On today’s Reach, Dan Parscale speaks with Cy Vedder, a member of Audigy’s Digital Marketing Team. The topic for today is Website Templates, why they are necessary and why they can be a big benefit for your business. We also discuss the evolution of the templates we have created on behalf of our members, including the testing done to ensure your web site performs to the best of its capabilities.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Good morning, sir. How are you doing today?
CY VEDDER: Good morning. I’m doing pretty well. How are you?
DANIEL PARSCALE: I’m good, thank you. I want to say thanks for coming to join us on Reach. You are one of my teammates on the Digital Team, and because you maybe tell us a little bit about your role and what your expertise is.
CY VEDDER: Yeah, absolutely. So I am one of the web specialists and I basically just worked on our members websites. I did the builds, I’d do all the edits, make sure everything’s up to date, and also focus on the search engine optimization side of things and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make the websites rank well and get prospects in the door.
DANIEL PARSCALE: So we wanted to bring you in today to talk about what we’ve learned from building hundreds and hundreds of websites over the years. We have several hundred clients who actively use our website templates, and we have developed multiple templates for several of those members. So there’s quite a bit of learning curve that we’ve experienced over the several years that the team has been around.
And since we bring up the word “templates”, I think that the best place to start is with one of the questions that I know historically we’ve gotten a lot. A lot of people hear the word “template” when they think about a website, and they say, I don’t know if I feel comfortable having a template for my website, because I don’t want my business to be represented exactly the same as everybody else’s. And at face value, I’d say, well, that sounds like a fair question. But I think it goes a little bit deeper than that, right?
CY VEDDER: I get that concern. And the members, they want their brand and their website to be unique and stand out. And we are able to do that even within templates. One of the things we’ve learned over the course of developing all of our templates is that there is a fine line between having the flexibility but also having the scalability of the template. And what that provides to the team is that we’re able to spend more time on the strategy for members. But with our latest iteration of Merriweather, there is a lot of flexibility built in and there is a lot of customization that can be done.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Yeah, this is one that we’ve talked a lot about internally, as well as to our members, because we’re very excited about the opportunities that you can have with us. But as you say, it’s still a template with a lot of flexibility. What are some of the benefits to us and to members of both– well, let’s start with the benefits of the scalability factor of this. Why is that useful to us and then why is that useful to members as well?
CY VEDDER: I mean obviously, the most obvious benefit to us is that it– well, quite a few things– but it allows us to spend a little less time on the actual build and more time focusing on the strategy behind things and getting more prospects in the door for our members, as opposed to building out a brand new site that we have no experience with, that we’ve never touched, and trying to learn everything as we go each and every time. That just is not doable. It’s a disservice to our members, honestly, to try and take that approach. So it gives us more time to then spend more time on our members.
DANIEL PARSCALE: OK, and then the members benefit from that, obviously, if we’ve invested the time and resources into these templates. They benefit from having a template that’s designed with several years of education behind it, really, or learning, I should say.
CY VEDDER: Yeah, absolutely. I mean every iteration and every template that we’ve used, we’ve learned what was good and what was bad. And we’ve made sure that we put those good things forward in the next one and we remove the bad things. And it’s, as you say, years and hundreds of websites of experience. And that have gone into this latest template and it’s proven– we have the data and all the experience behind it– it’s proven to work. And we pass that on to members.
DANIEL PARSCALE: So another factor of this, too, that is really exciting for everyone involved is the time it takes actually to build and launch a website. I remember that several years ago it took as much as several months to actually go from concept to launching a website, because these things are very, very, very complex, even with something like WordPress or another CMS to back it. But now we can do it considerably faster because we know exactly what the end result is going to look like before we built it, right?
CY VEDDER: A couple years ago it could take two or three months just to do the build, not even go into review and revision with the members and get their feedback. But now– I mean we’ve had a couple instances where a member came on board and they needed a website immediately, it was like a high priority. And we had a turnaround of about a week once their style guide was built and finalized. I’ve knocked it out, they didn’t have any edits, it went live in a week. And that’s a huge value to our members, huge benefit of being able to use templates.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Well, I want to get into the guts of what it is that these templates actually are built with then. So let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that we’ve learned over the years, good or bad.
