Web Design Seem Like a Foreign Language? Here’s What Business Owners Need to Know

Chances are you have heard the advice before as a business owner: “Don’t build your own website.  It will be a disaster.”

It is true.  You should not leave professional work to non-professionals.  However, you also should not walk away from the process completely and turn all control over to someone else.  As a business owner there are a few important things you need to know about web design.  These things include many of the basic principles that go into designing a valuable site for your business.  Check these out:

User-Friendly

Having a user-friendly site is one of the most important aspects of design.  You do not need to know how to code a user-friendly site, but you should know the basic things that make a site user-friendly.  For instance, your site should be easy to navigate, intuitive, and provide a quality user experience.  Think about what you like and dislike when you go to any website.  Is it cluttered, confusing, or difficult to navigate? It’s not user-friendly.

Speaking of navigation, your site needs easy menu navigation that ensures visitors are able to find what they need.  Make sure links or sidebars are included on every page so people can move from one piece of information to the next without endlessly searching.  Do not overdo it with links to other pages, but be sure to include easy access to the most important and informative page on the site.

Other factors that go into ensuring your site is user-friendly include:

Layout

Layout controls the user experience.  You want your design to be uncluttered and not make a visitor feel overwhelmed.  Each element of a page should have the space it needs to breathe and communicate the right message.

Color

Color trends vary from moment to moment, so do not get too caught up in them.  A simple design accented with your brand’s colors is the best option for most businesses.  Let your brand identify guide your color choices on your site.

Also consider whether color affects the navigation or use of your site at all.  For instance, your brand colors might be pale pink and white, but if you try to create a site with pale pink font on a white background you aren’t going to make anyone happy.  Invest time in finding the best ways to incorporate your brand colors into your design.

Content

Finally, understand your content needs.  Content is the most important component of your site and should be treated as such.  It is what allows your customers to learn the details of your business.

For more information on what you need to understand about design, give us a call!

Share on Social Media Sites:

Minimalism in Social Media: Latest Trend or the Way to Go?

“Less is more,” as the saying goes and it is as true for social media as it is for other things.  To really make the most of the opportunity social media provides for your business, it is best to scale back and take a minimalist approach.  How do you go about doing that without destroying anything valuable that you already have in place?

Start by understanding why minimizing your social media can help you in the long run.  It makes it easier to prioritize and stay organized – which are both essential for staying on top of a successful social media marketing strategy.  It also ensures your time is easily managed and you are not throwing resources into the wind.

Ready to take a minimalism approach to social media? Here is how you can get started:

Conduct an Audit

It is time to figure out what your rate of engagement is on each platform and move forward accordingly.  In addition to engagement, also look at what is actually converting to business.  You might have a lot of people talking to you on Twitter, but only few users clicking through from Facebook ever buy from you.  It’s up to you to decide which of these two audiences are more valuable.

Slow Down

The rush to be a first adopter on every social media platform has died down and now it is time to get strategic.

Take a deep breath.  Social media can be an important part of your business, but it is not make or break.  It is a long-game that works best when you make strategic decisions.

Tune Out the “Experts” (to Some Degree…)

Stop listening to the hype and figure out what really works for your business.  You do not need to be everywhere, just on the platforms that make the most sense for you.  And maybe just on a platform – that is right, a single, solitary social media platform that ensures you are engaging with the people you want to be part of your community.  It might sound drastic, but for many businesses, it’s the right approach.

So is minimalism the wave of the future? And if minimalism is about not listening to trends and just focusing on what works for you, shouldn’t you avoid the trend of minimalism?

The truth is you need to do what works for your business, and for many, that has been taking a more minimal controlled approach to social media.

If you would like help sorting it all out or establishing a social media strategy that is customized to your brand, give us a call!

Share on Social Media Sites:

Five of the Most Important Things You Can Do to Improve Social Media Marketing

Most business owners know social media is an essential part of their success, but they are not sure where to go from there.  And unfortunately, far too many head in the wrong direction.  If you want to incorporate social media into your online marketing strategy, here are five tips for doing it the right way:

  1. Invest in Learning

Before you make another post, invest some time and effort (and possibly money) into learning how social media works.  There is a lot of free content and tips online, and several paid courses can be invaluable when it comes to helping you plan a social media marketing strategy.

  1. Pay Attention

Social media has given brands a way to speak to their audience, but more importantly, it is also a way to listen.  Unfortunately, many business owners fail to take advantage of this second part.  They are so busy talking they do not bother listening.

Your audience is going to have the most to say on social media.  Few people will bother calling or writing directly to you if there is a problem, but they will have no trouble telling the world about it on social media.  The secret to growing a trusted brand is to show you are listening and willing to respond when there is a problem – and when there is no problem and a customer is happy, too!

