10 Components of a Trustworthy Site

There’s lots of advice out there about how businesses need professional  websites. But what exactly does “professional” mean in this context? Primarily, it means that your site is trustworthy enough for people to make a purchase from. There are certain signals, some overt and some covert that show professionalism in a website and we’ll reveal 10 of them in this article.

  1. Page speedA site that loads too slowly will cause people to leave. Maile Ohye from Google says, “2 seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”
  2. Easy navigationIf your customers cannot find their way through your site they will feel frustration. Avoid complicated dropdowns and nested menus. Make all navigation bars and menu options clear enough that a new visitor could find them and find their way around.
  3. Site completenessCheck your site regularly for broken links. Even if your core site structure is fine, having a broken link in a piece of content marketing going out will make it seem like you’re not paying attention.
  4. Unified look-and-feelAs in the physical world, branding is key to a unified and professional look. Use the same color schemes and site design throughout your website. If possible, use the same look-and-feel in your email communications and even in your mailings.
  5. A complete shopping cart systemDo not have a broken or incomplete shopping cart system. Few things anger a customer more than a failed sale due to technology. It’s even worse if their payment goes through and they don’t get what you offer. Go beyond testing it. Try to break it before it goes live.
  6. Contact methodsSometimes things do go wrong or there’s a question that’s not answered on your site. There must be a way for people get in contact with you in these cases. That information must be easy to find and there has to be someone to respond on the other end. Whether you use a phone number, a web contact form, social media, or some other method, there needs to be one.
  7. Reassurance messages (Thank you, verification emails)This is part of having a complete shopping cart, but it’s important enough to break out on its own. Reassurance messages are our term for any web page or email that tells a customer that something happened successfully. A simple example is the thank you page at the end of a purchase. If a purchase button dumped you back to the main page and there was no receipt email, you might feel that your information was just stolen. A thank you page does more than just show politeness.
  8. Clear CTAsA clear CTA is more than just making a big button. A complete CTA has to promise something, call the reader to act on that promise by performing an action, and then delivering on that promise. If any of these parts are unclear or misleading, trust will be lost and professionalism shattered.
  9. Persuasive copyEven the best-designed site needs to be coupled with persuasive copy to convince the reader to buy. There’s little more that needs to be said on this. Good copy turns a good offer into a great one. Bad copy will kill a great offer.
  10. Delivery on your promiseFinally, whatever you promise to give to the customer must be delivered in the way you say it will. This is the ultimate professional guarantee. If you break this one, you’re no longer in customer service mode. You’re in customer recovery mode.

Monthly Newsletter

One great way to stay in contact with past customers is to create a monthly newsletter. Newsletters aren’t just good for advertising. They’re also an excellent way to get email addresses for later email campaigns (e.g. sending coupons) and for letting customers know what has been going on with your business.

But developing that newsletter the first few times can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know.

Customers First

If you want to keep your readers reading after their first one you have to give them information they’re interested in. There are several ways you can find out what they want. First, there are standbys like special deals or coupons in each newsletter that will be a safe thing to add at first. Another idea, if you have a blog, is to expand on your popular articles in the newsletter. Finally, if you have a good rapport with your customers already, like on social media, just ask them!

Hire a Pro

Unless you have desktop publishing or writing experience in the past, it’s much better to hire a professional to design and write your letter. Customers prefer to see professionally-designed email newsletters than something sloppy. Even if you go text only (perhaps a good idea in the beginning), your writing still needs to be accurate to convey professionalism.

If you hire someone, do it at least two weeks in advance to give them time to write it and you time to proof it. A single newsletter should not be very expensive, though price will vary depending on the length of the piece, the complexity of the design, and the experience of the writer.

Build a queue

Sites that churn out tons of content use an editorial calendar to keep writers on task and build up a queue of material. Many small businesses get the idea of running a newsletter and forget about it until the last minute, leading to a rushed product. Take a tip from the pro content producers and create three newsletters before you start sending them. That will give you a three-month lead time to create the next one and raise the chances you’ll have enough. It’s much easier to add or subtract from a piece that’s already made than try to come up with whole cloth in a few hours because you forgot.

