I skip lunch a lot. It’s easier than packing my lunch, cheaper than buying it out, and it’s usually not a problem for me. It’s not a problem, that is, until I’m working on a website like the one we just launched for our friends at Handcrafted by Bissinger’s. Dang, son!
Our designer did a great job of putting stunning images of their dishes on display. Then again, he had a LOT of good material to work with. And it made me hungry. Now the site is launched and I can go back to forgetting about food until dinner.
Oh wait, no I can’t. Because I’ve got work to do for their sister company, 23 City Blocks Catering. Oh vey! 😉
You might want to wait till after you’ve filled up at lunch to have a peek at the new website….OR, if you work in St. Louis near the Central West End, you might want to pop over and taste those tantalizing treats for yourself! Tell them Kestrel sent you!
One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to interact with clients in a wide range of fields. One day, we’ll be interacting with some of St. Louis’ premier wedding photographers; the next day we’ll be catching up with friends in the trucking industry.
In each case, we aim to know our clients so well that we are delivering a site that expresses not merely the distinctive elements of their industry but the distinctive elements that make our clients stand out from the crowd. Additionally, each of our clients have different needs and desires based on how much they will be customizing and changing their site.
Our friends at Dynamic Transit were looking for a “dynamic”, modern look with a LOT of flexibility. A few weeks ago, we rolled out a new site for them that delivered just that. Check them out!
Wow! The last several months have been a whirlwind for our team. Sometimes I feel like a pinball bouncing between projects, but we’ve got some awesome clients and it’s all worth it when we’re finally able to launch their sites.
One site I was particularly stoked to launch was a multisite for CSI Leasing, Inc. we rolled out mid-August. As global leaders in equipment leasing, the CSI team came to us wanting a site that better represented how much attention that give to staying on the cutting edge of technology.
But, this would be more than a simple facelift. They have over 25 sites spanning four continents and ten languages. They needed a flexible solution that would be completely content manageable but also allow for centralized control of shared data to avoid having to enter location information and financial data two dozen times on every update.
We think the new site is pretty hot and look forward to seeing the success of our partners at CSI Leasing! If your company is needing to update your technology or acquire new equipment, reach out and see what solutions CSI has to fit you.
Image via TechCrunch
A few months ago, Clef—the service we use to provide super-secure login functionality on our clients’ WordPress websites—shared the disappointing news that it would be shutting down this summer. In light of that news, we have spent the past few months looking into the best alternative to the Clef login service.
At this time, our immediate recommendation is to deactivate and uninstall the Clef plugin and return to using a secure username and password combination to log in to WordPress.
If you are a Kestrel client receiving ongoing monthly support, the above will be taken care of for you. The next time you attempt to log in to your site, you will be shown a username and password login setup. Enter the credentials you used prior to Clef to log in. If you have since forgotten your username, password, or both, please add /wp-login.php?action=lostpassword to the end of your website URL (i.e. http://www.example-client-site.com/wp-login.php?action=lostpassword) to request a reset.
If you are not a Kestrel client receiving ongoing monthly support, we suggest reading the Clef team’s advice for transitioning away from Clef.
As always, we recommend using the strongest password possible (and one that is unique to your WordPress site). For tips on creating a strong password, read Google’s list of suggestions. Or, generate one automatically using Norton’s strong password generator.
If you have grown accustomed to the ease of logging in with your smartphone, you have the option to forego the username and password combination in favor of a different secure login app called UNLOQ. If you would like to proceed via this route, please send us an email and we will set up this configuration for you. Once UNLOQ is configured on your site, follow the below instructions to get set up:
Step 1. On your computer, go to the UNLOQ Registration page: https://unloq.io/register, insert your data and click SIGN UP
Step 2. On your computer, go check your e-mail and click Confirm my account:
After confirming your account, you’ll receive a Welcome message in your browser containing a QR code that you will use for activating your device.
In order for you to activate your device, you must first get the UNLOQ mobile app.
Step 4: Open the app and swipe left through the tutorial:
Don’t forget to Enable push notifications for the best authentication experience!
Next, you’ll have to set the PIN code for your mobile app. Later you will have the ability to switch to TouchID if you would like (iPhone users only).
Step 5: Pair your device to your UNLOQ account:
In your mobile app, click Scan setup code, point your phone at your computer screen, and scan the QR code generated at step 2.
That’s it! You have successfully set up your UNLOQ account.
Step 6 (optional, iPhone only): If you would like to switch from a passcode to TouchID, click the hamburger menu icon at the top left of your UNLOQ mobile app.
