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Search Engine Optimization

October 11th, 2015

Do you want new customers to find your website using search engines?

For website owners this question may trigger a primal response similar to what a drug addict feels when asked if they would like a fix. Yes! Give it to me now!!

It’s a very enticing concept—hire someone to apply special coding to a website and watch it start drawing in new customers. There is a large number of unscrupulous SEO solicitors looking to capitalize on this myth . . you may have seen their spam touting their “proprietary” methods to get your site placed at the top of Google.

This can create a dangerous scenario—a compulsive, sometimes panicked, desire to use the Web to grow a business, and a whole slew of information-age carpetbaggers looking to capitalize on the situation.

The best way to protect yourself from wasting money, and learn how to develop a SEO strategy that really works, is to take some time to understand SEO. It’s not hard to understand and it’s not a secret; Google for example freely shares the criteria they use to index and rank sites.

It’s also important to discard any notion that there is a quick-fix SEO solution out there waiting to be found. Many people’s understanding of “search engine optimization” has been built on a very appealing and popular misconception that we refer to as the “Field of Dreams” syndrome.

The Field of Dreams syndrome

The 1989 movie was about a novice farmer who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice that he is supposed to construct a baseball diamond in his corn field that is somehow the path to his personal enlightenment and success in life. The memorable mantra of the mysterious voice was, “If you build it, he will come.”

The real plot being played out today in business is remarkably similar with the mysterious voice being wishful thinking and misinformation. The appeal becomes overwhelming and rational thought is blurred . . . “If we just build a website optimized for search engines customers will come.” Part of the appeal of this fallacy is that it provides a clear simple solution to a pressing need that exists in a technical realm that many are intimidated by. The problem with this approach is that, just like the movie, it’s fiction.

An Easy Way to Import Weebly to WordPress

September 1st, 2015

Are you looking to move your Weebly blog to WordPress?  There seems to be a lot of outdated and/or over complicated solutions out there.  There are also some plugins available for purchase that claim to automate the process which in our tests, did not work.

There is actually a much easier (and free) method to import your Weebly blog posts to WordPress that we found:

  1. Login to your Weebly site and go to Settings -> Blog. Change posts to page to 25 (or the highest option), and turn blog sidebar on. Click Save.
  2. In Weebly go to Build and ensure your front page layout has a sidebar with archives.
  3. In your web browser, find your Weebly blog’s RSS feed, which should be www.yoursite.com/1/feed
  4. Right click and “view page source” (Method can vary by browser, if you don’t see an option when you right click, google: “How to view source code with (name of your browser) .”
  5. Command A, or Control A to select all, right-click copy, then paste to a text only editor (not Word). Dreamweaver works great, but if you don’t have that here are some free options.
  6. In your text editor remove the fist line of code, something like <?”xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ ?>, so your first line should be <rss . . .
  7. Save that file as weebly.xml
  8. In WordPress, go to Tools, Import, RSS, browse and select that xml file and viola . . . your Weebly posts are now in WordPress.  You should notice too that your images are showing up in WordPress, however these images are being displayed by an absolute URL and are still hosted on your Weebly site. You’ll need to manually save all those images to your WordPress media library and add them to your posts to retain them.

The above was done using WordPress 4.3 so newer versions may have altered the process. Also, I did not test this process on a Weebly blog with more than 25 posts so it may be this important method is limited to 25. If you’ve tried it with more than 25 posts please let us know.

Good luck!




Email Marketing Best Practices

July 16th, 2015

Have you ever opened your email only to find a long list of uninspired, unappealing, and loud advertisements all screaming at you? What did you do, read them all one-by-one, carefully considering their content and offers? Probably not! More than likely you simply deleted them all before you ever got past the subject line. So does this mean email marketing is dead? Hardly, email marketing is still one of the most cost-effective means of marketing to your existing client base if it is done correctly. So what are the best, most effective practices you can take into consideration when launching your own email marketing campaign?

Subject Line

For many people, it begins and ends at the subject line. If it looks like spam or is not interesting and eye-catching, they’re going to delete the entire email without ever opening it. You need to carefully craft a subject line that intrigues your clients and makes them want to read more. It needs to offer value to your target market and be personable, catchy and targeted directly to the reader.


Once you’ve gotten someone to open an email, you have to keep their attention. Make sure that the content of the email provides valuable information, offers, deals or links that the client will want to hear about. But be careful, you don’t want to just blast them with self-promotional messages. Content should help clients fill a need they have in their lives, and should offer them something they’re truly interested in learning about. Make the content intriguing, and make them interested in hearing more. If you give them what they want now, you will be sure to make the sale later, and you don’t have to be pushy about it in the email.


Don’t forget, however, that no matter how great your content is, if it doesn’t look good, your clients will delete it in the blink of an eye. Emails need to utilize the full capabilities of HTML coding, and they should be attractive to look at. The design should also fit in with your overall brand messaging so that it is easily identifiable as yours and yours alone. Professional, modern and uncluttered designs work best for email, so make sure to keep it simple. And don’t forget to make sure that the email works on every email platform, including mobile platforms. It might look good on your desktop, but if a client on an iPhone only sees a jumble of mixed-up images, the message will be lost and you’ve lost your sale.

