From Homeless to $100,000,000: A Chat With Seth Shoultes

by Jeff Carver on January 29, 2018.

What do you do when life falls apart? When you no longer have a plan, and your situation becomes bleak? Seth Shoultes, co-founder of Event Espresso, a plugin for WordPress that enables businesses to sell tickets online, has been there and back again. And he has some important insights as a result. We recently had the opportunity to hear his story.

When It All Falls Apart

Out of high school, Seth served in the military as an aircraft technician. When he finished his service, his plan was to get a job using the skills he’d learned in the military. But due to the economy, he wasn’t able to find a job in the industry. He began working various minimum wage jobs and gradually became disillusioned with life.

Eventually, Seth ended up homeless in Salt Lake City, Utah, sleeping behind a church. He started taking day labor jobs, determined to get his life back on track. After a while, he found a steady job and got an apartment. He made new friends who encouraged him, and then met his wife.

Things Start Looking Up

At this point, things were looking up. After Seth married, he went to school at ITT Technical Institute, where he studied website design, PHP, and MySQL. He began moonlighting, building complex websites for clients while he was working his day job at the Department of Transportation. His clients referred him to their colleagues, and his business grew, enabling him to go full time with his website business.

One of Seth’s first clients was his wife. She had started a business, and she needed a website that would process workshop registrations and accept payments. Seth had been experimenting with WordPress, so he built his wife’s site using the platform. But because none of the available plugins had the functionality he needed, Seth created his own.

When he released the plugin on the WordPress plugin repository, people immediately began downloading and using it. He turned his attention to supporting the plugin full time and developing it even further. Today, the plugin is powering over 40,000 websites, which brings in over 100 million in ticket sales each year. Seth later developed an out-of-the-box website platform, called Event Smart, that allows users to create entire event websites easily. To date, over 18,000 people have built websites on this platform.

Hiring Can Make Or Break Your Company

Everyone makes mistakes, but Seth doesn’t let them get him down. He says, “I view failure as simply a pessimistic way of saying that we learn the hard way.” One of the toughest experiences he had was making a wrong hire. An employee was using company time to build a competing product, neglecting the work he was hired to do. Seth explains that, as a result, he and his co-founder changed their hiring process to more thoroughly vet candidates. They look for cultural fit as well as the necessary skill sets. Seth says, “Now we work hard to get good people on our team.”

Focus to Dominate a Space

It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially when you have people all around you with great ideas. But you can’t do everything, and you can’t be everything to everyone. Seth says, “It’s pretty important to stay focused. I built a roadmap of where I wanted to take the company and shared it with my co-founder and employees. The vision has always been clear to me.”

Having tools in place to keep you focused is essential. Track your ideas and evaluate how they impact your focus. Does the idea advance you toward your goals or is it a distraction?

Sometimes You Have to Redirect the Customer’s Focus, Too

Event Espresso has made their roadmap available to the public. If customers have ideas, they’re invited to submit them, but the company is clear about what’s a priority and what isn’t. If a customer wants a particular feature that’s too niche or not heading where the the roadmap is pointing, the client needs to hire a developer to customize it for themselves.

Company Culture Motivates the Team

Culture is primary for Seth and Event Espresso. He says, “We’re very open. We communicate regularly via Slack. We talk about personal stuff. We share what we’re reading and collaborate on ideas. And we talk about our personal goals. We’re non-judgemental, and we encourage one another.” Event Espresso’s values are fundamental to life at the company. They function as a family.

Seth’s final words to us are inspiring. He says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now. It’s never too late to start over.” From someone who started over in a dramatic way, these words are powerful.

Hear all of Seth’s story in the podcast.

Is WordPress Secure Enough for Microsoft? An Interview with Brad Williams.

by Jeff Carver on January 22, 2018.

