These days, no matter how small or big a business is, a website is necessary. Dr. Maelisa Hall, your My Biz Bestie co-host, licensed psychologist and the Founder of the digital marketing company called My Digital Maven explains why it’s important to have a website and digs into the three main reasons why people would seek out a website and explore it. With the need for having a business page also comes the necessity to make it functional. Maelisa highlights some of the challenges and key mistakes when creating business websites including linking the right people. She also shares the simplest but most vital information needed for a home page and the importance of having a site that’s easy to navigate.
How Your Website Impacts Your Professional Reputation featuring Maelisa Hall
We have a special treat because I’m going to talk to Maelisa. We’ve had a lot of interviews. I feel like it’s been a while.
There is more of this to come, but our interviews have been great.
They have been good. However, it is a special treat because we’re going to be talking about why it’s important to have a website and all of those things. For those of you who do not know, Maelisa has a digital marketing company called My Digital Maven. Obviously, it is brilliantly named. She is helping professionals with their websites and SEO. We thought this would be a good thing to talk about and to explore the importance of why we should care about our websites.
Also, why it can help or hinder your professional reputation, which is something I believe. Even if you are an amazing person, if people go to your website and they’re like, “You have this little janky-looking thing that looks like it was built in 1998.” I hadn’t thought of this even before, but right now I’m realizing if there are any potential prejudices that people will have against you, that’s one of those things. If they go to your website, they can either confirm or fight that prejudice. If you are older and you did not grow up in the technology age and someone goes to your website and you have an old-looking website, they feel like you’re out of touch if you’re not great with tech. If you feel like, “I don’t know, they’re young. Do they have any good experience?” Like these 24-year-old life coaches, you’re like, “Can you do that?” Then you go to their website and there’s nothing there. You’re like, “They’re starting out.” You can use it so that people aren’t confirming the biases that they already have.
As you were talking about how it can be reflective of our impact, our professional reputation, it made me think about networking. It’s like saying, “I’m going to go to a networking event. I’m going to wear this T-shirt I’m wearing right now,” which is my favorite t-shirt and I get a lot of positive response. At a professional networking event, I don’t think a lot of people would talk to me. It’s a unicorn with a little blade on its horn that says, “I will cut you.” It’s one of those things where it’s putting your best foot forward. First impressions do mean a lot. We’re not talking about perfection here because people do overlook things. You’ve got to be you. Sometimes I think when people are either scared of it, they feel overwhelmed by their website or you’re getting somebody who doesn’t want to deal with it and it is a lot older, they’re like, “It’s good enough.” They are telling people it doesn’t matter but we disagree.
I’ve heard lots of people saying, “I know someone who has a successful business and doesn’t have a website.” The thing is there are those examples, but when people are pulling those out, they’re usually the exception not the rule. If you’ve had your business for twenty years and you’re a service-based business and you don’t need thousands of clients coming to you in order to make money, then you probably may not need one. Maybe having a one-page may be fine. It is like an online business card. If you’re newer or depending on the type of business you have, you do need a website to help people find you and to connect with people.
It’s an important thing to refresh. For my therapy business, I have gone through three different versions of my website in years.
I’ve only seen two.
In the first version, I did it myself. It was very nice at that time. We’ve got so much positive feedback from clients. It did stand out from a lot of other therapists’ websites in the area.
You were probably one of the few therapists with a website too.
No, I’m in Silicon Valley. Everybody has a website. There were those old school, forever crowd that definitely doesn’t have their website per se, but most people did have a website in Silicon Valley. My website was aesthetically very nice. I obsessed over it for a month. Eventually, after that time, I was like, “I need to update and upgrade this.” I did. At that time, it was very modern and wonderful. In the last couple of years, I was like, “I need to get this redone.” Finally, Maelisa did my website for my company. It’s quite beautiful. It definitely feels more modern. It’s one of those things that you need a little refresher. It’s like updating your headshot. If you’re still using the same headshot from ten years ago, there’s a discrepancy and people are like, “Oh.”
When you meet people, you don’t want them thinking like, “This is her headshot from ten years ago.” I was at a conference last time and someone said, “You’re Maelisa, right?” They came up and introduced themselves. She was like, “It was easy to spot you because you look like your picture on Facebook.” I was like, “Thank goodness.”
