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« Go Back | Posted in: - on July 30, 2013


Do you feel inexplicably calm when surrounded by a sea of blue water or a forest of green trees? Perhaps you feel a slight agitation when looking at a red stop sign or stop light?

The reality is that color has a powerful psychological impact - and that this affect can be harnessed by webmasters and digital marketers alike to promote different buyer behaviors online. To learn more, check out our new "The Psychology of Colors in Marketing" infographic:"

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on July 9, 2013


Once you’ve established your company’s web presence, it’s important to understand how to track whether or not your website or blog is performing effectively. One of the most telling ways to track your performance is to install an analytics tool, like Google Analytics, to help you understand the traffic your website is attracting.

What Does Google Analytics Do?

Google Analytics tracks the traffic that your website is getting. What does that mean? It means that every person who views your website is tracked and reported on in the Google Analytics system. These analytics can be viewed real-time or based on a set time period. This way, you can understand who is on your site right now (real-time analytics) or who has visited it over a given date range (for example, month-over-month or year-over-year).

Essentially, Google Analytics helps you understand the total number of page views, unique visitors, referral sources and other demographics of your website’s visitors. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, here’s a quick overview:

  1. Page Views – A page view is tracked whenever somebody visits a page on your website or blog. This means that if a visitor comes to your site and visits six separate pages, that visitor will increase your total page views by six. A site with higher page views has more opportunity to convert more visitors into sales.
  2. Unique Visitors – A unique visitor is counted once, no matter how many pages are viewed. Understanding how many unique visitors you have is important as it indicates what type of reach you have in terms of actual people reading your site’s content.
  3. Referral Sources – This tool provides information regarding how visitors got to your site. Visitors can arrive on your site by entering your URL directly into their browser, through a search engine or through a referral from a third-party site that’s linking back to yours. Google Analytics breaks this information down so that you can see how many people came through each referral source, their average time on site and the number of pages they typically visited, which can be helpful in terms of determining how to allocate your traffic generation resources.
  4. Demographics – Google Analytics provides information on where your visitors live – down to the city they live in and the language they speak. You can also use this information to understand how many of your visitors are first-time visitors versus how many return to your site repeatedly.
  5. Average Visit Duration – The average visit duration reported by Google Analytics helps you understand how long visitors spend viewing your site. The more time they spend on your site, the more engaged they are with your brand.
  6. Average Pages per Visit – You can also use Google Analytics to determine the number of pages your visitors view during their visits. This information can help you understand if your navigation and internal linking strategies are working, as these features typically encourage visitors to stay on your site longer and peruse more content.

Google Analytics also offers additional features for more advanced users. However, understanding and making decisions based off of these initial statistics is a great place for beginners to start.

How Do You Install Google Analytics?

Once you’ve decided to use Google Analytics, it’s important that you install it correctly. Google Analytics can be installed on virtually any website. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Sign Up for a Google Analytics Account – This account should typically be associated with your business email address.
  2. Add Your Site as a Property to Your Account – Every website you own can be set up as a separate property in your Google Analytics account. When you’re ready to get started with Google Analytics, add your website as a property by clicking “Admin,” then “Add Property.” You’ll be given the choice to set the property up using Universal Analytics (UA) or Classic Analytics. Setting your property up with Universal Analytics gives you more flexibility in the long term. However, Classic Analytics is easier for small businesses that don’t anticipate in-depth data mining in their future to use.
  3. Install Your Tracking Code – Be sure to install your Google Analytics tracking code in the appropriate section of your website’s code. Your code should be pasted just before the closing tag in your code.
  4. Verify Your Tracking Code – Check to be sure that your status as listed as “Verified” on the Google Analytics Dashboard within 24-48 hours. If it isn’t, you’ll need to verify that your code is installed in the proper place and that you used the code for the correct property.
  5. Check Your Reports – Once your status is verified for your property, you should begin seeing data pull into your reports. If you don’t see this, you’ll need to do some additional troubleshooting (although this is not typical).

