Whilst Google has declared it will not be rolling out any more core updates to its algorithm in 2020, it’s time to prepare for what stands to be a bit of a game changer to website rankings in 2021, with the introduction of the Page Experience core algorithm update.
In Google’s own words:
“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
“Make the web more delightful” is what really stands out here and as with previous big core algorithm updates such as BERT, Penguin and E.A.T, again, Google is placing emphasis on understanding the user and delivering them not only what they want, but what they will seemingly ‘delight’ in.
The page experience update was supposed to be pushed live in mid 2020 however, with the world pushed to the edge of sanity already, and with hundreds of businesses rushing to move their proposition online, they have decided to give us time to make sure we’re set.
So it seems that after many years of speculation, Google does have a heart when it comes to releasing algorithm updates.
This is what they said:
“A note on timing: We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of COVID-19. The ranking changes described in this post will not happen before next year, and we will provide at least six months' notice before they’re rolled out. We're providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.”
Source: Google May 28 2020
Google has given us due notice:
“Today we’re announcing that the page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021” (Nov 10 2020)
The clock is ticking and with this much lead time, you can bet that the penalties handed to websites that don’t meet the standards defined by Google, will be hit and hit hard.
So, what is this page experience update all about?
In May 2020, Google Chrome announced the new ‘Core Web Vitals’ that many of us picked up on when it was pushed live in Google Search Console. This new set of metrics aims to give site owners insights into the user experience of their website by tracking metrics such as page speed, responsiveness and visual stability.
Here are the main metrics now highlighted in Google Search Console:
As has long been the case, websites should aim to achieve an LCP (load time) of less than 2.5s
Google Pagespeed Insights tool has been around for a while and is the benchmark for checking your sites load speed. However there are many variables to take into account such as server and location, as well as the platform your website is hosted on.
It is important to bear in mind that different platforms have their limitations when it comes to page load times. For example, many custom sites will often score an average result in page speed insights, and this is fairly well documented and even the biggest brands out there (see Penguin below) who currently dominate search, struggle with poor site speed. There comes a point where a compromise is necessary because those custom sites that really do take into account user experience, often use several plugins and it is these plugins that will affect page load speeds. It will be interesting to see how these sites fare when the new update is rolled out.
It is absolutely worth getting your site speed as quick as possible now. However, it is widely recognised that some platforms’ websites run slower than others. For example, using several plugins on Shopify can have a negative impact on page load times. But this may be the same for your competitors. It is worth benchmarking your page speed compared to that of your competitors around you in the results for specific keywords, as well as against those who are a few pages beneath you, or above. This will give you an idea of whether you need to do in order to defend your position from a site speed perspective, or you can continue as you are with caution. Once the algorithm rolls out, see how rankings have changed and which sites are ranking top – what is their site speed compared to yours?
This is a metric to measure the load responsiveness of your web pages. It helps evaluate how a user will engage with pages that are unresponsive – a low FID shows that the page is usable. A low FID is considered anything less than 100ms.
Everyone has experienced websites that shift when you try and click a button and you end up checking out, or losing your basket, right at the crucial moment. The Cumulative Layout Shift check, assesses how much your content moves during load and as a user scrolls down a page, this is a direct check on the responsiveness of a website. The number to aim for is 0.1 or less.
Interactivity and stability are both areas that need to be looked at by developers. If your website is built using a template on a well-known platform (Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify), most of these areas should be ticked off. However, if you’ve gone down a more custom approach, you may run into some issues and it is worth getting your developers to have a look if any problems are being flagged.
Alongside these innocent-sounding tracking metrics (hmm?), Google is also including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS and non-intrusive interstitials as part of the latest ranking factor.
Increasingly users across all industries are using several sizes of screen a day to interact with content online and Google wants to ensure that websites are delivering their customers the best possible experience when they’re on the move, as well as when they’re at work or at home.
Google wants to drive users to websites that aren’t going to attack them, so it checks website to ensure that there are no potentially damaging downloadables or dangerous software. You can check your website to see if there are any suspected files in the Security Issues report.
Another factor that’s been on our minds for some time, but it remains equally important as it did when it was first introduced. Ensure your customers’ data is safe!
Hmm, this one is a topic for debate and whilst Google’s guidelines are clear, this can dramatically affect how people engage in websites. For example, many websites have country and language selector popups once you land on their website – this is within Google’s guidelines. What Google is trying to knuckle down on are those aggressive salesy ads and popups that frustrate users. The guidelines state that the size of the popup or interstitial is a key factor so this is one to watch. Read Google’s guidelines on interstitials for further clarification and we’ll be writing another article on this soon so sign up for update.
Don’t be too aggressive in pushing discounts and signups as soon as people land on your website. Give them time to browse and then move in with the more disruptive marketing tactics.
What’s more, as Google has done in the past, it suggests that it may even add icons in the search results that show what the experience of the page is like. As we know from previous trials they’ve run in the results, getting the nod from Google and having these icons displayed next to your listings will increase the click-through rates to your pages.
Covid has held the world in submission for the majority of 2020, and finding positives are few and far between. However, with the enforcement of national lockdowns, the shift to digital has accelerated and many businesses have been busy creating their digital platforms for the first time.
This is brilliant as even digital skeptics are reaping the benefits from their online offering and they will continue to do so once retail returns to normal.
As many are finding, the move to digital presents a steep learning curve and the competition to achieve visibility is often fierce, but people have been able to sustain their livelihoods and start generating incomes online in a year that is largely worth forgetting. Google has recognised this move to digital, and to speculate on Google’s feeling, they understand that many people are feeling slightly downtrodden owing to the current climate. As a result of this, or maybe by coincidence, this ‘grace period’ has given us all an opportunity to improve the way we sell online.
