page builder layout sketch

WordPress Page Builders, Pros and Cons

Posted Posted in small business

Using WordPress Page Builders

Pros and Cons of WordPress Page Builders

If you are building your web site in WordPress, you have no doubt heard about page builders. Some people love them. Others don’t. Purists often prefer hand-coding. The belief is, it gives them complete control of all aspects of the site. They are right. Others prefer page builders. They believe it allows them to build engaging, functional sites faster so they have less coding to manage. These developers are also right. So which option is right for you. Let’s explore WordPress page builders.

What are Page Builders?

Page Builders are optional WordPress plugins. They allow you to build professional web sites using enhanced editors.

Why Use Page Builders?

Page Builders relieve the burden of hand-writing code by providing more intuitive back-end editing. Functions/features such as animation, testimonials, call to action buttons, and more are made readily available without the need for a series of plugins.

Concept

Building a web site is not unlike building a house. One can, theoretically, build nearly any house imaginable. The limits are those of time, money, and skill. As WordPress is free, along with basic versions of page builders, we only need the time and skill to build. Page builders help with both.

Think of WordPress as the lot you purchased to build your home. Along with your hosted domain, it is your site. But it comes as a rather bare lot. We need to build something.

The first step in building is likely to be your Theme. It is the framework for your home. The number of rooms (pages), general color scheme, and foundation are provided by it.

Now it’s time to design. Painting the walls (background color of sections), putting up crown molding (borders), arranging the furniture (column layouts), and hanging pictures (adding images) are things you can do yourself. Again, it takes time and skill to get it looking right.

Maybe we don’t want to learn through intensive study or trial and error how to make things just right. We’d rather hire a contractor to do the heavy lifting. This allows us to enjoy the end product sooner. Maybe even move on to build the next house. The page builder is your contractor.

Page Builder Options

There are several popular page builders. Most have a free version and a pro version, offering additional features and functionality.

Adding a Page Builder Plug-In

Easy. Under your WordPress administrator dashboard, go to Plugins>Add New and search for the name of the plugin desired. Install and Activate. Voila!

 

Below we will look at the pros and cons of three popular page builders: SiteOrigin, Elementor, and Beaver Builder.

SiteOrigin (using with addition of SiteOrigin Widget Bundle plugin)

Pros

• Completely free (no Pro version. Everything is free.)
• Can use existing widgets, even from other page builders

Cons

• Can’t import/export page layouts

Basic Instructions

• Create a new page, setting default template (right-hand side of screen) to “full width”.
• Select “Page Builder” tab on editor to activate the page builder for this page.
• Add a Row. Options for row can be set under Attributes, Layout, and Design.
• Add a Widget into the row. Options for Widget can be set under Attributes, Layout, and Design.

Elementor

Pros

• Many pre-built templates for blocks and even entire pages
• Features such as section transitions are readily available
• Import/export features

Cons

• The nested column-in-column design can be a bit tricky
• Has not updated the font-awesome library, so it may cause site speed issues with current themes

Beaver Builder

Pros

• Front-end editing
• Built-in page templates
• Import/export layout
• Pre-built templates
• WooCommerce compatible

Cons

• To get the best features, it must be purchased. The cheapest price is $99.

Other Page Builders to Explore

• MotoPress
• Divi Builder
• WP Bakery (formerly Visual Composer)

Things to Look for, and Expect, from a Page Builder

• Works with your themes
• Frequently updated with high reviews and many installations
• Easy layout editor for your posts and pages
• Mobile responsive
• SEO friendly

Things to Beware with Page Builders

• Deactivation breaks layout
• Conflicts between page builder and other plugins and/or themes
• Slow site speed due to any aspect of the page builder

Summary

There’s no right way to build a web site. There are only concepts of design and functionality to make your site its best.

WordPress page builders make it easier to combine functional aspects of your web site. It removes the burden of updating multiple plugins and keeps everything operating under one plugin suite.

Sometimes things will still not be to your liking. Something may even break. So learning how to code is still your greatest advantage. But page builders can make that learning curve easier to manage while increasing productivity.

Our best advice is simply to try using a page builder. Create a new site, add the page builder plugin, and give it a shot!

Have questions about page builders or need help with building your site? Contact Crimson Web Design. We’re always glad to help other developers on their path to success.

Using Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics and Search Console for SEO

Posted Posted in SEO (search engine optimization), small business

Using Google Analytics and Search Console for SEO

How to Improve Web Presence for Small Business – Free (part 4)

We follow Part 3 of our series on how to improve web presence for small business by taking a look at Google Search Console and Google Analytics. You have built the site. You have followed all the recommended best practices for keyword optimization and including social media. Now we need to get Google to recognize and favor your site.

Fast and Strong Wins the Race

Before we dive into Google Search Console and Google Analytics, let’s make sure your site is build as solidly as it can be. For this, we will use GTmetrix. It is free and invaluable.

GTmetrix evaluates your site from the ground up. It registers site load speed, volume, and a host of areas that determine how well your site performs. A lot of the results it returns will refer to technical things, like minimizing javascript or leveraging browser caching. Even if you don’t know what these things mean, GTmetrix will tell you. Better, it often shows you. For example, it will help you optimize images by showing the exact image replacement you should use on your site.

If the information is still too technical, that’s okay. Just contact a good web developer and they can help you. I hear Crimson Web Design is a great company. 😉

On to Google!

Google has a few ways it evaluates the quality of your work. We are going to look at Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Working in tandem, these will be your best friends for seeing improved search engine results.

I’ll add a small preface to this article though. Google is an ever-changing beast. The payout and even function of some elements today may be different tomorrow. There have been changes in layout and features between the time I started drafting this article and the time it was posted. You may have even gone to youtube videos or how-to blogs previously and found the instructions out of date. My approach here is to give you the concepts and as much direction as possible. Even if you find the layout quite different when you visit Google’s sites, you’ll still be able to understand what you want to do.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console allows web site owners to prompt Google to index their site. This improves visibility for your site. So it is, effectively, the end result of SEO.

