Unpacking Google’s Guidance for the New Mobile-First Index

There’s been a significant development in today’s internet. While it looks the same, how we find and access the billions of pages on the internet has changed.

That change is “mobile-first indexing,” and Google’s been testing and slowly rolling it out for a few years. Now, finally, mobile-first indexing is being applied across all of the webpages that Google indexes. Because Google is BY FAR the most common starting point for consumers on the internet, it’s a tectonic shift in access.

Unless you already pay attention to trends in search engines, this might be the first time you hear about mobile-first indexing.

Read (or scan!) on for a jargon-minimum unpacking of this big change in the internet.

Here’s What You Need to Know

Later on, we’ll explore what Google’s mobile-first index means in more detail. Here’s what you need to know right away:

  • If your website is newly created since July 1, 2019, you’ve started out under Google’s mobile-first indexing.
  • If your website is older than July, 2019, then if you haven’t already been added to mobile-first indexing, you will be this month (September 2020).
  • If your website is not optimized for mobile access, you absolutely must update your website. You’ll be left behind in the dust of search results if you don’t (not to mention the website will simply not be easily usable).

Many sites have already been added to mobile-first indexing – including ours, which was integrated to the new system in 2018. The system’s been slowly rolling out for a few years now.

You can confirm your site’s indexing crawler on your site’s page on Google Search Console.

 

But now it’s here for everyone, regardless if you pay attention to the Google webmaster and developer guides or not.

Mobile-first indexing will be old news for some, but if you’re a business owner or otherwise run a website and you’re NOT familiar with the latest developments, scan this post! We’ll break down the need-to-know info about mobile-first indexing for the non-developers of the world.

What Is Indexing?

“Indexing” is one part of the process Google undertakes to organize and present to you the billions of pages of content on the internet. The process goes like this:

  1. Crawling: A Google program, affectionately named “Googlebot,” scours the internet by hopping from link to link to link. Googlebot finds pages on the internet.
  2. Indexing: Once found, a page will be indexed. That means Google stores information about that page: what’s on it, what’s it doing, etc.
  3. Ranking: Based on all the information gathered, Google’s algorithms rank the pages in the index whenever you enter a search term. These are your search results.

The above are the basic workings of Google’s search engine.

 

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Previously, Google looked at the desktop version of your website when it crawled and indexed all the pages on your website. (Special aside: Google does not index and rank websites; Google indexes and ranks webpages.)

Now, Google is indexing the mobile version of your webpages and using that information to rank your webpages.

That means if you haven’t paid much attention to your mobile site, then you need to now—because that’s the one Google is paying attention to!

Real quick – why make this change? Since October of 2016, most internet traffic has originated from mobile devices. Sound surprising? It did to this humble writer, but think of all the simple questions you ask Google, or how often you’re waiting for some appointment and you’re browsing Facebook or (like me) reading obscure corners of Wikipedia. Or you’re out and about (in that pre-pandemic world) and searching for a place for lunch or dinner. Much of the casual queries and social media use and shopping occurs on mobile. That all adds up.

Because the internet is mostly accessed on mobile devices, and Google has an all-important directive to provide useful search results, Google now effectively ranks mobile sites rather than desktop sites. Google wants to provide the best internet experience possible, and that won’t happen by pointing someone on a phone to a site that can’t run well on their device.

 

Why Should I Care about Mobile-First Indexing?

OK, so the nerds at Google have shifted around how their internet-sorting thingamajigger works. Who cares?

Here’s what’s most important to understand and why you should care about this process:

Google controls your internet.

Google and its related properties receive over 90% of internet traffic.

Google has decided that it’ll use the mobile version of your site to rank search results. If your mobile site is clunky, un-usable, or even just under-optimized, then you’re starting the race for search traffic about a mile behind your competitors.

Essentially, if you don’t play by Googles rules, your site will not be easily accessible in search results. If you care about search at all, you need to care about the mobile version of your site.

Is My Site Ready for Mobile-First Indexing?

Unless your site is older than a few years, it’s pretty likely you’re already under mobile-first indexing. Regardless, you need to make sure you’re adhering to the best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Simple details follow, but here’s the big picture for what you need to do:

  • Ensure your website is uniform no matter what platform it’s accessed on (whether desktop, mobile, or tablet).
  • Ensure that your website is functional and easily usable no matter which platform it’s accessed on.

These are the main principles of the best practices as given by Google themselves.

A lot of their best practices can be boiled down to have a responsive design for your website. “Responsive design” means your website’s design adjusts itself depending on the size of the screen accessing it—so it’ll look uniform and coherent whether it’s a smart phone or a desktop connecting to your site.

There are also some more in-the-weeds aspects of web development and design that should be attended to. For example, the meta data and descriptions must be consistent between the mobile and desktop versions of your site. Other more technical parts of your site like structured data must also be consistent.

There’s a lot that needs to be checked if you’re trying to ensure your website is ready for mobile-first indexing. The easiest way to give a general check-up might just be to pull up your site on your phone or tablet:

  • Does the website still load quickly and smoothly?
  • Is the content (the text) all the same as the desktop version, and is it easy to read on a small screen?
  • Can you easily interact with the different menus and buttons?
  • Do images and videos still load effectively?
  • Are any ads on the site integrated without being too in-the-way?
  • Can you still find parts of the site easily?
  • Do all the links still work?

That’s a quick and dirty check-up on the mobile health of your website—a very important check-up under the new Google indexing system.

Ensure Your Site Is Usable and Beautiful on Mobile

Want to learn more about responsive design for your website? Need a check-up to ensure your website’s good to go for the future? Contact MLT Group today!

 

Use Responsive Web Design for Conversion Rate Optimization

The conversion rate of your site is a measurement of how many users interacting with your web pages take the next step. Whether that means signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, sharing a post, or any other engagement, an optimization of your conversion rate is a goal every website owner should have.

The most practical way to optimize your conversion rate is to build a responsive web design with user friendly interfacing tools and a clear-cut aesthetic. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) starts with a strong, simple website foundation that easily integrates the tools you need.

 

While everyone can benefit from conversion rate optimization, there are specific types of user engagement that website owners can generate with effective CRO tools. Common goals of engagement that website owners want to “convert” users to take the step into doing include making a purchase, signing up for a mailing list, following on social media, sharing information on social media, contacting your business, and even just clicking to another page. There are two main types of CRO that you can utilize to meet these goals of engagement with your site: primary CRO and secondary CRO.

Primary CRO: Direct interaction with your site

When users interact directly with your website, the factors that guide their interaction depend on how you build your site and the tools you provide to them. Much of this depends on design, comfort, and information.

Visual Interest

The visual features of your site are the first and foremost aspects of your website that users will engage with. Because it’s your front line of interaction, it’s very important to have a clear design that showcases your brand’s aesthetic

Gaining the interest of your targeted audience is the initial step to increasing conversion rates. Appealing visuals is part of that, but it’s also very important to build your site with a simple, intuitive design. Information should be clear to users about your site, products, and purpose, and it should be a natural experience for them to move from one page to the next. Piquing user interest and keeping it is the first step in increasing conversion rates with responsive web design.

Trustworthiness

The internet can be a dangerous place. Users want to feel safe when they interact with a website, and it’s up to the website owner to ensure that trust. Things like pop-up windows, obscured links, and ads can severely reduce conversion rates and damage your website’s relationship with users. Building in links, windows, buttons, and other design features that are transparent in their motives, easy to understand, and show they are secure is a sure way to increase conversion rates.

CRO doesn’t mean tricking users into engaging with your site. It’s a way to open the door for new and return users to build trusted relationships with your website and everything else you offer.

Accessibility

A big part of supporting your website’s trustworthiness is making it as accessible as possible to users. This means having a fast load time for all pages, a clean build without errors, high resolution, and a logical structure of information. It also means your website should have all the information your users need to know, from contact information to details on where materials are sourced and what other parties you work with.

Improving conversion rates depends on users being able to use your site as the tool you want it to be used as. Keeping a perspective on how accessible each new part you integrate into your site is key in supporting CRO.

Navigation

One way to better understand how accessible your site is to users is by considering the way they will navigate through it. Supporting CRO requires a good navigational system that lets users click through your site and find exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible. However, it can also provide room for exploration through other parts of your site that could lead to another conversion rate different from a user’s initial search goal. Exploration with your site’s navigation system can happen before or after your user makes their first conversion.

Practically speaking, this can mean a suggestion for another product after a user puts an item in their cart, or it may be an opportunity for users to perform a broad search on your site that brings up many products meeting the search term.

Secondary CRO: General interaction with your brand

While the majority of the conversion rate analytics come from direct user interaction with your site, secondary reactions also play a big picture role in CRO for your brand. Interactions external from your site, such as social media and press, often lead to a more direct conversion in the future.

Social media

If you don’t have a social media presence on popular platforms, you are significantly limiting your conversion rate potential. Not only is social media a source of free advertising exposed to a global audience, it’s also a tool for you to build a community around your brand.

For many site owners, too, social media is a way to humanize a commercial enterprise while showing constant news updates that may otherwise be unworthy of a full press story. For example, many use social media to show the staff involved, processes used, and other “behind the scenes” information.

Implementing all of these uses of social media for CRO and saturating multiple platforms with your brand profiles creates countless opportunities for backlinks to your website. Links directly from your profiles or from followers and similar brands are a large contributor to direct website traffic and increases in conversions.

Newsletters

Another common secondary interaction with your website and brand is a regular newsletter. Establishing a mailing list sign-up option on your site will let you collect a fan base that includes users who do not use social media or who want more in-depth information and updates about your business. Links through your newsletter bring users to your site where direct interaction and conversions occur.

Targeted Ads

As a website owner, you know what types of users your audience includes. An effective way to spread your website’s presence to new users is with targeted ads. Targeted ads are especially useful for finding new users on social media. In fact, many targeted ads are only activated through social media platforms.  Users clicking on targeted ads are more likely to lead to a conversion because those users are open to interacting with an advertisement in the first place. Ads can seem untrustworthy, and users tend to stay away from them unless there is genuine interest.  Be smart with your ads!

Community

Depending on your brand, you may be able to generate a real community around what products or services you offer, nonprofit actions you perform, or whatever else your website showcases. This community is built on various tools including social media, newsletters, and ads. Bringing together people who support what you do builds a natural support system for CRO. For many website owners, testimonials and anecdotes are some of their most persuasive elements for conversion. If you see a community forming around any aspect of your site, no matter how small, don’t underestimate disregard it. Foster community with interaction and content.

