Aesthetics - spend some time on your looks....

Aesthetics - spend some time on your looksSometimes it's very easy to focus entirely on the technical aspect of your website. Becoming obsessed with search rankings and META details is probably not a very stable mental state... It's good once in a while to step back and consider the fact that your site is predominantly targeted at human beings, not search bots. If your site is technically brilliant and visually unappealing there's a risk that your potential customers will go elsewhere. People have a very limited attention span, after all. A recent example has been the addition of a few 'bells & whistles' to the NARPO site. NARPO is The Nation Association Of Retired Police Officers and their site if very much information based, dealing with pension issues and various other matters which are of interest to it's member. Previously it had a very heavy text content with very few images. We added an image slider to the index page, a search module, popular articles and latest articles modules. There's nothing ground breaking here, comparatively it's still a relatively simple site.

However the server statistics had an interesting tale to tell. From an average visitor count per day of 681 the number of visitors increased to 1012 the day after this minor update and are presently 1423 on average per day. The average duration of each visit was previously just over 4 minutes and is now over 23 minutes. I'm quite certain that the update has not doubled the membership of the association and to ensure that these figures are as unbiased as possible the daily visitors only includes those who move from the index page to other areas of the site. This reveals the devil behind the detail, as it were. These members were most probably hitting the site previously but found it uninteresting and simply left. Now site visitors are staying on the site for 4 times as long and most probably finding information of which they were previously unaware. This has to be a good thing for both the members and the association as a whole.

A site of this nature which has a very limited appeal and is of little interest to the general public make the case for a little attention to the visual side of things very well. After all if you're looking for information about your pension the chances of you being deterred because a site is uninteresting should be quite low. But humans are complicated creatures and quite fickle...

Social Media and Deep Links

Social Media and Deep LinksWhen you use social media to promote your business there are a few tips that will make the process more productive. Generally you want to encourage the highest number of potential new customers to visit your website or contact you directly. But there are other considerations for small or new businesses. You also want to direct the search engine spiders to visit your site and index as many pages as possible. Over a period of several years they will eventually venture into every corner of your site, but a couple of years can seem like an eternity. There are two routes you might take to speed this process up.

(1) Create new content or articles on your site on a regular basis and link directly to these through social media. Regular fresh content has a positive effect on the return rate of the search spiders, if it is detected that your site is infrequently updated the frequency of visits is dramatically reduced. There's no point after all, looking over the same content time and again.
(2) Create social media feeds which are relevant to your products and services and link these directly to existing content on your website which is related.

Effectively both of the above approaches implement what in SEO circles is referred to as a 'Deep link'. Although you are posting information for human eyes to read, the various search engines also collect a vast amount of information through social media sites, follow links and extract content from the target page. This is all good as far as you are concerned.

Remember however the those same human eyes are attached to a brain which can quickly become bored if you use the same tactic repetitively. Post a text extract one day with a link to the content article your text came from. The next day you might create a graphic relating to a product or service and towards the end of the accompanying text insert a link to an area of your site where further information can be found. Swap and change so people become familiar with your brand, interested in your content and build trust in your service.

Keep it fresh

Keep it freshAlthough there are many criteria involved in maintaining good search rankings. One which is certainly important if regular fresh content, both on your site and in your social media feeds. If you build a web site and then leave it dormant for a year it's really not going to have much return appeal for human visitors, this is recognized by the search engines. New content on a regular basis also increases the frequency of the returning visits from the search robots, a simply mathematical comparison reveals new content is available and the return interval is reduced. This is great news for your ranking.

If your web site is relatively new and the search engines have not as yet indexed it, regular updates of your social media feeds linked to new site content is a great way to attract and capture the attention of the search bots. After all if you've written a new article for your site, why not copy a snippet and post if on Facebook and/or Twitter? You're doubling your impact for very little additional effort....

An example is Anis Louise Guest House in Chesterfield. The Upcoming Events and Short breaks are updated on a monthly basis and are generally up-to-date for two months in advance. These events are then used as the foundation for regular Facebook updates effectively creating deep links for the search bots to follow. As a way of testing the value of these regular updates, simply Google 'Guest house Chesterfield' or a similar search. You'll always find the Anis Louise Guest House in the first position of the unpaid rankings. That's quite a bold statement, but I'm good to stand by it!!