Here are the steps you want to take to get the most out of this resource:

1. Add Property

This is simply adding your web site to the Google Search Console so you can work with it. It lets Google know the site exists. When you are adding the URL for your site, remember to be specific. An “http://” site and a “https://” site are counted as two different sites by Google. Some people add both versions but you definitely want to add the one that applies to your site. It you aren’t sure which you have, simply visit your site and look in the address bar. Doing a copy/paste from the address bar to Search Console is the easiest way to add the property properly. (alliterative tongue twister!)

2. Verify the Site

Google wouldn’t want just anyone adding sites to their Search Console. You will need to verify the site as yours. The Search Console will provide you the method to do this when you add the property.

3. Set Language and Country

You may be prompted to set your preferred language and origin country. This will help target the desired users.

4. Submit a Site Map

This is a crucial step. It is how Google knows what pages, posts, images, and so on you want it to index. There are different ways to get the site map. The easiest way is from the search console itself. In the section for submitting site maps, type in “sitemap.xml” and submit it.

If you are building your site with WordPress, there are sitemap plugins that can help you. The Yoast SEO plugin has an entire section dedicated to precise site map submission.

The sitemap evaluation does not happen instantly (although you can test the sitemap first to make sure you didn’t get it totally wrong). Give Search Console 24-48 hours to do its thing. Then come back to it and check the results. If you find any site map errors (eg, pages taking too long to load) you’ll want to fix that and resubmit the sitemap.

5. Fetch, Google!

This is the feature by which Google Search Console actually retrieves your site and crawls through it, looking for how it is structured. Simply “Fetch and Render” your site from Google Search Console. As with the site map submission, this isn’t instantaneous. Check back in 24-48 hours and make sure there are no errors.

6. Results, Near and Far

When you return to Google Search Console after a couple days you will be able to see what Google thinks of your site. If there are errors in the site map, rendering, or anything else, it will tell you.

Think of this as Google helping you deliver the best site possible, one that gets good SEP results. After all, that’s the whole reason you’re doing this. Any major technical errors are better caught now.

From here you can revisit Google Search Console as often as you want to see how your site is doing. You can find graphed reports of what web searches people are doing that brought them to your site as a result. This will help you modify your previous design to take advantage of those things for which users searched most.

To get the most out of this endeavor though, Google Search Console is only one half of the puzzle. The other is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics

This is the bread and butter of Google’s SEO optimization. Used in conjunction with Search Console, it is one of your best resources for tracking your site’s performance. Not all features are free (Google isn’t a not-for-profit company after all) but you can get a great deal of value even from the free resources.

Here are your basic steps:

1. Go to:

Google Analytics.

2. Create an Account

Then Create a Property. This property will, of course, be your web site. Remember that the URL needs to match the one in the address bar of your site.

3. Verify the Property

Just as with Search Console, Google will want to ensure this is all legit. They will provide you with ways to verify that the property is yours. If the verification process is too technical, you should get a web developer to help you. You can also find the steps from self-help videos online if you are dedicated enough to use them.

4. Manage Property Settings and Other Settings

There are several options here for how Google Analytics should use your data. Most will be self-explanatory but they need to be set up to work as you want.

5. Paid This and That

Google will offer you options for paid features. This includes paid ads, paid keywords, and so on. These can be of great help but our blog series has been on Free SEO. Either way, I wouldn’t immediately jump into paid features if you are only now getting your site set up with Search Console and Analytics. See what sort of results you are getting first. This will help you make an informed decision when/if it comes time to pull that company credit card.

6. Let it Breathe

Visit Google Analytics as often as you want to see what sort of results the internet is giving you for your web site.

Summary

Remember, this is all a process, not an event. It takes time for your site to work its way into the hearts and minds of users. If there was some magic bullet that put you on Page 1, Listing 1, everyone would be pulling the trigger.

Things will change. Work always needs to be done. Your web site will never be a “make it and leave it” thing that somehow magically brings you business. But there are ways to get results.

Those results provide opportunity and that will bring you customers. If you have followed our series of articles on How to Optimize SEO for Your Small Business – for Free you will be on the journey to internet excellence.

social media choices

Is Social Media Important for SEO

Posted Posted in SEO (search engine optimization), small business

Is Social Media Important for SEO?

How to Improve Web Presence for Small Business – Free (part 3)

Today we build on Part 2 of our series on how to improve web presence for small business by exploring social media. Many small businesses have a solid web site. It is engaging and informative. Yet the business does not receive all the site traffic it should.

You may have heard that using social media is valuable to your web site performance and business success. Hopefully, your web designer has encouraged you to use it. But it’s “social” media, right? It seems like a lot of wasted time to use that for business. So, “is social media important for SEO?”

If you’re here, I bet you already know the answer. Why would anyone write an entire article just to say “no”? The answer is “Yes!” Social media is a vital part of your SEO efforts. Let’s look at, not only why, but also how to use social media in your online marketing to improve SEO for your small business.

What is social media?

The very first thing we have to explore is the definition of social media. Many think of it as something you use to share funny gifs with your friends or post about that killer workout you (supposedly) did at 6 am. But it is so much more.

Social media is a living network of connection between you and all who read what you post. It is nearly everything, except your web site, that works to let your customers find you and get to know you. Think of it as a way to hold an ongoing discussion with every visitor, all at the same time, telling them what you want them to know.

What Kind of Social Media Do I Use?

There are many options here. The most obvious ones are Facebook and Twitter. If you immediately think, “but that’s just for keeping in touch with people”, you’re right. But go back and read the section above. This isn’t Facebook for your pals. This is social media targeted specifically to your customers.

Among the many choices for your social media use are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, and more. Just do a search for “types of social media sites” and you’ll fine many (many!) options. Investigate each a little to see which ones work best for your business.

Each has a specific method for how they engage your client. For example, while Pinterest and Instagram focus heavily on images, and YouTube is strictly video, Twitter is more useful for sudden advertising and marketing promotions. Meanwhile, LinkedIn exists as a full network of business professionals that allows you to connect to business colleagues.

To some degree each type of social media platform can be used interchangeably. In fact, they are often linked together on the back side of things to make it easier to post. Best of all, all of this is FREE!

How Do I Set Up My Social Media Accounts?

The preferred method of setting up your social media is to use the same account name for each of them. If your business is “Jack’s Burger Bistro”, and you’ve followed our URL recommendations from our previous article, preferably each of your social media would be named similarly.

