Written by Chris Lambrinides
CHAPTER 6 - WEBSITE ADVANCED
Working with a Developer
I have worked with many developers over the years, both in the United States and offshore, and the process is usually the same.
The number-one point I want to get across is communication, which is the essence of how to translate your ideas of what you want to have done to the developer in a low-friction way.
1. Show them examples of things you like and don’t like.
2. Hand draw or sketch layouts of what you’re looking for.
3. Use screenshots and screen recordings to capture and convey your ideas.
Two free tools to help with this are as follows:
Awesome Screenshot is a program that lets you take screenshots and draw ideas over them.
QuickCast is a program that will allow you to take short videos of the computer screen—known as a screencast.
4. Be specific. Developers are not mind readers. Unless you work with one for years, they won’t know exactly how you like things. Type out the exact copy and details of what you want.
Much like anything else, you can get a foreign version for cheap- er. Professional developers from Russia, India, or the Philippines are available for affordable prices. A comparable US-based developer can charge up to ten times the amount as an overseas developer.
Pros: Affordability and expertise
Cons: Communication problems, reliability, and off-hours working
So, although you will save money up front, you are going to pay for it on the back end with time. Everything takes more effort, and there will be way more back and forth.
Today, I use overseas developers all the time. But the key is I work with the same people on a regular basis. If this is your first time getting work done, I would recommend sticking with a US- based developer. It will save you a lot of up-front aggravation and get the whole project completed quicker.
If you are going to go to the trouble of putting together bids and estimates, you need to be using ResponsiBid. It makes your proposals look good, gives good upsells, and follows up with every prospect so that you close the most jobs possible. It does all the stuff that no one has time for. If you’d like to see how it works on a website, cruise on over to my website and check out spartawindowcleaning.com. Click on “Instant Attention.” The website part of ResponsiBid is great because it is super easy to install quickly on your website. It transforms your company into Amazon.com-like status in a beautiful way. Your potential customers can get a gorgeous quote on your services while putting them into your automated and systematized follow-up methods that ResponsiBid provides. The customer gets what they want (a quick and pressure-free quote), and you get what you want (a perfectly qualified lead into your sales funnel). Think of this part as a twenty-four-seven, perfectly trained salesperson on your website. Every single person who comes to your site is usually coming there for one of two reasons: to contact you in some way or to get a price. ResponsiBid makes it painless for you and the customer. Aside from the website bidding, ResponsiBid provides a bidding system for you over the phone or in person and keeps all your bids in one place. Then, the automation makes sure they are all moving toward booking you a job. There are also some really neat reports to help you see how you compare to the industry and how your lead sources compare to each other. Check it out here: symphosize.com/responsibid.
Communicate with visitors in real time on your website. Whereas ResponsiBid helps you sell while you’re off-line, a Live Chat widget will help you sell while you’re online. If someone is in your office full time, it makes sense to have this on your website.
It’s a tiny snippet of code injected into your site that you can access via an admin chat interface login.
Once you log in, the widget becomes active. If a visitor on your site has a question, they just type it in, and you can give them an immediate, real-time answer. It’s like texting with someone but over the computer. You can also set it to engage proactively with people on your site according to their actions. For example, you can set it up to ping them if they go idle on a certain page for longer than X seconds, just to see if they have a question or if you can help in any way.
This is an example of what it looks like from the customer’s perspective:
Think of it this way: people always have questions. If your company is the one that can answer them in real time, you will close more leads than your competition.
We started using this in my business in 2011. The instant we did, close rates via the website skyrocketed. Several companies offer this service; I have tried a few but stuck with Zopim because of its ease of use. We use a five-agent plan and try to have someone logged in to the service twenty-four hours a day. That might be a little overkill for your needs. If you have someone signed into it while they are in the office, you’ll be ahead of the game. As of this writing, March 2016, Zopim has a free light version of the software you can use: zopim.com/pricing/.
Let’s talk remarketing. A pixel or a tag is a tiny piece of code inserted into your website. It allows you to identify anonymously someone who visited your website on another platform.
