Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Spring Cleaning Website Work: Local Searches

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Many of us small business types create services for a local community.  We do not need to be found by someone several states away.  To answer this need Yahoo, Google, Yelp, Best of the Web, hot frog, and Bing have local search directories.  Because of the types of details that you can include in these listings, they can be an important part of your online marketing strategy.

As your business changes, your listings in these local search services should also change.  However, because they are not directly part of your website, it is easy to forget that these listings exist.  In some cases, the listings exist without you creating them.

So along with your other spring cleaning chores, consider looking at your local listings.  Maybe you have new or different

  • product offerings,
  • hours of operations
  • locations
  • accreditations
  • brands
  • payment options
  • pictures or videos of your services

These listings can be quite powerful if you keep them up-to-date with the right information.

The Most Important Content for a Mobile Ready Website Design

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Good website design borrows at least two ideas from newspapers:

  • The headline and
  • The area “above the fold.”

Of these two ideas, I think that the issue that gets less attention is the second idea “above the fold.”  When you buy a newspaper from a stand, it is usually folded in half.  You do not see the bottom half until you pick the newspaper and turn it over.  Since newspapers want you to pick the newspaper up and buy it, the “best content” and the “biggest headline” for that edition goes into the top half of the sheet, “above the fold.”  If they put the best ideas below the fold, you would be less likely to pick up the newspaper.  Another important point is that, even with all that space, a good newspaper limits the number of articles that start “above the fold.”  They do not want to clutter your mind.

Websites should use the same marketing principles.

The headline is still one of the most important things on your website.  People can absorb a good headline without really stopping to read it.  If you have a good headline, they can grasp what your website will be about without really seeing anything else on the page, just like a newspaper.

The website’s main headline must be “above the fold,” which would be whatever shows up when a visitor views the website.  On a desktop, you can generally get a lot more space above the fold much easier than on a mobile device because of the screen size.

Since we cannot predict exactly what each visitor will see, the most important stuff goes in the upper left hand corner.  The least important stuff goes in the bottom right hand corner.  (Browsers cut off the content at the bottom and to the right when the page first loads.)

Unfortunately, many current websites were designed with fixed margins that assumed the visitor would be using a large desktop computer, causing a lot of content to be cut off on a mobile device.  To further confuse things, different phones and mobile devices show different viewing sizes.

Consequently, the best mobile ready website designs use the following marketing strategies

  • A well written headline
  • A very focused message,
  • A clean, clutter free layout, and
  • The most important stuff in the top left corner.

To Search Engines, not All Identical Keywords Are Equal

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In our previous post we talked about how to identify the right keywords to use to be attractive to a search engine.

The next step is to determine where to put those keywords.  Not all places on a website are treated equally.

The most important places for a word (roughly in order) are the

  1. Domain name
  2. The page name
  3. The page title (which may or may not appear in the actual content) and possibly the page description (which will not appear in the actual content)
  4. Headings on the page
  5. Regular content
  6. As alternate text for video files and pictures.

If at this point you are thinking it would be wise to use a word or phrase as often as possible, then you would be partially correct.  If the search engines believe you are duplicating content for the purpose of beefing up your relevancy scores, they will subtract points from their relevancy rankings for your page(s).  You can also be dinged for the same web content appear on more than one website, or repeating content too often.

So the point is to use the words, just don’t go overboard.

Some of these items, such as the heading and regular content are readily accessible for you to change.  If you use a content management system, make sure that your provider either makes these details available to you or is willing to make the appropriate changes for you.  This area is one where good programming makes all the difference in the world.

Keywords, Choose Them Wisely to Drive Website Traffic

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

People come to your site 3 ways:

  1. They find a link to it (because someone liked the content on your site.)
  2. They type it in (because you told them about it, such as on your business card or an advertisement)
  3. They searched for something, and the search results point to your page (because you did a good job of convincing the search engines that your site is worthy.)

So how do the search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) determine whether a site is worthy?  They start quite literally, by cataloging the number of times each word or phrase shows up on each of your web pages as well throughout your website.  (Yes, it is a very large database.)  They then take a number of factors into consideration and give your web pages a relative importance rank for each of the words they have catalogued.  These factors include the use of social media, the number of links coming into the page, the number of visits to the page, and others.

