Should you blog on your website?

While blogging is a great way to bring stable traffic to your business through SEO keyword searches on Google, it may not be the right time for you to get started. 

Here's how to know what you're ready to start blogging on your website:

1. You have expert knowledge in your industry that you have spent years learning about and practicing. Now it's time to share that knowledge with the world to benefit other people's lives by helping others be educated in your area of expertise. For instance, I've been doing web design casually for 19 years, and 8 years professionally. It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I realized I had amassed a lot of expert knowledge that I felt confident enough that my insights were valuable to other businesses. 

2. You're already getting leads to your business and generating stable income. For many business owners, blogging feels like a chore if the rest of their business is not figured out. Blogging should be one of the last things you implement. Blogging should come well after things like establishing your website, setting up email marketing, creating ads in Google & Facebook, and standardizing your business model. Blogging & SEO, in my experience, is the slowest way to get new clients and leads to your website, but it is also one of the most stabilizing marketing methods if done regularly for many months. Blogging should be done once all of your other business elements are roughly in place.

3. The idea of sharing your ideas is exciting. For most business owners, blogging is a chore. What should you write about? Will other people read it? Over time, if you keep at it, you will get more and more readers in the next 6-12 months. But if you do not enjoy the idea of writing, then it will be an unnecessary chore.

 

4 benefits of blogging

1. Your writing has the potential to be found by Google Searches for years to come. There are blogs I have written and that my clients have written from over 2 years ago which still get found and read today from doing keyword searches on Google. Blogging is one of the most effective ways to build SEO value into your website. I get thousands of views to my websites every month because of blogging.

2. You establish yourself as a leader in your industry. Writing about expert topics that most other people do not know is an important way to build credibility for your company. 

3. Genuinely help other people. Reading is one of the most valuable ways to learn about complex or theoretical topics. When you write about your expert knowledge, you given hundreds and thousands of people the opportunity to make their lives better. Your audience wants to learn, and you can genuinely make people's lives better by teaching them things they would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

4. Practice your skill or writing and communicating. Blogging is a very low-risk way of practicing your skills in writing. Websites can be changed at any time, unlike a published book, so you can remove blog posts, edit them, change them and use it to get better at expressing your thoughts and ideas. 

 

If you love writing, if you want to share your knowledge with others, and you believe that your knowledge with help others learn new topics, then it might be a good time to start blogging.

Here's how to get started:

1. Write at least once per week. The more topics you write, the more opportunities there are for being found in Google searches as well. Plus, people want to see that you are consistent and involved, which builds credibility as well. 

2. Track your ideas. You can save ideas on paper, in a project manager, on a phone app, or as a draft on your blog. I personally save all my ideas as a 'Draft' in my Squarespace blog so I can come back and work on them later, or schedule them out in the future. This way, I'm not losing any progress or losing ideas as they come up.

3. Use your blogs also as email newsletters. When you write, you can reuse topics in all other kinds of places, like emails, social media, even e-books or how-to manuals for clients and customers. 

The 4 elements your website must have

The most successful websites are very simple and very focused. But most websites fail to clearly explain what their business does and how visitors can take action to get started with ordering a product or services.
 

All you really need on your website are 4 major elements in order to be effective.
 

1 | What is primary service or product you offer? 
While this seems obvious to include, most websites do not make it super clear what the business offers. This should be stated in as few words as possible. Ideally, no more than 7 words. Something simple like "Palm Springs Architectural Design Firm" works really well.


2 | Why is this product or service valuable to your clientele?
This is an opportunity to speak to a particular niche market that you work well with, and especially helps to explain why your products & services are helpful to achieve someone else's life goals or problems. This should also be in as few words as possible, somewhere around 7-14 words total. For instance, "We can help build the home of your dreams in Palm Springs."
 

3 | What is the first step someone needs to take to get started with your product or service?
Most websites use the typical "Contact" page. But this should instead be something that clearly explains the process someone would go through, such as: Schedule An Appointment." Other calls to action can include, Schedule A Call, Request A Meeting, Get Pricing, Request A Quote, Order Now, Buy Now, etc.
 

