If you think you don’t need to focus on your website because you have a small business, then you’re making a mistake

Today, technology is king when it comes to business marketing. People across the globe spend over 6 hours a day online, and businesses have taken notice. In order to be successful, effective marketing strategies need to include a big web presence. This means that even a small business needs to have a website, a social media following and a person that knows how to make both of these things effective.

Building a Website that Works

Nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to build a business without a website, but even those businesses with websites don’t automatically succeed. Your website needs to be designed to not only look good but to reach your target audience and do so in a way that matches your brand.

Keep it simple and view your website from a user’s perspective. Your website’s main goals should be to tell people what you do, what products or services you offer and why they should choose you over your competitors. Your website should make people trust you and want to learn more.

Here are the things you should focus on when it comes to your website: 

  • SEO is Key — First thing’s first, everything about your website needs to be designed based on SEO (search engine optimization). Through analytics, determine what keywords people are plugging into their search engines and then design your website in a way that makes it pop up near the top of the results. You can see more about how to make sure your website is designed for SEO by checking out our blog.
  • Keep It Simple — Step into your client’s shoes and see what they see when they look at your website. If it is a muddled mess, then it can quickly become overwhelming and confusing, which just makes people click the close button. Stay focused on the basics: who, what and why. Who are you, what do you do and why should your clients pick you? Don’t cram your webpage full of copy. Leave some white space, use graphics and make it pleasant to look at and easy to read and navigate.
  • Content is Crucial — Using original and consistent content allows people to learn more about your business and industry, while also providing useful information and a reason for them to keep coming back to your site. One way to do this is to incorporate a blog into your site. Your blog can consist of articles that involve your business directly, affiliate businesses and other partnerships, how-to’s that relate to your industry, and other connected topics.
  • Update Before It’s Too Late — Have you ever walked into a business and wanted to walk out right away because the decor took you back in time — and not in a good way? Well, your website can have the same effect if you let it stay in the past. It is important to regularly review your site and update any information that has changed. It is also a good idea to routinely give your site a facelift and keep the design fresh. When people click onto your site and see a clean, updated webpage they are more likely to stay and explore.
  • Connect to Social Media — If your goal is to have a big web presence, then you need to make sure your various online components are connected. Make sure to provide links on your site that lead people to your social media and vice versa. This can be done through a variety of ways, such as a call to action for clients to check out your different social media pages, or through icons that directly lead people to those pages.

Selling Socially

Successful companies don’t get that way by guessing when it comes to their social media. On the contrary, they most likely have someone to carefully plan out a strategy that serves a multi-purpose function of finding leads, generating sales and keeping a business visible.  This practice is known as social selling, and 78% of salespeople that use social media, perform better than their peers.

Why is social media such a big deal, though? What are the things that make it such a powerful tool, when it is wielded by the right person?

Here are the highlights of what makes social media such a must if you want your small business to have a big web presence:

  • Social Media Lets You Grow Your Business Through Current Contacts — You probably already have a network of contacts online, but perhaps you have not taken the time to really look at who is a part of that network. There are probably quite a few people that have businesses of their own that can provide a mutually beneficial relationship with you and your organization.
  • Social listening is when you monitor certain keywords on social media in order to find people that might have a potential interest in your business.

  • Social listening allows you to filter potential clients down to those that would be most interested in your product or service. Then it is up to you to reach out and establish a relationship. Remember to take the time to build a strong connection because this is what will truly win your clients’ loyalty. Even in this digital age, the human component of a business is still essential to its success.

The digital world is a vast place with an almost endless reach. If you aren’t careful with your marketing plan, then it can mean major setbacks for your business. You have a lot of things on your plate when it comes to running your company, so sometimes, the best thing to do is delegate certain tasks to the pros. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to building a powerful website and creating a strong social media following, then your best bet is to hire a team that can make these crucial elements their main focus.

Are you ready to create a big web presence for your business? Then contact us today to see how we can help make your company more visible and effective online. Make sure to check out our other blogs for ideas on how to market your business and build your digital presence.

Four Need-to-Know Ways to Avoid a Cluttered Website

When it comes to getting your business organized, virtual clutter should be at the top of your list, starting with your website

Is your business suffering from a cluttered website? You probably have already heard the term “virtual clutter” at some point since a good portion of our lives these days is kept on a computer or other device in the form of emails, text messages, documents, PDF files, images, videos and so much more. Once upon a time, for a business to run smoothly, you just needed a way to keep files organized and your desk cleared of any unnecessary papers. Nowadays, an organized physical space is not enough because the majority of companies operate a good portion of their businesses online.

