Three Problems People Have With Websites: And How to Succeed in the Mid-Ohio Valley

Consider this: There are about 700 million websites. But to most of us, only a tiny fraction of those sites exist because 56% of searches on Google have a local intent.

People are loyal to websites that draw them in because, simply put, the majority of those local websites sites are just plain bad. Of millions of websites analyzed by Marketing Grader, a whopping 72% received a grade of 59 out of 100 or below, which essentially means 72% of websites are failing to attract new visitors and convert leads.

Small business owners across the Mid-Ohio Valley are constantly asking us, “How can a website fail?”

Although websites were introduced over 20 years ago, the vast majority still function on old-school paradigms established in the 1990s. Most websites today act as digital brochures, offering little substance. Even if a website has a good balance of design and utility, few companies are building websites that serve their primary purpose: to attract visitors, convert leads, and delight customers with rich, relevant, and valuable content.

What is worse – InSilico Media Group has discovered most of the other web development agencies locally can’t even custom-code a website. Many competitors are relying on outdated Content Management System (CMS) tools, or are using programs like Adobe Business Catalyst or other drag-and-drop design software. To put it simply: many agencies are disguising themselves as “professional web developers” while using only a small number of website templates from CMS themes that are often already outdated, or even worse, graphic design software that has no ability to adapt to today’s ever-changing technology.

InSilico Media Group believes a website should be a company’s salesperson, and it should be the core of a firm’s marketing machinery and thought-leadership strategy. In short, a website should be as dynamic as your physical location. For companies without a physical office location, a website is mandatory to establish credibility and act as your virtual sales floor to showcase your products or services.

We see a lot of companies getting hung up on one aspect of their website that needs fixing, such as better SEO or a sleeker design—one of those old-school paradigms. Today’s buyer is looking for a website that delivers a personalized, integrated experience every step of the way. Today’s buyer doesn’t care about your jingles, nor do they care about the nostalgia of buying from an established, “pillar of the community” brand. They care about price and convenience.

Here’s where most websites are getting it wrong and how you can get it right with your own site.

1. Most websites act like an online brochure instead of a thought-leadership resource

You’ve spent all this time and money building a beautiful website, optimizing for search and testing the paid advertising waters. But your bounce rate is high, you conversion rate is low, and your traffic and leads are flat or dropping over time. What gives?

Even with a sound SEO strategy and user-friendly design, a website is an engine that runs on remarkable content being continuously pumped into it day after day. If you’re not managing your website on a continual basis, you’ll quickly become irrelevant. That’s why InSilico Media Group offers low-cost options to have our team manage your website, keeping it up-to-date with technology so it functions perfectly, while also ensuring it will continue to attract the right visitors.

As I noted earlier, the primary goal of a website is to attract visitors, convert leads, and delight customers. Your business won’t see those benefits unless you turn your website into an inbound marketing machine that presents your brand as a thought-leader with fresh offers, landing pages, calls-to-action, new media, social conversation, and other content assets. By creating such content, you grow traffic and leads organically, without having to rely on paid campaigns.

In the end, you want to own the Web, not rent it. A website that harnesses inbound marketing attracts customers to your business and turns a static site into something visitors actually want to “consume” and interact with.

2. Most websites are one-size fits all instead of dynamic

Back in the day, websites were created with a “set it and forget it” mentality. Like advertising, corporate sites were a vehicle for broadcast, not conversation. But in this attention-scarce economy, buyers expect to receive relevant information that’s tailored to their specific wants and needs.

Many website development companies immediately fail their clients by only providing a small number of theme options. There is no “one size fits all” in web design, so companies like Dex Media, that use only a small handful of website templates do their clients a disservice when it comes to web development. If you are an HVAC contractor, you don’t want your website to look like the dentist across town, the roofing contractor down the road, and your biggest competitor in the region who also used their web design services. You are investing in a website that represents your company – that focuses on what sets you apart from your competition… that is easier to navigate, more appealing, and more credible than your competition. You want a website that will leverage you as the local leading provider of your product or service through quality, custom content.

Though many companies begin by investing in content marketing, that’s only half of the equation. Content plus context delivers a personalized experience to people who interact with you online. Many marketers today think of context only in the form of email. They obsess over list segmentation and relevant copy to specific audiences. That works until the person receiving the message takes any action outside email and finds a non-contextual website, mobile app, landing page, and call-to-action.

Today’s buyers require a personalized experience. They don’t like to be treated like everyone else. They don’t want to buy from a company that looks like everyone else. They want a unique, custom experience that will keep their attention, and make them want to come back for more. Context helps marketers gain a larger share of attention from prospects and helps move buyers down the funnel.

3. Most websites are built for the company, not the customer

If you’ve ever been involved in a website redesign, you know the process usually involves many stakeholders, from senior leadership to internal employees and perhaps an agency. But when was the customer—the person you’re supposedly building the site for—ever asked to weigh in?

