Tips for Business 8
Tips for Business
At 4x3, our SEO services are designed to increase client rankings organically on major search engines. For our client, Arizona Opera, 4x3 has developed a custom, fully functional website to manage content in an organized and SEO-friendly manner.
What is SEO?
Short for "search engine optimization", SEO is a online marketing discipline applied to websites to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness on search engines. SEO allows businesses and individuals to facilitate organic (non-paid) traffic to their website.
4x3 works closely with Arizona Opera to optimize their content and nurture organic SEO for their website. To do this, we have focused on 6 simple SEO techniques to increase their ranking and visitor traffic.
1. organized and structured site
SEO isn't just about building search engine-friendly websites. It's about making your site user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Having years of experience in web design and development, we created Arizona Opera's website in a way that search engines can understand. Simple URL paths and site maps are key!
2. mention of locations
With approximately 3.2 billion people online, it is likely that at least several thousand are searching for any specific keyword at any time. A major way to target your audience and push yourself to the top page of Google is to mention your location.
Unless an Internet user is purposefully searching for general information about an opera or opera house they will not find Arizona Opera. As such, most people will search for a more narrow term like: "opera house arizona" (577,000 results) or "opera house phoenix az" (234,000 results). Luckily, Arizona Opera has a distinct advantage in this category simply because their location is present in their opera company name, which significantly helps with narrowed Google searches.
Arizona Opera is on the top page of Google because 4x3 has helped the opera company monopolize many searches in Phoenix, Tuscan and surrounding Arizona townships.
3. use of keywords in titles, headers, meta descriptions
The same principle of mentioning your location on your website can be applied to titles, headers and meta descriptions as well.
Whenever we update content for Arizona Opera we consciously include keywords about specific performances, ticket sales, events and press coverage that the opera company wishes to highlight. By repeating keywords whenever practical (especially in areas that search engines pull information from) Arizona Opera gains the top Google ranking.
4. implementation of mobile site
It's important to remember that SEO has both technical and creative elements.
Responsive design is a necessary feature for any modern website. In fact, Google has new mobile friendly test that can inform visitors if your site has a responsive design. This can inevitably affect your website's credibility, local SEO, click-through rate and lead generation. Google has even gone as far to state that responsive web design is the recommended mobile website configuration and penalizes any site that is not responsive.
5. engagement on social media
SEO is all about web presence. Active websites will always be favored over inactive sites. While this applies to website content, it can also refer to social media. Websites with active (and multiple) social media platforms attached to the website see additional traffic and credibility given to both their website and search engine ranking.
Arizona Opera is extremely active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Soundcloud, which in turn drives additional traffic to the website and generates organic SEO.
6. creation of content with a long shelf-life
Content that is consistently relevant (not time limited) can be searched months or years after posting. This kind of content, when found, will bring visitors to your website and then drive them to your more recent content. Timeless content always gives you a better chance at competing for the top slot on Google.
For Arizona Opera, we help archive of all past opera performances. When an opera fan searches for The Magic Flute or Rigoletto they are drawn to the Arizona Opera website where they can then search for more recent performances of their favorite operas. Visitors will always find what they want while Arizona Opera gets the views.
Interested in SEO?
Whether you need a website designed with SEO in mind or you just need help boosting your Google ranking, 4x3 is here to help! We utilize the most up-to-date methodologies to optimize search engine indexing.
As recounted in last week’s blog, we tried a little experiment in writing viral headlines — choosing three different versions of a headline and promoting them on Facebook to see which got the most response. Businesses that rely on Facebook clicks do this kind of testing all the time, and on a much bigger scale.
The posts concerned a controversial new beer from the New England Brewing Company. Check out my previous post to see how the headlines did—who took the bait, and why.
More on Viral Headlines
The results were interesting and in some ways surprising. In addition to what we reported last week, here are some more observations about viral headlines:
- DO be specific. The headlines that were more specific about what was offensive (“beer label,” “beer can”) did much better than the headline that just referred to “beer.”
- DO appeal to emotions. Suggestions of controversy, heartbreak, joy—even negativity—will get a response.
- DO leave them hanging. Click-baity headlines are teasers—try to get a reader's interest without telling them exactly what the story is about.
- DON’T tell people how to react. Suggesting a reaction turns people off. As viral publisher Outbrain puts it: “Don’t tell your readers what to think.”
- DON’T use the word “you.” This can be seen as pushy or sales-y.
These last two may have been strikes against our headline “Do You Find This Beer Can Offensive? Many People Do.” It did pretty well, but also inspired a response that could be seen as negative or defensive—maybe the person did not like the idea that he was supposed to be offended.
So, be specific without giving it all away, and create an emotional response without being pushy. In other words, “This Little Dog Got Lost in a Snowstorm. What Happened Next Warmed My Heart” is better than, “Your Heart Will Melt When You Read About This Poor Little Rescue Dog.”
