Current trends and techniques in the world of website design and development.

How to Prioritize Your Digital Marketing Budget.

If you’ve been following our series on digital marketing budgets, you’ve probably read the previous posts. If not, you may want to back up a bit…

In this post, we’ll be discussing how best to prioritize your digital marketing budget. First, let’s focus on where to get the most bang for your buck.

Which Marketing Strategies are getting the best results?

In a few surveys by leading digital marketing research firms a couple years ago, companies reported on what marketing activities had generated the best results.

The charts below shed some light on this question:


As you can see from the results; Email Marketing, SEO, and Content Marketing are the dominant channels for ROI – all yielding over 45% “Good” rating respectively. The fact is, this has been true for the better part of a decade (if not longer) and with advancements in marketing technologies and automation being able to bring together, analyze, optimize, and capitalize on your digital marketing tactics, this dominance is not expected to go away.

My digital marketing budget is going to be limited. How do I prioritize it?

For this post, I’m going to assume you have some sort of web presence already. If you’re just getting started, the following guide will apply to you as well, but before you dig too deep into expanding your digital presence, you’ll want to first focus on establishing one. Nevertheless, these steps should help anyone put the pieces together for an effective digital marketing budget.  

Let’s get started:

You have to know where you are, to get where you want to go!

If you haven’t taken advantage of our free website analysis, you should do so right away. There are many free website “auditors” out there and while I’m rather partial to ours because it gives you the ability to compare yourself to a competitor (and some other really cool features), all of them measure pretty much the same stuff.

A report like this will tell you where the problem areas are on your website. Specifically problems that might be keeping you from ranking for keywords on search engines and gaining valuable web presence. Even if you don’t understand everything on a report like this, most of them will give you a general “grade” that can give you a sense of where you stand.

Not only is a website audit valuable for surfacing problem areas on your site, it also serves as a benchmark by which to measure your digital marketing tactics moving forward. And because so many of these reporting systems are free, it doesn’t hurt to check often.

Check Your Website Here, Now!


Please note that while many audits are free, they have basic info and will only point you in the direction of the issue. I.E. “25 of your images still need alt tags”. They will not get into specifics about which images, or their locations are without alt tags. If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis, hire a digital marketing agency to put together an in-depth analysis. At Swell, we consider the number of pages that you’d like analyzed and WHAT you’d like analyzed. Our audits start at about $275 for a few pages and go up to about $5000 for 600 Pages.

Analyze your website for User Experience (UX).

Try to get into the head of your potential customer and travel every page of your website starting with the home page. How do you feel when you first arrive? Is the message about who you are and what you do, being communicated clearly? Is the content digestible and well thought out? Is it easy to navigate?  Is it obvious what action you want your users to take (call, request a quote, come into your location)? Again, pay attention to how you feel while traveling through it. Would you want to work with or buy from your company based on the website alone?

Visit your competitor’s websites. Look at your contemporaries. What are they doing better or worse?

If your answers aren’t positive to most of these questions, then it may be time to design a new website.

While there are many DIY platforms and other inexpensive methods to build a functional website that might even save you a bit of money at first; they may end up costing you more money in the long run. Having a well-designed, well-coded website is crucial to rising in search engines quickly. It’s also one of the key factors in how Google auctions ad space. So don’t skimp.

I’m not saying you can’t do great things on a shoestring budget, I’m just saying, if you’re going to save costs anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the foundation of your entire digital presence in a digitally dominant marketplace.

Very basic, relatively “cookie-cutter”, but effective websites can be accomplished for a couple thousand dollars. However, depending on your goals – most local and small businesses should plan on investing at least $5000 in their website. Larger small businesses, e-commerce platforms, or those with more complicated functionality often invest no less than $10,000+.  

Invest in SEO.

No matter what.

If you’re going to start anywhere, start with search engine optimization (SEO). A well-optimized website is the center of your digital footprint. If you’re just starting to learn, SEO is a series of tactics that earn a website more authority with search engines like Google. Put simply, we’re translating your website in the language that Google understands and then expanding your overall digital footprint by acquiring links back to your website from other related websites.

There are some pretty basic, but essential SEO tasks that you can do yourself with limited knowledge, but beware that best practices SEO is a technical process. Hire a consultant at the very least, and depending on your needs, it would be wise to hire a full-service agency. Even the best SEO can take time to see drastic differences in rankings and authority, so many business owners and marketing departments end up getting overwhelmed on the amount of work and time it takes. But search traffic is the most dominant source of high-quality users you can earn. And since you are truly earning rankings, SEO is a pure investment in the equity of your website.