Next, tap Settings.
You can then choose either Pin or fingerprint, Pin and fingerprint, or Pin only.
Step 7: Log in to your WordPress site by appending /wp-admin to the end of your website URL (i.e. http://example-client-site.com/wp-admin). Then, select the UNLOQ tab at the top. You will be asked to enter your email and click Log In With Phone. You will then receive a notification on your phone requesting access. Either enter your PIN or scan your fingerprint, then tap Approve.
Voila! That’s all it takes!
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re happy to help!
It’s officially holiday season here at the Kestrel headquarters, and we’d like to give you a little gift! Podcasts are all the rage right now, but it can be tough to know where to start with so many options. If you’re looking for recommendations, look no further! Below is a list of some of our favorite podcasts (in alphabetical order). Download one for your commute, or stream one while curled up next to a fire. There’s a little something for everyone here. Happy holidays, and happy listening!
Often described as a show about architecture, this little show is so much more than that. Host Roman Mars and his team look at what makes our modern world tick: shipping containers, airport carpet, highway signage and everything in between. Every episode will leave you with at least one fun fact to share at your next happy hour.
Though similar in name to the previous show on this list, Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) focuses on “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” Combining pop-science and pop-psychology, this is a show that will make you say, “Huh, I never knew that!” over and over again.
Remember the straight-laced guy who played the PC in those ever-present Apple ads of the 2000s? That’s John Hodgman. But the comedian, actor, and author plays a very different role in this show: Internet Judge. Each week he adjudicates a minor (and often silly) dispute between friends or family members. The premise may seem silly, but the life lessons Hodgman imparts in each ruling are always clever, heartwarming, and thoughtful.
A relative newcomer to the podcast world, this show takes listeners along for the ride as host Megan Tan, a recent college grad, struggles with finding her passion, her career, and herself. The problems she faces are universal, but her open and honest dialog and curious personality will keep you hooked on her story.
The best possible descriptor for this show: quirky. Host Starlee Kine plays a Sherlock Holmes For The Modern Era, digging for the truth behind seemingly mundane little mysteries. Her methods are clever enough, but it’s her lengthy asides with the strangers she meets along the way that will delight you over and over again.
If you ever feel like you’re too reliant on technology, this is the show for you. Host Manoush Zomorodi wonders how today’s tech tools are affecting our brains, and she takes listeners with her from Brooklyn to Silicon Valley as she seeks answers from teachers and tech gurus alike.
One of the giants of the podcasting world, this Peabody Award-winner is essential listening, regardless of your interests. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich tackle topics big and small, from “What’s the soundtrack for the end of the world?” to “If you could wipe mosquitos off the face of the earth, would you?” Come for the fascinating discussion, stay for the exceptional sound editing and production.
If you like hosts with great camaraderie, this is the show for you. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman dig deep into the hidden crevices of the Internet and unearth some fascinating stories, all while maintaining the sort of witty banter you only hope to share with your roommate / best friend / younger brother.
The show that started the modern podcast boom, Serial is a twisty-turny investigation of a real murder. The central question: is the teenager sent to jail for killing his ex-girlfriend truly guilty? Produced by the master storytellers at This American Life and hosted by veteran reporter Sarah Koenig, this podcast is one you’ll sit in your car listening to long after you’ve pulled into the driveway.
What happens when you quit your job making podcasts to start your own podcasting company? This is the (admittedly meta) podcast about that process. Host Alex Blumberg, veteran of This American Life and Planet Money, is a master storyteller, and his microphone follows him everywhere. The result: an intimate look at what it’s really like to start your own business.
Ever wondered what makes a pop song so addicting? Hosts Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding break today’s chart-toppers down into their component parts to find the secret sauce that makes them hits (and keeps them stuck in your head). For pop culture lovers, music nerds, and anyone who loves a good search for hidden meaning.
Ira Glass is the godfather of modern podcasting, and his show is essential listening. Ira, on the This American Life website, says it best: “There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. Most of the stories are journalism, with an occasional comedy routine or essay. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.” If there’s one show on this list to start with, make it this one.
I’m always skeptical when I see headlines like “_____ is killing email” or “How _____ has made itself an indispensable business tool” or “_____ is going to eat your old office software alive.” But after I read the stories and gave the product a try, I was convinced: Slack is a must-have tool for any business team in 2015. And the cherry on top? It’s free!
The team at the Kestrel Co. has been using Slack for over a year now, and we’re in love. So, to show our gratitude, I wanted to share four reasons we love Slack (and think you will, too).
