With a website, you have the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and offer them your products and services. A well-designed website can turn your vision into reality, improve business prospects, and enhance the online experience of your customers and followers. 

However, a poorly designed one can do serious damage to your business. Here are some of the worst website design fails and how you can avoid them. 

1. Design Is Not Mobile Friendly

If a user has to zoom in to read your content, he would rather click out and visit your competitor’s website. 

According to a study conducted by Google, 72% of Internet users prefer to visit a website that’s mobile-friendly. In the same survey, 61% of respondents said they would abandon the search if the website is NOT mobile-friendly. 

Put simply, a mobile-friendly website is one where the design is set up properly on a variety of devices regardless of screen size. Some features such as drop-down menus aren’t available because they’re hard to use on a mobile device but generally, the website is usable and convenient to use. 

2. Weak CTAs

A Call-to-Action (CTA) is exactly what it means: What type of action do you want your website visitors to take? If your CTA comes across as weak, unsure, and indecisive, the website visitor will NOT take action. 

We get it. You might be worried that the visitor might find you “overbearing”, “aggressive”, or “pushy”. 

Here’s the thing: there’s a reason they clicked on your URL. Likewise, they’ll make a decision to stay or go within 7 seconds. You need a strong, beefed-up CTA to push the visitor in the direction you want them to go. 

Here are 4 tips on how to come up with a strong CTA:

  • Be clear and direct; what do you want them to do? “Buy Now!”, “Sign Up”, “Join Our Team”.
  • Let the visitors know the CTA is clickable.
  • Choose a color that’s eye-catching and enticing. 
  • The CTA button must be large enough to be easily seen. 

How many CTAs can a website have? You can have multiple CTAs on your website and they’ll be effective as long as you follow the 4 tips we just discussed.

3. Prioritizing Form Over Function 

We love it when our clients are excited about having their first website! Part of the Mountaintop Web Design process is to sit down with the client and listen to their ideas. Among the most popular design ideas we get from our clients are as follows:

  • “Let’s set up an explainer video on the home page.”
  • “I think a moving slide will look cool.”

These are all good ideas and will certainly present a new visual for visitors – but they can slow down your website and potentially distract them from your value proposition. 

Instead of having an explainer video embedded on the home page, we suggest embedding a link to a video from the client’s YouTube channel. 

By linking your YouTube channel, you don’t use up more server space and slow down your site. We can even create a “carousel” whereby the visitor can click a video from your library. 

A moving slide will look cool but it can also distract the website visitor from your value proposition. 

When a visitor lands on your home page, he’s immediately on search mode: “Why am I here?”. The visitor is looking for your value proposition – “What are you about?”, “How can you help me?”

From our experience, it’s always a good idea to keep everything static on your home page. 

4. Poor Website Speed

In the previous section, we discussed how an embedded video can slow down your website. For Internet searchers, nothing is more frustrating than a website that takes forever to load. And on the Internet, forever means under 3 seconds

What happens if your website doesn’t load fast enough? According to surveys, 40% of site visitors will click out if they can’t access the content in 3 seconds or less. 

What factors could be slowing down your website loading time?

  • Images aren’t optimized for size and format.
  • The website has a lot of flash content which is good to make your site interactive but its files are too large. 
  • The website has too many ads. We’re sure many of our readers have experienced this with their favorite websites. 
  • Poor, unreliable web hosting service.
  • Technical issues that are best handled by the developer such as unclean coding, not using enough caching techniques, and problems with Javascript.

You can easily run a speed test on your website. A good tool is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It’s simple and easy to use and you get results right away. PageSpeed Insights will give recommendations but the best course of action is to talk to your web designer – or us! 

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5. Crowded Design

It’s 2:30 pm, you’ve just come out of a 4-hour meeting, missed lunch, and are really hungry. You head off to the nearest restaurant. The waiter hands you a one-page menu with 221 selections. 

Now, you’re not sure if the migraine was triggered by hunger or the confusing menu.

The key to having a website that gets the job done is having one that gets the message across right away. You don’t have much time to hook the website visitor. If you have too many things happening on your web page, you’ll confuse your site visitors and ultimately, they’ll just leave.

  • Design should drive the message or value proposition of your website.
  • Keep it simple, not distracting.
  • Make use of white spaces to give design elements more substance and depth.

Having all the bells and whistles doesn’t mean you’ll have a good, effective, result-producing website. In most cases, simple design does the trick.

6. Hard to Navigate

When you’re thinking about web design, you have to think like a site visitor. How would you want the experience to be? Of course, you would want to have everything laid out in a way that makes it easy to navigate around your website. 

If your website is hard to navigate, your visitors will get frustrated and click out right away. Always keep in mind that people go to a website to fulfill a need. If they can’t find what they’re looking for in seconds, they’ll leave and click on another website. 

Here are 3 tips on how to improve site navigation:

  • Think of your website as a supermarket. How would you lay it out that customers – especially the new ones – can find the items they’re looking for? Your menu bar should be visible with the web pages properly described and organized. 
  • Each page should make it easy for the visitor to return to the home page. Some visitors might not be aware that they click on the logo to get back. If yours isn’t programmed this way, include a link that states “Back to Home”. 
  • Take the time to check the links and buttons on your web pages and make sure they work. 

A website that is highly navigable will keep visitors coming back. You’ll have a better chance of getting leads. 

7. Fonts Are Hard to Read

Font style is an important factor in web design. If the site visitor has a hard time reading your content, he’ll leave your website. Remember that most people will be accessing your website with a mobile device. 

How do you choose the right font for your website?

  • Style of Font – What’s your website about? Your style of font should fit the purpose of your website. Of course, you can’t go wrong with classic font styles such as Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, and Cambria. 
  • Size of the Font – Your text must be large enough to make it visible and not cause eye strain. Depending on the choice of font style, size 16 should be fine. The headings and subheadings must have slightly larger font sizes. 
  • Font Color – Headings and subheadings have to be bold-faced but the rest of the text must still be readable. We’ve come across web pages whereby the text for the main body is almost grey which makes it hard to read.

You can use more than one font style but don’t exceed three types of font. 

8. Poor Color Choices

Your choice of color is just as important as your choice of font styling although for a different reason. If your choice of font style impacts user experience, your choice of color influences the identity of your brand. 

How do you choose the right color or colors for your website?

  • Consult the Color Wheel – Psychologists believe colors have a way of influencing a person’s behavior and ability to make decisions. For example, the color Yellow supposedly encourages people to buy. The Color Wheel is an illustration that depicts the relationship between different colors and their various hues. 

Whether there’s truth to the Color Theory, choose colors that are associated with your industry or type of business. If you’re in Information Technology, blue is ideal for you. In contrast, those in the food business might be better off with orange or red. 

  • Refer to Your Brand or Logo – What are the colors used in your business logo? It would be a good idea to carry those colors over to your website for consistency in branding. 

We suggest choosing no more than 2 colors for your website. As we briefly touched on in #5 “Crowded Design”, make use of white spaces to add more depth and substance to the page’s design elements.

9. Text-Heavy Pages

Would you explore a website where the pages feature wall-to-wall text? People go to websites to read the content but again, the text must be easy to read. 

If you notice in this article, the paragraphs are limited to no more than 3 sentences and hardly exceed 4 lines of text. We did this to use white spaces to make each paragraph more readable and easy to scroll down on a mobile device.

Also, we want to break up each paragraph according to the main idea to maintain better continuity of the article’s context. 

Lastly, we recommend using more images than text on your pages because people tend to respond better to visuals

10. No SSL Certificates

We saved the best for last. 

People are wary of visiting websites that don’t have SSL certificates. According to a survey, 92.3% of browsing time is spent on websites that are covered by SSL Certificates. 

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This is an encryption program that protects data from getting stolen when it’s transmitted from browser to server. It used to be the case that only eCommerce websites were required to have SSL certificates. 

Google has expanded SSL coverage as a must for all types of websites. Failure to do so will result in the dreaded “Not Secure” or slashed padlock icon branding from the Internet’s biggest search engine. 

If your website isn’t covered by SSL Certificates – get them now. That’s our CTA for you! They’re inexpensive, can boost your branding, and are easy to install. We can do this for you in no time at all. 

Conclusion

The good thing about having a website is that it’s easy to redesign. And depending on the extent of the redesign, it might not cost much. For sure, redesigning a website is more affordable than redesigning a brick-and-mortar store.

If your website isn’t achieving its goals, a redesign might be in order. As you have read in this article, even the smallest oversights in design can have major repercussions on your website’s ability to deliver results. 

Give us a call or an email if you’re thinking about having your website redesigned. We’ll do a quick audit and present our findings and recommendations to you. Since you’ve already invested in a website, we suggest that we move forward to make sure it pays out dividends.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, feel free to share it with your community.

If you applied the 5 money-making tips we discussed in part 1 and have seen good results, get ready to level up your efforts with 5 more eCommerce success tips that can keep your checkout counter busy and buzzing year-round. 

1. Present Social Proof

When you go to a restaurant and ask the waiter, “Is the food here good?” what do you think the waiter will say? 

