Help! I Bought the Wrong Web Site!

In recent months, we’ve run into multiple clients who bought poor web sites. Most weren’t very web site savvy (and, really, how many people are?) were approached by a “specialist” who focuses on their industry. These firms promise expertise in and prices that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, in most cases many of these folks are delivering inferior web sites that are slow to load, questionably responsive, hard to update, or more. Many promise that they’re using WordPress as a development platform, but that’s a nearly meaningless distinction. Even a WordPress web site can be a poor site. One recent site we saw used a multitude of widgets to deliver the home page and had over two dozen plug-ins installed. The site loaded VERY slowly, frustrated users, and made changes and updates nearly impossible.

Fortunately, we’ve got a relatively affordable solution. We’re currently porting two WordPress sites into full responsive, user-friendly, search optimized use of a widely accepted WordPress theme. One site went very smoothly – it would appear that the developer was competent enough, but preferred to do things on a proprietary platform. The second was a complete mess. It had a home page built up of widgets, so Google couldn’t index anything, and had dozens of unnecessary plug-ins installed. It was clearly poorly constructed.
But, the bottom line is that we were able to get both clients into great new web sites that were:

  1.  Fully mobile responsive;
  2. Search engine friendly; and
  3. Easy to update and maintain.

This experience got me thinking, “What questions SHOULD you ask when considering a WordPress web developer?”. Here are our key questions you should ask a potential web developer:

  1. What theme are you using? If the answer is “custom” or anything other than something specific you can go look up on www.themeforest.net, walk away. With WordPress, there’s no reason for custom or proprietary code.
  2. Who owns what? Often developers will either use their development licenses for themes, plug-ins and widgets. If you leave that developer, then you’ll have to buy them again. Some developers even retain ownership of code they developed for you. If you won’t own all of your assets outright, this isn’t the partner for you.
  3. Can I see some of your sites? Then find a web-savvy friend and have them take a look. A lot of sites pass the Google Mobile-Friendly test, but don’t truly behave well on a smartphone or tablet. This should be your first test.
  4. Can you show me the user interface for updates? True WordPress is super-easy and intuitive. If they show you something that doesn’t look a lot like the image below, there may be an issue.web site
  5. Will you install and ensure Google Analytics? We’re shocked by the number of web developers who don’t do this. For most clients, it’s not obvious and they don’t find out that they have no usage data until 6 months or a year has passed.
  1. Can I talk to some customers? Then, make those calls. Ask about ease of updating. About the development process. If they’d use the developer again.

Bought the wrong web site and need a fix? Talk to us. Looking for a web developer who will deliver a top-notch site? Talk to us.

Sean

Have You Hugged Your Salesperson Today?

Sales and Marketing: The Buyer's JourneyIn my first “real” job, my boss (head of sales and marketing) once said, “If you go on a sales call and they buy something, it’s sales. If they don’t, it’s marketing.” I’ve spent much of the balance of my career trying to counter that perception.

Once upon a time, sales and marketing were more discrete disciplines. Now, with marketing automation, demand generation, lead nurturing, and other strategies, the line is blurring. Marketing is now taking on the role that used to be handled by inside sales teams. We’re bringing leads to sales that are further along in the decision-making cycle, generally more qualified, and we can offer more knowledge when sales engages. In fact, we’ve represented this in the model shown below:

As you can see, in the New World Order, marketing engages prospects more fully early on, and then becomes less involved as the sales team ramps up.