When you start getting that, “Oh, wow,” then it’s like, “It is time to update.”
I did think about three main ways that people use their website to vet you. If people don’t know you or if they have just met you or even if someone has referred you to them, oftentimes what most people do first thing is to go to your website, even before they’re going to call. I have been guilty of doing that even when I’ve been referred by a trusted source. If someone tells me, “Use this person,” I still go to their website. People will go there to check out. They want to know what is your level of professionalism to solve the problem they have. They will do this to vet you as either a connection that they want to have, that you as a referral source or vet you like a product or service that they want to buy. Let us dig into each of those three.
For the first one, they want to connect. Let’s say they want to connect with people in the area, they are networking or maybe someone has referred them to you and said, “You should check out these services.” For example, in both of my businesses, that’s a lot of how I get business. Number one is SEO. That’s how I get business first. People search and find my stuff. Number two is referrals. Other people are saying, “Check out this resource.” When people go on your website, they want to know are you someone that they can connect with. As I said, I was at a conference. After you’ve gone through all the business cards or you’re going through the list of people you wanted to follow up with, l do sometimes go to their website. I’m like, “I talked to them a little bit but I don’t remember what they did.” If you’ve done the thing where you have your creative job title on your business card, people may not remember what it is you do. They’re trying to figure that out. If you just put the creator on the business card, I have no idea what you do. Then they’ll go to your website to easily and quickly remind them, “This is this person. This is what they do. This is the service they provide.” They know whether or not they want to follow up.
That’s a good point because I always do that. I always go to people’s websites, whether I’ve been to an event and I meet all these people or somebody starts talking about somebody or I got a referral or I’m looking for something. I’m always going through because I want to see can I get as much information as possible about this person and what are they offering or what it is to see if it meets my needs as possible before I contact them. Personally, I’m super busy. I don’t want to waste my time having to talk to people if it’s not even a good fit. It’s important because it’s the thing that speaks for us before people contact us. I’m sure there are people that call straight off like when somebody gives a number, but most people are searching and looking at the websites first.
I’ve done this in almost every session I’ve been in. At conferences where someone mentions whatever resource in their presentation and it’s not on their website. They’re referring to somebody else. I was like, “I’ll look it up on my phone quickly so that I remember to check it out later.” If I’m doing that in that context, then I have so much information I’ve gotten from going to different sessions, from meeting different people. That person’s website, if it’s easy to navigate, if it tells me what they do, it communicates it clearly, then I’ll actually engage more. If it doesn’t do any of those things, then I’d be like, “Why did I pull this up again?” Then I move on to the next thing because I came home with 50 different ideas or 50 different resources.
Aesthetically it should look nice, but what kind of information are you including on it and making it so that it feels useful and you want to stay on it. As the web people would say, “It’s sticky.”
Another thing that I mentioned is they might use your website to vet you as a referral source. People want to go to your website, even if they don’t want to buy your service. They want to see are you a good fit for what their clients need. Depending on the type of product or service you have, you can play to that. For example, I know some therapists who rely pretty heavily on pediatrician referrals or doctor referrals. They have a refer a client tab on their website with a form for that person to fill out. That depends on what kind of business you have, but there are different things you can do with your website so that it’s easy for people to refer clients to you.
I was thinking about that and you’re being considered of the copy that’s on your website because that is a big piece of your income stream is through referrals, make sure it’s worded in a way that’s very clear. If they share a page, whether that’s the about page or services, they’re sharing something that makes it clear what people can expect and what you do.
One of the biggest mistakes I made with my first business was I did a little podcasting spree a couple of years ago where I pitched a bunch of people. I was on a few episodes. I did not do the special link thing. In the interview, I didn’t have them go to my homepage. I had them go to my opt-in, which is called a Crash Course. It was like QAPrep.com/crash-course. It was pretty easy for people to remember and easy for them to be able to type in. One of the episodes went live and I had a ton of people buy a specific product from me all on that day and the following day that the interview went live. I’m pretty sure that was not a coincidence. It had to do with being on that person’s podcast, but I don’t have any evidence to show that. Another way you could do that is by giving people a special referral code or coupon code. Think about ways that you can do that. I’m much more conscious of how to use my website. I’ll copy that exact same page and duplicate it, then I’ll put a special welcome message like, “Welcome, my Biz Bestie podcast listeners,” that you’re engaging with them right away.
