Social Media has become a dominant force in our world ranging from personal socialization to business marketing. Over the past 5 years or so businesses have been putting more and more effort and resources into using social media in the aim of building their brands and marketing their products and services. It has clearly been a revolution to be able to add a great photo and a small paragraph or two and be able to share with your friends and fans reaching 100’s or sometime 1000’s of people in real time.
Girls that Code from Wilson County visited Bear Web Design in Nashville today to learn about the opportunities for programmers & developers in the 21st century! The girls are taught programming by web designer/developer Jennifer Folsom and were treated to pizza after their visit.
Have you recently heard the term “Digital Profile”? it is becoming a key focus area for companies as well as individuals that provide services that are searched for on the internet. That means just about any company that operates today should be paying attention to their Digital Profile.
A Digital Profile as it sounds is a profile that has been establish online through your internet resources and usage. Google is the best place I know of to check out your digital profile to get a feel for what people will see when they type your companies name.
Thanks to Google My Business (formerly Google+) we have really seen the development of the Digital Profile over the last 12-24 months. Google My Business includes Google Reviews, Google Maps & Directions, Google Search Results, hours of business, photos as well as links to your website. On mobile it is as powerful as it appears on a desktop and it can heavily influence whether a customer communicates with your company directly from google (e.g. calls you) or links to your website for further information.
So using Bear Web Design’s Digital Profile as a starting example lets look at some of the basic elements… (see our Digital Profile above)…
- Google Ad Words and Organic Information sit on the left hand side of the search page result. Adwords are an online advertising services by Googler where advertisters pay to display ads that are tied to key search terms and phrases. Organic search results are website listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms.
- Google My Business sits on the right hand side and consists of photos, address & location, directions, website link, reviews, business hours (absolutely critical to being correct) and links for action – phone number to call, driving directions to come visit and website link to learn more about your business.
- Notice the Google Post that is under Google My Business (this is a new featured offered by Google allowing business owners to feed their content directly into their search results page! Google Posts will stay active for 7 days and I have seen some posts that receive 1000’s of views.
- Google Insights which shows you how many searches that your Google Digital Profile appears in including (Discovery) – those searching for your services or products but don’t know you directly and (Direct) – those that do search for you directly.
So if you haven’t checked out your Digital Profile it is definitely time to do so. It will be a critical part of your online success! And if you need some help managing and updating your digital profile please be sure to contact Bear Web Design!
You have a website that has been up and running for a number of years. In actual fact many organizations have had 2-3 generations of websites now a days. It looked great when the website was launched (they always do) but over the years it has become less and less of a focal point in your companies marketing plans. You don’t really know how much traffic is coming to the website (as the reports you used to get stopped coming) and the big part that bothers you is that you don’t seem to get any inquiries from your website any more…
Website technology and design has changed quite dramatically in the last 2-3 years. One of the biggest changes came with responsive design (mobile friendly websites). Responsive design is the process of designing a website that responds to the device the website is being viewed on (giving an optimum visitor experience).
Google really started pushing this technology around 2014 when they commenced listing website as “mobile friendly” that were optimized for a mobile device. In other words if someone was searching a service your company provided and your website came up in the search and was NOT mobile friendly google would clarify this – basically telling the user that this might not be a great experience. (SO basically don’t go to this website). Since 2015 there are more mobile devices than desktops and that trend has continued to grow so bottom line is you can assume long term that half your traffic will be mobile based.
If your website is not responsive “Mobile Friendly” then it is time for a new website.
The next most critical aspect about your website is your design layout and home page content specifically. Today a prospect may give your website 5-10 seconds to establish whether you match his/her needs (and that they like your website). A slideshow that showcases your company (4-5 slides) that include clear specific captions can go a long way to helping a first time visit quickly get a feel for what you have to offer. These slides should lead to more in-depth information if the visitor wants to find out more. If photos are vibrant and really appropriate in those slide shows then you might just have a home run on your hands with a good design.
