Cosplay inspired website tips

There’s more to Cosplay than just costumes.  And we wouldn’t be respectable Nerds if we didn’t find ways to force Cosplay into as many conversations as possible.  So, here’s the latest attempt…4 lessons for your website you can learn from Cosplay:

Stand Out!

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Cosplay is all about standing out.  Cosplay isn’t a place or a convention – it’s a practice and a state of mind.  Much like the internet, there are tons of other people vying for the spotlight and the only way you’re going to get a little bit shining on you is to stand out!  Be creative.  Approach what might be a common idea a little differently.

You could go to a convention and see 100 Spidermen (Spidermans?) but sometimes one of them stands out.  They did something a little unique within their costume.  They focused on a different aspect of Spiderman.  Maybe they even dressed up as one small part of Spiderman (like his hand) and went into exquisite detail in that area.

The same is true for your website.  It’s unlikely that you’re attempting to do something that nobody else has ever done before.  But it’s your approach, your spin, your flavor that will make all the difference.  Figure out what your approach is.  What are you focusing on that others are not.  What areas can you give extra attention to that other websites don’t?  What makes going to your site more fun or enjoyable than the next guy?  Standing out makes sure you are not easily forgotten.

Be Social

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Cosplay has a portion of alone time (planning, creating, testing & refining costumes) and so should your website.  But the end result is intended to be shared!  Same thing with your website.  When you have something you’re proud of, share it!  Be social.  There are endless platforms online to share your website and your related experiences.  Blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so many more.

This isn’t about pushing your idea or your website on people that aren’t interested.  It’s about being part of a community.  People want to share.  They want to see what you created and they want to share what they created.  Sharing not only spreads your idea but creates inspiration for your next idea.  The best Cosplay costume ever created will never go viral if it’s just hanging in a closet somewhere.

Pay Attention to Detail

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Having a great idea and a great concept are wonderful.  But to have anything worthwhile, the execution needs to follow.  When creating a costume, sometimes people get so lost in the grand idea that the details are left out.  The details make the costume.  And the details make the website.

Thinking about how someone will use your website, what their thought process might be, what they have seen elsewhere that they don’t want to see on your site, and more are just some of the details to consider when crafting your website.  You have no doubt been to many similar websites but for one reason or another, one of them (or a small handful of them) stand out to you and you keep going back to them.  That’s what the details do.  They go unnoticed by users, but they leave that “special something” impression that keeps people coming back.  Don’t overlook the details.

Keep it fresh

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This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a successful website.  A website is like any other piece of advertising or marketing; it needs to stay updated and fresh.  You don’t see the same commercials year after year for the same products.  When you walk into a store to shop for something, it most likely doesn’t look exactly the same as it did years ago.  Things have to stay fresh to be interesting.  Look and feel, items available, cultural references, etc. all need to stay updated.

The same is certainly true for your website.  Once you get a website up and running it’s easy to take a big sigh of relief and feel like you’re done.  And you should.  But that sigh of relief can’t last forever.  The website you put up will be new to your visitors and it will still feel fresh for a little while.  But eventually it will start to get outdated.  If your site has content on it such as blog posts, those need to be kept up and stay relevant.  If your site sells products, they should stay relevant as well in terms of pricing, terminology, descriptions, pictures, etc.  Even the general look and feel need to be refreshed occasionally.  You are a user of the internet and you visit websites every day.  Without noticing it, you’re getting a feel for what the latest website design trends are.  You’re seeing sites that are more image based, larger fonts, etc.  If you land on a site that seems to have a style from from a long time ago, the likelihood of you staying on that site (or especially purchasing something on it) is very low.  There is an underlying concern that you’re on a website that is not up to date which might mean not secure, not accurate, and possibly not even in business or monitored any more.

Keeping content updated and the occasional refreshing of your design is how to instill confidence in your visitors.  A properly built website can have the design slightly updated & refreshed without complete reprogramming so be sure your developer is building your site in a way that is scalable for your future.

There you go.  Take a tip from Cosplay and make your website just as interesting & attention grabbing!

What other Cosplay inspired tips do you have?

 

The biggest blogging mistake you’re making

Blogging is an art form.  There’s no right or wrong for the most part.  There are popular blogs about feet, and unpopular blogs about the Kardashians.  So, why this huge disconnect?

It really comes down to one simple philosophy: Don’t talk…listen.

So what does that mean, right?  How can you blog without talking?  You can’t.  You have to talk.  I’m talking right now – to you.  But the trap people fall into very often is that they blog about what they want to talk about.  And if your goal is to be the only subscriber to you’re blog, then that’s no problem.  But, if you’re hoping some other human being will read what you’re writing, then you need to listen, listen, listen.

