Online-Forms-that-EngageTo your website visitors, online forms are like optional extra credit in school. If they are already passing a class, most people don’t want to spend time completing extra work. That extra credit only becomes attractive when they need the points to pass the class. Your visitors won’t look at your forms with interest unless it promises to help them achieve something of value to them. If they can find the information they need through your blog or the products they need through your store, they have little incentive to spend time filling out an optional form.

The solution is not to give up on forms altogether but to create engaging online forms that have value to your visitors. You start by being upfront about what they will receive in exchange for the information asked for in the form.

For instance, you may tell visitors that they can obtain more in-depth information not featured on your blog or website content if they sign up for your newsletter or that they can get discounts on future purchases by signing up for occasional email messages. Think about what benefit a visitor may gain from a specific form, and make sure they understand that benefit. Then place the form in a convenient location on your website and follow these additional tips:

1. Only ask for the information you really need.
The more information a visitor must provide, the less likely they are to fill out an online form. Forms with a lot of fields look complicated and require a larger investment of time. Simplerforms are faster to fill out, so your visitors are more likely to consider the time investment worth the payoff they receive at the end.

2. Use terms that everyone can understand.
If your website is dedicated to a specific industry, don’t use industry lingo. You want to ensure that everyone inclined to fill out your form will understand what information you are requesting. When something is unclear, visitors will abandon the form before it is complete.

3. Design your forms to limit frustration over errors.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a long form only to be presented with a message that there were errors on the page? Going back to fix the error can double the time it takes to complete the form. This is often caused by not using dashes or other small mistakes. If you simplify your forms by accepting data in whatever manner your visitors want to enter it, you can eliminate this frustration and ensure your visitors stick around long enough to fully complete the process.

4. Customize your online forms to your user.
Use your analytics to determine what country most of your visitors come from, and then put that country at the top of your location dropdown list. Small things like that can simplify the form process so that more of your visitors make it to the end of the form.

Notice that these tips are aimed at making your online forms fast and easy to complete. The promise of something valuable on the other end will get many to start the form, but these tips are what will ensure they finish the form.

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Behind the Scenes
Web design and development is an art and a science. The art comes into play of course on the areas of the site that you can see and that are part of the overall look and feel of the site.

While search engine algorithms have changed dramatically over the years and can see and interpret a great deal, they are still limited in the way in which they crawl over the site and the data that it contains.

Your website doesn’t look the same to the search engine as it does to you. While the mantra lately is that it must be a good experience for the user and that the only thing that counts is the user experience, believe us when we tell you that isn’t the case at all. Web design and development requires a level of skill in algorithms and in proper coding methodology in order to ensure that the search engines can see what they need to see to allow your site to be crawled by search engines fully.

One perfect example in point is this– a website that was one of the top wiki websites online was having a lot of trouble ranking in Google. A well rounded site designer, who also did SEO, reviewed the site and used a spider simulator on it. He and found that the code was incorrectly executed and that the search engines could not read the header information on any of the pages, although they displayed correctly to the user. In this case the user experience was a good one, but the website could not get their pages well crawled or showing in search because of a code error.

The website design that you use must be well structured and reasonably well coded without errors. It’s an invisible portion of the site that has to be right in order to ensure that what the human visitor sees is pleasing to the eye and directs them to the places that are important. That same website design however, must also send the search engines to the right areas. The code, the alt tags, the descriptions must all be in order so that the search engines can see what is most important about the site. Both elements are a necessity for the site to be crawled and ranked for the website owner.

Another unseen element of website design are the alt tags. Using images without alt text can be a problem for the search engines too, in that they cannot read what the picture is. This means that the great photo or diagram that you have on your page is invisible in search.

Many websites have real problems with being seen. The content isn’t really indexed and the writing isn’t really designed for the search engines to peruse. A good example is a whole front page done in flash. It looks lovely in many cases, but it’s not readable or usable by the search engines. This means that your lovely site and all of your beautiful sales content isn’t going to be visible to the search engines or able to rank well.

A great coding job, careful attention to details, the right alt text and the right image labeling can make your site far more visible in search, yet it is not part of the visible content of the site. When it comes to website design and development, what you don’t see is often far more important than that which you do see.

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As important as it is to attract visitors your website, keeping them there long enough to make a purchase or subscribe is the ultimate goal. This is where a site’s bounce rate comes in. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who go past the first page of your site to investigate further. The longer a guest is at your site and the deeper into the site they go, the more likely a sale will be made.

