My SEO Journey, Part 2

By John Eberhard

[This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Here is a link to Part 1.]

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, which is the activity of getting a web page or site to rank as highly as possible in search engines for a given keyword or group of keywords. The goal of SEO is increased traffic to a website from search engines.

My R&D Project

In the fall of 2015 I began the most intensive research project that I have ever done, to find out the best avenues for conducting SEO into 2016 and beyond. The reason I did this was because my priority as an SEO consultant, and really with everything I do in Internet marketing, has always been to deliver the best possible results to clients.

The Findings

What I found out was that on-page optimization has not really changed all that much, though I will detail below the highest priorities.

But off-page optimization, and specifically link building, has changed drastically over the last 5 years. As mentioned above, Google has conducted a step by step campaign to eliminate all the actions that SEO consultants have been doing in terms of link building.

But links pointing to your site from other sites are still one of the most important factors in determining how well your site will rank for any given keyword. So it’s still important to have links. So how do you get them?

I have had to search far and wide for any credible data on what link building can still be done today.

But I finally cracked it. So what’s the answer? Patience grasshopper. First we’ll cover on-page optimization.

On-Page Optimization in 2016

On-page optimization, or SEO that you do specifically to your web site has not changed that much over the last few years. However, based on my research, here are the top priorities:

  1. Conduct keyword research to find keywords with as high searches as possible, but with lower numbers of sites competing for those keywords.
  2. Write titles and descriptions utilizing the best keywords you have selected.
  3. Attach alt tags to your graphic and picture content utilizing your targeted keywords. These are tags that one can attach to picture files, and are just another valid way to put keywords onto a page.
  4. Use keywords in your H1, H2, and H3 tags, which are used to indicate headlines and sub-headlines.
  5. Ensure your site is mobile friendly, with responsive being the format that Google prefers. This will positively impact your ranking and negatively impact it if the site is not. You can test your site here.
  6. Your page loading speed should be low, under 4 seconds. If not this will negatively impact ranking. You can test that here.
  7. Ensure there is no duplicate content within the site, i.e. multiple pages with the same text.
  8. Put the primary keyword for a given page somewhere within the first 100 words of the main page text.
  9. Popup windows negatively impact rankings.
  10. Create a sitemap and submit it inside the Google Webmaster Tools interface.
  11. Having a “terms of service” and “privacy” page are considered a positive for rankings.
  12. Include your targeted keywords in the URL of the page, which in most cases means include the keyword in the name of the page.
  13. Longer text content is a positive and is shown in studies to cause pages to rank better. By longer we mean 1,500-2,000 words. This is a new one in that it used to be that SEO people recommended a minimum of 300 words per page. But research now shows that pages with 1,500-2,000 words do rank more highly. That’s not to say you are going to write 1,500 or more words for every page. But if you can write longer copy for several pages on your site, they will have a better chance of ranking more highly.
  14. Some experts are now saying that if you link FROM your web pages, to other high authority sites, that search engines interpret that to mean your site is more legit or authoritative. They say you should include 2-4 links per 1,000 words.

Off-Page Optimization

Google pioneered the method of using the number of links to a website as the primary criteria for determining the ranking of that website. The idea being that if a site had lots of links to it from other sites, that meant it was important.

When Google came to prominence, SEO consultants began finding ways to proactively create links to their sites from other sites.

Google despises this, and they have spent most of the work on their algorithm over the last 5 years in trying to prevent SEOs and website owners from doing link building. They have penalized people for certain types of links. They have stopped certain types of links from having any value. And they have preached, over and over and over, that you should not do ANY type of proactive link building. Instead, you should just put up good quality content on your website, and because it’s good quality, people will of course naturally link to it.

For years I have been seeing a major problem with this Google sermon. Because any time I have tried to follow it, i.e. just putting up lots of good quality content on a website, without doing any type of proactive link building, NOTHING has happened. No links. Lousy keyword rankings. Little traffic.

And as I have said in other articles, let’s say you are a local type of business in a competitive market, such as a dentist. What type of content is a dentist going to put up on his website that will cause people to link to him? Even if it is “amazing,” how many other sites will actually link to him?

