Five Tips for Choosing a Local Seattle Web Developer

Finding a quality web developer is notoriously difficult on the web, especially with thousands of overseas companies who operate under dubious credentials and often offer themes or pre-built websites under the pretense of a custom site. Going local is the easiest way to ensure the originality of your site, but it also allows you to find a company that understands your local customer demographic, local website trends, and that you can meet in person to determine their actual suitability for the job. Whether you’re looking to hire a one-off Seattle web development team to build your website, or need a long-term web specialist for maintenance, updates, and constant development, you can use these tips for choosing a good local Seattle web developer or team.

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Understand the Market

The first rule of hiring a web developer anywhere, not just in Seattle, is that you have to understand the market, fair pricing, and what you can expect for the money. If you’re accustomed to choosing outsource and offshore companies with engineers and developers primarily in India and Pakistan, then you’re going to be able to afford considerably less if you go local. However, you also have to know normal pricing for a website of your size and standard, so that you can get a fair quote, without feeling that it is over the top or too cheap. Your best bet is to set a budget in advance and then figure out what you can get for that budget before you go ‘shopping’ for a developer.

Decide on Skills and Requirements Up Front

You wouldn’t hire a Japanese sushi chef if you wanted a French Crémeux, and the same goes for web development. While some developers are experts in everything, that’s rare and usually quite far fetched. Instead, look for a developer who has the skillset you need (I.E. JavaScript, PhP, and HTML) and make sure they can work with it before you hire them. There is no one size fits all developer, unless you’re happy with whatever they can build you.

Look for a Past History

While it may sound unfair to only hire experienced developers, you wouldn’t hire an inexperienced person for most other jobs, so don’t risk it with your website. Choosing someone with verifiable experience, standards, and hopefully references you can use to verify claims and ensure that the developer hits deadlines and offers quality websites is an easy way to cut out a lot of hassle.

Check their Portfolio

Finally, you want to know that you like their work and that they are capable of building you a website that you love. Checking your prospective web developer’s portfolio is the easiest way to make sure that they will offer you the website you want.

 

Want to know more about how a local Seattle website designer can help you? Contact Rory Martin to see if we’re a good fit for your needs.

What Seattle Companies are Doing Wrong with Web Design

With over 644 million active websites on the Internet, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out. Luckily, there are far fewer local Seattle websites to compete with, but you’re still going to have to make yourself stand out. While the average small business now recognizes that they need and should have a website, not everyone goes about it in the best way. A website is your brand on the web, and it has to be just as convincing as any physical storefront. Because many consumers are now visiting mobile websites before they go to a store for the first time, your site is becoming more and more important. With that in mind, here are few things that Seattle businesses frequently get wrong, and help from local web designers on how to fix those problems.

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Forgetting to Research Your Demographic

If you’re in a hurry to get your website up, a new business, or don’t think you need a target demographic, you could be making a huge mistake. While some people don’t think they need to target anyone and others try to target everyone, both options are a mistake. Researching your target demographic allows you to market your website directly to the people most likely to need your services or products, allowing you to create more churn and make more sales.

No Marketing

No one likes to be marketed to but if you have a whole website with no calls to action, no links driving people to buy things, and nothing at all to tell the consumer that they should be spending money, then you’re probably missing out. Integrating strategic calls to action, links to products, and creating landing pages for users who search for your content on the web can be crucial to your success.

Overly Complicated Design

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The 90s and early 2000s saw a rash of poorly designed websites with flashing banners, jQuery animation, and really cluttered design. If your website looks like an advertisement board, has more images than free space, or crams something into every possible space, you’re probably telling customers that you aren’t professional or modern. Go with simple, elegant, and easy to use.

Not Updating Your Content

Regularly updating your content, even if it’s as simple as changing all of the listed dates on your website once yearly, is crucial to being on the web. Customers like to see activity so that they can see you’re a relevant, real business. Consider linking your social media so that consumers can see your likes and social activity, keep a weekly blog and update it weekly, and post regular updates.

Using the Wrong Designer

The wrong designer can completely ruin your website. Whether you’re paying more than you have to and going way over budget, or paying less than you should and getting a substandard website, you’re making a mistake. You’re probably also messing up if you decide to do your website yourself, unless of course, you’re a qualified website designer. Go over your budget, decide how much you can make back from your website in a year, and choose a quality designer with a good reputation based on that criteria.

If you want to know more about quality Seattle web design, contact Rory Martin for a free quote.

