Moving On…

Effective November 1, 2014, Minnick Web Services is no longer in business. We’ve preserved this domain and the newsletter archives for your reading pleasure, however.

Our training services have moved to the new company, WatzThis?, formed by Chris Minnick and Eva Holland. Please visit our site at http://www.watzthis.com if you’re interested in online or in-person training.

Penguins and Pandas, and More! Oh my!

A couple weeks ago, Google started rolling out an update to how they rank websites. Google does these updates fairly regularly, in order to improve their search results and catch more bad guys.

Major updates to how Google ranks sites (their algorithms) are given names and numbers. This most recent update is called Panda 4.0, and it affects around 7.5% of English language searches. Other algorithms are named after animals as well, for example Penguin and Hummingbird. Such nice names for changes that caused the traffic to Ask.com to drop by 70% in search engine visibility in one day, or that caused Ebay to drop by 50% in one day.

The Panda algorithm targets sites with “duplicate,” “thin,” and “low quality” content. Plenty of people will give you advice on what constitutes thin content, and you may think that because your site has a lot of great content (such as is the case for many of our magazine clients), you’re not at risk of being impacted by this latest update: but beware… Google is not perfect.

Things that Google may consider to be “thin” content include syndicated content, inefficiently organized content, press releases, and content that doesn’t serve a clear purpose on your site.

All of these are things that I see all the time on respectable websites. However, because they aren’t generally what people are searching for, updates to Panda may cause these sections of websites to rank lower in search results.

Especially for websites that make money off of their traffic, it’s extremely important to stay on top of what’s happening with your traffic and to continually evaluate your search engine positions in order to optimize them for continually evolving algorithms.

Want to learn more about how search engines work and how they rank your site? Sign up for our online course: “Achieving Top Search Engine Placements.” Want to learn more about how your site is ranked on Google, and get some free advice on how it could be improved and how we could improve it?

Contact us today to schedule a free website audit!

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

p.s. The first session of our new class, Achieving Top Search Engine Positions, just started. Find out more, and Sign up now!

p.s. A new session of our mobile app class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 also just started! Click here to read reviews and find out more!

A proven system for high search engine rankings

Netcraft estimate that there are 644 million active websites on the Internet today. The good news is: yours may be one of them. The bad news is: yours is just one of them.

In our online class, Achieving Top Search Engine Positions, and in our day to day contacts with customers, a common question that we get is “How can I get to the top of Google’s search results?”

The short answer is that you can’t, unless you redefine what “the top” means. Do you want to be the #1 result when people search for “cars”? That’s not going to happen. Do you want to be the #1 result when people search for “buying a volkswagen in California”? That’s much more doable, but still very unlikely. Want to be the #1 result when people search for “Buying a used Jetta in Sacramento”? Now we’re getting into the realm of possible.

SEO is all about focus. The more specific you get with your goals, the more likely you are to be able to rank highly. The flip side is that more specific searches are done much more infrequently than very broad searches.

Even high ranking with specific search terms takes a concerted effort over time, however. It also takes a basic understanding of how the web and search engines work.

If you take away nothing else from this newsletter (and from my online course), remember that search engine optimization is really about optimization for people.

Look at your site today and think about what it is that you want people to be able to accomplish on it. Buy a car? Learn about gardening? Connect with like-minded people?

Now approach your site from the point of view of your dream visitor / customer. Does your site make it easy for them to do what you’re hoping they can do? If not, why not? Is information difficult to find? Is there not enough information?

Search engines are in the business of helping people find what they want. They constantly look at your site from the customer’s point of view and compare it with your competition in order to decide who helps customers better. You should do the same.

Do you need help or a neutral third party to look at your site and give you ideas about what needs improvement? We offer a free website audit service in which we take a close look at your site and recommend improvements and changes that will better serve your customers, and thereby get your higher search engine positions and more traffic.

Find out more and schedule your free website audit today!

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

On SEO, Marketing, and Hustlin’

marketing

I’ve been doing this Internet thing for 25 years, the world wide web thing for 20 years, and running a business doing it all for 18 years. I’ve learned a thing or two. No, I’ve learned all of it.

I’m really lucky to work with a team of people who I respect greatly and who I consider my friends, and to get to teach things I’ve learned to hundreds of people each month through my books, online classes, internships, articles, and live training. This is my role and my passion these days: to pass on stuff I know about how things work and to figure out how to run and continually improve a business that does this.