When we budget SEO strategy at SWELL, we take into account five primary things:

  • your goals
  • your keywords
  • your geography
  • where your website optimization currently stands
  • & your competitive atmosphere.

We take all these factors into account and discuss the amount of work it’s going to take to accomplish your goals. Consultancy often starts at a few hundred bucks a month and full-service SEO packages start at around $600/month for a small local campaign and up to $4500+/month for highly aggressive commercial SEO. Beware of companies with large up-front costs, contracts, “too low to be good” monthly rates or “too good to be true” promises or guarantees. Be sure to get an exact list of deliverables from your SEO provider, and if they have trouble explaining any one of the items, that’s probably a red flag.

Ok, I’ve built a great website and my SEO is underway. What now?

Consider your budget.

Make a decision on how much your business can afford to budget on digital marketing. Again, there is no cookie-cutter budget for every company, but most companies with an established marketing budget spend about 30% of their TOTAL budget on digital channels. If you’re just starting out or if you have a limited budget, we would recommend that most businesses invest in digital first – it’s relatively inexpensive, ridiculously trackable and almost always yields an ROI.

We’ve broken down some sample monthly digital marketing budgets below. Obviously these are only examples. Every industry, size of company, and internal resources will have different budgetary considerations. We’ve left the categories broad to simplify things but this should give you a great start:


Marketing budgets are changing and companies are putting more into digital channels every year. If you don’t already have a website that will engage your users, start there. After that, prioritize your technical SEO investment. Only then should you start to consider more advanced tactics. Consider your budget and use the above sample budgets to break it down into priority areas.

We love helping companies of all sizes figure out their marketing priorities. Swell offers a free consultation and investment recommendations to help you figure out exactly how you need to prioritize your budget for your audience and market.

new or refreshed small business website

6 Points to Consider When Updating Your Small Business Website

Nothing is easier to neglect than a website.

As business owners, we have a ton of obligations on our plates to deal with. There are employees, for one. While they’re an incredible asset, they can create a lot of work at times with training, managing, and facilitating day to day functions. Then you have accounting and other bookkeeping tasks, team building, inventory, customer service issues, planning and goal setting… all the actual “meat and potatoes” work. That “get stuff done” attitude got you where you are, and that’s a GOOD THING.

I’ve talked with a lot of business owners, and marketing typically tends to stay on their back burner. And that’s marketing in general, let alone, a website. “I don’t get any traffic from my website”, or “It’s good enough for now” tends to be the attitude, and look, I get it. It’s gotten you to where you are today, and that’s fine. But let me pose a question to you:

Would you be happy with your website if you had to look at it every day as you walk through the doors of your business?

See, you might not have to see it every day… but your potential customers do.

Like it or not, your website is the introduction to your business for a lot of customers. And if it is bad, a lot of visitors may have been customers. 91% of people are using search engines to find solutions to their problems. SO YOU BETTER MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION!

I want to challenge you and ask you to look at your website and ask yourself if it reflects who you truly are as a business. Is it engaging? Does it showcase your product or service offerings accurately? Can I find what I’m looking for if I have never been there before? Is there a clear call to action? Do I know what I’m supposed to be doing?

Secondly: Compare your website to a competitor’s. I know this is kind of “keeping up with the Jones’s” but the truth of the matter is, if this potential client has no previous exposure to you and your competition, they’re probably going to choose based off of the experience they get from your website. Think of your website as an introduction to your company and how you interact with your customers. For example: If your website is easy to work with, the perception then becomes that you as a business are easy to work with.

Third: who built your website? Did you hire an agency to do it? Or did your mom’s cousin’s nephew with the crazy eye make it with all the free time he has because he lives “off the grid”? If your answer is closer to the latter, you might have on-site issues that inhibit your future marketing endeavors, especially if you plan to start any advertising campaigns, or social media selling. Take our free web analysis by clicking the green bottom-right button on the screen to check it out.

Unfortunately, too many people think that an agency is just out to build them a flashy website that they don’t actually “need”.

While that can be the case, I look at it the same way you would consider hiring a receptionist. Who are you going to be more apt to hire – The warm, friendly, energetic, helpful person who is competent and able to help any customer that walks through your doors? Or the cheapest person you can find who “works for now”? Just asking questions here.

