Monthly Archives: September 2016

8 Things to Consider BEFORE Your Website Redesign

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smartphone with URL address of a website redesignWe can’t emphasize the importance of a stellar website enough.  PEOPLE, it’s important.  Not important like that math project you didn’t want to do as a kid, but was told you would always use when you grew up—and never used again.  IMPORTANT.

A well-designed and functional website is like the foundation of a house.  If well done, it’s a solid support.  If your foundation isn’t strong, the rest of your marketing efforts are going to be ineffective.  After all, you can spend all your time trying to drive traffic to your website, but what good are your efforts if you can’t convert because of a poorly designed and built website?

We can attest to it. We’ve seen it: a great social media presence with all the essential elements, a blog full of excellent optimized content, marketing strategy that integrates it all—all based on a sub-par website that leaves visitors confused—and not buying. That’s why we’ve put these tips together to help you get through the website design process (either on your own or by relying on the experts) without feeling like you wasted your time and efforts.

KISS

We can’t stress this enough; usually business owners come to the initial website redesign planning meeting with a list of what they want—and everything in “an easy-to-find spot.”  To be clear: there’s no crime in having a wish list for your new website, but an overcrowded home page is incredibly ineffective—and can actually sabotage goals you’re trying to achieve with your new website.

Use the ‘KIS’ from the KISS adage when designing your website: keep it simple.  Have a goal for your website, and keep your website home page—and every internal page—simple and strategic so your customers and potential customers can focus on call-to-actions.  Website call-to-actions can include buttons, video, or text options: (i.e. for more information, get a free quote, download, etc.)

Content

Website content should be more than a block of text copied from a company brochure; it should be drafted specifically for your targeted online audience and search engines.  The first step is to identify your target audience and information that needs to be included (you may need to ask customers outside of your company for this information).  Once you start drafting content, keep the target audience and your secondary audience, search engines, in mind as you write your content.  Note that search engines are a secondary audience; you don’t want to write so much for the search engines that potential customers are driven away.  While this approach may result in improve search engine rankings, your bounce rate is going to increase and your conversion rate decrease.  If this sounds like a lot of gibberish, it may be wise to contact a website redesign professional about their optimized website writing services.

Media

PLEASE, please, please don’t invest the time and energy in a new website and not include any images or videos.  Images and videos are an opportunity; they are a chance to grab your reader’s attention, and keep it with interactive videos.  When choosing your images and videos, don’t settle for any less than high-quality relevant photos and videos on your new website—without landing in legal hot water.  As nice as it is to find images and videos on the internet, know your legal rights to use the photos and videos you use.  Using copyrighted images can open your company to serious (and expensive) legal repercussions (here’s more information on image rights and legalities).

Choose images for your website wisely and note the ‘relevant’ part of the right image. As much as you may love roman columns, a website for a pet grooming business full of roman columns is not a good fit.

Function & Navigation

A properly-organized website with intuitive navigation is more than a work of art; its part of an excellent user experience that converts users to customers. Approach your website redesign organization not as a business owner, but as a potential customer.  What do they want to know?  Where would they look?  Once you have a proposed organization of your website, use a sounding board to perfect your website navigation—and don’t stop.  Part of the website redesign process is testing and retesting until your final live deadline (and even after).

Optimization

If your site is well optimized, online searches should be one of the top sources of website traffic.  Local website traffic is essential for retail and businesses that rely on local users who need a quote or want to buy their products; think of the user looking for a service who picks up their smart phone asks Google for a list of local businesses that can solve their problem. Website optimization technology targets search engine users in cities and communities within 10, 20, or 50 miles from your location (or locations).  With professionally-written optimized content and technology, local optimization can get your well-built website redesign on the first page of search engine results.

Speed

Online users are tired of waiting for slow websites, and Google has taken note.  You should too (or the pros you hire to build your website) because faster websites gain you favor with Google and your online users.  If you don’t believe Google, look at the statistics: a recent study by KISSmetrics, 40% of users leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.  As you build your new website, use this statistic when you look at page loading, image and video selection, and all other aspects of the final website product.

Mobile-friendly

It was a momentous day when Google announced the amount of mobile searches had surpassed the amount of desktop searches. Since that day, it’s also been clear that this is more than a passing trend—and another reason to design a new mobile-friendly website.  What does that mean? A mobile-friendly website is easy-to-read on mobile devices, has large buttons, a comprehensive contact us page, and a mobile-friendly structure.  If you approach a company or individual about a website redesign and there is no mention of a mobile website (not a separate one but a capability of your site), move on to your next website redesign option.  It’s that important.

Marketing Strategy

A website is the foundation of a solid marketing strategy, so keep your overall marketing goals in mind as you redesign your website.  If content marketing and social media are part of your plan, draft a website that is a valuable part of your marketing puzzle (or contact marketing pros that can fit all the pieces together).

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Sales

Dollar Bills from solid business social media presence With The Word CashThere are a lot of reasons why business owners and managers jump into social media, but one of the most recurring motivations is the incredibly general, “we’re here to increase sales.”  While you may have more concrete goals in your marketing plan, that motivation is the underlying justification that rationalizes all the time invested in posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms (choose carefully).  Here are some ways to turn that motivation into actionable social media tactics when you set your company’s online marketing plan.

Include sales in your social media plan

Hopefully, every social media update you post is done with your audience in mind and answers the question, “what do they want to know?” Combine that with the business goals and a clear voice and you’ve got a winner of a marketing plan.

