With 85% of mobile search results now meeting Google's mobile-friendly criteria, the search giant has found a new battle to fight...

Intrusive Pop-Ups

Don't you hate it when you're reading an article on your smartphone and you're ambushed by an unexpected pop-up that takes up the entire screen? Well, it looks like the people at Google agree with you, because they've pledged to punish sites that use this technique by diminishing their mobile search rankings. This blog post (published last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog) makes the following promise:

"To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."

The announcement feels like the start of a new chapter in Google's ongoing endeavour to give users the best possible online experience. You may remember 'Mobilegeddon', that day in April 2015 when Google changed its mobile search algorithm to favour pages with a mobile-friendly design; some time before that, in November 2014, they introduced the 'Mobile-friendly' label, which sat alongside mobile-friendly websites in the SERPs and helped users to identify at a glance which results would function well on their smartphones.

Example of Mobile Friendly Label
Image from Search Engine Land

Interestingly, Google has now retired the 'Mobile-friendly' label, stating that "85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label". Since the majority of mobile results are now mobile-friendly (probably thanks in part to the 'Mobilegeddon' algorithm change), the 'Mobile-friendly' labels were starting to make things look cluttered, so Google has gotten rid of them. In doing so, the Big G has effectively declared this particular battle won: most of the pages listed in the search engine's mobile results are now mobile-friendly (i.e. you can read and use them on a smartphone without having to zoom in), so it's time to pack up and move on to the next fight.

And the next fight for Google is against pop-ups, or "intrusive interstitials" as the new blog post calls them. Pop-up windows tend to be pretty annoying no matter what device you're using, but they're particularly problematic for mobile users, especially when they fill the whole screen and effectively blockade the user from accessing the desired content. Even so, a lot of websites - including some of the largest, most well-respected media outlets around - use irritating interstitials for all kinds of different purposes, including:
  • Encouraging people to sign up to a mailing list
  • Telling users to install an app
  • Advertising
If your website uses pop-ups for any of these purposes, you may want to revise your strategy before the 10th of January, 2017. From that date onwards, Google will be penalising sites that use intrusive interstitials, meaning that your pages may stop showing in Google search results on mobile devices - and with mobile's share of total internet use increasing all the time, that's a loss that you probably don't want to suffer!

What kind of pop-ups will trigger a penalty?

Interstitials are used in many different ways throughout the Internet. Fortunately, Google has given us a pretty solid idea of which ones they're out to get and which ones will be allowed to slip through this new penalty's net. Here are a few examples...

Scenario #1: Sign Up Now!

Let's say you have a website featuring a variety of articles about all the latest movies and TV shows. When somebody reads one of your pieces, they can view everything above the fold without interruption, but as soon as they scroll down, surprise! A pop-up window appears containing a message like this:

SIGN UP NOW!
Join our mailing list and you'll never miss the latest news and insights from our team of talented writers.

Enter your email here...

Don't worry, we'll never send you any spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The frustrated user now has to tap on the little 'x' in the corner of your sign-up form in order to carry on reading. It's highly likely that sites using this sort of tactic will be penalised under Google's new rules, so if you're currently using pop-up forms like the example above, you should strongly consider changing tack before the 10th of January.

(To be honest, this isn't a great way to encourage people to join your mailing list anyway, as it disrupts their experience of your site and possibly sours them on your brand as a whole. You'll make your users happier - and probably get more sign-ups in the long run - if you take a different route, e.g. placing a call to action at the end of each article rather than covering up the article itself.)

Scenario #2: Try the App!

Let's now imagine that your film and TV website has a mobile app that makes it easier for smartphone users to navigate and consume your content. You know that your website, while mobile-friendly, isn't as good as your app when it comes to giving smartphone users a good online experience, and so whenever a mobile user arrives on your main site, you show them this pop-up:

BROWSING ON YOUR SMARTPHONE? RIGHT THIS WAY!
Our app makes it easy to keep up with everything we post.

Download from the App Store >
Download from Google Play >

You might think that you're doing your readers a favour here by directing them to a more user-friendly platform, but in reality, most people will just be annoyed that you've put a great big pop-up in the way of the article they wanted to read. Sites that do this probably will be penalised in Google's mobile rankings unless they cut it out by the 10th of January.

Bear in mind that Google's goal is to satisfy each query as quickly and as smoothly as possible. If they send someone to your website, it's because the algorithm thinks you have the information or the content that person wanted; if you put up barriers between the users and that content, there's a good chance that Google - eager to achieve total user satisfaction - will send people somewhere else instead.

Scenario #3: How Old Are You?

Finally, let's look at an example of an interstitial that most likely won't result in a penalty come January 2017.

Imagine you own an ecommerce website that sells wines and spirits online. Because alcoholic drinks are an age-restricted product, you are required by law to ask each user to verify their age before admitting them to your website's content. One easy way to do this? A non-dismissable pop-up that appears as soon as someone lands on your site for the first time and prompts them to enter their date of birth.

