The Marketing Power of a More Human Web

What Makes the Biggest Difference? People Who LOVE to Help Others.

Some things should not be counter-intuitive, but they are.

The fact is that, despite the “muddy waters” created by “get rich quick” hucksters on the web, the web that I know and love is populated by some really good people who love to help others with their online businesses.

Yes, while it is true that the internet has many trolls and political “flames,” with this blog post, I would like to illuminate, via example, the dynamics of “the more human web.” It’s where I prefer to hang out, and it’s full of people and businesses actively creating meaningful, valuable relationships.

When Authenticity Pops-Up at You

Here’s a little story—and a new online course platform that I’ve discovered. It illustrates the fun and exciting ways that humanity can intersect digital marketing and business.

Recently, I was researching options for hosting an online course. Thanks to a referral by a new email provider, ConvertKit, that I’m using to segment and better target my various email lists, I stumbled upon the online course hosting platform, Coach.

As I arrived at the Coach website, in the usual way, I was immediately greeted by a live chat.

Because of my conversational nature, however cautiously (because these kinds of chats are not often useful), I began interacting with Spencer, the rep on the other side of the live chat. I presumed that Spencer was an agent, employed by Coach to help the sales process.

However, as we chatted, the banter was above average and his joyful enthusiasm for his online course platform seemed more authentic than I would have expected. He seemed authentically interested in helping. And then, much to my surprise, it wasn’t long before Spencer made it clear that he is one of the founders of the company.

How many founders have you seen on the front lines of customer service? I was impressed.

The truth emerged that Coach is committed to authentic engagement and exemplary personalized customer service, and their founder was walking his talk on the front lines. What more can you ask than to have a founder on the live chat, instantly ready to assist you?!? And, beyond my own instincts, the truth of Spencer’s authenticity was brought home when I discovered his enthusiasm for helping entrepreneurs via his personal blog post, “Why I started Coach: The 3 reasons I decided to launch my 4th company.” Both reasons #2 and #3 are about loving to help people.

Relationship Marketing: More Than a Buzzword

This is precisely what relationship marketing is about: The Relationship. And when it manifests organically like this, it isn’t a tactic. It’s not something that you can fake. It requires a company culture when the players genuinely care about the potential clients and how they can authentically help them. This goes WAY beyond tracking “engagement statistics.”

For me, when you find it at a company and a quality of service like I’ve experienced at Coach, I naturally want to become an advocate. Right here, right now, it’s fun for me to share with you about how this personal relationship evolved out of what is more often a mundane sales interaction.

Isn’t it only right that when you find this kind of relationship, you stay loyal to it and you tell others about it?

This concept is so simple, yet so few people actually make it a reality.

Taking Our Relationship to the Next Level

I’ve heard it said that what you focus on expands. I know the kind of web that I want. One that is built on authentic relationships. Thus, as a result, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Spencer and have begun to experiment with Coach (my book, “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts Every Business MUST Know” is already available via Coach here, and online courses on Squarespace website creation and Social Media for Social Action are in the works.)

And, more immediately (drum roll please), I’m also going a step further! Next Thursday, June 8th, Spencer will be my special guest on a Social Video Sandbox Session (my somewhat regular informal webinar-style interviews) where we will be sharing insights about online course creation. I hope you will join us and get to know both of us better!

Marketing Tip: I’m finding these kinds of live streaming video sessions to be a great way to extend relationships with members of my lists and online communities who are interested. More info and the opportunity to join us, click here.

The Real Bottom Line

It’s been a long held value and a core operating principle of mine that “business is about relationships.” When I speak and lead workshops (and also in my book), I articulate the fundamental goal of digital marketing to be “building authentic, long term, sustainable relationships.” Without that, I don’t think we are building a better world, no matter how much money we might make.

So, please be one of those people on the web that is doing good. When you do, you will find that you are part of wonderful networks or tribes of people that are doing likewise by “paying it forward.” If you’re not already working and playing in this way, try it. You’ll like it. It feels good and it works.

More importantly, this approach, in my opinion, is what makes doing business worthwhile.

I look forward to your comments please!