CY VEDDER: One of the things that we talk about a lot in the industry, as well as internally on the team, right now is mobile responsiveness. And this wasn’t always kind of an industry imperative, so it wasn’t built into our earlier templates. Now it is.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Can you tell me a little bit more about what mobile responsiveness means and why we use it?
CY VEDDER: For a long time mobile responsive didn’t exist, it wasn’t necessary. But nowadays that’s the bulk of searches on phones and tablets, and it’s imperative that you have a mobile responsive website. And the search engines will actually ding you if you don’t.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Could you stop for just a second and define what mobile responsive means? Because I think that some of the listeners might not fully understand what they’re getting from that service.
CY VEDDER: Basically, it just means that the website will scale down to whatever size browser you’re viewing. So whether it’s a tablet, or a phone, or if you just minimize the screen on your desktop, the site is actually responsive and will shrink down and stay proportionate with everything that’s on the website to whatever screen you’re viewing it on.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Got it. So that sounds handy. If I’m looking at a website on my phone, for instance, why is it so important though? I mean is that not just a creative kind of addition?
CY VEDDER: No, it’s all about user experience. And if it’s non-mobile-responsive and you’re viewing it on your phone, the text is going to be tiny, unreadable, or it’ll bleed off to the edge, and you’ll have to scroll a long time to read just one sentence. And it creates a terrible user experience. And that really is one of the main things that Google, specifically, but search engines– it’s all about the user experience, and if you don’t have a more responsive site, it’s not good.
Google, in particular, they are constantly drilling into your head that for good SEO you want to provide a good user experience, because they always want to provide the best answer to a query. And if the answer, or excuse me, if the site that they take you to doesn’t provide that information in a usable manner, then it’s not as useful, so it’s no longer the best answer to the query. So they prioritize sites that have mobile responsiveness built in, because they want to make sure that everyone is providing these things in a user-friendly manner.
DANIEL PARSCALE: So can you tell me a little bit about a feature that you get a lot of requests about and what we’ve learned about that feature over the years?
CY VEDDER: Big requests we get a lot from our members are rotating banners. And it’s ill-advised, I’d say. And it’s because there’s a lot of studies out there and our own research– we’ve found that the patients don’t utilize the banner’s as our members would hope for. They find the information through other avenues and the click-through rates just aren’t really all that compelling, not to mention the fact that on mobile a lot of times banners don’t even really become all that relevant. They’re tiny little images that you can’t read the text, the button is too small. It goes back to user experience.
Above all else, the best homepage image banner, hero or hero image sort of thing is– we always try and advise this– but custom imagery, custom photography of the member, of his or her staff and the team behind the website, those usually perform pretty well, honestly. And it’s just that little extra customization and it goes a long way.
DANIEL PARSCALE: To back up what you were saying earlier about the effectiveness or lack thereof of many banners sliding, it’s hard sometimes to follow what it is that you should– what decision you should make when you have three or four, or sometimes more different options in the same place showing themselves in rapid succession. And sometimes you can forget that the decision you want is even there. I know that on sites where I’ve seen a banner, a slider, sometimes I will finally read all of what’s in the frame, decide that I’m interested in it, and then it’ll move away. And I won’t have a way to click back sometimes.
So what I like about the hero images that we use– and by that we mean basically a large image that is covering the span of the window at that particular place, so it’s basically a banner, but it’s a wide screen banner– but what I like about using those is that because it acts as more of a background, it really helps to hyperfocus the call-to-action that’s laying above it– so call today, request an appointment or something like that.
And it uses the picture less as the focus point and more as a reminder to why that call-to-action is provocative in the first place. That’s my personal take on it, I don’t know if other people feel the same way. But as you say, we came to this decision to use these by default with our newest templates, because we’ve seen differences or, frankly, just different results with other methods.
CY VEDDER: Yeah, absolutely. And I agree wholeheartedly that the hero image is the better alternative.
DANIEL PARSCALE: I think a lot of other sites, too– I mean we talk about our templates, but this is becoming the norm across websites on the internet, and that’s not specific to an industry. So let’s move on to another feature that we’ve experimented with a lot over the years and, I think, come up with some pretty good results in our latest templates.
This is an under-the-hood kind of feature and one that, if you’re just visiting website because you want to get information, you probably won’t notice. But it’s really good for SEO and for user experience. And what I’m talking about is site structure. Do you want to lead us through what site structure is and maybe some of your experience and how that’s developed over the years on our templates?
