Seattle Web Designers Discuss: Better Brand Analysis For Better Websites

Web branding has become a crucial part of marketing over the past few years, but while many businesses are more than ready to integrate branding into their social and marketing strategies, few take the time to design their websites around a solid branding concept. Despite that, branding efforts have been proven to increase both sales and brand loyalty, especially on web orientated businesses.

But what is branding? While many people assume that branding is a logo or a slogan, it’s actually something more. A brand is business identity. While many brands try to influence their brand image, it is the consumers who eventually create their own versions of the brand. How does this affect your website?

Visual Identity

Your visual identity is a huge influencer on your brand, partially because it affects everything that you control that your consumers can see. Visual identity includes colors, images, graphics, logo and header sizes, slogans, and basically everything that many people consider to be ‘branding’. It’s what people see on your website, and it is important. A brand analysis at this stage tells you what brand emotions to focus on, which consumers to target the website for, and what your competitors are doing, so that you can be different but better than them. Visual identity can be impressive to a consumer, but unless it is extremely bad, it won’t really make or break your website on its own. Visual identity is part of your UI, or User Interface, and it is a good idea to invest in a web designer who can represent you properly.

UX

UX is another part of your brand identity, and one that fewer people think about. UX is usability and it affects your website through several functions. The first is that it makes a website easy to use, which is beneficial to your consumer, to reducing the cost of customer service, and to improving brand loyalty. The second is that a good UX is actually present in planned content, meaning that everything present on your page becomes part of a design, intended to guide the user down the page to a call to action in order to create a lead or make a sale. A user friendly design with integrated UX is becoming increasingly important for improving consumer loyalty, and for making sales in the first place. In fact, one Australian study on multiple websites showed that return customers jumped up 17% after integrating UX into the design.

Today’s internet market is highly competitive and if you want your website to thrive, then you have to integrate branding. And that means using a better brand analysis to capture the essence of your company, your consumers, and your competition in order to formulate a digital picture of who you are as a business. For a Seattle what you want people to see, think, and feel when they visit your site. Investments in improving digital can provide as much as an 83% return, and as web purchases rise, that number is likely to as well.

Want to get started on brand analysis so that we can get started on creating a branded website for your business? Contact us today, or visit our web design page to learn more.

Seattle Web Design Teams Now Focusing On UX for Marketing & Usability

While UI or user interface has always been the most important part of a website, UX is becoming increasingly important for websites and more Seattle web design teams are focusing on user experience. Today’s service culture demands not only service, but good service. And while the web has always been an amalgam of various talents and services, it is maturing rapidly, and consumers are quickly coming to expect that maturity in the websites and their services. If you don’t know what UX is or what it can do for your business, then you might be missing out.

What is UX

UX is quite simply user experience, and in terms of web development, it means a carefully thought out and designed experience. While UI is the interface with which consumers interact with your website, UX is the ideas and thoughts behind it that ensure that the consumer has a good experience. But it goes deeper than that. UX also creates an easy to use and even interesting experience with minimal clutter to increase attention, guiding users down the page to a call to action. The result is that UX is also a branding and marketing tool as well as a website tool.

In fact, many businesses are already beginning to integrate UX into their digital marketing, through the use of customer feedback, consumer prompts, and actually listening to their customers. One example of a company using UX is Delta Airlines, who offer customer service through both their website and their mobile site by proactively fixing issues. For example, when a customer’s flight is cancelled, the website automatically sends an email with a list of next available flights that the customer can choose from. The result is not only a happier customer but also a lower cost for Delta, because that customer doesn’t have to call through to customer service. This sort of proactive user experience is what can and should be the future.

Working UX into Your Design

If you already have a website then you might have UX, especially if you hired the right design team. Some teams are even good enough that they can create a UX without doing so intentionally, but this is rare. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to work UX into your design, or to have a new website designed around user experience. In fact, because UX is mostly just a well thought out web design, you may only need a few tweaks to increase usability and improve your information architecture for maximum efficiency.

UX really is becoming a huge buzzword right now, but it is an important one because it encompasses something that greatly affects your website and your consumer perceptions. A great UX ensures that your customers have the best experience on your website, and if not, that they have easy solutions. Want to learn more about UX? Talk to some of our specialized Seattle web developers today to find out what we can do for you and your user web experience.

