Improve website conversion rate

The nature of your website and the specific goals of your business will dictate what a conversion looks like for you. If you have a high conversion rate, congratulations! This is an indicator that your marketing strategies are succeeding, your website works well, and your users are satisfied.

However, if you've noticed that your conversion rate is lower than you'd like, there are a few things you can do to improve it.

What is a 'conversion'?

Every time a user completes a desirable action, we count it as a conversion - but conversions look different on different websites. For example, if you're a blogger, you might consider each subscription to your blog as a conversion; if you have a brochure site that tells people about your services, you might consider enquiries as conversions; and if you have an ecommerce website, you'll count every successful sale as a conversion.

You might track multiple conversions to make sure that all aspects of your business are growing and working in unison. For example, with an ecommerce site, you might consider sales as your most important conversion while still keeping a close eye on the number of newsletter sign-ups, social media interactions and enquiries too. Together, these conversions will help to give you a more detailed picture of your site's overall performance.

Over time, you will start to see which things convert well on your website and which things don't. It's normal for things to fluctuate a bit, but if something is performing particularly badly, try the following tips.

1. Make sure your website is user-friendly.

Put yourself in the shoes of the user and test your website from their point of view. Does it work well across different devices? Do you notice any areas that could be improved? Did everything work properly? Think about it: if someone visits your website and struggles to figure out where something is or comes across a technical issue, then your conversion rate is likely to be much lower than it should be.

Improving the user experience is a great place to start if you want to improve your website's conversion rate. Here's how you can do it:

  • Tweak the menus so they are easier to navigate
  • Ensure your site works across all devices
  • Check the functionality of buttons/forms across the site

2. Drive more relevant traffic to your site.

If you notice that your conversion rate is low in comparison to the number of visitors arriving on your site from day to day, then you might be driving the wrong kind of people to your site. Investing in a range of marketing strategies like Google Ads, social media and email marketing can help boost relevant traffic to your website.

Why? Because you can use these tools to target audiences who are likely to convert. For example, people who have visited your site before or people who are already interested in your industry.

Here are a few things to consider when you're trying to boost relevant traffic to your site:

  • Include a call to action in your marketing material so users what you want them to do
  • Invest more money in the marketing strategies that convert well
  • Refine your target audiences
  • Produce content that will appeal to them

3. Make sure your web pages are easy to digest.

Users don't interact with websites in the same way they'd interact with a book or newspaper. In fact, unnecessary long-form text can actually do more harm to your site than good. If users don't find what they're looking for quickly, it's likely that they'll lose interest and move on to a different website, at which point, you've lost all chances of conversion.

What can you do to combat this? Start by taking time to craft your copy so that it's easy to digest, engaging and highly relevant to your site. Embolden anything that you think needs extra emphasis and break longer points up using paragraphs or bullet points.

Revise the layout and copy on your website so that your main selling points and call to actions are more prominent. Drawing the user's attention to these things will make it easier for them to decide whether to convert or not.

4. Keep your graphics relevant and minimal.

Images are a necessity, especially on ecommerce websites where customers need to see the products they want to buy. They can show off your products or promote a spectacular deal, but all too often they are overused.

Having too many graphics on a page can distract people from their objective and reduce your chances of a conversion, so finding a good balance is key.

There are plenty of platforms that you can use to share photos and graphics related to your business. Instagram and Pinterest are two of the most popular, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Perhaps you would be better saving those 'behind the scenes' shots for your social media rather than sharing them all over your website.

By reducing the visual clutter on your website, you make the journey on your site more streamlined and improve your page loading speed. Faster pages and an overall better experience on your website feed back into better usability, thus encouraging more conversions!

Note: Improving your conversion rate is not something that will happen overnight. We'd recommend trying one of these tips at a time and leaving your site alone for a few weeks to accurately assess the effects. If you make multiple changes at once, you'll never know what worked and what didn't.

If you'd like to talk to our experienced team of developers and SEO specialists about improving your website, don't hesitate to give us a call on 01446 339 050.

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SEO spring clean

Keeping your SEO up to date is a vital part of maintaining your website and growing your online audience. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned expert, spring is the perfect time to adjust your SEO strategy with a few easy tips and tricks.

If you want to give your search engine rankings a boost this spring but you're not sure where to start, Designer Website's search engine optimisation specialists have got your back. Here are our top tips for a thorough SEO spring clean.

Identify new keywords

The world is constantly changing, and it could well be that lots of new keywords and topics have become relevant to your business since your last big SEO check-up. You may be missing out if you have not updated your content to reflect up-and-coming trends; roughly 15% of all Google searches are completely new queries, so you might be able to capture a lot of extra traffic if you add extra keywords to your SEO strategy.

Whether you update your existing website copy to address current search trends or add extra content via blog posts, this is a great way to stay ahead of your competitors and give your site a nice spring boost.

Keep things fresh

Think of SEO like dating. When you first starting optimising your website, it's really easy to build your online presence and create new content that helps your site to rank. You might feel genuinely excited every time you publish a new blog post or add an informative new page.

But as time goes on, the thrill begins to wear off. Your content no longer ranks as well as it used to, and fewer people are visiting your site and engaging with your brand. You might even consider giving up and abandoning SEO entirely (though as we recently discussed, this is seldom a good idea!).

If you haven't released any new content in a while, we thoroughly recommend updating your website with some fresh new landing pages or a string of blog posts. It's important to remember how much search engines (especially Google) love fresh new content - as with relationships, a little commitment to your SEO can go a long way!

Minimise duplicate content

Content duplication - where the same piece of content appears on two or more web pages - can have a huge impact on your SEO strategy if you let it get out of hand. Few website owners create duplicate content intentionally, but it can sometimes happen by accident; for example, if you write similar or identical descriptions for two subtly different products, search engines may only index one of those pages, which will prevent the other one from ranking.

Try to make every page on your website unique, and if you can't avoid repeating a significant amount of content across multiple URLs, use canonical tags to tell Google which version you want indexed.

Don't neglect local SEO

If you have a brick-and-mortar business that's open to the public, you need to make sure potential customers can find you. Local SEO is hugely important - it's been alleged that 43% of Google searches are for things in the searcher's local area, and in the USA, an estimated 80% of disposable income is spent within 20 miles of the home.

So make sure your local SEO factors are in shape for spring. At the very least, you should create a Google My Business listing and make sure your company's address and contact details are correct and up to date wherever they appear on the web.

Master Google Search Console

Checking technical issues is an important part of SEO. You've created your new content, you're targeting new keywords, and you've even eliminated all duplication from your website - now you should carry out a Google Search Console check to make sure your website is working as it should.

Search Console can tell you all sorts of useful things, from how many of your pages are indexed to whether your pages display correctly on mobile devices. If you're new to Search Console, Google have some videos to help you learn the ropes, but you might be better off hiring a team of SEO experts to look after this side of things for you.

Remember: it's important to keep your SEO strategy fresh and efficient if you want to maximise your organic search traffic all year round. If you want to get more from your website, the Designer Websites team can help - our SEO specialists work closely with our experienced team of designers and developers to deliver the best possible results for our clients.

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A well-written blog can form an invaluable part of any marketing strategy, allowing you to interact with your target audience and share industry information, tips and expertise. By creating a regularly updated and informative blog, your business will be able to establish a reputation as an industry authority and in so doing improve overall brand awareness.

However, no matter how insightful and informative your blog posts may be if they don't show up in the search results, they are only ever likely to attract a handful of readers. So, what is the secret to optimising your blog? And how do you make sure that people convert when they read your posts? Let's start with the very basics, ideally, your blog posts will:

  • Appeal to your target audience
  • Rank highly in search results
  • Invite your audience to complete an action

So, how do you make these things happen? We asked our SEO team to collate some helpful hints and tips about writing blogs to get you on your way to a successful blog. They understand the importance of creating high-quality content that will help improve a client's Google ranking and boost engagement. So, if you're considering adding a blog to your site, or if you want to optimise your existing blog, then just keep reading!

Determine the Purpose of Each Blog

So, where do you start? We recommend that you start by considering the purpose of your blog post. Having this in mind as you write each blog is essential, it helps you make sure that each blog is staying on topic and fulfilling its purpose throughout! There are thousands of reasons you might write a blog, here are a few common goals of blog writing:

  • Attracting new customers
  • Promoting a product or service
  • Sharing important news related to your business or industry
  • Answering a question that's relevant to your business

Or something completely different! Blog posts are great because they offer a blank slate for you to address current topics and engage with users in a very direct way. Whatever you choose to write about, make sure that your writing has a focus to avoid creating convoluted, unnecessary content.

Select and Use Appropriate Keywords

As with website optimisation, choosing and using the right keywords is incredibly important when it comes to getting your blog posts to rank in search engines. Firstly, to select appropriate keywords you need to consider two things:

  • What keywords does your site currently rank for?
  • What keywords do you want your site to rank for?  

You need to be careful not to cannibalise (use the same keywords) as other, more important pages on your site. Why? because you don't want a blog post to outrank an important product page, for example. You can check what keywords and queries your site is currently getting impressions and clicks for by taking a look at the 'performance' section on the Google Search Console.

