People always want free advice. Unfortunately, all too often, it’s worth what you pay for it. After a recent conversation with a close friend who has a business in NYC that wanted to begin to generate customers online, I was thinking about what I expressed to him as ‘important,’ and thought that imparting that same free advice to Webvantix’s blog readers would be helpful.
Yet, too often ‘advice’ that comes from someone trying to sell you something is viewed as anything but objective. So I’m going to relay the same free advice I gave him, here. Therefore, think of us as your free, objective online marketing consultant.
Here Was My Advice to Him:
Don’t Be Cheap
Far too many businesses don’t see the ROI created by an online presence. Therefore, they are extremely reluctant to hire quality, professional help. It’s just too expensive. The issue becomes that if you relegate your web work to a staff person with no design or coding experience, your site will suffer. Frankly, it will look terrible, and the results will not be what you expected. The bottom line is, if you’re starting a business, or you already have a business up and running, and you cannot afford the $4000-$5000 for a professional website, then your company is already in trouble. If you can afford it, but don’t want to spend the money, look at how much revenue even one new customer generated by that website could bring in, and you will quickly see the reward is worth the expense. Get past the current mindset that spending money on your business is a bad thing. Your website, or your online presence, is extremely important, and you need to treat is as such.
Have a Beautiful Site
So many industry people continue to bemoan how many terrible websites are out there–and they are correct. Large company or small company, having a web presence means having an online reflection of your business. Try looking at your site from the prospective of a customer, is your site beautiful? While there are other aspects that are important, the first thing people see is the beauty of your site. If you develop a site that is anything but visually compelling, what does that say about you, and your business? It says to me that you’re lazy, and don’t pay attention to detail. Not a good projection of your company, especially with all of the competition out there willing to undercut you in a heartbeat.
Creating a beautiful site means nothing if you don’t have compelling, and interesting content that speaks directly to your site’s visitors. The key to content is not to be a “solution.” Too many companies bolt from the gate telling us how they are “the solution.” Solution selling no longer works, because everyone has the same solutions–there is nothing original. The key is to speak directly to the different verticals within your business, and help people understand the benefits to what you offer. Think deeply about your content. Hint: Look at your competition’s content and strive to
Good Horizontal Navigation
Vertical (down the side) navigation is dead, and if you employ it, it makes you look behind the design curve. Maintaining a professional look to your site is important, and this is an aspect that should not be overlooked.
Silo Your Visitors
Utilize ‘Action Buttons’ that speak directly to the visitors of your website. By understanding who is landing on your site, you can then work to silo them to the correct interior pages that are built to speak specifically to them. This will greatly minimize bounce and increase your chances of converting a visitor to a customer.
Calls To Action
On EVERY interior page their should be a ‘Call to Action’ that enables your site visitor to “Pull the Trigger.” Relying on the Contact Us page will greatly stunt your conversion rate. Giving your visitors the ability to contact you or interact with you from any page solidifies you ability to convert. Do this one thing, and the number of your visitors that turn into leads will soar.
I will put it succinctly: If you want more traffic, blog! Driving new visitors to your site and keeping customers engaged is the key to a strong website ROI. When we started blogging at Webvantix our traffic jumped over 250%, seeing this firsthand converted me from skeptic to believer. All too often I hear about SEO and the desire business owners have to be on the first page of Google’s SERP. For a small site, there is no better way to achieve these results than to blog in your vertical. If you dismiss blogging, you’re results will suffer. Here is more evidence of why you should blog.
In my opinion most SMM (Social Media Marketing) by smaller, local businesses is a waste of time, especially Twitter. If you’ve got 200 followers most will be spam or trying to sell you some MLM, and you will see little, if no return. Results can be generated, but that means spending a great deal of time at it–something you probably don’t have. Bottom line, if you’re a brick and mortar business, have a Facebook page and offer specials on it to engage your customers. But don’t believe all the hype, SMM is just an extension of advertising, and the returns can take time. Blogging is far more important.
Do you have a business that has specials or weekly offerings? How about a bar that has live bands throughout the week? If this is the case, get a Calendar page up fast, and KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Your customers will visit it over and over (you can even offer them the ability to subscribe to it through RSS). Remember, the more you engage with your website, the more your customers will engage with it, and that means more business.
