Facebook Updated Their News Feed to Penalize Non-Mobile Optimized Websites

In August, Facebook announced another News Feed algorithm update, this time focused on reducing the reach of websites which are not optimized for mobile devices.

As explained by Facebook: “We’ve heard from people that it’s frustrating to click on a link that leads to a slow-loading webpage. […] During the coming months we’re making an update to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load, so they can spend more time reading the stories they find relevant.”

Just as Google has moved to give priority to mobile optimized sites, Facebook’s now following suit – and given that some 94% of Facebook users access the site via mobile, the focus makes sense.

So how will Facebook measure mobile responsiveness and use it as a ranking factor?

“With this update, we’ll soon take into account the estimated load time of a webpage that someone clicks to from any link in News Feed on the mobile app. Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding webpage will be considered. If signals indicate the webpage will load quickly, the link to that webpage might appear higher in your feed.”

But this is nothing new.  Facebook has actually factored in the device and connection you’re using within the algorithm since 2015:  “For example, if you’re on a slower internet connection that won’t load videos, News Feed will show you fewer videos and more status updates and links.”

In addition to this, Facebook also has another existing algorithm penalty which is relevant to slow-loading sites – back in 2014, Facebook started taking into account the amount of time people spend reading a post after clicking on a link.  “If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted.”

If, as Facebook also notes, some 40% of website visitors abandon a site after three seconds of delay, that would see them coming straight back to Facebook, so there are already penalties in place for slow-loading sites. This new update just adds further emphasis, and underlines, once again, the need for all businesses to ensure they have fast-loading, mobile-friendly systems.

Facebook says that they don’t anticipate the change will significantly impact ‘most pages’ – but ‘most’ is a subjective term. Facebook does say that webpages which are particularly slow could see decreases in referral traffic.

‘Particularly slow’ is also a bit vague – basically, if your site is not optimized, you can probably expect your Facebook Page reach to decline. By how much, who knows, but don’t be surprised when you see it.

So what can you do to ensure your page is up to scratch? Helpfully, Facebook has also provided some tips on how to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly, which includes a listing of free tools you can use to evaluate and get suggestions on how to up your page performance (including Google’s PageSpeed Insights), and ten tips on changes you can make to improve your page speed.

Even if you have optimized your site, it’s probably worth going through the tools and suggestions to see if you can improve it further, updating wherever you can to avoid any penalties.

The changes keep coming with Facebook’s algorithm – just when you think you’ve got a process down pat, they add in another factor to keep you on your toes. And while the constant updates can be tough to keep up with, the reality is that they’re going to keep coming as Facebook learns from user behaviors and works to evolve in-step.

Theoretically the impact of this change should be minimal, as Facebook says, as most websites are no doubt optimized by now, but it’ll be important to keep an eye on your analytics to assess any significant shifts.

Common SEO Myths

SEO Myths

There are lots of myths and theories floating around the web as to how search works, and Insilico Media Group is no stranger to having to be “mythbusters” when it comes to misconceptions about Google.

You see, Google doesn’t release detailed information on how their ranking system works because, if they did, people would use that against them and try to cheat the system. Combine this with the fact that Google’s becoming increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence systems to provide more accurate search results, and the whole process gets very cloudy either way – not even Google’s engineers know, 100%, how every search result is delivered.

The full complexities of SEO are technical and difficult to understand, but the basics are as easy to find as a quick search on Google (and, after you compare 5 or 6 blog posts, you can determine what will work based off a “majority rule” conclusion, as one blog will always contradict another) – what your page is about and how many other pages are referring to it (and who those referrers are). Once you understand that, you can dismiss a lot of the myths.

Think of it this way: if you could get your page to rank higher based on social media links alone, for example, all you’d see, all day, is people posting links to their websites on Twitter and Facebook.

Also – just because you build a website, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be the first page on Google.  Also, just because you post once in a while, or get an article published in the newspaper, doesn’t equal first page success without an ongoing commitment to SEO efforts.  You can apply this to almost any SEO myth – if ranking high on Google were as easy as, say, submitting your link to a press release service, everyone would do it. All the loopholes have been tried, Google systems are far more advanced than that.

The real path to better SEO performance is providing authoritative answers to the questions your target audience is asking – that helps match the relevant queries, while also gaining you links by being a useful resource.

 
Insilico Media Group is a full-service marketing agency offering affordable web development and marketing services to local small businesses. In three years, we’ve helped over 60 brands grow. How can we help yours?

Find an Agency That Leads By Example

Marketing is a fast-paced and perpetually evolving discipline. If an agency is vying for your business, it is an absolute must that they are current on today’s best practices and methodologies, that they practice what they preach, and that they have the processes in place to support those exercises. InSilico Media Group practices what we preach when it comes to marketing and website design.  We treat ourselves as a client.  What we suggest for clients, we’re already doing for ourselves.

