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    Content    

Content

Write it right: How to add words to your website. 

Parents often tell their children: ‘If you can’t say anything useful, say nothing at all.’ You could say the same of the text on your website. I firmly believe that poor website copy is worse than having no text at all.I’m not a wordsmith by trade but I did have the privilege of working with a fantastic copywriter for a couple of years—and it helped me determine good website prose from bad. Here are a few tips on how to make your website words turn visitors into customers.Avoid clichésI avoid clichés like the plague. Seriously though, clichés won’t win you any customers or clients; it will only lose you some. Phrases like ‘first class solutions’ and ‘award–winning provider’ must be the most worn out terms in sales copy. Such generic trite is as useful as it is meaningless. Instead, try to think of what differentiates you from your competition—and what makes you unique.Don’t write using ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘we’Most web copy falls over because its writer spends far too much time talking about themselves and not the potential customer. As interesting as you may find your company history, etc your visitor only wants to know what’s in it for them.Talk about benefits, not features Following on from the previous point web copy should be centred around the benefits your product or service brings to the potential client or customer—not the features. For example, if you were selling a new wonder drug you’d want to mention what ailments it cures or alleviates—not what new active ingredient is in it.Accept that you can no longer use keyword stuffing If you’re otpimising your web pages for the search engines don’t stuff your keywords in to score some Brownie points with Google; it will make your text read awkwardly. Besides, Google has now gotten to the point where it can understand content written for humans much more effectively—so now keyword stuffing can only do you harm.Don’t write lengthy passages of text Website visitors are highly impatient; keep your content concise. Don’t write huge paragraphs—and make use of headlines and bulleted lists as they make the content easier to read and take in.Never use pretentious agency nonsense Some agencies fall into the trap of thinking that if they come across as pretentious and a bit different it makes for good copy. Trying to be overly wordy or snobbish won’t do you any favours. Need help with your content, we have our own writter.

    Design    

Website Designs

Things that can get in the way of a good Website.

If you expect every web project to go smoothly you’re being extremely naive. Problems always occur but most of the time they’re minor enough to fix right away. Other times the issue can seriously affect the quality of the final website. All parties involved in creating a website are all united by the common goal of creating one that works so often these problems are created unintentionally. Here I outline how the client, the web designer and anyone else involved can do things that can get in the way of a good website.The client is of course very important—without them no websites would get commissioned. There are, however, four main ways a client can unwittingly make creating a good website difficult.The first one is the ‘amateur web designer’ client. That is someone who has probably obtained a copy of some web design or graphics software and has spent a few hours playing around with it. Such a person is over–the–moon with their new found skills and is keen to showcase them as part of their new website. While certain tools do allow the inexperienced to build websites very quickly—and easily—they are a far cry from a professionally built website. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing and I have already outlined how making your website yourself can cause serious damage to your business. The client should voice their opinions to the web designer but should not actually take part in the design if it’s not their job to do so.The second thing is indecision; the client who keeps changing their mind. The bigger a site is the harder it is to make amends once the build of the site has begun. It is akin to asking a builder to change the foundations of a house at the point where he’s finishing off the roof. The web designer and client should both agree all major features of a website before it is built.Thirdly, you can get a client who is too slow at making decisions. Constantly waiting for bits of content to be sent over and to get things signed off can be very frustrating as it not only delays their payday, it is very uneconomical from a time point–of–view to build a website in small fragments. The client and web designer should specify deadlines for each stage of the site (including the supplying of content and signing things off) in the contract (see later).Finally, we have what I dub the ‘too many cooks syndrome’. This is common in corporate environments; it is when there are lots of people required to sign something off. Similar to the previous point it can delay a project. The syndrome is exacerbated during summer when from June to September you can almost guarantee one of the group who needs to be in on all the decision making is on holiday. This is probably the most difficult problem to address but stating in the contract that only a certain percentage of the decision makers need be present to sign something off can help.The web designer Of course as with the client the web designer can be tardy too. When you first start putting together the specification for the project be sure the web designer is working to milestones—and hold them to it.Some web designers and (particularly large) companies lower their initial price to win the job only to inflate the cost of work done afterwards. This often accounts for why web design quotes differ so much. Be sure to read the small print in the contract to make sure what you see is what you get.So far, I’ve assumed you have a contract. And this brings us onto the most important point: work to a contract. A contract is a legal binding and mutually beneficial agreement. Among other things the contract should detail out payment terms, milestones, delivery dates and copyright and ownership. Make sure you work to a contract—and read it through carefully to check it covers everything. If you’re unsure—and it’s a big project—it would be worth paying a solicitor to take a look at it.Other people There are other people who can get in the way too, not just the client or the web designer.Sometimes another agency are involved. It’s not uncommon for a marketing or print agency to do the branding and then pass it to the web designer to create the site. This is usually not a problem as they leave you to it but some agencies try to get involved with the web design too. The problem is some agencies have little or no knowledge or experience with the web and they try to apply what they know works in print to a website. Unfortunately, the web and print are very different. Applying print design knowledge to a website is like putting diesel in a petrol car; it may look alright from the outside but once you start running it, it will soon become apparent it’s of no use to you. Websites also have a core purpose that surpasses all design and branding—and that’s to convert users into customers (online enquiries, purchases, account creation, etc). Those not familiar with the web can often place design and branding over this. For the web, this is a big mistake. Always, always get your site designed by someone who knows how the web works.

    Blog    

Blog or no Blog

The benefits to having a blog.

In case you’ve been living in a nuclear bunker for the last few years and don’t know what a blog is, Wikipedia describes one as:Regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.Each new blog post is a new page on your website but it is usually authored by the owner of the website—as opposed to the web designer. If you want to see an example of a blog post, you’re looking a one right now. Here are the benefits of having a blog on your website. Bear in mind though, you’ll only get these benefits if you keep your blog up–to–date. The main advantages are:It keeps your site fresh When visitors land on your site and see a post that has been made in the last few days or weeks it shows them that this is a regularly updated site. This adds to your online credibility.Become an authority When you give advice through your blog it boosts your profile and positions you as an expert in your field. If a potential client or customer is shopping around the fact that you have a blog and your competition doesn’t (or theirs isn’t as good as yours) could mean the difference between winning the client and not winning them.Unique new content for the search engines Every time you post a new blog so long as it’s of a reasonable length and it’s not a verbatim copy of something else on the web it helps to boost your search engine rankings as each new page is another way people can find your site via Google.Soft sell to your clients/customers If you write your blogs correctly you can use them as a way to sell your products or services in a really soft way. How? If you give away a free piece of advice about something you offer, people will be very grateful—everyone likes something for nothing! Then all you need to do is place a tiny call to action at the bottom and it could result in new business.Less emailing You can use blog posts to create reference points for people you email. If you have something you send to different people on a regular basis you can save yourself time by blogging about it. Then in future you can email people a link to the blog. Allow me to use an example:When I first talk to potential clients I ask them a series of questions which give me enough information to send them a ballpark price for a website. I used to email them; now I have a list of pre-website questions on my blog. Every time I speak to a potential client I either point them to the blog post of paste the questions and put them in an email. Okay, I could store that in a text file on my computer but it’s much better on a blog as it’s there for everyone else to see.There are numerous benefits to having a blog so long as you’re willing to put the time in to keep them up–to–date. They are also fairly inexpensive to add because most blogs run on an open source platform.

    Hosting    

Is Hosting Exspensive

Why do I have to pay for hosting.

If you’re clear on the difference between a domain name and web hosting you may still want further clarification and ask the question: why do I have to pay for web hosting?Without web hosting your site would not be visible to the outside world. When you pay for a hosting company to house your site you’re paying for space on one of their servers. A hosting company performs many important services. Here are their core functions:Website As mentioned in the introduction one of the primary functions is to store the files that make up your web sites (web pages, images, PDFs, etc). However, there’s more to it that that; if you’re running a website that you can update yourself you’re also using the hoster’s database server and scripting language. Hosting companies also have special Internet access that allows them to transfer huge amounts of data at a time—unlike your domestic Internet connection. Email You’ll also get use of the hosting company’s mail server—which will handle all your email. This also allows you to use spam/junk filtering systems. Most hosting companies will also offer webmail, which allows you to access your email from any computer with an Internet connection.Statistics Hosting companies offer statistics as well. While they may not be as advanced as something like Google Analytics they’re still very useful as they show a different set of results such as data transfer. They also show the ‘raw’ statistics which shows the total amount of traffic you’re getting—including the search engine crawlers (which Google Analytics filters out).Backups Hosting companies backup your data in several ways. First all the data is written to two hard drives simultaneously. So if a hard drive fails (one of the most common causes of data loss) your site is still intact on the other drive. Then they back up to a separate server at regular intervals (e.g. hourly). Finally they store backups on a site separate to the main server.Security Hosting companies store their servers in a very secure environment. They are housed in special anti–fire, anti–flood units. Additionally they protect your site from hackers via their firewall and anti–virus.

   Ecommerce    

Selling on-line

Things to consider with Ecommerce

Product range First and foremost, how will you present your product range online? How will you assign product codes? How will you handle different sizes, colours and types? How will you create or obtain sufficient imagery of your stock? For example, if you’re selling clothing will you need to show the customer different colours and materials? If you have fives sizes and five materials you would need twenty–five photos per product. Delivery How will you calculate delivery? Will you do it based on size, weight, volume or distance? Or will it be a combination of these? Will you offer delivery thresholds that provide discounts for larger orders?Discount codes, promotions, special offers and sales If you want to run a sale how do you do it? Do you discount based on specific items, product ranges or combinations of items? What do you discount: percentages or fixed amounts? Or do you give away a free item when they enter a promotional code?Account management Do users have to create an account to purchase items? If you have account management facilities on your site what information will you store about them?Payment gateway Will you have payments deposited in your merchant bank account or will you use a third party to collect the funds (e.g. PayPal)? If you choose to connect the site to your business bank account will your bank allow this as such a facility is not available to everyone? Will you take credit card payments on your own site? If so, are you willing to pay for a server that is secure enough to handle this?Note, for more information see my earlier blog post, eCommerce explained: how to sell online.Stock control Will the site include stock control functionality so when you run out of an item it is automatically removed from the site? If yes, will it integrate with any existing stock control system you’re using?Running the site Who will add the stock to the site? This can take some time; if you have five hundred products and adding a product takes ten minutes that means you need over eighty hours just to add the stock! Who will respond to any product queries? Who will be responsible for invoicing, picking, packing and shipping? Will the site need to generate invoices automatically?

   Marketing & SEO    

Google

Why can’t I see my website on Google.

I find one of the first things a client will do when their new site goes live is search for it on Google*. People are surprised, however, to find that immediately after their site’s launch the brand new web pages are nowhere to be seen. Why is this?*Note: throughout this article I am referring to Google rather than search engines in general. This is because Google accounts for the vast majority of search engine traffic and it is far more advanced and sophisticated than any other search engine. My ethos with search engines is optimise for Google and the other, lesser search engines will follow suit.To understand why this is the case it is first necessary to discuss how search engines work. Search engines are huge indices of web pages. They don’t just store information, however, they also hold information about how different web pages link to one another. When one page links to another, a search engine counts it as a ‘vote’ for that page. All votes are not equal either; a search engine will look at the context of the page (the relevancy of the subject matter) and the quality of the web page (how many pages have already ‘voted’ for that).When you enter a search term in Google a marvel of modern science actually takes place in the blink of an eye. The search term is sent to Google which then queries an index of billions of web pages. Using a very complex version of the ‘voting’ procedure described above, Google will return a handful of pages it thinks are most relevant to your search. So why am I telling you this?Well, because of the volume of information searched and the way in which it’s linked together it is not possible to search in realtime. So search engines have special automated programs called ‘spiders’ that ‘crawl’ the web, indexing web pages. The spiders create a copy—or snapshot—of the page periodically. So when you conduct a search on Google, Google is actually searching the snapshot (which is held on its own servers) rather than what’s on your site.As an aside, Google has actually started returning some results in realtime but generally speaking you can forget about that as it mainly applies to live feeds on high profile news and social networking sites.This brings us round to the point in question: why can’t I see my recently launched site in Google? Hopefully, you can answer the question yourself now. Google can’t see it because it hasn’t indexed it yet.How do you get your site to appear? If it’s a brand new site (on a new domain) you can let Google know your site is live but submitting the URL to them. If you’ve used me to build your site I’ll have already done this on your behalf. If you’ve redesigned your site and are relaunching it on a domain already indexed by Google you can just sit back and wait for Google to reindex it.How long does all this take? I’ll answer that with a question: how long is a piece of string? As a spam prevention mechanism, Google is never too quick to start listing new domains so the important thing is to be patient. It can take weeks or even months. You can speed the process up by getting quality, relevant links to your site. How do you do that? Well, that’s a big topic in its own right and perhaps I’ll tackle that another time…

   Domain Names    

.com or .co.uk?

Benefit of buy multiple domain names.

In the grand scheme of things domain names are incredibly cheap. They range from a few pounds per year to…a few pounds per year. If you need a domain name don’t be so financially shortsighted as to hold out buying it for such a small amount of money; you may regret it further down the line. In most cases, it is appropriate to have more than one domain name and point them all to the same site. Why? Well, here are the benefits of buying multiple domain names for the same website.Different versions of the same name My primary domain name is geekydesigns.co.uk. Yet if you key in geekydesigns.com, geekydesigns.net or  geekydesigns.org (all the main generic domain name types) you’ll be sent to geekydesigns.co.uk. Why is that beneficial? People may have heard of Geeky Designs but not visited the site before. Most people will Google the company name and find me at the top. However, some people will key the domain name straight into the address bar. Additionally, it further establishes your online presence for that name.Stop anyone else from using it Most importantly though, buying domain names (even if you don’t use them) prevents anyone else from using them. If you don’t snap up all the other versions of your domain name it could be very easy for someone else to buy them. If they do, this could spell two unpleasant scenarios for you.Firstly, the could use the domain name and start ‘passing themselves off’ as your company. Legally, they probably don’t have the right to do this but do you really want to go through the headache of taking legal action against them?Secondly, they can just leave the domain name pointing to nothing—something legally they can do if they want to—and charge you an exorbitant amount of money to buy it from them.Preempt misspellings If your domain name contains a word that is often misspelled it pays to buy the misspelled variants too. For example, ‘guarantee’ is one of the hundred most commonly misspelled words. If my domain name was thegeeky guarantee.com I would also buy the domain thegeekieguarentee.com (note the misspelling on the latter domain name).You should also buy domains that include words that are different in US, UK and International English.Never skimp on domain names. They cost very little but add huge value to your online presence. If someone else gets a domain name you want it is nigh impossible to get it off them—unless you’re will to pay through the nose for it. Plan ahead and buy as many as you think you need. If you need help send us a ticket.

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Geeky Designs:

Creatively driven, digitally

smart and clearly focused.

Website design and 

Graphic design. 

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0800 193 9454

info@geekydesigns.co.uk

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