The IdeaZone Blog

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 https://www.google.com/adwords. 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:

https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html

https://moz.com/community/q/google-s-mobile-update-what-we-know-so-far-updated-3-25

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.

THAT IS WHERE I WANT IDEAZONE TO BE.

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

 Instructions

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

So I thought it might be time to test out the Facebook ads. IdeaZone has been staying consistent at 360 Facebook likes for almost a year. Granted there have been a number of interesting discussions but I really did not think that we were growing on this particular network.  Anyone who has a Facebook business page has seen the ‘Build Audience’ link at the top of the page and the ‘Promote’ link at the bottom of every post.  I thought it might be time to invest a small bit of money to test this.

Here are the results after two weeks.
The IdeaZone Facebook page went from 360 to 521 likes and continues to grow by about 5 likes per day.
We also went from an average of 160 people reached per week to 15,412. This is significant now matter what type of media you are using to connect with potential buyers.

Here is what I did.
I started by creating a Facebook ad designed to get more ‘Likes’. The link to start this process is always in the sidebar on the right of your Business Page.  I specified a budget of $5.00 per day to a total of $20.00. For a low cost test, this was worth the budget.
While that ad was running, I selected a handful of messages to promote to my friends and friends of friends. The cost of this was $6.00 per message for  5 messages. The total cost was $30.00.
So the results I got came at a cost of $50.00 over the course of two weeks. Although this is more then I intended to pay, the reach I got is a much better value than any other available media.