How Do You Use Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is best utilized by scheduling times that you will check your statistics. Take time to strategize about the statistics you’d like to track over time. Page views and unique visitors should be on the list for all businesses, but beyond that, you’ll want to identify metrics that are tailored to your business. For example, you may want to track how well a campaign is doing, what your top five referral sources are, and what keyword searches regularly attract visitors to your site.

Once you’ve determined what statistics you’d like to track, determine how often you’d like to track them. Typically, reporting should be done at least monthly, although many businesses track these statistics on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This will depend largely on the amount of traffic your website attracts and how much time you have to dedicate to this.

After you’ve begun regular reporting, you’ll want to think about what these statistics mean. For instance, if your page views dropped in August, don’t assume it was because of all the people taking summer vacations. Traffic may also have dropped due to a decrease in the number of blog posts you created, a decrease in your social media sharing or a change in the type of products you offered. Think not just about the numbers but what they indicate about your businesses activity. This will help you to derive a successful web strategy.

Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking how well your business is doing online. To get started, be sure that you understand the basic components of your data and how this information can be used to inform website changes. If you do this, you’ll truly be able to make the most of your website.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on July 2, 2013


As a small business owner, you should already know that your business needs a blog. But now that you’ve got one, it’s important that you maintain your blog with the same care that you give to your brick-and-mortar store or main internet property. A blog isn’t something you can put up and then neglect. This makes you look unreliable and outdated to both existing and potential customers.

So what specific tasks constitute good blog management? Make sure all of the following activities are a part of your regular schedule:

Post Content Regularly

One of the biggest pitfalls of running a blog as a small business owner is that it can be challenging to post content regularly. This has several implications. First, it can make you look unreliable to customers who come across your blog. It can also mean that you miss out on opportunities to optimize your blog for search or do not post on hot topics in the industry. Posting regular content also gives customers (and potential buyers) a reason to regularly visit your website and learn more about all that you do.

One great way to ensure you post regularly is to set aside time to write once a month. Writing four to eight blog posts at once and scheduling them to post at regular intervals throughout the month can make it easy to manage posting regular content. Alternately, commit to writing one post a day or one post a week so that it becomes part of your regular routine. Finding a writing routine that works for you is the main key to running a successful blog.

Vary Your Content Type

It can be easy to get into a rut when posting content. To break away from these habits, use list posts, educational posts, posts that highlight recent projects you’ve worked on, and articles that discuss industry news. These variations help you create more robust content, optimize your posts for different types of searches people may be conducting, and keep existing readers engaged.

Use Photos When Possible

Including photos is a great addition to any blog. If you’re writing a blog post about a hot new trend or some work you’ve recently done for a client, photos can help readers to visualize and understand what you’re talking about. Humans are very visual creatures, which is why images can help attract them to a post. This can also be an effective way to break up your content and keep your users’ eyes moving down the page.

Respond to Comments

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it’s important to respond to their comment. This encourages them to continue engaging. It can also highlight your expertise, make you more accessible, and help you to create warm leads for your business.

Ultimately, when a person speaks to you face-to-face, you acknowledge and respond to their questions or comments. You should treat your online customers and prospects with the same respect. This can help grow your business in intangible ways. In the same way that you never know which face-to-face conversations will lead to an increase in sales, you never know which comment response you leave will lead to more revenue.

Ask Questions

Every blogger hopes to receive comments on his or her posts. But even those who have a number of readers may not get a large volume of comments, especially at the outset of the blog. This can be a problem, as the number of comments left on blog posts demonstrates to readers how thriving and engaged the blog’s community is.

In order to encourage comments on your blog, it can be helpful to ask questions of your readers. This gives them a prompt to respond to you, rather than simply digesting the information and moving on. Of course, once you get these comments, you’ll want to respond to them for all the different reasons described above.

Update Your Software and Plugins (If Necessary)

If you’re running a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, Typepad or another program, it’s important to make sure that you’re running the latest version of this software. This helps ensure that all functionality on your site works correctly and allows your blog to continue to be easy for your readers to use. You can do this by checking for updates whenever you login to create a post.

Alternately, you can create a weekly or monthly reminder that prompts you to enter the system and check for updates. Most updates can be done relatively quickly, with little effort on your part. This simply ensures that any improvements to the CMS itself or the plugins you’re using are pushed onto your blog.

