Book Review: “Badass Your Brand” by Pia Silva, a Guide for Entrepreneurs

Badass Your Brand: The Impatient Entrepreneur’s Guide For Turning Expertise Into Profit, by Pia Silva, is a how-to book directed at small businesses and freelancers. Specifically, these businesses sell services and want to secure clients without networking and pitching proposals that never work out. The case studies feature Silva herself, plus business owners in her circle including financial advisors, photographers, consultants, and a physical therapist.

The book easily caught my eye through its sponsored ad in my Facebook News Feed. As a freelancer, I constantly get targeted content wanting to onboard me in some membership website or online course, so I can learn to earn my own living doing what I love. I’m not against those business models; in fact I’m building such a website for one of my favorite recurring clients. However, the promotions for these programs all look the same after several months. Silva’s pitch connected, however because all she’s selling is a book I could download for about $10.00 from Amazon. It was different.

And that’s the point of Silva’s approach. Her book tells the story how she and her husband turned around their graphic design and branding business, from being $40,000 in debt, to making six figures, within months. They did it by making themselves their own brand, and standing against aspects of their industry they knew were detrimental. Then, they offered their strategies to friends and clients who were struggling, and helped them achieve success on their own terms.

The book is only six chapters long, plus the introduction and epilogue, and I read it all in one evening. Writing this review a day later, I can reflect that Silva’s approach is standard in each case study, but easily personalized. It’s like variations on a theme, in which an artist paints multiple works of the same subject, but does it differently each time. Chapter Four lays out the formula, including four “angles” an entrepreneur can fulfill. It’s best to work all four, but you can get by with at least two, and you can choose which two or three suit you best. They are, 1: determining your target market, or niche, who are your most rewarding and profitable clients; 2: developing your “brand personality,” so you can stand out from the crowd and compete; 3: offering a “lead product,” which is your service, clearly defined up front, that you can sell for a flat, affordable rate; and 4: the “bull’s eye product,” which is a deluxe version of the lead product that you would want to upsell.

The reasoning behind each of these angles is given in Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. It appears odd, writing this review, that the nitty-gritty of the instructions are given in the middle of the book. However, when you read the book, it fits nicely with Pia’s personal narrative. Storytelling is a time-honored method of persuasion and teaching. You get the sense that in the first half, Pia and her husband Steve are learning lessons, they implement them in Chapter 4, and the later chapters validate those lessons. She emphasizes in the epilogue that she and Steve are hacking through the proverbial jungle with the rest of us, and the path they discovered saved them and their self-employed friends.

I feel I have a good grasp on my own Angles 1 and 2, but I’m excited to try out Angles 3 and 4. Before discovering this book, a fellow web designer suggested my own offerings were too vague, and vulnerable to fruitless negotiating and project proposals. I was slightly suspicious then, but I see his point now after reading Badass Your Brand. I could probably offer two or three tiers of products.

Badass Your Brand is a low-risk purchase at less than $10.00 on the Kindle, or $15.99 for a hard copy. Pia Silva is an authority; she’s not only a personal success story, but she’s a public speaker and regular contributor to Forbes. Not all companies will directly benefit from it. It’s explicitly anti-corporate, and there’s a passage in which she had to turn down a client because it was an e-commerce website, which wasn’t her and Steve’s specialty. Still, an intuitive business owner might adapt the four angles into something that works.

Purchase Badass Your Brand on Amazon: Buy

Deadbeat Super Affiliate: 10 Free Website Traffic Sources

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Curating other people’s content is an easy way to fill up your own blog. Just be sure to give credit to the original source. Here, the host of YouTube channel Deadbeat Super Affiliate shares 10 free website traffic sources. His particular aim is affiliate marketing, but you can still benefit if your website has a different purpose. You need awareness of your business.

His 10 traffic sources are:

  1. YouTube
  2. FaceBook Fan Pages and Groups
  3. Blogging
  4. Reddit
  5. Weebly
  6. Tumblr
  7. Pinterest
  8. Twitter
  9. Forums
  10. Snapchat and Instagram

He goes into more detail in the video, so feel free to watch when you have 10 minutes.

