web designYour website is the first glimpse a potential customer will get of your business, your offerings and what you can do for them. Is your website looking like something out of the AOL era? If you’re stuck on Web 1.0, you might be missing out on customers who are surfing on their mobile devices, customers searching for you in the search engine, and even those who know your Web address but leave because the page takes too long to load. These tips will help you revitalize your website and build something you and your employees can be proud of.

Large Images and Sliders
One of the most effective methods to sell your product is with visuals, and many businesses are using a prominent image on the front page to do just that. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the top half of the page (known as the area “above the fold”) slide dynamically to reveal another picture. This George Lucas-style cutting technique is easy with a bit of javascript.

Simplify Your Navigation
Customers come to your site and they want to find what they are looking for immediately. Unless they really want something, they aren’t going to spend a lot of time searching your website when they can find their item easily someplace else. The solution? Reduce your top menu navigation to no more than ten items. Doing so will keep your customers focused on finding the items they want to buy quickly.

Backgrounds
Using a white background is probably the most effective method to display important information. You might feel tempted to use a background image, or even gradients. Those won’t work for a few reasons. First and foremost: images take time to load so you’re reducing your page speed. Secondly, gradients obscure text, making it difficult to see what your key offers are.

Color Coding
Try to pick a three-color scheme that will fit your website, but definitely use no more than four colors total on your page. More than four and your text might prove unreadable, or your site might become an ugly mishmash of colors. Too much color can ruin your work faster than poor copy or forgetting the call to action.

Banner Ads
The final note is about ads. People don’t like them, so it’s a good idea to avoid placing them on your website unless you absolutely need to do so. Most websites that are not blogs will be fine to skip the ads. Ads also make your site look cheap, because the assumption is your products don’t sell and you need ads to cover the revenue. Unless the ad is crucial to your operations, think twice before you place it.

seo mainIf you believe the rumors, Google has hundreds of ranking factors it uses to determine how relevant a site is for a particular query. The truth is that the number of factors is irrelevant if you can pinpoint which ones will bring the most value to your website. Here are the ten factors we consider to be of the highest importance.

Keywords

The first, and one of the most important, factors for ranking are keywords. Keywords tell search engines what your website is emphasizing, like “running shoes” or “soup recipes”. Start with some short, two-word key terms and then develop longer phrases based on those short ones. Those “long-tail” terms will help your page rank for queries at all competitive levels.

Title Tags

Your page should have a title to it, and each title should contain keywords you use to identify what the page is. Don’t stuff multiple keywords into this space, keep your terms focused on what the page is and what the customer will find there.

Content and Header Tags

Content is king. That phrase has seemingly dominated the world of SEO for several years, but there is more to content than putting pen to paper. Learning how to distribute your keywords (hint, density is a myth compared to readability), and how to write prominent headline tags is ultimately more important. Include keywords in the proper spaces and you’ll have better luck getting the search engines to notice you.

URLs and Link Structures

Once you’ve straightened out the majority of your on-page ranking factors, it’s time to tie up loose ends. If you’re using WordPress, change the permalink structure of your website to better reflect a normal-sounding URL. Avoid using numbers, symbols and Unicode and you’ll typically find your URLs ranking faster.

Sitemaps

Generate a sitemap for your website that lists every page. Sitemaps are important for search engine crawlers, but users use them too. Having an HTML sitemap will help give users a place where they can find every potential page on your website. Generating an XML sitemap provides the same resource for search engines and bots.

Meta Description

Meta descriptions aren’t the source for keywords and optimization that they once were, but they are useful for other reasons. Meta descriptions typically provide the text snippet a search engine serves the user, if there are no phrases relevant to his query on the page itself.

Tracking

Without tracking, there is no way for you to tell whether your efforts are working. The most common piece of code to accomplish this is Google Analytics, which can provide real-time data on what users are doing on your website. It’s also invaluable for analyzing which landing pages are most effective.

Webmaster Tools

Webmaster tools provide important back-end data you need to properly manage your website. It also provides a rudimentary keyword ranking platform, which gives some indication of placement in Google. Webmaster tools also provide warning notes concerning missing URLs, and other important problems that might affect your rank.

Mobile Usage

Google is emphasizing mobile friendliness for maximum ranking. If you’ve taken care of everything else on this list, run a check on Google’s mobile authentication page to see how your site performs. Most modern WordPress templates will offer flexibility, with layouts for mobile users, so consider an upgrade if you don’t pass Google’s check.

Domain Trust

The final factor is one we can’t necessarily control, but it’s important all the same. Domain trust refers to several factors, including how long your domain has been around and what entity owns it. If contact information is plain to see in the WhoIs database, and your site has been around for several years, you could rank well if you’ve met the above qualifications too.

hosting
Web hosting is the business of providing either shared or dedicated space to webmasters willing to pay a price for it. More often than not, hosting is a service used on websites. Games, applications and image galleries can also be hosted in the cloud or on a dedicated server.

The type of hosting you choose can affect everything about your page, from how Google sees it to how quickly content is served to the customer. There are three basic options for hosting, so this guide aims to help you choose one that’s best for you and your business.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is like renting an entire server to yourself. Why would you need an entire server to yourself? There are a few reasons. For one, if your product is media related (like music or video), dedicated hosting helps you keep the majority of the profits you would make from sales. You also tend to get more bandwidth and storage space, which means your site can be larger and server a greater volume of people. For those with a dedicated staff managing the site and its assets, dedicated servers offer the greatest level of control.

Virtual Hosting

Virtual hosting is the most common form of hosting for most small business operations, and has some good advantages. For one, it gives you a space for an affordable cost. You get less space and bandwidth, but you still have your own space on a server. Virtual hosting isn’t the best choice for rich media websites, as it can offer some disadvantages to speed, but it does help those with simple websites get themselves off the ground.

However, you do sit on a server with other IP addresses, which can inadvertently place you in a bad IP neighborhood. While it is the most cost effective approach, it can also lead you down a perilous path if you’ve not researched your host, and the IP neighborhood you’ll be placed into.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting typically involves a larger business with access to more personally identifiable information than the average business. It’s not uncommon to host customer databases, CRM software and certain components of a business from the cloud. In fact, some businesses run cloud hosting in conjunction with dedicated or virtual hosting, especially if those businesses manage applications.

Cloud hosting isn’t a service everyone needs, but it provides an important and cost-effective service to those who manage greater amounts of data. You only pay for what you use, and support is typically included when you utilize cloud hosting. Cloud computing also offers supreme reliability and security.

Choosing the Right Hosting Package

Ultimately, the hosting package that is the right one for you depends on the size of your business and your customer base. Security might also be a concern, depending on your size. Cloud hosting will solve agreat deal of the common challenges you’ll face owning a website on the Internet. However, cloud hosting is also the most expensive option if you’re not utilizing the services it provides. Dedicated hosting offers the most control, but won’t be of use to the average person with little or no computer skills. Virtual hosting offers a decent compromise on expense, but you could be paired with a bad IP neighborhood.

All of these options offer above-average reliability, so your decision might come down to the resources you need versus what you can afford.