App Store Meta Tags

Screen shot of Dominos home page on Nexus 7.
Why yes, Dominos, I’d love to tap again to get your real home page to order a pizza when I could have done it right here, below your over-sized app pitch that could be done in a tiny ribbon.

This is an adapted and updated version of a blog post on my site from last week. This post includes a real-world example of the feature.

This may be old news to some of you, but I haven’t found a place that collects this in one spot.

One of the most offensive experiences I have when surfing a site on my mobile devices is being forced to click through an advertisement for the site’s app in the iTunes store (even moreso when I am surfing on a non-iOS device). There is a fair number of sites I have tapped away from because of this (I also don’t expect to be served the page I came to see, but instead shunted to the mobile home page).

If yours is one of those sites, whether promoting your entire user experience or just a product, there is a less offensive way to present your pitch to users on iOS and Windows Phone.


iOS 6

Safari on iOS 6 and later devices can promote your app with a standardized banner. Essentially you stuff a custom meta tag into your page that references your App Store ID. If the user already has the app installed, then the ad becomes a launcher instead.

The code is pretty simple:

<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=myAppStoreID, affiliate-data=myAffiliateData, app-argument=myURL">

  • app-id is required and references your app’s identifier.
  • affiliate-data is optional and uses your iTunes affiliate string.
  • app-argument is also optional and can allow users who have your app installed to jump to a specific place in your app.

More details at Apple’s developer site: Promoting Apps with Smart App Banners

Windows 8

Microsoft offers a similar feature for users of Windows 8 in non-desktop mode who are also using Internet Explorer. I have not tried it, so I cannot explain how this works as the user changes modes nor how it works with the “charms” feature of Windows 8.

This code is relatively simple as well, though it requires two meta tags and supports up to five:

<meta name="msApplication-ID" content=""/>
<meta name="msApplication-PackageFamilyName" content="microsoft.build_8wekyb3d8bbwe"/>

  • msApplication-ID is required and references your app’s identifier.
  • msApplication-PackageFamilyName is required and contains the package family name created by Visual Studio.
  • msApplication-Arguments is optional and lets you pass arguments to your app.
  • msApplication-MinVersion is optional and can direct users with an old version to the Windows Store.
  • msApplication-OptOut

More details at Microsoft Developer Network: Connect your website to your Windows Store app (Windows)

Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Etc.

In addition to Google Play, BlackBerry App World, I looked for similar features for the Firefox OS and Ubuntu Mobile stores. I know there are other mobile platforms out there for which I did not look.

If you know of other app stores that offer similar features, please let me know so I can update this post.

Real-World Example

One of our spin-off companies, SWRemote, has an app available for iPads. There is value in promoting the app to visitors of the site but not in blocking their access to the site content with a splash page or an extra click, especially if they are not on iPads. The SWRemote web site is powered by QuantumCMS (yes, I am promoting our web content management system), which makes it about 30 seconds of effort to add the necessary meta tag to the site.

Screen shot of the QuantumCMS custom meta tag screen.
Screen shot of the QuantumCMS custom meta tag screen.

If you are already a client of ours on QuantumCMS, all you have to do is choose Site Configuration from the Settings menu and pop into the Marketing tab. This is the screen that allows you to add custom meta tags. Press the Advanced button and you are off to the races. In the Name field, for this example, I just entered “apple-itunes-app” and in the Content field I provided the custom ID for the app appended to “app-id=.” As soon as I hit Save the web site was showing the app bar to visitors:

Site on the iPad3 without the app installed. Site on the iPad3 with the app installed.
Screen shots of the SWRemote site on an iPad3 both with the app installed and without it installed, showing how the bar changes its message.

Oddly, even though the app runs on the iPad Mini, which is running iOS6, the app bar never appeared on the site when viewed on the iPad Mini. On an iPhone 5, the app bar started to appear and then disappeared — probably as the device recognized that there is no iPhone version of the app.

If/when there is an app available for Windows Phone, the process to add this feature will be the same, allowing the site to promote both apps dependent on the audience. QuantumCMS helps make the process easier, with no need to code any changes to your site templates.


There are other places where custom meta tags are used to display targeted content. One example is used for Twitter Cards and another example is used with Google News. While you can build support for them, neither Twitter nor Google is going to use them unless you have been vetted in advance.

