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Web Photography: Why Great Pictures Are Insanely Important for Your Website

With so many different tasks to handle on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget the importance of great photography on your website.

Sure, stock photo libraries make it easy to find compelling photos for your site, and whatever you can’t find in a library, you can probably just shoot yourself, right?

Chances are, you don’t have the time, equipment, or experience to produce great photography on your own, and there’s a laundry list of reasons why the important and often overlooked step of photography needs to be addressed.

Today, we’ll tackle the importance of great pictures for website use, and why it’s easier than you may think to get started today.

Visual Content Marketing

Visual content marketing refers to all of the visual elements of your site. This includes graphics, photographs and any other visual elements that are part of your site.

Creating synergy between the different visual elements on a page are important ways for you to create lasting brand imagining, but it’s also important for another reason: the human brain.

In the 21st century, we’re bombarded with so much information that it’s often impossible to recall the things we learn on a daily basis. It’s estimated we only remember about 10% of what we read in text. But, when a photograph or visual accompanies that text, we’re able to remember 65%.

Focusing on visual content marketing not only helps create a lasting brand image; it also makes it easier for people to recall the information they saw on your site.

What Photography Means for SEO

Another critically important reason for you to have great pictures for website use is the SEO implications.

Great photography compels people to stick around your website longer. This signals Google that you’re providing a great user experience on your website, which in turn gives you an organic boost in search.

Hook Agency – Minneapolis SEO experts, use quality photography to improve their customer’s websites, search position, and user experience. Whether you’re an SEO newbie, or a seasoned pro, employing quality pictures for website use is a great way to impact your site’s SEO.

Consumer Trust

While this is especially important for businesses that sell physical products, everyone can earn a lesson in consumer trust when it comes to website photography.

A recent consumer survey discovered that a whopping 94% of survey participants consider image quality important in their product buying decisions.

That means that poorer quality images don’t inspire the same level of consumer trust that high-quality ones do.

Keep in mind that everything, from your products to your copy to your photography, has a profound impact on how consumers view your business. If higher quality images are going to inspire more consumer trust, it’s in your best interest to provide them.

Quality Photos Make Your Job Easier

Unless you have a photography or design background yourself, it’s easy to overlook the small details that go into what makes a good photo objectively good.

Things like the composition, cropping, and orientation of a photo have a major impact on the overall look of your site.

Working with a professional photographer helps to ensure that each element of the photograph is well composed and that the behind the scenes stuff like orientation and cropping is all designed to fit your website’s aesthetic seamlessly.

Nothing can derail an otherwise good website like poorly matched photography that’s warped, poorly cropped, or squished to fit the frame. Most importantly, these design and composition tasks are things your photographer will take care of for you, so you won’t have to worry about them at all.

Copyright Concerns

Perhaps the most compelling reason to own all the photography on your website is concerns over copyright.

Anyone who has tried to get by with photos they scraped together off the web can tell you; copyright law is comprehensive and difficult to understand. Even some fair use images come with requirements and concessions that makes understanding how you can and can’t use them difficult.

By having your photographs taken professionally, you’ll never run into the copyright issues that are common when using other people’s photographs, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing every aspect of your site belongs to you.

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Growing Your Organization Online: Secrets, Strategies, And Systems

It’s no secret that online marketing can help business owners step into deeper and deeper dimensions of success. Whether you define success in terms of optimized conversion, more industry influence, a broader base of clients, or something else, growing your organization via internet will help you realize the objective. Below you’ll find several secrets, strategies, and systems that you can utilize to put the growth process in full effect:

1. Access The Power Of Content Marketing.

One of the strategies that savvy business owners utilize to grow their brands online is accessing the power of content marketing. Content marketing is important because it ensures that the videos, web articles, or blog posts you utilize to advertise your brand are relevant, intriguing, information-rich, or valuable to your audience in some other meaningful way. One big secret to success with content optimization is doing your target market research. The research process is imperative because it empowers you to determine what types of things your audience is interested in as well as the best way for you to communicate information to them. For example, your target market research process may lead you to see that your audience regularly uses specific channels like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Once you conduct your target market research, you’re ready to start creating your content. One thing to consider throughout this process is the value of presenting your content in blog format. This approach can help you build an audience by increasing the likelihood that people will return to your blog again and again to read your new posts. Some textual elements that you may want to include in your blogs to take their quality from average to awesome include infographics and clever, concise calls to action. These textual elements make it easier for individuals to read your content.

