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Make Your Business Website Mobile-Friendly

Posted by | Branding, Web content strategy | No Comments

There’s nothing worse than going on a website that is not compatible with your mobile device to buy a product or research a service. What does a potential customer do when he or she goes to your business website and it’s not mobile-friendly? Likely leave the site as quickly as possible, and mention to the person next to them how terrible it is. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

(Message Sprout’s site is mobile-friendly—check it out from your mobile device!)

To give you an idea of just how “mobile” our society has become, Social Media Today tells us that “1.2 billion people worldwide are accessing the web from mobile devices.” The mobilization of the world is no longer a trend; it is quite literally just a fact of everyday life.When you become mobile, your customers are able to more efficiently access information about your business and products and make buying decisions. If you haven’t updated your business website to make it mobile-friendly, there is no time like the present to do so. 

“Instant” Expectations

A Forbes article points out that Generation Z has grown up with instant speed as the baseline expectation. Due to the ease of access to mobile devices, the increase in the speed of the content-to-consumer process has shot through the roof, making it so that businesses are being pushed to constantly evolve in order to keep up. When you design your website so that it can run efficiently on mobile devices, you are making it easier for your target customers to browse your products and services whenever they please!

Better Customer Service

Offering up-to-date mobile access to your customers is part of an excellent customer service experience. Mobile-friendly business websites are accessible and easy to scroll through. By shortening the amount of time and effort it takes to get to the coveted endpoint where the customer books your service, buys your product or submits an inquiry, a mobile-forward site maximizes its opportunities to sell and also makes a good impression (hint: return customers, word of mouth, etc.).

 

Conversion Plan

Luckily, most website themes these days are automatically mobile-friendly. If you are starting a business website from scratch, make sure to mention to your website developer that a key aspect that you want is for it to be mobile-friendly. If you are updating an existing website, discuss your options with your website developer. Depending on how old your site is, you might be able to add a mobile plugin to your existing theme to get it working in a mobile view or utilize a conversion tool. A site that is REALLY old, though, is probably due for a full refresh.

As your number one marketing and selling tool, a great-looking, mobile-friendly website is an investment in your success. By making your business mobile-friendly, you are staying competitive. Without it, you’re falling behind. It’s as simple as that.

Starting a website from scratch and considering Squarespace vs. WordPress? Check out this blog that breaks down the pros and cons of each.

Squarespace or Wordpress

Website Platforms: Is Squarespace or WordPress Better?

Posted by | Web content strategy, Website security | No Comments

Ahhh, websites! They drive many a business owner or marketing manager quite nuts! So many decisions, so little time to get the website project done. Whether you’re totally revamping an existing site or starting fresh from the ground up, let us help you make your first big decision: which website platform do you want to work with, Squarespace or WordPress?

Why these two? They are two of the most popular website platforms (and quite honestly, we wouldn’t consider any others). Both Squarespace and WordPress are great, and have their pros and cons. So, in this blog, we’ve provided some insight into what each platform has to offer in order for you to make the best choice for your new fabulous, beautiful, functional website!

Side note: When we say “WordPress,” we are referring to WordPress.org (self-hosted platform with any URL of your choosing), not WordPress.com (no custom domains).

Determine if Squarespace or WordPress is Best for You:

Before weighing the two platforms, take a moment to have a little brainstorming sesh. We recommend writing out:

  1. What is the purpose of this website?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. What do you want this site to look like?
  4. What are two or three examples of other websites that you like, and what do you like about them?
  5. Do you plan to update the website often, say with new blogs or other types of content?
  6. Who will be updating the blog—you, a copywriter, a website developer or someone else?
  7. What pages do you want on this site, for example, a gallery page, an about page, a portfolio page, contact us page, etc.? List them out and what would potentially go on each one.
  8. What kind of functionality do you need? Do you need e-commerce, for instance?
  9. What is your budget? Contact creative folks to price out the costs of a graphic designer, website developer and copywriter.

If there is one BIG piece of advice we can give you, it is: unless you are a professional graphic designer-slash-website developer, DO NOT build your own website, and unless you are a natural wordsmith or professional writer, DO NOT write the content on your own website.

Armed with the above answers, now you can determine whether Squarespace or WordPress is the right website platform for your new site.

