Working with Us: the 10 Step Sirius Process

If you want a cookie cutter website you can find them elsewhere. Each Sirius Media website is hand crafted to tell your story in the most effective way possible. Our sites are finely tuned to engage your web visitors and convert them into customers. It’s both an art and a science. Here’s how we do it.

The Interview

We’ll meet in person or over the phone to learn about your business, your goals and gather information. You’ll learn about similar Sirius Media projects, and explore new possibilities. Ask questions — we’ll answer them! This in depth consultation and estimate is free to the customer.

Get a Bid

Bids are created in modules, so projects can be phased in as budgets allow. Work begins after the contract is signed and a 25% deposit is made. Once your deposit is made, your project is in production.

Review and Research

A look at your current site, analytics and your competition helps us know what has worked, what hasn’t and why.

Dig into Design

Can range from extensive custom design work with 3 layout options to choose from to selecting a standard WordPress theme to customize with colors and fonts. Includes information architecture and site mapping.

Collect Content

Gather information available and decide what needs to be written, which images are needed, or video to be recorded, based on site design and clients brands.
Time to Review and Refine

Review and Revise

Each step has two rounds of review built into the estimate. Additional changes will be charged by the standard hourly rate.

Interaction Maximization

Now’s the time to add custom forms, private content, embedded media, or ecommerce elements. Time for all the interaction bells and whistles!

Going Beta

Every site gets a pre-launch run through to make sure it works on all modern browsers and mobile devices.

Let's Launch

10, 9, 8….. we now have lift off! We carefully connect your domain name to the site, and make sure your emails are all working. Repointing the domain can take as little as 30 minutes to up to 2 days to complete.

The Sirius Extra Value: WordPress Training

We believe in empowering our clients to use WordPress to maintain their websites and provide each client a Website Guide with step-by-step instructions on how to do simple site updates, including all the security information to maintain the site.

12 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Website

Sirius-Media_2004_water_400

Sirius-Media.com in 2004.

Every business has to start somewhere.

You get going with what you can afford and, unless you’re a startup with angel investors, you make do until there’s some money actually coming in. Once business starts rolling along, it’s easy to forget about the website that got you launched.

Often, your first website is pretty basic. Maybe there wasn’t a budget to put it together, or a design student did it for peanuts, or a free website builder was used. Your site works, and may even look okay, but traffic has stalled. It’s time for a change.

It’s time to consider a new website if…

  1. It’s been more than 3 years since you redesigned.
  2. Your website uses Flash animations. Adobe’s animation darling is quickly becoming a faded flower.
  3. The site is difficult to maintain, which results in outdated, missing, or incorrect content. Out of date content detracts from your search ranking.
  4. It’s not friendly to mobile devices such as tablets or smart phones.
  5. Your site doesn’t have an SSL certificate. This is a feature modern browsers require and it’s a help with search optimization, too.
  6. Website doesn’t match current marketing campaigns. Branding consistency is so important. If your site doesn’t showcase your new logo, use your colors or displays an old tagline, then it’s working against you, 24/7.
  7. You’re not collecting new email contacts for marketing. Take advantage of email marketing by growing your email list.
  8. Feeling insecure? Hacking and malware attacks are omnipresent. If your site is running the latest security package, it’s vulnerable to the bad guys.
  9. Social share buttons are missing, or connections to your social media pages are absent.
  10. Your content is out of date. Google looks for content that has been updated or is new. Adding video, slideshows or podcasts are great ways to increase online engagement and dynamically tell your business’s story.
  11. Business contact info, hours or location is hard to find, or the contact page is missing. Hidden contact information is lost business. Make sure your phone, email, office location and business hours are clear and easy to find.
  12. Site traffic is not being measured with Google Analytics. It’s free, easy to install and a must for monitoring any website health.

Recently, the venerable community blog Metafilter redesigned after getting feedback from Google that their decade old site design made the content look out of date and unreliable. Website design can affect not just your branding, but also the perception of reliability, and search engine visibility. Even Google likes to see something new now and then.

Sirius-Media.com in 2008If your website meets 3 or more of the above criteria, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

Sirius Media is an expert in guiding clients through the upgrade process. We know what is working for businesses like yours, can recommend restyles that work on all devices, provide graphic design services, advise on SEO decisions, and install the analytics tools to monitor your site and measure success.

With a fresh new website built on the popular and robust WordPress platform, you’ll be able to easily take over site updates while being ready to do site improvements and upgrades in the future.

Take your business website to the next level. Get Sirius today!

