Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc.

1, 2, 3, Say “Instagrammable!”

When it comes to making your mark in the social media world, consider making your business “Instagrammable.” Because Instagram is all about the looks, being Instagrammable means looking iconic, photogenic, likable, and share-worthy. Having spaces inside or outside of your business that inspire people to pull out their phones to take a picture is a great way to give your business a presence in social media and attract more customers. To make the Instagramable spaces in your business, consider what makes your company unique and capture that in the form of a backdrop or art piece somewhere visible to your clients and customers. An example of a business that has an Instagrammable exterior is the colorful and beachy Des Moines Doghouse. Seattle Chocolate Company has created Instagrammable spaces both outdoors and indoors. From the street, people can see a vibrant, large-scale wall mural. Inside, the factory as a whole is picture-perfect and has multiple walls that make great backdrops for pictures. See our office administrator, Holli, featured below. With the entire wall covered in truffles, who wouldn’t want to get a picture and share it with their friends? Another business that has created Instagrammable spaces using its products is diecutstickers.com. In the photo below, Owner Daniel Diederichs and General Manager Jerry Perschke are standing in front of one of two walls that are covered by small stickers the company has created for its clients. These sticker walls not only help make them Instagrammable, but also help them support their clients’ brands. In addition to these two walls, there are walls that are covered with large-scale, landscape stickers. These walls don’t just make for great backdrops for photos! They also show clients how large and impressive diecutstickers.com’s stickers can be. In addition, there are walls in staff offices and the conference room that have inspirational graphics that make thinking of a caption for an Insta pic really easy. Displaying the range of their work (from small to large-scale) in this way prompts clients to snap selfies during a tour of the state-of-the-art facility. For businesses looking for clever ways to get more interaction in social media, we recommend finding or creating a space in your business where people will want to take pictures. Whether it is a statue, a fun wall, or a unique product, having something aesthetic in your business will lead people to stop, look, snap a picture, and post. This is a natural way to create brand advocates and people who will market your business for you. If you would like to brainstorm specific ways to make your business more Instagrammable, please feel free to contact [email protected]

Why Google Search Is the Best

When we determine the best SEO practices for a client, we prioritize Google. We like to use the phrase “Google is King.” Here are two reasons why: First, the majority of people still use Google. Google encompasses almost 90% of the search engine market traffic, while Bing, Yahoo!, and others are still being used by a small number of people (see StatCounter’s graph below.)  Second, Google is picky and its SEO standards are high. Achieving strong SEO practices for Google will also make your website searchable in other search engines. This means that if you prioritize optimizing for Google, then you will end up being well-optimized for the other search engines.  If you are interested in a complimentary review of your website and it’s current SEO standing, email Elizabeth at [email protected]. Interested in other SEO related reads? Check out our blogs Remediating Search Engine Rankings and White Hat vs Black Hat SEO.

Remediating Search Engine Rankings

In the early years of the internet, businesses that had simple websites with a lot of text benefited from a phenomenon known as “grandfathering.” These businesses listed their websites in search engines and weren’t charged anything because the search engines were trying to compile the biggest, most relevant database. This was before search engines charged for inclusion or pay per click. If the businesses were in well-defined niches, their websites had high rankings for several phrases related to their business and web-generated business was good! Then, in 1995, those businesses that had ranked highly in natural search for several years saw their rankings drop significantly (from first page to 16th page or below.) This was because the search engines’ algorithms evolved continuously, while the businesses websites did not keep up with international standards. Today businesses that don’t keep up with coding developments intended to make web pages load more quickly and efficiently on both PCs and mobile devices and/or that don’t maintain the text and images to keep current can expect to see their search engine ranking positions (SERPs) drop. Gone are the days that you can build a website and then ignore it for years. Optimizing an older website to meet current, international standards typically involves over a dozen tasks. There is simply a list of tasks that take about three weeks to complete. These tasks include: 1. Conducting research to identify which phrases will get the most web traffic 2. Writing text that is easier for the search engines and humans to read 3. Eliminating code that slows down search engine robots 4. Adding structural elements that help people and search engine robots get through the site faster 5. Deleting any inappropriate strategies that may have been in place before optimization Businesses that have experienced dropped rankings represent about half of our new clients for the search engine optimization services. We call this work ranking remediation because it involves working to remedy dropped rankings so that web-generated business levels are restored. Restoring dropped rankings takes less time than securing rankings for sites that are new or have never been well-ranked. A business that has dropped in ranking knows the value of their search engine position because they rely on web-generated sales. This makes them highly motivated to assist in the process. Short turnaround time and high client motivation make ranking remediation an especially fun type of project for us at CeSI. If your business’ website is in need of ranking remediation, contact Cascade e-Commerce Solutions at 206-244-9092 or [email protected]

