Website Design Madison WI, Milwaukee, Web Maintenance and SEO Services in Wisconsin

LennartLennart Johansson
Sales Manager – Webstix, Inc.
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TonyTony Herman
VP of Operations – Webstix, Inc.
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Friday, 27 September 2013 13:45 Written by Tony Herman

We've Made Our Mark on Web Maintenance

Today, September 27, 2013, marks the day we take website maintenance prime time!

Our new website maintenance website has launched:

websitemaintenance.webstix.com

We've been doing website maintenance for years and years now (as a company, we're in our 13th year) but today we launch our separate website made just for website maintenance clients.

This part of our business has been very successful. Every day we hear comments like:

  • "Thanks! That was quick"
  • "Thank you for the quick response!"
  • "That was easy. Thank you!"

We get clients not only from the Madison, WI area but from all over the United States and even around the world. We have clients in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Our system works so well that we do not need to meet with our maintenance clients face to face. Our team gets it, they ask questions, they make things clear and they get the work done... period! (ok, exclamation point)

Many of our website maintenance clients become website project clients. They love how we do the little things for them and they then turn to us for new website projects because of how comfortable they are working with us. Some don't even put out bids anywhere else - it's a no brainer!

If you have been looking for help doing website updates, maintenance and website software upgrades, look no further - you're found the right place to come to. We've been doing this for years and we have it down!

Try Us!

Hey, we even have an offer for first time customers where you can try our services. You can get 1 hour of work (2 Maintenance Blocks) for just $47 or 2 hours of work (4 Maintenance Blocks) for only $87. If the work isn't done right, we'll fix it... guaranteed!

Check Out Our New Website!

We just launched a new website maintenance website that is using responsive website design and is slicker than a... than a... well, it's slick!

webstix-website-maintenance

Bottom line... give us a chance. We have many happy clients and we'd like to count you as one of them, too!

-Tony

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 15:54 Written by Tony Herman

Why are There 404 Page Errors Showing Up on My Website?

When looking through website statistics, one question we invariably get from clients is them asking why there are 404 errors showing up. A 404 page is a server error when something's missing. Here's how Wikipedia defines it:

The 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with the server, but the server could not find what was requested.

The web site hosting server will typically generate a "404 Not Found" web page when a user attempts to follow a broken or dead link; hence the 404 error is one of the most recognizable errors users can find on the web.

There's a variety of reasons why this page might show up:

  • A link to a page isn't coded correctly or it was changed and not updated.
  • Someone typed in a URL (web page address) wrong - not the domain but the page name after the domain.
  • Content was moved or deleted.

Whatever the reason, it's important to make sure your website visitors aren't see this page very often. There are some things you can do to make sure that this page doesn't show up. Also, when it does, you want to make sure the page is helpful and looks like your website.

I was inspired to write this article because of this article that I found, which you should check out, too:

404 Page Best Practices (searchenginewatch.com)

Check Your Website for 404 Errors

There are a number of tools you can use to check for 404 errors. Once you know how they're being created, there's a good chance you can clean most of them up - at least the ones on your website.

First, you'll want to make sure that you are signed up for Google Webmaster Tools. Doing this can help you a lot and I really think this is about the best SEO tool you can use for your website if you're just getting started with SEO.

Second, here are the additional tools that are available:

Your server stats program (like AW Stats or others) or server log files are also good places to check for 404 errors.

Fix Your 404 Errors

Now that you know the errors, fix them! Is it as easy as it sounds? Yes, pretty much. You can use site search tools to find the bad links. Heck, even Google can help. Again, the best tool, I think, is Google Webmaster Tools since they even tell you which pages have the bad links on them. That's some valuable info there, buddy!

Beautify Your 404 Page

trufcreative404My favorite thing is the funny 404 pages that are out there (see fab404.com). Seeing one can help take the edge off. You don't have to go that far but your 404 page should at least be using your website's theme or template so that things like your website's navigation and search form (box) are visible. They'll help your website visitors find what they're looking for.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can have a 404 error generate an email that goes to you, notifying you that someone got to a 404 page. You could look at this as either being annoying or helpful (depending on how many emails you get - and remember, some of this is people just typing things in wrong).

If you are interested in getting a funny 404 page developed, just let us know... sounds like fun!

Conclusion

Having a website that's technically set up is important. The great thing is that once you fix it, you'll take advantage of the benefits going forward. You really just do it once and you're set.

-Tony

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 16:23 Written by Tony Herman

What is Web Development?

capitol-dome-madison-wiIn short, the definition of web development is that it's the general term for all things having to do with creating a website. Here's how Wikipedia defines it:

Web development is a broad term for the work involved in developing a web site for the Internet (World Wide Web) or an intranet (a private network). Web development can range from developing the simplest static single page of plain text to the most complex web-based internet applications, electronic businesses, and social network services.

