Flat design has officially become commonplace, but it is hard to tell how long its offspring, long shadow design, will last. At first glance, it seemed long shadow design would just be a small isolated derivative from the popular flat style, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own by providing a sense of depth while still maintaining a flat and minimal aesthetic.

For those who have yet to run into the style, it is characterized by appearing largely similar to flat design, but with a 45 degree angle that extends much further than any standard dropshadow would. Onextra Pixel estimates the shadow is around 2.5 times the size of the object normally.

If you want proof of long shadow design’s spread through the web design community, look no further than the number of free resources being released to make implementation quick and easy. Onextra Pixel has highlighted two over the past week alone, and there are many more included in theirs and other sites’ weekly round-ups of resources.

The first resource is a simple set of icons created by Christopher Behr that cover all you basic needs from music, settings, messaging, mail, and social media icons. They are all clearly inspired by the Apple icon style, while bringing long shadow aesthetics to the table.

The other free offering comes from a Bucharest based design and development studio called Responsive. They are giving away a complete long shadow flat UI kit which will make development a breeze.

Who knows if long shadow design is going to pass out of favor in the coming months, but it is currently riding high on the back of flat design. It certainly offers a solution to flat design’s complete rejection of depth while still providing a sleek and clean design.

Long Shadow UI Kit

It has always been a little unclear how Google handles their international market. We know they have engineers across the world, but anyone that has tried to search from outside the US knows the results can seem like what Americans would see five years ago: a few good options mixed with a lot of spam. That’s a little bit of a hyperbole, but Matt Cutts says we can expect to see it continue to get better moving forward.

According to Cutts’ recent Webmaster Help video, Google does fight spam globally using algorithms and manual actions taken by Google employees stationed in over 40 different regions and languages around the world. In addition, they also try to ensure all of their algorithms will work in all languages, rather than just English.

SEO Roundtable points out you could see the international attention to Google’s algorithms when Penguin originally rolled out. At first it was only affecting English queries, but was released for other languages quickly after. With Penguin’s release however, all countries saw the release on the same day.

Matt Cutts did concede that English language queries in Google do receive more attention, which has always been fairly obvious and understandable. There are far more searchers there and that is the native language of the majority of engineers working for the company.

If you’ve ever worked with PPC, you know how important “landing pages” can be. Google partially decides where a paid ad will appear and how much each click costs based on the quality of the landing page that ad leads to. Similarly, SEO professionals surely know all about “optimized pages” and how Google analyzes them for the SERPs. However, Stoney deGeyter from Search Engine Land says we should stop thinking of landing pages and optimized landing pages as different things. Now is the time for an optimized landing page.

SEO and PPC have always worked very closely, and in this case they overlap to the point where keeping them separate is doing a disservice to you and your site. Landing pages need to be optimized and optimized pages need to be respectable landing pages. Merging the two concepts into one idea simply makes sense.

So what does an optimized landing page look like? They simply change the intent of the optimization towards conversions. While SEO optimized pages are intended to rank highly, they can and should be performing the additional purpose of getting users to perform whatever action you desire such as purchasing a good or service or signing up for an e-mail mailing list. To do this, you just need a few things.

  • Compelling, Keyword Focused Title Tag – The title tag is probably the most 8-10 words you will write when optimizing your page. Not only does it need to be keyword focused, but it also needs to be interesting enough for searchers to choose your link over the others in the search results. Anyone could do one or the other, but achieving both at the same time is tricky.
  • Well-Written Description – Meta descriptions may not be important for rankings, but that shouldn’t diminish their importance for SEO. It displays in the search results and gets people to click to your page, so it is automatically essential for proper search engine optimization. It is also a great place for a strong call-to-action for the searcher.
  • Keyword Focused Headline – Headlines are the first thing users see when hitting your landing page from a search engine, so it is important for the keyword to be relevant if not similar to what was listed on the results page. It should also be wrapped in an H1 tag for proper optimization. Proper heading and sub-heading use helps search engines and browsers alike to determine what type of content you are offering and decide if they will stay on the page. Make yours compelling.
  • Topically Focused Content Concentrating on Benefits – For anyone to stay on your page, you need to keep your content on topic and interesting. Wandering off on tangents or not getting to the point will lose your visitors. Your content can be long, but it must also be trimmed of all excess. Not only that, but the value of your content should be readily available. Customers want to know what they will be getting from the content. Being positive and focusing on real tangible benefits will keep readers and consumers interested.
  • Keep Your Content Scannable – Even long content needs to be scannable so users can find what they want without hassle. Even interested visitors might not care about everything on your page. Keep your pages cleanly laid out, and clearly divide your content with sub-headlines that show the users where they want to look. White space and line spacing can be especially important to overall readability.
  • Call-to-Action – Without a call-to-action, there isn’t even a reason to have a landing page. Each page should have a goal that comes with a desired action or results that you want each visitor to take. The landing page should be a first step, not the only one. The only way to accomplish this is by clearly showing users what you want them to do. Whether you want them to share your content, sign up, or purchase, make it obvious.