The Best WordPress Themes and Builders for Multiple Websites

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As an entrepreneur, why do you need multiple websites? Because you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket. There’s a movement in the economy towards diversifying your income streams. It’s wise to have multiple gigs in case one or more of your ventures don’t pan out. You should have a website to market each of them.

Additionally, professional web designers with multiple clients have their favorite development tools. They choose these kits for their affordability and versatility, and rely on them for most of their projects. If you outsource the creation of your websites to a contractor, that contractor will likely use a popular platform and hand off the creation to you. It pays to know what they work with. Having your multiple sites run on the same theme/platform will simplify the work of managing all of them.

The beauty of WordPress is its open source environment, allowing for a worldwide marketplace of themes and apps to build your website with. There’s an abundance of themes and templates with their own looks and styling options, as well as their own price points. In this blog I’ll list the most popular themes and page building plugins that enable you or your web designer to create multiple sites affordably.

 

The Old Way of Pricing Themes

When you install WordPress onto your website you’ll have access to the WordPress Repository. There are themes created by developers from around the world, and every one in the Repository is free to download. The catch, however, is that they’re very limited in functionality and likely have branding that you would want to remove, to better reflect your own business. Most of these free themes have premium versions that you can upgrade to for a fee. Most commonly, when you pay for the upgrade license, it’s only good for one site, so you would need to pay between $40 to $80 for each time you want to use that theme.

There are also WordPress themes available outside the Repository that are premium right from the start. Themeforest.net is a well-known marketplace for these themes. They usually have more customization options built in than even the upgraded themes from the Repository. However, for most of them, you still need to pay a license for each site you want to install the theme on.

Why pay for a theme at all? So that the theme developers can make a living supporting them. WordPress themes and plugins need to be updated continuously with security patches and to keep up with the latest tech. Even so, workflow practices have likely improved so that the developers don’t need to charge for every site. The following themes and page builders are already immensely popular in the WordPress community because they can be used on unlimited sites. That popularity drives sales, so the developers have great revenue. I’ll include affiliate links to most of the themes and plugins I’ll discuss, so you can check them out yourself. These developers have either proven their reliability, or they have a great new service that deserves support.

 

GeneratePress

GeneratePress is available for free in the WordPress Repository, but its premium version works differently than most themes. You can check out the theme’s own website and purchase a bundle of plugins exclusive to the theme for under $39.95. The license for this bundle can be used on unlimited sites. You simply create an account with GeneratePress, get a license key (a string of random letters and numbers unique to you), and copy and paste it into every WordPress site you wish to use it on.

The GeneratePress theme was built to work with popular page builder plugins like Beaver Builder and Elementor, which I’ll go over a little later. These builders allow you to create layouts in the content area of a WordPress page, drag-and-drop style. This leaves the theme to control design of the header, footer, and sidebar areas. Within the theme and each individual page, you can choose whether a page will have a right sidebar, left sidebar, one on each side, or none at all. There are blocks for content called Widget areas that can be added to the header and footer sections. GeneratePress allows for transparent headers, which blends with the top section image of a page and is a neat look. The premium package allows for an unlimited range of colors and fonts, as well.

 

OceanWP

OceanWP isn’t as well known as GeneratePress, but it’s quietly building buzz among WordPress mavens because its business model is similar. You can download the free version from the Repository, purchase the plugin pack for under $45.00, and use it on unlimited sites. OceanWP has a different range of features than GeneratePress, and they’re presented differently within the theme. I think it’s even more customizable, though, and time will tell whether its developer can support it as consistently. The OceanWP website has a really cool, free demo environment where you can try it out. It even enables you try out Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder. That’s good marketing. The developer has built the theme to be compatible with some popular WordPress plugins, and cares enough to tell you which ones.