Many websites do a great job of highlighting how awesome they are; but, I hate to break it to you, your customers don’t care… They land on your homepage hoping to solve a problem, answer a question, buy something, or to be entertained. They aren’t there to hear you talk about yourself, to see how many awards you’ve won, or to put your product pages on their must-have reading list.

Your website may be pretty, but if it doesn’t provide what the customer wants, despite how much marketing power you put behind it, you will have failed. Do you really want to end up like Digg, Pets.com, or the original MySpace? All of those websites offered good services and were powered by advertising. But, in the end, they couldn’t retain their audience.

A customer-focused website makes it easier for you to earn someone’s interest than to buy it.

All it takes is a little bit of research and the decision to create a more user-centered design. Do so, and your customers will love your website and think, “This is for me!”

One thing we learn when conducting market research, time and time again, is that customers are frustrated when they can not find the business, service, or products online. Did you know 78 percent of local-mobile searches resulted in an offline purchase?

Some people say “the website is dead.” Is it, really? Sure, the website may be 20+ years old, but in today’s convergence of Web, social, and traditional media, your website is more vital than ever.

If you don’t avoid these three deadly mistakes, your website will struggle to see results. The key is to not think of a website as just a website. Think of it as a media channel. An extension of your brand. And a voice for the customer.

If you focus on creating a website that harnesses content plus context and puts your customer at the core, then you’ll experience an increase in returned visitors, leads, loyalty, and word-of-mouth.

Contact our team – we’re ready to build your company a website that will launch you ahead of your competition, and grow your customer base.

Important Factors to Consider When Choosing a Web Design Company

Websites are one of the greatest tools for a business, but if you go down a path that is not a good match for your purpose and budget it can be an expensive and time consuming nightmare.

Buying a website can be tricky, simply because sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and that can make it difficult to ask the right questions. Many businesses throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley don’t know what they want their website to do and have not established goals for their website. Often, business owners in Parkersburg and Marietta just know they want or need a website – usually because someone told them they did. So to help you out and get you oriented, the web design and marketing teams at InSilico Media Group have put together this blog of what you must know before choosing a web design company.

Can you update the website content yourself?

Ensure you will have access to update and edit the content of your website 24/7 on the fly. This is achieved by software which is called a content management system or CMS. Regardless of whether you intend to edit and upload the content of your website yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it’s important that your website is built on a content management system so that it is easy to make changes.

BUT – you need to ensure you are going to have administrative access to your website. Afterall, you are paying for it and you are the business owner. Recently, one business in Belpre discovered they did not have the administrative access to their website so they could not update the website, only the products listed on the website. Their two-year old website is now extremely outdated and has lost functionality due to changes in technology.

This is considered as best business practice in website development for small businesses and has become fairly common these days. It is something important to consider because if your website isn’t on a CMS, it can create a lot of expense later on when you’re wanting to change or add content. You will also want to make sure that the CMS is an industry standard platform and you also want to make sure that it’s easy to use and that good training and support materials are available to you.

However, while there is no shame in a web developer using a CMS tool to build a website- you have to make sure the web developer is using the most ideal tool for your specific needs. If a web developer is using a CMS tool they developed themselves, expect limited functionality for any future upgrades you want to make to your website, and it may not have all of the fancy bells and whistles you are looking for in a website, or may want in the future. Also, make sure the web developer actually owns the website theme they are using, so that they are not hindered from future updates. If a web developer will not disclose the specific theme they are using for your website, throw up a red flag. Because themes are developed by companies, you can easily research the theme yourself to ensure the functionality and security are credible enough to the standards you need, and will provide support your web developer needs to ensure a job is done right the first time and has your best interests in mind.

Communicate and learn

The ever-changing web makes it a highly complex and technically challenging monster even for us who are living and breathing it every day. Web Design is not a “learn it and use it” industry – it is an ever-changing field that requires a developer to “learn and apply while continuing to learn”… So it is highly important that you understand what your web agency is talking about and doing.

When you enter into a discussion with them, they should be on your side, working hard to explain what they do, how they do it and most importantly why they are doing it. If you are ever confused or lost by any part of the discussion, it’s not your fault… it’s theirs.

A good web design agency will take the time to answer questions, educate you, and write a series of blogs to help you grow through empowerment of knowledge (gosh, that sounds familiar…).

What to do? Ask the agency questions about their process, their methodologies and why they are making certain recommendations or decisions. If you don’t understand a component of the web project, ask. True, it is up to you do your own research, but you should never feel like you’re in the dark about your investment.

Know your bottom line

The first step to work out is what you want your website and internet marketing to achieve. You need to consider carefully your aim, your goals and how you are going to measure success.

For example, if your website is mainly e-commerce your focus is going to be on return-on-investment (ROI), conversion of sales, and building and maintaining your customer base.
If you are launching a new company and you need brand awareness, you will simply be providing information and education about your services or products. So in this case, good visibility and a clear focus is needed.

When you know what you need to accomplish your goals, you will be able to see if an agency fits the bill.