Think Websites Are An Expensive Pain? Now There’s Small Business Relief via Squarespace

“Simpler is Better.” Website Design Can Be More Fun & Efficient When You Go Beyond the Complexity of WordPress and other platforms.

While my team and I still design and develop larger WordPress websites, I have found the Squarespace platform to be a faster, more fun and more client-empowering way to help small businesses create elegant, totally mobile-friendly websites that have all of the functionalities that a small business needs.


As some of you may know, I did a streaming video webinar earlier this year (see YouTube clip above) that explains in the first 15-minutes why I’m recommending Squarespace over WordPress for websites for smaller organizations.

I’m writing today because my streamlined, three-hour 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Squarespace Website sessions are becoming more popular; and, for me, more fun.

Learning from Real Life Website Design Experiences

Recently in one of these “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace Website sessions where I collaborated with a local chiropractor and friend, Robert Adamich, we actually produced his entire website (short of a couple of blog posts) in just one of these three-hour sessions.

To be clear, this is not always the case. That’s why I book these, not as projects, but rather as sessions, i.e. a three-hour commitment to get as much done as possible, including developing the site’s content structure, integrating some content, teaching how to use Squarespace, and developing the site’s unique look and feel using one of Squarespace’s modern design templates.

Here’s what Robert had to say about this process:

“My work with Jon Leland of ComBridges produced amazing website results in far less time than I could have imagined! Prior to our “1-to-1 Get-It-Done Squarespace Website Session,” Jon provided me with relevant tools and questions so that I was prepared and ready to go. Then, in only three-hours, we crafted a 7-page website that I absolutely love. Jon was fun to work with and creative sparks were flying. Then, at the end of the session, when we launched my new site, it was literally a dream come true. The icing on the cake was that I left with enough training and familiarity with Squarespace that I can now manage and edit my own website. THANK YOU, Jon!”

— Robert Adamich, AdamichChiropractic.com

Personally, I absolutely LOVE the opportunity to contribute what I think is extremely high value as a writer, marketing consultant, information architect, and Squarespace trainer, all in one action-packed session.

The results are tangible and the clients have all been very happy.

My calling is to be of service, and there’s something very satisfying about this Squarespace powered format. I hope that it’s obvious that I am much more than just a website designer. What I love about this process is that I get to bring all of my talents into these sessions and have clients walk away with all or most of a new website, as well as with an empowering orientation to the power and ease-of-use of Squarespace.

Here’s another example, another real life Squarespace website client experience:

“As a do-it-yourselfer, I questioned why I hired Jon. Was it just so I would get started on my project of updating my website? That alone would have been worth it, but Jon’s services went way beyond my expectations. In the space of three hours, he not only provided me with a tutorial on using Squarespace; but he also helped organize, with my input, the framework for the revised site, as well as providing a good start on several important pages. It was amazing! I wasn’t overwhelmed with the behind-the-scenes tech or design stuff, and I felt empowered to continue on my own when we finished. Thanks, Jon!”

— Gia Combs-Ramirez

I welcome your questions and I’m happy to do a 15-minute “discovery session” with anyone, anytime, so that you can get a better sense if this approach (or one of the other website design approaches we offer) is right for you. Please contact me in order to arrange your free discovery session.

Or, If You Want a Complete Website…

In other cases, I do the entire website as a Squarespace project for a project fee. For example, this was the case with a website that I did recently for a South Lake Tahoe law firm. For this client, I also delivered Internet marketing services including SEO and Google AdWords in order to attract new leads and prospective clients. In fact, as they say below, their firm has already booked new clients as a result of our work together:

“Jon Leland and ComBridges went above and beyond in building my firm’s website. Jon built us a very professional, attractive website while patiently taking the time to explain how to manage the website in a way that was easy to understand. It was obvious that Jon has a lot of pride in his work and was committed to boosting my firm’s business through our online presence. His hard work and our investment in our website has already produced positive, tangible results by bringing us many new clients.  I’d recommend Jon and ComBridges to anyone.”

— Scott Souers, Attorney, William B. Cherry & Associates

How Do You Know Which Approach to a New Website Is Best for You?

