Episode 5 – Killer Websites with Kurt Scholle

Kurt dropped additional nuggets of sales and marketing goodness in the EXTENDED Interview. Be sure to click here to access all of our great extended interviews, transcripts and more within our Insider's Club.

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Expert Insights on Killer Websites

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Kurt Scholle is an entrepreneur who understands what it is like to own your own business and to be responsible for the livelihoods of your employees. He measures business success only one way: profits. He founded Web Asylum in 1996 and has had equity interests in a couple of local Internet Service Providers that delivered high-speed Internet and reliable web hosting.

Podcast Transcription

Brian Basilico: I am pumped about today's topic because websites are in my blood and we have a great expert today. Our guest expert is Kurt Scholle from the Web Asylum. Kurt has been doing websites for over 18 years and he's a friend, a cohort and a great guy. Hey, Kurt, thanks for joining us today.

Kurt Scholle: Hey, Brian. It's a pleasure and an honor to be here.

Brian: Awesome. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into doing web development?

Kurt: So, I was in radio for almost 25 years and the guy I have known when I worked the Q101 and that Oldies 104.3 kind of introduced me to the internet back in 1995 or 1996 and I thought it was kind of cool. One of the things he said was, “This is like radio 70 years ago. It's going to evolve.” He was right because over a period of time, it has. It seems like there's something new just about every day of the week. At the time, he and I both had the ability to work from home and he wanted to build websites. He was building them from scratch, just hand-coating the HTML and I went out and was trying to sell people on buying websites, then I got a little bit more into the project management, then I really got interested in marketing, and strategy, and the ROI of owning a website or having a website.

We built up the company a little bit, got to a point where the sites we're building sort of exceeded his talents and he decided that he really wanted to go back into radio, so I bought them out and web selling has been around for I don't know, 18 years now, maybe.

Brian: See? Now, I love that because you built it based on your past experience. That's cool.

So, let me ask you a question, why does a business need a website?

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Kurt: Because people need an online presence. People are always searching for businesses and the place that they've looked for them the most often is the web. It's on a website. The statistic goes back six months or a year, but I think Google reported that one time not too far back, that as many as 50% of businesses do not have a website. That is a competitive disadvantage because you're not there for people to find you, but also, your competitors are out there for people to find them. So there are a number of things that you want to do in your online sales funnel if you will and you just simply can't do any of them if you don't have a website.

Some people will use Facebook fan pages and that's okay maybe. The problem is that you don't own the race course, you don't own that property. If Facebook thinks that you've violated their terms of service in any way, shape or form, they could shut you down and you really have no real recourse. Having up a website that you own is a lot simpler than it was, with WordPress especially, just about anybody can have a website for not a lot of money that actually performs for them. All of the marketing that you do, whether it's social media, or offline marketing, whatever it is that you do, should really come back to your core and your core is your website.

Brian: So you mentioned things like WordPress and obviously there's a whole bunch of free things out there.

Kurt: No!

Brian: I have to ask the question. All right, Kurt, why do you not want to go to Wix.com, Web.com, Godaddy.com and use one of their free tools to build a website? You could go on WordPress.com and create a free blog. Why would somebody not want to go use those tools?

Kurt: Because friends don't let friends use site builders for websites. The problem is just like with Facebook – you don't own the site. That's one of the main reasons. If something ever happens to those companies and many of them like GoDaddy are fairly well established so you figure that they're not going to go out of business, that that's not going to be a threat to you. But if they change for whatever reason, you don't have the ability to transfer that website. They build beautiful websites and some of those Wix websites and others are really beautiful and they would be very tempting, but you don't own the website. You're just really kind of renting it. I think it is a key asset and key assets are things that you should control and own outright. They're not portable, you can't get to a point where you say, “Well, there are some sort of functionality that Wix isn't giving me, or the GoDaddy site builder or whatever, so I'm going to move it.” You would have to just build it from the ground up. So why not do that now?

Don't be tempted by, “You can have a website up in five minutes.” Well, you get what you paid for. You don't want to do something like that. WordPress is loved by search engines, it's something that you can own and there's two kinds of WordPress sites. You can have a site at WordPress.com, which would be something like Kurtandbrianswebsite.Wordpress.com, but what you really want is Kurtandbrianswebsite.com instead so that you own it, so that you can control it, so that you know what's going on and you know what's in the environment and you can move things around. The beauty of WordPress, number one, is it's free. You can buy a theme to make your site beautiful for as little as $40. There are free themes out there that I would recommend against because they're usually not supported very well and sometimes they can be a little spammy. Some of those themes are designed just to provide links back to the developer's website.

So you can have a beautiful website for $100 or less and you can customize it for usually not very much. Google likes those sites and they're also pretty well-supported on YouTube. Anything that you need to do with WordPress website, you can find the solution, you can find the how-to if you will on YouTube.

Brian: So let's say you're looking to get a website done. What are some of the biggest rookie mistakes when people dive in and they find somebody who does, “Hey, this guy does websites. This person does websites.” What are some of the things that you've seen that are the biggest mistakes that first-time website developers or people that are buying websites make?

Kurt: Mistakes? How many hours is this conversation going on?

Brian: Not long enough.

Kurt: There are many of them but let's see if we can count the biggest ones. I like to say that there are many keys to a successful website. The two that really are most important are getting people to the website that's called “getting traffic to the website” and converting that traffic, getting them to do something, which may be the buy your product or service online, or it may be something that is sort of an interim goal that gets them to the point where they can buy something – a product or a service from you online. But not everybody is selling something online. Sometimes they're just wanting to promote some information or they're supporting a nonprofit cause, or they're trying to raise money for a nonprofit. It really depends and that really is one of the biggest mistakes that people make. I'll get back to traffic in a minute, but that is not really understanding what the goals of the website are.

But traffic and conversion, not getting enough traffic and then not converting things. People end on a website and they go, “Oh, this isn't what I'm looking for.” And they back away. There's a problem with that for two reasons. One is that you've lost a client, you've lost a prospect, you've lost a possibility. The second thing is that Google is paying attention to that. People who land on your website and backed out of it real quick, Google says, “Well, maybe this website isn't so good for people based on keywords that they use to find the site.” So then Google starts ranking you a little bit lower. You really need to appeal to people, you really need to resonate to people when they land on your website. I like to say that every website has a job and every page on a website has a job. If those pages' jobs are not supporting the overall job of the website, then there's no reason to have those there.

And not everybody is going to come into your website from the homepage. Hopefully people will be landing on pages that are a little bit closer to exactly what they're looking for, so that they don't have to figure it out on the homepage and then make a click or two. If you can cut back on the number of clicks that people need to make to find the solution that you offer, then you're doing much better. From a conversion standpoint, one of the big problems is that A, it's difficult to navigate through a site because people are not prioritizing navigation, they don't have a navigation labels that makes sense. We can't reach through the internet and hand people user's guide to our websites. It has to be pretty intuitive and people who really don't build websites for a living or on a regular basis really don't understand how to do some of that.

The ultimate goal is not necessarily to sell a product or service. Some people will tell you that that's just the beginning. Beyond that, you want people to come back and maybe buy something else from you or you want them to be an evangelist for your project or service. So don't think of the deals stopping with the fact that they bought something. You want to have in the long term relationship with them. There is a life-time value of a visitor like that. So, making the site intuitive, having calls to action, that's one of the other big mistakes, people have pages on their website, but there's no call to action. There's no, “Okay, let's take the next step.” So, people visit a website and they go, “Oh, that's interesting” but nobody has suggested that maybe they call for more information, or that they fill out a survey, or a needs analysis.

Brian: Somebody is setting up a website. Generally we like to have strategies or some kind of systems in place. What are some of the key website strategies that you could suggest?

Kurt: Well, one would be to actually have a strategy. There are a lot of people who have absolutely no clue what they're doing with their website. I'm not being mean or anything. One of the things I think people need to do is like we do with our website strategies. Number one, it begins with a page or two describing what the project is, what the justification is, the “why we're doing this” so that everybody can look at the overall view from 50,000 feet, “This is what we want to do.” The next thing we put into project plans are specific measurable goals. What are we going to sell? How much? To who? And that brings up the idea of target personas. Almost every business has more than one target persona.

