What is Google AMP? Do I need it?

This was posted on August 21st, 2018

 

Nope, we’re not referring to an electric guitar’s best friend – ‘AMP’ in this context refers to Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it’s essentially a way to create super-fast websites for mobile devices.

AMP was created by Google and is, consequently, heavily endorsed by the internet giant. Thankfully, it’s an open standard that can be used by any web developer in order to create a great mobile browsing experience for users.

On 24th February 2016, Google integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results, which means it has also become an important element of search engine optimisation (SEO).

 

Great… but what is it?

If you integrate Google AMP into your website, the pages will appear to load instantly on smartphones.

Without boring you with the minute technical details, AMP is a framework that enables web pages to be served ‘pre-loaded’. It does this by delivering websites from servers known as caching servers, which automatically load the content in the background before it appears on the user’s screen.

The result is near instantaneous, regardless of the type of content – be it text, static images, animation or video. What’s most impressive is that you’ll always receive the latest version of the page, and it’s just as quick no matter what device you’re using.

You can spot AMP-enabled pages on Google if you know where to look. They’re identified by a small grey symbol next to the website name that looks like a lightning bolt.

 

Why your website should be using AMP

Google AMP has been hotly debated in tech circles, but it presents some clear benefits for businesses and content creators:

  • It’s great for SEO. As mentioned, Google is behind AMP and showing no signs of ditching it any time soon. The fact they’ve reserved precious space on listings to display the AMP icon gives you some idea how important it is to them. As always, we don’t know exactly how it fits into their algorithm, but it will undoubtedly play a key role in ranking.
  • It’s super-fast. Try it: access a page with one of those icons and then one without – the difference in speed is startling. And we all want a fast, smooth web experience.
  • You’ll be included in the AMP cache. If your website uses AMP, it’ll be cached on Google servers. Beyond increasing page speed, that will take the load off your own servers (it might even reduce the cost) and again assist with SEO.

 

Why might AMP be a bad idea?

Despite the advantages above, AMP isn’t for everyone, and there’s definitely a significant group of techies out there who wish it doesn’t exist.

Here’s why:

  • It can limit the capabilities of your website. AMP is a framework, which means you have to work from a defined set of rules in order to benefit. That might prevent you from developing desired areas of the site, and the rules can change at any time.
  • You’ll be under the watchful eye of big brother. Google has ultimate control over AMP, regardless of the fact it’s an open standard. Your site will also be residing on their caching servers and injected with their tracking code. We’re not suggesting their untrustworthy, but do you want that level of scrutiny on your business website?
  • It might get pulled. Google are well and truly behind it now, but what if they make a sudden about turn and pull AMP? They’ve done that kind of thing before.

 

Is AMP right for my business?

This is a tough question to answer, because it depends on how complex your site is, the type of content you’re serving and the size and profile of your audience.

If you’re not fussed about Google’s tracking code and you feel the SEO benefits could make a significant difference to your rankings, it might be worth exploring.

Contact us today to discuss AMP – we’ll help you make the right decision.

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The Final Edition

This was posted on June 22nd, 2018

 

It’s time to get the tissues out, because the Yellow Pages will print its final edition in January 2019.

After 51 years, the once indispensable household telephone directory will be no more, giving way instead to its digital sibling, Yell.com.

Fittingly, Brighton will be the last place in which the Yellow Pages will be delivered by hand – the location where it was first published in 1966. But what does this mean for businesses?

 

Why does this matter?

If you’re shaking your head and muttering “so what?”, this news is more important than you might think. For starters, it’s telling that the final edition will still be printed at very high volume – 23 million copies, to be exact.

For over half a decade, the venerable telephone directory has been a staple of UK households, and business owners who assume its demise will have no effect on enquiries might be in for a shock.

Whether or not your business receives leads via the Yellow Pages is actually irrelevant, because the termination of the print edition is yet another signal for consumers that they’d better head online if they need to buy something.

No one asks if you have a website any more if you’re running a business – it’s simply assumed, therefore if you’ve let your online presence slip due to a healthy influx of enquiries or word-of-mouth referrals, it might be time to give it a refresh.