Track track track

Sending a newsletter used to feel like firing a message into the void and hoping for a response. That’s no longer true. If you use a mass emailer like MailChimp to send your newsletters, investigate what sort of analytics you can track with your service. You’ll be primarily looking at two stats: open rate and response rate. The open rate is how many people opened your email. The response rate is the rate of how many recipients followed up on a link or an offer inside your email. Tracking these over time will tell you how well your newsletter is working (at least from an online perspective.)

Once you get a rhythm going, it’ll be easy to create and queue up your newsletter. And as your readership grows and trusts you more, you can experiment with sending additional messages, offers, or what have you to keep the interest going. Soon enough you’ll have a thriving newsletter readership.

SEO on Brand New Website

A lot of SEO advice is geared toward sites that have been up for a while. But what about a brand new site? What needs to be done for SEO so a search engine can find your site quickly and start ranking? Here’s what you need to know.

Finding your website

Even before you think about ranking for keywords, the search engines need to know that your domain exists. In the past, you used to have to register your site with search engines so they’d notice you faster. These days the engines work so fast that this isn’t necessary. Any new site on the web for more than a week will be found. However, you can speed up the process by registering for Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. That will put your site immediately on their radar.

To check to see if a search engine has found your site, do a search for the domain of your site. That’s the surest way to check if your site has been discovered. If you have a physical business, we also highly recommend that you sign up for Google My Business. This will give you significant SEO benefits.

Technical SEO

If you’re starting fresh, you might as well start off on the right foot and pay attention to technical SEO. Technical SEO techniques are things like making sure your website is standards compliant, analytics tools are installed, sitemaps are created, and similar things that are related to the SEO health of your site as a whole rather than individual pages.

The search engine tools above will have some pointers on fixing technical SEO flaws they find. A good quick-and-dirty checklist for the basics of technical SEO (and a bit of on-page) can be found in this SEO checklist from Clickminded.

Get those first few backlinks

A site without any backlinks is an island unto itself. One of your first SEO goals should be to get a few backlinks to prime the pump. Building a great backlink profile is easiest when you start with a strategy up front. It’s much harder to change a bad backlink that it is to get a good one.

Backlink strategy could be a post all on its own, so here is a link on how to approach backlink building for a new site from Majestic. You don’t need a lot of links at this stage. Five is a good target number.

Beginning the climb

Let’s assume that you’ve already done your keyword research so you know which keywords you want to rank for. Once you’ve confirmed that your site has been found by the search engines you can start creating content that uses your keywords. Since your first few pages are going to be core navigation pages, rather than a blog post, your most important keywords should be in prominent positions like the title and H1 tags. Even more important, however, is how natural the keywords fit in with the topic of the page and how natural the page would read to a human reader. The Clickminded link has some advice about that, but Google’s SEO Guidelines document has the details on what they’re looking out for.

Finally, remember that it can take a week or more to start seeing shifts in rankings and it could take several months before your site gets enough age to really start pushing up the ranks. But if you continue from this strong foundation and continue to build backlinks and produce relevant content, you’ll soon find yourself among the top.

8 Things Website

Developing a good website starts before you write the first line of code, or even before you get the domain. Careful planning at the start will save you from expensive problems or a poor performing website. There are eight things that all websites need at the start, and here they are.

A clear domain

A domain is the URL of your website, specifically the part before the last dot. In www.google.com, the domain is google. Domain names need to be easy to spell, easy to remember, and easy to say. Shorter is usually better, but it’s hard to find a short name these days. The average length is 12-14 characters and uses two words.

Good hosting

A commercial website must have stable hosting. If your website goes down, you lose business and reputation. It must also be able to handle the traffic you expect to get. Setting up your own server is usually a bad idea unless you really know what you’re doing. Go with a trusted hosting service and pay the monthly fee.

Security

As part of your hosting, you should purchase security (SSL or TLS) as part of your package. Not only will this show customers that they can give you financial information safely, it will also give you a boost in search engine rankings. Google is pushing hard to make the entire web use secure internet protocols.

A good CMS

The days of coding pages by hand from scratch for a business are long gone. Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla now run most e-commerce sites. Using a CMS will make it far easier to update your website, perform SEO tasks, and make your site look beautiful and functional.