Now you’re thinking, “That’s great; so what?”. A valid question indeed. Here are six actions we recommend:

  1.  If you haven’t been a salesperson, talk to some. Living with a number, and having your professional existence hinge on that number changes your perspective. If you haven’t seen the parody “A Few Good Expenses”, I highly recommend it. Cultivate relationships with the top performers in your sales organization. You’ll quickly learn the objections they face, the sales cycle they work in, and more about the subtle nuances that can make or break a deal. I can guarantee that you will learn valuable information for use in your marketing programs.
  2. A marketing-savvy sales force is your best ally. Many sales people I’ve encountered don’t fully grasp what we in marketing do, and how we do it. Make time to educate the sales force on your upcoming campaigns and the strategies that are driving it. Show them how your strategies tie to their objectives. If you have branding campaigns, give them the long-term vision so they understand that while this won’t give them leads tomorrow, it will make their next 3-5 years much more lucrative.
  3. Understand how the sales cycle differs from the marketing cycle. The sales cycle is a common topic. We all spend a lot of time talking about it. But, if you think about it from a sales perspective it starts when that prospect first enters into a sales dialogue. In reality, we should have started a marketing dialogue with them through branding and demand generation efforts months, or even years earlier. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend a marketing cycle that is 2-3x whatever you consider your sales cycle.
  4. Have a good filter. A lot of mediocre sales people become vocal when they’re not hitting their numbers. “The lead quality is poor.” Or, “I need a brochure.” Perhaps, “Google leads are lousy.”. While the top performers are investing that time into exceeding their sales goals. Also, remember that due to its more immediate nature and shorter cycle, sales is inherently more in the moment. Often, a salesperson’s biggest problem is the one they faced today. You don’t have to react to EVERY bit of feedback you receive.
  5. Align your planning. Marketing exists to fuel the selling process. Period. But that doesn’t mean you’re a slave to sales. It means working together. Finding out what sales objectives are, and finding ways to align marketing objectives. But don’t give up complete control and become sales’ lackey. This can quickly lead to a 3,245 fragmented campaigns. And, no marketing organization has the resources to support this effectively. Remember – you’re the Air Force, softening up the beachhead for the invading ground infantry.
  6. Don’t forget enablement. This seems SO simple, but it’s astounding how often it’s overlooked. When you’re planning a marketing campaign, be sure to review it with sales. Generating qualified leads when the sales force is unprepared to deal with them is wasted effort. Several years ago, we built a comprehensive integrated campaign for an industrial processing equipment manufacturer targeting a specific vertical market. Advertising. Direct mail. E-mail. Trade shows. AdWords. A dedicated web landing page. Then we launched it. And, the call center started getting inquiries. Unfortunately, no one on the marketing team had presented the campaign to sales, so they were totally caught unaware. Fortunately, within six months, the company had seen significant growth in this vertical, so there was clear evidence of marketing effectiveness.

All too often, sales and marketing are enemies. Fighting for scarce resources and management attention. The reality is that if we can work as a team, while respecting the inherent differences in our roles, success will almost inevitably follow.

-Sean-

Contact Us

contact pagePity the poor Contact page. The most valuable place on your entire web site – yet often the most overlooked. I’m stunned by how little thought people put into this page.

Some want a simple “whaddya’ want?” form-to-e-mail fill in. Others put a little more thought into it, but not much. Mostly, they’re designed for the benefit of the host, not the visitor.

One of the key tenets of web marketing we advocate for our clients is a customer-centric view of their web site. Take a moment to think about the reasons you’d visit a Contact page…

• Sales inquiry (the obvious one)
• Looking for a job
• Having a technical problem
• Having a billing question
• Looking for driving directions

Get the idea? There are a lot of reasons someone might want to get in touch with you beyond simply wanting to talk to a sales person. Why not make this easy for them? We recommend a simple e-mail address (like info@yourcompany.com that might go to several people in the intended department. One recommendation – NEVER put in individuals e-mail addresses on your web site. You’re simply inviting a mind-boggling volume of spam.

Number one on most people’s sources of irritation? The lack of a phone number where they can reach a live warm body. Yes, I know you want to reduce your call volume. Too bad – people who aren’t comfortable contacting you through digital channels won’t. They’ll go somewhere else. Let that sink in for a moment.

Another major opportunity is your location, or locations. In addition to helping people find you when they need to this has potential brand value. For example, if you’re an America company and Made in the USA is something your customers. Some customers will want to know your global presence – do they have a location in my country or at least my part of the world? Having this information on your web site offers nothing but potential.

