KillYourSite

Thriving business? Check. Marketing Plan? Check. Website? Uhhh.

Websites are not ZZ plants – you can quickly and easily kill them with even the best intentions. If your business has committed any of these site-killing offenses, it is not too late to salvage your online identity.

Fail #1: Death by Committee

To some, group work is a godsend. To others, it is pure torture. While they have their place in the corporate world, designing a website using a committee will surely kill your website. Why? As Smashing Magazine describes, design by committee ultimately leads to compromise, which leads to bland, boring, disjointed designs.

“Design is subjective. The way we respond to a design can be influenced by culture, gender, age, childhood experience and even physical conditions (such as color blindness). What one person considers great design could be hated by another. This is why it is so important that design decisions be informed by user testing rather than personal experience. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely taken when a committee is involved in design decisions.”

Which leads to…

Fail #2:  Death by Self-Centeredness

Want your website to die a quick death? Design it based on what appeals to you rather than your users. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like blue, or if you want to see lots of animated graphic elements. What matters is what the user wants.

Web design may be best done by a third-party, knowledgeable web development professional, like Cube Creative Design. Why? It gives your business that outside, neutral look into your business and helps your business reach users in the best way possible.  Trust your web development professional, don’t reduce them to a “pixel pusher” by micro-managing them. As Paul Boag suggests:

"If you want to get the maximum return on your Web team, present it with problems, not solutions. For example, if you’re targeting your website at teenage girls, and the designer goes for corporate blue, suggest that your audience might not respond well to that color. Do not tell him or her to change it to pink. This way, the designer has the freedom to find a solution that may even be better than your choice. You allow your designer to solve the problem you have presented."

Once your site is up, dedicate specific resources toward moving your site forward. This could be through periodic content updates or social media interactions.

Fail #3: Death by Perspective

Nothing will kill a website quite like tossing it to a group of folks with different end goals. Many businesses hand off their websites to either their IT department or marketing department. IT folks tend to think in systems and coding, and marketing folks tend to think of websites as a second-hand outlet for print campaigns. As Jeffrey Zeldman put it:

“No matter how critical the web experience may be to the organization’s mission, the people who design and build those mission-critical sites work in divisions that have nothing to do with the web, and report to leaders whose expertise is unrelated to web design and development.”

Instead of pitting two completely different brain chemistries against one another, trust your website management to a single web team.  A web management team combines both content strategy and basic web strategy, such as search engine optimization and mobile-friendly design standards.

Fail #4: Death by Time

If you have a contact page on your site and you don’t respond to website contact requests in a timely manner, your site will surely die. One of the main purposes of a website is to generate leads. If folks are trying to hire your business and you don’t respond to them within a business day or two, those folks are going to seek services elsewhere.

A great way to avoid losing potential customers is to appoint a specific person or team to responding to contact requests. Give them a standard window of time in which they must respond to all customer requests, such as 24 hours or 2 business days. Also, be sure to test your contact page frequently. Technical issues could be killing your sales leads and you don’t even realize it.

Fail #5: Death by Content

A sure-fire way to kill your website is through poor content choices: lack of content, too much content, lack of quality, lack of updates and lack of activity.  Your website should have pertinent information that is useful to visitors and potential customers. That content should be proofread for spelling and grammar. That content should be updated when necessary. Last, content should not overwhelm users.  Adding content nobody will ever read is a great way to kill your website. In the words of newspaper greats: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stud (OK I changed it a bit to be nicer).

Keep user experience in mind. It is much easier to click through archived content and skim text on a screen than it is to download PDFs from 1997 to see if specific information is available in the file. You may get the graphic look you want from using text embedded in images, but for folks with sight impairments, screen reading devices may have trouble deciphering those graphics into usable text. A knowledgeable web developer will help you steer away from these content blunders like Blackbeard through the NC coastline.

Fail #6: Death by Absence

Nothing will kill your business website like not having a business website. As AMI Advertising Agency put it:

“Today people surf the web. This is just a fact. The Internet is no longer a luxury; it is used daily by millions and millions of Americans. They are searching for your help right now and if you don’t have a place on the web where they can find you, then they won’t."

Two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and nearly all of those smartphone-toting Americans use their phones to go online.  Nearly 84% of American households have a computer, and nearly 75% of households have Internet access. Those folks expect to Google your business and find something.

Luckily website death isn’t permanent. Your business can not only rebound from failure, it can grow and thrive with the help of an experienced web professional. Contact us today to get started on your website renaissance.

