Engage Your Audience. That's What We’re Here For.

Blog

How to secure your email and social accounts with 2-step verification

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Doing business in the age of cloud computing and digital communications is awesome. We have tools that allow us to reduce or eliminate paper clutter, collaborate more effectively, and get more done than ever before.

However, with great convenience comes great peril (er... or something). All these tools and communication methods also open up new ways for our security to be compromised. Email accounts, social media accounts, and other online profiles are hacked every day.

For a chilling example of this, go read Matt Honan's description of his experience with a hacker who wiped out his entire digital life. Seriously, read the entire thing. It will freak you out.

Most of these intrusions are preventable. By using strong passwords and a little common sense, you can keep your data relatively safe.

One of the best ways to add a layer of security to your accounts is to take advantage of 2-step verification.

2-step verification is available from many leading email providers and social networks. This tutorial will guide you through how to set it up with Google Apps (or Gmail), Facebook, and Twitter.

Email (via Google Apps or Gmail)

Let's start with Google Apps. You are using Google Apps in your business, right? Note that these instructions apply to both Google Apps (for business) and standard Gmail (for personal use).

Note to Google Apps administrators: before your users can enable 2-step authentication, you will need to enable it in "Manage this Domain -> Settings -> Security." Once you've done that, your organization is ready for 2-step verification and your users can follow the instructions below. Here they are...

The first step is to log into your account and go to your settings, found under the gear icon.

settings

This will bring you to your settings screen. Choose the "Accounts" tab and then click on "Google Account Settings" to go to your account settings.

account

You will now be taken to a screen where you can manage settings for your Google Account (which controls more than just your email). Look in the lower right and click on "Manage security" under the Password section.

manage security

Now look under the section that says "Recovery options" and edit this section. You'll want to add a recovery email address and your cell phone number to this section.

recovery options

Next, under "Notifications," you'll want to verify your cell phone number and have it send you a text message as a test.

notifications

I would also recommend setting your account to notify you by phone (text message) of any suspicious activity.

alerts

Now, go to the 2-step verification section and edit this. By default, it is set to OFF.

2-step status

Set it to ON and you're all set. You have now activated 2-step verification. Whew! That wasn't so bad, was it?

2-step on

You will also be given a link to set up application-specific passwords, like your iPhone, iPad, or desktop mail applications. Go through this step to create passwords for these apps since they cannot handle the 2-step veritication process.

So how does this work? Now, any time you (or anyone) tries to log into your account from an unknown device, a text message will be sent to your phone with a verification code. This code must be entered before you can log in. This means that even if someon gets access to your password, they cannot log in unless they also have access to your phone. Pretty neat, huh? Very secure.

Facebook

Facebook also allows you to turn on 2-step verification. Start by going to your settings and choosing "Account Settings."

FB account settings

Then go to the "Security" tab to view your security settings. From here, edit "Login Approvals."

FB security

Now you will be able to set up 2-step verification with your cell phone. When prompted for my cell phone type, I chose "Other" so it would simply send me a text message rather than make me reply using the Facebook app. This is simply a personal preference but it seemed more straightforward to me.

FB login approvals

Now, just like your Google Account, a verification code will be sent to your phone whenever a login is attempted from an unknown device. This code will have to be entered before you can log in.

Twitter

By now, you're a pro at this so you should have no problem setting up 2-step verification on your Twitter account. Go to your settings and enable it there.

twitter 2-step

Naturally, you'll need to make sure your cell phone number is on file.

Conclusion

I'm really pleased that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are offering 2-step verification and I hope more online services follow suit. If you're worried about online privacy and security, take a few minutes to secure your accounts.

Bonus: if you're a Google Apps administrator, you can require that all employees in your organization use 2-step verification. This is probably a great move to ensure organization-wide security.

Please share this with everyone you know so that we can help others prevent unnecssary intrusions.

5 common (and costly) industrial website mistakes that drive customers away

Posted by: in General on Friday, June 28, 2013

At SpinWeb, we work with a lot of manufacturing and industrial clients and we've developed a reputation for expertise in this area. One of our clients, Chris Theisen from FlexPAC, had a great idea: let's unlock some of that knowledge and help our industrial clients gain some insight into how to utilize their websites better.

We presented a joint webinar on the topic and it was a smashing success. We also wanted to make it available to everyone so here it is for viewing on-demand. The transcript is also below. Enjoy!

 

 Michael Reynolds: I'm joined by Chris Theisen today and we are so happy to be here today presenting a webinar for Industrial Manufacturing Organizations called Five Common and Costly Industrial Website Mistakes That Drive Customers Away.

We've had a lot of fun putting this together. FlexPAC is a client of SpinWeb and we've worked closely with Chris who is the Director of Visual Communication there.

Chris had a great idea that we partner together to put this together to present to you our industrial manufacturing clients to help them kind of get a sense of what to think about and what to watch out for when using their website as a marketing tool. I really appreciate that Chris.

I'll introduce myself and then let Chris talk a little bit about his background. Then we'll get started.

Little bit about me. My speaking site is michaelreynolds.com. I put a lot of resources there. Company site is spinweb.net. I'm really easy to find on Twitter, very active there. My Twitter handle is @michaelreynolds. I'm the CEO of SpinWeb. I blog, I speak. I'm kind of a productivity nerd, as well. Those are the things I like to talk about. I speak for various conferences around the country as well as you can see there.

Fun fact about me, some hobbies of mine, I play tennis and I love sushi. Those two know me pretty well know that I'm a big sushi fan and I'm always happy to meet up for lunch in a sushi place.

That is a little bit about me. I'm super easy to find. Get my contact information there and I'll put it at the end on screen, as well. But send me a shout anytime.

With that, I'll ask Chris to jump in and tell you little bit about himself, as well.

Chris Theisen: Thanks, Michael, appreciate putting us on today. As Michael said, I work for FlexPAC, a SpinWeb client and you'll see some screenshots of the work SpinWeb's done for us later on.

Blogger, marketer, all around online social media, digital communications nerd. You can see our company website up there at the top and my Twitter handle, if you are so inclined to send me a Tweet, love to interact with you there.

A little tidbit Michael put up there. I was honorary command chief of the 434th up at Grissom Air Reserve Base, got to do a lot of great behind the scenes things and learn a lot about our military up there. It's kind of a cool little distinction I gained last year.

Just a quick background on the actual webinar. Throughout my daily travels here at FlexPAC, I get to visit quite a few of our customers' and prospects' websites and noticed a theme of a lot of antiquated websites and web presences that didn't really match the company from the standpoint of I knew what they did. They just need to get a little bit more updated, a little bit more of-the-times, and it's not a very daunting task.

I know websites scare people, and they sound really expensive. It's a big, bad thing to some of these industrial or manufacturing companies that think, because they don't have an e-commerce solution, they don't need a new website. We're going to give you some insights on why we feel new Web presences are important and give you some background on what SpinWeb's done for us and then some of the things that we've seen from our new website.

