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Is Your Website Awesome?


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Ah, the age old question.

As we continue to have a better understanding of the internet and its boundless grandeur, we develop a keener sense of what users want and expect from a website.

For example, things like:

Tasteful, user friendly design
Unique, findable, shareable content
Scannable text
A compelling reason to visit
...all influence your ability to connect with your audience.

Now more than ever, you need to up your website game. It is far too easy to be left in the dust behind the surge of new entrants to the digital space each and every day. To have a fighting chance of staying relevant, you must evolve your website, test any changes, and then do it all over again.

We get it.

We gathered all of our internal web development and SEO gurus with a simple goal in mind: to share some of the best web tools in our arsenal. We sorted through the vast amount of web tools available, picked out the best, and organized them all in one convenient document.

Check out this guide and take your website from old and crusty to fresh and awesome.

Published in: Marketing
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Is Your Website Awesome?

  1. 1. Is Your Website AWESOME?
  2. 2. About the Authors Introduction Awesome CMS Tools Search Engine Optimization Social Media Design & Compatibility Site Maintenance Tracking and Discovery Wrap-Up Checklist What Next 1 2 3 4 7 8 11 12 14 15 Table of Contents
  3. 3. Andy Forsberg Director of Marketing An SEO expert and Web development entrepreneur, Andy Forsberg is Marketing Director at MentorMate and product owner of the SaaS product SpyderMate. He has 15 years of experience developing profitable web sites. Andy considers SEO to be as much of an art as it is a science. Ryan Fortune Inbound Marketing Specialist Ryan joined the MentorMate team in 2012 and quickly began adding his twist to the company à la written word. A regular contributor to the MentorMate blog and website, he is always looking for new ways to swankify company material. Alex Krasny Creative Marketing Specialist Alex earned his advertising degree from the U of M and his web develop- ment skills from the streets. He has been building websites and blogging for over ten years. Alex manages MentorMate’s social media and often contributes to the blog. Pete Freeberg Marketing Manager Since 2010, Pete Freeberg has served in various MentorMate positions, including PM, QA, BA, MC, product manager, and videographer. He finally settled down as manager of MentorMate’s Marketing department, a role which is pretty much all the previous positions rolled into one. Brady Swanson Internet Marketing Specialist Originally, Brady served on the front lines of search engine optimiza- tion, leading an intrepid team of link building ninjas in daring deeds of SEO. Since then he has made a transition into a development role, working with content management systems. About The Authors 1 Alex Ryan Andy Pete Brady
  4. 4. Your Guide to an Awesome Website So, you have a website and you consistently produce engaging content. You think your website is awesome. Now it’s just a matter of time before it takes off, right? Well, although it helps, great content is only one piece of this puzzle. You need more than that to make a website awesome. It takes great design, usability, user engagement, social interaction, search engine optimization, maintenance, data tracking, and lots more. Lucky for us, there are numerous tools available that help automate, simplify, and accelerate these tasks. We get it. Having a successful website is a full-time job. Web standards are changing, as are search engine algorithms. Mobile devices are quickly reshaping the way we view the web. No matter your level of experience, if you have a website, there are lots of ways you can to make it more awesome. Favicon Domain Canonicalization Socialization Mobile-Friendly Responsive Design 4 Second Load Time 99.9% Uptime 2
  5. 5. Awesome CMS Tools If your website uses a content management system (CMS), there is a good chance it was built with one of these three. A CMS is a great way to build a website while saving cost and time, especially if you use a well-designed theme. Thanks to a sizable userbase and an active developer com- munity, elements like plugins, modules, components, and widgets are constantly created and updated to make your website easier to build and maintain. Here is our roundup of the top “must install” extras for each CMS below. 3 Wordpress W3 Total Cache: Use W3 Total cache to make your Wordpress site lightning fast. W3 can cache and minify every aspect of your site’s code, as well as inte- grate with content delivery networks for even more speed. WordPress SEO (Yoast): Yoast’s SEO plugin takes Wordpress to the next level, giving you fine grained control over your site’s search optimization. It also includes helpful additions like previews of how your page will appear in Google’s results. Gravity Forms: Gravity is, without a doubt, the best way to make forms in Wordpress. Gravity has numerous advanced features, such as conditional logic, a visual form editor, and multi- page forms. All form submissions are stored in a database for easy retrieval. Joomla RokPad: There comes a time when web developers must graduate from the WYSIWYG editor and start writing content directly in code. The standard Joomla code editor leaves