Tag - Marketing

Signs Direct - Quality Signs at a Great Price

Signs Direct – Quality Signs at a Great Price

Today I want to share with you a great company that I use for all types of sign printing. Signs Direct is a company based in Bloomington, IL that offers yard signs, sidewalk signs, freestanding signs, lighted signs, sign hardware and much, much more. I do a lot of research before I work with a print company and I assure you that for the price you can't find a better deal. They even have stock signs for common things such as indoor and outdoor safety signs and road / parking signs.

The most common product I order from Signs Direct is their yard signs. Their production and shipping is always incredibly fast and I've always been happy with their quality. I am a bit partial because they're not only based in the US, but my home state of Illinois. If you don't live in Illinois they don't charge sales tax. If you live in Illinois... well you know.

If you need signs designed for printing through Signs Direct contact me today. I'd love to help you out.

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Google Local Service Ads

Google Local Services Ads – A New Google Ad Program

Google Local Services is a new ad platform by Google, not to be confused with Google AdWords. Perhaps you have already seen these ads - they appear in the same place Google AdWords would typically appear (before search results) but the one thing that makes them different is the green check mark by the ad with "GOOGLE GUARANTEED" appearing next to it. There has been a lot of confusion about the difference between Google Local Services and Google Adwords - let me explain.

In order to have a Google Local Services account, there is some vetting that has to be performed by Google. When creating an account you have to send your business license and insurance details, complete a free background check and have a verified customer write a review. This process typically takes over a month to complete. Hopefully Google will speed up this process, but this is what I've experienced recently when setting up accounts for clients.

Google Local Services charges on a per lead basis. In other words, you don't get charged when a customer clicks on your ad - you get charged when the customer calls you. This is a key differentiator between AdWords and Local Services. AdWords charges every time someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. The cost per lead with Local Services is significantly more than the cost per click with AdWords. The cost varies by industry. I've read reports that some industries charge as little as $5 per lead up to $150 per lead. Like Google AdWords, Local Services pricing is based on competition.

With Google AdWords, you target keyword searches within a service area. Google Local Services shows your ads based on the type of service you offer. You still get to select a service area to display the ads, but the options are not as detailed as Google AdWords.

At the time of this article, Google Local Services is not available for all industries and is specific to certain service areas. If your industry qualifies, I think Google Local Services is worth the investment. If you're interested in setting up a Google Local Services or Google AdWords account, I can help. Contact me today to learn more about getting an ad campaign setup for your business.

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Why Your Business NAP is so Important

Why Your Business NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is so Important

NAP is short for your business name, address and phone number. When Google scans various databases on the internet for your company it's absolutely crucial that these three items are EXACT and consistent. If I was on Yelp as "Brian Houdek The Web Designer" or "Brian Houdek Web Design LLC" or "Brian Houdek Web Design Inc" Google would look at that as a completely different company than "Brian Houdek Web Design". If your address is "123 Test St" it's crucial you write it exactly the same throughout the internet. "123 Test St." (dot after St.) or "123 Test Street" will be looked at as different and therefore not the same company. Finally, your phone number must remain consistent. Did your number change over the years? Do you have a local number and an 800 number? Make sure you always pick one primary phone number and always enter that phone number as the primary one.

The more LEGITIMATE databases your company information is in the better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). These directories give your business validity in the eyes of Google. Most of them link back to your website, which is another ranking factor Google uses. As a rule of thumb, I recommend my clients use their Google My Business listing as the "master" listing, ensuring all other listings have the same information.

On the Internet there are four major data aggregators that store your business information. These are Neustar Localeze, InfoUSA, Acxiom and Factual. These data aggregators take your business information and push it out to many smaller databases on the Internet. In addition to these aggregators, there are also many big name directories your business should be in. Examples are Bing Places For Business, Apple Maps, Angie's List, Manta and many, many more.

I have multiple tools to scan these databases and see where your business information is missing or inaccurate. I can easily update this information and charge a flat fee. If you want me to run a free scan for your business contact me today.

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Buffer Makes Multi-Channel Social Media Posting Easy

Buffer Makes Multi-Platform Social Media Posting Easy

It has been proven that a business who is active in social media ranks higher. It's part of Google's ranking algorithm. Another important part of Google's ranking algorithm is having fresh content on your website (ie a blog). How nice would it be to make a blog post on your website and have it automatically go to multiple social media platforms... That's what Buffer can do (with some plugins).

Buffer by itself allows you to schedule posts, analyze performance, and manage all your social media accounts in one place. Supported platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can link to three social media platforms for free. If you want to post to them all (highly recommended) they currently charge $144/year. You can create posts within Buffer's website, schedule posts and very easily post to a single social media platform, or all at once.

The real power of Buffer is revealed when you integrate your WordPress blog with it. Wordpress to Buffer Pro is an awesome tool that allows your WordPress blog to connect to Buffer. You can choose to either send the posts to Buffer and review them there before posting, or just automatically post the article to ALL your social media platforms at once. That's what I do and I LOVE it. It saves me a ton of time.

I have implemented this solution for numerous clients and they have reaped the benefits by ranking higher. As I've mentioned before, SEO is not one or two things. It's many things that have to be followed in order to improve your ranking. This solution not only satisfies Google's need for fresh content on your website, but it also satisfies the social media aspect of SEO. If you're interested in implementing this solution on your website, contact me today.

