Category Archives for Websites

7 Key Elements For A Homepage Of A Website

7 Key Elements For A Homepage Of A Website

Your home page is important. Quite often it’s the page that most visitors come to first. It’s the page you will generate the most links to, unless you write an epic post. It may also be the page that the search engines pay the most attention to when people are searching for you by name. With these facts in mind it makes sense to make sure your home page is as well designed as it possibly can be.

There are seven key elements for a successful home page. They each are important independently, but they work together to provide a unique and impact experience for your visitor. Before you take a look at these key elements, however, it’s important to answer a question first.

What is the goal of your successful home page?

Your home page needs to have a goal – an objective. What do you want visitors to do? What action do you want them to take? There are many possibilities. You may want direct your reader to:

  • Dig deeper and explore your website
  • Click through to a services or product page
  • Opt-in to stay in touch
  • Discover more about who you are and what you do
  • Find resources that will make their life easier

Once you know what you want visitors to do, then you can make sure your home page supports this goal.

Now you’ll use the seven key home page elements. These include:

Images

The images you choose on your home page are important. You want them to support the overall website and business goals but they shouldn’t detract from the main purpose of the website. Images, in the form of graphics and photos, can quickly overwhelm a home page and become a distraction if you don’t manage them carefully.

An example of how the image is part of the successful home page is shown over here at Content Nitro

If you choose to use images (and they really can enhance a home page) make sure they support your goals. Make sure they adequately represent your brand.

This will probably mean booking a photo shoot, and buying some specific stock images and customising them to fit your brand.

The most common image you use might be your own photo, as you can see from the example, you can look Sarah right in the eye and see that she’s a real human being. This helps connect the reader to you. It helps brand your business and start building a rapport. You can also have photos and imagery around what you do, how you do it and your services.

The images should tell your story visually and back up the words on the home page. On Sarah’s homepage you see a speedometer, this is part of the Content Nitro branding and straight away shows p[rogress, speed and moving forward.

Everything from words to images should be in alignment with each other. If they’re not, your reader can tell. They can’t quite put their finger on something being wrong, they just know that it is.

Strapline

Your strapline is often the very first thing a visitor will see. If it doesn’t grab their attention, then it’s not doing its job. However, in addition to grabbing their attention, it also must support your home page’s purpose.

The strapline here at The Business Success Dojo is clear . concise and tells you exactly how we will help you.

 

Take time to craft your home page headline. This is also an important element to test and track. Create two home pages with two different headlines and then test them. Yes, that’s right, test your home page’s impact. Determine which headline is better at helping you accomplish your goal for this page.

Emotions

Emotions are what your visitors use to validate their buying decisions. They’re incredibly important if you’re trying to motivate any action.

You can tap into your visitors’ emotions with images and words. If it’s the first time visitor, you need to show you understand their needs and tap into their emotions so that they trust you enough to start moving through the site.

Navigation

Make sure that your visitor not only knows what they’re supposed to do on your home page, but also that they can quickly work out how to do it.

Over on Honeys hypnotherapy site  she makes it really clear on how you can book a free consultation with her. You can also see how she has segmented out her 3 areas of support, Anxiety, Deprtession and teens, each with thier own button taking you to that sopecific area for more information.

This isn’t always a navigation bar, the successful rise of home pages as landing pages proves this isn’t always needed. You just have to make it clear for your visitor to take the next click.

On the 1230 TWC homepage you can see all the successful home page elements in action.

  • A gorgeous visual of networking over lunch
  • A strong strapline
  • Emotional connection
  • And a slimmed down navigation so that the most popular pages are accessible from the home page

If you want your visitors to move deeper into your website, then make sure your buttons and call to action support this. If they can’t find the way to the page they want, they’re going to leave.

Proof

You might notice that many of the elements of a successful home page are also sales copy elements. This is because you are trying to motivate an action. Your home page has a purpose. Proof can be demonstrated by:

  • Awards
  • Testimonials
  • Endorsements
  • Trust Factors
  • Facts and statistics

The proof you use, again, depends upon your goal. On Elizabeths site you can see just how credible she is with all of her certifications being proudly presented on her homepage. This instantly tells any visitor she knows exactly what she’s doing and they are safe with her as a qualified professional

You want to encourage an opt-in, then you might use facts and statistics along with a banner ad highlighting any awards your site has won. This gives your website credibility.

