A guest post by a good friend and colleague, Mr. Scott Kindred.
Akin to the simple “lather, rinse, repeat” instructions on your shampoo bottle, the analogy of good hygiene works well with good website strategy: Following simple instructions can produce a website that is clean, fresh and attractive.
In order to practice this principle, some very basic building blocks are needed for a successful website or business blog. These 3 items are essential to the cleanliness of your website: Domain Name, Website Hosting and Website Platform – read more in the bonus tips at the bottom of this post. They allow you to build and operate a professional website that works to grow your business.
I say cleanliness because if you do not get the right domain name, hosting and platform, you’ll end up with a messy situation that can be costly to clean up. Suggestion: go with trusted sources who provide trusted recommendations based on their own experiences. Avoid going with the cheapest or most popular just because they are cheap or popular. Remember, this is your website. Your business. Invest in it wisely.
Now back to the shampooing.
Professional appearance can make or break your website’s effectiveness. Expect to get less-than-desirable results if your website was built by the neighbor who loves making webbies as a hobby, for example. If you subscribe to the theory that you can “just throw up a web page on the Internet thing,” then you will get commensurate results. So make yours clean and crisp let your customers know you’re serious about them.
Provide a clear description of who you are
Problems you solve and how you do it should be answered within the first few seconds of arrival at your website. This is your website’s job – communicate solutions to people who have come to your website purposely and also to those who are checking you out because you were seen in their search results.
A clear message will attract a visitor’s attention immediately – most studies say within 2-3 seconds – and will give you an opportunity to encourage them to stay longer.
And doesn’t that same concept hold true for any storefront business? In fact, don’t most people already know that the store they’re going to is going to help them? That’s what generates repeat business, customer loyalty and maybe even a referral because your business got described as the best place to go. Be that same thing on the web.
Depending on your market, you should know that 70 to 85 percent of shoppers make their local buying decisions online. Regardless of what end of that percentage your business falls, it’s pretty important that you reach out effectively to 70% of your customers, yes?
But remember, providing a clear description of who you are must not include a bunch of self-describing information; it needs to be formatted to include very concise information about how your customers’ problems are solved by you.
It must address the people you have defined as your target audience.
Choose a website design and look that is straight-forward and easy for the customer to use
Easy, obvious navigation and an attractive color scheme and layout are the basics here.
Creation of a sitemap (it can look much like an organizational chart) is a vital part of the first phase of any website project. A sitemap is what defines your website’s navigation structure; many people have a sitemap that includes pages called Home, About Us, Contact Us, Our Team, Services, etc. And then there may be sub-navigation choices below those main pages. Don’t get too crazy with a complicated navigation structure and dozens of pages. It is critically important that the main navigation structure remain simple and intuitive.
For those firms who are selling research services or products – or some other commodity that does require a lot of documentation and reference – not to worry, a savvy website layout can still accommodate an easy way for people to get to that voluminous content, if they want it, without having to burden you main navigation. For example, you might have a page in your main navigation titled, “Research,” and then have that page be its own directory of links to the reference material pages that you want to present. This is a good, simple way to keep your navigation bar uncluttered and easy for everyone to use.
Collaborate with your web guy – talk about your thoughts, ideas and goals and then listen to the web guy’s perspective; he’ll usually have some good experience with what works and doesn’t work and should eagerly share that with you.
Color scheme and layout
Now, this is another fun part. This is where you get to build the look of your website, its tone and overall presentation to the public. Make it fun, odd, serious, homey, institutional, colorful or minimalistic. The choices abound! I strongly favor, and specialize in, websites built on the WordPress platform. Its awesome flexibility and huge variety of themes, plugins, styles and colors make it customizable enough to fit most any need.
When working with your web guy, be prepared to provide him with at least 5 links to websites that you like. You can like them, or just pieces of them, for various reasons but be sure to make note of your likes and dislikes for each. This is a huge help in getting your website project headed in the right direction.
Provide fresh, quality content with SEO in mind
Content is what attracts your customers and prospects, and it is what attracts the search engine bots. Bingo…the bots! I’ll just make the simple point that the bots must find (and like) your content in order for your website to do well in search engine results. And once you are doing well in the search engine results, you will start to see more customers. Building and maintaining your website with SEO as a priority is not only very smart, it’s a necessity. That is the long-story-short.
Organic SEO steps can begin as an investment of your time or a combination of your time and that of a hired professional guide. Keywords and other meta tags, proper use of HTML code, social media integration and developing quality backlinks are among the basic actions you can take to begin improving your SEO, organically. Check my post for Tips And A Tool For SEO to get free help with meta tags.
