Posts

Is Your Website Infected with Malware? Free Tools to Help You Check.

And You Don’t Even Need to Be “Techy” to Use Them!

Scroll down to watch the video (audio transcript is below that)

Do you know that “bad actors” on the internet will try to infect your site with malware and spam in ways so subtle that you don’t even know they’ve done it? And often they aren’t after your secrets, they just need your website to help them blast spam emails, practice negative SEO, or host hundreds of advertising pages you don’t even know about.

In they process they can hog your website resources and earn you or other websites a bad reputation with Google. For that reasons you need to be able to quickly check your website for unwelcome intruders. Of course there are lots of more technical tools for doing this (if your site is running WordPress our favorite tool for checking and protecting is Wordfence).

In this video we take a look at a number of other tools that require no technical expertise to use, and we find that they are not all created equal.

(Interested in more in depth SEO training? We offer live SEO workshops like this.)

By the way, if you discover that malware is infecting your website, you will need technical help, so be prepared. But whatever you do, don’t ignore this issue. It’s one of the first things we do when we’re doing an SEO Audit.

Audio Transcript

Hi, everyone. I’m Ross with Horizon Web Marketing, and I’m here with another SEO Audit How-To. So, we’ve been working our way through the SEO audit checklist that we use internally when we do an SEO audit on a site and giving you little tips on how you can clear items from your audit checklist. Let’s take a look at the checklist. As we scroll down under the technical factor section of the checklist, you’ll see that one of the sections is security issues, and I’ve done another video that talks about how we can clear these two items. Is the site using https, and is that being served consistently?

detail image of seo audit checklist with the security issues highlighted

Today, we’re going to talk about this question, is the domain clean of hidden malicious code? Now, you may think that your domain is as clean as a whistle, but on the other hand, the people that are out there planting malicious code on websites often do a pretty good job of not letting you know that they’re around. And don’t be going according to the assumption that every time someone hacks into your website, they want to steal something from you. Often they’re hacking into your website so they can do things like blast out spammy emails or put up advertising pages that you don’t know about using your domain, and now also they might use your domain for something called negative SEO, where they plant a whole bunch of really lousy links to other websites to try to take them down, and you’re just the unwitting host of this.

So, here’s how we go about checking a site, and before I do that I’m going to show you this article here and I’ll put a link to this article. It’s a pretty good one, “11 Awesome Tools for Website Malware Scanning.” So I went through there, and I actually saw some tools that I didn’t know about before. They’ve got a list of some. Now, many of these tools are ones you have to install on the backend of your site. What we’re going to focus on today, with the exception of Google Search Console, we’re going to show you tools where you don’t have to have login privileges in order to check out a site.

So, if you do have, when it comes to your own site that you own, probably the first place you’re going to go is to Google Search Console. Now, if you’re not familiar with Google Search Console, you need to change that, and we’ve got some videos that show you how to get set up with it.

When you’re within Google Search Console, on the left you’ll see that there’s a choice called Security Issues, and when we click on that, if Google has picked up on any malware, any malicious code on your site, they’re going to give you a notification here. So typically, they’ll push a notification to you if you have your email entered into Google Search Console, but as a matter of course for sites that we maintain, we make it a practice to check this at least once a month, make sure that Google hasn’t picked up on something that we’ve missed. However, this is a cursory check. It doesn’t catch a lot of stuff. I have had it catch security breaches before, but I don’t think it always does that.

The security issues screen in Google Search Console

Now, some of the checkers that are listed on that page that I showed you are not that great at catching code, so what I did is I decided to go to a website that I know has malware infection because I’ve been following this website for years because they’re a host for what we call negative SEO and have actually been used to launch attacks on at least one of my clients. So, I’m going to go to this website, and here it is. It’s called coopercomputers.com. It’s still up and online. You can see that it’s like an abandoned site. If you dig down into this domain, you’ll see pages like this where basically the pages have been hacked, and then all sorts of images have been placed. And if you dig down into the code, you can find all sorts of shady stuff going on. So, I decided to take this and do a little test on some of the malware checkers that are listed in the article I showed you.

The first one that I went to is this one here called virustotal.com. I ran that site through it, came back pretty clean. This is basically a meta check, so it goes and it goes through a lot of different checks. Notice it shows Quttera’s listing this as suspicious. Quttera is another one of the sites that we’re going to take a look at.