Blog-OnlineReputation

You’ve got a brand, right? Sure you do! If you own a business, you have a brand – and a reputation – whether you intended to or not. Traditional business relies heavily on reputation: customer reviews, word-of-mouth advertising, Better Business Bureau and local Chamber of Commerce ratings.

So if I’ve got my hands full managing my business reputation, why should I put thought into my online reputation? Much like SEO, your online reputation can drive sales and traffic to your business.

What is my online reputation?

Blogs-GooglePlusGoogle Your Business

The best way to find out the impression you leave is to search for yourself (and your business) in a search engine. If you don't find anything, neither will potential customers. Find something ugly? Forbes.com describes ways to clean up potentially offensive information about your business. Bottom line: Create good content optimized for search engines. That will push the bad stuff off the first page.

Make Google Love your Business

Aim for that top search result on Google and other search engines. Did you know that top spot receives almost 33% of clicks from Google? Google loves to help its users, which is why the search engine giant constantly updates its search algorithms to ensure the best content shows up first.

So to make my business look really good I should do a thorough crop-dusting of positive reviews on every social network and business directory I find, right?

Hold your horses there, buddy. There’s a simpler way to get started:

Steps to Managing your Online Reputation

  1. Make your website awesome. It all starts with a good domain name (the website address people use to find your website). Your domain name should be succinct and relevant. A florist in Oakdale may look for a domain name like oakdaleflowers.com. Try to stay away from hyphens or underscores, if possible. First, it would be hard for users to find (“Hey John, check out oakdale-florist.com” may result in folks going to oakdaleflorist.com). Second, Google has an algorithm update from 2012 known as “exact match domain.” Essentially searches for “Oakdale flowers” will favor oakdaleflowers.com over oakdale-flowers.com.
  2. Create good content for good content’s sake. Google’s sniffer hounds don’t like keyword stuffing and links meant solely to boost page rankings. Focus on relevant content meant specifically for your potential customers. Put all of this content on your website where you can archive and curate it.
  3. Use social networks as Business Embassies. If you think you can reach more potential customers, or keep in touch with current customers, using social media, remember to use those social sites to drive people back to your website. Why? On your website you can not only track who visited, but how long they stayed, what information they liked most and how they got there in the first place. Plus you have more control over how your business brand is handled. Bottom line: Consider social media to be an embassy, encouraging people to visit your home country (website) to visit and shop. Think of information in which your customers would be interested. Include links back to your website to encourage more interaction.
  4. Create a Google+ page for your business. Having a Google+ page will most certainly boost your search result page rankings. It is the best free way to get your business at the top of search results.
  5. Stay positive when responding to online reviews. Any malicious malcontent can post negative reviews in an attempt to tank your business reputation. Knowing you can’t force review sites to remove negative reviews (even if they are completely baseless), it is best to put on your best customer service shoes and do some damage control. Most review sites allow you to post replies to reviews. Apologize for a poor experience, offer to reach out to the reviewer to come to resolution on the issue and thank them for taking the time to share their feedback. Even if you don’t reach resolution with a grump, you’ll show that you are attentive and customer service-oriented when others read the review and question whether to trust your business.

Managing your online reputation can be simple, but if you’ve got too much on your plate then Cube Creative Design can help you put your best foot forward. Contact us today to get started.

Setup an Email Newseltter

Tips to creating an affordable, effective email newsletter

Email newsletters can be an incredibly effective means of reaching customers with promotions and customer service opportunities. Done correctly, email marketing will build customer loyalty and sales. Done incorrectly, email marketing can repel customers and damage your brand.

With a relatively small amount of information, you can create a great email newsletter! Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Mailchimp Free Email BuilderFind a low-cost or free email marketing service. Services like MailChimp offer free email templates and delivery for up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails. For most small businesses, that is more than enough to get started.
    Other email services: MyEmma, Constant Contact, See a List of More Services
  2. Keep it simple. Share some sort of value with your customers. Make them want to read your email, and then click your links to learn more. Don’t overload your email with too much information. No one has time to read that. Aim for one or perhaps two quick “nibbles” to get them interested, then offer ways to learn more.
  3. Build your brand’s value. Every email from you should be professional and make your business look good. Stay away from gimmicky subject lines and images stolen from Google searches.
  4. Have an eye for design. Use white space effectively. Use graphics sparingly and make buttons easy to identify. The most important information should go at the top for folks who don’t intend to scroll down the window.
  5. Include a “call to action.” Give customers the ability to learn more, whether that be a link to your website or a phone number to call. This will not only help you increase potential sales, but will allow you to better track and test the effectiveness of your emails.
  6. Don’t forget a text version. Some email recipients don’t want all the graphics and image attachments. Don’t forget to set up a text-only version of your email for those subscribers.
  7. Be respectful of your subscribers. If someone unsubscribes from your email newsletters, don’t attempt to add them back. Also, try to limit the emails you send to prevent people from wanting to unsubscribe.
  8. Track your performance. Almost all email newsletter services include built-in tracking that measures how many subscribers opened your emails and how many clicked links in your emails. This can be valuable feedback as you prepare your future email newsletters.

