The COVID-19 pandemic means that almost all businesses have had to change how they operate to cope with the new social distancing measures in place.
Consumers are currently seeking out as much information as possible regarding services and products that have been affected by the lockdown. For all businesses, getting this information online is vital in ensuring your business can continue to operate as smoothly as possible whilst everything remains in flux.
Although your website might be the primary point of contact for all of your customers, there are other channels that are key to ensuring all updates are as visible as possible.
Here’s some tips on how you can communicate effectively with your online customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Your website can often serve as the main point of contact for customers or clients looking for more information. If your business operation has changed significantly due to COVID-19, it’s definitely worth getting this on your website as soon as possible. It is also worth updating your site to reassure any users if your business activity is unchanged to let them know that any services or deliveries will be uninterrupted during the period of lockdown.
Notices should also cover any impact to customers, how employees are being protected with social distancing, any services or timescales that will be affected, changes to opening hours, any alterations to how customers can contact your business and anything else may be changed due to the restrictions.
Depending on the amount of information you need to communicate, this could take the form of a short message in the header, a paragraph on the homepage and FAQ section or dedicated landing page for all COVID-19 updates.
If you need to put notifications on your website, but aren’t sure how to action this, the eSterling design team can help provide a solution that will best integrate with your existing website design and ensure anyone who lands on your site is up-to-date with any changes to your business. We also offer copy writing services that can help effectively communicate your message to customers.
Mailers to current clients and customers is the ideal way to directly communicate with the individuals who will be most affected by any changes to service. A mailing list therefore can be a powerful tool for getting a message out during quarantine.
Recipients are most likely going to be most interested in what measures you are taking to reduce risk and how this will impact any services they have with yourselves.
Producing a short, punchy email with a clear subject line can easily distribute this information to everyone who needs it most. By keeping the copy simple and details down to the essentials, emails can be one of the most effective forms of communication over this uncertain period.
If you don’t currently have any mail campaigns set up or need some assistance with your current campaigns, eSterling can help. Our marketing and design teams are able to put together high quality mail campaigns for you, making the process quick and stress free.
Google My Business/Local Listings
For local businesses, Google My Business can often be the first thing users will see in search when looking for your company. Updating this listing is vital in making sure any changes in local business operations are highlighted to customers.
Google themselves have advised on updating store hours and putting as much information about COVID-19 measures via posts and descriptions in their GMB profiles.
Before making any changes, be aware that Google have changed some features and functionality of GMB listings.
It’s also worth updating any key profiles you have such as Bing Places, Yelp, TripAdvisor and any other directories or platforms that offer local business information to users.
If you need assistance updating your Google My Business listing or any other local directory listings, then eSterling will be happy to help.
Social media is one of the quickest ways to get information out to the world, as it’s the easiest way to provide updates to a wide user base in real time. Facebook and LinkedIn have all put out guides on how to keep customers updated on their platforms. This mainly involves making as many posts as possible, ensuring the most important updates are clearly visible and you are promptly responding to any messages you get during this period.
If you need some assistance with your social media strategy during quarantine, eSterling has a dedicated marketing team who can help find the best solution for you businesses as things continue to change.
Structured Data is a useful way to keep customers updated that may be overlooked by a lot of websites.
Structured data is code in a specific format that can be read by search engines to present the information within search results.
For instance, sites can use the itemAvailability structured data to display stock availability directly within search results. Options for this include InStock, OutofStock, Discontinued, has LimitedAvailability, is available InStoreOnly, OnlineOnly and more. This can be extremely useful if your store has moved all of its products to online only availability to reduce contact between employees and the public.
There’s a variety of quarantine related info that can be presented in search results through structured data, including event cancellations and creation of now-virtual events. Google have also added a SpecialAnnouncement data option for any COVID-19 related announcements to be displayed next to your website in search results.
For more advice on how you can implement structured data or amend existing data, please get in touch with our team now.
Page speed, in its simplest terms, can be defined as the time it takes for a website page to load.
Page speed has been a ranking factor for Google since 2010, and increased its importance in how Google ranks sites in 2018. Simply put, a slow website can hurt your search engine rankings and traffic.
What is page speed?
To fully understand why page speed is an important factor in the overall performance of your website, it is best to first understand what page speed is.
