EduNotes Blog

The Ugly Baby

Ugly Website

You’ve probably seen this – a parent who is so proud of their beautiful baby that the rest of the world is afraid to tell them the truth.

The same thing often happens with web sites. Especially websites put together in house. “We ‘birthed’ this site and it is gorgeous” is the mentality that folks have.

That is why it is so important to have others try the site. If possible you want to have impartial 3rd party folks try the site. We have had numerous folks come to us wanting to help make their “beautiful baby” better by tweaking it.

When it comes to websites, it is sometimes possible to tweak a good site to make it great. But it is never possible to tweak an ugly site to make it good.

What do I mean by an ugly site? Here are the most common symptoms:

  1. No call to action – just a lot of information but no way to act on it.

  2. Too many calls to action – we’ve seen sites with dozens of calls to action – sort of like walking into a crowded room and having everyone calling your name at once – makes you turn around and leave.

  3. Graphics that distract visitors from the call to action. If your call to action is on the left and you have pictures of people in the middle, looking to the right, visitors won’t look left, they’ll look right.

  4. Too much movement. Having an engaging website is to be desired. If you endeavor to engage by several different sections having movement, it is just distracting and leaves visitors lost.

  5. Unchanged in ten or more years. Yes, we regularly have clients come to us who have not updated their site in that long. And yes, by 2019 standards, they are ugly.

  6. Not responsive. Not unresponsive, just not responding to mobile devices. If your site doesn’t conform to responsive standards, it will look ugly on a phone. Just today – in July of 2019 – I came across a site that is not responsive. It just shows a much smaller version of itself. Drop down menus don’t work, hard to click on links because they’re too close together – just a mess.

If you have an ugly site though, there is a cure. We can help. We make beautiful web sites. And you will love the Return on Investment you get because that is how we design every site – with ROI in mind. Call 303-268-2245 ext 4 to turn your ugly baby into an integral part of your business.

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10 Next Steps for Your Website

Every web site, and every page should have a next step. Why does your business have a website? What is the purpose? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself as you look at the pages on your site.

Sure it should look nice. Yes, it would be great to be optimized for search. But if you aren’t giving your visitors a next step, what do you think their next step will be? That’s right, they’re going to leave.

Many of the next steps are obvious. But some may not be. I click to a page called “Our Team” and see the profiles of key people in the organization. What is the next step I want visitors to take? Time to think  about what steps you want people to do.

  1. Call us. Well that was easy. But make it into a button. And put the code into the button so that when I visit the site on my phone and touch the button, it pulls up my dialer and all I have to do is push “call” to be talking to you.
  2. Email us. This is pretty simple too. Make a button with your email address. When someone clicks it, it should open a new email message to you in their email program.
  3. Request a call. If you have people requesting a call, make sure you set the expectation. Will you call right away? Next day? Don’t go longer than that. Within a few hours or next business day is ok. But in any case, set the expectation and then hold yourself to it.
  4. Download <our whitepaper>. But we don’t advocate for calling it a whitepaper. A lawn service or landscaping company might have “Download 10 tips to protect your yard during a bomb cyclone”
  5. View our services <or products>. Since every page should have a call to action, a simple next step like this is great on an About Us page or page that shows the staff.
  6. See what our customers have to say (video or written testimonials). This next step is good to help close the deal if the visitor is on your services or product page. They think it might be a good fit but they’d like to hear from people you’ve actually worked with.
  7. Learn how we have solved problems similar to yours (case studies). Story telling is a compelling sales method and a good next step from a variety of pages on your site. Move people to the page where you show you’ve actually helped real people solve real problems.
  8. Sign up for our newsletter. While email newsletters are kind of a pain – lots of folks sign up and then don’t read them – they are still a powerful sales and marketing tool. And once someone does sign up, even if they aren’t ready to buy, you now have a self-selected lead. That is as good as gold.
  9. View Details about our team. This is a particularly good next step if you are a service organization. Show your services and then the next step is to see who will be carrying out the service.
  10. Learn more about our process. Whether you are selling products and need to outline the process of completing and shipping the order, or selling services and want to help visitors feel more comfortable with the timeline and the next steps, having a next step be “View our Process” or something similar is very effective.