Five Questions to Ask Your Seattle Web Designer About Your Site

If you’re having your site rebuilt, redesigned, or launched for the first time, you might want to stop and take a few minutes to stop and consider the website. While you might have a really good idea of what you want and need, especially if you have some design experience, it’s always a good idea to get advice and ask questions before you do so. And most importantly,

Am I Using the Right CMS For This Site?

This is especially important to ask if you’re launching a site for the first time, or aren’t sure what you have. CMS or Content Management Systems allow you to add information to your site, and some common ones include Joomla and Wordpress. You can also have a Seattle web designer build you a custom CMS if you need it. While different CMS are better for different types of websites and different functions. Unfortunately, unless you’re prepared to do a lot of research, you might not know which is best for your site. The best thing to do is ask. You can get a recommendation for the best CMS for your business, whether it be Joomla, or something custom.

Do I Really Need That?

If you have a list of items that you want for your website, it is always a good idea to go over them with your web designer to talk about which elements are most beneficial to your site, and which, if any, you should get rid of. This is especially important if you have a lot of features and pages that you want to integrate, because feature rich usually means slow to load, which is bad for your search marketing. Plus, too many features may actually be confusing for your site. Consider talking over the essentials with your web designer and then making decisions based on recommendations.

What Happens If I Want Feature Outside the Project Scope Later?

Another important thing to discuss is whether or not the web design team will be able to make adjustments or new features after the rest of the site is finished, and how much extra that will cost you. Depending on the web design team they will want to charge an hourly or a project rate, and the final rate should depend on that. While you might not need changes outside of the project scope, it is always a good idea to discuss them so that you can make an informed decision about changes later.

There are plenty of things that you should ask your Seattle web designer, but chances are you’ve already figured out that you should get credentials and consider why you should hire them. In addition to these basics, it’s always a good idea to ask them about your site plans, what you need, and which options are best for your site so that you make sure you get the best options for your needs. Want to know more or want a consult with professional web designers? Contact Rory Martin to discuss your option

 

Seattle Social Media Experts Discuss: Internet Marketing Teams

Whether your business is small, large, or somewhere in between, you need marketing. And if your business can make sales online, then you definitely want to focus a large percentage of that marketing on the internet, where you have the potential for a great deal of return with very little investment. Unfortunately, while social media might sound deceptively simple to those who are not familiar with marketing, it is often a task that requires expert advice in order to pull off correctly. But while you could hire just one person to manage all of your digital marketing, there are multiple advantages to having a team to do everything for you.

Collaborative Planning

If you’ve ever worked with part of a team then you know that there is a major difference between working with one person and working as a team. Collaborating on ideas and trends, creating strategies together, and creating marketing plans together allows for more dynamic marketing because more people submit ideas to create strategies and plans with more ideas and more perspective, which usually results in a better plan.

Better Content and Strategies

Another great thing about working with a social media or online marketing team is content and proofreading. Mistakes happen. In fact, even major publications like the Washington Post sometimes publish mistakes. But with a team handling your social planning, you are less likely to have problems with posts, marketing, and quality because each item goes through several hands before it ever reaches the internet. It also means that most of what you put online will be chosen from a selection of ideas rather than the only idea, because more people were working with the idea. This is highly beneficial to all forms of social and online marketing, especially when catering to a specific area like Seattle, where different people will be more knowledgeable about different demographics than an individual.

Specialized Team Members

When you hire just one person you’re getting someone who has a rough knowledge of a great deal of different social media tactics, and while that works for the most part, it’s hard to beat having multiple people who specialize in one area, such as affiliate marketing or blogging or social media posts. The result is that the people you bring into your company have more combined knowledge, and can make more informed decisions regarding the direction and content of your online marketing.

Unfortunately, unless you happen to be a much larger business with a considerable marketing  budget, you won’t be able to hire a team full time. While you might think that you’re stuck with hiring one expert, that isn’t quite true and you do have an alternative. Hiring a local Seattle social media marketing company to do your social and online marketing for your means that not only do you only pay for the actual work that you need, but also that you have a marketing team rather than an individual for much less than the price of a full-time hire. Of course, if you need full time, some social media teams can do that too.

Seattle Social Media Talk: Facebooks New Content Like Ban & Your Page

Facebook’s newest platform update introduced a ban to content incentives to likes, which essentially means that you can no longer offer anything in order for someone to become a fan. While some forms of content link enticement are still available to pages (for example through apps), there are a lot of currently common content incentives that are no longer available for pages. Let’s talk about what that means for your page, and what you can do about it.

