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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Critical Success Factors

Whilst every one's visual tastes are different, there are several universal principles that successful websites embody. We've distilled these down for you into a simple list of critical success factors. As the web matures, visitors come to your site with higher expectations. Failing to satisfy those expectations can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of your website.

1. Quality Content

People visit your site to view content, so providing worthwhile content is one of the most fundamental issues that website owners need to address. The quality of your content not only plays a vital role in converting visitors into results, but also directly impacts your search engine rankings. Good content is time consuming to produce, so ensure that you make adequate allowances for content production in your planning.

2. Usability

Many sites on the web - even cool ones - fail because people either can't figure out how to use the site or couldn't be bothered trying to work out the innovative navigation that the web designer spent countless hours inventing. To ensure that visitors find your site easy to use, it is advisable to run some simple tests with a small number of people from your target demographic. Just ask them to perform some basic tasks on your web site (such as "purchase 2 widgets using this credit card"). You may be surprised at the results and the findings may vastly improve your website overall.

3. Accessibility

People access the internet in many different ways using an increasing number of connections, browsers and devices. From fast corporate connections to mobile broadband, blackberries and iPhones, speech browsers, old browsers through to old fashioned dial-up the range is enormous. Your site needs to be usable on any of the platforms that people are likely to access it from. The key concept here is "graceful degradation" which simply means that whilst a simple device might not display your web page in all its glory, it should still display in a respectable manner.

4. A Good Strategy

A good strategy is essential to gaining a good return on the money invested in developing your website. Our web strategy page covers 5 of the primary strategic reasons that organisations seek to achieve with their website. Ensure that you know why you have a site and what business outcomes you are expecting before spending any money developing a website.

5. An Appealing Design

Everyone wants to have the best looking site. Many web designers become obsessed with this - partly because it is fun and partly because it is an easy sell. Whilst your site should look great, its appearance is just one part of the puzzle. The key is to identify your target demographic and implement a design that they find appealing, but make sure that all of the other points mentioned above have been addressed.

6. A Marketing Strategy to Promote Your Site

Simply having a website is no longer enough. You need to actively build traffic by promoting your site. There's several ways of doing this such as Search Engine Optimisation, Pay per click advertising as well as the traditional offline methods such as print, radio or flyers. The important thing is that you have a strategy and execute it.

7. Give People a Reason to Come Back

Some sites only want people to visit the site once. Unless your site is one of those, give consideration to providing people with a reason to come back. Most people surfing the net visit so many sites in a day that they simply can't recollect all of the sites they've been to. To overcome this, your site needs to offer a compelling value proposition for people to revisit.

8. Use Analytics

There's some great tools around that not only track how many people visit your site, but what they do when they get there. This provides valuable feedback that can be used to improve your site by identifying bottlenecks and departure points. With that feedback based on real-world usage your site can be improved to enhance its effectiveness.

9. Regular Website Updates

With the continuing trend towards social media and social networking your customers expect to see fresh and up-to-date information. A well designed website is all about keeping the web pages fresh and current.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Website Strategy

To get a return for your investment, it is important that your web site has a clear, defined purpose. Simply having a website just because a business of our size "should" isn’t enough. Common strategic purposes for websites include:

Credibility Not every business needs to use their website to promote their business, however people considering doing business with you will often check you out on the web to gain a level of comfort that you’re a business with substance. Other businesses find that having a good website is essential for attracting good staff as most applicants will check out your website in preparation for an interview.

Promote Your Business

Promoting your business online is a great reason for having a website. With the high level of competition, having a website isn’t enough. You need a planned approach to not just building website traffic, but for converting that traffic into business results.P>

24/7

A website can provide around the clock customer service that may be too expensive to implement with human staff.

Improved Customer Service

In a society that craves instant gratification, tech-savvy customers value the option of being able to complete customer service tasks online with out the need to talk to a customer service rep. From mundane (but important) tasks such as reviewing billing histories or resetting passwords, a webstie that is connected through to your back end systems can improve the level of service that you are able to offer your customers.

Needing Less Staff

By adding self service capabilities to your website you may be able to reduce the load on your call centre, sales team and customer service staff. By reducing that workload your business will be able to efficiently service a larger customer base without needing to hire additional people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sharing is not enough: why you need a content hub for your online presence.

Social media needs to be part of an overall sales and marketing strategy that includes your website, not something that is isolated from everything else you do to promote your business. It isn’t a one hit wonder that will magically drive people to your business.

Source: socialmediatoday.com

Sue Cockburn makes a great point on SocialMediaToday; and one that I’ve often seen underestimated: just like in ancient Rome, all your social media roads should lead to the center of your online presence, aka your website (as a matter of fact, I was highlighting it myself in a talk last week).

As she pointed out, one of the reasons for this is certainly the hype on social media (and its apparent simplicity).

With the Scoop.it team, we’ve been trying to identify the other reasons explaining that by observing many companies – small or large – implementing their content strategy:

- small businesses are often finding it difficult to integrate their social media publishing efforts with their own website in a simple way (hence our own efforts to integrate with WordPress, offer embeds and make website integration easy);

- larger companies can also face that (even when they have IT departments, they’re not always reactive and available for marketing-driven projects) but there’s another factor: very often, social media publishing was initially defined as a standalone role (and even if it’s a cliché, sometimes to the millenial in the team who “got it”). This meant it grew in a silo alongside other marketing activities such as SEO, content marketing or building up the WebSite to modern standards.

