Is Mobile Killing Web Design?

If you follow marketing or business news of any kind you will most likely see the term “is dead” on a near weekly basis, with the term attached to everything from last year’s trends to cornerstones of marketing niches, and the latest trend to get the figurative guillotine is web design. Is web design dead? No. However, the advent of mobile, and the steady shift of users away from desktop and laptop devices towards mobile only platforms including laptops and phones is creating a definite shift in what web design should be.

While desktop web design often performs poorly on a phone or tablet, especially with slower 3G or 4G connections rather than WiFi, the trick to quality modern web design is not forgoing it in favor of apps or leaving websites behind in exchange for social platforms, but rather, in better design. This means that Seattle web designers have to create a significant shift in how they approach your websites.

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Focus on Information Availability

Another very important switch that you have to keep in mind is that Google is now often providing information in search. Restaurant phone numbers, small business information, flight times and costs, and other information can now be seen directly in search, without ever clicking on a website. While this will lower your web page views and click throughs, it can make your website more profitable.

Here, you should focus on making information available, without forcing users to read through a lot of information they don’t need. For example, under “Contact Us” you really only need contact information. You also want to ensure that your business address and phone number are on your website so that Google can find them and bring them up when users search for you.

Designing Websites for the Mobile Web

Mobile users are on smaller screens, on less powerful devices, and often have less bandwidth available to them. This means that your mobile websites should be pared down, designed for mobile screens, and as simple as possible. While you can simply resize everything on your desktop website, stripping away nonessentials to provide a streamlined, information based site can be much more valuable to mobile users. This means completely redesigning your website, not just shrinking it, using hamburger or hidden menus to provide more space, and keeping options as simple as possible. Web pages still take longer to load on mobile, so it’s also a good idea to try to make sure that users find what they’re looking for in as few pages as possible.

If you visit any random website on your phone or tablet and then load it again on your computer, it will likely look very different. Unfortunately, not every website does a good job of switching between mobile and desktop, but if you try out a few, you’ll quickly see that some do. Single page interfaces, designed for mobile screen sizes, and responsive web design that adjusts based on the size of the screen.

You also want to take a look at your servers, what you’re hosting on the site, and how you’re presenting it. If your website is loading a great deal of media, flash scripts, external content, or video, it will probably take too long to load for most mobile users. Cut out everything but simple graphics and essentials so that your pages load quickly, even on slower mobile Internet.

Web design isn’t dead, and it never will be. Despite the random clickbait title claims, and the commonplace usage of themes, great web design can do a lot for your business, and it can make you stand out. However, it is crucial that you choose the right design company, get great mobile design, and optimize for the mobile web.

If you want to learn more about mobile web design, contact Rory Martin, a local Seattle web design company, for a free quote on your design, and if you agree, we’ll get started with a kickoff meeting to get to know your company, and your customers.

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Using Web Development for Building Leads

Using Web Development for Building Leads

Web development, or the backend development of your website, is something that most people don’t think about for marketing, except for how it affects their SEO. However, web development can and does affect your marketing, simply because it affects your user experience. Because the user is the most crucial part of the sales process, great web development can be crucial for developing leads and turning those leads into customers.

For example, nearly 60% of people now occasionally research products in a store and before going to a store. If you make your website accessible online, they’re more likely to be able to quickly research things on your website. Or, for example, if you know your competitor’s offer lower pricing, you can offer a location based price matching deal, so that they will still buy from you instead of going home and ordering something on Amazon.

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Smart web development means considering your users needs, their actions, and their motivations, so that you can predict behavior to provide an experience that boosts your sales. If you’re working with a Seattle web developer, consider bringing up the following items.

Website Speed

Website speed is probably something you’ve seen a lot of times before so we’ll keep it short. Your website speed affects every factor of a visit, it affects your SEO, and it affects user satisfaction after a visit. If your pages aren’t loading within a second, and hopefully in milliseconds, you’re doing something wrong. This requires great hosting, light code, and minimalistic web media.