Web Inspector, another one here we go to, and boy, it looks like it’s pretty clean so far. And then I’ve gone to Rescan.Pro, which is another resource. We’ve scanned the site and once again, looking good. Alright. Now we’re going to go to the site that we always use when we do a check like this on a client’s website or on a prospect that we’re looking, for example, for a link partnership arrangement. We’re going to go to Sucuri, and a lot of developers know Sucuri. They really know their stuff pretty well. Plugged in the website. Notice, not so clean. “Warning: malware detected. Critical Security Risk. Known Spam detected. Your site is hacked and needs immediate attention. Malicious code was detected on your site.” Notice down here, “Malware detected by the scan and injected spam detected.” So, obviously this site is not as clean as some of these tools would have made it out to be.

picture of results page of check on coopercomputers

Our Go-To Web-Hosted Site Check Is Sucuri

Now, I have plugged this same homepage of this site into Sucuri, and it’s come back clean, even with this tool. As a matter of fact, just last week I was doing a demo where I plugged this computer in. Sucuri came back and said that the homepage was clean, so I had to go and put an internal page into the checker in order to discover the code. The moral of that is when you’re doing a check on your site, don’t stop at the homepage. Pick a couple of internal pages and run them through a couple of different checkers.

Now here, Google has their own what they call a Safe Browsing Report. Notice Cooper Computers came back clean with Google’s own report. But, Sucuri is not the only one. There is Quttera. Remember they were mentioned. It says, “Potentially suspicious content detected on this website.” And you scroll down here and it’ll tell you that it has potentially malicious files that it found on this site.

Also, Siteguarding here, another tool, actually gave me an extremely good readout on this site although it’s a little bit on the technical side. It says, “The website is infected.” Now, this is the one that was probably the most surprising to me because they actually identified the infection as “Spam SEO Linking Anomaly,” which goes along with the negative SEO. That’s a subject for another time, but basically the bottom line is they were able to pick up on the infection at Siteguarding. I think I have one more example here. Nope. No more examples.

So, there we’ve just walked through a few tools. I would say if you’re in doubt, I would typically recommend Sucuri as my first bet go-to site. But as I’ve shown you, these tools are not entirely perfect, and they don’t claim to be. There’s only so much that a tool can do running a scan, but this will give you a good start in checking whether your website is infected.

So, I hope this has been useful to you. Let me know if you have any comments, suggestions for this video or for any others, and definitely subscribe with the big red button. Next to it there’s a little bell icon. Make sure you click on that too because that’s the only way you’ll actually get notifications pushed to you from Google.

I also drop a few more resources and links down in the description, so be sure that you click on the ‘Show More’ button underneath the description to see everything that’s available with this video. And definitely come back and check out our other videos when you have a minute. I’ll see you next time.

How to Use Google PageSpeed Insights to Judge Your Website Speed (Video)

Google is Increasingly Pushing Website Speed

Now those speedy people at Google have even made website speed a ranking factor. In other words, how fast your website loads could affect where you rank in search results.

Additionally, speed is a factor in how much people like (or don’t like) your website, so even if we leave Google out of the equation, speed is important.

To help website developers to this end, Google offers a free tool called PageSpeed Insights (here’s a link to it) to help you test how fast your site is. Recently Google has enhanced this tool with a new feature to make its results more realistic.

This video will

  • Walk you through using the tool
  • Explain the new feature it offers
  • Tell you some of the limitations and how best to interpret the data it gives you
  • Link you up with some other complementary link tools

Below the video we’ve also provided a transcript for you skimmers.

Audio Transcript

I hope you’re ready for a Google speed test, that’s what we’re going to be doing today and so stick around, I’ll be back in a minute.

Hi, I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Now you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been paying attention that Google is a pusher. You know you could say they push many things but I’m talking about how they push speed. Not the drug speed. They’re pushing website load time speed. In other words, they want your webpage to go faster and the way they’re trying to encourage you to do this is by saying that speed is a ranking factor. Let me tell you what a ranking factor is. A ranking factor is simply something that might affect how high or low you show on Google’s search results page. So if you’ve got a website, if you’re in business, if you depend on the internet, you want to show up in search results, you have to take into account anything that’s called a ranking factor and we have to take into account speed.