Blogging For Business, Part 2: Choosing the Right Platform

In my previous post, I wrote about whether corporate blogging is right for your business and broke down the benefits and risks. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of the available platforms.

Simply put, there are a lot to choose from, but all platforms should provide two basic features:

  1. the ability to post content (usually including photos and videos)
  2. the ability to receive and display comments for each post

Those are the basic cornerstones of blogging. However, many platforms (certainly the best) provide additional features that may prove essential for your blog, including:

  1. the ability to customize the look of the blog or choose from a set of themes
  2. the ability to add extra features through plugins (widgets built by third party developers that can be embedded on your blog)
  3. the ability to allow content to be posted by multiple authors
  4. the ability to audit content written by other authors
  5. the ability to moderate comments

There are a slew of platforms that offer these features and many more, and they do it for free. In fact, because there are so many quality platforms to choose from that at Algonquin Studios we’ve actually decided not to implement blogging features into our content management solution, QuantumCMS, thus far, and simply work with clients to pick the best platform for them and integrate the blog with the main site as needed.

So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the best options out there.


WordPress is a free blogging platform that offers a ton of built-in features, including all of those I mentioned above. I don’t have the statistics for it, but if WordPress isn’t the #1 blogging platform today, it seems to be on its way. Indeed, this blog as well as my personal blog are built on WordPress and it’s generally my preferred choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

The reason that I like WordPress in particular is because it has a simple yet rich interface and is constantly updated with bug fixes and enhancements by a dedicated team of developers. They also offer two hosting solutions: you can host your blog with WordPress for free or you can download the codebase and host it on your own server if you need extra flexibility or want to integrate with other sites.


Blogger is Google’s blogging platform. Right there, you probably already know what to expect. Recently, Google has taken steps to standardize the interfaces of its most common tools including Mail, Drive, and Blogger. That means if you have used any of Google’s other products, then Blogger should feel pretty comfortable to you.

What I like about Blogger is its simplicity and clean interface. It’s a tool designed for the non-technical user so it’s very easy to use. Despite that, Blogger is a fully featured tool, although it does not have quite as many configuration options as WordPress.


Tumblr is a what I would call a “quick and dirty” blogging platform, but what most people call “social blogging.” Tumblr makes it really easy to share the awesome stuff that you find online or in life. Tumblr blogs are often full of photos, videos, and links. In some ways, it’s more like Twitter than it’s like other blogging platforms, although there’s no limit to what you post.

What I like about Tumblr is just how easy it is to share content. However, I’ve found that the interface is not as intuitive or robust as other platforms. It’s also worth noting that Tumbr blogs tend embody a more casual attitude that is perhaps more appropriate for individuals than most corporate businesses, but if you just want to post photos, videos, and other neat stuff, it’s probably the best fit.

Posterous Spaces

This is another popular solution that I’ve not personally used, but is described as somewhere between WordPress and Tumblr. Like Tumblr, Posterous tries to make posting content really simple (even via email), but has more advanced features like WordPress.


Okay, Twitter isn’t truly blogging software, but it is considered “micro blogging.” If the idea of writing content gives you pause, you might consider starting with a Twitter feed, where you never have to write more than 140 characters.

Bringing It All Together

If you decide that you’re up for the challenge, don’t just pick a platform and go. Check out some of the available options first. Take a look at example blogs on each platform and the available features. With just a little legwork, you’ll find one that works for you and you’ll be blogging in no time.

Blogging For Business, Part 1: Is Blogging Right For You?

Over the last few years, I’ve been asked many times by clients about blogging. Blogging is nothing new, of course, but starting a corporate blog is a bit different than starting a personal one.

A corporate blog requires planning, writing guidelines, and, often, an approval process. It also requires some degree of skill and dedication. Can you write meaningful content that engages readers? Can you keep to a schedule and post content even when you are busy and have other priorities?


If you can keep up a blog, then you may be rewarded for your efforts. The most obvious benefit is increased awareness of your business and traffic to your web site, which could translate into increased sales or revenue.

Without getting too technical, having a blog and posting meaningful content gives you another way to draw users to your web site. In all likelihood, that user will read your content and never return. That’s part of the nature of blogging. However, if that user finds your blog in a web search and finds the content to be helpful, he may then visit your web site and, potentially, engage your services, buy your products, or refer a friend or colleague to your site.

