In this hyper-technological age, adaptation is important in order for a business not only to survive but to truly flourish. The digital customer experience is one significant part of the process that dictates how well your business is going to do in the long run. Ian Reynolds, Partner and Chief Solutions Architect at Zibtek, joins Terri Levine to discuss the rise of the website as one of the most important ways a business keeps itself alive in the digital space. It’s so important for a business to understand just how crucial its website is in creating an online presence. Learn how you can work on your website and unlock its maximum potential.
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Defining The Digital Customer Experience With Ian Reynolds
In this moment, take a second and get present and clear of what your intention is. What is it that you want to learn that will help you in business and in life? In this short episode, I am certain that you are going to get tremendous value because I have someone with me whose brain I want to pick. I’m very interested in this topic and you will be as well. My guest is Ian Reynolds. He is a Partner and Chief Solutions Architect at Zibtek, a software development firm. They help businesses of all sizes here in the United States to solve their core problems with software. That’s why I’m excited about this topic because in my company, it seems like we are rapidly having more and more questions about software with the way things are changing. What Zibtek does is they empower entrepreneurs, growth companies, enterprises, visionary firms to achieve greater profitability, greater efficiency, valuation and ultimate success by building the right tools through customs software. Ian, welcome.
It’s great to be here. Thank you very much for having me.
I’m excited to have you. To start off, I hear questions every day from my own clients like, “What should I be doing on my website? Should I have a membership site? Do I need to blog? What’s the best community software? Should I be using HootSuite or should I be posting on Facebook every day?” It seems like people are inundated with software questions. In this show, I like to make it easy and effortless and somewhat simple. Is there a way to make this whole world of software simple? That’s my first question.
The increasing availability of new, ever-increasing and powerful tools on the market from the software perspective is going to continue to disrupt things. It’s going to continue to change the landscape. You mentioned websites. Someone said several years ago that websites are the new real estate. It’s still very much the case. You have to present yourself online in a digital medium in a way that’s very clear, concise and accurately representing your brand and business. It’s going to be increasingly important as the world becomes much more global, as you have these trading partners who are no longer in the United States or maybe in a close proximity from a country standpoint. The new trade deck was signed between Mexico and Canada. That’s going to further increase our trade ties. The US is an ever-burgeoning market.
I don’t know if this is true for you, but I find lots of people’s websites are very stagnant. It can go six months from now and it looks exactly the same. There’s no activity and nothing is happening. Is that the correct way of doing business on a website?
Google wants to see consistent improvement. In fact, because many people are getting very active with their mobile devices, Google wants to see things that are optimized for mobile. Speed as well as consistent updates are what Google is looking for. Having an updated visual and technical performance on your website is going to materially impact your ability to stand out from the crowd.
Can that be done through blogging if you blog regularly or does it have to be done more than that?
It’s got to be more than that. There are very technical aspects of a website now that didn’t exist several years ago. This is true with modern applications as well. You’re able to deliver content via what’s called API, Application Programming Interface. Websites now can be built in such a way where they’re called headless. Any type of device that I’m delivering my content to is going to interpret that API information in the best way for that device. You may have an iPhone or one of these types of devices. If I’m delivering the content via API, I’m allowing the device to interpret that data in the way that’s best for the device. This applies not only to websites where you can have a progressive web app that will do this headless information delivery but also my software. I can have my software be in a headless structure where it will deliver to my client or my end-user in a way that best fits their form factor.Someone said years ago that websites are the new real estate, and this is still very much the case. Click To Tweet
I love that we’re talking about this because I had a client who has a new webinar and asked me to watch the webinar. I picked up this device and the webinar was a disaster. I went to my computer and it was perfect. I said, “It’s not optimized for my mobile device. I don’t know about other people’s, but it needs to be optimized across devices.” She came back to me and said, “I have no idea how to do that.” In my experience, we’re running into mentoring lots of businesses more and more. How do we manage all of this? There seems to be many pieces of the puzzle. If you’re an entrepreneur and you only have a four-person corporation, how do you manage all of these things? How do you know because there are many changes in algorithms? How to keep up with this?
One of the things we advise our clients to do is not try to step out and expand your competency necessarily. Identify an expert and retain some of that expert’s time to fill in the gaps, ask questions and maybe solve all those technical problems for you so that you can remain focused on your core business. We, as a business, are predominantly software-focused. We’re not necessarily marketers by trade. We do that same structure with marketing firms that come and assist us. We want to stay focused on what we do best, which is building software. In the same manner, we advise our clients to go find an expert. Go find somebody who has particular domain knowledge of the thing that you’re trying to solve.
