Web Design

Top 10 Reasons I Recommend iPage To All My Clients

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[Disclosure: I do receive commission from iPage on any sales made via the links and banner advertisements clicked in this post.]

Let’s talk about hosting. Anyone that has purchased a website design through me will know that I highly recommend iPage hosting.

In this post I thought I would dive right in and explore why iPage is my go to hosting company of choice and how you could benefit from using their services.

What is website hosting

While this may seem like an obvious question for some, the fact is many people that come to me looking for a small business website are not necessarily aware of what hosting is, and what options are available to them.

To answer that first question, website hosting is basically the service you use to look after all of your website data so people can access it online.

A good hosting provider will have features such as daily back up of your website, fast reliable servers (the machines that store your website data) and other addons to make sure your website is available 24/7 and that hackers cannot get in there and corrupt your data.

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So why do I recommend iPage to all my clients?

1. Reliability

The main reason from my point of view is that they are very reliable. In all my time using iPage I have never experienced any server downtime with either my own, or my client’s sites.

2. Excellent Support

Secondly, their support is fantastic. When you are dealing with websites and the myriad configurations with WordPress updates, different themes and plugins as well as security issues – problems can and do occur.

Whenever I have encountered an issue that I have not been able to solve myself, the support team at iPage have been very quick to answer my tickets.

The end result is the client has their site issue resolved within hours. Both myself and my clients are happy with that outcome.

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3. Unlimited disk space & email addresses

The beauty of iPage is that as your business and website grows, you have a plan that will perfectly accommodate your needs. Unlimited disk space means your site will never have to be moved to a different service, or be prompted to pay for upgrades. Your plan takes care of all of that from the start.

4. Easy to use Site Builders

If you decide to opt for iPage without using my web design services, it is possible to get up and running very quickly with the free site-builders. Right from the iPage dashboard you can access easy to use site-builders such as:

  • impress.ly
  • Weebly
  • WordPress

 

5. Free Domain Name Registration

This is an excellent offer for all those starting out with a new website online. With iPage signup you get your domain name registration absolutely free.

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6. First Class Site Security

You can be confident that your data is safe and secure with iPage. Each plan comes with a free security suite with business verification, malware scanning, and network scanning within a highly-secured data center.

7. Free Marketing Tools

On signup with iPage they very kindly throw in marketing tools to help you spread the word about your website. These include $100 Google AdWords credit, $100 Yahoo/Bing credit, free YP.com listing, and more!

A perfect starter package for a successful online business.

8. Free eCommerce Tools

Even the lowest price package with iPage comes with free eCommerce solutions so that you can begin selling online with out fuss. These include:

  • A free online store (an out of the box feature to begin selling products)
  • Paypal integration
  • AgoraCart shopping cart
  • OpenCart shopping cart
  • PrestaShop shopping cart
  • Zen Cart shopping cart

 

And a whole lot more. Believe me, as a web designer, having access to all of those features straight from the hosting plan is an absolute treat. Amazing value for money.

9. 30 Days Money Back Guarantee

Although I have never had a client that has needed to use it.

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10. Exceptional Low Cost Yearly Plan

Finally, the iPage unlimited hosting package is so ludicrously low priced, I never have any problems suggesting to my clients that this is the package to go for. At around 2$ per month it is by far the best valued hosting service available in the world today.

…. And that is why, I recommend iPage to all my customers.

If you’re interested in checking out what offers they have currently, just click on the banner below. If you want any more information about their hosting or help getting set up, just drop me a message using the contact form.

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5 Small Business Web Site Marketing Tips

Ok, so you have had a small business website nicely designed for you. You’ve paid the web designer and now you’re waiting for the traffic to come knocking on your website ‘door’ and increased business as a result.

Unfortunately having a website built for your business is just the first step. A lot of work is needed to get it out there and make sure people notice.

Here 5 fundamental onsite (meaning what you can do with your actual website) marketing optimization techniques. Quite simply, by following these steps your small business website will perform that much better.

1. Create lots of good, quality relevant content

content-is-kingYou can’t look at an article on SEO without seeing the term ‘content is king’. So I will get it out of the way first.

There is certainly truth in the mantra. If you want your business website to do well with the search engines, you have got to make sure the content is of good quality and is relevant.

The more of this glorious well written content you have on your website the more the search engines can scan and therefore index you for the type of search terms you are targeting.

Which leads to the importance of Keyword research. Gone are the days where you can stuff your site with keywords you would like to be ranked for.

Now careful research is the order of the day. Using the Google Keyword Planner, you can find out the sorts of words your potential clients are keying in to Google to find what they need.

Then you write content that uses these keywords (in a natural and readable context), so that Google will rank you higher when those terms are searched.

The important thing here is remember to write for your audience, not the search engines. Keep in your mind why would people come to your web site? How do you offer them anything more interesting and informative than another competing website in your field.

If you stand out by giving something original and worthwhile, both your audience and Google will appreciate you.