Have you ever seen an ad on Facebook or on a Google search result for a product or service you just recently looked at? If so, you have been remarketed to.
This is a powerful marketing method that I can’t recommend enough. Even if you have no intention of using the data now, there is no harm in setting it up. You can decide to flip it on at any point in the future.
When the time comes that you want to try it out, you won’t have to wait for the long data-collection period to happen. You can put a pixel on any particular page on your website or just your home page.
How many times have you gone to buy something and for one reason or another couldn’t complete the transaction? Many times, I guarantee it. However, with remarketing ability, you are able to give your website visitor the thought that, “Oh yeah, I needed my windows cleaned. There’s that company’s ad again. I’m going to call them now.”
It’s much easier to close a warm lead of someone who at some point expressed interest in your services than it is to convince an uninterested cold lead. Your ads become much more relevant and personal. You can even take this a step further and put pixels on different pages of your website.
For example, maybe you have a page on gutter cleaning. Set the pixel on it. Then, in the fall, you can flip on advertising as the service is in season. A customer looks at your page and then later sees an ad for your company. That’s powerful stuff!
Many companies offer this service, with Google and Facebook being the most powerful and popular. I have used this technology on both of these platforms and will continue to do so. They are simple enough to use and figure out. Plus, they are affordable enough for you to experiment with to test the waters. You can turn it on and off anytime you want. Controlling your budget is easy; you can start with as little as five bucks a day without having to make any ongoing commitment.
Privacy isn’t much of a concern; all data is anonymous and confidential. No one ever, ever sees it or has access to it.
You can get started here: facebook.com/businessgoogle.com/ads
Web Tools—Google My Business
Google owns the vast majority of search results. When you go to search for something, you don’t “Yahoo it” or “Bing it”; you “Google it.” Hence, you want to do everything within your power to conform your website and business to Google’s programs.
Although they don’t come out and state that use of their products is a ranking signal, I believe it to be. A ranking signal is a measurement or metric that Google uses. It helps them determine where to rank your site against others in the search engine results page (SERP).
I highly recommend the use of Google My Business. Doing so will have a positive impact on your company’s visibility in the search results. Go to google.com/business and set up a page for yourself. It’s super easy, especially when you are already logged in to your Google account.
It’s going to ask you for some basic information about your business, such as hours of operation, phone number, URL, etc.
It will also prompt you to upload photos of work performed and/ or your office location. No piece of data is 100% essential to enter or upload. But I can tell you, the more information you give them, the happier they are, and the better your site will rank. Comply when you can!
Your dashboard will look something like this:
It gives you space to view your traffic results and make posts about your business, as well as an area to manage reviews and upload photos. These are all things that will help increase your visibility in the SERP. Like most Google services, it’s free.
Here is your standard SERP:
Notice the five elements I have laid out:
1. Search bar and term
2. Organic result
3. Google My Business
5. Review capture prompt
Item one is the search term. That’s easy. Item two I rank in the number one spot in the natural organic (free listings). That’s great!
But having a Google My Business account lets me have this whole other element on the SERP for free. Once you connect your account and get it set up, it will start to appear in the right-hand column.
The reviews are one of the most important elements. We will talk about reviews in general later on. But I want to mention that if there’s one place in the world you wish to have good, positive reviews of your service, it’s here. There is no public documentation stating that positive Google reviews are a ranking signal. My analytics reports lead me to believe it’s true, though. They show a high correlation between reviews and upticks in organic traffic patterns.
Web Tools—Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools recently changed its name to Google Search Console. It is a free program that allows you to check the index status of your website. You can use it to view your site’s visibility on the Internet, and it enables you to see your site through Google’s eyes.
Make sure you have it installed on your site and have the contact information on it reported to you. For the most part, you can set this up to review it every now and then, and then you can forget about it. If Google encounters a problem with your website, they will let you know. If there is a missing page or a blocked resource, the system will e-mail and alert you to the problem. There is a good chance you’ll never need to use it. But if something comes up, you will be glad you did set it up.