So as time has gone by, Google has sort of modified their sermon from saying “put up good content,” to “put up great content,” to “put up remarkable content,” or even “put up amazing content.”

So why is that? And does putting up content alone, without any efforts to disseminate the content, work?

Content Saturation

The answer is: NO, it doesn’t? And the reason it doesn’t, lies in the factor of topic saturation. In other words, how much content already exists online for a specific topic? If there is a lot of content already, it doesn’t matter how stupendous or miraculous or mind boggling your content is. You can put up amazing content all day long and no one is even going to notice it, let alone link to it.

Just to be fair, let’s take a look at how Google’s scenario CAN work. Back in 2003, I wrote an article called “The Tytler Cycle,” and posted it on a new website I had created for political commentary. Alexander Tytler was a Scottish historian who came up with a concept that democracies go through about a 200 year long cycle of different phases with different characteristics.

At that time, there was basically no scholarly content online about Tytler. Subsequently, my article was linked to from Wikipedia, I wrote several more articles about it, and now, if you Google “The Tytler Cycle,” my political website occupies the top two positions, even above Wikipedia. And my website gets about 2,000 visitors a month from search engines, mostly going to my articles about Tytler.

But that’s a pretty obscure topic, one that isn’t saturated with content even today. But unless you are in a business related to an obscure topic, chances are good that your topic is well saturated online with tons of content already. So if you follow Google’s advice, and put up jaw-dropping content but do nothing else, I’m sorry to have to tell you that nothing is going to happen.

In Part 3 I will cover exactly what you CAN do today for link building. Sorry to drag it out but this journey was pretty long.

My SEO Journey, Part 1

By John Eberhard

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, which is the activity of getting a web page or site to rank as highly as possible in search engines for a given keyword or group of keywords. The goal of SEO is increased traffic to a website from search engines.

I first got into doing SEO when I worked as Marketing Director for David Morse and Associates, an independent claims company, back in 2006. I did a bunch of research, and learned that SEO was divided into two areas – on-page optimization (basically things you do to the site itself), and off-page optimization (which is essentially building up links to your site coming from other sites).

I did on-page optimization to David Morse’s site, and we hired a company from Florida to do link building for us, basically to write some articles and submit them to article directories, and write some press releases and submit them to press release sites. Our number of links to the David Morse site improved, and our rankings for our keywords did well also. Over the next year working there I figured out how we could submit to article directories ourselves, and we did that aggressively.

Around that time I started Real Web Marketing Inc., and in 2008 I went full time with the new company. I took on some SEO clients, began doing on-page optimization for them, and also started doing link building, with basically this formula:

  1. Write an article on the topic of the client’s company, then submit that to 50-100 article directories per month.
  2. Write a press release about the client’s activities, then submit that to several online PR sites, both free and paid.
  3. Create several blogs for the client and post both the article and release on all the blogs. We also created a number of “client news” blogs and posted all of our client articles and releases on those.

We also developed some proprietary tricks to increase the number of links even more. 

Our success with this was huge. We would typically add 500-1,000 or more new links for each client per month. And in the years since then, we have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled the traffic to some of our client web sites through the use of this program. And increased site traffic was in my opinion the ultimate test of whether our SEO efforts were working. So it was all good.

But then it wasn’t.

The War Begins

Beginning about 4-5 years ago, Google began a concerted campaign to prevent SEO consultants from doing ANY link building.

They have a spokesman, who makes statements and releases videos and goes to conferences. He began talking down link building, and repeating the Google line over and over, which is basically:

“You should not do any proactive link building. If you do it will indicate an unnatural link pattern, and we will discover that and penalize you for it. You should just create good quality content and put that up on your web site, and people will find it and link to it.”

This mantra was repeated over and over again, and many SEO consultants basically toed this line and repeated Google’s line. Link building eventually sort of fell into disrepute.

I didn’t toe this line. I continued doing link building using the program outlined above. Why? Because it was working. Because I tracked statistics for all my SEO clients and I could see that the program was still working. Client web sites were going up in the search engine rankings for their targeted keywords, and client web traffic was increasing.