4 | If a visitor to your website is not ready to get started yet, what can you offer to help them make that decision?
This is almost always a simple form where someone can enter their email address to get access to something very low-key, such as: download a brochure in PDF format, a printable checklist, a pricing sheet, a free sample. An example might be, "Download your custom home planning checklist" - which adds value to someone who is in the process of thinking of building a custom home.
 

Most new visitors to a website spend no more than 1 or 2 minutes viewing web pages. So you have no time to waste in order to capture their interest and encourage them to take action on your website.

If you simply take care of these 4 items on your website, you will see an increase in leads on your website.

Does Your Website Truly Showcase The Quality Of Your Work?

There are too many bad web developers and old website technologies that out there that cause business owners to have awful, old websites that simply don't work.

And when the website technology isn't working properly, it makes you appear as though you have unprofessional work - even when you know you are a leader in your industry.

Your website should represent the quality of your work & remain easy for you to manage and update along the way. 

That is why I build websites in Squarespace and teach business owners how to easily manage their website on their own.

When you are control of your website, with a web platform that keeps on working year after year, you can focus more on your business and less on old, outdated technology. 

Getting a beautiful website for your business that actually works is not difficult.

Here are the three main steps:

1. We discuss your business & online marketing goals.

2. We design a beautiful website that showcases your best work.

3. We teach you how to manage your own website. 

If you are ready to ditch an old, out-dated website that isn't working well & want a website which showcases the best work you do, get in touch today about your project. 

Is Hiring A Web Designer or Web Developer A Good Business Decision?

Web designers, and especially web developers, don't often consider a client's business goals or business marketing. They'll build you a fancy website, without concern as to whether or not it will actually help grow your business. 

Hiring a web designer is fine for getting your website online. But it needs to be part of your overall, entire business plan. It needs to draw people in, and then lead them to the next step. 

But most business websites are dead-ends. They look nice, but they essential do nothing. They don't tell customers what the next step is, they don't lead customers to enter their email address, or clearly inform what your business does on a website. 

Your website designer should have a basic understanding of business models, of email marketing, and capturing leads. They should be able to inform you how your website can be a true asset instead of a liability. 

Here are the essential things your website needs to do:

1. It shouldn't break down
The old-school way of thinking for websites is to build it "fully custom" on something like WordPress. But WordPress is a liability for most businesses. They break down and cause clients long-term headaches.

2. It needs to capture email addresses
If it doesn't, then your website is essentially a dead-end. All websites, and pretty much every single web page, must capture emails and leads to help customers "take the next step" towards a purchase decision.

3. It should clearly communicate your business
50% of website visitors only look at one page of a website. They should not have to click to the "About" page or try to figure out what's going on. Your business website should have an elevator pitch right on the front page of the website. Something that can be said in 7 words or less. 

4. It should be mobile responsive and focus on 1 or 2 main pages
Today, pretty much all websites are mobile responsive, but they aren't necessarily user friendly. Over 50% of website traffic is now on mobile devices, so designing super, super, super simple websites are more important than ever. 

5. Clients should be able to make edits easily
This is another thing that WordPress developers or web coders don't think about. Clients are frustrated if they can't easily edit their own website. Your website should be built on a platform that is super simple, so you can focus on growing your business, rather than focusing on how to do code.

How To Teach Yourself To Do Basic Website Coding, CSS, HTML for Client Projects

My opinion is that if you really want to learn something towards building a real-life business skill and build your own business, you have to put yourself under pressure and find someone willing to pay you first. 

If you are just getting started out as a web designer, web developer, graphic designer or other creative businesses like photography or artwork - the best way to learn is to find a client first, then build your skill. Otherwise, you sit in a vacuum and learn skills that no one else is really willing to pay for. 

This is how schools and universities work. They teach you years of concepts and theories in a vacuum. Once you start getting your own clients, or even working at an office somewhere else, all the things you learned in theoretical classes will be essentially useless.

What's better is instead to build a minimally viable website and start looking for clients. Look for anyone willing to pay you anything at all. Even if it is $50 USD to get your first client to develop a one-page website. You might spend 50 hours on your first project, for $1 per hour of work. But you will have spent 50 hours spending time on a really project and made even a little money, than to spend thousands of dollars on a college education where you never dealt with a really client at all - being in total debt.