Clean navigation and design

The user interface of a website is noticed even before the information is read. We use things like headers and navigation bars to orient our eyes before we start reading. If your site is frustrating to navigate or makes it hard to access wanted information then you will lose visitors.

Core info is easy to reach

There are certain things that a visitor wants to find with zero problems. It’s the same information you’d put into a phone book ad. People want to know who you are, what you do, and how to contact you. All of this information must be easy to find. If these basics are missing, you’ll lose customers.

Analytics

If you are running a business website, you will need analytics to track how well your site is doing over time. If you do any sort of marketing, analytics will tell you how well it performs. Get your site hooked up to the analytics package of your choice first thing. Google Analytics is the most common and it’s free with a Google account.

An editorial calendar

Websites are not billboards. They need to receive updates every so often to remain fresh in the minds of search engines and visitors. Setting up an editorial calendar for SEO audits, content updates, CMS upgrades, and other website maintenance tasks will help keep your site in tip-top shape.

These eight things are the foundation of a quality website. If you get these in place, your website will be a support for your business instead of a hindrance.

Content Marketing

New business owners or entrepreneurs who haven’t tried internet marketing can find themselves overwhelmed. There is a whole lot to learn and it’s hard to tell where to begin or which pieces of advice to trust. The first place to start is education. We believe that content marketing is one of the simplest forms of marketing for a new business. Let’s explore what it is and how you can get started even if you’re a raw beginner.

Marketing

New businesses sometimes think building a website is like the movie Field of Dreams. If you build the site, visitors will come automatically and start handing you money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Some kind of marketing is necessary to get the attention of your audience and to get the attention of search engines because there are too many people posting websites and fighting for market share.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a way to do both that doesn’t require a whole lot of money, and could even be free if you can write, take photos, or make videos. Content marketing uses pieces of content, such as blog posts, social media posts, articles, videos, pictures, and other pieces of information to promote your business.

These pieces of content are aimed at getting the attention of the audience you want to attract. If you sell antique furniture, for instance, content examples would include:

  • Informative articles about antique eras, furniture restoration, etc.
  • Photos of beautiful pieces with descriptions of their provenance.
  • Announcements about incoming inventory.
  • Videos of your showroom or warehouse.

All of this is aimed at getting people to pay attention to your brand and leave with a positive impression. It takes an average of seven impressions before people will purchase from a business. This points to one of the challenges of content marketing. Content must be created on a regular basis to keep your brand fresh in the minds of your audience.

Content marketing can be contrasted with two other kinds of internet marketing. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising uses small text ads placed in favorable positions on top websites (e.g. Google) that you pay for when others click on them. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques designed to push your website listing on search engines to higher positions on queries your target market uses. Higher positions raise the chances that your site will receive clicks in searches.

Getting Started

Content marketing is easy to start. The first step is finding where your audience likes to gather. Depending on your business niche, they may prefer to do read articles or hang out on a particular social media channel. The brand new business may want to focus on article postings on their website because that will have additional SEO benefits. Later, this can expand into social media. Be very careful about adding new marketing channels because providing content for each one takes extra time and expertise.

Next, you’ll need topics. Brainstorm and do research on what your audience is interested in learning about. What do they need to know? What are their pain points? How can you address them? What cool thing do you do that you think they’d like?

Then you need to make an editorial calendar. At a minimum, this should tell you when your content pieces need to go live, but it can also include when to start research, when to get feedback from other people in your business, who is responsible for creating a content piece, and other such matters. This will keep you on track. Shoot for, at the start, either two articles per month or three social media posts per week. It’s much easier to ramp up than to ramp back down.

Once you have topics and a schedule, then you need to create content pieces based on those topics. If you choose to do written pieces for your blog, make them at least 500 words for an SEO benefit. Social media posts follow the culture of that channel. Figuring out the “best” kind of content for a particular channel is a topic of hot debate, but it’s better to have some content than no content. Improvements can come later.

After you have your pieces, post them according to your calendar. If your chosen channel has a way for your audience to send you feedback, pay attention and respond to it. Keep creating pieces according to your schedule and do more research on the finer points of content marketing.

