How to train your website: LESSON FIVE: Accessories for your website

When you have an animal as a pet, you will also find that you need accessories for it. For example, a water bowl, a food bowl, a collar, a lead, a couple of toys, even perhaps, a dog house. The amount of accessories out there are seemingly infinite and it can be hard to work out which would be best for your animal. Here are just some of the basic accessories and tools that will help your website grow strong and healthy when used in the right way. The Digital Bandit - Accessories for your Website

Google Analytics

It is imperative to have some kind of tracking tool collecting data from your website. Google Analytics is free and relatively easy to install and use. If you have more than one tracking platform that you use, be aware that you will get varied results, as each will use a slightly different way of recording data. For a more accurate view of your website’s data, ensure you use one consistently. Ensuring you have analytics for your website means you can better judge what’s working and what’s not on your website. Is one section of your website getting considerably more traffic than the other? Why? Has your traffic suddenly dropped off? You need to know about it and why. According to Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithms, your site is likely to be judged by (and not exclusively on):

  • The amount of content above the fold – the fold is the point at which a user has to scroll to see the content further down the page.
  • The bounce rate for a page – this is the percentage of people who enter your site and ‘bounce’, ie, they leave straight away without looking through other pages.
  • The click-through rate of the page – this is the number of pages that a user clicks through before leaving your website. It is important to ensure that users don’t just stop at a ‘dead end’ when they reach the bottom of your page.
  • The number of clicks a page gets in results – the more a user clicks through from a page through to other internal pages, the higher Google rates it. This can be particularly effectively where one page acts as a ‘landing page’ to other areas of your site.

Use Google Analytics for: understanding your website better and knowing where improvements can be made. http://www.google.com/analytics/ Free to use.

Google Keyword Tool

This will help you understand the best keyword to use for your web pages and blog posts. The Google Keyword Tool will allow you to understand which keywords are more competitive and which are more feasible to rank for. You can also use this to understand what else people may be searching for. This is definitely a tool to use before you start writing your blog post. Use Google Keyword Tool to: set the foundations for a blog post that’s optimized for search. https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool Free to use.

Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)

Whilst this isn’t strictly speaking a tool that will help you run your website, it is one of my favourites for collaboration with others and for writing down inspiration as you come across it. You can choose from a Word document, PowerPoint Presentation, Excel Spreadsheet, an online Form (great for when you want user’s feedback) and Drawing (perfect for if you want to add captions to an existing image).  Each document can be shared with more than one person, either with as a Read-Only or with editing capabilities. You can even download the online document that you produce. This saves you the hassle of remembering your notebook as you can access this online from any computer. If for example, you are in charge of the company Twitter or Facebook account and others in your company want to add some of their own updates, they can share it with you there for you to approve and upload. Use Google Drive for: collaborating with others and keeping ideas or content in one place https://drive.google.com/#my-drive Free to use.

Google Alerts

If your To Do list is already piled high then make life that little bit easier for yourself by ensuring you’re keeping up to date with your industry news easily and conveniently. In Google Alerts, you can set a search query for whatever you like, choose what kind of results you want it to send you (e.g. everything, news, blogs, books etc), how often you want to receive these and voila!, you will receive updates to your chosen email address. This is especially great if you’re looking for inspiration for new blog posts, and even to keep up to date with any mentions of your company or product online. Use Google Alerts for: keeping up to date with industry news easily and quickly. http://www.google.com/alerts Free to use

Google Alerts Screenshot

Set up Google Alerts to keep up to date with industry news online.

Social Media Accessories

These are all specific platforms that will help you manage your social media platforms.

Bitly Link Shortener  

Bitly is most useful when posting links to Twitter. With only 140 characters, it’s important to use each character wisely. Whilst Twitter will automatically shorten links for you, however, with a tool like Bitly, you have the added bonus of stats. This allows you to understand how successful your tweet was as you can see how many people have clicked on your link. To use, just copy and paste your link into Bitly. It will then shorten it and you can copy and paste it back into Twitter or wherever you would like it to go. The only downside of shortening links is that users can’t tell where your link is going to. Sometimes, people use this inappropriately by telling a user one thing and linking to an entirely different site to get traffic. However, if you consistently link people to where they expect to go, you should build up trust with your followers. Use Bitly to: maximise characters in your tweets and track the click-throughs you’re getting from them. https://bitly.com   Free to use.