PLEASE ENTER YOUR DATE OF BIRTH

DD MM YYYY
Click to select country...

To view this website, you must be over the legal drinking age in the country where you live.

Since this interstitial is in place to fulfil a legal requirement, your website should be spared when Google cracks down on intrusive interstitials in January. Another example of a legally mandated pop-up would be a notice explaining that your website uses cookies.

Google are also saying that they'll let you off if your pop-ups "use a reasonable amount of screen space". This suggests that site owners will still be able to get away with using pop-up banners as long as they don't cover too much of the content being viewed. An example would be a small banner that appears at the top or bottom of the screen prompting users to click a link or download an app.

Download the Google app
In fact, Google use this approach themselves!

Worried that your rankings will be affected by the forthcoming Google penalty? Anxious to remove the pop-ups from your website before they cause any problems? Get in touch with Designer Websites today - call 01446 339050 or click here to request a quote for a new, Google-friendly website design.
301 Redirects

If you want to manage your website effectively and provide a smooth, hassle-free experience for both users and search engines, the 301 redirect is one of the most important items in your toolkit.

A 301 redirect is a piece of code used to indicate that the requested piece of content has permanently moved to a different location. You should use a 301 if one of your old URLs is no longer in use, as this will automatically redirect the user (or search engine bot) to the new version of that page.

Example of a 301 redirect

Let's say you're the owner of www.my-bikes.coman ecommerce website that sells bicycles. You have a page dedicated to folding bicycles located at the following URL:

http://www.my-bikes.com/folding

Lots of people link to this page, but for whatever reason, you've decided to change its URL to something slightly different:

http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes

Once you've changed the page's URL, anyone who tries to visit the old web address (http://www.my-bikes.com/folding) will see a 404 error message, because that page technically no longer exists.

However, you can use a 301 redirect to ensure that anyone who visits http://www.my-bikes.com/folding is automatically sent to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes instead. Here's how that works:
  • A user attempts to visit http://www.my-bikes.com/folding (perhaps they clicked an old link, or maybe they had it bookmarked)

  • Your 301 redirect tells their web browser to go to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes instead of the defunct URL that was initially requested

  • The user is taken straight to http://www.my-bikes.com/folding-bikes and, with any luck, they buy a new bike from you!
This is the correct way to handle a page that has permanently moved from one URL to another, so be sure to use a 301 redirect every time you change a page's URL. You should also use a 301 redirect if you're deleting a page and you think its URL should take visitors another to relevant page instead of an error notification.

Why use a 301 redirect?

301 redirects are handy for a number of different reasons:
  • Smoother user experience. If a page no longer exists but lots of users are still trying to access it, it's a good idea to redirect the old URL to a new, still-active page. Otherwise, all of those visitors will run into 404 errors - not particularly conducive to a satisfying user experience!

  • Prevents broken links. When you delete a page from your website, any links to that page will cease to work. Anyone who clicks those links will be greeted with a 404 error message...unless you use a 301 redirect to point the old links at a new page.

  • SEO juice isn't lost. When somebody links to your website, it's kind of like a vote of confidence; they're saying, 'yes, this is a good site that is worth visiting'. Those 'votes' can have a big impact on your Google rankings, especially if the linking website has a good reputation, because a link passes some of their authority on to you. However, if that high-authority website is linking to a URL that no longer exists, you won't feel the full benefit of the link unless you redirect the old URL to an active URL, thus passing the other site's authority (or 'juice') to a different part of your website.

  • Helps search engines to index your website properly. 301 redirects make it crystal-clear to Google and other search engines which of your URLs you want indexed and which are no longer in use. Also, if you change the URL of a page that already ranks highly in the SERPs, you should put a 301 redirect on the old URL so that you don't have to wait for your site to be re-crawled (failing to put in a 301 redirect will mean that anyone who clicks on your high-ranking page in the search results will be shown an error message, at least until your website is crawled again).

How to Add a 301 Redirect

The method for implementing a 301 redirect varies depending on a number of different factors. In some cases, it's possible to do it yourself, but it's generally a good idea to speak to your web developer or hosting company and ask them to put in any necessary redirect(s) for you.

If you need help managing your website and ensuring that it's fully optimised for user satisfaction and search engine success, get in touch with Designer Websites today.
JSM Responsive Website

JSM Models & Effects called up the Designer Websites office recently because they wanted to give their online presence an overhaul. JSM create all kinds of amazing models and visuals for projects large and small; however, their rather dated website wasn't really doing the company's work justice, and so they asked us to come up with an attractive, modern-looking design that would capture both the attention and the imagination of potential clients.

As ever, our web design experts were more than up to the task, and we believe we've succeeded in producing a website that's worthy of JSM's spectacular creations.

