Have a clear Call to Action ~ What Action Would You Like Your Reader to Take?
When planning your website, have a clear call to action distributed evenly on your website. Have a button on the header, on your home page slide, in your sidebar, in the footer. Leaving a visitor to figure out the objective of your website may cost you a sale. It would be folly to pay a website developer to construct a presentation without having a conversation about a purposeful and clear “call to action”. The purpose of your website should NOT be left up to the imagination of the prospective customer.
Your home page should be clear about what action is expected – “call today” – “go to our clearance page”- “ use this coupon code today to save 35% on your purchase” – “join our mailing list and receive a free ebook”- etc. When selling from your website, steer the visitor in the direction he should take to shop your catalog.
Online stores would benefit from a display of new merchandise or special sales right on the home page with a hotlink to the product. Offering a coupon? Put it right in front of the visitor’s nose from the start. Contact information should be found on all pages. Publishing the city and state of your company location legitimizes you to the new visitor, a ‘frequently asked questions’ or ‘policies’ page for new users offers instant self-help, and email forms you provide should be easy to use.
Would you prefer to close a sale over the telephone? Give the visitor the incentive to call while he has your webpage in front of him. Install a “click to call” button in a prominent place on all your pages for your mobile visitors. Providing a prominently displayed menu of your products/specialties/services and rates may give the visitor the valuable information needed to decide if your company is the right one to call.
A word about sending visitors off your website : don’t. Unless you have an upsell to offer your visitor, do not give him a reason to leave before closing a sale. And, unless you have a very dynamic and professional business ‘facebook’ page, don’t send people there either. Having a page you have not updated in 3 years with pictures of former employees is as sad as my own FB page, which I don’t use at all!
This is a repost of an old Case Study published in May 2014, entitled ‘Who Are You?’ Is your online identity crisis hurting your organic search visibility? I often speak to small business owners about improving their online visibility, notably in local search results.
Does your website suffer from identity crisis? In this post, a local antique store asked why their website was not performing well on Google search. The antique shop website had four separate aims, and had constantly rotating stock of consignment items that were not adequately described for search bots. Also, none of their informational pages were composed using key phrases or descriptions. Sometimes I am asked to take a look at older websites to determine how to improve sales, increase qualified leads, or position the company as an expert in whatever it is the proprietor does best.
Almost a decade ago, I was called by a prospect who explained his profession, qualified himself as an expert in his field, and asked whether I might be of assistance in stimulating online sales. We spoke at least an hour, I took careful notes, visited his website, and agreed to formulate a plan based on my findings and what his competitors might be doing. I asked who managed the online store, and was told their ‘programmer’ managed the database. The task as I comprehended it was to improve online sales.
Three hours later my phone rang and the prospect’s wife gave me an entirely new diatribe about what she expected from her website. She wanted people to give them consignments to sell in their store. More stuff to sell versus more online sales. I told her the plan I had detailed for her husband: that I would take a look at the content and improve the meta tags and other source code on their web pages. When I said “meta tags” I heard her hold the telephone out and yell across the room to her husband that she didn’t know what I was talking about.
So conversation number three begins and they now want me to be their webmaster. The site they wanted help with is not ecommerce-enabled, rather random items are rotated through the home page and an internal search engine accesses the inventory database. The online store is linked to the company site. Now they were talking about overhauling the online store so every item would have its own page… for an inventory of 900 items.
My Analysis and Recommendations
A month later after finally being given access to the web pages, I uncovered some messy code, some best-practice errors, and silly keyword and description choices. Repairs, tests, more tweaks and tests were made, and after carefully reading the active and defunct pages, this is what I discovered. The plain html pages revealed four separate identities and goals for this one company website: as a venue for
1. ecommerce sales for their vintage and collectible wares
2. asking for consignments for sale in the online and/or physical store
3. obtaining appraisals, particularly for estates
4. offering showroom floor or cabinet display space in the physical store
What I Changed
All page titles, keywords and phrases, and descriptions were tailored to the category or the information on each of the main pages. A sitemap was prepared and submitted to major search engines such as Google and Bing. I wrote a detailed report, mailed it to the company with my assessment and edits with an invoice. They never paid me, they would not answer their phone when I called, and within a year they had closed their doors.
