Website Relaunch: Law Office of Michael Ditchik

We are pleased to announce the launch of the redesigned website for the Law Office of Michael Ditchik, a family law attorney in Kent, Washington. The new site brings a more visually appealing design for the firm along with a new logo.

The new website features a responsive design to better capture mobile users. A Security Certificate has also been added to the website for encryption against hackers, more security and privacy for visitors to the site.

ditchik law2 Website Relaunch: Law Office of Michael Ditchik

Speed Optimization

Having HTTPS requires extra communication or “handshakes” between the servers, which has the potential to slow down a website. However, the website for the Law Office of Michael Ditchik is blazing fast. We optimized the code and caching for speed.
In speed tests, the website loads in under two seconds.

Website speed optimization provides a better user experience and is a search engine ranking factor. As the Web users are increasingly on mobile devices, the website should be well-positioned to load quickly, provide security, and render optimally for all visitors.

Redesign Takeaways

In addition to design enhancements and adding features to bring your website up to date, a redesign project also is a good time to take a fresh look at the content on your website and update it to keep it current.

A website redesign provides an opportunity to evaluate your on-site SEO and make improvements or add new content, improve your title tags and descriptions, and calls to action to optimize conversion rates and gain more customers from your website.

Posted in Portfolio | Leave a comment

Website Hosting: What Are the Options?

When it comes to choosing the right website hosting for your business, there are a variety of options available and the choices can seem dizzying. The most common hosting options website hosting companies offe are shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server), and dedicated hosting. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Shared Hosting

Usually the cheapest of the four options, shared hosting means exactly what it says: customers are given a folder on a shared server with other users — sometimes of thousands of users. For many websites, this is more than enough computing power for their needs and helps keep cost down.

Often shared hosting sites, due to the large number of clients on their servers, offer “unlimited” space and bandwidth (although they do have internal data caps). However, due to the shared nature of the hosting, servers with many high-traffic sites will run more slowly, and e-commerce sites which use SSL are a very bad idea on shared hosting. If your website loads slowly, this impacts the user experience on your site and your sales.

servers Website Hosting:  What Are the Options?

Another risk of using shared hosting is that it can impact your email delivery. For example, if an email spammer is using your shared hosting company and the server you share is being used, the server can be flagged by other domains’ security software, preventing the delivery of your own email. If you want the cost savings of shared hosting, it’s best to not go for the cheapest providers and do your homework to carefully research the available options.

Prices for shared hosting start at about $5 per month for unlimited domains. Some companies offer low introductory rates with rates that increase significantly after the first month or when your contract is up for renewal. Some of the most popular shared hosting companies are BlueHost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy, which also offers domain registration.

VPS Hosting

The next step up from shared hosting is VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting. While VPS is also a shared server option, the major difference is that your server space is completely partitioned off as a virtual server, meaning the space dedicated in your VPS is yours alone.

While VPS is a far better choice for companies doing e-commerce or SSL and offers more speed than shared hosting, the price is considerably higher and your memory and bandwidth limits are considerably lower.

VPS hosting starts at about $20 per month but can go up quickly with more memory and bandwidth usage.

responsive web design Website Hosting:  What Are the Options?

Hosting Keeps Your Website Up & Running 24/7

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is hosting on dedicated physical servers for your website as opposed to sharing space, whether as a folder or a virtual server. Dedicated hosting is particularly important to large companies (as well as power users) trying to securely protect their data, because dedicated hosting gives you full control – even at the operating system level– over the flow and memory usage of your website.

On the minus side, full control means far less support and a hefty operating bill, easily the largest of the four. Another word of caution, if a service company is providing your ‘dedicated’ hosting, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dedicated to your website alone. Find out how many other users are utilizing the server.

Dedicated hosting starts at about $170 per month but can more than double in price with more computing power.

Cloud Hosting and More

Cloud hosting is rapidly gaining in popularity due to its ease of accessibility and low cost. Like shared hosting but with the power of VPS hosting, cloud hosting has the further advantage of not being tied to a particular server; if one fails, data moves to functioning interconnected servers. Another advantage for many website owners is cloud hosting is scalable, meaning it can be infinitely expanded and customize according to user needs.

In addition to the above, there are other hosting options such as managed hosting, colocation, which is similar to dedicated hosting, and Linux and Windows server hosting. Other factors to consider including email hosting and the availability of a Security Certificate for encryption.

Final Thoughts

For most small businesses, the most important hosting factors is having a dedicated IP so they have their own resources and if using shared hosting, they’re less succeptible to spammer activity.

At Ascent, we offer small business website hosting at affordable prices with a dedicated IP and Security Certificates available. Our hosting service includes website maintenance to keep your site up to date. Contact us to review your hosting needs.

