Category

Website Design and Development

How Content Can Make or Break You

Tulips

Now that we have gone over the different platforms that you can use for internet marketing, I will discuss the importance of content creation.

What is content creation?

Content creation is the development of content, which will appeal to your audience and inform them of your products and services. When you think of content, you probably think of the text that is on the page. However, content goes a lot deeper than just those words. Content involves text, visual, and design aspects. The reason all of these fall into the same category, is that they coexist as a single entity. They work together to create an accessible design. Accessibility is the key to successful and functional design.

When it comes to the text component of your website, ads, social media/blogs, and emails, you need to go back and look at who your audience is. Your audience will determine the type of language that you use. Of course, you will want to be technically correct, but you also want to make sure that you are using words that are accessible to your audience. If your audience falls into a highly educated category, and are considered experts, then you can use terminology that is specific to their needs. If you intend on reaching a more general audience you need to be careful of the terminology you use.

I would like to introduce you to a very popular writing concept that is used in all platforms of writing. It is called “plain language”; this is the art of writing with simple terminology that is direct and accessible to any audience. I have mentioned the word “accessibility” many times through this post, and that is because it should be the main focus while creating information that is used in all of the platforms I talked about. Without accessibility, your information will fall short of reaching your intended audience. Also remember to include important keywords while writing your text.  These keywords will allow your audience to have a better chance of finding your information on the internet. As mentioned in previous posts, keywords are the direct component of SEO (search engine optimization). If you write your text with this in mind, then it will be easier to implement SEO for your website.

Like I mentioned earlier, content involves visual and design aspects used in any of these platforms. Visual can include images, video, flash, and infographics. All of these help represent your products and services. It is important that you maintain accessibility in your visual content as well.

You may be wondering how design falls into content, and that is because it involves how you put together all of the content used in any of these platforms. Design involves layout, color and font choices, and organization. With design, you create smooth transitions from one point of importance to the next. Design also allows you to create visually appealing content. You want your content to be exciting, something that will draw in your audience by making them feel like they want to continue reading. A word of caution; do not go overboard! Sometimes simple is the best option, but remember that your goal is to draw in your audience.

Who Is Your Audience, and How Should You Reach Out to Them?

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Knowing who your audience is will greatly improve the overall success of your internet marketing goals. By identifying the attributes of your audience, you will be able to reach out to the customers you already have and potential customers. Here are the questions you should ask when deciding who your audience is.

  • Who would be interested in the product or service that I offer (who is the primary target)?
  • If I already have customers, who are they?
  • What are the demographics of your intended audience (age, sex, education level, etc.)?
  • What type of category do they fall into (professional, general public, experts, etc.)?

By asking these questions, you will be able to determine the best strategy for appealing to their needs. After determining who your customers are, you need to determine what platforms are going to allow you to reach them.

Choosing Your Platform
I listed several different platforms in my post for the first topic in this series. This will be a review of these platforms, and their benefits.

Email—can work for both incoming and outgoing marketing. In the form of incoming marketing, it will allow the customer/potential customer to contact you. The benefits of this are that you will be able to have a one-on-one connection with the individual. With this connection, you will be able to respond to their personal needs and secure them as a customer. In the form of outgoing marketing, by obtaining lists of email addresses, you can send out mass emails that will be delivered to the individuals who are most likely to need your product or services. The benefit of this is that you do not have to search for possible clients; you can usually just purchase a list of email addresses that fall into your category of business.

Social Media/Blogging—is the most modern way of doing internet marketing. In most cases, social media can help you reach a more diversified audience. It is especially beneficial in targeting a younger audience. In today’s society, Facebook and Twitter both have well over 1 billion users. That is large group of people that you can potentially reach. The average person spends 3+ hours on social media during the day. The potential for gaining customers by using social media has unending potential.

Ads—are not just for print anymore. When we are browsing or searching the internet, we are confronted by ads in almost every empty space. Ads are the most important type of marketing in any market. Ads allow us to highlight our products and services in a way that stands out from the background. Ads are a great way of offering specials, and introducing new products or services. The marketing industry has been about ads, whether they were for print, radio, or television. Now the internet has given businesses the opportunity to reach even more people with the ads that adorn most websites.

