Six Common Homepage Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Six Common Homepage Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Your website homepage is the most important page on your website. It’s the gateway to your business and the page where the majority of your visitors land first. Its primary job is to compel visitors to stay, explore more pages and move through the sales funnel. Sounds simple, right?

It’s not simple when you recognize that homepage design requires the most creativity and effort on the part of the web designer compared to any other website page. The central focus of the design needs to be on your visitors. If the right vision and knowledge of current design principles is lacking, your website is going to be unappealing and drive them away.

Here are the six mistakes you need to avoid on your homepage.

Small Images and Large File Sizes

Using small thumbnails in order to fit as many images as you can on the page is not pleasing to the eye. It’s cringe worthy. It can quickly overwhelm visitors and cause eye-strain. If the images are small on desktop, how do you think they are going to look on a mobile device? When you consider that aging baby boomers are the largest demographic population, the last thing you want to do is have images they have to squint to see.

Large image file sizes are almost as frustrating as small images. When webpages have to load large image sizes it can significantly slow page load time. Today’s visitors are impatient and don’t want to wait more than a split second for an image to load. It impacts website performance and is a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. Again, if it’s an issue on desktop, it’s going to be an even bigger issue on mobile devices.

Overuse of Animation

Slideshows, videos, slide-in graphics and gifs are a staple of most websites but all on one page? Yikes! While they can increase user engagement, any animation should be a page enhancement, not the central focus. Otherwise, it’s distracting and can also slow page load time. Are you still using Flash animation? Flash is practically dead and you shouldn’t be using it. Nothing says “out of date” better than a flash plugin that needs to be updated. It is now routinely blocked by internet browsers in favor of HTML5. You can thank Apple and YouTube for this.

Poor Color Selection

Either using too many colors or colors that clash is distracting and not pleasing to the eye. If you are using a color background, what color text are you using? Does it hurt to look at? How long can you look at it before eye strain sets in from the glare? It’s important to have whitespace as it gives the eye a rest and makes the other page elements stand out. Stay away from bright neon colors and use primary colors sparingly. Websites like Canva have a color palette generator if you’re stuck for colors.

Who Are You?

I have been on many website homepages where I have asked myself “what does this business do and why should I care?” Two very simple questions, but it’s amazing how often they aren’t answered. I see this more on e-commerce websites. Just because you have pictures of the products you sell doesn’t clue me in to who you are. You need to state what you can do for your customer in a clear, concise way that convinces them to stay on your website. There are too many other websites selling the same products as you. If there is no benefit to buying from your business, why should visitors stick around?

Information Overload

The job of the homepage is to quickly and clearly introduce the visitor to your company, what you can do for your visitors and encourage them to explore other pages. Today’s website visitors don’t have the patience to read through copious amounts of text. They want to skim down your homepage and read small chunks of information.

Anything you write should be easy to read, including the font type and size. Your website homepage is not the place to show all of your products, tell an endless story about your business or explain all of your services in fine detail. I see businesses do this a lot. It creates a very busy, overwhelming homepage especially when a small font size is used in order to include more information. It also leads to a very long page scroll. If it’s hard to read on a large screen, how is it going to render on a small screen?

One piece of vital information that needs to be easily found is your contact information. Your email address and contact number should be clearly visible at the top of every page. Don’t make visitors have to play detective in order to find it.

Using too many font types is also a no-no. If you are going to use more than one font they should complement each other not contrast and they should work with the overall design for the page. You can use a font generator such as Mixfont to find suitable combinations.

Confusing Navigation

Your website’s navigation should have a clear and easy to follow layout. The more clicks, the more frustrated visitors get. While this is harder if you have a lot of products or services, you need to strike the right balance. That means grouping similar products or services into categories. Aim for no more than three clicks to get to the desired product or service. On the flip side, avoid having every page link in your primary navigation. While it may only take one click to get to the page, if you have a lot of links in your primary navigation  you will be forced to either use a small font size to fit everything on one line or have a multi-line menu. Both options are hard to read and make it difficult to locate the page the visitor is interested in.

