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5 Tips for a Successful Website Pre-Production Meeting

Over time, this comprehensive list of questions has proven to be the best way to communicate to your designer how you want your site to look and function.

5 Tips for a Successful Website Pre-Production Meeting 

Before you undertake a website redesign, it will be important to have a pre-production meeting, which will provide the information necessary for your designer to gain a clear picture and understanding of what you want on your website. In the meeting, topics will be discussed such as, the nature of your company, website goals, website likes and dislikes, styles, colors, etc. The thoroughness of the information that you provide will play a significant factor in how happy you are with the final design of your website.

Follow these five steps to help you prepare for your pre-design meeting. Doing so will help the meeting go quickly, smoothly, and will help you get the results you are looking for in your website design.

1. Review all materials provided to you about the meeting.
This meeting is the information-gathering phase of the website design process and is probably the most significant stage in the project. That is why it is so important to be prepared for the initial project discussion. Read over all of the materials(often including a detailed questionnaire)  that have been provided so you can give meaningful input on the information and questions that have been prepared for the initial discussion.

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No Time to Stall When it Comes to B2B Web Redesign

You should feel a serious sense of urgency to get your website and your B2B SEO in shape

Despite continued uncertainty about industry-related federal policies, news out this month from the Institute for Supply Management indicates that manufacturing continues to grow.

In fact, the institute reported that U.S. manufacturing expanded in February at its fastest pace since August 2014. And it doesn’t look like a fluke. The February increase extends a six-month trend of improving numbers.

But what does this have to do with B2B SEO and website design? Plenty.

As the scene continues to heat up, manufacturers – including your customers and prospects – are going to be looking for the goods and services they need to keep up with the growing demand. Does your company have a website and internet marketing program set to capitalize on these trends?


This is a good time to take a long, hard look at your corporate website to find an answer to that question. For starters, does your site:

  • Provide the right message to prospects and clients?
  • Offer accurate, up-to-date information on products and services?
  • List your company’s address, phone number and email clearly and correctly?
  • Include contact forms that work – and go to the right people?

Lastly, would you want to do business with a company that has a website like this?

If you can answer yes to all of those questions, good for you. Your next step is to see if you’ve got the proper SEO in place to bring in new, qualified prospects. Again, a few simple questions will do the trick. Do you know:

  • The number of visitors that reach your website via the search engines?
  • The most important search terms (and phrases) that prospects use to find your products and services?
  •  Your current search engine ranking for each of those terms?

Is each page of your website optimized to rank well on one or more of those terms?

And, again, if the answer is yes to all of those questions, good for you.  Now, you can gear up your content marketing and link building to keep your website ranking well and pulling in new leads.

Ahhh, there’s the rub. Do you have a content marketing and link building program in place? Do you know the most effective strategies to successfully develop such a program?

Don’t feel bad if the answer is “no” to this or to any of the earlier questions. With company employees spread thin and wearing many hats, it’s easy to forget about SEO and internet marketing.

While you don’t need to feel bad, you do need to feel a serious sense of urgency to get your website and your B2B SEO in shape to take advantage of the potential for increased demand.

Not only is manufacturing growing, but so is the number of B2B marketers relying on the search engines as a source of new leads. According to the 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing Report, 63 percent of survey participants indicated that organic search topped their lists as a leading channel for revenue growth.

You can bet those respondents are getting their corporate websites and SEO plans in order. And your company will need to as well or get left in the dust by those better prepared to capitalize on improving manufacturing conditions.

The most effective way to not get left behind is to find a B2B SEO and website company that can help you create the right Internet marketing program to reach your prospects. You’ll want to look for a company that has a proven track record, experience in your industry and the knack for listening to and meeting your needs, not pigeon-holing you into a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you’re ready to build a website and B2B SEO program geared to your company’s success, contact Pilot Fish today by submitting this simple form or by calling 877-799-9994 ext. 2102.

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A Better User Experience = Better B2B SEO

Pages with infinite scroll present a fatal flaw when it comes to B2B SEO.

As we’ve mentioned from time to time, this is not your father’s B2B SEO.

Search engine algorithms and SEO practices have changed dramatically over the years, and “just” having good content is no longer enough.

One of the major changes is the fact that the way people interact with your website now affects how the site itself is ranked by the search engines.