You are bound to run into a few snags though. You may find some social media platforms have account name length limits. You may find some places where it just doesn’t seem right. Maybe the account name has already been used. That’s okay, do your best.

For example, our website URL is crimsonwebdesign. This is also the account name for our Facebook page. But it was too long for our Twitter page when we created it so we went with “CrimsonWebDev” instead. It still works. Otherwise, just follow the instructions on each platform to set up the account you desire.

Helpful Tip! – Don’t forget to place a link to your web site under each social media profile as well as placing your logo prominently on the page.

What Do I Post?

You can decide how best to use the various platforms by simply visiting each and getting a feel for what they offer. One easy way to get a feel for this is to visit the social media of top dogs in your industry. Have a small restaurant? Visit Wendy’s social media. Have a medical billing or software service in your area? Visit Kareo’s social media.

When reading their posts, focus on the message they intend to deliver to customers. If you have been following our previous articles, you should already know where you are focusing your own messages. Then begin looking for, or writing, content that will deliver these messages in the best way possible.

How Do I Write Good Content

If a topic is important to you as a business owner it is probably important to your current and future clients as well. Post what matters for your business’s goal. The best way to do this is to focus on what the client needs that you can deliver.

If you are an addiction recovery clinic, post about ways to help families understand how best to help the recovering addict. Post five important steps to deal with a sudden temptation. If it matters to clients, it matters to you.

Some items will be short. A twitter post is made to be that way. Maybe you want people to know you are having a sale on Friday. Other times it may be an entire article, like this one, full of content to absorb. You get to decide.

Blog It!

One of the most powerful forms of social media can be a blog. Merriam-Webster provides a definition for “blog” here. Essentially, it is an article you write that contains content you want your readers to know. It is not short like a tweet (ie, post on Twitter) but almost like a magazine article. Because of its length and structure, it takes a little more work to write one. But it is very valuable if used well as part of your web site. It becomes an ongoing resource for your clients that compels them to visit your web site over and over.

This creates site activity, which Google assumes is because you’re providing relevant content to your visitors. And Google would be right!

How Do I Organize a Blog Article?

There’s no purely right answer to this but there are some tips. When I write a blog article, like this one, I make a list of sections I want to cover. These become my headers (what you’re seeing here in bold crimson font). Google likes things organized so you want to have a main header (“H1” in coding terms) along with sub-headers (“H2”-“H5”) that help Google understand the outline for the article. This will help Google index everything so people can find it.

Google will also appreciate this neat organization and it will help your SEO optimization. As for the paragraphs, write clearly with nicely contained sentence structure. Writing not your strong suit? That okay, you can write the article then simply paste it into Edit Minion. It will review the structure for you. And, hey, it’s Free too!

How Do I Use Links In My Article?

Don’t forget to place a few relevant and useful links in your article too, such as the Edit Minion link or a link to a previous article. Having internal links (eg, a previous article) and external links (eg, to Edit Minion) helps create that branching network that Google likes to see. Don’t overdo it though. Having every possible reference be a link will be overkill, both for Google and your reader. Use them judiciously, but use them.

Is Maintaining Social Media a Lot of Work?

The answer is, sure. But there are ways to make it easier. A lot of your social media can be linked in the background. That way, when you post to Facebook, your Twitter post is automatically created for you. Even if it doesn’t auto-post you can quickly copy/paste content once it is written.

Let’s look at the blog suggestion. You’re reading the Crimson Web Design blog right now. But this blog article is also getting posted out to our social media. Did you end up on our web site here by following a link from Facebook or Twitter? See, it’s working!

How Often Should I Post to My Social Media?

Post as often as you like, or can. The greater your activity, the more Google will favor your business in internet search results. Always remember though, Google expects relevant content. So while posting some pics from the office holiday party is awesome, avoid flooding your social media with content unrelated to your business.

A few casual posts here and there can show everyone you are wonderful people that transcend mere dollars and cents. That’s awesome- really. But don’t post forty times with video links of dogs on skis (unless you own a business teaching dogs to ski!).

Do I Have to Do All This Myself?

Nope. You should follow other businesses and organizations that deliver content relevant to your own. Let’s say you own the aforementioned medical billing service. Your clients will be physicians of some sort. Would they be interested in your social media if you also reposted from the social media for the AMA (American Medical Association) or CMMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)? Of course! Follow important, powerful, and relevant organizations to quickly gather articles you can link to on your own site.

On top of all this, you also have the option of hiring content writers for your social media. There are many blog and social media writers out there who can assist you. But these aren’t going to be free and “free” is the focus of this series on increasing SEO optimization for small business.

How Much Does This All Really Matter?

Let’s put it this way: If social media didn’t matter that much for a business, would billion dollar companies hire entire teams just to develop and maintain it? Would Taco Bell bother with a Twitter account even though they are well known and can expect customers at all hours of the day for an inexpensive meal? Well, Taco Bell does have a Twitter account. Facebook too. Also, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bottom line: Yes! It matters!

Google favors web sites that have relevant content, high activity, and favorable reviews. That’s what they are all about. Having a web site is critical and the right first step. Whether you designed it yourself or used the services of a web designer like Crimson Web Design, you need the web site as a central hub of everything your business delivers.

We talked about maintaining high activity on the web. A web site, by itself, runs the risk of being static. It is difficult to update a web site often because of the coding requirements. Besides, you already have the layout and content you like for it so there’s little need to change it.

But you don’t want the web site to just sit day after day. You want recurring, and new, visitors coming your way. Google cares about this.

How Do I Get More Traffic to My Web Site?

Let’s Review:

One of the easiest ways to get more traffic to your web site is to put a blog on it. Give it its own page with a link on the main menu. The blog can be updated often with new relevant content that will pull visitors to your site.

The next step is to establish your social media presence on the various platforms of choice. Then, when you write a blog article, place a new post with the link to it on your social media platforms. Not only does this deliver new content but it creates a small network of links between your web site and each of your social media platforms. Now you are suddenly reaching out to everyone who follows each of your platforms, all at the same time! If they repost or review anything you post, this is even better.

