industry and branding should be made as for colour schemes. The font you choose will help communicate your message to your consumers.
You’ll want to strike the right balance between professionalism and freshness. Whether you’re picking between serif or sans serif fonts, find something a little different that can distinguish your site from others.
It should be easily readable, on both desktop and mobile. Generally, this means at least 16 pixels. You can also pick a complementary font to identify headings and accents, but don’t go crazy on sizing adjustments, or you’ll overwhelm the body text.
Finally, you should use a colour scheme that contrasts your text and your background – pair light tones with dark ones, and avoid combining two very bright colours.
4. Content Hierarchy
There’s no denying the importance of a page’s content – it is one of the driving factors of how people reach your site via search engines. Creating high-quality content is of the utmost importance for successful websites, but where you place content on a landing page is equally important for turning your users into conversions.
When deciding on content hierarchy, you’ll want to put the most relevant information to the user’s search at the top. You should immediately establish a connection with the customer, providing a solution to a problem.
Next should be an explanation of your service offering and any unique features that set you apart. Any content around why your business is better than competitors, or how you can offer them something different should be added next.
And finally, you should answer any additional questions they might have about the service, before concluding with a summary.
5. Simple Navigation
Complex site navigation can be frustrating to users, and make finding information too difficult. Simple navigation should be easy to identify, easy to use, intuitive, and shouldn’t overwhelm users with a variety of routes to similar information.
Use simple navigation as the framework for your website build and content. Your navigation should provide users with a few things: knowledge of where they are on the site, knowledge of what else is on the site, a way to go back, and directions elsewhere.
Simple navigation also includes how users scroll. For example, sites with parallax scrolling usually include arrows that make the site more user friendly. The easier it is to navigate a site, the longer people are likely to engage with it.
6. Mobile-friendly Design
Mobile-first. Mobile-first. Mobile-first. Repeat that seven times and never forget it.
In this increasingly mobile world, a site that isn’t mobile-friendly is already falling behind. Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic and shows no signs of slowing.
Your web design should perform equally well on different platforms.
While most WordPress templates are mobile-ready, a custom design will need to be either on a responsive template that will adapt to various screen sizes or will need a mobile-only site that is used when a non-desktop user accesses your site.
7. User-Friendly Experience
While a great user experience isn’t always on your visitor’s radar, bad usability on a site is immediately recognisable. Your website should be beautifully designed, and easily usable.
User experience (UX) design is less about the visual design and more about how the site is used. UX design is about optimising the interaction between your users and your website, whether this is through animation, navigation, easy-to-digest content, or responsiveness.
You’ll want to leave your user with a pleasant taste of your brand after their interaction. With so many options on the web, this is more important than ever. After all, one bad experience could cause users not to return.
8. Engaging Calls-to-Action
Getting a customer to take action on your site is the main role of most websites, whether the action is to purchase a product, get information, or provide contact info. To ensure this, calls to action should be placed throughout the page, and they should be obvious.
The landing page design should lead users to that action. Using techniques such as contrasting colours, spacing, and the content will guide your users to the right action. The calls-to-action themselves should be highly engaging, and say exactly what you want them to do, whether that be “Buy Now”, “Contact Us” or “Sign Up Free”.
If you have a variety of actions that you’d like to target, consider the most important one that a customer could take, and use that CTA the most prominently.
9. Stunning Visuals
Customers love to see visual cues. They’re more engaging and will help draw your users’ attention. Whether you use high-quality images or illustrations, the visuals you use should give your users a feel of your product and style.
Visuals can also be used to draw attention to a particular area of the page, and help visitors focus on what you want them to, without them even realising it. A visually striking banner will immediately draw attention, while custom images throughout the page can help users more easily find the information they’re looking for.
P.S. Bespoke images are important, and beware of using too many stock photos, or else your site could lose its authenticity.
10. SEO-boosting Elements
Search engine optimisation should be considered from the beginning of web design, as a lot of the goals go work in tandem. Search engines consider many aspects of user experience as ranking factors.
Elements such as website speeds, site navigation, mobile-friendliness, and easily scannable text all contribute to how users interact with your site. If your site isn’t providing a satisfactory experience, this usually leads to high bounce rates and low dwell times, which are signals to Google of bad user experience, and in turn, results in lost rankings.
It’s crucial to any website’s performance to consider how design elements will affect SEO, as the two have a great influence on each other.
If you’re looking for a team of experienced web designers to improve your website, find out more about our web design and web development services. Or if you just want to have a chat about web design, get in touch.
Social media is a powerful way for businesses of all sizes to reach prospects and customers. People discover, learn about, follow, and shop from brands on social media, so if you’re not on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, you’re missing out! Great marketing on social media can bring remarkable success to your business, creating devoted brand advocates and even driving leads and sales.
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is a form of digital marketing that leverages the power of popular social media networks to achieve your marketing and branding goals. But it’s not just about creating business accounts and posting when you feel like it. Social media marketing requires an evolving strategy with measurable goals and includes:
Social media marketing also includes paid social media advertising, where you can pay to have your business appear in front of large volumes of highly targeted users.
Benefits of social media marketing.
With such widespread usage and versatility, social media is one of the most effective free channels for marketing your business today. Here are some of the specific benefits of social media marketing:
The bigger and more engaged your audience is on social media networks, the easier it will be for you to achieve your marketing goals.
Call Swift Digital Marketing Today! (216)339-6041
In this post, you’re going to learn exactly how to create and implement an effective digital marketing strategy, step-by-step.
So, if you want to learn how to use digital marketing to grow your traffic, this strategy guide is for you.
What is a digital marketing strategy?
A digital marketing strategy is a plan of action that describes how to use one or more online marketing channels to reach your target audience. It has a list of steps and specific digital marketing goals.
Having a digital strategy is important because it will help you orchestrate the different online marketing strategies so that they all work towards achieving your business goals.
Together with his team, they will make sure that every marketing activity is part of your digital marketing plan.
How to create a Digital Marketing Strategy
These are the steps to follow to create an effective marketing strategy.
1. Specify measurable business goals
The first step in creating a digital marketing strategy is to specify your business goals. In other words, to determine what you want to accomplish with digital marketing.
Any goals you set have to be measurable and well-defined. Everything in a digital marketing campaign is measurable (from start to finish) and you need to take advantage of this and form a digital marketing plan that has specific milestones and targets.
Some typical goals are:
While the above is a good starting point, they are still vague. A better version would be:
Raise brand awareness by:
Increase organic traffic by:
A good way to come up with measurable goals is to use the top-down approach. Start by specifying your goals in business terms and then translate that to digital marketing goals.
Here is an example to understand this better.
A typical step could be, “Publish 3 new blog posts per week”, which needs to be broken down further to specify which/topics keywords the blog posts will target and what would be the expected outcome in terms of traffic increase.
