Author: Chris Buckley

Owner of Pixel Kicks, Crossfit obsessive and family dude. Fan of Android, crypto currencies and all things tech.

How to Increase Google Rankings by Creating Content, Building Links & Auditing Your Site for SEO

Four dogs on leads

Lead & chase those Google rankings

A. Introduction

Getting to the top of Google theoretically shouldn’t have to be difficult, but for most people it’s almost impossible. Alright, maybe we’re simplifying things too much there, but in our experience people tend to over-complicate SEO and end up wasting precious time on things that matter little. It’s always been our ethos to keep things simple, and we believe this methodology helps us to delivery consistent results for our clients.

If you’re running an online business, this article might be the most important thing you read this year, as we’re going to tell you how to increase your rankings higher than they’ve ever been before. You’ll definitely want to bookmark this post.

Why are we telling you our secrets? Well for one they’re not secrets, they just require understanding and studious application to implement. All of this information is already out there in a myriad of different blog posts and websites – we’ve just decided to write what we call our “SEO Bible”.

Ok, so how do you get your website appearing on Page 1 of Google? Let’s start with the basics.

The Basics

It comes down to three main things which if you concentrate on, you’ll see staggering results, given time.

  1. Technical SEO
  2. Content Creation
  3. Link Building

Patience & Results

The information below is not something that can be performed overnight, and most likely you won’t see big improvements in just a couple of months (it can and does happen though).

Instead, you need to look at this as a long-term strategy over the next 12-24 months. Look and plan ahead this far, and it’s almost guaranteed that your website will have higher rankings, more traffic and more customers as a result. Wouldn’t that make your life easier?

The internet has changed the world, and with it brings limitless opportunities. Competition is rife though, so if you want to be at the top, you have to work not just harder, but cleverer.

B. Our Targets

B. Our Targets

How do we measure if what we’re doing is actually working, and how do we judge success? With any campaign, there has to be trackable metrics, like:

  • Increasing the Domain Authority of the website
  • Increasing Google Rankings (like, duh)
  • Increasing Dwell Time – the amount of time that users spend on your website
  • Lowering Bounce Rate – the percentage of visitors who navigate away after viewing just one page
  • Increase the number of Conversions – enquiries, orders or actions on a website

The last one is by far the most important, after all who cares about ranking first for ten keywords if you don’t get any orders as a result?

Higher rankings will bring more traffic, and with more traffic you should see more activity on your website, but don’t forget about how users behave once they land on your site. This is another article in itself, but it goes without saying that having a clear user journey and well designed pages is a must.

Two dogs chasing each other

C. The Steps We Carry Out

  1. Keyword Research
  2. The Technical SEO Audit
  3. Competitor Analysis
  4. Content Strategy
  5. Link Building

Right, let’s get going then, shall we….

 


Keyword ResearchStep 1: Keyword Research

You can’t start an SEO campaign without having a good set of keywords. Everything stems from this, so pay close attention to this first section.

A large percentage of your customers will use Google or other search engines (SERPS) to search for words or phrases, and whether your website appears in the list of websites is based on well optimised your site is.  But how do you know what customers are actually searching for?

For example you might think that users type in “football tops”, when they might be searching for “football jerseys”. Or you could have optimised your site for “business voip systems” when in actual fact more people search for “voip providers”. Customers might not find you unless you correctly optimise for the phrases that they’re searching for.

That’s what keyword research helps you discover – the very keywords your audience is going to use to find you. It can help you find out about what topics to write about, or what keywords to add to a primary topic page you already have on your website.

From this data we can work out what information we need to write about, and what additional keywords we need to make sure our website contains.

How do I create a keyword list?

Firstly you’ll need to start with a seed list. This is manually entered set of services, products, topics and general themes that describe what your website offers. Think in terms of the customer, and ask yourself what would they search for? Ask your family and friends, and try to get a good varied set of keywords.

Create a spreadsheet and enter all your keywords. Google Sheets is ideal.

Can’t I just use Google Analytics to find out keywords that users have searched to find my site?  

Well you could, but the caveat here is that you’ll likely only be seeing information on keywords that you already rank for. Certainly you can include this data, but be careful that you’re not excluding keywords that you don’t currently rank for – because of course Google Analytics won’t have any data in this case.

Should I include locations?

You could, but it’s not really necessary anymore. For example we rank well for “web design manchester”.  We also rank the same for “web design” but only for searches carried out in the Manchester area. If you’re in London and search for “web design”, we don’t appear. So for now, just keep your keywords lean and without locations on the end – we’ll delve more into this later on the article.

Expanding the initial keyword set

With your seed list in place, you’ll want to expand this list using different keyword research tools. A favourite of ours is KeywordTool.io, and you can enter different sets of phrases to get lots of related suggestions back. This actually uses Google’s own Autocomplete data to generate hundreds of relevant long-tail and short-tail keywords for any topic.

KeywordTool.io

See what other keywords are suggested, and add these to your list. You’ll still need to manually check them still, as not all of them will be relevant. Use your judgement and common sense.

We sometimes like to separate keywords into “Primary” and “Secondary” lists.  The primary consisting of the most important ones, with a fairly lean amount, say 20/30, whilst the secondary list can go into hundreds.

Scan for your competitors keywords

Seeing what your competitors rank for is hugely important at the start of any campaign to improve organic visibility. The two main tools we recommend for this are:

  1. Google Keyword Planner
  2. SEMRush

Using Google Keyword Planner to find keywords for a URL

With the Google Keyword Planner, it’s relatively simple. However, in order to use this, you will need to have a Google Ads account. Don’t worry though, it’s free, so go and create one if you don’t have one already.

Once you’ve signed into Google Ads, click “Tools” > “Keyword Planner”. Then select “Find New Keywords” and simply paste your URL and click “Get Started”. You’ll then be presented with a selection of keywords on the next screen.

Google Keyword Planner

Using SEMRush to find keywords for a URL

SEMRush is a great app, and there is so much you can do with it. To find keywords for a URL it’s very straightforward.

All you need to is go to “Organic Research” and enter your URL. Click “Search”.

On the next screen you’ll see a ton of useful information. Look under “Top Organic Keywords” to find the keywords that the site is ranking for.  You can also look under “Main Organic Competitors” to find more competitors (as well as the ones that you already know about).

SEMRush Top Organic Keywords

Now we have some additional sets of keywords, add them all to your spreadsheet (perhaps in a new tab), and cross-check them with your existing list. Look for new ones & alternatives that we don’t already have and then add them to the main lists.

How does my site rank currently?

We use SEMRush to track keywords for all our clients, but there are a huge variety of alternatives you can consider. Other apps we’ve used in the past include Ahrefs, Accuranker, Advanced Web Ranking, Moz & ProRankTracker to name but a few.

Using any of the above sites, simply add your chosen keywords as a new campaign.  The search engine you choose will depend on the location & country you’re targeting.  UK nationally? Choose Google.co.uk and organic. UK regionally? Choose Google.co.uk with organic local, with your chosen town, city or county.

We mentioned earlier about whether to add locations with your keywords. If you’re tracking regional keywords then all you need to do is choose Organic Local and then add your location name.  Then your keywords will be tracked as though you were searching in that region. You can easily end up tracking too many different combinations if you start adding location selectors to your keywords.

Should I value all keywords the same?

Add all of the keywords into Google Keyword Planner to pull out search volume and costs for each of them. This will let us know how many times each keyword was searched for in a certain period and also the competitiveness of each one. The higher the cost, the more competitive it will be, and therefore the more traffic it could generate for your website.

Use this information to help determine which keywords to focus on.

 


Technical SEO AuditStep 2: The Technical SEO Audit

Technical SEO, sounds pretty technical, right? Admittedly it is, and if not carried out correctly it can hold back your website no matter how many great links you build and how fantastic your content is.

Most sites in the world have some technical issues that could be improved, and we expect that yours will do too. In order to rank well, everything starts with having a solidly built website, so start your technical SEO audit as early as you can.

The overall goal of the audit is to identify errors and areas of improvement, and the logical next step after this is to fix them.

Crawl your website with an app like Screaming Frog and analyse the data

Screaming Frog is one of the most popular SEO tools out there, and their SEO spider tool is available as a Windows, macOS or Linux download. That’s right, a desktop application.

It’s a paid-for app, and if you’re looking for free alternatives you might want to try Wildshark SEO or Spotibo’s SEO Audit Tool, the latter of which is free for up to 500 pages.

Screaming Frog lets you enter a website URL, and then it sets about crawling all pages on the site, fetching every single key element it can find to enable you to better analyse your SEO performance. It can crawl both small & large sites quickly.

Screaming Frog

Once the crawl has finished (and for larger sites it can take a while), we recommend exporting the results to a CSV or XLSX file, to make it easier for you to play around with the data. Our preferred methodology is to export as XLSX and then upload to Google Docs to make it easier for sharing.

By default you’ll get about 45 columns worth of data, so there might seem a lot to take in initially! Don’t get phased.

Using the crawl data, check for and fix/improve the following

  1. Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
  2. H1 & H2 Tags
  3. URLs
  4. Check for duplicate metadata
  5. Meta description length
  6. Presence of SSL
  7. Canonical tags present
  8. Www or non-www URLs – make sure the pages are only available in one of these forms, not both
  9. Meta robots tags & robots.txt file – make sure to check both of these and ensure they allow your site to be crawled freely

It might be an idea to hide all of the columns apart from the above, to make the spreadsheet easier to navigate. Also, we find it’s easier to group the URLs into different groups, eg. pages, posts, products, categories etc. You can usually delete a lot of pages too (for example you might not need to check 500 blog posts individually, once you’ve quickly checked them).

Once you’ve done this, work through each key element above, going through your website code or CMS to implement them.

Add your domain to SEMRush (or similar app) and look for issues by running a Site Audit

Here you can crawl your website again, but this time you can automatically identify any key issues or errors that could be causing problems with your search rankings and visibility.

SEMRush Site Audit

Issues are broken down into three categories – Errors, Warnings & Notices, with the former being the most important. Treat these with the highest priority, as Errors will generally consist of:

  • Broken links
  • Pages returning an error code
  • Uncrawlable pages
  • Missing/broken images
  • Duplicate content problems

Next, the Warnings section looks at issues which should still be fixed, but aren’t as urgent. These could include factors such as:

  • Page title problems
  • Missing meta descriptions
  • Missing image alt attributes
  • Broken external links

Last, the Notices section will highlight issues such as the following:

  • Multiple H1 tags
  • Pages with only one incoming link
  • Long URLs
  • Duplicate pages

Register your site with Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools

Google Search Console is a great collection of resources & tools created to help website owners and SEO professionals monitor website performance.  It was previously known as Google Webmaster Tools until renamed in 2015.

Once you’ve added your URL as a New Property, and verified you have control of the domain you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Set your preferred domain – with or without www
  • International targeting – are you targeting the correct country, regardless of your domain TLD?
  • Check your sitemap status – have you submitted one? are there any errors or warnings?
  • Check for index coverage – how many of your pages are indexed?
  • Check for security issues – do you have any malware?
  • Look for mobile usability – are any issues raised?
  • Do you have AMP (accelerated mobile pages) – how are these performing?
  • View search queries – see what keywords users have searched for to find your site
  • Check your external and internal links – take a look at your link data
  • Link your new profile with Google Analytics – we always recommend you do this

Done? Give yourself a pat on the back. Read on…

Check your site’s loading speed & mobile responsiveness

Google values both loading speed and mobile responsiveness increasingly heavier each year. More people are browsing websites on smartphones, and as we don’t have as much patience in the modern world, it pays to make sure your website loads fast and has a great user experience on smaller devices.

Google’s own PageSpeed Insights is the best place to go to check ho you fare, so open up that page in a new tab, enter your URL in the search box and click “Analyze”. You’ll be presented with two grades ranging from 0 to 100, for both mobile & desktop, along with a wealth of accompanying information. It’s now your job to get these two numbers as close as possible to 100.

Google Pagespeed Insights

We recommend creating a spreadsheet with these starting values, and then set about looking at the following:

  • Check your server first-byte time – is your web hosting up to scratch?
  • Optimise both PHP & MySQL – are you on the latest versions? are the memory limits correct?
  • Page, object & browser caching – this will make a huge improvement in your load times
  • HTML/CSS/JS minifying – similar to the above, this will make your pages load quicker
  • Image compression – are your pages loading the correct sized images, optimally compressed?
  • Lazy-loading of images – why load images before users have scrolled down to them?
  • Delay the loading of render blocking resources – this will ensure users see elements on-screen as quickly as possible

Gamify the improvement of your website by setting yourself targets, and run tests after every change to see things improve.

Perform CMS specific checks

What CMS do you use?

WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet, currently responsible for over 33% of the world’s websites. A few tasks specific to WordPress that we recommend looking at include:

  • Check for excess taxonomies (categories & tags):
    This just results in duplicate data, so keep them to a low & manageable number.  You shouldn’t have hundreds of tags with only one or two posts assigned to each. We recommend 5-10 categories max, and unless you have a very large site, keep tags down to a similar amount, or even avoid using them at all.
  • Install Yoast SEO – this gives you many benefits, and the premium version also warns you about URL redirects.
  • Also, don’t forget to untick “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” under “Search Engine Visibility”! It might seem obvious, but with the launching of new websites & updates to existing sites, this will cause huge problems if accidentally left ticked.

Wordpress: Discourage search engines

For Magento based websites, you should consider the following:

  • Install a JS/CSS minifier such as Apptrian Minify HTML CSS JS
  • Install a full page caching extension such as Wyomind Full Page Cache
  • Consider utilising a CDN (content delivery network)
  • Consider a flat catalog for larger sites
  • Clean up Magento’s database & log files
  • Also remember to keep the number of third-party/community extensions to a minimum

Benefits of a CDN (content delivery network)

Have you implemented Schema Tags / Rich Snippets?

Schema markup is a form of structured microdata comprised of sets of tags. Created by the big search engines in 2011, it defines a universal standard for this structured data.

In SEO, one example seeing increased use is called a rich snippet, which is a box shown at the top or the SERP which in most cases show the user the most relevant answer to their query. Any website can take advantage of schema markup / structured data, and common elements include:

  • Rich Snippets
  • Reviews & Ratings
  • Events
  • Products & Offers
  • Jobs
  • News Articles
  • Creative works
  • Local Business
  • Person or Place
  • Video

See Google’s Structured Data Reference for a more definitive list of what you can markup.

Google Structured Data Helper

One easy way to generate schema markup is by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Other ways include WordPress plugins such as the following:

Incorrect markup can cause penalties, so be careful how you use it, and make sure to check your markup properly using Google Search Console.

Audit for keyword cannibalization (or topic duplication)

Keyword cannibalization is when an individual domain unintentionally targets the same topic or keyword phrase across multiple pages (or posts).  This is also known as topic duplication.

This is something everyone should be wary of though it is extremely common when you are creating a regular stream of content. If left untreated it can be bad for SEO, so we recommend that this issue is kept to a minimum or eliminated altogether.

Don’t know where to start?  Here’s exactly what we do with all our campaigns, again using SEMRush.

Firstly find your site’s organic keywords list and export the list to a Google Sheet. Next, filter the results so that the keyword column is is sorted alphabetically. You should now be able to see if any URLs & pages are targeting the same keywords by seeing if different URL’s are listed for the same keyword.

Keyword Cannibalisation

Fixing keyword cannibalization isn’t a simple matter but some of the methods you will have to look at include:

  • Reworking your site map
  • Remove keyword references from pages you want to “demote”
  • Change your internal linking structure by seeing what anchor text is being used
  • Look at external backlinks – where do they point and what is their anchor text?
  • Merge certain pages together – this will help create a better and more in-depth page, and should generally rank higher.
  • Noindex or even delete certain pages – this is a last resort

BONUS: Check your on-page optimisation with the Pixel Kicks SEO Audit Tool

This free SEO tool is meant to give you an overview of how well optimised your website/page is for a particular keyword. by analysing the on-page metrics as well as the authority of the page. Simply enter your URL along with your chosen keywords and click “Scan Now”.

Our Pixel Kicks SEO Audit tool


Competitor AnalysisStep 3: Competitor Analysis

Great, so you’ve got your set of keywords which have been fine-tuned & expanded as necessary.  You’ve also given your site a comprehensive audit and are now ready to start checking out the competition.

So how should you go about this?  As previously, we’ve broken this down for you into various sections each with instructions and tips alongside them.

Create a list of competitors and record the following domain metrics

First of all, you’ll need a list of domains that you want to compare. To start with we assume you’ll probably know of a few off by heart so mark these down (in a spreadsheet, of course).  Next, head off to Google and do a search for your main keywords, and mark down a few more domains that you find on the first few pages.

To expand this list further, you can again use SEMRush under the “Organic Research” page for your own domain name. This is the process we mentioned in the first Keyword Research section, and if you head to the “Main Organic Competitors” section you’ll find a list of suitable domains there.

Got a list of around 10 or so?  Add columns to your spreadsheet for the following, and record the following metrics using tools such as Moz Link Explorer & Alexa.

  • Domain Authority – Moz
  • Page Authority – Moz
  • Linking Domains – Moz
  • Inbound Links – Moz
  • Spam Score – Moz
  • Alexa Rank – Alexa
  • Domain Age – use any number of free domain age checkers. Essentially this is just a whois lookup

Moz Link Explorer

Link Explorer is free for the basic metrics above, but if you have a paid for version you could add further columns for a whole host of link information. See the full list of Moz’s Links API Response Fields here for an idea of what you could record.

