During this surreal time, most of us are hunkered down at home, washing our hands repeatedly and practicing social distancing (#stayhome). Staying indoors may be our reality for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some of that down time to keep busy and work on your business. Most especially, your website.
We’ve put together a list of DIY — that’s “do it yourself,” for those wondering — easy options for updating your website and upgrading your online presence.
Google My Business
You’ve probably seen the business and location information that Google displays alongside search results. A lot of times this is the information that visitors take note of before even they notice your regular search result. This information is driven by a service called “Google My Business,” and in setting up a profile you can gain control over that information and tie it to your website.
Signing up for a free Google My Business account gets you control over what is displayed in that area and will help you stand out in search results (including via Google Maps). It also gives customers multiple ways to connect with you (phone, messaging or by leaving reviews).
Local Schema is specific data about your business (business name, location, hours, etc.) that can be hidden in the code of your site; it helps search engines understand your site as a local business.
For those with WordPress websites, this data can be added to your site via a plugin. There are many free options out there to choose from: just Google “local schema plugin” and make sure to look for one that has been around for a while and has strong positive reviews. Here’s a free one you could try: WP SEO Structured Data Schema.
Some premium (paid) plugin options we like are Schema Pro and SEOPress Pro. Schema Pro is currently $79 a year, while SEOPress is currently $39 a year which could be a more affordable option because you can use it for both local schema and search engine optimization (especially if you plan to do your own SEO).
Or, if you’ve got enough on your plate and don’t want to mess with the coding of your site, 9 Planets Design is happy to do it for you! If that’s something you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to contact us — we offer a special deal for clients who want us to do the installation.
It’s springtime at last — how about a little spring cleaning for your website? Take some time to go over the main pages of your website with fresh eyes. Here are some things to look for:
- Any content that seems out of date
- Pages that you don’t use anymore that could be eliminated
- Text copy and/or images that can be adjusted or refreshed
- Links that need updating
- Buttons that go to an old or incorrect page
- Blog posts that are no longer relevant
- Anything that seems confusing or leads customers down a proverbial rabbit hole instead of giving them clear actions to take
As you look over each element, consider: is everything on your site useful, informative and engaging? Is the main message of your website clear and immediately noticeable?
As you’re able, update each of these elements.
As you look over your site during the above Website Assessment, take a good look over the messaging throughout your website and consider ways to connect more with your customers. Some things to think about:
- Who are your prime customers?
- What are their most essential needs and pain points?
- How does your business and its services or products help those customers with those issues?
Read through your web copy and calls to action (whether a banner message, a form, or a big button saying “Contact Us” or “Sign Up,” etc.) and analyze whether they clearly provide information that your customers can understand, and make sure you offer specific, direct actions for them to take.
Does your website have an SSL certificate (which turns your site into one that starts with https:// instead of http://)? Without one, Google won’t give your site priority in search results and may even label your site as “not secure.” An SSL certificate also helps visitors have more confidence in your site, even if you don’t handle payments on site.
How can you get a certificate? Check with your hosting company — most provide one for free with your hosting account, so you should check with your host to see what they offer.
Ask them if your account already has an SSL certificate and if your site needs to be upgraded in order to use one (this varies from host to host, depending on the type of account you have). They may be able to set it up for you, for a small fee.
If you sell products online, you may want to get a paid SSL certificate instead of a free one, for added insurance coverage.
Learn to Do-It-Yourself
If you’ve got free time on your hands and like to learn, you can always try out some tutorials that will help you get to know the ins and outs of your website even better. For example…
You could search for WordPress 101 tutorials and test them out. There are many options available — WPBeginner offers a ton of helpful, free articles with clear steps to follow.
If you’re looking for something more organized and in-depth and don’t mind paying a membership fee for it, WP101 has over 250 videos with thorough instructions for topics ranging from WordPress to WooCommerce and Yoast SEO. Plus, right now WP101 has a 30% off special going on, so it might be well worth considering! It’s a great deal because they update their videos every time WordPress updates, so you get the most current instructions. You also get access to their forums (when you are a member) and can ask how-to questions, and they will answer them. For people who want to DIY but need help, it could be a good deal.
Or, if you’re a 9 Planets Hosting client, check out the videos that come built into your website. You’ll find them in the left-hand sidebar when you first log into your website dashboard — look for the option labeled Video Tutorials. (This is a service we started installing within the last few years, so if you’re one of our hosting customers and you don’t see them in your dashboard, just email us to see if we can install them on your site.)
Another option to explore: WordPress came out with a new content editor called Gutenberg. It’s meant to make the process of content creation simpler & more intuitive, with advanced formatting and layout options that don’t require extra coding. It’s also good for blog posts if you want to create columns of content without installing a page builder.
If you want to give it a go, check out the test page that WordPress set up on their site: https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/
Free Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training
Want to master practical search engine optimization skills for all aspects of SEO, get practical tips to rank higher in search results and get more visitors or sell more online?
Currently, the team behind the popular plugin Yoast SEO is offering free all-around SEO training to help you optimize both your technical setup and your content. They provide tips you can immediately implement to help improve your rankings in search results, and cover all aspects of SEO so you can do the basics yourself and build a solid technical SEO foundation on your website.
Explore Social Media
If you usually connect with your customers in person but your storefront is temporarily on lockdown, this might be an excellent time to explore social media, especially Facebook and Instagram for business folks. These are communities where your customers likely already spend time and are an excellent way to quickly reach out to customers and let them know what’s going on with your business. Posting a quick text message or Facebook Live video, or adding an Instagram Story, is a quick way to say hi and keep connected.
If you already collect customer email addresses, simply emailing your customers to let them know the current situation with your business is also a great way to stay in contact. Let them know if you’re still open, or if you’re temporarily closed but still available for remote deliveries or online shipments, or send them a note just to say hey, how’s it going, we’re here for you, and include important links your customers may need — especially if they have questions about shipments, where to contact your customer services department, or what link to go to for online purchases, etc. Consider it an online “care package” of info your customers may find very useful at a time when they can’t go out and directly purchase from you or get your services in person.
Zoom, Bluejeans, Go To Meeting, and more — video conferencing isn’t just for corporations anymore! These are fantastic tools to help families, friends, businesses and organizations of all sizes to connect face to face in times like these when it can be difficult and downright dangerous to do so in person.
These tools are relatively inexpensive ways to connect one-on-one or as a group and are becoming vital for businesses to maintain availability for both clients and staff. You hear about non-profits, churches, gaming groups, families, book clubs, coffee clutches and many others these days that are Zooming their get-togethers with great success.
These are a few ways you can keep your website up-to-date and amp up your online presence. Let us know if you have any questions or need any help! In the meantime, we hope you stay safe and healthy.