If your website isn’t functional & secure, you’re losing business.

happy website client

September signals the start of fall. A time of new beginnings — change of season, a new school year, for some companies a new fiscal year.

For small business owners, fall is often the time to think about ramping up business. Maybe you need to refresh dated marketing material. Or spruce up your website with fresh content.

It’s also the perfect time for a digital tune-up to ensure that your website is performing efficiently. Is your site’s backend functionality where it should be? Is current content? Are plugins up-to-date?

To help you assess your site’s performance, we present 5 ways to make sure your website is functioning efficiently right now.

  1. Keep your SEO (search engine optimization) up-to-date. If you’ve been writing blog posts or adding new content without optimizing that material, it’s like forgetting to tell customers you’ve got new merchandise they’ll be interested in. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
  2. Check that all images have an alt tag or alt text. Aside from helping with SEO, this enables visually handicapped visitors to “read” images via screen readers. Learn more about alt tags here.
  3. Is your content current? Dated content not only makes it look like your business may be suffering (not surprising in this time of COVID-10 closures, but also something you want to avoid). Keep your content fresh and compelling if you want visitors to return regularly and refer your site to colleagues and friends.  Here are some quick and easy content development tips.
  4.  Is your site loading quickly? There are several things that make sites sluggish and slow to load — overly large or high rez images, plugins that are no longer being used but are bloating your site, or your ISP (internet service provider) to name a few reasons. Whatever the cause, the result is not one you want. Slow loading sites mean lost visitors. When we’re so used to speedy connections and quick downloads, few people want to wait more than a few seconds for a site to load.
  5.  Is your site secure? If your website url starts with https://, it’s secure. If it still says http://, it’s not. And it’s not SSL (Secure Sockets Layered) encrypted so it may be vulnerable to hackers. Something you definitely don’t want! Getting an SSL certificate is something your developer or IT person should do. It’s something we handle for all the sites we build.

Of course, there are other things you can do to keep your website secure and functioning smoothly. We’ve just highlighted the “musts”. Most of these are best left to professionals who work with websites on a daily basis.

We’re happy to chat with you about whatever’s keeping you up at night keeping — whether it’s making sure your website is secure, how to give your site a fresh new look…..or any marketing issues you might be having.

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Getting Down To Business with Good Website Design

We were excited to be on Shalom Klein’s radio show, Get Down to Business, yesterday. We talked about good website design, what makes a website great and why our clients like to work with us. Many thanks to Shalom for the shoutouts. And yes, we’d love to come on your show again!

  

Listen to our interview.

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Why Marketing Matters More Than Ever

It happens often. We meet with a business owner who’s struggling to build sales but won’t commit….or hasn’t set aside…. any money for marketing.

How does that work, you ask? Well, it doesn’t.

Our main business is building websites. But we approach web design and development with a marketing mindset because our team has a marketing background.

So before we start building anything, we sit down and talk to you about goals for your business and what you want your new site to accomplish. We’re building a big beautiful online marketing tool for you. It just happens to be called a website.

For people to find your website, a few things need to happen:

  1. It needs to be optimized for search (SEO) so that Google brings your site up when someone searches for your product or service.
  2. You also need to send people to your site.
    You can do this through social media, advertising (print or digital or both), PR, flyers, brochures or handouts, newsletters, emails, direct mail (like postcards), signage, premiums, business cards that you pass out at networking events, etc.

All of the suggestions in item #2 fall under the marketing umbrella. It’s what drives your business and builds your sales. No marketing = not much business.

why you need to market your business
marketing matters

So back to the “no money for marketing” scenarios.

A few examples stand out. One was a man who hired us to build a website for a small gym he had purchased and was renovating. His target market was personal trainers who would use the gym to work with private clients or people who weren’t comfortable at a big gym but needed some sort of coaching. That idea sounded solid and well thought out.

We built a drop dead gorgeous site (OK, so we’re a little biased). But it was sleek and sexy and did everything it was supposed to do. It was easy for visitors to get the info they needed and the messaging was clear and concise.

This was not your one-size-fits-all super gym. It was a small facility — a former house with a beautiful river view, where you could train relatively privately, and then go out in the back yard to relax after your workout. We loved the whole concept. This gym was a little gem.

Until the business model changed.

Classes were added, a few at first, then a lot. Yoga and bar work and meditation. Then floor work and Zumba. Now the “small gym for serious workouts” took on a “me too” slant. Fearing he was missing out on another market (women), the owner modified the original positioning.

Bad move.

Not only were there a bunch of hot new boutique-y gyms in the area, but the larger gyms like FFC, CrossTown Fitness and Equinox were doing great marketing and had huge name recognition. Not to mention swimming pools, running tracks and lots of classes at convenient times.

Our client had not allocated any money for marketing. There was no money for signage which made it difficult to find the place. There was no money for social media (he attempted to do some himself but since he had no idea about how social media worked, that never went anywhere). There was no money for publicity or promotions of any kind. 7 months after we completed the website, he sold the business.

We were bummed because we couldn’t show this gorgeous site in our portfolio. But the client was happy to get out without losing his total investment.

We hate to see this happen. Our goal with each project is to give clients a solid marketing tool that will help grow their business. Seeing a client fail makes us sad.