So we’ve created this blog to help you with ideas to find an agency that works for you – and can lead by example.

Be sure that any contenders have a mobile responsive site that is optimized for SEO alongside strong presences on social media. Establish if the agency uses any marketing automation platforms for their own efforts. Research their content to determine the frequency of posts and if they are educational, compelling, entertaining, and if it speaks to their persona well. Ask to see some examples of reports that you would be presented with at various intervals of a campaign. If you are presented with a handful of vanity metrics that do not display a clear ROI, opt out immediately.

When you are vetting out agencies, be mindful of which ones did not respond to your inquiry, which got back to you with a pre-made template, which got back to you too late, and those that responded quickly with a customized answer catered to your original message.

During the selection process, be aware of which agencies are remaining steadfast in their communications and displaying a genuine interest in your company. You want an agency that will be dedicated to your brand; one that will answer questions, receive calls, reply to emails, and quell any concerns. Partnering with agency is a long-term affair that needs to be beneficial and comfortable for all parties involved.

Great communication is the foundation to any relationship. When selecting an agency to build a business relationship with, there needs to be expedient and constant contact to ensure that a campaign runs smoothly.

The marketing firm your company elects should be on-point with the standards of today and looking toward tomorrow’s cutting edge of innovation.

A marketing partnership is not a short-term relationship. Therefore, you don’t just want to partner with an agency that you like and does great work, but also an agency you can rely on to take your calls, answer your questions, and address your concerns. You can evaluate their level of commitment by paying close attention to the effort the agency puts in during the sales process. Are they quick to respond to inquiries? Do they follow up with you?

Finding the right marketing agency can be a lengthy process, but remember: settling for less is not an option. Your brand is the key to your business’ success and what distinguishes you from competitors, which is why you need a marketing agency that understands where you’re coming from. Finding the right agency might just be the most important business decision you make.

 

Six Signs Your Brand Needs A Makeover

It might be time for a brand makeover—a re-think of your strategy and positioning, visuals and copy. Here are a few signs it’s time to take a fresh look.

You want to appeal to a niche market. Your branding (business card, website, flyers, social media, advertisements) may need some tinkering to identify and connect with the right niche. Pretend you’ve realized you love working with physicians—and you’d like to start advertising to reach more of them. Your brand—the images and the voice of your copy—needs to shift to focus more pointedly on the needs of your M.D. niche. If you’ve filled your marketing pieces with images of construction-oriented workers, your branding will not appeal to this new niche.
You’ve created a thrilling new _______(service, program, book, product) and are in search of the right audience. This can be a time when you need a pivot: not quite a 180, but more than a tinker. Your new fill-in-the-blank might be designed not for your current clients, but more for the people who can’t afford you yet. Your marketing pieces may need to be given a more polished, sophisticated look.  Or it might be a deeper dive into a narrow portion of your expertise. You’ll need to make sure your branding, your positioning and all of your collateral works for both audiences well.
You’re busy talking about you. The days when marketing was all about advertising your talents are O-V-E-R. You want to “speak” to your client—on your website and in your social media and marketing pieces—as though you were having a conversation. How are their lives different after you’ve worked your magic? What concrete results can they expect? What will the experience feel like? Show them what’s possible instead of giving them a laundry list of your services and awards.
Your competition looks—and reads—better than you. Or, their new branding pieces look too similar to yours. When’s the last time you web-surfed your competition? Take a look: how do your message and visual touch-points compare to what’s out there? And be honest with yourself—how you pitch yourself to clients must match up with how you look and read. If you’re pitching the high end of the food chain then you darned well better look like you’re worth every penny. You deserve to occupy a unique space that speaks to your DNA and your sweet-spot clients.  Be sure that your competitors have not revamped their materials to look too similar to yours.  This happened to InSilico Media Group, so we’ve worked hard on a new website that will stand out from our competitors yet again.
You’re hard to find. This will be your online death. It happens when your name or point of view is forgettable (or difficult, like InSilico!)—just another “me too” message that gets lost (think: “innovative solutions through technology”). Or maybe your name is too similar to someone who’s already staked their claim on your industry’s Google rankings (A-1 Services, for example)—in that case, only new brand positioning is going to get you a break-through. Invest in building and maintaining your presence so you own your niche.
Your brand is stuck in time. Your website, your images (and especially photos), look like they’re from 1997. (Unless you’re doing a #TBT (Throwback Thursday for our less tech savvy friends) Your clients will sense it even if they don’t (or can’t) articulate it. Overly formal copy, stiff head shots and multiple old-style fonts are the first signs that you’re out of touch. Images that scream bad stock photography or are interchangeable with your competitors do you no favors (if I see one more financial advisory site with happy senior citizens strolling the beach, I might gag). Review your site and marketing collateral at least annually and make modern updates at least every couple of years—more often if you’re making the kinds of changes in #1 and #2 above.

