The Problem with Content

On the Internet, content is king.  If you want to be ranked in the search engines, the best thing you can do is put original content on your website.

We often have existing or potential customers get very enthusiastic about generating content for their site as we extoll the virtues of doing so. And they often follow their content generation plan very religiously . . .  for at least a week or two. But then other bright shiny objects grab their attention and they wander away from their schedule. Sometimes they never return.

Everyone can write, right? Sure we aren’t all the best spellers or best grammaticians. But who knows your business better than you? So it can’t be that hard to write a few lines of content. Or maybe you love to write. You can easily fill page after page about what you do.

But is your content web-ready? Is it optimized for search? Have you considered the placement of key words and key word phrases? There are a myriad of web specific things to understand and implement into your web site content.

  • Is it in a web-friendly font?
  • Is it broken up into digestible chunks?
  • Do longer paragraphs have visual cues to help readers quickly grasp the main points?
  • Have you used headings?
  • Have you used subheadings?
  • What is the call to action in your text?
  • How much information is too much?
  • Will your content look good on mobile devices?
  • How much information should you include so search engines can properly index your page?
  • Are there any visuals you can use along with your text to illustrate key points?
  • Did you actually use any of your key words or keyword phrases?
  • Does your keyword phrase appear in the first paragraph of content?
  • And the list goes on . . .

And what happens if you don’t consider any of these questions?

Most likely your site will be lower in the search rankings than you would like. Most likely you will attract fewer visitors. Most likely the visitors that you do attract will not be as meaningfully engaged as you would like. Most likely your site won’t perform for you. It won’t help you grow and attract new business. It won’t help you engage existing customers. And then you’ll blame your web design team for building a poor site.

Don’t get in trouble with your content. Instead, turn to someone who gets content and understands how the web works. If you choose not to have us do it, choose someone who is well-qualified. If you do choose to work with us, contact us today to get started.

 

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Building Your Brand Digitally

We work with a lot of smaller companies who tell us straight up that they are too small or below the radar to have a brand.

We say hogwash!

Every single organization – for profit or non-profit – has a brand. Included in the brand are tangible and intangible things like:

  • Reputation
  • Logo
  • Standing of the leaders of the organization
  • Iconic images
  • Presence on the internet (web site)
  • Presence on social media
  • A song or ditty that represents your organization
  • What your customers think of you
  • A particular phrase or tag line that people associate with you

You can control a lot of these aspects of your brand digitally and those that you can’t control, you can still influence.

If you hear of a company or meet someone interesting at an event and immediately do an internet search for them or their website, you can understand the power of your digital brand. Sure it is easy for the big brands. I actually rewrote the first sentence of this paragraph, changing “google” to “do an internet search for”.  We get the big brands, from Nike’s swoosh to McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” to the theme song for “Game of Thrones”. But for “little brands” like you and I, what are we to do?

First thing is to do a search for your name. Don’t add a “.com” or “.org” on the end. Just your name. And look at the results. Check beyond Google. At least add Bing into the mix. Do you like what you see? Here are some things to look for:

  • Does your company or organization dominate all the listings? It should.
  • Have you claimed your location on each site you search on?
  • Are the images the location associates with you appropriate to your brand?
  • Are there reviews of your business? If so, are they favorable?
  • Do any of your competitors appear in the results?

If you don’t like any of the answers to these questions, we can help. Want to do it yourself? Here are key things to do:

  1. Claim your location in search engines like Google and Bing (and any others that pertain to you)
  2. Upload photos and other images that are related to you in your location profile
  3. Encourage happy customers to provide favorable reviews on sites like Google and Yelp
  4. Make sure you have a social media presence. If for no other reason, do it so that your search listings will have more links to your brand.
  5. Make sure your website is optimized for search engine indexing so that all of your pages will appear in search results.
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Little Data

In the Internet world, Big Data is a big buzz word. With the right tools huge volumes of data can be digested, analyzed, and summarized with amazing speed. Technology like this is what is driving technical inroads in an array of industries from understanding the human genome to making digital currency like Bitcoin to understanding shopping patterns of given demographic segments.

But what about Little Data? Your little website. It may not be as big as Facebook or have as many visitors as Amazon or Walmart but there is still an incredible amount of data that is available from your slice of the Internet. So how can you turn little data into a big benefit?