Michael: Thanks, Chris, appreciate it. Like Chris mentioned, we're super-excited to be here. One thing that we specialize in at SpinWeb is websites for manufacturing and industrial clients. We have a number of great organizations in those industries, and we've really enjoyed helping them with their websites and marketing efforts. That is a specialty of ours.

We also love questions, both of us, so don't be shy about asking questions throughout the presentation. You're welcome to wait till the end if you want to store them up, but I also love questions throughout. If we hit on a topic that you'd like to touch on a bit or or dig deeper or just follow up with a question on, go ahead and pop them in the question box. Chris and I are both going to monitor that, and we will bring those up as we go if you type them in there, and we'd love to address any questions you have along the way.

With that, let's go ahead and kick things off here. First off, I wanted to display the FlexPAC website here. It's at flexp.com. Obviously, we designed this. We really are very quite proud of it. Chris is hopefully quite proud of it as well. He's given us great feedback. He's going to tell some stories a little bit later on here along the way. With each topic, I'm going to ask Chris to jump in with his story from FlexPAC as well.

Let's just first start off the conversation with understanding that your website for your company is home base. The reason I say "home base" is really because we have a lot of tools at our disposal today, a lot of networks, a lot of resources. We have social media. There's so many different networks available online in social media. We have blogs. We have articles. We have video. We have micro-networks, like Vine and Instagram, that are focused on just photo or video.

We have so many different ways to communicate, and so a lot of people will get confused, a lot of marketers within these organizations saying, "Where do I start? What do I do? What am I supposed to do? What's my marketing strategy look like with all these tools?"

Really, your website is your home base for everything about your company, and I like to think of all those other tools as outposts. Those are really splash points and satellite outposts, where you can develop communities and develop conversations, and then the idea is that you want to point people always back to your home base at some point. Whether it's initially or whether it's five touches down the road, at some point, you want to bring them back to your home base, where the real questions get answered and where the real transactions happen. Whether it's picking up the phone and calling or filling out a form or doing research, that really happens on your home base.

It's awesome to use outposts like social media as satellite entities to develop communities, but you want to always think of that hub as your website. Your website is that home base, that hub where the all action happens.

Let's jump to what I call mistake number one. "Mistake" might be kind of a harsh word, but I do think of them as high-priority, so I do think it's a mistake to ignore these things.

One of those things is underestimating the importance of design. I see, and Chris has shared this with me as well, that we both see a lot of industrial websites that, they may function well, they may have the right tools, but they are lacking in design. Some people say, "Well, why does that matter? We just want to offer the right information and we're done."

It really does matter, and there's data supporting this. Some of the data points to the amount of time that people spend making span judgments about a site's overall appearance -- and really, it's about 50 milliseconds. That is just a spark, just a real quick snapshot of how long it takes to immediately judge how aesthetically pleasing, incredible a website is.

That's really not a lot of time. Really, as soon as they view it, it's over. They've already made their decision. Why that matters is that it really affects how your audience views your organization. For example, a lot of people look at the aesthetics of a website and they say, "Well, if the site is not professionally designed, it's not well-crafted, it doesn't look like it's really well put together, or really much of an investment made in the craftsmanship of it, what else is this company skimping on? Are they skimping on customer privacy? Are they skimping on security? Are they skimping on quality of product?" Those questions start to come up in your audience's mind.

This is why design is a really high priority. Things like quality of photography, things like well-planned layouts, things like current, modern design practices -- these all really affect credibility of your organization. Whether you're seeing it or not, people are viewing you that way.

I wanted to pass it back to Chris briefly, just to touch on his story. He actually wrote a couple guests posts for us at SpinWeb, and both of those guest blogs really touched on some experiences he had with design credibility and how it supported his sales team, both before and after the redesign of his website.

Chris, I'd love to hear your feedback on how design has affected FlexPAC.

Chris: Sure. As you can see, this is our updated website that we have done through SpinWeb. I wish I had a screen-shot, but we don't, of our previous site, but it was fairly typical of an older industrial company. We're in distribution, so we're in the same space. It was, like Michael would call it, kind of a brochure site. It had some information. You could contact us. It had some email addresses.

It served its purpose from a communications standpoint, but it didn't really match who we were from a messaging standpoint and didn't really give the grand scope of what our company is and our size and capabilities.

I found that out firsthand. We have a location up in Elkhart, Indiana. I was speaking with one of our sales reps up there about a lead that I had received through just actually personal referral, and he said, "Yeah, actually, I've been in there before, before you started here, and they wouldn't talk to me." I said, "If you don't mind me asking, why wouldn't they even deal with you?" He said, "Well." He said, "It's funny you should ask." He said, "They told me that they went out online and did some research on us and they went to our website and it didn't look like our company was legitimate or big enough to handle their needs based on what they saw on our website."

Even being in the industry of digital communications and Web marketing, that floored me. I wasn't prepared for that. It's always been told, "Content is king." Content, as you'll find out later with search engines, is a big factor, but just the forward-facing design of the site turned the customer off -- actually, the prospect off -- enough that they wouldn't even allow our sales reps into their facility to have a discussion with them about their needs.

Even if we could've assisted them and improved their business, they didn't even get to that point with us because they automatically discounted us. Their international headquarters were up in Elkhart and right down the street from us. They were a big, international company and they were used to dealing with a certain type of size and company.

To them, our web presence made us look like we were mom-and-pop shop. You see those kind of places in the distribution industry, where they don't have a warehouse, they might just drop ship products and it's just one guy working out of his house. They were very concerned about our capabilities to handle their account, wouldn't let our sales rep in.

It doesn't matter how good your services are, how good your products are, how good your sales staff even is, you might not even be able to get that feedback from the customer, you might just not hear from them again. At least luckily in our instance, we were able to get that feedback from the customer. We knew we needed some improvement.

It definitely helped us with our redesign but a lot of times you won't even hear from the customer again. You won't know why and there is a decent possibility that your web presence, whether it's from the concept or in this case, the design and the layout is causing you opportunities that lose you customers.

Michael: Thanks Chris, I love that story because it reinforces what I often tell people. If you have questions like that..."Hey, does it really matter"? Stories like that really prove that it matters. I appreciate that, Chris. Thank you. I appreciate those articles you wrote for us telling that story as well. Let's go to mistake number two, which is ignoring content. Content covers a lot.

Content covers basic web content...about us pages, what we do, services, products, things like that. It covers product descriptions. It covers learning guides and materials for distributors and users. It covers articles, press releases, blogs. Content is hyper important. A lot of people ignore it because it's difficult. Content is not easy to keep up with.

It takes time, it takes effort, it takes skill to write well. Content is real important. What I see a lot still, Chris and I both see this a lot...is brochure sites. The brochure site is kind of the 10 years ago, or 15 years ago even website. We're going to take our business card and our brochure and we're basically going to place it online.

