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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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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Web site – Marketing Vehicle or Sales Tool?

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

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

Attract -> Engage -> Convert -> Retain

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

Attract -> Connect -> Engage -> Inspire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Channeling your Efforts

How can you stand out in an increasingly cluttered advertising space like the Internet? Paid search campaigns like AdWords can generate great, qualified traffic to your website. But because it works, the competition can be fierce and expensive.

Ads on other sites might seem like a good idea but the increasing frustration of users with ads, and these users increasing sophistication with web use, is leading to an increase in the use and sophistication of ad blockers. What if your precisely targeted market is blocking the very ad you created just for them?

Newsletters can be a great way to get in front of folks. And if you have existing customers, simply by the fact of them being your customer, you can add them to your email list. But you can’t necessarily keep them! We have a newsletter that goes out just to our hosting clients. This newsletter tells them about our service and any changes / additions / or maintenance they should be aware of. But several have unsubscribed. Even when you consciously opt in to a newsletter, do you read each one thoroughly? Yet each time I send a newsletter, I get feedback from happy customers. So it is a valuable channel.

So is it a lost cause? Should you throw in the towel and accept defeat?

NO.

But as technology matures and becomes more sophisticated, you need to as well. First, remember that nothing beats old-fashioned marketing. It takes more time but that is what makes it more effective. Visit your leads. Or give them a call. Or send a note via the United States Postal Service.

But of course you can use new media and use it effectively. Now you need to consider and use the right channels for your business. A brief overview of some of the main channels available and how you might use them:

Website: This is the channel you have the most control over. Make it the centerpiece of your marketing. I might click a link from LinkedIn or Facebook that takes me to your site where I learn that you not only do what the link was about but that you also provide another service or product I need.

Facebook: We recommend this for all kinds of businesses but it is essential if you are in the B2C world. Have an active account. Provide useful information AND links back to your site with further details on the issue.

Twitter: Lots of folks tell us gruffly “We don’t tweet” or “We don’t twitter” as a matter of pride. That is not a particularly helpful approach to marketing though. Do you know if your client base is on Twitter? If they are then you ought to be. Even if they aren’t, having an active Twitter account can help in myriads of ways, foremost of which is providing additional links regarding your brand – useful for SEO purposes.

LinkedIn: If you are in the B2B world, a fully built out LI profile and regularly updating , connecting with others is critical. More and more, when I talk with people and especially when I meet with them, they check out my profile and I check out theirs prior to meeting. Finding useful connections is a great way to grow.

Instagram: If what you do is visual, you should have an Instagram account and update it. This is particularly true of B2C companies. It is just another great way to get your product in front of people. Using Instagram purposefully can be immensely beneficial.

YouTube: Whether you are in the B2B or B2C realm, a video can go a long way towards getting you more sales. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, just imagine what a video is worth. Demonstrate a technique, show how to use a product, have a customer give a video testimonial, show people interacting with you, your product, or your service.

We have, over the years, repeatedly heard “We tried <Enter your favorite channel or social media> and it didn’t work.” When I counter that with “What was your strategy?” I ALWAYS get a blank stare. The key is to use these channels with a strategy. Understand how you want each channel to interact. Done well, it will get you more customers; show a better, more unified brand to the world; and get your better search rankings.

If you need help getting your digital channels lined up, we can help. If you need help getting your whole marketing plan going, give us a call as well. We partner with some of the best firms in Colorado to get your message out there.

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Becoming a Customer (Part 3)

There should always be a next step! And if that step is up to you, you had better carry through! A well-known Hollywood director said “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Successful businesses often take that one step further – showing up is 90% of success. Our first two articles on Becoming a Customer examined how a well thought out call to action is important and how good design should focus attention on that call to action. In this article we’re going to look at the next step.

You should ALWAYS have a next step

We all have heard or experienced the customer service story from hell – whether it be some kind of bait and switch story, a firm just completely dropping the ball, or endless promises of satisfaction that never materialize. But what about the delightful stories of promises not only kept but surpassed?