Google loves that kind of activity and cross-connection! As your social media visitors follow a link (say, from Facebook back to your blog) they are letting Google know that this is good content other people should see. They are also now on your web site, ready to receive all the beauty and wonder that it holds for your visitors. There is compelling content there to get them to contact you for their business needs. And, really, isn’t that the whole point?

What’s Next?

Once you have created your social media sites, you will want to do everything possible to make sure Google knows how they are all supposed to work together. Your web designer will have ways to code your social media platform links in the background so they are part of your web site. Those same links will also be prominently featured on the web site itself.

There will be, for example, a Twitter link on your web site visitors can follow. Likewise, your Twitter (and other social media platforms) will all have a link back to your main web site. Again, Google likes these reciprocal links.

You will also make use of Google’s available tools for building your entire online network. This will include using such things as Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. We will talk about this in our next article.

Summary

We live in an era where nearly everyone is connected to the internet at all times. We are given dozens or hundreds of nudges every day to view some sort of content that has been pushed out to us. In the incredibly competitive world of small business, you want that content to be yours.

By having a diverse and powerful social media presence you can easily reach out to everyone all at once. If that content is well-written, engaging, relevant, and technically sound, you will get visitors. You will get noticed. You will get business.

Maintaining a strong social media presence is one of the best ways to optimize SEO for your small business – for Free.

SEO Keywords Optimization text as an image

SEO Keywords Optimization

Posted Posted in SEO (search engine optimization), small business

SEO Keywords Optimization

How to Improve Web Presence for Small Business – Free (part 2)

SEO Keywords Optimization builds on Part 1 of our series on how to improve web presence for small business – free. We’ve already discussed the important foundation of identifying your business’s unique strengths. We then used those strengths to target your specific type of desired customer. From this foundation we were able to identify keywords relating to your business. As a reminder, these were not only small keywords like “medical billing service” but long-tail keywords such as “medical billing services with integrated EHR”.

Part 1 gave you a few easy and free methods of identifying which keywords rank better than others. Remember though, this ranking changes all the time. There’s also no 100% surefire method of knowing what people search without an investment into SEO services. But even the free methods give you a good start.

The keywords on which your site focuses will be the hook on the end of your line into Google and other search engines. Your site will be built around these keywords to draw in potential customers; the ones you’ve already identified as your target audience.

So where and how do we build these keywords into our site? If you are using a web design service, like Crimson Web Design, this should all be done for you. In fact, it is one of the most critical things a web design service will do to improve your web presence. Beyond flashy animations and coordinating colors, the site has to draw in business. That happens with well-written content incorporating the results of your keyword research.

For this article though, we are going to assume you are doing the work yourself. Also, we are going to assume you have a basic understanding on terms like URL and blog. (hint: you’re reading a blog now!)

So, let’s get started!

Use Keywords in your URL

When deciding on the URL for your web site, it only makes sense to incorporate your preferred keyword. After all, if you go to Crimson Web Design you expect to find information about web design. You won’t be disappointed. But you’d probably be surprised if you went there and found an entire site dedicated to the mating habits of African meerkats. There’s probably a site for it but it’s not here. More importantly, if you did happen to own a site about meerkats, you’re not going to get many visitors if your site URL only mentions web design.

Name your URL something related to what you do. Most often it is going to be your company name. Hopefully your company name indicates whether you’re in web design or the study of animal reproduction.

One thing that gets tricky is the availability of URLs. There are a lot of web sites out there and more every day. So your preferred URL may not be available. It’s easy enough to find out.

Hosting providers like GoDaddy give you a search engine for domain names right on their front page. Even if your preferred URL isn’t open, you can find something close that is. This might be as simple as using a variation of the name or using something like a “.biz” instead of a “.com”.

Build – Build – Build

Now that you have a domain name, you need a web site for someone to visit. Your keywords should be interwoven into these pages like fine gold thread in a tapestry. They will be seamless enough to not appear overused or distracting yet they make the entire experience better in all regards.

While you shouldn’t go overboard, taking the time to build several pages can be helpful. For example, if you are a medical billing service you will have a page on that, sure. But if you are also targeting customers looking for electronic medical records, set up a separate EHR page. These pages will have links from your main menu and internal links within your site. For example, your “claims billing” page may mention that you also offer EHR products, with a link to that page, and vice-versa. Your home page should include links to each of your pages in some fashion, beyond only what the main menu provides.

Titles – It’s All in the Name

The same SEO Keywords Optimization philosophy used in your URL also applies to all your page titles and headers on that page. You will notice most blogs (including the post you’re reading) has a clear title for the page. It also has headers and sub-headers in the content. This helps Google understand what is important on the page so it can build a hierarchy when users search for something your page contains. It’s also helpful to your visitors in the same way titles and headers always are, defining content. Of all the things you may read on SEO, the one area sometimes overlooked but arguably the most important, is what your page actually says and how you organize it.

Content is King

Google focuses more on good content than peppering links and keywords everywhere. They want those who use their web browser to have a good experience so they will keep using Google. So Google is going to resist being tricked into delivering pages that don’t give visitors what they really want to find.

This goes back to the warning about using keywords too often or having too many links. Instead, write content that is easy for others to both read and navigate. Your page should have a natural flow that helps visitors discover all about you and entice them to acquire your products/services.

This is all very much a balancing act but one you can do. If you’re unsure about the flow and balance of your own site, visit the sites of competitors with good SEO (ie, the ones who come up when you do a search for the same keywords you’re targeting). Look at their sites from a design/content perspective and you will see how it all comes together for SEO Keywords Optimization.

Write a Good Meta-Description

If you don’t know the term, “meta description” is a series of background keywords that web browsers use when sorting out sites. They help browsers like Google Chrome know your site is about medical billing and not animals in Africa. In this way they are not too different than keywords. They are simply used in a different way.

For example, visit our own Home page. Now right-click anywhere on the page and select “view page source” (if using Google Chrome; it might be something slightly different in other browsers). You will see the code that creates the site. This is what the web browser is seeing on the back side of things. Now find a line that mentions “meta description”, probably near the top somewhere. The current meta description for our Home page reads “Affordable website design for small businesses. Located in Louisville, KY, our graphic design website builders create professional sites for your business.”

