Oh social media- the loved one we love to hate. The ultimate time suck, the friend that’s always there for you. We all have our own personal relationship with social media, whether you are one of the people digging in your heels and refusing to participate, or someone who’s always the early adopter of the next biggest thing. However, in the business world, the integration of social media into your overall marketing strategy is different. It needs to be deliberate and strategic.

We talk to companies all the time that “check the box” on social media. Post to Facebook once a week? Check! Have a twitter account? On it! Post their company culture video to YouTube? Done! However, this just isn’t enough. My challenge to them is always to ask, is (fill in the blank) social media outlet where your customers and prospects are? Is it true to your business’s DNA? Will you take the time to utilize the data and metrics it provides you to iterate and improve? If the answer is no- then don’t chase the next shiny thing.

Social media is a bit tougher in the B2B space. Firing off how you are feeling in that exact moment or what you are eating, just isn’t going to cut it. The content needs to be compelling, relevant and timely. The tactics involved also have to make sense in comparison to how your team works. If producing 3-4 blog posts a month from your team creates more stress and tension internally, then maybe it is ok for you to put that down. If the only time you are posting on Facebook coordinates with a national holiday, I give you permission to stop.

When it all boils down to it, your customers and prospects are going to become less engaged due to your lackluster efforts to engage them. So as you are navigating the increasingly crowded world of social media, take a critical and honest look at what makes sense for your company and your brand. It’s not a land grab of social media attention. It’s about finding the right people in the right place with the right message.

What social media outlets is your company utilizing? Which ones have you decided to avoid?

I recently received an email from a client that included a message they had received from Google with an ominous warning in the subject line that “Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files” on the client’s website.  The body of the email warned us that “Googlebot cannot access your JavaScript and/or CSS files because of restrictions in your robots.txt file.”  So, just what does that mean, wondered my client.

The message arrives from the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and after doing more digging, I found that this is a new push by Google to inform website owners that blocking these important files can hinder Google’s ranking of your site.

Ok, cut through the tech jargon.  What does this mean?  In short, CSS and JS files are files on your server that make sure your website displays as intended, and functions properly.  Since these files are basically computer code, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the average person, and many web developers put a line in their code (specifically, in a file called robots.txt) that tells search engines to ignore the CSS and JS files, so they don’t end up showing up in search results.

Since we’re telling search engines to ignore these pages, that means that when Google looks at your website, it scans the homepage, and sees that in order to display the page properly, it needs to also load these JS and CSS files, but then Google sees that it is being told to ignore those files.  That leaves Google with an incomplete picture of what your site looks like.  It still can read and index the content on your site, which is the most important thing, but Google is now wanting a more complete view of your site, including how things are displayed on the page.  In order for that to happen, it needs to be given permission to view those CSS and JS files.

So, if you’re ready to unblock these files, or want to see if you currently are:

  1. Make sure you have your site set up with Google Search Console
  2. Within Search Console, on the left click on Crawl -> Fetch as Google
  3. Leave the URL space blank to fetch your homepage, and click on Fetch and Render
  4. After the fetch is complete, click on the results to see the rendering. This will show you how Google sees your page vs. how a visitor to your site sees it.  Below the rendering, you’ll see a list of any blocked items.
  5. If your CSS and/or JS files are being blocked, you’ll need to edit the robots.txt file. (You will probably want to get a developer to do this.)  Here’s what you’ll need to add to your robots.txt file:
    • User-Agent: Googlebot
      Allow: .js
      Allow: .css

That should solve the issue and now Google will be able to fully render and understand the appearance and structure of your website.

With search engine placement being a high priority for so many of our clients at Centresource, I thought it appropriate to share what we feel are some of the best SEO blogs and resources out there right now. First, if you’re not familiar with the acronym SEO, you might want to check out our other SEO articles which shed some light on various aspects and practices. In short, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to generate traffic to a website via search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) — hence the term optimization.

With the ever-changing climate in internet marketing, it’s key to stay on top of your search marketing to stay competitive and dominate the majority of your target keywords. As a web and mobile developer here at Centresource Interactive Agency, I also have an extensive background in SEO under my belt and with this combination, I’ve learned that simply pushing out clean, scalable code and a good looking product that performs and converts well, is simply not enough — you have to pound the pavement, in the online marketing sense, of course.