There are some other small aspects deGeyter says these pages need, but the ones listed are by far the most essential. Optimized landing pages combine the best of both worlds when it comes to SEO and PPC. They accomplish two missions while saving stress and effort. SEO and PPC have their unique focuses and functions, but sometimes they work best when working together.

Sidr jQuery Plugin

Navigation has always been one of the most important aspects of a website’s design. If you can’t move throughout the site, chances are you won’t use it. However, navigation is also one of the few site design aspects with no tried and true solution. What might be right for me, may not be right for you.

Of course, there are some pretty good criteria you can use to judge what type of navigation you need. A small site can get by with a simple drop-down menu or the basic “three line” toggle menu. Larger sites have a much trickier task. They can use “mega menus” for their desktop version, but they will need another option for the mobile site.

Thankfully, most menus aren’t created from the ground up, so you can experiment fairly easily. Paul Andrew from Speckyboy compiled 15 jQuery plugins for navigation. They’re even responsive. Once you’ve found the one that matches the needs of your site, you can customize it and make it truly feel like a part of your website.

Pinterest Sticker Icon by DesignBoltPinterest is quickly gaining popularity. Over the last five months, its user base has grown 43.7 percent, reaching over 70 million users. Not only is it one of the most popular social media platforms around currently, it is also generates the most revenue and draws in the highest rate of active consumers. Pinterest users aren’t there just to look, they are there to spend money.

While Pinterest has normally shied away from being a direct commerce site, they have recently begun to make shopping through their platform easier over the past year. Now, Marketing Land reports that last week when they announced they have introduced price-drop notifications on pinned items. Now, when an item pinned by a user goes on sale, the user will get an e-mail notifying them.

This builds on the previous introduction of “rich” product pins. At first, Pinterest wanted to be a social site, but now it is trying to “turn pinners into shoppers” and it appears they are going to be very successful.

There will be no fee associated with these price alerts or the rich product pins, however it seems very likely Pinterest could turn to some sort of “promoted pin” offer in the near future, as they try to woo consumers and marketers alike.

By now, the hacker craze of the 90’s and early 2000’s has died down quite a bit. Most people don’t worry about hackers all that much, so long as you use some solid anti-virus and keep your router protected. Big businesses may have to worry about Anonymous’ hi jinks, but the common person don’t tend to concern themselves with the issue. Hacking especially doesn’t seem like that big of an issue for SEO, at first.

But, hackers can actually do your site some damage, and can even get your site entirely dropped from the Google search index. Sites get blacklisted when hackers inject malicious code onto servers, as Google seeks to protects searchers’ computers from any sort of compromising.

While Google doesn’t immediately drop sites from their index, being blacklisted leads to a complete drop in organic traffic and can be a crisis for SEO. Blacklisting starts as a warning to searchers that a site may be compromised, and few will continue past that alarm.

This has become a rather significant problem for Google. To help provide wide support for the increasing number of webmasters dealing with compromised servers, Google has launched the ‘Webmasters Help for Hacked Sites‘ support center. They give detailed information on how to clean and repair your server and prevent your site from getting entirely dropped from the Google index.

If you think this sort of hacking isn’t a big deal, check out the charts below. They show just how frequent this type of malicious activity has become. It isn’t just banks and large corporations dealing with it. Small businesses are just as at risk as international franchises. The most common form of attack is an automated set of processes that indiscriminately discover and exploit vulnerabilities on servers, which are often left completely unprotected.

Search Engine Journal recently explored the issue more in depth, unpacking why the issue is such a large concern to Google and webmasters alike. Compromised sites can destroy a search engine’s credibility just as your own, so the problem has to be taken very seriously.

Every brand with a reasonable web presence should be aware of the importance of making your content accessible to the legions of smartphone wielding consumers out there. Nearly everyone has a smartphone now, and mobile web use shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.

But, “going mobile” isn’t exactly an exact science. There are many options for a mobile strategy with pros and cons for each. Of course, at this point the most popular options are building responsively, building a mobile only site, or building a mobile app.

Responsive design takes a bit of a one-size-fits-all approach and relies on the assumption that everyone wants to interact with your content in the same manner, but mobile sites split traffic and create numerous logistical issues. Building a mobile app on the other hand can be an incredible part in establishing yourself on the mobile web, but it simply can’t replace having an actual website.

So how do you decide what approach to take? For most brands, I personally would suggest an approach combining responsive websites and a mobile app, but many companies don’t have the resources to do both as well as they need to be done. That’s when it becomes decision time. To help make the decision, the folks at Web Designer Depot put together an infographic (seen below) to show the facts about mobile design, and going into more detail about the benefits and drawbacks.

To App or Not to App Infographic

It has become pretty obvious that traffic potential increases quite a bit when a YouTube video or tweet is embedded into posts. Most people consider videos as more valuable content than regular blog posts, and the appreciate posts that condense relevant tons of tweets on a topic so that they don’t have to dig through all the spam, “trolling”, or other nonsense. Now, as Search Engine Journal reports, Facebook has made it possible for you to embed posts from their site as well.

