Just because you put up a website and have a nice portfolio doesn't mean potential clients will find it or contact you. Learn strategic steps you can take to get people to your site, keep them on your site and taking action, so you build a profitable creative business.
- Google Analytics
- Content Snare
- Web Design Business podcast, Episode 214: Advanced Website Accessibility and How to Sell it as a Service with Colleen Gratzer
Josh Hall is a web design business coach, podcast host and web agency founder who lives and works in Columbus Ohio. Through his online courses, podcast, YouTube channel, he teaches web designers how to build their dream web design business that gives them freedom and life they love.
Getting to Know Josh Hall
Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Josh. I’m so excited to have you here.
Josh Hall: I’m excited to chat with you again, Colleen. Thanks for the invite to come on.
Hopefully, I can give some value to all your listeners about conversions and some website tips, which I always love talking about.
Colleen: Yeah, we’re going to get into lots of good stuff. People need to take some notes about their portfolio websites.
Josh: Get the notepads ready!
Colleen: Yeah. We’ll start off with some fun questions and the first one is, would you rather be the passenger in the car or the driver?
Josh: Driver. I don’t even need to finish that question. I would 100% be the driver.
Maybe that’s the controlling business owner in me. But I do prefer to be the one literally holding the wheel.
Colleen: I certainly relate to that.
The other question would be, would you rather win the lottery or live twice as long?
Josh: Twice as long. That’s a good one. Twice as long, for sure.
The idea of inheriting or winning money, I think it’s pretty well known that it generally doesn’t turn out well. I don’t care who you are but I feel like if you get handed something, you just don’t appreciate it.
But when you work hard, and then you earn it, earning is so much better than just receiving. That’s a whole ’nother topic for discussion.
You could take that in the business world. Rather than just having something handed to you like a business you inherited versus creating it from the ground up.
Of course, that person who built it with their blood, sweat and tears is going to care about it more.
Colleen: That’s true. Good point.
What Is a “High-converting Website?”
Colleen: A lot of designers will go and put up a website and they’ll make it look super nice. They’ll put their work on it and then work to look great and everything. But they’re not thinking about SEO or conversions.
Of course, to get clients, we need to get people to our websites. We need to keep them on the website and hopefully take action.
So the first thing I want to talk about is, let’s define what’s considered a “high converting website.”
Josh: I think you can measure conversions in a lot of different ways. But you have to have some sort of goal with your website.
This is one of the primary things. If I could go back to 12 or 13 years ago when I first started designing websites for clients… If I could go back to Josh’s 13 years ago and say, focus on this one thing for your clients.
It would be: Determine the goal. What is the goal of this website? What do you want your customers to do?
I know that sounds simple and elementary. But the simple things to do in business and in life are so simple not to do. It’s so easy to overlook them.
The first thing is you got to have a goal and that is generally going to determine your messaging. It’s going to determine your content.
It’s going to determine your call to action or calls to action, if you have multiple calls to action. It’s literally going to help you frame how you design and build your site.
You talk a lot about accessibility, technically, I think it’s probably safe to say if you have a site that is confusing that it’s probably an accessibility issue. So the clearer you get in the goal of the website, it helps every party involved.
But it really starts with the goal. What do you want people to do? Do you want them to submit a form to get a quote? Do you want people to call you? Do you want people to buy something on the site? Do you want people to schedule a free consultation?
Ask your clients, what you want them to do and then we can build out the entire site from there.
Website Analytics and Traffic
Colleen: I think a lot of designers/business owners/freelancers focus on how much traffic is coming to their site like, “I don’t have huge numbers so I need to increase my traffic,” or “I’ve got to get tons of clients because that’s what everyone’s always talking about getting new clients.”
But you don’t have to have huge amounts of traffic. You have to have huge numbers of clients to have a profitable business too.
When it comes to Google Analytics or any kind of SEO traffic tracking measures, what do you think are some good ways to do to make it easy for designers?
Josh: I think for web designers—but this will probably be the case for all designers—you said it, Coleen, you don’t need that many clients. You do not want to look at quantity, you want to look at quality.
From the analytics perspective, it’s much more important to look at percentages rather than actual numbers.
For example, I have a couple of colleagues who run a digital marketing agency/design agency in Nebraska called Artillery Media. They do not have that many people that look at their website but what they do have is really high conversions with really good clients.
Even if they just get 100 visitors in a month, if 10 of them convert and they each pay $5,000 or $10,000, for a website. That’s huge.
This is such an important point when it comes to measuring conversions and looking at stats. It is 100% all about quality over quantity.
Don’t compare yourself to other metrics and stuff. Look at what you need in your business. If you need two clients a month that pay you $5,000 or $10,000 for each project then get two people to convert. That’s your goal.
Again, going back, what is the goal that’s going to help you figure out your numbers? As far as some metrics, even if you just want to look at those metrics, there’s a quite a few different things you can do with analytics.
But much like accessibility, I’m learning more about what’s going on and what’s changing in that landscape. There’s a lot going on in the analytics world.
But the short of it is, with privacy issues and things going on, Google Analytics is playing catch up to GDPR compliant analytics.
So anyway, I use Fathom. But whether you use Fathom, Google Analytics, MonsterInsights, or whatever it is. One of the biggest things you can look at is bounce rate, which basically means people coming onto your site, and then leaving without taking any other action.
You can look at the bounce rate for your homepage. You can look at it for landing pages or service pages. Bounce Rate is typically what you want to try to get down as much as possible.
“Experts,” say you want to try to get bounce rates under 30%. I think that’s probably a good metric. You generally don’t want to have more than half of your traffic leaving without taking any other actions.
Bounce rate is a great place to start when you’re looking at analytics. Again, you don’t have to look at the actual number of people. Look at the percentage.