How do you learn web code or web design skills for projects?
It takes lots and lots of practice with real clients, looking up things in Google like in overstackflow.com and doing searches for CSS, HTML or Javascript solutions. Even today, I learn new things every couple days that I have to Google to figure out. The most motivating factor for me is to get clients, and then learn by the project, researching things that the client asks for. It definitely helps me to learn things faster than through a course on my own. Even after having designed over 600 projects for other clients, I am still researching solutions to new web design problems on a regular basis.

But the first year learning Squarespace CSS was really tough. Often times it was a lot of brainstorming ideas, since there are so many ways to do things with code, and then learning from previous projects. There are things I do today that I remember "I have done that before" and then look at an old project to see how I did it. There are thousands and thousands of things you can do with coding, and too many too remember, so it's important to be able to research and pull from previous experience, rather than trying to learn it all at once. 

 

What about learning things other than web developing coding, like SEO, online marketing or graphic design?
That's another thing I have learned over several years is through the same methods of finding clients and learning as quickly as possible to find solutions, such as working with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and email marketing with Mailchimp. I do all of these services for clients.

Again, learning from new projects is more helpful than trying to learn it before taking on a client. You'll never know everything you need to know until you start working on real-life projects.

When you start out with your first few clients, it's a great opportunity to tackle a project (especially with a client that only has a low budget) and the learn as-needed, doing google searches for what the client needs. You probably wont do an amazing job, but if a client has a $200 USD budget for doing SEO or Adwords, then they aren't going to get the best work in the world anyways, so it is a good way to get experience. I would put up your services on your website in all the things you are interested in, and take clients that are willing to learn with you. That's always been my style of learning, because I only learn things that clients actually find valuable, instead of learning things that no one is willing to pay for. 

I teach people how to start their own online businesses - like Squarespace web design, SEO, photography, Mailchimp email marketing, online advertising - As well as finding clients, bidding on projects, negotiating terms and the like. Inquire about available mentoring programs to contact@jpwdesignstudio.com

Is Squarespace the right platform for your small business?

I've seen businesses fail because they chose the wrong platform for their website. 

As a business owner, you can't afford to have a website that works like an old VW bus. It might look cool, but it will break down all the time, costing you thousands every year just to keep it running. 

From my experience in helping over 600 businesses build a website, platforms like WordPress are like old VW busses that keep falling apart. Everyone knows about a VW bus, and everyone thinks they look cool. But more and more people are realizing that WordPress websites suck up your finances and capital faster than they make money. 

If you are a small business that makes less than $200,000 in revenue per year, you cannot afford to hire a WordPress developer that will charge you $10,000 for a custom web design, and then $2,000 every month just to keep it "running" properly. And that's not including the cost to make major improvements to your website as your business grows. 

Not every WordPress developer will charge you those rates. You'll find people who promise they can build a $2,000 USD website which requires "no maintenance" and that it will be "so easy for you to manage." They can certain build it - but it will be like building a house with cardboard - a complete waste of your time and money. You'll scrap the whole thing in a couple months and have to rebuild.

I have built hundreds of WordPress websites for real clients. I also started out in 1999 building websites from scratch using HTML, and in 2010 I built Adobe Flash websites for clients because that was what everyone was raving about back then until Apple announced they were discontinuing the use of Adobe Flash on all their mobile devices. 

I have seen too many small businesses close their doors because their website depended on a strong website presence. And WordPress was just too expensive to maintain. The costs didn't pay themselves off, or they were a big hinderance. 

That is why, in 2016, I stopped working on WordPress websites entirely, and focused solely on building websites in Squarespace.

So you know, I have zero financial ties to Squarespace. I make money building websites for businesses with Squarespace, but Squarespace (the company itself) doesn't pay me a dime. I wish they did - I have referred probably thousands of clients and non-clients to Squarespace because I felt it was the right thing for their business. If Squarespace paid me $50 USD for every referral I gave them, I'd be on vacation for probably 3 months straight.

Instead, here I am working to try and give you the best possible advice. 