Take a look at your site. You probably have some good content on there already but if you go back and add some solid next steps, your site will be ready to help your business grow.

And while most of these are obvious, if you have an ecommerce site, here are 10 calls to action you should check your site against:

  1. Add to Cart
  2. Checkout
  3. Compare products
  4. View specials
  5. Call for pricing
  6. Filter products
  7. See related products
  8. Read reviews
  9. Buy now
  10. Redeem coupon
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Google’s Suite of Tools – Is There a Cost?

We recently attended an event where Google flew in a trainer to present on Google My Business, Optimizing your website for Google and Pay Per Click campaigns. It was a very good presentation from a polished speaker but the mantra we heard again and again is “This is all free.”

Free is an interesting concept. After 90 minutes of this training, many people were just ready to get started. Getting your business verified will take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours. Building out your profile and putting the right information in takes careful planning if you want to really grow your business.

Optimizing your website for search engines is free, we learned. But of course, if you do all of this “for free” you will probably wonder if you did it right. You might not know how to track the results. Ah, but we also learned that Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool. EduCyber sets up GA for our hosting clients if they don’t already have it. And we walk them through, on a regular basis the maze of finding the data that means something to them and then helping them interpret what that data means.

The point is, there are many things you can do, and indeed do them

for free, as long as your time is free. But if your time is valuable, if you make more money servicing your clients by producing the goods or services they want, then maybe it isn’t really free.

If you need help with your “Google My Business” profile, with optimizing your site, for measuring the success of optimization, or with a paid search campaign, we can help. This is what we do day in and day out to help our customers get the most of their website while being able to focus on what they do best. Give us a call at 303-268-2245 ext 4 to get help today.

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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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Privacy, Social Media and Mobile Devices

The original title of this was “What did you think social media meant?” But the issues we face today go beyond social media and enter into many private aspects of our lives. When, in the early 2000’s social media began to blossom, most of us were excited to be able to connect with and reconnect with family and friends both near and far. We didn’t give privacy much of a thought.

Even fairly recently a relationship initiated via a Facebook comment turned into marriage for a family member. How cool is that?

How personal is your personal data? Is privacy important to you?

So let’s be clear, because our goal today is to make things more transparent, every EULA (End User License Agreement) you accept – upon joining FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. or upon setting up a new device like your iPhone or Droid – has ramifications. Ever read any of these? Nope, me neither.

So what did you agree to?

Some of the scary stuff that FB knows about you:

Open / login to your FB on a computer. Then click on settings (currently under the down arrow at the top right). Then along the left click on ads. There are a variety of things you can view here that Facebook knows about you. You can even ask FB to remove or turn off some of the items. But to get to the most personal items, click on Your Information and then on Your Categories.  Facebook knows what devices I access FB from and with what browser(s). They know my political stance. . . a whole bunch of other things I don’t think I’ll share here.

What about other social media sites? Are you on Twitter? If so, login and click on your profile photo in the top right and then click on Settings and Privacy.  On the left click on Your Twitter Data.  Some key things to review include Interests from Twitter, Apps on your devices, and Tailored audiences. One of the nifty things you can do is request an archive of every tweet you’ve ever tweeted.

Are you on Instagram? Probably the most interesting (and scary) item about Instagram is that it accesses the microphone on your mobile device by default. Whether you use a Droid or an iPhone you should be able to access the permissions in your settings. I went in to see what had access to my microphone and sure enough, Instagram was turned on. I had given Instagram permission to eavesdrop and they undoubtedly were.

So since we’re looking at devices, take out your mobile device – or devices as many have more than one. Open the settings.  On my Google Pixel (that FB knows I have), I click on Apps & Notifications then on App Permissions.  From here I can see which apps can access my camera, my contacts, my location, my microphone, my texts and more.

But to see everything that Google knows about you is probably the most alarming. Log in to your Google account and visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity. I log in to Chrome on my work computer. I have two Droid devices. Google tracks every app I use every time. It logs every website I visit. It knows every place I go and every place I have been stretching back to 2011. It knows where my home is.  I often speak texts instead of typing them. It knows everything I’ve said with these. It – or perhaps I should say THEY – have recordings of everything I have said to my phone. Under ad settings they list dozens of topics you like.

