Welcome to our series, Digital Marketing in a Noisy World. This content was originally presented in our breakout session at Breathe Christian Writers Conference 2015. (Check out our Prezi here.) We hope this information is helpful and encouraging for you. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact us.
Website Best Practices
by Jamie Marshall
Websites can be confusing. We can help.
Here are six areas to focus on when creating or updating one of the most important pieces in your platform: your website.
1. Own your own digital real estate
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying. If you rely on social media:
- You are limited with layouts, character counts, and terms & conditions for running promotions, etc.
- You have no control, and the rules can change at any time causing you to lose part or all of your audience.
Instead, create a website where you can gather followers and email addresses, ensuring that you can communicate with your fans on your terms and on your turf.
2. Name it well
Choosing the right domain name is important. Ideally, you’ll be able to get www.yourname.com. If that is unavailable, there are other options, such as www.yournameauthor.com. Keep these tips in mind:
- Keep it short, 15 characters or fewer. This makes it easier to remember and share with less chance for typos.
- Don’t use hyphens. Those websites can come across looking like spam.
- Make it as easy as possible for your audience to find you. Think like Google. Your domain name should not be the place where you express your greatest creativity!
3. Feature Quality Content
IMAGES: Use professional images or stock photography (save your iPhone pics for your social media accounts!). Many websites offer royalty free images, one of which is Unsplash.com (where you can get 10 photos every 10 days).
TEXT: Use shorter paragraphs or give options to “Read More” so you don’t overwhelm your audience with text. For some reason we love books with paragraph after paragraph, but on screens, we get overwhelmed by too much text and we suddenly remember we are too busy to be playing online.
LINKS: Use links. Links coming in to your site and going out of your site have a profound impact on SEO—which builds your online credibility. Remember to link to things like these:
- websites where your book(s) can be purchased
- your social media accounts
- positive reviews/other media
FRESH CONTENT: Start a blog. Another thing that drives SEO up on a website is new original content. Posts also build a body of content that lends credibility and establishes you as an expert in your field. But one of the most important reasons to blog is to connect and converse with your tribe.
4. Site Organization: Information Architecture (FLOW)
Make a sitemap, creating buckets of information. Think through the content you are sharing on your site. How can you organize that content into sections? These sections become your navigation terms: About, Contact, Blog, etc.
Less is more. Do your audience a favor and guide them in the fewest amount of steps to the desired content. Use CTAs (Calls To Action) – Read more, Learn more, Buy now, Sign-up, Register, Donate.
Don’t use a separate page for social media links – put those on header or footer so they are visible from any page.
There are industry standards: About, My Work, Blog, Contact. These are the kinds of things we expect. The more you stick to that the more easily we can navigate your site.
If you have a site, how efficiently are you guiding readers to the desired content? Are they able to land on your site and get where they want to be in just a few clicks? Or is some of your content pretty buried and getting missed because of this fact?
5. Clean design
The current standard calls for clean, fresh design with very little clutter, and where images feature prominently. If websites have phases like art, then this is the minimalist phase.
Are all websites starting to look the same? YES! But, this is not a bad thing.
It’s a similar concept to how cars are starting to look more or less the same. If a certain design helps the car perform better in the wind tunnel, more manufacturers will use that type of design. When it comes to websites, we are getting used to looking for navigation across the top, social media icons in the margins, and featured services or products spread across the home page of websites. We like knowing where to click.
When thinking about design, don’t reinvent the wheel. Do consider how the design helps or hinders the function of the site. Not only does it look beautiful, but it gets read too.
6. Responsive design
“Mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage in 2014.” –Morgan Stanley Research, 2014
You can know that your website is responsive by grabbing the bottom corner of your browser window and dragging it. If the page “responds” to the size change, it is responsive.
Google announced last spring that they will now be “boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.” –Googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com, April 21, 2015
Jamie Marshall spent the early years of her career advocating for, protecting and empowering children, as a teacher and adoption worker. When she dove into digital marketing, it was head first. She now uses her wide skill set to help organizations find and develop their digital voice, get discovered online, and grow their business.
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