Build a Responsive Website

Implementing some or all of these CRO tools is an option for many website owners. These tools provide a standard for responsive web design formulated around CRO, but there may be other techniques unique to your own website you can use. MLT Group LLC can help you generate new ideas while utilizing tried and true methods for CRO and responsive web design.

Contact us today!

Small Business Website Design: How to Know What You’re Buying

A topdown photo showing a laptop and board with the word "finance" on it.

There’s no shortage of web development and digital marketing experts who will throw jargon and acronyms at you until you lose sight of what you’re actually buying from them. Do your CTAs produce a decent CTR? Or maybe you need to enhance the onsite SEO within your CMS to boost that CR? But—wait—don’t even think about adjusting your PPC campaign until you’ve synthesized your CPC data with your current understanding of your typical CLV.

In the extremely competitive digital marketing field, some try to stand out by dishing out the alphabet soup and convincing you it’s delicious.

It’s possible to cut the crap, talk common sense with a small business owner, and build a website that attracts, converts, and satisfies customers. That’s what good small business website design is all about. Launch a new website with MLT Group, and you’ll understand what you’re buying and how it works.

Continue reading for a guide—including three essential questions—on how to know what you’re buying when you invest in custom web design. Consider it a resource for when you’re thinking of working with someone to develop a new small business website design. You will find no jargon, no acronyms, no bull below—we promise.

 




 

Does the developer understand you, your brand, and your audience?

Knowing is half the battle, as a great sage once said. Any small business website design worth its salt begins with a robust discovery process. That means you sit down with the design team who will ask and learn about your business, brand, and audiences. This conversation informs how the designers, programmers, and writers will approach your website.

A web development team that takes discovery seriously won’t just take this meeting and call it good. Discovery continues throughout the process as both the business owner and the development team think, work, and learn more about the project. Perhaps new research into likely site visitors will change the language used on the homepage. Maybe your business just won an award or earned some other recognition, and you’d like it emphasized on your website.

For this to work, open communication is vital! Both the development team and the business owner must be familiar with each other and maintain open communication. Good development teams will take the lead with progress updates, questions, and submissions for your review. They’ll prod you for feedback and explain their choices. Beware the jargon: if these conversations become bogged down in technical terms, you’ll begin to lose sight of where your money is going.

 

Will your site attract visitors?

Your money goes much further when your development team can build a site that attracts visitors who Google search for words related to your business. What’s the point of building build the most beautiful dream home if there are no roads to it?

How are these “roads” to your website built? Through detailed research into your audiences’ search patterns on the internet. Knowing how your audiences tend to use Google and other search engines should inform the design, building, and writing of your website. Once this research is completed, solid developers will send this research to you to ensure that it matches your business—and smart developers will ensure this research report is understandable. Without clear communication, misunderstandings early in the process will inevitably lead to delays in your new website’s time to market.

 

The header of the MLT Group's traffic and analytics report to clients, which reads "Digital Marketing Scorecard."
The header of the MLT Group “Digital Marketing Scorecard,” a quarterly report submitted to individual clients that clearly communicates their website’s performance, including traffic numbers, conversions, and recommendations. Clear communication makes a web development team more accountable for results.

 

Another related but distinct part of attracting visitors is the mobile design of your website. Your website simply must look good and be easy to use on mobile devices in 2019. Most people nowadays use their phones or tablets to search on the internet. Make sure you ask about your site’s mobile design. If you’re not getting a design specifically for mobile screens, run for the hills.

 

Does your website convert visitors to customers? 

Savvy designers will compose a beautiful website, and smart researchers, developers, and writers will build the roads to it. Once your website attracts visitors, it must convert them to satisfied customers.

By far, the best thing you can do to ensure your website converts visitors is to use a custom design and build. A custom design accomplishes several things for your small business.

  1. A custom design for your small business’s website will make your business appear more professional and credible.
  2. Custom work will also ensure your website suits your brand and audience perfectly.
  3. A custom website design makes your website easy to navigate for visitors. The navigation of your website—its menus, page arrangements, links, and so on—should be clear at a glance, and it should be tested to ensure ease of use.

 

Small Business Website Design: Coyote Creek Gun & Archery Desktop & Mobile Homepage
Above are the desktop and mobile designs for Coyote Creek Gun & Archery, located in Rochester, MN. Each carries the same branding, but each design also guides the visitor’s navigation in a way that suits the platform: for example, large images and space on the desktop, and large buttons and a “call” button on the mobile.

 

 

If you want to make sales and move money, you need something custom for the job. Don’t rely on a preset theme to carry your business online.

In addition to custom design, compelling writing on your website will engage your site’s visitors to think and act. The writing for your website should be informative, adding real substance about your products, services, and brand. The writing should also be persuasive. Returning to the discovery process, a good writer working on your website will know the right levers to pull to make your audiences convert from visitors to customers. Whether that means appealing to emotions, logic, or your company’s great reputation, a writer working a custom job for your site will ensure your website makes a great argument to visitors.

Small Business Website Design: Call to Action on 12 for Heath Homepage
Homepage for 12 for Health, a wellness program. The first text visible to a visitor is a strong call to action: “Go beyond traditional health programs.” A good web development team will write custom content for your site that includes strong language that speaks directly to your audience rather than simply saying how great your business is. (Though that’s important, too!)

 

Finally, a custom website will include the final steps your visitors need to become customers. That could be forms that they fill out (like “request a quote” or standard contact forms) and/or a cleanly designed eCommerce shop for them to purchase the product or service.

 

Know What You’re Buying

It’s easy to spend a lot of money on a small business website design and not really know what you’re getting. Digital marketing has plenty of jargon, acronyms, and snazzy terminology to hide behind. Digital marketing can be extremely powerful and grow your business, but you have to cut the crap when working with an outside development and marketing team. Remember and return to some of the fundamentals in this guide to ensure you really know what you’re buying when you’re spending money for small business website design.

 

If you want a small business website design partner that’s rabidly anti-jargon, practical, and results-oriented, learn more about MLT Group. Having built websites and implemented digital marketing plans for over two decades, we’ve seen trends come and go, acronyms rise and die, common sense terms turn to jargon. We keep up with the latest research and design trends, but we’re not going to pretend that showing off our expertise with jargon will help us or our clients succeed. We work for results.

 

Interested in a free audit and proposal? Contact us using the form below, and we’ll get back to you in two business days or less.




 

How to Decide if You Need a Website Redesign

website redesign

Have you been thinking about doing a website redesign?

If you have, there’s a lot to consider.

You have to think about budget.

You have to consider whether or not you’ll use a custom web designer or template solutions offered by companies like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace.

In the changing marketing landscape of 2019 and beyond, you’ll have to consider how a potential website redesign fits into your content marketing strategy.

If you go through with a redesign, you’ll want to focus on elements that affect your site performance, ability to build your brand, and keeping up with Google’s ever-changing standards.

In today’s guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know if you’re considering a website redesign. By the end, you’ll have enough information to make the best decision for your business.

How to Think About Your Website Redesign Investment

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to do a site redesign, you can break down the decision into two separate buckets:

  • Definitely need a redesign
  • Potentially need a redesign

We’ll walk through each option. Depending on your business, revenue, marketing budget, and more, you’ll be guided through either of these three paths.

Before diving into each, let’s talk about the idea of investing in your own business, especially in marketing and design.

There’s a right and wrong way to think about investing in your business.

The right way? Carefully make a decision with the right mindset. Yes, you need to take things like cost into account, but you should never make it the sole criteria for your decision. Failing to invest in marketing out of fear can leave a lot of opportunity and profit on the table.

The Hidden Cost of ‘Cheap’ Marketing

Nathan Gotch of Gotch SEO talks about this in his post about Why You Should Never Choose ‘Affordable SEO Services’:

I get it. You want to squeeze as much profit out of your business as you can. But there are some things in life that you never want to go “cheap” on.

SEO is one of those things.

First, cheap SEO will likely land you a penalty. So, even if the low-quality tactics work in the short-term, you will end up getting nailed later on. If your site gets penalized, you will have to hire another agency just to get the penalty removed. Once your site gets a penalty, it’s a long road to recovery. In fact, your previous traffic levels may never recover.

And these are only the visible costs.

You also have to take into account opportunity and time costs. If your site gets penalized, you will have wasted precious time and capital.

The same thinking applies to design.

No, you don’t need to necessarily shell out top dollar for a website redesign, but failing to invest enough in your website design can lead to unintended consequences down the road:

  • Having to redo your design for performance issues
  • A site design that doesn’t reflect the quality of your business
  • Failing to meet the tastes and standards of your target audience

Think of the people in your audience. Think of the impression a well-designed and high-function website would have on them vs. a slapped together design that lacks originality?

Appearances in design matter for both your customers and the performance standards Google uses to rank websites. If you can afford to make a solid investment and the decision makes sense for your business, make the smart choice that pays off in the long run.

Signs You Need a Website Redesign

There are some clear cut signs to take the next step for your website. These signs include things that can definitely hurt the performance of your business on Google or lower the quality of your brand.

If any of these signs ring true for you, it’s time to level-up your website.

Your Site Isn’t Mobile Optimized or Responsive

Imagine you’re looking for a product online using your phone.

It’s tough to navigate because the site doesn’t fit on your screen.

It loads slowly.

Since the website doesn’t work well on your screen and you’ve had tons of experience with sites that do, you’re not impressed with the quality of the business, so you click away.

You move onto a website that loads quickly on your phone. You can tell the design was made for phones. The information you’re looking for is easy to find and shown in a professional way.

Which website are you more likely to buy from?

On top of the impression, you’re leaving on visitors, a site that isn’t mobile optimized leaves a bad taste in Google’s mouth.

Quite a while back, Google said it will use the mobile version of your website when deciding how high to rank it:

mobile-optimize-seo-results

When Google flat out tells you it’s doing something, take their word for it. We build all of our sites using responsive web design, meaning your site design looks great on any device. Ensuring a positive user experience for everyone means your site will perform better.

Your Website Is Just…Old

If you’ve had the same website design for more than five years, it’s almost certain you’re behind on either visitor preferences or search engine standards.

Old website designs miss the mark in many ways:

  • User experience – User experience (UX) has become a growing factor in not just design, but content marketing and SEO. Google continues to work on sites that do everything well, not just standard SEO techniques.
  • Preferences – Think about it. People use the internet now more than ever, especially on their devices. They see great looking websites every day, which means they expect quality businesses to have quality sites, period. Odds are, a site that’s half a decade old doesn’t exactly scream professionalism.
  • Brand – Has your business stayed the same in the past five years or has it grown? Shouldn’t you have a design that reflects the growth of your business and brand?