Besides the slideshow (the elevator pitch) you want to clarify what you do, where you are, and samples of your work (or services and products)…. We are Bear Web Design, we design websites, we are located in Nashville, TN and here is our portfolio of recent work. And here is some action buttons or links for you to choose from (Contact Us, Call us) as well as links to more details about our company. But the bottom line is that if your home page cannot give me the most important facts and information about your company in a professionally graphic based design “quickly” then I will probably moving on to the next website.
If your website home page does not tell your companies story professionally, graphically, clearly and quickly then it is time for a new website.
Then comes your websites content. Content used to be a paragraph of “let me tell you about us” but content today is sophisticated, exciting and really focused on selling and getting your messages across. Multimedia is starting to dominate the content landscape and even if you are not ready for video productions yet great photographs are definitely within your reach today. (Big bold photos that really showcase you and tell your story). The key to updating your content is to make sure it is current. If you had a key selling feature 3 years ago (new office, new renovations or a new factory) that information should not be a key promotion today. (Why because when the office doesn’t appear new or the renovation aren’t new trust will be lost and a prospect may feel like they were misled. So old content must be updated. Establish what your primary services are today and expand on them with text, photos and multimedia. Another key area that I look for a website is “Meet Our Team” which should include photos, bios, and background. I want to know who I will be potentially meeting with and working if I move forward with your company so please don’t have “Contact Us” with no location, no people, and no intimacy and expect to get good results. With google being so location centric today it is crazy not to promote where you are. People really think locally today when searching the internet.
If your website content is out of date and your website does not do a great job showcasing your products and services as well as your team and location then it is time for a new website.
And if you do decide it is time to look at designing a new website we would love to help you! Let’s have a chat about your company’s website and what we could achieve together. Combine add-on internet marketing items such as e-NEWS, Blogging, and Social Media and your website could truly become the focal point of your companies marketing efforts.
Over the last few months I have been working with the Watertown Wilson County Public Library to launch an after school coding club called “Watertown Impact”. Every Wednesday, 7 young women, 6th through 12th grade, spend their afternoons learning to code.
The students come from different backgrounds, and utilize their different learning styles and problem solving skills to create something entirely new. They are quickly realizing that enthusiasm, hard work, curiosity and risk taking are essential to learning standard web languages as well as structural and presentational aspects of web design. And they’re usually laughing the whole time. They are becoming digital creatives, and it is wonderful to witness their originality and curiosity.
Already, they are putting their burgeoning coding skills to work for Wilson County by creating a website to promote the use and maintenance of the county’s new Little Free Libraries, a project organized by United Way of Wilson County to promote reading, strengthen community and inspire creativity. The site will feature pictures of the new Little Free Libraries, a map of library locations, and information on use, donations and the sponsors of the libraries.
This project requires peer-to-peer in addition to student-to-mentor relationships that extend beyond the local and into the world-wide coding community. Students will have the opportunity to publish their code in online repositories and receive input from others in the industry from around the world. They will visit local agencies, too, for some hands-on experiences of the local programming scene. Connections between industry and students opens possibilities and opportunities for kids and their futures and that’s something we’re very proud to facilitate.
Be sure to read the bios of these fledgling coders, once their new site is live. Their enthusiasm for learning, experimenting and having fun is contagious. They know that anything is possible.
I am just flying back from the 2016 Joomla World Conference (flying from Vancouver to LA and then onto Melbourne Australia) so I figured with 16 hours of flying ahead this would be the perfect time to recap the conference I just attended and share with our clients and friends. It was the best conference I have attended to date with the leadership of Joomla being so much more focused on the end user experience than I have ever seen before. This is very good for our clients (and their web visitors) as the bottom line to any websites success is a great user experience.