Take a look at this quote from Google’s latest Webmaster Central blog post. Now this just came out day before yesterday. It says, “Using page speed in mobile search ranking.” And you’ll notice this quote just in the first paragraph, they say that they’ve been using speed in ranking for some time but the signal was focused on desktop searches. Well, now they’re saying that they’re making that a more important factor not just on desktop searches but on mobile searches as well. Now Google recognizes that it’s kind of hard for somebody who owns a website to know exactly how fast their website is for everybody and so they’ve made available some tools to help you out.

One of those tools is something called PageSpeed Insights and that’s the tool we’ll be digging into just a little bit today. Now this is really relevant to us particularly since we’ve recently released a resource called our SEO audit checklist. One of the first items that we have for you to check is site speed and then we break that down into both desktop and mobile site speed. This is kind of gets into a touchy area and so I thought it was helpful or would be helpful if we had a video that explained site speed just a little bit more.

The way I’m doing this and the way I’ve framed this particular video is I started with a search using a pretty competitive, pretty commercial search phrase called best hotel sheets and this is probably top of mind for me because in our consulting business we do have a client who operates within this space and so we’re always looking at their competitors. Let’s take a look at how our client fares when we subject them to Google’s PageSpeed Insights tools.

This is how it lays out. You type in a website address, you can do it for the homepage of your domain or any of your internal pages. And then they’ll give you some results and they’ll be broken down into mobile and desktop results and it’s a tab interface so I’ve got mobile right here, I can click on desktop and I can go back and forth and compare these. The part that’s new, as a matter of fact just within the last month, they’ve introduced a new metric here called speed. In the past we’ve always had this metric that I’m pointing to on the right which I optimization. Now optimization, I’m going to cover that first because it’s a relative scale. It’s from one to a 100 where one would be the worst and 100 would be the best. And so naturally everybody wants to chase a 100 on that scale ’cause that means they’re the best.

And this is a technical measurement. In other words, Google can take any page and just look at the code and say, “Is this page theoretically built for speed or not?” Now in this case, our client scores kind of middle of the road, medium, 77 out of a 100. And the reason Google has added this speed metric on the left is because they realize that there are theoretical measurements and then there are real world measurements. Speed is tied to something called the Chrome User Experience report and this is basically where Google has their analytical stuff installed in their Chrome browser and millions of users either wittingly or unwittingly are sending information back to Google about their browsing experience including how fast webpages load for them. Google is basing this number here, the speed number, on data they’re getting back from people who are actually visiting this site and you can see these numbers line up pretty well. Speed is average, optimization is medium.

screenshot of pagespeed insights using sah

If I take a look at the desktop version I do have an optimization number which is still in the medium range but the speed is unavailable. Well why is that? It’s simply because not enough people have visited this particular website, this particular webpage for Google to be able to get any sort of a realistic measurement. At times, particularly if you’re looking at a lightly traveled website, you’ll see this unavailable showing up. Now I don’t really know whether these numbers will become more robust as Google gathers more data but for right now there’s a number of pages out there and yours might be one of them where those numbers are unavailable.

But what to do they mean? Okay, it says optimization medium. If I go back to this, speed average. Well how’s that really affecting me? Let’s first of all start by taking look at a few of our competitors to see some of the limitations that I run into doing SEO for clients when it comes to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Here’s another one of their primary competitors for that search term that I showed you a moment ago and in this case it’s a publisher, nymag.com. They’re showing numbers that are pretty good particularly on the mobile they show an optimization of 81 out of a 100, now that’s just about four points above our client. Their speed is showing very fast. Let’s take a look at the desktop version and here you see where we’re starting to get a little bit of a discrepancy because notice their optimization on the desktop is showing as 66 out of a 100, now that’s even below our client’s website but Google does have some data show here and they’re showing that their speed is very, very fast.

screen capture of travelandleisure.com in pagespeed insightsLet’s take another one, this is Travel and Leisure, a major, major website. Here, they show that they really have some developers working on their website that are very focused on speed because in the optimization category on the right, and remember this is kind of a technical assessment of how the site is built. On paper, this site looks really good, 84 out of a 100 is pretty high number. But the speed is only average. Let’s take a look at the desktop version of this. Now we get something that’s really starting to look a little goofy. The optimization for their desktop version of their site is 43 out of a 100, now that’s really low. So in other words, their desktop website was not really built for speed. It was more like built like a delivery truck lumbering down the road. But at the same time, take a look at the speed, it’s showing as fast. So obviously right here we’re seeing that real world data does not always line up with theoretical data.

