» 7 Components of a Successful Website

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Your website is always evolving, but it has one singular purpose: to generate inquiries and leads. Creating an engaging, optimized, easy-to-navigate site is a critical part of your success. Now, more than ever, an impressive website is the sign of a successful and trustworthy business, so it’s vital that you modernize and update your website often.

How to build a successful websiteThese seven components of a successful website will help you update your site to today’s standards and put your best foot forward for potential clients in your area.

Functionality

How your website functions and responds to visitors is the starting point of your website’s user experience. If visitors can’t find what they need or your website is broken in some way, the content you write doesn’t matter. There are several considerations to take into account when thinking about your website’s functionality:

  • Intuitive Navigation: Your website’s navigation is the blueprint for visitors – they’ll use your framework to find what they’re looking for. Give your web pages logical names, and keep it simple. The ideal number of pages in your main navigation is seven or fewer. If you have more pages than that, consider adding sub-pages that drop down from the main pages. Additionally, recognize that there is a top-down or left-to-right bias in order and choice. A user is more likely to click one of the first three tabs, so be thoughtful about choosing the order.
  • Internal Search: Our collective brains are wired differently. Some people will follow your carefully thought-out main navigation menu, while others prefer a search box to find specific information quickly. Offering a search box gives visitors a number of options for how they prefer to navigate your website. Most website builder platforms/programs offer this sort of option, plus third-party widgets are available to incorporate a search function into your site.
  • Mobile-friendly: Google reports that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan. It’s no longer acceptable to expect users to pinch the screen to zoom in or out to view all the features of your website on a mobile device. In fact, Google has begun prioritizing mobile-friendly, responsive sites in search results to encourage those who have not yet updated their sites to make the necessary changes. You can check your website’s compliance with Google’s mobile-friendly test. The best solution? Choose a responsive template that automatically adjusts to the visitor’s screen size.

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» 4 Free Tools to Help You Write Better Blog Posts

How to write better blog postsWriting does not come naturally to everyone. Whether you have trouble coming up with topics, deciding on a headline, or actually writing the meat of your post, writing blog posts can be a difficult process. Yet the benefits of blogging are so great for a number of reasons – search engine visibility, better customer relationships, and more.

If you’re looking for some help to write better blog posts, check out some of these free online tools!

Identify the right keywords with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Use keyword research tools like Google AdWord’s Keyword Tool to shed some light on the popularity of the keywords you’re looking to use and how many times they’re searched monthly. These factors not only help you to identify keywords that others are using, but also to identify keywords that others are not using, leaving room for your use. Find the keywords that will bring in more search traffic so you get the maximum power out of each blog post.

Come up with better topics with HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator

Do you have some vague idea of what you want to write about, but you’re not sure which points to make? The HubSpot Blog Topic Generator allows you to enter a few general terms and then its algorithm suggests five blog post headlines to get you started on a topic. If you are using the aforementioned Keyword Tool, enter some of those keywords into this tool to get headline ideas that will spur your creativity and guide you towards the points you’d like to make in the post. If nothing else, this tool is a great jumping-off point which you can use to customize for your needs.

Create better titles with the Readability Test

Now that you have some topic ideas, you can hone your headline or title. AtomicWriter Lite is a great tool to help you determine the readability of your headlines and content so you can see how to get your readers more engaged. Select whether your audience is Advanced, Trained, or Well-versed and the tool will help you know if your headlines are too complex for your readers to understand at a glance. After all, if your title isn’t easily digestible for your readers, they won’t feel compelled to click through!

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» How to Write More Effective Emails

How to Write More Effective EmailsDespite the fact that we all receive dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of emails a day, a recent poll by MarketingSherpa suggests that 72% of U.S. adults prefer communication with companies to happen through email. The high volume of email in today’s inbox doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send emails, it means you should be smarter about the emails you send!

We share some suggestions to help you write more effective emails, below.

Make sure all your emails provide value

This tip is first in the list because it’s the most important! Email is a valuable marketing channel, but only if your audience remains active. If your emails are consistently promotional or provide no value, you run the risk of a higher unsubscribe rate. Once a user unsubscribes, you’ve lost that connection. Don’t waste your audience’s time with emails that don’t cater to their needs or offer something useful. Whether you dial back on the number of emails you send or create your own customer segments to provide a more targeted message, look at every email you send as an opportunity to build value with each individual on your email subscriber list.

Use the KISS method

Keep it short and simple. Don’t get too complicated with your message – the most effective emails are clear, concise and compelling. Some businesses can make their point in a paragraph, while others need more room to properly explain the offer. Unfortunately, there’s no magic word count to know, but you can test a few different lengths to see what works best for your audience. Remember that the point of your email is to get the user to take a next action, whether that action is to click through to a landing page, answer a question or provide a certain reply. If you add too much information, the point will get lost. And don’t forget that most emails are opened on mobile devices, so shorter is better on small screens!