The experience of SEO professionals, like Mike Glover here at Click Finders, is an invaluable asset to have on your side. When the time is right, plan to invest in your website’s SEO by hiring Mike and, at the same time, plan to handle the influx of website traffic and customers that you are going to see. I always advocate including SEO planning at the very beginning of every website project.
A business blog is the best way to deliver the fresh content and to achieve your SEO goals. Committing to regular blogging is a must. The two best ways to accomplish regular blogging is to do it yourself or to hire a knowledgeable person to do the writing for you.
“No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog.” -Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs.
Use a fresh look for your website
Avoiding anything with misaligned photos, graphics and/or text content. I know, it sounds odd that I would even bring it up in this day and age… but when you start to take note of how many websites smell like 1995 (or older), or that have the footer’s copyright date showing something pretty stale – and old functionality to match – you will see the beauty of having your website stand out as professional, modern and user friendly.
Imagery is a very important consideration. It can include photographs, fonts, art, icons, etc. Opt to pay for quality imagery rather than using clipart, overused stock images or personal snapshots that just don’t make the grade. Know that your customer will form first impressions based on the imagery they see in that first 2-3 seconds, and beyond.
Invite them to come in! Show them others whose problems have been solved. Provide a call to action or easy way for customers to contact you.
Many websites follow the concept of having the business’ contact information on each page. I subscribe to this concept and implement it whenever the website’s layout allows for it and whenever it does not negatively impact the website’s appearance.
A call to action, such as signing up for your newsletter, entering your contest or give-away drawing, downloading your free report or coupon, or anything else that your imagination births, can be highly effective ways to reach and retain your customers.
Your call to action may see more action if it’s an invitation rather than a pitch; this is a mix of advice and personal opinion on my part. I simply despise the “Sell! Sell! Sell!” approach and will not patronize it. Are you like that, too? Think about which one you respond to more favorably and what you think your customers will prefer.
Do these 3 things repeatedly and consistently and you will see results! None of it happens overnight.
Think of this: if you don’t do the work to shampoo your hair every day, you end up with bedhead and your hair looks unattractive, right? The solution to that problem is, “lather, rinse, repeat.”
Giving your business website the same attention, regularly, will yield results.
Here are 3 quick bonus tips on how to avoid trouble with your website’s building blocks:
1. Domain name
Expect to pay $10-$15 per year. The free and cheap domain names are rarely free, nor are they cheap when renewal time comes around. Critical consideration: make sure YOU own the domain name – not the company you buy it through, don’t buy through a reseller and make sure you have full control of the administration of the domain name. This is usually accomplished through a control panel at the domain name Registrar.
2. Website Hosting
Expect to pay $100-$120 per year for quality, standard hosting. This should give you a hosting plan that includes unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, email addresses, and the latest releases of MySQL, PHP, as highlights. Be on the lookout for plans with outdated software and for off-shore customer support. I recommend using Dreamhost to make sure ALL your bases are covered. I use them religiously – all of my personal and business needs are hosted at Dreamhost and 90% of my clients use them, too.
3. Website Platform
Expect to pay $0 (yes, zero) for the platform and expect to save hundreds or thousands in website development costs. Advocating WordPress for small businesses not only solves problems for owners and website administrators, but it also allows me to just plain help people. WordPress is free. It’s support community is huge and its themes, plugins, framework options and ever-evolving improvements explain why it is the most widely-used CMS platform in the world. Get it, use it and like it – I did!
This year marks a total of more than 14 million installations of self-hosted WordPress, worldwide.
Wrapping all three of these together as a single component to be handled by your web guy is the best way to proceed, whenever possible. It allows him to have direct access to what he needs during the build process, it gives you peace of mind that everything is properly coordinated rather than fragmented between entities, and at the end of the project – you own it all!
Find more information about the building blocks in this post on my blog: Avoid Feeling Like An Arse: Website Building Blocks
Author: Scott Kindred is owner of SafeHouse Web in Hollister, California. A trusted friend to small businesses and nonprofit organizations who want help building a professional website and productive online presence. Specializing in WordPress; a generalist in social media and organic SEO, with a sweet tooth for marketing all of it together. Contact Scott today at Safehouse Web.
Top 8 WordPress Plugins
Disclaimer: I make no representations here or otherwise about compatibility of plug-ins with versions of WordPress. It is up to you to determine whether or not a particular version of a plug-in is suitable for use with your blog. Also – These are our personal favorites. You may feel free to add others below in the comment section. You may also comment on these if you don’t like them, however, again…they are our favs, not yours, so don’t take it too personal ;-)!