What to do? Ask the agency you’re interested in to provide solid proof of their capabilities. They should be showing you case studies or examples of how they have approached a problem and how they have provided a solution.

Even if a website is not launched yet, a website design company should be able to show you the websites they are currently building for other clients.

Is the web company established and experienced?

It’s important to find a web design company that has experience – not just longevity in business for themselves, but an experienced staff that qualifies them to build your website. You can measure this in years, number of clients and also through the quality their web design portfolio.

This is not necessarily how long an agency has been in business. In fact, a lot of new agencies have some stellar ideas and new methodologies to consider. The point here is how much the agency understands your industry and have they effectively delivered a similar solution to their other clients?

What to do? Ask the agency for some performance data, client testimonials and a case study or two demonstrating their approach and how they measure results.

Three important questions to ask are:
How long has the company been designing and developing websites?
How many clients do they have?
How many employees do they have?

In order to try and save a little bit of money there is often a temptation to get your website designed and developed by a small company, a freelancer or a friend-of-a-friend’s nephew that’s just graduated from a college or university (often people mistake a degree in marketing, graphic design, or information technology as “qualified” to build a website. Trust me, most aren’t).

Often freelancers and small developers just don’t have the experience they thought they did and what seemed like a money saver can become an expensive repair job as you will often need to start from scratch again.We have heard these unfortunate stories time and time again and we have found that going with smaller companies and freelancers is often a short-term approach for ultimately what is a long-term project. Realistically a website is an ongoing project and it is important to partner with an experienced and established company that will be there for the long-term and has the experience to offer you ongoing support and advise.

What should I expect to pay?

A question we often hear is – “how much should I pay for a website?”

Website prices can range a lot, you can get a website for as little as almost nothing and just pay for hosting, or the price can go all the way through to $10,000 and beyond. One of the interesting things about the web design industry is that you can get quoted a considerably different amount for the same job depending on the company that is quoting you.

As is the case when looking to purchase anything there can be a temptation to go with the cheapest option. You can buy websites from between $100-$400, however it is important you understand what you are purchasing as these products always have limitations. Another important thing to consider with these products is that they are often out-of-the-box solutions and you won’t get the consultation and customisation that can be important so that the website is best serving your business interests. These cheap options can still work for some people, but not for all.

To some degree the saying “you get what you pay for” holds true in the web design industry. However there is a point where the price just keeps going up and the quality of the work or expertise doesn’t justify the cost.

Obviously price is highly dependent on the specific functionality that you require, but if you have a budget of between $2000 – $5,000 , and if you follow the points in this document when selecting the web design company, you should be able to get a professionally designed and developed website for your small business.

The best way to look a website is that it is a long-term project and an investment in your business. If you are prepared to pay a little extra and choose the right company your website can be an asset and money making tool for years to come.

Will you get support when you need it?

Does the company you’re purchasing the website from offer ongoing support? When you purchase a website, it is very important that you choose a web design company offers reliable, generous and cost effective support on an ongoing basis, as well as what specific services the website company offers. This is incredibly important because a website has a lot of different functions and aspects to it, and it helps to have professional assistance available when you need it.

A story we hear often and our clients have experienced repeatedly is with freelance developers or small web design companies who start working on a project and are fantastic in the beginning, but within 6 to 12 months their enthusiasm and commitment wanes.

Often they’ve started a steady job or taken on new projects and then old projects are not as fun to work on, or they don’t have time to work on them anymore. So make sure that the support is in place with a company that has support as a part of their business practice.

Keep it all in one Place

It’s very helpful and convenient to be able to simply have one company handle everything that relates to your website and online presence. Secondary services are anything that will support your business and your online presence. That could be graphic design services, copywriting, domain names, hosting, support, and most importantly online marketing. You want to know that the company you’re dealing with can offer you a full range of services that relate to your website and that they have good solid marketing skills.

There are agencies in the Mid-Ohio Valley that contract local web developers to develop websites under the agency despite being a separate company. Unfortunately, this means the sub-contractor is not always available to the hired agency which means you are now in a third party situation where support for your website may be delayed, or impossible.

Your website is an investment into the future of your business and you are going to want to make it work for you and it’s going to have a life cycle alongside your business. It’s a long-term project for you and as you develop your business, you will want to make the most out of it using different services to promote your businesss, as you grow professionally.

Are there any additional or hidden charges

When you are purchasing a website and receiving quotes, in addition to getting a fixed project price, it’s important to be aware of any limitations, ongoing charges and costs that may be related to the website.

For Example: hosting and support fees. But you will also want to know about additional development costs or future design costs. It is good to know how much the ballpark studio rates are per hour to cover your expectations. It’s also important to establish the project scope and prices straight up. (This would be a good time to reference our blog: 19 Reasons to NOT Do-It-Yourself)

Sometimes without correct management, a company can allow a project to go out of scope and budget, or get escalated due to unexpected challenges, and suddenly you’re in a situation where you’re 75% invested in the project and now it’s more expensive than what was originally quoted. And this can also happen because you have decided mid way that you want more functionality too.

