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robots txt file

The Importance of a Robots TXT File for your Website 


Increasing traffic to your website and staying on top of SEO is important for your business, but we know just how much of a rigorous process it can be. It takes a lot of analysis and patience, and between all the Google tools and intricate coding, the technicality of it all can get confusing and even overwhelming sometimes. To stay on top, the job is never done!

But what if we told you there is something that could make it a little bit easier? It’s called a robots.txt file, and in a nutshell, it’s a useful tool that gives you control on how search engines navigate or “crawl” through your site, and allows them to do so more efficiently.

It might sound intimidating, but it’s actually not as complicated as it seems, and you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to take advantage. Here we will break it all down for you, and explain exactly what a robots txt file is and how you can use it. Get ready—it’s a game-changer!

 
What is a robots.txt file?

The robots.txt file is a text file that tells web robots, usually search engine robots like Googlebot, which pages to crawl through on a website, and which ones not to crawl. Also referred to as the robot exclusion protocol, it is part of a larger group of web standards that controls how robots crawl the web, access and interpret content, and display that content to users. In this case with the robots.txt file, this is done by “disallowing” or “allowing” the actions of certain or all robots and user agents (web crawling software). 

This is the basic body of the file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/


The asterisk after “user-agent” means that the file applies to all web robots that visit the site, and the slash after “disallow” informs robots which pages they can’t, or aren’t allowed to follow—which, in this case means only the admin login page of this WordPress site (we know it’s a WordPress site because of the /wp-admin). 

This is a complete robots.txt file on its own, but you can get more specific and add more lines of directives if needed. We’ll touch more on this later. 

Consider the robots txt file to be a function that is meant to prevent your site from being overloaded with requests. It is not meant to stop your website from showing up on Google. There are other functions to keep your site out of Google, such as “no indexing” the site.

Why is the Robots File Important?

Along with keeping your website running smoothly, there are many other benefits to having control over site crawlers. Some of these could include:

  • Keeping parts of your website private (for example, an internal or admin login page, or a duplicate printer-friendly version of a page).
  • Restricting a page on your site that you don’t want users to access unless they take a specific action.
  • Linking to your XML sitemap(s).
  • Preventing certain files such as images or PDFs from getting indexed and showing up on search engines.
  • Implementing a crawl delay to prevent your servers from being overloaded when multiple pieces of content are being loaded at once.


And that’s just to name a few! It is also worth considering that if you don’t give directions with a robots.txt file, search engines will have to take more time to unnecessarily crawl through every single page on your site, which will slow them down and make your site seem less reliable. All of this could put you lower in the search results. So why waste time? If you make it easier for the search bots, you’ll be rewarded.
 

How to Find and Create a Robots.txt File

Now that we’ve piqued your interest, it’s time to get your robots.txt file started.

The first thing is to know how to access it. All that you have to do is enter the URL of your website into the address bar and add “/robots.txt” to the end—like this: “ideazone.ca/robots.txt.” Head to the page, and you’ll find that it is either empty (meaning you don’t have a file) or that you already have a robots.txt file.

If you don’t have one, not to worry; it’s easy to create one from scratch. You can use any plain text editor, such as Notepad, TextEdit, or Editpad.org, and enter the lines of code there. 


PRO TIP: Note that using a program like Microsoft Word is a big NO, as it could add additional code into the text that you don’t want.


If you do have a robots.txt file already, you can find it in your site’s root directory by going to your hosting account website, logging in, and heading to the file management section of your webpage.

Now, it’s time to begin with the basic format that we mentioned above. But you’re going to want to be more specific and only disallow certain pages. To do that, you would simply use the URL of the page, like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/

 

Notice that each command/directive is on a separate line.

With Googlebot, you can allow certain pages, as well:


User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/
Allow: /wp-admin/admin-example.php


Many robots txt files look just like this—short and simple. But once you get familiar with the syntax and language, you can get more advanced and include many more directives if you wish. Adding your sitemap and a crawl-delay function could be a good idea. To learn more about the technical syntax, Google is always a great resource.

 

We have just scratched the surface here, but hopefully this has given you a thorough introduction and encouraged you to set up a robots.txt file for your website. Whether it’s a text file you need, website design, or to develop an effective digital marketing strategy, our team of experts at IdeaZone can help you build a high-ranking website that delivers results. Call or email us today to learn how we can give your business a boost.

amp mobile pages logo

AMP Has a Large List of Pros and Cons

What is AMP?

AMP amplifies the mobile user experience (UX) by bringing your content to your users instantly on mobile devices by shrinking and caching your website. This speeds up the loading process for sites, ads and emails to less than 1 second. This instant gratification means the overall user experience is improved with less drain on battery life and data usage. If AMP is the right choice for your site, it can help reduce bounce rates and encourage users to complete a transaction.

Originally known as Accelerated Mobile Pages, the AMP Project backed by Google is now called by its acronym, AMP. It’s a hotly debated topic, with many points of contention. We’ll cover some of the main pros and cons in this article, beginning with the good stuff and why AMP was created in the first place.

AMP – The Good

Mobile Web Browsing Continues to Rise

In 2017, a report by Forrester Consulting showed that users spend 2X more time on an AMP page and AMP brings a 10% increase in web traffic.

Consider the last time you shopped for information or a product online. Did you use your phone or your laptop / desktop PC? According to Urban Airship, studies show that mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop mobile usage all over the globe.

Even in developing countries like Indonesia and Mexico, customers expect an immediate answer and use their smartphone for web searches 4x as much as desktop PCs. The reasoning is simple. Customers have their smartphones with them day and night because they are now the ultimate portable information gathering device. AMP can help ensure your customers:

  1. Visit your site
  2. Stay on your site for reduced bounce rates
  3. Complete their transaction
  4. Come back!

AMP Formatting is Simple

Using AMP can be your chance to offer your users what they want right from their mobile searches.  It works because AMP does away with all the clunky desktop-style elements that are still included with mobile-optimized pages today. This slimmed-down version gets rid of all the fluff and layers.

Restrictions on JavaScript, images and on other dynamic video content is the secret sauce that creates immediate viewing with faster load times of about 1 second. 

AMP is Compatible With Major Web Browsers and Platforms

Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera, UC Browser and of course, Google Chrome. AMP also works with the biggest platforms, including:

  • LinkedIn
  • Medium
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
  • Bing

There are 4 types of Google AMP formats to instantly share important news and visual narratives on mobile pages, including:

  • Ads
  • Emails
  • Stories and Blog Posts
  • Websites / Web Pages

Feature – Rich Content

Instead of the basic blue links you’d usually see in Google search results on a non-AMP page, you’ll see feature-rich content. One thing you might notice right away is the storytelling format. This content format is known as a carousel. Similar to image carousels seen in Facebook or Instagram ads, these AMP carousels serve to get your viewers clicking through the content, right onto your page. 

AMP – The Bad

AMP Isn’t a True Ranking Factor

AMP isn’t without its drawbacks. Even though site loading speed is a ranking factor for SEO,  AMP isn’t a true ranking factor.

Canonical AMP Pages Show as Standard Results

Another thing to keep in mind is that AMP pages only show as standard results on desktop so if your customers switch from mobile to a slower desktop connection, they won’t get the same AMP experience from your site.

AMP and Google Analytics are Complex Cousins

AMP and Google Analytics can be set up, but it’s not a simple process for the average website owner. Adding the proper tag can be difficult and time-consuming. If not done properly, you’ll easily miss out on important and relevant data. 

Signed Exchange is Limited

With Signed Exchange (SXG) the AMP page will be treated as if it belongs to your site. Without using signed exchange, your site will simply show under the new AMP page URL instead of your own URL. Signed exchange is also only supported in Google search for basic results and rich results, not carousels. It’s also only used with Chrome which makes it rather limiting.

AMP – The Nasty

AMP Hosts Everything Within Google’s Server

Because of this, you’re at the mercy of Google’s design. Your ads, stories etc. on AMP pages show the way Google chooses. This can mean your chosen design elements aren’t carried through. You’ll notice that your content is shown as somewhat boilerplate, following the basic AMP format. While AMP is more streamlined, it can really affect all your hard work in SEO and design, affecting how you want your customers to access and click through your site.

AMP Pages Look a Little Too Similar

Mobile news consumption is a big part of what mobile users want. Generally, it’s a good way to quickly see the top stories and snippets, with the option to swipe into the main website. However, because content looks so similar, it can also be easier for clickbait and fake news stories to appear alongside legitimate AMP results.

“All publishers end up looking more similar than different. That makes separating the real from the fake even harder,” says tech writer Kyle Chayka, who has written for the New Yorker, Harper’s and other highly reputable publications.

Domain Authority and Backlinks Go to Google

Because AMP hosts everything within Google’s server, any domain authority or backlinks go to Google and not your site. This is another strike against AMP framework for site owners and developers who work hard to create and maintain a stellar domain authority and SEO score. It also indicates that there’s a large loss of control over your own website if you exclusively use AMP and don’t have an active non-AMP version of your site.

AMP Tends to Fight With IOS

Users have said the scrolling patterns and behaviour on IOS feel unnatural and make it impossible to tap the status bar to instantly scroll to the top of the page and to be able to search for a term within the page. Many users have reported that AMP pages don’t render properly on their mobile devices and that content shows up as tiny columns of unreadable text. 

AMP Could Affect Ad Revenue

In an article by Digiday, a Google spokesperson didn’t deny that the number one goal of AMP is to improve user experience by loading content first and ads second. The problem with loading ads second is that ads have multiple tracking tags and higher-res images that take longer to load anyways. If the user has gone ahead and clicked on the main content, they haven’t even seen the ad. Also, the quicker the content loads, the more the ad loading speed will lag. Google has made steps towards a fix for this common issue, but some publishers may still experience slower ad loading times. 

The main thing to note here is that AMP is a very mixed bag.  These are only a few of the main sticking points, but by now you probably know whether it’s right for your site. 

If your visitors are mostly desktop users, hang tight, keep doing what you’re doing. We’d be glad to discuss how we can boost your traffic, SEO ratings and your website as a whole, for both desktop AND mobile users. If you’re unsure how fast your mobile site is loading, you can use this site speed test. 

If you have a lot of mobile users, like the idea of having an instant news feed (similar to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News) and like the idea of a diet, bite-sized version of your website, we’re happy to help with that too. Together we can discuss your options for different types of AMP pages, eye-catching carousels, platforms, analytics gathering techniques and more as AMP technology continues to evolve.

Questions about AMP and building your website? At IdeaZone, we’re your secret weapon for getting the most out of your online presence. For more information and to get in touch with our team of Victoria, BC digital marketing experts, contact us via web form or toll free at 1-844-651-9333.

how to optimize your gmb page

How to Use the Free Google My Business to Get Leads

Google My Business (GMB) is a powerful universal platform adapted from Google Places for Business and the Google+ Pages dashboard. For business owners, an optimized GMB listing is an extremely effective way to get targeted traffic, show off reviews, promote featured content and direct your potential customers to call or message you immediately using direct links. It works in conjunction with a quick Google search for your product or service, plus your website to easily build a solid online presence. Also… it’s free. Really!

Beyond the basics like business address, hours of operation, and business category, Google My Business has been developed with a whole host of helpful features for your business profile.

  • Google Maps can be used for any third-party platform to answer requests for directions
  • Can show a 360˚ virtual tour
  • Can manage and respond to client reviews
  • Use a Q&A Section
  • Can include a Booking section / booking button
  • Can show Menu items for restaurants
  • Has a section for Services
  • Can send messages to and from clients using the chat feature
  • Can publish information about new products, services, events and offers to Google Search and Google Maps via your business profile
  • Can feature photos, product images and video
  • Can schedule weeks of posts and updates using a social media scheduler like Pulbr or Hootsuite.
  • Can discover how customers search for and interact with your business using GMB analytics

 How to Optimize Your Google My Business PageGMB page - info section

Once you have claimed your business and verified the basic information Google My Business will walk you through how to set up your business profile. All GMB really needs are the basics; physical location if applicable, contact information, business hours, link to your website and the business category will all ensure that your customers know where you are, how to contact you and how to learn more even before you create a single post. As business owners ourselves, we know that you’re extremely busy. If you’d prefer to have IdeaZone create your business profile and handle your weekly posts, we can absolutely do that. This will allow you to get the best possible results out of the Google My Business platform.

Use Highly Relevant Keywords

Just like on your website and social profiles, you’re going to want to use appropriate keywords and other SEO strategies to attract relevant traffic. As more Googlers use voice search and long-tail keywords, it’s important to include a variety of keywords not only recognized by Google, but by your clients as well. 

For instance, if you’re an auto repair shop, the following terms rank the highest with the least amount of competition:

Auto repair shops, auto body shop (note the spacing here) and auto repair shops near me are all great terms you could use here. Use these keywords in your business description and in your posts to optimize your Google My Business profile. Your automatic presence on Google Maps helps too since Google will automatically detect where your potential customer is located and share local results first.

Complete Every Section of Your Google My Business Profile

As much as you can, fill in all the blanks so no question is left unanswered. Carefully select the most relevant primary and secondary categories for your business type. You’ll also want to write a complete business description. If you’re unsure of the categories, do a search for your main category and look at what your competitors have listed as their categories. 

For your business description, include all the vital information – who you are and what your business does. You’re allotted up to 750 characters in the newly updated description section, making it easier than ever to share key information about your business. 

Keep in mind that only the first 250 characters will be displayed in the knowledge panel. Customers will need to click to see the full description on desktop and mobile devices. Google My Business description guidelines will help you learn how to create the best story for your business.

Publish Google Posts Weekly

Keep your profile active and relevant with up-to-date posts featuring snippets from your site or blog, Q&A’s, customer testimonials, new product information, exciting industry news, or whatever works best for your industry. Keeping content up to date will help maintain search rankings. Of course, don’t just use any old piece of content. Use your most awesome content to really drive organic search results. A popular way to keep your GMB page updated with content is to break down your blog posts into bite-sized chunks and upload it to your GMB page.

Collect and Answer Questions

Google My Business allows users (or owners) to post and answer questions about your business. In fact, anyone who comes across your business can post a question. And anyone else can answer that question – whether their answer is factual or not. This being the case, you should monitor your GMB page for questions that people ask and ensure that you, as the owner, are providing the correct answers to people’s questions. 

Even better, you could gather a list of common questions and then ask and answer them yourself, thereby further optimizing your GMB page and providing users with an FAQ about your company that they can access directly from Google search.

Collect and Respond to Online Reviews

In the same vein, encourage your customers to leave business reviews. Even bad reviews are okay, in (very) small numbers. A positive review can do wonders, but glowing review after glowing review can leave customers feeling suspicious, wondering if the reviews are accurate. By taking the opportunity to thank customers for positive reviews and taking the time to kindly respond to negative reviews, customers will again see that your business is responsive and attentive. 

Of course, you should always offer to correct the issue causing the negative review in the first place. For best results, respond sincerely and offer to take the conversation offline to turn an unhappy customer back into a happy customer. 

And if you feel that someone has left a review that is fake, spammy or offensive, you can try to get the review removed with the new Google My Business Review Removal Tool.

Add High-Quality Images and Photos 

According to Google, business listings with photos get up to 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more click-throughs to their websites compared to those without photos.

Photos aside, a logo is THE most important image for your Google My Business listing. Logos add impact, credibility and recognition for customers. Think of all the times you’ve known what a McDonalds logo is without even having to think about it. With a great logo, your customers will instantly recognize who you are and what your business is. For best results in GMB, your logo should be in a square format.

Provide Interior and Exterior Photos

Any photos of the inside of your business will help prospective customers familiarize themselves with what to expect before they set foot in your store. Many customers really appreciate knowing the layout and appearance of the business in advance, particularly if they have any mobility limitations. Images of the parking lot, storefront, etc.… are also helpful for your customers. 

