Red Flag Tips for Avoiding Shady SEO Providers

There’s shady people all over the world. That doesn’t mean you necessarily want to do business with them. While it’s normal for businesses to operate with the bottom dollar in mind, some will go to great extents to protect themselves at your expense. Don’t get taken advantage of while you wander into the world of digital marketing.

We stole (*not shady) the following tips from Search Engine Land’s Greg Gifford. These are the 10 red flags you should look out for. We’d make a list ourselves but that looks sorta shady and all. (And let’s face it- Greg seems like a pretty cool guy.)

Greg Gifford’s Red Flag Tips for Avoiding Shady SEO Providers

Maybe I should have used an image of me jumping on a soapbox, because I’m about to preach.
Spring conference season is in full swing, and I’ve had my mind blown several times already — not from amazing presentations (although there were several), but from conversations with business owners and newbies in the marketing world.

Case in point: At an automotive conference, I talked to a dealer who had deleted his dealership’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on the advice of his SEO provider. He said they told him it wasn’t good for him to have an open forum where customers could say whatever they wanted about his business. I pointed out that the customers would still be out there, even if his dealership wasn’t… and he agreed! He said he thought that sounded weird, but he shrugged and figured his SEO guy knew what he was doing.

I’ve talked to far too many business owners this spring who feel like they’re getting fleeced by their SEO providers. I’ve talked to far too many marketers who have just started off in the field who don’t know how to judge the value of the work their employer provides. Those conversations are scary, and they’re happening far too often.
I thought I’d take a look at some red flags and warning signs with this week’s article here. While I’m stepping up on my soap box to preach, I’m also taking a step back and looking at the SEO industry without any preconceived notions.

(Note: Yes, most of us are legitimate SEOs and marketers who know what we’re doing and do everything we can to help our clients. This post isn’t meant for y’all — sorry. This post is for the business owners and the noobs in the industry.)

Following are 10 red flags which signal that you may be dealing with a shady SEO provider….

1. Low quality, duplicated content

I talked to a dealership that suspected their content was just phoned in by their provider. Their blog was packed with “Honda Civic AC Repair in (city), (state)” posts — and there was a version for every car in their lineup. In total, we’re talking 15 or 16 posts, all exactly the same. The only thing different was the model of the car.
And it gets better! They had taken those 15 posts and used them all again, for around 20 different cities — 300 blog posts, all exactly the same, just with a few keywords substituted in each one.

Obviously, this was bad news. If you suspect you’re getting cruddy recycled content, copy a sentence from a post and search for it in Google inside of double quotes so you only see exact matches. If you’re like this dealer and see more than 42,000 exact matches, you know you’re in bad shape.

2. Lazy, outdated tactics

I had a fun conversation at SMX West with a few attorneys. One of them was telling me that their new SEO provider sent their website guy a list of requests (They had never asked for access to WordPress, which is a bad sign all on its own). The requested title tag was nearly 30 words long, and they had at least 35 cities listed in the META KEYWORDS.

They had also requested that all but the first sentence of the home page be hidden behind a “read more” link.
If you’re reading Search Engine Land, then you’ve got access to a wealth of information about SEO best practices. If something seems shady or outdated, some simple checks online with trusted sources can help you confirm or deny your suspicions.

3. All you get is blog posts
If your provider’s entire SEO strategy is simply providing blog posts, that’s obviously bad news bears for your business. Clearly, there’s so much more to making your website a relevant resource than sharing a bunch of blog posts. Blogs are an important element, but they’re just one piece of a much larger pie.

4. Artificially lowered bounce rate
Sure, your bounce rate can be a good engagement signal, but it shouldn’t be your “be all, end all” metric. Far too many business owners obsess over their bounce rate when there are much more legitimate metrics for SEO success.

At the last SMX West before he went on hiatus, Matt Cutts said something in an open Q&A that’s stuck with me ever since. When someone asked about their bounce rate, he told them that if their call to action was a phone call, they wanted a high bounce rate. If they were driving users to make a call, then a high bounce rate could mean that users were converting and then leaving.