Page speed can have a few definitions, but the definition Google uses is made up of two metrics: first contentful paint and DOMcontentLoaded.
First contentful paint is the time it takes for the first bit of any content on a page to be rendered and the DOMcontentloaded is the time it takes for the entirety of the HTML content on the page to be loaded.
Google uses these to generate their page speed score – which can be tested with Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
What impact does page speed have?
From an SEO perspective, the first reason you should pay attention to page speed is that it is a direct ranking for Google.
While a faster site won’t always mean you will automatically outrank a slower site or vice versa, it does definitely improve your chances of ranking higher in search engines.
Speed also has an impact on PPC performance, as a slower site can also decrease your Google AdWords Quality Score. A lower quality score makes it more difficult and expensive to bid for the top positions in Google’s paid results.
Page speed is not just important for how Google views your site, but how users interact with it as well.
A slow site is less efficient and more difficult to use, which may actually turn users away that have already landed on your site. A study by Kissmetric suggests that if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to fully load over a quarter of users will click away.
This will increase bounce rate and lower conversion rate considerably, particularly if you are an eCommerce site. If it takes a long time for a user to navigate a site to reach their goal, whether it’s buying a product or finding information, the more likely they are to abandon their journey. For instance, Walmart.com saw that with every second of increased page speed, their conversions increased by two percent.
How to improve page speed
Improving page speed comes down to removing unnecessary elements that may be bogging down your page load time – however, it can often be more complicated than this sounds depending on how your site has been built.
Here’s a few examples of how you can improve page speed:
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Minify and combine files
- Enable compression
- Enable browser caching
This is by no means an exhaustive list and it won’t always just be a simple case of following these steps and seeing your page speed rocket upwards. No two websites are the same, so diagnosing speed issues requires the knowledge of a skilled web designer or developer.
The team at eSterling can help you improve your page speed, with our expert designers and developers equipped with the knowledge and skills to quickly identify any issues that are preventing your site
If your site is scoring low on Google Page Speed Insights, give eSterling a call now on 0121 766 8087 and we can offer expert advice on how to improve your site’s performance.
As search engine results have evolved over the years, helping Google understand your website has become more important than ever.
One method of providing explicit clues about a page is by including structured data. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying content. This is typically written using Scheme.org vocabulary and can provide information on everything from product prices, stock availability, company contact details, customer reviews, delivery information and more.
Structured data, however, isn’t a direct ranking signal for search engines – so why is it so important to have, especially for eCommerce sites?
One way Google ranks sites is relevancy. For instance, if a user searches “cheap floor tiles”, Google return sites most relevant to that query and the user intent – so in this case it will most likely be eCommerce sites selling floor tiles. So if Google understands your site is an eCommerce store selling floor tiles, it will have more chance of ranking for this keyword.
Structured data make it explicitly clear what your page is about to Google, and while this isn’t a direct ranking signal, it may contribute to a stronger relevancy signal for the keywords you are trying to rank for. Allowing Google to easily see the exact information on products you want to sell is always going to be beneficial.
Another reason for structured data is Google’s ever-growing use of rich snippets. Rich snippets are Google displaying additional data aside from the usual organic listings and Google Ads – for instance, this may be a knowledge graph, showing the direct answer to a question.
Rich snippets extend to much more than just providing answers – here are some of the ways this can be utilised for eCommerce sites:
Displaying as much information as possible next to search listings is a proven way of improving click through ratio (CTR). The more information you provide, the more likely it users will click.
Some sites have seen as much as 30% increase in CTR after implementing structured data – this could be a major boost to both traffic and conversions.
Additionally, users will be entering your site with more information on the product they want to purchase. This can help decrease bounce rate and improve conversions as customers may have already made their purchasing decisions before clicking on the site.
If you are interested in improving your site with structured data markup, please get in touch with eSterling now. Our expert web design and SEO teams can implement structured data on your site, boosting your rankings, traffic and sales.
It seems like a good thing to have, and there’s plenty of companies out there who harp on about its effectiveness and how it improves the search rankings. So here is some information we thought would be useful
What is Google Business View?
Based on Google Street View, Google’s Business View gives users an inside view of your business. The idea is that, instead of just seeing a shop front, warehouse or generic office facade, you can now do a virtual walk in and see what the business looks like on the inside.