Joomla is a content management system (CMS) and clearly one of the best in the world. Bear Web Design has been using this CMS for around 10 years now and we have attended 3 world conferences so far. And we do work with WordPress as well so we know there are other great CMS’s out there but there is no doubt that Joomla is evolving to become more than just a CMS that produces websites with plans such as connecting to apps in the future that will allow portions of your websites content to be shared with your your users thru these apps. It is truly a worldwide driven product (driven by the world community of Joomla). And I am proud to say that the CMS that was the precursor to Joomla was called Mambo (and yes it was built in Melbourne Australia) so I thought it appropriate to give it a mention since I am flying there tonight!
People from Europe and North America are driving the product in my opinion but there are contributors from all over the world. It makes sense that great products on the worldwide web are a collaboration of people from all over the world. Even when so much of the actual desired outcome of your websites demographic is usually local.
When I sit in front of a prospect and talk to them about how Bear Web Design can help them build a new website or redesign their current one I have such a level of confidence in the products we produce that I basically feel powerful. (not something you would think of with me if you know me). But the Joomla product is so solid and has such a proven track record that I am simply so confident in our ability to produce a great website at a fair market price that will greatly serve the client. Combined that with great team that we have at Bear Web Design (that has custom designed more than 350 websites in the last 10 years) it is a pretty hard combination to beat.
At today’s keynote event the topic was the future of Joomla. That to me translates to the future of Bear Web Design and most importantly the future of our customers. Do they have a product that will serve them now and for years to come? Will it get better and will it continue to meet a very fast changing device market place? Well in today’s session I got a big YES! Most clients would know that we had a big security update around 4 or 5 weeks ago that was required to be updated to each client’s website asap to prevent a security flaw. We tell our clients when we update their website (geeky as it is it keeps them aware and knowing that we are watching out for them). But the bottom line is we (and Joomla) are on the ball when new updates coming out all the time! The version we upgraded to was Joomla 3.6.2. I know I know – doesn’t mean a whole lot to you but in the today’s keynote we got the future path of Joomla 3X to Joomla 4X (due for release in 2017) and then ultimately a Joomla X version is at the end of the tunnel possibly around 2018. So why does this matter? The answer is clear!
Your website will need to be state of the art this year, next year and the year after to compete in your market place. And it is a competition (and the judge is Google and then the next judge is a visitor.) The reality with websites today is they are not built and then put in a hosting location and then 3 years later the process is repeated. (That era of web development is basically over). It is much more about a continuously updating the product and the website’s content while striving to offer more and more features to the user. Just like in the sales cycle I don’t spend that much time telling a prospect about Joomla and how well it serves us but the reality I know is that if our clients are happy with their website then are happy with Bear Web Design and ultimately they must be happy with Joomla! And you can rest assured that although so much of our business is focused locally the products that are driving those opportunities are from some of the best developers in the world collaborating all around the world to make sure that your website communicates effectively with your users.
It is that simple and in many ways, it is the human experience when it comes down to it and the neat thing is the user experience is Stockholm Sweden seems to have the same need as the user experience in Vancouver Canada and Melbourne Australia and you guessed it in Nashville, TN. It is indeed a very cool time to be working with websites and I am eternally grateful to be able to serve my clients in such a dynamic and exciting industry. I look forward to continuing to help our clients improve their websites and users experience and ultimately improve their own success.!
Google Reviews Are Already A Tremendous Influence on Consumer Decisions
So I went to this great coffee house a few weekends ago in Franklin. Set in a historic house It had a gorgeous cottage garden area that surrounded the house that seemed as suitable for a glass of wine as a cup of coffee. When I walked by I could feel it pulling me in. The inside of the house was old but nicely laid out with lots of different and colorful rooms as one would expect in a house built in the 1890’s. The very nice and modern coffee bar was located near the center of the house and I ordered my favorite – a Cappuccino Grande and then found an amazing place to write my weekly blog – next to the grand piano on a small single table. I turned on my favorite music thru my head set ear phones and as I sipped on my delicious cappuccino and began to blog I thought to myself “Could it get any better than this – I LOVE THIS PLACE”…
Well what I have just done is shared a great experience I had with you. If you were in my family or a friend or associate you might have heard me raving about this place for weeks on end. What a great place… you must check it out… the coffee was great… and you know most of the time if someone tells you about something they like you really do consider it in future decision making. In actual fact word of mouth information sharing is the most trusted source of consumer information we know of!
