Seattle Web Development: Why Choose a Custom CMS?

Moving to the web requires a lot of thought and planning and one of the decisions is what to do with your content management system (CMS). One option is to choose a custom CMS, but, like most web choices, it is not for everyone.

What is a CMS ?

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Just in case you are mostly unfamiliar with the term, a CMS is a content management system. It allows you to interact with and update your website without the use of code or a web developer to help you. Over time, this allows you to update your website on your own and lower costs. Depending on your CMS, you might be able to do a variety of tasks, such as updating web content, posting blogs, and even changing the design or colors of your site.

What Are Your CMS Options?

While a custom CMS is an option, it might not be your best option. There are a variety of free to use CMS platforms on the web, including Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Just because these are free to use does not mean they are the worst choice. For example, some of the biggest websites out there, like CNN, use WordPress. However, each free to use CMS is limited to a specific number of usages, only supports certain tasks, and might be quite limited without paying for or developing plugins to add extra features.

How Do I Choose?

One of the easiest ways to choose a CMS is to decide on what features you need, what you want to do with the CMS, and how much you can learn. Some CMS systems like Drupal have a steep learning curve, which might not be suitable if you don’t have the time and energy to put into it. Others, like Joomla are feature rich for creating business websites, but do not innately support shops or blogs. WordPress websites are ideal for blog and magazine websites, but can support single page sites and shops as well. If you need something that none of the available CMS options provide, then you may need a custom CMS.

How do I get a Custom CMS?

The easiest way to get a custom CMS is to find a quality Seattle web development team and talk to them about what you need. They will tell you if an existing CMS will suit your needs and potentially save you a great deal of money. They will also tell you how much it will cost to design a CMS around your needs, if your requirements are possible, and how long it will take to get your site up and running. Unfortunately, the hardest part here is deciding what you want and need, but usually, a good Seattle web development team can help you with that as well.

One important thing to keep in mind is that your content management system and your website are separate things. Your web development team can build the CMS to allow you to update your website. With this in mind, you may also need a web designer if the team does not do design. Want to learn more? Or want a quote on creating a custom CMS or installing an existing free to use one? Contact Rory Martin’s Seattle web development team at 206-402-6347 to find out more.

Seattle Web Design – Should I Use a Custom Theme?

If you’re using a CMS that supports themes, then one of your first questions is probably whether or not you need a unique, custom theme, or if you can get away with purchasing an existing one, or even using a free-to-use theme. The answer to the latter is, probably not, there will be thousands of websites with that theme, which is a definite disadvantage for making your website stand out on the web. The answer to the second is that it depends, and you may want to consider your options. The following help from Seattle web design experts should help you decide if you need a custom theme or not.

Why Use a Custom Theme?

A custom theme is advantageous for a number of reasons, especially if you’re just one of a number of similar Seattle businesses. Whether you use Joomla, Drupal, WordPress or one of another of the countless available CMS systems available, you can likely download a number of free and cheap themes that allow you to easily set up and get your business running. Unfortunately, that’s the problem. The cheaper and easier they are, the more businesses who will use them. Over time, consumers may become confused by seeing the same websites with different brand names, which generally reduces the impact of your branding and consumer messages.

It also affects your SEO, because most web based algorithms track uniqueness. When you have a website theme, none of your code is unique because other people, and potentially thousands of other websites are using it. When you have a custom theme, you won’t have any of these problems.

However, custom themes cost more, take longer to get up, and might delay your website launch if you’re planning it quickly. While custom themes have a lot of advantages for branding and some advantages for SEO, they might not be the best choice right away if you plan on launching your site immediately. However, you can plan to launch immediately with an available theme and plan a re-launch with a custom option for a few months or a year down the road.

What is Your Web Traffic and Web Based Revenue?

A custom theme typically costs upwards of $500, and many more than twice or three times that depending on the size, complexity and required features. Depending on how much money your website is going to generate, a custom theme might not be a good business decision, especially not if you own a small business. If you mostly want a one to five page website so that your customers have somewhere to go if they look you up on the web, then a custom theme might set you back a great deal of money when you would be better off investing it in advertising to boost your online sales. However, if you’re already making a great deal of money off of your website, or have the potential to, then a custom theme can be part of your marketing plan, because it is good business sense for branding, custom advertising, and standing out from the competition.

Want a quote? Contact Rory Martin’s Seattle web design team at 206-402-6347 for a consultation.

