Website

10 Most Important Parts of a Homepage

The 10 Most Important Parts Of a Homepage

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Your homepage: the front window of your business where you get to put what you do on display. The perfect setting to put your best foot forward. The first, and possibly only, impression on a potential customer or client. With so much at stake, you want to be as prepared as possible by leaving no detail unattended to. That’s what makes these the 10 most important parts of a homepage.

1) Headline

Have a single sentence clearly stating what your site has to offer. Get your viewers attention with something that has a little personality to it and leaves a unique impression. People are more likely to read this than your actual copy, so make it count.

2) Sub-Headline

This is your chance to further describe whatever it was that you previously stated in your headline. Elaborate a little more to maintain your viewer’s interest and prompt them to continue exploring.

3) Primary CTA’s

Guide your audience with a well positioned Calls-to-Action above the fold. These CTA’s should take the user to your main objective. If you’re an E-Commerce site take them to your ‘Shop’ page. If you’re selling a service, take them to the page with your differentiating factor.

4) Visual Support

Most people are visual learners, meaning seeing truly is believing. Beautiful, professional photography will be the best way to show off your products, service, or team. Try to restrict stock photography, though there is some worth using, and be sure to show your personality.

5) Benefits

What sets your company or product apart? A few key points highlighted on the homepage make for quick associations the viewer will hold with them as they peruse the rest of your beautiful site.

6) Navigation

Speaking of perusing, make sure your visitors have a clear navigation to guide them. Nobody likes hanging out somewhere where they keep getting lost with no clear way home. Keep it simple, easy to find, and readily available. If possible, include a search bar so if they want to find something specific, they can.

7) Logo

Like we said earlier, most people are visual. A logo gives people something unique they can instantly associate with your company, and the pleasant experience they (hopefully) had while visiting your site. Even if it was brief. Be sure to keep your branding consistent as well to further encourage association.

8) Contact Information

Make it easy for people to get in touch with your company. If you have a brick and mortar location, be sure to include that.

9) Social Media Logos

Give the visitor a way to connect with the company and see it’s personality a little more. Only feature buttons for social platforms that you’re active on, there’s nothing less engaging than a dead social media outlet.

10) Actionable Elements

Videos, downloads, blog posts, animations and other visual elements that involve user engagement will encourage a longer stay and more exploration.

A good homepage won’t look the same for every company in every field, and that’s a great thing. Just be sure you get you point across and give people an ample opportunity to know what you’re about, how to engage with you, and how to buy your product or service if they so choose. If you’re able to do all of that without someone leaving your homepage than I’d say you’ve done a good job.

Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory

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Well it’s now official. If you don’t have a website that is mobile friendly you’ll be harder to find on Google.

After months of proclaiming the importance of having a mobile website, Google has finally implemented their changes that make a mobile site mandatory as part of a company’s SEO strategy. Up until last week, Google operated on the honor system allowing companies to just say their site was mobile friendly, but no more. Now Google is the sole arbiter of this issue and no longer will just take a company’s word for it.

So what’s the impact?

Effective last week searches from a smartphone will include the term—mobile friendly—in the results. By including this tag Google is betting that companies will work to make sure their site is verified as mobile friendly: that’s the carrot. There is also a stick, as the new algorithm rolls out over the next several weeks, sites that are not defined as mobile friendly will be dropped down in the search engine results list. While this is not stated specifically it is pretty much guaranteed it will happen.

However there is a silver lining here. The days of having to have a separate website done in mobile format are behind us. Many content management systems, like WordPress offer a 2-for-1 capability. Any site constructed with these tools should be set up to be “responsive.” This means that you can have one website which automatically reformats for the device being used to view it, meaning there is no longer a need to have separate desktop and mobile websites.

If you’d like to know how your site ranks use this link and enter your domain name.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If you need other reasons to value a mobile website consider the following:

  • Mobile traffic leads the Internet
  • Companies with responsive design websites reduce their bounce rate by 11% on average
  • 66% of all email is opened on a mobile device, think what it means for a client to open an email on their smartphone and not be able to read your website when they click there.
  • In a 2013 survey Google reported that 90% of executives used their mobile devices for research and 34% said they abandoned sites that were not responsive

5 Solid Reasons To Get A Website in 2015

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In our field of digital marketing we see a ton of websites. The good, the bad and the ugly. While there isn’t a whole lot worse than a really bad website, there is one thing – having no website at all. I’ve seen impressive websites for companies as big as they get, and great websites for as small as they come, such as landscaping and photography. Big or small – here are 5 solid reasons why you should get a website in 2015:

Connection

One of the most important aspects your company can provide to its consumers is being available at all times – websites do that since the Internet is 24 hours a day. Not all people are active, or interested in your business from 9am-5pm. Your competitors are online. Your audience is online. You need to be there too. Simple ways to connect, such as a contact form for people to fill out can be the difference between you and your competitors.

