Tag Archives: websites

How Does Your Website Measure Up?

websitesWhich is Best for You, D-I-Y or Professional Website?

Have you ever gone to a website and been instantly turned off by the look or get frustrated looking for basic information so you navigate to another site that has what you are looking for?  I am surprised at the number of lackluster websites I see while searching the internet.  Sometimes I’m surfing as part of my business and sometimes as a consumer, but always with an eye toward form and function.  I’m not having a go at other businesses, but for many small business owners, there seems to be a gap between the recognition of the importance of a website and the resources allocated for it. Websites that are old and outdated, cluttered, poorly organized, or visually unappealing, trigger these questions:

* Is this business is new or struggling such that they have no funds to dedicate to their online presence?

* Is the business owner unaware of just how unimpressive their website is and the possible negative consequences of having a poor website?

* Does the business owner lack adequate knowledge about the importance of having a quality website for any business?

A company’s website is arguably the most important marketing tool in their suite of resources, to showcase their business and attract prospects. This is a storefront, if you will, without borders of time, space, and distance. According to Pew Research Center, 85% of adults in this country use the internet and well over half search the internet before they buy. That is an enormous number of people using this technology for everything imaginable. Even if most of  your business comes through referrals, those people who have been recommended to you are very likely to check you out online before doing business with you. If you website does not do your products and services justice, those prospects might choose someone else. Prospective clients and customers are not the only people checking you out online. Most businesses operate in an industry where other professionals are flowing business to other companies. Your website should be inviting to your entire audience and make it enticing to want to do business with you.

This blog is not about SEO, Search Engine Optimization, which is an important element of website health, but rather looking at the design and functionality of the site. What is the user experience when they get to your site? Is the first impression one that suggests a quality organization? Is there enough content on the site to encourage visitors to stay and interact? Is there a call to action to take the next step closer in the buying process? Is the site easy to navigate and find information about your products and services? Is it easy to read? Simple things like color, font size, and spacing can make the difference that converts visitors to customers or conversely to lost prospects.

If budget is a serious concern, I challenge you to think about how much is your image worth? That may be hard to quantify, but you probably spend money on other things to enhance your image…clothes, collateral, office location, etc. If it was clear that your website was not helping your image, you would be wise to dedicate resources to it. The level of resource allocation varies widely based on what you want to accomplish with your website. I would go so far as to boldly say – if you can’t afford any resources for a quality website, you may want to reconsider being in business, it is that important.

At the very low end, there are some decent D-I-Y sites that are better than no site at all. All you have to do is Google “cheap websites” and a bunch of options are there to choose from. If you are a start-up with truly nothing to spend on digital marketing, you are already good with technology sites, or you welcome a good challenge, this is an affordable option. Keep in mind that there is a reason these website services are so cheap. They are primarily based on prescribed templates that you fit your content into. They may have options to enhance the site, but you have to do it yourself and it is not always as easy as it seems. Think through what you need from a website, such as a “Contact Us” form that your prospects fill out and you receive. You may want to put up a gallery of images or video, special offers, or a lead capture system that a template doesn’t offer. You may have to hire someone to help you get the site the way you want it if full support is not available.

High-end professionally designed sites usually range between $3,000 – $10,000 to design and develop and the functionality is very robust. This could include messaging, high level strategy, logo and other graphic design, an integrated system, e-commerce, database, and any way you want your website to look and function. This is a great option for businesses that have the budget to dedicate to a fully customizable and highly polished web presence and the companies that offer this service do a fantastic job.

Mid-level professional sites – There is the option in between, where we fit in. You can have a custom-designed site at an affordable price. Our sites are designed and developed by professionals in the industry and we don’t use templates. We can make the site look and feel the way you want and have partners to handle the aspects we don’t do, such as branding, messaging, and graphic design.  This is an excellent choice for many small businesses who need a new or upgraded website, they are not going to do it themselves, but also don’t have thousands of dollars up front to pay for a site.

What is a website worth? How does your company use their website? Have you ever said to a prospect – “check us out online”? If you haven’t, is that because you don’t have anywhere “online” for them to go? Is it because you don’t have a very attractive or helpful site where sending possible clients there may not help your business? If you don’t think about inviting people to your site, is it because you are so accustomed to doing business the old fashioned way and haven’t yet caught up with the your audience is using the internet to search? If you are not sure how your website measures up, stay tuned for our next blog on “Your Website Report Card” and we will show you how to assess your own site. Of course, you can Contact Us for more information or to set up a complementary consultation and assessment of your website.