Out of 10 people, how many of them are leaving without doing anything else on your website? That’s a good metric to work on.
Colleen: Yes. I think a lot of designers compare themselves to others.
What the other designers are getting: how many clients or how much traffic they’re getting, if they’re talking about it that is.
But like what you’re saying, I think that goes back to the goals and understanding what your goals are and what you actually need in order to accomplish those goals.
Josh: When it comes to comparing yourself to other designers and agencies, just remember, first off, everyone’s different.
Second off, the comparison is going to lead to all sorts of terrible things. It’s going to make you feel bad about yourself.
Every design shop and every designer is different. We all have different goals.
In my journey, I’ve known a lot of agency owners, some are big agencies that were doing multi-six-figure and seven-figure agencies, but the majority of them are not doing it anymore because they burned out.
They have so much churn in their agency that it’s just become this beast that they can’t even control.
I loved having a very small team and just having a much more of a solopreneur approach to my business. I had to learn the hard way not to keep on looking at everybody else and stay in my lane. I know we’re getting outside of conversions.
Colleen: That’s okay.
Josh: But it’s a really, really important topic when it comes to measuring your success because you have to measure the success of your situation in your business. That’s not going to be the same for everybody else.
A Designer’s About Page: Solo vs Team
Colleen: That’s an interesting point that you brought up.
Because the other thing I was thinking about, which goes back to this topic, I think it does relate because having your story on your website is important.
That can really help connect with somebody who’s looking at your site—a potential client.
But a lot of designers want to be this bigger team and they’re always saying… it drives me nuts when I go to a website and I know it’s a solo designer and they’re “we, we, we-ing” all the way home.
I struggled for many years with this “I” versus “we” and it just felt like it was inauthentic because I was an “I” at the time. It was no small team then but I was an “I.”
I was thinking, “If I’m not a “we” then I’m not going to get the big projects.”
But I feel like when we’re more authentic and just own our situation, I think that actually is better than trying to struggle with it and what we say on a website about it.
Josh: I have a cure for that or at least it’s the cure that worked for me when I was going from “me” to “we,” which was a really, really tricky area of my business when I started to scale. It sounds like you did as well.
First of all, yes, you do not want to falsely advertise yourself. You don’t want to because I see the same thing. I see so many people who start their businesses and say, “we’re a massive digital agency.” And I know it’s a dude in his parent’s basement kind of thing.
What you can do is get into a paid community of really good colleagues and partners. Especially if you are in some sort of web design community, which I think most people are now. If not, definitely get into some free communities.
They are your team. This is what I learned, even though I didn’t do all the things. I tried to surround myself eventually with people who could do those things.
So on a team page, even if they didn’t work for me full time, I had a lot of colleagues on there that I would just say that they collaborate with me occasionally.
Colleen: I used to do that.
Josh: Oh my gosh. It’s genius. It’s the best way. I don’t think I came up with that. I think I probably saw it and though it was a good idea.
Because I didn’t want to go from “me” to “we” for those bigger projects that were like, quite frankly, were a little—and I had clients say, “I’m a little worried about you doing everything. I’m afraid you’re going to get burned out. I’ve had problems with designers who have flaked out and got burned out.”
So I learned to say, “I am the creative director. I run the ship. I do a lot of the things that I’m good at and I’m going to be the primary communicator with you. But I have a team of people when needed.”
Or like, if we’re going to go this direction on SEO, or if I were to meet you now, Colleen, and we were going to do some accessibility stuff, I’d say, “I’ve got Colleen to handle some of the accessibility stuff.”
Josh: That’s the way to go when it goes from going to “me” to “we.”
Colleen: I think since it’s more authentic, you’re more confident talking about it too.
I remember being so not confident when I would say that because it felt like I was lying. I was against doing anything like that. I just felt like it didn’t feel right.
Josh: Don’t lie. Yes. Don’t.
You don’t have to say, “I’m working on my basement couch at my parent’s basement.” You don’t have to say that.
Just say you have collaborators or people who can help you out in the project if need be. Staying small is the next big thing. I know there’s a lot of books out there on that topic. But that is totally true.
I don’t know what you’ve seen in the landscape but I’ve actually seen that the term “agency” is really frowned upon by a lot of clients.
They felt that it was just a number on a spreadsheet that they get with a salesperson who turns them over to a creative director, who turns them over to a project manager, and then who turns them over to a designer.
They’re like, “I just worked with 10 different people. I don’t know who to talk to,” and things aren’t going well or lines of communication are tricky.
It’s not always a great thing to be an agency. But if that’s the way you want to go, awesome. There’s a ton of resources out there and a lot of people can help you build a seven-figure agency if you want.
But from my personal experience, there’s a lot of power in being a small team and just you and some trusted folks that you work with.
They don’t even have to “work for your business.” They can just work with you when needed.
Colleen: Yeah, exactly.
SEO: Fathom vs Google Analytics
Colleen: Let’s get back to SEO for a bit since we were talking about that. You’re talking about Fathom in place of Google Analytics.
With Fathom, do you find that easier to use than Google Analytics? Because Google Analytics makes my eyes glaze over.
Josh: You know what’s funny? My most popular or my second most popular video on my YouTube channel is a Google Analytics tutorial. The reason it’s so popular is that I am a simple guy.
I was just so confused by it for years and it just dawned on me that analytics is really three main things:
- It’s who’s coming to your website,
- what are they doing, and
- how they get there.
That’s what we’re looking at when it comes to analytics. So that’s what I was able to dumb down in that little 10-minute Google Analytics video that I posted on my YouTube. I think that’s why it resonated so well.
The same thing with Fathom, it is analytics, however, it is a much more streamlined and simple tool to use. It may not be as robust but when you drill down into it their goal was that they don’t want to be.