We know how difficult it can be to keep track of several big projects at once. For every one email exchanged between you and the client, there are five more passed back and forth among your coworkers. It can be a headache trying to keep everything straight.
“What was the subject line of that last email request from Client A? Did I forget to Reply All to that last team brainstorm message about Project B?”
Slack doesn’t just answer those questions – it eliminates them completely.
By organizing conversation in channels, you’ll always know where to find a message. We categorize our channels by client, but you can set yours up however you choose. Each channel serves as a de facto archive for all conversation around a topic, making it a breeze to find what you’re looking for.
Channels can also help you reduce distractions. If you don’t need to know every detail about a particular project or client, you can turn notifications off for that channel. By eliminating those intrusions and choosing only to read through the conversation when you have a free moment, you’ll be more apt to focus on the task at hand.
Channels also help you prioritize your attention by letting you know when YOU specifically have been mentioned in a conversation. If your coworkers have name-dropped you in a channel message, a red numerical indicator will appear next to that channel, letting you know to check it first.
Email can be great for one-on-one conversation, but it’s not so wonderful when it comes to collaboration and brainstorming.
By default, all channels are publicly visible to everyone in your Slack team. While some may initially bristle at the notion of all this transparency, I think it’s great. Here’s why: You never know where the next great idea will come from.
Say Mike and Tina are having a discussion about the next sales campaign for Super Special Client. Curious about the conversation, Tim heads over to the #superspecialclient channel. After reading through the archive, he has a brilliant idea and pitches it to Mike and Tina…and they love it! Not only does Tim look good, but the team as a whole is better off for his idea.
Would any of this have happened if Mike and Tina were emailing each other privately about this? Nope! Tim wouldn’t have been privy to their thoughts, and his brilliant idea would never have been born.
Channels aren’t the only way Slack helps document and archive conversations. It also has a powerful built-in search tool, allowing you to find any message or file with a few quick keystrokes.
Looking for all messages from a particular team member? Just use the from: modifier in the search box. Trying to find something in a particular channel? Put the in: modifier in front of your search term.
You can also search just for uploaded files, and you can further narrow your search by filtering by file type. As good as Gmail’s search capabilities are, I find Slack’s to be even more powerful.
Pro tip: Any text-based document (PDF, Word Doc, Google Doc) you upload to Slack will have every word archived and available for search. So, say you don’t remember the title of a file but you remember it contained the term “tablecloth.” Just search “tablecloth” in Slack and that document will appear in the search results. Pretty cool!
Not only is Slack a great organization and collaboration tool, it’s also downright fun to use. We all know every team functions better when its members enjoy coming to work, and Slack can play a big part in that.
Sure, there are channels for clients and projects, but Slack also includes two default channels: #general and #random. Both of these channels provide outlets for stray thoughts and ideas, links to interesting articles and videos, lunch invitations, office and company policy info, and other “water cooler” chatter.
These channels can be made even more enjoyable by the addition of the Giphy integration, which allows anyone to cue up a random animated GIF.
Just like any other channel, folks should be careful not to let the off-topic conversation become a distraction. But used in the right way, it can be a great outlet for discussion and a fun way to learn more about your coworkers.
The list above barely scratches the surface of all you can do with Slack. (Did I mention it’s free?) If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest checking out Getting started with Slack.
So, have you and your team tried Slack? Do you plan to after reading this? Let us know your thoughts, and holler if you have questions!
A good infographic uses something familiar, something you understand, to help you grasp something new or confusing. So why in blazes did Search Engine Land decide to use Chemistry (which most people don’t understand) to help people grasp Search Engine Optimization (which most people also don’t understand)? Smh.
Realistically, though, certain subjects, like SEO, can only be boiled down so far. And the categories this graphic gives are golden. Let me walk you through it.
What the Colors Mean
To start, note the color groupings. As marked, the blue columns are “On-the-page” SEO factors. Basically, these elements have everything to do with your website – how it’s built and what content you fill it with. You have direct control over these factors. The green columns by contrast are the “Off-the-page” SEO factors. You don’t have direct, immediate control of these. But your choices and strategy have everything to do with influencing them. For instance, with the penalty for spammy links to your site increasingly severe, links must now be earned rather than bought, farmed, or stolen. How? Write helpful stuff and earn the respect of other professionals through networking. Oh, and you don’t have to choose between these. You should do both.
But what about the red boxes under each column? Those are negative factors – things that hurt you. We’ll come back to them as we look at each column.
As a side note, the difference in color tone also reinforces the value each factor has. Darker colors = More important.
