Working with as many clients as we have – and over as many years as TKG has been doing it – we’ve learned some things. Hence, we have this blog.
Often, something like this unfolds: We start working with the client on their new website. They say they are after a fresh look that better represents their product or organization.
No problem, we’ve got that covered. Responsive design, too? Check!
So we’ll move through the kickoff portion of our new project process and ask the client to send us their brand guidelines, including logo, colors, etc. At some point in this process the client will often mention, “oh, by the way, we hate those also and what we have does not target our market.”
Ahh. I see.
So if you are out there reading this, and you are a business in this predicament, let’s take a step back. Let’s start with the brand first.
Well, if the brand you have currently is really outdated or targets a market that is not your focus anymore, you’re going to need to re-do this before your website anyway. It not only affects your web and online marketing efforts, but also your business cards, letterhead, print items, wearables, signage … and on and on. All of these things need to be current and on target for your new online presence to take hold and be effective.
Get it done. TKG can help you determine what your brand is missing and develop new collateral that represents the business or organization you want to be today. Work with our team to create your new face so that you can put your best foot forward in the digital space and beyond. Brand, check!
Bring that new brand online and proudly show it off to the masses, while your business reaps the benefits of your hard work.
If you’ve ever re-launched your website, hopefully you’ve heard the phrase “ranking retention” or maybe “ranking protection”. At its most basic, it’s a series of steps you should take when you’re re-launching your website that are designed to minimize the impact of a re-launch. While this phrase implies that you need to do something to preserve your search engine rankings, it’s also something that you’re doing to preserve the user experience.
So, what is ranking retention exactly?
We tend to think of it as two separate tasks, actually. The first is matching up old URLs with new URLs and applying re-directs, and the second is updating deep links to your site.
Let’s say that your old site was built with urls that ended in .html (or .asp or .php) and your new site doesn’t use this extension (a common scenario for sites that haven’t been rebuilt in the last 5 or 6 years). Even if you keep the page names exactly the same (i.e. www.site.com/about-us.html vs. www.site.com/about-us), because of the extension being removed, Google (and other search engines) still view these as two separate URLs. Since one is really just an updated version of the other, you need to re-direct about-us.html to about-us so that the search engines understand that they should stop indexing the old URL and start indexing the new URL in its place. These are called 301 re-directs. Wikipedia defines a 301 re-direct as follows:
“The HTTP response status code 301 Moved Permanently is used for permanent redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the 301 Moved Permanently response is received for should be updated to the new URL provided in the Location field of the response.”
While the actual setting up of the re-directs is probably something you’ll have your web development or hosting team handle, creating the list is something that you or your marketing team should do. It’s usually as simple as setting up an Excel file with the old URL in one column and the new URL in another, and every page from your old site that has a version on the new site should be matched up against a new URL.
If there are pages on the old site that won’t exist in any form on the new site, you do not need to (or want to) create a re-direct – just let these pages go. Once you have the list, provide it to the appropriate people and they should be able to apply these at launch.
Once applied, there are 2 benefits:
You’ve now directed Google (and other search engines) on how you would like them to index and rank your site. There is, of course, no guarantee – Google might decide that even though they showed your page for a particular keyword search before, it no longer is the best fit, but if you’ve lined up your re-directs well and have had an eye towards choosing the right keywords and creating good content, you are in the best shape possible for this to be successful.
Users who click on your site on a search results page will be re-directed to your new site instead of just getting a dead link.Can you skip this step? Sure, but why would you want to? This is the easiest way to a) make your links in the search results still clickable and b) tell the search engines what you would like for them to do. And, having seen sites try to recover from a re-launch without doing this vs. the site who have done it – I’d vote for this every time, if for no other reason than it is incredibly easy to do, and it is terribly frustrating sending users to dead page after dead page while you wait for Google to crawl your new site and figure out on its own what pages it should index and de-index and how it should rank them.
As you continue to grow and market your website, you will likely come up with other legitimate reasons to use 301 re-directs and you may wind up re-directing a page to a page that has been re-directed to another page, and then re-directing that page to another page, etc. etc and so on. Sounds crazy, but we’ve seen it happen. And what we’re left with is a loop of re-directs that don’t always work the way they’re supposed to and can sometimes land visitors in the wrong place or no place at all. So be sure to monitor your site’s performance (is Google indexing the updated urls?, etc) and consider removing 301s when they are no longer needed. You will lighten the load on the server and minimize the possibility of crazy 301 loops down the road.