**Note – if you’re using Homestead’s SiteBuilder program, all updates will be carried out automatically for you.

Renew Your Domain

This should go without saying, however, some small business owners have been known to let their website domains lapse. This means that, because you no longer own your URL, visitors may not be able to access your site at all.

Getting your domain back can be both difficult and costly. The best way to ensure that you own your domain is to set it up to auto-renew on a regular basis. You can also purchase your domain for two or more years at a time, which can prevent costly lapses in your website’s uptime.

Lastly, you should be sure to read any emails you receive regarding your domain in case your credit card has expired or your billing address has changed, making auto-renewal impossible. These are simple steps to follow, yet they’re ones that small business owners sometimes take for granted.

Having a blog can be a huge benefit to your small business. Many small business owners may realize that, while still failing to understand how to manage their blog presence on an ongoing basis. These steps are simple ways to manage your blog without making it overwhelming. With the right knowledge and routine, blogging for your business can be a simple way to showcase your knowledge and drive traffic to your website. What small business owner wouldn’t want that?

Do you maintain a business blog? What are your biggest struggles with your small business blog

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 27, 2013


Anybody can write a blog post – yes, anybody – but writing a really good blog post is a little more difficult. The problem lies in understanding what makes a blog post so good that it will engage readers and bring them back time and again.

A good blog post has to be more than well written. Of course, well written blog posts are important, but what’s even more important is the content. A blog post has to be engaging, it has to be informative, it has to hold the reader’s attention, it has to make a difference and it has to call the reader to action.

The following seven steps should help you to write the types of effective blog posts that will allow your online presence to soar:

Step #1 – Understand your persona

Creating and developing the right persona is one of the most important aspects of running a successful blog. It is important that you appeal not only to the readers who are likely to buy your product or services, but also those people who may never buy from you, but will continue reading your blog and sharing its content with the rest of the world.

Remember, news of interesting, popular and worthwhile blogs can travel faster than the speed of light. The more readers you attract to your blog, the better your chances will be of having it become a success.

Step #2 – Be an expert

As you cultivate your persona, be aware that your readers must know and trust you as an expert in your field. Once you’re recognized as being an expert, readers will actively seek out your blog for advice and as a reliable source of useful information.

There are a few ways you can go about doing this… First, make sure that every blog post on your site is unique and written with transparent authenticity. Also, be sure to regularly update your blog with useful information. You don’t have to post something new every day, but you should be consistent with your schedule.

Don’t patronize your readers, but – at the same time – don’t expect that they have extensive technical knowledge about your industry. Some of the best blogs out there are those that educate readers on how to do something successfully. When readers feel that they’ve learned something useful, they’re more likely to return in the future.

Step #3 – Be clear and concise

Make sure that you get your message across to your readers in the clearest and most enjoyable way possible. Sometimes, a short, punchy sentence is all that’s required to grab attention and make an impression.

Some people will preach the rule that a blog post or website article must be 500 words – not too long to be boring, but long enough to be factual. That might work for some website articles, but when writing a blog, you need to tear up that particular rule!

Some of the most effective blog posts consist of a single, well thought out sentence – others may need 1,000 (or even 2,000) words to really convey your message. The rule is – there is no rule, just so long as your post is clear, enjoyable and gets the right message across to your readers.

Step #4 – Have fun with multimedia

Pictures are worth a thousand words – isn’t that the truth! This is especially the case with blog posts, where an embedded video, uploaded photograph or illustrated graph can go a long way towards helping make your blog posts more effective.

Images are a great addition to any blog post. Not only do they help to break up the text, but they can also help to get your point across in a very clear way. Remember, there’s nothing more disconcerting for a reader than to click on a blog post and see a screen full of words, words and more words!


29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Step #5 – Encourage interaction

Create interaction with your readers by asking for their opinion. People love to share their insight, so let them get involved in your blog. The more people that feel that they’re a part of your blog; the more they are likely to stick around.

