Is Your Non-Responsive Website Costing You Customers and Money?

Responsive web design, Vancouver, BC

What is responsive web design?

Responsive design is a design and development approach that allows your site to respond to the user’s behaviour and environment, based upon the screen size, orientation and platform.

Key features are a flexible grid, flexible images and CSS media queries that configure the design elements and content based upon screen resolutions.

All browsers currently support CSS media queries, including those on PCs, Macs, and iOS, Android, Symbian and Blackberry devices, making responsive design universal.

User experience (UX)

When you have a website that adapts to multiple screen sizes your content looks good on desktops, laptops, tablets, e-readers and smartphones.

It should be noted that “responsive” does not mean “looks the same on every platform.” (That would be non-responsive.) A page that shows 4 widget columns on a desktop or horizontal tablet, may only have 3 columns on a vertical tablet or e-reader, and a single column on a smartphone. The content blocks reconfigure on the fly to provide the best experience for the visitor’s screen.

Why has providing a good mobile experience become essential?

At this time there are roughly 2 billion smartphone users*, making up 83% of internet usage, and there are expected to be 5 billion smartphone users by 2017†.

Constantly zooming in and out, and scrolling from side to side, just to read or do anything, is an agonizing process for mobile users. If your bounce rates are higher than 5%, one of the factors driving your audience to the competition may be a poor mobile user experience.

Google recommends responsive web design.

“Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.”‡

According to a study released by Google, “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger in July 2012,

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site,
  • 79% of people who didn’t like what they found on one site would go back and search for another site, and
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly.§

How will responsive design save you money?

Before responsive web design, developers had to build unique versions of a website for specific screen sizes. It was complicated, expensive and sites that accommodated several screen sizes tended to take a long time to build and test. Some developers still build multiple versions of the website: a core site for desktop computers and perhaps one or two mobile versions.

Some entry level “mobile-friendly” add-on solutions will have a desktop site and a redirect to a one-size-fits-all mobile site. The mobile site will usually be a very stripped down version of the mother site, and often these are auto-generated by a third party provider. At best, these should be considered a stopgap, while a proper website is developed and rolled out.

In a typical integrated 3-site “built for mobile” approach, with desktop, tablet and smartphone variations, you will have 3 sites that initially will be designed and built. You will also have to maintain and upgrade the three sites if any technology, web standards or security updates become necessary.

Responsive design means “one site, many devices.” With responsive web design there is only one design to consider because media queries, fluid grids and flexible images conform content to the screen. There’s only one site to design, develop and maintain.

With a responsive website you don’t require a separate mobile SEO strategy. There’s only one version of the content to optimize, so the cost of content creation and SEO should be significantly lower for the life of the site. And while there may be some minor advantages to optimizing a separate mobile version for specific keywords more likely to be searched while on the go, the added costs associated with multiple sites may be hard to justify.

Responsive design aligns with buyer habits

Whether it’s a home, car, pair of jeans, pizza or roof repair, first searches often occur on a mobile device. The research process then transitions to the desktop.

A woman searching for luggage during a lunch break may decide to read the entire page, check reviews and testimonials, and study other associated information at home, where she will have a larger screen and the option of printing out a record of the transaction, should she decide to proceed. So she texts or emails herself the page link. She expects to pick up exactly where she left off on her smartphone.

With a “responsive” website, she will load the very same page she was on earlier, only the content will conform to the larger screen size, once again providing her with the optimal user experience.

However, if she was on a “mobile” version of the site earlier, a redirect to the desktop site may provide a different version of the content and experience, and she may be confused or disappointed enough to return to Google to begin a fresh search.

Responsive design can improve your site’s SEO

Higher rankings on Google, Yahoo! and Bing will make you more “findable,” increasing traffic to your site. They can’t buy from you if they can’t find you. With more qualified visitors to your website, you will receive more buyers.

With only one version of your website, there will be no duplicate versions of pages to compete with for rankings. While a properly built mobile site shouldn’t be punished by Google’s Panda algorithm, you would still run the risk of sending visitors to the wrong version of the site.

Another consideration is social media and inbound links. If your off-site content is excellent, you should earn shares and links. With a responsive website, all traffic will be sent to the same content URLs. There will be no confusion in designing, building and fine-tuning your conversion funnel strategy.

How much business is being lost?

If you know the value of each lead or sale, how many of these conversions your site currently experiences each month, and your bounce rate, you can calculate the approximate cost of business that is abandoning your website at hello.

Not all bounces will, of course, be related to mobile user experience. Some may be leaving because the content on the key entry pages needs to be recreated with better copy and calls to action.