We're going to put the about us page, our logo, maybe a couple of photos, some services, what we do, contact information and call it a day. That's really our brochure sites. Now, is it better than nothing at all? Yeah, if it looks good it's probably better than nothing at all. Sure, but that's not going to cut it these days. It really takes more than that to engage your prospects and your customers.

The brochure site is really not terribly useful to anyone in the work force. You want to make sure that there is good content that is fresh, that is well maintained, and that is targeted and strategic. Strategic content, we'll get you here in just a moment. Little things like blogs, well crafted press releases like eBooks, downloadable material.

Well-crafted content really engages people and promotes a transaction. The transaction is what you really want to go for. You can't transact with a brochure. With a website, you can and should be transacting in some way. As you prepare the content, a couple of rules of thumb to watch out for. This is more how you write content, more text on the screen. You want to avoid big blocks of text.

You want to make sure that it's short, simple, to the point. You don't drown people in too much text. They just won't read it. Make sure paragraphs are broken up. A lot of times, especially in technical industries, manufacturing, industrial, a lot of our technical organizations that we work with, they get really hung up on all the information they think they have to convey.

Just a small subset of that will often do them and really get the point across. You can always offer more information at the download in similar context. Too much content sometimes will overwhelm people and they will not do what you want them to do, which is actually read it.

We want to take you from an older industry, which is newspapers, and really kind of remember how they write in that industry and really learn from that. That's the inverted pyramid, things like subheads, break up text, bulleted lists to help people scan, highlight key words, make sure the most important information is at the top. That's the inverted pyramid.

That way they can quickly scan the first few lines and get the gist of it without having to read the entire article. Some people won't. Use a very simple writing style. Something very conversational. Also, it's really important to purge your content of marketing speech. I'm sure a lot of you have seen websites where there's tons of marketing speak or industry speak or technical speak.

This poor kid here is trying to figure out, "What the heck are these people saying"? The kinds of marketing speak where it's talking over people's heads, it's using industry jargon. It's not really conversational. It's way too thick. We want to avoid this kind of tone. We want to be very conversational, very simple, and very direct.

When it comes to the type of content you want to produce, obviously the basics are informational content on your website, products, services, about, company information. Those are all bare minimum. Going deeper is looking at how you can use content more strategically. One of the best ways to do that is with a corporate blog.

A corporate blog, if you're not familiar with blogging, is an engine of articles. I say engine because it's kind of an always running kind of thing. It's a repository of articles that are educational and very oriented toward teaching your audience.

What a lot of people do is they make the mistake of thinking, "Oh, I've got a blog. I can now dump my press releases there or I can now just kind of promote my stuff there for my events." That's really the wrong use of a blog. A blog is more about putting your teaching hat on, your kind of professor hat, and saying, "OK. What can I teach my audience that they might be asking every day"?

They might be asking us, they might be asking our competitors, they might be asking just in general looking for answers somewhere. These are things you can really teach your audience that will help them. For one thing, become more loyal to you because you're giving them solutions and two, stay on your websites. Now, beyond that, Google loves blogs.

I cannot stress that enough. We see amazing results from regular blogging with our clients and our company as well. When we blog on a regular basis, when our clients blog, when they produce great content that is focused on answering questions for their audience. Again, not promoting but answering questions. Another nice thing about blogs are they're really good fuel for social media.

Often times, our clients will look at social media and social networks and say, "Well, gosh, what do I do? I want to get started. I'm going to start just kind of asking questions, maybe just talking to people." That's great but they really don't see a relationship between what they're doing on social media and lead generation.

What blogging does, is it really gives you fuel to have something to talk about on social media.

If you're on Facebook or LinkedIn or Google Plus or Twitter, instead of just chattering and saying random things, you actually have an article to talk about, or an article to post and ask questions about, or ask for feedback on, or a video embedded within a blog post that says, "Hey, share this with your network because it can teach you a concept that we know a lot of our customers are struggling with." That gives you some really great fuel behind your social-media efforts, and suddenly you don't have to think about it as much because you now just have great stuff to talk about. Social media then becomes a communication medium as opposed to a scary tactic.

Again, I cannot stress blogging enough. Regular blogging -- for example, once a week, minimum -- is a great way to improve your search-engine rankings and give you fuel for social media and become closer to your customers.

HubSpot gives us some nice data here. They do a lot of studies on this stuff, and some of their studies point to some of these metrics which are really interesting. One is that companies that blog typically get 55 percent more website visitors than those who don't, so website traffic is very positively affected by blogging. In their studies, 57 percent of the businesses in that pool acquired a customer through their company blog.

I want to pause here and tell a personal story as well, because earlier this week, even, I work with a consulting client, who's an engineering firm, and we're getting him started them started with a blogging program. They've been blogging for, literally, 45 days -- not that long -- and they've got maybe 10 blogs posted. They came in this week, and when I was working with them, they said, "Hey, we're so excited. We have this story to tell you. We got seven new customers from our latest blog post."

It kind of blew my mind. I was like, "Seven new customers? That's amazing." They were like, "Yeah, we wrote this post. It was really well thought-out. It was well written. It really solved problems and educated." We sent it to our mailing list, and they acquired seven new customers who were kind of on the fence and they were ready to do something once they got some kind of prompting or some kind of contact that moved the needle for them.

That blog post was enough to either lower risk enough or answer enough questions, and they contacted our client and got the ball rolling, and they now have seven new clients from that blog post. Now, will that happen every time? No, of course not, that's a really unique story, but things like that happen on a regular basis when you really commit to a blogging program.

Also, in the B2B space, companies that blog generate, typically, 67 percent more leads than those who don't. This makes your sales team very happy, typically. When your sales team can increase the amount of inbound leads or the size of the database they can talk to, that really makes their job easier. Your sales team will be smiling when you do things like implement a blogging program to help make their job easier, and it sets them up for success.

Of course, to do all this, you need a content management system. I'm going to take a little, slight detour here and just remind you that if your website is not running on a content management system, then that's something to really look at and really make a high priority. A content management system, or CMS for short, is a software app, typically Web-based, that lets you manage content, post blogs on a regular basis, keep content up-to-date, using only a Web browser, with no technical knowledge. That's really something to make a high priority as well.

I'd like to, again, throw it to Chris here for just a minute and let him tell you what kind of success he's had at FlexPAC with a blogging program. I've put a screen-shot on here that shows a range of dates, and I'll let Chris talk about what's happened. This is actually a pretty great story as well.

Chris: Thanks, Michael. This is, as you can see, from when your website launched back in, I believe, April, up until now. You can see the arc of traffic held fairly steady. As you can see, this date starts from when our website was launched, because prior to my arrival here, we did not have Google Analytics installed on our site. I don't have any historical data to share, new website, more content, versus old, but I can assure you, it's blowing out of the water what the past traffic used to be.