To do this, be sure that your blog includes a space for comments after each blog post. If comments are left, take the time to respond to any messages that are posted. Your readers need to know that you’re a real person, with a real business, in the real world. Like so many other things in life, blogging is all about building relationships!

Step #6 – Use examples

Bring real life examples to your blog. If you’re trying to explain something complicated, simplify it with case studies and stories from product or service users. Don’t just tell your readers what something does – give them examples of what your products and services can do, and how they’ve helped others in the past.

To see just how effective this can be, take a look at the following “real world” example shared in our recent “Creative Ways to Use Your Website to Drive Your Business” post:

Step #7 – Check your tone

Make sure that your marketing content has the right type of tone. You may need to experiment before you know that you’ve got this part of it right. Writing a blog post should come from the heart. In fact, don’t even think of it as writing – think of it as talking about something you’re passionate about.

Writing your posts as you’d say them out loud is a great tip. When you’re thinking about the tone of your blog posts, think about your sentence structure, your choice of words, your use of punctuation and the format of your content. Letting your personality shine through makes your readers feel like they really know you – and if they feel like they know you, they’re more likely to trust you.

If all of this sounds complicated, don’t worry! Even the best, most experienced bloggers don’t get it right all the time. On occasion, you may think that you’ve written a killer blog post that’ll go viral in minutes – only to see it barely whimper before it disappears. At other times, you can blast out a short, off-the-cuff blog post that takes very little time or effort but goes on to be an immediate success.

What is important, though, is that you stick to a regular blog publishing calendar. With time and practice, you’ll eventually learn how to best connect with your audience in a way that results in both sales and business growth.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 25, 2013


In today’s online-centric business world, you’ve no doubt heard how important it is to run a business blog. Blogging is a great tactic to bring traffic to your website, as it helps prospective clients find your site and gives existing customers a reason to return again and again. Additionally, it positions you as an expert in your field and lets the whole world see that you’re at the top of your game.

So, with all that in mind, you’ve made the leap and created your own business blog. Now, the trick is to get people talking about the great content you’re creating. Here are seven smart ways to get people talking about your blog:

Use Attention Grabbing Post Titles

One of the biggest challenges for any writer is getting people to actually click through to read the content. As a result, one of the most important things you can do is to write headlines that grab people’s attention.

After you’ve written and proofread your post, take the time to carefully craft your post title so that it’s interesting and accessible. People are much more likely to read a post titled “5 Easy Tips for Creating a Raised Garden” than they are “Raise Your Garden.” In this case, the first title is more informative, explains what information the post will provide, and makes it seem as though its advice will be easy to follow. The second, while pithy, is less likely to drive traffic to a post about creating a raised garden, as readers won’t be sure what to expect.

Create an Email Feed

Although some readers will check your site religiously, others won’t remember to check back to see if there’s new content on your blog. Creating an email feed allows these consumers to sign up to receive an email every time you publish a new post. While it may sound complicated, creating an email feed takes only a few minutes and can be done through a variety of tools including Feedburner, Feedblitz and others.

Freshen Up Your Email Signature

Your email signature provides customers with a number of important things, including your name, email address and phone number. However, adding your blog address can encourage anyone with whom you communicate to follow your blog as well. It’s also wise to include any social media profiles you have in your email signature to increase traffic to these properties as well.

One great way to make sure your email signature is professional is to use Wisestamp. This tool allows you to craft an email signature that lets people easily find your blog and follow you on any social media platforms you’ve chosen to include. Wisestamp can also be installed so that your signature appears on all your email accounts. This way, whether you’re sending professional or personal correspondence from a number of different email accounts, your recipient will always know how to keep up with your business blog.

Update Your Print Signage

While your blog is online, you likely also have a number of print items that you use to promote your business. This may include business cards, direct mail postcards, advertisements, flyers and more. All of these items should include information on where to find your blog. This lets your blog showcase your expertise – even if you aren’t face to face with your audience.

Many businesses have not yet jumped into the online world, so customers won’t know that they can find you there if you don’t tell them. Using your print signage to share your blog URL helps your customers to know that you’re online – even if they first come into contact with you through a printed piece.