The death of the paper-based Yellow Pages is a timely reminder about the importance of a stellar digital presence, but here’s three more:

 

  1. It provides tools to build profitable customer relationships

By integrating your website with online chat, email marketing and social media platforms, you can create an online presence that builds confidence and trust with your customers.

These tools are only of any use if you have a website, and people expect to be able to interact with them. Is your website a fully interactive, engaging place, or is it nothing more than a digital brochure?

 

  1. It never closes

If you operate in the retail sector, you’re not alone in feeling slightly rueful every time you lock up each night. After all, if those doors could stay open 24/7, you’d sell more stuff!

Websites don’t close; they’re salespeople for whom you don’t need to grant lunch breaks or annual leave. Your website will work tirelessly for you – if you integrate an ecommerce system that customers can use to purchase your wares whenever they wish.

 

  1. It can turn on a sixpence

Need to change your business model, introduce a new product line or completely revise the way you market a particular service? With a website, you can pivot with ease.

Sure, it might need a few design changes, text additions or amendments to the visitor journey, but it’s so easy to do that if you have the right help and support on board.

Focus more of your sales and marketing effort online, and you’ll never live in fear of backing your business strategy into a corner from which you can’t emerge.

 

Wrapping up

You know a website is essential for your business, but it’s easy to forget just how big a role it plays. After all, you have it designed, built and launched, and then it simply sits there, gathering digital dust.

The Yellow Pages is bidding us farewell, but the news should inspire us all to ensure our online game is as strong as it can be in the digital economy!

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The GDPR website compliance elements you might have missed

This was posted on May 18th, 2018

On 25th May 2018, the way in which businesses (both inside and outside the EU) are allowed to collect, store and process personal data will change forever.

It’s why your email inbox is currently awash with messages from businesses kindly asking if you can re-subscribe to their newsletter list. It’s also why Facebook and many other giants of industry are having a rather bright spotlight pointed in their direction.

If nothing else, the forthcoming GDPR rules are making it abundantly clear that personal data is just that – personal and to be used entirely legitimately.

You may have made strides towards website GDPR compliance already, but it’s highly possible you’ll have overlooked a few vital areas.

 

Understanding the difference between active, unbundled and granular

The three words above all refer to the type of opt-in you offer anyone who enters personal data into your website. Fall foul of their intricacies, and you might slip on one of the biggest GDPR banana skins.

Understanding all three will also make the process of checking your forms far easier.

 

  • Active opt-in. If you have a form which includes a tick box for newsletter subscription, it must, by default, be set to whatever indicates “no, I don’t want to receive your newsletters”.
  • Unbundled opt-in. Any consent you request – be it a newsletter subscription or the promise of personalised offers – must be listed separately on your forms. A typical example of this is to have two separate tick boxes for newsletter subscription and terms and conditions acceptance.
  • Granular opt-in. If you want to contact people by email, telephone and snail mail, you’ll need to give them all three options as separate forms of consent.

 

Easy withdrawal

How easy is it for people to withdraw their consent from your marketing program? Can they do it at all?

Pick a great email marketing client, and it will include easy opt-out options for newsletter subscribers. Equally, if you have some form of customer login facility on your website, it’ll pay to have a section where they can change their subscription settings.

 

Naming your partners

Do you collect personal data with the intention to pass it onto partners or subsidiaries within your business? If so, you’ll need to make it ultra-clear on sign-up forms.

This is why you’ll see forms featuring tick boxes like the following:

 

[ ] I’d prefer not to receive updates from Bank ABC

[ ] I’d prefer not to receive updates from Bank ABC Mortgage Division

 

Whether you or your partner likes it or not, the name has to be there in order to comply with the GDPR’s rules.

 

The nuts and bolts of your website

Depending on the role your website plays, it may rely on third party services, apps and plugins to provide functionally for users.

If any of those additions come into contact with personal data (for instance, a plug-in that captures email addresses to provide access to gated content), they’ll need to be GDPR compliant.

This is why it’s worth conducting an audit of the nuts and bolts of your website (with the help of an expert) to ensure the developers behind any add-ons have their own GDPR compliance under control.

