If a website is there and no one looks at it…

… does it really exist?

SEO will help your ranking

Why don’t more people see my website?

You listen to everyone’s advice and you got a website, but no one is visiting. Why does it matter whether or not you have a site or not?

The truth is that you just never know when a prospect may look to see exactly what is on your website and what you do. Almost every business, big or small, has a website. It’s just something you need to do as part of your marketing in today’s world.

The mistake many people make is they think a stagnant website is enough. It’s not.

One of the things the search engines, like Google and bing, look for is activity on those pages and sites. The more active you are, the better.

Websites are ranked by a lot of factors, but one of them is activity – new pages and/or posts and the updating of existing pages and/or posts. If you have a blog and never put anything on it, that’s a negative. If you post regularly it’s a plus.

SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a method by which you can make changes on your website to have the search engines look more favorably at it. How do people search for you? What terms do they use? For example, in my case it is social media, Baltimore, Maryland, Social Squids, graphic design, writing, websites, etc. Those terms are called keywords.

Search engines frequently change their algorithms in order to fight against people trying to cheat the system. The algorithms are getting smarter so people are forced to be more legitimate in how they put words on their sites. That old, tricky tactics made for some terrible writing on websites.

If you use WordPress for your website, there is a handy plugin called Yoast SEO. It works really well by giving you pointers on how to add or subtract things to your site in order to make the SEO better and thereby help your search engine ranking. It focuses on keywords, outbound links, images and other components that will improve the flow and look of your website while helping the search engines find you and send people your way. Yoast uses a red, amber, green light system like traffic lights. The idea is to get all of the pages on your site to be green in the SEO category. There is also a “readability” category that gets a score.

Whether you use Yoast or other software, amping up your site for search engines is important if you want to stay competitive. Social Squids is here if you need us with help for SEO or writing for your site.

How do you define success?

how do you define successAfter watching the Barbara Bush funeral on Saturday, I have been thinking about legacies. What will your business leave to the world? How do you measure whether or not your business, and you as a person, are successful? How do you define success?

We had a discussion in my networking group today about this topic. Of course, there is the money definition. A successful person is one who has a financially successful business, or is financially successful himself.

But if you look a little deeper and think about how you define happiness, the money is only one small component. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly helps make things easier. However, it’s not the barometer most people use to measure happiness or success.

People who have a happy family life consider themselves a success. Those of us who are lucky enough to work at a job we love, that gives us fulfillment – and yeah, money too – consider themselves successful.

Others define success as having enough money to travel and do the things they want to do in life with their families. Is a difficult thing to define, but it’s worth a thought.

Someone in the networking group mentioned that as we get older, our priorities change. The nice car, the house in the “right” neighborhood and other status symbols seem to lose their pull. People are less interested in things and more interested in experiences.

When it’s all said and done, your material things are not that important. In fact, there was a controversial article within the last year about how kids no longer want their parents’ stuff. Millennial have less desire to take those hand-me-downs over getting something new.

Living a good life, having good friends, being of service to your clients, loving your family – those are things that matter more than anything else in the end.

 

There’s something to be said for networking in person

networking

While I love social media and doing everything online, at the same time I see the benefits of networking and meeting people in person too. Social Squids can do work anywhere in the world as long as people pay in US dollars, but talking to people in the flesh, seeing their body language and shaking their hands creates a connection that just isn’t possible online.

Meetup and Eventbrite are good places to seek out networking events that might be of interest to you. Looking for you local chamber of commerce is another source of networking events where you can meet other marketing people or business owners.

Posting on social media sites and engaging with people on Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn and Instagram is wonderful. You have the opportunity to meet people all over the world and exchange ideas with them. You can have your brand get a lot more exposure than you would if you only concentrated on meeting people in person.

Of course, meeting and engaging with people in both ways is best for marketing yourself and your business. Just don’t forget about the human contact part of the marketing picture in your haste to get your message to as many people as possible.

A word for the ladies…

sexual harassment in the workplaceWith all of the talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the news today, I feel like I need to go off topic and address this issue myself. I was a victim more than once of this type of abuse when I was young. The men were not billionaires or famous, just predators who thought they could do anything and get away with it at work. And they actually did.