Experienced digital marketing specialists know that this is not always easy to calculate because digital marketing is a dynamic industry and changes all the time. But, having a detailed plan will help you adjust your strategies so as to get closer to your goals as possible.
The bottom line is that you need to have a digital marketing plan to follow and not start running campaigns on different channels without knowing what you want to achieve. It goes without saying that your plan has to be realistic, taking into account the competition and complexities of your industry.
Also, to be able to analyze data and make informed decisions, you first need to track it correctly and accurately so, having a good analytics system in place is more than essential.
2. Identify your target audience
The second step is to identify your target audience. In other words to specify in detail who you want to target with your campaigns.
Some marketers, place this as the first step in the process and this is not wrong. What is certain is that this is an exercise you need to perform in the early stages and before finalizing the next steps of your marketing strategy.
What does identifying your audience means? Specifying in detail the characteristics of people that might be potentially interested in your offerings.
In your audience identification, you should include things like:
Learn as much as you can about your audience
The exact details depend on the industry you’re in and the products/services you are trying to promote.
A good way to start crafting your buyer personas is to analyze the data you already have available.
Digg into your Google Analytics reports, Facebook audience insights, Google Ads reports, and start creating your customer profiles.
3. Understand users needs and search intent
Once you know the profile of your target customer, the next step is to use different techniques and try to understand their needs and how they express this when searching for information using a search engine or a social network.
There are two ways to approach this process. The first method is to take the typical digital sales funnel and identify what your customers might need at each stage.
Digital Sales Funnel
The second method is to take the different customer profiles created above, and come up with a separate sales funnel for each.
This is my recommended method because it makes it easier to set up and run dedicated digital marketing campaigns for each customer profile.
Let me give you an example to understand this better.
So, by analyzing each buyer persona separately, you can come up with a more accurate plan of how your content, products, or services can help them solve their problems and needs.
In the digital marketing world, the needs of users are expressed through search queries. When a user types a search query in Google, it has a specific intent and if your content/products or services do not satisfy it, your digital marketing strategy will fail.
That’s why it is important to perform keyword research from the very beginning and capture all topics, keywords, and phrases throughout the buyer journey, from awareness to conversion.
Social media networks don’t reveal the ‘searchers’ intent’, what happens then?
It’s true that users browsing Facebook may not have a specific intent in mind but they have a particular profile.
To increase your chances of targeting the right type of audience, you can analyze the profile of your search visitors (using Google Analytics) and using custom audiences to find matching audiences (Lookalike Audiences) on Facebook.
Always use any available data that you have as your starting point for research. The results will be more accurate than using data that is external to your website.
Resources to Learn More About Digital Marketing
The next strategic step you need to make is to create a library of content assets. You know your audience and their needs, now it’s time to create various types of assets to use in your campaigns.
A digital asset can be a blog post, infographic, image, video, podcast, cover image, logo, and anything else you can publish on your website or social networks.
In the digital marketing world, this is what content marketing is all about. Content marketing is important because it’s the process used to decide what kind of content to create, when, and where to publish it.
I prefer to execute this step in the beginning and before running any campaigns because it’s more efficient to have a pool of content assets ready in advance rather than having to do this every time you’re about to start a campaign.
When you follow the steps in the order described in this guide (set goals, create customer personas, identify needs, and search intent), then you have all the information you need to work on your content assets.
It’s also easier to assign the content creation part to the different members of your team to work in parallel.
Content Marketing Strategy Plan
5. Start with SEO as early as possible
A strategic decision to make that can positively impact your digital marketing efforts is to start with SEO as early as possible.
SEO is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies but it has a caveat. It takes time to work.
Unlike other digital marketing strategies, when you start an SEO campaign, it may take 4 to 6 months to generate any results. This is a long time to wait so most marketers tend to focus on other digital channels first (like Facebook Ads, Google Ads).
That’s a good approach but the common mistake is that they forget about SEO and only re-visit SEO after they realize that they cannot build a successful digital marketing campaign based solely on paid advertising.
So, a better strategy is to allocate a portion of your marketing budget from the very beginning on SEO related tasks. In parallel, you can start working on your paid campaigns and other channels.
This way, you’ll reach a point sooner where most of your traffic and sales will come from SEO and rely less on paid ads. In business terms, this means an increase in revenue and profit and this is exactly the goal of a successful digital marketing strategy.
How to get started with SEO
SEO is a huge topic. Search engines take hundreds of parameters into account before they decide which webpages to show in the results for a particular query.
To make it easier to handle, SEO can be broken down into three main sub-processes: Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO.
Each process is responsible to optimize your website for a number of parameters that will eventually lead to higher rankings and traffic.
SEO is important because the majority of search traffic is distributed to websites that appear in the first 5 positions of the search results. So, if you want to get traffic from search engines, you need to appear in the top positions for search terms related to your business.
The best way to get started with SEO is to follow a step-by-step approach:
Step 1: Review your technical SEO and make sure that search engines can access and index your content without any problems. This is important since any issues at this stage will be catastrophic for your efforts.
Step 2: Optimize your content for search engines. In Step 4 above, you will create content that satisfies the needs of the user. Before publishing, you need to make sure that it’s SEO optimized.
This means, giving the right signals to search engines (through your titles, descriptions, headings, etc) to help them understand your content better.
Step 3: Promote your website and content. One of the most important SEO ranking factors is how other websites on the Internet ‘think’ of your website. If other relevant websites trust your website and they express this through a backlink, this is a strong signal to Google that your website deserves to be on the top positions.
If SEO is something that you haven’t done before for your website, the best way to approach this is to add it to your digital strategy and assign this task to SEO experts.
You can also use the resources below to learn more.
6. Explore paid advertising channels
When you start an online business, you know in advance that a large portion of your marketing budget will be allocated on PPC marketing (paid ads).
But, not all PPC platforms are the same. Based on your previous analysis (steps 2 and 3 above), you need to choose which platforms are more suited for your audience.
You can use the table below to get an idea of how the user profile looks for the most popular social networks.
Social Media Platforms Demographics.
For example, if you have an eCommerce website selling directly to consumers (B2C) then Facebook is probably a good choice. If on the other hand, you are targeting Business executives, then LinkedIn is more appropriate.
Run Pilot Campaigns First
The best way to find out which platforms to incorporate in your digital marketing strategy plan is to run pilot campaigns.
A pilot campaign will not waste your budget and at the same time, it will give you enough data to make an informed decision. A common mistake made by digital marketers is to blindly allocate all their budget on one channel because it’s the trend without testing or considering all of the available channels they can use.