People use things, different ways or you have different products that are used by different people, or different services that you offer in different situations. So you really need to have some kind of an idea so that you know that if your goals are being met, but you also have to bake that into the website so that you make sure that you have content for the people who are looking for specific solutions. Let me also say this about that, and that is don't think of it in terms of what you think is important for them because of your vast knowledge and experience going back 20 or 30 years. You really need to be going out and finding out what they're looking for, because they won't necessarily resonate when you tell them what is important.

They do resonate when they find the solution that they are looking for. Once you have that relationship, then you may be able to say, “Look, I really think you need to consider doing this or this.” But a lot of people never do that because they're putting things out that people are not interested in and there is no call to action, so people just don't really do anything as a result of that. You need to have those specific measurable goals, why that's going to be important so that you can build that into the website, so that that information is there.

People will make an evaluation of your website in 5-8 seconds and therefore, they're not reading websites. That's something else that's important for people to understand, they scan them. You do it, I do it, we all do it. If we don't think we found what we're looking for, then we back out and we move on. Again, that's a signal to Google that maybe this isn't the right website for that particular keyword query or something along those lines. But even more importantly is you've lost a prospect. Having the solution there and having a specific call to action to get them moving in the right direction is very important and that's why we write up specific measurable goals and those could be sales-oriented, those could be ways to operate more efficiently, those could be ways to work with strategic partners of some sort – there's all kinds of things that we put into project plans that go beyond the goal of just selling on the website. One of the big goals may be to improve the viral buzz, that people are talking a little bit about your product.

Websites should also be a place – I said it before about the core of coming back to the core. I'm working with a client now, a convention and visitors bureau and one of the things that we're doing is we're creating website content for the people who their sales managers meet at conferences. So you could go to Namethecity.com/sportstournaments, or /conferenceplanners, or whatever. They run ads and magazines and they want to take people to a specific landing page that gets them right into what this particular convention and visitors bureau wants to do. That's important to keep in mind and those are pages that are not even public, yet they play a critical role in the success of the website.

Brian: Kurt, now you've got a website. The thing has been sitting out there and it's been out for five, six years. What are some of the most common small business mistakes you see at that point?

Kurt: One of the biggest right away is not updating it. You should be paying attention to what's going on your website, just like some shopkeepers keep track of a dollar in particular, how much traffic they got on the store that they – or even what the weather conditions were outside to compared to the previous year. But we see mistakes, guys don't know where their website is hosted and I get called every now and then, I'm sure you do, too, by somebody who says, “Yes, my website is down. So and so said that maybe you could help me.” We find out that the website registration, the domain registration went down, so that is no longer pointing to where your website is hosted.

I have a course that I teach on website success for owners and managers and that's one of the things that we talk about first, is you have to have that foundation, you have to know and protect that domain name because if you lose it, it's sometimes hard if not impossible and sometimes expensive to get it back. The next one is where is the website hosted? You get that from time to time, too. You see, “Well, have you paid your hosting bill?” “Where would I do that?” Okay, well, maybe we're onto something not right and you find out that trusted assistant left or somebody who was paying that bill and knew what it was, or where it was, somehow was taken care of that and they're not paying the bill, so their website hosting goes down.

Users, let's talk about the people who have a work on the website. One of the biggest complaints I get is people who say, “Well, I can't update the website and I don't even know how to do it” and there's a couple of different ways of accessing websites whether it's File Transfer Protocol, which is called FTP or if you're simply logging in using WordPress. For most website owners, managers, WordPress is a great way to update websites, but nobody knows about it. A WordPress in many respect is almost very similar to Microsoft Word. It's just that easy to start a new line, and insert a picture there, and bold this, and change that font, and do some things along those lines. People not being in control of their website, then they don't have the ability to make updates, and they should be paying attention to things like Google Analytics, so that they know what their bounce rate is for instance.

Brian: Okay. We've got control of our website. Now, how do you define a website's success? What does that mean?