If your SEO provider promises a drastically lower bounce rate, you should ask them what they’re doing. Many times, they’re simply adding a script that pings Google Analytics every four or five seconds that a user is on a page. BOOM! The bounce rate is magically lowered — but not because the content is engaging or because customer behavior has changed.

5. A la carte SEO services

If you’re hiring an SEO provider, you’re doing so because you believe that their expertise will help your business get more visibility online. If they show you a menu of possible services, with everything broken out into individual elements, that’s not a good sign.

You’re hiring them because they’re the expert — they shouldn’t expect that you know exactly what your business needs to gain more visibility in searches. It’s perfectly okay if they have several different packages, but if you’re expected to choose individual components to create your own package, that’s not a good business decision.

6. Guaranteed ranking
I’m not going to dwell on this one, because it’s 2016, and you’ve read this about 327 times before. But hey, if you’re brand new to SEO, here’s the truth:

Nobody can guarantee rankings.

So if your provider is doing it, run away.

7. “Cheap” SEO
SEO can’t be automated — it takes people sitting there, doing the work. That’s not cheap. SEO takes manual work, and it takes time. If you’re paying less than $750 to $1,000 a month for SEO, that’s another bad sign.

8. Setup fees for SEO
If your provider is charging a “setup fee,” ask them why, and what’s included. Setup fees are rare — but sometimes, since there’s more research on the front end of an SEO project, providers try to saddle new clients with a setup fee.

It’s likely that they’re just asking for extra money because they can. If they’re charging a setup feeand your first month’s service fee, they’re not doing any extra work that first month, compared to what they do the following months.

9. No access to Google Analytics
If your provider sets up Google Analytics for your site but refuses to give you access, you need to run away as fast as you can. There’s zero reason why your provider should deny you access to the analytics for your own website. Yes, this sounds crazy to most of us, but it happens all the time.

On the flip side of the coin, if you start working with a new provider that doesn’t ask for access to your Google Analytics, you should run just as fast. Without access to your analytics, they have no idea what’s going on with your website — so how can they be optimizing for better traffic?

10. No monthly reporting

Your provider should absolutely be providing a monthly SEO report. I talked to several providers at a recent automotive conference who were using a large, well-known provider who only produced quarterly reports. Since that was the only provider they’ve ever used, they didn’t know any better.

I’ve also had a lot of people tell me that their SEO reports only show keyword rankings. In today’s world of localization and personalization, keyword ranking reports are worthless as an SEO success metric. Your reports should always show organic traffic and lead trends over time.

So, those are the most egregious offenses that I’ve run into over the past year or so…. but I’d love to hear from all of you. If you’ve got a great story, please share it on social so we can both laugh AND use the examples to help people avoid the shady providers.

Do you need to fire your current website developer or SEO provider? Contact gotcha! Mobile Solutions today and hire the real deal.

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7 Habits that Social Media Marketers Should Break

The following 7 habits that social media marketers should break have deemed themselves ineffective. Whether you’re the voice behind the brand or the owner of a brand new startup, the way you approach and interact with your social media audience can make or break your company’s reputation. Here’s the lowdown on which habits you should kick for good.

