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In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser interviewed Carol Verity Mann, co-owner of the Web design and SEO agency We Get Digital. Carol reveals the secret to a great website and shows how using psychology and communication online is crucial to its success. Watch now for some profound insights.
The key to having a successful website is implementing emotional communication both visually and verbally.
Thank you, Matt. Thank you.
Oh, gosh, yeah. That started back in 1983. I just came back to the UK. I was living in Spain. I grew up between London and Spain, so I’m completely bilingual. I can speak Spanish and English. Came back to England when I saw an ad in the paper one day that said Overseas Property Company seeks a young dynamic person to join them, knowledge of the Costa del Sol preferable, not essential and I just joined. I joined the company and started working, selling property in Spain, and very quickly realized that we were really busy in the eighties. It was just March. And my cousin was working with computers and stuff. So, I went to my boss and I said, look, I think it would be really good if we put everything that we’re doing now and We could put it on one of those computer things and we could become more efficient. He said to me, okay, that’s a good idea. Why don’t you do it?
So, I got a copy. I’m not big on coding but I was planning and mapping it out and it was right back. We didn’t have the internet, but we did have computers so we built a sort of CRM system. So that was my internet.
Oh, right. Yeah, back in 1998, fast forward from the Spanish property and property and then having kids. I got married, and had children, as you do. And, I had otherwise always been good at arts and I always wanted to sort of do some kind of degree in something I found this degree that was about visual communication and I like the term commercial artist rather than graphic design because commercial art is actually quite a skill. To design things for commercial purposes and visual communication is literally that, it’s how to communicate visually. The moment we see something because human beings interpret an image 60,000 times faster than the written word.
Apparently, this is a stat. So, fast forward then to sorts of websites and we touched upon it. I went and did the degree and I love it. When you love something and you really want to do something, I think you do it regardless of babies, children, whatever. So, I did that, then came 2002, and I got called in by a very good friend of mine who had bought the domain name propertiesabroad.com.
Well, kind of but this led me to how I sort of got to where I am today of it. He said, Carol, you’re the only person I know whose sort of quite technical and you’re quite visual and you’re doing your degree. Would you come and join me to start this company unless it’s going to be online, we’re going to build a website. But, before we build the website let’s plan it and we spent three months meeting up, planning, and writing down what we wanted, how we wanted it to work, what we wanted to do, and what was more important. We used to mark everything that we wanted out of 10. So, that’s a 9 out of 10 or if it’s a 2 out of 10, 9 out of 10 would go into phase one, 2 out of 10 might go into phase two, three, or four. So, we did that. Got somebody to build the website bespoke because in those days we didn’t have WordPress or anything like that. And built propertiesabroad.com and it lasted for a long time the reason why it lasted for a long time was that we planned it properly.
Do you know what I mean?
Oh, funny look that’s the guide.
And what we are talking about is the website with cranes.
Building the website absolutely is 100% because if you build a house and you don’t tell the architect and you suddenly halfway through say, I don’t want the bathroom there, I want it over there.
The planning thing then came into play because I was in the property industry then in 2000, I did another thing that was very technical, which I did with a property company, and we planned and built. It was like a dating agency between agents and developers around the world.
So, a developer will come up with a development and we would sort of like feed his information into the system and it would then spit out all the agents that would match his particular kind of property that would potentially represent him and sell his property for him. So that was neat. But then in 2008, we hit a big recession.
The company went from 60 down to 6 overnight.
At that time, it was starting to kick off. It was 2008-2009, and your Facebook, your Twitter are coming into play. And again, people say I’ve got a website, but it doesn’t work at all, it doesn’t work very well. So, do we say, did you plan it? And they went, well, no. My next-door neighbors built it. I said, well that’s why it doesn’t work and so I thought of starting a company called Smart Website Planning.
Thinking that because at that time you had, Dreamweaver.
So, Dreamweaver, PHP, code, and all of that
I tried building websites in that, but I thought I’d rather stick pins in my eyes. Then along came WordPress.
Then with WordPress, a designer could actually code in a way. I mean, I can understand CSS, and I can write a bit of CSS. I can change this and that, PHP, I can procure it, I want to write it. So, obviously having a degree in visual communications, and written website planning, one thing led to another and We Get Digital, It started as a Twitter handle and all my friends who were sort of in the industry go, “Oh, that’s a really good thing” so I found out that we could get a domain name, and with my husband and everything, we started. And ultimately, we got digital and about the SEO I was going to say. With the propertiesabroad.com, as you said that’s a great name but back in that time, there was Yahoo! which bought out a little tool called Overture.