Multi-Device Support

Your visitors will be arriving on multiple devices, and you should be prepared. If your website doesn’t work on one browser, you lose that customer. If your website menu is too small on an Android, the visitor will probably leave. Your developer has to understand how to code your website to respond seamlessly to different devices, and to resize, restructure, and redesign based on screen size and width.

Simplicity

Simplicity ties into web speed, ease of use, user satisfaction, and Google search optimization. If a user has to click through more than two pages to find what they’re looking for, you’re doing something wrong.

Menus

Great menus are invisible but easy to find, simple, and say exactly what they lead to. They’re also not very long. The days of websites having passes to include 40 menu items are well over, if they ever actually existed. Try to stick to 4 to 6 menu items at most, and if you need more, use sub menus.

A Plan

It is crucial that you have a plan and a goal for your website. Your web development should be set up around your website goals, so that every element of the site aligns with your goals. This makes web design easier, and makes it easier for the visitor to see and find what you want them to find. Your goal could be as simple as getting users to follow the page down and sign up, or as complex as getting them to try out a live demonstration of your browser oriented software on another page, but you should understand the goal, and how to achieve it.

Great web development starts with understanding your customer’s needs so that you can create a website for them. If you choose the right Seattle web development company, they will handle this for you.

If you want to know more, or are ready to get started with your website, contact Rory Martin, a local Seattle web development company for a free quote.

SEO For Businesses – What You Do & Do Not Need

SEO is a buzzword that almost everyone knows but few people actually understand. And, for the most part, that’s okay. Specialized internet marketing tactics aren’t really your business, and they shouldn’t have to be. But, it is important that you understand enough of SEO to make the right choice when hiring a search optimization or search marketing company to help you market your business.

First, unless your business is not making any money, you probably won’t have the time to run a complex search engine optimization strategy for your website. But, you should know the basics.

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Search Optimization Is Just the Beginning

The first and most important thing to understand about your search optimization is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many people mistakenly assume that SEO is a matter of using the right keywords, ketting backlinks, and you’re done. That isn’t true, although it may have been in 2009.

Google’s most recent search algorithm, Hummingbird, used a wide variety of data and signals to direct searches, and your keywords are just one of those.

You also have to utilize other marketing strategies including:

Mobile Optimization – Check your mobile optimization, and consider using Google’s free tool to test mobile load times, speed, and other data.

Content Marketing
– A quality content strategy will drive traffic, help you to convert leads, and will build your reputation as a voice or brand authority in your niche. It’s also a great basis for starting your search optimization strategy.

Brand Strategy – Your brand strategy is crucial to making a sale once you get traffic. If you can’t convert leads into sales, there is no point in creating them in the first place.

SEO ties into each of these strategies, in Google’s Hummingbird, Yahoo Search, and Bing Search.

What About Keywords?

Keywords are becoming less and less important as algorithms are able to increase their ability to scan content to see what it is about. You still want to make sure that readers and search engines know what content is about, but keyword optimization is significantly less important than it used to be.

And Backlinks?

Backlinks are still important, but if you do it the wrong way, you will likely be blacklisted on Google. If your SEO firm is offering hundreds of links a day or mentioning directories and comments, back away quickly and save your website. Black hat tactics like link farming are extremely harmful to your site, and are unlikely to ever be beneficial in the future. The best practice, build natural relationships to build links.

So What Is Involved in SEO?

Search engine optimization involves over 200 different practices including content optimization, search marketing optimization to improve click through rates, content wording, offering quality content, understanding user needs and what Google thinks those users need, backend optimization, website speed, website quality, inbound links, social media, and much more. Moreover, because these signals are constantly changing, it’s important that you have you someone who knows what they’re doing, and has the time to stay updated, on your marketing team.

Choosing the right SEO company to help you out means paying attention to their strategies, what they’re offering, and making sure that they stay up to date on changing Google and Bing search engine optimization strategies. You want someone who knows that SEO is more than keywords and backlinks, and who can show you their results from their previous clients.

