Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc.

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.

Here’s How to Affordably Start Marketing

Starting a new business and have a limited budget? Here’s how to affordably start marketing. As an internet marketing specialist who has been in the business for over 20 years, I have been asked by many people how they should start marketing their new business while taking their start-up level budget into consideration. In response, I ask the new business owner to share with me:
  • the name of their business and how the history of that name
  • a description of its services and products
  • a description of its ideal client or customer
  • its intended geographic reach
  • a statement of what will make the business unique in its market niche
If the business owner can’t answer these questions succinctly, then I respond by encouraging them to meet with a local Small Business Development Center (SBDC.) The SBDC will help them learn how to categorize and market their business.  If the business owner can answer these questions, then I ask whether they have developed a logo, company colors, or any other brand identity pieces. If they don’t have these, then I recommend that we start with these with the goal of developing a logo and business cards that will help the business owner make traditional, in-person connections. Next I recommend the following marketing strategies:
  • Keyword research to identify the phrases that people might use to find the business online
  • Content development to include keyword-rich text
  • A mobile friendly, quick-to-load website 
  • Optimized pages in local maps and review sites such as Google My Business (Maps), Yelp, etc.
  • Online reputation monitoring and coordination
  • Email marketing
  • Pay per click marketing
  • Social media marketing (selection of specific strategies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, etc. depending on ideal customer demographics)
I offer a one hour complimentary consultation to help businesses develop a prioritized outline of possible marketing strategies. To schedule your complimentary consultation, please call me at 206.244.9092 or email [email protected]

Setting Your Price

Originally by Elizabeth Paulsen on May 26, 2009, updated 1/22/2020.   I enjoy mentoring new businesses. One of the most common questions I hear from new business owners is “How should I set my price?” This is what I tell them.  Know your competitors’ prices. Gather as much information as possible about your competitors’ prices and why they are charging those prices. Make certain that for each price you know the specific products and services that are included.  Know your lowest possible price. List all your costs for each service/product. Possible costs include supplies, staffing, shipping, overhead, and follow on services. Then, for each service/product, add your minimum margin (the money your business needs to make above the costs for that item to be viable.) Compare your competitors’ prices to your lowest possible prices. It helps to build a table of each service/product and list your prices in one column and the prices of competitors in other columns. Then, study the options below and select the option that works best for your business.

Lowest Price Option

Consider being the lowest price competitor when:
  1. You know for certain that you can sustain the price for a long time.
  2. You know that your competition can’t come near your prices because their overhead and other costs are higher and they don’t have the funding to offer your price or lower.
  3. You know that another competitor can’t enter the market and offer a lower price.
Don’t aim to be the lowest price competitor when:
  1. Prospects who are shopping for your services/products may think yours are substandard in quality because prices are associated with quality in your industry.
  2. There is a competitor who has the funding to drop below your lowest possible price. A competitor who has adequate funding can drop their prices just long enough to get your customers to switch. This will make you raise your price or force you out of business. 
It is important to note that customers who shop for the lowest price are fickle. As soon as your price is no longer the lowest, they’ll feel fully justified in moving on. Don’t count on them loving your services/products so much that they will stay loyal to your brand.

Highest Price Option

Consider being the highest price competitor when:
  1. You have at least one success story that you can share. If you have done the same work for a previous client and can tell a prospect that you significantly contributed to that client’s success, you can command a high price.
  2. You know that you and your services/products are worth it. Prospects can sense confidence. They’ll believe you’re the best if you believe it.
  3. There are enough prospects for you to sustain your business.
  4. You can sustain the level of service and quality that your price promises.
Don’t aim to be the highest price competitor when:
  1. There are too few prospects to buy your services/products. You could become too dependent on those few.
  2. You’re not confident that you are better than your competitors and you have no story to tell of past success.
  3. You don’t yet know how to sustain being the best for a long period of time.

Middle Price Option

Consider being a middle priced competitor when:
  1. You want the greatest flexibility in pricing.
  2. You don’t have a great success story to tell right from the beginning.
  3. You have no desire to make huge waves amongst your competitors right from the start. 
Don’t aim to be middle priced option when your business model is really better suited to either lowest or highest price.

