Nothing exciting to show for a few months now because I've been busy writing the copy for a new website for a big Boy Scout council out of state.
In the background, I'm also working on a new site for an established South Florida builder of custom offshore boats from 25 to 42 feet. Waiting on some photo shoots to happen for that one, but hope to see it live by the end of August.
And my first website client ever, Mosquito Lagoon Fish Camp and Charters, redecorated their camp accommodations recently, so I did some new interior photos for them. Of course, I also took the opportunity to grab a couple on-the-water shots too. We found a nice tailing school of overslot reds, one of which volunteered to model for us.
Oh, and I set up a Reviews page for them that neatly embeds their glowing Facebook reviews, along with the Facebook and Instagram feeds.
Just launched a site for Deadrise Custom Boats, a new builder that will begin production of a high-end 18' poling skiff in late 2017. Shot the photos and wrote all the copy in addition to designing the site. The current site is just a single-page teaser. It will be replaced with a more involved, multi-page site as they get closer to starting production.
Live site is at www.deadrise.com.
This is what you won't get from non-specialized web outfits — meaningful, well-written content. This piece is from a set of new model descriptions I've been working on for a larger-scale production builder that already has a very nice website but no good content to fill it with. I'm available for copywriting-only projects like this, but I also include copywriting as needed with web projects.
The new flagship of the BUILDER NAME fleet, the MODEL NAME merits that title not just by virtue of her 32' length and huge 10'8" beam but also the all-in approach we took to her design. Unlike many boats in her class, the MODEL leaves the factory fully equipped for anything from open-water island crossings to offshore fishing to sunset cruises with a dozen of your closest friends.
Among the highlights of her huge list of standard features and equipment are a pair of 16" Garmin touchscreen displays mounted in a glare-resistant dash; a twin-amp, 8-speaker JL Audio system; a side-entry door with stainless frame; offshore racing-inspired convertible bucket/bolster helm seats with folding armrests; a huge coffin box concealed under a pair of high-back loungers; an Ultima hardtop with locking overhead rod-storage, full LED lighting, and a Climate Cool misting system; a spacious step-down console with electric toilet and abundant natural light; and a cockpit tackle and bait prep station featuring dry storage, fresh and raw water, a double sink, and a 65-quart premium cooler on an electric slide-out system. And that's just for starters.
Smart features and luxurious finishes aren't everything though, and the MODEL delivers the performance goods as well. A 57 mph beast when rigged with twin V8 Yamaha F350s, she's also remarkably agile thanks in part to standard SeaStar Optimus electronic power steering. For effortless close-quarter maneuvering, intuitive joystick controls are available. An aggressive 22.5-degree deadrise delivers soft landings and predictable performance in rough seas, while her big 10’8” beam makes for exceptional trolling and drifting stability that narrower, deeper-vee hulls can't match. A gracefully flared bow pushes spray down and out, and and a carefully engineered Euro transom design with plenty of freeboard aft keeps slop out and anglers in.
Although she's designed with an eye for style and an emphasis on luxury — highlighted by bow seating with individual curved backrests, cozy sleeping quarters belowdecks, extensive LED accent lighting, a gracefully curved glass windshield, and top-shelf upholstery — the MODEL is a fishing machine at her core. In addition to her full-featured tackle and bait station, she boasts a 55-gallon pressurized, lighted transom live well with clear lid; another 35-gallon lighted well with an aquarium wall in her port corner; four massive, overboard-draining fishboxes; 36 total rod holders plus extensive rod storage; smart touches like storage compartments forward and aft for 5-gallon buckets; available Taco Grand Slam outriggers; and a standard anchor windlass with helm controls for effortlessly setting up on that grouper spot.
The ultimate combination of performance, luxury, and fishability, the MODEL isn't just the biggest boat BUILDER has every built; she also represents the culmination of everything we've learned over nearly 20 years of constantly refining our designs, construction, and rigging.
Doesn't get a lot better than this. Top result for "Mosquito Lagoon," "Mosquito Lagoon fishing," and "Mosquito Lagoon lodging." Click screenshots to enlarge.
Was just making the rounds the other day, checking search rankings for some Overslot sites. Here's what Beach Marine Service is looking like. Not bad at all, except for weird results for a couple of queries.
Recently finished a new e-commerce site for Kennedy Products, including new copy and product photos. The site is entirely responsive -- even the e-commerce portion -- and includes sophisticated analytics and fulfillment tools, substantially simplifying operations for the company.
