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A Simplified Explanation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Many business owners aren’t marketing experts, so they often only have a basic understanding of website optimization. When talking with them, I often try to give a quick overview of what SEO is and some of the main factors that can positively impact search results.
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Ten (10) Questions to Determine if You Need a New Website

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So you work for or own a small or medium sized business. You have a website, you’re not sure if it is adding any value, but you’re also not sure you want to spend the time and money to upgrade it.
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Go Responsive or Go Home

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Why the Responsive Design Trend Is Becoming the New Industry Standard

According to SearchEngineWatch.com, mobile Internet usage increased by over 73% in the year 2014 and now exceeds PC Internet usage for the first time in history.  This means that businesses should consider responsive web design as a solution to ensuring their website is compatible across any and all devices.  

Responsive Web Design is often misunderstood as a term to describe any website that appears “mobile-friendly”, but there are many differences to an actual responsive site and a site that merely appears mobile-friendly. Responsive websites use one single HTML code that fluidly changes the size of the site using CSS as the size of the user’s device changes. The key difference is in the amount of HTML codebases: a responsive site will always have only one, while a dynamically-served site will have multiple codebases that a server will choose from depending on the size of the device detected.

With so many mobile users in the world, it is critical to have a website that responds to the variable screen size rather than scaling down to a lower resolution. A website must appear beautiful on all kinds of devices - from a 50” television to a tablet, a laptop and every phone in between. There are many strategies for developing a mobile-friendly website, but choosing a responsive web design offers additional benefits that increase user-experience and aid in business:

  1. Flexible web page rendering: the user will always experience a 100% width website that is adapted to their particular screen size. There will never be a need to zoom on a responsive website because the site has already adapted to the user.
     
  2. Search engine optimization (SEO): Google, the largest search engine to date, dictates what search engine optimization practices websites need to adhere to in order to be found. Google has clearly indicated that it prefers responsive web designs to mobile templates because there is a single website URL to crawl and index the website. Likewise, there is a greater reduction in search engine optimization errors because all occur only once rather than for desktop and for mobile.
     
  3. Easy long-term maintenance: using one HTML file structure for the entire site means less development on the backend. Less development means time efficiency and a lower cost when making changes and maintaining the site.
     
  4. Bounce rate reduction: User experience strongly dictates your business’s bounce rate. If there is a consistent user experience among devices as well as an ease of navigation, the website is considered more trustworthy to the user. The easier to navigate, the longer a user is likely to stay on your site.
     
  5. Easy sharing: Instead of detecting multiple URL’s (such as m.title.com and www.title.com), responsive web design only uses one URL that allows for consistent and easy sharing among all users, devices, social marketing platforms, and experiences.

As technology evolves, websites- how they are designed and how they are built, will adapt further, (perhaps even into 3D?). 5.1 billion people in the world of the 6.8 billion-world population are now smartphone users. While responsive design may not be feasible for every business, it is a great option to consider when considering your customer base. 

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8 Reasons to Have a Responsive Web Design (Infographic)

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Marketpath Blog: 8 Reasons to Have a Responsive Web Design: With the growth of mobile devices, it is essential that your website is mobile friendly. The growth of mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, and mobile device usage, via games, apps, social media, and websites, it is now essential that your business website is mobile friendly, so that your clients and prospects can easily browse and find information, regardless of what type of device (phone, tablet, desktop, etc.) they are using.
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Three Ways to Create Website Credibility

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In a previous post, I wrote how website credibility, or creating credibility with your website, should be a small business’ number one objective.  In my post, titled Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites, I suggested that creating credibility for your organization should be a significant part of your website strategy, possibly even more so than site visibility (via search engine rankings) - although both strategies should be connected. The basic reason for this is that credibility can dramatically impact not only your online conversions, but offline conversions as well, which can lead to greater sales and enhanced brand perception.

How to Create Website Credibility?So if credibility is so important, what can you do to positively impact your organization’s credibility on your small business website? The truth is I have no idea. OK, I do have some idea, but as each business is different, so too will each plan be to create credibility for your organization.  And, as I don’t know your organization like you do, I also can’t create a credibility plan that will completely fit your business – at least not until I learn more about your organization and your dealings. So, as you read through the rest of this article, use it as a starting point for your own organization’s credibility plan or something to get your creative juices flowing.  With that said, here are three (3) main components to creating credibility on your home page and throughout your entire website.

  1. Have a Professional Looking Site:

As I mentioned in my previous article, your website is the new yellow pages for your business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your organization and what you do. With that said, you don’t want them arriving to your homepage and immediately having a poor experience (and opinion of your company). That’s what will happen if your site is old, outdated or poorly designed – even if you have good content within your site.

If your site looks unprofessional or unorganized, a prospect may never even take the step of browsing your site for specific content. If you have a high home page bounce rate, this could be the reason. Think back to the last time you went shopping in a new mall for the first time. You walk around and stick your head in a few stores to see if they quickly interest you. If they don’t quickly grab your attention, you don’t walk in and browse – instead you move on to the next storefront. Same thing with your website – make a positive impression in the first five to ten seconds, or the user will move on to other options.  