Another thing to consider are the particular limitations of the service, for example, limited hosting space or design revisions. If the company is placing limits on these you can guess there’s a chance that you will be charged extra if you exceed these limits.

Know your strategy

A good web agency should be offering you a clear concise web strategy. This goes beyond your website. A good strategy will give your business a strong sense of authority, relevance and trust. When you’ve got a solid plan, you’re able to measure. When you measure you’re able to make good decisions based on real data. This results in converting your site visitors into paying customers.

What to do? Ask your agency to explain their approach in great detail. Make sure the strategy is able to reach your goals in step one. The approach should outline that you will reach your deadline and stay within budget.

You can tell a web agency has a good strategy when they begin the website build process with a strategy to get to a “final product” where you can begin to make profits off what they build.

See samples of their work

It is important to review and see samples of the work and craftsmanship that the web design company has produced in the past. This will give you a good reference point for what they can provide for you. It’s important in these cases to not only look at the quality of the design, but also the functionality of the websites. Any good web design company should be able to show you a large amount of work that they have done. This will be a very good indication of the service and quality that you’ll receive from their company and it’s a great place to start in terms of evaluating the company.

When you are looking at their work, test the websites across various devices. Check to see how the website looks on a desktop and a mobile device and test every page for broken links.

Be sure to read the websites for grammatical errors, and ensure the website is not filled with redundent, boring copy.

Along with this, it is also good to review any testimonials or case studies that the company may have from their clients. It is good peace of mind to know that their clients are actually happy with the service that they’ve provided.

Recognize content is your best asset

You no doubt have come up with your own reasons for either a makeover or a re-launch of a new site. Most often, the first thing that comes to mind is how your website looks and functions. These are of course important factors, but the most important factor that is most likely overlooked is your content.

If your agency tackles art before content, you’re in the wrong place working with the wrong folks. They are simply putting lipstick on a pig.

Your agency needs to dig deep, they need to be asking the right questions about your customers, your business and your industry. If they are not, red flags should be going up and you should be headed for the door.

It is honestly the most important aspect to consider when choosing an agency. The agency needs to know the importance of content first. Whether they create the content or receive from a copywriter, they are building the framework that is housing your content. They need to understand how your users will interact with the content and how you specifically will manage the content in the future. This ensures that your website is delivering your message and maintains its quality for years to come.

InSilico Media Group launches every website build with a concise plan of action – so clients know when content is due, and when artwork is due. We ask over 30 questions to get to the heart of the “why”s and “how”s of this project.

What to do? Use your content to help your customers. Content is everything from your written copy to your images and videos and more. Your web agency should be talking content before art. If anything, they should be in touch with your marketing team or copywriters if they are not creating the content themselves.

 

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Five Signs That Your Website Needs Revamping

Technology changes quickly, so we need to adapt and revamp our business when the need arises. That holds true for your website, too. A capable-to-change website is a must for businesses.

So, do you suspect your website needs a major makeover but aren’t certain whether it is so bad that you have to start from scratch?

Here are five signs that you may need to make the move:

1. Your website just looks old and outdated

Still using 3-D gradient word art for your website banner? Then it’s time to change that to a more modern look.  Even Google has updated for a more modern, flat-design.

Remember that when you create a website, the first thing people judge is its appearance. Does it look appealing? Does it follow the trends? Is it modernized?  Those are just some questions readers ask when they go through a website before deciding whether it is worth their time.

If your website is still full of late 1990s-era stock photos and animated GIFs then it’s time to reinvent your beloved site to make it look fresh, contemporary, and approachable. The aesthetics of one’s website mirrors the user’s experience with it, so you should always make sure that your website is on track physically to attract more readers.

Remember, just because a website looks “pretty” doesn’t mean it follows modern design trends, which is significant to functionality of your website, and is extremely important to be found online by new customers.

2. Its technology is past its prime

When assessing your website, the appearance isn’t the only thing to check to see whether it’s outdated. You should check to see whether your website platform and content management system is up to date because it will definitely reflect through your website.

If you’ve not updated your analytics lately, you could be in for a surprise. Recently, we had the opportunity to review a website built in 2010 that had analytics showing 34% of their traffic came from out-of-the-country. Everyone agreed: 3% or 4% would be understandable – but 34%? Huge red flag something needs a serious update.

Having the site updated also gives you new features for editing and displaying your posts. As you update your platform, you also update the progress of your website to a more contemporary one that will appeal to many viewers.

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Simply put, if your website was built when we were still using floppy disks or CD-ROMs as primary storage devices – it’s time for an update.  If your website was built last year, it is time for an update.

3. It isn’t mobile-ready

Due to the fast-pacing progress of technology, we now have mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets that enable us to receive information anywhere. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you might risk your business due to accessibility frustrations. It shouldn’t be slow nor show the desktop version of your site when you are in a mobile device.

Studies show that up to 70% of website visits come from mobile gadgets, so make sure that your website is “mobile-intelligent” and easily accessible through various devices.