Seattle SEO – How to Determine Your SEO Needs

SEO is something that most Seattle area business owners know about, especially if they have an online web shop or cater to a larger area with a multiple branches, services, or delivery. Despite that, even if you know that you need SEO, you might not understand what you need, or how much of it you need. SEO can vary quite a bit and might include technical audits, on page optimization, back end optimization, and even networking to build site credibility, which eventually makes it even harder for you to understand what SEO is, let alone what you need.

Resources

The first thing to consider when deciding what you need from an SEO company is your budget. If you don’t have the resources to pay for a full multi-prong SEO campaign aimed at getting you to the top of every search engine out there, then you probably won’t be able to. Make sure that you set your goals with constraints to your budget, your time investment and your corporation or business.

Current Website

If your website is currently getting very little traffic and you want to boost it, then you can expect your current performance to affect future performance a great deal. Because ranking can take a long time to be beneficial, and the higher your current traffic the easier it is to boost your traffic, boosting your SEO based traffic can vary quite a bit depending on where your website currently stands. Blacklisting, red flags and spammy SEO practices all make it more difficult to rank, but with the right Seattle SEO company, you can improve your reputation with search engines and begin to rank. Your current traffic trends over the past few years determine how much you have to put into SEO.

Goals

Setting business goals is the easiest way to determine your budget and your needs. Because you probably want to achieve something, try making it into a concrete plan. X number of traffic with X number of sales or X conversion rate is easier and more quantifiable to communicate to an SEO company than saying “I want to boost traffic” or “I want to be on the top of Google”. Quantifying your business goals with achievable, profitable goals is the first step to succeeding with an SEO campaign.

The easiest way to determine what search engine optimization you need is to contact a Seattle SEO company and ask for an audit or a consultation. It is important to set goals based on your current website performance, capabilities, and your business goals, and present those goals when you go in for the interview or to talk. A good SEO company will tell you what you can fix, change, or optimize to boost your performance and search ranking to help get the traffic you want.

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Seattle Social Media : How Many Platforms Do You Need?

Social media is all the rage and if you follow it, you know that Seattlites frequently hop from one trending platform to the next. Whether it’s Snapchat, Ello, or Yik Yak, or any of a dozen other social media sites popping up around the web, you might be encouraged to join the platforms in order to expand your social media reach and customer base. But with dozens of social sites, which do you join and how many do you really need?

The Truth About Trend Sites

One important thing to consider is whether or not a trend site is really going to stick around and be valuable for your company. If you have the time to invest in another social media site, or are hiring a Seattle social media manager to do so for you, then you can join trending websites, but many of them eventually go the way of MySpace or end up like Line in that they are primarily niche platforms. For example, if you are primarily selling shoes and the niche audience is primarily for business you might not have much luck.

How Much Time Do You Have

One of the most important considerations when deciding on how many social media platforms you need is how much time do you have? Do you have the time to post to, engage with, and interact on five social media platforms? If so, then go ahead and open them. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the time, you will most likely end up with sporadic posting, no engagement, and very little actual benefit. While a Seattle social media management company can help, it’s important to consider your time budget there as well. You have to be engaged enough to make social media profitable, but you have to invest enough time that it also remains profitable. The truth is that for the most part, that means using a select few carefully chosen sites that fit your business and your demographic.

Do You Fit the Niche

Many social media platforms like Ello, Line, and Instagram are niche platforms, meaning that they are really only suitable for one type of business. For example, Instagram is a good platform if you sell clothing, want to advertise a restaurant then Instagram offers a good solution. On the other hand, if you’re selling business services, you won’t have much luck.

The Basics

At the end of the day, you can usually successfully establish your online media presence with one to five platforms. Anything over that, and you may be taking it a bit overboard. If you have multiple platforms, you’re likely to be sharing duplicate content, not engaging with your followers, and degrading the value of what you already have. If you want just one social platform, Google Plus or Facebook are a good essential. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest add to those basics with a few additional options. However, you should check with your Seattle social media management company to find out which is right for your business.

 

Seattle SEO Tips: Social Media Creats Backlinks

SEO has changed a lot over the last few years, especially where it pertains to Google’s search algorithm. The release of Panda and then Hummingbird not only nearly eliminated the usage of keyword phrases and backlink techniques that most users relied on for ranking, it also eliminated a great deal of content spamming, such as posting dozens of low-quality articles in hopes of ranking. But, with both keywords and backlinks pretty much out of the picture, how do you rank in today’s search engines?

We got together with several local Seattle social media companies, including Rory Martin, to discuss one of the prime ranking factors, social media.

