Does anyone actually need a website anymore? Should we be adding websites and website designers to the endangered species list? That is a question that has been recently asked by Michael Duff in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
It is an interesting question that all website design companies should ask themselves. At Rake Mark Solutions in Stafford we have considered this and the arguments of Mr Duff and have concluded that all businesses and organisations will benefit from a carefully considered web presence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the presence must be a website.
Alternatives to Traditional Websites
Mr Duff claims that in all cases, barring those involving very large corporations and e-commerce applications, a business website in the traditional sense (three static pages that can only be updated by a web design professional) can and should be replaced by a blog or a social media application (like Facebook). When you examine these two options the case is not as clear as it might first seem
Facebook: An Alternative to a Traditional Website?
Five years ago you wouldn’t have said Facebook, you would have said use MySpace, which is now essentially a dinosaur in its own right (big, lumbering and soon to be extinct). So who is to say that the new open source social networking platform won’t overtake Facebook in time to come? Mr Duff argues that you could simply move your content across from the old to the new, but that is not as simple as it may first seem.
Also, what would happen to your Google Ranking? Would you suddenly find that all the hard work you had put in over the last five years is suddenly undone? Would you even rank in the first place, probably not? So as a primary web presence Facebook, MySpace, Buzz, take your pick, none of them will replace a traditional website as an effective web presence.
Blogging Software Options
You could use blogging software (for example, WordPress) that you host yourself or you could sign up to blogger.com or a similar service. Blogger.com is restrictive in what you can do. You are using someone else’s website and trying to make it look like it’s your website.
Using blogging software like WordPress gives you a really simple content management system where you can keep your website fresh and exciting without having to pay anyone to make the updates. It’s customisable so you really can make it look like your own site and for a very modest fee.
Other alternatives are a variation on a theme. A Content Management System is a website that you can update yourself, but doesn’t WordPress allow you to do that? Of course it does. DotNetNuke or Joomla (two very powerful content management systems) would be a good way to keep your content fresh but would be expensive to set up and would require a web developer’s skill set to use effectively.
Whatever Website Option You Choose, Keep it Fresh
The three page static site is not going to be effective long term but it is still an option for smaller businesses that simply need an online business card with a customer contact form. Updates can be implemented for a modest fee and if the information isn’t going to change very often then where is the issue. A local plumber isn’t going to need an events section on his site. He’s not going to want to add plumbing tutorials to boost his page rank.
For businesses who have the will to update their content regularly (and they are not massively common in the small business sector), then WordPress can be in many cases adapted to fit the bill It’s blogging software, but it won’t look like a blog in the same way that signing up to blogger.com would. Really, what you are looking at is a content management system that uses blogging software.
Whatever you decide, your online presence needs to exciting, inviting and be kept up to date to be effective. The same content sitting on your site for months on end won’t win you much business. So keep it fresh, but remember, it’s still a website.
The web is no longer the future, it is the expected business norm. Your website is a commodity, a cost of doing business. In the same way as electricity and a telephone service is simply something your business needs and this is how a company website is now viewed. If a customer asked for your phone number and you didn’t have a phone then your business would lose an element of credibility. This is true for your business website.
On the flip side, in the same way as you expect a return on investment from your telephone via customers contacting you, arranging meetings and so on, you should also expect a return from your website. Essentially your website should boost your business. Often times a company website does not deliver a return on the investment that justifies the expense
Stafford Website Design Company Guarantees Their Website Solutions
Many website design companies in Stafford and across the West Midlands will make claims as to the success they have and this can offer a reassurance to an organisation looking to secure the services of a website design company. One innovative company in Stafford has found an alternative to purely discussing the successes of projects passed. They have unveiled a guarantee scheme to ensure that promises made are kept and that if a customer is not happy with the outcome of their website design project then the customer can claim a full refund.
Over the Moon Happy With Your Website
Sarah Brassington, Managing Director at Rake Mark Website Design in Stafford said today, ‘We know that we can deliver, so offering a guarantee is a simple concept for us. We have looked for other companies who offer a satisfaction guarantee and we have so far found none.’ The guarantee is designed to give new customers piece of mind and trust that they will get what they paid for with no nasty surprises.