This Editor Has Some Amazing Things to Say About Viral Headlines. We Thought #16 Was Funny
I looked at a lot of articles online claiming to crack the code of virality, and the most useful (and entertaining) was one from Adam Mordecai, Upworthy's Editor-at-Large. Like Dose (the website mentioned in last week’s blog), Upworthy also tests headlines—and puts a huge emphasis on writing (and trying) a large number of them.
The New Yorker magazine published a fascinating article last month about Emerson Spartz, the 27-year old Chicagoan who has made millions repackaging content to gain clicks on Facebook using viral headlines.
Spartz’s business model is entirely data driven. Content on his websites—Dose, Lolbrary, Unfriendable, and many others—use attention-grabbing headlines or photos to get clicks and shares from news feed scrollers. His main site, Dose, employs an algorithm that tracks the success of many different headlines created for the same piece of content. The headline attracting the most clicks eventually wins out over all the others.
Viral headlines: Insane, hilarious, awesome…
Using this system of zeroing in on the most "click-baity" headline, a Dose post can gain several hundred thousand page views a day. The winning headlines tend to promise a huge “wow” factor. Some recent examples: “18 Haircuts That Are All Too Much. #11 Why Would You Do That?!,” “21 Of The Absolutely Most Insane Things That Have Ever Happened On Tumblr,” “You'll Never Believe That This Food Is Illegal In Berlin.”
Writing a viral headline
I decided to try this approach out for myself. Using a story published on the BBC about a controversial beer can depicting Gandhi, I wrote three click-baity headlines and promoted them on our Facebook page. For each version of the post, we set a budget of $5 and “boosted” it on Facebook. The three posts were exactly alike except for the headline, were sent to the same targeted audience, were boosted at the same time and for the same duration (two days). At the end of the boost period, we checked how many "actions" (clicking, liking, sharing or commenting) each version of the post got.
Here are the viral headlines:
- I Would Not Have Believed This Beer Could Anger a Whole Nation
- The Beer Label that Shocked and Angered a Nation
- Do You Find This Beer Can Offensive? Many People Do
And here are the results:
- 10 Actions: 9 link clicks and 1 page like.
- 72 Actions: 66 link clicks and 6 post likes. (THE WINNER)
- 53 Actions: 49 link clicks, 2 post likes, 1 share and 1 comment.
Interestingly, headline #3, which suggested a reaction, inspired the most heated response (a comment, like and share from a person who seemingly took offense at the idea that they should be offended).
A surprising gender gap
Also interesting is the gender breakdown. In the case of #1 and #3, the overwhelming majority of those taking action were men—96.2% for #3, and 90% for #1. Women took a lot more interest in #2 (the winner), making up 20.8% percent of those taking action.
See next week's blog for more insights into using viral headlines. The process of boosting these headlines was also a real learning experience—see more about this in a future blog.
Whether you work at a large corporation or own a small business, your company should be utilizing social media. Everyone is on it. And even if every single person is not on it, your target consumer probably is. In my opinion, here are the most important tips that you need to know.
1. Set goals and create a strategy to fit the target audience
It’s really difficult to measure success if you have nothing to compare it to. Decide who your target audience is and the best way to reach them. Then decide what goal you would like to achieve in a given amount of time (ex. we want to reach 100 more followers in the next two weeks).
2. Utilize analytics to know what best suits your audience
There are tons of ways to find out how successful or unsuccessful your posts are on different platforms. No one way is proven better than the other; it's a matter of preferance. Sometimes analytics are provided through the site and there are also third-party analyzers. Use as many or as few as you’d like but definitely make sure you always do three things. Read it. Comprehend it. Take action to make the next report even better.
3. Use Twitter to converse and not to simply push content
Twitter is such a vital tool. You are able to do more than just share information. You can gather information and build loyalty. No one likes being talked at. It is more effective to have a conversation than to lecture. Definitely stay active on social media with links, ideas, opinions, office happenings, etc. Undoubtedly, the most important thing about twitter is the ability to engage your audience and have a conversation with them. Understand their thoughts and what they would like to see from your company. It will help you reevaluate your goals and keep you on track!
4. Live by “A picture is worth a thousand words”
In research done to predict the ways and trends of social media, one thing is ubiquitous: Pictures in your content gets more attention. One Hubspot blog claimed that photos on Facebook generated more than double the amount of comments or likes on a post without photos. Twitter had the same results with increased retweets, site visits and clicks if the tweet had a photo.
My personal favorite way to share my photos on social media is through Instagram although there are several avenues that can be utilized to post pictures.