Instead of targeting the same keywords over and over again, you should consider using your blog posts to target keywords that aren't already targeted on your site (despite being highly relevant). When choosing keywords for your blog posts, you want them to grab your audience's attention so consider this; what topics do your readers care about that you haven't already addressed somewhere on your site? You can use Google's Keyword Planner tool to find hundreds of relevant keywords & check search volume!

Writing your Blog Posts 

Once you've decided the purpose of your blog, selected some interesting and relevant keywords - you're ready to start writing. Your first few blog posts might take you a little bit of time to craft and perfect, but the more blog posts you write the more your personal writing style will develop.

Readers will return to your blog time and time again if they like your writing style, so don't be afraid to add touches of your personality as you go along.  

Besides writing content that your readers will love, you need to ensure each post is properly optimised. Here are a few tips to make sure that your blog posts always add value to your site:

  • Be conscious of the keywords you are targeting and try to include them throughout the blog post.
  • Choose a compelling title.
  • Use sub-headings and bullet points to break up long passages of text.
  • Add some quality links to high domain authority sites (ones you want to grab the attention of!)
  • Include quotes from notable people within your industry.
  • Write a clear call to action - this will increase the likelihood of readers converting.
  • Optimise: Add a meta title & meta description.

Write Frequently to Maintain Engagement

As you build up a group of loyal readers, they will enjoy coming back to find new, relevant blog posts while - for the purposes of SEO, regular posting will ensure you're constantly targeting new keywords and will (hopefully) keep you high in the search engine results. But how often should you post?

Posting Every Day: 

Posting every day does have its benefits, it allows you to develop your writing style, engage with new readers and quickly build up lots of interesting posts on your site. However, writing and sharing blog posts every single day can be time-consuming and might even put your readers off.

Posting Once, Twice, or Three Times a Week:

Many bloggers argue this is the perfect blogging schedule. Having small gaps between blogs helps to keep your readers interested without overloading them with 'spammy' content. Giving yourself time to plan each blog properly will ensure you create in-depth and genuinely useful blogs, rather than blogs that don't add much value to your site.

Promotion via Social Media

Promoting your blog posts on social media will help maintain a steady flow of readers. We recommend setting a page or profile for your business on each of the following platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram 
  • LinkedIn

Each of these social media platforms is different in terms of the way the posts are structured and the type of audience they appeal to. Therefore, you need to tailor each social media post to suit the platform you're working with. For example, Instagram is largely image focused so is the perfect place to share pictures and blogs related to products or completed projects.

As well as promoting your blog on your own social network pages, encourage others to do some of the work for you by including Facebook and Twitter ‘share buttons’ in your blog. One of the amazing things about social media is that people will always be inclined to share things they find interesting with their friends - so take advantage of this!

If you'd like to find out how our search engine optimisation team could help you manage your social media, click here.

By following these blog optimisation tips you will find that your blog performs really well and helps to drive conversions. If you are interested in finding out more about our blog development services, simply click the button at the end of this blog. If you have any other queries, give us a call on 01446 339050.

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Published - 26th February 2018 / Updated - 12th March 2019

New Google Search Console

Over a year ago, Google announced via their Webmaster Central Blog that the new version of Search Console (originally made available to a limited set of users in August 2017) was going to be released to all site owners who use the tool. The big roll-out took a few weeks, but the majority of users are now able to access the redesigned Search Console interface.

Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools) in an indispensable tool for website owners, and so we'd like to take a moment to walk you through the updated version and explain how it can be used. The new Search Console is still being built, and certain reports have not yet been migrated into the new version, but what is there is well worth exploring if you're serious about looking after your website's health.

How do I view the new Search Console?

To access the new version of Google Search Console, simply follow these steps:

  1. Go to www.google.com/webmasters and click the big green 'SEARCH CONSOLE' button.

  2. Sign into your Google account to continue.

  3. Once you're on the Search Console home screen, select the property (website) you'd like to manage.

  4. Go to your Messages (under 'Dashboard' in the menu).

  5. Look for a message with the title 'Introducing the new Search Console for [website URL]' and open it up. (If you haven't received this message then you probably don't have access to the new Search Console yet - it is still being rolled out, so be patient and you should be granted access soon.)

  6. Click the 'Open the new Search Console' button in the body of the message.

I'm in! So what's new?

The first thing you'll notice upon accessing your new and improved Search Console is the sleek new design.

As we've already mentioned, the new Search Console doesn't yet offer as many different reports as its predecessor, many reports are still to be migrated over in the coming weeks but a number have been included in the new design. The main features of the current version are as follows:

  • Performance
  • URL inspection
  • Index coverage
  • Sitemaps
  • Mobile Usability 
  • AMP
  • Products
  • Manual Actions 
  • Security Issues
  • Links

Let's familiarise ourselves with these reports one at a time...

Search Console Performance Report

Performance

The 'Performance' report is more or less identical to the 'Search Traffic' report in Search Console Classic. The interface is a little different, and interestingly, there appears to be some disparity between the data in the 'Performance' and 'Search Traffic' reports, but it's still essentially the same tool. Use it to see which queries drive clicks/impressions for your website.

 

URL Inspection

The 'URL Inspection' tool offers website owners detailed crawl, index and serving information about web pages, directly from the Google index. Here you can view the last crawl date, the status of the last crawl, any indexing or crawling errors and the canonical URL for a page. It will provide information on successfully indexed pages, any AMP and structured data errors as well as any indexing issues. The URL Inspection tool also allows users to run live tests against a live URL. Details are not provided on the last time Google indexed that URL but on what Google sees on that URL in real time.

 

Search Console Index Coverage Report

Index coverage

Of all the features that the new Search Console brings to the table, its 'Index coverage' report is unquestionably the most exciting. One of the most frustrating things about using the old Search Console was spotting that Google hadn't indexed some of your pages...but having no way to find out which pages the algorithm had passed over.

The 'Index coverage' report aims to give site owners a clearer idea of which pages have and haven't been indexed (and, more importantly, why). Blind Five Year Old wrote an in-depth blog post about this report back in October, but here's a quick summary of what 'Index coverage' shows you:

  • Error - Pages that HAVEN'T been indexed because of some kind of error (e.g. server error).

  • Valid with warnings - Pages that HAVE been indexed, but with some issues that you may want to inspect.

  • Valid - Pages that HAVE been indexed successfully.

  • Excluded - Pages that HAVEN'T been indexed, usually (though not always) intentionally. For instance, a page with the 'noindex' tag or a canonical tag that points to an alternate URL will show up in this section of the report.

This report makes it easier than ever before to see which of your pages aren't getting indexed, and to establish what you need to do about it. This report now uses mobile-first indexing data when available, instead of using desktop indexing data for sites that have already switched to mobile-first. This only impacts the data related to the 'error counts' and 'new issues' in the report.

 

Search Console Sitemaps Report

Sitemaps

Again, this is just a nicer-looking version of a tool that we've been using for years (find it in the old Search Console under Crawl > Sitemaps). You can submit sitemaps and check the status of all submitted sitemaps here; handily, you can also click through to an 'Index coverage' report for each sitemap you've submitted.

 

Mobile Usability 

The Mobile Usability report is an important tool for all site owners as it provides critical information to help fix mobile usability issues. With Google using mobile usability as a factor in their ranking algorithms, it is important for site owners to keep a close eye on this report to ensure that issues are fixed when they appear. Issue names are the same as in the old report, but users are now able to submit a validation and reindexing request when an issue is fixed.

 

Search Console AMP Report

AMP

If your website includes any AMP content, this report is worth keeping an eye on as it will inform you of any errors on your accelerated mobile pages. This isn't anything new, though - the old version of Search Console includes a very similar report under Search Appearance > Accelerated Mobile Pages.

 

Products 

The Products section of the new Google Search Console helps users to see how well their product markup is performing in Google's search results. This is an important feature, especially for e-commerce sites in managing their product markup. This report allows e-commerce site owners to quickly see what issues they have with markup and fix them. In order to be able to see this report, site owners will need to add product markup to their products to show up in GSC. This can be used on a product page to describe a single product or on a shopping aggregator page that displays a single product.

 

Manual Actions

The Manual Actions section of the new Search Console is the same reporting tool that you've been using in the old console with a fresh, new look. Manual actions are issued by Google against a site when a reviewer from Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google's webmaster quality guidelines. Therefore, it is an important section that needs to be regularly checked. 

 

Security Issues

The Security Issues section of GSC will let site owners know if Google finds any security issues with the site, pretty self-explanatory. The types of issues can include hacked URL's, deceptive pages, malware, harmful downloads and more. This feature was available in the old the Search Console so users should be familiar with it and the information provided. For a full breakdown on the details on the security issues monitored, click here

 

Links 

The Links section of the new Search Console consolidates the functionality of the 'Links to your site' and 'Internal Links' reports found in the old Search Console. This updated link report, according to Google, is "more accurate" than the old Links to your site report. For a more detailed analysis of the data, you can get in the links report, click here.

And that's just about it - for now, anyway. Google is still building the new Search Console, so keep your eyes peeled for additional reports as 2019 progresses.

Do you need an expert to look after your website and make sure it's running at peak performance? Contact Designer Websites today by clicking below - our website optimisation specialists will help you to achieve online success!

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Switch to HTTPS

Here's something you might have seen recently if you use Google Chrome to browse the Internet:

Chrome Not Secure Warning

This scary red 'not secure' warning now appears in the Chrome address bar whenever you type something in on a non-HTTPS web page.