We have a three-column chart that provides a better understanding of the difference between these two approaches to building Squarespace websites.

Or, please check out my portfolio of Squarespace websites.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Social Media Video Marketing: An Experiential Breakthrough

The absolute highlight of my live Playshop, “The New Rules of Business & Social Media Success,” presented last Monday with my coach and colleague, Andrea J. Lee, were interactive, smartphone-enabled exercises that I called “Video Play Experiences.”

A few of the participants learning to shoot social video during our Playshop.

Our Playshop’s Video Play Experiences.

These interactive exercises—illustrated by the photos in this post—opened up a whole new avenue for me to empower people to make their own videos. This delightfully surprised me and participant feedback ranged from real “ah-ha” moments to “getting over the hump” (i.e. overcoming fears of video’s challenges). Almost everyone came away with the feeling, “I CAN do video!”

 

The results of these exercises were a two-way breakthrough:

  • They was a real eye-opener for me in terms of how I can help people with these all-important skills and
  • They showed us all how doing more video (a requirement, in my opinion, in today’s social media environment) is just like any other skill: if you work at it like a practice (not unlike the practice required to learn to meditate, to hit a golf ball, or play a piano, for example) that you can make real progress, step-by-step, and the progress is rewarding in its own right.

A Unique Experiential Sequence

Susan Shloss of Susan Shloss Bookkeeping Services, http://shlossbooks.com, during a Video Play Experience.

And, these results were not only about video technology. One of my mantras is that “it’s about the communication, not just the technology.”

What emerged, as I was designing this day in collaboration with Andrea, was a unique sequence of exercises that not only let the participants stretch their technical capabilities, but they got to stretch their emotive abilities as well (as shown to the right by Susan Shloss of Susan Shloss Bookkeeping Services.)

During the course of the day, we did three (3) Video Play Experiences:

  1. The first was “A Rant.” I helped the participants to get emotional by directing them to do a video clip where they expressed their strong feelings about something. I modelled this for them in front of the room by ranting about how much I detest “get rich quick” internet marketers who claim to have a “magic formula.”
  2. The second Video Play Experience was a Vulnerability Exercise where I asked them to speak to the camera about something very personal, as if they were sharing something intimate with a life partner, a family member or very closer personal friend.
  3. Finally, in the late afternoon, I asked them to talk about “How I Serve” so that they could bring it all home to the kinds of value that they authentically deliver through their businesses.

Suzannah Rose, realtor from http://LivinginMarin.com reviews her video exercise.

The result was a kind of experiential learning that exceeded my expectations and clearly added significant value to the day.

A Valuable Digital Take-Away

Workshop exercises are often hard to remember and can quickly become ephemeral memories. Not in this case.

The fact that virtually every participant owned a smartphone meant that they were recording these exercise on their own devices. Because they would obviously take these home after the Playshop was over, the recordings are right there for them so that they can review them and continue to learn. The recordings, thus, inherently provided a record of the work that they did. So valuable! (Can you see the appreciation on the face of Suzannah Rose, realtor from Living in Marin in this picture?)

Another New Idea Emerges

Two participants who are also coaches, David Drake of http://narrativecoaching.com and Linda Curtis of http://honorableclosure.com engaged in video play.

One of Andrea J. Lee‘s favorite teachings is that “Anything worth doing is worth doing in community” and that added to the value of these exercises. (To the right are two participant coaches, David Drake of Narrative Coaching and Linda Curtis of Honorable Closure.)

The way that these Video Play Experiences played out was expressed through the enthusiasm of the participants for the exercises themselves, so much so that by the end of the day they invented the idea of Video Parties!

Now, as a result of their engagement and creativity—a true community collaboration—I’m thinking of both the possibility of follow-on “Video Party” evenings as well as a possible online, virtual Video Playground. Sound good?

I’d love to hear from you if you are interested in either of these, or if you have other ideas?

For sure, I am excited by the participant enthusiasm that we all experienced together, and, I am personally looking forward to more Video Play Experiences of every kind. 😉

Bringing Business Inspiration & Marketing Motivation to Mill Valley

Every small business person that I know sings a similar song: “I’m overwhelmed!”