Basically, if your website means you have to “expand, expand, expand, scroll, scroll, scroll, reduce, reduce, reduce” to use on a mobile device, then you need an update.

4. You don’t receive feedback

The purpose of having a contact form and a contacts page in a website is to measure the attraction to its viewers. If no one fills out your contact forms, then it’s probably time to revamp your site.

Before starting your renovations, you should know and address the exact mission of the site. Make your old website a lesson so that once you’re redesigning, you wouldn’t repeat the mistakes you made before.

5. You’ve had a change in business focus

A client once told me that business goals change from time to time, and it doesn’t mean the business failed because it changed paths; it only means growth and progression. That should be portrayed through the website.

I can’t tell you how many clients we have had throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley that have told us “we don’t sell that anymore” or “we actually added this service to our capabilities but it’s never been online” …. or my favorite “we get calls for this service all the time but we stopped doing that years ago”.

The good thing about technology is that it embraces change, so when your business focus is transformed, your website’s change would be seen as the company’s innovation rather than deterioration.

If you want to keep up with the changing online environment, your business goals should also keep up. Social media platforms are now used for marketing, and adding that to your business goals will help expand your company into different areas.

Your website is a huge portion of your business, and it should never cease to reinvent as your business progresses.

Posted in Web

Sure, you don’t need a website

In the last 14 months we’ve been building websites as InSilico Media Group, there’s always a business or two that says “I don’t need a website” … It’s a flawed argument in today’s world…. Let’s discuss.

1. “I don’t need one”

This is the most popular of all of the reasons. It’s been followed by several counterpoints:

  •  “We don’t use a computer to run our business, why would we use the internet to bring customers in?” – regardless how you feel you need to run your business, over 84% of Americans regularly use the internet, and 96% are online every day. That means your competition IS online, and IS using a computer. Think of how your business would be if all of your customers thought exactly like you did.
  • “We already have ads in the newspaper and on TV, I think we’re doing okay.” – Great, but are people calling your store? Are people even seeing your ads? How do you know they are even seeing your ads? Websites have back-end analytics to show you where your traffic is coming from, how long they’re staying, how many times they’re coming back, and what pages they are looking at. Can your newspaper ad tell you how many times it was seen and read today? Didn’t think so…
  • “We’re just going to wait and see what happens for now.” – Okay, but just remember, competition can pop up out of nowhere overnight. InSilico Media Group is a prime example. We spent a week building our website and designing our business cards. We invested $10 into business cards and launched our company. We weren’t taken seriously by our competition for the first two weeks. After three months, our biggest competitor went from a staff of 12 and 15 clients to a staff of 3 and 5 clients. If you think you can “wait and see” what happens, use caution. Competitors can pop up from no where and use the internet to level the playing field quickly and steal market share.
  • “We’re too small of a company for a website” – you don’t have to be a large company to have a good website. In fact, your website can be your best friend. A good website will help you establish your company’s credibility, and will help answer questions people may have about your products or services. A good website can also help you provide service quotes or return messages quicker and more effectively by adding custom fields to your contact form to cut down on back-and-forth communication that can take valuable man hours.

2. “My industry is not online”

What industry is not online anymore? From businesses that provide services to businesses that sell products, all industries are online, even if they’re only promoting information about their company. If your competition generally isn’t online, think of the opportunity you have to rise above the competition online to steal market share. If your industry tends to get the most business from a phone book, think about all of the people who use Google to find a local business or service instead of a phone book. By being online, you’re separating your business from the “menu” of businesses under that specific service in the phone book, and now have the ability to highlight your business online, above and beyond your competition.
Basically, your customers ARE online. That’s the fact you can’t ignore. In fact, 61% of internet users will perform basic research about products or services from a company before making a purchasing decision. And, with so many Americans (over 90%) using an internet-connected mobile phone, chances are great that they’re looking for your business when they’re nearing a “purchase-ready” mindset.

3. “I don’t have the money for a website”

First things first, InSilico focuses on affordable websites for all businesses.  We don’t overestimate or charge a ridiculous fee for sub-par work.  Often times, we give more value than promised because we feel that’s the right thing to do.

However, from an objective point of view, even when cash flow is a little tight, businesses need to invest in themselves in order to grow.  Much like the old saying “if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never get anything accomplished” – a website can be a powerful tool in boosting your revenue.  A website helps build credibility, and is available to potential customers on a 24/7 basis.  If you’re missing out on sales because you’re only open when your target audience is at work, a website is a good source of information regarding your service costs or services provided.  It’s a good scheduling tool for individuals that can’t call in during normal business hours to coordinate an appointment or service call.

If you’re a service provider or product producer that is trying to obtain larger corporate contracts, a website helps lend credibility to show your capabilities to have people consider doing business with you. (Think: if you’re an exterior painting company and you’re trying to contract with a large property management company, a website will help you showcase your capabilities and help get your proposal taken seriously)  Would you consider hiring an employee who didn’t have a resume? How credible would you consider their work capabilities?  It works the same for your business.  Both in B2C and B2B settings, a website helps solidify that your business is the business to work with.