The first situation was my boss. He constantly groped, grabbed and pinched me every single day I worked, even when his wife was there. I was happy when she worked because I knew there would be a lot less groping on those days, but it still happened.

I thought no one would have believed me if I said anything. I put up with it because I needed the job. Unfortunately, I stayed in that job over a year until I found something else.

I was in college at the time and didn’t know what to do or who to tell. I felt like it was somehow my fault, like I somehow invited his abuse. I know better now.

My fears extended to going to the bathroom because I knew he would be standing outside of the door when I came out. I would have to try and dodge him every time. I rarely succeeded in escaping. Some days I worked 8-10 hours so it was impossible to avoid the bathroom. This person terrified me. He had to know I hated it and was afraid. Perhaps that made me more of a target.

My nightmares were of him groping me. I couldn’t escape him when I was asleep. Even now, I get goosebumps thinking about that situation and how horrible it was. How did I endure this?

I wonder how many other young women put up with similar predators over the years. I never told anyone at work about this because he was the boss. Who could I tell? Telling his wife was an idea, although I probably would have been fired and branded a liar. I wouldn’t be getting any job reference from them if I suggested the boss was a molester.

The second situation was while I was a student intern at a local tv station. I worked in the newsroom and loved every minute of that job. Writing news was a dream come true. That was, until my boss asked me to go get him coffee.

He rarely asked me for such a menial task and we didn’t have a coffee maker in the newsroom even though people guzzled it constantly. I had to go up to the vending machine, where the coffee was truly awful. Why anyone wanted it was beyond me.

As I went up the stairway, I was approached by a guy at least twice my age who worked in another department. He cornered me in the otherwise empty stairwell, pushed me into a corner, grabbed my wrists and asked me how I liked being helpless. I think he was about to kiss me when someone entered the stairwell.

I shoved him as hard as I could, heart pounding like a frightened rabbit and ran upstairs to the vending lounge. I was terrified to come back down with the coffee, but I did. I figured I would just throw it on him if he came at me again. That man assaulted me twice in the same stairwell during the two semesters I spent at that job.

I was so afraid of going up those stairs. The second time he cornered me, I said I was going to scream and he told me to go right ahead. Again someone unknowingly rescued me by entering the stairwell and I took off running.

I told someone at the station after the first time and they told me that guy was “harmless.” When I said it didn’t feel harmless they told me to stop being dramatic – and this was another woman. She basically told me to grow up and stop acting like a kid. I was about 21 at the time.

I’m much older and wiser now. No way would I take that these days. At the time, I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.

If you are reading this and you are a female, please tell someone if this happens to you. If they don’t listen, tell another person or human resources. Don’t just take it like I did. Times are, hopefully, different these days. Although I wonder if they are with the conversations happening this week.

And if you are a man, I hope you never take advantage of a young girl the way these guys did to me. Who knows what kind of scars something like this leaves behind?

A graphics primer

A graphics primer

Part 1: Design elements

Graphic design

As entrepreneurs or business owners, we all need to have graphics done from time to time. Having a professional graphic artist instead of using your own support staff or trying to do it on your own, can be the difference between an amateurish brochure that will end up in the recycle bin or something that really grabs the reader’s interest and is worth keeping.

Before you get started, you need to know what you want and how to ask for it. Here are some explanations of terms and techniques that are important to a graphic artist.

Don’t worry, there is no test at the end. It’s helpful for everyone to know the terms so you can tell your graphic designer what you want.

Photos

Let’s start with my pet peeve! Printed images and web images are completely different. Your logo artwork or photo can look amazing on your website, but will print like garbage if it is not the right format. Images for print must be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Websites look fine at 72 dpi, but will print looking pixelated and awful. Websites require RGB (red, green, blue) color and printing needs CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Color printing is called 4-color process and prints all colors made up of percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Graphic element

Anything that is in your project including text is a graphic element. This includes words, photos and artwork.

Author’s alterations vs corrections

Author’s alterations are when the client changes the wording rather than correcting an error. Generally those are not included in the quoted price. If you make changes, you will be charged for them. Your copy should be ready to go before you start the graphics. Corrections, however,  are always included in the price.