Decreasing your bounce rate from the average of 40 – 60% to a lower more profitable level can be accomplished by solving a few design flaws that may be present at your site. To reduce bounce rates be certain your site is designed to answer the following questions:

Where am I – Visitors come to a site with a purpose in mind. They read a teaser and want to read the rest of an article or they are looking for a specific product, service or information on a particular subject. Once they have arrived, they want access to what they came for. Be upfront with what your site is about, and don’t make your guests search for what they came for.  All tho your goal may be to reduce your bounce rate and keep visitors on the site longer, you don’t want to make them hunt for something.

What’s over there – Assuming your guests have come with a purpose and found what they are looking for, the next step is to guide them to explore the rest of the site. A cluttered site will turn people away. Your customers shouldn’t have to work to find the way. Keep it simple and easy to maneuver if you want prospective customers to hang around.

Who’s place is this – Be sure to include an about me page with a picture of yourself. People feel more secure doing business with someone they know. Reading a short bio and a few words about your present life will engender their trust.

Where is everybody – Make it easy for you guests to connect with other by adding plugins to social media sites such as the following:

  • Diggit
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

These plugins reduce your bounce rate by making your guests feel at home and by not making them leave to connect with their friends. They also provide a handy way for your guests to invite (promote) others over for a visit.

How can I learn more – At the bottom of your site provide related content links to enable your guests to put what they have found at your site in context. Below are three of the most popular.

  • LinkWithin – The most low key of these three
  • Nreate – Simplest for site users to work with
  • Outbrain – Presently more popular than the other two

Remember, once visitors arrive, the emphasis switches to keeping them there as long as possible, encouraging them to look around and make them want to come back and recommend that they friends come too.

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small business website designEvery small business needs professional website designed by a professional. That’s a sweeping statement, but it’s also a true statement. Small business website design is not any different from big business web design. The smaller business today, in order to compete on a level playing field needs to look as though they are capable, established, professional and credible–as most of them are–with the bigger businesses. A larger business has more resources, more staff and more money to spend. They can afford to market their services to a scope that evades small business website design and marketing.

Small business website design requires the same elements that makes the big business websites great but on a budget.

Important elements of a small business website design that are  key:

  • Easily to navigate
  • Easy to search and find what you want
  • Enlightening or informative by the use of quality, unique creative content
  • Eye catching and unique–not one of many cookie cutter type sites
  • Instill trust with a look and feel that matches the brand
  • Ability to rank well on search engines to get noticed
  • Easy to update with internal staff
  • Meets the unique small business website needs

Small business website design and marketing is unique in that it needs to provide the smaller business the appearance and appeal of a larger site while still staying honest and ethical about who and what the small business is. This can usually be undertaken effectively by the use of creative content and custom website design by a consulting a professional.

Sometimes small businesses try to do web design on their own to save a few dollars but is easily lost in return on investment. I always say let the professionals do what they do best. I would never redo my electrical breaker box in my house; I leave that to my electrician. Just like he leaves me to do his small business website design and marketing. We both are better off and it’s a lot safer.

Small Business Website Design for Your Business

If you’re a small business owner today, your website is quite like your first line of marketing. It is a pivotal component in your brand recognition and your marketing to all of your customers. It may be where you gain most of your business and most of your visibility. Or, conversely, it may not be any of those things, in which case your website isn’t working as hard for you as it should be.

The key may well be in the design that you’re using, the inability to search quickly or the way in which the customer perceives you based on the design that you’re using.

The average website owner balks at the costs that may be involved in a custom website design. An honest web design agency will tell you that their design costs are higher than the costs that might be incurred for a cookie cutter template. The reasons for that difference is that custom website design for the small business can afford you a vast array of benefits not given you by the off-the-rack style website design.

If your small business website is using a design that is seen hundreds if not thousands of places online, your website falls to the ranks of the very small business in the minds of your prospective customers. If your design is fresh and unique and easy to navigate, it is, in the same minds, promoted to the ranking of the capable and efficient larger business without their even reviewing or reading your content.

Custom small business website design provides a unique look and feel that will show the world what you’re all about and what differentiates you from the others. It offers you the same look and feel that the larger businesses have and helps to reinforce your long history. Using testimonials from your customers in combination with a custom website design can provide you with the look and feel of being just a little larger than your competition and give you and your company a decided edge.

Get the look and feel that your company needs to grow online; a professional website that shows off who you are and what you can do.

Never Look Small!

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Panda-Penguin-HummingbirdGoogle seems to have an identity crisis these days, constantly changing the requirements they have for websites they list. Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird have so many different things you need to take into account, it can be maddening. But before you hire a Fort Lauderdale SEO marketing firm to help you to get your website in order, it can help to sit down and understand the differences among these changes.

