Web Essentials: The 5 Most Important Elements for Your Business Website Design

Web Essentials: The 5 Most Important Elements for Your Business Website Design

Your website should serve as your organization’s best salesperson and a key component of your marketing strategy. Simply popping your business details into a template and sticking it online won’t generate very impressive results. It’s essential to understand the key components of successful web destinations and work to implement them on your site. The following five must-have elements will help transform your site into a veritable online powerhouse.


Navigation: Building a Seamless Menu

On a fundamental level, a straightforward navigation structure simply makes sense. Your site visitors use your menus to browse through the pages of your site, and a confusing system can throw a serious wrench in your sales funnel. The impact of navigation extends far beyond your user experience.

SEO and your site ranking are directly influenced by your menu choices. Search engine crawlers can’t index navigation systems built on Javascript or Flash, so it’s best to choose a simple XHTML or CSS alternative. You should also pay attention to the “depth” of your site. In other words, how many clicks does it take to reach your internal pages? From an SEO standpoint, the fewer clicks, the better.


Content: The King of the Web

“Content is king” is a clever cliche that often spills out of the mouths of web marketers, but it’s hard to overestimate the importance of fresh, compelling content. Continually updating your site contributes to site ranking, while authoritative content builds brand loyalty and cultivates an audience of interested readers. Remember, great content alone isn’t enough — build an editorial calendar and provide new material on a frequent basis.


Visuals: Why Design Still Matters

Sure, a visually appealing site is nice but does design play a role in the health of a modern website? The answer is a resounding yes! As trends shift and mobile devices continue their climb to dominance, versatile, responsive designs play an essential role in a website’s success. Not only do sites need to be compatible with a number of platforms and devices, but they also should be visually optimized to push visitors through your sales funnel.


Imagery: Choosing the Right Photos

 

Beautiful images offer an additional avenue for capturing the attention of your visitors. Choosing lackluster stock images in lieu of clear, professional shots can have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on your site’s success. Don’t overlook photography, but work with a local pro to create stunning photos of your products and team. These images convert better than stock alternatives and simultaneously foster authenticity, creating a personal connection to your brand.


Information: Give the Right Details

You’re running a business, not launching a blog for the fun of it. Even if your site is optimized for visitors and features stunning design, you won’t get far without providing a clear snapshot of your business. Make your operating hours, address, and contact information easily accessible, and create snappy headlines to move your visitors through the page. This approach helps ensure every visitor receives the necessary information to patronize your business.

Small Business SEO: 5 Simple Tips to Increase Page Rank

Small Business SEO: 5 Simple Tips to Increase Page Rank

Mastering the complicated world of search engine optimization can be challenging for many small business owners. Fortunately, SEO doesn’t have to be an intimidating obstacle that limits a small business’ success on the web. If you’re eager to boost your page rank without outsourcing your SEO efforts, consider implementing the following simple tips anyone can implement without the guidance of an expert.

Social Strategy: Start Interacting with Others

Quantifying the results generated through social media proves immensely challenging for many small businesses, leading some to neglect their presence on these networks. SEO and social media are closely linked, however. From growing your followers list to creating shareable posts that gain traction quickly, there are several ways to maximize your social media strategy’s impact on your page rank.

Blogging: Build Authority for Your Brand

Search algorithms work to identify authoritative content to serve whenever a search query occurs. Sticking to an editorial calendar and publishing new blogs on a frequent basis helps boost your page rank by keeping your site fresh. As you share relevant information and draw a larger audience, you also foster brand loyalty and boost social shares, which also helps your page rank to soar.

As a bonus, consider using an SEO plugin to capture further search traffic. If you’re using WordPress to power your site, consider the Yoast SEO plugin. This free plugin ensures your keywords, page titles, and meta tags meet the best practice guidelines for SEO.

Content Strategy: Marketing Across the Web

Many small business owners mistakenly limit their marketing endeavors to their website, but savvy entrepreneurs should focus on building a content blueprint that incorporates a number of components across the Internet. Build a content strategy that highlights your value proposition while sharing your brand’s story, use a combination of blogs, contributions to other sites, social media posts, and visual media to get your message across.