Bitly Screenshot

Use Bitly to shorten links and to find out how many click-throughs from them you receive.

HootSuite

Use HootSuite to schedule your tweets (perfect if you’ve got a busy week coming up and you want to write these in advance. Also very useful if you’re organizing an event – you can make sure it’s getting promoted right up until the day) and share them easily with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus etc. By investing time with HootSuite, you can ensure that your social media networks are continually active months in advance, even if you’re busy on other things. Use HootSuite to: update your social media networks even when you’re not around. http://hootsuite.com/dashboard Free to use.

How to train your website – LESSON FOUR: Health & Welfare of your website

Having completed Lesson Three: Exercising your Website, you know your website is getting all the exercise it needs. But even so, is it healthy? You may be putting a lot of effort into all this ‘exercising’, but how do you know whether it’s beneficial for your website?

Website Health CheckUp

In order to check up on the health of your website, you need to have some kind of tool that is collecting data so you can establish a) if there’s traffic going to your website b) which parts of the website are doing well c) which parts of the website aren’t doing as well as they should. There are many free tools for this, with one of the most popular and easy to install being Google Analytics. Once you have Google Analytics installed, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your website statistics at least every month or so.

There’s no point looking at each individual data strand separately – these mean nothing unless compared to other data points. And the data should be analysed over time so you can look at the trends over time.

Here’s your checklist for what to look out for in Google Analytics *:

AUDIENCE What does it mean? Why is it important?
Unique Visitors The number of individual visitors to your site. This is most useful viewed over set periods of time so you can take note of trends and increases or decreases in your website’s traffic. This is best viewed in conjunction with the number of visits.
Visits This is the total number of visits to your website. This records each and every time a user lands on your website, even if they visit it more than one. Understanding how many visits your website is getting in total can help you gain an idea of how many people are visiting your website more than once.
Pages  / Visits The average number of pages each user is clicking onto. This tells you how many different pages each visitor is clicking to. This helps you understand whether your website is encouraging users to travel through your website.
Average Visit Duration The average amount of time that the user is on the website on The amount of time users spend on a website is  a good indicator of how engaging your website is.
Bounce Rate The percentage of users who land on the homepage and leave straight away without looking at any other part of the website. The higher the bounce rate, the more people are leaving your website as soon as they land on the homepage. This often happens when people don’t know where they’re clicking to.
% New Visits The percentage of new visitors who visit your site. As well as retaining existing visitors to the site, increasing your reach is important too and this will help you determine whether your ‘exercise’ is paying off.

 

TRAFFIC SOURCES What does it mean? Why is it important?
Search Traffic The percentage of people who visited the site through a search engine Are people finding your website using the keywords that you’ve optimized your content for? Data around this will also tell you what keywords people are using to find your website.
Referral Traffic The percentage of visitors who landed on the website after coming via a link from another site. These count as inbound links and the better quality the website, the  more favourably search engines view your website.
Direct Traffic The percentage of visitors who arrived at the site directly, by typing in the URL. This will tell you how many already know about your website (they may even have visited it before) and that they remember the URL or have this saved somewhere for quick access.

 

CONTENT What does it mean? Why is it important?
Content This shows the pages on your website that have the most visitors. This helps you understand the pages that are generating the most page views. And also the pages that aren’t doing so well. If you can work out why some pages are getting more views than others then you’re onto a good thing.

 

Don’t forget, you should also keep a close eye on how your social media updates and emails are doing too. Was there one tweet that had more replies than others? Or a Facebook status that didn’t get any Likes at all? How does it compare to other Facebook statuses that had several Likes? It’s also a good idea to look at timings too. For example, what time did you sent out that email? Was it the best time? Are most of your target audience even awake and checking their emails at 7am on a Sunday morning?