Furthermore, for most of us, whether you are an entrepreneur or founder of a small business, the “rules” seem to keep changing. These days, there’s more to having your own business than just figuring out how to make money. For example, motivation matters and the whole meaning of “marketing” has changed. And that’s just for openers…

That’s why I’m honored, delighted and (no exaggeration) super-excited to be bringing my beloved friend, the extraordinary business coach, author, and leader, Andrea J. Lee to the SF Bay Area for a one-day workshop called “The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success.” She and I will be co-presenting an uplifting, informative and highly interactive “Playshop” that will include everything from decision making and relationship building to creating online video and social media marketing. All of this will be live and in-person on Monday, January 25th from 10am – 5pm in Mill Valley. You can register here. And, I even created this special video invitation just for you 😉

 

Please let me know if you have any questions whatsoever.

I look forward to seeing you there!

[callout title=”The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success” button=”I Want to Learn More or Register” link=”http://www.combridges.com/event” buttoncolor=”blue” target=”_blank”]An Inspiring, Highly Interactive, Experiential Playshop: Monday, January 25th, 10am – 5pm, Mill Valley, CA, USA[/callout]

Major Website Design Learning: Squarespace Makes It Fun Again

Our new Squarespace website design options—both a done-with-you process and lower priced projects—have taught me important lessons while also helping me to help clients better and to enjoy my work more.

[testimonial author=”Will Lopes, owner, William Patrick Design Builders”]”The future of website design is here! Squarespace in the able hands of Jon Leland was a revelation. He guided me through a re-design more quickly, elegantly and affordably than I imagined possible. Now, I have a modern, good-looking, mobile-friendly website; AND it’s on a platform that empowers me to have FUN evolving it by myself. I couldn’t recommend Jon’s unique approach more highly.”[/testimonial]

william-patrick-buildersI think the testimonial above says a ton!

As I’ve continued to experiment with Squarespace as a more cost effective and easier to use platform (vs. WordPress) for small business websites, I’ve not only learned lessons about the need for clarity in differentiating these fresh approaches; but, even more importantly, I’ve uncovered new ways of serving clients that are both better for them and more fun for me.

Not “One Size Fits All”

I recently did a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace website session with Christine Fischer via Skype. She lives in Spain and conducts Truffles Tours there.

While Christine appreciated her experience as “fun” with results that she said are “functional and elegant,” she also gave me some valuable, “constructive feedback.” sitka-servicesShe told me that she wasn’t completely clear when we started that the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done package was just a session and not a complete website project.

I was really glad that I took the time to listen to her feedback and I’ve already incorporated her suggestions by positioning the “1-to-1” offer more distinctly, as she suggested. I explained on the “1-to-1” offer page that this session is a way to build a “foundation” for your website and be empowered to move forward on your own. That much I can promise. A complete website in three hours, I can not promise. 😉

I took that input, updated the offer page and then went a extra step by creating a new 3-column chart that’s now featured on my website’s “Website Design Services” page.

A New Chart to Visualize the Differences

web-design-development-options-chartNow, hopefully, thanks to this chart, people can quickly and easily understand the differences between the various ways that we are now serving up new client websites.

Truthfully, for me, doing this chart was also useful because I’ve been experimenting by developing this offers and they needed to be more clearly articulated.

Now, as these new approaches to website design and development have become successful in terms of completing both sessions and projects (please see our new Squarespace website design portfolio page for examples), and, as I’m seeing 1-to-1 Get-It-Done clients complete their own websites, my whole experience with Squarespace has become more and more satisfying.

In fact, it’s become downright enjoyable!

And that’s the bottom line: I love sharing my expertise and being hands on. Doing these projects and sessions have given me a new way to be helpful and one that is empowering for clients. Yay!

Yes, Squarespace has made web design fun again.

How Small Businesses Can Save $1,000’s on Websites Using Squarespace vs WordPress

Time is Money and So Is the Right Technology

The Truth About Websites-videoframeWhen it’s time for a new website or a redesign, suddenly there are some serious differences to consider when choosing the platform. Specifically, WordPress is no longer a no brainer.

