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Search Engine Strong

Portfolio Presentation

Websites starts with SEO

First published in

By Neal Hettinger

Why isn’t my site on the first page?

In my business, I meet a lot of company executives and the most frustratingly uncontrollable part of running a business seems to be getting and keeping their website on the front page of a search. A lot of other problems exist such as improving sales, getting paid, cash flow, and more but to be successful in business today—they know their company must have a website and show up in search engines like Google and Bing/Yahoo.

  And when they speak to a web master, technological words are thrown around that sound like English but without any context to base them on, the business owners are soon lost. Words like penguin, page rank, backlinks, keyword stuffing, do not explain much to the non-internet savvy business person.

  If you want to gain new customers via the internet, then you know for potential customers searching for your services, it is vital that your site show up on the first page. A quick solution is Adwords but these ads are not clicked on as much as you think and can get expensive so have an expert assist you.

  Figuring that the top spot on a page is paid for and will not answer their questions, most of your potential customers scroll down past the ads. When there are a lot of business listings and information sites for multiple businesses, they may go to the second page.

  As with anything, the process to get your site listing on the first page is complicated.

 To understand the beast, you need to understand why it was built or created. Search the internet for this history, and I wish you luck getting any one answer. However, reading through all the stories, there are reoccurring tales that may differ on dates and who gets the credit but do have the same concept.

  The original intent of the world wide web was to be an information resource. Sure it may have been an idea of the government to link computers in the case of a nuclear war but that was not an internet—that was a closed system linking computers for only one reason. That was a network.

  The internet as we know it today started as a conglomeration between US and England university libraries. It has evolved to be more than an information highway and include a lot of merchant catalog type stores, social sites so people can keep in touch, and as a marketing brochure for companies.

  URL stands for universal resource locater. Think about that for a moment. Resource Locater.

  Does your site share information? Is your site set up to be an information resource?

  Do not feel bad if it is not an encyclopedia but really a selling tool. However, Google has really started to push back sites that are strictly trying to sell to the public and is gearing their search engine to rank information sites higher. That could be one reason your site is not ranking as high as you would like it.

 

© 2015 Hettinger Design Group. All rights reserved.

First published in

Design has changed over the last decade.

What people knew is old and what is new is bold.

By Neal Hettinger

In my business, I meet a lot of company executives and the most frustratingly uncontrollable part of running a business seems to be getting and keeping their website on the front page of a search. A lot of other problems exist such as improving sales, getting paid, cash flow, and more but to be successful in business today—they know their company must have a website and show up in search engines like Google and Bing/Yahoo.

  And when they speak to a web master, technological words are thrown around that sound like English but without any context to base them on, the business owners are soon lost. Words like penguin, page rank, backlinks, keyword stuffing, do not explain much to the non-internet savvy business person.

  If you want to gain new customers via the internet, then you know for potential customers searching for your services, it is vital that your site show up on the first page. A quick solution is Adwords but these ads are not clicked on as much as you think and can get expensive so have an expert assist you.

  Figuring that the top spot on a page is paid for and will not answer their questions, most of your potential customers scroll down past the ads. When there are a lot of business listings and information sites for multiple businesses, they may go to the second page.

  As with anything, the process to get your site listing on the first page is complicated.

 To understand the beast, you need to understand why it was built or created. Search the internet for this history, and I wish you luck getting any one answer. However, reading through all the stories, there are reoccurring tales that may differ on dates and who gets the credit but do have the same concept.

  The original intent of the world wide web was to be an information resource. Sure it may have been an idea of the government to link computers in the case of a nuclear war but that was not an internet—that was a closed system linking computers for only one reason. That was a network.

  The internet as we know it today started as a conglomeration between US and England university libraries. It has evolved to be more than an information highway and include a lot of merchant catalog type stores, social sites so people can keep in touch, and as a marketing brochure for companies.

  URL stands for universal resource locater. Think about that for a moment. Resource Locater.

  Does your site share information? Is your site set up to be an information resource?

  Do not feel bad if it is not an encyclopedia but really a selling tool. However, Google has really started to push back sites that are strictly trying to sell to the public and is gearing their search engine to rank information sites higher. That could be one reason your site is not ranking as high as you would like it.

 

© 2015 Hettinger Design Group. All rights reserved.

First published in

The first step to your site being

Search Engine Strong

By Neal Hettinger

The basic purpose behind the creation of the internet was to provide people easy access to information. Search engines allow you to access that information in milliseconds with literally 1000s of resources. A list is provided, which as you know, ranks the results by what is considered the most relevant resource based upon the terms you entered.