2. Start Cultivating A High Quality Website.

In addition to accessing the power of content marketing, make sure that you begin cultivating a high quality website. This strategy will help grow your organization online by increasing traffic to your website. Increased traffic accelerates the brand recognition process while also helping you generate more sales and earn a higher ranking in the SERPs.

One great way to get on the road to cultivating a great website is examining your layout. There are a wide range of graphic design tools, strategies, and systems you could deploy to make the aesthetic of your site impeccable. In many if not most cases, really optimizing the aesthetic of the website will necessitate professional help. These days, there are hundreds of web design companies whose techies are trained in using colors, fonts, templates, and backgrounds in customized, creative ways which will make your website a visual masterpiece.

Another technique you can implement to make your website increasingly dynamic is obtaining web hosting services from companies such as Network Solutions. These hosting services can include things like a complimentary domain name, malware scans, email boxes, and 300 GB disk space.

Conclusion

Two strategies that you can use to grow your organization online are outlined above. Start incorporating them into your company’s current marketing plan so you can take your level of profitability, progress, and power to a new height.

 

 

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6 Highly Effective SEO Strategies for Small Business

There are more than a billion websites online today, and new ones are being created at a rate of about 500 per minute. The breakneck speed at which online content is being created makes search engines an indispensable tool for finding your way on the web. Conversely, businesses looking to expand their customer-base online have to rely on search engines to drive traffic to their websites. This is where search engine optimization comes into play. To sustain and increase online presence, it is not enough to simply create and maintain a website, and hope that search engine algorithms will do the rest.

A website needs to be optimized in several key areas in order to increase its likelihood of appearing as a relevant search result. These include technical, content, on-site and off-site optimizations, and others. Depending on the size of the business operation, investing in each of these optimizations to some extent is proven to have an impact on search engine rankings on services like Google or Bing. Ideally, a company should implement every kind of SEO for maximum effectiveness, but those with limited resources will likely have to choose a few areas on which to focus. The following article will try to give an overview of what these areas are, and how to utilize them properly.

Technical Optimization

Technical SEO refers to the practice of optimizing the design and structure of your website so search engine crawlers have an easier time indexing it. More importantly, search engines take into account technical characteristics when determining search rankings. Technically well-made websites score higher among users than those that are barely functional, which is why search engines rank them higher. Here are two example strategies that utilize technical optimization which any small business can use to improve their rankings.

  1. Focus on speed. According to Google, page load times of 3 second or less should be adopted as the standard for website speed. Anything longer risks lower rankings, as well as increased bounce rates for visitors. To optimize page load speed, websites should be hosted on reliable servers, have a proper load order for various page elements, and compress their images for lower bandwidth usage.
  2. Adapt for mobile. Recent data shows that more users now browse the web on mobile devices than on desktop ones. To reflect this change, Google has announced the introduction of the mobile-first index sometimes in 2018, which will rank websites based on their usability on portable devices first. Optimizing for mobile can be do by implementing principles of responsive design into your website, ensuring that it scales well on different screen sizes, and maintains the same level of functionality.

 

Content Optimization

Content SEO is simply the practice of adapting text, images and video of your website to include relevant search keywords and long-tail answers to popular search queries. Content optimization is an area where most improvements can be made. It can be done relatively cheaply, making it attractive for smaller companies.  Writing quality content involves a no small measure of creativity on the part of the content writers, whether they work in-house, or if they work for a white label SEO service. Two strategies to keep in mind while optimizing content are to follow.