Posted in Hosting | Leave a comment

Omissions Web Developers Make that Harm Your SEO

In our last post, we looked at steps to take before redesigning a website or building a new site. Once you’ve laid the foundation, that doesn’t mean you turn the keys to the project over to your web designers and await the finished product.

When many business go about the process of a redesigning, how it looks and the content, features, and usability are usually the top priorities. While search engine rankings are recognized for their importance, too often SEO can be an afterthought and you can’t rely on a design company that claims to build ‘SEO friendly’ websites to cover all the bases.

It’s important to take SEO considerations into account in all the stages of website development. Yes, your website may be listed and rank in the search engines but it’s not realizing it’s abilities to generate new revenue and leads without a more SEO focused approach.

seo website Omissions Web Developers Make that Harm Your SEO

Here are seven omissions web developers can make that harm your SEO:

1. Title Tag Optimization.

The title element isn’t to be ignored or just duplicated across an entire site. They are an SEO ranking factor that search engines use to return results.

Having keyword phrases in the title tag that are supported by keywords or similar phrases in the content can aid your search engine rankings. Also be careful not to have too long a title tag, beyond 70 characters, as that can be a small negative factor.

2. Strong Descriptions.

Descriptions play a small role in search engine ranking as you do want to incorporate the topic and primary keywords in your description. Descriptions are also important as they are what is viewed as the text snippet in the search result. Take advantage of this to have meaningful, curiosity piquing descriptions with strong calls to action.

3. URL Usage.

While you can certainly have URLs that end with /?id=33 may help you identify and locate the page internally on the website, it’s not very user friendly or beneficial from an SEO perspective. A better practice is to find a brief, topical description of the page such as /crushing-candy-crush.

301 redirects Omissions Web Developers Make that Harm Your SEO

4. URL Redirects.

If you’re moving to a new content management system, you may need to create redirects from your old URL page structure to the new naming convention. Having broken links provides a poor user experience as users land on an error page. By setting up page redirects you can avoid this issue. Creating a custom 404 error page can provide a more pleasant user experience in the unfortunate they land on a non-valid page.

5. Image Optimization.

Page response time is not only a Google ranking factor, having quicker page loads also helps keep users on your site longer. Media files tend to consume the bulk of resources on a website so by resizing images to reduce file sizes, utilizing a CDN to speed up delivery , and making use of alt tags, your website will perform better and images will have a greater opportunity to appear in Google image search.

6. Rich Snippets.

Google Authorship may be dead, but don’t forget there are many other types of ‘rich snippet’ data Google uses in the search results to help users get more information. User reviews, recipe information, photos, music, events, products, and business and organization contact information can all include structured data. By taking up more real estate in the search results, you can get more clicks to your site.

7. Internal Linking.

It’s useful to have an internal linking strategy on a website. Not only does it help users more efficiently navigate, by linking to priority pages on a website and placing the ‘rel=nofollow’ tag on less important links, you can gain an SEO advantage.

Other omissions that can occur when being over-reliant on a designer are website speed optimization, lack of content strategy, and navigational structure. For more tips, check out our post on the elements of effective websites.

By hiring a professional to help manage your project and oversee and implement SEO best practices, you can be proactive and construct a website with a solid foundation for search rankings.

Posted in SEO | 1 Comment

7 Steps to Take Before Building a Website

Creating a website takes collaboration, time, and resources, even if you’ve hired a web designer. Failure to take the time to plan a site correctly leads to a less desirable outcome and can cost you a lot of money.

Here are seven things you should do in advance of building a website to make your project more successful.

1. Register Your Domain

This may seem fundamental but too many businesses go to build a website only to discover the domain name they want is already reserved. Registering a domain is simple and affordable but it’s best to get an early start on reserving a domain for your business before it’s too late.

A domain name is important for a website. It’s what many people use to find your website and one of the first things people see in connection to your business. You want to ensure that your domain is branded properly.

If you are able to reserve the domain of your choosing, you may want to consider also purchasing different domain extensions such as the .net or .org version to better protect your name and for other business uses.

2. Have a Logo Ready to Use

Helping to define a brand image is a big part of a website. It’s important to have your logo in place for a new website. A logo is a vital aspect of the company that is used and seen in many places and needs to clearly represent your organization. Some companies will create their own logo in-house while others will seek the skills of a logo designer.

If you’re considering a logo redesign, it’s best to do it before starting a Web design project. While they can be done concurrently, it can be helpful to have assets in place before development begins. If you already have a logo you’re happy with in place, you’re one step closer to launching a new site.

website launch 7 Steps to Take Before Building a Website

3. Use a Placeholder Website For a New Domain

Once you have a domain reserved and you’re ready to develop and market your website, it’s a good idea to create a placeholder website. There are a variety of different free templates in different platforms that are easy add to a domain that provides the company logo, contact information, or launch date to provide visitors basic information or when the new website will be ready. The launcher theme is one example of a placeholder template.

