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Understanding ADA Compliance: In Regards to Website Accessibility

Understanding ADA Compliance: In Regards to Website Accessibility

Understanding ADA Compliance: In Regards to Website Accessibility

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was first passed, the majority of Americans thought that the scope of the ADA would be limited to creating an inclusive environment in the physical world. Not too many people thought that the digital world would later be included in ADA compliance at the time of its creation.

The core purpose of ADA, however, is to guarantee that every American has the same access to brick and mortar companies, restaurants, parks, and information, and that includes digital information.

So the big question is: does your website provide access and information to all who want it?

Do all businesses have to be ADA compliant?

When it comes to exemption, an incredibly small number of businesses are actually exempt from following ADA compliance. Companies that have less than 14 or fewer employees and/or companies that only operate twenty weeks out of the year are exempt. On top of that, religious organizations are exempt as well.

Does my website have to be ADA compliant?

Yes, under federal law, all websites fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design went into effect. Under this act, the DOJ mandates all websites under the private and public sectors to be accessible to all Americans facing visible and invisible disorders.

What does ADA compliant mean for websites?

While the DOJ standards for online accessibility currently lack a clear outline, a few court cases such as Gil V. Winn-Dixie help paint a picture of what is required by the DOJ. Lawsuits over website accessibility have actually increased quite a bit in recent years. In 2018, 200 lawsuits were filed over the lack of accessibility in America; this marks a 177% increase from 2017. It’s safe to say that this number will only continue to increase as more Americans are working from home.

How Do I Make My Website ADA Compliant?

There’s a lot of approaches that you can take to achieve ADA compliance. Thankfully, a pretty comprehensive list, known as WCAG, has been created so that companies can achieve ADA compliance. Let’s look into some of the requirements below:

  • Provide ALT text to any and all audio and video content.
  • Add transcripts and/or captions for all audio and video content…
  • double check that your content is well defined with appropriate headings and well-structured paragraphs that flow easily.
  • Make sure that each page on your site has clear and informative titles.
  • Have an easy to navigate sitemap structure.
  • Have a consistent navigation menu present on every page.
  • Ensure your text and background can pass a contrast test.
  • Eliminate or reduce background sounds to under 20 decibels.
  • Get rid of any and all pop-ups.
  • Ensure the website content has a high readability score if possible.

While this list does not account for all of the possible accommodations, it does provide you with a good starting point. It’s important to implement these as soon as possible, either by doing this yourself or by reaching out to a third party that specializes in website accessibility.

Take Advantage of Free Tools

There are plenty of tools that exist that can be used to check the level of your website accessibility. You can click here for a comprehensive list of tools, but be aware that not all of these are free. Out of all of the free options, two of the widely preferred tools you can use to check your accessibility are:

Wave

Wave is able to identify and reveal any WCAG issues that can keep a user from accessing needed information. By directly highlighting these issues, you can easily see and correct any needed changes. It will also show you a report breaking down the information by category.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse is a great and easy to use Google Chrome plug-in that can quickly generate reports that show a variety of important information, including website accessibility. It’s important to note, however, that this plug-in only generates a report for whatever page you’re on, so you will need to generate a report for every page on your site to get a comprehensive picture of your website.

How much does it cost to make your website ADA compliant?

When it comes to website accessibility, the first step is obvious: ensuring your website is optimized and built in such a way that it’s easy to navigate. Whether you’re wanting someone to overhaul your site or simply wanting a new one, our team of web developers can help you achieve your goal and lay the groundwork for an ADA compliant website. Call RankMonsters at 405-605-8218 or contact us online for a ADA Compliant website quote!

Google Makes the Switch To HTTPS Mandatory

Google Makes the Switch To HTTPS Mandatory

Take a quick look at your website’s URL. Do you see a little green lock and the word “Secure” next to it? If you do, congratulations – you’re on the right side of technology history. But if you don’t see that lock, you need to be aware of Google’s latest mandatory change. Starting in July 2018, Google will begin marking all sites that aren’t using HTTPS as “Not Secure.” Additionally, you could start to be penalized in organic rankings. So what do you need to do?

A Quick Primer on HTTP and HTTPS

For many years, HTTP – or HyperText Transfer Protocol – was the default way information was transmitted across the web. HTTP allows computers to talk to each other and share information in a standardized way. Any time you enter an address in your web browser, click on a link, or submit your password to a website, you’re actually making an HTTP request to another computer somewhere in the world. The content of your request, and the response you get from the other computer, determines what comes up on your screen.