I want what’s best for you, and so I research and test technologies so you don’t have to. Websites are a core component of my business, so I especially stay on top of website design platforms in order to offer you the best options.

“I know that I can count on you 100% to know the latest and greatest marketing communications technologies… You know what’s over-hyped and what’s for real… We trust you to lead us in that way.”
– Randy Haldeman, CEO, Code-N

After a very successful run with WordPress, now—for smaller businesses where simplification can save tons of money, time, and aggravation—I am now recommending Squarespace over WordPress.

I want you to understand why. So, I’m doing Free Webinar on the advantages of Squarespace over WordPress. It’s coming up this Thursday, May 28th at 10am PT. Please click here to register or continue reading. This blog post and the a personal video invitation below—as well as the webinar—include more details.

Free Webinar Registration

The savings for small businesses by using Squarespace rather than WordPress are not only direct costs, but also significant reductions in wasted time and technical hassles. The benefits of Squarespace include beautiful templates that are always responsive, a smaller learning curve, and a more efficient work flow, especially if you don’t want to always be dependent on a web designer or developer. Here’s your video invitation:

The “Done-With-You” Revolution

Plain and simple, Squarespace has helped me to help more people in a way that’s more fun, more efficient and more collaborative. While anyone can use Squarespace in Do-It-Yourself mode—and there’s nothing wrong with that—it has also enabled me to offer 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Websites that are literally one-half the cost of our WordPress customizations (which we still do for larger organizations with more complex needs).

“I’m very pleased with the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website session that I did with Jon Leland at ComBridges. In less than the time it takes to play a round of golf, we had my new website designed and published… Prior to this session, I had wasted many hours over a couple of months trying to update my website. I finally reached out to Jon and in just one afternoon, he saved me a ton of time, money and effort.”
— Jim Draper, President, Draper Creative Group

We call this kind of collaboration a Done-With-You service vs the more traditional Done-For-You type of service which takes considerably more time—for both the client and the vendor—as well as more money. Please click here if you want to learn more about how this service works.

How Squarespace is Different & Why This Matters

Squarespace brings together a lot of features that I’ve been looking for in a website design platform, all in one compact, hosted package that provides everything most small businesses need with almost none of the hassle. Some of the features and benefits of Squarespace that I’ll be explaining and showing in more detail during the Free Webinar include:

  • Elegant, beautiful, modern templates that are on a par with the best of WordPress.
  • All templates in the latest version of Squarespace are mobile-friendly and the responsiveness doesn’t break when you customize pages.
  • Because it’s a closed system, maintenance could not be simpler. Upgrades are built in. No plug-ins. No getting hacked. No unexpected expenses.
  • The system is user-friendly so that almost anyone can learn quickly to make their own website updates.
  • Squarespace provides 24×7 support via chat and fast-turnaround email.
  • There are an impressive array of built-in, highly-customizable features including:
    • Response forms
    • Video and audio embeds
    • Animated picture galleries
    • Editable social media icons
    • And more

And all of this is provided without having to research and shop for plug-ins and without needing to worry about possible plug-in conflicts that can be an issue with WordPress when you install and/or upgrade.

If you want to understand these benefits better, I hope you will click here to register for free for the webinar where I will explain all of this and show you as much as possible via on-screen video demos—all in less than a half hour.

Free Webinar Registration

“Who knew that creating a new website could be so fast, easy, affordable and fun? Jon is a master of all things internet, and he brings a warm and enthusiastic spirit of partnership and creativity. If you are looking for help designing a quick new website, look no further.”
— Dara Ackerman, singer-songwriter

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to follow up with me in ways other than the webinar, here are some options:

You Taught Me Well! Valuable Insights from Our Services Survey

First, I read a little ebook called “The Audience Revolution: The Smarter Way to Build a Business, Make a Difference, and Change the World” by Danny Iny. This ebook inspired me to get in closer touch with you, my dear readers, tribe members, followers, and clients.

Services Survey welcome pageSecond, I created a ComBridges Services Survey in order to ask those of you who follow me on social media and/or subscribe to my ComBridges “It’s a Wonderful Web” enewsletter, “How I can serve you better?”.

