Web site update: a few quick fixes

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Keeping your web site current is one of those tasks that easily slips in the cracks. With more pressing demands of running a business, sitting down to review and update your website content can be one of those items perpetually on your to-do list.  But it’s also a problem that can be quickly alleviated; even small changes can give your site a fresh look and generate new interest.

Here are some quick ways to get a quick website refresh:

  1. Take a trim. In today’s world of quick social media updates, people long for short, to-the-point information. Take a look at some of those lengthy blocks of text: can you say the same thing in fewer words?
  2. Make a list. Similar to the previous point, lists are quick and welcoming. See if you can turn some information into a list; it’s eye-easy for the online reader, and much more likely to catch someone’s eye.
  3. Remove the bling. A mixture of different fonts, sizes and colors can give your site an unprofessional appearance. Simplify.
  4. Insert one new thing. Don’t know where to begin? Your business must have something new – a new product or service, an employee achievement, company news – so start there. Write a quick update, get it out there, and try to make that a regular habit.
  5. Add more visuals. Insert some pictures, an infographic, or any other visual material to break up text and quickly convey your message. If you have places on your site you’ve been meaning to add more information, try using visuals instead of text.
  6. Insert some blank space. That’s right – a cluttered, jam-packed web site can cause readers to run away, but carefully placed white space adds breathing room and makes your page less overwhelming.

Updating your site doesn’t have to be always require a complete overhaul – some simple changes can go a long way keeping your design current and fresh.

 

 

 

 

Spring cleaning for your website

Photo courtesy of scottchan of freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of scottchan of freedigitalphotos.net

There’s something about that rejuvenating feeling of spring that inspires people to clean up and de-clutter. Getting rid of the old, opening up the windows and letting fresh air in, and making changes for the better – for many, it’s an annual and welcome tradition.

If you’re like many business owners, your virtual presence could benefit from some spring cleaning as well. Here are a few ways to apply that same outlook to your website.

Getting rid of the old

Your website is a perfect place to announce time sensitive information: sales, news, product updates, new inventory. But key to this is keeping your news current.  How often have you arrived at a website to see old news, or worse, news that’s not dated, leaving you wondering if it’s relevant or not?

Take your news out the very day it becomes irrelevant. Even if you didn’t specifically state a date, but you’ve referenced something that has since passed – a building renovation or office move, for example – take it out, or replace it with something fresh.

Let in some air

People have little patience when it comes to reading. They want to be able to quickly scan something, get the information they need, and get on their way.

Do your visitors a favor and let some air into your website.  Look it over for dense paragraphs, lengthy text, or pages that require excessive scrolling before you get to the point. Break these things up: use  lists or bulleted items, insert more sub-headers, add visuals,  or, simply use fewer words.

A reader who arrives to find open, airy text is more likely to try to read it, while a text-heavy, dense site may be quickly abandoned.

De-clutter

When you finally get  a chance to clean out a closet or junk drawer, you probably ask yourself: “When did I put this here? I didn’t even know I had this.”  That fresh eye you bring with cleaning causes you to view things more objectively.

Web sites are also prone to clutter – but it’s visual clutter. A piece of news is quickly squeezed into an existing page, a logo for a new partnership hastily inserted. Different authors add content, and each section looks and reads very differently. Text is bolded or highlighted in an effort to draw attention. Soon, your site is confusing and distracting.

You may have excellent content, but if your visitors are put off by too much clutter, they’re not going to stick around long enough to read it.

Make way for the new

As your business evolves, employees come and go, new partnerships are formed, and product inventory changes. Bios of long-standing employees become outdated, new skills slip through the cracks. Review your site and make sure it reflects the most current information.

While you’re cleaning up your website, make sure you look at other profiles you have on social media, and make sure your entire virtual presence is current and polished.

Need a new way to reach your customers?

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.net

If you’ve been looking for a way to expend the reach of your business, releasing a video will put you in front of a huge audience. As the second largest search engine, YouTube has over a billion users – that’s almost 1/3 of all people who use the Internet. It’s popularity extends world wide: 80% of views are outside of U.S.

From local viewers doing some research before stopping in, to long-distance customers interested in mail order or remote services, you can’t go wrong getting some information about your business on this vast network.

Think of a video as you would a blog. What topics are your customers interested in? What knowledge can you share? What questions might lead a customer to you? Similar to blog content, once your video is published, it’s doing marketing for your business, 24/7.

Here are some topic ideas to get you started.

A tour

The information-rich society we live in has created a curious customer. Before they spend money, they want information. What does the business look like? Where does my product come from? How is it made? Where does that person sit when they do their work?

A quick video tour can be just the thing to convince your local customer to step inside, or to assure your long-distance shopper that you are legitimate.