What does this mean for my website?

If your own web address still begins with HTTP rather than HTTPS, Chrome users will see the warning whenever they enter any information on your site. It doesn't matter whether they're entering their credit card number, searching for a product, or just commenting on your latest blog post - as soon as they start typing, Chrome will display that little red warning triangle and inform them that your website is not secure.

Obviously, this may put people off using your website, particularly if you're asking them to enter sensitive and/or personal information like their name, location, telephone number, email address, card details, etc.

(If your site is already under HTTPS, you don't need to worry - Google Chrome doesn't show the 'not secure' warning on HTTPS pages.)

Why is this happening?

Chrome already showed a 'not secure' warning on non-HTTPS pages that requested sensitive info such as passwords and payment details.

But Google made it clear some time ago that this warning would eventually be displayed on all non-HTTPS pages, and they recently made good on this promise. Now, if you use Google Chrome to visit any non-HTTPS page, you'll immediately see this notice in your address bar:

And if you start typing text into any text entry field on that non-HTTPS page, that warning will turn red, like this:

This is Chrome's way of letting you know that the information you're inputting will be sent over an unencrypted connection.

How can I make sure the 'not secure' warning doesn't appear on my site?

Simple: switch to HTTPS!

If your website address begins with http:// rather than https:// then Chrome will show your users the 'not secure' warning whenever they type something on your website. Under a HTTPS connection, all information is sent securely and encrypted to prevent unauthorised access. The same does not apply to a HTTP connection, which is why Chrome now shows this warning.

Online security is a big concern for Internet users nowadays. By switching from HTTP to HTTPS, you will not only be safeguarding yourself from Chrome's 'not secure' warning but also proving a bit of extra reassurance to your users. This will make them more likely to buy from you, or make an enquiry, or do whatever it is you want them to do. There is also some evidence that HTTPS websites rank better in the Google search results.

If you're a Designer Websites client and you'd like to switch from HTTP to HTTPS, please email info@designer-websites.co.uk or give us a call on 01446 339050.

Quick SEO Tips

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a pretty complex subject. Gone are the days when all you had to do was pick a keyword and stuff it into your page copy as many times as possible - if you want to conquer the Google results in 2018, there are all sorts of different factors you need to think about. And of course, since the algorithms are always changing, you'll need to keep your eyes open and stay abreast of all the latest updates if you don't want to be left behind.

Still, perhaps you're not looking to become an all-powerful SEO guru. Maybe you're just looking for a few quick tips that will help you boost your traffic without paying for ads. If that's the case, we hope that these 10 tips (brought to you by the Designer Websites SEO team) will serve you well:

1. Check your site's health on Google Search Console.

Google Search Console (google.com/webmasters/tools/home) is an indispensable tool that all website owners should use. Once you've added and verified your website, check out our beginner's guide to make sure you know what to look out for.

Oh, and while you're logged in...

2. Submit your sitemap to Google.

Go to the Crawl section in Google Search Console and select Sitemaps. This is where you can submit your website's XML sitemap file to Google - this makes it easier for the big G to index your content, and the Sitemaps tool will also inform you of any problems that are affecting pages you submit.

3. Take a good look at your title tags.

There are many different factors that decide whether a web page makes it into the top 10 Google results, but the page's title tag may be the most important of all. A page's title tag should ideally be no more than 60 characters in length, and it should be a clear, concise, and keyword-rich description of what that page is for.

Use Moz's title tag preview tool to see what your title tag will look like on Google (this is a good way to identify whether your title tag is too long).

4. Make sure your meta descriptions are snappy and engaging.

Unlike the title tag (see above), your page's meta description probably won't have a huge impact on rankings. However, it can make the difference between a Google user clicking on your result and scrolling straight past it.

You know the short paragraph of text that appears under most Google results? Very often, that blurb is pulled directly from the page's meta description.

So be sure to make all of your meta descriptions concise, engaging and punchy. Sell your product/service and explain why people should choose you over your competitors...but try to do it in as few words as possible! (Google recently extended the maximum length for meta descriptions, but we still recommend keeping them short and snappy where possible.)

5. Check for keyword cannibalisation.

Keyword cannibalisation occurs when a website has two (or more) pages competing against each other for a specific keyphrase. It should be avoided, since Google may not be able to discern which page you actually want to rank for the keyphrase in question.

For more information on keyword cannibalisation and how it can scupper your SEO efforts, read our blog on the subject here.

6. Claim your Google My Business listing.

Google My Business listings are crucial for local businesses with bricks-and-mortar locations that are open to the public, but even if your business is online-only, you should still think about claiming your listing. Go to google.co.uk/business and enter your company details so that Google can show more information about your business - don't worry, you can keep your address hidden if you don't want people turning up on your doorstep.

7. Link to high-authority websites.

Some people will tell you that you should never link out to other websites, but the evidence seems to suggest that outgoing links can have a positive effect on your rankings when done carefully. Just make sure that you're linking to authoritative sites that are relevant to the topic you're focusing on.

8. Share your knowledge in blog posts.

If your company's website doesn't have a blog, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to share your expertise and get your brand seen by a wider audience. Google loves in-depth, well-written articles from people who know what they're talking about, and nobody knows your business better than you do, so what are you waiting for? Get writing!

To make sure you're writing blog posts that will actually drive traffic to your website, we recommend using tools like Google Keyword Planner and AnswerThePublic.com to find out what people search for when they're looking for information on your specialist subject.

9. Add alt tags to your images.

Google's bots are very clever when it comes to understanding and indexing text-based content, but they're not so good with images. In order to help them index your images properly (and potentially show them as results on Google Images), you should make sure that every image on your website has an alt tag that gives an accurate description of what the image depicts.

Not only will this help you to capture traffic from image searches, it may also boost the perceived relevance of your pages if the alt tag is relevant to the keywords you're targeting. For example, if you're trying to rank for the term 'how to fix a dripping tap', your page may rank better if it features some pictures of taps, pipes, plumbers, and other related things/concepts.

10. Above all, focus on search intent and user experience.

Search engine optimisation shouldn't be an attempt to game the system or 'trick' Google into ranking your website. Ultimately, your goal should be the same as Google's goal: to give each user the best possible answer to their query.

So, when targeting a specific search term, make sure your page meets the needs expressed by that term and gives people the perfect online experience. This can mean any number of different things, such as:

  • Making key information stand out more
  • Improving your website design
  • Reducing your prices
  • Giving more details about your products
  • Being more transparent about who you are and what you do with the information you collect from users

These are just a few examples. Put yourself in the shoes of an average website user and go through your website from their point of view - is there anything that could be improved, or any parts of the buying journey that are needlessly complicated or fiddly?

For more help with this, read our blog about search intent.

Do you need someone to take a proper look at your website's SEO? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - we're great at boosting organic traffic and creating smooth user journeys!

Why Won't My Website Show Up on Google?

It's frustrating when your website can't break onto the first page of Google results for that high-volume keyword you've been trying to target, but it's even more frustrating when your website isn't showing up on Google at all.

Why does this happen?

In order for a page to appear as a Google result, it has to be included in Google's index.

When Google notices a new website for the first time, its bots 'crawl' the site and report back so that the site's pages can be added to the index. However, Google don't index all pages indiscriminately – even they don't have the luxury of unlimited server space.

For this reason, if a page doesn't meet certain requirements, Google won't bother to index it. Their algorithm might even decide that none of your pages add any value to the Internet, in which case your whole website may be excluded from the index. And if you're not in the index, you can't show up in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Check to see if you're indexed

If you think Google isn't showing your website in the search results – even for terms that you really ought to be ranking for – the first thing to do is find out whether or not you're even indexed.

Here's how to do that:

1. Open Google Chrome (or go to google.com).

2. Type your website's URL into the search bar, preceded by 'site:'. For instance:

Google site: search

3. Hit search. Google should now show you a list of your web pages - if none of them are indexed, you'll see a message like this:

No Results Found

If you use Google Search Console to manage your website, you can instead log in and take a look at the Index Status report. This tells you how many of your pages Google currently has indexed, if any.

If none of your pages are indexed...

Here are some of the most common reasons for Google to exclude an entire website from the index:

  • Google hasn't noticed your website yet. If your website only recently went live, it may just be that Google's bots need a little longer to get around to crawling it. You can hurry them along by adding your site in Google Search Console and submitting your sitemap file in the Sitemaps report (or using the Fetch as Google tool – be sure to click 'Submit to index').

  • Google's bots can't access your pages. If your web developer has mistakenly a) blocked your website in the robots.txt file, or b) placed a 'noindex' tag on pages that are supposed to be indexed, this will prevent Google from accessing and indexing your content. If neither of these apply, there are several other reasons why Google may be unable to view your site – perhaps your site was down when Google attempted to crawl it, or maybe your pages take too long to load or cannot be viewed without logging in.

  • Google has penalised your website by de-indexing it. Sometimes, Google will exclude websites from the index as a punishment for breaching the search engine's guidelines. If you have been engaging in unnatural link building practices, filling your site with low-quality or duplicated content, or otherwise doing something you shouldn't have been, your absence from the Google SERPs may be a direct result of your bad behaviour.

If your pages are indexed...

