The IdeaZone Blog

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:


(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.

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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 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:
  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 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.


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:

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 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 [email protected]. Alternatively you can call us in Victoria at 250 412 5610 or toll free at 1 844 651 9333



Hello, I’m Jon Valade from 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 [email protected]. 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.


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.’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.


improving your digital marketing

We’ve all been in the position where we’ve been a part of a company or worked with a client that has a bunch of Digital Marketing efforts but nothing is really on the same page – it’s totally run on a “set it up and let’s see where it goes” mentality. At IdeaZone, we see it all the time. Companies come to us with awesome services or products but their marketing doesn’t align with their goals or even target the right audience. So, to help you out, we compiled a simple 5-step run-through on how to improve your Digital Marketing so your business saves time, effort and money.

Step 1: Analyze your current situation

Before you jump into launching a bunch of different Digital Marketing initiatives, look at your current situation first. What am I doing right now? Am I targeting the right audience? How well is it working? How much am I spending (time & money)? What are my competitors doing? And, how are my competitors doing? Basically, audit yourself. This will give you a sense of where you are as a business up to this point in time. If you don’t analyze your current situation, how can you determine what to do in the future? Once you analyze – and be honest with yourself when you answer these questions – then you can aim in the right direction.

Step 2: Set specific goals

Part 1: Determine your goals

Once you’ve analyzed your situation (and you’ve been brutally honest with yourself) then you can begin to decide what you want to achieve. Hold on a second though, don’t just make these goals “I want to make more money” or “I want to sign more clients”; that’s too simple. You want to determine the issue or what you want to get better at and then pick a goal or a series of goals that you want to achieve that will ultimately lead to your main business objectives. You want to include measurable outcomes related to improving your services that will then lead to making more money or signing more clients. Here’s an example of what that means:

Since we’re talking about Digital Marketing, you might notice when you analyze your current situation that an issue is your website is ranking poorly in search engines. You ran a test on SEM Rush and you’re only ranking for 7 keywords, have no backlinks, and you’re getting little or no traffic to your website each month. The problem is your website could be part of your sales funnel, or maybe you have a great online booking system that no one is using. So you somehow need to generate more website traffic, and SEO, based on the results of your test, is a big issue.

Now that you’ve determined the issue, it’s time to set a target. In this case, you want to generate more website traffic. From there you should ask yourself a few questions and then set your goals.

  • how am I going to do this? This should be an actionable tactic, “What am I going to do in order to generate more website traffic?”
  • what’s my intended target and when do I want to get there? This question needs to include a specific target that is quantifiable and is in a reasonable timeframe. For example, “I want to increase my website traffic by X% over 6 months.”
  • How am I going to measure this? You want to determine some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) ­– essentially, how you are going to gauge your success and then create some measurable outcomes. Maybe you want to improve to 30 keywords and build 10 backlinks over 6 months. Or maybe you want to do that plus increase online sales by 20% or get 10 more online bookings each month.

Part 2: Make your goals SMART

Once you’ve answered those three questions, write your goal. Here’s an example: “I want to increase traffic to my website by 50% in the next 6 months and achieve 10 more online bookings per month by improving my website’s organic SEO.” Or “attract 20 more leads per month.” And then, lay it out as a SMART objective to make sure you have all your bases covered (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based).

  • Specific? Yes. You want to make SEO adjustments to help boost your traffic by 50%, get 10 more online bookings per month (or 20 more leads if you’d prefer the sales example) and you want to do it over 6 months.
  • Measurable? Yes. You have a couple of KPIs (key performance indicators) that you can measure to see if you’re on track. In this example, you’re going to have to determine what percentage increase in web traffic is going to help you reach your monthly sales or bookings goals.
  • Attainable? Yes. Your goal isn’t outrageous; it’s not aimed too high in too short a timeframe. You also have tools at your disposal to determine your KPIs.
  • Relevant? Yes, it’s hugely relevant. SEO is a big part of Digital Marketing and if you’re not getting seen on search engines or showing up on the fifth page, then that’s an immediate red flag and a big reason why you’re not generating more leads or getting more online bookings.
  • Time-based? Yes. 6 months is a realistic time frame, but note that if you’re setting a more ambitious goal to make sure to adjust accordingly especially if it’s to do with SEO because improvements don’t happen overnight.

