Planning Your Small Business Website For Your Budget – Seattle Web Development Tips

In an ideal world, everyone could get the exact website they wanted, and even a small business website could have custom coding, a unique content management system, built in functions and features including a webshop, contact, or menus, but the truth is, not everyone can afford it. Most Seattle small businesses have a tight budget, which means choosing your features and functions wisely, cutting corners where necessary, and planning for the best results. This does require planning, and a careful discussion with the Seattle web developer you choose, but it does mean that you can get a fully functional website within, or close to, your budget.

Cool quote posted by my friend Erin Shafkind

 

Seattle Web DesignDecide What You Need

Sitting down to discuss your website needs, wants, and options, and then narrowing them down can help you with keeping costs to a minimum. An easy example is deciding if you need menus, a webshop, or etc., and then discussing the pros and cons of each. If you have a webshop, you won’t necessarily make sales off of it, so it might be a better fit to add to your website later. Planning your features and deciding which you need now and which you can add on later can save you money, but it’s also important to ensure that you’re only getting the features you absolutely need.

Consider Existing Designs

If you want to save money, then considering a pre-built website theme with custom design and custom layout could be the way to go. In fact, this is the best option for many small businesses, because it can cut hundreds of hours of developer work off of your bill. While a custom design will still give your website the best chance of standing out, it’s not 100% necessary, especially if you’re aiming at a small local audience of people who live in the Seattle, or your suburb, area. For example, if you choose to go with a Joomla website, you can save a lot of time developing a custom backend to your site, and still get a completely unique design.

Plan For the Longest Launch Time Possible

One consideration is that if you need rushed work, you will usually be charged for it. Ask your developer what a reasonable time to launch is, and then go with that rather than trying to get your website up by a specific time. This also ensures that developers have the time they need to do everything correctly, so that your website is as functional as possible.

Combine Extra Services

Some Seattle web development companies have services for promoting your website, integrating your digital marketing or social media, and so on. These might seem like added expenses, but chances are, if you’re launching on the web,, you need them. Consider comparing costs with hiring someone separately to see how much you will save, and then plan those costs into your budget. After all, your website won’t make a return on profit if you aren’t marketing it properly.

Hiring a Seattle web development team to build your website can be challenging, but don’t go into it without asking questions. Ask for quotes, get information, and make sure you know everything before you make the hire to ensure that you know what you’re getting into. You can start by requesting more information from us here.

7 Steps to a Great Seattle Website

Deciding to launch a website, or to redesign your existing one, can be a big step, especially if you have to start from the ground up. While costs vary, you have to budget a few thousand dollars for a good Seattle web developer, so it’s important that you know what you want, and how to get there. Working with your designer, ensuring that they know what they are doing, and ensuring that they know what you want are all crucial elements of getting a site you will love. The following 7 steps will help you with getting there.

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1. Discovery, Research, and Strategy

The first step of building any website is planning and research. One of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make is putting building their website quickly ahead of any sort of brand research or targeting. Unfortunately, this is very much the wrong way to go. Take the time to do brand analysis, market targeting, and strategy based on that analysis, or choose a web developer who will do it for you. Communication strategy, primary audiences, and perception goals can all drastically change how your website should look.

2. Solid Architecture

You might not know what site architecture is, and that’s okay, your Seattle web designer will. What you need is to plan in solid site architecture, including backend, and great copywriting. This means search optimized, clear calls to action, and enough user oriented design that readers are guided clearly down the page to wherever you want them to go.

3. Design

Your actual web design is incredibly important because it affects your brand image and perception. A busy, flashy website might seem tempting, but studies show that simplicity and clean website design is much more effective. You’ll also have to consider your target audience in the design. For example, if you sell hearing aids or glasses, you’ll want large, clear text that’s easy to read for those with sight problems. The size and number of images, site design, menus, colors, and impression are also important. Generally, if you can go on the page and not find what you’re looking for in three seconds, it’s probably too busy.

