Category

Web Design

Should I update my website?

By SEO, Web Design, WordPress

We hear it almost every time we speak with a new client – “Should I update my website?”

If you’ve been asking yourself that question, then the answer is probably yes. But that doesn’t mean a big financial investment! Many people think that means a complete rebuild, but usually it’s just a matter of modernizing and updating what is already there.

Yes, your website works. People can find it, and it has the important information. But does it perform in search engines? Is it mobile friendly? Is it reliable? Even if the answers to all of those questions are yes, it’s still worth looking at redesigning your site if it hasn’t been updated in more than a few years.

It’s less expensive than many assume to overhaul and update a site. We have updated many websites in the space of two days, for thousands less than the company owner thought it would be!

Visual Appeal

People are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to online interactions. Visitors can easily tell if a website is old. Having an outdated website design tells visitors that the company doesn’t keep up with the times, and reflects poorly on the brand.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is central to virtually every company’s health and growth, and the company website is at the center of it all. In fact, every marketing a company makes leads to the website. If a site isn’t supporting marketing campaigns, those campaigns won’t perform as well as they could.

Security

Automated hackers can easily deposit code on older sites, even those from last year. Sometimes it’s not evident that your site has been hacked as they install unseen code that works for them unseen – masking for spam, false identities for fraud, your site can be utilized by criminals around the world if it is not secure. It’s critical to update your site regularly in order to foil these hackers and bots!

SEO

Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to prioritize the best websites for internet users. A site that is top ranked today can plunge tomorrow, if it’s not updated to meet current standards. For instance – sites that are not fully mobile friendly and touch-screen ready are being flagged and dropped at an increasing rate.

Load Times

Code updates can increase the load time of older sites, which results in a poor user experience and will drop a website’s SEO rankings. It’s important to regularly update websites to keep up with code standards and ensure an optimal load time.

There are many more reasons to consider when deciding when to upgrade or update your website. Call us today for your complimentary digital marketing consultation to find out where your site stands! 512-412-2967

Is Your Site Mobile Friendly? Not sure? Here is how you check!

By SEO, Web Design, WordPress

Is your website mobile friendly? The majority of users coming to your site are likely on a mobile device, and if your website isn’t mobile friendly you could be losing business simply because the site doesn’t work properly. We have all experienced it, you visit a site on your phone and you have to scroll then tap and zoom just to be able to read the text.

Every website we produce here at HS Creative is optimized to work seamlessly on mobile devices.  While using a separate mobile friendly version is an option, we generally advise against this as it can lead to content inconsistencies, along with duplicate content that can hurt your search engine optimization (SEO).  In our experience it’s far better to build your site mobile friendly from the start, saving you a lot of time and headaches in the long run!

If you are not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, Google has a great tool to check your site called the Mobile Friendly Test.

WordPress Makes Life Easy

By Web Design

We are often asked by clients who come to us with older websites and are considering a move to a WordPress system what the benefits would be, so we thought we’d list a few of the “biggies” here.

In-House Content Management
The big obvious benefit to establishing a WordPress platform for your website is that it enables the website to be easily administrated internally, with minimal training. A variety of user security levels can be applied for different levels of access such as authors, editors and administrators, and when editing a page the system is much like editing a Microsoft Word document. Easy peasy!

Some clients are so busy they prefer to have us perform updates on their behalf, but still like the idea of being able to “drive their own car” if they wish. Many clients will perform simple content updates themselves, and call on us when they have more complicated changes they need done. Companies who are still paying a web developer to perform simple page copy updates should definitely take a hard look at making a change.

When we do a website redesign for a client, one-on-one training on the WordPress system is always included. We can also travel to businesses to train groups on WordPress administration.

Reliable, Adaptable and Expandable
WordPress has proven to be a reliable system and is infinitely flexible and expandable. For designers, it’s a dream to work with because we can lay out amazing templates and rely on a strong infrastructure to hold our design together over time, producing easily navigable world-class websites that are affordable for our clients. Our clients are happy to know their new WordPress site can accommodate branding changes, marketing adjustments and other visual tweaks without ripping anything apart. Time and again we have seen clients with WordPress websites save thousands when confronted with the prospect of a major look and feel overhaul that with another system would be a nightmare to implement.

