April 2011 - YasTech Developments
Marketing

Wrapping Up Our Month of Blogging

We’ve been busy with the work of our awesome clients – and decided to add on a (near) daily requirement of writing an article for our blog. Today’s final post in the month of blogging will include a bit of our thoughts on the process as well as a chance for you to respond and give much valued feedback for what we could do in the future.

Who Is Our Audience?

One thing I’ve struggled with is who our audience is for our blog. We obviously have awesome clients who we’d encourage to read and learn about best practices and suggestions for their website. There’s other people out there who are considering becoming on of our awesome clients that we’d like to think read the site to determine whether YasTech is a good fit for them. There’s also the friends and family who click a link to read mainly because it involves someone they know (Hi Mom!), not necessarily because they are interested in the topic. On top of that are the people who are in our own industry – fellow designers, marketers and other web nerds – that are curious about what others in their own field are saying.

Where Should Our Focus Be?

There are web design companies who blog about industry issues (i.e. how to attract clients, dealing with contractual issues, inspiration for design, processes, etc.). There’s another type of blog that’s mainly a portfolio piece – look at what we did for our client. Another type is what we’ve primarily been doing, which is tips and tutorials for people looking to do a better job of using their website to promote their business. And there’s certainly plenty of hybrids of these and other topics.

Time Well Wasted

On average it takes around an hour to write out a blog post for our blog. That’s time we could be spending doing client work – bringing money in. Despite all the benefits we’ve talked about over this last month, is it worthwhile for us to be maintaining a blog if there’s places we could be spending our time more effectively?

Feedback Loop

So that’s the gist of the quick survey – who are you and did we do a good job of writing about the kinds of things you’re interested in? We’d appreciate you clicking the link below and taking a minute of your time to fill it out to help us know where to focus in future blog posts.

Fill out the feedback form.

MarketingSEO

Do I Need to Hire an Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Company to Fix My Website?

We’ve written in the past about SEO (see Dirty Little Secret of SEO, I Want to Rank #1 on Google and How to Rank Higher on Google) so we won’t go too in depth as those posts cover a lot of the details of the hows of optimizing your website for search engines like Google & Bing.

In answer to the question – do you need to hire a search engine optimization company, the answer is usually no. There’s plenty of things you could be doing to improve your ranking that an SEO expert can’t do for you, most of which have been covered in our posts this month – search the tag #bea4april – getting to the top of Google requires a combination of great content over top of a well designed structure. In short, it requires real work.

At YasTech we can help you with making sure you’ve got a well designed structure to your website – standards based code and other nerd wizardry help here – and help you with your content. Assuming you’ve got all of that in place and have been working at it for awhile, then and only then is it time to consider hiring an SEO consultant to help push your website over the top.

We work with a few different SEO specialists in the city when it’s necessary for our clients who feel like they’re missing that little extra to help their search rankings. These specialists are able to do a website audit, look at various reports from Google / Bing on your website, see what keywords you are ranking for and figure out ways to optimize your content for better results under those keywords.

Next Steps

Contact us if you feel like you’re website should be ranking higher in Google search results. We can work with you to determine whether it would be worthwhile to bring in an SEO specialist to help your website get off the second page of search results.

MarketingWriting

Convert More Visitors into Customers

So you’ve got a website, and people are coming to your website, but sales aren’t any better than they were when you didn’t have a website. What’s wrong?

Most websites do a decent job at providing people with information about what your company does and the products or services you have available, but most fail in encouraging visitors to do something.

Here are some ways you can improve at converting more visitors into paying customers.

Create Clear Calls to Action

The biggest mistake people make on their website is that they forget to ask the visitor to do something. They have paragraphs of information describing their product or service, but that’s it. If you aren’t asking visitors to “Book Now”, “Get your Free Quote”, or simply “Contact for More Info”, you’re probably going to lose that customer.

Solution: Find areas in your content where you should be asking someone to take action, and add a button, link, or other call to action. Make sure it is something that stands out and can’t be missed (keeping it esthetically pleasing is important too). Don’t over do It though. Choose one objective per page and stick to that.

**POST UPDATE** I recently ran across an article that really goes in depth about creating compelling call to actions buttons. Check it out here!