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You probably already know that social signals impact your ranking. Most search engines evaluate your audience by watching backlinks, social shares, traffic, and other data. What you might not know is that when an article gets a lot of shares, gets more traffic from social, or generates a lot of discussion on a Facebook or Google Plus page, you’re actually boosting your SEO. This is because Google ranks these social signals similarly to interaction on the page, similarly to guest posts and directory links, and essentially, as a signal that your content is popular, or something that people want to read.

But that’s not all.

Social media also provides feedback that you can use to boost your user satisfaction. Because Google’s Hummingbird is primarily about user satisfaction, that’s in your best interest. If users tell you that you need more content, write longer articles. In fact, Google is now ranking pages that are 1,500 words or longer in their own category, ‘in depth information’. By listening to what your social media is saying about your shares, your links, and your posts, you can tweak what you’re putting up to increase engagement, and therefore boost your ranking and SEO.

Social Media Shares Result in Links

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Buzzfeed did an article on the most shared articles on Search Engine Land, who promptly turned around and did a study on it. They then cross checked those with the most shares, and found that higher numbers of social shares had the highest number of backlinks. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that the social shares are backlinks, it does say that more social sharing results in more backlinks. Rather than an effect, it’s a cause and effect, which results in links, which still benefit your ranking.

Social Media Drives Traffic

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Finally, if you create high-quality, consumer oriented content for social media, then you’re probably driving traffic from your social to your web page. More importantly, because Google now ranks high-quality content as well as keywords and other data, and traffic is a ranking signal, the combination of these two items is a very clear signal to Google, Bing, and Yahoo that you deserve to be ranked. While you might still have competitors who are ahead of you on the quality content game,

SEO is a long-term strategy, and Social Media can be either or. However, analytics show that the two are now intrinsically linked, and if you want to succeed with SEO, social media platforms can help.

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Seattle Web Design – Redesigning Your Website

If you’re ready to redesign your website, then you’re probably wondering about the steps and processes that go into it. While a lot of what goes into redesigning is decision making on your part, the following include the steps taken by Seattle web design teams when reorganizing, revamping, and redesigning websites.

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Kickoffs and Meetings

The first step to redesigning your website is talking over your needs, ideas, and dislikes with your team. They will make suggestions, you will make suggestions, and both parties will walk away with a clearer idea of what you actually want. This is one of the most important reasons to hire a local Seattle web designer, because you can actually get together and talk to them, instead of trying to communicate your ideas over the web.

Structuring Content

After writing up ideas, a web design team will begin structuring content to create a mockup of the new design. Structuring is the planning of where photos, call to actions, slogans, and web content fit onto the site. It is an important part of the process because it allows both the web design team and the editorial team to work together to create something. Once your team has structured content, both teams can go to work, even if you’ve hired them separately.

Web Design

Most of the time, when you redesign your website, you get completely new web content. This is logical because it’s usually easier to start from scratch or with new ideas than to drastically change and existing website. If you’re using a theme or preexisting CMS with a custom theme, then your new web design should be finished fairly quickly, but usually you do get to see mockups first to ensure that you like the ideas.

Content Editing

If you want entirely new web content, then part of the web design is usually just that, although not all web designers offer copywriting. If you want the content to be tweaked, re-arranged, or improved, that is also an option, although it depends a great deal on you. Web content usually takes considerably less time than web design, meaning that you can have it back to approve well in advance of the website going back online. Most of the time, if you’re paying for new web design, you will want new content as well, or at least reorganized content so that it fits your new website better, suits the voice better, and if there are any errors, they are fixed.

Graphics and Artwork

If you haven’t chosen the graphics and artwork for your website, then your web design team can handle that too. In some cases, you may want custom imagery, in which case you need a photographer to come in and take quality photos. Otherwise, stock imagery will be purchased and used to brighten up the website.

If you wan to know more about redesigning websites, you can contact the Rory Martin Seattle web design team, for a consultation to ask about your site, or go ahead and make the hire to start with your kickoff meeting.

Seattle Web Development and Design: What Affect Your Bottom Line?

Paying for quality web design is an understood part of doing business on the web, but do you know how it affects your bottom line? Does having a certain type of website, or a quality looking website, actually affect sales? Actually, studies show that having a ‘credible’ looking website affects sales, and it scaled a four out of five on the level of importance. If you’re interested in improving your web design, the following include a few tips from Seattle web development professionals on what actually affects your ROI.

