Protecting Your Domain Name

In its simplest terms, domain names are purchased from a domain registrar, an accredited organization that manages domain registration. They will then park the domain or point it to your hosting server (more on this next week).

As the public-facing address for your website, it is important that your organization maintains complete ownership of your domain name(s) at all times. If your web developer gets hit by a proverbial bus – ouch! –or your hosting company goes out of business, you’ll be able to point your domain name to a new hosting server, restore your site from a backup, and get your website back on line fast.

Misplaced your domain registrar information? Barring any strict privacy settings, you can usually find your domain registrar and the registered contact person with a quick WHOIS search.

Action Item: What company is your domain name registered with, and who is the administrative contact? Find your domain name, domain registrar, account name, and password and store that information in a safe place (or two).

Your Website Thesis Statement

So, now that’s you’ve figured out your target audience and decided what you want them to do, let’s put it all together. By combining your audience and your conversion goal, you can come up with a one sentence summary – a website thesis statement, if you will – that can help you make informed decisions about your site.

So let’s put everything together, Mad Libs-style:

“When visiting our website, we want _________ to _________.”

Better yet, narrow in on your target audience even more by adding a geographic or demographic qualifier:

“When visiting our website, we want _________   _________ to _________.”

Continuing with our examples from last week, their thesis statements might be:

  • When visiting our website, we want amateur cooks to buy our new line of spatulas.
  • When visiting our website, we want 30-60 year old patients to call and make an appointment.
  • When visiting our website, we want Chesterfield families to come to our restaurant for dinner.
  • When visiting our website, we want the marketing directors of $2-5M companies to sign up for our mailing list.

Action Item: What’s your organization’s website thesis statement?

Setting A Goal

So, now that you know your target audience, what is it that you want them to do?

It is ideal to think of one action you want your website’s visitors users to take. That way, you can design and build your website to facilitate that action, and you can determine success by measuring how many visitors complete that action. (This is known as a conversion, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a later post.)

Your desired action can vary greatly depending on your audience, your business and your website. For example:

  • An online kitchen gadget store, obviously, wants their visitors to browse and buy their product(s).
  • A medical office wants a potential patient to schedule an appointment, be it via phone or an online form.
  • A regional restaurant chain may drive customers to visit the nearest physical location.
  • A marketing firm may simply want to collect contact info of potential leads, so they can follow up later.

Action Item: What is the one action you want your website visitors to take? Looking at your organization’s current website, how easy is it for visitors take that action?

Know Your Audience

The first step in planning your website is knowing your audience. We went into more depth in an earlier post, but in a nutshell… who is your ideal customer? 

Pull together as much information as you can about this ideal customer… gender, income, education level, tech-savviness, and so on. What do they like? Where do they hang out? What do they read, watch and listen to? Why do they need your services or products? Why  would they choose you over your competitors? Heck, give your target customer a name if it helps you get in their head!

Once you’ve thought through the answers to these questions, write them down. Combine these answers and you can create a detailed customer profile. (This will come in handy in the next step!)

Action Item: Who is your target customer? Pull together as much information as you can, and then ask yourself… does my website appeal to my target customer?

The Year Ahead

“9 ways to improve the 13 aspects of your online presence using 8 technology trends for 2013 in 3 easy steps!”

We’ve all seen this style of blog post… they’re referred to a list post or, a little disconcertingly, a “listicle“.

Proponents will tell you that online readers only glance at articles, and that a list structure allows for easier skimming of the key points. I’d agree, but doesn’t that mean that every day people are cranking out thousands of words of filler content that may never be read?

In 2013, we thought we’d try something different. What if we just wrote the key points? So every Friday, as part of our Website 101 series, we’ll be writing 1-2 paragraphs, followed by a single action item that you can immediately apply to your business’ online presence.