Rake Mark are a website design and online marketing company in Stafford who serve the West Midlands. Rake Mark has been commissioned for projects involving a diverse range of clients from smaller local businesses to Premier League Football Clubs. Sarah Brassington established her own website design company in Stafford in 2006.
Sarah told us, ‘It’s simple, if you’re not over the moon happy with your new website design, if you’re not 100% delighted with the results then we will give you your money back, in full.’
In my previous article ‘Social Media Marketing, planning your way to success’, I touched on social media marketing methods that you could implement on a free basis and how enlisting a little help from a few professionals may improve you success, but what we didn’t discuss was your Social Media Marketing Strategy.
More and more businesses are realizing that social media is an extremely effective way of marketing your products, services and the ability and importance of using social media to build brand awareness.
A couple of things that you must remember while creating your strategy is the importance of Community – this helps build belonging and trust within your social network. Flexibility – your Strategy is not set in stone. If you need to change it (which you will) don’t feel that you are back to square one – you’re not, you’re improving and building a solid platform from where you can most effectively work.
With that in mind here are my 5 Tips to creating an effective Social Media Marketing Strategy.
Don’t over stretch yourself
Twitter, facebook, linkedin, buzz, digit, myspace, bebo …………… do I really need to go on?
To run and maintain an effective Social Media Marketing campaign you need to research your social media tool of choice (depending on your market placement) and focus on your chosen few. If you try to be the master of all, you will fail gloriously.
Out with the Old, in with that new?
Defiantly NOT! The great thing about Social media marketing is that you can totally combine more than one method of marketing your wears. Let your clients/potential clients see the colorful advert you placed in the local newspaper, they either know you already (and they feel a sense of community and belonging) or when you send them a offer through the post/email they will have seen you before and there will be a element of trust already present.
Create campaigns that complement each other, that way it doesn’t look spamy sending out the same message all the time but you benefit from the exposure.
Shout load and clear
Small to medium businesses can be very loyal to other local businesses so make sure that you take full advantage of local listings (most of them are free) including Google’s own Local business listings. Don’t forget to submit your website to all major search engines, my previous article may help.
Don’t be afraid of colour
The well known phase “A picture is worth a thousand words” isn’t just a phrase, in this case it is absolutely true. If your news topic, article subject or product can be complemented or even enhanced by the use of either a simple image or perhaps a “How to” video then use it.
The use of images and videos (some product related others friendly/silly) can break down possible barriers and make your company appear friendly, approachable and show that you care about your company and more importantly your customers.
Ultimately your social media marketing will only be successful if used correctly. Make sure that you are updating, announcing, commenting and spreading the good word of your work. You can and should have multiple people inputting and influencing your social media efforts; however one and only one can be truly responsible for making sure the job is done. Assign this to someone, or even split the tasks between a few people/departments but make sure that everyone knows there roll.
Hope it helps …. comments, feedback is always welcome and if you have any question do not hesitate to contact us
Word Count – 574
Other blogs might give you a list of five important search engine optimisation factors or seven SEO mistakes. Some may even have ten things to remember when selecting your top search keywords. Well, I’m going to boil it down into one simple vital SEO fact.
To me, this is the essence of SEO
Google only wants to serve the most relevant search engine results pages (SERPS) for any given keyword. Therefore it follows that to get to get to the top of Google you need to create the best, most interesting, up to date website that puts interesting, unique and relevant information easily into the palms of the hands of Google searchers.
That’s it, the only thing you need to remember
Is There More than that to SEO?
SEO Companies in Stafford and across the West Midlands talk about loads more stuff than that one simple two sentence statement. They talk about the importance of keyword selection, site structure, on page optimisation, inbound links and a load of other stuff. Are they all SEO charlatans? Well, not all SEO companies in the West Midlands are.
The thing is all of those considerations will help your SEO endeavours but they should be used to help you achieve your goal of providing the best website in tune with letting Google know what a great site you have and not as a shortcut to SEO Black Hat glory.
Why Not Use SEO Shortcuts?
There are an absolute stack of SEO techniques that can help you climb the rankings on Google, Yahoo and even Bing and other search engines, so why not use SEO black hat techniques. The reason is simple and as follows
1. Google wants to provide the best, most relevant web pages for any given search term. That is why they are the biggest, because they were the first to put that goal at the heart of their business. Advertising came after that.
