Website Redesign Guide

website redesign guideThe single most important factor in a successful website redesign is a thorough planning process. The time you put into planning will save you a great deal of time and effort later.

Here’s a guide taking you through all the key elements of the website redesign planning process:

Review Your Current Website

Take a long hard look at your site and figure out what you like, what you don’t like and what’s missing. Put together a list of the things you’re happy with. Keeping what you like about your website gives you more time to work on improving what you don’t like.  Write up a list of everything you don’t like about your current website too.

Missing Content

Now figure out what your website is missing. Feel free to look at your competition to help jar your memory and help make the content in your new website more comprehensive. Make a detailed list so you can include everything in your website redesign.

Original Content

To attract new and reoccurring visitors, original, useful content is key. Give some thought to how you can to better incorporate original content into your new website. A company blog is a good place to start, but consider social media, “how-to” eBooks and/or video.

Identify Reasons for the Redesign

Identifying the major areas the website redesign will help you focus on what’s most important and how you want to improve it.  Justify your key reasons with web metrics and customer input. This is especially important if you need to convince someone to green light the funding for the website redesign.

Identify Your Goals

Make sure you identify specific website goals that are measurable, reasonable and attainable.

Protect your assets

Your current website has built up valuable assets over time. Losing them during your website redesign will hamper your marketing efforts.  Make sure you have a good handle on:

  • Your most frequently viewed/shared content
  • Website pages drawing the most traffic
  • Best performing keywords you rank for and which pages they appear on
  • How many inbound links each individual page has

Note your current website metrics

Figure out which metrics you want to track and compare pre and post-redesign. Take a good look at your current website’s performance history to help you set benchmarks. Some metrics you should consider tracking are: number of visits, page visits, time spent on site, bounce rate, the number of leads/form submissions. If applicable, you might want to include online sales and the cart abandonment rate as well.

Identify your unique value proposition

Visitors to your website may not have a good handle on who you are and what you do. You immediately need to provide enough info for them to figure out if what you do is right for them, why they should stay on your website and consider doing business with you instead of moving on to your competition’s website.

A unique value proposition explains what benefit you provide and how you do it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives.

Design around buyer personas

A buyer persona sounds complicated, but it’s just a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience you create using a mix of real customer data and some educated guesses. It helps you get a good handle on who the person is, what they value, and how best to speak to them.

Your business may have one primary buyer persona or many different personas. There’s no magic number. The best example of buyer personas we came across was hotels looking to bring in new business. They might target five buyer personas: independent business travelers, corporate travel managers, event planners, vacationing families, and a couple planning their wedding reception.

Define functional requirements

Start out by making a wish-list of every feature you’ve come across that you’d like to include in your website redesign. Then, whittle the list down to just things that will help you meet/exceed the needs of your website visitors while helping you achieve your website goals.

Put together a site map

A visual site map is a very helpful tool when planning your website redesign. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex the site will be. A site map helps organize your site content.  Start by identifying all of the main sections that you want on your new site. Post-It notes are great for helping you think through this process. Just jot the name of each web page on a separate Post-It note, then you can easily move pages around in different categories and sequences.

Optimize your website for search

You can build the best website redesign ever, but if no one visits your site it’s all for naught. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your pages with the keyword phrases people are likely to search for. For every page, pick one to two keywords that the page will focus on. This increases your website’s visibility in organic (free) search results. SEO is an important step to improve your search rankings for your keyword phrases bringing more visitors to your website.

Know your website strengths

Document your most popular web pages.  Figure out which pages have the most traffic, the greatest number of inbound links and the best keywords rankings. You’ll want to make sure you keep what works as your website redesign takes shape.

Identify calls-to-action

A “call-to-action” is the element on your webpages that drive visitors to take an action, whether it’s signing up for:

  • Your email list or newsletter
  • An eBook or whitepaper download
  • Contest or promotions
  • Contacting your business for a demo or free consult
  • Making a purchase.

