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Tips for a Powerful Web Presence: The Four Horsemen of the Webpocalypse

Original article published at Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) July 9, 2018.

Tips for a Powerful Web Presence

I recently gave a talk to a group of entrepreneurs on what it takes to have an effective web presence in today’s market. The topic generated a lot of interest, so I thought it would be helpful to share it with a broader audience. In a nutshell, I will be covering four focus areas that are vital for your web presence.

No one can deny that having an effective web presence is key to the success of today’s business. I have discovered that this requires using a holistic approach. It’s not enough to just build a website, it’s not even enough to have search engines crawl your website, it is not enough to pour money into paid advertising campaigns, and it’s not enough to just create some social media accounts. They all need to work together to promote your brand and realize your business goals.

THE PROBLEM: A couple of years back, I was in my previous company office and the Marketing Director called us all and proudly said – “We got approval to spend $120,000 for website redesign and separately another $30,000 for online advisements.” I looked at this approach and thought to myself – what a waste of money! It wasn’t a Holistic Solution, it was what I call “a Webpocalypse.”

The company thought they were not effective on the internet because the website needed a redesign, or that a few ads might turn more people into clients. They used different agencies for each initiative; this is what I call a piece-meal approach.

To me, in the web world, these are the Four Horsemen of the Webpocalypse — Website, SEO, Paid Keywords, and Social Media.  You need to tame all these horses in order to have a sophisticated web presence that goes beyond the status quo.

First Horsemen of the Webpocalypse: The Website

“Conquest” – to me, in the web arena, is your Website. You build it, you launch it, and you are ready to conquer the world. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Will your website experience stick positively in the minds of the users?
  • Do each of your pages tell a story? – Will your customers engage and be able to relate to their own emotions?
  • Is your website content optimized for search discovery?
  • What about the mobile experience? More and more people are using their mobile devices to do business.
  • Is your website running processes efficiently behind the scenes? How easy is it for your website content to be kept fresh and relevant?
  • Is it sitting on a secure platform? It is vital to protect your key web assets – your domain and your website host. Here’s an article that shows how a particular website host, WP Engine, prevents millions (yes, millions) of attacks each month for their customers. At Komaya, we ourselves recommend such host for our customers. Make sure your site is protected.

It’s not all about the website looking good, it needs to stick in the minds of the people who visit. It should have a great user experience, not just by aesthetics, but by functionality, and a feeling that they are invited.  Additionally, your website should be easy to maintain and update, empowering your marketing team to promote events, launch new campaigns, and instantly react to changing markets. If website content updates can only be done by a developer, the inherent latency can result in missed opportunities in connecting with potential clients.

Second Horseman of the Webpocalypse: SEO

“War” – to me, in the web world, is SEO, the war of search engines and the fight for your website to climb to the top of their results. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are all of your web pages ready for the current demand of today’s search engines? What sets your page apart from every other website on the internet? Why would your page climb up the SEO ladder?
  • Have you considered search engine spaces such as Google’s Knowledge Graphs?
  • What about other search channels? Is your web presence dependent upon a couple of search engines, or are you also showing up on the other platforms that people use to search for businesses?
  • By the way, are you for any reason still using Meta Keywords on your web pages? This technique is a bit dated and not effective with today’s highly sophisticated search engines.

SEO is not all about just putting the right keywords on your web pages. Yes, it is very important to consider context and industry-specific keywords when you are writing web page content, but also to understand that there are other aspects to consider, such as Knowledge Graph technology, that you have access to. Is your web page ready to show up in that Q&A type of result that you have seen on Google? Do you make use of all the real-estate that Google has given you by utilizing the Post Knowledge Graph feature when you have an upcoming event or announcement?

Third Horseman of the Webpocalypse: Paid Keywords and Ads

“Famine” – to me, in the web world, is the Paid Keywords and Advertisements. This is the wasted money spent on under-researched advertisements and simply, the wrong keywords. We have seen many companies and their marketing team’s frustrations and wasted resources, month-after-month, with negligible to even nil outcomes. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are you spending too much for premium keywords, or conversely, not spending on advertisements at all?
  • Have you researched the keywords that your potential customers are searching on, or did you consider the niche your company is in? Check out Google Trends to discover search trends for your products and services.
  • Are these same keywords also reflected throughout your website content and SEO optimizations?

We have seen both extremes that have brought famine to a business’s online presence. Some companies put in enormous amounts of money into extremely competitive keywords that cost very high dollars on each click. In turn, this results in them concluding that online advertisements are too competitive and not very cost-effective.

On the other side of the spectrum, some companies think they do not need online advertisements at all – the internet will just discover and come to them on their own. Yes, some extremely niche companies may have a different agenda for reaching their target audience, but unless you are like Tesla with no advertising needed to-date, you should probably include an ad strategy in your integrated marketing plan. Have you thought about why Coke, Macy’s, Lincoln, or just about any successful company advertises? We find it’s usually best to utilize both an organic search and paid advertising strategy mix for reaching your target audience.