Call to action

A compelling call to action is required for every successful home page.

Calls to action guide your visitors towards the action you’d like them to do next. There’s no clutter, just simple and effective sign-posting and calls to action.

Remember to test your calls to action too. We’ve found “Subscribe” works better than “Sign up” in the optin calls to action. Whatever works the best for your audience is the one that you stick with.

Opt-in form

Finally, if your goal is to motivate an opt-in, then you must have an opt-in form on your home page. In fact, everything on that page needs to support the goal of the visitor becoming a subscriber? Why? Because 70% of website visitors leave never to return again – even if they like your site.

Another of our clients Shelley from Tomorrows VA gives her homepage visitors an option to opt in to her email list by offering them something they may be interested in for subscribing, on her site as a whole she has different opt ins based on where they are on the site and what they may be interested in however on the homepage as at that point there is no way of telling what they are looking for there is a general opt in.

The  homepage of a website is perhaps the most important page on your website.

Make sure the elements on your page support your goals and your success. Test and track various elements until you get the best results, and remember, nothing, not even the home page, is set in stone and it can be tweaked and tested until it’s supporting your website goals.

Is it time your home page had a makeover?

Kevin Arrow

17 ways to boost your website’s credibility

17 ways to boost your website’s credibility

Do you remember your first website design? I wish I had a screenshot of mine. It was set up in GeoCities and it was an unholy mess in bright yellow and orange, with a hint of red, if my memory serves me correctly. Websites looked a whole lot different way back then

Fast forward a few years to 2006 and I had designed a really lovely Flash website in orange and silver, with sliding star trek doors that opened and closed when you changed pages. They even made swishing sounds as they opened and closed. I had lots of traffic, or what I thought was a lot of traffic and all the visitors loved playing with those sliding doors.

Of course no one ever called us of course, we didn’t have our phone number on the site and when we finally got around to adding it we put it at the bottom of the page because we didn’t want people to think they had to ring us right away

In fact, we didn’t have very much on our early websites that boosted credibility at all!

Alot has changed since the early 2000’s and I have learnt alot to.

With it becoming easier and easier to build websites and the cost of these can sometimes be very low it’s really important that you atrt to think about some of the things that will make YOUR business website stand out more and be much more likely that visitors will be interested in what you are offering.

What can you do to boost your website’s credibility to your visitors through your website design?

1. You don’t need to spend a million, but a professional logo and website are a big credibility booster.
2. Always include an “About Us” page on your website. People want to know who they are doing business with.
3. Share any relevant education, awards experience you’ve received that are relevant to your work. You worked hard, so shout it out.
4. Include a Privacy Policy on your website. Give your website users and subscribers the confidence to share their information with you.
5. Use a secure server for your shopping cart. This will avoid any alerts from popping up on a customer’s antivirus program.
6. Include your full mailing address on your website and avoid a P.O. box. Services like Mailboxes Etc. can provide you with a street address. This helps with location marketing and enabling local customers to find you better.
7. Include a phone number on your website, preferably at the top of the page unless you prefer to be contacted in other ways.
8. Respond to public inquiries. It’s shocking how many website owners don’t bother to answer their email.
9. Respond to customer inquiries even faster. These people are your bread and butter, so treat them like gold.
10. Join relevant organizations and display your participation. For example, Better Business Bureau in the US or  FSB in the UK.Other organization logos on your website can boost your credibility.
11. Consider date stamping all your content. While leaving the date off evergreen content makes sense, when people plan to reference your content, they want to be able to see how current up to date it is.
12. If you update your content frequently, have a stamp that indicates the last date your content was updated. Doing so helps identify you as a current source of information.
13. Keep your copyright statement up to date with the current date. There’s nothing worse than seeing “Copyright 2004” in 2019!
14. Use your real photo on your website and in your business social media profiles. Hiding behind cute avatars does not boost your credibility.
15. Reduce spam complaints and use a confirmed opt-in (a.k.a “double opt-in”) process for your mailing lists.
16. If you reference other content to create your own content, always state your sources. It’s common sense and courtesy.
17. Readily collect and publish testimonials on your website. Detailed testimonials with real names and photos or videos are best with links to their websites if they are business owners.

Of course this is a quick list of just 17 ways to boost your website’s credibility, what would you add?