I’m glad I did because what I learned is extremely valuable!

So, now, here I am sharing those learnings with you and saying a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who participated. You made a big difference. Please allow me to explain…

A Path to a Bigger Difference

I stated on the survey’s welcome page (shown to the right):

“I don’t want to make more noise.
I want to make a bigger difference…
to YOU.”

And I meant it. Even better, it worked. Here are three of the most valuable things I learned:

1. “Online Marketing Mentor” Describes Me Better

The funny thing is that “Online Marketing Mentor” was not something that I was even considering calling myself before I did this survey. JL personnas survey resultUntil last week, I was fond of calling myself a “Humanistic Marketing Wizard.” It was fun while it lasted.

On the marketing consulting side of things, my friend Marty Perlmutter says that I am a “Chief Strategy Officer” (CSO) and I used that to craft my CSO-to-Go offer.

For my more spiritual work, I enjoy calling myself “The Ambassador of Ease.” And so forth.

When I was writing the survey and crafting that question, the idea of “Online Marketing Mentor” just sprang to mind, perhaps because of the group mentoring program, The New Media New Marketing Playground that I ran last winter. It sounded good, so I just casually included it. As you can see from the results image, it’s a clear winner.

Now, with 20-20 hindsight I can see that it’s a much clearer description of what I like to do.

After all, I’m collaborative by nature. So, this descriptor reminded me of what I wrote in a blog post in January about why I like being a small business mentor rather than a “consultant.” It works. I’ve already started changing my social media profiles to reflect this new title.

And, “online marketing mentor” also reflects another important pivot that is already underway in my business. People like the idea of Done-WITH-You Services.

2. It’s More Fun & More Productive When We Create TOGETHER

Recently, I began offering a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” collaborative website design process using Squarespace. Done WITH You Survey ResultsThis was my first experiences of offering a Done-With-You service. It’s been a great experience. It’s more fun and far more efficient for you and for me. Clients have been very pleased. (For example, there are two raving client testimonials in this blog post about the first two Squarespace websites that I produced this way last October.)

So, I was not very surprised when 75% of responders to the survey said they prefer an approach to our services that is either Done-With-You or a combination of Done-With-You and Done-For-You; but I have to say that this is a very valuable encouragement or nudge for me to keep moving in this direction. And, it was an eye-opener to see Done-For-You coming in dead last with only 10%.

3. You Reminded Me That I’ve Been Neglecting LinkedIn

LinkedIn social media prefs surveyAs I told the people in my New Media New Marketing Playground, LinkedIn is the best social media network for B2B (business-to-business) companies. But, to be honest, I haven’t really been walking my talk in that regard.

Now, thanks to the feedback from the survey, it’s clear that I need to be spending more time there. For my people, LinkedIn is a clear second social media preference (after the obvious social media networking leader, Facebook).

And, there were other important results like your preference for “Insights, Resources and Trends” as the kind of information sharing you value most (with “Spirituality in General” coming in a surprising second), and for “Videos or Webinars” as the ways for me to share content online that you find most useful and appealing, among other things.

If you’d like to see more of exactly what the respondents had to say, please click here to view the completely updated results of our survey.

And there’s more!

Beyond all this seriously actionable data, taking steps directed by you, my peeps, tribe, and clients, has also given me new motivation. I feel like I’m learning to build my business in a way that’s more aligned with what people actually need and want. What a concept! 😉

The Audience Revolution is a Seriously Fresh New Mindset

audience rev coverFor this last piece of learning above, I really want to thank Danny Iny for the inspiration of his little book, “The Audience Revolution.” The Audience Revolution is a simple concept that’s really common sense; but one that is very rarely practiced.

Putting the audience first, rather than leading with a product or service that you think they might want is actually kind of radical. I feel like I’ve made a positive step in a very positive direction thanks to the clarity of this book. Further, I appreciate the simplicity of his focus and the fact that he focuses on something that, as I hope you can see from this blog post, can really make a difference.