Notice that this isn’t just keywords but instead the long-tail form. “Affordable website design for small businesses” was specifically chosen over, say, “cheap website design” because our keyword research suggested what we used is more often searched. The description also focuses on that specific audience we identified. In our case, it is “small businesses” and “Louisville, KY”.

So why limit ourselves to a geographical area? You certainly don’t have to. Because we are focusing on small businesses trying to get off the ground or get to the next level, we realize they may not be able to afford the giants of the web design industry. Notice our meta-description mentions “affordable”, because marketing budget is slimmer for small businesses. The business owner is looking for someone they can work with who understands their needs.

The browser often also targets results near the user. So, instead of fighting with companies nationwide (and losing) to rank high on search engine results, we focused instead on our own geographical area. This makes it more likely we will rank higher in the results, even though it limits our exposure to a larger audience. As your business grows you will have more money for that marketing budget and you can begin reaching out in larger circles for your clients.

This is only one approach though. If you have a very niche product or service, geographical targeting may limit you unnecessarily. Web site design is extremely competitive nationwide. But if you sell cowboy apparel with a focus on sombreros, that’s really specific. Go big! (on the targeting area, not the hat)

How to set the meta-description for your page

The answer to this depends on how you are building the site. We use WordPress for most of our sites. It’s a great website builder and it’s free. One of the easiest and best ways to build keywords and links into your site with WordPress is to use the Yoast SEO plugin. It will guide you through adding your meta description.

If you are using some other web site builder, you will probably find something similar. If the builder doesn’t have SEO customization built into it, pass it by and find something that does. It won’t do you any good to make a web site if no one finds it.

If you are coding by hand, you probably already know how to add the code for the meta description. Or, if you are using a web design service (not free but the experience is worth paying for), they can work with you to explain what meta description they are using. You can work together to find the things that achieve your goals.

Link It Together

Having both internal and external links in your site will be very helpful to your SEO. You will notice a sampling of both types of links in this blog post. Let’s look at each type a little more in depth.

Internal links are links on your site that connect to other pages, media, or other resources on your site. This is good for two reasons. One, it entices activity on your site as people navigate through it. Google likes active sites! It also keeps people on your site longer, which Google also likes. The second reason is it can help Google understand your site better. You can use links to create some hierarchy for your site, helping Google understand which pages are more or less important.

External links are links either from your site to another site outside of your domain, or the reverse. This helps make your site more integrated with the internet as a whole. If someone points to your site from their own it also suggests your site is more valuable to the internet community.

You don’t have control over other people’s sites and what they do, of course. But, where possible, encourage other domain owners to place a link to your site on their own. This should be as a part of relevant content, not just a random link.

Summary

There is a simple philosophy for success when it comes to improving your SEO: Don’t try to “trick” Google.

If you go on the premise that Google wants your site to be its best because it wants good sites to be found, then you are all part of the same team. You have a similar goal. Working with search engines is the best way to find success and sort your SEO above the competition.

In the next article we’ll look at how to take the next step in improving your SEO by using social media. Building up your site, using intelligent use of keywords and structural hierarchy, is a fundamental component of the best (but easy and free!) ways to improve your SEO.

simple notes on using SEO for small business

Improve Web Presence for Small Business- Free (part 1)

Posted Posted in SEO (search engine optimization), small business

How to Improve Web Presence for Small Business – Free (part 1)

It’s a given that your business can’t make money if customers can’t find you. When learning how to improve web presence for small business it begins with the right foundation. This is part 1 of our series to help you. The internet is the #1 means of reaching out to potential customers. It stands to reason that having a powerful online web presence for your business is crucial to your success.

This is even more true for small businesses, who compete against corporate giants with far more resources. So how does a small business improve web presence?

Fight on Your Own Terms

Having a web site alone won’t be enough. There are hundreds or thousands of companies that are in the same line of work as you. Everyone wants to be the #1 listing on the first page but that’s impossible. The big dogs of your industry can hire entire teams of marketers and SEO (search engine optimization) strategists to make things happen for them. Paid ads and marketing campaigns are a far easier investment. But they do invest in them because they understand how important it is to be found online.

If a small business tries to compete in the same arena they will likely be fed to the proverbial lions. So how does a smaller opponent beat the goliath? Strategy and technique. These two things are largely free to anyone taking the time to develop them. It only requires the right training and perspective.

While the corporate giants are ignoring this article because they already have highly-paid experts, let’s examine how to develop a strategy for your small business based on perspective. Then we will describe specific techniques you can use to implement that strategy.

Rule #1: You can succeed!

The stresses of running a small business are different than those of a corporation. Yes, they both exist to make money and someone is worrying about the bottom line. But while an industry giant can afford to win and lose clients on a large scale, every single client matters to the small business owner. The stresses of losing an existing client or failing to gain a new sale is magnified because each client represents a much larger portion of the entire pie. Sometimes you have to really dig in to make something happen. But courage only matters when you’re afraid. If times are harder than you’d like or simply not as solid as you want them to be, this is the time to dig in and fight your fight. You can find success with your small business!

Strategy: Lay a solid foundation before you start building on it.

When it comes to SEO it is often tempting to immediately jump into things like keyword research, meta tags, and all the technical things from bounce rate to web speed optimization. All of these are important, no doubt. But you can’t know how to build something until you know what you want to build. So your first step is to determine (or perhaps discover) how you want your business to connect to your clients. The good news is, this doesn’t even need a computer! So get yourself a nice refreshing beverage of choice and relax while we work this through.

Strategy: Know your strengths

If you look over our Services page, you’ll see that the first step in designing your site is a business interview. It isn’t site performance or technical coding. It’s a basic understanding of who you are and what you want to achieve. What does your business do? That will seem like an easy question but it may be harder than you think. If you are a physician or treatment center, you do more than “treat sick people” or “help recovering addicts”. The more specific answer might be something like “I treat patients who struggle with high premium costs and deductible by making easy, affordable payment plans”. Or it might be “we help recovering addicts through our connection to community partners who offer additional resources of finance management, healthy lifestyles, and education skills.”