It’s no secret that all of us here at click-finders.com absolutely love the WordPress blogging platform! It simply is the best, all around, easy to use blog available today. What makes it so great? Here’s a short list:
There are over 100 FREE Templates to use
It’s very customizable
It’s very Search Engine Friendly
It provides for seamless integration into your existing site
And lastly….there are 100’s (if not thousands) of plug-ins to help make your blogging life easier, more efficient and downright enjoyable!
Hands down, my number one question from other bloggers is “Mike, what are your favorite plug-ins for WordPress?”. So here they are in no particular order.
WordPress Database Backup – Speaks for itself. There are many database backups out there. Make sure you install one that backs up everything you need it too.
Google XML SiteMaps – An absolute necessity if you want Google to properly index and crawl your blog. This plug-in makes it all as easy a few clicks and then automatically rebuilds and resubmits your site map on each new post! Could it be any easier?
All In One SEO Pack – Essential tool for making sure your posts are search engine friendly. Each post is scrutinized and optimized by Title, Description and Keywords. You set them all and then choose whether or not to use SEO on every post.
Cbnet Ping Optimizer – Pinging the search engines and blog services is paramount if you want to promote your blog and build a following. This nifty little plug-in takes care of this task for you. All you have to do is the sites you want to be pinged on each post and this little baby does the rest. The best part is, if you have to go back and tweak a post, it will not re-ping the services again. Pinging them too much can get you banned. Hit me up on my email if you want my active ping list!
Subscribe 2 – Nice little email subscription service for your readers. Let’s them sign up via email for a notice every time you make a new post.
Social Media Plug-ins – You have to have….let me say that again….YOU HAVE TO HAVE social media integrated into your blog nowadays. The search engines look for it and your readers will demand it. Make it easy for them to share your work. Here are a couple of the ones I use. There are many though, so make sure you select the ones you like and work for your blog.
Simple Twitter Widget
Facebook Likes It
Addthis Social Bookmarking (with FREE analytics)
Akismet – Anti-spam plug-in for comment section and trackbacks. Very nice and easy to use interface and I find that it cuts down like 99% of all spam. A must for anyone promoting your site actively, because once the spammers find it, you will be flooded with spam comments and links.
SMU Manual Do-Follow – A must have for SEO 2.0 enthusiasts. The part about this plug-in I like is that I can assign parameters for do-follow (3 approved posts before do-follow status) or I can do 100% manual do-follow activation. Either way, the choice is always mine.
As you can see…these are just a few. I am sure that there are lot’s more (and maybe better ones) than the ones I listed here. If you know of any, please feel free to share them in the comments section! Until then…Happy Blogging to you all ! ! !
It’s the same I suppose, across all industries, not just SEO Services. You work hard for each and every sale. You make contact, build trust, present your ideas/solutions, negotiate pricing and then get the contract signed. Anyone want to guess what comes next? That’s right…the very next question is “how long before I start to see results?” Or, “why am I not seeing results sooner?” Now we, like any reputable SEO company out there would, do a pretty good job of explaining the process of SEO and estimating time frames for ranking results during the sales process. However, that still does not stop the questions or comments about why and exactly how long it is taking to start seeing results. So in the spirit of sharing some “tid-bits” of information I have learned over the years, the following article is all about the question “why am I not seeing results yet?”
“In a perfect world, you would be able to place your order for SEO on Monday and by the time you came into the office on Tuesday, you would be ranked number #1. Oh wait, that’s PPC!”
So let’s take a look at the SEO paradigm and break it down a little so we can understand what goes into an SEO package (if done properly) and what three factors play a role in the deliverables of any good SEO Services program.
Pick any two
In the above graphic, please note the four tiers of the SEO Triangle (more on each of these in a later post). They are the basic building blocks of any successful SEO program. The problem is that they all take time, money and energy to create good quality (or better yet…GREAT Quality) results. So if we agree that we have to have great quality results, that we want those results as quickly as possible and that we want to pay only what we absolutely have to and not a penny more…how do we decide what happens next?
“When it comes right down to it, you cannot have all of the above three triangle points (Quality, Speed and Low Cost). I tell my clients who don’t understand this that they can pick any two. Here’s what I mean by that…”
Pick any two! That’s right, you can only have two out of the three items on the triangle (Quality, Cost and Time). Which ones do you want? They invariably look at me like I have lost my mind, but after a quick explanation they understand and then make their selections and we go to work. Here is how I break it down;
Option 1 – I Want High Quality and I Want it Fast
Easy enough. If you don’t care what the cost is or have an unlimited budget, we can go as fast as possible (while still maintaining a natural look to Google) and get right to work to accelerate your SEO program. Again, your price is likely to be very high for this work. There is also an element of risk with any “accelerated” SEO program because Google may flag too much activity as un-natural and penalize your site for that activity. Only go this route with an experienced SEO that knows where the edge of the envelope is so you don’t fall off!