You need to write what other people want to read.  I want to write about the creative process we went through on a particular website design that took forever.  They want to read about how to deal with a difficult client.  I want to write about the amazing evolution of mobile technology in such a short time.  They want to read about the latest mobile device and its pros & cons.  I want to write about the art of songwriting and what how great it feels to play the guitar.  They…….don’t want to read anything remotely related to that.

Your audience is king.  Period.  You need to listen to them and write for them.  Do a little research.  Don’t spend the next 6 months researching (you could easily do this), but do some research.  See what people like to read.  What are some of the most popular blogs in your category?  What are some of the most popular blog posts on those sites?  What are people sharing on social media?  This is your research.  It gives you a window into the mind of your audience.  You’ll likely find that what most people want are short, easily consumable articles.  Lists are great.  “Top” this, and “Worst” that.  Those are things that are easy to jump into and consume.  Step by step how to’s are also great.  But while I’m telling you what you’ll likely find, don’t listen to me.  Do you’re own research with your own audience.  Trust me, if you listen closely enough, they will tell you very clearly what they want to read.

What do you see your audience asking for?

What it means to “use social media” for your website

You hear it constantly!

“You need to be on social media for your business.”

“Are you blogging?”

“Facebook…..social……post…..like……social…….pin…..tweet……social……engage…..AHHHHHHH!

 

It’s a lot simpler than it sounds.  It can get complex, and it can grow into something that completely drives your business or your website.  But at it’s core, it’s pretty straight forward.  Here’s the 5 minute explanation that nobody seems to want to reveal.

Using social media and blogs (which are a form of social media) are a way of driving people to your business or website.  It’s that simple.  Think of it like the postcards and other mailers you receive in your mail every day.  Local realtors, gardeners, stores & small businesses send these things out constantly.  Now, you’re not going to decide that you want to buy a house because you get an ad from a realtor, but when the time comes that you do want to buy a house, the first person that comes to mind to help you will be the realtor that you get all of those mailers from.  And when you go to look for their information — there it is!  In today’s mail again!

That’s what social media and blogging is all about.  It’s a way for you to continuously put information and content out to people so that when the time comes that they need a service or product you can fill, you’re where they naturally turn.

So how do all the pieces fit together?

Ultimately, you’re trying to keep people going to your website and keep your name on the top of their mind.  You have to sort of work backwards here.  Let’s start with a Facebook post or Tweet (Twitter.)

A business posts on Facebook: “Did you know you lose almost 100% of the value of installing a pool in your yard?  But new windows keep almost all their value?  Check out this post to read more about where your hard earned money is best spent on your home!”

You click on it, and it’s a link to a blog post on that person’s website talking about exactly what you expected.  It’s not an advertisement or anything.  Just good quality information that people want to read.

Why do they do this?  It’s to build a ‘readership’.  They want to create content (blog posts, Facebook & Twitter posts, etc.) that people want to read.  And they want to do it consistently.  If you pick up a magazine from a store a couple of times and love it every time, there’s a good chance you’re going to subscribe.  Same idea here.  If someone likes the content you’re producing over and over, they will become regular readers of your blog and possibly even subscribe to it (yes, that’s a thing!)

So now what do you have? You have a bunch of people constantly reading your blog, and very possibly, visiting your website to do that.  2 things come out of this:

  1. People coming to your website is a good thing.  It helps your search engine rankings, and it means that people are already only a click away from using your service.  The hardest part about getting someone to take action from your website is just getting them there.  Nobody goes to the store just to buy a candy bar.  But once they’re there, the candy bars fly off the shelves!
  2. Your blog posts will promote you.  They are not (and should not be) ads for you.  They are just useful content.  Don’t get it?  Well, you’re reading this blog post.  I’m not promoting our company in any way.  But what I am demonstrating is that we have an understanding of how this whole internet thing works.  If you like what you’re reading here, and keep reading, you’ll come to realize that we know what we’re talking about and can help you with any website needs you might have in the future.

And that’s how it all works.

  1. You want people to buy your product or service.
  2. To do that, they need to visit your website & trust you.  To get people to your site, you need them to have a reason to go there.  To get them to trust you, you have to demonstrate your knowledge and integrity.  Blog posts do these things.
  3. To find your blog posts, you need to get people to read them.  Facebook and other social media ‘teaser’ posts can get them to do this.
  4. For those teaser posts to reach anyone, you need to have an audience on these social media sites.
  5. To get that audience, you need to invite people to watch or ‘like’ your page so they see your posts.
  6. But first, you need to actually setup the pages for these sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)

So to get #1 above to start happening more, start with #6 an work your way up!