Pricing to the Level of Responsibility

There is a practice that I call “pricing to the level of responsibility.” This practice involves charging higher-end prices. This practice is good for a business to implement.  When a business is implementing this practice and is charging a higher price for their product/service, prospects will believe that the business must be the best because it charges a higher price. The logic is that if a business has the courage to charge that much, then there must be a reason, so they deserve the business. This logic can carry on into a contract. A prospect might believe that because they are paying a company that much money, they might as well use all of its services/products and listen to its representatives. By doing so, they believe they aren’t wasting all the money they’re spending. They are also giving the majority of control to the company, which means that projects can be completed in a timely manner without hiccups caused by overhead. This practice should never be leveraged simply to secure a high price. The customer would see through that and become offended.  This practice is very helpful in cases in which the customer needs to have a strong commitment to the project. Pricing to the level of responsibility encourages both the customer and the vendor to work together as a team, which will lead to a successful result. When a business defines its pricing, it can confidently communicate with prospects and customers. Clarity around pricing helps set a positive tone for the business/customer relationship. The earlier a new business can set its pricing, the faster it can become successful. For more information contact Elizabeth Paulsen at [email protected]

10 Ways to Know It’s Time to Update Your Website

You know it’s time to remake your company’s website when…
  1. A first-time visitor says, “Ahh, I see your website is older than I am.”
  2. Only your mother can find it.
  3. A new customer comes to your store, sits down and cries, “It didn’t look like this online!”
  4. Your staff tells you that the website just sold something you don’t sell anymore.
  5. Your web developer has left and no one else can figure out how to make anything work.
  6. Your sales staff are ashamed to share the web address with anyone.
  7. Customers complain they can’t find what you say is there.
  8. Web visitors state, “Wow, you look nothing like your photo. Grey hair suits you.”
  9. Your web stats show that plenty of people are finding the website, but no one’s buying anything.
  10. A first-time visitor remarks, “I never go beyond pages that should have a seizure warning.”
You know you don’t need a website makeover when …
  1. Your business is working at capacity.
  2. Your income exceeds your expenses.
  3. Your customers are happy.
  4. Your staff have no complaints.
If you’re looking to update your website, call us at 206-244-9092 or email [email protected].

A Soggy Doggy Kind of Love

Each of our clients offer something special to the Puget Sound area. I continue to confess to my colleagues that I have managed to develop a little crush on each of our patrons. My latest heart throb takes me back to one of my first loves, my pets. Soggy Doggy continues to impress me. They are simply one of the best stops for all your pet needs.

We have been working with Soggy Doggy since November 2004, and David has been the owner and operator as his parents were before him. David keeps his employees first so that they can keep the customers first. With many different locations, its no problem to find a Soggy Doggy close to you.

Bessie the beagle in a flower pot

I have two animals in my home (not including any of my siblings or my sweetheart). I have had my beagle, Bessie, for over 10 years (featured left). My cat, Keesa, is the most recent addition (featured right).  It goes without saying that I want to give my furry babies the best. This is where my love obsession with Soggy Doggy begins. Not only do they have friendly and well-educated staff ready to help, but they offer specialized shampoo and conditioner for you to use on your pet, whatever their skin/coat needs may be. I was so happy to discover that they have specialized tubs, so I don’t have to hunch over on my hands and knees to give Bess a well-deserved scrub. The best part of it all is that they will do all the clean up afterwards.

Holli and her cat, Keesa

Soggy Doggy isn’t just a self-service dog wash. You can entrust your K-9 pal with the qualified individuals working here and they can complete all sorts of services for you. From wash, to groom, to nail trimming, to gland expression, Soggy Doggy strives to help you take care of your pets in the best way.

After a long day at a doggy spa, your pup deserves a treat. Soggy Doggy makes many of their high-quality treats in house. If you don’t find something you or your pup likes in the showcase, I’d bet you would find something to fit your fancy on the shelf. The owners were very intentional to select vendors that only make “the good stuff”. Whether its wet or dry dog food you’re after, they have incredible options that will provide your bow-wow buddy with a well-balanced, nutritional, high-quality meal. They also stock many flea and tick control options as well as fun, long-lasting dog toys.

Okay, so all these things are great if you have a dog. Yes! But, Soggy Doggy also offers wonderful cat care options, too! From tasty treats, to brilliant quality food and litter options, this will quickly become your feline friend’s favorite spot, too.

To top it all off, Soggy Doggy is now introducing a delivery option to selected locations with an online purchase.

Now its my pleasure to introduce to you some of Soggy Doggy’s talented and experienced staff. They are ready to help and answer any questions you may have during your visit.