4. Development

Whether you’re going with an existing content management system or want a custom one, you need great web development. Your development team should be able to build an interface that allows you to achieve anything you want (such as flash, interactive menus, etc.), but also that resizes based on phones and browsers, displays properly on different browsers, and allows you full functionality.

5. Stage 2 of Development and Design

You’re probably going to want a few adjustments to the initial design and development, so that should be considered as part of the process. Make sure you plan in going over the website and making changes, but make sure that you outline what you want, and why you want it as clearly as possible, so that your developer knows what to do.

6. Launch

Your website launch is important, and if you plan it correctly, you should already have a fair amount of hype for your site before it goes live. Some Seattle web developers will help you with marketing your site before it goes live, but make sure that you’ve budgeted for the extra cost if so.

7. Maintenance

If you want updates, new features, new designs, or just to ensure continued functionality, you will need the occasional update. While you don’t have to keep your web developer on the payroll, you should ensure that they’re willing to do updates from time to time, or even schedule regular maintenance to ensure that everything is going as it should be.

Hiring a Seattle web developer is a big step, but you do want to make sure that they offer help through every step, including planning, brand analysis, strategy, and maintenance after launch.

5 Search Principles for Your Seattle SEO Strategy

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is one of the most popular and most recognized forms of internet marketing other than PCP, but many businesses fail to utilize it correctly. While SEO requires a lot of expertise to fully master, you can get by with the basics, so long as you utilize them correctly. If you’re just getting started with your SEO campaign, you should consider hiring a Seattle SEO company to help you with the strategy and planning, but the following five principles will get you started.

Keywords

Everyone knows that keywords are important for SEO, and that couldn’t be more true, especially if you’re trying to do localized Seattle targeting. Long tail keywords, mentioning your city, neighborhood, and even street can all help you come up in specific searches for local businesses, which is highly beneficial for small and medium businesses. The most important thing to do is research your keywords, make sure you integrate them without being spammy, and use them as naturally as possible.

Quality Content

Several search engines including Google and Yahoo now value quality, informative content as part of their search algorithm. They judge this by how well your content answers questions, as well as how long people stay on the page, whether or not they backspace and visit another page, and so on. Essentially, it is in your best interest to provide quality content that keeps visitors on your page for as long as possible.

Meta Data

Some meta data has been overused and used for spam, so you do want to be careful with it. However, meta descriptions and meta headers have value not only in that Google sees them, but also in that searchers see them. When you have a header that is too long for search, visitors see a cut off snippet of it in search. When you don’t have a meta description, they see the opening lines of your content. Creating an informative summary of your content, and a short, catchy title will help with boosting clicks. You also want both to summarize what your content is about, and use keywords for Google.

Backlinks

Backlinks are another SEO technique that has been spammed and must, therefore, be approached with caution, but it’s still one of the most valuable tactics you can utilize for long-term results. Search engines use backlinks, or links from one site to another, as votes to see how important the website is. Therefore, the more of them you have, the better your site will rank in search. However, links have to add value, be natural, and hopefully come from websites that have their own influence and ranking.

Image Tags

Image tags affect your search ranking by allowing images to come up in search, telling Google that you have relevant images in your post, and allowing users to find you based on image searches. This can be especially valuable if you have products, because you can tag them with appropriate short and long-term keywords, write a description that tells searchers what it is, and get traffic based on users looking for inspiration on the product you are selling.

There are over 200 different SEO principles and considerations, and you have to consider them all if you want to rank a larger business in the long-term. A Seattle SEO company can help with ensuring that you are on the right track by performing an audit, helping with your SEO strategy, and helping with implementation if you need it. To learn more, contact Rory Martin for details.

Using Social Media to Reach Millennials – Seattle Social Media Tips

Millennials may be regarded as the ‘future’ of the Seattle market, but research and statistics show that they already make up a great deal in terms of purchase power and influence. Nationwide, millennials have some $200 billion in purchasing power, which is nothing to ignore. More importantly, while they’re difficult to reach through traditional marketing venues like ads, generation Y is extremely active on social media, and open to brands who want to engage. If you’re a Seattle business, here’s what local Seattle social media experts have to say about connecting with millennials via your pages.