Step 3: Make a plan

You’ve sat down with your team and figured out 3 or 4 or however many goals for improving your Digital Marketing, now you want to build your integrated plan. An integrated plan includes multiple Digital Marketing tactics that work together to achieve your goals. This is really important because you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. So, under each goal, determine a tactic, or a series of tactics, that will work to achieve that specific goal and can all work together to achieve your ultimate objective as a business. This might include things like a BrightLocal campaign to list your company on as many third-party directories as possible (i.e. Yelp and Yellowpages), starting a bi-weekly blog, running a Google AdWords campaign promoting your services, and launching Facebook advertising. This is good integration because each of these tactics provides viewers with an avenue to your website to learn about your services and ultimately increasing your website traffic.

Step 4: Make it visually appealing and SEO friendly

When you go to execute the tactics in your plan, you want to make sure any visuals and copy align with the brand and voice of your company. If you’re having an issue targeting the right customer, this could be the reason why. You might have well-designed branding and well-written content, but it needs to be made for the right type of customer. Also – and this is important for things like blogging and the content on your site – your Digital Marketing tactics need to have search engine optimization in the forefront when you’re launching the campaign. Google AdWords, third-party directories, blogging, and Social Media campaigns will all have an effect on how well your website performs on search engines.

Step 5: Manage, track, evaluate, repeat.

This is like the “5 D’s of Dodgeball” and ‘manage’ is the Dodge. You want to use adequate tools to manage and track your Digital Marketing campaigns closely because in Digital Marketing you have the ability to edit-at-will, but it can also get away from you quickly. Now that doesn’t mean be lazy. Instead, use accessibility to constantly improve. And that’s where evaluation comes in. At IdeaZone, we like to segment our Digital Marketing efforts into months, track our work, and do evaluations on the 1st of every month. That way we can look back at the previous month and see where we can improve areas like our AdWords campaigns, Social Media Management, and Social Media advertising (Platforms like Google AdWords have a built-in organization system for tracking progress, and for Social Media Management we recommend using Hootsuite). Finally, the accessibility of Digital Marketing allows you to stay on top of all your campaigns so if Patches O’Houlihan throws a wrench at you, you can quickly fix the problem. Or in this case, “dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.”

If you have any questions on want more information about Digital Marketing or our services, contact us. We provide a wide variety of Digital Marketing, Website Development, and Advertising & Design services.

web design three click rule

The Three-Click Rule is a long-standing web design concept that suggests viewers should be able to find what they’re looking for in approximately three mouse clicks. However, because of new trends and advancement of mobile devices, many argue that the Three-Click Rule is somewhat of an outdated concept. And although that might be true in some cases, we think the Three-Click Rule is still relevant, and here’s why:

Attention Span of Viewers

The attention span of viewers is shorter than ever because of the readiness and accessibility of information on the web. This is partially due to impatience as well because viewers expect everything to be so readily available; they want the information and they want it 5 minutes ago. If they can’t find answers quickly it’s back to Google and on to the next link. This is precisely why the Three-Click rule is still relevant, and even if some designers think it’s a dying rule and web design styles are changing, it’s key to have the most important information as accessible as possible or you might get passed over.

Here at IdeaZone, we run on a simple philosophy where we want to make it as easy as possible for viewers to find what they’re looking for. That means applying the Three-Click Rule to our concepts when we design a website.

Content Overload 

Today’s internet is outrageously full of content – some more relevant than others – making it that much more important for viewers find the most relevant information within three clicks.

According to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, in 2015, 55% of B2B Marketers said they were planning to create more content than they did the year before. Now that it’s 2017, more people have caught on to that trend and that percentage is much higher. Which (you guessed it) means there is that much more content available at your fingertips on company’s website, on a blog, in articles, or on social media, and it’s all being shared simultaneously.

Content overload also means there’s a snowball effect; with more content comes more responsibility to stand out in the clutter.

Here’s an example, say you’re looking for a good marketing blog. You type ‘marketing blogs’ into Google and hit ‘search’. Google is going to come back with millions of results in half a second. Obviously, if you’re a marketing person doing that search you’re going to focus on the first and maybe the second page, and you are going to click on websites you’ve heard of before. Also, presumably, the writers of these blogs are also going to be fairly knowledgeable in the SEO department, and as a marketing person, you understand the value in that. However, that’s not always the case, the blog you find might be reputable but irrelevant to your interests, so you have millions of results at your fingertips and because you don’t want to flip through the endless number of pages you may only find one blog that’s relevant out of the 20-25 results shown on the first two pages.

Which brings us right back to reiterating the value of the Three-Click Rule.