Search engines, Google in particular, have begun using “engagement” as a secondary factor that influences a page’s search engine ranking for any specific term.

Search engines usually measure engagement by how long a search engine user stays on a particular page. If someone clicks on a link and then clicks immediately back to the list of results, the search engines assume the page didn’t provide the required information and view that page as having lower engagement. If someone clicks on a link and stays on the page before returning to the search engine, that page is seen as being more useful and having better engagement.

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Is it Time for a Review of Your CMS-based Website?

To get the most out of your CMS, it is wise to upgrade when updates are available.

If your website is controlled by a content management system (CMS) and you are making the edits yourself, you might want to occasionally have your web developer review the site to make sure you are on the right track. Doing so can positively impact the overall appearance, and the performance, of your website.

Here are the items that you should have your website developer review and why.

Content

If you’ve previously had your website optimized by and SEO expert, you’ll want to take care when editing the text on your site that you don’t change or overwrite any optimized content. A review of your site will help your SEO consultant determine whether your website pages are performing as planned on Google or whether additional work to meta tags or content should be done to bring your site’s SEO up to the latest standards.

Graphics

Without the eye for detail that a professional graphic designer has, it’s possible that over time, DIY changes to images and graphics on your site can impact the design integrity. Your website designer can help you regain balance of site elements and make sure the image treatments (such as borders, margins, sizes, proportions, color treatments, etc.) are consistent throughout the site.


Navigation

Adding, moving or deleting pages within a CMS can affect more than just navigation buttons. It’s good to review your site periodically to make sure that internal navigational links all still point to live pages and that your site navigation is still working properly throughout the site. 

Links

Have your site reviewed for broken links, missing graphics, videos, PDFs, etc., that may have occurred along the way. The site will should be reviewed for any missing target tags, which are useful in keeping visitors on your site for a longer period of time.

Typography

Consistency in typography builds trust with site visitors. Your designer will check for, and repair, any inconsistencies in fonts, font sizes, font colors, and, font treatments.

Responsive Design

When edits or upgrades are made, sometimes the responsive design can be affected. A review of the responsive design can flag any coding mishaps that could jeopardize the appearance of your site on other devices.

Latest CMS Upgrades and Testing

To get the most out of your CMS, it is wise to upgrade when updates are available. (Upgrading will help with the security of your site, giving you the best possible protection against hackers. Upgrades can also supply you with new features and technologies for your CMS, which will help you to maximize the value of your CMS investment.) Your web developer can install these CMS upgrades for you. The frontend and backend of the site will be examined for any errors or glitches that the upgrade might have caused so these issues can be addressed and resolved in a timely manner.

While going through the review and edit process with your developer, it’s also a good time to make updates to the things that you are unable to edit, or just don’t have time to edit, yourself, such as, headers, sliders, footers, or, any other parts of the CMS framework.

For assistance with your website design, contact Pilot Fish or call 877-799-9994 ext. 2102.

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Effective Website Design: Use Motion to Create Visual Expression

Less is definitely more when it comes to any type of animation or movement

Attracting visitors to your website can sometimes be a challenge. Keeping them there can be even more of a challenge. Luckily, these days, there are a lot of effective website design techniques available that can help to not only attract visitors, but to keep visitors interested and engaged in your message and what you have to offer.

One effective website design technique that can help interest and retain visitors is the use of motion. Below are some techniques that can be used to create motion, bring energy to your site, make it more enticing for visitors to engage in and make it more memorable.

Sliders
An image slider is a fantastic, eye-catching way of getting a lot of visual information into a limited amount space. Instead of only having one image and tagline to showcase your products or services, your website design can feature a creative, interactive, frame by frame animation to help tell your story and direct site visitors to various important sections of your site.

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Google’s Move to Mobile-First Rankings Affects 2017 SEO Strategy

Mobile-friendliness is now part of Google’s complex SEO algorithm

It’s a mobile-first world now – whether you actually use your own phone for web searches or not – and your B2B website needs to adjust to today’s reality if you hope for SEO success in 2017.

When the Internet was new, there were only desktop computers, and so all the search engines viewed and ranked websites based on how they looked and operated on a desktop computer.

