web browser snobs

I wrote this post about web designers who are browser snobs 5 years ago.

I’ve embarked on another project with a completely new set of web designers and I see attitudes haven’t changed.

Sure. You can hate on Internet Explorer & love another browser. But if you want people to visit a website and have a good experience, you have to be realistic about the stone cold numbers.

And these numbers aren’t even close. In this example, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari put together don’t add up to the share held by IE. Why would you ignore the reality and shoot yourself in the foot?
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Four Online Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make (And How to Avoid Them)

The following is a guest post by digital marketing strategist Seth Spears.

As a small business owner, when it comes to marketing your product or service online, there are two options: jump in feet first as an early technology adopter, or sit back and wait to see if the new methods actually work for those crazy early adopters (your competitors).

In the last few years, the marketing landscape has changed drastically. This is primarily because of changes in buyer habits due to technology advances such as broadband internet access, search engines, social media, and smart phones.

As a marketing consultant to small and local business owners, I’ve seen firsthand the mistakes many of these owners make, usually out of ignorance. It’s very unfortunate, as with a little advance planning, they could save thousands of dollars, and more importantly, hours of time.

So without further ado, here are the top four online marketing mistakes small business owners make, and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1. Poor Website Design, Structure, & Content.

In the rush to get their business online, many small business owners throw up a website as quickly as possible, but neglect the three most important aspects of any site: visually appealing design, ease of navigation, and quality content.

Your website is a direct extension of your business. It’s highly likely that your site is the first thing a potential customer will see when deciding to do business with you. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so what kind of impression is your site leaving with potential customers?

Design: Your business website should not look like it was created on Frontpage 10 years ago, but needs to reflect today’s web standards and capabilities.

Structure: It needs to be easy to navigate, so that visitors have a consistant experience on every page of your site. If I go to your site and have to click the “back” button to return to the homepage, I’m more likely to click the “x” button, and visit your competitor’s site instead.

Content: The information presented needs to be what potential customers are looking for. Who you are, what you do, the products/services offered, and how to contact you.

Without all of these aspects in place, you are giving a negative first impression to potential customers, and probably losing business.

Mistake 2. Lack of Basic Search Engine Optimization.

The way most people use the web is to go to Google, type in the keyword or phrase they’re looking for, and click on the first result. Even if they know the URL of a business they’re interested in, many will still let Google do the work for them, instead of simply typing it in the address bar. Because of this, every website MUST have some basic on-site search engine optimization.

The single most important aspect of SEO (search engine optimization) is the title tag, what you see at the top of your browser when you are on a particular webpage. The title tag tells Google what that particular page is about.

If the title tag of your homepage says “home” your site does not have optimized title tags! (If you’re not in the ‘home’ industry, you probably don’t want to rank for that term.) At the very minimum, your title tag should include the keywords or phrase(s) a potential customer would most likely search for, along with the name of your business. For example, the title tag of Shotgun Concepts looks like this:

Chris Houchens .:. Marketing Speaker | Marketing Author | Shotgun Marketing Blog

Secondly, each page of your site must have a specific meta description. This is the information that Google (or any other search engine used) will show below the link to your site in the search results. (Click here to see what the Shotgun Concepts meta description looks like to Google.) Without it, the big G will pull whatever information it feels is most relevant to the page, without your input. Since you know your business, it’s probably a good idea for you decide what info you want to show up.

Get these two elements correctly in place, and your site will rank much higher for your business/industry keywords.

Mistake 3. Using Social Media as (another) Broadcast Medium

The web has changed marketing. No longer can you simply broadcast your message to the masses and hope your intended customer will see/hear/respond to it. Social media has fundamentally changed all that. Now, past, current, and future customers have a way to communicate with you.

If you have a Facebook page for your business, yet don’t allow comments on the wall for fear of what someone might say, you’re using Facebook to broadcast. If you tweet out a daily special or promotion, yet never follow anyone back or check your @ replies, you’re using Twitter to broadcast.

Social media is a dialog, not a monologue. It’s (should be) a back and forth conversation between you and your customer (or future customer). If that scares you, good! It means you’ll work harder to provide a valuable product or service. It also means that customers will be choosing to do business with those who listen to them, rather than just advertise to them.

Social media is a three-spoked wheel, one-part marketing, one-part public relations, and one-part customer service. Treat it like such and your customers will love and thank you!

