Mobile Pages should load under 1 sec
Did that headline get you all stressed out? Not to be too alarmist. But yes, Google recently put out a recommendation that mobile sites must be up to delivering content fast. Fast meaning under 1 sec!! Zoiks!

According to Google most mobile sites take 7 seconds or more to load!

It makes sense to deliver content quickly on mobile devices, especially when data download speeds are still sketchy in some parts of the US.

Just the other day, I was finishing up a meeting in Coral Gables and had to rush towards the Miami Airport for another meeting with a local bank (approx 20 min away North West), at the last minute I receive a text message saying the meeting has been moved to new branch location in Downtown Miami (approx 15 min away North East). I am sitting in my car and I pull up Google Maps on my Iphone, enter the bank name and Miami, I zoom into the map of downtown looking for the location but can’t find anything. I jump on the Bank’s website which is not optimized for mobile and I have to pinch and zoom to find the “Locations” link – the text is so tiny that I have to squint to read it. I finally find the branches, under “Contact Us”. I click on the address, hoping it would pull up the location on Iphone maps – but unfortunately it was plain text. I copy and paste the first line of the address into Maps and voila – I found the location.

Here is an excerpt from the Google Webmaster Central Blog

Research shows that users’ flow is interrupted if pages take longer than one second to load. To deliver the best experience and keep the visitor engaged, our guidelines focus on rendering some content, known as the above-the-fold content, to users in one second (or less!) while the rest of the page continues to load and render in the background. The above-the-fold HTML, CSS, and JS is known as the critical rendering path.

Optimizing static mobile pages will be a lot easier than sites that deliver dynamic content. Keep in mind, the 1 sec rule is only for content Above-the-fold (ATF).

Google is getting serious about it – they will begin to roll out changes to search rankings based on Smartphone website performance. This could affect your sites rankings on search engines if not addressed properly. More from Google on this:

To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.

How can you create static mobile web pages that are some how connected to a dynamic desktop website? We have a simple solution and it is called www.firebirdmobile.com. Firebird Mobile takes a regular website and converts all of its pages into static (cached) content. But what if you update the content on the main site, what happens to your mobile site? This could be a nightmare situation if you had to constantly update the two versions and keep them in sync. This is where Firebird Mobile shines, it keeps your mobile site and regular desktop site in sync at least once a day.

Don’t despair, it is very possible to load a mobile site in under one second (ATF Content), we have done this for many clients and we can help you get there as well. Contact Us for a free consultation on how we can help.

 

Rackspace Partner

We are pleased to announce that Cenango has joined the Rackspace® Partner Network to provide our customers with a portfolio of Hybrid Cloud solutions.

Rackspace is a leading provider of hybrid clouds, which enable businesses to run their workloads where they run most effectively — whether on the public cloud, a private cloud, dedicated servers, or a combination of these platforms.

For the past year we have been helping customers port over legacy applications to the cloud. We are currently deploying cloud apps to Rackspace’s cloud architecture.

Find out how your company can move its infrastructure to the cloud, contact us today http://www.cenango.com/contact-us

For more information on Rackspace visit www.rackspace.com.

The Manpacks.com e-commerce website is so easy to navigate.
The left column has all the categories that expand and collapse.
The center column has product details..
The button affordances are very clear and all lead to one thing that every e-tailor wants their customers to do, Checkout!

Manpacks-main-UX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The right hand side column has the order summery

Manpacks-checkout

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Job Manpacks – we love it.

Social media has come a long way. It is getting easier to target niche customers with precision.  But there are so many different platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, FourSquare which one do you chose? All? There is no easy answer (oh I can hear the moans and groans :) – I frequently get the eye-roll and gasp “… not another one”).

The reality is that social media takes time and requires a long term approach.  It no longer can be ignored.

With that in mind, I came across an article which I had bookmarked a few months ago on FourSquare. This is an older post, but very comprehensive

http://mashable.com/2011/04/27/how-to-foursquare/

Once again we see the importance of web security. Criminals and hackers are always trying to break into systems.  CNN is reported on Sept 27 2012 that most of the major banks have been hit with the biggest cyber attacks in history!