They don’t want it because Google Analytics is, while it’s powerful, it is intimidating, and it’s really confusing.
It’s something that you’re able to measure SEO. I am an affiliate for Fathom, but I’m not from Fathom.
I’m just saying from my perspective, it is much easier to manage and just to look at the clean stuff that you want to look at.
Again, what, who, how, that’s what you’re looking at.
Who, What, Why and How
Colleen: Speaking of who, what and how. Let’s talk about who, what and why, and maybe like a UVP, and the clarity on what you do, who you do it for and how that’s important for a website.
Josh: So the what, who, how and why is absolutely key for websites. Now, the reason I pause there with why is I don’t always recommend diving into why on the homepage of a website.
What, who and how, those are the big three. If you want to do anything on your website, focus on what you do, who you do it for, and how—either how to get started or how you do it.
This is where you could potentially add in a process. If you have something like a 123 type of process, which makes it really easy for a potential client to move forward.
However, in some cases, I think the why is almost better if it’s a layer back. If somebody really wants to know why they need to do that, or very tactfully put in there in some sort of flow for a website, so it can be on a homepage.
I’m going to contradict myself because the tagline of my podcast and what I do is to help people build a dream web design business. The “why” is so they can have the freedom and the lifestyle they want to live.
My “why” is in my taglines. You can cleverly add in a why, what, and a who potentially, all in one headline. This is way easier said than done and it often takes a long time to come up with a catchy short tagline.
But the what, who, how are the biggies. What to do, who you do it for, and how to get started or how your process works.
Then if you can sprinkle in your “why” there or even just put a little bit of flavor of why in there and then have a page maybe behind that’s like your story. That’s a really big beneficial benefit that will help with conversions.
Niching to Attract Clients
Colleen: It’s so important that when potential clients go to your site they immediately see whether they’re in the right place or not. Some of this goes back to when you’re doing all the things too.
If you’re very clear about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for—when those people show up looking for that particular service or skill from you, or they’re in that particular industry that you serve, and then they see that—they are so much more likely to keep looking and looking and going to your website.
But if somebody comes to your website and they’re in the security industry but maybe you work with crafters. It’s like if you’re trying to attract everyone, you’re actually going to alienate the people that you would or that would want to choose you for your focus.
Josh: Yes! Now we’re branching into going niche territory, which is fascinating.
I was a generalist. I work with a ton of different industries but my services were very detailed. Build websites, optimize for SEO and maintain them. Those were the three big things that I did and I was able to work with a lot of different industries.
However, there are a lot of benefits to going really niche—into one industry. Just like what you talked about on my show when I had you on my podcast.
You talked about how you learned the power of just really diving into accessibility and how that separated you from everyone else. There is a lot of power in niching if you want to go that route.
I generally don’t recommend going hyper niche in one industry until you know it’s proven or until you’re really good and you know how you are different from a lot of the other people in the industry.
One thing you can do—one of my best examples of this is a colleague of mine Jimmy Rose who runs a website.
Colleen: Oh. I know of him.
Josh: He runs Content Snare. Content Snare is my favorite tool for collecting content. He built that originally for website owners and web design agencies, because what’s the biggest issue that all website owners have? Collecting content.
What was interesting is he started getting accountants and lawyers and bookkeepers to sign up for the tool. Because what do they do? What are their biggest hassles? Collecting content as well.
He was faced with the dilemma of how to continue to work with web designers and agencies, but also cater to the people who are signing up more, and frankly, they have bigger budgets. They can just pay for it better.
What he did on the homepage was really interesting. He created a link for each of them—web designers, bookkeepers, accountants and I think for higher ed.
You can drill down into those pages which have the same tool and same processes. They’re just catered to that industry.
If we can tie this in with conversions, if you’re interested in working with a few different industries, there’s your model. Have a landing page for each industry, even if you do website design, SEO and hosting and maintenance. Those can be your services.
But you can rephrase the wording in each one of those main services. You have got my friend a very chance of a higher conversion website.
If you just target each service page, a landing page by industry, and just get a little more detail with what we talked about—what you do, who you do it for, then we can talk about how and the call to actions.
Colleen: That reminds me of when I was targeting… early on in my career, I got kind of niched into nonprofits because that was my first job out of college.
I worked at a nonprofit and then other nonprofits would ask about a designer and then the people I worked with would refer me to do freelance work for other organizations.
It just became a thing and it just snowballed into I’m always working for nonprofits. But on my website, I don’t necessarily want to focus on nonprofits. I’m not going to niche or I don’t want to alienate anybody.
It’s throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks kind of thing. Whenever I was writing blog posts, I was always like, well, nonprofits use different words from businesses and so it just felt so awkward all the time to try to be talking to both audiences at once.
I was just like, “Forget this. I’m just going to pick nonprofits and go with it.”
That’s what my experience is. That’s what people are going to come to me for. They always have. I’m just going to go hard into that because that makes the most sense.
Trying to figure out how to talk to them drove me crazy. The “I” versus “we” and then the “businesses” versus “nonprofits,” and I was like, “Oh my God. I’m having an identity crisis.”
Josh: When in doubt, you could talk about your services more than anything. That’s the big thing—just talk about what you do. The who you help is probably always best to come later because that’ll evolve over time.
I should say, too. There’s no rush. There’s no sense in going cold turkey like I’m just working with auto mechanics now. The popular term is, “I’m just going to build into sites.” You can but you can always ease into that if you want to.
One thing I’ll say is, instead of saying, “These are the industries I work with…” You could say, “We commonly work with these issues.” Another great conversion tip.
If I’m a lawyer, but I see that your agency works primarily with auto mechanics and hairdressers. I may not be on that list but I know I can still work with you.