As you can see, as we started, we published some content to get going, and we're at 700, 800 visits a month, to a site that did not get a whole lot of traffic, didn't have a lot of updated content, hadn't been around for a long time. It didn't have a big user base or a following or anything where we were pulling in people from. This is all basically new traffic, all generated from updating content and having a website that we can update content on.

You'll see a slight dip, let's see, probably about November-December of last year. Actually, it's interesting that there was a dip there. We were in the middle of a project of trying to get a CRM together, and so we were doing lots of work internally on digital communications, but not externally, from a content standpoint. We weren't updating our news section on our website. We weren't updating our expert-advice blog on our website. As you can see, there was a slight dip after the first of the year. Notice, the traffic was still holding steady or declining, and really made a concerted effort to update the site more.

As Michael had said earlier, a blog isn't just for pushing promotions and products. Even for announcing this webinar today, we have a separate section that is just a news-articles section. To announce this, we posted the content in that news-article section.

As far as Google is concerned, or other search engines, they see new content and new text on the page, and that helps us get better indexed and get more traffic. It doesn't have to be just a blog, but we definitely get a lot more traction to our blog posts as opposed to our news articles, because our blog posts are structured to, like Michael said, solve problems and answer questions. We try to title the content in that way and really gear the content of the blog posts towards problem solving and question-answering. As we started doing more of that, you can see, the traffic has just continued to rise.

As we said earlier, content and blogging is not easy. The content may be living in your brain or you might have product experts on staff, but really, structuring that in a way that it's easy for the reader to understand, answers their problems, and also looks good for a search engine, it can be kind of difficult. We definitely don't post as much content as we would like, because that falls entirely with me, and I'm a staff of one on the content side. Which, I'm sure most of your companies either don't have a marketing team, or if you do, it's also the sales manager, who's head of sales and marketing. Even just a little bit of content that I can do on an individual standpoint, you can see there from the traffic, has led to almost double the website traffic per month, just with the one-person team.

This isn't a blog or content that's managed by a company. We're not paying lots of money to have this done. This is just using our internal resources and our internal staff of one to really generate double the traffic in a little over a year from where we started.

Michael: Fantastic. Thanks, Chris. I love seeing all the graphs go up and up. Whenever we see one of our clients with this kind of data, makes us really smile. I love the fact that it's literally doubled over the course of a year, and that's pretty normal. Usually, 6 months to 12 months is a good time frame to measure the success of your blogging program, and so this is actually very much in line with what you typically see. Doubling in traffic is definitely what I call success, and it's still going up.

Thanks, Chris. That's great stuff.

Chris: Sure.

Michael: All right. Let's go to mistake number three, which is lack of a call to action.

What do I mean by calls to action? Let's take a look at what some of our clients are doing. Calls to action are things like joining a meeting, signing up for a blog or a newsletter, subscribing to a seminar, or downloading something. These are all things that give your viewers or your audience something to do. Even that search box at the top can be considered a call to action.

What I see in a lot of the old-school brochure sites that I've referenced before is a real lack of call to action. It's putting up a wall between your visitor and some kind of transaction or some kind of contact with your company. Obviously, all of us should want contact with prospects. We want to talk to them. We want to help them answer questions. We want to, really, engage in a relationship that will hopefully lead to business -- that's our goal.

If we don't give our visitors logical paths to reach that goal, they're going to go elsewhere. FlexPAC does a really good job of this as well. On every single page, I believe, every single page has a call to action -- actually, two calls to action -- that give you a couple options. One is, get personalized, expert advice. That, I believe, leads to the blog, which is awesome. Then, two, schedule a free needs analysis.

Every page you're on gives you that nice little call to action that says, "You know what? If I'm ready, I'm going to click that beautiful little orange icon and schedule a free needs analysis." It's free, it's easy, it's right there, it's not in my face, it's not obtrusive, it's not interrupting me, but it's just kind of hovering there, ready to be of service. That's really a good use of a call to action. I love what they're doing here.

This is actually on one of the blog posts. This is a FlexPAC blog post on three ways to improve your facility during winter -- again, very educational, very on-topic. Then there's a call to action right there. I know for a fact they get conversions from that.

Also, another one of our clients has calls to action at the end of their blog posts, which is a great place to put them. Whenever you publish a new blog post, you want to think about putting a call to action that is relevant and related to that topic at the end, so when someone's finished reading it, they have a next step. What a lot of people do is they stop with the blog and they'll do part of the program, but they don't really give anyone anyplace to go after that. You read the blog and you're done and you're happy, and you go on about your business.

Instead, if you placed a call to action at the end, you can generate a conversion. A conversion in this case is downloading this e-book on filter types and locations. What that does is that builds your database, because when someone downloads the e-book, they fill out their email address and contact information and you're building your database. Then, later, when they come back and download more things or visit more parts of your website, you can actually build a profile on that person and you can see the time line, what they're doing and how engaged they are, and you can score them. A lot of stuff you can do once you start building data on people like that.

Think about how you can place calls to action strategically in your blog posts and throughout your site to invite that conversion.

Again, like I said, I know for a fact that FlexPAC has seen results from this. I'd love to have Chris tell us what kinds of calls to action lead to successful lead generation on the FlexPAC website.

Chris: Sure. As Michael has said, we have a couple different calls to action built right into the website that we can update if we choose, but they are contained on every page. Also, you see there, at the top in the header, we have three calls to action, with not only our phone number but a link to our product catalog, and then also that search bar, where it really helps the user get to some information if they are having trouble finding it otherwise.

You can see, what's up here on the screen now is our contact form. We get this used from everything, for people trying to get directions for shipment deliveries, all the way to that needs analysis or quoting option. People we've had fill up that form asking for pricing on items, after they've read a post about something that solved a problem for them.

We also have more recently taken a little bit of the approach that Michael had shown in that second example, at the end of an article or even at the end of a Web page, of doing some real calls to action within the content there at the bottom of the screen.

We've done some stuff with the content management system that we use that SpinWeb built for us that has some different-colored buttons that match our branding -- so our blues, our greens, and our oranges. We've really been able to direct some traffic to either external sources, like some online proposals that we have, or also some sign-up forms, like we did for this webinar, or even some links out to our product catalog, where before, we used to have what, in the manufacturing, industrial industry, would be called a line card. You used to have either an actual, physical piece of paper that has all your products listed, or even on more of a brochure website, they treat line cards as one of their products section.

We have something similar but we've now really taken the approach of going one step farther and really linking out to each sub-category, sub-section of our web catalog. We've seen an enormous increase in traffic to that web catalog since we've installed that.

Instead of making people find our products or our content or really doing the work themselves, we're trying to take every barrier out. The call to action of phone numbers, buttons, links. Just really giving them the option of having that next step open to them and easily accessible.

Michael: One thing I also notice about the FlexPAC website which I love is that it's so clan and simple. This is actually foreshadowing to our next topic here which is, usability planning. You'll notice the simplicity which really highlights that orange button there, that form because that section of the side is all very prominent because nothing else is competing for attention. So it's very well balanced.