  1. Create Credible Content. The be-all and end-all of content creation is quality. In this sense, there is no difference between writing for SEO purpose, and writing something that meets user quality standards and expectations. Creating good content can be a timely investment, but one that inevitably pays off in the long run.
  2. Promote Content. Creating good content is essential, but further adaptation is necessary to ensure it has marketing appeal as well. There are always multiple ways a sentence can be phrased while retaining its meaning, but some ways are just more common among search engine users. Optimizing content to sound enticing while maintaining quality is not easy, but it can be done with some effort.

On-Site Optimization

This form of optimization has overlapped with the others mentioned above, in that it involves both content and the way it is implemented. Specifically, it refers to all forms of optimization which are focused on the website itself, in contrast to off-site optimizations which are done through developing links from other websites. On-site SEO is broader in scope than technical and content optimization, and as such it involves a variety of different strategies. The two mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Create a quality user experience. Technically- optimized websites make access to content easier. Well-written content keeps visitors engaged. The two combined create a positive browsing experience, which generates good user feedback, social media sharing, backlinks, and numerous other benefits. All of these factors contribute to search engine rankings, and companies such as Google are increasingly stressing their importance as well. Creating a positive UX is equal parts art and science, but that just means you can use principles of both to your advantage.
  2. Try local SEO. Ranking well on global search engines such as Google is important, but smaller business that target a local market can benefit greatly from optimization aimed at state, regional or municipal levels. Studying local competition, tracking relevant keywords on the level of everyday discourse, and similar strategies can take on a wholly different shape in comparison to their global application. Make sure to use them extensively, if your products and services allow for it.
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GUEST POST: Why Choosing the Best Web Host Is Crucial for Your Business

Currently, businesses operate both in the “real” and online world. They try to establish a strong online presence to engage their audience, take advantage of growth opportunities, and carry out affordable marketing campaigns. On the other hand, business owners who fail to transition online struggle to remain competitive because online strategies and appropriate web hosting solutions have a decisive impact on the bottom line.

The bottom line

Many entrepreneurs have learned the hard way that when websites fail, profit goes down. In other words, the choice of a hosting solution is paramount to success in the digital realm. A misguided decision in this area could make online endeavors dead in the water. The course of action depends on factors such as the type of the website you are building, the volume of expected traffic, special software needs, etc.

Visibility and ranking

Regardless of these moving parts, one of the chief goals is to make the most of the search engine optimization (SEO) and boost the visibility in the tumultuous and crowded digital ecosystem. Alas, website downtimes and problems with the functioning of a website bring the ranking down and prevent you from reaching new digital heights, or the Promised Land of the internet, the first few pages of SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Smooth user experience

Today, the attention spans are short and the window of opportunity to grab visitors’ attention closes fast. People are put off by the websites that go down or load slowly. This undermines the experience and prompts them to go somewhere else in pursuit of information or content. So, you want to ensure that your website runs like clockwork and have a stellar uptime track record. Hardly any host can guarantee a 100% uptime but accept nothing less than 99%.

On the right track

Do your homework and secure the best possible provider, one that suits your specific business needs and industry sector requirements.  Narrow down the list of essential features you need. Educate yourself and know the difference between various hosting options, such as VPS (Virtual Private Server), Shared, Dedicated, or Managed Web hosting. Shared web hosting, for instance, is a nice solution for small businesses with websites that generate a small volume of traffic and want to cut the expenditures.

Support along the way

Of course, it is always possible to embrace frugality and find cheaper web hosts such as these. You get what you pay for, though, so do not decide solely based on saving money. Make certain that the hosting company is reliable and attentive.  Excellent customer service and support are a must, especially for businessmen who have yet to learn the ropes.  It pays off to do a background check as good reputation speaks volumes about provider’s trustworthiness.

Boosting safety

There is also a matter of security. Security breaches and malware attacks are not uncommon and the risk is real both for emerging businesses and big corporations. Bear in mind that a sensitive information leak could expose you or your customers to fraud and theft. So, it is best to stay on the safe side and check the security credentials of the hosting provider. A backup possibility helps as well and protects your data from hazards and emergencies.

Scaling up

Finally, it is highly advisable to gauge the ability of a hosting solution to scale hand in hand with your business.  Namely, as companies grow, they tend to attract more internet traffic. At one point, the host should be able to upgrade the capacity of the server and accommodate the traffic growth. Some hosting companies boast about “unlimited resources”, but remember that such unrealistic promises seldom hold water.

More power to you

If you are to reap the amazing benefits of online marketing and lead generation, the website must be available always and work like a charm. Therefore, do the research to figure out which hosting solution supports a safe, swift, and easily accessible site.  Know your hosting needs and investigate uptime guarantees. Make an informed decision and empower your digital efforts. In the process, you will be able to prevent numerous headaches and financial hiccups down the road.

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Choosing a Domain Name for Your Blog

When it comes to creating a blog or a website, your domain name is extremely important. While there are a host of other factors involved, your website name is the first way people will find you.

Moment of truth? Most internet traffic comes from either search engines or social media, and your domain name affects both of those things. So as an author, or as a brand, you have a couple of choices when it comes to choosing a website name.

Who You Are

For some businesses or even authors, this is simple. For instance, troylambertwrites.com uses both my name and what I do: I am a writer, and the name of the site includes my name. However, this does immediately limit the number of subjects my blog can cover, and still makes sense.

It can talk about writing, publishing, books, and the business of writing, including choosing a blog name, but it is difficult for it to cover other topics about the environment, cycling, and my dogs, all things I am passionate about.

If you have a website about selling cars, you can easily link to blog posts about how best to use photographs to attract car buyers, and it makes perfect sense. The same post makes sense on a site about photography as well but makes no sense on a site about cycling. Be sure to choose a domain name that covers everything you want to write about and share.

What You Are About

Instead of your business name or your name, you can choose to start a blog that is more subject matter related. In this case, you also have a couple of choices. You can create a more general site made up of categories, or you can create a site that is more genre specific.

General Sites: This type of site allows you to write about a number of subjects and even encourage guest posts on a number of subjects from several different angles. This gives you the opportunity to gain traffic from a variety of sources and influencers.

The downside of this type of site is that it is about several things, rather than focused. This can be confusing for the user, and for Google and other search engines, who can find it difficult to put your website in any sort of category. Part of this decision is the overall goal of the site: do you have a product to sell, or are you trying to monetize your site with ad revenue? What are your long and short-term goals? Whether or not your site is one of the best-looking business websites out there, if it does not fulfill the mission you have designed it for, it is useless.

For instance, Unbound Northwest is designed to talk about all kinds of topics, but with a geographic focus on the northwestern United States. The site accepts guest posts and features a number of categories. The purpose of the site is not only to generate traffic, but to spark interest in the Northwest, its people, and the events and activities taking place there.

Specific Sites: Specific subject sites have the advantage of targeting a particular audience, and if you are selling a product, allows you to speak with authority to that audience while pointing them to your product or a type of product.

For example, skiingmag.com does not sell skis or ski equipment, but they sell ads to companies that do. They monetize their site by reaching a very specific and lucrative demographic. However, the downside is this does limit them to talking to skiers and about skiing and winter sports. Since their primary readership is in the United States, this limits the amount of time their posts are most relevant, unless they talk about trips to South America and off season training.

How to Choose

Choosing a domain name is clearly important, and you need to take a few simple steps.

  • Establish goals for your website.
  • Choose the type of blog you want to create.
  • Choose a name, and see if it is available. You can use online tools to see relevant domains that are not taken.

This may not be something you want to do entirely on your own. You need another set of eyes to be sure there are no typos in your domain name, it actually relates to what you want to talk about, and that it does not result in any embarrassing acronyms or inappropriate references you may not notice. For instance, the abbreviation for Antonin Scalia School of Law is ASSoL, not the best representation of a law program.

Don’t Forget SEO

Once you have created your domain name, don’t forget to optimize your site for SEO purposes. PlacementSEO offers a perfect guide to creating a perfect onsite SEO structure, including optimizing your website for mobile and Google AMP pages.

Their guide delves into every area of your site, from headings and keywords to optimizing images and video. Check out the checklist here f you have questions.

