Get Live, Make Your Website a Dynamic Online Tool!

live chatYour website is your most important online tool! Not to take away from social media and directory listings, but without your website, the other listings are rather pointless. Your website is like your online toolbox, within that toolbox is your content, social media links, contact information, reviews, maps. . . it’s total access to everything you are as a business and your online brand and authority! The biggest mistake most companies make is letting their website sit stagnant. BIG MISTAKE! Your website should be a dynamic tool, one that is constantly updated, new content, pictures and blog posts regarding your business, products, services, tools! This should all be constantly updated; otherwise, Google and Bing will disregard your website as worthy of a web crawl, and trust me, you want those web crawls! It should also be an active space where you can connect with potential clients through online chat and surveys. Here are a couple of tips to beef up your website and dynamic online presence.

Blogging

A great way to keep your website active and dynamic is by creating blog posts at least 2-3 times a month. Blogging is an excellent way to backlink to pages on your website and create some solid SEO. It also helps you craft your authority online and it keeps people interested in your website and what you have to say about your industry. Promote your blog posts through social media, by creating a post with a link to your blog page (copy and paste the URL of your blog post into a Facebook/Google+/Twitter post). This is a great way to drive traffic to your website while giving you a solid click through rate from your Social Media, and it also gives customers a chance to take a peek at some of your other web pages as well. Also, make sure your website has a post section or blog roll as well, keep it updated in addition to an off page blog site such as wordpress.com or blogger.

Embedding Posts

Embedding your Facebook posts into your website is another great way to keep things dynamic. It’s an easy thing to do and something Facebook and now Google+ implemented several months ago to help businesses highlight certain posts. After you have created your timeline post and posted it, in the upper right hand corner (Image A below) there is a small pull down arrow, click on this and a menu will popup, at the bottom (Image B below) of the menu you will see embed post, click on that and it will give you an html code (Image C below) that you can place in your website to highlight that particular post. If you are a novice at WordPress but know your way around the backend of your website, it’s worth just trying out. It is a great way to drive traffic to your social media brands as well and get interaction on them, likes, comments etc..all worthy forms of interaction and Google likes it! Note: you can also embed Pinterest posts and pictures as well.

Embed Post

Image A

Embed Post

Image B

Image C

Image C














Live Chat
http://www.livechatinc.com/

One of the newest and most inexpensive ways to promote your website and help potential clients immediately is by installing Live Chat. If you are using a WordPress driven website, LiveChat is simple to install (using a plugin) and easy to setup. Live chat not only gives you an enormous amount of inside demographic information on the people frequenting your site but also gives you the opportunity to solicit these individuals based on the pages they are looking at real time. And you would be surprised the amount of people that will use the chat option especially if they know it is live and will have their questions answered immediately without having to email or call. Actually, a recent surveyed showed that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer chat because 90% of consumers do their research online, so why not? My recommendation is LiveChat, they are pretty inexpensive, you are looking at around $80 for two operators, and if you get one client, patient, customer then it pays for the entire show! You don’t have to be techno savvy to appreciate or use these tools, but it will definitely help boost your traffic; the longer customers stays on your site the better your Google ranking. There are other live chat tools to use such as: ClickDesk Live Support http://wordpress.org/plugins/clickdesk-live-support-chat-plugin/but I really like LiveChat because it works beautifully with WordPress and it is easy to install and integrate! TECH TIP: send a post chat survey with a link to your social media and website. Live Chat allows you to customize this part of the post chat session and survey.

Product Reviews Widget

Creating a review option on any or all your web pages is also a helpful way to create more traffic on your website. Tell your customers to go to your website to write a review about a product or service you sell. If you are using WordPress there is an awesome plugin called WP Review http://www.gowebsolutions.com/wp-customer-reviews/ that works like a charm. It also gives you the opportunity to filter your reviews and creates some great Google Snippets online as well. For instance if you sell boxes online and someone writes a review about how awesome your boxes are, Google tags that as genuine unsolicited content, which in turn boosts your SEO and authority about that particular product online.