Collect Email Addresses

Many people who come to your website may be interested in your product or service but may not be ready to buy at that time. But what if you were able to still collect their information and ask for the sale at a later time? There are many ways you can do this. You can get them too:

  • Download a free case study, white paper or report that might educate them about your industry or solve a problem they may have.
  • Offer a free seminar or webinar. You’re an expert in your industry so help your clients learn more.
  • Sign up for a newsletter. We recently wrote a post about newsletters that can provide you with further info about utilizing this form of marketing.

email sign up form

Once you have an email list you can start engaging these potential customers by setting up an email marketing campaign to send them promotions and industry information, or follow up their sign up with a thank you note with more directed information about your product or service.

Better Content

It is extremely important to provide clear, easy to read information about your products and services. When describing your product or service, make sure you explain the benefits of your product and how it can solve a problem for your visitor. Features are nice, but they aren’t what sell your product.  Keep your descriptive paragraphs short and use bullets or numbered lists wherever possible. This helps make your website easier to read and helps visitors find the information they are looking for sooner.

As we discussed earlier this week, you can also use video and podcasting to help you convert more visitors into paying customers.

Now What

Take a few minutes to skim your website to see if you think there is room for improvement. Most likely there is. Commit yourself to DO SOMETHING TODAY because that next website visitor could be your next big client.

Want us to take a look at your website for you? Fill out our contact form and we’ll be happy to take a look at your website and recommend ways to help you convert more visitors.

Marketing

How Can Video Help My Business?

In a similar vein to yesterday’s post on podcasting, today I want to talk a bit about video for your website. Like podcasting, video is a vastly underused medium in local online marketing efforts. And while it’s true that it used to be difficult, expensive and time-consuming to get video on the web, today there are so many options available it’s almost the other extreme of not knowing how to use all the available tools.

Your Computer is Watching You

Most, if not all, computers come with a built-in camera & microphone that’s capable of capturing decent quality video/audio which can then be edited using software also included on your computer (iMovie on the Mac, Windows Movie Maker on Windows). You can also record directly into some websites like YouTube and not have to worry about figuring out software and how to upload your video.

Potential customers have long since given up falling for stuffy, corporate videos that obviously aren’t actually representative of the actual business – they are much more interested in seeing the real people behind the business than professional actors and expensive studios.

There’s certainly a time and a place to rent expensive equipment and have a professionally produced and edited video, but the vast majority of local businesses could start with basic videos to expose their products and service to a wider audience.

YouTube Superstar

With the rise of video sharing websites such as YouTube, Vimeo and many others, it’s become very affordable to have video hosted online – in most cases, it’s free. The only cost is the advertising displayed next to your video by the host website. But, in the case of YouTube, you can embed the video on your website at no cost and make use of YouTube/Google’s vast network of content servers around the world to take care of presenting your video quickly.

You get the added bonus of exposing your video and company to people searching exclusively on YouTube that might not have otherwise seen your video. For J&H Builders Warehouse, nearly 30% of the viewers of their installation video came from YouTube – people that might not otherwise be familiar with J&H but are now.

Starter Ideas

It will vary for each business or service as to how video could be used, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Weekly video messages from the CEO/owner about what’s going on with the business.
  • Basic training for how to use products that you sell as in the J&H Builders’ video.
  • Videos of opening new product as they come into the store (typically called unboxing videos).
  • For a clothing/retail store, modelling new items that do a much better job showing off the products than still images.
  • Walk through video of a golf course, kids play centre, manufacturing plant or mall to show what people can expect if they hire or visit your business.
  • Screencasts showing how to use your product or service for web based businesses.

Next Steps

Try out your computer’s camera and see what you can come up with. Get in touch with us – we’d love to help you do an awesome job of using video to help promote your business. Just like podcasting yesterday, there’s not a lot of local competition in the video space so now is the time to try it out and be the main communicator in a growing medium.

Marketing

What is Podcasting and Should My Business Do It?

Podcasting, as defined by Wikipedia:

A podcast (or non-streamed webcast) is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication. The word replaced webcast in common vernacular due to the fame of the iPod and its role in the rising popularity and innovation of web feeds.