It’s just maybe those are the main ones you’ve done so far. That’s another conversion tip, too. If you are going to be a generalist.
But if you find that you have a niche and you have people that you really, really work well with, by all means, go for it.
It’s funny. This is so timely, just earlier today, I have a web design club—a membership of web designers. One of my members actually presented there today about website security.
When he joined last year, I had no idea that he knew much about security. He was just a kind of a general web designer and then as I got to know him, I was like, “Dan, you know a lot about security.”
And he’s like, “Oh, yeah.” He’s like, “I’m super passionate about it. It’s a huge area I feel people need help with.”
I don’t know too many people on the security side of things that aren’t super nerd geniuses. I can’t even understand what they’re saying or they’re people who are never going to come on to a podcast.
I said, “Dude, let’s go for that.” He then created this whole brand called Risk Buddy, and now it’s his endeavor to help out web designers understand security and vulnerabilities on websites.
Colleen: Oh, wow.
Josh: Just a prime example of like, for me, as somebody who is a connector by nature with people, I’ve got my accessibility person, guess who that is? That’s Colleen.
I’ve got my security guy. It’s Dan. He knows a lot about security. So that’s how powerful it is, from a conversion standpoint, when you’re known for something.
That’s easier said than done. But I’m kind of working on this as well because my brand has evolved a little bit recently. I’m really focusing on the business side of web design, outside of where I started, which was just how to build websites.
But I’m happy to talk conversions because if you’re going to have a successful web design business, you better build converting websites, for sure.
That’s kind of what I’m working towards being known for, just as to kind of bring it around with like a practical example.
Colleen: Yes. When you become known for that one thing, everything is so much easier.
I’ve been in the industry for 25 years and I’ve had my business since 2003, and nothing made as much of a difference, not even close, as when I got into accessibility in 2016.
Before that, I looked for what I wanted to focus on. I tried different things, figuring out what do I really want to go hard and on.
I had a coach one time asked me, “Well, maybe you should focus on just design and not focus on development. Which can you take off your plate?”
But focusing on something and becoming known for that, it really is life changing. It’s business changing and it’s so much easier, it makes everything easier.
Josh: It does make everything easier because you can create your messaging, your content, and your services around what you do best and what you’re known for.
Now, a little challenge, I would say for everyone right now would be just to don’t take any time just, if you say, “Hey Jimmy, what are you known for?” Say it real quick. What do you think you’re best at and what you’re best known for?
If you don’t know it yet, your clients may tell you by the referrals that you’re getting, or the questions they have. But it’s also something where sometimes you need to say what you do and that’s going to help determine what you’re known for.
For example, when I was a generalist web designer, I was doing anything and everything. I was also a graphic designer, too. So my suite of services was like 48 services, ranging from video, photography, brochures, business cards, websites, e-commerce, and all these different things.
As soon as I reeled those into a package of services that was so clear: I build awesome websites. This is what’s involved: the build, SEO, maintaining. That’s what I chose to focus on. That’s how I built my six-figure business with a small team.
But it was really figuring out, “what am I known for?” If I can say what I do, really quickly, in front of a small group of people, which I did every week in a networking group, that was one of the things I learned from networking.
We had to very concisely say, what do you do? In a few different words or less. How beneficial was that? Suddenly, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to make that the headline of my website.”
I’m going to say exactly what I do, who I do it for, and how I do it. Boom. There we go. We just covered the what, who and how.
Having Clarity About Your Design Services
Colleen: I had a coach one time say to me years ago, “When you’re confused, your clients are going to be confused. But when you have that clarity, then clients will come to you.” It was so true.
I felt like I was living in a fog for like, I don’t know how many years it was, but many years. Once I had that clarity, I felt like I was more confident and clients were more confident. It made all the difference.
Josh: You got to get clear. I agree. That was very wise sage advice!
If you are not clear on what you do and how you help, the client will know that and it’s going to be really hard to convert if you’re not clear. There’s a great title, “If you want to convert, you got to be clear.” That’s probably a book somewhere.
It’s funny because I’m in a mastermind group with a few colleagues and one of the colleagues—a younger, super-savvy guy. I think we were all like, what exactly do you do again?
Actually, the leader of the group kind of asked us, do you guys know what he does exactly?
I felt bad because I kind of know but I’m a little unclear. He was even a little unclear about exactly how they help their clients in the best way.
It was a good challenging exercise for him to look at. Going back to our framework that we’re talking about, who does he serve and what do they do best?
There’s a lot of things you can do with services in your business, no matter what industry you’re in. But you have to decide what are a couple of things that you’re really good at that you want to do.
If you can limit that to like absolutely one thing. Great. But again, you need to be really good at that one thing. You need to make sure you can really deliver on that one thing.
In most cases, for web design, you’re going to do a handful of things under one kind of umbrella of packages.
So once we’ve got the clients on the website, we’ve got that clarity, and they have that clarity. They know they’re in the right place.
Calls to Action on Your Portfolio Website
Colleen: Let’s talk about some things that we can do to keep them on the site like calls to action, for example.
Josh: Well, somebody said, that’s kind of interesting, because they are not going to be clients on your website until they click that call to action. They’re actually going to be leads.
I’m just kind of joking about that. But it is an important distinction. You have to remember that everyone who visits your website, and everyone who submits a contact form is not necessarily going to be a client.
You may need to weed them out a little bit before they become a good fit.
Colleen: Yes, definitely!
Josh: I had to learn that. Most or everybody learns this: You don’t want to say yes to everything and not everybody on your site is going to be your client.
Colleen: Thank goodness for that!
Josh: Thank God for that, yes. Again, quality over quantity.
There is that mediator between somebody who has a lead, who’s interested and who gets what you do. In order for them to become a client, there is that all-important middle step, which is boom, your call to action.