Often, we have clients who ‘know it’s time.’ If this is you, what are you waiting for?

Your Website Gets Traffic, But Not Enough Leads

Many experts say the average conversion rate for a website is anywhere from 2-5 percent.

This means if your website receives 1,000 visits per month, 20-50 people should either sign-up to your e-mail list, fill out a form on your website, or call your business directly.

If you’re not getting this type of conversion rate, there are a few potential reasons why:

  • Calls to action – If you don’t use the right calls to action with your site copy and design, e.g., using buttons instead of hyperlinks, you’re not making the next step for your users obvious enough
  • Lack or lead capture elements – A ‘sign up for our newsletter’ form tucked away in the sidebar of your page isn’t going to do a great job of collecting leafs
  • Confusing design – If your website doesn’t make the next step clear and easy to take by doing things like having a simple menu, using forms, and properly placing CTAs, people are going to leave your website instead of convert

Our design philosophy includes the idea that you should make it as easy as possible to take the next step. This makes for a better user experience and an overall increase on the metrics that matter to business owners.

Signs You Might Need a Website Redesign

There are times where a website redesign isn’t urgent, but could still make a positive difference for your business. In these cases, it’s important to weigh the benefits of moving forward.

Some possible reasons you might need a new website redesign are:

  • Rebranding your business
  • You bought a new business
  • You’re entering a new market

Let’s take a look at each scenario.

Rebranding Your Business

Often, businesses will rebrand because they’re looking for a fresh start.

Maybe you founded your company and website a while ago and you need your brand to speak to the current market.

Maybe you want to rebrand because you’ve seen competitors in your space updating their brands with design, content marketing, and more.

In any case, there are some important questions to ask yourself before going through a rebrand:

  • Ask yourself ‘why’ – Simply articulating the reason behind wanting to change your brand can bring out great insights you can use in the design process
  • What does your audience want? – In our guide on B2c marketing, we touched on the idea of having a deep understanding of your audience — where they hang out, why they buy, and who they trust in your industry, knowing the answers to these questions makes sure you create a new design with a brand that matches the needs of your audience
  • What direction is your industry moving in? – Almost all audiences are moving toward preferring a professional, up to date, responsive web design. Your industry may be trending toward more online inquiries as opposed to phone calls. Pay attention to the actions of your current customers and potential customers to see how design trends are affecting their behavior and act accordingly.

You Bought A New Business

When you buy a new business, you have the option of retaining their brand and marketing or changing it. If you’re looking to update a brand with a website redesign, here are some important items to consider:

  • Business philosophy – Often, if you buy a business, you’re betting on being able to improve the quality because you see a new direction for the company. If this is the case, a new website with a new company and updated information about the company leadership makes sense.
  • Reputation – Each business has a reputation that impacts how it performs in an industry. This ties into the point above. If you want to reshape the reputation of the business you bought, a redesign helps you establish a new presence under your leadership.
  • Name  – Again, tying to the point above, if you’re looking to really change the identity of a business by changing the name, a web redesign may be a necessity.

You’re Entering a New Market

Maybe you’re adding products and services to your business to capture a new related market. You’ll definitely want to have a menu with pages and content that reflect the new market you’re trying to serve.

Often, a total website redesign can help you think holistically about the entirety of your new business, which can lead to many changes including design, content, and marketing strategy.

Entering a new market can mean hiring new employees, too. You’d want to update the employee information on your website and focus on design and copy that attracts the new employees you want if you’re still hiring.

Conclusion

A website redesign can help you move your business in the right direction. Working with a smart web design agency can mean the difference between a decent site and one with all the performance, style, and marketing techniques needed to move the needle for your brand and the bottom line at the same time.

Are you interested in taking the next step? If so, fill out the form below to get a free marketing proposal in 48 hours or less.

B2C Marketing 101: How to Attract and Acquire More Customers

b2c marketing

Does b2c marketing require a different skill set and strategy than b2b marketing?

Yes and no.

Marketing has foundations you should learn regardless of the type of business you run.

Once you master those, it’s important to learn the difference and nuance that comes with your niche.

Most business owners run into the same problem. They think too much, fail to make decisions, and treat marketing as an afterthought instead of the core of their business.

In this guide, we’ll break down the marketing foundations you need to know and the specifics for becoming a top business in your b2c marketing niche.

Marketing 101 – The Basics All Business Owners Need to Know

Often times, business owners focus on the wrong topics when it comes to marketing.

They focus on tactics and asks questions like:

“Should I do SEO?”

“Which social media channels should I be on?”

“Do I need to run PPC ads?”

Those tactics are secondary. First, you need to focus on the core pillars behind your marketing. After, the insights you gain from building those foundations will guide your decision making when it comes to the channels you want to use.

So what are some of these foundational elements of marketing?

Unique Selling Proposition

This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. Often incorrectly. Having a USP isn’t about making a sexy mission statement. It’s about answering these two simple questions, famously pointed out by advertising legend David Ogilvy:

“What does the product do and who is it for?”

Seems like a simple question right?

It is simple, but if you never take the time to truly consider that answer, you won’t be able to create the right content, sell effectively, and convert casual browsers into buyers.

I’m guessing you want our answer to that question.

It’s simple.

We provide content marketing and SEO for business owners who want to grow their businesses.

Notice our USP had nothing to do with increasing traffic, specific tactics, or a super niche audience.

Not all marketing agencies look at their services as a tool for their customers to grow their businesses. All of them look at their services as a tool to grow their own businesses, however.

There’s a stark difference between vanity metrics and the type of content marketing that moves the needle for your business.

When it comes to your business, think of this answer deeply.

You could own a carpet cleaning company. So the answer to the first question is simple. You provide carpet cleaning services, but the who it’s for part of the equation varies.

Here are some examples:

  • Commercial businesses who need regular upkeep
  • Homeowners looking for an affordable solution instead of needing to replace their carpets
  • Commercial business and homeowners who take great pride in the appearance of their businesses or homes

And creating a USP doesn’t mean you can’t serve people who aren’t directly related to it, but it does mean your business has a focus that you can use in the marketing and sales process.

Audience Definition

If the answer to “Who is your target audience?” is anyone who will buy your product. You’re not on the right track.

Defining your audience needs to go above and beyond simple metrics like age demographics and yearly salary. Those are important, but defining your audience goes deeper.

Sales are about emotion, not logic. You need to understand how the people in your audience think — about themselves, about the industry your in, and about the transformation your product provides.

You need to know the hopes, fears, desires, and frustrations of your audience.

For our audience, we’re looking for people who see past the shiny aspects of marketing and understand its a tool for the growth and reputation of their business.

We know how many business owners are hesitant to invest in marketing because they haven’t found the right fit, but see the coming trends and realize they need digital marketing to stay competitive.

They want digital marketing to be like a salesperson and brand advocate for their company that draws leads in. They see that marketing and business growth can free up time and money to improve their product, hire more people, expand their offering, and build an industry dominating brand.

Business owners who only look at the bottom line and nothing else are not in our audience. The same goes for business owners who want fast results or see marketing as an expense rather than an investment.

That comes across in our marketing in many ways:

  • We write insanely in-depth and informative articles
  • We don’t offer pre-packaged solutions that anyone can replicate
  • Our business model attracts people who spend time learning about marketing

Even if you’re in the b2c market, understanding your audience is just as important, if not more, because b2c businesses often have audiences with more choices and shrewder buying behavior due to a large number of products available in the space and social proof metrics to pay attention to like reviews.

This does mean using tactics like:

  • Creating customer avatars
  • Doing market and competitor research
  • Surveying current customers to find additional wants and needs

But these tactics are derived from the philosophy that you’re trying to deeply understand your audience instead of trying to sell to anyone who will buy.

Long-Term Thinking

Shortsightedness kills businesses in a variety of ways. Shortsighted business owners don’t invest enough in marketing. They can also invest too much in marketing because they believe marketing can help sell any product (marketing only helps sell good products).

If you’re going to become a master marketer or work with an agency to take care of your marketing for you, you should think in terms of years instead of weeks or months.

The data supports this too.

Pages take a while before they rank on Google:

average age of page one rankings chart

Per Hubspot: Over its lifetime, one compounding blog post creates as much traffic as six decaying posts. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

As Neil Patel explains in this video, the average time it takes to rank your pages on Google depend on a variety of factors:

In your case, unless you’re not willing to experiment and take time for your marketing strategies to work.

How B2C Marketing Works

We’re all B2C customers.

The easiest way to put yourself in your customers’ shoes is to think about how you buy products.

Do you buy products from random banner ads? Statistics says less than two percent of traffic goes to these type of advertisements.

You shop differently for different products. You don’t spend as much time mulling over which toothpaste you choose vs. which car you buy.

Often, you rely on word of mouth or reviews. More or less so depending on the type of product you buy.

Yes, you do make impulse purchases, but why? Often, an impulse purchase is for a product you’re already primed to want, quickly solves a problem or need that you have, uses great copy and messaging to persuade you to buy, and is in the right price range to justify the purchases.

It’s useful to go outside of yourself and think of the way you would look at products in your industry.

For a quick example, we’ll use carpet cleaning businesses again.

Carpet cleaning is more of a commodity product. It’s the type of product you’d search on Google and perhaps purchase services from relatively quickly. This insight would let you know that a tactic like SEO might work well for your business over the long run.

People might also buy your services based on your brand and reputation. This comes into play with local carpet cleaning companies and others niches like real estate where companies like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor have established named.

Insights like these let you know to focus on building your brand over the long-term to get more customers and build brand awareness on search engines.

This is an important step to take before you even dive into tactics — simply having the awareness and empathy to see your product in the eyes of your customers.

You’d be surprised how much of a blind spot this can be for many business owners, maybe even you.

You can want your business to succeed badly, but if you want it to succeed so badly you adopt a “build it and they will come” or “build a better mousetrap” mentality, you can miss out on great insights or take shortcut, both of which cost you the customers you want so bad in the first place.

All of these strategies are dependant on your business and niche, but here are some things to think about when it comes to putting together your b2c marketing campaign.

Stages of Awareness

How aware of your business does a potential customer need to be before they purchase?

What is the average time it will take to get them to know, like, and trust you?

What steps and techniques can you use to move them through the stages of awareness?

inbound marketing funnel

When we sit down with business owners, we focus on moving customers through the stages of awareness.

Often, we’ll begin with an SEO and content marketing campaign – writing blog posts, building backlinks and getting traffic to their websites to build awareness around their brand and communicate in a way that convinces people to trust their brand.