Because of all the clutter, you want to make it quick, easy, and highly relevant for viewers looking for your information, products or services. Otherwise, your blog or your website is going to end up being one of the millions of results Google churns up in a blink of an eye; bringing us to our next point…

It Keeps Things Simple

You’ve heard of the phrase “keep it simple, stupid” right? Well, we like to use that phrase to remind ourselves to stick to rules like the Three-Click Rule when designing websites. And the Three-Click Rule does just that, it keeps things simple. It keeps information laid out in an easy-to-find fashion, and it allows our web designers the opportunity to make sure a website stays consistent. It also makes sure viewers don’t get overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles of a complex ‘look at us! We have all the cool add-ons, horizontal scrolls, random buttons and apps nobody knows how to use’ web design.

It’s important to know that simplicity doesn’t have to take away from the visual appeal of a website. We’re great at making a website look badass without needing the all the flashiness and explosions of a Michael Bay action movie.

Finally, the Three-Click Rule makes the planning stage of the web design process much easier. Things like sitemaps can be organized and laid out at a more efficient rate, and it allows for shorter URLs because there aren’t an endless number of pages.


Overall, the Three-Click Rule isn’t a restricting, end-all-be-all rule for web design. It should, instead, be used loosely to make the design process more straight forward from start to finish which will allow a viewer to navigate a website and find what they’re looking for in a more efficient manner.

Appeal To Customers Through Your Website's Design

There are a number of ways that you can appeal to customers through your website’s design. The following article outlines some of the industry’s best tips to balance the need for good graphic design with good SEO practices.

Creating eye-catching visuals, curating high-quality content and organizing relevant SEO is now more important than ever in website design. It’s now so prominent because as customers go through their decision-making process, not only will they evaluate their options based on the visual appeal of a website design, but how accessible, relevant, and easy-to-view its content is as well. Therefore, if your website’s design isn’t visually appealing, or if customers can’t find the information they’re looking for, your product or service is likely going to be overlooked in favor of your closest competitor. So, here are some good rules to follow for your website’s design so you don’t get passed over:

Have a Direct Page Title and Description

A page title (title tag) and description (meta description) are kind of like your website’s executive summary; they are written last and summarize the most important information on your website. A web developer will usually write the title tags and meta descriptions during the last phase of the website design process but, like an executive summary, it’s the first thing customers see when they do a Google search, so let’s start there.

Writers, web developers and business owners alike have the desire to come up with extravagant, charming and differentiating descriptions, but most of the time if it’s written that way it’s going to do poorly in the SEO department. So try and stay away from wordy, indirect titles and descriptions when writing the copy for your website. Instead, write a description that is direct, states the services your company provides and lists where your company is located. That way your description gets right to the point for customers and will perform well on search engines. In terms of the title tag, you should essentially aim to have the name of your company, the city it’s located in and the title of what you do so Google will pick it up. Here’s an example of what we mean:

Web Design Victoria | WordPress Websites | is a full-service web design and digital marketing company in Victoria BC. We specialize in WordPress and e-commerce, as well as provide strategic digital marketing including SEO, PPC, and social media.

Provide Easy Homepage Navigation

This one sounds straightforward but after evaluating hundreds of website designs and layouts it really isn’t.

A high bounce rate can be a huge red flag and, typically, means your website’s design is likely too confusing for customers to navigate or information they’re looking for isn’t in an accessible spot. So, make sure your navigational menu clearly conveys the information you want to provide. Always have a button that directs to pages that talk about your company, a button directing to your services or products, and a button that provides the easiest way to contact your company about services; you can even have your company’s phone number and email in the header to make life really easy for customers. The name of each button on the navigational menu are up to you and should fit your brand but the rule of thumb is, and should always be, “simple is better.”

Direction to social media pages is also important. The power social media is huge for providing information, style and adding a brand personality to your company. Customers more than ever are drawn to brands who are active on social media, so make sure to provide them with a way to view your social pages and engage with your personality. The easiest and most foolproof way to provide access is to add an icon to both your header and footer that links to each one of your social media accounts.

Distribute an Abundance of Call-To-Actions

Make sure your website is designed with a variety of call-to-action buttons or verbal directions. (This point should be bolded, in all caps, double underlined and have ten exclamation points.)

Your customers will almost certainly lose patience if they aren’t given direction on how to navigate throughout your website or given a reason to stay. “click here”, “find out more”, “contact us for a free quote” are all call-to-actions that sound lame and boring, but they really do work. Have a call-to-action on every page that is related to the product, service or information being provided on that page. This will give your potential customers the ability to find out more if they’re still not convinced they should purchase your product or use your service.

Use Clear Images and Practice Consistent Style & Branding

Pixelated images can be one of the biggest turnoffs out there (beer goggles won’t even help). Create and save your images in a high-quality JPEG or PNG format and optimize them for the web so they don’t take an eternity to load. Try this easy-to-use image optimizer.