Feel free to get in touch with one of the Diffusion team if you have any questions about any of the above, we’re happy to help.
Digital marketing should already be an essential cog in your marketing machine because whether your goals are generating sales from your Ecommerce website, awareness for your brand or leads for the service you offer, in terms of cost-effectiveness, nothing does it better than digital marketing. Of course I would say that, and here is why….
If you’re still on the fence about whether to invest in digital marketing, this guide should give you a good understand of the origins of digital marketing, the channels available and which ones may be worth it for you. For those familiar with this, feel free to skip over to the trends section.
A lot has changed over the last year or two, with the rise in popularity of voice enabled devices, voice navigation becoming an increasingly used feature in mobile phones, as well as the rise of Internet of Things (IoT); the start of the year is a good time to brush up your digital marketing knowledge and set out a plan for the year ahead.
With so many choices of platform, devices and audiences, it is important to understand the features and benefits of each so you can take an informed decision about where to invest your marketing budget.
The Origins Of Digital Marketing
The term ‘digital marketing’ can be traced back to the early 1990’s when the Archie search engine was created. This indexed FTP files and worked alongside the huge stores of data that companies were collecting, allowing them to track customer information. The result was the ability to target a customer with more relevant marketing material and essentially was the beginning of modern digital marketing.
Competition and increased usage led to an increased use of digital matter which enabled the first clickable banner ad going live; as long ago as 1994. It could be argued that the success of this ad is what drove digital marketing forward. Estimates suggest 44% of the people who saw the ad clicked on it i.e. click-through rate (CTR). Sure, you could make the case that it yielded those high CTRs only because it was a relatively new concept but it was a good metric nevertheless.
Of course digital marketing really started to take off in the 2000’s when the internet started to become more commonplace and not just reserved for the tech-savvy amongst us.
Moreover, the introduction of mobile devices and other ways to access the internet on the move such as tablets (called Personal Digital Assistants back then), over the last 20 years, has driven increased growth and transformation of digital marketing.
Types Of Digital Marketing
There are several different ‘types’ of digital marketing, and by type we’re referring to how it is implemented and the platforms put to use.
Social Media Marketing
Even if you don’t use social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn to share information about your business and your products no doubt you’ve heard about advertising on it before. This is a great way to engage with potential customers and promote your products and in terms of maintaining brand loyalty, it is perhaps the most effective way of increasing and maintaining awareness for your business.
But, you do need to choose the right channel for your products / services. Each social media platform has its own features, use-cases and what it can deliver for your business, you just need to choose the one that best suits your objectives.
Not all that you publish as a business will be about sales and neither should it be. You need to publish a lot of useful and informative content online for people to engage with in order for them to find out about you, your services and what you could potentially do for their business. These are all important factors to most potential purchasers. Good quality content will pass on valuable information while engaging with the customer; it needs to be easy to read and appeal to your target audience.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the method by which you rank your page within the first few positions on the search results. You need to choose keywords that are relevant to your business i.e. those likely to generate leads or sales for you and then go about implementing a SEO strategy to promote the content and the website.
The key is to choose the right keywords for your business as this can make or break your SEO campaign.
To make things more complicated there are many different strategies within SEO that will have a huge effect on the campaign’s success.
Get in touch to find out how we can help with your digital marketing campaign
Search Engine Marketing is another way to ensure that you maintain visibility across the various search engines across paid for channels. The pricing models for SEM will vary from one channel to another.
For e.g., in Pay Per Click (PPC) Google is the undisputed leader. When it comes to display marketing aka impressions, which is how often a prospect sees your ad, Facebook leads the way.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Simply put, PPC marketing is when you pay each time someone clicks on your ad
Compared to SEM which is often based on impressions, PPC costs work on a click basis only and they are therefore generally more conducive if lead generation is your goal.
Another way in which you can increase the awareness for your business and generate more sales is to use affiliate marketing links. In short anyone can list a product that you’re selling on their own site. If they end up selling a product of yours you pay them something. Think of affiliates as your network of sales personnel.
The great thing about this approach is that there are no limits to the number of affiliate links you can have and you only pay out after a confirmed sale. This dramatically reduces any risks associated with online marketing campaigns.
The email has been a wonderful invention not just for personal communication everywhere but for marketing purposes too.
In terms of acquisition costs, few platforms can rival the cost-effectiveness of email marketing especially when you’re marketing out to a warm or hot list i.e. your previous or current customers and qualified prospects.
You can use email to market just about anything – a new product or service launch, an event or sale you’re having, updates about the company or simply to stay in top-of-mind of your customers.
The only caveat with email marketing is not to overdo it as it only takes a single click for your audience to have had enough and them abandoning your list.
It may seem old fashioned but advertising on the radio can still work very well for certain types of businesses and offering. A lot of people listen to the radio at some point during the day and often at times when their attention is undivided for example in the car or at work.
SMS messages sent directly to your phone is an established digital marketing technique and works very well for most B2C industries especially those in the restaurant trade and/or offering local services.
WhatsApp is often touted to be the next iteration of SMS marketing but hasn’t quite taken off fully yet but with Mark Zuckerberg planning on integrating Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook, hopefully this is going to be on the rise, giving businesses yet another way to interact with and market to potential customers.
Prospects For The Digital Landscape In 2019
The traditional way of carrying out digital marketing is via a single channel. This could be something as simple as telling your existing customers to invite their friends to support your business; you could even offer an incentive to ensure people take the right action.
Alternatively you can do what Facebook and several other firms do and invite all your friends for you; you’ve given them permission somewhere in the small print. This is still a single channel approach but a very effective one.