Attraction can work with different Mediums depending on the business. A business like an e-commerce business could have a much shorter awareness cycle and a strategy like paid advertisements might be the best fit.

You need a way to convert these visitors. Paid ads can be used to convert people into buyers or get them to sign onto your email list to educate and persuade them further. Either way, you need to be able to answer the question “How do I get the visitor to take the next step?”

The answer to that question leads to additional tactics like:

  • Calls to action
  • Whitepaper offers
  • Pop-ups
  • Landing pages

And more.

You have to focus on closing the sale by doing things like answering potential objections and reassuring your potential customer.

And immediately after the sale, you must ensure an excellent customer experience to avoid pitfalls like buyers remorse and refunds.

Let’s take a look at some of the channels, platforms, and strategies you can use to enhance your b2c marketing, move people through the stages of awareness, increase your brand equity, and get more sales at the same time.

SEO and Content Marketing

We’ve covered topics like SEO and content marketing in-depth in many of our articles. Let’s talk about how both work specifically for b2c marketing.

When you’re selling products to customers instead of other businesses, there’s one important word to remember when creating an SEO campaign. Intent.

The way you structure your campaign is based on the intent of the people who are interested as well as the stage of awareness they’re in.

B2c marketing strategies also change depending on the region you serve. Let’s take a look at a few different examples.

Local Service Businesses

Our fictional carpet cleaning business would be a great example of a local service business. Many local service businesses like carpet cleaning companies, restaurants, plumbers, etc have a much simple b2c marketing strategy for SEO.

For these types of businesses, your number one goal would be to rank for the key phrase [main service] in [city], e.g., carpet cleaning in Wichita, KS. If your business offers multiple services, you would want to create a unique page of content for each of those services and try to rank in your area as well.

The process would like something like this:

  • Create SEO optimized pages for each service
  • Create SEO optimized pages for each location you serve
  • Add an SEO optimized blog to your website to feature relevant and helpful content
  • Build citations for your business in relevant directories
  • Through techniques like blog outreach and guest posting, build backlinks to your website to increase authority
  • Get high-quality Google reviews from past customers

On your website, you’d create messaging based on factors like USP and solving the problems of your target audience.

Often, people coming to these types of businesses have the intent to buy or inquire. To move them through the stages of awareness, you’d use compelling website copy and calls to action to fill out a form or call your business.

Product Businesses

Product businesses use a different SEO strategy than service businesses.

In 2019, most product businesses use e-commerce and online shopping for sales.

If you run and e-commerce business, you have many different strategies you can use to grow your traffic and increase awareness for your site.

First, you want to make sure to optimize each product page on your website by:

  • Adding keywords to the title of products
  • Adding keywords to the description
  • Writing detailed product descriptions
  • Using keywords in headings, descriptions, alt tags, and all other meta data

You’d do the same thing for each category page on your website. Here’s an example from one of our clients who sells stud fasteners:

e commerce category page example

In addition to creating SEO optimized pages for each product page and category page on your website, you can create blog content related to the products on your website.

Visit our e-commerce marketing guide for an in-depth look at the process, as well as our other deep dive guides into content marketing and SEO:

 

Pay Per Click Advertising on Google and Facebook

Pay per click advertising on Google and Facebook work well for b2c businesses because potential customers have more buyer intent and take a shorter time to purchase than most b2b scenarios. Compare looking for a pair of sneakers with finding a new aerospace machining company to work with.

If you look at many b2c queries, especially for product businesses, you’ll see ads dominate the search engine results page (SERP):

product ads

When browsing Facebook, you’ll often notice ads for products you’re interested in:

ad example

The question is – how do you make these ads effective and how should you use them depending on the stages of awareness?

Attraction Facebook Ads

If customers aren’t aware of your company yet, you can use ads to attract them to learn more about you. A couple of strategies to find new people to reach are:

  • Using detailed interest targeting in ads
  • Creating audiences based on competitors in your niche
  • Creating audiences based on your current customers called lookalike audiences

Here’s an example from my feed:

facebook ad example

I’ve never personally been to this website, but I do like form-fitting t-shirts and have been to similar clothing sites. This brand is doing a great job of attracting me to learn more because it speaks to the things I want in a shirt, e.g., “athletic fit.”

Conversion Facebook Ads

Some ads will attempt to move through further through the stages of awareness by getting you to act in a way that helps further the relationship, mainly signing up for your e-mail list.

Often, these type of ads try to:

  • Offer something valuable in exchange for your contact info
  • Sell the benefits of joining their list
  • Make the decision to sign up as easy as possible

Here’s an example of one of those ads from my feed:

ad example 3

Closing Ads

These types of ads are either for people who are well aware of the company or from companies who believe they can close the sale quickly.

For the former, this is often called a re-marketing ad. They know you’ve already interacted with their brand and they’re marketing to you again. There are some categories where it goes make sense to offer your product for sale via an ad right way, often a lower priced product with less friction to buy.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many avenues you can choose for b2c marketing. It’s on you to choose the right strategy after understanding your customers first.

If you want to know exactly how to define your audience as well as how to sell to them, we can help. Just fill out the form below to get your free marketing proposal and competitive analysis in 48 hours or less:




 

Top 12 Digital Marketing Tips for 2019

Digital marketing constantly changes and evolves. To ensure your business stays competitive, incorporate new digital marketing techniques with each new year.

We’ve put together our top 12 Digital Marketing Tips to help you grow your site traffic, convert more visitors to leads, and build a brand people know, like, and trust.

 

#1 – Build Citations

Your business and website receive a citation every time it’s referenced online. More citations mean more authority for your business in the eyes of search engines.

Citations can happen naturally, like when someone mentions your business in an article. But you can make a concerted effort to build citations by submitting them to citation directories.

Citation directories are websites that feature information about businesses like their names, addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, and website URLs. These sites are very similar to link-building directories with one exception: citation directories don’t always provide links to your site.

You Need More Citations If:

  • You want more site authority and traffic
  • You want to appear in more “map-pack” search results
  • You want to rank for more competitive local keywords

Citations Will Help You:

  • Improve your rankings in local search results
  • Gain more recognition from Google’s Local Search Algorithm
  • Have a consistent business profile across the web

 

 

#2 – Use Advanced Link-Building Techniques

Backlinks remain one of the top ranking factors for search engines. In addition to using link-building directories, businesses can use the following methods to get more quality links to their site:

  • Searching for brand mentions – If your business has been around for a while, odds are there are mentions of your business that don’t link back to your website. Spotting these unlinked mentions and reaching out to site owners is an easy way to acquire backlinks.
  • Guest posts – Guests posts are blog posts that you publish on websites other than those in your niche or related niches. You offer to write a post about a subject in exchange for a link (or links) back to your website.
  • Outreach – Outreach for backlinks can help you receive very high-quality links. First, you find out who links to content similar to yours and then you “pitch” content from your website to these site owners in an attempt to get a backlink. Outreach is more time intensive and has no guarantee per pitch, but it will help you acquire more backlinks on average.

You Need Advanced Link-Building If:

  • You want to rank for very competitive keywords
  • You own a regional service area business
  • You own a national or global services area business

Advanced Link-Building Will Help You:

  • Rank for very competitive keyphrases
  • Increase site traffic significantly by ranking for competitive keyphrases
  • Gain enough site authority to compete regionally and nationally

 

 

#3 – Expand Your Content

The standards for content quality and length have changed in 2019. Whereas 300 words used to be the minimum viable word-count to rank a page on Google, that number is much higher now (500 or more for local business pages).

For competitive keywords (mainly companies with a national audience), 1,000-2,000 words of content are necessary.

For companies with a national target audience, we suggest a content marketing campaign with 2-4 posts per month of this length to significantly improve organic search traffic.

For local businesses, we suggest expanding the page content to at least 500 words per page.

You Need Content Expansion If:

  • Your site content hasn’t been updated in the past 18 months
  • Your website has thin pages with fewer than 500 words of content
  • You want to rank for more competitive keyphrases

Content Expansion Will Help You:

  • Increase your site traffic by adding more target keyphrase-rich content
  • Rank for a higher number of keywords overall
  • Meet industry standard content guidelines to outpace your competition

 

 

#4 – Improve Site Loading Speed

Slow-loading websites will hurt your search engine rankings because Google uses website performance as a ranking factor.

Your site should take no longer than three seconds to load. You can use Google’s page speed insights tool to gauge site performance as well as tools like Pingdom for load speed data and recommendations.

You Need A Site Speed Performance Boost If:

  • Your site takes three seconds or longer to load
  • Your site receives low scores on site speed tools
  • Your site was built more than five years ago with out-of-date technology

A Site Speed Performance Boost Will Help You:

  • Make your site visitors happy and more likely to become a lead or sale
  • Increase your rankings with a Google-friendly website
  • Have a website built to last and perform among Google’s changes

 

 

#5 – Secure Your Website

All websites must have an SSL certificate in 2019. Further explanation here: https://www.mltgroup.com/blog/website-security/

The main points are:

  • Google uses site security as part of the algorithm
  • Users may receive an “unsafe” warning message
  • E-commerce retailers face liabilities without SSL certificates

You Need to Secure Your Website If:

  • You don’t have an SSL security certificate
  • You want to meet Google’s security standards
  • You sell products online

An SSL Certificate Will Help You:

  • Avoid warning messages to visitors
  • Meet Google’s standards to improve rankings and traffic
  • Create a comfortable environment for website visitors

 

 

#6 – Improve Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the process of fixing common site issues that affect SEO performance. Here are a few common technical SEO issues to look for:

  • Redirects – Each time a page is deleted or a URL is changed, the URL has to be redirected elsewhere via a protocol called a “301 redirect.” If this isn’t done, your site will return a 404 error page, which harms overall performance.
  • Redirect chains – After you 301 redirect a page elsewhere, you should replace all internal links pointing to the old page and add the link to the new page. If you don’t do this, then a redirect chain is created, which means you are creating an unnecessary buffer between links. This dilutes the authority your links pass to other pages.
  • Broken links – Often, when linking to external sources, broken links can occur because the source that you linked either deleted or changed the URL of your page. Scan your site quarterly to find and replace broken links.

You Need Technical SEO Optimization If:

  • You’ve had an active website for a year or more
  • You write content that cites other sources online
  • You’ve added, deleted, or changed pages on your site

Technical SEO Will Help You:

  • Have a more SEO friendly site structure, which improves traffic and rankings
  • Avoid a negative user experience for your site visitors
  • Have a faster more user-friendly site (redirect chains can slow sites down)

 

 

#7 – Revise SEO Content With LSI Keywords

LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords are keywords that relate to the target keyword for a page. Often, a page will begin to rank for these LSI keywords without them being in the content.