I know that I don’t know the ins and outs of every programming language or platform that comes around – but I know the patterns and the inner workings of all of it, I’ve taught it to thousands, and I can write pretty well too.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned something about but never mastered, it’s “marketing”. Unfortunately for all of us (I believe), our world right now is awash in marketing like never before. I stay away from social media because of it (I’ve been delegating it, in case you haven’t noticed) but I still find myself thinking in tweets (I pass them on to an audience of 1 or 2 occasionally).

All of this leads up to an interesting development, in which my teaching assistant, Eva, and I just finished revising and are now teaching a class on search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is essentially the art and science of getting search engines to like your content.

I know a lot about SEO. I’ve built programs for indexing web content, I’ve studied how search engines work, I keep up to date on the subject, and I spend some of my time on every project my company does helping my clients to improve their SEO.

But, it’s difficult to get beyond the fact that no one outside of the search engines (aka Google) actually knows for sure how search engines do what they do. If we did know this, we could quickly game the system to get higher rankings. Effectively, then, search engines are a black box, and optimizing websites for them would seem to be a matter of guesswork.

However, that’s not actually true. If you understand search engines and the motives behind people who use them, and the motives behind people who build them, it’s all pretty simple.

  1. Search engines exist to help people find content that they’re looking for. But, people are really bad at searching for things.
  2. Search engines try to be be good at helping people find what they’re looking for, even though they’re really bad at asking for it.
  3. Attempts to trick search engines will all eventually fail, because search engine programmers program around tricks in order to help people (almost all of whom are, I guarantee you, doing a bad job of searching).

What should an SEO course teach, then? In my opinion, it should teach students how to be relevant by understanding the underlying principles of the Internet and how people search.

There are no quick answers to the question of how to get more traffic and top search engine positions if you don’t deserve them.

There’s no marketing in the world that can be effective for long in fooling people (or search engines) into believing something that is fundamentally not true. But, at the same time, how do you bring attention to the true things that you have to offer? How do you make people aware of what you have to offer without sounding fake?

This is what SEO is to me. And, I hope you’ll take my class to learn more, because, quite honestly (of course), making you aware of my class so that you’ll sign up is one of the main points and purposes of this newsletter.

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

Achieving Top Search Engine Positions

SEOA couple years ago, I wrote the first version of my first online course, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5. Offered through over 2,500 schools world-wide, the course has been a great success. Thus far, 3,600 students have gotten an introduction to mobile app development from the 6-week course, and more are signing up all the time!

Today, I’m proud to announce that I and my teaching assistant, Eva Holland, are putting the finishing touches on a brand new, and totally different, course.

Titled Achieving Top Search Engine Positions, the course teaches the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to anyone interested in getting more traffic to their website — and who doesn’t want that?

Over 12 lessons in 6 weeks, we cover a wide range of SEO topics, including:

  • understanding search engines
  • choosing keywords
  • creating and finding great content
  • structuring your site for maximum SEO
  • submitting your site to search engines
  • monitoring your search engine placements
  • promoting your site offline and online

For 15 years, I’ve been teaching people how to use the technologies necessary to build great websites. However, just building a great website or mobile app is just the beginning of the process. I’m excited to start sharing my experience and expertise in SEO with a broader range of students!

The first session of the course starts on May 21. For more information, and to register, go to http://www.ed2go.com/online-courses/achieving-top-search-engine-positions

Have a great day!

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of our mobile app class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 also starts on May 21! Click here to read reviews and find out more!

What’s it like to be the 32,284th most popular author?

According to Amazon, there are only 32,283 authors who are more popular than me (on Amazon) today. Updated hourly, this number has fluctuated in the range of 20,000 to 40,000 over the last few months.

With somewhere around 5 million titles in the Amazon database, I figure there are at least a million different authors I compete with. That puts me in the top 3 percent of authors on Amazon. My rank doesn’t look so shabby now, does it?

But, what does that mean, in terms of fame, wealth, book signings, fighting off paparazzi, and all of the other important measures of success? Pretty much nothing. No one (except family members) has ever asked me to sign my books, and I have yet to earn enough to live on for more than a couple weeks from sales of my books. So, why do I do it?