The most important thing to remember is to QUESTION EVERYTHING. Pretend you’re a kid again. Ask WHY. A lot.

Question EveryThing

Having successfully completed Lesson Four and established a healthy website, you can start thinking about what accessories you need for your website > 

 

* This is a healthcheck for traffic and user interaction on the website, and assumes that elements such as site structure and SEO is all already sorted. 

How to train your website – LESSON THREE: Exercising your website

You’ve got your website fully-trained and on the way to behaving as you want it to. But every website needs to stretch their legs, run about and travel!

There are many many ways to get your website out and about in the digital world and the ones listed below are only a small selection. However, it’s up to you to experiment with what works best for you and your website.

How to Train Your Website - Exercising

The Sprint (getting your website out to your existing users)

This type of exercise for your website is great for keeping your existing users up to date with new content on your website. You know that they’re keen to hear about your news as they’ve already subscribed to your emails, or Liked or Follow you on Twitter. This helps maintain and increase your return visitors.

Emails

The world seems to be divided as to the value of emails. Some say “It’s great because everyone gets my content straight into their inbox!” and other say “Eurgh, people already have too many emails, no one ever reads them and they just get annoyed when they receive them.”

There is truth is both of these, and the only way to find out if it works for you is to try it and see.

Which platform to use?

There are many email platforms out there that are easy to use and that don’t require any HTML or coding knowledge. I recommend MailChimp or Campaign Monitor which are both user friendly and either free or reasonably priced.

Campaign Monitor Icon

The best bit about it is that you don’t even need any design skills that use Photoshop, Illustrator or the likes. Both MailChimp and Campaign Monitor have easy-to-use editors, so you can easily and quickly create personalized, professional content. If you’re looking for something a little more bespoke, no need to worry, you can always hire a designer with coding skills to make you your own template.

MailChimp icon

TOP TIP: The best bit about sending out an email is seeing how well it does. How many people opened it? How many clicked on your links? This is where it gets exciting. Experiment with subject lines, perhaps change your content around, increase or decrease the length of your email and don’t forget to compare how well they’ve done. If you can get an account with A/B testing, even better! (A/B testing is where you produce two versions of one email, split your email list in two and see which gets a better response.)

You can also:
  • Add a Subscribe button to your website
  • Add a Subscribe button to your Facebook Page
  • Send out the link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or GooglePlus for users to subscribe
  • Add perks for sign up, e.g send out a free guide or document, give your subscribers access to events first.
Content Ideas for Emails
  • Latest news
  • New products
  • Changes to regular service e.g. earlier closing times
  • A round-up of recent blog posts / events etc
  • Notice of future events
  • An Employee Spotlight
  • Competition

MailChimp is free for less than 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails

Campaign Monitor have a monthly and per campaign option, starting from as little as $9 a month for less than 500 subscribers and 2,500 emails, or $5 + $1 per recipient.

The Long Distance Run (making your website visible to potential new customers)

Attracting new customers can often seem like a hard and difficult task. And it is. Don’t forget that even if your potential new customer is receptive to what your website has to say, it doesn’t mean that they are willing to take the next step and become a paying customer. To convert these people in paying customers, you need to establish trust and authority. But first, they need to hear about you and this is where you need to approach them in their own territory.

Emails

Yes, emails feature in the long-distance run too. Emails are great for ongoing engagement with your customers and will keep them up to date with your most important and latest developments and of course, your blog posts!

Social Media & Networking

With more than 200 social media out there (here’s a full list of all the social networking sites), it would be foolish to try and get your brand or company out on all of them.

Social networking is all about creating a community – one where users feel like they’ve got some kind of connection with a brand or company. This is of huge value to you – you can generate trust and respect from your users, and increase your visibility to attract new users.

But how do you choose which social network to invest your time in? Currently (and yes, this is likely to change by the end of this year even), the social media platforms that I’ve found most people have at least heard of if not used, are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Whilst it may be easier and perhaps the lazy option to go with the social network that you already know or have heard about, it helps to do your homework. For example, there’s no point investing a lot of time and money in a social network if none of your target audience is actually using it.