With this similar mindset, the clearer you can get on your call to action, the better.
One thing I’ve seen that’s really common, not only with web designers but just in the online entrepreneurial spaces, is people will say, “Let’s chat,” or “Contact me” which is a bit vague.
When it comes to a call to action, a button, or literally the place where like you want somebody to do something. Tell them exactly what to do.
Earlier I talked about knowing the goal of the website, I had to learn this with clients. If you want people to book a free consultation, guess what your button should say, “Book a free consult.”
Make it so clear that way, if they click “Contact me,” that could mean a lot of different things. Contact me could be “get a quote,” it could be “ask a question.”
It could be to just casually chat. No one wants to do that. No one has time unless you’re with a friend.
That’s why I have a bit of an issue with the “Let’s chat” kind of thing. I know it’s personal and I know it’s cute and fun. But do you really want to just chat with somebody looking at your website? Or do you want them to buy from you?
Because if that’s the case, then the button should say “Buy.” So whatever it is, make that your call to action. That’ll really help the buyer process when they know, what am I doing if I sign up for this?
I’m a fan of “Get started,” but if you say “Get started,” you need to clarify what that means.
Colleen: Mmm. That’s a good point.
Josh: Does it mean to get started on a proposal? Or does it mean when I click “Get started,” I’m going to an invoice right after that?
State very clearly what that call to action is. I promise you it’s going to help clear things up so much better and it’ll help with conversions.
Colleen: Okay, that’s great. Those are great tips.
How important do you think blogging is? I think blogging and having content on your website is very important because that’s helping search engines lead people to your website.
But a lot of designers hate writing or they think they can’t do it. It’s very hard sometimes to get started. I know I found it very difficult to get started at first.
But then once I did, I was like, “Oh my gosh. There’s so many things I could talk about.”
You get questions from clients. You’ve got things you want them to know about maybe preparing files or case studies and things like that.
Why Designers Should Blog
Colleen: How important do you think blogging is and putting out fresh content?
Josh: There’s definitely a difference between content as an umbrella term and just blogging. I think you don’t have to do blogging per se, but it is extremely beneficial.
I feel like there’s a new window of opportunity for people who do want to blog and build resources and content on their site as far as written content because so many people aren’t doing it now.
A lot of people are focusing on social media and quick content, and quite frankly, on platforms that are more interruptive.
Blogging on your site brings people to it who are looking for answers to a question or it’s bringing people who are going to stay on the site longer.
Another conversion tip that I’ve learned over the years, especially recently there’s this currency in the online world that not many people talk about, but it’s really important and that is the average time on site.
So going back to the Google Analytics thing we talked about earlier, or any analytics, average time on site is a metric that I would definitely pay attention to.
Because if people are leaving your site at 30 seconds versus if they’re staying on there for an average of like 2 to 4 minutes. That means somebody’s engaging with your site. They’re staying on there.
What does Google like? Google likes sites that people don’t leave really quickly, so blogging can definitely assist with that.
Yes, blogging can be a lot of work, and it kind of goes back to the idea of the goal. If the goal of my website is to get a certain type of client, that’s going to help your content strategy.
When I started blogging, I unintentionally started this brand new career for myself as a content creator.
But when I started my blog on my agency site, I was blogging about personal stuff, web design stuff, and not things for my clients. So my clients didn’t really care about necessarily all my blog posts.
What I found that I was doing—and this is really common for web designers is they’ll start doing blogging or content creation, and then they create content for other web designers.
But if other web designers aren’t going to pay you for a service, you don’t want to write for them. You want to write for your clients.
So I definitely recommend it. I would start small. I would do like once a month and make it a just good article that’s real.
You could get more advanced eventually with SEO and keywording and all that stuff but it’s a really good practice.
If you’re going to do blogging, or any sort of content creation for the sake of conversion, have the goal in mind, for sure and I would say just try it out. Give yourself light at the end of the tunnel.
For example, when I first started doing content, I committed to doing 12 videos on my YouTube channel. That’s how I started my JoshHall.co YouTube channel.
I can tell you how beneficial that was because I didn’t feel the overwhelm by just non-stop content forever.
It was like, once a week for three months, 12 videos. I can do that and when you start creating content, you’ll learn you can bulk record or bulk write, and then schedule it out. So that’s the way I would approach that.
And again, write for your clients, your ideal clients. You probably already know some of the challenges they have. But just ask them, if you have 10 clients, ask them.
What are the things you’re confused about, or you want to know more about? Boom. You probably got eight articles you could write on for the next couple of months or half a year.
Then suddenly, you’ve got a catalog of content on your website that makes you look like an expert and someone with authority. You’ll gain confidence and it’ll definitely help you convert because there are SEO benefits.
Then you’ve also, as you mentioned, you’ve got a library of growing resources that you can send to your clients. Oh my gosh, I could keep on going. So I definitely recommend it.
Colleen: The other thing, too, is you can ask them questions, like what you’re saying, to find out what problems they have. I had issues with that early on in my career because I would be asking the wrong question.
I would be basing it on design and not the end goal—the problem they’re trying to solve. Or they would answer with something that was related to design. You really want to get out of that and focus on asking them business-related problems.
Even if they’re nonprofits, they still have to run things like a business. They still have to bring in an income because that helps you understand how you can serve them better. You’re not just looked at like an order-taking designer.
Josh: That’s a great point. I definitely recommend that when you’re working with clients and helping them out with their copy and messaging, which inevitably, you’re going to get into that realm as a web designer, unless they work with a copywriter who absolutely does everything.
You’re probably going to tweak the copy and mess with the SEO functionality of that. Ask about their customers and ask about the problems they solve. That will help you with the copy and the content.
Bringing it back to asking a client, what are their challenges to help with your content? You could ask that in a more tactful way.