Provide Product Photos

Most small and medium-sized businesses and businesses under specific verticals can include product photos, pricing and other detailed information through GMB’s Product Editor. A note: Product images will show up in image search for another pathway to your business profile. 

Important Information About Optimizing Photos

  • Use JPG or PNG format
  • Keep photos between 10KB and 5MB 
  • Use images with a minimum resolution of 720×720 pixels
  • Use in focus and clear images with good lighting, free of excessive filters. Photos should always be as realistic as possible.

Post Videos Often

Even more than photos, videos add a uniquely human and approachable feel to an online profile. Used in addition to a blog post, they provide a multimedia option for customers. For instance, a salesman at an auto dealership could post a video of their deal of the day, while an IT company could share a video of techs hard at work in the office. The virtual tour tool is another excellent way to utilize video on your Google My Business profile.

Important Information About Optimizing Videos

  • Up to 30 seconds long
  • Up to 75 MB file size
  • 720p minimum resolution

You can optimize your Google My Business Profile in so many ways. By far, the best way is to create a complete listing and keep content updated and relevant at all times. Just like on page optimization for your site, there are a lot of moving parts and many areas that need regular maintenance and updating. Want to make Google My Business work for you? Contact our team of expert digital marketers and branding experts today. We’ll ensure your GMB profile, website and overall online presence is strong and synchronized for the best possible results. 

Located in beautiful Victoria, BC, IdeaZone helps businesses the world over to create effective marketing strategies and high-ranking websites. Call or send us an email to learn more about how to boost your business using digital marketing.

Google My Business review removal tool

Remove Fake / Spammy / Incorrect / Offensive Reviews from Google with the New GMB Review Removal Tool

Looking to remove a review from Google? Google My Business reviews can help or hinder your business’ reputation. When they’re good, they’re very good, but when they’re bad, your reputation on Google My Business (GMB) can tank. In the online review space, customer feedback is essential for any company to thrive, but what if you have a review that wasn’t left by a customer? What if you have a Google review that a competitor left on your page? Or someone from a foreign country who has never been a customer?

There are plenty of legitimate bad reviews out there, but there are also spammy or fake reviews meant to hurt your brand reputation, your ratings and your local rankings. Unfortunately, these negative fake reviews were not only harming your business, but they were also difficult to get Google to remove the review. 

Thankfully, Google is getting more intelligent every day and learning how to block these spammers. It knows that just like some online pirates create lousy backlinks on purpose, they also leave fake reviews as one of their strategies. But now there’s a tool to help you remove Google reviews that you believe violate Google’s review policies – the Google My Business Review Removal Tool which was released in March 2021. The name of the tool is a mouthful, but wow is it handy!

What is the Google My Business Review Removal Tool?

The GMB Review Removal Tool can be used to flag, track and yes, remove negative Google reviews that violate their policies. You can flag a review directly inside the tool.

When negative reviews violate Google policies and there is evidence of abusive contributions (reviews, photos, videos and general activity) you can flag reviews and request removal. 

Negative Google reviews should not be flagged if there is a difference of opinion between the customer and the business i.e. you can’t just start flagging every negative review because you don’t agree with a customer’s opinion about your business. Even though there is now a Google review removal tool, it still means that the review has to violate one of Google’s policies before they will remove it.

The process for removing a review using this new removal tool is to simply visit the following link while you’re logged into the email address that’s associated with your Google My Business account (i.e. the one you use to log into your GMB page backend at business.google.com).  If you’re an agency and you visit that link, this is what you’ll see:

Google Review Removal Tool not available to agenciesEssentially, Google is saying that the review removal tool is only available to business owners and not to agencies. If you’re the owner of the account or an admin whose email address is not connected with other GMB pages, you’ll see a list of the reviews that Google is allowing you to dispute. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not all your reviews will show up here. And sometimes, the very review that you’re trying to remove will not be available in the list and therefore you can’t use the tool to remove it.

If that’s the case, you can always try to get the review removed the old-fashioned way….

Flagging Google Reviews Prior to the Removal Tool

Before the removal tool came around, business owners had to go and manually find and flag reviews that they believed to be in violation of Google’s review policies.  The problem was that the removal success rate wasn’t very high and very few business owners even knew that they could flag reviews in the first place.

Here’s a walkthrough of that process.

GMB review management varies slightly between Android and IOS phones, tablets and computers, but the process is very much the same. The main difference is the use of apps on mobile devices, rather than on an internet browser.

Steps to Flag a Google Review – OLD WAY

On a Computer from Inside your GMB Page Dashboard

  1.     Sign into Google My Business
  2.     Click on Reviews in the left hand menu
  3.     Choose the review you’re concerned about
  4.     Click the 3 dots at the top right of the review and then flag it as Inappropriate

In Google Maps

  1.     Open Google Maps
  2.     Find your Business Profile
  3.     Find the review to be flagged
  4.     Click the 3 dots and then flag it as Inappropriate

In Google Search

  1.     In Google, find your Business Profile
  2.     Click Reviews and find the review to be tagged
  3.     Select the star rating
  4.     Click the Flag and select Inappropriate and the type of violation

 

According to findings by SEO guru Neil Patel, a few negative reviews can actually help. The reason is fairly simple. Consumers who only see 5 stars and glowing reviews will become suspicious.

In fact, a 2017 study by Power Reviews found that “85% of consumers look for negative reviews in order to make informed purchase decisions.” Among younger, savvy consumers aged 18-29, this number increases to 91%. 

Tips for Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Any reviews that don’t violate Google’s review policies cannot be removed. However, to help preserve your online reputation, we have a few tips for turning those negative reviews into a positive customer experience.

  • Be Specific – recap what the complaint is about to assure the user that you understand. 
  • Acknowledge their Experience – did they have a bad meal? Did they have to wait in line too long or not find what they were looking for? Acknowledge their feelings and apologize sincerely in a short message. 
  • Don’t Get Defensive – we’ve all seen that business owner who bared their teeth on a forum or on an online review. It can get ugly and you don’t want to be the one everyone’s talking about. For best results, keep the response short and sweet. 
  • Fix It – even if you’re fairly certain that the customer’s leaky bathroom pipe has nothing to do with the work you did in the kitchen, be careful not to get in an argument. Instead, offer to fix it in whatever way you can.
  • Follow Through – move the conversation offline by offering contact information. Existing and potential customers will see that you are willing to go above and beyond to mend fences and provide excellent customer service. The complainant should be pleased too. Gather their email address and phone number if possible, so you can be sure the issue is resolved. 

 

Google My Business is an excellent way for local businesses to drive traffic and sales. But one negative review from someone can change everything. If you’ve got a negative review on your GMB page that you know is fake, try the new Google Review Removal Tool and see if you can’t get it removed from Google. 

If you’re looking for a complete digital marketing strategy that incorporates Google My Busines page and review acquisition strategies, contact the IdeaZone team today.

local services ads canada feature image

What are Google Local Service Ads (LSAs) and How do they Work?

As industry pros here at IdeaZone, we know that beyond all the apps, marketing tools and jargon is a business that just wants to reach its customers. Google Local Services Ads (LSAs) have been generating a lot of positive buzz because they do just that.

Meant to add another layer to your marketing roster, Local Services Ads allow the consumer to book or contact your company directly through the LSA company homepage (see below). Your LSA will show your business as a local option for customers searching for the exact services you offer.­

example of LSA local company landing page

 

Imagine showing up at the top of your customer’s search results. Not because of an elaborate keyword selection, but because you’re a trusted company located close to home. This is the premise behind LSAs.

How Do Google LSA’s Work?

First, you need to apply to Google to be eligible for Google Local Search Ads (and the vetting process is fairly in-depth…more on that later).

Because these ads aren’t dependent on keywords, it makes ad setup super simple as it’s just based on categories. For your ad to show up, all your potential customer needs to do is google your service while being in proximity of your business (or service area).

Your LSA is selected by business category. If your business is near the customer, your ad will be eligible to show in the search results. Rankings (ie. what position in the list your business appears) are based on company response time, reviews and the Google badge for Google Guaranteed and Google Screened listings (more on this later).

A search for “electrician victoria bc” immediately pulls up a carousel of “Google Guaranteed” electrical companies in Victoria BC who have been vetted for the Local Services Ads program.

 

google local services ads for electrician in victoria bc

 

These are shown at the top of Google search results as well as in audio search results from devices like Google Home or Google Assistant.

Searchers can instantly see (or hear!) the web address, contact number, tagline, and a short writeup on services offered. In five seconds, they could be on the phone, booking an appointment with your company. Just like that, your lead has come to you.

Google “Screened” and “Google Guaranteed”

There are two categories for consumer protection— called “Google Screened” and “Google Guaranteed.” Both require a thorough screening including a civic and criminal background check and license/insurance verification. Employee background checks are also conducted, free of cost.

Google Guaranteed

With so many rumours about businesses buying or otherwise manipulating their way to positive reviews, it can be easy for a customer to have trust issues. This is why Google offers a “Google Guaranteed” business option. If a customer is unhappy with the services provided, Google will start a claim, contact the business and work with them to find a resolution. Essentially, it’s a money-back guarantee.

If a customer is unsatisfied with a company’s services (who they found by clicking on an LSA), Google can refund the amount paid as shown on the invoice. It covers up to $2,000 once the claim between the business and customer has been thoroughly investigated. With Google Guaranteed, consumers are much more likely to proceed with the work since they know that Google has vetted the business and are guaranteeing the results.

Customers can easily see whether a business is “Google Guaranteed” with a green checkmark badge. This shows under the business name or is verbally confirmed via audio searches on Google Home or Google Assistant (the Google Guaranteed designation is required for Google Assistant).

google guaranteed local services ads

This service is currently available for limited types of businesses. In Canada, these include the following:

  • Appliance repair services
  • Carpet cleaning services
  • Cleaning services
  • Electricians
  • Garage door services
  • HVAC (heating or air conditioning)
  • Junk removal services
  • Lawn care services
  • Locksmiths
  • Movers
  • Pest control services
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Tree services
  • Water damage services
  • Window cleaning services
  • Window repair services


Google Screened

Google Screened is currently only available to certain verticals in the U.S.

Businesses that are Google Screened must also pass Google’s extensive background checks. This means they’ll still appear at the top of the search results page based on business category, reputation and location. Combined with the green check mark by the company name, this builds trust among businesses and customers.

The main difference is the there is no money-back guarantee for customers and there is no monthly fee ($50) for the business. Google Screened is currently available for professionals in the fields of law, finance and real estate in San Diego, CA and Houston, TX. Like “Google Guaranteed,” it’s likely to be offered in more verticals and areas as the program grows.

How Much Do Google LSAs Cost?

Sounds great, but how much does it cost? You only pay per lead if a customer contacts you directly through the ad or if the call lasts two minutes or longer. Lead costs vary depending on the location and business type. Here are some examples of the cost per lead for some common services here in Victoria, BC.

  • HVAC ($24/lead)
  • Locksmith, plumber ($28/lead)
  • Garage door, electrician ($18/lead)
  • Housecleaner, carpet cleaning ($26/lead)
  • Pest control, tree services, junk removal, window cleaning ($13/lead)
  • Appliance repair, lawn care, moving services, roofing ($22/lead)
  • Window repair, water damage restoration, carpenter, countertops, fencing, flooring, foundations, landscaper, siding. ($22/lead)

When you set up your own Google LSA, you’ll know exactly how much your leads run at, depending on your industry and location.

What are the top 5 Benefits of Google Local Service Ads?

To the point, here are the top 5 (of many) reasons to get yourself a Google LSA account today:

  1. Cost-effective – You’re only charged for leads when the customer contacts you and a job is booked or the call lasts 2 minutes or longer.
  1. Calls route through a Google forwarding number – When you receive a call from your ad, you’ll hear “Call from Google.” This way you know how well your ad is working. Google also notifies customers that the call will be recorded for quality and research purposes.
  1. LSAs build trust – They will only show if the business has been vetted by Google. This means it has positive reviews and feedback from real customers. It also means that it’s passed a stringent background check for the owner and all employees.
  1. Easy on the budget – For local businesses who may not have the budget for Google Ads, this makes it easy to stay well within your marketing budget. Incidentally, we have an awesome post for 33 FREE marketing apps and tools.
  1. You get to enjoy high-quality leads – Tired of tire kickers? Well, these are people who specifically search for your services are ready to book their appointment. They’ll be glad that your ad takes the guesswork out of deciding who to hire.

How to Get Started Using Google Local Service Ads

Ready to get started? It’s simple to DIY, but you can also have an expert Google rep help you out. LSA’s are designed to be as user-friendly as possible – from the initial application to fine-tuning your selections via dashboard or mobile app.

To see if your business is eligible, enter your location information into the signup page here. If your business type qualifies, you’ll be directed to fill in your profile. This includes basic information like business name, year founded, total number of workers and more.

As you fill in your profile, you’ll be directed to the following pages:

  • Business details
  • Service area
  • Service types
  • Work hours
  • Preview the ad

When it’s done, your ad will feature the most important highlights. This includes reviews from real customers, the number of reviews, whether you’re Google Guaranteed or Google Screened (CA and TX only), any photos, business hours and more.

The complete list from Google:

Business name The name of your business.
Phone number A tracking number will be displayed. Calls to this number will be forwarded to your business phone number.
Location Your business city may be displayed. This is either the address of your business, or the city where you live or work. In some cases, we may show the cities you service instead.
Reviews Your reviews include reviews from Google My Business as well as reviews collected directly through Local Services Ads. Partner affiliate listings will include reviews provided to us by the partner platform.  All ads will show an average star rating.
Number of reviews The number of your reviews you’ve received may be displayed in parentheses next to your average star rating.
Business hours The hours that your business is open.
Google Guarantee or Google Screened The Google Guarantee badge or Google Screened badge  shows customers they can trust your business.
Photos Photos to show customers your business and your work. These will show in your profile when available.
Business bio Highlights about the important aspects of your business, such as whether you are locally owned or offer free estimates.

 

In the Google LSA dashboard or mobile app, you can also customize your LSA. Just a few of the options available:

  • When you want to run your ad (always on, only during business hours, custom hours)
  • Manage and respond to ads
  • View reports
  • Sort through leads
  • View and edit budget information
  • Update your business details

Google Local Services Ads present so many excellent options. We’re really looking forward to seeing the difference it makes with bringing customers to local businesses just like yours.

Do you have questions about LSAs, Google and Facebook Ads, SEO strategies, or do you need a new site made from scratch? Based out of Victoria, BC, Canada, we’ve been building sites, developing marketing plans and creating eye-catching graphics for over 20 years. Browse our case studies and portfolio then contact us or call us toll free at 1-844-651-9333. We look forward to designing the perfect digital marketing solution for your business.

IdeaZone wants to help you take advantage of this great opportunity and get your business online and thriving through the COVID-19 crisis.

The BC Government is offering a grant of up to $ 7,500.00 for you to put towards getting a new eCommerce website.  Businesses looking to improve or promote an existing eCommerce site may also be eligible.

From the Launch Online website:

“The Launch Online Grant program provides funding to B.C.-based business to create an online shop and/or improve their e-commerce experience to attract new local customers and expand to new markets. The grant will pay for up to 75% of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $7,500 per business.

The program supports a rapid response for businesses and is accepting applications from businesses ready to start and finish their online shop within 12 weeks.”

The Launch Online site also says that there is no application deadlines. Applicants will be accepted until funds are depleted. There is a lot of chatter about this opportunity within business groups throughout B.C. and many applications have already been submitted.

The time to jump on this opportunity is now.

The application is simple and eligibility criteria are surprisingly broad.