Probably the most important aspect of “becoming a customer” is to always, every time, without fail, provide a next step. That is the showing up part. And much of it can be automated or semi-automated. When a customer schedules an appointment online you can have an automated email thanking them and confirming the time. Or you can have a staff person actually confirm the scheduled appointment time works and then click to send the automated reply.

If you have people sign up for your newsletter. You kind of need to send out a newsletter. Otherwise you’ve just alienated folks. The idea situation is that, on confirmation of a subscription, the customer is sent the last newsletter automatically. But the other part of this is setting the proper expectation. How frequently will you be sending your newsletter? Adding that into the subscription process and sticking to it will make your subscribers happier.

We worked with a private school to build their website. After much discussion we set the call to action to be “Schedule a Tour” but we didn’t stop there. If you visit that school’s website and schedule a tour, you have just taken the first step in the enrollment process. And the follow up email lets you know that if you have already decided to enroll, you can click the link to continue the process. You always need to have a next step.

And if your site doesn’t have a next step, you should contact EduCyber today to remedy this situation! Call Brian at 303 268-2245 ext. 4.

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Looking Back or Looking Forward

Imagine starting a marketing campaign with the thought of “We don’t intend to get any business out of this.” Ludicrous, right? Yet nearly every time I sit down with a potential client, especially if they offer services instead of products, I hear “Our web site is more about closing the deal instead of getting leads.”

Which makes sense.

If you’re just looking backward.

If you have a web site that was not built with the specific intent of generating leads for your business, it is no surprise at all that your web site is not generating leads for your business.  But why on earth would you want to continue like that?

Every single business with a web site should be able to generate new business leads via their website. Every single one. Without any “excepts” or “but you see”s. I used to let folks get away with this. Inevitably a couple of months after launching their new site they would call us up exclaiming “We got a new customer through our web site!” I would congratulate them and wait and sure enough the next question would be, “How can I get more leads through my web site?”

So now, every time, without fail, we ask the question that you should be answering as you prepare for a new web site. “How does your web site fit into your marketing plan AND how can we make it work better?”

Some simple things to ponder:

  • How does your business typically generate leads?
  • How does your web site fit into that process? (or “How should the web site fit into the process?”)
  • What are two or three actions that visitors could take that will help them move through the lead generation process?
  • What information / response do you want? Phone to ring? White paper downloaded? Contact Form filled out and emailed to you? Order form filled out? Newsletter subscribed to? Online chat request?

Whatever answers you arrive at, put behind you the thought process that says, “We have not received any leads from our website until now, therefore we will not in the future.” Instead, ask yourself how you can begin to generate leads.

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Unanticipated Events and Internet Marketing

It is the middle of May and outside it is snowing. Like many here in Colorado I can only shrug and say “Colorado weather!” although I suspect many folks across this country could say “<insert_your_state> weather!”

But as I ponder this unanticipated weather event, it reminds me how so often, in Internet marketing, we face unanticipated events. It may be that a FaceBook update cancels out all of the marketing you have been doing on FB. It may be that a new Google search algorithm update pushes your site down in the rankings or removes you from their rankings altogether.  These events can and do happen.

You have no control over what decisions social media or search engine companies make. They have millions of customers and make decisions they believe are in their best interests. You need to make decisions that are in your best interest as well.

And that means that the centerpiece of your internet marketing should always be your website. You own it. You can control what appears on it. You control the content. The layout. In the Internet marketing realm, it is (or should be) the one thing you have complete control over.

So what should you do with your site? Two simple things:

  1. Make your site search-friendly. The number one thing search engines in general and Google in particular look for is content. Often I have been told by a client or potential client they want to be ranked number one for their key phrase – something like “Denver website design”. Basically the formula is <geographic_identifier> followed by <industry_keyword_or_keyword_phrase>. And I ask, “Where on your site do you use that phrase?”
    That is usually followed by an uncomfortable silence.
    Create content – lots of content and yes, it has to be original content – and make sure that your content uses your keyword phrases. Then post it regularly to your web site. Hate blogging? That is fine. Post news and industry updates to your site instead. Post case studies. Post testimonials from happy clients. There are lots of ways to get good, keyword-laden content on your site that the search engines will love.
  2. Make your site social-friendly. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have some kind of social-sharing link on all or most of your pages.  If you have a content management system web site, you should be able to do this in a few minutes.  You can also connect your site into your chosen social platforms – Facebook and Twitter are the easiest as they’re the most well-known.
    Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little though. If your business is very visual, consider how Pinterest and / or YouTube could bring value. In any case, make your site social-friendly so it is easier to plugin to your larger marketing plan.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to take control of your Internet Marketing by making your web site the core. Add social. Add search. They are great ways to enhance your image, attract customers, and get into new markets. But make sure you understand what your goals are and how you need to get there.