Of course, the waiter will say “Yes” and in fact, he might exaggerate a bit and say “Our food is the best you’ll ever have in your life!” The question is will you believe him? 

It’s a given that you’ll claim your products and services are the best on the Internet. Some will believe you, some will think it’s a self-serving statement, while others won’t. 

The bottom line is your claims can’t be quantified. However, you can qualify or validate them with social proof. 

Social proof is an opinion expressed by someone that influences the behavior of others. The official term for social proof in Psychology is “Normative Social Influence” which expresses the belief that people will conform to the conveyed opinion in order to be liked or accepted by the influencer. 

If the rate of cart abandonment on your eCommerce site is quite high, incorporating social proof might reduce the number of foregone purchases. 

Here are 2 examples of social proof:

  • Customer Testimonials 

A testimonial is a powerful statement because it is voluntarily given and vouches for the quality of your product or service. Customers don’t give out testimonials for average-quality products. They reserve it for purchases that exceed expectations. 

The same can be said about testimonials from influencers. Yes, influencers are usually paid to issue testimonials but they have a reputation to protect. They just won’t accept arrangements to give testimonials unless they’re convinced the product is deserving of their endorsement.

  • Product Reviews 

In-depth and highly detailed product descriptions are great but adding product reviews to the mix makes for a combination that can keep your checkout counter busy. 

Product reviews are effective because shoppers use them to compare with other brands and be more assured of their purchasing decisions. A survey has shown that 82% of customers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by product reviews. 

Another benefit of collecting product reviews is that they can give you valuable insights into how your customers view your products. Create a summary of all the complaints, issues, and concerns that are shared by the end-user and immediately address the items in the top 3. 

For example, if there are frequent complaints about the durability of your product, take it up with the manufacturer. Then, respond to the comments and assure them that you’ve taken steps to improve the quality of the item. 

2. Create Definitive CTA Buttons

When clients come to us to run an audit on their website and find out why it isn’t converting visits into sales, one of the culprits that we identify from the get-go is a weak Call-to-Action. 

A Call-to-Action or CTA is a command that you are relaying to the website visitor. It should answer the question “Okay, I’m here on your website. What do you want me to do next?” 

The visitor landed on your homepage presumably because he was interested in what he read about your website on the search results page, your social media posts or perhaps he was referred by an existing customer. 

Now that you have his attention, you should get him to do what you want him to do – definitively, conclusively, no “ifs” or “buts”

  • Buy Now
  • Click Now
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletter
  • Click For Your FREE Ebook
  • Sign Up for a FREE Trial Period
  • Book Your Schedule

Weak CTAs include “Find Out How”, “Contact Us to Find Out More”, and “Get More Clients” are weak CTAs because they leave the visitor with more questions than answers. 

You can have more than one CTA per web page but they must all be clear on the action that you want the visitors to take.

3. Your eCommerce Website Must Be User-Friendly

According to a study by Statista, there were 4.28 billion unique visitors to the Internet in 2020. This means that 90% of searches online were made from a mobile device. 

If a potential customer is having a hard time viewing or accessing your eCommerce website from his smartphone, you’ll be leaving money on the table. The first step to having a user-friendly eCommerce website is to make sure it’s mobile responsive.

What are the main qualities of a mobile-responsive website?

  • Fast Download Time 

Buyers don’t want to be kept waiting. A study conducted by Google showed that for most websites, 53% of visitors will only wait for 3 seconds before they decide to click out and go to your competitor. 

However, another study revealed that visitors might stay as long as 15 seconds before they decide to leave or explore the pages further. 

Based on our research and experience, these types of visitors who tend to be a bit more patient are those who go to eCommerce websites. The reason is that shoppers want to spend time on research. They’ll go over your product descriptions and testimonials if any. 

The bottom line is to make sure that your eCommerce website can download before 15 seconds is up.  Have your site audited frequently so you can identify the issues that could be slowing it down and have them addressed right away.

  • No Downtime 

Nothing is more annoying to customers than clicking on a URL and instead of a homepage, they’re greeted with the following message:

“We are presently undergoing maintenance services to address technical issues with our servers. Please bear with the inconvenience as we’ll try to do our best to resolve the problems and have the website off and running in an hour.”

While shoppers might forgive you, downtime translates to one thing.

No sales. 

In addition, you won’t be able to access your emails. 

We always advise our clients to take the time when it comes to choosing their web host service providers. Yes, the price point must be a consideration but there are other factors you should consider such as level of security, reviews, availability of customer support services, and backup services. 

To help you find the right web host services provider, read our article “How to Choose Your Web Host”

  • Multiple Payment Options

Giving your eCommerce shoppers more payment options will push them toward making a purchase. 

Trust us when we say, shoppers will be looking for more than just credit cards, debit cards, or PayPal as payment options. Find out what your customers prefer. Do many use ApplePay? How about other platforms such as Google Pay, Stripe, or Square?

Again, having a money-making eCommerce website means creating a wonderful shopping experience for your customers.

  • Contact Information 

What’s so special about having complete contact information available? It shows you’re a legitimate business and alleviates fears that your eCommerce website is a fly-by-night operation. 

You’ll be surprised at how many shoppers run a due diligence check on the businesses that own the eCommerce website. Which pieces of contact information should be readily found by visitors?

  • Email addresses; including those of your designated contact people
  • Business address
  • Landline number
  • Toll-free number (if available)
  • Mobile phone number
  • Store location; including a map

Make sure to keep your contact information updated. If a customer finds himself in the wrong address because you didn’t indicate the new one, that will create a bad impression that could spread like wildfire on social media. 

4. Address Cart Abandonment Issues

Getting visitors to your website is one thing. Finding ways to get them to stay longer and explore your eCommerce store is another. And getting them to buy the items they put on their shopping cart is still another thing you have to be concerned about. 

The fact of the matter is cart abandonment is a serious problem for many eCommerce websites – even for the biggest players in online retail. Statistics show that 70% of eCommerce shoppers will abandon their cart after putting items in it. 

There are many reasons why shoppers abandon their carts. Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • Security concerns
  • Lack of payment options
  • Computation of taxes and final shipping costs significantly increased the cost of buying the item.
  • Not enough information about the product.
  • The visitor was asked to create a user account.
  • The checkout process felt tedious and time-consuming.
  • No or lack of return policy.

It’s also possible that the visitor was just browsing your website probably for research purposes. He might be comparing your products and costs with a competitor. 

Regardless of the reasons for cart abandonment, the problem can easily be addressed with 2 quick fixes.

  • Automatic Cart Abandonment Email – A cart abandonment email notifies a customer that he has left some items on his shopping cart. The purpose of the cart abandonment email is to generate engagement with the buyer.

It’s not intended to embarrass the buyer. In fact, the best cart abandonment emails inject humor in the copy. 

For example, if the buyer abandoned a shopping cart that carried supplements, the email could include the following message:

“You might get sick because you didn’t buy our vitamins! Please click on this link and proceed to the checkout counter. Let us know if you have questions about the product.”

  • Integrate a Chat Plug-in – Sometimes a buyer might abandon his cart because he had questions and nobody was there to assist him. Adding a chat plug-in is a simple and quick solution. 

If you have a Business Facebook page, you can add your FB Messenger chat plug-in to your website. This way, a person who has questions about a product can simply click on the Messenger chat box and converse with an agent.

5. Highlight Website Security

eCommerce sites account for 32.4% of attacks on websites every year and are the clear favorite target of cyber-criminals. Among the more popular attacks launched on eCommerce sites include eSkimming, Attack Bots, Cross-site scripting, SQL Injection, and installation of malware.

Shoppers are well aware of the threats they face when they go online. You have to assure your eCommerce site visitors that your website is a safe place to shop. Here are our 3 tips on how to secure your eCommerce website and entice visitors to shop. 

  • SSL Certificates – Secure Sockets Layer certificates are used to protect information from being stolen by cyber-criminals. 

Google has made SSL certificates a ranking factor and if yours doesn’t have these certificates, your URL will be preceded by an image of a padlock with the slash mark across it. 

In addition, the words “Not Secure” will appear before your URL. Would you explore an eCommerce site that says “Not Secure”? Neither will your customer. 

  • Authentication Processes – Many websites include a dual-authentication process whereby the site user has to undergo “tests” to prove his intentions for visiting are legitimate and not malicious. 

A good example would be the Captcha test. The site visitor will be asked to answer a few questions or perform tasks to prove he’s human. It only takes a few seconds to complete and many shoppers won’t mind going through them to be assured of their safety.

  • Frequently Update Security Programs – If your web developer installed a number of top-end security programs, don’t get comfortable. Make sure your website security programs are regularly updated and improved upon. 

Do you have programs and plug-ins installed that you no longer use? Remove or update these apps. Outdated apps and those that are barely used need to be updated every few months. Otherwise, the cybercriminals will use them to get inside your eCommerce website.

Cyber-criminals launch hundreds of thousands of attacks every day. Online shoppers are aware of this. You need to assure your visitors that your eCommerce site is a safe place to shop at. 

Conclusion

With the ongoing concerns regarding the pandemic, people will continue to shop at online stores. There will be opportunities for you to turn your eCommerce website into a money-making machine if you cover all the bases we discussed in this two-part article.