 
A brand makeover requires some grit and a dose of courage. Don’t commit until you’re ready to set your stake in the ground—to claim a piece of territory as your own and commit to building (and defending) it.

 

Seven Tactics to Establish Trust

When it comes to establishing trust, it doesn’t matter how compelling your calls-to-action are, how engaging your content is, or how quickly your pages load on mobile screens. If visitors to your site have any doubts about how trustworthy you are, they’ll bounce right out and never come back.
Especially in the B2B sector, where the customer journey is increasingly self-service and often involves several months of careful deliberation, trust is a deal-breaking prerequisite for any sort of relationship building process.

In fact, while nearly half of us trust doctors and firefighters, only 3% trust salespeople and marketers, according to a HubSpot study. So basically, our profession barely outranks stockbrokers, car salespeople, and politicians when it comes to trust. Even lawyers and baristas command more trust than we do.

What is it about these brands that makes one competitor more trustworthy than another? The data doesn’t offer any definitive answers, but there are plenty of measures you can take right now to maximize the impression of trustworthiness that your website exudes.

Here are seven tactics to try, as suggested by HubSpot:

1) Use authentic images.

Horribly generic and formulaic stock photos are everywhere. While there’s nothing wrong with using carefully curated stock imagery in the right places, it’s much better to favor website visuals that look like they were actually taken of you and your team in real situations. Stock photos can get expensive, too. To truly maximize your site’s visual authenticity, you may want to consider hiring a professional photographer to take photos of your staff, products, and office. This way, you still get quality that will display well on your website and work well for other content assets, but authenticity will shine through to your audience.

At InSilico, we HATE those “staged” stock images. We find the most organic, natural images we can that best represent your brand.

2) Provide social proof via testimonials.

Social proof plays a big role in creating trust. Reach out to your clients every time you complete a project and ask them to provide feedback for display on your website. Whenever possible, include a photo of the person, which helps to drive home the authenticity to the testimonial. Here’s an example of a visually compelling testimonial from the homepage of Sisense, a leading business intelligence software provider.

We understand how awkward it feels to ask your customers for testimonials. In fact, we’re guilty of letting this slide as well. However, we’re getting better at it, and we know if we can do it, you can too!

3) Create helpful content resources.

No one likes a constant sales pitch, and most visitors won’t be anywhere near ready to buy the first time they visit your website, anyway. Instead of content that screams, “Buy these products now, because they’re the most awesome things ever!”, aim to publish resources that show the benefit of your product or service, without overtly selling. Creating helpful content, designed to help solve audience problems and address their pain points, is critical when building trust.

We have a separate resource library for our clients. Once they sign up with us, we provide a multitude of information sources to help them understand our efforts and how we’re working to help them grow.

4) Provide social proof via media logos.

Earned media commands more trust than messages on paid or owned properties. Sure, we all know that in the age of “native advertising,” the lines between journalism and sponsored promotions have blurred, but there’s still a certain mystique in being able to say that The Washington Post, for example, has found your company noteworthy enough to mention it in an article.

Those “as seen on” montages of publisher logos that you see on many B2B websites are great for boosting confidence at a glance. Are you getting any decent press? Make sure your website visitors know about it.

If you’ve been published in the newspaper, or in a magazine – BRAG ABOUT IT!

5) Provide social proof via client and partner logos.

We’ve already touched on how important social proof is, but the opportunities here extend well beyond testimonials and media logos. You can also use client and partner logos to show who your allies are. People will recognize larger brands, but even unknowns can make an impression.

Sometimes this isn’t feasible in highly competitive, dog-eat-dog environments. We get it.

6) Include microcopy that sets expectations intuitively.

Behind all mistrust is fear of the unknown. Make it abundantly clear to your site visitors what’s going to happen when they click on your site’s various tabs, CTA buttons, and links. And make sure your navigation labels are extremely intuitive. Quick disclaimers and labels below buttons are useful, too. If a prospect chooses to opt in to your email list, how often should they expect to hear from you? Will you sell them out to a telemarketing agency, or will you keep their contact information under wraps?

Nothing’s worse than unsolicited emails, or too many emails. Once, our CEO, Nicole Sheridan, signed up for email marketing from OldNavy.com. After receiving 2-3 emails a day, she could not “unsubscribe” because the feature was “temporarily broken”. She ended up reporting them as Spam. Old Navy! … imagine that.

7) Put the audience in the center of stories you tell.

When you write content, or have someone write your content for you, make sure to use the word “you.” It works as a placeholder for the reader’s name, which helps to disarm people and help them be more receptive to your message. Research suggests that some people were more likely to marry someone with the same initials as them — that’s how powerful your name is. On the other hand, using a person’s name too much comes off as creepy, so you have to be careful with it. “You” places the reader in your content as if you are speaking directly to them and involving them, without the risks of using their name too much.

You have to give your customer a reason to read what you’re writing. Period.