Instead of thinking about how much you have to invest to have a website, consider how much money are you losing by NOT having a website?

 

4. “I have enough customers already” or “Our customers come to us from referrals”

Even when referred to a business, people still research the brand online.  Regardless if the referral came from a doctor, lawyer, best friend, or parent, our society has become so used to information-on-demand that we research everything before making a final commitment.  In today’s world, everyone wants the best “bang for their buck” and everyone wants to make sure that they are 100% comfortable with a brand before investing any time or money.

Also, not everyone knows where you are.  In fact, 50% of mobile searches are in search of a local business.  Many people become “sign blind” – where they will pass a location so many times that they start to ignore the exterior signage.  Or, if you’re not on someone’s “usual route”, they may forget where you are located all together.

Also, even the most loyal of customers may not know you offer a specific service.  In fact, 61% of searches results in an immediate purchase.  A customer could be coming to you for many years for the same product or service, without ever noticing that you offer another product or service that they currently go elsewhere for.  Case-in-point, I used the same dry cleaning service for three years before I discovered they also clean rugs.  I had been paying over $400 more each year for a carpet cleaner to come to my home to clean my rugs than I would have paid if I had just rolled them up and put them in the back of my SUV with our family’s dry cleaning.

 

5. “I don’t have time to maintain it”

While websites need constant maintenance to remain relevant in the eyes of search engines, most websites don’t need a lot of time invested into them.  Simple updates usually take as long as it takes to drink a cup of coffee or smoke a cigarette.  The hard part comes in writing content and keeping up with your search engine optimization efforts.

Many companies, such as InSilico Media Group, will contract with companies to keep websites up-to-date with content and back-end updates for search engine optimization.

 

6. “I use social media”

Well, above and beyond all of our posts about why you can’t rely just on social media, ask yourself this question: “how am I getting new clients?” … if you’re in constant need of new customers, then you’re in need of continued marketing. The more customers you need, the more aggressively you need to market.

Websites bring in 6 times more new customers than social media.  Think about your own shopping habits.  Are you more apt to look for a business on Facebook, or Google?  The majority of people looking for a product or service turn to a search engine first, and social media second.

While social media helps grow “word of mouth” referral business, a website helps people find you when they are looking for your services, and helps solidify brand credibility immediately with new customers, without all of the clutter surrounding social media.

 

6 Common Website Objections

 

In conclusion, if we’ve not made enough valid counter argument points about why a website is so important for a business, then, sure, you don’t need a website.  If you don’t want your business to grow, then sure, you don’t need a website.  If you don’t need new customers, then sure, you don’t need a website.  But we’re pretty sure that, in 2016, every business needs a website.

 

If you’re ready to get started, call us today! 304-615-8921.

 

Posted in Web

More Proof You Need MORE Than Social Marketing

Facebook announced on June 29th, 2016 that it has once again changed the secret recipe that decides what to show its users in their Newsfeeds. That means when you visit Facebook on the web or on mobile, most of the stories and videos you see will be there because your Facebook friends have shared them, not because a company whose page you once “Liked” posted a story or update.

Let’s review the spark of social media marketing:

Back in late 2012, when Facebook began sending gobs of traffic to digital media websites, the playing field between small businesses and big businesses was relatively level. The lack of much difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” on Facebook meant the platform once provided the opportunity for new media entrants to quickly find an audience, helping give rise to the digital media explosion that has convinced businesses that all they need is Facebook to market their business.

Those days now feel very long ago.

It’s now worth wondering, once Facebook’s new algorithm takes over, whether small businesses will face much of a chance for success — and whether niche publishers that can’t afford to pay for reach aren’t about to take a massive hit.

 

A New Approach

At this point, nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen or to what degree.

Though this isn’t the first time that Facebook has tweaked its algorithm (nor will it be the last), it seems poised to be the biggest change since July 2015 when Facebook became a top internet traffic referrer — a title it could conceivably give up if the change is as dramatic as some seem to fear.

The news announcement was enough to trigger an eye-opening wave of fear for many marketing professionals.

 

In short: If you’re dependent on Facebook traffic for revenue, I feel bad for you.

The warning sign came in the form of Facebook’s efforts to address these changes before they happen. Facebook is constantly tinkering with the algorithm without much fanfare. What’s different about this time, the company went to the trouble of publishing numerous blog posts on its own pages as well as giving embargoed news and interviews to some news outlets with a clear indication that traffic is about to decline.

Facebook’s reasoning for the change is that it wants to encourage people to share more on the platform, so they’re going to do that by showing you more of what your friends and family are sharing.  So much is happening on Snapchat, group messaging and other things that aren’t getting shared on Facebook like they used to. Facebook has to get more people sharing.

The “friends and family come first” approach has clear implications: Since small businesses depend on Facebook for a significant portion of their audience, the change will affect media brands’ ability to reach that audience.