Do a keyword audit of each competitor’s domain

For this step, use the same SEMRush “Organic Research” search for each domain, and you’ll be able to see the “Top Organic Keywords” listed. Cross-reference these with your own keyword lists, and use them for content ideas.

Do a backlink audit of each competitor’s domain

It’s SEMRush time again. This time you’ll want to run a “Backlink Audit” in the “Link Building” sections.  You’ll be able to see a list of your competitor’s linking domains, along with their toxicity score.

SEMRush Backlink Audit

Throughout this blog post we reference SEMRush a number of times, though if you prefer you can use other apps such as Ahrefs, Moz and Majestic.

Do a content audit of each competitor’s domain

Performing a full content audit for each of your competitors can be a fairly time-consuming process, but if done correctly it can help formulate a perfect content strategy for your own site.

Some tips we have include:

  • Create a scorecard for what you’re going to be comparing – this will help you choose how to review each competing website
  • Run a crawl of each domain – how many pages do they have? how does their on-page SEO stack up?
  • Breadth, depth & formatting – length of pages, content type, aesthetic appeal, aimed to their target audience?
  • Quality & consistency – ease of reading, spelling & grammar, do they attribute posts to multiple authors or a single entity? Does all their content have a consistent tone of voice? Do any common themes tie their content together?
  • Publishing frequency – how often do they update their blog for example? Are their articles mainly evergreen?
  • UI – how is the usability of their site? do the pages load fast? Do they have regular calls to action?

BONUS 1: Use something like BuzzSumo to give a snapshot of your competitor’s main pages and see how they’re performing socially.

BONUS 2: CognitiveSEO’s Site Explorer is another useful tool that visualises a website’s pages & backlinks. Sometimes having a different view on data can help introduce new ideas.

Buzzsumo - Content Analyzer

 


Content Strategy & Site MapStep 4: Content Strategy & Site Map

It’s blatantly obvious that you’re never going to have a high ranking website without having anything worthwhile for users to read or watch and for Google to index.

Carrying on from the previous section, we now need to consider how we approach our own content. The type of content you decide to use on your website can and should include all of the following:

  • Pages and posts
  • Video
  • Images & infographics
  • Photography
  • Tools & calculators
  • Guest posts
  • Surveys

Static Page Sitemap

Using the information gained from successfully analysing & reviewing your competition, you can now start to formulate your own content.

Firstly, focus on establishing a sitemap that covers all your services, products and general information. Create the sitemap in Google Sheets or look at apps such as GlooMaps or SlickPlan, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a nice even spread of your services, products and information?
  • Does the content represent what your website is about?
  • Is there enough variety to keep users on your site, and coming back for more?
  • Do all of your targeted keywords have a related page?
  • Have you considered pages such as FAQ’s, glossaries and other types of help-based content?
  • Is your blog or news section correctly categorised?

Gloomaps - sitemap example

Page Formatting

Consider how users in 2019 interact with modern web pages, together with their short attention span. Here’s our key tips for producing killer pages that keep the user interested and on your site for longer:

  • Write at least 300 words for each page.
  • Don’t write large paragraphs. Instead break your text up into short sentences.
  • Regularly split sections with headings
  • Carefully consider imagery, particularly the main featured image on each page – would it grab your attention?
  • Add further  images throughout each page
  • Add videos within pages – if they add to the quality and relevance of your pages
  • Consider embedding social media posts – again if they add to the quality and relevance of your pages
  • Regularly include links to other pages on your site

Thin Content & Duplicate Content

Thin content is what Google considers to be of little or no value. Generally pages that don’t help or inform the reader. If users bounce quickly from your pages, the likelihood is that it doesn’t provide what they were looking for. To help you identify thin content, consider whether the pages on your site comprise of the following:

  1. Duplicate content or not unique enough
  2. Too many ads on the page, resulting in less unique content
  3. Low word count on the page
  4. Mostly comprised from external sources
  5. The topic is only covered in a shallow manner
  6. Contains many spelling or grammatical mistakes
  7. Not very informative to the user, and doesn’t read well
  8. Stuffed with keywords

A couple of tools that might help you identify or fix thin content include Grammarly & Copyscape. As a simple rule of thumb, write your own unique copy, and don’t copy from other pages.

Grammarly introduction

Content Calendar

Creating a content calendar is a great way to approach writing new copy for pages, creating videos, or producing imagery on a regular basis. One common problem is that people can easily get overawed by the amount of work they have to do, so by spreading jobs out on a weekly or monthly basis you make it easier to plan everything in, making sure you stick to targets.

Our preferred method is to create a Google Sheet (split by weeks or months), decide what you’re going to write, when, and also who will be writing it. Share the sheet between all contributors.

Another tool you may want to consider is AirTable which essentially combines spreadsheets with database functionality. For larger sites with bigger content plans, we’ve found this to be really helpful. If you love being organised, understand databases, and have typically been a stickler for spreadsheets then give it a try.

Spending time on a well-structured content calendar causes less stress further down the line, can give you posting consistency and help to introduce a proper editorial process. Who doesn’t want a nice “at a glance” list of what you need to do?

Blog Posts

We love writing really in-depth, long & engaging blog posts here at Pixel Kicks. As a digital marketing agency we’re constantly writing for our clients and ourselves, so we make it competitive between all our staff by seeing who’s blog post gets the most traffic. There’s prizes for the best blog of the month, quarter and year. Gamify the process and it makes it a whole lot easier!

Write feature-rich, amazing blog posts

When deciding on subjects to write about, obviously it makes sense to stick to what your core services, products and areas of specialisation are. Posts based on your location can also help your local SEO.  Once the subject has been decided upon, we try and stick to the following requirements:

  • Minimum 1500 words long
  • A great title – catchy, descriptive, inviting
  • Short paragraphs
  • Regular subheadings consisting of mainly H2 and H3 tags
  • Bulleted lists
  • 3/4 images
  • 1/2 videos
  • 1/2 embedded social posts
  • 2/3 internal links
  • 1/2 outbound links

Ideally try and base your subject around content that targets user search queries, and that satisfies user intent. It goes without saying that regardless of the above, you should always try and aim for the following criteria too:

  • Interestingly written & engaging
  • Uniqueness & freshness of content
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Fast to load
  • Mobile optimised

Got that? Let’s move on and look at some other important content assets that can influence rankings: images & video.

Images: Alt tags, Title tags & Filenames

Without images, the web would be a much blander place, and adding them to your pages encourages people to read them by making them more attractive and appealing. This can not only help the ranking of the web page, but also the rankings of the images themselves in image search results.

Wordpress - Add Media library

As such we’re always amazed at how website fail to take advantage of correctly optimised image filenames. Are your images called  “DCS0235522.jpg” or “blue-tshirt-labrador-dog.jpg”. The latter is most definitely better, as search engines can easily index the words present. Name your images as well as you can, thinking equally from a user perspective as well as SEO, but be careful about trying to cram unrelated keywords in.

Look at the Alt tags & Title tags too – do they have descriptive wording?  Again, don’t go keyword stuffing, but describe them as best you can.

Google places a high value on alt text to determine how it relates to the surrounding text copy as well as the image itself. Alt text describes what is on the image as well as the function of the image on the page, and is a positive ranking factor. This is the main tag to describe the image textually so that search engines can understand what it is.

The title attribute is shown as a tooltip when you hover over the image, but they have little or zero impact on your SEO unlike alt tags. Wondering what to write in both? Try not to overthink things, essentially just write a simple title for the image that complements the alt text.

With your images correctly named and tagged, make sure to consider the following:

  • Do you have a nice mix of images that complement your keywords?
  • Are your images compressed and sized correctly?
  • Do they add to the quality and relevance of your pages? *

* But pictures of dogs don’t seem relevant to the topic of this post. True. But aren’t they more interesting than endless graphs, magnifying glasses. Making an impact and standing out from the crowd is important too. The idea is that you might stand a better chance of remembering “that really in-depth blog post about SEO with the pictures of the dogs”.

Videos

Do you have video content for any or all of the pages? If so make sure to include them. The internet in becoming more and more dominated by video content, and this will help enrich your pages.

Users typically stay on your site for longer, in fact Wistia found that visitors spend 2.6x more time on pages with video. This in turn will increase your dwell time, which is a known positive ranking factor, and we all want more of those don’t we?

Now ask yourself the following:

  • Are the videos related to the page in question and do they complement the body copy?
  • If so, is the user likely to watch it?
  • Does it load & play fast? – this is a no-brainer if you use any of the major video hosting networks such as YouTube, Vimeo, BrightCove etc.
  • If self-hosting, check there are no lags or delays. This is not so much of a problem these days as it was 10/15 years ago.

YouTube trending videos

Ideally you’ll want to use your own video content, but it’s perfectly fine to complement your pages with videos from other publishers. Why not send them a message telling them that you think their content is great, and you’ve used it on a page along with a link to it. They might love how you’ve used their video and possibly share your awesome content themselves.

 


Link BuildingStep 5: Link Building

Links are still hugely influential in determining search engine rankings. In fact we’d place them firmly at the top of the ranking list. Take a look at Moz’s most recent study on Links as a Google Ranking Factor. The TLDR of that article is that “links still matter”, but importantly “that the nature and the quality of those links matter too”.

Link building can be fairly difficult. There you go, we’ve said it. But when attacked with a methodical and well-planned out approach it can be hugely rewarding. So what are the methods involved in link building in 2019 and beyond? Here are our most commonly used tactics.

Content marketing – build it and they will link

Essentially you must give other websites a reason to link to you. If your content is high quality enough this can happen organically, but it’s essential to properly market your content after you’ve spend the time in producing it.

Creating amazing content that ranks well is a sure-fire way of getting people to link to your site, and we gave away some of our tips in the previous section. Always make sure to be proactive and reach out to other websites, telling them what you’ve produced and politely suggesting they link to you. Tell them why your content is great!

We assume you’ll have already posted out your great new blog post to your Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn accounts, but have you also considered putting a small advertising budget behind them?  Try spending between £20-£100 on a targeted ad campaign ran over 1 or 2 months to drive traffic to your web page. If users like it you’ll get social engagement, comments, likes and hopefully a few shares.

Do you have an email sign-up form on your site that enables users to subscribe to your blog posts? Start building an email list, and you can regular send email newsletters to your growing fanbase.

Guest blogging & Guest posting

When done correctly, guest blogging can add a lot of value to the blog host’s website and their audience. This content can offer a new insight into a subject, often from a different perspective to the blogger. It does take time to research and write a guest blog post, and even more so to find a suitable host for the content.

The idea is that you write a blog post, and offer it to other blogs rather than hosting it yourselves. A link back to your own website is what you want in return, ideally followed.

Most blogs love the idea of free content, but the more popular ones might be offered guest posts a little too often for their liking. To find suitable blogs, a good method is to search Google for your main keywords and the following phrases.

Using “web design” as an example you might search for “web design guest blogs”. Also try the following:

  • your keyword guest posts
  • your keyword submission guidelines
  • your keyword blog contribution
  • your keyword write for us
  • your keyword guest posts wanted
  • your keyword submit blog post
  • Etc…

Once you’ve spent time searching, create yourself a list of suitable blogs to contact, and then get in touch with them!

What other ways to build links are there?

Consider all of the following:

  • Look for link opportunities in the top 100 or so Google results
  • PR opportunities (existing & new) – Get mentions & links by getting some press releases published on news / industry websites. Also look for missed link opportunities in existing PR articles.
  • Partner/manufacturer links – Contact all of your suppliers, partners, and other companies that you deal with. Will they list you on their website?
  • Reviews / giveaways – People love free stuff. Send bloggers & influencers free stuff in exchange for a review, and hopefully a link.
  • Analyse competitor backlinks – Use the processes mentioned in the Competitor Analysis section above
  • Real-life networking – Meet people, talk about things, build friendships. Yes this still works!

Directory Links

Directory submissions have always been a popular strategy for website owners to try and increase their search engine visibility, but how important are they in 2019?

Submitting your site to too many directories can be bad, but carefully choosing which directories you submit to can certainly help. Google looks for external signals to determine trust, quality and site credibility, so a website that is listed within a number of reputable directories more than likely is going to be trusted.

Making sure that your listings carry correct & consistent citations is very important for local SEO, so it’s with this in mind that we encourage directory submissions. You can use something like Brightlocal to help you with this.

For NAP consistency across directories (and social profiles), you’ll want to ensure the following are up-to-date:

  1. Name
  2. Physical address (if you have one), formatted the same across all directories
  3. Phone number
  4. Email address
  5. Website address

Also consider your hours of operation, registered company number (if you have one) and any feedback or customer reviews that a directory might allow you to have. Having carefully constructed NAP’s is key for businesses looking to improve their search rankings and increase their local organic traffic.

Niche Directories (industry or locality specific)

There are hundreds, if not thousands of popular, commercial type directories available to list in, but something that could be more beneficial for your rankings & search visibility are niche directories. These can be focused on your locations, such as major cities like London or Manchester, or aimed at industries such as technology, manufacturing, clothing, home etc.

Using a similar tactic to what we mentioned for guest blogging, try searching for your niche keyword or location such as “web design directory” or “manchester directory”. Like so:

  • your keyword +directory
  • your keyword +”add your business” / “list your business”
  • your keyword +directory + add/submit/suggest/post
  • your keyword +listings

Also don’t forget Google My Business and Bing Places. Google My Business is possibly THE most important place to spend time optimising. When users google your website name this will appear on the right hand side of the page in the knowledge graph section, and can influence users on whether they click through to your website or not.

External Content

We pondered whether to categorise this section under Content or Link Building. Does it matter? Not much really, but we’re sticklers for organisation, and Chris wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if he didn’t feel we’d given enough thought into it.

What is external content? This is what we class content that is created not to go on your own site, but to be hosted elsewhere. Mostly it consists of the following:

  • Blog posts
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Infographics

Why do we do this? Shouldn’t we put all the content we create on our own site? If we’re looking to create a natural online spread, gain balanced nofollow links and try to increase brand awareness, it can help by posting on external sites, such as the following:

  • Blog Posts: Medium, LinkedIn, WordPress, Wix, Ghost, Tumblr, Blogger, Weebly
  • Photos & Images: 500px, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Imgur, ImgBB, CtrlQ
  • Videos: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, DailyMotion, Wistia

Use any available copy space to add relevant descriptions & citations.

Internal Linking

The aim here is to help Google crawl your website easier to find all of the newly created or updated content. Your homepage is generally the page with most authority on your site, and our goal here is to distribute link value throughout the site.

Within the body copy of each page, check for opportunities to cross-link with other pages. If nothing suitable exists, create it!  Add new sentences, bullets or additional reading areas so that we can easily build internal links.

For anchor text, try to use a balance combination of targeted, generic and also branded keywords, and make sure any links you add fit in well, and don’t detract from the readability of the page.

For blog posts the same principle applies. You can however also use a good “related posts” type plugin to automatically cross-link with other blog posts. Don’t just show the “latest posts” on every page instead, as this won’t be as good for keyword relevancy and also user interest.

Followed vs Nofollow Links

When it comes to links, a followed link is the holy grail, as these pass link juice (pagerank) to your website, telling Google that the linking site thinks your website is credible.

Nofollowed links are typically used in examples such as:

  1. User-generated content – social media sites, public forums etc
  2. Paid links – reviews, editorials etc
  3. Advertisements & sponsors
  4. Press releases

Nofollowed links do not pass any link juice, and so may not directly help you rank. However they do send traffic which of course can generate leads, increase conversions and improve brand awareness.

Gaining an inbound followed link from a reputable website is the best way to drive increased traffic to your site, but it’s not easy. However every site needs a healthy balance of followed & nofollowed links, and this sends the correct signals to Google that everything is ok.

A site with 100% followed links sticks out like a sore thumb, but equally a site with 100% nofollowed links would do too, and it’s a sure bet that either scenario would see a Google penalty.


Two dogs driving in a car

D. Results / Future

So you’ve read this article a dozen times, you’ve made notes, you’ve come up with a detailed plan of action for the next 12 months, and you’re ready to go….. so stick with it and be methodical in your approach.

This is hard work, and you have to be disciplined in order to get results. Don’t give up after 1 month when you’re not seeing instant improvements.

Great, I’ve been patient – and now my rankings have improved! How do I keep my website at the top?

SEO isn’t a one-off approach, and you’ll need to carry on working long-after you reach the top. Sitting back and drinking in your success is a recipe for disaster if you think your work is done.

How should I approach SEO maintenance?

Don’t get bogged down with checking rankings every day. Instead spend your time creating regular content and networking to further strengthen your domain.

Repetition & Rewinding

Repeat the SEO audit every 6/12 months.  Things break, content & plugins gets updated and of course Google updates it’s algorithms. So repeat the process. Re-audit your site and you might notice a few things that you missed first time around. Start the whole approach again and you might have some new ideas, and you’ll see how you can make improvements.

Rank Checking

Don’t focus on too small set of keywords, it might be holding you back. Try widening your list from time to time. Are you a daily or even multiple times per day rank checker? Stop it. It’s not helpful, and isn’t a great use of your time. Go write a blog post instead.