Seasonal advice

It’s hard enough to keep up with the regular chores that need to be done each week. But when things are done infrequently, they’re even more likely to slip people’s minds. Think about it: do you always remember to do your early season lawn care? Did you keep track of everything you need for tax time?

What seasonal issues do your customers face? What problems may occur if they overlook something?

Introduce yourself and your staff

The age-old truth of marketing says that customers prefer to buy from people they know and like. One way to help your customers get to know you is by sharing your story with an online “about me” video. Introduce yourself, along with some of your regular staff, to your viewers. Share what makes you qualified and unique, what skills you bring, and your company’s personality.

Take your customers along on a trip

Are you up at sunrise buying seafood fresh at the pier? Do you frequent antique shows and yard sales to find gems to pass along to your shoppers? Do you attend an annual conference or retreat?

Let your customer come along as an armchair traveler and let them experience of the passion you put into your business.

Help customers out of a jam

People get online when they’re in need of an answer; sometimes when they are pretty desperate for a solution. How do I get gum out of carpet? What’s can I substitute for egg in this recipe? You’ve probably typed a few of those queries into a search engine yourself.

Put your expertise to work solving problems for your customers. What questions, or mishaps, are common to your business? A video that solves a problem is going to make a lasting impression in a viewer’s mind.

If you’ve never made a video for your company, give it a try. It may lead you to a whole new pool of customers.

Don’t overlook your internal audience

ID-100215223Image provided by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a business owner, you probably spend much of your time thinking about your customers. But if you have employees, that’s another group of people who benefit from effective communications. A business that provides clear and current internal documentation for their employees is also, in turn, taking steps to keep their customers satisfied.

A recent experience reminded me of the importance of internal communications. I’d taken our dog to the vet, and upon leaving I was told I’d get a follow-up phone call by the end of the day. Hours passed with no call. The next morning, I called them.  The person I spoke with apologized, saying they are training a new employee, who didn’t record my request in their call back log.

Of course, it wasn’t the new employee’s fault. If training materials had been provided to that person, they would have had something to refer to in becoming adept at new procedures.

What type of information could benefit your internal audience? Daily procedures, checklists, employee policies, and written training materials are valuable reference tools to keep daily business operating smoothly. Keep these materials up to date and in a central location, ideally online. Your employees will be happy to have a place to go for answers, and your day to day operations will run without a hitch.

Internal communications are often on the back burner at a company, but without them, confusion and mistakes easily arise.

 

It’s About You

Your “about me” page may seem like an out-of-the-way stop on your web site, but it really isn’t. The “about me”, or bio page, is often one of the first things a customer looks for when they visit.

Why? Just like any new relationship, customers want to know more about you before they move forward. Where did you go to school? How did you learn to do what you do? Do you have kids? Do you like dogs? And most importantly, are you the best person for me to do business with?

This page should be one of the shining stars on your web site. Here are three common problems with about me pages.

  • Too impersonal. A common mistake many small business owners make is to hide behind the business name. Often, this is an attempt to hide the fact that it’s a one-person operation. But the page should be about you; not your business (you can cover that in another area). For example: Genoa Coffee Importers knows the importance of good coffee. It’s hard for a person to warm up to a corporation’s impression. But people relate to another person’s opinion. A better approach: I’m Lacy, owner of Genoa Coffee Importer, and I enjoy nothing more than a good cup of coffee.
  • Strictly business. Your about me information should focus primarily on your credentials. But don’t forget to toss in a little bit about yourself, especially if it’s relevant to your line of work. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, customers want to hear about your past battle with weight loss, or quest to finish a marathon. If you sell pet products, don’t forget to mention your own animals, the work you do with charities, or your favorite animal growing up.
  • All over the board. If you have a wide and varied background, streamline your page to focus mainly on what you bring to your current line of work.  You can summarize prior, unrelated work experience, but try to slant them toward your current position.  People want to be convinced that you’re expert at what you do, not someone who does a little bit of everything.

If you haven’t looked at your About me page in a while, pull it up and look it over. Does it tell your customers everything they need to know?

Four blog shortcuts  to avoid

You know the importance of keeping your blog current. But after a day (or night) of working, you’d probably rather spend your free time walking the dog or coaching a little league game than park at the computer to write a clever and informative blog post.

Here are five common shortcuts people tend to reach for when pressed for blog content:

  • Pull from your personal life: If you blog about landscaping, don’t insert a random post about the great new diet you’re trying. You think it’s interesting, but your loyal readers will be puzzled at the interruption.
  • Offer excuses. Don’t waste a back apologizing for a shorter-than-usual post, or offering an explanation about how busy you are. Make every post count.
  • Make lofty promises. It’s easy to promise an exciting topic for next time, but if you do so, make sure it’s a sure thing. Don’t build anticipation, only to have it linger for weeks without coming to fruition.
  • Don’t publish anything hasty; typos and grammatical mistakes will be a poor reflection on the quality of your business.

