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6 Things Your Web Designer Needs Before Your Next Project

6 Things Your Web Designer Needs Before Your Next Project

When you hire a designer to create a website for your small business, the most obvious benefit you get is not having to worry about figuring out all of the tech on your own.

But there’s actually a bigger, less obvious benefit to working with a web designer.

When you hire a web designer who has experience working with small business owners, you’re working with someone who understands the role that your website plays in your overall marketing strategy.

And now you’re getting way more value out of your design project.

I specialize in designing and developing websites for small business owners, especially online entrepreneurs, and there are standard elements that are essential for their websites right out of the box.

So keep reading if you’re a small business owner or online entrepreneur who is looking to launch a new website (or upgrade the one you already have).  Your web designer should ask you for all of the information I’m about to discuss, and they’ll be super impressed if you come to the project prepared to give it to them.

6 Things Your Web Designer Needs Before Your Next Project

1. A Strong Understanding of Your Business

The more your web designer knows about your business, the better they will understand how to build you the best website to market it.

All websites are not created equal.  

If your business is brand new, it’ll have different components than a website for a business that’s been around for years.

Your web designer will need to know the answers to questions like these:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have a physical location or are you online-only?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What services and products do you offer?
  • Will you be selling anything on your website?
  • Do you plan on adding new content regularly?

Simple questions like these will affect how your web designer creates your page layouts, and which pages will be featured on your main menu.

For example, if you do one-on-one client work, your website would need different pages and features than it would if you sell handmade jewelry.

Or, if you market your business with weekly podcast episodes, your designer might make different choices than they would if you publish blog posts once a month.

You may be taking these factors for granted, or they may not occur to you at all.   

A good web designer can process all of the information you give them and help you make the most logical choices for your website.  

And those choices can make a huge difference in how well your website works as a marketing tool for your business.

2. The Most Important Things You Want People to Do on Your Website

Getting people to take action on your website is a big part of converting your visitors into customers.  You need to identify what actions you want people to take so your web designer can make it easy for your visitors to do them.

If you’re not sure what you want your visitors to do on your site, that’s okay.  It’s not always that obvious when you’re just starting out

Here are some examples of important actions your website visitors can take:

  • Find out about your business in general
  • Sign up for your email list
  • Book a free consultation
  • Browse your services and pricing
  • Pay for your services
  • Buy your products
  • Read your blog
  • Watch your videos
  • Enroll in your course
  • Get answers to frequently asked questions
  • Contact you directly

Pick three of the most important actions you want visitors to take.  Then your web designer will be able to make better design choices for your website.  You’ll want to draw attention to those items so your visitors are more likely to take action.

On the flip side, you don’t want to draw attention to something on your website that isn’t ready yet.  

For example, if you want to add a Resources page with affiliate links, but you aren’t a member of any affiliate programs and you don’t have anything to recommend, I’d tell you not to include a Resources page in your main menu.  Why draw attention to something if there is no pay off when your visitors get there?

3. A Signed Contract and Deposit

Most web designers won’t even start the development phase of a project until your deposit clears, so be prepared to pay something up front.

Just like you, a web designer is a small business owner who gets paid to provide services.  If you’re a service provider, you can appreciate the importance of securing payment and protecting yourself from unforeseen issues like clients who ghost you halfway through the project.

4. Your Website Content

Gathering content is the first phase of any design project, and it’s the part of the project where the client has the most homework and responsibility.  The more you can prepare in the beginning, the more smoothly your project will run.

Giving your website content to your web designer as soon as possible is crucial.  Missing content can delay your whole project. If you don’t have anything to give your designer, they can’t fully design your website.

Here are some standard content items your web designer will need from you:

  • Visual branding elements (logo, colors, fonts, etc.)
  • Graphics, like a homepage banner
  • Photos (preferably of you, but stock photos can also be considered)
  • Your business’s contact info
  • A list of your services/products
  • Your social media links
  • Account info for your web hosting & email service provider

Most web designers can work with you to gather a lot of this content.  When I work with my clients [insert link], I offer services for branding design and email set-up.  It takes the pressure off of my clients to gather all of that info on their own.