So you've checked, and your website is indexed – you're just not ranking for the keywords you care about. Here are some possible explanations for that:

  • All of your pages are indexed...except the one that matters. Just because most of your site is indexed doesn't necessarily mean that the bots haven't missed something. It may be that a crucial page has been excluded, probably because its content is too similar to that of another page on your site. Google won't waste server space indexing two pages that are near-identical, so make sure your key landing pages aren't being edged out by other, lower-priority pages.

  • Your content needs to be improved. It may be that you're not ranking for that high-volume keyword because Google doesn't think your content meets the needs that the query expresses. Look at the sites that do rank for your chosen keyword, then compare them to your site – what do they do that yours doesn't? Do they provide a better answer to the searcher's question? Does their user interface provide a better, smoother journey? Do they offer a better product range, or more information on the products they sell? Ask yourself these questions and make sure your pages are as good as they can be.

  • You need to boost your website's ranking signals. If all of your pages are indexed and your content is utterly perfect...and you're still not showing up in the SERPs...it may simply be that your website doesn't carry as much weight as other sites do. Google's algorithm takes dozens of different factors into account when deciding which websites should rank the highest, but links are among the most important ranking factors of all. If your competitors have links from lots of high-authority websites (e.g. trusted news outlets, authoritative academic resources, popular content platforms like Buzzfeed), then you'll probably need to get some similarly high-powered links – AND make sure that your content is better than everyone else's – in order to outrank them.

If you need help getting your website ranked, please get in touch with the website optimisation experts at Designer Websites. Contact us now to discuss your requirements.

Search Intent

Since it was launched all the way back in 1997, Google Search has grown increasingly sophisticated and intelligent. Where once it simply looked at your search term and gave you a list of web pages containing that term, the search engine's algorithm can now understand and interpret queries on an almost-human level.

This acute understanding of search intent is visible in the highly-tailored results that Google now delivers whenever a search is performed. Here's just one example:

  • The search term 'swimming pool' usually indicates an intent to go swimming, and so Google responds to this query with a list of local pools and leisure centres.

  • However, if you type 'swimming cap' into Google, the results page is dominated by shopping results. This is because the algorithm has deduced from your search term that you're looking to buy something.

  • Now type in 'swimming rules' and notice how most of the results are information-based. There's a featured snippet, along with a 'People also ask' section that answers a variety of swimming-related questions. All of this indicates that Google interpreted your query as an attempt to learn about swimming.

Three very similar searches, three very different sets of results.

Swimming search results

This example demonstrates just how much Google (and its competitors - you'll get similar results if you try the same experiment on Bing or Yahoo) can now read into our search queries. Superficially, the phrases 'swimming pool' and 'swimming cap' are very much alike, but modern search engine algorithms have a very strong grasp of what different words mean and - more importantly - what we mean when we use those words.

How was this achieved?

Google and the other search engines didn't get this clever overnight. Their current level of sophistication is the result of years of testing and fine-tuning and gradual improvement.

In Google's case, a technology called RankBrain is largely to thank for the algorithm's advanced understanding of search intent. RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that learns as people search; when you google a phrase that RankBrain hasn't seen before, it makes an educated guess based on the meanings and common usages of the words you entered, then serves up results accordingly.

Here's what this process might look like in action:

  • You want to go and see the new family movie Penelope and the Magic Pencil at the cinema.

  • You go to google.co.uk and type in 'penelope magic pencil screenings'.

  • Google's algorithm doesn't immediately understand what you mean, but RankBrain knows that the word 'screenings' is semantically related to movies and cinemas.

  • Armed with this insight, Google now looks for cinema-related results that contain the words 'penelope', 'magic' and/or 'pencil'.

  • The best results are served to you via the Google results page. If Google can see your current location, the results are probably sourced from cinemas in your local area.

(In reality, of course, Google's all-knowing algorithm would already be aware of the Magic Pencil film and would thus have a far better clue as to what you were after. This is just a hypothetical example that shows how RankBrain can infer meaning from what looks at first glance like a string of random, unrelated words.)

So what does this mean for my website?

As Google has become more and more sophisticated, website owners who rely on organic Google traffic have had to become more and more sophisticated in their tactics. Ranking on the first page of Google results is no longer as simple as picking a popular keyphrase and using that phrase a certain number of times within your page copy; even if your page has a tonne of great links from high-authority websites, this won't necessarily guarantee you a high organic ranking in the current search climate. Google now prioritise search intent above all else, which means that webmasters and SEOs must do the same.

In order to get the very best results, search intent should be kept in mind throughout the entire website optimisation process, starting with keyword selection. Let's say you're setting up a new online sports equipment store - you're trying to decide what kind of searches you want to show up for, so the first thing you do is visit Keyword Planner and type in 'sporting goods' to see what gets the most searches.

When you order the resulting list of keywords by number of searches, it looks something like this:

  • sprinter (12,100 searches per month)
  • sporting (9,900 searches per month)
  • sports clothing (8,100 searches per month)

Lots and lots of people enter the words 'sprinter' and 'sporting' into Google every month, but trying to capture that traffic with a sporting goods website would be virtually pointless because the vast majority of those people won't be looking to buy sports equipment. Instead of picking the most popular term you can find that's vaguely related to sports, it's far better to pick a term that reflects the intent of your target audience.

Here's another example. According to Keyword Planner, 1.5 million people google the word 'tennis' every month, whereas the term 'buy tennis shoes' only gets a few thousand searches in an entire year. However, the 'buy tennis shoes' people are a far better match, intent-wise, for your ecommerce website than the people who simply type in 'tennis' - they could be looking for player rankings, or match reports, or information on the sport itself, whereas you wouldn't type in 'buy tennis shoes' if you weren't at least thinking of buying some tennis shoes.

If you're not sure whether the keywords you've chosen are a good fit for your website, google them! The results that pop up should give you a pretty good idea of what people mean when they use each term. For instance, most of the results for 'best football boots' are informative articles and lists, suggesting that Google sees this as a learn term rather than a buy term.

Best Football Boots

This keyword might be worth targeting with an informative, well-written blog post, but your shop page probably isn't a good fit.

By contrast, the results for 'cheap football boots' are all online stores where you can buy football boots, indicating that this term is a better match for your store's footwear department.

Cheap Football Boots

Creating intent-optimised pages

So you've chosen a good set of keywords that are highly relevant to your website and what it has to offer. The next challenge is actually ranking for those keywords (i.e. appearing among the top results when somebody types one of those keywords into Google). To do this, you'll need to create content that meets the needs of your target audience.

What that doesn't mean is writing a thousand words about your chosen topic. As we explained earlier, it's not enough to just repeat your keywords over and over again and hope that Google will take the hint. You need to properly assess the intent behind each term you're targeting, then craft a high-quality web page that satisfies that intent.

We've already seen several examples of what that looks like in practice. You want to be the #1 result for 'best football boots'? You need to research the latest products and write a thorough article that lists the best boots and explains what makes them so great. More interested in showing up for 'cheap football boots'? In that case, you need to make sure you've got a secure, smooth-functioning ecommerce website that makes it easy for people to buy boots online, and at genuinely low prices.

Again, if you're not sure what kind of content you need to create for the keyphrase you're targeting, head to Google and see what already ranks on page 1. This will tell you what Google considers a good, relevant result for that query.

Do I still have to worry about writing keyword-rich copy?

This debate has been raging for quite a while now. Back in the day, targeting a particular keyphrase meant including that phrase in your website copy as many times as you possibly could. Known as keyword stuffing, this practice is best avoided in 2017 because the Google algorithm now penalises websites that do it.

With that in mind, it's best to take a more cautious approach these days: use your keyphrase frequently, but NOT to the point of sounding 'unnatural'. The litmus test is to read your content aloud - as long as it sounds like something a human might actually say, you're probably safe. Here's an example...

  • OK: Looking for cheap football boots? You've come to the right place! Here's at Charlie's, we've got a huge range of brand-name football boots at bargain prices. Our boots may be cheap, but they're certainly not lacking in quality - check out all these 5-star reviews from our previous customers!

  • NOT OK: Welcome to Charlie's cheap football boots store, the best place to buy cheap football boots online! We have a huge range of cheap football boots to choose from - order your cheap football boots now, or read our reviews to see what other customers think of our cheap football boots!

Nowadays, most SEO authorities agree that keyword density is nowhere near as important as tailoring your content to search intent. In other words, identify the need that you're trying to meet, then write copy that's suited to that need. Somebody who wants to buy a toaster is going to be more interested in your prices, your website layout, and the security of your online checkout system than in how many times you've written the word 'toaster'.

However, while this principle - 'make web pages for users, not search engines' - sounds reasonable enough in theory, it's a bit muddier than that in practice. While search engines are incredibly intelligent, they're still nowhere near as intuitive as actual human beings, and Google do still rely on keyword matching to some extent. Remember our Penelope and the Magic Pencil example from earlier? Your cinema won't show up for a term like that unless you've got the name of the film somewhere on your page, just as your sports store probably won't rank for 'cheap football boots' unless you've used the word 'football' in your copy at least once or twice.

Put your keywords in the right places.

The main difference between SEO in 2007 and SEO in 2017 is that, when it comes to keyword insertion, quantity doesn't really matter. Don't worry about keyword density or anything like that - instead, focus on making sure that your keywords are present in the places that count.

In rough order of importance, these are:

  • Page title tag. This should be a succinct summary (approx. 40-60 characters) of what your page is about. You definitely need to include your primary keyword here if you're going to have a shot at ranking.