When it comes to your website and keeping yourself dynamic, it really takes little to no effort to make this happen. Businesses hire website maintenance managers all of the time to change and make updates to their website. Your website is a great way to keep your customers informed as to what is happening with your company, whether it’s new hours, new products, services, it doesn’t matter, it is your link to the outside world and the world’s link to you! People want to be connected to products and services they use and believe in and by keeping your customers up to date is an inexpensive way to keep them engaged and interested, otherwise you’ll just get buried by the 6 million other people trying to outdo you! So engage, be dynamic and keep things interesting!

Design Your Own Social Media Posts and Get Noticed!

Whether you like it or not, social media is pretty much here to stay and as far as I am concerned, you have two choices, get on the boat or swim! I chatter a lot about how we as businesses large or small should be using social media in our marketing strategies. Surveys, reviews, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Google Maps, Bing Local, Pinterest, Foursquare etc… You’ve heard it all before the value of being connected. Well what if I told you this is in fact just one small part in the this big machine of marketing. Innovation creates uniqueness, there is more to social media than posting and copying and pasting URL’s that appear interesting or relative to your cause, business or products. Whatever you are selling, social media is not the end all be all of product marketing, it is an amalgam of things, working parts we can create as business owners to make our message more effective, louder and more noticeable. It is the difference between taking the time to be creative and thoughtful and being complacent and unimaginative.

Social media was not born out of necessity it was born out of creativity and people’s need to be connected to, well, everything! When I began my business I wanted to help everyone discover his or her online influence through marketing and content. Quite honestly, in the beginning, I didn’t know how to go about this effectively and on a large scale. I mean I had an understanding of marketing and communications and with my background in Graphic Design I had untapped resources, resources I didn’t even know I had available to me. Over time and research I made a assessment about how I sought to present social media marketing to clients and give them a blueprint about how this strategy would make their particular market appealing, effectual and visible. I wasn’t looking to reinvent the wheel but I was looking to reinvent the uniqueness of content and find a way to use Graphic Design to do so.

You see info-graphics all over the web, but who’s to say you can’t create your own? You don’t have to be a graphic designer to use Photoshop or Illustrator, you just have to have time and now with the expediency of YouTube, you now have all the learning potential right at your fingertips, literally. It’s like saying you have to be photographer to take great photography.  However, if you take the time to hone in on a new skill and work with awesome gear that is accessible to you, you make yourself a resourceful entity.

When it comes to creating exceptional content for your social media sites and websites, there are some tricks and programs that can help out. Once again, all you need is time, an idea and some imagination. I was told once by a professor that when it comes to graphic layout there is no copyright law that keeps you from copying a layout, however it is up to you to make it your own and re-create it uniquely.” So make it your own!

Most of the tools in my toolbox are nominal. To start with, think about the big picture, literally. When looking to post a poster on your Facebook or Google+ page make sure it is optimally formatted for the accurate dimensions for the specific timelines. Chances are if you post something and it is not optimally formatted, you’re your content below the fold disappears and now you’ve missed your opportunity. Always, always, always, maintain the most vital content above the fold. Granted, individuals can click on the photos and enlarge them, but why miss out on the demographic that will not? This is where custom designing comes into play. There are two ways to proceed with creating your own poster graphics for social media, check it out:

Adobe Creative Cloud Membership

Utilize to access all CS programs for a low monthly membership fee or purchase to own at full price. If you don’t want to make the initial $900 investment in something you might not like over time, then get the month-to-month membership. It’s worth it, especially when you are starting out novice or pro, the new CS programs are vastly different from previous versions. Additionally, you have access to all the new Adobe programs such as Photoshop, In Design, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Muse and so on. It will cost you around $49 p/month and if you decide that you like it, then you can purchase the full version. The only caveat to all of this is the fact that Adobe is incessantly altering their programs and with CS you are always in contact with the latest and newest programs/support they offer. You can also sign up for 30 day risk free membership as well.

YouTube

There are all sorts of great YouTube “how to” CS tutorials. I personally like Terry White and Christian Perello, but honestly it comes down to you personally and what your needs are. Adobe also has a myriad of educational videos on their website for all of their entire product lines. Basically if you learn one you can learn them all, as they are seamlessly functional and integrated universally.