You could say, what questions do you have about website stuff? Then might say, for website, it’s going to be design or they’re not going to say conversions. They could say that no one’s filling out the contact form.
Then they unintentionally just told you a conversion tip and you can write an article now that says how to get more leads to fill out your contact form. You could do that and then give them tips on conversions that you learned right here today.
There are a lot of different ways to go about it that are a little more tactful. It’s kind of the same principle. The more clear and detailed you can get will help everything because it can be the same with how you ask questions to clients.
Colleen: You were saying about having this content out there helps you position yourself as an expert. I think it also really helps, as part of that, it helps the sales process too.
It makes the sales process easier because the more that they see that you’ve written about this and how much you know—because they don’t know as much as you—the more they would see you as an expert.
They’re also learning from it and they’re like, “This person knows what they’re doing.” If it’s down to you and some other designer, maybe they feel more confident in you because of these things that you’ve put out there.
You’re also being seen as helpful in sharing this information, so it’s not just saying, “Hey, look what I know.” It’s also saying, “Look, I’m being helpful, I’m trying to help you understand this stuff better.”
Josh: Absolutely! Yes! Here are some tips. Here are my ideas. Here’s what I wrote. Here’s what I recommend. Here’s something that worked for one of my clients.
Even if you don’t want to name them, you can say, here’s what I did and here’s what worked for this client, try it out.
That will help you write a blog post because you can just share what you know and a really important point you just said, Colleen, you would look like an expert towards your clients.
It doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert towards your competition or towards other web designers or agencies.
But for people who don’t know anything about websites, you are going to be their expert. Even if Josh or Colleen knows way more than you know, this person over here, the client knows this person. And they’re like, “Well, I already trust you. You know a lot. To me, let’s do it.”
So such an important point. You don’t need to be an expert in the field. You just need to share what you know.
Even if you just know a little bit, you would look like the expert to your clients and to your potential clients. That’s all you need to grow a nice healthy six-figure fun web design business.
Building Trust With Potential Clients
Colleen: We want to have something that’s going to build trust other than that, so that’s one way to build trust is putting out content like that.
Let’s talk about social proof and testimonials and things like that.
Josh: Oh, yeah. There’s actually one thing I might say before that as well that I think is really important.
I cannot believe how many people still do this to this day. And that is… here we go.
Colleen: I hope I’m not guilty of it!
Josh: Let me see. Let me see. Nope. You’re not guilty. You’re on there.
Colleen: Okay good! Woohoo. I’m off the hook.
Josh: The other thing is saying who the heck is behind the brand. Like, if I went to creative-boost.com and you didn’t have that section that said, “I’m Colleen,” I wouldn’t know who’s behind this.
Sometimes that’s intentional if it is a team. But I still recommend having a “Meet the Team” section on the homepage because nowadays, more than ever, people want to know who they are going to work with. It’s so important.
I think maybe in the early 2000s, people liked the agency where it was, “Well, we’re working with an agency. It’s so cool.”
But again, years of that left a very sour taste in people’s mouths because they got burned or felt like a number on a spreadsheet.
When you have a website, even if you don’t want to come across as a solopreneur, still say who is behind the brand, because people want to know.
It was one of the things I work with a lot of my new students who come into some of my courses and my community. I’ll look at their website and I’m like, I have no idea who’s behind this.
I don’t know if it is a team of 25 people paying rent downtown in a building, or if it’s one person working from home. I have no idea.
So again, say who is behind this. We’ve already talked about the ways that you can implement going from “me” to “we.” Share if you work with a couple of people regularly and put them on there.
It’s like me and a few people who help you out, or it’s me but I have an incredible network of web designers behind me. Say who it is, it’s so beneficial for conversions because people are not going to move forward if they don’t know who the heck they’re going to talk to.
Letting Clients Know What to Expect
Josh: Another little subtitle tip under there is after somebody submits a contact form, or gets a quote, another really cool tip is to let them know who they’re about to hear from.
This was a really interesting tip that could work out in a ton of different ways, depending on the sales process, if that gets the conversation started and they just submit a contact form.
It could be, “Thanks for contacting us.” They’re like, “Okay, who am I going to hear from? How long is this going to take?”
Let people know, once they get started or once they open the door, what’s the next step?
Here’s who you’re going to hear from. It may be me. It may be an assistant. Or how long is it going to take?
“You’ll expect to hear from us generally, within 48 hours, between Monday and Friday.” Those things go such a long way with conversions.
Remember, you may convert “people” into a get a quote form or contact form but that doesn’t make them a client yet. That makes them a warm lead.
If you really want people to convert, the website is the first part. The next part typically is the follow-up process. We don’t have to dive too far into that.
It is a really important aspect because you can measure conversions. If your conversion is a contact form submission, then you hit your goal. If your goal is a sale, then there’s like a layer back of conversions that you need to follow up with.
Just having a simple confirmation page that says who you’re going to hear from and what the expectation is, goes such a long way.
Colleen: I think that’s another thing that helps position you as an expert because it’s saying “I have a process.”
I’ve done this. It’s like rolling out the red carpet. Clients love attentiveness and responsiveness.
Josh: They love that. As you said, it looks awesome. It’s so easy to do.
That would be another challenge that you could do wherever you are right now unless you’re driving or mowing the lawn or something like that, pause this and add a really cool confirmation page.
Don’t take more than an hour on it. Just get version one up, say after your contact form, “We got your message.”
If it’s just me, who’s going to contact you, “I’ll be in contact with you generally, within 24 hours during these days…” Boom. There you go. You’re done.
I remember when I was using Basecamp for project management, which I love for many years, I had a support question.
I went through their support channel and it was a confirmation page I got taken to and it said, “We got it. We usually get back within 24 hours. You’ll hear from this person, this person or this person.”