  With search engines looking for informational sites, how do you market your company through your website? Your site was created for one goal—to sell your company with the strongest selling terms your marketing experts could create. Now, it needs to provide useful, relevant, and current information or you may not show up in the search results.

  Who thought of this dumb idea? And if the search engines after truly after information, why do they sell the top space. They even mark it as advertising just incase we don't know.

  Actually, the goal of your site and the search engines may not be that far apart. If you sell a service you have an expertise. If you sell a product, it should fulfill a need. Now you just need to present it in an informational way and not throw in something free if they order in the next 5 minutes, or use phrases such as for a limited time or bBuy buy buy! Even the consumer knows these are pressure tactics and not information.

  Yes, that means you sell your product or service like you do in a store but now you inform the potential buyer of your products special attributes that they need. If you sell a service, put in the answers to the question you most often get asked.

  Design your site to be useful to your customers. After all, your potential customer is really looking for information.

  Speak to your web designer or programmer and find out what phrases people are using to search for products similar to yours. The lists may be what you would expect but I usually find they are asking questions my clients had not thought would be asked in a search.

  Most searches today, known as queries, are not just one or two words. People tend to enter a search with phrases of three to five words. If you are a bakery, they may not type in the word "bakery" but "where is the closest bakery?" They even get more specific and type in "closest strawberry cake bakery”. When your customs come to your store or call you on the phone, write down some of the first questions they ask you. These might be the phrases potential customers are using in their internet searches.

  These phrases with answers need to be on your site.  With its updated algorithms, penguin and hummingbird, Goggle reemphasized its desire to downgrade sites that are strictly trying to sell their company and upgrade sites that are devoted to answering questions. Google is searching for true resources.

  Give Google and potential customers what they want with useful, relevant, and current information.

 

 

© 2015 Hettinger Design Group. All rights reserved.

First published in

The Dos and Don’ts of Portfolio Presentation

By Neal Hettinger

As the Creative Director for Century, LLC in Oklahoma City, Neal Hettinger tries to schedule one hour a week to review r©sum©s and portfolios of potential full-time and freelance designers and photographers. His 16-member team creates and designs the branding, packaging, advertising, catalogs, and Web landing pages for UFC equipment, TapouT equipment, adidas boxing equipment, Century Martial Arts, and maSuccess magazine. They also use a few freelancers to help out with the workload.

   The first step in submitting a portfolio is when designers send a r©sum© and samples in response to an ad or after they’ve made a cold call to a prospective employer. At this point, a prospective employer will make the decision to either look at more of the designer’s portfolio or file it.

  In this crucial stage, designers shouldn’t send in a plain r©sum©; they need to show their knowledge of fonts, ability to communicate, and layout skills. Unlike other professions, this is the first piece in your portfolio. You need to design the r©sum© but don’t overwork the layout so that it’s busy. Most importantly, make sure there are no spelling mistakes in any of your written correspondences and r©sum©. With spellcheck available, typographical errors will portray you as careless.

 

What to include?

The next pieces of your portfolio are the examples. When narrowing down your designs, keep in mind what the employer has requested. Try to send pieces that are related to what they want and also submit your favorite piece and a design that others have told you is good.

  Your full portfolio should start off strong, followed by work that relates to the potential job, followed by designs that will show you have other abilities and talents. Finally, finish with your strongest piece. Leave your portfolio open to that piece while you speak to the interviewers. You need to make sure they remember your face and at least one design in your portfolio when they make the final decision.

 

Avoid these mistakes

An art director usually receives design portfolios from three types of applicants: an artist just out of school, which may include a little freelance work; a designer who has been working for three to five years; and someone with more than five years’ experience. While all of these portfolios will contain different types of work, the designers should try to stay away from these common mistakes:

• Leading off with personal designs, such as birthday party invitations, club flyers, and birth announcements

• Poorly printed or worn samples

• Numerous photographs of paintings

• Numerous letterheads (unless that’s what the ad is for)

• More than 23 pieces if you have a lot of experience, and 11 pieces should be enough if you’re just out of school

• Bringing in a portfolio that’s large in size

• Accepting a cup of something to drink that may spill

• Having nothing in the portfolio that remotely relates to the position for which you’re interviewing

• Apologizing for the appearance of your portfolio—you shouldn’t be showing it if it’s not ready.

 

While these suggestions may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many portfolios and interviews I’ve sat through where designers didn’t think about how they were presenting themselves or their portfolios. Every designer needs to approach the interview as a project. The pieces should be chosen carefully for that employer.

