Web Processing Series – Part Three: Launch, Optimization, & Training

Web Processing Series - Part 3: Launch, Optimization, & Training

Pre-Launch SEO

Deployment

  • Hosting
  • Training

30-day optimization

Support and Hosting

  • Maintenance
    • Updates
    • Fixes

Ongoing partnership opportunities

Launching Your Website

Once your site is launched, CMG will continue to apply enhancements to meet any business changes and improve your website. Your CMG representative will continue to communicate with you regarding ongoing strategy and optimization. Within the 30-day optimization window post-launch, CMG provides detailed support when needed, and uses that time to further optimize your site. Any questions you might have will quickly be attended to by your representative.

A new website design is a strong investment for your business and your story. CMG proudly partners with businesses in many industries, and we look forward to interviewing with you to take your online presence to the next level and beyond. Contact us today to get started!

Web Processing Series – Part Two: Design & Development

Web Processing Blog Series - Part 2: Design & Development

Content Creation

  • SEO strategy
  • Sitemap
  • Website design strategy
  • Framework

Design

  • Creative direction
  • Branding (if applicable)
  • Moodboards
  • Website page design (either mockups or in development)

Development

  • Code
  • CMS
  • Content added

Website Design Kick-Off

Now that we’re underway with the assets and website expectations, a CMG internal kick-off meeting provides our team with the huddle needed to launch into the content creation, design, and development phases. What’s so invaluable about this part of the design process is for the meeting of the minds and known variables to come together, as well as any additional brainstorming that could spark.

CMG carefully selects each team for a web design project, so when it comes to kick-off, the project already feels well into production, and the seamless transition from one phase to the next naturally occurs. In each kick-off team, you can expect us to discuss design direction and inspiration, sitemaps and calls to action, internal and client expectations, and timelines.

Discussion of market competition, successful metrics, and more also are discussed at kick-off. We’re not in the business to destroy others, but we succeed in the business because we create a product that achieves greater results.

Content Creation

Web content strategy is just as important to the website design as the design process itself. At this point, your CMG content strategist will have been immersed in your brand and business marketing strategy and will be able to craft a message designed toward leads and conversions. Website content is a vehicle created to promote your brand and entice users to act, whether that be to purchase a product on your e-commerce site (conversion) or to call or fill out a contact form (conversion and/or lead).

While written content doesn’t always dictate the overall design of your website, it has a heavy influence on the design direction. You’ve probably heard that content is king, which rings true in SEO, so we work hard to achieve your brand’s reach in the market. We do this by telling your story and answering any question your potential customers might have. That way, you’ve provided them with informed decisions, and they come knocking, digitally or physically.

Here’s a boring list of the amazing things that go into content creation:

  • Competitor research
  • Content review and research
  • Keywords and phrases research
  • User and market research
  • Sitemap creation
  • Editing existing content to maximize its potential
  • Website outline
  • Writing new content based on analytics and goals
  • Content writing for calls to action and conversions

It’s okay to admit the weaknesses of your existing website. It’s also great to know the strengths. We’ll be there guiding and assisting you in every step, so any weaknesses can be turned into strengths. Let’s find what can be done better, and we’ll work that into your site’s design.

Website Design

As you can tell by now, it takes a lot more than just signing a contract and getting a site built in a couple of days. At CMG, we want your design to do the talking for you when you’re unavailable to sell. And when your site is operating as your storefront or point of contact, we aim to maximize those opportunities using the strategy and energy needed to reach your ideal customers. Our expertise is applied and communicated to you in every step of the process.

When it comes to the design phase of the website design project, our web designer takes the content written by our content strategists, the design assets provided as well as the branding, the design direction discussed, and the goals of the project, and works to build a strategic website design in congruence with the team’s research and strategy up until this point. Because the magic happened way back in the discovery phase and with your business marketing goals, our designer has been well-equipped to hit that ball out of the park.

Design Direction

Creative direction is not only given to our web designer, but is also expected of our web designer. CMG has been building a team for you before they even were part of CMG, because our confidence in our team is second to none. We’re so confident in that because of our dedication to communication with you all along the way.

Your Website's Design: Getting the Goodies

The first set of deliverables you can expect to see in your website design can be either flat mockups or actual interactive designs (preview site), depending on the scope and size of the project. These visual design drafts represent the user interface (UI) of your website, and you can expect your CMG web team to demo the site to you upon delivery (in person or via video conferencing).

