how to improve your website – score workshop for small & local businesses part 1

The Role & Importance of SEO, Branding, Content, Usability and Beyond – Part 1

SCORE is a national nonprofit association that focuses on assisting small businesses within their 300+ USA chapters. They help the local economy in each area, creating opportunities for folks to successfully start and grow their own business and therefore increase job creation in each area. General Manager Etela Ivkovic and Senior Project Manager Ralph Legnini had the recent pleasure to give a workshop to SCORE members in the Hudson Valley region. The goal of DragonSearch’s digital marketing workshops is to help organizations gain various online marketing skills that can be utilized for their business. There are a few options for workshop location:

  •  at the location of your business – our team will travel to your location and present to your team,
  • an organization can come to our DragonSearch offices, or
  • we can host a remote, shared screen video-call workshop.

It is often the case that smaller businesses do not have the resources available for instructional interaction with a top marketing agency. For that reason, we provide local workshops on an ongoing basis geared towards these small businesses and individuals. The focus of the recent SCORE workshop was on how to improve your website. We wanted to share the ideas that were covered at this event so that you could gain knowledge from the questions and concerns of other small businesses who are:

Thoughts on Brand Projection and Trust

Brand Projection

What is YOUR brand? You may be clear on what you do, what you make or what service you offer – but– What IS YOUR brand? How much have you thought about this? YOUR voice. YOUR style. YOUR presence. It all starts here. Coca-Cola, Apple Computers, Cadillac, Red Bull – you know them. They are huge brands that have defined how they want you to perceive them; their solid and consistent message is woven into everything they do. You can do the same. It starts with sitting down and really thinking about it, either by yourself or with the key people in the organization. Define your brand. Enhance the focus. Solidify your message, and let it help shape all that you do moving forward.


Do you trust the guy on the street trying to sell you a watch or flicking a flyer at you? Would you confidently give him your credit card or personal information? Of course not! What about your own website – does it project trustworthiness? It’s got to! Does it look hokey or outdated? Is your brand message clear? Is it cluttered with too much information? Too many CTA’s (calls-to-action)? Does it look like a cheap haphazard website? If so, then that is how you are broadcasting the image of your brand to potential customers.

Who Am I? Start with Your Brand

Define Your Brand, Voice & Personality

Many startups are not sure where to begin. Everything you do, be it online or off, will all be driven by what your brand is. So your first step will be to define who you are and what you are about. Ask yourself:

  • What does your brand represent?
  • What does your brand stand for?
  • If you had to describe your business in 1 to 3 words, how would you describe it?
  • What is your voice and personality? Is it fun and playful? Or formal and more serious?
  • Are you, the individual, representing the brand, or will you create a company that has its own name and brand?
  • What makes you different and better from your competitors?
  • What is your unique value proposition (UVP)?

Understanding the above will help differentiate the brand and will shape how it will be represented on the website, in content you create, in social media and beyond. The second steps will be to do your homework and check out the competition and the industry as a whole. Ask yourself:

  • What is happening in the industry, is it in line with what you are about?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How well do they define their brand?
  • What are their strengths and what are their weaknesses?
  • … then focus on opportunities they may be missing

A thorough job of defining your brand will give you a solid foundation to build your company on and can help establish the perception and reputation you want to build. All of this will drive your website and overall online presence and strategy.

What Name Should I Use for My Business?

After you defined your brand, its voice and personality, apply all that to choosing the name for the business. Take your time and think it through. You will be building a whole company and brand around this name. As part of the process, do searches online and pay attention to what the results are. Are there other established brands with that name that you would be competing with? Is there any negative sentiment or results associated with that name? It is not recommended to choose a name that one or several companies are already using. Once you decide on the business name, it is important that you stick with it. Use only one version of your business name consistently. Do not use different variations of the name, spelled out, truncated or any other deviations. It will be confusing to your customers and just as much to the search engines.

Choosing Your Domain Name

Try to get your company’s name as your domain. If you are just starting out and are picking a name, make sure you check that the domain name is available. Stick with the .com if it’s possible. Naturally if you are an organization you will want to use the .org extension. Avoid using hyphens “-” in the domain name if possible. Often startups wonder if they should use a keyword rich domain name. You can read a bit more about exact-match domain names in this article Keyword Rich Domain Names – Should You Invest?

You can view the entire presentation of this workshop below or download it from SlideShare:

Design, Navigation & Structure

Your website’s design should reflect your brand’s personality. A small, charming B&B will want a very different look and feel to their website than an accountant or an e-commerce site. The main focus is on making sure your design truly represents you and connects with your audience. Small businesses often neglect their logo. While you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars into creating a logo, make sure that you have a well-designed logo that, once again, is a true reflection of your brand and style. Keep your logo simple and avoid the trap that so many small businesses fall into; don’t put a huge logo on your website. Make your logo small enough on the website so that it is clearly visible and readable. Make sure everything else, the design, structure, visuals, and your content, is a true representation of your brand and speaks directly to your customers. Structure your website so that it makes sense to your end users. Remember that we may think of our services or products in a different way than how our customers might think about them. Understand how they think about what you offer and structure your site and its navigation with that in mind. What if someone lands on a deeper, subpage of your website? Will they be able to understand where they are on your site and navigate to other parts of the website? It’s always a good rule to remind ourselves that consumers typically don’t care about the brand; they care about their own needs or problems, and they are looking for a solution to them. How will you solve their problems or fill their needs? Once you understand that, make sure your website clearly communicates that to them not only through your copy, but also your website’s navigation, structure and yes, even design.
How to Improve Your Website

Structuring Your Navigation

Create a clear navigation menu that tells visitors AND Google in two or three words exactly what each page is. In other words, your menu items should be something like:

  • Gourmet Take Out
  • Event Catering
  • Wine & Food Tastings
  • Organic Menu Cookbook
  • Kitchen Gadgets

Instead of:

  • Food
  • Catering
  • Events
  • Store

Keep this overview in mind – the word ‘Events’ in and of itself is very unfocused, and could mean anything from car racing to music concerts to church functions. You have focus the lens and be specific.

Content, Analytics, Conversions & More

In Part 2 of this workshop  we dig deeper into website content, blogging, conversion optimization, calls-to-action, analytics and more. In the meantime, we would love to hear what you think is important when getting started with a business. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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