Minneapolis Web Design & SEO - Effective Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

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Minneapolis Web Design Agency - Minneapolis Marketing Company

30+ Five-Star Reviews on Google

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Most companies don't know how to make websites Google loves. We do - we call it Professional Visibility™.

206.4%

INCREASE IN LEADS IN 1 YEAR

“Tim designed a new website that captures the spirit of our company AND gets results. His whole process — from initial meeting to launch — was seamless.”

Dawn Reid
Alpine Asphalt

57.3%

INCREASE IN ORGANIC LEADS

"We set goals that we thought were lofty, and as it turns out they weren't high enough. After 3 months we had to come back and set new goals."

Read the SEO Case Study

Tim Brown

Owner - Web Designer - SEO

I'm obsessed with getting our clients more business online.

Bea Bonte

Social & Project Mgmt

I love that I work with amazing clients and do what I love.

Seth Epstein

SEO Specialist

I help companies get more traffic & leads from search.

Bryce Boyle Hoban

Content Strategist

Constantly learning - I research & write content for client's goals.

Cole Storley

SEO / PPC Specialist

I work on our Google PPC, Facebook Ads, and SEO efforts.

Gypsy Rose Lee

Occasional Office Dog

I boost morale & demand walks along the nearby Mississippi River!


Letter from the owner - Tim Brown

We are extremely excited to find clients where what we can do can benefit them – we are constantly looking for new ways to service clients.

Started as 'Tim B Design' in 2012, I created Hook Agency to serve a wide range of clients, but have increasingly found a niche in small business, home construction, and regional home services clients. Now the premier Minneapolis web design company for small businesses and the construction industry – we help people create a web presence they can be proud of.

We are obsessed with customer service, creative thinking, and substantial results for our clients – whether it be in the initial website design, or driving traffic through content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.

We have 5 employees, and 4 dedicated contractors who we trust – all in an effort to focus on only delivering the highest value digital marketing services in Minneapolis for a reasonable price. If after talking through a website redesign project with a business owner or marketing director, I don't feel like we can make your company money or add undeniable value, I won't write a proposal.

Yes – we are not for everyone. But no – we're not just for big companies. We know how to make marketing dollars worth it, and how to focus on the activities that lead to R.O.I. Read more about us

Tim Brown + Signature - Owner of Hook Agency, Web Designer, SEO Specialist specializing in Minneapolis, Minnesota area small business marketing, and construction company web design and SEO
Tim Brown
Owner, Hook Agency

8 Things to Consider when Choosing a Web Design Company

Customer service is a lost art in many digital marketing companies, unfortunately. We consider this one of the most important aspects of what we do and critical to our long-term success. Whereas you might might get lost in the shuffle with another Minneapolis digital marketing team, our company banks on humility and hard work, our 5-star customer feedback, and extreme responsiveness.

You may see a web design company that has an epic looking portfolio and marketing materials, but when it comes to the actual client work – the visual design leaves something to be desired. It could be that they have an A-team that works on their web design agency stuff, and a B-team that gets the client work. Honestly, I don’t know – but always check out their client roster and the actual work completed, not just the agency's site.

Frankly, we haven’t worked for every industry, so this doesn’t necessarily mean work with us. We do pride ourselves in our specialties in construction company and home services marketing, and financial services marketing. We admit it does help if an agency has worked for companies like yours before and can speak to your industry's particular challenges – and strongly suggest that you seek out a company that specializes in your industry.

If a company has been around for 30 years and just started offering web design services, you might want to consider if it's their specialty or if it’s just something tacked on to a long list of offerings. Many Minneapolis web design companies have approached me to help augment their team only to realize they don’t have much of an internal team. I started as a freelancer and have grown the company's capacity. Our small but effective team is THE Twin Cities option if you're looking for professional visibility. With web design as our core offering that's complemented by a suite of services to drive traffic like SEO and Social Media Marketing. It’s not some side gig to a TV commercial, billboard, or PPC agency. Beware, a lot of people are selling websites, but not everyone specializes in them.

Each ‘Content Management System’ is like a type of car – you wouldn’t try to buy a Toyota from a Porsche dealership. WordPress web design requires some specialization as well – and I’ve worked on WordPress websites for 5+ years now, learning the ins and outs of it while finding ways to be more efficient than my competitors. I’ve seen people sell a client Magento (a content management system) because they knew they could get a better margin on it – even when the client could’ve had an extremely effective website with WordPress + WooCommerce. I honestly want you to have a website you can make changes on yourself and get the most effective solution for a reasonable price.

In web design – Color, contrast, graphics, photos and layout are aesthetic elements that enhance process of communicating particular information. These elements manifest themselves visually on your website in different ways depending on how you want potential customers on the website to feel or react to those visual elements. Some ideas you might want people to come away with include "trust this organization or company," "buy this set of products," "consume this information by reading," "find out about this area or event," etc. It's important to measure aesthetic elements with the goals you want to achieve on your site to effectively communicate with your ideal customer and get information to website visitors efficiently.

