How the Year of the Snake Can Help You Better Understand Your Business

Happy Lunar New Year! 2013 is the year of the snake and there is much to learn, even if you’re not a big believer in the zodiac or astrology! Take this as a moment to pause and think of all the great things that are in store for your website, business and life in this upcoming year.

For people born on a year of the snake, strengths include:
Skill at communicating by saying very little:
This can translate well when it comes to website copy. Say what you mean concisely and don’t mislead visitors by throwing in filler.

A rational and logical approach to problems:
Last year was a tumultuous year for SEO and who knows what this year will bring. This trait will help you stay calm if your site encounters problems and coming up with a logical plan of action instead of stressing for no reason.

Great perception and understanding of themselves:
A deep understanding of your business and mission statement will help you better serve customers and keep them coming back for more. The last thing you want to convey to potential customers is that your business goals are all over the place.

Weaknesses include:
Being jealous and suspicious:
These are negative personality traits which could prove to be disastrous if it leaks into the spirit of your business. Some examples of this include negative SEO, false and malicious reviews. Although rare, I’ve even seen some instances where business owners accuse Google of having a personal vendetta against their site and rankings!

A tendency to overdo things:
Remember, less is more and keeping it simple will help make your business better. Some owners may overwork themselves or employees and the end result may not even be better. On top of that, they have destroyed morale. When things are looking their worse, it helps to take a step back and analyze whether you really do need to do that one thing.

Transformation
2012’s year of the dragon is considered to be the most favorable and luckiest year of the 12 year cycle. So, it’s not fair that 2013 has a slightly negative connotation. This is considered to be a year of unexpected changes but change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It depends on how you look at the situation.
A quote found here can best sum up what to expect this year. So go out and do it!

This year let go of all attachments—emotional, mental, physical, financial, and spiritual- that may be holding you back. Transform them, like the Water Snake, into something of value that will help you move ahead to the next level of your be-ing.

Search Marketing Events to Look Forward to

WhatSearch Marketing Expo – SMX West (San Jose)
Highlights – Whether you’re a beginner or expert, this expo is perfect for you. It will feature 50 sessions on SEO, PPC, social media marketing, local/mobile search, landing page conversions and much more.
When – March 11-13, 2013

WhatSouth by Southwest
Highlights – Although this is typically known as a huge music and entertainment event, this has changed in the past few years. This year’s schedule includes: “Awe-Inspiring Web Typography You Can Do Now”, “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing”, “The Learn to Code Movement” and more.
When – March 8-17, 2013

WhatPubCon New Orleans 2013
Highlights – Located in the Big Easy this year’s con will feature “top speakers, cutting-edge sessions, and social media nightlife, featuring a vast variety of tracks and strong lineup of major industry exhibitors.”
When – April 22 – 25, 2013

WhatBlueGlass X in Los Angeles
Highlights – This very limited engagement of only 175 attendees will include speakers like: Andrew Shotland, Brian Clark, Ian Lurie, Neil Patel, and Joanna Lord… to name a few!
When – May 21 – 22, 2013


What - The Internship
Highlights - Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as two unemployed salesmen who are able to score a coveted internship at Google.
When - June 7, 2013

What - Content Marketing World 2013
Highlights - Speakers include: Jonathan Mildenhall (VP, Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company) and Jay Baer.
When - September 9 – 12, 2013

What - Conversion Conference Boston 2013
Highlights – 2 whole days focused on website optimization, digital marketing and analytics, with sessions on: website usability and design conversion across different platforms and more.
When - September 30 – October 1, 2013

What search marketing related events are you attending or looking forward to this year?

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, My SEO Gave to Me…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my SEO gave to me:

12 first page rankings,
11 earned client reviews,
10 reputable local citations,
9 relevant blog ideas,
8 effective PPC landing pages,
7 popular newsletter articles,
6 downloadable white papers,
5 viral infographics,
4 interesting, embeddable videos,
3 engaging social media campaigns,
2 competitor keyword analyses,
And a useful lesson in content relevancy!

Happy Holidays!