While some customers are most comfortable calling you directly with questions, others will be more comfortable learning more about your company online before they take the leap and place an order. Make sure your printed pieces give them every option to contact you, so that your customers can interact with you in the way that they’re most comfortable.

Invite Your Friends and Family

Your friends and family can often be some of your most loyal brand advocates. However, many business owners are nervous about inviting their friends and family to read their blogs. Get over it! Establishing a base of followers at the start of your blog’s tenure can help you create some buzz, as well as get some positive feedback early on. Both of these things can be extremely helpful for new bloggers – and your friends and family can help you achieve these goals if you simply let them know you’ve started a business blog.

Reach Out to Existing Customers

Most businesses manage contact lists of their existing customers for a variety of reasons. Sending them an email letting them know you’ve begun a blog ensures that they’re aware of the fantastic content and helpful tips you’ll be posting regularly. This can happen through a one-off email or as part of a regularly scheduled newsletter. You can even offer a discount to new blog followers in order to encourage your existing client base to begin reading your words of wisdom.

Leverage Social Media

Social media often goes hand in hand with blogging. Wherever you have a presence online, you should post a link to your latest blog article. For example, if you have a Facebook business fan page, your blog posts should be featured there.

Social media can be a huge traffic driver when properly leveraged. While social media should be about engaging your audience and not simply used for self-promotion, it’s also a good idea to help your blog get some traction through your social platforms. This is also helpful, as Google places additional emphasis on posts that are shared widely on social media. This means that social media can help your blog rank more highly in the search engine results.

Promoting your business blog can seem like a daunting task when you first start out. However, many of the steps to creating additional buzz about your blog can be fairly simple. Making sure that your blog is easy to find – both for existing and prospective customers – is the most important thing you can do in order to create buzz for your blog. Using these seven easy steps can help potential customers to find the great content you’re creating and pass it along to others in their networks.

Are you using any of these tactics? What do you find is the most important thing you can do to get people talking about your blog?

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 21, 2013


According to recent research, US consumers spent more than $186 million online in 2010 - a significant increase from the $50 million spent online in 2004.  In addition, it's estimated that consumers visit an average of four separate websites before making any online purchase decisions.

It's easy to see how online shopping trends are changing the way products and services are sold in the United States.  To learn more about these trends - as well as how they might affect your online business - check out Homestead's "Spending Habits of the Modern Consumer" infographic:

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 18, 2013


Having a website is a great way to establish yourself online. But once you’re up and running, you’ll likely find a number of situations where you want to learn more about your customers. Whether you’re looking to do some market research or planning to ask customers to help grow your product line, surveys can be a great way to get feedback directly from your audience.

What Types of Information Can Online Surveys Generate?

Although customer surveys can be a powerful sales and marketing resource, many businesses balk at the idea of creating these valuable tools. Unfortunately, this limiting mindset means that they’re missing out on gathering all of the following types of information:

  • Ideas for future product line additions or extensions
  • Data on which potential promotions will perform best with existing audience members
  • Demographic data that can be used to shape advertising budgets
  • Mindset insight that gives businesses a better understanding of its customers

Best of all, capturing all of this data and more can be done quickly and easily using online survey programs…

Why You Should Use Online Survey Programs

If you’re ready to start using online surveys on your website, don’t start from scratch! Online survey programs offer all of the following advantages when it comes to customer data generation:

  1. Ease of Use – Pre-built survey programs offer an easy-to-use way to generate customer feedback. Without having to build the technology from scratch, you can easily put together a number of surveys using free programs like SurveyMonkey. These surveys can include several different question types, from multiple choice, to true or false, to stack ranking.
  2. Built-In Analytics – Online survey tools often offer analytics as well. This means that you don’t need to create a method for tracking responses on your own. Instead, online survey tools automatically track responses and allow you to quickly put together reports. This way, you can analyze your data and create professional-looking reports to distribute to your team.
  3. Email Invitations and Reminders – When crafting a survey, it’s important to remember that most online survey programs include email tools. This allows you to send an invitation to complete the survey directly to your customers, increasing the likelihood that you’ll get responses. You can also schedule reminders to prompt people to complete the survey or pre-load thank you notes to be sent to all those who participated when the survey is over. This is a much better alternative than the old days of cold calling people to complete a survey!
  4. Ability to Target or Do A/B Testing – In some cases, you may want to get the opinion of several different groups when crafting a single survey. Online survey programs allow you to easily create multiple versions of your survey. This way, you can target the right groups with every survey you release. You can also use this feature to do the A/B testing that will allow you to better understand your results.