Kevin Arrow

 

 

Is Your Website Supporting Your Business Goals?

What’s the purpose of your website? What are you looking to achieve with it? Any web designer is going to ask you these two questions, and they’ll be quickly followed up with who is the website for? How will it support your business? What are your website’s overarching goals? This is an absolute conversation killer. Trust me it is.

From a client’s perspective I’m asking all the wrong questions. They think I should be asking what their brand is, and what logo do they have and what fonts. All of this is secondary to the purpose of your website and it’s goals.

What are your website’s goals?

Be honest… Do you have any?

You want to make money, but how will you make it? Does each page on your website have a goal? If so, does the goal of the page also support your business goal? When you have your goals in place you may talk about your ideas for colours, logos and fonts.  Because your goals impact upon these too!

Your website goals might include:

  • To sell a product
  • To sell a service
  • To stimulate an opt-in
  • To inspire a visitor to click on an affiliate advertisement
  • To provide information and receive ad exposure and PPC income

Each page of your website will have a different goal, or their will be multiple pages with the same goal. A page does not have more than one goal, or one single focus. For example, one page may be designed to promote your opt-in offer. In addition to your call to action, there are other things you can do like move to the previous page or move to a new page. The goal of that page is to persuade the visitor to opt-in, although they may do other things.

Reviewing your website’s goals: The 3 step process

Now you’ve established what your website’s goals are, they now need to be reviewed so you can assess their effectiveness, and whether your website is supporting your business goals.

Who are your visitors?

What content and tools will you need to help or convince your visitor you’re the one, and at the same time accomplish your goals? For example, you want them to sign up for your opt-in form. What content and tools are you using to motivate that action? Are you providing them with a sample of the offer? An ebook? A resource guide or checklist? Do you make it easy to opt-in or do they have to jump through flaming hoops, backward?

How does your visitor move through your site?

When someone visits your landing page, where do they go next? Is it where you want them to go? Does it support your business goal? Use your website goals to help you create content and determine the path your visitor takes. Each piece of content on your site should influence an action that ultimately leads to your goal. Again, imagine you want to motivate an opt-in. Does the path support the goal?

Each piece of content, form and promotion on your site should lead to your business goal. Take a look at your flow of information and the path your visitors take when they’re at your site. Does their path support your goal? When adding or removing something on your site does it support your business goal? If it doesn’t, don’t do it.

Include a call to action with each website page.

Every article, every page, every form, every video and every single image on your website needs to support your end goal. They do this by having a call to action that supports your goal and purpose. Your visitors shouldn’t have to read between the lines or read your mind – guide them. Tell them. Nurture them.

Finally, make sure to respect your visitor’s time. Whilst it may be nice to know your visitor’s shoe size, if it’s not essential to the goal, don’t ask for the information.  Dragging them through a never-ending cycle of questions to achieve your goal isn’t going to win you any friends. If you want your visitor to sign up for your opt-in list, make it as easy as possible. If you want them to buy a product, make it happen. If you throw up blocks, expect visitors to stumble on them, and then leave.

Audit your website. Check all the pages, new and old. Determine if it supports your business goals or detracts from them.

Help your visitors. Make it easy for them to do what you want them to do. If you don’t, they’ll go somewhere else.

Kevin

P.S. If you’d like to chat about your website goals book in a call with me and lets work it out

Starting a Blog? Start with a Good Web Host and A Secure Server

Blogging is a fantastic marketing tool, and one that all online business owners need in order to extend their reach and increase their visibility. However, it can be frustrating and even overwhelming trying to start creating a business on the web and you may be wondering where you should start, and how.

How to start your blog

One of the most frequent conversations that I have with would-be bloggers is “But can I not use a free host and then see what happens?”. The answer is yes you, but what happens is predictable and I’ll predict it right now. You will not grow a business online. You may make one or two fluke sales but that’s it. You’ll blame your products, the economy and all number of other things but the truth is you never bothered with the fundamental of all online business plans – own your own site.

If you plan on doing business on the web, then a domain name and a good web host are essential. These two things will form the foundation of your online business.

Need a domain name? Brainstorm a brilliant domain name here. The domain name is like your house number. It’s nice to have a keyword in it (we have business) and whilst your own name is great… someone has to know you already ie know your name in order to search for you. Stack the odds for success in your favour by including a keyword.