Here is a list of the most popular advertising platforms you can use to reach your target audience:
Facebook Ads – ideal for all kinds of businesses. Works better for B2C. The best platform to raise brand awareness.
Instagram Ads – suitable if you want to reach a younger audience.
Twitter Ads – Business oriented. Great for informing your community of updates.
Linked Ads – Strictly for business-related advertising. Use it to reach decision-makers.
Google Ads – The most reliable platform to get targeted traffic to your website through paid search ads.
Google Display Ads – Use it for retargeting purposes and to reach your audience in the various Google products (YouTube, Gmail) and thousands of websites that participate in Google AdSense.
Bing Ads – Not as powerful as Google but a good alternative to get more search traffic to your website.
7. Use email marketing segmentation and automation
The end goal of a digital marketing campaign is to generate more revenue for a business. But in order to get to your ultimate goal, you first need to consider micro-conversions.
Micro-conversions are actions taken by users that are part of the funnel that leads to sales.
For example, while one of my goals is to sell my digital marketing course, an intermediate goal is to get people to subscribe to my email list (micro conversion).
I consider this an important step because I know from my statistics that a large percentage of people that subscribe to my list, will eventually convert.
The same concept can be applied to any business or product. You need to give incentives to users to sign up for your email list and then send them personalized emails that will help them make the final decision, which is to convert by buying your products or services.
An important element to make this work is segmentation and automation.
With email segmentation, you segment your list into groups of people that share the same interests and send them customized content.
For example, people registering to my list to download the SEO Checklist will get different email content than people who register to receive my posts updates.
If email marketing is a new concept for you, then you can realize that it involves a lot of work and that’s where email automation comes into play.
Here is a visual example of how email automation works.
Email Marketing automation example.
With email automation, you can orchestrate the whole process to run without intervention and manual work. Your job is to set up the automation campaigns, monitor their performance, and take corrective actions.
In addition to micro-conversions, email marketing is a great way to raise brand awareness and build a community around your brand. This is something that can positively influence the performance of all your digital marketing campaigns.
Resources to Learn More About Email Marketing
A complete digital marketing strategy should not only take into account the traditional online marketing channels but should also cater to new digital marketing strategies that rise to the surface.
To be more precise, at the time of writing this post, there are a number of new channels that you can explore like:
These channels are new and most probably less competitive than established channels. This means you can get better results at a lower cost.
Will these help your strategy? The only way to find out is to test them by running pilot campaigns (as explained above).
9. Use retargeting and personalization
So far, all of the above strategies are related to how you can reach more people but it’s equally important to follow up on users that already know your brand, but are not yet customers.
This is known as ‘retargeting’ or ‘remarketing’. With retargeting, you can show specific ads to users that visited your website (or social network page) but did not convert.
How Remarketing Works
It’s a very powerful technique that has higher conversion rates and less CPA (cost per action) than other marketing techniques.
The ‘marketing rule of 7’ (established in the 1930s by marketers), states that prospects are more likely to convert if they see or hear an ad, at least 7 times.
Unsurprisingly, it is a rule that is applicable today, and remarketing is the way to implement this.
The most popular platforms to run remarketing campaigns are Facebook and Google Display Network.
The concept is simple. You connect your website with Facebook and Google by adding a piece of code provided by the platforms.
You then create custom audience lists that include the people who visited your website but did not convert.
You then create campaigns and ads that are shown to these users as they browse Facebook or visit other websites on the Internet.
To make remarketing more effective, you can also add the element of personalization. Instead of treating all visitors as one group, you can add rules to show different ads to people based on the actions they took on your website.
For example, you can create a retargeting campaign for people that added an item to their shopping cart but did not checkout. To give them an incentive to come back and finish the process, you can offer them a discount via coupon code.
As a matter of fact, retargeting should be a strategy to include in your digital marketing plan from the early stages. This way you’ll maximize the return for any money spend on paid ads or SEO.
10. Work on conversion optimization
Another area that needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy is conversion optimization.
I can tell you from experience, that 90% of digital marketing campaigns focus on how to get traffic and forget about conversion optimization.
What is conversion optimization? In simple terms, conversion optimization is the process to follow to optimize your website so that a higher percentage of your visitors will perform the desired actions.
This starts with your website design, content, landing page optimization, email signup forms, shopping cart, checkout process, and other elements that contribute (directly or indirectly) to conversions.
One of the techniques to use is A/B testing. By applying a/b testing principles you can measure the effect on conversions by carefully changing parts of your website or sales funnel.
I’ll not go into the details on how to perform A/B testing or conversion optimization (you can follow the links in the resources below to learn more), but from a strategic point of view, it’s important to add conversion optimization activities in your digital marketing plan.
Here is an example of how a conversion optimization plan looks like:
Conversion Optimization Plan
You can add it as a step to be executed as part of a single campaign or as part of your general strategy review process.
What I advise my team to do is to review conversion optimization after a campaign is considered to be optimized in terms of traffic.
In other words, it’s better to try and optimize your campaign to get as many visits as possible with the lower cost and then start testing different landing pages, messages to see which one performs better in terms of conversions.
As a rule of thumb, when doing A/B testing, you should focus on specific changes so that you can accurately measure their effect on conversions.
Resources to Learn More About Conversion Optimization
11. Evaluate and revise your strategy
Digital marketing is a highly dynamic industry. ‘Rules’ change all the time and it’s extremely important that you evaluate and revise your digital marketing strategy to stay current and relevant.
The best way to evaluate your campaign is to do it based on KPIs and other metrics. The most important metrics for any kind of digital marketing campaign are:
If you have a good analytics system in place and can track these for every campaign that is part of your strategy, then it will be easier to make informed decisions.
Don’t forget that part of your evaluation should be to look for new channels you can add to your strategy.
It’s always a good idea to take a look at your competitor’s strategies and identify which of their strategies you can include in your marketing mix.
A digital marketing strategy is a plan that describes in detail how to use various digital marketing channels to grow your business.
To create an effective digital marketing strategy, you start by defining your goals. Then through research, you identify the characteristics and needs of people to target with your campaigns.
Once you have this information, you translate that into content marketing assets, having always in mind the ‘intent’ of the user. Creating the right type of content that can satisfy the user’s needs, it’s a critical success factor.
Then you start with SEO. SEO is the most effective digital marketing channel but it’s not the fastest one. While waiting for your SEO to generate results, you can start testing paid advertising channels by running pilot campaigns.
Once you figure out which channels are more likely to work for the satisfaction of your business goals, you concentrate on those.
Besides generating traffic to your website, you also need to incorporate other strategies for converting traffic to customers such as email marketing, retargeting, and conversion optimization.
At regular intervals, you should evaluate and revise your strategy to include new traffic sources and trends.
Call Swift Digital Marketing Agency at (216) 339-604. We can create a successful digital marketing strategy for your company.
