Our interview for today with the fabulous Spencer Letizia! He's kind of been a behind the scenes guy in our working relationship. Some of you may know my sister Katee used to work with me in my business as a virtual assistant and Spencer is actually her partner/boyfriend. Spencer runs his own business in regards to all things websites. If you’re looking for somebody to help you with your website, SEO stuff, etc, Spencer has been great. We've been working together for a year. Now he helps me with clients in the coaching program (DPT to CEO). If that is a program that you have been looking at and you think it might be helpful, Spencer actually builds the websites for all new clients in that program.
What We Will Be Covering:
Share more about you, your story, and what you're doing now
Spencer: My full-time gig right now is that I develop websites. I started a company called Slope Tech NYC. I studied computer science in college, and when I was in college I messed around on a lot of different projects and worked for a couple of startups out of college. I got a job at this a growing startup that imploded when the pandemic hit and they laid everybody off. I was kind of at a crossroads, trying to decide what to do next. I decided to branch out into my own thing developing websites. I got my start developing websites actually also at the beginning of the pandemic with a non-profit food pantry in my neighborhood. I helped them set up their website initially to get the word out, and get their Facebook presence going. Then, I figured why don't I expand this and and do it full-time because the only thing standing between an organization/individual and an audience is (a lot of times) just a website. I’ve been doing it for about a year now. Morgan was one of my first clients and it's been great ever since.
Morgan: I wanted to bring Spencer on because I work with a lot of people who are really good at what they do as a therapist and building a website is a whole other type of skill. Some of us are kind of scrappy and we can throw things together, but for other people, trying to build a website is something that is really intimidating and overwhelming.
I love building websites. I’ve been doing it since i was in third grade, (built a website with a html manually). Even though I love it, I also have seen both myself and other business owners’ website be a thing that holds you back. You you might feel like your website is not good enough or you can't really start your business until you have a website. It's easy to let ourselves get bogged down in that and it ends up really prolonging all the other things that we need to do in order to feel successful. I wanted to bring Spencer in to share with us his tips and advice.
Spencer: I'd like to build on the point that you just talked about how people hesitate or feel a little bit of a block when it comes to building their website for the first time. I think that has a lot to do with people's mindsets about websites. It feels like a big project and it feels like a big step because all of a sudden you have something online that people can see. It's public and that can be kind of intimidating. However, what I like to say is that really you want to start as small as possible because once it's out there, you can always continue to improve it. That's the great thing about websites is that it they're almost infinitely changeable. The first iteration of the website you put out there is not what it's going look like a year from now. For Morgan, a year ago we basically took her website and put it through the ringer, changing and reformatting it. That's one of my first big tips for people when starting out their website. Shift their mindset from thinking it's a big, one-time investment project. Keep it simple and then build from there. I think that helps people get over that initial block when it comes to that.
Morgan: I totally agree. Everything has mindset, right? We've heard that so many times but it is true. I think that's a really good way to look at it. You really need something up. I always talk about this. If somebody cannot find anything about you and your business online, then where does that leave you? You have to have other ways of generating leads or customers, and if you don't have a website or anything online, then all that means is that you have to do that much more work in person in order to be successful with your business. From my point of view, and everybody has different opinions, you need a website. You need something even if it is just your picture, your name, and contact information. Get that up there and then, like Spencer was saying, you can continue to revise it. Just like everything else, it's never going to be perfect on the first try. The more pressure we put thinking we have this one shot, especially with a website, it provides a lot more stress than is needed.
Spencer: For sure. That little publish button when you're building your site, it doesn't go away after you click it. You can publish it and then five minutes later change everything and publish it again. That's the beauty of it. It's a living system that is constantly changing just like a person is.
Morgan: I like that analogy. The other thing that I want to put out there too is on the other hand, just because you publish your website it's not going to automatically notify everybody. If people look for you they'll be able to find it but nobody's going to know about it until much later on.
Spencer: Right. Until you start sharing it around. That sort of thing brings me to one of my next points: once you once you've built the website or published it, something that's really important to do, put yourself in the shoes of the people that you expect to be viewing your site. Go through the motions. If you have your contact info on your site somewhere, people will find you and contact you. You have to pretend you're a person who is looking for whatever you provide and go to your website and figure out how easy is it for these people to actually contact you. Once they're there, if it's not that easy, that's where you start making those improvements.
