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Author: warren

10
Sep

Monday Motivation – Creativity

15
Sep

Website Launch – Handcrafted by Bissinger’s

I skip lunch a lot. It’s easier than packing my lunch, cheaper than buying it out, and it’s usually not a problem for me. It’s not a problem, that is, until I’m working on a website like the one we just launched for our friends at Handcrafted by Bissinger’s. Dang, son!

Our designer did a great job of putting stunning images of their dishes on display. Then again, he had a LOT of good material to work with. And it made me hungry. Now the site is launched and I can go back to forgetting about food until dinner.

Oh wait, no I can’t. Because I’ve got work to do for their sister company, 23 City Blocks Catering. Oh vey! 😉

You might want to wait till after you’ve filled up at lunch to have a peek at the new website….OR, if you work in St. Louis near the Central West End, you might want to pop over and taste those tantalizing treats for yourself! Tell them Kestrel sent you!

08
Sep

Website Launch – Dynamic Transit

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to interact with clients in a wide range of fields. One day, we’ll be interacting with some of St. Louis’ premier wedding photographers; the next day we’ll be catching up with friends in the trucking industry.

In each case, we aim to know our clients so well that we are delivering a site that expresses not merely the distinctive elements of their industry but the distinctive elements that make our clients stand out from the crowd. Additionally, each of our clients have different needs and desires based on how much they will be customizing and changing their site.

Our friends at Dynamic Transit were looking for a “dynamic”, modern look with a LOT of flexibility. A few weeks ago, we rolled out a new site for them that delivered just that. Check them out!

01
Sep

Website Launch – CSI Leasing, Inc.

Before and After CSI Leasing Website

Wow! The last several months have been a whirlwind for our team. Sometimes I feel like a pinball bouncing between projects, but we’ve got some awesome clients and it’s all worth it when we’re finally able to launch their sites.

One site I was particularly stoked to launch was a multisite for CSI Leasing, Inc. we rolled out mid-August. As global leaders in equipment leasing, the CSI team came to us wanting a site that better represented how much attention that give to staying on the cutting edge of technology.

But, this would be more than a simple facelift. They have over 25 sites spanning four continents and ten languages. They needed a flexible solution that would be completely content manageable but also allow for centralized control of shared data to avoid having to enter location information and financial data two dozen times on every update.

We think the new site is pretty hot and look forward to seeing the success of our partners at CSI Leasing! If your company is needing to update your technology or acquire new equipment, reach out and see what solutions CSI has to fit you.

13
Oct

It’s All About Chemistry…and SEO

A good infographic uses something familiar, something you understand, to help you grasp something new or confusing. So why in blazes did Search Engine Land decide to use Chemistry (which most people don’t understand) to help people grasp Search Engine Optimization (which most people also don’t understand)? Smh.

Realistically, though, certain subjects, like SEO, can only be boiled down so far. And the categories this graphic gives are golden. Let me walk you through it.

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

What the Colors Mean

To start, note the color groupings. As marked, the blue columns are “On-the-page” SEO factors. Basically, these elements have everything to do with your website – how it’s built and what content you fill it with. You have direct control over these factors. The green columns by contrast are the “Off-the-page” SEO factors. You don’t have direct, immediate control of these. But your choices and strategy have everything to do with influencing them. For instance, with the penalty for spammy links to your site increasingly severe, links must now be earned rather than bought, farmed, or stolen. How? Write helpful stuff and earn the respect of other professionals through networking. Oh, and you don’t have to choose between these. You should do both.

But what about the red boxes under each column? Those are negative factors – things that hurt you. We’ll come back to them as we look at each column.

As a side note, the difference in color tone also reinforces the value each factor has. Darker colors = More important.

What Each Column Means

On-the-page SEO factors are grouped in three columns: Content, Architecture, & HTML. Off-the-page factors are grouped in four: Trust, Links, Personal, & Social. We’ll walk through each.

Content

The quick and skinny is your website should have fresh, quality content stemming from competent research and expressed using the keywords your clients will be using to find you. In contrast, “thin” content, which may penalize you, contributes nothing to the web. It’s like when you got that F on that college research paper because you just stacked block quotes out of one book.

Architecture

This groups is unavoidably technical. Essentially, when the Google bot comes to call (or “crawl”), it needs to be able to find your pages and see all your content, even on mobile – and it wants it reasonably fast. Ideally, each page will be unique and its URL will reflect the content somewhat. Bonus points if your site is secure (https://). Never build your site to display differently to bots and humans. That’s called “cloaking”. It’s bad. It will hurt you.