Fourth Horseman of Webpocalypse: Social Media

“Death” – to me, in the web world, represents Social Media. Why the comparison with this horseman? We see so many entrepreneurs and companies create social media accounts, but after just a few posts go silent, deathly silent. The Pale Horse of the Apocalypse took over. We at Komaya call this as lacking the social heartbeat.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Have you contemplated having a social media audit done for your company? What is your current state? How strong or weak is your social heartbeat?
  • Does your branding and website look-and-feel carryover into your social media account profiles and imagery? The user should instantly feel comfortable and identify that they are in the right place.
  • Have you conducted any industry research on which social media channels are appropriate for your company? More so, what channels you shouldn’t even be creating accounts on?
  • What channels are your customers and competitors using? Why Facebook, why Twitter? Is there a specific reason the audience is extremely active on one versus the other?
  • Have you identified what channels the Influencers & Experts in your company’s niche are using? Do you follow and interact with them? This will not only help you figure out which social channels you should be active in, the Influencers may just happen to mention your company to their followers.

There are many other considerations such as what time of the day you should post, the days of the week that your potential customers are likely to be using that particular social media channel, etc. Are you following the “rule of fourths” when posting on social media? It used to be the rule of thirds – one-third of your posts are about your company products and services, one-third you share helpful tips, and one-third you share an industry experts’ posts. But now, the fourth rule has come into the picture – customer support. If you look around, companies like 1800flowers, Zappos, Walmart, are directly providing real-time support to their customers over social media building confidence, trust, and solving issues with minimal delay.

THE SOLUTION: As a start-up or emerging business, consider stepping into today’s internet world with a holistic web presence strategy.  Just a website or a piecemeal approach can likely slow down your business growth potential. All the aspects discussed need to work together to tame the horses and effectively market, attract, and engage your target audience.

How to make Website, Social Media, and Brick-and-Mortar work together

Here at Komaya, we strongly promote holistic living, balance, and synchronicity. These approaches to a happy and stress-managed life are well adapted from your personal life to your business career. It’s safe to say that when all the moving parts are optimized and working as they should, then the machine will run smoothly. But, what if we also managed to have all those working parts complement each other and elevate the machine as a whole? That’s what we are going to achieve here. Let’s buckle up and synergize our business by making our website, social media, and brick-and-mortar store work in tandem.

How can I make my Website, Social Media, and Brick-and-Mortar work together?

Continuity

Continuity is probably the easiest factor to achieve from the beginning, and the most fun to plan. It’s the first thing that customers subconsciously recognize when visiting all of your active platforms. What I mean by this, is that all your platforms need to use similar design elements and resemble each other.

Whether a customer walks into your store, visits your website, or is browsing your Instagram, they need to know that they are in the right place.

It’s always bad business practice if the customer is second guessing if they are looking at the right company. A simple way to achieve this is to choose your company’s signature colors. Make sure that the combination makes sense for your product or service and that you aren’t randomly selecting things you feel look good together. Blue may be your favorite color, but this is about your brand and not your personality. Be sure to consider that there are certain colors that make sense for certain concepts, that already trigger recognition with customers. For example, green is often used to symbolize something healthy or environmentally friendly. After you’ve selected the perfect colors, find their Pantone color match. Doing so ensures that each color has a specific code attached to it, and you’ll always be able to match your exact colors in the future, regardless of who you end up working with on your graphics or brand. Be sure to use the same decision-making process when it comes to shapes or motifs, and of course, your logo!!

Cross Promotion

Not everyone engages with your business in the same way. Some may find you on the internet first, others may wander into your store one sunny day. In whichever manner this first interaction is made, take the opportunity to show some of your other channels some love. If the customer comes into the store, hand them a business card and encourage them to post pictures on social media and tag you in them. (Hint: maybe provide an Insta-worthy scene just beckoning for the perfect selfie!)

If your customer sees your website first, provide pictures of the store and your products or representations of your service. If you sell items on your site, offer in-store pickup as an alternative to shipping so that the customer can save some money while you drive traffic back to your brick-and-mortar.

You should consider using consistent images across your website, social media channels, and in your storefront. You can also include a social media share button on each of these pictures.

Even if a potential customer doesn’t want to buy an item, they may think it’s cool enough to share it with their friends. Social media share-buttons have been a successful trend for many businesses and increase your marketing reach without you having to spend a dime.