Mistake 4. Lack of Consistency

Your web presence can be one of your biggest marketing assets, but the key is consistency. Just like any other area of business, you have to set expectations and live up to them.

If your website has a blog, update it regularly. Whether that is once a month, once a week, or every day, be sure to keep it consistant, as your visitors will have an expectation, and if that expectation isn’t met, they’ll begin looking somewhere else for what you offer. If you can only spend an hour each day from 4:00-5:00 PM on social media, that’s fine, but set the expectation upfront and live up to it.

If a new customer came to your place of business and you had 4th of July sale signs prominently displayed (in August), they’re probably not going to take your business very seriously, no matter what your excuse. The same holds true with your web presence.

Keep your website updated. Be consistant in your social media usage. Treat it as another aspect of your regular business activities and your customers will get to know, like, trust, and buy from you regularly!

There you have it. The top four online marketing mistakes small business owners are guilty of, and how to resolve them. Are you guilty of any of these? Which ones? What steps have you taken to correct them? Any others I’ve left out? Leave a comment below to let us know!

Seth Spears is the chief strategist/principal of Spears Marketing, a digital marketing consulting firm specializing in WordPress web design, local search engine optimization, social media, email, video, & content marketing, brand strategy & consulting. He is a small business crusader passionate about helping small businesses grow through targeted, online marketing, direct-response strategies, and fantastic customer service. You can follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

do as they say not as they do

Q. — As a general rule, what industry (as a whole) has the worst web sites?
A. — Ad Agencies.

I’ve noticed most agency web sites have a few common characteristics:

  • Rule #1: Flash!
  • Staff / Management Bios: Wacky, fun, and meaningless. There is a über-creative photo of the person pretending to have fun.
  • Site Navigation: Not at the top, bottom, left, or right. In order to click around to the other pages on the site, you’ll need to take a bus to another location.
  • Contact Info: Phone numbers, emails, etc hidden on the most illogical page possible.
  • Office Pictures: Two ways to go here. 1) If it’s an “agency” of one guy with a Mac in his bedroom, then you’ll see some creative use of stock photography. 2) If it’s a real “agency”, the wackiness continues with pics of the foosball table, the aquarium, and the video game area to show potential clients how their billable hours are being wasted while creativity happens.
  • Philosophy: Starts off with “We’re a new type of agency.” and the rest is filled with meaningless jargon and buzzwords.
  • I don’t think we can say it enough: Flash!
  • Portfolio: Just a few logos. Maybe a shot of an ad. The ROI is never mentioned. This link is always called “the work”
  • Blogs: All staff members seem to take turns “writing posts” by copying / summarizing chapters out of the advertising textbooks they couldn’t sell back to their college bookstore.
  • Content: It seems everyone shot down everyone else’s ideas until there was no content left
  • Timeliness: Site is never updated. (except for every few years when the whole thing is torn down and replaced with something similar.) Rinse. Repeat.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few. Your thoughts?

UPDATE: I published this just a few hours before CP+B launched their new agency site. Looks interesting. http://beta.cpbgroup.com/

Do you have any idea what’s going on?

It’s all big. And it’s getting bigger.

Your organization.
Your business.
Your website.
Your blog.
Whatever.

It’s growing. I assume that’s what you want it to do.

But with growth comes troubles. In the beginning, you had time to personally order the URL, talk to the web guy for several hours about what you wanted, and spent gads of time going through the site. In the beginning, you sat down with every new client, personally dealt with any new issues, and were still in touch with what your customers felt.

Today, you’re busy…cause it’s “big”. You’re meeting with clients, dealing with issues, etc. An issue with a client that used to mean a personal visit now gets a phone call or an email. There may be pages on the website you haven’t seen in months.

But while you come through the employee door in the back, the front customer door has a loose handle that annoys customers. There’s a redirect forward on the website that goes to a page that was deleted three months ago and leaves visitors in an online dead-end. The person who answers the phones puts people on hold for too long.

When was the last time you had an expereince with your business as a customer? I tell clients and audiences all the time that they occasionally need to do an actual physical walk-through as a customer and actually try to navigate through their website looking for something. Are there any customer barriers? If there are, get rid of them. As I have said, (even before Seth) get big, but stay small.

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