5 Key Elements of a Well-Built Website

5 Key Elements of a Well-Built Website

A brand’s website is ground zero for all its digital activity. It’s where the brand can sell products, convey key marketing messages and collect contact information from interested customers. It also provides a platform to inform and educate customers with blog posts, white papers and more.

A good website serves as the central hub from which all your digital activity radiates, offering an “owned and operated” space where you control the messaging and experience for your audience. In fact, without a properly designed, mobile-friendly site, we would argue that there is little justification for investment in other digital tactics (email, social media, etc.).

But what does a complete website need?

For starters, you don’t have to break the bank creating a deep, robust website out of the gate. Many effective, conversion-attracting websites are quite simple. Over time, you can build out your website into a robust forum for sales and education (which will help with your SEO efforts, too).

But for now, let’s explore the 5 key elements of any well-built website, no matter how large or small they might be.

1. A Mobile-Friendly Framework:

Here’s the harsh truth: Google no longer indexes non-responsive websites in their mobile search results. This means that people searching for your brand or services will simply be unable to find your site if you don’t provide a user experience tailored to mobile customers.

The fact that more than 50% of all web traffic in 2018 came from mobile devices means this is a reality you cannot ignore. And that number is up from only .7% just 10 years ago, so don’t expect that trend to reverse any time soon.

Source: Statista.com

And “mobile friendly” doesn’t just mean that you reverse-engineer a responsive design after you’ve built your desktop site. Today’s best websites are actually built for the mobile experience first, and we encourage you to take that approach whenever possible.

2. Easy-to-Use Navigation:

Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a new website and being unable to locate the information you’re looking for. And while Google is your friend when it comes to being discovered, it can also penalize you harshly for providing a confusing, unintuitive user experience.

We recommend checking out one of our earlier posts about improving website navigation, but in short, here are a few quick tips:

  1. Show your website to someone who doesn’t know your brand: How easily can they find what you want them to find?
  2. What does your site look like on a mobile phone? Is it hard to navigate buttons or can you bounce between pages with ease?
  3. Keep on top of industry trends, but don’t feel like you have to redesign your site every 6 months.

3. Lead Collection

Growing your database of leads is one of the most impactful aspects of any website. Whether you’re simply trying to build your mailing list or collect more detailed leads from prospective customers, you’ll need a mechanism to capture data.

One important element to keep in mind here is that the amount of information you’re asking for should correlate to what you’re offering your customers in return. If you’re looking for a sign-up for your mailing list, you might consider asking for only 2-3 fields of information (e.g. Name, Email Address). However, if you’ve got a lengthy, detailed eBook full of useful insights, you can likely get away with asking for more information from your lead (e.g. Company Name, Phone Number, etc.).

Our eBook landing page asks for a few key pieces of contact info in exchange for a lengthier piece of content.

Whatever way you set this up, make sure you’ve got a system in place—like UTM tracking—to spring into action whenever a new lead is captured, as well as trace where they came from (e.g. Google Ads, organic search, Facebook, etc.). That way, you can tell what your most effective marketing channels are.

4. A Relevant, Insightful Blog

One of the key elements of modern “inbound” marketing theory is that you can’t just sell to your customer—you need to educate them, too. You can use a blog to offer insights and helpful advice that doesn’t have a sales angle (like this one 😉), helping to create a trusting relationship with prospective customers while also improving your own SEO efforts.

Your blog can reflect a number of different topics, and it does not always have to be a deep dive into a technical subject matter. You can also use it to update your customers about relevant internal news or observations about breaking industry news.

The key to a good blog is presenting digestible, interesting information in a friendly, knowledgeable voice. Your blog posts should not read like white papers, and they should never be written just for the sake of posting new content to your website—intentionality matters! 

5. Well-Crafted Landing Pages

If you plan on running any kind of digital ads, you’ll want to have the ability to build landing pages specific to those campaigns. For example, if you’re looking to promote your latest eBook, you’ll need a landing page that only educates the visitor about that eBook only. No one likes clicking on an ad for one topic only to have to navigate through the site looking for what they were interested in.