  • URL. We're not suggesting that your domain name ought to be www.yourkeyword.com (in fact, Google have penalised unnaturally keyword-rich domain names in the past), but it's a good idea to look to your keyword list when choosing URLs for your internal pages. This isn't essential, and you definitely shouldn't create spammy-looking URLs just for the sake of getting your keywords in, but it makes it easier for search engines if your football boots page is actually called /football-boots rather than /store/category/footwear/46.

  • H1 heading. As long as it makes sense from the user's point of view, you should try to include your main keyphrase in your page's main (h1) heading. Some people will tell you that your h1 and your title tag have to be different from one another, but Google won't mind if they're identical; indeed, this might make more sense from a user perspective, since the heading on the page will match the heading of the Google result they clicked on.

  • Alt tags. Every image on your website should have an alt tag (a piece of HTML that tells search engine bots - who can't see pictures like we can - what an image depicts). If the images on your page are relevant to that page's content, it should be relatively easy to include your keyphrase in at least one alt tag. Consider using synonyms and variations of your keyphrase so that you're not using the same tag for every image - for example, if you've already got an image tagged 'football boots', you could use 'soccer boots' or 'nike football boots' for the other images on that page.

  • Meta description. The meta description (usually) serves as the little snippet of text underneath your link in the Google results page. This should be around 150 characters in length, and while it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on ranking, it's worth including your primary keyword(s) here too if it's reasonable to do so. However, the main aim of your meta description is to give readers a reason to click through to your website - so make sure it's enticing!

As far as the actual body text of your page is concerned, you shouldn't really have to think about whether or not to include your keywords: it's difficult to write even a few sentences about football boots without using the term 'football boots'. Bear in mind also that RankBrain assesses meaning and relevance based on the semantic relationships between different words and phrases, so a page that mentions 'football boots' over and over again probably won't rank as well as a page that uses lots of different football- and boot-related terms (goal, pitch, striker, tackle, kick, grip, studs, and so forth).

Summing up

Here's a basic plan to follow when trying to optimise a website for search intent:

  • Identify keywords that are relevant to your website and express clear intent to do/buy/learn whatever it is you're offering.

  • Use Google to see what sort of content currently ranks for those keywords. In-depth articles? Online shops? Local business listings?

  • Create content that meets the needs expressed by the keywords you're targeting.

  • Be sure to use your keywords in the right places (title tag, h1 heading, et cetera) while still focusing on helping the user and meeting their needs.

Of course, this is just the first step - links, reviews, blog posts, social shares, and lots of other things are often necessary to make it onto the first page. However, if you follow this plan, you'll have a strong chance of eventually achieving high rankings and capturing lots of high-quality traffic that actually converts.

If you need help driving organic traffic to your website, get in touch with Designer Websites - our SEO experts can help you to select the right keywords, create the right content, and reach the right people.

With billions of daily website views coming from traffic on search engine results pages, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is vital to any digital marketing plan. Across the globe, businesses desperately strive to achieve the top spots on Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in order to generate the most traffic to their business. However, in order to achieve these positions, it is much more complicated than simply having a fast website or just targeting keywords. With the most popular search engines constantly tweaking and altering algorithms, businesses are constantly kept on their toes in an efforts to master SEO.

There is no quick fix to achieving and maintaining a space on the front page of SERPs (no matter what some dodgy SEO companies may tell you!). It takes a combination of techniques to fully optimise your website. Ultimately your website should be very easy and quick to use, it should contain valuable unique content, it should be hosted professionally, it should properly handle errors, redirects, sitemaps, indexing bots, etc. In fact the list of boxes that your website should now tick is very long indeed, and most of these elements are very technical and will need properly qualified and experienced people to implement them. 

SEO now comes hand-in-hand with user experience optimisation, and Google will no longer accept cheap tricks to get to the top of the results page. Instead, Google explains that"Search engine optimization is about putting your site's best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.With that in mind, when considering how to SEO, below are some things to consider.

Keyword Analysis

Although we’ve already mentioned it’s not the only way to help rankings, it remains a very important part of SEO. It involves researching what people are searching on Google when they’re looking for a service like the one your business provides. Then you can target this traffic by having the keywords appear in all the right sections of your website (such as the title tag, Meta tags, page headings, etc) and ads. 

SEO Copy Writing

In the not too distant past, website optimisation experts were often guilty of filling up pages with keyword-rich copy, but these days it's absolutely vital to make your content more user-friendly and readable, but this doesn't mean you forget keywords altogether, it just means you need to work harder to include appropriate keywords, whilst making the content engaging. Copywriting is a balancing act between targeting keywords and providing interesting and useful content for the user. No one wants to visit a website that’s full of useless information, and Google will penalise you for cutting corners. Instead of flooding your copy with keywords, it’s key to maintain readability and an appropriate keyword density.

Coding

To ensure your website can be easily indexed by search engine bots, and that it will run at an optimum speed, it’s important to get your coding correct. You want code-light pages that load very quickly, you need to use the latest compression algorithms, you need to utilise the latest coding standards and include important meta information, rich cards, schema tags, etc. If you want to rank highly across different browsers, your coding has to up-to-date, it has to be responsive to ensure it works on any device, and is cross browser compatible. Avoid template type solutions, or systems where the coding structures are likely to be old and out-dated.

Optimised Website Hosting 

Providing super fast and reliable website hosting is absolutely essential to a well-optimised website, otherwise, all of your other SEO efforts will have been in vain. Correct error handling procedures and redirecting is also really important. You either need a dedicated web server or at least a host who has a very high end dedicated server and holds fewer than 50 websites on it themselves. The speed of the server is significantly more important than it's location, so make sure that the response times are very good. 

Link Outreach/Building

Not to be confused with dodgy link-building of the past – a technique that led to a steady stream of dodgy links spamming the internet (through directories, etc), which is now often branded a black-hat technique. Trying to acquire links synthetically can earn you a Google penalty, which can get you removed from SERPs. However, there is still value in worthy links that are achieved by content creation specialists liaising with site owners. Google still uses inbound links as a part of their algorithm, but now they are more interested in the value of these links rather than the quantity you've amassed. Make sure you avoid any dodgy link building tricks, just focus on networking effectively, and making sure your content is interesting and easy to link to. Ideally, generate content that naturally generates links and shares from real users.

Social Media

With the majority of people checking their social media before they’ve even got out of bed, it’s now more important than ever to make sure your business is within the social matrix. Although there is still some debate about how valuable (if at all) social media is, it's good for brand awareness and potential back links.  By having a well-oiled social marketing plan, you can potentially improve your rankings on the search engine results, so it's worth doing! 

Mobile Friendly Websites

Another development that highlights how SEO is constantly evolving to fit in with the daily lives of users. Search engines such as google value the way your website translates onto other devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

 

When considering how to optimise a website the above is simply a brief introduction, and is by no means a comprehensive list of techniques. Website optimisation is actually a varied and a constantly evolving process, which requires the expert knowledge of SEO practitioners. Here at Designer Websites, the wealth of experience we have developed over the past decade ensures we understand the technical aspects of website optimisation better than anyone else.

Click here to learn more about our SEO services or request a free quote for our SEO services here today. 

5 reasons to give your website an update (even if it's only a couple of years old!)

New Website Design

How old is your business's current website? One year old? Two? Three? Older?

You may feel like your website is as good as brand new, but things move quickly in the world of web design, and it's a good idea to rethink your site every couple of years. Why, you ask? Well, for a start, it's important to keep your website in line with all the latest guidelines and best practices from the likes of Google, but you also need to ensure that it's frequently reviewed from a usability perspective as well as from a performance perspective.

Over the past 12 months, there have been a huge number of changes to the way in which Google, Bing, and other search engines source and deliver their results. Additionally, voice and mobile usage are changing the way we browse and interact with the Internet in general - search engines have adapted accordingly, but has your own website kept up with new behaviours and technologies?

Today we'd like to highlight five relatively recent changes that, even if your site already has a modern look and a smooth UI, may convince you that it's time to think about a new website design...or at least a bit of an update!

1. HTTP to HTTPS

Back in August 2014, Google made the following announcement on their Official Webmaster Central Blog:

"Over the past few months we've been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal."

Since then, Google have been giving HTTPS websites increasingly preferential treatment in their SERPs; in other words, your website will have a better chance of ranking highly on Google if you switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

Last July - approximately 2 years on from the original Google announcement - Moz.com published some numbers illustrating just how much Google now preferred secure HTTPS websites. They found that, prior to August 2014, only 7% of first-page results used the HTTPS protocol, whereas in June 2016, over 32% of first-page results were HTTPS-secured.

Google want to keep their users as secure as possible online, and over time, there'll be less and less room for non-secure (HTTP) pages within the top results. Switching to HTTPS will safeguard and future-proof your site's ability to rank, and it will give your users a little extra peace of mind too.

Further reading: Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

2. Mobile-Friendliness

Did you know that the majority of Internet usage now takes place on a mobile device? If your website was designed for desktop users and can scarcely be used on a small screen, you could well be missing out on a lot of business (since mobile users will likely abandon your site in favour of a mobile-friendly competitor).