 

And finally…

Lots of business will be scrambling towards GDPR compliance as 25th May looms large, but if you have the basics covered, and take time to sniff out the less obvious stuff above, you’ll have a far easier time meeting the new requirements.

 

Lastly, a little disclaimer. The advice offered in this post is of the general variety and is certainly not legal advice. If you are at all unsure about any aspects of the GDPR and how it might impact your business, we recommend seeking professional legal input.

 

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What Google’s mobile-first indexing means for your business

This was posted on April 19th, 2018

 

On 26th March 2018, and after a year and a half of “careful experimentation and testing”, Google launched it’s mobile-first indexing service.

This is big, big news, but not the sort of news we should be surprised by. Research suggests that people are far less likely to return to a mobile site if they have trouble accessing it on their smartphone.

The same now goes for Google; if your website performs poorly on mobile – or, worse, is inaccessible on small screens – it will drop you down the ranks.

That means if you’re still not mobile-ready, you’re facing an even steeper uphill battle to be discovered on the world’s most important search engine.

 

What is mobile-first indexing and how does it work?

Google’s job is to serve its users relevant search results, and it will do so either based on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or ‘natural’ search listings.

The mobile-first index primarily impacts the latter (although that doesn’t mean you can get away Scott-free on PPC!), and it does what it says on the tin; Google will analyse your website’s mobile performance first and base its ranking for your website on those findings.

Before, it would look at the desktop version and determine the ranking from there. If a mobile version existed, it would boost the mobile rank accordingly, but this would have little impact on the overall ranking of your site.

Now, mobile is everything, which is why, if Google is thinking mobile-first, we all need to do the same!

 

What do I need to do about mobile-first indexing?

Start with the obvious: check your website on your smartphone. If it’s cumbersome to use, or you have to pinch to zoom in and out of the content, Google won’t like it – simple.

Despite this, even websites that look great and operate fantastically on mobile devices may have underlying issues that will prevent them from being ranked highly.

This is where you’ll need some input from an expert, but details such as your metadata (the text that sits within the code of your website describing the purpose of your site and its keywords), the sitemap and speed of page loads will all count towards the mobile-first indexing.

 

Common mobile-first index questions – answered

Mobile-first indexing understandably raises a lot of questions, and unless you’re deeply ingrained in digital marketing and web development, you simply can’t be expected to know all the answers.

We’d therefore like to answer some of the most common for you!

Q: Is the mobile-first index impacting my site now?

A: Not necessarily. A change this comprehensive will take time, and in a blog post from December 2017, Google has confirmed it will be “evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing based on the above criteria and transitioning them when ready”, but admit they can’t offer a timeline for when it will be completed.

Q: Will Google only use the mobile-readiness of my site to determine its ranking?

A: Not necessarily; the desktop version of your website is still important. You may, for instance, have certain pages that aren’t mobile-ready, and they’ll still be taken into consideration.

Q: What if my website doesn’t work at all on mobile?

A: Your website will still be indexed, but if the competition have a mobile presence, they’ll always appear above you.

Q: What if I have a separate mobile site compared to a fully responsive site?

A: Fully-responsive is the way to go, but if you do have a separate mobile website, you need to ensure the content on it is pretty much identical to that of the desktop version.

Q: My mobile site hides certain navigation elements and pages – is this an issue?

A: No – particularly if this is done to improve the overall user experience. Google will still be able to crawl that content in the background, anyway.

 

Wrap up

A full roll-out of the mobile-first index will admittedly take some time, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for it to hit your website’s rankings.

 

The time to plan and optimise for small screen devices is now. Don’t let Google leave you behind.

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How to ensure your website is ready for the GDPR

This was posted on March 8th, 2018

 

From May 2018, small business owners like you will need to ensure your website is GDPR compliant, or face some pretty costly consequences.

If you haven’t been sleeping under a rock for the past few months, you may have an idea of the what this means and how it will affect you website. But, just in case you have been creeping with the crustaceans, here is our guide to ensuring your website is ready for the General Data Protection Regulation:

 

What exactly is the GDPR?

Over the last four years, the EU has been working to bring data protection legislation into line with the way in which data is now used.