A more comprehensive list of tasks to which web development commonly refers, may include web design, web content development, client liaison, client-side/server-side scripting, web server and network security configuration, and e-commerce development. Among web professionals, "web development" usually refers to the main non-design aspects of building web sites: writing markup and coding.

So they're saying that website development is more the technical, non-design aspects of building a website which include programming, writing HTML and doing coding (JavaScript, CSS, etc.)

Webstix does both web development and website design. This means we can handle everything from the initial brainstorming meeting to wire frame designs to design mockups to coding and programming, too. We're more full service than just doing web development but if that's what you need, we can certainly do that.

Website Developers in Madison, WI

Webstix covers the Madison, WI area along with Wisconsin and Northern Illinois and beyond. We have clients in all parts of the United States as well as around the world. We have some clients we've never met face to face and we've done several website design projects for them.

If you live in or around Madison, you know about all the great things of this community.

uw-wi-madison-band

In the Madison area, we know that clients want full service. They want us to bring our consulting to the table, too. We provide new ideas and a new perspective to their company, which they are looking for. Getting those ideas going helps make website design projects go smoothly and be successful. We have knowledge and expertise from many different industries which is a strength because we see things that work well in one industry and we translate them to work in another industry.

If you need something as simple as a brochure type website, we can help. If you need something that has a lot of custom programming, we'd be glad to talk with you and help you with that project as well. If it's not a good fit for us, we'll tell you because we want any project we do to be a win-win situation for both our clients and us.

Help

Here is more information that will help you with some questions you may have about doing a web development project:

Contact Us

Any good blog post on the web should have resources and then a call to action, so here's us asking you to contact us for more information. Use our online form or else give us a call and let's see how we can work together on a website development project either here in Madison, WI or from wherever your area.

-Tony

Tuesday, 03 September 2013 13:09 Written by Tony Herman

What is Google's Next Big Move?

On our page explaining what "Responsive Website Design" is, we mention:

From what we've seen, Google is a few steps ahead (of course). They're starting to serve up different results on searches originating from mobile devices. They're favoring websites optimized for mobile use when the search is done on a mobile device.

responsive-design2That has to do with mobile devices, so what about desktops? I mean, people can have their browser windows resized at different sizes, right? It seems a lot of people have their web browsers maximized but I'm not one of those people. I have a clean desktop on my computer and like to have some desktop icons I use a lot visible to me at all times (yes, I'm a power user) so my application windows - including my browser windows - are not full screen.

Isn't it better, then, to have a website that adapts to whatever size the browser window is set to? Wouldn't that make the user experience the best that it can be? Wouldn't Google want to rank websites with that kind of design higher than other websites?

It's our opinion that websites that have responsive design will (or are going to) rank higher.

What's Google's next move? They already made their move!

It's Not Just Our Opinion

Here are some more articles related to responsive design:

Google Officially Endorses Responsive Design (wsiwebspecialist.com)

Did you know that your website has to be programmed to appear properly on a mobile application? Users shouldn’t go to your site on their smart phones or tablets and simply see a miniature version of what they would get on their laptop or desktop computer. Miniature websites are too hard to read and navigate without zooming in or "pinching" the screen. Additionally, your website may not appear in mobile search engines if it is not programmed to be mobile-ready. (Yes, Google and other search engines can tell!)

Mobile SEO: Google Raises the Bar (webvanta.com)

Many businesses that weren't ready to invest in a fully mobile-optimized site have created simple mobile sites, sometimes only a single landing page. While this approach may have been acceptable in the early days of the mobile web, it has serious drawbacks and is hard to recommend today.

With simple mobile sites, people searching the web on their phones will find links are redirected to a mobile landing page (bad behavior), or that deliver a non-mobile-friendly page (not-quite-as-bad behavior).

From Google's perspective, redirects to limited mobile sites reduce the quality of the search experience for a phone user — the visitor did not get the page that the search results referenced. This is what Google calls a "faulty redirect". Google has said that it will, at some time, begin penalizing sites that exhibit this behavior.

Google Takes Stance On Mobile SEO: Site Not Mobile Friendly, You Won't Rank Well. (seroundtable.com)

Google has taken a strong stance on mobile SEO, announcing there will be demotions if your site is not mobile friendly or is misconfigured when it comes to being mobile friendly.

Google said the demotion will only impact mobile, smartphone friendly, search results and only impact web pages that are not smartphone friendly or misconfigured when it comes to being smartphone friendly.