Strategy Example

Let’s look at an example, a medical billing service. You know you work hard and care about your clients. But every client anywhere will expect hard work and some degree of loyalty. What is it about your company that sets you apart from the competition? Larger services often have a set business model they are forced to follow to avoid any appearance of favoritism. But your company is yours. Of course you will be fair; solid ethics are always paramount. But maybe you offer multiple ways of determining the provider’s bill. Many large companies (and maybe yours) charge the provider a percentage of what you collect. Sounds fair. That works well for a general practitioner. However, a surgeon who got paid $2000 per day for his surgery isn’t going to want to pay his billing service five-percent of that over the course of a month. If your medical billing service offers both per claim and percentage based invoicing, let that be known. Emphasize your flexibility and how you will help the doctor make an informed decision based on a cost comparison.

The more specific you can get the more you will identify powerful individual strengths that sets yourself apart from others in your field. Using this understanding of your business, you now have a more focused idea of who you want your clients to be.

Strategy: Know Your Target Audience

Who are the people you’re reaching out to with your business? Answer this question as specifically as possible. Fortunately, if you took the last Strategy step, above, you have a clear idea of where your business is focused. This dovetails right into knowing your target audience. After all, you want clients who want what you do.

Let’s say you own a small restaurant. Is your target audience “people who eat?” Well, yes, but that’s also the audience of every restaurant, everywhere. You won’t be found with a slogan like “We serve food”. What is your specialty? Do you have home-cooked food? Vegan options? Keto-friendly meals? The more specific you can be the more you will attract the attention of that niche group. Some fear missing out on business if they are too specific but a loyal group of only a few will begin to cascade into many more. And, as you expand, you will also attract the more general population by default because, hey, you serve food. Build on your best strengths first and lay a solid foundation for success.

Strategy Example

If you are the physician from the earlier example, your target audience might be “patients with poor or no insurance”. For the addiction recovery center, your audience is “addicts who want to get their entire life on track” (ie, more than a detox center). With the medical billing service, your audience is “doctors seeking flexible service agreements”.

Your web site is the perfect place to bring such focus to your business. You are trying to gain specific customers who will be searching for what you are emphasizing. Knowing your target audience is crucial, especially for small businesses. This is where we start getting into the more technical part of things, building on our foundation.

Strategy: Discover the best keywords related to your business

Now you have a solid concept of what you do. You know what it is that sets you apart from your competitors. And you have identified your target audience, those that are looking for what you are offering.

How are they trying to find it?

Probably anyone you know uses the internet to look for the things they want. Everyone from teens to old ladies use Google, Yelp, and Facebook. They search for what they want and what they need. It can be as easy as typing something in the search bar. So what are they typing?

This can be harder to determine than it might seem. There’s not a magical box that delivers everyone’s search requests. But there are resources and you need to use them. The closer you can guess what your target audience is typing in their search request the closer you can make sure you match for it when building your site for improved SEO.

Free Keyword Research Methods

  1. There are sites like semRush that offers many tools for keyword analysis. This isn’t free forever but, if you have a good idea of what keywords you are researching, it offers several uses (currently 10) for free simply by signing up.

  2. Just type the keywords into your browser search bar. Most browsers, such as Google Chrome, will attempt an autocomplete of your search based not only on previous search history but also what Google guesses you are searching for. That guess is built out from Google’s algorithm. While the process is kept secret, you get to see the result. Is Google suggesting “medical claim billing service” higher up than “medical claim company”? This is a good indicator of what others will be searching for.

  3. Go ahead and load the search engine results page (SERP, in SEO vernacular) in Google Chrome for whatever you typed. Now scroll to the bottom of the page. You will see other suggested searches. These are also built from Google’s algorithm. Maybe one of these will be more preferred.

  4. Don’t forget to focus on long-tail keywords. Think about what people actually type. They might type only “vegan restaurants” in the search bar but most people achieve great results from long-tail searches like “restaurants with full vegan menus”.

  5. Remember that keyword results are ever-changing. Periodically, go back through this process. You might want to update your site’s SEO as things change.

Record your preferred search keywords and long-tail searches. We will use them many times. In later articles we’ll look at the technical side of how to make use of these keywords on your site. Or you can just contact Crimson Web Design and we’ll take care of all the tedious work for you.

Summary

When trying to improve web presence for small business, like yours, it can be hard to know where to begin. Sometimes it’s tempting to just start throwing content on your site without fully understanding what you want to accomplish. But now you have an identity and a goal, along with some great descriptors of your business in the form of keywords.

In the next article we’ll look at how to put all that to use with metatags, URLs, titles, and especially content. By starting here though, with the basics, we can move forward with the best (but easy and free!) ways to improve your SEO.

how to improve SEO

how to improve SEO

Posted Posted in SEO (search engine optimization), small business

Many businesses already have a web site. They understand the necessity of internet marketing in today’s world. Yet they wait patiently for sales that never come. The missing piece might be knowing how to improve SEO for their site. This is the beginning of a series of articles that will examine specific areas of SEO and give you more detailed information on how you can improve your internet presence.

How to Improve SEO

The answers may be multiple but they are all simple.

1. Search engines aren’t listing you at all

It’s possible that search engines aren’t even indexing your site. This can be for a few reasons. For example, let’s say someone copied all the content from your page and made their own site with it. Google will only index one of those two sites.

Won’t the search engine give preference to the first site created? No. It won’t.

Your site could be blacklisted for a few reasons. For example, if you are on a shared server with your internet provider and that same server has a client who has been flagged as a spammer, your site could be affected too. This can be mitigated but it illustrates the many things behind the scenes that might determine the love-hate relationship between you and search engines like Google.

2. Your site is listing poorly on search engines

Some people think merely having a site is all they need. After all, it’s on the internet so it will be found. Well, if your site fits thousands of others for the same search they can’t all be on the first page.

There are many, many factors that affect ranking. There are entire companies devoted to search engine optimization. They get paid hundreds, often thousands, of dollars each month to try and push search ranking for their clients.

But there are basic things that you can do. First of all is having a web site that loads fast and has good content. Page load speed matters. Your web developer (y’know, an awesome company like Crimson Web Design) can assist with that.

Google now gives higher priority to well written content. They want visitors to have a good experience on the web. Social media integration is important because it spreads your presence across the web. Site security matters (see #1, above).

You also want a mobile responsive site. Google now focuses more on that than desktop sites because most content is now being viewed from mobile devices.