  • Email tracking
    Every mass emailer (aWeber, iContact, MailChimp, Robly , etc) has a variety of tools that can help you track the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Some of the key metrics you should look for include Total Opens, Unique Opens, Unique Clicks, Click to Open Rate, and Device type (responsive)
  • Social Media tracking
    You can track just about everything with social media. Some of the key things that will be of value to you though include: how many visitors to your website you got from social media, how many friends, followers or fans you have on your profile or your company profile, how many shares or views your posts or articles got and so much more
  • Site analytics (Google Analytics or some other analytics package)
    What started off as a way to track the number of visitors has now become a very sophisticated way to track any number of activities both on your website and prior to arriving – and even after leaving for that matter. You can learn what your visitors do, what devices they use, how fast your site is, create funnels and track actions
  • Call Tracking
    There are a variety of services that you can set up that will help you to track where your calls are coming from – from a specific landing page for a specific campaign, from a social media campaign or even from a print campaign
  • Campaign tracking (with specific landing pages or domains)
    You can create custom urls or even custom domains to run and track specific campaigns. Running an end of the year campaign to boost sales? You could have a special url (sometimes called a purl for personalized url) like http:// <your-domain>/christmas and track all the clicks to that link.

So even with Little Data (the data that you have available to you on your little slice of the internet) you can harness the power of Big Data and get a much clearer picture of what is actually happening. You can then design a specific plan to get that traffic to take the action(s) that you want them to – whether it be make a purchase, fill out a form, make a phone call, sign up for a seminar or some other factor that is part of your conversion process.

Need help figuring out how to do this for your site? Call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4.

 

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Is Page Speed Important?

Not long ago I wrote an article on Page Speed. Since then, page speed has continued to climb in importance.  How Google’s algorithm for ranking pages works is the secret sauce that makes them who they are. But we do know that pages that load fast are moving up in importance in the algorithm.

So what can be done?

There are a few things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your web page loading time.

  • Optimize your images. Nearly every site we test has images that can be better optimized for display on the web. Remember, more and more people are using mobile devices as their sole connection to the internet. So having big images will slow them down and often not display as well as images that are optimized for mobile.
  • Tell your site to use browser caching. While there are different ways of doing this from the technical – like manually editing your .htaccess file – to much simpler – like installing  a caching plugin, this one change can score you points with page speed and ultimately provide a better user experience.
  • Make sure you are displaying the proper size of images. Together with point # 1, you can become the ace of images by making sure that you are displaying an image at 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, that your image is 300 pixels X 400 pixels. If you’re loading an image that is 600 X 800 and then displaying it at 300 X 400, you can get a 50% reduction by resizing that image. This is pretty easy to do. I sometimes do this in Windows using the Paint program and it can be done in seconds, not minutes.
  • Deliver your files with compression. Windows users will be familiar with zipped files. That is pretty much the same concept here. Telling your web server to deliver files using gzip usually improves your page speed a bit.

Why do you want to have a fast site? There are two main reasons. First comes the user experience. If people visiting your site are met with spinning icons as your page slowly loads, they’ll likely feel like they’re spinning their wheels and go elsewhere.  Second is search engines. Having a fast-loading web page is one of the “search signals”. A search signal is a factor that Google or other search engine uses to determine how to rank a page for different key words.  While it is but one of many signals, since it also fits with a better user experience, we HIGHLY recommend optimizing your site for speed using one of the tools in the previous article

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What is a Near Me Search and Why Should I Care?

You have all seen it. It is an integral part of search these days. You are out and about. You decide to look for a good place for lunch. Searching for “restaurants” works but if you want to be clear with your search, you can say “restaurants near me” and up comes the list. This is “near me” search and you need this for your listing.

While this makes a lot of sense for local sensitive places like restaurants, coffee shops or (my favorite) brew pubs, it is important for businesses all across the spectrum.

A mantra we often hear in business is “Shop Local” because by supporting local businesses we support local jobs. I know several people who will not go for coffee at Starbucks and will not have lunch at whatever the convenient big chain is. Instead they go out of their way to find the local coffee shop and independently owned restaurant to do business at.

In the same way people go out of their way to select the independent hair stylist, the local plumber, the local cpa and yes a local (or at least domestic) web design firm.

Still not convinced it matters to you? Let’s dig in a bit deeper. From 2014 to 2015 the traffic from “near me” searches doubled. At the same time, Google’s organic listings are LESS likely to have the magic 10 on the first page or results, opting instead for, on average, 8.5 listings. So being ranked 9 or 10 in the “organic” listings can bump you from the first page but being near where someone searches for you can pull your site or business up.