Your website CAN work for you, and CAN produce leads. Do yourself and your business a favor and hire someone who will do a few of the following things:

  1. Take time to understand you and your customer. I could spend all day here, but the reality is this; if the freelance designer or agency doesn’t take the time to do an exploration session with you to dig into your ‘WHY” (the reason you started your business) or understand your service offering, then it won’t appropriately represent your brand. If they don’t take the time to dig into the psychology of your customers, then they’re not going to you meet your customers where they are in their buyer’s journey. Your website will be disconnected and largely ineffective.
  2. Design for the user (UX). So, this kind of goes with the first point, but if you’re selling cross stitching…gear(?)…then don’t build a flashy site with a lot going on and small print. Know the type of people that buy from you, and speak their language. Let’s say that you’ve done your research for your cross stitching supply shop, and found that your most prominent customer segment is a 56 to 68-year-old woman who owns multiple cats, owns collectible china, watches Jeopardy reruns (if only for Trebec), and spends the majority of her time offline (this is completely off the cuff and hypothetical), then make the website for her. Use larger fonts, make your website simple and easy to use. Use some of those preferences you’ve discovered to your advantage when it comes to design. It may not be sexy to you, but your customers will get more out of it, and you’ll have better conversion rates.
  3. Consider Price. This happens often with my clients. They go in with the mentality that they’re website rebuild is going to cost them a fortune. We present the proposal to them and outline all the costs, and with a sigh of relief they say “well that’s not bad at all”. Honestly, a website doesn’t have to break the bank. Don’t overspend, but don’t underspend. Depending on your needs and the functionality you desire, the cost will vary. Find someone who will talk you through this and find your “sweet spot”.
  4. Be Clear. There is a saying we use here at SWELL that I’m recently kind of taken with: “No one will ever complain because you made something too easy to understand. Aim to be impossible to misunderstand.” It definitely pertains to many aspects of life, websites included. Don’t make your customers work to figure anything out. Display your mission and vision clearly, and make sure your personality comes out! Display your products or services simply, yet engagingly. Make sure there is a clear call to action. After all, you don’t want them just hanging out on your website all day. You want to motivate them to take the next step and buy from or engage with you.
  5. Provide Value. Provide your potential clients with something useful, and expect nothing in return. And keep doing it. Blogs, vlogs, downloadables, forums…there are tons of ways to provide your customers with something that they want to keep coming back for, or that will even have an impact on how they make their buying decisions (yes, even if it isn’t with you!). If you do this, you will set yourself apart from the competition. Guaranteed.
  6. Optimize. Please optimize for search engines. This encompasses everything from copy to the call to action. Make sure you’re optimized (and continually optimizing). Otherwise, no one is going to find you. Consistently produce fresh, original content on your site. Tag your pictures’ and videos’ meta-descriptions accurately. Title all your pages appropriately, and make sure you don’t have any broken links or anchors. Know the keywords you want to be found for and use them in the copy of your site as often as you naturally can. Make sure everything on your site is relevant to your purpose. Make sure your website loads quickly and it’s optimized for all screen sizes (or is responsive).

Use these tips as a guide. It doesn’t stop here, but this will give you a good starting place to begin a dialogue on what you can do to put your best foot forward online.

Tell your story, and tell it boldly. Big box stores and corporate business will come in with price gouging and ad tactics online, but only you have your story and can connect with your customers in a meaningful way. That’s what they want, and that’s what will keep them.

4 Step Blueprint for Marketing Your Small Business in 2017

Okay, first of all, let me say that EVERY small business is different. With this article, I have no intention of lumping every small business into a giant category, each with the same needs.  Marketing as a small business owner, you need to consider things like your competitive atmosphere, geographic scope, strategic partnerships and much more. Each one of those considerations will create different variables for each different type of business.  However, in my experience, every small business NEEDS to take these “Four Steps” regardless of industry, product, competition or geography. And by doing so, I guarantee you will remain competitive against not only your local rivals, but you’ll give the big brands a run for their money as well. So, consider this “Four Step Blueprint to Marketing Your Small Business” the “must-haves” of marketing your small business in 2017. Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Customer Segmentation & Buyer Personas

I know as small business owners, we never have enough time. And the truth is, you probably already know this information like the back of your hand.

But if you haven’t taken the time to outline your customers’ needs and wants on paper, you need to do so.

Not only does this process help you sort through a lot of unnecessary fluff, but it also gives you a benchmark from which to make decisions about your product, your marketing, and your growth strategy. Everything else surrounding the operation of your business, including the remaining three steps in this blueprint will find value and, in some cases rely upon, an effective understanding of your customers.

Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Who is your target market?
    • Think outside the box. Is your customer a homeowner who likes fishing (fishing related home decor, etc.), or a fisherman wealthy enough to own a home (fishing boats, guided excursions, etc.)?
  • What ELSE might they be interested in?
    • Don’t just think demographics here like income, home ownership, or gender. Think “psychographics” like interests, hobbies, convictions.
    • People who care about organic food may also care about environmental conservation. They might buy all natural products, and there could be some cross-marketing potential.  
  • Do you have separate segments of customers for different products or services?
    • Men’s and Women’s Accessories?
    • Casual enthusiast vs. Avid user?

Be sure to understand your customers, their motivations, their needs and their goals and market to those motivations.

STEP 2: Responsive Website & Stellar User Experience

It’s shocking to me how many NON-responsive websites there are in the world. I feel like we’ve been talking about the importance of responsive websites for about five years now. But if your website isn’t responsive, trust me, you’re not alone. But here’s why you need to get it fixed asap.

Having a website that responds to the size of the device that it’s being viewed on is crucial in this day when eMarketer estimates that last year, there was about 190.5 million US smartphone users of all ages, representing 73.4% of internet users and 59.3% of the population. By 2019, the smartphone audience will reach 236.8 million, or 85.5% of internet users and 71.4% of total consumers in the country. Crazy… and this doesn’t even account for all the tablets and different sized laptops coming out every day.

Point is, marketing is about meeting your users where they’re at – and they’re on mobile devices.

As if you needed more of a reason to go responsive, Google has already given preferential treatment to responsive websites in search engine rankings. It has been rumored that they will start penalizing websites that are not responsive in 2017.

But being responsive isn’t even enough anymore. You have to create an experience for your users that feels more like they’re interacting with a person than a website. Talk to them plainly and guide them through the process of working with you. Have the experience be simple and enjoyable – not cumbersome. At every step, your website should remove barriers to working with you. You may be surprised at what the inherent psychology of your users sees as a barrier. Beware your barriers.

STEP 3: Optimize your website for search engines.

If your website is responsive, you’re already off to a good start. If you’ve created a great experience for your users, congratulations.

But if no one ever comes to your site, a responsive & stellar user experience won’t matter.

Are you blogging? Writing and updating content regularly? Sharing that content on industry relevant websites? Are all of the titles and descriptions to all your pages in line with what the pages are about? If you’re not already, optimize your website for search engines, get high-quality backlinks, produce new content and blogs regularly, and your website will produce leads – guaranteed. If you need help, let us know. We can help you fix issues, and get your website humming in search engines again.

STEP 4: Embrace Social Media.

There are 2.3 BILLION active social media users, and that is growing by 10% each year. Social media platforms have become search engines in their own right, and a new age word of mouth.

Think social media doesn’t make sense for you “Mr. B2B”? Think again: 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. 74% use LinkedIn, and 42% use Twitter. (Marketing Think). We send hundreds of high-quality visitors to our B2B clients’ websites every month – and that’s only increasing.

Along with increased lead generation potential, pure brand awareness is NEVER going to hurt your business, and social media allows you to get awareness relatively inexpensively.

Increased traffic from search engines also proves to Google that people are paying attention to what you’re doing and care what you have to say – which is what is aptly known as “Social Proof.” All other factors equal; Google will give preferential ranking to websites with higher traffic coming from social media.

There you have it.

The above may seem like a simple list. Make no mistake; there are certainly many more active tactics you can pursue marketing your small business. But this list is here as “must-haves” for every small business in 2017. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – B2B or B2C – do these four things to market your small business, and you’ll stay competitive.

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Storytelling & UX Design Part 2: How to Use Story to Create Effective UX Design.

In Part 1, we shared with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll now explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users.

Make your User the Hero!

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Designed by



UX design creates experiences with users in mind, duh. And the point of a story is to keep the events in the story related to the main character at all times. So, it stands to reason that “Storytelling Design” would place the user in the shoes of the main character or protagonist.  Good designers and good writers know that without first knowing your protagonist/user completely, it will be unlikely you will be able to create an effective experience for them.

