SEO 101 – What Is It and Why Should I Know About It?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which, according to Moz, is a “set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results. Because organic search is the most prominent way for people to discover and access online content, a good SEO strategy is essential for improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website.”

There are several elements to a whole marketing strategy. As we break apart different segments of a strategy on our social media posts, we will also blog about them as well. This blog will focus on SEO services. These services consist of a combination of things. There is not a magic button that someone can push that says optimize my keywords, make my website rank higher than my competitors, or show my images on page one. Rather, SEO is a combination of a variety of services. The biggest thing to always remember with SEO is that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach. It’s important to address SEO services with your marketing team or agency, but as a leader, it is also important to be aware of what SEO is, how it can help your business, and then make sure you are paying for only services that are addressing your SEO needs and not for a “bundle” of services you don’t need.

Let’s just skim the top of SEO so that you can have a basic understanding of what it is. If there’s more you’d like to learn, contact our team and we can dive deeper into it with you.

What is a Search Engine?

Search engines are sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo. DuckDuckGo, etc. There are so many different search engines that can be used, but according to Joe Barker, all search engines consist of three parts:

  1. A database of web documents
  2. A search engine operating on that database
  3. A series of programs that determine how search results are displayed

Professionals argue over which is the best search engine and why. Even our team has a difference in opinion. It is a major science that goes into creating a search engine. And it is even a science of figuring out how to manage SEO for clients. 

Google is typically the dominant search engine in the world, but there are reasons why some users won’t search through Google, including the theory of information being withheld. Sites like DuckDuckGo are said to be best for users who have privacy concerns and want to keep their browsing information personal. This list could go on and on as to what search engine is best and why, but it typically boils down to personal preference and where the information wanted can be found fastest.

What is Organic Search?

There are two kinds of search results:

  1. Paid results
  2. Organic results

It is easier to understand paid results – basically it is results that populate because money is behind that result. Organic search results happen because of strategy! These results then lead to organic traffic, which then hopefully leads to whatever the conversion goal is. 

Here’s where it can get confusing and tricky. Organic search results differ from search engine to search engine. It just depends on that search engine’s algorithm. Figuring out that algorithm is a lot of work, research and patience because it is ever changing! There’s never a guarantee that anything will rank in a particular position. The good news is that Google Analytics expert Avinash Kaushik once determined that around 86% of search engine users prefer organic search results. We have been accustomed to scrolling past the ad to get to the first section of results. 

How Do I Ensure I Am Optimizing Search Results?

The best advice when it comes to SEO is to write for what humans want to read first – SEO second. Like previously mentioned, the “rules” for SEO are constantly changing. So whether you are writing website copy, a blog, social media posts or whatever, write to your audience, post what they want to see, and then think about SEO. After you have your content written, think about keywords. Go back through your text and see if your keywords are there. If not, add them! Not sure about keywords? There are SEO tools to help with that!

If you are building a website, build it for the user, not the search engine. There is nothing worse than a website that is hard to navigate. User experience ranks higher in our book than SEO factors. SEO can be a second thought in this situation as well. Build your website to you and your target audience’s liking, then address headings, sub folders, mobile friendliness, links, and so on. Test the website to make sure it loads quickly. If not, take care of whatever is slowing it down because that will hurt your SEO. If users are jumping on and then off of your website because it loads too slow, that will hurt your rankings.

And as always, constantly research, improve and update your content, website, whatever it is you are working on. There really is no finish line to this work since it is always evolving. Whatever it is that your competitors are doing, search engines changes, and even your own business/personal changes are always going to happen. A strong online presence gives your business credibility, a professional image, and an improved customer experience. Our team can review your brand through your online listings, SEO scores, social media presence, website speed and more. We can also compare how your business performs online compared to your top competitors. Then we can discuss what the plan should be moving forward if you’d like! Take us up on this opportunity!

The Secret to a Successful Workplace: Communication

Teamwork makes the dream work! But only when communication is effective can the team collaborate better to manage the task at hand. You may be asking yourself why is an advertising agency giving advice on communication? That’s a great question and the answer is because we are communication professionals. Our team has experience partnering with the more important people in a business to execute strategic business plans, because of communication. 

Good communication can boost teamwork and workplace productivity tenfold. Motivation and engagement is born from communication. And truthfully, communication applies to literally every industry and is used daily. From verbal communication to written communication, there are so many ways to maintain effective communication between employees, contractors, vendors, customers and so on. Let’s discuss some good workplace communication tips and skills to have and how everyone in the workplace can communicate more effectively.