Although we’re currently still covered by The Data Protection Act 1998, the new legislation introduces tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches, and gives people more say over how and when companies can use their data.

The changes are designed to give people more control over how companies like Facebook and Google swap data for use of their services.

The current legislation came into being long before social media found new ways of exploiting our personal data, therefore these changes are very much required to reflect the new ways in which we share out personal information.

 

Who needs to be concerned about the new GDPR legislation?

Both ’Controllers’ and ‘Processors’ of data need to abide by the new GDPR rulings.

To break that down further, the data Controller states how and why personal data is processed, while a Processor is the party doing the actual processing of the data.

The “Controller” could be any organisation, from a profit-seeking company to a charity or government, and your “Processor” could be an IT firm doing the actual data processing.

 

Will your website be ready for the GDPR?

From 25th May 2018, simply asking visitors to your website to familiarise themselves with your data protection policy will not be enough.

That means no more “click here to read our privacy policy” warnings; instead you will need to ensure that your website, form submissions and storage all fully comply with the new GDPR legislation.

In preparation for these huge changes, make sure you have your bases covered.

  1. Review your website

Before you can make any changes to your website, you’ll need to review your current strategy, and identify exactly what you’re using data for, where it’s being stored and how long you are storing it for.

You may also need to fine tune or completely change the way you conduct your business to ensure you policies are in line with the new regulations.

  1. Update your privacy notices

It’s all very well changing your privacy policies behind the scenes, but in the interest of transparency, you will need to explain clearly what information you will be collecting and how you intend to use it, on any web page that asks for user data.

  1. Update your associated policies

By this we mean you will need to look at and  probably change your data retention policy as well as your terms and conditions.

A copy of the same policies must be easily accessible on your website and should be concise and transparent. Your terms and conditions will also need to reference the GDPR in their terminology.

  1. Review your data capture functionality

This will include all of your databases, systems and resources that you currently have connected to your website so that you can be 100% sure you’re keeping all personal data safe and effectively managing communication preferences, including the use of third party tracking software (think Google Analytics or Facebook’s ‘pixel’).

  1. User account functionality

You’ll need to review and amend the user’s ability to update their own consent and communication preferences on your website.

This means you’ll need to ask visitors to opt in to your data capture, as opposed to asking them to opt out (no more pre-ticked boxes!). This will apply to any information you want them to subscribe to, and each aspect must be consented to separately.

 

Wrapping up

We should point out that the above is purely our own guidance on where to start with the process of making your website GDPR compliant.  This is not legally binding, and if you have any concerns we recommend you seek additional advice from a GDPR expert well before May 2018.

Big changes are coming to the way we capture, use and store our website visitors’ information.  Failure to abide by the new legislation could result in heavy penalties, so start taking steps to make your website GDPR compliant today!

 

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3 golden rules to get more website enquiries

This was posted on July 10th, 2017

If you were asked for the overriding reason your business has a website, the answer would probably be “to get more enquiries”.

“More sales”, “greater brand recognition” and “a replacement for our old fliers” are all valid reasons to have a brilliant web presence as a business, but generating quality enquiries is where the meat of its responsibilities lie.

Perhaps the number of enquiries you’re receiving via yours have stagnated, or you’re just starting out – whatever the reason for wanting more contact form completions, here’s the three golden rules by which you must abide:

  1. Keep it simple – really simple

Give people what they’re looking for – instantly.

If you stumble across a book with a great title but find the first couple of chapters mind-numbingly tedious and rambling, why would you bother to finish it? The same goes for your website, only in the digital space, you have even less time to keep people engaged.

Cut the waffle out of your web copy, go easy on the number of images and navigational elements you include and keep everything short and punchy.

Most of the people who visit your website are time poor – they want answers as fast as you can give them.

  1. Create multiple calls-to-action (CTAs)

A common misconception about digital marketing is that you need to have just one, clear call-to-action, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

Ask three website visitors what they want to achieve, and they’ll probably give you three different answers. The first might want to download a brochure; the second has heard about a great eBook you’ve written and wants to download it – quickly; the third wants to buy something – now.

