For thousands of years, design agencies have been offering conflicting advice to innocent clients.
“The look and feel of your site should match the quirkiness of your company’s brand voice.” – Agency 1
“Your website is not for you. It’s for your customers. Your site should make your customers feel like home.” – Agency 2
I’m sure I read somewhere of the famous philosopher Plato (or was it Descartes?) sitting in a cave agonizing over this most ancient of questions: whose personality should be reflected in one’s website?
Unfortunately, like so many things in life, the answer is not one or the other. The design of your site should take into consideration both your brand voice and the habits, likes, and tastes of your target demographic.
But that’s too easy and not worth your click. Kestrel can do better.
Perhaps a better way to answer this question for you and your company is to first define what you’re selling / marketing on your website.
Let’s imagine you are the marketing director for Hal’s Handmade Hutches. You custom build solid wood dining room hutches. Wonderful. Your website should have the look and ethos of a formal dining room. That’s what you’re selling after all! The people visiting halshutches.com will be looking for and expecting to see hutches. Make them feel like they’ve landed in the right place when they get to your site. Don’t make it quirky and silly. They’re expecting quality, handmade furniture. Your site should feel just like your mother’s dining room.
But let’s switch it up. You quit Hal’s because you couldn’t stand going home smelling like a pine tree everyday. Clara’s Cleaning Crew hired you on to replace their old marketing director who suddenly passed away from exposure to excessive ammonia.
The game has changed my friend! You are no longer selling a specific product, therefore your visitors’ expectations have changed. Now you’re selling the services of Clara’s Crew. The visitors who land on your site are now expecting to meet with the service they’re considering purchasing. Therefore, the general impression of your new site ought to reflect the personality of the company. In this case, the company (more precisely, the service provided by the company) is the product.
If your company’s service is fun and playful, let some of that seep through in your copy, images, colors, and structure. On the other hand, if you’re serious, professional, clean, and prompt, don’t use coy heading tags and navigation.
Of course, you should always be cognizant of who is viewing your site, what device they’re on, how they’re interacting with your content, etc.
But at the end of the day, let the general personality of your website be a reflection of the product or service you’re providing. Web users are smart. They came to your site for a reason. They came with expectations. Make sure you don’t violate those expectations, and consider that the overall personality of your site is one more component in promoting your product or service.
Once upon a time, designing a website involved stealing animated gifs and cheesy stock photography from other websites. Those were the days of spinning icons and granulated scanned images. Hopefully, no one reading this post needs to hear this but, just in case, let me be clear: those days are long since dead. The Kestrel Co. was originally birthed as Switzer Creative because we decided prospective client partners would benefit the most if a creative web agency was married to a creative photo / video agency.
This isn’t a knock on stock photography. Perhaps there is a time, a place, or a budget where a few stock photos make sense. But on the whole, one of the best investments you can make in your online presence is in quality photo and video content.
We are beyond privileged to partner with the leading photography and cinematography group in the Midwest, Switzerfilm. Trust me, you’ve never worked with a better company. They are some cool cats who love to have a good time. (This is their mascot. ‘nough said.)
We contend that the most creative, engaging, and true-to-the-client websites come from a symbiotic relationship between the people building a website and the folks capturing, editing, and producing the graphic content for that site.
Think about it. Which should come first, photography and videography or website design? Yeah, we don’t know either. There’s not a good answer for that question. The site’s design will take its layout, color, style, and feel from the graphic content. But then again, the graphic content should feel custom shaped for the medium that it’s filling (the website). So again, which comes first?
For Kestrel, the answer is neither should come first. They should happen together. They are two horses pulling the wagon together. You need your website team to be embedded in your photo video team. And, you need your photo video team embedded in your website team.
Your website visitors now have powerful devices with blazing internet connections and large bandwidth capacities. Don’t use generic pictures of random people you paid $5 for. This generation values authenticity and creativity. Show them who you are! Be real; be creative; be beautiful. (Yeah, I said that.)
Remember that time you bought a new car? It smelled so good (in a shampoo-chemical, artificial-fiber kind of way). It was clean. The floor mats were pristine. The speakers were jamming. You were rollin’! My personal favorite memory from that time period: there were no warning or negative indicator lights appearing on the dashboard. Ah, those were the days.
Fast forward five years. My how things have changed. Now you set your drink on the roof of the care without regard. Scratches? You’ve got ’em. Perfect floor mats? Well three of the four are at least still in the car. There is a mysterious goo in the back cupholder. The trunk is littered with junk. And woe of all woes, the check-engine light and tire pressure indicator lights are perpetually on. You have lost your first love.
That, my friend, is almost identical to your website. Right? When you first launched your site, you were oh so proud! Flashy buttons. Beautiful pictures. Fresh content. Yeah, and then life happened. You got busy. You focused on your clients. And now your website is, at best, blah. It’s out of date. It’s stale. It’s boring. It’s, well, it’s embarrassing. Your website has lost that lovin’ feelin’.
The love-cycle of your car is a near mirror image of the love-cycle of your company’s website. The main difference is that your love (and your visitors’ love) for your website fades two to three times faster than your car’s.
Here’s how most companies approach their web project: (1) pick a website design and development vendor, (2) spend a few months wireframing and designing, (3) go through the difficult process of innovating and bringing that design to life, (4) train, launch, and acclimate employees to the new site, (5) promote that new website through social media channels, (6) and finally move on to other tasks.
One year later, they call their website guys with a few changes. Another year goes by. A few more copy changes come in. A team member has left. Hours have changed. Another year passes.
The company board meets and people start saying, “We really need to do something with our website. It’s pretty out of date. Let’s budget for a new website next year.” They start the process all over again. They spend a giant sum of money on a brand new website, content overhaul, and site restructure. And guess who they don’t call for a quote? The original web agency. After all, they designed and developed the piece of junk that everybody now hates.