If you’re thinking about setting up an eCommerce website, give us a call. Let’s arrange a meeting via Zoom or whatever online video conferencing platform you prefer and we’ll map out the plans for your first online store. 

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And if your eCommerce website is having problems generating consistent income, allow us to have a look at it. We’re sure it’s nothing we can’t fix.

Feel free to share this article as well as part 1 with your friends. 

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about digital marketing in 2020, it’s time to get off it and start your digital strategy in 2021. Investing in digital marketing is no longer a question of “If” and “Why”, but rather, “When” and “How”. 

For your business to succeed in 2021 and beyond, you must invest in digital marketing. It could be the difference-maker that sets you apart from your competitors.

How The New Normal Changed The Marketing Game

By now, you are well aware of the benefits of Digital Marketing and its advantages over traditional marketing channels. If you need a refresher, you can read our article, “Why Small Businesses Need Digital Marketing Now More Than Ever”.

Many businesses have some type of digital marketing strategy. There are businesses that might be focused on social media marketing via Facebook. Others might have a content marketing strategy such as weekly blogging combined with social media marketing. 

Certainly, some type of digital marketing strategy is better than nothing. But to get the most out of your efforts, you have to plan out a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that identifies goals; short, medium, and long-term objectives, maps out the execution, as well as potential pain points. 

The marketing game has changed because of the global pandemic. In the time of the new normal, with all the restrictions plus the continued threat of infections, the playing field has moved to the Internet. 

7 Reasons Why Digital Marketing Will Be The Difference Maker In Business In 2021

In the new normal, consumers aren’t only influenced by online content – they’re now dependent on it to get things done in life and work. 

Although vaccines are slowly becoming available, these are still largely in the experimental stages. Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to mutate. Early reports have shown that the vaccines haven’t been completely effective against the new variants. 

This means people will continue to prefer to work or study from home. Businesses will continue to keep their onsite workforce down to 30% to 50% and maintain a remote team of telecommuters, freelancers, or virtual assistants. 

With the global economy evolving into an online economy, digital marketing is no longer an option. 

It’s a must.

1. The Digital Landscape is Wide Open

The global lockdowns affected many businesses but mostly those engaged in industries such as travel, manufacturing, construction, and real estate where close contact with people is highly possible. 

Because of the economic losses, the immediate course of action of business was to cut back on spending. Digital marketing was one of the casualties of the cost-cutting program because site traffic in many industries was significantly lower. 

Having fewer competitors in the industry means the digital landscape is wide open. Your target market is still out there.  They’re still searching for information that’s relevant to their needs. 

This is an opportunity for you to get their attention and drive their interest in your website. Instead of pulling back on your Digital Marketing strategy, go hard!

  • Blog more often; aim for the magic number of 11 to 16 blogs per month.
  • Add another social media platform to your social media marketing toolbox.
  • Focus on video-based content.
  • Add testimonials to your home page.
  • Get more personal with your customers through email marketing.
  • Go for a website redesign to give your visitors a new and improved experience. 

While your competitors are nursing their wounds, invest in Digital Marketing and capture the market they have left behind.

2. Social Media Will Play a More Prominent Role 

Social media played a prominent role when the pandemic began. The results of the Harris Poll taken during the period of March to May 2020 showed that 51% of Americans spent more time on social media when states were in lockdown mode. 

Social media will continue to play a prominent role in 2021 and beyond as people have continued to depend on these platforms for updates and the latest news. 

Facebook remains the number one social media platform for news even though the network has been criticized for its failure to curtail the distribution of fake news. 

It will be a good idea to increase your social media activity as people spend more time on these social networks.  

How often should you post?

The latest studies show that posting 1 to 2 times per day on Facebook is optimal for getting good results on your social media marketing strategy. If you post more than 1 to 2 times per day, your followers might find your content spammy.

Instead of increasing the number of posts on Facebook, distribute your content on other popular social media channels such as YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

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3. Digital Marketing Will Reduce Costs

Marketing is an important function of running a business. To stay top-of-mind, you have to actively push content to your audience. Compared to traditional forms of marketing, digital marketing is more affordable for a number of reasons:

  • Setting up social media accounts is free of charge.
  • Setting up local business pages carries no cost.
  • Your content can reach a wider audience.
  • Your content is reusable; simply update and re-post after a few months. 
  • No need to publish hard copies on paper.  

If your business has been struggling financially, digital marketing will allow you to continue creating and publishing content without breaking the bank. 

Learn more about digital marketing on a budget by reading our article, “How To Set Up A Low Budget But Highly Effective Digital Marketing Campaign”.

4. Get High ROI on Your Marketing Efforts

The characteristic that makes digital marketing better than traditional marketing is measurability. You can track the performance of your digital marketing campaign while it’s running through the use of onsite and offsite analytics. 

Analytics gives you key insights on your digital marketing campaign:

  • Where are my followers coming from?
  • What are the demographics of my fan base?
  • What types of content do my readers engage with?
  • How long does a site visitor stay on my page?
  • What are the best hours to post content?
  • Which social media channel is generating the best results?
  • How do my visitors access my website?

With the ready availability of data, you will be able to fine-tune your campaign,  maximize your budget, and generate higher ROI on your efforts.

5. E-commerce is GROWING

E-commerce has been on a growth trajectory since 2014. The global pandemic put the growth of e-commerce at warp speed. 

A study conducted by IBM estimates that the global pandemic accelerated the growth of e-commerce by 5 years. Brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States experienced a sales contraction of 60% while online retailers saw a growth spurt of 20% in 2020. 

If your business is not yet online – the good news is that it’s not too late to get started. 

The first step is to set up a website. Give us a call and we can set one up for you that’s mobile-responsive, fully optimized, fast, and fully functional. 

Next, we’ll design, develop, and implement a customized digital marketing strategy for your business. A strategy composed of processes that will drive more traffic to your website and generate more sales despite the continued threats of lockdowns. 

Keep in mind that even with the availability of vaccines, the virus will continue to mutate. The vaccine might not be effective against the new strain and a lockdown might be imposed. 

As this scenario remains present, having a digital presence is the best way to protect your business.

6. Build Strong Relationships With Your Customers

Did you know that the cost of generating new sales from existing customers is lower compared to new customers? 

This makes perfect sense because if a customer is happy with your service, he will continue to patronize your business. On the other hand, a customer who is unhappy with your service will go to your competitors.

Thus, to make more money, you need excellent customer service. We can describe excellent customer service in 2 words: Relationship Building. 

Digital marketing provides you with a number of tools to help build stronger relationships with your customers. 

  • Social Media – Let’s not overlook the “social” aspect of social media. To have an effective social media campaign, you have to engage your followers. 
  • Chat Messaging – Chat messaging services such as Messenger allows you to directly communicate with your customers and give them personalized attention.
  • Email Marketing – Get inside your follower’s inbox and deliver personalized content that has value and relevance. Keep your customers happy by giving special deals and promotions that will help them save money and feel important at the same time. 
  • Blogging – Share your knowledge and expertise with your readers. Address their needs and concerns by creating useful content. Respond to all comments whether they’re negative or positive. 
  • Product Reviews – Encourage your customers to post reviews on your business page. Don’t be afraid of negative reviews. Look at negative reviews as opportunities to show others that you’re not sensitive to criticism and that you value the opinions of your customers. 

Having stronger relationships with customers is more important in 2021 because many people are experiencing financial difficulties. 

Sometimes sending them a simple newsletter with valuable tips such as “How to Cope With Quarantine” or “How to Stay Healthy and Fit Indoors” will be all that it takes to keep them happy. 

7. Your Competitors Are Investing in Digital Marketing

We can assure with 100% certainty that some or most of your competitors are investing in digital marketing in 2021. They see the new opportunities available on the Internet now that consumers are mostly based at home. 

If you don’t invest in digital marketing, you’ll be left behind by the competition. You will limit your streams of revenue. Your target market will view you as uncaring, outdated, and obsolete. 

If you want to remain competitive, then you have to invest in digital marketing. It should be a standard feature of your business development strategy not just for 2021, but for the years to come. 

Conclusion

A joint study conducted by the University of Washington and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that the United States which leads the world in vaccinations might never achieve herd immunity. 

You cannot wait for things to go back to normal. To survive and have the chance to thrive in the new normal, you have to adapt to the current economic conditions and implement strategies to keep your business moving forward. 

Digital marketing is a sustainable strategy that will keep your business growing, evolving, and adapting to the uncertainties in 2021 and the years ahead. 

Start your digital marketing strategy by giving us a call or an email. We’ll schedule a quick online call so we can take the first step to build a successful business in the new normal. 

And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community!

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to have your content more visible and searchable on the Internet. When your SEO efforts yield results that push your website up the search rankings, how do you give the Internet user a final nudge to visit your website?

Meta descriptions are a great way to reel in a potential customer to your website when your URL appears on the search results page. A well-crafted meta description can entice Internet users to visit your website over others – even if they are ranked higher than yours. 

What Is A Meta Description?

A meta description is a text – more of a snippet – that’s found below the URL and summarizes what the website is about. 