We help clients make core transformations in marketing strategy and operations to power growth through digital advantage.
Digital marketing is no longer about merely adding online channels to the media mix; it is about integrating digital into all facets of marketing. Our global expertise across digital analytics, market research, technology, business design, and online strategy helps clients bring the full potential of digital marketing to bear on their business.
What we do
Digital marketing engagements are typically multifaceted, solving for specific digital marketing challenges while building ongoing client capabilities. In addition to defining new roles and responsibilities and helping develop businesses, we address technology infrastructure and identify potential partners. We work with clients primarily in three core areas:
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When your needs extend beyond your website, we’re still able to help. Our skilled team members also specialize in:
Your success is always the result of a collaborative, team-based effort.
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Just like your personal identity makes you uniquely you, your brand identity is the special sauce of your business that sets you apart from every other Tom, Dick and Harry, Inc. on the block. And your brand identity design? It’s what shapes your company.
But what exactly is brand identity? What does it have to do with design? And how do you shape a strong brand identity that takes your business to the next level? Here’s the breakdown:
Table of Contents
What is brand identity?
What does the term brand identity mean?
Brand identity is the collection of all elements that a company creates to portray the right image to its consumer. Brand identity is different from “brand image” and “branding,” even though these terms are sometimes treated as interchangeable.
The term branding refers to the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand. Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Let’s say you are a middle school student. As an awkward pre-adolescent, you want to be perceived as cool and get invited to sit at the best table in the cafeteria. But you can’t just force other people to have that image of you. In order to develop this brand, you need to do some work.
So you make sure you watch the right YouTube channels so you always know the latest meme. Maybe you start working on your free throw. And cultivating on an impression of Mr. Archibald, your science teacher. These actions are the work you’re putting towards develop your desired image; they’re your branding.
Finally, you need to make sure you look the part. You save up your money to buy the new Adidas shoes everyone covets. You get a new haircut. You try out for (and join) the basketball team.
Those tangible elements—the shoes, the haircut, the team membership—that’s brand identity.
Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable to your customers. Your audience will associate your brand identity with your product or service, and that identity is what forges the connection between you and your customers, builds customer loyalty, and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.
How to develop a strong brand identity
Know who you are. Before you know what tangible elements you want to make up your brand identity, you need to know who you are as a brand.
A colorful, playful & fun brand identity design by pecas
Who you are as a brand is made up of a few key elements:
These elements are what define your brand, and before you start building your brand identity, it’s important you have a clear understanding of each.
If you’re having trouble figuring out who exactly you are, don’t sweat it. Sometimes, all you need is a simple brainstorm to help you get clarity on who you are as a brand.
You can also check out this awesome branding workbook from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. While this workbook is geared towards personal branding, the strategies will work for any type of business model.
Once you’ve locked in who you are as a brand, it’s time to build the identity that will bring your brand to life and show who you are to the people who matter most: your customers.
Design: the foundation of your brand identity
Just like your Adidas built the brand identity of your middle-school-star-athlete persona, your design is what will build the brand identity of your company.
Your corporate design assets are the tangible elements that will determine how your brand is perceived. Things like your logo, your packaging, your web design, your social media graphics, your business cards and the uniforms your employees wear.
In other words, nailing your design = nailing your brand identity = building a successful business that’s an accurate representation of who you are as a brand.
So, how exactly do you nail your design and build a brand identity that will take your business to the next level?
Developing your brand designBefore you start creating your design assets, you need to start from the ground up and lock in the basics of your design structure: the building blocks of your brand identity.
The building blocks you’ll want to determine before you create your design assets include:
TypographyTypography refers to—you guessed it—the font (or type) you choose for your branding materials. It’s particularly important to choose logo fonts and brand fonts wisely. There are four major types of typography:
The typography you choose will say a lot about your brand, so choose your fonts wisely.
A brand guide with brand colors by ludibes
Next up is color. People—your potential customers included—have psychological ties to different colors, and using branding colors and logo colors strategically can have a serious impact on how your brand is perceived by your audience.
Here are what the colors of the rainbow (plus a few extras) can do to help your brand identity:
Form/ShapeWhen it comes to your designs, you also want to think about form and shape. This subtle but effective element that can be used to reinforce the desired reaction from your customers: so, for example, a logo that is all circles and soft edges will inspire a very different reaction from a logo that’s sharp and square.
Here’s how different forms can shape your brand identity (pun intended):
Designing your brand identity
Your brand identity is made of many elements. Once the building blocks of your design are created, it’s time to work with a designer to bring your brand identity to life and translate who you are as a brand into tangible design assets you can use in your marketing.
Your brand identity can be expressed in any number of elements. Depending on the nature of your business, one asset or another may be more or less important.
For example, a restaurant should put a lot of thought into their menu and physical space. A digital marketing agency, however, needs to focus more on their website and social media pages.
Common elements of brand identity include:
Logo design is the cornerstone in your brand identity. When working with your designer, you want to aim for your logo to tick off the following boxes:
You also want to make sure that your design partner delivers your logo in multiple formats (like a black and white version or multiple sizes) to ensure you always have the logo you need—and that each is in line with your brand identity.
Learn more on how to design the perfect logo.
Your website is one of the most representative aspects of your brand identity. Especially if you’re running an online business or a digital product, your customers will definitely check your website out before deciding to do business with you. Your website is where your brand identity should come through in full force.
Learn the building blocks of effective web layouts.
Rose Finch gin bottles designed by sikarame. lIf your product is a physical one, then product packaging is key to attracting the right customers. Whether you’re thinking about the bottle of a cold-brew beverage, or the mail you’ll send to your customers who purchased clothes from your ecommerce business, don’t underestimate the value of good design in improving the experience – and driving both loyalty and repeat purchases. Packaging is an awesome opportunity for your design to shine.
Business cards. If you’re doing any sort of business development (and who isn’t), you’ll want to stock up on business cards. A well-designed card offers the chance to reinforce a positive opinion of yourself in the eyes of potential clients or customers. When it comes to business card design, keep it simple: your company logo on one side of the card and your key personal details on the other side should suffice.
Learn how to design the perfect business card.
Email is a great way to engage your customers and drive business. But most people are at inbox overload, so if you want to grow your business via email, you need the right design strategy to set yourself apart from the clutter. Think about the purpose of the email.
Are you trying to make a personal connection? Then keep it short, sweet, and simple. Are you trying to educate? Then format it well so it’s easily readable and scannable and add a few images to make it pop. Are you trying to tell your customers about a new clothing line you launched? Make a few stunning product images the focus.
