Brand. Brand. Brand. It really IS all about brand. We’ve worked with several small businesses who started out saying that they were too small to need a brand. As they saw it working though, they realized that even their small business benefited from having a brand.
There are lots of good resources for building your brand and understanding how to build your brand. Here’s the first video in a series of videos on branding your small business.
Are you saying “But I don’t have a brand”, let’s stop and think about it for a minute. Pull out your business cards. Take a look at your brochure. Point your browser to your web site. And ask yourself these questions:
- What images do you see?
- Are there similar or identical images?
- Do those images / pictures / clipart resonate with you?
- What colors are you using consistently? Do they represent who you are?
- Are there other images that more accurately reflect your business?
- Are there colors missing from our schemes?
If you need help with your brand we can help you and partner with some of our colleagues who specialize in this area. Give us a call if you’d like some help or a referral. Once your colors and brand are determined, make sure that you integrate it or have your web designer integrate it into your web site.
In this seventh question in the 10 questions to take your web site to the next level, we look at how to determine whether your site is ranked or not.
A simple search can show you if your site is ranked in the top 10 or not. But you have to know what people are searching for. For example, we recently redesigned the smithlaws.com web site. A part of that redesign was preparing it for the search engines. Through one of our research tools (Nichebot), we discovered a combination of key words that people are searching for none of the competition is optimizing their sites for. We’ll just come right out and tell you. The law firm of Kevin C. Smith is a personal injury law practice. One of the terms we were researching was denver workers compensation lawyer. The research showed that adding Pinnacol (the state of Colorado’s largest worker’s comp insurance company) to the phrase could get some highly targeted traffic, we knew we were on to something.
So when you ask yourself “Is my site ranked?”, you need to think carefully, “ranked for what?”
Doing keyword research is very important but you can also get get ideas about how your site ranks for key phrases by examining your web statistics. Google analytics or awstats are two methods that we use to track what happens on sites. By looking at the stats, you can see what people are actually searching for in the search engines when they click through to your site. This information can be used to figure out if and how your site is ranked. This in turn can help you determine how and what search engine marketing strategies you need to implement in your site.
Now the conversation turns very clearly to Search Engine Marketing (SEM). There are many facets to SEM. Two of the biggest are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC).
So first you must determine what key words your customers search for. Notice how I worded that. Not what you think they search for but what they actually do search for. Many business owners are so focused on what they are selling that they don’t take time to realize what their customers are buying. For example, a hair stylist might think she is selling “professionally styled hair” while her ideal customer might be searching for “good haircut” at a “good price”.
There are several good free tools that will help you determine other related keywords. We really like and recommend the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. When I visit this site and type in “good haircut” and then add one more word so that I don’t get jobs in Australia or Alaska: “Denver”. The tool returns 34 possible other words I should look at. Some are obvious like “beauty salon haircut” and “best haircut Denver” but there are a few very nice surprises there as well, like “prom haircut” and “wedding haircut” that would probably be very customers.
The beauty of this tool is that you can also see what the competition is for a certain keyword. If you find some that have lots of searches but little competition, you have just found a niche that you can capitalize on.
Work with your website designer to optimize your site and then you are ready to with SEO and PPC. We’ll deal with both of these with the next question.
This question has a simple answer. In a word “Good content”. OK, that’s two words. Taking the time to write or get good content on your site is the single best way to keep people coming back. A larger site with lots of visitors can create a forum where people can come to create community. If your site is smaller, this can be counter-productive though.
Having a stale site, with out any fresh content, certainly isn’t going to help people come back although it might not hurt your search engine rankings. But having a fresh site with new or regularly changing content will provide a hook that keeps people coming back for more.
Here are 5 ways you can provide people a reason to keep coming back:
- Offer seasonal / monthly / weekly specials for your products or services.
- Become an expert in your field. Publish an e-newsletter demonstrating your expertise.
- Write your very own web blog – (blog). It isn’t nearly as difficult as it may sound and it is another way of becoming an expert in your field while also demonstrating your mastery of cyberspace.
- Write articles for other web sites. There are article directories that would be happy to help you share your expertise.
- If you’re not a writer, you can get good articles from a variety of sources and post them to your web site.
Understanding clearly what it is that you offer, and who’s buying it, can help you take your business to the next level. If you offer a service for example – say you trim trees for homeowners – then you have an obvious niche that you serve. If you’re based in Wheat Ridge (like we are) you can say you serve the Denver Metro Area. You don’t want someone from New Jersey contacting you about trimming their trees and they don’t want to waste their time either. So you can focus on your immediate area.
