Finding The Right Website Designer
So you need a website built, afterall we are in the Internet age and you have put it off for as long as you dare. Now you need a website designer. You recognize that in order to be competitive in your industry you need an online presence, but you don’t know where to begin. The first thing you do is go online to Google or Yahoo, or maybe Bing is your search engine of choice. Next you type in three words that may shape the way you do business for a very long time. What are those three words? Website Designer Friendswood (or whatever location you are in). Next you are faced with several decisions. Which website designer should I go to first? What do I look for in a website designer? How much is all of this going to cost? How long will it take the website designer to finish my project? The list of questions go on and on. Finally you pick a website designer and explore their website. You look at their portfolio and give them a call. What happens next will have an impact on your business and how your clients see you online. In this article, we hope to provide you with some useful information that you need to consider before hiring a web designer. It is our hopes that the information will give us credibility in your eyes and that you would allow us to earn your business. Either way, this information will be helpful to you so that you can ask the right questions for whoever becomes your website developer.
Building A Website Aimed At Consumers
If you have ever had a class in marketing, have been in business for any length of time, or purchased something (which includes just about all of us), you understand that there are different stages in the buying cycle. Consumers are influenced by various mediums of marketing depending on where they are in this buying cycle. Having an understanding of what motivates consumers and applying this knowledge to an effective website can make a difference in whether or not you get the business. So lets explore the various kinds of consumers and see which mediums of advertising can emulated and applied to your website so that you can capture your fair share of the market. Your website designer should have a general understanding of these types of consumers.
The next kind of consumer that businesses are impacted by is the Apathetic -or- Passively Engaged Consumer. This type of consumer is in the part of the buying cycle where they are doing their homework. In the car business it is called “kicking tires” or commonly referred to as shopping around. In this research phase of the buying cycle clients are building their awareness and exploring cost and benefits. They are in no rush to buy but if the right deal comes along they will be all over it. These kinds of consumers can be prompted to buy with a really good offer. Usually a direct mail piece, or an ad in the local paper will stand out to them if it is something that they are planning to buy in the near future. In fact, your offer can make the difference between them filing your ad under “T” for trash or keeping for future reference. Either way, the best way to reach this kind of consumer is by using a strong offer, reaching a large audience through circulation, and consistently putting your message and offer out there for them to see. One example might be the Houston Chronicle Sunday Paper. It is loaded with coupons and advertisers. Since they have a pretty good circulation, having your ad appear consistently month-in-month-out can improve your chances of getting in front of the consumer when they are more likely ready to make a purchase.
The last, and ideal kind of consumer is the Ready-to-Buy Consumer -or- Actively Engaged Consumer. This kind of consumer is just that, “ready to buy.” They will literally have a credit card in one hand and a phone in the other. Being in front of this kind of consumer when they are ready to make the call is where you want to be. We understand that statistically speaking, 86% of all consumers begin a search for a product or service online. But what is more interesting to us how the consumer conducts an online search. Let’s look at the automobile industry for example. Did you know that when a consumer goes to Google.com and types in, Year, Make, Model, and Geography, that they are within 30 days of buying a vehicle? Here is a challenge for you. Open a new window on your computer and go to Google. Type in Jeep Wrangler and look at the search engine results. What you will likely notice is listings for the manufacturers website (www.jeep.com) along with some national car selling companies like www.everycarlisted.com, www.cars.com, www.edmunds.com, etc… Now do another search, but this time include the year, the model and a geographical reference (ex. 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Clear Lake TX). Now what you will notice is that Google has offered sites that are local, like franchise and independent dealers like JeepPowerHouse.com. By the simple choice of search terms Google has identified the consumer as someone who will most likely buy a vehicle within the month! Now you are probably not a car dealer, so what does this have to do with you? The fact is that ready to buy consumers are actively engaged and searching online for what they need. Being online and front of them when they are making a purchase is critical to your online success. So your choice of keywords, which we will discuss next, should be aimed at this kind of consumer.