The Differences Between Squarespace and WordPress:

Building Your Website

Squarespace

Squarespace is a highly templated and high-quality platform. You choose from around just 30 themes (good for those who get overwhelmed with choices) and roll with it with very little or no extra coding involved. That is not to say that the site can’t be customized (just take a look at Message Sprout Founder’s Badass + Healthy editorial site, which was customized for her by a web developer), but it has limitations to what you can and can’t do. This is because it is not an open-source platform, meaning only Squarespace’s in-house development team can create tools for its users. That said, the templates are stunning and might work perfectly for you without full customization. And by customization, we don’t mean fonts, colors and logos, etc., which is always changeable no matter the template. Also, if you plan to build your website yourself (again, we don’t recommend that!), Squarespace is a much easier platform to do that on. It’s more “plug and play” … more on that below.

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular and largest website platform (something like 60+ million websites were built on it as of 2012). It has templates that your web developer can work from, but it also enables them to fully customize and build your site from the ground up. It is an open-source platform, which means its codes are open for anyone to use and customize. This flexibility is one of the main things people love about WordPress—you can do anything on it. However, if you’re trying to code and build it yourself, you’ll have a huge learning curve ahead of you! There are endless amounts of plugins to use for your website—some are free; others you have to pay for. The downside is that some, frankly, stink, and the quality of these tools vary greatly. Faulty tools can lead to security issues … more on that below.

Usability in Updating Your Site Content:

Squarespace

Squarespace is user-friendly and easy to use. The platform offers a drag-and-drop content-editing tool that allows users to go through a simple editing process. This process involves adding content “blocks” such as  images, videos, formatted headers and more to Squarespace’s already design-heavy templates in order to customize your site. Whenever you are moving a block, a guideline will pop up to notify you of what exactly the block can do and where it can go. If you’re used to working in the content management system (CMS) of WordPress, it will feel a little like learning a foreign language at first before you get your bearings of where things are on Squarespace, but it’s actually all very simple.

WordPress

Though it may be more difficult to navigate the backend CMS for users who aren’t experienced in doing so, the amount of options on WordPress gives way to a lot of flexibility in the long run. If you’re working with a web developer and plan to update content yourself, let them know that this is important so you’re not stuck when it comes time to make your own updates. Some developers will happily give you a little tutorial (ours did!) to show you where and how to update each page, too. It’s also pretty straightforward once you know where everything is located and means.

What to Know About E-commerce:

Squarespace

Squarespace recognizes commerce as being an extension of your brand. That’s why it does all of the coding for you, so that you can focus on selling your products. Many of the templates that Squarespace offers have e-commerce options already built in! This can all be done on a budget, with templates such as these going from $8-$24 a month. Squarespace e-commerce can be organized through the use of product blocks. This is a blessing to those of us who do not have coding experience, as there is no messing around with third-party plugins! However, Squarespace e-commerce only allows you to use Stripe (which is integrated with both ApplePay and PayPal) for your checkout pages, which can feel restrictive. Though this does not give you as much creative freedom, this allows you to get your e-commerce pages up and running in no time by saving you the time of searching for a payment option. Another beneficial tool that Squarespace offers is the mobile-optimized checkout page. You can customize it by adding discounts, free shipping, brand colors and more.

WordPress

Though e-commerce is not built into WordPress templates, there are several plugins that are used for such purposes. The tools that these plugins offer allow you to integrate e-commerce into your own site so that you can sell your products online. These plugins allow you to utilize any type of payment option, including PayPal, Google Checkout and Stripe. The most popular plugin to date that is used to sell products on WordPress is WooCommerce. This plugin allows you to sell both digital and physical goods, giving your product list some variety. Like many of the features of WordPress, e-commerce plugins can require some coding skills to set up. The upside to this is that once “plugged in,” your product pages will be highly customized and easy to access for your audience.

The Deal about Customer Support and Security:

Squarespace

The Squarespace support team is centralized as well as speedy. As a user, you have access to live chat and a 24/7 email support. This is included with any type of account that you have purchased with Squarespace. We find that this type of customer support is perfect for quickly addressing any issues and moving on. For security, Squarespace has your back. As this platform lives in the cloud,  it automatically backs up your content. This does come with limits, though, as your content will be the only thing that can be backed up. This means that your image galleries, pages and your blog content can be exported. Your product pages, albums, and your blocks (text, audio, video) will not be backed up.