Finding Legit Resources

So where do you start? How do you know which advice to follow? These are exactly the questions that inspired me to write this post. A lot of the information floating around either just scratches the surface or could be detrimental to the health of your search engine campaign.

So, if you’ve ever asked yourself the questions above, this sweet list of goodies is just what you’ve been looking for. Below we’ve put together the ultimate list of SEO blogs and resources as a quick resource to legit information to help you take your search engine optimization chops to the next level and outrank the competition in the SERPs.

Quick Sprout
Quick Sprout SEO Blog — Hands down one of the best resources out there right now for not only search optimization, but SM (social marketing) and PPC (pay-per-click) as well. Neil Patel is well known in the industry for producing massive results and skyrocketing traffic. He’s helped a number of companies throughout the years dominate their verticals in PPC, Social, and SEO.

Moz
Moz (formerly SEOMoz) is another killer resource with a wealth of information for beginners and seasoned marketers alike.

Google Algorithm Monitor — With Google being the largest engine, it’s key to stay on top of the frequent shifts in climate; Moz’s Algorithm Change Monitor does just that. They’ve made it super easy to follow and have historical data on Google updates dating back to as far as 2000. Again, this tool easily lands near the top of my list as it’s my go-to whenever I see a drastic fluctuation in the SERPs. This is a great tool if you’re trying to keep tabs on Panda and Penguin updates.

Moz SEO Guides — What kind of resource list doesn’t cater to beginners? With that said, we’ve thrown in these guides from Moz. They’ve structured their collection of guides in a way that’s easy to digest and refer back to. Even if this isn’t your first rodeo, it never hurts to brush up on the latest techniques and best practices. Keep it close!

Moz SEO Blog — Yes, another Moz item on the list; the Moz Blog! Here you’ll find a plethora of information, from “How to Do a Content Audit Step-by-Step” and “What Happened After Good Pulled Author and Video Snippets: A Case Study”, just to name a few. Loaded with reading content, their blog is another great source for legit and actionable information. If it’s not in your bookmarks, you know what to do.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Google Webmaster Guidelines — Curious what Google’s rules are? The webmaster guidelines is a good place to start. Google offers up some great info on what not to do; basically all of the blackhat stuff that will most likely get your site into some hot water. These are good to refer back to, especially if you’ve hired a firm to manage your SEO. Make sure their practices are inline with Google’s recommendations.

If for some reason you do find yourself in hot water, submitting a reconsideration request with Google may be your ticket back to the top. Prior to submitting one however, it’s important to rectify the issue that got you there in the first place. You might have to go as far as disavowing some bad backlinks.

Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land Blog — Another winner in my book is Search Engine Land. Apart from their thorough marketing content, having reached over 200,000 Twitter followers is testament in itself to the type of information these guys are putting out. Definitely keep an eye on this one, or at least get their updates on twitter.

Search Engine Watch
SE Watch Blog — In terms of blogs to follow, SE Watch is up there with SE Land. Again, they offer great content that’s literally up to the minute and cover topics that a lot of people are struggling with, like “You’ve Been Hit by Penguin! Should you Start Over or Try to Recover?” That’s a tough question and it’s not always the easiest to answer. With a constantly growing list of followers, you don’t want to miss out on the valuable information that they are sharing.

Search Engine Journal
SE Journal Blog — Last and surely not least, is the SE Journal Blog. They have an amazing list of guest bloggers that are well known in the industry and cover topics such as “Protecting Yourself Against Negative SEO”. SEJ is another great resource we couldn’t pass up.

The list above should be plenty to get your feet wet if you’re a beginner or just trying to understand all the jargon that was unloaded on you at that last meeting with your SEO firm. If you’re not new to the game, I’m sure quite a few of the resources listed above are familiar to you, so feel free to share your experiences and/or recommendations in the comments below.

How many times have you launched a marketing initiative and then you move onto the next thing without looking back? Hours of hard work are forgotten, you check the done box and keep on trucking. This happens too often in the marketing world. The reality of it is all is that your work really has only begun on that project. Once something is launched, you then need to enter the testing, data collection and iteration phase of the project.

When a new digital marketing campaign is launched, you are at the point where you actually know the least about your clients and how they will respond to your message and tactic. Those first few days and weeks provide a great opportunity to learn about effectiveness and continue to improve upon the campaign to increase it’s impact.