Stuck at number 2 in the rankings and trying ever so hard to get to number 1. Don’t worry too much, it’s probably not worth it that much. Rankings can & will fluctuate, and not everybody is presented with the same results. Try spending your time improving other keywords instead.

Dogs playing with each other

E. References & Additional Reading

 

Pixel Kicks represented at the Simplyhealth Great Manchester 10k

manchester 10k

We are fast approaching the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, and we are delighted to say that Chris, Aaron and Andy will all be flying down Bridgewater Way in aid of their chosen charities.

Chris and Aaron are running to support Forever Manchester while Andy is raising money for The Christie Charitable Fund.

The 10km run starts just off Oxford Road on Portland Street, and continues down onto the A56 towards Old Trafford and then back towards Deansgate. The finish line is at Great Bridgewater Street.

great manchester run 10k route map

Forever Manchester raise money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. They believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be happy and they work with local people in communities across the city to inspire and encourage grassroots projects.

You can sponsor Chris here and Aaron here.

The Christie Charitable Fund raises money for a wide range of projects and initiatives within the hospital. Donations from supporters means they can provide enhanced services over and above what the NHS can.

You can sponsor Andy here.

You can enter either race by creating an account on the Great Run website. To enter the half marathon you must aged 17 or older, and 15 or older for the 10k. More information on the charities involved can be found here.

Web Design Trends in 2018 – The Experts’ View

Web Design trends in 2018 - two zebras

2017 was another year of impressive technological development, with the online world’s continually changing landscape introducing new trends and culling old techniques in the field of web design.

Here at Pixel Kicks, our work this year has seen an increased use of video, mobile-first design, SSL security by default and bigger focus on the customer journey. When starting any new website project, one of the most important tasks is to figure out exactly what the website is trying to accomplish, and planning out the user journey. This process, plotted out initially using wireframing apps such as Adobe XD, helps the project go smoother and sets clear goals for both us and the client to follow.

Website photography design

Last year, we got in touch with a number of web design experts and agencies from around the UK & Ireland, asking them for their opinions on how web design would change in 2017. Moving onto 2018, we’ve again contacted web designers and agencies from all over the country, asking them two questions:

1. Looking back at 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see in the web design field?

Some current hot topics that are increasingly having a strong influence include the following:

  • Even more mobile-friendly layouts
  • Voice search & virtual reality – will we see more experimentation here?
  • Bolder fonts and brighter colours
  • Sticky elements – bottom, left & right to become more commonplace?
  • Inventive grid layouts
  • Further increased use of SVG’s – is 2018 the year of the SVG?
  • Subtle icon animations – can we liven up clean icons?
  • Gradients – everyone loves a gradient, right?

Here’s what they had to say…

Bate Brand - Mark BateMark Bate – Bate Brand Communications

1. Looking back at 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

There has definitely been an emphasis on the importance of getting the user experience element of web design right. Statistically, around 70% of users are now browsing on mobile devices, so this focus on usability is definitely something we expected. Of course, Google penalises websites in search engine rankings if they are unresponsive, so designing websites that are adjustable to all screen sizes and resolutions is an absolute must – and will be for the foreseeable future!

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

Whether they are brands, developers, designers or even copywriters, more and more people are understanding the significance of, and adopting the use of video online. For Google, video is King! I think that the use of 360 video in particular is one to watch: it’s becoming increasingly accessible and hopefully there will be lots of new ways to embed this exciting technology into web design in the future.


It'seeze - Kevin WoodsKevin Woods – it’seeze Websites

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

In 2017, we’ve seen web design start to simplify far more than we expected, with more of a minimal movement taking place than there has been in recent years.

Before this year, it was common for more and more visual elements to take centre stage – e.g. parallax scrolling and sections within the website. There is still a massive demand for animated elements and sleek movements to form part of the design, but these are becoming increasingly more subtle. For example, parallax has been edged out over the last year in favour of other scroll-based animations, such as split-content sections that fade or float in at different speeds.

One reason for the popularity of these scroll-based animations is that this year we’ve also seen it become much more widely accepted for websites to feature a large amount of scrolling. Previously, people wanted all of their most important content above the fold, but now thanks to the ease of scrolling on touchscreen devices there’s more room to play with, which has lent itself perfectly to 2017’s focus on minimal styles.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

Following on from this year’s focus on simplification, mobile layouts will become more simplified and intuitive in 2018. With the rate that technology is progressing, mobile UX is everything now, and as a result interactivity is constantly improving. We’ll see this continue well into 2018 and beyond with mobile-friendly layouts becoming even more interactive and playful – but they won’t be complex, they’ll be clean, easy to read, and effortlessly navigable.

Predominantly white backgrounds are definitely still ‘in’, and this will continue well into the new year, but we’ll definitely see the trend for vibrant colour schemes come into play more in 2018. Major brands are already starting to adopt this approach, with both Dropbox and eBay having recently launched dramatic rebrands, and this could be indicative of a wider trend for bold colour pairings and gradients next year, with these shades no longer just confined to accent colours.

Web design trends in 2018

Aims Media - Craig MacDonald Craig MacDonald – AIMS Media

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

In 2017 we have seen the increased use of large imagery, bold typography, video and focus on animations.  This is also accompanied with the use of bold vibrant colour schemes.  Design has also changed to a mobile first approach.  This is due to the changing habits of web users from desktop to mobile.

Designers are being braver with their use of colour, the use of over saturation on web colours has also become more apparent. This shows that as the designer evolves with their work.

Trends come and go and thankfully the bevel and drop shadow have had their day.  Flat UI is here to stay! Many clients comment on how they want to find things easier on their phones.  Therefore, a mobile first approach should be taken – always!  Careful consideration should be given to navigation and how to keep complex navigation systems simple for all users.

Why are we using sliders in 2017? They are redundant now though.  They are still wanted by marketing managers who think they know how customer interact.  People won’t wait to see the second, third or fourth slide on the slider.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

Going forward to 2018 we will see the continued use of colour evolve to be more daring.  The increase of video will continue as more people expect to see it.

The use of animated logos will also become more common.  Short simple animations will be more widespread using svg animation.  This can be from the company logo to small animated icons for people to interact with.

The use of scripting will also help with interactivity on websites allowing people to spend less time completing forms.  Making it easier for conversions where it matters.

I wouldn’t say 2018 will be the year that changes design or the web experience like the way design was changed in 2012 with flat UI design going widespread.  Though it will evolve furthermore.  I would like to see a greater focus on new unusual layouts of websites giving fresh appeal new ideas.


Richard BatemanWest Four Street

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

2017 carried on from where 2016 left off where strong emphasis on mobile web design was very much at the forefront of many web designers minds. With the statistics showing a continued rise is mobile users accessing the web via their smartphones and tablets this was always going to be inevitable.

There was much hype around the use of infographics and this is certainly one predicted trend that really gained momentum. The use of strong, bold typography too was very evident throughout the year.

It’s been interesting to witness more and more designs come into play on the web that would normally be associated with print design and with came more intricate and engaging concepts being used.

UX (user experience) design though has been the most noticeable ‘trend’ that just continues to expand and with augmented reality pushing to be noticed online I personally think that UX will continue to be on the lips of both designers and clients who too are becoming aware of it’s importance.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

As mentioned before, augmented reality is pushing to be noticed and will introduce new challenges to designers as well as open up many new avenues in regards to our creativity.

The introduction of irregular grids too will be heavily adopted too, moving away from the current trend of the ‘boxed’ layouts we see.

The hamburger menu will continue to gain popularity over your more traditional inline menus as more and more users become familiar with how it works, due in part to the increase of mobile users on the web. I potentially see the hamburger menu being the most commonly used menu by the time we hit 2019. The various different approaches to the UI (user interface) with the hamburger menu will no doubt spark more creative options as well as much debate too I’d imagine!

And finally, I see Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs) being used more and more. Certainly as we witness a far more interactive web coming to the surface with the clever use of infographics, online multimedia experiences and popularity of 360-degree imagery being used. With continuing improvements in broadband & mobile speeds across the globe, web designers and developers have a hell of a lot more freedom to push the boundaries and express ourselves than we did say, five years ago, whilst still keeping in mind the importance of accessibility which in itself was a hugely popular trend in web design just over a decade ago and it’s still a worthy trend today, without any doubt. One that should not be forgotten as we have more and more ‘toys’ to play with as the web evolves.


PS Website Design - Emma BuckeeEmma BuckeePS Website Design

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

Embracing the humble nav bar

We seem to be outgrowing the ‘traditional’ horizontal nav bar, but in many cases this is in favour of bringing navigation to the forefront of the design, rather than hiding it away within a burger as I expected to see more of. I have seen a lot more examples of the navigation experience being used to inform the design, rather than the other way around. Simply being able to click between pages and load these as normal isn’t enough. Navigation is becoming a focal point of websites which is being treated as an exciting design opportunity, rather than a threat.

Letting the load effects do the talking

The simplification of design elements to make way for impressive load and scroll effects is something I’ve seen a lot of this year. Considering how a site design will move and evolve in the hands of the user is more important than ever- static page design is becoming a thing of the past thanks to the success of the parallax scroll. This means that us designers need to start putting on our developer hats more often, so that we can tailor our work to take advantage of some of these exciting possibilities.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

Bringing icons to life

With animated SVGs becoming more common, I’m expecting (and hoping) to see the humble icon brought to life more. I’m not talking about them hopping up and dancing around the page on hover, but subtle movements can really add depth to a simple icon or illustration, as well as enhancing the user journey. As a self-confessed icon fiend, the opportunity to explore how these can be incorporated into web in new and exciting ways is a win for me.

Taking a mobile-first approach

It goes without saying that great responsive design is crucial, and I expect this to gain prevalence over the course of 2018, with a mobile-first approach being adopted more frequently as the number of people viewing sites on mobile devices continues to increase. There really is no excuse for websites to not have at least a basic responsive design approach, and over the next year users will begin to grow more impatient if a site doesn’t offer this, and ultimately go elsewhere if they can.

Man desiging a website using a laptop

Heart IT - Joe ChamberlainJoe Chamberlain – Heart IT

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

Web Design has moved towards striking, contemporary design throughout 2017. We’ve seen a trend in moving away from your usual boring stock imagery, and more of a focus towards ‘real’ photos, used sparingly. A bold feature image followed by clean design has been a consistent trend that we’ve seen over the year. On top of this, the use of clean-cut typefaces are starting to be used in replacement of photos. People are starting to bring in colour and design through their css and fonts, and less so with photography.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

Heading into 2018, we expect to see a reduction in the use of video and other ‘filler’ content on websites. Customer experience, UX and mobile should be at the forefront of every web designer’s mind – videos simply don’t work well in these areas the majority of the time. In our fast-paced lives, we want answers instantaneously without having to search needlessly on a website. In 2018, a website should be simple and straight to the point with all of the important bits available right away. We’ll also begin to see more modular-based website design. Websites will be designed with neat boxes and structure in mind, with different sections separated by subtle dividers.


CGain - Chris GilesChris Giles – CGain

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

Faster websites, SSL enabled, are now becoming the norm even for small businesses. In 2017 I have seen much more of a push towards HTTPS/SSL certificated websites. This is now very much catching on amongst clients and end-users. Another area of growth has been the migration amongst hosting companies towards faster servers, both shared and dedicated.

Landing pages have become lighter, faster and more impactful – particular if the client is running an Adwords Campaign. Better landing pages have not only improved organic search ranking, they have also improved quality scores in Adwords. This reduces costs-per-click!

2017 has also been the year of reviews. More and more sites are including customer reviews from platforms such as Google and Trustpilot due to their effect on organic search engine rankings.

I have also noticed that web design experts who would previously take on almost any kind of work are now specialising in particular niches or areas of interest. It’s great to be choosy, and to just concentrate on those projects you have a passion for.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

SVG file formats will I think become more common. They are smaller in file size, load faster and look better on all almost all devices.

In the continued drive towards speed, many more sites will be featuring AMP compliant pages to enhance performance on mobile devices.

I also expect to see more and more quality original content including articles, images and videos on websites. With the amount of competition around for every business on the web increasing weekly, those with original and quality content will stand out.


Matrix InternetWeb Design TeamMatrix Internet

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

1) The first spot was: Welcome back gradient!

Yes, the gradient is back. An age of flat design is being finished, and the gradient is resurfacing. BUT… in a more elegant way than before, you can be sure. You can take as an example some big brands that are using this new trend: iTunes, Spotify and, Instagram.

2) Icons, more important than ever.

The use of icons has been essential in 2017. Icons can visually express ideas, actions, and objects.When done right, you can communicate the concept or idea of the action much more efficiently.

3) 2017 – said yes to videos

Videos have been used more and more and it seems that they are here to stay. Reasons? While images are static, videos are dynamic. Aside from video’s ability to easily hold the user’s attention, video also works as a means of telling a story and connecting with the user.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

All the websites can say something. Just a Few websites can keep the conversation. We know that the habits of consumers have changed and with this change the new consumer has emerged. Digital, global, and multi-channel, the new consumer now seeks more value: he wants a relationship.

And that’s when storytelling comes on the scene!  Although the strategy is not actually very new, it is becoming more relevant according to the trends in communication development. Marketing and Advertising use this feature to get closer to your audience by creating a closer relationship.

Telling a story creates a much stronger bond with people. For example: Instead of your website explaining a service it offers, it could tell the story of someone who had their routine facilitated through using that solution.In recognising a similar issue and solution to one they themselves are facing, the story of another individual is likely to elicit an empathetic, emotional response in your visitor. Your company’s audience will develop an emotional bond with your company as a result.

One More Thing – Video Marketing

Video marketing took the online marketplace by storm at the end of 2016 and has seen a strong growth trend into 2017, with almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store whitest companies which use videos in their marketing enjoy 27% higher CTR and 34% higher web conversion rates than those which don’t.

With the advent of Facebook page video headers mid 2017 this trend is set to grow even stronger.

The visual and auditory communication medium that video allows for more info to be put into shorter videos that can give the WOW effect to any and all brands.  Communicating their goals, services and products seamlessly through Websites and social media.

The beginning of 2017 also saw the introduction of video backgrounds on websites, that has pushed aside the traditional image slider or hero image. Going into 2018 video is going to keep going strong and dominate the digital landscape in online marketing going forward.

Changes to web design in 2017 and 2018 - triple monitor setup

Storm Website Design - James MontgomerieJames Montgomerie – Storm Website Design

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

A big surge across to the WordPress platform, mainly due to younger managers etc. being familiar with it and saves them money using many standard plugins. Clients also seem to enjoy the flexibility of being able to drag and drop.

Mobile layouts have come along a lot this year, and are gradually becoming more fluid and less “clunky”, clients have also been happy to use SSL certs with Google announcing it is now part of the search algorithm.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

More of the same however I think simpler layouts and more emphasis on Typography, mainly due to mobile use being so prominent, and users being engaged with simple graphics rather than lots of text.

I also think mobile animation, video and more interactivity will come to the fore along with voice search and possibly user interfaces more than a traditional “web design”. Full screen video will likely become more popular and it will be interesting to see how the gradients and brighter colours will be integrated.

More collaboration will also be evident, from Graphic Designers/Marketers with web designers to come up with the end products. I think things will evolve, however I’m just hoping we attract clients willing to embrace change, rather than sticking to the older look and feel. Time will tell!


NINE2 - Ashley CashfieldAshley CashfieldNINE2

2017 was a massive year for us here at NINE2.

It marked the birth of NINE2 as a fully fledged web agency here in Norwich before that I’d worked for countless other agencies and local businesses helping them curate website projects and naturally, this gave me experience in tonnes of industries.

Although a new name, me and my close-knit team aren’t strangers to web design, we’ve got a combined 26 years of experience.

In that time we’ve seen web design develop in a huge way and it’s often a hot topic in the office.

2017 was no exception.

Personally, we saw a plethora of clients coming forward asking for things like parallax, retina graphics and mobile-responsive designs.

I think it shows that clients are getting increasingly savvy when it comes to design for the web.

Looking forward to 2018 I can’t see this changing at all.

With the influx of ‘free and easy’ website builders, clients are learning more and more about what it takes to build a website and what is possible.

I think we’ll see an increased demand for mobile responsive websites and a focus on making that the main focus when it comes to designing a website with user intent.

My personal favourite trend I’ve seen emerging this year? Animated SVGs!

They look awesome, function well and create a new tool when it comes to making websites stand out from the crowd.

If I had to place my bets on one trend taking over in the next year, I’d love to see it be those!


Tom Livingstone – Bright Design

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

Web design is no longer just making something look aesthetically pleasing on the eye. Designers need to think about the whole user experience, and also needs to be mobile ready. If the site doesn’t convert, it’s practically useless.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

I expect web design principles to be more heavily weighted towards user engagement and conversion optimisation. Sites need to be trusted. Any large scale web design agency that isn’t thinking about the customer journey, and testing these journeys using alternative persona’s, are going to be left behind.

 

Responsive website framework on an Apple laptop

What did the team at Pixel Kicks think?

Pixel Kicks - Aaron McGuireAaron McGuire – Pixel Kicks

1. Looking back on 2017, how do you feel that web design has evolved, and has it done so in the way you expected?

2017 has brought about the birth of an endless list of new JavaScript libraries and task managers that claim to be the best, with an indistinguishable desire to simplify the website optimisation process and reduce website overheads. There has been a steady increase in websites using HTTP/2 with 22.8% of all websites now opting to use HTTP/2 as opposed to HTTP 1. This is probably due to multiplexing allowing multiple requests over a single connection; therefore, reducing connection requests and subsequently making websites load faster.