How do you optimize your local business listing for near me searches? Here is a high level overview of what you need to do:

  • Claim your business if you haven’t already: www.google.com/business for Google or www.bingplaces.com for Bing (we recommend avoiding the Yext and YP type services that will do this for you – you’ll pay a lot for an ongoing service that usually just needs done once)
  • Make sure your address is IDENTICAL everywhere – on Google and Bing, on your web site, on any other sites or groups that might list you. This leaves no room for ambiguity as to whether it is the same business or same address. No ambiguity is a very good thing when it comes to search.
  • Complete the business profile as much as you can. Put in your hours. Put in all of the information that is asked for, including photos. Make the images be real photos of you and your office and your team.
  • Encourage happy customers to give reviews for you. If you Google your business, you should see it on the right. From there your customer can click on Write a Review and tell the world how happy they are with you.
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Running the Wrong Race

This last week I had an email conversation that went something like this:

Potential Customer: I’m interested in what you do – how much does it cost?
Me: Well, we build websites to meet our customers’ needs and business goals. What are yours?
PC: I already have a web site, how could you help me grow and become more visible?

And that was when I knew this guy was running the wrong race.  If you have a VW and you think you’re going to race it in NASCAR. . .  well you only win that race in Disney movies.  We still had a good conversation and he is considering his options but that conversation surfaces the biggest issue we see in the digital marketing arena today.

If you have built your website to display your wares like the ancient markets where, on market day people would walk by and some would stop and buy from you and you want a powerful, inbound campaign that brings people to you, you need to start with your web presence in general and your website specifically.

How do you gain a new customer now? What is the decision point when you know “I just got a new customer!” If that isn’t built into your website, how will it help you grow? Take some time to ponder this. It really is the crux of the matter and key to winning the race.

Understanding the key decision point(s) your customers face and then putting that into your site shows your customers you understand their pain. Why does every mortgage lender have a mortgage calculator on their site? That is the issue or pain their customers face – “How much will I be paying?” While that is important, everyone (all mortgage lenders) do that. So what is the decision point that comes up when your customers choose you? That is the issue to build into your website.

Once you have your site optimized to help you attract and capture new leads or more business, then you’re ready to run the race – whether it be Search Engine Optimization, Paid Advertising, Social Media Marketing, email marketing or some combination thereof.

Whatever you decide, if you think we might be able to help you, give us a call today at 303-268-2245 and ask for Brian.

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Web site – Marketing Vehicle or Sales Tool?

“Our web site is just a brochure” , “We don’t get any business from our web site – it is just there to help close the deal”, “We want our website to help generate more leads”, “Our new donation portion of the website generated a 350% return on our investment in one year”. These are just a few of the many quotes we hear from customers.  Often the focus is on web site marketing. But the first question you should ask yourself is, How does our site fit in to our business?

Notice that the question is not “How does your site fit in to your marketing plan?” For for-profit businesses the customer cycle is generally:

Attract -> Engage -> Convert -> Retain

And non-profit organizations have a similar but slightly different cycle:

Attract -> Connect -> Engage -> Inspire

In both cases the first step in the cycle is attract. And for most web design firms and web customers, that is, unfortunately, as far as the conversation goes. The web site is seen purely as a marketing vehicle to attract eyeballs. But that is missing a lot of opportunity.

A well-planned and well-designed website can and should help with every step of the customer cycle. Sure it should help attract new people. That is marketing 101 and careful planning needs to go into how your website fits into your marketing so you can get the most from it for the marketing perspective. But what is the next step?

Once you have attracted someone to your site, what do you do with them? This is one of the biggest problems with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. You drive a lot of people to your site but have given little to no thought of what to do with them once you’re there.

This is where you want to engage them with your offerings or connect them with opportunities. But only a little at a time.  If you give people too many choices, they will likely select “None of the above” and go to a different site.

Of course, for an ecommerce site it is easy to measure conversions. The same thing applies to a non-profit with online donations. But what other opportunities might you be missing if that is all you are measuring? A newsletter sign up, for example, could be more valuable over the long term than getting that first time visitor to buy or donate.  Regular contact can turn into a bigger customer or a major donor.

Whether you acquired the customer through your website or through other means, have you considered how your website can serve to retain and even inspire? Creating an account and interacting, either with your organization or other users can be a fantastic retention tool.

When choosing a firm to assist with your web site, look beyond the glitz and fancy moving parts. Are they taking the time to understand your organization and how they can help you grow? If so, congratulations! If not, contact EduCyber at 303 268-2245 – Brian is at extension 4.