How You Can Run Online Surveys

If you’ve decided to gather customer feedback, but aren’t sure how to manage a survey on your own, you’ll likely want to look into some existing tools to help you do so. The following two web survey tools lay the foundation of great survey generation for you:

SurveyMonkey offers both a free and paid version of its survey tool. The free version is great for small, informal surveys – allowing you to gather responses from up to 100 people. This is often used by students, for internal surveys or for small businesses first venturing into surveys. The paid version offers much more functionality, including the ability to customize surveys, skip questions and download survey reports. However, the look and feel of SurveyMonkey surveys may not be as polished as some businesses desire.

SurveyGizmo falls in the mid-range, as far as prices for survey tools go. This program allows you to customize the look and feel of your survey, and you can also embed videos and images hosted on your own website through this tool. Perhaps most importantly, SurveyGizmo offers easy integration with the MailChimp newsletter tool. This drastically increases its ease of use if you’re already a MailChimp customer.

Tips for Running Online Surveys

Before you even think about sending your surveys out to your customers, design your surveys keeping the following principles in mind to increase your likelihood of receiving responses:

  1. Keep Surveys Short – As you may have experienced yourself when people call to ask you to complete a survey, it can be frustrating to sit and answer questions for any length of time. Make sure your surveys reflect only the most important questions you currently have. Surveys should take the customer roughly five minutes to complete. Any more than that and you run the risk of the quality of the answers declining over time. You also run the risk that you customers won’t answer your survey at all – letting all of your hard work go to waste.
  2. Offer Incentives – Often, customers don’t want to take the time to complete your survey. Not only is this a good reason to keep your surveys short – it’s also why you may want to consider offering an incentive for those customers who do complete your questionnaire. Depending on how badly you want the customer’s feedback, this can range from a discount on future goods and services to raffling off an iPad to one lucky winner. Incentives do not sway customers’ opinions, but they do prompt them to offer them to you in the first place.
  3. Do Not Use Leading Questions – It’s fairly easy to find yourself writing survey questions that show your own bias. For instance, if you hate chocolate ice cream you may find yourself writing questions like “Does anyone even like chocolate ice cream?” By showing your own bias, you’re giving the customers subliminal cues as to what you think they should answer. Instead, try to keep questions as neutral as possible so that you can get your customers’ opinions – rather than your own reflected back to you.
  4. Have a Clear Call to Action – When you’d like customers to respond to your survey, it’s important that you make your calls to action very clear. Since surveys typically only last for a few days or weeks, you want customers to take action as soon as they see the survey. Your copy should be concise and explain exactly what you want the customer to do, as well as how they’ll qualify for the incentive you’re offering.

Surveys can be a great way to garner feedback from customers about your website, products and services, helping you to better understand what your customers are thinking. With a few easy steps, online surveys provide great data with little risk – so get started with your first questionnaire today!

Do you use customer surveys? What are some tips and tricks you use when crafting a survey?

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 10, 2013


Simply building a website isn’t enough. If you want to take advantage of the power of the web to drive results for your business, you’ve got to be creative about turning your website into your industry’s “go to” online destination!

Think of the difference between a basic website and an engaging web property as being similar to the distinction between a billboard and a thriving party.

A billboard is simple and static – it offers basic information to viewers, but little else. People look at a billboard once and then immediately forget about the content it contains as they speed past. On the other hand, parties are fun. People want to be at parties, and they’ll go out of their way to spend time with their friends in enjoyable situations.

You want your website to be like that party. You want people coming back to your website again and again – even telling their friends about the great experience they had on your site. But you can’t develop this type of atmosphere if you never move beyond your static website.

