A new site for goose hunting enthusiasts. The responsive website SaskatchewanGooseHunting.com is a new web site for goose hunters to find Saskatchewan goose hunting Outfitters.
SkillShark.net is our newest client. They have built an app that runs on iPads and soon on Android devices to automate the collection and reporting of athlete evaluations, from baseball to hockey, as well as custom uses.
We are helping them take their website from a single page placeholder for their logo to a full blown marketing site to attract organic search traffic and facilitate the sign up process for new clients.
See more about Skill Shark in our Portfolio
What does Google Has Wider SERPs Mean?
It means that the Search Engine Results Pages are now being displayed in a wider format on your computer and tablet. Previously, the view able width of Google SERPs was about 55-60 characters, depending on the actual characters used, as some characters, like w are much wider than others, like i. The actual increase is best measured in something more fixed, pixel width. The previous Google SERP display width was 500 pixles and is now 600 pixels. Google has made up the difference by resizing some other areas on the page.
What Does a Wider SERP Mean to Me?
This wider display format changes some of the recommendations and guidelines regarding the meta data that you should be using on each of your pages. The immediate conclusion is that you can now include more text content in your meta title tag and in your meta description. Title length is increased from 10 to 15 characters (before Google adds the … at the end of your title) and description length is increased from 15 to 20 characters. However, a more significant result may be organic search results currently positioned in about the 4th through 6th spots in the search results. Guess what, you might now appear on the first screen, without scrolling. This will happen if some of the multi-line listings end up needing one less line. That is, descriptions in the current length, that were wrapping over to 3 lines now might fit within 2 lines of text. If these listings are above you, they will be less tall and your position will shift up on the page.
Should I Re-Write all my Titles and Descriptions to be Longer?
Not necessarily. First lets deal with meta titles. Just because you have more space does not mean you need to fill it. If you have painstakingly worked to craft precise meta titles to fit within 55 characters, then you have done important things. The first is you have adhered to the old guideline. The old titles still fit within the new available space so there is no NEED to re-write based on this. Secondly, good titles are highly focused on the key topic of the page and by keeping a current title in place, you maintain that focus on what’s important. The temptation will now be to add another keyword variation into the title, or similar thoughts. Resist the urge to add more to already good titles.
Descriptions on the other hand I would take full advantage of the increased length, especially if an additional two to four words can deliver a more convincing reason for someone to click your search result. Remember that search engines don’t use meta descriptions as ranking signals, but humans use them to choose what results to click. Again, don’t spam by stuffing with keywords, but do tell a more convincing story and improve your click through rate, which is a ranking signal.
Where Should I re-Write Meta Titles to be Longer?
There are some places where adding content to the meta titles makes good sense. First, anywhere you had to abbreviate words you can now write them out. Secondly, this gives you the opportunity to replace a meta title on a secondary or supporting page with a longer tail version to more accurately target the content of a page. Thirdly, if you have pages where you have sacrificed branding for SEO efforts, you can now use the extra characters to add your branding to your titles.
Where Should I Re-Write Meta Descriptions to be Longer?
Simple. Everywhere you can. As mentioned above, use the longer description display to tell a stronger story and improve your click through rate. Maybe this is adding a key stat or a key differentiating feature of your product. Review your descriptions with the thought of what one additional piece of information would help convince the user to click your listing?
Page Analysis Tools Will Eventually Catch Up
If you use some sort of SEO software with on-page optimization analysis, you will find that the tools are behind and any scoring factors or recommendations will be based on the old SERP width guidelines. As a result, your page scoring or page optimization suggestions may not reflect the new SERP width for now. You will have to consciously ignore those warnings or red flags, knowing that the Google search engine environment is working on a new set of desirable content lengths. For example, I have written a meta title for this page that is exactly 70 characters long (“Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions can Increase”) and one of my SEO tools says “Warning: Title display in Google is limited to a fixed width, yours is too long.” Under the 55 character guideline, it would have displayed as “Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions …” The tools simply have not caught up to the new guidelines. I have a similar warning that my meta page description (“Google has increased the width of their Search Engine Results Page format. You now have more width, more characters that can be used to grab attention and tell your story.”) is 16 characters too long.
We have posted a description of a newly completed SEO project for the Saskatchewan Professional Art Gallery Association at http://www.netnotic.com/portfolio-items/seo-project-sask-galleries/
Another SEO project with excellent results.
Every four years we get an extra day, the leap day. Another 24 hours to make our marketing more effective, to improve our ROI, to drive more online traffic, to gather more leads.
Or Go Fishing!