The second step in a ranking retention project is updating links to your site. To be clear, these are not links from your site to your distributors or partners, but rather links from their sites to your site.
There are a lot of different tools that can help you find a list of sites that are linking to you – Google WebMaster Tools is usually a good place to start. Once you have this list, you’ll need to separate the links so that you have a list of sites that link to your homepage (this URL usually isn’t changing, unless you are changing domains) and deep links (i.e. links that go to a product page or somewhere else in your site other than your homepage). It’s usually this second list where you might consider requesting updates. If you’ve only got a few links, it’s not such a big deal but if you’re a larger site that’s been around for years, you might have hundreds or even thousands, and you’ll want to set up a spreadsheet similar to the 301 list so that you can see what sites are linking to you, where they are linking and where you want them to link to. During this research stage, you should also be collecting contact information for these sites so that you can reach out to them.
There’s been a lot of questions over the years on whether this step is even necessary. Is it more valuable to have a site that correctly links to exactly the right URL vs. leaving the link alone and letting your 301 re-directs handle passing the user over? A recent response from Google says that it doesn’t actually matter.
So…. Can you skip this step? As much as I want to say “yes” (because, let me tell you, requesting link updates is maybe my least favorite thing to do at work ever), there is at least one good reason to keep doing it:
Your 301s might not always be on the server. Let’s say that you re-launch your site and put 301s in place. Some time down the road someone (maybe you!) notes that Google is indexing all of the new pages and decides to remove the 301s from the server. Although the 301s served their purpose and helped Google re-index your site, if you were counting on them to re-direct users who clicked on now-defunct links, once they are gone, users are now reaching dead links. Talk about a bad user experience! This is especially troublesome for the sites that were referring a lot of traffic to you. Once the 301s are gone, all of that traffic is instead going to your 404 page (if you have one, hopefully you have one. You do have one, right??) Bummer.
If you’ve got thousands and thousands of backlinks, you may need to prioritize where you make these link request efforts (for example, the sites that actually send traffic) but it’s worth taking the time to determine where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck and at minimum make those update requests.
Sadly (and this is why it’s my least favorite task), despite your best efforts, you may not get a lot of response. We’ve done some really successful link update campaigns and a lot where our requests fell on deaf ears… but as part of our due diligence and settings sites up in the best possible way, it’s still something we recommend doing. And, we tend to find that the sites with the best links get the best response – and there’s a lesson in that too!
Have you re-launched your site recently? Did you engage in ranking retention? How did it go? If you didn’t do it, what impact did you have from skipping this step? Tell us in the comments!
Our Northeast Ohio location means we are near thousands of manufacturers. It’s hard to believe all the things that are made right in our backyard.
This has given us a fantastic opportunity to work with dozens of manufacturers over the years building sites that generate leads or actually sell products via e-commerce.
Honestly, until recent years, the vast majority of manufacturing websites have been lead generation sites, but the tide is starting to turn. We’ve been counseling our clients for years to at least start getting comfortable with the notion that they are going to end up selling direct someday. Not all of them of course, there are many businesses where a distribution network will always be needed. But so many manufacturers make products that are easy to ship and sell. They need to consider leveraging e-commerce to help grow beyond what their distribution network can support or to diversify channels of business.
Concerns many manufacturers have about e-commerce:
Upsetting their current distributors by “competing”
Shipping very small quantities
We don’t hold inventory
We don’t know how to market or deliver that way
Top reasons manufacturers should consider it:
Margins – do you really need more reasons than that?
Distributors and stores are staffed lower, carrying less inventory, relying more on manufacturers anyways
Strategy and pricing can be adjusted to protect your distributors
E-commerce allows coverage where you don’t have distribution
We have helped several manufacturers, even some large distributors, dip their toes into e-commerce. They often start out small and hesitant, because of all the concerns I listed above. However, once they get a taste of that new revenue – at greater margin – rarely do they ask us to slow the faucet. The reality is most manufacturers that make consumer products, whether it be candy or plumbing supplies, don’t have the kind of distribution network that they need. E-commerce often makes their products readily available to consumers who are seeking an opportunity to buy.