Adding LSI keywords that you already rank for can increase organic search traffic.

You can also search for additional LSI keywords that your pages don’t rank for and add them to your content.

You Need to Add LSI Keywords To Your Content If:

  • You’ve been creating content for more than a year
  • You rank on page two for keywords that you want to rank on page one for
  • You want to rank for many keywords with a single page

Adding LSI Keywords Will Help You:

  • Increase your keyword footprint for more traffic
  • Rank single pages for multiple keywords, creating a compounding effect
  • Provide users better information by adding related phrases, which aids buying decision

 

 

#8 – Focus On Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization is the process of making your website more engaging to visitors so that they “convert” by taking the desired next step.

Examples include:

  • Signing up to your e-mail list
  • Filling out an inquiry or “request a quote” form
  • Calling your business

pop up

You can make your site more conversion-friendly by:

  • Strategically placing more opt-in forms across your website
  • Writing stronger calls to action in various spots of your website
  • Emphasizing information you want users to act on (for example, changing a hyperlink to a bright colored button)
  • Adding pop-ups to your website
  • Creating free resources like whitepapers in exchange for an e-mail list

You Need Conversion Rate Optimization If:

  • You want more leads and sales
  • You want more e-mail list signups
  • You want phone calls to your business

Conversion Rate Optimization Can Help You:

  • Get higher ROI for your marketing efforts
  • Build long-term relationships with customers to increase CLV
  • Spread awareness of your brand by retaining customers on your e-mail list

 

 

# 9 – Update Your SEO Data

There are important areas of your website code and metadata sections that should be updated occasionally as your campaign progresses.

  • Title tags – Title tags contain the target keyword as well as other content meant to get visitors to click. Analyzing and re-writing tags for targeting and persuasiveness can improve organic search traffic.
  • Meta descriptions – Click through rate (CTR) is the number of times people click on your page divided by the number of times people see the page. Search engines measure click-through rate as a ranking factor. Re-writing your meta descriptions to be more compelling can increase CTR and thus traffic and rankings.
  • Image alt tags – These are tags used in photos. These tags help search engine crawlers understand what the photos are about since they can’t see them.

You Need To Update Your SEO Data If:

  • You have pages with high impressions but low click-through rates
  • You haven’t updated your SEO data within the year
  • You want to increase rankings and traffic for low performing pages

Updating Your SEO Data Will Help You:

  • Increase your click-through rate and site traffic
  • Improve traffic by fixing the targeting on low performing pages
  • Continue to be Google friendly and maintain rankings by updating data on your site

 

 

#10 – Make Your Website Responsive

If your website isn’t built to display well on mobile phones, you are going to suffer on search engines.

Since Google now bases its rankings on the mobile version of your site (or lack thereof), having a mobile-optimized site isn’t a choice anymore.

Your site needs to be mobile-optimized yesterday. Even better, you should build your site to be responsive. This means the design of your site will adjust to look great on any sized screen.

You Need to Make Your Website Responsive If:

  • You don’t have a mobile website
  • You have a mobile-only version of your website instead of a responsive website

A Responsive Website Will Help You:

  • Make sure every visitor to your site has a positive experience
  • Rank on Google’s mobile-first index and increase overall search traffic

 

 

#11 – Get More Reviews

Collecting as many reviews and testimonials as possible from customers and clients has multiple benefits:

  • Google uses reviews as a ranking signal
  • Reviews provide “social proof” that shows potential customers why they should trust you
  • According to research from Bright Local, 91 percent of people surveyed said they read reviews (at least occasionally) and 84 percent said they trust reviews as much as their own friends

You Need More Reviews If:

  • You haven’t been actively collecting them
  • You have fewer than 10 reviews for your business
  • You’re a new business

More Reviews Will Help You:

  • Increase site traffic by adapting to Google’s local search algorithm
  • Increase sales as reviews on search engine results page provide “social proof”
  • Add an element to your marketing by placing reviews on your website

 

 

#12 – Redesign Your Website

As a rule of thumb, you should redesign your website every 3-5 years for the following reasons:

  • Style – Design style and tastes change over time and you don’t want your site to look outdated
  • Google – A re-build can help you meet all of Google’s new standards in one fell swoop
  • Conversion – Many outdated sites don’t have a conversion focus, which is crucial for digital marketing in 2019

You Need A Redesign If:

  • Your website is more than 5 years old
  • Your website isn’t responsive
  • Your website doesn’t have a conversion focus, which means you’re losing out on leads

A Website Redesign Will Help You:

  • Meet all of Google’s standards, which will increase rankings
  • Have an up-to-date site, which will increase visitor trust and lead to more sales
  • Convert more casual browsers into leads with a conversion-focused design

Conclusion

These digital marketing tips are a handful of many you can use to grow your business with content marketing and SEO.

The most important step to take next? The first one.

Will this be the year you decide to fully to commit to digital marketing?

If so, let’s talk. Fill out the form below and we will send you a detailed website audit and proposal in 48 hours or less.




 

Try These Creative Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

Are you looking for creative marketing ideas for your small business?

You want to invest in marketing, but you have limited resources and want to use them properly, right?

You want ROI for your marketing.

The bottom line keeps your business afloat, so you have to keep that in mind.

We get that.

Fortunately,  a combination out of the box thinking, (some) investment, and a little savvy marketing can go along way.

Here are some quick creative marketing ideas you can use for your small business.

The Best Marketing Idea Nobody Uses

Be honest with yourself.

Is your product or service as good as it can possibly be? It is even close?

Marketing works when the product and service not only works but works well.

If you have excellent customer service, pay attention to your customers’ needs, and work on research and development, half the battle is won and it helps your SEO.

How? Having a better product improves your online presence in the following ways:

  • More brand mentions – When word of mouth spreads, more people will search for your brand on Google. More brand mentions = more brand credibility = more authority = higher rankings
  • Reviews – When you have a great product or service, you’ll naturally gain more online reviews, which is a ranking factor, especially for local SEO.
  • Content marketing – When you have a great product, you’ll have more confidence to use content marketing to promote it. Part of the reason why some small businesses fail at marketing is simply a lack of confidence in the business itself.

Find Unique Ways to Build Your E-Mail List

An e-mail list gives you a direct channel to potential customers.

What do most businesses do?

They stick a teeny tiny little box on the sidebar of their website that says “sign-up for free updates.” What a sexy and creative marketing idea that is. If you want to build your e-mail list, you have to be both creative and aggressive about how you build it.

Use a Pop Up Software

“Ugh, not pop-ups,” you say!

You don’t want to interrupt your audience and scare them away, right?

Pop-ups don’t scare people away. Poor and lazy marketing does.

A smart pop up entices the visitor to sign-up instead of trying to coerce them.

Sumo provides pop-up software that’s easy to use. They also do a great job of using it themselves.

Look at this example:

e-mail pop up software example

Note what they do well here:

  • Exclusivity – They use phrases like “peek inside” and “vault” to persuade you to get their secret content. Creating exclusive content you don’t share anywhere else speaks to our desire to be part of the “in crowd”
  • Benefits list – Notice that all three bullet points talk about aspects of the content that would benefit someone with a Shopify store
  • Word choice for the button – Using a phrase like “sign-up” makes people feel like they’re being begged to join yet-another-boring-ass-newsletter. “Get Access Now” speaks to exclusivity

Content Upgrades

Content upgrades are offers for exclusive pieces of content you add into the body of your content itself.

Like this:

content upgrade example

You give someone access to an exclusive piece of content based on the content they’re already reading.

Some great guides for making content upgrades are:

The use of content upgrades isn’t the most revolutionary creating marketing idea in the world. So why add it to the list?

Most small businesses in niches outside of marketing don’t use them.

In fact, most small businesses don’t use any of the content marketing techniques that the common agency does. If they did, they could see their traffic skyrocket.

That’s why it’s important to either become an expert at content creation or hire the (right) agency to do it for you. It doesn’t take a genius to create marketing ideas that beat out most of the competition in many niches.

Collect E-Mail Sign-Ups in Non-Obvious Ways

When you think of list-building, you think of tips like creating content, running ads, doing giveaways, etc, but there are a lot of “outside the box” ways you can build your list, too.

Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Give a speech at an industry conference and pass around a sign-up form when you’re done with your talk
  • Add a link to sign-up to your e-mail list in your e-mail signature.
  • If you’re in a service business with repeat customers, ask for an e-mail address in exchange for a future discount

The list goes on and on. In fact, there are resources that go into much more depth than this:

You can wade through those if you’d like. Our point? Be more creative when it comes to list-building. There are endless techniques. Test and experiment with them.

Don’t Try to Build Your E-Mail List (Do This Instead)

Wait, what?

We just got done telling you to build your e-mail list. And now we’re telling you not to?

Not exactly.

List-building works, but there is another to create a direct channel to your customers.

Talk about your product or service in your content. Don’t just talk about it, weave the use of it directly into your content and make the use of your product or service a core feature of it.

Credit goes to Tim Soulo — Head of Marketing at Ahrefs for promoting this creative marketing idea on his Medium blog:

Ahrefs creative marketing idea

This works better for service as a software product (SaaS) but consider how to incorporate this strategy for your own company.

In our real estate SEO guide, we detail an SEO strategy we created for a client (name omitted).

Over time, we’ll be including more case studies of our agency’s work and integrating our service into the content itself.

You can do the same.

Create Insane Marketing Campaigns

If you have the stomach and creativity for it, you can come up with unique marketing campaigns that range from outside the box to downright outrageous.

Let’s look at some of your favorite examples, starting with “boring” products…

Like razor blades:

And Blenders:

This marketing ad from Billy Gene is Marketing is one we’re even a bit jealous of:


The larger point here…

Fortune favors the bold.

Sure, you run a small business, but that doesn’t mean you have to think small.

Most small businesses don’t fail from a lack of knowledge or money. They fail from a lack of courage and creativity.

If you only thinking about what you stand to lose from going all-in on marketing, you don’t deserve marketing success.

Stay on the sidelines if you want. If, however, you’re ready to take a serious leap into marketing, feel free to reach out to us:

[add form]

Run Facebook Ads (But not for the Same Reason As Most Small Business Owners)

Facebook ads can help you grow your business.

They’re also very easy to mess up.

Don’t think of running Facebook ads the same way as those tired radio ads you’ve heard in the car for the past few decades. A jingle and a 1-800 number aren’t going to work online. You can offer discounts and sell directly to customers with ads, but that’ll only work if people are familiar with your brand.