5. Use Pinterest to demonstrate your expertise and creativity
Although Pinterest is really popular for being a DIY hub, people use it every day for business. Creating pins that will bring traffic back to your site is imperative. Yes, you can still pin things from other sites but it is important to show that you can back up all of your ideas and that you are the expert. I would argue everyone can find a place on Pinterest. From greens-keepers to insurance tips, Pinterest has it all.
6. Don’t let your Facebook be boring
Getting consumers to like your page is a battle in itself, to grab their attention is another battle all together. This, much like Pinterest, will need your creativity. On your personal Facebook, it is acceptable to post what you ate and how you are feeling about life. Business pages are quite different. You want your business page to engage the reader and get them to your site and to remember your name above all others. Giving promotional discounts, posting videos from your YouTube account and even asking questions are just some ways to engage your audience.
I really liked this article posted by Driving Business Online which listed 20 ways to spice up your business page!
7. Promote a healthy dose of daily information but only provide good content
If you go to a company’s twitter account and they haven’t tweeted for some time, it could reflect poorly on them. On the other hand, if they tweet daily about sweet nothings, it could be equally as annoying and in turn, they may lose followers.
Unfortunately, there is no exact formula to fix this issue of balance. My best advice is to go back to your plan and strategize. With your audience in mind, what kind of content do they want and on what sites? How often do they look at those platforms? These questions can often be answered by using analytics. You have to cater to the needs of your consumers.
8. Utilize email too!
This one is simple. Always add emails to your database. Always utilize those emails to get out information.
9. Remaining open and on top of emerging social platforms while learning to utilize them to their greatest potential
The fact of the matter is that social media goes out of style fast. As soon as you get acquainted and comfortable; it’s changing. You have to be willing to roll with the punches and learn new platforms. This does not mean you have to use every single one for your business. However, you should have a general idea of what it does and how to navigate it. Even platforms that you think won’t do you any good, for example Snapchat, if you keep an open mind you may find a way to utilize it to your advantage (check out its new geo-filters. What a fun way to market your brand).
10. Isn’t this always the last point in a list like this? Have fun!
If social media is part of your business, well, that is fun in itself. But work takes up most of your life, and life is too short anyway to not have fun. Post informative, and fun, content.
A recent addition to the work week here is Beer Friday. Every Friday around 4 o'clock, we take a break from work and have a beer. The break is never that long and we all end up back at our desks finishing our beer while we work (all those Drupal sites won't design and program themselves after all).
But I am not one to complain about beer, especially at work. And a beer at the end of the week seems to make the design process go a little smoother if you've been stuck on something all day.
It has also given me the opportunity to experiment and make some delicious themed baked goods. So I'll leave you with my recipe for Pumpkin Beer Cupcakes, a very welcome snack in any office and a delicious fall treat in general.
Pumpkin Beer Cupcakes
(makes about 18-20 cupcakes)
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup pumpkin beer
1 ½ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp all spice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake tins with paper liners
Cream together butter and sugar and egg until smooth
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and the spices in a separate bowl
Mix the flour mixture and beer in to the sugar mixture, alternating between the two
Fill cupcake cups just over half full with batter and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
Let cool and frost with favorite frosting and decorate
- Rachel Schmitz, 4x3 Junior Designer and Baker Extraordinaire
As the extent of the devastation unfolds after Superstorm Sandy hit our Atlantic coast shores, I'm reminded of lessons learned after Katrina hit New Orleans. There's already news and finger pointing about what should have been done and who should have done what.
First of all, finger pointing is just not how we roll here at 4x3. We know we're only as good as our staff and our vendors. We realize that we are all human beings with lives outside of work, though we work hard to be as efficient and as conscientious as possible. Always, of course, we work within time constraints and budget. Clearly, post Sandy, it's obvious that if you move the generators to the 13th floor, you really should figure out the pumping system so you are not shlepping fuel up the stairwell during a crisis. No doubt a viable and cost effective solution will emerge. It might just be that New Orleans didn't consider this seemingly obvious variable.
Invest in Adequate Infrastructure
Over the years we've tried several hosting facilities here at 4x3 before settling on Media Temple, which is located in both El Segundo, California and Loudoun County, Virginia. Both sites feature advanced security systems. Each has multiple power distribution units, a continuous power supply with redundant generators and gallons of fuel on site. Each location has cooling towers, chilled water pumps, condenser water pumps, chemical treatment stations, smoke and heat detection and HVAC backup systems. The systems are online and monitored 24x7x365 with onsite personnel.
Honestly, it all sounds very impressive. After this last natural disaster, though, the present NYC Hospital systems, I'm sure, can be made to sound just as impressive. We've all discovered it just wasn't quite enough for this level of storm. I'm certain Media Temple will take a fresh, close look at their systems and evaluate based on recent events. I will work to share those updates with you, our customers.
