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® Cares: Growing Beards—A Masculine Stance for a Women’s Cause

WebScout® Cares, founded in December 2012 by WebScout® CEO Laura Greeno, is a program that devotes online marketing time, resources, and talents to local non-profit organizations that help women overcome difficulties of exploitation, violence, and poverty. One organization takes a unique stance on supporting women in the fight against domestic violence. It started with a beard growing contest. 

Beards BeCAUSE:

Beards BeCAUSE

When it comes to sexual and violent abuse against women, men are typically seen on the defensive end. Beards BeCAUSE turns the tables. It started in 2007 with a beard-growing contest. The founders, Jared Yerg and Scott Doerr, decided that their hairy competitions made all in good fun should support a cause, so they started by raising money for the United Family Services’ Shelter for Battered Women of Charlotte.

With 36 men growing beards, they raised $22,000 for the shelter. Thus, Beards BeCAUSE was born.

Beards BeCAUSE has since spanned across the nation, raising awareness and money for victims of domestic violence. But it all started here in Charlotte.

For Greeno, domestic violence is also close to home. Both her and at least two of her sisters have suffered from abusive relationships in some way. A very sad ending to an abusive instance for her oldest sister involves the estranged boyfriend shooting her in the back as she tried to escape, intending to kill her. Greeno’s sister is now a paraplegic, reminding her and her family daily how domestic violence can change our lives and potentially take our loved ones from us in an instant.

Growing beards for a feminine cause reminds us that the fight against domestic violence must be combated on both fronts. Men taking a stand to support women is just as important as women standing up for themselves.

Greeno’s family suffered from domestic violence in a way that has impacted them forever. Greeno donates to this organization because she knows that this cause cannot only be fought by women for women; everyone must take a stand against issues of domestic violence.

Greeno wanted to thank a fellow marketer and entrepreneur Wendy Shanahan with Asterisk Creative for introducing her to this cause. Wendy has been instrumental in raising awareness and funding to support this organization nearly since its inception. Thanks Wendy!

WebScout® Cares: Finding the Hope in Situational Homelessness

WebScout® Cares, founded in December 2012 by WebScout® CEO Laura Greeno, is a program that devotes online marketing time, resources, and talents to local non-profit organizations that help women overcome difficulties of exploitation, violence, and poverty. This week focuses on the Hope House Foundation, an organization that offers an oasis of protection for women who cannot escape situations of violence and abuse.

Hope House Foundation

WebScout Cares Hope House Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

The Hope House Foundation offers a safe haven, a home for women who have nowhere else to turn. Greeno’s special connection to this organization comes from personal experience, yet again. When she found herself in San Jose, without aid, she was compassionately escorted by an official to a local halfway house. After asking an officer for an “inexpensive, hostel-like place to stay,” the officer discerningly recognized the greater need.

Once there, she met and befriended a pregnant woman who was only weeks away from delivery. Coping together, the two became friends.

“I was a part of her life during that time and I witnessed her hardship,” Greeno said. “She is still a very important friend to this day.”

Important because she was a comrade during a time of hardship, important because she introduced Greeno to God in a new way, and important because only five years later, Greeno found herself in a similar situation…a single parent, abandoned by her husband, with little resources to stay afloat, let alone “get ahead.”

Living as a single parent, working multiple jobs, working to obtain a college degree, and struggling to get through that tough period of time, Greeno remembered how her friend relied on Christ and just kept moving forward. Celeste was her friend’s name. She was “crazy for God,” is how Greeno puts it. Celeste was determined to provide for her family as a single mom, even if that meant she would need to voluntarily live in a halfway house for a period of time in order to get the best care (and housing) she could for her newborn and his first years in this world. This similar rough spot in Greeno’s life, where she just needed a little help to make it to the next step toward a better life, and with Celeste in the back of her mind, had inspired her to help places like the Hope House.

“I know first hand how these situations create circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes we need a little help getting on our feet,” she said.

Hope House Foundation does not identify itself as a battered women’s shelter or a substance abuse recovery center; rather, they seek to be a place to call home for up to six months for women who need time to regain strength and get back on their feet. Situational homelessness is extremely prevalent for single mothers or other women who are trying to escape from abuse or a violent situation in their home. Hope House fights this homelessness by offering a comfortable environment where these women can transform their lives for the better.

WebScout® Cares: Putting an End to Human Trafficking in North Carolina

WebScout® Cares, founded in December 2012 by WebScout® CEO Laura Greeno, is a program that devotes online marketing time, resources, and talents to local non-profit organizations that help women overcome difficulties of exploitation, violence, and poverty. These last few weeks, we’ve covered three non-profit organizations that are helping women find success and happiness in their personal and professional lives. This week, we are taking a look at a non-profit that combats one of the biggest global and national issues of today — human trafficking.

NC Stop Human TraffickingNC Stop Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is typically thought of as an issue that inhabits foreign countries. This organization fights to stop human trafficking in our own home, North Carolina.

Using the Preventing, Advocacy, Victim Services, and Education Awareness (PAVE) method, this non-profit seeks to put an end to sex slavery and other types of human slavery in North Carolina. There are active NC Stop HT member groups all over the state, and they work to raise awareness and provide tools for the prevention of human trafficking.

For Greeno, this cause is especially close to her heart. Having seen and experienced first hand the cruelty and manipulation that so many people (especially women) are subjected to, she speaks out against human trafficking.