Although this method does still work, it is no longer as effective as an omni-channel approach which as the name suggests, you target users at multiple ‘touch points’ and at different times.
With the myriad of ways consumers now engage with content online, from different devices, starting and stopping and then starting the explorative journey again, building a marketing campaign across multiple channels will dramatically increase a campaigns potency and effectiveness in 2019.
The internet has swollen to such a size that all the digital marketing channels are being flooded by online businesses. In order for you to stand out from the crowd and reach those customers you need to hit all the channels possible.
The types of digital marketing discussed at the start of this guide are all important, but the key here is you can’t target just one of these channels; you need to be utilising as many of them as possible in order to ensure your business is seen and heard as often as possible. This will help to ensure you are the first one they think of when after your specific product; helping to ensure they buy through or from you.
In addition, there are certain trends that are likely to be prevalent all of 2019 so it helps for you to familiarise yourself with these.
Understanding & Utilising Voice Search
It is estimated that by 2020 half of all the searches done on the internet will be by voice search. Searching using voice commands is the natural progression of the smart home systems such as Alexa and Google Home, and the beauty of these devices is that you will be able to find information on what you need while completing other tasks. This is important as most people lead exceptionally hectic lives making anything that saves time a hugely desirable commodity.
This means that you should start thinking about optimising your site for voice searches in order to ensure you are at the top of the page rankings when searches that are displayed may be read out on these devices. This obviously depends on the products you sell as it is widely accepted that repeat buy items are benefited by voice search where as one-offs and unique things will generally remain as they are in terms of search strategy.
The good news is that the tactics you are currently using for SEO and content marketing are still very relevant. In essence the voice search is no different to a typed search the only difference being the length of the search query.
Your website, the amount of time it takes to load, it’s engagement (or lack of it) are all important factors too so here are some things you can do to improve it:
In order to rank high when a voice search is performed you need to have pages that load quickly. You should take a look at each page and remove unnecessary clutter, pieces of code that are weighing the site down, heavy images and anything else unnecessary. The faster your page loads the better.
If your site is not already on HTTPS then you need to incorporate it today! This is essential for SEO and so must be an essential part of your digital marketing campaign in 2019.
It is important to keep your answers short. Users are increasingly asking long questions but want short answers that can be easily digested on the move.
You should perform a voice search on some of your keywords regularly to see how high you rank and what pages are linked; this will help you to improve your marketing focus. It is important to remember that people will phrase the same question differently; you need to infer the intent of a question not the literal response.
Getting good quality of traffic to your website is only half the job. You need to make sure that the website is doing the best it can to convert those visitors. and , it doesn’t matter whether you have a Shopify powered website you use to generate sales or a WordPress site to generate leads leads – having an engaging website is a must.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) – The Facts
Most marketing people don’t like to think about the conversion rate; after all marketing is about making people aware of your brand and getting them to visit your site. However as wonderful as it would be to have 1 million followers this is not much use if none of them are purchasing your products.
You must consider how to maximise your conversion rates. Whilst there are several great guides on this subject online, this section is about giving you a basic understanding of CRO and making your website more ‘conversion-friendly’.
The first step is to establish where the majority of your customers are coming from. You’ll probably find that an increasing share is coming via mobile devices. If your site is not optimised for mobile devices then you are going to lose conversions; people need to be able to see all the relevant information without having to scroll left and right continuously.
Your site needs to look good on a mobile device, be fast and be exceptionally easy to navigate – this is where my friends in UX come in. The longer a visitor spends on the site the more likely they are to become a customer. Don’t forget that people do still access websites on laptops and desktops, the screens are different sizes and your page needs to adapt to all of these sizes effortlessly and instantly. If you have an eCommerce website then simple things like showing when an item is out of stock will help customers not to waste time and help prevent them from leaving your site annoyed.
It’s also a good idea to create several mock sites and test them for conversion rates. This can help you to find the design that works best for converting visitors into customers. You can then change your official site to match.
Another key point is to answer the question of “why should I buy from you?” This is actually more important than what you are selling! Once people have connected to you and believe in your brand you’ll be able to guide them through purchasing your product. You can do this by making it instantly very clear what you do and what your values are.
You can do this with a prominent image and simple slogan. Although it’s simple, it will improve your conversion rate.
Conversion optimisation is intricately linked with leverage funnels. This is actually true for many of your digital marketing strategies and the reason why it can appear so complicated. A leverage funnel is the process of gently guiding the customer from their first awareness of you down to their ultimate purchase.
Not every customer will complete all the stages, hence the potential customer numbers will diminish creating the effect of a standard funnel. Getting this process right will help to ensure the maximum number of visitors possible will end up purchasing from your site.
The first stage is to identify the need. You’ve made the product but you need to let everyone know that they need it. This can be achieved through content marketing, SEO and social media, by illustrating your product and demonstrating its value, you’ll create a need for it.
Next you need to proceed to the second stage of the funnel, this is where potential customers will search for information regarding the product they now know they need. 70% of people will use a search engine to find out more info; you need to have your keyword orientated content ready to help them realise that you are offering the best product for their needs.
Stage three involves checking out the competition. This is when you need to have something unique on offer, whether it be an introductory discount or some other sweetener. If you’ve done these stages correctly the visitor will see your product as the logical choice and proceed to purchase.
At this stage you can attempt to up-sell a better version of your product or even use a down-sale to encourage the purchase. In addition you can link to other relevant products and increase your income via cross sales.
It is important to record the data from each customer, you will want to confirm the lifetime value of your best customers and offer them extra incentives as they past certain thresholds; this will help them to stay loyal.
