EduNotes Blog

Do You Need a Web Site, a Marketing Plan, or Both?

What you put into the process determines what the outcome should be.

It is not unusual for a company to come to us asking for a website when in fact what they really need is a marketing plan that includes revamping or completely redoing their website. If you are not sure if you need a marketing plan first or a website first, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

What message do we want our customers to hear?
If you are unclear on this, you need to look at your overall marketing first – consider your goals, how you typically acquire your customers and why they choose to do business with you.

  1. How do we communicate our brand visually?
    We often hear customers say things like “We aren’t Nike, we don’t have a brand” or “Because we aren’t a large company, our brand isn’t important”. That is a fallacy. If you have a distinctive look and stay with that look consistently, across all your marketing channels – web, print, business cards, signs – it will help potential customers make the connection and feel confident in doing business with you. This obviously is connected to your overall marketing.
  2. How does our website fit into our overall marketing?
    We ask this question at every intake meeting. Having clarity about what you expect your website to do for your business is incredibly focusing. It transforms “Our website is just a brochure” thinking into “Our website is the hook that helps us reel in new customers” thinking. Or, to use another fishing metaphor, it might be “Our website is the fishfinder that helps us know where to drop our lines” thinking. In any case understanding how your site fits into your marketing, helps set the right goals and expectations.
  3. What are your goals for your website?
    Often, when we ask folks what their goals are, they start with “I want it to look better” or “I want it to be user-friendly”. These are great elements to include in a site but honestly they are not goals. A goal for your website might be “I want to get one solid lead each month” or “I need 10 new newsletter subscribers” or even “I need four additional online donations”. These are measurable goals that can drive design but they also make the most sense if you have a clear marketing plan.

If these questions resonated with you and made you think “We need a marketing plan.” or “We need a better marketing plan.” we can help. We have marketing partners we can bring in to your project that will bring clarity and focus to your marketing and to your website so it can help you grow.  Give us a call today at 303-268-2245 to get started.

SHARE THIS:

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.
SHARE THIS:

Strategies for High Converting Websites

So what does it take to “take your site to the next level”? Whether you have a new web site or are looking to get a new site, there are several things you can do that high converting websites do. What are highly converting websites? Ones that get people to take action – fill the funnel like this:

Here are the strategies we recommend for highly converting websites:

  1. Make your unique value proposition clear.
    Your business is unique. Why do people choose to do business with you? Why do they choose you over other choices? What sets you apart in your industry? The clearer you are on why people choose you, the more the right kinds of people will respond via your website.
  2. Test Calls to Action and use just one
    Unclear or confusing calls to action on your website can kill your business. Determine what you want people to do and make is crystal clear on the site what that is.
    It sounds so simple. And yet I had one potential client tell me last week that his NEW website doesn’t have a call to action. Yep. That is the case. He paid someone to build a website for his business but there is no next step for users to take.
  3. Test your headlines
    The words that you use on your pages matter. If you are getting traffic to a page but no conversions, try changing the headline or headlines on a page. Sometimes changing one word on your website can make a big difference. Imagine a used car parts online store with the words “Satisfaction Guaranteed” displayed prominently on their site. Satisfaction is fuzzy. What does that mean? Not clear. Change Satisfaction to Money-Back though and now I, as a potential customer, have a very clear concept of what happens. I can buy this part and if it doesn’t work, I get my money back.
  4. Use short forms
    If you are trying to build your email newsletter subscribers, don’t ask for the mailing address. The only thing you really need is the email address. If you’re going to add fields so it can say, “John, check out this sale” then you might want to capture the first name or simply have a name field. Only ask for the information you need and you are much more likely to get conversions.
  5. Use trust symbols
    While they may be legally required to do so, it does give us comfort or increase our trust when we see or hear a bank commercial that includes something like “FDIC Insured”. This is a signal that this place is legit. You can do the same thing on your website, even if you aren’t a bank.
    You don’t operate in a vacuum. Demonstrate that to the world. What organizations do you belong to or what certifications have you attained that show visitors they can trust you? Consider industry specific groups or chambers or other business organizations if you are in the B2B realm. If you are B2C, consider things like the Better Business Bureau or a seal from your ssl issuing company if it is an ecommerce site. If any of these groups or places have logos that you can use, they provide great visual cues for the trust you deserve.

How many of these strategies are you already using? If you are using 4 or 5, congratulations! You probably already have a high converting website. If you are using 2 or 3, kudo’s to you. You are taking some good steps towards making your site help your business. But if you want more, contact us and we’ll help you explore what can be done. If you are using only 1 or perhaps none of these strategies, stop. Pick up the phone. Call 303-268-2245 ext 4 and tell us you want help getting your site to convert more.