In plain english – you download a MP3 from a website or the iTunes podcast directory and listen to it. You can listen on your computer, iPod or any other MP3 player. You can listen to it whenever and wherever you want. Some aren’t just for listening – some podcasts have a video version so you can watch as well as listen.

How Does Podcasting Help My Business?

I believe that podcasting can really help a business – particularly on a local level. As with everything else we’ve covered lately (Twitter, blogging, etc.), it’s not for every business and you need to evaluate whether it’s worth your time. But it is a vastly under-used tool in Saskatoon and area – perhaps it’s something that could be right for your business to use to reach a whole new audience of customers.

Establish Yourself as an Expert In Your Field

Imagine you’re in the process of choosing a new landscaping company for your yard. You visit a couple of websites of local landscapers. Some have nice websites with decent content, others obviously look like they haven’t been updated since 1998, one has a decent bit of information that’s fairly static but still useful.

But one website you visit has a “Click here to hear our opinion on how often you should water your lawn!” button. When you click it, you can hear the actual owners talking about, you guessed it, how often you should water your lawn and other thoughts related to lawn care. Maybe they have a video version that you can see the lawns they are talking about. And they offer you the ability to subscribe to future episodes.

I don’t know about you, but whatever extra amount of information I can learn about a company who’s services or products I am considering will help sway me in their direction.

Answer Frequently Asked Questions

Going back to our uses for a static website post, you could consider answering frequently asked questions in audio form. Again, it’s great to hear it in your own words and voice. Plus, over time you’ll build up a library of answers that you can refer people to when they ask you for your opinions on your industry.

“Wondering why we don’t use 2 H’s in our H2O? Click here to listen to episode 12 of our Lawn and Garden podcast for the answer.”

Interview Current Customers

Another great use for a podcast is to interview past successes and post them to your website. It’s one thing to have quotes posted in text form on your website – how much better to hear it from the actual customer’s mouth?

Podcasting Sounds Hard and I Don’t Know Anything About Recording

These days it’s remarkably easy to start a basic podcast, particularly if you’re just going to do audio. Most computers come with everything you need to get started. Software like Garageband on the Mac is included with every computer, and most computers already have a microphone built in to the computer. Hit record and you’re off!

Getting the audio on your website and added to the iTunes podcast store is a bit trickier, but we can help you get it setup and once it’s all setup you can keep adding to it without our help.

Examples

There isn’t any businesses in Saskatoon I could find that are using podcasting – at least nothing that pops up in Google searches. Here are a few interesting ones I found elsewhere:

  • Dentist Podcast – a dental podcast focused on Q&A for clients.
  • Greenhouse Gardener Podcast – an example of our fictional example above.
  • CulcherMag.com – a local women’s lifestyle website with a podcast.
  • SSKTN – a podcast that I (Chris) do interviewing people involved in technology and business.

Next Steps

There’s plenty more that can be done with podcasting and you can buy more expensive hardware/software to improve the quality of your recordings – but for now I’d recommend starting simple and see where it goes. With minimal start up costs, it’s easy to try out podcasting and see if it works for your business. Be sure to leave a link in the comments or let us know about your podcasting efforts!

Marketing

I Don’t Have Time for a Website. Stop Bugging Me!

Ok, we will.

(Easiest & quickest blog post ever!)

Ok, we’ll push back a little bit.

It’s true that a website does require time, commitment and effort. Especially if you want a really great website that will keep people coming back.

Perhaps you’re busy enough as it is, and you don’t really want or need that many more customers. Lucky problem to have. But maybe there’s a way for your website to give you more time for your existing customers – or time for new customers.

This website is something we refer to as “static” – in that it doesn’t really change much and there’s no real reason for people to come back to it except for when they need to contact you. It’s a business card or post card for your business, on the internet. It will typically be less expensive to setup and have fewer ongoing costs/fees associated with it.

Basic Information

If you have a storefront or office that your customers come to, putting the basic information about your business online can help save a few phone calls. Hours of operation, address, contact information, special instructions for delivery, holiday hours and other basic information can help people decide when and how to reach you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The other page that you could have on a static website is a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, or FAQ for short. Ask your receptionist, sales team or whoever handles phone calls and emails from potential customers to track, for one week, the types of questions they get asked. You could setup a shared spreadsheet in Google Docs so people could add a check each time they get asked a particular question. After the week is up, take the top 10 – 15 questions and put those on your website – your business’ frequently asked questions.