Cybersecurity is a hot topic right now — it’s in the news almost daily. And as WordPress becomes more popular, site owners are looking for ways to make it more secure to prevent devastating hacking attacks. We recently had the opportunity to interview Brad Williams, the co-founder of WebDevStudios, a WordPress development company that’s thirty employees strong. He’s also a podcaster and co-author of Professional WordPress and Professional WordPress Plugin Development. He shares his advice on how to protect your site from cyber criminals.

A Little Bit About Brad

Brad set up his first website when he was a sophomore in high school (when AOL came free on a floppy disk). From then on, his interest in computers and the Internet skyrocketed. “Being able to connect with people all over the world was fascinating. Back then it was the Wild West,” Brad says.

After high school, Brad joined the Marines to explore computer programming. He eventually taught himself ASP and .NET, which launched his career in web programming. At his first job out of the Marines, he learned business and how companies can use the web both for marketing and to improve operations.

Brad became focused on open-source platforms when he launched his own web development company. Over time, he realized the potential that WordPress had and his company began developing exclusively on WordPress. “WordPress has always had a big focus on user experience and the user interface. Clients can easily figure out how to use it. They’re comfortable with it and they like it.”

Is WordPress Secure?

Even with the popularity of WordPress, it has its share of doubters. There are a lot of myths going around about WordPress, especially in the area of security. Brad walked us through why these myths just aren’t true.

Companies like Microsoft, Uber, Viacom, and Disney are all using WordPress. But, as Brad shares, “You need to be concerned about security no matter what platform you use. You should implement security audits and stay focused on protecting yourself.”

Unique, Complex Passwords Protect Against Hacking

A lot of the vulnerabilities are due to weaknesses in user authentication. If hackers can figure out your email and password, they can hack your site — no matter what platform you use. You need to choose a complex password that’s not easy to guess and not the same as the password you use on other sites. You can install a plugin that forces users to create strong passwords to ensure passwords are adequate.

SSL Certificates Prevent Interception

If you’re not using SSL, your information can be intercepted by a hacker. Brad cautions, “You need to be extremely careful if you’re on a public wif-fi network and you’re not using HTTPS.” A good rule of thumb is never to log in to any site on public wi-fi unless it has an SSL certificate.

Two-Factor Authentication Adds Extra Protection

It’s also a smart idea to use two-factor authentication. This method requires two forms of identification, such as logging in with your username and password and then entering a pin number. You can enable two-factor authentication on just about any platform you’re using — from banking to your hosting account.

Keep Software, Plugins, and Themes Updated

Bots scour the Internet looking for sites to compromise. Will explains, “A bot will check every site to find vulnerabilities. It will try myriad username and password combinations, trying to hit on one that works. And if you don’t keep your site’s software, plugins, and themes updated, bots can find holes to enter.”

Protect Your Server

Your server has to be protected, and not every hosting company is created equal. Brad says, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, if you’re not a SysAdmin, go with a managed host. I like managed WordPress hosts like WP Engine and Pagely, because they’re focused exclusively on WordPress and they’re really good at what they do.” Brad suggests asking the hosting company you’re considering about their approach to security and what they’re doing to protect clients’ websites.

Backups are Essential

Whether or not your site is hacked, you’ll want to have a backup in case of a data loss. Brad says, “Backups are the most important things in life! There are two approaches to backups: you can backup everything on your site, or you can just backup your database. I like to do a full backup once a week and a database backup once a day.”

Brad uses a tool called Backup Buddy that creates both types of backups on a schedule. He recommends backing up your data to two locations, to ensure you will have what you need. You should also encrypt your backups. VaultPress is good service that backs up your database in real time.

Be Careful With Plugins

There are over 50,000 plugins on WordPress.org. And there are just as many outside of WordPress.org. Plugins add code to your site, and if the code isn’t secure, it opens you up to attacks. Some plugins are highly secure, and some have serious vulnerabilities.

Brad advises, “My recommendation is to only use a plugin if you really need it. Check the reviews and ratings to see what people are saying about it. Is it actively being developed? Is the developer responsive to support request? How many active installs does it have?” A good goal is to use less than ten plugins.