WordPress

Due to the sheer size of the WordPress community, it can sometimes be hard to find help. You do have the options of countless forums, tutorial videos and email support to choose from… depending on the type of domain you have. As a user who is utilizing the free beginner plan, you may only have access to community support, whereas a more advanced domain (for example, the $24 per month Business Plan) gives you the perk of working with the WordPress team. Basically, the more you pay, the more support you get! It may still take a while for someone to get back to you through email or live chat. WordPress also comes with plugin options that allow you to backup your entire database (not just your content and your images). The most popular plugin being used at the moment is Backup Buddy. This plugin allows you to export 100 percent of your content into Dropbox, Stash or Amazon S3, or even to your email.

Our Final Thoughts on Squarespace or WordPress:

We have worked with both WordPress (hello, Message Sprout’s website is a WordPress site!) and Squarespace websites, and we have to say that we love both for different reasons. Our parting thoughts…

Squarespace rocks if you need a smaller site without a ton of customization and the person who is updating it isn’t tech-savvy.

WordPress is perfect for skilled developers and if you need a larger site with customization and/or more complex layouts. You can still update content yourself, but changing the layouts around will require coding knowledge.

If you’re looking for an experience brand copywriter and SEO content expert to help tell your story, optimize your website and consult on your new website project, we’ve got you covered. Contact us. 

Photo credit: Fizzle

Save Your Website From Hackers

Save Your Website From Hackers

Posted by | Web content strategy, Website security | No Comments

We’ve all been there. You didn’t update your Gmail password until it got hacked and started spewing out spam emails about some dating website to acquaintances you haven’t spoken to in years. You didn’t update your social media until you got the email from Twitter saying, hey, there’s some suspicious activity going on. Work email? Let’s face it, you’d never update that shiznat if the tech team didn’t make you every few months. And so on and so forth. For many of us—except for the truly paranoid (aka on top of it) out there—we’ve got enough to do than think of securing our 550,687 logins and think in terms of security.

But have you ever had your website that you worked so hard on and paid beaucoup of dollars to copywriters and/or web developers to launch hacked into and destroyed?  It’s not a pleasant experience and could result in you having to start all over again (yes from SCRATCH!) if the proper backups weren’t in place. Hackers are getting stronger and better at what they do. And for whatever reason, they would love, love, love to mess with your website.

Message Sprout gets at least a weekly email from WordPress saying how there were 27 attempts to login and someone was blocked. Was that us trying to login? Nope. Hackers.

For advice on what to do to save your website from hackers, we went straight to Jeff Corey of Visual Soldiers who, among other things, builds beautiful websites (like ours!). The following is his totally doable (meaning: no reason to slack off on this because it’s too hard) must list for what to do to save your website from hackers—just in case.

Update Your Software and Plugins

Countless websites are compromised every day due to the outdated and insecure software used to run them. It’s best to update your website as soon as a new update is available for any plugins, framework or CMS. Hackers devote their life to building automated systems with bots constantly searching and scanning every site they can look for exploitation opportunities. Not keeping your software and plugins up-to-date is one of the most common reasons a website is compromised.

Use Long and Strong Passwords

Believe it or not, people still use the word “password” or “123456” to secure important material. It is crucial to use strong passwords for your website, admin area, hosting account or any third-party software. If you’re like me, you have been building up a massive list of passwords for the past few years. It would be nice to keep these all organized to help you remember them. PC Magazine just released a great article on the best free password managers this year.

Set Up SFTP and Website Access

For accessing your website server it’s best to have an SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) set up as a minimum. There are plenty more secure options out there, but this is a great place to start. By default, SFTP uses the SSH protocol to authenticate and establish a secure connection. Because of this, the same authentication methods are available that are present in SSH. A quick search or call to your website host will help you learn more about setting up SFTP to access your website.

Back Up, Back Up, Back Up

We can’t stress this enough. Keeping nightly or even weekly website backups is a must. If you have a simple HTML website, you have a smaller chance of getting hacked, but it’s still a great idea to keep a backup of your website files. For PHP, WordPress or any other dynamic websites, you need to create a backup system that works for your individual needs. Since these sites are generally database driven, you will need to backup your website files as well as your database for each site. If a hack was to occur, you would have all of your data safe and would be able to rebuild your website quickly.