  • The business is owned by a B.C. resident or residents;
  • The business’s sole or primary operations are located in B.C.
  • The business:
    • Is currently operating;
    • Is registered in B.C.;
    • Employs less than 149 B.C. residents;
    • Pays taxes in B.C.
    • Maintains a
      • Business number
      • GST number
      • PST and WorkSafeBC number (where applicable)
    • Generated sales of more than $30,000 in the past year (in 2019, or in the year preceding the application)
    • Has repeatable products, or in the case of artists and jewelers, individual items that have slight differences (i.e. paintings or rings)
    • Does not currently have an online store or has an online store that has no more than three of the five identified online store features
      • Customer registration and information security features
      • Shopping cart and order management capabilities
      • Payment processing options including application of appropriate taxes and shipping costs at time of ordering
      • Product catalogue, search and inventory status
      • Website analytics and reporting capabilities

Eligible expenses also include photography, copywriting, digital marketing and training.

For more information on the grant you can visit their website at: https://launchonline.ca or review their FAQ here: https://launchonline.ca/faq

Consultations and advice are always free at IdeaZone. Contact owner Jon Valade at jon@ideazone.ca to see if this opportunity is right for your business.

33 best free marketing tools

33 of the Best [Free] Online Marketing Tools

When you’re just getting started on your brand-new business or want to get your existing company thriving in the online marketplace, our digital marketing experts at IdeaZone can help. To give you some ideas, we’ve put together a list of some of the best marketing tools out there. And the best part is that they’re all FREE, making them ideal for the budget-conscious business owner.

Read on to discover how you can elevate your business using today’s top marketing tools, apps, extensions and software, absolutely free!

Google’s Suite of Awesome Free Marketing Tools

If you own a website, the first thing you need to do before using any other digital marketing tools is to make sure that you have both Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) installed on your site. To do so simply requires a piece of code to be placed on your website.

Google’s Free Website Tools

  1. Google Analytics 4

At the end of 2020, Google released a new version of their popular website analytics tool, Google Analytics, called Google Analytics 4 or GA4 for short. Google Analytics 4 is a powerhouse when it comes to tracking, measuring and converting. If there’s something you want to know about your website visitors, you’ll find it in Google Analytics 4. From which pages are most visited to your #1 landing page to how many people fill out your contact form, all of this information and more is available in GA 4.

Explore reports that are designed to show you exactly where your website is succeeding and where it’s falling short.

For the non-techie user, you can enter a specific search term to find out exactly what you want to know rather than having to know how to access the feature from the navigation. For instance, search for “Popular Pages Today” in the search field at the top of the page and you’ll receive any information available on which pages were most visited today, as well as any available reports. The new Google Analytics 4 has a giant list of reports available, ranging from real time traffic sources to user demographics and behaviour, including age, location, interests and more.

  1. Google Search Console

Until mid-2015, this suite of tools was called Google Webmaster Tools. Now called Google Search Console, or GSC for short, this is the second free Google tool you’ll want to have in your arsenal. This free service helps webmasters maintain, monitor and troubleshoot their site’s presence in Google’s search results pages.

In GSC, you can see user’s search terms as well as the pages users are visiting most. Arguably more important, however, is the ability to measure the health of your website. It’s inside GSC that Google will leave messages for webmasters if their sites violate any of Google’s “rules”. This includes whether you have any manual actions against your site or if there are any security issues. You can also get information about internal and external links, indexing issues, see whether Google can crawl your site or not, receive alerts and so much more.

Google’s Free Brand Mention Tool

  1. Google Alerts

A free service that’s been around for ages, Google Alerts sends daily, weekly or monthly alerts to your inbox. The alerts let you know when your company, site name or keyword are being mentioned on the Net.  Essentially, it alerts you on any given keyword, letting you know what people are saying about you and your products online or what your competition is up to.

Designed around using specific terms and phrases, Google Alerts lets you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening. It’s simple to use, just type in your keywords or phrase using quotation marks and choose your delivery preferences. You can choose between timed delivery or a digest of all alerts sent at once, either once a day or once a week.

Using Google for Keyword Research

  1. Google’s Predictive Search

Google’s Predictive Search basically finishes your sentences as you type them into Google. Using an algorithm, Google can “predict” what you’re about to type in the search box. Once the search query has started, you’ll see a dropdown menu of all the predictive search results Google thinks you’re looking for, based on what you’ve typed. Think of it like the predictive text on your phone, which automatically fills the blanks based on what you’re typing.

Google’s Predictive Search function is a good place to start if you’re trying to find a bunch of keywords around a given topic.

Don’t want to use this feature? You can turn it off in the Search Settings after you run a search. Just click the gear icon on the upper right-hand corner.

Pro Tip: You can use the predictive search at the beginning or the end of the word. To get words in front of the keyword you’ve entered, just place your curser at the front of the word after you’ve entered it and press the space bar.

google predictive searchtive search before search term

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Google’s People Also Ask Section

Using Google’s People Also Ask lets you get at the heart of what your customers are searching for. A

basic query branches out into additional question queries about the subject at hand. For example, let’s say you’re looking to write a blog post about digital marketing and so you start by searching that phrase in Google.

Some of the questions that come back inside the People Also Ask section include:keyword research with Google's people also ask

  • What is meant by digital marketing?
  • What are the types of digital marketing?
  • How can I do digital marketing?
  • What are the 5 Ds of digital marketing?

And once you click on any of the questions, they expand to show you an answer from one of the websites ranking for the term “digital marketing”.  Not only that, but your click will then populate even more question keywords.  The questions will tend to stay in the same topical sphere as the original keyword you searched, as long as you only click on relevant keyword questions as they pop up. So, if you search for “digital marketing” and you click a couple of questions (which then causes more question keyword phrases to pop up) and then see a question about content marketing, if you click on that, it will start populating more questions around the term “content marketing” instead. Take a look at this article from SEMrush on how to maximize opportunities with PAA.

  1. Google’s Related Searchesgoogle related searches

Google’s Related Searches are the results shown in blue font at the bottom of the page after you perform a search. These keyword phrases and queries provide you with an entire list of keyword ideas and topics that you can use to your advantage when planning and updating your content.

And if you click on any of the keyword phrases, it will open up a Google search result page for that particular term.

Use these keywords along with the above two methods to build out a complete set of keywo

rds to target for any particular topic.  You can further narrow this list down by copying and pasting them into the Google Keyword Planner (more on that below) so that you can see exactly how many people are searching for those particular keywords each month (because you don’t want to create content around topics that no one is searching for!).

  1. Google’s Keyword Planner 

Use Google Keyword Planner in conjunction with the tools listed about to develop a keyword database that contains terms that you may never have thought of. Google Keyword Planner is a powerhouse of a (free) keyword research tool that lets you discover brand new keywords and phrases and see current and future data (forecasts) for how they perform.

Here’s a complete guide on how to access and use Google’s Keyword Planner from Ahrefs.com.

Note that Google limits the functionality of the tool (mostly by way of only showing ranges of keyword search volume rather than specifics) if you don’t have an active Google Ads account with a credit card on file.

Other Free Keyword Research Tools

  1. Answer the Public

Like an online mind-map, Answer the Public is a creative and highly visual way to discover new content and keyword ideas. Just enter in one or two keywords to the search bar on the landing page and get exploring. Data is arranged in questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals and related terms. Super simple, super-fast. You can narrow the results, choose to view a list of data or a visual representation and even click on keywords to search them in Google. You can even download a CSV file of the search results.Answer The Public - free visual keyword research tool

  1. Also Asked

AlsoAsked.com is a relatively new keyword research tool that is based on Google’s People Also Ask results. Using Alsoasked.com, you can enter search terms for the language and region of your choice. The answers are then organized into a chart that shows visual links between search topics and queries. This chart can be downloaded and saved as a CSV or PNG image. Because it’s a visual presentation of topics and topic groups rather than a spreadsheet, it helps spark creativity in clients and content creators.

Free Social Media Tools

  1. Later

A social media scheduler for Instagram and Pinterest, Later is marketed to be “Free Forever”, which is great news for budget-conscious marketers. With unlimited content uploads and ready-to-use content, Later is also really intuitive. It “knows” when your users are most likely to be online, helping you to create posts for that magic time of day when customers are most engaged. Using Link In Bio, you can even tag your images to lead users directly to product pages, articles, videos and more.

  1. Buffer

Buffer is a social media scheduler tool that offers a free Basic plan, which you can choose after your initial 14-day free trial. This free plan is ideal for any SMB (Small to Medium-sized Business) since it includes 1 user, 3 accounts, and 10 scheduled posts. Buffer covers a wide variety of options since it lets users plan content for multiple social media platforms on one dashboard.

Whether you prefer Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn, Buffer is a simple way to manage the creation, timing and publication of your posts. It also has an excellent resource page full of great tips, stories and news to inspire you.

  1. Facebook Page Insights

Facebook is constantly growing and changing, which keeps it on the short-list for social media marketing. See our post about Facebook updates for 2020. If you’ve got a Facebook Page, you can use Facebook Page Insights for free to view everything that’s happening with your users.

Whether you want to know how long the average user is watching your videos for, post reach, number of followers and everything in between, Facebook Page Insights is a one stop shop for getting down to the finer details of activity on your page for today, all the way up to the past 28 days. Helpful for spotting trends, getting a clear idea of your user demographics and increasing your overall reach, Facebook Page Insights lets you easily monitor the performance of your Facebook page.

  1. Facebook Pixel

If you’re running Facebook Ads, you’ll want to take advantage of the Facebook Pixel. It’s a piece of code that goes on your website. The FB pixel essentially collects all the important data you’ll need for tracking, optimizing, targeting and remarketing using cookies to track those who visit your website and Facebook page. For a full walkthrough of the Facebook Pixel, check out this article on Hootsuite.

Note: to start utilizing the power of the FB Pixel, you’ll first need to add some code to your site (or just your pixel ID depending on how you’re adding the code). If you’re using WordPress, try adding the code using the WordPress plugin called Pixel Your Site

Free Website Analysis Tools

  1. Ahrefs

Think of Ahrefs as a free health check for your website. It crawls your site every week, analyzing the effectiveness of your SEO. It also scores your website based on its performance as a whole. It will alert you to issues with loading speed or anything preventing your site from appearing in SERPs (search engine results pages). You’ll also be able to discover which pages are getting the most hits and who your top competitors are. After each weekly audit, you’ll receive an email with comprehensive information on what was found and how to fix any issues that cropped up.

Ahrefs is free for website owners, meaning that if you have access to a site in your Google Search Console, you’ll be able to add it to Ahrefs for free website tracking.

  1. GTmetrix

gtmetrix grade a speed test results

Another option for checking your site’s performance is with GTmetrix. A free site speed tool, GTmetrix digs deeper into the technical aspects of site speed and user-friendliness with regularly scheduled reports that monitors your site’s performance over time. Unsure how your Canada-based page is doing with your test market in South America? You can keep eyes on how your page performs around the globe using 6 free test locations. You can also test on different simulated devices to see how it functions with popular models of IOS and Android phones and tablets. You can also decide when and how you want to be alerted when your site slows. When it’s underperforming, you’ll receive a link to a complete report detailing when and why the page slowed. Visit GTmetrix and enter your URL to get started.

  1. Uptime Robot

Uptime Robot currently monitors more than 1,100,000 companies and individual site owners including huge names like IBM and NASA, so you know they’ve got to be good at what they do. As you may have guessed, Uptime Robot is a piece of software that scans your site to determine whether it’s live or not. Many website owners don’t realize that their sites may go offline and when it does, they are none the wiser.  With Uptime Robot however, it’s not an issue as you can set up alerts letting you know if / when your site goes down. They also offer up more advanced features like SSL monitoring, so your certificate never expires. Receive your notifications through 15 integrations including email, Slack, Google Chat or even an old-fashioned phone call. Make sure your site is always “up” with Uptime Robot and get 50 monitors and 5-minute checks for free.

Free Online Marketing Tools

  1. Hubspot’s CRM Tools

Hubspot offers a huge range of CRM and Marketing tools including contact management, email tracking and notifications, ad management, messenger integration and more. There are also plenty of free sales and service tools, like live chat, bots, ticketing and email scheduling.

Think of these free Hubspot tools as a “must-have” for anyone doing any type of lead generation as it allows you to schedule out emails, see who opened them, set reminders and even has free email templates.

All these features with free access in one place and up to 1 million contacts all make Hubspot an absolute must-try for growing your site. When you have questions, the Hub Spot community is there to help, with real users just like you from all around the world.

  1. UTM Builder

UTM actually stands for Urchin Tracking Module as Urchin was a company that Google bought out and so they just kept the acronym.  Many people today think it stands for “Universal Tracking Management”, which is actually much more representative about what the tool does.

A UTM Builder allows you to better track the performance of blog posts, link clicks, ad campaigns or anything that involves a link. It essentially allows you to add some additional information (parameters) to the end of whatever URL you’re monitoring traffic from – and have that information available to dissect inside Google Analytics.

When the user clicks on your campaign, the campaign parameters you chose are sent to Google Analytics.  You only need the first 3 but you can choose up to 5 parameters including campaign source, campaign medium, campaign name, campaign term and campaign content.

Free Email Marketing Tools

  1. MailChimp

MailChimp is one of the original free email marketing platforms. Free for up to 2,000 contacts, Mailchimp allows any small business owner to incorporate email marketing into their marketing mix. MailChimp’s tutorials will help you get started and learn the ins and outs of email marketing so that you can use it for sending confirmations, broadcasts, abandoned cart alerts or simply just touching base with your customers.

  1. Sender

Free for up to 2500 contacts, Sender is another great email marketing platform that earns high points among reviewers since it offers premium features no matter what your plan. Here’s a detailed comparison of MailChimp and Sender on Trust Radius. Sender has templates that can be customized easily using drag and drop editing, and you can choose between video, text and images. Another great feature is the ability to personalize your messages and newsletters for each customer or prospect.

Free Graphic Design Tools

  1. Canva

If you draw a blank when it comes to designing images for your marketing campaigns, Canva is a great resource. Using the free version, you get 5 GB of cloud storage, over 250,000(!) templates and thousands of free photos and graphics to use plus the ability to work with others in real time. Canva makes it easy to create cool, customized imagery for your social media campaigns, blog posts or email marketing campaigns.

  1. Pixabay

Looking for free images online? When you want stunning photos, illustrations, vectors, videos and even music tailored to your company’s message and clientele, Pixabay is an excellent resource. With well over a million images shared within this extremely talented community (you can share your photos and artwork too) it’s easy to find just what you’re looking for. Just enter your search terms then click the drop down to choose the type of media you’d like to see. You can also explore the blog, forum and artist bios, even the types of cameras used to take each shot if you’re interested in learning more about digital photography. Media is completely free, but you can always credit the artist or donate to the contributor via PayPal if you like.

  1. Aspect Ratio Calculator

Bookmark this tool for when you inevitably need to resize an image. Simpler than Photoshop, Aspect Ratio Calculator is a 100% free tool that will make sure your photos and videos are the right size for your site by keeping the aspect ratio at the right values.Just enter the original width and height and then enter one of the values in the next column. This is used, for example, when you want to reduce an image down to a specific size and want to keep the ratio intact. Say you’ve got an image that’s 4200 pixels by 1237pixels and you need to reduce it down to a width of 1200px. Enter the original width and height in the left hand column and then enter 1200 in the width in the second column and the proper ratio height will be displayed.

Free Project Management Tools

  1. Asana

Asana is used by over a million people worldwide as one of the most user-friendly online project management platforms. Ideal for working in teams, Asana makes it simple to delegate, organize, and scale up as your business grows. The basic plan is free and offers a whole host of features ideal for even larger teams, with 15-person collaboration, unlimited file storage, IOS and Android apps, and over 100 integrations with your preferred apps like Adobe Creative Cloud.