HTML

Believe it or not, this is less technical than that last one. A good web agency (ahem) will make it easy for you to set your page titles and descriptions and will build your site with thought to what your header tags communicate about each page. But it’s probably going to be up to you to write up these relevant titles and useful descriptions. Things to avoid are keyword stuffing and hiding text.

Trust

Search engines want to know if people trust you, if you are considered an authority in your field. Though we can’t say exactly what contributes to Google’s ascription of authority, it probably includes solid linkage from within your field, social mentions, site engagement (e.g. “How much time did the user spend on my page?”), site history, and the identity of your authors. Negatively, a history of piracy complaints and too many ads cluttering the content may undermine trust in a site.

Links

Many people know links help your SEO. Here are a few things you might not know:

  1. It matters who is linking. Links from within your industry, especially from leaders, are worth more.
  2. The text of the link matters. It’s the linker’s way of saying “This website is the place to go for ____”.
  3. Quantity still matters, but the number of sites linking is more important than the number of links on a site.
  4. Some links can hurt you. Avoid trying to buy links or spamming other blogs with links to your site.

Personal

This column focuses on the individual. Is your site relevant to the country and locale they are in? Do they or their friends have a history of using your website or sharing it on social media?

Social

While Google+ has been the only social media source directly factored into search rankings, SEO experts widely recognize the value in building a following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites and getting them to share your links. The more people sharing your stuff, the more people coming to your site – that’s good SEO and that’s good business.

 

If you are new to SEO, this is just enough to get your toes wet. For more details, check out Search Engine Land’s full guide or Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO.

21
Jul

Relevance Isn’t Optional: SEO’s Role in Your SEM

People who first hear about SEM (Search Engine Marketing) typically have two responses: “That’s amazing!” and “It sounds so easy!” If you have poured money into print ads or some other hard-to-track advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing may seem too good to be true. With PPC, you are guaranteed traffic to your site or you don’t pay. (BTW, if you’re thinking “SEM? PPC? What the heck’s he talking about?” skip over to my intro post on SEM)

Search Engine Marketing is a great opportunity but it is not a “set it and forget it” solution. Success in SEM means ongoing testing and data analysis. And one of the pieces of data you really want to pay attention to is your quality score. This will directly affect your ad rank and how much you pay when someone clicks your ad. Yes, you can actually be listed above a competitor and pay considerably less then them if you’ve got the edge in ad rank. Conversely, Google won’t show your ad at all if your quality score is too low. So, what isCat wearing a hand knit snood scarf it? Essentially, your quality score is Google’s rating on how relevant your ads (and the webpages they link to) are to the keywords you’re bidding on. But don’t assume. You might take it for granted that your website selling hand-knit, neck warmers for cats will be relevant for the keyword “neck warmers for cats”, but you might be wrong. They question is not whether you see the relevance but whether Google does.

Related to quality score, Google leaves a fair bit shrouded in mystery, but at least they make it easy to check. In your Adwords account, select the Keywords tab. If you hover over the white speech bubble next to each Keyword’s status, you will see a box showing your quality score along with an indication of some of the major factors at play.

If your quality score looksGoogle Adwords keyword quality score box like the the one pictured here, you’ve got some work to do. A below average landing page indicates that Google doesn’t think that page of your website is relevant to your targeted keyword. Finding out why may require help from a web expert familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and utilization of tools like Google Webmaster Tools.

Closer inspection might reveal easy wins like tweaking your title text and header tags. Perhaps you were a little too creative in the text you incorporated into your page and only actually mentioned cats once. Maybe you need to add alt text to your images. All of these are common SEO issues which we may touch on in a future post.

Wait, I thought we were talking about SEM, not SEO… Well, yes. But there’s a lot of crossover. Some basic, technical SEO will improve your SEM performance. Conversely, one of the tangential benefits of Search Engine Marketing is how it can inform your efforts in Search Engine Optimization. For instance, you may notice certain keywords generate a lot of quality contacts in your Paid Search advertising and decide to incorporate those keywords in various places on your website, maybe even focusing on them in a blog post or piece of sharable content.

At some point in the future, we should talk in more detail about the balance between too many keywords and too few. For now, just remember to incorporate enough relevant terms on each webpage that Google knows what it’s about, without being it being forced.

blog-sem-relevance-gif

Keep winning.

23
Jun

Search Engine Marketing Could Save Your Business

Search engine marketing keeps you from going unnoticed like a fallen tree

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A fascinating question, I’m sure. But you’re running a business; who’s got time for amateur philosophy? Your question is, “If we build a smashing product and nobody finds it, is it still smashing?”

The answer is yes. Absolutely. Good on you… Unfortunately, you may still go out of business.