So how do we share our experience digitally?
There are many ways to share a great experience digitally thru many popular social medias. You can tell your facebook friends or tweet your followers but the reality is this form of sharing is real time. A day from now know one will go back looking at your old facebook posts or tweets regardless of how wonderful your experience was. So if you want to really clarify a great experience digitally that is going to be read by future potential consumers as well as family, friends and associates then you really have to consider Google Reviews!
I have read recently that online reviews may contribute to 10% of search engine rankings. (where Google Places you in a search result).
So you are looking for a hotel to stay at. You search for Hotels in Mt. Juliet and google returns 3 hotels (listed in Google Review Results order). Our customer and good friend Justin Patel’s Hi Express Mt. Juliet receives many great reviews (all the time). So you can see Hi Express Mt. Juliet is featured prominently in the search results with a link to immediately see the reviews… (HINT HINT – that is most likely what the searcher is going to check on before making a decision to book a room)…
I have also read recently that it will take consumers 2-4 reviews to form an opinion – If I read 3-4 bad reviews generally I am gone BABY! So that stat certainly supports how I feel – and yes I look at reviews when making decisions online!
This Is Great! – Nothing But Great Google Reviews Right?
Getting a whole lot of great Google Reviews could really influence how much traffic your website gets (and maybe how many orders or bookings or prospects). Of course I have not told you the dark side of Google Reviews… the dissatisfied customer! Nothing will knock you over more than reading a bad review about your business. In actual fact I will talk more about managing your Google Reviews in a future blog but the bottom line is you should actually respond to all reviews… thanks for the great review OR sorry you had a bad experience how can we help change that? – it shows great personal touch and really shows you are connected to your online aspects of your business.
So the old time practice of sharing your experience with your friends and family certainly lives on with Google Reviews. The neat thing is if you genuinely have a high regard for a business you can share your experience online for others to read. And the good thing is you are fully in control of that review and can delete the review if you ever decided to. One other catch – you have to have a Google gmail account to leave a review which helps validate that the review is from a bonafide users and not an anonymous source.
So as part of getting you in the game I have provided a link to Bear Web Designs Google Reviews. It is embarrassing to say at this stage that we have never had a Google review but this is your opportunity to leave us a review and help Bear Web Design get on the scoreboard. (Of course only If you feel it is appropriate and please be authentic in your review). It is easy to do and will give you a larger voice in your digital world. I have no doubt your company will receive reviews online in the future whether you solicit them or not. We have just started adding “Google Review” links to customer website to help to promote this critical aspect of Google’s Search Engine.
If you have any questions or need help in this area please be sure to contact me (615 504-6485).
Hope everyone has a great week!
So you are surfing the internet on a bright sunny day. The kids are playing in the back yard with Bucky the Golden Retriever and your wife is in the kitchen baking cookies. All is good with the world – if Norman Rockwell was around this could have been his next American Classic – “Dad On The Internet”…
You go to the same website you have been going to the for the last 3 years but as soon as you get there a big warning message takes over your screen “WEBSITE NOT SECURE”. Bang the Norman Rockwell scene vanishes from your home in a matter of seconds. The dog goes nuts and there is a burning smell coming from the kitchen as a shadow falls across your computer screen.
THE WEBSITE IS NOT SECURE – so what does that actually mean?
For the average user on the internet a warning that the website is not secure is the END OF THE SESSION on that website. It doesn’t matter if there is a good explanation or not for this warning – it simply stops the user in their tracks as the fear of what could happen simply supersedes any need to use a website.
For Google it will mean that the website is not using an encryption connection which in plain English means the session between your computer’s browser and the server where the website resides is potentially accessible to other parties who could access your valuable information (or not so valuable information) pending what you are doing on this website. Please note the word “potentially” and this potential risk could be high (OR) low pending where you are accessing the internet. If you are on an open public network you probably have more chance of your information being intercepted than on your business or home secured wi-fi. Keep in mind we have been accessing non-secure website since the web was invented – but of course with no warnings.