  1. Trello

A top competitor for Asana, Trello is free and simple, offering options for automation, 10 team boards, space for 10 MB files (no more rejected files) and unlimited personal boards and lists. Use lists, cards and boards to create visual organization. Trello is also compatible with Slack (the workplace chat app designed to replace overwrought inboxes) to bring both platforms together for complete workplace collaboration. Read more about Trello + Slack here. Also available for IOS and Android, Trello is ideal for companies of all sizes, from solopreneurs to corporations. Try Trello here.

8 Must Have Free Chrome Extensions for Marketers

  1. Last Pass

The “auto-pilot for all your passwords.” Guessing at your password, getting locked out, then going through the dance of having codes sent to your device, so you can go in and do a reset is a HUGE time waster and it’s frustrating. There are so many usernames, passwords, codes, PINS, membership numbers and more to remember these days, that we can’t possibly hope to keep them all in our own memory bank. That’s where Last Pass comes in. You create a master password for all your accounts, then Last pass stores your digital records, payment information, lets you send important information securely, and it even alerts you of any data breaches. Once your information is saved, it’s ready to go, all the time.

  1. Google Tag Assistant

Part of the long list of Google offerings, Tag Assistant monitors your tags like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Google Ads, so you know they’re working as they should. Tag Assistant will analyze any tags on the page and create a complete report detailing any errors or areas for improvement. Just install on Chrome and get started tracking tags right away.

  1. Facebook Pixel Helper

Facebook Pixel Helper is a troubleshooting tool that gives you a hand with your FB Pixel account. It will alert you to any failures or errors in real time, so you know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. For best results with this extension, ensure you’re running the latest version of Chrome.

  1. SEO Minion

SEO Minion is a great extension that runs in the background while doing some heavy lifting. SEO Minion is like a hidden SEO assistant. It highlights all the internal and external links on a webpage, checks for and reports on any broken links, lets you preview your site on Google search results and of course, analyzes your on-page SEO, so you can fix any issues right away.

  1. Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer lets you enter your target phrase in Google and instantly see keyword suggestions, search volume, visibility metrics, on page data, related searches, CPC for your main keyword, even word count for top ranking pages.

  1. Text Blaze 

Text Blaze helps you work smarter, not harder, by speeding up your typing on Chrome. All you need to do is save a snippet of text, give it a shortcut and then use that shortcut where you want the snippet to go. For instance, a thank you note at the bottom of an email could be given the shortcut /ty for thank you. You can also share the snippets with your colleagues to keep your company messages consistent. Text Blaze also works anywhere on Chrome, including Gmail, Salesforce and more.

  1. Grammarly

Now used by 30 million+ people, Grammarly is an AI-powered writing assistant. The free version of Grammarly is basically a grammar / spelling checker that works much better than the one that comes with Microsoft Word. With their paid plans, it will review your writing and make suggestions, even providing templates for clearer writing with a tone that suits whoever you’re writing to, whether it’s on social media or via email. For instance, if you’re writing out a list, Grammarly might suggest a template with bullet points to make it easier to read. Click the suggestion box and your list will be automatically updated to the bulleted format. Their free plan gives you access to their most useful features: spelling, grammar and punctuation tools.

  1. ColorZilla

Chock-full of “colorful goodies”, ColorZilla is designed to let users analyze the colour palette of a website. Ever wondering exactly what colours make up the Google logo? You could simply bring up the google logo on your computer screen and then choose the eyedropper tool to pick the colour you want and the tool will give you the HEX # of the colour. You could also choose to analyze an entire website’s colours with the click of a button. With over 5 million downloads, ColorZilla can provide next level expertise in colour creation and selection.

Questions about how to start or grow your digital marketing efforts? At IdeaZone, our team of pros have been building sites, developing marketing plans and creating eye-catching graphics for companies around the globe for over 20 years. Contact our Victoria, BC office today to discuss the right digital marketing solution for your business.

6 Ways Facebook Ads and Google Ads Combine to Create Unbeatable Campaigns

 

Many advertisers have a hard time choosing between Facebook Ads and Google Ads. There’s really no reason to choose though since Facebook and Google each have over 2 billion users and are the two strongest ad platforms today.

Google and Facebook make up the largest percentage in digital advertising spend with a combined 59% as of 2019—miles ahead of Amazon and Microsoft/LinkedIn. Google is an obvious choice. Google Ads (previously Google Adwords) have been around much longer than Facebook Ads, and “googling it” is so common, it’s a household term. Though newer, Facebook Ads is just as powerful. People spend an average of 5 years and 4 months of their lives on social media, making Facebook a perfect avenue for marketing.

So, Facebook is highly effective at gathering new leads and appealing to existing customers, while Google targets customers who are already actively looking for a product. Together, they work to fulfill the wish list of every advertiser – to tap into the emotional lives of customers while also having their ads show up for buyer intent keywords.

Facebook Ads

  • Facebook Ads have the ability to target using a variety of methods including age, gender, language, device, geographic location, interests, likes and behaviour.
  • There are a huge variety of ad types including image, video, image carousel and video poll ads which are designed to drive user engagement—just to name a few.
  • You can choose from 11 target objectives for your ad campaign in three categories: Awareness, Interest and Conversions. Other than the regular ‘ol link clicks or landing page views, objectives can also include getting customers to install apps and engage with your videos.
  • Since this is distraction marketing (i.e. you’re distracting someone from what they were initially doing), ads need to stand out and make the user want to click.
  • You can choose the type of device, placement and platform (e.g. Stories on both mobile and desktop, right-hand column or newsfeed)
  • Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can kill two birds with one stone and advertise on both these platforms within one campaign – and you can tailor the ads to fit the platform.
  • Since late 2020, Facebook no longer limits the amount of text in a Facebook ad. They used to have a Facebook 20% rule which only allowed for 20% of an ad to be taken up by text but they finally abolished that rule.

Google Ads

  • The Google Ads marketplace works like an auction, making it possible for the smallest of companies with a quality ad and decent bid to win the #1 (or #2 or #3) spot in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s a budget friendly way to advertise effectively within Google.
  • You can set a fixed budget to get started. There is no minimum budget but if you don’t bid high enough for your keywords (against others also bidding in the same auction for those keywords), your ads won’t show up.
  • Google Ad campaign types include displays, search, shopping, apps and video which can cast a wide net for new and existing customers.
  • Similar to Facebook and Instagram, since Google owns YouTube, you’re able to advertise on that platform directly through the Google Ads interface.
  • The most common campaigns are the ones where Google only charges you for each time someone clicks on your ad (known as cost per click or CPC for short). This means that you only pay for people who actually clicked on your ad and not for those who just saw the ad (i.e. ad impressions) but didn’t click.
  • Every keyword gets its own Quality Score. The Quality Score is made up of things like keyword relevance, bids, Click Thru Rate (CTR) and the quality and relevance of your landing page.
  • Google requires quality ads that lead to quality landing pages which add value to a user’s search. In short, if Google determines the ad experience to be poor, they will either not show your ads or charge you more for showing them.
  • Google Ads allow you to easily track conversions by either setting conversions up directly within the platform, importing them from Google Analytics or creating conversions within Google Tag Manager.

How Google Ads and FB Ads Work Together

  1. Advertising on multiple platforms increases reach (The rule of 7)

The rule of 7 is perhaps the oldest marketing concept. It means that a potential customer needs to be shown your marketing message multiple times (typically 7) before they will buy. Using Facebook and Google together is a great way to achieve this, especially when customers use multiple devices across multiple platforms and your ads are presented in many different formats.

  1. Google Ads are logical while Facebook Ads appeal to customer’s emotions

Imagery and videos on social media can hit customers right in the feels. They see a product they didn’t know they loved and needed, discover your brand, click over to your website….. and the rest is history. Meanwhile, Google search ads present them with exactly what they are looking for at the exact time they are looking for it. As they enter certain keywords, your ads are triggered and users click your ad in Google and land on your website, where your wonderful website copy is waiting to convert them into customers.

  1. Remarket to Potential Customers via Retargeting

Both platforms offer the ability to retarget users. That is to say that once a user visits your site, you can retarget or remarket to them by showing ads specifically to that audience. This gives you the ability to speak directly to your audience, knowing that they’ve already been on your site. For retargeting campaigns to be most effective, make it known through your ad copy that you know that they have been on your site by making mention of it.

This could be as casual as “Come back and finish shopping with us” or something a little more witty such as “You left your cart sitting right in the middle of the aisle! Don’t worry, we’ve got security watching it for you until you come back.”

Consider this: Wordstream found that advertising on Facebook led to a 34% increase in brand searches on Google.

Capture their attention via Facebook and close the sale via Google.

  1. Both platforms can reach extended audiences (Lookalike and Similar)

Using Lookalike Audiences (Facebook) and Similar Audiences (Google), advertisers can tap into even more potential customers based on shared characteristics of existing customers. Combining this data on both platforms can easily multiply the amount of targeted customers you can reach.

Using lookalike audiences inside Facebook is an excellent strategy which allows you to use Facebook’s algorithm to go out and find the right customers for you. Start by building an ad around your target market’s demographics and interests.  Then build up an audience of people who have engaged with your ad or page. From there, you can create a much larger Lookalike Audience to find more people with similar interests to those who engaged with your ad/page.

  1. Measure and optimize your Facebook and Google Ads Campaigns by Tracking Conversions

A conversion is any action that you’re looking for users to take after they click on your ads. Typical conversions include newsletter signups, contact form fill outs, messenger conversations or a sale.  If you’re not tracking conversions, it makes it very difficult to track the efficacy of the campaign. If you have a “get an estimate” form on your site and you’re driving traffic with the goal being that you want leads, it doesn’t tell the whole story if you can only tell how many people clicked on your ad. What you really want to be tracking in this case is how many of the people that clicked on your ad actually filled out the ‘get an estimate’ form on your site.

To track conversions with Facebook, you’ll need to install the Facebook Pixel on your site. The FB Pixel is simply a piece of code that you add to your site that allows Facebook to tell when someone has visited a certain page, filled out a form, added something to their cart or purchased a product.

With Google, there are multiple ways to track these conversions – but they all also need some type of code to be added to your site. This can be done directly through Google Ads, or it can be done with Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics and imported into Google Ads.

  1. Boost your Google Ads campaigns with Data from Facebook Campaigns

Google is great for detailed demographic information as well, but it just doesn’t get as granular as Facebook. Layering this information into your Google Ads campaign can really stretch your budget and increase reach. To do this, you first need to create specialized URLs using something called UTM parameters, which are basically just a snippet of code that you append to the target URL used in your ads.  The easiest way to create these UTM links is by using a UTM builder (aka campaign URL builder). This UTM tool lets you append information about the campaign to the URL. The final URL might look something like the example below where everything after the question mark are the UTM parameters:

https://www.example.com/page?utm_content=buffercf3b2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Once you have your new trackable URL and you start sending traffic there (it ends up being the URL you add to your FB ad campaigns), you’ll start to see this information show up in Google Analytics.

From there, you can build audiences using this data inside the Google Analytics’ Audience Builder.  To do this, go to Admin and then under the Property View, click on Audience Definitions and then Audiences to create your audience.

Google Analytics Audience Builder

And then import the audience into Google Ads to start using it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to have at least 1000 people in your audience before you can start to target them with Google Search Ads.

We are digital marketing experts with over two decades of experience. Not sure how to best narrow down your customer demographic? Wondering which ad platform and type would be the most effective for your product or service? We continually test and customize our clients’ ad campaigns for the best possible results. Contact IdeaZone today to get started getting more customers.

importance of website security

The Importance of Website Security

Not having a secured website is like leaving your cash register and front doors wide open. With so much of our information online and ecommerce as a huge source of revenue for many businesses, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself, your site and your customers.importance of website security

Beyond the security risk, if your website and product listings don’t appear trustworthy, your site is likely to repel customers.

At IdeaZone, our team of digital marketing and web development experts will build a secure website for you. Our monthly maintenance packages include security and performance scans as well as regular updates. And if the unthinkable ever happens, we include free site restoration if your site is hacked.

Top Reasons to Make Sure Your Site Is Secure

Cybersecurity attacks put personal information at risk

Credit card information, social insurance numbers, theft of intellectual property, and hacked systems/data all pose a very real risk to your business and those who do business with you. In 2017, the Equifax breach was perhaps one of the most famous cybersecurity breaches in Canadian history, which “exposed the personal data of more than 143 million customers.”

HTTPS sites rank higher

(Source- Google Webmaster Central Blog) Google has used HTTPS since 2014 to determine which sites rank better. Sites without SSL certificates are hard-pressed to get preferential treatment from Google.

Phishing attacks damage the global economy

(Source- Cybersecurity Ventures) Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by 2021, global cybercrime will cost $6 trillion annually. This finding is backed up by media, industry experts and senior government officials, who have all found that the rate of cybercrime and online ransoms have been increasing.

Protecting Your Site

Whether you DIY or hire a team of web security experts like IdeaZone, the following steps will help to defend your website and protect against online threats.

Have a secure connection encrypted by HTTPS

If you’re not sure what this is, check out our full post here. HTTP sites that haven’t been converted to HTTPS are flagged as not secure. An unsecured site is a huge red flag to consumers, so definitely take the time to get set up with an HTTPS connection.

You can do this by purchasing an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL is basically proof that you are who you say you are, and your site is safe. This security upgrade not only protects your site, it protects your visitors’ information. Read more about SSL here.

Use legitimate, updated plugins

It’s important to make sure that any plugins you’re using are active and up to date (included in our monthly maintenance package). A neglected plugin or one from an iffy source can lead to incompatibility with themes and many other aspects of your site. We build sites using WordPress because it updates often for an extra layer of protection.

Look at your payment program

When your customers are plugging in sensitive contact and payment information, you want to make sure that it is as secure as possible. Invest in safe online payment methods like VeriSign. Take your time to choose a reputable and ironclad payment program.

According to TechRadar.com, PayPal leads the pack, mainly since it’s a household name and many users will already have accounts. However, PayPal isn’t the only player, so you might want to ask other business owners, check online reviews and shop around before you commit to an online payment program.

Create security alerts that will notify you in real-time

A foreign IP, multiple failed login attempts, invalid phone numbers, or many identical orders being placed at the same time are all suspicious activities. Being alerted to these types of activities happening in real time will let you—and the staff you’ve put in charge of security—stop fraud immediately.

Add a firewall to your domain

An Endpoint Web Application Firewall (WAF) acts as an internal security guard for your site. Web firewall apps are easy to get and are made to block potential hackers right away. Virtual patching is also a simple way to block all the different aspects of your site, from third party coding to plugins and hosting platforms.

Have an ironclad password and solid login

Avoid using important dates, names of family members, or anything that can be easily solved. Number sequences 1,2,3, your anniversary, etc.… are all so easily guessed by even the most inexperienced hackers and bots.

Instead, use a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols, upper and lower case. When you change it, change it completely. If you’re the type to forget your passwords, a notepad or specialized password keeper book will really help. Lock it in a safe and record new passwords or logins as you create them. Change the password every quarter (or more often) setting a reminder for yourself so you don’t forget.

Choose specific staff for admin roles

The greatest threats to a company’s website security actually comes from inside the organization itself, so when you’re looking at security plugins and updates, also consider who can access the inner workings of the site and any potentially sensitive information.

Prevent this information from reaching too many people by appointing a few staff members as website admins. Also, block repeated login attempts to add an extra layer of security and prevented anyone not authorized from accessing the system.

