What if we asked you to grade your website? Would you give it an A out of beaming pride, a B as an acknowledgement of a future business project, or maybe a C with a shrug and a smirk, silently saying to yourself, “who cares?” Well, none other than our friends over at Google care. Google employs “Search Quality Evaluators” to monitor individual websites in order to rank them in their search engine algorithm, and if your website doesn’t meet their criteria, any previous attempts you have made to boost your ranking could be made pointless. Google recently updated their evaluator guidelines, and it is vital for the continued online growth of your business that you have an understanding of these new rules.
For some, it may come as a shock just to realize that there are actual real life people ranking individual websites for Google. What about those fancy keyword algorithms and automated web crawlers it uses to decide search rank? (Actually it will likely be more comforting for some to know that real people are taking over for the robot spiders.) Google is well aware of SEO marketers attempting to “game” their algorithm and automated features, finding loopholes in the system through cheap Black Hat SEO practices. And while you may really feel that you are helping the broader population by boosting your website’s rank with standard SEO – making sure to prioritize popular search terms in your articles, and providing answers to commonly asked questions – Google has its own opinion on what meets their criteria. And that opinion can be boiled down to two words to remember: expert content.
By employing human readers to judge for expert content, Google is able to bring a silent sense of certification and rigor that is often lacking in the darker corners of the Internet. Site evaluators are tasked with following a simple acronym E-A-T to determine expert content: E for expertise, A for authoritativeness, and T for trustworthiness. In a sense, these are all self-explanatory, but it is essential for you to know that Google is grading you on these items. It’s worth taking another look at your web page (see, we are asking you to grade it after all) and check if you measure up to these standards. Would you say that a sense of expertise and authoritativeness shines through the text and images? What other sites does your website link to that show it can be called a trusted source of information? And most importantly, how would a complete stranger rate you in these areas? It’s this last question that you have to be able to answer satisfactorily in order to rest assured that you’re making Google’s grade.
As with most things involving the internet, this article doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the intricacies involved with meeting Google’s new content standards. That’s why reaching out to Sun Sign Designs will be a great help to your business. We’ll be able to provide you with all the information necessary to meet these new demands so your company can continue to grow. Contact us today!
As mobile devices increasingly become a part of our daily lives and routines, smart marketers know that the fastest growing way to reach consumers will be through their phones. Is your online strategy suited to connect with consumers in this fashion? The rules of website development change when your consumer’s viewing space is less than 3×5 inches and there are literally hundreds of possible distractions available on the same device, let alone the world around them, to keep your customers’ attention away from what you’re trying to say. By following the below best practices that are geared towards Mobile Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, your company will be well-positioned to take advantage of this market as it continues to grow.
Just as mobile operating systems caused application developers to rethink their approach to design, mobile web rules are forcing marketers into adapting to the new platform. First and foremost, your company’s web page loading speed is essential—mobile devices are built to give consumers’ access to all their favorite applications with a touch of a button, and if your website can’t compete at that same pace, it might as well not exist as far as the consumer is concerned. This also means that content in Flash and Pop-ups should be used very carefully in your mobile site, if at all. Not every phone is optimized to use Flash, and a failure to load content, or to have it blocked by a distracting pop-up ad will be a surefire way to lose a good portion of your consumers.
In fact, the way consumers interact with mobile devices may cause you to reconsider your entire internet marketing strategy altogether. It’s no coincidence the rise of social media’s ability to drive web traffic has correlated with the wider use of mobile internet devices. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are ideal for consumers to quickly view items, favorite them, and to leave a comment for others to see. A robust social media presence for your company will allow you to appeal to these users. And depending on your company’s bravery and how much money you have budgeted for it, you can take the plunge into mobile application development itself, much in the same way that Nike, Under Armour, and even food services such as Taco Bell have done. It’s true that these are all examples of large companies who have the massive budget available for this kind of expansion, but the rapid success and growth of a firm such as Uber demonstrates how the right mobile application can remake an entire industry into one company’s favor.
The mobile platform is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Given that, whether or not your company will be here for that long will depend on no small part on its ability to be appealing to consumers on mobile devices. This is advanced level stuff—your digital strategy, social media, regular SEO, email follow-up, website conversions, website analytics, namely everything needs to be on point before you can dream of dominating the mobile device field. And Sun Sign Designs is here for you. By handling the infrastructure and essential components of your marketing strategy, we’ll help you optimize your site so you can capitalize on this necessary platform. Don’t hesitate—reach out now!