The problem with this system is that it wasn’t built with the modern Internet in mind. Today, people do all kind of sensitive and personal things online. This includes transferring money, writing confidential emails, managing medical information and more. But HTTP doesn’t keep any of this information private. It’s possible to extract sensitive data like passwords, credit card details, and other personal info when you communicate with a website over HTTP.

This is the problem HTTPS solves. HTTPS – HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure – uses encryption to scramble information transmitted between computers over the Internet. When a website uses HTTPS, you can feel safe entering your password, financial details, or other personal information. Everything is protected at all points between your computer and the one you’re communicating with.

Google is pushing for more sites to use HTTPS to protect both standard users and websites. Additionally, HTTPS benefits you by allowing you to use new features on your website, like allowing users to take and send pictures directly or requesting a user’s location.

How Can I Get HTTPS on My Website?

To have your website marked as Secure, the first step is to purchase and install an SSL certificiate. SSL certificates are available from a wide range of vendors and authorities. However, finding a trustworthy one and installing it on your site can be complicated. You might not have much experience managing your website’s hosting and services. In this case we recommend reaching out to your webmaster or hosting provider for help.

After you have the certificate, you’ll also need to redirect your old, non-HTTPS website to your new secure site. You can use 301 Redirects on your site to automatically send visitors to secure pages. Setting up 301 redirects isn’t too complicated, but it can be time-consuming, especially on larger sites. Again, a good webmaster can help you handle this task and ensure your site is set up correctly.

How We Can Help

Alternatively, you can work with a dedicated partner like RankMonsters. At our agency, we provide website hosting, SSL certificate setup, and website optimization packages for all types of businesses and organizations. This includes setting up HTTPS, making sure all your pages are redirected, and keeping your site up-to-date and optimized. We can help your site manage the transition from HTTP to HTTPS smoothly and professionally. Plus, we’re always happy to answer questions and to help you get results.

If you want to learn more about helping your website perform better, contact RankMonsters today at (405) 605-8218. Or, you can fill out our form to request more information. We’re looking forward to helping you succeed online, so contact us today!

How to Increase Site Visibility in the New Year

How to Increase Site Visibility in the New Year

A new year is right around the corner, and you probably want to increase your business’s revenue over the next 12 months. One of the best ways to grow your sales is to improve your presence online. GE Capital found in a study that 81% of consumers research products and services online before buying. If your website doesn’t show up in their searches, they won’t consider your business.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your website’s visibility and get more notice, and more sales, from your website. They make take some time and some effort to do, but you’ll definitely see the benefit if you do them right. So let’s learn how to increase site visibility in the New Year.

 

 

Build Out Your Site – More Pages, More Content

One of the best ways to get more visibility online is to make sure your site is worth visiting in the first place. Building out your site with more content is a great way to ensure your site is meeting the needs and desires of customers.

Instead of a website with a single page, break down your site into multiple pages with their own topic or theme. For instance, your website’s home page should be a general introduction to your business, while your “About” page can be a more detailed history of you or your work. Other good ideas are product pages for the different products or services you offer; a contact information page that includes a map of your location; or a page that gives the answers to frequently-asked customer questions.

In general, the more pages and the more content your site has, the better it will rank on Google and other search engines. Note that you shouldn’t create irrelevant or meaningless content – only create new pages or new text when you have something real to say. If you want some ideas on how to create deep, meaningful content for your site, check out our blog post on content creation.

Start Blogging More

Along with adding information on new pages, another way to create content and engage your customers is through blogging. You might think of a blog as an online journal, but it’s much more. Used properly, blogs are a great way to increase your online visibility and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

Unfortunately for new bloggers, there is a lot of conflicting information on the web about what makes a blog good versus bad. Information about word count, image placement, posting frequency, and post structure can frustrate even seasoned writers. However, all blogging advice centers on one major point: your blogs have to be useful to readers.

A good blog post either answers a question or presents new or useful information about your business to the reader. For instance, a service company like a roofer or plumber might blog about new products or even make posts about specific projects. A retailer might do reviews of their goods or talk about new product releases. A craft store could feature projects they made with their own products. Every niche has an interesting way to feature the business – you just have to find yours and explore it, then write it up for others to see and share.

Your ultimate goal with your blog should be to add value. This refers to both adding value to your site and adding value to your readers. Create something valuable and it will have a much higher chance of achieving visibility and success.

Engage with Followers & Customers

Social media has changed the way websites do business. It’s not enough to offer a good product. You also have to be responsive to people talking to you, or about you, online. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus are great ways to interact with your customers. However, you do have to tread lightly.