Websites—are the root of internet marketing. The goal of all of these other platforms is to draw the customer to your website. Websites allow you to have an in depth description of products and services. Websites may not be the first impression a customer has of your business, but it is probably the most important. Design, content, and functionality are key to having successful website. Before you tackle any other platform, make sure that your website is professional, attractive, and finished.

Search Engine—is usually the way an individual will find your website. To increase your chances of having customers be able to find your business in a search, you should implement SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is a process of optimizing your website so that it will show up in the search results. At least 90% of users will click on website listed on the first page of search results. If you want to get your website seen, you must implement an SEO plan.

Mobile—is an important thing to consider wen developing your website, ads, and social media sites. More than 60% of people who use the internet, do so from a mobile device. This means, that you must make your website, and other platforms you may use optimized for mobile devices.

Internet Marketing 6 Part Series

Desktop Computer on a wooden desk

6 Part Series on Internet Marketing

This 6 part series will cover what you need to know about internet marketing, and how it can benefit your business. Each week I will cover one of these topics:

  1. What is internet marketing, and how does it work?
  2. How to decipher your audience and choose the platforms that will reach them.
  3. How you can get your website seen?
  4. How content can help or hinder you, in reaching your goals.
  5. How, and why, you should implement a solid call to action (CTA) plan for all of your internet marketing ventures.
  6. Website and Marketing evolution; why you should remain proactive.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Typewriter

If you want to increase the traffic to your website, there are three major areas to consider. These areas are part of CRO (conversion rate optimization). CRO is the process of optimizing all aspects of your website that draw somebody in. These include the overall design of your website landing pages, and sponsored search ads.
The most important thing to consider when creating these landing pages and ads is the keywords that you use. These keywords will help individuals find your page.

Conversion Rate Optimization Keywords

Here are some important things to remember when choosing your keywords.

  • Make sure that the keywords are relevant, so that your intended audience will be able to think of these words when searching the internet.
  • Remember to group and organize your keywords. Specific keyword groupings of a relevant nature will increase the chances of your website showing up in a search.

Conversion Rate Optimization Landing Page

The next item to consider is the landing page itself. The landing page is an introduction of what is to come if they continue into a website. This is why the overall design and attractiveness is important. Here are some things to consider when designing your landing page.

  •  Landing pages should always be the highest quality.
  •  Headlines should be concise and compelling.
  •  The content of the landing page should be concise and straight to the point.
  •  Make sure that your content will make sense to your intended audience.
  •  Make sure the design is attractive, but also simple and clean. Try out several pages, until you find out what will work best.  AVOID CLUTTER!!!
  •  Do not request too much information, ask for only what is necessary…keep it user friendly.

Conversion Rate Optimization CTA

The other item you need to consider is the CTA (call to action). The CTA is part of both the landing page and the ads. CTA is important, because it asks the individual to take action. Here are some things to remember when considering the CTA.

  •  Keywords are important to creating good ads. These ads need to ask for a CTA, because this brings the customer further into the website.
  •  When creating the CTA for your landing page, remember that it needs to stand out.
  •  CTAs should be a focal point.
  • CTAs need to be visually appealing.
  • Most importantly, make sure that your CTA on your ad ties into the CTA on your landing page.

If you use these optimization tools, you are guaranteed to increase the traffic to your website.

Characteristics of A Successful Website

small lake in wooded area

How important is a website for a business? The answer is VERY important! Think about it. A website introduces a business to the world wide web in which we live in. We live in a generation where search engines are our “yellow pages.” We no longer browse our phone books when searching for a place to order pizza or to find a landscaper to mow our lawns.  Nope, those days are behind us. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I opened a phone book. Do they still print those?

Yesterday, I was in desperate need of a sprinkler company to fix a leak in my sprinkler system so of course I did what all social media-lites do; I opened Google in my internet browser and I “googled” sprinkler companies in my area. Guess what happened next? Pages of website results appeared at my fingertips, reminding me how much I love technology! However, when browsing company websites, it does not take long to realize that not all websites are created equally. Some are awful, some are just okay, and some make you want to scream, “Nailed it!”