People may tell you that content marketing is on the decline as more people use alternative ways to find the answers they need.
In fact the real threat to content marketing is the number of posts on the internet, all saying similar things. You need to design content that is unique, memorable and most of all, easy to read.
Content marketing remains one of the best ways to get your site established and known; with the right content and links you can build a good reputation. To do this you need to develop your content marketing plan today.
As mentioned all content should be original but it should also be relevant to the visitor. It can be difficult to make content personal but it is important as this will increase your conversion numbers.
Alongside this, some links to local and even national leaders of your industry will help to establish your reputation and advocate your brand. This will help you to get the visitors and conversions you need to stay competitive in 2019.
You probably won’t find it surprising to learn that video content is becoming increasingly popular. Videos can help a subject to seem more entertaining as well as allowing potential customers to feel like they are connecting with a real person in a more interactive and visual way.
Videos need to be short and informative but they are also a great way of showcasing a specific product. However, remember it’s a video so you need to treat it like a mini-film and create a storyline that shows the value of a product without needing to feature the product too much.
This will appeal to the emotional side of a potential buyer and increase your conversion rate. Don’t forget many visitors will only stay on your site for approximately 10 seconds; your video needs to get straight to the point!
If you can get someone to forget reality for a minute and make them laugh then your video is sure to gain more traction. Tagging it across different channels as much as possible will help it to be seen which in turn will increase the likelihood of it turning up in organic results.
Finally consider adding podcasts to your digital marketing strategy. A whopping 45% of podcast listeners have a household income above $75,000; that’s a lucrative market you want to be accessing.
A podcast can be listened to in the car, while working, cooking or even when doing the gardening. This means people can be finding out more about what you have to offer when they wouldn’t normally have the time to be surfing the internet.
The great thing about a podcast is that your latest podcast will be made available, via applications such as iTunes, without you needing to do anything. Your customers can access you without any effort and all you need is a script and somewhere to record it; the script doesn’t even have to be rigid.
You can also add advertisements into your podcast breaks which are surprisingly effective at creating sales.
The Bottom Line
Digital marketing in 2019 is set to become even more competitive as more and more businesses began to abandon traditional forms of advertising in favour of going digital.
Looking at the types of marketing in this article and the trends that are likely to prevail in 2019 can leave you feeling a little disorientated; but it doesn’t have to. By creating a plan you can tackle each of these elements one step at a time; ultimately creating and applying the perfect digital marketing plan for 2019. Of course, if you’re unsure in any way or need some extra guidance then you can simply ask for the advice and support you need.
It’s great to have someone there to help you, try us out today to see just how much we can benefit you!
Those words were uttered by the famous Peter Drucker during the direct marketing days and well before digital marketing became omnipresent. However, his quote is perhaps now even more relevant (anyone try to measure the success of a leaflet drop campaign?).
Google Ads can be an invaluable Pay Per Click (PPC) tool to help your business generate more leads and sales and one of the reason for its ubiquitous presence is just how well it can work when you know what you’re doing.
However, the very reason that has made it so popular is also the same reason it has made it an incredibly competitive digital marketing channel and a very easy way to lose money if you can’t accurately track how well your PPC campaign is paying off.
Enter conversion tracking.
Conversion tracking is the section of Google Ads which allows you to create goals and events which basically tracks every possible conversion action on your website.
Ultimately you want to track not just the obvious conversion action such as a sale but also secondary call-to-actions such as enquiries, downloading a promo code, newsletter signups and others applicable to your business as many times, secondary/sub goals could, in fact, turn into your primary one(s).
The benefits of having conversion tracking in place should be self-explanatory but here are a few to motivate you:
Get qualitative data
Conversion tracking allows you to deep-dive into your campaign data and get various insights which you could use for other marketing efforts. For example, once you know which keywords are driving leads and sales and which ones simply result in tire-kickers, you can use this valuable piece of information when formulating your SEO strategy.
As importantly, you can begin fine-tuning your campaign, lowering your bids or pausing nonperforming keywords altogether focusing as much as possible on the keywords likely to positively impact your bottom line.
Another example is getting to understand your audience and buying habits better. For example, by looking at your conversions on a device-level, you can get insights such as what device your customers use to buy from and then lowering your bids on devices that are least profitable.
Sell more! Ultimately, the purpose of a Google Ads campaign for most small businesses is going to be sales (not brand awareness).
If you find that your Google Ads is working relatively well (think good Quality Scores, high click-through rates, low Cost Per Clicks) but it isn’t resulting in the expected ROI, there’s a good chance that your website or landing pages are the bottleneck.
By making improvements to the pages to which you’re directing your traffic, not only can you ultimately sell more but it would also have a positive long-term impact on all other digital marketing channels where you’re using the same landing pages.
Improve your marketing ROI
Whilst Google Ads is an incredibly effective source of lead-generation, your return from your ad spend will vary greatly depending on myriad factors such as how competitive your industry is, the quality and buyer-intent of your chosen keywords, how well your campaign is set up and much more.
By looking at your lead and sales acquisition costs on a channel basis, you can decide where your marketing budget is best spent and tweak your allocation accordingly.
Not only will it enable you to find out exactly how much you’re spending to acquire each customer through your Google Ads campaign but also help you make strategic decisions when deploying multiple marketing channels such as which one is more cost-effective and therefore to focus on more.
Hopefully, now that you’re convinced about the importance of conversion tracking here’s how to get started…..
Setting up Conversion Tracking
Ultimately, the Conversions view on your Google Ads should look like this, with multiple goals and events having been configured.
Head over to the Conversions section of your Google Ads
You’ll be presented with a range of options for setting up conversions. Unless you’re selling a mobile app, you will want to select the other ones.