Here’s an example of a meta description:

If you launch a Google search query on your mobile phone using the keywords “digital marketing $100”, our URL for the article “How To Launch A $100 Digital Marketing Campaign” will appear on the first page of the SERP. 

Right below the URL, you will find the meta description explaining what the blog is about – how to launch a digital marketing campaign for $100. 

There are other URLs on the search results page. Which one will you click on? It would depend on the meta description. 

Your decision will be influenced by the meta description that best summarizes the points of the blog – the main discussion points that are relevant, useful, and address your current needs. 

For example, a meta description that includes contact information might generate more clicks than a URL without contact information because it makes the process of connecting with the business easier for the Internet user – even if those URLs are ranked higher than yours.

Therefore, meta descriptions can contribute to having an effective SEO strategy. 

6 Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Meta Descriptions

Please take note that Google has taken steps to rewrite as much as 70% of the meta descriptions of URLs that appear on its search results page. Such is not the case with other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. 

Still, 30% of your original meta description will remain unchanged. Even if your optimization strategies are not focused on Google searches, it will be worth your time to come up with effective meta descriptions.

Here are 6 mistakes that you have to avoid when writing your meta descriptions.

1. Writing Meta Descriptions That Are Either Too Long or Too Short

Consumers have a very short attention span. If your meta description can’t get an Internet user’s interest within 6 seconds, he’ll check out the next URL. A good rule to follow when writing meta descriptions is to stay within 120 characters for mobile devices and 160 characters for desktop users. 

Conversely, it’s not a good idea to make your meta descriptions so short that the Internet user does not get much information out of it. 

An effective meta description is one that hooks the reader right away. From the get-go, it should tell the reader what the article is about. 

In our sample of a meta description for Mountaintop Web Design, the reader is informed that the page he’s about to click will teach him how to create a digital marketing strategy for US$100 or less. 

When writing your meta description, focus on being concise. Highlight the main discussion points of the article and why the reader should click the URL. 

2. No Call-To-Action

As we mentioned in the introduction of this article, the meta description is supposed to “nudge” the Internet user to visit your website. You can do this by including a Call-To-Action or CTA.

A CTA is a command; what do you want your reader to do when he comes across your meta description? You only have a few seconds to trigger an action. What would you want that action to be?

Let’s assume you wrote a blog entitled “How to Lose Weight – Without Going On a Diet”. 

On the URL for this particular web page, you can write the following meta description:

Lose weight without the struggle. Download your FREE ebook on the tastiest and healthiest recipes now!

This type of meta description works for 2 reasons. One, it tells the reader that he can get an ebook of recipes for free. Two, the CTA commands – nudges – the reader to download the free ebook NOW by clicking on the URL. 

3. Meta Descriptions Have No Relevant Keywords

A meta description is a tool for optimizing your content and that means it will be more effective if the description includes high-ranking keywords. 

Think of a meta description as another location where you can expand the title of your blog. This time you can put in more detail to keep the reader interested in your content. 

Google and the other search engines still rely on keywords to index content. Your meta description must contain good quality, high-ranking keywords that are relevant to the topic. 

Similar to using keywords to optimize a blog, focus on relevance, usefulness, and engagement when choosing keywords for your meta description. For sure, Google will analyze your meta description for keywords and highlight the ones that best correspond to the search query of your audience. 

4. Overstuffing Meta Descriptions With Keywords

On the other hand, using too many keywords for your meta description or overstuffing will hinder your search ranking efforts. 

Keep in mind what we mentioned in #1 – stay within 120 to 160 characters for your meta description. How many keywords can you use for a description that’s 160 characters long? Not many.

Include the primary or main keyword in the description then support it with a few secondary keywords. The primary keyword is the keyword that you use for the title.

Stuffing the meta description with similar keywords will get the ire of the search engines, especially Google which is big on fresh and unique content.

5. Duplicate Meta Descriptions

A consequence of overstuffing the meta description with keywords is that it might create duplicate descriptions for other web pages. 

If you have other web pages with meta descriptions that have similar keywords you’ll get red-flagged by the search engines for having duplicate content. This will not be good for your efforts to climb up rankings on the search results page.

How does this happen? A web designer may have used a plug-in that automatically generates meta descriptions for the web pages and he forgets to check each one.  

A website does not have many pages. Take the time to review the meta descriptions with your web designer. If you have an SEO practitioner on board, ask him to review the meta descriptions.

6. Meta Description Is Inaccurate

It’s also possible that the meta description does not accurately summarize what the article is about. When this happens, the meta description is viewed as irrelevant, not useful, and not informative. 

Google may end up editing more than 70% of the meta description. What’s worse is that having an inaccurate meta description will have the search engines disregard your content and affect your chances of moving up the search rankings. 

Conclusion

If your current strategies – blogging, link building, email marketing, and social media marketing – are successfully pushing your website to the top of the search results page, the meta description could be the difference-maker.

Contrary to what you may have heard or read from the naysayers, meta descriptions still play an important role in optimizing your website.

When competing for market share, every advantage counts. The meta description may become the secret weapon that makes Internet users choose you over your competitors.

Let’s give your website a boost up the search rankings by giving it a meta description that does the job. Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll do a free assessment of your website.

And if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your community. 

Our team at Mountaintop Web Design just received some exciting news from Clutch Analyst, Jake Cox! He just called to let us know that internationally renowned B2B rating and review platform, Clutch, named us as one of Colorado’s top agencies for 2020, praising our web design!  We value when we’re recognized as a great investment for your business. According to Clutch, amongst all providers in Colorado, we’re consistently one of the best based on Clutch’s research!

“It is an absolute honor to have been selected as one of the top companies by Clutch. It is a great example of how the hard work we do for our clients pays off. I am proud of our team for making this happen.” -Josiah Bussing, CEO

Clutch is the world’s leading B2B ratings and verified reviews platform. Located in the heart of the District of Columbia, Clutch has a team of dedicated analysts who conducts reviews with clients from around the world. Then, their editorial team independently verifies the content and curates it into a case study style format, ensuring that you are receiving all the information that you need as you purchase B2B services! Clutch is the gold standard for B2B ratings and reviews, and we’re honored to maintain a stellar review average on the platform!

In a recent review, the Executive Director of Love INC praised our web development work!

We’re incredibly grateful to all of our satisfied clients! To join their ranks, please contact us today!

Informational websites exist primarily to communicate with visitors, as opposed to actively enabling transactions. While the material they provide often contains some call to action, their main goal is to provide useful, engaging information.

Let’s assume you’ve got the content side of this covered. Your writers are producing good quality information that speaks to the needs of your target audience. Great job – you’ve got the hardest part of this process sorted.

Let’s also assume your marketing efforts are paying off and you’re generating an impressive amount of traffic to your homepage. Awesome! You’re killing it!

Yet, somehow, your home page’s bounce rate is still depressingly high. Despite all the visitors it attracts, you’re simply not seeing enough of them click through to the content you’ve worked so hard on creating.

Your homepage is frequently the first and only chance you get to make a first impression, and we all know how important that is. It’s possible that you’re simply not using it well enough to generate interest in what you’re offering. 

Let’s take a look at how you can improve the design of your site’s most important asset to promote better engagement.

1. Don’t Hide What You’re Offering

Too often, the actual purpose of websites is obscured amidst needless information and UX clutter. A website isn’t a box of chocolates; visitors need to know what they’re gonna get – preferably within seconds of landing on it.

A terrific example of a site getting this right is The Adventure Junkies. The oversized hero banner conveys the tone of the site beautifully, allowing an instant emotional connection with their target market. The image is muted and slightly desaturated, which makes reading the main tagline very easy. Images like this are often unfair competition for the UI elements you want the visitor to connect with, and this designer employed a smart design technique to circumvent this problem.

Source: theadventurejunkies.com

As a user scrolls down the page, they see additional information in concise statements with simple, obvious headlines. Each of the site’s informational “sections” is given this treatment. There are no walls of text, only simple, engaging, unpretentious statements of what the user can expect on the site.

2. Give Your Best Content Top Billing

Real estate on your homepage is extremely valuable. There are certain UI elements that simply have to be instantly visible. Just like your hero banner and your site’s tagline, navigation should be prioritized and easily accessible.

Certain information websites, like Not a Travel Club, opt to dedicate a sizable chunk of their primary real estate to whatever is their current top story. In fact, their featured post, along with its header image and content extract, takes up the majority of the screen below the navigation bar.

Source: notatravelclub.com

This is an excellent use of space for an information website. Direct your audience’s focus to a certain element by giving it extreme visibility in relation to the rest of the content on your homepage.

3. Categorize Content Smartly

If your information website consists of a very large inventory of content, you’ll want to make sure that your categorization is done intelligently. Many sites opt for a non-hierarchical approach here, allowing visitors to navigate content categories using tags.

Having a massive amount of content could also be one of your site’s main selling points. In this case, consider making the act of browsing the primary focus of the homepage. 

A site that leads with this UI approach on their homepage is Ted Talks. Firstly, the type of content that users can expect is conveyed visually with two perfectly blended images of speakers doing what they do. Floating above this visual is a category-browsing element that could very easily have been confusing to understand if it had been overthought.