One final note about domain names… Which looks better to you?

Tiffany.com

Tiffany.wix.com

Which one is easy to remember? And that’s why you need your own domain name and not something with an additional extension. These are good sites, but they’re not suited to a business site.

Got a domain name? The next step is web hosting…

What is Web Hosting?

If you’ve never built a website, then all of the terms might be confusing at first. Think of the process like you were going to buy a retail outlet. First, you’d find and buy property in a commercial area maybe a high street or a marketplace.

In this scenario, the property is your hosting. In the virtual world you can’t say visit the shopping center and look for my shop, and you probably wouldn’t do that in the real world either. You’d be more specific. You’d tell them exactly how to come to your place by giving them an address like ‘ 23 high street’. Online, you give the domain name in the way that you give the street address in real life.

Now you can see why the domain name is now important. If you have your premises in a rough part of town, even if your shop is pretty no one will want to visit you. Think Tiffany.com versus Tiffany.wix.com

You tell potential customers to find your services at ‘NancyBradyCoach.com’ rather than NancyBrady.com. Now, you have your virtual land (hosting) and the address (domain name) so you can build your shop.

My final thoughts on the free domain name versus one that you own. Ask yourself honestly would you buy a premium product from a site that was free? Is it the right vibe that you’re giving to your potential prospects? I’m so high-end that I won’t pay £10 for a domain name.

How Do I Find A Decent Web Host?

Now that you understand why you need hosting and how it works, you need look for a reliable host. You can use Google or another search engine to find reviews of different hosts. But be careful with this approach. Sometimes, affiliates of web hosts will post glowing reviews in the hopes that you’ll click their link and they’ll earn a commission. I understand the reason why everyone recommends Bluehost is because it gives the highest commission. Not all reviewers behave this way, but how will you know from a couple of searches?

I use and recommend Siteground. It was recommended to me by the lovely Jacqui Malpass who had been through a raft of hosting companies before she found one that could handle traffic and the others things it needed. Based on Jacqui’s recommendation I use them, and now I too recommend them. If something goes wrong with your website, and at some point in it’s lifetime it will, then you need a hosting company with good communication skills. Ask around for recommendations for web hosting and see what comes back to you.

If you’re in the E.U, your web hosting company will need to host your website on a server based in the E.U. This isn’t negotiable.

What Should You Look for in a Web Host?

One of the first things you should consider when searching for a host is the uptime guarantee. Uptime is the amount of time that the server is online and functional. The industry standard is 99% uptime.

However, the host may have scheduled downtime during which they perform maintenance and other tasks. Which is great, they tend to let you know. This however may mean your site is down during the day because your hosting isn’t on the same time zone.

Speed. Speed is vital. You will be marketing your website at some point and this means that you will need to have a fast website. Shared hosting is a good starting point, but remember you will outgrow it. You are not wearing the same clothes you wore as a toddler; you’re an adult with different need. Your hosting package may have plans that you will need to consider when upgrading. You don’t need the super-duper plan straight out of the box, but you will need to change at some point in the future.

Pay attention to a host’s customer service options. Some web hosts offer 24/7 telephone and chat support. Some hosts have an extensive knowledge base that’s searchable. Customer service may not be a big deal to your right now. But if something goes wrong(and it will), you’ll be glad to have it. Again, check the time zones. If you’re based in Europe having a host on Pacific time can mean waiting 12+ hours before your ticket gets a response.

Managed Hosting

Some companies, like WP Engine, offer managed hosting. This means they will manage your website updates for you. Often with managed hosting you cannot add plugins to your website. If you aren’t going to do a lot of customisation on your site and you’re not needing a lot of plugins for marketing and enhancing your services, then this is a good choice.

Often, managed WordPress hosting is offered and the customer (you) doesn’t really understand what you’re buying. Here you will not have to complete back ups, or updates. There’s nothing technical for you to worry about. Your site is optimised for speed and agility.  The price for this peace of mind is you are limited to what you can do with your site.

For some business owners this is perfect for their needs.

Make Back-Ups

Another thing to keep in mind is that the majority of hosting companies aren’t responsible for backups. You’re responsible for these. Just like owning a shop,  if someone breaks into your WordPress site and you don’t have insurance, you may lose all of your hard work. In the case of Siteground you can pay for additional back-ups. However, you should back up your site elsewhere “just in case”.

