Home » Blog » Website Design

From Website Design

An Inside Look At A Social Media Marketing Firm

Over the past month, I had the good fortune to have Kate Halabi, a high school senior intern, work alongside me during a very, very busy few weeks. While it was incredibly valuable (and fun!) to have such a bright, talented, and eager person working with me every day, it was also energizing to share the what, why and how of this constantly shifting industry.   As I think Kate learned, there’s a lot more that goes into successful online marketing campaigns than sitting around posting cute puppy pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Here’s what Kate had to say about her internship:


“I’ve been working at as an intern at Sheed Communications for nearly a month now, and the time has flown by. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work with Nancy, who is dynamic, skilled, personable, and kind. Nancy introduced me to Google Analytics, Canva, Animoto, Hootsuite, MailChimp, TweetDeck, and several other useful social media management tools that she uses to run her business and support her clients.  

MailChimp has been especially interesting to look into, as it provides a platform for the marketing emails that I’ve so often received, but never really understood. The site allows you to design a sequence of professional-looking emails for those who subscribe to your email list. It provides a whole different perspective of social media and marketing than what I’m accustomed to as a consumer. 

I also analyzed the success of various social media posts in relation to others by digging into the mechanics of Facebook, and measured the reach of our clients’ newsletters by looking at open and click rates, URL clicks, and more. I’ve researched live streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope, and created a promotional video using Animoto. I helped to coordinate a tweet chat and associated raffle, and set up filters in Google Analytics to ensure that the data we report to clients isn’t artificially inflated. Each of these projects gave me a better understanding of how the social media marketing world functions and how it helps entrepreneurs and small business grow their online platforms. 

I saw how Nancy stays current with the social media and marketing world when we attended a seminar at the Stamford Innovation Center. The event introduced best practices in the field, and discussed the ways in which the online world is shifting. It taught me the value of keeping abreast of developments in such a rapidly changing field. 

Nancy has taught me what a true entrepreneur is. She balances her time between work and family, transitioning from one to the other with ease. Nancy has designed her work to fit into other aspects of her life. Most of all, she does something she loves, and is very good at. Working for her has been a pleasure. Nancy sets an upbeat and relaxed, yet productive tone for her business. I have witnessed this firsthand, and she conveys the same energy to her colleagues, who work from all different locations. It takes someone excellent at communications to run a business with so many disparate parts so smoothly.”

Picture

I am humbled.  Big thanks to Kate! I will miss having her smile, can-do-spirit and, not to mention, all of her help.  But lest you think I am a merry band of one, I must also give shout-outs of huge thanks and gratitude to the rest of the crew that that continues to support Sheed Communications (in order of length of time working together):


All of these women (yes, note all women!) are pros in their field and passionate about what they do.  I’m so lucky.

And what about you?  Who helps you and is critical to your support team?  Please share in the comments below.  Thanks!

Measuring for Success: A check-up for your website

This article is the first in the “Measuring Your Success with Online Marketing” series reviewing key marketing metrics for you online platforms (website, newsletters and social media) to gauge where you are, where you are going and how best to get you there.

How healthy is your website?  If you have a blog, e-commerce and/or a contact form on your website, you might have a general sense of how active or engaged visitors are with your website.  However, most people who basically use their website as an online marketing brochure (is this you?) don’t really have a sense of how well their website is performing and what they could do to improve its “health and vitality.”

To review the basic website metrics, you will need to have Google Analytics installed on you site, so that you can then log into the Google Analytics dashboard for your site (if you don’t know how to do this, ask your web developer or go here).



9368707_orig
Google Analytics Dashboard

 

Now let’s dig in to the numbers – (which I recommend you do at least monthly) and understand what they mean.

Number of sessions – This is defined as each time a visitor initiates a session.  Ideally, you would like to see this number grow each month or at least remain constant.   Adding new, consistent and valuable content to your site on a frequent basis will help grow your audience.  If there are big fluctuations from month to month, it is important to figure out what or who is helping to spike your traffic (see Referrals via Acquisition below).

Number of users – This is the number of  visitors who are coming to your site for a specified period of time (by default 30 days).  A 50/50 balance of new and returning visitors shows a healthy engagement with fans who are returning to learn more from you and a new audience who is interested to find out more.

** Note- Don’t get lost in the numbers and forget about engagement.  It’s important to be consider quantity AND quality of your audience.  For example, in trying to raise awareness for your site and business, you will be much better served by 500 enthusiastic visitors who return to your website on a regular basis, read your blog posts, leave comments, refer traffic and contact you, than you will by having 1,000 visitors who visit once and never come back. **

Time on site (Avg Session Duration) – Obviously, the more time spent on your site the better, but don’t forget we have short attention spans, so don’t be surprised to see an average of under 2 minutes.  To get people to stay on your site, make it “sticky” by including easy navigation and discoverability throughout your site.  In other words, make it easy for them to get wherever it is you want them to go on your site.  Don’t lead them to dead ends.