Finally, start keeping track of your metrics (a topic all on its own) so you can see how much your pieces are helping your marketing goals. You’ll need a few months of data to start seeing true trends, so start tracking as soon as you can.

Once you get into a rhythm, you’ll find that content marketing is a real boon. You can converse with your customers or watch their responses to your pieces and get a real understanding of what they want. This helps you create better products and services, and better pieces of content. A feedback loop is created where people start to trust what you have to say and are eager to do business with you. And thus, you get what all businesses want: a steady stream of revenue.

Hiring a Professional Web Designer

If you’re going to have a business these days, you need a website if you want to get the word out. Websites are the key advertising tool for small businesses. Everyone turns to their smartphones to find out what is in the local area,and not to the phone book (remember phone books?) TV or radio ads are too expensive and too hit-and-miss. A website is always up and advertising.

So why would you ever skimp on creating your website?

Yes, creating a website isn’t all that hard for a basic one. I’ve heard a lot of stories from my clients that their first websites were something whipped up by a family member or a friend on the cheap (or free) just to get their name out there.

But putting up a site this way can actually make you lose money in the long run. Why?

Technical problems

While many people know how to make a website, they may not know things like:

  • How to secure your website against hackers.
  • How to put SSL on your site so you can take online payments without fear.
  • Modern UX principles that attract customers, not repel them.
  • How to design a site with SEO in mind.
  • How to set up your own email service.
  • How to teach you, the business owner, how to maintain the site once it is turned over to you.
  • How to start advertising your site on local search sites (e.g. Google My Business) which gets your name out there rapidly.
  • How to integrate your site with social media services, should you choose to use them.

And much more. See, there’s much more to setting up a site than just making it look good. And if these features aren’t there, that means leads might hop from your site to someone else’s. Or worse, not find you at all. That means lost sales. No business wants that!
Costs

For the amount of money it costs to make a quality site, you can make it back pretty quickly in sales since they should increase significantly within a few weeks of an upgrade. Plus, if you plan on doing advertising on social media or running a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign your website is still the foundation that everything runs back to. You can craft the perfect ads and posts, but if your site doesn’t look good, isn’t fast, isn’t secure, people will be turned off and leave.

Plus, unlike drag-and-drop template sites, hiring a professional designer gives you total control over the site. You don’t have to worry about it going down like if you use a template site. And, since the hosting is in your name, it’s a lot cheaper in the long run to have a pro designer build the site once and then show you how to maintain it.

Put simply, if you want a great looking site that is secure and your customers will love, you need to pay a professional to build it. You get what you pay for. Each customer turned off by a bad site is a lost sale, perhaps permanently. Don’t let it happen.

Author: Joseph Marrello

Joseph Marrello is the co-founder and Managing Director at Webhoster.ca. He is responsible for the overall operations of the company and has played a major role in bringing Webhoste.ca up from its humble beginnings and, with his immense energy and drive, transforming it into a globally trusted name in IT solutions.

Costs of Running A Website: Domain, Hosting, and Access

All businesses need a website to sell goods and services or to advertise. But just how much does it cost? The answers vary, and for good reason. There are a lot of factors that can increase the cost of your website. Let’s take a look at the costs of a running one.

Unavoidable Costs

There are three costs that any business with a website cannot avoid easily. The first is the cost of your internet access. The second is the yearly cost of your domain. The third is the cost of your hosting.

Most people know that you have to pay for internet access, so we’ll set that aside. However, the other two costs might be unfamiliar if you’ve never set up a website.

Domain

A domain is your address on the web. For instance, in the URL www.amazon.com, amazon.com is the domain. A yearly fee has to be paid to a domain registrar to reserve the rights to use that name. This cost can be as low as $5 per year to hundreds depending on the domain registrar and the TLD you desire.

The TLD is the end part of the domain, the .com. There are quite a number of TLDs these days. Registrars have been charging premium prices to get access to the latest ones, but a simple .com address is what most businesses have (.com means commercial.) Be prepared to shell out more if you want something different.

Hosting

The third cost, hosting, is the costs associated with running the web server. This can be a third-party hosting company like Hostgator, a site-builder service that offers hosting, or something you run on your own servers if you have a static IP deal with your ISP.