 

Digital marketing and security go hand in hand to build effective, secure websites. In today’s increasingly online world, it’s extremely important to ensure that yours and your clients’ valuable information are protected. Our expert team will work with you to build your website, content and company image in the most secure way possible. Based in Victoria, BC, we provide digital marketing, branding and web design for companies worldwide. Contact us today to get started.

New Facebook Update 2020 dubbed “The New Facebook”

Have you noticed that Facebook is looking different these days? Following announcements in late 2019, Mark Zuckerberg and his team have slowly and painstakingly rolled out FB5 (Facebook 2020) for mobile and desktop— all in the name of creating a better, faster user experience.

The updates have culminated in what’s being called “the new Facebook.” Designed to bring the mobile and desktop apps closer together in terms of style, the update was partially created to make it easier to switch between PC and smartphone/tablet with a similar layout and design scheme on both.New FB 2020 Page Look

As usual, the change has sparked plenty of outcry among Facebookers who really just want things left the way they were. Minus overly large fonts and graphics (this unfortunately includes ads) the new Facebook does seem to have its merits.

Among the changes seen are a new focus on Groups and Events, increased privacy, an uncluttered layout and moving frequently used tabs to key spaces on the top toolbar—all changes which make Facebook much more user-friendly.

Customizable Call to Action Button

All pages now have a customizable call to action button. To customize it, you just need to hover over the blue CTA button and click “Edit Button” to change the text and add a website or app URL. There are also options like “send email”, “learn more”, “contact us” and more. There are also many others specific to an e-commerce store or an app.

More Posting Options

Users are now given more options to post. Right under the cover photo, you can choose to create a new post using live video, a photo or video, text, or a feeling/emoticon to update your status using the Create button. There’s also an option to create a video chat room and invite your favourite friends, all of whom are carefully organized under your status bar based on who you chat to most.

Updated Layout

With more white space, larger fonts and an uncluttered layout, it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for.

The profile and cover photo formatting has also changed. The cover photo format has been adjusted from 851 px by 315 px to 820 px by 360 px. You can also set your cover photo as a video or as a slideshow. Take a few minutes to ensure that your photos are formatted properly and appearing as you’d like and use a photo resizing tool like https://resizeimage.net/

The new Facebook is designed to feel sleek, in contrast to the old version which was starting to feel cluttered and disorganized as more features were added.

Another great update which has snuck in over time is the ability to easily see what your profile looks like to the general Facebook public. Just click the eye icon in the top toolbar under your cover photo and select “view as”. You can also quickly search for specific terms or posts/media that FB New Update - view as featureyou’ve posted in the past, which is perfect for those times when you’re looking for a specific photo or video among your years’ worth of albums and posts.

Groups and Events Tabs Given Priority

Research found that Facebook users most often gravitate towards Groups, Games and Video so the interface update focused heavily on these areas. They’ve been moved front and center from the left toolbar to the top toolbar, along with Marketplace, Pages and Home. Clicking on Groups now brings you to your own personalized feed packed with updates from your groups. You’re also provided with suggestions for other groups based on ones you’re already a member of. Clicking on Watch brings up an entire newsfeed of videos FB has selected for you.

It’s easier than ever to find Events as well. Upcoming classes, concerts, adventures and anything else coming up next is displayed within the Events tab. These are all curated with your current groups, likes, and interests to make it easy to weed out anything that’s not of interest.

You can browse events that are happening today, tomorrow, this week, this weekend and next week, select Interested to save the event to your calendar or click the arrow to share the event as a personal post,  send in messenger, or share to a page. One caveat—clicking “Interested” on an event notifies others that you’re going and prompts them to join the event as well. Sharing the event to your page to notify your buddies about it and gauge interest is a much less confusing way to spread the word.

Increased Privacy

Importantly, the new update was also meant to build a privacy-focused platform to help repair Facebook’s poor security reputation. In a keynote speech featuring founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Social Media guru emphasized the importance of privacy, saying, “we’re taking a more proactive role in making sure that all of our partners and developers use this service for good.” The new Facebook has been created around these six principles of privacy for all Facebook users:

  1.     Private interactions
  2.     Encryption
  3.     Reduced Permanence
  4.     Safety
  5.     Interoperability
  6.     Secure data storage

A One Size Fits All Messenger

Part of the promise for much-improved privacy are the updates to the Messenger app. It will now be encrypted end to end by default, be much faster and will use less storage. Users will also be able to watch videos together, share memories, and have their closest contacts all organized within the app for easy connection—whether that’s by phone call or instant message. Most notably, Messenger will be compatible with users on Instagram and WhatsApp for seamless communication across multiple platforms.

 

Changes across the board. Whether you love or hate the updates, the new Facebook is here to stay and will become permanent starting this month (Sept 2020).

 

It can be difficult to keep up with constant change on social media and beyond. When you have questions about how to boost your online presence, IdeaZone can help. Our team has decades of valuable experience in branding and print design, web design and digital marketing. Call or email us today to get started on your customized marketing plan.

internal linking for SEO

Follow These Rules to Get the Most SEO Benefit from Internal Links

Internal linking is the SEO practice of linking from one page on a domain to another page on that same domain. Internal links add connections between the content and various pages on your website. Creating these hyperlinks builds up organic search rankings and builds trust for your website. For instance, if you were writing a blog about your product, you could link to more information on that topic elsewhere on your site, for example, the product page itself. In its simplest form, internal linking could be a link to your contact page, a link to a previous blog post, a product page or anything else that’s relevant to that page’s content.

Benefits of Internal Linking

  • Builds credibility for your site and your site’s SEO by creating a hierarchy of information
  • Makes it easier for visitors to find the exact information they’re looking for
  • Makes it easier for search engine crawlers to navigate the site
  • Creates and spreads link equity (links passing value and authority from one to the next)
  • Creates an internal mapping structure by connecting to all pages, rather than just the Home or Contact

Breakdown of a Hyperlink

anchor text example hyperlink

The image above shows what a hyperlink looks like when looking at the source code of your site.  On the front end of the website, the user would only see the anchor text, which is the actual text that gets linked to the other page. In this case, the anchor text is “create content that matters”.  The blue portion is the URL the user would get directed to once they click on the link.

What Does Internal Linking Look Like?

In most blog posts, you’ll see an outro paragraph with an internal link to contact the company in question. It probably looks something like the outro below from our last post about Online Review Management… See what we did there?

Located in beautiful Victoria, BC, we help clients all over the world with powerful online marketing plans, web design and brandingContact our team and ask about our review management system and how to get more 5 star reviews.

You’ll notice the very first link leads to the info page about our digital marketing. The anchor texts (online marketing plans, web design and branding) fit easily into the sentence.

Each keyword in the anchor text leads to the corresponding page and this creates a network of links that eventually connects the entire website.

Next in the body of text is “Contact our team”. This is a straightforward bit of anchor text meant to lead site visitors directly to our contact page for the next step.

How to Get the Most from Internal Linksinternal linking for SEO

Create Lots of Content

The main goal for an effective SEO strategy is always to create plenty of good quality content including on product pages, category pages, blog posts, updates etc.  Whatever content you add to your site, make sure it provides a ton of value. The more content you have, the more content you have to link to and before you know it, your site will have layers of excellent content that will take your site and your brand to the next SEO level.

Use Anchor Text

As mentioned above, anchor text is more than just saying “click here to get to x,y,z”.

Just saying “click here” can get repetitive for readers and they might actively choose not to click the link.  Instead, you can mix it up a bit and just use “here” as the anchor text.

Ie: For more information about our team, click here.

Or change it up a bit with: For more information check out this post.

Other ways to use anchor text

Branding

Using your brand name as anchor text creates a more natural link profile throughout the site

Plain URLS

Plain or naked URLS (i.e. www.ideazone.ca) can be just as effective as a cleverly written anchor text because they’re honest. Branding comes into play here.

Titles

Using the title of the linked material as anchor text is an effective way to create a trustworthy link network.

In the end, anchor text should naturally follow the tone of the sentence and build onto the rest of the content.

Try these steps for creating anchor text

  • Write your sentence
  • Choose where you want the internal link to point to
  • Choose which part of the sentence makes the most sense for the anchor text
  • Link it and keep going to the next block of text

Make Sure you Deep Link

Deep linking is when you link to a “deeper” page on your site – a page other than the standard homepage and contact page (which is called “shallow linking”). The more internal pages you link to, the more robust your site’s link hierarchy becomes. This will make it easier for visitors to find the information they need and even the information they didn’t know they needed.

Let’s say you design and sell cell phone cases, and you’ve recently branched into cases for tablets. Your site visitor came looking for phone cases but while skimming your post, they saw anchor text with an internal link to the page showcasing your new line of tablet cases. They would be able to click the link and move directly to that page and potentially buy a new phone case and a new tablet case.

Use Natural and Relevant Links

Don’t link just because you need to, link because you want to direct your site visitors right to the information they’re after.

Keep your internal linking natural and your posts and pages will read naturally. If there doesn’t seem to be a natural page to link to, that’s okay. Pretend you’re building up a post about phone cases. You want to mention that you’re going to be introducing ultra-durable wallets made of the same materials, but the page on wallets doesn’t exist yet. In that case, you’re not really going to be able to create an internal link, and you don’t want to link to something else that you’re not even discussing. That could lead your customer down a rabbit hole they don’t want to be in and they might ultimately leave your site.

Don’t Overuse Internal Links

Building on the last point about using natural and relevant links:

Anchor text and links that completely take over a body of text become overwhelming, confusing and spammy. Added in the right spots and in the right circumstances, your internal links will help your customers to skim and scan your content with ease. You never want your site visitors or the search engine crawlers to view your content as spammy. It will devalue your site, hurt your SEO rankings, reduce click through rates (CTR) and decrease your website’s authority. Instead, use internal linking only when it makes sense and when it fits naturally.

Internal linking is one of those easy SEO wins….that not many people implement. Start taking advantage of the SEO benefit you get from internal linking by going back and adding them, where they make sense, to your existing pages.  With a little bit of practice, it will become second nature as you build up the content of your site. At IdeaZone, we know that your website is the face your company presents to the world, which is why it’s so important that it’s done right. We have decades of experience in branding and print design, web design and digital marketing. Contact us today to get started on a custom marketing solution.

on page seo for increased rankings

On Page Optimization Best Practices

Part of the powerful trifecta of SEO skills (technical, on page and off page,) on page SEO can easily be the one factor that gets your pages ranked in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages). On page SEO is essentially the optimization of your web pages’ content – for both bots (spiders) and humans – in an effort to increase rankings. It’s called on-page because the majority of the optimization changes you make can be seen right on the page.

With on-page SEO, your goal is to create content around a set of related keywords and then apply the optimization tactics below so that the page has the best chance possible of ranking for said keywords. In comparison, technical and off-page SEO work behind the scenes and generally isn’t visible to readers.

With over 20 years of experience creating strategic SEO and digital marketing solutions, we have a few pieces of advice we’d like to share to help you on your way to creating or redesigning your site’s content.

Awesome Content Comes Firstwriting SEO optimized content

Create Valuable, Relevant Content

As with any SEO practice, it’s important to create content that matters. With on page SEO, you need to create content that answers specific questions. To know what questions your customers are asking, conduct keyword research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google’s People Also Ask section of the search results as well as a free tool called Answer the Public. Using these tools, you can suss out what keywords have the most search volume, how your competitors are ranking for these keywords as well as getting some insight as to how competitive the keywords might be to rank for. You can also uncover other keywords and phrases that you can incorporate into your content to help boost your site’s visibility.

Use the Right Keywords in the Right Places

Use your main keyword in the first 100 or so words of your page. It’s a classic SEO tactic for a reason. It works because Google’s crawlers still put value on keywords that are closer to the beginning of the content.

Well-written content will allow keywords to fall in naturally throughout the text. In contrast, cramming in as many keywords as you can will have search engines and visitors eyeing your site suspiciously. If your text is littered with keywords, they probably won’t click through from the search engines or read what’s on your site if they do.  Adding many keywords in an attempt to game the system and get ranked without doing the necessary work, is called “keyword stuffing”.

An example of keyword stuffing:

Here at Brewster’s Coffee Co, we have the best coffee available. If you like really good coffee, you’ll love our delicious coffee. Stop by and try our newest blends of premium coffee and pick up a one-pound bag of savoury coffee to take home and enjoy.

This kind of text reads suspiciously, irritates visitors and will get you penalized by the search engines. It’s obvious that you sell coffee, so it’s not necessary to repeat that one keyword so often. Instead, its best to play around with terms related to coffee like java, espresso, mug, mocha etc and other words that your customers associate with their cup of coffee.

Keep Content Updated

Once created, content needs to be kept fresh and relatable. Evergreen content is content that’s typically timeless, but even that might need a tweak now and then. On the flip side, a post from 2016 about top shoe trends will need a total overhaul, since so much will have changed in the footwear world in that time. Set aside a few hours every week to go through and refresh wherever it’s needed.

Organize Every Layer of Your Site

Site Structure

What you name your pages and how they’re organized is an important element of on-page SEO. Like a roadmap shows how to get to your destination, the mapping of your site should lay out where everything is located. Called site structure, this will not only make it easier for readers to find and access pages but it will also make your site more crawlable for the bots.

Add Keyword Optimized Page Titles & Descriptionsoptimize page title and description

Page titles and meta descriptions are the text that appears for each page listed in the search engine results. Not only are they a factor in whether your page will catch the eye of potential visitors and customers, but they also play a role in the optimization process. Meta descriptions should be between 160 and 220 (max) characters. Most smartphones and tablets cut meta descriptions to 120 characters. This makes 120 a good number to aim for, since a large majority of customers now browse online using mobile devices.

In the meta description, include your keyword phrase or single keyword in a complete sentence. Try to use text only, since alphanumeric characters ($, %, &, +) don’t always translate well.

Page titles should be a maximum of 60 characters and should also contain your page’s main keyword.

Add Keyword Optimized Headings

Headings act as signage, directing reader’s eyes down the page and making your content easy to navigate. The difference between headings and page titles is that page titles can’t be seen on the page (they are only seen in the search results) while headings can.

On each page, the headings should include target keywords. Your page’s main heading should be an H1 heading while the lesser headings should be H2, H3, H4 etc. Try to use these headings in order and not, for example, use an H1 heading three quarters the way down the page.

Your page’s main heading (H1) should closely resemble your page’s title. This helps with continuity when someone clicks your page in the search results. Headings are ranked in order of descending importance. H1 is the most important, then H2 and H3. Unless your content is very lengthy and detailed, you likely won’t need to go any further than H3 or H4.

Use Formatting

Formatting will go a long way in getting visitors to read your carefully created content. Try to add bullets and numbers where applicable, break up the content with headings, add bold and italics to help separate and emphasize key points and allow readers to skim and scan the page. Formatting is more for your human readers but it also plays a role for the spiders (bots).

Create Effective URLs

Use https in your domain name. Since July 2018, http sites show as “not secure” on most browsers which sends red flags to site visitors. To switch to https, you just need to add an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate which will encrypt the data on your site, keeping it private. To add SSL certification, contact your hosting provider. Generally, SSL certificates cost $0 to $99 per year. If this is something that you’re not comfortable installing yourself, you can always get in touch with us and we can help you out.

Other SEO Optimization Tips for URLs

  • If local, use geographic mentions to make it clear where you’re located
  • Avoid case sensitive characters for ease of use
  • Include the page subject in the URL
  • Avoid using dates in your URLs
  • Separate words using hyphens to make it even clearer
  • Keep the URL short and descriptive

Images and Multimedia

Use Quality Images and Video

SEO best practices often focus so heavily on text that it can be easy to forget about the visuals, which encourages readers to click around and stay on your site.

Visitors will be overwhelmed by a wall of text, so you’ll need to carefully consider where and when to place images and videos for the most impact.