That's kind of our next segue to mistake number four which is lack of usability planning. Usability is really the concept of making sure that your visitors can actually get around on your site quickly before they lose interest or their attention span kind of runs out.

One of my favorite usability experts is Jakob Nielsen. He does a lot of research. A ton of research. He is the master of usability research. If you want to look up Jakob Nielsen, he's got a ton of material on usability. He advises us, that if...it's a pretty famous quote actually, "If everything is equally prominent then nothing is prominent."

It's our job to provide the user, to guide them and to gently nurture them toward the most promising choices while also ensuring their freedom so they can go where they want to as well. This is really a guiding principle behind principle all of our design. We don't make the mistake of making sure everything is prominent because at that point everything is competing equally and nothing is prominent.

We see that a lot with committees or lots of people that get involved and they say, "My stuff's really important. My department wants this or my department wants that." Suddenly, if a home page on your website that is full of 25 different priorities and your poor website user has no idea where to go. They get confused. They have a bad experience and you've lost them at that point.

You want to make sure that you whittle down those priorities into the bare essence of what you want your visitors to do. What the highest priorities are and make sure that you have a nice cascading hierarchy of options. It's really because time online is super compressed.

Our attentions spans online are incredibly short. There's some data here that gives us an insight into some of those specific activities and what those time frames are. Less than a second. That's the time needed for someone to decide on the visual appeal of your website.

We've talked about that at the very beginning when we talked about design. Less than a second. That's all it takes for someone to say, "Hey, this site is credible or it's not." One second is really the maximum amount of time a visitor will give you before they give up on controls of the website.

Basically, clicking a menu and waiting for a button to respond. Waiting for a form to complete. Waiting for some action to complete. They start to feel lack of control if the website element doesn't respond within one second. That's a good argument to make sure that your code is clean. That your site is well structured and loads quickly. People can navigate it very easily, not big cumbersome drop-down menus everywhere.

You want to make sure it's very easy to get responsive feedback from elements on your site. 10 seconds is really how much time people are going to give you on a particular page before they give up and say, "You know what. I'm done with this section. It's not serving my need. It's bad. I'm out of here." Again, not much time.

When it comes to longer transaction like filling out a form for example on a website. If it takes them longer than a minute to do this, they are most likely going to abandon it. One minute's actually pretty generous. I've seen people give up after 10 seconds. But, this is a thing, like a contact form, an application form. A needs assessment form. Banks are horrible about it. They give you this huge forms that you have to fill out to make an application. You just want to give up and walk into a branch because you're just tired of filling out.

You want to think of what is the bare minimum information that you can ask somebody for to start the process. Rather than ask somebody for a huge needs analysis kind of thing, ask for the basics. Tell me about your needs on a very basic level. Let's take the next step to a personal conversation or a phone call or maybe a follow-up email. Keep that one minute rule in mind when thinking of application forms or any kind of transactional tool on your website.

Overall, the average time spent on a B2B website is about seven minutes. You want to make sure that you understand that people don't spend all day on your website. As much as you would love them to, they have other priorities.

You really have to make sure that you serve their needs in extremely short amount of time. Again, seven minutes is the average. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But if someone's doing a research, they're not going to give you a whole lot of time. That's a real priority. You want to make sure that you get them to that path very quickly.

Going back to top priorities. A good way to make sure all of these things fall into place is make sure that you avoid too many competing priorities. You want to make sure that you don't cram everything on the home page. You want to make sure that you really keep a simple, elegant design and layout in mind as you build your website.

Chris, I'm sure you've had some success stories from before and after when it comes to usability. I know your previous website had some usability issues. What have you seen in terms of before and after with your old and you new website?

Chris: One of the main pieces of feedback that we receive from customers, vendors and basically anybody that we've talked to or that has approached us and mentioned the new site has been, the usability and the layout.

We get constant feedback on, "Hey, that was really easy to use. We really appreciate that website because in our industry in industrial and manufacturing distribution, websites are fairly antiquated. They are not used to having a website that's fairly easy to navigate and get to the information quickly and easily because people are busy and they're trying to get to what they need and don't want to spend a lot of time to do it.

Even our sales staff quite often will come back to myself and come back to our team with feedback from their customers that they've seen out in the field. They really appreciate the site. How easy it is to navigate. As we can see, we've really put a lot of the main key pieces of information in a very acceptable place.

Our contacts form, our phone number, you can very quickly and easily get a hold of somebody and get information. The buttons and the menu and the navigation, it's all very large text. It's all very clean as Michael said and kind of to his point of not cramming stuff onto a page and having different departments involved.

Luckily, I was able to kind of own the project when we launched this website. I was able to work directly with SpinWeb and it allowed them to give me their input and I was kind of the main contact person. We definitely double back with our executive team on some major decisions and some tweaks to the site but we weren't hammered down by committee meetings of multiple people or multiple divisions. It was allowed to be kind of be owned by myself. Then just really consult with the rest of the team.

It allowed to not have too many hands in there and really muddy up the design of the site. From my standpoint, that's been my favorite part of the website redesign, has been the usability. Coming from all my marketing world and testing out different sites and being out there on the web all day long, cluttered sites that don't have easy usability are one of my huge pet peeve. Obviously if it's something that bothers me, it's something I know other users get bothered by as well. We've really been proud of the usability and the layout of our site so far.

Michael: Awesome! Thanks Chris. That brings us actually to mistake number five which is ignoring mobile. Mobile is, I can't stress how much important this is especially now and from here on out. Everyone has a smart phone, pretty much. Everyone has mobile devices, tablets, androids, windows phones.

A lot of people now are using mobile devices to do the same thing that they previously did on a desktop or a laptop. Ignoring mobile is a pretty big deal to me. It's kind of at your peril I say. A lot of people are looking for information on a mobile device and if they don't find it very quickly, they're going to move on to the next site or the next resource.

In fact, [jokingly] I don't know if anyone watches SNL. I'm kind of obsessed with these skits where they go, "Really?" This is what I say to people when they say, "Oh, no mobile site, we don't have one yet." I'm like, "Really? You got to get on this. You really have to get on the mobile site like now, like this year."

Here's why, I take some cues here from Facebook. This is only one social network but they've chosen to reveal some of their data. They've given us some really good insight into what's happening on social networks. Mark Zuckerberg, I'm sure you know who Mark Zuckerberg is, revealed that in 2012 more people are using Facebook on mobile than on desktop. I want to think here for just a minute.

What does it mean to you when it comes to traffic to your website? What that means is that potentially a good portion, maybe even half or more of your website traffic coming from social networks could be on a mobile device.

That's important because not just Facebook but LinkedIn has great mobile apps and great mobile website. Twitter is mobile. All these social networks have very well optimized mobile experiences. If you are blogging and sharing content on a regular basis, ideally, you want to publish that through you social media as well. That also helps. So when that happens, you bring people back to your website.