Then over the next few years, Google continued waging this war against link building. They specifically penalized some (but not all) article directories. The number of article directories worldwide, which had peaked at about 1,500 several years ago, dwindled down to about 75 today. They specifically targeted the action of blog networks, which we had done on a small scale. Google’s spokesman stated that he did not expect press releases to be beneficial (although I’ve never seen any evidence that this is actually true). One of Google’s algorithm updates measured the types of links a site has, and penalized the sites if they had too much of one type of link.

Articles by SEO consultants worldwide began to preach a litany of what you CAN’T do in SEO and link building. Even today, if you research various articles on link building, they are nearly all just full of advice on things that you can’t do. You will essentially search in vain for advice on link building that you CAN do. One SEO expert I know even told me he thought it was dangerous to do ANY link building any more. Except for one thing. Currently a number of articles advise you to approach blog owners and ask to write a guest post on their blog, including a link back to your website.

So the message from Google and SEO consultants was essentially: “Stop, do not do any link building.” And yet, if you search for data on what actually does improve your search rankings, inbound links is always at the top of the list. So you need links, but you can’t do anything yourself to cause links to happen, except – you guessed it – just create quality content. And by the way, over the years, the mantra changed slightly from creating quality content to creating “great content,” to creating “remarkable content,” or “amazing content.”

Despite all this, I kept on doing link building for my clients. First of all, I don’t like having some big company dictating to me what I can and can’t do. I’m not like some SEO consultants who responded to Google’s command to jump by asking “How high?” I don’t like having to totally revamp my major service offering once or twice a year because some big company came out with a pronouncement. I don’t think any company should have that much power, and frankly I think they have been heavy handed about it.

And the program I was following was still working. Keyword rankings were still improving and web traffic was still increasing.

But I eventually I could see trouble on the horizon. There was blood in the water.

Eventually what I could see over the last year, from carefully tracking statistics of keyword rankings and web traffic, was that the improvement was slowing down. Keyword rankings were fairly static. The increase in web traffic from year to year slowed down to single digits.

I stubbornly hung on. But eventually it became obvious that I had to change my program. And I knew it was going to be a big job.

My R&D Project

And so in the fall of 2015 I began the most intensive research project that I have ever done, to find out the best avenues for conducting SEO into 2016 and beyond. The reason I did this was because my priority as an SEO consultant, and really with everything I do in Internet marketing, has always been to deliver the best possible results to clients.

(In Part 2 I will detail the results of my R&D project.)

What Are Bootstrap and Parallax?

By John Eberhard

There is a new trend in web design that is becoming really popular. It is using a relatively new technology called Bootstrap, which is a new web design platform developed by Twitter.

Bootstrap features have practically defined a whole new style for web design. While not native to WordPress, some developers have created customizable themes for WordPress using Bootstrap technology.

Bootstrap Features:

One of the most noticeable features coming from Bootstrap is the Parallax picture display. What this means is that you have a picture or graphic, and it is displayed in such a manner that the box displaying it is smaller, top to bottom, than the picture. Then as you scroll down, the box scrolls across the picture and displays more of the picture.

This is sort of hard to imagine unless you see it. I have put two parallax images on the home page of my web site:

This parallax feature is basically taking the Internet by storm. You see it a lot now.

Other Bootstrap style features include:

  • Another feature that is common in Bootstrap type web sites is that they go the full width of the browser window, and resize to full width no matter what screen resolution you have or what type of device you are on. This is an increasingly popular feature that is not restricted to Bootstrap style designs, but almost all Bootstrap style designs that I have seen are full width. This is different from what has been the norm for many years, where web sites have been a fixed pixel width, usually 1,000 or 1,100 pixels in recent years.
  • Sticky header: This means that as you scroll down the page, your header, with your logo and navigation bar, remains at the top of the page.
  • Items fade in from side, above or below. Another popular Bootstrap style feature is that as you scroll down the page, items fade in or move in from the side, top or bottom. You can see this in some of the items on my home page now.
  • Large type and margins. This is more a part of the style that is becoming popular with Bootstrap style websites, but most of them have large body text, often centered, and with really large margins on all sides.
  • Percentages bars: You can have bars showing percentages that fill in as you scroll. You can also have circle counters and number counters.
  • You can have slide shows, including slide shows with video in them.