Camera ready art

Camera ready art is ready to go to the printer without any changes. Your graphic artist should give you camera ready art as the finished product, usually in PDF format for printing. Some printers prefer the original graphics file, but they can be quite cumbersome. You need to discuss with the printer what they require before the graphic artist gets started on the project.

Artwork stretching

I’ve seen people stretch logos or photos to make them fit into the page layout. You never mess with someone’s logo. Make your design fit the logo, not the other way around. The same goes for photos. You can crop and size them in a way to make them fit.

stretchy bee

Colors

Colors should compliment each other and not clash. Bright red on bright blue or green can do crazy things to your eyes and should be avoided. The easiest text to read is black text on light yellow. Generally speaking, soothing colors go with calm subjects and bright colors go with a more vibrant subject matter. If you are unsure about what colors to use for a project, you can always extract colors (there is a tool for that in most software, usually an eye dropper) that match an image or logo. For example, if a logo is purple and yellow, those colors can be used in the text. Please make sure they match perfectly or don’t use them. If they are close, but not exact, it is not pleasing to the eye.

White space

You do not have to fill every bit of space with text or artwork. White space is a design element that some people forget is available to them.

Negative space

Negative space is the area around or between the main focus of an image. The World Wildlife Fund logo is a great example of using negative space. You see the entire animal even though your eye has to fill in part of the outline.

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.
Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.

Grid layout

A grid layout is commonly used for things like brochures. Everything is generally at right angles and the end product is pleasing to the eye. If you create something that looks slightly off kilter, it can be irritating to the reader.

Special effects

Too many special effects on one graphic element like feather (edges fade away), drop shadow (shadow behind the object), rotating, outline and inline can be distracting. You can tell by looking if it is too much.

Paper

Coated or uncoated paper (shiny or not) is another graphic element to your project. Depending upon the project, you may want different paper types (bond, laid, onion skin, etc.), thickness (card stock, paper, newsprint) or paper colors. Discuss paper choices at the beginning of the job because adjustments may be needed to get the desired effect. For example: Newsprint can only be printed on a web press and most printers do not have room for them. On a web press, the paper is in a giant roll and gets printed on one side or both sides, cut, collated and sometimes stapled as it goes through the press. Most presses do not use paper rolls, but sheets of paper that are cut to size after printing.

Bleed

A bleed is where text or an image goes off the page like on most magazine covers. You need a larger sheet of paper for printing with a bleed. After it is printed, the excess is trimmed away. While the finished product looks better, it usually costs more to print.

Summary

Some of the best examples of logos are elegant and simple. Think of the Nike swoosh, the NBC stylized peacock or the McDonald’s arches. The same simplicity can work for a brochure or any other graphic piece.

Next time we will discuss typography, the text for your project. Choosing the right font (typestyle) is important to the legibility and success of your printed project.

Contact Social Squids if you have a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

Website promotion tips

gain page views on websiteEntrepreneurs of all industries have websites, but many business owners have no idea how to draw attention to them. While certain marketing like SEO (search engine optimization) is best left to professionals, you can do some things on your own to help put your website on the map.

Some of these suggestions may seem like no-brainers, however business owners are not always well versed in the ways of self promotion. It doesn’t take a computer wiz to do some simple things that will significantly increase your website page views.

Website self promotion

Doing these basic tasks can help gain momentum for your web page and ultimately boost your sales.

Increased sales is what we all want.

  1. Make sure the search engines have your site indexed. The search engine bots (automated software) regularly reach out to websites, but adding them yourself lets you know for sure Google and Bing know about you.
  2. Post new blogs, pages or updates to your personal social media pages. Even if you have someone who posts for you, add some yourself.
  3. Email your friends about your website.
  4. Set up a Yelp page for your business and encourage your best clients to post on it. Your clients can also post reviews on your Facebook business page.
  5. Add link to your site in the signature of your email.
  6. Make sure your site and social media pages are on your business card, brochure and any other printed materials. This may seem obvious, but people who do not live and breathe digital technology often forget to include their website on marketing materials.
  7. On your personal Facebook page, add your website in the settings section.
  8. Write an article about your business for someone else’s website. Guest blogging gives your business a new audience.
  9. Participate in online forums (using your web address in your signature). This also helps lend credibility and shows you are an expert in your field.
  10. Yahoo has a section where people answer questions. You get points when people like your answers. Become a well-known expert in your field by answering questions in the topic that best relates to your business (add your website under your name in your credentials).
  11. Create a magnet for your vehicle with the website in large letters.
  12. Many local businesses have neighborhood bulletin boards, add your card or flyer (with website on it).
  13. Bonus tip: Many blogs and sites recommend creating controversy on your social media pages to bring attention to yourself and your website. I disagree. Yes, people take notice, but you also take the risk of alienating people who are fans now. Upbeat posts are best.

Go through the list and do the things you feel comfortable doing. If you have questions or need help, please contact Social Squids. We can assist with marketing, printed materials, websites and social media.

SEO insights

SEO insights

newsletter of social squidsSEO (search engine optimization) remains a mystery to many entrepreneurs and website owners. In truth, it’s rather simple. Search engine optimization is a way to help Google, Bing Yahoo and others find and classify your website.

By improving your SEO, your website can rise in the rankings. Without paying attention to it, your site may sink like a rock.

Using social media

You can help your SEO by adding a link to your site in your social media posts, e-zines, emails and newsletters. Make your social media content searchable by using hashtags and keywords in your posts.

Add your location and/or a map on your social media pages to let people know where you are. This is especially important for companies that have a local target audience.

SEO on your website

Make use of an SEO plugin for wordpress sites, or the the SEO feature on your web builder. Follow the guidelines the software suggests and your site will start to make positive moves.

Be sure to use your location in the keywords. Google and other search engines are used more by mobile devices than desktop computers now. Having your location will make you show up in the search when someone is nearby.

Make your blogs at least 300 words. It might sound like a lot, but search engines don’t bother much with pages that have little content. If the blog is really long, cut it in half and make it either two blogs or continue it on another page. If someone is interested in reading more, they will click to see the next page.

Use google analytics or some other tracking software to see where your page visitors originate. Do they come from your emailed newsletter? Social media? Searches? Or did they just type in the name when you gave someone your card? Once you know this information, you can make adjustments.

Blogs

Adding subheadings for your blog and pages is good for SEO.

Keyword density should be 5-7% for your page to be optimal. A construction company’s page might have “construction” or “building” as a keyword. Using a keyword in the first sentence and a few times on the page will make search engines happy.

Links, links and more links!

Get backlinks from relevant sites. For example, for your construction company, get your suppliers or clients to link back to your site. Search engines love backlinks.

Link within your site in your blogs and pages. If you mention a topic covered on a previous blog, link to it. If you want people to get in touch for more information, add a link to your contact page.

Link to other websites. If you are talking about making donations to a charity, provide a link.

SEO insights Social Squids

Images

Use alt tags for your images. If you use wordpress, go to the media library, click on an image and you can see where to add this tag. People looking at your website can’t see the alt tag, but it is in the code. If you have a photo on your site called Img_2005.jpg, search engines have no idea if that image even relates to your site. Adding an alt tag that says, “Baltimore area construction,” is more descriptive and helps SEO.

You can change the name of the image. Using Img_2005.jpg is not as good as new_construction.jpg. Add a description of your photo that is seen by the search engines and a caption that is visible on the site. You can do all of those things, but use different wording in each place.

Looking for a good SEO plugin for your WordPress site? I recommend Yoast SEO.  If this has gone completely over your head or beyond your abilities, you can contact me for additional information or a consultation.

Twitter tips

twitter-logo-2Microblogging with Twitter is a fast way to get your message to a large audience. Messages move at the speed of light. Often times headlines that have not yet hit other news media can be found on Twitter. Here are some handy tips that will help you get the most out of this social media platform.

One of the best examples of putting Twitter to use is a food truck. As the food truck travels, the driver can tweet where he is and where he is headed. Followers can see when the truck is nearby and plan lunch accordingly. Most businesses do not move around like a food truck, but posting updates on what is happening with your business is something you can do.

Retweet and follow posts on other accounts every day. Retweeting other messages shows you are not just posting messages, but you are also reading them. You are engaged in the process. Retweeting is a nice way to assist your favorite accounts and it will come back around to you in a good way when you get some new followers.