I highly recommend using UpdraftPlus 

The pro version is the easiest and best i have ever used and I have used and researched alot of these over the years, you dont need to understand cpanels its all done in the wordpress platform. If you can load a plugin then you can use this. It’s automated features are really good and its the one that we use for ourselves and our clients.

I know this post will help reassure you that you are making a good business decision to invest in hosting and your own domain name. When you invest in something for the first time, and funds are tight it can be the motivation to make something of what you have.

If you have a bigger budget and a desire to get things done faster, this is something you can outsource so that you can focus on your clients rather than the technical aspects of running a business online.

Kevin

3 Overlooked Places To Start Persuading On Your Website

You’ve read the books, got the t-shirt and you want to get started with persuasion in your marketing, however you don’t want to get it wrong. You’ve visited websites that have gone to town on the elements of persuasion and you’ve clicked away with a sick feeling in your tummy. Don’t worry, this post will explore the three places where you should start with persuasion without making your readers feel ick (a technical term).

Once you’ve mastered persuasion successfuly, you’ll know there’s nothing wrong with using it well. It’s only when persuasion is used badly that it makes you want to scream.  This post explores where persuasion works best on your website when you’re first starting to use it. Once you’ve mastered these three areas, you can then sprinkle it into all areas of your life.

A quick refresher on the elements of persuasion

Robert Cialdini wrote a book in the 1980s about the 6 elements of persuasion. In his book he brought together the outcomes of various psychology experiments completed by himself and other researchers about influence i.e how you can influence others. Those elements are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Likeable
  3. Scarcity
  4. Authority
  5. Consistency
  6. Consensus

In 2016 he released the book Pre-suasion which focuses on the moments leading up to persuasion (it’s an enjoyable read), which was the missing element of influencing people.  So where on your website can you use the elements of persuasion to the best effect?

  1. Your ‘About’ Page

The ‘about’ page on any website is usually one of the most visited pages on your website. That’s why it should be clearly labeled “about”. Don’t use a different name with the hope that more people will click and discover all about you. You’ll just confuse your visitors.

Your ‘about’ page should share your journey and cover why you’re qualified to help potential clients. Spin your journey into a story format that readers can relate to. For example, if you’re a business coach, you might share how you struggled to get your own business started, and some of the steps that you’ve taken before finding success. By sharing your story, you’ll make it easy for your potential clients to relate to you and you’ll be more memorable.

Persuasion elements you can use your About Page for impact include:

  • Reciprocity – your ethical bribe – in exchange for your readers email address you’re going to give them an item of value.
  • Social proof – testimonials and positive feedback
  • Likeable
  1. Your ‘Services’ Page

Your ‘services’ page is your chance to stand out from other entrepreneurs that offer similar services. Don’t make the rookie marketing mistake of cramming every single service you offer on the one page. This will overwhelm visitors and they may leave your website before reading through all of the services you offer. It’s also harder to remarket to visitors of that page because you don’t know what service they’re specifically interested in. That’s why it’s smart to have each service listed on a separate page of your website and optimise those pages for those services.

You want your service pages to show that you understand your dream clients and can deliver what they need. Then you should explain how you work and what end result your dream client can expect. For example, if you’re a social media strategist, don’t tell potential clients that you can handle their Facebook advertisements. That’s vague and doesn’t describe what you can do. Instead, you might tell potential clients that you can increase Facebook ad conversions by 20%.

Persuasion elements you can include here:

  • Consistency – show your track record in delivering amazing things for your clients
  • Authority – Why are you the expert they should work with?
  • Scarcity
  1. Your ‘Home’ Page

When it comes to your home page, you have less than seven seconds to make your first, great impression. How well is your home page working?

When someone visits your home page, they should be able to tell immediately if they’re your dream client or not from the words that you use – you must speak their language. If you’re a social media strategist that works only with small businesses, then your verbiage shouldn’t be aimed at large corporations. It should be focused on small businesses and how you can help them.

Your home page is also your chance to state why you’re uniquely qualified to help. Don’t duplicate the wording you did on your about page. Instead, keep your qualifications to one or two sentences on your home page. If a visitor is interested in knowing more, they’ll click on your ‘about’ page for the full story.