Have a look here for the 10 most popular social networking sites from 2011 >

Due to most SME companies and brands focusing their efforts on Facebook and Twitter, with some on Google+ and LinkedIn, these are ones highlighted in this blog post.

Facebook

Facebook IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social working site that connects people with their friends and family and share what they’re doing, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: Uploading photos, sending private messages, uploading videos, sharing public status updates.

NUMBER OF USERS ON FACEBOOK: Over 1 billion (as of September 2012) users

HOW CAN FACEBOOK WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: By building a community that have a common interest in your company, there is a ready and waiting audience who are keen to hear your updates. You’re targeting people in a place where they’re already hanging out which can make your users more receptive. Facebook can help create an emotional bond with your existing users, build up your email list by cross-promoting the two and engage your audience with rich content such as videos. 

Twitter

Twitter IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social network and microblogging platform that allows its users to share text-based updates, known as ‘tweets’ in 140 characters. Photos, videos and links can also be attached to these updates.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To keep in touch with friends and colleagues, and to find out latest news from companies, services and brands.

NUMBER OF USERS ON TWITTER: 500 million registered users (as of 2012), with over 10 million users in the UK.

HOW CAN TWITTER WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: For many users, Twitter is a daily habit often checked via their mobiles. It is a way for brands to connect directly with their users and vice versa. Many users are using Twitter to complain about companies and brands so if you’re not on there, you’re not going to know about it. Businesses can use Twitter to market their service or product, keep users updated with their latest news and gain customer feedback.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn IconIN A NUTSHELL: A business-orientated social network that allows users to share and exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To find jobs, to connect to individuals in their industry as possible clients, to find prospective new hires, to network with their industry, to promote their business, to keep in touch with people.

NUMBER OF USERS ON LINKEDIN: 200 million users (as of January 2013)

HOW CAN A LINKEDIN COMPANY PAGE WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: Businesses can use LinkedIn to increase their visibility, attract new talent, establish credibility, connect with top prospective candidates and expand their marketing. Just as with Facebook and Twitter, your company page can attract followers, who will receive any updates and insights that you post in their feed. Any blog posts or updates that you make to the site are most likely to be relevant to share on this platform too.

Google+

Google+ IconIN A NUTSHELL: Google+ is a social networking platform that combine many of Google’s existing components. It allows users to group connections into ‘circles’ so you can easily choose who you want to share your updates with. As well as circles, Google+ also has Hangouts (where users can virtually ‘hang out’, Huddle (group chat) and Sparks (where users can find out things that they’re interested in – a bit like a search, within a search).

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To connect with new people who weren’t easy to connect with on Facebook, to build awareness with a new audience, for self promotion, to keep up to date with people and companies of interest,

NUMBER OF USERS ON GOOGLE+: There has been much debate about how many users Google+ really has, but according to Wikipedia, Google+ has 500 millions registered users (as of December 2012)

HOW CAN GOOGLE+ WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: As Google owns Google+, companies with a presence on Google+ are more easily found via search. It is also a great opportunity to be connect with your followers. Companies have the ability to add a +1 button to their content, which is a bit like a stamp of approval – it lets their friends see what they like and also the rest of the web on Google Search.

Examples of how to engage users via social networks:
What Example
Invite people to comment on your blog post <Blog post name> Do you agree or disagree? Let us know.
Ask people to take an action if they’re going to your event or if they agree with what you’ve written about We’ve teamed up with our local artists and will be holding an exhibition at XXXX on 20th June. <event link>Like (or Retweet) if you’re coming.
Highlight news that your users need to know about IMPORTANT: New changes to our opening times. <Link to page>
Include a quote or interesting fact from your blog post “85% of people who take our XXX course, sign up to XXX” Have you done our course and what did you think?
Let your users know exciting updates / content is coming up Watch this space! We’re about to release a video and we would love your feedback.
Invite people to sign up to something If you would prefer to receive all the latest updates straight to your inbox, you can sign up to our email newsletter here <link> It takes less than a minute and is hassle-free.
Behind the scenes exclusive content <Photo> And the scene is set for tonight’s event. Will we see you there tonight?