Online Marketing Lessons to Learn from 3 Scary Movies (Part 2)

Happy Halloween Eve! Get ready for some more lessons from scary movies:

4) Gremlins
Gremlins and links – what do they have in common? One is cute and cuddly (Gizmo/white hat) and the others are just plain nasty (Mogwai/black hat). In the movie, the bad gremlins multiply quickly and can cause havoc if left to their own devices. (If it were only so easy to kill bad links with bright light…)

As we know, there are different types of links and automated services might not be the best. Links should be earned a few at a time and not by the dozens or hundreds one day out of the month to catch up. Even Google recently said that website submission services can be harmful to your site. Proceed with caution and just like having your own Gizmo, some people just aren’t ready!

5) The Fly
In this cult classic by David Cronenberg, Dr. Brundle turns into a human fly in an experiment gone awry. His ultimate wish is to be fused with his wife and unborn child to become… you know, the ultimate fly-human-hybrid. After his plot is foiled, he begs his wife to put an end to his misery – which she does.

Does this sound familiar to your website? Some owners can go overboard with content, design, over-optimization, thin content, and questionable SEO tactics over the years. Pair that with an exact match domain and you’re bound to be buried by Google in the post Panda and Penguin world. There’s a time for it and some people just need to know when to end it all… and start over new. This means 301 redirecting your content or affected URLs to a new domain and starting fresh with new content. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Don’t let the monster consume your pride and work things out before things get any worse.

6) Friday the 13th
At the end of the film, just when you think the masked killer is dead, there he is! Not only does Jason live but he also survives 11 other sequels including trips to space, hell and an intense battle with Freddy Krueger. The same goes with SEO. Many people claim that SEO is “dead” but it has really taken a life form of its own and is constantly changing to adapt to the evolving search marketing landscape. You can go on and on about how search engine optimization is a dying art but at the end of the day it comes down to the truth – SEO lives (and so does Jason Voorhees)!

Read our previous post here and let us know what you think!

Online Marketing Lessons to Learn from 3 Scary Movies

Halloween season is finally upon us! And even though the weather is in the upper 80’s here in Los Angeles, it’s always fun to get into the fall spirit by conjuring up some scary movies and see what we can learn from them. Scaredy-cats, be warned!

1) The Exorcist
In horror movies, it’s particular disturbing to see things that are distorted from things we see in everyday life. What might seem normal in an advanced yoga class isn’t so cool when it’s in the form of a possessed, 12-year old girl spider walking downstairs! That’s why certain angles and even slight changes to regular features are so scary.

Keep this in mind when designing your website – even with the most basic things such as having a Home button towards the left-hand navigation and Contact Us to the right. It’s not smart to tweak traditional design elements that can confuse customers and cause them to leave. In some cases, it can be downright spoOooOoky.

spider walk

2) Killer Klowns from Outer Space
If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, you’re really missing out. Evil alien clowns terrorize a small town with popcorn and cotton candy guns. Did I mention that they drink their victims through a silly straw?

Much like SEO, clowns get a bad wrap. Clowns can be creepy (Pennywise from IT and clown doll from Poltergeist) and SEOs can be deceptive (hidden text and content scraping). The origins of clowns come from a  happy, positive place… which so happened to fall down a deep, dark place over the years. The same thing goes for search marketing. There are ethical ways to go about online marketing and then there are methods that are 100% designed to manipulate search engines.

So the choice is yours… are you going to be a good (whitehat) SEO or dabble in blackhat methods that could get your site penalized?

3) Twilight Zone Episode: “Button, Button”

Ok, so this isn’t a movie but it’s too good to be left out. The storyline is as follows: a couple receive an offer from a strange man – a box with a button. If they press the button, they’ll receive $200,000 but a person who they don’t know will die. They end up pressing the button, receiving the money WITH the ominous warning that the box will be reset and give to someone else who they don’t know!

As always, the lesson learned here is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any internet marketing firm who promises you X amount of #1 rankings. Or “social media gurus” who promise you business from thousands of “fans”. When it comes to marketing your business, it’s best to use your common sense and not to be greedy. Online marketing is slow, persistent work that pays off in the long run. There are no shortcuts and those who choose them will face consequences sooner than later.

Make sure to stay tuned for 3 more scary movies and their takeaways!

Is Retargeting Right for Your Business?