Specials and Coupons
Do you have a local restaurant, salon, ice cream shop? Depending upon your business you may offer weekly specials. Be sure and offer these through your Facebook page and tie it into your website. People will “Like” your FB page and your coupons or specials will be pushed to them as they are created. Viola, repeat business.
One of the most overlooked aspects of getting traction for websites is failure to register them. Of course registration at Google, Yahoo, and Bing should be automatic, but there are scores of other business listing websites out there (Yelp, Manta, etc). Spending time on registering your company on these sites will get you noticed. As a matter of fact, to help you, here is our whitepaper with a listing of 36 sites where you can register your business. Do it now!
Don’t Have a Static Site
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is having the perception that they can build a site and forget it. Don’t fall into that trap. In order to keep traffic coming in and traffic repeating, you need fresh, quality content. Using your site as a tool to marketing your business will reap you terrific rewards provided you continue to add content, if you ignore it, your traffic will drop.
These are the points I discussed with my friend, yet like so many, he is hesitant to spend money on the development of his site. What I suggest is to clearly understand what you want your site to accomplish, then look at how much revenue it could possibly generate. If that number is significant, based upon the profitability of a new customer, then the decision should be easy to make.
Just remember, as I stated earlier, your site is a reflection of you and your business. Make your site beautiful, keep fresh, quality content flowing in and your customers will be engaged and your site will be a valuable asset to your business.
I hope this little bit has helped…
Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
Should I redesign my website?
I talk to people all the time who ask this seemingly complex question. Yet, my answer is not complex at all, it is very simple: Is your business getting exactly what you want from your website? If the answer is any derivation of “no,” then a website redesign is in order. I don’t look at the design or the layout or any other aspect of the site, all I want to know, is the site producing the results you need?
Essentially, a website is like an employee, and, I’m sure you agree, that it is important to get the most from your employees. If an employee does not do their job, or meet your expectations, you let them go. A website is no different, if your website is not executing on a list of its expectations, then something needs to be changed. Once the fact that the website is not producing the desired results has been established, then there are a number of factors that must be reviewed in creating a new and effective site, but there is one overwhelmingly important task that must be undertaken, but is often minimized, or completely overlooked.
The key is to clearly enunciate what you want the website to do for you. The absolute first step must be to establish what the focus of the website is, and allow that to be the nucleus, and everything must grow from there. I see people creating content, taking pictures of staff, and laying out their new sites without even a whiff of consideration going to the point of the site itself. If this sounds like you, STOP! Gather the individuals in your company who are working on the site, along with any other personnel that are key to the new site, and begin to formulate the goals of your new website.
Start by asking these questions:
1. What is the purpose of the site?
Airy Pines Wanted More Reservations. We Made it Easy for their Customers
Yes, this is a broad, open-ended question, but consider what would be the ultimate return on the investment on your new site. Do you want to sell more products? Do you have products that you want to sell, but your current site does not get this done? Do you want to convert more visitors to qualified-leads? From this point, spend time creating a specific listing of what you would like the site to accomplish. You will be amazed at how you will probably find that your layout completely changes as your goals for the site come into focus. This is the genesis of a goal driven website, instead of a site thrown online that acts as a static, one-dimensional advertisement for your company.
2. Where is your current site falling short?
As you list your goals for your redesigned website, you will, undoubtedly, begin to see how your current site is falling short. At this point, if you’re not already using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, I urge you to do so—especially before you put up your new site. This will allow you to see how many hits you are getting on your site, what pages are popular and which are not. Also, Google Analytics will give you a “Bounce” number, that indicates the percentage of people that land on your site, and don’t venture any deeper than the page they landed on. Often on poorly designed and ineffective sites this number is very high (above 65%). Using these metrics, you will quickly get a clearer picture of your site’s weaknesses, and you can design accordingly.
3. Who are you talking to?
Know Who You Are Your Site Visitors and Make It Easy for Them!
Having a very clear understanding of who your site visitors are, and speaking directly to them is extremely important. Therefore, while you are creating a list of what you want to accomplish with your site, create an additional list that breaks down who will be landing on your site and what, at the moment they land on your site, you can do to “Silo” them to an interior page that is developed just for their immediate need. What must be remembered here is that focusing your site on your visitors, and who they are is the key to developing a productive website. Don’t’ worry about who you are nearly as much as who THEY are! By listing and breaking down your potential customers into “Buying Personas” will give you the ability to create interior pages that will then properly convert those individuals to highly qualified leads, and ultimately customers.