Before google did not exist, there was this little overture that you could put in a keyword and it would tell you how many people were searching for that keyword and give you suggestions. It was brilliant. Anyway, so I remember thinking, that’s great and I fit that in properties abroad.com, And then I thought, well, the other one is properties overseas.
And I found out to my horror, that four times more people were searching for property overseas than they were property abroad.
I bought another domain name for prime property overseas, which we ultimately used for something else. That was like when I used to give talks and stuff on websites and planning and SEO and I used to say, do your keyword research? because if you don’t, you might as well just not go online and shut down your business and go and sit on a desert island. You have to know your keywords.
Before you hire a name for your business.
It’s one of the things it’s not the main thing. If you’ve sort of been a local brand or something for a long time and you’ve got your name and everybody knows you for that name.
Yeah, or It’s your business and it’s your name.
If you want to? I just built a website for a lady. She does coach and she just wanted to get known for her. She doesn’t involve the masses, she doesn’t want to build a brand, and she doesn’t want to build a business.
Or anything. She just wanted a website that was her. So, there are other ways that you can get traffic without having your industry in your domain name.
It helps, but it’s not critical.
I’ve got carolverity.com, we’ve got digital.co.uk and .com because we got the .com after the.co.uk. But I’ve got carolverity.com.
Because that’s my brand, that’s me. I suggest that if people can then build the two if you’ve got the business, but also if it’s you fronting that and if you’re the voice of your business then build both, a brand for you and a brand for the business as well.
That’s good too.
It took a few months, but it was put together in 2009. I keep updating. This one is like planning.
Yeah. But it’s funny, though, because I revisited and this is what we’re talking about now. It’s 13 years or something like that. When I visited and read a lot of it, a lot of it is still significant because as I’ve always said to people, I said online is more about psychology than technology.
Nothing to do with technology.
Absolutely. So, I think that’s where we are a little bit different as a company, as well because we’ve got the psychology, we’ve got the technology. The visual communications degree that I did was mainly about the psychological impact of what people see. You know, the faster they see that you’re the right fit for what you do. For example, you’re not going to make a site that is for a removal company or a man with a van or something that looks like Harrods or Fortnum Mason or a really posh shop. You just wouldn’t do that business. People would land there. And I think blimey, that’s probably really expensive. So, that scarper before they’ve even, sort of gone past the first hurdle. So what you want to do as a company when you’re building over, when you’ve got a website, you want people to like land there and think, “Oh my God, this is me, this is for me. These people can cater to what I’m looking for”.
Call me now.
We sit and I can honestly say the first thing that people do is just is that it’s like almost a business consultancy and sometimes people have got it. And I sit down and say, have you written in the brief and nine times, though, actually 99 times out of 100, it’s no. Then, I say, well, how do you know what you want? They say, well, it’s in my head. I sit there and then I try and hold it out. One of the best ways to do it now, which was harder 10-15 years ago, is like, can you please send me some links to three or four websites that you love and would like if your website looked like that, you’d be like, God, I’m happy. That’s the first port of call because I would say, my friend, this website or that website, and then you kind of start chatting, you build a picture, you target audience, all the sort of normal work. Well, for me, I think of it as normal questions that I’d ask, where do you want your business to be? For example, let’s take two beauticians. One beautician might want to grow her beauty brand into a big brand and have beauty salons all over the country and the other one might say, no, I don’t want to do that. I just want to be local; I just want to be found locally, I just want a nice little brand that’s just sort of very friendly and so the same industry can have two completely different visions for themselves.
So, take notes of that, and then we send out a proposal, they give heads up if they like and they think that we might be able to interpret well what they’re looking for. We ask whether you have got a logo or not. If they haven’t got a brand, it’s not something that we do as a separate thing. We don’t say, we do logos but if somebody wants one…
No, we can do it. I can do it because my degree taught me how to do that. That was one, of course. But I don’t think it’s not a product.
No, not only do I but if somebody is starting a business and they’re looking for a website because they just started a business and they haven’t got a logo or they don’t like the logo that they’ve got or they’re not happy with it. Then I just always say, well, we’ll just do something or other. We can do it.