Your first goal should be to create profiles or pages on social media networks and build your profiles. Add pictures, company information, and other details until your profile is not just complete but comprehensive and attractive.

Once you’ve built your profiles, it’s time to start engaging with customers. The best way to do this is to cultivate a presence on social media profiles by using them regularly. Post your blog posts and any other relevant content to your Facebook, Twitter, and other profiles. Don’t use them as personal spaces – keep your posts tied to your business as much as possible.

Another way to build interactions with customers on social media is to run promotions or contests through these profiles. You’ve probably seen business offering gift cards or special deals for people who like their posts or follow them on Twitter or Facebook. There’s a reason these promotions are common – they work. Every time you get your audience to engage with you online, you build it out a little bigger. Over time (and with plenty of regular curation) you’ll find yourself with a large and attentive audience.

Get Reviews

Besides social media profiles, online listing sites like Yelp, Google Maps, Foursquare and Angie’s List are one of the largest ways customers get information about companies online. These sites let you build your own profiles, but they also collect info from customers in the form of reviews. More importantly, though, these review scores then show up on search result pages on Google and Bing. A business with lots of four- and five-star reviews looks much more trustworthy than one with one-star reviews or no reviews at all.

The first step to getting reviews online is to build out your local citation profiles. There are plenty of sites that offer reviews for businesses. Some of the biggest are the ones we already mentioned. Yelp, Google Google My Business, and Angie’s List are big players, as are directory sites like Yellowpages.com. You’ll need to claim your business profile and build it out much the same way as you did your social media profiles before. You can learn more about local SEO and profiles in our blog post about local SEO and reviews.

Getting reviews from customers can be tougher, especially if you’re in a competitive niche. It helps to link your local profiles to your main site so that customers know where to go to leave you a review. You can also send out requests to review your services to previous customers if you collect their emails or phone numbers during business.

One tactic to shy away from, however, is incentivizing reviews. Unlike promotions on social media, offering incentives (like coupons or discounts) in exchange for a review is against the terms of service for some sites. If you do want to offer review incentives, make sure you read over the TOS carefully and ensure you’re not doing something that could land you in hot water.

Make Sure Your Site is Search-Engine Friendly

Even with all the social presence and content in the world, some sites still won’t rank well online. That’s because they are set up in a way that search engines have trouble reading them or fitting them into their algorithms. If you want your site to rank well, you have to set it up properly from a technical standpoint.

We often call this process “On-site Search Engine Optimization.” By optimizing your site for search engines, you make it more likely that the engine’s algorithms can index it properly. The search engine can then direct more queries to your site, resulting in more traffic for you.

On-site SEO is a big field, and most of it is pretty technical. However, there are some things that even a layperson can handle so long as they have access to their website’s back end. These things include:

  • Title tags under 65 characters for every page, preferably with a keyword or key phrase included.
  • Meta descriptions under 155 characters for every page, preferably with a keyword or key phrase included.
  • The use of heading (H1, H2, etc) tags on your pages in descending order.
  • Worthwhile content on every page, preferably at least 400 words.
  • Title tags and alt tags on every image on your site.
  • A variety of your important keywords in your content – but don’t overdo it!

Another important part of making your site search-engine friendly is optimizing it for mobile visitors alongside desktop traffic. To learn more about how to make your site mobile-capable, read our recent blog post about mobile websites.

Research Your Competitors

Becoming more visible online doesn’t just mean doing well – it often means doing better than your competition. To secure the top spots on search engines and get more visitors to your site, you should take a look at what your competitors are doing and then do your best to beat them at their own game.

There are plenty of tools and sites that let you snoop on your competition to see their online strategies. For instance, the Open Site Explorer is a great free tool that allows you to get the lowdown on some of your competitors’ activities including where they get links from and how they structure their pages.

You’ll also want to look at other factors like the amount of information they put on their site so you know what customers are responding to. Pricing details, product information, and other services are all areas to pay attention to. Don’t restructure your whole site to mirror your rivals, but keep an eye on what works for them to get an idea of what might work for you.

Put Users Ahead of Search Engines

Above all else, it’s important to make your site usable for the people that matter – your customers. Many business owners get caught up in designing a site to compete in search engine results without thinking about how people will actually use it. This is a sure road to problems. Your top goal should be making a site that is easy to navigate and full of useful, easy-to-understand information.

Now You Can Increase Site Visibility!