The first thing to think of when optimizing your images for SEO is the filename. You’ll want to have a keyword optimized image filename before you upload the image to your site. Eg. woman-with-main-keyword.jpg

How to choose an image format

  • Use a GIF if your image is animated
  • Use JPEG for basic resolution images. Test out different settings to find the compression setting that works best for your chosen image
  • To preserve a high-resolution image, or if a transparent background is needed, use PNG

Image Sizeon page seo for increased rankings

You’ll want to remember to keep your images around the 100kb size so that they’re not bogging down the speed of your site.

Use Alternate (ALT) Text for Images

Known as image alt-text, this describes the images on your site to the search engines as well as visually impaired people (who use readers that read out the alt text). Not only is image optimization part of on-page SEO, it can also be a good alternate source of traffic. Often, when someone is searching for a specific product, they’ll click on the “image results” tab in Google or another search engine to see what images the search engine has turned up. Because images are so important for getting the attention of visitors, you should audit your site to ensure all the photos and product images are accurately described in the ALT text.

Example of a bad Alt-text:

<img src= “coffeecup.gif” alt= “coffee cup, cup of coffee, mug of coffee”>

Example of a good Alt-text:

<img src= “coffeecup.gif” alt= “Steaming hot Arabica coffee in red mug”>

Adding keyword optimized ALT text is a bit of a science as you want to describe the image as best you can while also including your page’s relevant keywords.

 

Internal Linking

Internal linking is simply linking from one page on your domain to another page. It’s useful for visitors so they can get additional information and it also gives the linked page a bit of an SEO bump as it tells the search engines that the page is important (hence why you’re linking to it). Internal links are an often overlooked on-page SEO strategy. For the best example of great internal linking practices, visit Wikipedia.

Include a Call to Action

Lastly, each page should also include a call to action of some sort (contact us, find out more, view the product, sign up for a newsletter etc) to help guide your site visitors to take the action you’d like them to.  This could be a phone call, sending an email, completing their purchase, or whatever your end goal is. In the following paragraph, you can see a call to action in the 2nd sentence.

 

Creating and maintaining an effective on page SEO strategy does take considerable time and effort. If you’d like assistance with improving the visibility and ranking of your website, IdeaZone can help. Located in Victoria, BC, we help website owners the world over create the highest ranking, most effective sites possible. Whether your goal is to boost sales, double your readership or do a complete overhaul of existing pages and content, our team of trusted SEO experts will create an effective and one of a kind campaign tailored specifically for your business.

online review management - client success example

The Importance of a Good Review Solicitation & Management Strategy

What are Online Reviews?

Online reviews are essentially the updated version of word of mouth marketing. Online reviews are star ratings and/or written notes that give potential clients a first-hand look at feedback from customers who sought out the same service or product.how to get a 5 star rating

97% of online shoppers read online reviews and many will only make a move if the product has earned at least four out of five stars. When it comes to star ratings, the number of reviews and the subtle prompt to follow your brand can mean the difference between window shoppers and loyal customers.

But isn’t it only unhappy customers who leave reviews? Not at all. Think back to a time that you received truly awesome service. The customer service, the product and / or the delivery speed blew you away, prompting you to want to leave a glowing review for that business. Even if you didn’t leave a review, you likely told family and friends about the brand, product or service. After that, they probably told someone else who then googled the product, read the reviews and then decided to purchase.

Because consumers feel they can trust the word of others (known as social proof), they feel comfortable spending their hard-earned dollars on businesses with reviews. With so many people relying on reviews to research products and services, an online review acquisition and management strategy is therefore essential for building and marketing a positive online reputation.

The Importance of Online Reviews

  1. Contributes to Increased Revenue

    Online reviews are the bridge between you and your customers. When used correctly, reviews can increase overall revenue as more new customers are attracted to your product or service. Studies show that revenue increases as star ratings increase. According to Invespcro.com, a one-star increase on a popular review site like Yelp can yield a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. Not only that, but they will spend more money too—up to 31% more. Loyalty increases, revenues increase, and those satisfied customers may, in turn, become positive reviewers themselves.

  2. Boost SEO Rankings

    Online reviews boost SEO rankings, improving the visibility of your site and brand. The more positive review content linked to your business, the more highly ranked your site will become and the more recognition your brand will receive. As positive reviews grow and your business builds rock solid credibility, your site and your Google My Business page will also show up in more organic search results.

  3. Creates a Valuable Forum

    Online reviews build up a valuable forum between you and your clients. With review management, you can address positive reviews by thanking the customer and quickly remedy negative reviews by responding to the concern. This puts a face to your brand, making you and your business that much more real. No one likes getting negative reviews, but they do happen and they can be useful for identifying areas that need to be acknowledged and fixed.

  4. Gather Product Research Information

    Online reviews are also ideal for gathering product research information that can be used to ensure total success with the next product launch. Product feedback via reviews provides solid information about how the product is being received by the consumer and what, if any, changes need to be made going forward.

Why Businesses Don’t Have More Reviews

There are several reasons why businesses don’t have (m)any reviews:

  • They don’t ask for reviews
  • They are only using one method to try to get reviews from their customers
  • They don’t have any tools to help automate the review acquisition process
  • They are intimidated by the process of managing and responding to reviews
  • Customers are unable to easily leave reviews

All of the above issues can be easily remedied using a great review acquisition system and a solid review marketing strategy.

Using Review Acquisition and Management Tools

Review acquisition and management tools are designed to remove the guesswork and time spent requesting and reminding consumers to leave a review.  And once the reviews come in, many of these tools also have the ability to market your positive reviews online through social media platforms as well as on your site. Review marketing tools are essential for shaping the image that your brand projects by taking positive customer feedback and expanding it to touch on every facet of your marketing plan.

Key features of a great review acquisition and management service:

  • Review Acquisition – using widgets and landing pages as well as email and text review requests, your company can become visible on trusted sites like Google and Facebook as well as industry relevant directories
  • Review Monitoring – reviews are monitored and can be responded to simply and quickly, with regular notifications to your team’s inbox.
  • Review Marketing – reviews are streamed on social media and featured on your website for the greatest visibility.
  • Review Reporting– Reporting allows you to see how much your acquisition and management campaigns are benefitting your brand.

online review ratings

Creating a Review Management System

Properly managing and marketing customer reviews is an easy way to boost your company’s visibility, increase brand awareness and get new customers at the same time. You’ll also get a clear picture on where reviews are coming from, what other trusted review sites could be added to the campaign and how to stay steps ahead of the competition. With automated reports, targeted email drip campaigns and notifications for new reviews found online, your review management campaign keeps you in control. With a review management system, you will gain, manage and market reviews, all in one place.

 

Marketing Your Reviews to the Worldideazone reviews

Where to Market Reviews:

  • On highly visible and high traffic pages like your home page and product pages. Including reviews on highly visible pages makes it easy to showcase shiny happy reviews from satisfied customers.
  • On Social Media Channels – consumers research products and services on social media. Including reviews on social media increases the likelihood of followers and also boosts engagement.
  • In Email Drip Campaigns – email marketing is another highly effective marketing strategy and one of the best avenues for ROI, since every dollar spent means $44 earned. Also, customer feedback that is clearly visible in an email encourages recipients to visit and explore your site.

Using client reviews for marketing is a powerful way to get the word out about your business. Using a review management campaign, you can resolve any issues as they pop up, thank happy customers, and leverage reviews as part of your overall marketing strategy. Boost your brand recognition even further while letting your customer’s words do the work for you.

How IdeaZone can help

Whether you’re starting out with one review or have a collection of reviews circulating around the web that you’ve been struggling to wrangle, the online marketing experts at IdeaZone will make the most of the limitless potential of your online reviews. By creating a custom campaign designed to acquire, organize, report and market customer feedback, you’ll be able to easily manage and control your brand’s reputation. Using tried and true review acquisition, management and marketing methods, trust us to take the guesswork out of the who, what, when, where and why of making your customer’s reviews work for you.

 

Review Management Client Successes

For a company who offers online training – from 2 to 49 online reviews in 4 months.

For a private school – from 1 to 27 reviews in 4 months.

 

For a new restaurant – from 0 to 43 reviews in 3 months.

online review management - client success example

Located in beautiful Victoria, BC, we help clients all over the world with powerful online marketing plans, web design and branding. Contact our team and ask about our review management system and how to get more 5 star reviews.

covid 19 back to business checklist
  • Create a 6 Month Mini Business Plan – who knows how long we’ll be dealing with covid and it’s effects so be proactive and create a 6 month plan, laying out things like cash reserves, projected income and expenses, strategies to undertake, staff to hire back and what that looks like, safety measures etc.
    Figure out what your company’s new normal will look like and try to plan as much as possible for the immediate future. This doesn’t have to be a formal business plan, just get your thoughts on paper so that you have some idea of where you’re heading and what you need to do.
  • Make the Shift Online – whether your business can go fully online or not, make sure you explore all the ways your company could reach customers online. Get innovative with tools like Zoom and Skype and figure out how to serve customers in their homes. This could very well turn into an additional revenue stream beyond covid.
    Think beyond just selling products online. Can people order online and get it delivered? What about telephone ordering? What about delivery options? Or curbside delivery if that works for your business? Or take-out or pick-up options? What about offering a membership service where you send your customers something every month? Can you put on a webinar where you showcase how to use one of your products and then offer a discount for anyone on the webinar who buys?
  • Network…..Virtually – until business gets back to pre-covid levels, you might have to do some things that you never liked doing before or have simply not tried. Networking might be one of those things. If you’ve never liked going to networking events, mingling and talking business with people, good. Because you won’t be going to these events in person, the post-covid way is to attend virtually (just remember to wear pants).
  • Website Popup – add a popup to your site to let people know your business’ covid hours and / or precautions you’re taking. Make sure to keep it updated with any new information including when you’re back to normal business hours. For WordPress sites, try the free WP Popup or Popup Maker plugin for this.
  • Update, Optimize & Post to your GMB page – Google has added a special covid-19 post type so that you can keep your customers updated via your company’s Google My Business page. As with the popup on your site, you should use it to keep everyone up to date throughout this pandemic.
    This is also the time to make sure that your GMB page is fully optimized. This includes filling out all of the available fields and adding video and images (geo-tagged if possible) as well as listing your products and / or services.
  • Check your Online Presence – This is a great exercise if you’ve never done it for your company before. Google your company name and go through all the listings, making sure that everything is up to date, all the directories have the correct information and there’s nothing popping up in the first 3-5 pages that you wouldn’t want others to see.
    Try to look at the listings through your customers’ eyes. Click on every listing that shows your company name and analyze the content. Does something need changing? Should you add images? Make note of any issues (such as incorrect info, missing or no reviews etc) and make sure to go back and fix them.
  • Reach out for Reviews – everyone wants to help local businesses through this and one way they can do that is by leaving great online reviews for your company. Reach out to past customers asking them to leave a review on popular platforms such as your Google My Business page, Facebook and Better Business Bureau. 
    If you don’t have any type of review acquisition process in place, you can do it the old fashioned way and just send out requests for a Google review via your Google My Business page link (get the link inside your GMB page). The review link looks like this: https://g.page/IdeaZone/review?rc

 

(Feel free to write us a review!)

 

  • Repurpose Content – think about all the areas where you have created content before. Presentations, meeting notes, white papers, speech notes, old blog content, site pages, PDFs etc. What you’re trying to do here is come up with a list of content assets that you can repurpose and use for new blog and social media posts.
    If your company has been posting regular blog posts pre-covid, reuse those old posts by posting them to your social media platforms. Simply write a synopsis of the blog post and add the link to read more. Engage with people who interact with your posts!
    To save time, schedule social media posts by using a service such as Hootsuite, Publer or Buffer. Don’t forget to add your Google My Business page to the list of social platforms you post to. An example here would be to repost old blog posts on FB and GMB or break up a top 10 list and post one item per day. Or take that presentation you gave and turn it into a value-packed blog post or lead magnet. Creating a content calendar might help here (you can use Google Calendar for this or download a template from the net).
  • Start / Get Better at Email Marketing – email marketing has always been a great way to reach out to your customers and prospects. It’s also a good way to get people to return to your website time and time again. If you haven’t started an email list, start one. You can use a free autoresponder such as Mailchimp.
    If you already have an email list, you’re likely not using it to it’s full potential. Use this time to write out evergreen content that you can send out week after week or month after month once new prospects / customers are added to your list.
  • Engage with your Customers – put more of your company’s focus on engagement. Post-covid is all about the consumer. Get to know them, answer their questions and / or concerns, help them out…and do it on the platforms that they’re comfortable on, whether that’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or via email or blog comments.
  • Gift Certificates / Donations / Pre-Purchases – people want to buy locally and support their community so make it easy for them to do so. Do you have a simple way that customers can purchase gift certificates and make donations via your website? Note that your company’s Google My Business page has a new feature where you can post links to where customers can purchase gift certificates or make a donation.
    What about setting up a pre-purchase program where you give a discount for people to purchase something from your store once it’s ready or whenever you re-open?
  • Update your Refund Policy – if covid has changed the way your company does business, maybe it’s also affected your refund policy. If this is the case, make sure that it is clearly stated on your site and in your store. This is not the time to make enemies.
  • Charging a Covid Fee – if your business is going to start charging a covid fee to help cover the extra expenses associated with cleaning and sanitizing, make sure you have a sign posted somewhere (and on your site) that explains the rationale behind it, what it’s covering etc. While some customers won’t blink an eye, others will…unless you explain why you’re charging them more

The last point to make here is that you’ll need to be patient. Social distancing and a client base that will be overly cautious will mean a slow restart. This will not be business as usual for some time.

In addition to the above points, make sure you review the WorkSafe BC Covid-19 Safety Plan Checklist

If you’d like to download a printable version of the checklist, fill in the form below and we’ll send you the PDF.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

If you found our covid 19 checklist useful, please show some love and share it on your favourite social platform below

(Don’t worry, people will love you for it!!)

Marketing Your Business Through the Effects of Coronavirus

Marketing Your Business Through the Effects of Coronavirus

These are some crazy times we’re going through right now. “Unprecedented” is what we’re hearing in the news.

In these unprecedented times, everyone should be thinking about their fellow countrymen as much as they are thinking about their own health, safety and livelihood.

Business owners, hear this: “This is the time to provide as much (no-selling) value as you can to your fellow (wo)man.”

Provide value, assistance, knowledge and / or supplies. Whatever your company does, figure out how you can continue to provide value and / or your services to a population in isolation. Don’t think about “closing” or making a sale, think about what you can do to help others.