This year, retargeting is becoming one of the most sought after marketing tactics. Although it’s not a new concept, businesses are now applying it to their different marketing campaigns with much success. Let’s take a look at how retargeting can benefit your business:

Search Retargeting: In the simplest form, this is a way of rounding up potential customers. This tactic allows a business to find people who have searched for a term related to their business BUT haven’t visited their site yet. For example, a search of “red spike heels” might pull up ads from Zappos or Urban Outfitters at the top of your search results.

This can also go hand-in-hand with site retargeting, where visitors who have been on your site will see recurring ads for your business on other websites that they go. For example, if I visited a flower delivery site, I might see their ad when I’m reading through the Los Angeles Times online.

Social Media: This summer, Facebook introduced Facebook Exchange, which retargets ads based on users’ cookies. As TechCrunch recently reported, the initial run of retargeted ads on Facebook have proven to be successful. Findings show that these ads have an increased conversion rate and lower overall ad cost. What business owner wouldn’t like that?

Paid Search: Tracking ads has become more sophisticated so that you can track different ads at once and see which ones users are bouncing away from. In addition, you can have many options even when you send users to the same place. For example, all users may land on the same landing page, but depending on the section that they’re active on (services, products etc.), they’ll be retargeted with ads relevant to their search intent. For PPC, you can test the language to narrow down user-intent and effectively tailor your campaign to that need, whether it’s a need for more information or to convert sales.

The Bottom Line
Retargeting is a great way to raise brand awareness and remind potential customers about your business. Keeping interested is great but at the same time, it’s important to remember that people are very concerned with their privacy. Let’s say that you’re searching for a divorce lawyer on the family computer. No one would want their children or spouse to see retargeted ads as they browse the internet. On top of that, retargeted ads can be just plain annoying if you accidentally landed on a site that you don’t like or never intend to purchase from. Retargeting can be great for your business and owners have a lot of options to see what works best.

Elevating Your E-Commerce Site

Many times, there are misconceptions that there aren’t a lot of things you can do to improve your e-commerce site. Sites with many products might have difficulty looking beyond their products and at their actual site. Focusing on the basics, here are some things you can do elevate your site:

Make Contact Forms Appealing – Have you thought about getting rid of some unnecessary fields in your forms? Having less clutter can help improve your contact forms’ conversion rate as this study shows, up to almost 50%! For example, did you know that about 50% of top 100 retailers ask customers for the same information twice?! Additionally, fewer fields can also help establish trust as your customers don’t feel like you’re invading their privacy and only gathering relevant/necessary information.

Utilize User-Generated Content (UGC) – Reviews, testimonials, product reviews, Q&A are types of content that you can easily add throughout your e-commerce site. These snippets can be added via microformat codes to be integrated into search results or they can have their own dedicated section. Having UGC is yet another way to boost credibility and enhance the consumer experienced.

Make it Easy to Link to – If you’re on a retail site, it’s not unusual to see “ahwe3&67xjshw=” and other characters in the URL. Whenever possible, it’s important to have SEO-friendly URLS. This helps with users bookmark your site and encourages sharing, whether it’s via Facebook, Pinterest or even e-mail.

Improve Security – Security is an important issue when it comes to online shopping. Many people are afraid of having their contact information or even credit card information stolen. Unfortunately nowadays, this is becoming more of a pressing issue. There are some necessary steps you need to take in order to ensure your customers’ security like: using SSL(Secure Socket Layer) certificate, never automatically storing credit card information and using reliable a checkout gateway (like Paypal and Google
Checkout). Having prominent disclaimers showcasing your security is up to date is equally important.

KISS – In the end, this applies to most of the elements of your e-commerce site (or any website for that matter). Elements like your main navigation, search bar, check out process, and method for collecting contact info is crucial. But sometimes, even the most important elements can be overlooked.  There are ways to cut down on this clutter to ensure a smoother and more efficient shopping experience and all it takes is an audit through the eyes of a customer. Keep it simple, stupid!

How to Rescue Bad Landing Pages

Landing pages are important for both organic and paid search. It’s a good thing that landing pages can be consistently analyzed, updated, and improved… because there are still horribly optimized and designed landing pages that exist out there. Here are a few things to look for to make sure that you’re making the most out of your landing pages.

bad landing pages

1) Bounce rate – If your bounce rates are high, it could be a clear indication that the page isn’t helpful to visitors. If this is the case, it’s time to revamp your content and research the keywords you’re targeting to better connect with what customers are looking for. The design could be off-putting or they might feel misdirected by clicking. This is a starting point where you can dive deeper into what is causing the high bounce rate.