Impression

Your appearance can say a million words. Personally, I value a company that has a visually appealing website. When I see they have put effort into making their website look great, my attention is captured. Actually, more often than not, I remember them and value them over their competitors.

Knowledge

A website can be an excellent tool for your company to prove you have knowledge of your product or service. According to BlogHer, 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. Also, InsideView states B2B marketers who use blogs generate 67% more leads than those that do not. These statistics clearly show that having a blog can be beneficial to you and your company, and a great place to share your expertise.

Selling

Although I hate to bring sales into this, it’s true – having a website can be the key to more sales, especially if you have a great product or service. Even if you don’t want or have the need for eCommerce on your site, simple things such as an email list or newsletter sign up can lead to a potential sale.

Credibility

Having a website can validate what you do and help to prove who you are to potential clients and partners (B2B or B2C). If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet with a potential client, partner or customer this can be your chance to create a visual representation of who your company is and helps boost your brand within a matter of seconds.

For all these reasons and more, it’s time to look into creating a website for your company. Your audience is out there, use this simple tool to connect with them, impress them, show them your expertise, help increase sales, and build your credibility.

E-Commerce Tips: Be super at selling stuff online

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also one of the busiest, most expensive, and stressful times. As customers continue to clamor online for deals, steals, and gifts, here’s a few ways to make sure your store and products stand out in this digital shop frenzy.

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Need a new website?

Need a new website? Terms to know…

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With so many voices in the web building world, it gets tricky to sort through it and find the solution that works best for you. Here are some terms that can help sift through the web talk and help you make a better and more informed decision.

CMS: Content Management Systems: Long gone are the days of building webpages and sites by hand coding. With the size and scale of the sites on the web now, trying to manually manage them has turned from tricky to near impossible.

Introducing Content Management Systems. What is it? A platform that provides the structure, organization and deployment of content. Software is installed on the server, that allows a user to login to an admin panel where they can access, edit, and publish content without knowing any code. The setup and customization is typically much less work than traditional websites, and with a skilled developer you can have a fast, secure, and unique site on a time table that is a fraction of what they were 5 years ago. There are a variety of CMS available, with the most popular being WordPress.

WordPress: I know you’ve heard the term. It’s been floating around for almost 10 years now. My first experience with WordPress was in 2007 when I created my first photography blog. Then, I chose it simply because it was free and it promised a simple and quick installation. I’ve been able to watch it grow into the number one CMS powering 23% of the internet.

WordPress is my choice for CMS for a variety of reasons, the first being its community. As open source software, anyone and everyone is welcome to develop and create for WordPress. This establishes a network of well… help. Anytime I have needed help or had questions someone within the WordPress community has usually seen the same issue or wanted to try the same thing.

Plugins are extensions for the basic WordPress platform. There are plenty of free options, but if you’ve got a budget you can use premium plugins to quickly turn your site into whatever you would like. E-commerce site, blog, portfolio, you name it.

WordPress also anticipates and embraces new technology. They were leaps and bounds ahead of other platforms in developing sites that were mobile friendly. That is just one example. They continue to be ahead of the curve in adopting what users want on a front and back end.

Framework: Not interested in a CMS? There are plenty of other options. The next most used option is a Framework. People often compare WordPress and Drupal. Having a limited amount of time working within Drupal, it felt less like a CMS and more like a framework. You could build a CMS with Drupal but it requires more time, more humans, and more money. It is also open source, and there’s a very loyal community, but the learning curve is steep, and building and maintaining a framework site will require a team of developers. There are lots of arguments out there on why one is better than other, but I’ve yet to run into a situation where Drupal did something WordPress couldn’t. But the White House does use it, so there’s that.

E-commerce: Like shopping online? Me too… E-commerce simply allows you to sell online. Just a few years ago this required the use of highly skilled developers. Things have gotten easier. WordPress has plugins like WooCommerce to make this possible. And there are other sites that will make e-commerce very simple for you; but beware because they are often interested in taking a significant portion of your profit.

Free software: There are dozens of free options out there for websites. Some of the most popular being wix and weebly. As a developer I did not have any fun working with these platforms. While I am sure there is a demographic that benefits from these services, I am yet to see who they are. If you are a business, or anyone seeking to establish an online presence, I have found these options tend to be just as much work, with significantly less payoff.