Search for your competition, good referral partners, your target audience and influencers in your field. Once you confirm your cell phone number you can follow up to 2,000 accounts. After that, you can follow 10% above the number that follows you. The more accounts you follow, the more will follow you. Most celebrities do not follow back, so only follow your very favorites.

Using hashtags will help people find your message. If you use #SocialSquids in a tweet and someone searches for that hashtag, the message will be more easily found.

If there is way to use a trending topic in your tweet – do it. Trending topics are the most popular topics or hashtags at any given moment and are listed to the left of your Twitter feed. In your settings, you can adjust for local trending topics if most of your business or interest is local. The mention of a trending topic will get more attention to your tweet and you may gain followers.

By adding a photo, your tweet is more likely to be seen (just like with all social media).  If you are able to embed text in the image, you end up with a longer message than a normal tweet. Add a video and get even more attention.

Making an offer or announcing a sale for your Twitter followers, helps you measure how many people are seeing your message by how many people ask for the offer. Twitter now has its own analytics. See how your account is doing by visiting twitter.analytics.com when you are logged into your Twitter account.

Send a direct message to another account by using the @ symbol and the account name. If you use .@ it will be seen by many more people because it will be in your feed and the other person’s feed.

Always remember that once you tweet, even if you delete it, your message is out there in cyberspace. Be careful and proofread your text. Be sure about an image before you post it. There have been countless “whoops” tweets by celebrities that have gone viral, but your tweet can get you in trouble too.

Once you get the hang of the lingo, symbols and using only a few words to make your statement, you will discover the effectiveness of Twitter.

We need more brains!

brains, not just for zombies any moreNo, this is not a post about zombies. Sorry if you thought that!

Have you ever had a great idea, but after pondering it for a little while, you are not quite sure if it will fly or not? It happens to me all of the time. I get all excited about some business or plan and then once I think about it for a day or two, I lose my momentum. Instead of letting great ideas fall by the wayside, why not bounce ideas off of another person and see what they think about it?

Brainstorming sessions are valuable in business. If you have someone you can trust with your secret business ideas, ask to have lunch, dinner or even coffee with them. Let them hear your idea and come up with ways it might work, or reasons why it won’t. Either way, you should take advantage of this significant resource.

The name Social Squids, came from such a meeting. My friend and I got together for coffee and I told her that I needed to come up with a name. She’s an illustrator, very talented and creative in her own right.

The starting point was the fact that I like animals, so we decided the name would have something animal-related in it. We brainstormed great name ideas, terrible ones, silly ones and eventually one of us – I’m not even sure which one of us it was – came up with Social Squids.

I kept doing this thing with my hands, wiggling my fingers and moving my arms outward. I was thinking about how social media reaches out into cyberspace. Not only did we come up with the name, we came up with the tag line too – We have far-reaching tentacles.

Paying someone for their opinion has its value, but brainstorming with one, two or a small group of people, will help you find problems, solutions, more in-depth ideas or sometimes cheer you on for your amazing business proposition.

So, find more brains. Bounce ideas off of your friends in the business community. Sometimes these ideas might seem impossible, but give it a try anyway. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for your business. Just be careful you share your ideas with people you trust and who are not going to take your idea and use it for their own.

Social media for business in 2014

what's new this year in social mediaOne of the biggest changes in the past year in social media has been advertising. Now there will be video ads on Facebook, ads and sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts on Instagram. Many apps, like ESPN, have added small banner ads across their pages.

People, especially the 18-35 demographic, are using their cell phones more and computers less. Ads are showing up everywhere in the mobile realm.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are leading the pack for social media right now. Of course, that can change almost overnight with social media. Because of the nature of the beast, things happen in an instant.

To keep your business on the cutting edge of the social media revolution, you need to be active. Whether or not you advertise on social media sites is up to you, but you should get involved in some way if you are going to keep up with your competitors.

What will happen in the coming months? No one really knows. Little apps or sites that no one uses now, might just be the biggest thing since Facebook. Social media users are fickle.

Check your Klout.com score. See how you stack up against your competition. Get analytics for your website and see if your clients are coming from social media sites and whether they are using computers or phones to reach you. Look at your website on a mobile phone and see if it looks the same as on your computer.

Let’s say goodbye to 2013 and welcome faster, more sleek apps, social media and mobile sites in the coming year.