PicMonkey – Picture Editor

If you are just starting out with designing custom graphics for your SM sites, PicMonkey simplifies all of this for you. With PM you have a starting graphic whether it is picture or text. They have various filters to choose from, text overlay, cloning, borders, filters, graphics; the list goes on and on. They also have cropping and sizing options in addition to the option to save a png or jpg file type  as well (we’ll get to that next). The only caveat is you cannot work with a blank slate on PM you have to bring some to the art board. I use PM in conjunction with CS. If I have a text graphic I am creating in AI, or PS I can save this for web (jpg. or png.) file types and then open in PM to add filters or quick graphics, borders etc…  There is a free version of PicMonkey and a paid version. The paid version is $4.99 a month and you have access to everything whereas the FREE version is limited access.

 

Size Chart

Keep your graphics to spec, don’t lose out any below the fold content designs. Below is good quick reference to follow for sizing your graphics so they show up in their entirety on your SM timelines/feed. Or you can click here  and see the entire SM sizing chart.

Facebook

  • Posts: 403×403 px
  • Cover Photo: 851×315 px

Google+

  • Posts: 800×600 px

LinkedIn

  • Coverphoto: 646×220

Pinterest

  • Board: 222×207

QUICK TIP: When saving your graphics save them as a png file type and when creating your graphic in CS create as an RGB format. RGB can be saved for monitor and the lowest resolution such as 72 dpi is your best graphic result with minimal pixilation. You do not need high resolution for small graphics. Create in RGB and save fro web as a PNG and if you transfer an Adobe graphic to PicMonkey for quick graphics PicMonkey also allows you to re-save as a png. IF you have several colors in your graphic, jpg will show up grainy and pixilated, keep it simple, keep it png.

Regardless of whatever you are designing for your social media posts, just the simple fact that you are keeping your content unique is effectual. Make sure to always sign or copyright your graphics so you and you only have the rights over those graphics and why not give yourself credit! Designing custom post graphics is fairly simple and a great way to start. Start small with a picture on PicMonkey, add a filter, text or simple graphic to spruce it up. Take the time to be authentic because in the end it’s our creativity that wins out when it comes to unique vs. unimaginative. Be original!

Tiny Tips About WordPress

Guy-pushing-wordpressWeb/blog design can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning, you wonder where to start.  Most of us back in the day landed on blogger and as blogger evolved so did so many other “blogger” type sites. Over the years, I stayed true to Blogger, up until WordPress took over the blogging scene and started flexing its superhuman design muscles.  I became captivated by the quality themes, design options, affordability and robust functionality all wrapped up into one neat little package. And the rest is history…

When prepping for whichever blog/website you do choose to design, you have to elect a domain name, you can do this through any site really, but WordPress manages to keep everything in house right down to hosting your site and giving you the option to select a free WordPress domain name or the option to purchase a premium domain name as well, sans WordPress part of the domain:  www.mywebsite.wordpress.com. I love WordPress because it keeps things simple and fluid. Check it out!

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

When you first start dabbling in the lovely world of WordPress you will find that there are two different sites, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. This is simple discernment. WordPress.org is for building websites and robust blogs and WordPress.com is for building a free simple blog which is also indexable through Google, Pinterest and Bing.

  • WordPress.com benefits: Free, easy to setup, secure, your content is automatically backed up on hundreds of servers.
  • WordPress.org benefits:  Ability to upload custom themes, plugins and if you are HTML savvy you can customize code.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

Choosing a theme is like choosing a pair of shoes. You try them on, walk in them for a while, and you love them, hate them, or add them to your collection of shoes. Themes in reality are very similar. To start with, WordPress  gives you several default themes, such as the twenty-ten, twenty-eleven, twenty-twelve and now just released the twenty-thirteen default theme. These are great starter themes to acclimate you to using WordPress and the back end functionality of this very robust yet simple CMS (content management software). In addition to these default themes, WordPress also affords you the option to select from a large array of FREE themes as well. Surprisingly, the list of FREE themes grows everyday and some of these themes are incredibly beautiful, functional and easy to use for your blog/website and most of these themes are good for either a blog or your website. You also have the option to purchase premium themes as well. Premium themes usually have more styling options and custom CSS. Premium themes will cost you though, typically between $25-100 depending on the extensiveness of the theme. It’s ok to collect themes are try out different ones and their functionalities.  You also have the option within the pre-download portion of the theme to look at it live as well, a great way to try it on quickly to see if it fits your style! TIP: Info-Way inkthemes.com is a great place to download theme packages for very little cost, they have excellent forums and customer service!