But now, with most Google searches being performed on mobile devices, Google has decided to begin viewing websites from a mobile perspective, meaning all searches, even those performed on desktop computers, will return results that prioritize sites built in responsive design. 

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Like Trade Shows, SEO Only Works if You’re There

The virtual trade show is Google, and SEO works to position your site in the main aisle.

While discussing 2017 marketing budget planning with a prospective client, he asked me to help him come up with a compelling argument to present his management for why search engine optimization (SEO) for Google is so important.

The answer came to me while meeting with a company at a tradeshow recently. 

“What would your boss say if you suggested that your company not exhibit at any tradeshows?” I asked.  The answer seemed pretty obvious.  “We have to be here.  All our competitors are here, our customers expect us to be here, and we generate new leads among prospective customers.”

The follow-up question, for those who manage trade shows for their companies, also seemed fairly obvious: “Does it make a difference where your booth is at the show?  What if it were in that far corner in the back, would that impact the number of leads you get?”

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Custom Website Designs vs. CMS Design Templates

Custom designs are built from the ground up and around your company’s exact needs, specifications, and branding.

When it’s time for a web site redesign, one of the decisions your company may need to make is whether to use a CMS design template or create a custom website design.

A CMS design template is a generic website design that is typically available at little cost to enable businesses to easily and quickly build and launch a new website.

It can be tempting to choose the inexpensive route of a CMS website template. There are many popular sites where you can download and install a template and have your website up and running in a relatively short period of time.

Generally speaking, these CMS templates are easy to use, require minimal effort to set up and are offered at little to no price. Although this might be the right choice for some, it is well worth evaluating the valuable benefits of a custom website design, especially if it is within your budget.

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6 Tips for Sending Images to Your Website Designer

Be sure to name and organize your files in a folder structure that exactly reflects your website outline or site map

Many of the website design projects that we produce are time-sensitive to our clients. The sooner the site is live, the better. One way you, as a client, can help in keeping your website design project moving along quickly is by following these 6 tips for sending images to your website designer.

  1. Use a remote server to share your image files
    If you are using a shared, remote server, such as, cloud computing, Dropbox, or any other FTP tool – this is ideal. Here, images and image folders can be seen and discussed by both you and your designer in a common, and always up-to-date, environment throughout the entire design process. If the information is well organized, your designer can quickly access the files and there will be little to no guessing about where the images should be placed on your website.
  2. When using a remote server, be sure to name and organize your files in a folder structure that exactly reflects your website outline or site map. See the simplified example below for reference.



    In each of the subfolders, include the images that will go on the corresponding page. 

     

    It’s understandable that not all images will be available at the same time. As additional images become available, just upload those files to the remote server in the proper folder and let your designer know which new images have been provided.
     
  3. Name your files in an intuitive, descriptive way
    Avoid using generic, meaningless image file names, or, image names that have been assigned by a digital camera. Instead, use descriptive file names that leverage keywords used on your site for SEO.

    Incorrect:
    D00317.jpg
    D00318.jpg
    D00319.jpg

    Correct: 
    seo-company-building.jpg
    ohio-seo-company.jpg
    tennessee-seo-company.jpg
     
  4. Follow the rules of acceptable file naming

    Rule 1: No caps

    Incorrect:
    SEO-COMPANY-BUILDING.JPG

    Correct:
    seo-company-building.jpg

    Rule 2: No spaces

    Incorrect:
    seo company building.jpg

    Correct:
    seo-company-building.jpg


    Rule 3: No special characters

    Do not use characters such as: " < > # % { } | \ ^ ~ [ ] `.

    Incorrect:
    product-#3x001.jpg

    Correct:
    product-number-3x001.jpg

  5. Provide a document indicating any image captions and/or special instructions
    If you are including captions with your images, please provide a document with the image name and corresponding caption. If you have any additional notes or instructions, please include those as well. This information could be provided in a simple word document with specifications that reflect the sample “About Us” page information below:

    ABOUT US
    Image name:
     seo-company-building.jpg
    Caption: Our corporate headquarters, built in 1974, is located in Akron, Ohio.
    Notes: This image is very important to us. Please place it in a prominent position near the top of the page.