a lot to be desired. RokPad is the solution. Select different formatting styles, colors, use shortcuts, and even AJAX save. Modules Anywhere: This has been an auto-install on every Joomla site since we discovered it. This plugin allows you to insert a module anywhere on the site instead of just into a module position. Its versatility cannot be overstated. J2XML: J2XML is the ultimate migration tool. It’s really more of a silver bullet than an auto-install plugin. Upgrading a site from Joomla 1.5 to 2.5+ is a major undertaking. The process is more like building a brand new site than upgrad- ing an old one. J2XML will migrate all of your articles and maintain the category and file structures. Drupal Display Suite: Makes it easy to manage how your Drupal content is displayed, organized and formatted. Pathauto: Allows you to make search engine friendly URLs easily, utiliz- ing templates for your various unique content types. SEO Checklist: A great checklist for making sure your Drupal web site is well optimized for the search engines. Views: Allows for creation of complex, interactive, database-driven web pages. It utilizes complex filters, sorting mech- anisms, displays and relationships. Administration Menu: The default nav- igation in Drupal is less than ideal. This module greatly improves the adminis- trative interface.
  6. 6. It’s a simple question - if search engines can’t find your website, who will? In addition to designing a visually appealing website with great content, one of the keys to online success is ensuring that your website is easily f o u n d . O n e o f the most utilized techniques for driving traffic is the application of search engine optimiza- tion, or SEO. To keep the search spotlight on your website, you must constantly and consistently evolve your content. The nature of search is changing and search engines are becoming much better at determining the web content that users want while penalizing websites that try to hoodwink search bots by applying “black hat” tactics. The most tried and true SEO techniques involve optimizing the content of your pages, placing emphasis on particular keyword phrases, and giving visitors a reason to land on your website. SEO is as much an art as it is a science, and takes a lifetime to master. However, the basics are easy to learn and implement. These techniques include: SEO is a valuable practice that has the potential to yield outstanding long- term results. The following tools will help you get started with your SEO efforts. White Hat SEO Put simply, white hat SEO is the authen- tic usage of SEO strategies, techniques, and best practices that adhere to search engine guidelines and policies. The suc- cessful application of white hat SEO is what drives the SEO industry forward and keeps it relevant. When search engines give results that people actually want to click on, it is a win-win in the purest form. Examples: Creating great, shareable content - optimized page titles and headers - thorough keyword research - optimized URL structure - optimized site structure Grey Hat SEO If you employ SEO techniques that major search engines haven’t clearly defined as a breach of their rules, but that could be seen as such, chances are good you’re doing a bit of grey hat SEO. These tactics are not intentionally misleading, but are not clean cut either and can be very risky. Historically, websites that have applied grey hat SEO open themselves up to be punished by future search algorithm changes. Examples: Intentional duplicate content - shady directory links - irrelevant comment or forum links Black Hat SEO Black hat SEO is the spam of search. Those that have used black hat techniques typi- cally utilize unethical tactics that Google and Bing haven’t yet caught up with for short-term gain. The major search engines actively work toward preventing and disabling these tactics and penalize or blacklist websites that use black hat techniques through frequent algorithm updates. In the end, if you care about your online presence, never use black hat SEO. Examples: Hidden keyword stuffing - link farming - page cloaking Search Engine Optimization SEO is a valuable practice that has the potential to yield outstanding results. • optimized page titles • domain canonicalization • image alt attributes • compelling meta descriptions • optimized URL structures • streamlined code 4
  7. 7. SpyderMate SEO Tools Cost: Free trial to $149 per month What is the purpose of maintaining a website without discovering how it performs, and what steps you can take to improve it? How will you track it’s success? SpyderMate’s suite of five SEO tools will help you answer these ques- tions and more. The Scorecard is a website assessment tool that allows you to quickly identify the online visibility and impact of any domain. This is where you get a bird’s eye view of a website’s overall SEO effectiveness. Essentially, the Scorecard provides a great point of reference to see how you stack up to your competition. The Auditor is a powerful web crawler that delves 100 pages deep into any website and reports on any specific SEO issues found. This tool can be used to investigate new websites, to guide the structure of your current website, and to organize SEO progress in one central hub. It scans a website for 25 different types of issues, listing each by category and severity. The SERP Tracker is a search engine ranking tool that can accurately track keyword rankings in Google and Bing for numerous languages and localizations. Low Hanging Fruit is a keyword optimi- zation tool that analyzes either a specific URL or an entire domain. The result- ing report will tell you what keywords have the most potential traffic growth, how well each keyword is optimized in on-page locations, and all the potential locations where these keywords are not being targeted. SEMRush is the perfect competitor analysis tool. It helps you uncover insights into your competitors’ rankings and keyword value and then uses it to better focus your own campaign. 5 • SEO Scorecard • Website Auditor • SERP Tracker • Low Hanging Fruit • SEMRush