We recently shared an article on our Facebook page that lists the top free stock photo websites ( and are our favorites). These stock photos aren’t your average, business person in front of a white background, stock photos either! All of the images are professional quality and can be downloaded in a variety of pixel sizes. They’ll give your website an added style that will draw potential customers in.

We can’t forget, “use clear images and practice consistent style” applies to your logos and branding as well. Logos should be clear and the style of your website should be consistent with your branding, and all font(s) should be both clear and consistent and contrasting to the background color of your website. Pink or neon yellow on a white background is a no-go.

Make Sure Your Mobile Design is Compatible and Easy to View

Have you ever been on your phone, clicked on a link on Facebook or Twitter, and the company’s web page comes up and you need a Sherlock Holmes-sized magnifying glass to read the text? Yeah, don’t be that company. Instead, provide short and concisely written content that is in a large enough font size for a reader who is even moderately visually impaired. Also, make sure your website’s desktop version and its images are compatible and clear on a smartphone. This way viewers aren’t squinting at the text, finding it hard to focus on the image, or getting frustrated over clarity.

Statistically speaking, this point is more important than ever due to the increasing percentage of smartphone users. Approximately 75% of Canadians own a smartphone according to a study done by Catalyst (click here to view the study:

Finally, an old rule of thumb most website developers like to follow (or should) is the Three-Click Rule. The Three-Click Rule means that most customers will leave your website and go elsewhere if they can’t find what they’re looking for in three clicks. Therefore, organize all of your content so that it’s quick and easy to access in approximately three clicks. If you combine that with the four main points above it will make viewing your website both easy and timely for customers.

7 FREE Online Marketing Tools For Small Business We Use

Being a small business owner means that sometimes we’re a little strapped for budget. And we all know that a great website is the best investment you can make for your marketing.

But sometimes you want to do more than just a website. There are plenty of free tools to help you manage and improve your online marketing. Here are our top 7 completely FREE tools!



What is it? Canva is a free graphic design tool that helps non-designers produce simple, beautiful graphics. It has hundreds of free templates, graphics and pictures, and many others for sale for $1 each.

Why it’s great. We love Canva because it can take care of simple tasks like social media cover graphics, presentations, email headers, even website ads. It’s worth looking into and learning if you don’t have a big budget for graphic design.



What is it? Buffer is a social media scheduling app that helps you spread out your social media updates. The free version lets you have one profile for each network, as well as ten scheduled updates at a time.

Why it’s great. Buffer finds the best times for posting on each social media channel and posts stuff for you. You can make a Buffer update from any page by using the Chrome app.


Google Analytics

What is it? Google Analytics is the standard analytics app by the masters of search, Google. Access your website’s statistics and program goals and alerts to keep an eye on every aspect of your website’s visitors.

Why it’s great. Although it’s a bit complex at first, it’s worth learning how to use this free tool offered by Google. The wealth of information on your website this offers is invaluable.



What is it? HelloBar is a simple full-width bar that appears at the top of your website. You can program it to encourage email signups or social shares, or to A/B test emails and pages.

Why it’s great. The top online marketers have been using HelloBar to increase their email signups. The basic functions are free, and if you’re just starting to build an email list, keeping the HelloBar logo is a fair price.



What is it? Hotjar is an analytics app that provides heatmaps, usage recordings, conversion funnels, form analysis, polls and surveys, and even live user testing. If you want to look at the specific behaviour of users on your site, it’s a great all-in-one tool.

Why it’s great. The free version offers the basic functions, and they’re enough if you’re just starting out. The data you’ll gather from just the free version is worth the time invested in installing and learning the tool.



What is it? LeadIn is a “lite” version of the well-known inbound marketing tool Hubspot. It all beings with capturing leads with an email address, and you get a database of all your leads and some analytics data.

Why it’s great. If you’re not ready to invest in Hubspot yet (it’s not cheap), LeadIn is the perfect way to get started with inbound marketing. You’ll see how your marketing efforts are working, and you’ll have a nice lead database to start growing your business.



What is it? Sumo is a free WordPress-based tool for all your online marketing needs. It provides many tools, including email lead capture (smart bar, scroll box or welcome mat), heat maps, content analytics, a Google Analytics integration, contact forms, and many more.

Why it’s great. Aside from the Sumo website being an amazing resource for all things internet marketing, it’s basically an all-in-one tool that does a lot of what many separate apps can do. The free functions are practical enough to be worth it, and it’ll serve you well as a basic, all-around tool as you begin to grow your online presence.

Have any other tool to suggest? Let us know in the comments!

