Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 2016: Author to Author: Ten Things To Consider About Your Web Presence

Author to Author: Ten Things To Consider About Your Web Presence

Is Your Presence You?

Blogger, Wordpress, Wix, Weebly... what do these have in common? Free. Setting up a website, blog, or even an online store has always been about what you're willing to spend, and free is powerful bait.


Is free you though? Free isn't always the least expensive option. Even with free hosting - which is a really good deal - you still need to find a template, work through layouts, produce visual and multimedia content, and then actually get down to the business of tailoring a web presence that represents you. That's a lot of time and energy that is not usually your core business. You need an approach that streamlines your time away from the products and services that you provide.


So read along while I talk through some of the basics. We're going to explore what's important in your web presence, and then touch on how to make your web presence an asset instead of a time sink.


Do you pick your own clothes out or do you let someone else handle it?

Well, do you? I've always been a fan of cherry picking specific elements of my wardrobe. 5.11 Tactical Pant plus Loot Crate black -tshirt with a fandom print suit me well for casual days. I prefer functional with pockets so I can go all-terrain as necessary without feeling burdened by bulk. That matters to me, and it's what people expect. Your web presence has a lot in common with how you present yourself.


Think of your website in similar terms as your wardrobe. What balance of functionality, style, personality, and ruggedness suits your purposes? Do you need a bundle of lightweight services - a Swiss Army Knife approach - or are you tightly focused and can depend on a single blunt instrument to get the heavy lifting done? Will you really take advantage of lots of plug-ins and pop-ups, or are you going to Keep It Simple Stupid because you don't have time for all that extra stuff?


You're going to hear over and over again that your web presence is about your market. The truth is that your web presence is about delivering information people need while encouraging them to embrace a call to action. A flashy website that is neither informative nor aligned with a specific follow up action has already failed even though you may have invested a lot of time in vanity. Don't let all the fancy make-up smear in a flood of tears when you discover your web presence is just a speedbump on the internet.


The following are the basics I use when reviewing my sites, trying to align them with my market and promotions, and the same when I am advising and mentoring other small businesses. I hope this helps, and I'm open to any questions you might have.



1. Am I making a good first impression?

The first step is ignoring the technicals and just focusing on what's right in front of your eyes. What's your honest reaction? Do you feel comfortable or distracted? Are you curious or bored? Are there clues that stand out and define what you're looking at?


Your web presence needs to invite someone lurking at the window to come in and take a closer look. If you're not making a good impression then the barrier to their entry is too high, and they will almost always move on.


While we all have differing fashion sense, sometimes we forget that style matters within our web presence. Take a minute to look through the eyes of a complete stranger. Socks and belt match? Shirt pressed? Trousers pleated? These are very superficial elements, but our brains are wired to unconciously assess the world. See if you can tailor a positive message with style that encourages your audience to stick around.


2. Can I find my way around?

A gorgeous site can be completely undone by ineffective navigation. You've succeeded at getting someone to visit your website, but how do they get what they wanted?


Technically this is about navigation and layout, but the words you use matter as much if not more than having everything neatly arranged in a multi-tier menu. The golden rule I follow is organizing the navigation by Who, What, Free, and then other teasers.


Who focuses your brand. Branding is a huge topic, but the key is that you need to convey a sense of your identity. Your brand may be yourself, but keep in mind that your brand is probably the version of you that's dressed for success.


What focuses on your product and/or services. What's your industry? What's your offer? What is it that you can do for the visitor? Tackle that right off the bat with an obvious keyword and not a generic catchall expression.


Free is all about giving a taste to potential admirers so they have a risk free opportunity to consider your value in their life. Free is almost always a subtle call to action. Whether you collect emails or just give something away, free should stand out because it's likely to be the first thing clicked on your web site.


The other teasers focus on engagement. What social media do you participate in? Do you have interesting stories of your experience to share? Are you part of a community or industry group? Teasers provide both validation of your excellence and network checks for socializing.


3. Content is King.

Despite all the whizbang excitement you can add to a website template, content is still the number one reason why people came to your site in the first place.


What is your content? Technical considerations apply when you look at what you intend to present to your audience. If your content is predominately writing then Blogger and Wordpress with their blog format model are probably the best platforms to leverage.


If you are more of a visual content creator then you want a site template that emphasizes galleries and creative presentation. If you do a lot of multimedia content, then you've got some additional challenges since your videos probably are hosted on YouTube or Vimeo and need to be framed in specific ways to present them on your website .


While Wix and Weebly probably do well for most general types of content, you might want to look at very specific social media alternatives. Tumblr may make more sense for mixed photosets and microblogging. Vimeo definitely encourages a community to form around multimedia content. What level of templating you can do versus your custom requirements may determine the right choice when you need to make your content shine.


4. What's everyone else doing?

You don't have to trailblaze to have a good web presence. Sometimes it makes sense to look at other people and how they use websites to communicate with their market and audience.


While considering the best medium to present your content, it's definitely worth knowing if you're reinventing the wheel. Check out competitors, people you admire, marketing and social media gurus, and find out what's going on in the marketplace.


Take good notes as you go because there is so much information out there that you may otherwise forget some great ideas along the way.


5. What have you tried?

Ordinarily I advise folks to put together an list of must haves, should haves, could haves, would haves - it's called a MoSCoW list - so they can assess their options. The reality is that you need to know what you're capable of and what platforms work for you before locking down your requirements makes sense.


Websites are a combination of learning a tool or set of tools, selecting templates, managing layout, creating content in an appropriate format, sorting out navigation, and linking it all together. Even if you end up paying someone to do this, you need to understand the concepts and what's needed to achieve your goals.


So consider what you've already set up, and try out a few alternatives if that's appropriate. Revisit or figure out where you're going to host logo images for your header, how you are going to resize icons and buttons for your links, and what the best way to manage your URLs is. Think about what you could be doing better and write that down. Print out website pages and mark them up. Go through the learning cycle with some hands-on experience to balance your expectations.


Timebox this exercise. Make yourself a list of what you need as you go - a shopping list for if you end up hiring someone to help - and invest a fixed number of days in testing changes and ideas, asking questions on forums, Google'ing for snippets of HTML, etc.


6. Assess your capabilities as well as your chosen website tool.

Honestly, I am terrible at graphics. I have a collection of friends who work with templates I provide for bookcovers, but I can kill hours just agonizing over a single image and how to get the right colour text for legibility. You've probably got your weak spots as well.


So considering what you've tried and how that went is a good way to define areas you can grow in, can learn more about, and might just never grasp. You may have also identified critical flaws in the site you picked for hosting. For example, I've had to strip out most of the pre-defined Blogger widgets and replace them with custom code within my templates to implement what I need. In hindsight, I picked a tool that was good for the first few years, but now isn't well-suited for further growth. Compromises are worth noting before they cause you unexpected grief down the road.


This is also a good chance to give all those widgets and template formats a second look. What may have seemed very out of the box simple might be more work than it's worth. Consider carefully how you compliment your content, make it easy to navigate your website, and emphasize your call to action and communities by using widgets and layouts. Remove anything that's a distraction while focusing on your content.


7. Refine your goals.

Based on your prior experience, you've got a good handle on your goals and the effort that may be involved in achieving them. Now revisit those goals and figure out if they are really priorities that add value.


This is one place where style may be trumped by expediency. You want a presentable website, but does it need to be a three piece suit and tie? Be willing to weigh your options, but make sure you don't accidentally throw the baby out with the bathwater.


For folks with an existing web presence, refining your goals is a good time management exercise. Once the initial effort is complete, you need to invest time every month creating content, managing links, etc. All those hours are sucked away from other activities. So make sure your goals are worthwhile so you aren't treading water for limited or zero additional value.


8. What does success mean?

For some people, success is having a large email mailing list. For others, it's active comments on their blog posts. Success is an internal measurement of something tangible to inform the return on your investment in your web presences.


Defining your success quantifies your goals. If you aren't succeeding then it's time to ask why. There's a lot of cyclical maintenance with your web presence, and that usually means looping through my steps #3, #4, #7, #8, and #9. Knowing what makes you successful or that you haven't been successful yet informs your next revisions and updates.


9. Metrics Matter

Whether it's Google Analytics, your webhosting click reports, or MailChimp stats on email opens, you need metrics. If your current web presence doesn't generate and capture metrics then how can you know if it's working?


In the physical world, a mall measures how many people enter the food court. Each individual restaurant tallies up their number of customers and how much those customers spent. This can be plotted against time to produce an understanding of when the food court is busy, when the food court is busy with buyers, and when the food court is largely empty. Surveying customers can add additional demographic information like where they come from and why they came. You want to know all the same for your websites.


Metrics serve little purpose by themselves, so link Goals, Success, and Metrics together with each iteration of your web presence. Read the reports, learn what they tell you about your visitors, and then align your content and call to action to build a bridge to that audience.


10. Is it time for an refresh?

Even if you've been through this process a dozen times, it's entirely possible that technology will leap ahead and you need to refresh everything. I've been coping with that since 2015 because the proliferation of mobile devices with small screens as the primary device used to visit my website has changed everything.


Some refreshes are about brand evolution. Some are cosmetic. Keep in mind that existing content migration is going to be a burden, so this isn't something to do lightly.



Most of us will never meet in real life, so your web presence really does matter. Be aware of how your websites represents you. Just like your wardrobe, the style and personality of your web presence is conveyed by subtle and superficial elements which people react to instinctively. Plan on changing your look for the right occasions, but consistency tailored to your audience is usually the winning play.


Thank you for your support.

Cherish Desire Erotica

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