How to Turn Your Website Into a 24/7 Sales Machine!
Having a great-looking website that represents your company is enough to keep your business healthy and growing – right?
If only it were that simple. The sad truth is that most local businesses aren’t doing everything they can to generate leads online. And, it all starts with their websites, which – let’s face it – aren’t getting the job done.
In fact, I’ll take it a step further. If you’re not opening your inbox to find new leads from your website every day, you might as well not have a website.
The good news is, you can change that. Your website might be basic or have all the bells and whistles. It might be years old or freshly designed. No matter what it looks like, you can make it better and turn it into a 24-hour marketing machine.
I’m not going to bore you with the same old advice you’ve heard a million times. You know that your site needs great content and a killer call to action. Instead, let’s dig into some of the next-level stuff you can do to kick your website’s lead-generating power into high gear.
Do a Complete Website Audit for SEO and User Experience
Audits. Nobody likes them, but they’re necessary if you want to fine-tune your website and get more leads than you are now.
A website audit should look at two things. The first thing is SEO. You want to make sure that:
- Each page on your site is optimized for a local keyword
- You’ve completed every tag and you’re using your keywords in them
- You’ve written a killer meta description for every page
- Your site is free of broken links and spammy links
- You’ve got a good system of internal links
The second element of your audit should focus on the user experience. You may even want to hire testers to pinpoint roadblocks on your site. If your pages take too long to load or your site is difficult to understand, user testing can help you get to the bottom of it. You can find a list of effective usability tools here, including some that will allow you to create heat maps of your site even mimic the eye movements of users.
Use Responsive Content
For many local businesses, creating one-size-fits-all content is the goal. It’s certainly easier to do that than to work on unique content based on the user’s preferences and needs. But I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s also holding you back in terms of conversions.
You have two basic options when it comes to tailoring your content to a visitor’s interests:
- Create separate landing pages for each product or service you provide and then craft a marketing campaign around them; or
- Have visitors to your home page check boxes to identify their interests and then display responsive content tailored to their selections.
The first method is the old-school way of marketing. The second is something that’s become increasingly popular.
Here’s a simple example of responsive content. This martial arts school prompts visitors to choose a program on the home page. Once they do, they get a page of content where they can choose “pain points” to see the benefits of the program.
Once they finish choosing, the page would display information related to their choices, including benefits and frequently asked questions like this:
Writing this type of content doesn’t take any more time than it would take to write individual pages of content. It ensures that every visitor to your site feels that they matter. You can even offer lead magnets that are tailored to each product if you choose.
Live Updates and Chat
What happens when someone visits your website outside of your regular business hours? If the answer is that visitors are greeted with a static site that does nothing to acknowledge their presence, then it might be time for an update.
Interactive and live content can help you engage new visitors to your site and give the impression that you’re there to serve them even if you’re at home with your family. There are two simple changes you can make that will engage visitors at any time of day.
The first is by providing live updates. That means displaying a notification any time someone new fills out your contact form or buys your product. This is something we’ve been seeing on some sales pages as well as on website home pages.
To see an example, check out the website for Inspire Martial Arts in Burbank, CA. They display a notification that reads, “Jane from Burbank requested information about our classes.” If your site gets a decent amount of traffic, these notifications will capture visitors’ attention and create a sense of urgency.
The second option is live chat. You’ve probably noticed live chat windows popping up on some of the websites you visit. They often have a greeting, something like “Hi! How can we help you?”
The technology behind this type of live chat is actually less complicated (and less expensive) than you might think. It’s basically a chatbot that can be programmed with simple answers to your most commonly asked questions. If you’ve got an online store, your chatbot can even make product suggestions.
It might surprise you to learn that there are programs that will allow you to design your own chatbot. Of course, you can pay a programmer – and you may need to if you want your bot to engage in complex interactions. But if all you want is a simple bot to give the impression that you’re available at all times, you can check out this article for more information on DIY options.
