Tag Archives: ecommerce

Domestic SEO: The Value of Internal Linking in SEO

SEO tips

If you’re ever feeling masochistic, try to look up someone famous who is younger than you on Wikipedia and marvel at how much they’ve achieved compared to you. I did that when I was reading about the tennis prodigy Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev, who at the age of 21 and ranked fifth in the world is the youngest player in the top 10. Even at such a young age, his Wikipedia entry is longer than mine ever would, assuming that I would even have a Wikipedia entry of my own, which is not very likely.

To further cement the point, Sascha’s Wikipedia entry also has a link to a page containing the details of his career so far. If I’d like to, I could actually spend the entire day tracking his entire career from his Wikipedia page, made possible by the generous amount of links Wikipedia has kindly provided. This is what is referred to as internal linking, in which links to pages from the same website are spread throughout a certain page, enticing users to click through those various links to catch up on the whole story, so to speak. For marketers and SEO services, internal linking is an essential process in optimizing a website.

SEO and internal linking

Links, specifically backlinks, are an integral part of SEO. In fact, the first algorithm that Google use to evaluate pages for their search engine, PageRank, named after co-founder Larry Page, uses the number and quality of backlinks as a primary criteria. Now that the ubiquitous search engine has two decades of progress on its back, links are just one of many, yet still important, part of the equation.

By comparison, internal links don’t directly impact how certain websites might rank in a given search engine results page, which is why sometimes, they are overlooked in the whole SEO process. In reality, internal links do have a direct effect on SEO, but not in the same way that backlinks do. Rather, internal links are integral during the process of web crawling and indexing, in which search engines identify and evaluate websites to be included in their search results.

Determining how link values are distributed across your website

Link value is closely related to the issue of information architecture but they’re not completely interchangeable. When search engines crawl and index your website, they look to your website’s sitemap for information on how your site is organized, its topology for a lack of a better word. For the most part, this topology will closely correlate to the link of value of your website pages, the homepage sitting at the top and the various contents at the bottom.

This is partly because in most cases, links to your homepage will be almost always included in every single page of your website. By the same token, contents that are linked only within the category page will carry less link value and therefore ranked less prominently. This idea can be manipulated by having sections for most recent and/or popular contents within your main page to boost the link value of those contents.

Content structure and the relationships between content

By now, you should be aware of the use of ‘tags’ within various sections of the internet. These tags are what web admins use to categorize pages based on the type of contents. Navigate to the ‘Royal Family’ section on the Sydney Morning Herald for example and you’ll be taken to a page featuring a collection of stories from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ ongoing visit to Australia. These section pages occupy the middle ground between the main page of your website and your main contents.

When search engine crawls through your website, these tags help them understand how pages within your website are related to each other. As with most things in life, few things are ever simply one thing, so a post about the dress the Duchess wore on a particular day would be tagged as both ‘Fashion’ and ‘Royal Family’. In each of the articles within the ‘Royal Family’ section, there would be a link to the section page itself, which acts as a signpost to web crawlers which pages that cover similar subject matter.

These tags could also be used to establish content structure by working hand in hand with the link values described above. Normally, websites operate under a pyramid-esque structure. At the top is the main page of the website itself, linked from every page of the website. Underneath that, we have the section pages, linked from every page of the related section. At the bottom sit the actual contents, linked from the section page and often other related contents but not as much as the section pages.

The recent trend is that websites are no longer using section pages simply as a collection of links, rather we’re now seeing more and more of what I like to call headlining contents or what the internet refers to as cornerstone contents. This type of content serves as a more-focused section page but with the added touch of a narrative. Instead of simply listing articles within that section, cornerstone contents attempt to create a narrative that binds those articles together.

For example, say you’re trying to do a piece on the history of electric car development from its infancy in the early 20th century to the now infamous General Motors EV1 and the burgeoning industry of electric cars in the current climate thanks to Tesla and the Nissan Leaf. Instead of presenting this as one article, you can divide this piece into several articles but with one overarching outline serving as the cornerstone content. As such, when search engines crawl and index your website, this cornerstone will be given more prominence above the other smaller articles.

The phenomenon of Wikipedia wormhole

Other than for the purpose of crawling and indexing, internal linking can also be used to the purpose of making your website more attractive to readers by this thing we call Wikipedia wormhole. For those unaware, Wikipedia wormhole is the phenomenon in which an unsuspecting reader begins his day reading about Nick Kyrgios only to end up on the page for Kosovo War solely through Wikipedia’s internal links.