Landing pages can quickly become an afterthought for a campaign, slapped together hastily (or not at all) and thrown into the world. However, it’s our experience that the one of the biggest detriments to a digital campaign is the lack of a succinct, mobile-friendly landing page that encourages conversion.

To learn more about landing page best practices, check out this post.

Want to learn more about improving your overall digital marketing efforts? Download our free Digital Marketing eBook today.

Choosing the Right Presentation Platform

Choosing the Right Presentation Platform

Regardless of topic or size, presentations can be stressful. From planning and creating content to perfecting your delivery, a lot of time and effort goes in to developing and executing a successful presentation. But how much effort do you put into deciding which presentation program is best to use? Not all platforms are created equal, so we analyzed four popular options so you can see what makes each of them unique (and which one may best fit your needs).

Microsoft PowerPoint

If you’ve given or sat through a presentation in your life, odds are you are familiar with the most popular presentation program, PowerPoint (PPT). A staple in both classrooms and offices, PPT’s straightforward, easy-to-use platform makes it a tried-and-true method of presenting. Its customizable interface provides a lot of creative freedom: you can customize your presentation down to the slide to better meet your topic or audience’s needs.

But perhaps the biggest reason that PPT is so popular is because it is compatible with both PCs and Macs, a feature that certainly comes in handy if you are presenting in a space other than your own office and are unsure of what technology will be available.

Good for: Content-heavy presentations or traditional audiences.
Avoid if: Your presentation needs to be shared with others. Larger PPT files often cannot be emailed, and if your recipient does not have the same version of PPT as you, everything from how the design appears to the ability to view images or videos can be affected.

Keynote

Keynote is likely every Apple product user’s dream. Its variety of built-in templates gives presentations a modern look in a very easy-to-use platform, and projects built here can easily be transferred between devices via iCloud (a feature that makes it easy to present on-the-go, or on another Apple product such as an iPhone or iPad). One of its strongest features is the ability to turn your presentation into anything from a YouTube video to a QuickTime slideshow with minimal hassle.

Good for: Crafting persuasive presentations. Keynote’s sleek and dynamic format makes content more digestible.
Avoid if: You’re not presenting on an Apple product. While you can export your slides into PPT or other PC-friendly software, there’s no guarantee everything will transfer over in its intended format.

Prezi

Prezi probably has the most “WOW” factors of all the presentation platforms on this list. It offers more unique design and distribution capabilities than PPT and Keynote, and its non-linear presentation is great for more creative, interactive demonstrations. Users can seamlessly integrate multimedia, PNGs and vector images constructed outside the web-based application. Prezi also makes it easy for multiple team members to access and contribute to the creation of the project. If you’re looking for a platform to create a story-driven presentation, this is a great option.

Good for: Presentations that require collaborative construction, storytelling and/or audience interaction.
Avoid if: You won’t have a reliable internet connection. Prezi is a web-based format and presentations can lose design quality and functionality with any disruption to internet connectivity.

Adobe InDesign

For the more design-driven presenters out there, Adobe InDesign is a great option for creating an engaging, visually stunning presentation. This platform allows users to easily manipulate presentation layouts because of the level of flexibility with components such as type, images, graphs and color. Users also can add interactive features such as movies, sound clips and cross references. For presenters looking to share design concepts or branding ideas, this platform likely aligns most with their goals.

Good for: Design-oriented presentations, larger or shareable projects or projects containing sensitive information (since it will be in PDF form you can password protect the documents).
Avoid if: You are unfamiliar with the platform and need to put something together fairly quickly—InDesign has a steep learning curve. Additionally, the need to present videos or sounds using Adobe PDF Interactive may cause issues if the device you are presenting on does not have that software installed.

At the end of the day, the success of your presentation won’t solely be determined by the platform you choose to use. But by taking the time to explore all your options, you can become better equipped to create something that will fit you and your audience’s needs.

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Note: We’re marketers — not lawyers. If you have specific questions concerning ADA compliance and how to avoid legal issues therein, please consult a licensed legal expert.