The newest of the three Google changes is Hummingbird. This is a search algorithm that helps Google to better categorize pages. It is designed to bring the high quality pages with relevant content to the top of search engine results while leaving rubbish at the bottom of the stack. To rank high with Hummingbird, you need to focus on quality and make sure when a person searches a term and clicks on a link to your website, they are receiving quite a bit of information.

Unless you work for a marketing firm, you are probably left thinking that was what Panda and Penguin already did. However, that isn’t exactly the case. For example, Penguin was more directed to manipulative links and how they were handled, rather than making a change to the general algorithm the company used. Panda in turn changed the rank associated with low quality websites and those light on information for a particular niche.

Hummingbird has also helped transform the Google search engine into a conversational search engine that focused more on how people speak and less on defined keywords. That means the search engine would look beyond hard keywords and explore phrases to give internet users better results for their searches.

However, there are different requirements and elements you need to take into account to maximize the impact you have online. While some business owners understand Google and how the changes directly affect their results, others are finding that using the services of providers like Fort Lauderdale SEO companies is an effective choice as they can deliver original, high quality website content that won’t negatively be impacted in Google.

Of course, the entire process is one that continues to evolve and expand over time. Penguin, for example, is at 2.1 right now and is penalizing websites that ignore the guidelines and use fraudulent tactics to boost their ranking. Panda is at version 4.0 right now and has helped make vast improvements to search engine results with continuous improvements that are less noticeable than when it was first released.

So what are the best practices to help you to avoid problems with Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird?

  • Avoid duplicate content at all costs.
  • Ensure there is value to each post you place on your website.
  • Don’t pay for backlinks or use black hat exchange systems.
  • Increase the value of all low-quality content.
  • Improve the grammar, spelling and cohesiveness of the content on your website.
  • Make certain every post answers the questions internet users have based on a topic when they perform a Google search.
  • Avoid excessive advertising on your website, especially in text links.
  • Verify that keywords are an appropriate match for the website and not designed to deceive an audience.

If you have been affected by any of these changes in Google, don’t fret. A professional Fort Lauderdale SEO company can review your website and show you some of the changes you can make. With a little effort, the damage can be reversed so you can recover from the hit and give users a better version full of quality information they can count on.

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Responsive Web DesignYour web design and development directly affects the success of your online business. Any company that isn’t utilizing responsive web design will find their online presence struggle through 2014 and may not make it to 2015. This is why it is important to hire a professional South Florida web design company to assist you through the process.

If you are scratching your head at the term responsive web design, you aren’t alone. This website is laid out so it adjusts to fit the viewing area it is displayed in. Since more people are using tablets, smartphones and computers to access the internet, you can’t use a single website to cater to all your potential visitors. The responsive web design will instead adjust the displayed page so it works perfectly for the desired website.

Fluid grids will be an essential part of the process because they are part of the essential framework to the responsive design. Since screen resolutions are changing all the time, you can’t simply target a couple and call it good. Fluid grids take the traditional liquid layout and improve on the idea. Developers aren’t designing the pages based on percentage values or pixels, but instead it is based on proportions. This allows the screen elements to work on a giant screen or on a handheld device.

For this to work, you need to take the proportions of the different page elements and divide the element by the overall context. Using an image editor tends to be the best choice since you can create a high fidelity variation of images. In this case, having 960 pixels across would be your container. Using that, you can create a layout that works. The formula is target / context = size results. So for a 300 pixel resizing, you would divide 300 / 960 = 31.25% for the necessary proportions. It is important to understand that not all values will be neat. With the varying images, never round up. Instead, take it out as many decimal points as possible to give the best appearance possible.

You will find that the fluid grids will be among the most important parts of your overall responsive design. However, in the case of narrow browsers, options like media queries can help. Using media queries to work in the most common pixel dimensions such as 320 pixels, 480 pixels, 600 pixels, 768 pixels and so on will help you to achieve the results you want.

While the process might sound like an expensive and time-consuming one, a South Florida web design company like BMGcreative can do this for you in a short period of time and well within your budget. Assuming your original design is setup to convert easily, as there may be some exceptions where new web design and development might be necessary to work across multiple platforms.

Considering that in 2014, the bulk of your traffic will come from a portable device, you need to be ready with a mobile friendly layout. People on the go utilize websites to locate local businesses and comparatively shop with online vendors. That means slow load times and difficult to read pages have a negative impact on your business. Avoid becoming a statistic of online evolution and make sure you work with a South Florida web design company to make sure your site is responsive.