 

These are only just a few ideas. And these ideas are all based around your company. There are many social marketeers who believe in the 70/30 rule, whereby 70% of your social media updates are based around your business and 30% is based around ‘insider’ information that relates to your industry, but not necessarily to your company.

Other content Ideas for Social Networks
  • Videos from other resources
  • Immediate responses to current affairs / events in the company
  • Links to related content on other sites
  • Ask questions. Use Polls if possible (available on Facebook)
  • Link for users to sign up the newsletter
  • Answering questions – if you’re on a network such as Twitter, search for topics that your company is an authority on and answer them directly.
  • Include quotes that highlight what you’re company is all about

Experiment and see what works best for your audience. Take a look at your competitors and see what they do.

Other important platforms to share your blogs and pages on:
Reddit

Reddit LogoReddit is a social news website and entertainment website where users can submit content (limited to link or text). Other users then rank the content ‘up’ or ‘down’ which determines its position on the sites’ pages.

By submitting your content to Reddit, you have the ability to reach thousands of users.

It’s imperative that the content you submit is relevant and in the right group as it can be taken down if not.

 

Delicious

Delicious IconDelicious is less of a social networking site and more of a platform where users can bookmark their favourite websites. Users can tag each bookmark with a term of their choice and when visitors search on Delicious, they can see each link tagged with that phrase.

Users use Delicious mainly to keep track of interesting links they come across and discover new content. By submitting links to Delicious, you can share your content with thousands new users globally.

 

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon LogoStumbleUpon is a discovery hub that throws up websites based on your preferences and others’ recommendations. Once the user has completed their profile and customized it to their interests, they can click the ‘StumbleUpon’ button (either accessed direct from their toolbar or from the website) and discover new websites.

 

Inbound / Outbound links

Amongst many things, websites are ranked by search engines, not only by the number of inbound and outbound links, but by the quality of them too. The more authoritative and respected search engines find the website that your site is linking to and from, the better visibility in search.

The higher the relevance of the site linking back to your website, the better quality the inbound link. It is generally harder to influence other websites and get them to link to your website which is why inbound links are considered of greater value than your outbound links.

Inbound link = link directing users to your website. These are also known as backlinks

Outbound link = link directing users from your website to another website.

5 ways to gain inbound links
  1. Ask. What other organisations and companies are out there who would be happy to feature a link to your website? Could you the same for them in return?
  2. Create great content that people will want to read and share with their friends.
  3. Comment on related blogs. This is a great way to introduce your website to others, and most importantly, your expertise. Don’t forget, add value, don’t just sell.
  4. Guest blog on another site. Increase your reputation and gain traffic to your website by writing an article for another site. By including your website address within in, you’ll be getting exposure to many users that might never have come across your website.
  5. Join in with forums. Use resources such as Quora to answer questions directly related to your industry. Even better, if you’ve written a blog post that relates to someone’s question, include a link to it, with a short explanation of what it’s about.
And the most important of all… Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth happens everywhere

Whilst Word of Mouth is one of the most important ways in which you can help drive traffic to your website and ultimately business, it’s one of the hardest to achieve. Mainly because unless your service or product is top-notchingly exceptional, people won’t talk about it. Word of mouth is the passing of information orally from one person to another and in this way, personal recommendations come with a lot more weight than any great campaign from a brand or company.

Companies are now having to above and beyond the expected to ensure that they are being recommended. And personal recommendations are like gold dust. It’s more common for people to complain to others about your company or brand, than compliment.

 

This can all seem somewhat overwhelming, especially as there’s no hard and fast set of rules as to what you should or shouldn’t do. Polls for some companies work well, but videos don’t. So how do you know what to invest time in? Once you’ve worked out where your target audience are spending their time, experiment, analyse and try different things.

The next lesson is all about working out just how healthy your website is. Are you ready for it?

How to train your website – LESSON TWO: Training your website to work for you

“It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Put in the hard work training your website and you will be rewarded. The success of a website is dependent on the amount of love and care you give it. Yes, you will have to put a lot in, but it will be worth it. If you’re in charge of managing your company website, then this set of articles ‘How to train your website’ will help you be successful in your role.