What do small business or independent website owners do about this? How do we protect ourselves against such attacks? We do not possess the network security resources that large banking institutions have at their disposal. So what do we do? Well it turns out there are some basic things we can do to protect our websites. Of course we can’t be immune to large scale Denial of Service Attacks or other large scale collaborative attacks. But we can at least plug the holes that are evident to hackers. In the coming weeks we will  be focusing on some simple strategies. Please check back.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — There’s a good chance your bank’s website was attacked over the past week. Since Sept. 19, the websites of Bank of America ,JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank  and PNC Bank have all suffered day-long slowdowns and been sporadically unreachable for many customers.http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/27/technology/bank-cyberattacks/?source=cnn_bin

 

Web design trends come and go the same way like fashion. With businesses and individuals wanting to look better at the eyes of their audiences, many websites change the way their websites look on regular intervals while incorporating new functionality.

The most recent facelift has taken place on Gmail and other sign in pages of Google products.

If you don’t remember, this is how Gmail looked earlier.

The trend today for web layouts is clean and uncluttered. It makes a lot of sense when you consider the information overflow that we are seeing today across many platforms and media.

Research shows that most people scan web pages before settling on an element for further exploration. Therefore, a lot of emphasis is put on optimizing important web elements that a webmaster wants to promote. However, this is a hit or miss thing. Your audiences may like or hate your user interface (UI) elements depending on their preferences, gender, etc. This is not an easy thing to overcome and on top of that, getting UI elements right is a huge affair. Have you ever heard of the $300 million button? If not, that article should be the first thing for you to read after reading this.

One of the biggest challenges in web usability is keeping people on a web page. The balance has to be perfect on content, usability and interactive elements. At the best of times, this is a tough task. Since it is very challenging to strike a good balance, what most designers tend to do is crowd too many elements on a web page. This leads to a web page that looks very busy. A busy web page is not one of the best places for conversions.

The new way of design thinking is driven by wanting to make a website look simple. This involves a lot of things. For example, some web pages have multiple objectives to achieve. In such instances, ‘simple web process’ calls for re-evaluating and prioritizing these objectives. The design process is driven by these re-evaluated objectives.

The Gmail sign in page is a perfect example for the ‘simple web process’. When you compare the two layouts it’s perfectly clear that Google evaluated what’s important for their audiences. In fact, the number of elements on the page has increased; yet it’s hardly noticeable. A good design should be like that. People have to see it only when they want to see it. This design philosophy is something that’s going to drive our web design work in the future. :)

If there are any websites that you like, share those on the comments section. We’d love to see those websites you like and get your feedback.

The way search engines operate is a subject of constant debate. Nobody seem to agree on the intricacies but everybody agrees that search engine ranking factors are a soup of different algorithms working in tandem looking at different aspects of a website and how they are related to other sites .

Since recently, most minds in the trade are in agreement that social factors such as Twitter and Facebook (among other things) are impacting the way a site is being ranked by search engines. In particularly Google is looking at social factors for ranking in a big way. Unlike other times, this claim is not vehemently rejected or hotly debated since most people understand that Google has some sort of agenda with the newly introduced Google+ platform.

There are a couple of things that you have to keep in mind when you try to go down the road on using social signals for rankings. First, social signals are still used to measure the social impact of a given website or a webpage. Search engine algorithms still reign high. However, getting a couple of hundred ‘likes’ for your website is going to be considered as a clear enough signal for search engines to consider your website seriously for rankings. Same goes for tweets and social bookmarks.

The beauty of social signals is that it’s hard to fake a social signal unless you are an uber social media junkie. Also, faking social signals is easy to monitor so it doesn’t make much sense for a business to do it. If more social signals are generated from the same set of people, that can mean only a few things like the following:

  1. These people have very similar interests
  2. The social signal generated is valid for a small niche of social media consumers
  3. At least some of those social profiles are fake

So unlike most other ranking elements, social signals are a better signal for search engines. But there are some barriers which stop social signals from being used widely at the time of this writing. For example, Bing is the preferred search engine for Facebook. Also, with Microsoft owning 1.6% equity of Facebook valued at $1.36 billion, Google may find it difficult to get full access to social elements usable for search ranking any time soon.

On the other hand, Twitter lets search engines use its data. But consider this. Twitter users produce 200 million tweets per day. Considering an average tweet being 110 characters long and an average word being 4.5 characters long, Twitter publishes around 44 million words every 13 minutes which is equivalent to the word count of all the 32 volumes of ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica’! In any sense of imagination, search engines don’t have the capacity to crawl, index and rank most of the Twitter data at this point.