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Transition Points

This morning our little part of the world was recovering from a brief snowstorm. As I left the building for a client meeting and again as I returned to my office, there were people (different folks each time) standing at the door talking. I noticed it because the atrium was getting cold as they stood there, door ajar, discussing whatever it was they were discussing.

Transition to a new website!

But it got me thinking about transition points. When you leave a room or a building, it is a transition point. And something catches your attention which is why folks often stop to talk right then. Visiting a web site is a transition point. For most of us, we’ve been engaged in a different activity but now we are suddenly looking at a web site – perhaps it is your web site.

This is the opportunity for us, as web site owners, to have a conversation with the visitor. To engage them and help them understand what is in store for them as they move deeper into the site. In my experience above, the change in temperature was something that caught the attention of folks and made them stop to talk.  What is your site doing or what should it be doing at this key Transition Point?

One mistake that many website owners make at this point is to show lots of pretty pictures without asking the visitor to step deeper into the site. These are the “sliders” or rotating images that make up the top part of so many web sites. Site owners love them because it is such a great way to showcase all the great features of their product or service. The only problem is visitors are usually not looking for features, they’re looking for benefits.

Transitions present opportunities. To take full advantage of the opportunities presented, we, as website owners, need to carefully consider what our visitors want. No matter what your business is, a great way to understand what your web site visitors are looking for is to ask your existing customers. What benefit do you get from our service / our product / working with us? Use what you learn to redo your front page and possibly to redo your site structure.

The conversation need to continue to change (your front page needs to change over time) in order to keep engaging people as they come through your door (enter your site). We have a customer whose site brought in 45% more revenue the first year we redid it. But as we have continued to make changes, it has averaged more than 20% increase in revenue each year. The key to success is to grab the visitor at the transition point and engage them. Then just keep moving them along until you’ve successfully won their business.

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10 Reasons You Don’t Need a New Website

That’s right. I’m not here to talk you INTO buying a new web site. I’m here to tell you why you don’t really need one:

  1. You paid for a whole new web site five years ago
  2. Websites don’t generate new customers, good salespeople do that
  3. Somebody told me I’d have to write something called a blog. Regularly. Not going to happen. Don’t need it.
  4. You’re not Amazon or eBay – you’re not selling products, you offer a service
  5. I had someone give me a quote for a site. $20,000 sounds like an awful lot. Especially when I get emails everyday telling me I can get a site for $100.
  6. You’ve been in business for more than 10 years and you haven’t needed one yet, why should you get one now?
  7. Your competitors have all had web sites for many years. You’d just be spending time and money trying to catch up to them.
  8. You’re only open 40 hours a week. If you had a web site it could give the appearance that you’re open 24/7.
  9. You’re too small for a brand. You don’t really have a brand so there is nothing to “put out there” for the world to see.
  10. People in your area need your product, not people far away so why give them an opportunity to buy it online?
  11. BONUS: Everyone else has a web site – you can stand out by not having one.

Have you heard these? Have you heard them coming out of your own mouth? If one or more of these reasons belongs to you, then I say, “Welcome to 1995”.

The reality is you do need a web site. A good one. One that is less than five years old, reflects who you are as a company or business, shows to all visitors that you are legitimate, builds up your brand – whatever your brand is, and what about those $100 websites or even the free ones? You’ll end up looking cheap. Is that your brand?

So if after reading this you decide you really do want a web site despite all these great reasons to the contrary, give us a call at 303 268-2245.

 

 

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