Archive for Small Business

Facebook Pages Offer an Online Store – Do I Still Need a Website?

A while back, Facebook partnered with Shopify to create a “Shop” section for Facebook Pages. This enabled businesses to sell their products directly, making it a little easier for some of those businesses to have their Pages become true online stores. If your visitor clicks on a product, they can either be pushed from Facebook to your primary website, or you can let them check out directly on Facebook. Payment processing and transaction tracking is handled by Shopify. Facebook will not (at least for now) take a cut for items sold on the site. So the question is; do you still need a website if you’re selling on Facebook?
The answer is a resounding YES. And here’s why;

It may be hard to envision, but Facebook could eventually lose favor. As social media continues to evolve, other sites, like Google+, may become more popular or an entirely new site or technology not created yet may emerge. It’s impossible to predict. But by choosing Facebook instead of a website, you are favoring the short-term over the long-term. You are investing your time and energy in a platform that may not pay you back over time. It may benefit your short term goals but you can never be sure that it’s going to benefit your longer term goals.

In the meantime, without a website, people who don’t use Facebook become incredibly difficult to identify and reach. Not to mention that they may not be able to find you as easily.

You can’t control what Facebook does with its design, its user interface, its functionality, or ad displays. You’re limited in how you can optimize the experience, and your insights (or metrics) are only what Facebook itself decides to pass onto you. Using Google Analytics on your website provides many valuable metrics to help understand your visitors so you can make the most out of your site.

Many businesses received a rude awakening when Facebook adjusted its algorithms so that only the most popular status updates would be seen by most fans of a page. Statistics range anywhere between 8% – 16% of fans see your posts. If you want to reach ALL fans who’ve liked your page, you now have pay for it. If you post 40 times per month, you could spend hundreds of dollars per month to get your message to all your fans.

That said, it’s true that Facebook, with over 1 billion users, has attractive qualities to anyone building an online presence. So you can’t ignore Facebook, but just realize that you don’t call the shots.
At the end of the day, a website is the most effective way to deliver information to your audience. It is a storehouse of information, customized in any way that you choose, to deliver information to your current and potential customers. This is because you are in total control over what is presented.

When people seek information, they usually use Google, or another search engine, to find it. People won’t be inclined to visit Facebook if they have a specific goal or information they’re seeking. Why? Because Facebook is a connection tool for people to stay in touch in a very organic way. It’s not about structured information delivery, but conversation and social engagement. At least that is the current perception. A website, on the other hand, serves as a hub for all people who are interested in your work and are seeking more information or updates directly from you. It doesn’t matter if they heard about you online or offline, people are trained to use their mobile devices, tablets, and desktops to search for more information, and your website is a 24/7/365 resource waiting for them.

Many times, people find out that you’re on Facebook because they’ve visited your website, which also offers many other benefits for your visitors. Aside from having an e-mail newsletter, you may offer ancillary materials they would enjoy, such as additional resources, e-books, Q&A, etc.

Sure, you may need to invest some money for a developer to build your website and assist with an upgrade, redesign or functionality add-ons over time. But for anyone with a long-term goal, this is one of the best and most critical investments you can make.

So yes, use Facebook as ONE of the many arrows in your quiver of marketing methods but don’t discount the need for a website. You might be cutting off your nose to spite your face (as my Mom used to say), and end up being sorry in the long run.

9 Reasons Why You Should Have a WordPress Website

WordPress is what’s known as a CMS – a content management system. Content management systems were developed to make creating and maintaining websites easier and more accessible by allowing users to manage their website through a graphical interface rather than having to use raw code. Running a website used to mean writing code, and there was no way around it. As the internet became more and more heavily populated, however, tools began to spring up to help make it easier for people who wanted to have their own site but didn’t necessarily want to learn HTML.

WordPress was first launched in 2003. At that time it was seen as a fairly simple (yet competent) CMS that could be used for blogging purposes.

Even as recently as a few years ago, many web designers still thought of WordPress as a CMS best suited to blogs, and chose HTML, Joomla or Drupal for their website development tool. Now, however, this has changed. WordPress is capable of acting as the backbone for all kinds of different websites and is the go-to platform for 4 out of every 10 websites built today. WordPress is now used by names as big as Samsung, Forbes and CNN.