Morgan: Absolutely. It might sound simple or silly to say, but make sure your contact information is on your website. I'm sure Spencer has seen this more than I have, but I've seen a few practice websites that don't have any contact information on it. It ends up looking more like a brochure, (even brochures should have contact information on them). It's not a tool for your business because ultimately you have to think that the website you're putting up is a marketing tool, and if it is not producing the results that you want, what's the point? You can invest many thousands of dollars into a website and if you don't know these few key things that Spencer is sharing with you, then you might end up with like a tool that doesn't do anything in the end. More specifically with the contact information. That is one major point, but having some kind of contact form is also really important.
A website needs a way of showing you quantitatively if it is working, how many leads you're generating, and how many turn into patients/ clients. Tell us a bit about that:
Spencer: I think it all it really goes back to when you first set out to build your website. It's really important to define the why. Why are you building a website in the first place? If you narrow that down, then you know you can build from there most of the time. If your why is: I want people to contact me about my business; you need to make that easy for them. You need to actually have contact information or a contact form to make it easier for people to actually contact you. If your why is to sell products, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy products on your website and make it obvious that that's the point. It really goes back to when you first set out drilling down into the why are you doing this? Why are you building a website?
One "pro tip" that we can talk about is "above the fold". While we're on the topic of making it obvious, what's supposed to happen?
Spencer: It comes down to psychology and how people interact with the internet and websites. If I'm looking for information on a topic and I, like most people, type it into Google, and I click on the first link. If that first link doesn't have the information right in front of me as I click on it, I'm going to go back and click the second link. You need to make sure that people know exactly what they're looking at or what you want them to do on their first glance. "Above the fold" just means that when you go to a website, you want the most important info in the scroll bar on the side. It's the thing that's going to draw them in or tell them more about what's going on on this page. Otherwise, chances are they'll go somewhere else for the information.
Morgan: I know I've seen websites like that which is a good reason why you could always go back and edit. If I were to go to a company's website and it said "buy your backpack here", but there were no buttons. For me to buy something, that is really ineffective. The call to action being above the fold will really help you in being able to see if your website is working the way that you are wanting it to.
SEO: Why SEO and user experience go hand in hand? What is SEO? Does it matter?
What is SEO?
It stands for "search engine optimization" and it's a broad category. It basically means anything you do to your website to make it interact better with search engines, (mainly Google since it's the biggest search engine). SEO refers to anything you do to make your website show up a little bit higher or interact better with Google.
Does it matter?
It depends. It really goes back to putting yourself in the shoes of your user and understanding their experience like I said before. If you're looking for information online, chances are you're going to type into Google what you're looking for, and if you think that your potential website visitors are gonna be doing the same, then yes SEO obviously matters. Because that's how they're going find anything online. It really only wouldn't matter if you rely mostly on social media or maybe some other form of traffic to send people to your website. However, if you want people to find your site on a search engines, then of course, SEO totally matters.
Why SEO goes hand in hand with user experience:
The experience of Googling something and then finding the information is a universal experience that we all have. That user experience is important, but also, this is getting into the more technical side of things, but Google has been constantly improving their search algorithm to provide users with better search results. It used to be they were just looking at the text on the page and seeing if the text related to your search. Now, they're starting to use more advanced artificial intelligence, probability, statistics, a bunch of very technical things to figure out which websites provide the best user experience. When someone searches for something they want to send that person to a site where they might stick around for a while and engage with the site. That's why SEO and user experience go hand in hand, because as these search algorithms and search engines continue to improve, that's going to continue to be weighed super heavily in regards to where you rank in those searches. Like we were saying before about having information above the fold. If people come to your site and leave immediately because they can't find what they're looking for, Google is going to keep track of that. They're not going to send people to your site if people keep leaving quickly or your site doesn't load quickly. Google and other search engines are increasingly looking for sites that provide a good user experience because, at the end of the day, they want people to stay on the internet for as long as possible so they want people to go to a website that'll continue their journey.
Morgan: That's a lot of stuff I feel like I didn't really know too much about until maybe end of year one/beginning of year two of being in business. Like I said, even as somebody with like extensive experience with graphic design, websites, etc, I had always heard of SEO but didn't really understand what it was, One thing that's really cool if you (our readers) are looking for a website builder, Spencer and I are both big fans of Wix. It's pretty easy to use and there are a lot of things that you can do with it. It allows, I think, a good balance of template vs customization for somebody who is newer to building a website. You're not afraid of learning what you're doing. The cool thing that they have is a SEO wizard, so if you're totally new to this that's something that you can find. I'm not sure if Squarespace has the same credit function.
