This matters, it really matters! Ever wondered what the difference is between a website URL having a green lock symbol and one having an i in a circle next to it? The difference is an SSL certificate.
What is it?
In a nutshell – SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a form of security that encrypts data on your website which means that should anyone (who shouldn’t), try to gain access to information on the site, your information is unreadable and unprocessable to the person trying to access it.
Why is it important?
Other than the obvious – everyone’s data is secure, as of May 2017 Google started penalising websites which don’t hold an SSL certificate. First of all they put the warning next to the URL that the site may not be safe. Next stage is they do not index websites which don’t hold a certificate, as highly as those that do. In short – if you don’t have an SSL Certificate and your competitors do, they will rank more highly in a Google search, than you.
You can still use services that take you to websites which hold SSL Certificates. For example having customers process their payments through PayPal. However don’t rely on their level of security alone. Yes you can process payments through PayPal/Stripe but when the transaction is complete and the user is redirected back to your website they will get a warning saying the site is not secure and would they like to proceed? In many cases, the user closes the window and won’t return to the site in that transaction.
Consider your User Journey
When creating websites it can be tempting to put what we want people to know about our product or service without really thinking about how users navigate websites and what will keep them on the site.
People are time limited and when searching websites if it is a product or service they are often looking outside working hours. This means that if they have a question they won’t be able to contact you and receive further information immediately which is important as they are on your website now and want the information now.
Having as much information as your customer needs will help to convince them that your product/service is the one for them. The idea behind ‘whet their appetite and have them contact you for more information’ is long gone. If people can’t find all the information they need on a site then they will find a website that does have that info.
It can be uncomfortable to reveal prices and other products on your website, especially if you are worried your competitors will see and copy you. This will all be negated by how long your user spends on your site reading this information and making their decision. Google’s algorithm for ranking your website takes into account how long the user stays on each page so the more useful information, the longer they stay on the site and the higher you will rank on Google. As for those competitors copying – remember imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Don’t let people leave your site
It takes an awful lot of hard work to get people to find your site in the first place. It has to be well thought out with a great user experience, good SEO and regularly updated content to have Google index it in a keyword search. Therefore once you have users on your website the last thing you want is for them to inadvertently leave it!
The best way of handling this is make sure all your page relates to the rest of the site. When using links in page text make sure the link opens up in another tab so that people can remain on or easily find their way back to the page they found the link on in the first place.
Sites that constantly redirect the user to another URL are frustrating to deal with and after this happening for a few pages, users will often search for a competitors site that has a better user experience.
Have a photo of you
People buy from people and having a faceless website where people can’t relate to who is behind the product or service will not help you gain sales. There is a reason that many small businesses set up a photo shoot when building their website to ensure that their customer sees them in their best light.
Don’t worry about not being photogenic or having the right environment for photographs. Speak to an experienced photographer (or two), read their testimonials and recommendations and once you choose someone to photograph you, let them bring some ideas regarding backgrounds and poses to ensure you get just what you’re looking for, for your site.
Have testimonials on all the pages
Testimonials are part of a strategy that is known as ‘social proof’. In a nutshell it tells us that people like working with you/liked your product/service. If your audience see that others are rating and recommending you, they are much more likely to use you.
The reason for putting testimonials on all of your pages is that if people are only going to look at a handful of pages on your site, the social proof will go a long way in that short space of their visit, to convincing them that you are the company for them.
Make it easy for people to find your social accounts
With Social Media having been around since the early 2000s (ok it was the late 90s but no-one really knew about it then and we’re talking about the bigger channels in this post), it is hard to run and market a business with a stand alone website and no Social Media accounts. Therefore if you don’t have one, set one or two up. If you have trouble deciding which ones will suit your business have a look at my Social Media for Small Business and Start Ups course.
Once you have these accounts set up make sure you have them prominently displayed on your website and make it easy to find you. This includes not just having the buttons that will take people through to the selected accounts, you also need to include feeds from the channels on your website.
We all handle Social Media slightly differently to our websites as Social Media is more of a chatty, informal environment and linking your accounts is a great way to show your personality and expertise without having to constantly re-write the content on your website pages.
Remove the guesswork – use an SEO plugin
How search engines update their algorithms to ensure that websites get seen can be a minefield. Whilst the search engines will often release as statement detailing the changes and what they mean to the user, trying to keep on top of the new information and adapt marketing techniques can leave us all with a headache.
Having a basic knowledge of what will help your website rankings and what will hurt it is all you need. There are plenty of SEO tools who stay up to date with this information making the changes to their own product so you don’t have to. Using a tried and tested, well known plugin (such as Yoast) means that as long as you follow their guidelines, your SEO will still be correct and there are very few changes that you will need to make to your marketing style.
One of my favourite things about Yoast is that they also have a knowledge base where they have blogs explaining how and why you should tweak your marketing plan to get the most out of your website.
Use fonts people can read
Fonts are a funny thing. One persons’ font heaven is another’s font hell. I love a brush font (usually a handwriting style) and they can be a great tool for speaking directly to your audience. Get it right and you have a compelling design to capture your audience and help them follow through your call to action. Get it wrong and you can have frustrated users who can’t work out what you are trying to say or two letters together that look like they’re making up another word. One thing we know is that frustrated users will not engage with your product or service.
When it comes to font sizing think of this as the opposite of school, where we were berated for using as large a font as possible to fill up space. The majority of feedback I give during website reviews is that font is too small. This isn’t a word document or a printed piece. Font 12 is not the universal ‘correct’ size. If you want to keep your user engaged and make your content easily readable then go with font 16 (at least) for your body copy.
Create content regularly
There are so many good reasons to do this and there are 2 major ones that cannot be ignored:
It will help your website move up the Google ranks.
The reason for this is when people search on Google, the algorithm will look for key words that match the search and look at the websites which have content added to them regularly. There are a lot of old, dysfunctional websites hanging around that people haven’t taken down or updated. Google’s aim is to match people with the best quality content it can find. Therefore if a website is being updated regularly with fresh content and users are responding to that content (clicking on links in blog posts, following through on call to actions) then Google knows it is providing a good match to the customer and the algorithm will choose you when more people use the keywords matching your website.
It is a good discipline for the rest of your online marketing.
Most small businesses handle their own marketing. After all, who knows their product/service better than them? Trying to find time to run your business and market it can mean that you end up very time -poor and the marketing schedule is often the first thing to get neglected when trying to make sales.
Creating regular content can be difficult – it takes time to think of quality content that your customers will find useful. There is no point in creating sub-quality content as your users won’t engage with as Google will notice this and stop pulling your website through in keyword searches. Also, no-one wants to produce content that people don’t want to read or engage with.
Having a theme to creating content is a great way of keeping you on task. It’s much easier to produce a series of blog posts than it is to think of new, unrelated titles each time. Having a set day that you publish the posts will also help to keep you on task. It also means that knowing publication day is looming, you will be more geared up to carving out time to create content, be in the right headspace for it and the content will be better quality than if you had an ‘as and when I have time’ approach to blogging and vlogging. Just remember to share your hard work on your Social Media channels and voila! Marketing done.