7 Pro-Tips: Get the Blueprints Right Before Your Website Contractor Starts Working

House and town plans on lawn (digital composite)
 
Building a website is much like building a house; every little detail matters. Long before you watch contractors pour the foundation concrete, you go over the blueprints with your builder to ensure you get what you want and stay within your budget.

Imagine this: “I want a 2-bedroom 1300 sq. ft. house with 1 bathroom and an open floor plan. I’m on a tight budget, so I want simple, functional, and efficient use of space.” Cool. The builder drafts up your house plans. They’re exactly what you asked for, they fit the lot, and the build falls within your budget. The builder goes to work. He lays a precise foundation and puts up the walls. Plumbers and electricians come and go.

And that’s when you decide you need an extra bathroom. Two bedrooms should have two bathrooms, right? What if you have guests?

You wouldn’t really do that to a builder (we hope)…or if you did, you’d understand that changing something that significant is going to cost a lot more. Walls will have to come down and be rebuilt, the plumbers and electricians will have to come back, and the whole project will take more time.

A Beautiful Buildout is in the Blueprints

Much like building a house, when it comes to building your website, you’re going to want to avoid all the headaches and hassle.

The answer lies in the planning stages. It’s all about crafting blueprints that take both your short-term and long-term marketing strategy and website goals into account. Ok, ok, adding a webpage isn’t like adding a bathroom, but what if you suddenly realize…

So how do you know what to include? How do you even start crafting website blueprints that include everything you need for a site that fits within your budget?

Follow These 7 Tips for Website Blueprint Success…

 

#1: Pick the Right Web Development Team

Trust is everything. An experienced web design/development team has the real-life experience to go over all the pros and cons of your website design, structure, and feature options…before you begin your build. Find a team focused on marketing strategy, rather than website design alone.
 

#2: Be Prepared

When you have that first conversation with your website development team, have your ideas, questions, and budget organized and ready to go. Start with the basic framework, which includes all the must-have items on your list, then go from there. If you’re entirely revamping your website and/or your brand, showing examples of what you’d like to see can be helpful. Note what you like about each example: the colors, layout, speed, features, clean lines, striking images, etc.
 

#3: Be Honest About Your Budget

It’s human nature to lowball, but your contractor needs to know what they’re working with, so they can help you think forward and build out a plan for achieving your goals in affordable steps.
 

#4: Share Your Ideas…ALL of Them

What does your dream website look like? What are all those “it would be SO COOL if we had that” features you’d love to see? Spell everything out to your dev/design team up front. If you have big website dreams, there’s no reason you can’t unfurl them over time so they fit your budget. However, it’s important to respect the scope of each phase of the project. If phase one is building a 2-bedroom house on a budget, don’t be surprised when it lacks a grand entryway with Italian marble tiles.
 

#5: Avoid Committing to a Proprietary Site

Some creative teams will insist you commit to their homegrown web solution…but what you’re really getting is a huge pain in the you-know-what. If your website is built on proprietary software, you’ll have to hire that same development/design team ANY time you want even the smallest update. (That’s how they getcha.) Plus, down the road, when you want to move your website off their servers or software, it’s really going to cost ya. The answer? An open-source CMS platform you can update in-house, any time you want, without permission or help from your web dev team. In most cases, this means working with WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal.
 

#6: Demand Responsive Design

First and foremost, your website should always be designed with the customer in mind. User experience for both desktop and mobile is your strongest asset. So you need a website that will render beautifully on any device, now and into the future. Mobile is a must these days, but you have options for how to build out your mobile-friendly site. We recommend responsive design. It’s easier to maintain than some other options and much more budget friendly as well. (*Psst: Google recommends responsive design, too!)
 

#7: Again: Plan, Plan, PLAN

Maybe you can’t afford a finished basement from the get-go. However, smart homebuilders lay in the basement electric and plumbing so you don’t have to tear the house apart when you’re ready for that fancy basement. Same goes for your website. Lay the foundation now and build out your website over time. Get the details right up front and you’ll be able to craft a strong website that grows with your business.
 
…and hey, please don’t be this guy.
 