It’s a challenge to keep your blog current, but staying ahead of things is a better solution than a last minute scramble. When you have time, write several blog posts, then you have a stockpile at your disposal.

Freebies are good for business

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add a spark to your business, consider having a raffle, contest, or giving out some samples.

Whether it’s a free cone at the neighborhood ice cream shop, or a no-strings-attached business consultation, freebies are a perk to the consumer. But they’re good for business, also.

  • You’ll capture the attention of your customers.
  • Your business will come up in the winner’s daily conversation – free publicity!
  • You’ll have some fun topics to post in social media.

Try any of the following:

  • A raffle – walk in your store and enter.
  • Online raffle – respond to a social media post to be entered.
  • Frequent customer cards – buy 6 coffees, the 7th is free.
  • Free samples – trying your product can be convincing.

Use all your avenues of social media to spread the word, both leading up to the contest, and to announce the winner.

A giveaway can pay for itself in the long run. The winner will see firsthand the quality of your services or product. You’ll increase your marketing reach and improve customer engagement.

Do you drive to your customers’ homes?

ID-100320317

(Photo curtesy of photokanok at freedigitalphotos.net.)

Recently, I met the owner of a small company that sold homemade, high quality dog food and treats. Her immensely popular food is distributed locally – at farmers markets, local shops and farmstands. She also offers a home delivery service to a limited area, which she currently runs herself. When I asked how she had time to do that, she laughed.

“It’s quick if the customer isn’t home, I leave the food and go along my way. But if they’re home, I end up talking with them, playing with their dog, and staying too long,” she admits. “I have to say, it’s my own fault – I love that interaction. I learn ways to improve my products, what my customers want.”

As a small business owner, one of your biggest advantage over larger competitors is that personal service and opportunity for customer interaction. While it’s unlikely that you drive to each of your customer’s homes, you can still achieve a similar connection through being active on social media.

By posting news and product updates, you can keep customers aware of what’s going on. You can hear compliments and complaints, and respond to them within a few hours. Your active presence will solicit questions, which can help educate your customer base. You can put a face behind your business by sharing a glimpse of your life and what drives your passion for your business.

Take a look at your social media efforts; are you reaching your customers? Doing so can be the next best thing to driving out to your customers’ front door.

Get your message across with lists

Who doesn’t love a list? One quick glance and the reader easily gets your message, happy that they don’t have to wade through long sentences or dense paragraphs. A list is reassuring, delivering information in its simplest form.

You can use lists to boost your company’s products or services, for example:

  • Things to do, or not to do.
  • Admirable qualities about your product.
  • Problems that can occur without proper use of your product.
  • Checklist of helpful information.

The opportunities are endless. If you want to catch the attention of your busy customers, why not give them a list?

Here’s one to kick things off.

Six ways to present marketing information with a list

  1. Teach by example; for example: “Top five problems that occur when you don’t service your air conditioner each spring.”
  2. Boast about your products; for example: “Why our gizmo is faster/better/cheaper than the competition.”
  3. Make your customer’s lives easier: “Too hot to bake, but having company? Pick up one of these special summer desserts.”
  4. Educate your readers: “Colorful plantings and flowers deer won’t eat.”
  5. Share your passion: “Six things that make us proud of our coffee.”
  6. Help your customers stay organized. “Get your car ready for winter with our checklist.”

Your customers will thank you for it.

Why do you need a blog?

For the small business owner, a blog one of the best ways to stand up and get noticed. Here are three of the top reasons to keep an active blog:

You’ll improve your traffic.

You want your web site to dominate the search engine results. One of the best ways to do this is to keep flooding your site with fresh content and new, varied keywords.

In a nutshell, the more content you post on your site, the better your search engine results.

You’ll make friends.

Any student of marketing learns that customers do business with someone they know, like and trust. A blog is the best way to do this.

By posting your company’s news, values, and specials, you’re connecting with your readers. They’ll see inside your business. You’ll stand apart in your customer’s minds; when they need your product or service, they’ll think about the business they’ve gotten to know.

You’ll share your knowledge.

Whether you provide a service or a product, you know a lot about that topic. By sharing that knowledge, you are educating your customer base. They’ll be able to make informed purchases, and will appreciate the insight that you’ve brought to them. You’ll enhance their interest in your services, making them better customers.

If you’ve been looking for a new way to market your business, consider adding a blog and posting to it regularly.