"Can you just tweak my website copy?"

Love a good metaphor? Me, too.

Here’s one for you: Developing your marketing content is like building a house.

(Ok, technically that’s a simile, not a metaphor, but you get my gist.)

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of other "[Blank] is like building a house” thingies.

But this is a good one, I promise. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks.

Look, I even made a little drawing for you! That’s how serious I am.

ContentHouse.png

Here, let me explain.

BASEMENT = Brand Foundation

When you build a house, there’s only one place you can start, and that’s with the foundation. You can’t start with the second floor. You can’t even start with the first floor. You’ve gotta start by digging out a hole and pouring a sturdy foundation.

Otherwise your house will freaking fall down.

In your marketing content "house," your foundation is made up of your brand elements, like your target market, mission, value proposition, values, etc. It creates a solid base for everything else.

The stronger your brand foundation, the more stable and effective your marketing efforts will be.

Most people don’t want to start here because, well, basements aren’t sexy. In fact, they’re mostly invisible. And full of spiders.

But in addition to creating stability for the structure, a basement also contains the systems that make the whole house function. Ducts, pipes, and wires bring heat, water, and electricity up through the rest of the home. Just like your target market, value proposition, etc. should be woven into all the content you create.

In your real house, you’re not having dinner parties in your basement. Similarly, as a business owner, you’re not necessarily inviting your clients into your Brand Foundation. It’s something you work on yourself, and develop and fine-tune over time.

But without working on that foundation, it’s super hard to build the rest of your marketing “house.”

1ST FLOOR = Website Copy

After the foundation is set, you can start working on the above-ground stuff.

In most homes, the first floor has all the essential elements for living your daily life – your kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room, etc. It’s the space where your family hangs out, where you welcome visitors, and where you probably feel most “at home.”

Your website copy should function in a similar way.

After you’ve developed your Brand Foundation, the next step is to translate those elements into public-facing language.

On your website, you explain the problem you solve, how you solve it, and why you’re the best. You flesh out your offering and your “about.” You fine-tune language that that hits your target market right in the gut. You develop a voice and a visual brand that express your identity and make others feel comfortable (just like decorating your living room).

Your website is like your marketing “home.” It’s where you come back to at the end of the day. It’s the most official and complete version of your business. And because of this, it’s important to make sure it’s all set before you start adding another floor to your house.

2ND FLOOR = Other Marketing Content

Once your website is done, only then should you move on to other marketing content.

Things like blogs, articles, email marketing, social media, videos, podcasts… these make up the additional floors of your “house.”

Now, I know a lot of people launch their website and their social media profiles at the same time. Or maybe you started blogging before you actually launched a business site. Obviously, I’m not saying it’s impossible to do that. And if you’re just starting out in your business, experiment away!

But what I am saying is: If you want to market effectively and strategically, creating other content willy-nilly before you’ve built the lower levels of your house won't get you there.

In the short-term, you’ll feel like you’re “doing things,” but in the long-term, your efforts won’t add up to much.

However, once you have built your foundation and first floor in a purposeful and complete way, then you can add as many floors to your house as you want!

Sure, it’s easiest to take care of a smaller house (i.e. to choose one or two main content channels to focus on). But over time, you can host more guests (i.e. prospects!) or grow your family (of clients!) by expanding your home (if you want to).

In fact, the more robust your foundation, the taller you can build.

skyscraper.png

So, in summary, this little metaphor is my effort at explaining why I tell my clients:

  • No, we shouldn’t just “tweak” your website copy – we need to work on your brand foundation first.

  • No, you shouldn’t just jump into writing articles or emails yet – let’s get your website cleaned up first.

Sure, that work takes more time and effort than “tweaking” or just writing a blog post.

But it also pays off big time down the road, when you find yourself living in – and welcoming your clients into – a beautiful, functional, custom-built home that meets all of your needs.

8 DIY Website Design Mistakes

As a writer and messaging advisor, I often yell from the mountaintops:

"If you don't have your messaging nailed down, nothing else works!"

But I also know that: If your messaging is killer but your design SUCKS, then you're totally turning off your potential clients.
     