When someone types in a search phrase, the search engine looks into its magical database and asks what sites are the most relevant.

The takeaway point is this:  if your site does not include the terms used by people doing searches, they will never find your site because it will not be in their master database.

So how do you find out what people actually search on? You do some tedious research.  http://www.seobook.com has a lot of good information for free.  Another source is www.wordtracker.com, and www.keywordiscovery.com.  The pay-per-click advertising programs such as http://adwords.google.com, Bing, and Yahoo also have key word search tools.

To use these tools you will type in a search term and the tool will tell you how many searches used that term or phrase.  Good tools will also provide you a list of similar phrases and the number of searches tied to those terms and phrases.   Remember that different search engines and processes attract different people, so the exact statistics will vary from tool to tool.  If you do this yourself, you will likely need to create a spreadsheet of key words and how many times they appear before you can make a good decision.

Once you determine what the most important keywords are, use them in all of your campaigns and materials.

If you need help determining the keywords for your business, please give us a call at 615-479-7518.

What Does Your Website Say in 30 Seconds?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Random website visitors are like a boss I had one time.  From my cubicle, I could regularly hear him berate people for bothering him with problems that he did not think were significant or fit the situation.  Many times, they actually had a significant question; they just took too long to get around to the heart of the problem.  As I told my fellow employees, the solution was to start with your most significant issue and get it said in one sentence or two.  Once he tuned out, you were done.

Random website visitors will tune you even faster than my old boss.  You have 30 seconds or less to convince them you might

  • understand their view of their problem
  • solve their problem, and
  • have supporting information in the website to build your credibility.

We advise our clients to accomplish this goal with a powerful headline on the home page that leads into a sub-headline and an opening paragraph.  With this starter and good blueprint of the text skeleton, much of the content will write itself and your website will be a powerful communicator.  Website graphics are far less important.  We also think that for many people, the process is easier when a third party helps with the process.  (I know personally that it is very easy for me to get bogged down in wanting to explain all the details of my own business and  that it is difficult to remember the reader only needs a 20,000 foot view.)

Some of our example work includes http://www.farringer.com/, and http://arenalawfirm.com

Is Your Website Marketing Strategy Like an Elementary School Cafeteria?

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

At my elementary school the cafeteria was right in the middle of school.  If the lunchroom got too noisy, the nearby classrooms could not hear their teachers.  For each of my 6 years there, the principals were always trying to find ways to keep the noise down.  Nevertheless, it always got loud, and the only people you heard were the people at your table of 6-8 students.

Every day we as consumers are bombarded by the “cafeteria noise” of people asking for our business.  It all sounds so similar:

  • Great “customer service”
  • Just like the “big company” but more personal service
  • “Low prices”

So how do you break through the noise?  Instead of trying to shout louder than everyone else, why not just be yourself?  All of us are unique individuals with our on take on our industry.

We help our clients develop their unique voice because we think it is more likely that you will get customers that you can serve very well.  These are the clients that will rave about you.  On the flip side, when the customer is really looking for an approach that is opposite to your style, it is more likely that they will chatter about what poor service your provide.  In the worst case scenario they become the customer that makes you cringe every time their number comes up on your caller ID.

We have helped several clients do a better job of identifying how they are uniquely positioned in the marketplace:  www.arenalawfirm.com, www.affordableclosings.net, and  www.laserone.com.   Call us at 615-479-7518 to see if we can help you.

Why a Blogger Is Like a Racer

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

IIllustrates why a blogger is like a racern a race there is only one person who crosses the finish line first.  (OK, there are a couple of exceptions every so often in a short race.)  Most of the racers finish in the pack somewhere; there is always someone better than them.

The typical racer has to take satisfaction in doing their personal best on a given day and occasionally setting a personal record.  It takes daily hard work to reach these types of goals.

Likewise the typical blogger is not going to demonstrate that he or she is the absolute leader in service or advancement in their profession.  In nearly all cases someone does some aspect of our business better than we do.