If you can create a valuable, content-driven email that has great design that works well on all platforms, you will drive interest to your business. Remember that even though email marketing’s end goal is a sale, you don’t want the reader to feel pressured. They should feel like you’re giving them great information they want to hear first. If you get their interest and trust, the sales will come.

Design tells the world who and how relevant we are

July 8th, 2015

A design article entitled Oh, the logo by committee over at the Before & After Website is worth checking out. A few key quotes:

“Design looks easier than it is, and it’s more important than it looks. . . Design is us and it is personal. How something looks tells the world who and how we are.”

“When Steve Jobs started his Next computer company, his first act — before he had a building, before he had employees, before he had a product — was to pay Paul Rand $100,000 to design a logo. And Rand’s black cube gave Next its sleek identity.”

“NBC once paid a designer a million dollars to design an N.”

Read the whole article here.

Do you know who controls your business’ domain?

June 11th, 2015

Where is your company’s domain registered and when does it expire? If you’re like many executives and managers you have no idea. How do I know? I talk to them all the time.

Here’s a typical scenario: ten years ago your company launched a web site…no one in-house knew where to start so the person who claimed to know how to program their VCR was given the task of registering a domain for the company. This person registered the domain but used their name, address, and hotmail account. What’s more this individual may no longer even be employed by the company, probably could care less, and hopefully is not disgruntled with their former employer.

What would be the consequences to your business if your Website was suddenly gone and all your company email accounts ceased working or now featured a spam site (or worse)? Does this sound crazy? While this scenarios might be on the extreme, you are guaranteed some degree of misery and loss if you let your registration lapse.

If you are not immediately and unquestionably certain where your domain is registered, and more importantly to whom your domain is legally registered, stop everything right now and get it fixed!

Here’s how:

  • Access the Whois public database and enter your domain name. Assuming your domain does not have a private registration, look through the list of information and find the following:
  • Registrant Name: If this is not your name or the company’s name you’re at risk.
  • Admin Name: Do you know this person? Do you trust this person with your entire business? Your domain needs to be registered under a name of a corporate officer, owners or executives—not an employee. All it takes is one disgruntled employee to reek havoc on your business.
  • If you need help registering, renewing, or transferring a domain name please visit https://virsafe.com or call one of our domain registration experts at 480.624.2500.

More information on domain registration:

SSL encryption is now a ranking factor for Google

April 12th, 2015

Earlier this year Matt Cutts of Google stated that he personally would like to see sites that use SSL encryption be given favor in Google’s rankings.  In August, Google officially announced this as their policy as you can read in this official Google Webmaster blog post.

How important is changing your site over to SSL?  Like all on-site SEO improvements there is no one thing that can be done technically that will magically boost a site to the top of the search engine. Quality and relevant content are and always will be the most important SEO strategy.

However, correctly coding, structuring and configuring your website are vital tasks to ensure that your quality content is being optimally indexed and distributed to the world.  There is no single factor of this on-site SEO which is a magic bullet, however cumulatively the small benefits of on-site optimization add up and do matter.

With SSL, Google says that it is a ranking factor now but is presently a “lightweight signal”. However, and most importantly, Google says: “But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

For this reason we are now recommending that all our Web clients migrate their sites to SSL.  It’s not an emergency but it should be part of a sites long-term development plan.  If you have more questions about SEO, or would like to discuss a strategic SEO analysis for your site please contact us.

How outgoing links on your site affect SEO

February 28th, 2015

This is a follow-up  to a post we published a couple years ago entitled entitled “Should you trade links?“.  We received an excellent question regarding that post about if and how PageRank can be lost from posting links to other sites within yours.

There is some confusion on this topic because when we put an unrestricted outgoing link to a page on another domain, the PageRank of our webpage does not decrease directly. However, the overall PageRank of our website is reduced due to how the flow of PageRank  within our entire website works.  For those of you not familiar with PageRank, it’s a sort of authority rating assigned by Google to a particular webpage. It’s a ranking based on the number of links to your webpage and the quality and relevancy of the webpage that are linking to your page. Google uses PageRank when determining how high to display your webpage in the search engine results page (SERP) for a keyword search relevant to your page.

When outgoing links are posted on a webpage that has been assigned PageRank by Google, Google will consider the total PageRank of the referring page, and distribute some of that same value to the outgoing links.  So if you have a webpage that has PageRank and you have ten links from that page going to other pages in your site, then the PageRank is flowing all back to your site.  If however you add links to external sites then Google will now take some of that PageRank that was being fed back to your site and assign it to those external pages, thus reducing the overall amount of PageRank for your site.  The PageRank of your webpage sending external links does not decrease directly, however if you add in links from other sites on your page now you’re not sending as much PageRank back to pages within your own site, it’s a net PageRank loss for your site.

This doesn’t mean that you should never have unrestricted outgoing links to other sites, it just means that when you do be aware that it’s costing you something in terms of overall website PageRank so you want to make sure you understand there is a cost and you need to make sure that you’re making a good investment with your PageRank currency.  There are good reasons to provide unrestricted outgoing links to other sites when they are high-authority sites and provide relevant and valuable resources that will benefit the users of your site.  It’s good to make friends with such sites and sometimes those high-authority sites will notice the favor you’ve done them.  The real key in deciding when and to whom you provide external links is be evaluating the value of those external links from the perspective of your site’s users.