Some of these sites and companies allow you to remove or turn off settings to give you more privacy. Some, like Facebook, boldly tell you that turning them off might not mean you won’t get those ads anymore.

In any case we all can and should review these settings. It is your life. Take control.

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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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Privacy vs. Business Intelligence

Here are some things any web site can find out about the visitor:

Data points I can know about you:

Privacy on the Internet

  • Your IP address
  • Your physical location
  • Your computer name
  • Your operating system
  • Your browser
  • Your screen size
  • Your device (if mobile)
  • Potentially your phone number (if mobile)
  • How you got to my site (from search? From social? Referral? Typing the address directly in?)

Data points Google can tell me about you

  • What language you speak (or surf in)
  • Your location
  • Your interests
  • Your education level
  • Your age
  • Your gender

There are a number of things you can to protect yourself and to better control what information you share and with whom it gets shared.

The first and most obvious thing is to set privacy for social media sites. You should also set security on your mobile device(s) so that no one can access it if they find it. One of the biggest things you can do to protect your privacy is turn off all the convenient features on your mobile device like location awareness. You do lose the convenience but you do gain a degree of privacy – though keep in mind that as long as your cell phone is on, you are trackable.

Consumer reports has a list of 66 things you can do to protect your privacy. Try several of these to begin protecting your privacy.

One of the conundrums we face is who to let in to our “circle” and who to keep out. When I got my new phone with fingerprint unlocking technology, I was excited. But my son pointed out that Google now has my fingerprint.

As a business / web site owner, it is important to recognize that your visitors all want and expect some level of privacy. But we all want to understand the details of WHO is visiting the site, WHY they are there and WHAT they want to accomplish. Google, with its Analtyics tool, hides demographic and other data from you if there is so little of it that you could begin to identify actual people. Their idea if to give you broad information to understand the demographic groups that come to your site. But wow, wouldn’t it be cool to know that right now, Jim Adams, aged 39, with a wife, Naomi and two children in 1st and 3rd grade just clicked on a link in your web site – oh and by the way his phone number is ***. That info sounds great to business owners until they realize they don’t want the sites they visit to know that information about them.

If you are struggling to determine how much data to collect, how to interpret it, or how to organize the data, give us a call. We’d be glad to help. Reach Brian at 303-268-2245 ext. 4

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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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Managed Web Hosting

EduCyber offers something called managed web hosting but we have a unique way of handling it. Whereas other firms offering this service automate, automate, automate; we take the time to look at your site. We log in and make sure that your plugins are up-to-date.

We update plugins and core files to make sure your site is secure and has the latest features available. That alone is a huge comfort for our clients. We recently acquired a new hosting client who has a WordPress site and was scared to update the plugins in case something broke. We did the updates for him and verified that everything was working. We even discovered several plugins that weren’t being used. By uninstalling them we sped up the site and made it more efficient.

We provide several layers of security. Our web servers have a firewall that stops most of those with nefarious intent. For our WordPress customers we use a special plugin that stops hackers who try to get to the backend by guessing passwords for common user names like “admin”. With these and other tools not one of our sites has been hacked in years. We continue to follow and implement best practices when it comes to security to keep our customers sites up and secure.

We implement analytics. The tool of choice for several years has been Google Analytics. We make sure each site has analytics installed and functions. Then we even go through site performance every six months to help you understand what is happening on your site so you can make informed decisions about changes or proposed changes to your site.

We actively look for ways to help your site perform better. Since page speed is one of the things search engines look for, we make sure you are aware of what needs to be done to improve the speed or we will even go in and do it for you.

Since our tag line is “We partner with our customers to engage their visitors and convert them into clients” we work to make that partnering bit real. We want you to succeed. We do more than want though. We take concrete steps for you to help your site and your business be better with our managed web hosting service.

If you are already an EduCyber managed web hosting customer, who should you tell about us? If you are not yet a customer, give us a call today at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the process started.

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