No, everybody is like that. Honestly, you as a business have got about 3 seconds with the website to make somebody stay there and go further.
No, I think it does matter. I think it matters in every single industry in this day and age. Plumbers and tradesmen don’t tend to want to think about it because they get maybe a lot of referrals and they do a lot of business locally and this and that. They may not have a website until business dries up.
We’ve got a couple of electricians and we’ve got a bricklayer at the moment for whom we are about to build a website. People usually go like, I’ve done lots of business and it’s been really good and then all of a sudden, it’s like, it’s not very good anymore so I think I need a website and then they want something that’s good. But if they want to put their prices up or if they want to be a specialist in a certain area, that’s another question. Actually, at the very beginning of a website build and sort of when we do the consultancy we ask, do you specialize in anything? Have you got a niche?
It’s really important and the number of times we’ve actually had to guide people and convince them to build something that is much more heavily focused on the niche rather than general really helps. A lot of people are very reticent, especially small businesses. I had a lady, who did physiotherapy for the elderly. That was mainly her target audience, older people. She did physiotherapy for the elderly to help them out.
I told her we’re going to build this amazing website and it’s going to really focus on that. She said, I don’t want to do that because I do another physiotherapy, so I don’t want to focus on anything. Luckily, a friend of mine who’s a business consultant knew her as well, and she was going to her for some business consultancy and she said the same thing to her, you’ve got to focus. So, we did. Luckily, in the end, she agreed. And now she’s doing really well.
I know. If you went to our website you probably think let a specialized but believe me, we’ve got a couple of websites, we’ve got digital, which is a general thing, but we specialize just in websites and in SEO. That’s a kind of specialization.
But we’ve got wellnesswebdesign.co.uk and believe me we get people who are in the wellness industry and they want somebody who understands their industry.
So, that helps. That really helps.
I mean, I realize that this thing we can sort of take in account, we could have accountancywebsites.co.uk, it doesn’t matter. But we’ve done so much in the wellness industry. We thought we could have a whole portfolio on this.
We’ve had a couple of inquiries today even, you know, somebody who was in the health space, she wanted an SEO, at the same time she wants a company who will understand her industry.
You just do it. Most physiotherapists are actually not the best example because most physiotherapists want to do local SEO rather than national. They would only want to rank for that keyword locally.
No problem. Most people want to live within 10-20 miles of their locality. Because people will travel further for physiotherapy.
But most people want somebody local. We get a lot of business because people call us and say, I had somebody to do my SEO and they were over in Scotland or wherever it might be. Somebody who we could pop in and see and talk to. I don’t know, maybe they want to know where that person is and someone who’s just over the here but no.
I mean, we’ve had clients who we’ve built sites for, and when we do work for but we’ve never even met.
Yes, zoom and everything. I mean, I kicked off with my MSN back in 2000.
Did you ever have an AOL buddy list?
I will tell you about AOL. It was Mid-nineties. AOL, I think was the only one you get on at that time and it had this buddy list. I remember going to all my friends and family and telling them they got to go online.
And they were going, no, we’re not going to do that. I wrote a blog about that and the whole sort of sitting there all by myself with nobody on my buddy list because nobody loves me. That was all about sitting there by myself online. So, I’ve always said to people I don’t see technology, I don’t see screens, I just see people and that’s the psychological side of it.
How to inspire people, how to draw people with words and I think as with the website, it’s about finding a balance and a fusion between visual and verbal. If you can get a verbal balance right then that just hits people between the eyes and good titles for your blogs are also important. Like a little booklet that I’ve written for Google, and it’s like, how to think like a search engine. And people go, I would like to think like a search engine. How do they think?
Yes, I definitely do. I’m not really into that but my husband is.
I’m more visual and he’s more verbal. I think he wouldn’t agree with that a lot, for he is more verbal because the words that come out might not necessarily be that. But it’s definitely true, there’s a great book that was written by a massive New York advertising guy. It was written by Roy Garn.
Roy Garn, he was responsible for I think, Kellogg’s ad.
G.A.R.N, Roy Garn, wrote a book called The Power of Emotional Appeal.
The magic power of emotional appeal.
I think that’s it.
I don’t even know if you can buy it, can you?
I’ve got a copy, but I think I’ve paid a fortune for it.
There’s one here. It was $46.