If you own or run a manufacturing company and are struggling with that decision, or even if you’ve dismissed it already, I urge you to give it a second thought. We’re here to help, contact us with any questions.
We often get inquiries from people wanting to build a new e-commerce store. The idea sounds great on the surface (and can be an outstanding business if done right), but many seem to believe that if they throw a website up on the Internet, add some products, the sales will be there. That’s not how it works, typically.
Launching a brand new, e-commerce store should be viewed as starting a new business. That means you will need to invest capital to make your store successful. You’ll want a top quality website to cater to buyers on all types of devices: phones, tablets and desktops. Your new business will need good, desirable products – lots of them. A fledgling web store will also need a marketing strategy; otherwise, how will people find your company and its products?
There are many common mistakes people make when attempting to sell products online, but you might want to avoid these 3 biggies right out of the gate:
Don’t Go Cheap
An out-of-the-box or homemade e-store that doesn’t look good or perform well for visitors is a common mistake. A good e-commerce store needs to function well and look great if you want sales. People will be willing to make purchases if they are able find what they need, the prices and shipping rates are reasonable, and they feel they can trust you. Expect to spend 6 figures on high-quality web development and web marketing your first year in business.
Don’t Forgo Marketing Help
Not having a marketing strategy or knowing your competition is trouble. Selling products that nobody wants or items that everybody else is selling can pose a tremendous challenge to your new business. If the market you want to enter is highly-competitive, you’ll need a strategy to find visitors and your “niche” to enter the space. Great marketing is not cheap. It’s expensive. But, having a great marketing strategy will make your company money, and you’ll recoup your initial investment and become profitable.
Don’t Forget the Full-time Worker
Not having a dedicated person to operate your e-store business is often overlooked. It’s a full time commitment. You’ll want someone to manage adding products, shipping orders, handling returns, etc. It could be you. It could be someone that works for you. To be successful, you have to have someone working full-time for your new, e-commerce business – period.
Cutting corners by trying to build something on your own and working your way up usually does not pan out. Just like starting a brick and mortar business, you’ll need real estate – a fantastic store out of the gate. And, equally important, you’ll also need a plan to attract customers and get them into your store. Without a hefty, initial investment, you just may end up spending more money, when all is said and done, and have little to no results to speak of – and that is good money down the drain.
You’ve made it through half of the battle (and for some the hardest part): A visitor arrived at your e-commerce website. Now you need to get them to buy. There are a lot of things that go into increasing conversions but design is perhaps the most important.
Most of us would agree that we buy things that look great. Many times the design of a website is the first impression that we receive of a company. Good or bad, the design can influence your subconscious opinion of the product or service you’re considering purchasing. So, how can you ensure that the opinion formed is a good one and how can you use your design to help convert visitors to customers?
Make Sure Your Design Enhances Rather than Distract
Create a clean design with simple lines that does not distract away from the products you are selling. A great example of this is www.restorationhardware.com. You will notice in the image below that the website design is clean and simple. Some would even argue boring. The site design however accentuates the products they are selling.
In contract, the image below is of a complex design that in most cases people would see as a great design. However, it distracts your eye from the products they sell.
Utilize Large Hi-Resolution Images
Apple has implemented this beautifully over the past few years and now other e-commerce retailers have started to follow suite. With that said Apple has a limited number of products so it works. A company that has 10,000 products should not try to display products like apple.com.
Still, even if you have many products, there is something to be learned from Apple’s approach. Apple teaches us that displaying your products using large hi-resolution photos increases audience engagement. Gone are the days when a straight on, blurry shot of your product will do. Your customers want the photography to put them in front of the product. They want to feel an experience. Product photography can often times be over looked in an effort to make a great looking site. Don’t let that happen to you.
Incorporate Testimonials & Trust Factors into Your Design
Along with the need for a clean website that enhances your products. It is important for you to convey the experience and service that sets you apart from your competition. Using testimonials and trust factors such as phone number, business hours, social media icons, customer service guarantees, etc. is an effective way to gain your customers confidence and trust.