Clutter

Did you know that minimalistic, clean websites are more professional and usually convert better than cluttered and crowded websites? The natural idea is to try to fit everything in, but statistics show, that might actually hurt your business. Keep your tabs, submenus, and features to a minimum, and focus on offering the best quality possible for what you do have. This holds true for your web design as well. A minimalistic look with large, clean graphics, rather than more images, serves you better.

UX Design

User Experience is incredibly important for professionalism and sales. If the user can easily navigate a website, get a clear idea of what to do, and not feel marketed to, then they are more likely to purchase something. While UX design can be complicated, it’s mostly the idea of planning out your website, taking consumers from top to bottom, and then to secondary pages, and guiding them through your website. UX is making it easy for the customer to purchase something.

Content

You may have guessed that your content, including graphics and web copy, affect your sales a great deal. For graphics, you want large, unique images as often as possible. Clutter is always bad. Web copy is a little more difficult. You need well written content that avoids clichés, is easy to read, flows, well, and doesn’t make it obvious that it’s trying to sell something. Obnoxious calls to action may have worked in the past, but the modern Internet prefers to be talked to rather than marketed to.

Frequent Updates

New, content is the best way to tell your consumers that you’re still around and you’re still relevant. By updating your website frequently, keeping dates on your website to that year, and blogging regularly, you tell your consumers that you’re always around, and that you’re reliable. No one wants to purchase anything from a website that hasn’t been updated since 2012, mainly because the might not know if the website is still in business. This does mean you need a quality Content Management System.

Professionalism

If your website looks professional, then you look professional. Because a website represents your brand on the internet, it is every bit as important to be professional online as it is in your business. Your text, your conduct on blogs, and your site design should all reflect that, because they do impact your business and sales.

Want to know more about how quality web design can improve your business? Or, do you need a quality, modern website to help boost your conversion rates? Contact Rory Martin to ask about a consultation, or browse through our past websites to see what we’ve done for other clients.

Seattle Social Media Marketing: Using Facebook for Branding Not Market

Seattle Social Media Marketing: Using Facebook for Branding Not Marketing

Facebook may be one of the most popular social platforms, but recently, many marketers have begun to doubt the actual value of using it for business. While metrics show that most Facebook pages do not push a lot of sales, the platform is still a powerful marketing tool for branding, including customer service, consumer advice, and brand awareness. While many marketers mistakenly approach the platform as sales only, and push poorly converting ads and pitches over the page, to create low interaction and low engagement, there is a better, more efficient and more profitable way to use Facebook.

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 Why Doesn’t Facebook Work for Sales?

Most consumers use social media for sharing content, making connections, consumption of other content, and controlling their media. These are known as the 4 Cs of social media, and essentially motivate every user action on social media, including Facebook. Essentially, if you are not offering informative, entertaining, or valuable content and not connecting with them, they won’t want anything to do with you. Because most managers attempt to push products and services, they do not fall into the category of interests for Facebook users. Most are not there to buy something, but rather, to be entertained, and to get information.

How This Works For You

Every business has a brand, and part of that brand should be quality customer service, an informative and friendly attitude, and consistency. Posting to Facebook allows you to drive all of these impressions, by responding to consumers and replying to comments to engage your audience, consistently sharing helpful and entertaining information related to your business, offering value in the form of coupons or how-to’s and tips, and building a quality reputation through good reviews and positive comments.

Because more and more social users are now looking up businesses on Facebook as a way to vet them before making a purchase, all of these branding goals are important for you as a business. Facebook might not directly drive a sale that you can track using metrics, but it can convince your potential customer that you are a valid business, ready to offer quality services or products.

So Can You Make Money With Facebook?

Sometimes you can make money directly from Facebook, but more often, it will simply help to reinforce your brand image, give users a place to look you up, and serve as a customer support hub. While you can offer product information, advice, and tips that may lead to a purchase, your sole goal should usually be the information and advice, rather than the sale, because spammy sales tactics don’t really work that well anymore. You can push the occasional sale by offering discounts, coupons, and offers to your Facebook fans, but if you overuse it, it will loose value. Instead, consider Facebook as a valuable branding platform for your business. If you use it correctly, it can help your consumers through every step of the buying process, even if it doesn’t necessarily directly drive the sale.

If you want to know more about using your page for social branding, contact Rory Martin, a professional Seattle social media marketing team, for a consultation.

Seattle Web Design – Why A Unique Website?