That is why testing should be part of every marketing campaign. Here at Centresource, we are big fans of the tool Optimizely. It allows us to easily implement A/ B tests on elements of websites such as calls to action, forms, headlines, images and the list goes on and on. By splitting traffic to different versions of a website, we are constantly learning what is driving a better conversion rate online, thus creating websites that continue to improve.

Testing also plays a big role in our paid search work. It is necessary when managing paid search campaigns that you are testing multiple versions of your ad to maximize the opportunity, and learn more about what your prospects respond to.

However, you can’t just stop at testing. You have to let the data work for you. Pay attention to what it’s saying and put it to use. If you don’t see the desired outcomes immediately, iterate and improve. It’s a lot easier to improve upon something than start from scratch.

What role does testing play in your marketing campaigns? What wins have you seen as a result of a solid testing strategy?

When it comes to SEO, you can’t buy your way to the top. But, you can at least buy yourself a boost. Last week, Google announced that it is giving higher priority in search results to websites that use 2048-bit SSL-encrypted connections.

For the uninitiated, put in simplest terms, SSL encryption is the “s” in an “https” website address. When you’re using a website and notice the mini padlock in the address bar, you’re on an SSL encrypted website. The encryption adds an extra layer of security to the data passed between a user’s computer and the website’s server. It has been standard practice for years that any website that features an e-commerce component include SSL encryption, but Google’s recent move will encourage more website owners to encrypt connections to their website, resulting in greater security around passwords used on the site, as well as contact form submissions, and any other data passed between the user and website.

Given Google’s algorithm change, even if your website doesn’t collect sensitive personal information, or even any user information, you now can still benefit from the ranking boost that SSL encryption gives.

So, once you’re ready to add SSL to your website, there’s a few tips that Google offers to consider, to make sure you’re taking advantage of the SEO boost:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out Google’s site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag

The added level of security is a benefit for web users, and if your site is using a content management system (CMS), the added security that SSL provides also helps give you a little more peace of mind about your website.

The benefits of adding SSL encryption to your site seem clear, but are there drawbacks? As I see it, there are three main drawbacks to adding SSL:

  1. there’s the cost of the SSL certificate, itself (which can range in price from $10 – $100 or more, per year)
  2. the time involved in preparing your website to transition to SSL, as outlined in Google’s site move article
  3. much like your domain name registration, your SSL certificate expires, and must be renewed periodically

Google is indicating right now that SSL encryption on a site is a lightweight signal in their overall algorithm, but they have also said that they may decide to strengthen the signal to encourage more sites to move to SSL.

Last week, we hosted a Google Partners Connect simulcast event at the Centresource Lab.

One of the speakers at the event, Fred Vallaeys, Google AdWords Evangelist, outlined a handful of tools that Google provides (most are free!) that can boost your online marketing efforts. Some of these, you’re probably already aware of, and some you may not be. Here’s a quick run-down on what those tools were, and how they can be used:

  1. Google+ For Business – This one is vital if you have a physical location that you want customers to come to. By setting up your business’ Google+ page, you can claim your business address on Google Maps, add info like your company phone number or photos, and ask for customer reviews, all of which show up in Google’s search results, whenever someone searches for your business.
  2. Google Webmaster Tools – This tool is great to find out what keywords people are searching for before arriving on your site, and if you have any obvious SEO problems. If your site gets hacked, Google Webmaster Tools can alert you and help you correct it. If there are pages that are showing up in search results that you don’t want to have there, or if there are pages that aren’t showing up that should be, this tool can help you figure all that out.
  3. Google AdWords – This tool lets businesses of any size get new customers, by making sure that your site is showing up for the search keywords that users looking for your product or service would most likely be searching. Not only that, but you can also use the Google Display Network to make sure your ads show up on other relevant websites that your potential customers might be looking at.
  4. YouTube TrueView – This is a great way to show potential customers what your product or service looks like. Videos allow you to convey your passion or what makes your product superior more effectively than just about any other method. TrueView makes sure that only users that are interested in your video are seeing it, and you only pay if they view the video, not if they choose to skip it. (Need help making the video to use? Our video marketing team would love to help!)
  5. Google Analytics – If you want to know who is coming to your website, or how many are coming, or what they are doing when then are on your site, Google Analytics is your tool. This one is so crucial, we install it by default on pretty much everything we build at Centresource.
  6. Google Trends – This tool shows you what’s happening on Google worldwide, outside of your website. This reveals what’s trending in search queries over time. The data can be broken down by region, so you can see what the trends are among search queries in your region, compared to other regions.
  7. Google Alerts – Here’s an easy way to keep up-to-date on what people are saying about your business, your product or even your competitors online. You plug in your keywords and your email address, and Google emails you with regular updates on any new pages it finds that feature your keywords.

