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Why You Should Focus on Designing an SEO-Friendly Website

Why You Should Focus on Designing an SEO-Friendly Website (And How to Do It)

Your website is the heart of your online marketing efforts. So it stands to reason that it should be built with marketing, rather than aesthetics, in mind. Yes, there is something to be said for having an appealing website, and you should certainly aim to design one that has both form and function. But the mistake that a lot of small business owners make is focusing on form exclusively, and that is where they miss a major opportunity.

Your website can be the most beautiful one in the world, but if you don’t focus on its function, then it’s all for naught. If you want to build a successful website, you need to start with a solid SEO framework to build a site that is easy to find and works seamlessly with your other online marketing efforts.

Why SEO Matters

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what gets new prospects onto your site. If someone does a Google search looking to solve a problem that they have, and your business is capable of solving that problem, you want your website to be the first one that they see. Think about your own browsing habits: How often do you look at the second, third, or fourth page search results on Google? If your site isn’t ranking on the first page of results, you’re not being seen by the majority of people.

Start with Keyword Research

Ensuring high rankings on search results is why it’s critical to begin the website design process with keyword research. Start by brainstorming the terms you would search for if you were looking for the good or service your business provides. This can and should be a long list—write everything down and don’t self-edit. Google Search Console can also help you identify the terms that are already driving users to your site, which might help you reframe your own thinking on the list.

Then begin to winnow the list down to 12-20 terms; some that speak to the fundamentals of your business and some that speak to a specific intent a user might have when searching. These keywords will inform all of your website design choices from here on out.

Think Like a Search Engine

The way that a human sees your site is very different from the way Google sees it as it crawls through sites looking for information relevant to a given search. You want to make sure that as much of your content as possible is in HTML text format. Images, Flash content, and Javascript are often not seen by search engines as they’re crawling sites, so if all of the important information about what your business does is displayed on your page within these dynamic formats, it’s possible that Google is skipping right past your website when looking for relevant words or phrases.

Using a tool like Google Cache Checker will allow you to see what your website looks like to Google. If your pages are showing up mostly blank, you know that search engines are missing out on crawling the majority of your content, so you’ll want to restructure your site to be more HTML heavy.

Consider Website Structure

In addition to thinking about the way a search engine will see your site, you want to make sure you’re building a structure that makes sense for SEO and for visitors.

Creating a site map can be a helpful way to think about content and flow. What information do you want to group together? What is the logical path that visitors will take when navigating your site? How can you make it easy for users to get from one relevant piece of information to another? And how can you structure your website in a way that enriches the customer journey and encourages users to move down the marketing hourglass?

Once you’ve thought about the user experience aspect of your site, it’s time to think about structure from an SEO perspective. Creating a site with crawlable link structure is critical to making sure that all of your content is seen by search engines. There are a number of reasons why your links might not be crawlable, including if they’re for pages that are hidden behind submission forms, if the links are within the aforementioned Java content that search engines aren’t able to see, or if there are hundreds of links on a given site (search engines will only go through so many links before hitting a limit).

Create Rich Content

Of course, this effort you’ve put into creating a site that’s easy to find, functional, and appealing will all be useless if your site has sub-par content.

As I’ve said before, the goal of this content should be to establish your business as a leading authority in your field. This valuable content will serve you across the board. It makes prospects come to trust you and moves them to the try and buy portions of the marketing hourglass. When you continue to generate new, rich content, it drives existing customers back to your site for more information, keeps you top of mind with those customers, and makes them more likely to repeat and refer.

Not only that, but when your website is filled with valuable content, and you continue to add more on a regular basis, you generate a stream of information that you can use to drive users to your site. You should be housing all of your content—blog posts, webinars, case studies, podcasts, white papers, and infographics—on your website. Then, as you share links to all of this valuable content on social media or via your newsletter, you’re directing all traffic back to your site.

A website, no matter how good it looks, is nothing without a solid approach to SEO. Your website is the most important piece of your online marketing strategy, and so investing the time, energy, and money in creating a site that ticks all of the boxes for form and function is a worthwhile endeavor.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

Four Tips for Creating a Website Users Trust

Four Tips for Creating a Website Users Trust

It seems like every day we’re hearing about a new online security breach. From mega-retailers like Target to tech giants like Facebook, online security is a major issue and giant concern for consumers.

Building trust is a critical part of the marketing hourglass for any business, whether they’re a global conglomerate or a mom and pop shop. What can you, as a small business owner, do to build a site that not only engenders trust but also incorporates legitimate security measures? I’ll share some tips below for creating a website that users trust.

1. Looks Matter

This may sound shallow, but the easiest step in creating a website that looks trustworthy is building one that looks appealing. While I’ve written before about the importance of starting with a focus on SEO—a sentiment that I still stand by—there is something to be said for putting eye-catching trappings on top of that solid SEO foundation.

The way your site looks is important because people do judge books by their covers. Think about how you feel when you go to a website that has typos; inadvertently overlapping video, text, and photo elements; or is just plain black text on a white background. It makes you question the business immediately. Is this a legitimate company, or a scam site? Surely a real business would put effort into presenting the best version of themselves online—so why is this site not up to par?

If someone showed up to job interview in a wrinkled t-shirt and ripped jeans, you might think twice about hiring them. Same principle applies in web design: A sloppy-looking site immediately introduces doubt about your business’s legitimacy and competence into your prospect’s mind.