How do you inspire trust on your website? Let InSilico Media Group help you today!

Your Designer Should Disclose the Terms and Conditions for DIY Websites

Frequently, we post that businesses should not “DIY it”… and for the most part, everyone listens.  Unfortunately, there’s always a nay-sayer that thinks a DIY website is the correct choice for them, and that is okay.  We’re fine with that.  However, we do encourage that you read the Terms & Conditions carefully before deciding on a platform.

Also – if you decide to use a “website designer” (we use that term loosely) that plans to design your website on one of these drag-and-drop website platforms, please ensure that you receive a copy of your “designer’s” contract, as well as the contract for the DIY platform they plan to use.  Not only is this professional protection for your brand’s intellectual property, but this is protection for your long-term business success.  If your “designer” is offended by this request, please take note of that.

For the sake of discussion, InSilico Media Group’s marketing team looked through the terms and conditions of Wix, Weebly, Website Builder, and SquareSpace today.  We will note that Wix and Website Builder had their Terms and Conditions readily available on the footers of their home page, whereas Weebly and SquareSpace had theirs hidden until you are ready to “sign up” after selecting a theme.

Liability:

Under the Wix T&C, you will be held responsible for anyone who signs in under your account, for their actions. Thus, whether you authorize something or not, if the website violates anything that represents your business – Wix is not responsible in helping you recover from damages. Likewise, if you hire a designer that violates their T&C, Wix is not responsible either, and can remove your website from their platform.  “But I trust my designer,” you may say.  Well, good, you’re paying them, so you should trust them.  However, if a designer becomes disgruntled – that’s not a Wix problem.  Likewise, if a designer tries to manipulate a theme with custom code, (which is another violation of the Wix agreement, by the way) Wix can remove your website.

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Interesting.

Privacy:

Surprisingly, the only DIY website platform that mentioned HIPAA was Website Builder.  It would be interesting to see if the other three platforms offer HIPAA compliance, or if they did not address it because they feel this isn’t a basic concern.

Nonetheless, Website Builder does not comply with the HIPAA compliance standards.

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Thus, if your business requires HIPAA compliance (or, if you think it may but you’re not sure), please do your due diligence to verify that the platform your “DIY Designer” is using can verify they are HIPAA compliant.

Customization:

Under the Wix T&C, they own everything associated with your website template.  If you don’t think this is important, consider your long-term options if your “designer” determines they’re changing their business model in any way, or if they pass away (God forbid), etc.  What happens to your website?  Well, as we’ll touch on in a few minutes, the ownership of your site may fall in some messy ‘grey area’ anyway – but what you can truly worry about is what happens to the theme of your website.  When you buy a WordPress theme, you can transfer hosting companies without a problem.  You own your theme, and all of the “gadgets” involved with it.  You can manipulate it, you can transfer it, you can customize it, and you can keep it.  With Wix, you’re stuck on their platform if you want to keep that theme – at least until you find a designer that can re-create the theme.  What’s more interesting, if Wix decides to remove the theme for whatever reason, your website is now essentially theme-less.

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Interesting.

Weebly’s customization T&C states that you do not have permission to reproduce, transfer, reverse assemble, or edit the source code to your theme in any way.  Thus, if you want your website to be a little different than the theme you’ve chosen, tough crackers – you’re stuck.

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Ownership:

Wix considers the owner of the account as the person who enters the billing details.  Thus, if your “designer” determines that they are going to enter their information into the form because they are going to be the one who pays the monthly fees (after billing you and marking up this service, obvi), Wix will consider your “designer” the owner of your website.  Should there be a conflict, Wix will determine the owner of the website based upon the documentation given to them. Thus, check their T&C and your “designer’s” T&C before signing up for a website that you may not own afterall.

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Squarespace’s ownership policy is pretty much the same as Wix’s policy, only they add that they reserve the right to temporarily suspend the website until the parties reach a resolution.  Therefore, if there happens to be a problem with your website, not only will your business be interrupted with conflict resolution of ownership offline, but also online as well. Risky.

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Weebly has a separate T&C for designers, that states that you, as the ‘owner’ of the website, will not receive help from Weebly should you require assistance. Weebly will therefore refer you back to your designer.  Thus, if you have a problem with your website and your designer is not assisting you for whatever reason (they’re on vacation, they’re disgruntled, they’re too busy, or you fired them) … you’re pretty much stuck.

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 Property:

The Squarespace T&C clearly states that, while you do own the property you upload onto their platform, you give them the right to save it and display it.  If you do not “opt out” or do not know how to “opt out” – this could mean that your intellectual property is then distributed on a platform and used at Squarespace’s discretion – without assuring you are okay with the use of it.

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The T&C of Wix is essentially the same – only they specify that you grant them a worldwide, non-exclusive royalty-free license to use, manipulate, reproduce, modify, covert, etc. your images and videos.