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One of the realities of managing an online web presence is that the factors that contribute to your overall strategy will always be changing. Seemingly minute adjustments to Google’s algorithm can send your once popular website to the depths of pages 13-14 in the results. For 2016, Google is establishing a new method of ranking content, making expert content a premium influence on your page’s relevance and ranking. Your company’s ability to leverage expert content will ensure its placement in the top of Google’s results this year and ones going forward.
So what defines expert content? It depends on your business and your audience. Google is going to look closely at your website to decide if the content matches your field. If you happen to be in the health care field, for instance, and you are giving medical opinions to patients online, your content must be written by a certified expert (in this case, a doctor or something similar) in order to be ranked high by Google. However, if your content is geared to where your advice is sought on a more casual basis, Google is applying a more informal definition of expert, and won’t penalize your page for not having a certification.
The benefits of having expertly written content extend beyond the compliance with Google’s rules. As Julia Spence-McCoy, the CEO of Express Writers explains, the versatility of expert writers can anticipate reader questions in advance, utilize unique sources of data, enlighten readers with new knowledge, focus on what’s most relevant in a sea of data, and provide a unique charm that their years of experience gives them.
In addition to the expert content stipulation, Google is cracking down on keyword density approaches to Search Engine Optimization. In general, loading your page with repetition of keywords is to be avoided. Besides appearing sleazy to website visitors, there is now a tangible reason for doing away with this practice. Google has employed what is known as a “Hummingbird Algorithm update” to its search methodology, which is causing the need for websites to be more sensitive to what are known as semantic searches. Semantic searches look beyond the mere repetition of keywords to the intent and relevance of the user query. This circles back to our advice about using expert content, as now, more than ever, having content geared to what users are actively searching for is paramount.
Sun Sign Designs can help you further understand the importance of expertly created content, and how to leverage the resources you currently have available along with those we will provide in order to create powerful material that appeals to your audience and ranks high with Google. Reach out to us today!
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Online video is set to remain a powerful media phenomenon going into 2016, and many companies are contributing to the trend. According to AOL research, advertising budgets are shifting away from TV toward digital platforms. This trend is in line with the viewing habits of Americans, as they are watching less as many television channels than ever despite the increase of viewing options, and there are an increasing number of viewers “cutting the cord” of cable and moving to online only viewing, watching Netflix and Hulu while saving money on the overall package. As mobile technology becomes increasingly prevalent, businesses are making sure that any media they create is able to be accessed online to reach potential customers. By utilizing online video, your company can also maximize its value with its marketing and advertising, allowing you to stay ahead of the trend.
How prominent is video on your company website? Cisco has projected that over 80% of consumer web traffic will be video by 2019. Now, this doesn’t mean that websites will be 80% video—video streaming alone uses a lot more data than just text on a screen—but it does show just how dominant video will continue to be for the remainder of this decade. If your website does not feature some form of embedded video, customers may form a judgement on your services as not being able to either afford or care enough to go the extra step to connect with them. Another advantage is that on mobile technology, video takes up the whole screen, allowing consumers to focus exactly on the content that you have to offer.
Many small businesses shy away from video marketing, thinking it would be too costly an expense for their marketing efforts. But the impact of video more than outweighs the cost, as your company is 53% more likely end up on the front page of Google search results just by having it featured. As long as your website landing pages and Call to Action buttons on your website are organized correctly (Don’t know what we mean? Click here!), a higher Google ranking should immediately cause more profits to head your direction. While video does create a positive impact, you want to make sure it creates the most bang for your buck as well. Remember to keep your videos short (less than 2 minutes is ideal to maintain customers’ attention) and to create a link back to your website so consumers know where to find you.
Still not sure what’s the next best step? You can reach out to Sun Sign Designs today, and we will explain all the benefits and opportunities that video marketing can bring. Don’t get left behind on this important trend, as it is here for the long haul!