14 Business Activities to Help you Survive the Crisis

  1. Posting on Social Media – this is the top of the list because that’s where everyone is going to be – on their computers, endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. Be real with your customers. If they don’t know the face behind the brand / company, introduce yourself. Connect with your customers by answering questions in groups where your target market hangs out. Send friend requests to people you engage with to continue the conversation and continue providing value by answering any additional questions they may have. Tell people how you’re personally dealing with this lockdown. Start an Ask Me Anything post and encourage your clients to reach out with any questions they have.
  2. Use Facebook and Google Ads – since everyone is stuck at their computer, you can increase the eyeballs to your posts by implementing a Facebook ad campaign. For Google, take a look at using Gmail ads that get delivered directly into your prospects gmail account. Careful about hard-selling here. The goal is not necessarily to get clients but to keep your company top of mind by providing as much value as you can. These avenues will work well to announce when you’re re-opening.
  3. Take Pictures / Video of your Products / Shop – if your store or business is closed, look for things that you can do that you’re usually unable to or don’t have time to do. Take pictures of your store, inside and out, and then of your products. Do a video walk-thru of your store. Your goal here is to get as much content as you can for your online properties. Post images / video on your blog, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest and on your Google My Business page.
  4. Write Blog Posts – content is the one thing that every business owner needs to be putting online but that no business owner has time to do. Now you can. Not a writer? No worries, write what you can and then get someone to edit it. It’s the knowledge that’s in your head that’s important.
  5. Get More Reviews – one of the biggest challenges business owners have is trying to get their customers to leave reviews for their business. Reasons for this are many but the top two reasons are that your customers are busy and that the process to leave a review is not always that simple. Since many people will be at home during this crisis, it’s a good time to reach out to them to ask for a review. You can explain how important reviews are to local businesses and how they will be helping your business get through these tough times. You can also use this email exchange as a way to find out what you could do to help them.
  6. Use Email to Stay Connected – social media is not the only place people will be online, they’ll also be checking their emails which gives you a great opportunity to get your stuff read. Give them updates on your business, help them come up with activities / exercises etc that they can do to pass the time and stay healthy. Share a laugh or two. Basically, be a human being and write your emails like you’re talking to one of your favourite customers.
  7. Learn New Skills – remember how you’ve always wanted to learn how to type but have never had the time? Now you do! Go to https://www.udemy.com/ and search for that skill that you’ve always wanted to learn. Is it advanced Excel strategies? How to use Google or Facebook ads? How to create a Facebook chatbot? These are all courses that you can get for very cheap on Udemy. Or maybe you wanted to learn more about SEO. Well Yoast (the creator of that fantastic WordPress SEO plugin), has released some free training. Go and learn here: https://yoast.com/academy/all-around-seo-training/
  8. Send Out Hand-Written Notes – this strategy never gets old. In an age where everything is digital, it’s nice to be on the receiving end of a handwritten note or postcard. Make it personal. Show your customers that you’re thinking of them.
  9. Call Your Customers – some people just want to know everything is going to be ok. Pick up the phone and give your customers a call to see how they are and if there’s anything you could do to help their situation.
  10. Deliver Your Services Remotely – what ways can you still provide your services to a stay-at-home population? Can you share your services with Facebook Live or create video training or a webinar? Are you able to shoot videos addressing the top questions / fears your target market has?
  11. Host Virtual Client Meetings – using software such as Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp or Skype, you can run video conferencing meetings where you can share your screen, show presentations or just connect for a video call.
  12. Get Prospects / Clients to Use Facetime / Google Duo – is there a way your clients could use video to show you what issues they’re having that your service or product solves? Maybe it’s a broken heat pump, or a walkthrough of a house for a painting quote or a video of their yard that they’re looking to have landscaped.
  13. Gift Certificates / Vouchers – people want to buy local and support their communities throughout this crisis so make it as easy as possible for them to do that. Add the ability to purchase GCs to your website, send out an email telling your clients that this is a way they can help your business survive. Set up a Paypal link if you need an easy way to take payment.
  14. Utilize Google My Business – the first place people are going to search for information while they’re stuck at home is Google. So make sure that your business information on your Google My Business page is up-to-date (you can log in via https://business.google.com). Better still, make sure that you’re posting updates on your GMB page to keep your clients up-to-date. If you’re one of the businesses still open, make sure that info is on your GMB page. Likewise if you’re closed.

Think of the above strategies as planting seeds that will keep your company top of mind and eventually lead to more business once the economy roars back to life. Look at these circumstances as a rare time to be innovative and out-smart your competitors, while connecting with your customers on a deeper level.

It’s crazy times indeed but those business owners who take action today will be the ones standing once the coronavirus haze lifts and everything is back to normal.

Stay Safe!!

We have had several of our clients, especially those in tourism and hospitality, reach out to us wondering if they should continue with their digital marketing programs. In a time of social distancing and possible quarantines, does it make sense for businesses to suspend their digital marketing activities until this covid-19 pandemic passes?

It’s obviously difficult for me not to sound like I’m serving my own interests here, but the short answer is “no”. No it doesn’t make sense to put the brakes on your marketing.  But we should refine your strategy and focus more of your efforts on organic and paid social media as well as email marketing.

People will be on social media more during this pandemic than ever before. Every business has an opportunity to provide value and reassurance to a population in isolation. Now is the time to dig deep and review your value propositions and reach out and engage with the public.  It is not the time for you to stop creating awareness for your brand.

We need to keep in mind that this is a temporary situation, and, at some point in the near future, business will resume and move forward. We need to make sure that your company is top of mind when that happens. It has taken time, effort and money to get your marketing to the level it is now. Pausing your marketing efforts will mean that when you do want to resume normal business activities, you’ll be starting at a disadvantage.

Winning online is always about doing more than your competitors are doing. Provide awesome value and engage with your target market through email, social media and advertising to ensure that you’re busier than ever when things resume to some sense of normalcy.

Reach out to us so that we can work together and plan what that might look like.

The entire team at IdeaZone is here. We are working and we’ve got your back.

Warmly

Jon Valade

Do I Really Need to Upgrade my Website from HTTP to HTTPS?

The short answer is a resounding YES!

HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure and its purpose is to secure communication on the internet. By securing communication, we’re referring to protecting the privacy and integrity of data that is exchanged while users are visiting a website.  If the data is not secured, then hackers are able to intercept data that is being transmitted through these insecure (i.e. HTTP not HTTPS) websites.

When HTTPS first came onto the scene, it was mostly ecommerce websites that needed to worry about securing their websites. This was because these websites were processing credit cards and collecting other important personal information about their visitors. It made sense to encrypt personal data over ecommerce sites but, as the internet progressed, it made more and more sense to make sure that every website was secure.  And that’s where Google stepped in.

Google has long been making recommendations that webmasters should make the switch to HTTPS. They were even going so far as to say that it was a ranking factor back in 2014 insomuch as they would give an HTTPS enabled website precedence in the search results.  Then, in July of 2018 Google made it mandatory that all websites should have HTTPS.  And by mandatory, they meant that they were going to start calling out and downgrading non HTTPS sites.

Now, Google doesn’t own the internet and so it’s really up to the website owner if they want to change over to HTTPS or not. What Google does own, however, is the largest search engine in the world (well, 2 of the largest search engines if you include YouTube) as well as one of the most popular web browsers, Google Chrome. That kind of means that if you want to get traffic to your site, you had better listen to what Google is telling you to do.

So how does HTTP/HTTPS affect search engine results?

We’ve already stated above that Google has said that they will favour HTTPS sites over HTTP sites in the search results.  This translates into less and less HTTP sites appearing in the top search result pages.  Google’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the websites they are showing in the search results are secure (and relevant). The only reason that you’ll still see insecure sites for any given search query is because, even though the site is insecure, Google still thinks that it will match the searcher’s query better than another secure site further down its index.

How does a non-HTTPS enabled site affect the user?

Most (if not all) web browsers these days have some type of warning that is meant to inform the user that the site they are visiting is insecure.  Different browsers show these warnings in different ways.  Apple’s Safari browser is one of the browsers that shows the least in the way of warnings for insecure sites, Mozilla Firefox is somewhere in the middle while Google’s Chrome browser does its best to put it front and center.

In the Firefox browser, the warning is not super prevalent as you can only see it by way of a shield, which, if you didn’t know what it was, you would probably just ignore. Clicking on that shield, however, tells the user a little more information about the insecure site they’re visiting. In this instance, the connection is not secure (not HTTPS enabled) and the browser is blocking some content on the site. This is usually things like Google Analytics as well as some social media platforms that use some type of tracking.

Firefox shows a bit more of a pronounced error when the site has HTTPS enabled but is still not secure because some of the content (oftentimes images) is being served from insecure sources. This lock with the exclamation mark is what warns users that the site they are visiting has insecure content.

Some web browsers – such as Google’s Chrome browser – warns the user that they are about to visit an insecure site. This can come by way of a large interstitial warning page such as:

If a user comes across this page, they are not likely going to click the Advanced button and then hit the option to proceed to your website.  Would you?  Even if the page above doesn’t show up, the user will still see an exclamation mark beside “Not Secure” to the left of the URL (i.e domain name) in the browser bar.  Below are a couple more warnings that Google Chrome users might see when they are visiting an insecure site.  Just more signs telling the user not to proceed to the site…

 

So What Does All This HTTP(B)S Mean to Business Owners?

In a nutshell, it means that your business is losing customers and your brand is losing trust. From a user’s perspective, if they can’t trust your website, why would they take the leap and trust your business?

Is Your Website Insecure?

If you currently own a business that has a website online, then visit your site online to see what it looks like in different browsers. Look at your website through the eyes of one of your customers. In browsers where you don’t automatically see the starting HTTP / HTTPS of the website URL, then double click on the website URL (as if you’re going to copy/paste the link) and it should show up at that point.

Upgrading and securing your website is not as hard as you might think (if that’s what you do for a living).  Once we know what your site is built with (ie. custom coded, WordPress, Wix etc), then we can give you a pretty good idea of how best to make the change.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help secure your website.

It’s official, Google is pulling the plug on Google + as of April 2, 2019—likely to avoid any April Fools’ confusion and explosion of memes poking fun at the failed platform.

Ill-fated from the start, the platform hasn’t been particularly popular among consumers and recent stats show a dismal 5 second on page rate for 90 percent of its users.

Adding to that, there have been two troubling security breaches. The first was in early 2018 where a software bug resulted in third party developers being able to access the private information of over 500,000 users. That bug was promptly patched, but the damage was done, with user engagement reaching an all-time low since the 2011 launch.

Originally, the consumer version of Google + was slated to be completely shut down by August 2019, but after the discovery of another bug affecting a whopping 5.2 million users in late 2018, it will now be shuttered a full four months ahead of the original schedule.

Although there’s no evidence that the exposed data from either incident was used (basic information like name, email address, occupation, DOB, etc…) this second breach was the final nail in the coffin of Google’s fourth attempt at consumer level social networking.

According to a mass notification from Google, “no other Google products (such as Gmail, Google Photos, Google Drive, YouTube) will be shut down as part of the consumer Google+ shutdown, and the Google Account you use to sign in to these services will remain.”

Google will remove content from Google + accounts, including photos, videos, pages and Circles/Community information as the service is dismantled and is reminding all users to allow plenty of time to download content.

You might have an account and not even know it. During a big push to link Google owned apps to Google +, users were required to sign up for an account to do things like post on YouTube. Also, if you’ve received the email from Google notifying you of the closure, you definitely have an account.

To find out for sure:

  1. Log in to Gmail or any other Google account and click the button at the top right with your first initial.
  2. If there’s a Google+ link in the dropdown, you have an account

NOTE: If you have a Google+ account, back up your information before deleting your profile.  Photos and videos can be safely backed up on Google Photos or Google Drive if they aren’t already. More info here: https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1045788#photos

To delete your profile:

  1. Click the link
  2. Select Settings
  3. Scroll down until you see Delete Your Google + Profile and click Delete

Any problems, visit https://support.google.com/plus/answer/9217723 for complete details.

You’re done!

If you’re a business owner rest assured that the closure of Google + won’t affect your Local SEO, since Google + and Google My Business (the old Google Places / Google+ Local) have hardly coincided in recent years. However, you’ll want to take care to clean up the evidence of your now defunct account, lest you look like you’re behind on technology. To do this, remove the following:

– Google + links from your site

– Google + from any online or print marketing items

– Links from your email signature

– Any G+ buttons from landing pages

Google + will be gone but according to Google, its ghost will live on in enterprise networking. This will include tightening security and revamping Google+ features to business-friendly features like dashboards for analytics and engagement metrics, and optional central controls for all employees within an organization. Only time will tell how this new version will do. Will you use it?

Gutenberg WordPress editor

Today WordPress released version 5.0, a significant update which promises a new and revolutionary way of editing your website.  The goal of its new editor, Gutenberg, is to make it simpler to design posts and pages using “blocks” without the use of a layout builder or advanced editor.  This could be a boon for simple WordPress sites without custom fields or advanced editors but has caused problems for many of the millions of custom sites out there.

IdeaZone has long used custom themes with Advanced Custom Fields and builder themes like Enfold to develop sites for our clients.  We advise all our clients to keep their WordPress core, themes and plugins up-to-date to keep their sites functioning and secure.  Unfortunately, this latest WordPress update simply doesn’t play well with many sites.  Many of our clients have noticed after the update that the back end of their website is no longer simple and intuitive and has rather become a mess of confusing code and blocks.

Enfold and Advanced Custom Fields have responded by releasing versions of their software that are compatible with the new Gutenberg editor; however, in some cases the issues have persisted.

In the case of Enfold, one of their recent releases requires manual update via FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  Some users unfamiliar with this method will need the help of a developer.  IdeaZone can take care of this critical update for you.  Simply fill out a support ticket.

In the meantime, there is a solution to restore your site’s back-end to its former state: the Disable Gutenberg plugin.  Installing and configuring this plugin is simple and can prevent a lot of headaches.

  • Step 1: From your WordPress dashboard, hover over Plugins in the left-hand administration menu and click “Add New”
  • Step 2: Type “Disable Gutenberg” into the search box on the Add New Plugin interface.
  • Step 3: Find Disable Gutenberg by Jeff Starr and click Install Now
  • Step 4: Click “Activate Plugin”
  • Step 5:  From the left-hand administrative menu, choose “Settings” and then “Disable Gutenberg”
  • Step 6: Choose “Disable Gutenberg Everywhere” and save your changes.

 

Your site’s back end should now be restored.  If you need help with the plugin installation, please do not hesitate to contact IdeaZone and ask for help.  We are happy to assist you.

How to do Regular WordPress updates

In the following video, I do a step by step demonstration on how to do regular WordPress Updates that include the WordPress core, plugins and your active theme. You will find a complete transcript bellow the video as well.

If you have any questions regarding this video or any of our services please feel free to email me personally at jon@ideazone.ca. Alternatively you can call us in Victoria at 250 412 5610 or toll free at 1 844 651 9333

 


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Hello, I’m Jon Valade from IdeaZone.ca in Victoria BC.

In today’s video we are going to look at how to do regular WordPress updates from the WordPress management area.

WordPress will regularly recommend updates and it is critically important that these be completed every couple of weeks. Not only do these updates expand WordPress’ capabilities but more importantly, they keep your website safe from hackers and other online threats.

Once you are logged into your WordPress Dashboard you are going to navigate to the Updates Management screen where you will see a display of all the updates currently needed.

The orange circle with the 9 showing beside the Updates links tells us that there is a total of 9 updates needed at this time. All these updates will be spread out across the WordPress core, the plugins and possibly your theme

You can see right at the top of the page a confirmation that your WordPress core is indeed out of date and needs to be updated to version 4.9.8

Scrolling down the same page we see a complete list of the plugins that also need to be updated

Now we scroll to the bottom of the page and see a notification that the theme, in this case Enfold, also needs to be updated to the new version.

Let’s scroll back to the top of the page and start with updating the WordPress core. This literally is as simple as clicking on the Update Now link and then going to get yourself a fresh cup of coffee.

WordPress will fetch, install and configure the new version all by itself.

Once the WordPress core is updated you will be automatically directed to this page that lists all the changes and updated to WordPress since your last version.

Let’s navigate back to the Updates Management page. Notice now that the orange circle shows an 8 instead of a 9. This confirms that one of the updates, in this case the WordPress core, has been completed successfully.

So now that we are back on our Updates Management screen we are going to go ahead and deal with all the out of date plugins.

Start by clicking in the check box beside “Select All” to select all the listed plugins.

With all the outdated plugins selected, click on the “Update Plugins” button at the top of the list.

WordPress will now fetch and install each plugin, one at a time while showing you its progress. You can sit back and follow what is happening on the screen or, you can go and get yourself yet another cup of coffee.