The magic power of emotional appeal by Roy Garn. It goes into more fields of life, it’s not just business. It’s all about emotional appeal.
The price is about 5th on the list, Most of the time it’s the value. So, you seek value, and if people feel they’re getting value for something they will buy it.
It’s true, we all do it.
And giving your business a personality.
She didn’t like the brand. She had to change the logo a bit, and the colors. Tweaked a little bit and we tweaked the strapline a bit. And I mean, I heard one set of shots because I just don’t count it too much but a good website from start to finish with the conversations, the planning, the building, and the this and that should usually take between 60 to 80 hours.
60 to 80 hours of work.
I don’t know.
No, I don’t think so. I’d say no. I’d say you’d meet people, people meet people and people buy from people. I get annoyed even when an AI is like, you’re trying to get help from…
Chat pal. We tried one on our site and I didn’t like it. But it has its own place.
They put the cart before the horse. They don’t think about the content, they don’t know how to craft the content or they create content without thinking about the SEO or they create the content with SEO in mind and not thinking about people. I mean, Google has now just launched a whole new algorithm.
Exactly. They want you to appeal to people and it’s all about the people. What I always say it applies, I said it today about 2 hours ago to somebody that all Google wants to do is to give us the best websites for our search. So as a business, your responsibility to Google is to make sure that your website is the best website for people.
Yeah. I’ll tell you what, you said something there about the best-looking design. It needs to be the most appropriate design.
You must belong to the most modern websites list. But if your target audience isn’t a modern target audience then you need to be a little bit more classical and you need to make something that appeals to the people who you want to appeal to and that might not be the most modern, and to other people, It might not be the best. But it’s appropriate for you, your tone of voice, your business personality, and for what you want to achieve and what you want people to feel. What do you want people to feel when they land on your website?
The simplest way to describe that is for instance you’re a client and I ask you, what’s your favorite color?
Okay, you say blue. Your favorite color is blue and then I said to you what’s your client’s favorite color?
Exactly, but how do I find out? Go ask them. But is just a hypothetical situation. So if you have favorite color happens to be yellow then guess what? What color website are you going to build? Blue one or a yellow one?
Complementary colors with blue. So, you are happy with it too? So you go, oh my God, I love it. And your clients come along and they go, I love it too. That is sort of starting to become appropriate. So, then it’s got to be right for your target audience then, you know, visual pick, the pictures, how can we put those together? In a lot of the images, we can sort of giving them a tone. There was a great website I saw once and I became really obsessed with I became obsessed with that kind of treatment, which was black and white images with one thing picked out in color. And I managed to do it. I applied it to a lovely lady who was a psychotherapist, and we build a website and I managed to put that treatment was very appropriate for her site. So that visual treatment, which we paired with some very beautiful wording. We gave a very nice balance look for the services that she offered below and it was just lovely, the tone was right, it hit the right tone for her, for the target audience, and for the industry. She was a specialist in a loss. The psychotherapist who is specializing in loss and I think on things like that, we really dig deep. I would certainly say that if anybody came and sat with us because they wanted a website for their business, we do dig as deep as we can.
Well, I think there’s a lot out there, were marketing agencies, maybe pre-web marketing agencies or people who are trained in marketing and love marketing and they’re probably very good at marketing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re brilliant at planning and coming up with an appropriate website for that client. The psychological side, but then the visual communication is there. You must have heard of semiotics.
The study of signs and signifiers, what things mean, and what people respond to the emotional response to certain things and that’s what a big part of studying visual communications. I didn’t do it to build websites, I promise you, but it’s been very helpful, very critical.
But I love a lot of sitting down with clients and learning about where they want to go with their business, where they want to be and coming up with solutions.
Going back to the builder analogy, it’s like builders building the house, it’s like a lot of builders sit there going do that. No, that’s difficult. No, we can’t do that. When we moved here, we’ve had lots of building work done and stuff and we’ve got an amazing builder and he’s cool with the building solutions and he really, he always comes up with a solution for things. And we like to pride ourselves on coming up with solutions rather than problems. There are only solutions.
I might not be local to your audience
I’m only down on the computer. I’m just a person. Not a screen
Carol Verity on LinkedIn, I don’t do anything on Twitter. I used Twitter till its death. I think if I’ve got 23,000 tweets, they all happened before 2011.
Shoot me an email at carolwegetdigital.co.uk
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