2. Google hire the best and the brightest minds from around the world. We are talking super bright, super nerds.
3. They ask these teams of super bright people to look for new black hat techniques and write new code into the ranking algorithm that removes them. Believe me when I tell you that your little SEO guy in Solihull, regardless of any claims or promises he may make, cannot outwit the Google web spam team long term.
4. Google is a multibillion dollar, multinational organisation. They are not stupid. Think about it, how useful would Google be as a web search tool if anyone could get to the number one spot just by putting their chosen keyword loads and loads of times on a page. Answer: Not Very.
So your clever black hat technique might work for a while, but sooner or later (and probably sooner) someone at Google will realise what you’re doing and write in a line of code and your site is gone from Google with no notice, forever.
Build Your Brilliant Website for SEO Glory
So learn the rules of how to promote your website to Google. Learn about the importance of selecting target keywords, site structure, back links and content optimisation. Learn also about black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, hidden text, doorway pages and link spam and work out how Google will spot them and why you shouldn’t use them.
But always remember the one simple self evident truth that Google wants to provide the best page for any given search term and your goal should be to provide that site.
A Sample Boycott Bingo Card
I’ve posted before about my love of cricket and the fun it brings beyond the simple enjoyment of the game. The humour really is tea and scone English. One of the commentators is Geoffry Boycott who (for those unfamiliar with cricket) is an opiniated Yorkshire man and former England Captain. When commentating he will often use phrases unique to him like, ‘I could have hit that with a stick of celery’ or (when a simple catch is dropped) ‘Me Auntie could have caught that in her nightie’. Its all a bit ‘Cricket nerdy’ and increadibly juvinille but quintessentially English.
On the live text on the BBC webiste (I’m too busy to watch six hours a day on telly) a discussion has started for Boycott Bingo. The nature of the game is to take your ‘Bingo Card’ (see sample image) and listen out for your Boycott to use a phrase that’s on your card. Once you have heard all the phrases on your card then your would should ‘house’ or ‘six’ or for those who remember desktop Richie then your might shout ‘Gottim’ (use an Australian accent for that one).
Writing a great survey is pivotal to getting useful and meaningful results that you can use to gain a greater understanding of your market – which is in the end why we are putting a survey in the field in the first place.
Taking extra special care to be mindful towards the respondents of your survey, respecting boundaries and being grateful for their valuable time is a must when building a list of qualified respondents.
In Part one we talked about the basic elements needed when writing a survey, here are survey writing considerations I like to call ‘fine tuning’:
Allow your Respondents to add comments and feedback (possibly prompted) this way they will feel assured that their point has been put across completely and will feel an increase sense of achievement and is more likely to complete one of your surveys again.
TIME IS A FACTOR
Keep your survey as short as you possibly can. Remember your objective, think about what your survey is design to achieve and create a list of questions that can achieve it. Continue to break your list down until you have a survey of as few questions as possible. In addition to this be honest with your Respondents, just them an accurate time that it will take to complete – Provide a progress bar – your Respondents will appreciate knowing how far they’ve gone into your survey. This will create a smaller dropout rate.
WELL SHOULD I COMPLETE YOUR SURVEY AGAIN?
People hate surveys and ingrained in us is a mindset that stops most people completing them. To get round this it might be a good idea to offer and incentive for your respondents for participating.
WE ALL LIKE TO BE APPRECIATED
Remember at the end of each survey to thank the respondents for their time. Everyone likes to be seen as valuable and regardless wether your survey was 3 questions or 25 it has been a commitment of time on their part so make sure your respondents get the feeling of appreciation from you.
SIMPLE BUT VITAL TO A SUCCESSFUL SURVEY
Before publishing the survey proof read the survey several times and when you feel you are totally sure, check it again!
Well that’s pretty much it I think … if you have any questions or contributions to the topic please feel free to comment or email us.
Word count : 406
According to a recent study from Regus Global, small businesses are having greater success with social media marketing than larger companies. According to the study 44% of SMEs have acquired new customers by successfully utilising social media over only 28% of large companies.
Mark Dixon, Regus CEO said, “Our global survey has revealed that social networking has finally become an effective business tool, and SMEs are leading the way in this. Small businesses are successfully acquiring new customers, supporting their retention efforts and interacting with customer groups."