2. Message Matters, Too

Just as important as a clear, consistent visual presence is a clear and consistent message. Part of establishing trust with a prospect is giving them a sense that they really know who you are, what you do, and why you’re driven to do it. These are all of the questions that a good value proposition will answer. That’s why it’s critical that you take the steps to find out what motivates your existing customers to do business with you and hone in on the themes that they indicate are important to them.

Once you’ve established what it is that makes your business unique and have decided how you want to communicate that message, you want to trumpet that messaging everywhere. Your website’s homepage should highlight the value proposition front and center, and then provide visitors with a call to action that encourages them to learn more about your business.

All other online marketing, including paid ads, social media, newsletters, and emails, should be grounded in that value proposition. It is the North Star for all of your messaging.

And it’s not just what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it. Each business must embrace a tone that makes sense for what they do and who they serve. A local credit union and a children’s bookstore are targeting very different demographics, and so their marketing tones will be very different. While the credit union wants to convey stability and trust, the bookstore is likely aiming for whimsy and adventurousness.

If your business’s tone is all over the map, this again introduces doubt into your prospect’s mind. If you don’t seem to have a clear handle on what your business does, how can a prospect trust you to really step up and solve their problem?

3. Switch to an HTTPS Site

So the first two steps were about putting your customer at ease by creating a site that seems secure. But with that, your work is far from done; you now need to implement tools to build a site that actually is secure. Your first move here should be converting to an HTTPS site.

HTTPS sites are encrypted and protect you from hacking. This is important for you as the business owner, because you can guarantee that all of your business’s information remains secure. It’s also vital for your customers; if you’re going to be asking them to entrust you with their credit card information and personal contact details, they are going to want assurance that you can keep that information safe.

While in the past you may have been able to sneak by with a regular old HTTP site, starting in July of 2018 Chrome began announcing to users when they were visiting unsecured sites. Users now see a red “not secure” label in the URL bar any time they visit an unsecured site, which is a literal red flag that your site is not trustworthy.

And if that isn’t enough incentive for you, unsecured sites are also punished in Google’s search rankings, so an unsecured site might be lowering your standing in organic search results. Switching over to a secured site is a quick fix to maintain your first-page search results standing.

4. Employ Further Site Security Measures

Once you’ve made the switch to an HTTPS site, there are a few additional steps you can and should take to further enhance your site’s security, which is especially critical if you’re collecting payment or other sensitive information online.

Acquiring SSL certification is a good place to start for those running e-commerce sites. SSL sites establish a secure connection for sensitive information to be transmitted. Sites with SSL also display badges to indicate their added security, which research has shown increases conversion rates.

Aside from relying on HTTPS and SSL tech to boost your security behind the scenes, you should be making efforts from your side to ensure that you’re not inadvertently opening your site up to vulnerabilities. We’ve shared about the role that out-of-date WordPress plugins played in the massive data leak at a law firm, which got international press coverage.

When you incorporate plugins from third-party developers, you open your site up to any errors in their plugin code. These developers are good about checking their work and pushing through updates to correct for any potential issues, but if you’re still running the original version of the plugin, it’s possible that you’ve left your site open for hackers to get in through the vulnerabilities there and then move into other elements of your site.

Creating a website users trust is an important part of moving your prospects through the marketing hourglass and converting them to customers. Incorporating security elements is the key to establishing a site you know will guard your customers’ personal information, which will keep them coming back to do business with you time and again.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

How to Build A Website that Generates Leads

How to Build a Website That Generates Leads

In today’s day and age, every business owner knows they must have an online presence to be competitive. But not everyone understands how to optimize that online presence. Your website is the heart of your business’s online existence, so ensuring that it’s designed to maximize lead generation is critical to securing long-term success for your company

How do you create a website that is easily found, catches a prospect’s eye, and keeps them around long enough to decide to give your product or service a try? Let’s take a deeper look at how to build a website that generates leads.

Make it Easy to Find

The obvious first place to start is in designing a site that is easy to find. You’re not going to generate any leads from a site that is in hiding.

The first step here is making sure that your domain name makes sense for your business. If you’re not able to secure your first choice, what are your alternatives? Pick a domain name is memorable, easy to spell, and is something prospects and clients will be able to easily associate with your company.

From there, you’ll want to keep track of how people are finding your site in order to understand which social channels are driving traffic and who’s talking about you online. You can then use that information to be more strategic about where you place your marketing efforts in order to drive traffic to your site.

And you mustn’t forget about SEO in this discussion. If your site isn’t ranking on the first page of Google results, you’re missing out on catching the eyes of a lot of prospects. Keyword research is a critical part of ensuring that your business is actually being found by people who are in the market for the goods and services you offer.

You’ll also want to undertake an SEO audit of your website to make sure that your current content isn’t hurting your search rankings. Screaming Frog offers services that allow you to check your website’s current SEO status: find broken links and crawl errors, analyze how existing pages rank for SEO terms, check site speed, and more.

Give Visitors a Way to Reach Out

When a visitor comes to your site and they like what they see, you want to be sure that you’re providing them with a clear, easy way to get more information from your business. Getting strategic about where and how you ask for information from prospects can help you to generate even more leads from your existing site.

The first step is to put forms on the pages that get the most traffic. Make sure that these forms ask for as little information as possible and that they auto-populate; bogging prospects down with a million questions is a surefire way to scare them off.

You’ll also want to be sure that the forms you create make sense in the context of the other information on a given page. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, don’t put a form offering a free white paper on website design on a page that’s about print work that you’ve done.

You should also provide users with as many ways to contact you as possible. Make your phone number and email address easy to find, and consider incorporating a chat function into your site’s design. No one wants to have to go on a search mission across all of your website just to find a way to ask you a simple question.