If your web designer doesn’t offer additional services, they should have a network of graphic designers and photographers that they can refer you to.  

5. Your Website Copy

Submitting copy to your web designer is just as important as giving them your other content.  Most web designers are not copywriters, so it’s not technically their job to fill in your headlines, product descriptions or even the snappy words you use on your “Learn More” buttons.

Of course, your web designer isn’t going to delay your project so you can give them an alternative to the “Sign up for my newsletter” prompt, but they’ll secretly love it if you did.

The copy you really need to focus on is what goes on your homepage, your about page and your email opt-in offer.  That’s where you’ll be marketing your business to your website visitors so you can warm them up new leads.

Your web designer uses your website copy to create layouts that take your visitors through a journey on your website that should lead to taking action.  So get that copy written and ready to deliver.

6. Your Email Opt-In

Your email opt-in offer is the main thing that transforms your website from a static info site into a marketing tool that works 24/7.  

Once you’ve created your email opt-in offer, your web designer can set up the tech to connect your website to your email service provider (like Mailchimp or ConvertKit*).  Then you’re ready to start building your email list from the moment your website goes live.

It’s possible to launch your website without an email opt-in offer, but why would you?  That’s just going to delay any opportunity you have to generate warm leads and convert your visitors into potential customers.

Final Thoughts

Working with a web designer isn’t just about paying someone to set up your website for you.  It’s an investment in your business and your ability to create a strategic marketing tool. If you’re a new entrepreneur, your web designer can also become a valuable resource for information and guidance.

*This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission from your purchase.

 

How to Use Your Blog Sidebar as a Marketing Tool

How to Use Your Blog Sidebar as a Marketing Tool

This post contains affiliate links and I may make a commission from your purchase.

When it comes to promoting your small business online, writing blog posts should play a large roll in your marketing mix.  Each blog post is an opportunity for you to answer common questions your target audience may have, which is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your niche.  

So if someone from your target audience finds one of your blog posts in their search results, that particular post may be the only page they visit.  It’s up to you to make a clear first impression and let them know what you have to offer.

And your blog sidebar is the place where you make that first impression.   

I bet you’re thinking, “But wait, isn’t my homepage supposed to do that?  Can’t they just click on my About page to find out everything they need to know?”

The answer is: Not always.

See, for the purpose of this post, I’m talking about the experience you want to create for people who land on your website by clicking on a blog post.

How often do you read a blog post that you find on Pinterest or via Google search and then actually hang around and surf through the rest of the site?

You can’t guarantee that someone is going to stay on your website long enough to move from page to page.

So do yourself a favor and create a blog sidebar that acts as a tool to market your business for you.  After you’ve set it up with the most essential widgets, it will operate on autopilot next to all of your blog posts.

How to Use Your Blog Sidebar as a Marketing Tool

 

Avoid adding too many widgets to your sidebar

Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need to include all of the widgets you can into your blog sidebar.  Having too many options to choose from will confuse your readers.

When your readers are confused, they don’t take any action at all.  

Here’s a list of widgets you can leave out of your sidebar:

  • Search Bar:  A search widget works best when your blog posts are efficiently organized with blog tags and keywords.  If they are not, your visitors will probably not find what they are looking for.  Also, if your blog is relatively new, you may not even have the content to justify adding a search widget.  Don’t diminish your credibility. Avoid inviting someone to search for something if you know you can’t deliver.
  • Archives:  This widget serves zero purpose unless you have a large back catalog of posts.  Since archives are organized chronologically, most visitors don’t have the patience or attention span to sort through all of the months and years.  
  • Categories:  If you have more than a half dozen blog categories, narrow them down to the four most important or popular categories and leave all of the others out of the widget

Five Must-Have Widgets for Your Blog Sidebar

 

1. An introductory statement or tagline

Introduce yourself.  Let your blog readers know who you are and what you do.  You may think it’s obvious, but it isn’t. A sentence or two will do.  