If you’re getting ready to hire a Seattle web designer, then you’re probably asking a lot of questions. This article is about one important question that is bound to come up in any web design conversation. Why would you need a unique website? A unique website is a custom site designed around your needs, ideas, and values. usually created by either a web designer or a web developer. In either case, you can choose to use the website with an existing content management system or have a web developer design something around your needs. The following include several reasons why a unique website benefits you as a business.

 

Custom Websites Stand Out

Having a website that stands out is especially important if you have a number of local competitors, or a number of competitors who deliver affordably in the Seattle area. If you use a theme, then you run a certain risk of blending in with hundreds of other websites that your users and target audience probably visits on a daily or monthly basis. If your site looks the same, you won’t stand out. Because one of the main rules of marketing is to be memorable, you can probably understand why standing out, especially on the web where there are so many options, is beneficial to you. If you use a template, no matter how convenient, your website will still look like a thousand other websites. In fact, most of the popular free themes have 3,000 or more downloads, while themes that run around $50 per, usually already have several hundred.

A Custom Design Is Flexible

If you want a specific menu, banners in certain places, your graphics to be a specific size, or your shop to display images in a certain way, then you need a custom design. Unfortunately, themes are made to other people’s specifications, which means, not to yours. If you want something to suit you perfectly, then it has to be custom made.

You Can Still Use Your Favorite CMS

If you have your heart set on using Joomla, Drupal, or Wordpress with your website, don’t worry, you still can with a custom theme. In fact, it’s actually the most affordable way to go. You simply pay someone to design you a custom theme for that CMS, they set it up for you, and then you continue to use the back end of the site that you are familiar with. In fact, many major websites like CNN use custom themes with a CMS. CNN uses Wordpress.

While custom websites are flexible, easy, and great for marketing, they aren’t always the only option. It’s easy to use a theme and make it your own with the right graphics, just make sure that they are the right ones. However, there are a lot of benefits to custom sites, and you shouldn’t discount them entirely based on cost. If you’re not sure, consider having a discussion with a local Seattle web designer to talk about what’s popular, what works, and what you need.

What’s New for Seattle SEO in 2015

Marketing your website can be a big deal, especially when you’re trying to do so on a limited budget. SEO is usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of web marketing, but unfortunately, many people know surprisingly little about it, that it can change frequently, or that techniques which helped your site last month might actually hurt your website this month. SEO trends can vary a great deal depending on which search engine you’re marketing to, but the following include general rules for new SEO trends in 2015. If you need more help, consider hiring or asking a Seattle SEO expert.

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Keywords are Out But Not All the Way

In 2011, a 4% keyword density was the thing for putting you on the top of search. Fortunately, that trend is completely over and you no longer have to worry about percentages and keyword volume. But that doesn’t mean that you can ignore keywords completely. You still have to give Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines a good idea of what you’re talking about. A good rule of thumb is to use keywords as naturally as possible, only using them when you would without paying attention. You can also use Google’s SKTOOL to find a series of related keywords, you can use a thesaurus (Or just google) to find synonyms of your keyword, and then mix up phrasing and word usage. Keep in mind that your grammar and spelling should always be accurate.

Back End Optimization is More Important Than Ever

Back end optimization is often overlooked by many quick sell SEO companies, and their products and services rarely drive results. Back end optimization includes making sure that your website is search friendly, creating site maps, using appropriate meta tags, and so on.

Unique Content is Necessary to Rank

Another very important thing to consider about modern SEO is that if your content is not unique, you will not rank. This means that not only do you have to write 100% unique content for your pages, you also have to avoid doing any previously good techniques like spinning the article to post on other sites.

Quality Over Quantity

Good grammar, great spelling, informative content, and content longer than 350 words are all more likely to rank than throwing up a dozen small posts with no attention to detail. All search engines are now creating grammar and helpfulness metrics, which means that you have to start paying attention to content, quality, and readability. In some cases, this may mean paying for a professional writer.

Stop Link Farming

Whether you’re putting up guest posts, commenting with links back to your website, or adding your website to every directory you can get your hands on, just stop. It’s not helping you, and in fact, in enough quantity, it may even get you blacklisted. Instead, consider creating guest posts for the sole purpose of driving people to your website. If you don’t think the users will click through and follow it, then the link is worthless.

SEO is changing a lot, and whether you’re trying to market to a local Seattle audience, or aiming for something a little larger, it is important to follow the rules. Paying attention and keeping up to date with new rules is the only way to rank, unless you want to hire a professional Seattle SEO team to handle it for you.

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