Inevitably, our experience on a company’s website contributes to the likelihood of us pursuing business with them. This is why it is crucial for companies to take their web design very serious. For most businesses, their websites are the first customer contact they will have. A poorly designed website that is disorganized, confusing, and not easily accessible may lead to your company losing business before any human contact  has even been made.

There are several characteristics that contribute to a successful company website and they can be categorized into five categories; Appearance, Functionality, Usability, Accessibility, and Content. When a company’s web design executes these characteristics properly, then the business has succeeded in making a great first impression to all those who visit their website.

Appearance: Obviously, the appearance of a website is crucial to the success of the website! For a company website, it is very important to make a good first impression on the potential customers that visit their site.

  • The design should look professional, polished, and most of all, unique!
  • The font must be easy-to-read
  • There must be variation in the design that includes relevant images, headers, and  links.

Have you ever visited a website with no variation or  pictures, only pages of wording? I have, and all I have to say about that is if I wanted to read a book, I would have opened my kindle!

taphousewebsite

Functionality: It is important that the website has a focus and that the visitor knows what that focus is.

  • The purpose of the website should be completely obvious and the website should help guide you toward it.
  • Well-organized, visible headers, and internal or external links help the website function successfully.
  • All external and internal links should work! You would think this would be obvious, but I know we have all clicked on a link at some point and have seen the error message, “The page that you are looking for does not exist!”

error-404

Usability: Users, like me, want to be able to actually use a company’s website. How awesome is it when you can actually order a pizza online or set up an appointment right there on their website?!

  • The website should be consistent, organized, and easy to navigate.
  • Visitors should not be confused or have to scroll through the page to find what they are looking for.
  • Of course, the website should also load as quickly as possible!

button-order-pizza

Accessibility: Is it too much to ask that we can access the website from our device of choice? Absolutely not! Sometimes I’m on my laptop, other times I’m using my iPad, and I’m always using my phone! Another side of accessibility is making it easy for all to access despite any hearing and visual impairments.

  • Add text scripts to Podcasts and other forms of audio.
  • Add description to the images in case someone is using a screen-reader.
  • The website must look relatively the same on all major internet browsers.
  • Make it accessible on any device of choice!

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Content: This is the most important part because it showcases the company’s purpose, explains the company’s services, and provides the answers that the visitor is searching the web for!

  • The content should appear right when the website is opened.
  • It should be spelled correctly and be written with the proper grammar. How could anyone take a company seriously if they can’t read the information?
  • Content should be short, sweet, and to the point!
  • Content should also highlight the company’s services and attributes.

 

 

 

Important Principles to Base Your Web Design On

Sunset with trees

Having a website is crucial to your online success. Like many people, they don’t usually know where to begin or what they should put on their website. It may seem like a daunting task, but taking it step by step can help.  If you don’t currently have one, then these principles will be a great way to get you started.

Focus on User Navigation and Usability:

The first step to determining how your website should be designed is determining what will attract your target audience. It doesn’t matter if your website will be used just to get information about your business across or if people will use it to make purchases, the design must make it easy for your viewer to achieve their goal. The layout of your pages and how your audience can access these pages must be designed so that at any point during their search through your website they don’t find themselves lost and become frustrated.

The design should be easy to use and should transition smoothly from page to page.  Focusing on your menu items at the top can help with this. If you have a lot of information you want to put on the site using a drop down navigation can be very useful and make your website look clean and organized.

Know What Your Short and Long Term Goals of the Company Are:

The main base of a websites design is the goal the company wants to achieve. The most effective design is the one which is going to help the company achieve its goals. The goals may start off in one direction and as the time goes on and as you become more popular the goals may shift. The design must always bring that out and reflect that to the customer.

Create a Call to Action:

Another very important principle to focus your design around is the call to action you are using on your site. This can be a subscribe button, a contact us form to receive a quote, etc. If you are a business that provides a service, having a place with for people to give their name, number and questions can help you get business and make it easy for your customers to contact you.

The design of your site must push people to use these calls of action and it must be extremely user friendly. Your call to action must be very simple with a set number of options which they can choose from. If using the call to action is complex and requires a lot of input then chances are people will avoid using it.