Your website should prompt visitors to further engage them with your brand. When you’re planning your website redesign, think about all the potential opportunities for conversion.  The “design” of your website is important, but make sure you focus on making it functional. Make sure there are calls-to-action so you don’t lose your visitors.

Develop an ongoing content strategy

A winning content marketing strategy lets a business stay connected with its customers. For a number of reasons, the timing may not be right for your website visitors to make a purchase right now. Sharing content with them over time is an ideal way to nurture relationships with prospects until they are ready to make a buying decision. Make sure you build a strategy to continue to add more and more content to your website over time.

Other essential website components include:

  • Landing pages
    Landing pages are critical lead generation components that must contain eye-catching visuals and brief, yet persuasive content. Landing page visitors decide in seconds whether to submit their information. So, effective landing pages need to instantly deliver exactly the information people are looking for.
  • Add RSS subscription feed
    Most news-related sites, blogs and other online publishers also syndicate their content as an RSS (Rich Site Summary) Feed. RSS allows people to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites they’re interested in. It saves time because you don’t have to visit each site. It ensures privacy because you don’t have to join every website’s mailing list.
  • Social Media Sharing
    Add social media sharing buttons/links to all your pages in your website redesign.
  • Website Analytics
    Web analytics is the process of analyzing the behavior of visitors to your website. It’s critical to measure the performance of your website from the start.

The Last Word

Your website redesign should have two primary goals: functionality and design. While undertaking a website redesign project, it’s very easy to get caught up in how the website looks at the expense of how well it works.  You need to it your goal to marry maximizing the functionality of the site with visually appealing design for the best results.

If you have any questions about your website redesign project, contact us. Your Marketing Department is here to help.

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Is Paid Social Media a Necessity?

Is paid social media a necessity?

The question of whether paid social media is now a must comes from the virtual disappearance of the organic reach of posts.

Organic reach – how many people you can reach for free by posting to your business or fan page on Facebook and other social media platforms– has been declining steadily for years now. Facebook’s organic reach, depending on who you believe, is now somewhere between 2-5%. In other words, for every 100 people following your page, only 2-5 get to see your carefully crafted post. It’s not just Facebook. Organic reach and interactions across all social media channels have fallen off substantially.

The free ride is over

A few years ago Facebook made it quite clear that organic reach would become infective, at best. They’ve kept their word. Facebook has begun to increasingly prioritize posts from users’ friends and family. To make room for them in your newsfeed, Facebook is making things even worse for businesses by deemphasizing posts from businesses, brands and content publishers more than ever.

There are several logical reasons for the decline of organic reach. Facebook has offered up a couple and the third we offer up as just plain common sense.

  • There’s just too much content being published on Facebook to show everyone everything. This has made gaining visibility in the News Feed increasingly competitive with a greater degree of difficulty succeeding.
  • Facebook is trying to show people the content their experts feel is most relevant.
  • Marketers, being the cynical bunch we are, tend to think Facebook’s ulterior motive is simply to get more people to start buying ads.

To prove us cynics have a point, Convince and Convert published a chart showing Facebook’s declining organic reach charted against Facebook’s rising stock price during the same period. Would it surprise you to find out that as organic reach plummeted Facebook’s stock price increased a substantial 40% due to increased ad revenue?

These days Facebook feels businesses should look at their Facebook business or fan pages as a way to make paid advertising more effective. From Facebook’s point-of-view, organic reach is in direct conflict with its belief that inundating News Feeds with posts from pages the user likes (along with many others) just isn’t an ideal user experience.

So, can you improve your organic reach on Facebook? Truthfully about all you can do is increase engagement. The goal is to get as much interaction with every post as possible. Here are some of the ways to maximize your reach:

Here are ways to maximize your reach:

  • Ask followers of your other social media business pages to like your Facebook page and return the favor.
  • Encourage readers to engage with your posts when they see them, so they’ll (hopefully) see more of them.
  • Add a “Please like and share” reminder to the end of your posts.