The trick is to use your website in such a way that you can employ the best of all kinds of advertising to reach your potential clients no matter where they are in the buying cycle. How do you make a website that stands out like a billboard, reads like a newspaper, and is on the top of the search engines when ready to buy consumers are online? Simple…hire Adwebvertising to design your website. Yes, that was a shameless plug. But let’s talk about keywords and content.
Having Fun Creating Your Website
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in any website design is the development of timely and relevantcontent. The words you choose to paint a picture of your product or service will have an impact on how well your message is recieved by both your potential clients as well as the major search engines. Keep in mind that your content needs to contain elements that make it friendly for your readers but of equal importance, you want your content to be friendly to Google and the other search engines. One thing that we often tell our clients is to research their choice of keywords before beginning the writing process. Look for those “buying keyword”, the keywords that translate into conversions. In the example above we used Year, Make, Model, and Geography in combination to create our buying keyword phrase. You industry will be unique. There are a number of online tools that you can use to check the popularity of certain keywords. Use these tools to your advantage. If you are hiring a web development company, ask your website designer how they determine which keywords are best to use.
Armed with a good solid list of quality keywords have some fun writing your content. If you aren’t having fun writing your content, it will be evident to your readers. If you take the approach that you are excited about your business, product, or service, this will exude through your content as well. Using your list of keywords, start sprinkling your keywords throughout your content where appropriate (making sure that your keywords flow). You don’t want to stuff your keywords either. Not only will this get you penalized by the search engines, but it will prove to be a difficult read for your potential clients. If you use your main keyword a few times and some variations of your keywords then you will have a good keyword density that will give you the kind of quality score you need to climb in the ranks. But more importantly, you will have fun doing it and the finished product will be user-friendly.
One thing that you need to keep in mind is that Google and the other search engines aren’t so concerned with you the business owner, or me the website designer, as they are with Joe Websurfer who is sitting at home typing in the keywords. Sites like Google have gained their popularity by delivering good content to the end-user. Your main goal in your site design is to be the provider of that good content. If you already have a website, you can still employ the practices above to help you get better ranking on the search engines. Adwebvertising offers a wordsmith suite that does exactly that.
Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization
You will likely hear these terms if you have not already. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). What do they mean and what is the difference. Simply put SEM is pay-per-click advertising, and SEO is free. SEM is a short-term strategy with instant results, where SEO is a long-term strategy with lasting results. If you have been on the search engines and seen the ads at the top of the page (usually the first three ads) or the ads on the right side of the page, you have seen the effective results of search engine marketing. You might say, “Well, I never click on those ads.” And maybe you don’t. The fact is that a large portion of the population is just like you. But then again, a large portion of the population will click on the paid ads. Google has got ad placement down to a science. If you are looking for a vacuum belt, and you click on the PPC ads, you are not going to find a website about the tragic death of Whitney Houston. Generally, you are going to find what you are looking for from a local advertiser that is serious enough about their offering to pay to get your attention.
Search engine marketing or PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is done in a manner similar to an auction, where advertisisers bid on the keywords their potential clients will likely use. Depending on your verticle or industry the CPC (cost-per-click) will vary for a page-one listing. Ultimately though, a good campaign manager will be able to use their experience and best practices to get you the highest possible position at the lowes possible cost. We are often asked about competitors clicking away your budget. Google has an answer to that as well. Click-fraud is something that Google takes very seriously, and so every click on your ad is recorded, along with the IP Adress of the user who clicks the ad. Only one click per IP per reporting period counts with Google. So, your competitor could waste an entire day clicking your ads but all they will effectively get is the fact that your website looks better than theirs rubbed in their faces every time they click!
Search engine optimization is the listings under the sponsored, PPC ads. These are often called organic placement ads. In search engine optimization the web developer will build the code of your website in such a way that it is search engine friendly. Companies like Adwebvertising, that design to standards that are W3C compliant, understand that there are elements of a website design that are necessary to onsite optimization. Some common best practices a website designer employs include: unique, keyword rich, title tags, keyword rich description tags, fast page downloads and so much more. These are referred to as onsite optimizations. Ask us about some of the best practices that we employ in all of our designs. The next, and perhaps most important form of optimization comes in the form of offsite optimizations. This is where having a website designer that is also a marketer comes in handy. Offsite optimizations center around building quality links back to your website from other websites that have authority online. Having a link to your website from an respected website in your industry is golden to your offsite optimization efforts. It would be like owning a shoe store and then having Nike link back to your website! The more the percieved authority the better your overall quality score. The better your overall quality score the higher your organic rankings. Make sense? It is like rocket surgery and brain science right?