The difference from Google Street View is that there is no special Google vehicle doing the photographs. Instead, to get all those 360° images, you must hire a trusted agency (which we are) – it’s not something you can just do yourself.
The web seems to be unanimous in saying that there are benefits to having your business included in Google Business View. Having images of your business displayed right next to search page results should give customers a better sense who you are, and whether you are a real and trusted company.
So, it would be fair to say it will help your click through rate. But will it help your search ranking?
To date, it there doesn’t seem to be much research on this, and Google are pretty “hush hush” about it.
“An article that appeared in Moz.com in 2013 did show that sites that ranked high in local searches and have also adopted Google Business View managed to retain their dominance.”
Which suggests a correlation between having Google Business View and maintaining a Google ranking.
One thing we are fairly sure about, is that Google usually looks after those who use a Google feature. Having a virtual tour may not directly boost rankings, but is will increase trust, which does play a part in the local algorithm.
What can we offer with this Google 360 service?
- High quality 360 degrees walkthrough of your business from a Google Trusted & Verified agent
- Images linked to allow a virtual walk around offering a Virtual reality experience
- Interior & Exterior images
- Improve your Google presence
- Improve traffic to your website
- We will add the feature on your Google Business page, maps and street view
- Can be viewed across all mobile devices
- The codes/306 will be embedded onto your website
- The codes/306 can be embedded onto your social media accounts
- Ideal to show your showrooms/offices/factory/industrial/Warehouses
To discuss this package please contact Wave White on 0121 766 8087
Letting a website linger way past it’s sell by date will have a lasting, negative impact on your business but knowing when to start again can be tricky, so here’s some tips and signs that will help you to know when to invest in a brand new website.
Here are some of the most obvious signs that your website needs a redesign:
The web has moved on.
The online industry moves at an incredible pace and new trends, techniques and layout options appear almost on a daily basis therefor it is inevitable that your website will be out of date at some point in the future. There is no getting away from this. Sure, you can re-skin a site (this can often be more expensive in the long run – Ed) and patch it up but your essentially putting a plaster on it until the next time.
Web Design trends are a funny business. They can have the ‘wow’ factor but they can also date a website badly. I have a checklist which let’s me know if a trend is here to stay:
- Does it improve the User Experience?
- Does it improve website performance?
- Would the website be a success without it?
- Does it help the site achieve it’s goals?
Using this checklist I have been able to utilise existing a new trends which are of benefit to the site as a whole.
The site is no longer fit for purpose.
If your website is effecting your day to day running or you can identify holes in the online ordering process the site is already not fit for purpose. Your website should work with your business and not produce problems or extra work for employees. it can often be frustrating if you are constantly working around your site or having to change your workflow because of it.
Using a Content Management System (CMS) that is not intuitive can also lead to frustration. It is important that you are fully trained to use your particular CMS once the site is built and neglecting this can lead to struggles further down the line.
If your website no longer works for you but against you, it’s time for a redesign.
Your competitors are way ahead
This is a particularly tricky arena because sometimes following the trends of the market leaders can reap excellent rewards because your new and existing client base will already be familiar with the look and feel of your website and will reflect a professional approach to your business.
On the other hand, sometimes it is better to stand out from the crowd and put design first to help you achieve this. An example of this can seen with Apple in 90’s when they decided to produce desktop machines that looked totally different to the beige boxes that were on the market at the time. Apple pivoted to put the emphasis on design led products which reaped dividends.
This choice is normally dictated by what market sector your business is in so consult an expert on the subject to find the best approach for your business.
You’ve not updated in ages
The average lifespan for a well designed website is normally 3-4 years but in all honestly, if you had a website built yesterday and it was built poorly, it’s already time for a redesign! We get that your busy with the day to day operations of your business but your prospective customers want signs that you’re professional about all aspects of your business and a dated looking website is a surefire way of losing potential business.
Your website should be your statement, your first impression and if it’s dated or worse still, broken or not rendering correctly in modern browsers it will be harming your image and your reputation as a business.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “It’s only a website”. In most cases it’s the first place people go when speculating your services.