Still not sure what’s right for you? Drop us a line in the comments and we can help steer you in the right direction.

What To Consider When Selecting Your Website Typeface

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There are plenty of ways to make your website stand out from the crowd. The overall look of your site is a reflection of your company, brand, and overall personality. The typefaces you use are a big part of your site’s feel, but there are some things you have to take into account when choosing your type. First, not every typeface will appear on every computer. Each computer has common system fonts that most users will be able to see when they go to your website, but that list is short and limits your ability to be expressive. Luckily, there are several ways to include the font you want on your website which will allow users to view your site the way you intended them to.

Fonts can be embedded in your site, which allows them to stay consistent even if a user doesn’t have the font you use downloaded on their computer. They are also compatible with the major browsers your viewers might be using. There are a variety ways to embed or link your fonts to your website, allowing a browser to access them and show them in your site. Before embedding a font in your website, make sure that the license for that font allows it. If it doesn’t you may have to get an extended license to do so. That being said, each way of embedding has its drawbacks.

sIFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement)

sIFR uses Javascript and Adobe Flash that enables text on HTML webpages by replacing them with Flash replacements. It mimics normal HTML text, meaning it can be resized and copied relatively easily. Some downsides of this method are the requirement of Flash and Java make it vulnerable to things like ad blockers and any platform that doesn’t support Flash. It also affects the load time of webpages, but its biggest drawback is that it wasn’t intended for body copy, making it one of the more dated methods.

Cufón

Cufón also uses Javascript, but unlike sIFR it converts fonts into vector images. It’s easy to use, has small file sizes, and doesn’t require Flash which eliminates some of the issues sIFR has. One problem Cufón runs into isn’t new to embedding fonts, and that issue is with Copyright.

Both Cufón and sIFR include the font files making it possible for people to steal the fonts. These methods use JavaScript, Flash and PHP to embed fonts. Something to be aware of about sIFR and Cufón is the conversion of the font into another format (flash and javascript). Some fonts that are free, even for commercially distributed uses, prohibit the conversion of the font file into another format. If you still want to convert them you will need explicit permission from the author of that font.

@font-face

@font-face uses a CSS rule allowing you to download a particular font from your server to a website, allowing a visitor to see that font even if they don’t have it installed. Unlike sIFR and Cufón, it doesn’t embed the font on the site. Instead it tells the browser where to find the font.

As it has progressed, there are now a host of sites that provide Web Fonts that utilize CSS and/or Javascript to embed in your site for use. a web font is a file downloaded from a web server and used by a browser to render the HTML text. Your webpage accesses it using the @font-face rule. Most font files will include each type of file needed to make sure it is compatible on every browser and platform (.eot, .ttf, .otf, .svg, .woff). Every font is controlled by an End User License Agreement (EULA) which will tell you what you can, and can’t, use that font for. Here is a list of a few sites where you can find great web fonts to use on your site:

Fonts.com is a subscription font hosting service with CSS and Javascript embedding available and +3k free fonts to choose from.

YouWorkForThem offers one-off per font licenses you can embed using CSS. With many big name clients, YWFT is a great resource for beautiful fonts.

Typekit is a resource brought to you by Adobe that offers subscription plans, as well as plans through the Creative Cloud to bring you a large collection of fonts which can be embedded using CSS and Javascript.

Fontsquirrel is a great site for typefaces that are %100 free for commercial use. They can be embedded using CSS.

Google Webfonts is open source with 501 free fonts that are available to embed using CSS.

With some options of how to embed font on your site, and some resources to find your typeface, all that is left to do is find the font that fits your company best! With so many to choose from, take your time and find what reflects your brand’s personality. Be creative, but make sure its legible at various sizes and on different platforms.

Photo by: Kyle Van Horn

Blog

Inspiring Minds: Blogs to Read

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We are a digital team who lives, eats, breaths all things digital. On any given day I have about 30 blogs that I read through with my morning coffee, and I always encourage my team to share with me new blogs they come across and yes, I read them all. I have learned and understand that you have to share the content you find that is a hidden gem. There are a handful of bloggers who I always go to first, every single morning, and they each bring their own asset to the table for different reasons:

Chris Lema

Chris Lema is all about helping businesses use wordpress. His blog is pretty awesome, spot-on, and the best part is it’s personal. I respect a blog that represents the transparency of a company or individual – it shows me they have nothing to hide. Quite frankly, that isn’t something every company has. My favorite recent post from Lema is Three Lessons I Learned (and could only learn) In A Startup. Coming from someone who has watched our startup well, startup, I enjoy a different perspective.