Finally, pay attention to your dialogue with your customers. If you’re hearing that not having something on your Contact web page is a problem – get it on there today!

Sean

Paid advertising on Facebook: the boost your content needs?

Pay us on FacebookIs Facebook marketing – you know, the “free” marketing all businesses should be taking advantage of – becoming a pay-to-play landscape?

In short, yes. But before we start bemoaning our budgets, let’s consider why this shift isn’t really a bad thing.

  1. Facebook realigned its algorithms so that individual newsfeeds focus more on friends and family of the individual, rather than businesses or publishing outlets. While this does make it more difficult to get those organic eyeballs on your business content without coughing up some dough, the move was designed to keep users happy. If the users aren’t happy, or all they see is clickbait, they abandon the platform. In short: we WANT Facebook to keep the users happy so that we have an audience to market to in the first place.
  2. These changes are driven by a desire to cut through clutter and see relevant content – and Facebook advertising has targeting features designed to get you in front of the audience most relevant to you. Not everyone on Facebook wants or needs the product or service you’re selling. As Facebook continues to gather data on its users and adjust newsfeeds to keep them happy, it gives marketers access in the form of targeting tools to make sure we’re reaching the right people.
  3. Social media marketing is only as good as the content behind it. The same few bucks we cough up to target that relevant audience may also make us pause and think “Is this post worth the money?” Does it offer the user something of value or drive an action? Is the wording concise, clear, and spelled/punctuated correctly? Do links point to appropriate areas of your website? No one wants to waste money – we may put more thought into posts we have to pay for.
  4. It’s not THAT expensive. (I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking I should have led with this one, but the three items above are more important.) Facebook offers three different paid advertising levels, starting with the easy-to-deploy and very inexpensive Boost Post. A very minimal investment can greatly increase the number of eyeballs on your content.

No one really likes to spend money, especially on things we’ve been accustomed to thinking of as free. However, it’s worth remembering that your posts may be reaching as little as 2% of your followers organically. A few dollars will not only give you more visibility and increased reach, but could improve your content – and your audience – as well.

-Amy

Tangled Web – Website Trends

website trends

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a lot changed this year in website trends. We’ve seen some interesting tactics and tendencies. What’s next? Who knows – but I think everyone should consider catching up with what is. Here are a few of my observations from 2015:

  • Web sites are getting simpler; this one seems obvious to our team, but nearly everyone I share this with seems surprised. Reality is that as mobile traffic increases, sites will need to be simpler to be impactful. Ever tried browsing a complex site on an iPhone 4? Yeah, you get it.
  • WordPress is here to stay; think of WordPress vs. Drupal as VHS versus BetaMax. WordPress won. Even hardcore Drupal developers seem to be making the shift. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by over 58% of all web sites using a known CMS – or roughly 25% of all web sites. Read the survey highlights here.
  • WordPress is vulnerable; with its rise as a leading CMS, WordPress has attracted the attention of the hacker community. This year we saw our first attacks on two sites. Protect your site – fixing it after you’ve been hacked is a pain. We’re recommending a solution like SiteLock. Easy to deploy and configure, affordable, and seems pretty robust.
  • Analytics matter; although we’ve preached this for years, it’s been surprising to me how few web site owners understand how visitors use sites. But this year I’m starting to see a change; site owners are looking at traffic, learning, and adapting content to reflect what they’ve learned.
  • Responsive got real; you can thank Google on this one. With the announcement that sites that didn’t meet its standards for mobile responsiveness would be downgraded, Google kicked off a firestorm. Every site we’ve build since April 1, 2015 has had full responsiveness as a key performance requirement. If you don’t know where your site stands, Google offers a mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to check your URL.
  • Mobile arrived for real; most of the sites we work with seem to have an inflection point where mobile traffic suddenly goes from being relatively insignificant to playing a key role. We saw one client’s site do a complete flip-flop from predominantly desktop to overwhelmingly smartphones during a fairly brief period. These trends seem to vary by industry, but it’s definitely happening. Ignore mobile visitors at your own peril.
  • Google is a mystery; while the search side of Google has always been a challenge to keep up with, additional elements are coming into play as the algorithm accounts for other factors. Because of acquisitions and changes (for example the Google Places), many of our clients have found themselves with multiple legacy Google identities. Cleaning these up is a complex, and sometimes impossible challenge. The lesson? As you add new services, consolidate as many as possible to a single account. Merging them later is a giant headache.