If you have an existing website, especially an extensive product catalog, decide how you want to frame your online identity. When your brand has a good reputation and your company longevity makes you known for more than one specialty, be sure to have a separate page for each specialty, and don’t be shy about tailoring the page source code titles, descriptions and keywords for each identity. Remember that your content is being read by humans, but indexed and given relevancy by search bots. There is no point in citing keywords in the source code that do not appear in the page content.
How is your company’s Online Health?
Why is an online self-exam important? If you have not taken a look at your business listings and search engine visibility in the past six months, set a few hours aside to perform an online self-exam.
Imagine an outdated business description being found by prospective customers. Are your products or services up to date? Have you refined or added to your business services? Are contact details accurate? Is your address spelled correctly?
My first step in what I call the ‘discovery’ process prior to a new business consultation is to go to three major search engines and perform some due diligence. I review the sponsored links, I count all the links in which the business name might appear, I take stock of page density, peruse industry directories, look for directory listings, and how many other thriving websites your name may appear on. In my work, I am solicited by international companies trying to sell me advertising, partner with me, and share website links in directories I have not yet heard of.
Like many other very small companies, my own listings are the LAST ones I research. For many of the local small businesses I contract, I also look at what the competition might be using to get a leg up in the listings. If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon, do yourself a favor and see if your business listings are accurate and up-to-date.
Finding Yourself: The Process
STEP 1: Type in your company name in Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL search. Follow all the links, notice how many listings appearing on each page, and how many pages in which you can find yourself. I strongly suggest claiming your Google Business Listing and keeping the business info current.
STEP 2: Type in the industry or service + your local area, region, county or town (i.e. “northeastern connecticut”, “central massachusetts”, “new england”, “downtown Boston”). Will all your competitors appear before you? Do you show up at all? You may want to rewrite your website page titles or descriptions.
STEP 3: Type in your website address (URL) in Google or any other major search engine service – then review all the links that appear. Are there any dead links, obsolete pages, incorrect entries? How many pages of links do you dominate? This morning I discovered an entry created for me in a website designer business directory. For the most part this listing was accurate, however the word “tiny” had been substituted for the word “small” in the phrase “small business website specialist”, making me a “tiny business website specialist. I found no photo, no logo, a misspelled street name, incomplete profiles and descriptions of services, and an opportunity to add nice details for a reciprocal link on my website. I claimed this ad and it is now being reviewed.
STEP 4: Look at the websites of your closest competition. Do the pages load in quickly? Are there any dead pages or graphics that fail to appear? How does your website performance measure up? Pay attention to the page titles displayed in the top of the browser on the competition versus your own website. If the competing websites are real class acts with current social media posts, you may need to rethink your online marketing plan.
Help on the Way
Search engines vary in the number of characters or words allowed in titles and descriptions in your web pages. Testing the copy in various analysis services is a must. Most research and discovery sessions to evaluate business/website visibility will take between three and six hours. Corrections to website copy must be published and tested. Often times, the findings require the client to roll up sleeves and claim free listings to update or correct on his own behalf. A client that expects a hands-off approach to his online presence is setting himself up for failure. The internet is 25 years old, and ignorance of computer operation can no longer excuse you. Consider hiring a third party to take appropriate action in commercial directories and/or social media resources.
We’d like to offer some important guidelines for planning your Connecticut small business website. Nott Marketing Services begins the consultation process during the first conversation or email. We know that every client will have different reasons for establishing a company website. Before proceeding with an in-depth consultation, it will be important that we speak to the company spokesperson or decision-maker for the project. Consult our checklist to prepare.
Your website will require the same planning as any marketing project prepared for your company. The advantage of website production over a printed brochure, besides the expense, is that new ideas and information can be published at will, at any time, for very little expense. So, what will you want to say about your company?