FAQs and Self Service
If it’s been a long time since you updated your FAQs, then reviewing them and adding some updated information with internal links to your lead forms and sales pages can go a long way toward helping your website generate leads.
Not sure which questions to answer? Try checking your social media pages for ideas. Your followers probably ask questions and if several people ask the same question, it should be part of your FAQ.
A related issue is self-service options. The more information you provide on your site, the more likely it is that visitors will want to buy from you. Providing articles, links, infographics, and other information can help you keep visitors engaged and increase your conversions.
There’s no reason your website shouldn’t be generating leads around the clock. In addition to the usual advice about your content, images, design, and call to action, the four areas we’ve outlined here can help you engage visitors, get more leads, and ultimately, close more sales.
Protecting Your Website Against Hackers – What you need to know!
If you’re paying attention, you know that cybercrime is no joke. In 2015, cybercrime cost $3 trillion annually, and projections indicate that number will double by 2021.
The real question is, what are you doing to protect yourself? A lot of local business owners do the bare minimum and tell themselves it’s enough.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not enough. If all you’re doing is updating your anti-virus software and filtering out spam, you’re still vulnerable.
Scared? You should be. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to protect yourself. Cybersecurity experts are working constantly to stay ahead of hackers. Here are 8 ways you can protect your website and data.
#1: Keep All Software Updated
Have you ever received a notification that your software needed an update and delayed it because it wasn’t convenient? The answer is probably yes, and yet delaying updates for your website can leave you vulnerable to hackers.
One of the best ways to protect your site is to install all updates and patches as soon as they are available. Yes, it can be a pain to do it. But you need to weigh that against the inconvenience and cost of being hacked. Any software, application, or plug-in you use should be as up-to-date as possible at all times.
#2: Install an SSL Certificate on Your Site
As of 2018, Google Chrome is displaying a warning on any site that doesn’t use HTTPS protocol to protect its data. But that’s only part of the problem.
Having a secure site will build trust with your users. More importantly, it will make it far more difficult for a hacker to gain access to your data or to use it in the event they can break through your other defenses.
There are several types of SSL certificates. You can read about them here and decide which one is best suited to your needs.
#3: Require Strong Passwords
When you log into your site on WordPress, do you use a password that you also use for other sites? When was the last time you changed it? If the answers are yes and never, it’s time to create a new password, one that uses upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special symbols.
At the same time, look at your password requirements for your site’s other users. If you allow clients to sign in on a portal, you should require them to use strong passwords and update them regularly. This is a common-sense change you can make that can prevent hackers from accessing your site.
#4: Hide Your Admin and Login Folders in Plain Sight
Hackers sometimes take the easy way out and scan websites for folders with names like ‘admin’ or ‘login.’ They can focus their attention on those folders and, if they’re successful, gain access to your data through them.
There’s actually a very easy way to prevent this – or at least, to make it more difficult for hackers to find your folders. Instead of giving your folders obvious names, try giving them innocuous names that don’t reveal their importance. A determined hacker may still be able to find them, but at least you won’t have made it easy for them.
#5: Use Double Validation for Form Data
Do you collect data using forms that are embedded in your website? If you do, then the potential exists for a hacker to inject malicious code using the form. And, if your form is in a “one and done” format, you’re making it easier than it should be for them to do exactly that.
The solution is to use double validation for all of your form data. That way, you can accomplish two things:
- Help valid users by ensuring that the data they enter on their forms is properly formatted; and
- Prevent malicious scripts from injecting harmful code onto your website
HTML 5 form validation is now supported by all browsers. You can read more about it here.
#6: Limit File Uploads
If your website has a customer portal where users can upload files, you’ve got to be careful to include extra security measures around the uploads. Why? Because an infected file could easily take your website down. A user might even upload a file they don’t know is infected.