Mobile Friendly Responsive Layouts
You know those websites that have separate mobile systems? That costs as much as it sounds. There is no need to go to those lengths, as responsive websites become more prevalent and pre-packaged responsible themes are available for WordPress systems. Beware, however – not all WordPress out-of-the-box themes are truly responsive. We work with our clients to make sure that their site is truly responsive and compatible with mobile devices of any size.

We’re happy to answer your WordPress questions – give us a shout!

Website Facelifts – Easier Than Design Firms Want you to Think!

By Web Design

Many folks think a website redesign has to be an entirely new website – often, actually most of the time, this isn’t the case.

Especially when my web design client is on a tight budget, there are many creative ways to update a website and make it look and feel brand-spankin’ new without changing much except the “Skin.” If it’s not necessary to change the structure of the site and you just need a rebranding, it is probably a much smaller job than you think!

As for cost – I have seen company after company fall for the same line from website design firms – “your website code is out of date, it needs to be rebuilt from scratch.” WRONG. This is almost never the case. Sure some code might need to be updated or infrastructure tweaks made, but  don’t let website design firms fool you into thinking you need to build an entirely new site when some code updates and graphic changes will achieve great results and a smoothly working website that is up to modern standards at a fraction of the cost.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you approach your website redesign project:

1) DOES MY WEBSITE WORK WELL?

Are your customers and website visitors easily finding the information they came for? This is what I hear time and again from internet users: “Why did they change their site? Now I can’t find a thing!”

If your website already works great and you just want better branding, you are the perfect candidate for a website facelift. Ask your designer what they can do to leave the overall feel of the site intact and just improve the look.

If your website is confusing and not easy to navigate, this is the perfect time to look at restructuring the flow of your information and the page heirarchy. Remember – one click is always better than two!

2) DO YOU HAVE NEW BRANDING TO INCORPORATE?

What does your business card look like? Your brochure? If your customer is holding these things in their hands while looking at your website, it should all look like it came from the same company. Colors, logo, and font selections should match. Memorable branding across all your business collateral means your customers will remember your company before thinking of your competition! If you decide to update your website, make sure your cards and brochures match too. Doing them all at one time can be much more efficient and cost effective than tackling them one at a time, so plan ahead!

3) WHAT DOES MY COMPETITION’S WEBSITE LOOK LIKE?

Do some market research! Find out what your closest competitors’ website design looks like and then BEAT IT! The first thing I do with a new client other than looking at their current site is to look at their competitor’s. I want my clients to win, hands down, when customers are comparing websites. This not only means a better looking website, but a better flowing website where information is easy to find!

4) IS THE PROBLEM WITH MY CURRENT SITE STRUCTURAL OR VISUAL?

This is the big one when deciding whether to facelift or overhaul your website design. I can help you take a look and decide what needs to change – but usually you can tell by yourself. Hint: most often it’s visual!

You Pollen, Customer Bee

By Social Media, Web Design

When you think of social media, it often feels like you’re stuck in one place, waiting for people to notice you. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are like pollen, drawing bees to you – and the brighter your flower (your content), the quicker they come to snoop around. Even if they don’t actively pick you up, exposure is good – it sticks to their legs as they fly around, and if your flower was nice they’ll be back.

The goal is to get picked up by each of your visitors and carried back to their hive. To be one of the favorite brands of a customer is an honor and an accomplishment. Sure you can luck into it with a solid product and a good brand, but growth over a longer period of time takes careful marketing planning and execution to continue to be shared by all the bees buzzing around the garden of your city or neighborhood.

Think like a flower trying to get the attention of a bee.

Look Good!
Branding is key – you need to be memorable even if you only have a split second to make an impression. Without a solid brand and a cohesive strategy, people won’t remember which business they were looking at once they move on to the next. If you haven’t already, invest in developing a strong brand that carries throughout every single piece of material your customers will see – from storefront to product labels to color schemes inside your store t0 business cards and, of course, your website. Social media is part of this, too. Many people will see just a tiny square with your brand – make sure it represents you, and if they see a branded van rolling down the street with your catering crew inside, they should feel that spark of recognition “hey I’ve seen that catering company in my Twitter feed – I’m going to write down that number.”