Build a Variety of Landing Pages

Creating highly specialized landing pages is one of the keys to generating more promising leads. In fact, research from HubSpot has shown that business with 30 or more landing pages on their website generate seven times more leads than those websites that only have one to five landing pages.

The best landing pages are those that keep it simple. Depending on where the traffic is coming from, you can create a specific messaging that speaks to that particular subset of your prospect population. Make sure that your succinctly outline the problem your business can solve, and that there’s a clear way for prospects to reach out—a call to action button or a simple form—and leave it at that.

Landing pages that are cluttered with too much information or that do not clearly demonstrate your company’s value proposition can leave prospects feeling confused and returning to their Google search to consider one of your competitors. If you’d like to see some examples from a variety of industries, HubSpot has some great ones here.

Create an Eye-Catching Homepage with a Clear CTA

While each of your specific landing pages should have tailored messaging and calls to action, you’ll also want to be sure that your homepage has a general call to action that serves as a catch-all for anyone who might want to learn more about your business.

This CTA shouldn’t be for a specific product or service; after all, this is the page on your website that the general population is most likely to see first, so you don’t want to single out only one of your numerous offerings on this page. Instead, give visitors the chance to learn more about your business. A CTA that asks prospects to subscribe to your newsletter or try your service for free are great ways to catch the attention of the widest swath of visitors possible.

Once you get to know these prospects better and have a deeper sense of where their specific interests lie, then you can begin to target them with more specific offers through email marketing and audience segmentation.

Use Content to Generate Leads

Having a website that’s filled with rich, valuable information is what will keep prospects on your site and entice them to come back for more. This means that your website needs to go beyond answering the basic question of how your business can solve a prospect’s problem. It must provide in-depth content on the topic that establishes your business as an authoritative voice in your industry, and provides prospects with the assurance that yours is the team for the job.

Creating valuable content and sharing that content regularly on your site is a critical part of the lead generation process. In order to do so, you need to establish a content strategy. I have advocated in the past for a strategy that organizes your content thematically. If you pick a different area of interest each month and offer a deep dive into related topics on your blog, you’re creating value for your prospects and continuing to offer interesting content regularly that will keep them coming back.

Once your blog has become a go-to source of information for your prospects, you can target them with offers for related white papers or your newsletter that’s dedicated to a relevant topic. This helps to move these prospects further down the marketing hourglass, as you begin to establish your brand as one that they know, like, and trust.

A poorly designed website will do nothing to generate leads for your business. When you begin to think strategically about all of the elements of your website—from SEO and keyword search to blog content and calls to action—you can build a website that is fully optimized to generate leads for your business.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

build trust

How to Build Trust With Your Audience

In my content, I often refer to the customer journey, or what I like to call The Marketing Hourglass, which includes the following stages: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer.

All of these stages are important for moving customers closer to the sale (and beyond), but today I really want to focus on the Trust component of the journey as there are so many businesses who are lacking in this area.

The fact of the matter is, we’ll buy products we like, but we’ll rarely commit to an organization unless we trust them.

There are a ton of simple things a company can do to build this trust, they just aren’t always aware of what those things are, so let’s cover a few here.

Know your audience

I sure hope you’re not getting sick of me talking about this topic because I’m not going to stop any time soon. The best way to gain a person’s trust is to show you truly understand who they are and what it is that they’re experiencing. In order to best alleviate their problems and concerns with your expertise, you need to do your research to uncover who they are.

A few ways to get to know your audience include:

  • Reading past emails with customers and identify trends
  • Talk to your sales and support teams who have the greatest insight into what your customers are going through
  • Read reviews
  • Be observant on social media platforms and forums
  • Interview current customers

The more research you do, the better off you’ll be. It may be time-consuming, but it’s worth it.

Create content

Creating content shouldn’t come as a shock as content should be at the core of everything you do when it comes to marketing and attracting people to your business. To build trust with content, you must be helpful, educational, and consistent. You want people to be able to depend on you for the information they’re looking for.

Get a solid understanding of their pain points and write content that addresses those problems. Understand what your audience’s intent is and speak to it.

The one thing I want to stress is that you don’t want to sell using content in the trust phase. This is not the time for that. This is the phase where they are simply trying to get to know you and are doing their research to ensure you’d be the right choice. Selling during this phase won’t work because they often simply aren’t ready to buy. It could actually turn many people away.

When it comes to actually creating your content, whether it’s written, a video, a podcast, or any other format you’re focusing on, be conversational and personal. Your audience wants to read/see/hear something they can relate to. Develop the content as though you’re creating it for a single person. It will help you personalize it even more than if you were writing for a group of people.

Other writing tips to keep in mind include:

  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short (and video for that matter) so that people will actually consume the content.
  • Use rhetorical questions to make them feel like they are a part of the conversation.
  • When possible, avoid industry jargon.

Last, but certainly not least, use your content to tell a story. Storytelling will help you connect with your audience and show them the human side of your business. The ability to tell a person why your business does what it does through a story and how you illustrate it for their benefit is key.

Keep in mind, your audience needs to see themselves in the story which starts with their challenges, problems, and issues that they don’t know how to solve.