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Be Authentic

Studies by the Boston Consulting Group show that most millennials value authenticity over any pitch or marketing gimmick. Unlike generation X, millennials want to see brands who consistently stick to the same ethics, and preferably who’s morals and behaviors mirror their own beliefs. While not always possible, being authentic is essential

Solve Problems

It’s not enough to share your products or even just funny articles and photos on your social media, you also have to solve problems. Whether that’s campaigning for social justice, helping with problems that millennials face, offering tips and advice, or a combination of all three is up to you. Millennials respond to social media that offers real value, interact more, drive up engagement, and then remember you more when they need something. This shows most often when you engage with and help consumers solve problems with your own products or services, and then watch as they turn into customers.

Don’t Share Content to Be Viral

No content is born viral. Sharing things with catchy titles but poor content is no longer enough to guarantee views, money, or sales. Instead, make sure that everything you share is relevant, interesting, or useful. If it’s not one of those things, it shouldn’t matter how shareable it is.

Customer Support

A study interviewing over 1,000 millennials showed that one of the things they value most about a business is availability and quality customer support. This means that not only do you have to be highly responsive (as in, the faster your reply to messages, the better), you also have to be polite, professional, and informative. Even if consumers aren’t exactly helpful or polite, you should always be as professional as possible when replying to them. You’ll also want to set aside at least two or three times during the day to respond to social media questions, or download apps for your social pages and try replying as quickly as possible during your day. Because many social media patrons are researching businesses they are planning to visit, this can benefit you even if you’re a brick and mortar Seattle business.

Personalize and Customize

One on one is the new trend, for both marketing and customer support. Personalizing your responses, making sure that every customer asking something receives individual attention, and giving everyone a good experience is extremely important, especially in today’s age where peer reviews mean more than expert ones. Taking the time to offer a personal experience means that customers will feel more important, even if that personal experience is just you replying to them on their comments on your Google + page.

If you don’t have time to handle the time consuming task of using social media to market to millennials, a Seattle social media company like Rory Martin can take care of the details for you, so you just have to worry about your real life customers.

What is Flat Design? Seattle Web Design

What is Flat Design? Seattle Web Design

Flat web design is something of this season’s hip new trend, but by all appearances, it’s here to stay, and for good reason. Flat web design is rooted in some of the best web design elements, combining simplicity with clean lines, simple fonts, and minimalist design to create web design that really stands out, even when multiple websites use similar design. Flat design combines elements of visual style with simplicity to create the illusion of 3D while retaining simplicity. If you want to get in on the trend, your design needs the following features.

Simple Typography

Your typography says a lot about who you are, but a simple, plain, and easy to read font says more than the most interesting font in the world. Helvetica and Sans Serif are very popular fonts for this, but they are by no means the only option.

Shadows and Illusions of Depth

Flat design usually has an illusion of depth or 3-dimensional structure, so you need shadows, illusions, and lines that create depth wherever possible. This is fairly simple in theory, but you do need a designer who knows what they are doing in order to pull the look off.

Transparent, Interactive Design

Transparent but interactive design is one of the biggest and coolest themes you will find in transparent design. This often translates into translucent or opaque menus and buttons that allow you to see the button and press it, but also see through it, so that it looks more like part of the site rather than an ugly button. When used with buttons, it’s known as a ghost button, but it also works with menus and other text holders that would otherwise be quite intrusive.

Minimalism

A minimal design, complete with large graphics and plenty of blank space would have been rare ten years ago, but today, simplicity is in. Flat design incorporates minimalistic styles, imagery, and design, uses large graphics and lots of space, to create a site that is easy to take in, simple, and not overly complicated. Because simplicity vastly affects user experience, this can also boost your customer’s satisfaction with the site, as well as the design quality.