If you could attribute at least one of the following words or phrases to your existing website it’s time for a redesign:
- confusing to use
- not rendering correctly
- not mobile friendly
- hard to update
- Content Management System is confusing.
If you’re wondering whether having a new website will help you gain business via enquiries or you want more traffic to your website, the simple answer is no. In this instance I would advise you to read about Search Engine Optimisation before completely rebuilding a possibly perfectly good website.
If you can relate to any parts of this post then you already know whether or not to redesign.
Having a new website built begins with an aim, a purpose. “What do you want your website to do for your business?” is one of our first questions we ask and we go from there. Make lists of requirements, functionality, sitemaps and anything else you can think of! Be open and honest and set goals. Take advice and if it is inline with your website’s goals then go for it! Employ designers and developers that have a track record of delivering and for that reason alone, eSterling is a great place to start.
The new eSterling website has been a labour of love for myself for just over 18 months now and the result is so far removed from the original ideas and sketches I created back in the winter of 2015.
As we know everyone’s a critic so I knew my ideas had to be solid and without doubt, the right way to go. So with that in mind I set about tearing through the old eSterling website to find a more streamlined sitemap which focussed on three main elements:
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- Evidence of our success
Once I got a defined page list I was able to begin sketching out the main pages which were to make up the bulk of the new website.
It quickly became evident that the copy from the old website did not have the tone I wanted for the new website – it was stuffy and very formal. So with the help of the beautiful people from our SEO department we were able to come up with more relaxed, engaging copy which reflected a more friendly approach.
After sketching out the layouts of all the main sections of the website and confirming the UI elements, I finally opened Photoshop to address the design’s look and feel. Once I’d selected the right design elements according to our branding guidelines and created some concepts from within Photoshop the home page began to take shape.
The home page dictates the style of the whole website and therefore, at that stage every design decision was pivotal in the make-up of the new site. Now, I would be lying if I said that this stage took a couple of days, it in fact took 3 months! The structure, layout, typography, imagery and individual elements had to flow and with this in mind I began to obsess over every little detail.
I had to draw a line in the sand and when I saw that my revisions were not as good as what I had originally designed I realised I had to move forward or risk the whole project going stale.
I then had a home page which I was (generally) happy with, the mobile and tablet versions were created alongside the desktop version using Photoshop’s lovely Art board feature.
So, do we need a CMS? If so, WordPress? What responsive framework do we use? Maximum grid width? Which font repository do we use?
In short I went with the following:
- No CMS – More light weight and we’re web professionals – we shouldn’t need a CMS to update our own website!
- A much scaled down version of Foundation – Light weight and simple to use
- Fluid grid system of 100% & 1200px – Why tie yourself down to just 1?
- Google Fonts – They have the right fonts and in the right weight
It’s these decisions that we make daily that are vital for any website we build, not just our own.
…It’s off to work we go
At this stage I was fully entrenched in Sublime Text trying to create the best website I’ve ever made. Beautiful, fast, informative, responsive, easy to follow, the list goes on! It was very challenging and a lot of fun!
I would often ask my fellow designers for their input and something which kept coming up was imagery. We lacked high quality images of the staff and premises so I scoured the web for Birmingham based photographers who could come in to eSterling Towers and take some beautiful pictures of the staff at work.
The name that jumped out was Ross Jukes. He was only in the office for what felt like 10 minutes but he produced some really amazing pictures for the new website. We hope you like them because we certainly do! Ross is available for commercial work so visit his website here.
When taking on positive/negative criticism it is important for any designer to keep the initial vision and aim of the site firmly in mind. If any advice or criticism deviates from the original plan, discard it with a polite ‘Yea, I’ll look into it’, but it is just as important to accept criticism when it works towards your original goals. Don’t be too stubborn to accept it with a ‘Yea, that’s a good shout’.
Once the team had taken a good look at the website and decided it was ready, we then set about launching eSterling.co.uk v3.0.
The website launched on Thursday 4th August 2016 and I really hope you like it.
Special mentions: Richard Locke, Wave White & Antoniya Darova for glorious PHP and copy that makes sense!
As ludicrous as it sounds, there are only 106 days left until Christmas and whilst the sane amongst us are still hanging desperately onto barbeque season and flip flops, the retailers amongst us know that now is the time to get ready for the festive season. The mince pies are in the supermarkets, the incidence of toy adverts on the television is steadily increasing and consumers, whether they know it or not, are being subtly herded towards the bright lights and ringing tills of Christmas shopping.