How to Merge Your Marketing and SEO – Seattle SEO Tips

How to Merge Your Marketing and SEO – Seattle SEO Tips

If you have a well thought out SEO strategy, then chances are you’re probably already integrating many of the marketing theories that you need to make your search optimization successful. Unfortunately, many Seattle businesses do not have a great search engine marketing strategy, primarily because they aren’t sure how to get started with one. Because most Seattle business owners aren’t necessarily marketing specialists, this is normal. If you don’t have your own Seattle SEO manager to help you with marketing and integrating it into your search optimization, then you probably need be

Research Your Market Demographic

You wouldn’t write an ad without knowing who you were writing it for, but many people write SEO content without really deciding who they’re selling to. If you’re selling shoes, then it’s probably logic that you’re main demographic is women between the ages of 18 and 45, and most of them will want a very specific type of shoe. If you’re operating a restaurant with catering services, the answer might not be quite as clear cut, but you can get started by analyzing your customers, writing up everyone in your immediate delivery area, and making some specific concessions based on what kind of food you serve. If you serve traditional Jewish cuisine, then your primary audience is  most likely going to be Jewish, and on top of that, you can market towards people looking for food for parties, events, and weddings.  On the other hand if you sell an assortment of high end cakes and pastries, you can narrow your prospects further to weddings and events, which allows you to easily narrow your demographic.

Use Retargeting Lists to Market To Them After They Leave Your Site

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Just because you get someone to your site with SEO doesn’t mean that they’ve made a purchase. Rather the opposite. Most of the techniques used to bring customers in via search actually draw in customers who are still making a decision. Creating retargeting lists with more specific versions of your SEO keywords (I.E., Four-tier strawberry wedding cakes for delivery in Ballard) and creating PPC marketing ads for retargeting those customers can help you with turning your leads into sales instead of just traffic. The main problem with SEO is that you can draw in an unlimited amount of customers who want to read your content, but they probably haven’t made up their mind about what kind of shoe or cake they want just yet. If they wanted that, they wouldn’t be reading articles. So, adding them to a retargeting ad based on their initial search (I.E. 4-inch black pump) allows you to show them what they want to buy when they leave your site, so that they come back and make a purchase.

Evolve your Content For Your Customers

Every customer has something specific that they want to see and while it is true that you can’t please everyone, you can please your target demographic. What do they want to see, what do they need to see, and what would be beneficial for them. Changing your content over time to stand out and market directly to your customer base is the best way to go. Remember that content marketing strategies like SEO are not only about coming up in search, but also about creating yourself as an authority, so that customers remember you when they want to make a purchase.

The easiest way to set up a working SEO marketing plan is to get help from a local Seattle SEO specialist or consultant who not only knows search  marketing but also local demographics, trends and business.

Does Social Automation Work? – Seattle Social Media Marketing Tips

Does Social Automation Work? – Seattle Social Media Marketing Tips

Social automation is incredibly popular, especially for businesses, and on pages where posts have to go up frequently and regularly. Automation is the process of scheduling posts for as far into the future as you want, so that you can schedule everything at once and then sit back and wait for engagement. While there are pros and cons, Seattle social media marketing specialists have a lot to say on the subject, and not everything is negative.

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Automation Suits Some Platforms Better than Others

One thing to consider is that some platforms work considerably better with automation than others do. For example, Facebook pages are often fine on their own with just automated and scheduled posts. However, real time posts always perform the best because you are live, talking about topics as they come up, and able to respond quickly to boost engagement and improve consumer trust.

A Mix of Real Time and Scheduled Posts Perform the Best

While you probably don’t have time to do all of your posts in real time, you can always mix them up. Sharing relevant news and hot topics, or asking questions about ongoing events is a great way to spice up your page and make it seem more relevant, while you can always schedule in content for fixed events, blog and product promotion, or specific items that you know you want to post about at that time. Mixing things up allows you to cut down on the work without losing your relevance.

Don’t Forget to Engage

The biggest problem with social media automation is the post and forget syndrome. This is where you schedule in a bunch of posts to Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, of whatever other social media platform you are using and then never check back. Even if you’re always busy, you should have the apps for your platforms installed on your phone so that you can quickly check and interact with your page every time you get a few free minutes. Boosting engagement improves your pages authority, consumer happiness, and the value of your page.

Remember to Share and Interact with Other Businesses

While it may be tempting to make your page all about you, this is a big mistake, especially on content centric platforms like Twitter. Make sure you tweet, share, +1 and like items from your competitors, industry experts, and make sure you add in a little bit of fun.