If they jump from a very comfortable mobile experience to a very uncomfortable non-mobile optimized experience. You've damaged your brand. You jarred their experience. You are causing them to potentially leave and not go any further. You really kind of put up a wall at that point where you could have had a transaction. You could have had a download, a phone call, an engagement of some sort. A subscription.

That's a pretty big deal. The shift is now. The shift is happening now. It's happened toward mobile. I also, with Chris's help, took a look at FlexPAC's Google Analytics here for the past month. A month is a good snapshot to see what's going on that thing's current data. Literally half their traffic is from mobile.

Half the traffic that comes to FlexPAC's website is from a mobile device. 50 percent. You might want to check out your mobile stats as well when you go into Google Analytics. Go to your mobile section and check out how much of your traffic is mobile versus desktop and you may be surprised. That is something I like to point out. How to look at that and how to kind of see what's happening in analytics and as you can see with FlexPAC it's half and half right now. So a lot of traffic comes from mobile.

If you look at the mobile context, you really want to understand how people react to information. First of all, I'll run it quickly, which on the web, our attention spans are very short anyway. On a mobile, it's that much shorter. It is incredibly short. Burden of value is going to be higher as a result. You're going to have more of a burden to really prove that you have something of value to offer the mobile website visitor.

People tend to not do a lot of what I call real work, but lots of consumption. They're not going to do a lot of typing. People will purchase products via mobile but as not often. They're not really transaction heavy in terms of real work. They do, do lots of consumption and basic button clicking. They will fill out short forms. They will click buttons. They will do click to call. They'll read lots of stuff. They'll watch videos. They consume lots of information.

You want to think about that and use that to your advantage. They will take anything. They will take the path to the call to action as long they are short and simple. Also in the highlights, another one of our manufacturing clients which is monthly power products. We built a mobile site for them which highlight a lot of the best practices I like to help with. One of those things is, make sure it's bigger content.

As you can see, this is very well mobile optimized because it's a single column format. You don't have to zoom around and pinch and scroll to get content. You can just see it immediately on the screen. You can scroll up and down to get what you need. Also, product imagery, big involved. On mobile you want to make sure you use that limited screen space to show big, bold product imagery. Show detail like the really beautiful photo of that particular piece of machinery. You want to highlight and make sure all the details are there.

Also, click to call is super important. On the left hand screen you can see that at the bottom of every single page on mobile, the 800 number is very prominent. Very easy to find. You can click it to call it. It's a very quick path to that phone call. These are what I call bridges. On mobile, people often look for a bridge. They are not going to do a lot of "real work" and lot of heavy transactional stuff. Instead, they are going to look for a bridge to the next step in the process.

A frequent bridge is a phone call. They're looking at the phone number. They want to do some really basic research and then they want to call because they've got the phone in their hand already and they are ready to talk to someone. They want to call up, find a sales rep, ask a question. Don't hide that phone number because that's a wall you're putting up once you do that. Make that phone number prominent, easy to find. That should be the most prominent thing in a mobile site, quite obviously.

On the right-hand side, you also see the distributor section. It's got really quick access to reference material in big bold buttons, very prominent, top of the screen. Everything else gets out of the way. You are stripping away all of the excess stuff that you don't need on mobile because people are very quick to pinpoint that one thing they need and they go straight for it. If they don't find it, they're done. Again, one more time I want to touch on Chris's success with his mobile website as well and kind of see what kind of success he's had.

Chris: Sure. Michael, we've got a question that's actually a perfect lead into my portion in a little bit.

Michael: Oh great!

Chris: It's from Julie. Julie asked, "Wondering if you considered responsive web design in the FlexPAC site development process."

Michael: Now that's a great question.

Chris: I'll kind of tackle that first because responsive web design is a definite hot button topic right now. It's something that I enjoy greatly when I'm navigating sites on my own. We definitely considered and discussed it from the onset. Julie, when we were speaking with Josh and Michael and everybody at SpinWeb from our blueprinting standpoint.

We didn't actually go with a full responsive website from the start. Just due to our budget constraints on that. We definitely knew that mobile optimization was something we wanted to do. We weren't entirely sure with our audience, how much mobile traffic we would get. We didn't have any historical data on how much mobile traffic we would receive. And us being an industrial manufacturing sector, we were taking kind of the approach that a lot of our people would be accessing that from their desks.

They probably wouldn't have cell phones out on the plant floor, in the distribution facility floor. We're talking more to the senior level and the executives and some of the operations people at the plant. We were taking the approach of, we're not really sure of how much mobile traffic we're going to get. We're going to keep it out of the initial design but definitely keep it in play. What we did was, went through a third-party provider and created what you can see there on the screen and have just been amazed by the amount of mobile traffic that we've gotten. As Michael showed you there, half of our traffic is mobile. Those who clicked the call buttons have gotten a ton of use.

Right below that screenshot there are our actual Google map buttons. You can actually get driving directions right from your phone, if need be. We've been pleasantly surprised with the amount of mobile traffic we've gotten. Also now that we've gotten into the amount of work it's taking us to do mobile website, our mobile version of our site through a separate third-party vendor. The amount of time that I put into it, we're definitely considering changing some of the back-end structure of the main website to make it more responsive.

For those of you that don't understand or are unaware of what responsive web design is. Basically, what it allows you to do is have one website. Instead of doing what they call it redirect. Right now what you see on your screen, it pops up when you visit our site from a phone or a tablet. The website recognizes that you are on a screen with a smaller size. It says, "Hey, show them this version of the website." It actually pulls up a separate version from that third-party vendor and gives them that content

That's not as good from a search engine optimization standpoint. But it's good that it gives our people the proper information on what they need quickly and easily. What the responsive website is, it will actually return a different version of your actual site without having to go out to a third-party or redirect. It'll take the navigation on our main site and instead of having it go horizontal across the screen, it'll recognize that the screen is smaller and it will go make it go vertical.

It will crop everything to fit the phone basically, or the tablet is what it will do. That's kind of the background of responsive design. Great questions Julie. We definitely considered it upfront. We took the approach of wait to see what the stats tell us before we go down that front. I don't know if Michael, if you have anything to add on that front at all?

Michael: No, you covered it very well. All of our new websites we're building now are fully responsive. It's kind of baked into the whole process. It's non-negotiable. We just say, "Hey, if we're building you a website it's going to be responsive out of the box." That's really the future. It's a great explanation. I appreciate that. Julie says, "Thanks for the response." My pleasure Julie. Great question.

Thanks Chris also for your insight. That really wraps us up here. I'd like to wrap up with a few closing thoughts and then jump to few more questions. We're really just kind of recapping. The five things we've covered really, Design matters. Make sure that you really invest in great design. Make sure you're publishing regular educational content, usually in the form of a blog.

