A must-read for small business owners
An old, out-of-date or poorly maintained website can be a big turn-off to your potential customers. It’s almost like having a “Closed” sign in your shop window. Your potential customers might be wondering whether you’re still doing business.
But how do you know if it is time to freshen up your website or give it a complete upgrade? Here are ten signs that it’s time to update your small business website.
Have you checked your website from a mobile or tablet lately? Do it right now if you haven’t. Do you have to zoom in to read text or click on buttons? Do you have to slide the page around to see all the content at a reasonable resolution? Do images fit on the screen or fall off at the sides? Are there flash elements or hover effects that don’t even work?
Not sure? Want Google to give you their opinion?
Take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. How’d you go?
If Google tells you that your site is not mobile friendly, then it’s time to talk to MadBee Creative. You’ve got mobile-compatibility problems and your website needs some love. Your business is likely to be suffering because of it.
This client that MadBee Creative is working with had a website that was not mobile-friendly. This is what you don’t want to see when you run the Google Mobile-Friendly Test:
MadBee Creative can help make sure your business is mobile-ready because that’s where your customers are migrating to. We’ll make sure Google thinks your website is Awesome. How about that, eh? This is what you should be seeing when you take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test:
We really can’t emphasise this point enough: if your website is not mobile friendly you could be missing out on more than 25% of your web traffic. In 2014 comScore released The U.S. Mobile App Report showing that the number of mobile internet users across the world now exceeds the number of desktop users:
Your website needs to work on mobile. Don’t put it off. It’s one of the most important reasons to update your website. But it’s not the only important reason – read on to find out about 9 more signs that your website needs some love.
If you’ve ever given up waiting for a website to load then you’ll understand how important it is for your website to load within a few seconds.
“Everyone knows how annoying slow loading websites can be. In fact, web pages take longer than 5 seconds to load, lose 50% of users. Fast and optimized pages guarantee better conversions, higher sales and number of visitors.” – Montis
Now more than ever, website speed is crucial to your business success. Potential customers with limited data plans and low levels of patience mean your slow website could be costing you sales.
A quick, free and easy way to see how your website performs is to use an online page speed performance tool. Go on, test how your site performs here with GTmetrix.
How’d you go?
Hopefully your website’s performance results were better than this:
Improving the speed of your website can be quite a technical process. But with a little know-how and some tricks up our sleeves MadBee Creative can help improve your site’s speed:
Gone are the days when your customers scoured the Yellow Pages looking for businesses offering your products or services. If you’re still paying for the Yellow Pages – please tell me you’re about to stop!! Businesses now compete for their customers online and your customers are using a range of search terms in an attempt to find a good business like yours.According to a PR Newswire study, 89% of Consumers Conduct Their Product Research Using Search Engines. (Source: PR Newswire). How well your website ranks with search engines compared to your competitors will impact how many potential customers are finding your business online.
What’s more, people are now using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Yelp to find the products and services they’re interested in. a great content strategy, social media integration and search engine optimisation (SEO) can all contribute to improved search engine ranking.
“The three essential elements of an effective SEO are effective communication, useful information and high quality backlinks.” – SEO Refugee
If you’re worried that your customers are not finding your business, let’s talk.
Bounce rates can reflect your customers’ immediate impression of your business and a high bounce rate can be a red flag that you could be missing out on potential business. So, what’s a bounce rate?
In internet marketing speak a ‘bounce’ is when a potential customer finds your website but leaves as soon as they arrive. All web traffic analysis tools worth their salt measure the percentage of visitors that bounce in and out of your website. The ‘bounce rate’ (the percentage of visitors that bounce) is an measure of whether your potential customers are engaging with and delving further into your site.
Here’s an example of real web traffic improvements for a MadBee Creative client. The orange line is the web traffic before the new website and the blue line is the web traffic for the equivalent period after MadBee Creative helped redevelop their website:
The number of page views and unique page views has gone up 100% and the bounce rate has dropped by a whopping 77.91%.
You shouldn’t need a degree in computer science to add new articles, add or update pages or post images on your website. As a small business owner, you should be able to easily and cost-effectively make simple content changes yourself. If you can’t do this with your website then it is either draining resources and value from your business or your website is likely to be out-of-date and turning potential customers away.