Now when people visit your website and have a question about a product or service you offer, they can find the answer themselves without needing to contact you directly. Saving you time and informing the potential customer, thereby establishing your business as the answer to problems they have.

If you’re in some sort of sales related business, you’ll obviously still want customers to get in touch at some point – so you’ll need to make sure you don’t give away all the “answers” – but there will certainly be some solutions you can offer to save time on an initial consultation.

Staff Directory

If you’ve got a staff, having an online directory so people know who to contact for what can save on hiring a receptionist – or at least save them time. It could also save you having to purchase or lease an expensive phone system.

Feedback

Getting feedback through a contact form or survey from potential customers is a great way to improve your business. And doing so on your website is quick and easy – both for you and the person filling out the form.

Set It All Up

Contact us today to get started with a static website that will save you time, and earn you more money. The time spent in putting together your website will be time you’ll save down the road.

Marketing

Email is Dead. So Why Does YasTech Tell Me To Do an Email Newsletter?

Email isn’t actually dead. With the rise of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, the thought is that no one is checking their email anymore. And while it’s certainly true that more people are living inside their Facebook messages, there is still plenty of opportunity to use email to remind people about your business.

Less is More

The clients we’ve worked with on email newsletters have, if anything, erred on the side of not wanting to send too many emails out and so send far too few. While you have to find a good balance between being useful and being spammy, when people sign up for a newsletter they are expecting to get some sort of promotion along with whatever other information you said they would get in their email inbox. For some businesses, this could mean sending out a newsletter once a week if the content is light and easy to consume – (i.e. craft suggestions, quick tips for gardening, weekly promotions at a retail store etc.) while for other businesses, it’s probably best to send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter when the content is a bit heavier or longer (i.e. financial advice for home owners, suggestions for running an efficient farm, etc.)

I’d suggest being slightly more aggressive than you initially feel you should be and ask for feedback from your readers after a couple mail outs.

Top of Mind

Even if the person on the receiving end of your newsletter isn’t in need of your products or services at that moment, by sending them a little reminder email you can keep your business or brand at the top of their mind so when it does come time to purchase the types of products you sell, your company will be the first they think of.

If you’ve ever signed up for any major company’s email newsletter, companies like Amazon, Apple, Home Depot, Future Shop, they will send an email for any one of these occasions:

  • Seasonal changes
  • Holiday related promotions
  • New product launch
  • Clearance items available for limited time
  • Upcoming sale
  • If it’s a day of the week that ends in the letter “y”

And maybe you delete half or more of the emails without even looking at them. But you take enough of a glance to see their name, their logo and the special announcement they have before you can hit the delete key. It costs the company pennies to send out the email and they’re able to keep their brand in your mind so the next time you need to upgrade your computer you’ll think of Apple.

It’s Easy to Start

We can help you get setup with a signup form on your website and sending out a newsletter in a matter of a few days – Contact us today and get started with your first email newsletter campaign. We have many clients that are sending newsletters out already with lots of success. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you how easy it is and how they wish they would’ve started a long time ago!

MarketingSEO

How Often Should I Refresh My Website’s Look?

The design of your website says a lot about your business, about your brand. The colours used, the fonts/typography you chose, the layout of your content, the pictures and icons all affect the overall impression people get when they view your website. It will all either help someone to want to do business with you. While what constitutes what looks “good” can be argued and debated, there’s no doubt that a poorly designed website will send potential customers back to their Google search results looking for the next option.

I Just Upgraded it 5 Years Ago!

A year in the real world is a lifetime on the web. While it’s hard to give a definitive answer to the question of how often you should update your website’s design, there’s no question that things on the web can start to look dated pretty quickly.

For most small business websites, a year or two can go by and there isn’t much that should need to be changed. Perhaps small updates to refine the colour palette to something current or seasonal promotions that happen in your business. But if you’re getting to the 2+ years point without a major change to your website, you may want to budget for a makeover soon. Upgrading an existing website won’t typically take as much work as starting from scratch – but that all depends upon how often you’ve updated the content of your website. Either way, we can help you figure out the best course of action.

I Still Use FrontPage ‘98!