Option 2 – I Want it Fast and I Do Not Want to Pay a Lot
This is where most people get into trouble. There are a lot of SEO’s out there who promise you fast results like “top of Google in 30 days”. The bad part is that some people actually fall for this stuff. Let me explain one scenario that I have seen over and over again. Let’s say you own a web site that sells baby products like diapers, clothes, feeding bottles and more. Maybe you built the site yourself or had someone else build it, either way, the site has never been optimized for search engines. What these low level (I hesitate to call them scammers) SEO’s do is promise you top of Google in 30 days for only $250.00 or your money back! Or worse, no charge until you are on top and then it’s $250.00/month while you stay there. Let’s face it folks, anyone can get a web site to rank for “Tallahassee Baby Supplies by Joan, Inc.” in less than 30 days but how much traffic is that going to bring you? Is that a keyword that Google has indexed and shown as having “X” amount of traffic per month? I highly doubt it.
Option 3 – I Want High Quality and Low Cost
You can have a high quality SEO program at a very affordable rate if you don’t care that it takes 5 years to rank well for your keywords. Again, an effective SEO program does require a lot of effort and expense. The longer you allow for results the more the work can be spread out over a greater period of time and thus you have a lower monthly out lay. Please note that in the end, you may actually end up spending more for the final product.
“You get what you pay for. I grew up hearing my dad say that over and over. I learned that lesson at a very early age and it has served me well over the years. When I do get the occasional urge to try and skimp somewhere, it almost always comes back and bites me.”
Pick your SEO Services firm carefully. Make sure you ask the kind of questions that will give you the comfort level you need. A little bit of research on your part will go a long way and empower you to be able to ask some of these questions. In the end, people usually do business with people they trust. If your SEO Services vendor has not yet earned that trust, then why would you give them your business?
One last thought on cost…most SEO Firms will evaluate each customer individually and are capable of building custom plans that allow even the smallest of businesses to begin an SEO Program regardless of pricing shown on their web site or printed materials. If you think you cannot afford SEO, ask your SEO Vendor for a custom “starter plan”. If they are reputable, know what they are doing, they should be able to craft a plan that you can afford that will deliver some benefit to your SEO program. From there you can grow your business and therefore the SEO can EARN more business from you once you start to grow.
Social Media and Your SEO Program
You just can’t ignore it any more. Social Media is here to stay and now it’s a part of SEO. How prevalent is Social Media in today’s world? Take a look at this video and then you tell me…and while you watch it, keep in mind it is almost 1 year old, which means it is already obsolete and the information needs to be updated again. I think you will find it “eye opening” as to the shear numbers using and joining social networls. No wonder the search engines could no longer ignore this new and over whelming endeavor.
But you decide for yourself. Is Social media hear to stay? Or is it a passing fad that will come and go like “parachute pants” in the 80’s?
If you have wondered whether or not Social Media has an impact on your Search Engine Results Page ranking, you are not alone. If you have ever suspected Google, Yahoo and Bing of using Social Media in their algorithms then again, you are not alone, nor are you wrong.
“Ignore Social Media to you own detriment. If you ignore it, it won’t go away, it won’t help you all by itself. You have to get involved and interact in this new on-line world. Otherwise, your business will suffer and possibly wilt away while your competition soars to new heights”
In December of 2010, Matt Cutts posted a video on Youtube that basically says Google is using “social media signals” in the SERP’s (search engine results pages). Bing followed suite shortly after.
So what is a “social media signal’? Good question. A social media signal is anything that a “user” or subscriber interacts with on any social media. It could be a “like button” or “tweet this” button. It could be as simple as a user posting a link to a site on the FaceBook page, Twitter Account, YouTube or any number of other “social media” outlets. Now, please do not confuse this with “link-building”. The search engines are not indexing links from these sites…at least not yet. They are however using these signals to determine whether or not a web site is legitimate or spam. For instance, if you own a web site and have a nice size following on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube (just to name a few), then you are more than likely going to be given more credibility with the search engines. Why? Because the search engines see that your peers and customers are interacting with you on these sites and that you are truly providing something valuable to them.
“Bottom line is this….You ABSOLUTELY need to be using this to benefit your business and your search engine rankings. It’s a chance to share with, interact with and build loyalty with customers and potential customers that you cannot afford to miss”
As and SEO Services company, we always encourage and even help our clients set up, use and build their social networking platforms. It’s an essential part of today’s business world. And it will only grow in popularity and necessity. That’s why click-finders.com will always recommend starting your social media marketing program yesterday!