Next, offer social proof on your home page. If you’ve guest posted on several popular blogs, share their logos. If you have testimonials from prominent clients, post those on your home page, too. If you’ve been interviewed in a magazine or podcast, be sure to add this information to your home page as well. Now this may feel icky, and overrated and you may not feel comfortable with it, but it’s what will separate you from your competition.

Persuasive elements on your website help build rapport with your dream clients faster and help you seal the deal. Persuasive  elements can do a lot of the heavy lifting in your marketing, but ultimately your services and your branding have to live up to the promises you’ve made in your copy.

Have you got elements of persuasion on your website?

 

 

7 Forms & Scheduling Types of Software for your Website

You’ve got your website and you now need to be contacted by your visitors who may have questions or they wish to book your services. The question is which form will work best for your website?

Obviously to free yourself up to do more of what you love it’s important to set up processes and automation wherever you can. One of the ways you can do this is by using forms that automate a submission process. For example, if you are a coach and need clients to schedule coaching calls with you, using a tool that can automate this process is a must, or you’ll find your diary gets in a mess real quick!

Another example would be when you’re going to accept guest post submissions. Instead of having to email back and forth with someone to get all the needed information (post, author bio, author image, etc.) it makes more sense (and saves time) to set up and automate this process so you only have to approve the post or send it back for editing.

In this post we’ll explore some of the options that are available for your website, and we’ll focus on two types of uses – 1 for appointment bookings and one for gaining content contributions.

Appointment Bookings

Acuity 

$10 a month or limited free.

Acuity Scheduler is what we use to schedule our coaching calls. For $10 a month you can embed the form on your own website, reminders will be sent to your clients and you can block out segments of your diary. Accepts payments and deposits and syncs with Google. EU compliant and you can have more than one calendar which means your whole team can use it.

Time Trade 

$49/year individual option; free 15-day trial

Free version – allows you to book up to 5 meetings a month
Time Trade easily integrates with Google, iCal, or Outlook calendars. You set up the rules as to how far in advance someone can book an appointment with you as well as whether or not you allow someone to choose a same day appointment. You can set up an automated email that goes out once an appointment has been booked. It will also send you notifications of appointments booked like Acuity does.

You Can Book Me

$10/month ($10 per calendar, per month; 2 calendars would be $20/month, etc.)

They’ve been around since 2008 (known by a different name back then) and have tons of satisfied customers. They offer a whole slew of different features, some beneficial to an online business owner and some better suited for offline business owners. Just a few of these features include some of the more standard booking software options – the ability to send a customized automated email once a booking has been created, adding a logo/image to keep your brand showing up across all platforms.

The paid version enables Zapier integration which means your can integrate You Can Book me with a heap of other programs.

Timely
$19/month for 1 ‘staff’ (person); 30 day free trial
Timely works from the cloud – meaning you can access it anywhere and there isn’t any software to be downloaded to your computer. While some online business owners use this option, it offers a lot of bells and whistles if you’re looking for just an appointment booking software.
Timely integrates with many popular payment gateways like Authorize.net, PayPal, and Stripe. This allows you to accept point of sale payments easily (great if you’re working with a client in person, hosting a live event, etc.). You can also run reports to track the financial aspect of things too.

Most of the appointment booking software available is pretty similar – you set the days and times you’re available, give the link to a client (or add to your website/email, etc.), they set a time up, and you’re notified about the meeting. So it’s just a matter of deciding which one fits your needs best.

Receiving Content Contributions

Many website owners choose to allow guest post submissions from their audience and connections. This can be a great way to take the pressure of yourself from always having to create content. Just remember, be picky about the content you accept. It is your reputation on the line! If you’re going to accept submissions, save your time and sanity by setting up a form to collect all the information you’ll need. Here are a few options to choose from:

Formidable Forms

$34 for one website (they do also have a free version)
This plug-in makes creating forms quick and easy!  Everything is done via an easy to use drag and drop editor. You’ll have 7 different field types to use when creating a form: text, email, url, paragraph text, radio, checkbox, and dropdown. If you don’t want to create your own contact form, simply use the template Formidable Forms provide.