When we design a website for a client here at SWELL, we first start with a brief. This is a series of questions intent upon understanding our client’s users and inspiring our design and content teams to create something beautiful and effective. In the same way, as a writer begins to form characters for their story, they ask very similar questions.   Let’s explore some from the writer’s perspective:

  • Who is the protagonist?
    • Just as in real life, this is so much more than a name. Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What about for fun?  
  • What motivates them?
    • Without understanding what truly motivates someone, we miss a major part of their story. It becomes a real challenge to relate to the character.  
  • What are their dreams, hopes, and fears?
    • Delving deeper, every individual has layers. Within the layers underneath motivation, lay a myriad of emotions unique to that individual. This is what influences how people process things – How they act upon the events in their world.
  • What are they struggling with?
    • This is probably the place that we should be relating most to our character (though your product or service should probably be addressing this inherently). What our protagonist struggles with is probably the most compelling piece for a writer to construct. These are the points in a story during which the character grows. Without the character growing within a story, the story falls flat.

The “Building of the World” and Architecture

Building Your User's World using UX Design

Designed by



Have you read Lord of the Rings? The Hobbit? Any science fiction or fantasy? (If not, you should – but I digress.) J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of LOTR, and Hobbit) was simply the best at investing a significant amount of time building the world in which his characters will live. He was known to make maps of cities and landmarks, define cultural and societal norms, introduce politics, and ensure the “science” of the world is consistent. Much of which he built surrounding his “worlds” was said to have never even made it into the books. The reason is simple: authenticity. The more complete the world is, the more real it feels to the reader. In this way, the “world” becomes a character in and of itself. In the same way, UX design should invest time into thinking through the “world” they’re tasked with creating. Again, let’s look at some questions we ask during the briefing process and relate them to questions UX designers can ask themselves during this process:

  • What is the world we’re building?
    • Is it a website? A web app? A mobile app? Depending on the platform, your approach will certainly change.
  • How do key aspects of this world interact with one another?
    • In a story, the writer may consider things like the rules of magic in this realm – do some characters have it? Do some not? Why? In the digital world, the concept is the same. How do elements on the platform relate to one another?

Story Arc and User Flow

In every good story, the hero makes choices. Those choices have impact on how the story plays out and what happens next. They dictate the “arc” of the story and eventually lead the hero to resolution.  

The same is true of users engaging with your design. Which is why it will be vital to understand the steps in the process of your “narrative”, in order to guide the user toward making the choices you want them to make.  

Here are a few questions our digital storytellers ask that are also worth asking for UX design:

  • What is the ending?
    • Every story has a conflict to be resolved. Every character – a struggle to emerge from. I.E. Frodo needs to get the ring to Mordor. Luke Skywalker needs to realize his potential as a Jedi. Poirot needs to be observant and uncover clues.
  • Why would someone want to get there?
    • I might take a note from Simon Sinek and argue that your “Why” should come first. But this harkens back to user motivation and how that plays into user’s choices. I.E. Frodo needs to save Middle Earth from great evil. Luke needs to help lead the Rebellion and restore the Jedi order. Poirot needs to solve the case.  
  • What decisions need to be made along the journey to get to the end?
    • Think of this as the GPS directions that guide the character through the struggle, telling them where and when to turn to reach their destination. The choice is still upon the character, and each decision has the potential to change the story. The fact is, characters don’t always know what they’re going to do in the moment – nor are they aware the decision is significant. But the writer is – and so are we as UX designers. It is our role as the creator to create a safe and enjoyable space for users to make decisions even if our user doesn’t realize they’re making decisions.  
  • How can we better help the hero?
    • Writers will plug in all sorts of assistance for the protagonist in the form of new information, items, companions, magic. How does your UX design provide what the user needs to get to the destination?

A Note on “Conflict”

For most of this post, we’ve been discussing the similarities between storytelling and UX design. But for a moment, let’s discuss a major difference.

Stories need conflict and struggle to be interesting. A writer will spend time constructing tragedies and events that their character must endure. They do so because it helps their character mature or understand their own surroundings in a way that helps define them. Through struggle, the character obtains clarity on what it is that they are moving toward and why!

On the flip side, UX design is about minimizing struggle within the user’s journey. The less conflict there is, the better the overall experience will be. We don’t need our users to grow as much as we want to make it as simple as possible to shine.

In Summary

If we want to create digital experiences that are unique and intriguing, we need to consider including storytelling. As humans, we relate innately to stories and learn well from them. If we can think about user experience as a story we’re writing and our user as the main character, we will deliver an overall story arc or experience that is compelling.  These methods will help us to achieve our goals of effective UX design.

Professional photographer capturing images for marketing materials.