Upon review of the initial website design, you’ll take note of how our designer crafted your vision, message, and goals into the visual user experience (UX). The following are common parts of a website’s design:

  • Visual branding and brand colors
  • Complementary typography
  • Easily accessible navigation
  • Phone number and address
  • Calls to action
    • Buttons
    • Content for lead gens
    • Various hyperlinks
  • Contact forms
  • Whitespace
  • Images (large images are common)
  • Headlines
  • Mobile menu options
  • Responsive layouts

User Experience (UX)

The UX represents a user’s overall experience of your website. When you receive the first draft of the website, you’ll want to give it a thorough critique, from your perspective and the perspective of your users. How did the designer capture your story? Where do you see your users taking action? How does the flow of the visual experience on each page sell your brand? Was there anything missed that can be added to enhance the user experience?

A good design will lead users naturally from start to finish, from page to page, etc. CMG’s expertise in UX design speaks for itself, but that doesn’t mean we will always deliver exactly your vision for your users, so it’s crucial that we collaborate from the first draft through to launch day.

Design Approval

CMG website design most likely takes multiple rounds to reach the final draft, but it’s always possible that you reach design approval early in the design process. Design approval simply means that you agree that you approve of the designs created for your website. For large scale websites, design approval can occur before all content is placed within the framework of your preview site, as it’s expected that some pages of the site will follow a template created within the design rounds.

Per the design phases and our contract with you, there is room for revisions and changes between each round. You can expect to see these changes at the start of each round, which you can then review and provide additional feedback. Once you’ve approved of your website’s design, it moves into development, which is exciting in its own way!

Your Website Design and the Development Phase

The last person to perform magic on your website design is our web developer. The web developer’s job is to make the web design user experience functional and enjoyable, so users can fully interact with the various working parts of your website. Our web developer will set up the content management system (CMS — most often WordPress), work in the code, and build the site per the design.

In the end, you’ll have a site made up of HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, blah, blah, and it’ll be splendid! At CMG, we regularly maintain our sites for best practices, up-to-date software, performance, and more. If we’ve agreed on ongoing partnership, our development team will continue to provide support and maintenance to ensure your online presence stays strong.

Web Processing Series- Part One: Contract & Preparation

Web Processing Blog Series - Part 1: Contract & Preparation

Pre-contract

  • Site goals
  • Educating the client, educated by the client
  • Defining scope
  • Providing website timelines and phases
  • Gathering and creating

Discovery Phase

  • Assets (photos, logos, etc.)
  • Sitemap
  • Content received

Kick-off

  • Internal meeting
  • Design approach
  • Client and internal expectations
  • Timelines

Creating a Successful Website Design

In order to create a successful website design, Columbia Marketing Group focuses on the following core elements:

  • Aesthetics
  • Client goals
  • Usability
  • Conversion opportunities
  • Partnership

CMG believes that, in order to achieve success, a respectful partnership with you is not desired, but required. Without our ongoing collaboration and understanding, your website design will look beautiful and propel your business, but it might not meet your goals or performance standards. We don’t sign a contract with you so we can take over your business’s website design; instead, we sign a contract to help you grow your business.

Preparing for a Successful Website Design

Prior to designing your business website, CMG learns your story. What does your product or service deliver to your customers and clients? How does your business benefit the community? How does the community benefit your business? What are your short and long term marketing goals? Tell us about your customers. Provide information about customers and clients you want calling you and entering your doors. Tell us about you and your team.

Through telling your story and entrusting CMG with your goals, we discover the areas your brand can have its greatest impact, which will maximize your market reach and potential. Our greatest partnerships in website design and development come from ongoing, authentic relationships.

Prior to Contract

Are we the right fit for you? Are you the right fit for us? Let’s discuss!

The following list describes our sales process needs and expectations prior to signing a contract with you to create your website:

  • Your website’s goals
  • We learn from you, and you learn from us (more on that later)
  • Explanation of our approach and what you can expect from us
  • Definition of project scope
  • Budgets
  • Website timeline estimates and phases
  • Gathering any pertinent information and discussion of content strategy
  • Confirming what your needs are regarding the new website
  • What to expect post-launch

Signing a Website Design Contract and The Discovery Phase

CMG provides all of our clients with a thorough, detailed contract, with both CMG and client expectations laid out ahead of project kickoff. We take communication and collaboration very seriously because the greatest website success comes from engaged parties on both sides. We want you to achieve success, and because you are passionate about your business and growth, we know signing that contract is a way to share your enthusiasm. Let’s get excited!

In the discovery phase, you can expect a heavy amount of asset and content gathering. The more you have, the more we have about you. Tell us your favorite success stories — it’s even better if you have testimonials from your customers. Send us your logo and its variations. Any favorite photos, fonts, and content you have to share? Let’s see it all. Remember, this is your story; we’re wanting to tell it authentically and in a thorough, engaging way.

Brownie Points for Analytics!