Questions? Comments? Leave a response below!
 
related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly
 

5 BIG Reasons Why You NEED to Be Mobile Ready for 2016

Modern computer media devices

2016 is coming up fast, so you’re already thinking about how to grow your business next year. If your business strategy doesn’t include a mobile version of your website, you’re already missing out on hot leads. It’s time to turn the mobile web into a lead generation machine for your business.

Not convinced it’ll be worth the money to build a mobile site? Here are 5 reasons why you should reconsider.

1. The Growing Number of Mobile Users

Mobile is BIG. Roughly 2.16 billion people will be using smartphones in 2016. That’s 198.5 million in the U.S. alone—and B2B isn’t exempt: Executives and decision-makers use mobile technology. In fact, 72% use their smartphone to conduct research on products or services for their business. This represents an upward trend reaching critical mass. There are more active mobile devices in play today than there are people.

2. It’s All About the Mobile Search

At Recode’s recent Code Mobile conference, Google’s senior vice president of search, Amit Singhal, said more than 50% of Google’s 100 billion searches originate on mobile devices—plus, he was only referring to screens smaller than six inches. That’s a lot of traffic to leave on the table if your site isn’t mobile friendly.

3. Inbound Marketing Strategy is Must

If social media and inbound marketing are part of your marketing strategy, you’re wasting your time without a mobile website. 71% of social media access happens on mobile devices. So what happens when you tweet out your awesome new content? Your page won’t load, your readers get ticked, and your visitors bounce without ever reading that blog post you crafted so carefully.

4. The Need for Speed…Loading Speed

Speed is key to customer satisfaction. Web surfers don’t have much patience. If your site doesn’t fully load in 3 seconds, they’ll move on and you’ll lose business. Or worse, you’ll lose that coveted customer loyalty.

Pro-tip: Check your mobile speed here.

5. Dominate Local Search

More than 90% of smartphone users use their mobiles to find local businesses. What’s more, people who use their phones to search are likely to act on that information within 24 hours. Mobile presence puts your business in front of people who are looking for answers on the way to buy. It’s point-of-sale web. When customers are in a buying mood, you need to be accessible.

Let’s Get Ready to Go Mobile in 2016

Mobile presence is crucial for any growing business, whether B2B or B2C. The most popular activities on mobile devices include social media and opening email. Isn’t that where most of your customer reach is centered?

How you go mobile matters. There are multiple design options and each has strengths and weaknesses. You can read all about your options (plus common mistakes) in this comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

No matter how you choose to implement your mobile site, it should be optimized for usability, speed, and SEO. To truly engage your audience, you need to go where they are—on their mobile devices.

Becoming mobile ready may seem like a big step, but with the growing dominance of mobile search and commerce, it’s the best way to move forward with a strategic marketing plan in 2016. Choosing a responsive mobile web design prepares your business for the future. No matter what screen size or screen configuration comes with the next big thing, your site will respond and you won’t have to scramble to update or revamp. A worthwhile investment now can make a huge impact on your bottom line now and for the foreseeable future. It’s time to go mobile!

 

Hybrid Responsive Website Design: Right for Your SMB?

Responsive web design

We’ve heard a lot of marketing companies suggest hybrid responsive website design (HRWD) lately. After all, going mobile friendly is now a must, so many business owners are figuring out the best way to go mobile. A hybrid design takes the best of both responsive website design (RWD) and adaptive website design (AWD) components, resulting in a user-specific experience tailored to exact devices resulting in specific goal-oriented outcomes.

Sounds great, right? It is. But while HRWD might be the “optimum tech solution,” the complexity, costs, and maintenance time required make it less than ideal for most everyday businesses. If your marketing company suggests this option, be sure they’re strategic about the build process and the configuration of ALL your website design components—and not just looking to stick you with a huge bill.

Note: Google recommends responsive website design (RWD), and so do we.
 

The Basics

Hybrid responsive website design is created with a dual approach: it marries responsive web design’s ability to flexibly adjust to the user’s device with server-side adaptive web design techniques to adjust how the content is displayed, based on user needs.