If you already have goals set up in Google Analytics then click on the Import option and you will be able to import your GA goals into Google Ads without having to set them up again
For new installs, select the Website option and you will be able to all configure conversion actions that apply.
The Phone Calls tracking is an incredibly important and useful feature which allows you to track conversions that originated via the phone. Whilst this may be less important for eCommerce websites, it is a good idea to have all of these in place.
Head over to this guideon the official Google Ads website for more on how to set up conversion tracking via phone calls
Here’s a simple guide on what to enter as values when defining each conversion:
Head over to the eCommerce section on the admin section of your GA profile and enable eCommerce tracking.
In most cases, you won’t need to do much else and once you import these goals into your Google Ads campaign, you can even see exactly which products you sold, their total value, how much spent to generate that sale and a host of other KPIs.
TIP: Whilst you’re in GA, it’s a good idea to switch on eCommerce search tracking so you can also see what products your users are searching for.
For advanced marketers and eCommerce businesses, there are some other KPIs you may wish to track to get a more insightful view into your campaign performance and ROI:
Conversion by traffic source: Where are your converting customers coming from? Once you combine this with the cost per acquisition of each sale, you can use this data to determine where you should be investing in driving traffic
Conversion of new vs. returning visitors: Segment conversions of new visitors vs. returning visitors. Conversions for returning visitors are traditionally higher.
Secondary conversion to first: By looking at conversions by each call-to-actions, you can determine how valuable secondary conversion actions are (e.g. what % of newsletter signups convert into a sale ultimately)
Profit: What remains after you subtract the cost of running the store and all marketing expenses (don’t forget to take into account what you pay your eCommerce marketing agency)?
And, that sums up how to set up conversion tracking.
As always, if you need help at any stage or want to know how to setup Google Adss or conversion tracking for your own site, feel free to get in touch with Diffusion Digital and we’ll be happy to help.
The website design and development racket is a tricky field to navigate.
If you find yourself in search of web design agencies, it’s sometimes hard to tell the wood from the trees in terms of differentiating between the good and the bad.
The aim of this blog is to give you a few pointers on why it’s worth your while getting professionals to design and develop your website.
#1 How hard can it be? I’ll do it myself for a fraction of the price
Don’t get me wrong many people have successfully designed, developed and launched their own websites using one of the well-known platforms such as WordPress or Wix.
But, have they created something that truly reflects their brand or business? Well I’d bet that 99% of ‘self-built’ websites entirely misrepresent their brand/business or simply don’t do it justice.
A website is often the first place a prospective new client will look – the importance of making a good first impression is essential in building trust, driving conversion and encouraging advocacy.
#2 Due-diligence whether it’s a new business or an upgrade – don’t go rogue
So, you’ve made the right choice and realised what’s best for your business.
You must be careful though. As in every industry, especially overcrowded ones, there are those who have your best interests at heart, and then there are the crooks.
Owing to how diluted the industry is, the web design and development space is littered with people trying to exploit other peoples ignorance and make a quick buck and whilst most agencies in question provide a similar service offering to one-another, it’s up to you to differentiate between them all.
It’s important to try and choose an agency that will take as much pride in the client’s business and brand, as the client themselves.
This is obviously easier said than done but finding a team with enthusiasm for not only their work, but also their clients, will ensure a positive outcome further down the line.
An obvious place you can check this is in their case studies. If there aren’t beautiful examples of past work proudly placed on a pedestal on the agency’s website, alarm bells should be ringing.
When it comes to costs, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and somewhere down the line you’ll end up in losing out either financially or being lumped with a mediocre, under-whelming website.
Always bear in mind the number of different elements it takes to build a good website – design, UX, development and SEO. Each are very specific skills that people spend years honing and as such you expect to pay!
So, save your time and don’t engage with any company who quote significantly less than all the other quotes that you have received.
Especially in regard to SMEs and start-ups, budgets can be restrictive, but, considering the importance of a website plays on client’s first impressions, every effort should be made to make them as well-crafted as they can be.
Websites are often more expensive than people think but when youtake into account the expertise you are getting for your money, the juice is worth the squeeze.
75% of user judgment about your business’s credibility is based on your website’s design
University of Surrey
People are often taken aback by the costs of building a custom website. Whilst these costs are usually fair, the agency should provide fairly comprehensive breakdowns demonstrating how they are arriving at the forecasted costs, including an idea of additional development and post build costs should they be needed.
Getting several quotes from different agencies should give you a good idea of a ballpark figure you should expect to pay.
Whilst there are some very intuitive platforms out there that can walk you through every step to building an intuitive and responsive website for relatively little money, the chances of you creating a website that best reflects your business is hard with off the shelf templates. What’s more; by using the standard themes offered by the likes of WordPress and Shopify, it’s likely that your website will end up looking similar if not identical to someone else’s and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s in a businesses interest to stand out from the crowd, not mix about in it.
#4 Forming Lasting Relationships
Digital professionals helping ambitious brands thrive online.
This is the mantra at the core of Diffusion Digital’s ethos and fundamentally lays out our driving force, and, in danger of sounding self-righteous, it’s one that every digital agency should pursue.
I say ‘pursue’ because – owing to evolving environments, demographics and products, to name but a few – this process is changes with the times and we must adapt with it. Having an agency aboard throughout will make your life easier in the long run.
Agencies should demonstrate that they take genuine pride in the websites they help craft. They should take the time to truly understand what the brand or business stands for and the client’s objectives or vision into the future, as well as Key Performance Indicators.