If you have an existing website, and you’ve had analytics tracking installed on your site, we’d love to chat! It’s kind of a cheat sheet to your users’ preferences on your current site, and it can provide us with an idea of how they have been navigating through the content of your site prior to the redesign. It might not provide us with the direction of your website redesign, but it will most certainly give us confidence in driving toward your online goals.

Consistent Communication is Key

You’ll hear us say this a lot, but that’s only because we know how important it is to have consistent communication throughout the website design process. It ensures that, as a team, we meet and maintain expectations. You’re the main visionary, and while CMG prides ourselves on execution, we know that your presence in it leads to your success and growth.

If there are any changes to the goals initially set, we will append the initial plan for you and gain your approval prior to launching into the new success-driven direction.

The point of all the communication stuff is simple: we’re genuinely interested in you and your business, and your success is our goal. It gets us all tingly!

How Do You Know When Your Website Needs Refresh

If you want your company to bring in the big bucks, you need a website that is accessible, functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. Your website is the backbone of your business; it’s time to start treating it that way. Here are six reasons why your website needs a refresh now more than ever:

Your website is your revenue center and not a cost center. 

Your website is your 24-hour storefront which is essentially the source of your revenue and profit. You wouldn’t let the front of your business look dated, so why would you neglect your website? Especially in this day and age, your website might arguably see more of your prospects than your store.

A good website is the first step in making a good impression.

Prospective clients will make their first point of contact with your business through your website if they’ve found you through a Google search or a link referral. It communicates who you are, what you do, and who you will help your customers become. Therefore, you need to make the best first impression so you can attract quality leads and jump-start the process of funneling in a return on your investment. 

A well-designed website is your primary profit center.

If you’re not getting inbound leads that are converting to sales for you, you’re doing it wrong.  But, as you may already have experienced, a gorgeous website may not be attracting leads, the “right leads”, or leads at all. If your website is difficult to navigate or if your content takes too long to load, you lose customer engagement. In today’s digital universe, engagement = money. 

Brand awareness and equity is everything.

Your website is the first touchpoint which gives a brand promise to the customer in terms of quality and other essential product features. If you have a bright, well-maintained site that has a great user experience, customers will assume you give the same time and attention to your clients, products and services. If your web experience is out of date and drab… well… you know. 

Accessibility and Ease of Use — We live in a world where everything can be accessed at our fingertips.

We can order dinner, buy a new pair of shoes, make reservations, and more — all from our smartphones. With that being said, your website must be responsive across all devices. All other marketing channels should be sending your prospects to your site for more information and to follow your call to action. If you aren’t doing this, none of your marketing is as effective as it can be. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a refresh: 

  1. When was the last time I updated my site? Is the content, language, or design outdated?
  2. Is my mission/product/service/brand clearly communicated? 
  3. Do my buttons and links take me to the correct locations? 
  4. Am I encouraging my customers to take action? Is my call to action easily accessible and achievable? 
  5. Is my media slow to load? The longer your photos or videos take to load on a page the quicker the viewer is to abandon ship
  6. Is my website well organized? If your customers can’t find what they’re looking for within a couple of seconds, they’re likely to get frustrated and leave your site

Sometimes all you need is a little help, and that’s where CMG comes in! We provide 360 degree digital transformation, right from website creation, website refresh, assessment and search engine optimization to digital advertising. We will get you where you need to be in the digital transformation journey.

Are you wondering how your website stacks up against the competition? Our team will perform a free audit of your website to help you determine what updates may be needed. We’ve seen it all and can help you do it all. Hit us up today!

Get My Free Site Audit!

5 Things You’d Never Think of that Mess Up Your Website Data

I love digital marketing in part because it is so trackable.  But incorrect data can lead to uninformed decisions, bad choices, and lost revenue. Here are five common but rarely considered scenarios that could cause an irreversible period of inaccuracy in your website data.

1. You move content or change your URLs.

Like being able to do year-over-year comparisons? This becomes a manual process if you move content or restructure URLs in anyway. Give it some thought before changing your URLs or moving content. (And if you do: implement seo-friendly 301 redirects. WordPress site? You can implement 301s with a plugin.)

2. A change is made that breaks your internal/external filter.

Say you work for a large organization with hundreds or thousands of employees. You may want to filter internal visitors or create separate profiles to view external (customer) and internal (employee) data separately.

If your organization gets a new internet service provider or makes a similar change that affects internal IP addresses, then all internal traffic will suddenly be tracked as external, giving you a false spike in customer data.

Clean website data requires a good relationship with your IT department. Make sure to get a heads up before a major changes happen.

3. Google Analytics is tracking lower and uppercase versions of your URLs separately.

Website URLs are not case sensitive; users can type in mydomain.com/about or mydomain.com/About and arrive at the same web page.