If you have comments, questions or thoughts on anything that was covered here, or anything else about how to better market your business online, leave us a comment below, or contact us here!

Social Networks

Facebook: When syndicating your content on Facebook, your primary goal is interaction with an end result of pushing qualified traffic back to you. Create relevant conversations on Facebook by posing leading questions related to your content along with a thumbnail and link to the content in question. By doing this, you are engaging an audience with your content in a valuable and meaningful way — which is the first step in creating return visitors.

Twitter:  A little more lighthearted than Facebook, Twitter allows you to reach beyond your immediate network of followers by leveraging clever hashtags (#), trending topics, or tweeting directly at a popular industry expert with a healthy following. These are all great ways to reach new followers and will also give you the chance to display your expertise in trending issues. Bitly and other link shorteners are crucial for directing traffic back to your site within 140 characters and most of them provide general analytics, so you can keep fine-tuning your approach.

LinkedIn: Definitely more professional in nature than Facebook and Twitter, so make sure your brand voice adjusts to suit this arena. Join groups that are interested in the same industry and content you are pursuing. By focusing the content placement and fine-tuning your audience, you are instantly making your content more valuable. Be a team player, participate in existing conversations as you generate new ones. And, as always, point users back to your site as the original source of the content.

RSS Feed

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an XML-based format feed for your content. Most blogging platforms will have an RSS feed built in. Whenever you start publishing posts, your latest posts will be updated in the RSS feed. Visitors to your website can subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed in an RSS reader such as Feedly.

Blogs

Blogs that are in the same atmosphere and industry as yours are a great place for building partnerships and promoting your own content and sharing theirs. Find blogs or sites that bear some similarity to your own in terms of general subject matter, industry focus, etc. Your initial touch with the site should be purely as a reader who is interested in the topic at hand. Build an authentic relationship and genuine conversations through comments, shares, and likes on these blog articles. Don’t rush things. Ask questions on the blog and test the waters to see how responsive the author is. When you find an author that is active in the comments and conversation, you can start to escalate the communication and interaction. Become an entity to them. After you have established rapport, ask to exchange content and share blog posts. This is often the most genuine and natural form of syndication and will be mutually beneficial for everyone.

Syndication Networks

Paid syndication networks like Outbrain and Taboola are great tools for lead generation to your site — and getting your content in front of an entirely new and potentially massive audience (we’re talking upwards of 3B daily recommendations to over 300M monthly visitors per site!) By placing your content in high-traffic sites with a keen eye on relevance and content similarities, these sites can be a huge boon for your traffic and exposure. Be aware, there are some restrictions placed on the kinds of content you can submit. If your content contains amazon affiliate links, for example, there’s a strong chance it will be rejected for syndication.

Business Network

When it comes to syndication, it’s easy to telescope your focus on new users, new readers, and new consumers. However, it’s extremely important that you don’t lose touch with your existing network of contacts — they are most often your strongest supporters and advocates, and are usually game to help with amplification. Share updates on your blogs and keep them posted on upcoming events and exciting enhancements via a newsletter or social media.

Every couple weeks a client calls us asking us to help generate more traffic to their website. In many cases they do have a need for additional traffic but the larger goal is to generate more sales leads. In some cases they are making the shift to CS from another firm who claimed to specialize in SEO, social media or Adwords.

The risk any organization runs when you start spending budget on generating traffics is throwing bad money at the wrong traffic or even worse, getting the traffic but not getting the lead. Once you’ve got visitors to your site, the next step is to convert those visitors into leads by gathering their contact information.

At the very least, you’ll need their email addresses. Contact information is the most valuable currency there is to the online marketer. In order for your visitors to offer up that currency willingly, you need to offer them something in return. That “payment” comes in the form of content, like ebooks, infographics, or fact sheets.

