Selling things online: it’s a thing we do now! Even if you have a traditional brick and mortar store, chances are a customer has asked you, “Can I buy your product online?” If you say no, at best, your business looks like it’s behind the times. At worst, you lose potential customers.
So let’s get those products on your website and start driving that business! What you need:
This is… kind of obvious, I know. It’s also not 100% required, because there are third-party sites where you can sell your goods (places like Etsy and even Amazon). But those places will also take a small percentage of each transaction as commission, so you’ll want to factor that into your plan (but, you won’t need the rest of this list, so it DOES simplify things, at a cost.) If you decide to go for it on your own with a traditional e-commerce store at your own domain, you’ll want to get that set up first. (me! I can help you build your website!)
How your product offerings are organized and presented to the customer is important! Eye-catching photos, detailed descriptions, and clear pricing for different options will make a big difference in the user experience. There are countless “out of the box” shopping cart systems, or you could integrate your site with a third-party service like Shopify. The downside of these options is that sometimes you are very limited in what you can do with the product organization, pricing options, etc.
If you’re finding the out of the box solutions lacking in flexibility and customization, WordPress has a robust plugin solution called WooCommerce that will easily add e-commerce functionality to your WordPress site. Or, if even that doesn’t quite fit, you could hire a developer to build a custom product catalog, and integrate that with a service like FoxyCart to process the transactions. I have personally done several WordPress/FoxyCart combinations, and my clients have been very happy with the results.
When someone buys something on your site, you need a way to communicate that information with your bank. So first, you’ll need to set up an internet merchant account with your bank- it’s simply a special bank account that will allow you to accept online credit card payments. An internet merchant account will come with a payment gateway to connect everything together and you’ll be on your way to processing online transactions and selling your stuff!
All online credit card transactions require an SSL certificate to encrypt the data and keep it secure. If you are using a third-party solution, like Shopify or even FoxyCart, the SSL setup is provided for you (included in the fee you pay for their services). If your e-commerce section is built into your main site using an out of the box shopping cart system, or a custom-built shopping cart with WooCommerce, for example, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate from your webhost and have your web developer integrate that into your website.
Setting up an online store can seem daunting and complicated at first, but once you find a solution that fits your needs, putting all the pieces together is easy! Hire me to build your ecommerce website! :)
I’d love to make more of an effort here at my blog. The problem is that there aren’t 87 hours in every day, (WHO DO I TALK TO ABOUT CHANGING THAT?) so my client work takes priority and my poor, neglected blog sits here, collecting dust. I have so much to say! Lots of great stuff to share! So I thought I’d do a round-up of great things I’ve found lately, related in some way to design or freelancing or maybe just something fun, and perhaps I’ll make this a regular type of post here.
So let’s go!
How are you still not blogging? – This blog post by Jessica at Doable Online Marketing really spoke to me, and was the push I needed to open up my WordPress and just WRITE. Too often I’ll think “I’m going to blog about that today!” and then I end up talking myself out of it: the subject is too complicated for a simple blog post, or what if I say something wrong and someone calls me out on it?, or nobody wants to read what I have to stay about THAT. Hey, self: make it simpler with your blog post! And people make mistakes, it’s FINE, you’re human! And who cares if nobody wants to read it? Do you want to write it? THEN GO FOR IT.
Facebook’s Organic Reach is Not Dead – I really loved this article, and it ties in nicely with my last post about how to effectively use your Facebook business page. Organic reach is possible! And it gives a great breakdown on the most powerful posts for organically reaching your audience.
Start Local (SEO That Is) – Local search explained and simplified.
We Propelle Blog – The entire site is fantastic, but I love the blog. I recently added it to my Feedly reader so I can keep up with new posts. It’s such a great resource for entrepreneurs and freelancers, especially women. Tips on improving and building your business, personal growth, life balance- lots of goodness in one place. Recommend.
FONTS! I love fonts. Here are a few lovely scripty ones to admire and covet (affiliate link alert!):
Creative Market always has some great free downloads, too!
Facebook pages are a great way for businesses to keep in touch with their customers. You can post announcements for new products, promotions, events and get right to your audience- and Facebook’s audience is huge. Ninety-one percent of millennials (ages 15-34) are on Facebook, and 31% of senior citizens use Facebook regularly. Getting your business on Facebook is worth the small bit of effort with a potentially large payoff.