Copyblogger

Oh, Copyblogger. My blog crush. This gang is all about solutions for smarter content marketing, and their blog perfectly reflects this. My favorite recent post from these guys is How To Be Authentic, for good reason. Being authentic is the most important aspect of doing really good business.

“Being “authentic” means being genuine. It means having an honest conversation with your audience.”

Seth Godin

This guy constantly is throwing out bits of inspiration left and right. I love sharing is posts. The recent inspiring piece of Seth Godin’s blog that I actually read this Tuesday morning over coffee was, Set A Date. “If you haven’t announced a date, you’re not serious… If your project can’t pass this incredibly simple test, it’s not a project.” Since this post caught my eye I’ve been working towards setting dates (not deadlines). I find deadlines stress me out, making my work suffer. However, respectable dates allow me to stay focused. Godin is my most inspirational blog. His posts are dead-on and true. One of those bloggers who makes me think “why didn’t I think of this?!”

Moz Blog

I like these folks because they are focused on SEO and Inbound marketing, different aspects of marketing than my other primary blogs for reading. I may be biased but I am quite the fan of blogs with different perspectives of marketing. This blog as a large range of posts however they are all interesting, informative and quite frankly, just stuff I actually want to read.

Do you have a blogger you check up on every day? Share with us.

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Switchboard Operators

Online Customer Service

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Good customer service can make or break obtaining and retaining a customer online. It’s no different than in-store. Nordstrom has thrived for years as being the brand that is best known for providing excellence in customer service. The truth is that customers have those same expectations for your brand online, and as eCommerce continues to grow customer service is going to be the key differentiator for where consumers want to invest their money. It’s also one way that small businesses can level the playing field with big brands. Here are some things to consider in providing customer service online:

Real-time Resolutions

Make it easy for your customers to contact you should they have a problem or issue they need to resolve. You’d be amazed at how difficult it can be to find contact information or customer service resources on some sites. Make it clearly visible for your customers to find, you don’t want them leaving your site in frustration. If you provide a service that could need customer support 24 hours a day, consider a service infrastructure that will allow you take care of customers’ whenever they need you.

Warby Parker uses their Warby Parker Help YouTube channel to post video responses from team members to questions posted daily to Facebook and Twitter. Amazon offers on-device tech support through Kindle’s Mayday button to let you connect with an Amazon expert via video. And while those may seem like more sophisticated methods, consider service agents that are simply skilled to support your brand. Online retailer and mens fashion brand, Jack Threads, offers a live chat service provided by university students with a keen fashion sense.

Make Sure You’re Listening

Not all customer service issues come directly to you. Customers may utilize your social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to express their issue. Monitoring your social media platforms for this type of management is crucial to respond quickly. Use social media scheduling tools like HootSuite or consider other social listening platforms like Sprout Social or Meltwater to track customers talking about your brand.

Respond Strategically

Understand that you can’t please everyone though. You may have unsatisfied customers from time to time, but it’s best to have a planned response strategy. The key is not removing the content (unless it’s offensive to others), but managing the response. Sometimes people think the best thing to do is to remove negative comment or block the person, but that could actually add more fuel to the fire. If you’re at fault, admit the error and offer to resolve. You’d be surprised how many unhappy customers might be put at ease by being acknowledged for their complaint.

Take Notes & Pass Them On

I mentioned Nordstrom at the beginning of this post and while most of the magic of their customer service takes place mostly in-store, there is a great takeaway that can even be applied to managing customer service online. The fashion retailer collects customer service examples, “Nordy stories,” from their employees and publishes to share with other employees. It goes beyond protocol for instances of handling returns or out-of-stock product, but serves as a guide to teaching employees how to be the best at serving customers.

Follow Up

Yeah, you’ve made the sale, but one great way to ensure your customers come back is to show that their feedback matters. Encourage them to provide a review about the product or service, but reward them for sharing their opinion. Maybe it’s access to an exclusive product or a free product sample. If they’re a first time customer consider offering an incentive for returning, possibly a discount of their next purchase.

Truly Serving Your Customers

Your customer service should go beyond just managing issues or getting return visits. Use your customer service as a competitive edge; make your brand unique or memorable in the consumer’s eyes. Let your service be another story they share.