     
  6. If you are sending images via email, provide a descriptive email subject line
    Sending images via email is OK, but not ideal. Usually, designers like high resolution images to work with, but, because of large file sizes, will limit the number of images that can be sent through each email. Usually, the images have to be sent one, or only a few at a time, which could eventually become tedious and time consuming to sift through. But, there will be times when emailing an image could be the only available method. If this is the case, please be sure to use a descriptive subject line and detailed message so your designer can easily determine the nature and placement of the images in the email.

    Incorrect:
    Email subject line: Attached is a new image for the website

    Email message: Please use this in place of the image that I sent last week.

    Correct:
    Email subject line: Your Company Name | Website redesign | Replacement corporate headquarters building image for “About Us” page

    Email message: Please use the attached, updated image in place of “seo-company-building.jpg”, which I emailed on 08/03/16.

Following these tips will:

  1. Save time for your web design company, which will keep your project moving along much faster;
  2. Save you time by requiring less back-and-forth communication between you and your website designer or project manager and fewer questions for you to answer.

Ready to start your website redesign? Contact Pilot Fish or call 877-799-9994 ext. 2102 for a quote or more information.

 
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Maintaining the Integrity of Your B2B Website Design

The amount of time that a B2B website takes to make an impression on a visitor could only be an instant.

B2B companies serious about using their websites as a marketing/sales tool need to ensure that their website design presents a professional appearance that fits the personality and communication style of the business. The best way to do that is to entrust your B2B website design into the talented hands of a professional web designer -- who can interpret the design needs of your business based on a review of your marketing materials and discussion with key decision makers -- rather than someone who will slap your text and images on a common WordPress template.

Below are the factors that a professional website designer will consider as they create your new B2B website.   

The Perfect Design for Your B2B Website

Graphic designers are always striving for perfection. They obsess over the color, size and placement of every component of every design down to the last pixel. They can work on designs for hours, days, weeks, or even longer, but still continue to want to make improvements. They will continually move elements around the page to make the design just a little bit better, a little more balanced, a little bit more organized, or to get that alignment just right.

The amount of time that a B2B website takes to make an impression on a visitor could only be an instant. Subconsciously, we notice perfection, or imperfections, of which we are not even aware. It is the job of your designer to pay attention to all of those subtleties and to create a design that is as flawless as possible. The professionalism of your website and brand depends on it.

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The Time for Responsive Web Design is Now

You may delay,
but time will not.”
– Ben Franklin

Technology does not move in reverse. So, if you still haven’t made the transition to responsive web design, now is the time. Even if you are happy with your current website design, responsive design is imperative by today’s standards. You can stick with the same look and feel, but your site will have to be modified to work under a new grid structure.

Here are some reasons you shouldn’t wait any longer to make the transition:

  • Google prefers responsive design. Your SEO results could, and probably will, suffer without it. 
  • Mobile users are still continuing to grow in number. Device flexibility will give your site a much larger audience.
  • Mobile users have grown to expect responsive sites and can lose patience with sites that are not. They could give up and look to your competitors instead.
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Internet Changes Challenge Sites to be Better

If you are not adhering to best practices or if your site is not up to date on the latest requirements, then your site will be penalized.

 “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” - Heraclitus


Well, isn’t that the truth? When looking back over the years, change has certainly been the only constant in every aspect of the web and Internet marketing. Not only has there been continuous change in appearance, technology, SEO practices and device platforms, but many of these developments have happened relatively quickly.  

Sometimes, keeping up with these changes can become overwhelming because successful Internet marketing is such a moving target, which often leads to additional costs and time investments. But, one thing that has been proven over time is that through all of this change, good things have happened. Internet marketing has evolved for the better and has become an invaluable and necessary tool for conducting business.

So, what are some of these changes? What are the benefits? And, why is it so important to embrace change?

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Avoid These 12 Mistakes to Ensure B2B SEO Success for Your Company

All too often, web site owners are their own worst enemies when it comes to SEO

Last week’s blog post related an incident when a client pointed out a minor fluctuation in its rankings for a specific search term and asked “Who’s beating us?”

In that instance, the answer was “Nobody’s beating you.”

But … honestly … sometimes the answer is “You’re beating you.”

All too often, web site owners are their own worst enemies when it comes to SEO and lead generation.  A site owner’s inaction and poor decisions can hurt search rankings much more than any competitor’s aggressive SEO plan.