4. Identify Websites You Like

While your website should define your own brand, taking a look at other websites, including your competitors, can be helpful. What do you like or dislike? Incorporating different components, designs, features, or colors into your own site can make the decision making process easier and set the stage for a more successful project.

5. Plan Your Content and Features

A great website needs to have content that people want to absorb. Whether it is graphics, images, videos, calculators, testimonials, case studies, comparisons, FAQs, trust badges, or just plan product or service description, your website should be a valuable resource. A website that doesn’t have the content or features available to enhance the user experience can make achieving search engine rankings more difficult.

6. Create Compelling and Relevant Content

What good is a website if you have valuable information/compelling content to present? Invest time into creating long content pages that provide a strong landing page for your clients with the information they are seeking. The content you create should be original and compelling to provide a better user experience and for more favorable search engine visibility and social media share-ability.

Targeted, useful content is also very valuable from a search engine optimization standpoint. It’s a good idea to discuss content strategy and other on-page SEO factors with a SEO professional when developing a new website.

trust badges 7 Steps to Take Before Building a Website

7. Gather Testimonials and Create Case Studies

In addition to more traditional written content, images, graphics, and video, testimonials, including video testimonials, can take time to request and gather. It’s best to have them in place beforehand as you look to develop a new website.

Encourage customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, other websites, or have them email them directly to you. Also look to prepare case studies with customer success stories. Testimonials, badges of accreditation, and case studies are great content that provide useful information and the trust and assurance your prospective customers are seeking.

Wrap Up and Next Steps

By having these seven elements in place in advance, your Web design/development project will be prepped and ready to roll, running a whole lot smoother and more efficiently. It also helps lay the groundwork for better success in your marketing efforts and the bottom line.

See our post on elements of effective websites for factors to consider once your new site is ready for development.

Posted in Design | Leave a comment

The Easy, Affordable Way to Double Your Website’s Speed

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Time is money” and how valuable time can be on the Web. In 2012, Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second cost them $1.6 billion in sales over a year. While most companies aren’t going to measure sales from the Web down to a millisecond, website speed is an important factor that is too often overlooked. Not enough businesses make it a focus when developing a website or in their SEO.

slow road The Easy, Affordable Way to Double Your Websites Speed

The Culprits & What You Can Do About It

So what makes a website slower or faster than others? What effects how quickly a website load has to do with the amount of data being sent through the pipe and how quickly it can be transported. The more files and data being sent, the slower the website is.

Speeding up your website can get a bit technical but there are some simple things you can do to make it load quicker. Typically the main culprits contributing to a slower page load speed are large media files like images and the number of scripts running on a site.

Resizing image file sizes (check to make sure that resizing doesn’t adversely affect resolution) is an easy task that helps a website perform quicker. Condensing scripts and consolidating images in the code are also effective ways to speed up a website but require more technical know-how.

Your website server also contributes to your website’s speed. Using a more powerful, dedicated server can also improve your website’s performance.

cdn The Easy, Affordable Way to Double Your Websites Speed

Use a Content Distribution Network

A Content Distribution (or Delivery) Network (CDN) is a system that serves files on a website from multiple data centers simultaneously. So instead of all the data being served from one server, the data is spread out and returned in smaller chunks, allowing the data to flow more freely and making your website faster.

CDN’s provide a site superior performance. They’re reliable with high availability and if you are using a widely used Content Management System such as WordPress, easy to install. Besides images and graphics, CDNs also serve scripts, documents, live streaming media and applications.

If you’re paying for data, CDN’s can actually reducing your costs as it uses less bandwidth. And CDN’s use servers internationally, meaning your customers will get performance no matter where they are.

Real World Tests & Results

At Ascent, we have been using MaxCDN on over half a dozen sites and have been impressed with the results. Here’s a before and after screenshot of a website:

Website speed test Evergreen The Easy, Affordable Way to Double Your Websites Speed

Website speed test Entrada2 The Easy, Affordable Way to Double Your Websites Speed

Test performed on Pingdom Website Speed Test.

While results may vary, we have consistently seen nearly a doubling in website speed in before and after CDN tests.

Setting up a CDN

If a website is already in a content management system such WordPress, the process of setting up a CDN is easy and usually takes no more than a half an hour. In addition to MaxCDN, there are numerous other CDN providers as well such as Cloudflare, keycdn, and Edgecast.

If you would like help setting up a CDN on your website, please contact us and see how much faster your website can perform.

Posted in SEO | 1 Comment