Specifically for WordPress, we recommend using a combination of a plugin called BackWPUp along with Dropbox. You can set your backup files to sync directly to your Dropbox account automatically. This is one of the best “set it and forget about it” backup options for WordPress. You can learn more about how to set this up here.

The mindset of “it won’t happen to me” is just not viable for this day and age, especially when it comes to securing your website, so take these above tactics to heart and get it done sooner rather than later, for safety’s (or your sanity’s!) sake.

Have a question for Visual Soldiers about developing a cutting-edge website experience for your brand? Contact them here.
Looking for better quality website copywriting and brand content? Let us know what you need.

How often should I blog?

How Often Should I Blog?

Posted by | Web content strategy, Writing a blog | No Comments

By now, you know the importance of maintaining a blog for your business. Blogging helps improve your SEO and discoverability, while positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. It also provides you with fresh content to share on social media and in your email newsletters.

But what may be less clear is how often you should post on your blog. While there are rules of thumb for how often to post on social media, there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the ideal frequency of blogging. Here are some things to consider as you decide how often to blog. Read More

Buzzfeed quizzes

Incorporating Interactivity Into Your Content

Posted by | Web content strategy, Writing a blog | No Comments

Is your Facebook newsfeed cluttered with your friends posting their results of online quizzes? While these may make your eyes roll, interactive content like these quizzes is proving to be effective in driving reader engagement and virality.

Not only does interactive content drive deeper engagement with your brand, says Marketing Land, but with its increasing popularity in the content marketing world, failing to adopt it may leave your business behind in the dust.

While traditional blog posts and articles will likely remain important and well-utilized media formats, it might be time to dabble in interactive content and see if adding it improves interaction and engagement for your business. Read on to learn more about different types of interactive content and how to get started. Read More

Email newsletters

Why You Should Start an Email Newsletter

Posted by | Copywriting, Strategic Communications, Web content strategy | No Comments

Do you interact with customers when they’re buying your product or service, but never communicate with them ever again? If you fail to follow up with customers, you’re losing a major opportunity for continued sales.

Starting an email newsletter does require some work, but the ability to engage customers and prospects can bring major returns. Read on to learn about the benefits of creating email newsletters and how to get started. Read More

How to write a white paper

What You Need to Know About White Papers

Posted by | Copywriting, Strategic Communications, Web content strategy | No Comments

White papers can be an incredible tool for businesses, but if you’re unfamiliar with this form of content marketing, it’s easy to do it wrong. Some businesses misunderstand the medium and use it as a way to push products—a tactic that also can push potential customers away. If you do it right, you can capture new leads and drive sales.

Sound good? Read on to learn what a white paper is and how to create a winning one that brings results rather than boredom. Read More

How to hire a web developer

15 Questions to Ask a Web Developer Before You Hire Them

Posted by | SEO marketing, Web content strategy | No Comments

You know this already, but we’ll say it again: Having a website should be a crucial component of your marketing plan. It allows new customers to find you through search engine optimization, and it gives you a platform to share your brand’s story and show off your products or services. If you don’t have a website—or at least one that looks like it was made in this decade—it’s harder for consumers to find you and trust you. Pretty basic stuff, right?

It is, but—and understandably so—a lot of companies (even the big ones) hold onto old website motifs as long as possible. When you’re ready to get a website or upgrade your old one, you must find a web developer to help you with the technical side (unless you’re already a talented coder, in which case, lucky you!). Failing to properly vet your developer can result in a crummy, expensive website that takes longer than expected—or never gets completed at all. But it’s intimidating if you don’t have technical experience.

Before you hire someone to help you with your website, ask these 15 questions first. And look into a few developers before hiring someone so you have options. Yeah, you’re not shopping for cars, but you should always compare prices and styles before you make a final decision on this very important purchase. Read More

Native advertising

What is Native Advertising and Should You Try It?

Posted by | Web content strategy | No Comments

Savvy consumers are increasingly reluctant to click on annoying digital ads. And so, the content world has developed a new model of making money called native advertising, and while it shows promise for publishers and advertisers alike, it comes with some hairy ethical issues. Here’s what you need to know about this emerging type of content marketing and how to navigate the gray area around it. Read More

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