You need a content management system (CMS) with an easy-to-use interface and some thoughtfully crafted instructions from MadBee Creative.
The online world can be fairly anonymous. You and I can visit websites to our hearts’ content, browse online shops or stalk someone on social media without revealing who we are. But as a small business how do you know who is visiting your site unless you invite them to interact in some way? How can you let them know about the products or services you offer that may be of interest to them? You could wait and hope they come back to your website one day, but why risk it? Better to be proactive and give your visitors the opportunity to interact with you and establish a means of communication. They don’t have to, but at least you have given them the opportunity.
So what does that involve? It could be as simple as a newsletter subscription or social media links to your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Of it could be more sophisticated by providing free access to premium content – the only catch? They have to give you their email address to access it.
Building an email list (and using it wisely as part of your content strategy) can be one of the most effective ways of growing your business online. If your website doesn’t enable interaction with your potential customers, then it’s time to do something about it.
Your brand is the outward depiction of your identity and in the online world what you project through your website really matters. The visitors to your website should get a sense of who you are within seconds.
Is trust one of your core values? Your visitors should feel that you are trustworthy via how your website is presented, the language you use and the presence of an SSL certificate (that’s the padlock in the address bar). Trust is an absolute must for any online shop.
Is your brand a bit off beat and quirky? Maybe those slick site designs with classic icons and smooth moves aren’t right for you.
Do you specialise in low cost products? Do your customers come to you wanting cheap options? Your website had better look cheap to build too, otherwise your customers might not feel like they’re getting the best price.
If your website doesn’t reflect who you are and what your business needs to be then maybe it’s time to align your online presence with your brand.
If your website is more than a few years old you’ve probably added to it and tweaked it over time. Take a look at and try to imagine that you’re seeing it for the first time. What are your eyes drawn to? Scrunch up your eyes so you see a blurry screen, what sections stand out? Hopefully there’s a natural flow to your website and your eyes are drawn to the most important messages on your page. If not, then it could be worth your while working with a digital agency like MadBee Creative to reimagine the user experience for your website.
You have a website for your small business for a reason. We’re going to start by asking you what the business objectives are for your website. It’s great that potential customers are finding your website, but what actions do you want them to take when they get there? And when your potential customers seek out and find your site, what are their objectives or the needs they’re seeking to satisfy? Knowing the business and customer objectives is key to mapping out and optimising the user flows on your website. It’s not about making your website pretty or uncluttered (although they could be outcomes) – it’s about facilitating the steps you want your customers to take in order to meet your business objectives.
Nasty. If your website has been hacked you probably are feeling a bit uncertain about the web and are ready to start taking internet security a bit more seriously.
If your website has been hacked it may have had malicious code inserted. This can be hard to find. Unfortunately, even if you find and remove most of the malicious code, if any of the insert code remains behind the hacker may be able to reinstate the entire malicious code in seconds. I you’ve been hacked you have three basic options:
If your best option is a rebuild of your website then consider it a great (although unexpected) opportunity. Take advantage of your misfortune and give your online presence a fresh face using the latest technologies and marketing insights. It could have been the wakeup call you needed.
Web trends move fast, and while it is definitely not necessary to keep up with every web trend it is important to your business that your website looks reasonably modern. If your website looks dated you risk potential customers perceiving your business as dated as well. They may see you as out of touch and this can hurt your bottom line. Ouch.
Even websites that were the bee’s knees 5 years ago are looking dated these days.
As a small business owner it is important for you to consider factoring in an upgrade to your website every 3 years or so. That way you can take advantage of the latest technological developments, web standards and search engine optimisation techniques as well as keep your business’ web presence fresh.
DIY tech checks that you can do yourself
Not techy? That's ok, not everyone is. And as an owner of a website you don't have to be techy these days. With content management systems like Wordpress, Joomla, Wix and Drupal a non-techy person can manage content on a website without too many hassles.
But how do you know if your website is running well under the hood if you don't know code? Here are our DIY steps to help you work out if your website is running ok.
The quickest way to get a sense of how well your website is running under the hood is to test the speed of the site. One of the best online tools to test your site speed is GTmetrix and its free. Go over to GTmetrix and enter in your website address.