Monthly cost for site hosting, e-commerce functionality, domain registration, and professional email -- the whole shebang -- is under $40, plus card processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Live site is at www.kennedytiedown.com.
Here's the before and after:
Over the past 15 months or so, since I started doing freelance web design and communications, I've approached quite a few smaller boat builders, guides, and related businesses that I thought could potentially benefit from my services.
I hate cold-calling and I'm terrible at it, so in every case I do pretty extensive research; examine the person or company's web site, social media presence, and other marketing efforts; learn as much as I can about their products or services; and check out their competition.
Then, if it looks like I might actually have something of value to offer them, I send an email outlining what I've learned and how I can help, and then follow up a few days later with a phone call.
The responses fall into four basic categories:
Maybe 20 percent of the time, I get a dismissive and/or angry blow-off, which I totally understand. Frankly, that's probably how I'd react. "No thanks, not interested." Click.
Another 20 percent of the time, it's positive interest that generally leads to working together. This usually seems to happen with folks that have already been thinking about doing something with their website but aren't sure what the first steps are. Then they hear from somebody who speaks their language, shows them a portfolio of work that impresses them, and proposes a reasonable cost and timeline.
Another roughly 20 percent of the time, I hear that they're already working with an individual or firm on a redesign or rebuild of some kind, or that they're happy with their current designer/developer. Remarkably, I'll often take another look four or six months later at sites I've been told are already being rebuilt and find that nothing has changed. Maybe telling me that somebody was already working on a new site was just a gentle blow-off. But if not, it amazes me that folks are willing to put up with builds that drag on and on. A month or two at the outside should be more than enough.
The ones that really get me, though, are the large portion — honestly 40 percent or so — who tell me that they have a buddy/brother/sister/customer/wife/kid/niece/nephew/whatever who handles their online presence for free or very cheap.
I make a point not to challenge folks on it, but what I want to say is, "That's not the place to economize! Like it or not, these days your website is the first (and sometimes only) place potential buyers or clients go to see what you have to offer. Letting your nephew build your website just because he'll do it for free is like letting him hang your engines or take your clients out. The job will probably get done somehow, but how is it going to reflect on you?"
In most cases, the buddy/family member/customer in question doesn't know what they're doing. But even if they do, things often don't go well when you're getting professional services as a favor or family obligation. After all, what do you say when your buddy/customer/spouse who's working for free or cheap doesn't deliver the quality you want or doesn't get things done on time? Fire them?
Websites and other aspects of online presence are so hugely important these days that it's tough for me to understand many of these outfits saying, in effect, "That's not a high enough priority for me to put in the time and resources to find and hire a real professional. I'll just let my nephew Johnny take a shot at it." Just as in nearly everything else, a professional relationship tends to work better — a relationship with somebody whose reputation and paycheck depend on your satisfaction.
It can't all be boats and fishing, but that's okay. We just launched the new site for Clancy's Cantina in New Smyrna Beach, and it was a fun and different project.
Although Clancy's is a longtime favorite with NSB locals, tourist business is also critically important. And that meant mobile usability was a top priority. After all, tourists in a beach town aren't sitting at desks looking for restaurants. They're sitting on the beach, or on a boat, or on their condo balcony, flipping around on their phones looking for a place to get dinner that night.
The outcome was what amounts to a single-page website, perfectly suited for phone users. While it does have navigation available, all content is viewable simply by scrolling. Additionally, the menus (both a short "teaser" menu and the full menu for takeout orders) are live, responsive text, rather than the usual PDF reproduction of the print menu. Anybody who has ever pinched and panned their way around a fixed-size PDF menu on their phone understands the value of that.
In addition to excellent mobile usability, the site is crisp, contemporary and inviting, putting Clancy's food and atmosphere front and center. We did all the photography and wrote all the copy too.
Now comes the gradual process of improving those search results, which are equally important.
Fished and took a few pics Saturday around Tarpon Springs with Capt. Troy Sapp of Fins & Tails Guide Service. Fishing was a little tough with a northwest breeze and approximately 9,362 jet skis engaged in what appeared to a highly coordinated effort to drive over ever square yard of fishable water in the county. But we ended up doing all right. Thanks, Troy, for a fun, relaxed trip and for keeping at it until we found them.
Pretty light the other morning.