The 7 Habits that Social Media Marketers Should Break

1. Inconsistency- It’s hard to imagine but it’s true, there are thousands of companies who just don’t follow a consistent plan when it comes to managing and scheduling social media. While you don’t have to have posts necessarily pegged down to the exact hour, every single day, you should make great efforts to post several times per week at the minimum. To find a business and then search its social pages only to see next to nothing, doesn’t look very good. Potential visitors want to know that business is alive and kicking. Where ya at?
2. It’s All About You- Posting on social allows us the freedom to express our opinions, beliefs, and our feelings. But how much of that should you really be sharing with your audience? The whole point of building a social profile is so that you can interact and engage with your followers. If nobody is talking, and your posts are basically all about your business, your accomplishments, and your agenda, you’ll bore people. Make sure your posts are there to entertain and engage your audience, and if that’s not working you need to try something else.
3. Tagging- While tagging people on Facebook has its perks, it can be confusing to your followers, who are often left to wonder why there is any tagging to begin with. Should they click the tagged person? Should they start following them? What’s really the point of the tag, and why does your audience need to see it? If you’re tagging personal connections in your company posts, you’re no longer focusing on the relationship with your general visitor base. That can turn off visitors who don’t feel compelled to “get to know” your personal life or interests.
4. You’re Offending Your Audience- Always think of your reader. If you’re using social media marketing to also share your opinion on politics and religion, well then, get ready for the tomatoes. Keep your audience happy and keep the posts light. Avoid unnecessary controversial topics, and promptly remove any visitor posts from your page that can be interpreted as offensive to other readers.
5. You Ignore People- Social media is great if you don’t really crave the one on one human interaction of the “real world”, however, people still expect you to answer questions, reply to posts, and generally appear interested in them. Marketers need to use social media to get to know their target audience better, and then adapt the brand, product, or campaign to follow suit. Pay attention to your visitors and make them feel wanted. The more you understand your audience, the better chance you can capture them.
6. You’re Hashtag #Happy- While the #hashtag has its place, some people use the hashtag as a precursor to a funny joke they want to tell, using multiple pound symbols to convey varied opinions and thoughts. #Itgetstiring. #Peopleareoverit.
7. You Don’t Have a Social Media Presence- Perhaps the greatest marketing mistake you can make is not having a social presence of any sort. While it can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to place your efforts, it’s essential that you start somewhere and begin building the social platform on which your business will stand. Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest or LinkedIn are simple enough for nearly anyone to begin using.

Seek Digital Marketing Help

Do you need help creating a digital marketing plan? Don’t venture off into the unknown without a little guidance. Effective social media marketing isn’t an exact science. What works for one type of business, might provide zero results for another. It takes patience, research, and analytics to begin devising a successful approach. Since time is money and you want your investment to drive results, you need to first identify your audience.

Contact the professionals at gotcha! Mobile Solutions today, and begin your journey into the world of digital marketing. Here you will learn how to capture, engage and interact with your customers, and then of course, how to retain them. We will quickly assess your website and your social issues, and get to work on fixing them. Your efforts deserve to be noticed. Don’t waste another day partaking in any of these 7 habits that social media marketers should break.
Your visitors will thank you.

Mobile Marketing

5 Facts About Digital Marketing That You Never Knew

5 Facts About Digital Marketing That You Never Knew

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about social media marketing is that it’s very simple and easy work. These individuals believe that just because they know how to use Facebook or Twitter, they can already become a digital marketer. They think that it only requires being able to post some stuff on these social networks and it’s easy money.

Unfortunately, there’s more to digital marketing that meets the eye. If you want to be in the business, you also need to provide the right practice so that it will lead to a successful campaign. Whether you are the business owner or someone who is practicing digital marketing, it truly pays to be knowledgeable of the right tools to use in your line of work. Otherwise, it could be very costly for you; especially if you are not doing things right.

So before you get started on your attempt to be successful at digital marketing, there are some things you need to know. Here are 5 facts about digital marketing that you never knew but should:

#5: Some small differences in implementation could lead you to a big difference in results!

When it comes to your digital marketing strategy, you have to keep in mind that sometimes, you need to go beyond the extra mile. For example, if you are a writer, sure you can write well. But the best way you can get results from your writing is to use the tools of influence. The thing about influence is that you will be able to write content that would motivate your readers to do something. Sure, you can be spam about getting your message across to your readers or even hard sell to them. The sad part is, however, that this would end up in them blocking you or getting turned off by your practice.

Knowing what the tools of influence is can be a big help in changing the results you want for your digital marketing strategy. By following this, you can avoid spamming your readers. And again, this simply won’t do you any good.

