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You probably know how important it is to keep your website updated. When I talk with folks about their websites, I often ask how their site is working out and what could it do better for them. Sometimes, I get the response,

“I’m not sure, I haven’t done much to keep my website updated.”

Yup, we’re all busy.

At any given moment, we’re all probably juggling a half dozen things at the same time. But, not touching your website for months, or sometimes years, is never a good thing. Even when I’ve not posted on my blog or my other websites for a while, I still administer and maintain them pretty frequently. I’ll tell you why this is important.

Check on your website to keep it safe

I’ve seen some bad cases of website hacking with malicious code or malware. Finding the root of the problem and removing it effectively can be tricky and time consuming. Having said that, the sites that have had the worst-case scenarios were left for long periods of time without any administration or even site visits by the owner.

HTML Website Updates

If your site is an HTML site, checking the site and updating the pages can prevent or at least detect malicious activity early.

Keeping your WordPress site current

With a WordPress site, it’s just as important to check your website to ensure that you’re running the latest version, your plugins are current, and your theme is running the newest version. WordPress updates come out with security fixes to protect against known vulnerabilities. Keeping WordPress updated is essential for protecting all of the hard work you’ve put into your website. In addition to keeping WordPress updated, don’t forget about checking installed plugins and themes for the latest version.

Update your site to keep relevant

Google is in the business of delivering relevant results. When Google indexes, or checks out your website, it’s looking to see if there is any new or relevant content it can include in its search engine results.

Old and outdated pages or posts lose points when it comes to being relevant. When a website’s pages or posts are old, it goes down in ranking, especially when compared to similar sites with newer content. If you want your website to come up in search engine results, there has to be new pages and posts added or updated frequently.

Run performance checks to keep it optimized

In addition to keeping sites that I work on updated, I also check them to make sure they’re running smoothly. A couple of tools that I use are Google’s PageSpeed Insights and HubSpot’s Website Grader. Both tools give you information on mobile as well as desktop performance and offer hints on what you can do if your site has a low score. Also, here’s an article from Geekflare that lists some more testing tools.

Periodic performance testing lets you see if your site is running smoothly

With periodic performance testing, you will see if your site is running smoothly or if it’s time to make adjustments. By keeping an eye on a site’s performance, I was able to see that the server the site was hosted on wasn’t responding well. This led to the discovery that my client’s hosting was on a pretty old server that needed to be upgraded.

All in all, websites need to be checked and updated regularly to give you the best results.

Five Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Questions Answered

As part of an ongoing conversation about websites and web design, I was asked some questions about search engine optimization (SEO) and have done my best to give some straightforward answers. Here we go!

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of working on web pages and websites in such a way so that without paid ads, they come up in search engines, like Google and Bing. SEO is also referred to as organic or natural optimization because it’s seen as a natural way to increase visibility in search engines by using the content that’s on web pages throughout a website.

How does it help?

Generally speaking, SEO helps websites get seen by coming up in search engine results. Sometimes, people I work with want their websites built and then kind of stop there. Often, they wonder why they’re not getting leads from their website. In order to get leads from your website, it has to come up in search engine results, like Google. The thing of it is that SEO is an ongoing process; it’s more than putting a few words on a page. SEO work is just as important as adding new content. Whenever new content is added, SEO should be part of the page or post work. SEO incorporates quality content and page optimization to help websites appear in search engine results.

What is a keyword?

Keywords, or keyword terms, are an essential part of the SEO process. Keywords are terms that people might google to find your website. In fact, SEO work should focus on keyword terms that describes the content on each page. For example, if you’re a building contractor that specializes in metal building construction and you just created a page featuring your most recently completed project, you may want to include content that details or expands on “metal building construction” in addition to the location of the construction project in your content.

What makes a good keyword?

Effective keywords are often a combination of commonly used words used to search for something along with additional context to narrow down the results.

From a search perspective, let’s say you’re looking to find a manual for your computer. You wouldn’t just search for computers. You’d probably include your computer’s model and the year you purchased it. This would give you more accurate results. So, you’d probably search using a keyword term something like “MacBook Pro 2017 manual”.

Similarly, when you’re implementing keywords or keyword terms on your website, you want to include as much additional context as possible. For example, if you’re a photographer based in a specific location and focus on documentary photography, you may want to consider a keyword term like “Clovis documentary photography”.

How do I optimize my site to rank higher in Google searches?

There’s so much to consider with this question.

The first step is keyword term research

The first step is to do keyword term research to determine what keywords will be the most productive for your website. Keyword terms should not be too broad and too competitive; they need to have context. Also, depending on your target audience, keyword terms should be easy enough for people to google keeping in mind they may not be as knowledgeable as you are in what you do. I’ve known folks who use industry-specific terms that people in their target market would not know or understand.