That is just a sample of these types of features. One popular WordPress theme is Divi, which is basically a framework that allows you to put in any of these and other features. Here is a live theme demo of Divi:

Here are more samples of Bootstrap sites (not ones I designed though) that I thought were good.

We can now design and set up Bootstrap style websites using Divi, and in some cases we can incorporate Bootstrap features into existing WordPress themes.

Why Online Snark is Destroying Social Media and Online Reviews

By John Eberhard

I read an article the other day entitled “Why Twitter’s Dying (and What You Can Learn from it)” by blogger Omair Haque.

The article talks about the phenomenon of snarky, mean, rude communication that has become all too common online on social media sites.

“Twitter’s a cemetery. Populated by ghosts. I call them the “ists”. Journalists retweeting journalists…activists retweeting activists…economists retweeting economists…once in a while a great war breaks out between this group of “ists” and that…but the thing is: no one’s listening…because everyone else seems to have left in a hurry.

“What happened to Twitter? It’s a mystery, right?

“Here’s my tiny theory, in a word. Abuse. And further, I’m going to suggest in this short essay that abuse — not making money — is the great problem tech and media have. The problem of abuse is the greatest challenge the web faces today. It is greater than censorship, regulation, or (ugh) monetization.

“To explain, let me be clear what I mean by abuse. I don’t just mean the obvious: violent threats. I also mean the endless bickering, the predictable snark, the general atmosphere of little violences that permeate the social web…and the fact that the average person can’t do anything about it.

“We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop. What does that particular social phenomenon sound like to you? Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. And while there are people who love to dive into mosh pits, they’re probably not the audience you want to try to build a billion dollar publicly listed company that changes the world upon.

“The social web became a nasty, brutish place. And that’s because the companies that make it up simply do not not just take abuse seriously…they don’t really consider it at all.”

I agree that this is a phenomenon that is to some extent ruining social media. I think it is partly due to the fact that it is easy to be anonymous on the Internet, and for anyone who has some angst to let out, for the most part you can let it all hang out and there aren’t a whole lot of consequence. It’s easier to be nasty to someone over the Internet than in real life.

But this phenomenon is also ruining the whole online review space, which is severely broken. Why is it broken?

Let’s take a step back. The whole online review area was created to empower consumers. The idea was that any company would tell you only good things about themselves. But consumers? Actual customers? They would tell you the actual real deal, warts and all. Third party comments about a company who have no skin in the game, will just tell you the truth, right?

Well, it’s not as rosy as all that. As mentioned earlier, I think the problem is that the Internet has created an environment where someone can say certain negative, snarky, rude, cruel, or even slanderous things online, without any consequences.

In other words, let’s say someone went to a city council meeting, and got up and said a bunch of crazy, mean, cruel, nasty things about a city council member. It’s likely they would get shut down by the chairman, maybe even asked to leave. And police would be called if they didn’t chill out. And people at the meeting who saw them would now have a changed opinion of them. If word got around amongst that person’s peers, their reputation would be affected. And that is why most people, even wacko people, wouldn’t do something like that. Someone would stop them, and there would be consequences.

Or if someone did that in a meeting at their job, they’d be paying a visit to HR. There would be consequences, at least a negative report going into their employee file.

No such luck online. There’s no one monitoring the conversation. And for the most part there are no consequences.

One of the services I do for companies and individuals is online reputation management, dealing with negative reviews and negative search engine results. Every client for whom I have managed online reviews has at least one or more really negative reviews about them. And these are all good companies that do good work. These negative reviews never seem to go away. If you click on that person’s account (the one who wrote the review) and see their other reviews, often, every review they write chops the reviewee the pieces.