 

The Pros:

  • Each user experience is tailored to a specific user outcome, so your website will automatically deliver content and layout tailored to each user.
  • Like responsive design, responsive hybrid design uses a single URL for every device. This is important to your search engine ranking and your site’s accessibility to mobile users. You won’t be penalized for duplicate content or pages, and your users will have a much better experience with your site from any device.
  • Your customers will have no trouble finding what they are looking for, even when they switch from a smartphone to a desktop, and they’ll be able to recommend something on your site to friends, who will be able to then easily find the same page or button.

 

The Cons:

  • Building a hybrid responsive code is time-consuming and requires uniquely skilled website developers, which means development comes with a hefty price tag.
  • Responsive web design (RWD) is configured mostly on the front-end (i.e. CSS), while mobile-specific, adaptive and hybrid responsive design options require server-side configurations. This means a lot of set up and a lot of maintenance over time.
  • Hybrid responsive design requires a complex device detection process to decide what version of your webpage is delivered to each device. Because tons of new devices with different screens sizes are introduced each year, it’s essential to update your detection algorithm regularly. Again, more maintenance to worry about.

 
Hybrid responsive website design (HRWD) is a major undertaking—the most complicated of mobile-friendly website options. You’ll need a trusted web developer very well-versed in the complexities of hybrid coding, plus the time and money to make it happen. In many cases, it’s overkill for a small- or medium-sized business.

The real question is: Is it worth the extra time, cost, and maintenance hassle?

The trend today—and moving forward—is all about user experience, and ensuring ALL parts of your website are visible, accessible, and fast. Your best bet is to ensure every screen experience is the best you can deliver…within your budget.

related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

The Strongest & Simplest Approach to Solid SEO Strategy

strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy

SEO is a complicated subject and a constantly moving target, but if you keep Google’s stated purpose in mind, you can craft a solid SEO strategy that works now and into the future. What is that purpose? To deliver the highest quality, most relevant results to users.

It sounds simple enough, but past efforts to game the system have landed many website owners in Google Hell…not always for their own actions. Many “SEO experts” are infamous for shady practices meant to deliver fast results. It makes them look good for a little while, until an algorithm update brings it all tumbling down. A major loss in pagerank can destroy your bottom line.

That’s why we’re going to give you the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy. No tricks. No gaming. Just real, evergreen tactics that will never get you in trouble—and will always push your site to the top of the search engine results page.

Focus on: Keywords

Even with semantic search, keywords are still important. Make a list of industry keywords you want to shoot for, and ensure your website content on your site is focused around those topics and words. Forget repeating keywords x number of times on each page. Longtail keywords also have their limits. Just write naturally about the subjects native to your industry.

Best keyword practices:

  • Do thorough keyword research.
  • Use your primary keyword or keyword phrase in your title.
  • Write a short, pretty URL that contains your keyword.
  • Use keywords in your subheaders.
  • Include keywords in your first paragraph.

Focus on: Links

Every link is important, even those coming in to your website. Be sure you link in and out only to quality, relevant sites. Linking to internal pages is great SEO, but the links should fit naturally into the text.

Incoming links are equal parts awesome and terrifying. If industry bloggers on high-traffic sites link to your content or mention your site in any context, it’s a real SEO boost. Ditto if you share your knowledge to be published on other sites. Guest blogging extends your audience and raises your authority.

You just have to be careful. Backlinks coming in from low-quality sites can hurt your SEO. It’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your site’s links, fix any broken ones you find, and make sure your incoming links are from authoritative links related to your industry.

Focus on: Load Time

The length of time it takes your page to load is critical to SEO for several reasons. Slow-loading pages are frustrating to visitors and increase your bounce rate—which is indicative of how fast and how often visitors leave your page. Load times are influenced by the amount of code that loads when a visitor arrives and by image size.

If your page is loading slowly, the cause might be ads, videos or music set to play automatically, or other scripts. Code errors may also result in loading issues.

Large graphics are also a common issue. Even if graphics appear to be small in dimension, they might be large files controlled by specifying size in the code. If you right-click a small image and open it in a new window and it’s huge, it’s not optimized, and it’s probably slowing your load time.