  1. Engage with Your Audience

Though you should respond when you receive criticism or feedback, it should not be the only time you respond to your audience.  If you notice a conversation on social media that is relevant to your industry, use it as an opportunity to engage members of the community.  There is no need to be controversial – unless it is in line with your brand – but social media provides an opportunity for you to engage with and have actual conversations with your customers on a large scale.

  1. Keep Your Social Media Strategy Controllable

It’s tempting to hop on every social media platform out there, but that is going to do you no good.  Focus on just one, two, or three that is well-suited to your target audience.  Where do your ideal customers hang out? There is a different crowd on Instagram than on Facebook than on LinkedIn, and so on.  Find your people and focus on being a part of that community.

  1. Track Everything

Social media is fun, but it is also a business tool and one that needs to be monitored.  Make sure you are tracking everything about your social media marketing so you understand what is worth your time and money.

Want to know more? Give us a call!

Share on Social Media Sites:

Google’s Trusted Stores Replaced with Verified Customer Reviews

Google has retired the Trusted Stores program and replaced it with Verified Customer Reviews.  The difference between these reviews and Google’s regular review system is that Customer Reviews are from people who are guaranteed to have made an online purchase from the business.  It is possible to leave Google Reviews for any business and by anyone, even if he or she was never legitimately a customer.

It is also possible for businesses participating in Verified Customers Reviews to request a badge from Google and opt-in their sites.  It is free, it just requires a business to have a Merchant Center account that includes a sign-up process.  The program will be used to help create a seller rating for your Merchant Center account that are shown on Google Shopping, AdWords text ads, and your own site.  If you believe Google, adding your seller rating to your text ads can up click-through rate by as much as 10 percent.

Below is a step-by-step guide for enabling Google Customer Reviews:

  1. Sign in to your Merchant Center account (or sign up if you do not have an account).
  2. Select “Merchant Center programs” from the drop down in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Click “Get Started” in the Google Customer Reviews card and accept the Program Agreement.
  4. Add the survey opt-in code to your website.

Once you  have taken care of this process, the badge code can be added to your site for all to see.  It will show your seller rating and indicate that your store is a part of the Google Customer Reviews program.

Joining this program can help you build trust with potential clients and improve your rankings.  Obviously, customers know how powerful Google is in the world of online marketing and if they are giving you a good review, customers will notice.  Google is also happy when businesses participate in their programs and reward them accordingly.  This is a great way to get a boost in SEO results without investing too much time trying to figure out the “who, what, when, where, and how” of the latest algorithm.

Keep in mind, like all review programs, you need to feel confident in your services and products to also feel good about participating.  Simply being a part of a review program is not enough because you need to get good reviews.  As a matter of fact, the key to using this program successfully is making sure those verified customers are happy with what you have done for them so they give you quality reviews.

If you would like assistance or you want to know more about how Google’s Verified Customer Reviews can help you, give us a call!

Share on Social Media Sites:

PPC and Your Small Business: What You Should Know

PPC (pay per click) marketing is something that confuses many business owners.  Those who are unfamiliar might even think it’s a scam, but it is in fact a great marketing tool small business owners can use to drive tremendous volumes of traffic to their sites.

What do you need to know if you want to incorporate PPC into your marketing strategy?

Tighten Ad Groups

Like many marketing strategies, your ad groups in PPC need to be focused.  You can target several keywords within a single ad group, but you need to make sure they are all similar.  When you fail to do this and you choose broad word, you will have a difficult time creating an ad that’s capable of targeting all of the search terms.  This results in lower click-through rates (CTR), in and of itself bad, but especially negative when you are paying per click.

Keep CTR High

A low CTR means less traffic but more expensive.  Google and the other search engines you use want to make money off of the service they are providing for your business, so the more click-through you get the better – for them and for you.  When your rate is low, they show competitor ads instead, or charge you higher rates, so make sure you are giving the search engines what they want.

Monitor Your Quality Score

Adwords programs offer a quality score for the campaigns you run.  It is a scale that provides a number from one to ten, and helps you make decisions about your campaigns.  When you get a score lower than five, it means you need improvements in your ads and landing page to make them more relevant to one another.

How Do You Know PPC is Right for You?

There are so many online marketing opportunities out there, it can be tough to tell which one is right for you.  And since PPC tends to be viewed as technical or detailed, many business owners bypass it in favor of simpler methods.  Unfortunately, if you are the type of business that would benefit from PPC, this is a mistake.

How can you tell PPC might work? Campaigns tend to work for business that offer higher customers lifetime value, such as doctors, subscription services, or utility providers.  They are also effective for businesses with high profit margins or that sell niche products.  If you own a business that fits into any of these categories, you should try PPC and see how it works for you.