Flat design is rapidly evolving to fit new parameters, and often moving outside of the box or format that the first flat websites used. This allows you to create something truly unique, that stands out from other sites, while integrating a beautiful and popular design style.

Almost-Flat design, or Flat 2.0 is a little bit more complex, offers more flare, and is a good alternative if you’re not completely into minimalism, but still want simple with a touch of 3D. Flat 2.0 integrates many of the features of flat design, but allows you to fit in more content and more design. Because flat is not all or nothing, you can also choose to integrate elements that you find appealing, while sticking with more traditional web design options for other parts of your site.

Contact Rory Martin, a Seattle web developer, for a consultation or quote for developing your website.

How Important Is User Testing? Seattle Web Development

If you’re hiring a Seattle web development team to build your website, then you should be considering user testing. If you’re only planning on having a one or two page website for your marketing, then it isn’t as important, otherwise user testing can affect your website and it’s impact in a variety of ways. If you have a good web development team, they should actually ask you about it and include it in the fee, and the following reasons include why.

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UX – UX is the buzzword in development and design right now and for good reason. User experience is incredibly important, if the customer isn’t happy, you don’t make sales, or at least not as many sales. Getting user testing allows you to ensure that the website is fully functional, easy to use, and that it makes sense to the customer before you put it in front of actual customers.

Bug Check – Developers can check for bugs all day, but nothing is quite as good at finding issues like a fresh pair of eyes. This is the same reason that many game developers now host open betas. Not only do end users have an easier time finding bugs because they aren’t familiar with the website, they’re also using it like a customer would, which is something that you most likely won’t be able to do.

User Based Recommendations – You might think your website is perfect, your developer might think it is perfect, but without the end user thinking it is perfect, it isn’t. User testing ensures that the website makes sense, works, and looks good to people who will actually be working with it, so it is important if you want it to be user friendly. This applies to design, graphics, written content, and development decisions like menus. It also helps you with getting out of the box of your own creativity to see how it looks from someone else’s point of view.

Comprehension Check – Many website users might not have the same education, life views, or language level as the people creating your website. Having normal people use your website to test it out ensures that the website makes sense, on a design and development level, as well as a language and graphic level. Ensuring that they fully understand the website is very important because comprehension does affect your sales

User testing can be a hassle, especially if you have a large and complicated website, but the more you expect people to be on your website, the more important it is. If you have a store, you should have 4-6 or more people testing your website. If you have a very large store, you should aim for more. If it’s a smaller website, such as a restaurant page, you can usually get away with a smaller test group.

If you want to know more about how user testing works at local Seattle web development companies, contact Rory Martin for more information, or for a consultation.

How to Optimize Your Off Page SEO – Seattle SEO Tips

SEO is a very complicated process, and optimizing your website for search might seem a bit akin to making a magic potion if you’re not getting help from professionals. However, the basics are relatively easy to understand, and one of those basics is off page SEO. If you’ve learned how to optimize your own web page for search using keywords, content, quality, descriptions, web page structure, and so on. Off page SEO is another thing entirely, and there are a number of do’s and don’ts for Seattle businesses on the web. The following tips from local Seattle SEO companies should help you with improving your off page optimization.

Don’ts for Off Page SEO

SEO has changed a lot in the past few years, and while more and more algorithm points are added to Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines, many others are taken out. Google uses over 200 factors in their ranking, and over 2,000 subfactors, so it’s impossible to influence them all. In fact, most people go wrong with SEO by trying to influence their off page SEO, when they should mostly be leaving it alone. The following don’ts should be avoided.

Guest Blog For Links – If you’re putting up guest blogs linking back to your site, don’t. Links from external websites can be valuable to you, but they can also hurt your optimization. You also don’t want to ask for reciprocal links, as these can also hurt you.

Use Directories – Some people will tell you to publish your website in numerous directories with links back to your page. This is not a good idea. Consider adding your website with links to your social pages, Yelp,  and the Better Business Bureau.