 09

Prices:

Both the Wix and WebsiteBuilder T&C states that they reserve the right to change prices or any other charges at any time.  Also, if your web “designer” signed you up using a discount or promo code, please note that your promo code will not renew or be honored should their prices change. Ask your “designer” how they are factoring in a price change for your long-term contract.

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Cancellation:

According to the Weebly T&C, after you cancel your service, you will not have access to your website and your information may be deleted from your site.  What happens if the credit card your “designer” used to set up monthly billing declines?  There is a lot of grey area regarding what they view as a cancellation.  How long will they give you to fix the billing? Will they immediately remove the site if the “designer”’s card declines?  In a world where banks cancel cards that end up on “potentially compromised” lists, this could pose a problem for your business.

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Similarly, the T&C from Wix states nearly the same policy, including the fact that they are not responsible for a data loss, nor are they responsible for saving a backup of your account.

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InSilico Media Group provides a copy of our contract at the time of the proposal presentation.  We believe firmly in our prospective client’s ability to understand exactly what they are getting themselves into.  Afterall, transparency is a good, ethical business practice.

If you don’t opt to contract with InSilico Media Group, that’s fine.  Sometimes the synergy is not right – we understand.  What we hope happens for you is that you find a designer (or “designer”) you feel comfortable with, that is transparent and ethical, and will ensure you are given all of the terms and conditions of not only their business, but the platform of which they are using.

If your “designer” will not provide the T&C for the platform on which they will design on, don’t go prospecting these T&Cs on your own.  If you have to do that much work for yourself on behalf of your “designer” – ask yourself why your designer is not readily supplying these with their own service contracts.

If you have any questions, InSilico Media Group is happy to provide an outside evaluation and an external opinion.  We are happy to refer to other agencies as well, so that you can properly interview multiple developers before deciding on the ideal candidate for your job.

Posted in Web

10 Questions to Ask Your Next Web Developer

Selecting the right web design company for your business can be challenging. We know how it works – you put out an SOS on Facebook, and everyone tags their friends. Some are legit agency owners, and some are freelancers. Some have proven skills, some have questionable skills, and some … well, they’re well connected.

InSilico Media Group suggests you interview your web design company choices as you would an employee. We imagine smart business owners understand it’s not always the best idea to go with the most “liked” mutual friend, and it doesn’t always benefit you to hire the most accomplished company. You also don’t want to hire someone’s third cousin twice removed living in their mom’s basement. Afterall, you’re paying them to do a service for your business, and trusting that they will help your business grow. Only – you’re not paying their insurance…

So, in no particular order, here’s a good list of questions, and sub-questions, to ask a potential web design contractor:

1. What is the full extent of your capabilities?

Like we discussed in a previous blog, if your website “developer” is using a drag-and-drop platform like Squarespace, do your due diligence and ask a few follow-up questions… are you going to be stuck in an impossible contract on Squarespace like you would if you built your own drag-and-drop website on the platform? Will you be able to increase your pages, content, photos, or inventory without increasing your month-to-month costs? What if something happens with an add-on – will the company know how to fix it using custom code? Is there even a way to fix it with custom code? Is this platform built to help SEO? Can they PROVE that to be true?

2. Do you have any experience in my industry and with similar websites?

Depending on your design ideas, this may not be important. However, if you’re hiring a firm that focuses more on technical websites and you need a graphic-heavy website, this could become a problem quickly. What’s worse, if you opt to go with a firm that uses a standard template (such as going through YellowPages, or using a Squarespace or Weebly option with limited template resources), you could end up having a website that is exactly the same as all of your competitors in the local area. Looking for a partner with a multitude of experience across a variety of industries shows a variety of experience that can benefit you. Also, if you want exclusivity in your industry, this may prove beneficial to you as well.

3. How can you help me drive website traffic and generate leads? – or – How will you optimize my website for search engines?

If your “web designer” is a graphic designer-turned-web-designer-thanks-to-drag-and-drop-programs … stop right there. Graphic design and web design are two very different fields of study and we have yet to find a graphic designer that fully understands creating images optimized for websites. (which makes pages load slower, and the slower a page loads, the angrier it makes Google, and if you make Google angry, you’re not getting ranked. Period.) Standalone web developers are great to work on projects, but we suggest looking for a web developer that’s part of an advertising agency, or at least can show they have a game plan or check list readily available to build your website to current SEO standards. (At InSilico, we have a checklist. Just saying…)

Also – Google what the latest SEO phase is, and ask your web developer if they know. If they say Penguin or Panda… run.

4. Do you practice responsive web design to ensure a consistent and usable experience on all devices?

Responsive web design is the Google-recommended (and industry-recommended) best practice for building a website that is not just mobile friendly, but “friendly” and optimized to create a consistent and ideal user experience for all devices. Understanding how each firm approaches responsive design throughout the entire process will be insightful and perhaps eye-opening.