Once all the plugins are updated you will be redirected to the Updates Management screen. Here you can see the confirmation message showing that all the plugins are properly updated.

The last step now is to update your theme. Here you need to be careful.

During the development of your website several design and layout options may have be changed within the CSS code of the theme. To make sure that design code stays separate from the theme files, a professional company will make these edits within a created child theme. Creating a child theme ensures that the parent theme can be updated without reverting the website’s design back to the original setting.

If you are unsure if your site has a child theme, then I highly recommend that you have a professional developer take a look and maybe have them make this final update for you.

If you are comfortable proceeding with this update then click in the check box beside “Select All”, Next, click on “Update Themes” button.

If you look at the font end of your website during any of these updates you will notice that the website has been put into maintenance mode. This is to make sure that visitors to your site are made aware that the site is unavailable for only a short period of time.

Once all the updates are complete, you will get a notification that maintenance mode has been deactivated and your website is accessible on the internet.

Well that is all for this video. IdeaZone does offer these updates within all our maintenance packages along with content edits and additional security measures.

If you have any questions regarding this video or any of our services please feel free to email me personally at jon@ideazone.ca. Alternatively you call us in Victoria at 250 412 5610 or toll free at 1 844 651 9333

WordPress versus WIX

In today’s market, every business needs an online presence to truly be successful. When it comes to website design, there are a myriad of tools available. But, as anyone who’s ever had to comb through 100 lines of HTML to troubleshoot a problem can tell you, web development is a rather complicated and specialized field.

So, what’s the best web development tool on the market today?

Personally, I use WordPress. It’s versatile; and includes an insane number of plugins to do anything I want under the sun. The same goes for the themes, or templates—some of which include different ways to build the site. If the basic editors can’t do what I want them to do, I can always code by hand, which is always a whole lot of fun until I miss one [CREATIVE EXPLETIVE DELETED] bracket.

WordPress is simply bulging with tools and different ways to do any one thing. So, if I want something to look a certain way, it will look that certain way. Hard stop. There’s a reason WordPress is the most utilized web development tool currently available.

However, the glorious collective mind of the free market has put forth several solutions for the layperson, with products such as Squarespace and Wix.

I recently jumped into Wix to get a feel for it. In the process, I managed to make a jumbled mess of a site that would most likely make my father, a man who’s been developing websites since before I can remember, cry. But esthetics wasn’t really the purpose of my experiment. I wanted to find out more about functionality and usability.

At first glance, Wix automatically won 10 points as it had the same pink guide lines while moving things that Adobe Illustrator has. They look the same. They function the same, and Adobe always makes me happy. Beyond this, I scrolled through a few of the templates available and to WIX’s credit, they look nice. Generic, but nice. Templates that create the same sort of site that would fit in just fine with any other site built in the 2010s. (Not that any basic WordPress themes stand out on their own, either.)

The downside of Wix (especially to someone like me, who’s used to the creative freedom of WordPress) became apparent once I started trying to design the site. Wix has a lovely catalog of apps and vectors, but using these alone does not constitute creative freedom or even proper corporate branding. The apps are categorized in a way that makes them easy enough to find, but the vector art and basic shapes are frustratingly limited in their use. I could do some interesting things with them, but it’d be a thousand times easier and more versatile to build the vectors in Adobe.

Wix apps are useful but in a very limited way. The design settings were so limited that at one point, I actually had to stop writing and retreat to the corner of the room for a brief cry (not even kidding). Wix just gives you a lot of stuff to drag and drop into place and call it a day.

It may sound like I’m coming down on Wix. Okay, well I guess I am. The program isn’t without its merits, though. For a small business just starting up, Wix wouldn’t be a terrible solution. Developers come with an expense; Wix does not. One could build a perfectly functional website with Wix. The site probably wouldn’t stand out, but it would work just fine.

The difference between WordPress and Wix is sort of like drawing a picture by hand compared to using a box of rubber stamps. With WordPress you can draw anything you want, exactly how you want. Wix is the box of stamps. Maybe one stamped image doesn’t stand out all that well; maybe even a group of them arranged together isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. But if you can’t draw, those stamps don’t seem half bad.

For myself, though, I do believe I’m going to go make sure my pencil is nice and sharp.

I grew up during a very interesting time. I was born into a technological revolution the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the industrial era. Growing up, it seemed a foregone conclusion that I, like the rest of my generation, would be molded by this abundant new technology. We each grew up a digital child, shaping tech as much as tech shaped us. This digital world is a new frontier to explore, one that’s opened natural career paths that are very well suited to anyone who is technically-minded, creative, or both.

Luckily for me, I’m a touch of both.

So, here I am now, employed as a junior developer at IdeaZone, a web development and digital marketing company on Vancouver Island, BC. At 21 years old I’m done with school, have no debts and am working under the established old guard, with all their collective resources and experience at my disposal.

This puts me in a rather interesting position I’m eager to explore. I’m the youngest member of the company and my social circles are completely different from those of my colleagues. With my pink hair and clothes best suited to a bar or a club, I certainly look distinct from the rest of the company team. If I do say so myself, I’m a charismatic little ball of sass and sarcasm who doesn’t exactly fit in at a boardroom table.

Ultimately, this means I think very differently as well. This comes in handy when a problem comes up; I’ll use my unique perspective to think of an original solution. This echoes in my design work just as truly as it does in anything else. So, here I am trying to sink my tendrils into every nook and cranny the others wouldn’t fit well into, and frankly loving every second of it. It’s new and exciting and I can shape my career however I like.

This position wasn’t just dropped into my lap. Web design is a burgeoning stem field. It’s not like accounting where you can take a class on accounting and suddenly you know everything about accounting. (Jeez, I just said accounting a lot!)

Web design is not only a technical job; it’s artistic, and artistry isn’t as easy to teach. I do value school; for a time, I filled my days with school and work. I learned a great deal. I learned how HTML and CSS code “talked,” and I learned the wonder and glory that is the Adobe suite.

But I wasn’t taught my artist’s eye; my creativity. My teachers certainly helped develop it. But I honed my skill by studying graphics and images I saw everyday. By just staring at ads for hours and realizing why one works and another doesn’t. The only way to learn this type of skill is to just do it; to practice; to notice and observe. Eventually, one day you find yourself walking down the street and a photo frames itself in your mind before the camera is even on.

And that artist’s eye is something I take a great deal of pride in. It’s what enables me work in this awesome field were both my intellectual and creative sides can flourish. The perks of setting my own hours and working from wherever I can access my computer (or sometimes even just my phone) are like a half a pound of icing on top. Seriously; I wrote most of this blog post on my phone while relaxing in the tub!

I love my job.

At night I can go and socialize. I can enjoy my various young-adult-on-a-Friday type things and not have to worry about cramming myself back into a soul-crushing cubicle afterwards. I don’t have to work a 9-to-whenever-I-can’t-stand-it-anymore type of job.

Currently, I’m still working a second job and the hours tend to be right when the spring sun is shining its most beautiful, until right around the time twilight fades to night. I’m naturally a night person so the hours work just fine for me. But if I could dictate my work hours according to my whims, nothing would make me happier than to be out taking pictures when the sun is bright, and to fit my work schedule in around that.

Although I’m working under a boss and my work is dictated by the needs of each client, web development and digital marketing offer freedom that really isn’t found in many fields. I’m only just starting, and I’m already beginning to carve my path the way I want it to go. I have the resources of the old guard and the mind and imagination of someone born into a world of crazy technology. If nothing else, this is certainly going to be an interesting ride.

Writing High Quality SEO Optimized Content for the Web

The goal in writing high quality SEO optimized content for the web is to first satisfy your readers with valuable content and then make sure your content also satisfies the search engine bots. This means that the content must flow and progress naturally down the page while including strategically placed keywords and keyword synonyms. In order to rank in the search engines, your content must be of uber high quality – hopefully better than anything you see on your competitors’ sites.

Since we know we’re looking for really high quality, valuable content, let’s take a look at what high quality content consists of:

  1. Know Who You’re Writing For – High quality content is based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user intent research. When writing, speak your audience’s language and provide the information they’re actually looking for.
  2. Write More – Long content (1,000+ words) tends to rank better in organic results, in part because it is thorough. That said, stay on task and don’t let the content lose focus.
  3. Write to the Audience – Good content is written to its audience, not your peers. Make sure the language is neither too simple nor too full of industry jargon.
  4. Make it Shareable – Read your content out loud to yourself. First notice if it flows well and then ask yourself if its good enough that you’d share the content if you came across it.
  5. Uses Font Attributes – Use short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easy on the eyes and easy to digest quickly.
  6. Use Strong Titles and Headings (H1s, H2s, H3s etc) – Create enticing, actionable titles that use keywords strategically and naturally.
  7. Deal with Objections – Feature ideal results and answers to common objections – try to anticipate the audience’s hopes, fears and concerns.
  8. Spy Out the Competition – Review the pages that are currently ranking well for target keywords and ask yourself if your content is better. Make sure it’s better.
  9. Spelling / Grammar Mistakes – Proofread. And then have someone else proofread.
  10. Link Out – Good content has outbound links to authoritative and reputable industry related resources (Wikipedia is always a good, neutral authority site to link out to).
  11. Get Your Facts Straight – Make sure that the content your writing is factual. Just because you found it online somewhere doesn’t make it automatically true.
  12. Keyword Stuffing – Don’t do it! There’s no real math for this. A good way to visualize is to use the “Find” feature in your document and search the keyword. If it looks oversaturated, start plugging in some synonyms.
  13. Use Keywords and Variants Naturally in Content – Don’t overthink it. Use synonyms, abbreviations, plurals and so on like a normal human being.
  14. Keyword Optimized Intro and Outro sentence – Don’t be awkward with it, but as much as possible, use your main keyword as close to the beginning of the first sentence as possible. And then the last sentence on the page as well.

Good UX (user experience) is good SEO (search engine optimization). When users are engaged, they consume more content, interact with it and share it.

There are plenty of philosophies about which characteristics make for great content. The following are all worthy considerations, and every piece of content should cover at least a few of these:

  • Simple / Clear / Coherent
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible / Valid / Experienced
  • Emotional
  • Entertaining
  • Inspiring
  • Educational
  • Relevant
  • Deep / Thorough
  • Practical
  • Novel / Unique (in value, not just in content)
  • Trustworthy

And one final point is worth mentioning once more. As you continue to design content, keep your audience in mind: you are writing for people, so search engines can also understand — not vice versa.

A SPECIAL DIGITAL MARKETING OFFER FOR OUR CLIENTS AND FRIENDS

IdeaZone is currently running a special Digital Marketing offer for our clients and friends. Included in this offer is a complete digital marketing solution for only $2,500.00. (or $850.00/month for three months)

Here is what is included in our Business Optimizer Package:

  1. Site Crawl
    Is your site showing up in search results? We will examine your site using specialized SEO tools and then spend two hours fixing problems we find.
  2. Google My Business Optimization
    Is your site visible on Google Maps? This tune-up of your Google My Business (GMB) page will ensure that your site shows up in Google Maps search results.
  3. Review Solicitation Email Template
    Are reviews of your business working to your advantage? Potential customers are drawn to the reviews that appear on your GMB page. We’ll create an email template that you can use to ask clients to review your business. This template provides one-click options for leaving reviews on Google, Facebook, BBB, Yelp, TripAdvisor etc.
  4. Citation Campaign 
    Citations boost your GMB page ranking. They are listings for your business in relevant local directories. We’ll update any old citations for your business and then build 25 new ones.
  5. Adwords Campaign
    Google Adwords is the quickest way to show your marketing campaigns to the most relevant customers. We’ll set up an Adwords campaign targeting your main keywords. This campaign will run for three months and will require an ad budget of $300/month.
  6. Landing Page Development 
    Is your site ready for an Adwords campaign? You will get the best results if you send traffic to purpose-built landing pages instead of to your home page. The landing pages will be consistent with your campaign, and will include tailored Calls to Action. In addition to converting more visitors into customers, this strategy actually lowers the per-visitor cost of your campaign. Once the Adwords campaign is over, you can continue to use that landing page to convert your visitors.
  7. On-Page Search Engine Optimization
    On-page SEO is the backbone of rankings. Before you do anything SEO-wise, you need to get your on-page stuff right first. We’ll look at your five most popular pages and optimize the text, media, titles, headlines and descriptions. These changes alone are often enough to boost a page quite a few spots higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Should a Website Developer Build a Custom Theme or Use a Purchased Theme

Here is a question that comes up multiple times a week: should a website developer build a custom theme or use a purchased theme? The answer surprises many potential clients and usually leaves us needing to spend a lot of time explaining our position.

In short, we do not build custom themes and, if you are unhappy with a custom theme, we will not support or maintain it.

Understanding this means understanding the nature of WordPress.

Unlike other content management systems, WordPress updates often (very often).  These updates are intended to tighten security issues and add features and flexibility. At times, these updates create changes in the core application files that need to be matched by the widgets, applications and THEME files that are running within WordPress. This is also the reason why you are often prompted to update your plugins.

Using a respected, licensed theme means that when WordPress updates, theme developers will quickly issue a release that is easily integrated into your site at no charge. With a custom theme, the only solution to this is to pay the developer to recode the theme. If you miss enough of these updates, your site will simply crash.

There are many themes that are versatile and highly supported. Enfold and DIVI (from Elegant Themes) are a part of IdeaZone’s regular solutions.

Now before I get nasty emails from my competitors, there are some local companies that create custom themes and do so outstandingly well. Two that come to mind are The Hatchery and Leap XD. The majority, however, are developers that mistakenly feel that they are providing a better service. In reality, they are stuck in outdated development philosophies.

IdeaZone.ca’s mandate has always been to provide the most reliable and creative solutions for our clients and at the best possible price. Custom theming does not serve that mandate. If properly implemented, WordPress will allow clients to update not only their content, but also the WordPress core, applications and theme with ease. Our websites will always be built to put that power back into our clients’ hands without requiring them to pay for additional maintenance.

A perfect case study for this is Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. The owner of Tally-Ho came to us for a few simple edits. The design provided by the initial development firm was outstanding, leaving us to wonder why these edits could not be performed by the client. When we logged in we discovered that the WordPress editor was jammed with bad code, making it impossible for anyone other than a programmer to do most of the edits. This very pretty, custom-themed website was what we affectionately call a ‘Franken-Site.’

After spending 10 hours on “simple” edits I had to explain to the client that it would take us less time to rebuild the entire site. Afterwards there would not be any area that she would not be able to easily edit herself. The entire rebuild was done by our Senior Developer, Danielle Hobbs.

One of the biggest arguments that we hear against purchased themes is the belief that they do not give enough control over design and branding. This is simply not true. An advanced platform like Enfold or DIVI provide experienced developers complete creative freedom. I would challenge anyone to browse through our portfolio and say that the sites we build are not unique or are off brand.

Another benefit to these themes are the advanced editors that are built directly into the framework. These editors allow the client to easily set up interesting page layouts that include sliders, parallax effects and more. Yes, there are third party editors that are available as plugins, such as WP Bakery, but these have been problematic.

These themes also allow for custom development within a “child theme.” Such custom development extends the functionality of the original theme while also allowing the base code to update properly. We have created estimate calculators, lead forms, and other tailored solutions, giving our customers all the benefits of a purely custom theme within an updateable and user-friendly framework.

I have had developers scoff at me saying that we are leaving a lot of money on the table by not forcing clients to come back to us once a year to recode their themes. This is true! With over 1200 websites built over the last fifteen years, this could indeed have been a very lucrative revenue stream for us. But, this is not how we do business.

If we have clients that want to invest with us annually then I would prefer to see them spend that budget working with our Digital Marketing team.

Contact us today and let’s get to work on your online presence.

Jon