Photography in Marketing: Three Elements to Enhance Your Brand

Pictures speak louder than words. Images can evoke emotion that text can’t. And photography is a visual representation of a story. To most businesses, content equals text, but quality pictures and professional photography is essential if you want to attract more customers. Regardless if some individuals are visual learners or not, it’s been proven that people are drawn to pictures much more than text. This is why having a solid mix of text and photo content is essential for your marketing material.

So how can you judge what would be known as quality photography? How can you incorporate that quality photography into your marketing strategy? Three main elements will help you stay on course with that.


Steel worker loading delivery truck for a photography shot.

Authentic photography can evoke powerful emotion regardless of industry subject matter.

High-end cameras are available to the general public pretty easily these days. Even smartphone cameras now possess the capability to capture high-resolution images. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make whoever is holding the camera an expert in “capturing the moment.” When representing your company, you want truly authentic visual images. Images evoke emotion in viewers, so it’s important that you are displaying photography that will create the feeling you want your viewers to feel in order to attract customers. Hiring professional photographers or art directors to capture those types of images is worth the cost if you want a well designed website or well designed print content.  

Hiring an art director or professional photographer can be very helpful in evolving your brand. It’s pretty easy to tell which businesses use stock photos for their marketing. Although stock photography isn’t a distasteful means of content and certainly should be utilized at times, it does at times give off a “cheesy” feel. Website viewers may be turned off by inorganic and inauthentic photos being used to convey the actual business or product. Professionals will know how to capture the story of your business and use those pictures to develop your brand in a visual way.


Machinery cutting wood with sawdust flying off.

Photography can capture the uniqueness of your brand with the simplest details.

Expanding on the idea of stock photography as a replacement for your personalized images is that stock photos are available to the rest of the online public as well. After a while, it becomes easier to identify certain stock images because they quickly become overused. The tighter niche your business is in, the more difficult it will be to find stock photos that represent what you offer. You may even find yourself asking “have we used this one before?”.

Having a cache of photography offers your marketing department a much wider array of options for marketing material. Not only that but the collection of photos that you will have will be unique to your business only. They will highlight your performance as a company, and be representative of what you specifically offer your clientele. Your own photography then becomes an extension of your brand.


High angle imagery of a steel cutting machine in a steel production warehouse.

Professional photographers use lighting and camera placement to capture quality imagery for marketing.

Because online customers are more likely to look at images as opposed to text, it’s important that quality remains central to your photography. Remember, photography is an extension of your brand, so you need to make sure your images are sending out the right messages, and that they are representing your business in the best light possible. This is why good photography is vital to a successful brand.

If you’re thinking about when you will have the opportunity to showcase these images, you must realize that there is endless amounts of possibilities to use and reuse your professional photos. Professional photography is truly an investment for your marketing efforts because the images that come from it can be used in print resources, website pages, and even social media posts. Keeping your content fresh and appealing will help build a stronger following of brand advocates and customer base.

Improving User Experience through The Psychology of Motivation

So you’ve created your website, it works well, the kinks are out, you’ve launched, and… nothing.

It’s extremely frustrating to take the time to invest in a stellar website and get no conversions, or for that matter, users not behaving the way you expected. So now that you’re live, how can you increase conversions?

In my experience, the best way to increase conversions is to positively influence user behavior.

In the industry of digital marketing, we talk a lot about User Experience (UX). What I don’t think we talk enough about is how we determine the factors that will create a positive experience for your users. While they help, when it comes to driving conversion, we need to dig deeper than just the “best practices” of web design and development. To truly understand how to motivate our users to convert into customers, we must first understand a bit about human behavior and psychology.

I’ve been a marketer, in one shape and form or another, for many years. But in college, I earned a degree in psychology.  While my first position out of college was with a community mental health organization, every position I’ve held since had various intentions on influencing human behavior – through in-depth training for sales staff, effective team management, sales, and yes, of course, business marketing. If there is one thing I’ve found to be true in every role, it is that understanding your audience’s motivations and what unique factors affect their decisions is vital to influencing them in positive ways.

In this post, we’re going to explore a research-backed behavioral model and teach you how to apply its principles to encourage your users to interact with your website in the ways that you want. Moreover, we’ll show you what it takes to attract and retain a desired type of user by understanding the psychology behind their motivations and appealing to those motivations through effective UX strategy.

Let’s Start By Understanding User Motivation


The science of studying the mind tells us there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivations come from external sources. You can offer a reward for completing a task, such as: complete this survey and get a $50 Visa Gift Card. On the other hand, intrinsic motivations are those that come from the individual internally. For instance, most people can be motivated to write a positive review for you by the sense of satisfaction they receive from doing so (hint, hint).