Are these the only homepage mistakes to be concerned with? No, but they are the mistakes that can do the most damage. Today’s website visitors are more demanding, more fickle and more impatient. With so many businesses competing in the same crowded space, it is vital that your website’s homepage meet their requirements. The evolution of technology will continue to create more opportunities to reach and market to your visitors but your website will need to evolve as well. By avoiding these common homepage mistakes, you’ll be better positioned to meet the needs of your visitors and give them a great experience. Feel free to add more in the comments section!

Six Ways Your Business Can Outsmart Amazon.com

Six Ways Your Business Can Outsmart Amazon.com

Did you know that there are approximately 80 million Amazon Prime members and that Amazon accounts for 80% of the growth of online sales and $4 out of every $10 spent online is at Amazon.com? Those are depressing numbers depending on your perspective. I can’t even get my head wrapped around those numbers! Every day, I see several Amazon deliveries in the building lobby where I live. I was chatting with a friend the other day and she mentioned a store in town had been Amazoned. I had never heard the term before but it wasn’t hard to figure out the meaning; a store was closing because they couldn’t compete with Amazon.

I am passionate about small business and backing the underdog so I began to think about how small businesses could find a way to compete in the age of Amazon. Here are six ways that can help your small business can compete. They are either free or low cost and even if you don’t sell online, they can still help your business thrive.

Define Your Niche

You didn’t start your business so you could be like everyone else so concentrate on what makes you different and what value you provide that other businesses don’t. You have to differentiate your business from your competitors both big and small or you are going to blend in with the background and not get noticed. While there is no way you can compete with the breadth of Amazon’s product inventory, you can have a tight focus on the products your customers want. Having detailed buyer personas is helpful in targeting what to sell. A buyer persona  is representation of your ideal customer and it can help to narrow down what products to carry or identify any opportunities to adjust your service offerings.

Find those customers who are most likely to buy from you, learn what their needs are and target them with the products or services that will help them. By carrying a curated product inventory, you will often avoid the need to price match your competitors. Products that aren’t widely available but are well liked, will create demand. Shoppers often assume it’s easier and less expensive to buy on-line, so if you have a physical store, there had better be a reason for them to come in and shop. Provide them an experience they can’t get online such as an in-store event along or personalized service from your knowledgeable staff. Learning the names of your regular customers will make them feel important and give them a good impression of your business. Our blog post How to be Competitive Without Going Broke will give you suggestions for how to help your business to stand out.

Use Content Marketing to Build Customer Relationships

This is one area that Amazon doesn’t utilize so use it to your advantage. What is content marketing? It is a strategy of producing and publishing information that builds trust and authority among your ideal customers (another reason you should use buyer personas). Content marketing keeps your brand or service in front of customers and builds a better relationship with them. It also builds loyalty with customers and gives you the ability to get personal with them. You can market to customers via your website, email, printed material, a blog or on social media.

Content marketing will also help to build your follower base. Not just Facebook followers but followers of your business. This is where being small is an advantage. You can interact with followers directly on your social media pages and give them the personal attention that can turn them into a brand ambassador. Everything you do as a brand should have this personal and close-connected feel to it. When you form a bond with followers they are much more likely to do business with you. Interested in learning more about how content marketing can help your small business? Visit our Content Marketing page to find out.

Provide An Exceptional Customer Experience

While this may sound obvious, you have an opportunity at every touch point with your business to create a positive experience with your customers. What are those touch points? Your in-store sales people, your return policy, social media pages, live chat, even the way you present your store are all opportunities to create a great customer experience.

While you shouldn’t compete on price, you can compete on service. Do your best to make every customer experience with your business a pleasant one and if a customer is dissatisfied, do your best to resolve it to their satisfaction. It’s better to have the problem solved and at least have the customer happy that you cared about them then do nothing and have them leave a negative review or tell their friends not to buy from you. Have a flexible return policy including free returns and exchanges. Find ways to show customers how much you care about them. The biggest factor that drives customers away from your business? Feeling like you don’t care about them.

