4 Things Your New Website Absolutely Has to Have

4 things your new website has to have by HighleyDesigned

I recently launched my new website, highleydesigned.com. It’s a simple site to give people more information about my business and my services. It includes a recent projects page which is like an online portfolio and most importantly it features my blog!

As I was designing my site and working on layouts and themes I realized there are a million things to consider, but I was most concerned about a handful of important features.

  1. Make Sure Your Contact Information is Easy to Find
    This is one of the biggest reasons people come to your website – because they want to learn more about you or get in touch with you! Too often I visit websites that bury their contact info or the only way to get in touch is through an email contact form.Make yourself approachable! Let people know you are happy to take their calls or it’s easy to set up an appointment etc. I recommend a phone number in your header and full contact info in your footer (phone and address). Your contact page should include all of that along with a map so people can see where you’re located and that’s where you can add your fax number, email address and other additional information.

    An email contact form is great to have because it makes it easy to track who’s contacting you via your website, but if someone wants to send you a long message or add attachments it’s often easier for them to send an email from their own account. For this reason I include an email address on my website, but if you find you’re receiving too much spam you can always remove it.

  2. Make Sure Your Site Features Responsive Design
    Responsive design means your website is mobile friendly. The term responsive highlights your site’s ability to respond to any device. Take Facebook for example – it looks different on mobile, tablet and desktop. Amazon is similar, and like Facebook, it’s become so popular they developed a mobile app to make it even more accessible.Google has announced that with its newest algorithm responsive design will play a major part so it’s important your website is mobile friendly. You don’t have to write html code to make sure your site is mobile friendly. Try using a visual editor to design your site like Duda. Duda offers beautiful responsive websites at a great price.
  3. Make Sure Your Site Offers High Quality Content
    When you have a great website the biggest mistake you can make is to fill it with mediocre content, poor copy writing or generic headlines. If you don’t have someone in-house to do your writing, hire someone with experience. A professional can make your website sound as good as it looks.Pay special attention to your site headlines and make sure to avoid cliches. When it comes to your content make sure you portray yourself or your brand as a voice of authority in your industry. You want people to know your an expert in your field that can be trusted. And when it comes to your blog or your site’s original articles – don’t share something that’s been shared a million times unless you can add a fresh perspective. Remember to be original!
  4. Make Sure to Use High Quality Photos
    The photos on your website speak to your brand’s professionalism and can either say “high quality” or “yikes they actually put that on their website!” This may mean spending money on stock photos or hiring a photographer – either way, you’ll be glad you did.Make sure your photos are bright and look cohesive. For example if you have a page with staff photos make sure they are all taken with the same backdrop, or if your site features products make sure they all have a transparent or white background.

 

 

How to Create Quality Video Content for Social Media

Learn to create quality video content for social media via HighleyDesigned

One of the things I can’t stress enough when it comes to social media is quality vs quantity. It’s better to focus on one or two platforms you can master, than waste your time trying to gain followers on every single social network. That said, choose the platform(s) that already have a large following and make it your goal to expand them! One of the best ways to grow your audience is with engaging content, and if you read my latest blog I talked all about content marketing and its various forms. Today I want to focus on video.

Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, IG or you’re already broadcasting on Periscope, the key to great video content is knowing your audience. Does your audience follow you for information? Do they follow you because you make them laugh? Or do they follow you for your expert tips and DIY ideas? Take what you’re already good at doing and expand it! Learn to create videos with content you’ve already covered. It’s easy!

If you’ve written an awesome blog about something, break it down into three main talking points. Then, write yourself some notes. You can do a quick Periscope broadcast explaining your post and reviewing your key points or you can make an edited video for Facebook! If you can keep it to 10 seconds or less, create a short video featuring a key point for Instagram. If you’re not a talker or you get camera shy, play around with different video apps like Legend and Filmora and create a step by step tutorial with visuals and graphics.

Another way to create engaging video content is to give your audience a “sneak peak” or “behind the scenes” tour. Show them what a day in the studio is like or take a short video of your staff, or even your kiddos if you work from home. Trust me… it may seem lame at first but people LOVE to see the “real” you! And people love pets and babies, no matter what they say!