Is Responsive Design Better for SEO? (zerogravitymarketing.com)

If you have a mobile site, visitors can get frustrated that they cannot get to all of your content that is on your full website. If you don’t have a mobile site at all the visitor’s experience can be especially poor. Either way, many visitors will return to Google to find one that is easily readable and your search engine rankings will decline.

Above, Google itself is even saying that your website won't rank well if you are not using repsonsive design.

Changes in rankings of smartphone search results (googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.in)

Although we covered only two types of mistakes here, it's important for webmasters to focus on avoiding all of the common smartphone website misconfigurations. Try to test your site on as many different mobile devices and operating systems, or their emulators, as possible, including testing the videos included on your site. Doing so will improve the mobile web, make your users happy, and allow searchers to experience your content fully.

Conclusion

If you do not switch to responsive design, your competition will. When they do, they'll have an advantage over your website. Why give them that? You need to make you're not giving your competition an edge. All projects we quote include the option for responsive design. If your current website developer isn't offering it, then we need to talk.

-Tony

Thursday, 29 August 2013 14:04 Written by Tony Herman

SEO Project Basics

We're asked quite a bit to help people with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their websites. They, of course, want their website to rank higher and get more traffic. I figured I'd write an article to again sum up what needs to be done on an SEO project so that people better understand what the process is.

seo-flow-chart

There are basically two main kinds of SEO: on-site SEO and off-site SEO. On-site is making sure your website is set up correctly. Off-site is getting links (backlinks) to your website.

First - just a note: at Webstix, we are very open about explaining how SEO is done. Other website design firms might keep things a secret... we don't care - we'll give away the recipe for the most part (some details we will leave out). We know that most business owners will see all the work that needs to be done and realize that it's not worth their time doing all that work. They would rather give it to the experts to do and instead do what they do best - run their business. Also, all this information is already out there on the Web if you do a little searching. We're not going to hide it. We'd rather explain things like this to our clients so that they understand the value of our work and all that needs to happen to get started with SEO.

Website Evaluation / Audit

If we didn't create the website or if it has been a while since we've worked on a website, then the first thing to do is an audit on the website. We need to make sure it's up to the latest standards and that it's set up well. It'll do no good to start sending traffic or set up links to a website that has major issues. We look at how the website is set up technically and then we also evaluate things like the content and calls to action.

We'll check to make sure that Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools have been set up along with proper site maps (XML and HTML). Basically, we'll check a lot of the things that we mention in our e-book: "Back to Basics: Increasing Web Traffic" because even just doing those things can cause a website to show up higher in rankings (you get a boost).

Once we've gone over the website and fixed things, we move on to keyword research and content development.

Keyword Research

Each company and industry is different. People type in different phrases into search engines to find what they are looking for. We need to find out which of those phrases matches what your company or organization offers and then find the ones that are easiest to rank for. This includes local searches (if applicable) and long-tail keywords (which are keyword phrases with 3 or more words in them). Some industries and keywords are going to be tougher than others - and, of course, some easier.

I like to say that doing keyword research is like taking a reading on a map before you head out on a journey. If you're just a few degrees off, you're not going to end up where you need to be. Many companies think that just putting up content, any content, will help. No, it won't and you'll be wasting your time on work that will not pay off. Be precise and deliberate about what you blog about if you want precise results.

Keyword research also should relate to your business model and strategy. If you make more profit off of certain "bread and butter" products or services that you offer, then focus on those items. Don't focus as much on the keywords (for products and services) that generate less profit. Get the most bang for your buck. If you don't know which products or services get you the most profit, then you'll first need to figure that out as it's an important factor.

Content Development

Now that we know what keywords to base content on, the content needs to be written. You can either do this in house or you can hire an SEO copywriter. Hiring outside help has it benefits. For one, you get an outside perspective. We hear this a lot from clients... they are, of course, very inwardly focused on their business that they soon forget what it's like to not know anything about their business. Getting that outside perspective is very valuable because it's how your customers view your company or organization as well. The copy then begins to better match how they think and perceive your business. When that matches, you get better results because you're speaking to them better.

If we come to you and say that you need 100 pages of content added to your website, don't freak out on us. All we're trying to do here is get you in the same league as your competition. For some websites, it'll take more and some will be less.

The content that's being developed needs to be original (not copied from anywhere else... at all) and helpful (solve a problem). It needs to be what people are searching for. I like to say that the content needs to be "bookmark worthy." This means it's so good that people will bookmark it and share it with others (share on social media).

How Long Should Articles Be?

A good target to shoot for is 500 words or more of text but the best answer is make sure it's enough of text to thoroughly cover the topic and give a complete answer that will rank above anything else out there. Maybe that's 300 words or maybe that's 2500 words if you want to make sure your website and article are "the authority" on the topic. Yes, that's what you're shooting for.