There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself, but the best option is to quarantine uploaded files outside of your server, so they can be scanned before you allow them in. You should also use secure transport methods (like SFTP or SSH) when allowing files to be uploaded from the internet. Learn more here.
#7: Minimize Administrative Access to Your Site
How many people have the login information for your site? If you have given administrative authority to multiple employees, then you could be opening yourself up to attacks by giving hackers more potential entry points to your data.
Does that mean you should deny anyone access to your site? Not necessarily. But here’s what you should do:
- Delete any users who don’t need access to your site or who no longer work for you
- Require every user to use a strong password that they update regularly
- Talk to your administrators about security and the importance of protecting your data
A lot of big companies use what’s called a “least access” system, which limits employee access to only those systems that they need to use to do their jobs. That’s a method that can work for small companies as well.
Website Security Should Be Your Priority
A lot of small and medium-sized businesses think they won’t be targeted by hackers because they don’t store the same kind of data that big organizations do. Don’t make that mistake. Even a small data breach can do irreparable harm to your business, causing you to lose money. Even worse, it can damage the trust you’ve built with your clients.
The Foolproof Way to Get Around Facebook’s Page Algorithm
In February of 2018, Facebook announced plans to prioritize personal content and de-prioritize content from pages. That means that if you’ve got a Facebook page for your local business, your content is only being seen by a very small percentage of your followers unless you pay to promote it.
Nothing to be done, right? It’s one of those things that you can’t control… or is it?
It turns out there’s a super-easy (and FREE) way to connect with both existing and potential customers on Facebook without paying to promote your content. It involves creating a Facebook group to promote your brand. Here’s what you need to know.
Group Content is Prioritized Ahead of Brand Content
The first thing you need to know is that Facebook has downgraded content posted by company and brand pages. However, it still prioritizes content from groups.
Why? Well, the short answer is that people must voluntarily opt in to a group.
You might be thinking that users have voluntarily followed your page, too – and that’s true. But Facebook views groups differently than pages. It has to do with the purpose of a group:
A group’s purpose is to promote conversation and build a community.
You might want your page to do that, too, but Facebook assumes that the primary goal of a page is to sell a product or service. That’s an important distinction.
In other words, by creating a Facebook group, you can build your brand and engage with customers without worrying that members won’t see your content.
Not convinced? There’s actually research to support the idea that groups are a better way to reach your audience than pages. A study by Digiterati revealed that groups get approximately 50% more reach than pages.
Creating a Group is Easy
You can create a Facebook group from your personal Facebook page. In fact, the process is very similar to the one for creating a Facebook page like the one you have for your business.
Simply go to the upper, right-hand corner of your Facebook page and click the little down arrow there. You’ll see an option to Create Group. Click it and follow the steps.
It’s important to choose a memorable, brand-specific name for your group. You don’t want to give it the same name as your page, but you do want it to appear in the search results when people search for your business.
The title should be inspired by the content you’ll be posting. So, if you run a dog grooming business, you might offer dog care tips and incorporate that into your group name, like this:
Fancy Dog Groomer’s Dog Care Advice
In other words, combine your business with name with some compelling, buzzy words to make people want to join your group.
Invite People to Join
You’ve created a group… but what’s next?
That’s easy. It’s time to invite some people to join. Here are some easy ways to jump-start your group and get new members:
- Send group invitations to everyone who follows your business page.
- Send invitations to your personal connections on Facebook.
- Send an email to your list with a link to your group and an invitation to join.
- If you have a Twitter account for your business, Tweet an invitation to your followers.
It’s likely that a significant percentage of your followers will join the group. Once they’ve done that, you can also post content in the group encouraging members to send out invitations.
Create Compelling Content
Once you’ve created your group and invited some members, it’s time to create content. Remember, the primary goal of group content is to drive engagement. You want members to be talking to you and to one another.
Facebook has a tool to create Welcome posts. Underneath Members on the toolbar, click Write Post. Facebook will automatically tag up to 100 new members (in this context, new means that they have joined in the past seven days) in the post. If you prefer, you can write a general welcome post and ask new members to introduce themselves in the comments.