#4: How you interact and engage with your audience matters

No matter how many followers, fans, or friends you have on the account, it doesn’t mean anything. This is because they are simply people who are keeping up with your posts on your social media accounts. Even if they fit the demographics of your customers, it won’t mean anything if they are simply following you on your social media account.

The problem with this is that most of the time, marketers boast about the number of followers they have on the accounts they are working on. What they fail to remember, however, is that if these followers do not do anything or buy from the company, they are simply followers and that’s all there is to them.

If you want your digital marketing strategy to work, you will have to engage with your followers. You have to show them that there’s actually a human being behind the account and not just a random software that generates content for them to look at. By doing this, your followers will be more open to discussing things about the business and this could lead to a viral messaging campaign and sales for the business. And yes, this is the most important thing to remember when you are engaging with followers in the first place.

#3: Digital marketing work requires extensive skills across a variety of platforms

This truth about digital marketing work contradicts the norm that anyone can do social media work. As mentioned, many people believe they can be a social media manager just because they know how to post on Facebook and Twitter. In reality, however, an individual needs to be equipped with the necessary skills to create a powerful and successful digital marketing campaign.

The usual skills needed in social media include strong writing, marketing background, A/B testing, strong business intelligence, technical web design, graphics design, some coding, online social media management, and CMS background—such as Drupal or WordPress. If an individual does not know these things, he may not be able to successfully do the tasks needed in the field of digital marketing.

#2: Thoroughly understand the digital marketing strategy to be successful with the campaign

There are some individuals who think working in this line of work is easy. They tend to forget that they will have to be thoroughly clear with what it is the campaign is all about. At the same time, they also need to know who the buyer spectrum is.

Some digital marketers believe that the success of a digital campaign depends on the number of followers gained on Facebook or Twitter. But definitely, this is a big misconception that should be stopped. There’s more to social media and digital marketing than just having thousands or millions of followers on the account. These followers need to actually respond so that the campaign can be successful.

#1: You will have to spend money to be successful in your digital marketing campaign

One way you can be successful with your digital marketing campaign is to spend big money. You will really benefit from having a seasoned speaker or personality guest blog on your website. Even though you will have to spend some money on this, the results can be overwhelming.

The trick here is to identify who the right people to invite to guest blog or feature on your social networks. You have to be thoroughly careful about whom you choose so you can get the right results you are looking for in your digital marketing campaign.

Knowing these things are important for the success of your digital marketing campaign. There are plenty of other things that are still good to know when it comes to working on a digital marketing campaign. If you really want to do things right the first time, you can follow these tips so you know how to reach your target audience.

Mobile Marketing

2016 Web Design Trends

The following 2016 web design trends will keep you informed of what to expect in the ever-changing tech industry.

Author credit: Amber Leigh Turner

Design trends often span several years (even decades for some types of design), but Web design is a quickly moving and changing industry where trends come and go quite often.

We’re still working with some of those trends now: responsive web design, flat design, performance and speed, and perfecting the user experience. However, what are some of the new and emerging trends we can expect to see in 2016?

Let’s look through some of the trends we can expect to see more of this year.

Navigation and Menus:As a Web designer myself, I’ve noticed we just can’t seem to get the navigation or menu of a website down. We keep playing with it, experimenting, and doing different things to get it to work well and be useful.

We do things such as put it in a new and unexpected place, hide it behind a hamburger icon (a trend I mentioned for 2015), or just throw it up there because we know it is needed but it doesn’t look very good.

We struggle to figure out exactly the best way to showcase this important piece of content to make it usable no matter the screen it’s being viewed on. We continue to experiment in ways to figure out what works best. For example, Shellshock above is experimenting with both the hamburger icon menu reveal with a card inspired layout for their navigation.

Expect to see more experimentation as we work through trying to figure out how to do navigations and menus well.

Scrolling: Have we reached the point where scrolling increases readership, but we want less scrolling? Possibly. For 2016, I anticipate some sites going with minimal scrolling while others embracing the long scroll.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both: long scrolling feels natural and is easier than clicking but it spaces out content and makes it harder to scan to find info while shorter scroll gets to the point quickly but it may be so quick that causes bounce rates to increase.