Source: ted.com

Ted keeps things simple by just asking visitors what they’re interested in, giving them category options, and keeping the user’s flow towards the content obvious with a button simply labeled “Next.”

4. Make it Responsive

A responsive website is one that automatically adjusts its layout based on the device the visitor is viewing it on. Smart web designers create different versions of their homepage, each customized to fit perfectly on whatever size screen it’s being deployed to.

The objective of responsiveness is to ensure a comfortable experience for your visitors. If they are viewing your homepage’s desktop version on an iPhone, they would have to waste their time zooming and scrolling, rather than clicking (or tapping) on an easily visible link.

Making a site responsive is quite an undertaking, but the ubiquity of mobile devices absolutely demands it. If you’re not offering your visitors an experience that’s been tailored for their browsing device, you are severely compromising the likelihood of them browsing the content you have on offer.

Source: broadbandsearch.net

Fortunately, many content management systems, like WordPress, offer website templates that are already fully responsive. Site-building products like Squarespace offer templates with similar behavior. If you’re still in the process of designing your website, or you’re looking to overhaul it, consider opting for a template offering this critical feature.

5. Use Video Wisely

If your goal is to grab visitors’ attention immediately, consider standing out from the crowd by using video content in your homepage’s header. Seeing beautifully produced, highly relevant “moving pictures” is something that’s been proven to drive greater engagement.

What’s critical, though, is that the video’s load-time doesn’t compromise the user’s experience on the site. Few things contribute to a high bounce rate as much as the frustration of waiting for content to load. Sadly, high-resolution videos can play a big part in delaying a fully-loaded screen.

A site that uses this technique very wisely is publishing giant Conde Nast. Their homepage’s above-the-fold real estate is populated entirely with a video element that advertises their inventory of brands in a very attractive way. 

Source: condenast.com

Underneath the video, the homepage features three sections of text on their brands, working at Conde Nast, and the places where the company operates. There’s a prominent CTA button accompanying each section and enticing the reader to explore further. To reduce the impact on their site’s load time and make sure there’s no visual clutter, Conde Nast has limited the rest of the homepage’s visual content, displaying four high-quality images in a simple and neat layout. 

One thing you want to be careful with is that video, no matter how high-quality, shouldn’t entirely replace written content. Search engines look for text as part of their indexing process, so make sure your homepage features informative, engaging, and well-written content that will help both the reader and Google get a good idea of what your site is about. 

Some Final Words

The importance of designing an engaging homepage can’t be overstated. As in real life, you have one opportunity to make a great first impression with your website. If you’re trying to promote further engagement with your site’s content, you must respect your audience’s time and attention.

If you have this in the forefront of your mind as you design your website, you’re certain to create the user experience that your content deserves.

As the world prepares to face life under the “New Normal”, our news feed is packed with stories of companies closing down or streamlining costs by laying off their employees. And the number of people who lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic is quite staggering.

In the month of April alone, 20 million Americans were laid off. The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.4%; the highest level since the Great Depression. 

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of the Covid-19 virus a global pandemic last March 11, businesses all over the world were forced to shut down as communities entered into a period of quarantine. 

In a global economy, the effects of the community quarantine were immediate and devastating. According to Statista, the global economy lost more than US$3.5 Trillion during the shutdown.

Without a vaccine, many health experts believe there will be intermittent lockdowns throughout the next few months. Even if the world opens for business, not many share the opinion that the global economy will show signs of improvement. 

So in view of the multiple “gloom and doom” scenarios discussed in various forums, why do we believe this is the best time to become an entrepreneur?

1. Radical Shift in Business Modeling

Throughout human history, crisis has become the chief catalyst for innovation. When the global equities market crashed in 2003, it spurred entrepreneurs to find ways to extract value from failing assets such as homes and vehicles. Thus, businesses such as Air B’n’B and Uber were founded. 

With the threat of Covid-19 still in the air, business models will begin to shift and adapt to the conditions of the new normal. Business models that are rigid, inflexible, and restrictive will give way to processes that are flexible, mobile, and adaptable.

As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to spend money on a traditional brick-and-mortar office when you can run a business from home. No need to pay several months of deposits for security and advanced rent. 

You don’t have to buy computers and workstations or accumulate recurring expenses for rent and office supplies. Your operating expenses for Internet services, telecommunications, and utilities will be much lower. 

There are many digital platforms you can use to manage the key areas of your business and most of these tools and processes will not cost you a cent.

If you hire remote workers such as freelancers and virtual assistants for your team, they are accountable for their business expenses.

Under the period of the new normal, entrepreneurs may find it easier to fund their businesses. With lower operating costs and reduced capital expenditures, the opportunity to generate profit will be greater now than it has in previous years. 

2. New Business Opportunities Have Opened

Scientists continue to study the origins of Covid-19 and how it is spread from person-to-person. Meanwhile, as we await the answers, several industries have suffered from the effects of Covid-19. Many have become casualties – of the economic kind. 

If there is one thing we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that businesses are also subject to the underlying principle of the Darwinian Theory of Survival of the Fittest:

Adapt or die – the species that evolve will survive.

A good example is the health and fitness industry. The commercial gym business has been severely impacted by Covid-19. They remain closed because gyms invite congregation and it is difficult to observe social distancing. 

Some popular gym chains such as Gold’s Gym, Planet Fitness, and Crunch Fitness have either closed a few outlets, retrenched workers, or stopped collecting membership fees. 

While the commercial gym business has gotten in bad shape, the predicament has given rise to a new market in the health and fitness sector – the home gym market.

Visit any e-commerce retailer of home gym equipment. The first 3 words that will greet you in their products page are “Out of Stock”.

Home gym equipment such as resistance bands, Bosu balls, jump ropes, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, full-body machines, kettlebells, dumbbells, and yoga mats, to name a few, are flying out of the warehouse. 

People understand that without a vaccine, the best defense is a strong immune system. Along with a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep, and vitamins, regular exercise completes the cornerstone of a strong immune system. 

So if you are a personal trainer, this is the time to start your online personal training business. People want to exercise – they just want to do their workouts at home.

3. Greater Innovations in Digital Technology

To overcome persistent difficulties, mankind resorts to the innovations created by digital technology. A good example of this is the video teleconferencing platform Zoom.

Before the coronavirus exploded into a global pandemic, not many people heard of Zoom. In terms of popularity, Zoom fell behind Skype and FaceTime as the preferred platform for video conferencing.

However, when the world entered into the quarantine period, Zoom reacted right away and lifted its 40-minute time limit on free subscriptions. The company did this to help schools conduct hour-long virtual classroom sessions for up to 100 students.

That decision has made Zoom the most popular video conferencing platform today. More than that, it raised the profile of the company as one with a keen sense of social awareness and responsibility. 

As an entrepreneur, you can conduct virtual meetings with clients, conference calls with team members, and conduct training sessions with new employees via digital platforms like Zoom. 

And the new wave of technological innovations won’t end with Zoom.

There are digital platforms with features that have blurred the distinction between virtual reality and shared space collaboration. 

Learning Management Systems (LMS) have been around since the early part of the new millennium but have evolved to feature:

  • Virtual classrooms/conference rooms
  • A.I. component that functions as a virtual library by curating content based on search behavior.
  • Built-in tools for performance evaluation, career assessment, time-keeping, and for preparing exams and quizzes.

There are tools for recruitment that use a behavioral-based algorithm to test and identify candidates according to right-fit qualifications. Why is this important?

If you’re working with a remote team, you need to know who you’re working with. If you’re thinking about putting up a telecommuting program, you need to know if you’re assigning the right people to work from home. 

  • Are they the right people for my company? 
  • Can I trust them to perform even if they work remotely? 
  • Can our personalities bridge the gap of cultural differences?

The answers to these questions cannot be found in a resume because these focused on soft skills – the attributes that best define the personality of the individual.

You can rest be assured that software development companies will be looking for digital-based solutions to support businesses coming up as a result of the new normal. 

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4. Fewer Competitors in the Industry

A crisis situation such as the one brought down by the Covid-19  global pandemic can create massive disruption in the economy. 

As we have read from various media reports, companies have been shutting down; unable to cope with the slowdown in business activity in their industry. 

The pandemic has the same effect as a crash in the equities market – weeding out investors and participants who don’t have the resources to maintain their positions in the market.

Once the smoke has cleared, there will be fewer competitors in the market – in your industry.  Your next move will depend on your answer to the following philosophical question:

“Do you see the glass half-empty or half-full?”

If you see the glass half-empty, chances are you will step back, assess the situation, and retrench to look for clearer signs of opportunity. 

If you see the glass half-full, then you understand why now is the best time to become an entrepreneur. 

Yes, the economy has been hit. Consumers are scaling back on expenses and focusing on the essentials. But here’s the truth:

The demand for products and services remains. 

You just have to find out how the pandemic has changed the consumers’ purchasing habits and decision-making process. 

Once you do, then, it becomes a matter of adopting a business model that conforms to the changes in behavior and thought processes. With fewer competitors in the industry, you have the opportunity to grab a larger slice of the pie. 