Try to set aside an hour a day (or at least an hour a week) to adding new, quality content to your web site.

2. Keep your content Fresh

fresh contentSo you’ve built up a load of content for your small business website and feel you can relax for a bit. Not so I am afraid. If you allow your content to become stale and old it will lose relevance. Google actually tracks how often a website is being updated when it visits the site for indexing.

The more often your site changes the better your rank will be in the freshness category.

The best way your website can be designed to allow for all the fresh new content you are writing from step one, is to include a blog. Platforms such as WordPress are built in a way that Google loves. If you add fresh content through your blog, with good navigation through the use of tabs and categories, (this basically means your content is ordered in a way that makes it easy for a visitor to find what they want), your site will perform well.

And once again your website visitor is happy.

3. No ‘Black Hat’ SEO Tricks

Black-HatAll over the internet you will find deals for 1000 quality back-links, or SEO tricks for success. All with the aim of fooling the system so you can reach higher position in Google. Any tactic of this nature is considered ‘Black Hat’.

These techniques did work once upon a time, but with Google’s continuing algorithm updates, (the now infamous Panda and Penguin), your small business website will quickly be penalized if you have used such tactics.

The simple solution to this is to not play that game. These days the effort involved pursuing black hat principles in a way that doesn’t get you punished by the search engines, is so difficult, you may as well expend that energy doing it the correct way. (Also known as ‘White Hat’)

By following the recommendations of the search engines – (most will set out rules for web masters that outline what they would like to see in a website ) and articles such as this, your website will perform all the better. More importantly, it will continue to do so even after the most recent Google algorithm change.

4. Links – Both inbound and outbound links should be relevant

linklink exchanges really are a thing of the past. These days it is all about quality over quantity. And a quality link comes from being placed on a site that is relevant.

In short, you need other websites in your niche (with as high a page rank as possible) to be connecting to you. The anchor text, (the text used to link back to your website) is important in that it needs to be descriptive of the keywords you are attempting to rank for.

If you are going about link building yourself, target blogs and forums in your niche. Leave valuable comments with a link back to your site and not only will you be spreading the word of your business, you will be showing potential clients your knowledge and ability to help.

Links to this very website are placed within small business website forums through out the web. I have left what I thought to be helpful advice and I have generated leads from this.

5. Structure – Organize your small business web site so people can find that lovely content

site-structure-seoIt is an obvious point, however both the search engines and your audience will appreciate you if your website is well structured.

It is amazing how often people forget this and opt for sloppy navigation with their website, with dead links and hard to find information tucked away in the far reaches of the site.

The search engines bots work by breaking down websites into elements based on the structure of the pages. If your structure is coherent, the bots will like you and you will be graded higher in this part of the ranking algorithm.

Your audience works on reaching your site by wanting specific information. If they can get that quickly and efficiently, (people rarely read through web pages, they scan headings and bulleted lists to find the detailed sections of interest) they will like you and maybe come back for more.

In both cases a well structured small business website will perform so much better than one that is a hodge-podge of information haphazardly thrown together.

Use relevant headings, and tags. Organise sections of content into groups, or create link pages that cater for a particular topic and pulls together all your content in that area. Make sure your menus and sub menus are clear. Use bold and bullied lists to present key points. And get rid of any dead links.

Simple site TLC and some thoughtful reformatting can turn your small business website into a worthwhile hub, engaging your audience and more importantly converting those leads.

To Conclude

babyThere are of course many more areas you can tweak and play with when it comes to increasing the overall performance of your website. However, in my opinion, few are as important as the steps above.

In later tutorials I will be going through each of the steps in more detail.

If you feel that your website is lacking in any of the areas above, or you would just like an appraisal of your sites performance, please feel free to contact me.

I offer absolutely free, no obligation consultations, and web design health checks.

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7 Tips to a Better Small Business Homepage Design

If you are small business owner you obviously cannot compete with the big boys on the amount you spend on your website design. However, your website can be the single most important aspect of your business for bringing in new clients and giving that all important first impression. Therefore, the way your small business website is designed can in some cases make or break your business.

The first page your potential clients are likely to come to is your home page. The job of the home page is to introduce the viewer to your business. You want them to know that they are in the right place from the start. Here are 8 top tips to good homepage web design.

1. Simple is Best

A small business website should have a simple homepage. (As you can see from SB1 design – I use a simple slider showing some of my work, and then 3 text areas with details of what I do.

It is important that the page communicates your product or service either with a stand-out image/slider or a simple slogan. You do not want to confuse your visitors with cluttered design or superfluous imagery or banner advertising. You want to your visitor to feel confident that they will get the service/product/information they need from you.

2. Avoid too Much at Once

Again, too much information on the first page of your small business website is a sure fire way of putting off your visitors.

If your homepage causes the browser scroll bar to shrink to a mere dot, this means you have way too much data that has to be downloaded. Your visitors will be instantly put off by the website design and will look elsewhere.

To avoid having streams of info on your homepage, you need to update your navigation. Use menus that will link to separate categories holding relevant information.

Your homepage is good place for product promotion and special offers, and from there the visitor should be led wherever they need to go.

3. Display the Correct Links

As an extension of the first two points, your small business website should incorporate a homepage web design that displays the right links. By doing so your design will remain simple and will avoid any unnecessary information.

The following links should form part of any homepage menu, (and exist throughout the website for that matter): about, products, news, contact.

All visitors to your website will need to know what your business is about, how/what they can gain from doing business with you, what’s current with you, and how to contact you.

With the move to mobile over recent years, it is also important to make sure that your business web design works on that platform too. This is a subject for an entire article on its own, however, by using a responsive web design you can ensure all your links are accessible no matter what your website is being viewed on.

4. Featured Products Above the Fold

Display your best content above the fold. This is the first impression many visitors will have of your website and therefore your business. Get the web design and the content displayed right, and the visitor will stick around.

Put your most eye-catching products here. Make the content fresh and enticing, if using images make sure they are all good ones. Your homepage web design above the fold has to clearly communicate, look professional and if possible have a wow factor, (appropriate to your business of course).

5. Keep It Fresh

A lot of business websites make good use of what is called the sidebar. (Most WordPress websites have this as standard). The sidebar area runs alongside the main content and is ideal for links, extra menus and importantly (for ultimate freshness) social media data streams and connections.

Your small business should have a Twitter, Google + and Facebook Page. With the correct website design you can have the latest posts from all of your social media pages, visible in your sidebar. Every time you share and update, your own business website will reflect the same.

The sidebar can also contain share icons so your visitor can easily place your content on their own social media profiles should they want to. This of course is a great way of your content and therefore business being promoted.

6. Create a Homepage that Reflects Your Business Theme

The most successful marketing will always incorporate brand consistency. This means when designing a website for your business, you need to select the template, colour scheme, logo and layout very carefully.

These elements have to reflect your product or service. They also need to be consistent with whatever other marketing material you have.

If you have a physical storefront or a public presence, your distribution materials (flyers, posters, adverts and business cards) along with your website style and design have to all be part of the same family. Consistency of design is key.

7. Be Original

Successful small business websites today should have fun with their audience and (if sticking to the principles above), attempt to be quirky and original.

With faster internet speeds and the proliferation of mobile/tablet devices the technology is widely available giving a website the freedom to experiment in order to stand out from the crowd. If you know your audience you should try to think outside of the box in a way that might appeal.

If whatever reason your website and its content is able to go ‘viral’ there is no bounds to the increased traffic and therefore custom you may receive.

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Top 5 tips for effectively updating your small business website

1. Update the content

This one may sound obvious, but just going through your pages making sure all information is up-to-date is very important, and something many people forget to do. If you have sections where fresh images can be uploaded – do it. Think about the key search terms you want your website to recognized for. Ensure that you have used these (in a natural manner) through out your content, in order to boost your related SEO. Liven up your text with fresh wording, update the about you page – things may well have changed since you wrote it. Do you have a news section? Do you have more detailed product/service descriptions. Now you have been in business a while, could you add a FAQ section? If you’re adding new sections, make sure it can be navigated easily throughout your site.

2. Social linking

Can your audience quickly and easily ‘share’, ‘like’ and ‘tweet’ your content? Can they leave comments that will automatically appear on their Facebook timelines? Is there a testimonials section that is fully up to date? Allowing customers to engage directly with your website is one of the most important aspect of web design. If you are using WordPress, there are countless plugins that will allow such functionality onto your site. Experiment and see what works for you.

3. Change your theme

The beauty of WordPress is that it is very easy to revamp your website with a brand new theme. However, you do need to be careful. The new theme structure does need to be similar to the way your existing theme is built, otherwise you could spend a long time re-entering information into the relevant projects or product section, depending on the design.

Staying with your current theme, it is often very easy to add new background images or change the fonts style and colours. It can all be done from the theme admin page. Regardless of the font you use, make sure it’s large enough to read and avoid fancy scripts. Google Web Fonts has more than 600 free, web-optimized fonts from which to choose. Finally, make sure any changes are consistent and apply to the branding of your business.

4. Get rid of Flash

I remember when everybody wanted to use flash. Flash images, flash slideshows, flash videos. Not any more. Flash is considered antiquated and a sign that a website is dated and behind the times. Also, with almost 15 percent of today’s web traffic coming from mobile devices (that often struggle with Flash), you might be excluding a significant portion of your prospective user base.

5. Build a mobile friendly site

This is an extension of point 4 really. Today it’s not enough to just have a website. If you want to be available to the widest audience possible, it’s worth considering a mobile-friendly, responsive version of your site. The most effective mobile sites load in five seconds or less, feature large navigation buttons, and are easy to search. The less the user has to scroll or zoom in and out, the better. Make sure the mobile site allows for easy access to details like location, contact info, pricing and a listing of products/services.

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