Since social media’s organic reach is going the way of the dinosaur, it’s smart to focus on digital channels you own and control — your website and blog. Spend more resources creating blog posts and long-form content (eBooks, case studies, or videos). These have a shelf life that helps increase your inbound traffic, leads, and customers long-term.

If your budget allows, consider paid posts to share this content to the appropriate social media platforms for additional reach. While knowing how to use paid social media is also important, knowing when to use paid social media is key.

Here’s a checklist of good reasons to invest in paid social media ads:

  • Getting started
    If you are just starting your social media marketing and have a small number of followers, paid traffic is critical. You need an audience for your content or no one will see it or share it.
  • Looking to reach a different audience
    With paid social media, you can target new demographics and reach out to new geographic areas.
  • Improve organic reach
    To supplement your organic reach, you should consider investing in paid posts to get your social media content in front of more of the people who already like and follow you.

What paid social media works?

Social media advertising’s evolution from outdated banner ads to native ads has greatly improved the paid social media advertising experience for both marketers and consumers.

So, where’s the best return on investment? According to an eMarketer study, over 95% of social media managers say Facebook offers the best return on investment, followed by Twitter (63.5%), Instagram (40.1%) and LinkedIn (37.7%). However, keep in mind that which social media platform will work best for your business depends largely on knowing where your social media audience is.

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Facebook Organic Reach Is an Oxymoron

Facebook organic reach is an oxymoron If you feel like your Facebook posts organic reach isn’t what it used to be, you’re right. Facebook has steadily cut back on Pages’ organic reach for years, most notably with brands and most recently with publishers.

Back in the good old days of 2012, Facebook started restricting the organic reach of content published from brand pages. At first, it was to about 16%. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced Facebook organic reach even more. According to Social@Ogilvy, Facebook organic reach dropped to 6% or less in 2014. Now in the first half of 2016, the number of people seeing the average post published on a publisher’s Facebook Page has been cut in half again, according to SocialFlow.

Facebook organic reach graph

The ability to build communities of Facebook fans, maintain contact and encourage engagement by publishing content to fans’ News Feeds was originally a crucially important part of Facebook’s appeal to marketers. Note we said “was”, because Facebook organic reach is going, going, gone. This change effectively completely cancels out the efforts of brands to build up their fan bases, with the understanding they would be able to reach a large number of these fans without having to pay.

In a sales deck obtained by Ad Age, Facebook plainly stated, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time.” In other words, Facebook organic reach is now an oxymoron. The main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make your Facebook purchased ads work better. The free ride for brands is over and Facebook should now be moved into the paid advertising column in your marketing budget.

The main reason to acquire fans is no longer to build a free distribution channel for content; now it’s to make your Facebook paid posts or ads work better. The free ride for brands has come to an end and Facebook should now be in the paid advertising column in your marketing budget.

Going forward, for Facebook to be effective paid advertising will be needed to jump-start the life of a post.  You’ll be investing in paid posts in the hope that they will gather enough likes and social capital to earn the right to be shown for free.

Central to social media’s value to businesses was the concept that if brands interact with consumers with engaging content in the right context, they can reap benefits in the form of greater exposure and incremental reach, for free.  Do Facebook’s changes mean that vision of social media for business is dying? Probably. Cutting organic reach and forcing brands to pay seems to move social media in the direction of more traditional media models. Any business counting on Facebook organic reach as part of their marketing plan should reevaluate whether their investment of resources is still justifiable.

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Marketing Plan: What Is It?

marketing plan

Marketing is all about letting people know about the products or services you offer, their benefits and persuading people to buy or use them. Marketing communicates a consistent message to your ideal customers. To do this effectively, you’re going to need a marketing plan and marketing strategies.

What Does a Marketing Plan Do?

A marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for your company’s success. Done properly, your marketing plan will be the roadmap you follow to attract new customers and improve the success of your business.

To put together an effective marketing plan, you have to assess your company from top to bottom and make sure all the pieces are working together in the best way. A business owner must be familiar with the business’s customer base, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the business’s competitors. These factors and others are identified in a well-prepared marketing plan.

Why do I need a marketing plan

Why Do I Need A Marketing Plan?

If you want your business to grow, you’ll need a marketing plan and strategies to get you there. Creating a marketing plan makes you think through and capture in writing your business goals and the steps needed to implement strategies to achieve your marketing objectives.

Small business owners often include their marketing plan as part of their overall business plan. Some include parts of the marketing plan in various sections of their business plan, while others attach the entire marketing plan as an appendix to their business plan.

What’s in a Marketing Plan?

A well thought out, comprehensive marketing plan should include:

  • An in-depth understanding of your brand’s status and story
  • A realistic assessment of your businesses’ strengths & weaknesses – what you do well, as well as what you could be doing better
  • The competitive environment (including industry research, trends and more)
  • An assessment of your competition – both local and national
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the consumer and the demand for the product or service
  • Detailed, realistic, attainable goals
  • Specific strategies designed to achieve your goal
  • Marketing tactics that will be used to implement your strategies
  • Detailed budget
  • Performance Measurement & Analysis

How to Create a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan should ideally cover a 12-month timeframe. This makes it easier to budget and manage the plan. Allow a month or two to develop your marketing plan, even if it’s only a few pages long.

Developing the plan is the time consuming “heavy lifting” of marketing. While executing the plan can have its challenges, planning – deciding what strategies to use and how to implement them – is marketing’s biggest challenge.

How Do You Use Your Marketing Plan?

When you’ve completed your marketing plan, don’t file it and forget it!  During your hectic daily routine, it’s often next to impossible to focus your attention on the big picture and really think about your business. Our advice: do it anyway!

Refer to your marketing plan at least quarterly (monthly is even better).  Since only constant in business is change, be prepared to make mid-course corrections or changes to your plan. It will help you stay on track and achieve your marketing goals.

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What is Mobile First?

What is mobile First?

Mobile first is a design philosophy that focuses on the responsive mobile design of a website or app, rather than the desktop or laptop version.

Why Mobile First?

Websites used to be built with the desktop computer in mind. Mobile sites were just an afterthought. Then smartphones improved, most people bought one, connectivity grew, and data plans expanded.

As a result, mobile usage is growing every day and will continue to grow over the next few years. In fact, Google has officially confirmed that more searches now take place on smartphones than on desktops, laptops and tablets combined.

Google’s Mobile First Indexing

Because of the increase in mobile use, Google has started to focus on “mobile first indexing“. This looks at mobile content to decide how to rank its results, regardless of whether the user is on desktop or mobile. The bottom line is if your website is not mobile-friendly it will impact how you appear for all searches (including desktops/laptops).

This is why all marketers need to think mobile first when it comes to websites and all other digital communications. Websites need to be updated to be responsive with:

  • Simple, intuitive navigation
  • Easily clickable links — by either a finger tap or a mouse click
  • Optimized text readability (not too small, but not too large either)
  • Images need to scale automatically or get dynamically replaced by larger or smaller images and icons, as needed.

When you design for mobile first, there’s a lot less screen space to work with. This means you’ll need to do without many of the cool design elements and extras you’d include if you were designing for a larger screen.

With mobile first design, you need to focus on what’s most important on a mobile screen — functionality. The consensus among designers who’ve worked mobile first is the design process is more practical. When you design for mobile first, you don’t have to decide what desktop design elements to remove.

Most users now demand the kind of quality mobile experience we’ve described. They also expect a similarly smooth experience on desktops. Making this happen demands careful thought and planning, but the end result is a better website, better search rankings and more satisfied users.

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