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Search Engine Optimization is good. More accurately, SEO is an essential part of the online marketing strategy for your company’s website. We’ve covered this topic before, but the affirmation of SEO’s utility is necessary given the pervasive bias against it due to the shadier practices used in this field, with just concern. Known as “Black Hat SEO” methods, they can best be described as transactional tactics, and at worst, all the negative connotations applied to overly aggressive sales and marketing practices. Your company’s success in SEO will hinge on its ability to avoid this dark side of the spectrum, coinciding with the mastery of techniques from the ethical side of the practice.
Black hat is a term originating from the world of computer hacking, as black hat hackers are whom the modern media portrays as the bad boys of the internet, busting through security measures by big name companies and the government, along with causing the digital arms race between hackers and online security companies today. Black hat SEO is the sleazy cousin to its Hell’s Angel-like hacker counterpart, foregoing the dangerous appeal while retaining its deplorable effect on business. Black hat SEO relies on simple-minded deceitfulness as opposed to earned programming or marketing skills—you may be familiar with the technique of “keyword stuffing,” which requires you to copy and paste the same popular search words repeatedly in order to artificially boost your Google ranking (no, your company is not having a special on Kardashian NFL Iowa Caucus pizza rats). This is an obvious example of the silliness that passes for SEO in the black hat world, but there are subtler methods at play as well. “Link schemes” are where a company will ask an online publisher to provide ad space along with having a link directly inserted into the content text to increase web traffic. Any blatant manipulation of content text along these lines, where it is creating traffic without adding actual value, could be considered black hat.
How do you stay out of this zone? Part of the issue with drawing arbitrary ethical boundaries is that the circumstances of your company’s business could impact how you approach your overall web marketing strategy. However, it is fair to say that there are consistent best practices in the SEO field that should be used whenever possible. To start, as mentioned in the previous article, Google has put together a convenient guide to SEO for all its new employees that covers the basics of the topic. But to really take your SEO game to the next level, you need the dedicated expertise that Sun Sign Designs can provide to your company, geared exactly towards the intricacies of your web marketing strategy. Go ahead and reach out to us today, and we’ll make sure that you hit the top of Google’s results the right way!
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You can do everything right. You can strategize with the best of the online marketers, be a social media superstar, have your website be the top Google search result, master email communication, and drink coffee with the rest of the closers when you convert your visitors into customers. If you do all of these things, you will generate revenue from your website and all your hard work will pay off. However, unless you employ Analytics to track your progress, you will not know where your strengths and weaknesses are located, and you will not know how you can improve your website to maximize its performance. Analytics does not stop at examining the performance of your own website. The ability to properly mine online data will also let you see where you can take advantage of emerging online trends, to the point where you can direct future content to match the interests of your customer base. By enabling you to learn from your past efforts and providing you the path for the future, Analytics will become the force multiplier for your online business.
Classic management advice: “What gets tracked, gets done.” Being able to track the performance of your website is essential for its improvement. The use of Analytics gives you a sharper set of tools to examine your online traffic beyond just seeing the number of people who visit your website. It allows you to track the demographic data of your visitors, to the level of detail where you can see how they accessed your site, if they are repeat visitors, and their geographic location (you might be big in Japan and have no idea). You can also see the nature of their behavior as they move through your website – did they stop at your home page and move on? Did they make it all the way to the checkout page without proceeding with their order? Maybe you’re getting a lot of visitors, but are they pushing on your Call to Action button so they can be converted? With Analytics, you can see where the winners and losers are within your organization and modify accordingly.
Where Analytics really can shine is in the world of observing trends. You may have heard the following quote by hockey star Wayne Gretzky: “Some people skate to the puck. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” Being able to go not only to where the customers are, but where they are going to be will propel your business to the top of its industry and provide you with an enviable reputation for being ahead of the innovation curve. And while it sounds nice, it ain’t easy—if it were, wouldn’t everyone be doing it by now? The sheer quantity of data online will force you to think in terms of strategizing where you will target your Analytic efforts. And… wait, didn’t we talk about Strategy before? Indeed, Analytics will provide you with the raw data for your Strategy, where you start the online marketing process anew with more experience and clearer eyes.
So if you’ve been reading our previous articles, you now have all the tools required in order to dominate the online landscape: Strategy, Social Media, SEO, Email Marketing, Conversions, and now Analytics. And we know it can be a lot to take in all at once, and it’s not like you get extra credit if you can name off the core concepts for each tool. What will earn you extra revenue is having a qualified team dedicated to the future success of your website. Reach out to Sun Sign Designs today to find out how we can help your business with all of these tasks!