Now, a lot of entrepreneurs try to build their own websites using one of the many DIY platforms out there. And sometimes that works out just fine. But sometimes it doesn't!

And it can be hard to know (as entrepreneurs) when we should do something ourselves, and when we should outsource it to an expert.

So I asked my friend Katie Rotanz, who's an amazing web designer, to write a guest post about common design mistakes she sees from business owners who try to design and build their websites themselves.


8DIYWebDesignMistakes.png

A Guest Post by Katie Rotanz

There are a handful of great platforms that allow people to easily make their own websites. Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and other CMS platforms all advertise that anyone can design a website without any experience or coding skills.

While this is true, I’ve noticed that non-designers consistently make these 8 mistakes when using these DIY platforms.

Check out this list to see if any of them apply to you. If so, it might be time to work with a professional web designer.

 
1. You're spending way too much time building your website

When business owners attempt to build their own websites, they often get overwhelmed with figuring out how to build it and don’t have the time to learn. Many people will let their website sit there unfinished for months – sometimes they’re even paying for hosting when their site isn’t even up.

Because web design is my job, I’m constantly looking up solutions to problems, reading forums and finding new ways of making things work. It takes time to learn the best practices and stay up to date on current tools.

2. Your website structure is random and hard to navigate

Your website might look stunning, but if visitors don’t know where to go on the site, then the website isn’t doing its job. It’s important to guide people through your site and direct them to the most important pages. Google Analytics is a great tool to check the traffic on websites and see the top-visited pages. If your visitors aren’t going to the right pages, then CTA’s (Calls to Action) need to be added.    

3. Your image sizes aren’t optimized for web

Each platform has specific requirements for image sizing, and they’re all different. For example, Squarespace recommends images to be 1500 to 2500 pixels wide and the file size to be less than 500k. This ensures that the image will look high quality on a monitor, but won’t slow down the loading of the web page.

Oftentimes DIYers upload their images without resizing. If your image is too small, it will appear pixelated and low quality. If your image size is too big, it could make the website take forever to load and that can also hurt your rankings on Google.  

4. You're not using the built-in SEO tools

DIY website platforms usually offer built-in SEO tools, but when entrepreneurs build their own sites, those tools are often left untouched. It’s important to fill out the title tags, page descriptions, image alt tags, SEO description and upload the sitemap and crawl the site in Google Search Console.

These are important steps to get set up for better search results. But it takes time to learn how to do them correctly, and stay up to date on current best practices (which change frequently!).

5. Your site design is inconsistent and clunky

One of the most basic things you can do to keep your brand consistent is to stick to a limited color palette and specific fonts. I’ve seen so many websites that use random colors that don’t match the brand at all. This causes brand confusion and visitors may think they’re in the wrong place. In addition, the fonts on the site need to pair together nicely and be large enough and dark enough for readability on all devices.

If you don't have experience with layout and design, your website can appear clunky and confusing, which can lower the credibility of your business.  

6. You're not using headers properly

Website copy should always include the use of header tags (H1, H2, H3). Headers help break up the page visually and help visitors and Google understand the contents of your site. If you don’t use these correctly, it can make the text hard to read and skim. People love to skim and if the website doesn’t aid in that process, then your visitors may leave your site without finishing the text.

7. Your home page is a hot mess

I believe the home page is the most important page on your site. It’s usually a visitor’s first impression of your business and it needs to quickly and easily explain what you do. I like to think of the home page as a summary or glimpse of the entire site, which is important because sometimes people don’t explore beyond the home page.

Your home page should direct your visitors to essential pages, give them a snapshot of your brand, and wow them with beautiful design. But if your home page looks rough, it can leave a negative impression on your visitors.

8. You're having technical issues

Even using a DIY platform, there are parts of the web design process that can be technically complex. For example, you might get stuck on connecting domains from third-party services, G Suite email setup, adding MX records, or setting up online stores or scheduling.

In addition, a lot of design elements can’t be adjusted in basic style editors, and often require bits of CSS code to customize and make adjustments. If you aren't familiar with CSS, you're forced to stick with what the template provides.