Today, an organized physical workspace is not enough for a business to operate smoothly. If your website is cluttered you might as well be trying to run a company from under a mountain of paper and junk.

Virtual clutter mainly focuses on ways to keep your devices organized and your online presence clutter-free. For example, organizing emails into folders that are easier to find versus collecting virtual dust in your inbox. You can organize your desktop as well by using folders to sort like items together, and of course, it’s always helpful to regularly delete any emails or documents that are no longer relevant. Platforms like Google Photos and Dropbox make it easy to store photos, videos, and documents in a safe place that doesn’t take up precious space on your hard drive.

These may seem like pretty simple ideas, but you would be surprised how many people don’t think about organizing their virtual lives. If and when they finally do, there’s so much data it can be overwhelming, to say the least. One thing that any savvy business owner should not overlook is a cluttered website because it’s the equivalent of having a sign for your business that is covered in graffiti. It makes it hard to read and turns people away. You have less than one second before a visitor forms an opinion about your website. If you can’t hold their attention, then odds are that they will leave your site and move on to the competition. 

So, take some time right now to focus on the following four ways to make sure your website doesn’t cause people to scramble for the “X” button: 

  • Make It User-Friendly – One of the main things that make dealing with clutter so frustrating is how finding even the most basic item can become an extreme exercise in perseverance. If you are looking for a rubber band, you want to open a drawer, reach in and pull out a rubber band in a matter of seconds. You don’t want to waste time or energy, and you definitely don’t want to stress out over such a small thing.
  • When people visit your website, it is crucial that they are able to find out exactly what they need to know in a matter of seconds and without any stress. The last thing you want your website to do is frustrate potential customers. So when you are designing your website, make sure that amid all of the choices for layouts, elements, and fancy images, you don’t neglect the basics.
  • Your website should make it obvious from the very beginning WHAT your company does, WHY consumers need your product and/or service and HOW they can get more information. If your site is so cluttered that these basics are hard to find, then it’s like having a closet crammed full of blankets when you really just want a pillow. It’s frustrating, unhelpful and a big waste of time. No-one is going to dig through the blankets, instead, the door is going to get slammed right away.
  • Keep Text to a Minimum – If your home page and other landing pages are covered in lines and lines of text, then you will most likely lose any traffic that comes your way. An overwhelming amount of text is like having an unruly pile of laundry scattered across your floor – it’s not pleasant to look at and makes you want to leave the room. Since you don’t want people to leave your site as soon as they arrive, think minimalistically when it comes to text and opt for effective images instead.
  • Position text in a way that it isn’t punching your potential clients in the face as soon as they click on your page. This can be done by utilizing drop-down menus, having an appropriate amount of white space surrounding the text and simply keeping the amount of text low. Of course, you want your site to have content, but don’t put it all on one page, instead, for example, your site can feature a blog that can serve as an excellent place for your content to live. You can have a separate FAQ page that can provide a lot of information about your company, how it works and products/services without having it all jammed on the first page that people see.
  • Limit Choices and Information – Your website does not have to contain every single bit of information about your company, nor does it need to all be in one place. Remember, you want to feature the basics and provide information on how your customers can engage with you if they want to know more. In fact, you might be thinking that providing a large amount of information is helpful and what your customers want. However, a recent study shows that the opposite is true and “too many options create anxiety and leave us less satisfied.”
  • Think about it like this – imagine that you decide you want to cook a meal and open up your pantry to see what you have available to prepare. The shelves are filled with dozens of cans of all different kinds of spices, soups, sauces, vegetables, canned meats, and some things you aren’t even sure what they are. You immediately shut down and order take-out. This is like a customer coming to your website and being confronted with so many options that they become overwhelmed, sign-off and decide to binge-watch their favorite TV shows instead.
  • Update It Before It’s Outdated – In organizing, systems are put in place to keep clutter at bay and make things work efficiently. These systems need to be regularly assessed to make sure they are still working as well as they were at the outset. Often, they need to be adapted and tweaked as times change in order for them to continue to work effectively.
  • This same concept needs to be applied to your website. What works one week may not work the next, and if it stays the same, then customers are likely going to look for a more updated site because they will assume that company is more “in-the-know.” Make it a priority to regularly check your website for any areas where it might be outdated and fix it as needed. This way potential customers will associate your website with a driven company that keeps up with the latest trends.

Your website should make it obvious from the very beginning in a clear and understandable way, WHAT your company does, WHY consumers need your product and/or service and HOW they can get more information.