Once you have your keyword terms sorted out for each page, then it’s time to include them in your pages’ content.

A word of caution here: the content needs to be quality content, not just stuffed with a lot of keyword terms, or your website may be dinged by search engines like Google. Quality content doesn’t employ “SEO tricks” to trick site visitors just to increase ranking. Google doesn’t like this. And if Google doesn’t like it, you’re less likely to come up in Google’s results. Quality content is informational with a clear understanding of what the page is about, what it offers, and how it can help site visitors.

One thing that’s often overlooked when it comes to ranking in Google searches is page loading or page speed optimization.

This is really very important, especially to Google, because the majority of access on the web is with mobile devices. Google even created it’s own code AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to highlight how important it is. If a page takes to long to load, it can mean that the page’s images may be too large, there are too many scripts on a page, or there’s a lot of code to process. You can test your website’s page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This will give you a breakdown of what you need to address on your web pages to ensure the pages are optimized.

Web pages should be mobile friendly and optimized for mobile devices in order to rank well. WordPress is great on mobile devices, just make sure the theme used on your website works well on mobile devices.

Finally, SEO work should be considered for the site as a whole, as well as each page. Pages and posts should always point to the website’s overall focus and message. A website’s overall message should be given additional context throughout pages and posts.

If you’re thinking about digging in and starting a website, then it’s time to get your ducks in a row. Now’s the time to organize what’s going to go on the pages you mapped out for your site. Sometimes this can seem daunting, but it really doesn’t have to.

Get your ducks in a row | ginnyrogers.com

Web pages should have a good mix of content and images—with plenty of white space in between. Studies have shown that white space is important on web pages and makes content easier to read.

When thinking about putting together web pages, keep in mind that

  • It’s good to keep the content on each page to around 300 words. If you have more, that’s okay, too. Just break up the space so it’s easy to ready. Sometimes less can be more, so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to create tons of content for each post or page. Just write what you need to get your core message across. If you have a lot of content, break it up into sections.
  • Make your content easy to read. Even if you work in a highly technical field, you should make what you’re saying easy to understand.
  • Use images to break up content. Just be sure to use images that are not too large. See Optimize images section below.
  • Read what you write and put your most import information toward the top of the page. It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to click off of your page. Make it easy for folks to find what they need to.

Organize Content

Organizing your content according to how you mapped out your site is the first step. I’ve known many folks who prefer to work on their content in Microsoft Word. This is a generally a good plan. It’s just important to be aware that Word adds formatting to the text. Formatted text can add a lot of unnecessary code when the content is copied to web pages which can really slow down the site’s page loading. If you’re using a text editor like Word, just save the file as a plain text file, if you can, and review the file before adding the content to a website to ensure that paragraph breaks are where you want them and consistent. If you’re using WordPress for your website, there’s a handy way to paste content as plain text with one click.

The “paste as text” icon in WordPress looks like this 

Mark your pages

It really helps to keep your content for the different web pages organized as separate files.  If it’s easier to have all of the content is in a single document, just make sure each web page is clearly marked with the web page title at the top larger and maybe even in caps. Also, give plenty of space between pages so that it’s clear where each page’s content begins and ends.  Many website pages include multiple sections, so mark different sections on a page clearly.

Think about titles and subtitles

It really helps to keep your content for the different web pages organized as separate files.  If it’s easier to have all of the content is in a single document, just make sure each web page is clearly marked with the web page title at the top larger and maybe even in caps. Also, give plenty of space between pages so that it’s clear where each page’s content begins and ends.  Many website pages include multiple sections, so mark different sections on a page clearly.

Optimize images

Be sure to do what you can to reduce the file size of images, without losing too much quality. Sometimes, this can be a fine line. Just remember that mobile devices access the web more than laptops or desktop computers, so your images can’t be too large or they’ll take too long to download and be viewable. If you’re a photographer and want to show the high quality of your photos, you may not want to optimize some of your images.

Don’t forget about forms

If your website will have contact forms, be sure to think through a list of the form’s fields along with the email address that will receive the form submissions. Also, it’s always a good idea to think about what kind of fields you want on the form. For example different types of fields are,

  • Fill-in text fields,
  • Text areas (field with multiple lines often used for comment sections),
  • Drop-down lists (specify if the user should be able to choose just one item from the drop-down list, or can choose multiple items at the same time),
  • Checkboxes or radio button. Checkboxes allow for multiple selections (like check all options that apply). Radio buttons are more for “yes or no” choices where only one or the other can be selected.

Also think through which fields will be required for the form submission.  Example of required fields are name, email address, subject, etc.

Contact information

Remember to include contact information on your website, especially if it’s a business site.

  • Contact Name
  • Organization
  • Complete address
  • Phone numbers, and
  • Email addresses.