White Hat Versus Black Hat SEO

Clients often ask me, “Does Google try to make it difficult for SEO specialists to do their work?” What I tell them is I don’t believe Google does anything to make it difficult for White Hat SEO specialists like me. A White Hat SEO specialist is someone who chooses to follow Google’s recommendations. However, they make it very difficult for SEO specialists who use Black Hat techniques. People who use Black Hat techniques are those who look for ways to get lots of traffic quickly, even if it isn’t the right traffic. They are also looking for short term gains through temporary loopholes, rather than long term growth for their clients. In addition, they want to “automate” all the processes involved in securing high rankings. I believe you can’t automate the key processes involved in developing good content for a website, such as text and photos. You must take the time to get to know the business, to know what makes them unique and best in their niche. You must become part of their marketing team and work hard to get into the head of their ideal customer. Google has a large team of programmers that is always in the process of creating new algorithms to filter out websites that are utilizing strategies that violate Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines. These guidelines have been the same for years, and so there really is no excuse for SEO specialists to not follow them. They can’t say they didn’t know. You can’t trick Google and you shouldn’t want to. On more than one occasion, we have helped a small business client get a refund from a major SEO company because the company used a strategy that was specifically stated as a violation in Google’s guidelines. Employment of this strategy caused the business to have the worst level of web traffic and sales in 35 years. Their SEO company literally tanked the website in the search results, and they tried to say they didn’t know it was wrong. They used the fact that Google didn’t catch up to them for several months as an excuse. In a meeting with them and the client, we pulled out Google’s quality guidelines and other Google public documentation and they knew the game was up. They allowed the client to cancel their service and gave them a refund. Over the years, our clients have outperformed their competition in search rankings and new sales from online marketing because we’ve helped prevent them from doing spammy things. Google spells out in their quality guidelines that they will penalize those spammy things. While there have been short episodes during which our clients’ competitors were securing higher rankings by using spammy strategies, their reputation ends up so ruined that they had to let go of their domain names and completely rebuild their websites. Once the reputation of a domain name has been damaged, it takes a human at Google to remove the penalty. Google won’t do that unless you humbly admit you’ve made a mistake, you call out the specific details of the violation, you provide evidence that you’ve remedied the violation,, and you promise never to let it happen again. Even then, Google is under no obligation to tell the business that their website has been penalized or to lift the penalty. We’ve had several clients come to us after another SEO company has done something spammy and caused their website to be penalized. We are happy that we have been successful in getting penalties removed for these clients’ websites. These clients then go on to become some of our best clients because they have learned the value of following quality guidelines and they support our efforts to do so. While I know that Google is in the search business to make money, I believe that their quality guidelines are in the best interest of internet users and of businesses that market through the internet. Other SEO experts might try to call me overly optimistic and naïve. However, I can point to over 20 years in the industry, and my adherence to quality guidelines has always benefited my clients and my small business. Even when I’m pressured to follow the latest loophole, I stand firm and ask my clients to wait out the latest Black Hat strategy. I’m proud of the success of those clients that have done this time and time again. They’ve survived downturns in the economy and the short-term loss in rankings that happened when competitors were temporarily leading in search rankings due to Black Hat SEO strategies. We love seeing that our clients are getting the right results for consistently doing the right thing over the long run. It’s rewarding to see that the good guys win!

You Still Don’t Have a Mobile Site? Prepare to Be Ignored

As a Social Media Marketing Specialist and Content Developer, I can tell you that my boyfriend understands about half of what I do on a daily basis. He’s an engineer, so writing and marketing are not his specialties. Because both of us are in our 20s, we tend to assume that every company has already jumped on the digital marketing band-wagon. Every time we have to find something, for example somewhere to eat dinner, we only make the decision off of what we find on the internet. Now, you can have your opinions about how the internet plays such an important role in young peoples’ decision making, but that’s not going to change the fact that it does. When I talk to my boyfriend about my latest projects at work, he used to have a hard time believing that my clients really need that much help with their online presence. However, recently, his 20-something year-old perspective was changed when he was doing research on his move across the country. He was looking for a company to ship his car and found that almost every company available had no real online, mobile-friendly presence. And since he is in his 20s, that meant that he doesn’t consider any shipping company to be viable and worthy of his money. He now knows that many companies think that they can still get by doing business the old way, even though we live in the digital age and make all our decisions with that in mind. What those businesses don’t know is that that just makes them look shady to us 20-something year olds, so we’ll just find another business that does have a good website. Some companies may say that that’s all fine and dandy, and that they’ll just choose to rely more on the business of older people because they think those people will have more money to spend anyways. They should be prepared though, because 20+ year-olds are making bigger purchases than many business owners realize and those decisions are not only for their own service needs, but also for the needs of their family members. Young people are currently buying houses and cars, moving, and seeking out services for their older and younger family members. Businesses that ignore how young people choose services won’t see any of their money, unless they step-up their digital game.