But sometimes it can be frustrating to navigate the settings and options in Facebook. There are a lot of features and options, and deciding what to focus on so you can get up and running quickly can be a challenge. I’ve been working with several clients lately, helping to build their company Facebook pages, and I wanted to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
The first thing a visitor sees when coming to your business Facebook page is the top masthead, so that area should be recognizable and match your brand. You can keep it simple, using your logo or a photo that represents your business. Or, if you want to get fancy, you can hire a designer to create something unique. If you’d rather turn it into a DIY project, you can use a template to make the layout and design a little easier. Here are a few options for Facebook cover photo templates:
Now that your identity is on the page, it’s time to fill in the details. The ‘About’ tab is where visitors go to find hours, your location, contact info, and a description of what you do. You’ll want to include as much information as you can. Think of it as an elevator pitch- a few seconds to share your story.
To edit this information, visit your Facebook page, click on ‘About’, and then click the ‘Page Info’ link on the left side.
The goal is to get your audience to interact with your Facebook page. But if someone sends you a private message or asks a question on a post, you’ll want to be sure you get notified so you can respond as soon as possible if needed. A quick check of your notification settings will allow you to customize how you’d prefer to be alerted if a message or comment is posted.
You can change your notification preferences by clicking on ‘Settings’, and then going to the ‘Notifications’ tab on the left.
Turn notifications on or off based on the type of message, whether you want it to go to your email, your mobile device, or if you want to keep all notifications on Facebook itself. If you choose to keep everything on Facebook, just make sure you check in frequently so you can be responsive to your audience.
You may also choose to tighten control on what your visitors can post onto your page. Visitors can comment on posts, tag your business in their photos, and contact you privately. You can fine-tune these options under the ‘General’ tab in the ‘Settings’ section.
Another option to consider is turning on approval of all posts by non-admin visitors. That will give you full control over what is publicly posted.
This topic could be a whole post on its own, so I won’t elaborate too much! But I will share a few useful articles that have some great ideas for growing your Facebook audience.
Now you’re ready to start posting to your page! As you start publishing to the page, you may notice a number below each post, telling you how many people it has reached. You can click on the ‘X people reached’ link to view details about shares, likes, comments, etc.
You also may notice that your reach number is significantly lower than your number of likes. Why is that?? Why doesn’t your post reach everybody who likes your page? The answer is complicated (and somewhat frustrating!) and it relates to the way Facebook works. If a visitor likes your page, but never interacts with your posts by commenting, liking, or sharing, they are less likely to see your new posts in their news feed. Discovering this can be a disappointment, but there are some things you can do.
To the right of the ‘X people reached’ link, you’ll see a button that says ‘Boost Post’. You can choose to turn your post into an ad to expand your audience temporarily for a certain amount of time, and set a daily budget. After you boost a post, your ‘reach’ link will change to show you the stats for organic (non-paid) reach and paid reach.
As you can see, it certainly works to expand your viewing audience! If you have a post relating to a promotion or a sale, boosting it for a day or two could lead to big results in increased sales, interaction with your page, or signups for an event, just to give a few examples.
If you want to try some free ways to ensure that your Facebook page users will see your future posts, encourage them to edit their Follow status. Once they’ve liked your page, they can customize what they see from you. See below- let your users know that they can change this setting and they’ll always see your new posts at the top of their feed so they won’t miss any important news.
The potential for using Facebook to grow your business is huge! Use these steps to get you started on your own, and if you need a web-geek’s assistance, I am happy to help!
I have had a VERY busy and productive year so far! I wanted to highlight a few of the projects I’ve completed since January. And there are more on the way soon!
Project features: photo gallery, WordPress content management system, mobile-friendly website
Project features: WordPress content management system, custom menu publishing, events and news blog, mobile-friendly website
Project features: WordPress content management system, photo gallery, news and events blog, social media branding, email newsletter
Project features: logo design, WordPress blog design, mobile-friendly website, social media branding, email newsletter
Project features: custom Wordpress blog design
A few weeks ago, I started getting email alerts from my Google Webmaster Tools account telling me that some of my clients’ websites had “critical mobile usability issues”.
Most of the emails were about sites I designed and built years ago, before smartphones were a Big Deal. It wasn’t long before one my clients contacted me about it after getting an email herself, asking if this was something I could add to her website, and of course the answer was yes! I can do that for you!
First, take a look at your website on a smartphone. Most sites look great on desktop computers but are difficult to read and navigate on a touchscreen. If you view your site on your phone or tablet and find it lacking in ease of use, then it’s time to consider adding that functionality.
There are also online usability tests that will tell you if a website is mobile-friendly or not. Google Webmaster Tools has a Mobile-Friendly Test that you can use if you’re not sure. The test even gives a screenshot of your website in a mobile setting, which is a helpful visual guide.