If your site does not offer a quality user experience for mobile users, you want to look for some correlation between mobile users and bounces. If you discover that 38% of your visitors are using mobile devices, for example, and you have a 36% bounce rate, providing a premium mobile experience could potentially reclaim most of the business you’re driving away.

Final thoughts

Responsive web design is recommended by Google as a best practice. It allows you to offer a great user experience across many screen sizes and devices. And it makes managing your content and SEO strategy a lot easier. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table by not becoming responsive.

Do you have a before/after success story to share? I welcome your comments and questions below.

If you’re not sure if your site is responsive, or would like to discuss upgrade options, a free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer for you.

* http://www.dazeinfo.com/2014/01/23/smartphone-users-growth-mobile-internet-2014-2017/
† http://mashable.com/2013/10/03/mobile-phones-2017/
‡ https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/
§ http://googlemobileads.blogspot.ca/2012/09/mobile-friendly-sites-turn-visitors.html

Black Friday special

Isn’t Giving Away Your Company’s Secrets, in Content, Bad for Business?

Content creation, Vancouver, BC

This is one of my favorite content marketing quotes by Jay Baer:

“If you sell something, you can create a customer today. If you help someone, you can have a customer for life.”

One of the strongest objections I receive, as a content creator and social media publicist, is that I want to give away all my clients’ secrets.

In the short video below, Jay makes a very good point. Sooner or later all do-it-yourselfers find themselves out of their depth. And when they do, who are they going to call… a stranger out of the Yellow Pages, or the person that has already been helping them and clearly knows their stuff?

Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

Are You Asking All the Wrong Content Strategy Questions?

Content marketing stratist, Vancouver, BC

Are you a content leader, or timid follower?

I was on a coaching call about two weeks ago with a real estate agent. She already had a lot of content, but the challenge she faced was that she was falling in the rankings. She was looking for a content provider that could churn out more content for less. I could immediately see the problem. She was targeting several geographic neighbourhoods and her content was “all over the map.”

I explained what content siloing is and how it would help her organize her content more effectively. This would improve the user experience while also helping Google better understand the content hierarchy of her website.

Her first question was, “Can you show me case studies of other real estate sites in my area where this is working?” I explained  that I believe it is a conflict of interest to represent more than one client, from the same industry, in the same geographic area because they’re direct competitors. But what I could show her was a local website of a roofing contractor in which the very strategy I was proposing had helped the client gain solid rankings for each of the geographic regions we targeted in the content silo strategy.

She responded with, “Roofing has nothing to do with real estate. What, you can’t show me 20 or 30 real estate websites around here where what you are proposing is working? Then maybe I would consider it.”

If we need the validation of local case studies, we make the decision to become a timid and distant follower; not a leader. The last adopter always gets leftovers. All things being equal, we succeed in our marketing to the degree we differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

…they’re sheep — and the sheep get slaughtered.

- Character of Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Let’s say that I already had 32 real estate clients in her immediate area, who employed the content siloing strategy I was proposing. If no other competitors were using the approach, she would come in as #33.

Unless her content was truly epic, spectacularly valuable, with a lot of shares and earned links, the ranking status quo would prevail. It is highly unlikely she would topple one of the top-5 sites as the last one arriving at the party. At best, she might find herself positioned at #33, on page 4 of Google’s search results. (Invisible)

The questions she should have been asking were:

  1. Will this make my content stand out from the competition?
  2. Will my audience love this? Will it make my content more valuable to them?
  3. Will what you are proposing make my content more findable and shareable?
  4. And if so, can we get to work on this today?

Final thoughts

Standing head and shoulders above the competition will always require the courage to lead and stand out. Following the old, tired approaches your competitors are already using will only place you at the back of the herd. I welcome your questions and comments below.

Can I help you grow your brand’s influence and value online, and achieve your business goals? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

Content Marketing is War

Content marketing is war

A few years back, before Google’s “animal” updates, SEO centred around optimizing tags and pages, and aggressive linking strategies. Business owners brought in SEO ‘hired guns’ like me to kick the competitors’ sites to the curb, so they could take over the top ten ranking spots on Google, Yahoo! and MSN/Bing.

I remember the first meeting I had with one client. He looked me dead in the eye and responded, “Kick them to the curb? Hell, I want you to face those SOBs on Main Street, draw on them and put a lead ball between their eyes, just like they did in the westerns. This is business, not Sunday School. I don’t know exactly how SEO works, but can you put me on top? Are you that guy?”