Digital Marketing Tips for Small Business Owner

1. Your website better be awesome on mobile – if not, you are losing traffic.

  • In 2015, 68% of Canadians surveyed in this study owned a cell phone. This was up 24% from 2014.
  • 2015 marked the year where more Google searches happened on mobile devices than desktop in Canada (among the USA and other countries)
  • Nearly half of all Facebook users only access Facebook on mobile


2. Start tracking the return on your investment.

With the incredible amount of information, tools and data businesses have access to, tracking return on investment has never been easier. Yet, so many business owners have no idea what the return of their marketing investment is.

Calculating your ROI: First subtract all of your advertising and marketing costs from the total revenue generated from advertising and marketing, then divide by the total marketing and advertising cost.

3. Dedicate a budget for digital marketing. Your competitors are.

In case you have been sleeping under a rock for the last two years, companies have been dumping money into digital marketing. Simply because it’s delivering a positive return-on-investment (ROI). Two years to five years ago you would of had an early mover advantage. Now you are behind. Your competitors are spending money on Google AdWords campaigns to show up on search engines, hiring employees to manage social media, running Facebook Advertising to drive traffic and sales on websites, investing in ways to improve how high they rank on Google search result pages, and more….

  • 75% of small businesses said their money spent on digital marketing was effective or very effective.

Many small businesses have no established marketing budget. You think you do not need a marketing budget, and you are right. However, if you are looking to grow your business, keep or grow market share in a competitive market, designating a marketing budget should be a priority. The trouble is businesses don’t know how much to spend. The small business administration recommends a budget between 7 and 8% of your gross revenue. We have created a table below showing different annual revenues and marketing investments of 3% to 10%.

Annual Marketing Budget Matrix

Annual Revenue


5% 8% 10%


$7,500.00 $12,500.00 $20,000.00 $25,000.00


$15,000.00 $25,000.00 $40,000.00 $50,000.00
$750,000.00 $22,500.00 $37,500.00 $60,000.00


$1,000,000.00 $30,000.00 $50,000.00 $80,000.00


$1,500,000.00 $45,000.00 $75,000.00 $120,000.00


Monthly Marketing Budget Matrix

Annual Revenue

3% 5% 8% 10%


$625.00/mth $1,041.67/mth $1,666.67/mth $2,083.33/mth


$1,250.00/mth $2,083.33/mth $3,333.33/mth $4,166.67/mth
$750,000.00 $1,875.00/mth $3,125.00/mth $5,000.00/mth


$1,000,000.00 $2,500.00/mth $4,166.67/mth $6,666.67/mth


$1,500,000.00 $3,750.00/mth $6,250.00/mth $10,000.00/mth


Digital Marketing Tips for Small Business Owner – 2016 Edition – Other Articles

Yoast SEO – Victoria WordPress Events Meetup

Hey WordPressers!

This post contains the slides from the Yoast SEO WordPress Meetup that happened on November 19th. A big thanks to Q College for the space. If you have any questions or comments please post them below.

Useful links 
Victoria Business Directories – A Guide For Local Businesses

Get Citations on Prominent, Local Business Directories in Victoria, BC

When is comes to local SEO it is very important to have many citations of your business information across the web. It is also important that the information across each of these platforms is consistent. Citations are simply mentions of your company’s business information online. Specifically your company’s NAP information:



Phone Number

The importance of making sure this information is consistent across all platforms cannot be stressed enough! Think about all the details here because the little details matter. Here are some examples of the minor differences that can occur with a company’s NAP online:

ideazone google my business page

  • Road vs Rd
  • Suite vs Ste
  • 100-1250 Street vs #100 1250 Street vs 1250 Street, #100
  • (250) 555-5555 vs 250-555-5555

All of these subtle differences matter when it comes to citations.  Only when the citations are the same and exactly match the address on your company’s website will they contribute to increased website and Google My Business page rankings.

Many times these sites will create listings for you. Google did it by the millions way back in 2014 when they first created what is now known as Google My Business.  But since it’s scraped from other sources on the web, the information can be incorrect, or incomplete. You should start by establishing your business information on some sort of standards document. This should include:

  • How company name is written
  • Address
  • Website Address – http vs https vs www vs non-www etc
  • Local phone number, and toll free number when necessary (don’t use a toll-free number as your primary number on your GMB page – add it as a secondary number after your local number)
  • Short form business description (200 characters)
  • Long business description (200 – 500 words)

You should then Google your business name, go through the first 5-10 pages, and correct and complete all of the listings you find.