Communication Starts at the Top

No matter if your business is a Fortune 500 company or a 2 person show, communication efforts that start at the top and are understood as they trickle down to others is key. Communication is not only verbally speaking to others, but it is the words in which we use to communicate. In a business environment, using words that are understood by everyone is important to get a message across. Company taglines, slogans, themes, etc., should be translated into everyday communication company-wide so everyone is on the same page about your specific business terminology. 

Additionally, leaders should take the time to effectively communicate with their employees. While meetings can be daunting and time consuming, they are necessary to make sure everyone feels comfortable with each other and knows the task(s) they are to take on. Sometimes lines of communication can be crossed, or there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” giving orders of what to do, so the outcome for everyone is very stressful and ineffective. 

Tip: When a new project is created, make a communication flow chart plan so everyone knows who is the leader on the project, who needs to approve processes, who needs to be involved at what stages, and everyone’s job to complete the project on time. When a team knows everyone’s role and responsibilities, communication is smoother and projects get done in a more timely manner.

Communication Tools

Welcome to the current year where Zoom meetings are a norm! The workplace is currently in an evolving period where a lot more people are working from home rather than the office. This doesn’t mean they should miss out on team meetings and important communications. We have more communication tools available to us than ever before, so use them!

Tip: Require anyone who is on a video conference to have their camera on. Allowing everyone to see body language, facial expressions, eye contact and anything else that happens during a usual face-to-face meeting should also be happening during a video conference. Unfortunately, if the person video conferencing doesn’t want to turn their camera on, it can lead to poor communication and issues with the team morale.

Skill: There are just so many ways to communicate with co-workers. By utilizing one main messaging tool company-wide, you can limit the number of ways people can communicate, but also set the expectation of where workplace communication can take place. An employee shouldn’t have to look through 10 different communication avenues to find what they are looking for. A communication skill to work on, or to teach to your employees, is which way is best to communicate with each other. Workplace messaging apps can be used for quick responses to questions, email can be used to communicate with someone when an instant response isn’t needed, the phone is still alive and well, but now we can text message on it too – so use that properly and ONLY if necessary, especially if it is a personal phone number. And if necessary, document all phone calls to recap what was said so there is an understanding between both people.

Don’t Leave People Out

There is a fine line between telling everyone too much or letting them in on too little. Within the workplace, leaders need to be effective communicators. They also need to know who needs to know what. If your business works with outside vendors, make sure they are communicated to, just like they are employees. Make it a habit that when you send out a company wide communication, that is not private, it gets shared with those that help you with your business as well. 

Tip: A great example of making sure everyone knows important information is when there is a change in business hours. Maybe a snow storm is approaching and you decide to close your restaurant early. Not only should the management team tell the employees and hang signage on the door, but they also need to tell whoever runs their social media, website, email systems, etc., to alert customers to the change. There is nothing more frustrating than a potential customer wanting to eat at your restaurant, only to arrive and you are closed. We don’t live in a perfect world, but cross all of those T’s and dot all of those i’s to make sure you are communicating to everyone effectively and efficiently.

Make communication a top priority in the workplace. There is an ever-heightened need for more communication, clearer communication, and continuous communication now more than ever. Good communication can go a long way in empowering employees, driving productivity, innovation, and achievement. 

Why Now is a Great Time to Reset Passwords

Passwords may not seem like a marketing topic. But as a full service marketing agency, it is our responsibility to offer information to our clients about keeping their businesses moving forward. Changing passwords often is just one way to ensure that our clients avoid cyber threats or attacks. While nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, we have some tips on how to steer clear of having your passwords compromised on the Internet.

No matter what the actual date is of the day you are reading this blog, if you haven’t reset your password to any account in awhile, it might be time. The most important websites, like sites that we use for business operations, email, banking, work, school, personal agendas, websites we shop a lot on, etc. should have their passwords changed more often. But how often should you change your password? And why should you change passwords all of the time? We know it can be tedious to always try to think of something new, but we promise it is much easier to make a password change than recoup whatever data is compromised. Let’s learn why.

How Often Should You Change Your Password?

IT experts recommend that people should update their passwords after every three months. If you are still using the same password since college and haven’t been asked to update it, then you may 1) want to update it now and 2) really look into the website you’re using to make sure it doesn’t store personal information that could be stolen from you since this site doesn’t seem very secure (or truthfully care about your information). 

There are times when you should change your passwords right away. Like, if you know you’ve been a victim of a cyber attack. The goal is to ensure that if a password is compromised, a cybercriminal will only be able to access whatever account they got into for a short amount of time because you were able to quickly reset your password.

How Does a Cyber Attack Work?