screen capture of macys.com in pagespeed insights

I’m going to take a look at one more and this is a really big website because the discrepancy here is really great. This is macys.com, not exactly an unknown site, not exactly a small budget operation. But notice their optimization is good, 83. I mean, again, that’s one of the highest numbers out there but take a look at the speed. 3.1 seconds. Now that FCP stands for first content full paint and that’s pretty much geek speak but it means it takes a long time for the visual experience of the customer who is looking at the site. Now Google has said that page speed is a factor, ranking factor in search but I know from looking at Macy’s they are very, very strong in search. So there’s other stuff going on here not just page speed when it comes to search. Going to take a quick look, their desktop we don’t see that kind of discrepancy.

All right, so now if we go back to the real world implementation of this best hotel sheets, I’m not going to scan down here and show you all the results but I will tell you this, if you go back to our customer’s website, we were getting average numbers remember, so middle of the road. Not horrible, not great but we rank number one for most searches on that page whereas a lot of these much faster sites are ranking further down the page. Why is that? Part of this is going back to Google’s blog post if I can find it here. If I go back to that Webmaster Central blog post, let’s take a look at what they say also in this page.

Notice down here in paragraph two, the last sentence. It says, “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal.” What do they mean by that? The intent of the search query. What they mean is what the person wants is still the important thing to them. What that person is looking for. So a slow page may still rank highly if it has “great relevant content.”

quote highlight from Google Webmaster Central blog post

Now I don’t have some magical window into Google but I can tell you what this tells me and from what I see in working with other clients as well, I would never tell you don’t worry about speed. Speed is a factor. It’s important to build your website to load as quickly as possible, it’s important for good user experience, right? But it is obviously not something you should slave over.

For example, we would not advise our client if we go back to our numbers here, we wouldn’t advise our client that thousands of dollars be poured into trying to get this medium number up to a 90 or a 100. But I see that some people do. I see comments online and I’ll see guys that are basically have devoted dozens of hours if not hundreds of hours to trying to move this number up and I’m going to tell you my suggestion would be, don’t worry about it. Now if you on the other hand, go to this tool, and by the way, a link to anything I’m talking about to a lot of this stuff and a few other resources I’m going to show you are all going to be in the show notes down here in the description. That’s just a digression there to let you know about that.

Let me go back to Macy’s for example. If I had these numbers, I have to tell you, I’d be taking a look at why my mobile site was loading so slowly. I wouldn’t be ignoring that. But if your numbers are middle of the road, here’s what I suggest you do. First of all, check for the search queries where you want to rank or where you are ranking and take a look at your competitors. You can plug anybody’s webpage into PageSpeed Insights. Take a look at how they’re doing. If you’re more or less in a reasonable range, move onto something else. That’s why going back to our audit tool here, you notice how we phrase the question, “Site speed acceptable?” We don’t say, “Site speed a 100. Site speed really terrific. Site speed better than every other competitor.” That’s not what we’re going for here. Site speed acceptable. Now if you see some numbers that really give you some concern, then I’d also double check those numbers. Google doesn’t make perfect tools any more or less than anybody else out there.

Here’s one that we use all the time. It’s called Pingdom. They have a website speed test and they rank Macy’s pretty good on their speed test. Then I go to, if you’re really have somebody who likes to geek this stuff out, I love this tool, it’s called webpagetest.org is the address. And it has page after page, after page of highly let’s say, extremely geek content. This is the page if you’ve got a developer that wants to dig into this stuff, by all means, send them to webpagetest.org and say, “Have at it. Go through it.” You can often get really good suggestions for improving page performance.

Well that pretty much all I wanted to cover for now. Bottom line, the takeaway from this is pay attention to site speed but once you have it in an acceptable range for your industry and compared to the people that you’re competing with, move onto to something else. It would be much better if you put your time into creating great content and convincing other people to link to your site.

Again, my name is Ross Barefoot here at the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. We like to publish videos that will help business people understand SEO and make the most for their website. So definitely if you’re interested in that, if you want to do better, as good as you can in search, hit that red subscribe button down below. If you’d like to see us cover stuff that we haven’t on our channel, leave us a comment. Give us a suggestion. Offer your own experience. It is a discussion. So that’s it for now and I hope to see you back here next time around.