Over the past few years I’ve seen a dramatic shift in perception. With all the current buzz about telling our stories and being helpful, many website owners seem to have formed a picture of a warm campfire, circled by friendly storytellers sipping wine and puffing on a hookah as they weave their yarns and sing Kumbaya.

Increasing market shareA few insipid blog and social media posts per month, and an occasional new page or two, and they feel satisfied they’ve thrown their hat in the marketing ring. If they hire a content writer, they don’t want to invest in a victorious warrior, but may hold up a squire’s wage, to see if there are any takers.

Many industries are still feeling the aftermath of the 2008-09 economic crisis. Circumstances can hardly be described as “business as usual,” and the pie has become a lot smaller. True, we could just tighten our belts and try to live on the same percentage of a much smaller pie. Or we can embrace the realization that maintaining and growing our businesses now requires us to carve up the pie differently, and there won’t be enough pieces to go around.

Business is War

- Kevin O’Leary

Some find ideas like “survival of the fittest” and “capitalism” distasteful. We work mainly with brands that compete with other local businesses. I believe that you will never become #1 with minimal effort and investment, without a strong tactical strategy, or actually defeating your competitors. There will be winners and losers. Or to use the battle metaphor… there will be blood.

How would you prepare for content war?

Positioning

Sun Tsu in The Art of War emphasized the importance of positioning in a military strategy:

“With skillful positioning, defeat or victory is apparent to everyone well in advance of any confrontation.”

Epic content (way better than anything the competition is publishing) should provide a level of value to the audience that makes victory a foregone conclusion. When your competitors see your content, do they feel weak in the knees and murmur, “Oh shit?”

A kill or be killed mindset

This past week a businesswoman took offense to my remark that I could help her “dominate” her local market. She countered that, “There’s enough for everyone.” She felt we didn’t have to push other people out of the way, to make room for her.

Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten…

- Jack London, in Call of the Wild

I was puzzled because I only see five top-5 positions in the first page of Google’s search results. If she wants one of them, I’m of the persuasion that we will indeed have to “out content” someone. One of her competitors is going to be out-gunned.

Keep your friends close, and enemies closer

If you aren’t following your top competitors, subscribed to their blog feed and newsletter, and getting all their stuff, you should be. It’s just basic tactical intel. You, or your marketing team, should know exactly what they’re up to at all times.

Expect them to regroup and come back in force

To the victor, go the spoils. When you advance, you gain search engine rankings, traffic, subscribers, leads, market share and profits.

If you have a worthy adversary, don’t expect them to take the loss lying down. You can bet they’ll be on the phone demanding to know what their digital marketer(s) intend to do about it.

You will have to defend the ground you take

You may win a battle, take a hill, or secure a bridge, but the war isn’t over. You will have to defend the new line.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying

You may defeat a few adversaries, but you can’t rest on your laurels. You’re either gaining market share and growing your business, or you’re on the way out. Your content is either kicking asses, or you’re having your ass handed to you.

Final thoughts

In 2014, the pen is mightier than the sword, when it comes to your online positioning. Premium content is just as deadly to the competition as the old school SEO tactics ever were.

Your content marketer(s) should be extremely helpful, write powerful stories and deliver a ridiculous amount of value to your audience. But, make no mistake about it, you need a relentless battle-hardened marketing warrior creating and distributing your content. It’s not a job for the office poet.

Can I help you grow your brand’s influence and value online, and achieve your business goals? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

Real Estate Marketing: 2015 Doesn’t Have to be Like 2014

If your 2014 online marketing didn’t get the job done done, this package will be the game changer. It covers everything: SEO, blog writing, content marketing and social media… with a FREE $3,000 website.

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Half full or half empty?

Sometimes we miss the point entirely :-). We’re concerned about having the right attitude when we fall short, rather than taking the steps required to assure success.

If your online marketing strategy isn’t engaging with your audience and delivering a consistent stream of quality leads, keeping a stiff upper lip and making the best of what you have — seeing the glass as half full — could be holding your back.

If calling things as they are spurs you to do the things that need doing, or asking for much needed assistance, there may be value in being less than “positive.”

Glass half full, or half empty?
Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

6 ‘Kick Ass’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics for Real Estate

Real estate SEO, Vancouver, BC

On Wikipedia, SEO is defined as:

“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.”