SVG animations have been rapidly taking over for years due to their expansiveness but 2017 has seen designers gain the ability to create and ship beautiful animations without an engineer painstakingly recreating it by hand. After Effects plugins like BodyMovin have been adapted into web libraries such as AirBnB’s Lottie which now allow animations to be exported into Json and rendered natively.

2. Looking ahead to 2018, what changes do you expect to see?

With CSS Grid Layouts being even closer to full browser support, 2018 will undoubtedly be a year for experimental designs as people push the boundaries to achieve layouts that were once thought impossible or hacky.

There will likely be a huge push for mobile design as people try to accommodate Apples latest changes with the iPhone X. We will also see more micro-interactions and feedback animations as processing power and screen sizes become substantially larger.

Canvas based animations using libraries such as Three.js and Pixi.js will thrive as they tend to do every year. With these experimental technologies now becoming well documented we will likely see them being put into practice more.


Pixel Kicks - Rofikul ShahinRofikul Shahin – Pixel Kicks

Copywriting: New and innovative copywriting will be a major part of web design in 2018. As web becomes more of a utility than vanity, catchy words like “Disrupt”, “Blue Sky” are going to keep losing their appeal and grandeur. Having a concise message that blends effortlessly with the design will be an integral part of design process. Take the YouTube 5-second-ad rule. Nobody’s got time, your message needs to get across in no time.

Typography and Feedback Animation: As I mentioned last year, you can only go so far before there’s compromise to be made to make the site useful, information digestible and design memorable. I think typography will still rule supreme this year. It’s one of the very few things that holds its appeal regardless of screen size.

Subtle feedback animation will probably play a major role in 2018. With web app and ajax becoming commonplace, input feedback will differentiate between a good design and a great design.

Experimental: As new technologies such as WebGL and frameworks like Three.js becomes more and more the norm, we’ll start to see a lot of experimental designs or at least design elements making their way into mainstream web design. We’re already seeing a lot of particle backgrounds on a number of agency websites, it won’t be long till they appeal to more mainstream clients.

A huge thanks to all of the web design experts who contributed to our article – we’re looking forward to seeing which of the features will prove true.

Read our definitive round-up of SEO Trends in 2018.

Pixel Kicks Nominated for Four Awards

As summer draws to a close (summer, what summer?), and the dark mornings start to emerge, we’re delighted to announce we’ve been nominated for four different awards. It goes without saying that we’re over the moon, as well as being very humble and highly appreciate about the fact.

The most important things for any company are their staff and their clients, and we’re lucky in both respects to be surrounded by talented & friendly people.

The awards we have been nominated for are:

Just being in the mix amongst many other great agencies is a massive thumbs up for our team, and their hard work & attention to detail is something we’re extremely proud of.

Digital Entrepreneur Awards 2017 - Digital Agency of the Year

The Digital Entrepreneur Awards (DEA’s) are recognise entrepreneurs from across the country who have achieved online business excellence. They celebrate not only the high-profile websites and leaders driving online commerce, but also the silent heroes who develop the systems that change the online landscape – shaping our digital future.

The awards are split into two sectors for the UK – North and South, and being a Manchester based agency, we’re heading up the North category 🙂

Laboratory Awards 2017 - Best Laboratory Website

The Laboratory Awards is the UK’s largest dental awards ceremony recognising the science behind the smile, and the awards evening takes place on the 1st December 2017 at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington.

Hall Dental Studio are a long-standing client of ours, and we recently launched the new version of their website at http://halldentalstudio.co.uk/. The launch has been a huge success, and both ourselves and Hall Dental of course are delighted that the website has been recognised for honours in the Laboratory Awards.

The Talk of Manchester Awards 2017 - Best Digital Agency

The Talk of Manchester Business Awards are to be held at a Gala Dinner on Thursday 30th November at the Manchester Mercure Piccadilly Hotel. We’ve been nominated in two categories this year – “Best Digital Agency” and “Best Search Engine Visibility”. You can vote for us via the following link.

Thanks to the entire Pixel Kicks team for their sterling efforts this year – our coffee, pizza & cookie budget will be going through the roof. Gotta keep the engine fuelled!

Job Vacancy: SEO Manager

SEO on Google Search

SEO Manager job vacancy in Manchester

 

Due to company expansion, we’re on the look-out for a SEO & Digital Marketing Manager to join our team

SEO Manager – Ancoats, Manchester

We’re looking for someone to work closely with our existing online marketing department, taking the lead for onboarding new clients, assessing campaign requirements, and then planning out a strategy & set of tasks. This is a fantastic opportunity for the right person to join a successful and growing Manchester based digital agency. We are a client-focused company and strive to provide the best service possible, so you’ll need excellent customer-facing skills and small team management.

The successful applicant must be extremely comfortable with planning & managing new & existing search, content and social campaigns, as well as running PPC campaigns on Google Adwords & Facebook.

Essential:

  • Excellent knowledge of SEO principles, and how the industry has evolved in the last 5/6 years
  • Excellent technical on-page SEO knowledge
  • Content, guest blogging and link building campaign knowledge
  • Strong knowledge of Google Analytics & Search Console
  • Experience with SEO tools such as Moz, SEMRush etc
  • Google AdWords experience – creating and optimising paid search/display campaigns
  • Experience of managing social campaigns including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter
  • Experience in producing digital marketing reports
  • Appreciation of website aesthetics
  • HTML/CSS knowledge

You’ll also need to:

  • Communicate regularly with clients and other team members
  • Have strong organisational effectiveness and time management
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Have an outstanding attention to detail
  • Assist in client sales meetings
  • Offer insightful help wherever possible

This role needs someone with a real passion to continually enhance their knowledge, and the applicant must be hard-working and punctual, with the ability to fit into a small team. Competitive salary paid.

Salary

Competitive salary paid dependent on knowledge and experience.

Perks of working at Pixel Kicks

  • Work at one of the highest client rated digital agencies in Manchester
  • Plush city centre office on the corner of Ancoats & the Northern Quarter
  • Xbox gamingwith lunchtime team tournaments and latest game releases
  • Relaxed working environment
  • Dual monitor, high spec PC setup
  • Balcony terrace for grabbing some fresh air
  • Private kitchen with all mod-cons and smoothie maker
  • Tea, coffee and biscuits supplied, with occasional Friday lunches paid for
  • Staff discount at Kettlebell Kitchen
  • Opportunity for growth and promotion within our expanding company
  • Annual salary reviews in line with own & company performance

This is a great opening for the right person to start a career at a well respected and growing web design company, based on the corner of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. Please complete the form below to apply.

STRICTLY NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Careers

  • Apply

  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, jpg, png, odf.

Job Vacancy: Junior Front-end Web Developer

Junior front-end web developer wanted in Manchester

We’re on the hunt for a talented junior front-end web developer to come and work for us.

Due to a growing portfolio and subsequent company expansion, we need a junior web developer to join the team. Working from our Ancoats based office, you’ll be joining an existing group of tight-knit designers and developers.

We’re looking for a person with talent, a passion to learn and continually improve, and someone who wants to fit into our agency way of life. You’ll need to have an excellent appreciation of modern responsive websites and though the job description says web developer, you’ll stand out from the crowd if you possess a good eye for design.

Join us, and you’ll have every opportunity to establish yourself at a small but very experienced agency – moulding your role as we grow. You’ll need to fit in to a team but also be able to work independently, thinking on your own. Think this is you? Read on.

Junior Front-End Web Developer, Ancoats, Manchester

The successful applicant must have the following skills, and be able to show examples of their work.

Essential:

  • HTML5, CSS3, SASS, jQuery & related JS libraries
  • PHP
  • Clean coding
  • Good knowledge of modern frameworks such as Bootstrap and Foundation
  • Good knowledge of WordPress & Woocommerce, with a high level grasp of WP functions and overall structure
  • Experience with solving cross‐browser compatibility issues and responsive testing on multiple devices

Beneficial:

  • MySQL
  • GIT
  • Photoshop / Graphic skills
  • Illustrator
  • Experience with Adwords
  • Understanding of SEO
  • Understanding of domains and hosting
  • Experience with Google Analytics / Google Adwords

You’ll also need to:

  • Communicate regularly with other team members
  • Have strong organisational effectiveness and time management
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Have an outstanding attention to detail

This role needs someone with a real passion to continually enhance their knowledge, and the applicant must be hard-working and punctual, with the ability to fit into a small team. Competitive salary paid.

Perks of working at Pixel Kicks

  • Plush city centre office on the corner of Ancoats & the Northern Quarter
  • XBox with lunchtime team tournaments and latest game releases
  • Relaxed working environment
  • Dual monitor, high spec PC setup
  • Balcony terrace for when you need to get a breather for 5/10 minutes
  • Private kitchen with all mod-cons and smoothie maker
  • Staff discount at Kettlebell Kitchen
  • Opportunity for growth and promotion within our growing company
  • Annual salary reviews in line with own & company performance

This is a great opening for the right person to start a career at a well respected and growing web design company, based on the corner of Ancoats and the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. Please complete the form below to apply.

STRICTLY NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Careers

  • Apply

  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, jpg, png, odf.

20 Simple SEO Tips For 2017

Most of our SEO tips below are fairly straight-forward. They’re not new, they won’t make all the headlines, and they’re certainly not rocket-science. That indeed is the beauty of them all.

We think SEO is pretty simple, so don’t waste your time trying out the latest killer SEO tactic in the hope it will catapult your website from ranking on the lower pages of Google to the top half of page one. One of the things we like to say is that Google isn’t trying to make things complicated for you, instead it wants to base its search engine results on good old-fashioned common sense.

SEO analysics, content & rankings in 2017

Ask yourself the question – “Why would somebody want to link to my website?“, and then try to answer it. If you’re struggling for answers then there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not that hard though to transform your site from poor to great, it just takes time.

Read our 20 simple SEO tips for 2017 below and see if you can make big changes to not only your rankings, but your traffic, your social followers, and more important your enquiries & sales.

  1. Track a wide selection of keyword rankings
  2. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date
  3. Do you have enough content?
  4. Do you have enough external content?
  5. Put your site in secure HTTPS mode
  6. Check your competitor’s backlinks
  7. Check your own backlink profile
  8. Create long, engaging content
  9. Name and tag your images correctly
  10. Monitor your reviews & ratings
  11. Pay attention to Google Analytics
  12. Don’t be afraid to link out
  13. Make sure your site loads fast
  14. Create & embed video
  15. Be active with your blog
  16. Build internal links within the body of your pages
  17. Be patient
  18. Submit your sitemap to Google & Bing
  19. Be active with your social media profiles
  20. Is your site as mobile-friendly as it could be?

20 simple SEO tips in 2017

Track a wide selection of keyword rankings

How many keywords are you tracking? Just the one? Two? Add more.

We don’t mind focusing on a couple of fairly short-tail keywords, after all there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but you should be tracking at least 20/30+ different keywords. Add variations, add similar words, run your keywords through Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest and expand your list. You’ll get a better idea of how strong your site is, and be able to better monitor your progress.

Make sure your contact information is up-to-date

Firstly, check the details you have on your own site. In the footer, on the contact page, and anywhere else you might have added your details. Your address, telephone number(s) and email addresses should all be correct.

Secondly, check your external listings such as Google My Business, Bing and Facebook. Do the details match?

Thirdly, check every single directory website that you are listed on. Make sure your details match. We bet you a coffee that you’ll find some incorrect or outdated information on at least one of them, and take this is an opportunity to expand or update the information about your company on each directory.

Directories can be ok, you know?

Do you have enough content?

Go and have a look at your site right now, and get a couple of fresh eyes to do the same. Does it say enough about what you do? Does it provide enough information to your customers about what you’re trying to sell, what your company does, who your team is, and why customers should use you?

When performing an audit on our clients’ sites, we start by looking at the homepage first, followed by all of the internal pages. If we don’t think they have enough text, we add some more, and if there aren’t enough images, we’ll sort that out too. Generally we’d recommend at least 500 words for a decent internal page, but it’s not always the case.

Take a look at the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Do you have matching, relevant pages or at least sections of text where they are mentioned? If not then it goes without saying that you’ll struggle to rank.

LSI, or latent semantic indexing also holds true here, and for those who aren’t familiar with this, if the main keyword that you are trying to rank for is “web design”, then Google would expect to find words relating to that subject in the content of the pages, such as “mobile websites”, “search engine optimisation” or “ecommerce development”.

Have a fresh read of your content and decide if you have enough.

Do you have enough external content?

External content, as far as we see it, can be videos posted on your YouTube channel, articles posted on your LinkedIn account, photos posted on your Flickr account, and generally anything created & posted on a site external to your own. Yes, admittedly we’re blending the horizons with social media here, but we’re looking for something a bit more meaty and substantial than your average social media post.

Something that you’ve thought about, spent a lot of time creating, posted and promoted fits into this category. If it mentions your brand name, contact details or links back to your website in any way, then we can class it as external content. We’re not always looking for do-follow links, and a no-follow link still has it’s merits. Use external content as a way of gaining citations, traffic and possibly links.

Put your site in secure HTTPS mode

Depending on your hosting setup this should be easy. Just purchase a SSL certificate, install on your webserver, and make sure your site loads permanently in secure mode. (Look for the green https or lock icon to the left of your domain name). Services such as Let’s Encrypt make this easier than it’s ever been, and this is a proven ranking factor.

Check your competitor’s backlinks

Everyone checks out their competition, right? Well take a look at the backlinks they’ve got too, and you’ll usually find a few that you can get as well. Use Moz OpenSiteExplorerAhrefs or Google Search Console’s “Links to Your Site” section to find this information out. Once you’ve got the backlink information from around five of your competing websites, get all the data in a spreadsheet, and arrange it into groups of different links. E.g. directories, press, blogs, social or spam.

Then set about going after the same links.

Check your own backlink profile

Do you know which websites are linking to yours already? Over the years we’ve heard from countless customers struggling to realise why they aren’t ranking for their primary keywords, and when we ask them what their strongest links are they often don’t know. A few assume they have lots of good links, but when running a quick check it seems they don’t.

This is something that we encourage everyone to do regularly (realistically and practically, think once a quarter), and you can often find new link sources that you might not have thought of before.

Use the same tools as above to find your own links.

Create long, engaging content

Writing a blog post? Decided that 700 words is enough? In some cases it might be, but we generally try to produce killer content that is not just long, but interesting, engaging, visually appealing, and leaves the reader with a sense of “wow” at the end. Having someone come to your website and leave with this impression can be the difference between them sharing your webpage and linking to you, or simply moving on.

When writing your next blog post, have a look at the ones you’ve created previously, and set out with a target of doubling, or tripling the amount of content. As a rule of thumb, aim for 1500 words+, 3/4 images, 1 video and perhaps an embedded Tweet or Instagram post.

Does it link out to any other sites? Add a couple of links. Does it look nice as you scroll down the page? Tidy it up a bit. Are the photos impressive enough? Maybe swap one or two for better ones.

When analysing the top ranking web-pages for a selection of keywords, usually the ones at the top are the longest. It’s not always a case of quantity over quality, but when you combine both those words you’re left with an unbeatable ranking monster.

Name and tag your images correctly

What do the filenames of the images uploaded to your website look like? “2016-09-09 21.43.38.jpg“, or “photoshop-website-design-in-progress.jpg“. What’s more descriptive? The latter is infinitely more readable both to your users and also Google. Before you upload a photo, rename the file to something that describes what it is. Don’t just pack in a load of keywords, instead make it obvious what the photo is, and you’ll find you’ll naturally find your common keywords appearing.

If you have a website with 30 images all named what your digital camera decided, renaming them to something better can have a good improvement in rankings (and you might notice some extra traffic from Google Images as a bonus).

Don’t forget your ALT & Title tags too. Any time you use an image, include either of these tags, and what you use should be “meaningful in the context of the web page”. The ALT text should let the user know what an image’s content and purpose are.

Getting into the habit of naming & tagging your images correctly is not only best-practice for accessibility, but you can sleep safe at night knowing your images are not only pretty to look at, but help your rankings.

Read more at Accessiblity.psu.edu & Hobo-web.

Monitor your reviews & ratings

For this point we are assuming your websites’ subject is something that somebody could review – so this won’t be applicable to everyone.

How many reviews does your site have? How many different review sites are you listed on? How positive are the reviews? Do you inform users that you have these reviews?

To illustrate this point, we’ll use ourselves. A quick Google for “pixel kicks” reveals that we have 26 reviews listed with Google, with a perfect 5 star rating. Further down the page you’ll notice that Google shows our Facebook reviews under “Reviews from the web”, where we have 4.6 from 28 reviews (3 of which are fake spam customers we’ll add).

So in the two most common outlets where you’ll typically find company information, we’re doing well. Potential customers might be impressed, and Google knows we’re seen in a positive light by most.

As well as these two, we also have more reviews listed on Reviews.co.uk and Which Web Design Company.

Multiple, reputable sites, all with a large amount of extremely positive reviews. This gives us trust, and trust is a big factor in gaining new customers. Though Google hasn’t admitted that positive reviews are a ranking factor, let’s go back to the phrase mentioned in our opening paragraph – “common sense“.

Pay attention to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a haven of essential information, and can tell you everything you need to know about your website, your users, and where you traffic comes from.