One of the biggest online review sites is Yelp. What does Yelp do to police abuse? Is there any way to ensure that reviews are actually from customers, not from a) a dishonest competitor, b) a disgruntled ex-employee, or c) someone who just gives terrible reviews to everyone?


In fact, here is how Yelp screens the reviews. They will automatically archive a review if the person writing it is not a regular Yelp user. So if that person hasn’t written other reviews, or hasn’t logged into their Yelp account much, or doesn’t have any friends on Yelp, their review will get pushed into a hard to find area (“reviews not recommended”). But if the person is a regular Yelp user, that review will go up and be visible.

If you contact them and can prove that a bad review is bogus, i.e. that it is from a competitor or an ex-employee, they will take it down. But how do you prove such a thing? And one of my clients had a Yelp review saying that their employee was driving their truck badly on the freeway. Yelp wouldn’t take that down.

Yelp has buttons underneath the reviews where you can click on the buttons to indicate that a particular review was useful, funny or cool. The negative reviews seem to get more “useful” clicks, guaranteeing that they will stay up there forever.

So rather than empowering consumers, the online review industry has actually empowered people who want to get snarky and complain. And these negative reviews can have a major impact on the amount of business someone gets from their online presence.

I even read an article recently which was describing how some people go to restaurants now and demand free food, otherwise they will write a bad review. That’s what I would call abuse. If the online reviews sites can’t start handling this abuse, they will quickly lose relevance.

One positive note is I saw a news item recently about a woman who was sued and had to pay several thousand dollars to some company whom she had actually slandered in an online review. She was shocked because she thought she could say anything she wanted in a review, so she had called the people “criminals.”

What Can You Do?

I have some advice on how we can fight these phenomenon and make things better.

  • Do not post reviews yourself for a business where you are a customer, that you wouldn’t mind all your friends seeing. And make sure you do not post anything inaccurate, libelous or slanderous.
  • Before you post a review, think about the fact that the company is probably trying to deliver good service and everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
  • Follow the rules of being civil and polite yourself online, whether on social media or review sites.
  • If you have a company, the only way to deal with negative reviews overall, is to overwhelm them with positive reviews. So start a program of asking your happy customers to write reviews of your company online.
  • If you have a company and you feel a review is inaccurate, or even worse, written by some who is not an actual customer, contact the owners of the review site and ask that it be taken down. If a negative review is accurate, contact the reviewer and see if you can make things right with them, then ask them to take down or amend the review. Even if they won’t, you can add your comment to the review saying what you did to try to handle it.

Backing Up Your Website

By John Eberhard

A couple things happened to me recently that highlighted the necessity for every website owner to make sure their sites are being backed up regularly.

First, a few weeks ago one of my clients’ web sites was hacked, with all kinds of nasty things done to it. It took some serious time to find all these files that they had added to the site that redirected traffic to some other site selling shoes.

Then, about a week ago, I went to my own web site and found that the home page gave an error message of “Page not found,” and there was nothing on the menu bar. It appeared that my entire site was down.

After an hour and a half on the phone with my hosting company, who was not able to tell me what had happened, I was able to restore my site from a weekly backup file. I had to go into the WordPress database and upload the database file. It was lucky that I had that backup file.

The vast majority of all the websites I design today are in the WordPress format, and WordPress is driven by a database. In other words, when you call up a given page of the website, it pulls all the information for that page from a database. That includes all the information on what the design is, and all the information on the page content, the text, the names and locations of all the picture files, videos, etc.

In the last year or so I have started setting up a backup plugin in all WordPress installs that I do, that does a weekly backup of the WordPress database, then emails that to a special email account I have set up for backups. In this way, if anything happens to one of those sites, I have the backups.

If you have a WordPress site, you should insist that the person who set up the site for you set up a backup plugin. I use one with the imaginative name of “Wordpress Database Backup,” and it works great.

If you have a site that uses some other content management system (CMS) such as Joomla or Drupal, you can set up a similar thing to do regular backups.

If you have an HTML site, you should make arrangements with your hosting company or with a web design company to do regular backups of the site.