CY VEDDER: Site structure is very important. And there were a few versions of templates over the years that didn’t quite hit the mark, that we refined and made better in the next iteration. But basically, what you want to do is, you need to separate the content out. So you have a Services menu and all the services they list. And there you have a Resources menu, the resources are listed under that. And we used to combine it all into one and it would make for a confusing– it could potentially make the patient confused reading through it not really sure what’s the service, what’s resource. So you need to be able to split those out.
We tested one version at the Audiology– the hearing aids specific menu– of a long-tail keyword called “find”. We used “find hearing aids” and that didn’t really work out. That’s not a long-tail cure that patients are actually searching for.
DANIEL PARSCALE: So the thinking was that you would name the folder based off of something that really told the story about why people would be getting there, in theory, but in practice, it wasn’t what the content was really about, because people weren’t actually searching for how to find hearing aids. They were searching for– they were looking to find hearing aids, and that’s a different concept, if you’re really whittling it down.
CY VEDDER: Yeah, absolutely. No one’s searching “find hearing aids.” People are searching “hearing aids in city or state.” So it’s little things that you wouldn’t notice at first glance, but they make a big difference. And it’s just a process of testing, and refining, and optimizing it further, and making sure that you learn from your mistakes and you put the best foot forward.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Now that we know that, what have we done to change it? What’s our process going forward?
CY VEDDER: Going forward– we dropped the “find.” Specifically, it’s no longer “find hearing aids/hearing aids styles.” It’s “hearing aids, hearing aids styles, receiver in canal hearing aid.” It’s straightforward and it uses the keywords that we’re trying to rank for. But more than that, It’s the most relevant search.
DANIEL PARSCALE: I see the value of this because I work in this, and so do you. I think it might still be hard to really understand why this is valuable. But I’ve got an idea that might help to explain it. And it’s for anybody who used to go to the library and have to look for a book. They would go a walk down the aisles and they would look for the section that that book belongs in– mystery, or sci-fi, or cooking, or whatever it is. And the site structure of your website is very much like that. If you have a cookbook in your romance novel section, then it doesn’t make sense. And likewise, if your sections are not labeled at all or they’re not labeled properly, it is going to make it much more difficult for you to find the book.
Again, we already touched base on user experience. This is, basically, like making a very simple roadmap. Or, I guess, you could almost call it the Dewey Decimal System of your websites, because it shows you exactly how things ought to be catalogued. Because of that it’s really good for patients who are viewing your site. And Google, in turn, also appreciates that and ranks it more appropriately.
One of the features that we’re really satisfied with over the years is how much we’ve built out and grown our content. We have dozens and dozens of pages that have unique content, that are specific to the industry, and they perform well for SEO as well. Could you maybe talk a little bit about how that content has grown and how it’s presented in different ways that have improved over the years?
CY VEDDER: It was a total revamp of all of our content, to be quite honest. We had proprietary graphics created, and icons. And we presented the content in a very visually enticing manner. It’s broken up, it’s easily digestible chunks, and it looks good as well as performs well for SEO.
And it’s strong quality content that is actually very informative. And we have dozens of pages of that, as opposed to some of our competitors who maybe don’t. They only have a dozen pages or less, and it might not even be as good of quality content. We have a lot to offer our members on our templates and we’ve evolved it quite a bit from when we first started.
DANIEL PARSCALE: Yeah, it takes a long time to build that content out, too. When I am looking through audiologists websites that aren’t our members and they aren’t on our sites, and sometimes I’ll see a single page that has every single thing that the website has to offer on one page. And I look at that and I’m like, there’s not really a whole lot of information here.
I’ve even seen audiologists websites where they’ll have 30 pages dedicated, literally 30 pages dedicated to videos or some sort of non-service-related feature. And then they won’t have a single page about one of the primary services that they provide, it’s just not there. So really, identifying and then building that stuff out, so that it’s useful, is time consuming and a huge asset, I think, to everyone involved.
CY VEDDER: Really, what sets us apart from a lot of the competitors is that if you were to buy a template, or if our member was to buy a template or go to a developer and say, buy me a template, build a website, all they’d get is the skeleton. It is just the structure of the website, there is no content. They have to then get all that written and created, and that’s going to be expensive, or time consuming, or a little bit of both.