I Love the TypeForm Survey App

And finally, (in part because you told me you like to learn about new tools and resources) this experiment convinced me that I’ve found an online application for surveys that I love. I was attracted to TypeForm because of the elegance and openness of their designs, but I had never used it before.

Now I’m sold.

Not does it look good, but it’s easy to use, very flexible and has all of the functionalities I could ask for. I really like the variable ways that you can structure questions and the notifications. And, the reports are as elegant as the design templates. For example, here’s a link to a public view of all the results (note, more people have completed the survey since I did the screen grabs above).

There’s lots more for me to explore using TypeForm, for example their Stripe e-commerce and Google Spreadsheet integrations. I look forward to getting to know it better.

All-in-all, this was a very useful experiment and I couldn’t have done it without you! 😉

Thanks again.

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Google SEO Update: Your Website MUST Be Mobile-Friendly & How Squarespace Might Help

Having Your Website Be Mobile-Friendly Is No Longer Optional

I’ve been writing about how important mobile-friendly websites are for almost two years. Between smartphones and tablets, my website is seeing almost 20% of its traffic come from mobile devices. Industry standard is more like 30% and often more. That should be reason enough to make sure that your site is optimized for “the mobile experience.”Mobile-friendly websites are no longer

However, now, there’s another major reason to address this issue. Google has just announced (in a relatively unprecedented manner, i.e. in advance) that within the new search engine algorithm update that’s coming on April 21st, 2015, “we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal… (and it) will have a significant impact in our search results.” 

In other words, beyond not being user-friendly to mobile browsers, your website will very likely LOSE web traffic if it is not mobile-friendly. And, this change in search results will be most dramatic among those searching and finding your website via mobile devices.

But none of us wants to lose ANY visitors, do we?

Are You Ready for Mobile-Friendliness and Mobile Search?

There is no single approach to having your website become mobile-friendly. And, the bad news is that most approaches add cost and complexity. The exception is turnkey systems like Squarespace.

Overall, your approach to mobile-friendliness will vary depending on your website authoring and delivery platform, and this is a moving target that few small businesses understand.

If you are using WordPress, for example, there are themes that are “responsive” which means their layout varies depending on the width of the device being used to view the site. This is a good thing, and that’s the way that our ComBridges.com website is currently done. It works, but there can be complications. For example, when you update content or want to make layout changes of almost any kind, you must consider how those changes will look in mobile. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but if you are committed to WordPress, then for many small businesses, responsive is the way to go.

Another approach is to build your website with “mobile first” within the architecture of its construction using CSS components from the ground up (including a custom theme if you are using WordPress). For example, I’m currently supervising design and production of a website pro bono for a large non-profit and I’m very pleased with the results of this approach. It looks great on mobile and on the desktop, but this approach does add significantly to the cost of the site. And, it’s really only viable for new websites or a complete redesign. Because of their limited resources, few small businesses want to make that kind of investment.

And, some businesses actually do a separate version of their website for mobile viewers, sometimes using a mobile plug-in and sometimes a separate app. While this can optimize “the mobile experience,” this also means maintaining a separate version of the site. So, every time you do an update of any magnitude, you have to update the mobile version; thus, the cost for maintaining this kind of website increases. Again, not so good for small businesses with limited resources.

But, there is a low cost solution that is as bullet-proof as any technology will allow…

Squarespace to the Rescue

Recently, I’ve been doing more and more websites for small businesses using Squarespace. I like the simplicity of the system, the elegance of the templates, and now, mobile-friendliness is another key benefit. As Squarespace explains in this 2013 blog post, Mobile Is a Big Deal… Why Isn’t Your Website?:

“Comprehensive website solutions like Squarespace do all the work for you by providing templates that are designed with beautiful, functional mobile use in mind.”

The trade offs are that there are far fewer templates on Squarespace than there are WordPress themes and not all of the bells and whistles features, but most. So, if you agree with me that the templates that Squarespace does have are elegant and modern, then one advantage that you get is that you know your website is built from the ground up (like a more custom mobile site) with mobile-friendliness in mind. And, as you go forward, you can rest assured (within reasonable limits) that your website updates will not break the template or theme, another blessing of operating within a closed system.