Sound like a lot of work? You’re not wrong. That said, you don’t have to do it all yourself. A skilled SEO partner like RankMonsters can perform the vast majority of this work on your behalf, letting you concentrate on what you do best – running your business. We’ve helped dozens of Oklahoma businesses achieve more visibility and more revenue from their websites. Why not make your site the next one?

 

Why Mobile Search Matters for your Website

Why Mobile Search Matters for your Website

Two-thirds of Americans now own and regularly use smartphones, and nearly three-quarters of those adults search for local information on their phones before visiting local businesses. This data points to a major shift in the way consumers get online and make choices about where to take their business. If you want to be seen online, you must start taking advantage of the opportunities mobile offers.

Are You Mobile Use Friendly?

Unfortunately, many websites aren’t doing just that. If you own or operate a website that doesn’t display properly on mobile. You might actually be penalized in search engine results. Google announced in June of 2014 that it would start adjusting search result rankings based on how well a website handles mobile visitors. For instance, 404 pages, videos that won’t play, improperly-sized images, and hard-to-read text could all negatively affect a site’s rankings.

Have You Thought About Your Icon?

Another telling move is the addition of “not-mobile-friendly” icons to some mobile search results. The icon, showing a smartphone with a slash through it, could potentially discourage mobile searchers from visiting a site. These decisions clearly show Google’s philosophy on the matter of mobile search: If your website can’t handle mobile visitors, Google isn’t going to send them to you.

That means it’s vital for your site to start handling mobile well. If you aren’t set up for mobile yet, how do you get started?

Two Ways to Handle Mobile

Website owners have two real ways to handle mobile visitors: responsive websites, and dedicated mobile sites. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. So you’ll need to decide which one is right for you depending on your goals and preferences. We’ll take a look at each type of site to help you make the choice.

Option 1: Responsive Web Design

Many business owners today are solving the mobile question with responsive websites. These sites handle mobile in an interesting way. Rather than directing users to a separate site, they simply resize the entire website to fit the display of the device the visitor is using. That means that a visitor to your site using a laptop would see a “full-size” version of the site. While a mobile visitor would see a version that is optimized to fit their smaller screen.

With a responsive website, the overall design of your website stays the same, but individual elements (such as images, text, and menu bars) change to suit the device. This has a number of advantages over other solutions, but it can also pose some technical challenges.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design:

  • Only One Site – The biggest advantage of a responsive website is that it allows you to keep the same site across all devices. This makes it easier to make changes to your site, keep track of all your content and pages, and ensure a consistent experience for your visitors.
  • Only One URL – Your site’s web address is important for both search engine rankings and for online name recognition. Using a responsive design allows you to keep the same URL across all devices, making it easier for visitors to know where they are online.
  • Protection from Bounces – In web design speak, a page’s “bounce rate” is the percentage of visitors who come to one page on the site and then leave without going anywhere else. Mobile sites often have a high bounce rate, since they offer a “stripped-down” experience with less design and content. A responsive website avoids that problem by offering all users the same content, regardless of platform.
  • Lower Costs – Because you only have to operate a single website, you keep your costs down. One website is cheaper to run than two.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design:

  • Responsive Design Doesn’t Always Respond – While the idea of responsive design is to offer a unified, easy-to-use experience for all users, sometimes your site may actually pose challenges you didn’t intend. Sites that are improperly optimized for mobile can drive off mobile users who want a simple, clean experience.
  • Mobile Has Different Needs – Smaller screen sizes and touch-based interfaces mean you may have to put emphasis on different parts of the same page to achieve conversions from both desktop and mobile. This can be complicated unless you’re an experienced web designer.
  • Technical Difficulties – Older computers or browsers may not always render responsive sites correctly. Plus, new phones or browser apps may also have challenges with a mobile site that hasn’t been updated regularly.

Option 2: Dedicated Mobile Site

Responsive web design isn’t for everyone. Many site owners prefer the relative safety of a dedicated mobile site. While there are some difficulties to operating a mobile site alongside a desktop version, mobile sites also offer a number of advantages that site owners appreciate.

The chief draw of mobile sites is that they are designed from the beginning for display on a mobile screen. This ensures the content, interface, and design are consistent and optimized for mobile visitors. Mobile sites also handle slower internet connections better than responsive sites, offering quick load times to visitors on cellular connections. This is important for visitors. Google actually uses load times as a factor in its search engine rankings.

Advantages of Dedicated Mobile Sites:

  • Better User Interface – By offering a site designed specifically for mobile users, you ensure that the interface and design of the site handles mobile well. This is a big advantage over many responsive sites that try to shoehorn a desktop experience onto mobile.
  • Speed – Mobile websites often have less elements (pictures, videos, advertisements) that take time to load over cellular connections. This will make your site load faster on mobile devices, and it will also save your visitors from using all of their data allotment on loading your site.