Create a brand style guide
A brand style guide is a must to preserve your brand identity.Once you’ve got your design assets, you want to make sure they’re used in the right way, which is why you’ll definitely want to create a brand style guide. This document—which outlines your design assets, when and how to use them, as well as any design do’s and dont’s for your brand—will ensure that any future design is in line with your brand identity and generates the right perception with your audience.
Consistency is key to create a strong brand identity. You wouldn’t want your brand to look totally different on social media than it does on your website. That would confuse customers and make your brand feel less trustworthy and professional. So, make sure to always stick to a brand guide that covers all the different elements of your brand identity. That’s what is going to enable you to build brand recognition and brand loyalty in the long term.
Brand identity in a nutshell…
Your brand identity is what sets you apart from the endless sea of competitors and shows your customers who you are and what they can expect from working with you. And if you want your brand to be perceived in a positive light, it’s crucial that you nail your brand identity and create designs that accurately portray who you are to your customers. And now that you know how to nail that identity, it’s time to start designing.
Web design is unique because it takes both a designer and a user to make it work. After all, the whole purpose of putting a design on an interactive medium like a computer is so that users can, well, use it. Interaction is also a good measure for how engaged a site visitor is because if they’re interacting, they’re paying attention. Good interactive web design will compel the user to engage with a website, scroll down and consume more content, to navigate to other pages, to share with a friend and, of course, to click that call-to-action button.
One of the challenges interactive web designs face is that there are so many ways a user can interact with a page, and even more ways that the page can respond. Some interactive designs will create a seamless user experience, giving the user feedback and directing them on what to do next. Some will be less obvious, the responses mismatched to the user’s action, or worse, nonexistent.
In order to learn how to tell a good interactive website experience from a bad one, we’re going to take our lessons from the pros. Here, we’ve compiled useful tips for interactive web design by rounding up some of our favorite examples and discussing what makes them work.
1. Take advantage of loading screen time
Loading can be one of the biggest obstacles to the web browsing experience. A business can put so much money and effort into building an outstanding, beautiful website, but if it takes more than two seconds to load, research has shown that the visitor becomes exponentially more likely to leave before seeing any of it. It’s fair to assume that users experience loading as a negative experience.
But loading screens can also be an opportunity. If you have the user’s attention, why not make the most of it? These moments provide an unexpected and, therefore, extra special opportunity to impress users through animations. They’re a novelty chance to show off brand personality and engage and excite users. Often, these animations actually give the user a sense of progress with a loading bar (or something similar) to demonstrate how much time remains before the user accesses the next page.
Ideally, these loading screens offer users something to do, such as a game to play while they wait, which creates a fun, interactive experience.
The point is that loading doesn’t necessarily mean a negative experience for the user. They don’t even have to only be quick and painless—sometimes, they’re the most exciting part of a website.
2. Organize information through animated scrolling
Scrolling is one of the simplest and most intuitive interactions that a user can make. But just because the user might not think about scrolling, doesn’t mean the web designer shouldn’t be! There are plenty of ways that designers have capitalized on scrolling animations to give the user a sense of dynamic movement throughout a website. Let’s go over some common ones.
A popular technique has been to trigger specific animations to activate as the user scrolls through the website. It’s pretty magical in bringing visuals to life and it creates the illusion that the page the user is accessing is actually being built up, in real time, in response to their interaction.
Parallax scrolling (aka asymmetrical scrolling)
A similar technique that has been gaining traction is parallax scrolling. This type of movement involves say two objects on a screen moving at two different speeds, as the user scrolls down the page. The result is a simulation of 3D depth of movement, as foreground objects usually move faster than background objects.
Scrolling page transitions
And finally, designers can use full page transitions, in which the traditional smooth scroll is replaced with either a jump to the next screen or a wholesale page change. This can create a dramatic effect, introducing not only new page elements but sometimes an entirely different color scheme, making the website feel brand new with every scroll.
Overall, these scrolling animations give users important feedback on their interaction—letting them know that they’ve just entered a new section of the website and should expect a change in the type of information being delivered. In short, they provide clear hierarchy and organization in an impressive, interactive package.
3. Breakup vertical movement with sliders and carousels
Carousels are so-called because they condense website content into rotating sections that the user can cycle through, much like the turnstile motion of a real-life carnival counterpart.
They are becoming more common on websites due to the increasing popularity of swiping interactions in mobile apps. Because they are essentially a form of horizontal scrolling, they provide the user a much needed break from the endless monotony of vertical scrolling.
But this is not the only reason why you might want to break up vertical movement. As we mentioned earlier, users tend to associate downward scrolling with progressing to a new part of the website. Carousels and sliders, on the other hand, allow web designers to incorporate more context to each section, since the user isn’t technically leaving them.
This means rather than cluttering the page with all the necessary information at once, carousels collapse site elements into more bitesize segments, allowing the user to cycle through them bit by bit.
This works best when the content is similar in format, so group together either product images, profiles or customer testimonials etc. They’re also useful for showcasing variations, such as products that come in different colors. In terms of animating these carousels, styles range from straightforward left-to-right transitions, to card shuffling, to a rotating wheel animation that’s reminiscent of retro viewmaster slides.
4. Blow up the navigation menu
Like swiping, hamburger menus are another common trend of mobile/app design that has made its way onto desktop websites. Even if the hamburger icon itself is not present, users are generally familiar with the idea that the navigation does not need to be displayed at all times. Users know that it’s there and that they can interact with it when needed. Hiding the menu can give the rest of the web page space to breathe and at the same time, the menu’s reveal is yet another interactive web design opportunity.
Since users are now choosing to pull up the menu, many designers are answering that call with navigation that takes over the entire screen. This allows for big typography, descriptive images and snazzy hover animations.
Going big with menu interaction makes sense: navigation is all about control. The user is effectively steering the ship and emphasizing the menu helps the user visualize the weight of their power over the page. All in all, menu designs are staying hidden until needed, at which point they become larger than life. If you ask me, it’s a nice change from the grey top-of-the-screen, nested lists of yore.
5. Replace forms with user questionnaires
One of the most onerous parts of interacting with a website is entering information. Users are generally wary of giving out their information on a website. The best way to mitigate this is by making the process less like filling out a form at the doctor’s office and more like a get-to-know-you question-and-answer session.
In fact, a prime example of this technique in action has come from tax services like some tax preparation companies who break down tax forms into simple, easy-to-understand questions. This is especially helpful for services that have multiple potential products to sell to a site visitor and need to help narrow down their choices by understanding their needs, tastes, budget, and more.
When it comes to animation in interactive web design, the small movements are what really sell it. And when you consider that the purpose of a website’s animation is often feedback (like letting the user know what they can and can’t interact with or whether they’ve done the right thing), it makes sense that this feedback works best on a subconscious level.
Animations that draw too much attention to themselves can be distracting to the user, overshadowing whatever feedback they were meant to impart in order to show off the animator’s skill. This is where micro-interactions come in.