There’s another way to attract people to your brand with Facebook ads that familiarizes them with your brand: run ads for free content.

What? Run PPC ads for free content? That is small business marketing blaspheme. Maybe, but it’s also a way to get your brand to stand out.

We noticed many SEO tool companies, like Ahrefs doing this:

facebook ad example

We couldn’t find a sponsored post in our timeline, but often some companies will run “sponsored posts,” meaning they’re creating ads for the blog content they create.

This could be a waste of money…

But it could also be a genius idea to get your name out there more.

There’s an industry saying that a potential customer has to see your brand 7 times before they buy.

Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen. The underlying sentiment makes sense.

Build brand familiarity in any way possible.

Conclusion

Winning the small business game has more to do with resourcefullnes than it does the resources themselves.

Use some of these marketing ideas to step up your game in 2019.

What are some creative marketing ideas you want to try with your small business?

Let us know in the comments!

 

How to Promote Your Business in 2020 (with 15 Tips and Examples)

If you’re a business owner, you want to know how to promote your business the right way.

You’re learning more about marketing — especially online marketing — because you know promoting your business online is necessary in 2020.

The problem? There are a million different ways to promote your business and a million different “experts” giving you advice on how to do it.

How do you know which way is the right way?

Before we dive into specifics, let’s talk about the truth you need to understand to promote your business the right way.

Online Promotion in 2020 Means Adding Value for Your Customer

Whatever content you put on the web has to genuinely engage your target customers.

Inform them. Entertain them. Teach them.

Simply putting your customers first relates to SEO in a lot of ways.

When you build a well-designed and user-friendly website because you want your visitors to have a great experience, you get “SEO-credit” in the form of “dwell time” and a low “bounce-rate.”

When you create content people want to share and link to, your site builds authority naturally.

The better your product itself, the easier it is to get positive engagement both online and word of mouth, which helps boost the “engagement signals” Google uses to rank websites.

All of our tips on how to promote your business revolve around putting your customers first.

…But Your Product Has to Follow Through

Here is an aspect of business promotion that goes overlooked — improving your product or service.

  • Have you been going the extra mile with customer service?
  • Are you actively listening to customer discussion and feedback?
  • When was the last time you did a deep analysis of product development?

When you start to hear back from customers online, listen to them. Engage with them.

Take their experiences to heart when they discuss your product, for good or bad.

And when you do improve your product or service, promote the heck out of it. Get that message out. Let the customers know you listened and you acted.

Nothing compares to the reputation of a business that’s sincerely tuned into its customer base. That good sentiment is invaluable in a market that increasingly rewards companies with transparent operations.

Smart digital marketing will take that sentiment, amplify it, and share it with as many potential customers as possible.

#1 – Invest in Your Website

When it comes to promoting your business online, all roads should lead to your website.

Why?

Your website is the one piece of the internet you totally control. You own it.*

Social media can drive engagement with your business, but you’ll never have 100% control of those spaces.

When you invest in your website, you build equity for the long-term. You develop an asset that never stops working for you. You build a home base for your customers.

Build a beautiful, easy-to-use website, and fill it with content that’s useful for your customers.

*(Or you should own it. All too often we’ve seen small businesses pay a monthly fee to a web development company for a custom website. NEVER do this! If you decide to engage an agency for a custom web site, make sure you 100% own it.)

 

#2 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is an example from one of our clients, demonstrating about a 3x increase in organic traffic. Organic SEO will still work well in 2020, but it’s going to get harder as Google (likely) exerts more influence on its results.

SEO continues to be relevant in 2020, and you should still (mostly) care about Google, whose sites receive over 90% of search queries.

It’s true that the SEO game is changing. One SEO expert notes that June, 2019, was the first time when fewer than half of all Google searches resulted in no clicks.

What does that really mean?

Many people nowadays use Google search and then find their answer without actually visiting a website.

Google continues to grow as an answer service rather than as a simple (but massive) index.

Still, organic SEO drives traffic to your site—but your SEO has to be smart. You must be able to identify relevant keyphrases with strong click-through rates.

Organic SEO will build equity in your site, keeping it working for you in the long-haul. That’s why we recommend organic SEO over pay-per-click ads in many cases.

A couple of factors to keep in mind:

  • Your market – what keywords do your customers use when searching for services or products you offer?
  • Competition – Who else is ranking high for your best keywords?
  • ROI – Some industries have searches with more “buyer intent” than others, meaning people use search to make purchasing decisions more in some industries than others

Organic SEO is STILL a great way to promote your business online, but it’s getting harder in 2020 and will continue to do so.

#3 – Reviews

google reviews

Google and other search engines use online reviews as a ranking signal.

You should seek reviews on these platforms from your customers.

Also, reviews are a basic kind of social proof, demonstrating your quality.

To get those reviews, you have to have an awesome product or service.

Here are some quick tips for improving your product/service to get more reviews:

  • Actively seek feedback from your customers and use it to improve your product/service
  • Make sure to ask for reviews after your service has been performed or product delivered
  • Follow up with customers regularly (for long-term customers)
  • Aim to have the best customer service possible (this is not a trivial insight)

#4 – Brand-Building

Marketing expert Neil Patel wrote an article about the future of SEO. In it, he mentioned brand building as one of the top ways to promote your business.

Why is brand building important?

Google trusts established brands.

If you have an established brand, your website has a better chance to rank.

If you create a product or service people rave about, more people will search for your business online by name.

The more searches your business gets by name, the more brand credibility it has.

Focus on putting yourself on the map in your industry with both product/service quality and digital marketing.

 

#5 – Content Marketing

“Content marketing” means producing content (blogs, videos, graphics, memes, etc.) that resonates with your customer base.

Content marketing is NOT writing a blog post about the 10 reasons someone should buy your product. That’s an advertisement (and a bad one, too).

Content marketing is the long game. Imagine it like you’re building a fanbase for your business. You’re building a following of people who are interested in what you say and do.

You build that fanbase using consistent, engaging content.

And remember: “engaging” is determined by your audience!

Content marketing from a CNC manufacturer might mean white papers and case studies. Something a purchasing manager at an OEM would like.

Content marketing for a B2C company like Casper, who sells mattresses and sleep products, looks like this:

An instructional “how-to” video like this is useful content that adds value for your customer. It’s not a straight-up advertisement. It makes your business look good, establishes authority, and keeps customers tuned in.

Content marketing has mixed results for different companies.

This excerpt from Smart Blogger highlights why:

content marketing

You need to plan your content around your business as a whole.

You need to keep the following in mind when creating your content:

  • How familiar is the visitor with you when interacting with a certain piece of content?
  • What type of content is needed to build more awareness so visitors know, like, and trust your company?
  • What are the goals of your campaign – building an email list, increasing brand awareness, increasing conversions for a particular service or product?
  • What problems, pain points, aspirations, and desires are your content addressing?
  • Who does your content need to target (this changes based on the stages of awareness)?

Content marketing is a topic worthy of an ultimate guide of its own.

The bottom line – content marketing is a tool that works for any business when done the right way.Top of Form

Next we’ll look at some specific forms of content – especially what will be most relevant in 2020.

#6 – Optimized Blog

Blogs will continue to be a relevant way to promote your business in 2020.

An optimized, consistent blog is the backbone of your website’s organic SEO.

A solid blog takes time and a regular commitment to research, writing, and revising successful posts.

Here’s what an optimized blog can do to promote your business online:

  • Generate traffic. Blog posts should target keywords that relate to your business and that are frequently searched. Blog posts can be great ways to target longtail keywords.
  • Build an email list for email marketing (see more below). Write engaging and useful content for your audience, and they’ll be more willing to sign up for email communications.
  • Drive conversions. Blog posts cannot simply be advertisements for your business. However, they can drive good traffic to the parts of your website that are designed to convert visitors.




#7 – Video

There are two great frontiers in digital marketing in 2020: video and podcasts. Let’s talk video first.

Look at these video marketing statistics:

  • The 25-34 (millennial) age group watches the most online videos and men spend 40% more time watching videos on the internet than women. (Wordsteam)
  • Cisco has projected that more than 80% of all Internet traffic will be video by 2021. (Impact)
  • 45% of people watch an hour or more of video per day (Hubspot)

There are many different ways to promote through video.

You can add a humorous twist and make creative commercials like Dollar Shave Club:

 

You can make “how-to” videos for using your product:

Or, you can leverage video in paid ads to grab people’s attention:

 

video marketing example

 

#8 – Podcasts

Podcasts are becoming the next big frontier in online promotion.

The audience for podcasting is growing significantly.

Check out these key stats from this 2019 Edison Research study:

  • 32% of Americans over 12 listened to a podcast monthly
  • 41% of Americans say they’re listening to podcasts more than they did last year
  • Americans averaged SEVEN podcasts per week during the period studied

What does this tell us?

There is surging demand for podcast content.

Podcasts are becoming the new radio – but much cheaper, easier, and with far greater reach.

If your company can pull it off, a regular podcast can be the center of your content marketing strategy. A good podcast will build an audience and establish your brand’s authority.

Don’t have the resources to do a good podcast regularly?

Few do.

However, you can still promote your business with podcast advertisements.

Many podcasters include advertisements in their regular shows.

If you can identify niche podcasters with audiences relevant to your business, they can be a goldmine for targeted advertising.

#9 – Infographics

Infographics are another engaging medium. Here’s an example from a demo version of our employee referral tool – Referral Factory Pro:

 

infographic

Like all your content, a good infographic should add value for your audience. Teach them something. Show them something useful. Don’t simply advertise your business with an infographic.

Share a good infographic through your online channels – blogs, social media – to engage with your audience and link back to your website.

The bottom line – the more relevant and engaging media you can use the better.

Each of these content marketing channels should lead back to your home base, your website.

Not only is it informative and entertaining for your visitors, but it helps improve important SEO metrics like:

  • Dwell time
  • Bounce rate
  • Total time spent on site

#10 – Email Marketing

If you don’t already do it, you might not think about emails when you think of how to promote your business.

But why should you do it?

For the same reason you should invest in your website:

When you invest in building email lists, you create a long-lasting asset for your business.

According to Hubspot:

  • “More than 50 percent of U.S. respondents check their personal email account more than 10 times a day, and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands.”
  • “59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.”
  • “>59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.”

These stats are HUGE—and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to email promotion.

Just about everyone today has an email and pays attention to it.

If you can get them to trust and value your brand, they’ll be more than willing to share their email address.

Implement smart (read: not annoying spam emails) marketing, and this list can generate leads and repeat sales.

To build this list, you need compelling, useful content. You need to demonstrate to your audience that you’re worth listening to.

