Using Photography Online
New website? Check! Great marketing plan? Check! Random stock images or images pulled from other sites without permission? Mayday!
Great photography can make or break your website. It is common for websites to use a large image on the home page. After all, it is the first impression potential customers get when visiting. See if your site is breaking any of these rules for online photographs:
It isn’t yours.Do you own that image or did you pull it from a Google image search? Worse, did you upload a Word document graphic? Not only can you get in copyright trouble for, let’s face it, stealing another person’s property, but it also prevents customers from connecting with your brand.
It is low resolution.What is resolution? It is the amount of data that comprises each image file. You can quickly tell an image that is enlarged beyond its resolution’s capabilities because it will look pixelated (you’ll be able to see small squares or rough textures where it should be smooth).
It is irrelevant.If you are in the coffee bean business, it may not make much sense to have a large photo of a smiling woman staring directly at customers from the home page.
It is ugly.You can quickly tell a professional photograph from an amateur photograph. Some telltale signs include the improper use of flash, bad lighting, poor composition and lackluster focus.
So once you’ve scrubbed all those terrible images from your mind (and your hardrive … oh and your website), how can you get high quality photographs for your website?
Seriously consider hiring a professional. It goes without saying that if you hire a pro, you will more likely get pro quality work that you can not only use online, but also in any print materials down the road. If you can’t afford a true “pro,” consider enlisting a local photography student. Their rates will be cheaper and you’ll help them hone their craft as they grow to be a professional.
If you’re determined to take your own photographs, here are a few tips:
Be mindful of lightNatural light is always best. Kihya Beitz describes the best photographs as having the main source of light in front of the subject with a good balance of contrast between shadows and highlights.
Focus on focusYou could have the best shot in the world, but when you get back to your computer you find that your subject is blurry. Many cameras allow you to select the area on which you’d like to focus. Be sure to preview your images before leaving your “photo shoot” to ensure you got what you need.
Change your perspectiveBeitz recommends changing the location of the camera while shooting to get better and more interesting shots. Consider shooting from different angles or moving the camera to get different sides of your subject.
Emotions ruleKISSmetrics’ No. 1 rule for boosting your site’s user experience is by bringing out positive emotions. Find an image that is going to convey the idea that customers will feel good after having done business with you. In the end, it is all about the customer. Make them feel comfortable by using images that convey meaning rather than simply decorate the website.
Beautiful photography can make a world of difference for your business. It is well worth the investment.
Almost nothing in the world can seem as daunting as investing money in online advertising. There is that nagging fear that you’re throwing hard-earned cash into a money pit, hoping for some return.
There are many ways to advertise online:
- Directly on other websites, such as your local newspaper website or a trade association site.
- Through featured listings on review sites, such as Angies List or Yelp.
- Using Search Engine Marketing. This is the one we’ll focus on as it has the most potential to be either a great resource or a major drain.
Perhaps the most well-known search engine marketing tool used today is Google AdWords. Using AdWords, businesses purchase ad space along the top, bottom and side of Google search results. These ads can also appear through Google’s ad network on a wide variety of sites.
Signing up for an AdWords account is the easy part. Google makes it easy to keep costs low, especially for new business accounts. Sign up for a new business account, or first build your Google+ social networking page, then wait a week or so for Google to mail you a coupon for $100 or so off your first AdWords campaign.
How It Works
By first creating a campaign, you can set the budget, target audience and keywords you’d like to use. One of the most common setups is called CPC advertising, which stands for cost-per-click. When someone clicks on the link in your ad, Google charges you an amount based on your daily budget. The higher your budget, the higher ranking your ad will have compared to competitors ads (like bidding for the top spot). Kissmetrics offers a great example of how this works:
Use the formula below to calculate your Max CPC:
Max CPC = (profit per customer) x (1 – profit margin) x (website conversion rate)
For example, let’s say your average profit per customer is $500, and out of 1,000 website visitors you convert 10 into customers. That means you have a 1% website conversion rate. If you are comfortable with a 30% profit margin, then here’s how you would calculate your Max CPC:
Max CPC = $500 x (1 – 0.30) x 1% = $3.50
You’ll then take that result and compare it to what Google says is the estimated CPC for the keywords you’ve selected. If it is in the ballpark, you’re in great shape! If not, you’ll need to rethink they keywords you’ve selected.
