Do any of these website issues seem familiar?
Websites are a necessary evil in this digital age. We kids entertainers rely heavily on our website to keep our bookings flowing and our cupboards full. But it turns out that the topic of websites conjures up images of big hairy monsters and feelings of discomfort and uncertainty for some.
I have been designing websites for 8 years now and I've recently decided to explore offering a specialist web design service for kids entertainers. I am a children's entertainer so I feel I understand our market. But as I am also a web designer, I think differently when it comes to websites.
Wanting to understand what the top struggles are among fellow kids entertainers when it comes to websites, I decided to reach out to them and ask. Here are the results. Does any of these resonate with you?
1. Lack of Control
Thanks, Bill. I get where you’re coming from. Nobody likes the idea of not being in control, and certainly not when it comes to the thing that provides your bookings.
Web technology is in a constant state of flux and learning how it works can be like trying to learn Mandarin. If you decide to build your own website, you are taking on the responsibility of learning the how, what, and why’s of building, running, and maintaining your site. That’s all good and well if that’s what you want, but the real problem of control comes in when you have a site built for you.
The website developer hands over your site and suddenly you are on your own. "How do I add testimonials, put in pictures, update my packages, etc." get met with "We will do it for you for a fee.”
As a result, many entertainers end up with outdated information on their website, and often the company (or friend) who built the website goes out of business, leaving the entertainer stranded.
Find a website designer who includes training in his or her package, someone who will not just hand over the reins to you but teach you how to make basic edits yourself, like add testimonials and pictures. In short, find someone who gives you control of your website.
This may feel frightening and you may be thinking “But I don't even have a basic understanding of websites.” And that’s okay. The truth is, if a website is built on an easy-to-update platform like WordPress, the basic skills you need to make updates are similar to the skills you use to write an email.
Feeling like you lack control when working with the geeky coder who is building your website, not knowing if he or she does have the right skills to do what you need, and worst of all, not knowing if you are being ripped off are all experiences we’d rather avoid.
The only solution is seeking out a website designer who will deliver a working website that meets your requirements and who will show you the ropes so you’ll be able to make the small but necessary updates to your site.
2. Understanding SEO and Keywords
Let’s face it. You can have the best website in the world but if it’s not seen, you’re not going to get bookings.
Many website designers hand over websites that look great but are invisible to Google. After a few months with no bookings, you may ask them why nobody is visiting and the answer you will likely get is “Oh, this is an SEO problem. We can sell you a service if you like.”
Take a moment and google “SEO services” and you will find millions of results with promises of first-page rankings for a monthly cost. Now that doesn't feel fair, doesn’t it? You’ve invested in a website only to find out that you have to pay more money just to get it seen.
Sadly, many kids entertainers who bite the bullet and get an SEO expert on board find that the service provider doesn't understand our market and rank the website for keywords that don't lead to bookings. Expensive, frustrating, and yes, scary. I guess that’s why fellow kids entertainers rate SEO as gripe number 2.
The good news is that as kids entertainers, we are looking for local ranking and this is way easier to get than national or international ones. So find a good website designer who builds local SEO into the site from the ground up. Proper SEO is not something you slap on your site afterwards. Rather, it should be built into the very fabric of your site.
A good web designer is someone who takes the time to really understand your business, the areas you work in, the packages you offer, and your competition. He or she will search for the right keywords for you and weave these into the site coding, titles, meta tags, headlines, subheadlines, and content.
The SEO and keyword debate has been raging on for decades and there are lots of contradictory strategies and best practices out there.
The long and short of it is that SEO is still super important. The reason for this is because searching is the most common online activity after email.
Billions of unique searches are made each month. The importance of this to people like us is those who are actively searching for a service (like ours) means that they are in booking mode—they are looking to hire. And if they are searching for a service that you’ve described on your website, you have a great chance of converting them from lookers into bookers.
So it is imperative to choose a website designer who understands your business and who provides local SEO optimisation as part of the package.
The key to good SEO is to describe what you do in a way that is informative for your site visitor and at the same time ‘understandable’ for search engines. Keep in mind that search engines do not understand the nuances, metaphors, and analogies people use when talking. So though it’s good to be creative when writing content for your website, it is also important to pepper it with keywords that will tell search engines what your website is all about.
