Startup & Small Business
Written by Brandi Bennett
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
Nothing stays the same forever, and neither should your website. It’s important to constantly work to improve the content and quality of your website, but how do you determine when change is necessary? What changes should you make? These are both valid questions, and while we cannot provide you with all the answers, as some of that will depend on your client base, profit margins, and the like, we can offer you some tips as to when you should start looking to change things up.
This is huge. When you receive a notification that your site or any of the different programs, applications, widgets, templates, etc. that you use has an update available, do it. These updates are typically designed to address vulnerabilities. Your site needs to stay up to date. Make the change. Update your site. Your customers, your tech support, your staff, and your pocketbook will all thank you. It can be disastrous to fail to do this one simple step.
Granted, these changes will likely not bear any visible changes to your site, but they will keep the back-end safe which is just as important.
What About The Rest of It?
If you’re blogging, try to update at least two to three times per week. More if you like, but at least weekly updates are ideal. Keep new content coming and you will have repeat readers. If you have an e-commerce site, keep it constantly flowing – add new products or services. Change product descriptions to make them sound catchier if you notice a particular item isn’t selling.
You can even poll your customers regarding changes that they would like to see on your site and then determine how you would like to go from there. Not all the ideas are going to be ones that you will implement, but if half a dozen people tell you that they want the search options updated, there’s a good chance you should get on that. If you have no suggestions, go look at your site from a customer’s point of view. See the site as they would see it, try to see it as if you are seeing it for the first time. See where it looks cumbersome, see what you did well. Try to remove the clunky and the cumbersome and try to work to ensure that what you did well is done well everywhere. If you really like the way one item page looks and flows, try to replicate it on the others.
It’s natural to not want to update your site (the “set it and forget it” mentality), and you don’t have to update everything. If you like your background color or the template you’re using, keep it. If you’re using a black background and neon pink text, you may want to consider changing it to something easier to read, however. The Internet is constantly evolving, and your site should be as well. In working to determine the different things you like about other sites, you may find things you want to change about your own site. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Change is not a bad thing. Keep things fresh and your content up to date and attention grabbing and your website will flourish!
Image Source: Jelly Ranger. (2014). Future Self. Retrieved from http://jellyranger.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/futureself.jpg
Written by Kevin Wood
Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
As a website owner you’ll want to do everything in your power to ensure your website is doing as much as it can to convert new visitors into subscribers and potential customers. A lot of websites try to do too much and as a result they end up doing nothing at all. Your website should be elegant, purposeful, and directed towards your core group of users.
It’s easy to make mistakes. We all do. However, some common website mistakes are avoidable, or can be fixed with a little more hard work. In this we’re going to explore the five most common website mistakes a lot of website owners make.
1. Lack Of Direction And No Coherent Focus
I’m sure you’ve been to websites in the past that are very confusing and leave you in a frazzled state. On a sad note, most of the web is like this and it leads to information overwhelm and downright confusion. Our minds aren’t meant for the dizzying pace of the web and a lot of websites actually make this worse.
There are many ways to do this, but some of the most common mistakes include:
- Weird or cluttered navigation
- A site that aims to please everyone in the world
- Strange color scheme
- No coherent direction or sequence of steps for the user to take
- Design that is out of alignment with the message of the company
When a person lands on your website you’ll want them to be able to determine, in a matter of seconds, if you’re going to be able to help them or not. This is done through purposeful design and an understanding of who your customer actually is.
Nailing down your focus has to do with simplifying your offering as a business and communicating it in a simple manner to your core group of customers. When in doubt choose one element to be the highlight of your business and do it well.
2. Too Much Focus On The Company, Not The User
No one wants to land on your website and hear about how great your business is, at least not at first. The first thing a person landing on your website wants to know is if you can help them.
Once they’ve determined you can help them reach the magical land where their problem is solved, then they’ll start to look deeper into your company. However, this can still be done strategically to make sure you’re not bragging.
The number one page people go to after the home page is the about page. This means you have another chance to convince the visitor you’re the right person for the job.
The best way to do this is by adjusting your copy to show you deeply sympathize with the user and their problem. Next, make sure to bring in relevant experience that shows you actually know what you’re talking about. You can even bring in testimonials and other forms of social proof, so people know they’re not alone in working with you.
3. No Incentives To Draw In Customers
A lot of website owners try to get people to opt-in without providing an incentive to do so. As inboxes are becoming more and more sacred you’ll need to do something special for the visitor to get them to part with their information.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating a free download that solves a portion of the visitors problem. This should be enough to get the visitor to opt in. From that point on you can work on building the relationship and converting them into a long-term customer.
4. Looking Good Across One Device And One Device Only
Mobile is becoming more and more prevalent. It isn’t going anywhere. All trends and statistics suggest that mobile is the future. It’s a smart idea to make sure your website works across every device your customers are going to be using.
That doesn’t mean you have to upgrade your design right away, but if your website looks funky or doesn’t function properly across the most common screen sizes then you may want to consider a change.
Responsive websites are slowly becoming the new norm, so it would be a good idea to switch over sooner rather than later.
5. No Relevance
Relevance has to do with how valuable you are to your visitors. This is the test your should be running for every element of your website.
If it doesn’t provide value to your readers, then cut it. Being ruthless with what’s useful and what isn’t may feel a little harsh, but it will allow you to have a website that’s more streamlined to serve your customers.
By avoiding the mistakes above you’ll be on your way towards having an efficient website that is geared towards the only people that matter, your customers.