The costs for third-party hosting depend on how much traffic you get per month, but you get near-full control of what you can do with your site. Using a site-builder service often costs more and you have limitations on how you can build your site through their tools and you often can’t use your own domain without paying a lot more. Hosting it yourself will require a dedicated computer and enough network connectivity to handle the traffic.

It’s much easier to let a third-party handle the hosting. That way you don’t have to worry about hardware costs and you don’t have to worry about another company’s policies limiting how you can create your site.

As a rough estimate, a small business might pay $15/month for third-party hosting, another $10/year for the domain, and $80/month for business-class internet access. Thus, the cost of running a website will run about $1150/year for a small business.

Website Costs

The domain cost just covers the ability to have a website appear on a particular domain. But there are also the costs hosting the site on a webserver. This cost also includes the costs of building and maintaining a site.

Here the triangle of effort applies. Building a site takes time, money, and skill. By increasing the amount of one point, you need less of the other two.

Most small business owners don’t know how to set up their own secure, functional, and beautiful e-commerce website. Fewer still want to take the time necessary to do it right. The usual route for a small business is to hire a developer who can set it all up for you. The cost for this depends greatly on the developer and the complexity of your site, so it’s hard to give an estimate, but a few hundred dollars for setup is not unreasonable for a small-business website.

5 Massive Mistakes to Avoid While Doing Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the most important steps for any search engine optimization campaign. The process of keyword research determines which keywords you should optimize to rank your website in the best possible way for your customers to find you. Hence, this process is a big factor for the overall success of your website as well as your online business.

Therefore, it’s important to know what can go wrong if you do it incorrectly. You should consider the following 5 massive mistakes before you dive into keyword research.

Are You Picking Irrelevant Keywords to Your Visitors?

Generally, many people tend to pick up keywords with high search volumes. SEO experts consider picking keywords just on search volume as a massive mistake. Just because a keyword has a high search volume doesn’t mean that the customers you want to target are using it. You need to pick keywords that match your customer’s needs and values. This is what gets them to click. Additional, competing for top rank on high-volume terms is very difficult and not necessarily lucrative.

Why Your Avoid Using Too Many Keywords:

Targeting too many keywords is another bad SEO mistake. The more keywords you target, the harder it will be to optimize your content. Trying to cram every keyword you can into your pages will make your language seem stilted and turn off customers. Additionally, each page can only contribute so much to each keyword. Diluting your page with a lot of keywords will reduce the effects of all of them. Select those keywords that will drive your ideal customers to your website and are relevant to the topic of each page.

Why You Should Avoid Stuffing The Same Keyword Into All Your Pages:

On the other hand, it’s possible to select too few keywords. Done too blatantly on a single page and it can look like you’re trying to do something called keyword stuffing. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone is doing this because the copy will read very unnaturally. Google considers this a bad practice and will punish you for it. Getting punished by Google for SEO mistakes is quite costly. Fortunately, keyword stuffing is easy to avoid. Write natural-sounding content and vary your keywords between pages.

Are You Only Using Keywords Based on Your Existing Site Structure?

To get a variety of keywords, many people start by looking at what each page is about, then optimize based on topic. This is a great start, but there is a flaw that could bite you. If your customers aren’t searching for the terms you’re optimizing for, then that extra optimization is a waste of time.

Sometimes a page is so specific that it requires the use of a keyword customers might not search for right off. An example is a specific product page. But if your keyword research finds that your customers aren’t finding you for some of the keywords your site design suggests you should have, it’s time to make a change.

Are You Putting in Irrelevant Keywords?

Finally, you should never try to stuff in a keyword that is irrelevant to the topic of the page. Search engines have the ability to read the links between different categories of keywords. If there’s a word or phrase that truly doesn’t fit, like say a plumbing keyword in an article about fashion, that’s a signal that there might be something fishy.

Granted, we don’t know all of these keyword category links. But if you find yourself trying to shoehorn a keyword into a page where it doesn’t quite fit, maybe you need a different keyword or a different topic.

These are the five massive mistakes in the arena of keyword research, which can be the cause your SEO to suffer or fail. You should try your best to avoid these mistakes if you don’t want to see your website doomed to the lower pages of Google.