We’ll address a specific topic, issue or question each week, as part of a different theme each month. Here are the themes we have in store:

January – Starting Your Website Project
February – Your Website Infrastructure
March –  Choosing Your Tools
April – The Importance of Mobile

Action Item: Sign up! Subscribe to our RSS feed to get each blog posts as they’re released. Or, subscribe to our mailing list (in the right sidebar) to receive an email summary of that month’s theme on the last Friday of each month. See you next Friday!

Web 101: Defining Your Target Audience

“Who’s your target audience?”


At the start of every project, we ask our new clients who their target audience is and half the time, we here “everybody”. While we appreciate the ambition, that’s rarely the case.

Are you a plumber? Then your target audience is probably homeowners or property managers within a  50-mile radius of where you’re based.

An online stationary store? Then you’ll probably want to focus your efforts on female customers within a certain age range.

A law firm? Then potential clients who need your specialties, in the state where you’re certified to practice.

Pet supply superstore? Pet owners.

An investment firm? People with money.

Once you’ve defined the target audience (and possibly a secondary audience), you’re now ready to move forward. That target audience will help shape the goals of the website, the length and style of the content, the web design, and even the functionality the site includes.

So, think about your business. (Need a hand? Here’s an excellent article from Inc magazine on Defining Your Target Market that applies to websites too. Duct Tape Marketing also has How To Discover Your Perfect Target Customer, with even more tools to find your audience.)

Who’s your audience? Does your website speak to them as clearly as it could?

Web 101: Performing A Content Audit

We’ve built hundreds of websites over the years and all projects inevitably suffer from the same, schedule-crunching problem… content.

The potential problems with content are numerous.

Often a client can envision what they want, but not find the time to write it. Or they may assume they can pull content from other marketing materials, only to find it’s become outdated or inaccurate since those materials were first written.

Whatever the problem, they all cause delays. We’ve had projects where we’ve finished the design and programming and literally waited a full year for the few pages of content needed to complete and launch the site.

What can be done?

After running into these problems again and again, we now recommend the first stage of any project be a content audit.

In this audit, we compile all available content for review. Here’s what we look for:

  • current website
  • brochures, flyers and other marketing materials
  • press, articles or news stories
  • social media networks
  • available photography
  • video or audio content
  • a high-quality digital version of the client’s logo

Once we have that, we go through it one item at a time, looking for accuracy, quality and relevance.

With the bad content removed or updated, we’re now free to identify gaps, assign those gaps to the client or our team, and move forward with the project.

Can we help you with a content audit? Please let us know.

Web 101: Selecting A Hosting Company

An Overview

Every website lives somewhere on a physical server, a type of computer designed for serving up web pages each time a visitor comes to the site.

For very large companies or certain high-traffic websites, it occasionally makes sense to purchase a dedicated server and maintain it onsite. But that requires both the space and the staff to maintain the computer, and all of the backup solutions required in case anything goes wrong.

For most small business websites, it makes much more senese to host your website with a hosting company. In that case, the hosting company owns and maintains the server (or typically, dozens and dozens of servers) and you essentially rent a small sliver of it for your website, at a low monthly cost.

So, how to pick the hosting company?

And once you have a hosting company, which hosting plan?

There are several factors to consider when selecting your hosting:

Functionality – Many websites are built using content management software that requires a particular type of programming language and/or database on the server. For example, WordPress websites require the PHP language and MySQL databases on their server, while .NET websites require .NET and SQL databases. Your web developer should be able to list any requirements.

Technical Support – If you’ll be hosting your email, storing files, or housing any other functions on your hosting account, it’s important to know that the company will help if something goes wrong. Before selecting a hosting company, I always make sure they offer support by phone, for easy access. And, if possible, call the number and ask a few basic questions, to get an idea of response time and employee helpfulness.

Bandwidth – Luckily, many hosting companies have started to offering unlimited bandwidth. But for those who don’t, you can get slapped with high charges if you ever go over your limit. If you have a current site, check your average bandwidth usage, double it, and make sure your new hosting company can accommodate that.

If you’re working with us, we’re happy to recommend one of our preferred vendors. Just ask.