If you want to learn more about our processes, see some of our case studies, or get a quote for your search optimization, contact Rory Martin

How to Plan to Have Your Website Pay Itself Off

Building a website is an investment that you will probably benefit from if you take the time and resources to market and create a sales platform. Unfortunately, most small business owners forget that in order for an investment to pay off, you have to continue marketing and putting effort into it. ROI, or return on investment, may be a jargon term that is now everywhere, but it is one that applies very much to every decision you make in business. If it doesn’t have a return, or at least break even, then there is no point in doing it, and that applies to your website.

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The biggest mistake business owners make when they launch a website is failing to plan beyond the launch. This leaves you with a fancy, and probably pretty, website that really isn’t doing much but costing you money. The following should help you to take that and turn it into a profit. Unfortunately, websites are not an “If you build it, they will come”, deal. You have to prepare to invest time, money, and marketing efforts into your website to create a tangible return on investment.

Search Optimization & Marketing

Marketing to consumers who find you in search, and making sure they can find you in the first place, is crucial to earning money off of your website. Search optimization is one of the easiest ways to direct traffic to your site, but it is important that you do so carefully, and do your best to ensure that all of your traffic is relevant and interested in your products or services. This means researching and utilizing keywords, creating valuable and helpful content aimed at your geographic and target demographic, and creating brand authority to help your website rank.

Create a Sales Funnel

Whether you’re creating leads offline or online, you should have a sales funnel on your website to direct anyone who visits your site towards making a purchase. Your sales funnel can include content, an email marketing campaign, or even a discount code, but you should have one on your website. This should include:

  • Landing pages to inform people who click on ads and search terms about what you’re offering. These should be optimized for search, directed at the customer, and have a strong, clear call to action.
  • Information pages, clearly detailing what your products or services are, and why your customer should be interested.
  • A sign up form asking visitors to join a newsletter for more information OR, a sign up form offering valuable information, a quote, or other service’s.
  • A clear call to action offering value in exchange for acting (I.E., Get a free quote, Save 10%, etc.).

Social Media

Social media is a great way to promote your website, and vice versa, but it is important to be consistent. Post informative, helpful, and funny content to your page along with your website, so that your social pages are valuable or fun to follow.

Email Marketing

Email marketing allows you to market to leads you gain through your website, which can turn visitors into buyers. Integrating a good email marketing strategy is one of the best ways to make money off of a website, even for product oriented businesses.

Making money with a website requires great design, quality content, and a product or service that works. Your reputation, search optimization, social media marketing, content, and marketing strategies will all play into whether or not you make a return. Just keep in mind that while your first goal is to get a website, other goals, like driving people to that website, and convincing those people they should make a purchase, are more important.

If you’re ready to get started planning your website, or your marketing campaign, contact Rory Martin for more information, or to get started with a free quote.

Using a Mood Board to Communicate Ideas with Your Web Designer

Creating a website is a daunting task that most small businesses avoid for as long as possible, but if you need one, then you do want to do it right. That means hiring a web development and design team, and communicating your wants, needs, and preferences with them, to ensure that the end result is something that you and your customers love. While providing your brand material, your brand personality, and preferred styles and colors is important, you can take your preparations a step further with a mood board.

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What is a Mood Board?

A mood board is a digital or analog (physical) board with images, pictures, swatches, or colors that show what you want, what you’re thinking, and convey the emotions that you want your website to convey. If you’re making a digital moodboard, it is essentially a photo collage that you feel conveys what you want your website to convey. Most importantly, you can put it together on sites like Pinterest, or using free services like Morpholio, Evernote, or Niice. You can also glue photos, color swatches, and other elements to a physical mood board to create a more dynamic display, but keep in mind that you will either have to take photos of it, or work with a local Seattle web designer to make that work.

Why Have a Mood Board?

Can’t you just communicate your ideas by writing them? Yes, you can. And if you don’t really understand design, or what you want, then that is a great idea. However, if you want to communicate specific emotions, ideas, or have a vision for your site, a mood board can help to communicate that to your web designer. In fact, most web designers already use mood boards, so it will help to bridge the gap, and show them that you actually know what you want. Mood boards can help you to communicate fonts, needs, color palettes, textures, shadows, and much more. Finally, a moodboard immediately allows you to start getting feedback and input on design choices, colors, and other style decisions so that you can reach a final decision more quickly.