SHARE THIS:

Page Speed: How Fast is Your Site?

Does your site load on people’s computers quickly? If it doesn’t, does it matter?

The answers to those two questions are “It better be fast” and “It absolutely matters”.   There are two main reasons:

  1. User Interface. If users are waiting and watching the spinning circle or other indicators that the page is loading but it hasn’t finished, they leave.
  2. Google rewards fast web sites with better, higher rankings. Not just Google of course but since Google accounts for 75% of searches, we’ll just say “Google”.

So what can you do to tell if your site is fast? We have two answers for that as well:

  1. Google actually tells you how fast your site is and gives tips on how to make it faster. Visit https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and enter your domain and see what Google says about your site.  It is a good idea to visit on a regular basis – monthly or quarterly to make sure that nothing has changed either on your site or how Google views your site.
  2. There is another great, free tool https://gtmetrix.com/ that lets you see the speed and uses several other tools to help you understand what is happening on your web page. One of the biggest issues we see with this tool is that images aren’t optimized well. The cool part of it is the tool provides you with the optimized version of the image in question. No more trying to guess what it means.

So take some time to check out your website today. Use both of the tools above to check not just the homepage but also other key pages on your site. Just because you get the home page to load quickly doesn’t automatically mean other pages will.

Just as I wrote this article I found that one of the plugins we were using had “gone rogue” and was lowering our score for page speed. That plugin is gone and we’re back to fast loading pages.

The tools will help you measure the speed and once the tools say your pages are loading fast, you can go back and work through your site from a customer perspective and verify that they are indeed going smoothly and quickly.

And of course, if you would like assistance in speeding up your page or pages, call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the ball rolling.

SHARE THIS:

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.

SHARE THIS:

Inbound Leads

Inbound Leads or Inbound Marketing.

Those two terms are buzz words. Everybody wants a good inbound lead – much better than an outbound lead.

But what is it? How does it work? Why do you need it?
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is attracting people to your organization rather than you going out to meet them.

How does it work?
The most well-known strategies are digital marketing campaigns like blogging, search engine optimization and pay per click. Over the last several years, social media marketing has also grown very prominent as a way of driving people to you or your website.

The concept of an inbound lead is very attractive. You don’t “do anything” and the lead comes to you. But the truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of work to generate an inbound lead. A LOT. First you have to have a web site that is tailored to handle inbound leads and that requires careful planning and thoughtful design.

Next you need to have a plan about how you are going to generate those leads. I STILL hear from organizations that say “We tried social media but it didn’t work.” When I ask what their plan was, I’m met with silence. If you don’t have a plan it isn’t going to go well.

Your plan for generating those leads will likely include two or more of the following:
Content Generation: You need to create ORIGINAL CONTENT. Copied from your industry email or a partner’s website isn’t going to help much. You need to have original content that is exclusive to your website / social media.

  • Search Engine Optimization: While content is king in SEO, there are other things you can do to both optimize your site for search and provide good reasons for other good sites to link to your content which helps with SEO.
  • Pay Per Click Search Campaign: The two main targets are Google and Bing but with the right strategy, you might be able to target a lesser search engine that your target market is known to use. A good PPC campaign, together with good SEO can place your site front and center for the right keywords, allowing you to dominate the landing page.
  • Social Media Campaign: You need a clear plan for who you are targeting and why. With this clarity you can determine which media to use. Facebook is the largest forum but might be the right forum, especially if you are in the B2B world where using LinkedIn might be better. But the list of social media sites you can use is large and ever changing: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and Snap Chat are some of the most well-known but the list is much longer.
  • Video Campaign: While technically video is content and belongs with content generation, it is unique enough we break it out. Video blogging can be very effective in the right context. Or as anyone who has every watched Super Bowl commercials can attest to, humorous or quirky videos can attract a lot of eyeballs which can translate to lots of visits and then to new clients.

If you or your organization are ready to build your inbound leads and aren’t sure how to proceed, give Brian a call at 303-268-2245 ext 4.

SHARE THIS:

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.

SHARE THIS:

Responsive Web Design: An Evolving Trend

Actually Responsive Web Design is not a trend of any kind – evolving or otherwise. It is a standard practice for web sites today.

The challenge the designers face is making their site look good on every device imaginable, from a 42 inch monitor to an iPad to a mobile phone like a Samsung 7 or the latest iPhone. That is a tall order.

There are several key things designers use, chief of which is the ViewPort meta tag to define what how the page should respond to different devices. But this article is not about the arcane things developers and designers do.

What do you – a business owner or manager need to know?