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» Optimizing Your Content for Search Intent

Optimizing Your Content for Search IntentWhen users find your website or blog via organic search, they’re typing in certain keywords or phrases that direct them to your website. Many of them may be general search terms like “wedding rentals Austin,” but some of them may be more specific search terms like “Chiavari wedding chairs Austin.” The latter suggests that the user is in a different stage in wedding planning.

Optimizing your website and blog content for search engines is a great way to boost your rankings, but it’s important to think about user intent. There are generally three reasons users search a given keyword or phrase:

  • Informational – User is looking for the answer to a question
  • Navigational – User is looking for a pre-determined website or destination
  • Transactional – User is looking to make a purchase or complete a given task

It’s certainly important to drive those informational searchers to your website to help aid their research, but it’s also important to drive those transactional searchers to your website as well. Below are a few steps to help you incorporate search intent in your content optimization!

  1. Think through user intent

Think about the visitors to your website. Why are they visiting your website? Why would they land on a certain page within your website? What questions are they looking to find answers to? Think about the multiple reasons a person would land on your website, and think back to the terms they would be most likely to enter in order to find your website. If they’re searching for information, come up with the terms you think they would enter. If they’re searching to make a purchase decision, come up with those specific terms you think they would enter. If you’re not sure, write down the main categories of your business and the terms associated with each category. You can also double-check the phrases you come up with by searching keyword volume in Google AdWords.
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» 5 Steps to Executing a Content Plan

5 Steps to Executing a Content PlanFor those paying attention to marketing trends, content marketing is the shiny “new” strategy. Only, it’s not new. The idea that writing high-quality, educational content can help you book more business has been around a long time, and it’s not going away any time soon! Your wedding business should come up with a content plan to help you walk people through your sales process.

Easier said than done, right? Below are five steps to help you start a content plan and maintain it this year and beyond!

1.  Conceptualize

Writing requires a good deal of forethought; there are a lot of things to think about before you open up a blank Word document. Before you dive in, take the time to think through the topic and its relationship with your audience. Is your idea something they want? Something they need? Something that will help them learn more about your business or the wedding industry? Answering these questions will help you decide if your topic will be popular with your audience. You should also consider the format of your content. A blog post can be short, sweet and informative, while a denser topic may require a longer format such as a guide or a white paper. Don’t limit yourself to one or two types of content – decide on the format on a case-by-case basis. If you need help coming up with topics and committing yourself to writing, see our post on jump starting your blogging efforts (applicable to other types of content as well!).

2.  Write

OK, now that you’re ready to write, write! If you’re prone to writer’s block, try skipping the introduction and coming back to it later when you have a better idea of how your piece will end up. Give yourself time to write and try not to self-edit as you go. You’ll have time to edit after you get all your ideas out! It’s also smart to have a coworker or employee look over your content to proofread for errors and give general thoughts on the way you expressed the topic. At the end of your post or article, be sure to include a call-to-action which instructs the reader what to do next. For more guidelines to help you write, check out this PR Daily content marketing checklist.

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» 3 Quick Ways to Jump Start Your Blogging Efforts

3 Quick Ways to Jump Start Your Blogging EffortsDid you know that there are over 156 million public blogs, and over 77% of internet users read those blogs? Blogging is a great way to build trust with your readers, educate and inform them, and assist with your sales conversions. Creating a blog and blogging consistently, though, is easier said than done.

If blogging more is one of your 2015 resolutions, try these three quick tips to help you jump start your blogging efforts and maintain them throughout the year!

Brainstorm topic ideas up front

The hardest part about starting (and maintaining) a blog is coming up with post topics! Take some time at the beginning of the process to brainstorm a bunch of ideas to keep in mind. It helps to look at a calendar and think about any seasonal or holiday topics that your readers would be interested in, and then fill in the rest of your queue with more general topics. Think about common questions you receive from clients, or discussions you see on the WeddingWire Forums – these can be great topic starters! In addition, posting photos from your recent weddings (always giving the photographer and other vendors credit!) is a great way to keep your blog updated and show off your work to potential clients. Add to your list of topic ideas whenever you feel inspired to keep your list topped off.

Create an editorial calendar

Whether you create a strict calendar with topics for each date or just decide on a day to publish each week, creating a calendar for yourself will help incorporate blogging into your work schedule. It’s easier to stay on track when you know ahead of time that something is due! Use your brainstormed topic ideas to keep your calendar topped off and identify topic areas you haven’t yet explored.

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» Keep Your Facebook Business Page Fresh!