But, without a lowercase filter, you can wind up with traffic to the same page tracked separately. This makes it hard to get accurate info on page paths, visit duration, bounce rate, and more.

Force Google Analytics to track all cases together by applying a lowercase filter on the request URL field. Here’s how to do it (see #3).

4. You launch a new site or a redesign, but forget to implement tracking code from Day One.

Want to track your heavily promoted site launch? Get your GA code in place! Don’t forget! WordPress site? Here’s a beginner’s tutorial for installing Google Analytics.

5. Tracking code is incorrectly placed.

Some developers place Google Analytics tracking at the very end of body content to help the page load more quickly – which is a misconception. Google Analytics tracking doesn’t affect page load speed. GA code should go just before the closing head tag. WordPress site? Place it in your header.php file.

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Problems with Google Analytics code can mess up long-term comparisons forever. It’s important to get it right from the beginning! Contact us today for a consultation or for more info – we’re happy to help.

Tips for Running Online Contests

With our three publications under one roof, we strive to give our readers quality content they’re interested in. In fact, we love our dedicated readers so much, we like to do special things for them whether it’s throwing a party (hello, free food and adult beverages!) or giving away awesome prizes. It’s a win-win situation for everyone – we get to make our readers happy, local businesses get promoted and a few lucky people get free stuff!

It’s nearly impossible to run a contest or promotion without doing it online. We’re so connected and on our devices anyway, why not enter your name or email for a prize, right? What do you have to lose?

Running contests online is a great way to increase your fan engagement and enthusiasm for your business. However, it requires a lot of initial planning so that the contest runs smoothly.

Here are a few steps for running a winning online contest:

1.HAVE A GOAL IN MIND

Running an online contest is a perfect opportunity to gather information that could benefit you. If you aren’t collecting information, you should be! What is the purpose of the contest? Are you trying to get newsletter subscriptions, expose certain products, gain Twitter followers or Facebook fans, or increase brand recognition? Knowing what your desired results are will help guide the planning process.

2. DECIDE WHAT THE PRIZE WILL BE

Does your prize encourage your demographic to enter? Nobody needs more cozies and branded clickable pens.

3. CHOOSE WHAT KIND OF PROMOTION YOU WANT TO HAVE

Our favorite platform to use for running any form of contest online is Woobox. It has the capability many types of promotions. When creating a contest, it’s important to know what kind of promotion you’re wanting to do. Check out all of the options here. We typically like to run sweepstakes for giving away prizes and polls for anything that involves voting.

4. MAKE A LANDING PAGE

Create a landing page to direct people to. This could be a Facebook app landing page, a post on your website, etc. The landing page should house all of the information about the contest – what it is, how to enter, the timeframe, and the rules.

5. BE CLEAR

Include Terms & Conditions outlining the contest rules. Include a privacy policy stating how entrant information will be used.

6. PROMOTE

No matter how great the giveaway, your content won’t promote itself. Consider using paid options on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to help spread the word.

 

NAP errors: a common problem for Mid-Missouri businesses

NAP – what the heck does that stand for?

In the world of web, NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. Over 50 online directories list business names, addresses, and phone numbers and affect what comes up when individuals search for businesses. Two of the most popular and important directories are Google My Business and Yelp.

NAP errors happen when inconsistent or incorrect name, address, or phone number information appears in these directory listings.

A Common Problem in Columbia and Jefferson City

We’ve found that NAP errors are extremely common in Mid-Missouri. Many Columbia and Jefferson City businesses experience 30%, 60%, or even 100% error rates.

Why worry about NAP errors?

Here are 4 reasons:

  • Today, 4 in 5 consumers search for local businesses online. Being found in local searches is critical to your success.
  • When consumers find incorrect information online, 73% lose trust in that business.
  • Incorrect information online causes small businesses to lose potential customers.

Fixing NAP Errors

How easy is it to fix NAP errors on your own? Not as easy as you’d think. It can be tricky to prove ownership and claim listings. The process is normally slow, laborious, and sometimes ineffective.

But, it can be done – just check with each directory to confirm the process for claiming and updating listings.

Here’s a list of the top 50 local directories.

Remember to keep an eye out – if listings aren’t claimed, they can be changed by competitors, and sometimes the directories change without permission if they detect new NAP information from another source.

A More Efficient and Effective Option

If you don’t have time to monitor 50 local directories on a monthly basis – then consider a power listing option. CMG offers a power listing service that due to unique integrations, can correct your NAP errors in one click.

In addition, you can add featured content (like special offers, photos, or menus) at any time. Small changes to directories each months helps boost your local search visibility.

And, as part of an overall reputation management offering, this system monitors online reviews and allows you to respond or share them with one click as well.

Interested in CMG’s power listing service? Contact us today or call Jamie: 573-480-1319.