Any other factors that explain this that you came across?

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A Basic Guide to SEO

SEO may be one of the biggest buzzwords of the decade, but what is it and why does it matter? SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, has become a critical component to the way that companies do business on the Internet. This guide will help you understand the definition of SEO, why it matters and how you can measure it in terms of your own business.

What is SEO?
The acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization, but there is more behind these three letters than you may think. Search Engine Land defines it as the process of getting traffic from “organic” or “natural” listings on search engines. Tech Target states that SEO is the practice of manipulating features of a website to improve its rankings on search engines.

When you look for a definition of SEO, “search engine” and “rankings” are words that are likely going to appear. In short, SEO is all about making sure that your website is front and center when an individual types in words pertaining your business (also known as keywords) and submits them to a search engine. Bing, Google and Yahoo are the big players in the world of SEO.

How to Achieve High Rankings
Everyone wants to have the website that appears at the top of the page when a search query is submitted, but there can only be one. To increase your chances of being included in the handful of websites that people initially see, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider.

First, it’s important to take a look at the HTML and content that is going into your website. This is what search engines digest and use to rank websites accordingly. Content that is unique is more likely to perform well on a search engine such as Google.

Similarly, including informational third party links within content can help your website’s cause. Google specifically looks for link diversity within pieces, making it a prime area of focus for those concentrated on SEO performance.

Next, it’s critical to incorporate industry-specific keywords into your content. Keywords can help ensure that your site instantly pops up as soon as an individual inputs a search query that is relevant to your business. There are several free tools on the market that can help you determine which keywords are ideal for your company, including the Keyword Tool by Google. By using this resource, you can determine which keywords have historically improved website traffic.

Finally, interlinking all of your webpages and redirecting traffic through social outlets can help you substantially improve your SEO ranking. This means every time you send out a tweet, you should try to incorporate a link that directs to one of your webpages, which includes links to all of your other sites – it’s like one big network that loops back to itself. These are variables that you can control and manipulate to enhance your SEO potential.

How to Gauge Your Performance
Once you begin implementing these SEO tactics, you are going to want to monitor the performance of your website to identify where more improvements can be made. That being said, there are multiple tools on the market that can help you get a better idea of how your efforts are paying off. Here are some resources you may want to consider:
  • MOZ Pro: MOZ Pro is an all-in-one SEO management tool that delivers everything from information on social media performance to keyword rankings. Additionally, MOZ has data visualization capabilities, which can help you put your information into easy-to-understand graphics.
  • Majestic SEO: Majestic SEO can be a valuable tool to those who want to be able to gather information on items like backlinks, indexed URLs and external references. The company also offers different subscription levels, meaning you don’t need to purchase a membership that comes with every single feature doesn’t fit into your budget.
  • Raven Tools: Raven Tools is an option for companies that would like a simple dashboard that they can log into to view SEO stats on a whim. With Raven Tools, users can manage keywords, analyze site performance and size up the competition right from the program’s main page.
  • SEO PowerSuite: SEO PowerSuite is an in-depth program that offers you multiple tools to research keywords, determine their rankings and optimize the HTML of your website to improve SEO. It also includes helpful tips for improving your link building strategy, as well as the content on your site.
  • Advanced Web Ranking: Advanced Web Ranking is another simplistic SEO program that helps you conduct competitive research and stay on top of search engine updates that may be impacting your strategy. AWR has both a cloud and desktop version.
It’s important to keep in mind that it is a combination of features that help you improve your SEO ranking. Focusing on insightful hyperlinks, for instance, will not help you increase your performance if you are ignoring other factors that play a role in SEO.

How to Avoid SEO Pitfalls
Once you grasp the basics of improving your website’s SEO ranking, you may start to incorporate dozens of keywords and hyperlinks throughout your page to drive traffic. However, this may be a fatal mistake as search engines strive to weed out websites that are designed for the sole purpose of increasing traffic (rather than providing insight).

One big pitfall to avoid is being blacklisted by Google – the biggest search engine on the Web. You may be banned from search results if you stuff keywords into your site, as well as ALT tags behind pictures. Google naturally assumes that your website is not designed to provide worthwhile information if you have a slew of SEO tactics but nothing to show for it. You can learn more about how Google detects “bad” SEO in this article.

Another SEO mistake to avoid is creating a poor meta description and title tag. This is what shows up when people come across your company in search engine results. Ideally, your title tag should be no more than 70 words, while your meta description should be a maximum of 160 characters. Additionally, each webpage’s meta description should be unique.

Redirects are another problem that can hurt your website’s SEO. Links should always redirect individuals to valuable, rich content, whether or not it’s another area of your site. Furthermore, hyperlinks should be audited routinely to ensure that none are broken.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of mistakes that you can make to hurt your website’s SEO value. That being said, you will want to check out this article to create your ultimate guide to SEO and avoid these pitfalls.

Conclusion
The rules of SEO are constantly changing, and they only become more complicated as search engines make updates to provide the best results to Web surfers. However, understanding the basics can give you the foundation you need to help your business establish a presence on the Internet. For more information on SEO and how you can create a strategy that fits within your budget, review this insightful article. There is always more to be learned about this ever-evolving concept.


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