Contact Sirius Media Today

 

 

 

 

Why “Click Here” is a Really Bad Idea

Stop Using Click Here!It is used all over the place. Click here to get this coupon. Click here to send us your story. To visit our webpage click here. It’s simple, direct and devoid of any clues. Out of context on the page, it is a meaningless call to action.

As a designer committed to enhancing web usability and clear communication, I believe using “Click here” as a web link is a bad idea. And the WC3, the worldwide authority on web standards and best practices, agrees with me.

Here are 5 ways that “Click here” violates both web standards and best practices.

  1. The link provides no usability clues, because it doesn’t tell you what you’ll be able to do or can expect to find when you get there.
  2. It’s not accessible for the blind for the same reason.  Providing clues to those who use a screen reader to navigate the web is not just polite — for government and public agencies, it is the law. For the rest of us, including accessibility in our web designs is simply good practice for an aging population.
  3. It’s bad for search engine optimization (SEO) because it tells search engines nothing about the purpose of the link. The words are generic when they could be hot, juicy, descriptive keywords. Using keywords in strong, descriptive links will beef up your SEO scoring.
  4. You won’t find any lazier copywriting anywhere. This overused phrase is a cliche that focuses on the mechanics of using the link instead of the benefit the visitor will receive.
  5. A web visitor deserves your respect, and “Click here”  implies they are stupid. This far down the road we do not need to tell people how a web link works. Hello — how do you think they got here?

“Click here” is just another way of saying You idiot. Put your mouse or cursor over this blue underlined text to proceed to somewhere you know nothing about.” It’s like having “turn page” at the bottom right hand corner of a book instead of page numbers.

Please join me in stamping out the  use of  “Click here” for web links whenever you have the opportunity. Better yet, send me prime examples of “Click here” used online. I’m starting a collection.

Watch for These Email Red Flags!

Red Skull and CrossbonesA client just forwarded an email they’d gotten about helping with search optimization and asked me if I thought they should try it.

At first glance it seemed legit. The copy was well written and it brought up some real issues about content and search visibility. But looking more closely I saw many red flags indicating, if not fraud, at least shady business practices.

  1. The originating email name was not same as the person who signed the email.
  2. The originating email was from a gmail (or other generic, free) account, not a email address from the company’s domain name.
  3. Cost of the service was not mentioned, although they specifically stated “No Contract” and “No Setup Fee”. Be assured there IS a cost involved and it is most likely significant.
  4. The company and/or domain name was not listed in the email.
  5. There was no website listed to investigate the firm.

Working with someone like this would be akin to accepting an offer from a stranger on a street corner whispering “Need someone to fix your SEO?” or “I can get you top ranking on Google!”

Don’t be sucked in to the scam. There are many legitimate SEO vendors out there, and you can check to see what they have to offer by reviewing their website. They can definitely make a difference in your search ranking.

Sirius Media is happy to offer suggestions, just ask!

Shaking the Long Tail for Better SEO

booster_dewey

Booster Dewey, from the Power Brake Booster Exchange, Portland, OR

I have a client with an old fashioned .html website. It looks just like it was created in the early years of the web and he isn’t interested in changing it.  He’s so old-school, he sends me updates in a letter and I call him with questions. He has no email address and doesn’t want one.

His website works for him. Customers find his business easily and learn what they need to know from the site. The site is not hip or trendy. It has 2 pages. It is not optimized to work on mobile devices.  The only photos are of car parts and him holding a power brake booster.

So yesterday, I was doing his yearly price updates, and thought just for the fun of it, I’d check his search performance in Google.

And to my surprise, he owns the first page of search results! Every link went back to his website, which hasn’t had any SEO magic applied to it. I was amazed!

I tried several different queries and results were the same. Search for “power brake boosters”, and it’s all him. I know clients who would pay huge amounts to get that kind of coverage.

So how did he get such high search rankings? One is domain name longevity. You can’t buy a long-time web presence, and Google ranks it very strongly in their SEO ranking score. It’s a matter of getting in and staying there.

But the second factor, and most important, is his product is a unique one that fits the definition of the long tail perfectly. The long tail is the holy grail of search optimization and he’s nailed it.

The Long Tail

  1. Fits a very narrow definition.
  2. Appeals to a small highly motivated group of customers.
  3. Is not being used by many competitors
  4. Provides exactly what that group is looking for.