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8 Awesome Internet Marketing Steps Our Customers Do to Grow Their Business

Internet marketing – marketing your business through digital channels like your web site, social media and other Internet venues – is not as difficult as it sounds. Try it

  • Continually add testimonials and positive feedback from customers. They don’t have to brag about how good they are. They let their customers do the bragging for them and now it doesn’t sound like bragging. It is simply another satisfied customer.
  • Post updates to their blog on a regular basis (multiple times a month). This helps establish them as thought leaders by posting new information regularly. It also tells search engines and visitors that they are current.
  • Post to social media – whether it be FB or LinkedIn or other venues – regularly with links back to their web site. This attracts visitors from social media that wouldn’t otherwise make it to their web site.
  • Use good SEO tactics when posting new content or updating existing content. There are plugins and tools that help you do this and make it much easier to do well.
  • Create specials whether it be products or services and integrate them into the website. Using time sensitive specials helps create the urgency that gets them to take action
  • Keep their code up-to-date – actually we do this for them but it keeps their customer info secure and helps protect them from hackers.
  • Use email marketing to stay in touch with their customers. Effective newsletters help you stay in touch with your customers and drive them back to your website where you can re-engage them and get more business.
  • Create hooks that engage web visitors and helps convert them to customers. Some use forms, others actually have us create applications that pull them in and give them value.
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Begin with the End

Some of the complaints we’ve heard over the years:

  1. I tried a Facebook campaign. It didn’t work.
  2. Our website doesn’t really generate any business for us, it is just a brochure.
  3. I don’t’ know whether our website brings any business or not.
  4. My clients don’t have time to read blogs so I’m not going to blog.

And every one of these complaints were voiced during a client interview (to see if we would work together).

The problem in each case is that these potential clients started with where they were at currently instead of where they wanted to be. So though you may think it goes without saying, it doesn’t.

You should start your internet marketing with the end in mind. In every case, yes every case, people want to grow their business. But what that means for marketing and how their website fits in to the bigger marketing campaign is never the same.

Think about how you get new customers. If you are a non-profit organization, how do you get more donors? More volunteers? If you a service based organization, how do you generate more leads? At what point in the sales process do you usually close the deal? If you are a product-based organization,  the question is easier – how do you sell more stuff? But it isn’t necessarily an easier answer. Instead of asking themselves “How can we sell more iPads and iPhones” Apple asked themselves, what else can we sell to people that are already buying our stuff? And they came up with the Apple Watch.  So you really need to ask yourself the hard questions – Are we selling everything to our customers that we can? Are there other needs that we can meet? Are there other markets that we can create? Many of us didn’t know until a month or so ago that we needed a fancy watch. Now we do.

Once you have the outcome determined, building a website that works is much easier. Suddenly your “just a brochure” site becomes a lead generating machine. Your “validation of who we are” site becomes a “scheduling follow up meetings” engine that keeps your sales schedule full. Your “we don’t know if our site generates business” site becomes a “we closed a record number of deals thanks to our site” tool that sets you above your competition. Your “unplanned social media campaign” suddenly begins to send people to your site to schedule meetings or buy stuff.

Did you end up with a website that doesn’t know where it is going? Contact us today!

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Web Site Development: A Case Study

In 2010 EduCyber began meeting with representatives from the Lariat Loop regarding a redesign of their web site. We sat down with them for a 90 minute discussion on what their goals were and how the web site could help them meet their goals.

During the discussion, as we brainstormed ways to make the web site more “sticky” – getting people to visit for longer periods of time and, more importantly, how to make the Loop itself more sticky, we realized that a trip planner would be useful.

Background – the Lariat Loop is a 46 mile scenic byway that winds through the communities of Golden, Evergreen and Morrison. Some of the coolest sites in Colorado can be found on the loop – Lookout Mountain, Coors Brewery, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge, Evergreen Lake House, Boettcher Mansion and Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum to name just a few.

Each of these attractions has their own web site and we also want to drive visitors from the Lariat Loop web site to the various attractions. The thing that sets lariatloop.org apart from the rest though is the trip planner. You can visit the site, add as many different locations as you want to your trip, change the order you’ll visit them and then get turn by turn instructions on how to get to each location.

With sophisticated mapping, the opportunity for each location to have its own page and to link back to their site, along with ways to release press releases and showcase events, lariatloop.org has literally taken off.

In the last six months the site has experienced a 94% increase in unique visitors and more than 250% increase in visits from search engines.

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