5. Will my website be fully customized, or a “customized” theme?

There are a lot of websites out there masquerading as custom websites but they’re merely pre-built themes that have been customized for a particular client. Budget limitations may require using such themes; however, if you are paying for and expecting to receive a custom “stick-built” website, it’s critical that you ask this question. A custom website means that every pixel of design and layout has been performed by the firm and the website has been “hand coded” by a qualified developer.

6. What content management system(s) do you recommend and why? Can you show us a demonstration?

Most web development companies have their personal preferences for particular content management systems (CMS). But it’s beneficial to understand why a web design firm recommends a particular CMS platform and what the pros and cons are of that platform. Be sure that the strengths of the platform you choose align with the needs and functionality requirements of your website.

Many clients assume that a CMS website will function the same on the back end, regardless of who you partner with to develop the website. However, the back-end design of the CMS interface and the administrative functionality often varies greatly. So it’s helpful to request a website demonstration to better understand how customized and intuitive the CMS of their websites are. After all, your company will be using this feature the most, so it’s imperative that it is easy to use for your team.

7. What is your testing and quality control checkpoints before launching a website?

Testing is a critical process that should be completed prior to launching your new website. It’s absolutely essential for your website to render smoothly on various browsers and devices, so your web design partner should conduct cross-browser testing on the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, as well as cross-platform testing on the latest versions of iOS and Android for tablets and smartphones. It’s also important that your partner follows a checklist of internal quality assurance measures to ensure that all bases are covered before launch.

8. How long will the project (realistically) take? – or – What is your web design and development process?

The length of a website project varies greatly depending on scope, complexity, schedule and both the client and web design partner’s ability to hit deadlines. Based on an understanding of your project needs, a potential web partner should be able to give you an estimate of how long a project like yours typically takes and provide a basic schedule for key project milestones. They should also help you understand what factors can affect the schedule and where issues typically arise.

By asking what their process is, you see there’s a plan in place and it’s more than just dragging-and-dropping. You want a web developer that does their due diligence, creates something unique to your brand, and is excited to share their process and timeline with you. Because, when you appreciate their timeline, you allow them to continue their cycle of projects, ensuring they know they’re going to be able to take on another client in a timely manner. After all, it’s all about continually making money, right?

9. What is included in your price?

Every company prices websites differently, so understanding what the pricing includes AND doesn’t include is vital. At the end of the day, you want to understand what you’re getting for your money, what additional costs may come up along the way that are accounted for in the proposal and how they’ll handle estimating and billing for things that fall outside of the scope. When it comes to billing, no one likes surprises, so be sure to gain a clear understand of the pricing before signing a contract.

If you are going to use a web designer that is going to put you on Squarespace or Weebly (or Wix, or Web, or WebsiteBuilder) … make sure to receive a copy of that contract as well before they sign you up, and before you sign on with them.

10. Can you provide client references?

Any Joe Schmuck can suggest a website designer when you put out your social media SOS. Take a minute to look at who is referring their friends. Do they have a website? How does it look? Do they currently work with this person? Do they even own a business?

It’s always a good idea to talk with a potential partner’s previous website redesign clients to get a better understanding of the company. What was it like to work with them? How did the final product turn out? How successful has the website been? What (if any) pitfalls should you be aware of? Speaking directly with previous clients is a great way to round out your due diligence and gain a more complete picture of your potential redesign partner.

 

Not sure about who your options are?  InSilico Media Group believes in transparency.  We’re happy to let you know who our competitors are, and get you connected with other options.  We believe that a well-informed client is the best client.  We don’t believe in sales presentations, and only follow-up a few times before moving on.  If we have to convince you that you want to do business with us, we’ll spend our entire relationship convincing you, instead of building trust with you.

Real Developers Don’t Use Drag-and-Drop Programs

John Maeda: “If You Want to Survive in Design, You Better Learn to Code”
“Designers who can code and write have always been attractive to tech companies. I think that’s why we work with so many Technology firms as our clients. We don’t strictly design. For example, when we build a web site, we look at how the design, the writing and the development all work together for a better user experience.”

There’s a trend of “designers” that are sweeping the Mid-Ohio Valley region, building websites for next to nothing for clients, and leaving everyone thinking they’re getting a great deal. They’re breezing through a “build” of a website, taking only a few weeks, and leaving business owners wondering why traditional web development agencies cost so much and take so long. The answer is simple – web development agencies don’t use drag-and-drop website builders.

How do I know I am getting a drag-and-drop website?
So, how do you know if you’re getting a website made on a DIY platform, or a website that’s customized for your brand? It’s easy.

  1. Right click on the website
  2. Select “view page source”
  3. You’ll see “this is Squarespace” or “Wix” or “Weebly” branded into the code.
    How to determine whether a website is built on Squarespace or not
    It’s that simple.

So who uses Squarespace to create a website?

Squarespace is designed for the “Everyman” – it is designed for someone who is not tech saavy, who just wants to have a web presence.