Please note, it has been assumed that your website has good basic health already. That is, it has been set up with SEO in mind and has all the basics, such as a site map, proper header and title tags etc.

Training your website to work for you

If only your website could do the washing…

Feeding your website (aka content)

The food you feed your website has to be correct for it. Just like there are breeds of dog out there that require certain nourishment for their long silky coats and others who need more protein, websites are the same. The better you know your website, the better you’ll become at working out what ‘food’ is best. Food, aka content, for your website can come in many forms. For example,

  • Blog posts
  • Updated content
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Images

All will help keep your website healthy.

Image of a dog eating a cake

Just as there are some things a dog shouldn’t eat, you should feed your website the right content.

The right food for your website

It goes without saying that the content that you post has to be relevant and in a suitable tone of voice. Make sure the tone and style suits the nature of your business.

When thinking about content for your website (and I’m focusing on written content here), there are several important factors you need to ensure before you even put finger to keyboard.

These are outlined below but you can find the full article about writing a blog post here >*

Before your start writing content for the web

  • Choose your keyword/s carefully (more about keywords here >).
  • Establish what images you’re going to use and get permission to use these if necessary (e.g. if you’re looking to take these from Flickr).
  • Know what action you want your users to take at the end of your blog post
  • Are there any people or organisations that you could link your content to? Even better, could they link back to your website? Getting high quality links to your website is great for SEO.

Read the full articles on ‘How to write your blog post’ here >

You can find a list of inspirational content ideas for your website here >

* Whilst the title of this article explains that it’s about writing a blog post, most of the points are also applicable for writing any content for the web.

When to feed your website

Your timings for writing content and releasing it can be critical to your traffic.

For example, if you’re responding with a blog post on a current event, publish it as soon as possible. A blog post that goes live a day later, even a couple of hours later, can be old news.

If you are producing ‘evergreen’ content (evergreen content is content that remains relevant regardless of the time of day, time of year etc. for example, an article entitled ‘Top Ten Healthiest Vegetables’ is applicable all year round, as opposed to one entitled ‘Best pubs to go to for St David’s Day’), do some research and find out when your target audience are most often online and release it during those times.

Feed your website with new content often, and regularly.

TASK: Put together a Content Planner. Depending on how often you update the website (at least once a month, if not once a week is best), write a list of topics / blog posts / new content titles that you plan to post throughout the year. And stick to it.

Download an example of a Content Matrix Template here >

Don’t forget that depending on the time of year, your topics may change to reflect that. For example, think about what people may want to know more about during different seasons such as summer and winter etc. And also events and occassions, such as Easter, summer holidays, weddings, starting a new school, the new year etc.

This template includes a few of the main events that are celebrated in the UK to give you inspiration for blog posts. This is really to be used as a starting block for you to add your own, relevant events. For example, not all companies will find it useful to know that ‘National Stress Awareness Day’ is on the 2nd November.

Loving your website

Image of a heartA website will work much harder for it if you love it. Even if you don’t, pretend it’s covered in fluff and has big cute eyes.

Talk to people about your website – why is it so great, what can it do for people etc. If you’re enthusiastic, it’s likely that other people will take notice.

Is your website fully-trained? Well then, it’s time to move onto the next lesson, ‘Exercising your website’ >

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR WEBSITE*

It amazes me that there are so many companies out there with badly behaved websites – some are off having a holiday, some need an urgent trip to the vet’s, many are lazy and others have behavioral problems.

So if you’re in charge of managing your company website, or for updating content, and you want it to work harder for you then you’ve come to the right place.

Just like puppies, websites need training too

Now all you need to do is imagine your website is cute and furry, just like this puppy.

 

Here is a list of the different lessons. It helps if you do them in the right order. Enjoy!

‘How to Train your Website’ Lessons

 

How to Train Your Dragon DVD*For those who enjoy great films, this title  of this set of posts was inspired by the animated film, ‘How to Train your Dragon’. I highly recommend it.