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Is Your Site Mobile Friendly? Not sure? Here is how you check!

By | SEO, Web Design, WordPress

Is your website mobile friendly? The majority of users coming to your site are likely on a mobile device, and if your website isn’t mobile friendly you could be losing business simply because the site doesn’t work properly. We have all experienced it, you visit a site on your phone and you have to scroll then tap and zoom just to be able to read the text.

Every website we produce here at HS Creative is optimized to work seamlessly on mobile devices.  While using a separate mobile friendly version is an option, we generally advise against this as it can lead to content inconsistencies, along with duplicate content that can hurt your search engine optimization (SEO).  In our experience it’s far better to build your site mobile friendly from the start, saving you a lot of time and headaches in the long run!

If you are not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, Google has a great tool to check your site called the Mobile Friendly Test.

WordPress Makes Life Easy

By | Web Design

We are often asked by clients who come to us with older websites and are considering a move to a WordPress system what the benefits would be, so we thought we’d list a few of the “biggies” here.

In-House Content Management
The big obvious benefit to establishing a WordPress platform for your website is that it enables the website to be easily administrated internally, with minimal training. A variety of user security levels can be applied for different levels of access such as authors, editors and administrators, and when editing a page the system is much like editing a Microsoft Word document. Easy peasy!

Some clients are so busy they prefer to have us perform updates on their behalf, but still like the idea of being able to “drive their own car” if they wish. Many clients will perform simple content updates themselves, and call on us when they have more complicated changes they need done. Companies who are still paying a web developer to perform simple page copy updates should definitely take a hard look at making a change.

When we do a website redesign for a client, one-on-one training on the WordPress system is always included. We can also travel to businesses to train groups on WordPress administration.

Reliable, Adaptable and Expandable
WordPress has proven to be a reliable system and is infinitely flexible and expandable. For designers, it’s a dream to work with because we can lay out amazing templates and rely on a strong infrastructure to hold our design together over time, producing easily navigable world-class websites that are affordable for our clients. Our clients are happy to know their new WordPress site can accommodate branding changes, marketing adjustments and other visual tweaks without ripping anything apart. Time and again we have seen clients with WordPress websites save thousands when confronted with the prospect of a major look and feel overhaul that with another system would be a nightmare to implement.

Mobile Friendly Responsive Layouts
You know those websites that have separate mobile systems? That costs as much as it sounds. There is no need to go to those lengths, as responsive websites become more prevalent and pre-packaged responsible themes are available for WordPress systems. Beware, however – not all WordPress out-of-the-box themes are truly responsive. We work with our clients to make sure that their site is truly responsive and compatible with mobile devices of any size.

We’re happy to answer your WordPress questions – give us a shout!

Website Facelifts – Easier Than Design Firms Want you to Think!

By | Web Design

Many folks think a website redesign has to be an entirely new website – often, actually most of the time, this isn’t the case.

Especially when my web design client is on a tight budget, there are many creative ways to update a website and make it look and feel brand-spankin’ new without changing much except the “Skin.” If it’s not necessary to change the structure of the site and you just need a rebranding, it is probably a much smaller job than you think!

As for cost – I have seen company after company fall for the same line from website design firms – “your website code is out of date, it needs to be rebuilt from scratch.” WRONG. This is almost never the case. Sure some code might need to be updated or infrastructure tweaks made, but  don’t let website design firms fool you into thinking you need to build an entirely new site when some code updates and graphic changes will achieve great results and a smoothly working website that is up to modern standards at a fraction of the cost.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you approach your website redesign project:

1) DOES MY WEBSITE WORK WELL?

Are your customers and website visitors easily finding the information they came for? This is what I hear time and again from internet users: “Why did they change their site? Now I can’t find a thing!”

If your website already works great and you just want better branding, you are the perfect candidate for a website facelift. Ask your designer what they can do to leave the overall feel of the site intact and just improve the look.

If your website is confusing and not easy to navigate, this is the perfect time to look at restructuring the flow of your information and the page heirarchy. Remember – one click is always better than two!

2) DO YOU HAVE NEW BRANDING TO INCORPORATE?