2. A picture of yourself

Show your readers the person behind the blog post.  Make eye contact with them. Give them the chance to know you, like you and trust you.  Otherwise they won’t know who just gave them all of that valuable information in the post they just read

3. A Mailing List Opt-In Form

Invite readers to stay connected with you by joining your mailing list.  My favorite opt-in form creator is Bloom by Elegant Themes (I also love it for creating pop-ups, too). If your new reader found some value in your blog post, give them even more value by offering a freebie in exchange for their email list.   

4. An Invitation to Follow You On Social Media

There are a few ways you can do this.  One way is to add a widget with social media share buttons for all of the platforms where you hang out.  I like the Simple Social Icons plugin for WordPress.  

Another option is to feature the platform that you use the most.  

For example, don’t include a Twitter follow button if you haven’t tweeted since before the Kardashians had kids.  

Showcase the social media platform where you hang out most (and where your target audience hangs out the most).

If you’re particularly proud of your Instagram feed, just focus on that.  My favorite Instagram plugin is Instagram Feed, which offers a sidebar feature.  

5. Recent Posts List

Unlike adding widgets for searching, blog categories or archives, which can be vague and have too much scope for one visit, a recent posts widget offers a better payoff.  People will be more likely to stay on your website longer and read one more post.  Keep your list to 4-5 blog posts to avoid decision fatigue.

Wrapping Up

Use your blog sidebar as an abbreviated and combined version of your home page and about page.  Curate your sidebar to draw attention to the most important things that readers should take away from your website.  Don’t overwhelm them with too many options. 

Let your blog sidebar keep warm traffic warmer by creating an invitation to connect with you via email and on social media.

 

Blogging for Your Business: Why You Need to Start Now

Blogging for Your Business: Why You Need to Start Now

How’s your business working out for you?  Do you have a steady roster of clients who keep coming back to work with you again and again?  Are your products practically selling themselves? Is your calendar booked from here to the next Winter Olympics?

Is answer to any of those questions is “Mmm, not so much…”?

Then you need to be blogging for your business.  Like right now.

You’re probably thinking, “But, isn’t blogging for college kids and stay at home moms?”  

Yes and yes.  Oh, and by the way, and both of those groups are crushing the small business game right now.  

Why? Because they are using their blogs as tools to promote their various businesses and side hustles.

So here’s the thing — blogging isn’t like journaling or writing in a diary.  It’s more like sharing what you know so you can provide valuable information to your audience.  In your case, your audience is your clients, customers and prospects.

If I told you that writing blog posts for your business could increase your sales and help you book more clients, would you be interested in adding that task to your to-do list?

Well, if you need some more convincing, here are a few benefits of blogging for your business:

Blogging for Your Business:  Why You Need to Start Now

1. Position yourself as a credible expert in your industry

Show your potential clients and customers that you know your stuff by writing about topics that relate to what you offer.  You may take those topics for granted, but I guarantee you that your audience knows less about it than you do. And they are looking for an expert like you to break those topics down for them.

Blogging about topics that you are an authority on will give you credibility.  It will make your readers trust you. Once they trust you, they will be more likely to pay you for whatever products or services you offer.

Here are some topics that you can start blogging about today, no matter what your industry is:

  • How-to tutorials
  • Current trends in your industry
  • Reviews, comparisons or benefits of resources or tools  in your niche
  • Why a particular habit or skill is important to your audience
  • Introductions to the essential principles or guidelines of your niche

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Whether your a holistic health coach, a bookkeeper, a baker or a landscaper, you have valuable knowledge that you can share.  All of that knowledge needs to be posted to your blog.” quote=”Whether your a holistic health coach, a bookkeeper, a baker or a landscaper, you have valuable knowledge that you can share.  All of that knowledge needs to be posted to your blog.” theme=”style1″]

2. Get more search engine visibility

Whenever I want to find an answer to a question or solve a problem, I google it.  Then I scroll through the first page of search results and find the blog post that has the information I’m looking for.  

I’m sure you’ve done an internet search dozens of times to figure something out.  How else would you have learned how to cook vegan, gluten-free mac & cheese for your cousin for Thanksgiving?

Your blog post could that problem solver for someone in your audience.  

It’s all part of a larger sales tactic to bring more visibility to your business.  It starts with a blog post and builds into a relationship with you and your reader.  Every time someone finds your blog post through a random search online, you have the chance to convert that reader into a customer.

But you don’t have to rely on Google alone in hopes of getting noticed.  I like to add all of my blog posts to Pinterest, which is a popular search engine due to its visuals-first approach.  Your audience may prefer to use Pinterest as their go-to search engine, especially if they are looking for DIY ideas.

It will take time for your blog posts to drive traffic to your website (unless you already have a website with heavy traffic or you’ve written that definitive post to beat all posts which put you at the top of the search results.) 

If you’re not blogging for your business, you’re missing opportunities to show up in thousands of individual searches.

3. Repurpose your blog for social media content

Your blog and your social media content should always be intertwined.  You can repurpose your blog posts as fresh content for all of your social media profiles. Here’s how:

  • Post a status update with your blog’s link to Facebook or Twitter
  • Add a photo to your Instagram grid with a caption that includes a CTA to read your blog
  • Talk about a few of your blog’s main points in an Instagram story or Facebook Live

If you’re struggling to figure out how to use social media to promote your business, you can always rely on your blog posts to give you something to post online.  Plus, sharing your new blog posts on social media is another way to drive traffic to your website.  Now, isn’t that cyclical?

4. Stay in touch with your email list

When someone subscribes to your email list, they are saying, “Yes, I want to hear more from you.”   So keep in touch with them by sending your blog posts directly to their inboxes. Your email subscribers are warm leads.  They’ve opted in to your message, so don’t hesitate to share it with them.

Send regularly scheduled emails to your subscribers with a strong call-to-action to read your latest blog post.  You can even copy and paste the entire post into the body of the email.

Let your email list get to know you over time.  Build their trust without asking them to buy anything at first.  This will eventually lead to increased sales and more clients.

Final Thoughts

Marketing is essential to every small business.  Dedicate a block of your time to blogging for your business and promote your posts on social media and to your email list.  It’s free advertising.

 

Website Branding: The 5 Essential Elements You Need

Website Branding: The 5 Essential Elements You Need

Website branding is both simple and nuanced.  There are some basic elements that every website should have in order to support the identity and niche of your blog or online business.  Once you identify those essential elements, it’s up to you how you choose to design them.

Creating the branding for your website is a lot like building the wardrobe in your closet.  Just like a stylist would tell you that every woman needs a Little Black Dress or the perfect-fitting pair of jeans, a web designer will tell you that every website needs a few key pieces to complete your branding collection.

Website Branding:  The 5 Essential Elements You Need

1. Color Palette

Sample Color Palette

When I’m designing a website branding package like the premade kits in my Etsy shop, I usually start by choosing the color palette.  This gives me a better idea of the overall look and feel for the total brand.  Most website color palettes include five to seven shades (including a shade of white and black).  

In general, it’s good to have a combination of light and dark shades in your color palette.  For the sake of this article, we won’t go too deeply into color theory. Just remember that your color palette should have the following:

  • 2 darker shades that ere easy to read on a white screen
  • A fun accent color that really pops (great for hyperlinks, eye-catching buttons and call-to-action sections)
  • 1-2 light colors that can be used to break up large sections of white screens

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  I’ve seen websites that are completely designed in black and white and they looked super chic.  I’ve also seen monochromatic palettes where everything is made up of several shades of pink.

2. Font Choices

Sample Fonts

Picking the fonts for your website branding package can be really fun once you understand the way fonts express certain moods and feelings.

There are four main types of fonts that most web designers will choose from:

  • Serif:  Recognizable by the little feet on the letters, serif fonts evoke classic and traditional design.  They are perfect for titles or headers and large blocks of text.
  • Sans Serif: Meaning “without serif,” Sans Serif fonts are have clean, minimal and modern lines.  They are also perfect for titles/headers and large blocks of text.
  • Display: These fonts are very stylized, like something you might find in a sci-fi logo or Broadway marquee.  They should be used sparingly as a logo only and not for large blocks of text.
  • Scripts: These fonts look like handwritten lettering or cursive.  They can add a very personal touch. Like display fonts, they are meant to be used sparingly.

Font Pairing is a major trend in website branding.  That means picking two fonts that work well together.  For example, you could pick a serif font for your headers and titles, and pair it with a sans-serif for your paragraph texts.  

Lately font pairings have expanded into trios, and web designers will add a third font (usually a script or display) that can be used sparingly as an accent.

A free tool like Google Fonts [insert link] is a perfect place to search through hundreds of fonts.  They also include recommendations for pairings.

3. Header Logo

Sample Logo

The header logo is the main focal point of your website branding.  As you are preparing to build your website [insert link], you’ll want to have your header logo created so you can get a sense of how it will look on your navigation bar.

A lot of people over-design their header logos with fanciful font choices or graphic images.  If you’ve ever watched Project Runway, you know Tim Gunn is always telling the contestants to edit their designs.  The same principle applies to your website’s header logo.

It’s perfectly okay to keep it simple and just stick with a text logo that doesn’t have any graphics or icons.  If you’re just starting out and you don’t have the budget to get your logo professionally designed, take the pressure off of yourself to design something that’s too intricate.  It’s not uncommon to see blogs and online businesses go through a rebrand ever few years or so as they grow.

4. Alternative Logo

Sample Alternative Logo

An alternative logo is something you can use when the dimensions of your main logo won’t fit into the space of wherever you’re placing it.  For example, if your logo is a long rectangle that isn’t very tall, it might not be the right size for a Facebook profile image, which is more of a square.

Alternative logos aren’t used as often as your main logo, but it’s nice to have a backup in case you need it.

5. Submark

Sample Submark

Submarks are the final icing on the cake that is your website branding.  Submarks are also known as site icons or favicons. Basically, a submark is a small accent element.  

If you’ve ever looked at a Google Chrome tab, you’ve seen a submark in action.  It’s the little icon on the left hand side of a web browser tab. For example, Google’s submark is  the letter G inside a white circle.

Submarks can also be used as social media profile images or your brand’s icon.  I like to think of using submarks the same way you might use a rubber stamp on paper.  

Final Thoughts

Don’t overthink your website branding.  Some of the best branding out there is as simple as can be, and that’s why it stands the test of time and is still relevant.  In the end, it’s all digital. Nothing is done that can’t be redone or undone. You should always feel free to change your brand design if it no longer represents you and your business.

 
Social Media Posts for Business:  Where Do You Start?

Social Media Posts for Business:  Where Do You Start?

Using social media for your blog or business is an essential part of any online marketing strategy.  When your entire business is based online, you can’t live without social media marketing. It’s that important to the growth of your business.

Most of us are pretty comfortable with using social media for personal reasons. We use it to keep in touch with friends and family.  We use it to post pictures of important events in our lives. We use it to voice our opinions. We use it to follow our favorite celebrities and public figures.

Using social media for your business is a little bit different than that, though.  

In general, a good social media strategy for business should include the following tactics:

  • Positioning yourself as an expert in your field
  • Posting content that aligns with your brand
  • Providing value to your audience
  • Connecting with your target audience
  • Building your email list

If you can focus on those tactics when you create posts for your business profiles, then you are off to a great start!

Here are some other strategies for creating social media posts for your business:

Social Media Posts for Business:  Where Do You Start?

1. Create profiles for the major platforms

You may not be ready to start posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest quite yet, but you should at least claim your space on each platform.  

Stay consistent with your brand by using the same profile name across all platforms. use the same profile picture for each account as well as the same copy for your bio.

A lot of the platforms integrate with one another, which can simplify things.  For example, you can link your Facebook and Twitter profiles to Instagram, so one post can be published in three places.

Pro Tip:  Create a Facebook business page.  This will allow you to track marketing analytics on other platforms and do more advanced social media integrations on your website.   

2. Keep it professional

First and foremost, your posts should be about your brand and what your business offers.  Save the food pics and vacation selfies for your personal account.

If your company name is your actual name, it’s more than a good idea to create a second account that is only for business purposes.  You can risk confusing your audience if your posts are not on brand.

There is an exception to this, however.  If your whole brand is you and your lifestyle, you have more space to get personal with your posts.

Lifestyle bloggers, coaches and entertainers can blur the lines between the personal and the professional.  If you are in the business of monetizing your lifestyle, you have more reason to pull back the curtain and let the audience into your life.

When in doubt, keep it professional until you get the hang of creating posts.

3. Promote your blog, services and products

The easiest way to create content for your posts is to promote something you want to share with your audience.

When you write a new blog article, share it on social media.  If you offer services or products, you can create content around that which will give you a reason to post.  

You can be straightforward and use your posts to make an announcement about something you want to promote.  You can also get creative and find a unique angle to grab people’s attention, and then work in your promotion that way.

Using this simple strategy will give you enough content to create a few posts per week.  Don’t worry about being too spammy. Once you get the hang of creating content, you can easily promote your services and products on a weekly basis.

4. Show your face at least once a week

I know I just said keep it professional, but you should also post pictures or videos of yourself so your audience knows you are an actual human being behind your business.

Platforms like Instagram are very visual, and there is an expectation that users show their faces every so often.

When your audience never sees  your face, they can’t look you in the eye.  When they can’t look you in the eye, they are not likely to trust you.  If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy what you’re selling.

Start with posting a picture or video of yourself at least once a week.  You can use it as a reason to introduce yourself to new followers. You can use it to let your audience “behind the scenes” of your business.  You can even post a selfie with a caption of something inspirational.

5. Get really good at one platform.  Then add more.

Keep your social media responsibilities simple at the beginning.  Start out by posting to just one platform at first.

Once you start to get the hang of things over at Instagram, for example, then you can move on to Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.  

Like I said earlier, you could post strictly to Instagram as long as your account is linked to Facebook and Twitter.  This will help minimize any overwhelm you might feel about managing too many accounts all at once.

Do some market research to figure out where your target audience hangs out online, and start by posting there to develop a presence.

6. Post Regularly

It is important to post consistently.  You will stay relevant to your audience and your posts will be less likely to get lost in the feed.

A regular schedule varies from platform to platform.  For example, on Twitter and Instagram, it’s customary to post 1-3 times per day.  On Facebook, however, you could get away with posting once or twice a week.

Pinterest, on the other hand, is more of a visual search engine than a social media platform.  Many marketers will suggest posting at least 25 pins per day in order to grow your audience and drive traffic to your website.  

7. Use a scheduler to plan ahead

If all of this still leaves you feeling overwhelmed or you just don’t want to spend your time posting in real time every day, I highly suggest using a social media scheduler.

Schedulers will allow you to plan out your posts far in advance, which makes social media marketing so much easier.

Facebook business pages allow you to schedule posts without having to use a third-party app.

WP to Twitter is a free WordPress plugin that lets you auto-post new blogs to Twitter when you publish them.

Apps like Hootsuite, Buffer and Loomly* let you manage all of your accounts in one place, and will offer analytics and optimization features so you can post at the best times to reach your audience.

My favorite schedulers are Tailwind* and Planoly*.  Both have an emphasis on visual marketing.

I use Tailwind* for scheduling all of my blog posts as Pinterest pins (it works as an Instagram scheduler).  Tailwind can also link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can schedule posts there, too.

For Instagram, I prefer Planoly*.  The visual grid allows me to drag and drop all of my pictures so I can envision how they will look on my Instagram grid. I also love that I can use Planoly to save all of my hashtags.  

Overall, using a scheduling app to plan your posts ahead of time will make your social media marketing strategy much more streamlined and effortless.

Get started

Just go for it.  The best way to develop a social media marketing strategy for your business is to simply start already!  It’s very much a “learn by doing” situation.

*This is an affiliate link, and I may earn a few dollars if you purchase this product.

 

 

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