For this reason, you need to add as many CTAs to your website as there are potential outcomes.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the common interactions people will expect to have with your website:

  • Find a number to call you on
  • Email you directly
  • Download something
  • Request a call back at a time that’s convenient to them
  • Obtain a quote
  • Arrange an on-site visit from a member of your sales team
  • Send you something (e.g. a photo or spec)

Multiple CTAs aren’t just acceptable – they’re the done thing.

  1. Don’t just make it technically mobile-friendly

Google now operates on a ‘mobile-first’ index. That means they take far more notice of the mobile version of your website; its desktop counterpart now takes second fiddle.

That means you need a brilliantly mobile-friendly website in order to rank well on Google and receive as many enquiries as possible.

There are of course plenty of technical things you’ll need to do to make your site mobile-friendly, but never look past the user aspect.

How many times have you visited a website only to be continually frustrated by having to zoom in and out to see content and find yourself jabbing at interface elements that don’t appear to respond?

Don’t be that business.

Pay attention to the way you design your mobile-ready site for those that will use it. Employ white space judiciously, keep it simple, and focus on avoiding the following common pitfalls:

  • Buttons that can’t be easily pressed with a finger (because they’re either too small or tightly packed – or both)
  • Text that is tiny
  • Big images that take forever to load
  • Long-winded forms that take forever to fill in and navigate

You can perform a quick test yourself, by loading up your website on your smartphone and seeing how easy it is to operate. How quickly do you get frustrated and why? Make notes and take them to your web developer!

Wrapping up

Relatively simple, isn’t it? Follow our tips above, and you’ll start to build a web presence that delivers when it comes to new enquiries.

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Bad news about your website – you’ve got the content all wrong

This was posted on June 23rd, 2017

We’ve got some bad news.

 

People don’t visit your website to find out how great you are. They’re not interested in your business, it’s history or how many top awards you have sitting on the mantlepiece.

 

They care about one thing – themselves. We all do.

 

The visitors to your website are looking for an answer to a problem they have or a product that provides a solution to an ongoing challenge.

 

You may have exactly what they need or the answer that solves their problem. The content on your website should therefore address their pain and explain in plain English how you can help.

 

Here are six things you can do to your website content to make it more seductive and bring in more leads:

 

  1. Put your big idea front and centre

Whatever it is that you have for your customers, put it front and centre.

 

When you visit Apple’s website, for example, their products hit you straight between the eyes. That’s because Apple knows they’ll grab the most attention. You can do the same with a bold image or big, captivating headline.

 

  1. Work on the readability

Take a look at this blog’s intro. We’ve focused on short, sharp sentences and paragraphs.

 

Your web content needs to do the same to ensure readability and the ability for visitors to quickly skim for the info they want. Few people will read it all, so…

 

  • avoid chunky paragraphs;
  • promote the use of bullet points.

 

  1. Include soundbites

A sound bite is a nugget of wisdom – a piece of text that is easy to remember and perfectly quotable. They often come in the form of straplines, and you can’t have enough of them on your website.

 

Stick to the rule of providing information in groups of three, for example “the thinnest, lightest, most beautiful device we’ve made”.

 

  1. Create stories around your products and business

Head to most company ‘about us’ pages, and you’re met with long, drawn-out histories of how they came to be and their commitment to ‘constant improvement’.

 

That’s all a bit dull, isn’t it? Instead, tell a story about your business. What drives it? Who are the people behind it (the characters in this plot, as it were)? Give it a beginning, middle and make the customer’s role the end (i.e. the purchase!).

 

  1. Present features as solutions to their problems

Let’s say you’re looking for a new tablet. You discover two manufactures who both offer bullet-pointed feature lists.

 

Manufacturer A:

 

  • 10” screen
  • 8gb of RAM
  • Stylus support
  • Keyboard case included
  • 10 hours battery life

 

Manufacturer B:

 

  • Work on two apps at once with a 10” screen that improves productivity
  • Enough memory to ensure you’re never left waiting for a process to complete
  • Ditch your pen and paper and do everything with one device
  • Make the transition from laptop to tablet and simplify your tech setup
  • Work all day without ever having to hunt for a power outlet

 

Which one would you go for?