Mobile's share of the market will only continue to increase as desktop computers become less commonplace and handheld devices insinuate themselves still further into everyday life. Furthermore, Google started prioritising mobile-friendly websites in its results last year, so you risk losing organic traffic as well as revenue if you do not have a responsive design that provides a mobile-friendly experience.

We recommend using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to assess the mobile-friendliness of your website, then switching to a responsive website design if you score poorly.

Further reading: What is a Responsive Website?

3. Structured Data

A good web developer will use schema tags on your website to help the likes of Google understand the contents of each page. There are loads and loads of different schema tags, but here are some of the most commonly-used:

  • The Product tag is used to identify a product or service.
  • The Review tag is used to identify a review or rating.
  • A tag such as startDate or DateTime may indicate when an event is scheduled to begin.

Using schema tags (also called 'structured data') enables Google to embellish your search results with additional pieces of information known as rich snippets. Rich snippets look like this:

Review snippet

In this example, Google is able to display a rating and a price for the product in question thanks to the website's use of structured data.

Or like this:

Events snippet

Here, schema tags allow Google to display a list of events (complete with dates and venues).

Rich snippets increase the visibility and usefulness of your website's Google results, and there's a chance that Google may one day give websites that use structured data a small ranking boost. If your site doesn't already use schema tags, you should strongly consider adding them in as part of your next redesign/update.

See also: Google's Data Highlighter Tool

4. Featured Snippets

Whereas rich snippets are dependent on your website's code, featured snippets (also known as rich answers) are dependent on your website's content. Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet - What is a web sling?

A featured snippet may also include bullet points, a table, or - as shown below - a numbered list.

Numbered list snippet - How to remove your oven door handle

If you phrase your Google search in the form of a question (e.g. 'where was lord of the rings filmed' or 'how do antibiotics work'), the top result will very often be a featured snippet. This applies to voice search as well as to traditional text searches - for instance, a Google Home device will usually respond to a question by simply reading out the featured snippet for that keyword phrase.

Google is showing featured snippets for more and more searches as time goes by (we've even started seeing them for non-question queries like 'safety goggles'), and if Google starts displaying your competitor's content in a big box at the top of the SERP, there's a very good chance that your organic traffic will plummet as a result.

For this reason, it may be worth rewriting some of the copy on your site with question-type keywords in mind so as to snag as many of those 'featured answer' spots as possible.

Further reading: How to Gain Featured Snippets

5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are Google's solution to the increasingly prevalent expectation that online content should load instantaneously - especially on mobile devices. Website owners can now create 'accelerated' versions of their pages specifically for mobile users, and this is definitely something to bear in mind if you're determined to deliver an outstanding mobile browsing experience.

An accelerated mobile page is essentially a stripped-down version of a normal web page that is specifically designed to load very quickly. AMP pages were originally available only to well-known publications like the Telegraph and the Independent, but the technology is now open to all, which means that you can create lean, fast-loading versions of your key pages in order to please mobile users and (potentially) rank more highly in Google's mobile results.

Using AMP on your wensite will significantly improve the speed with which your website is delivered to users. It may also give you an advantage on the Google AdWords platform to boot.

Does your website need an update or a redesign? Request a FREE quote from the Designer Websites team!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Website

When presented with a sparkling, brand-new website that looks great and functions perfectly, it’s easy to assume that you’ve done all you can for the online side of your business. Your customers can find you, they can buy your products from the comfort of their own homes or even on the go using their smartphones - what more is there to be done?

But setting up your company's site is really just phase one! Now that it's live, you need to come up with a plan of action that centres on how to get the most out of your website.

Falling into a rut with your website is not only damaging for the website, it could potentially impact your business on a larger scale. In order to guide you past this pitfall, we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your website.

Update Your Blog Frequently with Engaging Content

If your website includes a blog, you should ensure that it is updated frequently with engaging content. If your blog is left stagnant or updated less than, say, once a month, it will not drive traffic like it ought to and it may even end up harming rather than helping your online success.

Blog Posts

By creating new and engaging content on a regular basis, you will be able to draw in new customers and rank for new keywords.

Stay Active on Social Media

Similar to your blog section, if you have links on your website to company social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), make sure these accounts are updated frequently. Social media is a vastly important tool for any online business, so by neglecting it, not only will you certainly not get the most out of your website, you may also damage people's perception of your brand in the process. Just think about it - if someone spots that your last tweet went out nearly a year ago, they may worry that you've gone out of business and cease to feel confident enough to buy from you!

Social Media

If you want to learn more about why social media marketing is so important for modern businesses, you can read all about it in our recent blog post on the topic. 

Use 301 Redirects Intelligently

Updating your pages and products frequently is a great way to keep customers/visitors interested and your business running smoothly. However, if you decide to delete a page, you should consider adding a 301 redirect to ensure that anyone trying to access that page in future is redirected to a relevant page that still exists (rather than seeing a 'page not found' 404 error notice).

404 - Page Not Found

All you need to do is get in touch with the people who built your website and ask them to redirect the old URL to a different, still-live one. However, you shouldn't just use 301 redirects to ensure that nobody ever sees a 404 'not found' page - here are some good rules of thumb:

  • If you have moved a piece of content from one URL to another, use a 301 redirect so that anyone who enters the old URL will automatically arrive on the new one.

  • If you have deleted a piece of content outright, but you have another page that meets the user's needs equally well, you can redirect the old URL to that page - although, technically speaking, a 404 'not found' notice is the correct response when someone tries to access a piece of content that no longer exists. That being said, if you delete an old product that you no longer sell but you have a newer version/model of that product in stock, it's a good idea to redirect to the new version as this will improve user experience on your website.

  • You should never redirect to a page that isn't relevant to the piece of content the user is trying to reach - it makes for a poor user experience (more so than if you just showed a 404 page) and may put you in line for a rankings penalty on Google.

Use High-Quality Photos

Whether you're selling products or promoting your company's services, it's important to use good-quality images - and continue to use good-quality images when you upload new products or content. Nothing will put a potential customer off more quickly than a blurry, cheap-looking image. Producing your own good-quality photos is easy to do, and the best part is that you can be certain your images are 100% royalty free.

If you want to get more from your website (whether through blog posts, search engine optimisation, or a whole-site redesign), get in touch with Designer Websites today to find out how we can help.

Featured Snippets

Google's featured snippets have been around for a little while now, and they're appearing in SERPs more often than ever before. For site owners, they represent a significant organic exposure opportunity; however, many people right now are unaware of the value of ranking as a featured snippet and unsure of how to do so.

In today's blog, we're going to show you how you can obtain a featured snippet for your site - before that, though, let's take a quick look at what exactly a featured snippet is.

What are featured snippets?

When you type a query into Google, a featured snippet is the short answer (or summary of an answer) that sometimes appears at the top of the results page. A snippet's content is extracted directly from the source website, and each snippet includes the page title and URL of the web page it's drawn from.

What are featured snippets?

Why should I care about featured snippets?

Because they will get your website seen and drive lots more traffic to their source pages! Featured snippets tend to appear above all other organic results, meaning that even if your website isn't rank #1 for a specific keyword, you can still show up ahead of your competitors by securing a featured snippet ranking for that search term.

In addition to ranking as a featured snippet, a particular URL can also still appear within the standard organic results. This means that a single URL can rank twice on the first page, in two separate positions, for the same query. (Take another look at the Obama example above - see how Wikipedia appears as both the featured snippet source AND the #1 organic result?)

Because Google is extracting the important part of your content and displaying it right there in the SERP, you might expect your click-through rate to drop when your content is used for a featured snippet. However, featured snippets have actually been shown to boost CTR, even when the source URL already held the #1 organic position.

How to gain a featured snippet

Now that you know how valuable a featured snippet can be for your website, you're probably wondering how to get your pages ranking in this way. Featured snippets come in a whole range of different styles, and your content must provide the right answer in the right format to be able to rank as a snippet for that particular query. Snippets occur in a number of different forms, including:
  • Text
  • Lists
  • Tables
The first thing you'll need to do is perform some keyword research and identify some questions that are a) commonly typed into Google, and b) relevant to your website. These questions can be implicit or explicit, but they need to be too complex for Google to answer using simple public-domain data from their Knowledge Graph. For example, Googling 'how old is Theresa May' won't produce a featured snippet because Google can answer that one by itself; however, Googling 'who is Theresa May' forces Google to pull a more in-depth answer from a third-party source, resulting in a featured snippet.

Featured Snippets Example
You may want to look for queries that already have a featured snippet in the SERP; if the current snippet is poorly-written or doesn't really answer the question properly, its spot should be fairly easy to steal. If a question is not currently showing a featured snippet result, this may be a sign that Google does not consider a featured snippet necessary for that query.

Once you know which queries you wish to feature as a snippet for, it's time to re-format your content in order to optimise it for...um, snipping. The format and language of your content is very important - when trying to achieve a featured snippet, you need to make sure that you use phrases and terms a little more strategically than you might in other pieces of writing. This is because Google is far more literal with these types of queries than usual; for example, if you were to Google 'how to make scrambled eggs', you will likely be shown an article whose title closely mirrors that specific query, and not something like 'scrambled eggs for dummies'.

You also need to make sure that the format of your answer matches the format of the snippet you wish to rank for. There's no point writing a regular ol' paragraph of text if the featured snippet you're trying to replace is a table of information or a bullet-point list of ingredients. It doesn't really matter where on the page your answer appears as long as your content is structured correctly and you're providing a clear and concise answer to the query that Google can easily lift out and display in the SERPs.