What Each Column Means
On-the-page SEO factors are grouped in three columns: Content, Architecture, & HTML. Off-the-page factors are grouped in four: Trust, Links, Personal, & Social. We’ll walk through each.
The quick and skinny is your website should have fresh, quality content stemming from competent research and expressed using the keywords your clients will be using to find you. In contrast, “thin” content, which may penalize you, contributes nothing to the web. It’s like when you got that F on that college research paper because you just stacked block quotes out of one book.
This groups is unavoidably technical. Essentially, when the Google bot comes to call (or “crawl”), it needs to be able to find your pages and see all your content, even on mobile – and it wants it reasonably fast. Ideally, each page will be unique and its URL will reflect the content somewhat. Bonus points if your site is secure (https://). Never build your site to display differently to bots and humans. That’s called “cloaking”. It’s bad. It will hurt you.
Believe it or not, this is less technical than that last one. A good web agency (ahem) will make it easy for you to set your page titles and descriptions and will build your site with thought to what your header tags communicate about each page. But it’s probably going to be up to you to write up these relevant titles and useful descriptions. Things to avoid are keyword stuffing and hiding text.
Search engines want to know if people trust you, if you are considered an authority in your field. Though we can’t say exactly what contributes to Google’s ascription of authority, it probably includes solid linkage from within your field, social mentions, site engagement (e.g. “How much time did the user spend on my page?”), site history, and the identity of your authors. Negatively, a history of piracy complaints and too many ads cluttering the content may undermine trust in a site.
Many people know links help your SEO. Here are a few things you might not know:
- It matters who is linking. Links from within your industry, especially from leaders, are worth more.
- The text of the link matters. It’s the linker’s way of saying “This website is the place to go for ____”.
- Quantity still matters, but the number of sites linking is more important than the number of links on a site.
- Some links can hurt you. Avoid trying to buy links or spamming other blogs with links to your site.
This column focuses on the individual. Is your site relevant to the country and locale they are in? Do they or their friends have a history of using your website or sharing it on social media?
While Google+ has been the only social media source directly factored into search rankings, SEO experts widely recognize the value in building a following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites and getting them to share your links. The more people sharing your stuff, the more people coming to your site – that’s good SEO and that’s good business.
If you are new to SEO, this is just enough to get your toes wet. For more details, check out Search Engine Land’s full guide or Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO.
There are certain mysteries of the universe you and I will never understand: What is dark matter? How does gravity work? Why do humans need sleep? Where did that other sock disappear to?
But near that the top of that deeply perplexing list is one question that nags me almost incessantly: Why are all restaurant websites terrible?
It’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By following a few basic principles, you can take your restaurant website from flavorless to five stars.
1. Make it responsive
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: It’s critical that your website be beautiful and functional on each and every device. If it’s not adhering to the principles of responsive web design, it’s going to be a navigational nightmare for anyone looking to find your hours, menu, contact info, etc.
Think about the ways in which most folks come across your website. Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon and Google Maps are all huge traffic sources, and the majority of their users are browsing on mobile devices. If I’m on the go and looking for a place to grab a bite, I’m going to reach for my phone. But if I open your website and see a desktop view (or even worse, nothing at all because you’re still using Flash), chances are I’m dining elsewhere.
2. Lose the PDF
If I’m coming to your website from a mobile device, the last thing I want to do is download a huge PDF file on my slow connection (and small data plan). Even if I’m able to get it open, I’m still going to have to zoom and pan around on this multi-page behemoth to find what I’m looking for.
Not only does a PDF offer a poor user experience, it isn’t optimal for SEO or analytics tracking either.
A far better alternative is to add your menu items in good ol’ HTML markup. This will allow them to adapt to screen size, be easily parsed by Google, and change quickly when needed. No more contacting your graphic designer for a single text tweak every time you want to make a menu change, and better yet, no more frustrated potential diners.
3. Hold the cheese
The great web comic The Oatmeal has a clever post about restaurant websites. In it, he offers a quick list of things people look for when browsing:
- Specials and happy hour info
- Address with a link to Google Maps
- Online reservation system that actually works
- Hours of operation, parking and contact info
The above should be a simple wish list to fulfill, but unfortunately these things are either a) not present, or b) impossible to find amid all the clutter.
Restaurants websites are so often full of cheesy components that do more to distract than inform potential diners. Instead of over-designing and overwhelming, try to follow these rules:
- Don’t make critical pieces of information difficult to locate
- Save the ambient music for the restaurant itself
- Keep design flare to a minimum
- Put any extra content (i.e. videos, photo galleries, letters from the chef / owner) on separate inside pages and keep the homepage clean and practical
4. Express yourself
If your aim is to provide customers with an elegant, white tablecloth-style dining experience, that aesthetic should be reflected in your site’s design. The same is true if you’re a sports bar hoping to provide elevated bar food and a fun atmosphere.
Your website often serves as the first point of contact with potential diners. You want them to come away with an accurate sense of the experience you’re trying to provide. If you don’t, you risk failing to meet expectations.
5. Keep it current
I’m sure you change your specials on a weekly or monthly basis. You probably rotate out several menu items seasonally, too. Why not give the same thought and care to your website?
Relevant information about drink specials, happy hours, and updated menu items entice potential diners to pay you a visit. However, outdated versions of the same information can scare customers away. If you’re not updating your information online, how can I trust that you’re putting the maximum effort into your food or your service?
6. Connect with the customer
One of the easiest ways to endear yourself to potential diners is to connect with them on social media. Even if you’re not able to update your website weekly, surely you’re posting to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram regularly, right?
By displaying links to these profiles prominently on your homepage, you provide customers with a simple way to see that recipe you’re testing or the new patio you just opened.
Unsure of how to implement all of these changes? We can help. The Kestrel Co. builds each and every website according to the best practices of responsive web design and search engine optimization. We create beautiful sites free from clutter, and ensure that your identity and vision are expressed in every detail. And, we provide simple and practical solutions for you to keep your site’s content fresh.
Eager to get started? Let’s chat!
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?
A mediocre answer
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.
A better answer
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.
tldr; (a.k.a. Summary)
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.
Let’s face it: most reading these days is done on a screen. Sure, you might crack open a book while you’re lying in bed at night, but the rest of your reading time is monopolized by digital displays.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that most type on the web is a pain to read. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is that the text is simply too small.
In the early days of the Internet, designers didn’t give much thought to the difference between reading on a computer and reading on a printed page. So, they applied the basic principles of print typography to web typography. The result? The default font size of those early websites was set at 12pt.
The inherent problem with this approach is that reading on a computer is an entirely different exercise than reading a book.
Answer me this: When you read a book, where do you hold it? If you’re like most people, it’s probably about 12 inches from your face. But how often are your eyes that close to your computer screen? Hopefully, not very often. So, why should the text on your screen be the same size as that of a book?
When we think about web typography, we should consider not just what the user will be reading, but how they will be reading it. How far away is the user’s screen? How long is the piece of copy we’re asking them to read? How wide is the container that holds the copy?
All of these factors impact how we should design our web typography. An easy fix is to bump up all paragraph text from 12pt to 16pt, like so:
If we want to get more technical (and we do, because it’s our job), we’ll look specifically at the length of each line and aim to follow this rule:
“Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal.”
The result of implementing this best practice is a good reading experience across all devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile).
Will your users notice? Probably not. But, that’s exactly what we want. As usability expert Jared Spool said:
“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”
At the Kestrel Co, we strive to make every website feel effortless and unobtrusive. Designing web typography that ensures users won’t have to zoom in or strain their eyes is one small part of that experience, but it’s a crucial one.
P.S. If you find yourself annoyed by small web typography after reading this post, try using a tool like Pocket to save articles and read them later in a cleaner format, or a browser extension like Evernote Clearly to improve font sizing in one click without leaving the page.
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.)
People who first hear about SEM (Search Engine Marketing) typically have two responses: “That’s amazing!” and “It sounds so easy!” If you have poured money into print ads or some other hard-to-track advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing may seem too good to be true. With PPC, you are guaranteed traffic to your site or you don’t pay. (BTW, if you’re thinking “SEM? PPC? What the heck’s he talking about?” skip over to my intro post on SEM)
Search Engine Marketing is a great opportunity but it is not a “set it and forget it” solution. Success in SEM means ongoing testing and data analysis. And one of the pieces of data you really want to pay attention to is your quality score. This will directly affect your ad rank and how much you pay when someone clicks your ad. Yes, you can actually be listed above a competitor and pay considerably less then them if you’ve got the edge in ad rank. Conversely, Google won’t show your ad at all if your quality score is too low. So, what is it? Essentially, your quality score is Google’s rating on how relevant your ads (and the webpages they link to) are to the keywords you’re bidding on. But don’t assume. You might take it for granted that your website selling hand-knit, neck warmers for cats will be relevant for the keyword “neck warmers for cats”, but you might be wrong. They question is not whether you see the relevance but whether Google does.