  8. 8. Marketing Grader Cost: Free Is your site a marketing powerhouse? The HubSpot Marketing Grader will scan your website and identify problem areas with your marketing efforts. Are you blogging enough? Is your content being shared on social media channels? Is your copy easy to search? This free report can be run on any domain. Use it to discover what you (and your competitors) are doing well, and where the cracks are in your strategies. CheckDog Cost: Free Trial to $27+ per month Use Grammarly to proof your writing while you’re creating new content, and apply CheckDog to analyze the work you’ve already done. CheckDog scans your entire website, looking for typos and broken links. Typos can make your website appear unprofes- sional. Misspelling important keywords can also negatively impact your SEO efforts. CheckDog sniffs around by page, using a master list of misspellings. Each mistake it uncovers can be clicked to preview and correct. Use CheckDog to make sure your spelling is awsom. Or rather, awesome. Grammarly Cost: Freemium or $99 per month Great writing might be the most impor- tant part of creating great content. More and more companies are implementing content driven marketing campaigns, and with good reason - if done properly, it can yield outstanding results. Incidentally, poor writing can harm your credibility and online reputation. Few things are more distracting than a glaring typo or ignorant grammar. Grammarly is an automated proof- reader designed to instantly find and fix a wide variety of grammatical errors. More than that, it aims to improve your writing by suggesting context-opti- mized vocabulary for you to use. It is a writer’s best friend (besides a steaming mug of fresh-brewed coffee). There are many non-vital, but still beneficial website improvements that you should consider. Some of these concepts are complex and sound technical, but with a little research, you’ll find they’re not as over-your-head as it might seem. We recommend googling these phrases for more information. The instructions are easy to follow, and the rewards are worth reaping. • “Website Favicon” • “about XML Sitemap” • “Robots.txt” • “Custom 404 page” • “Domain Canonicalization” • “Search Engine Friendly URLs” Pro Tip: Educate Yourself 6
  9. 9. What About this Social Stuff? One of the greatest indicators of web success is social buzz. While analyti- cal numbers indicating you have a lot of visitors are great, it is particularly exciting to hear the flattering things people have to say about your awesome website. There are three things to consider as you begin your social campaign. First, make sure you are active on as many social sites as you can manage. Facebook and Twitter are hands down the most important platforms, but it doesn’t hurt to be involved in more. Google+ activity is considered by Google when ranking sites. Instagram and Pinterest are both showing tremendous growth. If you haven’t yet, familiarize yourself with each of these. Second, you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to share your content on their social profiles. Social sharing is simply one of the best forms of promotion. It’s free for you, and the audience it reaches knows it is endorsed by the person sharing it. Consider adding social sharing icons to your website, even if you don’t think anyone will use them. Sometimes they are useful simply as a reminder. Third, once you have started active social engagement, make sure you are actively participating in the discus- sion. This is a great way to make your visitors feel a personal connection to your brand, and it allows you to address concerns about your product or service in an efficient manner while gaining social exposure. One caveat to keep in mind: some products and services are more likely to generate social buzz than others. A financial services company simply isn’t going to get as many interactions as a fashion designer or entertainment brand. It is still a good idea to have a basic social presence regardless of what you are offering, so that you are taking advantage of every avenue to draw traffic to your site. AddThis Cost: Free AddThis has the perfect balance of simplicity and functionality, outshining every social share plugin we have seen. It is a breeze to implement on pretty much any CMS. The bar is totally modular, allowing you to decide which social sites are included, how the bar is oriented, and what the buttons should look like. Detailed analytics of your social shares and social referrals are recorded. Best of all, it’s free. Social sharing is simply one of the best forms of promotion. Social Network Users Jan 2013 Data via Facebook 1 Billion Twitter 500 Million Google+ 400 Million LinkedIn 200 Million Instagram 100 Million Pinterest 25 Million 7