From a user perspective, the change means Facebook will be an even better place to discuss stories that your friends are already talking about. Facebook will also prioritize friends’ posts you interact with the most — if you like (or, better yet, love) cat videos from your cousin every time you see them, they’ll start to appear higher and higher in your feed over time.

If that sounds like how you thought the News Feed already worked, you’re right.

In essence, if you want your content to get prominence on Facebook, real people actually have to choose to like and share it.  Person to person sharing has always been more valuable than institution-to-person sharing. Solution is: MAKE BETTER CONTENT.

 

All About the Money

Oh, and there’s one value Facebook doesn’t mention here: money.

Facebook is not in the business of creating an advertising media utopia. It’s in the business of making money.

How does Facebook make money by reducing the reach of its media partners? Just ask the brand managers that spent years building pages on the social network only to see their ability to reach that audience decline sharply. Those brands had to start paying Facebook for reach, or at least paying them more than they had before. That’s a looming example of how Facebook can push companies to begin paying for something that was once free.

The idea that media companies could soon begin pumping more money into Facebook is particularly interesting at a time when the social network recently started shelling out cash to some bigger partners to embrace its live video efforts (Mashable is one of these partners).

If the result of Live is that Facebook has become cozier with some of the biggest media brands, then the algorithm tweak is theoretically a way to scuttle smaller publishers who can’t afford to pay for reach.

Whether that’s a result by design or not, Facebook isn’t saying.

Facebook is not in the business to be a publishing company; it is not a digital billboard space. Facebook is a social media platform and is bringing the social back.

 

Sink or Swim

At this point, it has to be obvious to many small businesses that you can not rely on Facebook for your business marketing purposes.  Over the years, small businesses have watched their older posts become archived, and have watched their audience engagement decline.  Businesses who think “all we need is Facebook” is clearly in denial.  Even a brief Google search will solidify to any small business that social media marketing is only one aspect of marketing that a business needs in today’s heavily fragmented world.

Many businesses are still blinded by “social media experts” that teach pay-to-learn classes and seminars to teach small businesses about social media marketing.  Funny, none of them are currently posting about Facebook’s latest update that again solidifies what many of us full-service marketing agencies already know: social media is only one piece of your marketing pie, it can not be your complete marketing plan.  The lack of transparency on this current update (at this time, they’ve had over a week to post) shows where their interests lie.

We’re happy to post about social media because we’re able to offer a full service solution package to businesses who wish to market themselves and reach the maximum amount of people.

Businesses need a good, quality website and a search engine marketing strategy that will help you be found when potential customers are looking for your services – and this is where our summer blog series on website design and development is so critical.

19 reasons to NOT do-it-yourself

For those of us who were excited by Geocities back in the 1990s, and Myspace in the early days of social media, do-it-yourself website builders are equally as terrible to use though easy to set up.

Clarification: do-it-yourself websites include Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy templates, Website Builder, Web.com, eHost, Strikingly, etc.

I know why people use these do-it-yourself websites, convinced from the commercials claiming it is “easy to use” and the words “cheap” and “fast” while removing the need to hire an outside company.

Though folks are a bit intimidated about setting up their websites, this is one shortcut that is not worth it. This blog will focus on the reasons not to use the “easy” alternatives.

1. Outdated technology. A lot of these template-based sites are built on technology that quickly becomes outdated. Case-in-point, up until March 2012, Wix used Flash technology. Flash is so frowned upon that many phones don’t even display it, and some tablets don’t as well. Thus, if you pick a theme that’s been around for a while, the expired shelf life of the theme may cause you to exclude a portion of people who want to see your website.

2. Google does not always like the do-it-yourself sites. Mainly, you can not verify some of these sites in the Google Webmaster tools, which is considerably important in the beginning steps to SEO. This is increasingly significant if your site gets hacked.

Though the platform on which your website is built does not necessarily improve or hinder your search rankings, content visibility is the most important factor.

While some of these do-it-yourself builders offer application installs to boost your SEO – if you’re not sure what you are doing, most of these are not user friendly.

3. Website builders, such as Wix, load slower than HTML-built templates (such as custom-coded sites, or sites built on WordPress by professionals), and this will not only lose people who do want to read about you – but will lower your search engine rankings. Slowly loading websites will penalize you because search engines will know your site provides poor user experience. (Which cycles back to #2).

4. Do-it-yourself websites don’t look as good. I’ve never seen a Wix or Weebly site that looked highly professional and really nice. Because these companies don’t place a high importance on “modern design”, many of these templates do not keep up with today’s design trends. In a world where innovation matters and staying on top of what’s happening matters, this is a huge mistake.

5. Some of these site builders, such as Wix and Squarespace have over 500 templates. In addition to being overwhelming, the lack of assistance and documented research in user experience and modern design trends in your industry can lead you to make a bad design decision for your website. Sometimes businesses need a little assistance in choosing which template works best for their company. Too often we’ve seen clients come to us after purchasing a template (some only $40, some upwards of $300) and realizing they’re limited to selling only 20 products, or only having 7 pages when they really needed 12.