Local Listings: Representing Your Business

According to Google, four out of five users research local businesses using search engines. Creating a presence on Google+ and Maps helps ensure your business ranks highly on searches from local consumers. If you haven’t already begun to do so, consider building a strategy for handling your reviews on these local listing platforms to capitalize further on their value to your business.

Optimization: Catering to All Visitors

Web visitors no longer stick with traditional desktop computers for perusing the web. Instead, you’ll likely receive visitors browsing on a number of different devices. Google changed their search algorithm on April 21, 2015 to prioritize responsive sites over those that don’t offer options for visitors on mobile devices. Don’t get on the search behemoth’s bad side simply because your site isn’t ready for the mobile customer! Instead, make sure you’re using a design that gives every visitor a great experience.

Ten Tips for Shaping and Sharing Your Brand’s Story

Ten Tips for Shaping and Sharing Your Brand’s Story

As you strive to connect with consumers, it’s important to build a comprehensive marketing strategy for your brand. While traditionally this process involves identifying your target audience, crafting a meaningful value proposition, and addressing the pain points your customers face, brand storytelling should also form a fundamental component of your marketing endeavors.

Sharing your brand’s story evokes an emotional response, in turn contributing to increased brand loyalty and an uptick in sales. Use the following ten tips to begin sharing your brand’s story in a relevant, fruitful manner.

1. Start from the Beginning
Before you hit the drawing board for your next marketing campaign, work to outline a story arc for your brand. Cater to an audience who may have no understanding of what your brand represents.

2. Capture the Audience’s Attention
Emotion is the driving force behind many of the most successful marketing campaigns in history. Think of iconic advertisements that caught the world’s attention—from I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke to those heart-wrenching Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials, emotion captures the audience’s attention.

3. Develop Your Characters
Just as a novelist labors of his portrayal of his protagonist, work to let the personality of your brand’s players shine through. No matter whether you’re highlighting executives within your company or customers themselves, characters push your story development forward.

4. Focus on Authenticity
Sharing a story does not mean you should create a tall tale. Instead, you want to build brand trust by telling a truthful story that highlights the strengths of your brand. Don’t alienate would-be customers by spinning inauthentic yarns.


5. Reveal Your Brand Value

As enjoyable as a good story can be, your ultimate goal isn’t simply to entertain. Your value proposition should shine through every element of your story. Maintain that focus to get the most out of your storytelling efforts.

6. Embrace Cross-platform Storytelling;
Storytelling in the 21st century extends far beyond the confines of a simple advertisement or two. Cross-platform storytelling boosts message retention and visibility of your story.

7. Build an Editorial Calendar
If you read a chapter or two of a novel and then pick it up again several months later, you likely won’t remember where you left off. The same is true for your audience. Don’t publish a single blog post and wait for months on end. Build an editorial calendar and keep your story moving.

8. Provide a Timeline
Good stories have a definite timeline: beginning, middle, and end. Take your audience on a journey, but don’t lose your customers by segmenting your story. Strive to offer a clear start and finish for every part of your story.


9. Keep Your Message Consistent

Consistently changing your brand’s voice will leave your audience confused. Don’t breed distrust by changing your message too frequently. Make certain every story you share contributes to the overall identity of your brand.


10. Don’t Show All of Your Cards

When sharing a powerful story, it may feel tempting to give your audience all the pieces in one fell swoop. While it is important to provide components that can stand on their own, try to keep your readers engaged by building a story that gradually unfolds across your various marketing channels.

SEO Strategies: Top 10 Reasons to Use Google Analytics

When it comes to optimizing your SEO strategy and improving your conversion rate, few resources offer the undeniable benefits of Google Analytics. This full-featured tool allows you to easily review visitor behavior patterns, narrow down acquisition methods and improve your retention numbers. Best of all, you won’t pay a single cent to deploy Google Analytics on your business site. If you’re still on the fence, consider the following ten reasons that clearly explain the benefits Google Analytics offers.

1. Get Helpful Insight with Google Documentation

Handling the complicated back-end of your website doesn’t have to feel intimidating. Become a pro in no time by following Google’s in-depth guides for making the most of your Analytics account.