We have to remember two things: a) Website files reside on a computer somewhere, and computer hard drives are not infallible and have been known to fail, and b) Hackers are out there with a high level of skill, too much time on their probably unemployed hands, and malicious intentions. And they can get into your web site and cause damage.

The solution to both these things is to do regular backups of your website so you are protected in case anything goes wrong.

The Latest on Yelp Marketing

By John Eberhard

Yelp is a powerful tool that a local business owner can use to market their business. But there are some important things to know about the way Yelp operates in order to get the best results.

First of all, if you have a local oriented business, one that caters to people in one geographical area, and you don’t have a Yelp listing, you need to put one up right away. It’s free and many businesses are getting great results from a free Yelp listing.

Yelp has a pay per click advertising program starting at $300 per month, which increases your visibility and the number of people that will see your listing. Many businesses are getting great results with this as well.


One aspect of the Yelp system which is a double edged sword, is their review system. I say double edged sword, because reviews can really help you and they can really hurt you. And Yelp’s system on reviews isn’t really what I would call completely fair.

Consumers can create an account on Yelp, and then they can write reviews on businesses that they have patronized. You can write whatever you want and give the business a rating of one to five stars. You can add “friends” on Yelp, though I am not sure exactly what the benefit is of having friends on Yelp.

So here’s where it gets tricky:

  • First of all Yelp does not allow you to offer anything of value to a customer in exchange for writing a review on Yelp. If they catch you doing this they will suspend your account.
  • If someone writes a review of your business on Yelp, but they are not a “regular Yelp user,” Yelp will automatically and immediately archive that review, not displaying it on your Yelp listing page. It will only be visible if you click on a link at the bottom of the page that says it links to reviews that are “not recommended.” So what does this mean exactly? Although it is not clear exactly what a “regular Yelp user” is, it is apparently related to a) the number of reviews that person has written on Yelp, and b) the number of friends they have on Yelp. So if your customer has only written one review on Yelp (for you) and has no Yelp friends, their review will definitely be archived. So this is tricky because you could go to all the trouble of encouraging someone to write a Yelp review for your business, and it could do you no good whatsoever. I’m not sure if an archived review will come out of the archives and then appear on your Yelp listing front page, if your customer later adds more reviews or adds more friends. But I suspect that is the case. I would recommend that you advise your customers to write multiple reviews (on yours and other businesses) and add some Yelp friends.
  • It is an unfortunate aspect of our society and the Internet that people can unload a bunch of vitriol on someone or a business, with an online review, without having to confront that person or that business. And they can remain largely anonymous. Recently someone wrote a one-star review on one of my clients on Yelp. I went to that person’s page (you can click on their name) and saw that that person had written a total of five reviews on Yelp, 4 of them one-star reviews, and one a four-star review. Some people are just going to complain and trash anyone they use for anything.
  • Underneath reviews that appear on your main page, there are buttons where a visitor to that page can rate the review as “useful,” “funny,” or “cool.” I used to think that whether or not a review had any votes here for “useful” etc., determined whether or not it was archived, where reviews with votes would not be archived. I now think that the archiving is more based on whether or not the reviewer has written other reviews on Yelp and has friends on Yelp.

My recommended strategy overall is to overcome negative reviews by volume of positive reviews. Just about everyone has at least one negative review, because you can’t please everyone and there are some people who just can’t be pleased.

My advice on how to get the best online review selection on Yelp is to individually ask your happy customers or clients (don’t ask people you think are unhappy) to write a review on Yelp. Also advise them to write several reviews on different businesses they have used, and to add a couple of friends while they are at it. And remember, you can’t offer them anything of value in exchange for writing a review, which you can do on other sites like Google My Business.

I have had some people tell me that Yelp will give special consideration to you if you are a paid advertiser. I have seen no indication that this is the case. I recently brought them several of my clients as paid advertisers, and they were not willing to change their review policy in any way. You can, however, contact Yelp if you feel that a review was false or misleading or written by a competitor (not one of your customers), and they will remove it if they agree with you.

Newer Web Site Elements to Consider

By John Eberhard

There are a number of newer elements in web design today, some functional and some stylistic, which you can consider if you are having a new web site built or a re-design being done of an existing site.

