The site was designed to promote and sell a novel wipe to clean up dogs on the go. Mucky paws or worse can be easily cleaned up with these oversized wipes that come individually packaged.
We created a very appealing look feel for this site…who doesn’t love a sweet puppy and sprinkled the excellent product testimonials throughout. The order processing is carried out by bodywipecompany.com (who distribute the product) and to ensure consistency between the two site we used a similar color palette and layout. The coupon and chat functionality across both site is also identical.
A custom blog was also created for the site for product marketing.
Creative in Chicago started life on the Blogger platform in September 2010. It that time it has seen amazing growth with monthly traffic regularly reaching 60K hits and a good steady revenue from advertising. While Blogger is a fantastic platform it does have it’s limitations and it was time to take to the site to the next level and convert it to a self hosted WordPress site. With over 340 posts this was no mean feat!
There were two really critical elements to the project.
Maintain all the equity built up with the search engines and across social media platforms. It was important that the urls’s of all the pages remained the same so anyone clicking on a link would be delivered to the correct page and not be met with the dreaded “NOT FOUND” screen.
A staggering 60% of the visits to the site come from mobile devices so it was imperative that mobile users have the best experience possible.
It was also time to give the site a fresh new look so the project also included a redesign element.
The home page now offers a featured project and fantastic photographs are displayed throughout.
And the site has been carefully organized into categories which all give a photo overview and excerpt of each post.
and are easily accessible through a well thought out drop down navigation which converts nicely into a mobile friendly tool for mobile users
The site was launched with zero loss of performance – the traffic is steady and strong and advertising revenues constant.
Little did I know when I started blogging on June 8th 2005, 10 years, 5 months and 3 days (or 3808 days) later, I would still be at it! I have written 651 posts organized into 37 categories…that’s a post about every 6 days.
For the last few years I certainly haven’t been posting with that frequency but when I first started blogging I posted nearly every other day. It really helped get me going, got the search engines interested and brought tremendous traffic to my site. Ultimately traffic led to sales so the time invested in writing was time well spent.
A blog is a Personal PR Machine for your small business. With it you can:
Use it to introduce new services, staff members or even a change of address
Showcase projects or products or even something that just inspires you
Engage with reader though comments
Validate your expertise within your industry
Feed Social Media
Use posts as rich fodder for social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn
Write clever keyword rich posts that the search engines will love
Won an award, got a great client testimonial…shout about it!
If your blog is receiving a decent amount of traffic, embedding Ads can generate revenue.
I am honored that so many of my clients come back to me for repeat work, even moving from St Louis to Chicago 5 years ago ,did not destroy the relationships I have built up.
I have been working with Cynthia Reeg, a St Louis Children’s author, since 2007 and was delighted recently see an announcement that she had got a new book deal for a trilogy. It had been a while since her website had been updated and she contacted me looking to take her site to the next level. She wanted to not only update the content and promote her new book but to have the ability to self manage the entire site and develop a fan base which she could market to. The new site needed to be mobile friendly too
I am always up for a challenge and love it when a client comes to the table with a well thought out list of wants!
Her old site was static based but incorporated a Blogger blog. Moving forward with Blogger was not ideal so the decision was made to move to the WordPress platform as the content management capabilities are far superior. I built a custom responsive template based loosely on the look and feel of her old site (why change it when she was happy with it) and imported all the posts from blogger.
The pages were given a fresh more modern layout and a prominent call to action was include. It encourages readers to sign up for her blog and in return they receive a free writing lesson. The call to action is tied in with an email blast program so her fan list can be easily managed and marketed to.
I received a call today from our client Paper Shower, thrilled to bits, that their website is currently ranking on the much sort after “first page” of Google, for one of the main key phrases we had targeted. Proof is in the ranking and by achieving the elusive “Page One” placement this SEO/SEM project is a 100% success.
Getting there is a complicated process but one of the things that can really help is to write regular blog posts and if you apply some basic SEO (search engine optimization) to those posts you can improve the likelihood that those posts will rank well, even more.
Before writing your blog post decide what key words or key phrase you would like to target, a bit of research can go a long way here (Try a simple Google search or go deeper with Google Adsense analysis tools)
Incorporate your key words or phrases. The trick here is to avoid obvious key word stuffing as you will fail to engage your readers… nobody wants to read a post that is bloated with apparent “junk” A well crafted blog post is a balance of content that will appealing to the reader and to the search engine. Good places to use your keywords/phrases include
Main body copy of blog post
Fields in SEO Plugin
Keywords incorporated into Title and Permalink
Populating SEO Plugin Fields
If your blog post includes images, name them so they include elements of your key phrases and also reflect this keyword rich naming in the alt tag.