Mo using the nail grinders

If you are in the Federal Way area and decide to come in, say hi to Mo and Amy, the resident groomers! Mo (featured left) has been with Soggy Doggy going on over a year and confidently says that it’s the “favorite salon I’ve ever worked at”. Starting first at the University Place location, Mo is happy to be a part of our Soggy Doggy team.

Amy at the groomer's table

Amy (featured right) has been grooming for 7 years and she just loves spending everyday grooming these sweet animals. With 3 furry babies of her own, she knows firsthand the importance of a wholistic approach to cleaning. Often, the dogs themselves are not as anxious as their mommies and daddies. Entrusting pups to these talented hands help both the dogs and owners breathe a little deeper, making the whole experience a lot easier.

 

Tammiy from Soggy Doggy

Looking into the Kent location? Tammiy (featured left) will likely be the first face you’ll see when you enter this little store. She’s been with Soggy Doggy for over 6 years! Having started her relationship with Soggy Doggy as a customer for PUP, People United for Pets, Tammiy knows exactly what customers care about when it comes to the quality of the food. She has both the knowledge base and experience to make great suggestions.

Kendra at wash station with husky

Spending her weekends up at the Normandy Park location, Kendra (featured right) has been at the Kent Soggy Doggy for 3 years. Kendra’s favorite thing about her job, other than the puppies, are the piggies, kittens, goats, and ferrets that all come in from time to time for their own baths. Kendra also encourages that she is right there ready to help point you in the right direction if you are unsure how to give any four legged friend a good bath.

Kalya happily washing a dog

Now on to the Normandy Park location. Rachel and Kalya feel as if this little shop is a second home and they carry that comfort and confidence into their work. With 8 years at Soggy Doggy, Rachel says the owners feel like family; David is such “a great boss” and truly has their back. Kalya (featured left) comes to work every day striving to be open minded, whole hearted, and animal driven. She loves watching the puppies and the clients grow each time they come in. Guests even pick up on the comforting atmosphere. They love washing their dogs here because not only is it easier but interacting with the staff is such a pleasure.

 

With wonderful staff, quality product and now delivery options, Soggy Doggy is a great place to go for all your pet needs. Interested in more details or ordering pet supplies online, check out Soggy Doggy’s website at https://www.thesoggydoggy.com/ .

Introducing Jaimeson Waugh

Jaimeson Waugh graduated from DeVry University with a Bachelor of Science in “Multimedia Design & Development” in 2015, but has been doing web design since 2002, making Neopets pages in HTML at 11. Jaimeson joined CeSI last November & started full-time in December. Jaimeson likes to study & read about as much as possible about a variety of subjects, including literature, art, math, and programming, as well as do puzzles like Sudoku. Everyone please welcome Jaimeson!

You and Your Business: The Importance of Online Reputation Management

I admire small business owners. In fact, I work for one. I’ve heard stories of how Cascade e-Commerce Solutions, Inc. was established, and every day I see the long hours, hard work and smart, quick decisions it takes to thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Small business owners are comprised of a remarkable amalgam of dreams, brains, guts, passion, patience, resilience, sacrifice and flexibility. They contribute to their community by providing employment and internship opportunities, and sacrifice precious time and treasure to local charities. Along the way, positive relationships and reputations are formed that not only serve to strengthen a business’ status in the community but, in turn, aids recruiting top talent and attracting more business – a healthy symbiosis.

Yet, when I consider the years of hard work and sacrifice it takes to build, maintain and grow a business, it alarms me how easily a malicious online review or a few angry sentences placed on social media can initiate a process of unraveling a successful company. It’s called “Virality”, and can damage your company’s reputation before you are even aware the activity has begun.

Virality – The tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another (The Oxford Dictionary)

Consider a 2009 incident in which a pair of bored Domino’s Pizza employees recorded themselves performing inappropriate acts with sandwich ingredients. The duo posted 5 videos of their activity on YouTube, and sadly before the videos were removed a few days later an estimated one million people had viewed them. Read how Domino’s managed this crisis.

Another crisis occurred in 2015, when musician David Caroll’s guitar was damaged during travel with United Airlines. When the airline refused to compensate him for his loss, Mr. Caroll wrote “United Breaks Guitars”, a song that racked up over 15 million views on YouTube. This cathartic externalization of Mr. Caroll’s discontent with United is widely reported to have caused a 10% drop in the United’s stock (worth around $180 million). Read more about this incident.