Get Started with Keywords
When you search online for something, the text you enter into the search bar is called keywords. Google even offers a Keyword Tool within AdWords to help you come up with keyword ideas.
Google AdWords even allows you to set up geotargeting, which allows you to only display your ad to folks using Google within a specific area. If you are a smaller local business, it will make more sense to target your town and surrounding area than to run an ad that will display nationwide.
Create a Unique Selling Proposition
Why should customers choose to do business with you versus any other option, including doing nothing? Kissmetrics offers reasons why you need a strong selling proposition: It will generate more traffic from those most likely to spend money with you and it can eliminate comparison shopping.
Instead of claiming to be everything for everyone, focus specifically on what your business does best. This can either be a part of your core business model, or a specific discount or promotion.
Include a Call to Action
Using AdWords you get four lines of text: a headline, two description lines and a display URL. The headline and display URL are links you set up. The headline should be compelling. The description lines should state your Unique Selling Proposition clearly and succinctly (you only have 35 characters for each line). The display URL should be easy to read and short.
Measure and Adjust
Google AdWords provides a wealth of information regarding conversions and clicks. Connect your Google Analytics account for a treasure trove of information on traffic and ad success. You can use this information to tweak your AdWords campaigns or add other campaigns to target other specific audiences.
Social media are the networking hubs of the 21st century. Whether your business is new to the social media scene or whether you gave it a try and got overwhelmed, there is a valid place for social media in your online marketing portfolio.
Benefits of being social
Aubre Andrus put it best:
“Social media is a time-consuming but important reality for any new venture. It will help increase your Google search rankings, give your brand a human voice and allow your customers to start a conversation with ease. Now you just have to get started.”
Remember earlier when I mentioned how good content is good business? Social media is good content! Social media campaigns help you connect to your potential customers in ways that traditional marketing campaigns may miss.
Step 1: Determine Your Market
Remember in our content strategy tips that the first step in good content strategy is to identify your audience. This is a critical first step toward building a relevant social media outreach campaign.
Contently.com offers a quick breakdown of which demographic tends to use which social network:
- Teenagers gravitate towards Vine, Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram.
- Soon-to-be-wives and soon-to-be-moms are all about Pinterest.
- Young parents and grandparents alike can be found on Facebook.
- Business types and leaders rule LinkedIn.
- Influencers and bloggers love Twitter and Tumblr.
Step 2: Establish Your SOPs
Kristina Cisnero described how businesses first used social media:
“Before major social media networks made the foray into e-commerce, the selling relationship for businesses looked like this: listen, help solve problems, and make the sale … Trust is an important element in obtaining customer loyalty, and one of the best ways to gain this trust is giving people easy online access to information about your company. Neglecting your social media presence is one way of losing the opportunity to gain new customers or nurture current relationships.”
When drafting your social media plan, be sure you know your standard operating procedures first. Here are a few questions or ideas that you’ll want to consider when drafting your Social SOPS:
- Are you going to encourage customers to come directly to your site and buy a product?
- Are you looking to increase brand awareness so customers will be more likely to remember your business when they are shopping for products?
- Are you looking to add a more personable side to your business persona?
- Do you want to encourage conversations around topics related to your business?
Step 3: Commit to One or Two Social Networks
Precision is key here. Overextending can be time consuming and detrimental. Think back to the Step 1 market you’re targeting. How might your business best serve your audience using a social network?