As you’re saying, it takes a little bit of time but it makes them feel they’re special. You’re taking care of somebody else’s audience and their network. The reason that it’s important to track is so that you know, is this something that’s even worth doing? There are certain times where you’re doing things or collaborations or you do this even with advertising. Even if you’re doing Google AdWords or Facebook ads or Instagram ads or Pinterest, you want to make sure that you have special links that you’re tracking so you can see if this is even effective. That’s another thing like tracking that ROI.
Sometimes you’re surprised for some reason that this person’s audience connects with you. That’s a sign that maybe do more collaborations with them. One thing I could consider is sponsoring that person’s podcast. It gives you more ideas and it’s so much easier because even if I wanted to sponsor her podcast, for example, that’s tapping into a warm market. That might be more effective than paying for a Google ad.
You’ve got to be measuring all of that and it’s important because you never know. Who knew that unicorn lovers were a huge part of our population and we should always be doing unicorn episodes and marketing to unicorn lovers?
Especially in the beginning, your website actually gives you a lot of information about your customers or your potential clients. It is almost guaranteed whatever you do in the beginning is going to change, shift or you’re going to realize like, “I thought people wanted to learn about this, but this thing is the most popular.” If you have your website set up in a way to give you that information, you’re able to communicate and connect with your own audience a lot more easily.
That was even us looking at which episodes were the most popular before we planned out the season and realizing whenever we talked about finances, it seemed like downloads were much higher. It seems like that’s something to be addressed. It’s for us. We purposely sought out people that had that expertise. It’s using the data to make more informed choices so that your website content’s better. The stuff you’re putting out is better and you’re better serving the community that the whole goal was to serve.
On my QA Prep website, looking at all of the analytics and everything, there’s one thing that everybody asks me about in person. Everybody says it is their biggest concern and that’s writing notes. Treatment planning, no one ever tells me, “I want to help with treatment planning,” yet that is all consistently the top term where people are finding me. They’re writing it a million different ways. If I was listening to them, I would not keep creating resources around that. It’s only my website data that tells me, “This is still popular and necessary. People find it helpful.” I keep creating resources around it and it keeps being some of the most popular ones.
As they say, sometimes people don’t even know what they need or what they want. At the moment, notes are for therapists and people have taken notes. That’s one of those things, it’s always top of my mind, “I’m behind. I’ve got to do this.” When you’re in that crux of it, the treatment planning is the thing where it’s like, “I do need a lot of support on this because it’s not something we talked about a lot in school.”
The other reason that people are using your website to vet you is they want to buy what you have. That’s where your website needs to be pretty and easy to navigate, which is as important as pretty, but I think very overlooked. It needs to clearly say what you do and what you offer in very concrete terms. I’m digging into the StoryBrand stuff with Donald Miller. I was listening to an interview with him. He has this whole idea about your branding, how it should be at this story, how your customer is the hero and thinking about the hero’s journey. This all sounds very like, “Somebody’s ideas people that’s fun to dig into.” Over and over again, when he was using examples, he was talking about people’s websites.
It was interesting because I was not expecting him to be talking about websites so much, but he was. He was talking about how your website needs to be super clear. He was using that clear is better than clever. Don’t get creative. Even for his own brand, he’s like, “I thought StoryBrand made sense.” They were doing these StoryBrand workshops. I realized people didn’t know it was a marketing workshop. When they changed the name to the StoryBrand Marketing Workshop, their attendance skyrocketed. He’s in hips. Even him, he wasn’t thinking about that. Does your website clearly identify what you do in ways that people and a ten-year-old kid should be able to understand it?
That’s one of our favorite things. We say clear is better than clever because it’s so true.
I am reminding myself of it.
