Custom vs. Themes for Your Business’s Website

If you keep up with the latest online, you know that sites like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are becoming huge players in the web design space. It wasn’t long ago when you HAD to hire a web designer to make you a website, unless you knew HTML, CSS, Javascript, and other coding languages to build one yourself.

For most business owners, you don’t have time to learn all of this, so you outsource the work to a design shop. But now, these website building platforms make it so easy that just about anyone can make a site. But is it worth it?

Why use a website builder?

Website builders are useful for one reason, you can do it yourself. They generally come with standard templates that you can fill in with your information, photos, and products and then you’re ready to go.

These sites make it easy to not only build the site, but also to edit it later on.  Many of these newer builders also feature mobile responsive themes so they look great on phones and tablets.

Why you shouldn’t use a website builder

These builders are great for getting something up and running quickly. If you need an MVP (minimum viable product) site to test out a concept, then these are a good idea because they’re relatively cheap.

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But if you’re looking for a custom site, you’re out of luck using a site like Wix or Squarespace. The templates are meant to be easy to use and build, but that makes it hard to create anything custom to your business.

Using a web designer means you get exactly what you envisioned, not a “close enough” version.

You can still have the ease of updating capabilities that sites like Wix or Weebly offer if you use CMS platforms like WordPress. Just make sure to let your designer know when you’re outlining the scope of your site.

Using a website building platform also means you’re limited to what they offer. If you are a restaurant and want to add in a function to let someone order and get delivery, you’re stuck with what your platform lets you do. If you have a custom site, that can be built in.

What’s the conclusion?

It’s really up to you! If you just need a basic portfolio or brochure site to lay out your information and a few photos, and maybe host a blog, then a website building platform is fine.

If you want to make a great impression on your audience, include custom features and get the site looking just how you envisioned, then you need to hire a web design agency.

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Best Books for Copywriting

Best books for copywriting - MARKIT Group

Copywriting is an art and a science. It’s all about understanding your customer, what they want, and how your product can help them. Many business owners get this part wrong, and that’s why their copy is bad. They talk about themselves, and a customer doesn’t care about you, the business owner, they care about how you can help them.

How do you learn copywriting? The best place to start are books. There are so many out there, but the classics still remain the go-to for many master copywriters.

Here is our list of the best copywriting books.

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word
Joseph Sugarman
Learn advertising, copywriting, marketing and creativity from the man who made millions of dollars from the power of his pen. Many marketing experts teach you to put benefits in your headlines, use plenty of pictures and make your copy brief and to the point.

Ogilvy on Advertising
David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy is a master at advertising and his book is no exception.

The Boron Letters
Gary Halbert
These letters have been recommended to me so often. They’re a collection of letters from Gary Halbert to his son Bond and they’re a copywriting classic.

Tested Advertising Methods
John Caples
The fifth edition of this work on how to create successful advertising features new coverage on small businesses with limited revenues, non-profit advertising, as well as techniques of headlines, illustrations and layouts. There is also new information useful to smaller businesses.

Breakthrough Advertising
Eugene Schwartz
This might be one of the best copywriting books out there. Yes, it’s a textbook and sure it’s old, but many copywriting rules from decades ago still apply today.

Scientific Advertising
Claude Hopkins

Influence
Robert Cialdini
Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

How to Win Friends & Influence People
Dale Carnegie
For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

Don’t Make Me Think
Steve Krug
Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of Web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject.

Predictable Revenue
Aaron Ross
Discover the outbound sales process that, in just a few years, helped add $100 million in recurring revenue to Salesforce.com, almost doubling their enterprise growth… with zero cold calls.

 

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Should I expect ROI from social media?

Yes and no. While social media is great for interacting with your audience an community, it’s not necessarily the best channel for selling. People are savvy and will tune you out if you are promoting too much, that is why content marketing is so popular.

While it’s difficult to directly attribute a sale to social media, it does play a big role. It’s not often that a person will buy because you posted a link on your Facebook page. But it could lead to them mentioning it to a friend who then buys the product a few weeks later.

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Our client Fresh Catch Bistro

If you’re a restaurant, social media is huge. People still love posting pictures of their food and drinks. It’s important to have a place where they can do that and where you’ll engage with them. It takes time to respond to all these images and comments, but people will appreciate it.

What to expect from social media?

While you shouldn’t start trying to attribute direct sales, you should be seeing how much engagement you’re getting. One difficulty in this is that sites like Facebook limit the amount of followers who see any given post.

But if you share a customer’s photo and it receives 15 likes, while posting your menu only receives 1, it may tell you something. These are one off cases, but look at the aggregate of your post history.