Continuing on the localization theme, why not target the key phrase “Wheat Ridge” or “Wheat Ridge tree trimmer”? Sure there many only be a handful of people who search for that each year. But wouldn’t you want those people to be your customers? So localization is one way of determining your niche.
But there are others. The constant message I hammer is Define Your Target. Some of my customers get hung up on the fact that “well my target is here but I also have customers over in this category”. Don’t think about that! Define your ideal target customer. Then develop all of your marketing, including your web site marketing strategies, around that target. When you’re playing darts, you never hit the bullseye with every dart. But the more you practice aiming straight for the bullseye, the better you get at hitting it. And some of your darts will inevitably end up missing the target all together. Same with your clients. Some will not be anything like your target. And that’s OK. But the more you aim for your target, the more customers you’ll get that are in close to your idea.
Other examples of defining your niche or target:
Deal in Real Estate? Residential or Commercial? New homes or existing homes? Sell alot of ranch homes? A lot of tudor homes?
Selling stick dolls online? Who has been buying them? What do you know about them? Mostly female? Mostly in their 30’s? Single? Married? Buying for themselves? Buying as a gift?
Once you’ve defined your niche, make sure that you’re targeting keywords that fit that niche. Also if you have identified a certain demographic, use tools such as Claritas or Mark Kassof (focuses on Radio but a lot of carryover to the web) to help you understand how to target that niche that you have defined.
OK, once you’ve got a plan (the goals for your web site) and you have a marketing plan (what will drive people to your site?) its time to figure out what you want people to do when they get to your site. This is a pretty basic concept and yet one that is often overlooked.
There are various actions that you, as a web site owner, may want your visitors to do on any given page or process of pages. These actions will make the most sense if we start with: “I want the visitor to”
- call for a quote or appointment
- fill out a form requesting more information
- join my newsletter
- buy something from my online store
- create a profile on my blog
- contribute their expertise on my forum
- tell three friends about my site
This is by no means a complete list but hopefully helps you think about what you want to accomplish with your site. Once you understand WHAT you want people to do, you can begin to figure out HOW they should do it.
Once I asked a client whose ad campaign we were managing what he wanted the visitor who clicked through to a particular page to do. He replied “I want to educate them.” I waited a few seconds and finally he came out with “Eventually I want them to call me.” That made my next question very easy – “Where is your phone number?” I asked. “Oh.”
The next day he had not only put his phone number very prominently on the page, he had also created a page that let visitors ask for more information online. The point of the story is that once you have determined what you want people to do on your page, make sure it is easy for them to do it.
As we continue to examine the top 10 questions each business owner needs to consider when taking their site to the next level, we look at question 2: How do I expect people to find my site?
The Kevin Costner approach in Field of Dreams does not work. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken with people who honestly believe “If I build it, they will come.” But it just isnt’ so. If you want to get people to come to visit your site, you have to have a plan to market that site.
Here’s a quick list of ways you can plan for traffic to your site:
- Make sure every piece of paper and email you generate lists your web address
- Run a Pay Per Click campaign in one or more of the search engines
- Provide an incentive for current or past clients to come and visit – include that in your newsletter
- Get others to link to your site (this can be as easy as picking up the phone and making a call or as easy as offering the right partner a small amount to link to you)
- Ensure that your site is optimized for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Live
- Get involved in social bookmarking and bookmark relevant pages in your site
- Highlight your site in any print advertising you do
- Create a blog on your site and post to it regularly so that people have a reason to come back
These ideas are just intended to help you get the creative juices flowing. The important thing is that you have a plan for your site and then you go about implementing that plan.
For more than a year we have been offering the 10 essential questions to answer when you are ready to take your site to the next level. The response to this has been so good that we are going to take a deeper look at each question.
The first question is “What are the goals for my web site?” While the question seems simple enough, a lot of people struggle with this one. Too frequently the complete answer we get is “Because everyone else has a site.” Putting aside the parental instinct to reply “if everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you?” we sit down and talk about what reasonable goals people can set for their web site.
If you are selling goods or services via your web site, you will want to set a goal some kind of sales goals. If the site already exists, perhaps your goal will be to increase sales 50% over the course of the next year with a redesigned web site. If the site is brand new, you can set a dollar goal for numbers of sales.