 

StudioPress and the Genesis Framework

I confess I don’t use this theme package enough to give a fair assessment, but I can pass along what I’ve heard. The development company StudioPress has created a super advanced theme called the Genesis Framework. It’s like a base theme that other “child themes” can be placed over. StudioPress, as well as a secondary market of developers, have created a range of child themes that are like skins that change the appearance of Genesis. The framework is immensely popular with coders because of its efficient and reliable software. However, it’s not as easily customizable unless you’re highly knowledgeable in HTML, CSS, and PHP.

What makes Genesis worth mentioning in this article is a certain child theme called Dynamik. It’s highly versatile and popular with fans of the Beaver Builder plugin. There’s an active YouTube channel titled DynamikBeaver dedicated entirely to this combination. The channel host offers tips and techniques in designing websites in this way, and I recommend you check him out. The Beaver Builder community loves Dynamik, GeneratePress, and is starting to notice OceanWP.

 

Beaver Builder

So let’s talk about Beaver Builder. It’s not the first WordPress page builder plugin, but it’s the one that made builders popular. These plugins work by dividing page content areas into horizontal rows. These rows can be divided into columns, creating sections where you can insert content of many types. It’s standard for a builder to have a menu of “modules” or “elements”, depending on the plugin’s vernacular. These modules are blocks of text, images, graphs, blog post carousels, etc, that you can drag and drop anywhere onto the page. Page builders don’t initially let you design the header and footer sections- those controls are unique to the theme.

Beaver Builder was the first widely successful “front end” page builder. “Back end” builders operate in the WordPress dashboard and only display abstract symbols representing what the designer has made. One can’t see the results of the design work until they update the page and switch to the website view in the menu. With a front end builder, you open the page editor in the Dashboard, then click a link that takes you to a drag-and-drop working environment. There you can see the changes to the page as you make them. In Beaver Builder’s environment, there is a menu on the right side of the screen with a list of modules. In the free version of the plugin, there are only half a dozen module types, but if you purchase the premium version for $99, you’ll have access to a wider selection. The $99 license is good for unlimited sites, and if you combine it with GeneratePress or OceanWP, you can make as many sites as you want for the cost of two individual ThemeForest themes. Beaver Builder also sells their own theme with the same name in a package costing $199. It’s still an unlimited license, but it’s probably not worth it unless you’re a web professional making sites for multiple clients.

As a sign of Beaver Builder’s popularity, a secondary market has opened with independent, but licensed, developers creating “addon” packs for Beaver. Ultimate Addons and PowerPack Beaver Addons are both priced lower than Beaver Builder’s premium version and contain their own collections of modules. You could install Beaver Builder’s free version and upload either of these packs if you’re on a budget, or combine them with the official premium modules for a bigger toolbox. These packs are good for unlimited sites as well. You may decide it’s still worth purchasing the official $99 Beaver Builder for access to its support technicians and forums. The team behind Beaver is renowned for helping users who have problems, resolving tickets quickly and being nice about it. The next page builder on my list has an astounding, but very different value proposition, so keep Beaver Builder’s awesome support in mind when making a decision.

 

Elementor

Like Genesis, I have little personal experience with Elementor since I haven’t gotten around to it, but it’s too huge not to talk about. It exploded in the WordPress market last year as the most feature-rich free page builder. Comparing the selection of modules between the free version of Elementor and the paid version of Beaver Builder is almost comical. I suspect the Elementor developers had some generous investor capital before they rolled out the Pro version in November last year.

Elementor is also a front end builder and it’s similar in working style to Beaver Builder, except its module menu is on the left side of the screen. Elementor refers to its modules as “elements”, and they’re the same principle as the tools in Beaver Builder. WordPress enthusiasts swear by Elementor’s ease of use and reliability, so why wouldn’t you choose it over Beaver Builder? It depends how much you care about support and updates. They aren’t as easily available in Elementor’s free version, and the pricing options of the Pro edition aren’t as attractive as Beaver’s. The first tier is worth $49 and it’s good for one site. $99 will let you use Pro on three sites, and the $199 package will work on unlimited sites. This blogger wouldn’t blame you in the least if you stuck with the free version, as there’s already an enthusiastic community of users who could help you in lieu of paid support.