We have also used encryption on websites before in particular when we check out of an online shop. Several of the websites we manage are encrypted completely (no matter where you go on the site the data is encrypted) but quite a few websites we manager have secure server but it only engage it for checking out of a store or sending sensitive data. (as that is obviously the most important data to keep secure). Unfortunately this will not satisfy Google’s new plans.
So I need a Secure Server Certificate to Secure My Website?
Secure Server Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. (Boring as crap I know but you have all seen the Gold Padlock before indicating you were secure)… Currently unless a call goes to a Secure Server Certificate that has expired (or is not working correctly) you would not be told the website’s connection is not secure…
GOOGLE IS ABOUT TO CALL OUT ALL WESBSITES THAT ARE NOT SECURE!
BUT that all changes in 2017 when Google will start calling out all websites that are not secure. That means ANY website that is not running secure server certificate on ANY page on that website is going to produce this warning flag. It is actually going to be chaos in my opinion as so many websites will not be secure according to Google. But regardless of the initial chaos I have no doubt that the users will stick to current behavior and not use any site that is flagged as not secure and no doubt any of the website that are fully secure will gain more traffic in the short term (as everyone else catches up).
Bear Web Design’s own website has been secure server certificate fully for several years now (actually setup in relationships to PCI Compliance – a credit card / banking requirement). Unfortunately there is an annual cost to having a certificate, updating the certificate to the website and then making the website fully secure in all calls. Based on what we see coming we will be contacting all our clients to identify those costs and the timing involved in adding the secure server certificate to their website before 2017 to make sure they don’t lose traffic (and maybe) gain some web traffic in 2017!
If you have any questions about this new initiate of Googles please contact me or call me at 615 504-6845 and I would be glad to discuss and provide help if needed!
About a year ago “or so” I said to an associate I think I need to really focus on cleaning up the front of my residence as Google was using the front of our house as the street view that you would see when you searched for Bear Web Design. (We have since relocated to an Office on Lebanon Pike but the challenge remains with how we look from the street). Google uses street view (called “See Outside”) to show the front street view of each business as part of the Google My Business / Google Maps listing. It seemed pretty obvious to me – if the view looks old or run down you may just be losing prospects. I must admit I was excited at the idea of the concept “Google Friendly Landscaping” being someone who loves gardening but also realized how many businesses may look “HORRIBLE” from the street view. And even worse – Google can quite often show the wrong building or ajoining structure in street view and totally put off the searcher…
So before you go running to the front of your building (and start crying if it doesn’t look that good) Google has recently launched a great new service called Virtual Tour that actually shows the inside of your business (professionally photographed in a 360 view). This is called “See Inside” and it showcases the inside of your business and it also does additional professional street view photos to ensure YOU LOOK GREAT! We have our first client using this technology – Justin Patel of Integrity Investments and his Holiday Inn Express and Baymont Inn are both in the process of setting up this service. Another business that Justin owns has just completed this process is Primings Cigar Lounge & Bar and folks get ready to get WOWED!
Here is the link to see the view – https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=primings%20cigar%20lounge – and select “See Inside” on the right hand side of the search result… and voila you are in 360 view… You can literally walk thru the entire inside of the business (and sure enough Primings Cigar Lounge & Bar looks absolutely Gorgeous!)…. Play around with the views – walk thru the business and think about how a prospect or customer may have a great experience doing this in your business.
You will also note that the photos to the left are the same professional photos that were taken from the 360 view. And we can take the same virtual tour links and add them to Justin’s website so we can get people visiting your website to take a 360 virtual tour quickly!
So how do you get this service? Google Certificated Photographers are the folks currently charged with providing this service. You can see by this example that they know what they are doing and their results are outstanding. There are costs that can vary pending how much photography work is done – but you are paying a one time fee for this setup – no ongoing costs and basically the 360 view remains in place for the lifetime of business. Just imagine how much traffic this may receive over the years.