That's a great way to really increase your website traffic, search engine optimization, social media. So much good stuff there. Plans for good usability. Prioritize well. Make sure you're thinking of call to action. Do not to ignore mobile. Make sure you optimize for mobile experience. With that, we got a lot to open up to questions. Actually, I see a couple more here. Let me get those questions here.

One question, this is from James. James asks, "How often should I blog?" I don't know Chris, what you think. I say at least once a week is a good schedule. We blog twice a week at SpinWeb and occasionally more. I really like to say at least a minimum once a week. That's kind of a good schedule. What do you do Chris?

Chris: That's the bare minimum. I wish I met that. I'll be honest with you. I don't meet that as much. Even the traffic art you've seen for the amount of content we have. It's not once a week from a blog standpoint. Between the news module and the blog module, we probably get there once a week from some sort of content updating the site. The blog is not as much, we definitely do some things with video as well that helps out on that same point.

It's one of those things where you can never have too much content on your site. You could perhaps host too many blog articles to social networks. You could really inundate your followers' streams with information of social sites. As far as a website goes and blogging, you can never have too much good blog content.

Basically, as much as your heart desires, I would say go for it. I would say at a bare minimum, once a week.

Michael: Nice, nice. Another question here from Joyce, for FlexPac's history, for you Chris. What is FlexPac's geographic customer base? I guess she's asking are you national, how far out do you focus in terms of customer base?

Chris: Sure, that's a great question actually, as it pertains to web traffic. Our headquarters are here in Indianapolis. We have a warehouse with staff up in Elkhart, Indiana which is northwestern Indiana. Just an hour and a half outside of Chicago. We also have a location over in the Quad cities. It's actually in Rock Island, Illinois which is right on the Illinois isle of border for those you familiar with that area.

We basically hit a couple of hundred miles radius of each of those locations with our delivery trucks. We've been in distribution...delivered product is something that we like to be able to handle on our own. We have lots of customers that have certain needs that...delivering to certain area or real short time frames.

Relying on national carrier is difficult for us. We don't have a really far reach from that standpoint. That's good and bad. It allows us to do some targeting with...making sure our website headers and all of our geolocation things are in there. We really can show up easier for localized searches. It's also difficult from the standpoint that we do get quite a bit of web traffic from all over the country. Frankly, international as well.

We can provide them information. We may be able to service them but we don't stand as good a chance of providing solutions for them that fit into their budget as opposed to more of our regional customers.

We definitely see traffic from a national standpoint. That actually really speaks to the value of blog updating, where we show up for fairly generic search phrases on a national standpoint, where you would think there would be somebody closer that would show up higher in the search rankings than we do, but there's just not a lot of people in this space that do any normal website content updating. We do a fair amount of traffic from all over the nation.

Michael: Thanks, Chris. Great insights.

Looks like that's all our questions for now. We're about to wrap up here, but I wanted to point out that, of course, our contact information is on-screen there. Chris and I are both extremely active online. We try to be as helpful as possible to anyone that would like to reach out to us. Don't be afraid to call, email, tweet, either of us, and we'd love to help out.

As we wrap up, Chris, anything else you wanted to add?

Chris: No. If you have any needs and are interested in definitely looking at an updated Web presence and want some more information on what our experience has been and some things to keep in mind as you look towards that and move forward, happy to share any of our past experiences with whoever's on the call here today. Like I said, Twitter, email are both the easiest ways to reach me, and then happy to help in any way we can.

Michael: Awesome. Chris, thank you so much for joining me on this. It was a lot of fun. We really got a lot of good information, and it was a great idea to really partner together to do this. I hope we really were able to help everyone on the call.

Been a pleasure. Feel free to reach out anytime. Thanks, everyone, so much for joining, and have a great day.

How to build a great volunteer marketing committee

Posted by: in General on Thursday, June 27, 2013

We do a lot of work with non-profits and associations and we absolutely love helping them reach their goals using web and marketing strategies.

However, non-profits often have unique challenges, and the number one challenge we hear about it (you guessed it) –– budget.

Our non-profit clients often have a great understanding of how blogging, social media, content creation, SEO, video, and a good inbound marketing plan can help them. However, for whatever reason they have not been able to set the budget necessary to make it happen.

When this is the case, what's the solution?

A good path to great marketing as a non-profit can be a great volunteer marketing committee! A great marketing committee can manage the website, create content, set strategy, engage in social media, and optimize the process. This means your organization can get closer to your goals (because great marketing works).

However, if you've ever served as a board or committee member for a non-profit you know that marketing committees are not always wildly successful. Here's how it usually goes:

  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 1: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 2: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Hey! I need some committee members. You've got some marketing background. Want to join?
  • Committee Member 3: Sure! Count me in.
  • Marketing Chair: Ok... we'll have monthly conference calls where we talk about marketing things. Cool?
  • Committee Members: Cool!
  • First Call: We need to do some marketing things! Talk talk talk (insert some great ideas here). Ok... let's follow up on that next month.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Does this looks familiar? This is a very common format for non-profit marketing committees and as you can see it doesn't aways lead to results.

So how do you build and run a successful marketing committee?

Define general strategy in advance

The problem with most marketing committees is that they start recruiting volunteers before a strategy is defined, which means it happens before roles are defined. Step one is to decide what your general strategy will be. This can be a board decision or it can (and probably should) be delegated to an expert. Often this expert will be a board member who has professional marketing experience or your marketing committee chair (often the same person). An outside consultant can also be utilized.

For example, do you plan to utilize inbound marketing as your approach? SEO? Video? More traditional PR? A mixture? How will you map out your process? Getting some clarity on how you want to approach your constituents will help you with the next step. Don't over-think this step but do get a basic sense of what direction you want to go.

Define roles in advance

Another mistake that non-profits make is that they use the "mirror test" to decide who to recruit. If you're breathing, you're on the committee! This is not ideal. Before you decide who to recruit to your committee, you need to define roles. For example, if you're planning to create an inbound marketing campaign, you'll want to recruit for the following roles:

  • Project manager (marketing committee chair)
  • Blogger(s)
  • Social media community manager
  • Content developer(s)
  • Designer
  • Video expert

A good inbound marketing campaign requires these roles to be successful. This allows you to create clear expectations for potential volunteers. It also helps you effectively break out the workload in your committee.

The committee chair should be taking over at this point to define these roles and move on to recruiting (the next step).

Recruit experts

Once you've defined your roles, it becomes much easier to recruit volunteers. Instead of vaguely searching for "marketing people" to join a non-structured committee, you are now filling specific job descriptions. You are now able to ask your network for experts in a specific tactic like social media management, design, or video. If people know why they are being recruited and what specific skill they are being asked to share, they can get a better grasp of what's expected. It also subdues the fear of being overworked... instead they can see that they are part of a team.

As you recruit, be sure to look for true industry experts. The best marketing committee members are often professionals with full-time jobs who are very successful but who are looking for a way to give back and share their talents with a good cause.