The biggest thing holding you back from creating video content is you! Whether your budget is big or small you can take quality videos with your cell phone or using the free apps I mentioned. If you have a tiny budget, start small and make your videos personal. If you have money to spend, by all means hire someone professional to highlight your brand! Video is here to stay so find a way to start using it for your business. The sooner you do the sooner you’ll see an increase in your engagement across all platforms!

Here’s a short video I created with Legend to promote the podcast I host each week with Lancaster Podcast Studio. It doesn’t have sound but it’s perfect for IG or Facebook! When people see something moving or realize an image is actually a video they stop scrolling for a moment and watch! Enjoy!

 

Content Marketing: It’s Not Just Blogging Anymore

Content Marketing Comes in Many Forms | Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

I recently started hosting a podcast with Lancaster Podcast Studio called Open Chat and my guests this week were local marketing professionals. We had a great talk about digital marketing and social media but the topic we kept coming back to was content marketing – what it is and how to provide value to your online audience. (To listen to the full show click here.)

I think one of the biggest challenges we face as marketers is defining our audience and creating a variety of media for them to consume. With the numerous social media platforms we have to post on, content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore. And Google is getting smarter – you cannot just blog to add keywords to your website – they want to see that you are providing valuable content that’s user friendly.

So regardless of what industry you’re in, if content marketing isn’t just blogging anymore, what is it? Well, content marketing can be a free eBook, a standout visual, a video or tutorial, an infographic or a free download. There are various tools to create this kind of media and most of them are FREE so it’s easy to incorporate video, GIFs and tutorials into your marketing mix. To learn more about free tools for creating video and standout graphics see my previous blog.

Now that you know what content marketing is, let’s talk about adding value. Something is not valuable if it’s been written about and talked about a million times already. If you are going to write or create a video about something that’s yesterday’s news, you better have a fresh perspective to keep your audience interested. Another tip – if you can’t explain a process in a few simple steps then leave it to someone else. Adding value means providing your audience with something that’s fresh, easy to follow, entertaining to watch and useful to learn about.

With all of that in mind, think about the various social platforms your brand is using. After you write a great blog you can repurpose that content over time to each of your social platforms as a different form of media. For example, I recently blogged about working from home. I then created a graphic for Instagram and shared a link to the article on Facebook and Twitter. Before writing this blog I decided I’d take that content a step further and create a video to share my 3 favorite tips for work from home success.

The key to content marketing success is simple:

A. Define Your Audience
B. Keep Your Content Fresh
C. Use a Variety of Media – Blogging, Video, Graphics, Downloads, GIFs, etc.
D. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

If you’re a work from home entrepreneur, blogger or freelancer, enjoy my video! And be sure to checkout the Open Chat podcast – It’s available each Wednesday on iTunes and Stitcher.

 

 

Everyday SEO Part II: Alt Tags that Rock!

Learn how to optimize your website's images with descriptive Alt Tags. Everyday SEO via Highley Designed.

The images and photos on your blog or website can be helpful or or hurtful to your site’s overall Google ranking. The goal is for them to be helpful! Things to keep in mind include photo size which can effect your site’s load time and whether or not your images are optimized with the appropriate Alt Tags/Text and Titles.

So what are Alt Tags and why are they important? Well, they’re not really tags, they are more like descriptions. According to Yoast, the SEO experts, “Alt tags and title tags strengthen the message towards search engine spiders and improve the accessibility of your website.”

So let’s break it down. This is a complete HTML image tag:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="image description" title="image tooltip"/>

 

If you’re using a visual website builder, HTML is the text “behind the scenes” that tells your server what to display. Most website builders have options for viewing and editing the HTML directly, but to add your Alt Tags and Titles you shouldn’t need to. In fact, if you’re using WordPress, adding your Alt Tags is easy. After uploading your photo simply click “edit” and you’ll see these options.

Learn how to add Alt Tags and Titles that will boost your website's SEO via HighleyDesigned.

If you’re using another platform you will have similar options. I suggest finding your image options or settings where you should be able to add the same things – Captions, Alt Tags/Text and Tool Tips. The Alt Tag/Text is what appears by default when you Pin an image to Pinterest. If you enter something in the Tool Tips field that text will appear when someone hovers over the photo on your website.

Now that you know how it works, let’s talk about what your Alt Text should include. Just like it’s important for your site Title and page Titles to include keywords and phrases, your Alt Tags should do the same. Alt Tags should be a full sentence or phrase that describes what the photo is all about or why it’s on your site. Yoast also recommends that “If your image is an image of a specific product, include both the full product name and the products product ID in the alt tag, so it can be easily found.”