Related to quality score, Google leaves a fair bit shrouded in mystery, but at least they make it easy to check. In your Adwords account, select the Keywords tab. If you hover over the white speech bubble next to each Keyword’s status, you will see a box showing your quality score along with an indication of some of the major factors at play.
If your quality score looks like the the one pictured here, you’ve got some work to do. A below average landing page indicates that Google doesn’t think that page of your website is relevant to your targeted keyword. Finding out why may require help from a web expert familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and utilization of tools like Google Webmaster Tools.
Closer inspection might reveal easy wins like tweaking your title text and header tags. Perhaps you were a little too creative in the text you incorporated into your page and only actually mentioned cats once. Maybe you need to add alt text to your images. All of these are common SEO issues which we may touch on in a future post.
Wait, I thought we were talking about SEM, not SEO… Well, yes. But there’s a lot of crossover. Some basic, technical SEO will improve your SEM performance. Conversely, one of the tangential benefits of Search Engine Marketing is how it can inform your efforts in Search Engine Optimization. For instance, you may notice certain keywords generate a lot of quality contacts in your Paid Search advertising and decide to incorporate those keywords in various places on your website, maybe even focusing on them in a blog post or piece of sharable content.
At some point in the future, we should talk in more detail about the balance between too many keywords and too few. For now, just remember to incorporate enough relevant terms on each webpage that Google knows what it’s about, without being it being forced.
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.)
Jeffrey Haddock is our favorite web designer. Sure, there are a lot of pretenders (haters gotta hate right?). You probably know a guy who used Squarespace to build a page. Well, we know a guy who dipped a Twinkie in coffee and called it tiramisu. Anyway, there’s pretenders, and then there’s Jeff. He’s the cat’s meow, the funky cheese, the top-shelf-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it dawg. Well, at least he is when it comes to web design.
We asked him to talk about design patterns that everyone uses but tend to get wrong. In other words, when it comes to web design, what would Jeff do?
Here are six web design elements you might be using improperly but, with a little Jeffrey-love, could turn right around.
1. Animated Icons
Simple use of animation on a website, whether it be icons, infographics, navigation, can be effective at quickly gaining attention or directing your visitors. Below is an example of how Google creates clean, subtle, sexy icon animations.
Source: Delightful Details
2. Repeating Backgrounds
Again, subtlety is what we’re going for. If you need to use a repeating background (which, quite possibly, you don’t), we recommend checking out subtlepatterns.com – a library of free, repeating patterns.
3. Fixed Nav
Simple, and always there for your convenience.* By fixed nav, we mean as you scroll down the webpage, your navigation doesn’t move, allowing you to always quickly access other pages. If your nav lacks a little spice of life, try fixing it up! (Get it??)
*Keep responsive design in mind.
The keyword in this blog post is going to be “subtlety.” Small doses of these 6 design elements can go a long way in a website design. Today, you’ll see a lot of “Ghost Buttons” on websites. These buttons rather than being a literal button, are created with nothing but a border outline around the text. You can see one here 🙂 thekestrel.co
5. Drop Shadows
No, not orange, teal, blue, yellow, and green drop shadows like your grandma used to use. We’re talking about subtle shadows that create a realistic sense of appropriate depth (when necessary.) Examples below include a clip from Google’s Material Design guide (highly recommend reading the whole guide if you’re into that kind of thing) and of course, Apple.
Google’s Material Design: www.google.com/design/spec/material-design/introduction.html
Saved the best for last. We all know the DOUBLE RAINBOW gradients that our friends used on their logo when they created their own business. But gradients with complimenting colors can set the tone of a website when done right. They can be used to capture particular emotions from your visitors.
Apple frequently uses them well (another beautiful example is a digital agency out of Morocco called Agadir). They use full screen gradually changing gradients as you progress through the site. They won a couple web design awards, so if that’s not a free pass to go (subtle) gradient crazy on your website then what are we even talking about?
Most of these improvements can be summed up in the maxim Jeff lives by – “Less is always more.” If you insist on having a go at designing your website, for the love of all things beautiful, please follow Jeff’s basic rules. Even better, give us a holler and let’s talk about getting your new website professionally designed and built by the team at the Kestrel Co. Unless you’re specifically wanting a Looney layout, you’ll be happy you did.
Picture this: a friend shares a link on your favorite social media platform. Intrigued (or just bored and otherwise doomed to scroll until your thumb falls off), you click. You wait a brief moment for the page to load…and your heart sinks.
Everything is tiny, zoomed out, illegible.