Mobile Friendly and the Busy CEO: C-Suite SEO Tip #2

The Culture Goes Mobile: Is Your Business Ready for That?

How does a half hour on the phone with Apple customer service tie into the way Google treats your website? In this video I explore an anecdote to illustrate why ignoring the mobile trend in website marketing is tempting but dangerous (a transcript appears below the embedded video).

If you would like an assessment of your website’s mobile friendliness, contact us today.

Video Transcript

Yesterday I had a really frustrating experience with Apple customer service. When I was done with that frustrating experience, I realized that I needed to reach out to top level managers and CEOs and business owners and give them fair warning that they could end up having a very unpleasant surprise in the very near future with Google. If those things don’t seem to line up, stick around. I’ll put the pieces together in just a few seconds.

Hi. I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing. First, I’m going to tell you a little bit about this frustrating experience that I had with Apple customer service. Like many of you out there, I have a teenage daughter, and a teenage daughter who spends a lot of time on her iPhone. She’s a really responsible girl, so I let her use my Apple sign-in ID. The other day, she downloaded an app that came with a subscription. She had no intention of buying it, but she just wanted to see what it was like. There was a trial period. She deleted the app, and I said, “Well, I need to do due diligence. Let’s log in to Apple and see if there’s going to be any consequences to this. Is there anything that we need to cancel?”

Of course, what do I do? Troglodyte that I am, I go to my desktop computer, I go to the Apple website. You see it right here. Of course, you got a way to sign in. I’m signed in right now. Once I sign in, I navigate on over to my account. Within my account, I check the status of any orders. No orders showing there. I can’t find anything about subscriptions, so I figure, “Hey, I’m good. Right?” What do you think happens? Of course, two days later, boom, I got a $50 charge on my credit card.

I get on with Apple chat customer service. Long story short, after 30 minutes, I finally was able to get the subscription canceled. In the meantime, while I’m chatting with this lady who’s trying to help me, she’s directing me to articles like this one, “View, change, or cancel your subscriptions”. I’m sending her screen captures of the place where I’m at. By the way, she wasn’t even looking at my screen captures, so bad for customer service in that respect. Finally figured out that the only way to cancel the subscription was on the iPhone. There was a workaround if I would have had iTunes installed, but I didn’t. There’s just simply no way though the web browser interface to get this simple job done of canceling a subscription.

Alright. Why am I going into all of this? Because it illustrates a point. The point it illustrates is how strongly the culture, users, and major companies are moving towards a mobile-centric world. I don’t like it anymore than you do, at least I hope you don’t like it, if you’re like me, but that’s the way it is nowadays. You know who’s paying attention to this? Google. That’s why Google is writing like on their official Webmaster Central Blog recently, they did an article on how they are moving to a mobile-first index and how eventually they may even move to a mobile-only index. Not going to try and explain what mobile-first index or even what index is, I’m just going to tell you the impact.

The impact on your business website is if your website does not run smoothly, look good, load quickly on a mobile device, it’s going to start hurting you in Google search results, and most likely Bing as well, although most people only really care about Google nowadays. Basically, the ante has been upped. You need to make sure that your business website, if you need visibility in search, and who doesn’t, has to be ready on mobile. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, we got web developers and we hired this company that does our website and everything.” Maybe you haven’t even checked it out.

That factors back into why I’m talking to top level business executives. If you’re, for example, a CEO, you’ve got a really busy schedule. It’s entirely understandable if you’ve never actually pulled out a phone and taken a look at your company’s website on the phone. I’m going to tell you that you need to engage with this and not just delegate it away. Here’s a couple of examples of why.

I’m going to go to a website, or I’m going to show you here a large company website. This company is $87 million in annual revenue estimated. Look at their page over here on the right. You can see their page on a mobile device. This tool here that I’m showing you is Google’s own mobile friendly test. Notice what Google concludes, “This page is not mobile friendly.” This factors back into what I was telling you about Google. If the page is not mobile friendly, it’s not going to be well situated for a mobile-first world, the world that Google is preparing for.

Let me give you another example here so you can see this is not an isolated incident. Here’s a $106 million business. On mobile, their website doesn’t even render correctly. I doubt if the CEO or if the top level senior management people in this company even know that this is the case. You also might be thinking, “Hey, our clientele is always going to be looking at our website on a desktop computer, so it doesn’t really matter”, but it does because Google says, “Page is not mobile friendly.” Google is basically saying, “Page is very possibly not going to do well for search in the future.”

screenshot of a large company website that is not mobile friendly

Here’s my final example to show you really quickly, and that is … Let me see if I can find it here. Here is probably the most egregious example that I have. A $410 million company, half a billion dollars almost in annual revenue, and their website does not render correctly on a mobile device.