Bounce rate – This percentage reflects how much of your audience is landing on your site and bouncing off quickly.  Ideally you don’t want to see a bounce rate higher than 60%.  If it is hovering closer to 45% or 50%, that’s better, but not ideal.  Try to keep it trending downward using the same engaging tactics (mentioned above) for getting them to spend more time on your site.

Sources and referrals via the Acquisition Channel  – Where is your traffic coming from?  Are they coming by searching? Or via email? Or social media? Another website?  Who is your top “referrer”?  Be sure to be developing relationships (online and off) with your most valuable referral sources.

Most popular pages via the Behavior Channel – Once visitors are on your site, what do they do there? What page do they come to first, and then where to they go?  Which are the most popular pages on your site for a given period?  Is it your services, about, portfolio or do they head to the blog?  Does this change or does is stay the same?  Understanding your visitors’ behavior and interest will help you better update and refresh your site with content they are seeking.

In reviewing these key stats on a monthly basis, you will soon get a clear picture about how healthy and effective your website is.   It will also give you valuable insight about how well your other online marketing efforts (social media, newsletters, online advertising, adwords, etc.) are performing.

Stay tuned for more about online marketing measurement and metrics, when we look at social media and email newsletter marketing in upcoming posts. 

In the meantime, let me know in the comments, what did you learn or discover about the health of your website when you dug into Google Analytics.   I look forward to hearing from you!  Thanks.

3 Essential Tools To Rock Your Online Marketing

To effectively manage your online marketing efforts you should be making the most of your website, your email list and your social media.  Obviously, if you are handling all of these efforts yourself, you’ll need as much ease and automation as you can get.   Detailed below are my favorite tools for each of these categories along with a description about how they work, what they cost and what alternatives you might consider.

Mailchimp:  If you need to reach your clients or potential customers on a regular recurring basis, Mailchimp is a great email management program.  It is fairly simple to set up and once you create a design that works for you it can be relatively turn-key to stay connected to your audience.  Perks of using an email program are the ability to see your open rates, schedule emails and integrate sign-up forms onto your website.

  • Cost: Free for less than 2,000 subscribers or paid version begins at $10/month
  • App: Mailchimp app allows you to see campaign reports and modify subscribers
  • Alternative: Constant Contact is another well-known email management program, but I prefer MailChimp’s user interface and the monkey is just darn funny!

Hootsuite:  If are your tired of logging into each of your social media accounts separately every time you want to post something, then take a look at Hootsuite.  It is a social media program where you can track your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ (business) accounts all in one place.  With Hootsuite, you can also schedule posts for the future, do keyword and trend searches, share accounts with your social media team as well as generate reports and analytics about your social media activity.  Like Evernote and Mailchimp, there are loads of apps, plug-ins and integrations within the Hootsuite that make it a powerhouse program.

  • Cost: Free or paid version begins at $8.99/month.
  • App: App is really useful, for quick check-ins, for sharing and for engaging with your followers from your mobile device.
  • Alternative: However, if you find the Hootsuite dashboard and capabilities are overwhelming, then give Buffer a try.  It serves a similar function, but in much simpler format.

Weebly:  If you want to create a simple website that doesn’t have a totally DIY look, then Weebly is a good place to start. I have been creating websites with Weebly for almost 5 years and it has only gotten better and easier to use with each new version.  It offers  hundreds of customizable formats and styles and it’s drag-and-drop feature for content doesn’t require you to know a word of code but still allows you integrated customization options.  It also offers blog and e-commerce features, but only the basics and the Weelby stats are not entirely reliable.

  • Cost: Free or PRO account begins at $23.94/year.
  • App: The Weebly app allows you quick access to draft a blog post, check stats or respond to activity on your site, but I would advise sticking to the desktop version.
  • Alternatives: I understand that Wix and SquareSpace offer similar functions as Weebly.  However, it you want to play with the big boys you really should be using WordPress.

With effective tools in place your website, email and social media efforts will work better together to help you reach your target online audience.

Let me know in the comments below, what programs you use or what has your experience been with Mailchimp, Hootsuite and Weebly? Thanks.

6 Ways Designing a Website is Like Building A House

When helping others work on a new website, I often compare the process to a home building project.  Both can be frustrating, confusing and costly if you don’t put enough advance planning and clear communication into action.  So consider these six important steps when you set out to create a new website:

1) Make a list of everything you want – When you approach a new home or renovation project, you should have a pretty good idea of what you want:  a kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, living areas and whatever else you might need.  The same holds true for your new website.  Whether it is an outline, a narrative or a drawing, find a way to include and communicate all of the elements that you want included in your new website.