Here are the top mistakes to avoid so you can become your company’s SEO hero – not its downfall.

Discounting the importance of a corporate web site or Internet marketing in general. Gone, gone, gone are the days when a good print ad and a hearty handshake would gain your company new customers. As documented in previous blog posts, today’s industrial buyers rely on vendors’ web sites to provide the information they need to make critical purchase decisions.

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Content Marketing for Engineers: The Converging Needs of Buyers and Sellers

Marketing surveys of industrial buyers and sellers show that content marketing is the key to bringing them together online.

There’s good news for industrial companies using their websites to generate leads. Two recent marketing research reports of buyers and two surveying sellers show a convergence in what industrial sellers want to happen with their websites and what industrial buyers look for when using the web for business-related buying. The common thread: Content.

What Sellers Want

In an Engineering.com survey of more than 100 engineering marketers, 44.4% of the companies surveyed said the biggest marketing challenge of 2016 is “needing more leads.”  Other challenges cited included:

When asked what their top marketing priorities are for 2016, 61% of the industrial companies said “lead generation” and 55% said “branding/awareness.”

Similarly, the Ascend2 2016 State of Digital Marketing report found that for 58% of the company’s surveyed, the most important digital goal this year is “increased lead generation,” followed by 48% who said “increase conversion rate,” and 44% who said “improve brand awareness.”

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Solidify Your Brand with Professional Social Media Sites

No matter which platform you are on, casual or not, meaningful content can be overlooked if your brand identity is weak.

We all know that having a professional appearance is an important part of a marketing strategy that can help build credibility and trust with customers while distinguishing a company from its competitors. This aspect of branding should resonate throughout all areas of marketing, including social media. Establishing continuity across all marketing platforms is challenging, but can be accomplished with the proper use of professional photography, color and consistency in style.

It seems that many companies are on board with maximizing the appearance of their social media sites, but it is surprising that there are still some companies out there that aren’t taking advantage of such a considerable opportunity for fully and suitably promoting their brand. Although social media is often a conversational, casual and informal platform, it does hold a very significant weight in current marketing strategies that should not be taken lightly, and the appearance of these sites should not be neglected.

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Why Cheap Website Hosting Costs More than You Think

Companies that choose the cheapest hosting providers can expect to pay for those savings in the form of lost potential business.

As a company that provides full-service web site design, development and search engine optimization services, it’s not uncommon for industrial businesses that have asked for a quote to want proceed with the core services we offer but scoff at website hosting.

After all, a buck is a buck, and if a company can save $20 or $30 a month by hosting it with a cheap national provider, why wouldn’t they do that?

From our 20 years of experience of saving clients from themselves, here’s a few reasons why:

1. Site Security and Maintenance – Hosting your site with an inexpensive hosting provider really only works if you have your own experienced, internal technical staff to keep up with the regular requirements of site software updates, security patches and other maintenance issues.

Sites built with common open-source Content Management Systems like WordPress and Joomla, regularly need to be checked for updates that fix bugs and protect sites from newly discovered vulnerabilities. A cheap hosting provider won't track notices issued by trade publications or software companies warning of possible issues that could impact your website (like this: http://www.thesempost.com/wordpress-plugin-admin-backdoor/) or provide technical assistance to keep your site up-to-date with the latest versions of your website or blog software.

Additionally, site performance issues caused by incompatibilities between the site’s CMS and server software can become a big headache to troubleshoot and fix since you won’t have access to or knowledge of the exact setup of the server your site is on. This can lead to many hours of a valuable technician’s time, which eats up any expected cost savings.

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Your Website Redesign Begins with Research

Looking at other industry sites will give you a more vast selection of tone, style and design.

When designing or redesigning a website, it might seem overwhelming or difficult to articulate the details of how you would like your site to look. So, how do you describe the appearance of something that doesn’t exist? The easiest way to do this is through research and communication. Finding bits and pieces of elements that you like or dislike and providing your designer with this information is the first step to getting the look and functionality that you want in your website. Once you communicate these findings, your designer will assess all of your input and will produce a unique design to fit your company’s needs.

So, where should you begin?