Smell Good!
In social media there is big business in snark and dark comedy, but not for a small business. Keep it light and happy, and don’t complain. Even if it’s about traffic – you might think that makes your feed more human, but negativity in any form is not something you want associated with your brand. If you’re feeling stinky when you’re crafting a post, maybe save that one for later when you have a sweet smell again!

Be Flexible!
Move with the breeze. Each day put your finger in the wind of social media and see what people are talking about – if you’re creative, there’s a way to catch some of that wind in your sail! Many times there will be a word game circulating around, like one I saw today –

#LyricsThatNeedToBeShouted

Make use of these tags to amuse your followers by not only playing the word game but pulling your brand into it too. You sell hardware? Put the lyrics to Sledgehammer. You clean houses? Quote a little Iron MAIDen. Get it? Customers love seeing you have fun with your brand, and it makes it memorable.

Remember, your customers WANT to carry you with them. Give them good reasons to do it.

Happy Marketing!

Do Keyword Meta Tags Help Your Website’s SEO?

By SEO, Web Design

Do keyword meta tags help boost your SEO ranking?

SEO (search engine optimization) is a tricky, ever changing landscape. The algorithms and data sets used by Google, Bing and the other search engines are constantly adjusting to accommodate the vast amount of information circulating throughout the World Wide Wonderland. Our challenge as optimizers working to help our clients is to anticipate these adjustments as we maintain websites and tweak content and code to secure a solid corner where their SEO is earning them organic traffic that results in customers or sales.  I do have a theory as to how Google develops its ranking algorithms – read it at your leisure and see if you agree.

Clients assume, understandably, that keyword meta tags are the first thing to insert into the code of your website pages to start optimizing. When Google first was a thing (remember that??) keyword meta tags embedded in the code at the top of the each page were critical – they were heavily weighted by the search engines, as that was before the days of the millions of click-bait websites that now clutter up the information highway.

Ok, so keyword meta tags have a history of being highly important. The question is, do keyword meta tags help your search engine ranking nowadays?

The answer is: NO they don’t.

Back in 2009, Google officially announced something they had already implemented – “Google no longer uses keyword meta tags in web ranking.”

That same year, Yahoo announced the same thing – they would no longer use keyword meta tags as a factor when determine website rankings. Bing’s announcement didn’t completely disavow keyword meta tags but the reality is the same. Keyword metatags were so heavily abused they became obsolete in terms of content indicators.

So why do so many people still take the time to enter them in? Habit, for one. Also, theres a feeling of “but what if they’re just SAYING they don’t use them for ranking, but they actually DO!” Well, there’s that possibility I suppose. But think about how many zillions of websites are out there who over the years have stuck any old keyword in the meta tags trying to climb in rankings without containing relevant content. It makes complete sense that they are now useless. Also, I really don’t think Google is trying to pull the meta wool over our eyes, with this one at least. They’d rather developers spend more time working on SEO that actually indicates legitimate content, that’s what helps Google in the long run as they can deliver higher quality content to the end user.

Let me be clear, I am NOT saying that meta tags in general are useless – I’m just talking about KEYWORD meta tags. Title and description tags among others are absolutely critical when working on your site’s SEO. You definitely should design your SEO efforts around your target keywords and phrases and incorporate them as much as you can into the content of your site – just don’t waste any time messing around with keyword meta tags. Instead, use that time to improve other angles of your site!

Facing Facebook in Small Business

By Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

Behind every Facebook user there is a story. Each is keeping a personal journal of sorts, marking events in their life and passing the time with friends as they browse their timeline on their laptop.

Facebook is the success it is because it is a personal journey that each person can make their own. Your business Facebook presence is a part of this story. The trick is to make your posts just personal enough to fit in each user’s timeline without feeling too commercial, while keeping it surface enough to not intrude on their real life friendships. There’s nothing stranger than seeing a commercial Facebook account that seems like it’s trying to be everybody’s best friend in real life.

One of the ways I’ve found this can be done is to identify what it is about your company that made your followers “like” you in the first place. A strong brand presence is key, so they know who you are at a glance. A concise message, always – that’s marketing 101. But in most classic marketing materials, the personal connection is either forgotten or overlooked.