Micro-interactions are a broad category that describe all of the little ways that a user might interact with a page. Some examples of micro-interactions include hovering over something, closing out of a window, pulling to refresh, and clicking icons such as star ratings, bookmarks, notification bells or add to cart.
In terms of animating micro-interactions, some popular styles include turning a button green, transforming an icon into a checkmark, or an outgoing circle that accompanies a click like an adorable, baby shockwave. The goal is to let the user know that they’ve made a successful change to the page and the design of micro-interactions should be simple and satisfying to this end.
Interactive web design is good web design
At the end of the day, interactive web design is what the internet was made for. Out of the many reasons a visitor might have to check out a website, they are ultimately there to interact, not just to find the information they need but to experience it. This is why a website that fails to capitalize on these interactions can easily get lost in competition. The tips we’ve provided here are a great place to start to make sure this doesn’t happen.
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A great website shows the world who you are, makes people remember you, and helps potential customers understand if they found what they were looking for. Websites communicate all of that through color, shape and other design elements. Learn how to make your cosmetics website tell your brand’s story.
f you own a business, you need a website. But I’m going to guess as you’re reading an article on how to create one, you probably already know that.
by 2ché for sparkingmatt. What you’re realizing is that while using the internet is a pretty straightforward task, designing, building and creating a website is pretty flippin’ complicated. You want it to look nice. You want it to be easy to use. You want people to be able to find it on Google. You want it to actually help you convert visitors into clients… But how do you do all that? And more importantly, how do you do it right?
Our Ultimate Guide to Web Design will walk you through the process of getting a website step-by-step:
What you need to know to get started
Learn who’s who in the world of web design and development
When you design a logo for your brand it’s pretty easy to hire one person to do the job and have it turn out great. That’s not necessarily the case when creating your website. While there are individuals or agencies out there that offer an end-to-end solution, it’s not unlikely that you’ll end up working with more than one person on your adventure to build a website. Here are a few of the characters you may encounter on your journey:
Web designers are, well, designers. They take your ideas and turn them into a pretty (or badass) mockup that shows what your future website will look like. This is typically done in Adobe Photoshop or a similar type graphics program.
UX (user experience) or UI (user interface) designers focus on how your layout design impacts your users. For example, they’ll help you decide where to put buttons to get more people to click them, or how to structure your navigation to make your site flow as seamlessly as possible. (There is a difference between UX and UI.
This article explains it well.) Oftentimes, there is overlap between UX/UI designers and web designers; if you’re looking to save money, it shouldn’t be too difficult to hire a freelancer that has both skill sets.
Web developers—also sometimes called engineers or coders—are magical folks who have learned to speak computer. They take the pretty (or badass) mockup your designer made and translate it into a coding language so it can be displayed on the web. To further complicate things, there are many different coding languages out there, and most developers specialize in one or a few.
Front end developers specialize in the things we see when we look at a website (e.g. rendering images, text, animations, drop down menus, page layout, etc).
Back end developers on the other hand specialize in what’s going on behind the scenes and are necessary if your website needs to communicate with a database. (If you’re going to have a shopping cart, user profiles, or want to be able to upload any content on your own, you’re going to need a database.)
SEO specialists, content strategists, and copy or content writers may also be experts you want to consult as you build your website. They can help you figure out what needs to go on your site to help the right people find it (via search engines) and decide to buy once there.
Acquire a domain name and hostingJust like if you were opening a brick-and-mortar business, the first thing you need to do when you’re building a website is to rent a location.
When you get web hosting you’re renting server space at a data center, much like this large one in Nevada.
Web hosting is the physical space where the assets for your website will live. All those images and text and databases actually require a physical server to host them.
While you can buy your own and put it in your office/house/garage, the vast majority of people and businesses rent hosting space through a company. Hosting (like rent) is typically paid monthly.
For most businesses it will be in the $5-$20/month range, but could be much higher if you have large data needs. Here’s a list of recommended web hosting companies, but you may want to check with your web developer before purchasing (as they may have a preferred vendor).
Your domain name is what people type into their browser to get to your site (e.g. 99designs.com). Typically it is your business name. To get a domain name, you register it with a domain registrar. You will have to pay a small fee (generally less than $10/year) to purchase and retain the name. Most hosting services also serve as domain registrars; that’s generally your best bet as it’ll be the easiest to setup.
Finally, you will need to point your domain name to your servers which basically tells the internet that when someone types your domain into their browser, it should look on this server warehouse to find the right pictures and text to display. While this process isn’t complicated, it can be confusing.
This is a step you can try to DIY (the support team at your web host or domain registrar can help you) but is also something your web developer can easily help you do.
Think about structure and gather the content for your websiteYour web designer or developer is not going to write the about page on your website or take photos of your products for your store. You’re going to have to provide all of the content as well as provide the general structure of the site.
For structure you’ll want to think about what pages you need, common ones include:
Each of these types of pages will need to be laid out and designed, and each one will need to have content on it.
You don’t necessarily need to have content finalized at this stage in the process, but you do need to have an idea of what content you’ll want on your site and a plan for how you’ll get it. Do you need to set aside time to write copy (or hire someone to do it for you)? Should you hire a photographer to take product photos? You will need to provide all custom imagery (like your logo or photos of your team) for the site, but a web designer can probably help you source stock imagery if you want.
What is stock imagery? (And how to use it right.)
Pro tip: your designer (especially if they have UX/UI experience) may have some great ideas for content and structure you haven’t thought of. It is likely worth having a discussion with them early in the process.
Determine what functionality you need
When someone visits your website, what do you want to happen? Are they just getting information about your product or service, like a phone number or opening hours? Do they need to be able to purchase goods? Is their main goal to read blog articles or learn a skill? Are they filling out a form for a quote? Should they be able to create user profiles and upload their own information?
Your functionality needs are going to determine how you can get your site developed and who you need to work with. They will also have a huge impact on your budget, so you’ll need to have it sorted out in order to get accurate quotes.
Understand what a CMS is and decide if you need one
A CMS (Content Management System) is a database and web application. Essentially, it allows users (like you and your colleagues/employees) to upload content to go on different parts of your site. If you want to be able to regularly edit text or change photos on your website and you don’t know how to code you will need a CMS!
There are a lot of CMS options out there. There are fantastic out-of-the-box options for common use cases (e.g. WordPress for blogging, Shopify for hosting an ecommerce site, Six for building out a profile). But if you need advanced functionality (like you’re hoping to build the next Facebook or Uber or 99designs) you’re going to have to have it custom developed.