 

Elegant Themes and Divi

Now we come to the most popular premium theme and page builder package of all, as well as the most polarizing. Elegant Themes is one of the oldest premium developers in the WordPress market, and they’re still going strong. Although they have dozens of themes in their wheelhouse, the one that gets all the attention is Divi. Divi pioneered page builders in the early days of WordPress, as its builder was built into the theme. It was a back end tool like those I described earlier, but Divi Version 3.0 was released to much fanfare in September 2016 and included the new Divi Builder, a front end experience.

The Divi Builder was undoubtedly an answer to Beaver Builder’s and Elementor’s runaway successes. Elegant Themes decided to set themselves apart with a much different user interface in the front end builder. Whereas Beaver Builder and Elementor contain their modules on the side of the screen and the user drags them to areas of the page they choose, in Divi the user hovers their mouse over a section of the page, clicks a button in the middle of that section, and opens a menu of the modules in the middle of the screen. Using the Divi Builder feels odd if you’re accustomed to the other plugins, but I got used to it after a while. It’s actually just as easy as Beaver Builder, just not the same.

A membership to Elegant Themes costs $89 for one year or $249 for life. Either choice will open up all their themes and plugins for unlimited websites during the membership period. Considering a ThemeForest theme costs about $60 for one year on each website you want to build with it, Elegant Themes is a bargain. Although Divi is the flagship theme, it wouldn’t hurt to examine their other themes since each has its own header and footer styles. The $89 price is a nice middle ground between Beaver Builder and Elementor, and since you would likely purchase a theme separately for those two builders, it makes membership all the more attractive.

 

How to Choose

Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder have risen to the top as the big three page builders, and GeneratePress and Genesis are the favorite themes of Beaver Builder and Elementor fans. I’m intrigued by OceanWP because of its similarities to GeneratePress.

Earlier I mentioned that Divi is polarizing, because there exists an army of haters. There’s a common complaint that if you ever decide to switch your WordPress site from Divi to another theme, your content will change into a “shortcode mess.” The text and images will be unreadable and you’ll need to rebuild your site from scratch. You’re locked into Divi once you choose it.

I used to be one of those Divi trash talkers, until I had a few projects redesigning clients’ sites. None of them involved Divi, but they were challenging just the same. I realized switching themes and updating sites is hard work no matter what themes you use. Every theme and page builder has its own quirks that don’t carry over to others, so the shortcode flak against Divi is unfair. I suspect the critics are simply envious of Elegant Themes’ success and we can chalk it up to a fanboy mindset.

Better measures of a theme and/or page builder are the dependability of its developers, its community of users, and the goals of your businesses. Genesis and Beaver Builder are well respected by programmers and developers. Their coding is efficient and utilitarian, meant to be compatible with the maximum range of plugins on the market. It’s worth pointing out since WordPress plugins are created by independent teams around the world, not all of them will mesh together. If you want to run business operations through your website, you’ll likely need one or more functions not included in the page builder modules. Beaver Builder, combined with Genesis or GeneratePress is a safe choice for that.

If you’re a solo freelancer and you want to present your portfolio, blog, or promote your book, Elementor matched with GeneratePress or OceanWP may be for you. Elementor is the best free page builder, which is always in the budget, and it’s actively partnered with GeneratePress and OceanWP to work with those themes.

Elegant Themes and Divi are an online marketer’s dream. Membership gives access to the plugins Bloom Email Opt-Ins and Monarch Social Media Sharing. These apps are intended to work with any of the Elegant Themes and will help build an email list and reach a wider social media audience. Divi has a unique feature built in enabling A/B split testing. This means you can design different versions of your website, sitting at the same URL, and see which gets better traffic. All this is good you have a small business, agency, or online store and you want to maximize your sales or target your ideal customers. The only theme that I think matches Divi’s marketing prowess is X. It’s available on ThemeForest, but is a single site license theme, which takes it out of consideration for this blog topic.