Facebook brand pages for your business are a good way to connect with your client base and reach new audiences. However, it is important to keep your page updated with new, engaging and relevant content (but not overpost!).

fb-like-this

Check out these 6 ideas of engaging Facebook content for businesses from SocialApe Marketing:

  • Behind the Scenes Photos: Share a peek into your day! Followers will be interested to see what you are up to, and feel like they get to know you and your staff on a personal level. Examples of this may be photos of prepping from a past wedding or event, a new arrival of business-related good or product, an inside look at your workspace, or what you did recently for inspiration.
  • Trivia Questions: People love a little friendly competition. Ask something about the most popular wedding flower in August, pop culture trivia about a celebrity’s wedding, and more. You could even make this a deal where the first person to answer right gets a prize or you pick the most creative answer to encourage engagement with your post.
  •  Offer Exclusivity: Post a deal on Facebook that is valid to Facebook fans of your business only. This is a great way to make followers feel like you are really invested in them. This is also a great way to add fans!
  • Don’t Just Talk About Your Business: It may seem strange, but you want to post content that is not just about you. Occasionally post about the season, fun events, upcoming holidays, or even current events. This will helps fans connect to your business and see the “person” behind the brand.
  •  Ask Questions: You want fan interaction? Start a conversation! Have clients post photos about your business when they visited you for consultations, or with your product. Ask them their favorite part of planning their big day or special event, and what your business can do or has done to help. Also encourage them to share their photos or memories to increase engagement.
  • Be Original: Remember, nothing is right or wrong when it comes to marketing your business on social media. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, but always remain professional.  Showing originality is great to stay on top of trends in an ever-evolving industry, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

When it comes to social media and blogging, content and images are key! Keep your sites up-to-date with new content, and test what works for your business and what drives positive engagement. For additional tips, check out “How to Be a Social Media Posting Pro”  from an earlier blog post.

» Google’s New Search Results #1: The Giant Panda

 

This post was written by Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire, you can follow him on Twitter @sonnyg. A full version of this article is available in the Education Center. Sonny leads WeddingWire’s marketing strategy, customer acquisition, and business development.

 

It’s no surprise that Google is the largest search engine in the world, with approximately 65% of the US Search Engine Market Share.  It leads the other “big three” search engines by a large majority, with Bing and Yahoo! having roughly 15% market share each. Getting top ranking on Google search has to be a priority for your business.

What you may not know is that Google is constantly updating its search algorithm to screen for the best search results for its users. So even if you have strong SEO rankings, your results may vary over time based on these updates.  Over the past year Google has made significant changes to its search algorithm that changes how results are displayed.  In order to improve your SEO rankings in the future, you need to be aware of two recent updates called “Panda” and “Search Plus Your World.”

 

 

The Giant Panda

Google released a large update called “Panda” in 2011, which focused largely on new ways to determine search rankings based on the quality of content. Many sites with dated content saw their results decline sharply soon after the updates, while sites with high quality content saw strong improvement.  The Panda update emphasized 3 key elements:

  1. Freshness of content
  2. Content depth and corresponding traffic
  3. Quantity of advertisements on websites

As wedding professionals, it is important to understand how Google rates your websites and how you can improve rankings over time.  Remember: Content Matters!

Freshness of Content

The more frequently your content is updated, the more interesting Google finds your site! Updating the content on your website or blog reminds Google’s robots to crawl your site often and subsequently boost your search results listing. When content is stagnant, Google returns less frequently, and your site may lose relevance.  In essence, the search engine robots are a bit lazy!  It takes frequent content updates to remind them to come back and visit your site.

Content updates do not have to be a large undertaking.  You don’t have to re-design your site or adjust the basic web copy. What we want to do is create an area on your site where content is more dynamic vs. static.  In fact, creating fresh content can be easy! Here are some of the ways we create content:

  • Creating a blog and posting at least a couple times per week, preferably once per day.  We suggest using WordPress to build your blog.
  • Adding your blog as a navigation item on your main website.  This will give your main website a big boost in freshness!
  • Adding social media buttons and enabling sharing of content from your site.
  • Adding photos and videos to your site from your recent weddings.
  • Creating press releases to highlight new accomplishments.
  • Getting new ratings and reviews from past clients.

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» 8 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts Online

If you’re like me, you want your blog posts to reach as many people as possible. Feeds and social networks have made it easier, but this morning Chris Brogan highlighted a few easy ways to promote blog posts that reaffirmed most of what I do after each post I write. So I wanted to share to see what you’re doing to get word out that you’ve got a great post to read.

  1. Bookmark your best posts on Delicious
  2. Use StumbleUpon to bookmark posts as well
  3. Use the status message on LinkedIN to link to your blog post
  4. An interesting idea is when leaving a comment on an industry related blog, put the blog post link in the URL field instead of your normal blog URL.  However, by no means mention your post.  Simply leave an insightful comment adding to the discussion
  5. Share your post on Facebook using BlogCast (could the status message here as well)
  6. Make sure your posts get shared FriendFeed automatically
  7. Let Zemanta insert related article links at the bottom of your story.  You can get the plug-in for WordPress, Movable Type, Firefox and others here.
  8. Tweet about your post on Twitter.

So what ideas work for you?  Or better yet, didn’t work for you?  I’d love to hear.