We use examples like this when talking to new business owners to make sure they’re budgeting wisely and not putting the proverbial “all their eggs in one basket”. Your website can be the most important marketing tool in your arsenal. But don’t let it be the only one.

SEO competition gets tougher every day. Unless you’re able to do considerable digital advertising (as in spending big bucks), you need to stand out any way you can. Good marketing can always help you stand out.

If you’ve got marketing chops and can handle it on your own, run with it. If not, make sure there’s money set aside to hire the experts you need.

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The Big and the Small of It

Image credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/davidpwhelanBuilding a website is an exercise in both forests and trees.

The right words have to be there to draw the right eyeballs, your message has to be clear, and there have to be clear and effective calls to action. These are the forest level functions.

But it’s the little things that can destroy your credibility — misspellings, poor grammar, the wrong font in the wrong place, a poorly cropped image, etc. It’s as if a tree has fallen across the path.

A website is an exercise in first impressions. What impression are you making?

Is it fair to judge a company by a typo, or when they use “your” when it should be “you’re?”

What judgments, fair and unfair, are made about your business based on your website?

Neil Steinberg brings up this point in his May 7 blog post. He wrote

I was walking down Shermer in the old leafy suburban paradise and saw that sign announcing the new place, “Agave Anejo Mexican Grill,” and immediately had this thought: They’ll never make it.”

Why? Their sign was crooked. The restaurant owners were not paying attention to the details. One little thing mars a greater whole. It’s the tree across the path. Once seen, you can’t unsee it. Your expectations have been set.

When you build a website, pay attention to the big picture but sweat all the details. Your mother was right when she said ” you only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Image credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/davidpwhelan

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Six features your website must have.

Websites differ in design and style. But there are certain features that all good websites have in common. Here are 6 of them:

    1. Readability
      Legibility is paramount when reading digital copy. Can viewers read the copy on your website? REALLY read it? On a cell phone or tablet as well as a laptop?A good website is designed for ease of reading on ALL screens. That means fonts are web-friendly, reverse type is used judiciously (white type can be dramatic but it’s hard to read as body copy) and clutter is kept to a minimum.
    2. Clear Messaging
      Will visitors to your site clearly understand what it’s all about? Or will they have to fiddle around to discover who you are and what you do?Once someone lands on your site, you’ve 15 seconds to convince him to stay.

      Good websites keep visitors engaged.
      Good websites keep visitors engaged.

      Especially if your product or services fix problems for people. People looking for something they need are generally not very patient. Continue reading “Six features your website must have.”

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    Why you shouldn’t build your own website.

    It’s tempting. You’re a startup with tight (or no) funds. You don’t want to spend any money unless it’s absolutely necessary. You see all the DIY website promos and figure “how hard can it be?” Looks like a no-brainer. So you opt for WIX or some other development program and build your own website. For free. Over a weekend. An entire weekend!

    So you're going to build your own website
    How hard can it be?

    You launch your website. But no one comes.

    Hmmm. What went wrong?

    Your first mistake was to assume you could do something on the fly. Web developers  and designers are generally highly trained. They’re schooled and skilled in writing code, designing layouts, font and color selection, navigation, and UX. And if you hire a web development team, there’s a copywriter or content creator on board to make you sound as good as you look. And likely an SEO expert so that your website comes up when people search for a keyword  or phrase that’s incorporated into your copy.

    Oops. You probably didn’t consider that when you opted for DIY.

    So before you waste a lot of time and commit to a drag and drop website, ask yourself these 6 quick questions:

    1. Do you have the time to learn how to build an effective website or should you use that time to build your business?
    2. Do you have a solid grasp of marketing and a clear picture of how your potential clients use websites?
    3. Can you write compelling copy and calls-to-action?
    4. Do you understand UX and how people will navigate your website?
    5. Do you know how to use color and custom fonts to build your brand?
    6. What will you do if you waste spend 10-20 hours “building” a site that you can’t use?

    If you answered “yes” in 1-5, you might have the skills necessary to build your own site. If not, call someone who builds websites for a living.

    Your business needs a website that works. Save money somewhere else.

     

    Be Mobile Friendly for the Right Reasons

    It’s about your visitors, not Google

    responsive-designIn April, Google made an incredibly well-hyped announcement that sites that aren’t mobile friendly would not be ranked as highly as those that work well on smaller screens.  That announcement generated a media storm of coverage, from innumerable tweets to articles in major newspapers.  It’s brought us some business, too. Thanks, Google!

    Google is not the reason you should make sure your site is mobile friendly.  Your site should be mobile friendly because your visitors — a really big chunk of them — are using mobile devices and you want your site to look as good as or better than the “desktop” version.  The bottom line of our argument is that most of your viewers are probably on mobile devices.  Are you making them happy? Continue reading “Be Mobile Friendly for the Right Reasons”

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    Mobility: The next Google-quake

    responsive-designWe’ve always preached that good content is good SEO*, and good SEO gets good SERP**.  That’s true, but there’s now a new wrinkle.  Google cares whether your website is “mobile ready“.  All things being equal, a mobile ready site will be placed above one that’s not on the search results page.

    What does mobile ready mean?  We’ll talk about that a bit more below. First, get a yes or no answer from Google:

    Is your site Mobile Friendly according to Google

    Mobile Friendly means that your site reformats itself for mobile devices. Continue reading “Mobility: The next Google-quake”

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