Focus on: Content

All basic SEO strategy should focus on high-quality content. Publishing great content attracts traffic by giving customers and prospects information about your industry and your products, provides endless opportunities to bolster your keyword strategy, and establishes your site as authoritative…a good reason for bloggers and journalists to write about you.

Whether you write content in-house or outsource, it should be informative and tailored to the interests of your audience.

Focus on: Location-Based SEO

Google’s latest algorithm makes location far more important than it’s ever been before. While city searches are still relevant, the search now drills down to a more granular neighborhood level. If you’re a brick-and-mortar, raising your rank, especially for mobile search, means adding more location information to your page. Instead of sticking to New York City references, be sure to mention you’re in SoHo or the Village.

Focus on: Mobile-Friendliness

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, your SEO isn’t up to par. Mobile search makes up 61% of all website traffic today and sites that aren’t optimized do not appear in the mobile search results. It’s a simple rule. If your site is not optimized for mobile, you lose any mobile traffic you might have earned.

There are a lot of details to SEO, but this is the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy on a broad level. Google is looking to deliver high quality results, and, if your website meets those high standards, that means your SEO is solid—and you’ll see boosts in both customer engagement and search engine results rankings. It’s worth it.

 
related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Why Your Website Must Be Mobile Friendly Right Now

Transitioning to a mobile friendly website is no longer a maybe--it's a must. Learn why and how to go mobile friendly here...

Mobile users have taken over the Internet—so if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you might already be in trouble. The days of being chained to a desktop are long gone. Users have more options than ever before and what used to be downtime (commutes, a stop at Starbucks for an overpriced latte, or even a relaxing day at the pool) has turned into time spent browsing, checking emails, and making purchases.

Google responded to this mobile tsunami in a predictable way, by changing its search algorithm last April to prioritize websites optimized for mobile devices. What does that mean for non-optimized websites? Say goodbye to up to 60% of your traffic. No wonder marketers were quick to dub the change “Mobilegeddon.”

Don’t know if your website meets Google standards? It’s easy to check using the Google Mobile Friendly Test tool.

It All Comes Down to Enhanced Customer Experience

Repeat web traffic is all about great user experience. Customers who find themselves on a site that’s not mobile friendly bounce…and buy from your competitor.

You only have a few initial seconds to get a visitor’s attention, so if your website doesn’t fit on their screen or your links are difficult to click, your visitor will never get to the next page…or click your call to action (CTA). They certainly won’t sign up for your mailing list. Every visitor you lose to poor mobile display is a lost opportunity.

Load time is another argument for mobile optimization. Non-optimized sites load excruciatingly slowly on a mobile device. You have about 6 – 10 seconds (if you’re lucky) before visitor patience is strained to the breaking point.

“But I’m B2B…Why Bother?”

This is a surprisingly common argument—and the answer is just as simple. Corporate decision-makers act exactly like other human beings. The 2014 State Of B2B Procurement Study by the Acquity Group found that 94% of them research purchase online before making a decision. More to the point, 44% have used mobile devices to do their research.

Sounds like the move to mobile is essential for B2B and B2C businesses alike.

Advertising Benefits of Mobile-Friendly Websites: The Push

A “push” is a message sent directly to a user’s phone. With integrated social media and a team that’s on top of it, you can offer information, special pricing, or coupon codes while customers are doing product research.

Mobile advertising offers businesses the opportunity to tailor ads to personal browsing habits and social media cues. Research by Neustar shows that targeting an engaged audience can lead to a huge increase in conversion rates, ranging from 6 times more conversions in the health industry to 56 times more conversions in the retail sector.

Mobile-friendly websites are no longer an option for business owners who want to remain competitive. To improve your mobile ranking, attract a larger audience, and gain more sales, ensure your website is easy to browse from any device.

related-resources_01
Have questions about going mobile? No problem. Download this FREE GUIDE, The Smart Marketer’s Guide to Making Your Website Mobile Friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly
You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify if your website is mobile friendly, plus learn why the answer matters
  • Use your mobile-friendly website to gain big-time lead generation and superior SEO
  • Strategically choose the best mobile-friendly design options for your business
  • Create a mobile-friendly website designed to grow with your business
  • Go mobile-friendly without breaking the bank

DOWNLOAD NOW.