 

Best practices for aesthetic website design

 

  • Create visual clues based on groupings; related items or links are grouped together while unrelated items are separated.
  • Use headings and subheadings to allow visual scanning of content.
  • Use headings, subheadings, font sizes, bold fonts and italic fonts in proportion to the importance of the item.
  • Align elements on a page so that they are all visually connected; size all elements on the page to create balance and unity; nothing should look out of place unless you have a specific reason for the effect.
  • Choose a font style that supports the site atmosphere and stick to it; limit styles to 2 at the most.
  • Use images and photos for visual appeal and to communicate ideas.
  • Use one set of design elements across your website.

 

To be found on the internet these days sites need to be set up to allow search index them easily, and set up so that their attractive net of content continues to grow, so more and more articles or pieces of content on the site can bring visitors in. The art of SEO may not be a central focus for every web designer, but necessarily in this day and age, they need to know some key pieces.

While scouring and indexing the pages of sites on the internet, search engines use metrics such as popularity to help get searching people to where they likely want to go. Using these sorting algorithms, they sort and serve up results based on search engine ranking factors.

Google is essentially the main one (sending about 90% of search traffic world-wide) to watch out for and they themselves suggest making the site for users not for search engines.

  • Make a site clear and everything reachable from one text link.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe the content.
  • Make sure your title elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Use keywords to create descriptive, human friendly URLs, and always use 301 redirects or the rel=”canonical” tag to address duplicate content.

Bing says:

  • Don’t bury primary content inside flash, javascript, and ajax only.
  • Produce fresh content regularly.
  • Don’t put the text you want indexed inside images. Perhaps you have a logo with the companies name, but it better be in a main title tag as well if you want Bing to know what the site is for. *Rolls eyes at thinking anyone really cares about Bing. Here's a video of someone who didn't get enthusiastic about Bing getting fired. Enjoy.

 

The truth is that you shouldn’t take what Bing and Google say as absolute truth, because they have an interest in making you think this is exactly what they do, whether they do or not. They put out press releases, and SEO marketers soak it up because they think they must be telling the truth, but the real test is experimenting for yourself and seeing what works. Are you convinced blackhat tactics don’t work because Google announced they were getting strict on shady backlinks? Or have you tested this theory for yourself on a website that wasn’t crucial for you. Always experiment.

But for the most part, Search engines have supported the efforts of SEO Marketers and tried to enable them to play well with their search engines.

The crucial piece in doing SEO is understanding the target market for a particular website and doing your best to direct your messaging, and experience to those people. This is one reason at least the concepting and high-level work of SEO can never be truly outsourced, (unless, of course your outsourcing to highly savvy people.)

A couple notes; top 3 search results get clicked on, and others not so much. SEO is about marketing; you have to promote and share your content other than expecting it to get found. If you do this, search engines use that popularity metric as a way to gauge relevancy as well. Technical SEO on it’s own doesn’t do much. But as web designers, we do need to some practical things to work for when we’re making websites:

Things to remember for web designers making SEO friendly websites.

  1. The most crucial piece is that you have to have shareable content. Don’t think you can really make a dent in search results or agree to make a site Search engine effective without ensuring you or your client has a strategy to create attractive, readable, and shareable content.
  2. Images should all have “alt” tags so that people with visual impairments and search engines can know what’s in the image.
  3. Navigation should be clear, and be set up in a way that Search engines can know how the website is set up. You can easily see how a search how a search engine sees your site by disabling css styles. You can do that with this plugin: Web Developer tools for browsers
  4. Video and audio content should always be transcripted so that the content will be available to be indexed and searched; increasing your ability to be found for the content within these types of media.
  5. If you’re still building websites in flash, stop. Just stop. Also for search engine optimization purposes, you should not be using javascript to link to pages, as it’s hard for them to read those type of links.
  6. One of the best ways to "optimize" a page's rankings is to ensure that keywords are prominently used in titles, text, and meta data. The best practice is to use your keywords naturally and strategically.
    • In the title tag towards the beginning , keeping the title tag to about 65-75 characters total, use the brand at the end of the title tag, and try to make the title tag cohesive and compelling. (A lot to balance!)
    • Once towards the top of the page
    • 2-3 times in variations in the body text, not necessary to have more.
    • Once in the alt tag of at least one image
    • Once in the meta description to attract clicks. Think of meta descriptions as primarily for humans, and not as much for search algorithms.
  7. Make your url structure empathetic for the people visiting, shorter is better, and reserved keyword use can help. Make sure your site is set up so that there are not question marks in the URL, and only use hyphens to separate words not underscores or plus signs. These can confuse some search engine crawlers.
  8. Make sure to 301 Redirect any duplicate content throughout your site, or use a canonical tag to indicate where the original content lives so the content doesn’t get pushed down in the ratings due to algorithm confusion from trying to decide which piece is the right one.