What to Ask When Hiring a Development Team

When you’re looking at hiring a team, ask, “What kind of security recommendations do you have for us?” See what they’re doing with their sites and how much they know about security. If the developer doesn’t bring up security, you should.

Brad left us with a final thought: “Never get complacent. Whether it’s your WordPress site or your phone, always be thinking about security. Protect yourself.”

You can learn more about WordPress security issues by going to WordPress.tv and searching “security.”

Hear all that Brad shared in the conversation.

Get Signal Over Noise Using SEO: A Conversations with Tim Lowry

by Jeff Carver on January 15, 2018.

Nearly everyone knows the value of high search result rankings. If your website can be found easily by qualified prospects online, you’ll enjoy a steady stream of customers. We recently enjoyed a conversation with Tim Lowry, the founder and head of SEO at TipTop Search + Marketing. Tim has worked with small businesses and Fortune 500s. He learned the ropes of digital at a book publishing company, where he was responsible for getting book titles seen on Google, Amazon, and other online platforms.

Tim eventually launched his own search marketing firm. Today, he helps companies and brands get found on various platforms online.

Successful SEO Depends on Your Content Management System

Not all content management systems are created equal when it comes to SEO. Some are extremely limiting, restricting access to certain areas of the site. Tim shares, “The biggest mistake I made starting out was not properly vetting the content management systems that new clients were using before starting on their projects. I’d realize once I got into the website that a CMS wouldn’t let me do what I needed to do to get results. We then had to hire a developer to go into the code.” Before launching an SEO project, do your research to know what your CMS allows and budget in any programming help you’ll need.

Signal vs. Noise: How to Get Found

There’s a lot of noise out there — a lot of content. The job of a search engine is to sort through the noise to create the “signal” that searchers are trying to find. Tim shares a startling statistic: “Just north of 50% of search engine results never receive a click.” Companies need to provide real value in order to attract people’s interest get the search engines to reward them with better search rankings. Search engines look at engagement levels — the more engaged people are with your content, the better search engines will rank you.

It’s Not About Keywords Anymore

Google has around 200 ranking signals that they look for. One of the major ranking signals is the nature of the content — how helpful is it? Tim offers an illustration: “For example, someone who types in, ‘How do I fix a dent in my car?’ isn’t necessarily looking for a body repair shop yet — they’re evaluating first if they can do it themselves. If a particular body shop provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide for people who are looking for this information, then chances are that this body shop will earn that person’s business when he or she later searches a more buying-related query.”

Other important signals include the focus of the content (where keywords become helpful), social sharing, and high-quality backlinks.

Tools to Measure Success in Google Search Results

There’s a suite of tools that you’ll need to use so you’re not just throwing darts blindly, hoping some will hit their mark. And these tools are supplied by Google. Tim says, “Google wants you to be successful, so they help you learn how to provide more value to your audience.”

The main tool you need is Google Analytics. If you don’t have Google Analytics, then you’re not going to know how your traffic is getting to your site. Google Search Console will give you front-end information — the search phrases that are bringing traffic into your site. Google Adwords will tell you the monthly search volume of different queries. Beyond these, there are additional technical tools that will help you go deeper and fine tune for greater success.

Broad Search Terms vs. Long Tail Terms

There are two ways of thinking about search terms. Going after high-value, broad search terms is challenging and will take time. Going after long-tail search terms that aren’t as popular but still have a good number of monthly searches will allow you to get some quick wins while you’re working on the broad search terms. Long-tail search terms can actually bring better traffic to your site because they’re more specific, and the user’s intent is more obvious.

Tim’s Thoughts on Split Testing Headlines Via Google Ads

Many people test different versions of headlines by running different versions of Google ads. Tim doesn’t recommend this approach, because you’re not going to necessarily get an accurate metric of performance for other situations (like organic search results or on a landing page or on other ad networks).

There are better ways you can A/B test headlines. Tim suggests using two landing pages that are optimized the same way but have different headlines (or whatever factor you’re testing). Keep in mind that you need to target a slightly different variation of the keyword for each of the landing pages so they’re not competing in Google. There are software programs you can use that will manage the testing process for you.

Don’t Forget the Nurturing Funnel

Not everyone will be ready to buy when they find you. At the top of the funnel are people who are interested in buying, but they’ve just started doing research. You need to capture these people and get them into a drip email campaign with additional valuable information so that you’re top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy. If people are halfway down the funnel already, you need to share case studies or what sets your company apart. You also need something for people who are now ready to buy, such as promotional offers.

Tim left us with the following advice: “You need to be working on getting organic rankings all the time. Once your organic rankings are bringing in sufficient traffic, you can drop back on your paid ads.” Organic is something that you should be focusing on continually, because the rankings fluctuate.

Hear all that Tim shared in the conversation.

Billions of Hours, All Audience, All Video: A Conversation with Will Stewart

by Jeff Carver on January 8, 2018.

Video is taking over the world by storm. And it’s become a significant part of brands’ marketing strategies. We recently sat down with Will Stewart, who runs 9/8 Central, a video production company here in Greenville. Will has a portfolio of video work that features clients including Michelin, TD Bank, and Fatz Cafe. In this episode, he shares with us why he’s so passionate about video and what it can do for businesses.

Will started working with digital media, initially as a web designer, to help small businesses grow. He’s always been passionate about business, dating back to high school. He wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he founded a web design company that he grew and later sold.

At that point, Will began working as a creative director at an agency, where he first discovered the power of video. That experience was career-changing for him. What he learned at the agency started him down a path that led to the founding of his video production company. Will shares, “You need some kind of apprenticeship, some kind of mentor. You need human interaction to guide you.” The mentors he benefited from at the agency influence him even today.

The Power of Video: Verbal and Nonverbal

Will describes video as the evolution of communication. Describing his time at the agency, he says, “I fell in love with video. You ask me, ‘Why video?’ The reason why I love video is because communication is both verbal and nonverbal. You can’t capture that with other mediums. Video is a natural way of communicating.”

Calls-to-Action in Video: Make Your Request

Businesses use video to prompt a purchase, or to move the sales process to the next stage. A business video isn’t typically just for entertainment. A call-to-action invites the viewer to take a specific action after watching your video. Will says that we all need to know what to do as a next step to put into practice what we’ve just learned. A call-to-action at the end of the video is a great way to accomplish this.

Focus Creates Success

After working at the agency, learning how video can benefit businesses and move their marketing strategies forward, Will decided to go out on his own. “I learned quickly that to be an expert you have to focus on one thing. To be successful, you need to be an expert. I decided to focus on video because I was so passionate about it and I wanted to do it well.”

Will encourages other business owners and entrepreneurs to focus on a niche. He sees that small businesses that dedicate themselves to one specialization are much more successful than those who try to be all things to all people.

Quality Attracts Quality

“I’ve always believed in creating the work that you want to do.” Will urges businesses not to be out for the quick buck but to produce work that attracts top-quality clients. When he was first starting his video production company, Will created a list of the clients that he wanted to work with and then reached out to them with ideas on what he wanted to do for them. His vision caught on with several of his targets, and his company began growing as a result.

Compelling Stories Sell

Storytelling is essential to a strong brand. Will says that he frequently encounters companies that are focused on marketing tactics like video, but they’re missing foundational stories to support their marketing efforts. Good video production companies can help guide clients to create compelling stories.

Will says, “There are a lot of businesses out there that have a great product, but they don’t know how to communicate. Know your target audience.” Buyers make purchasing decisions based on which company clearly communicates their product’s value in a way that the buyer can identify with. A story that shows your buyers how you’re going to make their lives better and make them the hero is a powerful one.

Various Content for Various Platforms

There are a variety of different platforms where businesses can share their videos. Websites, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. . . the list goes on and on. What should businesses consider when thinking about what to share where? Will advises, “All these different platforms are moving targets. For example, because of the way people use Facebook today, videos you post on Facebook need to have subtitles. You don’t have that same need for video on a website or blog.”

Different platforms also call for different styles. Instagram Stories, for example, are more in-the-moment and shouldn’t appear over-produced. Videos that appears on your website, on the other hand, will be more effective if they’re edited, and may even appear cinematic.

Planning Makes Perfect

A successful video requires planning. You need to understand your target audience and what their needs and pain points are. You need to decide what your goal is for the video. You have to determine what action you want people to take after they watch the video. Also consider what you’re looking for when it comes to ROI. Will explains, “Once you know all of this information, creating your video becomes straightforward. This is the platform I need share on, this is when I need to share it, this is how long it should be, this is the messaging I need to communicate. You know what’s going to stick.”

Will wrapped up the conversation with this summary: “Video humanizes your brand and makes your brand something people can trust. It’s a powerful tool.”

Hear all that Will shared in the conversation.

Ransomware Stole My Website

by Kevin Dees on August 8, 2017.

Today is a normal day, but little do you know what is about to happen. You go to your website during your morning routine and you are shocked. All you see is a simple message “Warning, your website has been taken! Pay $100 to my bank account #1004505 or lose it forever.”

Your website has been taken by ransomware. In a panic, you call your web team and ask for help. “How do I get my website back?!”

What is Ransomware?

Don’t let your website get ransomed. Let’s take some time to understand what ransomware is and focusing on preventing it from taking your website hostage.

Ransomware works the same way physical ransom works but in the digital space. In the real world, a ransom works in this way:

  1. Someone steals from you and hides what was stolen.
  2. A note is left telling you how to pay.
  3. You pay the thief with no guarantee of return.
  4. Or, you call for a security team with no guarantee of return.

Digital ransom might feel different from a physical ransom but it really is the same. With ransomware the thief:

  1. Moves your website to a secret location.
  2. Replaces your website with a program telling you how to pay for what was stole. This is the digital version of a thief leaving a note.
  3. You pay up with no guarantee of return.
  4. Or, you call for a security team with no guarantee of return.

In both the physical and digital space there is no guarantee you will get back what was stolen. However, with the right planning ahead of time you can be sure ransomware won’t send you into a panic.

Prevent Ransomware Panic

To remove the panic of ransomware:

  1. Have regular backups of your website sent to multiple locations. Backups are your first line of defense against ransomware.
  2. Keep your website, computers, and systems up-to-date.
  3. Create and test a website recovery system.

A Real Example

At Robojuice, we have seen ransomware in different forms. For example, we recently encountered an attack on a website that has its database stolen. (a database is where all of a websites pages, blog posts, email addresses, user accounts, and other information might be stored. Everything you add to your website needs to be stored somewhere and that place is in the database)

Here is a photo of a healthy database before an attack, I’ll explain what you are looking at soon:

See all the yellow icons on the left. These icons are called database tables. For example:

  • “wp_comments”  is a database table and that table stores all the comments people make on the WordPress blog that uses this database.
  • The table named “wp_posts” stores all the blog posts of the website.
  • “wp_users” stores all the user accounts including usernames, emails, and password.

Simply put, the database stores everything that is important to the website.

Now, what happens to the database when it becomes ransomed? Take a look.

See how all the yellow icons are missing and only one is left? A hacker stole this database and left a note. The note left on this website was ransomware. The ransomware was a little program that created a new database table called “WARNING” and required payment to a specific BitCoin account to get the good original back.

How Was It Hacked?

This example was an old website that was not being visited. Over time software updates were released to fix newly discovered security holes but no one updated the site.

Eventually, the outdated system was sniff-out by a robot like a hound on the hunt.

The robot, programmed by a hacker, found the site and started its attack. It attacked the site from different angles trying to find a weakness. Those attacks would have included:

  1. Brute force attacks where the program tried thousands of username and password combinations in only a few seconds.
  2. SQL injection attacks cause a website to execute specific code it was not designed to handle. SQL attacks are specific attacks against a website’s database.

When the SQL attack was launched against the example site it gave way. The website allowed the robot to steal the database and leave the note with the ransom notice attached.

How Does the Hacker Get Away With Your Money?

In short. BitCoin. BitCoin is not something to be ignored. Dave Ramsey has talked about it, Bill Gates has talked about it, and the media has covered BitCoin.

BitCoins can not be frozen like a bank account making them ideal for hackers. This doesn’t mean that hackers can not be caught with their BitCoins. However, it does give them more flexibility since they do not need a bank account to accept currency online.

Overall, ransomware is a real threat but if you have the right systems in place you can be ready. Be sure you talk with your team about how to overcome ransomware and ensure your recovery systems have been tested and are working.

 

 

 

Your Autoplaying Homepage Video Might Kill You

by Kevin Dees on July 7, 2017.

Your homepage needs to direct attention not distract it. Autoplaying videos on your homepage have the potential to distract and not direct customers. Videos are important to your website and they can increase your conversion rates, up to 80%, but you need to know the DO NOTs.

We have all seen a homepage that has a video playing behind a headline, a few lines of text, and a button. The copy and video look great but are they hurting or helping? To answer that question, we need to consider how our attention works.

Have you ever tried watching TV and reading at the same time? Maybe you’re watching Netflix and reading this blog. Where is your attention?

If we are honest, we must to admit we can only put our attention in one place at a time. Sure, we can switch our focus from one item to other and catch the key moments. Then we can just fill in the gaps by connecting the dots. However, our thought process and focus is broken over and over causing us miss the full story.

If there is proof that we are not good at doing two things at once, texting and driving is a golden example. Even when our life is on the line, driving down the highway we can only really do one thing well. Drive or text.

So, the autoplaying video on your homepage. It might not be putting your life on the line like texting and driving. However, when video is playing behind text the text becomes hard to read. Customers need to read that text to know what you are asking them to do. You are distracting them by asking them to do two things at once. Watch and read.

In short, having a homepage with a background video and copy is not the best idea for focusing attention. Still, one company thought otherwise. That company was Wistia.

Wistia, a successful video hosting service chose to use autoplaying video and overlaying copy. If you think about it, Wistia of all companies should be able to have an autoplaying background video. They are a video hosting service and leaders in the online video industry after all.

Their results might surprise you, however. After using the autoplaying video for 16 months they found that it was not working. By switching away from autoplaying video to a simplified background image instead, they saw a 53% increase in organic traffic and a 7% increase in customer sign-ups.

Now to be fair, some companies have found success by using autoplaying background videos. However, I would venture to say that the companies who have been successful would be more successful without the autoplaying video like Wistia.

Now, I’m not trying to completely crush the idea. Background videos can be fun and do grab attention. But, the problem to solve is directing attention not just direct it. To be practical there are ways to direct attention using the autoplaying videos. If you must have a video autoplaying on your homepage there are best practices that help focus customer attention:

  1. Keep the video movement sublet and slow.
  2. Limit the number of colors from scene to scene.
  3. Overlay the video with a background that increases the contrast of the copy making it more readable.
  4. Be sure the video supports and reinforces the copy used for your call to action. the video and text must work together to tell a consistent story. Showing random shots or clips will not work.
  5. Make sure the video does not make your website slow. A video can take a few seconds to appear and your page needs to load in less than a second.
  6. Do not play sound!
  7. Avoid having shots that take the focus away from the call to action abruptly.

Here is the point. We all have a hard enough time focusing. When we distract people from the objective of our websites we are hurting ourselves by causing customer confusion. Video is a powerful tool but it must be used in the right ways to have an impact that counts.

