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Making the Grade: Google’s Quality Content Rating

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!

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Mobile Marketing and SEO: Increase the Eye-Hand Device Coordination of Your Customers



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!


Your Business is Never Too Small to Have a Website

The start of a business is one of the most momentous occasions in the lifetime of any company. And when you’re at the beginning, you make the decision relatively early on if you’re going to have a website for your customers to see. It can be a yes-no decision, or an item where you’ll get to it “someday.” Once the decision has been made, you move on to more pressing matters, and if the website plan has been kicked to the curb, it’s possible that you never went back to it. Many small companies feel that they are unable to afford a website or even handle the positive growth effects it can bring to their businesses. By leveraging the right resources and partners, your company can move beyond such limitations and take advantage of the huge opportunity provided by owning a website.

If you’re in the business of producing media, having a website may seem like a no-brainer, as it offers a cost-effective solution to showcase your products. However, if you’re not producing media that can be digitized easily, then the appeal of a website may not be as obvious. You may feel your product or services speak for themselves, so the idea of relying on images or videos may feel off-putting to your cash-strapped company. It’s this second group that needs the current pep talk.

Having your own website is a critical and necessary driver of revenue in our current market. An increasing number of customers and leads are found online, and not having a website means there is no way for interested parties to find out more about you, and you have no way of controlling your brand online. A random disgruntled customer could write a review of your company on Yelp or the Better Business Bureau website, which may become the first result that comes up from Google when people search for you. Translation: not good. Also, as internet savvy millennials continue to enter the workforce, gain access to company budgets, and become heavy-hitting corporate decision makers, it is vital for your company’s continuing existence to reach this escalating market of untapped potential.

Uncontrolled growth is another concern besides cost that holds back some companies from taking the crucial step of going online. Having a website will without doubt increase the demand and scrutiny upon what your company has to offer, and many small businesses may not wish to participate in the unorganized chaos that sometimes correctly describes the internet. Uncontrolled growth can be just as damaging as rapid decline for some companies, and cautious firms may wish to stay off the radar to avoid the pressure of being in the public eye. In this case it’s important to consider how your website can be constructed so that customers are directed to the information that matters, as opposed to how messy sites look when they were made by a team of unpaid interns. Less is often more in business, and having a beautiful, elegant site can appeal to your own tastes and allow customers to feel like they are working with truly professional partners.

Your company is never too small to have a website. And while there are many cheap solutions online that will allow you to slap together something in a hurry, is that really how you want to appear to the masses of new customers waiting to utilize your services? Turn to Sun Sign Designs for help, where we will allow you to create the website of your dreams while keeping within your budget. Reach out to us today!

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Video Marketing Will Continue to Grow in Importance in 2016

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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Beware of the Dark Side: The Risks of Black Hat SEO and How to Avoid Them

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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Analytics: How Do You Know How Great You Are?

Digital Marketing Analytics


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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Conversions: Transforming Website Visitors to Customers with the Right Call to Action

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:

Google Image

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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Conquering YouTube Nation: Why Video Is the Keystone to Your Marketing Strategy

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!


Coding Is Power: Teaching Computer Programming in Public Schools

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come – Victor Hugo.

When Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel called on President Obama a few weeks back publicly asking for computer programming to become a requirement for graduation in public schools (Engadget), he was not the first politician to insist on the nation learning to code. In fact, Obama himself said in December 2013 that American students shouldn’t “just play on [their] phone – program it” (Whitehouse.gov). However, Mayor Emanuel is perhaps the highest level figure to call to make programming a requirement, not just a vague idea to be supported. We here at Sun Sign Designs don’t support a full mandate, but we definitely believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn coding as a “second language,” the same way we teach foreign languages in schools. If our nation’s educational resources can be pointed in the right direction in this particular area, we can take advantage of both current and future economic opportunities to guarantee for students not only just a prosperous future, but also a realistic and practical one as well.

While Emanuel’s rhetoric may have been purposefully aggressive in order to stir conversation, there is no doubt that genuine efforts are already being made across the country to implement coding education in schools. From New York to Tennessee, administrators understand that the time is now to begin implementing coding classes. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke frankly at a city announcement for the new educational program Code Brooklyn that the “future is written in zeroes and ones, and coding will help our young people write that future while adding several zeroes to the ends of their salaries” (King County Politics). However, already schools are finding logistical obstacles to such measures. One difficulty that Tennessee schools are finding is the need for qualified coding teachers, a difficult selling point for schools who can only pay teachers an average of $49,000/yr when the average computer programmer position in Tennessee pays in the $82-88,000/yr range (The Tennessean).

Since there are many things that could be improved in the public school system–teacher salaries, test performances, graduation rates—any national measure for a new coding curriculum has to also answer these struggles, not exacerbate them. A mandate or graduation requirement is not the solution, at least until coding has been well established in schools. Not every school across the country is currently equipped to handle the teaching of coding on a mass scale, and many high school students planning on graduating may not have the educational resources in their own lives to complete Emanuel’s requirement.

The support for coding education has to come from all levels, including federal, state, and county departments, along with the schools themselves. Measures should be passed to support teacher salaries (in a way that balances with other subjects being taught) and schools could begin teaching coding as early as middle or elementary school to make sure the fundamentals are there before it is required at higher levels. When the initiative for the teaching of coding is supported by all branches of government and school administrations, then the time will come where students will be empowered to capitalize on the future that has been promised to them.

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New AB Accounting Services Website Launched with the Help of Sun Sign Designs

Calculating Destiny Accounting Website Design

Most people associate accounting with either taxes or IRS audits, two things which many outside of profession would be happy to believe do not exist. And even if you run your own business and understand how essential accounting is to your company’s functional infrastructure and bottom line, the idea of dealing with the ledgers, payables and receivables may send your head spinning. So how do you market your business when the very elements of what you do make most people want to run the other direction? AB Accounting Services solved this problem by going to Sun Sign Designs to develop their website.

“After months of searching for a web developer to design my website with my ideas in mind, I came across Sun Sign Designs,” relates Alle Bechtel, owner of AB Accounting Services. “Stephen [Powell, CEO of Sun Sign Designs] took many hours to truly understand my vision and listen to what message I wanted to convey. He was the first developer who was not trying to force his ideas on me, and as a result my website turned out exactly as I had imagined.” The website features the title, Accounting, Redefined, and features a list of services, news, and company information in a smooth, easily read design. In addition to the website development, Sun Sign Design is also responsible for the hosting, online marketing and consulting work, including the writing and updating on economic news and business best practices for their News section.

AB Accounting continues with saying that the “skills, personalization and attention to detail” of Sun Sign Designs made their experience a success. “Not only did my design turn out great but I gained a clearer picture of my marketing approach during the process as well. I have received many compliments on my website but none so rewarding as the one paid by the representative of the Better Business Bureau as I went through my accreditation. Sun Sign Designs is highly recommended for all consumers but especially the particular ones. Job well done!”

If you are looking for a similar standard of excellence for your online needs, look no further than Sun Sign Designs. Feel free to reach out to us so we can help make your business dreams a successful reality.