Well, it is true that you have to have some experience in marketing and design to effectively place on the search engines, but if you keep the golden rule of optimization in the forefront of your mind you will likely get good results, even if by accident. The golden rule is: USE TIMELY, RELEVANT, CONTENT. In the world of Internet advertising, “Content is king!” So keep that in mind when you hire a website designer.
Website Functionality & Design:
A good website designer will tell you that having a website that can be found on the search engines is fantastic, but when you get your client on your website you want them to stay, and more importantly, you want them to buy! A lot of split-second decisions are made by the end-user when they land on your website. The layout of your website is very important and can impact how long they stay on your website, or whether or not they stay for that matter. You want your website to be aesthetically appealing, easy to navigate and fully functional. If you website does not meet this criteria you will have a hard time convincing your clients to buy from you. We recommend keeping all of your important information “above the fold.” In other words, you don’t want your clients to have to scroll down to see the main content of your website, your call to action, or your contact information. These are all important facets of the site design. If you take a look at our article on the Google Golden Triangle, you will see the importance of having your call to action on certain parts of your page.
If your site is aesthetically pleasing it can make up for a lack of content to a degree. But aesthetics are also mood creators. Marketers for decades have understood that color influences mood. Researchers have proven that the eyes will respond to certain stimuli better than others. This combination between color and layout will set the tone for the rest of your clients stay on your website. It may promote or curb a buying decision. What about the personality of the end-user. Well, then there is that too. The point is you will not find a website that is attractive to everyone, all of the time, but you can make a website that is conservative enough to offer stability through good placement of web elements, yet wild enough to offer the “WOW” factor. The best suggestion that we can make for you is to look at your designers portfolio and see the quality of the site designs they have offered. If your website designer doesn’t have an online portfolio, ask them to see some of their work. Verify that it is their work. A successful website designer will put a link on their clients websites that link back to their own website. It is kind of like the artists signature on a nice painting.
Your navigational structure is equally important. The orientation of your navigation links (whether vertical, horizontal or both) is not as critical as the content your links contain. The key to good navigation is offering a succinct description of the pages on your site so that your clients can find what they are looking for with relative ease. Having a large number of links to various pages on your site can be effective by using drop-down menus. You want to make sure that the links are organized in an intuitive manner. For example if you sell pizzas online you would want all of your crust types under crust types sub-navigation. You wouldn’t want to put drinks and toppings under the same sub-menu. Sounds like common sense right? Well what about sites that have hundreds of pages? Yes, there are sites with hundreds of pages. All the more reason to make your linking structure intuitive and organized. Take a look at how your website designer organizes the link structure on other sites in their portfolio. But be wary if the converstaion of link structure and navigation is not addressed with careful attention when you meet to interview your developer.
Now, while this should go without saying, your website should be fully functional. Having links that go nowhere don’t do your website quality score any good, or your clients any good. Put simply, broken links are BAD. Getting an error message on a broken link, or seeing a broken widget, or function of your sites overall functionality can cause site abandonment. On the positive side, quality site functionality enhances the end-user experience and does not over stimulate your clients. Your desire should be to make your clients experience, memorable, enjoyable, mentionalble and repeatable! A good website designer will check all of these issues before going live.
Scratching The Surface
We hope that this article has been useful to you so far, but we have only scratched the surface and we are only 3000 or so words into it. I have had clients describe our meetings as drinking good water from a fire hydrant. Those are some of our best clients now! What we hope for you is that your choice of a website designer will inspiring. Your meetings should elicit creativity while focusing on the essentials of website development. Above all, it should be a fun and rewarding experience. Now, that you have tasted a little bit of level of detail that we expect from ourselves, do you feel confident enough to give Adwebvertising a shot at your business?
Give us a call today!