Do Mix up Promotions

If you’re promoting an event, blog article, new product or company achievement, make sure you mix up and change the messages about it. You can share the same posts to Twitter much more frequently than any other platform, but you still want to avoid too much repetition, especially if you have a small customer base. Keep in mind that you can share the same blog post with multiple messages to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, just try to make each one unique. You can also keep tweeting the same post an a few hour basis for the first week after you’ve written it, and then move on to once a week after it’s no longer fresh. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing the same links, you have to keep it interesting because people will be seeing the same post.

If you want help with your social media promotion beyond simply scheduling a reminder into your HootSuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social, consider talking to Rory Martin for a professional and local Seattle social media consultation.

Does Your Small Business Need a Website? – Seattle Web Design Tips

The first servers powering the web may not have been switched on until 1991, but in that time, it has expanded at a rate so exponential that it’s expansion could be said to be unprecedented. The technology, which was initially created to allow access to data from anywhere, has become such a common part of everyday life, that most of those born in the 90s quite simply cannot imagine a world without it. With over 640 million active websites on the web, it’s hard to imagine that there are businesses who don’t have one. However, with 27.9 small businesses in the U.S. and over 217,000 in Washington alone, there are literally millions of businesses that have not yet made it onto the web.

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While it is an undeniable fact that a web presence can greatly benefit a business of any size, and the dot com is undeniably the gold standard for establishing your brand on the web, there are other options.

The Size Of Your Business

One important consideration is that many businesses are actually very small businesses. Very small business owners often bring home between $20,000 and $120,000 per year in gross profit depending on their business. Small businesses, which can make upwards of $1 million per year, can typically afford a website without any problems, but for very small businesses who use most of their income for living expenses, renovations and small personal luxuries, the often high costs of a website are not always an option.

Social Pages vs. Web Pages

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Social pages are quickly replacing websites as the first place that customers visit. While anyone searching for a keyword or business type on Google, Bing, or Yahoo will most definitely find your website first, they can also reach your Google Plus page if it is properly optimized, your YouTube page, or even your Facebook page, depending on how you write your About description. Because services like Google Local allows you to put yourself on the map (literally) in search, web pages are becoming less and less necessary for simply telling people about your business. In fact, a busy social page with visible reviews, visible consumer interaction and fresh posts will leave the average consumer more convinced of the quality of your small business than most websites.

What You’re Selling

The last and most deciding factor for choosing whether to go with a website or a social page is your business. Depending on what you are selling, what you want to use the website for and what information you want to display, a website may or may not be right for you. For example, if you have a restaurant and you want an interactive menu, online booking and live chat, then you definitely need a website. If you have an auto-shop and you just want to let people know where you are and when you’re open, it’s significantly less necessary.

While statistically, more than 140,000 websites are launched per day, the truth is that with social media, the days of one page websites and web pages are virtually over. Not everyone needs a website when they can establish a web presence just as effectively, and without the hassle, using social media. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a website, it just means you might not actually need one.

If you want to know more, contact Rory Martin for a consultation.

Integrating Customer Service – Seattle Web Development

Whether you’re an established business or just getting set up on the web, customer service is becoming increasingly important for Seattle businesses online. While in the past, customers were accustomed to waiting days or even weeks for a full reply, today’s service based industry demands faster responses. In fact, quick customer service can actually make sales.

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The following include a few tips from Seattle web development professionals on what you can use to integrate customer service directly into your website.

CRM

A CRM or Customer Relationship Management system is an easy way to integrate customer service directly into your website. Available options include everything from ZenDesk to Zoho, and allow you to create live chat boxes, click to call functions and customer support forums, where customers can ask questions and help themselves. These customer service solutions require no technical knowledge or development skills, but do charge a monthly fee based on your usage and required features.

Custom CRM

A custom CRM can provide all of the offerings of a subscription based CRM but does not charge a monthly fee. Instead, you pay your Seattle web development team to design and build a chat function, forum or help desk for you. This means that you pay one fee upfront for the development, wait for it to be built, and then allow them to integrate it into your website. This allows you to manage as many customers as you want without paying more. However, you do have to wait during development and you do need occasional maintenance.

Social Media

Social media allows you to integrate a free chat system directly into your website, but it is not foolproof. While you can direct users to your social pages to chat with you, send you messages or post on your wall, this requires careful monitoring and requires that you manage your social media closely. The faster you respond to customers on social, the better they will feel about the experience. If you have a small business, you can likely do this yourself, but if you have a lot of customers and a lot of questions, you may need a dedicated manager. In most cases, you can integrate the Facebook Messenger API into your website, or have your developer do it if you aren’t sure how.  You can also add links to your Twitter and Google + as needed.

There are a variety of customer service solutions that you can choose from, and sometimes, the best option is a mix of both. If you have a large business that processes returns, then a help desk with a ticketing service is a must. If you just have a small business, social media may be an adequate solutions. Because there are plenty of options, you can also integrate both to offer more service.

