Websites2016

Creating websites when I was back in University was relatively simple: you had to keep each page—including images—under 50kb (to make sure it loaded quickly on dial-up) and the website would ideally be designed to sit neatly on an 800×600 pixel 72ppi resolution computer screen. You’d have a few pages of dot point information and you’d have a contact page with your Hotmail email address link, ready to receive mail from mostly inbox spammers.

Then only a few years later, broadband Internet came along, computer screens got huge and websites become a playground for creativity—with images everywhere and a healthy smattering of animated GIFs. Around this time came the steady all-conquering rise of Google; along with it a new and exciting/terrifying world of SEO (search engine optimisation). Keyword stuffing was rife, people were buying fifty domain names that included keywords while redirecting them all back to a single website.

Fast forward to the last twelve months or so: competition for eyeballs is fierce, screens are all different sizes, orientations and resolutions, and Google has become a highly intelligent and aggressive gatekeeper to the Internet with a major focus on highly relevant, quality content. So what does this all mean for your website today?

Well for a start, if you don’t have a responsive website in 2016 then you are at a very high risk of frustrating your mobile visitors, or worse being demoted down the list of search engine results. In fact Google now not only sees your website as less user friendly if it isn’t responsive, but it also specifically alters results for people searching on tablets and smartphones to promote mobile-friendly sites and demote ones that are not.

So what is a responsive website? It’s essentially a website that responds, shifts and adapts to suit the size and orientation of virtually any screen type—from giant 30-inch widescreen computer monitors, to tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and more. If you’re viewing this Evocative website on a computer right now, you can actually grab the corner of the browser and drag the window bigger and smaller, and you’ll see everything shift and change in realtime to suit. Older style fixed size websites don’t do this, meaning they either get cut off or scale down so small on devices they are impossible to use or read.

Responsive websites also replace the older idea of having a separate mobile website which used to detect if you were on a small screen and redirect users to a purpose built mini site. The big disadvantage to this is that according to Google, you are splitting your visitors between two different websites—effectively halving your visitor numbers for each and therefore decreasing your search engine rankings in terms of content popularity.

And then there’s search engine optimisation, or ‘SEO’. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, creating stacks of referral links, and registering then linking as many URLs as possible. Google is now SUPER smart and will easily detect irrelevant links and keywords, and treats websites with multiple URL redirects as ‘spammy’. So if your website still employs some or all of these old tricks, then you’ll find that not only is your site not benefiting from them in search results, but in fact Google will be actively penalising and de-ranking your site for using these kinds of techniques.

So what DO you need these days to help your Google ranking? Two words: RELEVANT CONTENT!

Yes it’s still worth having page titles and URLs with focus keywords in them, but ultimately it’s what is on your webpages that makes all the difference. If your written content is useful and on-topic, and people who search for topics that are on your website keep visiting your site, then Google gives you a big nod of approval and your improved search engine rankings will soon follow.

Personally I think this is great news for everyone. For website owners with proper, relevant content, it’s easier than ever to get people who are interested in your topic to find and visit your site—without having to resort to dirty tricks or hire ‘SEO consultants’. And for the general users of the Internet, it’s great that Google is sifting out the dodgy sites and providing better-than-ever results faster and more accurately.

If you need to bring your website into 2016, send me a message HERE. I can help with written content and branding to make sure your website is highly relevant and on-topic, plus I can recommend the best way to update the site to be responsive and ready for the future.

Ben Johnston

I’m Ben—a branding strategist, graphic designer, photographer, videographer and writer. Evocative is my own communications and branding consultancy. With over ten years experience in all things creative—plus an honours degree in design majoring in corporate identity—I’ve specialised in branding and visual communication.