Gravity Forms

$39/year for one website
The Gravity Forms plug-in is a popular option for many WordPress website owners. (At the time of this writing, over 1 million sites are using it). It’s easy to use – select your forms, edit the options, and embed on your website. If you need more bells and whistles than just a basic contact form, there are several integration/add-on options available that will enable taking payments, delivering quizzes and many other things that you didn’t think possible with a form!

Contact Form 7

Free
Obviously one of the pros to this one is that it’s a free option. Many people use this plug-in and are very happy with it. It’s simple and easy to use and you can create several different forms with it.

There’s you have it, 7 different forms for your website.  As with anything, there are pros and cons to the options shared. Do your due diligence, find one that works for you and go with it. You’ll be glad you took the time to set up these simple automated processes so it’s hands off in the future!

Kevin

Website Development: Understanding Your Competition

competitive analysisYou’re getting your website developed, or you’re thinking of revamping your existing website. This means you need to understand who your audience is, and who else is competing for their attention.

This is known as understanding your competition.

Whilst you may not sell products and services that directly conflict with other websites, there is only so much time and attention to go around. Your competition is also vying for the attention of the same audience and they’re also looking at ways to captivate them.

For example, you sell healthy, organic dog food. Your competition are people also targeting the owners of dogs that like healthy and organic food. It can be the manufacturers of dog toys, it can be the person who makes diamond studded bowls. Both of these organisations compete for the attention of your audience. Neither of them sell dog food.

When you understand your competition, you can position your website to stand out, and be clear about what you stand for.

When you understand your competition you can create an effective SEO and keyword development strategy. You can maximise your competition and leverage their audience and vice versa.  And finally, you can position your products and services to sell as they should, and not how you imagine they will (which is flying off the shelves, right? 😉 ),

When you created your business plan, you did a competitive analysis.

If you didn’t, then now’s the time.  Your competitive analysis just needs to be updated to include your website and online marketing, if you haven’t included this already. Once you have a competitive analysis, the work’s not done. The world changes and so too does your competition. It’s important to stay abreast of change and how it impacts upon your business. While it’s not a good idea to stress about your competition, it is important to review them semi-annually or quarterly. This means this aspect of your business plan is a living document.

How well do you know your competition?

Think on this a moment before you carry on reading. How well do you know your competition?

Here are five questions to answer about your competition. Note down your answers, take action, and achieve better profits and a website that supports your business goals.

Question #1  Do you know who your competition is?

Do you have a competitive analysis? It’s difficult to differentiate your business if you don’t know who your competition is. Your USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is often created with your competition in mind. You need to know what you do better or differently so you can offer value and benefit to your audience.

Question #2 – How often do you presently analyse and evaluate your competition?

Again, it’s not wise to fixate on your competition. However, it is wise to create an analysis strategy. Semi-annually, annually or quarterly are common periods to review your competition and update your analysis.

Question #3 – What are your competitions’ primary keywords?

What are their Alexa stats? SimilarWeb stats? What does Moz say? SemRush? How do you compare? It’s important to know not only where your competition stands, but also where you stand in comparison. Create a chart or system to track this information.

Question #4 – Do you follow your competition on social networking sites?

Do you receive alerts when they publish new content? Do you subscribe to their blog or newsletter? Simple strategies can help you stay abreast of your competition. You can collect the information and review it when appropriate. Or you can review it as you learn about it. Often, your competition’s actions and content can be helpful to you. Their actions might inspire a new content idea, product or service or collaboration.

Question #5 – Does your competitive analysis and strategy include:

  • Keyword analysis
  • Linking analysis
  • Products/services analysis
  • Content analysis
  • Advertising analysis
  • SEO page ranking

Rest assured your competition is watching you.

You are already on their radar. You may as well return the favour. Take advantage of automated technology to track their activities. Create a plan to assess your competition and reassess your strategies and tactics.

There’s a lot to learn from the people that challenge you for the attention of your audience, and not every challenger is a threat. Your competition may be the motivating force you need to take your business and website to the next level.

Kevin

Brainstorming Brilliant Domain Names

A lot of people think that the design and logo creation is the first step when starting their own website or blog. That may  have been true in the past, but when you get serious about marketing your business online, you start to put more thought into what domains you actually need, and the names themselves, rather than just the look of your site.

Although the actual purchasing your domain name part may be completed very quickly, the brainstorming process will take several days, involve multiple people and should absolutely not involve alcohol at all in any way, shape or form. Although from experience, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food will most certainly help with your creative thinking process ;).