I remember the one guy emailed me and I was like, “Oh, that’s so cool.” I saw his picture on the confirmation page. He really did get back to me and it was him.
It just adds so much to the personal touch in those things that are going to help convert that.
Again, I feel like a lot of people don’t talk about it too much when you hear about conversions. Some of the tips we’ve probably glanced over are pretty common.
But the idea of a really cool confirmation page is not super sexy, but it’s super powerful.
Making Yourself Memorable as a Designer
Colleen: Yeah. You could even have a video on there of yourself saying thanks for contacting me or just something to show your personality.
It makes you more memorable because people nobody’s doing that, so you’ll be remembered. “Oh, there was that cool designer that had that really cool confirmation page.”
Josh: The more personalized you can get on your website and in your entire process, that will help with conversions.
One thing to remember in web design, in particular, for a lead, they’re probably talking with a few different designers and different agencies, so you got to separate yourself.
Something you do talk about on this podcast a lot, I think pretty much every tagline that you say, you want to separate yourself from your competition.
The more personalized you can get with this cool little thing is super powerful.
Colleen: You made a really good point a few minutes ago. But I wanted to just reiterate it. When you were talking about the expectations of cold leads and warm leads, a lot of designers get really upset and disappointed when people come to their site, or they have a sales call with them, and then they don’t hire them.
Or they connect with them on LinkedIn and they don’t hire them. Or they email them asking if they have work and they don’t hire them.
You have to understand that if people don’t know you yet, why are they suddenly going to be like, “Yeah, I’m going to hand over my money to you. I don’t know you yet. I don’t know your work.“
There’s so many questions with this whole process of removing doubt and that is to take them through that journey so that they do work with you.
Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun always says this:
“No now, does not mean, no later. It just means no right now.”
Josh: That’s a good point. That’s a great point.
There’s so many tips and tricks and talks and in different ideas about conversion rates as far as sales in general.
I once had a guy who I think did sales for some sort of airline manufacturing part. It was really niched and really weird.
When I first started my business, I just talked with as many business owners as I could, just asking them about their tips.
We were sitting at a Bob Evans one morning and I’ll never forget it, he said:
“Josh, sales are 20%. If you can do 20%, you’re good. You’re going to make enough as long as you charge enough for your services.”
Some would say that’s really low. I’d probably venture to say that out of 10 people, I want at least five of them probably to move forward.
But as you up your value, you’re going to get fewer clients. So luckily, you don’t have to sell as much.
Weeding Out Bad Clients
Josh: This also brings us to an interesting point where when it comes to a conversion, you generally want to weed people out who are not a good fit.
The designer talks to 10 people and all 10 say, “No, that’s not going to go well.”
Number 1, I would say that’s probably something on your end. You got to get your messaging right and figure out what you do. Generally, you want to have at least one person out of 10 people.
But the other aspect of that is well maybe they’re just, they’re not great fits. Maybe you don’t even want them as clients or maybe through your bad messaging and confusion on your own design.
Maybe you’re not attracting the right people. They’re just not getting what you do.
I think everything we’ve talked about to this point will help with converting people once they get to that point. But then, a whole nother topic in this conversation is like, how do you weed people out?
Luckily, you can do that with your messaging, with who you serve, and then with price point. You don’t have to say exactly how much something might be.
If you have to do a custom quote you can have ranges. That will really help weed the people out who are not good fits.
You can just focus on getting on calls with people who are really good leads. If you’re having trouble closing at that point, then maybe it’s something that you need to work on with your service.
It’s probably just a few little tweaks you need to do to boost your conversions as far as selling.
Lead Magnets/Free Guides for Clients
Colleen: So true.
I think lead magnets, well, a lot of designers don’t have lead magnets. But I think lead magnets are a really great way… what I mean a lead magnet is like a free guide.
So somebody’s going to the website, they’re filling out a form, they’re giving you their name and email address, and they’re downloading a free guide.
They’re holding on to that. They’re reminded of you later after they leave your website or when maybe they’re not online.
What do you think about those?
Josh: I think they’re beneficial. Because I grew my business and I never had a lead magnet. I know you don’t need to have it.
Josh: But I will say it’s really beneficial going back to the thought that you talked about where it’s not a yes now, but maybe it’ll be a yes later.
For example, if you have a free guide about the contact form thing. It’s like five tips to help people actually fill your contact form out.
You can have your five tips somebody signs up for. And again, if you’re working with small businesses, you’re not going to get thousands of signups. But it’s quality over quantity.
If they sign up for that, and you email them once a month, you just have some tips that you’ve learned maybe pulled from your blog that you wrote or maybe a case study on a website that went really well, then maybe six months from then maybe that’s when they pull the trigger.
But it’s because you’ve stayed top of mind with your email. You definitely don’t need to be an online marketer and have this huge campaign by getting people on your email list.
You can really prime them to be hot leads, whether you have 10 or 100 or 10,000, it doesn’t matter.
Particularly when they’re paying high dollar for high-dollar projects. I definitely recommend it. It is probably a strategy, I would say that is going to be a little more useful for filling in the gaps of the feast and famine of design.
Because then you have a list of 32 people who you can email and that will definitely attract clients as long as you just give them some value and stay top of mind.
Colleen: It doesn’t matter what the numbers are. I can tell you, even though I’ve been doing this a long time and had my business a long time, I’ve always had what anybody would call or consider a small email list.
I didn’t have a lead magnet for many years because nobody was doing them back when I started. It’s totally possible to do that.
Josh: One of my students had 80 people on his list, and he was like, “Gosh, I thought I had 500. But I only have 80.”