Now days you also need to make that positive impression regardless of the device (desktop, tablet, phone, etc.) your audience is using.  If you don't have a responsive web design or mobile friendly site, odds are that smart phone web viewers will not have a positive experience.

  1. Feature Content that Shows Your Expertise:

When I visit a website for the first time, my mental processing works like this. First, can I tell what the organization does in the first few seconds and do I get a generally favorable impression from the site’s overall appearance? If so, I then move on to my specific need or reason for searching or visiting that site. Does the organization offer the product, service, or information I’m looking for? If the answer is “Yes” again and I quickly see that high level offering (product, service, etc.), then I move on to specifics that will make me more comfortable in taking some next step (conversion), whether that next step is buying, making a call, or downloading an article.

Don’t Worry, I’m a Vegetarian! (Are You Trust Worthy & Credible?) So depending on what your organization does, what type of content will portray you as an expert, provide credibility, and make me more comfortable so I will take that next step (conversion)? Certain content, such as awards, press releases, membership in associations, or featuring well known customers, will provide basic confidence that your organization is credible. Different types of content can really hook me and drive me further down your purchasing or conversion cycle. If, for instance, I’m searching for a service offering, my next thought process may be whether your company has specific experience with my type of company or industry. Testimonials, case studies, project galleries, or white papers – specific to my industry or more specific needs (project type for example) – give me a much greater level of comfort that you are a viable option. Specific blog posts that touch on details (examples, industries, specific types of projects, etc.) can also provide that same level of reassurance I’m looking for, while positioning your organization as a leader in your space.

  1. Reinforce Leadership via Social media:

The third way to create web credibility is directly related to the strong content I discussed above. A strong social media presence can reinforce the positive impression your website provides, while allowing you to leverage some of that compelling content across multiple channels that encourage sharing and that will drive more eyes to your site. Nowadays, you may have certain individuals that start their search via different social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, or even Pinterest or Instagram if you have robust visual content. Having a strong presence on these sites will drive visitors to your website, but will also provide yet another level of comfort for those prospects that use that particular social marketing site. Reviews via sites like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, or Citysearch can also enhance credibility and help drive conversions, especially in certain industries (restaurants, service business, etc.) where reviews are prevalent. With that said, most small organizations don’t have the resources to have a positive presence on all the sites I mentioned. I’d recommend starting small and doing one or two social sites well, rather than trying to manage too much too soon. Remember, a poor impression on a social media site can be much worse than not having a site, and will hurt your credibility.

Whether you are designing a new website or just updating your current site, you should spend some time developing a content strategy that focuses on creating credibility for your website and your overall business. If you need help developing your social media or content strategy, contact Marketpath today.     ,

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Blogging – The Small Business (Not-So) Secret Weapon

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Small business owners may find themselves unsure where to focus their online marketing resources. Email endeavors, newsletters, and the plethora of social media options (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and so on) – the number of channels can be overwhelming. And finding the time to dedicate enough resources to those efforts adds another layer to the puzzle. That’s why the simplicity of business blogging – the not-so-secret weapon of a small business – is so appealing.

Blogging may seem unsexy compared to some options, but it works. Here’s how:

  1. Blogging - Small Business' Content Marketing WeaponBlogging creates credibility – Potential customers are looking for expertise. Blogging offers an easy way to convey your stature as a key thought leader in your industry. And those customers are likely to tell their cohorts about their new source of expertise.
  2. Blogging gives your company a voice – As an extension of building the perception of expertise, blogging enables you to position your organization. It also provides a channel to talk about services or products your company offers, the latest industry news, and upcoming events.
  3. Blogging allows you to begin conversations with potential customers – Marketers are always looking for ways to speed up the sales cycle. A blog gets that relationship started by increasing online activity. Companies that blog generate 55 percent more website visitors, 97 percent more inbound links, and 434 percent more indexed pages. In addition, 7 of 10 businesses believe blogging has led to an improvement in their lead generation success.
  4. Blogging on a consistent schedule builds a library of content to share across other social networks – Your social media audience is looking for valuable content. By pushing blog posts through these channels, you’re pulling people back to your company site and encouraging your network to share your blog posts with their extended networks as well.
  5. Blogging improves search rankings (SEO) – The more you blog, the more often Google will recognize the value of your content in its overall algorithms. As long as the content is of high quality, your ranking will improve.

Blogging is here to stay. More than one-third of companies now use blogs for marketing purposes, and those companies that do blog receive 55 percent more website traffic than companies that don’t. More traffic leads to more opportunities for sales. For the small business owner, ignoring the value of blogging as a marketing tool is a poor business decision.

Does your company need assistance creating a blog and putting together a content marketing strategy? If you are planning an upcoming web design or website development project, don’t forget to include a business blog.  Marketpath can help get you started. Contact us at our Indianapolis office today!

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Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites

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When discussing website strategy, everyone likes to discuss visibility and conversion, but for many small business websites, generating credibility may be the most important factor in your online success. Your website is the new yellow pages for any small business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your company and what you do.
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