What to Include in Your Mood Board?

Brainstorming a mood board should start out with making decisions. You can start by writing out lists of the following:

  • Your brand personality
  • Brand keywords
  • Brand colors
  • Emotions you want the user to feel
  • Fonts you like (Even serif or sans serif)
  • Styles that represent your business
  • The ‘mood’ of the website
  • Photographs you want on the site

You can take these questions to create a fully functional mood board. For example, if you have a mid-range restaurant catering to foodies in search of new experiences and you want a creative but professional website to reflect your brand personality, you can start out by writing out your list of brand keywords like “delicious”, “unique”, “foodie”, “experience”, “taste maker”, and so on. These words can be used to choose images and items, or inserted directly into the mood board using your preferred fonts.

From there, you could insert your brand’s color palette, such as black and grey with orange accents. Emotions are more difficult to incorporate, but in this case, you want people to feel daring, adventurous, like they are gaining social credit by trying something new, and like they are in a warm and friendly environment with good food. Integrating photos of tasty food, adventurous activities such as skydiving or climbing a tree to get honey, and eating with friends would achieve this. For this example, a stylish sans serif font says modern and friendly, while a mixture of thin and thick lines, no slants, and large photographs show a relaxed but still professional environment and style. Finally, you could pin photos of your own food that you wanted to include.

This type of mood board would very clearly and immediately distinguish your establishment from a restaurant that sells traditional family style Italian food, and the web designer would immediately know what you want, rather than creating a more traditional design for you.

Essentially, a mood board is a bit like your brand profile, in that it communicates what you want and what you like, in a way that your web designer immediately understands.

If you don’t want to create your own moodboard, that’s also okay. Most web designers will work with you to create design ideas from the start, so that you have plenty of options to choose from.

Are you looking for a quality Seattle web designer who can work with your needs to create a site you love? Contact Rory Martin to find out more about our web design services.

What is Negative SEO Linking & What Can You Do About It?

Most business owners have enough trouble with SEO without stopping to consider that negative SEO is a thing, but it is. While you can use search engine optimization best practices to increase the likelihood of coming up first on Google (or at least on the first page), your competitors, enemies, and even people you don’t know exist can use SEO worst practices to get your site flagged, lowered in SERPS (Search engine results pages), and otherwise blacklisted by search engines.

This process usually involves links, which were formerly a great way to boost your ranking. Today, having hundreds of links coming in from spammy sources and comment boxes can actually hurt your ranking a great deal. That’s why it’s called negative SEO.

You most often see it in competitive niches, so if you’re local to Seattle, your competitors aren’t media savvy and aren’t going to stoop to that level, and you don’t operate on an international level, then it’s not something you have to worry about. But, you should still know what to look for, and what you can do about it, because negative SEO can and will hurt your ranking. These tips from Seattle SEO experts will help you get started.

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How to Stop a Negative SEO Attack

A negative SEO attack is mostly visible when you see dozens or hundreds of inbound links, mostly coming from low quality sites. You can see this if you regularly check your inbound links. Alexa Tools, Ahref, Open Link Profiler, Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Link Profile Tool, and a number of other sites all allow you to check your backlinks.

You can also get notifications if you’re being flagged for spammy inbound links by going to Google Webmaster Tools and enabling email alerts for all issues under Preferences.

You can monitor these links, and then use Google’s Disavow tool to tell Google that you want to completely disregard them linking to your site. You can do this simply by copy and pasting the URL into the Google Disavow tool located here. However, you should keep in mind that this could hurt your site ranking, especially if any of the inbound links you disavow was hurting it.

You’ll also want to watch your existing links, because companies that are willing to pay link to you from spammy sites are probably willing to create fake accounts similar to your own and message your existing backlinks and ask to remove the link. This is rare, and not as big of a problem, but it’s always good to monitor your inbound links.