 

  1. Overcome objections before they’re made

Your product or service isn’t perfect – that simply isn’t possible – but you can go a long way to reducing fear in buyers by overcoming objections before they’re made.

 

For example, if you’ve developed a new phone case that is glass-like in appearance, you could dispel fears about it’s durability by saying: “Even though our case is as smooth and clear as glass, it’s actually toughened plastic, so won’t shatter”.

 

Wrapping up

Follow our tips above, and you’ll quickly create a web presence that is both seductive and ready to turn passers-by into brand advocates – rather than boring them to death.

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7 Things people hate about your website

This was posted on March 20th, 2017

 

It’s time to ask yourself some very tough questions about your business website.

When it was built, you loved it. The design was of its time, the customer journey was well thought out and it reflected your brand values perfectly. Things change, though; web design trends and best practices evolve, and can outdate websites – fast.

For example, it was only recently that Google switched to a mobile-first index, placing the previous king of the search result jungle (the desktop-optimised website) firmly into second place. As a result, any website that has failed to take small screens seriously is likely to see its rankings drop significantly.

If your website isn’t receiving the volumes of traffic it once enjoyed or if your analytics tell regular tales of people dropping out of the visitor journey at crucial points, there’s a good reason for it – but you’re not going to like it.

People hate your website.

Sorry.

 

Here’s seven reasons that might be the case:

 

  1. It isn’t mobile-friendly

It bears repeating: the mobile-first Google index is now live. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’ll disappear without trace.

It’ll also frustrate visitors. If you’ve ever cursed a website’s inability to display correctly on your smartphone, you’ll know exactly what we’re referring to. You have seconds to make a good impression online, and the first one you make will almost certainly be on mobile device these days.

 

  1. Google says it isn’t secure

Google is now making its dislike of insecure websites obvious to users. If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, it isn’t secure – and Google knows it.

Online security is something that is at the top of everyone’s minds in the digital age – make sure you give the people that browse your website ultimate peace of mind by implementing HTTPS encryption (it isn’t as expensive as you might think).

 

  1. It features a laborious slideshow

We’ve all seen and been frustrated by them; the seemingly endless slideshow that sits atop many business websites will make or break the user experience.

Slow load times and acres of text and imagery don’t make for an engaging slideshow. Stick to three slides max and keep both the copy and images punchy and relevant. No one will sit through eighteen slides of War and Peace.

 

  1. There’s too much waffle

As previously noted, you have mere seconds to catch someone’s attention online. Spend forever getting to the point, and you’ll lose them after the first paragraph.

Every word, sentence and paragraph on your website should tell an engaging story and have a purpose. Keep it short, concise and focused on the target market.

Which brings us onto our next point…

 

  1. You’re saying “we” too much

Customers only care about themselves. They don’t care about your heritage, countless years of service or the cabinet full of awards in the boardroom.

What can you do for them? What questions do your products and services answer? What’s in it for the person visiting your site?

Focus every element of your website on the user and stop staying “we” – naval gazing business websites simply don’t work.

 

  1. The calls-to-action are weak (or non-existent)

What do you want the people who visit your website to do once they’ve finished browsing? Without the right calls-to-action (CTAs), they’ll simply leave without making any form of contact, making the whole episode a rather pointless exercise.

Bearing in mind that every visitor will have different needs, you need to offer as many relevant CTAs as possible. Some will want a quote, others will want to download additional content, while many will just want to contact you.

Provide visitors with multiple options for completing their journey and they’ll make a decision that will offer you a vital insight into their position within the buyer’s cycle.

 

  1. You’ve used too many tacky stock images

Stock imagery has its place, but use too much of it, or skimp on the low quality stuff, and you’ll quickly turn off website visitors.

Investing in unique imagery that is relevant to your business is smart. A day with a photographer might feel lavish, but it will result in images that will make your website jump off the page and fully reflect your business’s brand values.

Close that Google Images window!

 

Wrapping up

The dawning realisation that people hate your website isn’t particularly pleasant, but it’s a crucial step in building a web presence you can be proud of and rely on to attract quality traffic.

From quality traffic comes pre-qualified leads – so, ask yourself each of the questions above, and make changes where your business website falls short. Now.

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