People come to me and they ask software technical questions and they want to create whatever it is, virtual universities, membership sites and all customized software solutions. I’m like, “I’m a marketing and business consultant. I need to steer you somewhere else.” What is the website so that people can find you, Ian?
Visit www.Zibtek.com and submit a contact form and say, “I saw you in the Dr. Terri Levine’s Show,” and we’ll be happy to reach out.
What’s going on these days with SEO, Search Engine Optimization? I have people ask me all the time, “Is this still needed? Is this still necessary? Does this still exist?” I know a lot of people who I’ve mentored have paid for this a few years ago and now it seems people aren’t paying for it. Should they be?
There were something like 220 million websites created in 2018. The internet is if you build it and market it aggressively, they’ll come if you’re also targeted to their needs. SEO is going to continue to play a major importance. If you look at Fortune 500 software companies, the vast majority of their traffic is coming not from paid advertising, not from traditional marketing. It’s coming from search engine optimization and search engine marketing showing up for the specific problem of specific query an individual is looking for. There’s a technical aspect to that like having your site be at certain speed and having that headless structure that I talked about. This is going to be increasingly important as people move to a variety of devices. Also, it’s having fresh relevant content that speaks to your audience and solves a particular problem that the person is searching for.
Is it part of it that your domain names should be long-tail and should have what people are looking for? How does that work? We talked about long-tail for several years and I’m not seeing much of that anymore. Does that still hold true?
The domain name itself is less relevant than it used to be. What is highly relevant is your title and the content in the article. If I’m searching for how much does the average fire truck weigh and I’m getting results that say there are no blue fire trucks, those are incongruent answers. I’m looking for a specific response to my search query that answers a specific question. Google is constantly weighing how long people are staying on pages. By answering the question that the person is searching for, you’re going to need the most traffic because you’re going to show up number one for that result. That’s effectively the starter. There’s an on-page technical element and there’s also a traditional marketing answering the question, then having a very long form and appropriate answer for that question.
Can you give us an example maybe at Zibtek of a client that you’ve helped so we can have an idea of what Zibtek does?
We’ve been doing a lot of healthcare and finance. While we’re generalists, we particularly focus on healthcare and finance. We had a client who has their MD, PhD and they’re doing post-op studies of people who’ve had knee surgery. They were trying to determine if this treatment is effective for that patient as they were conducting multiple treatments. In some cases, they would put in a physical hardware. They’re putting in an implant into the knee and replacing the knee joint. They’re trying to make a determination as to how they could improve their ability to collect the survey data. It was a very manual process. They had literally people with clipboards, writing it in a paper and entering this information on an Excel spreadsheet.
We built a tool that allows for this data collection to occur automatically. They have an online piece of software. It sends the surveys. It allows for that post-op data collection systematically. They have to follow-up many times a month. They need to make sure that all that data is statistically random in an appropriate way so they’re not getting false positives. We built a software suite that is web and mobile that allows them to collect the survey data. The participants can then have the survey questionnaire app on their phone and also go to this online portal and receive emails automatically. That pretty significantly reduced the burden of the manual calls and manual follow-up. It’s improved engagement because people are attached to their mobile device. You can’t go anywhere without your phone. That’s an example of something that we’ve built where someone had a particular problem, in this case in the healthcare arena, and we’ve solved that for them.
I have several clients that have asked me, “Should I have an app?” In many cases, I find this interesting. I’m like, “What would be on the app?” They’re like, “What’s on my website? I wouldn’t want an app that’s what’s on your website.” If someone’s thinking about an app, give us some pointers on why you would want to have an app and what typically would be involved, if you might.
The questions you should be answering is, is it going to provide an additional layer of value to my client or to my end-consumer where they have the application? Is it convenience? Is it speed? Am I able to provide them additional information or am I going to be able to communicate with my end-consumer and business user a little bit more easily? Those are two of the principal evaluation thereof. If I’m going to build a mobile application, there are a couple of components that tie back to the website. You can structure your website to be an app. If you go to Zibtek.com, our website is an app. It’s not a traditional website. You can download it on your phone. It’s called a progressive web application.
As it’s structured, it’s also that headless structure we’ve talked about. It allows me to download the site and have it available on my phone. That would be a first step as opposed to creating a mobile app. If I create a mobile application, I have to write it for iOS and Android. The cost of that can be rather significant if you don’t have prior structure in place. The first recommendation would be probably to take your website, turn your website into that progressive web application, and look at the engagement. Are people downloading it? If they are and if they’re asking for more features, if they’re interacting heavily with that downloaded progressive web app, then maybe you should look towards a native mobile application experience. That can be done both via a hybrid technology like Flutter, React, Xamarin or natively, you write it in Swift or Java.