6. They make money off your lack of technological expertise. Wix even publicly claims they are “addressing audiences that are less tech-savvy.” It’s never a good thing to partner with a company that automatically assumes you’re not technology-oriented.

7. “Basic” theme options (aka the advertised “affordable” website you see on television) proudly proclaim “THIS SITE WAS CREATED WITH WIX.COM!” – which will not scream professional and credible to your users.

Basic theme options don’t give you full website capabilities, including the ability to customize your site specific to your business. You also don’t always get the space you need, nor will you have a site without ads.

You don’t want your site to include a “THIS SITE WAS CREATED WITH SUCH-N-SUCH.com CREATE YOUR OWN FOR FREE!” banner at the bottom where your important contact information and copyright information should be. Occasionally, we put our name at the bottom of our sites because that’s what artists do. But we don’t put a big “HIRE US TO DO YOUR SITE TOO!” down there.

8. Some themes only allow you to have minimal pages. This is a problem because you decrease the amount of content Google can crawl. Decreased content means fewer keywords. Fewer keywords mean fewer searchers and traffic.

This also means you can’t create multiple kinds of keywords, page titles, or meta data to be indexed. (Cycles back to point #2)

9. Inaccurate analytics. Some of the older scripting technologies embedded in many of these don’t allow many site builder users to get an accurate picture of a site’s traffic and performance.

10. Bad first impressions. Don’t ever allow your business to succumb to the “I’m just a small business, I don’t need a professional, fancy site” mentality. Have you ever heard the expression “first impressions are everything?” … your customers are out there every day comparing your business to your competition. Stand on the sidewalk of a busy downtown, or in the mall and watch people walk by. A large majority of people will actually research a business before even walking into the business.

11. Not mobile friendly. Slow-loading self-built sites, that are data and graphics laden, turn off all mobile users and churn through limited data plans faster. Only desktop users can see your site and they won’t wait longer than 5-7 seconds for a site to load. Would you?

12. Websites built in less than 30 minutes. If it takes longer to bake a cake, what is that saying about the quality of your website? Don’t you assume your business or organization deserves more time and energy for it’s most important public-facing thing than a cake? We take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the size and scope of a project.

That means you get a site that is well-designed, thoughtfully planned, with defined roles, copyrights, and financial points.

13. Your domain name may not be exclusively branded. Many of these free sites, especially weebly, will have your URL look like: www.insilico.weebly.com. How’s that look compared to insilicomediagroup.com? You want your URL to advertise your brand. You don’t want your URL to advertise you picked the cheapest option in building a website.

14. No differentiation with your competitors. At the time of this writing, The main competitor has about a few hundred templates. GoDaddy has far fewer. Some boast 42,785,291 users. GoDaddy has many millions, too. Guess how many other people have a website that looks exactly like everyone else’s.

What’s worse is, any half-way tech savvy individual knows to “right click” and “view source” on your page to read the HTML code. There they will see the exact name of the theme you used, where they can search the theme, purchase it themselves, and copy your brand’s website completely.

15. Got questions? Pay for answers. If you have questions, no one can hear you scream. They have support staff, but in many cases you have to pay. Would you pay your bank or insurance company everytime you called to ask a question?

16. Forever costs. The highest-priced plans are about $30 a month, or $360 a year. Forever. If you hired someone (we’d love it to be us), you could pay for a new site that would pay for itself in about 2 years with no monthly payments in perpetuity aside from the domain and hosting renewal costs.

17. Ownership. Everything we build for our clients is owned by the client: url, content, photos, videos, everything. Many of these sites, such as squarespace.com and wix.com, won’t allow you to have ownership of your website. (cycles back to #16)

18. Nothing’s ever really free, is it? 1&1’s “My Website” starts out on a free trial, and then charges you. I know a company that was paying $1250 a year for their Register.com online store until Register.com lost a license to do business with eBay and shut them down because of Register.com’s own screwup. Though our basic sites are, on average, $3,000, having a website that won’t slide in any back-end monthly user fees, as well as a website that won’t potentially be lost due to legal problems, has to be a good option for peace-of-mind.

19. Domain holdups. We had a client that had been paying for a site builder’s professional design services for some time and was shocked to learn of the many parts of her site that wasn’t driving traffic. Now that she wanted to get away, the domain registration was tied up with the site builder. Her domain name was stuck in some DIY nightmare.

Sometimes, clients of these DIY sites can pay a large fee (we’ve seen upwards of $1,500 to break their domain name free from the site builder). Other times, the client is stuck in a DIY nightmare, waiting for their contract to lapse so they can get their domain without a hefty fee. That requires a thorough understanding of your contract, and giving notice to the site builder in a timely manner, to ensure you’re able to break your domain out of DIY Jail in time.

Convinced yet?

We’ll walk you through our process, provide an accurate quote, and help you decide what’s best for you. Sometimes we’re not the best option. Sometimes we are. What we can always promise is that we’ll be honest and have your best interests in mind.

Click here to learn more about our website development services!