What you for sure don't want to do is put out 700 words of junk or filler... something with no meat in it. Don't just write garbage to meet a word quota. This gets you nowhere and just wastes your time. Also, Google could look at your website and decide that the content on it is not worth ranking and it could do you harm.

I'll go over blogging a little more below.

Getting Links to Your Website

thumbs-upPersonally, I don't like the term "backlinks" because that seems to infer that you link to them and they link back to you. That's a two-way link. Getting one-way links is better, so that's why I say "get links to your website" instead of "get backlinks."

A link to your website is like a vote for your website... kind of like a thumbs up. Not all votes are equal. The more authority a page and website have, the more powerful the link.

How it used to work is that the word being linked (anchor text) is what the "vote" is on but it doesn't work this way any more. Ranking for keywords used to be really easy. Now, what Google and search engines want is a more natural looking link profile. This means you have to vary your link text.

How Do You Get Links?

The best links you can get to your website are from other websites in your industry. One good place to start is with your vendors or customers - see if you can get a link from their website to yours. If needed, set up a "Links" page on your website to give them a link as well (two-way link).

Getting some links from website directories is good. Don't get too many but this gets your website out there. These links are low PR (PageRank) but they are usually links that contain the name of your website, your domain name or company/organization name, so having these links helps make your link profile look more natural.

Social media is what Google and other search engines are looking at. There are social media sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but also other social bookmarking websites. Start building links on all of these websites. Don't do it too quickly but gradually. We're not saying you need to have a Facebook page for your company (and it's not a good idea to set one up if you're not going to update it / don't have time to update it) but you should have social sharing buttons on your website's blog so that you make it easy for others to mention your articles on those websites.

And then there are other ways to get some links... yes, we're going to guard this part of the process, sorry.

Keep Blogging

The next part is to wait and keep track of rankings weekly and see where the website ends up for the list of selected keywords. While this is going on, keep blogging. Blog at least once a week and up to 10 times a week or more if you can.

Here are some articles that will help you:

How Do You Know What to Blog About? (webstix.com)

The analogy I like to give is that you get more fish with a bigger net. You get a bigger net by having a larger website. If someone is searching for a certain phrase and your website happens to have that phrase on it, then you have a much better chance of showing up for that search, right? So... you need to add content, it's that simple.

One easy way to blog is to do what I just did above. I referenced another article and now I'm writing more about it. This is called "content curation" in the SEO industry. You read other articles in your industry and then do a blog post about that article where you reference it (link to it) and then write more comments about it. You end up with a post that is original and links to another source... and that's good.

The Perfect Blog Post

Here's what I think a great blog post is:

  • At least 600 words (again, enough to thoroughly cover the topic without boring people)
  • 1-2 links to other, high authority websites
  • 1 image per every 300 words that relates to the content
  • 1-2 YouTube videos
  • 1 link to another page on your website (within the content)

Your post or article should be informative, solve a problem, be easy to scan and read, and then give links to other resources. You get credit for content when you embed a YouTube video. Another good thing about adding YouTube videos is that they keep people on your website longer. If you're running Google Analytics, then Google knows how long people are staying on your website and this can help you get more traffic since Google sees that people that are on your website spend a good amount of time there.

Again, your post needs to be "bookmark worthy" which means it's so good that people want to bookmark it and share it. Don't just spend 10 minutes on an article - spend a good hour or more on one. Do some research or interviews or do content curation.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After doing all this, do it again. Keep doing it until you get the rankings you want. Keep doing keyword research and add content to match those keywords. Keep building links (gradually). You need to do more than your competition and do it better than them.

The next thing to do, if you want results more quickly, is to do some pay per click (PPC) advertising. We can help with that. It's not just about building AdWords ads but building specific landing pages for those campaigns and then testing them. Once you get your winning ads and landing pages set up, it more or less goes on autopilot with less maintenance needed - you have the winning formula that produces leads.

Conclusion

Look at this article. I'm using headings, bulleted lists, bold text and I'm linking to other, good sources. This is what goes into a good blog post. Awesome content will eventually get you to rank organically and this is true, "white hat SEO" (playing by the rules). It's what Google wants. If you're in a hurry to rank quickly, then go with PPC advertising.

To be honest, doing SEO is a lot of grunt work. Having the skills to build websites or build satellite/subdomain sites will help. Knowing where to easily get links will help. Knowing how to do effective keyword research is essential. Most business owners don't know this stuff, so they turn to us.

If you're interested in getting help with your website and getting it to rank higher, then please contact us. Now that you're read this article, we know you understand what the process will be like and what goes into good SEO.

-Tony