So do you have to worry about the social signals for search engine rankings? To be honest, it may be a good time to start considering the potential benefits. If you do not have a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account for your business, we would encourage you to start building your networks. Once you get into it, you’ll notice that it is quite fun and interesting connecting to customers in a new way.

Seems far-fetched and think that we must be joking? Well, it is real and there are optimal times to post on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.  After some solid research, guys at Vitrue came up with some really interesting facts that can be helpful for small to medium size businesses that use social media for improving their business reach. There is a lot of information in their report. But let us break down the important elements that may help better position your social media efforts.

Days when the most number of viewers get on Facebook

Image courtesy: Vitrue

Most interactions happen towards midweek with the peak taking place on Wednesday.

Let’s have a look at the times in which most number of interactions happen on a weekly basis.

most number of interactions happen on a weekly basis

There are few peaks in Facebook interaction throughout a day. The peaks happen somewhere around 11.00AM, 3.00PM and 8.00PM EST and there are few factors that contribute to these peaks.

  • The highest peak at 3.00PM EST coincides with noon/lunchtime PST.
  • 11.00AM EST is 8.00AM PST. So East coast is taking a break presumably while West coast is coming online.
  • 8.00PM spike coincides with East coast dinner time and 5.00PM West Coast checkout time.

This is actually a fascinating breakdown of social media interaction in the United States. More information can be found here at Vitrue (Be warned, you have to part with your email address). But what’s more important is how to use this information for better Social Media campaigns.

How to use this information?
It would be a good idea to share information in the morning. In fact, sharing information in the morning is 65% more effective than any time else judging by the flow of shares, likes and comments. Stats aside, sharing information in the morning makes sense because you’d have your information available for a longer time.

Contrary to what someone would expect, Social Media is not so effective during the weekend. It’s quite an irony also because social interactions are deemed to happen during the weekend but apparently not so online.

The most important takeaways are:
Optimize and schedule your posts to go out during the morning for maximum visibility and engagement.

Schedule posts a few minutes before the top of the hour. Most number of people go on Facebook during the 0-15 minutes of each hour so have your content ready for them to share soon before they get on Facebook. It gives a competitive advantage for your business if they see your posts at the top of the updates stack first thing as they log in.

Facebook interaction is fueled by what you offer to your audience to take away. Make your information juicy so the community managers out there share it with their peers. If possible, offer something back to them as tribute for following you. Simple gestures go a long way in customer engagement and customer satisfaction.

Read more of the Vitrue article here.

Writer's BlockWriting a blog post is one of the most painful things that a small business holder might have to do during their already limited work time. But in the current context small businesses rely heavily on their online presence and on SEO for being visible, blogging becomes an essential tool for staying ahead of the competition.

But with limited time being utilized for 1000 different things, how can somebody write a blog post, much less a great blog post?

Well the trick is simpler than you think! Are we talking about hiring somebody to ghost write? Absolutely not. Ghost writers don’t share the same passion as you do about your business. Writing something on your own is something that can give you immense satisfaction and it can also be a good way for you to identify weaknesses of your business and marketing approach.

OK let’s get down to business. The ideal length of a blog post is about 400-500 words. If you are wondering, this post is already 180 words long. One thing that can help you with blog post writing is writing about something you are passionate about. Take me for example. I specialize in Search Engine Optimization and whatever I write about it comes to me naturally.

Don’t try to write about really complex matters in a blog post. A blog is hardly the best place for something like that. If you have a great subject topic, break it down to manageable bits. You’ll find it easy to write, you are going to find more topics to write about and your audience will love you for an easy to read and easy to remember post.

Try to make your blog posts interesting and to the point. It is always a good idea to try to engage your audience in the first paragraph and build your case from that point on. If you know anything about the inverted pyramid model of news reporting, I’m talking about that.

Also, use a couple of images that you might find for free. Try flickr.com or photos.com. You can find images that you can use for free after giving the owners proper credit for their images.

Another important thing you can do is linking back to your older posts. This works for you in several ways.

  1. You give value to blog posts that you’ve written already and get an opportunity to re-index them.
  2. Gives you an opportunity to direct viewers to your old posts that could be related in subject matter and beneficial to the reader.
  3. Those content thieves will be pushed hard to steal your content with their content scrapers.

 

So these are a few things that you can try when you are confronted with writing something for your blog. The best blog posts that I’ve written came off within 60-90 minutes like this one which has taken me about 66 minutes now.  So get cracking and share your experiences with the world (me included).

 

Image Courtesy – PhotoSteve101