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.

 

 

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3 Tips to Be More Productive Working from Home

3 Tips to be MORE productive working from home via HighleyDesigned.

Most people think working from home is a breeze. No schedule, no rules, no boss to check in on you and no annoying coworkers… But the truth is, as great as it can be to set your own schedule and get your creative juices flowing, working from home can be hard. It requires a ton of self motivation, organization and planning! I’ve been working from home running my freelance marketing business for nearly two years now and I’ve learned a lot about what works for me so I thought I’d pass along some tips this week.

  1. Plan Plan Plan. 
    When you’re managing numerous projects and accounts, planning is essential. Whether you use a detailed spreadsheet or a good old fashioned to-do list, make sure you have a plan for the week. Set realistic expectations of what you can complete each day and plan for unexpected things to pop up. Don’t fill your schedule to the brim so that an impromptu phone call throws you for a loop – give yourself some wiggle room. If you know it’s going to be really nice out one day, plan to finish early so you can enjoy the park!

    I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage all of my tasks and keep track of deadlines. A color system lets me know if things are HOT, WARM or COLD, and I work from red to blue. The goal is to keep all of my tasks in the blue – meaning I have plenty of time to finish them. Occasionally I’ll have a day full of red tasks that need to be done asap, but if I manage my time effectively, that’s not often, saving me time and stress.

  2. Develop a Routine.
    As nice as it is to “wing it” sometimes, working from home is a commitment that requires routine. If you’re not a morning person, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you enjoy your sleep. Maybe you do your best work from 4pm-11pm, find what works for you and stick to it! If you work from home so that you can take care of your kids, you’ll probably need to work around nap time or school pick-up etc. When you find what works for you, make it a habit!

    My daughter is 9 months old and requires a lot of attention, so my mornings are typically dedicated to her and keeping our home in one piece. I can count on getting back to emails and responding to any “red hot” tasks when she takes her morning nap. In the afternoon, I do the rest of my work. Not only does a routine help keep me organized, it helps me set boundaries so I can decide what I can commit to or decide if I’m too busy. As a freelancer it’s easy to take on a ton of projects so it’s always important to think ahead so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

  3. Take Time for YOU.
    It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re working from home. I know I’ve had those sweatpants and crusty t-shirt kind of days when I can’t seem to pull myself away from the computer until I finish ONE more thing! But the truth is, nothing good comes from overworking yourself (or wearing sweatpants all day.) If this sounds like you, put the laptop down, take a shower and eat a good meal! You can’t produce your best work if you’re not feeling good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable while you work from home, but I find getting myself together in the morning, eating breakfast and just taking time to be human is a huge benefit to my work life.

 

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.

 

 

Turn One Blog Post into Five Social Media Posts!

Create five social media posts from just one blog post via @HighleyDesigned

Lots of people have great blogs but can’t effectively use their content for social media. I’ve found that visual content speaks across all platforms so I want to share today how you can turn one blog post into five or more social media posts!

I LOVE creating visual posts because they are guaranteed to drive engagement. A simple way to create your own graphics is with Canva. Choose from a ton of FREE layouts or pay $1 for additional features.

Fist, choose a blog that’s full of great content and tips. Next, take a sentence from your latest blog and make a quote graphic! Not only can you post the link but now you can share your graphic.

Create countless social media posts from one blog post! Learn how via @HighleyDesigned.

Want to make one blog post go even further? Create a graphic with a tip or statistic from the blog. Here’s an example:

Create countless social media posts from one blog post! Learn how via @HighleyDesigned.

You can turn one blog post into countless social media posts by pulling it apart and creating original visuals. These are especially great for Instagram and Pinterest! Canva also has a feature to help you create infographics which are awesome for showing a step by step process.

Now that you’ve created three new, original posts you can repeat the process! Pick another quote, or tip and create two more original graphics. If blog on a weekly or bi-weekly basis you can create a ton of original social media posts that will direct people to your website without having to post the link over and over again.

Happy Posting!

Increase Your Search Ranking Without Spending a Dime: Everyday SEO

Learn how to increase your search ranking without spending a dime! Learn everyday SEO tips from HighleyDesigned.

You spent hours creating a website (or you hired someone to do it) and it looks beautiful, but for some reason you’re not seeing the traffic you expected. That’s where SEO comes into play. Search Engine Optimization done right will not only get your website on the first page of Google, it will keep it there.

Big SEO firms will charge you a ton of money each month just to send you a report with your Google analytics (that you could have printed on your own). Most won’t take the time to explain what happens behind the scenes or walk you through ways to improve your SEO on your own. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege to work with a local SEO guru who has taught me a thing or two that anyone can implement to improve their search rankings. These strategies are current and proven to work – I’ve seen myself how an average website went to the first page of Google into the top slot within 2 months.

In Part 1 of Everyday SEO tips, I’m going to share some tips for writing better page titles that will improve your search rankings with keywords. But first, let’s talk about keywords.

Keywords: Words that best describe your products and services; words that people will use when searching for your business or services; words that if used correctly will improve your search ranking.

I suggest choosing your top 4 -6 keywords to incorporate into your page title. Then the goal is to create a keyword phrase, incorporating your business name and basic info. To string it all together, the vertical dash is going to be your best friend. (It looks like this | and can be found between the backspace and the enter keys on your keyboard). After your title is written simply copy and past this into the site title/page title section of your website. I use Dudamobile for web design and their website builder makes this entire process so easy! If you don’t use a visual editor simply paste the title into the appropriate section of your header HTML.