Having a blog may even elevate the search ranking of your main web site. By cross-linking the main site and your blog, you can potentially build clout in search engine ranking algorithms, especially if your blog generates a lot of traffic.

Risks and Pitfalls

Before jumping in, you should also consider potential risks. What if an author writes something that makes the business look bad? What if a post incites negative comments? Negative feedback could turn away potential customers, degrade your credibility, or even drop your search ranking, but that doesn’t mean you should disable the commenting feature. Instead, you’ll have to determine the appropriate solution for your business.

You should also avoid a classic pitfall: the temptation to use your corporate blog as an extension of the sales department. Users typically stumble upon blog posts when looking for information and overselling your services may turn off users from returning or make them question the credibility of the content.

Tips for Success

In most cases, a corporate blog should provide expert information or advice about topics in the respective field, or provide customers an inside look at a business’ work environment or philosophies.

Don’t put that all on one person’s shoulders. Allowing multiple employees to contribute will lessen the load and will fill your blog with a variety of topics and opinions.

Keep a schedule. Your employees are busy and it may be difficult for them to contribute regularly. Set up a schedule that allows them to contribute as possible, based on workload.

Bringing It All Together

Ultimately, as a business owner or marketer you have to weigh the pros and cons to determine whether a corporate blog is right for you.

Keeping up a blog isn’t easy. You need to be dedicated and willing to write content, often. You also have to be prepared to accept the risks. But, done well, a blog can boost your business and your reputation in the field.

Getting Started with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful asset for marketers, site administrators, and business owners, but with a seemingly infinite quantity of data points, graphs, segments, and reports, it can be completely overwhelming.

At Algonquin Studios, we encourage all of our clients to sign up for Google Analytics because of its many benefits and because it’s free–it really is a no-brainer–but that’s just the first step. Once you’ve signed up, then what?

Step 1: Understand Your Web Site

In order to use Google Analytics successfully, you need answer one big, general question about your web site:

What is the purpose of your web site? Why does it exist?

At this point, there’s nearly universal agreement that if you run a business, program, charitable organization, or pretty much anything else, you need a web site. But why? Are you hoping to sell products, promote to a larger audience, or just make it easier for people to find your phone number? There could be any number of reasons and you may have many, but, in order to get the most out of Analytics, you need to understand what they are.

It’s also useful to identify your target audience. What group of individuals are you hoping will access your web site? Doctors, grandmothers, hockey players, men in general? Try to be as specific as possible.

Step 2: Identify Your Goals

Let’s say that you’re a partner at a law firm and you’ve identified that the main purposes of your site are generating leads and reinforcing your firm’s reputation. From there, you can identify the following goals:

  1. Build interest by providing information about services and related content.
  2. Capture leads (via email or phone).
  3. Reinforce qualifications through firm history and accomplishments.

Step 3: Pick Your Measurement Tools

At this point, you can determine the data points and reports in Google Analytics that will help you measure the success of your site. These are often referred to as Key Performance Indicators or KPI. For example, here are some indicators that could be useful to your sample law firm:

Time on Site/Page – Since many of your goals are related to your site visitors reading content, you can examine how much time they’re are spending on your site and its individual pages to determine if they’re actively engaging with that content. It will be especially important to review the time spent on the pages you’ve deemed most crucial to your goals of building interest, capturing leads, and reinforcing your qualifications.

Bounce Rate – Another indicator that will show whether users are actively viewing pages and continuing to interact with your site is Bounce Rate. Your bounce rate is the percentage of visits that only include one page view. A low bounce rate indicates that your visitors are viewing several pages before exiting and implies that they are interested in your content and and engaging with it in a meaningful way.

Visitor Loyalty – If your law firm is attempting to reinforce its qualifications, you may expect to see a high percentage of return visitors. Strong visitor loyalty implies that your content is engaging and can help strengthen your position as a trusted resource. However, a high percentage of new visitors implies that a lot of potential clients are viewing your site. In general, it’s healthy to have a mix of each visitor type.

Keywords – The Keywords report identifies the search terms that drove users to your site from Google or other search engines. While returning visitors will probably access your site directly or search for your firm name, new visitors may be searching for services that you provide or for a firm in your geographic location. If you’re not seeing the results you expect, this indicator may show that you need to adjust your content to include better search terms.

Location – Geography-based reports and segments allow you to see where your users are located. This can be particularly important if you are targeting users from a specific area and may even influence your traditional marketing initiatives.

Step 4: Set Targets

Once you’ve determined which indicators will most accurately help you to measure success, you should set appropriate targets for each goal. These targets may be for a day, week, month, or longer, or they may even be for a specific time of the day.

Determining what your targets should be may not be easy at first, but you’ll get a feel for it over time. The key is to have a  goal number to work towards and compare against. The actual numbers are less important than the trends you’re seeing in the data.

Step 5: Identify Segments

If you want to take it a step further, try identifying any segments that could be applied to make certain reports more valuable. For example, you could segment the Landing Pages report by Keyword to see the keywords that are driving users to your top entrance pages.

Step 6: Review Your Data Regularly

There are many ways that you can utilize Google Analytics to measure your data. You can set up Goals, Alerts, Custom Reports, Advanced Segments, or Filters. You can even create reports that are automatically emailed to you on a regular basis. Or you can simply log into Google Analytics and review the default reports, focusing on the KPI that you’ve determined are important.

The key is reviewing your data on a regular basis. You can evaluate the success of your goals by measuring your KPI for a given period and then comparing them against past performance. Remember to focus on the trends, not the actual numbers.

Step 7: Adjust Your Site as Needed

As you review your data, you may identify areas of your site that need to be updated to improve user engagement or search engine performance. Ideally, you’ll see trends that reflect site growth and success, but you’ll need to set aside time to review the data and update the site on a regular basis.


Google Analytics can be a powerful tool, but to get the most out of it you need to know where to begin. Understanding your site and setting goals will get you on the right track. Then, you just need to pick your key indicators, set your targets, and get analyzing. Easy, right?

If you are new to Google Analytics, I highly recommend checking out Google’s educational library, but you should also consider just logging in and getting your hands dirty. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you stick with it, the rewards will be well worth it.

Google Penguin, a Focus on Better Content

In late April Google activated new ranking algorithm changes intended to help rid the world of sites and blogs that link excessively, with no regard for quality; engage in keyword stuffing; an/or publish lots of meaningless content in order to get search engine traffic.

Whenever Google rolls out changes to their search/ranking algorithms, a lot of people take notice. And a lot of those people also freak out – I’ve heard stories of small businesses laying off workers in response to the Penguin changes – but I’m pretty happy about them (well, what I know about them so far), and here’s why:

They put the focus on quality content writing.

No more clogging your content with keywords, just for keyword clogging sake. Now SEO is about giving your site visitors relevant information in a clear, concise manner and using keywords when appropriate. Try to cram more in there than necessary and you might even get penalized or removed from the search results, altogether. Focusing on useful, helpful, and educational content that provides real value will keep visitors interested and coming back for more and now, maybe more than ever, it will also keep search engines happy. This is a beautiful thing.

As a writer in the digital world, I’ve spent years arguing for relevant, engaging content that really deserves to be published. At a former job, which I held from 2002-2008, my role went from that of copywriter, editor, and proofreader to something more akin to assembly line worker –  just another cog in the machine, pushing blog posts, articles and advertising copy down the pipe toward publication without any concern for quality or content. It wasn’t that I stopped caring about the work I was producing; but my bosses and our clients certainly did. More was better, cheap SEO was the way to get traffic, and, eventually, my entire department was eliminated as management shifted to a “quantity over quality” mindset that didn’t see the benefit in an editorial department.

With Google bringing us all back to well-written, truly informative content, vindication is mine! Gosh, I love being right.

What do you think of the Penguin updates? Is your company finding it difficult to adjust to the changes or has your focus always been giving the people what they want (quality!) rather than caving to the SEO gods (optimization at all costs!)?

Check out some related info:

  • Good Design Starts with Good Content – Our report on the balance between design and content details ways to ensure you’re providing site visitors with quality, readable content that’s supported by successful web design.
  • SEO Myths Debunked – We cover our favorite myths and point out how to spot peddlers of misinformation.
  • Does Google take manual action on webspam? – Answers from Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s webspam team.
  • Five Common Mistakes in SEO – With special attention paid to Mistake # 4, which starts around the 4:45 minute mark.
  • Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – Following Google’s design and content, technical, and quality guidelines will help the search engine find, index, and rank your site.

Building A Brand: Some Thoughts From LMA12

At last week’s Legal Marketing Association annual conference, I was lucky enough to get away from our exhibitor booth to attend a breakout session entitled The Evolution of the Law Firm Brand: How to Promote Individual Attorneys within the Parameters of the Firm’s Brand.*

Obviously, I don’t work at a law firm (though I did spend some time in my mid-20s at an old-school firm where the senior partners still smoked cigarettes in their offices and called members of their all-female support staff “baby.” Yes, I’m serious). But, I am responsible for helping to craft the Algonquin Studios brand and for translating it into “outbound communications that strengthen the firm’s marketing message” (stolen directly from my job description), so I figured I’d be able to find some interesting overlap in the marketing messages from this session, as they apply to a law firm or a professional services firm – and I was right!

Some great insights from the session:

For Law Firms

  • There are too many law firms, with too many lawyers, in the mix these days. Legal marketers need to focus on differentiating their firms and attorneys from the competition.

How We Can Apply it at Algonquin Studios

  • Similarly, there are many web and technology companies to choose from these days and our work is frequently commoditized. Clients are often looking for the best price rather than the most helpful service or reliable vendor. It’s important that we strive to constantly distinguish ourselves from the competition and show prospective clients how we’ll bring real expertise and value to our relationships.

For Law Firms

  • Focusing on individual attorneys’ personal brands, rather than pushing the firm’s brand, becomes incredibly important when you consider that 56-75% of legal site traffic happens on attorney bio pages.

How We Can Apply it at Algonquin Studios

  • A quick look at our analytics information shows that, while they don’t pull in the same super high percentage of traffic as bio pages on law firm sites apparently do, our principals’ bio pages and the AS “about” page both consistently rank in the top five for page views on our corporate site. Creating quality content for these pages – content that demonstrates our knowledge but, more importantly, helps site visitors feel connected to us – is not only smart, it’s vital to the success of our company.

For Law Firms

  • In order to make bio pages successful and accomplish the differentiation needed, the attorney and their personal story need to come through in the biographical content.

How We Can Apply it at Algonquin Studios

  • We need to humanize our professionals; allowing prospects to feel like they really know us, understanding what we can do for them and what a relationship with us will be like before they ever call our office or come in for a meeting. Site visitors should be able to tell what we do and, perhaps even more importantly, what we love about what we do.

For Law Firms

  • Legal marketers need to remember that it’s their job to facilitate, assist, and coordinate the creation of thought leadership content at their firms. And, they need to resist the urge to author content on the behalf of their attorneys.

How We Can Apply it at Algonquin Studios

  • In an ideal world, there would be a ton of people here at Algonquin able to pitch in on our content creation efforts. But we’re all incredibly busy and finding time to compose a blog post or co-author a report is tough. This is where our own marketing team comes in – encouraging folks to contribute, managing our editorial calendar, reminding authors of upcoming posts, offering to do preliminary research, and more. Sure, it might be easier (and possibly less time-consuming) to author it all ourselves and slap someone else’s name on it but the content we create needs to have a personality. And that personality needs to be genuine, which can be hard to pull off if you’re pretending to be someone else!

My takeaway from this session was that, while we’re on the right path, we’ve got some real work to do on the Algonquin Studios corporate site and in the creation of our thought leadership materials. I’m pretty excited about working on our brand and our corporate personality… and helping the talented individuals who make up the great team here at Algonquin work on theirs, too!

*Moderator: Adrian Dayton, CEO; Adrian Dayton & Associates
Presenters: Aden Dauchess, Dir. of Digital Media; Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP
Robert Algeri, Partner, Great Jakes Marketing
Peter J. Winzig, Dir. of Mktg. & Corp. Development; Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA
Joe Calve, Chief Marketing Officer; Morrison & Foerster LLP

Marketing with QR Codes

Two weeks from today, I’ll be representing Algonquin Studios at the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference. This year, in addition to exhibiting at the conference, Algonquin is participating as the official QR Code Sponsor and we’ve created what we think is a pretty cool and engaging interactive experience for conference attendees to participate in.

One component of this experience is a series of educational pieces about the use of QR codes in marketing but, since most readers of this blog won’t get to experience presentation we’ve developed for the LMA attendees, I thought I’d share some of the topics the presentation covers here:

Are QR Codes a Good Fit for Your Business?

Probably; they’re easily adaptable to many industries. Provided your clientele is comfortable with smartphone usage and wants to engage with you on an “outside the box” level, adding QR codes to your marketing campaigns is an easy way to boost visibility and reach. Just remember to stay focused on using codes in ways that provide your visitors with value and they’ll likely become a great addition to your overall advertising and brand awareness outreach.

How Can You Use Them?

Arguably the best thing about a QR code, from a marketing standpoint, is their wide range of applications. You can create codes that lead to information about your company, employees, products and more:

  • Employee bio pages or vCards
  • Event dates and registrations
  • Special offers and discounts
  • Social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • How-to/Instructional videos
  • Product reviews/comparisons
  • Shopping cart pre-population
  • Phone numbers

And codes can be used on all sorts of company collateral:

  • Business cards
  • Signage
  • Trade show materials
  • Sales brochures / Leave-behinds
  • Corporate apparel
  • Product labels

Why Should You Use Them?

Because QR codes can help you go beyond your traditional marketing and advertising efforts. You can include audio and video elements, create a series of codes that take people on an educational journey, as we’ll be doing at LMA, or help your message reach a broader segment of the population.

QR codes also make it easy to collect information. You can track when and where codes are scanned and identify repeat visitors. You can also create codes that lead to forms asking for contact info like phone numbers or email addresses.

Things to Remember When Using QR Codes:

First and foremost, remember that codes are most effective when used on printed collateral. We’ve seen people use them on web pages, but this makes little sense since the point of most codes is to direct you to the internet. We’ve also seen them used in emails but, since people read emails on their computer or mobile device, this is also an odd choice. Scanning a code would either be really silly (think about holding your phone up to your computer screen in order to scan a code that leads to information on your phone) or downright impossible (how do you use your phone’s camera to scan something on your phone’s screen?).

  • It’s also important to remember that your landing pages and content need to be mobile-friendly (i.e. navigable on a small screen). And, as mobile engagement is often on-the-go engagement, you’ll want to keep things short and sweet.
  • Think about if your viewer will have WIFI access. Sure, subway stations can seem like an ideal place for an ad – you’ve got a captive audience with nothing to do but wait for the next train; why wouldn’t they scan your code?  But, since many subway lines aren’t equipped with WIFI, you could literally paper the walls with your codes and people still wouldn’t be able to scan them and access your info.
  • Remember to keep your content updated. There’s nothing worse than scanning a code that leads to an out-of-date promotion, a registration page for an event that’s already taken place, or, worst of all, a non-existent page. Even if your code was originally intended to drive traffic to time-sensitive content, once it’s over, leave a landing page loaded with something interesting for code scanners who come late to the party.

Think You’ve Got A Great Web Site? Five Reasons It Needs To Change, Today.

Author: Steve Kiernan II   11/30/11

In our consulting practice, we’re often called upon to help companies redesign their web sites-nothing extraordinary there. What is extraordinary is how often we hear that the primary driver for changing a corporate site hasn’t been defined at all. This means that, when we’re engaging a client in a design/development project, our first question isn’t “What do you want on your new site?” it’s “Why do you want to change your site?”

Not sure what your own answer to that question would be? I’ll offer 5 reasons why it may be time to redo your web site:

1. Your site was designed with you in mind

Sure, you know what you want your site to be but unless you, or other people in your firm, are your company’s primary customer why would you spend time, effort, and dollars marketing to yourself? Don’t build sites that you love, build sites that your customers will love. I know it sounds like common sense, but ask yourself (and answer honestly) if your current site appeals to your customers or to you.

If you find that it’s the latter no worries, you’re not alone and identifying the issue is more than half the battle. Now, go find out what appeals to your customers and implement some changes!

2. You have a site just because your competition has one

To be clear, I’m an advocate for having a web site, especially if your competitors have them. But your site needs to be part of your ongoing business development process, one that you’re actively planning and executing. The “If you build it, they will come” strategy isn’t a strategy.

If you are not doing anything with your web site today, start thinking about how you can use it to engage people and create a dialog with your customers and prospects!

3. You haven’t updated your content in the last 30 days

This is an easy, but often overlooked, one. Look at your site’s metrics (we use Google Analytics on all our sites), specifically the “new vs. returning visitors” numbers. The quick regression is this: returning visitors turn into customers and customers turn into repeat customers. If you’re not giving people a reason to revisit your web site, you’re missing huge opportunities to generate additional revenue over the long term. Years ago it may have been ok to create a static web site based on your fancy tri-fold brochure but today, that’s a recipe for failure. I’m not suggesting that you turn your web site into a veritable with ever-changing, up-to-the-minute information, but I do believe you need to provide valuable content that’s updated on a regular basis so that today’s visitors come back next week to see what’s new.