The purpose of this video is not to give you a how-to of how to check out your website. I have done a video that shows you how you, without any technical skills, can check out your own company’s website in order to see, “Hey, are we measuring up? Is our website mobile friendly?” I’ll put a link to that video in the description for this video, but no, the purpose of this is to give you my “dad” lecture, like I did with my oldest son when I said, “Hey, listen. If you drop out of high school, you’re going to regret it.” He did drop out of high school, and yeah, he does regret it. The point is if you don’t check this out, if you don’t engage with this issue, you’re likely to regret it when you find that you’re losing ground in Google search results.

If you need any help on this, at Horizon Web Marketing, we do consulting and we also do seo training, either for you or for your staff, around all sorts of digital marketing issues, including issues like this. What impact does this type of thing have on your placement in search results? That’s part of what we do for SEO, or search engine optimization. Definitely if you like videos in plain business English, subscribe down below. Also in the comments, let me know what you’d like to learn more about so that you can be more effective in managing your company’s digital marketing presence, or making sure that other people and companies do a good job of that. Until next time, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Thank you very much for your time.

Is Your Website Search Engine “Friendly”? (Part I)

6 Questions to Ask that Will Help You Determine Whether Your Website is Search Engine Friendly

You have to crawl before you run, as the saying goes.  And before your website can be “optimized” for search it must be “friendly” to search engines.  That’s where “Search Engine Friendly” comes in.

Most of our business consulting clients have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and some of them have heard of SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and I’ve blogged about those terms before.  However the one term that very few businesses have encountered is SEF, Search Engine Friendly.

Think of a store as an analogy.  If you want your store to encourage visitors, you’d better have the door unlocked and the lights on, right?  A nice window display and a flashing “open sign” would be nice as well.  I recently shot a brief video to make this point.  Watch the video to get the concept down, and then look below the video for 6 questions you can ask about your website and how to answer them (this post will deal with 2 of these questions, and we’ll deal with the rest of them in part 2 and part 3).  These questions and answers will help you make a quick determination about how friendly your website would be to Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine.

 

Question 1 – Can a Search Engine Crawl the Pages of Your Website?

To show your pages to searchers, a search engine first has to have your pages in its “index” (i.e. it’s database of web pages).  They use programs called robots or “spiders” to visit your site and find all its pages.  To determine whether the automated programs the search engines use can find your pages, here’s a quick method that is very effective.  Go to http://www.xml-sitemaps.com or a similar site (you can also use a program like Xenu Link Sleuth or Screaming Frog to do this step).

Enter your website homepage (see screen capture below):

screen capture of entering a url to a sitemap generator to check search engine friendliness

 

Once the program does it’s thing it will report results.  Here are the results for the test site I entered (by the way, I have no connection with this site, I chose them randomly for the example):

 

another screen capture of a sitemap generator that only found a single page

Notice how the spider only found 1 page.  This is a big problem.  It means that the site architecture (i.e. the way it’s navigation is structured) creates a huge barrier to search engine spiders.  There are ways to get around this, but they require a fair amount of effort and are always a class b solution.  If you have this problem, you need to find out why and get it fixed immediately.  Consult a developer if you need help, but get it done.

A few possible reasons a spider can’t crawl your website

  • poor url structure
  • flash-based navigation
  • a robots.txt file that is discouraging spiders

Question 2 – Does Your Home Page Load Extremely Slowly?

What do you do if you go to a site and you have to sit there about 10 seconds watching a spinning wheel on your screen instead of seeing the website you want to visit?  If you’re like most people, you hit the back button.  So do the search engines.   But sometimes a page can load slowly for you because you have a lousy internet connection or your computer is loaded up with viruses and malware.  Here’s how to tell if your site is slowly just for you, or for everyone.

Go to http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ and plug in your website URL, but don’t hit Enter yet.

Click the “settings” link below the URL field (see below):

screen capture of pingdom to show how to check the load time of your web page

Set the checkpoint to the geographical location nearest you.  Now you can hit Enter or click the submit button.