Now that you’re ready to get started with email marketing, what types of information should you include in your emails? Consider helpful content like upcoming sales or special events. If you have an online portfolio, consider sharing a recent project you’ve completed. Email newsletters can also include referral discounts or links to helpful information online.

Most importantly, be sure to always keep your email recipients in mind. You want to stand out from the noise of a busy inbox, so always be mindful of how your emails can best serve your customers.

Surviving the Mobilegeddon

Avoid Mobilegeddon 2015

It is quite the buzzword lately, and you either “have it” or you don’t. Not having it can be detrimental to your online presence and nullify any investments you put into your website.

Yes, we speak of Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO.

SEO is the practice of making your website appear the most relevant to folks looking to find you online. There are many tips and tricks to boost your website’s rankings on Google and other search engines, and SEO companies make a pretty penny selling their magic beans to unsuspecting businesses just looking to get to the top of those page rankings.

The good news? SEO is relatively simple, and Cube Creative can set you up with a well-designed and well-optimized website. The bad news? Google is stepping up its game.

Folks, welcome to MOBILEGEDDON 2015.

Google announced in February that it is changing the way it ranks websites in search results. Because more people are Googling on their mobile devices, Google wants to make search results more relevant for those users. As of April 21, 2015, Google’s search algorithms will focus more on sites that are mobile-friendly.

What does a mobile-friendly website mean?

SearchEngineWatch.com discussed Mobilegeddon with Google Webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes in a recent blog. Illyes shared that while responsive site designs (designs that adjust content based on the viewing screen size) do not affect Google’s page ranking, responsive web designs are Google’s recommended configuration.

So how does your website fare with Google’s impending Mobilegeddon? Take this short quiz to find out:

  1. Is your site hard to read on mobile devices or smaller screen sizes?
  2. Do you have to zoom or scroll excessively on a smart phone or tablet to see all of your site?
  3. Is your site older than 3 years?
  4. Are you using Flash for animations or plug-ins?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is likely your website is not going to fare well past Mobilegeddon.

Mobilegeddon 2015

Tips to surviving Mobilegeddon

Here are a few tips to help you survive Mobilegeddon. Ask Cube Creative how we can help you!

  1. Ditch the mobile site. Maintaining two sites can be costly, and may require updates for future technologies. Instead, opt for a responsive web design. Responsive websites are built from their foundations to be easily viewed on any screen size.
  2. Be sure text is easy to read on mobile devices. When smart phones access a website and it looks identical to what would appear on a desktop computer, users are forced to enlarge sections of the page to read the text. Google will start penalizing you in search results if it finds this mobile usability issue.
  3. Make buttons “fat finger friendly.” Small text links may work when you’re using a mouse and a larger screen, but anyone who has tried to click a small link on their smart phone knows that it can be very tricky. These “touch elements” are also detected by Google, and can affect page rank.
  4. Get rid of Flash elements. Adobe’s Flash was a great tool for adding animations and interactivity on websites 10 years ago. However it takes so much power to run that most mobile devices have abandoned it. That means if mobile devices pull up your site and it is full of Flash, those users are left with nothing. Literally nothing – Flash content is lost. Modern web design uses CSS3 and Javascript to incorporate those animations and interactivity.
  5. Check individual pages for mobile friendliness. Google doesn’t rank the whole website as one page rank score. Google ranks individual pages. Just because your home page is mobile-friendly doesn’t mean the rest of your site is.
  6. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site cuts the mustard.

Why should I care?

Google search rankings are critical to online success. If someone Googles “florist Oakville NC” and I am an Oakville florist, I’m going to want that user to find my business. Optimizing your business’ website for search engines is one of the easiest ways to reach new customers. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the technology jargon and coding languages, which is why Cube Creative Design is your best resource to help you both navigate and thrive past Mobilegeddon 2015.

Mobilegeddon Poster

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