Some conclusions and steps to follow
Almost all first generation websites, that do little to speak to a company’s buying personas, fail to focus on converting a website’s visitors into qualified leads. Unfortunately, the focus of these websites is to enunciate how they are the solution to your problem and act just as an advertisement. Before undertaking a website redesign, be sure you have a clear understanding on what you are attempting to accomplish with your new site or you will fall into this trap again.
If you are redesigning your site be sure to:
• Clearly enunciate the purposes of your new site.
• Know the weaknesses of your old site.
• List your businesses “Buying Personas.”
• Silo those buying personas from the homepage to interior pages built just for them.
• Create “Calls to Action” on these interior pages to make it easy to convert Visitors to Qualified Leads.
• Use detailed Forms that capture more than just basic information (it makes you look engaged).
• Be sure to add a Blog to your website as it will dramatically help with your SEO and drive more traffic.
For a lot more on website redesign check out our recent post Redesigning Your Company Website? Don’t Forget These 10 Key Aspects
I hope this little bit has helped, please feel welcome to post a comment or question!
Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
Looking for a list of terrific blog posts to help you with your blogging and your online marketing? Well, look no further, here are 7 posts I think you will find worth your time.
1. How to Get Your Web Page Listed in Google in 6 Easy Steps, Entrepreneur’s Journey
2. E-mail Overload: The Secret to Getting Inbox Zero Every Time, Techipedia
3. 3 Ways to Reduce Bounce Rates and Increase Conversions, Problogger
4. Did You Know: Skitch for Visually Telling a Story, Evernote
5. It’s Official: Google+ Will Be Connected to Everything, GigaOM
6. What Best Selling Fiction Can Teach You About Writing Better Landing Pages, Copybloger
7. How A Blog Can Help You Grow Your Offline Business, Problogger
Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
This two part blog post discusses key aspects you should not overlook when redesigning your company’s website. This is Part 2 of this post. If you missed Part 1, it is HERE
6. Use a CMS
CMS or Content Management Software allows for the end user of the website (the company itself or its website manager) to access and control the website from an online dashboard. This effectively allows for easy manipulation of the site’s content, without (to some degree) accessing the code itself. Webvantix develops in WordPress, which is one of several major CMS platform (others being Joomla and Drupal), each with their own benefits (we will avoid the comparison here). WordPress, originally developed as blogging software, has, with its thousands of plug-ins offering instant and easy customization, morphed into the most popular CMS platform. Once installed on a server, pre-built themes (free and paid) can be installed and customized, or a fully custom site can be developed in WordPress.
7. Add A Blog
Standing out in a crowd is difficult to do. Blogging allows you to do just that. As you post blogs that are unique to your vertical, you begin to be viewed as an expert that people will turn to and utilize as a resource. Once you are a trusted resource, you are just a step away from becoming a trusted adviser, or trusted vendor. Developing trust is the key to growing your business, yet, having a website that screams “we are your trusted solution,” means nothing. Creating blog postings that explain aspects specific to your vertical enable you to be viewed less as a salesman, and more as someone to trust.
Also, blogging grows your website. As each blog post is its own page, the more you blog, the more for the search engines to sink their robotic teeth into! Finally, according to Hubspot, blogging for your business can add up to an additional 55% more visitors to your website. Quite simply, that is a huge number, that SEO could never achieve. The more site visitors, the more conversations to qualified leads, and ultimately more customers. If you conversion rates remain constant, blogging could add several new customers per month!b Therefore, blogging increases revenue.
8. Give Your Visitors Something to Do!
What most first generation websites, and many poorly built redesigned websites, lack is the ability for site visitors to do something that directly, and immediately gives them some sort of satisfaction (immediate being the operative word). People want instant gratification, if you don’t offer it to them on your site, someone else will. Therefore that “Contact Us” page at the end of your navigation bar is far from enough. What you need to do is give your site visitors something for visiting your site, and creates an interest for them to return. Therefore, look at your business, and ask yourself, what can we offer? Then develop it, and give it to them! Some simple suggestions: A reservation, an email list, a white paper, a how to video. Offer them something that enhances their life, or their business and you will be rewarded with repeat traffic, and more customers.