How do you use social media?  What tips can you share in your experience?

Checklist for planning your new website

Deciding on the right type of website for your business can be tough.  There’s the design, the content of the site, to blog or not to blog, and so much more.  But sit back, take a breath, and relax.  The beauty of websites is that they’re not set in stone.  You start out with a basic foundation and allow it to evolve.  Trust me, you don’t need to make all the decisions.  Once you have a website up, your visitors will start to tell you what needs to change.

First, think about the general ‘feel’ of your site.

Every website has a feel to it.  Some are very professional, some are warm & welcoming, some are whimsical, and everything in between.  The feel of your website should match the feel of your business overall.  What is the message you’re trying to send?  Are you a photographer trying to demonstrate your artistry?  Are you an attorney conveying a very professional and educated image?  Or are you a realtor trying to reflect a very personal and engaging feel.  The general theme you decide on will carry through your site; from the colors to the images to the font choices.  Deciding on the general feel your site is going to convey is a critical first step.

 

What is the purpose of your website?

This might sound simple, but it’s important to know what the overall purpose is so each part of your site can be geared towards that goal.  Are you selling a product?  A service?  Trying to collect information?  Trying to motivate people to take action?  Determine what your overall purpose is and this will inform each division you have to make when it comes to your website.  If there’s a part of your website that doesn’t contribute to this ultimate goal, it’s taking away from it.

 

Do you need a mobile / responsive website?

I’ll make this one easy for you — Yes you do.  I could list the statistics here of how many people access the internet through mobile devices, but by the time you read this, it would already be higher.  Just know that it’s getting closer and closer to 100% every day.  Quickly.  Not only that, but search engines are now ranking websites lower if they don’t have a mobile version.  That alone is reason enough to ensure you have a responsive website.

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What additional features do you need?

Websites range from very simple to very complex.  Think about it; your local Laundromat probably has a website that’s a single page with some basic information (phone number, address, etc.)  That’s a website.  Google is also a website.  But it’s has a ton of complexity and sub-domains (basically, sub-websites) to it.  So a “website” ranges in features and complexity.  A few key things to think about:

  • Do you need a shopping cart?  Will you want people to purchase something from a catalog of products on your website?

  • Do you need some sort of ‘portal’?  This is a portion of a site where users can log in with their own username/password to access areas that are specific to them.

  • Do you need to be able to manage and change the website yourself?  There are many platforms that handle this sort of site.  But know that building a single page website with 1 picture and 1 paragraph of text is different from creating a single page website where you can easily control the 1 picture and the 1 paragraph of text.  In the long run, a site that you have the ability to manage saves you time and money.

  • Do you need the site to link to any other online resources?  Common things would be linking to a Google Calendar, MLS listings, Social Media, etc.  If you have an online resource that you currently use and want some of the content from those resources to be displayed on your site, this will need to be built and configured on your site.

  • Do you need a blog?  And follow up question – do you need a blog that goes beyond the basic look and feel?  When you go to a huge blogging website like Buzzfeed or Mashable, these are not ‘standard’ blogs.  These blog pages have had hundreds or thousands of hours put into the design and development of the blog pages.  That’s what makes them stand out.  So think about your blog and how much of a focus it will be on your site.

What is your budget?

Of course budget has to be a factor.  But here’s where it’s important to make the right decision…..  Have you ever looked for a businesses website to get some information on them and couldn’t find it?  Probably.  It’s happened to all of us.  Think about the impression that leaves.  It’s not great — but at the same time, you still figure some businesses just don’t have websites.  Now, have you ever looked for a businesses website and found it — and it was HORRIBLE?  Yes.  This has also happened to all of us.  Now think about the impression that left.  You see a horrible website and carry that impression over to the business.  “Who would have a website like this?” you think (and so do I).  This is important to remember. First impressions are nearly impossible to erase.

Now I understand that hearing the advice that no website is better than a poor website may sound strange coming from a web development company, but it is simply the truth.  You don’t want a website that looks and feels cut-rate.  And we don’t want to be the team to give you one either.  When looking at budget, explore other options.  Maybe you don’t have the budget you need for the ‘right’ website today.  But can you allot an amount each month towards its development?  Find a website company that will work with you on the budget that makes sense.  And remember – websites are just like anything else in life – you get what you pay for.