Responsive means that a website works equally well on mobile, tablet, laptop, and desktop. Having a responsive website is essential today and not just because of the ubiquitousness of smartphones and tablets.
On the 21st of April 2015, Google introduced the “mobile-friendly” update to its search algorithm. This means that Google now views nonresponsive sites as less valuable than responsive ones and this shift is reflected in search results. (To know more about this Google update, check out this article that answers the most common questions on mobile-friendliness.)
Nonresponsive sites are sinking down the rankings and will eventually disappear as vinyl records did when CDs hit the market.
It’s so easy to get caught into thinking that your bookers act like you do. To be honest, I don't use my mobile to look at websites. I find it frustrating. But I realise that my bookers are not me and they behave differently.
Here is an analytics snapshot of my kids entertainer website over the last 28 days. As you can see, 45.71% of the visits were from mobile phones.
The reason for this is our bookers are mostly young mums who are always on their phones. It’s a case of meeting your bookers where they’re at.
Studies show that by 2020, 95% of all Internet transactions will be done on a mobile device. As it stands in 2015, more than 50% of our market already engage with our websites on their mobile devices.
With these statistics and trends (never mind the penalties from Google, although that is pretty important to), we simply can’t afford to ignore the importance of having responsive websites.
Find a web designer who will make your website responsive from the very start. Like SEO, responsiveness is not something that should be added to a website at the end. It should be part of the architecture from the beginning.
Yes, you can add plugins or tweak your site to give it a responsive feel, but true responsiveness should be built into the very DNA of your coding. This is the only way to ensure that your website will work smoothly on all platforms.
Although this gripe—analysing what works and what doesn’t—ranked fourth in my survey, it is actually really important. How can you improve and grow your business if you don’t know what’s working and worse, what’s not?
Being able to track, measure, and test what people do when they are on your site will give you invaluable insights into what they like, what they don’t like, and what could be costing you more than you know.
Setting up and installing a tracking code on your website may feel like a scary task. Aside from this, understanding and interpreting the results you get and setting parameters within the tracking software can also feel overwhelming. As a result, most entertainers don't track their analytics and just end up guessing what’s working and what’s not.
Find a website designer who can set up your Google Analytics for you and more importantly, provide training so you’ll know how to read and interpret the data. The Google Analytics and Webmaster tools will give you insight into the performance of your website and the ability to measure and target results appropriately.
Now you don't need to become an analytics whiz. You just need to be able to lift basic information like how many people visit your website; what pages they visit; how long they stay on each page; how they travel through your site; whether they are using a mobile, desktop, or tablet; what keywords did they type into Google; where they are geographically; and most importantly, what is getting you conversions and bookings.
5. Photos and Videos
Images and videos are essential tools for selling your services. There is nothing that shows your booker what you do better than a photograph of kids rolling around with laughter or a video clip of you entertaining and the kids having the greatest time ever.
The key is picking the right images. I have covered this topic in detail in my book “The Money Shot” which tackles everything from how to get permission to use pictures to what pictures to use and why.
Adding the correct pictures and graphics to make your website stand out can be challenging, and the cost of a graphic designer can easily run into hundreds of dollars.
Sadly, some website developers are solely coders. When it comes to complex coding, they excel, but when it comes to designing, they lack the flair. I attribute this fact as the reason there are so many ugly websites out there—and believe me, ugly doesn't sell.
Find a web designer with a design foundation who will work closely with you in selecting the right videos and graphics for your website.
I have loved putting this post together. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the research for this article. A lot of common gripes were shared, showing that we are not alone in our struggle with this digital monster called website design.
In my next post, I will be sharing what fellow kids entertainers answered to the question “What is the most important thing for you when it comes to your website?” Be sure not to miss it.
In the meantime, I am excited to be taking steps into providing website design services for kids entertainers. I have setup a website that you are free to visit if you want to take this topic further.
So there you have it, the top 5 gripes related to websites for kids entertainers.
Do any of there topics resonate with you? Do you have your own pet gripe when it comes to websites? I want to hear about it.
Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts or to ask any questions that came up from this topic and I will do my best to interact and answer where I can.