How do I….?

When initially trying to learn WP, you are faced with an interesting challenge; you are either here for a simple blog design or a website design/extensive blog. The disparity between the two can be vast but learning WordPress is very similar on either platform. WordPress manages to keep things reasonably balanced in regards to blog vs. website design. My suggestion, if you are a beginner and trying to learn WP, start with a blog and get your feet wet there first. And of course, it is good for any entrepreneur to blog anyways, this is a great way to learn WordPress and to launch your first published work!  Another suggestion is to purchase “WordPress for Dummies”  keep in mind there are two versions, make sure to take notice, ”WordPress” for Dummies & “Wordpress Web Design for Dummies”, both are outstanding resources  and  will take you through WordPress step by step. It will also reveal some great secrets of WordPress and give you tips and tricks as well.  I still reference these books to this day and as WordPress and the world of CMS are constantly shifting I continue to get the updated versions on my iPad.  Note: WordPress also has a great support page and a forum page as well. Both will help you with most any issue or question with WordPress.

Plugins

One thing you will see and hear a lot of is the word “plugin”.  Wordpress.org presents an array truly incredible tools for you to download, install and diversify your WordPress powered website  these are called plugins. What is a plugin you might ask? Plugins are undersized programs, or combination of programs rather, that sit on top of your WordPress system and enhance the function of your website dependent on the chosen desired plugin(s). Basically the way plugins emerged were from programmers wanting to give WordPress sites that little kick and capability to do one more extra thing or element without having to alter the code, and voila the plugin was born!  Now, there are over 23,000 different plugins all used for different purposes, and when you start looking at the list of plugins, it’s easy to get a little lost and beleaguered. But a word to the wise, make sure you do your research and read reviews and ratings about plugins. One plugin can crash your entire site, and this is no joke. Don’t be cavalier about what you decide to download onto your site; and before you start getting crazy with plugins always make sure you have good back up of your website.  But don’t be deterred from using plugins, if you do your research and download from reputable sources, then you are good to go and honestly there are some plugins you just can’t live without! Here is a list of must haves:

  1. All in One SEO Pack -Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog (Love this one!)
  2. Google XML  Sitemap -This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
  3. WordPress Database Backup
  4. Google Site Verification -One-click Google verification for your website – This is great for veryfiying and indexing your blog on Google. Make sure you have a Google Webmaster Tools account (it’s free)
  5. Bing Site Verification- Same as Google
  6. Contact Form 7
  7. Google XML Sitemap for Videos – same as above but specific for video sites
  8. Simple Pull Quote – This is just a really cool way to pull out certain text and put it in cartoon-like quotations.
  9. Thank Me Later – An automated “thank you” to anyone who comments on your blog, great for your blogger on the go!
  10. Ultimate Google Analytics – adds JavaScript to each page (without making any changes to your template) so that you can track outbound links, downloads from your own site, mailto: links, and more without requiring you to install the code manually. (you must have a Google Analytics account – this is free)

Social Media

WordPress also gives you the option to add all or some of your Social Media pages to your blog/website. Take advantage of this option because this is your way of reaching the outside world, outside of your WordPress family.  And if you don’t have social media pages setup in your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ then do so!  You are missing out on the internet’s biggest party and a key function to SEO! With just a few clicks you can quickly reach numerous audiences and besides what good is a published work if no one can find you and read what you are writing!?

There is a learning curve to all of this WordPress stuff, and at first it might feel overwhelming almost like learning a new language, but in the end if you are willing to get past some minor nuances you will find that this very robust CMS is compelling and intuitive. WordPress is dominant because it gives you a toolbox full of tools, you just have to learn how to use them, when to use them and where to use them. This is something that will come quickly, if you are willing to put in the effort and hours it takes to learn WordPress. Once you’ve done that, the rest is cake! Trust me, learning WordPress will be the best investment in your blogging/website future. WordPress has changed the face of CMS and things are changing rapidly so get on board and be a part of this incredible ride!