A Facebook post from Venus Williams

The social media platform shared the above image as an illustration of the concept, which shows that you’ll be able to click on the ‘Embed Post’ button and be given a simple code that can be placed into an article. It’s pretty simple, though it hasn’t been widely released yet. Only a small group of organizations and businesses have already been given the ability. Instead, the embedded post ability will be rolled out with the new hashtag capability.

The new announcement also means that your Facebook posts can get additional exposure and sharing, as well as opening another way for advertisers to connect with people.

Running PPC campaigns is a tricky task. If you do it right, everything can go great, but if you make a mistake you can waste money and hurt your brand. At any given time, there are tons of factors working to make your campaigns fail, and a PPC manager needs to be on the watch to prevent any damage. Fighting these issues may not be actively moving your campaign forward, but it can keep you from backsliding.

Joseph Kerschbaum explained the seven most damaging factors that PPC managers often let sabotage their campaigns and how to fight them. If you keep an eye out for any of these lurking dangers, you can protect yourself from almost all serious damage to your campaign.

  1. PPC Changes – While there are the occasional big changes to PPC like the implementation of AdWords Enhanced Campaigns, there are also constant small changes that make PPC managers continuously tweak their strategies. If you don’t keep up to date on the latest PPC news, you can end up behind on the best practices and seeing your campaigns go from good to bad very quickly.
  2. Fluctuating Performance in Other Channels – PPC is influenced by tons of other aspects of your brand’s online presence, just as PPC influences those other channels. You can’t treat PPC as an isolated area, because changes in other arenas can drag down campaign performance. Just as with the constant changes in PPC however, keeping up to date with all your web analytics and industry news can help keep your campaign on track.
  3. Negative seasonal trends – Every industry has good seasons and bad seasons. Many even see tidal changes from hour to hour. While small dips in performance throughout a day or week are regular, you need to be prepared for the longer periods of decelerated performance. To protect yourself, you should develop seasonal projections to help identify when these low periods will occur, and be prepared to ease off your campaigns when they won’t be performing well. Take the budget you would be spending on non-rewarding periods and use it to take advantage of the times that work well for your brand.
  4. Increasingly Intense Competition – One of the biggest struggles with PPC is trying to keep up with your competitors and predict when they are going to decrease or aggressively double-up on their PPC campaigns. Set performance thresholds so you can notice when your performance begins to take some heat, and check up on your competitors when you fall below the threshold. You can also use a third party competitive tool to monitor your competitors.
  5. Broken Tracking and Site Errors – Not all PPC performance hazards come from outside. There are many ways you can sabotage your own work, and one of the most common issues is errors that can slowly creep up on your site. Use AdWords and Google Analytics alerts so that you will be notified immediately when one of these errors occur.
  6. Failed PPC Initiatives – Of course, sometimes the self-inflicted damage isn’t preventable. In fact, with nearly every account there are going to be mispriced bids and failed ad copy that you won’t be able to identify until the signs start popping up that something isn’t working. Set reminders so that you can monitor your new initiatives. That way, you’ll be able to see the warning signs as soon as they start appearing.
  7. Implementation Errors – While there are tons of issues that can’t be prevented, you are likely running quite a few campaigns and making tons of changes on a daily basis. Preventable mistakes are going to happen, and you need to be prepared to respond. Yet again, alerts will likely be the best way to be notified when you mess up, but the better defense is to implement a process to ensure every change within your account is double-checked.

Source: WikiCommons

Everyone working in SEO knows that Google has a multitude of factors they use to determine the order of search engine results, and the majority of these ranking factors are based on either the content of the webpage or signs of authenticity or reputability. That was the case for the longest time, but since 2010, Google has made significant shifts towards a focus on usability, and the harbinger of this change was the inclusion of website speed to ranking factors.

The problem is, website speed and other usability issues aren’t exactly objectively defined. What exactly is a slow loading site? What is the cutoff? No one has gotten a definitive answer from Google, but in June Matt Cutts explicitly stated that slow loading sites, especially on mobile platforms will begin seeing search rank penalties soon.

Obviously these changes are good for searchers. Searchers want sites that load quickly, offer quality user experience, and deliver great content. And, the emphasis on speed is certainly highlighted on mobile platforms where on-the-go users are likely to go back to the results if the site takes too long for their liking. The issue we face as search optimization professionals is trying to figure out exactly what Google is measuring and how that information is being used.

Matt Peters from Moz decided to break through Google’s intentionally vague information to figure out exactly how site speed affects rankings with the help of Zoompf. They can’t explicitly disprove causation between site speed and rankings, due to the number of other algorithmic ranking factors that complicate the study. But, their results did show very little to no correlation between page load time and ranking.

I wouldn’t take this information as gospel, but it does suggest that loading time isn’t a huge consideration into long tail searches and doesn’t need to be worried about too much. If your site is loading quickly enough to please the people coming to it, your site will also likely pass Google’s expectations.