Social Media cross-promotion can, unfortunately, be a little more complex, but fortunately– there’s an app for that! Most social media sites have been around long enough that they link with other platforms. You may have a Facebook page that will automatically share posts to Instagram and Twitter. It may be really tempting for you to set things to automatically post in this way, but unfortunately, it’s not the most professional way to do it. Many of these sites have different configurations. For example, Facebook has an unlimited character limit while Twitter caps you at 280 characters. Instagram’s preferred photo size is larger than that of Facebook So, what ends up happening is that your posts and pictures can be cut off, which is not good for anyone.

Our suggestion is to use a 3rd party coordinator. Many of them are free for the first couple of accounts added, and some charge a fee– but it’s well worth it for the convenience and scheduling across many platforms. They can even post to your Yelp account, LinkedIn, or your website. You can check out the popular sites: HootSuite, Sprout, Buffer, or Social Report. These coordinating websites allow you to predesign and schedule posts across all your channels but they do them separately in order to utilize the best metrics or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for each. Another benefit to using these platforms is that you can work on multiple posts at a time, so you can take care of a few days and then not touch it, giving you plenty of time to focus elsewhere. This allows you to not fall into a social-media rabbit hole and keeps you focused on all your areas of business in a balanced and holistic manner.

Universal Change and Maintenance

Lastly, it is important that whatever information, promotion, or event you want customers to know about is available everywhere. When you decide to run a sale, for instance, you don’t just put a “Sale” sign out in front of your store. Only people walking by would know about it! There is a process that needs to be built up across all platforms working together. First, the sign goes out in front of the store, and you mark your prices down both in-store and online. Next, you might create a banner for your website that promotes the sale and make it shareable. Take a picture of the sale sign or create a fun and complementary graphic for your social media linking people back your website, and so on. It is important to always add and remove information together because the worst thing that we can do is confuse our customers. Our purpose is to make things as easy and accessible as possible.

You now have the tools to make your business channels more productive than ever. Go forth and see how much smoother your machine will operate.

Is SEO Really that Important

Okay, first of all, you may be wondering what SEO even is. Short for Search Engine Optimization, SEO references the formula that computers use when they’re trying to sort through millions of matches for search terms.

Is SEO Really that Important

Here’s an example:  You just adopted a dog and you’re wondering how to properly train it.  You’re wondering who the best trainers and training schools are in your area and if it’s possible to start the training process at home doing it yourself.  You may ask your friends or family for advice (in person or via social media), but more than likely, you consult a search engine.  Let’s say you type in “dog training tips” and press enter.

You’ll likely get millions of matches, but they’re going to be ranked in a certain order.  In this particular example, if you type in those exact search terms into Google, the top 5 matches are the American Kennel ClubPetFinder.comRover.comCesarsWay.com, and NylaBone.com.  So basically, Google has provided you with information from the nationwide authority on pet breeds and shows, the number one site for finding or locating a pet, a popular dog walking app, the most famous dog trainer, and one of the most popular dog bones by sales volume in the United States.  What doesn’t show is a 16-year old’s blog about her pet Collie, pictures of dogs being trained, or questions from other people asking how to train their dogs.

Search engines know that you want the best information from the most reputable sources and they try to make sure you get what you need as quickly as possible.

Since search engines are not humans, they don’t know who’s really the best — so they must rely on the context clues provided to them.  Search engines will rank sites based on their popularity, the number of hits and clicks they have, the keywords they’re using, the quality of their content, how frequently their content is updated, and those are only a few parameters.

But back to the original question:  How important is SEO?  To which I’ll reply:  Very!  SEO is an integral part of doing business in today’s online world!  If your business has local competition, or you would like more customers, and everyone that you know already knows about your business (meaning you need to acquire customers that are strangers to you) — that means the internet is going to be extremely important to you.  And SEO is extremely important within the realm of the internet.

Experts know what search engines want, and they stay up-to-date with all the latest changes. To find out how your website is performing in terms of SEO, request a free website review from us.  Someone will respond to you as soon as possible with what you could be doing better, and it’s completely commitment free.

For all of your website building and branding questions,
Komaya

Why Social Media is Changing Buying Decisions

In 2017, one report by Deloitte, according to Forbes magazine, found that 47% of all Millennials said that their purchase decisions were influenced by social media. Additionally, customers who include social media as part of their shopping process are four times more likely to spend money on purchases, and 29% more likely to be impulse buyers when using social media for purchasing decisions.

The ODM group lists the number much higher, at around 74% of consumers affected by social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

Regardless of the exact statistics or study that you choose to follow, it is obvious that it has become more important than ever for companies to get on the social media bandwagon.  Because it’s always important to know the how and why of anything, we have taken a look at why this is happening.