You'll get an overal performance score and if you get at least B's you're doing ok:
GTmetrix uses PageSpeed to assess your site and identifies issues with your site that may be contributing to performance issues. In this example the site is not using browser caching and GTmetrix recommends that this be implemented as the highest priority:
GTmetrix also uses YSlow to assess your site and this may identify additional factors that if addressed may speed your site up. In this example expire headers could be added and the site could be using a CDN (content delivery network):
You can also see how your site loads in a visual way using the Waterfall:
The waterfall is particularly helpful to identify what parts of the site or hosting environment may be slowing it down.
While many of the proposed solutions may be out of the reach of a non-techy person, understanding a little more about what affects the speed of your site will help you to have a better conversation with your developers.
If you use social media, such as Facebook, you would have seen countless businesses advertised or content from their websites shared for everyone to see. Have you ever shared content from your website on say Facebook? Do you know what it looks like if someone else shares your website?
Here's how one of our client's website appears when shared on Facebook:
Go on try sharing your website on Facebook, or if you're not on Facebook ask someone you know to share your website for you.
What image did Facebook use? Is it the right one? Does it look ok? Is the title optimised to sell your business? Does the text below it say what you do?
Did you know that you can tell Facebook and other social media sites what to use when someone shares your website? It's called the Open Graph protocol and it enables any website to become a rich object in a social graph. In Facebook terms, the rich object is a clickable object with an image, a heading and some text.
Open Graph protocol tags appear in the <head> section of the HTML of your webpage so the easiest way to check if your website is using these tags is to view the source code of your homepage.
Go to your website and from the dropdown menu at the top of your browser select 'View Source' or 'Page Source'. Every browser is different, but this option is usually under a menu called "View" or "Tools". This will open a new tab and show you the source code of your website.
Here's the <head> section of teh MadBee Creative website. You can see the Open Graph protocol tags towards the bottom. They all start with <meta property="og:
You can also test how Facebook will display your website when shared using its Sharing Debugger.
While you may not have the tech skills yet to change the code itself, you're now able to test your website, work out how you'd like your site to appear on social media and have an informed converation with your developer.
There are many paid online applications that can simulate how your website appears when viewed using different browsers on different operating systems and on different devices. Designers and developers often use these online applications to test their work and debug their code. As a business owner these tools may be too complicated, and are additional cost that your business doesn't need.
You need a free, uncomplicated tool. You're lucky, there is one and it's called Screenfly. Enter in the address of your website and flick between device types to see how it looks.
Screenfly won't pick up every bug that might exist for different browser types, but it will give you a visual of how your website is expected to appear. If you see something you don't like, chances are that some of the visitors to your site are experiencing a less than satisfactory interaction with your business.
Easy steps for you to follow to assess your own website
Imagine your website is a sign for a missing cat. You’d want your cat sign to do some really key things right? It should capture attention and draw the reader’s eyes to the important message that your dearest, much-loved cat is lost. It should clearly describe your cat both visually and through the choice of words. It should convey emotion and tug on heart strings. It should have your name and contact number in big bold letters so your reader knows exactly what to do if they see your cat. In short, it should be designed with the sole purpose of meeting your objective of finding your cat.
Ok, so your website is probably much better than this sign. But do you think it might still be selling your business a bit short? There are a few really simple things that you can do to establish if your website acheives your business objectives and they start with squinting your eyes.
What? Yes, really. Squint your eyes, then open your website. Pay attention to the areas of your website that stand out even with your eyes squinted.
The purpose of the squint test is to clearly see the visual hierarchy of the page. If the visual hierarchy of your page is not evident to you then visitors may be getting lost, or if there are many elements competing for attention on the page your visitors may be getting confused.
Make a note of the two things that stand out on your page with your eyes squinted. These are likely the elements on the page that are drawing the attention of your visitors. Do these elements directly support your business objectives? Or are they really distracting visitors and drawing their attention away from what your really want them to see or do?
If you feel your website is cluttered, the visual hierarchy not evident or that there are too many elements on the page competing for attention then it might be worthwhile engaging a designer to re-envisage your site.
You are likely to be the person most familiar with your website. You know where everything is. You know what buttons to press. You were probably involved with the creation of the website. You may even have built it yourself. Is it any wonder then that you're probably not that objective about your site? even when you're trying your hardest to be? No need to be disheartened - you're not alone. Web developers and designers have the same problem.