Here's an example. Let's say you want a featured snippet for the query 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' - you can write an in-depth, thousand-word exposé on the exact distinction between cakes and biscuits, but you won't achieve your goal unless you also provide Google with a concise, easily-snippable answer like this:

"There are many ways to tell a cake from a biscuit, but the most important difference is that cakes get harder as they go stale, whereas biscuits become softer."

Once you've written the page that will hopefully rank as a featured snippet, read through it and try to identify the key sentence(s) that Google will be able to provide as a quick answer. If that portion of the article doesn't exist, you won't get the snippet. Don't forget to check the existing snippet for the keyphrase you've got your eye on - if the current snippet is a table or bullet-point list, you probably won't be able to usurp its throne with plain text.

You'll also want to use keywords judiciously throughout the rest of the page - for instance, including the phrase 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' in your page title tag and H1 heading will greatly improve your chances of getting that featured snippet (and indeed of ranking for that term at all).

How to keep your featured snippets

You've been working hard and you've finally gained a featured snippet - well done! Now you can relax and take it easy, right? Wrong - the battle is still on! The websites below yours will probably attempt to steal that coveted spot from you, so how can you stay on top of the heap and ensure that your featured snippet keeps showing up?

The answer is that you need to get people actually engaging with your snippet. The organic ranking and format of your content aren't the only factors to think about; engagement and click-through rates also play a role in snippet selection. By ensuring that users are engaging with your snippet - that is, reading it and clicking through to your actual website for more information - you should be able to hang on to your featured spot indefinitely.

Need help driving organic traffic to your website? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - our SEO experts will be more than happy to assist you!
Our SEO team at Jump Factory Basingstoke

This week, some of the SEO team at Designer Websites took a trip down to Jump Factory in Basingstoke, for a bit of fun, and to see how the company is getting on since we’re now helping them with their online marketing efforts.

We’ve worked with Jump Factory on their website since before the indoor trampoline park opened its doors, so going to visit the park in person was something we've wanted to do for a while now. So, the team travelled down from Penarth to Basingstoke on Wednesday, and found that jumping about on a trampoline was actually a great way to stretch their legs after a two-hour journey in a car.

jump factory indoor trampoline park
The indoor trampoline park even celebrated their 100,000th jumper just last week! 

Since Designer Websites joined forces with Jump Factory, we have worked to create a user friendly, dynamic and fully optimised website ensuring the company stays at the forefront of their target market. We officially started working on their “Jump Online” campaign back in January and since this time, we’ve witnessed the indoor trampoline park’s traffic make a big jump online, and watched as their customer base has significantly increased over the past couple of months. 

Due to their high-ranking website and active social media presence, Jump Factory have been able to really jump online, travelling up the SERPS and progressing with increasing success each month. Since we began our SEO work, Jump Factory is now gaining double the visitors on their website and has had a huge boost in bookings. To find out more about the work we do with Jump Factory, you can read all about it here in our case study

At the indoor trampoline park, the team took part in basketball tournaments and dodgeball tournaments to make full use of all the parks activities. The girls won in basketball due to Laura’s skillful shots, but the boys stole back the crown in the dodgeball tournament. It was clear that you can be fully grown and still have fun on the trampolines!
jump factory basketball lanes
The team even took on the famous ‘Walk the Wall’ section, which is frequented by parkour experts and gymnasts. It’s safe to say that the team did not realise quite how big the wall was and sadly, realised they were not quite up to the parkour standard. At least they’re better at helping companies jump online than they are at jumping on trampolines!

walk the wall at jump factory

This trip was a great team building activity and it was wonderful to see the parks popularity since they have managed to jump online.

If you’re interested in helping your own business jump online, then our SEO experts are here to help – get in touch today!
Prepare Your Website for 2017

Though we're only a few days into 2017, it's already clear that change is on the cards for this year. America is getting a new president; the UK is scheduled to begin the process of leaving the European Union; and important elections will be taking place in a number of countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Don't worry, though - this isn't going to be a post about politics. The world of web design is constantly reshaping itself, and just as 2017 looks set to usher in a number of big political changes, we're also expecting to see several sizeable shifts in the landscape of the Internet between now and January 2018. Lots of changes are coming, and if you want your business to succeed (or continue succeeding) over the next twelve months, it's very important that you stay abreast of these changes.

Priorities for your website in 2017

Below are 5 design, UI and SEO changes website owners should aim to make this year.

1. Speed it up.

If there's one thing that will utterly scupper your chances of online success in 2017, it's a website that takes too long to load. The days of dial-up, when web users would happily wait several minutes for a page to render, are gone; nowadays, most users will leave if your content doesn't load within a second or two. People hate waiting around, especially when they're on the go and browsing the web on their smartphones.

And what users hate, search engines hate too. Google, Bing, and the rest of them will be reluctant to list your website as a search result if it provides a sluggish and frustrating user experience. If you want to make your customers happy AND keep the organic search traffic rolling in, it's imperative that you minimise your site's loading times.

TAKE ACTION: Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website's load times and find out how you can speed things up. Talk to your web developer if you're unsure of how to implement any of the tool's recommendations.

2. Stop using pop-ups.

For years, 'pop-up' was a dirty word associated with the spammiest, most irritating kind of online advertising in existence. When you think of a pop-up ad, you probably picture garish colours and dubious claims such as 'YOU HAVE WON AN IPOD' or 'THERE ARE 14 HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA WAITING TO CHAT'. Strangely, though, pop-ups have become somewhat legitimised in recent years, and many perfectly reputable websites now use pop-ups to drive newsletter sign-ups, app downloads, and other conversions. Perhaps you use this strategy on your own site; perhaps it even works for you.

But now is the time to stop. Google recently declared war on pop-ups (or 'intrusive interstitials'), stating that sites using them "may not rank as highly" from 10 January 2017 onwards. This doesn't just apply to old-fashioned, 'click here to claim your prize' pop-ups - it applies to pretty much any on-screen element that appears unexpectedly and gets in the way of the actual content. And yes, that unfortunately includes your nice-looking 'subscribe now' box. Get it gone by the 10th of January, or prepare to see a drop-off in your Google rankings.

TAKE ACTION: Remove any nonessential pop-ups from your website, or redesign them so that they don't cover up too much of the page itself. Learn more about Google's forthcoming pop-up penalty (and whether it will affect you) here.

3. Declutter your design.

We're always reading about the latest web design trends, and we've seen a lot of articles lately with titles like '17 Web Design Predictions for 2017'. Lots of industry experts are offering lots of different opinions and forecasts right now, but the general feeling seems to be that a minimal, uncluttered aesthetic is the right choice going forward. The design world has been moving steadily in the direction of minimalism for several years now, and it's unlikely that 2017 will buck that trend.

TAKE ACTION: Minimalism is a great approach to web design because it makes sites easy to navigate as well as easy on the eyes. Here are a few steps you can take to declutter your site this year:
  • Fewer menu options. Listing loads of different categories in your site menu can make things look messy, and users may struggle to work out which one they need. For this reason, it's better to streamline your site structure and show just a few options at the top of each page.

  • Make your message stand out. If you've got a key message to get across, don't bury it in reams and reams of text. Aim to cut down on unnecessary copy and focus on making the important words stand out. Lots of people have predicted that big, bold typefaces will be very popular in 2017, so ask yourself if the point you've taken ten paragraphs to make could have been made in a single striking sentence writ large at the top of your page.

  • Don't fear empty space. When designing your site's layout, you may be tempted to fill every last gap with an image or a bit of copy. But this may not be necessary! Discerning use of empty space can help your website to feel elegant and inviting rather than claustrophobic and overwhelming. Empty space also draws the user's attention back to the central focus of the page, whether that's an image, a headline, or a CTA.

4. Optimise for user intent.

There are two big buzzphrases that every SEO specialist in the land will be running into the ground this year. The first is 'user intent' - basically an extension of the well-worn adage that you should be optimising your website for users, not search engines. If you want to boost your organic search traffic in 2017, the key is to 'optimise for user intent'.

This means that, rather than picking a popular keyword and carefully concentrating on that term when you write your site copy, you should be thinking about your target audience and what they're trying to achieve. Keywords remain an important part of the search engine optimisation process, but both your keyword choices and your website's content should be directly informed by the needs that you're trying to meet.

For example, if you sell carpets, don't just write a tonne of copy about 'cheap carpets' and expect the search engines to reward you with a tonne of traffic. Instead, take the time to identify your target audience; consider what your average customer wants, and then create a website that gives it to them. This could be a simple, easy-to-navigate list of the different products you stock, or it could be a handy wizard-style tool that helps users to select the right carpet for any given room. What it probably won't be is a thousand-word essay on cheap carpets and why your cheap carpets are the best cheap carpets on the market.

You should also think carefully about the intent behind each keyword you target on your website. 'How to lay a carpet' and 'carpet installation' might seem like two very similar search terms on the face of it, but where someone who Googles 'how to lay a carpet' might want a how-to guide or instructional video, the person who Googles 'carpet installation' probably just wants a professional to come and do the job for them. Be sure to consider how well your content satisfies the queries people are typing in to find it.