  10. 10. Mention Cost: Free to $19.99 per month Mention is a tool that monitors social networks, forums, and web pages for your brand, your industry, your company, your competitors, or any chosen keyword. The free service includes 500 monthly keyword alerts and a task system to ensure mentions are followed up with by someone in your organization. The paid options include data export options, as well as advanced statis- tics and the ability to track a greater number of mentions. Sprout Social Cost: Free Trial to $39+ per month Sprout Social is a social media manage- ment service that provides a sleek user interface for creating brand-related Twitter and Facebook updates. Sprout provides in-depth analytics of your profiles and social interaction, in addition to offering many posting features. You will find a built-in post scheduler, a link-shortener, and the ability to cross-post in multiple profiles. Perhaps the most innovative feature is the “Smart-Queue” technology. It stra- tegically auto-posts your content when your audience is most active, giving you maximum exposure potential. KnowEm Cost: Free to $649 KnowEm is a service that will scan a staggering amount of social networks to check for accounts registered under your brand name. They also offer a paid service that will claim your brand name on all of the social networks. The service will populate each social profile with infor- mation you provide - bio, picture, URL, and a description. KnowEm is a fast way to make sure that you have claimed your official brand name on every viable service out there. It also blocks others from using your name. Google+, Linked-In, and Pinterest implementation is in the works! KnowEm maintains an evolving list of over 550 popular social networks. You don’t need to be in all of them, but it couldn’t hurt to be. In online marketing, timing is everything. Get alerted in real-time to any relevant news. 8
  11. 11. Design & Compatibility When it comes to impressing visitors, the design and aesthet- ics of your site are almost as important as the quality of your content. In fact, sometimes the two are interconnected. For example, if your site is not designed to be mobile friendly, you will immediately lose the attention of the ever-growing number of users who choose to browse using their mobile device. If you fail to consider browser and screen sizes, you are effectively waving goodbye to potential customers. Much of the magic involved in a great design comes from the creativity and experience of the designer who creates your page. Unfortunately, no automated tool can measure how awesome a website looks. However, the following tools can help ensure your users are seeing your site the way the designer intended, regardless of the device being used to browse it. GoMo by Google Cost: Free Use Google’s GoMo tool to see what your website looks like when rendered on a mobile device. You will get recommenda- tions of what you need to do to improve your website’s mobile friendliness. It is more important than ever to cater to mobile users. It is estimated that 1 in 7 searches now originate from a mobile device and, according to Google, 61% of mobile users will immediately leave your site if it is not mobile optimized. How is that for a rude awakening? 9
  12. 12. BrowserLab Cost: Free Registration Make sure your website renders properly in all of the most common browser scenarios. BrowserLab (by Adobe) will show you what any website looks like on all of the major desktop browsers - Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and multiple versions of Internet Explorer. There are many browser and system variations, some of which may present your website differently. You need to make yourself aware of browser com- patibility issues before your users encounter them. Browser Breakdown Most modern browsers will get the job done, making your website look as awesome as you intend. Complex elements of web design, like rounded corners, drop shadows, gradients, rotation, and most other CSS3 elements, will work just fine. That is, unless you’re using Internet Explorer... There is a running gag that the only reason to use Internet Explorer is to download a different browser. Funny as that may be, the truth is, the latest version of Internet Explorer is comparable with the best modern browsers. Older versions of Internet Explorer (IE8, 7 and 6), on the other hand, require special consideration. A considerable number of organizations still use Windows XP, which is limited to legacy versions of Internet Explorer. The cost of upgrading their computers’ operating systems to a newer version could be prohibitive, and may introduce compatibility issues. Because of this, a non-trivial percent- age of internet users are stuck with IE8 or older. If your target market includes users at such organizations, IE compatibility is crucial. IE10-0.88% IE8,7 ,6 -13.00% IE9 -24.88% Safari - 13.75% Other - 1.48% Firefox-17.68% Chrom e - 27.75%13% of North American internet surfers still use Internet Explorer 8 or lower. 10