We recommend making sure our clients get their conversion path in order prior to spending much investment on traffic generation efforts. Elements within this might include:

Calls-to-Action
Elements or buttons like “Download a fact sheet” or “Attend a Webinar” can be a powerful tool to begin pushing prospects through the conversion funnel. If you don’t have enough calls-to-action or your calls-to-action aren’t enticing enough, you won’t generate any leads.

Landing Pages
When a website visitor clicks on a call-to-action, they should then be sent to a landing page. Read that again…a landing page. Not your generic contact form! A landing page is where the offer in the call-to-action is fulfilled, and where the prospect submits information that your sales team can use to begin a conversation with them. Keep it a the bare minimum and make sure to list your phone number there as well in case they don’t want to complete a form or have an urgent need.

Forms
Optimize your form to make this step of the conversion process as easy as possible. Simplify the questions you ask them and pay attention to disability compliance such as color blindness or screen readers. You will want to purchase a tool specializing in form optimization to do this. Feel free to contact us for a list of possible solutions that fit your organization.

Contacts / CRM
If you have a CRM or marketing automation tool start lead scoring specific target groups or customers based on which conversion link they clicked. Then use that information to provide them with that type of content that they find valuable. Don’t overdo it though because they can quickly become enemies if they feel marketed to.

Once you’ve done these three things, now you are ready to start turning up the heat on traffic generation and watch the leads pour in.

You’ve got the traffic coming to your site, but even with all those site visitors, you’re just not seeing the sales results that you expected.  It sounds like you have a conversion rate problem.  Conversion rate optimization can involve many different methods and tactics, but you need to get started somewhere.  Here’s our top nine tips to turn more of your site visitors into customers.

1. Testing is key
It’s vital as a website owner to know how successful your site is at getting conversions. Armed with that data, it’s then important to understand how changes to the site will impact the number of conversions, either positively or negatively. Each website and audience is different, so what seems to work well on another site, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work on yours. Non-stop testing of changes to the site are crucial to make sure you are maximizing your conversion rate.

2. Tiny tweaks can deliver huge results
Sometimes, something as simple as changing an image on a site, adding a video, or increasing font size can have a dramatic impact on your conversion rate.

3. Be respectful of your users
Too often, we hurt our conversions by asking for too much of the user too early in the relationship. The conversion rate on most web forms drops at a rate that is directly correlated to the number of fields on the form. The more you ask, the less form submissions you receive. What’s the bare minimum you need to get from the user at this point? That’s all you should be asking for from the user.

4. Your calls-to-action should be powerful

A call to action that leaves no doubt about what  to do.

It sounds downright dumb to say it, but it’s important to tell your website visitor what you want them to do. Be clear about it, and make it obvious. It should stand out and entice the action you want. The use of certain colors, fonts, images and action words in your call to action can make a big difference in your conversion rate.

5. Offer incentives
If you’re asking a visitor to like you on social media, or sign up for an email newsletter, offer an incentive like a discount, a coupon or a freebie. In some cases, figuring out the incentive can take some real creativity, but the boost in your conversion rate will make it worth it.

6. People sell!
Time and again, it’s been found that using images, particularly images of people, increases conversion rates. Consider how you can incorporate the use of effective images on your site. Using images of people lends the added bonus of being able to show emotion.

7. Streamline the user experience
Create a simple path to conversion for the user. Don’t muddy the waters with additional calls-to-action that aren’t as important, or extraneous information. This is especially important once the user has started the check-out process on your site. Presenting a customer with a bunch of up-sells, cross-sells and other distractions while in the check-out process is akin to a WalMart employee approaching you while you stand at the cash register with your goods and credit card in-hand and saying “Hey, leave that stuff here and come with me back to our automotive department. You should see these great new car air fresheners we just got in.” It’s not smart business. It wouldn’t happen in brick and mortar, and it shouldn’t be happening online.

8. Embrace the power of video
The use of video on a webpage not only boosts conversions but also has a significant impact on user engagement. Tests show that viewers are 64-85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video.

9. Provide social proof
Nobody wants to feel left out. Social proof provides a boost in credibility and helps relieve any fears the user might be feeling. Showing testimonials from customers, logos of your clients, or numbers of social media followers and email subscribers can all boost conversions on your site.