As we discussed in the previous section, the use of digital technology – its tools and platforms – will lower your costs of starting and running your business. 

Therefore, your risks measured as the amount of money you spend to fund your business will be much lower. 

Create a feasibility study that includes financial projections. Study your projected cash flow –  how many months can you sustain the business without digging deep into your savings?

Identify your tolerance level and if your business reaches that point, then you can make a decision whether or not to continue or to shut down. If you choose to close the business, at the very least, your losses will be minimal.

5. Consumer Behavioral Patterns Will Change

The coronavirus has changed the behavioral patterns of consumers. Talk to your friends. Even with the lockdown lifted, we’re sure many will prefer shopping online than risking their health at public markets. 

In some countries such as the Philippines which is one of the most heavily-hit by Covid-19, malls have implemented guidelines that have altered the shopping experience of Filipinos. 

These new measures include limiting the number of people inside a supermarket. Once the quota of customers has been attained, entry is prohibited and would-be shoppers have to wait outside for their turn. 

Another measure is to implement “directional arrows” that instruct the shopper where to pass and walk-through. Customers aren’t allowed to “counter-flow”. Even if your destination point is a stone’s throw to your left, you won’t be allowed to cut through the directional arrow.

All restaurants are only allowed to offer take-out and delivery service. Dine-in is prohibited. You can’t enter the premises without a face mask.

These changes are cumbersome but necessary to maintain social distancing. Other parts of the world will have their own measures in place. 

While it’s nice to go out and circulate in society, it’s better to stay home most of the time. It’s safer and more convenient to do things from your home. 

Entrepreneurial ventures that address these changes in consumer behavior will be highly feasible. 

We’ve cited examples earlier in this article such as online fitness training, virtual classrooms, and online instruction. There are other ideas you can develop that address the changing needs of consumers in your industry.

Sit down with your friends and brainstorm on these ideas. Come up with a short list then, using a process of elimination, identify the best venture to pursue. 

Remember that changes in behavior will open up new opportunities because demand for those products and services will always be there. It will just evolve and adapt to conform to the current situation.

Conclusion – Entrepreneurship Is A Must

“Follow your passion.”

“Do what you love to do.”

“Be a doer – not a dreamer.”

We’ve often received these types of advice when discussing our plans to start a business. 

Today, it may no longer be a matter of if but when you become an entrepreneur. We may be at a point where we’re no longer asking ourselves whether we should become entrepreneurs but instead accept the current reality that we must become entrepreneurs.

With so much uncertainty, you cannot solely depend on your employer to keep your stream of income flowing. 

Business conditions can change rapidly. Your boss is an entrepreneur. He will be doing the things we discussed in this article: finding new opportunities, reviewing his business model, and streamlining costs.

Those plans may not include you. 

Thus, now is the best time to become an entrepreneur because you have to take control of your future and become responsible for your financial independence. The conditions are in place to help you succeed: Better technology and fewer competitors. 

Finally, the economy – your country – needs you. As an entrepreneur, you are the country’s most powerful engine of economic growth. Your success and those of other entrepreneurs will set the course for the country’s recovery. 

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The coronavirus that was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) necessitated countries to require its citizens to self-quarantine for a period of one month. Businesses – except those that delivered essential goods and services – were forced to close down. Economies were held at a standstill. The businesses that remained “open” were those with remote capabilities – the entrepreneur and the employees work from home. 

The period of self-quarantine that is still ongoing as of this writing – put the spotlight on the importance of having disaster recovery protocols in place for small businesses. 

It shone the spotlight on a business development strategy we have been advocating for years. One that has its origins back in the 1970s but only came to the consciousness of private business in the mid-2000s. 

Integrating a work from home program for your small business is your best hedge versus uncertainties in the business environment. 

The Benefits Of A Work From Home Program

To be clear, we are using the phrase “Work From Home” as a blanket term for remote workers – people who work outside the confines of a traditional 9-to-5 office.

A person who works from home can be categorized as a:

  • Telecommuter
  • Freelancer
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Work at Home Mom (WAHM)

There are subtle differences between each type of remote worker.

A telecommuter is an employee who was asked by his employer to perform his duties and responsibilities from home instead of the office. 

A Virtual Assistant is a person who is hired by an executive or a company to manage specific tasks and functions from the VA’s place of work. 

A freelancer is generally a skilled professional who has decided to take his talents online and offer his services to clients that need his technical expertise. 

A WAHM could be all 3 – a telecommuter, a VA or a freelancer. She took the option to work from home to have more time with the family. 

Whether your business hires one or the other, the benefits of incorporating a work from home program for your business are the same:

1. Lower Cost of Business

According to a 2-year study that was conducted by Stanford University, a telecommuting program successfully lowered the cost of business by an estimated US $1,900 per employee.

The savings were attributed to lower onboarding costs; a reduced need to buy new furniture, computers, office supplies, and expand Internet capabilities. 

2. Increase Productivity

The same 2-year study by Stanford also revealed that the productivity level of the test company increased by 13.5%.

When you outsource tasks to remote workers – telecommuters, freelancers or virtual assistants – you free up more time for yourself. You have more hours in the day to focus on the main enterprise of your business. 

3. Improve Quality of Deliverables

Hiring or contracting the services of a freelancer or a virtual assistant will improve the quality of work because these remote workers are professionals. They have the experience and have undergone training to become good at what they do. 

Similar to freelancers, many virtual assistants crossed-over from the brick-and-mortar world to the virtual world. 

For the reason that they are focused on giving your assigned tasks their full and undivided attention, you can be assured of the quality of deliverables. 

4. Reduce Business Risk

If you had a telecommuting program in place or if you had a remote team composed of freelancers or virtual assistants, your business would continue to operate during the period of self-quarantine. 

Who would have seen this coming? Even the WHO downplayed the severity of the coronavirus’s effects. 

A work from home program gives your business a disaster recovery mechanism that protects it from events that may cause long-term interruptions in business activity. 

In business, time is money. For every second that you are not operating, you are foregoing multiple opportunities to grow your business. 

If you have clients, your remote team can continue to service their accounts. If you own a brick-and-mortar business, a remote team can manage customers’ orders and coordinate with the appropriate agencies for deliveries to conform with the guidelines of the quarantine. 

The bottom line is with a remote team composed of work from home personnel, your business would continue to run and earn money during periods of unforeseen and unpredictable events such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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How To Set Up A Work From Home Program For Your Business

Now that we’ve convinced you of its benefits, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of setting up a work from home program for your business!

1. Identify the Objectives and Goals of the Work From Home Program

Imagine moving from a shared-space collaborative arrangement to one where tasks are distributed across remote locations within 24 hours. Transitioning from an office to a work from home setup will take some time getting used to.

Before starting Day #1, spend some time – the entire day, if needed – to identify and discuss the objectives and goals of the work from home program with the remote team. 

The purpose is to get everyone on the same page.

If you’re running a telecommuting set up for the first time, your employees may have a hard time focusing on their tasks. 

This is especially true with an event such as the coronavirus pandemic which disrupted many aspects of work and life. Employees may be distracted.

Start out by assigning them a limited number of tasks – 3 tasks to accomplish on Day #1. Don’t overwhelm them with too many things-to-do as the quality of work may get compromised.

Make sure tasks are correctly assigned and clearly explained to everyone. Encourage the team to ask questions, strictly observe communication protocols, and offer help when needed. 

2. Select the Right People For Your Remote Team

The process of setting up your remote team is similar to drafting talent for your basketball team. You want to put together a variety of talented individuals who can work together as a team.

Not every employee is cut out for telecommuting work in the same way that not all freelancers and virtual assistants are qualified to handle the job. 

For the work from home program to be successful, you have to select the right people for your remote team. Again, you have to be clear about the team’s goals and objectives. 

Let’s assume you are managing customer service for clients:

  • What customer service channels will be used – chat, inbound phone system, email or social media?
  • What are the demographics of the clients’ customers?
  • Do you need bilingual agents?
  • Will you have outbound support services?
  • Will the service be available 24/7?

Once you’ve firmed up the details, it will be easier to identify the types of talent that you want on your team:

  • Prepare the list of hard skills required for each job – qualifications, years of experience, and certifications, if needed. 
  • Prepare a list of your desired soft skills – self-motivated, excellent time-management skills, ability to manage stress, ability to work with others – these are the personality attributes that fit your intended team culture. 

The hiring process does not start and end with the resume. Have the candidates go through interviews and practical tests. Include a dry run whereby the candidates will be asked to work on a task while grouped in teams. 

3. Set Up the System for Remote Work

A system for remote work should identify the processes and tools that will be used to support its framework. 

  • How will the remote team communicate?
  • Where will the team upload its work?
  • How will you account for total work hours?
  • What are the workflows?
  • Do you want the team to collaborate on specific projects?
  • How will you conduct team meetings?
  • What are the security protocols for the system?

Creating the system for remote work may not be as simple as opening up accounts in Skype, Asana, and Dropbox for the team. There is always a better way of running things!

This is a great opportunity to collaborate with your team. Solicit ideas. If you are working with virtual assistants, you will find that many of them are highly experienced in setting up workflows. 