Fireside Chat: Activate Your Audience Using Video

by Kevin Dees on July 6, 2017.

We watch billions of hours of video online everyday. On just YouTube alone we watch over 1 billion hours. The web is the new TV. Kindly put, if you are ignoring video online you are losing out on potential attention. You must take video seriously within the online world.

To win online with video you need to activate your audience by planning a strategic approach. To get practical, I sit down and talk with Will Stewart at 9/8 Central about his story and what businesses can do to win in an age of Facebook live streaming and YouTube.

Will is the CEO and founder of the award winning video production and story telling company 9/8 Central. Will has helped companies like TD Bank, Michelin, GE, Milliken, Volkswagen, BMW, U.S. Olympic Team, Southern Tide, FATZ Cafe, YMCA and many others make high quality and engaging videos.

Will points out several things when it comes to video:

  1. A great video has a call to action. Even a fluff piece.
  2. Live streaming on any platform needs to be planned. Especially Facebook. Have a plan and get out of the business of simply executing.
  3. You must know your audience. Is your audience moms online at 9:00 PM at night?
  4. The products people understand the clearest win, not the products with the most features. Make your videos and message clear.
  5. Videos online engage billions of our hours. You cannot ignore the numbers.
  6. You must have focus to be successful (There are exceptions but do not default to thinking you are the one). As a company, 9/8 Central is focused on delivering great stories through video.
  7. Communicating your message is critical. Communication is more than words. Yes, words matter but they only represent a small percentage of communication. Video captures words but also tone of voice and body language.

Stop These 2 Things From Appearing on Your Landing Page

by Kevin Dees on June 29, 2017.

Two things you need to stop from appearing on your landing pages are impersonal testimonials and vague words. Vague words only confuses customers keeping them from buying from you. Impersonal testimonials lack emotion and make it hard for visitors to connect with them.

Impersonal testimonials

Testimonials that are not personal are not testimonials at all. Impersonal testimonials are sound bites and you need to avoid them like the plague.

A solid testimonial speaks the a customers specific personal experience and what problem was solved.

An impersonal testimonial might go like this:

“A great new restaurant is hard to find. Restaurant 1020 has great food. The staff are friendly and helpful.”

A personal testimonial might go like this:

“Finding a great new restaurant is not easy for us. When my wife and I walked into Restaurant 1020 the staff made us feel welcome and the dinner was great.”

Solid personal testimonials need to be three things:

  1. Specific: Do not use general details.
  2. Personal: Use of worlds like “I, we, or us.”
  3. Experiential: Address the gap or problem that was solved.

If you have the opportunity to ask for testimonials request and reach for these three.

Vague words

You can spend a lot of time on the look and feel of your landing page. However, if the words are wrong your landing page will not create the customer engagement you want. Being vague only confuses customers and causes them to leave your landing page. This is why you need to get your words right.

Saying something vague like, “We provide cooking solutions for the kitchen.” will leave customers wondering what “solutions” means. Are “solutions” products or services or both? If “solutions” are “products” then what are the “products”?

To overcome vague words you need to be less abstract. You need concrete words. Concrete words represent something tangible like “pots, dishes, and utensils”. Abstract words like “solutions” are not concrete.

Saying something concrete like, “We provide pots, dishes, and utensils for your kitchen.” will help being clarity to customers right away.

Next Steps

Go find your top landing pages. Eliminate vague words and impersonal testimonials from them. The words you use have a big impact on customers and are more important than how your landing page looks. If your words are wrong, it will not matter how great your page looks, customers will not buy from you.

Your Homepage is Not Your Most Important Page

by Kevin Dees on June 27, 2017.

Your homepage is not the most important page on your site. Your customer’s landing page is the most important page on your site.

The first page someone enters your website through is called a landing page. When a visitor enters your site through your homepage, the homepage becomes their landing page. When a visitor enters through a blog post, the blog post becomes their landing page. Your homepage, blog post, product page, or any other page can be a landing page.