I’m going fishing. So while I’m sitting in my ice hut, wood fire burning, jigging a chunk of work on a hook up and down, and enjoying an icy beverage, you should get to work on getting caught up on your online marketing. Or better yet, take the extra day to become smarter about digital marketing to mobile users.
Digital Marketing to Mobile
Step 1: Turn off your PC. Practice learning by doing. Spend your time on your phone, browsing your company website. Do all the activities you hope your customers/leads are doing. Read your content, read a few blog articles. Download your white papers and info graphics. Complete the contact form and see how long until someone gets in touch to answer your inquiry.
Step 2: Repeat all the above on your competitor websites. Make a list, or a chart, of which of your competitors is better or worse than you on all the key things you want your website visitors to do.
Step 3: Figure why doing this on mobile is important. Want a clue, because mobile web access is the fastest growing device / access method. More and more of your market, your future customers, are carrying their internet in their pocket. Better figure out what works on your mobile site and what doesn’t.
More Leads From Mobile
Getting more from mobile means you first have to think the way a mobile user thinks. You have to put mobile first. when you build your website, when you develop content, think mobile first. Test everything mobile first, then adapt to larger views of tablet, laptop, desktop. That means making it convenient and easy for mobile users to intact with you on your website, placing calls to action in easy to access places.
Best Places to Test Mobile
If you really want to act mobile, then get away from your desktop and spend your time viewing the online world the way so many view it, mobile. so go fishing, play golf, sit at the beach, or on your backyard deck. If you get frustrated with using your site on your mobile phone, then fix it, in March, but first, I’ve got a bite.
How do you use your website’s Meta Descriptions? I have found three broad categories for answers to that question.
- I don’t know how to use it so I don’t
- We put our company tagline there for Marketing consistency.
- We write a unique description for each page.
If you answered similar to bullet number 3 above, then you are likely using your Meta Descriptions properly.
The Meta Description Marketing Opportunity
I like to approach the use of Meta Descriptions as a Marketing Opportunity, not as an SEO asset. Search engines do not necessarily use the content of the Meta Description tag in any of their ranking algorithms, instead it is used as display in the Search Results Pages. So how is this a marketing opportunity? Think about the Meta Description as your last and best opportunity to convince a Google searcher to click on the link to your website page. Your page appears in the search results, along with 10 other organic search results, as well as Pay Per Click ads. The searcher has up to 15 listings to choose from. The meta description you have carefully and skillfully crafted has the ability to influence and drive traffic to your website.
The SEO Value of Meta Description
Many reports and SEO experts indicate that the content of the meta description tag on your website pages is not used by Google or other search engines in their ranking formulas, so the content may be considered to little or no SEO value. However, and this is important, click through rates on search engines are reported to be a ranking signal, on Google, and on Bing, perhaps on others as well. An influential meta description therefore, which leads to higher click through rates, does actually contribute to SEO results.
Characteristics of Great Meta Tags
- unique, each page on your website should have a meta description written specifically for that page
- contains keywords early, words that match the search term will be bolded, if they appear early in the text, they will be more noticeable
- 140 to 160 characters, the max visible characters depend on the character width. Keeping to 155 is a safe description length.
- helpful, tell the searcher what they will find on the page
Sample Meta Tag Suggestions
Let’s say you advertise your prices on your webpages. Include your price and product name in the meta tag, especially if you have a sale price. If your price is competitive, you will get more clicks than descriptions without prices.
Do you have key industry stats on your page, include one in the description. Stats drive interest, and curiosity, and clicks.
Does your page include pictures or information about famous brands or people? Make sure to include this early in the description. People are drawn to familiarity.
DO NOT try to make this a branding effort by including your company mission statement or other “company speak”. “We are company MLK, the world’s leading industrial, commercial, residential high quality suppliers of gizmo style gadget for use with gadget MNO”. The preceding sentence is 145 characters (yes, spaces count) of useless drivel.
EVEN WORSE: “Please visit the Home Page of Company MLK where you will find information all about our company, our products, and more information about our great staff.” While this hits the 155 characters on the head, there is nothing (other than company name) that would match up to a good search term.
Meta Description is an Ad
The description tag is a marketing opportunity. Treat it as a 155 character ad for the page to follow. What can you say in 155 characters that would be thoughtful, informative and compelling? Go put that in your meta description!
Are you all set to go with your digital marketing plans for 2016? Surprisingly, many marketers begin their annual marketing planning in January! By the time you plan, develop, and implement, it’s almost February, leaving you 11 months to get 12 months of results.
Start Digital Marketing on Day 1
Here are 3 website resolutions to get you started for 2016.