If you have access to beautiful product photography or a range of products geared toward visual shoppers, Instagram and Pinterest would be a great way to reach new customers. If your business produces a lot of content, such as in a blog or with regularly published articles, consider Facebook and Twitter.
Step 4: Strategize Your Sharing
There are many ways to “do” social well, and also many ways to fail. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Keep it timely: When will your audience be most likely to see your posts? Aim to post then.
- Mix it up: Posts should contain a good mix of self-promotion, client testimonials and randomness, according to Contently.com. Self-promotion includes news about your company and direct links to your website. Randomness creates a more personal feel, and can include (appropriately) funny photos, quotes or content shared from other resources.
- Consume social media: “The good news is that in social media land, it’s OK to steal—it’s called sharing, and you should do it often,” Andrus explains. This means you’ll want to set aside 10-15 minutes to browse the Internet for things that are relevant to your business and industry. Post links to that information.
- Don’t treat it as your personal social network: Nothing will turn off a potential customer quite like irrelevant posts and unprofessional behavior.
- Try to repurpose content you already have: Have you been featured in your local newspaper? Do you keep a portfolio of prior work? Share that with customers to build your business brand.
- Get visual: Use images and graphics to increase interest in posts.
- Make it special: Share something on social networks that won’t be available elsewhere, such as a special promotion or giveaway.
- Keep it professional: Yes, humor and randomness has its place in social media, but be sure to always handle your haters (aka trolls and baiters) professionally. As Drew Hendricks of Forbes.com says, “Know when to publicly respond, when to let it go and when to delete their comments. Each action has a time and place.”
Step 5: Measure and Calibrate
Most social networks offer analytics for businesses. This allows you to see how your posts are seen, clicked and shared with others. Use this as valuable feedback to help you adjust how you approach audiences.
It is OK to start small. With consistency and good content, you’ll build a social network that will drive customers to your business. Need more? Contact us to learn about how Cube Creative Design can help you meet your social networking needs.
Good content drives good traffic. So if you’re new to the online realm, what does that even mean?
Well first let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.
Content Strategy Is Not:
- Throwing up as much content as you can and hoping something sticks
- Stealing content you Googled and posting it to your own site
- Using your site to share random, irrelevant information
- Posting dozens of articles or blogs, then walking away
Content Strategy Basics
Content strategy, thanks to usability.gov, involves the planning, creation, delivery and governance of content. Its goal is to make for a good user experience on your website by using words, images and interactive elements in a way that is well structured and relevant.
We at Cube Creative Design want to make content strategy easy for you. By following these five steps, you can whip your online content into shape and make it work hard for your customers.
Five Steps to Good Content Strategy
- Identify your audience.
Hint: your audience is not you. The first step toward any good content strategy is to have a goal audience in mind. Are you marketing to consumers or to businesses? Is your target user a mom or a corporate purchasing agent? Use this perspective when thinking about your content.
- Take inventory.
What content do you already have? This can be text content about the history of your business or it can be images you’ve taken of your business or your products. Once you have this inventory it will be easier to see what needs to be created.
- Fill in gaps.
Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. What content would be useful to them? What will compel them to do business with you? Now, do you have that kind of content? What will it take to get that content? What does that content look like? Is it straight-forward information that never changes, or is it more dynamic? For instance, do you need to describe your services or do you need to show new portfolio pieces on a regular basis?
- Test your site.
Once you’ve published your content online, be sure to test it regularly. Is it helping you meet your business goals? Are you getting good leads from your website? Check your traffic using tracking software like Google Analytics.
- Alter as needed.
Once you see how your content is performing, make changes as necessary. Perhaps you have a blog post on your home page that isn’t getting any traffic. Consider archiving it and posting a different blog post. If you have a lot of traffic going to a product page, but people aren’t completing a sale, look for ways to make the checkout process more user friendly.
Not all sites need the same level of content to thrive. When thinking of your audience, think of whether they would be the type of person to browse a blog or connect with Facebook. Consider how much time and energy you want to invest in your website content. Do you have someone on your staff who would like to post recent work on a regular basis? Or would you prefer to get the basics online and drive customers to contact you? Either strategy may be best. It all depends on what your target audience needs and wants from you.
Speak their language. Some acronyms may be commonplace in your industry, but may be completely lost on potential customers. Use a clear writing style and be consistent. Not only will this be more relevant to your users, but it will help you find new customers through SEO (search engine optimization).
If this all seems a bit much, consider using a content strategist. These folks have experience tailoring both existing content and creating new content that will help you meet your business goals.
You know you need a website. Now the question is: Do you do it yourself or do you pay someone else to do it for you?
First, let’s get one thing straight: your website is potentially the first impression you are leaving on prospective customers. Sure, you can Groupon your way through a web design course or you can build a website using one of the many DIY solutions out there (like Wix.com). You could even hire the kid next door to slap together a site for you in exchange for some pizza.
In the end, what you invest in your website is going to show to your customers, either in user experience, design or in reliability. Here are some things to consider when deciding between hiring a professional or doing it yourself:
1. Are you a web designer?
Obviously not, which is why you’re deciding whether to build your own website. But this isn’t a snarky question. Your business needs you to be doing what you do best: your business. As Entrepreneur.com puts it:
“Every minute you spend on tasks that are not related to the key focus of your business is time spent to the detriment of your business. In other words, every minute you spend focusing on tasks that do not contribute to the growth of your business and thereby increase your bottom line is time wasted.”
Hiring a professional web designer means you’re not only investing in the user’s experience on your new website, but you’re also tapping into a wealth of experience in content management, search engine optimization and best practices. It takes years to hone those skills, just as it takes years to become a good mechanic or a good dentist. As for hiring a neighbor or relative, Marvin Russell sums it up best: “Never hire anyone you can’t fire.”
2. Do you have a budget?
A well-designed website is going to cost money, but it isn’t going to break your bank. You can work directly with a professional or you can find helpful resources at your local chamber of commerce. Many have relationships with local web development companies that can help you get started with a website that will be the proper starting point for your business’ online presence. ConversionXL puts it best: “Can’t afford it? It’s a matter of priorities. You can always find a way to pay for things that are truly important to you.”
3. If it breaks, can you fix it?
So not being a professional and having no budget to invest in your business website, you’re set on a DIY website. Here comes the most critical question of all: if it breaks, what will you do?
Professionals run across issues all the time, and they have the experience needed to identify and correct those issues. A site full of errors and loading issues will surely repel potential customers, and trying to troubleshoot those issues will soak up valuable time you could be spending with your business. Hiring a professional will get expensive because they will need to figure out what you built, then comb through it for what is causing the issue. That labor cost can get expensive, possibly more expensive than having the professional build the site in the first place.
4. Am I looking out for my users?
Last question, and this one can be tough to answer: Do you have your customers’ best interests at heart? There are so many things to consider when building a website, including load time, how sites change based on the Internet browser used, user experience (navigation, links, buttons, etc.) and content strategy. These are all things that will either compel or repel customers. These are all things that professionals have in mind at all times when developing websites.
Not so much “can I?” as “should I?”
In the end, it is possible to build your own website and be successful with it. DigitalMouseDesigns.com sums it up:
“Yes, you can develop your own web site but a more important question to ask yourself is should you develop your own web site? When you hire a professional web designer, you not only hire someone who’s already got the means to develop a site for you which includes the professional look and the working functionality – but you hire that designer’s knowledge and experience as well … Will everyone who does it themselves fail? Absolutely not! But the cards are stacked against you if you have dreams of becoming an overnight online success. Even the best designer cannot do that for you.“
Cube Creative Design celebrates 10 years of superior service and quality. The Cube team includes experienced developers, designers and content strategists. Our job is to make your business look good. Contact us today to get started!