Have you looked at your website lately? Your website is one of the best ways to build and improve customer relationships. Treat it like a combination online storefront and most valuable employee and you’ll recognize the importance of first impressions. Think of it this way, if you pull into the parking lot of a store you want to visit and the storefront looks tired and worn down, that forms a negative first impression. Take it one step further and you go into the store and the sales person acts like you’re interrupting them, that’s another negative impression. Would you want to make a purchase or go back to that store? Probably not. If your website hasn’t been updated within the last two years you better get on it. It is well worth the investment. Read our blog post on What A Good Website Looks Like for help.

Create a seamless shopping experience between your online and brick and mortar sales. Customers shop 24/7 and if you don’t have an online shop, you are losing out on them. It increases your customer reach, can drive visitors to your brick and mortar store and enhance relationships. Having an online store isn’t just about online sales though. Offer customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store. Local customers enjoy the convenience of not having to wait for their shipment to arrive. While Amazon offers same-day shipping in some areas, they aren’t interacting with their customers. When a customer comes into your store to pick up their order, it’s another opportunity to create a good experience for them.

Offer Free Shipping

Before you throw your hands up in the air and say you can’t afford to have free shipping, hear me out. While you probably can’t beat the convenience of Amazon’s Prime shipping, you should at least reduce your shipping charge. While it may look like a big expense to absorb, customers routinely factor in the price of shipping when deciding where to purchase from. This is especially true when you are selling a widely available product. You should also aim to ship items the same day they are ordered or offer online ordering with in-store pick up. Another idea is to have an annual subscription, much like Amazon Prime, that offers expedited shipping for a discounted price or free for repeat purchases. This will help to subsidize shipping costs and it builds customer loyalty.

You can shop around to find the most cost effective shipping option for your business. Depending on where you ship to, USPS Priority Mail can be a good option, and it has quick delivery, but I would suggest including insurance, just in-case. If you do a large shipping volume, services such as UPS and FedEx offer discounts. If you can’t offer free shipping, offering flat rate shipping keeps things simple for your customer as they know up front what shipping costs, instead of learning this at checkout. It’s often a big turn off for customers to get to checkout to find out that shipping costs are based on price. It’s like punishing the customer for placing a large order. If your shopping cart abandonment rate is high, your shipping cost is a likely culprit.

Have a User Friendly Website

If you have an online store, make it easy for shoppers to find what they want. Minimize the number of clicks it will take to get to their destination so they don’t get frustrated. With so many products, Amazon’s website can require a lot of clicks and product sorting, especially when you’re not exactly sure what you want. Since shoppers on your website don’t have the ability to try on the product or touch it, it is imperative to have useful and detailed product descriptions. Take the time when writing your product descriptions to have as much information as possible including sizing and fit, but without overwhelming shoppers. Poor descriptions will drive customers to look elsewhere for the information they need and they will most likely not come back to purchase from you.

It’s very important to have high quality product images. Shoppers want to see multiple views of the product as well as have the ability to zoom in to see product details. If the shopper isn’t familiar with the product, they are not going to trust the quality of it if the only image they have to go on is a small thumbnail. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take your own product photos. It just takes a bit of creativity.

Allowing purchasers to post pictures of them using your products helps to demonstrate usability and build confidence in the product. Photos can be posted on your website or social media pages.  Having a list of the most asked questions about a product is another way to instill confidence in shoppers.

Reviews and Testimonials

Today, customers frequently look to reviews and recommendations from friends when researching products or services. They are a very valuable selling tool, so be like Amazon and post reviews of your products or services . According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation when making a purchase decision. But, make sure you post all reviews, not just the good ones or you risk losing credibility. If someone does leave a negative review, make sure you address it to the customer’s satisfaction and post your response below their review. This shows that you are accountable to your customers and that you care about them. It’s also another way to form a good impression.