These are things we will need for your project:
have you budgeted for an internet advertising project?
have you budgeted for an ongoing marketing or maintenance plan?
do you have a deadline to meet?
is this a new company or service?
do you have an existing website?
a prepared brief company history or introduction of staff
description of your target market or typical customer
have you collected recent testimonials from your clientele?
name two of your local competitors
do you intend to collect leads from the site?
will you sell or collect donations from the site?
do you have a logo, a design scheme, or preferred color palette?
will a photo gallery or short video be helpful in this production?
give us 2 or 3 domain names (dot-com names) you would like, in order of preference
what online and offline advertising campaigns are currently in use?
HOW MANY PAGES DO YOU NEED? Determine the website’s objective before outlining your project. It is easy to underestimate the number of pages needed for a portfolio, product catalog or store. Main pages include the home, contact, about the company, and a main product or services page. However, a cost-conscious new company with very little material in those pages can get away with a one or two page site. A website is a process which can and should have pages and material added into it later on.
CAN YOU AFFORD WHAT YOU DESIRE? The product catalog a client sees in his/her mind may be cost-prohibitive until the business becomes firmly established. Software installation, programming, photo manipulation and graphic design are time consuming services that require attention to detail. From my perspective, a client commonly requests a project with high expectations of professional results from the web design team, regardless of their ability to pay for the service. Unlike other service providers, we commonly wait months or years to be paid for some projects. If you cannot set aside several thousands of dollars to create and maintain your website, start small and build the site over time.
WRITING COPY FOR NATURAL SEARCH There are rules and guidelines in use on the web for search engine robots, and they change frequently. The code behind the designed page should tell the ‘searchbots’ what the site is all about. Providing complete descriptions of every product you sell is of crucial importance. I have written a few articles to give you a little information about planning your website, the role of social networking in your plan, and the science of search.
PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY FOR YOUR ONLINE STORE Quality photos of your products will help you sell yourself as a reputable merchant! Poorly lit or out-of-focus photos do not belong on your professional product catalog. If you cannot hire a product photographer, buy a new digital camera and tripod – and if possible, take a photography class. In the long run, you will save thousands of dollars doing this yourself.
On today’s internet, responsive websites are given priority. Google has raised the bar for the way the internet determines the importance of your website. I built my first website in 1998 before most businesses and consumers possessed personal computers linked to the internet. A generation has barely passed and today’s indispensable accessory for browsing the net is a smartphone with a 5 inch screen. In between we have viewed websites on fat square CRT monitors, wide rectangular gaming computer monitors and large living room vision televisions connected to Web-tv.
Google has positioned itself as the gatekeeper of the web. The world’s most relevant search engine now serves a different set of search results to smart phone browsers. If your website is not optimized for these consumers, your website will appear behind responsive site links. There is a process to follow now to get visibility on Google. There is a learning curve, and it is not something the average small business owner has the time to delve into.
Today high-speed internet and ubiquitous wi-fi is available to anyone. It’s okay to utilize photography, parallax displays, slideshows and embedded videos to make your company website a beautiful and effective marketing tool.
Today responsive websites Rule. To get your site optimized for all media screens, give Nott Marketing Services a call.
My adult son has a good mind, and he is often deep in thought while being unaware of weather and other trifling details around him. It is such a treat when I get a look at my son’s everyday life. So as his mom, I don’t mind when he makes the television news for just riding past the news truck the day before a storm. My son Kevin is one of the brightest young people I have ever met, and I just adore him. There may be a hazard to being a highly creative and intelligent human being, though. People who are truly busy enjoying their lives can tend to be oblivious to the mundane goings-on around them. Like weather forecasts warning of a windy weekend nor’easter during the Hunter’s moon.