- post 2 blog articles a month
- commit to responsive website design
- add easy SEO content once a month
2 Blog Articles a Month
A good blog article should take you between 1 and 2 hours to write. Up front, spend a little time on researching any facts you want to include in your blog post. For example, here’s a researched fact: a blog post which takes 7-minute to read will have around 1,600 words. A little simple math then and if you think you can hold a reader for only 3-1/2 minutes, shoot for about 800 words.
Need some blog post topics? Go talk to your customer service or sales team and ask them to tell you the most interesting story they have heard from a customer in the past week. It may be a problem waiting for an answer, or a problem your company solved in an interesting way. Use it! Make it your inspiration to pass on some meaningful real-world helpful advice.
Need another blog post topic? Walk into the accounting department and ask someone what was the last supplier invoice they just paid. Then go and write an article about why that supplier is important to your business, and how their product makes your product better.
Commit to Responsive Webdesign
Okay, this is not a 2 hour project like writing a good blog post. This may be the most important challenge you take in 2016. In a recent study we performed on our own customers, the device used to access our customer’s websites the most often was a desktop computer, followed closely by a mobile phone. Depending on the nature of the customer’s business, the two devices are now approaching equal use for searching and browsing the web, including your website.
A responsive website design adapts the display and navigation to the device, making for a better user experience. Also, Google now tests your website for it’s “Mobile Friendly Test” and factors this in the search rankings on mobile searches. If your website is not yet responsive, add this to a project you need to start in the first quarter of 2016.
Add Easy SEO Content Once a Month
Search Engine Optimization is about convincing Google that your website pages offer value to users, on topics they consider important. Nothing influences Google more than providing great content to your users. We have already talked about writing a couple blog posts month, above. Now let’s talk about more permanent content. Page content tends to come in a few forms, promotional, transactional, reference, and educational. Promotional content includes your pages on your product descriptions, generally explaining what your widgets do and why your widgets do them best. Transactional content helps to instruct users through a process or series of actions, such as ordering a product. Reference content may be certifications or standards that your business conforms to and posts for credibility. Educational content is different from all these in that the purpose is simply to inform, to help your customer better understand the how and why of your products, or other products like them. Consider adding content to your website which explains common terminology in your industry, which may not be common language for your customers. Something like a glossary of terms or definitions. If you offer products, include pictures of the items or components. An educated customer is further along the buying cycle and if you provide the education, your brand is associated with being an expert. This itself is a great benefit. Now add to this the fact that Google loves this kind of content, and you have a double win.
Need another page topic? Grab any instruction manual your company provides and read it twice. Now write the second page of instructions from memory. Did you get them right? If you can’t remember the instructions, then they are to complicated. Write a supplement to the manual in easier language to make it easier to use. Again, easy SEO content that is useful for your customers.
It’s 2016, Get back to Work
Now you have a few ideas. Get to work on your content, and get your website set up for any device. Don’t wait for February!
I have had a few inquiries from other web developers ask me what is a mobile viewport and what does it do?
Most important of all, this is a meta tag that Google looks for and uses when determining if your site is Mobile Friendly. If Google does not find this meta tag, then you will not pass the Google Mobile Friendly test which can negatively impact your positioning in mobile search results.
What the Mobile Viewport Does
From a functional stand point, the mobile viewport sets the initial zoom level of a webpage, when viewed with a mobile device. Without a viewport, mobile devices will render the page at a typical desktop screen width, scaled to fit the screen. That means your website, when viewed on a mobile phone, will simply be a tiny, illegible version of your website layout. The mobile viewport should be on each page of your website in the head section.
One key aspect to understand is that the mobile viewport meta tag is ignored by desktop browsers. Including this meta tag will not alter the desktop view of your site.
The Mobile Viewport is most useful when used within a responsive website design scheme.
Mobile Viewport Code
The basic or standard use code for a mobile viewport meta tag is as follows:
<meta name=viewport content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
The setting content=”width=device-width” instructs the page to match the screen’s width in device independent pixels. As mentioned before, this is most useful in responsive designs as this allows the page to reflow content to match different screen sizes, and adjust to the orientation of a phone, landscape or portrait.
The setting “initial-scale=1″ tells the browser to use an initial zoom scale of 1:1 between the device independent pixels and the css pixel settings. This also allows the user to control the zoom level after initial page load.
Advanced Settings – Max Zoom
It is possible to set the minimum and maximum zoom level of a web page as well as completely eliminating the users ability to zoom a page. These may be useful features in some case where you need to control the display size, but are not typically used and not normally recommended. It is also possible to set the viewport to a fixed width, which could be useful if a web app is built for a specific device such as in a commercial setting. Another instance may be when a website is not built with a responsive design, but instead has a separate mobile only set of pages.