I’m a marketing and business mentor but people always ask me about websites. They say, “What should be on the homepage? Are there any rules, regulations, right things or wrong things that we can be noticing on a homepage of a website?”
The homepage for your site is the most important page on your entire website. It is the first impression that your users get of you and your business. If you need to be ADA compliant, which is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, it’s important that you are ADA compliant. That’s the first thing that can get you in trouble. The second thing that can get you in trouble is security. Increasingly there’s a lot of vulnerabilities that are coming out of the woodwork. Making sure that you have HTTPS on your site or HTTPS2 and all of your pages are under that framework.Google wants to see constant improvement from your website interface. Click To Tweet
HTTPS is like there’s a secret code that only your computer has and only my computer has. That makes sure that nobody is snooping between the communication that my website and your computer are sharing. Security vulnerabilities and also having that ADA compliance works perfect. Those are the two most vital things. The second thing is making sure that it’s fast. Google is increasingly punishing websites that are very slow. The rule of thumb they’ve said is that if it’s under ten milliseconds in terms of loading, that’s the point at which it feels near instantaneous for the user. That’s what they want to encourage.
I have an older site. On the site, we had a membership area with 20 or 30 very long television shows. It would take a very long time to load. The site used to be organically pretty much at the top of Google. I kept seeing the site drop and drop. I figured out it’s because these videos slow down the site. It took forever for the site to load. We found another way of doing it. All of a sudden, I saw it go back up. I had no idea why. You taught me why. Thank you. I was guessing as to why.
Going back to those 220 million websites created, Google has to weigh these things. They want to say, “Here’s the best result.” If a site is very slow or has some of these technical or security problems, it’s going to push it down in favor of other things that don’t have those problems.
The other thing that you were talking about is the HTTPS. I was trying to go to my publisher’s website to look at the catalog of their bestsellers and my computer blocked the site. I noticed it was HTTP. I contacted my publisher and said, “My computer won’t even let me get to your site. I don’t understand.” My computer is blocking the site and saying it’s not secure. He said, “What do I do?” I said, “The sites that I know I can go to are HTTPS.” That seems like it happens more and more.
Google has fundamentally said in the Chrome browser, Microsoft has followed suit, that anytime there’s a site that is not secured with HTTPS, it presents this warning. You can technically get around it, but it is virtually unsecured. It’s like getting on the old telephone line where the operator could place it in somebody else’s and somebody could listen. That’s quite literally how unsecured it is.
Is there anything that relates to social media tying into websites as a good thing or bad thing? I go to sites all the time and they have share button, share this article, share this blog. People ask me that question also, “Should I have links to my social media or should I go beyond that?” Is that a question you can answer for us?
You do want to have links pointing to and from your social. You want to give the social signals that say, “My business is active. We’re still here. We’re still doing things.” It’s also another mechanism for telling Google that these two properties are related and these two properties are active. The signals you send from social do not have as much of a weight as other traditional marketing mechanisms for Google. They’re still important nonetheless. You maybe take blog content you have and post it on social and that’s appropriate. You don’t need to do anything special from a technical standpoint to make yourself standout.
Let’s say that you do several things. You work with solopreneurs and you’re also a consultant in companies. You’re looking to work with larger Fortune 500 companies. You have that expertise and you also work with solopreneurs. Do you have two separate websites or do you have two different offerings on a website?
We maintain several properties ourselves. We have a couple of products. The products are separate and distinct from the core services. To the extent, you can be laser focused on that core product offering. As long as there’s no cross-selling opportunities between the two, you should have separate and distinct properties. It advantages you in that way. However, if you’re a service firm and that’s part of your services umbrella. It’s one of the things you offer. It makes more sense to have one property and focus on that one property. You can rank that property for two separate things. It’s less effort and the cross-sell opportunities of people looking for one service, they’ll say, “These guys also do this.” It is much more impactful and much better for you ultimately for a long-term.
Sometimes I personally get confused. I’m doing a search, website after website and some people’s sites focused on, “Here’s the one result or one outcome that you get with our product.” Other people had massive navigation and I was feeling overwhelmed. Do we want to limit navigation or how do we do that?
You want to try to have navigation be as simple as possible. What may surprise people is that Google is not just doing a technical review and it’s not all automated. There are people that Google subcontracts to and contracts to that go and physically review the websites. They have a qualitative score. If your website is difficult to navigate, is hard to traverse and hard to figure out where you’re going, that person who’s reviewing the site may give it a lower quality score. It can impact your rankings and impact your site health. It’s very important to try to have things as user friendly. This is true in software, but it’s especially true in your business website.