Once you have chosen your website or blog name, keeping SEO optimization in mind, you can start creating great content to attract visitors. Have questions about how to choose a website name or want to hire me to do some other kind of work for you? Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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Why a Freelance Content Strategist Would Have Saved Pepsi

Brands are increasingly abandoning ad agencies or acquiring them and forming in-house marketing and content creation departments in the name of efficiency and speed.

Pepsi is no exception. At last year’s Cannes Lions Festival, president Brad Jakeman energetically talked up its decision to form a new in-house content creation arm, Creators League Studio.

“Instead of five pieces of content a year, a brand like Pepsi needs about 5,000 pieces of content a year. Instead of taking six months to develop an ad, we have six hours or six days. And instead of it costing $2 million, it needs to cost $20,000,” he explained, further complaining about complicated procedures and the time and cost involved with any campaign. “There is no infrastructure to advertisers to be able to quickly produce that content. You have to patch it together. Certainly, the traditional agencies can’t do it.”

Maybe not, but Jakeman might be eating (or drinking) his words now. One thing every writer and marketer knows is that you need a second set of eyes. However, not just any second set will do. You need an outside perspective, one with no stake in the outcome other than looking for errors and trying to create excellence.

This is why every author needs and editor, every athlete needs a PR spokesman and an agent, and why every brand needs a consultant of some sort. When something is totally in house, many sets of eyes can miss exactly the same thing.

The Story of the Pubic Restrooms

No, that isn’t a typo. But this story is about one. It is about a sidewalk sign that went through internal review at a museum where I worked. The eyes on the original copy were not dumb: they belonged to a copy editor and writer, a proofreader, a former military officer and accountant who was meticulous, and a former banking professional who consistently showed extreme attention to detail.

Every person made comments too, most related to layout, logo, and color. Not one of five sets of eyes internally caught the mistake before it went to the printers. Or when it came back, and before it went out onto the sidewalk.

A tourist came in and asked me if our sign was a sick joke. A quick look showed me it was. Our proudly created sign boasting of museum tours and public restrooms did indeed contain a tragic typo that had we left it uncorrected would have delighted teenage boys for days.

We needed an outside opinion, and unfortunately, we didn’t get in until the sign was, well, outside.

Making it Public

Not only did we pull the sign quickly and put in a rush order for the new one, corrected to “public restrooms” of course, but we did without a sign for a couple of days.

Luckily the mistake was caught early in the day, and our “focus group” on the sidewalk was small. Could we have prevented the disaster in the first place? Probably. Was it fortunate only a few early birds saw it? Yes.

Which is exactly the point. With an internal marketing or content department, you need someone outside, not related to your product who you can’t really fire for speaking the truth, and bold enough to be honest. A small group even, maybe a test market before you take something national.

Was Pepsi’s ad so time sensitive that another twelve hours would have killed its timing? Nope. And showing it to a small group or even an outside consultant would have taken only that long or less. Twelve hours, maybe even for someone to screen the idea before video shooting even happened.

Instead, the responsive, nimble internal department Jakeman wanted pushed the ad national right away. Resulting in embarrassment, an apology, and possible boycotts and business repercussions for an indeterminant amount of time.

The Nimble Workforce

So the traditional agencies don’t cut it for you? True, ad agencies have their own issues and sometimes get it wrong too. Just because you hire one is no guarantee that you won’t have an issue.

Still, bringing everything in house creates its own issues. If the CEO or CFO comes up with an idea, it’s hard for an employee to look them in the eye and tell them it doesn’t work. Also, when you live, eat, breathe and sleep a brand, you get internal blinders and the feeling that you and your brand can do no wrong.

There are alternatives, of course. There are smaller, newer agencies who can create the amount and kind of content you need at an affordable price. There are those who are combining creative content and more traditional approaches into a single agency to provide full service in an innovative way.

There are also freelancers. Those who specialize in helping small brands who can’t afford an agency or who even create and review content for marketing firms who need some supplemental talent or, <gulp here Pepsi> another set of eyes.