Kurt: If it's achieving the goals, number one, that you have for the website. Why do you have the website in the first place? For people who own a local store, or a restaurant, or an academy, some sort of business to maybe just to get food traffic in. For other people it may be that they want to sell something online and their market is all over the United States, or English-speaking countries in the world, or every country in the world. So, you need to understand what those are, as well as what some of the interim goals are to get there. If you think of an online sales funnel, where are we failing and so, how is that affecting our overall goal? We do that by looking at Google Analytics to see what pages are most popular, and what pages people seem to be resonating with which you can tell by the amount of time they spend on the page, or how often they exit your website from a certain page. You can use Google Analytics to actually follow a trail through your websites.

If you have two or three target personas let's say and you want them to go through specific pages on your website, you can see if they're doing that. If they're not, if they're failing at some point, then that gives you an idea of where you have a stopping point in your online funnel – sales funnel. So, you would fix that, “What could I do to resonate better so that they click the call to action from that particular page and continue on through the sales funnel that I have set up for people?”

Another tool that's really very important is Webmaster tools. Google has its, so does Bing and that's a way that you can actually communicate with search engines. I think people should set that up. It's free but a lot of times you can get a lot of feedback from the search engines by getting that information. We started off this conversation a little bit by talking about what are the goals of the website and who are the target personas? How are we going to go at it? Creating pages that resonate with the various target personas. That's how you can decide how to make course corrections, is by seeing how your site is behaving with people and then making a decision from there. It might be somebody who's trying to help you with the analytics to figure that out, or maybe you can get something from YouTube.

It's really important to understand what's going on and those are a couple of tools that can help you. The nice thing is they're free.

Brian: Kurt, I understand you got some kind of system that helps guide people through the process of all of the things that we mentioned today. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kurt: 50% of businesses are not online. There's a reason for that. People are a little afraid. The owners, managers don't know how to get that started or what that looks like. So I began sharing some of the check list that I've used in the 18 years that we've been building in marketing websites and began to put more and more things together, so that A, people know what they need to be thinking about and planning on; and B, to maybe have a little bit of an idea of how to go about it. I don't think there's anything else really on the market today that is really supporting website owners and managers. That's why I put it together.

So, we have I think there's 40 lessons in there that talk about the things that you and I have talked about today – how to do a website audit and figure out where you are, how to figure out where your domain is registered, and not lose it, and how the site is hosted, who's working on the site, what kind of content can you put together, what are the specific calls to action, what are ways – I've mentioned earlier about the two biggest success keys for website and that is getting traffic to the website and converting. So there's a lot in there about all of the different ways. There are hundreds of ways of getting traffic to a website. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another.

Then things that will help people convert on your website to get them to do what you're looking for. May I add, Brian, that there's really kind of a third key that I think is really important nowadays and that is the idea of having a mobile-responsive website or a mobile-ready site. 50% of all internet traffic now comes from smartphones, tablets, iPads and things like that. That's one of the beauties of WordPress, is that you can buy a theme, it also looks pretty good on a smartphone as well as something on a desktop. So, that's probably – if there's any big takeaway for anybody today, that would be to be thinking about a website. Whether you own one now, or you're going to build one, but to make sure that it's something that can be viewed on mobile devices.

Brian: Kurt, if people wanted to get a hold of you, what's the best way to do that?

Kurt: Well, I blog. It's the Website-roi-guy.com and I'm on Twitter, @Kurtscholle – those are probably the two best ways.

Brian: Awesome, Kurt. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your insight, your experience, your low-key attempt at that trying to explain some pretty high-tech stuff and you've done a great job. So, thank you so much for sharing your step with our audience today.

Kurt: Thank you. I really appreciate it, Brian.

Brian: All right, I hope you enjoyed this podcast with the additional stuff about creating killer websites. Again, this is our Expert Interview series. Join us next time for our next guest and we're going to learn a little bit more about building a great web presence.

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3 Responses to Episode 5 – Killer Websites with Kurt Scholle

  1. Jim Kendall November 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Very good information, nicely presented. Jim Kendall

    • Brian Basilico March 9, 2016 at 2:24 am #

      I would LOVE a review on iTunes if you are so included?

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