If the content on your web site today is the same as it was last year, it’s time to create new content! 

4. Your web site doesn’t consistently generate sales leads

Your web site should be the center of your firm’s marketing universe. A good site will help you measure all of your marketing activities and provide concrete evidence about what’s working and should continue and what should be changed to increase its effectiveness.

If your web site is just sitting there, not generating leads, what exactly is it doing for you?

5. Your web site isn’t mobile friendly

You can choose to ignore mobile, but you may do so at your own peril. The impatience of the average visitor to a corporate web site is well known-we give most sites less than 10 seconds to make an impression. And guess what? It’s even worse on the mobile web, and mobile web use is soaring so ensuring your site is accessible on mobile browsers is a good idea for today’s businesses.

If your web site isn’t readable, and fast, on a mobile device, it’s time to go mobile!

Good Design Starts With Good Content

A web site’s design should not dictate how content appears on the page. Rather, the content should dictate the design.

Successful designs arrange content in a manner that effectively engages users. This is particularly important on the home page, which is really a gateway to key areas of content. That means that the first step in the design process is to determine what content is most beneficial in achieving the goals of the web site.

Let’s use a legal web site as an example. In this case, the most important areas of content may include the following:

  • Practice history
  • News and articles
  • Attorney biographies
  • Practice areas
  • Client testimonials

Most of the time, a web site will have many objectives so it’s also important to assign priorities to the identified content pieces. These priorities will ultimately help determine how that content is arranged and presented to the user. For example, on our legal site, we might set the following priorities:

  1. Client testimonials
  2. Attorney biographies
  3. Practice areas
  4. News and articles
  5. Practice history

Now that we’ve defined the key areas of content and their priorities, we can quickly and efficiently determine the optimal arrangement of the page by building a wire frame. The wire frame for our legal site might look something like this:

Homepage Wireframe Example

As you can see, the wire frame has laid out the content on the home page according to their priorities. As the design process moves forward, the wire frame will be used as the underlying structure of the home page design.

Site Structure

In addition to shaping the home page design, the content should also dictate the site’s page structure. Since we’ve identified the key content areas of the site, we can begin outlining the page structure by creating a Site Map. A very basic Site Map might look something like this:

  • Attorneys
  • Practice Areas
  • Case Studies
  • Testimonials
  • News and Articles
  • About the Firm
  • Contact

These represent the top-level pages of the site and will be displayed as links in the Primary Navigation bar shown in the wire frame. These links will appear on every page and play a key role in establishing the usability of the web site. If the site structure is straightforward and well organized, then the site will likely be easy to navigate and generate a positive user experience.

Engaging the User

By following the processes outlined above, we should be well on our way to driving users to the key areas of the web site, but once they arrive at those pages, we must also continue to engage them in order to complete our goals, whether our goal for the page is to get users to click a button, fill out a form, make a phone call, or just read the content.

Writing genuine, engaging content is the first step, but there are also some simple things that we can do in displaying that content that will help us attain our objectives.

  • Make use of headings and lists. Web users tend to avoid large blocks of copy, but by using headings and lists where appropriate, the content is more inviting and optimized for skimming.
  • Make use of “call outs.” We can draw attention to important quotes or statements by emphasizing that text in some way.
  • Insert relevant imagery. Many users are drawn to visuals more than written words. Adding photos, graphs, maps, or other imagery can help draw users into the content.
  • User alternative media. Many users are more inclined to watch a video or listen to audio than read a lengthy article. When considering posting video or audio on our web site, it’s important that we understand our audience before making the decision as it may not always be appropriate. We should also keep in mind that, for accessibility purposes, transcripts should always be made available.
  • Highlight related content. If we have engaged users with our content, we may be able to engage them further by providing easy access to similar pages.
  • Include a “call to action.” If we are looking for users to do more than simply read the content, we should make it obvious by including a “call to action” that encourages users to complete an action that helps us to achieve the objectives of the web site. The “call to action” may be a link to the Contact form, a link to your Twitter feed, or just your phone number.
On the web, content is king and successful web sites are those that present content to users in an effective manner.