Basically, a successful business has many components that make it operate at an optimum level. One of the main factors to determine how smoothly a company runs is how well it is organized. When you declutter your workspace, including your files, schedule and other physical aspects of your business, don’t forget to carry it over to the virtual side of the coin. If you take the time to keep your website clean and well-organized, you will attract more web traffic and retain more of the customers that find their way to your site. If you need a fresh set of eyes to get your website in tip-top shape and would like some feedback on how you can gain more customers, contact us today to see how we can help!

“A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words” – So Make Sure It’s a Good One

How the graphics in your web design can make or break your business

When you look around society today, you can’t help but see images, colors, logos, badges and other similar advertisements all over the place. There is a very good reason for this. It’s because visual appeal is what first catches customers’ eyes, and businesses of all types are catching on to this fact. Graphic design is undoubtedly a huge component of a company’s brand and marketing strategy. Designhill.com  describes graphic design as a “crucial tool that makes sure that you communicate with your people in an efficient manner. It serves to deliver your message to the target audience in an aesthetic way.”

The use of graphics not only adds visual interest but when it is done well, it helps communicate your message without needing to overuse words and muddy up your page. Plus, successful graphic design will deliver a message quickly. This way people who are clicking through pages can better understand what your company does at a glance, instead of first having to take the time to read a bunch of words.  Your graphic design is your “hook.” If successful, it should catch people’s attention and reel them in to learn more.

Graphics also help create a cohesive appearance, which can make the navigation of your site a lot easier for users. When your website is pleasant to look at, easy to navigate and information is a breeze to find, you’ll get customers who stick around longer. The graphics are like your front door, and your goal is to make people want to knock and enter.  Forbes.com points to a study that showed 94% of comments regarding why users mistrusted websites were related to the design elements of the site and only 6% to the actual content. This definitely shows that the visual components of a website’s design hold a lot of weight when it comes to making an impression.

So, when it comes to the graphic design of your website, you may want to keep these quick tips in mind to ensure you are using it to your biggest advantage:

  1. Don’t Be a Show Off — As tempting as it is to show off how much you know about graphic design and the neat trick you just learned, if it doesn’t fit or serve a purpose, then it doesn’t belong on your website. Remember, the idea is to help communicate your message to customers in an “efficient” way. If you learn some new techniques, that’s great, but save them for a time when they will make sense and be functional. Otherwise, they’ll just be confusing.
  2. Don’t Supersize It — Nowadays everyone seems to be in a hurry. Doesn’t it feel that way? When people go online they expect quick answers and often want to check out things in a matter of seconds. So, a web page that loads slowly and/or incompletely is going to just cause people to abort their mission and click elsewhere. Overly large images will cause a sluggish pace that people just don’t have the patience for, so pay attention to the size of the images you choose.
  3. Don’t Steal Focus —  When you go to a restaurant, you’ll often find that certain menu items have a box around them.  This is leading you to the products that provide the highest profit margin to the restaurant.  Similarly, you can use your graphic design as a way to help direct people’s focus to where you want them to look. A good design will help lead people to the content you want them to see and point them in the right direction. On the flip side, don’t make elements of your design so over the top that they have the opposite effect and draw focus away from the real content.
  4. Don’t Be Obnoxious — You can definitely go too far when it comes to graphic design. Images and other elements that are overly artistic, cutesy or bright might be fun or eye-catching at first, but if splashed all over your site they can become very overbearing and make people cringe. Keep your choices purposeful, attractive and balanced to make a good impression, and make sure they will appeal to your target audience.  For example, comic book characters probably won’t be the best idea if you’re catering to 65-year-old women.
  5. Keep Colors in Check — In addition to not getting overly obnoxious with your images, make sure to follow the same rule when it comes to color. Glaring colors can be a huge turn off to viewers. Color also has a very big psychological impact. The choice of color alone can make all the difference in a customer’s decision to purchase a product. According to smallbiz.com, 93% of customers say they focus on visual appearance. Use this to your advantage when choosing colors and select the colors that help evoke the feelings you want your customers to have when they are viewing your site. For a list of which emotions different colors are associated with, look here.
  6. Use the Right Tools — If you are tackling your own graphic design, then don’t make things hard on yourself. There are a multitude of options out there to assist you in making strong design elements for your website, including sites like Canva, and online talent pools like Fiverr and Upwork. Take the time to get familiar with what is available to you and to learn how they work. If you are able to use a tool effectively, it makes the job easier. Check out these reviews of some graphic design programs to find one that will be a good fit for you.