When it comes to user experience (UX), we tend to think of the things that are immediately noticeable upon visiting a site.

Can I easily find what I’m looking for? How long does the site take to load? Can I navigate through pages on my phone?

But a crucial aspect of UX design involves things that many visitors won’t ever see: accessibility features.

For people living with disabilities that might affect how they navigate the web, these accessibility features are critical to their own user experience, and websites must take into account ways to accommodate their time on site.

And it’s not just best practices to do so — you could end up in legal trouble if you don’t. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed in the early days of the internet, but the courts have set a clear precedent in the last decade that shows just how liable website owners can be if they fail to make their site accessible.

So how can you make sure your site remains a good experience for everyone who visits it? We’ve put together a beginner’s list to website accessibility, which should help you get started towards improving access for every visitor.

1. Unplug Your Mouse

A truly accessible website should be navigable without the use of your mouse. Try unplugging or disabling yours to see if you can get around using the “tab” keys on your keyboard. Not only does this give you a good idea of how well laid out your site flow is, but it also allows you to experience the site from a device-independent mindset.

Cutting a computer mouse cord website accessibility

You could just, like, un-plug it, dude.

Use your “Tab” key to bounce from link to link (use Shift + Tab to navigate backwards) and see how easily you can access the main portions of your site. If you find yourself getting stuck at a particular point or unable to click on a specific portion of the site, make a note to fix that. 

2. Disable “Styles”

We know you’ve probably put a lot of work into making your site look pretty, but when it comes to accessibility, the more important concern is how navigable your site is. To figure that out, you’ll need to disable the CSS stylings that turn your black-and-white code into vivid colors and images. 

If you’re using Google Chrome, here’s how to do that:

  1. Download a web developer Chrome extension
  2. Open the extension, open the CSS options and disable “All Styles”

Now you’ll see your site laid out in all its glorious basic-ness. From here, you can investigate whether there’s a coherent flow to your sitemap and pages. If you’re able to logically follow from one section to another without the aid of images or animations, that means it will be more accessible and navigable overall.

3. Use a Screen Reader

This is another chance to walk a mile in someone else’s proverbial shoes, navigating the web the way someone with limited or no sight might. Your computer should come stocked with a screen reading option under your Accessibility settings, but a quick Google search should help you find alternatives if not.

Much like with disabling styles, a screen reader provides a very basic understanding of what your sitemap feels like without the benefit of visuals. If you find yourself having difficulty finding what you need without the use of visual explainers, you might consider finding ways to bolster the copy on your site. 

For instance, if you’re not already using alt-text on images (which you should be doing from an SEO perspective), a screen reader will highlight the gaps in your site where descriptive text can be given to images.

4. Evaluate Your Color & Font Choices

If your website was designed by a professional web developer, there is less chance that you’ll run into issues with color contrast and font sizes. But if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and put together your site internally, you’ll want to take a closer look at the decisions you made 

For example, certain color choices that might look great when paired on furniture or home stylings simply make it more difficult to read text on a screen. Though not all your color choices have to pass this contrast litmus test, anything you’re using for fonts should. If anyone with average vision has difficulty in parsing some words, imagine how it might look to the more visually-impaired.

Some examples of how color choice affects readability.

Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to fonts no smaller than 14pt. That way, no one has to squint or increase their browser size to read your handy work. That has become increasingly important for mobile responsiveness, as well, where fonts will naturally look smaller on a phone than when viewed on a desktop.

While these are just a few recommendations to get you started, it’s important for any brand to undergo a serious evaluation of Accessibility on your site. Not only will it ensure a smooth, enjoyable user experience no matter who is visiting, it can help keep you ahead of costly legal troubles, too.

The 5 Pillars of a Successful Digital Ecosystem

The 5 Pillars of a Successful Digital Ecosystem

The breakneck growth of digital technology over the past two decades has forever changed the marketing and advertising world. And while many traditional tactics like out-of-home advertising and print publications still have a viable place for many clients, there’s no denying that very few brands can get away without having a stable digital presence.