 

The leave-behind

The last stage of your portfolio is what you leave with the art director. A number of schools have their students create books with their designs that can be given to the art director. This extra effort will put them ahead of someone with similar experience and portfolio level who only leaves a r©sum©.

  Just because you have 15 years’ experience doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave behind something reminding them of your work. In Los Angeles, an ad for a graphic designer will bring around 600–750 responses. After art directors look at those r©sum©s and then a number of portfolios, the interviews become a blur. Help them remember you and your designs by leaving something that represents your portfolio.

 

Communication and creativity rule

A few years ago, we were looking for a designer with five years’ experience. Of course, we received a lot of student r©sum©s with “three years of freelance.” We were undecided about the samples and lack of experience of one artist but we included her in our interviews. She communicated well with the art director and me, but what we remembered was her leave-behind. The designer gave us a handmade 3D brochure that showed a few of her design projects but when you opened it, the center top area popped up with her name and contact info. That designer got the position even though she didn’t have the experience we wanted. The art director and I felt she would bring a good work ethic and spark of creativity to our agency. We were correct.

 

When designers look for work in large cities such as New York, they may just drop off their portfolios and only interview if there’s a call back. In other cities, artists may present their portfolios. Designers need to be prepared for both circumstances and follow these suggestions for a good portfolio presentation:

• Keep it clean and simple

• Have a logical flow to your examples and group the pieces so the art director can follow along easily—don’t show a letterhead, then an ad, then two webpages, then another letterhead, and then another ad

• Rehearse your presentation—think of the questions you’ll be asked

• Have a number of portfolios, each geared toward different industries

• If you think you have too many pieces, you do

• If you have collaborative pieces, acknowledge them so you can show you’re a team player and willing to accept direction

• If the interviewers seem interested in a project, talk about it—tell them the software you used, what the client was like, how the piece exceeded expectations

• If you have 3D designs, bring one or two to the interview

• Be very critical of the pieces you choose—the prospective employer will.

 

A designer’s portfolio is a representation of his or her personality, abilities, and talent. Art directors will try to figure out if the applicant can design, work with their team, bring a new creative approach, and meet deadlines. A portfolio is your one shot to show you can do the job. Don’t choose the designs you love—choose the designs a client will love.

Your website starts with SEO

First published in

By Neal Hettinger

Search Engine Optimization, known as SEO, should always come first when designing a website. Do not get caught in the trap of designing first and then trying to bend the site as you optimize it for the search engines.

  Many designers have one goal — to create an incredible sight [yes —a deliberate play on words] that has neat bells and whistles for everyone to admire. A distant second in their goals is how the client’s site is found in a search. Most likely, the result will reflect the importance of that goal and be found on page 9.

  Some website owners decide to layout their website themselves using a template.  They immediately start looking at other sites. Their plan is to find sites similar to what they do and emulate the look. When they find appealing design solutions, they use those for inspiration.

  How did they find these sites—did they show up on the first page of a search? If the sites are too similar, will their audience know they are different? Better yet, will Google or Bing know the difference?

  If they are using a template, the builders need to ask themselves a few questions: why did they pick a particular template and were they thinking of their target market when they choose it? How did they pick their color scheme? Do their fonts reflect their company? A plumbing company may want to use something besides a script font.

  There are some website owners that do not care about attracting new customers and just want a site to add credibility to their company and present information to existing customers. A cool site is just what they need.

  However, most of the websites I am asked to develop need to draw in new customers through internet queries and then have those searchers find a professional, well-crafted site that gives them what they are looking for — easily! That will bring the internet surfers back and possibly become a customer.

  Your strategy should be decided before you think of the first idea of how the site will be designed. Include a list of of search phrases you need to work into your headline, sub heads, and copy.

 Now you can start the fun stuff—designing your site. Just don’t be disappointed if the final is not quite as spectacular as you intended. If your customers find you on the first page of their search, then you can count yourself among the few. Page though all the other sites behind yours and see how many have awesome sites that may never be looked at.

  Remember, most of your potential customers are not coming to your site to be wowed. Instead, they are coming for answers. Whatever they typed in a search engine such as Google, it brought your site to their attention. Make sure that information is there and found easily.

 Define your SEO strategy and then begin the layout.  As you build your site, very quickly you'll realize it makes it easier. In the end, you’ll have a site that both search engines and viewers will find engaging.

 

© 2015 Hettinger Design Group. All rights reserved.

 

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