You taught me something I definitely didn’t know. My assumption was that everything Google-related was probably done through AI and I didn’t know there were human beings involved. That’s fascinating.
They have a 200-page checklist. They refresh every year. I’ve read the whole thing. It’s good a material right before you’re about to go to bed. There are technical aspects of reviewing. There are qualitative aspects and there’s also if the content on the page basically match the queries. They’re looking at all of those things because they haven’t quite perfected the AI. It’s presented as omnipresent. To some extent, it is but it is very much something that’s reviewed by individuals.
The last big question is what should we expect over the next few years? What’s likely to change in terms of the internet, website, software? What should we be preparing for?
Increasingly we’re going to see very powerful mobile devices. This device is stronger than the device that took us to the moon. The calculators on here, because of the internet, have access to other supercomputers. We anticipate seeing a greater shift towards mobile. We see those mobile devices becoming more powerful because people are tied to their mobile devices. That mobile experience becomes very important. Additionally, we still see a large shift to the cloud. There are lots of people who are maintaining physical infrastructure, their business, IT, servers, networking and the like. We’re seeing a shift where people are moving it all to the cloud. They don’t have to maintain that physical infrastructure in-house.
That’s been ongoing, but we still think another few years that’s going to be a continuing trend. The vast majority of our clients opt to take a cloud first approach when they’re building something new or refreshing something. Ultimately, what they find is it reduces labor costs, operational costs and fixed costs because I’m using someone else’s infrastructure that they’re maintaining. I don’t have to pay somebody to come in and maintain that infrastructure.The homepage of your site is the most important page on your entire website. Click To Tweet
We’ve gone in that direction as well in Heartrepreneur. Who is an ideal prospective client family member for you? If someone’s reading and they’re saying, “Maybe I should work with Zibtek,” how will they know that they should reach out?
Our ideal client is someone who has a problem they know can be solved with software and has something that’s core to their business. Maybe they don’t do software, maybe they do a little bit of software in-house, but they need to solve it with a software program via a custom application or enhancement of an existing application. They need to do so with an outside opinion as to how things should be optimally constructed. Any and all people, especially those in the healthcare and finance arena, we have ample experience doing that. Also, people who need an enterprise application that would consolidate a lot of problems in their business.
I would encourage the audience, I don’t think as business people, we need to be dealing with all of these things. We need to focus on the core area of what we’re great at. I’m in marketing and business strategy. That’s my area. When it goes out of my area, I turn to a company likes Zibtek and say help. How do they get in touch with Zibtek?
I recommend that you definitely go to the website because we’ve talked about the fact that you’re going to be there and see something unique and unusual that you probably don’t have on your website. I’d encourage you to open up your mind, be creative and say, “What can I do next and what is potential for me.” Any other last words that you want to leave our audience with?
The software world is constantly evolving. The analogy we use is it’s like a river you can’t step into twice. As you’ve pointed out that you should focus on your core business skillset, we do the same. We encourage our clients to solve their core business problems. Don’t try to build a Maserati. Try to solve your core business problems and maybe a Toyota is going to be fine. That’s our general working philosophy and we are happy to help.
You have been a fantastic guest. I have learned so much. There are about six or seven things that you said that I’m like, “I want to take a note on that.” You’ve been super valuable. I want to thank you for giving us your time, your knowledge and certainly your expertise.
To the readers, I want to thank you for tuning in here at Heartrepreneur Radio and TV. If there’s a particular topic that’s on your mind, something you want to learn, an expert that you want to hear from, let us know. We also advise you to go back to some of the past episodes because there are many gems and nuggets like Ian Reynolds has given to you. Finally, we don’t want to be shelf help. Shelf help means that read and you go, “That was interesting,” then you put it away and you do nothing. Take a moment and ask yourself, “What did I learn from Ian Reynolds and Zibtek that I can implement in my business?” At least the minimal thing that you can do and I recommend you do it right now, is you go over to Zibtek.com. Ian, thank you so much once again for being my guest here at Heartrepreneur Radio.
Thank you very much, Dr. Levine. I appreciate it.
About Ian Reynolds
Ian Reynolds is a Partner and Chief Solutions Architect at Zibtek, a software development firm focused on helping businesses of all sizes in the US solve their core problems with software. They empower entrepreneurs, growth companies, enterprises, and visionary firms to achieve greater profitability and efficiency, valuation and ultimate success by building the right tools through custom software.
Ian has spent the better part of his career in consulting and has served in diverse industries as Finance, Oil and Gas, Retail Power, Field Services, Midstream Energy, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Transactional Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Restructuring, e-commerce, Retail, and software development.
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