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Over the past month, we’ve explored several concepts that will serve as the foundation of success for your website and online marketing strategy. We saw how Strategy can make or break your business, and how Social Media has grown to become one of the primary drivers of new website traffic. We looked into the importance of Search Engine Optimization for people to be able to find your site, and how Email Marketing can be implemented to maintain customer relationships over time. Today we’re adding a new ingredient to mix, and much like baking powder in a recipe, the correct amount must be used for the dish you’re serving to your guests to come out right: Conversions. The importance of Conversions can’t be understated; once your website visitors are there with their interest engaged, do they know what to do next for your business to benefit from the interaction? The Conversion is the “moment of truth” for your website and online marketing efforts, as everything has led up to this point where the visitor decides to choose you as the provider for the product or service they are seeking.
The best way to capitalize on the Conversion opportunity is with a Call to Action. The Call to Action (CtoA) is to online marketing as the Close is to direct sales. Yes, those are uppercase letters and yes, it’s that important, because if your website does not incorporate Calls to Action then you are losing out on potential customers and therefore, money. In most cases, the CtoA will be a link often in the form of a button – easily seen and used in order for them to go to the correct next action. A brilliant example of a simple CtoA comes from none other than our friend Google, which has perhaps the single most used Call to Action of all time right on their home page:
The “Google Search” button is how Google users, well, Google something, and it’s the all-important step for visitors to be taken where they would next like to go. Note that in this case that this particular Call to Action does not directly provide revenue for Google; it is however the essential step for Google to use its money-making AdSense and AdWords functions as customers click through to participating websites (you can find out more about how the Google revenue model works here).
While the Call to Action is perhaps the most important element of Conversions, there is more to the concept than just having your very own magic money button. The Landing Page is the destination where the Call to Action link will take your customer, and you will want to make sure the page is correctly organized so the customer knows where they should go for the next step if needed—if the Call to Action is the door for your customer, the Landing Page is the room where they’ll find themselves after entering.
Amazon provides a great example of how Calls to Action and Landing Pages work together. For every one of its product Landing Page displaying the item, product description and reviews, Amazon uses an “Add to Cart” button to select the corresponding item for purchase, followed by a “Proceed to Checkout” button from the Cart page, with a final “Place Your Order” button at the Checkout page. On each Landing Page, Amazon asks you to fill out the necessary information for your order to be completed. This all feels natural to us as customers and we normally complete the steps without thinking much beyond the requested information—in fact, the majority of vendor websites offering a product are built this way, to the point where it’s hard to imagine a successful widespread alternative (Amazon’s own 1-Click ordering being a very notable exception, something few businesses other than Apple’s online stores can pull off). The interaction on your website between Calls to Action and Landing Pages should likewise feel natural, where it eases the visitor along the process to their desired destination.
Conversions are critical to the strategic success of your online website, and while this article provides a brief overview of the process, you’ll want to make sure your site is configured correctly so you can maximize the revenue it is bringing to your business. The experts at Sun Sign Designs are here to help you as you navigate this process. Reach out to us today so we can successfully turn your visitors into paying customers!
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We discussed in last week’s article how social media has grown in importance for potential customers to link to your business, potentially surpassing search engines as the most prominent way for users to find you. There is no doubt, however, that the use of search engines is still essential to your online web presence. After all, customers have to be able to find you and your business, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the concept of making sure people can do so in a natural manner on the internet.
First, the elephant in the room: SEO has recently developed a bit of an unfortunate reputation, where its methods are accused of being spammy or even sleazy by its critics. The argument goes that it manipulates users into being directed to content they allegedly would not want to see by abusing the use of keywords in search engines’ algorithms. As with any successful business practice, bad apples will appear to spoil the crop, and it is essential to use the correct methods of SEO in order to avoid falling in with that group.
Google itself is a proponent of SEO, offering educational material to its employees in the form of its SEO Starter Guide, helping them bolster the online presence of their individual websites. It is safe to say that if the current king of search engines has a list of SEO best practices to use, it is A) certainly fine to use SEO in general, and B) a good idea to read up on the given material. The free guide covers important topics such as creating unique web page titles, optimizing core content for search purposes, and making sure the right material on the website gets picked up by the “crawlers” utilized by search engines to index your site into its search directory.