On a weekly basis we’ll most typically look at “Audience -> Overview”, “Aquisition -> Channels” and “Behaviour -> Site Content”. This tells us how many visitors we’ve had, where they are coming from, and what our most popular pages are.

If you’ve set it up correctly you can also check how many conversions you’ve had, and these could be simple form enquiries or sales. You can create Goals for pretty much anything you want to track, and when done in the right way this can give you some really helpful data.

If you want to delve into some more useful statistics, you might also want to take a look at:

  • Mobile user percentage (Audience – Mobile – Overview)
  • Most popular browsers (Audience – Technology)
  • Where your viewers live (Audience – Overview)
  • Real time user information (Real-Time – Overview) – though you’ll need a fairly high-traffic site to see any meaningful information here
  • Common search queries (Acquisition – Search Console – Queries)
  • Which websites send you the most traffic (Acquisition – All Traffic – Referrals)

Have a browse around!

Don’t be afraid to link out

We’ve seen some terrible SEO advice dished out over the years. One of them being “not to link out too much” – “you don’t want to dilute your link juice” etc. What a load of old cobblers!

The world-wide-web was designed around the “hyperlink”, and this how it still works today. By linking from one site to another, you are contributing to the growth of the internet, and if you link out to the right sites you can potentially improve your rankings.

By linking out to quality websites that help your visitors, you can improve your reputation with users and search engines. This could ultimately lead to more inbound links. Quickly flick through this blog post and notice how many times we’ve linked out. Did you find the links useful?

If your site links to poor sites, users might think your site is poor too. Google and other search engines don’t want to reward these sites. A well referenced page makes your site more authoritative – look at Wikipedia as a prime example. It contains references to validate it’s information and prove authority.

Here’s some more reading for you at ShoutMeLoud and SearchEngineJournal.

Now go and spread your link love.

Make sure your site loads fast

Have you ever visited a webpage only for it to take 10/20/30 seconds to load? We hazard a guess that you’ll have often given up and gone somewhere else. That’s a pretty common reaction.

Would you risk this happening with your own site? It doesn’t have to.

Start with your own web-hosting. It is cheap? Slow? Then change it to something faster. It shouldn’t cost the earth, but your users will be able to browse your pages much more smoothly.

Next, take a look at the following points. How many of them are applicable?

  1. Are your pages cached? Do they load as quickly as they can?
  2. Are your images compressed and load in an acceptable time?
  3. Do you have too many ads on your site, presenting the user with a poor browsing experience?
  4. How does your site compare to your competitors?
  5. What does Google say about it?

Reward your users with a nice experience, and they might come back again. Give them a bad one, and they might not.

Create & embed video

The use of video has exploded in the last few years, and yet still it’s an underused tool. Whether you’ve tried creating your own videos yet, you can still use them to improve the content available on your website.

Take a look through all of the pages on your site. How many videos have you embedded? You might be shocked to know that most websites on the internet don’t have any. It’s extremely simple to include a video on a webpage, usually by pasting some simple “embed” code, or quite often by simply pasting the URL of the video in a page.

Like so:

See what we did there?

The sporadic use of video in a webpage can improve the amount of time that a user spends on that page, and this can improve your bounce rate. That’s a good thing. Users might also come back to your webpage to watch that video they remember from the other month.

Tip: Embedded someone elses video? Go and let them know by posting a message in the video comments section.

Be active with your blog

We admit it. We’re not as active and consistent with our blog as we’d like. But we’re better than most.

We see our blog as a way of providing unique, helpful content that is relevant to our core services, might help our users & clients, and also has the benefit of promoting our company by bringing in new visitors that might not have heard of us before.

Nearly all our customers want us to add a blog to their site, and we duly oblige. But we always make sure we reinforce the importance of actually writing regular content, and keeping on top of it. To create a healthy blog that gives you the benefits we’ve mentioned above, you need to make it part of your marketing activity.  Aim for one blog post a month if you can – that’s not much to ask is it? The busier sites will want a higher frequency than this, but setting the “1 post a month” minimum gives you a baseline to work from.

What should I write on my blog?

Talk about your company, your products, your services, your customers, any events you’re attending, etc etc. Don’t use it to moan & shout, instead, think how it can add value to your company. What are you competitors writing about? If you were a customer, what would you be happy reading?

The best way to see how blogs work is by looking at other websites and reading their posts.

As with our tip “Create long and engaging content” above, spend a bit of time thinking about the value of what you’re writing. E.g are you really going to get much benefit from posting a short sentence about how Judy got her hair done over the weekend?

Build internal links within the body of your pages

One of the most commonly-forgotten SEO methods is linking from one internal page to another. And we find this strange, because internal links can sometimes be just as beneficial as external links. We’re going to quote the aforementioned Moz page on this:

Internal links are useful for three reasons: 1) They allow users to navigate a website 2) They help establish information hierarchy for the given website 3) They help spread link juice (ranking power) around websites.

The theory behind internal linking is thus, and we’ll quote Kissmetrics this time:

Internal linking strengthens the overall search-optimized value of a website. Inner linking does so by providing clear paths for spiders, prolonged sessions for users, and a tight-knit network of pages and posts.

What are you waiting for, go and start building some links!

Be Patient

We’ve done it. Everyone’s done it. (We still do it in fact.) What are we talking about? Checking your rankings every day! Or multiple times per day!

It’s hard not to get addictively drawn into the game of checking your Google rankings every single day, in the excited hope that you’ll see a big jump. It is possible to see this happen, and yes it’s very exciting, but more often than not you’ll waste lots of your precious time watching your search enging position fluctuate insignificantly when you could be doing lots of better things with your day.

When making changes to a website, or gaining new backlinks, do not expect Google or Bing to reward you with a change in rankings the very next day. It can take weeks, and often it’s difficult to attribute a particular change to an increase/decrease in rankings.

If you’ve disavowed a list of spam domains from your backlink profile, it could take months to have an effect.

If you force yourself into the habit of making positive contributions to your site in the form of building strong backlinks and creating new content, you shouldn’t have to worry about the small day to day rank changes. Focus on the marketing and the traffic will come.

Submit your sitemap to Google & Bing

Telling Google & Bing where all of your web pages are is damn important. Don’t just rely on them finding your website magically and crawling your entire site, instead give them both a nudge! “Hey Google, come and take a look at my site please! I’ve got lots of really great pages I want you to read!“.

Registering your sitemap not only notifies both search engines in the first place, but it keeps them up-to-date of any changes you make. Do it.

Be active with your social media profiles

One question that webmasters and SEO enthusiasts often discuss is how much social media sites and posts effect Google rankings.

Social signals are the likes, shares, views or retweets that people do on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. These signals indicate that your website or brand is being talked about by consumers, and there is a strong correlation that these improve your rankings when combined with other factors.

From an SEO perspective, the right social media promotion can help provide the exposure to your website content which lets others take notice – potentially linking through to your web page.

View Backlinko’s Top 200 Ranking Factors post – and scroll down to the bit about “Social Signals” for more in-depth information.

Is your site as mobile-friendly as it could be?

  • It goes without saying that your website should be mobile friendly. If it isn’t, bookmark this page, make that your first job, and then come back here once you’ve sorted that
  • If your site is already responsive, is it as mobile-friendly as it could be? If it isn’t, bookmark this page, go and improve it, and then come back here once you’ve done that.

If your site is as super-responsive as they come, then give yourself a pat on the back and digest, process and start implementing our helpful 20 simple SEO tips for 2017.

Thanks for reading.


Art in our Ancoats, Manchester office (Mancsy and Banksy!)

We’re a digital agency based in Ancoats, Manchester. Read more about our SEO services, and perform a Free SEO Audit on your site.

We’re moving! Ancoats, get ready for Pixel Kicks!

Since June 2012 we’ve been based at The Sharp Project, home to many of Manchester’s great digital startups as well as some of the more experienced companies around.

We’ve had some great times, no, we’ve had some amazing times, and we’ve grown 5-fold in size. The only problem with reaching double figures in staff numbers is outgrowing our space, and that’s the problem we started looking to rectify earlier this year.

We searched high and low, scouring all corners of Manchester city centre to find our ideal home, and eventually we arrived in Ancoats. Suffice to say we quickly fell in love.

From Oldham, to Newton Heath, and now Ancoats

So where’s our new office located then?

Positioned in the middle of the Crown & Kettle pub and the Daily Express building on the corner of Ancoats & the Northern Quarter, we’ve taken the entire top floor of Virginia House, and work is already underway to sculpt the internals.

Virginia House, Ancoats, Manchester

There’s a lot of furnishing to be done before we can move in fully, but we’re expecting to be in during early October. New carpets, a fresh lick of paint, the removal of a partition or two to open up the space, and an upgraded internet connection are our most pressing requirements.

The move will enable us to expand our team, work closely with more clients in the heart of Manchester, provide on-site training and better serve our current customers.

The new home of Pixel Kicks and Digitl, in Ancoats Manchester

We’ll post our next set of photos when the office is complete (we need a bit of time to work out what we’re going to put on the walls!), and we’ll be holding a free open day / launch party for customers & friends to pop in and say hello. There will be coffee, prosecco, and perhaps a few Krispy Kreme donuts. Stay tuned for more news on this not-to-be-missed event, and we’ll also be revealing more about our burgeoning relationship with marketplace & e-commerce specialists Digitl.

Our view from the top of Virginia House in Ancoats, Manchester

So it’s goodbye to The Sharp Project, and hello to Ancoats. We’ll be sad to leave our home for the last few years, but we can’t wait to get into our new place. As one of Manchester’s highest ranking & best-rated web design & SEO agencies we’re literally “buzzin” with excitement (to coin a traditional Mancunian phrase).

The Manchester Bee

Pixel Kicks.

 

 

 

 

Web Design Trends in 2017 – What Can We Expect?

Want a more recent update?
Read our updated 2018 version entitled “Web Design Trends in 2018 – The Experts’ View“, or carry on reading below for the 2017 version.


With the world quickly moving into the second half of 2016, our thoughts are starting to drift towards the next set of emerging web design trends in 2017.

The last few years have seen an abundance of new technologies and ideas, and with all major browsers strongly supporting HTML5 and CCS3 standards, as well as sporting super-fast JavaScript engines, web designers have never had so many options at their creative disposal.

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When tasked with designing a new site for our clients, we have a clear approach on how to plan & create their website, and our five core aims consist of:

  • build a mobile-friendly site that impresses equally on all devices
  • create a clean appearance that allows the right messages to stand out
  • leave users with a lasting impression of trust & quality
  • blend content with simplicity
  • make the site load as fast as possible

With these in mind, we feel always feel confident to embark on the design journey. Every site is different from one another though, and during our project kickoff meetings we try to discuss details that can truly set the website apart from the rest.

Current hot topics include:

  • Flat design – is this starting to get tired? Is semi flat the answer?
  • Parallax – more or less? Does it still have the same impact it used to have?
  • Mobile-first design – are sites becoming too similar – designers becoming lazy?
  • Storytelling – how we can we create an enticing story behind each website? Do we even need to?
  • Stock photography & illustrations – are we over-using the same types of creative? Are most users savvy to a stock photo?
  • Video – are we using it well enough?
  • Card & Grid UI’s – are we still waiting for widespread adoption? How can we utilise this design technique well

Many modern websites share similar traits, and most web designers have their opinions on what looks good and works well. So what can we expect to change in future? What new things will every website be doing in 2017, and what can we expect to see disappear as we move forward?

We got in touch with a large group of web design experts and agencies across the country and asked them the following questions:

1. What trends in web design do you expect to see develop in 2017 and the further future?

2. Are there any current regularly used website traits that you think we’ll see less of in 2017?

Here’s what they had to say…

 

Damian Thomas - Thomas DesignDamian Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Design

1. What we’ll see more of

The one truth about web design is that it exists in a constant state of evolution, and we’re seeing some strong trends develop at the moment. In the centre of it all, is user experience. What really makes a trend last, is its usability, accessibility and its place in the user journey. It can be easy to think of internet audiences as the peak and pit of analytics statistics and behavioural patterns, and forget that audiences are just people.

People are incredibly visual beings, and the strongest trends are those that consider the human eye, along with our other senses. Hero images will be strong in 2017, with websites boasting high resolution, brand curated images to peak audience interest. Images aren’t the only way to be visual, and typography will become more important next year, as more businesses will try to separate themselves from the competition with strong branding.

Video will continue to dominate trends, and I don’t just mean with content marketing. Video content is already strong on blogs and YouTube, but designers are tinkering with it in other ways. Background video and motion graphics will be enjoying some attention, as long as it is used correctly. It can be easy to fall into the trap of using all the bells and whistles in the toolbox, but the success of good animation depends on subtle gentle movements and simplicity.

2. What we’ll see less of

People are starting to get fed up with the overuse of stock photography. Although images are crucial, designers need to be able to source photography elsewhere. I think it’s pretty much accepted to see stock images in blogs and on social media, but to use it in web design can be sloppy – and you run the risk of using the same images as competitors. Stock photography is ultimately someone else’s vision, and no matter how close it comes to your own, nothing can replicate the use of custom photography in design.

 


 

Nick Butler -Ireland Web DesignNick Butler – Digital Marketing Strategist & founder of Ireland Website Design

1. What we’ll see more of

We’re predicting a move towards inspirational, interactive web storytelling that focuses on rich, unique user experiences. A shift from widespread template use (finally!). Think custom-made features and graphics – cookie cutter websites are a thing of the past.

More parallax, browsing the web is to set to evolve into an engaging, interactive, dynamic experience.Split screen layouts are another great alternative to traditional web design – they keep both designers and copywriters happy.

2. What we’ll see less of

We’re expecting carousels to lose popularity – they’re bad for SEO, can slow down load-times and prove unpopular with end users. The end of widespread stock photography use is on the way out as website design and development moves past the cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all approach.

 

Two people using responsive websites on smartphones

 

Lucy Jones - VerveLucy Jones – Designer at Verve

1. What we’ll see more of

Adopting the mobile-first design approach
Typically, most web design agencies have approached the desktop visual first, with the mobile visual as a secondary goal that gets completed at a later date. Even with the rise of responsive design, many agencies will begin with the desktop visual and work their way down.

We believe that there is a developing trend to flip this work-flow on its head and begin with mobile visuals (or small screen devices) first and then work up to bigger desktop versions.

This concept isn’t entirely new, but with responsive design becoming more and more relevant as a result of changes to Google’s Algorithm and stats suggesting mobile dominance, it seems to be a natural progression to alter this process.

We’ve previously seen large restrictions on content and ability to perform basic functionality on mobile. However this is now largely detrimental to all companies functioning this way. A well thought out mobile design, putting the small screen user high up in your list of considerations should be key to producing successful results and we expect to see this trend grow and continue into 2017.

Custom-made Illustrations
Illustration can turn a plain website into something really special, something that identifies and communicates the brand message with the power to seduce.

Illustrations as a whole covers a huge variety of possibilities, injecting personality and capturing the attention of the viewer. You have but a matter of seconds to show the user how your website will do for them what they require; this makes the initial page load above the fold one of the key areas to any website and custom illustrations are a great way to communicate with your audience.

Not only will illustrations help you convey key information about the type of company you are, unlike stock photography, they are unique to your brand and when tailored to match the appropriate tone of your company, will help you stand out in a marketplace that continues to expand.

2. What we’ll see less of

Parallax Scrolling
Over recent years, more and more websites have been making the use of parallax scrolling. This allows the foreground and background to scroll at different speeds, giving the viewer the illusion of depth and is used in website storytelling and product demonstration.

Whilst aesthetically pleasing (mostly) it is questionable if the use of parallax does in fact create a good user experience.

Potential issues with parallax include the effect on SEO. Most websites that feature heavy use of parallax scrolling tend to be one page sites. Any content, tends to be embedded in graphics, giving very little to be crawled effectively by search engines.

A focus on parallax can also cause reductions in site performance. For those working from a desktop computer with excellent internet connection the website will look great. However many others will come away with a bad user experience, especially mobile users where load times are significantly lengthened by the increased use of Javascript.

Splash Pages

A splash page is typically an animation or graphic the user sees before reaching the actual content on the website. Generally annoying and slightly pointless, splash pages date back to early websites, however it is still fairly common to see them in use.

Firstly splash pages are bad for search engines. When your site is crawled, it is looking for text content to index your site. Whilst a large graphic might be visually appealing, it will not have any benefit to your website- and after all- if users can’t find your website, they won’t see your lovely graphic anyway!

Statistics also suggest that a splash page is likely to significantly increase bounce rate. If a flash animation is used and the viewer does not have flash, a loading or error message will appear instantly.

In 2017 we expect the use of splash pages will continue to decrease with the importance of content and easy user experience continuing to rise with the ever increasing use of mobile devices.

 


 

Steven Sefton - Think ZapSteven Sefton – Digital Director at Think Zap

I do believe we will see a lot of those one page websites turn back to multiple page websites for organic search. As cost of PPC ads will continue to increase, the many-page website will make a comeback.

And why did we ever use sliders? Does anyone have any evidence that sliders improved the homepage? I can’t find any. That’s why I think more websites will get rid of the slider and go for a one message or video approach.

 

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Paul Lambden - ForestPaul Lambden – Forest Design

Flat Design
We think that flat design will continue to become more popular, but as jQuery and advanced CSS coding become more prevalent, we will start to see a lot more layering of elements to create a more 3D / immersive design. We have noticed over the last year that the flat design drafts we provide to new clients are usually always the ones chosen as the final design, with the only exception being very traditional business such as hotels and solicitors, who tend to go for something much more low key.