We appreciate clever. When people are clever, witty people, those are my favorite people in the world. I feel I just met the best person ever because I love that. Not in your marketing, not on your website, wot what I’m trying to be able to read what you’re writing. I think that’s another important tip. Putting in the thought about how easy is it to navigate your site, that’s such a pet peeve for me. I wish I could remember the example, but there have been a few sites I went to. I wish it would stick in my head where they made me work to figure out how to get to the place I wanted to be able to do to buy the thing. This should not be this hard. Luckily, I’m very determined.
I signed up for a summit, which I haven’t done in a while. It was like, “This is the landing page and it’s the clear button.” It says,” Click here to access the site to sign up for the seminar.” I clicked on there, then there was a little pop up that made me click again. I was like, “Why am I having to click again?” It took me to another page where I had to click again. I was like, “This is a free thing. It should be click, put in your email and your name and you’re done.” Unfortunately, that is hard for us to see ourselves. If you have a kid, have your kid do it and see if they can do. It should be that easy. No matter how intellectually advanced your product or service is, navigating the website should be doable by a ten-year-old.
Maybe have your partner do it because kids would be like, “Click again.” I don’t know if they would realize it. For people who are busy, this is irritating. I’ve now clicked four times. I know it’s a first-world problem, but why make it hard? I think that’s great advice though. That’s the thing where everything should be clearly laid out. I hate when I have to hunt for stuff. I was like, “I want to go see their podcast on their website and then you can’t find it.” You called it a blog or something. I was like, “That’s fine.”
Here’s one of my pet peeves too, is I go to their podcast. I check on the recent episodes and it only lists the last six or the last eight. There’s no button on the bottom to go to the older one. I was like, “I have no idea.” I wanted to listen to one from last year. I have no idea how to get there because I don’t know what it’s called.
It’s like, “Do you only have six episodes? “This goes back to, “Are you just starting?”
I think the ten-year-old rule is good for if you want it to be super clear, like more your copy. Is it clear about what you do?
I will tell you my almost ten-year-old, she gives all kinds of feedback about how I wasn’t being clear. They don’t have that ability. Everything’s very concrete at that age. There is no extrapolation happening. I would agree with that one. I was given the feedback that for opt-in forms to no longer ask for the people’s names. I don’t know what you think of that. I’m putting that out there. It’s not like you have to agree or disagree, but they were saying because many people have now caught on to be phony like, “Hey, Amber. Open up.” It almost feels like a disingenuous for people. They said there’s no point for many people. This is true. When I was looking through the opt-ins on my couple’s fix stuff, some people make up fake names anyway.
They only put the first letter.
It’s like gibberish or they leave a blank. It’s like, “Why even ask for it? Get their email.” I like to know everything so there’s a part of me that wants to know it all. Even understanding gender because you can’t. Although sometimes with names, you still can’t assume gender. There’s part of me that wants to know, but at the same time is that useful? I want to put that out there.
That brings up a good point of experimenting. You have to do that with your website. You have to do that continually. I’m still doing that with my website that does well and that is five years old. I’m still experimenting with new things because all this stuff does change. You have to roll with it, but you have to see what works for you. Sometimes you experiment and you’re like, “That didn’t work.” I think about the opt-in thing. That’s one of those common arguments is like, “Do you do the double opt-in where people like to opt-in for your freebie, then they have to go to their email and click confirm? Do you give it to them and add them to your list?” That’s GDPR stuff aside. That’s still something a lot of people have to consider. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. You have to figure out which one works for you.
Which one aligns with your values and personality and what you think is right? Despite what people think, I don’t think there’s always a definitive right or wrong. The only thing that’s wrong is adding somebody’s name to your list that did not opt-in. Quit trolling LinkedIn people. Quit trolling Facebook. I don’t think our readers do that. We are very ethical people. Our readers, they’re the people being inundated with the jerks that are doing that. That is wrong.
We are as frustrated as you are.
Don’t send me a message. I don’t want to hear it anyway. I digress.