Your website is like your kids: you can’t just make them and then expect them to be fine on their own. They need babysitting. They need TLC. They need feeding with fresh content, fixing, innovating, they need LOVE every single month.
If you don’t have an on-going relationship with your web design company, it’s probably already too late. That’s why our mission at Kestrel (put loosely) is to keep that ‘new car smell’ in your website. You need a partner. You’re not up on the latest web trends. You’re not investing in page-speed techniques and image compression best practices. That’s why we partner with our clients to continue to love on, innovate on, and just pump energy into every website that we design and develop.
Do you remember that time you woke up and Google had radically changed the layout of their search engine? No! Of course you don’t because it never happened. Google has been around forever and it has changed drastically. But it has changed in tiny, micro-iterations over a long period of time. Google isn’t out-of-date. Google isn’t stale and embarrassing. And it’s because they are continually investing in keeping the site fresh, up-to-date, and innovative.
That’s what we want to do for and with you as well. Give us a shout. We’ll put that new car smell back in your old beater. And, if your car (website) is just falling apart and beyond repair, well, we’d be happy to put you in a brand new one today. (Financing available… Not really actually.)
For some time I’ve been thinking, are blogs dead? Maybe they’re just dying. Google Reader is gone and we rarely stand around talking about this or that latest blog post. And so, should you should blog for your business? In my attempt to understand search engine optimization (SEO), inbound marketing, and user acquisition, over and over I keep getting hit over the head with the need to have a blog.
Well, we’re tired of resisting. the Kestrel Co. is now the proud owner of a shiny new blog. There are lots of reasons we’ve decided to start, (I’ve outlined eight of them below) but at the end of the day it’s good for business. It’s good for our business, and if it’s good for our business, I think it would be good for yours as well.
The RSS feed model of blog reading is indeed dead, but creating shareable content that builds your social media presence and improves your search engine ranking is alive and well.
So here they are, eight reasons why we’ve started this blog and think you should get one going for your own company.
“In a relationship, when communication starts to fade, everything else follows,” said someone at some point in some publication.
It’s true in marriage, friendships, and client relationships. If you’re not talking, things probably aren’t going all that well. When your client has a need for services you provide, the farther you are from their mind, the less likely they are to contact you.
Blogging regularly reminds your current and potential customers that you are around, active in your field, growing your business, and able to service their needs.
Google is always crawling and indexing your website. They are looking for a number of things: structured content, responsive design, and content appropriate to the site’s title and keywords. But for our purposes, one of the most critical components they’re hunting for is fresh, well-written content.
There’s honestly only one way to accomplish that: some type of content feed. You can call it an event gallery, social media aggregate feed, or updates. At the end of the day, it’s a blog.
Google will see your new blog content and interpret that as an active site that search users are likely looking for. The result will be better SERP (search engine results placement).
Prior to today, the only search referrals this site (kestrelco.wpengine.com) could have received were based on the small amount of copy we have on the homepage. As of today, we also now have the possibility of ranking if someone searches “why should I start a blog”.
Next week when we post about Search Engine Marketing, we will have tripled our indexed subject matter and widened our search footprint and online presence by a factor of two or three.
The much-discussed “long tail” of search refers to highly specialized, low-traffic search terms that represent a significant amount of total searches. Translation: lots and lots of people are searching online for lots and lots of random things. You can’t realistically optimize your site for every long tail search term, but you can certainly write blog posts targeting niche keyword phrases that are likely to draw highly qualified prospects.
If your website has no blog, your homepage is the main entry-point for site visitors. With a blog, users will come to an individual article on your site. If their interest is piqued, they’ll hit your homepage, explore your services and related information, and hopefully they will contact you and convert to a paying client.
The blog becomes one more entry point for your sales funnel. It’s not magic, but it’s pretty basic. Provide information that people want to consume and you’ve increased your sales potential.
Unlike billboards, radio spots, print marketing, and pay-per-click models, blog posts live on the web forever with little to no on-going costs (monthly hosting costs for your website being the only real cost).
The post only takes a few hours to craft but once it’s published, it will live in the nether world of the interwebs in perpetuity. You can’t beat free marketing!
If you don’t write anything, there is very little you can do by way of driving your Facebook and Twitter followers to your site. If you have nothing to share, it’s hard to gain new followers and build your audience.
Write blog posts, share them as links on Facebook and Twitter, encourage folks to interact with the posts, and you’ll widen your social media footprint and drive more [potentially convertible] traffic to your website.
According to a Hubspot survey, 60% of businesses who blog acquire more customers than those who choose not to blog. There are hopefully lots of reasons that’s true (as I’ve outlined above), but one of the reasons more customers trust their blogging partners is because they see those partners as industry experts.
You’re blogging, you’re interacting with new ideas, you’re talking about trends and patterns, habits both good and bad. You are an industry expert. Your client followers see that, trust that, and look to you more often when they need an expert in your field.
Every company has a story. A blog gives you a place to tell it. Your story is the how and why of who you are. Sharing that with readers shows your authenticity and passion and therefore engenders trust.
Back in the day, the only way to shape your brand voice was through print media. Today, a simple blog post corrects misunderstanding, reveals your personality, and displays your excitement and passion for what you do.
That’s it! Go do it. If you need help, don’t know how to get started, or want us to talk through the marketing potential for your existing site, contact us.
You ain’t seen nothin’ until you give this video a looksie. We partnered with Switzerfilm to produce this for one of our clients, Henderson Trucking. It took some serious work to produce this video, traveling from Illinois to Las Vegas, stopping up bridges and octo-copter fly-overs. To experience the full effect, check it out on their site.