But with our template it comes ready to go with dozens and dozens of pages of content that is professionally written by copywriters that only focus on audiology and ENT fields. Its been vetted by biologists and ENT doctors. We have resources at our disposal to ensure that it is accurate and relevant. And we’ve done our due diligence and research to make sure that these are topics that are being searched and will draw in prospects or patients.
And it’s ready to go. As we touched earlier, it can be a quick turnaround. And within a couple of weeks they have a quality website that is unique and customized to their specifications, with dozens of pages of rich quality content that’s professionally done.
DANIEL PARSCALE: We also know what to do with it once we have that content. We don’t just toss it out there and hope it sticks in the right place. As we were talking about with site structure, those two things go hand-in-hand. We not only develop the content, but then we know where it belongs, and we file it away in the right place on the site.
An example that I think is really relevant– and I’ve actually seen some statistical evidence for this being a benefit for our newer templates– is we realized early on that we wanted to provide information about providers at the practices. So we implemented a page on staff biographies, and then over time we started to specify it more by building out, well, taking it from a single page about everybody and then making specific pages based on the person.
And what I’ve seen in the analytics for several of our sites is that people do search for the names of providers, because they’re already familiar with them, or word of mouth, or whatever the reason. It makes it easier for them to find that person’s page, or more likely, I should say, because it’s distributed in that very specific site structure, too. So the content is well created, but then it’s also doing its job, because it’s put into the skeleton, the template, in the right way.
CY VEDDER: Back in the day, it was just one page for all and we listed all the providers. And as it evolved and we split it out into separate pages, it is just more opportunity. There is a name brand recognition for a lot of our members. The patients know the provider or they have heard of the provider. And it is an excellent way to capture some more long-tail keywords, if you will.
DANIEL PARSCALE: One of the things that we really focus on when we’re building out the user experience on these sites is we want to make it so that patients can find the help that they need. So we’ve discovered that the best way or the most likely way that they will actually convert into a lead is to get that help. And then we build out our sites so that’s more likely to happen. And in fact, we have this CRO program which is designed specifically to not only test and implement those things but to learn from it, so that we can continue to evolve our templates down the line.
CY VEDDER: A perfect example is even just on the home page of our Merriweather template. It’s almost like a story that you’re reading. As the patient scrolls down the page, they see, hopefully, a nice custom photo of the staff audiologists and all the team, and some sort of call-to-action or “welcome to our website.” There’s the welcome paragraph that explains who the practice is, what their specialties are. This is a little value proposition right there.
And as it scrolls down, you see the hearing aids that they provide, that entices the patient. They see all the different styles that they provide. There’s testimonials, the patient can see what previous patients have said. And at the bottom of the page there is that call-to-action banner. The goal is that the patient sees all these things about the practice, and it entices them and it makes them realize that this is the provider, this is the practice they want to go to. And that ends with the conversion.[MUSIC PLAYING]
DANIEL PARSCALE: All right, Cy, we are at the point in the show where we’re going to summarize everything that we’ve learned today, which is quite a bit. Could you give us your top three takeaways from our episode on what we’ve learned in building websites?
CY VEDDER: Yeah, we have top three takeaways. Number one, scalability versus flexibility, and the idea of templates– it’s necessary and it’s not a bad thing, and I think that’s important to note. At the end of the day it gives us more time to be able to focus on our members.
Number two, site structure and populating the template, and all of our content. We’ve learned a lot and we have refined how we implement these things. And it’s a constant evolution, it’s never changing, we’re never done. We’re always looking to optimize further and make it better. And that’s most relevant in our content. It’s leagues above what it was five to eight years ago.
Number three– probably the biggest takeaway– templates aren’t bad. People are hesitant to go with the template, they think it’s not going to be unique. But there is a lot of flexibility in place, and a lot of customization is available to our members with our template.
DANIEL PARSCALE: If someone listening is interested in getting one of our sites or learning more about it, how can they contact us to find out more?
CY VEDDER: If any audiologists or ENT practitioners are interested in our web services, they are currently only offered to members. So the best place to start would be reaching out to Membership Development, and their email is firstname.lastname@example.org. In
DANIEL PARSCALE: Very good. Thank you again, Cy, for being a guest on the show. I hope to have you back on again some day soon.
CY VEDDER: Thank you. It was a pleasure.