Or to borrow from one of the search experts:

Specific, niche search phrases, usually more than 2 words in length, that offer a low competition, low search volume and high searcher intent.
From SEO 101: Defining the Long Tail

So, let this be a lesson to anyone building a website: Figure out how your product or service is unique and appeals to a small, motivated segment of the market and wag that long tail. Do you sell t-shirts? Highlight your handmade, hemp t-shirts for allergic pregnant women. Promoting a park? Blog about the trails that feature Great Horned Owl habitat in the winter evening hours. Focus on what is unique about your product, service or subject and your search optimization will benefit tremendously.

Thanks to BoosterDeweyExchange.com for the lessons learned and inspiration for this blog post. If you need a power brake booster for an older American car, go see my man Booster Dewey!

Writing Website Content

MP910216414When beginning a web project, often coming up with the written copy is one of the hardest parts. Clients often tell me “I know what I want to say, but am not sure where to begin”. I often feel the same way. Here are 10 tips to crafting better website content.

  1. Begin with a content outline. Decide what the main elements of your copy are, what info goes where.  Then get word counts from your web designer and be sure to use them.
  2. Start with the big questions. For a bio, tell readers who you are, what brought you to where you are now, what are your passions. Do share quirky and pertinent details that are memorable. Don’t share quirky not pertinent details that will only distract.
  3. Answer the searches. How will people ask Google for your product or services? Convey the information you want to share by answering the searches made to find you. Do some searches yourself to see how results vary by framing the question differently.
  4. Do include details. Instead of saying “We sell widgets”, try “We carry wooden wide load widgets for on greased gizmos and green gadgets”. Every detail provides more clues to lead the web visitor through your website. And it also provides more ‘Google juice‘ to enhance your site ranking.
  5. Use the active voice. Imagine yourself in a conversation with the web visitor. Be engaging, answer questions you know they’ll ask, and invite exploration by cross-linking to other content within your website.
  6. Break it up — Readers scan quickly when reading online. It’s actually good to use sentence fragment subheads, bulleted lists and one-sentence paragraphs. Sprinkled liberally with calls to action. (See what I did there?)
  7. Headlines and subheads must use descriptive keywords. Web readers scan quickly, so need to know exactly what you’re talking about before they’ll actually read your content. As Jakob Nielsen advises, use “links and category descriptions that explicitly describe” your products.
  8. Don’t use made up words or jargon. Remember search engines don’t understand clever innuendo or elegant wordplay. Do use terms likely to be used by your audience for searching.
  9. Have somebody else proofread all content. Do it before posting, then again after it’s on the website. Seeing content in action can change context, but always be sure copy is polished before giving it to your web designer. Edits take time, which costs money.
  10. Find a photo. Copy gets more attention if it has a photo or illustration to catch the eye and illustrate the concept. Use stock houses, your own photos, or public domain images to be sure you have legal copyright to use it. Do not just save images you like off the web. That is illegal and reputable web designers will not use them.

Shaking the Long Tail for Better SEO

booster_dewey

Booster Dewey, from the Power Brake Booster Exchange, Portland, OR

I have a client with an old fashioned .html website. It looks just like it was created in the early years of the web and he isn’t interested in changing it.  He’s so old-school, he sends me updates in a letter and I call him with questions. He has no email address and doesn’t want one.

His website works for him. Customers find his business easily and learn what they need to know from the site. The site is not hip or trendy. It has 2 pages. It is not optimized to work on mobile devices.  The only photos are of car parts and him holding a power brake booster.

So yesterday, I was doing his yearly price updates, and thought just for the fun of it, I’d check his search performance in Google.

And to my surprise, he owns the first page of search results! Every link went back to his website, which hasn’t had any SEO magic applied to it. I was amazed!

I tried several different queries and results were the same. Search for “power brake boosters”, and it’s all him. I know clients who would pay huge amounts to get that kind of coverage.

So how did he get such high search rankings? One is domain name longevity. You can’t buy a long-time web presence, and Google ranks it very strongly in their SEO ranking score. It’s a matter of getting in and staying there.

But the second factor, and most important, is his product is a unique one that fits the definition of the long tail perfectly. The long tail is the holy grail of search optimization and he’s nailed it.

The Long Tail

  1. Fits a very narrow definition.
  2. Appeals to a small highly motivated group of customers.
  3. Is not being used by many competitors
  4. Provides exactly what that group is looking for.