So how do you understand your users’ motivations, and appeal at both an extrinsic and intrinsic level to bolster their perception of you or your product/service and therefore their propensity to convert?

Introducing Fogg’s Behavioral Model:

According to Dr. BJ Fogg’s  model (of Stanford University), three factors have to be present for a chosen behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and triggers. So, if you want to increase the downloads of your content, you must ask three primary questions:

  • Are they Motivated: Do they have a need for that content? Is it valuable to them?
  • Are they Able: Can they easily download your content? Is it a universal file like a PDF?
  • Have they been Triggered: Have they been called in some way to perform the behavior? Do you have a “Start Here” or “Download Now” button? Are you following up with them after they’ve looked at supporting information reminding them to download if they haven’t already?


(Source: BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model:

Explaining What This Graph Means for You and Your Users

It might seem like common sense, but the greater the motivation of the user, combined with the ease of use of the trigger, the more likely the trigger is to incite the behavior you are hoping to encourage. In other words, make it easy for the most eager of users to make a decision and you’ll get conversion.

How You Can Utilize This Model To Appeal To Different Users

Let’s say you have a “request a quote” form. If your model is to require only a name and phone number, it’s okay if motivation is a bit low because the ease of the trigger makes the behavior land above the action line. However, if your form is a bit more in-depth, you will need a more motivated user to create conversion.  

This is when triggers and types of motivation begin to be more valuable. For those that are intrinsically motivated, a multi-stage conversion process might work well. As an example, your remodeling company’s “request a quote” form asks for simple contact information first, followed by an initial submission. Then, a new set of form fields arrives, with the headline, “You’re one step closer to a more beautiful home!” requiring slightly more in-depth information, before the final submission. This method encourages motivation in a way that affirms the user’s motivation to initiate the form in the first place.  

For extrinsically motivated users, the technical process could be similar, i.e. basic information to initial submission, followed by more in-depth information and final submission. But the motivating trigger would change to something like, “Fill out the rest of this information NOW for 15% off installation.” This way, users are being motivated by earning something external.

As a side note, this multi-step conversion model is valuable to you and your user for multiple reasons. For your user, your conversion element reaches them where they are in their “buyer’s journey”. In the example above, if they’re interested enough to fill out contact info, but not quite ready to get a full request, your process allows them to depart before committing too heavy too soon. This process is valuable for you because you’ve still attained the contact info of a warm lead with whom you can continue to follow-up.

Different Users Are Motivated By Different Things

The type of motivators you use on your website will help determine the type of users that will interact with your online presence. For example, promoting a dieting app by motivating users to eat more healthy with badges and prizes will attract an audience that are extrinsically motivated, while promoting your app as one that cheers them on as they diet will attract users that are intrinsically motivated by losing weight and feeling healthy. Using one motivator or the other will attract a certain type of user, and increase the positive perception of your brand. It is crucial that everything from your copy and imagery on your sales material to the process in place for conversion, to even the experience of the product or service motivates these two types of behavioral models.

In Conclusion

By understanding these types of motivations and what encourages human behavior you can drastically affect how your users interact with your brand – which will increase conversions. By keeping these principles in mind, you can be sure that your product or service is effective to the user, even AFTER they’ve made a purchase.

Would you like more great insights? Reach out to us! We’d love to talk about what you are working on.

10 Tips to Improve Your Website’s User Experience

User Experience, or UX, is an essential aspect of website design aimed at improving the “experience” that users have while navigating through your site. Designers employ UX because it helps capture and retain the attention of current and potential customers. You may not be a designer but there are still several ways that you can improve your websites UX including:

1. Be Mobile Friendly

In 2014 mobile devices surpassed desktop users… It’s now 2016 – it’s time to go mobile – your website must be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate regardless of the screen size. A quick way to test this, is to pull your website up on your phone. Does the layout completely shift from the way it looks on your desktop or laptop? Or does everything simply shrink down to fit the screen? If it shrinks, your website is NOT mobile friendly. If you’re still not sure if your site is responsive, use this free tool:

In April of 2015 Google began to give preference in their search rankings to websites that are mobile-friendly. This means, even if you ranked above your competition in search engines with a non-mobile-friendly site prior to April 2015; your competition with mobile-friendly sites will now rise above you.

2. Well Written (and Designed) Headlines

Your headlines should embody what your customers are looking for. These headings are what guides your readers through your site allowing them to quickly scan for the content they are looking for. Providing the right message to the right audience is the key to actively engaging the user.