We reached the tipping point in 2014: more people use their mobile-devices to surf the internet than their desktop computers. This means that if your website isn’t easily readable and clear to navigate on a smaller screen, you’re losing customers- especially if you’re in a specific industry like hotels, restaurants, blogging, or have an e-commerce website.
Rebuild the website with a responsive design. A responsive website will change orientation and layout depending on the size of the screen being used to view it. One design, one solution. This can be a big undertaking if you already have a website up and running that you love, but if you’re losing customers because your website is hard to use on a smartphone, it can be a very wise investment. And if you’re starting out with a brand new website, paying a designer to build a responsive website is a great idea.
Create a separate mobile-only version of your website. This is a common choice, because it’s easy to implement on an already existing website. Adding a mirror website for mobile users also gives flexibility, because sometimes certain content is best viewed on a desktop computer, or perhaps you want to streamline the information on your website for your mobile visitors. Because the majority of my clients’ websites are currently running in WordPress, adding mobile-friendly functionality to them is fairly simple with the use of plugins. I can also customize the features on the mobile site to include unique content, color schemes, and calls to action just for the mobile audience.
I’ve published several websites in recent months that have a streamlined mobile experience.
And my own site!
If you’d like to talk about adding mobile functionality to your website, please contact me! I can add a mobile theme or design to your site, which will give your business a boost in visibility and usability on the mobile web.
One of the first things I recommend that my clients do when they’re getting ready to build a website is purchase a domain name. Sometimes it’s an easy process but a lot of times, they have questions about the best domain name for their business. Here are some domain registration tips I’ve shared with my clients over the years.
A short domain name is easy to remember and easy to type. If possible, avoid using numbers- it can be confusing if you’re telling someone your email address or web address over the phone and you say “5” and they think you’ve said “five“. Same goes for other punctuation like hyphens. They’re allowed in domain names but can sometimes feel clunky and hard for customers to remember.
A domain name is the perfect place to inject some keyword goodness into your website to help with search engine ranking. Brainstorm the top five keywords for your business to find a domain name that makes sense with your business name. For example: platinumrepair.com is great, but platinumshoerepair.com is even better. Be sure to consider the length of the domain name with the keywords you use.
Be aware that sometimes it makes more sense to simply use your business name as the domain name, even if there are no keywords in it. Sites like Amazon.com, Google.com, and Monster.com rely on brand awareness more than SEO keywords in their domain names and that works just fine. So in some cases, it comes down to personal preference and what is most important to the business-owner.
If your business relies on local customers, putting a city name or location in the domain name is a great way to target customers in your area. PittsburghShoeRepair.com or ShoeRepairPA.com are some examples.
Register multiple extensions and variations of the main domain name that you choose. You don’t need to build a separate website for all of them, but owning them will keep others from registering them. For example, platinumrepair.com, platinumrepair.net, platinumrepairs.com… and so on. You may also want to register a few misspelled variations of your site to catch that website traffic as well. Your web developer can setup 301 redirects so that all of these domains point to the original website.
If you find a domain name that you love and it’s available, don’t wait! Buy it as soon as you can. Domain names go quickly and you don’t want to miss out on the perfect domain.
These are just suggestions, not rules. Sometimes the right domain name doesn’t conform to all of the guidelines and that is okay. If you love it and it fits your business model and your brand, go for it!
As a designer, the tools I have at my disposal are important. Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of fonts, stock icons and photos, graphics, and WordPress themes that I can go to for inspiration and use in my projects. I recently found a great source for these things at Creative Market. It’s a fantastic community where designers share their creativity and can sell their work for others to use in theirs. I’ve already bookmarked a ton of stuff for potential use in future projects (mostly fonts, because I LOVE FONTS.)
(all images courtesy of Creative Market)
My very FAVORITE part of Creative Market is the Free Goods of the Week. Every week, I get an email with free stuff! Photos! Fonts! WordPress themes! I’ve already added a few great freebies to my toolbox and I can’t wait to use them. Maybe your project can be next?!
( I have become a partner with Creative Market, and I’m thrilled to be able to spread the word about their service!)
As a small business owner, sometimes I wish I could ignore the non-website-designing work that comes along with being a one-person operation. At the top of the list: marketing. Okay wait, that’s not true. ACCOUNTING IS FIRST! But second on the list is marketing. I am NOT a sales person. I am NOT a writer. I like to create pretty websites and dig into code. But the reality is that I’ve had to learn a lot about marketing and how best to use the web to promote my own business, as well as provide copywriting advice to my clients.