When trying to come up with as many good possible domain names as you can think of, you’re going to do a lot of talking! You’ll talk to others in the industry, talk to your peers, talk to your family members, and talk to your friends and whilst you might not mention you’re looking for a domain name, you will be indicating you need a name and their feedback would be welcome.

Whenever you have an idea for your brilliant domain name, jot it down. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Only register domain names that you can get .coms for unless your business is a strictly local business in which case a co.uk, .eu or .us is acceptable.
  • The fewer words the better.
  • Don’t use hyphens or underlines.
  • Don’t use numbers. You don’t want to have to say “that’s 36, in numbers” every time you say your website to someone.
  • Don’t use a word that’s awkward to spell… unless you are prepared to buy every possible variation on that name. Trust me, I have to say “Sark e media” with emphasis on the E.
  • Pick a name you can grow into. A name that’ll work just as well 5 years from now as today.
  • Don’t choose a name that can be misinterpreted. Sark (from Sarkemedia.com) is a blend of mine and my husband’s name, e for the type, and media as that’s what we do. You can only imagine how many times I have to say this on a daily basis.

Don’t pick “ToniasTeddies.com” if you might expand into other lines of toys, for example. “ToniasToys.com” might work better.

  • Don’t use your own name as the domain name. If you are setting up your website with business in mind, at some point you will exit the business. When the domain is your name it becomes harder to sell and a business liability rather than an asset. Also, if the business is failing, you’ll be so emotionally attached to it because it has your name, that you’ll struggle for longer, rather than re-group and start afresh.
  • Avoid trademarks – names of other businesses like Twitter and Facebook are trademarked, so you may have to take your site down and cancel your domain if you use a trademark.
  •  If your name is taken then try adding blog to it ie sarkemediablog.com
  •  Come up with a lot of possible names, and then pick the best one.

You’re probably going to have to come up with two or three-word domain names. Some people recommend having a keyword in your domain name, but there is no longer any advantage for having your domain as your exact keyword, and hasn’t been since 2012.

Single word domains are almost always going to be taken. You may occasionally be able to pick up a single word domain name from Sedo’s Great Domains auction or from various domain name forums, but you won’t be able to register a name from scratch unless you invent a word.

Write all the potential domain names down

And then say them aloud. Cross out

  • Any brilliant domain name that your tongue trips over
  • Any  domain name you have to spell out loud
  • Any domain name that your other half asks you to explain

This gives you a good idea of how memorable your domain name is, and how it sounds when you say it out loud, which you will do more than you think!

You’ll need to brainstorm plenty of domain names and variations, in case the one that you want isn’t available. I recommend writing a list with 10 or 20 on them.

Got your shortlist? It’s now time to buy your domain name!

Buying your Domain Name

Buy your domain name with your hosting, for ease, or separately if you don’t like all your eggs in one basket. I buy mine at 123-reg because you can activate the auto renew option and not lose your domain name or have your site go down because you’ve missed a notification.

When buying a domain name, you might not think you need a lot of support, but the moment you run into a spot of trouble, you’ll discover how good the support really is. Again, 123-reg have never let me down and answered anything I need to know quickly and courteously.

At the time of purchasing your domain name, you’ll be invited to buy a hundred other variants of your domain name, whether you need email services, SEO etc. I suggest you just buy your chosen domain names for now. You can always add on the things you fancy later.

Got my domains, now what?

When you’ve got your domains, and rubbed your hands in delight, the next step is to point the domain names at your host’s name servers.

Now, this isn’t very complicated, and if you buy your domain names with your hosting, you don’t have to complete this step at all.

When you purchase your hosting you’ll get a welcome email and this usually contains a welcome pack, explaining where to find the various bits and pieces that you’ll need and one section will tell you the web address to point your nameservers too. They tend to look like this:

NS1.YourHostHere.com

NS2.YourHostHere.com

You then go along to your domain name’s control panel and look for the section marked nameservers.

On 123-reg I select the domain name and then select manage to access nameservers

domain name management

I then scroll down to the “advanced” settings to find the change nameservers link:

change nameservers for your domain name image

Click update and you’re done!

And there you have it, not only do you have a brilliant domain name, you know how to buy it and where to change your nameservers. All you have to do now is set up your blog 🙂

Sarah

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