2) Show examples of what you like – When you are thinking about your dream home you probably have images of things that you would like to include in your project. The same holds true for your dream website.  If you have specific ideas about how you want your pages to look or certain links to function, be sure to share it with your designer.  At a minimum, it is a really useful exercise to have a list of 3-5 websites with specific explanations about what you like or don’t like about those sites.

3) Think about how you will live in your new home  – Where do you want your stuff to go?  Though you might not know exactly where everything will be located on your website, before you start the process, you should have a general idea of how you would like your pages to flow and function.

4) How are you going to make others feel when they come to visit you – While you usually build a home for yourself not your guests, most people do take into consideration how to make their guests feel welcome, engaged and interested in staying for awhile.  This is of the utmost importance when you are designing your website.  You should consider how they will find you (search and domain name) what will be the first impression (home page welcome or landing page), what do you want them to do when they get there (read your blog, buy your product, book an appointment) and how do you encourage them to stay in touch and come back and visit (sign up for your newsletter, connect via social media,  contact you).

5) Be patient – As with homebuilding, at first, the project seems to move really fast.  You will get design concepts to review, you make changes, you receive revisions and perhaps, you go another round until you get to a design concept that you really like.  But then, when your design team starts to move to inside your website – coding, connecting, linking and testing – you may not feel that they are as responsive because they are busy doing this behind–the-scenes work.

6) Have a contract – By having a contract with your website design team, you should have a very clear understanding of who is responsible for doing what.  You should have an outline of the expected time frame for the project and also can establish payment schedule.  This should prevent confusion and encourage clear communication between you and your design team.

It’s just like building a home . . . the more informed you are, the more you know what you want and the better you communicate this, then the more successful you will be in achieving the dream website you desire.

You might also enjoy these articles about successful website building:

How to Make Your Own Website for Free – USA Today
How to Dramatically Improve Your Website – Bruce Kasanoff
– 5 Tips for Partnering with a Designer or Creative Agency – 341 Studios

What was the best (or worst) advice you got when you created a website?


4 Tips for Picture-Perfect Posting

You’ve heard the cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words.  In online communications, this couldn’t be more true.  Using images greatly increases the engagement of your followers or readers because 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text alone. (Source: Zabisco)  Images will also help you better convey the message you are trying to make, the product you are trying to sell or the idea you are trying to explain.

So here are four things you should do when posting images online.

1) Edit – The better looking your images are, the more engaging they become and the more likely they are to be liked, commented on or shared.  It is worth spending a few minutes making sure the size, color and resolution of your images is optimal before you post it.  Don’t panic, you don’t have to be a Photoshop wiz to create quality pictures.  There are several free online photo-editing sites (PicMonkey, Pixlr, Gimp) available and most of today’s camera apps have relatively easy, but sophisticated editing tools for enhancing your images.

2) Name and ID – Google loves images, so make sure you describe and ID your image files as best you can.  For example, instead of using a picture of flowers with a file name “IMG300342.jpg” you should rename the image “JanesFloristbouquet.jpeg” before uploading it.  This will help you with search engine rankings (SEO) for your website or blog and it also helps describe the image to people who might not be able to see it.
Also, if the image is your work of art, you should consider putting your logo or watermark on it, so that when it is shared, people will clearly know the source of the image.

3) Tag –   If you are using images in social media, then consider tagging your image for wider audience. Use keywords describing what the picture is about (i.e. #menswear, #timemanagement #quote #TGIF), your image will reach others who are interested in your tags.
You can also tag people who are in a picture you are sharing.  It’s best if you get their permission, first.   When you do tag them, your image will also be shared and accessible to their followers (assuming they don’t have strict privacy controls).

4) Credit – This could possibly be the most important tip because if you don’t have permission or properly credit the source of your image (assuming it is not you), then you could be stealing.  Seriously, pulling images from a random Google image search with no attribution is no joke and could land you into legal trouble.  Most photo-sharing sites (Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, iStockphoto) offer details about the rights and permissions associated with using their images. Take the time to understand the permission rights of the images you want to use and give credit where credit is due.

So are you ready to aim, shoot, edit and post?  Let me know how your picture posting is going in the comments and check out these articles for more resources on using images online:

– 9 Best Free Image Editors – Mashable
Five Facebook Failures with Visuals – Social Solutions Collective
How Images Convince People You’re Not Lying (and 3 tactics for using it online)  – Social Triggers
– 9 Sites Where You Can Download Stock Photos For Free – The Virtual Assistant