9. Create An Email List
This feeds off the previous point, and can be the single most important aspect of your website. By enabling your site’s visitors to join your email list you immediately begin gathering a list of potential customers who are interested in what you have to offer. Then you can push information to them! Got a restaurant? Send them the specials. Got a bar with live music? Send them the upcoming acts for the week! Got a landscaping business? Send them a link to a how to prepare your plants for winter video. Are you a plumber? Send them a link to a video that shows them how to inspect their hot water heater before it breaks and floods their basement. Anything you can think of that offers your subscribers quality content you can use. I also recommend using an HTML opt-in email platform with “double opt-in” capability. This will enable you to send emails using an HTML template that can utilize your company’s branding, and will look much more professional that sending a text only email. Webvantix uses and MailChimp (no affiliation), another popular service is Aweber. These services can also host .pdf whitepapers for your site visitors to download.
10. Control Your SEO
Speaking to business owners on a regular basis I am always asked about SEO. ”We want to be number one on Google.” That’s difficult to achieve with a static website, that does not have a blog, and does not control their own SEO inside the website itself. Is there a simple solution? Yes!
As I previously mentioned, building your site on the WordPress platform has a great number of advantages, but probably the most important advantage are the plug-ins that enable you to customize your website by simply downloading, activating and adjusting them. One of the most popular pug-ins is the All In One SEO plugin. Once activated this software will automatically draw information from your site and run the SEO for you on a page by page basis. Therefore, as your website grows and changes, the plug-in adapts! Additionally, the plug-in can be manipulated manually on each page of your site giving you the ability to change Title Tags, Meta Description,Tags and more. For website owners who want control of their SEO from one simple piece of software All in One SEO is a dream come true!
Bonus: Register Your Site
An often overlooked aspect of website redesign is registering your website with search engines. Obviously, you should register with Google and Yahoo, but where else? Historically, Google has drawn a great deal of its information from the Yahoo Directory. Additionally, there are many other sites that will help your business get found, but you need to register with them. How can you get a simple list? Well, we have created that for you already, and in a easy to use interactive .pdf that has the links right to the sign up pages for you. If you want more visits to your website, download our whitepaper right now:
I hope this information has helped you and your business. If you have any questions or need clarification, please feel free to contact me directly through the form below.
-Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
It’s autumn, and as we have said goodbye to summer, our minds have naturally turned back to business. One aspect of this focus is the desire to get more out of our websites, and of course, for those who are not happy with their current site, website redesign is a popular option.
Knowing when to redesign your website is not the focus of this post, but my rule of thumb is, if you cannot quantify what your website is doing for your business, it’s time to put your site under a microscope. Understanding conversion rates, and leads generated is an absolute minimum. In 2011-2012, to be effective your website should be creating revenue for you–if it’s not, fix it.
There are, of course, many aspects to properly redesigning your website, but here is a short list that should not be overlooked; after all, if you’re going to spend the time and money on redesigning your website, be sure that you do it right. Correctly redesigning your company’s website will reward you with more visitors, a higher conversion rate of visitors to qualified leads, and more revenue.
(Please note: Webvantix is not an affiliate of MarsEdit or Red Sweater Software, nor does Webvantix receive any remuneration for its reviews)
For a long time I had been annoyed with the speed of moving around WordPress when creating a blog post. Slow sign-in process, typical Internet lag, even on high speed access. When I started a second blog I knew I needed a piece of software that would speed up my ability to post. And while I use Evernote from multiple platforms (iPhone/iPad/Laptop/Desktop) to get fast ideas saved for a later time, I wanted a blogging client that would enable me to either post directly to my blogs, or at least get in-depth ideas down as they came to me.
When I finally purchased the new Macbook Air in late July, I knew one of the first apps I would purchase for it would be a blogging client, and I went shopping for the best.
I found it in MarsEdit, which is available only on the Mac platform (no Windows platform being developed), and have actually been lucky enough to have corresponded with the developer and owner Daniel Jalkut, a former Apple software engineer who worked on Mac OS 7-9, and Mac OS X.
MarsEdit was originally developed by Brett Simmons as a part of NetNewsWire and was later split off as stand alone software. Jalkut acquired MarsEdit in 2007 and has been developing it since version 1.1. Currently MarsEdit’s users number in the thousands, and often sing its praises.