20 Ways to Keep Google from Listing Your Web Pages in Search Results

In twenty years of optimizing websites for the search engines, I’ve often been called in to remedy business websites that have had disastrous results in the search engines. In each case a prior webmaster or search engine optimization (SEO) service provider had employed abusive and/or neglectful strategies. 20 of these abuses and neglectful practices are listed below. 1. The first thing on the home page is a link to another business’ website. 2. The website has no original text (all text is copied from other websites). 3. The website is built in clunky code that makes page loading too slow. 4. Important text is built into graphics, Adobe Acrobat PDF files and/or Flash files which search engine robots can’t read. 5. The web pages include hidden text (text that is in the same color as the web page background color). 6. The web pages include hidden links (such as links from unseen graphics). 7. The web pages are built in a dynamic platform and employ a linking strategy that results in endless loops in which the same text content reappears with different web addresses (duplicate content). 8. Web page names include lots of code language such as “&” (ampersands), “?” (question marks) and “=” (equals signs). 9. The web pages have no metatags. 10. The same exact metatags are used on every page in the website. 11. Keyword phrases are based on guessing what people search for rather than on actual search data. 12. The website’s text hasn’t been updated in years. 13. The website’s code doesn’t meet current international standards. 14. The navigation links are different on every page. 15. There is no sitemap (page that lists links to all the website’s pages). 16. The navigation takes visitors forward to lots of dead ends (pdf files and graphics with no navigation links that take people back to the website). 17. The website includes many links to missing pages and graphics (broken links). 18. The domain name changed and the webmaster failed to set up proper redirects. 19. The web language changed and the webmaster failed to set up proper redirects. 20. A competitor’s website has optimized its website for the business’ name and trademarked names without any challenge to the legality of this action. In many cases, the business’ leadership didn’t even know that abusive and/or neglectful strategies had been employed. If you suspect that your business’ website may suffer from inappropriate or outdated strategies, please feel free to contact us at [email protected] or 206-244-9092.

Considering Bringing Your Social Media Work In-House?

There are essentially two options for supporting social media posting, engagement, and reputation management. One option is to assign an employee the responsibility for posting, monitoring, and engaging with customers through social media. The other is to engage a contractor to do this work.

The benefits of having an employee support social media efforts:

  • An employee can make instantaneous posts. If you want a post about a certain product/service/event posted that very same-day, an employee who is currently on site can post it as it occurs.
  • Your employee already knows your business’s culture and operational procedures and can respond quickly to check-ins, comments, questions and reviews using personal knowledge of the business.

The benefits of contracting with a digital marketing professional:

  • A professional already has the skill set to create engaging, well-written, and edited content.
  • A professional can leverage experience gained through providing social support for other businesses and apply it to the needs of your business. They know what works in each platform.
  • A professional will be less likely to rush and make misstatements, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors.
  • A professional has more experience in measuring and reporting results so that leadership can make informed decisions regarding the return on investment of supporting each social platform

The cons of having an employee perform the work:

  • Most employees are already fully employed with other tasks. Adding this work to their plate is likely to cause stress as priorities must be more closely managed and this can produce less than optimum results in either their existing work or this new work.
  • Not all employees have the skill set to write and edit engaging posts and short tweets, take good photos, and respond to customers who may be less than happy. While many employees know how to use social media as a consumer, most do not have experience using social platform tools that are only available to businesses.
  • Employees are more likely to use internal language and acronyms and forget to explain things at a lay level that is more accessible to the public. Some employees are too close to the processes to be able to handle customers who use social media to denigrate the business. This can result in responses that are too detailed and sound defensive and less professional.
  • The cost for building and maintaining skills in posting and managing engagement in each platform is fully borne by your business.

The cons of having a contractor perform the work:

  • Requires a separate contract.
  • It takes time for the contractor to learn the business’ culture, language, and procedures.
  • Still requires an employee of the business to provide some direction, help with scheduling, and overseeing the contractor.
Social media marketing can have a high return on investment. It’s worth having someone do it right. You’ll see the difference it makes in reach, engagement, and conversions.

If you believe you have the right person in-house with sufficient capacity to do more, we can help that employee improve your social media work! We will gladly train your employee(s) to post specifically for your company and how to respond to check-ins, comments, and reviews in social media.

If you do not yet have that employee, we are happy to become part of your marketing team and staff your social media support needs until your business grows to the point that you are ready to bring the work in-house.