Your customers landing page is the most important page on your site because it will determine if they stay, share, read, buy, or call. With this in mind, how do you make a landing page that will drive customers?

Here are four principles to guide you:

  1. First, keep the landing page focused on the problem your customer is trying to solve. If you try to solve too many problems on your landing page you will confuse people or paralyze them with too any choices. Keep your landing page focused.
  2. Second, have a solid call to action that will drive the response you want to create. That response can be on online action like clicking the purchase button or an offline action like a phone call. Again, you need to show your customer how to take the next step and that next step is communicated through your call to action.
  3. Third, do not assume your landing page will work the way you think. Knowing the best path comes through A/B testing your landing page not assuming it will be perfect out of the gate. There have been numerous studies that have shown shocking results about landing pages. Many times the best looking landing page is out performed by an ugly landing page that focuses its words on the problem.
  4. Finally, use guiding principles. There is no shortcut to a great landing page. Making a great landing page requires understanding a multitude of factors. Photos, videos, text, buttons, and layout are factors of the page as well as a customers demographic, wants, emotions, and relationships. In short making a great landing page can get complicated. This is why we have multiple principles to guide us through making decisions in complexity situation.

Here is the point. Think about those comedic chase scenes from the cartoon show Scooby-Doo. In the show the gang is caught running from the villain in a hallway of doors. You never know what door someone or something will come from as they run from room to room. The same is true with your customers. You never know what page (door) they will enter through. You can not assume they will come through your homepage. They can enter through many different pages.

When you are working on your website give each of your top landing pages a look and see how you can turn them into result driving machines.

How We Made Using WordPress an Easy Choice

by Kevin Dees on June 20, 2017.

WordPress is an easy choice if you know how to stop the chaos of plugins by using the right tools.

WordPress plugins help anyone add features to their website with a single click. If you need a contact form there is a plugin for that. If you need to keep hackers out there is a plugins. Need to connect your CRM, email marketing system, or send a fax? Plugins can. There is a plugin for just about anything you need. However, there is a problem.

After only a few plugins are installed, your website can become a house of cards. This is because almost every plugin is made by someone different. Imagine buying a car but every section is made by a different manufacturer – a BMW-Ford-Honda-Jeep. To drive the point home, each manufacturer operates by different standards and levels of craftsmanship creating completely funky final experience. Now, how far would you drive with your loved ones inside?

When we use WordPress we know that you love your business. There is no way we can put your businesses in that kind of car (website).

We want your website to run fast, operate securely, break less, and look great. This is why we made a WordPress framework called TypeRocket. TypeRocket is not a plugin. TypeRocket is a framework.

While a plugin lets you add features with a single click a framework lets you add features with a single line of code. Once you get into code the number of people who can add features drops off. Not everyone can code after all. However, you do not want everyone building your website. Remember the car.

The real benefit to using a framework is that people who can code have a single toolbox to work from. With a single toolbox to work from your site can have the same standards and levels of craftsmanship applied to it when it is built. When the people who are building your site are working along the same lines greatness can happen.

By building TypeRocket we make using WordPress an easy choice. But, that is just the beginning:

  1. We made TypeRocket 100% Free.
  2. We have helped other web design companies use TypeRocket for themselves.
  3. We wrote about and made videos showing how to use TypeRocket.
  4. We speak at conferences  and events about TypeRocket.
  5. We are adding new features and options to TypeRocket all the time.
  6. And, we are doing a lot more.

With Typerocket you can add any number of features just like you can with plugins. Need to connect your CRM, email marketing system, create a contact form, block hackers, or send a fax? TypeRocket can.

TypeRocket also works great with plugins. If you want to use some of the really good plugins that exist like Gravity Forms or iThemes Security Pro go for it. In fact we use plugins with TypeRocket all the time. Only, we do not let a website become a house of plugins.

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