New Website Checklist – Top 25 Tips – 2015 Version

Building a new website or changing your current site can be a daunting task (see this list of website checklists)! We have put together a website checklist of the top 25 tips to get you started. Good Luck!

  1. Establish your differentiation. Isolate the specific things that set your business apart from your competitors and prioritize them according to their importance, potential and effectiveness, respective to the wants and needs of your audience.
  2. Do some basic keyword research to determine the best possible keyword phrases for your company’s business; then prioritize them (choose your top 10 to 15). This will be needed for your websites’ sitemap and architecture, as well as for any ongoing website marketing efforts you may plan after your website is up and running.
  3. Figure out your ideal clients—your “target markets.” Segment these markets into groups based on demographics, roles and buying habits. Prioritize the segments.
  4. Have you developed your UVPs (Unique Value Propositions)?
  5. Ensure that you maintain control of your site as its owner. You should be able to make small changes like adding video, images and new content without having to ask permission or wait on your web designer. A CMS, or content management system platform is usually best for small and medium-sized businesses.
  6. Make sure your website partner does not use a proprietary custom development platform. After your website’s initial build, it’s best to keep your options open when it comes to whom you want to work with. If the relationship between you and your web company falters, you don’t want to end up “stuck” working with them just because no-one else is familiar with their proprietary development code. This type of custom development can be slow to evolve and typically can’t keep up with new technologies and the new functionality being built daily for other open-source platforms. It can also be expensive, and may not give small businesses enough control over their own websites. That said…since I first wrote this website development checklist in 2012, a lot has changed and many custom solutions are just as easy to transfer to new ownership, etc. If you’d like to learn more about the good and bad – just call us for a conversation and we’ll share some of the risks/benefits with you directly.
  7. Choose a CMS website development platform that’s search-engine friendly. Some platforms and/ or hosting companies are not ideally suited for successful search engine marketing efforts—research carefully before choosing.
  8. Make sure you own your website, your domain, all of your site content, any custom development you have had done, the hosting account, and everything else related to your site. This is very important! Some web companies will hold your website and information hostage if you decide to work with another partner. You must have administrative access to everything…keep all those user names and passwords!
  9. Base your site architecture on relevant calls-to-action, or CTAs. CTAs act as a guide for your site’s visitors and make navigation easier for them. They let you choose where you want a visitor to “go” and what you want a visitor to “do” on your website in a clear and simple way. CTAs must be prioritized for each web page (and sometimes for different audiences).
  10.  Be sure your website is optimized for mobile viewing. Mobile viewing and accessibility is a critical component of your website’s visibility in today’s marketplace. Most CMS platforms will have mobile responsive options for your site and it is not always necessary to build a separate mobile version of your site. Ask for “responsive design.”
  11. Find out who is responsible for security updates and regular security maintenance on your website once it’s completed. It might be YOU! In addition, figure out who is responsible for other essential elements of your site, such as website updates, hosting, email, and so on.
  12. Get a search engine optimization or SEO specialist on board early. This isn’t a must for every website, but it’s definitely necessary if you plan to use your website to bring in more customers.
  13. Hire a copywriter to help you think through your site architecture. Share your keyword strategy with him or her to ensure that your content is keyword-rich in the most effective way for your audience (and for the search-engine “eyes” too).
  14. Identify and begin collecting the exact elements you may want on each page of the site, such as imagery, staff photography, staff bios, credibility icons, your mission statement, product and service details and images, testimonials and client success stories. Ask your site architect to help you through this process.
  15. Develop keyword-rich titles for each webpage. Page titles, headers and meta-descriptions should clearly indicate what each web page is actually about.
  16. Keep your keywords in mind when you name the images on your site. Choose keyword-rich names. Give your images alt tags. Alt tags enable search engines to “read” what the images are about.
  17. Make sure your site architect, copywriter and SEO expert work together to develop the best possible site map. Submit it to main search engines like Google, Bing (includes Yahoo) and Ask. You can do this yourself, but an SEO expert will have access to lists of the most effective search engines.
  18. Don’t use Flash animation on your home page if you want your website to show up in a Google search (unless it’s tucked away deep inside your site’s sub-pages).
  19. Incorporate a blog within your website (not a blog that’s separate from your website). This is an easy way to add fresh information and content on a regular basis.
  20. Install Google Analytics (GA) on every page of your website. This is a must. Note: the GA account should be set up using a Gmail account that is owned by you…not the website or web marketing company. Google Webmaster Tools (WBT) is also a great resource for your site to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results.
  21. Decide on the best website visitor tracking methods for your site. If you plan to track different types of inquiries from your website, such as calls, emails, or contact forms, install the appropriate tracking codes. You can add thank you/confirmation pages to track contact forms.
  22. Use your web analytics data to isolate the IP addresses of all of the people who work on your site. Separating these addresses from general web traffic will help improve the accuracy of your visitor data (visits are now called “sessions” in Google Analytics).
  23. Make sure your web developer plans to test/edit everything before you go-live. And make sure you have plenty of time after you go live to make adjustments to your site.
  24. Set up any operational needs that may derive from website inquiries, such as click-to-call or 24/7 chat services.
  25. Connect your social media profiles to your site. Only add the social media profiles that you actively post from. If you have a blog, make it easy for followers to share your content with their own social media profiles.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by all of this, or you want to make sure you don’t end up needing to reinvest in your website just because you forgot to include a specific step . . . then hire an online marketing consultant to see you through the process!