I still have fond memories of staying at the Soho Grand in New York a couple of years ago. Sure it’s a fantastic hotel alone, but the amenity that caught my attention was a simple goldfish. The pet-friendly hotel offers guests a “goldfish team member” at no charge to accompany guests for the duration of their stay. It was a thoughtful gesture to make my stay more enjoyable.

Want to hear more inspiring stories of customer service? Check out this amazing collection of 10 Unforgettable Customer Service Stories by Help Scout. It just might leave you asking what have I done for my customers lately?

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Tips and Tools for Increasing Your WordPress Skills

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WordPress: You’ve got the basics but where to next? While learning as you go can get you to your destination, it wouldn’t hurt to have the tools and resources help make the process easier. A simple search of “Wordpress Help,” or something of the like, could end up leading you on a wild goose chase for the  guidance you were looking for. One easy way to expedite this is to know what you’re searching for, the second is to know where to look.

Having a solid foundation is the key to improvement. Knowing the basics of WordPress will allow you to turn your ideas into reality. Here are some ways to improve your WordPress skills:

WP101  is a site that provides you with step-by-step video tutorials to guide you through the beginning stages of WordPress. They also have a Q&A Forum for you to find the answers to the questions they may have not covered.

WPBeginner is a great website which includes tutorials as well as a Beginners Guide and other resources specifically for new WordPress users.

Your foundation is set, but you still have questions when it comes to development. These sites can help you on your way:

WPArena goes talks through some of the more in-depth subjects regarding WordPress. Their blog’s content includes how-to’s, plug-ins and theme suggestions.

You have your basic WordPress set up, but now you want to learn how to make it more customized. That’s where WPModder’s  tutorials can help.

At this point you have some references and have developed your knowledge to where you are comfortable tackling your own site. Now you want to keep up to date on news, advancements and general conversations regarding WordPress. Or maybe you want to see examples of other peoples work for inspiration. Either way here are some great sites to keep you in-the-know:

Manage WP

WPMudev

WPCandy

Tips and Tricks HQ

Smashing Magazine

Pingable

Another great way to keep up with news and trends of WordPress is through Twitter. If you want to fill your feed with posts and updates related to WordPress, here are a few to get you started:

@TheTorqueMag: The self proclaimed Wordpess news core.

@wplift: Dedicated solely to WordPress, WPLift covers everything from tips, to plug-in reviews.

@DavidWells: David is a WordPress designer and developer, as well as the founder of Inbound Now.

Learning WordPress, or developing your skills, is not a lonely journey. There are endless sites and sources to help you on your way. Finding sites that answer the questions you have, or the content you desire, will help WordPress go from a foreign or overwhelming site-development tool to a place you can be creative and deliver your content in the way you desire.

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Why Do We Have A Website?

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Why do we have a website? Every-once-in-a-while it’s really important to stop and ask this question. It’s important to validate what we are doing as a company and make sure that we’re still on point with what we are publicly communicating about our organization.

I can tell you this, what we were when we started is not what we are now. Change is inevitable and we love it. Change is growth, learning, movement, adaptation, and natural, but we need to remember that our story and how we communicate it needs to keep pace with that change in all we do. This is the hard part. It’s so easy to just put something out there and leave it alone and have it be fine, and in reality, it’s what we all want, but in reality, it’s never going to happen. So what do we do? We stop and ask ourselves three key questions:

  • Why do we have a website?
  • What does it say about us?
  • What do we want from it?

It gets to be a little convoluted from time-to-time but here is how we handle it.

We have a website to tell our story. It’s not a sales tool it’s a tool that lets people see into our organization, what we do, how we do it, who we are, and what we’re like. If they like what they see we offer them opportunities to get to know us better and hopefully they will get some insights from our blog,—”Why do we have a blog?” is another topic for later—but we do not expect our website to sell anything…ever. We just think of it as a way to share, our knowledge, something about who we are and tell our story.

What our website says about us is important, not in the description of what we do, but in the words we choose and how we present ourselves. We want our site to reflect who we are as a company and what we are like as individuals. We like long-term relationships and that means we have to be really honest about ourselves. It doesn’t do any good to present ourselves one way on the website and actually show up and be different people. We are, for better or worse, unique. We are the only “us” there is and that’s what makes us different from every other firm in a very crowded space.

We cultivate that difference and work hard to reflect it in our communications. It took a long time and a lot of effort to find our genuine voice and eschew the standard marketing speak for real communication that people can identify with. We do not want to lose this and it’s incredibly important that our website says what we believe and reflects our culture as it really is.