No More Likes for Content

Gated or incentive content is any sort of content that requires the user to like your page in order to take advantage of it. Because like to win, and like to access content or contest pages have been active on Facebook for the last five years or so, this will mean a big change for the way some pages market their business. However, it’s not all bad. One very common trend seen in incentivized likes is that they are not extremely active, and many of them have no real interest in the page, other than that they wanted to win something. The result is low quality likes that do nothing for you as a business. While the numbers look good, they aren’t precisely driving any sales. Some examples of no more content for likes include:

  • No more gated content

  • No more ’25% discount if you like our page’

  • No more ‘Access this content if you like our page’

Essentially, you can’t offer anyone a reward for liking your page anymore. Facebook has not listed the specific details, but failure to comply with other guidelines usually results in a page being banned.

Alternative Marketing Strategies

While you might be upset that you can’t use gated content or likes for coupons anymore, you shouldn’t be. There are plenty of other marketing techniques you can use to build your fan pages, and do so in a Facebook friendly way.

Facebook Share Campaigns – Share incentives are still a great way to boost exposure for your page, and you can continue to offer prices for photo post likes, shares, and comments. You can also stipulate that the giveaway is only open to fans of the page so long as you do not ask people to like the page in order to enter the competition.

Hashtags – Hashtags are another great way to increase exposure, although it is important to research active hashtags for your area first.

Optimize Your Facebook for Local SEO – If properly optimized, your social page will come up in searches for local businesses that provide your services. Optimizing your page properly ensures that you get maximum local exposure to people looking for your business.

Encourage Feedback – When one of your fans posts feedback on your wall, it also posts on their wall, which not only shows that you have fans (if they leave a good review), but also improves your reach and potentially converts their friends. Good feedback also improves your local SEO reach.

The new policy will take effect in November of 2014, so you have a couple of months to phase these sort of like incentives out of your marketing strategy before you start to get in trouble for them.

What’s Wrong With Your Seattle Social Media Marketing?

With more than 25 small businesses now on Facebook, and almost half that on Google Plus, it’s hard to ignore social as something that businesses need. Unfortunately, there is a fair bit of difference between having a social site, and making it work for your business. Whether you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, you might be spending a dozen hours a week on the site and not actually making any money off of it. So what are you doing wrong? Consider these tips from local Seattle social media experts about what Seattle business owners get wrong, and how you can fix it.

Expecting Customers To Follow Your Page

The first mistake that many business owners make is actually just in building likes. Whether you have 100 or 10,000 followers on your fan page, you might have done it yourself. Do you have “Like us on Facebook”, or “Add us on Google Plus”, or “Follow us on Twitter”, anywhere? If you aren’t offering an incentive in return for people following your page, then you likely aren’t converting very well. Instead, try, “Like us on Facebook for Discounts and Deals”, or “Give us a Google Plus Review for a 15% Discount Coupon!”. Offering an incentive increases the follow-through, which sets you up to make more future sales through advertisement and future incentives.

Expecting Results from Promotional Content

Do your social pages consist of you sharing links to your products or only talking about your specific products? If so, you might loose interest simply because you are boring your followers. Try mixing up your posts with various relevant content, using photos, asking questions, and, of course, talking about your customers. You can mix in the odd promotional content as appropriate, but keep in mind that sharing a link to a product will very rarely produce any results. Great tips include sharing incentives to buy such as limited time offers, sharing reviews, or sharing products when they get new reviews.

Sharing Irrelevant Content

While sharing only promotional content is bad, you can also turn your followers off by sharing completely irrelevant content. Chances are that most of them came to your page for whatever it is your business does or sells, so try to keep your posts in that ballpark. Otherwise you risk loosing followers and dropping edge rank because your followers simply aren’t interested.

Not Spending Enough Time on Social

Social media is a full time job for many people so make sure you’re not ignoring yours. A good average is about thirty minutes a day for creating new posts and responding to customers, unless you get enough feedback and comments that you cannot handle it in that time. To save time, consider programming four or five posts throughout the day at the start of the day, and then taking ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night to respond to social messages and comments.