Here are some other suggestions for engaging group content:
- Inspirational posts can be a good way to engage your members. For example, if you’re a life coach, you might post something inspirational on a Monday morning and then ask group members what they do to keep themselves motivated.
- Tips and advice can also make great content. You can share things that you’ve picked up while running your business and then ask members if they have anything to add – or if they’ve tried any of the things you’ve suggested.
- Community discussions can drive engagement and make your group page a lively place to be. You might post a question or conversational topic and then ask members to chime in with their answers or opinions.
- Q & A posts are great for getting people involved. Creating a post can be a simple as saying “I know people have questions about ______. Post them in the comments and I’ll answer them!” Only do a post like this on a day when you have the time to respond promptly.
- Depending on the kind of business you run, you may want to share success stories from members. For example, if you do local marketing, you could share a story from a member who killed it with a marketing campaign. And if you sell a product, you could share photos of members using what they bought.
The content you create will have a direct impact on the success of your group.
Social Learning Groups
Do you have the kind of business that lends itself to the creation of video courses? If you do, you might want to check out Facebook’s new Social Learning Groups feature, which enables groups to add video courses to their group pages.
To add courses, go to the Edit Group Settings tab and choose Group Type. Then, select Social Learning Group from the menu.
From there, you can create new Units for your courses. They can be optional or mandatory, and if they’re mandatory, users will see a progress bar to track their accomplishments.
The great thing about this feature is that you can upload courses or webinars you have already created or create new content. You can find a full guide on how to use this feature here.
Groups Are the New Pages
The bottom line is that Facebook Groups are to businesses today what Facebook Pages were five years ago. They offer an inexpensive but effective way to connect with current and prospective clients, build your brand, and grow your business.
Why Maintaining Your Website is a Must
As a business owner, you’ve got to wear many hats in the course of a day. You might be a salesperson one minute and a human resources manager the next. It’s a lot to do.
And, when it comes to add items to your to-do list, you might do everything you can to minimize what you take on. Your time’s limited – and valuable – and there are only so many hours in a day.
Website maintenance is the perfect example. It might seem unnecessary – and you might wonder if it’s something you can ignore.
Hot tip: It’s not. In fact, website maintenance is essential to everything from SEO to user engagement – and those things both lead directly to your bottom line. Here’s why.
Google and Website Maintenance
Let’s start with something that’s a huge priority for most business owners: earning (and keeping) a high Google rank for your primary keywords.
As you know, Google doesn’t make its search algorithm public. However, we do no some things about it. For example, we know that:
- Google prioritizes fresh content
- Websites with a high bounce rate don’t rank as high as websites with a low bounce rate
- Google cares about security and will sometimes penalize sites that aren’t secure
Put these three things together and it’s pretty clear that failing to maintain your website can affect your search rank.
WordPress and Website Maintenance
If you used WordPress to build your site, then you need to do routine maintenance to ensure that your theme, security, and plugins are all up-to-date.
In fact, that’s true of any Content Management System (CMS) websites, including Drupal, Joomla, Magento, and others.
A failure to do regular (at least monthly) updates on your website can lead to a host of problems, including slow loading times, security breaches, and even a drop in your page rank with Google.
Most updates don’t take long and considering the negative impact they can have on your website, they’re worth doing regularly.
Website Maintenance and the User Experience
What does website maintenance have to do with the way users experience your website? The short answer is: quite a lot.
You’ve probably had the experience of clicking on a link from Google’s SERP and landing on a page that’s slow to load. You may have hit the back button to return to the list of search results and try another site. In other words, you bounced – and that means that, as a user, you had a negative experience with that site.