While Google’s guide is an excellent start into the world of SEO, the field is always changing and requires constant vigilance in order to stay ahead. For instance, how does your website handle the increased use of digital assistants like the iPhone’s Siri for search purposes? Is your website geared for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android? Your site may be optimized for Google, but what about Bing, Yahoo and other search engines – do you know if your business is topping out on those web services as well? The fact of the matter is, not everyone is an expert in online marketing, nor should they require themselves to be. The qualified professionals at Sun Sign Designs are adept at cutting through the noise in the SEO world to deliver you meaningful and tangible results for your online presence. So reach out to us today to find out more about how SEO can contribute to your overall marketing strategy.
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Which would you prefer: having to directly search for information yourself, or to have relevant information delivered to you, by your friends, in an interesting and entertaining package? The contrast between the two choices shows the appeal of the latter option, social media, where customers are introduced to your product in a more organic and word-of-mouth format as opposed to requiring them to use a search engine to find out about your business. This isn’t to say that search engines aren’t important—consumers will always want to Google your business so they can easily find you—but it does display the importance of having a robust social media presence so you can utilize this essential channel for your marketing efforts.
The numbers don’t lie. Back in August, we discussed how Facebook surpassed Google for driving website referrals for media companies tracked by Parse.ly, a major web analytics firm. Facebook was responsible for 43% of website referrals for these 400 companies, while Google fell short at 38% for the same group. Of course these numbers don’t comprise every company on the internet, but the firms represented include Wired and The Atlantic, significant media businesses that thrive on finding new customers. Why is Facebook beating Google? Our previous article dug into this as well: “Facebook works from the user’s network of friends and its own “Like” system to populate trending content into the user’s feed. News stories posted by friends arrive among pictures and notifications, creating a customizable buffet of information options for the social media user.” Sites like Facebook use an algorithm to figure out what content would relate best to each individual. So having your content linked on Facebook means not only is your information getting in front of people you want, but more importantly it’s getting in front of people who will most likely want you.
So how can you take advantage of this trend towards social media traffic? As Bill Gates famously said, “content is king.” Specifically, excellent content is king. We mean the kind of material that will stand out in your future customers’ mind, hold on to their attention long enough that not only will they agree with what you have to say, but will be interested, engaged, and willing to find out more. The content must be high quality, and delivered in a manner that makes it easy for the customer to navigate both to and from the page so they can find more of what you have to deliver. Ultimately, you want to create a delightful experience for the consumer, where you have them from the start. And there’s no better way to accomplish this than by having a powerful social media presence, guided by the pros at Sun Sign Designs. Reach out to us today so we can kickstart your social media strategy now!
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One billion viewers a month—YouTube is simply one of the most popular hubs online, fulfilling the internet’s promise of connecting users across the world while being easy enough for any member of your entire family to use. And its medium, video, couldn’t be any hotter right now in terms of effectiveness. From a wide angle view of the mass media market, it’s no secret that Hollywood, cable television, and the video game industry dominate revenues while printed books, newspapers and the music industry currently struggle. Video is what is known as an “integrated medium,” combining visual, audio, and even textual ideas together to form an experience for the viewer that can carry more information than just appealing to one of the senses alone. As your company looks to either begin or expand its marketing efforts, video should be front and center in your strategy.
The proof is in the numbers when speaking of video’s effectiveness. According to CommsAxis, search results from Google have a 41% higher click-through rates than plain text. Once visitors make it to your website, video is able to keep them there for longer as well, for up to 2 minutes more than if there was no video. As in most things, conciseness is key: 20% of viewers are likely to click away from the video 10 seconds into the video, while another 45% are done after viewing for a minute. In addition, viewers are more likely to share your video if it is 15 seconds or shorter, which is critical to the overall success of your video reaching its full potential.
YouTube may be the most popular online video site, but it is far from being the only one. Utilizing services such as Vimeo, Vine and Instagram will take your video marketing efforts to new pools of viewers. And that doesn’t even include tapping into the vast potential that Facebook, Twitter and other social media offer for helping your video go viral across a mass population of viewers with shared interests. A successful video has the ability to convey useful information to your future customers, positioning your company as the experts while increasing the name recognition of your services. So what are you waiting for? Reach out to Sun Sign Designs now to learn more about how video marketing can make a difference for your company!
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