Parallax
This is something that nobody has asked us for in over a year. I think the problem stems from the fact that there are so many websites running from the same premium themes that have the same parallax styles in the same locations, coupled with the fact that the more specifically you design a parallax, the less responsive it becomes.

Mobile-first design
We never build mobile first here, we always build the desktop site first so that the client can see that it matches their design draft. As all our websites are bespoke, we build for desktop first so that we have the full list of elements (such as header, banner, call to action etc) for which we need to write our rules. As we now have moved on to mainly full width websites, these can easily be translated over to tablet and mobile by tweaking the percentages involved.

Storytelling
This is something we usually only hear from marketing people who are involved in joint projects. The truth is most companies in most industries don’t need to tell a story, they just need to feature their products and / or services in a clear and simple way. By removing ‘fluffy’ marketing speak from the websites, products and services can be featured high up the page, and when we check the user flow on Google Analytics, we see that website users home in on these sections and get funnelled through the site very quickly which results in a higher enquiry / purchase rate.

Typography
I personally think that as time goes on, more and more websites will use the fonts available from Google Fonts. I love Google Fonts, especially the fact that new fonts are regularly added. However due to the fact that by default Google shows the trending and popular fonts first, I think that the most popular fonts (Open Sans, Roboto) will soon become the next Calibri and will then become less popular due to over saturation.

Stock photography & illustrations
You only have to do a reverse image search on a stock image to see how many hundreds of other sites are using the same images! This does bother me, but at the same time there are so many towns and cities in so many countries that it’s still unlikely you will have the same imagery as your competitors. It’s easier than ever to take good quality photos on your mobile, so over the next few years I think it’s more likely that people will have their own photos they want featured on the site, for certain industries anyway. Solicitors and other professional service companies will likely continue using stock images of people shaking hands.

Video
I personally hate videos on websites, especially ones that auto play with sound. However I see more and more video backgrounds, which I think are getting very very popular. Coupled with the easy availability of slider and transition plugins, I see these becoming more and more popular via premium themes available to purchase – at least for people in an industry where it’s easy to take a video yourself – as stock videos are quite expensive.

What general trends can people expect to see on future websites?
I think existing trends will continue for quite some time, people are used to seeing certain elements in certain places on the screen, for example the contact us button, phone number, and on mobile the hamburger menu. I think until a new shape / style of device comes out that needs a different perspective, this will continue.

Will any typically used ideas in web design start to die out?
I think modal pop up windows will begin to die out, as most of them don’t translate to mobile very well. I also think that CSS animations and transitions will begin to phase out a lot of jQuery, as it’s more lightweight and more.

 


 

Chris Williams - Williams GraphicsChris Williams – Independent Design Consultant at Williams Graphics

1. What we’ll see more of

I’m hoping (and expect) to see the web become less superfluous – basically less use of unnecessary animations, transitions, page-to-page loading screens and silly large images that serve no purpose. If there was going to be a trend, I think in the future, developers and designers will be wanting to make websites ‘feel’ fast by optimising code, stripping back plugins, implementing clever usage and optimisation of images, and maybe on the design-side using thinner typefaces (like Raleway Light or Lato Light) to emphasise that. Everything will hopefully become faster, cleaner, more utilitarian (so we’re not hiding useful information in menus and silly slideshows), and use a colourset of saturated ‘neon’ colours (such as #ef4066, for example), at least moving into 2017.

2. What we’ll see less of

I think we’ll see less “web for the sake of web”. By that I mean visiting a website where we’re presented with a very pretty and technically impressive grid of images and text with no clear navigation, no call-to-action, and a long load-screen at the beginning. With the explosion of web frameworks that’s been happening recently, every design/development team has been basically given free-reign to do what they want and create technical marvels previously thought impossible to achieve within a browser – this has been great for breaking out of the typical website structure but has ultimately forsaken the most important thing of all – the user experience. I’m also hoping to see less use of “scroll-jacking”, parallax scroll that can ruin your day.

 

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Jenny Hadfield - EvolutedJenny Hadfield – Designer at Evoluted

1. What we’ll see more of

Moving forward, there are a number of trends that I would expect to develop. One that has now become expected is responsive design. This is helping to provide better UX across all devices.

As ever, user experience as a whole will also remain of paramount importance. One way in which it could evolve is through the integration of larger videos and animations, both of which can be used to assist with storytelling.

Rather than there being more or less flat design habits, I would suggest that it’s far more important that every website is designed with its ultimate purpose in mind. By placing focus on this, rather than trends, a site is far more likely to stand the test of time.

I would also note that typography has come an awfully long way with the addition of Google fonts.

Overall, I’d like to think we’ll keep seeing features introduced that are difficult for web developers to implement. After all, we need to keep them on their toes!

2. What we’ll see less of

I would certainly like to think pop-ups will be phased out to an extent, particularly given the ongoing annoyance they cause.

Image carousels are another thing that get users confused. I think they can end up associating them with adverts. As a whole, this ends up distracting from the content itself.

Other traits that I would expect us to see less off would include:

  • Parallax
  • Effects
  • A reduction in the amount of animation overload and too much happening on one page

Finally, I’d like to think that we’ll see less use of poor quality stock photography. There really is no need to use dated and cringeworthy shots when there are so many high quality images available.

 


 

Paul Brown - Better Call PaulPaul Brown – Better Call Paul

1. What we’ll see more of

I think there will be a lot of exciting new css trends and opportunities across new devices and unique layouts but much more importantly I think web is ready to transform in to something completely new, something we have not seen before and something we did not see coming. With virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, neural networks, physical websites and big data apis I think web is set to transform to a much more immersive and fundamental part of our lives, we are right in the middle of an exciting digital revolution and there are no signs of innovation slowing down. I think we are set to start to experience more unconscious interactions with the web, we will be moving away from finding and asking a website to do something and instead web will just be there when we need it, more seamlessly incorporated in the physical world we live in.

2. What we’ll see less of

In 2017 I think web developers are going to start using new technology which will create a lot of exciting new opportunities. 2017 will be the year the semantic web truly comes of age and so websites and user experience will become more intuitive in suggesting based not only on the meaning but also the intent behind a user’s interaction with a website. I think we will see more websites offering an unique experience to the user and we will see fewer websites with layouts and features we have become familiar with over the past 5 years.

 

music-guitar-classic

 

 

Calm DigitalAndy Murphy – Director at Calm Digital

I think one trait we might see less of is the use of stock photography. Stock photos can make a website look very similar to other ones, especially if an off the shelf theme is used. Designers are now opting for more originality using custom photos, videos or animations.

 

 


 

Elyse Lawrence - SleekyElyse Lawrence – Designer at Sleeky Web Design & Print

1. What we’ll see more of

It seems like stating the obvious, but mobile views really are getting better. I think what we’ll see now – after the last few years of designers finding their feet in the land of variable screen sizes – is a lot more bold experimentation in that area and a shift towards a much more fluid experience on smaller screens.

2. What we’ll see less of

I think horizontal nav bars will soon go the way of the vertical nav bar. Maybe not next year but certainly in the near future we’ll see a total shift towards the now ubiquitous ‘hamburger’, it’s just a case of when people are finally willing to let go. Additionally, the traditional page structure of a website is already evolving into a flowing, single page experience and I see that becoming a huge step in a new direction.

 

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April Hodge - LittlebigboxApril Hodge – Design Director at LittleBigBox

1. What we’ll see more of

The parallax scrolling feature has been a very popular feature through 2015 / 2016 and I have seen an increase over the latest several months of the number of websites using this feature. I think it offers a nice little extra touch on a website to give the website a bit of movement and interaction, it adds a modern touch. I believe the parallax scrolling will be developed further in 2017 so it works seamlessly in responsive design, allowing the feature to move as it should on all mobile devices.

Minimalistic design is also popping up more and more. It looks great on all devices, loads quickly and offers great user experience with little fuss. As they say less is more.

2. What we’ll see less of

The pop up that appears when you attempt to view many websites really needs to stop, it can be quite annoying when trying to visit a website coupled with the fact is is not responsive. You try to view a website on a mobile device and a pop up appears, for example, ‘sign up to our newsletter’, you will find when you try to close it down it is easier said than done! The cross provision to close the pop up is usually not easily accessible on mobile devices or is simply fails to work. This is a trait that I sincerely hope becomes a thing of the past in 2017.

 


 

Simon Fell - PedaloSimon Fell – Lead Designer at Pedalo

1. What we’ll see more of

Designing the Content

I am going to stick my neck out to suggest that as web designers our job has changed considerably to the extent that we are now largely styling content containers. With the establishment of responsive design our page designs have to fit into simple re-configurable panels – there is less and less customization we can do. At first glance this sounds like we are making ourselves redundant but I think the changes in technology will bring a new aspect of the job into focus.

I notice that a lot of clients tend to think the design work is over when the site is built and don’t really consider designing their content. It is so easy to mess up a homepage with an ill-cropped image or with a headline and image that do not really work together. This is where I think small business, charities and membership organisations will need our support in future. Web users have grown to expect a professional look and feel to websites and organizations that can’t maintain that will lose out.

Infographics could be part of this picture. Using data to identify the areas in which a designer’s touch will make a difference and tying that in with your website’s user experience is the key. This will be a transformative year in the integration of user experience, design and digital marketing.

Flat Design, Animation & Other Subtle Trends

Flat design is a trend that we expect to, design will continue being influenced by the simplicity and clarity of App design.

Animations and transitions which aid user experience will continue to grow, such as animated buttons and small interactive elements that signal their importance by animating into place.

Large moving images such as video backgrounds, Cinemagraphs and Animated gifs are another trend which is still yet to hit its peak.

UI (User Interface) patterns will continue to develop, as behaviour patterns that occur frequently in checkouts, logins, registrations etc are likely to become more constrained due to changes and developments in browsing security.

2. What we’ll see less of

There are several regularly used website traits which we believe we’ll see less of in 2017:

Slideshows in the homepage hero area. Newer websites are adopting a different approach to stand out from the crowd.

We also expect to see less homepages with a bedazzling number of choices that overwhelm users with unnecessary complexity. These usually hinder site performance and have a negative impact on user engagement.

Non-Responsive websites is the most obvious area of rapid change. As the use of mobile platforms and multiple devices continues to grow, and Google continues to favour mobile-friendly sites in search results, those who haven’t already will update their website to avoid losing potential users and to provide a better user experience.

 

web-design-trends-mac

 

Russell Bishop - Lighthouse LondonRussell Bishop – Lead Designer at Lighthouse London

I’m very excited about the amount of animation we’re about to abuse in 2017, and hopefully for the rest of time. Some timely books on their purpose may save us, however. (http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/designing-interface-animation/)

 

 


 

Chan Dhillon - KalexikoChan Dhillon – Client Services Manager at Kalexiko

1. What we’ll see more of

The grid has been ever present in design and when looking at the web it has been a key part of the process for the majority of sites big or small. But Lately I have been noticing an increase in design that derives from the original and evolves it to a new intuitive system. The ability to escape a grid allows for you to place content freely on the page in a structured way, yet break the boundaries we have been placing on ourselves when trying to be different and original. I’m by no means saying the grid will disappear into the history books as I still see the grid being an integral part of a sites building blocks, but designs will begin to take advantage of the ability to veer from the grid to express opinion or highlight certain aspects of a site.

2. What we’ll see less of

Burgers are in decline – The much coveted hamburger menu is already in decline and we’ll likely see less of it in a traditional sense in 2017. When it first hit our screens due to the explosion of mobile devices, designer’s loved the idea of cleaning up their UI’s with an elegant set of lines, allowing for a more scaleable navigation system with minimal impact to screen real estate. Now however designer’s are realising that sometimes it just isn’t necessary to hide navigation behind a burger. With a burger a user might say ‘Where’s that thing I’m looking for?’, with written navigation they might say ‘There’s what I’m looking for’. Just goes to show that some things benefit more from a functionality than aesthetics.

The Fold – For years clients have been obsessed by the fold, they wanted everything above it so the user can see everything all at once – information overload and a nightmare for designers who yearned not to be boxed in. Enter the age of touch devices and instinctual scrolling, finally people realised the potential of a user journey. But, as with a lot of new things designers got a little carried away and a trend developed where essentially nothing was above the fold, just a big sexy image. While this looks cool, it doesn’t always help the user, especially with no hint as where to go next or what the site is about.

 

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Luke Turner - Jask CreativeLuke Turner – Head of Digital at Jask Creative

Alternative navigation options

The revolution of Responsive Web Design (RWD) in recent years has meant that web developers far and wide have had to adapt their thinking into how to best utilise RWD into websites, combining design with functionality.

Inevitably, this revolution caused a rush from web designers to sell in RWD to companies, and likewise companies wanted RWD incorporated into their websites. To keep up with the trend and as an easy workaround, web designers gave birth to the menu icon affectionately known as the ‘hamburger menu’ (it looks like a hamburger, see?). All navigation options were neatly tucked into this hamburger menu as screen real estate dropped down in size.

Nowadays, we’ve become more familiar with what we can do with RWD capabilities, and as we give more consideration to the users’ needs, we are seeing much smarter ways of designing a responsive website to give a better user experience and incorporating more intuitive menu systems. 

Video will continue to grow

Within the creative marketing industry, there is the sense that video has become more available and less prohibitive in terms of cost to clients. Adding to the fact that internet connection speeds are ever improving, it means that we will see more and more use of video on websites.

As well as lowered barriers to entry, videos will be seen as high value content as well to search engine crawlers and for social media, so expect to see more and more brands using video as a means to boost engagement and search engine rankings.

Flash will (finally) be no more

No surprises here, but we will probably see the end of Flash in 2017. Google Chrome was one of the last remaining members of all the major browsers to support Flash ‘out of the box’, but even they are now dropping it from their browsers by the end of 2016. There will no doubt still be a small collection of sites that use Flash and some sites will be whitelisted by Chrome to allow these to run but it’ll certainly help to reduce the use of flash massively.

Encryption everywhere

Website encryption has carried a common misconception, whereby the layman often associated encryption purely for the banking/financial sector. Whilst it is a must for banks to establish a secure session with their users online for obvious reasons, we should be applying the same security measures to all our websites.

High profile hacks and data theft have become almost an everyday talking point, and it is now relatively easy to build a picture of a user through their browsing habits and then take that data to commit the aforementioned crimes.

We should now see encryption becoming more of a norm to website development criteria so as to deter would be criminals and keep browsing data and customer details safe. With the introduction of Let’s Encrypt, which allows websites to install standard SSL certificates for free, there is no longer a cost barrier involved.

Optimise all the things

Adding videos, supporting high resolution screens and introducing animations and interactions has typically had a negative impact on website load speed and overall performance and whilst internet connection speeds may be going up in general, not everyone has access to these speeds, and certainly users on mobile devices are not guaranteed high speeds all the time, even with the proliferation of 4G connectivity.

I would hope to see developers taking a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to including assets and media on websites and taking more time to compress and combine as many files as possible to reduce the number of requests required to load a page.

Desktop computer, ipad, smartphone, notepad & calculatorWhat does the team at Pixel Kicks think?

 

rofikul-shahin

Rofikul Shahin – Web Designer, Pixel Kicks

In most cases the next web design trends rely heavily on what people are currently familiar with and what people want rather than need.

This is one of the reasons there are thousands of roughly similar themes available, all trying to create a one-for-all solution to a problem that cannot be solved with a single solution. I think we’re nearing the end of the “cheap & cheerful” web era, as more and more companies and individuals start feeling their websites look somewhat similar to each other. The demand for bespoke design that actually does their brand and ethos justice is going to see a significant spike.

Having said that, in terms of visual representation, I think we’ll see more and more semi-flat design and less saturated colour pallets. Apple’s failed iOS7 showed us that shiny UI get boring and tiresome quite quickly, and unlike Apple most cannot afford a failed experiment. I believe we’ll see more contemporary designs that focus on how people intuitively interact with a website, more thoughtful UI, and more fluid interaction aided by subtle animation.

We’ve done the completely flat vector art rich websites, we’ve done the experimental Metro design inspired websites, at this point I don’t think it’s far fetched to expect that we’ll see more diverse design that moves away from the Apple or Google-esque unified design philosophy to create more creative visual experiences, as stronger & mature solutions to our responsive web problem come along.

There will be less surprises and more human design, that doesn’t forget what people have gotten accustomed to in their day to day interaction with many different websites.

 


 

Chris Buckley, MD of Pixel Kicks

Chris Buckley – Managing Director, Pixel Kicks

The biggest trend in the last few years has been the huge increase of responsive websites, brought on initially by the continued increase of smartphone browsers, and ramped up to 11 by Google’s announcement that mobile-friendly websites would be rewarded with better rankings. It’s now almost a surprise to find a site that isn’t responsive, and it’s always one of the first things we get asked from clients.

Flat designs are also everywhere. What started with Windows 8’s controversial start menu, quickly ended up being absorbed and re-imagined by the minds of designers across the world. Fast forward to today and you’ll see flat icons, flat navigation bars, flat buttons and a general loving for everything minimal, pretty much everywhere.

This new design direction has resulted in many great, clean user interface ideas, and when done correctly can really let the right messages stand out on a site. However it can also result in a lot of similarity across websites, with many lacking depth, detail & texture.

