Hey, everybody! I thought I would ask this question on 48 Days because the people on here are really good at CONSTRUCTIVE criticism:) So often out in the real world we just hear a lot of criticism without the constructivism (hope that's a real word).
Anyways, would you check out my site and let me know what I'm missing or how it could be improved. My brother-in-law and I pretty much spent one entire day this week improving it. I think it looks better than before, but I want to draw as much attention to the site right now as possible.
What I didn't like about it before was that it seemed so busy. Also, Steve brought up that I needed a place for people to follow my site. So, it's definitely getting there I just wonder if it needs more tweaking.
Thanks, everybody! www.whitneysparks.net
I like the clean look. The colors (red and white) are terrific. The fonts look great, and the site is visually appealing with pictures breaking up the text.
What I think is missing is the benefit to the visitor. What's in it for me? I had to look around a bit to even see what you did, and what I finally saw was "I am a brand new, 2 months in the business financial coach with a couple of kids and $53000 of debt."
I did find some benefits to me, but they were buried. I can save money, develop a budget and get debt free. I can learn how to coupon and i can get money tips. But those benefits were buried down past where I had to scroll. (There's a term for what shows on the website when it pops up...without having to scroll down any further. THAT'S the part that has to have the big promise to the site visitor. THAT's the hook that will keep them on the page and want to scroll down.)
Most of what is visible on the page when I land there is about you. I need to know what's in it for me. And THEN I'd be willing to learn about you. I'd suggest using a tag line after your name that is a catchy phrase telling visitors what results they can see from working with you.
Have you figured out a target market for your services? Who is your typical customer? What income level? Are they family focused? How old are they? Are they professional or blue collar? Fresh out of college? Close to retirement? Two income? One? It just helps you design the site to appeal to what they want.
Lastly, it would help to have a clear next step for them to do something. If your ultimate goal is to gather customers, you need to find a way to stay in touch with them regularly, usually through email. So you need to gather email addresses. And you need to direct them to do something on the page so you can gather the addresses. Have them sign up for a newsletter. Download a special report. Fill out a survey. Purchase a product. Without a clear next step, you don't give them a roadmap of what to do and people will leave and you have no way of contacting them. Simply having your blog there isn't enough to capture their interest and flip them into customers.
Have you looked closely at the text to make sure your SEO keywords are all in there? I'm not an SEO expert, but I know that text is more important than pretty looks, and even the graphics need to have text labels that are related to your keywords. What are the keywords and tags that you'd search on if you were looking for you? Put those words in the texts, titles, and menus.
Thanks, Maureen! What you said was really eye-opening. I had already thought about a newsletter. Do most people start with a newsletter or an E-book? I'm guessing that the newsletter is easier to assemble? Okay...I'm clueless, but what is an SEO? I have something that I saw on Google the other day called Adwords and I book-marked that page to see what's hot in the search world of keywords. Thanks for all your help! I may have more questions to come:)
SEO is "Search Engine Optimization" and refers to the effective use of buzzwords in the text and tags that are picked up by search engines.
As for a newsletter vs an ebook, I don't know what most people start with. I think it depends on what you want to offer your customers and what your ultimate goal is. I think that since your business is built on providing a service through personal contact (as opposed to selling a concrete item) you want to establish and build a personal ongoing relationship with people, and a regular newsletter is ideal for that. An ebook could be the extra freebie they get for purchasing a series of coaching session with you, or an unexpected surprise when they sign up for the newsletter.
For example, I'm a presentation coach, as well as a Christian speaker. Having two audiences, and two "services" I offer bi-weekly presentation tips via email and a Christian newsletter. For the presentation tips, people sign up and I have an autoresponder (via MailChimp) that sends them out automatically every 2 weeks for one year. When they sign up, they immediately get a link to an audio download of a workshop I presented on public speaking. It's an extra freebie.
For my newsletter, when they sign up for that, they get a link to an audio download of a message I delivered at a women's brunch. Again, another freebie.
Giving the freebies increases the value of your service and expertise to them. The periodic "touch" with your list keeps your name in their mind so when they need what you offer, you are the one they contact. My business coach says it this way: "Build your list. Touch your list. Serve your list." In other words, collect names to grow your list. Keep in regular contact with them (with their permission, which is implied when they sign up for your newsletter or autoresponder) and serve your list by learning what they need (or helping them discover what they need...often times they don't realize that they need you!) and offering it to them.
Glad to help. I'm not an expert on marketing, but I'm learning!
Okay...so I have another question. I'm sure that I should know the answer to this, but I'm still very new at this (just been at it since March). Why is it important to get email addresses? I am understanding how to get them, but why do I need them? I'm sure it's related to communication, but this is not visually making sense for me. I'm just trying to draw a whole map in my mind of how this would all play out! Thanks for your help:)
Having the email addresses allows you to keep in regular contact with people. They may be existing customers, past customers or future customers. It's part of a marketing strategy.
If you like to read, I'd suggest the book "Book Yourself Solid" by Michael Port. Brilliant book about marketing for people who don't like or don't know marketing.
For example, you can market yourself by handing out your card to everyone you know. But people will toss the card. Or at best, file it somewhere in their office, along with the 2 dozen other financial planner cards they've collected. And in 6 months, when they need a financial planner, what sets you apart from the others if you haven't had any contact with them? Unless you happen to hand them your card at the exact moment they need your services, you haven't created a customer. You've just become a professional (and very low paid) business card distributor.