Friday October 26, 2018, my son and friend Kevin Nott was riding his bicycle home from his job. He was under the bridge on the Hartford side of the River, where a WTNH News 8 truck was standing there. They pulled him aside to ask if he were ready for the Nor’Easter coming our way. It’s an amusing little interview, and he had a bit of fun with it. He alerted me when he arrived at his apartment to watch the 11:00 news. Can’t get a copy of the video, so I decided to embed it.
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – “Look at my legs you think the ready for snow? You have shorts on, that’s awesome!”
Bare legs at the gas pump, Angelo Simoni not ready for the nor’easter.
How about Kevin Nott from Hartford?
“I ride my bike every day, every day! No I’m never ready!”
Can’t blame them. Who’s ready for a nasty dose of icy wind and rain?
The power companies.
They have been out pre-cutting trees all summer, to get ready for mother nature. At the supply yard in Hartford, crews were stocking up on wire poles and transformers, getting for Saturday morning’s blast.
Patty Hemphill is ready.
“I think you have to make sure you have flashlights. I think you have to have some food and water in the house, and make sure your cars are inside and in the garage, if you have one.”
Angelo and Patty are filling the car with gas in case the power goes out and the pump stopped working.
This might not be a full-blown hurricane or winter blizzard, but Patty says you need to respect Mother Nature.
“I think we have to take it seriously. Our weather has just been so erratic. We have to be prepared and have fun while it’s raining!”
And if you think about it, charge the phone, and any extra batteries you have for the phone. That way if the power goes out you can tune in to the News 8 app to keep you updated on the weather.
Just a note about SPAM policies and hosting providers. Imagine that you go online to check your company email and you are not permitted to log in to your account. Many thoughts go through one’s mind, notably, ‘could the server be down?’, ‘did my webmaster change my password without notifying me?’, or ‘jeez, is my website still there?’ So you decide to look at your home page and you see the words:
ACCESS DENIED. Your account has been suspended.
Account Suspension is a polite phrase that means, “you have been kicked out of the clubhouse.” But what is the problem? What has my webmaster done (or NOT done) to allow this transgression? Customer technical support is contacted, and to your great surprise you learn that you have been caught sending unwanted commercial emails to unsuspecting people and your name has been blacklisted. Better yet, one of your competitors was a recipient of your email and they were in the mood to make an example of you. Your sitehost receives the directive to suspend your site, and they may or may not allow you to gather up your belongings before tossing you from the server.
Zero-Tolerance Spam Policies
Many hosting providers (and domain registrars) make no bones about shutting you down for violating their Zero-Tolerance SPAM Policy. You are found guilty of violating the Terms of Service and you are shut down without warning. If you have an otherwise spotless history and cordial relationship with the site host, you may have better luck getting your website back. An example of an across-the-board anti-SPAM policy :
Sites advertised via SPAM (Spamvertised) may not be hosted on our servers. This provision includes, but is not limited to SPAM sent via fax, phone, postal mail, email, instant messaging, or usenet/newsgroups. Any account which results in our IP space being blacklisted will be immediately suspended and/or terminated.”
Are you purchasing the services of an email address provider that advertises online? Do you know how they harvested the email addresses? Is your website’s link in the body of the email? Even if you hired a service in good faith because their website claims they have thousands of potential customers eagerly awaiting your sales pitch in their Inbox, you owe your company and reputation a little due diligence. Ask how their email addresses have been harvested. Email stripping programs steal addresses from the internet for the purpose of sending unsolicited email messages. The host involved in this example does not allow mass emailing. The first promise you need to make when pleading with tech support for assistance will be that you will prevent mass emailing from recurring (forever).
It is not illegal to allow your visitors to ask to be included in your email newsletter list. There are some very effective software plug-ins for WordPress that are easy to use. In this case, emails are sent from your host mailserver, but these are confirmed, opted-in and willing recipients. Be certain that your email rate (1 email sent every 8 seconds, for instance) does not violate your host’s recommendations, and you’re good to go. All mails contain ‘unsubscribe’ links that you do not have to monitor at all.