Real Estate SEO poses unique challenges

If you Google a search term like “vancouver condos” today you’ll discover two things. At the very top of the search results, I’m seeing “About 11,400,000 results (0.48 seconds)”… that’s right, eleven million pages. The competition is formidable. As I begin to scroll down the first page I’m seeing a few hyperlocal specialty websites, a Kijiji listing, Globe and Mail articles, Realtor.com, a huge brokerage site, more hyperlocal sites… but not one of the “cloned” agent websites. You know, the template sites you essentially rent for fifty bucks a month, that present a MLS Reciprocity (IDX) listing feed instead of providing any real content.

It’s easy to understand why the big sites are on the first few pages of search results. Over the years they’ve added hundreds or even thousands of pages that talk about condos in Vancouver. But how does the independent agent “out content” those big players?

1. Publish fresh, ridiculously valuable content consistently

If you want Google to notice you, and crawl your site regularly, become “crawl worthy.” If you’re not publishing at least one high value, extremely relevant, blog post a week, you need to step it up.

I’m not talking here about blasting your audience with new listings and open house notifications. That content is about “you” and what you want to sell. In addition to an IDX feed, your website should already have all of your listings — current and archived — entered on site; each page carefully optimized for search engines. And you can promote your new listings in local social media groups, where it’s acceptable to exchange listing information.

Your blog and social media posts should focus on providing real value to home buyers and sellers. It should address their pain points and provide real “help”.

2. Build a resource of “evergreen” content

“Evergreen” mean content that does not go out of date. In addition to the dynamic up-to-the-minute content you’re publishing in your blog and social channels, you should be building a resource of high quality long form articles. These resources become the subpages that attract links from local and authority websites. They establish your domain’s authority as a credible trustworthy source of local information and services.

3. Become “more local” than the competition

What the successful agents have discovered is that they can still take their place with the big data sites by becoming “more local”, or hyper-local. Very few real estate agents are willing to invest the time and effort, or money, to do SEO right. And therein lies a tremendous opportunity. For those dedicated agents willing to invest into a long-term asset, some sustainable and consistent search traffic, with a steady stream of real leads to nurture and develop into real business, there’s still a lot of opportunity.

As a real estate professional, you need local search results, local traffic and local links. To get local businesses and websites to link to you, your website needs to become the go-to resource for local information.

4. Target long tail keywords

The competition for short-tail keywords like “vancouver condos” is stiff. Targeting specific long-tail keywords that align with your local niche, or property inventory, can capitalize on the low hanging fruit of local searches.

A keyword tool like Wordstream, Wordtracker or Hittail may reveal that there have been a lot of recent searches for the terms “2 bedroom condo english bay” and “english bay condo near park.” A little added research indicates that these terms may be heavily searched, but there’s little to no competition. In other words, few websites offer content that satisfies the need. If you’re creating hyperlocal content for the English Bay area, it’s easy to create a few evergreen pages and posts to pick up easy rankings and traffic.

5. Expand your distribution

If all of your traffic comes from Google, their algorithm may determine that you’ve found a way to ‘game’ their ranking system, but your content isn’t actually popular.

When your content is shared through many distribution channels, like social media, RSS readership and your email newsletter, and people arrive at your site through direct links, it demonstrates that your content is perceived to have considerable value.

6. Build your domain authority

High quality backlinks, earned by consistently publishing extremely valuable content for your audience, over time builds your domain’s authority. These links accumulate very naturally as readers discover your content, engage with it and share it with others.

Creating a balance of evergreen and dynamic well-optimized and highly-targeted content, on a high authority domain consistently delivers search engine success.

What doesn’t get it done

Due to the highly competitive nature of search results, there isn’t a single “quick fix” tactic that is going to drive traffic and lead generation.

On-page optimization of existing content simply isn’t enough. Attracting inbound links from many websites can still improve your SEO, but these are best earned through quality content.

Many look to MLS Reciprocity (IDX) as a quick solution to content. IDX populates pages, from a 3rd party database, with a listing feed. Website owners find themselves in a “cart before the horse” scenario. IDX does not build traffic so much as capitalize on it. Your site needs real content, and the “eyeballs” it attracts, before IDX works.

Final thoughts

Do you have an SEO success story to share? Are you baffled by the many changes in SEO? I welcome your comments and questions below.

Do you need some help in mapping out and implementing your SEO strategy? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

Free 20 Minute Coaching Call

Real Estate Lead Generation: For New and Improved Results, Something Has to Change

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2015 doesn’t have to be like 2014

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Nobody ever won by only matching the other agents

If you intend to beat the competition in 2015, your content marketing strategy must kick theirs to the curb. You will need a “take no prisoners” website and ridiculously valuable content.

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2015 doesn’t have to be like 2014

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