This Info Will Help Get Your Website Mobile – Ready in 2015

tips to make website mobile ready

If you’re wondering whether or not your business needs to have a mobile presence, the
resounding answer is YES. Consumers are using their phones to review items and make purchases now more than ever, a trend that experts say will skyrocket in 2015. The benefits of mobile marketing are endless: accessibility, affordability, immediacy, visibility, and many more. But with changes in technology and how people use their smartphones, there are a few ways in which mobile marketing is changing in 2015.

Here are a few key reasons to embrace mobile marketing in 2015:

  1. Mobile purchasing is becoming easier: With more companies building mobile sites and new technology being developed, making purchases on your smartphone has never been easier. WebScout’s Laura Greeno was quoted in Web Retailer’s 2015 predictions for ecommerce. Greeno says one reason why mobile purchasing will be so prevalent in 2015 is “Additional mobile pay options will emerge to compete, expand and integrate with Apple Pay to make m-commerce even faster and easier.” Also, mobile purchasing allows for impulse buying that satisfies the consumer’s desire for instant gratification.
  1. Continued Proliferation of Smartphones: one of the greatest benefits of having a mobile friendly website is the simple accessibility of the medium. In 2014 alone, the amount of people using smartphones globally grew 25%.  And by 2017, it’s predicted that ⅓ of all people will use smartphones. Mobile marketing allows you to reach potential customers no matter where they are. According to Inc., more than half of email marketing messages are viewed on mobile devices. This is significant because email marketing is still reported to be the most effective form of marketing, period. Social media is also a factor. Inc. reports that smartphone users are 33% more likely to be engaged on social media than PC users. This matters because social media is a common way people find out about and make decisions regarding products and promotions.
  1. Greater Efficiency: According to IBM’s analytics, 22% of Cyber Monday sales were mobile purchases, up 27% from the previous year. With the possibility of so many people accessing mobile sites at once, companies are focusing on making sure their mobile platforms are functional and user-friendly. This means more mobile friendly websites and less apps. While apps can be innovative and flashy, they’re also prone to bugs. They require consumers to download the app, as well as install occasional updates. People are much more likely to access your company through a Google search leading to your website. And speaking of Google, mobile websites can improve your overall search engine visibility while an app cannot — it’s not the same as a web app and isn’t viewed in the same way by Google and the like. Also, when searching on a smartphone, websites with mobile optimized interfaces seem to enjoy better prioritization than those that are not.
  1. More Personalized Service: In 2015, mobile marketing will be more integrated than ever. Rising trends such as proximity technology will allow customers to have their orders ready before they step foot in the door. Also, customer loyalty is becoming more of a priority in mobile. Starbucks, for example, has succeeded in cultivating not just a mobile site, but a mobile experience for customers. Their platform is complete with a loyalty program that offers multi-tiered levels of discounts and promotions to incentivize consumers. It’s no wonder they’ve been named Mobile Marketer of the Year twice in the past 3 years.

The number of people with smartphones today is rapidly increasing. And while in previous years mobile marketing has simply been an advantage for those savvy enough to use it, in 2015, any company that doesn’t have a mobile presence will be at a disadvantage.

WebScout can help you optimize your website for a better experience for the growing number of mobile users. Contact us for a free consultation.

WebScout Quick Tip – Questions to Ask When Hiring a Marketing Company or Marketing Consultant

When you’re developing a product or service, it can be difficult to gauge what stage in the process is appropriate to start marketing. Marketing helps introduce your company to the masses, and when done right, can significantly improve your chances for success. But when do you stop handling marketing yourself and hire a company to take over? If you’ve gotten too busy or are running out of ideas, it may be time to hire a marketing company to help grow your business. But before you hire anyone, you need to consider what kind of marketing expert would benefit you and your company. Here are a few questions to ask when doing your research:

  1. Am I willing to listen and try new things? Hiring someone outside your company to plan and execute your marketing strategy means giving up some measure of control over it yourself. This can be difficult for some business owners, because they believe they know what is best for their company, and understandably so. However, relinquishing some control over to trained marketing experts can undoubtedly improve the long term success of your business. It’s important to have an open mind when listening to the ideas of your firm or contractor. Their ideas are objective, founded upon facts, research, and previous experience.
  2. Should I hire a marketing consultant or a marketing firm? Hiring a marketing consultant costs less than hiring a marketing firm, which can be beneficial for small businesses or start ups. However, if you have the resources to go bigger, marketing firms offer a variety of marketing experts with a range of specialties, allowing for greater success of finding your perfect match.  According to Business 2 Community, the cost of hiring a marketing agency is $3,000 to $5,000 per month. This may be a small cost to ensure that your product or service is visible to your target market. Hiring a marketing consultant would make more sense if you’re not looking to get help with every project. For the projects that you do need help with, however, you can hire a marketing consultant whose skills are especially tailored to your needs.
  3. Do I need marketing assistance full time or part time? Consider the size of your business, amount of sales, and number of projects to assess whether you need full or part time marketing help. Also consider if it would be beneficial to your business to have a marketing consultant on a project by project basis. This can be a cost effective way of getting the marketing expertise you need without committing to long term payments. A marketing firm would be more appropriate for businesses that are looking for a consistent source of marketing assistance or a vast array of differing skills. For example, graphic design for a printed brochure is a completely different skillset than website development or video production. In a larger company, they will have more variety of skillsets to accommodate a wide range of marketing needs. This can help keep operations running smoothly and ensure that marketing efforts aren’t taking employee’s time away from other concerns.
  4. Should I hire a local company? When hiring a marketing firm, their location is not as important as the question of whether or not they can really help you. Look for a marketing firm that has previous experience with companies of your size, and if possible, within the market you’re looking to target. Also ask the firm about their strategy and how they have helped other businesses–increased revenue, increased number of people reached, etc.–and see if it matches the results you are aiming for. That said, hiring a local company allows you to interact with the people handling your marketing more often than you would if the firm was not local. This can be extremely beneficial when developing a brand identity, working on strategic marketing planning and any creative work where a face-to-face meeting could vastly improve the outcome.
  5. What results am I looking for? When you’re looking for a marketing consultant or firm, the most important thing to keep in mind is what you want the final outcome to be. Are you looking for a new website to draw potential customers, improved SEO, more social media followers, or greater brand awareness? According to QSR Magazine, the best goals for successful marketing campaigns are specific, can be measured and are closely related to the avenue of marketing itself. For example, you may say you expect at least ten new prospects to derive from a certain Facebook promotion, instead of relying on less direct or short-term results like a temporary increase in website traffic.

Once you’ve thought about these questions, the next step is to do your research on which marketing firms or marketing consultants may be right for you. It will take time and effort, but the more research you do, the more likely you’ll be able to find the right match for you and your company. The quicker that happens, the sooner you’ll be able to execute a marketing plan and start seeing results.

WebScout has done the research for you and offers a free 15-20 minute phone consultation for anyone starting a new marketing project. Contact Us today.

Is Your 2013 Online Marketing Planning Agile Enough?

Online Marketing Charlotte

Online Marketing To Do List

Are you ready for 2013?  Is your online marketing plan agile enough to help your business respond to the ever-changing digital marketing space?  An agile marketing plan can help your business grow faster, with less expenditure, and less risk than ever before.  Yet…are you ready for a continuous test and learn marketing atmosphere?  If not, you need to get ready.


Join Us for our Upcoming Marketing Presentation!

online marketing workshoponline marketing consultant charlottedifferentiation workshop for group of ~40

Update February 16, 2012:  It was a great meeting, thanks for inviting me to present!

Original post:

Got some tough questions about online marketing? Looking for more in depth information on how to differentiate your business?

Good news!  WebScout® has been asked to share our online marketing knowledge with the Charlotte Business Owners lunch group, and you’re invited!

This is your chance to have some fun, network with some
great people and get some valuable online marketing information. Space is limited to 35 to 40 people, so be sure to sign up quickly.

Our presentation will begin at 11:30 AM on Wednesday,
February 8th. We’ll be covering a range of topics that pertain to
differentiation—one of the key components in a successful marketing plan. Our presentation is set to include:

  • An Online Marketing Overview. Learn how all the different online methods fit together, and what they mean for your business.
  • A Hands-On Tutorial on Differentiation. Learn how branding can help your business succeed, and participate in a customized differentiation workshop. Learn what differentiation really means and how it can help you gain an edge over the competition.
  • A Helpful Q & A Session. Get your stickiest marketing questions
    answered, and find out what you’ve always wanted to know about the online marketing process.

Please join us! We look forward to seeing you. For more information, visit the Charlotte Business Owners website at