Spencer: They have it. It's not the same sort of wizard thing, but they have the ability to add your SEO titles and meta descriptions, but Wix is kind of ahead of the curve when it comes to guiding you through that initial SEO setup.
Morgan: It makes it really easy. It's one part of your dashboard on Wix. You can go to SEO wizard and Wix will pull up for you all of the pages on your website that need certain things, (the title of the page, headings, the text on the page, etc) and it will offer you suggestions on things that you can add in based on the overall context of your website.
Truthfully, here's the thing that I feel like most people are wondering about with "does SEO matter?":
Should I have a website? What should be on my website?
I have seen so much come from something that is so little maintenance. I think that's one thing that I never really have talked about too much before in this group. If you actually put effort into your website and regularly update it, (update SEO, add blog posts, etc) to better reflect the context of your business, in the span of the lifetime of your business, I would say it takes about five or six months to start seeing the results of what you did at the beginning. Over the span of years, six months is not that long. What's really cool about it too is that you do it, and then it just keeps building on itself, I think a lot of us here, we're service-based businesses. We don't have a lot of extra time. The front end of building a site and updating everything so that it hopefully produces results well can be time intensive. The rest of the time, however, your website can do a lot of work for you. It can end up being one of your very best digital marketing tools.
Spencer: I agree with that. That's also something that's one of the harder things to get new business owners to understand. You probably won't see the big payoff for you know six months to a year down the road. If you're building your site now or doing SEO work now it's not going to be an overnight jump in your traffic numbers. It is about building up that content over time or building up traffic over time. Once you do start seeing those results, it's super rewarding. We were just looking at your website analytics Morgan, like two weeks ago. I've been working with you for a year, and it took about six months until we even started seeing much organic search traffic. Now, a year out, we're at a point where every day people are finding your website via Google. Literally this month, there was not a day where there were zero organic searches. Everyday someone found it on Google. Because you put in the work then, you're starting to see those results.
Morgan: That reminds me. It's also important to think about where you started with your website too. The results can take a long period of time to get, so don't lose sight of starting with nothing and then having these results later on. I was just looking at some numbers for my other client who's website I had redone. It wasn't working, it wasn't doing anything for them before. It even had some incorrect contact information on it for totally different practice (not good)! It was a brochure website essentially and there was nothing that really stood out about it. I rebuilt it, and now what's really cool about it is that all of their traffic has at least tripled on a monthly basis.
That's the first point: getting traffic to a website > getting engagement > getting opt-ins > getting customers. You're traveling down that path and you'll see it one thing at a time.
What I told my client was Wix now also tracks click to contact, (I assume that means it'll register the phone number or email address that's on there). My client had three phone calls from his website last week, whereas a year ago, nothing. That was really cool and they had almost 400 unique users in the last three months. In October of last year they had maybe like 20-30 users and 28 views of the website, (with at least half of them being me). 22% of those 400 users found the website through Google.
I guess one of the main points of this show today is if you want to pursue a website as a marketing tool it will take patience, but like Spencer said, it's very rewarding because it will work. I would like to add, you can almost guarantee some kind of results compared to other marketing tools. The beauty of it is that you have all of the control over how well it does essentially.
Spencer: It might not be immediate control. I can't control how many visitors I'll have tomorrow, but I can control the trajectory of my user count. If I go and spend an hour optimizing my content or I do a speed test of my site and see it's sort of slow, what can I do to increase that? You'll see results from that down the road. Even if you don't see them right away, the main point is doing that. Putting in the work now. You will see results later, and that's actually another tip that I have here: check your website's performance regularly. Whether that's every month or every other month. I wouldn't say do it weekly because again, you might not see big changes day to day or week to week. However, month to month you might you might start to see changes. Definitely every every two months you'll see changes.
When I say check your performance, there's a lot of different tools you can use. The most common one is Google Analytics. A lot of people have heard about Google Analytics. You might already be using it even if you don't really understand some of the more technical aspects of it. Just looking at your users numbers, (how many people visited my site in the past 30 days). If you're comfortable with that number, that's great, but if you're not, start to brainstorm ways that you can maybe improve your site or add some more content. Tweak the design, put more stuff above the fold for people to see, whatever it is to make a better user experience. Then, you'll see those results a few months from now.
How do I know when I have enough traffic? What should I be looking for?