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Website Navigation
Technology is just advancing at an amazing speed, isn’t it? The way that we search for things and the websites that we use. In the old days, navigation was just a little strip of pretty colored buttons running down the page. Those days are pretty much gone. . . or are they? Very often those simple navigations that we had ten or fifteen years ago were superior to website navigation today. The reality is that they were simple and it was easy to find what we came for.

Have you ever been to a website that was simply annoying to navigate and it felt like you couldn’t find what you wanted if you stayed a hundred years? Those are the kinds of sites that you simply leave– sometimes leaving a little webmaster feedback on the way out–and you don’t visit them again do you?

Statistics tell us that we have about a minute to offer up the information that our reader came to find before they become impatient and leave our site, very often to not return at all. Website navigation problems are the number one reason why visitors leave sites and find another, easier to use site. That means that you want to get it right the first time.

Web design navigation has some common problems that are seen frequently in older sites and in some brand new ones. The most common problems that are seen are:

Circuitous navigation that doesn’t take you anywhere. One page links to another to another, and the navigation on every page is different. This is frustrating to the user and hard to find what you came for. Once you do find it, you can’t find your way back to the first page.

Navigation that is hidden or hard to find–we’ve all seen this. About a third of the website buttons on the top bar and the remainder buried at the foot of the text on the front page or a content page because someone told them that would make people go deeper into the site. The reality is that sometimes it does. Usually it just annoys them because what they are seeking is not readily apparent. One very popular website company actually recommends this method.

Avoiding those problems means planning ahead. Determining what information you will house and how you will set it up logically to give people a good chance to see it quickly.

Set up the navigation when you build the site. Ideally you will be able to do that but if you can’t, fix what you have or rebuild the site to make it easier for people to find what they want. Website navigation is the be all and end all today.It’s a reason why search engines rank you well and people come back again and again. If you’re not getting the traffic that you want from your website or your bounce rate is inordinately high, ask yourself why.

The search engines today–and your readers– are all about a good experience. They want to find it quickly and read it in bite sized pieces. Hiding the navigation is a problem for both you and the website visitor because it is frustrating to you and that means that you lose customers.

It means that your readers and your prospective customers can find the information that they want easily or the products that they want to buy readily. If that isn’t the case in your website, it’s time for a change.


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New Website Design: Moving On from Your Old Website

You invested your heart and soul into your old website, but it just doesn’t load as fast as it used to. You still have the vision that inspired the site in your mind, but it takes more searching to see that vision when you look at what your site has morphed into through the months or years. Visitors aren’t responding to the site as well as they once did, and you know that it is time to take action.

When the analytics for your site start to look far less impressive than you are willing to tolerate, you have two options. You can embrace the need for change and breathe new life into your site’s design, or you can abandon the site entirely and watch it decline into nothing of value. You have invested far too much time to let it go completely, which leaves you with the first option: revive the site through change.

A thorough analysis of your old website will help you decide what type of change you need. Here is a quick checklist to help you complete this analysis:

  • Identify features that are used most often by visitors and which hold visitors on the page longest.
  • Identify features that are no longer used or are quickly abandoned by users.
  • List all complaints that you have received from visitors.
  • Test your navigation system to make sure it is still efficient.
  • Identify outdated or irrelevant content that needs rewritten or eliminated.
  • Have friends or family members give you their opinion on your overall site design.

In most cases, you will find that a completely new site design is needed to bring the site back to life. You can work with a professional designer to tackle this project, which often turns into a balancing act. While you need to maintain the essence of the site so that your loyal followers do not lose the features they find useful, you also need to upgrade to something more eye-catching and appealing to a larger audience.

Decide What Features to Keep

Make a short list of the features or design elements that you know should remain on your new website design. This will help you feel better about moving on from your old website, since you get to keep the elements that make the site unique.

Any features or pages of content that your regular site visitors use frequently should make it onto this list. You may end up redesigning some elements of these features, but you know that they must remain on the site to appease your regular followers. You may also want to keep evergreen content that gets a lot of attention from search engines and human visitors. You may also identify pages that are struggling but which might thrive if you give them a makeover with fresher content and better SEO strategies.

The Excitement of Going Live

It can take several months, to completely overhaul your website design into something more appealing to today’s viewers. Get in touch with your market and view competing websites so that you see where your new website design can one-up your competitors.

When it is time to take your new website live, prepare for a period of analysis. Make sure to analyze the elements of your old website that were not working to ensure that they do work with the new website design.