When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts, and talents come together… expect a masterpiece
#5 Sit back and watch your business/brand evolve online
The beauty of using an agency is that you should expect all bases to be covered.
Magento, WordPress, Kentico, Salesforce, Shopify are just a few of the platforms that people host their websites on and which one to use depends on your business. Engaging the correct platform from the outset is critical to all businesses moving forward in terms of functionality abd scaling the business in the future.
It is essential to involve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the earliest stages of a website build. Creating keyword optimised landing pages will help Google recognise what your business is and subsequently, with an ongoing content strategy, high quality organic traffic will be driven to your site.
Clever custom animations
Being able to customise apps and other integrations is essential to truly bringing a brand to life online. Agencies make it their mission to tweak existing apps to best fit the profile of the business they are working for. This allows entirely bespoke interactions that will truly enhance the appearance and performance of the site.
Seamless user experience
Creating a site that is easy to navigate, with intuitive integrations and that’s pleasing both visibly as well as practically is a crucial part of attracting engaging and retaining visitors to a site.
Increasingly people use a variety of devices to access the internet making it essential to develop a website that transitions seamlessly from one device to another.
#6 Key considerations
Does this agency have the right expertise?
The agency doesn’t necessarily have to be old but it is worth checking the experience of the team who is going to be working on your account. It has been known that experienced people will be in the discovery stages in order to win the brief and subsequently pass the account onto less able juniors. Whilst this is great in teaching other people skills, it might not be ideal in terms of building your website.
Does this agency offer all of the services I require?
Where possible find an agency where all departments — SEO, Development, UX, Copy Writing to name but a few — are housed under one roof. In terms of simplicity, efficiency and ease of communication this is far better than working with agencies who sub-contact elements out to people who might be based on the other side of the world
Is my business important to them?
Find people who care. If it is a small project don’t go to a big agency because they might not assign the same amount of time as they do to other projects.
How many people will be working on my account?
This will vary throughout the build. Expect all sections to be involved during the initial discovery stages but once designs and strategies have been laid down the teams will work individually on the sections that are relevant to them before passing it onto the next to complete theres.
Who will be my main contact?
Ensure clear lines of communication are set up and you know who you speak to directly should you need to
What am I paying for?
You are paying for a team of experts in their respective fields to help bring your business to life on line. In a world where digital is taking over a little more each day, it is essential that we keep up with the times and by creating a beautiful website you will extend your reach enormously.
Do you like and trust them?
This isn’t just an agency who you need to help you in the short term. These individuals are going to be dealing with something which is incredibly important to you and as such you need to not only to like them, but more importantly trust them. You need to be able to look at them and tell that they are going to treat your baby – so to speak – with the upmost respect. Essentially a website design agency becomes intimately involved in the development of your brand/business and as such you need to see that they care.
Are they asking the right questions?
The agency should develop a deep understanding of the business and how it works during the initial discovery stage, this should also look into key performance indicators and future targets.
Are they able to provide testimonials and examples of work?
Whilst the agency doesn’t necessarily have to be too old, it is important that at least a few of the people who work there have considerable experience working in the industry. This can be tested by looking at the testimonials on both the individual as well as the work they have done.
Ultimately what you ant to ask yourself is whether or not you will form a good relationship with the agency and especially the team who are going to be working on your account.
Contact with an agency rarely ends after the build is complete and usually an agency will offer retainer packages to manage a website into the future. Moreover finding an agency who offers on-going SEO and content marketing retainer strategies that will help drive high quality organic traffic to your site.
It is easy to become weighed down by indigestible attempts to explain these common queries, particularly the ones about cats. In this weeks blog we are hoping to redress the balance and answer a selection of the most common questions about WordPress from all corners of the digital expanse.
Let me make it clear, we are not trumpet blowers here, this will be an honest view of some of the positives as well as – and arguably more importantly – the negatives associated with using WordPress as your springboard to a successful future online.
So, let’s kick off with an easy one….
1) What are Diffusion Digital’s top 5 plugins for 2018?
Tricky to narrow down but here are some that we use across most of our website builds.
Any business owner, on or offline, needs to have exceptional organisational skills if they want to scale up their business, and they are going to need even greater skills to stay there.
WP ERP is a powerful plugin that aids hman resource management, customer relations management and accounting. These three pillars are key to supporting a scaling business and dramatically brighten up what is normally an incredibly mundane and time-consuming job.
For those of you looking to cross borders and go global, having a Multilanguage option on your site is crucial to attracting and retaining new customers. Now, no translation software is perfect and even the best leave a little to be desired, but the Multilanguage plugin is up there with the best. The plugin works across pages, posts, widgets, menus, custom post types and taxonomies, allowing the user to easily switch to one of the 80+ languages the plugin offers.
It’s all very well have a beautiful site with unrivalled content, but if you don’t reach your target audience what’s the point? From shyest blogger to the multi national businesses, there will agree there’s very little point in having a website that doesn’t try to reach out to people.
Yoast SEO walks you through all of the steps you need to boost your search engine ranking. From keyword suggestions to content insights to internal linking suggestions to many many more; this powerful tool will dramatically increase your reach and in turn, will bring more quality leads to the site which ultimately will increase conversion.
As an eCommerce specialist it would be remiss of me not to one of the most powerful plugin that will transform your WordPress site into a fully functioning transactional platform.
The WooCommerce WordPress plugin is responsible for driving around 30% of online stores. Like in most things, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys and whilst the free version of the plugin gives you basic functionality, the premium version comes with the really useful stuff including one-page checkout, cart abandonment emails amongst hundreds of others.
Anything with ‘advanced’ and ‘pro’ in the title is either overcompensating or genuinely worth its weight in gold. In this case, the latter springs true.