Links can make or break your site’s value. Google’s complex search engine algorithm weighs the value of your site based on the number of inbound links, the quality of the site linking to you, and the sharability of your content. If you only have a few thousand inbound links and someone starts even a small negative SEO campaign against you, it could actually hurt your ranking. The best policy is to be careful, don’t make enemies, and don’t use these techniques yourself, because it will invite others to use them on you.

If you want to know more about search engine optimization strategy, or need help with your own brand’s optimization, contact Rory Martin, a local Seattle search engine optimization company, for more information.

What to Consider for Your Home Page – Seattle Web Design Tips

As a small business owner in the Seattle area, you’re faced with several conundrums when it comes to web design and development, and your home page is one of them. While other issues, like having a solid basis on which to choose a local web designer, which language or CMS to use, and even your website branding are equally important, we’ll take you through the basics of what to do and what not to do with your home page.

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Less is More

The days of overcrowded home pages jammed with side bars, banner ads, and menus everywhere are long gone, and today’s websites are simpler, sleeker, and definitely bordering on minimalistic. This trend is ideal for mobile users, who get faster load times, and can spend less time looking for what they want. This means paring your home page down to include the basics, and hopefully paring the rest of your website down as well. You can add more items if they are necessary, but keep in mind that most users don’t need the plethora of pages available on most websites. Hamburger or hidden menus, sliding headers, and video are all great ways to integrate more items into less space without crowding.

Really, Keep it Simple

It’s tempting to keep adding features to ensure that your user can do everything you want them to do, but keep it simple. You also don’t want mobile users to be scrolling down for more than a minute or two at most on their phone. Most mobile users are in a hurry, so a heavy text or image laden home page that scrolls down for hours simply won’t do. You can integrate longer pages when necessary, but make sure you test out the length before you make the site live.

Consider Your Brand

Your brand is a crucial element to include in your web design. While it may be difficult to integrate a concept into a website, it’s important for giving users the same feel that they get when they walk into your physical location. That’s one of the reasons why it’s always a good idea to work with a local Seattle web designer. They can visit your actual store or facility to get a better idea of who you are. What’s involved with brand? Basically everything including colors, styles, the thickness of borders, images, font, and much more.

Integrate Large Images

Whether you’re using large header images, banners, or a fashionable background image is up to you, but you should integrate large media. In some cases, you can swap the image out for a video, but make sure it still looks good on mobile. You’re probably getting 40-60% of your visitors from mobile phones, so you want to design for them as well. Why large images? They combine a feeling of luxury with the minimalistic trend of modern websites, allowing you to brand, customize, and stylize your website, without making it look crowded. What’s a great image? Again, it’s up to your business and your brand. If you’re at a loss for ideas, discuss it with your web designer in your kickoff meeting.

Make it Unique (But don’t go overboard)

Even if you’re using a theme or website template, it’s important to make it your own. Adding your own media, photos, colors, and style can do a lot for your website and your brand. But, you don’t have to go overboard. It’s nice to make your website stand out, but you don’t need flashing banners to make it happen. Instead, discuss your options with your web designer, and see what comes up.

It is important to keep in mind that a good website is customized to your business, not the other way around. If a general home page doesn’t fit, make modifications, add features, and make it your own. You’ll pay more for adding in unique features or flash video, or similar, but you will get more value out of it. A great way to get started is having a discussion or kickoff meeting with a local Seattle web designer to discuss your needs and your brand.

Want to know more? Contact Rory Martin to get started today.

How to Use Facebook to Improve Your Customer Support

Customer support is becoming increasingly important as consumers demand better and better service. Where once, it was okay to reply back within a few days, the gap has now narrowed to within a few hours, or the consumer will most likely become frustrated, or look for a similar product elsewhere. Consumers want information, and they want it quickly, so they can move on with their purchase, which is beneficial to you because it means you can sell more, more quickly. Local Seattle customers flock to social media to ask questions about products, about sizing and fit, in store availability, and much more. In fact, in one study by Oracle, 43% of consumers would rather reach out through social media, rather than emailing, calling, or using an on-site chat box.

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Social media allows you to interact with your consumers quickly, efficiently, and for nothing more than the cost of your time or that of your social media manager. The following tips from local Seattle social media company Rory Martin will help you to get started.