Even if you aren’t selling anything on your site, you should still set goals. We track where every new customer comes from. So we know when we get a new customer through our web site as opposed to getting it through word of mouth. If your goal is to get 5 new customers through your web site each quarter, this will help you plan out your site. I had one client who had an existing site and he stated that his goal was to educate customers. I said he must be doing a very good job because the page we were looking at had 100s of visitors but almost no conversion to customers.
He looked at me for a moment and then said, “Well ultimately I’d like them to call.” I gently asked him where his phone number was on the page and suddenly a great big light bulb went off inside his head. Now that he had a goal – get people to call – he could evaluate his site and make changes as needed.
Tune in next time for “How do I expect people to find my site?”
We do a lot of web site redesigns. Often the goal is to spiffen up the image of the site with engaging colors and graphics. But we also end up making the site more usable as well. And it is amazing how many of us (yes, we’ve made some of these mistakes as well) don’t design usable sites. Here are a few tips to make your site usable (easy for your visitors to use):
Keep all information within 3 clicks – 1 click away is even better. Our newsletter used to be buried down a few clicks to actually see the current newsletter. Guess what? We didn’t get too many people looking at our newsletter. Since we made the newsletter accessible from every menu, readership has gone up dramatically. And that is a priority for us.
Tell your visitors what they get, not what you do. Instead of a “We’ve been in business for over 10 years serving this region. We strive to serve our customers with the best service.” the first page should tell visitors how they will benefit from your goods or services like this “Need more customers? Need a web site that sells your goods? Would you like to spend less time on the phone and more time in front ofÂ your customers? EduCyber can help.” The goal is to phrase your offerings as benefit statements – how will your customers benefit from what you’re offering?
Include a call to action on EVERY PAGE. Simple yes. But take a look at your existing web site. Does every page has some kind of call to action? One of the first questions I ask is what do you want people to do on this page? Frequently the answer is “I want them to call me.” “So where’s your phone number?” I ask. Don’t make your visitor have to look for ways to contact you. Provide your phone number or email address or, if you’re in retail, an address with a link to a map.
Adhere to the KIS principal (Keep It Simple) by avoiding technical terms or, if you must use them, providing definitions or explanations. The world of web site design and marketing for example, is filled with terms like SEO and Meta-tags and cpanels but we avoid those terms or explain that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process used to get your site ranked high in search engines like Google.
So if you have questions or would like more information on how to make your web site more usable, contact Brian at 720-275-4646 or at email@example.com.
There are three requirements for a web site to really shine:
- Usable. A good web site is usable. This means that a visitor to your site can easily and intuitively do what you want them to do. If they have to really think about what your intention is, you will lose them. Say, for example that you want someone to purchase your gizmo in the online store. If they don’t see gizmos on the front page, they likely get their gizmos elsewhere. If they see the gizmo they want right on the front page but can’t add it to their shopping cart from there, they’ll go looking for a site that makes it easy to buy gizmos. If they have to give up all kinds of personal information just to buy your gizmo, they’ll find a gizmo site that isn’t so invasive. So the key is to make the site usable, whether you’re selling something or whether your goal is to get them to call or email or whatever, it has to be easy for the visitor to do so.
- A great site is searchable. In this case it doesn’t mean that you have a search feature on your site. Instead it means that I can go to Google or Yahoo or Live and do a search for gizmos and end up at your site. You would be surprised at the number of web site owners who haven’t carefully thought this one through. If you want to be ranked for “funky gizmos” you need to use the phrase “funky gizmos” on your web site. Attaining and maintaining high ranking in the search engines is an art and science. If you’ve got the time or someone on staff has the time, great. If not, outsource it (yes, that’s a plug for EduCyber).
- Lookable. OK, that’s not really a word but it fits with the first and second requirements. What we mean is that your site ought to look nice. And yes, these requirements are listed in order of priority. Often a web site owner will spend the most time on number three and not much if any attention to one and two. Statistics show that if a site is usable and listed in the search engines, it can be very successful even if it doesn’t look pleasant. Myspace has some of the gaudiest looking pages possible but as it fills a need (for people to share and connect), it has been wildly successful. We believe that a good looking site is a requirement however. That’s because your site will be your marketing message. This is what your customers and prospects will see when they encounter your company. You need to present a good public face to them and that is why it is required.