Here's how it goes:

WordPress developers are code people who like endless customization possibilities. They like solving complex coding problems because it's fun. Completing a super complex WordPress website is intense, requires a lot of thought and hard work, and there is a reason they are so expensive. When I was in my early 20s, solving WordPress websites was a challenging and fun hobby. The problem is that complex, fun challenges are not always the right business choice - especially if you run a small business and need to keep your costs low. 

Platforms like Shopify or WordPress require ongoing involvement from web developer to maintain and grow the business. Every time you want to make big changes, or sometimes even minor edits, you will need a web developer to get involved. 

As a small business owner, however, you need the freedom to make edits on your own easily - or to hire employees to manage it for you without paying professional rate. For instance, my hourly rate is $180 per hour. Could you run a business hiring me for 5-10 hours per week and justify the cost?  On a good month, you'd pay me $4,000 USD to stay involved in your website and do a high quality, professional job. But small businesses cannot afford that kind of investment. 

If you built your website in WordPress and wanted to manage it yourself, you'll need to know at least a little bit of code and learn more about web development - which is time wasted where you could have been marketing your business with an email newsletter, blog posts, social media or advertising. 

You need to be hiring an in-house assistant at around $15 per hour who can update your blog posts, change images and text, as well as do other in-house marketing and sales work. Then, you would simply need to hire a web professional every 3 months or so to tackle the occasional complex problem. 

The only way to keep your costs low as a small business is to build your website in Squarespace. Then manage the website yourself or have your office assistant or virtual assistant do the day-to-day simple management at an affordable hourly rate - something that's a real investment, not a liability.  

That's the main reason I recommend to my clients that Squarespace makes the most sense financially and in terms of saving time and being more in control of the marketing on your own. Rather than having to hire a web developer, or marketing expert, which will eat up your finances and savings. Squarespace puts you in control of the tools where you can learn virtually everything on your own, and occasionally get help from experts as needed. 

I personally like Squarespace because it is the most client-friendly platform available. It is the most easy for my clients to add new products, create blog posts, and change things around without having to hire a web developer to make lots of little changes. 

I get a lot of nagging from people who would die for the sake of WordPress. You'll get all sorts of arguments why a WordPress site is necessary - such as "you wont be able to do everything you need to do" or "WordPress is the only site that works for SEO" and things like that. 

Sure, there are benefits to having a WordPress website. But the Cons greatly outweigh the Pros. 

After all, you are running a small business. You are not running a charity to keep WordPress developers in business. 

I write this to defend the business owners. Not web developers or web designers. You need to know which platform is going to benefit your small business, and make a sound investment decision. 

The only reason you should choose WordPress is if you can clearly be willing to spend over $20,000 per year and that investment cost is going to generate $100,000s per year in revenue that is clearly coming from your website, and not other sources. If you are willing to spend that kind of money on your website, the WordPress might be a good option. 

But most small businesses have no place in spending that kind of money on their website. Which is why I always say: go with SquareSpace. It will save you thousands of headaches.

The 5 biggest website mistakes that business owners make

Your website is the most important marketing tool your business will have in 2018.

Today, the internet is far more important than tradition marketing. Recent research is even showing that word of mouth referrals have become less important as well. People are able to "see for themselves" and do additional research on the internet to find the product or service that is right for them. 

You already know that your website is an important marketing tool - but it is likely even more important than you realize. And it will become even more so as the years go on.

Today, a website can make or break your business. And I see it all the time. Businesses with poor websites are more likely to fail. And businesses with strong websites are more likely to succeed. And that is because it is the most important sales tool your business has in 2018. 

Since 2010, I have helped over 600 businesses develop websites. Back then, you could get away with a poorly designed website, because it wasn't quite as important as it is now.

