EduNotes Blog

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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Four Reasons Why You Won’t Want to Work with EduCyber

Yes, we’re telling you why you would choose NOT to work with us. Here we go:

  1. You want a website that looks just like your brochure

    If you see no difference between print collateral and
    your digital presence, then you probably don’t want to work with us. Your brochure is a great tool to hand out and leave behind after a meeting. Your web site though should be engaging and should always have a next step in order to deepen the relationship. If that isn’t what you are looking for, then you won’t want to work with EduCyber.

  2. You are not interested in measuring or considering ROI

    If you see your website as an expense and not an investment, you won’t want to work with EduCyber. Understanding how your web site fits into your marketing and sales is an integral part of our web design process. You can and should have an expectation of a return on that investment and we help our customers set and measure the return on investment. But if you just have a budget line that needs to be spent, you won’t want to work with EduCyber

  3. You want to hire a firm to do what you want, instead of wanting to partner with a firm that has strategic expertise in web design

    If your goal is having a firm that will place your pictures and your words right where you want them, regardless of how it translates in digital marketing, then we aren’t the firm you want to work with. With two decades of experience in helping customers craft messages and researching what does and does not work in user experience and design, EduCyber brings a wealth of information and insight to each project we undertake.

  4. You haven’t gotten new customers from your site so far so you don’t believe you can even with a redesign

    If your current site hasn’t generated a single new customer for you so you firmly believe that a web site can’t convert visitors into customers either, then you won’t want to work with EduCyber. When we hear that – and believe me, we hear it a lot – I like to add “so far” to the end of each sentence. “We’ve never gotten a customer from our site so far.” “Customers in our industry don’t come through the website so far.” “With our business model, we don’t get customers through our website so far”. And on and on.

Those who do choose to work with EduCyber become believers when their phone rings or the email, comes in and suddenly a connection from their website becomes a customer.

If the reasons above don’t apply to you, you might want to Work With Us.

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Social Media: Is it Worth it?

A decade ago, social media was fun. It was new. It was fresh. Perhaps even exhilarating. But now we live in a strange new world of social media where jumping to conclusions, imputing opinions falsely and disparaging anyone who disagrees with your politics or religion or race, or even gender is the norm.

With the recent disturbance in Charlotteville, Virgina, the mob (on social media) incorrectly identified one of the participants in a picture as being from Arkansas. And they unleashed on him, publishing his home address and calling him all kinds of vile things. Only they had the wrong person. When his employer – the University of Arkansas – pointed out they had the wrong man, many still refused to back down.

We have a client in the Denver area who received a bad review from someone in Seattle. It turns out the someone in Seattle had a bad experience with a similarly-named company in the Seattle area. We actually helped them reach out to the individual so they could correct it. Guess what the response was? That person was so enraged at that other company and too busy to be bothered to find the right place to complain so they refused to take it down. Yes, they understood they were complaining about the wrong company but they wouldn’t take it back. That would be like going to McDonald’s and picketing because your Whopper wasn’t prepared correctly. And refusing to stop picketing even after it is pointed out that Burger King is a couple of blocks away.

But what to do? Your marketing team is telling you the company needs a strong social media presence. Can you navigate social media and survive? There is no cure for stupidity as the examples above show. But there are many things you can do depending on your brand, your audience, and your message.

Don’t be afraid to be sassy if it fits with your image AND if the medium is right. Wendy’s made their mark on Twitter by being (for the most part) funny but also pretty sassy:

But beware – you have to finesse this just right or you will get roasted.

But that is probably a bit too aggressive, amusing though it may be, for most of us. In a B2B (Business to Business) environment, establishing your company or your brand as the thought leader can move the needle in your direction. Two ways you can do this are

  1. Post original content and
  2. Share other good content.

Number 1 is the sexy answer. And a lot of folks seize on it – “Yeah, we’ll post one a week, maybe even every day!” and follow that regime religiously for a week or two. It takes more than a week or two to establish yourself as a thoughtful thought leader.  The easiest, by far, way to proceed, is to put into writing one or two of the conversations you find yourself having with clients or prospects each week.  That is, in fact, why I’m writing this right now. Had “the social media” talk several times over the last few days. By sharing, and sharing consistently, people know who to turn to for help and more importantly, you stay in front of them so they don’t forget who you are!

In a B2C (business to consumer) business, the obvious medium is Facebook. And it can be a great tool to get the word out.  The good news is that Facebook is working to stop clickbait (headlines that entice you to click the link only to be spammed with something other than what you clicked on or simply stupid stories) which is very annoying for users.

How can you use FB in a good way? Several quick tips:

  • Create (or review) your FB company page. It is still changing. Fill out as much of your profile as makes sense – the more the better
  • Get some happy customers to write reviews on FB for you
  • Add pictures and, if at all possible, videos
  • Post regularly. Some can be specials or products or events but some should just be fun. “Here is what we are doing the office today” along with a picture of a fun staff or customer event.

Social media is a great tool to connect with people in ways that weren’t available a few years ago. Instead of having the communication be one way – from the company to the target audience, there is an opportunity for that audience to respond.  So be prepared for the responses, keep your sense of humor, and keep it real by showing the human side of what you do.

 

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Designing with a Focus

Do you feel like you’re trying to do everything to keep all your customers happy?

I have definitely seen that before. In the early days of the Internet there was a web site called Yahoo. Its purpose was to help you find stuff. But it tried to do a little bit of everything in order to keep everybody happy and the web site became such a hodge podge of stuff you couldn’t focus on finding stuff, which what it was supposed to be.

Then along came a new site, Google. Have you gone to google.com lately? While their logo has changed and they often have some kind of Doodle instead of their logo, there is pretty much still just one thing to do at Google.com. Search for stuff. Plain and simple.

Yet which company is doing better? Which company has far more offerings and far deeper reach? The one that has a simple focus. Google is all about search. But in focusing just on search they’ve developed Google Analytics, Google AdWords and Google AdSense, all great products that have a positive impact on their bottom line, provide tons of data to better improve search and of course provide great value to their customers.  Which leaves them wanting more . . .

How can you turn this ability to focus on what you do best into something you can leverage in all your messaging and in all that you do on your site?

As far as EduCyber goes, we have distilled it down to “We create amazing websites for passionate people to get real results.” Amazing . . . passionate . . .. real.  We love building sites. Whether we’re designing something cool or developing software that helps run your business, we love digging into the details to get the right fit for you.

So if you or someone you know is in need of a website, let’s talk.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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