Writing books is valuable for much more than just the writing of the book. For example, what would I be writing about right now if it weren’t for the fact that I can write about writing books?

One of the big things that it’s useful for is to demonstrate just how difficult certain pursuits are — even though the perception is that success happens all the time.

I’m thinking, in particular, about mobile apps and web startups. Almost every single mobile app that has been built has been a failure, in terms of money earned — with the rare giant success. Yet, I get calls and questions daily from people who have a “sure thing” app idea that will make us all billionaires (and I should be happy to work for free because of it).

In the end, my best advice is: think long and hard before you jump into a sure-thing hit project. Is the straight-ahead path of selling app downloads or subscriptions the best way to make money, or can you give away the app to help boost the business you already have? Are there less glamorous ways to make your web or app project pay for itself without relying on it getting a million downloads? Let me tell you now: even with the best distribution network in the world, a great product, founders who are willing to work 24 hours a day, and a marketing budget — getting even 1000 people to pay 99 cents to download something, or to pay $20 per month for a service, or to buy a book, is way more difficult than you can imagine.

So, how do you build a successful website or mobile app? The same way you become the most popular author on Amazon (except for about 32,000 other ones): stick to it for a long time, know your subject and audience inside-out, and look at ways to make your project successful without having to amass a large audience of paying customers.

Want more free advice from me? Sign up for a Free Website Audit.

Mobile Web: What Just Happened?

If you’ve been reading my newsletters for the last few months, you may have noticed that I’ve talked just a little about the mobile web and why it’s so important to you and your business or career. Now I want to show you a couple graphs that I made from real client data recently.
These are reports of web traffic from smartphones and tablets during 2013.


The trend is clear: mobile web usage took off during the last couple months of 2013. If you thought your mobile web site, or acquiring mobile web skills, wasn’t that urgent of a priority way back in October 2013, chances are that you need to look again.
If you’re not seeing a dramatic increase in mobile traffic right now, it’s very likely the result of Google’s decision to rank sites that are optimized for mobile higher in their smartphone search results than sites that aren’t. In other words: you’re being punished by Google for not having a mobile site, or for having one that isn’t correctly configured.
As I mentioned in previous newsletters, the number of people using mobile devices to browse the web is growing very rapidly, while desktop browser usage is stagnant. If Google is ranking you lower in mobile search results, it’s having a negative impact on your business.
On the other hand, if your site is already optimized for mobile devices, you’re benefiting as we speak — you have a leg up on the competition and more mobile traffic will continue to come your way in the coming months!
Want to find out how Minnick Web Services can help you optimize your site for mobile?Contact us today!
Want to acquire the skills to build mobile websites and mobile web apps and take advantage of the booming demand for skilled mobile developers? Sign up for our online class — a new session starts next week!
Happy New Year!

Monetizing Mobile

phoneA new study by eMarketer, released this week, finds that adults in the U.S. are spending more time on their mobile devices than on desktop and laptop computers.

The same study estimates that mobile ad spending has more than doubled in 2013, while desktop ad spending has grown only 1.7%.

For our clients in the publishing world, this should be a wake-up call. Now is the time to focus on your mobile strategy and to prepare for monetizing mobile websites in 2014, which promises even faster growth. Here are some of the things I recommend that everyone with a website, but especially everyone with a website that includes advertising, should do right now:

1. Visit your website with a smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone handy, visit http://www.mobilephoneemulator.com/ to simulate the experience of using your site on a smartphone. If your site was redesigned more than a couple years ago, chances are good that it’s not going to look good, or that it will require the user to zoom to view it (certainly a less-than-ideal user experience).

2. Read this study from IDC, which found that 79% of 18 to 44-year-olds have their phones on them or near them for all but 2 hours of their waking day. Furthermore, the same percentage (79%) say that the first thing they do when they wake up each day is to check their smartphone. Among 18-24 year-olds only, the percentage that reach for their phone before they do anything else is 89%.

3. Read this article which compares mobile ad click-through rates with desktop ads. Or, if you don’t have time to read it right now, let me give you the executive summary: mobile ads have much higher click-through rates than desktop ads.

The trend towards mobile computing is clear, and now’s the time to do the work necessary to take advantage of it! Contact us today to find out how we can help you optimize your site for mobile viewers and prepare you for the oncoming boom in mobile ad revenue!

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started!Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

Now is the Time for HTML5

In the last two years, I’ve taught HTML5 to over 3000 students through my online class, even more than that have learned HTML5 and HTML5 mobile development through my last two books:WebKit for Dummies and Beginning HTML5 and CSS3 for Dummies, and I’ve personally tutored, assisted, and encouraged hundreds more to upgrade their HTML skills or to learn HTML for the first time.

After spending at least half of my career in the long dark Web period from 2001 to 2009 which was dominated by XHTML and browser wars, I’m thrilled to be a part of the HTML5 revolution that’s currently taking over the web.

According to the W3C’s plan, 2014 is the year that HTML5 will become an official recommendation. Whether or not it’s an official standard doesn’t matter, however, if it doesn’t have support from the browser makers. So, let’s take a look at the current level of browser support for HTML5 and related standards.

Here are a couple images that we all need to be familiar with. The first is from HTMLtest.com, a site that ranks browsers based on how well they support the HTML5 spec. The highest possible score is currently 555.

browserscores

The next chart is from W3Counter.com, which tracks current browser usage. Here are the numbers from November 2013:

browsershares

While it’s great news that browsers that are highly compliant with the HTML5 standard represent nearly 50% of the market share, it’s troubling that browsers that are so far behind as IE9 and older still account for about a quarter of all browsers in use today.

So, what are we to do about this? Here are our recommendations for web developers (and those who employ web developers) everywhere:

1. Write all web pages in HTML5, according to the latest version of the spec. Browsers are continually getting better, and even the most late of late adopters are gradually graduating to better browsers. When you’re feeling down, notice the complete lack of a certain version of a certain browser from Microsoft on the above chart!

2. Learn about and use Modernizr and Polyfills for any feature that might not be supported by every browser. Modernizr is a JavaScript library for detecting whether a user’s browser supports features. Polyfills are JavaScript replacements for HTML5 features which you can load conditionally based on the test results from Modernizr. For example, if you want to use the HTML5 video tag on your site, but you don’t want to leave behind users with old browsers, simply test for <video> support and include one of the several <video> polyfills. You can then use <video> as you normally would…the polyfill will take care of the rest! It’s like magic, except it’s not.

HTML5 represents a major improvement to the web, and it holds the promise of reducing and perhaps even eliminating browser incompatibilities at some point. But, not just yet. In the meantime, however, it’s fully possible to support nearly every user of your site and to smooth over browser incompatibilities by using simple and free tools. So, why wouldn’t you?

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started!Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!

The 4 Rules of Mobile App Design

L01CH05-01In my online class, I teach 4 rules of mobile app design:

1. Design with mobility in mind. In other words, keep in mind that mobile devices are called mobile devices for a reason — people use them while moving or while not at their desks. This is, perhaps, the most controversial of my rules, because many people would argue (and do) that people are increasingly using “mobile” devices as their primary computer. However, I stand by my rule. You design differently for smartphones vs. desktop computers because smartphone apps are more often used by people who may have something else that’s the primary thing they’re doing (working out, shopping, running, riding the bus).

2. Design for simplicity. Photoshop is a great desktop application. It would make a horrible mobile app if all of its features were simply copied over. Mobile forces you to make tough choices about “what to leave in, what to leave out.”

3. Design for people. This is an important rule for any type of system that’s going to be used by people. Create as clear a picture as you can of the people who will be using your app. Give them names. Make up stories about them.Actually make them, if you have the technology. The closer you can get to having real people using your imaginary app before you even start building it, the better.

4. Design for different devices. Finally, if you’re designing for mobile, you’re really designing for hundreds or thousands of different configurations of screen sizes and capabilities. Especially if you’re going to work with the mobile web, don’t get super-attached to any pixel-perfect layout, because it’s not going to work for everyone. Keep your design flexible, and test on as many devices as you can get your hands on.

In the assignment for Lesson 1, I ask my students to come up with a way to remember these 4 rules — a song, or an acronym, or a mnemonic device for example. Here’s one of my favorites answers of all time:

App Design
Design for one on the go,
Perhaps like someone you know.
Simplicity’s nice,
For every device,

To help your successfulness grow.

Have a great day!

Sincerely,

Chris Minnick

p.s. A new session of my online class, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 just started! Visit our site to sign up or to view the first lesson!