Other Actions You Can Take to Address the Google SEO Update

No matter what approach you decide to take, there’s no doubt in my mind that being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Your organization needs to look good on mobile devices for both mobile browsers and, now, for Google and the other search engines.

No matter how you proceed, I highly recommend you (or your web master) check out this post from Search Engine Land which offers a very practical set of steps you can take to assess and improve your website’s mobile status, starting with a free test. As they say in their post’s title, “Take These 3 Actions To Get Ready For Google’s Mobile Search Update.”

Here’s the “1, 2, 3” bottom line:

  1. Identify & Improve Your Mobile Web Optimization Status including use of Google’s free “Mobile-Friendly Test” tool. Click here to get a mobile-friendly assessment of any webpage.
  2. Assess Your Mobile Web Search Visibility & Traffic Behavior
  3. Establish Your Mobile Web Search Competitiveness & Monitor Your Performance

Tech-savvy details for this kind of evaluation are included in that post.

Done-For-You vs Done-WITH-You

And, for those of you who may not have heard, if you are interested in a Squarespace website, ComBridges is pioneering a collaborative process we call “1-to-1 Get It Done Websites.” It saves money and time. Please click here to learn more about this innovative approach.

And thanks for reading!

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Announcing a New Way to Have Fun & Get Better at Online Marketing

New Media New Marketing PlaygroundIt has been a dream of mine to offer an on-going education and mentoring program, at an affordable price, and to use that to create an online virtual community (or tribe). This dream is now being realized with The New Media New Marketing Playground.

And, because of the very special pricing that I am offering for the first ten people who sign up—and there are only a limited number of slots left—this program is clearly going to get off the ground in September (early sign-ups will get special free programs and early access during August, as well as special pricing). I don’t want you to miss out on these savings and this opportunity. Please click here for more details.

More than ever, I am basing my coaching/consulting/mentoring on my values of ease, fun and authenticity. Thus, I know that if you join us, you will learn how to do marketing with more ease, my enthusiasm will help us all have more fun, and I will support you to connect with your own authentic voice in order to attract and build relationships with your ideal clients via the Web.

So, if you think it would support your online efforts to have a place where someone very knowledgeable, who you trust (you trust me, right?) is available to answer your questions about online marketing technologies and strategies, as well as to share with you what’s new, what’s working, and what mistakes to avoid… and to have this program be very affordable so you can make progress in your business step-by-step and feel good about it, I would love to make myself available to support you via The Playground.

Please click here to explore this offer.

I hope to see you there!

(and, of course, if you know someone who might be interested, please share this page with them; OR if you just want to help me share the love please click one of the abundant share links on this page. Thanks!)

New Video: Authenticity Rant #1, KISS Meets the Meaning Behind Your Brand Messaging

Image via @gapingvoid. Messaage via @briansolis

Image via @gapingvoid. Messaage via @briansolis

Ease. Fun. Authenticity. These three words summarize what I’m about and what differentiates the most important dimensions of how we serve our clients.

Our new focus on these values is a quantum shift for the ComBridges brand. It makes saying “We are a web design company” seem pedestrian. Even my clarity about being “an Internet marketing strategist” pales in comparison to this more meaningful description of what lights me up and what I think makes the biggest difference when I work with people (and their organizations). 

Thus, the video embedded below is  a walking-my-talk-style expression of this commitment to focus on the qualities that are most meaningful to me. At the same time, this short video also includes a strong recommendation that you bring the human qualities of your brand to the forefront of your marketing communications. And, finally, thanks to my partner-in-crime on this Google Hangouts video, Peter Klein, we also underscore why, in today’s media-cluttered world, you need to do this kind of positioning as simply as possible. Not bad for only four minutes, right? 😉

I’ll blog more about this trend toward the human dimensions of marketing communications in the near future; but for now, one addition link that I found valuable recently is Bryan Kramer’s post on Social Media Today, There Is No More B2B or B2C: There Is Only Human to Human (H2H)

If you don’t know, KISS is means Keep it Simple Stupid.  😉 As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and appreciate any sharing or commenting you feel moved to do. Thanks!