The visual appeal of your website is a major, if not the biggest, factor when it comes to the effectiveness of your site to drive people towards your business. Be sure to give your site a review with a critical eye geared towards the graphic design and see if it’s meeting the above tips. If you find it falls short in some areas, make sure to do a revamp. Have others give your site a test run as well to get their honest opinions about their reactions to your site.

Not sure if your website is maximizing its potential? Let us help you evaluate the effectiveness of your web design and make sure that it is working for your business at maximum capacity. Be sure to check out our other blogs for ideas on how to brand and market your company and build your web presence. We’re here to help you attract customers and grow your business!

Are you designing your website with SEO in mind?

If you are a business owner that has a strong desire to grow your business, then odds are you know what SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is and how it can help you generate more revenue. But, is your website built for SEO? SEO helps make your business visible when potential customers use certain keywords and terms in various search engines.  If used effectively, then your company name is going to be among the first that pops up when customers do a search for a product or service your company provides.

There is no doubt that SEO is an important tool to guide people to your virtual doorstep. However, are you sure you are giving them all the necessary “directions” so that they can find the correct address? You can’t just plug in some words and pray. In an article for NBCNews, SEO consultant Chloe Spencer lays it out, “you can’t simply create a website, whip up some content, and then sit back expecting to get ranked in the search engines.” Your website is your beacon to lead people to your business. Think of it like your lighthouse, guiding ships in and leading them in the right direction. If the light in a lighthouse burns out, then ships get lost, crash, or well, you get the picture. This concept also applies to your website. If your website has a virtual “burn out,” or in other words, becomes outdated or not optimally designed, then your customers get lost and head out in the wrong direction.

It is no surprise in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world that web marketing is a big factor in a company’s exposure to the masses. However, you need to make sure your web content is matching this pace. You should always be updating and analyzing your website to make sure it is doing everything it can to work for YOU. The main thing is to make sure your website is designed in a way that will work with SEO to bring the right people to your front door. The words you use need to be optimized to work with today’s search engines.

Not sure what people are plugging into those search engines? Then you need to do your research. There are numerous apps and sites available to help you analyze keywords, identify what words people are using when they search for certain things online, and track your success, or lack thereof, with keywords you have used in the past. For example, the free keyword tools found at WordStream can help you track how your landing pages compare to the competition and give you perspective on how the content of your website is working at leading people to you.

Everything, and I do mean everything, about your website should be designed with SEO in mind. Not just the content and the title, but your URL and even the way your site is structured, will have an effect on how your website lands in the search list. You mustn’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to the layout and material within your site.

Knowledge is power. When you arm yourself with the “know how” of how to create a successful SEO fueled website you take a crucial step in making your business more visible. When the visibility of your business increases, it stands to reason that your customer base will increase along with it. So what should you do?

Here are a few do’s and don’ts of SEO best practices to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. What’s in a Name? — Everything! Choose your domain name very carefully and make sure it includes the main keyword you want to rank, is easy to remember and is relevant to your business. If the name you are hoping for is not available, keep these factors in mind when choosing your plan B. Don’t use a domain name that is confusing, has nothing to do with your business or is nondescript. This will not do you any favors when it comes to people locating your business or remembering your business.
  2. Do Your Research. — As I mentioned before, knowing is half the battle. Make sure you have a clear idea of what keywords work, which are dead and which ones are leading people to your competitors. Take this data and use it to effectively incorporate the right keywords throughout your site, and across multiple pages. Don’t work against yourself. Make sure you have a unique target word for each individual page.
  3. Have a Plan. — Map out your site. Think of your website as a pyramid – your homepage on the top and everything flowing down, starting with your most important pages. You want to make sure that your site is laid out in a way that leads visitors easily to your main pages and makes it easy to navigate between them once they are on your site. Don’t go willy nilly with your website and end up with visitors that become frustrated because they cannot find what they are looking for. When a customer wants a simple answer they also want a simple way to find it.
  4. Understand Your URL. Don’t neglect your URL. Understand how important it is for your URL to reflect your website and lead people to you. The structure of your URL is essential. The web hosting service, HostGator, explains that “The URL is one of the most important parts of the page Google looks at to determine what a page is about.”  Make sure your URL references what is on a specific page. Don’t cram a bunch of keywords into your URL, run words together (instead use hyphens to separate) or have disconnects between your URL and what is on the webpage.
  5. A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words. Well, it’s only worth what you put into it. Make sure the images you use on your website are also optimized for SEO. Design the name of your image to include your target keyword and make sure the alt text includes your keywords as well. Again it’s about making sure everything on your website is designed with SEO in mind – so this includes all of your images. Don’t throw pictures onto your site just to fill space or be “eye-catching.” They have to work, too. So don’t miss an opportunity to use your images as optimizers for your site.