 

Let’s Wrap it Up

I’ll include affiliate marketing links to most of these themes and plugins. If you choose to buy them, I’ll make a commission. This helps my bottom line, and it’s a money-making strategy you can try as well, with any number of products. WordPress powers between a quarter to a third of all the websites in the world, and supposedly half the sites in the United States. It’s search engine friendly, versatile, and is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Most importantly, there’s a massive worldwide community of enthusiasts supporting it and are only too happy to help each other master it. I personally believe technology means nothing without the human beings who create and use it. I’m getting serious about this blog. I intend to write extensively about OceanWP. The other products in this article have been by other reviewers, but OceanWP is just recently starting to poke through. If you need help with your WordPress site, email me. I can consult or work on it for you. The nature of working for a living is changing and it’s a new era for entrepreneurship. We’re all in this together.

Buy GeneratePress: generatepress.com

Buy OceanWP: oceanwp.org 

Join StudioPress: studiopress.com

Join Elegant Themes: elegantthemes.com

Buy Beaver Builder: wpbeaverbuilder.com

Download Elementor: elementor.com

 

Review: WP E Signature by ApproveMe

wordpress, wp e signature, approveme, contract, legal, compliant, business, signature

WP E Signature, by ApproveMe, is a high-end, paid WordPress plug-in that allows users to create personalized, legally binding contracts that can be signed electronically with a computer mouse or touch screen. It’s the first application of its kind that I’m aware of, and can be either an excellent time-saver, or a costly burden. The app isn’t for everyone. There’s an immense learning curve to using it, and the price can be prohibitive. But when properly installed, it’s powerful, and can save a business money over time.

I discovered WP E Signature while searching for a solution for a client who needed an electronic version of their standard contract. They have hundreds of customers per week, and were buried under paper forms. Electronic signature apps for the iPad or Android tablets commonly require a monthly fee. Within their budget, I was able to set up a WordPress page on cheap hosting and install the plug-in.

The plug-in is available on the developer’s website, www.approveme.me. You can purchase the license for either the Pro or Business package. These offers are very different from what I first saw only a few weeks ago, so ApproveMe may still be adapting their business model. The Pro License costs $97, can be installed on 3 websites, and includes the Basic add-on list. The Business License costs $250, although sales and special offers are available. It can be used on an unlimited number of sites and utilizes the Basic and Advanced add-on collections. The Business License may be suitable for a WordPress web designer who makes many websites and can install the plug-in for businesses as part of their projects.

There are tutorials on YouTube narrated by Kevin, ApproveMe’s soft-spoken lead programmer. They also have a speedy support team. If you own the license, you can log into ApproveMe’s website and send them a question. In my experience, they respond on the same business day with an email. This is important because of the previously mentioned learning curve and complexity of the plug-in.

That complexity may be a consequence of needing to be legally binding and compliant with government regulations. Other plug-ins that feature signature add-ons don’t really focus on signatures- they’re bundles based on contact forms, invoices, or something else. WP E Signature’s selling point is that its signatures will hold up in a court of law.

When the plug-in is installed onto your WordPress site, there will be options in the backend Dashboard to create New Documents. Similar to a WordPress Post or Page editor, you can type up your contract and save it on WordPress’s database. It can be emailed to your potential client or viewed on a designated page of your site.

The Pro License includes the Basic Add-ons, which number 3: Custom Signer Fields, Document Activity Notifications, and Save As PDF. Custom Signer Fields are items like check boxes and date calendars that can be inserted anywhere on a contract. Document Activity Notifications will alert you when your client views the contract on their device. Save As PDF lets you download a signed contract from your website’s backend onto your computer for personal storage.