The same can be said about freelancers. In both cases, they acquire knowledge of setting up remote work systems from their experiences working with different clients. 

4. Stay Connected – With Your Remote Team

This is probably the key to running a successful work from home program for your business – stay connected with your remote team.

Yes, it’s great to work from home! You don’t have to worry about traffic and being late for work. You can savor your morning coffee and have more time with the spouse and kids. 

However, for those who have no experience working from home, the first morning could be tough. The shift from shared space collaboration to working alone at home can take anyone out of their comfort zone. 

Let your team know that you are there to support them. Here are some ideas you might want to implement for your remote team:

  • Schedule daily meetings such as a pre-shift or post-shift briefing.
  • Ask everyone to post photos of the individual team members on their workstation. This is a technique developed by HR experts who reverse-engineered the habit of posting pictures of family members at the office workplace. According to the HR experts, the technique has helped remote workers cope with the challenges of working in isolation. 
  • Schedule a 30-minute “water cooler” or “coffee time” break where everyone on the team shows up online with their cup of coffee and discusses everything under the sun that is NOT related to work. 
  • Encourage everyone to share information about their workspace. This way, the team will develop a greater understanding and sensitivity of the conditions that could affect the performance of other members. For example, a team member may be a parent of a newborn that is incessantly crying in the background. You might have a team member whose house is located at a major thoroughfare. That explains the constant blaring of car horns during online meetings. 

5. Track Its Progress 

You should not expect to get your work from home program right on its first day. Expect problems to come up – whether technical issues or human error. Take note of these problems and try to resolve them as soon as possible. 

It would be a good idea to anticipate these problems before you run the work from home program. With your remote team, brainstorm on the potential issues you might encounter then collectively develop solutions and alternative courses of action. 

Collect as much data as possible from the software programs and tools you are using. 

  • Is anyone on the team experiencing latency issues? 
  • Are there problems in the uploading of files?
  • Are there causes of delays in the transmission of data?
  • Is the team consistently meeting deadlines?
  • How is the quality of deliverables? Are there complaints or issues raised by clients/customers?
  • Which processes and tools are giving you problems? Are there better alternatives?
  • How are the individual members performing?

Set aside time to track and evaluate the progress of your work from home program. Once you’ve identified the flaws, come up with improvements and implement them in the system. 

Conclusion

The coronavirus experience serves as a wakeup call; a reminder that the business environment is unpredictable. What is essentially a health issue has wreaked havoc in economies across the world. 

We don’t know what other disruptor lurks in the horizon. However, we cannot waste precious time and energy worrying about something we cannot quantify. The best thing we can do is to be prepared.

It used to be the case that companies would set up offices in other regions – local or international – to function as their disaster recovery site. 

If an event occurs that disrupts business in the principal location, the disaster recovery site takes over the functions and responsibilities of the main office. 

As we have seen – and experienced – from the coronavirus episode, regional offices can be rendered useless if people cannot report for work. 

The best solution to protect your business from uncertainty could be right under your nose.

Home sweet home.

How was your business able to cope with the coronavirus? What measures did you implement to keep your business running? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

If you need help setting up your remote team, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. 

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Marketing has grown to become an important component of building a business. Especially in this age of digital technology, you can’t harness the power of the Internet for your business if you don’t have an online presence. 

Digital marketers have kept pace with the development of the Internet. It has changed the way consumers make their decisions to purchase a product or to patronize a business. 

The growing influence of the Internet and its various channels have given rise to a number of marketing processes each designed to drive more online traffic to websites. 

But which ones are worth your time and money? 

To avoid guesswork, we’ve created a list of the 5 best marketing processes for your business – the ones you can’t live without.

1. SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of using various techniques and tools to increase your website’s organic search ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The search rankings play a key role in driving online traffic to your website. 

According to a study by Chitika, the first 3 positions in the SERP draw 61.5% of all search traffic. The website that lands in the pole position gets 32.5% of the traffic. There is a huge drop-off after the top 3 with the 10th position only getting 2.4%. 

Can you imagine the volume of traffic – or the lack thereof, of the websites that end up on the second page of the SERP?

When we describe SEO as a process of driving “organic traffic” to your website – we mean free traffic. 

SEO practitioners use techniques and strategies that entice, encourage, and compel people to visit your website because they are convinced it is a valuable resource. 

You cannot put out content on the Internet and expect them to be read by the market you are targeting. Your potential customers will run a search query using keywords that best define the information they are looking for. 

The search engine’s web crawlers track and index content that has the best ranking keywords and includes them on the SERP. Without these keywords, it will be difficult for your content to get found. 

The strategic use of keywords is just one technique used by SEO practitioners to optimize content. 

There are other techniques in the SEO toolbox such as link building, focusing on User Experience, improving website speed, the use of featured snippets, and mobile-first indexing. 

The bottom line is without SEO, your website and its contents will have a very difficult time getting discovered on the Internet.

2. Video Marketing

To be clear, video marketing is considered a component of content marketing. However, we decided to give video marketing its own section in this article because of its value to the overall digital marketing strategy.

Second, content marketing is popularly associated with text-based content, the blog being its cornerstone. In that regard, video-based content marketing is often viewed as separate and distinct with its own allocation in the digital marketing budget.

While blogging remains a mainstay in the content marketing process, more businesses are investing in video-based marketing.

A 2020 survey conducted by Wyzowl revealed that 85% of businesses are using video as a marketing tool. In comparison, the 2016 survey by Wyzowl disclosed that only 61% utilized video-based marketing in their digital marketing strategy.

Digital marketers are more optimistic about video marketing with 92% of respondents stating the process results in positive ROI. 

Here are a few key statistics that support the use of video marketing:

  • Video-based content is shared 1,200% more than text-based content or links.
  • 25% of the most searched websites have video-based content.
  • Embedded videos such as an explainer video on the home page can increase sales conversions by 55%.
  • 44% of consumers prefer using the medium of video to learn more about a product or service.
  • Businesses that incorporated video marketing in their digital marketing strategy outgrew businesses that didn’t by 49%.

Contrary to popular opinion, it does not cost a lot of money to produce high-ranking, high-performing videos. With today’s smartphones, built-in cameras can capture high-resolution videos that look like they were professionally made. 

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3. Content Marketing

Every day, more than 4 billion people are searching the Internet for content that is useful, relevant, and informative. After all, when you search, you are looking for the best solutions or answers to your pressing questions. 

Content that is frequently accessed, shared, linked to, and referenced is regarded as great content. 

Your business could offer the best solutions in the industry. But first – your business, its products and services – must first be found. 

This is where content marketing comes in – the strategic and purposeful creation of optimized content that provides useful, valuable, and informative information to a specific target market. 

The keywords in the definition are “optimized” and “target”.

Content writing is a skill. Just because you have a degree in Creative Writing does not mean you can write online content. 

The rule is: Your content must be found before it can serve its purpose. 

To be found on the Internet, content must be optimized with the right keywords. Content writers know how to find the right keywords for your industry and how to use them for maximum searchability.

Without the right keywords, the search engine’s web crawlers will not be able to find and index your content. The next steps for the search engine are to determine if the keywords in your content are used in the proper ratios and linked to reliable sources. 

The search engine will determine the quality of your content by assessing its length, structure, and backlinks. 

Lastly, for best results, content writing needs to follow a schedule:

Writing online is writing on a different level. For this reason, we recommend hiring content writers to create content for your website and social media campaigns. 

Mountaintop Web Design can provide you with top quality, high-ranking content. A few of our articles have been included among the top blogs for digital marketing by UpCity.

4. Email Marketing

Why is email marketing so effective? In a nutshell, it’s like having the door opened for you by the business owner. You can walk in, make a sales presentation, and hope your pitch is good enough to register a sale. 

Despite the popularity of social media, email remains the most utilized form of communication. 

To make a comparison, social media attracts 2.96 billion users every day. Meanwhile, there are 3.9 billion users of email on a daily basis. According to Statista, by 2023, the number of email users will hit 4.3 billion

Digital marketers love email marketing because the ROI is high – $38 for every $1 spent – or an ROI of 3,800%!

But don’t let these amazing numbers blind you into thinking that email marketing is easy. The biggest challenge to email marketing is creating a solid list of email subscribers. 

This is where having great content comes in. If people love your blogs and other forms of content, they will visit your website to learn more about you. Once on your website, the visitor might want to click on the subscribe button and sign up for your email newsletter. 

Building a loyal following takes time. A reader may enjoy reading your first blog – but what about the second or third? Creating top-quality blogs on a consistent basis will help you build a strong email list. 

You might be tempted to buy a list. If you are – don’t! Buying a list is one of the most dangerous things you can do for your business for a number of reasons:

  • The emails may belong to people who did not agree to sign up for newsletters. Your email will be flagged as spam and this is a violation that could lead to penalties upwards of $16,000!
  • Your email distribution service will get shut down.
  • Many of the emails featured in the list are called “Spam Traps” and will damage your reputation.

Go the slow and steady route and be patient with your content marketing strategy. It may take time but the results will be worth the wait.