Respond Quickly

Most Facebook users contact companies on Facebook for a quick response, and in fact, the company now supports this feature. If you respond to most messages within 3 minutes during online hours, you get a badge that consumers will see. While this might be a lot of pressure, it is a great tactic for improving consumer relations. How can you keep up? Either have someone dedicated to handling chats, or integrate Facebook into your CRM so you can easily see chats while ringing up sales, or managing your warehouse.

Make Sure Someone Knowledgeable is In Charge

One of the worst things you can do to your customer service is put just anyone in charge. Great customer service means the respondent has to be highly familiar with your products, services, policies, and offerings. If something isn’t right, they have to know it, and they have to be able to answer key questions like “Do you have this in blue”.

Acknowledge Feedback

Whether good or bad, you should be responding and within a few hours to most feedback left on your page. Take a moment to say thank you to those who rave about you, and offer to help fix the issue if someone left negative feedback. If someone has a problem with an order, fix it, and do so publicly.

Be Professional

Professionalism is key to any successful customer service, and social media is no different. Maintain your professional image, stick to branding decisions, and treat every chat like the user is going to take screenshots and post them publicly, because they very well may.

Be Transparent

If you’re having issues, let customers know. Social Media is a great way to get the word out quickly, can help you to allay any problems, and will reduce the demand on your technical support as well.

Make Time

It is crucial that you have the time to quickly respond to and help anyone contacting you over social media. This means setting aside a certain amount of time to respond to people, checking your messages whenever you have a break, and seeing it as an important responsibility.

If you don’t have the time, and don’t have the budget to bring in a full time social media manager, consider outsourcing. Local Seattle social media management company Rory Martin can help. Contact us to ask for a free quote, or to learn more about our social media services.

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Types of Web Designers and Developers & How to Choose One For Your Project

Web design, web development, what’s the difference? In the mind of the average person, not much. But, in actuality, there’s a great deal of difference, and that difference greatly affects what you’re getting for your money. However, it’s not about quality. Different types of web designers and developers offer different services. Just like you wouldn’t hire a Facebook expert to manage your Twitter, you wouldn’t hire a web designer to code the back end of your site.

So, let’s go over some of the different types of web designers and developers in Seattle, and how their services affect you.

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Web Developer

There are two main types of web developers, front end coders and back end coders. A very accomplished person may do both, and a team will almost certainly handle both. Front end and back end coding are the applications that allow your website to run, like menus, the framework, server access, and so on. This code is the basis of your interface and your websites functionality. Web developers can offer features like responsive design, w3C compliant code, cross browser compatibility, tableless HTML, and so on.

Back-End Developers – Back-end developers usually handle CMS, content management, security, data management, data transfer, and so on. Back end services allow you to upload content, collect data, offer security, create user profiles, and so on.

Front-End Developers – Front-End developers typically create tools, such as menus, apps, web based apps, games, and so on. These are made for direct interaction, and allow you or consumers to use them.

Plus, web development falls into multiple code categories, with some specializing in existing CMS systems, like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, and others specializing in custom systems.

Web Designer

A web designer is a very specific type of website builder who designs the graphic part of the website. This is one reason why many web designers are actually graphic artists, with degrees in graphic design, rather than web development. Web design is a completely different function than development, because it involves creating layouts, button sizes, fonts, styles, colors, and otherwise creating the image of the website. Some web designers know code, others do not, but they do not build websites, they design them. Much like an architect designs a website and construction workers put it together.

Like developers, web designers may specialize in an existing CMS. For example, many will create custom themes and layouts for WordPress or Joomla.

How to Choose One?

Most web development projects require a web developer and a web designer, especially if you’re starting from the ground up. On the other hand, if you’re looking for new features, or a new look, you should seek out a specialist. If you want to change the appearance, a web designer is the best place to go. On the other hand, if you want to add in new menu systems and an interactive appointment app, you definitely want a front end developer.

Knowing what you want makes it easier to choose someone to help you with your website. If you need help with web development or design, contact Rory Martin for more information.

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