How will this help you compete with Amazon? Having reviews on your website can boost your ranking in organic search results. While many shoppers choose Amazon as their default shopping site, there are many shoppers who are looking for something unique or want to support their local merchants. Having reviews on your website adds more unique content to it and makes those pages more relevant to shoppers. Both are components of Google’s ranking algorithm. Reviews left on external review sites like Yelp are also good for boosting your search rank and can even put you in Google’s local three pack, which appear just below paid ads. Having a high search ranking means more shoppers will find you.

The common thread in all of the above tips is your customer. Care for customers as though they are a rare gem because without them, you have nothing. Amazon doesn’t have to be the death knell to your business. You can compete with Amazon as well as your other competitors. The only requirement is to accept the fact that the face of selling is changing and that you either adjust or risk losing your customers and your business. I hope these tips will help your business thrive. If you have any tips you would like to share or have found success using these, please tell us in the comments. You’ll be helping other small businesses facing the same struggles, so thanks!

 

Best Free Apps for Managing Your Business

Best Free Apps for Managing Your Business

 

Because I love my free time, I’m always looking for ways to run my business in a more efficient and productive way. Here are some websites and apps I have found that will help with both. I have used some of them and others I’m going to try out. I’m willing to bet they can help your business too. They are free or have a low monthly cost to access premium features. They are definitely worth checking out!
 
p.s. these are not spammy links so it’s safe to click on them.
 
Do you have any productivity apps that help with running your business? Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite.
 

APPS FOR MANAGING YOUR BUSINESS

https://pitcherific.com/ – Learn how to make or improve your elevator pitch. Great for meeting with new clients.

http://ad-spend-calculator.qwilr.com/ – Can you afford to advertise? If you have a tight ad budget this will help determine what you can afford.

http://rocketship.fm/ – Informative podcast on all things entrepreneur.

http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ – Good app for analyzing your writing. I use this to edit my blog posts. It’s also good for writing presentations and proposals.

http://invoiceto.me/ – Free invoice template that is really easy to use.

https://www.waveapps.com/ Invoice customers, accept payments and track income and expenses. It’s free to use except for credit card processing. I like the looks of this one and I’m planning on trying it.

https://helprace.com/ Combines multiple tools for great customer service: Tickets, Email Management, Customer Community, Feedback, Docs & Knowledge Base. I think this app could definitely be a time saver.

PRODUCTIVITY, ORGANIZATION AND COLLABORATION APPS

http://www.mailtoself.com/info – An iOS extension to mail notes to yourself from any app. I’m going to try this one.

https://getpocket.com/ Ever find a great article on the web but didn’t have time to read it? Save it for later with Pocket. I have used this app in the past. It would be perfect if it reminded me to read the article I saved.

https://yanado.com/ – Productivity app that works inside of gmail to keep you organized and on task.

https://www.dropbox.com/ – Save files on your computer, then access them on your phone from the road. Everything you keep in Dropbox is synced automatically to all your devices. This is a great app for storing images and large files since they live in the cloud instead of taking up space on your computer.

https://Evernote.com – Organize your work and declutter your life. Syncs across all devices.

https://trello.com/ – Collaborate with your team from any device. This is a good app if you have employees who work from home or are on the road alot.

APPS FOR CONCENTRATION

https://getcoldturkey.com/ – Distractions bothering you? This will keep from looking at your email or wandering onto a website to “quickly” check something out.

https://coffitivity.com/ – Like being in your favorite coffee shop. If only they could bring me my Starbucks…

http://noiz.io/ – Become engulfed in the tranquil sounds of nature.

https://www.noisli.com/ – Blocks out annoying distractions. You create your own environment. This one was fun to play with but I could see myself spending alot of time trying all the variations which is a distraction in itself.

http://e.ggtimer.com/ Countdown timer. This is helpful for writing. It’s amazing how the words flow so much easier when you use this.