The takeaway: email marketing is one of the best ways to promote your business. It’s not going away anytime soon. Invest in it–though it’ll take time to create an email list, it’ll be worth it.

#11 – Social Media Marketing (duh)

Yeah, of course social media plays a big part in promoting your business online.

It IS useful, but don’t come to wholly rely on it and expect it to do all the heavy lifting.

Again, invest in your website first — the piece of the internet you do own.

You can spend a lot of money on social media channels, but you’re not building a long-term asset like you would for a website.

That said….

Instagram is top-notch for visual marketing, so make-up would look great there.

For B2B companies, LinkedIn is your place to be.

You’ve probably said to yourself “I need to promote my business on social media more.”

But which platforms are right for you?

Each comes with its own pros and cons.

Let’s take a look.

#12 – Facebook

Facebook has excellent audience targeting features for paid advertisements.

Facebook’s organic reach – traffic you can get for free – is not so great for businesses.

It’s still wise to have a Facebook page for your business to get likes and reviews, which count as a ranking signal for Google.

Bottom line: You should probably have an active Facebook page for your business.

The best organic activities on Facebook are:

  • Sharing content and media – blog posts, videos, and other forms of content should be shared on Facebook
  • Reviews – encourage people to leave reviews on Facebook and respond to them
  • Engagement – if you have a community based-product, e.g., an education business for parents and children, answering questions and interacting with users works well on the platform

Facebook does tout one of the top social media paid advertising platforms.

Here are some excellent articles on creating Facebook ads the right way:

#13 – Instagram

Instagram works well for products and services you want to show. 

Custom home builders, health and nutrition companies, and landscape design companies are all examples of businesses who should leverage Instagram.

Also, if your target audience is in a younger demographic (<50), odds are they use Instagram.

If you can create quick, punchy, and entertaining/informative videos about your brand, Instagram is a great cross-promotion channel, too.

You can run Facebook ads to both Facebook and Instagram, too, since Facebook owns the company.

#14 – LinkedIn

If you have a B2B business, you should be promoting it on LinkedIn.

Over the years, LinkedIn has improved its features in both paid advertisements and organic reach.

The trend shows LinkedIn is gearing up to become a much more user-friendly and community-oriented platform, shifting away from its old identity as a dry B2b social media company.

While companies like Facebook and Instagram had explosive growth, LinkedIn has played the long game.

LinkedIn has been steadily building its userbase and functionality for years. It’s getting more solid as time goes on. That makes LinkedIn more than worthwhile to continue using in 2020.

Marketing expert, Neil Patel, has been doing a ton of videos on LinkedIn. Always pay attention to the early adopters in marketing trends:

IinkedIn video

Notice the engagement on a simple and short video.

If you can create bite-sized content:

  • Short videos
  • Short excerpts of posts
  • Shared posts with insights

You can reap the rewards of LinkedIn’s algorithms.

Look at the insane amount of reach from one shared article:

linkedin posts

All B2B brands should utilize sharing, curating, and storytelling to promote their business on LinkedIn in 2019.

#15 – Twitter

Twitter engagement varies from industry to industry.

In the content marketing and SEO space, Twitter is a great tool for promoting content about marketing because users engage with it.

Businesses with a heavy focus on media do well on Twitter:

twitter promotion

Online magazines, public figures, marketing companies, authors, news outlets, and personal finance experts are all examples of businesses who can benefit from Twitter.

Local carpet cleaning companies? Not so much.

If your business uses content marketing as the main tool, Twitter is a great place to promote your work.

Think Long-Term

If you can’t think long-term, digital marketing won’t work for you.

Neither will marketing in general.

Digital marketing isn’t a cookie cutter solution.

You have to learn what works — and what doesn’t — after a long period of time.

How long, you ask?

Well, when we work with companies, we tell them SEO and Content marketing takes 12 months before the campaign fully kicks in.

It can take even longer to build a stellar brand and reputation that stands out above all the competition.

It’s counterintuitive. Some of the most important aspects of marketing have nothing to do with the marketing tactics.

They have everything to with your vision, outlook, tenacity, persistence, and willingness to collaborate with other smart companies like digital marketing agencies.

That’s why we call ourselves “strategic partners” to our clients.

It takes more than tactics to succeed online. It takes a level of dedication and patience that doesn’t come easily for everyone.

This also makes digital marketing easy, in the sense that most companies aren’t willing to invest the right time and resources into their marketing.

If you differentiate yourself, you can win in 2019.

Commit to Promoting Your Business in 2019

Above all else, you need to commit to promoting your business online to succeed in 2019.

The biggest marketing secret isn’t a secret at all.

Either on your own or with the help of a smart digital marketing agency like MLT Group, make this your year to invest more in marketing than any year previous.




Social Media Marketing for Small Business: 9 Social Media Marketing Tips All Business Owners Should Know

If you’re a business owner in the year 2019, someone has told you the importance of social media marketing.

You know it’s important, but you need to know if it’s important enough for your business to spend time, money, and effort on. After all, it doesn’t have clear ROI metrics like paid marketing. 

The short answer? Yes, social media marketing is important and you should focus on it.

But telling you it’s important isn’t enough.

You need insights, advice, and strategy.

In today’s guide, we’ll cover 9 social media marketing tips to help you grow your business and we’ll talk about the time, money, and effort you should put into them.

Run a Contest or Giveaway

A contest or a giveaway is a great way to catch peoples attention on social media.

You can also use them to generate leads for your business.

In the short term, giving away your product or services for free will cost time and money, but you can reap rewards in the future if you do it right.

Here’s how the process works:

  • Choose the product or service you want to give away
  • Create a Facebook ad campaign targeting people in your audience
  • Allow people to enter the contest by giving you their email address
  • Run the campaign for a set period of time (1-2 weeks)
  • Announce the winner through your email list first with the subject line “Contest winner announced”
  • Announce the winner through social media
  • Create a special offer/deal/discount and promote it to all the people who didn’t win

This simple social media marketing tip works well for businesses in all different niches.

Harness the Power of Video

Video is a great medium to use because people can watch them passively.

You don’t have to focus to watch a video like you do when you read.

You can use video to build your brand by sharing informative, entertaining, and useful information your target audience wants to watch.

Or you can use video as a creative twist for advertisements.

We’ve discussed how businesses have used video to spark viral campaigns that helped them grow their business.

While you may not go viral with your videos, they will be a sharable asset you can use to spread awareness about your brand and business.

Be creative.

If you’re a carpet cleaning company, show a before and after video of your cleaning.

Real estate agent? Provide cool virtual tours of your awesome homes and share them online.

Even if you’re in an industry that’s you considered unexciting, you can create videos that educate your target audience.

Not sure what videos to create? That’s where working with an expert comes in.

 

Give Your Brand a Personality

All too often, businesses try to use social media as a loudspeaker to blast ads out to the masses. Or, they use it to build awareness about their brand, but they do it in a stiff and corporate way.

It’s okay to use humor, inject personality, and have a little fun when it comes to marketing your business on social media.

Go back to our example above with Dollar Shave Club. They use humor to sell their product. They are even a little brash and inappropriate.

Contrast this with most other businesses who are afraid to go outside the box from time to time.

It’s refreshing to see a company who doesn’t take themselves seriously 100 percent of the time.

Participate on Your Platforms

If someone writes a review for your business on Yelp or Facebook, you should reply.

If someone leaves a comment on one of your posts, you should reply.

Any time someone engages with your brand on social media in any way, you should engage back.

Scour the landscape of business social media profiles and you will mostly see infrequent posting and little to no interaction with potential customers on their platforms.

These are people who took time out of their day to try and connect with you. Imagine you are a potential customer who leaves a comment on the businesses’s facebook page.

You get a reply back almost right away.

You feel like the business actually cares about your opinion, wants, and needs.

Aren’t you more likely to buy from that brand?

Of course.

Most of the social media game is a matter of activity, but there’s another even more important factor.

Be Consistent and Master Your Platforms

It’s better to do really well on one platform than it is to be inconsistent on multiple platforms.

Find one platform, use it frequently, master it, then move on to another one if that makes sense.

Different platforms work better for different industries. Choose the one that suits you best.

If you are a business with a visual product like custom homes or makeup, Instagram may be your best bet.

Youtube also would work well for the aforementioned businesses.

Keep it simple and start with social media’s gold standard platform – Facebook.

Whichever platform you choose, you can win the social media marketing game by simply being more consistent than the competition in your niche.

Schedule Your Posts Ahead of Time

This speaks to the point above about being consistent.

Instead of constantly spending time posting on social media each day, you can carve out time to work on a week to a month’s worth of posts and monitor the replies as they come.

If you don’t have time to do it yourself, you can work with a social media manager or digital marketing company to do it for you.

Having a well oiled social media marketing machine working for you helps you spend more time working on your business instead of working in it.

Take Advantage of Social Media Advertisement Platforms

Social media marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk says now is the best time to invest in paid social media marketing on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Members of MLT Group attended an event he spoke at his he reiterated this statement.

In the talk, he likened the current advertising platforms to the early days of Google Adwords.

If you use the right strategy, the clicks on your ads can range from affordable to even cheap.

The caveat is that you need to use the right strategy.

Here are some great beginners guides on starting your on paid social media marketing campaign:

Running a great campaign takes patience and effort.

Which is another great reason why working with a smart company can help.

Use Remarketing to Connect With ‘Warm’ Prospects

It’s easier to sell and persuade someone who’s already familiar with your brand.

Remarketing is a great way to market to ‘warm’ prospects who are more likely to buy your product or service.

After you’ve spent time building awareness about your brand through social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, etc, you can use remarketing ads to share an offer with people who’ve already visited your website or interacted with your brand in some way.

If you have a product for sale, you can create a special discount offer.

If you have a service, you can offer a free trial or consult as a way to build trust and show them how your services can benefit.

You can also send an offer without a discount or free trial of any kind.

Play the Long Game on Social Media

When it comes to social media marketing tips, the best tip is to use the platforms consistently for a long period of time

This isn’t the sexy answer, but most of the effective strategies in business and life are simple.

Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere.

Neither is social media.

If you can think in terms of years and decades instead of weeks and months, you will succeed.

If not, you won’t.

 

Web Design Best Practices for 2019 and Beyond

“Web design best practices” isn’t just a buzz phrase.

In any profession or skill, understanding the best core methods can help you create the best results.

When it comes to creating custom websites, the final product is always different, but each site should have some traits in common.

These traits are important for user experience. They’re important for getting your website to appear on search engines. They’re even important for paid ads.