Crimson offers a free site analysis as part of our free estimate. We can help you discover where your site is today so you can move forward in the right direction.

3. Poorly written content

Well written content affects not only search engine ranking (discussed above) but also your visitor’s experience. Does anyone remember MySpace? It was a great idea, having a personal site that was so customizable. But soon it was populated with flashing neon banners, illegible content, and background music no one wanted to hear. In the same way that turned off visitors to those sites, a visitor deserves a great experience when visiting your site. It is important to develop content that is clear, informative, and engaging. It helps bring visitors in and keeps them coming back.

4. Lack of social media

We have discussed in a few other places about the impact of social media in your marketing efforts. It is so prevalent that it is hard to find someone not using at least some form of it. Even if they don’t use it, they still see the results of it when they browse around online. We want those results to be yours. Incorporate social media links and feeds into your site. It is simple and effective cross-marketing.

5. Inattention to updates

The internet is changing daily. It isn’t only content but also how it is regulated, monitored, and updated in the background. Constant changes in coding requirements, algorithms for SEO, and content management updates requires someone to take care of those things. Web sites are not a “build it and leave it” world. It is why many of our own clients extend that service even after the original service agreement ends to avoid both the time to keep up with all the updates and the headache of doing so.


These are only a few of the factors to consider when examining the effectiveness of your web site. Often it isn’t that the web site itself is not valuable (having one always is) but simply that it needs some attention. Crimson Web Design can help you benchmark where you are. Then, we help you plan how to get where you’re going.

That whole thing about “it’s not a destination but a journey?” Yeah, it’s true. Knowing how to improve SEO can make that journey a whole lot easier.

Follow us as we deliver a series of articles on how you can identify the specific areas where you can improve your SEO, along with detailed steps on how to improve it.

free vs paid website

free vs paid website

Posted Posted in small business

The entire free vs paid website topic has been a hot issue for a while now. The answer is more than the sum of its money. However, it does remind me of a mental approach that has often served me well. I wanted to share it with you.

A financial adviser once gave me an analogy. He said each part of our lives is like a bucket. Those buckets had labels like vacation, retirement, college, car, etc. We each have a limited amount of money but we have the choice of which bucket we place our money. The trick is deciding which bucket is right for us.

When we are trying to fill every bucket we have to make choices. Sometimes those choices are hard. Therefore, it becomes tempting to go for the least expensive choice. “Free” is a wonderful, and tempting, price tag.

It is no different with web site design. An engaging and functional web site can cost hundreds or thousands when designed by a web designer such as Crimson Web Design. Yet, there are commercials for web site builders that can be used by anyone. Some even offer perks like a free Facebook page.

Free vs Paid Website

With the “free” price tag, the free vs paid website builder issue is worth considering. So, let’s consider.

1. Coding Options

Most of us don’t know much, if anything, about coding. Even more, most of us don’t want to. Instead, we want a web site that represents our business and draws in customers.

We typically design our web sites in WordPress. It provides a lot of options. But even here we spend our days working through code and technical updates to keep things going. So why not just use a free web site builder?

Well, we see options as a four lane highway. It’s okay to drive in the slow lane but, while you are, you can be assured you will get passed by. We don’t want that for our clients.

If a free web site builder gives you options A, B, and C, we want to give you those plus D through Z. We’ll even add in #, @, and ! because we’re special characters. (see what we did there?)

Sometimes things are easy because easy is comfortable. You don’t want to learn code. We don’t want you to have to learn it. When it comes to creating traffic for your company though, you don’t want to be left beside of the road. Our job is to understand ways to make things happen that our clients might not, then make it happen for them.

2. Beauty and the Ghastly

Do you remember when MySpace was all the rage? Everyone could build themselves a custom web site. And, wait for it… it was Free.

Everybody and their dachshund had a web site. Many people even dived into learning some minor coding (HTML, y’all) to get their spinning disco ball gif to stay in place while you scrolled down the page.

Soon the internet was full of flashing neon banners, midi players that serenaded us with Spice Girls songs, and pages featuring such eye-catching choices as canary yellow font on fuchsia backgrounds. The rise in retinal damage during that time could be related but we can’t prove it.

The point is that just because you can build it doesn’t mean you should. Knowing how to put together boards to make something resembling a house doesn’t make it one people want to visit. They will see the cracks and visit your neighbor who spent a few dollars to have a professional contractor create something beautiful.

When you hire a web design service, you aren’t paying only for them to code the site. You are paying for them to create a masterpiece for your company. After all, your visitors don’t see the code, only the result of it.

3. Support and Maintenance

There’s a reason you return to the same mechanic or doctor year after year. It is trust. You trust in his or her expertise and fairness to provide you with what is best for you.

The hardest part can be finding the right specialist. There are many out there who are professional, loyal, and have your best interests at heart. We would even say it is most of them. Others, unfortunately, don’t measure up.

The trick is finding the right investment. It can be challenging. You don’t have either the time or money to test drive different specialists until you find the right one.

Reading online reviews are an option. One has to be careful, of course, of the source. This will be shocking but some of the things on the internet aren’t true.

One perspective to consider is that a small but skilled company is more likely to invest in your success. This isn’t only server maintenance or coding releases. That should be a given. We are talking about your success. That only comes from working with someone who cares about you, your needs, and your goals.

Most often, the larger a company is the more they lose sight of focusing on their client’s true success. You don’t want, or deserve, a doctor who removes a splinter but doesn’t pay attention whether or not your arm will fall off later. After all, limb reattachment is another revenue stream for them.

That isn’t how we do things at Crimson Web Design. We’ll remove the splinter, sure, but we also want to make sure your arm works as well as ever. Better if possible. Even more, and here’s the beauty of it, we want to learn how that splinter got there in the first place so we make sure it doesn’t happen twice.

4. References on a Resume

I worked in management for decades. During that time, I interviewed, hired, trained, and managed hundreds of people. However, I barely ever looked at the references on the resume page given to me.

No one with any sense is going to put a bad reference on their resume. I called the references to make sure they were real people but I assumed that I was going to hear nice things about the applicant. I was never surprised in that assumption.

No matter what company you explore, they will tell you why you should choose them. Our company is no different in that regard. Companies sort themselves out for you with performance, communication, and loyalty.