There are 13 Add-Ons in the Advanced Package, available with the Business License. The ones I think are most important are Stand Alone Documents, Document Templates and Unlimited Sender Roles. Stand Alone Documents are those that are automated and can be used repeatedly. If a business has many clients who need to sign a standard contract, this is useful. Document Templates are similar, but it seems they are emailed to customers while Stand Alone Documents reside on a WordPress page. I utilized the Stand Alone Documents for my client. Unlimited Sender Roles is key if there are multiple administrators of your WordPress site. They would likely be the web designer and the business owner, and anyone on the business’s staff the owner assigns. Other Advanced Add-Ons include the ability to add your logo and branding to a document, syncing with Dropbox, and signing reminders, in case your client is dragging their feet.

You would need to do pretty brisk business to justify WP E Signature’s price tag. On top of that, if you aren’t comfortable with web design, you would need to pay a designer or staff member to install the plug-in. Luckily for me, my clients were well established and my hourly rate was acceptable to them. Considering how much paper and ink they go through, this plug-in will pay for itself. Early stage companies and start-ups wouldn’t get much use if they’re still building their customer base. Starting out, they may be better off with paper contracts or iOS signature apps.

Hopefully, ApproveMe will streamline this plug-in to make it easier to use and more affordable. I think what they offer is crucial, and I’m surprised more developers haven’t joined in the effort. Competition would be great for this category. Early adopters are needed to support ApproveMe’s work while they perfect the product. There are growing entrepreneurial and freelancing movements. The future of the economy depends on them being protected in their business dealings. WP E Signature is rough around the edges, but promising.

The Cost of a Website, 2016

Here’s a good article. “How Much Should A Website Cost in 2016?”

An important point concerning modern web design tools like Wix:

However, it does pay to spend the money to have a professional company create or redesign your website. While free tools can be useful, you are more likely to get a better, more reliable website if you pay to hire a professional web design company. Websites built on free tools often lack a unique identity because free templates usually only allow a certain extent of customization. Websites using those tools may have no brand identity or may have trouble attracting traffic. When it comes to web page cost, cheaper isn’t always better. But what is a reasonable cost for what your website needs?

 

Portfolio Update Underway

I have decided to revamp one of my demo websites- Iowa Corridor Burgers and Sushi. It’s not in my portfolio for the time being. On another front, I have 2 or 3 new projects lined up and I can’t wait to show them off.

Website Checklist Part 3

xiphos web marketing, web design, website, checklist, features, security, contact form, footer

I’ve listed the features and qualities a professional website should have in 2016. Here, I wrap it up.

Contact Option: There needs to be contact information on your site- this isn’t optional. The whole point of the Internet is communication, and if your site does what you want it to, your customers will want to reach you. It’s standard to have post your address, phone number, email address, and social media links. An email address can be substituted with a contact form; forms are linked directly to your email client.

It’s common to have a separate “Contact” page, but there’s a trend to post the info on homepages or in footer areas. Contact can be part of your Call To Action, so experiment with ways to grab visitors’ attention.

Footer: Footers are the areas at the bottom of web pages. It’s easy for a designer to forget them, but they are very important in securing an audience and/or market. When visitors are interested in a website, they naturally scroll down to read more. The footer area is where the page concludes, and it’s like the climax of a story. You can insert your call to action and contact information here. Since footers are uniform to the whole site, it pays to include content you want to repeat. Repetition is a useful strategy in marketing.

xiphos web marketing, re advantage capital, footer, blog,  website, checklist

Security: It’s frightening how many hackers and cyber-criminals exist in the world, and how persistent they are. However, some basic preventive measures can secure your website from malevolent forces. The following tips are for WordPress sites.

Regular Automatic Backups– A decent web hosting service should offer this as a matter of course. In case your site is hacked, you can scrap it, then easily rebuild it from the most recent backup.

Update Themes and Plugins/Delete Unused Themes and Plugins– Hackers can get into old versions of WordPress software and insert malware. Update your apps regularly to beat them to the punch. Also, delete any software you don’t use anymore.