Beware of the Vultures: Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Being a marketer can sometimes be frustrating. As an example, frustrations increase dramatically with every reported Google algorithm change – Like the change happening April 21. Certainly these algorithm changes can improve search, but they also release the search vultures. Those predators who create a feeding frenzy in an effort to scare businesses into buying their services. We have received a plethora of messages promising that without website improvements, our company will experience the end of the world as we know it.

Google-Vultures-PWB

Before you buy into the hype though, let’s understand a few things. Most websites built within the last few years are mobile friendly. To a certain level. The trouble is, mobile has changed dramatically within the last few years. Responsive design and even how devices are used when searching has changed. So let’s take a step back and look objectively at the coming change.

The Google mobile algorithm change promises this – that mobile-friendly websites will appear in search results.

“Starting April 21, Google will be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What does that mean exactly? It means this, how your website appears on a variety of mobile devices (iPhones, Android devices, tablets, etc.) may affect how your website is found to those searching for your products or services when they use something other than a laptop or desktop computer. That means that those sites that incorporate responsive design are likely to appear higher in mobile search engine results. In other words, this algorithm change might only affect a portion of those searching your website using mobile devices. To get a better idea of how your website will be affected, run a website analytics report; A very small portion of your website traffic may be affected.

Any time these changes are announced though, I get client calls and emails. To say that anyone can make promises though is foolish. One can ever truly know how a website will be affected due to Google algorithms being proprietary. For this next Google Algorithm change though, I suggest clients use the Google tools to run a mobile-friendly test.

If your site is not as mobile-friendly as it should be, then perhaps it is time to consider updates to change that. Web sites once had a shelf life of several years before needing updates, now however the ideal website needs to have constant improvements at some level. If you need help with making your website more mobile-friendly, PWB can help. Please contact us at dialogue@pwb.com or 734-995-5000.

Content Calendar for Content Marketing

I have been working with one of our clients for a few years on their search and social media campaigns. As we have recently made some significant changes to their website and overall marketing platform, I started to consider some new metrics to include in their monthly analytic dashboard. Metrics for content marketing, are key to understanding campaign performance!

Typically I include data on:

  • Performance of paid marking campaigns – Whether PPC or Facebook Ads
  • General analytic data including time on the site and the number of new visitors
  • Social media metrics that are provided in Facebook Insights including which posts generate a conversation or motivate someone to take an action
  • What keywords are bringing in those searching, which ones generate the greatest traffic and which ones promote conversions

In general, the dashboard includes the whole 9-yards. Whatever the client needs to see to prove ROI, and more often than not, the general trends. With content marketing, I like to be able to see what motivates a action, whether that is an email, phone call or a spike in traffic on the site.

It’s not always easy to measure. In fact I don’t get to see the information on who calls the client, but I do get to see the emails that come in as well as watch the trends.

As we have been creating a new marketing campaign that will include radio ads, billboards, print campaigns as well as their PPC and social platforms, I thought that a content calendar might be helpful. The calendar I created for them shows the days and times content is posted. It’s a simple Excel calendar and the client loves it!

It doesn’t require much of my time to manage yet has left a big impression with my client. They really appreciate at a glance, seeing what is happening for their business. Their content calendar allows them to view the current month, however it could just as easily be used to plan content for the coming months. I created something specific for the client however here is a nice, free content calendar template.