Together, they’re important for the growth and health of your business as a whole.

Some of these web design best practices are technical. Some are guiding philosophies to keep in mind. All of them will help your business have a website both you and your visitors love.

The #1 Web Design Best Practice

Each time we meet with a new client, we always ask this question:

“What purpose do you want your website to serve?”

Or this variation:

“Why do you need a new website?”

Sucess in business or life, in general, comes from understanding why you’re doing something in the first place. When you don’t answer the question beforehand, you don’t get the best results.

You’ve been to a website like this before. When you visit the site, it doesn’t make an impression on you. You’re not sure what to do next. The company’s mission isn’t clear.

It’s just a website. 

If you have a website already, think about the impression it has on your current visitors. Is your purpose clear? Do you have a unique selling proposition to share? Do they know what steps you want them to take?

When you work with a full-service marketing agency like MLT Group, we can help you answer those questions.

The answers can be simple things like:

  • Finding qualified employees
  • Getting more traffic and leads
  • Informing the customer about your product that requires research before purchasing
  • Demonstrating your expertise in the industry
  • Building your brand

The process doesn’t have to be complicated, but it has to occur.

While you’re thinking about the ‘why’ behind a website for your business, let’s dive into some specific best practices.

Responsive Design

Per Statistica, 52.4 percent of all search traffic comes from mobile phones.

Google announced that it will shift to “mobile first-indexing.” This means that Google will first look at the mobile version of your website when it decides how high it wants to rank your website.

If your mobile website has a bad user experience, or, even worse, you don’t have a mobile website, you will lose out on website traffic, leads, and ultimately sales.

Also, not having a mobile-friendly website is just bad for business in 2019.

Without knowing you, I know you have a smartphone. Knowing how much you interact with the web through your phone should tell you everything you need to know.

This is where responsive design comes in. Responsive design goes a step above and beyond creating a mobile-friendly website.

With responsive design, we build websites that accommodate any screen size from phone to tablet to desktop.

Here’s the short version of how we do it:

  • Create unique designs for different screen sizes
  • Build different versions of the web site depending on size
  • Test all versions until the site displays seamlessly on any screen

Reponsive design is even better than building a mobile-friendly website because it’s more cohesive and uniform.

If your current website isn’t at least mobile friendly, we need to talk:




 

Create An Awesome User Experience

On each page of your website, you must consider the action you want your user to take and then create a design to accomplish that goal.

This is known as user experience design. 

UX design, per the Interactive Design Foundation:  “is the process of creating products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.”

You can dive deep into the topic of UX and discuss different aspects, but the key is to figure out how to create a great user experience on every page of the website.

The elements on each page can vary, but include things like:

  • Header space
  • Content
  • Images
  • Buttons
  • Animation
  • Color
  • Taglines

When we work with clients, we discuss these elements in-depth, but they’re all results of the user experience you want to provide.

If you do the process backward and piece elements together without understanding what you want to achieve, you often achieve nothing.

The Homepage

Your homepage is the most critical page of your website because it’s the first thing people see.

Internet visitors are picky and will leave your site quickly if your design doesn’t entice them to view more. This is bad for multiple reasons. One, you don’t want visitors to leave your site right away because, duh. Second, if people visit your site and leave right away, it can have a negative impact on your search engine rankings. Each time a visitor comes to your site and leaves right away, you get a “bounce” which is something Google doesn’t like to see.

So how do you come up with an attractive design that makes people want to click through?

Here are some of our homepage design best practices.

Put Your Best Stuff Above the Fold

When someone comes to your homepage, they won’t necessarily see or scroll through all of it. Depending on their desktop screen size, they’ll see what’s “above the fold.”

Here’s an example:

website homepage example

For your website design, make sure you utilize the important areas of your homepage that appears above the fold.

Header and Banner Space

Your header and banner space is usually a wide horizontal space that goes across your entire screen. There are many different ways to design this space and add content, but you want to make sure to add your most important information in this area.

These elements can include:

  • Deals and discounts
  • Unique selling propositions
  • Call to actions
  • Tag-lines
  • Images
  • Video

Here’s an example of an e-commerce store that features a discount deal in their banner space:

homepage banner space

Here’s another example of a company who shows their unique selling proposition with a call to action (CTA) to go to an important page on their website.

unique selling proposition

Some industries, like real estate and custom home building, utilize images to show off the quality of their work.

real estate homepage banner

When you work with a design and digital marketing agency, you’ll go through a question and answer process to figure out the most important aspects of your business. Then, those aspects will be incorporated into the design and adworcontent.

Graphics and Buttons

Visual cues help people understand what to do next.

 

Graphics and buttons take the guesswork out of decision-making for your visitors and make your website look more professional and fun.

“Break out boxes” are a classic example of great use of graphics. Break out boxes are graphics that feature and link to important pages on your website.

Here’s a good example of them:

break out boxes

Always think of ways the content on your site could be represented with graphics and images instead of text alone.

Interior Page Designs

Your interior pages are all the other pages on your site besides the homepage.

The most common interior pages with unique designs are:

  • services pages
  • product pages
  • product category pages
  • content pages
  • unique individual pages

With each page, you should set an intention for the desired result you want to achieve.

There’s a theme here – always put your visitor in mind before you design a website page.

We work with our clients to create a strategy for each page on the website. We start with questions like:

  • What do you want visitors to do while on this page?
  • How do you want visitors to feel while on this page?
  • What impression do you want to provide when visitors land on this page?

Let’s take a look at some of our clients’ websites and break down the strategy behind their page designs.

Services Page Design

Elcor Construction provides paving and excavating services.

On their services page, they wanted visitors to see their work in action. On the page, we used break-out boxes to highlight their primary services and make them easy to find:

services page design

The design on this page helps reflect professionalism, the quality of their work, and the idea they want the visitors to get the information they need quickly.

Product Page Design

Northland Fastening Systems provides stud welding equipment.

Each of their products — studs — has a wide variety of variables for each part. On the product page, we added a menu for the visitor to select the material, thread size, and length of their stud. Then, the product page automatically generates a part number to order the exact product:

e commerce product page design

Visitors can find the exact part they need. Other stud welding providers may ask to look through an entire table of numbers to find their part. This design strategy saves time and gives the user the impression they are working with a large company who can handle all their needs.

The sidebar menu also helps visitors find related products they might also need.

Product Category Page Design

Poppi Italian Leather sells custom handbags imported directly from Italy. Each handbag type is carefully selected and grouped into categories:

e commerce category page

Each product photo uses high resolution, color balanced, and enhanced photos to make sure the custom quality comes across on the page.

Custom Individual Pages

Some pages are one-of-a-kind unique.

That’s exactly the type of design we created for 12 For Health — a health and wellness company.

They have a program called the 12 Habits of Health. For the 12 Habits page, we created a custom rotating gallery to feature snippets describing each habit:

custom page design

The design also includes important statistics that show the importance of adopting healthy habits.

The color palette evokes positive emotions associated with a healthy life. The interactive style speaks to a sense of activity, which is a big part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you use a specific focus and intent on each page you create for your website, you’ll guide the user experience to help the visitor find what they need and achieve your desired outcome at the same time.

Aside from specifics for the homepage and interior pages of your website, there are some general web design best practices you should always follow.

Consider SEO and Content Marketing As a Web Design Best Practice

The way you design your website has an impact on how well it will rank in search engines for a number of reasons. That’s why it’s important to have a digital marketing plan in place to decide how the content will work within the frame of the website. There are also specific design techniques you can use or avoid to help your site’s SEO performance. When you work with a smart digital marketing agency, they’ll take a large number of factors into consideration. Here are some important elements to consider.

Content-Length

Often, the longer the content on your website, the better. The search engines want pages with as much information as possible. This has to be balanced with the design of your website. You don’t want readers to feel overwhelmed by your content. Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to weave the content into the design in a way both search engines and users will enjoy.

Use Subheadings

Subheadings (H1-H5) help break up the copy and give your reader a mental break between paragraphs.

Add Images

You can add images between content areas and even wrap them around the text of your website to enhance the way your content looks on the page.

Here’s a great example:

website design images

Create Panels for Different Topics

Let’s say you have a service page that has multiple sub-services underneath it. You can make each section of the service look unique by creating a panel for it.

Here’s an example below:

Take a look at this page. It has 500+ words of content, but it doesn’t feel like 500 words. From the user’s perspective, they’re seeing great information carefully woven into the design:

website design and content

Build Your Website to Convert Visitors into Leads and Customers

Getting traffic to your website won’t make a difference unless you convert that traffic into a lead or a sale.

Your website design should have multiple areas with calls to action (CTAs).

CTAs come in many forms.

Contact/Request a Quote Forms

In addition to displaying your phone number on your website, you want users to be able to contact you by email.

You can create forms and place them in high-traffic areas of your website. This will give them the chance to reach out to you if they have questions or want more information.

contact form

Email Newsletter Sign Ups

Email marketing is still one of the top channels for communicating with customers and potential customers.

To get visitors to sign up, however, you have to go above and beyond adding a form to your sidebar that says “Sign up for our newsletter.”

They need a reason to sign up and they don’t want to feel like they’ll be receiving a newsletter — they want value. 

How do you both provide and communicate that value?

Here are some tried and true techniques.

Offer Something Valuable for Free

You can offer visitors a valuable resource and ask them for the email address.

Examples can include:

  • Access to deals and discounts
  • Whitepapers
  • A free email course
  • Videos
  • Quiz with answers

Check out this example of a giveaway in exchange for an email:

email opt in

Notice the following:

  • The headline and description for the give away are focused on the visitor
  • The signup form is prominent – not tucked away in the sidebar
  • Use of compelling copywriting to persuade the visitor

Give Them a Sneak Peek of What’s Inside

Notice the phrasing for this email signup form:

email sign up preview

This copy answers the question “what’s in it for me?” up front

Strategically Place Your Sign Up Form

You want your email sign up form to appear where visitors are most likely to engage with it.

To some, this comes in the form of a pop up:

pop up

Although many people don’t like them, numbers show they work.

If you want to be less aggressive, you can create an “exit intent” pop up that only appears if the user is about to leave the website.

Often, you want to embed your signup form in an area that’s clear, visible, and obvious, like the banner space area of a page.

Phone Number

Many people still want to call your phone number directly.

You can use the header space of your website to display your phone number and add it in other relevant spots like your footer, contact-us page, and even at the end of your blog posts.

Conclusion

This is just a short list of the web design best practices you can use to create a website both users and search engines love.

A clear digital marketing plan from start to finish makes a world of difference when it comes to the success of your website.

Why not work with an expert team to help you?