  • What post types get the most likes, comments, shares?
  • When is the best time for you to be posting? Is there a best time?
  • Should you be taking more photos or creating graphics?
  • Are there certain topics people seem to like more than others?

Collect the data and see. Social media is about interaction and engagement. You won’t do well on social if you just queue up some posts and leave it at that. You need to be constantly checking notifications and monitoring hashtags to respond to people promptly.

If you have a dedicated following, like Buffer, they can engage many people in the community through things like Twitter Chats. Though these chats don’t bring in direct sales, they’re a way for people to grow even more fond of the company and the community they’ve created.

Social media best practices

There is no one way to use social media. Your company is not the same as others, so don’t base what you do off what someone else does.

Try and experiment with different ideas and see what sticks. Maybe you try a Twitter chat but only get 1 person to join. Try it again for a few more weeks and if the same thing persists, then hold off until you have more following.

If you really want some best practices, check out this guide from Moz. 

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Simple Tips for local SEO

simple-tips-to-improve-your-local-seo-markit-group

SEO is constantly changing, and it’s a very tough process to master. The search engines are always changing their algorithms and we have to guess what’s working and what isn’t. Even if a strategy worked 3 months ago, it may no longer work anymore.

For local SEO, your business is competing against others in the area. That means getting placed on Google Maps, showing up for the right keywords, and getting lots of great testimonials. Those are just a few pieces of your local SEO strategy, but there’s more to it than just that.

We’re going to walk through some do’s and don’ts for local SEO to make sure you’re properly ranking for the right keywords and that your site is well optimized for search engines.

What are the main aspects of local SEO?

There are a few components every local company needs to have in place in order to effectively rank in a search engine.

These include:

  • Your location on Google Business and Maps
  • Proper information for your business across all sites and platforms
  • Reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
  • Strong backlinks

Now, if you’re a local business and aren’t familiar with SEO, some of these terms may sound alien to you. Don’t worry, we’re going to dive into each.

Google Business

As a local company, this is one of the first places you need to be adding your business. It’s important to have all the correct info, and verify your location with Google.

Make sure your location is not already listed on here. You don’t want duplicate locations.

An account with Google Business means you will pop up on Google Maps, a top place for people to search for local businesses.

Here are some tips for optimizing your Google Business page.

Correct Information Across Sites

Duplicate or incorrect info does not help your site in terms of SEO. It is tough to go site by site to find these errors. There are tools like Yext you can use to find these errors for free. Try their Business Listing Scan.

You can use a paid version of Yext to correct these errors automatically.

The importance of correcting these errors is to ensure no customer ever gets the wrong information.

Local SEO Guide says, “We have done studies that show citation consistency can be a key factor to getting you into a local pack – so don’t ignore them”.

Reviews

Visible reviews on big sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google will really help your business. Not only will customers read these reviews and help decide whether to use your company, but it’s been found that reviews can increase your performance with Google Business.

“Things like Reviews and Photos and having an Owner Verified (OV) profile correlated with positive GMB performance,” says Local SEO Guide.

Strong Backlinks

Backlinks are links that are pointing to your site. If you are listed on your local Chamber of Commerce site, the link on there that points to your site is a backlink.

You want to get GOOD backlinks. This doesn’t mean just trying to submit your site to any directory just because you can get a link out of it. Search engines put more weight on links from well-liked sites. If you got a link from the New York Times, that is worth much more than a link from random site like news-web-city.com.

“Since the link data was so overwhelming, we also wanted to look at if just having optimized anchor text (for both keyword and city) would have any impact. Lo and behold, it did. That means if you can just get one good link with optimized anchor text you should do it. Go on, what are you waiting for?” (Local SEO Guide)

 

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UX Mistakes Your Site Might Be Making

ux-mistakes-your-site-is-making-markit-group

You have a website, congrats! You’re now searchable on the internet. It’s a big step for many businesses to finally get a working website up and running.

But hold up a second. Before you throw a party celebrating your new site, is it really that great?

Sorry to rain on your parade, but there are many websites out there that just don’t make the cut when it comes to a great user experience.

User experience? If you’re confused by the term, don’t worry! We’re going to dive into some commmon user experience (UX) mistakes that your site might be making. These are things you can definitely fix. And you need to fix them in order to keep visitors on your site long enough to get them interested in your business.

What is User Experience?

UX is an aspect of design centered around the experience a user has. When a website has a great look and feel, that’s the design. But what about how a user interacts with the site and finds information or clicks around? That’s the user experience.