Now is the time to make sure your website is ready for the approaching season of madness, take stock, decide on any strategies or special offers and make sure your web development company has details of any changes you want to make sooner rather than later. Christmas 2013 is going to be tough for retailers but with a slight upward trend in the amount of consumer spending, for the well-prepared things are looking up. So, what to do to get your website ready?
1. Freshen up.
Have a good check through your content. It is always a good idea to change or add to your website, keeping your content fresh not only gives you Google points, but it keeps your customers interested too. If your site has a featured products section, start adding in your best-sellers or any new ranges. Make sure any photography is professional and shows off your products to their best advantage.
2. Special Offers.
Consider running some seasonal offers. Online purchasers love little extras like free delivery and that can make the difference between them choosing your site and someone else’s for their gifts. Most modern ecommerce systems will allow you to display linked products (customers who bought this also bought that). Alternatively a good old-fashioned BOGOF always goes down a treat.
3. Keep things simple.
Making your website hassle-free is one major way of improving your customer commitment. Look at how smoothly your search function works, and how easy it is for customers to checkout. Keep things simple and give good customer service and people will come back.
4. Don’t go mad on the tinsel.
Although you want to get ready for the festive market, don’t over-do the Christmas vibe. Gradually introduce changes to the site to get ready for the bells and whistles of December, but don’t go for it too early.
If you need to discuss any promotional changes to your website, or would like further information on website design, get in touch with eSterling today. We offer full design and development services to ensure your website is at the heart of your business.
Anyone who pays any attention whatsoever to the world of web design will by now be very familiar with mobile sites and the concept of responsive design (and if you aren’t, you can read more here).
Well, now there’s another reason to perfect your mobile presence – Google have now decided to take the smartphone-friendliness of a website into consideration when determining where a site ranks in its SERPS – meaning if your site can’t strut it’s stuff on the small screen, you could be losing even more traffic than before.
Google have announced in a recent blog post that they are planning to roll out algorithm updates that will penalise websites that are incorrectly configured for mobile browsing.
Here are a few of the most common errors made in mobile sites, and our advice for avoiding them:
Correct Your Redirect
A common strategy for providing a mobile site alongside your desktop website is to use different URLs to serve different pages. This tactic can work very well, as it allows you to lay out the content on your pages in a different format that is better suited for smaller screens and touch-based interaction. However, these redirects must be handled correctly in order to provide a consistent experience for the user with minimal frustration.
A mistake that often crops up with this sort of configuration is directing smartphone users to a set page (most often the home page), no matter which desktop page they are trying to access – requiring extra work from the user in order to navigate back to the page they originally attempted to visit in the first place! Naturally, this can be a source of annoyance for the user, and can result in them leaving your site in search of something less tedious to find their way around.
The solution for this issue is simple – make sure each page redirects to its own respective mobile-friendly page. If the content is not available in mobile form, then directing the user to the home page or other related page is preferable to serving a 404 page – but still not really ideal.
The difficulty that mobile platforms have with video content is well documented, and a topic for lengthy discussion in its own right. However, if you’re serving unplayable video content to your mobile users, pretty soon you can expect to see a drop in your search rankings.
The solution for this problem is (perhaps unsurprisingly) to avoid Flash content on mobile sites in general, as it is unsupported in iOS and Android version 4.1 and higher. To include video content, it is possible to use the new HTML5 markup
<video> tag, which should work without a hitch on all mobile platforms.
If you also provide a mobile app, it would seem only logical to promote this app to users browsing on a mobile device – and this can seem like a perfectly user-friendly move too, as your app may provide a better interface for your users to interact with similar content. However, advertising your app through interstitials or other methods which disrupt the conventional user experience of your site will soon start to have a negative impact on your site’s rankings, as well as annoying your users.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to entice mobile users with your shiny new app – as long as it is done tastefully. Google recommends using a “simple banner” displayed inline, alongside the rest of your website’s content. This can mean either a standard HTML image banner or utilising the support offered by the device’s native browser and operating system – for example Smart App Banners for Safari on iOS6.