 

There are of course more questions to ask.  The key is knowing your brand and finding a team to work with that will guide you through the process.

What other questions do you have about making your website a reality?

SEO: Then and Now

SEO is like fine wine…it gets so much better with age.

And now, at the ripe age of 20, it has hit its peak — much like me.

What is SEO?  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  And it basically refers to methods and practices used to ‘help’ search engines find a website.  Put simply, SEO is the blanket term for hundreds of different things people focus on to drive more traffic to their website.  Why is it important?  See the previous sentence.

In the beginning, there were websites.  They were all over the place.  www.this.com, www.that.com and www.nobodywilleverseethis.com (aol.com was during this time too.)  But unless you knew exactly where you were going, you couldn’t find anything.  Enter: search.  Search changed everything.  The websites that did the searching are “search engines.”  And just like any other technology, it started out very simply.  Come on….let’s look…

1994

The first real search engine site is created.  Webcrawler uses a program (referred to as a spider) to “crawl” through the internet one site at a time and see what’s happening on each one.  It ranks the top 25 sites across the internet.

Some other search engines are actually updated by people.  Yes real people sifting through the internet and ‘ranking’ sites.

1998

Google pops up.  I could end the story here, but I’ll keep going.  Google improves on how sites are ranked by looking at backlinks.  Backlinks are basically other sites that point to your site.  For example, if you create a website dedicated to the movie Top Gun (thank you, by the way, for doing that) and your neighbor creates a similar site, the old search method would rank you roughly the same.  But let’s say that 100 other websites around the internet are “talking” about your site.  And by talking about it, I mean they have a link to your site somewhere on their site.  These are backlinks.  Google looks at these and decides that your site should rank higher.  It gets a little more complex than this, but you get the idea.

1998 – 2011

So, a whole bunch of time goes by and the algorithms used to rank sites gets better and better.  But at its core, it is still pretty much based on links, keywords, and other things that are somewhat easy to fabricate.  If you can fit the word “chocolate” on your website more than the next guy, this helps your ranking when someone searches for “chocolate.”  You can buy thousands of fake back links for a few dollars.  And in general, there are various ways to “fool” the search engines.  During this time, Google continually improves how its search works and actually penalizes companies for using these tactics to fool their rankings.  Companies like BMW & JC Penny lose their high ranking because of the tactics they use.

2011

Google introduces Google Panda.  There is a lot to explain here, but the long and short is that Panda is a new approach to ranking that focuses on the quality of the content of a site, and not quantity of keywords or links.  The specifics are of course closely guarded, but it’s clear that if you are producing quality, unique content regularly, Panda will like you.  The biggest mystery is why they called it Panda.  I mean, pandas are black and white which seems to contradict the ‘grey’ area Google is now looking to for ranking a site.  Also, a panda eats one food.  One food — it’s entire life — one food!  Again, seems to go against the idea of creating unique & diverse content.  Personally, I would have called it Puma, but that’s just me.

Today

Over the last few years, Panda (and other search products & variations) have continued to improve.  So what does that mean for SEO today?  It means that the internet has caught up with thousands of years of business.  Before computers existed, people had businesses.  And if you wanted to keep customers coming back, you needed to do quality work and keep your customers happy.  That is finally true for the internet.  If you want to keep people coming, you need to put the work in.

SEO now means creating content for your website that is relevant, timely and unique.  Keep producing content.  Write articles & posts people want to read — and more importantly, share!  Share them yourself on social media.  Then repeat.  You will start to build a loyal readership which will translate into traffic on your site, which will translate into higher rankings on search engines, which will translate into higher traffic on your site —- are you seeing the cycle here?

There are still tips and tricks for great SEO, but they’re no longer ways to “work” the system.  They’re ways to entice and engage your audience.

What are some of the SEO techniques you have used?  How have they worked?

Get patients to ‘Like’ you using Social Media

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Using social media for your medical practice can be daunting and a little tricky to navigate.  But it has becoming an absolute necessity to build a practice and is one of the most effective ways to gain a large and loyal base of patients and promote more word-of-mouth business.  A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed 41% of people are open to sharing their information with health care professionals via social media, and 61% said they trust information they receive via social media!  And 70% said they would like to receive help from health care professionals via social media – including referrals!  These numbers speak for themselves – and they are growing every day!