What does your business card look like? Your brochure? If your customer is holding these things in their hands while looking at your website, it should all look like it came from the same company. Colors, logo, and font selections should match. Memorable branding across all your business collateral means your customers will remember your company before thinking of your competition! If you decide to update your website, make sure your cards and brochures match too. Doing them all at one time can be much more efficient and cost effective than tackling them one at a time, so plan ahead!

3) WHAT DOES MY COMPETITION’S WEBSITE LOOK LIKE?

Do some market research! Find out what your closest competitors’ website design looks like and then BEAT IT! The first thing I do with a new client other than looking at their current site is to look at their competitor’s. I want my clients to win, hands down, when customers are comparing websites. This not only means a better looking website, but a better flowing website where information is easy to find!

4) IS THE PROBLEM WITH MY CURRENT SITE STRUCTURAL OR VISUAL?

This is the big one when deciding whether to facelift or overhaul your website design. I can help you take a look and decide what needs to change – but usually you can tell by yourself. Hint: most often it’s visual!

You Pollen, Customer Bee

By | Social Media, Web Design

When you think of social media, it often feels like you’re stuck in one place, waiting for people to notice you. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are like pollen, drawing bees to you – and the brighter your flower (your content), the quicker they come to snoop around. Even if they don’t actively pick you up, exposure is good – it sticks to their legs as they fly around, and if your flower was nice they’ll be back.

The goal is to get picked up by each of your visitors and carried back to their hive. To be one of the favorite brands of a customer is an honor and an accomplishment. Sure you can luck into it with a solid product and a good brand, but growth over a longer period of time takes careful marketing planning and execution to continue to be shared by all the bees buzzing around the garden of your city or neighborhood.

Think like a flower trying to get the attention of a bee.

Look Good!
Branding is key – you need to be memorable even if you only have a split second to make an impression. Without a solid brand and a cohesive strategy, people won’t remember which business they were looking at once they move on to the next. If you haven’t already, invest in developing a strong brand that carries throughout every single piece of material your customers will see – from storefront to product labels to color schemes inside your store t0 business cards and, of course, your website. Social media is part of this, too. Many people will see just a tiny square with your brand – make sure it represents you, and if they see a branded van rolling down the street with your catering crew inside, they should feel that spark of recognition “hey I’ve seen that catering company in my Twitter feed – I’m going to write down that number.”

Smell Good!
In social media there is big business in snark and dark comedy, but not for a small business. Keep it light and happy, and don’t complain. Even if it’s about traffic – you might think that makes your feed more human, but negativity in any form is not something you want associated with your brand. If you’re feeling stinky when you’re crafting a post, maybe save that one for later when you have a sweet smell again!

Be Flexible!
Move with the breeze. Each day put your finger in the wind of social media and see what people are talking about – if you’re creative, there’s a way to catch some of that wind in your sail! Many times there will be a word game circulating around, like one I saw today –

#LyricsThatNeedToBeShouted

Make use of these tags to amuse your followers by not only playing the word game but pulling your brand into it too. You sell hardware? Put the lyrics to Sledgehammer. You clean houses? Quote a little Iron MAIDen. Get it? Customers love seeing you have fun with your brand, and it makes it memorable.

Remember, your customers WANT to carry you with them. Give them good reasons to do it.

Happy Marketing!

Do Keyword Meta Tags Help Your Website’s SEO?

By | SEO, Web Design

Do keyword meta tags help boost your SEO ranking?

SEO (search engine optimization) is a tricky, ever changing landscape. The algorithms and data sets used by Google, Bing and the other search engines are constantly adjusting to accommodate the vast amount of information circulating throughout the World Wide Wonderland. Our challenge as optimizers working to help our clients is to anticipate these adjustments as we maintain websites and tweak content and code to secure a solid corner where their SEO is earning them organic traffic that results in customers or sales.  I do have a theory as to how Google develops its ranking algorithms – read it at your leisure and see if you agree.

Clients assume, understandably, that keyword meta tags are the first thing to insert into the code of your website pages to start optimizing. When Google first was a thing (remember that??) keyword meta tags embedded in the code at the top of the each page were critical – they were heavily weighted by the search engines, as that was before the days of the millions of click-bait websites that now clutter up the information highway.