A user’s experience on your website can also be affected by these things:
- Stale or outdated content
- Broken internal or external links
- A confusing menu or a lack of intuitive navigation (such as having your logo be a hotlink back to your home page)
- Page not found (404) errors
- Spelling and grammar mistakes
If it’s been a long time since you’ve updated your web content or checked your links, this might be a good time to do an audit of your site, identify potential problems, and fix them.
Website Maintenance and Security
We’ve already covered several reasons that website maintenance should be a priority, but there’s one more – and it’s hugely important.
The security of your website – that means everything from your data to your users’ privacy to your server – depends upon regular website maintenance.
Let’s use WordPress as an example. If you have a WordPress site, then you’re probably using multiple plugins, whether they’re free or premium, to give your site the features you want. Any plugin has the potential to give hackers access to your site if it’s not properly maintained.
It’s your responsibility to install any updates and patches as soon as they become available. You’ve also got to ensure that your code is up-to-date and that you’ve done things like update your site to HTTPS to protect and encrypt your data.
What You Can Do Right Now to Maintain Your Website
You know why website maintenance should be a priority, but what can you do about it right now? Here are some quick suggestions.
1.Log into your WordPress dashboard and check for updates to your WP theme and any plugins on your site. Install them immediately and then create a schedule to remind yourself to log in at least once a month to take care of updates.
2. Do a quick audit of your site. Check for:
- Broken internal and external links
- Outdated or stale content
- Slow loading times
- Spelling and grammatical errors
3. Fix any of the errors you identified in your audit. Internal links you can fix yourself. If an external link isn’t working, you should either remove it or find a link to replace it. If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suit, hire a proofreader or editor to review your content for you.
4. Update your content. Your basic content (like your homepage and About Us page) don’t need to be updated regularly, but it can’t hurt to make a few tweaks to get Google to crawl and re-index your page.
5. Find a way to post fresh content at least once a month. Whether you add a blog to your site, write a press release, or add a news page that you can easily update, do something to ensure that you’re posting new content regularly.
6. Backup your website to ensure you can recover your data in the event that something happens. Specifically, you should back up:
- Your content, including audio files, images, text, and videos. Backup at least once a quarter – but, if you have a blog, you may want to create a new backup every time you post something new.
7. Create a comprehensive web maintenance schedule to remind yourself of what you need to do and when you need to do it.
It might seem like a lot to do, but once you’ve done your initial maintenance, it should only take you a short amount of time to stay on top of things.
Maintaining Your Website is a Must…
Website maintenance might not be glamorous, but it can spell the difference between building a meaningful web presence and having your website fall off the map. Dedicating just a little time to it each month will ensure that users to your site have a great experience – and that your data is safe.
How the Latest Google Chrome Changes Will Affect Your Website
Internet security is an ongoing game of cat and mouse. Web designers, programmers, and developers are always working to stay a step ahead of the scam artists and hackers whose intention it is to spoof websites, steal identities, and reveal hacked information online. Search giant Google is at the forefront of the battle, and they are introducing some big changes for their Chrome browser starting in January 2017.
As a local business owner, you can’t afford to ignore changes in online security because they have a direct impact on your business. With that in mind, let’s explore the upcoming changes so you know what to expect – and how it will affect your business in the coming year.
Why Web Security Matters
Online security is more important than ever before. It seems like hardly a month goes by without news of a new security breach. Email providers, banks, and retail outlets have all been victimized.
These breaches are costly to everybody involved. The institutions whose security is compromised take a hit to their reputations, customers are at risk of having their credit cards used by thieves, and financial institutions have to issue new cards.
How Customers Know Your Site is Secure
The sites that are safest to use are those that display https:// before their URLs. Sites that are not secured are usually preceded just by http://. Savvy consumers know that it is best not to hand out their credit card information – or any other personal information that might enable a thief to steal their identity, such as a full name, their mother’s maiden name, and so on – on a site that lacks the https:// prefix.