Not only do styles of web design change just like fashion, so do the technologies that power websites. You may be happy with the look of your website from 2006, but the difficulty you have to go to to update the content on your website might make you consider updating the website anyway. Technologies such as content management systems, Facebook & Twitter integration and e-commerce solutions all have come along way and can make maintaining your website much easier and quicker than it used to be.

Bring Your Website in for a Tuneup

We’d be happy to take a look over your website and give you an estimate as to what changes could be made to improve both the look as well as the function of your website for your potential customers, as well as for Google searches (SEO). Contact us today for your free estimate – especially if it’s been 5 years since you last upgraded your website!

MarketingSocial Media

Setting Up a FaceBook Page

Assuming you have a FaceBook account setup, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php to get started creating your own FaceBook page. It will walk you through all the steps necessary to set up a FaceBook page for your business and get started.

Tell All Your Friends

Once you’ve set up your page, be sure to tell all your friends about it so that they can come join. There’s certain features of FaceBook pages that only become available to you once you have at least 25 people that “Like” your business so it’s important to get that initial group quickly. FaceBook has a “Suggest to Friends” tool located on the top right section of your FaceBook page that you can use to send a message out to everyone you know.

Stats and Username

The two things you can do once you’ve got that initial group of 25 people is set your username as well as view stats for your page. Visit http://www.facebook.com/username/ to setup your FaceBook page’s username to something more appropriate, like we did with our YasTech page: http://www.facebook.com/YasTech is much easier to remember than facebook.com/pages/YasTech/2093203.

The other item you get access to is statistics, or insights as Facebook calls it. This allows you to see what’s working and what’s not by how many people are liking the items you post, sharing it or giving you some sort of interaction/feedback.

Go Forth and Facebook

There’s the tools. Now go set up your Facebook for your business. Be sure to leave a comment below with a link to your Facebook page so we can check it out.

If you’d like help getting your Facebook page setup, email or call us and we’d be happy to help you get setup.

MarketingSocial Media

Should Our Business Have a Facebook Page?

First off – confession time. We missed posting yesterday. I’d blame the cold medication – but the reality is we got busy working on stuff for our awesome clients. But like we said in our initial series on blogging, it’s ok to occasional call in sick. Just make sure to get back in the routine of posting on your regular schedule as soon as possible.

You’ve Gotta Get On the FaceBook

FaceBook offers a lot of opportunity for businesses to get feedback, try out new ideas and keep their brand top of mind in their customers. Like all of these social sites the main thing to consider before you start setting up a page for your business is whether you have the time to manage it.

Time is of the Essence

It’s free to setup a FaceBook page for your business so the only cost is your time. But like Twitter, it can’t be something you just broadcast out to and never engage back in the conversation that may be happening on your page. While it might be slightly more professional than Twitter, you still have to try and switch out of stuffy business mode and talk how regular people talk. Be prepared to get feedback from customers on the things you post – good and bad. So it’s important to think about whether you have 10-20 minutes per week (initially) to post and respond.

Top of Mind for Your Brand

FaceBook is a great way to keep your business in the minds of potential customers. Whenever you post something to your FaceBook page, all the people that follow you get that update in their FaceBook live feed – the stream of information you see when you first log in to FaceBook.

Also, anytime someone “Likes” or comments on your FaceBook page, everyone who follows that person also sees your business’ name. It’s a great way to remind people about what you do, so long as you do it with tact and don’t abuse it. People can always un-like you or block your updates if they think you’re posting too much.

Feedback & Research

Facebook can also be used as a quick way to get feedback on a new idea or direction for your business. Perhaps you’re a retail store and considering stocking a new product that you haven’t had previously – ask the people on your FaceBook page for feedback and see what kind of response you get. Or maybe you’re thinking about changing the hours your store is open – ask and see what people think. Again, the key is to do it tactfully and not come off like you’re just using people like a marketing research firm might do it through telemarketing. For a small business that can’t afford to spend a ton of time and money on market research, this can be an invaluable tool for determining your company’s direction.

Next Steps

So that’s a few of the things to consider when setting up a FaceBook page. Tomorrow we’ll cover the basic steps to setting up your FaceBook page for your business. Be sure to like our FaceBook page to be notified of our new posts.

Ready to get started?

Start your project