Now that you know how to optimize your images, go back and edit the photos on your site that don’t have custom Alt Text and be sure to add it to any of your new photos and images in the future. SEO is always changing but this is a tried and true method to make your website more Google-friendly.

Stay tuned for more SEO tips and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest in social media marketing and web design.

 

 

How to Use Hashtags (for Beginners!)

How to Use Hashtags for Beginners - Blog by HighleyDesigned

Lots of my clients admit that they don’t understand hashtags. These are small business owners who know the value of social media but aren’t sure how to use platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Many of them are just getting used to Facebook! If this is you, or if you’ve just never understood this whole hashtag thing, here it is in layman’s terms. #hashtagsfordummies #kiddingbutnotkidding

What is the point of hashtags?
When someone uses a hashtag in front of a word or a phrase, that phrase is categorized. You’ll notice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you can click on a word or phrase that has a hashtag in front of it and you’ll see a list of all the posts, people and photos that use the same hashtag. This is an awesome way to get your social media posts noticed. Why? Let’s pretend you’re a salon owner. Most people around the world aren’t on Instagram searching for “Sally’s Salon, Lancaster PA” (totally made that up), but people are on Instagram searching for “Modern Salon” or “Highlights” or “Blowout” etc. When you upload a photo of a great hair cut and style and you add those hashtags after your caption, your photo will now show up when people search those words or phrases! The same is true for Facebook and Twitter but hashtags are used in different amounts on each platform (I’ll get to that).

So let’s recap… Hashtags have a point because they help to categorize your posts, videos and photos by relevant topics, events and phrases. When your posts get categorized they get noticed!

When should I use hashtags?
You can use hashtags within a sentence if the wording is appropriate, or in a cluster at the end of a caption.

Example 1. Tune in tonight for #ViralChat at 9pm.
Example 2. Wow! Things are finally organized around the office. #organization #beforeandafter #springcleaning

The major social platforms for hashtags are Instagram and Twitter. You can also use hashtags on Facebook, but because Facebook uses a different algorithm altogether so hashtags are less relevant. If you’re posting about a big event or a trending topic on Facebook, use a hashtag, but don’t worry about using hashtags each time you post like you should for IG and Twitter.

If you are watching a popular show on TV or a live event like the GOP Debate, using a hashtag is a great way to have your opinion heard by others. It may even lead to a conversation or a networking opportunity. Twitter chats are another awesome way to make connections and most chats will have their own hashtag, for example Post Planner’s “Viral Chat” uses #viralchat. If someone searches for “ViralChat” they’ll be able to see all of the questions and answers that have been posted with the chat’s hashtag.

How many hashtags should I use?
I’ve done a lot of reading about this and with trial and error I’ve found that for Instagram 11 is the magic number. Photos with 11 or more hashtags receive the most engagement. It’s also important to pay attention to what time of day you’re posting and how long your captions are. You will find that your audience is more active sometimes vs others.

For Twitter I recommend sticking to 1-4 hashtags. You only have 140 characters to work with so it’s important to keep tweets short and sweet. If you can keep your tweets to 100-120 characters others can quote your tweet and still have space to add a comment!

Hashtags aren’t as important on Facebook so I recommend only using them when you’re talking about a major brand, event or have perfect use for a hashtag phrase. For example, “Is anyone else excited for the women’s all around competition? #Rio2016.”

Now that you know why, when and how to use hashtags, go tweet, post and plan away! And remember, social media is a lot of trial and error – you’ll find what works best for your brand or business!

~Rachel

 

 

 

What We Can All Learn From Hess Toy Truck’s Holiday Marketing Campaign

We can all learn from Hess Toy Truck's holiday marketing campaign!

Every year my nephews beg for the new Hess Toy Truck for Christmas. They see the commercials on TV and can tell me exactly what the newest truck is capable of; what kind of gadgets it has and how many lights or sirens it comes with.

This year, I was unable to purchase the trucks at a local Hess gas station because here in the Northeast, all of the Hess stations have turned to Speedway stations. That said, I had to go online to order the trucks.

Hess has done a remarkable job of making the transition from in-store to online purchasing easy and I was impressed with their marketing strategy this year for a handful of reasons. What they did isn’t rocket science, but they executed a highly successful campaign we can all learn a thing or two from.

