Branding Websites for Marketing – Seattle Website Design

Whether you’re already on the web or looking to build a website, branding is something that you should be paying attention to. While not something that every business utilizes, branding is an important and powerful part of your web marketing toolkit that will allow you to build recognition, brand loyalty, and  most importantly, a brand personality, that will represent you everywhere on and off the web. If you’ve chosen fonts and colors for specific reasons, organized your store in a specific way, or created a visual identity for yourself, then chances are you’re well on your way to branding. If you still need your Seattle web designer to brand your site for you, the following will help you with what it is, why you need it, and how to get started.

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What is Branding

Branding is essentially creating a visual identity. Usually, it starts with something as simple as your logo, but it doesn’t stop there. Your font, images, colors on your site, graphics, style, and even spaces between text all contribute to your visual identity. Branding is deciding on a specific look, feel, and style that will represent your business. You want everything to look the same, even when it’s in different formats, displaying different images, and offering different services. For example, if you write up flyers and print out business cards, chances are you want both to have the same font and the same logo. This extends to your website, which you can incorporate into your visual identity family.

Why Do Seattle Websites Need It?

Brands are trusted. Businesses are often not. Creating a recognizable, visually identifiable brand that your customers and potential customers can recognize anywhere they go is important if you want to earn and retain that trust. Branding yourself on the web allows you to establish yourself as a company with an identity. It also allows you to create a public perception of yourself through your brand imagery, using colors that the public associates with certain things, images, and graphics that suggest quality, trust, and value. It also allows you to differentiate yourself from competitors, because a good brand stands out.

How Do Seattle Business Owners Get Started?

The best place to get started is by finding a great Seattle graphic designer or web designer. You might already have an idea of how you want your website to look, but if not, a good graphic designer can help you, help you pick colors and styles that mean the right things, and ensure that everything looks great. The most important consideration is that you look at their portfolio first to make sure that you are happy with what they’ve already done. You can also check reviews, any recommendations they have, and their social pages to see what you think about the designer before you hire them.

Want to know more about how branding your business can help with building your reputation on the web? Contact Rory Martin for more information, or to get a consultation on your brand.

How to Protect Your Website From Hackers – Seattle Web Development Tips

If you have a business website then, you no doubt, worry about hackers, viruses, and other issues that could not only affect your website, but also your business reputation. This is especially important if you offer online purchases through a shopping cart. Even if you’re just starting to set up and build your site, the following tips from Seattle web developers can help to ensure that you take the right steps to protect your site. While these tips do not include coding issues, you can talk to your web development team to ensure that they are integrating security into your design.

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Use Secure Logins

While you may be tempted to use your default logins, or ‘administrator’ plus “password123″, you should usually be a bit more creative. Some hackers are nothing more than good guessers, and some use software to input commonly used password and username combinations, until they get lucky. Make sure they don’t by ensuring that your password is a string of complex numbers and letters, with special characters, and that your username is something other than your name, ‘administrator’, or similar. A good idea is to use the name of your first pet plus your school locker number or your first phone number if it’s a personal website, or a randomly generated secure hash if it’s a website that multiple people are using.

Consider Security Plugins

If you’ve gone with popular CMS like Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress, you can choose multiple security plugins to ensure that your website is as safe as possible. Options range from apps that only give you a few tries to log in until they lock you out, to those that email or text you if you’re logging in from a new location.

Don’t Integrate Third Party Flash Apps

Unless you’re using apps from a very trusted source like Google Maps, try not to integrate third party applications into your website. JavaScript and flash injection both allow hackers to insert malware into visitors computers directly from your website.

Purchase a Security Script

Buying security is a must if you want your consumers trust. Most web hosts offer security certificates, but you can also purchase them from popular antivirus companies like Symantec’s Norton. Posting these on your website tells your visitors that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. If you don’t know how to set this up, don’t be afraid to ask your developer.

HTTPS

If you’re running a store, asking for personal information, or even asking for email addresses, you should consider setting up HTTPS. This means that your site is secure, as is the connection, so that hackers cannot access the information under normal circumstances. Once again, just ask your developer.

Knowing how to protect your website is important, especially with more and more vulnerabilities found in websites. If you want to know how to protect your specific website, ask your developer, or hire them to build in more security.

How to Handle Links with Modern SEO – Seattle SEO TipS

SEO and links have always gone together, and in previous incarnations of SEO strategy, have even dramatically affected ranking. Today, links are less important, primarily because most search engines have to sort through spam and black hat techniques, which create link farms and use guest blogs for links. With that in mind, the wrong links can actually hurt your search ranking, especially on sites like Google, with complex and sophisticated ranking techniques. If you want to get started with using links to boost your ranking, these tips from local Seattle SEO marketing companies will help you with getting started.

How Do Links Help Your SEO?

Links boost your Search Engine Optimization by boosting your perceived impact. Essentially, most search engine algorithms use inbound links to decide how many people are paying attention to you, how much attention you’re getting, and how much value you’re adding. Sites with more links going to them add more value to a link going to you, while sites with more links going out then coming in add less value to your link. Essentially, it’s like playing cards for chips, whoever has the most chips wins, and whoever has the least isn’t usually given that much attention. While the system is more complicated than that, you can get the basic idea from it. Links tell search engines that other people are listening to what you have to say, and that perhaps, they should too.