Comment Farm – If you’re commenting or paying someone to comment on other people’s blogs with links back to your site, it is a waste of time.

Post Duplicate Content – Some marketers still follow an old and very outdated policy of posting different versions of the same content on multiple sites, using snippets from an article as an article on another site to direct traffic, and otherwise creating duplicate content. This can hurt your SEO.

Use Press Releases for Links – You should only post press releases to try to get media coverage, not for links.

Essentially, any time you’re using articles, content, blog posts, YouTube videos, press releases,

Do’s for Off Page SEO

Off Page SEO is essentially any SEO done off of your website, so by nature, it is mostly beyond your control. The following points are items you can do to help boost your off page SEO.

Build Relationships – Building networks and creating relationships in your niche, with local neighborhood businesses, and with local companies allows you to build more than just links, but you might get the links anyway.

Share on Social Media – Social media is a big thing in SEO, so you should make sure you’re sharing and sharing regularly. Creating valuable, sharable content that other people will love and post as well adds to the value. Social links and signals don’t count for much individually, but the more active your social profiles and activity on your links, the better your off page SEO.

Running a good SEO campaign requires a balance between careful on-site SEO and careful off-site quality control and monitoring. If you want to make sure that you’re getting it right, consider hiring a professional Seattle SEO company to help you with the details.

How Seattle Businesses Can Use Pinterest For Marketing – Seattle Social Media Marketing

Pinterest is one of the most popular websites in the world, and in fact, ranks #3 for most used social media sites. While that is bound to change, as usage frequently fluctuates for social media, it is still something to consider when you get started with your social media campaign. For Seattle users, deciding whether or not to use Pinterest as part of your social marketing campaign should depend on your target demographic and primary consumer base, as Pinterest has several sets of very specific types of users. Knowing who to market to, how to do it, and how to use the platform can help you with boosting your visibility on the web, increasing sales, and creating positive ROI from your time spent on the platform.

Target Your Demographic

Knowing who you are creating pins for can help you with creating successful imagery, boards, and ideas to market to them. Identify your target demographic, find out what they share, what they like, and what they love, and then integrate yourself into that niche. Simply pinning photos of your products is rarely enough, unless you’re running a bakery or a nice restaurant. Find out how to market your products with attractive imagery before you attempt the platform.

Create Sales Not Memes

While you could spend your time pinning funny photos and memes, you can also use Pinterest’s for business function. Businesses can now place “buy”, links back to their website, and prices directly on the pin. This allows you to create style shoots for products, pin them, and then create direct ROI as pinners who want the item visit your site. If you add in a small discount code on your website, you can boost chances of converting them even further.

Use Group Boards

Group boards should be used with caution, but they should still be used. The first thing to watch out for is that you don’t want to waste your time on a group board that primarily has other businesses sharing on it. They won’t buy anything and you won’t gain anything but fake hype from it. Instead, look for currently active boards that people are pinning from your niche into. You want groups with at least several hundred users. You also want to make sure that all of your pins are highly relevant to the board.

Promote Yourself Locally

Most people aren’t aware that promoting yourself locally can help you with sales, but if you have a Seattle business, then you want to say that to your demographic. Whether you’re creating boards with names like “Seattle bakery” or a board with imagery from the street your business is on, you can get involved with the local online scene from your area, which will, in turn, help to boost local, offline sales.

Use Boards and Pins in Blogs

Pinterest allows you to share and embed boards as well as pins, which allows you the unique opportunity to cross promote your blogs and your boards on each platform. Pinning images from your blog and then putting them directly in your blog post allows you to create a “pin it to read later’ function, so that users can pin your blog photo, and then get the link from the pin. You can also put Pinterest boards directly in your blog posts for cross promoting and growing your Pinterest.

If you have a Seattle social media marketer, they can help you with identifying your demographic, creating a marketing plan, and then implementing it to create ROI for your business. If you want to know how it works, contact Rory Martin for more information.

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.

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