The problem is, as much as we idealists want to believe quality is its own marketing, that’s only part of the story. Quality is indispensable, to be sure. But sometimes, especially when you’re still building a base of repeat customers or trying to scale your business up, you just need more people to know about you. That’s where marketing comes in.

But you knew that. You’re trying to market yourself. After Ryan’s post on content creation last week, you sketched out a new blog post. You recently hired a kid to keep your social media accounts active. And you have a beautiful new, handcrafted website by Switzer Creative. You’re making smart decisions that should contribute to organic search engine ranking and pay off in the long-term. The rub is you need it to pay off in the short-term. You need traffic to your site now.

Enter SEM. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) stands out as one of the most immediate, manipulable, and measurable ways to drive traffic to your company’s site. What is it? One thought leader defines it this way, “SEM is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.” Put another way, give Google money and they will make you show up when customers search for stuff. (To be fair to the other guys, Bing and its partner Yahoo do currently account for a combined 1/3 of all search traffic, but Google holds down virtually all of the rest).

How does search engine marketing work?

Hit your target with search engine marketingSEM can be split into two groups: search and display campaigns. Paid search is built around targeting words and phrases potential customers are searching for online. Since we do web development, Switzer might bid on “web design companies”, “new website”, or even “my website sucks”. Assuming we use broad or phrase match and bid high enough, Adwords would then serve up our ad when someone Googles these phrases or a variation like “st louis web design companies”. Negative keywords allow us to exclude searches like “help me build my new website.” If you’re searching for that, you’re probably not looking for our services – yet.

Display campaigns are a horse of a different color. They differ in format, targeting, and marketing methodology. If you’re interested, comment below and I’ll address it in a future post. We have other pressing questions right now.

Are SEM and SEO the same?

A number of people get confused between SEM and SEO. They are not the same. With SEM, also referred to as “Paid Search” or “Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising”, you pay to show up in the ads sections of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). With SEO, your placement on the SERPs is organic, earned not bought. SEM & SEO do overlap at points, particularly in the areas of keyword research and landing page relevance, but they are distinct specialties with different methods and different goals. As you can see below, the placements on the SERPs are different too.

Google Adwords search engine marketing results on SERP

 

Does anybody click those ads?

Actually, yes. A lot of people do. Particularly if they are actively looking for a product or service. Coincidentally, those are exactly the motivated customers you are looking for. Yahtzee!

What is the cost of SEM?

The cost of your paid search advertising depends on a number of factors and may range from a few dimes per click up to a few dollars or more. The gratifying thing with the pay-per-click model, however, is that you don’t pay unless a customer clicks on your ad and comes to your site. You’re not paying for potential traffic as with a print ad; you’re paying for actual traffic.

SEM also affords considerable control of how much you pay for your clicks. On Google Adwords, for instance, you bid on keywords by setting a max CPC (cost-per-click). When a user Googles a term, Adwords lines up advertisers bidding on that term. The ads are arranged partly by bid, but the perceived quality of your ad and your landing page factor in heavily as well. A lower bid may outrank a higher one if the “quality score” and format of the first is better.

If a user likes your ad and clicks on it, you do not pay your max CPC. You only pay the minimum needed to, given all factors, outrank the bidder below you. For a more elaborate explanation by Google’s Hal Varian, watch the video below.

Of course, in addition to these costs paid to Google Adwords or Bing Ads, there is also the cost of managing your ads – either in management fees to an agency specializing in SEM or in time out of your rather packed schedule. Which leads to the final question…

Can I do my SEM myself?

Absolutely! Of course, that’s coming from a DIY guy who’s considered the feasibility of performing minor operations on myself to save money. Thankfully, reason won out and I’m still alive.

DIY SEM is about as bright as DIY SurgerySo, is SEM a DIY? Like many specialties, the answer is “Sure, kinda, but not really.”The resources are out there. You can teach yourself the basics and get a few campaigns up on Adwords or Bing Ads. The problem is, the learning curve is no bunny hill. You may spend months getting up to speed and still not know the errors you’re making. Noob stories abound of innocent mistakes hemorrhaging hundreds or thousands of dollars before anyone even notices.

In addition, SEM is not a static field. Like most digital specialties, the pace of change is breakneck. Search engines like Google are constantly changing the game and routinely introducing new tools. Staying in the game means exploring, iterating, and innovating.

Does Switzer Creative do SEM?

Yes! In our approach to website design, we become partners with our clients. We feel vested in your success. Since our team’s skillset and background included search engine marketing management, it made sense for us to use those skills to help our partners – driving more traffic to their sweet new sites.

If you have any questions about search engine marketing, chime in below and I’ll try to respond in a timely fashion.