Some companies just don’t care for what we put out there and think that it’s too informal or too “creative,” but that’s alright we are very comfortable with who we are as a firm and a team, and for the companies that can relate to that it’s usually a great place to begin our conversations.

Lastly, what we want from our website is interest. That’s it. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our firm. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our people and how we dissect and solve problems for our clients. We want someone who needs our services to visit our website and say, “I don’t know if this is the right team or not, but I’m crazy if I don’t meet with them.”

That’s why we have a website…why do you have yours?

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Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 3

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In parts one and two of Building a Successful eCommerce site, we talked about location and design, respectively. Those two aspects of eCommerce sites and brick and mortar stores are fundamental to success throughout the life of the business, but even if both those aspects are stellar the business may not succeed long enough to matter. Enter promotion.

First off, don’t confuse promotion for marketing. Marketing is something you should be engaging in at all times, through the life of the business to build and reinforce your brand. Promotion is a specific marketing campaign, in this case, geared towards promoting your new eCommerce site. It’s one of those “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon” kind of things.

Business owners often understand the need to promote their new brick and mortar store but for some reason believe that the internet is a magical place that people instinctively know to flock to their new site. There are some familiar ways that people promote new brick and mortar stores like hanging a sign, doing a PR outreach to local publications, and hosted events. Each one of those promotional tactics has an eCommerce equivalent that is easy to do.

 Signage = Electronic ad space or splash page

A Nordstrom Rack recently opened in Columbus. Everyone knew it was coming months in advance because Nordstrom bought significant amounts of ad space on billboards and park benches downtown and elsewhere (some of which are still up). It sparked high levels of anticipation and word-of-mouth marketing. The same thing can be done online. Do your research to find out where people would be excited to hear about your store. Check specific facebook (or other social media) groups, search terms applicable to your product or service, and popular blogs.

Since most ads on the internet are pay-per-click you need to give them somewhere to go. That is going to be your splash page. It’s the equivalent of hanging your banner on the fence outside your brick and mortar store that is containing the construction going on. Make sure your splash page has some information about an opening and a place to opt for an e-mail communication.

 PR Outreach = Blogger & eMagazine Campaign

A press release is often sent out to local print publications about an upcoming brick and mortar store generating curiosity and buzz in the local community. On the web, you want to focus on bloggers, podcasters, and eMagazines to do much of the same thing. Reach out to them and offer a sample of an early product. See what it take to be a part of their content. Keep in mind most bloggers and magazines plan their content out very far in advance so you may not get in right away but planting that seed for a traffic pop down the line could pay off dividends for you.

 Parties & Events = Social Media Contests or Give Aways

Brick and mortar stores usually have some sort of grand kick-off party, sale, or giveaway. It is a great way to open your store to big crowds and generate word of mouth. These things usually include an offer of some kind although it doesn’t have to. Restaurants do it with practice nights where they give away free food to friends and family. Some stores offer big savings to their first customers. You can achieve the same thing with eCommerce stores with a focus on social media. Try doing a social media contest. Raffle Copter can be a great tool. Or maybe put an opening day discount code and share it on some Facebook ads. Social media can be a very powerful tool, but if you are waiting until opening day to start building your audience you have planned very poorly.

Building a successful eCommerce shop is a complex undertaking but the rewards for doing it right are infinite. If most people approach their eCommerce shop with the same considerations as building a brick and mortar store; good location, great design, and efficient promotion the chances of success are in your favor.

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Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 2

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In part one of building a successful eCommerce site, we talked about how the location of a brick and mortar store is the equivalent of the search engine results for an eCommerce site. The gist of what we were talking about is putting the business in the best position for high volumes of traffic. However, high volumes of traffic to your business, whether it be foot traffic or Internet visitors, isn’t going to do any good if the business can’t convert the sale. So let’s look at another consideration that applies to both brick and mortar stores and eCommerce sites; Design.

Brick and Mortar Interior Design = eCommerce Site Design

Quality design makes people feel at ease, it lets them know you are serious about what you do, and it adequately reflects your brand. Good design not only reflects well on your brand, it also influences how people buy. In a brick and mortar store, you have the advantage of employees to communicate the brand’s message to potential buyers, but eCommerce sites often don’t have the luxury of face to face communication. This is where design becomes even more important. Consider these things when you start to think about your site design:

Vet Your Designer

Do your research here. Look at their past work. Either ask them for references or look up contact info for someone they worked for and just ask them about it. Actually, do that! You might find that they were slow to work with but they communicated every step of the way, which is much better than someone who doesn’t communicate at all and gives you a finished product that vaguely resembles what you want.