If they clicked like for your company, it’s usually because of one of two scenarios:

1) They have visited your shop, tried your product or service and had a positive experience

And/Or

2) One of their friends recommended you

Either way there is a similar bar to overcome – they are giving you a chance to provide them another positive experience in their personal Facebook timeline, one that is pleasant enough to remind them to support your store or product in the future.

Posting what your store is doing that day or if you’re closing early on Thursday isn’t enough. Facebook users are looking for an emotional connection – you’ll notice on your own timeline the most “likes” are heaped on the posts that elicit an out-loud emotion. Laughter, tears and joy are three of the ovbious ones.

When something fabulous happens for you and your business, POST IT!
If you landed a big account or a new distribution deal – share that with your fans! They love to share in your success, and feel the emotional boost that you got when you opened that letter or got that phone call.

Post lots of funny things that are connected with your business
If you’re a taco joint, post that it’s National Taco Day! Run a special on Pirate Day and post a picture of yourself wearing an eye patch with a parrot photoshopped on your shoulder, eating a taco. Your fans love to see you having fun at your place of business, because if somebody’s having fun it means they’re doing well and prospering.

Include some personal tidbits
Without oversharing, include some personal tidbits that serve to remind your fans that your business is homegrown and locally owned. When your in-laws come to town and have dinner at your restaurant, that’s the perfect opportunity to both make it personal and poke a little fun. “Even my in-laws love it here!”

When all else fails – pop culture makes it fun
When it’s a slow news day, simply go for an easy laugh. Photoshop a puppy holding your product and exclaiming out loud about it. Puppy and kitten pictures are the fuel of the internet – without them we would all perish.

Above all, have fun with your Facebook feed and your customers will feel it! That happy, feel-good connection is what will keep bringing them back again and again, and remind them to recommend you to their friends.

Happy Facebooking!

What is Google’s SEO Algorithm Development Process?

By SEO, Web Design

How exactly does Google figure out the algorithms they use to rank websites in search results? Wouldn’t we love to know!

SEO is a crazy wild west and the search engines have the job of trying to deliver high quality search results that show users exactly what they are looking for. It’s a mind boggling task, and the process is kept a tightly sealed mystery so that us SEO professionals are kept guessing.

Or at least it WAS – until now! I have top secret insider information that you will find nowhere else about how Google develops the algorithms that crawl the internet, parse the data and rank content. I made a journey to Google HQ and was taken to the center of the brain. Allow me take you on that same journey so you can see for yourself how Google creates SEO standards for ranking websites.

Here we go…

You have been traveling for days by air, train and boat, blindfolded, and have finally arrived at Google headquarters. As they remove your blindfold you see that you are within a ultra-high security compound, surrounded by an empty desert stretching as far as you can see. You are taken to the building at the center of the compound, where guards with machine guns escort you wordlessly through ten biometric security systems. Once inside, they shove you into a chamber that sprays you with some sort of decontaminating chemical and wait while you put on a full body hazmat coverall and space helmet. They write your name on a “My Name Is” sticker and slap it on your chest. You ask them why you have to wear this crazy getup and one dead-eyed guard mumbles “Google can’t have you contaminating their SEO geniuses with your disgusting peasant germs now, can we. Let’s go.”

You are taken through a white-tiled room, to a shiny metal elevator. As the doors slide open and you venture inside, you notice the Google logo inlayed in the back wall with what looks like gold. There are cameras in every corner that follow your movements. The doors seal silently behind you and suddenly you are plummeting downward, dropping at top speed, miles beneath the surface of the earth.

When you reach the bottom after what seems like an eternity, the doors open and you cautiously exit, entering a long hallway. Along the hallway there is a series of doors. You see a small glass window high up on the first door. You slowly approach the door and get your first look inside.

Standing higher on your tiptoes to try and see better, your space helmet clunks into the glass. What you see is a surprise – you assumed, understandably, that Google’s innermost headquarters would be sort of futuristic – sleek and minimalist, like the buildings miles above you. Don’t worry, everybody thinks that, it’s natural! You’re now one of just a handful of people on earth who know the truth.

The vast room you see as you peer through the glass looks strikingly like the library at Hogwarts. Countless books line the walls from floor to ceiling, with tall rolling ladders arranged to access them. Long wooden tables are illuminated with candles in tall ornate holders, evenly spaced along the length of the tables from end to end. The surfaces of the tables are overflowing with stacks and stacks of papers and books.