All images courtesy of JSM Model Makers

The new website has a responsive design, which means that it's easy to use and appealing to look at no matter what device you're using. The design automatically adapts to the screen on which it's viewed, resulting in a superb user experience for everyone.

It's always a joy to create a website like this one, because the visual elements (photos of JSM's models, in this case) do most of the talking. That being said, there are a lot of other things to take into account behind the scenes, and we all worked very hard to ensure that every element of the new JSM website was spot on. Our UI and dev teams concentrated on delivering a smooth, intuitive journey through the website, while our SEO specialists collaborated closely with the guys at JSM to make sure that the site copy was search engine-friendly while also appealing to the company's target audience.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable project to work on, and we hope that JSM are as happy with the finished website as we are. To see it for yourself, visit www.modelmakers.co.uk now.

Do you need a responsive website for your business? Whatever your industry, we'd be thrilled to hear from you - give us a call on 01446 339050 or click here to request a quotation.

We are repeatedly reminded of how important it is to enhance our online presence with engaging content, but what use is a great infographic or a highly informative blog tutorial, if no one clicks through in the first place?

A great headline can make all the difference when it comes to engaging your audience, so it’s important to get this right in order to give your painstakingly thought-out content the best chance at success. Of course, no two pieces are the same, and no ‘one-size’ approach will always be suitable, which is why we’ve put together a list of various techniques to keep you inspired.

No matter who you’re targeting, or what the piece aims to achieve, the correct use of the following techniques can massively increase the engagement rate on your content, making the hours you’ve spent creating it worthwhile:

Write With Authority 

If you’re able to generate a sense of knowledge and authority surrounding your piece, then potential readers will be more likely to regard this as a useful source of information, and consider it a worthwhile read.
Examples:
‘The Essential Guide to ______’
‘The Best Way to _________’
‘Everything You Need to Know About _______’

Take Advantage of Title Generator Tools

If you’re a stuck for ideas, or you simply want to shake things up a little, then title generator tools can be a great way to create unusual, striking and thought-provoking headlines. Used in reverse, these tools can also make a great writing prompt if you have a subject of interest or keyword that you would like to target, but aren’t feeling particularly inspired.

Target Your Intended Reader 

If your piece is targeted towards a specific audience or readership, then why not make this obvious in the title? Engaging with related communities and influencers is, as we all know, a vital element of content marketing, which means that getting the right eyes on your piece is crucial. If a tile actively calls out or mentions people in a certain profession, or with a particular interest/hobby, they are far more likely to feel a connection to your piece right away, increasing the chances of them clicking through.

Convey a Sense of Urgency 

We’re used to urgency being used as a sales technique, but it can also be remarkably effective when it comes to sharing your content too! Whether you’re delivering a warning, or suggesting a change in behaviour, encouraging your reader to act is always a great way to capture their attention and draw them in.

Use the Power of Lists 

They may be everywhere these days, but there’s a reason why the ‘listacle’ is such a popular format for blogs and online articles. If a piece of content is organised and assigned value by placing it into a numbered list, it not only provokes curiosity, but also suggests that the information will be presented in an easy-to-digest format. Both of these attributes combine to not only to make the piece highly appealing on initial appearance, but also make it compulsively readable once the reader has clicked through.

Use Sensationalism

This is one to be careful with! Readers are becoming more and more attuned to the ‘clickbait’ strategy of luring people in with a controversial headline, only to leave them disappointed with bland content, or a poorly thought-out sales pitch. Despite this, when used correctly, a controversial statement/provocative question can still be used as a great starting point, prompting readers to challenge or decipher the reasoning behind your opening statement. 

Experiment 

If you work in digital marketing, it’s highly likely that you’ll already be familiar with the concept of A/B testing, so why not extend this to your creative content? While you may not wish to edit the title of the piece itself, you can still make alterations to the copy used to promote your piece, as well as the title image used to accompany it. By comparing the results gained by these advertorial headlines, you can gain a better understanding of what is encouraging readers to engage with your piece, and use this information to get the most from your content.

Provide Solutions to Problem Questions

If your piece has a tutorial element, or aims to demonstrate an alternative approach to an existing practice, then you should definitely pitch your blog/article as a problem solving piece in your headline! Of course, you may find the traditional ‘how to’ to be a bit bland, which can be remedied by adding additional value to the information you will be providing. Inform your reader that you will not only be explaining how to do something, but will be highlighting the best, easiest or correct way to do it! 

Let the Facts Speak

If your piece is based on experimental research or even a single revelation, you should exploit the value of this in your headline. When presented with a figure, fact or statement, it stands to reason that the curiosity and problem-solving instincts of your reader will provoke them to discover more; an aim which can only be achieved by reading your article!


Find out how the team of copywriters and content marketing specialists at Designer Websites can help you to produce high-quality, attention-grabbing content here.