In the ideal web design and development world we conduct usability testing to find out what works and what doesn't. But sometimes there's no budget available for usability testing. The next best thing is to ask someone to critically review your site. If you don't have the budget to pay for usability testing, then asking someone to take a look at your site really is the next best thing.
Now this is important. You need to identify a brutally honest friend and ask them not to pull any punches. There's no point asking your people-pleasing best mate because you don't need sugar-coated feedback, you need the raw, unabridged truth.
Once you find someone who fits the bill, tell them that you're interested in the cold hard truth and that you won't be offended. Tell them that your objective is to make your website work for your business and share your top 3 business goals. Ask them to take notes, then given them space to critically examine your website without hovering over your shoulder.
Once they've finished, why not take them out for a coffee to go over their notes and discuss their thoughts and impressions? It's a great way to thank them for their time and attention, and chatting over coffee may make it easier to absorb some of the honest feedback they provide. Remember, they're helping you maximise the potential of your website to support your business!
Our tips to help your customers find you online
The internet is big. Really big. Your potential customers are out there. They’re typing in search terms to find a business with your products and services. Will they find you? Here are our tips on what you can be doing right now to help your customers find you online.
You’ve probably heard about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). But in case you’re wondering what it is or what it really means – here’s the lowdown.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results — often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. ~ Wikipedia
In simple terms – it’s all about getting your website to the top of the first page on Google when you search for the key search terms that your customers are using to find you.
Search engines like Google all use algorithms to determine what pages to display and in what order. These algorithms are secret and constantly updated and refined. It really is a competition to get your page to the top of the list and the rewards could be significant to your business.
Top positions on the search engine result pages receive a majority of the impressions and clicks, so ranking in these top positions can result in significant traffic increases for your website. ~ Titan SEO
So… What can you be doing right now? Here are some quick tips to help get your page ranking on the right track.
Oh yeah, that’s right. Straight into the lingo! What’s a backlink?
In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology a backlink is a hyperlink that links from a Web page, back to your own Web page or Web site. Also called an Inbound Link (IBL) these links are important in determining the popularity (or importance) of your Web site. ~ Webopedia
Backlinko provide some wonderful resources on how to get other websites to link to yours. Here’s a link to one of their articles on untapped sources for backlinks.
If your site is slow to load then it’s also being pushed down the all important page ranking list. Slow websites are not popular with internet users – so they’re also not popular with search engines.
A quick, free and easy way to see how your website performs is to use an online page speed performance tool. Go on, test how your site performs here with GTmetrix.
Improving the speed of your website can be quite technical, but as a starting point – make sure all your images are optimised for speed. This means putting up lower resolution images. It’s always a trade-off between quality and speed, so put up the lowest resolution possible where you are still happy with the image quality.
In 2014 Google annonced that it would be ranking websites that use the 'https' protocol higher than websites that continue to use the 'http' protocol. It is part of broader initiatives to make the internet more secure. The 'https' protocol or 'Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure' is a communication protocol for the internet that protects the data as it transfers between the user's computer and the website. The 'https' protocol protects the integrity and confidentiality of the data.
Google itself identifies several reasons to make the switch over to 'https'
Data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which provides three key layers of protection:
Encryption. Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages or steal their information.
Data integrity. Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
Authentication. Proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.
The other huge benefit is improved search ranking. Google will rank your site higher just by being 'https'. Business owners on the whole have been quite slow to make the shift from 'http' to 'https' so switching now may give you an advantage over your competitors.
All images should have an “ALT” tag. This is a short written description of an image and is intended for use by your visually impaired visitors. Search engines also use the Alt tag to help rank pages.
Google, in their article about images, has a heading “Create great alt text”. This is not a coincidence, Google places a relatively high value on alt texts to determine what is on the image but also to determine the topic of surrounding text. ~ Yoast SEO
There are many more tips to better SEO including key word hacking, generating authoritative content and using keywords in your urls – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Improving the backlinking, page speed and alt attribute tags will help you be better placed and these are steps you can take yourself. Once that you’ve got these things sorted then it’s possibly time to broaden your SEO strategy.
Remember, the internet is big. Really big. Make sure you are doing everything you can to help your customers find you.