After seeing what the most successful businesses and least successful businesses do with their website & online marketing, here are the 5 biggest mistakes business owners make when building their website:

1. Choosing A Platform That Is Too Complex To Manage
I've heard of this from hundreds of clients and also prospective clients who end up not working with me because I do not work with WordPress. Non web-experts, website developers, and people on the street know that WordPress is the biggest and most popular web platform to use. Second is Shopify. The problem with these platforms is that they require tens of thousands of dollars per year to work properly. Not only in the set-up costs, but even more so for maintenance costs. They are so code-heavy, that in order to fully use the website, a web developer must constantly be involved, which sucks thousands of dollars per year (sometimes tens of thousands) out of your business. I see this all the time, and it's not fun for the business owner. Custom WordPress & Shopify websites only make sense for very large companies with very large budgets. For everyone else, Squarespace is the best web platform. I don't get anything out of promoting their platform. I have just seen hundreds of businesses thrive with Squarespace, because their costs are lower, they can manage the majority of the site on their own and the website stays up-to-date with the best technology on its own. These are the reasons I decided about 2 years ago to exclusively work with Squarespace. It's the right move for small businesses, and I will no longer touch WordPress or Shopify. 

2. Building A Website With No "Call To Action"
Without driving people to take some sort of action on your website, your website then becomes a dead-end. If someone comes to your website and says "What should I do now?" with no clear way to take the next step, the your website has become a waste of money for your business. There are 2 kinds of "Calls to Action." One is a "Soft Lead," and the other is a "Hard Lead." A "Soft Lead" invites users to learn more and initiate in the process to learn about your brand over time, such as an email newsletter, a free online course, or a PDF pricing sheet download. A "Hard Lead" is typically when someone is ready to make the jump towards making a purchase very soon. For instance "Buy Now" or "Get Started Now" are hard leads, because they are geared toward the client or customer who is very close to making a decision. They just need you to give them the right place to jump into. If your "Calls To Action" are vague or nonexistent, you will have a severely ineffective website. 

3. Building A Website That Does Not Capture Email Addresses
The most important ongoing marketing tool you have is email marketing. While about 50% of Americans have a Facebook account, and about 25% of Americans have an Instagram account - about 90% of Americans use email. What's more is that people who use email are more intention about their decisions, while Social Media users are often using the platforms for social means, and not productive means. Yet most business owners are tempted to use Social Media and not Email Marketing for their business. Even today, the most effective marketing you can use for your business is Email Marketing. Typically, you collect emails from "Soft Leads" on your website as well as the "Hard Leads" - and if you are not collecting emails or sending our email marketing on a weekly basis, your business will stagnate. Most of my Clients do not use email for fear of the time commitment or not knowing what to say. But I believe you should be afraid of not using email marketing, for the sake of your business. 

4. Building A Website With No Blog, SEO or Value-Added System
As soon as you become an expert in your field, you should be blogging on your website. That is because the majority of people looking for products or services do their homework to become educated, typically through Google Searches. People want to look at reviews, to learn about something - at least mildly learn the basics - and weigh their options. Creating an ongoing blog each week will establish you as an expert. Your posts will also be picked up by Google. And when you post valuable knowledge about your industry to help people's lives become better, people will trust your brand more than other brands. Starting a blog right away isn't always the easiest thing to do for business owners, but the long-term benefits are impressive. For my own websites, and for my clients that blog, the weekly or daily work can result in thousands of views per month to your website to ensure your business will be sustainable for many years to come. 

5. Not Channeling Online Marketing Towards Your Website
Finally, if no one goes to your website - then your website sits dead with no value a all. Email Marketing and SEO are basic building blocks to build sustainable ongoing marketing on your website. But having other third-party websites bring traffic to you is also crucial to build sustainability online. My personal favorites for online marketing are Yelp and Google Business - which are business-oriented platforms and are free to set up. The final stage of marketing for your business should be paid advertising like Facebook Ads & Google Ads. Online ads can cost hundreds of dollars per month and take about 30 days to optimize, so it's not typically my favorite to start out with. But once your website is up and running, and working properly by collecting Leads and Email Addresses, Blogging & SEO integration - your final investment into Online Advertising will be worth it when all the other pieces of your website are already in place.

These are the 5 major areas that business owners fail to think about. Often times, business owners are given opinions by non-website experts, especially when it comes to which platform to use. But focusing on these 5 areas will only bring your business stability in the coming years. As retail stores and malls close across the United States and the world, your website is now your true "storefront" that you should work hard to make sure it is never torn down.