2) SEO friendly web design – Are you using Flash? Is your navigation easy to navigate? Is there too much text? Do you have pop-ups? All these could be a factor in visitors not sticking to your landing page. Although it’s natural to want to share a whole lotta content, it’s good to refrain from adding more clutter than you need.

3) Objective – Clarify your main objective and ask yourself what exactly you want to accomplish with the landing page. It’s best to have 1 main objective per landing page and this overall view will help with content creation. Again, clearing out the unncessary clutter.

4) Call to action - What do you want visitors to do? Here are some things you could emphasize: Call a number, fill out a form, download a free e-book, signup for a newsletter, etc. Another thing… don’t forget to make it easy for them to do so!

5) Trust factor – Sometimes, the nature of landing pages can seem spammy and untrustworthy. This is where social networking can work to your advantage. You can display positive reviews, Tweets, number of Facebook likes and other small blurbs that help reassure visitors that they’re making the right choice by choosing your company.

Good, bad and ugly… landing pages have seen it all. Let us know what you think and if you have any good/bad examples. And make sure to read more about “Identifying and Fixing Your Worst Landing Pages” here.

Social Optimiziation with Open Graph Protocol

We’ve previously talked about microformats like Schema.org, but what is there for social networking sites? Have you ever attempted to Like or share something on Facebook with strange titles or pictures showing up? You might not even get what you’re looking for unless you manually input that information and let’s face it, what customer is going to do that themselves? Such a thing does exist to help and it’s called The Open Graph protocol.

What is Open Graph?
This protocol allows developers to integrate their site into a “social graph”. Using specified markup, you can make any page on your site socially shareable by setting custom type (video, article etc.), title, meta description, contact information, and even address/location.

How do you implement it?
Open Graph supports simple markup data and it’s not really hard to apply. It’s really a matter of copying and pasting the right information. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins that can generate this for you. It’s important to use the right code when using the markup on your website. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to test and check your work before going live or before you implement it on many pages, or even site wide. Check out this Facebook Tool which gives you feedback on a page where the code is added so that you can see any potential errors. It’s also helpful to check a live, working example such as Amazon or IMDb to see how they’re using the markup and replicate it on your site for maximum effectiveness.

Why is this important?
For e-commerce retailers, product pages could have unrelated or boring information when it shows up Liked or shared on Facebook and Google Plus. Having control of what shows up in your customers’ feed is important because you want to optimize for consumers, and not just have a default blurb of what the site pulls up. Moreover, using these tags means that you’re putting it in a language that search engines can easily read and it could help boost your rankings. You can also test it on 2 similar pages, one using the markup and one not and see what difference it makes for your particular product/service (in terms of comparing bounce rate, conversions, click through rate, etc). In other words, optimizing your site for social using Open Graph can only help as you’re making your site more search and social friendly.

Feel free to leave a comment or contact us if you have any questions about Open Graph or any other social media marketing strategies!

Thinking About Saying No to GoDaddy?

Were you affected by GoDaddy’s outage this past Monday? Millions of websites were down due to an Anonymous hacker, although GoDaddy claims that the down time was caused by internal errors… Nonetheless, unhappy customers took to Twitter to complain, curse and swear off the service altogether. GoDaddy has offered 1 month of free service to customers but it might be too little, too late for the company.

no to godaddy

GoDaddy has been no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to their marketing. The company is best known for their spokeswoman, Danica Patrick and putting scantily clad females on screen whenever possible. The downside on relying on “sexy” commercial ads is that it probably isn’t enough to boost GoDaddy’s credibility as a reliable web host. Another point of controversy was when GoDaddy openly supported SOPA until an influx of customer complaints came in. The company quickly reversed its position of supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act.

As an online marketing firm, we deal with many, many different web hosting companies. HostGator is an excellent alternative option that has been reliable for us over the years. Some benefits of choosing HostGator include: affordability, user-friendly control panel, accessible customer support and quality service.


Let us know what you think of GoDaddy, HostGator or any other website hosting services that you would recommend.