Below is an example of a great site title (this is used on the site home page). The company is my hubby’s family’s septic business and they have been on the first page of Google since we implemented Anthony Associates Moveisity program in December. You can create something similar for your own company, regardless of your industry. If you’d like to learn more be sure to follow me on Facebook and be sure to check back for Part 2 where I’ll be sharing how to optimize your photos and alt tags for SEO purposes.

Page Title Example: 

Septic Tank Services Lancaster Pa | John Kline | 717-898-2333 | Septic Cleaning | Pumping | Inspections | Lancaster Lebanon York and Dauphin County Pennsylvania | Waste Removal | Frequent Pumping Discounts

*With Dudamobile this site title will appear for each page unless you go into the SEO settings for each individual page and create additional titles. I suggest creating additional titles that better describe your other pages – services, FAQ etc. However, a title like this one would be fine for your About or Contact pages as well.

Have an awesome weekend and remember, SEO takes time. It takes a few days for any changes to your site to be cached (recognized by Google) and after the changes are recognized it takes time for your site to move up the ranks. But be patient – if you’re doing the right things and your site has great content you will see results!

 

~ Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

Direct Mail Still Works

Yes, you read it – Direct mail still works. As a marketer you’re probably skeptical, and I was too, but I can tell you for select industries direct mail is still effective.

People are no longer looking for remodelers, movers, or painters in their mailboxes – but they are holding onto fliers from their favorite pizza places, Chinese restaurants and septic pumpers! People love coupons and anyone that leaves menu at your door is probably offering sweet deal. As for septic pumping – most people have no idea who to call so when they receive a flier, they hold onto it (especially if there’s a coupon)!

My husband’s family has a septic company and I’ve been amazed at how successful direct mail has been for them. In our area, most townships require people who have septic systems to have them pumped every 2-4 years. Because there’s a “schedule” so to speak, it makes it simple to figure out when you should do a direct mail blast. Within days of sending out fliers, the business will get phone calls from people calling to schedule their pumping because they got their “reminder” in the mail.

The best thing about direct mail is that it’s cheap! Yes, it can add up when you send thousands of postcards or fliers, but the ROI is huge. I use Next Day Flyers btw – the cheapest printing costs I’ve found. What I’ve learned through direct mail, is that when it comes to marketing you have to do what works! In most industries nowadays, direct mail is not effective, but for the septic business, it is.

Before you jump into any new marketing endeavor, think about how you would make a purchasing decision – would you hold onto a flier from a service provider? Would you search online? Would you go to a place like Angie’s List or ask a friend? If you wouldn’t do it, chances are others won’t either so don’t waste your money.

Email marketing is a big one these days that’s effective for some industries and not for others. Email marketing is much more effective for ecommerce sellers than service providers. Again, think about how you make purchasing decisions. If you get an email from Amazon or Macy’s, you might click through to see what sales they’re having or to use a coupon code – but if you get an email from your local plumber you’re probably wondering why you’re on their email list and the message goes straight to the “trash.”

But back to direct mail… Here’s one of the most effective direct mail postcards I created for John Kline Septic Services this year. Key features include a well-branded color scheme, bold fonts and of course, a coupon!

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5 Facebook Post Ideas for When You Don’t Know What to Post

FB post ideas

Lots of people ask me – what should I be posting about? If they’re an ecommerce seller they struggle to post anything that’s not promotional – if they’re a small business they struggle to post anything “personal.” There’s no magical answer but regardless of your business type, social media is about telling a story. Through social media you have the ability to tell people about your brand, what your business is all about, your employees and your values. The goal is to use this information to spark engagement and ultimately create customers who will keep coming back. So when you’re not sure where to begin or what to post – here are some ideas to get you started!

  1. Post a photo! Photos perform a million times better than plain text posts so every post should include a photo. If you’re a small business, take a picture of your staff at work or snap a photo during your holiday party – let people see “what goes on behind the scenes.” Ecommerce sellers can post photos too. Take a picture of some new products you’re ready to list on Etsy or a stack of boxes that are ready to be shipped. At the end of the day, people love seeing the personal side of your business. Maybe your wife stops by with your baby and kids or it’s take your daughter to work day – these are the photos that make people “feel good” and show that your company values family, fun, creativity etc. Give it a try!
  2. Post a quote! People love quotes and they get more shares, RTs and repins than just about anything. You can create a graphic with a photo and simple text overlay using sites like Pic Monkey or Canva. Both are free!
  3. Post a link to an article! Take note of holidays, trends etc and post relevant links your fans will find interesting. That might be a link to an article with fun ways to carve pumpkins because Halloween is just around the corner, or maybe something important is happening locally – share a link with info about the town’s Halloween parade and festival (especially if your business is a part of it).
  4.  Post a link back to your website! Your goal is to get people to use your product or services so post a link to your website once in a while when you update your blog, add new photos or offer coupons. You don’t have to be “salesy” if people have a reason to visit your site. For example, “Check out the new photos on the blog from Nate and Emily’s wedding” v “Check out our website! Our wedding packages start at $1299.” Both will get people to click through to your website, but people are more likely to do it when you tell them you’ve added more photos. It’s not salesy but while they’re on your site there’s a good chance they’ll click around and check out prices if they’re interested.
  5. Post a question! If you want to boost engagement, what better way to get people to comment than to ask them a question. It might be a simple “It’s Friday! How are you spending your holiday weekend?” or you could post a photo and ask “Which hat do you like better? We’re working on new styles and we want your input.” Questions are a way to get personal with your audience and the more engagement the better!

I hope these are helpful – Now get posting!