Mobile Friendly

The first thing to consider is making the site mobile friendly. This means that the site elements will respond to the size of the browser screen, and so can display well on a pad device or smart phone. Google is changing their algorithm on April 21, 2015 to penalize sites that are not mobile friendly, so if you are getting a new site done or a re-design done, you definitely want to have the site made mobile friendly. And if you are in the process of having a new site created, that is the perfect time to make that change.

There are two approaches to making a site mobile friendly, responsive web design and adaptive web design. See my earlier article for details on these two. Google has expressed a preference for responsive, but either type will do the job.

Full Screen

This is a new trend that is gaining a lot of traction in the last half year or so. It means that your site goes all the way to the edge of the browser window, regardless of the viewer’s monitor size or screen resolution. And all of these sites done this way are responsive, so they will resize for a pad or mobile. It’s a big change from the previous common method of web design where you had a fixed pixel width to the site content (usually 1,000 or 1,100 pixels wide), and usually had a colored or graphic background that showed on both sides of that content box.

There are a number of technical issues to solve to achieve this. I am in the process of building a few sites this way and have converted my own site to this format.

One big advantage is that you are giving yourself more real estate on your page to place your content and deliver your message. And full screen tends to have a higher impact.

It’s important when doing a full screen design to have any pictures that go all the way across be able to resize based on browser width. Also, any slide shows should usually be full screen width and should be responsive and resize based on screen width.

One aspect of this new style or trend is to make the headlines and body text much larger, often centered, and make the person do more scrolling down the page to see it all.

On part of this new trend that I do NOT agree with, is to make a home page with tons of items on it, where you have to scroll and scroll and scroll. You see this a lot today with some of the themes that you can purchase for WordPress sites.

While it is cute to be able to put a lot of different content on that page and display it in various ways, it violates the idea that each page is supposed have one basic idea or one basic purpose. Search engines expect that and build their whole systems around that. So having one home page that has a bunch of different items on it is not good for search engine ranking or for user experience.

Tile Patterns

One new element that I like a lot is where you can have tile patterns (basically patterns made up of squares) where each tile contains a picture, usually a headline and sometimes some text. I just put this at the top of my home page, and I am working on a site for another client where we have this on the home page.

Each tile links to another page, and there are options for dynamic stuff to happen when you mouse over the tile, such as the picture zooming in or out, change color, or for text to scroll up.

Recent Blog Posts Squares

Another cool thing is to have a display showing pictures and headlines from recent blog posts. I also put this at the bottom of my home page.

Those are a few of the newer elements that you can put on a web site.

Web Site Basics for 2015

By John Eberhard

I have been doing a lot of web design projects lately. Every couple years, the typical, expected and common things to do, in designing a website, changes dramatically. Here’s an update.