Just like everything in the world of technology and business, SEO has many different factors and is always changing. It is important as a business owner to stay abreast of these changes and make edits when necessary. I hope you will continue to familiarize yourself with the important ways in which SEO can work for you and your business, and how the right web design can make all the difference. If you aren’t sure if your website is effective or not — we can offer you a free website review to identify key changes that you might want to make.

Make sure to check out our other blogs for ideas on how to effectively market your business and build your web presence.

Why knowing and understanding your customer is essential to effective marketing

We have looked at why it is important for your customer to understand your business in a previous blog. Makes sense, right? How can you expect to attract customers if they don’t understand what you do and are not sure if they need your product or service? Likewise, do you know your customer? How can you expect to reach your customers if you don’t know who they are or where to find them?

To create and run an effective marketing strategy it is essential to know your target customers. Enterprenuer.com defines target customers as “a specific group of consumers at which a company aims its products and services”.  Let’s pull two key words from this definition and put them together to help focus your marketing plan – specific aim.

First, make sure to identify the specific group of customers that you are trying to attract to your business. Are they millennials? Women over 40? Teens? You get the picture. Even once you know the group of consumers your product and/or service is geared towards, it can remain a pretty large group. Remember, we want “specific”. What are ways in which you can narrow down the vast number of consumers to a more focused target group?

There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to knowing your customer

Know Thyself

You know your product or service better than anyone, so who do you think is going to use it most? Think about your product and what it does. What is it used for the most often? How is it used? Where is it used? Take your answers to these questions and use them to assess who needs this product and/or service the most? Consider multiple factors like age, gender, marital status, income bracket, etc. when narrowing down your answer. For example, a working mother of four children is going to have very different needs than a young bachelor that enjoys the single life.

What does your product do? Who is going to have the strongest need for your product? For example, a teenager is probably not going to have much interest in an upright vacuum with steam clean technology, but that mother of four? Big difference. Identify the specific need that your product or service answers and then match it to the group of consumers that possess that need. Start out with a broad spectrum, and then narrow it down until you reach your particular niche of consumers. This is referred to as the “funnel approach” which is suggested by Chuck Cohn in his article for Forbes. He uses the example of starting with gender, then narrowing it down to an age group within that gender, and then narrowing it down even further by income bracket to arrive at a more focused target group of consumers.

Look Around

Take note of other businesses that offer similar products and/or services to yours. Who are their customers? What demographic tends to use their service or product? This can provide valuable insight as to who your target group will be. And can help you figure out some ways to make your business stand out against the competition.

Look within your own network as well. What do your friends and family of varying ages and backgrounds like to do? What sorts of products do they use? Ask them questions about why they use the product and what they like about it. Find out what they are drawn to when they see different marketing plans for the product. Use their answers to help you develop your own marketing plan for your product.

Analyze

Conduct a market analysis for your business, suggested by Mike Kappel. Go back to the basics of information gathering- who, what, when, where, why and how. Look for the answers to these questions to help you narrow down the majority of consumers to your target audience. Know who your potential customers are, what they like to do, when they are most likely to see your marketing and purchase your product, where are they located, why do they purchase from you (or someone else) and then, based on all of these answers – how can you best reach them

This “how” is important. Once you have identified who it is you are directing your business towards, you need to understand them. The only way to successfully create a marketing strategy that works is to design and develop your marketing tools in a way that will speak to your target customers. You need to learn what makes them tick, what catches their eye and what is important to them in the products and services they purchase. Once you have an understanding of your customer you can effectively aim your marketing in their direction.

Get to know your target group’s interests, hobbies and how they like to shop. Take note of things that will help direct your marketing strategy. Does your target group listen to the radio? Spend a ton of time on the internet or watching TV? Do they go on social media? It will do you no good, for example, to center a marketing campaign around social media if your target group does not spend a lot of their time on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. On the other hand, if your target group are young consumers that are always on the go, then social media and internet-based advertising could be very powerful.

All in all, knowing your target customer group and then understanding them is a key factor in determining the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. I hope this has helped give you some ideas of what to look for as you bring more focus to your target group of customers and work on developing your marketing plan to specifically aim your product and/or service to them. Make sure to check out our other blogs for ideas on how to brand and market your business and build your web presence. Wishing you many happy and satisfied customers!