Deciding when to pay for directory listings – often these sites will have free and paid options. The paid options could give you a higher placement, guarantee page views, etc. Other times they will ask you to pay more of a membership fee, and there will be other benefits. Assess these carefully, thinking of your target audience and the potential reach. Often it is not necessary to opt for the paid option, as long as you can get the citation and website link with the free option.  Keep in mind that you don’t want to be linking back to a bunch of business directory sites just to get links from them (many ask for a reciprocal link).

Important Listings for Businesses in Victoria BC

Think Local Victoria
Paid – $250 per year (membership)

Shop in Victoria
Free/ Paid

Victoria Chamber

Yellow Pages
Free/ Paid

Shop Victoria

Free/ Paid

Google Places (Google My Business)


Paid – Membership


A Canadian company by the name of Whitespark makes their living in the citations / business directories realm and has compiled a great list of the top 35 Canadian local citations sites to get listed on.

Canadas Top 35 Local Business Listing Directories Citations

If you’re looking to get your business found online, getting listed in as many top business directories across the web is a good start…but it might not be enough to get your site to the top of the search engines for your target keywords.  If you need help increasing your rankings online, contact IdeaZone today.

Is your website just a pretty place on the web, or does it actually work for you? Is one of the primary purposes of your site to attract potential customers and convert them into leads through a contact form, request a quote form, etc? If so you should know your conversion rate, track it on a regular basis, and make attempts to improve it.

A conversion rate, when speaking generally about a website, is they percentage of visitors who come to your site that complete whatever you are trying to get them to do. This is usually calling you, filling out a form, requesting a quote, purchasing something, downloading an ebook, etc. Conversion rates are looked at any level of marketing, from a strategic blog post, to a ad campaign, to a landing page; however, in this post we will be speaking about a general conversion rate for websites.

A sites conversion rate is should be the primary metrics looked at to measure success when doing any marketing initiatives that involve your website.

What is a Good Conversion Rate

Depending on what industry you are in you should expect to see a conversion rate of 1-10%. Now that is a big range, so here are some more specific numbers from a report by WordStream:

  • Median – 2.35%
  • Top 25% – 5.31%
  • Top 10% – 11.45%

The purpose of this post is not to get into how to improve your conversion rate; instead, it is meant to show you if there is opportunity to increase it based on averages.

Finding Out Your Conversion Rate

Ideally, your conversion rate can be tracked through your Google Analytics. You must set up goals for the actions that you consider conversions. For 90% of businesses a conversion is a contact form submission, or a phone call. These actions can both be tracked in Google Analytics, but it needs to be set up.

STOP – If you do not have Google Analytics installed on your website, stop whatever you are doing and do it now. RIGHT NOW. It takes 2 minutes, seriously. Use this article from Google to help you.

If you have Google Analytics, but are not tracking goals, you can still figure out your conversion rate.

Conversion over Total Traffic = Conversion Rate

  1. GET CONVERSIONS – Take a 30 day time period, and figure out the total number of emails/ form submissions on your website. Also take in consideration how many phone calls you think came from people visiting your website (new customer calls). This will give you your total number of conversions.
  2. GET TRAFFIC – If you have Google Analytics installed on your website getting traffic will be easy. If you did not have installed before reading this (because you have obviously listened to me and installed it by now), then you need to either wait 30 days or go to your hosting provider and see if they can give you traffic numbers.
  3. GET YOUR CONVERSION RATE – Now you can divide your total number of conversions by your total traffic and get your conversion rate.

Is There Room For Improvement?

Now that you have your conversion rate you will want to do a few Google searches and see how you stack up against other websites in your industry.

Very often there is. The next thing do do definitely depends on your current situation, but may include a user experience audit. This is where you go through common user journeys and find things that can be improved.

IdeaZone Tip: Each important page on your website should have one primary goal. Whether it is filling out a form for a quote, signing up, or requesting a callback. There should be a clear call to action trying to get users to complete that goal.

In a different post we will go over how to take the next step and improve conversions. If you are interested in receiving a free website audit please click the link below. We will complete a one hour review of your site, and have a meeting to go over it, as well as answer any questions you might have. We will even buy the coffee!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a controversial and commonly misunderstood marketing tactic. SEO is a very real, and accepted tactic that bring incredible potential to many businesses.

What Really Is SEO?

SEO is not about stuffing keywords into your pages and buying links. It use to be, but if you do that now you will hurt your website. SEO is now about having a good usable website that works for all devices, and creating relevant, quality content that relates to the search terms you want to rank for. Google has an algorithm that ranks websites based on a criteria of over 200 ‘ranking factors’. These range from things like your page speed, to the use of a keyword in your page title (and 198+ in between).