I’m sure you’ve been on a site with a poor user experience, but you were on it for such a small amount of time that you didn’t really stop and take notice.

There’s a useful framework from UX Magazine called BASIC. It describes the aspects of a great user experience design.

Beautiful
Accessible
Simple
Intuitive
Consistent

You don’t just want a site that looks beautiful, you want it to be easy to understand and follow. You want the user to come on and know just how to find what they’re looking for. If there’s too much going on on the site and they become confused, they’ll leave. Simple as that.

What Are Common UX Mistakes?

For many businesses, just getting a website up and running is a challenge. Throw UX design in there, and they may just scrap the whole project.

Fixed headers that are too big

A fixed header is fine if you have long pages of content and want to keep the navigation easily accessible. But it becomes a nuisance if the header is too large and blocks too much of the screen. Go through your site and make sure the fixed header is not causing readability issues.

This is especially important for mobile. If you leave a large fixed header on there, you are bound to annoy a ton of mobile visitors who can barely see your site.

Poor mobile experience

A big issue with creating a website is not reviewing the design and experience on mobile. There are tiny errors you need to fix just for mobile, but they can make a huge impact. This includes things like removing full-page pop ups and ensure that the page properly resizes to the screen size.

Sometimes your navigation bar won’t resize properly, leaving it rather useless to a visitor.

Carousels

Carousels can be good or evil, depending how you use them. If you have too many items in it, people will not want to click through them all. If you have too few items, a carousel is a bit pointless. It’s also important to make sure that the arrows for click to the next or previous slide are visible.

There’s value in them for things like photos, but if you have key information in those slides that you want the user to see, it may be best to take them out of the carousel.

Here’s a website that has a pretty strong opinion on whether or not you should use carousels.

Ignoring the user’s needs

Often times, as a business owner you want to build a site that you love. You have a vision and want to see it come to life. But you really need to be thinking about your visitors. What do they want from the site?

If you make your About page the most prominent section, you’re telling the visitor you care about “you”. But put yourself in the customers’ shoes, what do they want from your site? Well, they likely want to know what you offer and the pricing. So make that prominent! Learn what visitors want out of your site and make it dead simple for them to find it, whether it’s pricing, your quote form, or signing up.

Bad font choice

A poor font choice not only looks bad but can affect readability. If your font is too thin, many browsers can’t properly render it. Make sure to pick a non-thin font, and also to pick appropriate colors and test these on different browsers.

Scrolljacking

This is a newish term in the UX world. It’s when a site takes over the scrolling for you, and frankly, nobody likes it. You don’t want to take control away from your visitors. If they get frustrated even for a second, they’ll leave.

More resources on UX

Want to learn more about UX design for your website? Here are some resources to help you.

UX Beginner Reading List

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding UX Design

UX Apprentice

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SEO Tools You Should Be Using

 

SEO is a pretty nebulous term, wouldn’t you agree? It involves creating content relevant to target keywords, finding backlinks, and ranking in the search engines.

There are tons of SEO tools out there, but which ones should you be using. And for what purpose?

We’re going to go over Chrome extensions, plugins, sites, and software to help you find the right SEO tools for your website.

Plugins

SEO Yoast
Probably the best SEO plugin available. It’s great for SEO newbies and pros. It will help you fill out all the right SEO pieces for your posts and pages. (Free version)

SEO Clean
SEO Clean helps optimize your overall website, not just your posts. It does a few things like clean up your source code and get rid of extra HTTP headers. These are things that can affect your rankings, but can be hard to fix on your own if you’re not tech savvy. ($19)

All in One SEO Pack
Downloaded over 30 million times, so you know it’s good. It doe so many things from advanced canonical URLs to generating META tags automatically. (Free version)

Chrome Extensions

Check My Links
This Chrome Extension is used to help with your broken backlink strategy. (free)

SEOquake

This popular extension gives you tons of metrics right on the search engine results page. Info includes domain score, estimated traffic, and more. (Free)

Websites

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MARKIT Group on SEMRush

SEMRush
This site helps you gain intelligence on your competition. Research keywords, backlinks, advertising data, and more. (Starts at $99.mo)

Moz
Moz uses a suite of tools include Keyword Explorer for targeting keywords, Open Site Explorer for finding content and link building opportunities, and MozBar for analyzing social, search, and page metrics in your browser. (Free trial, Moz Pro starts at $99/mo)

Ahrefs
Lets you track backlinks, brand mentions, and keywords. (Free trial, starts at $99/mo)

Software

Screaming Frog
This free SEO tool is installed on your computer. It can crawl website links, images, CSS, scripts, and apps to determine onsite SEO. (Free)

 

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How to create a buyer persona

How to create a buyer persona - MARKIT Group.png

Buyer personas get thrown around so often that many people consider them unimportant. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve never seen the benefit or seen one in action, or that they see the act of coming up with personas with funny names like “Sally Sales” to be a bit useless.

We’re here to tell you that buyers personas are as important as ever! They help you create targeted messaging to your main target audiences, rather than lumping them all into the same category. Once you create your personas, you’ll see use cases for them everywhere in your marketing strategy.

We’ll discuss why personas are important, how to create them, and how to use them.

Why Create a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas, as Hubspot defines it, are “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

These personas are defined by:

  • Demographics
  • Behavior
  • Motivations
  • Goals

But why create them in the first place if you already know your customers? Well, often times you really don’t know them as well as you should.

This is where customer research comes in. Yes, that means you have to actually talk to your customers! It’s surprising just how many businesses out there don’t do this.

But before we jump into exactly how to make the persona, let’s continue on with why you need them.

Personas help you create targeted messaging and content that appeals to your audience groups. Let’s use an example to illustrate.

Bob’s Landscaping has two main customer groups: Commercial buildings and residential single-family homes. Now both of these groups are not really wanting the same thing.

A commercial building owner is never going to go out and landscape their properties. They need someone who is reliable, works within the time frame, and is courteous of building visitors.

A home owner is going to want a landscaper if they have too much on their plate to worry about the yard. Sure, they can do the landscaping themselves, but they have better things to do like spend time with their family, or maybe they have a long vacation coming up.

Notice how the messaging and pain points differ for these two audiences. Bob, at first, saw his audience as anyone needing landscaping. Now he sees two distinct groups with different needs.

How to Create a Buyer Persona

Now, here is where we get into the nitty gritty. This will involve you calling up or meeting with customers. You should have some open ended questions in mind to get them to speak freely. You don’t want just one word answers.

Here are a few questions to get you started (provided by Customerdevlabs.com)

1. What’s the hardest part about [problem context] ?
2. Can you tell me about the last time that happened?
3. Why was that hard?
4. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?

In Bob’s case, let’s say he interviews a homeowner and gets these responses:

  1. The hardest part about keeping up the yard is all the other responsibilities I have. I can’t do it before work, and after work I’m just so tired. I tell myself I’ll do it on the weekends, and I just can never find time. I know I can do it, I just find so many other things to do instead.
  2. Just last week I was supposed to pull weeds and mow the lawn, but it never happened.
  3. I had a big project at work and ended up doing about 60 hours. When the weekend came, all I wanted to do was relax on the couch.
  4. I’ve tried other lawn care companies but they’re not reliable. I ask them to come every 2 weeks and it’s very inconsistent. They also don’t follow all my instructions. The last company pulled out the wrong flowers!
  5. All the companies seem the same, they show up when they want and leave whenever. I don’t feel like they feel that they’re held accountable for their work or when they show up. I haven’t found a company yet that does this.

 

Here is the fictional persona Bob created for his homeowner audience:

Howie Homeowner
Age 30-65

  • Has a family
  • Works a full time, salaried job with long hours
  • Likes to spend the weekends relaxing
  • Has the money to pay for a lawn care company but needs someone reliable
  • Wants a nice looking yard and knows he can do the work, but just can’t find the time

How to use the Persona

These responses (although fictional) are full of gold! Bob now knows that a huge pain point of homeowners, at least this one, is that they want to work on their lawn but are too tired to do so. When they go out to get a lawn care company, they don’t trust them to get the work done.

Now Bob, after interviewing a few more homeowners, is able to reword his marketing message to appeal to these direct pain points and to market his company as reliable and trustworthy. He puts in place a checklist that all homeowners receive after service, so they can see just what was done to their yard. He also adds a guarantee that if the company doesn’t show up on the date specified, you get a free servicing the next day.

Bob now goes back and interviews his commercial customers and creates another persona to better target his marketing.

Buyer personas are not the bad guy, they’re not useless, they may use funny names, but they’re supposed to be fictional caricatures of your actual customers. They help you identify and think through what an actual customer wants from your business and how to you can best address that through your content and strategy.

It’s a very useful tool that can only help you! Try it and see what new ideas you can come up with for your customers.

Resources

Free Persona Template

26 Resources to Help You Master Customer Development Interviews

Customer Interview Script Generator

Buyer Personas You Want to Use: The 9 Essential Parts

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