Whether you thought your email list provider seemed reputable or not, getting blacklisted is serious for your company and all who associate with you. Your email list service must immediately cease all further mailing using your domain link forever.
The Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection provides an informative guide called The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Get a jump start on website promotion when you utilize social media in a small business. Anyone with a Facebook account has been asked to participate in “likes”, “follows” and “comments” by vendors, service providers and blog sites. You feel you should be utilizing the new social technologies in your marketing efforts, but what do you do after opening your account?
Keeping it real on Facebook
Facebook has been described as the number-one time suck on the net. As a platform for families, extended families and friends, folks can be themselves, reveal their inner children, share the fun, and continue conversations. Facebook ‘friends’ were friends, the site was a neat place to meet, share the love, plan real get-togethers, and share pictures of vacation spots and the grandkids. Many offices have their staff wired to the internet, and many people keep their facebook page open all day!
The environment for the entrepreneur and business, though, is not casual and carefree, and commentary is not always friendly. A spontaneous comment or shared political post potentially opens your thread to everyone, including people who have little else to do than spew (ever see YouTube or Yahoo comments threads?) … there are haters, spammers and flamers lurking everywhere.
This summer I found an award-winning social media marketing training resource which outlined the basic tenets of today’s major social media sites. Though Facebook dominates (today), there are new sites opening up every few months. While you may have dismissed Facebook as a fad, know that it dominates the social sharing world (today), and thousands of companies are exploiting the site as a low-cost marketing medium.
If you are like me and other busy sole-proprietors, you may have experienced “paralysis by analysis”. If you have a company Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile and a list of existing clients, I can help you learn the basics, and together we can map out a long-range plan to monetize your efforts or attract new clientele. Existing clients will be billed at my prevailing website design rates and may contract my services on a monthly basis.
In keeping pace with new technology, designing for websites now quadruples the design layouts I create. Is it my imagination, or are smart phones and tablets marketing “new and improved” upgraded versions of their devices merely months apart? The iphone, tablet/readers and pc/tablet hybrids all want to be your go-to device and seem like great tech toys for the consumer that wants to hold the world in his hands. While I see the value in personal internet portals, these new technologies are completely changing the rules of web page presentation.
Have you noticed the proliferation of highly visual messages – photography, info-graphics, jquery powered slideshows – and the decline of text on websites? Has the attention span of the public become so short that a picture must now convey the company story? Back when dial-up reigned, graphics were scarce and web pages resembled ordinary documents.
There are new protocols for website developers now that public wireless internet is ubiquitous and bandwidth abundant. Have you noticed how many websites now look like Facebook and Pinterest? What was once true for keyword and metatag selection in page text and bold headlines has been supplanted by clever subliminal messages conveyed by photography, collages and infographics. The abundance of infographics in use today gives the viewer the visual equivalent of a soundbite. The danger of marketing with chunks of imagery is that one can’t possibly make a rational decision on so little information. Maybe staring at little media screens puts your brain into a suggestive state, where positive imagery seals the deal.
I consider myself a late-bloomer and strive not to follow trendy design until I must. Last fall we completed a project that was directed by a client’s cellphone. We ultimately recoded her home page to give short chunks of information with a prominent call-to-action graphic. Complex key phrases were replaced with bullet-points. I thought it looked more like a power-point slide than a home page… but my client was already onto something I had dismissed as a fad. Since then I completely remodeled three of my sites to include more impactful graphics and slides.
Last week a telemarketer told me in the first sentence of her spiel that my company is nonexistent on Google, not user-friendly on cellphones and I need to have her company fix it. A funny fact is my Google rep told me a half-hour before that I am right at the top of local search for website design. For the past year I have contributed short posts about marketing, social media, scams, spams, and other topics from the small business point of view. My message is about what I can do for small business owners who need a dedicated webmaster to present their company story with care.
That said, I do understand the value of impactful graphics, concise messages and the new expectations of the hand-held device and the browser with a short attention span. Need a consultation? Call during regular business hours or shoot me an email!