SEO and WordPress

WordPress is one of the best platforms to optimize for when it comes to SEO. Much of the difficult, technical work is taken care of by default when you use WordPress. In addition, there are plugins to help you optimize for many of the important things Google looks at.

The most popular and best plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast. We install this plugin by default on all websites we build at IdeaZone. We train our clients on how to do it, and offer additional help if they require it.

Getting Started With SEO For Your WordPress Site

So you have a WordPress website and Yoast downloaded. Now what? SEO needs to be done strategically. What is the point in trying to optimize for a certain keyword, if people aren’t looking for it?

Step 1 – Assess your current situation

The first thing I do anytime I am introduced to someone looking for help with SEO is to find out what they are currently ranking for. There is an awesome tool called SEMRush that can tell you what you (and your competitors!) are ranking for. It’s not perfect, but usually catches important keyword. All you have to do is copy/paste your home page URL into the tool, ensure you pick the right country, and go!

Step 2 – Is SEO right for you?

SEO is not right for all businesses, but it is right for many. All you have to do is think logically: would I search for this type of product, service or company on Google? Or is that not likely. Start to brainstorm a list of things you think people would search in Google. Try to build a list of 5-10 keywords at least.

Step 3 – Find out how many people are searching for these keywords!

Google has a tool, called a Keyword Planner, that allows you to find out how many people in a certain geographic location search for a particular keyword monthly. Here is the process to follow:

  1. Go to If you already have an Adwords account then sign in, if not you can sign up for free using a Gmail account (you don’t have to run ads unless you want to, don’t worry).
  2. On the top navigation bar find Tools > Keyword Planner
  3. Choose ‘search for new keywords and ad group ideas
    Keyword planner how-to SEO
  4. Enter one keyword you think someone would look for (ie. web design Victoria)
  5. Enter your home page URL. Google will then scan your page and provide you with other keywords it thinks you could target.
  6. Choose the geographic location you want (we have just chosen Victoria, BC in this case)
    keyword planner
  7. Click ‘Get Ideas
  8. You will now be able to search through ideas Google suggests based on that one keyword and the content on your website. I suggest looking under the ‘Keyword’ tab as the results tend to be more relevant.
    Keyword planner - finding keywords
  9. Start a list/ excel document with the keyword and monthly search volume.

Step 4 – Complete an SEO audit and create a plan

The next step I would take is do a complete review on the state of your SEO, and create an actionable plan on what needs to be done. I am not going to get into explaining how to do this, as it would take a really, really, really long time. And you likely would not be able to effectively do it for the first time. I suggest hiring a professional digital marketer with experience to help you audit and create a plan, and then you can assist with the delivery.

  1. Receive a high level overview of the state of your SEO
  2. Find out the competitiveness of your specific situation
  3. Learn if SEO would be a good strategy to focus on for your business
  4. Get quick wins/ recommendations to improve your SEO


* IdeaZone is recognized as a top WordPress Design Company on DesignRush

In the multi-device world we live in, it’s important to ensure your website is presented well on devices of all sizes. From our experience with small to medium sized businesses, a website can expect to receive 20 – 50% of its traffic from mobile devices. Many North Americans name their phone as their main device to access the web; in fact, mobile searches will exceed desktop searches by the end of the year, Google predicts.

Over the past few years Google has been looking at the mobile experience of websites more closely. Google has recently announced that they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Unlike other Google updates that target specific countries, keywords searched, or anchor text, this update will affect all mobile searches, in all countries, for all keywords. This update happened on April 21st, 2015.

Wondering if your website is mobile friendly?

Google has a tool that can tell you:

  1. If your website classifies as mobile-friendly (and thus were not affected by the update)
  2. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will explain what is not mobile friendly.

There are options for how you build a website that works for all devices. You can have a responsive website, or a separate optimized mobile website. Before April 21st, Google would generally rank websites on mobile phones the same as they ranked on desktop. That has now changed. If your website ranks on the first page for a given search term, you may not rank in the same position on a phone. The extent of the effect will depend on your individual situation and the competitive situation.


In 2012 IdeaZone started with responsive design, and in 2013 we made it a standard to build all our WordPress websites using responsive design. We understood the importance and value for our clients.  For IdeaZone clients wondering about their mobile-friendliness please send us a message.

If you have any questions about the mobile-friendliness of your website don’t hesitate to contact us.

More information:

I was recently asked where I saw IdeaZone’s design style moving in the future, and replied that I wanted us to move backwards – back to our roots. On further reflection, I realized that it was not IdeaZone’s design origins for which I was striving, it was my own.

I have found myself thinking of my early days in this industry, before anyone started seriously talking about this new medium called the ‘inter-web’.