If your site takes more than a few seconds to load (I would consider anything above 4 to be pretty slow) you have a slow loading site.  You may want to repeat this test several times during the day to make sure it wasn’t an unusual load condition at your website host (although if they regular periods where your site is slow to load you need to get a better hosting provider).  Again, correcting this problem is going to take a developer.

A few possible causes for slow web page load times

  • extremely large images
  • lots of javascript
  • poorly written javascript
  • a poorly configured or overloaded server
  • a web host with too little Internet bandwidth

In our next blog post we will give you two more questions to ask yourself or your developer to determine whether your website is open for business and a friendly place for Google and Bing to visit.

If this post is useful to you, I’d appreciate you giving it a Plus One, a Like on Facebook, or a Tweet!

 

In Internet Marketing, 10 Will Get You 20

woman with clock to illustrate point for web copywriting article

How to Keep a Visitor on Your Site Long Enough to Make Them a Customer

According to Internet usability guru Jakob Nielsen, the first 10 seconds are crucial to your online success.  Here’s what he says:

If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat.  Source: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/

When he talks about “the curve,” he means the rate at which users leave your web page.  The drop-off is highest in those first 10-30 seconds.  If you can engage your visitor for a scant half a minute, your chances of being able to communicate your full marketing message improve dramatically.

If you’re a business owner who can’t afford to hire a “guru” to write your web copy, simply keep a link to these tips handy and you’ll be on your way to that magic “conversion” moment when a visitor becomes your customer.

10 Tips for Writing Effectively for the Web

  1. Info graphic, tips for writing engaging web contentYour headline is the key.  Make your headline powerful.  Your headline is the key not just to the first 10 seconds, but the first 3.  Spend time with it.
  2. Understand your visitor.  Before you even get started with point number 1, do some research on who your target audience is.  Research doesn’t have to be hard.  Try asking some of your existing customers or website visitors (for example with an easy online survey) why they came to your site.
  3. Focus on visitor intent.  Once you understand your ideal visitor, and why they came, you’re ready to craft a message that addresses their specific wants and needs.  If you match that “why” you stand a better chance of getting them to ask “how do I buy?”
  4. Engage them.  No one wants to hear your elevator pitch.  People don’t like to be preached at, and make no mistake, a lot of sales talk comes off as preaching.  Instead, involve your visitors with a hook or a question.  Sort of like we did with this blog post, right?
  5. Make it clear.  If you confuse your visitor you might as well give up on them.  And you’re not a good judge of what will confuse them.  Why?  I guarantee that you’re too close to your product or service.  This doesn’t mean you should stop writing your own copy.  Just make sure you share it with at least 5 people outside your organization and see if your written content is immediately clear.  Remember, it has to be clear in seconds.
  6. Don’t fight their eyes.  People have predictable ways of visually taking in your content.  Don’t get so creative in your layout that you ignore typical user behavior.
  7. Use the golden “F.”  Eye tracking studies have shown that people scan a page in an “F” pattern.  They start at the top left, move across then down.  Their eyes stop going across the page as they go down looking for something interesting.  Make sure your important points are top and left.  This is also known as the “golden triangle.”
  8. Go lean.  Too much text puts eyeballs to sleep.  Even if you have a lot you need to say, break it up into short paragraphs and lots of headings.  Better: try always to say what you need to with fewer words.  The Gettysburg Address is not the most famous speech in American oratory because it’s long.
  9. Use bullet points.  Remember those eye tracking studies (see tip 7)?  Well they also show that people invariably will scan bullet points.  Make sure you use bullet points to present the things that are most important to your visitor.  (Use these bullets to match their intent, as indicated in tip #3)
  10. Neuroscience is your friend.  Use it when selecting images.  Part of “writing” for the web is making sure that you include some visuals.  (If people wanted nothing but text they would all have the 1995 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica on their shelf.)  But more than a pleasing image, use a shot with some persons face looking at the visitor.  Reason?  From the time we are babies we are wired to look at faces and eyes.  Naturally you want to make the face relevant to your content.  Example: If you’re marketing a car show the face of someone driving it, or standing by it, or sitting in it.

Get the Infographic

As a visual reminder of these 10 tips, we’ve created an infographic, 10 Tips to Keep Visitors 20 Seconds, that will help you to quickly remember them and apply them whenever you write for the web.  Follow these tips and you’re well on your way to breaking that 10-second barrier and connecting with your next customer.