Here are some tips and guidelines to start you off on the right track…

Privacy

This has to come first.  Not only is protecting your patients’ privacy the right thing to do, it’s the law.  You can be very active & engaging with patients (and potential patients) on social media without having to even come close to any HIPAA concerns.  As you start to grow your social media presence, people will post questions and concerns on your Facebook page, Twitter page, etc. and it’s up to you to address them appropriately.  As a general rule of thumb, try to put these questions into one of three categories and address them accordingly:

  1. General Information.  These are questions that are not specific to a particular person or their circumstances and can often be answered using a 3rd party source.  For example, you see on your Facebook page: “Dr. Caresalot, is Tylenol the right thing to take for my headache?  And how much?”  You respond… “Mrs. Headache, thanks for reaching out and checking in before just taking something you’re unsure of.  This is always a good idea.  While I can’t diagnose your pain you can read the general uses and appropriate dosage for Tylenol at this link: www.tylenol.com.  Cheers!”
  2. Patient Specific Question.  These are the questions where someone is asking you very specifically about their condition or symptoms.  For example, you see: “Dr. Caresalot, I woke up this morning with a horrible feeling in my chest and when I take deep breaths I feel a sharp pain. What should I do???”.  You DO NOT want to respond directly to this post within your social media page.  These are situations where you want to send a private message to the person, without any specific diagnosis or advice, but advising that they schedule an appointment as soon as possible.  If they can do this online through your patient portal, send them the link there.  If you can include days that might be more available, that is also very helpful.  The key here is to not provide any advice but provide a solution so they can get the help they need.  And very often you are that solution.
  3. Urgent / Critical Need.  These are rare but they do pop up.  This is when someone is coming to you with an urgent (possibly life threatening) question or situation.  In those circumstances, the best way to handle them is to call that person as quickly as possible to discuss their situation.  If you do not have their contact information, send a private message asking for it.  If you simply cannot call, you can respond privately that they need to seek immediate medical attention.  Again, these are very few and far between.  Most people do not go straight to social media when they have something life threatening happening.  But be prepared.

What to post

Here’s the million dollar question…..what do I post???  Well, it’s easier than you think.  You’re already in a unique position in which you hear from your customer base constantly about things they’d like to know more about and specific questions they have.

Always be on the lookout, every day, for a patient question that you think others might want to know more about.  You of course don’t want to post about a specific patient or situation, but if you hear a question or concern that you don’t always have the time to expand on, a Facebook post (or blog post that you ‘share’ on Facebook) is a great place to expand on the topic.  You can treat this the same way you’d write any other publication piece – general information & suggestions.

Listen for common misconceptions.  You hear these all the time.  Address them via social media.  If you’re always hearing “Oh I always have a stomachache, it’s no big deal…” address that.  You can’t diagnose it via social media, but you can absolutely let everyone know that something chronic like this may be a sign of something bigger and they should see their doctor.  You can even make it fun & eye catching, like titling the post “Misconception of the week” or something like that.  People love to stay informed and know a little more about a topic than the next person!

How-To posts are always a hit.  These can be Facebook posts, quick Twitter posts, a full blog post, or even a YouTube video.  The specific How-To you put together is of course dependent on your specific area of expertise.  It might be a quick way to self-diagnose, a generally accepted & globally safe ‘relief’ (not cure) for some minor ailment, or even a how-to of how to get the most out of an appointment with their physician; what questions to ask, etc.  This information is extremely valuable – especially when coming from an ‘insider’.

Keep it engaging

Social media is all about engaging your audience.  Ask questions, solicit feedback and always encourage participation.  You can have a ‘Q&A’ session via Twitter or Facebook (ask people to post question, then pick one to address.)  Even better, make it a recurring event that people can count on — something like “Ask me anything Wednesday”.  Ask people to share their experiences and things they found to be helpful.  This will stimulate conversations that occur completely within your social media environment.

Also keep an eye out for recent medical news and publications that your audience might find interesting or helpful.  You will often be aware of new developments sooner than your audience would be so share it.  Let them become ‘in the know’ sooner than their friends.  This is what is referred to as providing “social capital” and it’s what people are constantly looking for on social media.

Finally, if someone is particularly pleased with their experience with you, ask them to share it on your social media pages.  You don’t need everyone to do it, but if you don’t ask, you can rest assured that no one will do it.

Be consistent

Not much to say here other than don’t be a flash in the pan.  Don’t post twice a day for a couple of weeks then once a month after that.  Establish a schedule you can stick with, and STICK WITH IT.  Your audience likes consistency and reliability.  You don’t need to post every single day (although that would be great) but you need to post regularly with fresh content, and you need to stay roughly within your schedule so your audience doesn’t forget about it.  Be consistent.  Oh – and be consistent.  And final word of advice, be consistent.

What has your experience been managing social media for a medical practice?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!