 

Content is King…

content is king

Online Platforms are the Domain

 

You may have heard the expression  – “Content is King”. As a business metaphor, this means what you put on your website, on your collateral material, post on your blog and social media sites is incredibly important…arguably the most important aspect of your online presence and digital marketing campaigns. That’s not to say design, style, form, and function are insignificant. Quite the contrary. Working with quality graphic designers, such as True Creative Services, in Northern Virginia has been key for our clients to present the image they want online.  The visual branding and design attracts and intrigues, but if the content isn’t there to back it up, visitors are not likely to stay and become clients.

Words, phrases, meaning, interpretation, terms, acronyms, jargon, and links, tell our audience who we are, what we do, how we do it, and more importantly, what we can do to solve their problems or enhance some aspect of their life. This content is absolutely reflective of our core purpose, which is why it is so important to get it right. There are several places online where your business content shows up. I didn’t include directories and list sources in this because though they are important avenues to be represented, they generally do not include extensive and ongoing content, but rather basic profile information.

Content Outlets

Website – Creating the perfect content on static platforms such as websites and brochures presents a certain challenge as a single project. You need to capture your audience’s interest, provide relevant information about your company and industry, access to your products and service, and drive them to a call to action. You want window shoppers to become patrons of your business in some way. How does the content of your website achieve these objectives? Are you an objective observer of your own content? Probably not. You may want to have someone not associated with the business look at your website with a critical eye and give you feedback as “secret shopper” on your site.

Blog – For the most part, once your website is complete and material written, it won’t change very often. On the other hand, effective blogs are updated at least weekly.  The benefits of writing a regular blog are multi-dimensional. Original content is big for search engines such as google. This refers to written word, images, video, and pictograms that are originated from the efforts of the business or individual posting them. . Original content doesn’t mean you have to write the content yourself, we ghostwrite a lot of blogs for our clients. Not everyone is blessed with writing abilities or time to pontificate through the written word. You can delegate or outsource blog writing to others who will do it better and more consistently than  you will. Regardless of how you get your blog, this is original, relevant, industry-specific information that would be of interest to the target audience for your business.

Updating content through a weekly blog is great for your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It also give you original content to post on your social media platforms and puts you in the position as leader in your industry. Clearly, only those with the greatest mastery of their subject matter have so much valuable information to share.

Social Media Platforms – Popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, google+, are a perfect place for businesses to post content. The beautiful thing about social media is that it easily allows professionals to showcase not just their products and services, but their company culture, brand identity, connection to their community, values, and mission in the way a website just isn’t designed to do. And, it is free to use. Social media content distribution takes a commitment of time and attention, but it is worth it. If you have been working with your social media sites for a while, do a review of the posts, comments, likes, and shares over time and a community begins to emerge. You may not have a cheering section, but the connections made and reinforced with each post, are an asset to your business, not to be under-valued.

Finding Content

This is actually the easiest part of content delivery on digital platforms. Thanks to search engines, finding good quality content for your industry is as easy as a google search. Because inbound marketing encourages sharing content, posting articles written by others is easy to do and attributes the originator automatically, so there is no concern for plagiarism. This is how we find content to post for our clients:

1. Identify of a topic related to the industry…for example, our painting company client’s audience may be interested in something on color ideas for the bathroom

2. Google “Color ideas for the bathroom”. Choose an article or non-competitor site that talks about that topic or a website by a leading paint distributor with this subject on their site

3. Highlight the website URL, copy and paste it into the dialog box of the social media platform. This will automatically populate the article’s title, author, and link to the original source

4. Scroll down the Facebook newsfeed, Twitter feed, and Linkedin groups. When relevant or interesting content posted by a connection shows up – like it, comment on it, share it, or all three

5. Don’t just post content about your business or industry…stretch a bit and share posts announcing events in the area or fundraising opportunities. highlight your referral partners too

Remember, inbound marketing is more than just promotion. Use your content to add value to other businesses, the community, and your audience. Content is King…Online Platforms are the Domain. Contact me if you would like help with your content creation or social media management.