Here are some primary reasons to have a website and why you should consider WordPress. There are many more, but this should give you a start:

  • Your site can be created specifically for your business and your individual needs. There’s nothing generic – it can all be laser targeted for your business.
  • Websites help you make more while doing less. Your website is on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It provides increased efficiency and allows you to make better use of your time and focus on what you do best – which is building your business.
  • A website helps you gain instant credibility. People trust companies with websites. It validates the authenticity of the business by providing more information than a simple phone call. It’s even better than a physical address. It will create that all-important element of trust and confidence crucial for your business.
  • A website will pre-qualify your leads. It tells your story for you even before you answer the phone. Like it or not, we live in the Internet age. Every person in America has access to the internet and expects every legitimate business to have a website.
  • WordPress websites are simple to manage. Even if you are new to technology, WordPress is one of the most user-friendly CMS platforms available.
  • WordPress websites save time and money. No longer do you need to send the most basic changes to your developer or even have your developer add new pages for you. Make the edits yourself whenever you want and save the money you would’ve paid your web developer for more important things.
  • Plugins add additional features to your WordPress website. For example, if you want a fancy image gallery, a slideshow, an event calendar, a shopping cart or even a membership site, there is a huge selection of plugins available to you. If you are looking for any particular feature or function for your website, WordPress.org lists a repository of over 10,000 plugins available, and many are free to use.
  • WordPress is consistent and streamlined without excessive HTML code that Google finds very inviting for indexing. Plus, with the right SEO plugin and setup, you’re able to customize every page or post you make to give you the highest possible probability of getting your pages in high search results positions.
  • You can interface your blog right into your WordPress website. This makes the content remain fresh as you post new blog topics. Google will love you for it.

If you have been wondering how converting your traditional website to WordPress would be of benefit, this post was made for you! For more information, contact us for a free, no-obligation estimate.

Why You Should Use Google Analytics On Your Website

Google Analytics is one of the most popular and widely used tools for monitoring and analyzing the traffic on your website. It gives you a wide range of statistics about your site and has many useful features to help improve the quantity and quality of traffic to your website. If your business wants to expand and grow on the internet, you should definitely be using Google Analytics.

Here is some of the information that Google Analytics provides:

  • The number of visitors to your website.
  • The average number of pages seen per visit.
  • The average time spent on site per visit.
  • The bounce rate (percentage of single page visitors, i.e. they hit your landing page and leave).
  • The percent of visitors on mobile devices.
  • The source of the visitor – either directly to your URL, or through a link from another website (ex: Twitter, Facebook), or from search engines. This is a great way to track your social media effectiveness.

And much more…

You can measure the impact on your website traffic after you’ve made a change to your SEO,  done a public speaking engagement, a marketing campaign, or released an article or series of blogs through social media like Facebook or Twitter. This is a very valuable tool to see what’s working and what’s not.

One more compelling reason to use Google Analytics is that it’s FREE. And you know what I say: “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

The bottom line is that you should monitor your website traffic on a regular basis and make adjustments where and when necessary to maximize the traffic flow. Without it, it’s like driving at night with your lights off. You know the old saying, “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Is 2014 Your Year For a Website Facelift?

Have you noticed that it is almost 2014?

Now is the time to start thinking about how your website can work better for you next year. You’ve probably heard this more than once, but when it comes to online marketing, CONTENT IS KING. According to recent surveys, as many as 61% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a company that delivers compelling content. If you neglected to create new content for your website in 2013, take some time to develop new content (blog posts, videos, e-books, presentations) that you can begin using on your website in 2014. These days, online consumers are spending more time than ever getting to know companies before they make purchasing decisions. Given that 89% of consumers use the internet to find their goods and services, creating compelling and engaging content for your website is a “must-have” that:

  • Helps Create brand awareness
  • Provides value to your prospective customers
  • Differentiates your company from the competition

Your website is the first impression online visitors will have of you. To help them understand who you are, what you do, and why they should care, start developing new content for your website. Now!

If your site has not been updated in a few years, it is a great time to examine design, layout, functionality, branding, etc. – all of the things that make a new website appealing. Today, websites have to be attractive, with simple navigation and they must send a clear, quick message of why a visitor needs to be here.

Remember, you have between five and ten seconds to grab a visitor.