The New Rules of Consumer Engagement

These crises illustrate the Age of The Empowered Consumer has arrived, demanding a new respect for customers, as expressed through constant engagement in social media, blogs, forums and website chat applications to understand who they are and what they want from your business. Consumers expect to be heard, and they place high value on what other consumers have to say about your goods and services.

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A study on BrightLocal.com found that 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 72% of consumers will take action after reading a positive review. – Gary Musler, “What Every Small Business Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management”

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Business who interact with their customers socially online, monitor feedback in review sites and develop plans to quickly respond when negative information appears are establishing their credibility, protecting their brand and giving their company a competitive edge in their industry.

Cascade e-Commerce Solutions can help establish and monitor you and your business’s reputation. Call us today at 206-244-9092 or visit us online at https://www.4cesi.com/ .

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Did you know that a good online reputation is only one aspect of a business’s online presence? Master the Digital Domain with a comprehensive marketing strategy comprising SEO, SEM, E-Mail and Reputation Management. Call Cascade e-Commerce Solutions today!

The Advantages of Social Media for Small Business

Since the early days of the 21st century, the use of social media for business has grown exceedingly, becoming an integral aspect of an overall marketing strategy. This is due to a growing awareness that cultivating relationships with potential customers is key to growth in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Using methods of social media marketing helps form relationships with potential consumers in ways previously unavailable to the business community.

Social Media Inclusion in Marketing Plans

Research confirms the necessity of incorporating social media into comprehensive marketing strategies. According to Jacques Bughlin’s July 2015 article, Getting a sharper picture of social media’s influence, “Consumers who use search engines to gain some initial knowledge of a product are also more likely to tune in to social media before a purchase.” * Although research shows that businesses that invest in SEO (search engine optimization) can increase conversions by incorporating social media in their marketing plans, this approach can be maximized further by also including email marketing, SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and Reputation Management into their marketing plan. Why? Because each of these channels cross-connect.

Social Media Activities that Influence Digital Shopping Behavior

As we have seen, consumers make connections with companies to obtain or deepen their knowledge of products prior to making a purchase. But, how are potential customers using social media to reach their decisions to buy or not? A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey conducted in September 2015** revealed the social media activities that influence digital shopping behavior. The report, based on a worldwide sampling of 22,618 digital buyers aged eighteen and above, shows that: 45% – Read reviews, comments and feedback 44% – Receiving promotional offerings 30% – View Ads 25% – Stay on top of current fashion and product trends 22% – Write reviews, comments and feedback 20% – Associate with particular brands or retailers 16% – Purchase products directly through a social media channel Businesses that understand and master the digital domain can use each type of contact in their social media marketing to guide consumers along the way, whether they arrive to the business’s website from an ad, a blog post, a review, a tweet, an image, etc. Each marketing channel can be an extension of the business through which the consumer gains knowledge, forms opinions, and develops impressions that will lead to making decisions.

Reputation Management through Social Engagement

An advantage of using social media is the ability to better track and respond to the information that is circulated on the internet. When a customer feels strong enough to leave a review or comment regarding a business, they will most likely go to that business’s website. Businesses who do not utilize social media in their marketing plan may not know the feedback they receive. However, customers pay close attention to such information and will use it to determine future actions. For small businesses, the opportunity for interaction and for conversions is great due to their ability to develop closer, more intimate relationships with their customers than larger businesses. Customers who frequent smaller, local businesses tend to spread the word online to friends, co-workers, and within community groups. Small businesses can use social media to: • Quickly release information about a service or a product going on sale • Post and discuss pictures of their products • Respond to customer service inquiries • Build e-mail lists for the purpose of alerting customers of specials, ads, community events or causes, contests or even personal announcements, such as births or weddings When a small business uses social media to interact with their customers, they make deep inroads into the community in which they serve. They get a better understanding of their customers’ wants, needs, and future desires which, when acted upon, may lead to greater success in the marketplace. Thinking of incorporating social media into your marketing strategy? Cascade e-Commerce Solutions supports small business with their SEO, SEM, Social Media, and Reputation Management needs. Contact us today at 206-244-9092 or [email protected] ________________________________________ * http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/getting-a-sharper-picture-of-social-medias-influence ** (February 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, “They Say They Want a Revolution: Total Retail 2016.