Use your website

To build trust, your website must make a good first impression, and to do so, be sure it includes the following:

  • A promise –  You need to make your audience a promise that will solve their problems.
  • A sub-promise – A sub promise is the trust factor and social proof that a company offers.
  • A clear call to action (CTA) – CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps.
  • Contact information – Consider using a little personality as well to make your audience want to contact you even more!
  • Visual branding – Integration of strategy, messaging, positioning, and brand is important is so important for a business to build trust.
  • Video – Video allows you to give people a real sense of who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story.
  • A list of problems – Identify the problems you solve and make it easy for website visitors to see them.
  • Show trust, proof, and authoritative elements, including quotes, client logos, association badges, client results, case studies, media recognition, and awards. These really are like currency in the trust phase.
  • Updated content – Show that you care about your own business and publish new content regularly.
  • Optimize for mobile – This should be a top priority of yours for a number of reasons, including trust building.
  • Show your personality – This will help to establish an emotional connection with your audience which will make them more likely to trust you.

Establish relationships

As mentioned above, the more you are able to establish relationships with your audience, the more likely they’ll be to trust you. A few tips to do this include:

  • Be empathetic and show that you care
  • Be responsive
  • Be genuinely interested in what they have to say
  • Be yourself
  • Be transparent
  • Ensure the communication you have with your audience is a clear two-way street

Bottom line? Be human.

General tips for building authority and credibility

In addition to my points above, there are a few general tips to keep in mind when establishing trust that I’ve listed below:

  • Build up your online reviews and testimonials. Work to improve them not only on your website, Google My Business listings, and social media but also on relevant industry sites (Houzz for interior decorator reviews, for example).
  • Know your unique point of difference. Show what separates you from the competition and make it clear for anybody who comes in contact with your business.
  • Understand your brand identity. Along with understanding your point of difference, you need to know your company’s voice and personality. This will help to humanize your business and establish those connections.
  • Go above and beyond.  Under promise and over deliver and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Be predictable. If you were watching my content creation like a hawk, you’d know that I publish a post on Duct Tape Marketing every Tuesday, a post on the Duct Marketing Consultant Network site every Wednesday, a podcast episode every Wednesday or Thursday, a Consultant Tools post every Friday, and a Weekend Favs post every Saturday. Why? Because at this point people expect it. They trust I will give them useful content throughout the week which holds me accountable to give it to them. Remember, you want people to depend on you for the information they need, so you need to do your best to give it to them.

At the end of the day, in order to get people closer to the purchase, you need to get them to trust you, so do everything you can to help them do just that.

What trust-building tactics are you implementing that have worked for your business?

Need more tips on search engine optimization? Check out our entire Guide to SEO. For more on website design, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

mobile marketing campaign

How to Create A Mobile Website That Gets Found By Google

Here’s the thing, as a society, we’re constantly on the go and Google has adapted to this sort of lifestyle. Because of this, in order for your website to succeed to it’s fullest capacity today, it needs to work well on mobile devices.

Just because it’s ranking well on a desktop does not mean the same results will translate over to search results on your phone. It has never been more important for you to have a mobile-friendly website.

There are a plethora of additional factors you need to keep in mind when it comes to mobile optimization that I’m not going to include in this post, but in order to get started, you need to lay the foundation of the website, which I plan to help do for you with the information below.

The three options for mobile website configuration

When it comes to getting found by Google on mobile devices, there are really only three ways to set up your site for mobile. I should warn you, I’ve listed the three below in the order of the one I least recommend to most recommend, so be sure to keep reading to find out my top recommendation.

Separate URLs

With this configuration, you have the desktop version of your site as well as a mobile version of your site. Your site will detect the type of device a user is using and will direct them to the best URL for that device.

The thing is, this type of setup is rather time intensive and difficult to manage for numerous reasons, one of them being that these mobile websites have a lot of SEO issues (which kind of defeats the purposes of trying to build a site that will get found by Google).

Dynamic Serving

With this setup, all of your content is on the same URL, but every user sees different code depending on the device they’re using. This is better than the option above, but it’s not without its own problems (for example, it often mixes up the two versions). Plus, as we all know, technology is always changing, and if a new device gets invented, guess what? You’ll need to create content for that new device.

Responsive design

Ding, ding, ding! Here’s is the one I recommend you go with. With this configuration, your page’s content and layout respond to each user depending on their device (without the need to separate URLs or use different code). This is definitely best practice these days.

Plus, it’s SEO friendly (Google even recommends this method), so if for no other reason, I’d say go this route for that alone.

Mobile landing page best practices

At the end of the day, the goals of your marketing efforts are likely to get people to convert, so you must ensure your landing pages are as efficient as possible to do just that. Keep the following in mind when you put them together:

  • Make them responsive (hopefully, you paid attention to the last section of the post)
  • Avoid adding images with large file sizes as this will impact load time (more information on the importance of site speed below)
  • Add your call to action above the fold – In fact, include the majority of the important information near the top of the page as well.
  • Get to the point. Make it clear what problems you’re solving and what your visitor will get in return.
  • Keep PDF formatting in mind. If you have somebody download, say, a content upgrade, like a guide that’s in a PDF format, remember, those don’t always format well on phones. Consider including mobile-appropriate formats instead.
  • Make buttons “thumb friendly” – Don’t make them too small or out of place; your thumb needs to be able to navigate the screen.

Why speed matters

Site speed has historically been a ranking factor for search engine results pages, but it’s moving closer and closer towards the spotlight. At the end of the day, Google wants to provide users with the best experience possible, and let’s face it, nothing is more annoying than when a site loads slowly.

Not to scare you, but Google actually recommends that your mobile site loads under a second. This is definitely easier said than done, but it’s a good goal to strive for.

I’d recommend checking out Google PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your site loads on mobile devices. It will also give you recommendations on what to change to help your site load more smoothly.

Some of the recommendations may include:

  • Compress your images – reducing file size can help speed up load times
  • Cache your site
  • Load above the fold content first
  • Cut down on redirects

To make sure everything is functioning properly, it’s important to implement Google Analytics on your site so that you can track performance. Wherever you see any shortcomings, be sure to address them promptly.

As you can see, the good news is that as intimidating as it may sound, it really isn’t that difficult to create a mobile website these days. The hard part is simply getting started.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to check in throughout the rest of the month as I’ll be writing more about the topic of mobile optimization, including mobile content, mobile campaigns, and mobile email. Stay tuned!

Need more mobile marketing tips? Check out our entire Guide to Mobile Marketing. For more on website design, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

why websites fail

Why the Majority of Websites Fail

Gone are the days where businesses can rely solely on “pretty” websites. In today’s digital marketing landscape, a website must be an optimized, revenue-generating platform.

I’ll just get right to it: The reason so many websites fail is because businesses take a design-driven approach from the beginning as opposed to developing a website from the ground up with SEO in mind. Without SEO your coding and design efforts will all be for nothing.

A brief look at the web design industry

I hear the same complaint from entrepreneurs time and time again: They’ll get a referral, hire a friend, or search online to find a web designer based on style and price. Sound familiar?

When this happens, more often than not, businesses realize upon site completion that their brand new fancy website isn’t optimized for search. The new site launches and search rankings don’t change at all (some even plummet). But hey, at least the website looks good.

It’s never a fun day when you have to tell an entrepreneur that they likely need a complete site redesign in order to achieve their SEO and business goals.

Because I’ve heard this story so many times, it is now my mission to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-web designer, and I do think first impressions and a good-looking site are important, I just want the web design industry to embrace SEO as well and make it a natural part of the web development process. It’s a win-win for everybody!

Why web design is like building a house

A web designer or design agency are often chosen because of the look of their portfolio. It can be easy to judge a book by its cover when it comes to hiring a designer, as they are digital artists with distinct tastes that either don’t match or do match the direction you’d like to take your brand aesthetically. While web designers are generally very good at their craft, the majority of them are not marketers or SEO consultants.

The issue lies with business owners searching “web design” when looking to hire somebody to do their website, so it’s no wonder a design team would pop up. Rarely do people search “inbound marketing platforms” (which is what they should be typing in) when looking to build their website as the phrase isn’t as commonly used as “web design.”

So, where does the whole “building a house” analogy come into play? If a house were built by an interior designer, it would likely collapse, right? Most people wouldn’t allow an interior designer to build their house, and the same can be said for the website development process. To attract and convert visitors into sales, you need an entirely different skillset than design.

In order to disrupt this traditional way of thinking, web designers need to embrace marketing and SEO, and business owners need to treat the website as a true investment that will help them reach their business goals.

Where content and SEO come in

As we established in the previous sections, when it comes to building a website, looks matter but not nearly as much as the marketing strategy that goes into your website. Your website needs to make a good first impression, but it has to do so much more than that. A good website helps you to sell time and time again. I like to call this the SEO-content balance – SEO brings people to the site, and content converts them.

If a website has a great SEO structure, but terrible content, your process will likely breakdown. The same is true the other way around. If you have great content, but a terrible SEO strategy, people will never see it! You need to have a perfect balance between the two to have optimal success.

Your website’s ranking potential

To be competitive online, you need to invest in a custom website built with SEO in mind as it’s being developed. Your website should not be built with a templated theme (like so many of them are). It should be developed around your business’s needs and marketing goals.

Your website is an investment, not an expense. It takes time, effort, and talent to build it right, but trust me, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

If I haven’t made it clear by now, let me reiterate that your website is one of your company’s most important assets. All of your sales, marketing, and advertising efforts lead back to your website (or at least they should), so you need to make sure it’s modern, updated, and functions properly. There’s nothing worse than driving people to your site only for them to be disappointed that the site is clearly dated. It shows you don’t care enough about your company to leave a lasting impression on your audience.

At the end of the day, your website needs to get your phone ringing, not just serve as a piece of eye-candy, so make sure you’re spending the time and money to get it right.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services. For more tips on website design, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

6 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Trust Your Website

Portrait of a young angry man on bright concrete background

Let’s face it, most of us are skeptical when we visit a business website for the first time.

We inherently distrust information on the Internet – unless it comes from trusted sources. It’s just the way it is.

This is why it is essential for your small business website to convince new visitors that you are trustworthy and why you are the company they should choose.

On the other hand, your ideal clients are less likely to trust you if:

You don’t have a detailed About Us Page

The About Us page is one of the most sought out pages of a website. When consumers arrive at your site, they want to know who you are and get to know your business’s “story.” This is your opportunity to introduce yourself, your business and your team while letting your customer know why they can’t live without your product or service. Jeff Haden provides some great tips on how to improve your About Us page.

You don’t have a Head Shot or Team Photos

Posting a photo of your actual team develops a sense of confidence that will encourage a customer to buy from you. Without these kinds of photos, consumers may lose confidence in a website. Your goal is to create a Know Like Trust website, and including yours and your team’s headshots will greatly improve the trust factor of your site.

You don’t have a Telephone Number Listed

When you display a phone number on your website it means you are accessible. When no telephone number is present, on the other hand, it can look like you are hiding something.  And who do I call if there is a problem with the purchase? For local businesses, having a local area code (as opposed to an 800 number) adds trust as well.

You don’t have a Physical Contact Address Listed

As with your phone number, a physical address adds many layers of trust to your website.   People want to know you are a real, physical entity and displaying a physical address appears way more trustworthy than an anonymous contact form. Furthermore, a physical address is both an on-page and off-page SEO ranking factor. Google likes to see a physical address clearly listed on your website, preferably in the footer of each web page. Your address is also an off-page local SEO ranking factor.

You don’t have any Certifications, Association or Trust Badges

Adding trust badges, association badges and certifications to your website provide reassurance for potential customers that you are a credible business. There are countless badge options to consider, from payment and security to membership associations. The more you have present (which are only available if you meet specific standards) the more trustworthy your website will become.

Some organizations to think about using include business association sites like the BBB and your local chambers, charity and volunteer sites your business is associated with, as well as website security badges that come along with services from TRUSTe, McAfee, VeriSign.

You don’t have any Testimonials or Reviews

The power of a testimonial is found in its objectivity. This means that someone outside of the brand is doing the talking, so the credibility is MUCH higher. A 2013 study by Dimensional Research concluded that 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews – that is pretty much all of us. You should make it a priority to include customer reviews on your website and research more on how to get clients to leave a Google maps review to improve your local SEO visibility.

You don’t provide any Client, Portfolio or Case Study Information

You need to prove that you can deliver on the promises you are making. In addition to publishing testimonials from clients, show off your portfolio and publish a case study. Each of these components will prove that you can back up the claims you are making to offer superior products or services. This provides a consumer with tangible proof.

You don’t Blog

According to BlogHer, 81% of U.S. consumers trust advice and information that is published on blogs. Also, when you blog regularly, customers will see that you know the business and that you are providing valuable and actionable information they can use. Blogging makes you an authority and people trust authorities.

If you have yet to create any content that shows you are an authority, it can be hard to convince consumers you are a trustworthy source of information. Publish blog content, create an eBook, produce podcasts and show people what you know to build your own creditability.  Blogging is also an important SEO ranking factor. John Jantsch provides a great list of the 7 most important SEO factors for bloggers.

You don’t Participate in Social Media

Being able to maintain an active presence on social media is essential. This means that you are engaging with the fans and followers who like or share your content. Social media is considered a two-way street and if you don’t participate in the conversation, then it can cause customers to lose trust in what you do and offer. They may even begin to believe you don’t care about their input or feedback.

You don’t have a Decent, Mobile Friendly Web Design

According to a Stanford University study, 80% of people judge the credibility of a company by its website design. Whoa! Something to really think about if you have a cheap WordPress theme, a GoDaddy web-builder website or something that was slapped together by your nephew. Most businesses take their websites for granted and have unknowingly lost a lot of business, especially lost referral business.

With over 50% of Internet searches made on mobile devices, you simply must have a mobile friendly website. Your website looks SUPER dated if users have to pinch and zoom to view content on your site. Pound for pound, the condition and quality of your website is probably the most important website trust factor.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

phil-singleton.jpgPhil Singleton is a self-described ‘SEO grunt’ obsessed with tweaking websites for search engine optimization and conversions, and creating WordPress SEO & PPC plugins. He owns & operates Kansas City Web Design and Kansas City SEO. Phil is co-author author of the Amazon best-seller The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Local Lead Generation (2015), and author of the Amazon best-selling Kindle eBook How To Hire A Web Designer: And Not Get Burned By Another Agency (2015).  Visit his latest website at https://digitalprowebdesign.com or connect with Phil Singleton on LinkedIn.

 

4 What is Structured Data & Schema for Websites & SEO?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.24.08 AMFor business owners and even for many marketing consultants, search engine optimization can seem like a headache – especially when it comes to any level of technical SEO.

The good news is that a professional marketing strategy that is powered by a search engine friendly website and consistent content marketing, many small business websites can achieve at least some level of search engine visibility without getting too deep into the SEO weeds.

Yet, in more competitive local niches, and certainly at the national level, there is a more complex world of technical SEO that needs to be addressed in order for your site to have a fighting chance.

Schema is a topic that many in SEO service providers find to be complicated and difficult.  In fact, the previous head of Bing Search, Duane Forrester, said at an SMX conference that most people get schema wrong.  In fact, I often hear many experienced web designers and SEO specialists that either don’t use schema or have difficulty implementing this newer type of SEO website code – and this is understandable once you start browsing through the thousands of pages at Schema.org.

Let’s Clear Up Come Confusion

In the world of SEO website code, you will hear terms like Structured Data, Schema and Rich Snippets.  Most people have no idea what these are or they (incorrectly) use them interchangeably:

  • Structured Data:  Structured data is a way for digital content publishers to highlight or “tag” content on their web pages to help search engines know exactly what certain content relates to.  In other words, structured data gives search engines another dimension of context for web page content.
  • Schema:  Schema is a shared markup vocabulary listed at Schema.org that is recognized by search engines to help with structured data efforts.  In other words, Schema represents the building blocks of Structured Data.
  • Rich Snippets:  If your Structured Data coding is implemented correctly, the search engines will use the Structured Data on your website to display key information right into the search results page.  This bonus search engine “bling” is often referred to as rich snippets.

What does Structured Data do?

In a nutshell, structured data is a detailed set of website code that is “under the hood” of your website.  If you know some SEO basics, you are probably familiar with the meta page title and meta description on your web pages – these are usually the blue linked text and black description text that appear in on the search results page.  Just like your page title and meta description, Schema is extra code that gives context to the search engines in a standard format that they understand.   With structured data, you can clearly define to the search engines the content on your web pages.