By using internal links and recommendations on your contents, you can entice your visitors to an extended stay in your website. Always keep in mind that while SEO is for search engines, it’s your actual human visitors that should serve as the ultimate goal and proper use of internal linking works on both counts.

Shades of Grey: Monochromatic Color in Web Design

Web design tips

History is filled with companies, brands and other institutions that have been associated with a certain color. Italian car manufacturer for example is closely associated to the color rosso corsa, a unique shade of red that began as Italy’s racing color. By that same token, Coca-cola has also been forever associated with the color red and white and confectionery maker Cadbury has the exclusive rights for that shade of purple named, appropriately, as Cadbury purple.

Armed with the above knowledge, picking a color to use in your website should be done with careful consideration. Usability concerns and general attractiveness should obviously take priority but you should also take into account the use of color for branding purposes. Monochromatic design, the practice of using only variations of one color is one trend in web development and design that aims to satisfy all the above requirements.

A less colorful world

Choosing the right combination of colors is an incredibly arduous process. While technically there are only 3 or 4 primary colors in the world (red-green-blue or cyan-magenta-yellow-black), there can literally be millions of composite colors that can be derived by combining any of the primary colors. Finding the perfect combination from that embarrassment of riches can be difficult, which is why going the monochromatic route might be preferable.

Now, even though the term monochromatic infer that we’re solely going to use one shade of color in every facet of the website, for practical reasons the use of a single color palette is used by choosing one base color, typically one of the 12 colors featured in the standard color wheel along with the variations of that base color. These variations are obtained by darkening the base color with black, dulling that color with gray or by lightening that color with white.

The tricky part is when trying to use this approach if your website is going to feature a lot of photography. Obviously, limiting your images to only feature colors that you’ve picked for your website is going to be close to impossible but you could remedy this issue by simply adding a color overlay to the photo you’re using. This method is more effective when used on grayscale images however so you might have to tone down overly loud images first before applying the color overlay.

Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Cars that was a dominant force in Formula 1 back in the 60s and 70s designed his cars around one simple philosophy, simplify, then add lightness. You can find that same philosophy manifested today in brands such as Ikea and Muji and the whole concept of minimalism. Monochromatic web design builds around that same concept of simplification as well and streamlining the choice of colors to just one palette does a lot of wonders to your website development process, which will be outlined further.

Monochromatic design helps make some sense of a busy layout

When a particular section involves a lot of elements or when you’re presenting a lot of data such as when we’re talking about an infographic, monochromatic design can help keep things grounded. While it’s true that you want each data to be legible with the use of contrasting colors, too many clashing colors might overwhelm the viewers. Using two contrasting shades of a single or color or pairing them up with white and/or black could solve that problem without making your website look like a box of donuts.

To help illustrate a sense of progression in your website

Bear with me on this, but I’m going to use a pretty weird analogy to help explain this one. In the world of Pokémon, there’s this concept of evolution, where some creatures are capable of transforming into a better, bigger version of themselves. In most cases, the evolution is natural, like the Pokémon Bulbasaur having the bulb on its back blossoming into an actual flower when it evolves into Ivysaur and then into Venusaur. In certain cases however, like the carp Magikarp evolving into the dragon-like Gyarados, they make absolutely no sense. They don’t even have the same color, going from red to blue.

You see, if a certain section of your website has this element of progression, such as when outlining different premium pricing plans or when presenting the chronological history of an entity, you could use progressively darker or lighter shades of the same color to illustrate this progression. Monochromatic design isn’t just effective aesthetically; it can also be used functionally in clever visual cues such as this.

To create divisions between sections while still maintaining consistency

Still related to the point above, you can also use differing shades of the same color as an invisible wall to divide sections within your websites. Instead of using progressively darker shades as a sign of progression, you could also use the same technique as a visual cue for hierarchy to show both the division and relationship between sections. Think of this as color-coding done intelligently, using progressively darker or lighter shades as you move further down or up the hierarchy.

Additional thoughts

As an added note, it might be a good idea from time to time to not always stick to the rules in monochromatic design. For example, even though Facebook’s interface is mostly blue and white, they also selectively use green to highlight important action buttons.  You don’t always have to be rigid when it comes to monochromatic design, if there’s an opportunity where you can bend the rules a little bit, don’t hesitate to do so on your discretion.