On-line Customer interaction

On-line Customer interactionOn the high street your existing customers will call in with the hope that you have that {Insert product} that they are looking for, often prompted by the fact they were passing. The internet is a slightly diffecent marketplace. There is no equivalent concept for just passing as such, but customer interaction is a pretty good match conceptually.

Your existing customers like to be involved, be that commenting on your Facebook page, sharing content from your website or rating you and your services on-line. The trick is to harness this potential for your benefit. Under most circumstances you'll be busy enough dealing with the day to day running of your business without wanting to spend an hour a day vetting comments on your website and social media so it's in your interest to consider how best to deal with customer interaction before you embark on stimulating it.

Social media. Facebook in particular has become a major means of connection between businesses and their customers. If you have a Facebook page for your business, which you really should have, make sure that you reply to enquiries that people post on your page. By replying quickly and being helpful you instil a feeling of pro-activity and trust in potential customers as everybody who has liked your page can see these interactions.

Social recommendation sites – Trip Advisor & Rated People etc. If you have a presence on one of these services again ensure that you deal with customer comments quickly and politely. Even if it is simply to thank somebody for adding a positive review. If by chance a customer raises concerns by replying promptly and dealing with these concerns you not only recover what might have been a tricky situation, you build trust.

Email. If metacraft provide your email services we can connect these to most mobile phones. A quick reply to an email is the first step towards securing a sale. Unfortunately technology has made people very impatient, if you don't reply promptly your potential customer will find somebody else.

All this said, keep things seperate. Mixing your personal views with business interactions is always a bad thing. There's one outstanding example I recall a client embarking upon. On the run up to the local elections he posted a well crafted graphic on his Facebook business page, all well and good so far. It was intended to stimulate interaction from his customers. However it was politically provokative and although it stimulated interaction, this took the form of a heated dedate which escalated into a full blown argument and about a quarter of the people who had liked his page clicked un-like.... Not the best move.

Responsive Design or a mobile App.?

Responsive design or a mobile App. - how best to capture your mobile autience?Responsive design. This is a reasonably new industry term which in simple terms describes a website which recognises if it is being viewed on a mobile device and changes its display options to best suit the device. All the content available on a desktop machine is available on the mobile version but scaled, rearranged and presented using a mobile friendly menu system. This site is built on a responsive platform, so if you view this article on your mobile you'll find the site looks slightly different and is easy to navigate without zooming in/out and scrolling left/right. Behind the scenes there is a great deal of Java Script which interrogates your browser on the devices and then makes the presentation changes required. This requires a fair degree of processor power and on very slow devices you might notice slightly slower page load times. However most modern mobile devices are equipped with powerful processors and you'll probably never notice.

The benefits of a responsive design is that your site will be accessible on almost all devices – Apple, Linux variants, Windows and Android. The only disadvantage is that you won't have the option to present specific content to mobile platforms.

Mobile Applications. If you have specific content that you would like to present to your visitors who are on the move, a mobile App. Is the way forward for you. If for example you want to offer a special discount for Early Bird visitors but only on specific days of the week which vary week on week, a mobile App. Is ideal. The potential customers clicks on the offers button and is presented with the upcoming offers. If they are in the area you can entice them in. If you want to offer directions to difficult to find locations, the mapping system in mobiles is easily accessible and very useful. Another often overlooked benefit is that once your customers have installed the App. On their device you have effectively placed a miniature salesman in their pockets. Mobile users tend not to delete App.s until they are running out of storage so your App. Will sit quietly awaiting your customers attention indefinitely. The is a slight problem with mobile App.s however. There are four major platforms on the market and quite a number of other propitiatory platforms. Android and Kindle are open source and easy to build App.s for. Apple devices are reasonably easy to build Apps. For but there is no guarantee that Apple will accept your App. for upload into their store. As this is the only simple way to install Apple App.s it can be a major disadvantage. Windows and Blackberry devices are not supported by most App. development platforms and Windows specifically is a close platform so the use of App.s in very restricted.

An App. Is ideal as an additional service for your customers. It can offer benefits that your website can't really deal with. But it's unlikely that mobile App.s will ever replace business websites. There are some limited situations where an App. Is a direct replacement for a website. This is an example. Home Chef App. For Android.



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