Unfortunately any good social media program is going to require a great deal of time and dedication, and a good business might not be able to handle that. The better your business is, the less time you have for spending on social, so you might want to upgrade to a professional social media manager to make sure that you’re getting the most from your online marketing. Want to know more? Contact Rory Martin to discuss your needs.

Seattle Social Media Marketing: How Do Incentive Campaigns Work?

Getting started with social media can be tricky, especially if you’re not entirely sure how a bunch of clicks or ‘likes’ can turn into a profit. That aside, it’s still one of the most popular forms of marketing, so you probably want to use it, or at least understand how it works. Social incentive campaigns can actually drive revenue, and in fact, are a long-standing favorite of Seattle social media marketing teams.

What is an Incentive Campaign

You probably already guessed that an incentive campaign offers the user a reward of some kind, and if so, you would be correct. Incentive programs are schemes that offer users a reward for a specific behavior, and in search, that is virtually invaluable because you can use it to influence a great deal of people, even if you are only targeting a local network.

So How Does it Work?

There are several ways to run an incentive program and not all of them are about direct revenue. So, for example, if you wanted to boost the likes on your Facebook page, you could create an incentive program and offer a 10% discount coupon to each person who shared the status and liked your page. The result is that anyone with access to your business, and interest in your business, might be interested in sharing the post and liking your page. You get new likes, and you get targeted likes from people in your area, interested in your products, meaning that you might be able to convert more of them into a sale with a 10% coupon.

Another form of incentive marketing is purely by inducing sales. So, if you want to boost sales you could offer a “Buy One Get One Half Off” coupon to everyone on your page. Your fans don’t have to ‘do’ anything but go in and make a purchase. And because you aren’t paying for an advertisement, just broadcasting it on social, you don’t necessarily have to invest in your coupon.

How it Benefits You

Even if you are not making a huge profit off of discounted items, you are still helping your business. By boosting sales you are creating hype, reminding people that they need your products, and hopefully getting them to leave a review on your page. The result is that you create customers from a fan-base that might not have previously bought anything. Of course, ideally, you want to make money off of every sale, even if it is discounted, so try not to go too crazy with the coupons.

There are hundreds of ways to use incentive marketing on social media, and it works on nearly every platform. However, you do have to plan carefully, market properly, and make sure that you have the right social fan-base to make something happen with your coupons. Want to know more about how incentive programs can help boost your sales and business? Contact us to talk about your business, and your localized Seattle social media marketing program.

Seattle SEO Talk: How Reviews Factor Into Your Local Search Rank

If you have a business and you sell locally but are not involved with social media, then you could be making a huge mistake. Recent studies show that not only do Facebook and Google pages show up in search results, but that your reviews actually greatly influence your local search ranking algorithm. The entire process works through Facebook and Google using their system of reviews with verified local businesses.

How Does Google Local Work

When you perform a search and you see a list of businesses come up next to a map, that is actually Google Local in action. You’ll probably also see stars next to each of those businesses, and that is Google’s reviews in action. One thing that you will definitely notice is that all of the options on the top are mostly either the most reviewed, or the options with the highest and best reviews.

Facebook is similar, but only shows up as a Facebook page, and does not usually show the reviews or the map in search.

Why It’s Important To You

As a business, you can create a Facebook or Google Local page, garner reviews, and pretty much skyrocket to the top of that search, although Google is easier fo this. Because many businesses do not yet have an active Google Plus page, you actually have an advantage if you get started now, because you have more time to get reviews, and to build a following on the page. Good reviews are actually proven to affect not only your local SEO, but also your click-through rate on those listings.

Getting Reviews

While you can’t guarantee a good review, even from a customer that you go out of your way to please, you can try to offer the best services possible and then ask for a review. Asking is the hard part, because you can’t usually just ask in person. Many short-term sale (such as product sales and restaurants) businesses have the most success with flyers and business cards, while long-term sales (such as automotive) have more success with mailable items that ask for a review after the sale is completed. In either case, be polite, make it as easy as possible. You can ask for Google or Facebook, but most customers will be annoyed if you ask for both. You can ask for reviews for both Google and Facebook, but it is against the terms of service to ask for reviews on Yelp, so try to avoid it, or do it in a way without a link.

Reviews can boost your click through rate, improve your ranking on local search listings, and make new customers more likely to buy from  you, so make sure you ask your customers for them. Just keep in mind that customers who aren’t 100% happy with your services are not obliged to offer a great review.