Ok, so keyword meta tags have a history of being highly important. The question is, do keyword meta tags help your search engine ranking nowadays?

The answer is: NO they don’t.

Back in 2009, Google officially announced something they had already implemented – “Google no longer uses keyword meta tags in web ranking.”

That same year, Yahoo announced the same thing – they would no longer use keyword meta tags as a factor when determine website rankings. Bing’s announcement didn’t completely disavow keyword meta tags but the reality is the same. Keyword metatags were so heavily abused they became obsolete in terms of content indicators.

So why do so many people still take the time to enter them in? Habit, for one. Also, theres a feeling of “but what if they’re just SAYING they don’t use them for ranking, but they actually DO!” Well, there’s that possibility I suppose. But think about how many zillions of websites are out there who over the years have stuck any old keyword in the meta tags trying to climb in rankings without containing relevant content. It makes complete sense that they are now useless. Also, I really don’t think Google is trying to pull the meta wool over our eyes, with this one at least. They’d rather developers spend more time working on SEO that actually indicates legitimate content, that’s what helps Google in the long run as they can deliver higher quality content to the end user.

Let me be clear, I am NOT saying that meta tags in general are useless – I’m just talking about KEYWORD meta tags. Title and description tags among others are absolutely critical when working on your site’s SEO. You definitely should design your SEO efforts around your target keywords and phrases and incorporate them as much as you can into the content of your site – just don’t waste any time messing around with keyword meta tags. Instead, use that time to improve other angles of your site!

Facing Facebook in Small Business

By | Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

Behind every Facebook user there is a story. Each is keeping a personal journal of sorts, marking events in their life and passing the time with friends as they browse their timeline on their laptop.

Facebook is the success it is because it is a personal journey that each person can make their own. Your business Facebook presence is a part of this story. The trick is to make your posts just personal enough to fit in each user’s timeline without feeling too commercial, while keeping it surface enough to not intrude on their real life friendships. There’s nothing stranger than seeing a commercial Facebook account that seems like it’s trying to be everybody’s best friend in real life.

One of the ways I’ve found this can be done is to identify what it is about your company that made your followers “like” you in the first place. A strong brand presence is key, so they know who you are at a glance. A concise message, always – that’s marketing 101. But in most classic marketing materials, the personal connection is either forgotten or overlooked.

If they clicked like for your company, it’s usually because of one of two scenarios:

1) They have visited your shop, tried your product or service and had a positive experience

And/Or

2) One of their friends recommended you

Either way there is a similar bar to overcome – they are giving you a chance to provide them another positive experience in their personal Facebook timeline, one that is pleasant enough to remind them to support your store or product in the future.

Posting what your store is doing that day or if you’re closing early on Thursday isn’t enough. Facebook users are looking for an emotional connection – you’ll notice on your own timeline the most “likes” are heaped on the posts that elicit an out-loud emotion. Laughter, tears and joy are three of the ovbious ones.

When something fabulous happens for you and your business, POST IT!
If you landed a big account or a new distribution deal – share that with your fans! They love to share in your success, and feel the emotional boost that you got when you opened that letter or got that phone call.

Post lots of funny things that are connected with your business
If you’re a taco joint, post that it’s National Taco Day! Run a special on Pirate Day and post a picture of yourself wearing an eye patch with a parrot photoshopped on your shoulder, eating a taco. Your fans love to see you having fun at your place of business, because if somebody’s having fun it means they’re doing well and prospering.

Include some personal tidbits
Without oversharing, include some personal tidbits that serve to remind your fans that your business is homegrown and locally owned. When your in-laws come to town and have dinner at your restaurant, that’s the perfect opportunity to both make it personal and poke a little fun. “Even my in-laws love it here!”

When all else fails – pop culture makes it fun
When it’s a slow news day, simply go for an easy laugh. Photoshop a puppy holding your product and exclaiming out loud about it. Puppy and kitten pictures are the fuel of the internet – without them we would all perish.

Above all, have fun with your Facebook feed and your customers will feel it! That happy, feel-good connection is what will keep bringing them back again and again, and remind them to recommend you to their friends.

Happy Facebooking!