Disadvantages of Dedicated Mobile Sites:

  • Cost – Since you have to design, implement, and manage two websites, it’s understandable that a dedicated site costs more than a responsive one. However, dedicated sites don’t cost as much as you’d think to develop. So this isn’t a huge negative.
  • Technical Challenges – If users on mobile devices try to visit your desktop page, you’ll need to automatically redirect them to the mobile site. This can present some challenges. Especially if you have a large or complicated site structure.
  • Two Sites to Run – With a responsive website, any change you make is automatically applied to the entire site. Dedicated mobile sites are separate from their desktop counterparts. Meaning any change you make to one, you’ll have to make to the other too.
  • Two URLs – Mobile sites have a different URL than desktop sites. This can make your site a little harder to market. Though with automatic redirects its not as challenging as it used to be.

What About Apps?

Many companies have turned to a third solution to the mobile problem: mobile apps that take the place of the mobile website entirely. Often you’ll be prompted to download and install the mobile app when you visit one of these sites. It’s easy to see why owners and designers like apps. They’re not hard to design. They ensure a consistent mobile experience. They can also collect and send back more customer data than a website can. However, apps aren’t a true mobile site solution.

Is Creating An App The Cure All?

When you create an app for mobile users, the app doesn’t take the place of your website. Mobile users that don’t want to download an app will still use your site, and if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re back to square one. Plus, Google and other search engines don’t look at apps when deciding search engine rankings. They aren’t going to rank content that can only be found in an app. You could design the best app in the world put the best content on it, and you’d still lose out on rankings because your actual website doesn’t handle mobile visitors well.

Do Apps Work On All Devices?

Unfortunately apps don’t all work on all devices. You’ll need to develop separate apps for Apple, Android, and Windows Phone devices – a costly proposition. When you consider the costs of maintaining and updating apps across all platforms and devices (each one with its own software update schedule and conflicting requirements), you can see that apps are not a great solution for the vast majority of business owners.

Will You Be Left Behind?

The Internet is only going to become more and more mobile-centric in the coming years. If you want to perform well online and get business out of your website, you need to take advantage of the mobile space. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind.

To learn more about generating conversions and leads from your website, contact us today at (405) 605-8218. We’re a local Oklahoma City Internet marketing firm. We can help you on the path to online success.

Google’s Penguin Changes SEO – Again

Google’s Penguin Changes SEO – Again

SEO is a constantly changing game whether its google updates or keeping up with mobile use. Google, Bing, and other search engines are always updating the way they find and rank search results, which means that keeping a website consistently ranked high is a never-ending challenge. A perfect example of this is the recent change Google implemented in their search algorithm, Penguin 2.0. Lets see how Google’s Penguin Changes SEO- again. 

 

What Is Google Penguin?

For those unaware, the original Google Penguin was launched in April of 2012. Google Penguin was aimed at reducing the search engine rank of websites that used so-called “black hat” link building techniques like link spamming and keyword stuffing. Today these techniques add no value to a website’s SEO campaign. Spamming and keyword stuffing can easily result in your page being banned from Google’s search results entirely.

How Does Google Penguin 2.0 Change SEO

Penguin 2.0 goes even deer into targeting these black-hat techniques, and many sites have seen resulting dips in their search rankings and traffic. A number of the companies being affected heavily are older web properties with outdated links still pointing to their pages. However, companies with a wide range of “clustered” pages have also seen reduced rankings, as Penguin 2.0 has also reduced the search visibility of clustered URLs.

Content Creation

What does this mean for you, the page owner? In short, quality content creation is more important than ever. Google’s algorithm is doing its best to rank a variety of different websites that it feels have high-quality, user-friendly content. This is great news for the consumers, but it could be difficult for businesses that have websites without much content.

The New SEO Strategy

The best strategy here is to start building out your content pages and making them worth reading. It’s important to have a cohesive content strategy that positions your site as an authority in the field. To create content that is designed around providing a good user experience. Also, if you have a lot of older, unnatural link assets that point back to your website, even deep content pages. It’s worth working to manually remove and/or disavow those links.

How RankMonsters Can Help

At RankMonsters, we’re dedicated to improving your website’s SEO and page rank. Our monsters work as an extension of your team to provide you with high-quality content for your own website and a diverse and healthy link building profile. If you want to know more about what we can do for your website, contact us today.