Clean and Optimize Your Database– WordPress manages databases behind the scenes so you don’t have to. You can download a plugin to handle this work.

Security Plugins– There are great WordPress security plugins. My source for these security tips recommends iThemes Security, CloudFlare, and Sucuri.

Sources:

WP Apprentice, 5 WordPress Maintenance & Security Tips

WebTegrity, 8 Must Haves for Your Home Page

Website Checklist Part 2

Website Checklist, Digital, Marketing, Xiphos

Continuing my checklist of recommended website features.

Google, Search, SEO, Website Checklist, Xiphos Web MarktetingSearch Engine Optimized: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is almost an industry all its own. A professional web design service may concentrate on building sites and refer clients to a dedicated SEO expert. It takes constant work to manage a site so it has the right code, tags, content, and links so it shows up at the top of search rankings. It also takes several months for the work to get results, so you have to take the long view. There are dozens of tools, both free and premium, that an SEO professional can take advantage of. If you’re a WordPress aficionado, like me, the first and last name in SEO is Yoast. It’s a plugin app that coaches you in writing good content and tags, and does the work of submitting your pages to the search engines for consideration. Its developers are always studying the cutting edge, ins-and-outs, and strategies of Google.

Analytics Tools: A web analytics tool is software that tracks the traffic on your site. Usually, it’s a line of programming that you can copy and paste into your site’s code. Analytics packages will tell you where your visitors are coming from, which of your pages they visit most often and for how long, how many of your visitors follow your Call To Action, and so on. Here’s a list of Top Web Analytics Tools. Google Analytics is the leader for its price tag (free), its ease of use, toolbox, and network of support. But there are plenty of worthy contenders for the top spot; it’s good to have alternatives to keep the top dog honest or that have niche features that no one else offers.

Social Media Links: Not only should you have your own site, you should have pages/profiles on your favorite social networks. It’s standard to have a Facebook business page. A Twitter profile lets you reach a large audience of fans. LinkedIn is good for Business 2 Business interaction. If you sell products, you can post them on Pinterest.

Social, Icons, Website Checklist, Xiphos

Social media lets your site reach a wider audience. I like to think of your website as a hub that branches out into other networks. It should be obvious these days for your site to have links to your social profiles. If you update your site with a new promotion or blog post, you can announce it in your networks.

You shouldn’t depend on just one network. Facebook is the most widely used, but it can control which of your posts are seen by your friends. Facebook makes their money by selling advertising, and their strategy is to target niche audiences. This can be either good or bad depending on your viewpoint. It makes your marketing budget cheap and efficient, but it can also prevent reaching new customers you hadn’t considered before. You can reach separate audiences on the other networks like Twitter. The competing platforms have different business models, so their newsfeeds and bulletin boards work differently. A smart marketing strategist is open to a variety of channels and not afraid to experiment.

Social Proof: Social Proof is outside recommendation of your business. Traditionally, testimonials from existing customers are common, and they’re effective on the web, too. You can have them in a separate section on your homepage or “About” page, or you can place testimonials throughout the site strategically. If your clients have their own websites or social media profiles, it’s a good idea to link to them, with their permission. This way, visitors know you’re not just making things up.

Customers can also rate your business on social media or Yelp. You can share the favorable posts on your site. Some sites have a Facebook or Twitter newsfeed displayed on their pages, directly bringing comments from their profiles.

Stay tuned for Part 3

Sources: WebTegrity, 8 Must Haves for Your Home Page

WP Apprentice, 5 WordPress Maintenance & Security Tips

Website Checklist Part 1

Checklist

Here are a few things I think a business website should be or have in the year 2016.

Fresh Content: For a website to be successful, it needs to be updated regularly. This is a sign to visitors that your business is, in fact, in business. I like making websites with WordPress because it originated as a blogging platform. It has evolved into a “content management system”, which means it’s made to handle updates easily.