For more insight into this topic please see our post “Should you trade links?“.


The punctuation habit that destroys your marketing credibility

February 18th, 2015

Today I read a superb article from Inc. Magazine which offers sage advice (and some comic relief) for easily increasing the caliber of business writing. Do you create social media posts, newsletter articles, announcements or advertisements? Take a moment to read Larry Kim’s article on Inc.com for a great strategy to increase the professionalism, credibility and effectiveness of your written marketing communications.

Mobile Design for the Modern Business

February 1st, 2015

With nearly seven billion mobile subscribers around the world, businesses need to make sure they have a proper mobile strategy in place.

Today’s consumer is mobile and always on-the-go. They want to connect with brands from any location and find information about a product from their smartphone. However, if a business doesn’t give people the opportunity to interact with their brand through the mobile web, they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build a relationship with their customers.

Mobile design is essential for the success of any modern business. If businesses want to expand their target audience and reach more customers, they’ll need to create a mobile website. This website will make it easier for people to access information about a business and find product information. Plus, customers will be more likely to make a purchase directly from their mobile device, too.

When creating a mobile device, there are a few elements to keep in mind. First, it’s important to create a mobile website that’s responsive. This simply means the mobile website can be accessed from any mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone. Additionally, it’s important to use high quality images and provide adequate information on your website. This will improve the overall user experience for your customers.

Mobile design doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a number of tools and resources available to help you create mobile website. Tool such as Sketch or LiveView can help you create mobile elements for your website. By using these tools, you’ll be able to create a beautiful mobile design for your business’ website.

Adapting to mobile design trends are crucial to the success of your business. Especially if you want to draw in more customers and make your business more accessible, a mobile website will be necessary for your business. To learn more about mobile design for the modern business, check out the infographic below:

Mobile DesignIvan Serrano is a social media, marketing and business journalist living in the Bay Area of California.

Top 7 Instagram Tools to Assist You in Your Marketing Management

January 22nd, 2015

InstagramInstagram is a powerful tool for brands looking to build awareness and increase engagement with their online community. According to Maximize Social Business, Instagram engagement is 15 times higher than Facebook engagement.

When it comes to creating an effective Instagram marketing strategy, you need the right tools. Although Instagram has updated its filters and improved its editing features since launching in 2010, brands that want to create a successful Instagram account and gain more followers need to tap into additional tools.

There are dozens of tools available to help you build your Instagram account. Whether it’s a platform for measuring your account’s success or creating higher quality images, it’s important to make sure you’re using the best tools for your photos. Here are the best Instagram tools to assist you with your marketing management strategy:

1. Schedule Instagram content with LaterGram.

Sometimes, you don’t have time to edit, upload, and publish a photo. By using LaterGram, you can easily plan and schedule your Instagram content. This app enables you to manage your content from a mobile device or web, and makes it easier to create a strategy for your Instagram account.

2. Create beautiful photos with AfterLight.

When it comes to creating engaging photos on Instagram, it’s essential to use external photo editing apps to help you create beautiful visuals for your brand. Apps such as AfterLight offer hundreds of unique filters and frames to help you create high quality images for your account.

3. Measure your success with Totems.

Knowing the success of your Instagram strategy is more important than ever. With Totems, brands can measure their analytics and social engagement to determine the effectiveness of their Instagram marketing strategy.

4. Discover key metrics with Iconosquare.

Iconosquare is another great Instagram analytics tool that helps you measure engagement on your account. With Iconosquare, you can find out data such as your most liked photos and average number of comments per photo. You can also view, post, and share photos, and follow/unfollow users directly from the platform.

5. Find the most popular photos with Webstagram.

Do you want to find trending photos within your industry or niche? Webstagram is a super helpful tool for identifying popular hashtags and interacting with popular photos. Not only can you view photos, but you can also send private messages to users, search users by keyword, and create an RSS feed for your photos. Webstagram also offers statistics and analytics for your Instagram account.

6. Explore users in specific cities with Followgram.

Are you looking to target a specific audience or niche? Use an app such as Followgram to identify customers within your target demographics. Followgram helps users find photos published in their area and find captions with specific hashtags. This is an excellent tool for growing your Instagram audience and finding users within your area.

7. Gauge community engagement with Ink361.

Another tool that’s helpful for measuring engagement is Ink361. This tool lets you see the total number of likes your images receive, distribution of likes, and your most popular photos. Ink361 also provides insights that helps users determine which photos their followers find most interesting. By understanding these analytics, brands can create a better Instagram strategy and post more relevant photos.

Developing a strong community through Instagram is a growing priority for brands. Visual content has changed the way brands build relationships with their customers and Instagram can help them grow their community. By using these Instagram tools to improve your Instagram marketing strategy, you’ll be able to tell a better story through photos and build a larger Instagram following.

Ivan Serrano is a social media, marketing and business journalist living in the Bay Area of California.