Have you ever noticed that many companies have direct numbers that get you to their Sales department right away but their Support department is almost impossible to reach? They focus on gaining the client but trying to talk to a real person when you are an established customer is a different story.

Many have abandoned the option to call them. Some don’t even have chat options anymore, only message boards full of other confused customers trying to figure out what went wrong.

Want to talk to the owner here? That’s not hard. I’m the one writing this post. My phone number is on our Contact page.

5. Free or Paid Website

That was the question, right? The answer is the option that works for you. Can you try free and, if it doesn’t work, go for the paid option? You could.

Here’s our advise against that. And, like the splinter you might suffer, we’re going to tell you why.

Most free web site builders will let you build the site but that awesome business name you created isn’t on your own domain. In other words, your web site address isn’t “MyAwesomeBusiness.com” but “MegaCorporationOwnsThis/MyAwesomeBusiness.com”.

This not only makes for an unwieldy web site address (which matters more than you might think) but also puts you in a position you may not have considered. You want that web site name you are dreaming of. But now you have to take additional steps. And, guess what? That option is not free.

Hmm, it’s almost like the company invested tons of marketing into advertising something that would get people through the door but knew all along they were going to upsell you. Nah, that couldn’t be it, could it?

When it comes to free vs paid website builders, take time to think about all the little things. Might you ever want to move your site to another host? How would that work? (hint: that’s not free either) Want e-mail services? (we bet you do!). Once again, probably not free. The list goes on, but we won’t.

Summary

Our goal isn’t to convince you whether to use a free or paid website builder. We are a web design company so we have our own perspective.

Instead, we are urging you to take time and think about all sides of things. This includes not only what you can do for cheap today but where you will find yourself in months or years. We don’t want your business to go away. Your site will be an ongoing part of your marketing and identity. Just like a valuable employee, it has to be protected.

The best decision is an informed decision. When the decision of a free vs paid website is in front of you, we want to help you make the right call on which bucket gets your hard-earned money. If calling us will help, please do.

Whatever you choose, we sincerely hope for your success.

crimson small business 01

7 reasons your small business needs a website

Posted Posted in small business

Business is driven by revenue. Nothing generates more business than advertising. It’s an undeniable fact: Clients can’t use your products or services if they don’t know you exist.

Some business owners think they don’t need a web site. They might shy away from the cost or feel intimidated through lack of understanding when a lot of technical terms get thrown around. It’s all pretty simple though.

Why Your Small Business Needs A Website.

1. Visibility

There are different ways to advertise. Most hopefully take advantage of free listings in phone directories or through their Chamber of Commerce. For those forms of advertising which take a financial investment, the question becomes where to put the money.

Consider the approach that will reach the most people in your target audience with the least effort. Billboards, paid directory ads, and e-mail lists are not interactive. They are missed in a blink or tossed away before they are read.

Yet the internet is pervasive in our everyday world. Even when a person isn’t looking for you, specifically, they can easily find you if your approach is sound. Your potential client outreach is virtually unlimited.

2. Save Time

Which is easier? Knocking on a hundred doors one by one or letting one hundred people each open their own door at the same time?

When you go about pounding the street, making cold calls, and sending e-mails, the return on investment is slim. You have spent hours or weeks in an activity that may return nothing. Most small business owners are very busy. They wear many hats and the weight of those hats can be crippling.

The internet reaches nearly everyone, all the time. It’s there, even now, doing its job. Make it work for you.

3. Save Money

For those running small businesses, it becomes imperative that every minute is used wisely to maximize profits while reducing costs. Internet marketing is like hiring an employee for the sole purpose of promoting your business. It removes much of the burden from you while at the same time bringing business to your door.

However, unlike a marketing employee, you don’t have to worry it will get sick. Your web site doesn’t need holidays or a retirement plan. It doesn’t care about insurance. Web sites simply works.

Any investment made into it is truly that: an investment. In this case, it is an investment with a very high return.

4. Credibility

Have you bought anything lately? Have you even thought about buying something? Did you search for it online? Odds are you went online to see what you could find. When you see a business listed do you visit its web site? If it doesn’t even have a web site do you pass it by for one that does?

If the answer to all of these questions is “Yes” you aren’t alone. Companies with web site gain instant credibility over the competition.

It doesn’t guarantee that the company with a web site is better than the one without one. But the company without the web site may never get a chance to prove otherwise.

5. Keeping Customers Informed

You’ve worked hard to build your client base. Their loyalty keeps you in business just as much as gaining new clients.

Business changes every day. Maybe you have a special promotion to offer. Maybe you moved to a larger office with all the revenue you’ve gained from better internet marketing.

Print ads become outdated. Phone calls are impractical. But your web site, especially with the integration of social media, reaches all your clients at once.

6. Expanding Your Market

A lot of small businesses have built themselves locally on referrals. That’s great. There’s nothing better than loyal return customers and the referrals they can provide. Let’s look at the math though: You have 10 clients and 7 make referrals. Of those seven referrals, four get in touch. Even if you gained all four as clients you are getting less than half the return on referral business alone. This is where a lot of small business owners find themselves. Their business slowly tapers off and they don’t know why because they are working harder than ever. Sometimes it’s because they have exhausted their local pool of potential clients. Internet marketing allows you to expand to a potentially global market. Even if that is more than you want to take on, it’s better to have the option.

7. Evolution

Sometimes we have been doing the same thing for so long we don’t think much about everything we have yet to explore. Experience brings growth. When you reach out to new people you discover new ways to help them. In return you help yourself as you reveal avenues of business you hadn’t considered.

Even Crimson Web Design is an example. We started decades ago providing technical support to physician offices and billing services with Paragon Medical Technology. We still have many valued clients that are as much friends as customers. Many of them are small businesses and we saw their struggle to build new relationships and increase revenue.

When we looked at what was missing we concluded a vital piece was effective marketing. So we began Crimson Web Design to fill that void. It has helped our loyal clients reach out to new clients and build their business. We gained the benefit of business evolution. Everyone is better off for it and it’s just the beginning.

Our Invitation

We invite you to consider all that the right internet marketing can do for you. We know we can help. Go ahead. Contact us and we’ll chat. Wherever you are today, it can be better. Crimson Web Design is here to help.