Share on Social Media Sites:

Online Reviews: The Importance of Having a Management Strategy in Place

Online reviews are one of the most important factors affecting your business.  There are currently more than 115 million reviews on Yelp, making it one of the most powerful marketing sites on the internet.  Yelp is a valuable consumer tool, but unfortunately for business owners the news is not all good.  Bad reviews are a make-or-break issue and if you have established a plan for managing your online reviews, you’re already in trouble – even if you don’t have a single negative review.

As a business owner, you need to know where to find your reviews, how to manage them, and how to make them work for your business.  Here are a few things you need to know about online reviews:

Anyone Can Write Anything They Want About Your Business and You Do not Get to Approve It

Now, this is not to say people can randomly slander your business.  Review sites do make an effort to keep reviews credible, and most readers can tell if a reviewer is giving honest feedback or just has an ax to grind.  However, if a customer had a negative experience with your business and likes to writer online reviews, you can bet that negativity is going to be posted, even if their version of things might not be the same as yours.

Furthermore, unofficial and unclaimed review pages are also an issue.  Your business can make it onto these reviews sites without you ever setting up a page.  This is because customers can “check in” even if you are not officially registered.  It’s also possible for people to write reviews about these unclaimed pages, which means people could be saying negative or positive things about your business and you’ll have no idea.

Online Reviews Can Help You

As scary as it is to receive a negative review, it is even more frightening to be receiving positive reviews and not putting them to good use.  Your positive reviews can help your Google ranking and can improve your reputation with customers.  You need to be aware of your reviews and making the most of the opportunities they provide.  Google offers something called “rich snippet reviews” which is illustrated with their star rating system.  Google validates these reviews, so they carry greater impact and are considered more credible than random reviews.  If you haven’t thus far, check your star rating with Google.

Online Reviews are Part of Your Brand

Online reviews are powerful and affect your brand – something you absolutely need to be in control of.  According to a recent survey from BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 74 percent say positive reviews help them trust a brand.

Reviews can help you grow your business and make the most of what other people have to say about you.

Share on Social Media Sites:

Why Your Business Needs an SEO Professional This Year

Sometimes business owners are reluctant to invest in marketing strategies they do not fully understand or do not believe will bring them major results.  Unfortunately, since SEO can be confusing for people who are not doing it full-time, many business owners fail to realize the value of working with a pro.

By making the commitment to hiring an SEO professional this year, you are investing in your website and will see major results.  In many cases, you will see significant increases in traffic to your website and in visitors that convert to paying customers.  Here’s why now is a great time to hire a SEO professional: 

Time Saving

SEO is a full-time job.  Even if you have an understanding of the basics, the sheer amount of changes that are made to the algorithm every year make it impossible to keep up unless 100 percent of your focus is on SEO.  If you have been trying to piece together an SEO plan in your spare time and just not achieving the results you desire, hiring a pro to take on the work can have a major impact.

Boosts Your Expert Factor

SEO pros are able to put to use their knowledge of the industry to help you improve your site.  You will have an SEO audit that will include keyword research, so you will know the best words and phrases to target.  An expert is also going to take a look at your competitors and figure out what’s working for them.

Track Changes

Not in Word docs, but in the world of SEO.  Google changes its search algorithms multiple times per day, which means to achieve success, you need to stay on top of these changes.  That is a tall order when your primary responsibility is running a business.  Working with an SEO professional means you have someone dedicating his or her time to keeping track of the changes that occur.

Saves You Money

As if reducing the amount of time you are currently investing into making your site a success and getting better overall results from SEO wasn’t enough, hiring a pro is going to save you money.  DIY SEO is essentially throwing money down the drain.  Investing in quality SEO services, like most marketing strategies, does cost money upfront.  But, just like most marketing strategies, it’s going to save you money – and earn you money – in the long run.

Perhaps most importantly, working with an SEO pro saves you from making costly mistakes.  Why learn the hard way? Streamline your SEO practice and hire a professional this year.

Share on Social Media Sites:

Avoid These Four  Social Media Marketing Mistakes If You Want to Help Your Business

Social media can help you build your business, but there are mistakes that can be made – that are made every day – that destroy even the most diligent business owner.  What should you avoid if you want to make the most of social media marketing for your business?

Falling Short on Interaction

You can set up the best laid social media marketing plans in the world, but if you do not follow through and interact with people, it will do you no good.  The purpose of social media is to create a sense of community around your business.  Sharing posts requires you to continue to pay attention and interact with your followers.  The goal of posting is not to just tell people something; it is to generate conversations and interact with the people who care about you.

Spam

Social media is not a place for spam.  You should not load up your platforms with tons of links just to get a point across to followers.  Only a small portion of your posts (experts say about 20 percent) should be focused on selling and your business.  Most posts should be about sharing information valuable to your followers.