If you want help deciding on what’s the best way to integrate customer service into your website, contact Rory Martin’s Seattle web development team for a consultation.

Launching on Social Media for Startups | Seattle Social Media Tips

If you have a startup then launching on social media could be a crucial part of your success. While many businesses were formed before the Internet was even an idea, today it plays an intrinsic role in the daily life of more than 85% of Seattleites, who use Internet at home, and the more than 58% who use social on the go with smartphones. Because social media is such a normal part of life, using it can greatly boost your company hype, product sales and pre-orders, even before your launch. If you’re ready to get started with your social media campaign, the following Seattle social media tips can help you with your launch.

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Prepare and Create a Strategy

The most important part of any social media plan is to prepare, decide on your audience, prepare content and create a strategy. While you might not know how to do all of this, having each of these items ready to go before you start your campaign ensures that you know when to share, how often to share, and who to share to. If you create tweets, social media posts, photos, infographics and any videos you want to share in advance, then you ensure that they are shared in a timely fashion. A social media strategy tells you when to post, where to post and why you should be doing that, because it bases content posting and responsiveness on analytics and data based around your target demographic. It also plans out interaction for you, whether for targeting locals, getting people on the street engaged with QR codes or posters. Most of the time, you should also plan for visibility enhancing giveaways, raffles or similar to boost your hype.

Get Involved

One of the most important things about launching on social media for the first time, whether you’re a startup or an established brick and mortar company, is getting involved. Inviting your contacts, your network and your family, friends and employees to get involved is the best thing you can do for your marketing. While it’s not all there is to it, it can definitely help with jumpstarting interaction and helping you with ranking and visibility.

Target Your Customers

While anyone can drive engagement on social media with enough time, you want to target people who will make you money. Even if you’re a non-profit organization, your goal should be turnover, and targeting everyone won’t do that. Research your demographic, plan accordingly and make sure that every item you put out on social targets those people. While this isn’t always possible, you want to ensure that the people most likely to buy your products or services actually see you on the web.

If you want help with your launch, then a Seattle social media company or professional manager can be the difference between no shares and a viral product. Rory Martin has experience with launching companies, media and hype campaigns and building product interest before a launch. To learn more, check out our Whitepapers.

What’s involved in SEO Implementation – Seattle SEO Tips

What’s involved in SEO Implementation – Seattle SEO Tips

If you’re planning on hiring a Seattle SEO company to help you with optimizing your website and pages, then you might want to know what’s involved in the process. While any good SEO company will create a custom plan and strategy based on your specific needs, current traffic and capacity for business, the following items include strategies and tasks commonly completed during SEO optimization.

SEO Audit

The first step to implementing your SEO is to audit or assess your site to see what changes have to be made. This should include analyzing your existing web content, your backend architecture, your servers, the history of your domain name and back end techniques such as whether or not you’ve highlighted your pages, created metadata or use SEO techniques that search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo might think are spammy. Analyzing your incoming links is also important, because they can affect your search.

Backend Optimization

Once you’ve completed an SEO audit, you can get started on optimizing your site for local Seattle, national or global search. The first step is usually backend optimization. While many people know that SEO involves keywords, not many people know that your site architecture, sitemap, internal linking strategy and your HTML can all affect site crawling and search optimization. A good SEO company wil audit your back end and then make changes to improve your sites capacity for coming up on search.

Strategic Link Building

Link building is an SEO strategy that must be undertaken with absolute care because if done improperly, it looks like spam. Generating relevant, niche worth links that look real (often because they are real) can help you with driving traffic to your website, when you drive traffic through a link, Google and other search engines use it to rank your page.

Social Media

Social media is very much a part of SEO, so any good optimization strategy should include some plans to boost social interaction and engagement. While there are dozens of social platforms to choose from, you should choose one or two that are valuable for your business and then focus on creating high levels of engagement and link sharing, which in turn boost the credibility of your business in search.

Content Optimization

At one point in time content optimization was the gold standard of SEO but that is no longer true. However, it still plays a part. Google’s search engines now place a premium on quality over quantity, and they will search out and disregard keyword stuffing, duplicate content and spun articles. For that reason, the best content optimization clearly discusses what is on the page, offers helpful information and tells readers what they need to know. Content optimization should aim for keeping readers on the page as long as possible, and if possible, convince them to click through to another page to boost your site credibility and decrease your bounce rate.

If you want to know more about optimizing your website for search, contact Rory Martin, a local Seattle SEO and social marketing company to learn more.

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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.

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