Why is social media changing buying decisions? Here are a few possible reasons to consider:

  1. Social Media allows you to read reviews from people you know — Anyone can go on a review site like Yelp and read and write reviews for popular businesses in your area.  However, social media allows you to read reviews from people you know. This makes a review much more potent because not only do you know that it’s a real person who left it, but you know the person, so you have an idea of how credible the person is.  It also shows you mutual friends in common with the reviewer, so even if the reviewer is not someone you know you’ll be able to see the mutual connections that may link you to that person.
  2. Social Media allows you to ask opinions of hundreds of people at the same time — It was one thing to call (or text) your friends or relatives to get an opinion on the best dry cleaner or dentist in town, but now you can literally post a status update that will reach your entire friend list within seconds. It makes acquiring business recommendations extremely easy (especially with Facebook’s new “recommendations” feature that will even lay them out for you on a map of your area).
  3. Social Media allows you to communicate with the actual brains behind a brand — Everyone was shocked when they joined MySpace and instantly became “friends” with MySpace creator, Tom.  Now, social media allows you to communicate with actual CEOs of major corporations.  You can tweet or retweet the founder of your favorite company, and you might even get a response!
  4. Social Media is completely interactive —  You can also interact with your favorite brands on a daily basis.  Twenty years ago, you could drop your business card in a fishbowl and maybe you’d win a prize, but other than that— you probably didn’t have much interaction with certain businesses.  Now, you can enter contests and comment on photographs that are appealing to you.  You can even engage with other customers about certain products and your mutual likes and dislikes.

Engaging Social Media

Today’s business is built on awareness, trust, and confidence. It’s important to be present with and responsive to your clients.  Social media is an increasingly important way for businesses to connect with people. It plays a significant role in purchasing decisions, and many people prefer to use social media to communicate with a business. With all of that said, it is so important that your social media remain engaging, as well as consistently updated. Having a social media plan should be an integral part of your marketing strategy to build your web presence.

A Holistic Approach to Having an Effective Web Presence

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I have a holistic healer and she often reminds me that I need balance in my life.  In her eyes, it wouldn’t do me any good to eat terribly and then just scarf down antacids, or to work out every single day only to eat piles of junk food.  It’s much better to do everything in moderation, develop healthy diet and exercise habits that I can maintain every day, and also to do yoga and spiritual growth exercises that make me happy.  Plus, time with friends and family is ideal, and everyone needs to curl up in a blanket, watch a movie, and hit the recharge button every now and again. Being holistic is really just about being whole — it’s focusing on the entire picture and not just on what is going wrong or right.

A Holistic Approach

The same is true for your web presence.  At Komaya, we see a lot of companies that want to hit social media really hard or run a really strong Facebook ad.  We sometimes see CEOs that think blogging with keywords is the way to go or would bet money that their SEO strategy is the best in the country.  The problem sometimes with tunnel vision is that you can often lose sight of the bigger picture.  You can also end up focusing so much on one thing that you have to work really hard in the future to right a different wrong.  Back to our health and wellness example, rather than eating 12 doughnuts and having to hit the gym twice as hard the following day, wouldn’t it just be better to only eat one doughnut and go to the gym for a half of an hour in the first place?

When you’re working on your web presence, and the strategy for it, you need to remember that a holistic approach is always the best one.

By taking a step back and looking at the larger picture, your business will be healthier overall.  We like to remind clients to do this by concentrating on SEO, website, and social media.   In the long run, these things will all feed one another as well, and they need each other for long-term success.

As another true-life example, let’s look at it this way.  Let’s suppose you wanted to buy a very specific kind of potato chip dip and you needed it for a party tonight.  You probably would first go to social media, and ask if anyone knows of any recommendations (because after all, you’re not really sure what it’s called or what you’re looking for).  Someone probably tells you that the brand is called Best Dip.  You then might go to Google (or another search engine) and type in “brand + potato chips + your zip code” or something similar.  The search results say that Star Mart has your product.  You then go to the Star Mart website, you see via their online catalog that the product is there, and then you use maps to find out exactly where that store is.    You may even revert back to social media to ask if anyone has any tips on how to get there exactly or where you can find street parking.

The point of the above story is that in this case if there wasn’t a social media listing for Star Mart or Best Dip, you would have been out of luck.  If Star Mart hadn’t used the keywords Best Dip + potato chip + some relevant zip codes, you would not have known they sold your product.  And had there not been a maps or Yellow Pages listing, you might not have found the store.    Everything works together, and it is vital that you have a combination of all of the things to make your brand successful.

A Powerful Web Presence

Without social media, you’re unable to receive real-life reviews of your product, and you’re also unable to communicate or interact with your customers.   Without a website, you’re unable to sell your product (because people can’t truly buy via social media).  Without SEO, you’re unable to let people find your product.  Without blogging, you’re unable to explain your product.  And without all of these things, working together in perfect harmony, your product has a much lower chance of success.

For more information on creating a holistic and powerful web presence and how best to achieve it, contact us today.