  1. They started marketing early. 
    By Thanksgiving I began seeing commercials on all kid and friendly – family TV stations. I also heard the jingle on the radio. My nephews were already getting psyched for this year’s toy and could tell me it was a red fire truck that came with a little fire rescue vehicle.
  2. They knew their audience.
    Hess carefully selected their audience – kids and parents. I didn’t see the commercials on MTV when I was watching Teen Mom or The Challenge, (my guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV…) but I did see the commercials on Fox News Channel, ABC Family etc. The commercial had a catchy jingle both kids and parents would end up humming all day long (the get this out of my head kind of jingle), and it featured happy kids playing with the trucks, making all 4-10 year old boys jealous.
  3. They made it easy.
    I do almost all of my holiday shopping online, but a lot of people still prefer to do things the good old fashioned way. The Hess Toy Truck commercial clearly outlined the only way to purchase this year was to go to HessToyTruck.com. (Notice they kept the URL simple too.) By keeping it simple and giving clear instructions they made even the “I’m nervous to shop online” customer the confidence to go online and order. The website was easy to use when you got there and you didn’t have to click around or search to find your product, you simply added the truck to your cart and went through the checkout process.
  4. They had great follow up.
    As soon as I ordered my trucks I got an email confirmation and various follow up emails about the shipping status. The trucks came in just a few days time and the shipping was free which was great. One of the biggest things marketers forget about is follow up. When’s the last time you sent someone an email just to see how they liked your eBook or if they had given any thought to your proposal? Or sent an email to remind people to follow you on Twitter, FB or Instagram?
  5. They went social.
    The thing that impressed me most with Hess Toy Truck was the email I got (timed perfectly) on Christmas Eve. It simply said:
    Hess Toy Truck can teach us all a lesson or two about holiday marketing!
    Not only did they send a friendly follow up email, they asked customers to use hashtag #2015HessToyTruck. This is a brilliant idea! A trending hashtag is an awesome marketing strategy and Hess will have photos to share for days if only a fraction of customers actually upload photos and use the hashtag. The point is, they went out of their way to ask. They sent a simple email, gave clear instructions and made it easy for customers to join in on the holiday action.

Next time you want to promote a new product, an eBook or idea think about Hess Toy Truck and keep things simple. Start early, know your audience, make downloading or purchasing easy and remember to follow up in a social way!

 

 

Work From Home Mom, Tip #22: Take Advantage of Nap Time

Work from home tips: Take advantage of naptime by HighleyDesigned, Mommy blogger and social media marketer

Ah… the sound of… quiet. As a mom to a little one this is a rare treat! My six month old can’t speak words yet but she has certainly found her voice.

I’ve learned that instead of stressing when it seems like the morning has been chaotic, sometimes it’s best to simply put work aside and make my baby girl #1 for a while. Maybe that’s an impromptu walk or reading some books – whatever keeps her happy. When work seems overwhelming it’s important to realize how lucky I am to be able to stay at home and have those little moments with Reagan.

Working from home requires serious time management. I don’t plan my day by the hour, I plan it by what Reagan is up to and how long things will keep her busy. The bouncer and the walker are usually good for a half hour so I can get some Facebook posts scheduled. A bottle might last for 10 minutes which is perfect for switching laundry over or vacuuming the living area. Do any moms actually have a set schedule? I am amazed at those who do! Don’t get me wrong, I know Reagan has a routine at this point – she eats twice before we start our day, again after her nap, she usually poops somewhere in the middle etc. and that’s good enough for me.

When nap time finally rolls around, I take full advantage of however long that may be. I try saving all of my tedious work for nap time – any writing, blogging, phone calls or post planning. Things that can be interrupted like designing new graphics or checking email can be done anytime. Nap time is for the important stuff.

I keep a serious to-do list and I try to prioritize things into categories. Things are either urgent / not urgent, or important / not important. The goal is to stay in the urgent and important categories and not to get stuck working on not urgent, not important items. For example, checking email feels urgent but it’s not – it’s important. Something urgent can be done first, like making a phone call or tackling something else that has an approaching deadline.

Some days nap time is cut short and as frustrating as it can be, I’ve learned to appreciate the time I get with my little one, because there will always be time for work.

Quotes we love