So let’s take a look at the 4 key pillars of what we’re calling your “digital ecosystem.” These individual elements are often treated as related yet separate tactics, occasionally overlapping but often being thought of as distinct from one another. We believe that they must be taken holistically to be truly successful, and we’ll tell you why.

1. Your Website

This is ground zero for all your digital activity. Without a robust website, there is almost no justification for investment in other digital tactics (email, social media, etc.). That’s because you need to have an owned-and-operated platform from which to do things like sell products, convey key brand messages and collect information from interested customers. You can do many of those things on social media platforms or third party e-Commerce websites, but you will always be “renting” those distribution channels from other companies.

2. Content

Outside of the baseline information that makes up your website, you’ll want to invest in an ongoing content strategy as part of any digital efforts. This is particularly important for any B2B efforts, as without a physical consumer product to sell, content will be one of the ways you “sell” your brand and position yourself as a trustworthy, instructive partner for your customer. Content can run the gamut from as simple as a weekly blog post on industry news to in-depth instructional videos and tutorials. Some pieces of content will be easier and more affordable to produce regularly, while others you’ll want to plan for as part of a bigger strategy. Content will also help improve your SEO rankings, by populating your website with content that features your target keywords.

3. Email Campaigns

One of the oldest forms of digital communication has had a love-hate relationship with marketers over the years. With the rise of spam and less sophisticated marketing campaigns, it fell out of favor, but as social media is now being scrutinized more closely than ever, marketers are falling in love with email again. For starters, email campaigns still allow for direct, personalized communication with your audience. And unlike social media — which can also allow for those kinds of relationships — you will always “own” your email list.

4. Social Media

To use the parlance of the largest social media platform on the planet, our relationship status with this marketing tactic is “Complicated.” What was once dismissed as a passing fad has grown into a cultural phenomenon. It went from widely derided to widely adopted — and we’re starting to come full circle again. But that doesn’t mean social media shouldn’t still be a part of your digital ecosystem. In fact, the platforms themselves remain as powerful as ever, you just have to reorient how you’re thinking about them.

5. PPC: Pay-Per-Click Advertising

The final puzzle piece in your digital ecosystem is PPC advertising. As the paid complement to SEO, this tactic primarily revolves around Google Ads. Here’s how you’ll work to be the first result when someone searches for keywords or phrases related to your brand. Depending on how specific or broad your services or products are, this will be a very obtainable goal or one you’ll have to work very hard at.

So How Does This All Work?

Think of these five pillars as a kind of virtuous cycle. Each tactic feeds the other, working in harmony to help you meet your goals. For example, you can have a Facebook campaign that drives new visitors to your website, where you then offer them a free eBook download, who you later target on Google Ads with a more hands-on piece of content. Or, you can use an email campaign to drive webinar signups, and then send reminder Facebook ads to everyone who converted on your website. Whatever you do, make sure you take your campaign into consideration holistically, not just tactically.

In the process of writing this blog post, we realized we had a lot more to say about building a successful “digital ecosystem.” Stay tuned for a forthcoming Quick Look white paper that features more details, tips and insights. If you want to learn more in the meantime, simply give us a shout below.

BKI Hot Takes: Just Say “No” to Passive Aggressive Marketing

BKI Hot Takes: Just Say “No” to Passive Aggressive Marketing

We’ve all done it (or at least thought about it): Shared an off-the-cuff line in a brainstorming session that manages to be on-message and makes everyone laugh. Sure, it might be a little cheeky or off-color, but it’s just so funny! But when it reaches your audience, will they be laughing, too? Or will the joke fall flat?

If you’ve spent any time shopping online in the past year or so, you might have come across a very specific example of this kind of marketing humor, which we’re semi-affectionately dubbing “Passive Aggressive Marketing.”

Many times, this tactic takes the form of a pop-up or nudge modal on a website, giving you the chance to do things like save money on your next sale or join an email list. You’re used to this binary choice: either you take the (presumably) great offer or you miss out on the brand’s generosity.