Written by Jeremy Jensen
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
I may be the first blogger to admit it, but I didn’t use Google+ very frequently as my preferred Social Media outlet. Having Facebook, Twitter, and several other mediums for connection felt like enough, right? But when you consider Google+ has only been around for three years, 1 Billion enabled accounts is quite the accomplishment.
Like any new and similar service, people are slow to adopt something they already have. What everyone has been missing, including myself, is the unique and powerful features Google+ possesses that many other networks cannot compare with.
Even if you’re not on Google+ socially, your business will greatly benefit from all the integral features Google+ provides. Here’s a few reasons to ignite your interest:
Virtually Everyone Uses Google’s Products
Whether it’s Gmail, Maps, Play, Drive, YouTube or just an old fashioned web search, we’re all on Google to one degree or another. Having one account makes it possible to utilize all these amazing services, and before you know it Google+ may just become as popular as Facebook.
As of 2014 Google+ boasted 359 million active users, a number that has increased at a rate of 33% annually.
What’s more, is that everything you post integrates with every other Google platform under one identity. For example, if you post a video to YouTube (The 2nd Largest search engine in the world) users will be able to click on your profile taking them directly to your G+ account. Here, many marketing wizards have begun creating engaging/brand oriented videos that make it incredibly easy to steer potential customers back to a page equipped with all of your contact info and a link to your website.
Having someone add your business page to their circles will begin to optimize your Google+ page, thus increasing your visibility performed for local searches.
Deeper Brand Engagement With Google+ Hangouts and Communities
One of the best techniques for securing loyal customers involves getting to know them on a personal level. In Hangouts your business can get in touch with anyone in the world by hosting a meeting using video chat. Most commonly, pioneers of the customer/business relationship have hosted live video conferences to allow customers to contribute feedback and work towards providing a better service in the future.
Using Google+ communities is also a great way to stimulate conversations over shared interests associated with your brand or service. Personally, I actively engage with my followers who are interested in learning photography techniques, and simultaneously receive feedback on more of what they’d like to see. Giving your time to a customer extends a bond that will help when they choose to recommend a service to a friend.
We Are Talking About Google Here, After All
Google isn’t just a search engine anymore, it’s practically a way of life. We’re communicating, sharing and building businesses through it’s services, most of which are offered to us free of charge. But because they’re still a business, it’s easy to see why they provide incentives for partaking in a their social medium instead of others.
These incentives only serve to help your business, and you’d be extremely wise to start taking advantage of them.
Image Source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EDln3g_Fzyg/T5XrXBhRE-I/AAAAAAAAFnI/w10FfYL7Qnc/s1600/Google-+-your-Business.png
Written by Kevin Wood
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Picking the right domain name isn’t a decision you want to rush. In the online space the domain is the first thing people have to remember when they want to work with you or visit your business. If you want your online presence and website to thrive you need a domain name that’s going to keep up.
A lot of business owners make the mistake of choosing a domain name that’s too long, too hard to spell, or doesn’t relate to their business. Some domains names are only a few letters long, but can still have a huge impact on your business.
Most Common Domain Name Mistakes To Avoid
As we alluded to above, a lot of business owners make mistakes when choosing their domain names. Of course, you can change your domain name if you already have one that isn’t really doing much for your business, but it’s much less of a hassle to just get it right on the first go. Below you’ll find some of the most common mistakes.
1. Using Too Many Words
If you’re trying to stuff a bunch of keywords into your domain name and it’s getting very long and hard to remember it’s important that you shorten it. People won’t remember a long domain name.
Or, you may have a very long business name and you want to use the whole thing. This can also be a mistake, as you’ll want your domain to be memorable. Often, you can shorten or abbreviate and still get the same result.
2. Using A Spammy Extension
If the .com extension isn’t available for your domain it can be tempting to go with another, less standard extension. Using one of these can potentially be a burden to your business. Although, some other domain extensions are becoming more widely accepted they can still carry a slightly spammy connotation.
If other businesses in your niche are using other extensions then they may be safe to use, but just take caution. This isn’t really an area where you want to be a trendsetter.
3. Following Trends Or Buzzwords
We’ve seen some businesses try to get creative with their domain names by incorporating certain buzzwords or trendy words. For a while a lot of businesses were using the letter ‘i’ in front of their domains to mimic Apple. Or, we’ve seen businesses using the letter ‘z’ to make them seem more youthful and hip.
Whatever the case make sure you don’t ascribe to any trends when you’re choosing your domain name. Domain names should be timeless, and when you’re relying on a trend it will only be memorable for a few years at the most, after which it will seem outdated.
How To Find The Perfect Domain Name
Now that you know what not to do it’s time to start moving forward with positive steps you can take to truly find a hidden gem of a domain.
1. Keep It Simple
When finding the perfect domain, simplicity is going to be your friend. Try your best not to include any unnecessary words or phrases, hyphens, or anything else that’s going to make your domain difficult to remember.
Keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler. You don’t want your users to have a hard time associating your business with the domain.
2. Be Unique
There are millions upon millions of domains out there. To truly stand out from the rest you’ll need to be unique. Try to be catchy, but don’t be too creative where people are confused or can’t remember your domain.
When you think you’ve come up with the perfect domain you can try it out on your friends and family as well to see what their initial reaction is.
3. Do Your Research
Before you buy your domain you’ll need to make sure you aren’t violating any copyrights, or ending up with any weird foreign translations, or have a name too close to a competitor. Spend some time making sure your domain checks out across these three categories and you’ll be ready to click buy.
Crafting the ultimate domain name for your business doesn’t have to take weeks, but you should spend more than the few minutes most people spend on the decision. Your domain name defines your business in the online realm, make it count.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35935652@N00/3845418669/