How Google Chrome is Changing
At present, Google Chrome uses a relatively subtle designation to let their customers know whether a site is secure. On any site that uses the https:// prefix, Chrome puts the prefix in green and displays a little lock icon next to it.
Google has announced changes because they fear that the current designation is too low-key to be effective. Starting in January of 2017, their new display will feature the words “Not secure” before the URLs of sites starting with http://. They conducted a study that showed that customers were not perceiving the lack of a green lock as a warning that the site was not secure.
The “not secure” label is only the first step in their efforts to protect their users. Future updates will add the new warning to incognito browsing, and eventually the plan is to display a prominent red triangle as a warning.
Why should does this matter? Because 71% of all local searches on Google’s are done through the Chrome browser and that means that a large percentage of your online traffic will be discouraged from clicking on your website.
The Difference between Secure and Non-Secure Sites
While secure sites offer obvious benefits to your customers when it comes to the security of their credit cards and other personal information, there are some other benefits to changing your site.
- When you have a secure site, it engenders a sense of trust in your customers. They feel comfortable sharing information with you because they know you have taken precautions to protect that information and keep it safe. Trust is a key component of any successful customer relationship.
- When you have an SSL certificate (the certificate that adds the “s” to your URL) on your website, it helps customers confirm that you are who you say you are. Spoofed sites and phishing sites are rarely secure, so adding the certificate acts as a way of instantly verifying your identity online and reassuring customers that they are on a valid website.
- The SSL certificate guarantees that any information you receive is secure and accurate, too. Without the certificate, it would be possible for a hacker to interfere with the data that comes into your site. With it, you can be confident that you are receiving the information that your customer or vendor intended you to receive.
- Finally, having a secure site can actually benefit your SEO. Google now uses the https:// designation as a factor when evaluating websites and ranking them for search. That means that not having a secure site might be negatively impacting your Google search rank – and your traffic.
While there are some costs involved with adding the SSL certificate to your site, there is simply no reason not to do so.
How to Update Your Site
Now let’s walk through the steps you need to take to obtain the SSL certificate and add it to your site.
- First, buy an SSL certificate. You can get one from companies such as GoGetSSL or SSLS. You can choose the extended/organization validation display, which will show your company name next to the green lock in the Chrome bar, or the domain validation option, which simply shows the green lock.
- Install the SSL certificate on your web server. You can find instructions for how to install based on which software you use by scrolling down on this page. After it is installed, you should run a test to make sure it is working properly. This tool from SSL Labs is useful.
- Search your site and update all of your hard-coded URLs from http:// to https://. This tool from Interconnect IT can help you do it quickly and painlessly.
- Update all of the scripts on your page.
- Add a 301 redirect to all of your new https:// URLs. It is best to do this at the server level instead of using a plug-in. If you skip this step, your search rank on Google could take a huge hit, so make sure to take care of this as soon as possible.
- Update your robot.txt file to make sure that any blocking rules or hard-coded links are now pointing to your new https:// address.
- If your site uses a content delivery network (CDN), make sure to add the SSL certificate to that, too. If you don’t, your site’s visitors may end up with major problems. While you’re at it, make sure to update your origin URL on the CDN, too.
- Enable HTTP/2 support on your CDN. You can do it by clicking Zone > Manage > Edit > Advanced Features, and then choosing Enable HTTP/2.
- Update all hard-coded links on your CDN to https:// the same way you did on your own site.
- Update everything on Google and have them crawl your website under the new, secure URL. That means you have to create a new profile under Google Search Console, create a new sitemap, submit a “Fetch and Crawl” request, resubmit your “disavow” file to avoid penalties, and update your Google Analytics account with your new URL.
- Update everything else, including the URLs for your search engine ads, social media pages and ads, and so on. You should also migrate your social media share counts to your new site.
This might seem like a detailed process, but it is a necessary one. You have approximately three months to get your site updated before Google starts displaying the first warnings. That gives you plenty of time to do it right and reap the rewards of offering your customers a secure website.