  13. 13. Site Maintenance Many businesses fall into the trap of assuming that a well built website is set to run smoothly for years to come. In reality, this is rarely the case. We have already covered the fact that you should keep your design and copy current, and we highlighted the benefits of sharing unique, engaging content. This next section will explain the importance of regular site maintenance. While not a particularly glamorous task, ongoing site maintenance is crucial if you want your website to continue functioning at an awesomely high level. If your site uses a CMS, the first step is to make sure all updates are applied as soon as possible after their release. This will keep your system secure from malicious attacks. You should also be monitoring your website’s performance, addressing any concerns as they arise. This may include slow load times, hosting issues, or problems caused by numerous users simul- taneously accessing your website. After all, once your site is awesome, everyone is going to want to see it! The following tools will ensure your site runs well, no matter what the internet has in store for it. GTmetrix Cost: Free to 149.95 per month Having a fast and responsive site is important for keeping your users happy. Visitors are more likely to convert on faster sites. GTmetrix will crawl your site and identify any loading or speed concerns. By optimizing your resources, you reduce the overhead on your servers. Load Impact Cost: Free to credit-based pricing Can your website scale properly to handle a significant number of users? Load Impact is a free web service that runs your domain through a live traffic simulation. It will show you how well your site handles varying numbers of visitors, from 0 to 50 simultaneous users. Also, you will be given advice on how to better optimize your site for an even greater load. Pingdom Cost: $9.95-$39.95 per month Even the most awesome websites are worthless if users can’t access them. What if your website goes down and you are not aware? The service will monitor your website’s uptime, notifying you via email, SMS, Twitter, or a mobile notification if your site ever goes offline unintentionally. 11
  14. 14. Tracking and Discovery If your goal is to continually improve your processes, tracking your results is critical. It’s challenging to determine where to apply your efforts if you don’t understand what has worked and what has failed. Don’t rely on intuition. Leverage available data and analyze your content, traffic, and users. Then, reach out and attract new users. Webmaster Tools Cost: Free Google and Bing both provide services for webmasters to better understand how their websites are indexed, and to allow them to better guide the search engines’ understand- ing. Once set up, you will have access to a number of powerful features. Link Disavowing - Have shady links pointing to your website? Disavow them in webmaster tools and you won’t have to worry about being penalized. XML Sitemap Submission - You should make sure to generate an xml sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing webmaster tools. The sitemap will help the search engines better under- stand the structure of your site. Use to generate your sitemap. Demoting Sitelinks from Search - The only way to control which sitelinks Google search presents is to demote non-rele- vant pages within webmaster tools. View Backlinks - You can see a full list of all sites that cur- rently host a link back to yours. This allows you to follow up, or potentially disavow... 12
  15. 15. Cost: Free For any company with regional loca- tions, it is important to optimize your local listings. GetListed is a web service that identifies listings you haven’t yet claimed, and uncovers listings that feature inaccurate information. The process couldn’t be easier. Simply search for your business and you will be shown a number of business listing sources. If your listing is not present, consider adding it. If it is there, but has incorrect or missing information, fix it! Google Analytics Cost: Free Google Analytics is one of the best all around free web analytics packages. Analytics are critical for any business tracking the ROI of internet marketing. Google analytics includes advanced features and segments for further ana- lyzing your visitor data. Traffic source, bounce rate, visit duration, pages per visit, page path, and mobile usage are just a small sample of the potential data sets you can analyze. 13
  16. 16. Wrap-Up You are now equipped with powerful knowledge! You know what tools to use to make your website the envy of every business on the block. Now the question is, what to use first? Try our handy-dandy website checklist. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure about where to start, focus your efforts in the areas that are most suitable for your industry. If you are selling a hot new product, build your social presence as soon as possible. If the goal is to pull in leads for B2B or B2C sales, SEO is a great place to start. Now when anybody asks you if your website is awesome, you will be able to give an awesome answer. Yes. Google & Bing Webmaster Tools [12] Set Up Google Analytics [13] Optimize Local Listings [13] YES High GTMetrix Score [11] Good Heavy Load Performance [11] Uptime Tracking [11] Mobile Compatibility [9] Legacy IE Compatibility [10] Facebook Company Page [7] Twitter Company Profile [7] LinkedIn Company Page [7] Google+ Page [7] Social Sharing Enabled [7] Set Up Social Tracking [8] SpyderMate Report [5] HubSpot Marketing Grader [6] CheckDog Spellcheck [6] Generate XML Sitemap [6] Generate Robots.txt file [6] Domain Canonicalization [6] 14 SEO Social Media Compatibility Performance & Maintenance Tracking & Discovery Website Awesome?
  17. 17. I don’t have the time or expertise to make an awesome website. I have an awesome website, but it isn’t performing as well as it should. My website is awesome, but I need it to rank higher in search engines. Let us be your experts. (612) 823-4000 15 What’s Next?