Blogging is a way to demonstrate your expertise in your business. You can review tools, educate your clients, and share the latest news in your industry. Sharing is an effective method of generating goodwill with the public. The marketing coach Anita Newton suggests a 4-to-1 ratio of information sharing to selling. This means for every single attempt to sell your services, you should make 4 attempts to inform.

Mobile Friendly: A website should be easy to read on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. You would think this is obvious in 2016, but I’m alarmed at the number of small business websites that are still made just for desktop computers. Touch screens let you “pinch and zoom”, but that’s annoying. In years past, it would be logical to have desktop and mobile versions of a site; the mobile site shows up first on your phone, and there is a link to the “full website”, or desktop version.

A new solution that I love is “responsive design”. This is when the images and text on a page rearrange themselves to adapt to different sizes of browser windows. To see whether a site is responsive, just grab the corner of your desktop browser and re-size the window. Responsive sites re-size automatically on mobile devices. I always choose a responsive design template when I make a new site; that way, I only need to make one site that will work on all screens.

Ease of Navigation: It’s tempting to fill your website with advanced tools and gadgets, as well as elaborate design and wordy text. However, it’s far more important for a visitor to find his or her way around easily. A simple and easy-t0-navigate site can actually take as much work to build as a complex one, because the design needs to be carefully thought out. Your site has only so much of your visitors’ attention before they decide to move on to something else. If it takes too long to find something, or too long to load, you could lose your audience.

Clear Message and Call To Action: This is similar to ease of navigation. You may think writing long and wordy content conveys expertise, but the best language is always efficient language. On the Internet, viewers’ attention spans are different than they would be reading print, so you need to offer content in small pieces. I’m breaking this blog entry into separate installments. Break up your text into manageable, easy-to-organize blocks.

Also, you want a clear Call To Action that stands out from the rest of the page. This is something you want the viewer to do that’s easily measured by your analytics tools. It could be filling out your contact form, downloading your app, applying for your main service, etc. Not only should it stand out from your other content, it should be mentioned repeatedly throughout your site.

More to Come: There are a lot more ideas I want to share. Come back in the coming days for Part 2.

Sources: WebTegrity, 8 Must Haves for Your Home Page

WP Apprentice, 5 WordPress Maintenance & Security Tips

Welcome To Xiphos Web Marketing!

Hi, I’m Nate Houstman, owner of Xiphos Web Marketing, and this is my first blog post. I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2002 with a B.A. in Anthropology. If I learned anything, it was how to write research papers, I should site my sources, and that plagiarism is bad. Ever since then, I haven’t been satisfied with the conventional wisdom. I always question the motives of the mainstream media and mass market advertisers. I haven’t watched network television since 2007. It’s a new era where audiences can choose their own entertainment and research businesses on their own schedules.

I worked at Yellowbook from 2006 to 2014. It was very fun and rewarding at the outset. I was a content expert and problem solver in the department that designed yellow page ads. My experience conducting research came into play, and my creative side flourished. Sadly, the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 accelerated the decline of print media. Yellowbook changed its company name to Hibu to reflect a new direction, and I was transferred to to Customer Service area. I was introduced to the concepts of SEO, web content writing, landing pages, etc.

Interacting with Hibu’s small business clients over the phone gave me a greater appreciation for their work. It’s hard to meaningfully serve them in a rigid corporate environment. The greatest lesson I took was business depends on human connections, more than anything else. I left Hibu in May of 2014. I pray that the company succeeds, but it’s clear I don’t have a place there anymore. I discovered the entrepreneur and freelancer community in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor, and it inspires me like nothing else does. I freelanced on the side while working another full time corporate job. In December of 2015, though, I determined it was time to make my own way.

So, here it is: Xiphos Web Marketing. Since leaving Yellowbook/Hibu, I’ve learned all a can about marketing in the digital world. There are new tools for web design and managing accounts. It’s not enough to have a website, you need a strategy for maximizing your audience. It’s not enough to advertise anymore, you need to relate to your customers. Let me be your solution in the Information Age.