And the best thing is that you are now fully controlling the photos that are showed by Google. It is no longer a maybe good or maybe not so good street view. It is professional presentation at its best. So what business would this suite? Retail, Restaurant, Café’s, Specialty Stores, Events and Promotional Business – basically any business that can entice the customer into their business by showing off the inside of the business…
Bear Web Design has commenced working with American Marketing & Publishing, L.L.C and local rep Joy Collins who is helping us offer this service to our customers. Please contact me and I will be happy to share more information and general costs for this service. We can also setup an appointment to meet with Joy if we feel this is a good match for your business. I am absolutely excited about Google’s 360 view and look forward to “everyone” seeing the Inside of your business soon!
If you are reading this blog you must recognize that Google “Rules The Waves” just like Britannia did once. Unlike when Britannia ruled the waves and everyone got it so many folks simply do not understand or comprehend the control and influence Google has over your business and many of your prospects. Google is all powerful and frankly all confusing. We (Bear Web Design) made a commitment to be Google Centric Company approximately 5 years ago and it has been a good decision for our business and our customers – but man if you don’t like people “Moving Your Cheese” Google probably is not going to be your thing.
Most likely you don’t know what Google My Business is (My Goodness!) but you might have heard about Google Plus (Google+) and you have most likely seen it and used it before. If you go to Google and search for your company if you are reasonable shape your company will come up on the right hand side of the search (on a desktop) and it shows your physical location – called Outside (a street view of your business) and then business details taken from your Google Maps and your Google My Business Page (formerly Google Plus). If you have added photos to your Google My Business Page then these photos will be showing (if you have paid Google for a virtual tour then that should be available as well – called Inside (my next blog friends!) – bottom line is that your business is represented on the right hand side of the search by Google My Business (and Google Maps)… Notice the cover photo to the blog – that is what I see when I search for Bear Web Design (in Nashville).
Are you still awake? (Remember your prospects come thru this method to find your website and consider doing business with you so WAKE UP – this is important!). On the left hand side of the search screen is the organic key title pages from your website that Google presents usually picking out your most important pages (most popular). Hopefully this search gives you a really good picture of what a customer or a prospect will see when they search for your company of google. You can check this out on your mobile so you fully understand what all customers see.
In the event nothing comes up – HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME – you need some real help – if the left hand search organic information is there but your Google My Business and Google Maps is not showing up then Google probably doesn’t know where you are located… (and again you need some help!). Just to add to excitement of all this imagine someone is walking (or driving) and looking for local restaurants to stop in for a bite. If Google knows where you are then it will show them your restaurant as an option – if it doesn’t – TO BAD SO SAD!
So bottom line and cutting to the chase – Google My Business is about listing your business on Google and how it shows up for the local searcher (in particular). Google is location centric and it absolutely cares about what is in reach of it users (the searchers)… It actually wants to deliver the best possible result to the user so they continue to use Google (which ultimately supports the Google Ad-Words Advertisers and associated products). The key is that YOU PROVIDE the necessary information to Google so it can do that. It is HORRIFYING how much incorrect information is on Google Maps and Google My Business right now. Hours of business is a classic I see wrong all the time. And the reality is it is not Google’s jobs to fix this (it’s yours) and you know who wins if you fix it (you do)…
This applies to mobiles as well – below are the two views (first page and second) on your mobile – just as impressive as the desktop version and still driven by your location, business information and photos… But quite often when they are on their mobile they may be heading your way!
Supporting this critical area for our clients we setup a Google Business Page for every client we do work for. We have done this as a standard on new client for several years now. We know this will serve them for years to come. Remember Google Rules the Waves and most of your prospects thru the internet will come to your website thru Google My Business.
If you would like help updating photos or making your Google My Business more appealing to visitors (good photos is the key) please contact us at Bear Web Design and we would be glad to help.