How to get your website created
Template sites and builders
Hire freelancers for a custom solution
If you want to have more control over the look and functionality of your site, your best bet is to hire one or more freelancers to help you build it. This is great for getting exactly what you need at a fair cost, but will likely require you to be more hands-on.
We recommend searching through designer profiles to find someone whose style matches what you had in mind. Alternatively, if you want to get lots of design ideas. We’ll help you write a brief. Designers from around the world will read it and send you their ideas for your site. You give feedback to refine the designs, and ultimately choose your favorite(s) as the winner.
Keep in mind you may need to hire both a designer and a developer for your project, though there are some freelancers who do both. Make sure you clarify up front so you can budget (both time and money) accordingly.
Hire freelance designers for a hybrid solutionIf you want a custom look, but don’t want to invest in completely custom development, you’re in luck! It’s possible to start with an out-of-the-box template solution, and customize it with your own unique template.
Note, this is also possible with several other template sites (for example, you can create custom templates or modify existing ones for Shopify or Squarespace) so if you would rather use one of those platforms, that’s also an option. Note that in any of these cases, the design still does need to be translated into code, so make sure you ask if your designer can do that, or know that you will have to hire a developer.
Hire an agency for a custom end-to-end solution
Web design and development agencies are experts at what they do. They will not only be able to guide you to help you make the right decisions, but they’ll be able to take you from wireframe to fully developed site. Of course, all of that comes at a premium cost. This is a great option for companies with complex needs, or those for whom cost is less of an issue.
How to design a custom website in 7 steps
1. Determine what you need and hire a designerHave you got your domain name figured out? Do you know what functionality you need? A list of the pages you want designed? Do you have a plan for gathering all of the custom content you need to fill out your website?
Awesome! Time to hire a designer. To find the right one, you’ll want to look through portfolios. Think about your brand’s personality and determine if the designer is a stylistic match. (For example, do you want something edgy and modern or fun and playful?) It’s generally a good idea to look for designers who have experience in your industry, or with the specific type of site you’re looking for. If you’re a photographer, look for designers who have galleries in their portfolio, if you sell goods, look for one who has experience with other ecommerce companies.
Time to hire a designer
LIf search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a website for search, SEOs need at least a basic understanding of the thing they're optimizing!
Below, we outline the website’s journey from domain name purchase all the way to its fully rendered state in a browser. An important component of the website’s journey is the critical rendering path, which is the process of a browser turning a website’s code into a viewable page.
Knowing this about websites is important for SEOs to understand for a few reasons:
Imagine that the website loading process is your commute to work. You get ready at home, gather your things to bring to the office, and then take the fastest route from your home to your work. It would be silly to put on just one of your shoes, take a longer route to work, drop your things off at the office, then immediately return home to get your other shoe, right?
That’s sort of what inefficient websites do. This chapter will teach you how to diagnose where your website might be inefficient, what you can do to streamline, and the positive ramifications on your rankings and user experience that can result from that streamlining.
Before a website can be accessed, it needs to be set up!
How a website gets from server to browser
Talk to your developers about async!
Something you can bring up with your developers is shortening the critical rendering path by setting scripts to "async" when they’re not needed to render content above the fold, which can make your web pages load faster.
Async tells the DOM that it can continue to be assembled while the browser is fetching the scripts needed to display your web page. If the DOM has to pause assembly every time the browser fetches a script (called “render-blocking scripts”), it can substantially slow down your page load. It would be like going out to eat with your friends and having to pause the conversation every time one of you went up to the counter to order, only resuming once they got back.
With async, you and your friends can continue to chat even when one of you is ordering. You might also want to bring up other optimizations that devs can implement to shorten the critical rendering path, such as removing unnecessary scripts entirely, like old tracking scripts.
Now that you know how a website appears in a browser, we’re going to focus on what a website is made of — in other words, the code (programming languages) used to construct those web pages.
The three most common are:
HTML: What a website says HTML stands for hypertext markup language, and it serves as the backbone of a website. Elements like headings, paragraphs, lists, and content are all defined in the HTML.
HTML is important for SEOs to know because it’s what lives “under the hood” of any page they create or work on. While your CMS likely doesn’t require you to write your pages in HTML (ex: selecting “hyperlink” will allow you to create a link without you having to type in “a href=”), it is what you’re modifying every time you do something to a web page such as adding content, changing the anchor text of internal links, and so on.
Google crawls these HTML elements to determine how relevant your document is to a particular query. In other words, what’s in your HTML plays a huge role in how your web page ranks in Google organic search!
CSS: How a website looks
CSS stands for "cascading style sheets," and this is what causes your web pages to take on certain fonts, colors, and layouts. HTML was created to describe content, rather than to style it, so when CSS entered the scene, it was a game-changer. With CSS, web pages could be “beautified” without requiring manual coding of styles into the HTML of every page — a cumbersome process, especially for large sites.
It wasn’t until 2014 that Google’s indexing system began to render web pages more like an actual browser, as opposed to a text-only browser. A black-hat SEO practice that tried to capitalize on Google’s older indexing system was hiding text and links via CSS for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings. This “hidden text and links” practice is a violation of Google’s quality guidelines.
Components of CSS that SEOs, in particular, should care about:
Thankfully, there's a way to check whether Google sees the same thing as your visitors. To see a page how Googlebot views your page, use Google Search Console's "URL Inspection" tool. Simply paste your page's URL into the GSC search bar:
From here, click "Test Live URL".
After Googlebot has recrawled your URL, click "View Tested Page" to see how your page is being crawled and rendered.
Clicking the "Screenshot" tab adjacent to "HTML" shows how Googlebot smartphone renders your page.
In return, you’ll see how Googlebot sees your page versus how a visitor (or you) may see the page. In the "More Info" tab, Google will also show you a list of any resources they may not have been able to get for the URL you entered.
Understanding the way websites work lays a great foundation for what we’ll talk about next: technical optimizations to help Google understand the pages on your website better.
How search engines understand websites. Imagine being a search engine crawler scanning down a 10,000-word article about how to bake a cake. How do you identify the author, recipe, ingredients, or steps required to bake a cake? This is where schema markup comes in. It allows you to spoon-feed search engines more specific classifications for what type of information is on your page.
Schema is a way to label or organize your content so that search engines have a better understanding of what certain elements on your web pages are. This code provides structure to your data, which is why schema is often referred to as “structured data.” The process of structuring your data is often referred to as “markup” because you are marking up your content with organizational code.
JSON-LD is Google’s preferred schema markup (announced in May ‘16), which Bing also supports. To view a full list of the thousands of available schema markups, visit Schema.org or view the Google Developers Introduction to Structured Data for additional information on how to implement structured data. After you implement the structured data that best suits your web pages, you can test your markup with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
In addition to helping bots like Google understand what a particular piece of content is about, schema markup can also enable special features to accompany your pages in the SERPs. These special features are referred to as "rich snippets," and you’ve probably seen them in action. They’re things like:
Remember, using structured data can help enable a rich snippet to be present, but does not guarantee it. Other types of rich snippets will likely be added in the future as the use of schema markup increases.
