At Connect4 Consulting we specialize in websites for nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Nonprofit Websites have substantially different requirements than websites for businesses. Websites for non-profit organizations are essentially e-commerce sites with a single product – the donation box – or a single goal – growing engagement via subscriptions. The nonprofit website needs to clearly and convincingly communicate the problem, impact, and solution.
We look at many nonprofit websites each year and one thing is painfully clear: nonprofits and charitable organizations have a lot of catching up to do in terms of internet presence. For every truly great nonprofit website, there are at least a dozen other examples of what NOT to do. In this post we look at best practices for nonprofit websites.
Top 25 Best Practices for Nonprofit Websites
1. The Donate Button
Almost all nonprofit websites are trying to raise money online. With that goal, the donate button and the donation process is mission-critical. The donate button should be visible on every page of your site. Make it stand out by using a color that contrasts with the rest of your page.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Donate Button
Don’t assume visitors already know what your organization is about. Prospective donors will find your site through organic search, referral links, and social media, and they may not be familiar with your nonprofit. You’ll need to clearly communicate the problem that your organization addresses. We recommend featuring a prominent link where visitors can learn more about the organization – including the problem you solve, who you help, and why it matters for visitors to get involved. Help visitors dive deeper into taking action by offering clear calls-to-action related to your organization’s core purpose.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Problem
What is the solution that your nonprofit organization provides? The solution to the problem must be immediately visible and apparent to the website visitor. And the solution should lead directly to the impact statement.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Solution
What is the immediate impact of your organization? As we discussed above, you should follow up the “problem” with your organization’s solution to that problem. Prove the efficacy of your solution by demonstrating impact through eye-catching infographics, statistics and stories.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Impact
5. Transparency Is Important
According to a study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy,
1 in 3 Americans lack confidence in charities. In deciding where they will donate, 50% of survey respondents said it was “very important” for them to know that charities spend a low amount on salaries, administration, and fundraising; another 34% said it was “somewhat important.”
Anywhere you can put a number to something your nonprofit organization has done, you can better communicate your impact to a potential donor or sponsor. The more transparent your organization is about this, the more trust you will gain with your visitors.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – Transparency
6. The Blog
Writing about your organization regularly is perfect for demonstrating impact, engaging supporters and sharing the work you’re doing with people new to your organization. Consumers want to be told a story. According to survey conducted by Adobe & research firm Edelman Berland, 73% agreed that brands should tell a unique story.
There are always opportunities to tell stories. It makes content so much more compelling when it is presented in the context of a story. Make sure your organization is taking advantage of the stories behind how your nonprofit began, why your cause matters, and who your organization is helping, and make sure that content is communicated on your website.
Not sure what to blog about? No problem! Here are some nonprofit blogging ideas for you:
• Letters from staff, volunteers or constituents in the field
• Photo essays from events or fieldwork
• Fact roundups on your specific cause or cause-sector
• News updates specific to your cause-sector or the region you’re working in
• Impact stories
• Behind-the-scenes videos or write-ups about your work
• Announcements about partnerships or matching grants
• Celebrate milestones and supporters
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Blog
7. Subscription Box
The subscription box is related to the blog in the sense that newsletters increase transparency, deepen engagement and keep people up-to-date with how their support is directly impacting your cause.
Encourage supporters to subscribe to your newsletter by including a clear call to action on your homepage. “Join us” seems to be a popular call-to-action.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Subscription Box
8. Look Beyond the Home Page
It’s important to look beyond the home page. If you look at site analytics, you might even discover that more traffic enters your site from other pages than the home page.
The homepage is becoming less and less relevant. The home page still serves many functions. It represents your brand/organization, and in many cases it’s the first introduction to your brand for people who search for your organization by name or navigate directly to your URL.
But the home page is also the most unfocused page, because it has to consider the needs and motivations of every potential audience member, as well as introducing your organization and explaining why someone should care.
9. Resources Page
Have a Resources page accessible through your site’s top-level navigation where the public can find reliable, current information about issues central to your nonprofit’s cause. Keep this page updated and well maintained. If part of the value your nonprofit creates is from publishing resources, this is the place to host them.
Examples of Great Nonprofit Websites – The Resource Page
10. Members Only Page
There are quite a few reasons why you would have a members-only section set up on your nonprofit website. In some cases, this type of section may be needed for privacy and security reasons, preventing the release of confidential information.
In other scenarios, a members-only section might host exclusive resources, or a member directory for paying members of the organization. Just seeing the “Members-only” tab on your website is enough to entice some potential members to join your organization online, knowing they’ll get instant access to these things.
11. Campaign Landing Pages
Apply the same principles from your main website for your specific campaign microsites. For a campaign, make sure you add your campaign’s goal and campaign’s progress.
12. Optimize For Mobile
Mobile traffic now makes up 53% of all internet traffic. People today expect a great mobile experience. It’s imperative to make mobile content not just passable or functional, but truly seamless and easy.
At this point, this should go without saying. If your website is not mobile optimized, then you are really missing the boat – or at least a boatload of donors. Unfortunately, many nonprofit websites lag far behind on optimizing for mobile.
Your nonprofit organization should keep mobile in mind while designing to ensure that your site will translate well. Keep layouts vertical, use larger fonts and buttons, and avoid cramming too many elements onto the page.
If you’re unsure of whether or not an element will look good and be easy to use on mobile, remember: you can always take out your mobile device and check!
13. Intuitive Navigation
Well-planned and intuitive site architecture not only informs search engines of the importance of pages in rankings, but it is also important to user experience. Is it easy to find the expected information? What are the real goals of your nonprofit website? Does the architecture of your site support those goals?
- Including a top or left side navigation bar that’s visible on every page of your website (minus your donation form).
- Keeping all navigation titles between 1-3 words.
- Avoiding jargon, elaborate words, or language that doesn’t clearly or accurately portray the content on the page it’s linking out to.
- If they’re needed, sticking to only one level of drop-down menus.
14. Page Load Time Under 3 Seconds
Page load time is essential. By minimizing page load time (ideally less than 3 seconds), your organization will significantly increase the chances that the donors who click on your website will actually land there and stay long enough to look around.
If donors have to wait minutes (or even too many seconds), they’re likely to simply abandon the page. After all, visitors can easily turn to another site to access the information they want if it takes too long for your website to load. Check out your website page load speed by visiting GT Metrix.
Here are a few things you can do to help your website load as quickly as possible:
- Resize and compress all images.
- Minimize the number of scripts, plugins, and custom fonts used.
- Opt for HTML and CSS over Flash Player.
15. Website Security
Most of the recent and high profile security breaches can be traced back to weak passwords and faulty website authentication.
If your nonprofit organization wants to maintain a secure website, it’s time you looked into more secure credentials, like two factor authentication and SSL encryption.
Having a secure website protects you and your donors’ information so that you can maintain your supporters’ trust.
16. Matching Gifts
One of the easiest ways to increase online donations is to offer matching gifts. After all, you’re essentially receiving two donations for the price of one!
The problem lies in the fact that many donors simply aren’t aware of the option to give a matching gift.
To add a matching gift tool to your website, you’ll first need to find a vendor (like Double the Donation!).
Ask your website developer if your website is compatible with a matching gift service. If so, it should be easy to embed the tool into your website with a simple piece of code. If not, you’ll need to work with a vendor who provides custom development options.
By adding a matching gift tool to your site, you ensure donors know about this option and give them the resources they need to follow up on submitting their gifts.
17. Nonprofit Website and Donor Database Integration
Between online donations, event registrations, membership signups, and other online forms, your organization will likely be receiving a lot of donor data through your website. By integrating your website and your CRM, you’ll eliminate the need for manual data management, which can be time-consuming and prone to human error.
Instead, all new data you collect will automatically filter into donor profiles, making the data collection process much easier.
18. Marketing Automation – Email and Social Media
The two most common digital communications channels are email and social media.
Your organization can incorporate email into your website by adding a subscription box that enables visitors to sign up for your newsletters. Your email marketing platform should generate a code that you can easily place on your website to get this feature.
As far as social media goes, include social sharing buttons so that supporters can forward your content to their networks. If you’re active on social media, you can also embed social media feeds to share current updates.
19. Consistent Branding
Standardizing branding will ensure that visitors feel secure when browsing your site.
Think about it: if users suddenly land on a page that looks completely different from the rest of the site, chances are they’ll mistake it for someone else’s website. Considering that they want to engage with your organization, they’re not likely to trust pages that don’t look like they came from you.
If, on the other hand, they see your organization’s look and feel throughout your site, supporters can be confident that they’re interacting with you, which will make them feel much more comfortable submitting donations and taking other actions.
As long as your organization is using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal, this is not so hard to achieve.
20. Powerful Photography
Photography plays a big role in first impressions. Research shows that using faces in your design can increase engagement by over 30%. Just take a look at this image below and take note of how much it grabs your attention:
21. Minimal and Uncluttered Design
Donors don’t respond well to complex, busy websites. They are already going out of their way to help your cause, the last thing you want to do is scare them off with a cluttered and complex web site.
Minimalism is important because:
- It makes your site easier to navigate, since visitors won’t have to wade through a bunch of information and elements to find what they want.
- It helps your most important content stand out, since it won’t be competing for visitors’ attention.
- It will keep your site looking current for longer and reduce the amount of major updates you’ll have to make. Simplicity is always in style!
Ultimately, taking a minimalist approach highlights the problem, solution, and impact provided by your nonprofit organization.
22. Multiple Opportunities for Engagement
While making sure that you can receive online donations might be your organization’s main website goal, some of your visitors might not be ready to take the leap and make a gift.
If you don’t include other engagement opportunities throughout your website, you’ll be missing out on building relationships with supporters who wish to engage with you in other valuable ways.
A supporter who gives their time through volunteering or access to their network through social sharing is just as an important to cultivate as a potential donor.
23. Highlight CTAs in Site Navigation
Visually highlight your most significant call to action within your navigation menu. On any page, that goal will be prominent and easily accessible. Secondary CTAs can be a more muted color but still be visually prominent.
24. Optimize Donation Pages
There are a number of things you can do to optimize your donation pages:
- make it easy to donate
- use trust indicators like badges, independent ratings, and financial disclosure
- make an emotional appeal
- translate donation amounts into monthly impact
- provide the option for recurring donations
25. The Post-Donation Experience
Don’t forget about the post-donation experience. After a person has donated, make sure the thank you page shows them your appreciation. Then, make them feel valued with a tailored thank you email, including further steps on how they can continue to support your nonprofit’s mission and cause.
Put these best practices into practice, and your nonprofit website will truly be a great website. Does your non-profit need a technology partner to help implement strategies like these for your website? If so, contact us!
Few investments have as immediate a positive impact as a new website.
A good website provides immediate credibility. Credibility means trust. Prospective clients, donors, readers who trust you make for repeat clients, donors, and readers.
An outdated website sends a message that you aren’t up on the latest trends. There comes a time when it’s time for every business to redesign and re-launch their website for maximum business impact.
For example, older websites might not be optimized for speed. About 40 percent of those who visit your website will bounce away if it doesn’t load within three seconds. You can’t afford to keep a bulky, outdated website with statistics like that.
While a redesign project might seem overwhelming, we’ve developed some tips at Connect4 Consulting to launch a new website in an easy, productive manner for maximum business impact.
Before you start a redesign process, be sure to record your website’s existing statistics. You’ll want to know:
- bounce rate
- site load time
- average time on site
- most visited pages
Without these existing benchmarks, you’ll have no idea whether your new project is successful.
Once you know what kind of website traffic you have, you can set goals regarding the quantity and type of traffic that you want. This is important because it will impact exactly how you go about redesigning and relaunching your website and web presence. You should set several goals.
Look at what your competitors are doing online. You can do some intensive research through sites such as SEMRush or SERPSTAT and find out what keywords competitors are ranking for, as well as their most visited pages. Using this information, set some firm goals for your own website.
- What do you hope to accomplish with your re-launch?
- Do you want more traffic?
- Perhaps you want more visitors to convert into customers.
Whatever your goals, write them out and then work backward on how you will get there.
Let Your Customers Know What’s Going On
Send a short note to your mailing list and social media followers. Let them know you are redesigning your website, why you chose to do so, what you hope to accomplish with the redesign and when they can expect to see the new look. You probably already have some loyal followers who have been with you and your website for years. They deserve to know before anyone else that you are updating, improving, and relaunching your web site. You might even get some valuable feedback from your customers that will help your process or the final outcome.
Don’t Forget About SEO
There are more than 1 billion websites on the World Wide Web. You are trying to differentiate and stand out from all of those, rise up in the search results ranks and capture the attention of potential site visitors. There are so many factors that play into ranking and how many people visit your site, but in general, you want to do some basic keyword research.
Find the keyword strings that make the most sense for the type of visitor you most want to attract and create content around the information those searchers would actually want to read. You can drive people to your site, but if you don’t have the content to hold them there, it won’t do you much good. For more information on keywords and content marketing, you can check out all the blog posts we have written on search engine optimization, keyword research, and content marketing.
Get Feedback From Your Site Visitors
Once your website has been relaunched, gather feedback from your site visitors. Devote as much time as you can to answering questions, listening to concerns and fixing problems as they crop up. This is your best test of how users are interacting with your content.
Make Sure To Test Different Browsers
Ideally, before you launch your new website, you should test how the site performs across different browsers and screen sizes. There are many services online that allow you to do this for free or a small fee, such as BrowserStack and Browserling. Browserling will let you use their system for free for short 3 minute increments. Choose the one you like best and see how your site might look on a mobile device or on a larger screen.
The photos and text should be responsive – adapt to the device and screen layout – and be clear to read, and images should still have a sharp resolution. Also, test out the way the site functions on a mobile device versus a traditional PC.
Update Your Content
The best time to revamp old content is during a website redesign. Freshen things up. Fix any issues, such as broken links. You can easily find plugins to help with this, such as the Broken Link Checker plugin WordPress. You can also push older, but still popular, articles to the top by doing a roundup around a certain theme and linking back to those articles.
When site visitors come to see what has changed, they’ll see the content is fresh and updated and of even greater value to them.
Extend New Branding Throughout Your Online Presence
Your site may be rebranded with new colors, logos, fonts, etc. Now it’s time to extend that new branding throughout your entire online presence. Colors and designs should repeat on social media, for example. Update your social media headers and profile images. Link any interesting new content to your social media pages. Update any contact info or “about us” info.
Identify The Influencers In Your Niche and Get Feedback From Them
In each industry, there are influencers who have a lot of consumer reach. Figure out who the influential people are in your industry and reach out to them about your redesign. Ask for their input and feedback. You’ll get some amazing tips, and if you’re lucky they may decide to announce your re-launch to their social media followers, which will increase your traffic.
Test For Speed
Remember that three second rule from the beginning of the blog post? Whenever you add new features, images, plugins and such, there is always the possibility one or more of those things will slow your site down. Site loading speed is an important aspect of whether or not a visitor sticks around beyond that three-second mark.
Test your website’s speed. GTMetrix has a free and easy speed test you can use to see how quickly your pages load. They will give you a percentage grade and suggestions for ways you can speed up your site a bit more. Follow a few or all of the suggestions to make your site “sticky” and avoid that dreaded high bounce rate.
By implementing these tips, you’ll have a much more successful re-launch and a site that will work well for your visitors. And if you’re thinking about a website redesign or new website, Connect4 Consulting has got you covered. Contact us today.
People have very short attention spans.
HubSpot reports that “55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website.” Half of you are probably already gone.
So how do you GRAB ATTENTION? You do this by putting the most important elements on your website above the fold. The above the fold language comes from print newspapers – it’s simply the upper half of the front page of a newspaper where the top story was printed. Above the fold in print looks like this:
Online, above the fold translates to the portion of a web page that is visible in a browser window when the first page loads. It’s what visitors first see without scrolling.
Why is above the fold so important?
- It’s what people see first.
- It’s what attracts the most attention.
- It’s where visitors spend 80% of their time!
Six Most Important Elements on Your Homepage
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Your unique selling proposition or unique selling factor is the single thing that differentiates you, your product, or your service from its competitors. It is absolutely essential that this is above the fold. The USP is your way of instantly showing your visitors exactly how they will benefit by exploring your website further.
Here’s the Unique Selling Proposition for Dropbox:
Visitors know immediately that the site is for businesses that might benefit from using dropbox.
Copy that Explains Your Unique Selling Proposition
The explainer copy fills in the details. In the Dropbox case, above, the explainer copy is “upgrade to Dropbox Business and get the solution that both employees and IT admins love.” It’s brief and concise but visitors can quickly tell what the site can accomplish for them. When effective, the explainer copy should raise the visitor interest level and encourage them to keep exploring the website.
Your logo is critical. It must be on the homepage – preferably in the left-hand corner. Brand recognition is of utmost importance. You want to establish consistent branding and take every opportunity to reinforce your brand identity.
Suppose a visitor has landed on your website for the first time. After seeing your Unique Selling Proposition and explainer copy they have a good idea of what it is you do and what you are offering. After seeing your logo, they associate it with you. Now you’ve piqued their interest and they want to learn more. It’s your responsibility as a website owner to give them a framework to explore your website in a logical, streamlined fashion. Allow me to give you a few examples of brands that do this really well.
First there’s Dropbox again:
Then there’s Buffer:
And finally there’s Mailchimp:
Notice that all three of these examples feature simple, intuitive navigation. Visitors can easily and quickly find what they’re looking for with minimal effort.
If I had to pick a pet peeve, this would be it. So many websites are missing clear contact information. People want to make sure you are a legitimate business and not a scam artist. Having full contact information will build trust and strengthen credibility. Include your contact information – not just a contact form. Give visitors multiple ways of reaching you.
Call To Action (CTA)
It turns out that it doesn’t matter as much where you put your call to action. Your site definitely needs a call to action. If you manage to sustain your visitors’ eyeballs longer than average, they will stumble across your CTA (it should be somewhere on your home page). If you can put your main CTA above the fold on the home page and do it without overwhelming your visitors, then do it. Keep it simple and focus on a single CTA.
Here’s a recap of the six most important elements on your homepage:
- A well-written Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- Some brief copy that explains your USP
- Your logo
- Simple, intuitive navigation
- Contact information
- A Call to Action
Color is a powerful design tool. Loud colors can grab your attention, set the mood, and influence a website visitor’s emotions and actions. In the past, loud colors were exclusively used by websites with playful, cartoonish designs. Increasingly, however, we are seeing the use of bright colors on all kinds of more traditional business websites. The appeal of the vibrant color trend is that it is very versatile and can be applied in many different ways.
Overlaying is filtering an image through a color lens. Images with color overlays have been popular for a long time because it’s relatively easy to apply and has the power to focus user attention.
One of the most popular ways of using loud colors in your website design is a technique called monotone. Monotone palettes consist of a single color with a mixture of shades and tints. Monotone color schemes are usually really easy to read as they establish a solid foundation for foreground content and typography usually “pops” off the screen.
Duotone palettes are made up of two colors. This can either be two contrasting colors or two shades of the same color.
Gradient color schemes are back again however this time they are being used with high-contrast complementary colors. Modern gradients are also now being used as accent colors. Look at the gradients that are used in the navigation on Bloomberg’s site below:
Here are 15 really good reasons to redesign your website immediately:
- Is your website bringing in business? If you haven’t made any updates to your website in months, chances are that it’s not bringing you new business and is time for an overhaul. Website marketing strategies change every year and if your phone isn’t ringing from people finding you online, it’s time to take a closer look at why.
- Is anyone finding your website? Look at your Google Analytics reports to see whether you have the website traffic you need to get clients or sell your products. Marketing is a numbers game and you need eyeballs. If your website traffic is very low, it’s time to improve your website content and invest in SEO or a conversion strategy.
- Are you embarrassed by your website? If you are embarrassed to give out your website address because you are afraid of what prospects might think of it, it is time to consider a website redesign. Do not procrastinate. A bad website can hurt your business far more than not having one at all, because of the negative perception it gives of you and your company.
- Does your website have traffic but few conversions? What happens when people get to your site? How do you convert them from visitors to qualified prospects? You need to think beyond just a mailing list signup form.
- Does your website look awesome on a phone? When you view your website on your phone, does your page layout change and do the elements on the web page stack on top of each other so that everything is easy to view? This is called a responsive or mobile-friendly design. Google is now penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly by lowering their search results rankings.
- Is it easy to update your website? WordPress websites allow non-technical users to update their website content very easily. If you have to call your developer for simple updates, it’s time for a website redesign.
- Are you using older technology? Platforms like Joomla and Magento are no longer well supported. It has been said that one human year equals at least four years on the Internet. That’s how fast technology is progressing, however some website platforms and content management systems haven’t kept up. They may have been great a few years ago, but if your website has been built on older technology you may find your editing choices will become limited as new features become desirable, and you may also be more vulnerable to security breaches and unwanted hacks. If you are using older technology, it’s time for a website redesign.
- Can you control your website? A website is your most important marketing tool and it’s critical that you have access to all the parts (domain registrar, web hosting, and dashboard) so you can update and you understand what is involved.
- Can you post blog articles? If you don’t have blog posts or articles on your website, you aren’t demonstrating your expertise to visitors, and you might not be delivering real value. The key to SEO and content writing is to write helpful articles (that answer a question someone might post in a search engine), so that visitors to your website get to know and trust you.
- Do you want to link to your social channels? Social media is more important than ever. You should identify the social media channels where your ideal client is and then creative an active presence at that particular channel and link to it from your website and back to your website from the social channel. If your social channels are active, it lets Google and your prospective clients know that your business is thriving.
- Have your competitors updated their website? Obviously, you don’t need to give your site an overhaul every time one of your competitors changes theirs. If you spend some time on a competitor’s site and realize it could meet your goals far better than your own site does, it’s time to redesign your website.
- Does your website reflect all of your services and/or products you offer. If the list of services that you provide has grown and your old website does not reflect the full suite of services that you now provide, this can result in customers going elsewhere to get a service that you provide because they weren’t aware that you offered that service. By redesigning your website you can expand your list of services to include all of the services you provide, so that each visitor and customer is aware of everything you offer.
- Is your website optimized for search engines? A website redesign can help you improve your site architecture so that it is more SEO friendly. A website redesign can help you improve your coding and make your website as a whole more SEO friendly utilizing custom page urls, H1, H2, H3 Tags, Page Titles and Alt Tags by utilizing a more advanced Content Management System that gives you greater flexibility and makes optimizing your website easier.
- Is your website built on a fast, safe, and secure platform and host? Perhaps one of the greatest concerns of our time is cyber security, and small businesses and entrepreneurs are just as susceptible to website hacking and viruses as larger businesses. If your website was built years ago and hasn’t been updated since, you are at greater risk for malware and hacking.
- Has your business focus changed? Business goals change over time and you want your website to support these changes. Businesses that survive and thrive capitalize on the technology that’s available to them to help deliver a better product or service. If you don’t redesign your website to integrate new technology into your business you may find it hard to keep up in your industry. Your website is a living part of your business, and it should evolve and change as your business grows and as technology progresses. Even when you do get your website redesigned it doesn’t end there, your website should be in a state of constant measurement, improvement, and enhancement.
Sometimes you just need an outside expert to take a look at your current website and help you decide whether it’s time to redesign your website. Connect4 Consulting will review your website and call you to review our findings and make recommendations. Learn more about our website audits.
As a website designer, I spend a considerable amount of time looking at prospective client websites and talking to business owners about their websites. For most businesses, their number one goal is to increase the number of legitimate leads coming through their website. However, most small businesses are still operating websites that only reinforce credibility. That is, new business comes by way of traditional channels such as referrals, public speaking, direct mail, networking, and advertising, and the website serves to support those leads. Websites today can absolutely bring in new qualified prospects but only if a business approaches the website and internet marketing process strategically and invests in website marketing strategies.
A small business owner’s goal should be to invest in a website that drives marketing and brings in new business on its own through Google search. Do you have a conversion strategy for your website? The competition online is fierce and most of your top competitors probably have great websites. How does your internet presence compare with theirs? There are hundreds of new small business websites launching every minute. Small businesses should have website marketing strategies in place to capitalize on website traffic.
Website marketing strategies are also constantly changing and it’s hard for small businesses to keep up with the changes. Website marketing strategies from three years ago no longer work today. This means that it’s time for new website marketing strategies. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all small business websites need to be redesigned. As long as your website is responsive (adapts to various devices and screen sizes), easy to update (is built on a content management system like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal), and has a modern look, you don’t need to undergo a website redesign. Instead, consider investing in new website marketing strategies.
Website Marketing Strategies that Bring in New Business
Identify your ideal prospect
As you think about strategies to bring in new business, you should first start by identifying your ideal prospect. Who are your marketing to? Who is your ideal client? What are their pain issues? What questions do they always ask? When they hire you, what value will they receive? Why do they buy from you and not your competitor? Create a website strategy that communicates clearly and persuasively to your ideal prospect.
Add a conversion strategy
The biggest mistake small businesses make is not having a conversion strategy on their website. Too often the focus is on driving the traffic to the website and not on what happens when people get there. Without a conversion strategy, these visitors will never turn into leads. You will lose any traffic that isn’t ready to buy the moment they visit.
When someone visits your website, they are trying to solve a problem. Make it easy for them and help them solve that problem.
Google rewards sites that educate by ranking them higher in search results. When you deliver value and educate, your visitor is much more likely give you an email address or contact information in exchange for your valuable content. Suddenly you have a conversion and are building a marketing list of ideal clients. Even if they don’t convert to a customer at that minute, they are on your marketing list and in your marketing pipeline.
Drive traffic to your website after adding your conversion strategy
Traffic is an important part of the equation, but too often, businesses drive traffic to their website before they have a conversion strategy in place. There are many ways to drive traffic:
Strategy is more important than the visual design
Spend your money on strategy, traffic, writing and photos first. If you get all these right, your website will perform well for you. If you have money left in your budget, you should invest in a custom visual website design.
A $700 website will not help you build your business
There are thousands of website designers who will gladly take $700 or less of your money to design a website. Building an effective website requires strategy and strategy takes time and expertise. Strategy always starts with understanding your target audience and your audience’s needs and then figuring out the right messaging and communication strategy. There is no way that a $700 website can deliver this kind of strategy.
Wonder how your website measures up? Schedule a 90-minute website and internet marketing strategy session with Gabe Seiden.
If you are looking for a website designer to help with your next small business website, it’s important to ask the following questions to avoid major issues during the project. You should do this BEFORE you hire the website design firm.
Take the time to conduct a phone interview or, even better meet in person, to ask these key questions. Building a relationship and open line of communication with a website designer from the beginning will help ensure that your project will be successful.
Questions to ask a website designer before they design your website
1. Can you send me a list of sites that you have designed previously?
Ask for a few live working examples of web sites the designer has completed for other clients. Don’t accept screenshots or mockups. Seeing a live site will give you a sense of the person’s attention to detail. If possible, ask for examples that are consistent with your product or service niche or industry.
2. What are your qualifications?
There is a wide range of website designers and services and this is a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you have any doubt whatsoever, it doesn’t hurt to also ask for a referral from an existing client.
3. How much do you charge?
Find out if you will be paying a fixed fee for the whole web site or if you will be charged hourly for all requests. Some web designers will charge per page design or for each page on the site. Find out what is and what is not included in the fee. Is maintenance of the website included in the fee? If so, what does maintenance consist of?
4. Will I have a project manager or one central contact?
This is really important. Ideally you want to interact with the same person throughout the entire stage of your website development process. Some website firms have sales people who make the website pitches and then farm out the work to developers. Try and get a clear answer for who is working on your website.
5. How many rounds of revisions am I allowed?
Establishing your limits when it comes to edits and revisions can be critical. Will you be allowed to make edits at each stage of the project, such as design and development, or will you only be allowed revisions at the end of the project? Are you allowed two rounds of revisions (or more) or just one? How do you know when one stage ends and a new stage begins?
6. What are your payment terms?
Many website designers request a deposit to begin work, with either the final payment due upon project completion or partial payments at key stages during the site’s development. It’s best to avoid projects that require payment in full as it leaves no room for changes or issues that may come up.
7. Can I edit the website myself, and which parts?
Be sure to ask the designer if he will be setting up a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or if the site will be static? How many people have access to edit the site? Will training be provided to you or your staff? Is there any documentation on editing the site? Also, ask which parts you will be able to edit and how difficult those sections will be to edit.
8. How many pages will my website be?
This is something that you will work out with the site design firm once content has been agreed upon. Search engines like websites with several pages of quality text and typically websites have standard pages, such as About Us, FAQs, Contact Us, and Privacy and Terms of Conditions. Together, you and the firm you select will determine other pages based on your business, such as Products or Services, Resource Center, a Blog, Case Studies or Testimonials, Photo Gallery, etc.
9. What happens if I want to add a page after the website project is complete and the new website is live?
This is a good question because you will want to know ahead of time whether this is something you can create yourself, whether it has to be done by the website designer, what the cost might be, and whether there are limitations to the addition of pages.
10. What do you need from me to get started?
Typically, you need to provide any images, text, or other content you want on your site. If you choose to have the text done by the firm’s copywriters, you’ll need to provide basic information. If you provide your own copy, it may need a few tweaks for better search engine optimization or design presentation. Whatever the case may be, you should be notified in advance of any revisions needed to your copy and why they are needed.
11. Can you create a logo for my site?
Most website designers can create a logo for your business for an additional fee. Ask about experience in this area and look at other logos the firm has created, paying particular attention to graphic appeal, how well the style matches the focus of the business and how well the logo establishes brand identity.
12. Can you help me get images for my website?
Having actual photos pertaining to your business is always best for that unique factor, but oftentimes stock images are necessary. So there are no concerns over copyright infringement, ask designers whether they have access to a large selection of public domain images, or if you need to pay royalty fees based on usage.
13. Do you offer e-commerce services?
In addition to web design and development, a comprehensive website design company offers e-commerce services for businesses conducting online sales. Ask for specifics when inquiring about e-commerce solutions because they vary among web design firms. Some commonly offered e-commerce services are shopping carts; the ability to add discounts; support for multi-currencies; a customer database that interacts with your online store; cross and up sell features; inventory control; customization; reporting; and SEO integration.
14. Do you offer domain name registration?
Before a website can go live, it needs a name. Most full-service web design firms will handle domain name registration. Ask the firm if it will check whether the name you want for your site is available, if they will register it for you, how many years the domain name registration is for and the cost for performing this service.
15. Will I be able to see the website as you’re creating it?
Reputable web design firms will make your in-progress website available for viewing during each phase so you can make suggestions, changes, or content edits. Inquire about the review and input process that you can expect.
16. Will I own my website once it’s completed?
It’s important to find out whether you will own the domain name (registered in your name, not the web design company’s), website design and hosting account (registered in your name, not the design firm’s), or if the website design company requires your site to be hosted on their servers. Also find out if you will receive all source files for your site and access to your hosting account, backend administration platform and server. Also be sure to ask if you will be required to lock into an ongoing contract to keep your site live and functioning, or if the completed site will be delivered to you upon completion. You also need to know the name of the company where your website’s domain name is registered, all user names and passwords and the name of the hosting company.
17. What support do you offer after the web site goes live?
Ask about ongoing maintenance and monitoring packages. What happens if the web site gets hacked or if something stops working? Does the designer provide routine backups?
18. How long does the typical website design project?
Every project is different but it’s important to ask how long sites typically take to complete. Are there any incentives if it is completed early or any penalties for missed deadlines? Also, ask how long particular phases of a project take, to ensure things stay on time. Ask about the length of time you have to review and provide feedback.
19. Do you start from templates or build custom sites?
If the designer is starting from a template, ask about licensing and whether other local business sites have the same template? Does he update templates or provide support if the site is broken following core updates? If custom, does he provide ample testing and browser compatibility?
20. Will it be a responsive site that works on multiple mobile and tablet devices?
Will the site be coded for responsive design? Will he design for just mobile breakpoints, or tablets as well? Will he provide mockups of the mobile and tablet interfaces? Will it be load-optimized for mobile or be just a smaller version of the desktop site?
21. What are the client expectations during the process? What assets do I need to supply?
Clarify your responsibilities and those that the web designer will handle. Get in writing all expectations and requirements for each party so that everyone is held accountable.
Get clear dates and deadlines on when deliverables are due or when you need to provide assets and feedback. Will you need to provide any copy, images, hosting, or other items to the web designer, or will he handle it?
22. Who will write the content?
Some web designers employ copywriters to manage the writing and optimization of your website’s text. If that is the case, ask if you need to provide bullet points for each page. If you are writing the copy, ask for guidance on length, tone, and style. Ask for suggested word counts for each page. Lastly, ask the designer to provide any SEO keywords to include in the copy.
23. What search engine optimization or marketing do you do for the site?
Will the web site designer be performing on-site search engine optimization during the setup process? Does he offer off-site optimization? Also, does he submit your site to local or niche directories? Will he continue to optimize blog posts or compose additional ongoing content? If so, does this service require ongoing fees?
24. What other services do you provide?
Although you might have engaged the designer to create your website, ask if he provides additional services, such as graphic design services (logo, business cards, stationery), email templates and social media content or local search optimization tools? This could help make your design and online marketing tools more consistent.
25. What type of results can I expect?
Ask the web designer if he has any expectations of what kind of growth you can expect? How long before you begin seeing results? Does he expect a dip in results after launch? How will you track conversions? Will you have access to analytics from the CMS or a service such as Google Analytics? Will you still have historical data on your old site after launch?
Additional Questions To Ask A Website Designer
The website design process is detailed and complicated and it’s helpful to go into the process prepared to get your arms dirty. Ultimately the difference between a good website and a great website falls on the client’s shoulders. When the client is involved and the client and website designer are in sync, communicating with ease and on a regular basis, the outcome is usually a great website. As you review this list of questions to ask a website designer, you will probably think of other things that are not on this list. If the website designer wants to rush you through this process, then that’s probably a very good indication of what it would be like to work with that person. In my experience, the best relationships often lead to the best projects, so be sure to ask yourself whether you think you’ll enjoy the process of designing your website with this website designer.
Website Redesign and SEO
When you are considering a website redesign, it is crucial you take SEO into consideration so the website does not lose current traffic or drop in the search rankings. Sometimes in the anticipation of a site redesign or migration, it can be easy to overlook important items and stay organized. I wanted to pass along what we have learned redesigning websites for clients and how you can make sure you are properly prepared when you’re faced with a site-wide redesign.
Here are some questions to ask yourself / look into before launching a new website.
- What pages get the most traffic and referrals?
- Which pages receive the most back links?
- Will these top pages (found in #1 and #2) have a new URL?
- Are any pages being deleted? Is it necessary to delete these pages?
- What pages will the deleted pages be redirected to?
- What internal pages do the the deleted pages link to?
- Are the new pages that will receive the redirect relevant to the old page and target the same keywords?
- What changes are being made to the site architecture?
- What pages are changing position (example: main menu to submenu)
- How is the internal linking structure changing? What links are being removed from the main navigation, main menu and sidebar?
- Will content change on the existing pages?
- Will the current on-page optimization be carried over to the new site?
- Are the same images going to be used?
- Do images currently refer any traffic?
If pages are being eliminated during the redesign or if not all pages are being migrated over to the new site, you need to create a proper 301-redirect strategy. If you do not implement necessary redirects you run the risk of negatively impacting your site traffic. No matter how much you prepare, there is always a chance that some things will not go exactly according to plan. However, if you have the proper steps in place, like checklists, QA plans and other preemptive strategies, you will be more equipped to deal with issues that arise.
WordPress or Squarespace?
If you’re reading this post because you need a new website and are trying to figure out whether to go with WordPress or Squarespace, I can help you make the decision an easier one: WordPress wins the head-to-head battle every time. WordPress crushes Squarespace. I know this first-hand because we actually get a fair number of prospective clients who start their website process with Squarespace. They are recruited to Squarespace for all the reasons that give it so much potential – it’s so inexpensive you don’t even need a credit card to get started; it has an intuitive WYSIWYG theme builder; the hosting is fast and reliable; you don’t need to know anything about websites, domain names, or technology to have a nice looking website.
While both WordPress and Squarespace both give you a platform to build a website, they are completely different. WordPress is used by more than 25% of all websites on the internet, while Squarespace powers just 0.5% of all websites on the internet.
This post will give you more than 20 reasons why WordPress is the clear winner over Squarespace.
Reason #1: Free Download
WordPress is free, open source software for anyone to download and use on the web host or server of your choice.
On the other hand, Squarespace isn’t flexible – you are stuck with their hosting, which is strictly on Squarespace’s servers.
Reason #2: Build Upon the Software
WordPress has a GPL 2.0 License. This means that you can improve upon the code and make changes that suit your specific needs, as long as you are willing to share your changes with others as open source.
Squarespace has no such license and actually forbids you from tinkering with their code.
Reason #3: Edit with Code as Much as You Want
You can also edit WordPress plugins and themes as much as you want to extend the capabilities of your website. You aren’t limited to the number of changes you can make. There are also many plugins you can use to add custom code to your website.
Reason #4: WordPress has 49,000 Plugins
WordPress has a huge repository of more than 49,000 plugins to extend the functionality of the core WordPress software. You can find practically any feature imaginable for a website in the plugin repository.
Like the visual editor in Squarespace, what you see is what you get. If a certain feature or functionality you need isn’t available, you’re out of luck and this is where and why many people leave Squarespace and seek out WordPress.
Reason #5: Your Copyrighted Content Can’t Be Used for Free
WordPress has no right to publish any part of your website for free.
On the other hand, Squarespace, according to its Terms of Service, statements 2.2 and 2.3, can use any part of your site for uses such as advertising, even if the content they take is copyrighted. If you want a Squarespace website, you have to agree to this. While you can opt out, it’s not an easy one-click option.
Reason #6: Features aren’t Discontinued without Notice
The WordPress core gets updated regularly with new features and security updates and there’s a system in place to ensure transparency with what goes in, gets fixed and what’s omitted.
Changes are suggested, reviewed and approved before they’re worked on, then later released. Any amendments or omissions are well documented and announced beforehand. In the event that a feature you need is discontinued, you have time to search for or create a plugin to cover the capabilities you want.
Squarespace, on the other hand, can discontinue or remove any features at any time and without notice.
Reason #7: Your Server Resources Aren’t Limited
You can choose to host your own WordPress website unlike Squarespace which requires you to host your site on their servers. This means that you can’t scale it later if it becomes super popular.
Squarespace advertises all plans as having unlimited bandwidth, but the fine print on their pricing page makes it clear that the service is limited to normal usage.
This means your site can get shut down if Squarespace decides you’re getting more than average amounts of traffic – whatever that means – since there isn’t a clear definition (or any at all) for “normal usage.”
Conversely, WordPress gives you the freedom to choose your own hosting so you can find one that’s scalable and works for you.
Reason #8: No High-Resolutions Images? No Problem!
It’s much easier to find a WordPress layout that suits your needs and content. You also have the option to adjust the theme to better fit your images, videos, posts and other content.
Unfortunately Squarespace is heavily biased towards themes with gigantic high resolution images. Most of their 59 themes require huge images and if you don’t have them or need them, your website won’t look great.
Reason #9: Top Companies Trust WordPress
There are many popular, high-profile companies that trust WordPress to power their sites including The New York Times, CNN, PlayStation, LinkedIn, Flickr, Walt Disney, NGINX, Time Inc, cPanel and hundreds more.
Many celebrities also have their sites built on WordPress including Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry, Jane Fonda, Kim Kardashian, The Rolling Stones, Sylvester Stallone, and William Shatner.
Top companies don’t trust Squarespace because of the reasons listed in this blog post.
Reason #10: Better Analytics
There are many WordPress plugins that can add analytics straight into your site’s back end. Often times, you can get incredibly comprehensive analytics.
For example, you could sign up for Google Analytics and use the Google Analytics + plugin to add all the stats to your WordPress dashboard.
Squarespace includes an analytics feature, but it only has basic information that isn’t nearly as detailed as Google Analytics and you aren’t able to connect the two together in the admin area.
When it comes to a head to head comparison of WordPress and Squarespace, there’s no contest. Yes, you can create a great-looking website with Squarespace, but the platform is severely limited when compared to WordPress, which you can use to do practically anything you want.