I’m like, “Dude, that’s fine. Just try it out.” He did some emails once a month, and it did pay off for him
I think maybe three or four people over the course of a year signed up. But if those three or four people are paying $5,000 to $10,000, guess what, you made that small email effort that may have been worth $20,000 to $40,000. Just by doing that. That is so beneficial.
Social Proof for Your Design Website
Colleen: Social proof, like testimonials or reviews, things like that. I think that’s helpful too.
Colleen: People don’t want to be the first ones to try you out.
When You Have No Clients Yet
Josh: Right. So perfect. What a setup. What a segue.
The big question is for people early on, what if I don’t have any reviews or testimonials?
Colleen: Oh, good point.
Josh: What I always recommend doing that has worked for me and it’s worked for a lot of my students who are in the beginning phases is, I very hesitantly say this, but if you do any work for a trade-off or for free, keep it constrained and limited to what you’ll do and don’t spend 100 hours for nothing.
Require a testimonial. You can build your portfolio from there and then you can have two or three testimonials that will make you look awesome.
Now, somebody might say, “Well, Josh, what if I only have three clients? Is that going to look bad?”
Here’s my other little hidden trick on how to have like three testimonials and make it look awesome. Call it featured work or recent work.
That’s all potential clients need to know. They don’t need to know how many clients. I never had any clients ask me, “How many people have you worked with?” It doesn’t matter.
They may ask, “Have you worked with a barber shop before?” In which case, if I had. Awesome.
If not, I would say, “No. But with a lot of the principles I’ve designed for other sites, I think it’ll work fine for you. We’ll do some extra research and stuff.” Boom. You’re good.
So when it comes to social proof, just get two or three. Three tends to look better in columns on websites and add an image, for sure. Ideally, add a client image because if you just have a blurb with text, you’re going to glance right over it.
Have an image of the person, a little bit of text, not a paragraph just a little bit, and then boom, you’re golden.
If they were free clients that you did work for, they didn’t pay, no one needs to know that. That is our little secret.
Colleen: Right, right.
Josh: That is our little secret. But there you go—featured work, recent client, thoughts, something like that and you’re good.
Colleen: I worked a full time job and freelance for seven years before I went out on my own and when I needed to get testimonials on my website, I asked coworkers, “Can you give me a testimonial? I want to put it on my website.”
I had so many of them that were like, “Yeah, no problem.” Or even colleagues that had worked on a project with me. They could speak for my work ethic or the quality of my work. That was really helpful too.
I would just replace them with client testimonials as I got more work.
Josh: There you go. That’s what I was going to say. Just replace them as soon as you can.
You definitely don’t want to do it in a shady way or falsely advertise. If you actually do work for somebody, even if it’s free, again, it’s still the work that you did.
They don’t need to know they didn’t pay if that’s the case. But either way, don’t neglect social proof because it’s so important.
Some people may say that people don’t look at reviews or testimonials. I do. My wife does. That’s really important.
Colleen: I totally do.
Josh: Especially, when it comes to service. You will get a feel if somebody has written a review that’s generic or robotic, or if it’s real.
If you can have people give some sort of result in a review. That’s when it’s really beneficial. That leads us to a whole nother topic, which will lead to case studies.
I will say, something I would recommend diving into is that if you have a good result for a client, do not let that go.
Josh: Because we’re talking about conversions, you can have a little case study which, guess what? Ding ding ding—becomes a blog post.
You can talk about the challenges that they had, how you solve that, and where the client is now with their website traffic and their conversions, and then that is your sales tool. You could use one case study for a year and just pump it out over and over to people.
Colleen: You could promote it on social media, so there’s that too.
A lot of designers put up their portfolio work, but they don’t put up any text and the text is what’s going to help search engines come, like lead people to the site. So having the text on there is so important.
Josh: There’s another little SEO trick I learned from having a portfolio with websites that each have their own dedicated page—when people Google the company.
If your site starts getting ranked, your portfolio page and your work will likely start showing up on search results.
There’s a bunch of extra traffic that may end up being a really good potential client for you.
A Footer Call to Action
The only last thing I’ll say that I might recommend doing that I see overlooked a lot is to have a footer call to action.
What happens that I see is that a lot of designers will work really hard in the hero section of the website above the fold. We’re talking to designers here so I can talk that lingo.
When you see the website, and then what happens is the design just kind of starts to fizzle and then by the time you get to the bottom it’s just like… but what a perfect time if somebody does make it all the way down on a homepage.
Don’t leave them hanging. Have a section like, “Are you ready to get started?” or give them some urgency.
Even if it’s the exact same call to action that’s up top, have that down there. You’ll see with a lot of really popular platforms that they only have two call to actions or more.
Because people may glance over it and then by the time you get down to a page, they’re like, “How do I get started?”
If there’s no glaring call to action from them or no fixed menu, that’s really important.
So have a footer call to action. That’s my last tip on that.
Colleen: This has been chock full of tips. This has been really great.
Josh: You can go to my website Joshhall.co. There’s a ton of different resources there. The driver of my business is my online courses, so if anyone wants to take a guess at what my call to action is, it’s to check out my courses.
Honestly, if you go to my website, my brand is an interesting case study, because I have so much different content. It was really hard for me to reign in strong calls to actions because I’ve got people in very different places of their journey and stuff.
But I just learned what the most beneficial thing is for me. How do I give my students the best result? It’s my courses.
Colleen: Yes, great podcast!
Josh: The links to my socials if you want to connect with me are also there.
Colleen was recently on my show, the Web Design Business podcast. You are back on episode 214, which wasn’t that long ago. A lot of great talk about accessibility, so if you’re in the web design business world, that’s definitely a resource I recommend.
Colleen: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on. This is a lot of fun.
Josh: Thanks for having me, Colleen.
I hope this was beneficial. I hope it’s fun. Conversions are fun.
Conversions equal money and freedom.