Web Tools—Google Analytics
Yes, this is another free product from Google. This is one of the more important and useful ones. Have it set up the day your website goes live. Like the other Google products, it’s installed with a simple snippet of code.
Google Analytics then gathers tons of useful data quietly in the background. Even if you’re not going to use it now, install it and start collecting data. It will show you as much or as little data as you want to see about the people who visit your site. Like your pixel-tracking data, the stuff that’s collected is all anonymous.
It will tell you that you had 122 visitors from Sussex County, New Jersey, visit your website on an iPhone 6 last month. But it won’t tell you who they are or provide any information that would connect the data to a real person. It collects all the general stuff without actually identifying who they are.
Even if you have no interest in reviewing this type of data now, the time will likely come when you will want to. When I first set up my site, I didn’t have a huge interest in reviewing the data. But a year later, when I caught the data bug, it was cool to log in and view all the information it had collected in the past year.
Here is a snapshot of one of the primary graphs Google Analytics provides. It shows our increase in web traffic over a six-year period. It looks like progress to me!
Although the above graph is a vanity metric, it is still important to collect and check out every once in a while. You don’t even have to log in; you can set it up to just auto e-mail you a report at any frequency you pick.
The four most important reports are as follows:
1. Traffic overview. Are you up or down? Why?
2. Traffic-sources overview. Where did your traffic come from this period? What sources went up. What went down? This will help you pinpoint new potential growth opportunities and identify problems.
3. Social overview. This shows you what type of traffic you are getting from social media activity.
4. Exit pages. If you have more than a couple of pages on your site, this report is worth looking at. From what pages are people most frequently exiting your site? This can be important in helping identify potential problems.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This is the process of optimizing your site to rank as high as possible in search engine results for a select set of terms.
You can use on-site and off-site SEO techniques to boost your website’s rankings. With off-site techniques, the market is always changing. What worked yesterday is dead today, and what’s working today could be dead tomorrow. I don’t want to pass on any irrelevant information that will have expired by the time you read this.
If you have an interest in off-site SEO techniques, bookmark these three websites. Give them a read on an ongoing basis, and you will be up to speed with the ever-changing SEO landscape:
With on-site SEO, the basics have remained the same for a while. Below, I go over a few relevant points and things I think you should be doing as a website owner. Think of on-site work as building a house. You want to build it right the first time. It needs a nice, strong foundation and quality materials throughout. It’s the same thing with your website.
Set it up right from the beginning while keeping in mind the five things Google wants to see:
1. Good, relevant content (GRC)
2. Title tag
3. Good URL structure
4. Mobile friendly
5. Fast loading speed, compressed images
Good, relevant content
It’s such a cliché. GRC has been talked about for so long, but most people still don’t get it. GRC is useful information that is relevant to what your potential customer is searching for. It’s good copy, images, or video related to the particular page on your site.
Let’s say you have a page on your site about gutter cleaning. Here are a few examples of GRC you could have on that page:
■ It must be original text written by you about gutter cleaning in general.
■ Explain why gutter cleaning is an important home- maintenance activity.
■ Explain how not having it done can cause potential problems.
■ How can your company assist the potential customer with their problem?
■ Include photos of the service performed, as well as before-and-after photos of the inside of a gutter and photos of a beautiful home with clean gutters.
■ Maybe include a video showing how you perform the service.
■ Include testimonials from customers talking about how your company helped them with their gutters.
Everything we mentioned is relevant to gutter cleaning only. Oh, you also offer pressure washing? That’s great, but don’t talk about it on your page about gutter cleaning. Talk about it on the page dedicated to pressure washing with its own unique, relevant copy.
I can’t stress the word unique enough. Do not—I repeat, do not—go to someone else’s site and copy and paste text into your site. Do not use other people’s images, either. Even if your photos suck and your text blows, using your own is better than copying someone else’s. Google is smart; they will know instantly, and you will get penalized for it. Penalized? Yes, if your page is ranking for a particular term or concept, it will likely drop in rankings.