Or you can hold periodic free seminars to teach, for example, couponing techniques (which I think would be a BRILLIANT thing for you to do! I'd come!). At the seminar, pass around a clipboard to collect email addresses, promising to add them to your periodic newsletter, or promising to send them more coupon information, and now YOU control how often you are in the minds of those folks. If you simply end the workshop by saying "Here's my website. Visit it for more information" they simply won't do it. They may have every intention of doing it at the workshop, but once they get home, they forget, or they've lost the web address, or they feel funny about doing it. When you have their email address, and their permission to contact them, you can keep yourself in their minds so when they need a financial coach, you've developed the relationship and familiarity with them and they'll chose you.
So, collecting email addresses is important to maintain contact. Your primary way to collect them will NOT be on your website, but through personal contact and appearances with people who are in your target audience. But for people who stumble on your website, or are referred to it via some other source (like a link on your facebook page), you need to give them a way to get on your mailing list.
Does that help you see the roadmap?
Oh, and I forgot to mention: I LOVE LOVE LOVE your shelfari thing. I LOVE it! Am I showing enough enthusiasm???? Thank you for putting that on your site because that will be something I'll put on mine. :))))))
Again, thanks for showing the Shelfari widget. I just finished putting it on my website. (which is also a homegrown Wordpress site...)
Following on what Maureen said, the site does look clean and visually appealing. My first impression what that it was an ecommerce or product affiliate marketing site, it took me a while to notice that you're a financial coach. On the home page, the date flags on the posts look a little like price tags and the imagery used look a bit like products.
From a design standpoint, perhaps de-emphasize the dates and strengthen the post headlines. FWIW I can't design my way out of a paper bag so this advice may be worth every penny :)
After grabbing my attention with the logo, use a tag line to tell me exactly what the site is about.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Whitney: I can't give you much in the way of "technical" advice about your site but as a writer I noticed you switch tenses during your posts. I also was a little confused by your mix of posts that included children/husband, your personal career journey and financial advice. I think you detract from your financial coaching with the other things. At first I thought it was a mommy blog. I found some of the other posts interesting but I'm not sure if your blog is meant to be personal or professional. You may want to keep in mind that you are writing a financial advice column when you share tidbits about yourself, and not a family column with a little financial element thrown in. Does that make sense? And make financial coaching "obvious" in the top 1/3 of your page - that's a marketing must! All of Maureen's advice was good and I agree with Matthew on the way you are displaying the dates - it looks like a "buy" box. Hope this helps. Go get 'em!
Hi, Kathryn. So I've been hung up all weekend on what you said about the site looking like a mommy blog. Do you think that I shouldn't be posting things about coupons and other ways to save money or are you just saying to have more things on there to build my business?
I totally get what you're saying, because I'm always looking at blogs that stay-at-home moms have created to help people with...well life, I guess:) I was just telling my husband that I love that part as well. I love helping people save money and give them tips and advice to help them do this.
Anyways, I wrote this trying to decided if maybe I do want to start another site or a blog on the side. I don't want to overwhelm myself too much right now, but when I look at financial sites they really don't have a lot of the family type blogs that I like to write about. What would you suggest? Do you think I should have something else that branches off this main site? The reason I talk so much about coupons is because that is a true passion of mine and I've been asked more about coupons than anything else so far in this career. It's a strong point of mine and something I feel confident in teaching, but hope that this helps in the long run with my financial business.
Does this make sense? I'm curious to see what you would say. Thank you for opening the door for my mind to see more possibilities coming out of this. I never thought about starting a mom blog, but have found that I do enjoy writing about topics from a mother's standpoint.
I'm not Kathryn, but I do have a perspective on your question about the blog or no-blog issue. What if you changed the website so the landing page (home page) is not a blog, but something else that tells how you benefit customers. The blog would be a different page, and perhaps with different categories. (I personally don't like a blog to be the home page of a business website, but that's just me.)
I think first and foremost you need to decide who your customer is and what you offer them. A stay-at-home mom certainly would like tips on couponing. A CEO...perhaps not so much. Again, it goes back to a clear marketing plan. If you want to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one because you are not specific and narrow enough. Decide on your "product" or "service". Do you offer full service financial planning? Or just "tips"? Do you conduct workshops, do phone consultations, research investment strategies, or offer other services? Do you have any products to sell, like a book, an audio CD, ongoing coaching appointments?
You are thinking through all the right questions! The more you can define your customer, your service and your benefits, the clearer will be the way to market it on your website.
I really like the simplicity of your site. I agree with what everyone has already mentioned. However, I will recap my thoughts for you:
- Really like the Whitney Sparks font on the top of your website (Stated by Maureen)
- I like that your about me picture is simple and in black and white. I believe that it looks professional with a personal touch too
- The follow me tags are the ones that are often found on other sites, but I like them too
- I have always loved Shelfari and if I ever get a site up I too will include that widget (Stated emphatically by Maureen)
- You definitely need a tagline to display in a quick glance what your audience will gain or view at your site (Stated by Maureen and Kathryn)
- I agree with Matthew and Kathryn that the date tags on each blog post are a little distracting to the overall clean website. However, more importantly is that the date tags are slow to load. I'm currently on a new i5 computer with internet explorer 8 (ie8 isn't my browser of choice so that could be contributing). While I don't use IE8 at home, it is good to have your website tested on several browsers since you won't know what type of browser users are using to view your site. It must be something with your HTML "date" class since the other blog images are loading faster.
- Additionally the navigation between pages is really slow on this computer, even when going back to a previous page that should be still loaded in the cache. Not sure how to help with that, but it's something you can maybe look into.
- Lastly in the "ABOUT ME" widget section you have "encouragin". The "g" is there in the mission statement section so it is likely just a copy and paste error.
I think overall you have a great website started. With the continual tweaking, based on all of the good comments, you will be knocking it out of the park in no time at all!
BTW, are you a music teacher, or does your necklace coincidentally look like a treble clef?