To counter-act this, “semi-flat” design is quickly gaining adoption, and with our eyes & minds having been cleansed and sculpted by everything flat over the last few years, the addition of shadows, subtle gradients and detail can look brilliant. Apple got rid of their favoured skeuomorphism design ethos for iOS 7’s new flat look, and Google’s Material design certainly has it as it’s core, but perhaps future revisions might see the re-appearance of certain elements.

SVG’s are one of our favoured formats for web graphics right now, and with their unparalled scaleability and quality, if we can find a reason for using them, we generally do. This is one area we feel will see more adoption in 2017.

Video is everywhere, or so you might think. However we think there’s still a lot more to come. Of course you’ll have seen full screen background video on many homepage sliders, but we think that the best agencies next year will be the ones that recommend a better use of video across the whole of a website. It’s never been easier to film and produce video content for websites, and we’re actually investing in new equipment and studios to make sure we can make the most of this in 2017 and onwards.

Here’s a nice video from our friends over at The Skool Network, as they introduce you to UX/UI design for websites. Watch as they give an overview of design concepts and show you the inner workings of a design studio.

Thanks to everyone who contributed towards this article, there are definitely lots of interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking ideas.

We’d love to know what you think about some of the ideas mentioned above. Leave your comments below.

Pokémon Go – the fitness app disguised as an augmented reality game

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Update 14/07/2016 1PM: Niantic has now made the game available on both the iOS and Google Play app stores.


 

Unless you’ve had your heads buried in the sand for the last week or so, you might have noticed a strange new phenomenon that slowly seems to be capturing the attention of children, teenagers and adults too.

Perhaps slowly wasn’t the right choice of word there. A “light speed” comparison might be a better fit.

I’m talking about a “little known” smartphone game called Pokémon Go, which only launched in Australia and New Zealand a week ago, and most recently in the USA.

It’s not even officially out in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands, if not millions of children from downloading it already.

Google’s sense of humour

It all started off as an April Fools Joke back in 2014, when Google released a fun video mashing up Google Maps with Pokémon. This quickly went viral and shot up past 18 million views in no time. The team behind it were called Niantic, albeit in a much more immature form than they are now, and they decided to plough their talents heavily into mobile gaming, blending augmented and mixed-media reality together.

Two years on, Niantic launched their new game, Pokémon Go, to initially mixed reviews, but fanatical user adoption.

Pokémon Go is a game which uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where you are in the app, and at what time. You’ll see Pokémon “appear” around you on your phone screen and you are encouraged to catch them. As you walk around outside in the real world, different types of Pokémon will appear from time to time. The basic premise behind the game is to travel around the world catching as many as possible.

Simple, eh?

Dominating the app stores

In it’s first week of release, the game became the most downloaded app in Apple’s App Store, and within two days was installed on over 5% of Android phones in the US alone. That takes some going.

The app is on track to have more daily users than Twitter, with it’s initial user base sitting pretty at 7.5 million so far. According to SimilarWeb, it’s consuming more daily minutes of our time than Snapchat and Facebook – 43 minutes on average.

The planned UK release had to be delayed due to server problems, and there is still no official date. As usual, there are ways for users to download and install the game from different sources – bypassing the official app stores. However users around Europe are reporting that they’ve managed to download it on certain app stores – particularly in Germany. European gamers may not have long to wait.

A timely boon for Nintendo

Perhaps the biggest winners of all this are Nintendo. The legendary Japanese console makers own a third of the Pokémon Company and are also an investor in Niantic who are required to pay for licensing agreements. Nintendo have had a hard time in the last few years, with their own console sales faring badly against the might of the Xbox One and PS4.

With their next console planned for a March 2017 launch, the success of Pokémon Go couldn’t have come at a better time, and will no doubt rev up interest in just what Nintendo are going to launch next year.

The company that has been responsible for some of the biggest video game ideas in the last thirty years might just be ready to surprise us once again.

Pokemon Go screenshots

 

The boost that augmented reality was waiting for

Augmented reality has promised so much for so long, but what it needed was one killer app to prove it up, acting as a launchpad for further mainstream breakthroughs.

The technology that powers the game is something we’ve not seen done to this level before, with the game combining large-scale mapping with mixed reality gaming.

John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, spoke about the app having a huge appetite for server resources, adding that the usage on their system was “a lot, even by Google standards.

The launch and growth might not have been possible a few years ago, but with today’s more powerful smartphones together with faster and more robust networks, we’re able to play this massively multi-player online game without any hitches.

The success of this might well be the catalyst needed for dedicated VR systems such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung’s Gear VR to take-off, with the publics appetite in VR and AR firmly wetted. Microsoft wowed everyone back in January 2015 when they showed us their admittedly jaw-dropping HoloLens previews, but since then we’ve not seen much to shout about, with real world tests seemingly incomparable in quality to Microsoft’s early demos. A full scale launch isn’t on the horizon just yet.

The HoloLens technology is definitely damn impressive nevertheless.

The love for Pokémon Go

What we’re seeing now in the real world is the game being played by both kids and adults alike. With no firm barriers to playing (got a smartphone? able to move around?), this is genuinely the biggest craze for years, set to dominate the latter half of 2016 leading right up until Christmas. (We’ll talk about merchandise sales further on).

Some of our team at Pixel Kicks tested the app out this week, venturing outside to quickly grab all nearby Pokémon. Walking around The Sharp Project, Jamie and Emma spotted a couple of people towards past them, with their heads firmly focused on their phones. All the tell tale signs were there, and slowing down whilst they walked past, they could hear the pair talking about the game. The virus was quickly spreading!

For new players, it’s the connection to the real world that is the biggest hook. Men’s Fitness made the following quote about gameplay which I thought was particularly apt:

There’s that sense of realization when you and someone else both have your phones at about chest height, glancing up periodically. That moment when you make eye contact and both realize you’re playing the same game, and you can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous and fun it is at the same time.

A fitness app in disguise

Another quote going round the internet is that Pokemon Go has “gotten more American kids off the sofa in 4 days than Michelle Obama’s 7 years of haranguing” (in reference to her “Let’s Move” program).

With obesity levels in the UK increasing year after year, this is an app that could actually make people healthier. It might well be the worlds newest fitness phenomenon.

Nintendo launched their smash-hit Wii Fit back in 2007, which if you don’t remember was a balance board that the user stands on whilst playing coordination and physical activity based games such as yoga, strength training, aerobics and skiing.

So they have a track record in combining fitness with gaming. Pokémon players are encouraged to walk further in order to hatch their eggs. Distances of 2km, 5km, 10km are common, and Niantic have already stopped potential cheats by including an in-app speedometer that stops counting distance if the phone is moving faster than about 5-10mph.

Collectively, the game encourages movement, promotes social bonding, and inspires adventure.

teenagers playing pokemon go

 

The real life dangers

At the time of writing this post, the NSPCC has demanded that Niantic delay the UK release of the game until new safety features have been included. The following stories illustrate their reasons why:

Upon installation and every time you load the app, it warns you about paying attention to your surroundings. With the game only being in the world for such a small period of time already, we’ll no doubt be reading many more stories of unfortunate incidents. This seems unavoidable, especially for a game this popular.

Here to stay

If you’re suddenly wondering why you’re seeing groups of people congregating around areas where you wouldn’t normally expect them to – it could all be down to this game. There’s a good chance they’re hanging out at a PokeStop – a place that allows you to collect eggs and Poke Balls to capture even more Pokémon. Places like this are typically scattered at select locations near you, such as monuments, art installations and historical markers.

Driving home from work last night I noticed a gathering in my home town, and after checking the app it was indeed a PokeStop.

The interest in this game and the pace with which it has taken off is nothing short of amazing. If anything can kickstart the augmented reality revolution then this is surely it. Being a tech fan and former gamer, I’m extremely excited about the potential that now awaits us with this technology.

Parents, it might be a good idea to start stocking up on all things Pokémon right now, in anticipation for the expected shortages and mad rushes that await us this Christmas. You don’t want to be the parent of the child who missed out on his Pokémon merchandise.

Maybe the most surprising thing of all is that this article has been written before the game has officially been released in the UK – you can imagine just how big its going to get.

If you’ve not played it yet, then go download it on your phones, get collecting some Pokémon, and then report back here with your comments 😉

Beginners Guide to WordPress SEO (using the Yoast SEO plugin)

We’re often asked by our clients on how best to optimise their new WordPress website.

As such, we’ve put together a beginners guide to getting the most out of WordPress SEO, in particular using the common Yoast SEO plugin.

Introduction

The following are the most important parts of every web pages’ search engine optimisation:

  • URL
  • Page Title (SEO Title)
  • Meta Description
  • Content
  • Focus Keyword
  • Links to internal web pages

URL

The URL of a page is the address in the browser, as such http://www.harleysthearing.co.uk/lyric-hearing-aid/.

In this example, we have the URL for a web page that specifically talks about the “Lyric hearing aid”, and you can see that the last section (the part specific to the page itself), is matched to the name of the page. It’s important to have a well constructed URL for the page in question (as opposed to something like harleysthearing.co.uk/lha/ or harleysthearing.co.uk/?p=lyric), and you have full control over what to name each page. As standard with any website, separate each word with a hyphen, and generally aim to match this perfectly to the full name of the page.

This can be changed here:

Wordpress SEO URL

We always recommend to name each page in as descriptive a way as possible. It helps a user easily identify a page, and Google includes the words when indexing it.

Read more at https://moz.com/learn/seo/url

Page Title

The Page Title is probably the most important on-page SEO factor. This is a short 55 character summary of what the page contains and should briefly describe to the user what the content is about. It’s also fine to split sections up with hyphens or the pipe character, for formatting purposes. As such

  • Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

It’s the top line that you see in Google’s search results:

Wordpress SEO page title

To edit this, scroll down to the Yoast SEO section, and hover over each of the lines in the “Snippet Editor”. They’ll turn grey as you do. Click the first one and you’ll be able to edit the text directly.

Yoast SEO snippet editor

Read more at https://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag

Meta Description

The Meta Description is a small sentence (155 characters max) containing more details about the pages’ content. Used in conjunction with the Page Title above, it’s one of the most important on-page SEO Factors. Why should the user click on your result instead of another website? Entice them with a well written description that leaves them in no doubt what to expect when they click on it.

It’s the main black text that you see in Google’s search results:

Wordpress SEO meta description

To edit this section, again scroll down to the Yoast SEO snippet editor, and click on the last part.

Read more: https://moz.com/learn/seo/meta-description

Content

The content of any page is everything on it, which includes text, images and also other things like video or sound embeds. Meaningful and rich content is extremely key to having a high ranking and popular website.

When adding content, the main text should be formatted as “Paragraph Text”, and for any headings or subheadings, the ideal semantics are to choose from “Heading 1”, “Heading 2”, “Heading 3” etc. These will be shown on the page in decreasingly smaller text (but still larger than paragraph text). Google looks at the content of each heading and so it’s good practice to make these very keyword rich.

Wordpress editor toolbar buttons

With a modern version of WordPress, you can include videos from YouTube simply by pasting the video URL, such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4vY5Q5yRvo. This will then embed the video into the body of the page.

Focus Keyword

This is specific to the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, and it gives advice on what you need to improve for each page. Enter a keyword or subject into this field to see what it suggests. The plugin will analyse all of the content on the page (Page Title, Meta Description, URL, Paragraph Text, Headings, Images etc), and let you know how well the page is optimised.

Wordpress SEO focus keyword

Links to internal web pages

To help Google crawl a website better, it’s good practice to link from one page to another. For example if you have a page talking about “Hearing Loss”, and there is a section about “Tinnitus” which you also have another page on, it would be a good idea to link the word “Tinnitus” here. Commonly, your website will have a main “navigation bar” at the top of the site, but linking to other pages within the body of the page itself can often help improve rankings.

 

Important tasks to undertake when creating a new page or post

1. Add the following for each page on your website:

  • Page Title
  • Meta Description

Try to make these as descriptive as possible. Make them sound readable whilst trying to get the relevant keywords present.

2. Make sure the page has enough text, ideally at least 300 words or so.  

Make sure to include the keywords you want the page to rank for. Don’t over-use them, but you can typically include them around 2 or 3 times with the page reading too spammy.

3. Add the following for any Images that are present on each Page:

  • Alternative Text (Alt Text)

This describes what the image is about, and is indexed by Google. Again, make it descriptive and readable. You can also include a “Caption” if you want to include a description of the image on the page itself. Alt tags are typically only seen on “hover” only.

4. Enter the keywords you want to rank for in the “Focus Keyword” section, to get some stats on how well the page is optimised.

You can also click the “Page Analysis” tab to get more stats on this. You can follow the Yoast recommendations to improve the ranking potential of your site or page.

 

Summary

An ideally optimised web page should do all of the following:

  • Be very relevant to a specific topic/keyword (usually a product or single object)
  • Provide unique and informative content about a given subject (not copied from another website)
  • Include subject/keywords in the Page Title
  • Include subject/keywords matter in URL
  • Include subject/keywords in Image Alt Text
  • Specify subject/keywords several times throughout the text content
  • Link back to another page within the site (parent page / child page / related page)

 

Find out more about our search engine optimisation services.


Further online resources

Free

Paid

Pixel Kicks vacancy: Front-end Web Designer required

Front end responsive web designer needed

 

Are you a talented web designer looking for a full-time role in a top Manchester agency?

Well it’s your lucky day! We need an experience Front-end Web Designer with development experience to join our growing team located at The Sharp Project. Ideally with over 2/3 years experience, we need someone highly-skilled, enthusiastic, and with an excellent appreciation of modern responsive web design.

You will also need a great knowledge of HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, an excellent understanding of WordPress (being able to create a theme from scratch), and naturally know your way around PHP & MySQL. Experience of the latest design & development tools is great, and the successful person will be working on clients websites as well as our own projects.

Join us, and you’ll have every opportunity to establish yourself at a small but very experienced agency – moulding your role as we grow. You’ll need to fit in to a team but also be able to work independently, thinking on your own. Think this is you? Read on.

Front-End Web Designer

The successful applicant must have the following skills, and be able to show examples of their work.

  • An excellent apprecation of modern & responsive web design aesthetics
  • A passion for visual design, being comfortable in Photoshop
  • Very good knowledge of HTML5 and CSS3
  • Very good knowledge of jQuery and related JS libraries
  • Excellent knowledge of WordPress & Woocommerce, with a high level grasp of its functions and overall structure
  • PHP and mySQL skills to a very good level
  • 2 years+ experience

It goes without saying that the role needs someone with a real passion to continually enhance their knowledge, and the applicant must be hard-working and punctual, with the ability to fit into a small team. Competitive salary paid.

This is a great opening for the right person to start a career at a small and growing web design company, based at The Sharp Project in Manchester. Please complete the form below to apply.

NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES PLEASE

Careers

  • Apply

  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, jpg, png, odf.

Our very own SuprTickets.com has been nominated in The Talk of Manchester Awards #theTOMs

SuprTickets.com - The Talk of Manchester Awards

 

We’re delighted to announce that one of our own projects, SuprTickets.com, has been nominated for two “The Talk of Manchester” awards.

Known at #theTOMs, voting is now open and closes next Friday 6th November at 5pm, and we’re up for two categories – “Best Newcomer” and “Best Technology / Innovation“. As you can imagine we’re delighted to have been nominated and would love it if you could cast a vote 🙂

To vote, please go here, and select us in either (or both) of the above categories. If you recognise any of the other great companies in different categories then please choose your favourite there too. Manchester is chock full of talented freelancers, start-ups, small businesses and more, so we’re honoured to be thought of in the same breath.

You can read more about the awards at www.thetalkofmanchester.co.uk/awards, and the event itself is taking place on Thursday 3rd December at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel. Win or lose it promises to be a great night, so good luck to all nominees!

What is SuprTickets?

SuprTickets is a concert ticket comparison website that we’ve developed ourselves over the last 12 months, and we’re hoping to make a big splash in the ticket market. If you’ve ever tried to buy tickets for your favourite band but felt frustrated and aggrieved when they’ve sold out in minutes, we’re here to help. We compare prices from 15 of the biggest ticket suppliers in the UK and USA, and let you know where you can find available tickets. Our super-fast site gives you a list of prices and available ticket sites, so you can easily click through to each site to choose seats and purchase tickets.

Ticketmaster, SeeTickets, EventIM, Viagogo, SeatWave and Stubhub, we’ve got all the major suppliers, and we recently sponsored the UK’s biggest free tribute festival – Festwich. Take a look at the video below that we had produced:

If you’ve not tried us out yet, go and take a look – you could save yourself some money, or find those exclusive tickets that you thought you wouldnt’ be able to get. We’ve got some massive things planned for 2016 too – it’s going to be an exciting year.

So yeh… we’d love it if you could cast your vote for us 🙂

Thanks!

Pixel Kicks & SuprTickets.com

We’re hiring: Sales & Account Manager wanted (No recruitment agencies)

Sales & account manager job in Manchester

 

Are you looking for a sales & account management role in Manchester?

Due to increased business and subsequent company expansion, we are looking to recruit an experienced sales & account manager. We’re ideally looking for someone with experience in the digital industry, with direct experience in dealing with incoming sales enquiries, producing quotations to a high standard, and managing existing customer relationships.