Advanced Custom Fields Pro enables developers to build extra fields into the backend of your WordPress site that enhances repeatable blocks, page building layouts, intuitive galleries, custom settings and reusable fields. This will allow you to optimise the way your content can be consumed, as opposed to being constrained by an off the shelf template.
Price: $25AUD Personal, $100AUD Developer
With 55,000 other plugins out there, this list could ramble on longer than one of the Mad Hatter’s riddles, but it does bring me neatly onto my next point.
There are substantial differences between the two and it is important that you kick off your online presence on the right foot. Fundamentally the main and most obvious difference is that WordPress.org is free. Whilst this might be useful for the hobby blogger, it leaves a lot to be desired if you are looking at taking a more professional approach.
On the one hand wordpress.org provides a free, open source, downloadable version of the software, which you must install yourself, choose a suitable hosting provider and between the two of you, you are responsible for your WordPress installation and management, including backups; upgrades and site security. If you are the person blogging about your cat (or one of the people – I hear this is quite a popular topic?) this might not be an issue as it is unlikely that anything too drastic will happen if for some reason the site goes down (I suspect I am in danger of treading on a few cat lovers’ toes here…. No offence intended!).
On the other hand, WordPress.com offers you a range of off-the-shelf, ready to use Software as a Service (SaaS), basic and premium plans. These versions are fully hosted, all backups are taken care of and security updates and upgrades are handled for you. Whilst it is free initially, premium services are obviously paid for and prices range from £36/year for a partially customised blogging platform, to £240/year for the business plan, which allows you to fully customise your site and install third-party plugins.
There are over 55,000 plugins available on WordPress and it can quickly feel like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole — I perhaps could have phrased that better, apologies Alice — into Wonderland when you start searching for the best plugins with which to optimise your site. But although it can be quite complicated, if you are really after a site that will reflect your brand or business online, these plugins are essential.
Sticking with the subject of plugins, here are some that would broaden the Cheshire cat’s already pretty broad grin…. (Tenuous link – I think Alice in Wonderland is this weeks theme – I couldn’t tell you why. How many references can you find?)
3) How do I secure my WordPress site from rogue plugins?
Fundamentally WordPress is a very secure platform. However, owing to the open source nature of the site, you take the risk of opening up your site to hackers who like to exploit poor coding or out of date software. However, the vorpal sword is always nearby to fight them off and there are many means by which you can mitigate risk. Here is a list of common issues with plugins.
Website Security Breaches.
Beware the hackers my son! The jaws that bite the claws that snatch… (hmmmmm, not sure if Carroll will be too happy with this one – or any of them for that matter.)
Hackers will use plugins as a means of gaining entryto your website with potentially catastrophic consequences in terms of your business or data security. The reality is not as dark as I make out here and there are several security plugins that you can install to put yourself in the strongest position in staving off attacks.
Furthermore, simply by backing up your website regularly you can ensure that should an attack take place you can quickly restore your website to working condition.
Keeping your plugins updated, or by removing them if they are not being used, will slam the door on hackers looking to exploit weaknesses in your site.
Site performance and page speed.
In terms of retaining and converting visitors to your site, page-loading times are critical. The more plugins you have installed could mean reduced website performance as each plugin requires more code to be read and understood by the browser. Installing a caching plugin like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache can help prevent this problem by reducing the processing load on your server which can dramatically enhance performance by increasing your site speed.
A potential further issue is that some plugins are not compatible with one another which can cause problems with page loading times and as a worse case scenario entire website failure.
The reliability of plugins can also be called into question. Reliability can be effected by poor code quality, discontinued products, slow or rare updates, poor support infrastructure and at the most basic level; the complexity of the plugin.
Ensuring all of your plugins are up to date or those that you are no longer using, removed altogether, can reduce reliability issues.
The following is a selection of recommendations that will help prevent you becoming as foul-mouthed as Alice’s nemesis; the Queen of Hearts:
‘Too many plugins’ is not an issue; poorly coded ones are, so due-diligence is essential.
Research the developer – does the WordPress community respect them?
Look for plugins with 4/5 star reviews
What is the new plugin going to add to your website? Will it help or hinder UX?
Are there detailed tutorials/guidelines on how to use the plugin?
How often is the plugin updated? How many times has it been downloaded? A trustworthy plugin will be regularly updated.
4) Can a WordPress blog make money?
The simple answer to this question is yes.
However, if you’re thinking of get rich quick then you should probably start looking elsewhere.
WordPress’s roots are deeply set in the blogging world, whilst it has developed into a different beast altogether, fundamentally it’s area where people can share ideas to an audience who cares.
As with many other digital platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — one of the biggest opportunities to make money is through marketing. But this is not as easy as it seems and requires a huge amount of skill. Essentially, generating an income through blogging largely revolves around building a large following who companies can target.
How can I generate a large following I hear you ask. Well, again, the answer is simple but the reality is a little trickier. Ultimately you have to be able to write regular, quality and sharable content that retains a strong readership over a long period of time. Once you have this readership in place you can look to ways of monetising it.
The following is a list of a few ways to monetise a blog:
Linking to other websites using tracking links (PPC/CPM)
Allow Google to present ads on your site. (PPC/CPM)
WordPress Ad plugin
Allow people to directly place ads across your site.
Be paid to write articles on behalf of a company or business
Restricted ‘Members Only’ content
Restrict access to special features – video, podcasts etc
Create a directory/job board
Find a niche and map it, making it a useful resource for companies/businesses.
Of course there are other ways like selling products through eCommerce, or becoming a WordPress developer – as WordPress developers ourselves we’d rather you chose something else though!