You don’t have to bring them in, give them an office, or even a permanent position. You can pay them a relatively small fee just to look at something and tell you if it looks okay or not.

The Honesty Factor

A freelance content strategist gets exposed to a lot of things. They don’t typically work for only one website or company. A freelancer can look at your web content or your campaign from a fairly objective point of view.

Because they have seen many well-done websites and campaigns, they can give you an idea of what will work, what won’t, and why. Without the expense of an agency, they can at least provide outside consulting and feedback.

The other advantage is that since they don’t work for you except on a tangential or contract basis, you’re more likely to get straight feedback. Whether you like their advice or not and whether or not you tell them to go pound sand doesn’t matter as much to them. You don’t hold the keys to their 401K, PTO, or even next week’s paycheck.

Freelancers want steady clients they can count on as much as possible. But they also want good clients with good websites. Bad advice or advice not followed reflects poorly on them as much as it does your brand, but unlike large agencies, they don’t have the bandwidth to deal with and mitigate that negativity.

A Finger on the Pulse of the Industry

A successful freelancer will be a busy one. Not only will they be dealing with regular and add on clients, but they will also be constantly learning more about the industry and networking. You can bet they know what trends are hot, what is working and what isn’t, and how to get results and quickly demonstrate ROI.

Your internal department can easily become siloed from the direction the industry is headed and the trend of brands overall. Marketing is about more than just your competition. It is about social and political trends and the overall consumer climate.

Yes, an agency can give you the same things, but probably won’t be as nimble and responsive. A few newer agencies are exceptions, but they are definitely harder to find, and not surprisingly they are busy as well.

Hey, Pepsi! Mr. Jakeman? Are you listening now? Did you get the point? It takes more than one perspective and another objective set of eyes to determine if a campaign will work or not. Your internal department let you down, and maybe it is time to ask why they weren’t listening. No one wants to end up with a sign for a pubic restroom.

Would you like to learn more about content strategy for your business, or even hire me in some capacity? Get in touch, and let me know what you think Pepsi could have done better in the comments below.

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Digital Marketing for Authors: Infographics

Make no mistake, if you are an author, you are in the digital marketing field. You need to market your work to as many places as you can.

One of the ways we have discussed here to improve Google ranking is through creating backlinks to your site from other sites. Here is a guest post from James Franklin about the role of infographics in digital marketing.

You, as an author, can use your book covers to create infographics about your series, your characters, or other aspects of your work, and share them with other websites who might find them useful. This is a simple way to earn links back to your site without creating a bunch of content. Here’s James’ take on infographics from the perspective of a digital marketer. And hey, the infographic is about gaming monitors. What writer doesn’t want one of those to game on after a hard day of writing?

For all of those in the digital marketing field, you all know how much of a task it can be to build links up to other sites to improve Search Engine Optimization. Why are they important? Because links are the number one thing you need to rank. By building up multiple backlinks, a site will move up on search engines like Google.

This post is about my favorite format of content: Infographics. Why are they my favorite? Because it’s one of the simplest ways to get links. Infographics mean link building doesn’t require you to type content all day long until your fingers ache. I have been using infographic’s to get my clients some great domain authority. Here’s why it works. Links are the reason for content marketing. It isn’t to “tell Google we know what we are talking about.”. It’s to get links. Links is what helps rank websites at the top of the SERPs. Good links are earned by providing good content.

Most people think that websites are pleading for guest posts since it is “free content” but that isn’t the case. I can ensure you that any large website that is considered an “authority” has a large group of staff dedicated to its content. They have staff that plan, review, edit, and scan it. Even a “free” guest post goes through several sets of hands the website employs.

Why do infographic’s get more views and more social media shares than a standard blog post? It’s because website visitors are often looking for simple answers in visual form. They often skim articles. That is why formatting is so significant. It’s imperative to have something that while informative is also fun, colorful, and a provides the information the searcher is looking for.

This infographic created by The Gaming Monitor has clear headings, a bold and clear structure, great content and is a great example of the type of infographic which sites need to be using to improve links and SEO rankings.

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