As you look around you count exactly one hundred frizzle-haired geniuses milling around. (You can tell they are geniuses because they are all wearing thick glasses and have suede patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets.) The armed guard at your elbow speaks up.

“In case you were wondering, there are ten vaults like this,” he says, and you realize that ten rooms each packed with a hundred geniuses think-tanking Google’s SEO algorithms is sort of perfect, with a googol being 10100 and all.

Some of the geniuses are hunched over computers, examining their screens and pecking at the keyboards with their index fingers. Some are paging through ancient, dusty tomes, muttering to themselves. Several are furiously scribbling equations with squeaky chalk on blackboards, occasionally mumbling and scrubbing out big sections with their tweed sleeves before starting in again. Some are simply staring into space, thinking.

Suddenly, you are startled when one of the nerd-geniuses (this particular one is an elderly red haired woman with an English accent) leaps up, dings a bell on the table and announces loudly, “Eureka! I have done it! A new algorithm! A new, brilliant Google algorithm! This is the one, I tell you! The one!” She looks around the room expectedly, beaming.

All the other geniuses in the room start listlessly clapping, but you can see them rolling their eyes at each other behind the excited red-haired lady genius’s back. Each of them clearly thinks the algorithm they are working on is WAY better than hers. The excited genius scribbles on a scrap of paper, yanks the door open and pushes her way past you to hurry top speed down the hallway, waving the scrap of paper in the air wildly and shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” as she runs. You follow closely behind, passing door after door of more genius-filled vaults, your space helmet fogging slightly as you break into a sweat trying to keep up with the red-haired lady (you’re not accustomed to running in a hazmat suit).

 

The genius slides to a halt in front of a massive oak door at the end of the hallway and starts banging an iron door knocker that looks like Medusa. The echoes from the door knocker reverberate down the hallway. A voice from behind the door growls “You may enter!”

You can’t believe what you are about to see! This is it! The center of Google! The answer to the ultimate SEO mystery!

 

The genius takes a deep breath, shoves her thick glasses higher on her nose and enters the room. She approaches the desk with reverence. She bows and holds the scrap of paper in front of her, like an offering. “I have a new Google algorithm, sir!”

You look past her…

and…

and…

this is what you see:

And that, my friends, is how Google develops the algorithms that rank websites. Now you know!

The Keystone of Marketing

By Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

Just as the keystone is the most important piece of a bridge, a well-branded website is the centerpiece of your marketing.

The Marketing Bridge

Think of your marketing platform as a bridge across which visitors must cross. Every step should feel solid and inviting and related to each other (BRANDING!), otherwise the traveler will feel uncomfortable and turn right around. If you are successful in enticing them the entire length of the span, you are rewarded with an engaged new lead – and your visitor is rewarded with the feeling that they are dealing with a professional company that has everything tightly in place.

Your Website is Key

As evidenced by rising per click rates in online advertising, websites are the number one lead capture tool of virtually every marketing platform.

Every piece of outreach a company publishes or distributes points (or SHOULD point!) to the website – and when visitors arrive, they should be faced with a familiar interface that they were already introduced to by the marketing materials through which they were initially engaged. A well branded company can be recognized at a glance wherever you see them.

Whether your initial contact with your target audience is achieved through advertising in a magazine, a Google AdWords campaign, a Facebook or other social media push, local newspaper mentions or door to door flyer distribution, your website is the landing place where your lead will be captured. Most people check out a company’s website before picking up the phone and calling or otherwise reaching out, to make sure they FEEL good about exposing themselves. The site needs to speak clearly to keep that visitor engaged. After they took the time to actually check out your site, don’t lose them there!

Branding, then Website, then Everything Else!

I have had clients come to me who have spent tens of thousands on advertising campaigns and are perplexed why they are not attaining a better ROI. More times than I can count, these clients have a website that was not professionally designed.

Once your brand identity is firmly in place, invest in a well designed, professional site with tightly edited content and engaging graphics, complete with analytics so you can further refine over time in response to visitor behavior. THEN and ONLY THEN start driving traffic. Doing otherwise is a waste of marketing dollars! Once you have your foundation firmly in place, you’ll see better conversion rates and a rise in business as visitors start crossing your bridge.