Or to borrow from one of the search experts:

Specific, niche search phrases, usually more than 2 words in length, that offer a low competition, low search volume and high searcher intent.
From SEO 101: Defining the Long Tail

So, let this be a lesson to anyone building a website: Figure out how your product or service is unique and appeals to a small, motivated segment of the market and wag that long tail. Do you sell t-shirts? Highlight your handmade, hemp t-shirts for allergic pregnant women. Promoting a park? Blog about the trails that feature Great Horned Owl habitat in the winter evening hours. Focus on what is unique about your product, service or subject and your search optimization will benefit tremendously.

Thanks to BoosterDeweyExchange.com for the lessons learned and inspiration for this blog post. If you need a power brake booster for an older American car, go see my man Booster Dewey!

Easy Steps to Search Engine Success

search magnifying glassWe all want our websites to get more traffic. And the best way to do that is to be near the top of the page in search results. But how do you get Google’s attention or Bing’s blessing? It’s all done via the mysterious process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here are 7 easy steps to increasing your SEO score and get more visitors coming to your website.

1. Start at the top — use your page title.

The title bar is at the very top of your browser is the first thing a search engine spider sees, so make it count. The limit is 60 characters, so be sure to include your site name, location and a few words telling more about the site.

2. Write hardworking headlines.

Extra! Extra! Headlines tell us what to expect! They also create curiosity about the topic. Headlines are also the first piece of content the search spider sees on the page and are very important for SEO. Use your headline to announce the page topic.

3. Provide navigation to the destination.

Nav links are the road signs of the web and search spiders look at them closely. They should be concise, descriptive and informative. For extra SEO points, nav links or web buttons should have a title with additional information about what will be found at the destination page. These show up as as a tooltip when you hover over the link.

4. Make your links logical.

Links inform visitors and search bots what to expect when action is taken, and are very valuable. Don’t miss this easy technique to enhance your SEO. Simply tell the visitor where the link leads using keywords. “Click here” is a wasted opportunity because it gives no information where it leads. More about using “Click Here”>>

5. Make connections.

Incoming links from other sites are the holy grail of search engine marketers. So are links to and from the other pages on your site. Cross-linking page on your site provides a way for the web visitor to get additional information easily. Link between pages wherever possible.

6. Always use alt tags.

Alt tags are short descriptions of photos found on website to provide information for non-sighted web users using screen readers. We often don’t notice them, but they are seen by search engine spiders and can add a lot of value to your SEO score. Be kind to the blind and make Google happy by using your alt tags.

7. Find the magic keywords and use them wisely.

Make a list of words you and your colleagues use when discussing your topic, then make a list of the words people really use when chatting or asking questions about it. If you have site stats, check to see what keywords people used to find your site. Use these to provide a base for your keyword list.

Don’t search for help — give Sirius a call.

These 7 simple steps will go a long way to improving your search engine placement and will bring more web traffic to your site. Each website crafted by Sirius Media has SEO built right in, with custom keyword research part of our small business website package. Ready to take your website to the next level? Just give us a call.

10 Things You Should Know About Pinterest

Fellene<br />
s Pinterest BoardPinterest is growing by leaps and bounds and is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media sites around. Here are ten things every business owner should know about Pinterest.

  1. If Facebook is like passing notes to friends in class, and Twitter is like sending text to the universe. Pinterest is like a bulletin board where you post pieces of visual content sorted into categories. Consider it a scrapbook of your favorite things.
  2. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media sites around. From July 2011 to July 2012 it grew by 5124%, quickly overtaking Google+ and gaining ground on Linked In.
  3. What is it good for?
    Visual content — photos, infographics, maps, and websites. Recipes are very popular on it, as are Decorating, Crafts, Shopping, How to and DIY
  4. What about the copyright issues?
    1. There is some potential, but Pinterest is being proactive in trying to address it and I could not find any instances of  ongoing issues.
    2. My advice is to pin content you know you have rights to or are from a reliable source. Pinning graphics from websites is a good bet. Pinning someone else’s facebook content that has been shared  and seen repeatedly is not a good bet.
  5. How can a service sided business use Pinterest?
    1. Share pins of products you love or that coordinate with, enhance, or complement your service.
    2. Pin websites that feature handy tips in your field of expertise.
    3. Use pins to share and show the lifestyle of your target market, cool products, design ideas, places to go.
    4. Get ideas for other services and products from pins.
    5. Designers — it’s a great way for your clients to share their design likes and dislikes with you. Thanks for teaching me that, Computer Diva!
  6. Give your company personality by sharing company culture.