Spencer: It really depends on your goals. Let's think of a theoretical PT who has a website. If you are getting three clients a month from your website, if you're comfortable with that number of clients every month then you know that you have enough traffic. It's doing well, right? But if you want more; maybe you had 100 people visit your site and you got three clients. If you want more traffic or if you want more clients, you know it's not enough in that case. It's really about what what your goals are, and if the the current amount of traffic is helping you achieve those goals or if they're falling short.
Morgan: I think just to put it simply too, another question is probably, "How do I know if those clients came through my website?" You ask them!
Spencer: That's huge. I've been doing this for a year. Most of my clients came from word of mouth, but just three months ago I had my first person find me on Google. The only reason I found that out was because when I was meeting with the client for the first time I asked "How did you actually find me?" They Googled "web developer near me" and I popped up. That. SEO work I did six months ago paid off. Asking people is key!
Morgan: That's one thing that can be helpful that I share with people here. If you're having some kind of a phone/video call with a potential client, you can make yourself a list of questions that you want to ask them before the call. That can be really helpful to make sure that you are hitting all the points that you need to determine if they might be a good client for you. Asking how they found you can be one of them. That's on my script. Even better yet, if you use a calendar to schedule, (like Calendly or Acuity), you can put that as a booking question. Then you don't even have to ask. Tracking that kind of a thing to see if it's matching up with your goals like Spencer said is huge because you want to have some kind of idea quantitatively and objectively as to what marketing tools are working best for you.
Spencer: Obviously it depends on what you do, you provide services, but if you are selling things on your website, (actual products that you ship out), you'll know how it's performing based on how many orders are coming in. There are tools you can use. On the more technical side of Google Analytics, you can set up conversion tracking. If you have a specific button on your website that you want people to click, you can set up Google Analytics to track how many people click that button, submit that contact form, or whatever your goal is. You can set the tools to track it for you as well.
Morgan: Which is cool because again, we have no time, right? For people who run businesses, there's not a lot of extra free time. When you're first getting started, if you are able to set things up that you do all of the work once and then it just does its thing; later on that is going to serve you really well. Instead of tools that are potentially more time intensive, which again nothing wrong with either option, but it is definitely something to consider. Especially if you are a solo business/single person business. Did we get to all of your five tips Spencer?
Spencer: Pretty much. Just to reiterate the the points:
Define your why. Why are you building the website?
Shifting your mindset from "this is a big thing that's going to be static that I have to get done now" to "this is a thing that will change over time and I just need to get the minimum out right now". Then, build from there.
Checking your performance regularly. Whether that means Google Analytics or asking your client how they found you.
Understanding the user experience and its relationship to SEO.
There's no shame in hiring someone to work on your site.
#5 ties into having no time. I mean my whole business is building websites, and I have trouble finding time to work on my own. So when it comes to that, there's no point in throwing yourself at a website problem for hours and hours when you could be spending your time doing something else. For example, Morgan, you're a physical therapist. You should be out there helping people who need your services. You shouldn't be troubleshooting your website for hours.
Even just asking asking them questions. For a lot of my clients, one of the most valuable things for them is when we have our hour sessions every month. They get ideas from our session for new pages or blog posts to make, etc. Talking to someone who has that more specialized perspective on the website is always a plus yeah.
Also sort of related to that. There are a lot of people out there who will sell you a website for loads of money and then leave you high and dry without you knowing how to take care of it. When it comes to hiring someone, communication is key. Make sure that your expectations are on the same page, but also trust that they're not selling you something that you're going to be left with that's not actually going to do what you want it to do.
Should someone hire a website developer/website agency to make and maintain their website?
Spencer: I think the answer that kind of ties into an answer for another question: it depends. It depends on your goals, on where you're at now, where you want to be. If you have 10 website visitors now and you're not getting any clients, but you want to have 1,000 and you want to be getting a bunch of clients, that's a big gap to field yourself. If you don't have the knowledge, then hiring someone in that case could help you get to that goal quicker. But if you have 100 visitors now and you think that 150 would really benefit you, there are probably changes that you can make yourself to your sit that can get you to that goal. It really depends on the difference between where you're at now and where you want to be. How big is that that gap. That'll help you determine whether you should hire someone.
An analogy that I was thinking of was if you have a sore hamstring. if it's just a little sore, you can stretch it out and rest it yourself. You don't have to talk to anybody. However, if you're screaming in pain and you heard a pop or something, yeah you got to go to the doctor and get that checked out. That's the same idea with your website. If your website isn't really hurting that much, but you think a little more could go a long way, yeah do it yourself. If you need clients from your website or you want that to be a big driver of your business and it's not right now, bringing someone on to help you. They can at least get it started. That can go a long way.