The passive aggressiveness comes into play should you decide to opt out of this deal, where you are forced to click on a button that, for lack of a better word, is SUPER judgmental. For instance, maybe you “Don’t Want to Protect Your Family” (security company) or “Want to Spend More Money” (clothing site) or “Hate Reading” (book retailer). Now, of course, none of these things are likely true, but the pop-up forces you to choose this ignoble path.

Now don’t get us wrong: we love a witty repartee just as much as anyone. But once you’ve seen this passive aggressive marketing tactic a few times, the joke begins to get a little stale.

And therein lies the danger: if you’re not one of the brands absolutely nailing the right tone, you’re simply following a trend that has the potential to annoy or even anger your audience.

Think of it like this: many people already find pop-ups that take over your entire screen to be burdensome; but now the pop-up is forcing them to say something that may not even be true. And if you’re using a basic pop-up that fires for everyone who visits your site, you might be badgering first-time visitors who aren’t familiar with your brand. What kind of first impression is that?

A good compromise might be to let your opt-in CTA have a little humor or edge to it, while the negative route offers a polite, neutral decline option like “No thanks.” That way, you can lighten the mood and test the waters with a little humor without putting your audience into a weird, passive aggressive corner.

As with any new tactic, it’s critical to consider your audience. If your brand routinely incorporates humor into your marketing and has a sarcastic, ironic tone, using these pop-up modals might be a huge hit for your audience. So make sure you do the important work of analyzing and considering your audience before implementing this tactic, just like you would any other.

Or don’t, or whatever…

3 Ways to Maximize Your Holiday Marketing Efforts

3 Ways to Maximize Your Holiday Marketing Efforts

Trying to capture some of that holiday spending for your business? Or maybe you’re concerned about cutting through the extra clutter? There are many factors—both good and bad—to contend with when marketing during the winter holidays. Here are three things to consider as you get started.

1. Embrace the Uptick in Radio & Streaming

Audience action for some media outlets increases during the holidays. This is good news especially for B2C marketing. One example is radio & digital audio streaming. A great many listeners who might otherwise be tuning in to a bunch of disparate stations or just listening to their own playlists all start to gather ‘round the fire of holiday music. If your market has a holiday music station (e.g. 99.5 WMAG in the Triad), November and December may be the best time to buy as you can maximize your reach in a small period of time.

By the same token, many listeners of digital audio like Pandora or Spotify are more likely to be streaming during this period, too. And the best part is, your message doesn’t have to be holiday-themed — it just has to be good and relevant.

2. Find Your “Red Umbrella”

Standing out in a crowd can be tough. As inboxes become increasingly inundated during the holidays, even niche B2B marketers may find it challenging to reach their audience. Emails seem to hit an all-time high in frequency, so how can you make sure yours is seen?

Timing is one element you can control: test and measure throughout the year to learn when your audience is most likely to open and engage. You can also try to focus in on the quieter periods when they aren’t being bombarded, giving your email a better chance of standing out.

To that end as well, you need a captivating, relevant subject line. Whether it’s the offer of a discount or the answer to a burning question you know comes up at this time of year, make it clear what you’re offering (without making it spammy). And if you segment your email list, it should be even easier to keep your subject line and offer super relevant.

3. Create Your Own Reason for the Season

Car companies have done it: car sales increase dramatically during the end of the year because car companies have created the belief over time (whether it’s true or not) that the holidays are the best time to buy. You, too, can create your own buying season within your B2B or B2C market.

If you have a great offer and market the heck out of it, you can secure your audience’s attention when you want it. So instead of trying to elbow your way through the holiday marketing crowds, find a time of year that works best for your audience — you know them best. When do they have the time, interest and budget to talk? What offer will propel them one step further toward becoming a customer or increasing their current business with you?

On the flip side, this tactic can sometimes train your customers to wait for a sale before buying anything. If that works for your sales cycle and bottom line, no fear. But consider carefully before you proceed.

So as you’re gearing up for the holidays, consider these three ways you can make the most out of a busy, noisy marketing season. With the right tactics and patience, you’ll find a campaign that works for you and your audience.

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