Determined to read whatever it was your friend felt compelled to share, you pinch to zoom in, pan around, then pinch to zoom back out a little. After 10 seconds or so, you’ve got the text centered on screen and big enough to read. Feeling victorious, you plow on.
A couple paragraphs in, you see the author has linked to something relevant you’d like to read, so you tap that link…or at least you try. But your fat finger misses, and all of the sudden you’re somewhere else entirely.
You hit the back arrow in your mobile browser, but when the page reloads, you’re right back where you started: tiny, zoomed out, illegible. Frustrated, you give up and head back to the aforementioned social media platform, never to return.
Static sites makes for unhappy customers
If you think you’re alone in this experience, you’re certainly not. A recent Google study found that “96% of consumers have encountered sites that weren’t designed with mobile in mind” and “48% reported feeling frustrated and annoyed” when this happens.
That frustrating and annoying experience is the result of something called “static web design.” It’s the way most websites were designed for years and years, until the mobile phone came along and tore up the web design handbook.
Static websites are perfectly fine when viewed on most desktop computers, but the problem arises when you try to view those same pages on a tablet, mobile phone, etc.
In an effort to solve this problem, a few enterprising companies began building mobile-specific versions of their sites (think mobile.nytimes.com, for example). Many of these are still around today, and they do a fine job. However, in most cases, this requires two completely separate code bases and content management systems. With this setup, mistakes are easily made and headaches abound.
So, how do we solve this problem?
Responsive web design to the rescue!
Enter responsive web design, or RWD for short. It’s the magic pill you didn’t know you needed until now.
What exactly is this miracle cure? Smashing Magazine defines RWD thusly:
“Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.”
In layman’s terms, it means that no matter the size of your device (be it a desktop computer, a tablet, a mobile phone or even a smartwatch), the website will look great. Text is big and legible, photos take up the appropriate amount of space, and there’s no pinching to zoom or panning required. This, folks, is web utopia.
Not only are responsive web design sites easier to use, they’re good for business.
According to that same Google study referenced above, 74% of users visiting a mobile-friendly site said they were “more likely to return to that site in the future” and 67% of users said “when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service.”
Additionally, if you have a site that isn’t mobile-friendly, you could be sending traffic away from your business and into the waiting arms of your competitors.
- 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site
- 79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site
- 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly
Google lays down the law
Knowing how deeply frustrating these static sites can be for mobile users, Google has begun penalizing websites that don’t meet its mobile-friendly standards. The search giant announced this change last year, and as of April 21, 2015 is offering priority to mobile-friendly websites when users search on a mobile device.
“A lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web,” Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda, told Business Insider.
Is your current site mobile-friendly? If it wasn’t built (or redesigned) in the past five years or so, I’m guessing not. You can use this tool to find out for certain.
In this new reality, here’s how a mobile-friendly site will appear in Google’s search results:
That Mobile-friendly label lets mobile searchers know they will receive a good experience when they load the page, and it also means the page will appear higher in search results.
If you’re a business owner trying to drive traffic to your product, this matters quite a bit.
According to an Advanced Web Ranking study, 71.33% of searchers click a link from the first page of Google’s search results, whereas only 5.59% click links on pages two and three.
Additionally, “the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.” That’s a HUGE gap. You want, nay, you need to be among the top results.
How we can help
When you choose the Kestrel Co, you’re guaranteed not only a beautiful, hand-crafted website, but also one that is built from the ground up using responsive web design priciples. No tiny text, no pinching or panning. Everything just works. Desktop, tablet, mobile and beyond.
For your customers, this means a better experience across all devices. For your business, this means happier customers, better search position, more clicks and more revenue.
Coupled with the SEM strategies Warren mentioned last week and the fresh content on the blog Ryan goaded you into starting, you’ll be at the top of Google’s search results in no time. Your customers will thank you, and you can feel better knowing that there’s one less frustrating static site floating around the internet.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A fascinating question, I’m sure. But you’re running a business; who’s got time for amateur philosophy? Your question is, “If we build a smashing product and nobody finds it, is it still smashing?”
The answer is yes. Absolutely. Good on you… Unfortunately, you may still go out of business.
The problem is, as much as we idealists want to believe quality is its own marketing, that’s only part of the story. Quality is indispensable, to be sure. But sometimes, especially when you’re still building a base of repeat customers or trying to scale your business up, you just need more people to know about you. That’s where marketing comes in.