Create a process

Nothing discourages volunteers more than a disorganized committee. Make sure you (as the committee chair) create a clear process for getting work done. Meet monthly to define strategy and then delegate tasks to your committee. Use a project management system like Basecamp to make sure things stay on track. Set a tone of action for your committee so everyone is focused on results.

Be specific when assigning tasks. Rather than give vague instructions like "look into video for upcoming events," try "create promotional video for 2013 convention using testimonials from last year's event." Then set deadlines and follow up.

Set a real budget

9 times out of ten (made-up statistic) non-profit marketing committees operate with no budget. The conversation often goes like this:

  • Marketing Committee Chair: What's our annual budget? I've got some ideas but I need to know what I can invest.
  • Executive Director: Budget? Ha ha... we've never had a marketing budget! Do what you can for free.

This is insulting to your volunteers. Don't set them up for failure by ignoring their need for funds and parameters. A great marketing committee can accomplish great things with a limited budget but don't under-invest or ignore it completely.

Invest in the right tools

Plenty of marketing committees operate with no budget (see above) but this is not ideal. Non-profits should consider in investment in the right tools to help their marketing committees succeed. There are a number of tools than can help your volunteers make the most of their time. We are fans of HubSpot but there are plenty of options. Set your marketing committee up for success by giving them the right tools.

Measure results

As your committee executes campaigns and optimizes their efforts, keep an open line of communication between them and the board, as well as between other committees. The marketing committee should be thought of as the "marketing department" of your non-profit which means they need to be in communication with sales (a.k.a. fundraising) and other groups so that everyone is in sync.

This will also allow the marketing committee to get real-time feedback on what is working and what it not. Looking at website analytics is super important but it's also incredibly valuable to supplement it with human stories and feedback.

Build a great marketing committee

I hope this has helped you as you consider making use of a marketing committee within your non-profit. Having served on many boards and committees, I've seen some great things happen as a result of following these guidelines.

Here's to all the great non-profit organizations out there who are making the world a better place. Let's do our best to support their marketing committees so their work doesn't go unnoticed.

The power of planning

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here at SpinWeb, we love working with customers to create uniquely-designed, beautiful websites that meet their needs. It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: no two websites we create are duplicates. (We believe that templates are for website weenies.)

You might ask, “Michael, how can you produce so many high-quality, amazing websites?”

It starts with a plan

The planning phase of any project is the most important. Think about it: if you’re building a house but haven’t thoroughly thought through all the details and start anyway, it’s likely going to fall. That’s why this phase of our process takes the longest. We want to make sure we’ve thought of everything before we run off to the races. We look at it from all angles - keeping costs down (if that’s important to the client), minimizing completion time, ensuring unity of vision (with social networks, etc), understanding who is responsible for what, loading it with search engine optimization. Whew! 

Ask the tough questions

Whether you’re working with SpinWeb (that’s our vote!) for your redesign or tackling it on your own, it’s important to ask the tough questions. Not sure where to start? Here are a few biggies:

  • What is the goal of your website? This is THE single most important question you can ask. You may have 10 goals or you may have a few goals per section. Regardless, make sure you list them and reference them constantly throughout this process.
  • What is your budget? Even if you’re developing the site yourself, you must ask this question, as there are usually outside costs (if nothing more than hosting a domain name). The more complex your site, generally speaking, the more it will cost. 
  • What needs to happen for you to see a return or for you to consider it a success? There should always be a return, even if it’s merely to attract new customers.
  • How will you measure the performance of your website? Having an analytics page installed infinitely helps you keep track of traffic.
  • What design requirements do you have? Do you want pictures of people or certain colors in mind?
  • What tools do you want on your site? Even if you can’t afford to add all the cool features you want at the time of launch, you can always add functionality and tools later to better connect with your audience.
  • What can you live without and what is absolutely required? Focus on what is absolutely necessary then go from there.
  • Who is your audience? Be as specific as possible. (You might create some buyer personas.)
  • What pages and sections will be on your site? Break out every section, sub-section and individual page on your site. (This is called a sitemap.)

Respond with well-thought out answers

Don’t rush through this as if you’re trying to get your homework done 5 minutes before class. (We’ve all done it.) Take your time and really think about your answers. The more time you spend on the front end of this process articulating your thoughts and desires, the better the outcome will be in the end.

Relax

Take a deep breath. You’re about to embark on a fun journey (at least we think it’s fun) of re-creating your web presence. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Even after you launch your new site, you can always make changes. In fact, we recommend it! Your website should be fluid. Just make sure that as you make changes and tweaks along the way that they continue to be in line with your initial goals.

There’s obviously more that goes into the process (we’ve simplified it a bit here), but if you’re wanting some direction we’d love to answer any questions you have or walk alongside you in this exciting process. 

4 free keyword research tools

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, June 18, 2013

We're often asked, "Where do your blog topics come from?" Most clients are surprised to find out there's a little science involved with some keyword research where we look into various search terms trying to figure out the best direction to go with content.

We've tried a ton of different keyword research tools over the years and these four keyword tools we're sharing today are some of our favorites. Plus, they're free!

What is a keyword research tool, you ask? These tools not only show us what people are searching for on the web, they allow us dive a little deeper by uncovering related search terms. These related search terms lead us down different paths providing more information about our audience's search habits. This information then leads us to more content ideas tailored specially for our audience.

Uber Suggest

One of my favorite places to start keyword research is Uber Suggest. Uber Suggest is a great resource for uncovering related search terms and often our first go-to keyword research tool. The simple user interface allows you to just cut to the chase. Enter a keyword (you can even select the language or vertical market if you need more specifics.), complete the captcha and click suggest.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/ubersuggest.png

Out comes a hearty list of suggested keywords for you to then sift through. In this case, I was researching luggage. The list below gives me an idea of different search terms associated with luggage.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/luggage-g.png
By clicking on one of the search terms, you can expand the options even further.
https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/luggage-g-expanded.png

You can start to compile a list by selecting the little green icon to the left of the keyword. When you're finished, grab the keywords from the column on your right and get to writing!

Google Trends

Google Trends shows you an activity heat map of your search term based on your location specifications. This is extremely helpful if you're trying to target a specific city, state or region.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/trends.png

Another favorite piece is the insight on rising related terms. Monitoring these closely may give you an edge on related keywords while they're growing.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/related-terms.png

Google Correlate

Google Correlate is another tool that will help find related keywords. It takes one search term and identifies trends with correlating search terms helping you go further into the behaviors of your audience.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/correlate.png


Keyword Typo Generator

The name explains it all for this one. The Keyword Typo Generator provides a list of common mispellings associated with the keyword that you enter.

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/keyword-typo-generator.png

https://www.spinweb.net/clientuploads/blog/keyword-typo-results.png

This is primarily helpful for pay-per-click campaigns, but you could also utilize it for more traditional SEO practices.

Do you have a favorite keyword research tool? Leave it in a comment below. We'd love to give some new tools a try!