Some last words of advice for schema success:
Tell search engines about your preferred pages with canonicalization.
When Google crawls the same content on different web pages, it sometimes doesn’t know which page to index in search results. This is why the rel="canonical" tag was invented: to help search engines better index the preferred version of content and not all its duplicates.
The rel="canonical" tag allows you to tell search engines where the original, master version of a piece of content is located. You’re essentially saying, "Hey search engine! Don’t index this; index this source page instead." So, if you want to republish a piece of content, whether exactly or slightly modified, but don’t want to risk creating duplicate content, the canonical tag is here to save the day.
Proper canonicalization ensures that every unique piece of content on your website has only one URL. To prevent search engines from indexing multiple versions of a single page, Google recommends having a self-referencing canonical tag on every page on your site. Without a canonical tag telling Google which version of your web page is the preferred one, https://www.example.com could get indexed separately from https://example.com, creating duplicates.
"Avoid duplicate content" is an Internet truism, and for good reason! Google wants to reward sites with unique, valuable content — not content that’s taken from other sources and repeated across multiple pages. Because engines want to provide the best searcher experience, they will rarely show multiple versions of the same content, opting instead to show only the canonicalized version, or if a canonical tag does not exist, whichever version they deem most likely to be the original.
Distinguishing between content filtering & content penalties
There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. However, you should try to keep duplicate content from causing indexing issues by using the rel="canonical" tag when possible. When duplicates of a page exist, Google will choose a canonical and filter the others out of search results. That doesn’t mean you’ve been penalized. It just means that Google only wants to show one version of your content.
Learn more about canonicalization
It’s also very common for websites to have multiple duplicate pages due to sort and filter options. For example, on an e-commerce site, you might have what’s called a faceted navigation that allows visitors to narrow down products to find exactly what they’re looking for, such as a “sort by” feature that reorders results on the product category page from lowest to highest price. This could create a URL that looks something like this: example.com/mens-shirts?sort=price_ascending. Add in more sort/filter options like color, size, material, brand, etc. and just think about all the variations of your main product category page this would create!
When we understand what makes their web browsing experience optimal, we can create those experiences for maximum search performance.
Ensuring a positive experience for your mobile visitors.
Being that well over half of all web traffic today comes from mobile, it’s safe to say that your website should be accessible and easy to navigate for mobile visitors. In April 2015, Google rolled out an update to its algorithm that would promote mobile-friendly pages over non-mobile-friendly pages. So how can you ensure that your website is mobile-friendly? Although there are three main ways to configure your website for mobile, Google recommends responsive web design.
Responsive websites are designed to fit the screen of whatever type of device your visitors are using. You can use CSS to make the web page "respond" to the device size. This is ideal because it prevents visitors from having to double-tap or pinch-and-zoom in order to view the content on your pages. Not sure if your web pages are mobile friendly? You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test to check!
As of 2018, Google started switching websites over to mobile-first indexing. That change sparked some confusion between mobile-friendliness and mobile-first, so it’s helpful to disambiguate. With mobile-first indexing, Google crawls and indexes the mobile version of your web pages. Making your website compatible to mobile screens is good for users and your performance in search, but mobile-first indexing happens independently of mobile-friendliness.
This has raised some concerns for websites that lack parity between mobile and desktop versions, such as showing different content, navigation, links, etc. on their mobile view. A mobile site with different links, for example, will alter the way in which Googlebot (mobile) crawls your site and sends link equity to your other pages.
Improving page speed to mitigate visitor frustration
Google wants to serve content that loads lightning-fast for searchers. We’ve come to expect fast-loading results, and when we don’t get them, we’ll quickly bounce back to the SERP in search of a better, faster page. This is why page speed is a crucial aspect of on-site SEO. We can improve the speed of our web pages by taking advantage of tools like the ones we’ve mentioned below. Click on the links to learn more about each.
Images are one of the number one reasons for slow-loading web pages! In addition to image compression, optimizing image alt text, choosing the right image format, and submitting image sitemaps, there are other technical ways to optimize the speed and way in which images are shown to your users. Some primary ways to improve image delivery are as follows:
There are more than just three image size versions!
It’s a common misconception that you just need a desktop, tablet, and mobile-sized version of your image. There are a huge variety of screen sizes and resolutions.
Learn more about SRCSET
1. SRCSET: How to deliver the best image size for each deviceThe SRCSET attribute allows you to have multiple versions of your image and then specify which version should be used in different situations. This piece of code is added to the <img> tag (where your image is located in the HTML) to provide unique images for specific-sized devices.
This is like the concept of responsive design that we discussed earlier, except for images!
This doesn’t just speed up your image load time, it’s also a unique way to enhance your on-page user experience by providing different and optimal images to different device types.
2. Show visitors image loading is in progress with lazy loadingLazy loading occurs when you go to a webpage and, instead of seeing a blank white space for where an image will be, a blurry lightweight version of the image or a colored box in its place appears while the surrounding text loads. After a few seconds, the image clearly loads in full resolution. The popular blogging platform Medium does this really well.
The low resolution version is initially loaded, and then the full high resolution version. This also helps to optimize your critical rendering path! So while all of your other page resources are being downloaded, you’re showing a low-resolution teaser image that helps tell users that things are happening/being loaded. For more information on how you should lazy load your images, check out Google’s Lazy Loading Guidance.
Improve speed by condensing and bundling your files
Page speed audits will often make recommendations such as “minify resource,” but what does that actually mean? Minification condenses a code file by removing things like line breaks and spaces, as well as abbreviating code variable names wherever possible.
By both minifying and bundling the files needed to construct your web page, you’ll speed up your website and reduce the number of your HTTP (file) requests.
Improving the experience for international audiencesWebsites that target audiences from multiple countries should familiarize themselves with international SEO best practices in order to serve up the most relevant experiences. Without these optimizations, international visitors might have difficulty finding the version of your site that caters to them.
There are two main ways a website can be internationalized:
Sites that target speakers of multiple languages are considered multilingual websites. These sites should add something called an hreflang tag to show Google that your page has copy for another language. Learn more about hreflang.
Sites that target audiences in multiple countries are called multi-regional websites and they should choose a URL structure that makes it easy to target their domain or pages to specific countries. This can include the use of a country code top level domain (ccTLD) such as “.ca” for Canada, or a generic top-level domain (gTLD) with a country-specific subfolder such as “example.com/ca” for Canada. Learn more about locale-specific URLs.
Establishing authority so that your pages will rank highly in search results.
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