We have work with businesses all over the country on web and graphic design projects, but it is especially rewarding working with businesses based in our local vicinity. Our newest client, Paper Shower, is located right here in Lincolnshire IL .
Launched yesterday was a redesigned version of their web site papershower.com
Paper Shower offers a range of unique body wipes which combine a large wet wipe with a dry towelette and are great for active people who are looking to freshen up on the go – bikers, runners, while camping, hiking and traveling or even on the golf course.
There are several reasons for the need to redesign a web site and the old Paper Shower site fulfilled quite a few.
Firstly the site was making the visitors work too hard to understand the product, it was only after clicking through from the home page that the concept of the product having both a wet and dry towelette became obvious.
Secondly, almost no consideration had been made as to who the product was being marketed towards – it was too generic.
Lastly the site was not at all optimized for the search engines, the home page itself was a collection of images and as a whole had very little keyword rich copy. Ranking in the search engines was poor and traffic was minimal despite great PR coverage the product has had over the last few years.
Our Web Re-Design Approach
Understanding the issues facing the old site helped us create a strategy for the re-design and re-launch of the new site.
Any SEO project needs to kick off with a through understanding of the online competition. We took an in depth look at other body wipe websites and our analysis resulted in the compilation a list of favorable key phrases.
We wanted to address several things with the web content
Communicate the uniqueness of the product in a simple format that did not require the user any effort
Engage with the target market of outdoorsy / active people
Add more call to actions to purchase product
Enrich it with target key words and phrase for SEO benefits
We started with the creation of a set of web banners that incorporated the product and an outdoor scenario or an occasion where the product would be useful. Each banner also carried the phrase Wash > Dry > Done, which was elaborated on with keyword rich copy underneath which quickly and easily explained the product.
The home page was updated to include more details of the product range and examples of who may find the product useful. We used video and client testimonials throughout the site for easily digestible communication.
For better engagement with the target audience we created a set of landing pages
There comes a time in the life of every web site when a re-design is in order. This can be driven by a new brand image, making better use of advancing web technologies or simply the need to provide a better organizational structure.
Needing to re-organize was the driving force behind a design shake up of Creative in Chicago, a craft and home decor blog and the outlet for my personal creative endeavors.
When I first started this blog I opted for a quick and easy Blogger template, simply adding a custom header and working with the template designer to add a unique background and set the blog layout. It was fully functional but not the most appealing site in the world, but as I had no idea if it was something I was going to write on a regular basis, I didn’t want to invest a load of time in setting it up.
As it turns out the blog now has over 200 posts with over 30K visitor a month and was in dire need of a shake up, so it underwent a redesign . For regular blogging I generally recommend using WordPress but because I did not want to spend more time than necessary, I decided to stick with Blogger.
During the redesign process I wanted to address
Look and Feel
The overall look and feel of the blog was very bland and I wanted to punch it up a notch but still let the content of the site do most of the talking.
Reorganization/Navigation The posts in the blog had all been categorized but I wanted to refine the categorization process and then use it as a navigational structure, making posts and topics of interest much easier to find.
To enable visitor to quickly scan new content from the home page or a category page I wanted to move from the full post to a summary post format.
Advertising The site receives around 30K visitors a month and I wanted to explore the advertising opportunities available for generate revenue from the site.
Responsive Design Around 20% of the traffic comes via mobile devices so it was important that I provided a site that was optimized for those visitors.
Look/Feel and Readability
In re-designing a site I wanted to keep some semblance of the original site so not to completely alienate my readers with something totally new and unexpected. I kept the background patterns and type face of “Creative in Chicago” the same but completely reworked the header, creating a little more pop with the use of color and simple design elements and also integrated social media icons and RSS feed subscription.
I also moved away from the full post format on the home and category pages. Instead the reader is now offered a summary of each post with an thumbnail picture. It is much easier to see at a glance the content of the site.