Before fleeing to San Jose, CA, Greeno was subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse in a similar fashion. She knows first hand the manipulative techniques used to take advantage of people, and she understands that human trafficking manifests in many different forms. Most importantly, she understands that it can happen to anyone…your daughter, your little brother, your friend.

Greeno was fortunate enough to escape from her situation, but so many others can’t. It’s nearly impossible to do it alone, without help. That’s why it is so important to raise awareness right here in NC, and funding, for the all too present issues facing young women, young men, people from other cultures who have crossed the border for a better life – only to be enslaved by others – tormented by fear – these people are here in our very own neighborhoods. Be vigilant, pay attention! Don’t be a part of another Cleveland, Ohio scenario where 3 teenage girls were enslaved by one man for so many years…in a regular house, in a regular neighborhood, where the homes were just feet from each other. Learn the signs of human trafficking today.

WebScout® Cares: Dressing for Success is Half the Battle

WebScout® Cares, founded in December 2012 by WebScout® CEO Laura Greeno, is a program that devotes online marketing time, resources, and talents to local non-profit organizations that help women overcome difficulties of exploitation, violence, and poverty. Last week we covered Circle de Luz, a non-profit that supports young Latina women through an educational mentoring program. This week, we will explore an organization that has a knack for high-quality, hand me down fashions for women who are scheduled for job interviews, but may not have the means to obtain that professional image necessary to help them actually secure the position…and dress for their first week at work.

Dress For Success

Dress for Success

In order for women to have the confidence to take on the world, they have to dress for success. Dress For Success Charlotte (DFS Charlotte) accepts women’s hand me down dress clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories which are then donated to the women who are working hard to become financially independent. I will tell you, these items are not just thrown into a pile and “donated” – these women are treated to a very special boutique experience, including a professional fitting and style session. Many times they are also given a mini-makeover to help them present their best selves during their upcoming interview(s). Resume help and professional career coaching are also available – for free!

For Greeno, the memory of one mauve colored suit and a pair of $30 flats inspired her to donate to Dress for Success.

When she was 19, Greeno fled a situation of exploitation and abuse, and ended up in San Jose, CA. Without transportation, food, or a job — let alone proper interviewing attire — she spent her last $30 on a pair of flats to wear as she scoped out the downtown area for potential jobs, walking into businesses and simply asking around until she found someone willing to give her a chance. She talked her way into a front desk job at the Holiday Inn Park Center Plaza, and wore those same shoes with a polyester mauve suit every day to work for the next year.

“I wore those shoes until they had holes in the bottom,” she said.

Now that Greeno owns her own company and dons business attire every morning, she donates money and time to this organization. As an ambassador to the organization, she collects donations and raises awareness about the Dress for Success cause.

“My absolute favorite thing was a ‘what not to wear’ type speech that I gave to the female students at Garinger [High School], teaching them how to dress for interviews,” Greeno said.

WebScout® Cares supports Dress For Success in Charlotte, NC because we understand that a professional wardrobe often comes at too high a price. By donating hand me downs to this organization, you may be giving another woman the opportunity to land the job interview she needs to support herself. Greeno understands what it’s like to be without the clothes to look the part, and she donates time as an ambassador so that she can spread the word about Dress For Success.

If you have barely-used business clothing sitting in your closet, donate it to Dress for Success. You could be helping a woman to be financially independent, potentially helping her take care of an entire family, and likely teaching her children to do the same.

WebScout® Cares: Supporting Young Latinas in their Educational Endeavors

WebScout® Cares, founded in December 2012 by WebScout® CEO Laura Greeno, is a program that devotes time, financial resources, and online marketing talents to local non-profit organizations that help women overcome difficulties of exploitation, violence, and poverty. This month we are exploring the organizations that WebScout® Cares supports. Greeno donates her time and resources to this particular organization for many reasons. She believes that young women deserve to have fulfilled professional lives, and that they often need mentors and big sister figures to help lead the way. Her involvement in Circle de Luz is just one example of how Greeno believes mentoring a young girl can make the difference between graduating high school, and getting left behind.

Circle de Luz

Circle de Luz

This organization is dedicated to helping young Latina women take control of their own lives through mentoring and a unique set of course studies. Circle de Luz offers extra curricular courses to these young women from middle school all the way up through high school graduation. These courses are designed to teach them how to care for themselves and make the right choices when it comes to reaching wholeness and success. Circle de Luz lists these unfortunate statistics on their website:

51% of Latinas get pregnant before the age of 20.
13% obtain a college degree.
44% do not graduate high school.

Studies show that having a big sister figure, or an adult mentor, can help a young person stay in school and graduate.

Mentors can also help when it comes to bigger issues, like making the right decisions and using sound judgment when making life choices.

That’s why Circle de Luz offers a program that pairs each young Latina women with a mentor. Mentors are responsible for helping these young students receive an holistic education, and have the opportunity to reach their goals after high school.

Upon graduating, each young woman in the Circle de Luz program receives a $5,000 scholarship to put toward the next step in her life, be it education or life in the workforce. WebScout® Cares supports Circle de Luz because we believe that every woman deserves the chance to be successful, not only academically but also in terms of well being.

Greeno is currently a M’ija for this organization. M’ijas, or “girlfriends,” invest money and volunteer time to Circle de Luz. The money they invest goes toward the $5,000 that each high school graduate in the program receives.

The struggles that young Latina women face every day are unique and often insurmountable without the help of a mentor or a proper educational program. These women need the attention of our community, and WebScout® Cares believes this cause is worth fighting for.

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.