Here’s to more free time to do the things you enjoy!

 

Did you know that your website can help you be more productive? It can be a hub of information for visitors and can answer many of their questions without the need for them to contact you. Want to know more? Contact DLJ Creative and we’ll give you a free website consultation. LEARN MORE… You can also check out this blog post, that will tell you what makes a good website.

Is Blogging Worth the Effort?

Is Blogging Worth the Effort?

Starting a blog on your small business website can be a very powerful addition to your marketing toolbox. Your blog can provide value to readers as well as provide value to your business. Even if your business occupies a small niche or is in a “boring” industry, there are several benefits to having a blog that make it worth the effort.

A good blog will bring more traffic to your website and give readers a chance to learn more about your business and its products/services. In turn, that great content you post can be shared on your social media pages and readers can share your blog with their friends. A good post can take on a life of it’s own as it continues to be shared. This will increase your reach as well since your business will be in front of more of the people that are interested in your product or service.

Even better, the only cost to having a blog is your time!

Blogging can establish your authority and position you as a thought leader.

Customers are very knowledgeable and will often, as part of the purchase process, use a blog as a source of information on products and services. What problems do your readers have? How can you solve them? How can you pique their interest and inspire them to take an action?

Think of how you can help them better than anyone else while providing incredible value. Keep brainstorming ways you can give readers what they need and you’ll be the one they turn to when they need help. This is one of the best ways to lead first time visitors on a path to becoming a customer.

Linking to other quality sources in your blog posts positions you alongside an expert and will boost your authority. This is a great way for small businesses to gain credibility when competing with larger companies.

 

According to Experian, more than 80% of consumers in the United States consider blogs a valuable way learn more about products and services that they’re considering.

Blogging helps source new prospects and get customers.

Every blog post should encourage visitors to take an action. Using a call to action “CTA” is an effective lead generation tool and it is a must have, no matter how long the purchase cycle. It encourages readers to supply their contact information in order to subscribe, download content, schedule an appointment or make a purchase. This is helpful for sales because your new lead has already expressed interest in your company.

Blogging allows you to highlight your products and services in more detail. You become a more credible business. Potential customers want to know they are dealing with a legitimate company before purchasing and blogging is a great way to build trust with them. The more familiar they become with your company, the more likely they are to become a customer.

 

61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. – Factbrowser

Blogging benefits your website.

Having a blog will improve your website’s search engine optimization “SEO” as well as its position in search results. Google uses an  algorithm to rank and serve up the most useful content based on a search query. Every time you publish a blog post, it’s a new page link that will be indexed by Google. When a website is continually updated that is a signal to Google’s web crawlers to visit the new page link and your website will be crawled more often.

Including an internal link to an older related post or a page on your website helps to keep visitors on your website and will give web crawlers more pages to visit. Outbound links i.e. links to your website from another website, are a major ranking factor. Each time your blog is shared a link is created back to your website. Cross-linking to another quality blog, writing a guest post and sharing your blog on other blogging platforms are additional opportunities to get those important backlinks.

Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.searchenginepeople.com

When you post quality content on a consistent schedule your page rank will improve as readers spend more time on your website and Google crawls it more often. So it’s not just about keeping your business in front of potential customers but Google as well. However, all of the above will mean nothing if your readers don’t find your blog topics interesting and relevant.

Over time your business will reap the benefits from having a blog, all without the need for paid advertising. You’ll get new leads, turn more of them into customers and your bottom line will improve as a result. Yes, it will require effort and consistency on your part but the benefits are worth it! Need help with getting your blog off the ground? Contact us and we can help you set your blog up as well as consult with you on choosing blog topics and blogging best practices.

What Does A Good Website Look Like?

What Does A Good Website Look Like?

You’re a smart business owner and know the importance of having a website but, if you are like a lot of business owners, your knowledge of that website begins and ends with having one. In the same way that your business needs to evolve over time to meet the changing needs of your customers, your website also needs to evolve in order to keep up with changes in technology and buyer behavior.