We covered the three main reasons that people would seek out your website. To add a couple of other quick tips, one thing is when you do share your website with people, if for example they’re going to be a great referral source for you, I’ve had this where someone literally says, “I want to share your resources with my group.” This is a general rule for SEO and ads and all that stuff. Most of the time you don’t want to send them to your homepage. This is a common mistake. You want to send people to a special page. Whether it’s a special page where you’re welcoming whoever from whatever group. If you don’t have time to do that, think about a helpful blog you’ve written or helpful podcast episode. If it applies the direct service, but think about something that directly applies to that person’s audience that they want to share.
To go off that further, when people are saying they’ve contacted me and they want direct information about our services, I’ll send them to the service page. Don’t send them to the homepage. Don’t make them go through that. Give them exactly what they’re looking for. I have other therapists that work for me. When I’m referring to them, I send them to the direct link with that person’s bio so that they can get a little bit of information because you want it to be useful.
Along those lines, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not putting key information about your business on every page. It’s because you’re thinking, “Everybody goes to my homepage. They’ll click on my about page. They’ll read about the service.” No, sometimes people go to one page and that’s it. They’re ready to buy or they’re ready to contact you. Information like how to contact you needs to be on every single page that you have. Ideally in your footer. Probably in other places too. That’s your phone number, a contact form, your email address or a click to buy. I see that really often missed. People think, “I already have that on my homepage. I don’t need to have that here on my about page.”
“They can go to the contact page.” Don’t make them do that. Also, when you think about if you google search specific places, you usually see their main pages listed. If you already know what you’re looking for, you’re going to go to that page. To give people a little bit of context is important, I would be thoughtful of how you’re using the top third of that page. That’s the part that they see first. If it’s not engaging or intriguing enough or it’s like, “This is the same crap that you wrote before on another page.”
Do not copy.
This is why I’m wearing a t-shirt. I’m a little saucy but make sure that it’s something specific to that page and it doesn’t look like it’s redundant copy. That way they know and then have that information below. It doesn’t have to be that the top third is the same. I wouldn’t do that. In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea. I think little things like that make a big difference in people staying on your page and feeling like this is useful information.
My last tip is to make sure people can actually find your website. SEO has to be part of it. There is no point in having a gorgeous website that sounds amazing, that nobody can find. Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Google is not trying to trick you. I think a lot of people feel animosity towards Google and they’re not. They’re trying to give for the most part. There are some negative things we could talk about, but for the most part, put yourself in the place of being a client looking for something. Let’s say I’m looking for a pharmacy in the area nearby. Google wants to show me pharmacies nearby so that I keep using Google because then I’m like, “This one is right around the corner.” Whatever I’m typing in, Google wants to give me exactly what I want. You have to tell Google exactly what you have. I like to think of Google as a matching service. You’re putting out your little bio and what you have and other people are putting out what they want and Google is trying to match them. That’s as simple as it is. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
They’re trying to give the most relevant and best information. That’s why there are certain rules about why you don’t plagiarize, why you don’t take people’s information because it dings you. It brings you down in the search. Let’s face it, most people aren’t going past the first page. I do think SEO is a super important one. For me, I have even tried looking up friends or people that I refer to. I type in their name and I can’t find their website and I’m like, “That is unacceptable.” That’s crazy to me where you’re like, “What is going on that I can’t type in your name spelled correctly and your stuff doesn’t come up?”
Do not google search yourself. A lot of people don’t realize that you have to use an Incognito window. Google has learned your behavior. It might give you your website and you’re like, “I’m on the first page of Google,” but only for you. For everybody else, you’re not. Make sure that you’re doing a search that’s not using all the cookies you have on your computer so that Google has no idea who you are and is looking at you as a random person and not identifying behavior.
This is why we have friends. Ask them, “Google me and tell me what comes up. Screenshot it to me.”
I’ve had the same thing where I cannot find this person’s website and I have done their name. I’ve done all these different things. That is a sign that you have probably been dinged. It’s not that you’re not showing up in search, it’s that you probably are being penalized by Google. You’ll have to figure that out so you can handle that problem.
I know we have a lot of opinions, especially around websites stuff and marketing. If we were to say, “Please stop doing this or pet peeves or this is not good.” Besides the ones we’ve already mentioned, is there anything that you would tell people?
