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.
Does your website need to be updated to a mobile-friendly format?
Procter & Gamble is one of the world’s biggest advertisers—as a result, their products fill households around the world–Downy, Tide, Bounce, Charmin and Crest. Yet they’re a big brand with a big heart and a conscience, and I’ve written a couple of articles about their video ads that have gone a long way towards supporting big causes. These days, we’re seeing a lot of this, and ya gotta love a big brand that’s not afraid to step up and do the right thing. P&G’s #LikeaGirl video a year ago was viewed by more than 38M people, and #WeSeeEqual video three months ago by 46K.
But now it’s June. It’s blistering hot with no end in sight. Like everyone else, I want to be on vacation. Lying somewhere with my feet propped up with nothing to think about but where I’m going to have dinner. Yet I’ve got work to do and deadlines to meet.
But I love this story. P&G has a new innovation that takes off from where its more rudimentary household products left off. P&G is now offering Bathroom Service in New York City!
It’s cleverly called Charmin Van-GO
And it’s bringing personalized bathroom service to select New York neighborhoods. The pilot is scheduled for just two days in June. According to the Associate Brand Director, “We’re always looking to bring people the best bathroom experience, both at home with our tissue and in new and unexpected ways.” It’s literally a bathroom delivered right to your footsteps. People on the go can avoid those random, frantic coffee-shop stops with Charmin Van-GO.
Traveling through NYC’s busiest—and now neediest–neighborhoods
With black-ish star Anthony Anderson onboard, Charmin Van-GO will travel through some of NYC’s busiest neighborhoods to bring bathrooms to those in need, while surprising and delighting people with bathroom humor along the route.
So my question is . . .
Is P&G serious about this or are they just having a little summer fun? Or is this something that could take off and start serving other neighborhoods, other cities? God knows the need is there. There’s no mention of the cost to use Charmin Van-GO or if there’s more than one van or plans for the future. There’s likely a place to wash your hands, using that old P&G classic, Ivory. I’m captivated by this. Most of all, I’m wondering if P&G is doing this as a whimsical summer fling or if they’re serious. A traveling potty. They could get an app . . .
Bill Ryan lives in St. Helena, and like many people in the area, he came to the Napa Valley to work in the wine industry. Bill relocated from Rhode Island some 40 years ago, when there were fewer than 20 wineries, compared to more than 400 today. As the sales and marketing director for Beringer Winery, he helped grow the premium wine’s international footprint for more than 20 years.
As a mobile notary, he needed a web presence
Bill’s retired now, but he’s always busy. He fishes whenever he can and writes a fishing weekly column for the Napa Valley Register and another for St. Helena Star. He also has a little mobile notary business serving the towns of the Napa Valley—St. Helena, Angwin, Napa, Calistoga and Yountville. He’s not interested in being swamped, but he enjoys growing his business, interacting with his clients and meeting new people. Bill wanted a simple website—nothing elaborate–what can you say about meeting someone at his/her home or office to sign documents, after all? But if you’re in business these days, you need a web presence.
We discussed a few options and decided on Gutensite
I’ve build a couple of websites in this platform before, and was delighted with the results. The technology is responsive design and looks great across devices. It’s modular; the pages, such as blogs and testimonials, are autoformatted so they turn out looking polished and professional. I’ve tried using the so-called DIY, WISYWIG platforms like Wix and SquareSpace—they’re supposed to be easy and foolproof. I’m fairly savvy–I’ve worked in WordPress for years, but I think these applications are confusing, and I would never tackle a WordPress site on my own. Gutensite is very easy to use, and here’s the really great part: they have a responsive, courteous technical-support team who’s there for you to work through the small details that would completely sabotage you in other applications. Best of all, for a simple website, Gutensite’s price is hard to beat: $15/month, including hosting.
Gutensite doesn’t have WordPress’ 2,000+ themes . . .
The number of themes is limited, but if you look carefully, you will realize that each design is different enough to distinguish itself, providing significant options. By adding your own images, logo and text, you are going a long way towards customizing your theme. For those who need more functionality, Gutensite has more robust packages and also provides customized solutions.