    1. Pin photos of the team at work and play. When a staff page is a part of a corporate website, its always one of the most popular pages.
      Share Employee Profiles, featuring volunteer work, hobbies and personality.
    2. Pin photos of company events, showing your firm as friendly and fun to work with.
  7. You don’t need an invite any more. Pinterest has opened subscriptions to anyone who wants one. Simply sign up.
  8. Use the Pinterest goodies to make pinning easy.

    1. The bookmarklet lets you add websites to your collections quickly and easily right from your browser nav bar.
    2. Get the smartphone app to save photos to your account by phone.
  9. Get Pinterest buttons for your websiteto encourage pinning and following!
    1. Put a follow me on Pinterest button on your website to link your accounts.
    2. Add a pin it button on your webpages to encourage pinning of your content. This allows you to determine which image is shown on Pinterest, even if its not one on the page.
  10. Bloggers take note — always include an image that can be easily found and copied when pinned on Pinterest. I’m sure you’ll always be using only legal imagery, so there should be no problem there. Be on the lookout for visual content and take photos that illustrate ideas or concepts to create a visual library for blogging.

For future reference, I will be adding new links to both my bookmark list and my Pinterest for Business Board. Check back now and then to see what else I’ve discovered!

  • Follow my Pinterest List on Sirius Media’s social media page for my latest discoveries about Pinterest. I’ll be adding new finds to this list as it occurs and want to share them with you.
  • Check out my Pinterest for Business board on Pinterest.

Watch What Others Are Doing with Pinterest.

The growth of Pinterest is yet another way we share our passions with others online. I expect it to become a significant player in the social media marketplace. Smart businesses will take note and incoporate it into their marketing matrix to get the full advantage of it’s strong market growth.

 

 

 

15 Ways to Build Web Traffic Without SEO

Distance from PortlandWhen business owners think about ways to increase website traffic, they generally know that search engine optimization and strong keywords strategies are essential.

Search rank is important and very competitive.  But it can be very expensive to optimize or advertiser your way to top placement on the search page.

But Google, Bing, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook  aren’t the only ways people find our websites. It is easy to overlook some of the more traditional non-SEO approaches that are very powerful strategies in building site traffic. And when your site traffic goes up, so does your search ranking because sites with more traffic get higher SEO scores. So why not get busy and try a few of these each month to keep the attention on yourwebsite.com.

All of these techniques can be boiled down to one key strategy: advertising — you need to market your website just like you’d market a product. Even with great SEO, you can’t just put a website up and expect it to rise like cream to the top of the search page.

If you don’t tell people that you have a website and why they should visit it, they won’t know.
Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Be your own website evangelist. Tell people about it every chance you get. If you refer to your website often, others will learn to do so to. Be proud of your website and it’s content. If you aren’t, then build  a website you can be proud of.
  2. Use your domain name in your email. Every time you give out your email address, you’re telling others ‘where you live’ on the web. It’s a marketing opportunity too good to pass up. Use a forwarding email if you really don’t want to give up that aol, hotmail or gmail address, but always use yourname@yourwebsite.com
  3. Take out a print ad: magazines, newspapers, yellow pages, theater programs, school or neighborhood newsletters that features your website address prominently. Advertise new content, new sections, or promotions on the website.
  4. Print colorful postcards to leave in coffee shops. Include QR to your website with a promotional offer.
  5. Send email newsletters using an email vendor. Include short pieces of teaser or promo info then link back to the website for the full story. The best way to increase site traffic is to send regular useful email newsletters that link back to your website. Make a publishing plan in advance to keep your schedule regular.
  6. Post signs in your bricks and mortar shop with a QR code for an offer on the website.
  7. Get mentioned in the media — interviews, guest articles, photos or video clips on the news are golden. Always mention or include your web url when you’re being interviewed.
  8. Sponsor an event or benefit where you can distribute promotional materials. Look for ways to provide inkind sponsorship by providing services, prizes or supplies.
  9. Buy radio ads. Build brand recognition through ads or sponsorship of public radio.
  10. Post your job openings. If you have jobs, people will want to know and be checking back often. Jobs are one of the content areas that is a very strong draw.
    Mention the web url in any help wanted ads.
  11. Get fun stickers or rubber stamps with your web url and put them on shopping bags.
  12. Put your url on promotional items and pass them out  — bookmarks, tshirts, coasters, emery boards.
  13. Print marketing materials — brochures, letterhead, biz cards, rack cards, flyers.
  14. Blog or comment on other sites and include a link to your website.
  15. Send a custom greeting card via mail with a QR link in it. See SendoutCards to see some creative options!