Ask Them To Tell You a Story

So you found someone who designs some pretty slick stuff, great! But how are they at telling stories? If they are simply asking you what design choices you want and not at all about what makes your business unique and different, walk away. Just like that. Find someone else. There are hordes of people out there that have the technical skills to make a website work and look good, but most don’t possess the traits required to tell your brand story AND make it look good, which is what sets apart a successful eCommerce site and a mediocre one.

Set Yourself Up For Flexibility

We have written about why we love WordPress here before, but I can’t stress to you enough the importance to have your site built on a system that you can manage yourself. Most designers, and frankly people in general, tend not to be the best communicators, especially when you need something done urgently. The power to make changes yourself will be priceless over the life of your business.

One should place just as much importance on site design just as one places importance on the interior design, product placement, and customer flow of a brick and mortar store. In the end, good design will last the life of the business and pay for itself ten times over. Take your time and find someone who can help tell your story with finesse and efficiency.

Stay tuned for part 3 of Building a Successful eCommerce Site.

Photo Credit: xJason.Rogersx cc

Why is blogging important?

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One of the questions we get asked most often is “Why is blogging important?”

Here’s our experience…

Our culture at Shout Out Studio is fairly open. As a result, one of the things we love to do is share our knowledge and learn from others; blogging seemed to be a great way to approach this for us. So, in January of 2013, we made a commitment to start blogging in earnest.

It took a while to get everything going but there were three important lessons we learned:

So we took off on a new road without being sure where it would lead us.

Within a month we saw the traffic building for our site and within two months our average traffic increased by 42% over our baseline month of February 2013. In three months it increased by 68%. Honestly, we were surprised.

Our original goal was to write about things we share with our clients. The idea being that not everyone would read everything, but that once-in-a-while someone would find a “nugget;” that one piece of information that meant something to them and they could use to improve their company’s marketing efforts. What we found is that certain topics we wrote about began to get traction and based on the way SEO works, the more traction an article gets, the more it gets preference in the search rankings. What this taught us was that we can only make information available, the users decide what’s important. This realization took off a lot of the pressure we had been putting on ourselves and transformed blogging from a chore to something we actually enjoyed. No longer did we have to worry about what would resonate with our readers, they took that task on and it was great to learn from them.

But as usual, I digress…

The real lesson we learned came in June and July of last year when we found ourselves extraordinarily busy. Our blogging habits fell by the wayside and we found ourselves too busy to deal with it.

Pay attention, because here’s the moral of the story…

When we looked at our site traffic for June and July we were again very surprised. Our traffic immediately dropped 9% in June and another 2.5% in July. Here’s the graph from that period.

June July 2013

So in August we made blogging an absolute priority and restarted our efforts with the goal of at least one good article per week. By the end of November, our monthly site traffic had increased 265% over our February base-line.

Jan-Dec 2013

Lesson learned. keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it good, but keep it going.

Have you had any experiences with blogging and increases, or not, to your site traffic? We’d love to hear about them.

Photo Credit: margaretkilljoy

Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 1

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Some people believe that having a successful eCommerce site for their business is as easy as putting it on the internet and flipping the switch. “If you build it, they will come”, right? No. The fact of the matter is that most people can easily see the need to put the work into building a brick and mortar shop but simply can’t wrap their minds around putting the same thoughts and considerations into building their business online. To put things into perspective, let’s look at the considerations required to build a successful brick and mortar store and put them in eCommerce terms.

Brick and Mortar Location = eCommerce Search Engine Results

Location. Location. Location. Even the most inexperienced entrepreneur knows the value of a good location. In the brick and mortar world it’s simple; if you want a busy shop put your store on a busy street or highly populated area of town. In the eCommerce world, search engine results are the same as that busy street. If you’re on the first page of results the busier the street is and in turn your shop.

The big difference between brick and mortar and eCommerce is the ability to choose your location. With brick and mortar, one searches far and wide for that perfect location. A location on that busy street is probably more expensive than others. Often you pay a premium for those truly exceptional locations. With eCommerce look at it this way; you don’t get to choose your exact location, but you can invest wisely to build your site optimized for that first page of results. It’s kind of like building your website on that busy street.

Make sure you are paying attention to keywords, meta descriptions, and page content. With a brick and mortar, one picks the location, builds, and is done. With eCommerce search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing thing. If you do it right from the start it makes it much easier to build off of through the life of your site. Set aside some money in your budget for this reason, just like you would pay that premium rent for that busy street location.