More Speed, Less Haste
On top of these new rules concerning content, Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts has alluded to a site speed penalty for mobile sites, similar to the penalty imposed on slow loading desktop sites. Whilst not much information has been disclosed at the minute, it’s fairly safe to assume that as mobile users are often connected to the internet via low-speed cellular connections, the load time that must be achieved will probably be significantly faster than in the desktop speed test.
As is usually the case with Google’s algorithm updates, these new guidelines will help to make the web a better place – both for webmasters and users themselves. Here at eSterling, we welcome them with open arms, and look forward to the mobile web becoming more user-centric and streamlined.
If you’d like to read more on the issues which may cause your mobile site to lose rankings, Google has helpfully compiled a list of common mistakes in smartphone sites to help you out.
As always, if there’s anything in this post which you wish to discuss or would like some more information on, please leave us a message in the comments or email us here.
While Search engine optimisation and Conversion rate optimisation are certainly the two best, and well known techniques for increasing return on investment from your ecommerce site one often overlooked method of maximising revenue is increasing the average value of the orders customers place through your website. By increasing your average order value you can quickly increase your revenue streams without a reliance on the time investments required by traffic generation and improved conversions.
Here are a few ideas you can use on your website.
Conversion rate experts agree that free delivery is a great method of turning browsers of your ecommerce store into buyers but you don’t have to offer that as an option from the get go. One technique you can employ is to add a free delivery threshold and advertise that fact on your basket and checkout. By using this method you can encourage customers to add more items to their basket in order to “save” money on the delivery. Please don’t see this and other techniques as underhanded or tricking customers. This is simply a way of giving them extra value while encouraging additional purchases.
You might also think about offering free delivery on certain products. This is an especially good idea for seasonal or time limited products.
If you have the ability to cross sell items on your website you should use this opportunity to target higher-end products. Related items are often selected when you add your products for the first time and are rarely updated. While you should review and refresh these cross selling items as often as possible there is an opportunity here to use Google Analytics to your advantage. By looking at the various paths take through the website and which categories and products they view most often you can tie products which customers do look at in concert together. Say for example you sell clothing and accessories, through Google Analytics you notice that customers who purchase a certain dress then quite frequently look at shoes. Here is an opportunity to tie those items together as you know they are actually related. This helps customers by giving them genuine items they might want to purchase together without requiring them to browse about the site and not getting the sale.
Instead of selling single items you might try to offer product bundles instead. By creating a product that is actually a set of complimentary items you can offer your customers a bargain when they purchase these multiple items together. By bundling items that total £100 for £90 you can increase your average order value where a customer might previously have bought one of the items in the pack for say £30. You might want to label these items “Gift Packs” especially during a seasonal period.
The same idea can be used for multi-packs whereby you offer several of the same product for a reduced price. This might be an easier method to call upon when your ecommerce software does not actively support volume discounts.
Clearly some of these techniques are dependent upon what your ecommerce software can provide but if you need help with expanding upon those facilities or if you are even thinking of updating to a new package eSterling is here to help.
While we have been running the eSterling website and blog for some time we thought it would be handy for new readers and anyone looking at the services we offer to have a short overview of the company.
eSterling is a Birmingham web design agency made up of a team of 20 people covering all aspects of development, support and SEO. We operate as a full service web agency offering web design, web development and search engine optimisation.
We mainly build websites for companies based in the West Midlands. We pride ourselves on producing a bespoke solution that meets the needs of businesses rather than foist a website template solution on them. We won’t hand you a basic template website or an older design with a new logo placed on top. Our team carefully researches your brief, requirements and market you are in and from that creates a tailored web solution just for you. We have over 14 years of experience in the web development industry and guarantee a fresh, jargon free and professional approach to developing your website.
We have provided many hundreds of companies in the Midlands with various categories of web solutions from brochure websites to ecommerce websites. If you are looking to sell products online eSterling have many years of experiencing producing bespoke ecommerce sites. We can provide you with a secure platform with easy to use CMS software that puts you in control of selling goods through your website. Integration with payment services such as SagePay, Worldpay, PayPoint and Worldpay is no issue and we’ll even advise on ways we can help with building support for CRM or Sage accounts into your website.
For a free, no obligation meeting and quote contact eSterling on 0121 766 8087 today.