Test Drive: The Importance of Prototyping

web development tips

For a certain segment of the population, this September is proving to be quite a month as in the 19th of this month; early impressions for a certain car began to trickle in all over the internet. That car is none other than the legendary Supra, a name that during the dying days of the 20th century represents a line of high-performance sports car from the Japanese giant Toyota. After production for the 4th generation Supra, dubbed the Mark IV, ended in 2002, that name has laid dormant for almost two decades, until recently.

Of course, if you’re expecting to see the actual car together with all of the necessary specifications, you’d be disappointed. When I used the word early in my opening statement, I meant it. The first drive reviews we’ve seen so far are for the prototypes, which are still camouflaged and where the looks and specifications still haven’t been finalized. For every important project, including in web development, prototyping is a necessary step in making sure you’re on the right track.

How prototyping works

Prototypes are essentially a functional mock-up; they act as the midpoint between a simple proof-of-concept and an actual working product. In the example above, the new Toyota Supra prototype has all the necessary elements in place, complete interior and exterior and an actual powertrain, but it was still lacking in the actual details with the exterior still camouflaged and spec sheets that aren’t finalized. Functionally though, the prototype accurately represents how the production version is going to be like.

Translating this idea into the world of web development, a website prototype is one where all of the navigation elements and functionalities are expected to be working as intended but where the visual design is still left in the air although a final prototype should closely mirror what the actual website is going to look like. Website prototype focuses more on the user experience and how the website works, instead of just how it looks. In web development, it’s usually one of the final stages, right before testing.

Do you need a website prototype?

Well technically, you don’t actually need it, but as prototypes act as the bridge between ideas and the actual product, they are quite effective in making sure that nothing gets lost in translation. In fact, for client-based web development firm, prototypes are usually a necessity as it’s your client’s way of appraising your work. This evaluation is just one way how prototyping can be useful and I’ll outline several other things that exemplify the importance of prototyping.

For the purpose of testing and generating feedback

It’s important to note that prototyping isn’t a one-off process, unless your developers somehow managed to nail everything in their first try in which case I salute them. No, prototyping is for the most part an iterative process. Once you’ve finished your first prototype, test it out yourself and send it out to the non-technical members of your company and/or the clients.

At this point, it’s quite likely that they’ll have some opinions of their own on where things are falling short and where they could be improved. Now, incorporate those feedbacks into your second prototype and repeat the above process once again until all of the testers are satisfied. During testing, it’s also useful to evaluate your prototypes with other websites that you’re using as a benchmark. In fact, using competitors’ car as a benchmark is normal practice in developing a car.

To evaluate novel design choices before they’re implemented

In the automotive world, they have a tradition of concept cars. Half the time, these concept cars are simple mockups, meant to preview what a future production car would look like to gauge public opinions. In the other half however, car manufacturers use concept cars as a testbed for crazy, exciting ideas that are deemed too impractical or even simply impossible to use in the today’s world.

In web development, prototype can also be used as the middle ground between those two ideas. If for example your team has a novel idea about a website, use the prototype as a proof of concept and see just how that idea might work in an actual HTML page. Even if the idea sounds crazy in the first place, prototyping might allow you to soften that idea and transform it into something worthwhile. Always keep an open mind when prototyping, you can always discard the crazier ideas afterward.

To work out the bugs and other kinks on the website

There’s a trend now in video games where bugs, glitches and other issues are identified and fixed after the game was released instead of the other way around. Needless to say, this is a highly disconcerting practice as the paying customers are essentially acting as beta testers for the video game company, which implies either a lack of effort and/or attention from their side.

The same thing applies on web development. A half-baked website full of broken links tends to not inspire much confidence and these kinds of issues can easily be remedied by ironing out those same issues during the prototyping phase. Even if you’re fully confident on the abilities of your developers, mistakes are a part of the human psyche and as long as our A.I. overlords haven’t completely taken over the world, prototyping is always going to be important.

Prototyping in web development

Yes, embedding a prototyping phase in your development schedule would mean having to push back the deadline, with the question of how long depends on how much time are you going to spend on the three issues above. Ask yourself this though, would you prefer a food that takes a while to prepare or one that is quick but turns out to be inadequately prepared? If I were a paying customer, I’d definitely prefer the former.