It doesn’t have to be that complicated. A lot of people get into trouble and a lot of these mistakes happen because they’re overcomplicating things. They’re trying too hard. You just have to have your address and phone number in the footer on every single page. Those are easy things that everybody should do unless you’re like me that only have an online business. There are a lot of little things that are really important.
That is my number one pet peeve and I had complained about it all the time. When people only have a contact form, I don’t care if it’s on every page or on the last page or on their contact page, it makes me so angry. I was like, “How many times that has happened where the person didn’t get the contact form?” I had that on my own where we had listed our email address because this is my pet peeve. We had this contact form and all of a sudden it stopped working. I’m not the one getting it. It didn’t occur to me and it went on from September until March. It was bad. The minute we fixed it, we were getting six or seven contact forms a day. It was so bad. You’d need to list your email address. For me personally, I want to be able to follow back up with that email address because often, people get busy, which is a whole separate thing that feels like burnout stuff. People don’t respond and I want to be able to contact them. With the contact form, there’s no way to go back or remember when did I contact them or to get a confirmation. I think it’s an important thing.
I think that’s such a great example because I did not have that on either of my websites. You were saying that and I was like, “I never thought about that.” I totally get that if you want to follow up, you want to have a record of what you sent them and all of that. That’s the best way to do that. I also understand people who don’t want their email being bombarded, which is why you can pay $60 a year and have another email address so that only one email gets bombarded.
If you’re a business owner, why do you care about that? Even if you are on LinkedIn or you’re on Facebook, people find your email address in spam email. That’s pretty private Facebook. You set up spam filters on your email, that’s all. You have to delete a couple of emails a day. That’s fine, but you’re a business. List your email address.
That’s one of the very first things why I started outsourcing. My email got overwhelmed because I started having many people asking me questions. A lot of them were things that I had written a blog post on like, “Here’s the link to the blog.” That was one of the first things I outsource a customer service person to deal with emails. It was one of the best things I ever did.
If that’s your hold-up, consider whether you want to be in business. It makes me nuts. I have somebody else too. Like on ours, we don’t list our individual therapists’ emails on our website. We list only the contact person, which is our intake person. She’s the person I’m paying to get through that stuff. Nobody is spending hours a day doing that. Nobody’s that big. In this day age, we can find it anyway, but you make me work and it’s irritating. I have to go all the way to LinkedIn to find your information.
Since I was getting many emails and questions from people, I did change. There’s the email, but then there’s the contact form. I actually changed it to have a dropdown, like, “I have a question about a product I purchased. I have a question that I want Maelisa to answer.” That flags for me like, “All of those go in a folder.” That’s content for days of questions that people are asking and I can go answer. You want to communicate with your audience. There’ll be so much valuable information. Ultimately, this stuff does not have to be super complicated. You don’t have to have a million web pages. You don’t have to have an insane strategy for SEO. They’re basic things that you can do on your own or things that you could pay someone to do. You don’t have to pay $10,000 too. It doesn’t have to be super expensive either. That would be my advice. Keep it as simple as possible.
Make it simple. Make it clear. Make it easy to buy from you and understand what you do. Thank you so much, Maelisa, for sharing your expertise. If people want to find out more information about your awesome SEO and website services, where would they go?
They would go to MyDigitalMaven.com.
Since we’re talking about the website here, you should head on over to our website, which was also designed by the beautiful Maelisa Hall. It is very easy to navigate. It does have a contact form so you could feel free to contact us there.
We love it if you do.
We would love for you to go ahead and sign up for our email. We promise not to inundate you.
We’ve maybe sent two emails ever.
Spread the love. I hope this helps you think about your website a little bit more. Think about, “How can I make this easier and feel like something that I feel proud that people come to it?” It is not about perfection and saying, “This represents me and my company, my brand and my vision in a great way. It is useful to my customers.” Thank you.
ABOUT MAELISA HALL
My passion is empowering others and de-stigmatizing mental health care. I’m a creator and an entrepreneur at my core and love supporting other therapists in a variety of ways:
1) Offering continuing education workshops and documentation specific trainings through QA Prep
2) Building websites and teaching therapists about online marketing strategies through My Digital Maven
3) Supporting all female biz owners in finding their support system through the My Biz Bestie podcast