Undoubtedly, one area your audience is interested in is saving money. If you’re running a sale that helps them with that, include it in your list of planned posts and tweets.  To be clear: that doesn’t mean you should fill up your plan with only information about your latest sale, but it does mean that you should post sales ads AND informational posts in line with your sale goals (think 80% info/20% sales posts).  For example, if you’re running a sale on dog leashes, schedule posts and tweets about the sale AND posts that help your audience with dog training and aids (like leashes!). If you can’t wrap your mind around that kind of plan—-or you don’t have the time—consider hiring a marketing company to set a marketing plan and get results (here’s why).

Make it easy for your audience to ask for quotes.

The path to a sale is not always clear cut, especially if you need to provide a quote or estimate before the sale.  Make getting that quote or estimate easy for your potential customers: answer comments and messages that come through social media quickly, add a contact button to your Facebook page, and include your contact information to your profile picture (or hire experts that can).

Your customers expect you to answer them within a few hours of their message, so be ready to answer and use these customer service tips to complete the transaction.  If your customer is sending you a message via social media, don’t make them work hard to get information; try to answer them on their chosen form of communication, social media, and give them the option to call if needed.

Create clear call-to-actions in your content

If you’re taking advantage of all the benefits of a solid content marketing effort (and you should be), include a clear call-to-action in your content.  Your call-to-action doesn’t always have to be a hard-sell to get results (sales), use subtle call-to-actions as well (i.e. for more information, to find out more, etc.) Make sure your content is sharable as well, so your potential customers can share it easily.

Of course, you can’t get customers to click on your content unless you’re producing regular, relevant, and high-quality content. (More about the essential elements of high-quality content here.)  Use strong headlines and images to make your content stand out and, ultimately, catch your customers’ attention.

Use strategic videos.

Video is becoming a powerful tool in the business marketing tool box, especially when it comes to social media.  Social media platform after platform is giving organizations more options for posting videos.  Take advantage of it; produce videos that entertain and inform with a clear call-to-action.  Remember, that not every video has to be professionally produced.  When appropriate, videos from a mobile device can serve as a personal “insider view” into your business (and products and services).

Use social media reviews as social proof.

Today’s customers find you through online searches, and choose your business through online research—including your social media channels.  Since your business is consistently striving to provide excellent customer service, now it’s time to be rewarded for it.  Use those excellent social media reviews (from your excellent customer service) as social proof, one of the top reasons customers give as a deciding factor in choosing a business.

If you get a negative review, go out of your way to reach out to the customer (invite them to discuss details through a private message) and resolve the customer’s issue (more tips on online customer service here).  Showcase your responsiveness and excellent customer service—two key factors that’ll bring new customers in the door.

5 Elements of GREAT Content Marketing that Stands Out From the Crowd

content marketing pro trying to make her content stand out in a crowd

Make your content stand out in the crowd

There are so many benefits of content marketing, and it seems almost every business—small and large—is pumping out content, both visual and text, both good and bad.  If you’re one of those businesses, or want to be, one of the biggest challenges is to make your content stand out from the crowd—to produce good content that is as good, or better, than the best.

So how do you produce quality content?  What qualifies as “good” content marketing that people want to click on, and search engines want to deliver on the search engine results page (SERP)?  While you can find dozens of articles with complex explanations, here is the recipe for a solid content marketing strategy in straightforward terms that you can use to produce solid content.

Plan

You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a GPS or map, would you?  Use that same attitude when approaching your content marketing trip.  Before you start, plan out your trip: who you’re writing to, what they want, and how you can drive them to your goal.

This is where a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work (and an approach that too many businesses take).  Instead, customize your content, in the voice you use, choice of headlines, and the topics you cover, to your audience for optimal results.

Research

This comes in two forms: relevancy for your target audience (who you’re writing for) and the search engines.  What does your audience want?  What problems do they need to solve?  What entertains them?  Remember you’re trying to reach your audience and not turn them off, so try to avoid creating content that sounds like a blaring radio advertisement (at least not all them time).  If you can reach the first group with good content, the secondary audience (search engines) follows—if you write about relevant topics and use significant keywords and images.

Don’t get us wrong; we’re not telling you to stuff your content full of keywords.  Keyword stuffing can get your website penalized.  Instead, ask yourself what your audience wants to know and what relevant keywords your audience would use.  This is a fine art (writing relevant, optimized content); you can’t write so much for search engines that you turn off your primary audience and vice versa.  There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing this skill to the pros; companies often use marketing agencies for all their content or supplementary content that complements their marketing efforts.

Timing

A strong content marketing plan is built with relevant content published on a regular basis.  This is where many content writers go wrong; they plan an ambitious calendar of posts but don’t keep up with regular, relevant content.  You can find evidence of this on company blogs throughout the internet: blogs started with regular content, then abandoned because of a lack of time and knowledge (if the latter is true, it’s time to consider outsourcing your content marketing).

We’ve seen this firsthand as well; some of our clients started blogs with good intentions, but couldn’t keep up or wrote sales-focused posts that didn’t yield results.  At a loss for time and expertise, they contacted us to continue their content marketing efforts.  Now, they contact us on a regular basis with information about their customers, business, and sales cycle—and reap the benefits of regular, relevant content.

Images

Content marketing without an image or video is only half a full content marketing effort; statistics have consistently shown that content marketing promotion without images and video perform worse than blog and social media posts with.  Simply put, you’re not putting all the ammunition in your content marketing cannon.

To clarify, your video and images don’t always need to be taken by a professional photographer; when appropriate, a video taken on your phone or a candid snapshot can give your content marketing an advantage.  These images (again, if appropriate for your brand) can give you the opportunity to tell a story and establish yourself as an authority/professional in your field.

Promotion

Good content that isn’t promoted is like a really good secret that no one can hear—and is not going to get your company results.  Ensure that your content is sharable, mobile-friendly, and part of a good content promotion plan.  The last step of any solid content marketing plan is to promote your content (more about content promotion here), coordinate it into your digital marketing plan, and integrate your online and offline marketing.