The following are a few ways you can take your website to the next level in order to drive real world sales results:

Idea #1 – Share user-generated content

One easy way to get visitors more involved in your website is to give them a hand in creating your site’s content. As an example, you could:

  • Share guest blog articles from members of your community
  • Install plugins that allow customers to leave reviews on your product pages
  • Post customer images of your company’s products in action
  • Allow customers to record video reviews of your company’s products
  • Create a forum for your readers to connect with each other

All of the examples above are types of user-generated content. When you publish this type of information to your website, you’ll deepen the connection you have with your audience members, as they can actively see their contributions being valued. Over time, these connections develop into increased brand loyalty and increased sales.

Idea #2 – Post video tutorials

Depending on the products or services your company sells, your customers may have questions about how your offerings will fit into their lives. As an example, if you run a local auto detailing shop, potential customers might have questions about what exactly you do or how detailing services could fit into their lives.

Your website gives you an easy opportunity to address these questions head on in the form of video tutorials. To create your own video clips, start by brainstorming the questions your customers might have (or, for even better results, ask them using a customer survey). Once you have a few questions put together, visualize the best way to answer them – whether it’s a product demonstration, a screen cast video or a face-to-face interview with a camera.

Create your video clips, upload them to Youtube and them embed them on your website. Not only will this increase your visitors’ confidence in your ability to deliver the products and services you promise, it’ll also boost your sales by setting your website apart from others in the minds of your potential customers.

Idea #3 – Run contests

If you want people to hightail it to your website, just give them the chance to win something free!

Website contests can take a number of different forms. For example, you could create a giveaway drawing in which audience members earn contest entries by sharing a specific message on their social profiles or by sending in pictures of themselves using your company’s products for use on your website. Alternatively, you could put together an online crossword or word search puzzle for which every successful completion earns the visitor a small prize.

No matter what type of contest you decide to hold, be sure that it’s run in accordance with any gambling laws that apply to your geographic area. The last thing you want is to disappoint customers who have entered your contest, only to have it shut down by the authorities!

Idea #4 – Give visitors the inside scoop

Deep down, all of us want to have a connection with the people we do business with. We’ll go out of our way to return to shops and businesses that treat us well – even if we know that a company that’s closer offers the same products or services at a cheaper cost.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to form these connections with your online audience, as the bits and bytes of the digital experience prevent the face-to-face interactions that lead to customer loyalty. However, you can mitigate this effect to some extent by sharing information on the inner workings of your office. For example, you could:

  • Add plenty of pictures to your website’s “About Us” page
  • Create blog posts that feature images of your business and its employees
  • Write news updates that cover changes and events within your company from the perspective of your employees

Try to have some fun with this idea! By showcasing your unique culture using these digital tools, you’ll find that your website is able to drive many of the same results as your brick and mortar location.

Idea #5 – Tie web activities to offline engagement

To bring your website and your offline location into an even closer connection, use strategies that are designed to get your web visitors away from their computers and into your store.

As an example, take Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant in Madison, WI. Every Monday, the restaurant posts two names to its website – one female first name and one male first name. Any customers whose names match those posted to the website can come in to the restaurant to claim a free lunch or dinner worth up to $10, as long as they mention the promotion to their servers.

The result? Plenty of area residents check the website every Monday to see if their names have been chosen. Not only does this bring in customers who will likely purchase drinks in addition to their free entrees, it brings in others whose names aren’t chosen but who decide that they’re in the mood for Mexican anyways.

It’s simple ideas like these that can bring your website and your offline business together in order to improve the results you experience on both. So get creative! By testing out a few fun ways to use your website to increase both customer loyalty and sales, you’ll ultimately see measurable improvements in your overall business growth.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 6, 2013


There’s no doubt about it – the web is a crowded place. With thousands of new websites springing up every day, your site runs the very real risk of being lost in the shuffle amongst all these competitors.

So how can you make your website stand out against others in your industry? Start by asking yourself the following questions…

Does my website have a unique visual brand?

Your site’s “visual brand” refers to all the different graphical elements used on your website, including your primary colors (both your background color and any other tones used in your site’s design elements), your logo, your images and the type face you’ve chosen.