Creating good, unique content can be a pain in the ass. You can say only so many things about window cleaning. But you can consider it unique if it’s written in your natural tone and peppered with pictures you took.
Each page on your website gets a title, and it’s what first shows up on a SERP. It helps tell Google and your potential visitors what this page of your site is about.
Take a few minutes to put all the different pages of your site into a spreadsheet, and lay out all your page titles. This is a good way to see what you have and what other pages you can potentially build in the future. These days, Google is restricting the view of the title tag to fifty or sixty characters. Putting them into a spreadsheet will help ensure you are using the proper length as well.
Download this template. It will help you identify your site pages and structure your data properly.
Good URL structure
A good URL: spartawindowcleaning.com/showroom/home-window-cleaning
A bad URL: spartawindowcleaning.com/page/2467
Notice the difference? One is read easier by Google and humans! This is a must.
This becomes more important every day. Check this out:
It’s official! My website is now getting more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop computers. And the trend is increasing each month. How your site looks on a mobile device is more important than how it looks on a desktop. In the past, the inverse would have been true, but not anymore, and the stats prove it. This is a great example of how Google Analytics can help your marketing efforts.
Look at your site from a couple of different devices—iPhone, Android, and different tablets—and see how it functions. How your site behaves on a phone is more important than how it works on a computer screen. Yes, seriously.
Check out this screenshot of my Sparta Window Cleaning site. Notice the persistent phone number. That makes it effortless for a potential customer to look you up and contact you right away.
Fast loading speed, compressed images
Fact: Page speed is one of the two hundred ranking signals identified by Moz.
Fact: Slow websites are annoying to use and cause people to leave your site and find a quicker one.
According to Search Engine Journal:
■ Forty-seven percent of web users expect a website to load in under two seconds.
■ Seventy-five percent of consumers will visit a competitor’s site instead of dealing with a slow page.
Usually, you can blame slow page speed on server optimization. Poorly optimized content and images are also culprits.
Use this free tool to optimize your images: kraken.io
Use these sites to check your page speed. They will pinpoint for you exactly what elements on your site are slowing things down. developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed tools.pingdom.com
Have a photo album page or a page with past projects on your website. Remember at the beginning of the book when I talked about taking lots of pictures? Post the gems here—with permission, of course. It’s a great place to post your best photos. Use ones showing beautiful homes that fit your target market. Include before-and-after photos, as well as photos of happy customers. Use anything that shows your prospective customers what they can expect.
Ongoing Content Creation
Ongoing content creation is a challenge for most companies. It doesn’t have to be, though. If you plan for it and schedule it, the whole thing will come together.
What do I mean by ongoing content creation? It’s creating con- tent for your website on a continual, planned-out basis. This can be blog posts, photo uploads, reviews, and testimonials. Or it can be a new picture-gallery posting and new-page creation. Google wants to see new stuff happening on your website on a regular basis. Your customers do, as well. All your marketing efforts will be easier if you have fresh content to send out on a regular basis.
The following are direct examples of things you can do:
- Blog posts
- Photo uploads of new projects you have completed
- Video uploads of anything related to your company
- Ongoing customer-review uploads
- New landing-page creation
For most people, numbers two through five above are no sweat; it’s blogging where they get hung up. That’s good news for you. If it’s hard to do, your competition won’t likely try it. What in the world should you write about?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Seasonal tips for homeowners
■ Seven ways to winterize your house
■ Eight reasons why you should have your gutter cleaning done twice a year
■ Summer is coming; four simple things you can do to cut down on your air-conditioning bill
■ The spring-cleaning checklist; ten must-have items to make your spring cleaning a breeze
- Tips on hiring a service contractor for your home
- Tips on touching up the windows between professional cleanings
- Local charities you work with or donate to
You get the idea. Curate and create useful stuff for homeowners and recycle it on your site in your own words. Prospective customers and Google will appreciate it. You can also use these blog posts in conjunction with a quarterly e-mail to your customer base. It’s nice to send useful stuff to the customers instead of just the “buy, buy, buy” stuff.