TAKE ACTION: Don't just create a website and then stuff it with your industry's most popular keywords; instead, follow the Intent > Keywords > Content model described below
  1. Intent: Start by identifying your target audience and the needs that you're trying to meet. What is their intent when they visit your website? What are they looking to achieve?

  2. Keywords: Use a keyword research tool to find out what people type into Google when they need the thing that you provide. Do your potential customers use short phrases or longer, more conversational search terms? Identify a set of keywords that are directly related to your niche.

  3. Content: Structure your website and create its content based on the intentions of your users and how they are expressed in the form of search queries. Pick a keyword (or group of keywords) for each page of your website, and ensure that every page is perfectly tailored to the needs expressed by the query it targets. 

5. Remember your mobile users.

Here's the other big SEO buzzphrase of 2017: 'mobile first'. For many webmasters, mobile friendliness has thus far been little more than an afterthought, but now that the majority of Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, it's absolutely crucial to make sure that your website works perfectly on smaller screens.

Google demonstrated their commitment to putting mobile users first several months ago - not only did they roll out a completely separate index for mobile searches, they also announced that this new mobile index would be "the primary Google index" going forward. This shows that Google are extremely keen to make mobile users happy in 2017, and if your website doesn't make mobile users happy, your organic Google traffic may well take a nosedive this year.

TAKE ACTION: Look at your website on a range of mobile devices and ensure that it is nice-looking and easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets as well as on desktop computers. Strongly consider upgrading to a responsive website if you haven't already done so.

Need help getting your website in shape for the new year? Get in touch with Designer Websites - we are a team of expert designers, developers and SEO specialists, and no matter what business you're in, we can help you to succeed online in 2017.
Reduce High Bounce Rates

If you've ever logged into Google Analytics and seen a mountainous spike in your site traffic, you'll know how good it feels to get a nice influx of new users. Whether it's because a carefully-planned marketing campaign is paying off or because someone unexpectedly linked to your blog on r/TodayILearned, a healthy increase in sessions never fails to get those endorphins rushing.

But as pleased as you may be with that big traffic boost, it won't actually benefit your business much unless those visitors are sticking around long enough to make a purchase (or fill out a contact form, order a free sample, join your mailing list...you get the idea). All the web traffic in the world won't affect your company's bottom line if every user leaves your site within seconds of arriving.

If your website gets plenty of traffic but shows a very high bounce rate, be sure to keep reading - we've got some very straightforward tips that will help you to convert more of your visitors into customers. But first, let's just make sure we all understand one key piece of terminology...

What does 'bounce rate' mean?

Your website's bounce rate tells you how many people visit the site and then leave without any further interaction - in other words, how many people 'bounce off' after hitting your site. It is expressed as a percentage of the website's total traffic.

For example, if your website received 1,000 visits in November 2016 and Google Analytics is showing a bounce rate of 60% for that month, it basically means that 600 of your 1,000 visitors didn't get any further than the page they landed on to begin with.

Google Analytics shows a bounce rate for each individual page of a website as well as for the website as a whole. You'll usually want every landing page's bounce rate to be as close to 0% as possible, since a high bounce rate tends to indicate that users aren't getting what they want from your content. That being said, a bounce isn't always bad - for example, the following positive outcomes would still count as bounces:
  • A user arrives on your homepage, then calls you on the phone without navigating to any other pages.

  • A user arrives on a blog post, reads it from start to finish, then leaves your website to share the post on Twitter.

  • A user arrives on your 'Contact Us' page, makes a note of your email address, then closes the tab and sends you an email using their own email client (e.g. Microsoft Outlook).

  • A user arrives on a product page, makes a note of the price, then visits your bricks-and-mortar shop to purchase the item in person rather than ordering it online.
By and large, though, a high bounce rate is bad news for your business and a clear sign that you need to make some improvements to your website.

What improvements, you ask?

1. Focus on making a good first impression

It may be that people are leaving your website quickly because they're put off by the very first thing they see. Prominently displaying any of the following things on your homepage (or another key landing page) will almost certainly drive up your bounce rate:
  • Intrusive ads/popups (or 'interstitials', as Google calls them) that appear as soon as the page has loaded and get in the way of your actual content

  • Large swathes of text that the user will have to comb through in order to find the information they need

  • Dull and/or poor-quality images that fail to engage the user and risk making your brand look outdated, unprofessional, or unwelcoming

  • Potentially offensive, disturbing or triggering material that may shock, disgust or distress some people (it doesn't have to be a graphic depiction of violence or nudity - for instance, arachnophobes may click away immediately if you have a photo of a spider on your homepage)
Examine your landing pages carefully, or ask someone else to look at them with fresh eyes (they may notice issues that you've missed due to over-familiarity). Think about the first thing each site user sees: are you doing anything to irritate them, upset them, intimidate them, confuse them, or otherwise put them off?

2. Make it snappy!

While we're on the subject of first impressions, we really should mention site speed. Every day, countless website sessions are curtailed prematurely because the page simply didn't load quickly enough - you've probably given up on a fair few sites yourself after watching that loading icon spin for a little too long.

As a UX-conscious website owner, it is absolutely imperative that you minimise your site's loading times. Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to test your key landing pages, then follow the tool's recommendations as best you can (you may need to ask your web developer to make some changes for you).

3. Don't make promises your content can't keep

If your organic search traffic is showing an especially high bounce rate, it may be that Google or Bing is showing searchers a snippet that isn't particularly representative of your actual website. For example, imagine typing 'pizza near me' into Google and seeing this result:


'Great,' you think, 'just what I'm looking for.' But then you click onto Super Pizza's website and you quickly realise that it's not a pizzeria at all - it's a trendy digital marketing agency with a quirky name. Disappointed, you click your browser's 'back' button and return to the search results page to try a different website.

This is quite an outlandish example (though not necessarily that outlandish), but it illustrates the way in which misleading search results can lead to high bounce rates. Look at the words being used to advertise your website in the SERPs: does that little snippet of text promise something you're not delivering? Are you purporting to sell a product or provide a service that you no longer offer? Are you failing to clarify that you only serve customers in a specific part of the country? Are you roping people in with claims of low prices, then showing them a page full of products that are actually fairly expensive?

If so, you need to make a change. Ensure that each page's title tag and meta description give a fair, accurate, and up-to-date representation of what the user will find if they click through. And, if it's not already too late, you obviously ought to give your company a name that actually reflects the business you're in instead of trying to think of something...ugh...'random'.

N.B. If your bouncy traffic is coming from a source other than a search engine (e.g. social media posts, directory listings, banner ads on another website), this rule still applies. You should always do your best to ensure that people are getting exactly what they expect when they click a link to your site.

4. Keep your keywords on target

This one is a little trickier, because it's not always clear what people are Googling immediately before they land on your website. However, if you are getting a lot of high-bounce traffic from an organic search engine like Google or Bing, it may well be because your site is showing up for the wrong keywords.

Here's an example. Let's say you own a company that sells swimming pools and installs them in people's back gardens. Your website gets a lot of traffic, but the vast majority of visitors bounce because they were looking for a public swimming pool that they could visit with the family.

Now, you may well be able to fix this problem by doing as we recommended in point #3 and rewriting your title/description tags to more clearly indicate the exact nature of your business. But your site shouldn't be showing up for searches like 'swimming pools in nottingham' at all, and if it is, you may need to pick some different keywords and adjust your site copy accordingly. In this example, you ought to be targeting keywords that are specifically related to buying swimming pools, or to the swimming pool installation service that you provide.

And your keyword focus should be reflected in the copy you write - for example, this might be a sensible statement to include on your pool website's homepage:

Here at Petunia Pools, we sell a wide variety of home swimming pools to suit every budget. Furthermore, our pool installers have been in the business for thirty years, so they can be relied upon to get the job done quickly and professionally.

Whereas the following excerpt might well mislead the search engine bots and cause them to send the wrong sort of traffic to your website:

Looking for a swimming pool in Nottingham? We are Petunia Pools, the local business of choice for swimming pools in Nottinghamshire and the surrounding area. Get in touch today and get ready to go for a swim!

Recent developments in semantic search technology mean that Google et al are now far more adroit when it comes to recognising the meaning of a piece of writing in the same way a human would. However, that technology effectively relies on word association, so make sure you're sending out the right signals and using the right words in your website copy (e.g. 'buy', 'installation', 'home' instead of 'swim', 'Nottingham', 'local').

5. Don't forget the mobile mob

More and more people these days are yanking themselves away from their desktop computers and browsing the web on their smartphones instead. Log into your Google Analytics reports, go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, and take a look at what percentage of your site traffic currently comes from mobile devices. Given recent trends, we're guessing it'll be quite a high number; in fact, some of our clients are now getting around 80% of their traffic from smartphones.

With so much online interaction now taking place on a pocket-sized screen, your website's high bounce rate could well be a result of your failure to provide a good user experience on mobile devices. If that's the case...well, unfortunately, this one isn't such an easy fix. You ideally need a responsive website that functions equally smoothly across all devices - this should ensure that, no matter how big or small their screen is, each visitor finds it easy to navigate and interact with your site. Remember, the desktop PC is no longer the default platform for Internet use, and if you're serious about user satisfaction, you'll want to treat your mobile and tablet users just as well as you treat the people using a traditional mouse-and-keyboard setup.

If you need a new website design that will engage users and minimise bounces, Designer Websites can help. Get a quote for your project today.