At the core of using stand alone software to create and post your blogs is speed–and with our busy schedules, squeezing every available moment out of the day is always a goal, vs. waiting for a browser to identify that you’re trying to backspace to correct a typo. MarsEdit is as fast as you can move, and that, by itself, makes it a great tool.
Speaking with Jalkut there are several other advantages that users enjoy about MarsEdit:
-Avoids the possibility of losing typed content because of a browser mishap.
- Provides a consistent UI for editing blogs hosted on various different services.
- Provides integrated access to native desktop stuff like iPhoto Library, drag and drop support of images.
MarsEdit Main Window
One of the few, very few, concerns I have read is regarding media manipulation, and this is currently being addressed as one of the main areas for improvement. If you’re a user of the WordPress All in One SEO plugin, and you should be, you will have access to manipulating the Title Tags, but it will take some work. I simply upload to WP, then review and add all SEO functionality before publishing.
As a user, now a paid user of MarsEdit (you can get a 30 day free trial by downloading the software from the MarsEdit website, vs. downloading from the App Store), the aspects that I have found overwhelmingly advantageous are the ability to quickly get your ideas down, even when you cannot access the Internet, and the speed at which you can create a new post for any of your blogs–regardless of blogging service platform. Once you are finished you can easily “Send to Blog” as either a Published or a Draft to further fine tune, or schedule it for later delivery.
If you’re a serious blogger, with limited time, try MarsEdit, at $40, it’s not cheap, but I have found it worth every penny!
I hope this little bit of information helps!
-Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
Recently, I conducted research that required visiting several websites in a particular industry. I was shocked, every single website had an early 2000s feel to it. It was time for a website demolition. If you’re familiar with the construction industry, you know that a demolition is the exact opposite of deconstruction.
Deconstruction is when a building is taken apart while carefully preserving valuable elements. Well, these websites didn’t have any valuable elements. Each one needed a complete tear-down. Here are a few ways to know it’s time to redesign your website.
Your website is difficult to navigate.
If navigating your website is like traveling through a maze, this is a sign it’s time for a website redesign. In the early 2000s, a company was able to get away with having a generic website. Website usability wasn’t top priority for the average web user at the time. People were just impressed by any company that had a website. Today, the web user has matured and there are certain things they expect when visiting a website.
Web users expect a website to not only be attractive looking, they expect navigation to be a breeze. You also need to consider that many of your visitors are also mobile users. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, they’ll abandon your website within seconds and visit your competitor’s website.
Your competitor’s website is superior.
When was the last time you visited your competitor’s website? If their website has a fresh and compelling website design and yours is stuck in a time warp, it’s time for a website make-over. Many entrepreneurs fail to realize that you have less than 15 seconds to gain the attention of your web visitors. If your website is cluttered with blinking animations and headache inducing color clashes, it’s time to hire a website design company to perform a website demolition. A web design company will rebuild your website and create a fully functional website with a captivating design.
Your web content isn’t persuasive.
Web content plays a major role in design – it can make or break your website. If your written content doesn’t contain a convincing call to action to persuade visitors to subscribe, call or place an order, it’s time to revamp your content. In addition, the written content on your website should be geared towards your target audience and not just for Google, Bing or Yahoo.
There is nothing more frustrating than reading content that overuses keywords to the point that it doesn’t make sense. Remember, design and content go hand-in-hand. If you want to impress your web visitors, you need to have these three important website elements:
- Innovative Design
- Persuasive Content
If any of the points within this article describe your website, it is definitely time to consider getting your website redesigned by a professional web design company. A well designed website will gain the attention of your visitors and convert them into paying customers or subscribers.
Here are seven posts I thought were worthwhile, and worth your time. I hope you find them valuable. If you like The Webvantix Suggestionator, let me know!
-Preston Ehrler, Webvantix
5 Productivity Tips for the Time-Poor Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurs-Journey
A Parallels World Where Windows Zips on Macs, All Things D
23 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Making Any Money (And What to Do About It), Copyblogger
Copywriting 101: How to Nail A Killer Headline, Entrepreneurs-Journey
Quick Login Plugin for WordPress, Red Sweater Software
White Hat SEO + Social Media = Link Bait Magic, Problogger
The Single Word that is Stealing Your Future, Copyblogger (If you read only one of these suggestions, read this one, as it ties in well with Webvantix TGIF Post “Hey Business Owners…Wake Up! It’s Not 1995 Anymore!”