Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. SEO is short for search engine optimization.
Engagement, in military terms, is described as a fight or battle between armed forces. In web terms, engagement could be thought of as the process of getting an idea across to accomplish a goal.
There are a couple major goals with websites, as I see it. One is to simply share information. Another is to sell products. Make no mistake about it – whether you are selling widgets or ice-cream or trying to increase your congregation – the goal is the essentially the same – getting people engaged.
The first, sharing information, definitely is a precursor to the second. I’d like to focus on the second here.
Websites that are more engaging with their visitors will encourage more sales. With that in mind, it follows that engagement is a result of information and aesthetics.
Aesthetics costs for a website can vary greatly. Graphic design can be time consuming. This equates to higher labor costs. Information in written form, however, is usually the least expensive part of website development. Text can usually be pasted into web pages. This is not usually as labor intensive. Having more information in text format on a website usually equates to more exposure to the public. This is because website visitors can arrive using search engines. And the search engines find your site based upon pertinent content – mostly text.
In a nutshell, if you want an engaging website – which will increase your probability of success on the web – make sure there is plenty of information in text form on it. Search engines will help get folks there and your aesthetics can do the rest.
A popular website sales pitch over the past ten or so years has been about blogging. Many web developers believe that blogging is an absolute must to get found on the web. However, believing doesn’t necessarily make it a fact.
Whether blogging will be a benefit your particular web presence is complicated. There are a number of factors to consider.
A major factor is that blogging requires time to be effective. The time has to be spent by someone entering blog material pertinent to your business or topic into your website. Otherwise you have to pay someone to keep up with it.
Keeping blogs interesting to keep site visitors engaged is another ongoing endeavor. Site visitors won’t return if the material doesn’t hold their interests.
The real power of blogging lies with search engine placement. Search engines rank websites on how pertinent they are to a particular topic or search terms. Search terms are generally words or phrases people type into search engines when they are looking for something. The more pertinent – the higher the ranking. Having more pertinent material on a site increases ranking.
So when considering whether a blog is right for your web presence or not, bear in mind that a blog must be an ongoing, continuing effort. It may be just as effective to simply have a lot of static material on your site explaining details about all your offerings.
We’ve mentioned the term WordPress previously. Over 1/3 of all websites on the planet are built using WordPress. It is the most popular website platform. The platform is the environment in which a piece of software is executed.
An important aspect of website operation is determining whether the platform is optimized for your WordPress coding. That’s difficult for most people other than server operators to know. We recommend you find out two things from your web developer:
First is whether the latest version possible of PHP is used. That’s the actual programming language WordPress is written/coded in. PHP doesn’t have to be the very latest, as there are always new versions being developed. However, your WordPress themes and plugins may not work on the very newest version. But if you are using a version of PHP 5.x you may be asking for security issues. If the plugins and themes won’t run on the newer PHP 7.x then you really need to consider upgrading your site to use newer plugins or themes. WordPress itself is kept up better than most software and works great with the very latest PHP versions.
Second is to check that your WordPress installation is running on a Linux based system. Over twenty years in this business has shown us that there are far fewer issues with WordPress operating in Linux based servers rather than Windows based servers.
Hopefully your web developer is proficient with WordPress through experience and training. He or she should know the answers to these questions. If not, we routinely reassure our clients on such matters.
And, finally, the CharlesWorks team wishes you and yours a very safe and happy 2020!
We hear lots of hype about how the economy is doing so great these days. However, it isn’t necessarily true for all and many have to watch their spending.
One thing to watch is minimum labor/service rates. Checking out how you’re billed for webwork can save you a lot on money over time.
You gain the most advantage for yourself by finding a web company that bills by the minute. Billing by the full hour – or even worse yet – a minimum of more than an hour – is the absolute worst for you as an end web client.
By the minute billing means if a task takes 14 minutes you are billed for 14/60 of the hourly rate. While some complicated website tasks take lots of time – but smaller tasks usually do not take long to do – like changing phone numbers, updating hours, adding or taking down specials, minor modifications to how something looks and the likes of that.
There are companies that will bill you for only the work they do for you – billing you by the minute.
I started doing it that way from the time I started my business in 1998. The business experienced considerable growth. One day, a competitor in my field told me I was “shooting myself in the foot” by charging that way. I ran into him a number of years later. He wasn’t in the web business any more.
There are many companies out there that do business fairly. If you’re paying minimum labor times or so called maintenance plans, then my suggestion is to look for a web company that will treat you fairly. You’ll save a lot of money in the long term.
I’ve mentioned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) throughout many articles. While it is important – I believe it’s the most abused area of website development.
It’s important for your business website to be found in the search engines. That is best and most inexpensively done by having pertinent material in your website so the search engines see your website as pertinent or closely related to a topic.
There are many unscrupulous individuals and companies out there selling just plain bogus SEO. It’s often impossible to discern the truth. There are no regulations or meaningful certifications in this field.
As an example – let’s say you receive a dozen Viagra spam messages in a month. Does that mean you need it? Certainly just because a number of spam messages are saying you need something doesn’t turn it into a fact.