Your users are not the only ones that reads your headlines, search engines are also “reading” them and they actually give them more weight over other content. So carefully crafting the message of your headlines can directly influence your sites search-ability.a few examples of well-written headlinesTuft & Needle does a great job at creatively and concisely explaining what they do and why their customers fall in love with their product.

3. Use Calls to Action Wisely

Web users know how to navigate a website and look for visual cues that help them find what they are looking for. The way you guide your users is via calls to action. Once you know what action you want your users to take it’s time to test and revise!

Size, color, wording, visual distinctiveness and position need to be carefully considered; many companies have seen 15% or more increase in conversions with just changing the color of their button.

one of the user experiences in calls of action

Manpacks “Get Started” button is visually distinct and the message “join 1000’s of men already signed up” as well as the list of well known companies creates trust through social proof.

4. Consistent Look and Feel

Everything needs to match. Your heading sizes, fonts, colors, images, graphic styles, spacing etc. needs to match across your entire site. Disjointed design makes a user feel uneasy and can cause them to lose trust in your service or products.

5. High-Quality Imagery

A whole separate post could be written on the importance and proper use of high quality imagery on a website but in general follow these tips:

  • Stay away from “generic” stock photography
  • Whenever possible use Genuine original photography
  • Express your brand
  • Keep it user relevant

6. Bullets

Bullets call attention to important content that enable a user to quickly absorb the information they are after. It’s not a rule that you have to use the traditional circle and in many cases it is advisable you don’t! For instance:

an example of using bullets


44west dental’s site uses custom icons as “bullets” to highlight their different dental services.

7. Embrace White Space

If I had a nickel for every time I have been asked to “make the logo bigger or add more images and graphics because there is too much white space” well lets just say I would have a lot of nickels. Repeat after me, WHITE SPACE IS GOOD! White space increases user attention and helps draw attention to what is important. If there is too much on a page, the user won’t know what to focus on, and their attention will be divided.

8. Page Speed

It’s no secret that users have short attention spans. Nothing is more frustrating to internet users than waiting on a slow website to load. In fact, studies show that most users won’t wait, they will simply move on to the next site. So, in order to keep users from bouncing, make sure your site performance is fast and reliable.

Here’s a great free tool to measure your sites speed.

9. Fix 404’s

Just like slow website speeds users have very little tolerance for 404 errors. When a user clicks a link or image and instead of getting what they are expecting they are told the page cannot be found you might as well click the back button for them!

So, be sure to check your site for any 404 errors by using a free tool like this one:

10. Redesign Your Website

If you are noticing many of the previous 9 issues on your site it may be time for a complete redesign. It’s important to approach the redesign with specific goals in mind and UX should be at the forefront. Sites that are a few years old often see 30 – 40% increase in conversions after a UX focused redesign.


At the end of the day its all about your customer. If you always keep the customers needs and goals in mind, in any marketing that you may do, you’ll provide a great user experience.

Case Study: Regional Distributor


A regional distribution entity of an international manufacturer collaborated with us to set up an automated online lead generation system for their four Michigan Locations. They struggled with leads coming from their website being less cost effective than others.


First we customized an analytics framework and implemented advanced conversion tracking techniques to give them a better pulse on their online lead platforms. Then we focused on increasing exposure for their digital assets. We started SEO, as well as display advertising across a potential of 90% of websites online. We also began to retarget their existing user base. We were then instrumental in developing a social proof program – gathering reviews from an existing customer base and distributing display based reviews via social media.


With the integration of multiple advanced techniques, we were able to not only double their expected website leads per primary season, but by automating their lead processing, we decreased their cost-per-lead by 62%.


Case Study: Consumer Products


A well-known, international outdoor recreation products manufacturer hired Paramount to engineer an online marketing and advertising structure for two of their best selling products.


After being instrumental in the redesign of their website and copywriting almost all of the content and product descriptions for a 200+ page website and e-commerce engine, we went to work getting the word out about their signature products. We implemented SEO for the entire site and developed an advertising structure that include everything from PPC, to Display Ads and Behavioral Retargeting. Our team even connected them with a popular national outdoor television show, to expand their reach into a vital market.


With the proactive approach and customized blueprint for their online program, Paramount was able to increase their web traffic by an average of 175% every month for the next 12 Months – many months seeing as much increase as 250%. This brought their company’s average traffic from 30,000 to an average of over 70,000 visits per month.

Website traffic month over month