Well, what’s the problem with a drag-and-drop DIY website?

Well, if you’ve missed all of our other blogs about DIY websites, we suggest you read them (For example, 19 Reasons To Not Do It Yourself).

Another problem is that you’re paying someone to do something very basic that you could do yourself on a weekend or even in an evening.

Companies like InSilico Media Group either custom-code our websites (such as: InSilico Media Group, GW Industrial, Bruce Allen) or we utilize WordPress to provide a back end for clients to update themselves (such as: Business & Management Solutions, Law Heating and Cooling, Shoalin Martial Arts Training Center).

But wait – I buy a theme on WordPress just like Squarespace.

While you absolutely do buy a “theme” on WordPress, it is an open source platform, meaning their codes are open to everyone to use and customize. This means developers/programmers can use WordPress to create their own tools to share for free, or to sell for users.

Right now, about 25% of all websites on the internet today are powered by WordPress. That’s about 75,000,000 websites. There are over 50,000 WordPress plugins, which have been downloaded over 2 billion times.

Squarespace is not an open source builder, which means their platform is gated off to only in-house development of plugins. Frankly speaking, that means less customization options, and if something doesn’t work for your business, you can’t adjust the website to fit your business, you adjust your business to fit your website.

So, I can’t customize my site as much on Squarespace?

Absolutely! We’ve had a client before that didn’t want to pay more than $300 per month, so she was restricted to a certain inventory level online. That meant each month, she had to pick which items to leave off the website, and which to sell.

While the initial cost of a website may be a little hard to digest – when you think about the ability to sell an unlimited amount of products from your website without incurring more costs, in the long run, hiring a professional development company like InSilico Media Group is the smarter decision.

Squarespace is a “what you see is what you get” builder. You drag and drop photos where they tell you to put them. There’s very little thought behind the user experience on Squarespace. Each genre of business has a distinct user experience – a science of putting elements in the exact location your viewers anticipate they will be.

But isn’t Squarespace secure?

No more than WordPress. WordPress themes are constantly evolving with technology. While it is true that theme plugins need to be constantly updated – any good website developer or business owner will be updating their website frequently anyway for SEO efforts.

The reason websites are hacked is because of improper plugin updates and overall maintenance by the webmasters.

Squarespace does push updates to your website automatically. This is good for business owners that don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to their websites. Unfortunately, this lack of maintenance to your website won’t help your SEO efforts.

Who owns my website?

Developers like InSilico Media Group don’t want ownership of your files. Our customers own everything on their site. However, if you file a Notice of termination of Services by Squarespace, you need to understand that they have the right to delete all data, files, or other information that is stored in your account.

What if there’s an error on my site?

If there is a error for some reason, they make no promises to fix it, or that if they do fix it, that said fix will be adequate or acceptable. They don’t guarantee any sort of uptime, or any sort of compensation for their services being down, or causing you any sort of loss of profit. If their service goes down and you’re unable to access/use your site, your only option is to… stop using the site.

If you’re hiring a “website company” who uses Squarespace – you’re essentially acknowledging that this company has zero clue about custom coding a website, meaning if there is an error for any reason (including design or functionality), they can’t manually work around it and fix it.

We’ll let that sink in.

What about communication from the host?

If all of the previously stated isn’t enough, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly also don’t guarantee that any emails sent through their service will make it to you.

Wait, what?

If you’re running a business on a DIY website, and you have a form where your clients can get ahold of you, book a project, request a meeting, etc – they make NO guarantees that you will get those emails. And since you don’t have actual access to your “hosting” you can’t even check your /maildir to see if there are any sitting in there that got lost in process.

Yet, these “website companies” think this is a good thing for your business.

… are you starting to understand this more?

Over all, website developers who use Squarespace aren’t website developers. You’re paying for an easy ‘do-it-yourself’ all-in-one solution, that you’re not doing yourself… rather than paying a company that specializes in specific areas of technology meant to keep your site afloat, with the ability to utilize custom coding for added customization, functionality, security, and growth of your brand. “Developers” who use Squarespace don’t seem to understand that Squarespace is not a hosting company and what they specialize in is not the same as what a host would specialize in. They have their feet dipped into all areas of the pool, rather than just focusing on one specific thing.

Some will argue that blogs like this are only attempts to try to degrade their work by claiming that “real web designers don’t use X”, and that the real point of their service is to provide the clients with what they need. “How I deliver that service shouldn’t matter,” they will say.

Here’s a question… with all of the shortcomings that Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly have – how is that arguement even relevant? They’re not giving their clients what they need by creating an easy drag-and-drop website. They’re giving their cleints a smoke-and-mirrors product that has limited customization and functionality and taking what they need – their client’s money – while playing the Wizard behind the curtain.