Why would you believe the same about SEO regarding your search placements on the Internet? Our web clients are bombarded with spam and with phone calls saying they need this and that for their websites. Some fall prey to these sales pitches and some even go out of business as a result of spending hundreds of dollars each month on scams.
Your web developer should care about you as a client – should want you to be as successful as possible and not up-selling you right out of business.
The worst part of the SEO scams is they can oftentimes hurt your placement with the search engines.
Don’t fall prey to the scamsters selling these bogus “services”. Check with your web developer FIRST about such offers to find out if they are for real or whether you actually need them.
Website visitor safety is extremely important. I’ve mentioned terms here before like SSL, encryption, security and so on. These involve that little green or grey lock in front of the web address in your browser. Clicking on that tells you whether the encryption is valid and what site it’s issued to.
Providing encryption was traditionally expensive for website operators. However, it can be had for free these days. There’s no reason not to have it.
Encryption refers to a method on website servers that helps ensure you are actually on the website you think you are on. This greatly reduces the risks of fraud.
Ripping you off is a top priority for many nefarious individuals and organizations on the web. One method is tricking you into giving your credit card or other personal information on a “fake” site or web page. These pages often look exactly like those of your bank’s or credit card company’s or even your email’s login pages.
There’s usually a small one-time charge for initial setup. Website owners should check with their hosting company or web developer to ensure website encryption (SSL) is included in their monthly hosting at no extra charge. If need be, it’s worthwhile to move to a company whose hosting provides this.
Your website is an important investment. Whether you made it yourself or paid to have a professional develop it for you – you wouldn’t want to lose it. We have taken on clients who were with the largest company in the world who lost their website because of having no backup. The terms for doing business with that company even state they are not responsible for the loss of the website.
I couldn’t imagine not backing sites up. Nowadays the technology is ever present to back everything up. In the not too distant past, hard drives were much more expensive than they are now. Hard drive space is extremely inexpensive nowadays – so there’s no excuse for a company to not make backups.
One third of today’s sites are on a platform called WordPress. Security updates happen often and changes can be readily made to WordPress sites – so they need backups at least every day. Whether there’s a server catastrophe or simply one of your employees blowing up your site while making changes – it can be recovered.
Definitely protect your website investment by hosting with a company that provides daily backups of your WordPress website every night for at least a month. That will avoid having to restart your website from scratch.
Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!
I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not. Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.
Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!
Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.
Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.
This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.
Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.
If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.
Do I really have to say a web developer simply has to have a phone contact where one can at least leave messages?
As unbelievable as it may seem, there are those out there without a listed phone contact. I saw a website recently where there was no telephone number or email address on it to reach someone for service. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you that individual has been in business for many years.
The owner asked me how I managed to get so many clients and grow CharlesWorks to handling thousands of websites. I couldn’t resist mentioning there was no contact information on the website. The response was they didn’t want lots of junk emails and people knowing their phone number.
It reminded me that back in 1998 I started CharlesWorks because I wanted to help as many people with their web related needs as possible. I knew from having been in business earlier in my life that there are always going to be spam phone calls (just like spam emails). But that’s part of the cost of doing business.
So think twice if you can find a phone number to talk to someone.
It is great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you. I always ask folks I meet when the last time was that they received referrals from the web hoster or web developer before moving to CharlesWorks. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer folks back to their own clients.
You need a web developer that does that as a rule. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and will refer business back to their own clients.
That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.
One small way CharlesWorks does that is through its CharlesWorks Directory. We help our clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.
If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!
When exploring who to have build your web presence or do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), look to see that the web company you’re considering is an accredited member in good standing with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). The BBB does a lot of your homework for you. It actually checks out businesses for things like the fact that they really are in business and what the company’s website states.
This can be very important: make sure the company really is accredited by checking for them on the BBB website. There are many unscrupulous companies out there that place a BBB logo (with is a copyright infringement) on their site and have never even applied for BBB accreditation.
Companies must apply to and pay a fee to pass accreditation member of the BBB. Once again, these are all factors that point to the integrity of the company – it’s reliability – its dependability. You want a company that is going to help you and that thinks about its web clients – so the web company’s BBB accreditation is very important.
Reliable web development companies often maintain a committed presence in local networking groups. This keeps them in touch with those in their communities. It also makes the web company more accessible to those needing services. Developers usually give great service to those they see face to face weekly.
There are many networking groups out there. I don’t consider chambers of commerce networking groups. I say that for a few reasons. First is that there is no commitment to go to the meetings. Many join chambers and never attend meetings. One can join just about anywhere without committing to attend. Some belong to many chambers with no commitment to attend. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to belong to a local chamber and actually be involved.
Web development companies belonging to BNI (Business Networkers International) are ahead of the game. In order to participate in BNI the company’s representative must commit to a minimum one year and agree to show up weekly. Relationships are built among BNI members. This encourages referrals passed among members.
Bear in mind the web company should be able to pass all the items on our checklist (click to see the list again in a new window). That will be the most homework you can do to ensure the best probability of a great outcome with your website development.
Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.
Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.
Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.
Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.
Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.
Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.
Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.
Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.
Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!
Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.
Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.
Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:
1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.
2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.
3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.
Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.
Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.