With the global recession many companies have limited marketing budgets, but social media can be the answer they are looking for as time is the main ingredient required in this recipe for success. The tools required are free to use and information to help small businesses with social media marketing is abundant on the internet. So it’s little surprise that there are over 700,000 small businesses with fan pages on Facebook and small businesses are having the greatest success with social media marketing.
Do you have a Success Story?
If you have a social media marketing success story, then email it to email@example.com and we will publish some of them on the Rake Mark Blog.
If you would like to start your own Facebook page and don’t know where to start then Rake Mark can help. We offer website design and social media marketing in Stafford and across the West Midlands, so either email Sarah or call us on 01785 256 222.
43% of business owners are ‘highly dependent’ on their web designer to make changes to their website for them, according to a recent survey from Fasthosts. On top of this 56% said that they were ‘incapable of making changes to their website without expert assistance. 60% of respondents didn’t even have the contact details or passwords for the web host and did not have access to their company’s property.
Keep Control of Your Website
Keeping control of your website is vital in case there is an issue with your website designer in the future. In the study, 60% didn’t even have access to their passwords or FTP details to access their website should the worst happen. Steve Holford of Fasthosts said "Should arrangements suddenly change business owners should be equipped to make changes to their online identity and maintain contact with their online audience. The web designers we work with always recommend that clients at least keep a back-up copy of their website design,"
Rake Mark Website Design, a website company in Stafford provide a control panel if requested so you can access your website code and make a copy, but Rake Mark keep a copy of their customers’ websites for them.
Easy Website Design Changes & Website Updates
The Rake Mark web portal application allows the business owner, or any of his nominated team, to make simple website changes without any expert website design knowledge. Phil Brassington, Technical Lead on the Web Portal Project said, ‘The whole idea behind the Rake Mark Web Portal is that anyone who can use a computer can use the Web Portal and take control of their website, making targeted updates when they want them in a simple to use interface.’
Mr Brassington was asked how easy it would be for a non technical user to use the Web Portal to update their website, Mr Brassington continued, ‘If you can use Microsoft Word or any other word processing application then you can easily follow the online guides and update your own website with Rake Mark’s Portal Application.’
You can find out more about Rake Mark’s Web Portal Application at the Rake Mark Website or you can call us on 01785 256 222 to have a friendly chat about updating your website design.
While some of you will have been marketing your business way longer than the ‘Social Media’ age, elements such as twitter, blogging, forums and general social networking should be in it from the start and part of your business plan – resists the temptation to skip this step because while some of the activities are free to set up, there may be a beneficial twist that adds cost that you haven’t accounted for.
In the main, social media activities are free to step-up and relatively simple to implement however areas you may need to consider when taking on the Social Media Marketing world is what’s free and what has an associated cost.
Blogging – is available in a free format however often is quite restrictive on things like the url/web link. You may want to use your own Domain name (which has an associated cost). Free blogging account also has a limited amount of what we call themes (look and feel). If you have specific ideas on how you want your blog to look and feel you may wish to budget for a developer to write a theme specifically for you.
Also a consideration is content for your blog. Never underestimate the time and skill factor of blogging. If your blog is primarily a marketing work horse, you may need to consider copy writer to ensure you maximise the search engine ranking potential of your blog, this will obviously add an element of cost to your strategy.
Twitter & Facebook – at the moment totally free setup, however if you need branding (it to have your colours, logos, etc) it might be worth asking a professional company to do this for you. Also don’t forget about the time investment needed to make this beneficial to your plan.
Marketing your Marketing – sounds mad I know but you want as many interested parties as possible looking at, following, reading and forwarding your blogging and micro-blogging as possible. Sending out a newsletter (hard copy or electronic) will add cost. Updating your website to include and encourage followers and subscribers will carry an additional charge.
Monitoring – as always, with any marketing strategy……… if it isn’t working, Stop! Monitoring your Social Media Marketing efforts is a must. As far as blogging goes something like Google Analytics is a great idea and it’s free but endless you can manage this yourself it may add an unexpected cost. However you will be glad to know that both twitter and Facebook come with feedback and actively monitoring options.
In this blog article we have only just scratched the service of the kinds of tools to be used as part of your strategy but it probably gives you a good idea of where your budget will be spent.