  • You shouldn’t have to ask for responsive design. It has been a few years since some of the basic rules were laid down. But still verify that a new or existing site is or will be responsive. And take Ronald Reagan’s advice – Trust but Verify. Use family and friend’s (or coworker’s) devices to view your site to make sure it looks right.
  • Responsive doesn’t just happen, it can be planned. For example, a restaurant web site may display its succulent fare on the front page and even have the menu right on the front page. But the mobile display should make location and phone number prominent. If you’re out and about and looking for a restaurant, you either want to know where it is or call to make reservations.
  • What happens to the menu? Believe it or not it is called a hamburger menu – it looks sort of like a bun on top of a burger on top of a bun. While it is fairly ubiquitous, tests show that instead of those three little lines, putting the word MENU in the same place in the same size gets far more clicks. I know what a navigation menu is. I might not know, or notice, those three little lines. Try it with your site and see what happens. The key is to be user-friendly.
  • Many sites (and business owners) are taking a mobile-first attitude. This turns on its head the idea of building a full desktop viewable site and then determining how it should look on mobile. First you design the site so it will rock the mobile look and then scale it up from there to determine how it will look on tablets and desktops.
  • A basic tenet of web design that has become even more important with the growth of responsive web design is to have a clean design that focuses the user on key actions. Remove all distractions from what the goal of your site is. If I have to stop to think about whether to click a link going to a vendor’s site or click the buy now button, you’ve probably lost a sale. So remove links or information that distract your visitors from moving deeper into the site or from doing business with you.

If you need assistance with your site – or know of someone who needs assistance – would you take the time to introduce us? We will make you look good by helping someone in need.

 

SHARE THIS:

A New Question for your Website

Free or low cost services to get you a web site abound. Why should you choose a firm like EduCyber and pay them a lot more instead of getting your free web site?

But there is a new question you should consider when it comes to your website:

What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your website?

Let’s break this down into the two basic parts:

  1. What are the resources needed (your investment)?
  2. What is the return you expect or need from that investment?

The answer to the first question seems clear: For a Wix or SquareSpace or PageCloud site, your cash investment is very small. Or is it? The resources needed to navigate these DIY sites are both time and expertise. Do you have the time to devote? If so, do you have the technical expertise to understand design, layout, html, site flow, integration with 3rd party applications, and conversion optimization to name just a few of the areas you need to understand to create an effective web site? If so, then good for you but might I also suggest you start (or come to work for) a website design company?

If you don’t have this key resource – expertise – then you can of course hire an outside company to do your site for you on one of these platforms. But honestly, if you are going to hire someone anyway, why not hire a firm that can build you a web site that you own? Did you know that? You can of course build your site on one of these platforms but then when your time is tied up in your business and you want to move your site somewhere else, what happens? Oh, you are stuck with that platform and service. Or you get to start over again.

One of these platforms brags that you can “layer, resize, rotate, stretch and more” but what happens when you have no idea what layer means? Or if you don’t understand the importance of resizing your images? Another of these platforms has its own app market. Hmm. A free web site that has a market? Sounds like the ole’ bait and switch scheme to me. Sure it is free. Until it isn’t.

So yeah, for a low low price you get your own website. But then we need to answer the second question, what is the ROI?

At its base level, the question is “Would you prefer to pay $240 / year for a web site that brings in no new clients or would you prefer to pay $7500 for a web site that generates $75,000 / year in sales?” If you view your web site as an expense, then by all means, go with one of the free or low cost firms. Interestingly, I don’t see any information on any of the low cost sites on ROI. A firm like EduCyber on the other hand will walk you through, from the design process on, understanding what your expectations are (and helping you set them if you haven’t considered it) as far as how your site fits into your business model and how it can help you grow.

We have in depth conversations with each of our website design clients about how we can help them grow – attract and retain more customers – via their website. And we design them accordingly. Would you like a 300% return on your investment in one year? We have done that for a client. Would you like to increase your subscriber rate two-fold or five-fold? We help you determine what makes sense and then build your site to do that.

So what is the total cost of ownership for your site? How much time and how much expertise do you or your staff have? When you want to move your site somewhere else, what will it cost? How do you integrate your CRM into your website using your free platform? What will you do when your designated web person on staff leaves? How can your business grow via your website? What actions do you want people to take on your website?

Answering these questions are important in adding up the total cost of ownership and while the free or low-cost alternatives look attractive from the start, make sure you are prepared for the costs on the backend.

I am often asked how what we do compares to these services. My short answer is “it doesn’t”. If you get the value you want from one of these services, I actively encourage you to go for it. But if you want to be freed up to focus on your business and doing what you do best, I encourage you to consider EduCyber for your web site design.

SHARE THIS:

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.
SHARE THIS: