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websites for professional services

Must-Have Website Elements for Professional Services

As a professional services provider, your website should be your most valuable marketing asset and the hub of all of your marketing efforts. Your website shouldn’t just be a pretty design that people can look at. It needs to act as an actual tool for your business and work as a lead generating machine.

Your website has many jobs these days and should help you:

  • Get found – Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a priority for your business to help you rise above the competition in search engine results pages.
  • Build trust – I write more about this below as well, but your website needs to work the way your customers need it to and expect it to. You need to instill confidence in your audience.
  • Educate and inform – Help your audience understand what their problems and challenges actually are and how to solve them.
  • Nurture and convert – This is where the whole lead generation component comes into play. It’s common for people to visit your website numerous times before deciding to work with you. To ensure you stay top of mind, put enticing forms and CTAs in place (that link to valuable resources) to get their email address and continue to create valuable content that is relevant to their stage in the customer journey. This will help to move them closer to the sale.

I’m not going to lie, after working with countless professional services businesses over the years I can say that many websites look the same. They have the exact same structure and messaging (this even applies across industries) and it can be difficult to separate one business from another.

To help you stand out from the crowd, keep the points mentioned in this post in mind.

Speak to your specific audience

Now, the core of this is that you have to have a deep understanding of who your audience is in order to speak to them directly. You want them to feel special when they land on your site and this happens best when they feel an emotional connection with your messaging.

When developing the copy to reach your audience, keep the following in mind:

  • Focus on the messaging on your audience, not your business (i.e. replace “we” with “you”). It will resonate much better with them if you take this approach (easier said than done, but it’s a must).
  • Write as if you’re talking to one specific person, not a group of people.
  • Avoid using jargon. This is especially important for professional services. It can be so easy to get caught up in your everyday lingo, but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t always make you sound smart. It confuses your audience more often than not because they don’t understand what you’re saying.
  • Write conversationally. This makes your business less intimidating and can make your prospects feel like you’re talking to them, rather than at them.

Find your point of differentiation

As mentioned, so many professional services websites look and feel the same, so you need to find a way to stand out. To do this, take a look at your brand’s company, culture, and services, and identify what makes you unique.

A good place to start is by looking at your culture (the most relatable aspect of your business) and showcase your culture through storytelling and various aspects across your site. You will have competition that provides the same services as you, but your company’s personality can truly set you apart.

Let your audience know who you are. Create an about page, show pictures of your team, share fun facts, and so on. Provide your mission and values that people can connect with. There are so many things that you can do. Start thinking of what these are and add them to your site ASAP.

Think about visuals and design

You know the phrase, “you need to dress to impress?” Well, this saying goes for your website as well. Your website is often a potential customer’s first impression, so you need to make it a good one. Make sure the visuals assist with guiding people through the buying process and that they accurately represent your culture and target audience.

Do the best you can to avoid common stock photos. They make you appear less authentic.

Take a look at your competitors’ websites when putting the design together. While you may be able to gather a few good ideas from what they’re doing, you should also look at them as designs to stay away from.

Ensure your site is mobile optimized

Your customers are busy and are likely researching your business on the go, so you need to provide a stellar user experience for them on their handheld devices. Google is actually penalizing sites that aren’t optimizing for mobile, so to avoid frustrating potential customers and losing rank in search, optimize ASAP.

Must-have homepage elements

In addition to the thoughts above, here are actual elements you need to add to your homepage:

  • A promise and sub-promise – You need to make a clear promise that will solve your customers’ problems. A sub-promise is a trust factor that a company offers (such as “Kansas City’s most trusted”). Make sure these elements are clear.
  • A call to action (CTA) – CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps. It provides a clear path for customers to take and removes ambiguity.
  • Contact information – Make it easy for people to get ahold of you. This is especially important for local businesses since a company’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) is a local ranking factor.
  • Video – Video allows you to give people an understanding of your personality, who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story. Some of your clients or customers may be intimidated by the professional services you provide, so providing an element that can humanize you or establish an emotional connection is ideal. A video can do just that.
  • Trust, proof, and authority elements – As a company that provides professional services, I can almost guarantee you are being compared to others that provide the same services you do before a person makes a decision on who they want to work with. To stand out, you must do your very best to include the following elements on your homepage: testimonials, client logos, association badges, client results, case studies, media recognition, and awards.
  • Fresh content – In order to best serve your prospects and clients, you need to always be providing valuable information for them. It shows your company is active and cares about the audience’s experience with your brand.
  • Core services – One of the things many companies don’t do enough of is list out their core services on their homepage. This can be a point of differentiation but can also help boost your SEO because it provides a good user experience.

If you own or run marketing for a professional services business, what are you doing on your website to help separate you from the competition?

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

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.

Must Have Homepage Elements

Not to pick on web designers, but in today’s business world, you need to be thinking about so much more than just design when it comes to building out your website. Sure, design is still an important element since a website needs to be visually pleasing to its audience and have the functionality and user experience that they are used to, but you simply cannot design a website at the expense of content and SEO.

While there is a growing percentage of web designers who understand how to design strategically, there are still many business owners who have the “make my site pretty” mentality. By not keeping SEO, content, strategy, user experience, website functionality, and design in mind, companies risking losing business opportunities.

The purpose of your website

Before I can talk about the necessary elements of your homepage specifically, I need to address the purpose of a website.

Gone are the days of your websites just being a digital brochure for your company. A website now has many jobs including:

  • Get found – The website should be optimized for search to help you get found online.
  • Build trust – Your website is a key element to building trust. Once a person arrives on your website, it needs to validate their challenges. Your website needs to function the way your customers need it to and expect it to.
  • Educate – Your website should teach people how to recognize what their problems and challenges actually are.
  • Inform – Once a person has found you and trusts you, you need to inform them on how you can solve their problems.
  • Nurture – Often people need to come back to your website numerous times before making a purchase. Capture their email address and continue to create valuable content that is relevant to their stage in the customer journey to nurture them through to the sale.
  • Convert – A conversion can be many things from subscribing to a newsletter, to calling you, to actually making a purchase on your website. Conversion opportunities need to be an element of the design of your homepage to help guide the journey.

In today’s world, your customer’s journey starts by researching online. People are coming to a conclusion on their own as to whether or not they are interested in buying from you far before you even realize you are being looked at. You need to make sure you have a presence in these early research stages, and completing each of the jobs above will help you do that.

Tell a story

The main goal your website should achieve is to be able to immediately tell a story. What you may get wrong about storytelling on your website is that the story is not about YOU.  The story must be the story your customers and prospects are telling themselves. They need to see themselves in the story which starts with their challenges, problems, and issues that they don’t know how to solve. You have to immediately let your website visitor see that you know what they’re struggling with and that there’s a good chance that you know how to solve it.

Guide a journey

Your website must guide your prospects through the buying process and help them decide how they should move forward. You don’t need to cover everything on your homepage, but you need to help guide your visitor to the next steps. Ask yourself what you want your visitor to do when they’re on your homepage. What actions and next steps should they take to find the solutions they’re looking for?

When you think of guiding people through your website, design is a natural element to think about, but remember, SEO, content, and strategy need to be done in parallel with design. In fact, many believe web design should revolve around SEO rather than the other way around.

Must have homepage elements

It’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for: must have homepage elements. The homepage is often a prospect’s first impression of your website. To get the most out of their visit, consider implementing the homepage elements below.

1. A promise 

You need to have something on your website that shows you understand the visitor and the challenges they face. You need to make them a promise that will solve their problems.

Website Promise

2. Sub promise

A sub promise is the trust factor and social proof that a company offers, as seen below. Include it on the homepage where relevant.

Sub promise

3. Call to action

A call to action (CTA) is an image or text that prompts visitors, leads, or customers to take a specific action. CTAs help to guide people through the customer journey and advise them on next steps

CTA

4. Contact details

Make it easy for people to get ahold of you. Consider using a little personality as well to make them want to contact you even more!

Contact details

5. Visual branding

Visual branding is an important part of your story, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Slack here. They do a great job of marrying visual branding and showcasing their brand’s personality at every touchpoint. Integration of strategy, messaging, positioning, and brand is so important for a business as it become a huge trust factor for site visitors.

Slack Slack

6. Video

Many companies are beginning to feature video on their homepage, and for good reason! Video allows you to give people a real sense of who you are, what you stand for, and let people hear your story. It’s also a great way to produce content to engage your audience.

7. List of problems

Identify the problems you solve and make it easy for website visitors to see them. This will allow them to quickly know if they’re on a site that will address their needs.

Problems

8. Trust elements

You need to have elements that build trust on your homepage, whether they be logos of current customers or testimonials for your audience to glance over. Have reviews or accolades you want your audience to see? Make them easy to find and place them on the homepage.

Trust factors

9. Changing content

Feature changing content from your website on your homepage. For example, place a blog or social feed on the homepage that shows recent activity. It’s a great way to show your company is active and to keep content fresh on the homepage.

Changing content

10. Mobile optimization

Your customers are always on the go, and the number of people researching companies on mobile devices continues to increase year over year without any signs of slowing down. Google is even penalizing sites that aren’t optimizing for mobile because it provides a bad user experience. To avoid frustrating potential customers and losing rank in search engine results pages, consider optimizing for mobile.

11. Personality/have fun

For most businesses, it’s OK to be human and show your personality on your homepage. Make it fun for your audience! It will help to establish an emotional connection with your audience which will make them more likely to buy from you.

12. Social proof

“Everybody’s doing it!”

That phrase, in a nutshell, is social proof. If you can show that other people love your products and services, new prospects will be more inclined to buy from you. Add elements of social proof across your entire website. It will help you increase credibility and drive more conversions.

13. Clear path

Many businesses have different types of clients and audiences that they serve. Make it easy for them to know which path they need to take to find the specific answers they’re looking for.

Clear path

14. Content upgrades

I’ve written about this numerous times because it’s important! Give people the ability to download premium content in exchange for an email address or capturing a lead. This is an essential element for conversion on your website. If they download this content, this expresses interest in what you do. Take this opportunity to give them more valuable content moving forward in an effort to nurture them through to the sale.

15. Core services

One of the things many companies don’t do enough of is list out their core services on their homepage. For now, however, people have expressed interest in having all of the information they need on one page rather than clicking around a website. In addition to pleasing your prospects, adding more information on the homepage helps boost SEO as well.

Services

16. Resource menu

Lastly, be sure to add a menu at the bottom of the homepage with links to important resources, site pages, and social media channels. Be sure to include contact information there as well. Prospects expect to find the information they’re looking for in this area of the website. Don’t disappoint them.

Menu

There you have it, my comprehensive list of homepage must-haves. What would you add to this list?

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.

 

6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Site Navigation

Your website is one of the most important aspects of your business. If done correctly, it’s the first thing people see about your brand or product. Unless you’re such a well-known brand that people don’t have to search online to find out about, then you should make sure your website is not only a sales tool but a resource for your potential customers.

Fill your website up with good content, about your product, about your company, about your process, about how to use your product or service effectively. Then, make it easy to find.

When you consider your website, take a look at your navigation. A bad navigation could ruin the fact that you have tons of great content on your site by making it too much work for your website visitors to find. When creating a good navigation, there are several things you can consider:

1) Who is looking at this page?

The audience for your website and specific pages is perhaps the most important thing to look at when considering your navigation. Put yourself in their shoes. What would they be looking for? What information do they need served to them via a sidebar or header navigation?

Additional supporting information should be easily accessed. In this case, someone might want more related videos or they might want to go ahead and sign up for a Discovery Call.

Additional supporting information should be easily accessed. In this case, someone might want more related videos or they might want to go ahead and attend an upcoming training.

2) Is there related information that should be easily accessed from this page?

When someone visits this page and consumes the information, what other information do they need to supplement this information? Are there questions they might have to follow up on the information they’ve just consumed?

3) Is your content clearly labeled?

This one should be a no-brainer! However, it’s not. Ensure that you aren’t using industry slang unless your content is focused only on people in your industry. Make sure that when someone clicks on a label, the content that you then serve to visitors is what they expect to see associated with that label, and vice versa. Ensure that the content you have is labeled in an easy-to-search-for-and-find-way.

4) What are the key elements you want customers to see when visiting your site?

When people get to your site, what is it that you want them to find?
There should be a clear main point for your website and business. If you have other lines of business or supporting points, make them prominent as well. What options is it that you want people to have as soon as they get to your site?

5) Is your contact information easily accessible?

There’s a good chance that when someone visits your site, they will need to access your contact information. They might need to shoot you an email, call or even know your location and hours. Make this information clear. Don’t make your website visitors search for this information.

Add a sign-up to your newsletter in the side bar navigation.

Add a sign-up to your newsletter in the sidebar navigation to make the call to action clear, noticeable and easy to find.

6) What call to action is your page looking to incite?

Extremely important, what do you want your site visitors to do when they consume the content on each page? Some pages might want you to watch a video, while some might be more compatible to get visitors to sign up for an email list. A downloadable eBook might be the goal of your information. Whatever your call to action is, the navigation is a great place for it.

Your navigation might just be something that you install as a necessity, but if you put a little bit of thought and strategy around it, you’ll find it can be one of your greatest online assets.

Kala LinckKala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels, praying for summer or tweeting about marketing, coffee and cats @tadasunshine.

22 Are You Really Online?

small business webinarsWas a time a few years back when I would tell audiences of small business owners that “if they did not have a website, they weren’t really in business.”

Fortunately, small business owners have taken heed and now most concede they must indeed embrace the Internet – of course, now that’s really not enough is it? My soap box speech these days has evolved to something more along the lines of “if you’re not participating in social media and building a total web presence, you’re not really online.”

Even though you may think you have one of the world’s coolest websites, if you aren’t constantly adding educational content, finding new ways to connect with your markets online, building community around your ideas, and ultimately using your website as a tool to convert know, like and trust into try, buy, repeat, and refer – then you stand little chance of competing in your chosen industry these days.

I know you’ve heard plenty of late about social media, but this is really a bigger idea still. What I’m talking about is the total integration of your online and offline activity through the use of a primary web hub.

Want to learn more about this notion? Join me Wednesday, September 23rd at 2pm EDT for a free webinar, sponsored by Verizon, titled – How to Get More from Your Small Business Website. Enroll here. Looking forward to expanding your view of the web!