Got to shoot some food pics for a client recently. On a related note, ahi poke tacos with fresh avocodo ... damn.
Pretty damn proud of this. This is a screen shot from Google webmaster tools showing search queries that have www.mosquitolagoonfishcamp.com in the results.
The "Position" column, far right, shows the average rank in the Google results for each search query. So my client is now averaging between #1 and #2 for "mosquito lagoon fishing," "mosquito lagoon charters," "mosquito lagoon guides," "fishing mosquito lagoon," etc. That's huge.
It's also strong evidence that so-called SEO doesn't require cramming a bunch of keywords into your copy and meta data at the expense of good, clear writing. It just takes a little bit of strategic thought.
A recent interaction with a potential client made me think of this.
No matter what product you sell or service you offer, it's a mistake to claim it's the best widget in the world. Here's a piece of copy from the website of a large, production boat builder describing a particular boat model: "If you are judging a inshore fishing boat by its looks, functions and value, your search has found the right boat." That's just lazy and uninformative. Every boat (and everything else) is a compromise.
Potential buyers and clients aren't trying to determine which boat (or whatever) is the best one in the universe. They know better than that and to treat them otherwise insults their intelligence. Instead, they're trying to figure out which one is the best for their particular needs. So what you have to do is think carefully about how your product or service is different from everybody else's, what particular needs it meets best, and clearly communicate that.
The potential client I'm talking about runs a charter boat out of a very upscale golf-and-spa type destination area. There are probably a couple dozen other charter boats, but his is clearly the nicest — a big sportfisher with an air-conditioned, dark wood salon. His competition ranges from other big boats that aren't quite as luxurious to scruffy guys in 15 year old bay boats.
But none of them appear to be staking claim to any particular segment of the market. They all basically say, at least on their websites, "I run the best, most fun, fish catching-est charter in town." Instead, they should be differentiating themselves from one another, identifying and pursuing market segments.
Here's an example. Personally, I wouldn't choose to go fishing with this potential client. I'd prefer to save $100 bucks and go out with the scruffy guy on the bay boat, bait my own hooks, get a sunburn, and pee over the side. But that's me. Most people would probably prefer to go out on the luxurious yacht, have the first mate rig everything for them, relax in the air conditioning between bites, and pee in a spotless bathroom below decks.
What I told this potential client was that he was missing an opportunity by not staking out the very sizable segment of the market consisting of wealthy visitors who are looking for that upscale experience. He agreed. If we move forward, we'll be writing and building a site specifically geared toward that segment.
But I'd also tell the scruffy guy in the bay boat that he's missing an opportunity in the same way. Although at first glance his service might not look as desirable, the fact is that his charters likely meet a particular set of needs better than any other outfit in town. Rather than trying to compete on their own turf with the better equipped and "fancier" operations, he'd be well advised to differentiate himself and deliberately court the market segment his charters will appeal to.
It's getting more important by the day to have a web site that works well on phones and tablets. Back in May of last year, Google announced that for the first time ever, more searches were originating from mobile devices than laptop or desktop computers. At the same time, it announced that it in search results on mobile devices, it would be prioritizing web sites that are mobile-friendly. In other words, if your site works well on mobile, you'll rank higher in search results on phones and tablets.
So when it comes to mobile, there are basically three types of sites.
First, basic "fixed-width" sites simply shrink all the content proportionally to fit on a given screen size. When you look at one on a phone, you see exactly the same thing you do on a computer — just really, really small. That means lots of pinching and scrolling to use the site. Here's a good example. Looks good on a PC, but tough to navigate on a phone.
Second, sites that have an associated mobile-only version detect when a user is on a mobile device and send them to a companion site that's designed specifically for mobile. It's usually a stripped-down version with just the basics, often with a link at the bottom that says "Full Site" or something like that. This approach is fine for contact information, business hours, and so on, but not ideal if you're trying to make the case for your product or service. It's also problematic since it means maintaining two separate sites. Here's a good example. And for comparison, take a look at their full site on a computer.
Third, so-called "responsive design" senses the user's screen size and adjusts the size and layout of text and photos accordingly. You see all the same content as you would on a computer; it's just arranged in a way that's easy to read and navigate on a phone. Although still not perfect (the shifting of content means some design compromises), it's by far the best approach at the moment. Here's an example. It retains the look and images of the desktop site while automatically rearranging and re-sizing content for easy navigation and reading on smaller displays.