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Do All Links Help?

Do all links help? Well, no. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to abuse links by ‘farming’ them, or using directories to create massive amounts of links directly to their website, to create a false appearance of influence. This is an extremely bad idea because most search engines will now penalize you for having too many links from sites that mostly have outbound links. They’ll also penalize you for putting up 15 or 20 websites and interlinking them to build your ranking. This can negatively affect your ranking, so it is important to avoid it.

Bad Ideas Include:

Paying for links

Guest Blogging for links

Using link directories

Paying for a “100% Real Google Safe Link Building Technique Skyrocket to the Top OF Search in 24 Hours” type thing.

Putting up dozens of press releases for link value

What Links Should I Have?

Valuable links come natural sources, they are relevant to your website, and people click them. A link with no clicks is a link with no value. Unless people are following your link, your website usually isn’t being benefited from it.

Good link ideas include:

News stations

Social media shares

People blogging about your services or reviewing your products

Mentions from larger websites

Features, shares, or mentions from similar websites

How do I Get Valuable Links?

A valuable link is a natural link. It is one that has been added for the benefit of the reader and not for the company. It is also on a completely relevant website or page. This might seem difficult at first, but the truth is that if you’re doing things to get links, you’re probably doing it the wrong way. Instead, try making connections, doing newsworthy items that will get you local mentions, appearing at local events and festivals, and getting yourself involved with other people. Not only will these things generate hype on and off of the Internet, they afford you the ability to build connections that are more than just a meaningless link that might not actually help you out with the next search update. You can also offer to create meaningful and relevant blog posts for similar magazines, websites, and news areas, in exchange for a company mention.

Want more help with building your search engine optimization strategy? Contact RoryMartin.com for a consultation to see what we can do for you.

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Using Instagram to Market Your Business – Seattle Social Media Tips

Instagram is one of the largest social media platforms out there, and unlike Pinterest, is incredibly mobile. With more and more users on their phones, promoting yourself on an active, mobile friendly website is becoming incredibly important. For local Seattle businesses, that can sometimes mean leaving YouTube and other slow-to-load social media sites for their desktop marketing, and moving to more tablet and phone friendly sites like snapchat and Instagram. Because Instagram is by far the more valuable for marketing, we’ll discuss how local Seattle businesses can integrate it into their marketing tactics.
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Don’t Forget to Hashtag

The hashtag is as much a part of Instagram as it is on Twitter, so don’t forget to use it. Find out which brand relevant and local hashtags you can get involved in, and try to join in. Remember not to hijack hashtags, as that wont’ get you anywhere.

Share Fun Photos

Instagram is all about photograph and short, 15 second videos. Essentially, it’s perfect for an audience with a low attention span. If they’re scrolling through their feed, you want to attract their attention enough to get them to stop, double tap, and maybe even visit your profile, before going back to their feed. What can you share? Art, style, humor, inspiration, and sales. Most businesses use Instagram as a sort of lookbook or style book, think a mobile magazine that updates constantly, instead of once a month.

Don’t Just Post Pictures

It’s easy enough to post pictures, especially if you’re in the food, fashion, or sports industry, as all of these have a huge following on Instagram. Instead, you should figure out how to get involved with your local community. Local Instagram challenges, local hashtags, and interacting with stars in the niche (I.E. Irene Papas if you sell yoga gear), can help you with promotion, gaining followers, and building your brand value.

Post Regularly

The golden rule of social media is to post often, and to do so regularly. Create a flexible posting schedule that has you putting up at least 5 photos a week, and usually closer to 10. You don’t want to spam your feed, but you also want to keep people interested and let them know you’re still there.

Watch Trends

Just like Twitter, Instagram has trending hashtags. Watch them, get on them, and sit back to see traffic coming in. You might not make any sales off of trends, but you can jump on the bandwagon and find followers that you might later turn into customers.

Don’t Forget to Reward Followers

The easiest way to convert social media followers to customers is using incentives, but you don’t want to overdo it. Taking special occasions like a business anniversary, a follower milestone (I.E. 1,000, 2,000, etc.) and turning them into giveaways can give you leverage for building your fanbase and followers. Simple “regram and tag three friends to enter + you have to follow the page” giveaways can generate a great deal of followers. You can also offer coupons and discount codes to Instagram followers to help boost their conversion into actual sales.

Don’t Pay for Followers

An Instagram follower has no value as a follower. It is just a number. Furthermore, most Instagram users are smart enough to know that if you have 10,000 followers and no likes or comments, you’re probably faking it. Avoiding the temptation of paying for fake followers builds your trust.

Interact

Take five to fifteen minutes a day to interact with your followers on Instagram. Follow people who interact with you a lot, and try not to spam anyone. A lot of people are highly active on Instagram and they will see if you’re just pasting the same comments onto everyone’s photos. Take a few minutes, make a few meaningful engagements a day, and keep building on that.

Instagram is a rapidly growing platform, and while not valuable to every business, it works well as a marketing platform for many. If you need help with Instagram or other social media management in the Seattle area, contact Rory Martin for a consultation.

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.

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