Stay tuned for additional insight into Building a Successful eCommerce Site with this three-part series.

Photo Credit: balleynecc

Image of iMac desktop for "Building Your First Website"

If Your First Website Sucks, it’s Probably Not Your Fault

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We just took over a client’s first website that was a fiasco. The site was done in WordPress but everything, I mean everything, including all of the copy, was put into the site with images. That means, from the viewpoint of search engines, there was literally no searchable content on the site. In addition, the site had no web analytics, search engines were blocked in WordPress, there was no sitemap, etc., etc.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen this. We’ve been involved in several projects where a client’s initial site was poorly executed with many of the essential basics overlooked or just flat left out. It makes me nuts!

People pay good money, which is a start-up is precious, and end up with a website that sucks. How does this happen?

Usually, it’s the client’s first-ever effort at creating a website, which means they are not yet educated buyers of these services. This is not a shot at anyone, it’s just a fact. Imagine if someone asked you to buy a 747 for the first time. You’ve never done it before so you don’t know what you don’t know. Some people describe this state as unconsciously incompetent. How can you possibly make a good buying decision without someone helping you who knows the process? read more

How to Make Quality Videos for Your Company Website image of sample mobile device recording video

How to Make a Quality Video for Your Company Website

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A video is a great way to deliver your message and provide a look at the culture and personality of your company. Video traffic is up year after and it’s one of the most shared forms of content online.

89 million people in the United States will watch 1.2 billion online videos today (ComScore).

Back in the day, you’d have to spend thousands of dollars either purchasing the right equipment or hiring a company to produce quality videos for you. That’s no longer the case. So how can you make a quality video for your company website?

Write your script

How many subjects will be in your video? One person? Two people? Will they be moving or sitting? What will they say?

A little preparation and practice go a long way. Take time to write out your script so you are confident your message is clear. Practice so that your video is hitting around the overall length you’re going for. Be yourself. Talk to the camera just like you were talking to a client. read more

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Responsive website design…

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Mobile is Dead. Think responsive website design. Actually it’s not really dead, but you should forget about doing a mobile site. Instead,  adjust your mindset to responsive website design. Here’s why. When smartphones first hit the scene no one thought they would be used for web browsing on anything other than an emergency basis. Wrong. Check out recent mobile usage stats in this infographic. At least with regard to our website mobile counts for 26.4% of our total traffic and some of our clients have mobile traffic statistics that reach into the mid 30% range. This sizable and growing share of the market expects their needs to be addressed…imagine that. Originally Mobile meant developing a second website dedicated to mobile devices to which anyone browsing from a smartphone would be diverted. This approach meant twice the effort to keep content synchronized between the two sites and make sure both were working properly. read more

Why We Changed Our Website After 4 Months

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Back in September 2012, the team at Shout Out Studio schemed up a website for ourselves.

During the planning meeting, we threw out an idea that a load of content marketers probably dream of: “What if our site was first and foremost a space to share content?”

Rather than have a “typical marketing firm website,” we’d focus on making our website a go-to resource for our clients (and probably our competition too).

For this reason, our original homepage looked more like an online magazine than a business’ website:

An Attempt at a Marketing Resource Center

The Old ShoutOutStudio.com

Once that site had launched, we asked a lot of folks to give us feedback. One thing we heard was “It is kinda hard to find out more about your company.” This is exactly what we expected and – to be honest – what we wanted. We wanted the resources to shine and our company to be along for the ride. So we pushed forward… read more

Keys to a New, Better Website in 2013

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A new website might be in your organizations future. Maybe it’s even part of your new year’s resolution.

Here’s some keys to helping your new website be the best it can be in 2013.

Identify The Value of An Effective, New Website

Knowing how valuable the website will be for your business is absolutely critical before you explore who might be building it for you. Are you a software company and your website might help reduce your customer service calls? Are you an independent insurance agency who needs to compete with engaging websites like those of Geico and State Farm? Are you embarrassed to direct potential clients to your website? read more

Creating Effective Calls-to-Action

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Whether you’re running an online store or not odds are you would like visitors to your website to take some sort of action once they get there. Could be as straightforward as clicking buy now or add to cart, or maybe filling out a contact us form, maybe registering for a newsletter, or downloading your e-book. Creating effective calls-to-action can mean the difference between your site being a truly useful business tool or just on the online address book.

The major factor to whether your visitors actually convert or not is your call-to-action (CTA). Once you’ve clearly established what your ideal actions or conversions look like, and you’re ready to add the appropriate CTA, check your plan against the following: read more

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