1. Review your competitors’ sites.
Do you see something that gives other companies in your industry a competitive advantage or edge over your company? Do you like the way the information is presented on any of these sites? Is this done through the use of good photography, colors, fonts, or, all of the above? Or, do you hate everything about a particular site? Understanding your dislikes can be just as important as understanding your likes. Is the site difficult to navigate? Is there too much information on a page? Or, is the site perfect and you would really like to figure out a way to surpass the demonstration of quality with the innovativeness of your own website?

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SEO Planning Saves Your Company Time and Money

Let me give you a good piece of SEO advice: learn from other peoples’ mistakes.

Yes, I do sound more like my mother every day. But that’s not the point.

The point is that Pilot Fish has been spending a good bit of time lately – and, even more to the point, our clients have been paying a good bit of their hard-earned cash lately – to fix problems that could have easily been avoided.

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Keep Your Website Redesign Project on Track and within Budget

Problem: Not getting back with your web design company in a timely manner 

Solution: Be accessible.
Designing a website is a team effort and requires a lot of back-and-forth communication between the client and the design company. To keep your project on track and to secure your place in the production schedule, respondto questions, requests for materials and feedback, and gather approvals on your end in a timely manner.

Problem: Including decision-makers too late in the process, or not at all.

Solution: Involve all decision-makers early in the process and get feedback and approvals for design concepts and content before programming begins. Don’t sign off on design concepts until all important decision-makers have reviewed and agreed. Anyone and everyone that has an impact on the launch of the website should be involved throughout the ENTIRE process. Please do not sign off on any step unless you have gotten the go-ahead from each of these individuals. Not reviewing the design with all of the decision-makers almost always results in complex late-stage edit requests which have proven to be one of the most costly mistakes a client can make. For instance, if the nature of the edit requires a change in the structure of the site, the request could cost thousands to implement. These late-stage changes will undoubtedly throw your project off schedule and off budget.

Problem: Changing out images/sliders/headers

Solution: Know ahead of time which images you would like to use for all areas of the site.

Be specific about which images you would like to include on your website andassign those images to individual pages. Know that design work goes into editing each image and takes time to complete. If approved images have already been edited, cropped, uploaded and incorporated into the site, having to later replace those images could result in additional costs. The same is true, even more so, for header images and sliders, which are often custom-designed and could take a significant amount of time to recreate.

You can avoid having to swap out images late in the process by making careful image choices prior to the start of the design. Also, consult with your web designer about whether the images that you are considering are of a high enough quality to use on your website, or, whether you should hire a photographer for more professional-looking images.

Be sure to discuss your image choices with all of the parties involved in the website design before submitting those to the designer.

Problem: Late-stage design changes

Solution: Don’t sign off on designs prematurely.
This is one of the most crucial and costly mistakes that I have seen clients make. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to request all design edits before the site has reached the programming stage. So, that means, you will need to submit all of your final design edits before signing off on any design approvals. If you have officially signed off on the design, edit requests from this point on will most-likely affect the structure and programming of the design (and of the responsive design), which are often very costly. (Most minor text edits do not apply, unless they are part of an image, or affect the overall structure of the page.)

Problem: Waiting to review content till it’s on the website

Solution: Whether you write your own website content or have your web design/SEO firm write it, it’s important to have your company’s decision makers review and approve the content prior to building the site. Although most text changes are easy to make after the site has been built, some content may be incorporated into more complex graphics or website features that can be costly to edit later. Legal reviews should occur at the time the content has been written or early in the website review process so that the launch date isn’t impacted by waiting for a lawyer to give his/her blessing.  

For assistance in planning your company’s website redesign, contact Pilot Fish at 877-799-9994 ext. 2104.

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Industrial SEO: Does your Website Content Appeal to Your Industrial Buyers?

The answer is quite simple: Industrial purchases typically present a longer sale cycle and the buyers need more detail.... In other words: Images compel, content sells.

Over that last several years there’s been an apparent shift in website design from a traditional text-driven layout to a more image-heavy format.   I guess many are buying into the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. 

People love pictures!  This strategy works great for consumer-based websites, where consumers buy with emotion, the brand is well known, the sale is just a click away or a quick drive to the nearest big box retailer.

So why are industrial and manufacturing companies failing with this new design approach?  The answer is quite simple: Industrial purchases typically present a longer sale cycle and the buyers need more detail.  Images as the main selling feature work best for consumer-oriented sales.  

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