There's something beautiful and simple about testing a website with real people and seeing what could make it easier to navigate. This form of 'User Testing' can be bolstered by other forms of research around the study of usability, information architecture, and applying the things learned to web design.

Here are several concepts I've found very interesting in my research, as they relate to website design:

1. Hick’s Law: Increasing the number of choices, increases Decision time - "Analysis Paralysis"

Psychologists Ray Hyman  and William Edmund Hick and , described the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the how many choices they have: if it's a higher number of choices the decision making-time  will go up logarithmically. The Hick–Hyman law looks at how intelligent a person is - or cognitive information capacity- a weighs that as a component of how quickly someone can sort through a site. The "rate of gain of information" is the Hick–Hyman law.

According to the book "Don't Make Me Think" by Steven Krug, we should do our best to decrease choice where possible and

Directly Related to the Shannon–Hartley theorem, in information technology where the maximum amount of information presented over a specified bandwidth is told by the presence of other noise within it.

 

2. Rule of Target Size: The size of a button should be proportional to its expected frequency of use.

The most important next action on a page should be larger to command more attention, and in the microcosm of navigation systems, elements that are expected to be used - or better yet are most used according to analytics - should be emphasized with clues that relate to visual hierarchy, including size.

Apple, according to the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines, is recommending a target size of at least 44 pixels wide 44 pixels tall, and so no element should be smaller than this in a responsive website design if you want people to be able to tap it on their phone.

 

3. The Rule of Affordance: Clues as to an item's functionality.- In User Interface design an example is anything that makes a button look more "clickable".

The rule of Affordance can also relate to toggles, switches, radio buttons, form fields and any kind of navigational, or functional element that you have on your site. Web Designers have fallen in love with the simplicity of flat design, but for certain demographics simplicity in UI design doesn't serve their purpose – or our purpose in helping them navigate freely and without confusion.

4. The Rule of Dwell Time:  Google tracks 'bounce rate' or how quickly someone comes back to search results after visiting a page - Dwell Time is an indicator they got what they wanted and sends a signal to google that your page has quality.

 

What that means is that if you create a website that has the right amount of compelling imagery, in-depth content and/or content that captures people's attention you're sending a strong signal to Google's algorithm that what you have is what they want.

Not to mention, all of the things that indicate a good experience to Google also make, an individual is more likely to work with you if the content and design is centered around your main value proposition. In addition, in my experience creating long-form content around your product or service for highly-searched terms increases the association of your website with successful searches for similar terms; bolstering overall trust of your site for your service or product pages as well.

 

5. Fitt's Law - The farther away a target is and the smaller its size then the more difficult it is for the user to correctly land on that target.

Fitt's law also takes into consideration the corners of the device, and refers to them as 'infinite width' as a visitor needs much less precision to get to them and click or tap, as well as the top and bottom of the device to a lesser extent.

The formula for Fitt's law: 
MT=a + b * log2(D/W + 1)
MT in this formula is time of movement between to place, which is what we are trying to determine. The values of a and b are the slope and intercept, which need to be determined by an experiment. D is the how far apart the origin and the target are and W is the width of the button or other target. Don't get overwhelmed by this though as we can use the overarching idea of Fitt's law without consulting the formula every time.

 

Fitt's Law - Design Research to support and inform design Decisions

 

However there are cases in a more complex consideration that asking for the next step would actually confuse or frustrate a visitor. Consider this test by ContentVerve (the last on the page) that cites a 304% percent conversion rate increase from placing the call-to-action below the fold.

 

Conversion Rate Increase from a Call-to-action button below the fold

ContentVerve considers this reason enough to put forward this, perhaps overly simplistic graph.

 

Call to ACtion Below the fold

 

But although the author makes a good point that "there is a correlation between the complexity of the product/offer and the optimal placement of the CTA", I would add to that and say that the complexity of the page should not stop you from offering a CTA – albeit one that leads to them to the obvious next step, not the final action or purchase.

 

Usability Research in Web Design has at it's core a respect for other's opinions. It's important to have empathy for your visitors whether they be like you or are disabled, elderly, or children – and usability research and study help inform those decisions. Thanks for reading!

 

We love doing online marketing for residential home construction companies, roofing companies and home services clients! We love it because we have seen time and time again that a quality website paired with professional visibility in the form of SEO packages and social media can seriously positively effect their business.

We've created processes specifically for construction and home services clients – to get them higher on Google maps, to get trust from prospects and to drive more traffic through construction and home services SEO.

If you are a construction or home services client – we'd absolutely love to sit down with you and explain the opportunities that exist out there for getting more ideal customers more quickly. What are you waiting for? Press the 'Get a Free Consultation' button below and we'll be sure to get back to you A.S.A.P!

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