Above, Uppercase has opted to go with a no-scroll site. What you see in the screenshot is what their site currently loads. All of what you need is right there without needing to scroll further.

It will be interesting to see the scrolling battle play out in 2016 and which one comes out on top. Currently, there are more long scrolling sites than shorter scrolling sites, but only time will tell which is truly the best way to consume content.

Module design: Have we reached the point where scrolling increases readership, but we want less scrolling? Possibly. For 2016, I anticipate some sites going with minimal scrolling while others embracing the long scroll.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both: long scrolling feels natural and is easier than clicking but it spaces out content and makes it harder to scan to find info while shorter scroll gets to the point quickly but it may be so quick that causes bounce rates to increase.

Above, Uppercase has opted to go with a no-scroll site. What you see in the screenshot is what their site currently loads. All of what you need is right there without needing to scroll further.

It will be interesting to see the scrolling battle play out in 2016 and which one comes out on top. Currently, there are more long scrolling sites than shorter scrolling sites, but only time will tell which is truly the best way to consume content.

Flat design: With responsive design pretty much taken over the Web, expect a flat design to continue to be a dominate design aesthetic throughout 2016. Not only will there be websites that launch with flat designs, those sites that’ve already embraced the flat design trend will look to make things even flatter.

Take for example Google’s logo. The company changed its logo to make it flatter (losing the bevels) and changed the font. It found that a cleaner sans-serif font for its logo helped cut the size of the logo file used on sites by more than half. Google also found that it was easier to read on smaller devices.

This includes updates to logos (like Google), icons, images, and other elements that maybe didn’t get fully flattened the first first time. You can thank the drive and determination to get our websites to load faster and snappier, weigh less, and get content to viewers more effectively.

Material design: Google released its Material design language back in June 2014 but the adoption has been a bit slow. However, designers now have a better understanding of the Material design and I anticipate they will start opting to use it more in their designs as documentation and examples become more widespread.

The material design focuses on tactile but dynamic elements that remind us of paper and ink. Shadows that are realistic, items that overlap do so with regards to reality, interactions stay inside of the material and don’t impact other material around it.

Since we’ve seemed to have reached peak flat design, designers are opting for the next thing, and Google offers that up in their Material design language. I anticipate many more sites to follow this same material design aesthetic in 2016.

Ditch stock elements: We’re starting to see more and more websites ditching the use of stock elements such as stock photography and icon sets over something that feels much more designed and personal to the site itself.

Some websites are opting for using their own photography for use on their home pages or blog posts instead of picking a stock photo. Other websites are ditching stock photography for videos, infographics, or even GIFs to help convey their message. For example, Flatiron Health has opted for their own photography in areas of their website to help be more inviting and personable and less corporate.

Icon sets are another stock element that’s being dropped in favor of something more custom. There are thousands of sets out there, so it’s easy just to pick one and run with it, but for designers, they’re noticing that little extra touch to create custom icons can help set a site apart from others.

Full screen forms: Much like I talked about a year ago with responsive Web design practices being carried throughout an entire website instead of just the mobile versions, this trend also has come from the wide-spread adaptation of responsive website design.

More sites and apps are going with the full-screen forms and input screens (such as signups and logins) instead of it existing in only one small part of the site. Click on “login” and or “contact” and you may be greeted with a full-screen overlay with the form needed instead of being sent to a different page. A great example of this is Eighty East’s contact form. When clicking “contact” you get a full-screen contact form.

As mentioned above, this trend comes from responsive design best practices for several reasons: keeps another screen from being loaded, gives more screen space for easier touch by fingers on touch screens, and encourages users to complete the form (for those forms that present one input at a time).

Animations: As Web design is flattening out, websites are starting to look more and more alike. One way designers have been trying to help make their sites stand apart from the crowd is through the use of rich, clever but subtle animations throughout.