For Bill’s site, we decided on just four landing pages
Home, About Bill, What to Expect from a Notary and Contact. I tried to sneak in a couple of modules at the bottom that would provide extra calls to action, but Bill wasn’t interested. He wanted to keep this simple, with just the relevant information. We purchased the domain name from GoDaddy, UpValleyNotaryontheGo.com and I easily managed the domain name transfer myself. I filled out fields for keywords and metadescriptions, made a few last-minute adjustments, uploaded Bill’s new headshot and we were live.
I literally created this site in a matter of hours. It helped that I had used Gutensite before, and I ran into a few issues where I had to reach out to tech support, but the process was seamless. Best of all, Bill now has a terrific new website.
Next up: I’m creating another Gutensite website for a retired banker who is a woodworker. He builds stunning customized tables for his clients. In addition to writing content and building the site, I’m going to manage a photoshoot to get professional images of his work that will flesh out the gallery section of his website. I can’t wait to get started.
Video’s snagged a place in the Top 5 Trends for 2016
Take a look at any of the experts’ Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2016 and video has snagged a place in the top five. Sure, we all know we should be doing video—it’s great for SEO, it’s fun, engaging, informative and for certain demographics, this is the preferred way to receive information. But let’s be realistic. Good videos are expensive; they require scripts, perhaps a narrator, background music and professional videographers to create a polished product. And once you’re finished, it’s time for another one, and it takes time and money to keep producing high-quality products. You think they cost too much and have limited reach. Let’s take a look at a video that Marriott produced that’s been wildly successful.
Marriott’s 19-minute video: more than 8M YouTube views
Marriott released the follow-up to its Two Bellmen original short film earlier this year, with the sequel approaching 8M views on YouTube — more than the number of viewers who tuned in to see CBS’ premiere of Man with a Plan. This 19-minute action comedy, Two Bellmen Two, built its viewership over a period of months as consumers shared the content with friends via social media. This is important because it’s the result of consumers increasingly shifting their viewing habits from TV to smartphones and laptops. Savvy brands are creating content that makes an emotional connection with viewers andgets them in front of impressive numbers of potential new customers — in some cases, more than they could with a traditional TV ad.
“ If you deliver something that is valuable and they want to watch, they will actually engage,” said David Beebe, VP of creative and content marketing at Marriott International.
Content production moves in-house as big brands build studios
This shift in the traditional content creation/delivery model was the topic of a panel discussion at the ad: tech conference in New York in December that featured executives from Marriott International and Charles Schwab. These two big brands are building in-house content studios to produce the kinds of content that today’s new consumers want. Make that millennials. They’re shifting away from TV to embrace a variety of digital content formats.
Demand for video is growing
As consumers look for compelling online content they can share with friends, the demand for video is growing. Brands need content that transcends traditional advertising, and this can be difficult for agencies to grasp. Two Bellmen was first launched in early 2015 and has received more than 5M YouTube views. A sequel came out in early 2016 and a third installment has debuted. Marriott’s efforts have proven successful enough that it is now licensing some of its content, turning its marketing into a revenue source. They’ve developed travel documentaries, webisodes, VR experiences and influencer-driven videos.
You have to be able to take risks; legacy attitudes can stand in the way
For marketers looking to jump into this kind of quality content, one of the biggest hurdles can be resistance from executives who are reluctant to make a significant investment when they don’t see a direct link to a sale. Legacy attitudes can hold companies back, so they must be able to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. Charles Schwab, long recognized for clever advertising that reaches consumers on a personal level, created a small team three years ago that is focused on telling brand stories that connect with people. Previously, most of the content was focused primarily on traditional selling of products and services.
Today’s marketing is about telling stories
As brands increasingly become content creators, they need to consider new metrics that keep pace as they open the door to new relationships. At Charles Schwab, the content team demonstrated that the videos it created acquired new customers and drove existing ones to sign up for additional products. Brands embarking on a content strategy need to ensure that they continue to engage with their audience.