Although I had been using categories to define content there lacked a definite structure which I could use as navigational tool. I reassessed and ended up with five main categories : Art – Crafts projects – Decorating – Free Stuff – Garden projects and within these categories I defined a number of sub categories. For example the category Decorating has five sub categories: Before and Afters – Painting – Decorative Accents – Wall Art Ideas- Windows . The navigation bar was reworked to include these main blog categories, with drop down elements for the subcategories. A search bar was also prominently placed. Posts that were buried deep within the blog are now much more accessible.
I decided to incorporate Google Adsense into the site and allotted a spot high on the sidebar for placement. I wanted a position that would work both well for click throughs but not to be too invasive for my readers. I am also experimenting with in-line advertising through infolink. Both are working nicely!
Fortunately Blogger makes this really easy and it is as simple as selecting a pre-made template to display when anyone accesses the site with a mobile device.
A good website is a “living” marketing tool that can evolve to accommodate different approaches to engage with it’s users. Our long standing client, The Rockwood, a St Louis retirement community, understands this and recently asked us to revisit their site and make suggestions on how it could be improved.
The site has now been overhauled so it performs better in the search engines and offers interactions with it’s users through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. We also built them a custom WordPress blog which was seamlessly integrated into the site.
If you have just started blogging, or even been blogging for a while here are a few tips that will make your images more friendly to both the search engines and your site visitors.
Before you upload: Optimize your image
Scale your photographs to the exact dimensions which you wish to use them, don’t rely on your blog to re-size your photos, they will download much faster if they are scaled pre upload.
File size vs quality
Ideally your photographs need to be small in file size but in great quality, large files can take a long time to download frustrating your readers and driving them away.
Most image editing software will allow you to easily optimize you images to be web ready, however if you don’t have access to anything suitable try Pic Monkey . It will allow you to crop re-size and add text and graphic overlays
Rename your images
Most camera will name photographs some like D03456, an arbitrary number that means nothing. Re-name your photographs so they encompass the following.
The content of the photograph
The content of your blog post
A phrase that someone may search
e.g You are about to write a blog post all about how to make some rope pencil pots.
The image below is named rope_pencil_pots.jpg, which reflects the composition of the photo, the content of the blog post and could feasibly be a phase that someone would use as a search query. Each word with an under score _, but is perfectly OK to separate with a hyphen instead (rope-pencil-pots.jpg)
When search engines visit you site they are unable to “see” a photo of a rope pencil pot, all they understand is the code (HTML) powering the site which in this case looks like this.
By giving the photo a meaningful file name it essentially helps the search engines ” see” the photo.
You have uploaded your photo now what?
Add an ALT tag to your photo
What is an Alt Tag?
Alt stands for “Alternative text” and adding an alt tag to an image further enhances the ability of the search engine to understand the content of the photo.
In the case of my rope pots my alt tag would be
alt=”rope pencil pots”
As you can see the phase I am using is the same as the name I gave the image file.
How To Add an ALT Tag
The ease in which an alt tag can be added to a photo depends on which blogging platform you are using, WordPress is much easier than Blogger.
And because this is difficult to explain in words I have made a video which covers adding an Alt tag to your images in both Blogger and WordPress (and just in case you are wondering the accent is English!)
Is it worth the effort?
And here is a little test to show you this effort does pay off. Click the link below, it is the Google image search for Rope Pencil Pots …now look at what they have listed as the first image!
Ruth has two sides to her business, weddings and funerals, or life tributes. As you can imagine the target audience for each is very different.
A first generation site, designed and developed in 2009 for her wedding business, served her well and really helped grow her client base as a lead generation tool.
“Last year at this time, pre-website, I had one wedding scheduled for 2009. By the end of the year I had done 25. Right now, I already have 17 weddings scheduled, and I have been receiving an average of one lead per day since the beginning of January- outstanding!”
But like all tools they need to be refined to offer maximum effectiveness, so this second generation site offers social media integration allowing her clients to connect with her via Facebook and YouTube and we took the opportunity to move the site to the more robust blogging platform WordPress. This has the added advantage that Ruth now has full editorial control of the content of the the site. Ruth was happy with the look and feel of the first generation site so we kept the design the same but did increase the width to accommodate the most common screen resolution.
A website dedicated to the funeral side of her business is a new endeavor. We kept the brand image the same as the wedding site but used different imagery and a more muted color palette.
Switching from Blogger to WordPress can be a little daunting for a client and there is definitely a learning curve. As well as training we also provided Ruth with a set of screen cast videos which outline how to do the most common updates such as publishing a new blog post and uploading photographs.