2. Closely Monitor Your Load Times

Slow loading pages are perhaps the single greatest detriment to user experience. Even more importantly, speed has an impact on your site’s page ranking. Carefully monitor your load times with Google Analytics with Site Speed.

3. Track Events Easily

Keyword statistics and click-through rates are great, but sometimes you need a clear look at what’s taking place on your page. Event tracking makes it possible to carefully monitor behavior like video views, resource downloads, and ad clicks.

4. Follow Your Visitors in Real-Time

Feeling somewhat impatient? Rather than waiting for visitor numbers, keep tabs on your site with Real-Time Reporting. This tool makes it easy to measure the impact of recent social media activity or a new blog post, for example.

5. Measure the Impact of Your Marketing Campaigns

Carefully monitor the impact of your marketing efforts with Campaign Tracking. Use Google’s URL Builder to create links with unique parameters, and follow your progress within the Analytics Console.

6. Define Your Visitors

When it comes to targeting local buyers, it’s important to ensure your SEO strategy works. Use Google Analytics to measure information like visitor location. Uninspiring numbers? Consider using paid search that offers geo-targeting options to better connect with your target audience.

7. Cater to the Mobile User

Nearly half of the search queries Google serves come from mobile devices, and this uptick in traffic shows no sign of stopping. Use Google Analytics to monitor the behavior of your mobile visitors, with reports that provide essential insight you can use to better target and cater to these customers.

8. Track Social Engagement

Wonder how well your social media efforts are paying off? Use Google Analytics to easily track your social impact. The platform is compatible with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and many of the other most popular networks.

9. Find What Your Readers Want

Looking for inspiration for your next blog post? Respond to the requests of your readers by monitoring their search queries on your site. Turn on site search tracking to see what visitors look for using your search bar.

10. Identify Your Best and Worst Pages

Use page insight to determine what pages are logging the most views and keeping visitors on the site. You can also examine your exit pages to figure out what pages need to be reworked to keep visitors engaged.

5 Tips to Find and Buy the Perfect Domain Name

5 Tips to Find and Buy the Perfect Domain Name

When it comes to building a successful web destination, it’s easy to get wrapped up in site design and content. While both of these factors play an important role in a site’s overall appeal, it’s the domain name itself that should be your primary focus. Shakespeare famously opined, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but for branding purposes, your name is everything. Before you invest in the wrong product for your business, use the following tips to find and buy the perfect domain name.

Name Your Brand and Domain Simultaneously

Startups certainly have the upper hand here, but it’s important to include domain research when working on creating your brand. Spend some time getting familiar with your competitors and invest your creative energy in finding names with strong ties to your vision or product. If a name you like doesn’t have an available domain, consider alternatives that do.

If you’re an established company, you might not be willing to rebrand entirely for domain purposes. If your first choice domain is currently registered to someone else, consider contacting them using their WHOIS data details. You might also want to put yourself on a waiting list for the URL in question, which many registrars offer.

Create a Link to Your Business

It’s not rocket science folks! Pick a domain that you’ll never need to explain to your customers. Some web publishers focus too heavily on choosing a domain that uses industry keywords, rather than one that reflects an organization’s branding. While domain keywords can have an impact on page ranking, the benefits of branding your domain and business with the same name outweigh the advantages of snappy keywords.

Keep It Simple

Think of the domains you remember off the top of your head. Most of them are likely short, single-word URLs, correct? Long domains are hard for visitors to remember and not mobile-friendly. Don’t use hyphens or numbers, but try to stick with simple domains that have no potential variations. Make it easy for your visitors to remember you and your brand.

Stick with .com

Some businesses try to get around limited domain availability by eschewing the .com extension for alternatives like .net or .org. In most cases, however, it’s advisable to stick with the tried and true .com. This extension remains the most popular by far, and your visitors will have an easier time remembering your domain if you use it. Exceptions to this rule may include nonprofit organizations or companies located in another country, but most local businesses should make .com their priority.

Register for Multiple Years

Once you’ve finally settled on a domain name that meets the necessary criteria, be sure to register it for at least five years. Registering your domain for a longer period of time can help build credibility for your brand, and in some instances, a longer registration period positively impacts page rank. Longer registration periods are also cheaper in many cases.