Add Value Elements in the Header
These elements are anything that adds value to the customer’s purchase. They can be Promotional Deals, Free Shipping or anything else considered to be a perk or add-on. Even if everything else is right, the promise of something for free or something a little extra, when used strategically and when it’s affordable for your company, can go a long way to helping convert a visitor. Just make sure that this isn’t the only tactic you rely on. Free shipping is only great if, when the product gets there, it’s great too. Otherwise it’s just a gimmick.
What other ideas do you have for improving sales through your e-commerce web design? Tell me in the comments!
Checkout is one of the most critical components of your e-commerce website’s experience. No matter how well you convince customers to buy your product, when it comes down to it, the checkout process can turn away even the most determined customers if it’s done poorly. Maximizing the checkout process is a HUGE topic, so in order to make this digestible, I’ll focus on one benefit at a time.
Less is More
Have you ever noticed how bland Amazon’s checkout process is from a design perspective? That’s because Amazon, more than anyone, knows that a critical component of a shopping conversion is to keep the customer laser-focused on the task at hand. The task, in this case, is to click the glittering “Process Order” button on the last checkout page. This is what the eCommerce game is all about.
So, what does a bland checkout process have to so with conversion rate? Simple; it removes any distractions that might provoke a customer to stray from completing checkout. But how can we identify those distractions so that we don’t remove something beneficial?
Generally speaking, anything that does not contribute directly to the checkout experience should be removed. Those things might include:
Site Navigation – Don’t tempt customers to click a link that might pull them out of the checkout process. They’ve made it this far so they’re committed to buying. We want them to buy above all else!
Excessive Design Elements – Your company logo, borders around content containers, and consistent global styles (fonts, colors, etc.) are all you really need to brand the checkout experience. We want this to be clean and clear, so declutter any extra images, backgrounds, bright colors, rotating gifs, and unicorns that are currently designed in. The buttons to continue should be far and away the biggest eye-candy on the page.
View Cart Buttons – There’s no reason to give them a link to the shopping cart when they’re already passed the shopping cart step.
Promotions/Coupons – They’ve already committed to purchasing the products in their cart at the current price. Don’t provoke the customer to scour the web looking for a coupon code. Ask for coupons on the shopping cart (but do it with subtlety!)
Legal Jargon – Minimize the legal disclaimers you put in front of a customer. If legally necessary, put all of your legalese in a popup window that the customer must opt-into reading by clicking on a link. We don’t want to frighten customers with a heavy legal hand. We should be seen as protecting the customer, not ourselves.
Links Back to Products – While showing the cart contents to the customer on the review order step, do NOT link those products back to the product detail page. They’ve already learned enough about the product to start the purchasing process, and offering a link back to the product might lose you a customer.
This is just a short list of the many things we all may have in our checkout processes that are doing more harm than good. Share any questions you have about ways to improve your cart in the comments.
Have you ever visited a site such as Spotify where the background appears to be moving? The Spotify site along with others have started using a method called Parallax scrolling to add more visual appeal to their pages. In this article I hope to explain some of the effects that Parallax scrolling has on SEO efforts.
What Is Parallax Scrolling?
Parallax scrolling is an effect that is produced by using a script to tell the background image to scroll at a slower rate than the page content. Parallax scrolling has become more and more popular over the past few years and for good reason; if done correctly, it can add depth and dimension to your site. While this method of development is very eye catching, we as an online marketing agency have had some questions about the affect that it has on Search Engine Optimization.
Using Spotify as my example, I’ve explored five fundamentals of optimization and how Parallax affects each one.
Page URLs are an important place to insert keywords relating to that page. It is important that these URLs are different for every page of your site. You will notice that when you click here to view the upgrade page on Spotify.com, that the URL remains the same as the homepage. This means that Google recognizes this site as containing only one page. With that said Spotify has a robust help section located at http://support.spotify.com. The pages that are part of this support section all have separate URLs but since the domain is http://support.spotify.com the actual domain of http://spotify.com is not getting credit for those pages. That is STRIKE ONE!
Header Tags (H1 Tags)
Header Tags like URLs are a place to add keywords that help the viewer to understand what content that given page will contain. The current best practice is that each page should only use one H1 tag. As discussed above in the URLs section we know that Google only recognizes this site as one page. That means that this single page contains 7x H1 tags. STRIKE TWO!