Sometimes I feel like I have a good handle on the writing I put out there, but I’m always looking for ways to make things less painful. I found a fantastic infographic recently with guidelines on how to write effectively for email blasts, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter… the list goes on. In some cases, it’s more prudent to hire a professional copywriter, but for everyday social media interactions, this is a great summary and something to save for those WRITER’S BLOCK moments!
What are YOUR most dreaded small business CEO tasks?
Happy Holiday Break, everyone! Inksplash Designs will be working on a very limited schedule over the next two weeks. School is officially out for the kiddos so we’ll be spending some much-needed family time together. I’m looking forward to returning in January, recharged and ready for 2015!
You have a website. You want to attract customers and build your business. You can do this in various ways: advertising your link on your products, business cards, and other marketing material. But the most valuable traffic on a website is from search engines: reaching your target audience and connecting with new customers who are looking for your product or service.
I frequently get asked the question: “What keywords did you put in for my site on Google?” and unfortunately, it’s not that simple. High organic ranking in search engines is hard work. It just is. Search engine optimization is a multi-level process and in order to do it correctly, you need to constantly monitor your ranking, modify and update your content, and analyze your competition.
In my experience, there are three basic necessities for a well-optimized website. I call them steps, but each one actually has multiple steps, and may require revisiting on a regular basis!
Content is #1. If your website doesn’t have anything good for your customers or the search engine spiders to read, then you’re sunk before you’ve even started. Ideally, you should have 500-1000 words of clean, grammatically correct sentence-structure content on every page. Some websites lend themselves better to more text content, others may have more visual content, but even a few well-written sentences goes a long way.
Beyond the readable content, the technical structure of a website is very important. This is where I focus my efforts for my clients, even if nothing else is done. I write clean HTML code for a lightweight website, use heading tags for important content and headlines, include ALT tags on images (because search engines can’t read graphics!), and strive to generate search engine-friendly URLs.
Fresh content is also excellent for boosting your ranking! Search engines will give more importance to a site with recently updated content, so a blog, a news feed, or even a portfolio page or photo gallery can help keep your site from getting stale.
This step really could/should be part of step 1, because it goes hand-in-hand with writing the quality content. But I’ve kept it separate for a reason. I tend to prefer building a website with naturally organized content that makes sense from a user experience perspective, and then go back and revise things based on which keywords will best highlight the content and attract targeted traffic. But starting with Step 2, or at least keeping it in mind while developing a site map and navigation structure, isn’t a terrible idea.
It can be a daunting process to select keywords and write appropriate, relevant content. The good news: there are many tools and tutorials on the web for analyzing a website’s content and choosing keywords on a page. It’s a balance between having readable, useful content for the customers, but also giving the search engines what they need to properly rank a site. Here’s the not-so-good news: maintaining a high organic SEO ranking requires constant monitoring and rework. So launching a new website with some good keywords and letting the search engines have at it isn’t enough. Things may need to be adjusted monthly, or weekly, or even daily in order to keep a website at the top of the list.
(I will be the first to admit that this particular phase of SEO is NOT my area of expertise! I am not a copy writer and I don’t pretend to be one. But I am learning more with each project, and I’m happy to give advice to my clients when I can, and make referrals to some GREAT experts I know who can help!)
A bit about meta tags: a long time ago, meta tags were all you needed to “tell” the search engines what your site was about. But that quickly became an easy way to cheat the system, so meta tags aren’t used as the primary way to highlight keywords in a website. Meta tags should still be used, because you aren’t penalized for them, but they work WITH your content to build your ranking.
After I launch a new website, I have a laundry list of things I do to make sure that the search engines know it’s there.
Generate an XML site map. This is simply a file that helps the major search engines understand your site structure. WordPress has some useful plugins that do this, or it can be generated using an online tool.
Create Webmaster Tools profiles. Google and Bing both offer these free tools. After doing this, I can submit the XML site map, specify a preferred domain to avoid duplicate content penalties, analyze keywords through the site, view search traffic statistics, integrate the profile with Google Analytics, and so much more.
Create a local profile for your business. Verifying your business with Google Business and Bing Places for Business, and Yahoo Small Business will get your business in any location-based search results, so customers in your area can find you more easily.
There are about a million OTHER things that can be done to increase a website’s ranking, but these three areas are where I usually start with clients. Getting a few simple tools in place can make a big difference. And once a site is up and running for a couple of months, it can be useful to revisit the keywords or to take a look at your content structure and reorganize a bit. If you’d like me to take a look at your website’s SEO status, contact me for a quote!