Frequently Asked Web Site Questions (Part 2)

Should I have individual staff or team profiles on the site?

I think it adds the appearance of depth to your company for people who are interested in that. But people can be fickle too. So any time you feature just yourself alone, some people will turn away, because it looks like it’s just you. Any time you add more people, some people will turn away, because they’re intimidated by it being more than just you. There isn’t one right answer. You weigh your market, your target audience, and how you know they’ve been reacting to you and what they’ve been asking against both answers. For me, I do both, but I put my personal photo and identity right on the front (it’s part of my brand), and I put the staff page a link away. So I’m getting both possibilities in there. The people thinking “can I rely on just you?” can click a button and see otherwise. The people thinking “I want one human being to relate to” have that person on the front. You’re going to lose visitors, no matter what you do, but I still like that approach for me. If your clients are fairly corporate or affluent – you might also want a staff photo (together) at the bottom of your home page.  You can also add one to the bottom of a CONTACT page, if visitors are typically reaching or being assigned to someone other than you.

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Image by ++ YENBA ++ via Flickr

Staff profile pages have good SEO potential, too. If you create individual bio pages for each staff member, with photo and link to a main staff page, then add a main staff photo to that page, with 100-400 words about your staff as a whole, and do the standard ‘back-end’ SEO, it becomes a nice positive SEO driver. Plus, they don’t have to click each profile if what they’re wanting is an overall summary with the photos.

Should I have multiple blogs?

Honestly, this question is best treated as “nothing matters if you’re not consistent, original, and relevant – but especially consistent”. There’s no point in multiplying blogs if only to have two that aren’t updated frequently. Blogs don’t usually become traffic builders overnight. They do maintain SEO immediately, if you’ve had an SEO overhaul, and you don’t slack off on the blog. Once you’ve slacked off for long enough, it stops contributing, and your site starts sinking in search engine value. So, even without readers, a blog as an SEO driver to maintain and grow your rankings is key. But to build traffic flow, it needs to be continually updated (think thrice a week) with 100-400 words per post of 100% original content that is highly relevant to your locales (which must be mentioned specifically) and/or your industry. If you do that, and you’re being consistent, it will come naturally to you where and how to grow – whether that’s two blogs or just a particular focus, name, and brand for your existing blog.

A more specific answer, though: an on-site blog offers the highest SEO value to your main site (having the front page actually be the blog, as previously mentioned, has the most SEO value). An off-site blog gives you an inbound link to your site (if you do it right), the opportunity to treat it as a niche site, and the ability to gain it’s own SEO and audience and funnel traffic back to your main site. The key thing is to position yourself as resident expert in a particular locale, demographic, or specialization, and continually give away value. No cheesy sales pitches. Instead, it’s your insight, expertise, information, and perspective. You’ll almost certainly get no response for a long while, and little value for a while, but if you’re consistent, the payoff can be extraordinary. Most people just can’t delay gratification that long (a month and they’re done, or maybe they give it a post per month for six months – same difference), or their faith wanes around anything technical that doesn’t work instantly, or they short change it (no prolonged consistency, no originality – they just toss some news articles at it, etc). That’s perfectly OK – the market goes to those who do it right, and stick to it. It’s a kind of natural selection. If you can do the right things consistently, and there’s a reason to have two blogs, go for it. But if it’s just going to be two things you won’t do right or be consistent at, pick one or don’t do either.

Keep in mind, too, it’s old-fashioned (web 1.0) to focus entirely on a web site in particular, anyway – blog or static. That just doesn’t work anymore. There’s a reason why every startup in existence launches into Twitter and Facebook – even before their site is built – even while they’re under construction. The goal in web 2.0 is to integrate all these things to extend your presence – your brand – your expertise where the people actually are. And then give them tons of options and opportunities at every turn to connect with you, follow you, stay in your orbit, join your tribe. You could do a 2nd blog off site, if you’re going to put the energy there too, or instead of. But you also have social media to focus on.

Should I add lots of organizational emblems to my site?

Sure, but I wouldn’t go overboard. I think a lot of the focus on external links and organization emblems is the old top-down product-driven approach of wanting prospects to become clients for the reasons we think they should, or wish they would, or is basically just “this is what I have to offer – this is what I want you to bite on”. Some of it’s fine. But again, what does web 2.0 tell us people are actually responding to? They’re responding to the resident expert in social media, and to fresh, frequently updated, original, interesting content. Emblems are static content. That’s fine, but think of your site in terms of percentages. What part of the pie is static-core vs. dynamic & social. If the static side is more than half, I’d say you’re not adding value as much as you are pushing whatever you’ve got lying around, and people won’t respond as they once did back when there were fewer choices.

Companies took a top down approach when there were only 20 kinds of shampoo. Here, ours has balsam. Buy this. It’s this, or non-balsam. Now there are 80 kinds of shampoo – an entire aisle dedicated to just shampoo. And people aren’t stuck having to pick between just whatever someone wants to offer them. So now companies have to listen and respond (e.g. organics and pseudo-organics). A lot of them won’t change their minds – they’re arrogant – so they keep coming up with some new thing that you have to have and using pseudo-science to tell you that you must have it – “ours has microbeads that are scientifically proven to…” But think of companies like Apple. They don’t say (unlike Microsoft) you have to buy our stuff, or we’ll make deals to package it, constrict your license, pay people to abandon compatibility, stop support, etc. etc. Apple just says, “here – this just works” – that’s what people are asking for in droves. They were very late, which is why a lot of us are stuck with our PCs – because other businesses – corporations – who think like Microsoft does – bought Microsoft products in droves. But once you can get outside their aegis (mobile devices, etc) – apple is king. No words over their sign – just a picture of an apple. They’re listening. People want simple.

So why should people pay you to do what you do? Because you’re a member of _______? All it takes to beat that is a) more choices and b) someone who adds value. Adding value is all about the verb. What do you do specifically that’s different than your competitor? What verbs can I expect from you that I can’t get elsewhere? That’s what needs prominence on a business web site. The emblems are fine – I don’t meant to knock them – I’ve got no problem with emblems per se. they might lend some confidence – but they’re secondary and should occupy a secondary content area – the footer – a secondary sidebar area – an ABOUT page, etc. Check your site stats: if you’re doing dynamic content right, I’ll bet the memberships section doesn’t get nearly the traffic your dynamic content does.

Should I use more photos or videos on my site?

My rule of thumb is to put one photo on any page that’ll sustain it. In other words – that it’s appropriate to have one on. You wouldn’t put one on your site map page – it would just be annoyingly in the way. But on any real content page, there should be one, in my opinion – right aligned at the second paragraph is ideal. If it’s a particularly long page, do two. One right aligned toward the top, one left aligned farther down.

Photos normally have zero SEO value in themselves. But there’s a way to embed at least three sets of tags in any photo and get great SEO value out of them. So they can have that nice, added boost for the page, if you have an SEO person put them in.

Videos can add a ton of value – especially if, instead of uploading the video to your own site, you put it in Youtube, and then embed the youtube code in your site. Youtube is, of course, the largest social network. So, if your videos are creative enough, you can really do some great marketing with them. The same rules apply to them as to blog posts, however.

Incidentally, videos and images (if you take a lot of photos) can be a pain if placed on individual pages – but it’s good form these days to put them into your blog. I’d really only recommend that if you were doing a lot of other text-based updates, and the visuals merely punctuate those or are added into them. Often, I’ll utilize a transcript of my video as the blog post, or I’ll write a post precisely in order to feature a visual image. I wouldn’t advise swarming your blog with videos and images – you’ll lose people, unless that’s precisely the blog’s theme – a vlog (video log) or photoblog. That’s fine to do, too – just remember that text, of some sort, accompanying your posts, is best for SEO value. You could also create an offsite video or photo, and use your onsite blog as a blog. Lots of options. Be sure to feature your videos prominently on your home page. I use a video instead of a personal photo. What’s the difference? A video is just a photo that talks. Also, your web site aside,  you could just use your Youtube channel as a video blog. In general, though, visual stuff – options for people driven by that – is good marketing.

Should I use social media – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc?

Um… yeah. That’s like asking if you should market. Seriously. In a web 2.0 world, if you’re *not* using social media effectively, you really aren’t marketing at all. It’s as if you’ve chosen the corner of the map where 10% of the people are, and ignored where 90% of the people have gone. You could actually market entirely from social media without even having a web site. I wouldn’t recommend it, ideally, but I’d do it in a heartbeat if I had no money to start with, even before I’d spend a dime on a web site. The wonderful thing from a competition standpoint is that most small business people have absolutely no idea how to use social media effectively, so it’s still really wide open. That’s why some consulting time can be beneficial, of course.

First thing I expect to see when I land on a web 2.0 web site? *Prominently* placed icons that link to your social media profiles so people can add, follow, or join you. But of course, if you just create the profiles and the links and walk away, it’s not going to do much. Each social media type requires a certain amount of interaction, time, and attention to be successful. All startups go to social media now. The only people that are reticent are those who started their businesses in a web 1.0 world. In web 1.0, everyone got e-mail and a web site – but reticent web zero people said they didn’t see the need for a web site or understand the point of e-mail – they didn’t want to exchange messages online – they were worried about privacy – they didn’t believe this was necessary to their industry – and they said they’d always use just phone and fax. Those people are either not working in that field now, or they’ve changed their minds. Or else they live in a tiny and dwindling community of like-minded fellows that are holding out for “retirement”. In web 2.0 there are just as many people saying they don’t see the business potential in Twitter and Facebook (most of them claim their particular industry is uniquely unsuited – “Sure I can see it for x company, but people I don’t believe it’s going to be effective for people in my industry” (they’re quite wrong, of course – because people already are. For every industry there are three significant groups – those who are trying to ignore social media (like people once tried to ignore e-mail), a huge group of people trying to treat social media like a license to spam (they’re going to fulfill their own prophesy – for them – no, it won’t be effective), and there’s a smaller number using it very successfully in any industry. Just as with “going on the internet” was in web zero, there are plenty of people saying they just aren’t interested in changing – they’re worried about privacy, don’t want to exchange messages in the new medium, don’t want to risk negative backlash, etc. You see where I’m going.

So it’s just necessary to really shift and realize that web 1.0 is dead. Dynamic sites beat static sites consistently, hands-down in search engine results. Twitter and Facebook are the new “word of mouth”, the new “networking”, and in many ways the new “yellow pages”. I’d hate to be reduced to just hanging flyers and waiting on yellow page calls in the current environment, while occasionally blitzing people with spam. Social media offers a rich environment for marketing to anyone that can be genuine. It requires authenticity. If you can do that, you should be in social media. Short answer? Um… yeah.

Should I use a mobile (cell phone) contact widget on my site?

Only if you want prospects to text you and you plan to respond quickly. If you find either of those annoying or unlikely, no. You could also just say, on a CONTACT page, “call or text me on my mobile”, include your number and skip the widget for maximum compatibility with more networks.

Market Moose builds web 2.0 web sites, performs search engine optimization (SEO), and provides consulting on internet marketing strategy – nationwide, all industries, any kind of business or organization.
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Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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