But you knew that. You’re trying to market yourself. After Ryan’s post on content creation last week, you sketched out a new blog post. You recently hired a kid to keep your social media accounts active. And you have a beautiful new, handcrafted website by Switzer Creative. You’re making smart decisions that should contribute to organic search engine ranking and pay off in the long-term. The rub is you need it to pay off in the short-term. You need traffic to your site now.
Enter SEM. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) stands out as one of the most immediate, manipulable, and measurable ways to drive traffic to your company’s site. What is it? One thought leader defines it this way, “SEM is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.” Put another way, give Google money and they will make you show up when customers search for stuff. (To be fair to the other guys, Bing and its partner Yahoo do currently account for a combined 1/3 of all search traffic, but Google holds down virtually all of the rest).
How does search engine marketing work?
SEM can be split into two groups: search and display campaigns. Paid search is built around targeting words and phrases potential customers are searching for online. Since we do web development, Switzer might bid on “web design companies”, “new website”, or even “my website sucks”. Assuming we use broad or phrase match and bid high enough, Adwords would then serve up our ad when someone Googles these phrases or a variation like “st louis web design companies”. Negative keywords allow us to exclude searches like “help me build my new website.” If you’re searching for that, you’re probably not looking for our services – yet.
Display campaigns are a horse of a different color. They differ in format, targeting, and marketing methodology. If you’re interested, comment below and I’ll address it in a future post. We have other pressing questions right now.
Are SEM and SEO the same?
A number of people get confused between SEM and SEO. They are not the same. With SEM, also referred to as “Paid Search” or “Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising”, you pay to show up in the ads sections of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). With SEO, your placement on the SERPs is organic, earned not bought. SEM & SEO do overlap at points, particularly in the areas of keyword research and landing page relevance, but they are distinct specialties with different methods and different goals. As you can see below, the placements on the SERPs are different too.
Does anybody click those ads?
Actually, yes. A lot of people do. Particularly if they are actively looking for a product or service. Coincidentally, those are exactly the motivated customers you are looking for. Yahtzee!
What is the cost of SEM?
The cost of your paid search advertising depends on a number of factors and may range from a few dimes per click up to a few dollars or more. The gratifying thing with the pay-per-click model, however, is that you don’t pay unless a customer clicks on your ad and comes to your site. You’re not paying for potential traffic as with a print ad; you’re paying for actual traffic.
SEM also affords considerable control of how much you pay for your clicks. On Google Adwords, for instance, you bid on keywords by setting a max CPC (cost-per-click). When a user Googles a term, Adwords lines up advertisers bidding on that term. The ads are arranged partly by bid, but the perceived quality of your ad and your landing page factor in heavily as well. A lower bid may outrank a higher one if the “quality score” and format of the first is better.
If a user likes your ad and clicks on it, you do not pay your max CPC. You only pay the minimum needed to, given all factors, outrank the bidder below you. For a more elaborate explanation by Google’s Hal Varian, watch the video below.
Of course, in addition to these costs paid to Google Adwords or Bing Ads, there is also the cost of managing your ads – either in management fees to an agency specializing in SEM or in time out of your rather packed schedule. Which leads to the final question…
Can I do my SEM myself?
Absolutely! Of course, that’s coming from a DIY guy who’s considered the feasibility of performing minor operations on myself to save money. Thankfully, reason won out and I’m still alive.
So, is SEM a DIY? Like many specialties, the answer is “Sure, kinda, but not really.”The resources are out there. You can teach yourself the basics and get a few campaigns up on Adwords or Bing Ads. The problem is, the learning curve is no bunny hill. You may spend months getting up to speed and still not know the errors you’re making. Noob stories abound of innocent mistakes hemorrhaging hundreds or thousands of dollars before anyone even notices.
In addition, SEM is not a static field. Like most digital specialties, the pace of change is breakneck. Search engines like Google are constantly changing the game and routinely introducing new tools. Staying in the game means exploring, iterating, and innovating.
Does Switzer Creative do SEM?
Yes! In our approach to website design, we become partners with our clients. We feel vested in your success. Since our team’s skillset and background included search engine marketing management, it made sense for us to use those skills to help our partners – driving more traffic to their sweet new sites.
If you have any questions about search engine marketing, chime in below and I’ll try to respond in a timely fashion.
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.
1) A blog is good for customer relationships.
“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.
2) An active blog increases search result placement.
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).
3) Every blog article increases your online exposure.
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.
4) A blog will attract more traffic to your main site.
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.
5) Each blog post has long-term marketing potential at minimal cost.
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!
6) A blog article provides shareable content that points to your site.
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.
7) Consistent posts will position your brand as an industry leader.
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.
8) A blog provides a platform to tell your story.
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.