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DepositPhotos - My Preferred Stock Photo Website

DepositPhotos – My Preferred Stock Photo Website

Professional stock photos are great for websites, blogs, social media or graphic design projects. Stock photo providers allow you to purchase a license to use their photos commercially. The cost of stock photos varies greatly but over the years my favorite has been DepositPhotos. On their website, they have over 100 million stock photos (and vector files).

I pay DepositPhotos $25/month for up to 25 downloads per month. This is under their Flexible Plan. Unused downloads rollover, which is great. The minimum package you can purchase is 10 images for $49. To put things in perspective Getty Images charges $500 for one image.

There are times DepositPhotos does not have an image I need. In that case, I usually visit Photodune (pay per image $5 - $10 ea), 123RF (Similar price structure), Adobe Stock (expensive) or Shutterstock (expensive).

At the end of the day, over 100 million great stock photos to choose from is sufficient for my needs. Their quality is great and I've never had any issues with them. If you're looking for great stock photos I recommend you check out DepositPhotos.

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Mailchimp - The Best Email Marketing Platform

Mailchimp – The Best Email Marketing Platform

If you're considering email marketing, Mailchimp is the king. The best part of Mailchimp is that for most customers it's free. You can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month before you have to pay a dime. Their platform has a great user interface, isn't terribly difficult to use and has many advanced features which make it quite powerful.

Email Marketing Considerations and SPAM

Before starting a Mailchimp campaign I ALWAYS stress to my customers that there are very strict rules with Email Marketing. Spam is a HUGE problem. Over the years there have been more and more restrictions on email due to spammers. The NUMBER ONE rule is NEVER add ANYONE to your email list without their permission. This rule can't be broken.

Every email sent with Mailchimp is required to have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of it. While unsubscribing the user is asked why, and one of the options is that they never asked for the email in the first place. Get a few of those and your account gets suspended. After writing an email to Mailchimp explaining you made a mistake and will play by the rules might buy you some time, but if they continue to see users report they never signed up for your list, your account gets banned.

How to Properly Use Mailchimp

Only add people to your mailing list with their permission. It's pretty simple. You can add a form to your website (like I have in my footer), a link in your email signature or get people to signup in person. I always recommend navigating to Mailchimp's Opt-In settings and enabling "Double Opt-In". When you enable this feature each person added to the list will receive an email asking if they want to join the list. It's an extra step for the customer, but it prevents issues down the road.

Want to Setup a Mailchimp Account?

I have setup Mailchimp accounts for many customers and have experience building email lists and templates. If you're interested in getting a list setup but need some assistance, contact me today.

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Noun Project

Noun Project – My Favorite Source for Icons

For me, Website Design and Graphic Design go hand in hand. I'm always searching for design elements to use on websites, logos, print materials etc. These design elements can come in many forms, but the most basic is the ICON. My favorite place to get icons is a website called Noun Project. I have had a premium subscription with them for years (The cost is currently $39.99/year).

Noun Project provides access to OVER 1 MILLION icons. The best part is their icons come in PNG (transparent background) and SVG (A vector format). This allows users to bring the file into Photoshop or Illustrator and easily manipulate it. I've used their icons on websites, logos, flyers, brochures and the list goes on. A simple search for the word "rain" in Noun Project produces over 9,000 search results.

If you're looking for stock icons for a project be sure to consider Noun Project.

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Google reCAPTCHA v3

Google reCAPTCHA v3 – Keeping Forms Safe From Bots

Today I upgraded all forms on my clients websites with Google reCAPTCHA v3. If you aren't familiar with reCAPTCHA it's a tool to help prevent form spam by either having users type displayed text into a box (reCAPTCHA v1), check a box (reCAPTCHA v2), or now with reCAPTCHA v3... NOTHING! reCAPTCHA v3 can detect abusive traffic on your website without user interaction by analyzing multiple factors to prevent malicious bots from spamming you with contact form emails. 

All of my clients know how big of a fan I am of Google. This is just another example of how Google remains on the forefront of technology and constantly strives to make the web easier to use while maintaining security. If you want to learn more about reCAPTCHA v3 check out the links below.

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Search Engine Optimization Considerations

Search Engine Optimization Considerations

While the content on your website plays a very large role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there are many parts to ranking well with Google and Bing. A business that has had a web presence for 15 years is going to have a big advantage over a new company with no web presence. One big reason is the number of legitimate websites linking to your website. The older your domain is the higher probability third party websites are linking to it. There are four major data aggregators on the Internet (Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom and Factual) that distribute your business information to many smaller third party websites. In order to get your business indexed with them you have to use third party tools. Over the years I have helped many clients accomplish this task at a very reasonable cost.Another commonly overlooked part of SEO is social media presence. Google has been giving increasing weight to companies with an active social media presence. I recommend my clients post once per week on multiple platforms. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the best to focus on. Posting to all three can be accomplished using third party software that allows you to post to all your social media platforms from one place.Fresh content on your website is another important ranking factor. For most small businesses this is tough. Your services never change, so what do you do? The answer is a blog. I've built many blogs for clients that link to their social media platforms. You post to your Wordpress blog and the post is automatically shared to all of your social media platforms.Over the years SEO has changed. On-page SEO is and will always be the most important ranking factor, but the off-page SEO content is playing an increasing role in Google's rankings. Contact me today for a customized plan for your business. 
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