5. Social Media Marketing

The age of digital technology has emphasized the social aspect of a business. Because the Internet has made information very accessible, it is easy for consumers to learn more about the business and at the same, find platforms to air their complaints and grievances about a company, its products, and services. 

Companies can no longer just hide behind a logo. To stay ahead of the competition, there must be a face and a personality behind the brand. Customers want to know more about you and not just your business. The best platform to use is social media marketing.

What are the benefits of social media marketing for business?

  • Improve Brand Awareness – Would you believe more people follow brands on social media than celebrities? 80% of respondents who participated in a survey by Sherpa Marketing revealed they followed at least one business brand on social media. 
  • Establish a Strong Connection with Your Customers – Social media allows customers to reach out and voice their ideas and opinions to your company. This level of engagement -whether positive or negative – creates an opportunity for you to establish a strong, human connection with your customer. 
  • Enhance Your Reputation – Another benefit of consistently producing great content is that you enhance your reputation as a valuable resource. Now, strategically distribute your content through social media channels and in time,  more people will follow your page and visit your website. 

Similar to content writing, social media marketing requires experience and expertise. 

You have to know the types of content to post, the most opportune times of the day, the ideal days of the week, as well as the frequency of posting. 

Keep in mind the “social” aspect of social media – these are communities onto itself. The online behavior patterns and profiles of Facebook users are different from those of LinkedIn.

Conclusion

Digital marketing isn’t just the present – it is the future. The world will continue to evolve as digital technology continues to innovate. Work and life decisions will be influenced by the Internet for the years to come. 

If your business has not adopted a digital-based marketing strategy, you are undermining its opportunities for future growth. Learn from the lesson of the retail giants who became casualties of the Retail Apocalypse.

Evolve or become extinct.

Did we convince you to go digital? Give us a call and we’ll put your business on a digital marketing campaign that will get you growing over the next few years.

And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community!

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Do bad guys always wear black? A popular theme in Hollywood is the classic battle between good and evil. More often than not, the good guys are in white and the bad guys are in black. Case in point is HBO’s smash hit, “Westworld”. In the TV show, visitors to a western theme park are asked to choose between a white hat and a black hat. If you choose a white hat, you’re the hero. If you choose a black hat – well, you guessed it – you’re the villain.

Does the analogy hold true for marketers? Are marketers who choose white hat SEO strategies the good guys? Conversely, are marketers who choose black hat SEO strategies the bad guys?

More importantly, should you use both strategies in your digital marketing campaign?

To have a better understanding of the two, let’s discuss White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies in detail.

What Is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO strategies use techniques and tactics that strictly adhere to Google’s guidelines. The primary objective of marketers who use White Hat SEO strategies is to enhance the website’s visibility on the Internet.

Here are a few examples of popular White Hat SEO strategies:

1. Creation of Quality Content

Google is very particular on User Experience or UX. When someone lands on your website, Google expects that visitor will find only quality content. This means content that is useful, unique, informative, and relevant. Likewise, it should not have errors in spelling and grammar.

Quality content will compel action from the reader. He/she could share your content in social media or use it as a resource link to his/her own website. If your website consistently publishes quality content, Google will reward you with higher search rankings.

2. Integration of Keywords

Keywords are the words and phrases that people frequently use to launch a search query on the Internet. Search bots or web crawlers index content that contains these keywords. Thus, integrating keywords will make it easier for your content to get found on the Internet.

There are 2 things you need to keep in mind when using keywords.

First, use the right keywords. This means keywords and phrases that are relevant in your industry. You should perform keyword research before writing your content.

Among the most popular tools are Google Keyword Planner and SEMRush. You can read more about keyword research in our article “5 Best Keyword Research Tools For 2018”.

Second, keep track of keyword density. While there are no clear-cut rules on keyword density, many SEO experts advise a ratio of 1 keyword per 200 words.

Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing, a technique whereby a page is overloaded with keywords. The purpose of keyword stuffing is to trick Google into thinking the content is relevant.

3. The Use of Relevant Backlinks

You know your content marketing strategy is on the right track when other websites are linking back to you. It means these websites find great value in your content.

For Google, backlinks are a seal of approval. The search engine giant will reward you with higher search rankings.

However, you have to make sure the websites that are linking back to your page are relevant to your industry. Consequently, these websites must also be reputable and consistently publish high-quality content.

4. The Use of Meta Descriptions

There are some SEO practitioners who believe meta descriptions are no longer significant. We are here to tell you that having well-written meta descriptions can help drive traffic to your website.

Meta descriptions consist of a few sentences that describe your website. The purpose of the meta description is to entice people to visit your website. It tells Internet searchers what your website is all about.

Thus, a meta description is not written for search engines. It is written with the potential site visitor in mind. You should not use too many keywords in your meta description.

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What Is Black Hat SEO?

In contrast, Black Hat SEO strategies employ techniques and tactics that do not conform to the guidelines of Google. Marketers who use Black Hat SEO strategies are mavericks; they operate outside the confines of the “law” and are willing to bend the rules to get the job done.

Here are a few of the most popularly-used Black Hat SEO strategies:

1. The Use of Irrelevant Keywords

We discussed the important role keywords play in getting your content found on the Internet. However, the keywords should have relevance or value to the site visitor.

For example, you are writing a blog on how a robotic vacuum cleaner can keep your home clean without any fuss. Then, within your content, you write in the following sentence:

“LeBron James can surely use a robotic vacuum cleaner to sweep the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.”

The sentence includes the keywords “robotic vacuum cleaner” but it has absolutely no relevance to the article. Instead, it uses popular search items “LeBron James” and “Golden State Warriors” to trick search engines.

2. Bot-Generated Content

Black Hat SEO practitioners will often use automatically-generated or bot generated content to capitalize on keywords and give the search rankings a boost.

No doubt you have seen examples of bot-generated content. They are usually located in the comments section of a blog. A bot-generated content is very easy to spot because they make no sense!

It reads like a random comment that has no relevance to the topic whatsoever. The only component of a bot comment that has value is the keyword.

3. Installing Doorway Pages

Let’s say you are planning to visit Italy and indulge in your passion for fine art. You want to prepare an itinerary which covers the best art galleries in Florence. You run a search query on the “best fine art galleries in Florence Italy”.

When you click on one of the URLs featured on the search results page, you don’t land on the website of an art gallery in Florence. Instead, you find yourself on a website selling herbal supplements.

This form of Black Hat SEO trickery is called installing doorway pages. Put succinctly, doorway pages are fake pages that are packed with keywords to help the website get found. You just won’t find what you are looking for.

4. Integrating Invisible Links or Text

Black Hat SEO practitioners know the value of going stealth mode. They will “plant” links on pages where you can’t see them right away.

Examples of these types of tactics include setting the font size to zero, using white text on white background, and integrating a link in a small character such as a comma or a period.

What Are The Penalties For Practicing Black Hat SEO Strategies?

If you break the law, you will get punished for it. On the Internet, Google is the law. Whenever the search engine giant announces changes on its search ranking algorithm, you should pay attention very carefully.

Google frowns upon Black Hat SEO strategies. In fact, Google institutes changes on its search algorithm to make sure these Black Hat SEO strategies get shut out. Here is an updated list of changes in Google’s search algorithms:

  • Penguin – Designed to stop inappropriate linking practices
  • Panda – Designed to slow down content farms. A content farm is usually an agency that employs a large group of writers to create high-ranking content. The purpose is to increase page views and attract more advertising revenue.
  • Florida – Designed to stop keyword stuffing tactics.

If you are caught using Black Hat SEO techniques, what penalties should you expect from Google?

1. A Drop in the Search Rankings

If you notice a sudden drop in the search rankings for your website, that is Google’s way of telling you to stop what you are doing and clean up your strategies.

You will have to comply with Google’s algorithm, implement the necessary changes on your SEO strategies, then file a reconsideration request which will ask the search engine to run another audit on your website.

2. Banned in the Search Rankings

Although it rarely happens, the possibility exists that Google can ban you from its search rankings. Google will not hesitate to pull the trigger on websites that continue to practice deceptive SEO strategies.

A ban from Google will sound the death knell for your business. No one will be able to find your website on the Internet thus, affecting lead generation, site traffic, and sales conversions.

In the event that you do get banned, you should try to appease Google by cleaning up your SEO strategies before applying for a reconsideration request.

Conclusion – Should You Use Both White Hat And Black Hat SEO Strategies?

Both White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies serve the same purpose – to enhance website visibility so you can climb up Google’s search rankings.

However, with Google constantly reviewing and changing its algorithm, it would be best to stick to White Hat SEO tactics. You cannot pull the wool over Google. The search engine will eventually see what you’re up to.

Interactions on the Internet may be driven by digital technology but they are purely emotional by nature. Black Hat SEO tactics can be annoying. No one wants to be misled. It will reflect on your reputation and affect your brand identity.

Finally, keep in mind this beautiful quote from American author, Arnold Glasow:

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

White Hat SEO strategies will require more effort because you will have to build your followers and links organically. They will keep you on the straight and narrow path. Running a business is hard enough as it is. You should minimize the risks instead of adding to it.

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