Too Much Automation

Automating your social media posts is convenient, but you need to be careful not to appear as if you are a robot.  Followers need to feel they are interacting with a human and having a real human experience.  Social media marketing is not a complete no-no, but you need to be careful and you need to still carefully monitor your posts.  Nothing looks worse than an ill-time sales post in the midst of a community emergency.

Not Enough Content

Is it easy to decipher your social media posts? Do you use the right tone for your business? Are you carrying out your brand consistently? You need to make sure you are posting content, and posting enough of it, to achieve your goals.  Throwing up a random posts or link from time to time is not going to cut it.   And what you do post needs to be on message with what your target audience wants and needs.

Social media marketing is important and can help you grow your business faster than ever, but it is a strategy and it requires work.  If you want to achieve social media success, take a look at your current plans and see what you can do (or stop doing!) to make the most of the time you invest in social media.

Share on Social Media Sites:

SEO and Web Design: A Winning Combination for Marketing

Design is important for a website and you need to be sure your site is attractive and professional.  It also needs to be user-friendly and encourage visitors to take a preferred action.  Unfortunately, if a potential client never sees your site, none of these things matter and site visitors can never become paying customers.  That’s where SEO comes in.

SEO, short for search engine optimization, is the foundation of a successful content marketing strategy.  Mastering SEO means your site will rank high and get the most attention from people searching for businesses similar to yours.  However, it is important to realize that SEO is not a trick and nobody can magically turn a bad site into an SEO success.  Site design and SEO must work hand-in-hand.  The best designer understand Google’s latest algorithms and is able to incorporate SEO into design.

What are a few things you can do to combine your site design and SEO practices into a single, successful masterpiece?

Alt-Tagging Pictures

Your images are an important part of SEO and need to be managed properly.  The first step to managing images is to alt-tag them.  This gives additional content for search engines to use.  You also need to be sure your image size is desirable and choose image keywords that match the terms your ideal customers use.  If you have neglected the images on your site – or worse, you have no images – now is the time to get images working for you.

Remove Blocks to Content

Even with the best intentions, contact blocks can hurt rankings.  Blocking access to valuable content – including members only areas – can make a mess of SEO.  It might seem like a good idea to add pay walls and limit content on your site to only registered visitors, but you need to make sure there are several sections open to the public.

Regular Updates

One of the main keys to successful SEO is making sure readers have, and Google finds, relevant, up-to-date information on your site.  Current information is prioritized over stagnant information, which means the more you update your site the more Google pays attention.  A blog with regular updates is a great way to make sure Google always has something fresh to munch on.

Mobile

If your site is not capable of being viewed properly on a mobile device, a change is in order.  Google penalizes sites that are mobile-friendly, so for the best SEO results, create a responsive site that looks as great on smartphones and tablets as it does on a desktop.

Your design could be hurting or helping your SEO.  Now is the time to conduct an audit and see where you can improve.

Share on Social Media Sites:

What’s the Latest Research on Reaching the Millennial Audience?

If you are not reaching out to the millennial audience, now is the time.  Here is what you need to know about Millennials so you can tap into this group with huge buying power:

They Shop Digitally

Millennials shop online more than any other consumer group.  Most report they prefer online buying to shopping in a brick and mortar store.  According to a survey by Accenture, Millennial shoppers spend an estimated $600 billion each year, and by 2020 that amount is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion, or 30% of total retail sales.  If you are not selling online, you are not making content with large swathes of your millennial audience.

Social Media is a Great Way to Build a Following with Millennials

It is no secret Millennials have embraced social media.  There are stats on which platforms are favored and which are falling out of favor, but the bottom line is you need to be on social media: it is where Millennials are hanging out.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are all widely popular, but it is also important to keep tabs on up and coming platforms.  And make sure you know the latest features available on the old standbys.

Millennials are not Fond of Pushy Sales Tactics

Millennial audiences tend to trust indirect sales messages more than they do old-fashioned sales techniques.  They view them as pushy and it turns them off.  As a matter of fact, according to the recent Launch Leap Internet survey of Millennials, 59% watch YouTube ads only until they can skip them, and 11% have an ad blocker.  In other words, nearly three quarters of respondents don’t watch ads that marketers have spent millions of dollars to create!

The secret to marketing to Millennials is to be subtle and indirect.  It is possible to reach them with a sales message and even get them to act, but you need to go about it in a new way.  Reviews and referrals are extremely effective for this purpose.

Content marketing is also a great option because you are adding value to the Millennials life.  By providing them with information and solving their problems, they gradually trust you and are willing to work with you in the future.

What’s the bottom line? Millennial are a unique audience with their own tastes and preferences.  In order to attract customers from this generation and grow your business into the future, you need to offer valuable content and make the most of the features available on social media.

Want more advice? Give us a call!

Share on Social Media Sites: