You may/not have noticed that Oreos periodically introduces new flavors. Their efforts are made public each time Oreo announces a new variety. There’s a special team with a unified goal: How to continue to excite fans and drive growth. The latest: A salmon-colored cookie with green filling, released with Lady Gaga in honor of her 2020 album, Chromatica.
Marketing trends for 2020 included a dramatic surge in customer-created photos and videos—that’s content that we created and big brands (brands) shared with their audiences. Thanks to you and me, brands saved a lot of money on production costs and logistics by depending on us for our great user-generated content (UGC).
Google’s index is similar to that of a library, with information about all the webpages it knows about. When Google visits your website, it detects new/changed content and updates its index. Google discovers content by following links from one page to another. That’s why it’s important to create an inner linking strategy on your website. Think about the relationships among page topics, then create links among them. Not only are you increasing your SEO value, but it’s a way to keep users on your site, drilling down through pages from topic to topic.
We’re appealing to the emotions of our audiences. Those emotions are processing information five times faster than our brains, and they make a more lasting imprint. Whether you’re writing a blog, a newsletter, an ebook or a social media post, the principles are the same.
Here are the latest web trends for 2020 that you’ll want to be incorporating into your web design.
Split screen content. Do you have several key messages? Easy. Line these up side by side. Think about adding a call to action in the center to tie the two together.
“Joan” recently contacted me to talk about her website. She wanted to know if having a mobile-friendly site, one that adapted to mobile devices, was really that important.
Are you kidding?
Google’s 2015 algorithm change, Mobilegeddon, made it clear that they would cater to the growing number of mobile users by enhancing the mobile-search experience. The importance of marketing to desktop users is not necessarily diminishing, but mobile use is increasing. Those sites that aren’t mobile friendly will sink to the bottom of the search results while the mobile-friendly sites swim to the top. Mobile has reached 63% of all traffic in the US; it’s reasonable to expect it to reach a full 2/3 of traffic by the end of 2018. Think of it this way: if your competitors have great mobile sites and you don’t, theirs will show up higher in search results than yours.
Old, dated sites should be laid to rest
Websites have a shelf-life. While you may be able to salvage the content and images, it’s often the case that these are no longer relevant. Joan admitted that her business had evolved, and her five-year old website was no longer reflective of the company she owned today, and we began planning her new site.
Our website development process included:
- Keyword research. This helped us determine the search terms people are using in our business sector. In some cases, this research helps drive the navigation.
- WordPress. We looked at other platforms but ultimately decided on WordPress. We chose a template design with an eye towards clear, accessible navigation.
- Generating new content. We identified the site’s architecture, adding a few new landing pages. I drafted all of the site’s content for her review. While there’s a trend toward providing short paragraph, the reality is that longer pages rank better in search engines–300 words is a good target.
- Image upgrade. Joan’s old site had little thumbnail images that would not work in our new design, so I selected potential photostock images for each page and saved them to a board her review. We scheduled a photoshoot to get new images of her and her team.
A few other things to keep in mind
- Size matters.Text should be big enough to read; buttons large enough to be able to click. If your mobile visitors have to manipulate their screens, zooming in or out, you’ve probably just lost a potential customer.
- Image size also matters. If your images are too big, your site won’t load. If they’re too small, they’re a distraction rather than an enhancement to the user experience.
- Website conversion. In some cases, we’ve can convert old sites into WordPress’ mobile-friendly format, but generally it means starting over from scratch. New content, images and design.
A final thought: If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you can bet your biggest competitors’ sites are. For many small businesses, a website is their primary marketing spend; it’s an important investment that deserves careful planning and effort to keep it relevant.
One year into the Trump administration and it feels like a lifetime. You’d think we’d be immune to it all, but we’re not. We’re shell-shocked. Crises followed by unspeakable tragedies. The assault on our democratic institutions is constant and aggressive. We’d never heard of fake news until Donald moved his ill-prepared advisers, family and hangers-on into the White House. Donald’s constant assault on highly regarded newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, calling them “failing” is his way of undermining our freedom of speech, a basic right guaranteed by our constitution.
Instead, Donald is glued to the real fake news . . .
Donald gets his news from Fox, Breitbart and other negligible institutions which have legitimized these “alternative facts”. So yes, fake news is a big problem. But the people who believe fake news are the same ones who believe everything they see in print. “I read it on the Internet”—so it must be true, right? Really, really wrong. They read the tabloids, the sleeze sheets at the checkout counters, and believe the headlines.
What’s most disturbing is the we’ve raised a generation of people who have lost the ability to think, to question, to differentiate between legitimate reporting and that which is pure fabrication. People should have a fundamental sense of media literacy. A recent study released by Stanford University researchers, showed that many people don’t.
If you’ve completely lost hope, here are some ways to prove the legitimacy of a news story.
- Pay attention to the domain and URL. Established news organizations usually own their domains and they have a standard look with which you are probably familiar. Sites that end with .com.co should tip you off that they may not be legitimate. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. An example: abcnews.com is a legitimate news source, but abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar appearance.
- Read the “About Us” section. Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, its leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and seems overblown, it’s a red flag. You should be able to find out more information about the organization’s leadership in places other than that site—it should be all over the web. Google the leadership and look at their credentials. If it’s questionable, so is the publication.
- Be wary of the lack of quotes. Most publications have multiple sources in each story who are professionals and have expertise in the fields they discuss. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes–lots of them, from industry experts. Look for professors or other academics who can speak to the research they’ve done. And if they are talking about research, look up those studies.
- Be equally wary of the source of quotes. Check the sourcing. Is it a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Let’s say you’re looking at an article that says President Obama wants to take everyone’s guns away. And then there’s a quote. Obama is an official who has almost everything he says recorded and archived. There are transcripts for pretty much any address or speech he has given. Google those quotes. See what the speech was about, who he was addressing and when it happened. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories.
The internet means that content lives forever; we now have the ability to validate the news we’re receiving. It’s up to each of us to be a critical thinker. To support free and independent journalism. Our founding fathers understood its importance to a system of healthy checks and balances, the fundamentals of democracy.
Need help creating real news?
Letting Go: Why Is It So Hard When It Feels So Good?
I just had a meltdown with client. I worked all weekend on web content to meet his artificial deadline. I hunkered down on Friday, worked all day Saturday and by Sunday afternoon I was satisfied with what I had written. I made a few notes and sent it off to my client for another early morning phone call and went to bed, confident that I was on the right track. Boy, was I wrong.
I jumped on my Monday morning call, and he began to tell me everything that was wrong, that I had completely missed the aesthetic and had ignored all of the material that he had written. When I explained that I used his material as background information to help me write compelling web content, he went apoplectic. This went downhill very quickly.
It reminds me a bit of a big inning
Baseball fans know how this one goes—one horrible inning that’s never going to end. The pitcher gives up a run or two, then the bases are loaded and the next guy up hits a grand slam and there are no outs. All of a sudden, it’s looking like a very long afternoon. In the same way that these big innings never end, I didn’t think his tirade and this call was ever going to end.
Was there anything he liked—the answer a very definitive “no”
Seven pages of copy and there wasn’t one thing he liked? Now that’s just plain bullshit. I’m a good writer, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know how to write good web content. I’d written snappy subtitles, created some good bullet points and tried to come up with some examples that would make his point. None of these passed muster.
We talked about next steps
We mumbled about how we were both going to think about this. He was inclined to just move on because of my callous disregard of his aesthetic. My instincts make me want to fix things. But I knew this was a very bad fit and I didn’t want to work with this guy. Intense, humorless and unforgiving. I really had to desire to go back to the drawing board and try to please this guy.
As soon as I admitted that to myself, it was like a huge load had lifted. I hate to lose and I’m not a quitter, but there are times when we are legitimately bad fits. It’s so powerful to admit it and move on.
A client recently called me for some help with his website. He was concerned because it wasn’t mobile-friendly and he wanted to know what I could do to help drive traffic to his site. I’d done some work for him a while back when he’d gotten a bunch of bad Yelp reviews. That time he wanted to know how I could get rid of them. I couldn’t but what I did is reach out to his good clients and ask them to write positive reviews on Yelp. The good reviews help drive the bad reviews down the page to counteract them. This required a fair amount of effort, but we were ultimately successful and he was delighted.
An old, dated website with bad navigation and horrible images
That his site wasn’t designed for mobile was simply the tip of the iceberg. His site was old and dated, with bad navigation. He’d written his own content, which was actually quite good, but it didn’t synch with his images, and was too limited; good landing pages should be 300+ words to rank well in search engines. Branding was nonexistent. He’s a contractor, and I’d learned from my previous project that he was conscientious and skilled, but he’d never invested in professional pictures of any of his projects, and the images he used on the site were cramped and terrible, never really showcasing his craftsmanship or the wide range of projects on which he worked.
I tried to explain that even if we were able to drive people to the site, there was nothing that would make them want to pick up the phone and call him. I created a proposal for a new WordPress website that was as lean as I could make it because I genuinely wanted to help him. I would be the project manager, work with my longtime web guy who is very reasonable, and I’d develop the content based on what was on the current site. I would do keyword research, write metadescriptions and do some other SEO efforts that would help his site show up in search engines, which was where this whole conversation had begun.
Making a commitment to photograph projects
I included a photoshoot as a line item, because if he was serious about a new site, he needed to start investing in his work. Project photos can get expensive really quickly, but I suggested we start modestly. Identify one or two projects that turned out well and include these as part of the new website’s portfolio. More important, he needed to commit to photographing his completed projects and adding them to his new site.
A simple, well-conceived site is an investment that will endure
When I told him the approximate cost for development of a new site, he told me that it was ridiculous. He “could get his old web guy to make his existing site mobile-friendly.” He didn’t see any reason to spend that kind of money to get “the kind of clients that he really didn’t want”. I tried to explain that this was the only money he was spending on marketing, and a simple but well-conceived site would last him for a long time. Clearly, I’d wasted my time. Instead, he’ll continue to have the same crappy site that won’t drive traffic and won’t generate leads because he doesn’t recognize the difference between a good site and his own.
A website says a lot about you
For many small business owners, a website is their only marketing spend, so it’s an important investment. When people meet you or hear about you and go to your website, they make an immediate judgment, and first impressions are everything.
- Does your site load—on both desktops and mobile devices?
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Are the images crisp, clear and relevant?
- Does your About section describe you as an individual as well as the company? People like to know about the people with whom they’re going to be working.
- Is it easy to find contact information?
- Are product descriptions well-written and informative? Do they provide enough information to help you make informed buying decisions?
Is your site relevant to your business today?
- Have you added new products and services, new members of your team?
- Are your images out of date?
- If your site was built in WordPress, there are more than two thousand themes. It’s possible that we can apply a new theme, update content and images and give your site a facelift. Infinitely more appealing than the prospect of creating a whole new site from scratch.