When Google accesses this code on your site and deems it valuable to the searcher, they might add extra information right into the results via a rich snippet.

A common (and highly coveted) example of a rich snippet is when you see a star rating review or aggregate rating review show up right on the Google search results page.  A review on your website is a great example of content that will not be shown in search results unless you add the right schema code into your website in the right place.  

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Here are some examples where you see structured data on the SERPs:

  • Knowledge Graph: the upper right box that shows up in search results for company name searches or brand searches
  • Aggregate Star Review Ratings in search results
  • Product ratings in Search results
  • Event details that appear in search results
  • Search box for your site that shows up in search results
  • Video thumbnails’ that show up in search results

Schema Helps SEO, Big Time

There is no doubt that schema has a big impact on your rankings. Although right now, this is primarily an indirect effect.  How so?  Rich snippets (schema-triggered data in SERPs) have a HUGE impact on organic click through rate (CTR), and it’s well known that CTR is an organic ranking factor.   Think about it.  When you see event data or review data within a search result, aren’t you more compelled to click those results?  

But wait, there’s more.

Like the mobile friendly ranking update that was launched in 2014, Google is now starting to give some pretty strong hint that schema will become a direct ranking factor.

The Three Schema Formats

  1. MicroData, as defined by Wikipedia, is a WHATWG HTML specification used to nest metadata within existing content on web pages. Search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can extract and process Microdata from a web page and use it to provide a richer browsing experience for users.
  2. RFDa or Resource Description Framework in Attributes is another format that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to HTML, XHTML and various XML-based document types for embedding rich metadata within web pages.
  3. JSON-LD is the latest and greatest Schema format and my personal favorite because of the ease of implementation (and I think it’s Google’s favorite too):   In Google’s own words:  JSON-LD is the newest and simplest markup format: it lets you embed a block of JSON data inside a script tag anywhere in the HTML. Since the data does not have to be interleaved with the user-visible text, it’s much easier to express nested data items (say, the Country of a PostalAddress of a MusicVenue of an Event). Also, Google can read JSON-LD data even when it is dynamically injected into the page’s contents, such as by Javascript code or embedded “widgets.”

Google Has Made It A Little Easier

Google know schema and website code, in general, is very difficult for most users to implement. Yet, they desperately want you to use schema because it makes their search engine more accurate and enables them to show more useful information in search results.

They have made some tools for you to generate this code.  The first is Google’s structured data markup helper. This online wizard will help you generate schema code for your web page.  Once generated, you will have to install on your website.  This tool is awesome because it takes the guesswork out of what schema to use and guides you how to “tag” the element on your site.  You simply paste in the webpage URL that you want to tag and follow the guide.

The downside is that once the code is generated, you have to install it on your site.  This is where some of the pain comes in for business owners and even marketers that tend to lose confidence once they have to make changes to a WordPress site (for example) where you get out of the CMS admin environment.

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Another tool is the Structured Data Highlighter in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).  This tool enables you to highlight and tag structured data with your GSC account.  This is a nice feature, but it does not include all the data tags and the tagging you do in this account does not reside on your website.  This tool is not really a replacement for adding structured data to your website, but it does help “teach” Google about data patterns on your website.

One More Tool

As an Internet marketing strategist that handle dozens of SEO campaigns for companies of all sizes, my team was spending too much time trying to add and optimize structured data on our clients’ WordPress websites.  There are a ton of structured data plugins for WordPress out there, but many are either difficult to use or only provide markup for something specific, such as ratings.   I found no comprehensive, easy-to-use structured data plugins for small business websites or for local search engine optimization.

Further, very few schema plugins support JSON-LD, the latest and greatest in structured data code.  This is really important because with JSON-LD you don’t have to mess with shortcode or HTML, which makes it easier for a developer like myself to create a very user-friendly plugin that is also “less invasive” to existing website code.  

So recently I released my own free WordPress plugin that enables you to set up structured data on your website, modeled exactly after the way Google guidelines on Structured Data.

Except with my plugin, you never have to mess with any code or with the Google structured data tools, nor log into Google Search Console to tag data through your (or your client’s accounts).  Be sure to download my SEO Structured Data WordPress plugin (available February 2016) and give it a try!

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If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

phil-singleton.jpgPhil Singleton is a self-described ‘SEO grunt’ obsessed with tweaking websites for search engine optimization and conversions, and creating WordPress SEO & PPC plugins.  He owns & operates Kansas City Web Design®, a top Kansas City web design agency, and Kansas City SEO®. Phil is co-author author of the Amazon best-seller The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Local Lead Generation (2015), and author of the Amazon best-selling Kindle eBook How To Hire A Web Designer: And Not Get Burned By Another Agency (2015).   Visit his websites at http://kcwebdesigner.com and http://kcseopro.com, or connect with Phil Singleton on LinkedIn.

13 Point Checklist for the Perfect Website Redesign

Website redesign

I rarely encounter a business that simply doesn’t yet have a website. Regardless of the bizarre reports that still contend 50% of all small business owners don’t have a website. (See Inc)

Now, what I do encounter most of the time is a small business that needs a total site makeover or redesign. It’s not that they were just awful in the first place, (well, some were) it’s that every site, just like every business, needs to evolve. That means if your current site design is around two years old it needs some attention.

But, before you rush out and give a designer the keys to your site, take steps to ensure you don’t unknowingly undue all the good you’ve accomplished with your previous site.

