Quality Content: What’s on your website that shouldn’t be?

I’m on the dexmedia mailing list, mainly because these guys are constantly trying to remain relevant (anyone used a physical phone book lately?) and really work hard to provide decent, quality content in their communications. Their latest communication has to do with not necessarily what’s on your website, but what shouldn’t be. Good info – because there are a lot of bad design and content practices out here.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about their #1 thing to remove from your website: auto-start audio and video. Holy annoyances, that’s always been a pet peeve of mine. You know the feeling, find what looks like a perfect result to your search, click the link and get blared out of your chair with the obnoxious jingle and launched video. Never fails but that it always happens when I’m somewhere other than sitting quietly in my office.

I’m sure you’ve heard most of the other quality content tips before:

  • Flash is bad.
  • Avoid long-forms for info – stick to “have to have” essentials instead.
  • Stringing a bunch of keywords behind the scenes in meta tags, or even in blog titles, aka “stuffing” keywords. Doesn’t work!
  • Be wary of what you link to, and don’t let just anyone link back to you. Never pay for inbound links.
  • If you have guest bloggers, be sure they’re relevant to you and provide good content. Otherwise you’ll turn off visitors.
  • Come clean on the back end of the site. Old tactics that kind of worked wayyy back really don’t work at all now, and may harm your site rankings instead.

Quality content is essential to search viability. When you give your website a brisk mid-season Spring Cleaning, be sure to add content review to the list. Is everything on your site still relevant to what you do? Do the top 3 things that make money for you stand out on your home page? Or is it simply a laundry list that 1 out of 20 clients or prospects may find relevant?

Is your website mobile-friendly yet? If not, let’s talk! I’m working closely with my collaborators on helping clients become current. Google’s algorithm is going to have a big impact on companies that haven’t yet made the switch.

Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient for effective online communications.

One of the things I stress when talking to current and prospective writing and marketing support clients is consistency – in messaging, positioning, and communicating. Ever seen a company that seems to change it’s look with every newsletter or ad? To the point that you really have to look to know it’s them? They’re messing with brand identity through INconsistency. That’s not to say a logo or website refresh isn’t a good idea every so often, but then all of your online communications should reflect that look and feel, consistently.

Social media post consistency is a must, too. Think about the Facebook pages where the last post was two months ago. If there’s no activity for a long time, today’s online community just moves on and it’s hard to get them back.

The other, less attractive side of the social media activity coin is over-posting. I can’t tell you the number of Pages I’ve “unfollowed” over the last few months just because I was tired of the ridiculously prolific number of posts that cluttered my timeline. I have five minutes to check my own Facebook page and have to scroll through a couple dozen updates from Mashable and Politico to get to the few things I really want to read squashed in-between? No, thanks.

So find a happy medium. Depending on the scope of their marketing package, I typically post for clients a couple of times per week, with one of those being a blog post that’s shared everywhere. Of course, eletters get shared socially, too, but those are less frequent. If there’s a promotion (retail or service) period that’s hot, we’ll amp it up a bit. And of course, they have access to do their own posts whenever the fancy strikes them. But if they’re busy, or just not into it, they can rest assured that customer-relevant online communications are happening, consistently!

An Inexpensive Option for a Mobile-Friendly Website: Dudamobile

You need a mobile-friendly website for your business. It’s a given. Some people think, “Oh, no one’s going to be looking for my website on their phone.” Well, a 2013 study shows differently (statistics taken from digitalbuzzblog.com):

  • 91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone
  • 56% of people own a smart phone
  • 50% of mobile phone users, use mobile as their primary Internet source
  • 80% of time on mobile is spent inside apps
  • 72% of tablet owners purchase online from their tablets each week

That said, maybe you don’t have the budget to do a website overhaul and make your business website mobile-friendly. One alternative is to try an application that converts the site view to a mobile-friendly one for a low monthly fee. Here’s one (cue drum roll): Dudamobile. My own web guru, Tom Martin of ConsultYou.net, recommended this inexpensive online application as an option for me when I updated nhaile.com.  He said after testing the various options out there (there being cyberverse), Dudamobile proved the most reliable and customizable, as well as fitting nearly any budget: the ad-free monthly cost is a mere $7.90 as of this post.

It’s an easy sign-up and you can even preview their “grab” of your existing site in just a few moments (note: only how your website looks on mobile devices changes, your actual website doesn’t). It also shows you how the final site will look on multiple devices, from iPhone to Android. If you want further customization of the look and feel to align with your colors and other branding elements, that’s available, too, and if you’re remotely tech savvy with some time on your hands, you can do it yourself. Of course, for a really professional mobile-ready look, have your graphic designer take a gander before going live. It’s always worth it to assure you’re putting your best image forward! I’m working on my mobile-friendly look right now and will ask my favorite graphic design collaborators Marina and Jennifer to let me know if it passes muster. It’s a fun exercise for me and has let me test the usability, too, so I could write about it here. If you have another option that you love, please share! Oh, and here’s the link for The State of Mobile 2013 infographic, just in case you need visual evidence to be convinced of its prevalence.

Poem from Guest Writer: Ruston Hain

I love having so many friends with a creative streak, particularly in creative writing, as much of my writing leans to the business or journalistic tone. I hope you enjoy this poem written by a dear friend. To me, it evokes many of the evening sights and sounds of my adopted desert home.

Tips of blue moon
The cast of Summer shadows
Sounds of Cicadas and the sprinkle of all stars.
Midnight spreads across
Sky and breathes breath
to Dragonflies and the flutter of a June Bug.
Green and golden in fastidious glory.
Noisy Bug.
Restful now and a lizard is hungry…
Silly Bug rests on a cactus pad. Relishing a moment of complacency, enamored and confident in his Glorious Beauty.
Lizard snaps tongue and captures the beauty of the bug. Delicious! Swallows beauty whole. Who has Beauty now?
A very happy lizard slithering under a rock.
Full tummy. Happy for now. Sleep tonight and dream of another Beauty to eat tomorrow.

Ruston Hain, May 2014, Tucson, AZ

The Human Connection: How Do You Stay In Touch?

How lucky am I that a client’s conference in NOLA coincided perfectly with Jazz Fest? Pretty darn lucky.

I work remotely, which means I rarely see or communicate with my clients face-to-face, other than the occasional videoconference. So I’m especially appreciative of the opportunities that let me spend in-person time with them. It was good to be able to participate in the conference and engage not only with the client, but also with a larger group of people in the same business. Gained new insight and appreciation for their business challenges – and their creative solutions to those challenges. For me, that Crescent City connection time was invaluable.

It also caused me to reflect on how we rely overmuch on social media (which isn’t all that social), instant messages and email to communicate, rather than even an “old-fashioned” phone call. I’m guilty of it, too, in my role as “virtual marketing support.” It’s just so easy when I’m on a roll, being productive, to keep my head down and fingers flying rather than pick up the phone. I know of a couple of people who, no matter how often you leave a voice mail, will text back, rather than use that same device to make a call. I have a dear friend, however, who uses his morning commute time to call friends and family. I love our catch-up time and so appreciate hearing his voice saying “Just checking in! How are you?” Then there’s a long-time girlfriend who lives in Colorado. We’ve begun having coffee or lunch together via videoconference about once a month, catching up on her latest endeavors (she’s a career transition coach), exchanging ideas and giggling about something our husbands have done!

How do you stay connected? Do you plan your calls? See a spot on the calendar and make an in-person (or at least videoconference) appointment? Let’s take a moment this week to reconnect a little more personally with those we usually text or email.

Creative Collaborators, the Oomph in Your Back Pocket

I’m an independent consultant, which means I wear a lot of hats to support clients: marketing writer, marketing project manager, search engine optimized content creator and content management, advertising manager, small business owner, business consultant. The hats that don’t fit: that of web and SEO guru or graphic designer. That’s why I collaborate.

I figure it’s my job to have a creative and technical team that I can call on to support the full spectrum of a client’s marketing and branding needs. Give the clients the oomph their marketing deserves. After all, the whole idea is for me to make things easier for them when it comes to marketing and communications, and asking an already busy business owner to find their own team, if they don’t already have preferred vendors, is so not that.

My clients really like that when they ask, “Hey, do you work with a graphic designer who can help us update our logo look, ads and other branding elements?” I respond, “Yes, and she’s great!” Same goes for websites. Busy business owners want someone who’s an expert to figure that out, so they can concentrate on what they’re an expert at: running their business.

They’ll tell me, “I want a clean, easily navigable website that supports my business and online presence.”  And typically, they do not want to have to go through the process of weeding through the people who want to build a monster enterprise-level site for a 10-person local business, or the neighbor’s nephew who likes to mess around with web development in between his online role playing games. Hence, nhaile’s creative and technical collaborators.

I lived in Seattle for 15 years and moved to Tucson almost 5 years ago. Because I started nhaile communications when living in the Pacific Northwest, I already had several very reliable people to work with collaboratively. Upon arriving in Tucson, I immediately began looking for collaborative partners for Arizona-based, client projects. I figure locals should support locals, if at all possible, right? So, you’ll notice the nhaile site has a Collaborators page – Marina, a senior graphic designer, Tom, a WordPress and SEO guru (both in Pacific Northwest) and Jennifer, senior graphic designer with WordPress skillz (Tucson, AZ). They are the oomph in my back pocket – and yours!

Woohoo! A revamped nhaile website!

Ever heard the adage “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”? Well, the same holds true for those of us running our own creative firms. We’re great at being timely and responsive for our clients, but wow, our own websites and social media often get wayyyy neglected. (Can I get a witness?!)

The updated nhaile site reflects the latest evolution of my writing and marketing support business. For several years, I did as many of my independent consulting friends and simply worked with a variety of clients on a variety of projects – more of the typical freelance style. So much fun!

Still having fun, yet I’ve refined my services and how I offer them. While I still do a few short term projects each year, like websites, most of my clients have a monthly, ongoing marketing and communications contract with nhaile. You see, I find that many businesses want to be more consistent in their marketing communications. And I’m not talking about how their communications look, but how often they’re actually communicating with clients and prospective clients. The main issues? Well, that’s an easy one – time and money.

Who has the time to do it all themselves? No one. Or the cash to hire a full-time, even a half-time, marketing and communications support person? Especially one with experience in multiple industries? Big firms, that’s who. But I like firms that are a little more like mine. Independent. Not huge. Up for quality over quantity. Know they need to do social media but really don’t want to ever have to log on to Facebook or Google+ themselves. That’s where my other strength comes into play – autonomy. AKA consultant.

I get to work with a Pacific Northwest benefits firm (yeah, I’ve learned more about Healthcare Reform in the last few years than I ever dreamed I’d need to) supporting all of their marketing and communications, a healthcare compliance firm, medical and physician practice consultants, massage therapists (yes, I did take full advantage, gotta know the biz, right?) here in Tucson, Arizona,  an astrologist (so cool!) and a Washington State travel company that can actually take people – legally – to Cuba!

Yep, I fully admit it. I’d be an awful full-time corporate employee at this point. And I’m pretty cheerful about it.