Without getting into the nitty gritty of details, just think of it as someone gaining access to all of your personal information online and being able to use it in whatever way they want. The most common example is when a credit card number is stolen online. The cyber thief can use your card to make whatever purchases they want. 

According to Justin Sheil, Content Marketing Manager at Electric, these are some of the approaches attackers have use to gain passwords. It is probably easiest to do a search to learn more about each of these approaches if you are unsure of what it is.

  • Guesswork
  • Phishing
  • Social engineering
  • Shoulder surfing
  • Offline cracking
  • Malware
  • Spidering
  • Brute force attack
  • Use of network analyzers
  • Dictionary attack
  • Rainbow table attack
  • Mask attack

Password Creation Tips

The first tip is a no brainer, but a great reminder – Use strong passwords. The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, no ties to your personal information, and no dictionary words. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has some really great tips to check out as well from a business perspective. 

Here are some additional tips from webroot.com:

  • Don’t reuse your passwords. If you’re using the same password across email, shopping, and other websites holding sensitive personal data (or even a local community website) and one of those experiences a breach, you’ve now exposed the other services to the risk of being breached as well.
  • Don’t write your passwords down. It can be tempting, especially in the workplace, to keep track of passwords of the old-fashioned way, but these are easily discovered. Not all hackers are mystery Internet users. They could be co-workers or other people in your very own place of work!
  • Use a password manager. There are many apps that store your passwords securely. They can also remind you when it is time to reset your passwords.
  • Don’t share your passwords. This one is a no-brainer as well, but if you must share, change it as soon as possible.

Don’t be fooled by online “quizzes” that get you to answer questions about yourself. Sometimes the questions provide personal information that can be used to access account information (ex: Where were you born? What is your favorite color? Who is your favorite band?) These questions may seem silly, but are oftentimes used to gain access when a password is forgotten.

Remember, regardless of the many technology solutions in place to help secure any network, your best defense is, and always will be, vigilance of Internet safety. If a website doesn’t seem right to you, or if it is asking too personal of questions, leave the site. 

Why is ADA Website Compliance Important Now?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced in 1990 to address the desire to have equal access to business services. Not only does this mean brick and mortar storefronts, but it has morphed to include websites. As time progresses, we get better and better with technologies. Now, website building gurus have access to tools that aid businesses with the ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Why is this Important Now?

A lot of everyday life revolves around the Internet. Remote work, communication with peers, social media posts, online shopping, online live education, and banking are just a couple of how it has changed our lives. Everyone should have the ability to access the products and services on websites, so that is why ADA compliance is important now. 

Unfortunately, lawsuits are hitting record numbers when dealing with compliance and business owners have websites that just aren’t up to par with adequate access for everyone. 

A positive note on ensuring ADA compliance is that it is known that ADA compliant brands have more reach online and a stronger reputation, which everyone dreams of having. When businesses make their websites ADA compliant, it helps with ease of use and in turn adds to optimal user experiences. 

And finally, it is just the right thing to do. You just never know who will come across your website so it is best to be accommodating for everyone.

What Is ADA Compliance on a Website?

There are three different levels of WCAG compliance:

  • Level A – most basic and minimal compliance
  • Level AA – mid-level ane most acceptable parameters for compliance
  • Level AAA -the highest level with fully optimal compliance

The levels can help web developers determine which accessibility tools are going to be needed for the site. Each level has certain criteria that must be met, but the WCAG does not outline specific actions the website has to take, rather it states what accessible websites should do. That can get confusing. Basically, there isn’t a right or a wrong way to make a website compliant, but there are steps along the way that have to be met.

Examples of ADA Website Compliance

Since more than 61 million Americans live with a disability, there are various parameters for compliance. Some examples are listed here, but they are not limited to just these:

  • Navigable with a keyboard (Level A)
  • Video captions (Level A)
  • Color contrast is, in most cases, at least 4:5:1 (Level AA)
  • Form fields have accurate labels (Level AA)
  • Sign language interpretation for audio or video content (Level AAA)
  • Timing is not an essential factor of any activity on the site (Level AAA)

It isn’t always about just the individuals with disabilities. We all know there are many times where we would love to just have a break from reading and listen to something be read to us instead. Or if we can’t specifically focus on something on a website because we keep getting distracted by something else, there are tools to help with highlighting the information to keep us engaged. So while compliance is specifically geared toward those individuals with disabilities, these tools can be used by everyone!

We Can Help with Compliance

It’s important to ensure that your website(s) are WCAG compliant. While we are not a law firm or attorney, we are an agency that knows understanding the differences between each level can be hard to comprehend. That is why we are here to help. We have ways to test and correct accessibility issues that will help to meet compliance standards. Following our advice will result in peace of mind for your business since you will be up to current ADA compliance.