Page titles are an integral element in an effective SEO strategy. Like URLs, page titles should contain keywords pertaining to the content on that given page. If we look at the Spotify example we see that Google recognizes the entire http://spotify.com website as being one page. This means that Spotify only has space to create one page title. It also means that there is only one page that can show up in organic search results. This is STRIKE THREE!
We have already given this development method three strikes however we have to finish this analysis. Meta descriptions are the last piece of this test. Meta descriptions, also known as page descriptions show up under the page title in organic search results. While Meta descriptions arguably have little effect in organic search rankings they are still important to have. They are important because they provide the potential site visitor with information about what the page is about. At TKG we also like to add a call to action in the description as well. Like the other three fundamental elements of SEO that we looked at above, we recognize that Spotify.com can only have one page description for the entire site due to Google viewing the site as one page. That’s STRIKE FOUR!
Perhaps the most important part of your site is the content that is actually on the page. This content can be in the form of images and text. The current trend is to make eye catching image driven websites that contain little text elements. While eye catching this presents and issue for SEO. Google cannot crawl images unless there is text associated with them. So therefore if a site is primarily images Google does not recognize most of the content on the site.
The other issue that often arises is that sites that are primarily image based take a long time to load. In most instances Google robots will time out before they reach all of the content on your site because they have to wait for it to load. STRIKE FIVE, alright I think we have to say you’re out now.
Parallax scrolling is a gorgeous effect that is becoming more and more popular. However, building a site using parallax prevents the site from being optimized using five of the most fundamental methods of optimization. As parallax scrolling becomes more and more popular, we expect there to be more ways to optimize the content.
Next week I tackle the question: Is it ever OK to use parallax scrolling on your site?
Did you know that by the year 2017, a Cisco study says 69% of all consumer web traffic will be to access video content? Here are three things you didn’t know about using video as content to help you prepare for the future of video.
Customers are more likely to buy after seeing a video. A recent study from the Web Video Marketing Council and Flimp Media shows that video embedded in an email can be a very persuasive. Some stats from the study:
88% report that email with integrated video improves overall campaign performance
76% acknowledged that video generates high click-through rates
72% believe that prospective clients are more likely to buy after viewing video content sent via an email.
The concept of “show and tell” is still very much a part of who we are. If we see it, we are more likely to believe. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to watch a video than read a report or a case study. Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report illustrates this concept in a big way by showing that most North American small businesses and big brands are focusing on video as the critical content marketing element for their future branding efforts.
Human connection sells, and it sells well. People like to see a face, hear a voice and connect with the emotion of the person or people in a video. There is a reason YouTube gets over one billion views per month; even in this super tech world, we are still looking for that human-to-human connection, even if it is just on the screen. Showing the people or causes behind your company is a compelling way to differentiate yourself from your competition.
What are your favorite ways to use video content? Tell us in the comments! photo credit
You’ve probably watched more than your share of video content on the Web. What is it that keeps you coming back for more? We’re not talking about the endless array of cat videos on YouTube, though we’ve laughed at our share of those, too. We’re talking about videos that tell a story, share an experience or explain a new product.
Because of the way Google and YouTube measure traffic for video, (the viewer has to watch for eight seconds to be considered as one view); you must grab attention quickly, then continue to deliver compelling, watchable content.
Follow these tips on how to create compelling video content that will have your audience watching and engaging with you and your business.
Understand your key message(s) before filming. Break up information into bite size pieces and deliver it in a fresh and relatable way. Whether you’re delivering straight to camera in a “video diary” format, or creating something more complex, the audience should walk away knowing exactly what you were trying to say or show.
Add music for enhanced impact. Music can be an engaging addition to your video, and can help add an emotional appeal to your message. Websites like audiojungle.com allow users to search and purchase music affordably for video.
Vary the view. Secondary footage, B-roll or even photos can really help keep your audience’s attention. Software like iMovie or Celtx allows even those with basic editing skills to storyboard a script ahead of time, so that it’s easy to “drop” images or footage into your video.
Tell a story. Storytelling is a powerful tool in video. Know your audience well, and tell them a story that specifically relates to their interests and needs.