But that is why we small businesses carve out market niches.

Few of us can compete against the Wal-Marts of the world on price; we do not have the bargaining power to purchase goods that cheap.  We have to offer better quality, more unique items, personal service, or outstanding knowledge or intuitive sense about part of an industry.

If you blog honestly and repeatedly and focus on how you serve your customers, your blog will get recognition and it will demonstrate what it is that you do uniquely well.  While you may not “come in first,” you will likely become more “real” to your clients and potential clients than a static web page ever could.  In the end after working at it consistently, you may set your own personal bests for your business goals.

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How a Slideshow Can Increase or Decrease Traffic to Your Website.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

One way to take a website from a stale page to one that it is more engaging is add something that moves such as a slide show.  It makes the message more memorable.  Billboard companies often promote this principle on their rotating boards and have studies about their effectiveness.

Traditional web developers create slideshows in flash because it is very reliable, looks great, and almost everyone has the flash player.

However, people who specialize in how to make sites that rank well in the search engines tell that the search engines do not reliably find content in flash files, in spite of eager announcements by Google and Adobe.  So the captions on your website and the words in the pictures will not necessarily be read and catalogued by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.  So the content could actually hurt your search engine rankings.

The solution is to use a javascript library like JQuery to produce the slide show.  The individual pictures and any key word rich captions that you want to use will be in the regular text flow of the page, which means there will be no confusion about whether the search engines will find the information.

Another advantage of using a library like JQuery is that it is designed to work across multiple browsers, unlike hand-coded javascript, which may not work in all browsers unless you include a lot of “hacks” for individual browsers.

You can see samples of projects coded by A Site that Works using JQuery at http://arenalawfirm.com, http://factoryatfranklin.com, http://asitethatworks.com/design-samples-2/

3 Core Competencies and Your Website

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Every business primarily focuses on one of three positions in the marketplace

  • Low Cost Provider (i.e. Walmart, Amazon)
  • Brand Leader (i.e. Bose, BMW)
  • Service Provider (i.e. Disney, Nordstrom)

The Low Cost Provider is someone who competes primarily on price for a particular level of quality. The Brand Leader is the company that delivers the latest innovations in their market space first. The customers may be buying the “latest and greatest” or a brand that gives them status. The Service Provider understands their customers’ needs and desires before the customer does and treats them appropriately. The customers of this type of company are willing to invest their money in someone who will truly take care of them or guide them in their selection.

Your website copy should reflect your primary business style. Otherwise, it may confuse visitors or attract the wrong customers to you. For instance,

  • A Low Cost Provider could have price and product comparisons and statements on the home page as well as featured product specials.
  • The Brand Leader may want to use the best graphics and special effects throughout their site. The look must speak to their core audience. Does it explain what the “latest and greatest” is?
  • The Service Provider may want to include a blog about what they do for their clients on a regular basis. Great site navigation and ease of use should be paramount.

Does your website reflect one of these core competencies?

8 Ideas on How Not to Be an Obnoxious Salesman with Online Social Networks

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Here are 8 ideas for you.

  1. Remember that 99% of the time you are not going to make a direct sale through online networking. (Online networking is about opening doors so you can make a sale.)
  2. Write some blog entries that are free basic information about something you are an expert in with no direct sales pitch.
  3. Write blog entries about stuff that really gets you excited or that you wish would go away.
  4. Create a photo-gallery in picassa, flickr, photobucket or where ever and include your hobbies; let folks know when you post new pictures through “status updates.”
  5. If you take pictures and travel, consider geo-locating them in your album
  6. When you find something of interest on the web—tweet about out it, link to it on your blog, put a posting in delicious or dig, mention it facebook or myspace.
  7. Tweet about the “stupid” stuff in your life (not just the serious and not just the sales) (Same for status updates). I probably do not care that you are about to brush your teeth, but I might find it interesting that you just went on a 5 mile run.
  8. Use the tools in linkedin, plaxo, myspace, facebook, friendfeed, etc. that let you see what is going on in other people’s lives. They often have pages where you can see the “updates” others have made.

    Please come back when we have finished our re-branding and have republished this site