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You took the time to find a talented website designer and invested in a professional web design. You poured your soul into writing high-quality content ready to inspire, motivate, teach and entertain your website visitors. You looked all over for the perfect images to create the perfect look and feel for each page of your site. You are now proud of your website, but there is a big problem: no one else seems proud of your site.

This is a problem many website owners encounter, but there are creative actions you can take to bring more visitors to your site. If you haven’t already started a marketing plan, right now is the time to change that. If you have been marketing your website but haven’t received the results you wanted, the following tips will help you develop a more efficient, results-driven plan. Get ready to unveil your beautiful creation on the rest of the world.

Spill Your Heart in a Blog

Do you have a blog for your website? If not, your goal is to change that this year. If you do, your goal is to change the way you think about your blog. This is not a space for stuffy declarations of your worth or heavy advertisements. Blogs are not meant to be updated once a month or only when you have a new product to push. Your blog is your space to tell the world what makes you tick, why you are special, and how you see your industry and the world at large.

Write tightly-focused blog posts that drill home one central idea in a personal manner. Speak directly to your readers so that they see you as a person to whom they can relate. Ask questions and take the time to read the comments when they start coming in. This is hard because you are revealing your true self in a vulnerable manner. Go there, and you will be rewarded. All and all making your more proud of your website!

Give Your Heart Away

Do you have an eBook, long report or other digital product that you know would help millions of people if they gave it a chance? Instead of pedaling it for what it is worth, give part or all of it away for free. This may make you squirm a little, but that only tells you that it is something of value that will work. The goal is to have other products to offer when people realize the value of your freebie and come back for more.

You can also write brilliant blog posts and give them to other bloggers. Why would you do that when you are starting your own blog? You do it because giving away that top-notch post allows you to tap into the audience already secured by other bloggers.

You will need to make updates to your website to make these ideas work and be proud of your website. You may need to add an opt-in for visitors to receive your freebie in exchange for their name and email address, and the blog will take some time to setup. It will be worth it in the end as you get more for your marketing time and dollars.  So make these steps, put in the extra work and be proud of your website!

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How did your website perform in 2013? If you weren’t satisfied with the traffic it attracted, the amount of time your visitors stayed on the site, or the site’s ability to convert, now is the time to think about making some website updates. You may even decide to scrap your current site and start fresh with a new domain name and website design.

When deciding what website updates are top priority it is important is that you recognize what needs to happen to make the site better and take action to turn it around for this year. You don’t want to end another year wishing you had performed better, and the following actions will help you take your website development in the right direction.

Reconsider Your Design

If visitors aren’t sticking on your web pages or aren’t clicking around to visit additional pages after a search engine hit, you may have website design problems. Have a professional designer look at the site and help you determine the weak spots. You can then decide whether it is time to start over or fix up the site you already have.

If you didn’t invest in professional website development when you first created this site, chances are high that it does not feel professional or authentic to visitors. If you can’t create a professional website design that delivers a smooth, rewarding experience for visitors, make it your goal to work with a professional this year.

Update Your Content

Freshen up old content, even if it is evergreen. Make sure you are implementing effective SEO strategies. That means not stuffing keywords into your content unnaturally. Every keyword should fit the content and should flow seamlessly. Every page of your site should teach your reader something, make them laugh, make them think, or simply keep them thirsty for more so that they come back. If you can’t create that type of content personally, hire someone who can.

Content doesn’t stop with text. Think about incorporating videos, pod casts and other types of content. If you haven’t made a video yet, that might be a good goal to consider for this year. Finding fresh images may be another good goal.

Check the Technical Stuff

How much downtime did your site have last year? If you weren’t impressed with the number of site crashes you experienced, this is a good time to research a better hosting service. Go through your plugins and make sure they are all active and were updated within the past year. Consider whether you even need those plugins. Do the same with every link on your website to ensure you only link to high-quality, authoritative sites that are still active and relevant.

Come Out of Your Shell

Once you have improved your site or created a new site that you know will perform better, start reaching out to other people. Figure out who your target market is and find them on social media. Create guest blog posts with links back to your blog or website. There are countless ways to promote your website, but make sure you engage with other site owners within your niche as well. Get your name out there and focus on branding so that your site gets the attention it deserves this year.

While you are taking action to improve your website for the New Year, take the time to improve the security of the site. Select a tricky password and use a plugin to limit the number of login attempts allowed. A stealth login page plugin can help thwart the efforts of hackers as well. One final thing: don’t forget to backup your site on a routine basis.

Website updates are something that should take place throughout the year and not just every new year.  With a dedicated maintenance plan you can assess changes and website updates that you need to make throughout the year.  Having a current and up to date website makes your business look professional and keeps your customers coming back.

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