Categorize information. Think in terms of main categories or “buckets” when planning your overall content strategy for video. Categories might include:
About videos, which convey who you are as a company or as individuals (e.g. a profile on an employee who has been with the company for over 25 years)
Demonstration videos, which showcase a product or service (e.g. a 30 second overview of how a new machine works)
Education videos, which teach viewers a new skill related to your industry or niche (e.g. a garden center would explain how to get a perfect lawn)
Testimonial videos, which would highlight great reviews or stories about your business from actual customers or clients (e.g. a happy family who has benefitted from your services)
Include a promise or a benefit for your viewers, and then show how you deliver. For example, in a short video about excellent customer service, show how one of your agents went the extra mile for a customer.
Keep it short! 15-30 seconds is plenty of time to deliver short information or snippets, 60-90 seconds can show a product in a new and interesting way, and three minutes is the perfect length to tell a story in a “mini-documentary” style. This is the Web, after all, so think in terms of easy-to-view, shareable content that anyone could watch during a lunch break or quick free moment.
Create a series. If viewers liked the first video, they will come back for more. A series is a great way to create repeat traffic, as well as unique traffic from sources that have linked to your original video. Blendtec has been remarkably successful on YouTube for their “Will it Blend” series, which is widely considered one of the first uses of video content marketing on the Web.
Use strong Calls to Action. Your content is great…but make sure it compels viewers to act. Whether you simply want them to view a unique landing page on your site, ask them to do so, both at the end of your video and in the description below (if hosting the video on YouTube).
So there you have it, folks…your recipe to video content greatness. We’d love to see your examples of your favorite videos…send us a link in the comments!
But even deeper than the statistics is the fact that video can be an incredibly powerful–and even affordable–way to add yet another poignant touchpoint to your customers’ experience with your business and brand online.
Here are a few reasons to consider video for your business.
1. Easily Consumable Information
Many people report preferring to watch video rather than reading text, and data shows that when video is present, visitors spend more time on page than if there’s simply copy. Even more importantly, businesses can give a lot of information in a very short amount of time, which can:
Save time overall
Shorten a learning curve
Make better use of your staff’s time
For example, using video as a part of the sales process to demo a product or service not only saves time in verbally explaining a process, it allows your sales team to spend more time on building relationships.
2. Content Over “Quality”
Truly, there is no medium that favors the right kind of content over the quality of the production like video. Most YouTube videos, in fact, are taken with phones or point and shoot cameras. Even more interestingly, the top 100 YouTube channels feature mostly individual users–not brands–who typically don’t have huge budgets to produce video.
But they “win” by producing great content that’s relatable. The lesson? Even if you don’t have a Red Bull sized budget for video content marketing, you can do video content marketing.
3. Easy Multiple Device Viewing
We throw around the term “responsive design” a lot, to mean that websites need to be able to be viewed easily on multiple devices. Video is a great responsive tool that is consumable on mobile, tablets, laptops and desktops. Plus, with consumers using mobile devices more than ever to access the Web, forget them scrolling through endless amounts of text on a page to learn more about you.
4. Multiple Touchpoints for Conversion
Each video is an opportunity to extend a conversation with a viewer or customer, either through a Call to Action at the end of the video, links to landing pages a video’s description, or annotations in the video itself on YouTube. Other e-commerce video platforms, like Cinematique, allow viewers to buy a product directly from the video in which its being demonstrated.
Videos can be linked to or embedded in multiple places on multiple platforms, allowing you to reach your consumers where they are, and when they want to consume information. Each view is a touchpoint about your brand, service or product, and helps to build the overall experience with your company.
5. Enhanced Search Opportunities
Google really likes video, and makes it easier than ever for companies to rank higher in search with well-optimized titles, tags and descriptions. Video appears in around 70% of the top Google listings, and provides a more visual search experience for your customers when you choose compelling thumbnail images.
Video isn’t going anywhere, and, in fact, is being adopted more and more by companies as consumers demand more easily consumable custom content. And with studies showing numbers like a 70% bump in email click through rates when video is used, or a 44% increase in conversions when a product is demonstrated on video, it is a savvy investment for small to mid-sized businesses.
And the investment is really the main reason to use video in your business; it’s one of the most effective ways to easily “play with the big boys.” Everyone has a decent video camera these days, and even without a giant budget, businesses can use a little creativity and a little time to create a better overall experience for customers.