Make the best of it. And remember to provide a mobile-friendly capability for those on-the-go users. In the holiday season, as much as 70% of retail buying decisions are made on mobile devices while shopping.

It is now more essential than ever for companies to develop effective social media strategies that will allow them to better connect with prospective customers.

If 2013 fell short of your expectations, it might be because you failed to connect with online users. Spend time being more intentional about engaging with users on social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Help them understand who you are, what solutions or services you offer, and why you do what you do. It’s important that you create the perception that your company is open, transparent, and interested in communicating with current and prospective customers. Social media is a tool that will allow you to strengthen your company’s online reputation.

You probably set up or installed analytics on your website for a reason

..(and if you haven’t, you should), but when was the last time you actually spent time looking through and interpreting the data? Dedicate some time to analyze the numbers. If you need help understanding how to use Google Analytics, find a service vendor you can trust to help you.

If you’ve been unhappy with the design or functionality of your website, start making a list of websites that you like to help you decide what updates to make in 2014.

Find out what other companies in your industry are doing. Take notes about what features you like on their sites, not to copy them but to give you food for thought on what may work for you. Pay attention to things like design, usability, content, and anything else that stands out. Doing so will help put you on the path to making the right changes.

Years ago, websites were “nice-to-have” but in today’s digital world they are a necessary part of a marketing strategy. Being without one is like having no strategy at all.

Why Use a Single Service Provider for Marketing and Branding

An integrated marketing strategy is something most businesses would say they want because it sounds good. However, many are not really sure what that is, what it looks like or why you need one.

The Approach

An integrated marketing strategy is an approach that delivers a consistent message across all marketing channels. Its objective is to insure that your target market receives the same brand image and message about your goods or services, no matter where they see it.

Here are examples of marketing and branding a business might use:

  1. Business Logo
  2. Letterhead/Stationary
  3. Business Cards
  4. Promotional Brochures and/or Flyers
  5. E-Newsletter
  6. Website
  7. Blog
  8. Online Business Directories
  9. Social Media Sites
    1. Facebook
    2. LinkedIn
    3. Twitter
    4. YouTube
    5. Google+
  10. Magazine/Newspaper/TV/Radio/ ads

And this list can go on, and on depending on the business…

In theory, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it can be surprisingly difficult. Especially if your implementation is fragmented and different people/vendors complete various components. Consistency in colors, fonts, text, graphic styles and message are more difficult to integrate.

The Single Service Provider

The right service provider requires a diverse set of skills. These include web design, graphic design, branding, search engine optimization and social media marketing, just to name a few. Working with the right firm provides the opportunity to develop a branding and marketing strategy that is consistent across all marketing channels before you begin. To find the right service provider, make sure to research your options. Look at their past work, look for reviews or comments on the quality of their work and ask questions.

The Vision

Start with a common vision of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your organization is large, medium or small, the key is to make sure that all decision makers share and agree upon a similar vision of what you are trying to accomplish and why.

The Process

Identify your current position. Quite often, a business will already have one, two or more of these components in place. This requires analyzing the quality of the existing components/materials and determining whether they can be integrated with the overall vision or whether they need to be altered or replaced.

The How

Identify the channels you will use to communicate with your target market. Where will you need to be so that wherever your potential customers look, you are there with a consistent brand appearance and message? This doesn’t mean that you need to be everywhere, or be all things to all people, it just means that you should prioritize your efforts so that the largest part of your target market gets your message.

The Team

Plan for the resources you will need. An integrated marketing approach needs to be worked consistently and across all channels which requires coordination and effort. When you look at failed marketing strategies, as we often do, you find that a top reason they fail is due to a lack of priority. Other factors come into play taking focus away from the plan. Consistency is not easy. One approach many clients use, especially smaller ones with limited resources, is to outsource part or all of the program. This not only brings additional resources to the table, but also objectivity/accountability and specialized skillsets.

The Monitoring

Consistent monitoring and occasional tweaking are necessary. We continually refer to the old adage “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Successful programs always monitor their implementation, measure their success, and make “tweaks” as necessary. Marketing is never a “set it, and forget it” proposition.

The Conclusion

The bottom line is that working with a single qualified service provider to guide you through this maze of tools and techniques is more cost effective, more consistent, you have a single point of contact which reduces confusion and finger pointing, and it typically results in a more cohesive approach with better outcomes.