When you’re ready to hire a real company to handle your website, InSilico Media Group is happy to provide you a list of our competitors that can offer quality websites, as well as a customized quote. Compare us to the competition. Do your homework. Review the functionality of our websites (we’ve got about 50 in our portfolio over the last 18 months). Do your homework. This is your business on the line. Don’t trust it to someone who isn’t going to take it seriously.

Posted in Web

Need Employees? Our Agency Is A Fraction Of The Cost!

Marketing and your website is an INVESTMENT. Just as your physical location and office staff are an investment.

Essentially, InSilico Media Group takes your physical, tangible assets such as employees, location, products, services, etc. and creates them on a digital platform.

How does a website help your business?
Think of all the bills attached to your physical office – rents/leases, design, furniture, utilities, insurance, etc.  A website comes with one cost: the cost to design.  This website becomes your digital office/storefront.  It never closes, enabling customers and potential customers to find the information or products they are looking for.  A website can be designed to be your virtual assistant.  It can help you grow your business through easy-to-use information request forms, so you gather as  much information as you need to respond to a prospect with a customized quote quickly.  It can help you schedule meetings, collect payments, or share documents.

How does marketing help your business?
You can’t operate a business if you never tell someone it exists.  Using marketing, you’re placing your message in front of the people who are likely to use your services or buy your products.  Unfortunately, most businesses have several competitors in the local area.  Marketing research helps you find those who are still making a decision about what to buy, or who to buy it from and place your advertisement in front of them at the right time in their buying decision process to make yourself an option.

How does hiring a marketing agency help your business?
Let’s face it – a website that’s never maintained is essentially the same as a physical building that’s never maintained.  While your physical building may start to crumble or fall apart or even just gather dirt, your website will stop being functional as technology changes (a prime example: a few months ago, Google changed the way their maps worked on websites, so websites that did not update the API no longer have functioning maps).
And marketing is simply not effective if you’re not going to make a long-term, multi-faceted commitment.
Instead of paying several employees, as well as the costs of insurance, taxes, etc. to have a staff focused on marketing, sourcing an agency like InSilico helps reduce your costs and offers you up-to-date marketing, graphic, and web services in an all-in-one fee for less than one full-time employee. (Let’s face it, finding one FTE with formal training and experience in all three fields for less than $30k, especially$15k, a year will NEVER happen!)

It makes sense to partner with an advertising agency to grow your business.  If you’re ready to speak to our team, shoot us a quick email.  We’ll schedule a brief meeting with you and go over your goals, give you ideas on areas we can help your brand grow, and provide you a practical, reasonable proposal.

We’re ready to work for you!

SEO and PR – How They Work Together

I’m asked all the time – “Can public relations drive SEO?” The answer is YES!

PR and social media are about creating and spreading fame. Thus, to achieve the greatest publicity—being found and heard from, both online and offline—we have to transition away from the way we think about marketing in general. Having all functions of marketing, from PR to SEO/SEM to social media, working on the same level increases the power of the keyword strategy.

Simply, high-quality content helps earn links back to a brand’s website; links from reputable, credible media sources rank high in Google’s algorithm, leading to better search results. The more media coverage a brand receives, the more links the brand has leading back to its website.

As PR pros increasingly work with influencers, the result is more links from blog posts and social media, thus increasing SEO.

SEO uses digital channels to reach consumers or gain business leads, while PR outreach relies on relationships with the media to generate media coverage of the brand. The strategies to accomplish the goals may be different, but the goal of each department is the same: reach consumers. That includes social media posts, e-books, blog posts, e-newsletters, landing pages, online text, video ads, press releases, media alerts, and media kit documents.

SEO uses audience research to create personas; PR conducts media research to uncover publications and outlets that reach a brand’s target audience and targets reporters that cover topics relevant to the brand. Combine the results of both types of research to create an overall persona. SEO pros are looking at analytics data, traffic rankings, conversions, sales data, and followings. PR pros are looking at earned media coverage, outlets’ publicity value, and outlets’ unique visitors per month.

PR can look at SEO’s results and determine which media outlets trend to drive the most website traffic and which media outlets tend to send visitors that bounce the least, and determine whether searches for the brand increase after media coverage is secured. From PR’s results, SEO can learn best-practices for personal outreach and communication, which can then be used in social media and other customer-centric communications.

PR needs to harness and extend SEO keyword strategy. For example, PR can use multiple variations of predetermined keywords in its press releases and across digital platforms. Using keywords in press releases encourages reporters to use those targeted keywords when describing a brand, thus increasing the likelihood a brand appears in searches for those terms.

In conclusion, PR and SEO aren’t standalone marketing functions. Integrated messaging requires PR and SEO to work together to achieve the best outcomes. Having the full power of PR and SEO under one roof reaches greater audiences and achieves greater goals more efficiently in today’s digital business world.

 

We can help!

If you’re ready to launch a full brand identity for your business, email our sales team at info@insilicomediagroup.com or call our office at 740-371-5099.