Does your website measure up to today’s design standards? Not sure? Read through our checklist of must-haves and suggestions to learn more.

Let’s start with your homepage. It’s the gateway to your online storefront. In the way house paint fades over time if it’s not re-painted, the appeal of your homepage will also fade if it’s not kept fresh.

  1. You have a company logo. Using a text block with your business name says nothing about who you are and well, it’s boring. Having a logo establishes your visual branding and can be used not just on your website, but at any touch point, even in your email signature. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but it should be memorable.
  2. Your contact information is easy to find. Your phone number and email address should show on the top of every page in a font size that is clearly visible. If a customer needs to contact you, don’t make them hunt for this vital information.
  3. Your navigation menu is user friendly. Today’s website visitors are impatient and want to quickly find what they are looking for. Your navigation should function as an easy path for visitors to follow without requiring numerous clicks and have a clear path to purchase.
  4. The days of putting all of the content above the fold are gone. Does your homepage suffer from a case of information overload? Today, visitors will scroll down the page and skim through your content to find what interests them. Give them a taste of what you offer and entice them to click through to other pages on your website.
  5. Images create visual interest and appeal. What about your images? They should be high quality, relevant to your business and preferably not stock images.
  6. Any awards, certifications and associations are highlighted. It’s one way to build trust with visitors and enhance your reputation.
  7. You have links to your social media pages. You are on social media aren’t you?

What about the other pages on your website and what should those pages consist of?

  1. About Us page – This page is a great opportunity to tell the story of your business, emphasize your individuality and connect. It’s a good idea to have photos of key employees to put a face to the business and add that human touch.
  2. Service/Product pages – you may have many, you may have a few, just remember to be concise, clearly state the value you are providing and encourage visitors to take an action i.e. purchase a product, schedule a service, contact your company. Images that show either your products or completed work should be featured. It’s important to include the keywords your visitors are most likely to use when searching for your product/service.
  3. Contact page – This page is so much more than just a form to be filled out. If you have a brick and mortar store you can include your store hours, address, a photo of your location and include a Google map so visitors can get driving directions.
  4. Blog – Continually adding fresh content via a blog is good for SEO, it keeps your website from getting stale, it builds trust with visitors and can demonstrate your authority in your field. If you don’t have one yet, you need to start one.

What else makes a good website?

  1. It’s responsive meaning it renders well on all screen sizes i.e. mobile friendly. Google uses this as a factor in its search algorithm. With 50% of all searches being conducted on a mobile device, if your website isn’t responsive you are losing out on customers.
  2. You feature customer testimonials. This is becoming an increasingly more important requirement. Not only does it build trust, visitors commonly use customer testimonials as part of their purchase decision. Testimonials can also improve where your business shows up in search results.
  3. You should have a basic knowledge of SEO. As I mentioned earlier, you should be using the keywords visitors most likely use to search for your product or service. One caveat though; keywords should be woven into your content, not be the focus of your content. Page titles and URL’s should include a focus keyword.
  4. You have Calls to Action (CTA) on each page. They should entice visitors to take an action and link them to the appropriate page.
  5. Videos showing product demonstrations or short interviews with satisfied customers allow visitors to interact with your website.
  6. You are using HTTPS protocol, not HTTP. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP and is the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS means ‘Secure’ and it has the green padlock shown before the URL. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Google will soon be penalizing websites that aren’t using HTTPS.
  7. A good hosting company. While you may be concerned with cost, cheaper isn’t always better. A good hosting company will keep your website secure from hackers and can help improve page load speed, currently a factor in Google’s search algorithm.

 

So how does your small business website stack up?

If it meets all of the above, then congratulations! If not, DLJ Creative can help you whether it’s just a few tweaks to an existing website or a brand new design. We love working with small business owners to establish and manage their online presence. Will your business be next? Contact us and let’s chat!