Want to know more about indirect marketing for you business? Contact Rory Martin today to discuss your options.

Seattle Web Designers Discuss: What Mobile Website Do You Need?

Talking to someone about what you need for your website might be confusing if don’t know an especially lot about web design. Especially with all of the choices and options available. Mobile website? Responsive design? What?

If you want to make your website mobile friendly (and you should since at least 40% of normal traffic is mobile based), then you have to choose one (or several) options. Unfortunately, that’s more than a little difficult if you don’t know the differences. So what are the different ways to go mobile? Keep reading to find out what Seattle web designers have to say on the matter.

A Mobile Website

A mobile website is a secondary website with a different URL (usually m.yourdomain.com) that automatically redirects when it detects that the visitor is not on a browser. This allows the website to automatically adjust to the mobile version. A couple of points to keep in mind are that the result is a completely different website, so you can control everything that mobile users see because you can create entirely different content for mobile. This is great if your main website is complex, or you want to narrow the mobile options down to the absolute basics. If you are familiar with SEO, you may guess that this is bad for SEO in that you have two entirely different websites, one of which is only available for mobile, and ranking does not carry through to the mobile version, however, they do rank extremely well for mobile search. Mobile websites are faster than responsive websites because

Mobile Responsive Design

Mobile Responsive design is completely different from a mobile website in that it uses the same URL, and is in fact, the same website. Responsive design detects the screen size of the user based on the dimensions of the browser and then re-adjusts to that screen size using a set of given parameters. Essentially, your responsive design looks different for each mobile device, because it has been designed separately for each device, and then told to adjust. This is better for users because they don’t have to worry about being redirected to another site, and better for SEO because you are only using one website. Sometimes responsive design is also more difficult for users to navigate because you are essentially just resizing everything for the device.

So which is the best option for you? Most people end up choosing between mobile and responsive design based on their budget, their customer needs, and customer volume. If you have to give customers the best experience possible then mobile web design is faster and more user friendly. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable experience that allows you to easily change your website from one size to another, then responsive is the way to go.

Want to know more about different types of web design or discuss your options? Contact Rory Martin to talk with our professional Seattle web design team about your business on the web.

Beyond the Facebook Page: What Seattle Social Media Experts Are Saying

As a business owner you know that social media promotion is invaluable for driving traffic, increasing hype, and basically promoting your business on a low budget. Unfortunately, the majority of business owners are either sticking with Facebook only, or creating accounts on every social media account they can get their hands on. While both ways are common, neither of them really allow a business to best utilize the platform because having too many accounts spreads you too thin, and too few means that you don’t get enough exposure. So which social media accounts should you be on? Seattle social media experts suggest that it depends on your business.

Google +

Google + is probably the most important social media platform for local businesses right now, mainly because of their efforts to promote and grow small businesses through integration with Google Maps, Google Local, and location based searches. Signing up for a Google Local page allows you to put your business on the Google map, and then get reviews through your page, which actually show up in search. Google then ranks the highest reviewed businesses first in search, which is a huge credit for small local business with great quality services. Google Plus is also easy to use, allows up to ten managers per page, and allows you to integrate YouTube for videos and Google Hangouts for live streaming video. It’s also the best place for tech and food related businesses to be.

Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the most popular image websites out there, and with newer integrations like “Buy It” buttons, they are also becoming incredibly business friendly. While not right for every business, Pinterest allows for viral image promotion, which is great for a range of businesses including flower shops, crafts stores, restaurants, and more. While Pinterest won’t drive a huge amount of local sales, it can and will drive online interest, which is perfect if you have an online shop.

Instagram

Instagram is more of a mobile social app than a social platform, but it’s hard to ignore that it is one of the most popular social platforms on the planet. The site runs off of image sharing, and while it does not allow links, it can generate a great deal of interest in your products. Instagram is especially good for fashion and accessory related industries but also good for sports stores, gyms, and studios.

Twitter

Twitter was the highest revenue driving site from 2010 until 2012, and while that is no longer true, Twitter is still quite important. Twitter’s millions of active users mostly share and reshare short quotes and images, but what the site is really good for is instant communication with customers, increasing hype, and answering questions in short form. The best strategy is to get involved with local hashtags and share content that is relevant to your community, otherwise you’re just broadcasting to the world at large.

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