Color and Uniqueness of the Site:

Every site that you build should be unique in some way. By doing research into different sites within your industry, you can save a lot of hassle when it comes to being able to differentiate yourself from the competition. Don’t go overboard and make the site complex and hard to use because that will just defeat the whole purpose. Make it unique and recognizable to your visitors, so that they know they are visiting your site.web design

Also, the color schemes can be tricky if you have nothing to base it off of. Don’t copy other companies’ sites in your industry if those colors don’t fit your business. If you have an existing store or a logo then the best thing to do is to just use that color scheme, so existing and future customers don’t get confused.

Simple is Better:

The saying “the simpler the better,” is usually always true and in this instance that definitely pertains. Content on the site must be easy on the eyes and nicely spaced out so that each piece of info is easy to go through. Your viewer doesn’t want to sift through loads and loads of information to find what they are looking for. Making good use of read more links and using your web pages effectively can help a lot.

These principles will help you get started and will make it a smoother and easier process. Having a company that specializes in website design and development will also make building and creating your website much less stressful.

Is It Time to Update Your Website?

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As technology continues to evolve the way sites are being used is changing and the designs are becoming more and more advanced. Even things such as social media and community interaction are changing and shaping how websites should look and function. If you have been questioning whether your website needs a redesign or not, then it is important to look at the common signs and issues to justify doing so. Having a website that is merely online does not mean it will bring visitors to it or get you customers.  When visitors find a website difficult for them to use, think it is ugly, or have a problem finding what they are looking for, they will have no issue taking their money somewhere else. A website redesign can help your company gain the competitive advantage you need in order to attract new business and keep it.

Here are the most common signs that you might need to update your website:

 1. Information and Site Look is Outdated

When is the last time you updated the information and look of your website? It is very important that the content on your site be freshened up as much as possible. Websites need more than just accurate information to gain new visitors they also need regular updating and action. If you don’t update your site as often as you know you should, then a website redesign can be a perfect way to solve the problem. Possibly just hiring a web developer to install a content management system (CMS) so that you can update the site yourself may be the answer.  You may also consider needing to completely start from scratch and create a new website that will allow for easy updating and a new look. Search engines will also not rank you kindly in this case either, as they like sites that are constantly being updated with new content.

 2. Your Web Design is NOT Responsive.

Before, it used to be that you would only have to be concerned with the way your website looked on a regular old computer screen. As the number of people using smart phones and other devices to browse online increases everyday it is important to have a responsive design. Nowadays, with the different mobile devices that can access the web, you need to make sure your site’s design is accessible for all platforms, from a desktop PC to a smartphone. If your site is annoying and hard to navigate on smaller devices, it’s time for an update. With a multitude of various devices able to access the Web now, the web design community has made it clear that it is time to rethink the way we design websites. It is no longer good enough to design a website for a desktop or laptop computer, especially with millions of people accessing the Web on their smartphones, and tablets.

3. Load Times are Long.

A website that takes too long to load is a turnoff, especially with the smartphone crowd. It shouldn’t take more than five seconds for your site to load. Most web developers agree that if your site takes longer than five seconds to load, then you should look into optimizing your site. According to TheNextweb.com after about five seconds on slower bandwidths, people become disinterested and will leave your site. If your site is taking longer than five seconds to load, I first recommend hiring a web designer or developer to look into why your site is taking so long to load or consider a redesign that will allow for less loading of certain areas of the site.

4. You Are Losing Visitors.

If you’ve noticed that visitors never navigate past your home page, or if they’re declining in numbers, it’s time to revamp your site’s content. This is particularly true if your site holds no SEO influence. If you notice that you are starting to lose visitors, then you need to look at your homepage and see if there is something that needs to be changed or fixed so it attracts people to look around, or consider a complete redesign of your site to make those visiting your site intrigued enough to stay on it.

5. Seem to be Non Existent on Search Engines.

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo like sites that have content that is up to date, consistent, and coded properly.  If you go to search your website and cannot be found on search engines, then it may be time for a new website to help boost your SEO and search engine visits. Since most people will find you through a Google search, make sure to follow the necessary steps that search engines will respond to so that they will find you and put you in their results. This will help get visitors to come to your site.

If you think that these signs apply to your website, then it is time to start thinking about updating it. It is important to use a company or web designer and developer who know what they are doing. A website can be a deal breaker for some customers, so make sure your website is as up to date as possible.