Trending and Analytics: Watch for Patterns

This past week I have been busy prepping monthly analytic reports for clients. As I was working on the first one though, I was amazed to see a sharp drop in website traffic the week of April 13 and again on April 20. It didn’t dawn on me until much later that of course April 20 was Easter and many schools were out on spring break around that time.

Of course not everyone went on break and certainly this wouldn’t always affect website traffic, however it’s an important message to remember – Always be aware of what’s trending in search and social media and how it relates to your website. You’ll be surprised at how factors in your environment may affect your website traffic.

Many years ago I was consulting for a high-end vacation condo rental business. My timing just happened to be at the start of the financial crisis though. I told the owner that website traffic was being affected by negative financial news in the media but the owner kept telling me that, “rich people didn’t care and would book luxury vacations regardless.” While that may have been true, I was really bothered that my analytic report was being dismissed.

This continued for several months. It wasn’t until I pulled out the monthly reports and aligned them with significant news releases – Market crashes, major companies going under, etc. The dates of those articles clearly showed that website traffic dropped every time announcements were made. It was a significant drop too.

In the end I lost that consulting job, and in fact 4 others at the business also lost their jobs. It seemed that even rich people were affected by the economy, or at least unwilling to consider luxury vacations when the market was crashing. I may have lost my consulting job, however I will stand by the reports I delivered, and knew I did right by the client.

In short, always be aware of what’s trending. It may make the difference in your website traffic and ultimately your business.

~Tammy

What Can a Business Review Do For You?

business reviews

Get leverage from your clients by soliciting for positive business reviews!

I’ve been working with several clients on their search and social media strategies. Of course one strategy does not fit every client, however I often recommend that clients make sure they have a couple of business reviews posted across the web – On Google Maps, Yelp and of course on social media sites of their choosing. It’s not as challenging as getting client testimonials, however it can help validate their products and services. There is one caveat though, I want clients to make sure that they get business reviews on the websites their clients are likely to frequent.

Not long ago I posted a review to Google Maps. While I generally liked the local physician, I was dissatisfied at how they handled a recent interaction. Guess what? The business read my comments, and responded with a hand-written note. Later when they found a small balance that I should have paid, they waived the fee. Want to know what I did? I went in and edited my review to tell others what the business had done!

I know several friends that live and die by business reviews of local bars and restaurants. They won’t go to an establishment with un-favorable reviews!

Have you ever searched to see what others are saying about you?

There may be industry specific sites applicable to your business so be sure to consider those, however you should also be aware of where your clients are looking for you. Check out your referring sites through your analytics. Generally speaking though, here are a few places you might consider soliciting business reviews from clients:

AngiesList.com
BBB.org
Bing
City Search
Epinions.com
Google Maps
InsiderPages.com
Local.com
TripAdvisor.com
Yahoo Local
Yelp.com

Do you check on your business reviews? Do you have any posted? Are they favorable or non-existent? Ask for opinions and monitor them – It’s a great way to attract new clients!

Measure and Learn with Analytics

I Recently attended a Google presentation and learned more about their free Analytics offering. We’ve had Analytics on our site for a while, but hadn’t really ever utilized it very much. Due to some shifts in hosting and redirects and other IT mysteries, we weren’t even tracking the right pages. But fixing it was really simple.

Coupled with our recent increased e-mail push, and our organic SEO efforts, Google Analytics has been an excellent way to measure what drives traffic. And the tool is so easy to incorporate and use. I even added it to my personal blog (www.getout1.blogspot.com) to learn more about behaviors of my visitors.

The spikes when we blast an e-mail, add a white paper, or change content are direct and measurable. This is a good example of some our philosophy on Demand Generation – tie the pieces together BEFORE you go in-market. And give some thought to what success would look like, so you can figure out what metrics will matter to you. We set some goals – to balance our traffic sources, and to increase our Google search traffic  – and we’ve been able to attain them.

If you’re not using this FANTASTIC and FREE tool, I strongly recommend you look into it.