Eager designers don’t mean harm when they create a new design, they just need more information, and that’s where you come in. Before you even visit a WordPress theme designer arm yourself with some information that can help them make good decisions about what stays and what goes in your current configuration or take the risk of losing all that hard earned search traffic.

Now, I’m not suggesting you simply hang on to SEO gains over things like better navigation, visitor usability, and conversion, but don’t throw everything out just for something that looks more modern.

Use this checklist as you embark on a site redesign as a way to capture all existing elements and consider content needs, edits and issues before the project starts.

  1. Do you have access to Google Analytics? – I know, weird question, but you might be surprised how many sites have analytics installed the owners have no idea how to access the data.
  2. Do you have access to Google Search Console (formerly webmaster tools) – I frequently find site owners who have never bothered to connect their sites here and use this invaluable resource
  3. Have you evaluated domain suitability and value and checked expiration? – Carefully and I mean carefully consider if your current domain is even right for your business. Certainly this is a good time to check and make sure your desired domain isn’t set to expire anytime soon. (Quick check WhoIS)
  4. Have you cataloged all pages and current issues? – Use Screaming Frog to create a spreadsheet of all of your pages and any currently broken links or crawl errors.
  5. Have you added Google Analytics data for pageviews, bounce rate and time on page to a spreadsheet to help make assessment on content to keep? By adding this kind of data to your spreadsheet you might learn about some pages that are receiving a surprising amount of traffic or links.
  6. Have you ranked your spreadsheet content? A= keep no edit, B=keep edits needed, C= drastic rewrite or dump? This step involves your overall business and marketing strategy so you’ll need to consider how you want to position your business and your editorial calendar moving forward to make some of this decisions.
  7. Have you audited any lead capture/landing pages/forms? If you’re capturing email addresses for a newsletter, ebook or webinar series you’ll want to make sure you take note of these for the redesign. It’s easy to lose track of landing pages because they are often buried away from the main navigation.
  8. Have you audited SEO for ranking pages? Screaming Frog can give you information about pages that already rank for desired terms. If these terms are still relevant, you’ll want to think long and hard about how to keeps these pages intact.
  9. Have you audited permalink structure? A site redesign might be the time to analyze whether you want those ugly numbered URLs for your blog posts or the default date added. Most sites today are moving to keyword-rich URLs for all content (Don’t worry, I’m headed there in a month or two myself.)
  10. Have you analyzed current backlinks? Use a tool like ahrefs to see if any sites are sending significant traffic to pages. You’ll want to use some of this information to make determinations about leaving pages as is or even permanently redirecting the pages to eliminate creating too many broken links. (You might also consider some links that need pruning too.)
  11. Have you designed a 301 permanent redirect strategy if needed? If you’re making any dramatic URL changes, you’ll want to tell the search engines that your blog posts still exist they’re just at a new address. Make sure you work this through and test it thoroughly before you launch. The Yoast SEO Plugin can help with 301s
  12. Have you evaluated current plugins for use? A redesign is a great time to reconsider your current plugin use. Plugins are a big resource drag and a security hole – less is better.
  13. Have you evaluated needed integrations (CRM, ESP, Shopping cart, etc.) Finally, if you currently have some integration with other 3rd party tools or client portals, you’ll want to note the need for these and make sure you can share this information with your designer.

The steps above may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you a ton of work, worry, and headache in the end. In fact, if you start working with a designer and they don’t ask you for this information up front, you should be concerned.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.

4 A Visual Guide to Local SEO for Small Business Websites

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Justin Sturges – Enjoy!

How to Build a Perfectly Optimized Local Website by Following the Google Guidelines!

Building a winning local website is no simple task. We need content about our business, a blog, location pages, photos and galleries, contact pages and more! All this can quickly overwhelm budgets and plans.

So in order to help, we’ve built an infographic which attempts to help small business owners, consultants, web designers and local marketers get a better plan.

Anyone a fan of the A-Team? Remember Hannibal Smith, big cigar in his mouth, saying “I love it when a plan comes together”? I loved that.

And the goal here is to help your plan “come together”.

In the process of creating this post, we first attempted to write it in s standard blog text format… we tried hard, but it was B-O-R-I-N-G. Really, boring. Then we got the idea to make it into an infograhic.

We think it worked, it’s a big one, but hopefully you’ll agree it’s the best approach. We hope you’ll save it and use it to guide the development of your website and get the clarity you need as you go.

We’ve combined our experience with extensive research across the local space online. At the bottom of the infographic we site the sources we used in developing the blueprint.

At the bottom of this post we provide a PDF link and embed links at a couple sizes as well.

Here you go:

Local-SEO-Template-Blueprint-Infographic3

This graphic and the systems we use ourselves in-house to build sites following these guidelines are always evolving. If you have questions or further ideas from the trenches we’d love to hear from you.

Share this Image On Your Site

Wrapping up:
The key take aways here are to please read the Google SEO Guidelines, you will be a step ahead if you do. Use the Google guidelines together with this infographic and you will be far ahead of 99% of the folks out there.

Get the PDF version:
Visual-Guide-To-On-Page-Local-SEO.pdf

Justin is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Systemadik Marketing where he and his team work with local businesses to build better online marketing systems.  Justin has been working online since 1994, he is currently working on launching the Systemadik LMS (Local Marketing System) which is a custom WordPress SEO and content solution for local businesses.  He is a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and employs the DTM system to provide strategic support and leading marketing tools to his clients. Justin is a father and husband and enjoys exploring the cenotes and coral reefs of the Yucatan Peninsula with his family.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.