In 1993 (yes, I am that old), renowned graphic designer Richard Urysz brought me into his firm. His company, Designamite, was a creative design firm that specialized in corporate branding and point of purchase advertising. I wish I could say that Richard hired me based on my outstanding design skills, but I suspect it had more to do with him being tired of watching the father of his two grandsons struggle as a freelance graphic designer.

Richard provided bold and daring design, laced with tongue-in-cheek copywriting, and his work was far beyond outstanding.

One night, over too much beer and bourbon, Richard told me that he felt that the internet would be the world’s next point of purchase medium and that we needed to move in that direction. I felt that trying to push a highly graphical message through a 14.4kbit/s (the best at the time) modem was crazy. Richard insisted that one day, every business would be featured on the web. We might even have online services that would stream our audio and maybe even video.

He might have been accused of being a visionary.

Designamite shortly became one of the first design firms in BC to feature a client’s company online. It was a daring and innovative marketing move that proved itself to be immensely successful.

Designamite folded. Richard and I parted ways, but continued to work closely together. Richard went on as Creative Director at PCNCG, while I founded J. Valade Studios (soon to merge with IdeaZone). In the early years, I felt that Richard’s designs were much too bold for the internet, while my team kept things subdued and comfortable for our small business clients.

The friendship that Richard and I shared went far beyond our working relationship, lasted much longer than my marriage with his daughter, and was steeped within the industry that defined us both.

The technology that drives the internet is finally there. WordPress, with the right editors and plugins, allows us to bring bold and daring graphic design to the internet.


I want IdeaZone to be bold, laced with tongue-in-cheek copywriting, and far beyond outstanding. I want this company to reflect the heart and soul that Richard and I originally brought to this industry.

Richard was more than just a friend. He was a mentor I looked up to and respected. I owe my career to him and I wish him the best in the next life.

What is HRD Photography… or High Dynamic Range Imaging?

“High dynamic range imaging or HDR Photography is a set of methods used in imaging and photography to allow a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods. HDR images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight, and is often captured by way of a plurality of differently exposed pictures of the same subject matter.”

In the simplest terms, HDR Photography will blend together three versions of the same photo. One at normal exposure, one at a lower exposure and one at a higher exposure. This creates a high dynamic range that produces an outstandingly vibrant picture.  Most new cameras come with HDR options built in. Even my Samsung Galaxy SIII has this option provided that you manage to keep your hands from shaking long enough. If not it will produce an outstandingly vibrant blur.

But what about those older pictures in your archives.

It is possible to create a False HDR Effect using Photoshop.

I have looked at a number of different techniques for this and the following is my favourite because the effect is a little more subtle and most of the steps can be done with keyboard shortcuts.

The photos on the left are the originals with the adjusted photos on the right… click to enlarge.

HRD Photography HDR Photography by Jon Valade

HRD Photography with Photoshop Effect HRD Photography with Photoshop Effect

Photography by Jon Valade Photography by Jon Valade

HDR Photography using Photoshop HDR Photography using Photoshop


To create your False HDR Effect using Photoshop, follow the instructions below:

  1. Take your original image and move it from the background to a layer called ‘Original’. Since I will need to create multiple layers with the same image I did this by selecting the image and pasting it into the new layer… this keeps the original image in the buffer to easily paste it a few mre times.
  2. Create a new layer above ‘Original’ and call it ‘Desaturate’. Paste the original image into the layer and change the Blending options to ‘Overlay’
  3. Desaturate the layer (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate) or (SHIFT + CTRL + U)
  4. Invert the layer (Image > Adjustments > Invert) or (CTRL I)
  5. Add around 40 pixels (tweak to your liking)  Gaussian Bluer to the layer (Filter > Bluer > Gaussian Blur
  6. Create a new layer above ‘Desaturate’ and call it ‘linear’
  7. Change the blending option to ‘Linear Light’
  8. Adjust the opacity of ‘Linear’ to somewhere between 25% and 65%

Save it and be fabulous…

I have been asked to Join Richard Clement to present a session at this year’s WRCUP Conference at UVic.

Richard and I will be spending this time critiquing websites for journalism students.

From the conference’s Facebook Event page…

Our conference will take place from March 22-24th at the University of Victoria. We are looking to bring dynamic speakers from Victoria’s vibrant journalism community to our conference. Accommodation will be provided by the Strathcona Hotel, right in the heart of downtown Victoria. A short 15 minute bus ride on public transportation will bring you from the hotel to campus. Victoria has an amazing number of local brew pubs, nightclubs, and other venues sure to keep any cuppie satisfied for the night.

Click for the conference Facebook page

Tips and Tools Sheet