  1. Websites Over 3-4 Years Old: If your website is over 3-4 years old, it’s time to take a look at re-designing it. Styles and approaches have changed a lot in just the last year.
  2. Width: Ten years ago, most sites were 800 pixels wide or less, because that fit the screen resolution of the computers that most people owned back then. Today, that has changed to the point where most sites are 1,000 to 1,200 pixels wide. If you have a site that is 700 or 800 pixels, it will look tiny on the screen today. But in the last year, the newest trend is to make the site go the entire width of the browser, regardless of the screen resolution of the computer. This trend seems to be gaining a lot of traction.
  3. Mobile Friendly: It is a must today for most businesses, to have a web site that is mobile friendly. This can be accomplished in one of two ways. You can make the site responsive, which means that it will respond to the size of the screen of the device. And for tablets or mobile phones, it will move site elements around so you just have to scroll down the screen, not from side to side. The other way is to make a specific version of the site for a mobile device, and then put code on the site that recognizes the type of device used, and serves up the right version. Either method works.
  4. Slide Shows: It has become very common over the past few years to put a slide show on the home page of the site, with 4-8 slides. Usually these are big pictures that go across the same width as the site. The Revolution slide show will go all the way across the width of the screen, for sites that go 100% width of the screen. Each slide can link to a different page on your web site.
  5. Contact Info: You should put your contact info on the site in such a way that it displays prominently on every page, either in the header at the top or in the sidebar. Don’t make people have to hunt for your contact info when they are ready to contact you. I am usually in favor of putting some kind of response form right in the sidebar, so it appears on every single page. Remember, you are not just out to make your site look great. You want people to respond.
  6. Social Media Links: It is common today to put links to all the major social media sites on a web site. It is a good idea to also put buttons allowing the person to like your Facebook page. And there is software that allows you to display the most recent activity you have posted to your Facebook page or to Twitter.
  7. Personalization: One mistake I see a LOT with some small businesses is to have a site with lots of information but no pictures of the business or personnel. You see with a lot of dentist web sites for instance. This is a mistake, because one of the things you are trying to do with any promotion is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Otherwise, why should they select you?
  8. Video: Having a video or several videos on your site can make a big difference. Having people see you, your company, your staff, your products, your customers, helps to make you more real to and more trusted by the prospect.
  9. Quality Design: The quality of the design is important, because that is the thing that the visitor first sees, and it is the quality of the design that will invite him in and get him to see more and read your message. This involves things like the color scheme (using colors that go well together and fit your topic), graphics, the fonts and size of the type, large photos, the placement of the various elements, etc. The competition in most industries today is fierce. A high end design will get your site noticed more, help you differentiate your business, and help you deliver your message.

Google Will Soon Punish Your Site If It Is Not Mobile Friendly

By John Eberhard

Soon Google will implement changes in their algorithm that controls how well your site ranks for various keywords, to consider whether or not the site is mobile friendly. And in typical Google fashion, they will soon punish you if it is not.

So what does this term “mobile friendly” mean exactly? And how can I tell if my site is mobile friendly?

“Mobile friendly” means the site will display well on a smart phone. If you have not taken steps to ensure that your site will display well on a mobile, it is a safe bet that it is NOT mobile friendly. The easiest way to check is to take a smart phone and pull up the browser and enter your web address.

If your whole web site page appears on that tiny little screen, with tiny type that you can hardly read, that is NOT mobile friendly. A mobile friendly site will appear with type that is large enough to read on that smart phone screen, and usually will re-arrange the items so you don’t have the scroll from side to side to see everything.

Here is a Google page where it will analyze whether your site is mobile friendly:

There are two different ways you can make a site mobile-friendly:


A responsive web design is where the site is arranged in such a way that the contents rearrange themselves on a smaller screen, they are large enough to read, and you only have to scroll down, not side to side.

There are some design considerations with responsive, such as you have to design your large photos and things like that so that they will resize on a smaller screen. Also, slide shows on the home page are a common design element today. Some slide show programs are hip to this responsive design and some are not. The Revolution slide show is fully responsive, meaning it will resize the slide show on a smaller screen. The Nivo Slider is not.

Also if your pages have things like columns on them, which is a common thing today, you have to make these in such a way that the columns will move down the screen rather than being cut off to the right.

A responsive design will take your sidebar, if your site has one, and move it down the screen so it is seen lower down.

So how do you get a responsive web design if you don’t have one now? There are now many WordPress themes that are responsive. Or you can hire a designer to put your site, the way it looks now, into a responsive WordPress format. If you have a site that was built in HTML using a program like Dreamweaver, it can be rebuilt in Dreamweaver making it responsive.


The second way to make a site mobile friendly is using what is called “adaptive web design.” This is where you build a separate version of the site specifically for mobile phones. Then you put code onto the site that recognizes the type of device the person is using, whether it be a desktop or laptop, or a pad, or a smart phone. If the person is on a smart phone, the smart phone version of the site will be served up.

Often on an adaptive site design, it will have fewer pages than the desktop version.

Which Do You Choose?

I have done both responsive and adaptive web designs, and there are pluses and minuses of each. A responsive design is more complicated and will probably cost you more. An adaptive design is easier and less expensive, but you will usually not have your total web site content in mobile form. Each will “pass” the test at that Google address I gave above.

Google has stated their preference for responsive web designs.