Morgan: I think so too. There are going to be lots of different approaches to making your website. As much as Spencer and I have feelings on agencies, for some people it can be a totally appropriate solution. The website is up, relatively maintained over time, and maybe that's all you want.
Going off of your point, Spencer, of talking about goals. I know the client I had mentioned, he had an experience with an agency and he realized that he really wanted somebody who was a lot more personal, easy to reach one-on-one, can make changes fairly quickly, could show progress, and teach people on his team if he needed it. That one-on-one service is something that you're most likely only going to find with a smaller business like me and Spencer. If it's just one person doing it then you're going to get a much different experience than with an agency. It depends on whatever kind of service experience you're looking for. I would pay attention to that.
Going off of that, look at websites that the person you're talking to has done before. It's totally okay to ask the person you potentially hire what their process is. I would even ask them what they've seen in terms of results for their previous clients. Because setting expectations with people you work with in any capacity is really important and a big part of communication before you decide to work together. Asking those questions I think will lead you to the best result possible as opposed to just seeing shiny website offers that promise you a bajillion clients and then you don't really understand how it's going to happen and what the terms are.
Spencer: For sure. I feel like it all starts in your first meeting with the potential agency or developer. Are they getting to know you and what you're looking for or are they telling you this is what you need? If they're telling you what you need, you should start thinking, "Wait, is that true? Why are they pushing me towards this platform vs another?" If they're not able to answer those questions that you have, that can be a red flag that they're just gonna give you a site that they built five years ago that they've been copying and pasting for everyone. During that first meeting, really get a sense of are they taking a more of a collaborative approach and trying to figure out what my needs are, what my goals are? Or are they saying this is what a website looks like, here's your website and and go off. That that might be okay for some people, but for most people I feel like they want more of a collaborative approach. Then your website really reflects who you are and what your business is. Otherwise, you're left with some cookie cutter site that actually links to someone else's like like you mentioned with your client.
Morgan: For those of you who don't know, basically one of the pages on the website linked to a practice in a different state. I know everybody makes mistakes. However, I think that's a big deal! Like Spencer was just saying, you want whoever is doing your marketing for you to represent your business. and you well. If they are not, then let them know and see if they can change it. If they don't, then you know where you stand and maybe it's time to look for somebody else. Just be on the lookout and ask a lot of questions if you do feel like hiring somebody is appropriate. It's also okay to talk to a bunch of other website people. You don't have to take action on it right now.
Do you have any last pieces of advice or big takeaways that you would like to share?
Spencer: Based on everything we've talked about I think the biggest takeaway is don't feel overwhelmed by the website. Getting up a one-page site with a "contact me" button is enough for a start. Don't be overwhelmed by that first hurdle of getting the website out there, but also embrace the journey. Because once that "contact me" button is up there, you want to take those steps to continue to make it better just like you would take the steps to continue to improve your business. Your website is the reflection of your business, so take those steps to continue to improve it. Especially from the user's perspective.
Morgan: If your audience is older adults, look for real live older adults to test your website. You can always have people take a look at it and say, "Okay grandma, if you wanted to make an appointment with me and here's the website." Go and see what happens. See what she does when she's looking; if she's able to find the button to do the thing or not. That can be really helpful as well.
Spencer: That's actually a really good point. Years ago I built a simple website. I thought it was cool and I handed it to my brother or my mom. Immediately they clicked something and I was like, "Wait! Wait! Don't click on that!" They started scrolling and it was like, "Oh, wait. No that's not how that's supposed to look", realizing that I hadn't even thought about what they were going to do when I handed them my website on my phone. Once you build it, just hand it to someone and see what they do. If they don't do what you were expecting, that's a sign tochange some things up.
Morgan: I think this is definitely a really good start for everything. Especially if you're new to website stuff. Hopefully we went over some things for if you already have a website: ways that you could continue to improve it, Google things about it, or ask a professional about it as well.
If you have questions definitely reach out to either of us. You can click here to book a consult with me or contact Spencer!
How to contact Spencer:
His website: slopetechnyc.com
His email: email@example.com
Schedule a free consultation (15 minute call where you can talk about your website and Spencer can give you some ideas/point you in the right direction or start working together!)
Listen to this interview on our podcast!