The skills you’ll need to be successful include:

  • Developing and maintaining relationships with existing clients.
  • Excellent communication & written skills
  • An outgoing personality with an eagerness to achieve
  • Experience in the digital/creative sector
  • Ability to think for yourself and drive new ideas and strategies forward, as well as fitting into our existing team
  • Reliable, punctual, intelligent and hard-working
  • The desire and willingness to expand your technical knowledge of our core products: web sites, online marketing campaigns and mobile apps

Great opportunity to join a growing digital agency. Competitive salary paid, dependant on experience.

Perks of the job:

  1. Coffee. Dolce Gusto we’ll add.
  2. Nice fast computer.
  3. Friday treat lunches.
  4. Optional fantasy football, dog-sitting, and afternoon squat practice
  5. Working at the The Sharp Project (what, you’ve not heard of it?)

Strictly no recruitment agencies.

Careers

  • Apply

  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, jpg, png, odf.

22 WordPress Plugins to manage your website easier, faster and more efficiently in 2015

We’ve been using WordPress as a blogging platform and content management system since prehistoric times, and have worked on hundreds and hundreds of installs. This experience of creating and configuring many different websites has led us to rely on a series of time-saving and management-enhancing plugins.

So we thought we’d share some of our favourite WordPress plugins with you!

We don’t use all of these plugins on each and every site we create, but hopefully you’ll like them as much as we do and greatly improve your WordPress experience. Whether you’re creating a single website for yourself, or are another web design company like us, there should be a plugin below to aid & improve your efficiency.

We’ve included download links for each, as well as noting whether they’re free or paid (most are free).

Enjoy, oh and don’t forget to leave a comment at the bottom if you found them useful. They’re in alphabetical and categorical order.

Here goes…

Efficiency & Time-saving Plugins

1. Admin Menu Editor – Free

Admin Menu Editor

The default WordPress left-hand menu is great on a standard install, but add a few plugins and create a few custom post types and it can soon become convoluted and cluttered. We prefer to hand over a simplified CMS to our clients with only the important menus available. Too many menus can be confusing – it’s best to keep things simple.

So this plugin lets you organise your menus as you wish. Re-arrange them and hide certain ones via a simple drag-and-drop interface.

2. Advanced Image Styles – Free

Advanced Image Styles

The latest versions of WordPress are great, but certain things have annoyingly been removed. Ever wondered how to change the margin and borders or an image in the default page & post editor? Strangely enough you can’t. Odd, huh? Well install this plugin and you can again.

3. Ajax Thumbnail Rebuild – Free

Ajax Thumbnail Rebuild

Ever uploaded a bunch of images to the media library, and then changed the default media dimensions after, or added new image sizes via functions.php? Well the existing images don’t get resized, and you’re left with an initial set of images in different sizes and cropping ratios. It’s not a problem if you’ve only uploaded a few images, but hundreds if not thousands soon poses a serious problem.

This plugin lets you rebuild all existing image uploads for every size, choose individual sizes or featured images only. A great time-saver, and one that keeps your image sizes clean and consistent.

4. Automatic Domain Changer – Free

Automatic Domain Changer

If you build lots of websites like we do, then you probably stage them on a local development server first of all. We use a temporary URL for each new client site, before changing this to the live domain once the site is completed. WordPress stores the full path for file uploads (annoyingly), and plugins often also use the full path too. So when you upload a site to the live domain you often find you have paths with the wrong domain.

This plugin detects if the site URL has changed and automatically prompts you to update stored paths to the new domain. You can also update all paths manually. We’ve used this plugin many times and it’s proved a godsend. The developers are also very helpful, having modified the plugin due to a couple of incompatibilities we found with other plugins.

5. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget – Free

BlackStudio TinyMCE Widget

If you use WordPress then you probably use a few widget areas too. Want to add a text widget? Well you’ll find you’re limited to raw HTML. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could add a visual block, just like the stand post & page editor? With Black Studio TinyMCE Widget you can. It’s simple, quick and highly effective. We think something like this should be built into core – and reckon it’s only a matter of time before it is.

6. Bulk Page Creator – Free

Bulk Page Creator

Got a new WordPress install ready for content? Great! You’ve chosen the most popular CMS in the world. Now you’ll no doubt want to create a few pages.

So you go to Pages and click Add New. Give your page a title, and add some content to it. Give it a category or tag too. Simple huh? Yup, it’s not the most taxing task around. What if you wanted to add say 20 or 30 pages with sample text so you can organise your sitemap or navigation? This can quickly become slow and cumbersome doing it one-by-one.

Enter Bulk Page Creator, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Lets you create a bunch of pages automatically, even giving you the option to add some default body text or assign a certain category. Works a treat, and can quickly give you a nice page framework from which to add final copy.

7. Enable Media Replace – Free

Enable Media Replace

We like this plugin, and we use it a lot. Picture this – you’ve uploaded an image, but then you resave that image and you want to re-upload it again. What do you do? Well you have to upload a brand new image and delete the first one. Bit annoying if you’ve already added that image to pages.

This plugin lets you simply re-upload a new image (or other file such as PDF), overwriting the old one. You can upload something with a different filename too. It’s like, well useful, and it works flawlessly. Again, something else we think should be built into WordPress core.

8. Featured Image Admin Thumb – Free

Featured Image Admin Thumb

This is a simple but effective plugin that shows small thumbnails next to each item in the All Pages and All Posts sections. Very handy to quickly see the featured image for each post, and you can also change the image via a single click. Core addition? Can’t see why not.

9. Imsanity – Free

Imsanity

Do you or your client upload images direct from digital cameras? It’s a very common occurence, and one that can often lead to 5MB/10MB+ images being uploaded. We’ve seen many sites with a lot of images over 5000 pixels in width uploaded. This not only leads to slow loading pages, but also takes up a lot of disk space.

Conserve bandwidth and improve page loading times by setting restrictions on image dimensions at time of upload. The plugin defaults to 1024 by 1024, but we reckon 1600 or 1920 might be a better option if you want hi-res photos on your site. You can also choose different sizes for different sections (standard upload to a post, media library, or theme background uploads).

Reduce the strain on your server now by installing and activating Imsanity!

10. Pods – Free

Pods

Pods, oh how we love Pods.

Want to extend WordPress by creating custom post types and custom fields? You can do this by adding code to your theme function files, and though this is the cleanest way to do things, it’s not always ideal or quick if you have a lot to create.

Enter Pods. Via a simple and well organised user interface you can create new custom post types and custom fields, as well as extend existing post types and taxonomies. There’s a brilliant API, a super helpful and friendly support team, and a set of further plugins to extend the default functionality even more.

Some may prefer Advanced Custom Fields, but we love the Pods framework, it’s tight integration and it’s clean interface. It also has Automattic as a development partner and sponsor, which is definitely a good sign.

11. Quick Edit Page Popup Menu – Free

Quick Edit Page Popup Menu

This is one of the simplest plugins listed here, but one that can save a very common click when navigating between different WordPress pages. When you’ve just updated a page and saved the changes, how do you then go and edit another one? Well you have to click into All Pages, and then click into the next page you want to edit.

With this plugin you can just hover on the Pages menu and you get a handy dropdown menu titled “Quick Edit” that lets you go directly to another page.  Can save between 2-10 seconds, which quickly adds up when you’re editing a lot of different pages.

12. Use Google Libraries – Free

Use Google Libraries

Any typical WordPress theme will use a selection of core JS and CSS files. Like jQuery. Any plugins you use will often add a few more. These will be loaded from the WordPress files hosted on your server.

This plugin changes the code so that these includes are instead loaded from Google’s servers, acting like a CDN. Because a user will have often requested these files from browsing other websites, they may already have them cached. You’ll benefit from a faster loading website, with less file requests on your webserver. Win-win.

13. WP Editor – Free

WP Editor

There will be certain occassions when you need to edit a WordPress theme or plugin file via the in-built editor under the Appearance menu. The problem with this is that it’s just so basic. Editing anything more complex than a simple CSS amend or pasting a block of text quickly gets awkward.

That’s where WP Editor comes in.

When you activate this plugin you’ll get a complete replacement for the default editor that uses CodeMirror and FancyBox to create a magnificent coding environment. Colour coding, line numbers, searching, ajax saving and much more. Plus as an added bonus you can choose to activate this on the standard post & page editors, giving the Text view a neat interface upgrade.

14. WP Super CacheFree

WP Super Cache

We toyed with adding W3 Total Cache here instead of WP Super Cache, before opting for the latter. What both plugins do is cache every page on your WordPress website, creating a static HTML file that gets loaded without any calls to the database or demands on the PHP engine.

This can often improve the loading speed of your website by a factor of 5 or 10. Seriously the benefits can often be huge. WordPress is great, but add a few plugins and a bunch of extra code and your pages might start to slow down. Plus if your webserver isn’t the speediest or has memory restrictions, serving static pages to the user can help improve performance massively.

As well as caching each page, WP Super Cache also has a few other neat tricks up its sleeve such as compression and CDN support. You can quite literally “supercharge” your website.

W3 Total Cache might be considered a more popular or equal plugin, and it certainly has lots more options and benefits, but it can be quite taxing or problematic for certain webservers. We use both ourselves, but WP Super Cache has a lighter load and great effiency, with most of the speed benefits. It’s directly supported by Automattic too.

Gallery & Slider Plugins

15. Advanced Post Slider – Free

Advanced Posts Slider

Sliders. Everyone loves a slider. But which plugin do you use? Recently we’ve grown fond of this one, as it allows you to configure pretty much anything you need. Responsive? Tick. Easy styling? Tick. Choose slides by post category or individually? Tick.

There’s gazillions more slide plugins out there, but this one works well for us.

16. Envira Gallery – Free & Paid

Envira Gallery

Used a WordPress gallery plugin before? You’ve probably used NextGen, right? Well we hate NextGen, and happen to think it’s a bloated piece of software and user-interface hell. Bit harsh? Possibly, but we’re not fans.

Envira is what NextGen should be, simple and effective. It’s got a great user-interface, and just feels right. You might want to upgrade to the Pro version, but if you do you won’t be disappointed.

Gallerific.

17. Photo Gallery – Free & Paid

Photo Gallery

Here’s another plugin that attempts to do what NextGen doesn’t. Granted the user interface could be prettier and better organised, but this plugin feels faster, and more fluid to use. Lots and lots of styling options and settings to configure, admittedly sometimes tricky to find the right place, but you shouldn’t find any limitations here when it comes to creating a gallery exactly as you need.

18. Revolution Slider – Paid

Revolution Slider

This is the daddy of slider plugins. It’s not without it’s critics, most notably for it’s previous security concerns, but for pure visual impact it’s unbeatable. You can create almost anything, in fact it’s like a mini animation studio in it’s own right.

The user interface is tricky and certainly not for the faint-hearted, but the only restriction will be your imagination. It’s a paid plugin only, but worth it.

Security Plugins

The next two plugins are full-on security work-horses, turning your WordPress installation from bog-standard and potentially hackable to a veritable Fort Knox of a website.

Change the default admin username, apply firewall and brute force protection, change the default login address, perform core file checking, and oodles more. They both make it easy for you to change individual settings as well as making larger site-wide changes. You’ll see an overall site security score letting you know just how well protected you are.

Which one do we prefer? We’re not sure to be honest, in fact we use them both fairly equally. Running a WordPress website with the default installation options can often be dangerous, so play safe boys and girls.

19. All In One WP Security & FirewallFree

All in One WP Security

20. iThemes SecurityFree & Paid

iThemes Security

Visual Editor Plugins

Ok, the standard WordPress editor is great for writing blogs, or creating simple pages by combining images & text. However when it comes to designing something a little more complex you have to resort to a mixture of shortcodes, widgets, tables and code editing. Not particularly friendly for clients, and not the tidiest way of doing things.

In the last couple of years, a few visual editors have really come to the fore, allowing you a great deal more control over exactly how you want to lay your page out. We’ve listed two of our favourites below, though there are a few more impressive plugins also out there.

You can create layout templates, add a selection of pre-built widgets and ultimately create good looking and complex layouts that still remain easy to edit.

You’ll also be able to edit the content on the front-end of the website, rather than strictly in the WordPress admin area. Both these plugins are continually being updated, and quickly making themselves invaluable. Let us know if you have any other favourites too.

21. Page Builder by SiteOrigin – Free

Page Builder by SiteOrigin

22. WPBakery Visual Composer – Paid

WPBakery Visual Composer

That’s it, we hope you liked our list!

We’re hiring. Experienced Front-end Web Designer wanted in Manchester

Web designer wanted in Manchester

Attention all experienced, talented and passionate web designers in Manchester!

We’re now firmly on the hunt for a Front-end Web Designer to join our team at The Sharp Project. Due to company expansion and an ever-growing list of clients, we need an enthusiastic and highly-skilled person, preferably someone with 2+ years experience.

The right candidate will have an excellent appreciation of responsive web design, great knowledge of HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and needs to have an excellent understanding of WordPress – being able to create a theme from scratch. PHP & MySQL skills are also high on our wish-list. Experience of modern design & development tools is great, and the successful person will be working on our clients websites as well as our own projects.

This is a perfect opportunity for someone who wants to establish themselves at a small but very experienced digital agency, and to mould their own role as our company grows. It goes without saying that the job needs someone with a real passion to continually enhance their knowledge, and the applicant must be hard-working and punctual, with the ability to fit into a small team.

This is a great opening for the right person to start a career at a small and growing web design company, based at The Sharp Project in Manchester. Competitive salary paid.

Think this is you?

Please click here to visit our careers page where you can apply for the role.

Here’s what some of our great customers had to say about us in 2014

CustomerReviews

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…. at Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade.

No?

Ok then, as we reach the end of 2014 we can look back on a year where we’ve created many new websites for some brilliant customers. With setting ourselves such high standards it’s always good when we receive praise – it means we must be doing something right 😉

Below are a selection of reviews from our clients. Enjoy…

 

We asked Pixel Kicks to create our new website and we are thrilled with the result. Chris and his team were always polite and courteous and nothing was too much trouble for them. A very professional company. Thanks so much Chris you have done a brilliant job. RSPCA Bury and Oldham Branch.

Marilyn Fisher, Office Manager, RSPCA.

We worked with Chris and his team to design the website for our new motorcycle training school – and the result has won us a great many fans! The team at Pixel Kicks really got what we were trying to do, to understand the DNA of our company and to ensure this came across in the design of our site. We are delighted with the result, which shows us as we are – professional, friendly, social and highly qualified!

Paul Beattie, Inner Circle Training

I’ve worked with Pixel Kicks for around 18 months now and have worked with them on various projects during this time.
The main project was a redesign and overhaul to our website, which continually receives fantastic comments. Pixel Kicks assisted us with the redsign/layout and also took the time to train me on WordPress, so I am able to work on it /update it myself.
They also worked on a selection of e-campaigns for us and again has helped with the design/layout and has also trained me on the system so that I am able to work on future campaigns individually.
Chris is always happy to help answer any technical queries I may have and can explain things in a non-jargon format – which helps!
Pixel Kicks are quick to respond and assist and I have recently recommended them to another company.

Jenny Fives, Brand and Events Manager, Westgrove.

Pixel Kicks were nothing but a pleasure to work with from the very beginning, and they delivered on all their promises. Since my website was completed I have had high praise from a number of people, and I’m delighted with it. Always there to answer questions and respond to anything I wanted to know about how my site would link with Facebook and Twitter, I recommend Pixel Kicks wholeheartedly.

Andrew Walker, Living Your Dream Consultancy.

See you in 2015!

 

Stunningly effective SEO campaigns – now with 10% off during November

Stunningly effective SEO campaigns

We’re celebrating our 3rd birthday at the end of the month and to mark the occasion we’re offering 10% off all new SEO campaigns purchased during November.

If you’ve been holding off any SEO work for the last year, now might just be the perfect time to do it. Our results are proven and we offer a no-nonsense, common-sense approach that simply works.

Our talented team will take your internet marketing to the next level, and deliver more traffic and more customers to your website. Your rankings will go through the roof!

* This offer is only valid during November for all new 12 month contracts, and we’re limiting it to the first 10 customers only, so call us now on 0161 713 1700 or drop us an email at offers@pixelkicks.co.uk to reserve your brand new SEO campaign.

Find out more about our search engine optimisation services.

New Pixel Kicks website launched, hurrah! #MuchResponsive #VeryWow

New Pixel Kicks website, November 2014

After what seems like an eternity, we finally got round to launching our brand new website, on November 1st, 2014.

New Pixel Kicks website, November 2014

The new site, which had been in development for the last 3 months brings us into the world of modern web design, with a fully responsive design that looks perfect whether viewing on desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile. You might ask why it’s taken us so long, and our honest answer is that we’ve just been so busy working on our wonderful clients’ sites that we’ve not had much time for our own 😉

Our refined branding is present on the site, with a bold and contrasting colour scheme cut with smooth fonts, geometric shapes and simple yet satisfying loading effects.

We like it, and we hope you do too.

With the new design comes a new blog too, the first post of which you’re reading right now. Thank you kind readers! We’ll be posting regularly articles here on all aspects of Pixel Kicks life, be it our daily routine at Manchester’s Sharp Project, our latest website designs, opinions and comments from the team, or technical stuff from our developers.

During 2015 we’re going to be expanding the team, so keep an eye out for introductions to our latest staff members, as well as seeing the new stuff we’ll be getting up to.