When you sign up to WordPress you will be issued with a free address – for example; diffusiondigital.wordpress.com – however you can change this by signing up to a WordPress plan which will allow you to create a new address or import an existing one.
Essentially what you will be buying is a Domain Mapping Upgrade and whilst this sounds complicated, it isn’t. In layman’s terms, this upgrade means directing anyaddress.com to your anyaddress.wordpress.com site. Basically – your visitors will see your site hosted on wordpress.com although anyaddress.com continues to be the visible address.
Ultimately WordPress is like the Hatter’s tea party. It hosts all sorts of different businesses and brands and brings them together around a common platform. (Still tenuous?!)
7) How does a WordPress website work?
Many people look at a WordPress with fear as if it some kind of savage beast whiffling through the tulgey wood. They hear expressions like open-source or code or pluggin and terror strikes them down. But fear not. Boiled down to the bear essentials it is quite simple.
If you don’t like slightly technical stuff fear not because nor do I. I am going to attempt to translate this to the point that my grandmother will understand and she is still struggling with the electric telephone.
So, without further ado….
WordPress is what is known as an open source platform which means everyone has access to its code (essentially what any computer programme is written in) and can manipulate it in order to make new plugins or features.
Since its conception as a blogging platform in 2007, thanks to the army of developers who have been able to access and adapt the code, it has evolved into the world-leading platform that it is today.
Having access to the source code means that developers are able to make plugins (or…addins, add-ins, addons, add-ons or extensions), which are software components that add specific features to a webpage. For example if you want to have an image slider that enables the user to be able to slide through an image library across the screen, then there is a plugin for that. The same goes for drop down menus, accordion style FAQs, parallax scrolling. In fact there are over 55,000 plugins that will allow you to completely fit out your website so that it truly reflects your brand or business, as opposed to having to work to a template design.
8) Will WordPress Die and what happens if it does?
I admit this one surprised me a little bit as well but sure enough, ‘will WordPress die?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions in Google on WordPress. So it would be negligent of me no to give it a look in.
WordPress is a juggernaut and only some sort of herculean miracle will see it taken over and I suspect it will rule the digital CMS roost for decades to come.
9) How do WordPress permalinks work?
We’re in danger of slipping into the technical abyss with this one but I shall try and keep it simple.
Permalinks are the permanent URLs of your blog posts, service pages or product pages of your WordPress site. Essentially it is through these that the digital world can identify what is on the page in question, and allows them to share what ever it is you have been producing.
People use your permalink to point to content on your website
You’d use your permalink to share your content across social media
Google uses permalinks to help index your content
If you want to a webpage in an email you would drop in a permalink
So, as you can see they are quite important to the structure of your website and attention must be paid to them if you’re trying to increase your quality exposure.
The problem with WordPress is that the default permalinks are not very digestible for humans and Search Engine Spiders alike.
Fortunately you can change them (this needs to be done when you build your website as once you change these URLs, all pre-existing links will become defunct).
By going into the backend or ‘admin’ side of WordPress and going to ‘settings’ and then ‘permalinks’, you can select how to set your default permalinks using date/time, plain or the best as far as I’m concerned: ‘Post Name’.
Each time you place a Google search you are essentially asking for a recommended list of websites relevant to the nature of your search. To be able to serve up these recommended results Google has to crawl billions of web pages, determine their purpose, rate their quality and then rank them within its index.
As of 2017 there are at least 200 known factors that influence this ranking process. Here are some of the main factors that influence how Google rates the content on your website.
Your content needs to be original and distinct from similar content available elsewhere online; otherwise it runs the risk of being flagged as duplicate content.
A common misconception of duplicate content is that Google will punish you with a penalty, but if that were the case wouldn’t there only be one recipe for pancakes available online?
Instead, Google will simply rank the page it considers to be the best quality and the duplicates of it will be given less weight in the search results.
Correct Use of Heading Tags
Heading tags, commonly known as H tags, are used to break apart content into a logical hierarchy – much like the contents section in a book.
Google uses these tags to follow the structure of your content and understand which parts are more important or relevant than others.
As a general rule of thumb the main title of your page should be a H1 and your content should be broken up using H2 subheadings.
H3’s and H4’s can then be used for less important subheadings, such as titling separate columns of links within your footer.
Where possible your H tags should include words and phrases related to the subject of your page.
Minimum Word Count of 300 Words
Google uses an algorithm called Panda to find websites with thin content – generally accepted to be pages with less than 2-300 words of unique content.
Any less than this and you run the risk of ranking lower than more in-depth pages due to your content being too short to offer any significant value to a searcher.
Worse still, if thin content pages on your website are very similar in terms of style and layout, they could potentially be mistaken for duplicates of each other.
Image ALT Tags
Visually impaired users often use devices known as screen readers to describe the contents of a web page to them as they browse.
The screen reader is able to dictate text to the user, but is unable to ‘see’ images like a human would, relying instead on an alternative text description (alt text) being added to describe the image.
Google looks favourably on pages that cater to visually impaired users as it shows that the website cares about the experience of all its users.
The internet is like a popularity contest where each link placed to another website is considered to be a vote of confidence in their favour.
The more people that link to your website, the higher your domain authority will be. This authority is generally accepted to be a score of how well a website is doing – because if your website was that bad why would anyone be linking to it?
If you are placing links within your content to other websites, it’s worth making sure that you are happy to be associating yourself with them.
Additionally it’s important to make sure that none of your external links are broken as this can imply that your content is outdated or poorly researched.
So in Conclusion
If you want to get the best possible results with your content then always write original, engaging and useful material.
If you get that right then you’ll keep both your visitors and the Google bot happy.