Designers are opting for changing the everyday animations we’ve all grown accustomed to but still serve a purpose. For example, Slack’s own loading screen takes that boring circle loading animation and ditches it for a custom loading animation featuring Slack’s own logo. It still serves the purpose of letting the user know it’s working, but in a clever and rich way.

Better function: Users are caring more about how a site functions than looks
Having a nice design site is great and all, but it really doesn’t matter all that much if your site doesn’t function well. Users are becoming more keenly aware of when something doesn’t work properly on a website.

It’s becoming more common for users to leave a website because they’ve encountered something that isn’t working well for them. Imagine how bad this could be for an e-commerce site?

Designers want their sites to look good, so it’s important that they can make the site function properly as well. Give the people what they want: function and design.

Designing in browser: Some Web designers currently design only in the browser. There are benefits to this: cuts development time down, allows you to see the limitations and reactions of the actual browser with regards to the design, and is more natural than designing in a program that has nothing to do with the Web.

It’s pretty common for Web designers to know how to code at least the front end of websites (HTML/CSS/JS), so designing in the browser makes sense to them. With the trend of Web design moving out of Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch and into the browser more, I anticipate many other Web designers starting to work on their HTML and CSS chops.

What are some design trends you anticipate for 2016?

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Why Fresh Content Matters

Many web page owners wonder what the purpose of fresh content is. Fresh can mean a few different things, from a new way of thinking, to something just produced. “Fresh content” is really a combination of both. Here’s a look at what creating fresh website content can do to help drive traffic, and why it’s a bigger deal than you think.

How Often You Should Create Content?

Figuring out how frequently you should post on social media or post fresh content is the first step in setting your blogging and social efforts up for success. At bare minimum you should strive to publish a blog once per month, and post on social media several times per week. This will keep your audience updated on your brand happenings and also keep them interested in the future of your company. This helps to build brand loyalty and will hopefully increase your amount of mobile shoppers.

Don’t expect your content marketing strategy to have instant results. If you do, you’re just setting yourself up for failure, because most marketing strategies take a significant amount of time to reap any reward. There really is no such thing as an overnight success with blogging and having a social media presence. If you are diligent and continuous in your efforts and reformulate your posts as necessary you should eventually see a rise in both page views and web prominence, and your site will (as an ultimate goal) be considered an authority on your topic. Google results will favor your website, and your website traffic and lead generation will flow. It’s all about the content and keeping the cycle going.

What Should You Write About?

Finding topics to write about can be a task all in itself. It helps to have an editorial process in place so that you have some basic guidelines to begin your content production. In addition to the area of interest you should first establish the type of content you’ll be writing, and a goal word count for each piece. This will help you figure out how many contributors you might need on board, as well as how you might filter certain topics so that you have enough information to write a relevant piece.

Research on your industry can help you figure out what to write about when you begin blogging. You should also study and look at other websites and see what they are publishing. If there’s something happening going on in your industry, writing a blog is a newsworthy way to approach it. New employees, new products, recognition, awards, events, etc. are all easy topics you can tie into a monthly editorial calendar.

Should You Recycle Content?

Recycling or repurposing content is the practice of sharing and posting content over and over again. If you have an article that is evergreen, meaning not likely to ever change in relevance or importance, recycling your content on social media is an ideal way to increase site traffic, without expending more writing efforts in creating fresh content. Play around to find an ideal balance between evergreen content and topics that are trendy and of the moment. When you mix both timeless and fresh content together you create web content that is valuable, resourceful, and just a little different.

Why Content Matters

Fresh content matters because Google is constantly seeking new content in all of its search updates. It doesn’t matter if it’s Panda or any other Google update, if your website isn’t constantly producing website content there will be nothing new for the search engines to crawl. This means you will eventually lose your place in search result rankings and that will affect your visitors, hence your website traffic. How many pages do you scroll through after searching a topic? Most people click the results that appear on the first page.

Writing web content is essential if you want to keep a place in the vastly, ever-changing digital world.
Do you need help developing a digital marketing or web content strategy? Contact the SEO experts at gotcha! Mobile Solutions today.

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