As an example, think about the Coca Cola website. Whether or not you like the company’s products, you can’t deny that the distinctive red color and white script font used on its website give it an immediately recognizable visual brand.

Obviously, Coca Cola’s familiar branding come from decades of experimentation and market research. But even if your company’s brand isn’t quite as established, you can begin to create a similarly memorable look by choosing the right colors for your website (in accordance with the principles of color psychology) and carrying your chosen visual elements through to every part of your marketing strategy.

Does my website design convey my company’s personality?

If you run an established, traditional law firm, your company’s website shouldn’t be bursting with bright pinks and purples. At the same time, if you’re a young startup, staid burgundies and forest greens won’t tell potential customers that you’re a hip, “with it” organization.

As you’re designing your new website, keep your company’s personality in mind and allow this vision to flow through to every design element you choose. Then, check back periodically after your site has been launched to determine whether or not your design aesthetic still suits your company’s brand. Branding initiatives and priorities change, which is why regular updates that bring your website’s design into alignment with your company’s personality are so important.

Is my website too similar to my competitors?

When it comes to attracting and retaining a website audience, visual distinctiveness is huge. The last thing you want is for your viewers to have an image of your site in their minds, but then find that they are unable to distinguish between your site and your competitors.

This can become especially challenging when industry design standard are relatively set. Imagine that you run the conservative law firm mentioned earlier and that you’ve chosen a design that relies heavily on the burgundy color featured on many other sites within your industry. If a potential customer is trying to remember your website, how will he be able to differentiate your site from any competitor pages that utilize the same color scheme?

The key – again – becomes good branding. While your colors and design elements play a major role in this process, they aren’t the only things at work when it comes to making your website stand out from the crowd. By featuring unique content, engaging multimedia files, logos and other branded features, you can retain a sense of individuality while still taking advantage of established design principles.

Does my website rely too heavily on templates or stock imagery?

Don’t get me wrong – we here at Homestead are huge fans of website design templates. They’re a quick and easy way to put together a professional-looking site without all the hassle of learning HTML or Javascript.

But that said, they should really be used as more of a jumping-off point. How can you expect your website to stand out in a crowd if you’re using the same exact template that hundreds of others have used before you?

The secret to using templates – or stock imagery, for that matter – is to make these items your own. Spice up your Homestead SiteBuilder template by adding an image-based logo or by tweaking its color scheme to suit your needs. Modify any stock imagery you download or purchase by cropping the images, modifying their color palettes or adding descriptive text.

If, at first, you only have the time to add your business’s information to a stock template, that’s fine. Start there, but commit yourself to setting aside time in the future to modify your website’s theme to create something that’s more uniquely yours.

Has my site been built for me or for my audience members?

Finally, when it comes to differentiating your site from its competitors, remember that visual appeal is only part of what makes a site successful. If you want to make your site memorable, make it easy for your target audience to use!

Once you’ve added your information to your website’s template, step away from your computer for a few hours and come back once you’ve had a chance to clear your mind. Now, look at your website from the perspective of one of your audience members. Is your site visually appealing? Is it easy to use? Is the content that you’d want to see as a site visitor easily accessible?

There are hundreds of thousands of poorly-designed websites online today and it’s likely true that all of these sites could be performing better if they paid more attention to their user experiences. Website visitors don’t like to go back to sites that frustrate them, giving your pages the opportunity to stand out by providing an enjoyable, informative on-site experience.

If you take any one thing from this article make it this: it’s not enough to simply have a live website. By taking the time to ensure that your site is visually appealing, distinct from your competition and easy for your visitors to use, you’ll dramatically increase your odds of standing out from the crowds and reaping the business benefits that come along with a well-designed company website.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on June 4, 2013


What do IBM, Amazon and McAfee have in common?  They're all brands that have improved profitability and minimized support costs by investing in their website UX.

UX stands for "user experience" and it's a vital term to know if you want your own site to be successful.  For more on this concept and how it can be applied to your business website, take a look at the following "UX 101: What is User Experience?" infographic:

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