The WCAG is always updating guidance so it is important to stay up-to-date with changes. We will share this information as necessary and will work with you to make sure you are meeting new guidelines. 

Branded Content is Not Selfish

Branded content, like articles, blogs, social media posts, email newsletter content, photos and video, specifically about your business (and sometimes products, services, etc.) should never be looked at as tooting your own horn or being selfish of the time readers take to review the message. Content that helps current and potential customers learn more about your business can only help your business grow and flourish and enhance customer relationships. Content that actually doesn’t even mention your business, product or service can also help!  Plus, it is likely that branded content is going to be less costly than traditional advertising options (although there are some expensive options like movies). Let’s look at some branded content examples and how branded content is not selfish but helpful to any business.

Blog Posts

Blog posts are obviously something that we like to have on our own website. You’re already here and you are hopefully still reading (first one to email us to say they read this gets $1,000! Just kidding!!) Blog posts are a wonderful tool to drive traffic to your website. Blog posts can be anything that you want them to be, but it is always important to ask yourself, is this post going to be useful to my reader? Will my reader actually take the time to read this whole post or would it be better as a video for someone to watch/listen to? Know your keywords and your audience and wrap all of that together to publish a beautiful post! Don’t forget images too, especially so you can share it on social media.

A few blog post ideas: 

  • FAQ blogs – write a blog post about common questions you receive
  • Specific product/service blogs – Some argue that blogs about specific services/products don’t qualify as branded content, but we see a thin line to argue this. For example, a salon is seeing a big trend in a certain style of coloring. They can write a blog about it to tell the reader what the trend is, how they can do this trend for the customer, roughly how much it could cost and show pictures and videos of the before and after result. So while they are talking about a service they can offer, they are also talking about a popular trend!
  • How-to posts – Maybe your business sells a tool. You could write different blog posts about the many ways a specific tool could be used.
  • Advice/opinion pieces – Maybe your business offers services for people. Posts about how your services can help them in different ways are always useful.

Photos/Videos

Think of something you have purchased lately. Did you see a photo or video of it before you made the purchase? Were there multiple angles of the product? Even if you purchased a service, did you watch any videos or testimonials about the service, maybe from a currently satisfied customer?

Having great photos and videos can only help to build your content. We live in a digital world and people tend to gravitate toward photos and videos first, then moving on to read what goes with it. Make sure you have something for people to look at or listen to. 

Reviews/Testimonials

Speaking of reviews and testimonials, those are also great branded content to have on hand for others to read. Hearing from satisfied customers can help to sell whatever it is you have. When others are happy with your business, reviews and testimonials help to spread the word to others. You can pull these from your Google My Business account where reviews may already live, or have a space on your website where people can input their own content for you. Either way, it is still more branded content that can help with the end goal.

Case Studies/White Papers

Case studies and white papers are wonderful tools that can prove that your products/services work for others. Start with how someone had a problem or a need and write about how your product/service helped them overcome that need. You will never know how your product/services have really helped someone until you ask around. Write about these wonderful stories as often as you can.

Examples of Great Branded Content

We understand that not every business is a fortune 500 business with endless amounts of money to spend. That is why the examples we gave are great starting points for any business. The hope is that something you write goes viral and is able to reach millions of people. But if you want to know about some businesses that have gone above and beyond with branded content, here are some examples:

  • The LEGO Movies – Who even knew how much making movies about LEGO would benefit the product, but it did! Sales increased by 25% after the first LEGO movie was released!
  • TOMS Shoes – TOMS Shoes posts a lot of great photos and videos about adventures that they go on to help others and in every photo/video, it shows someone wearing their shoes! Great product placement and brand recognition.
  • Airbnb – There was an article about families vacationing together, sponsored by Airbnb on Fatherly.com. Only two sentences mentioned Airbnb – the first sentence at the very beginning of the article said they were a sponsor and that they have vacation options around the world and at the very end another sentence that just wraps up the article saying to explore their options. The rest of the article was just a story about a family on vacation. But because of the piece not being salesy, people won’t feel pushed away from Airbnb, but more likely to say hey – this family had a great time, so can we!

Wrapping It Up

After reading this, you may be thinking to yourself, wow that seems like a lot of writing and use of photo/video equipment that I don’t have. And I am certainly not a creator or writer. No fear. That is why we are here! We have team members who are content creators and writers who can help bring your ideas to life through visuals and words. Let us help you grow your branded content and impact your customers in a way that makes them want to purchase what you are selling!