Bottom line, we should all take a fresh look at our infrastructure. At 4x3, we have to have high-end systems managing our client's data and websites. But what about our in-house data? It brings me to that age old question that I'm still asked all the time. That is, "How often should I backup?" My answer, "As often as you are comfortable taking the time to redo what you've just done." At your desk, back up often. In your office, back up often.
Take a new look at your systems. I'm not saying we all need to move our servers to the 13th floor. We're not hospitals. We can board up the windows and open back up after the storm. Hospitals cannot. Make sure the data you need is saved properly. Make sure you have a system for off-site storage. At 4x3, we work either locally or directly from the server. At the end of the day, we make sure all information is back on the server.
The server is backed up off-site. Simple. Centralized. Redundant. Efficient.
I'm not an economic guru and I do not have a crystal ball, but my 'spider senses are tingling' these days. Life, as we all figure out when we get a little older, is fleeting. The economy - people make the phrase out to be a six-headed monster - will rise and fall over time. Or at least it has in my time.
The idea of steady growth is a concept to aspire to but not necessarily a reality. In our business, for sure, you have to stay on your toes. Many are hoping that it can't get any worse. Entire industries have taken a severe beating in the last few years. Some, it seems, don't have a recovery in sight. I wonder if some of the people in those industries can afford to wait.
In 1978 there was one single tiny computer in my high school of 4,000 kids. I knew where it was and what it did. In the grand scheme of the ups and downs of my life, it was a very lucky break. I'll fill you in on a little secret. We now have the ability to manage the six-headed monster with just a little device we hold in the palm of our hands. I do not care if you are 3 or 89, you must embrace the device. We joke in the office by saying, "This internet thing, I think it might just catch on."
You might have to retool a bit, I realize that, especially if you are closer to 89 than 3. I don't want to sound like I'm preaching, but you can do this. The rules are the same as they've always been.
Do something related to what you love.
Think less initial capital not more. Don't sink in your life savings. There's no need.
Scan the marketplace. Find your niche.
Work hard. Hire methodically. Be the tortoise not the hare with your expectations and your growth.
Stay on your toes.
Stephen Siano, 4x3 CTO 4x3, with offices in Ardmore, PA, is a small, methodically growing design firm that specializes in helping startup to small business to medium sized companies succeed.
This is the third in a five part series on social networking and your website. Instead of explaining the 'Why', let's concentrate on the 'How.'
#3 A Business Twitter Account
I'm sure you've noticed that almost every print ad or TV ad or websites mentions the need to follow the product or service on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have a Twitter Business Account established? Twitter, at first glance may seem a little silly and a waste of time. For now, go with me here, bypass that thought and as I tell my clients, "Let's get into the game."
If you were a pro football player, you wouldn't think of kicking an extra point without a holder. Doug Flutie, one of my football heros, made a little press and Sports Center for doing just that in a game in January of 2006. It was such an unusual event that it was last attempted in 1941. Working the Flutie's drop kick analogy, I don't know that you'll get the desired acolades by being the only business without a Twitter account. Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool for distributing important company-related information, connecting with collegues and it complements your website business posting. For now, let's not try to keep up with Twitter, let's just 'get in the game.'
Create a Twitter Page for your Business
Step 1: Go to 4x3, LLC's Twitter Page
I opened a new window for you.
Step 1.1: Follow me. Click the Follow button below the 4:3 logo.
This isn't really a step ... just another shameless 4x3 self promotion. After all that is the purpose of all this. You want to get people to Follow you. In the short-term future we're going to be posting information that is worthy of followers. If you aren't logged in to your personal account, you'll need to. If you are new to Twitter, you'll need to double back to this step after your account is setup. I'll remind you.
Step 2: Click the bright yellow 'Sign Up' button.
Fill in: Full Name, User Name, Password, Email. Twitter will instantly let you know if the Username is available. Keep trying.
Step 2.1: Follow the Twitter setup steps.
My rule of thumb is to let anyone follow my bussiness Twitter account. I choose to only follow my clients, my partners and my businness associates. You choose what works for you.
Step 3: Next, look for the confirmation email in your inbox.
Twitter isn't as instantaneous as other programs, so be patient! Note: I set these pages up all the time and, for whatever reason, 99% of the time the confirmation email ends up in my junk filter mailbox. Expect your mail software to treat it as junk mail.
Step 4: Make it look good.
Using the default light blue Twitter Cloud is not making it look good. Need a little help? Email me: email@example.com
Step 5: Tweet.
I like to announce things on Twitter and tweet about things of relevance in my industry and about my clients. We'll talk more about a stategy to update your website, then Facebook, then have Twitter automatically updated from Facebook. It's a cool little trick. Hey, head back to Step 1.1 and Follow me: www.twitter.com/4x3