Author Archives: Andrew Gilstrap

About Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

Eminent SEO Pitches In to Help Phoenix Graphics Firm Rebuild Scorched Office

Phoenix Graphics Firm Think Graphics Rebuild - Eminent SEO

In August, one of the worst things that could happen to a business owner came true: A fire ripped through the office overnight, rendering the space useless.

That’s what happened to Randy Phillips of Think Graphics & Printing Solutions in Phoenix. He’s not sure how the fire was started, and the official investigation is ongoing.

Think, as they like to call themselves, has currently lost its esteemed spot on the hallowed Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Think’s workshop was right in the center of a monthly event known locally as First Fridays, perhaps the preeminent recurring cultural event in all of Arizona. First Friday is where local artists gather to sell their wares to thousands of visitors.

Luckily, Think has an office in the Tempe suburb where it could host the displaced Phoenix employees for the time being. But with its Phoenix office in tatters, Think is missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on the huge Friday audiences and become more embedded in the local arts scene.

The Fire Catches Our Attention

Think Phoenix Graphic T-Shirts - Eminent SEO

Members of Eminent SEO show off their “Think Phoenix” T-shirts, which go toward helping Think Graphics & Printing Solutions rebuild its downtown Phoenix office.

When the Eminent SEO team first heard Think’s heartbreaking story, we started devising ways to help out and turn Think’s fortunes around. Many of our employees have a strong passion for art, especially local art, so the news about Think’s burned-down shop hit close to home.

“When we found out about the fire, we knew we had to help!” our CEO Jenny Stradling said.

Under our CEO’s direction, we have been vigilant about building partnerships locally and supporting Phoenix-area businesses, artists and more.

“Phoenix is our home, too, and we know that by helping Think Graphics, we are helping good people, artists and our own community,” Stradling added. “They are going to reinvest in Phoenix, and that is important to us all. We believe artists are the heart and soul of Phoenix, and we want to prove it by supporting our partners when they need us most.”

Think Graphics’ Campaign

To help get its downtown Phoenix office rebuilt, Think Graphics launched a T-shirt campaign. The Phoenix graphics firm created a new, one-page website for the ongoing fundraiser, offering various T-shirts with designs from local artists. The campaign is called “Think Phoenix” and it encourages Phoenicians to take some hometown pride and support local vendors and businesses.

Think’s goal is to sell at least 2,500 T-shirts. Prices range from $25 to $30, and each design is available in several different colors. Think is periodically adding new designs to the page, as contributed by local artists.

Eminent SEO’s Contributions

So how did we decide to help? For starters, our boss bought a T-shirt for every person in the company, letting us choose which design and color they wanted. We even submitted two T-shirt designs, which Think now offers on its campaign website.

Meanwhile, several members of our team began shooting a short video to promote the “Think Phoenix” campaign. We interviewed Think’s owner on camera and captured footage (including some with a drone and GoPro) of the burned-down Phoenix shop.

See the “Think Phoenix” campaign video here:

We have also begun running strategic marketing campaigns to build up Think’s visibility online. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership, too, as Think is receiving more attention to its fundraising campaign while we were given the chance to refine our emerging video production capabilities in addition to working with a client outside of our usual realm of businesses.

How YOU Can Help

No matter where you are in the country, YOU can help Think Graphics raise money to rebuild its downtown Phoenix shop, too!

Eminent SEO Funny Faces Think Phoenix T-Shirts

Team Eminent SEO geeks out in their new “Think Phoenix” T-Shirts.

It’s easy: All you have to do is visit http://www.thinkphx.com/ and buy a T-shirt (or two). There are several styles and colors from which to choose. Share the page with your family and friends and see if they want to pitch in too. You get a cool shirt out of the deal, plus Think will give you a coupon code for a custom shirt on Tendollarshirtstore.com for your purchase!

Another option you have is to visit the GoFundMe page created for Think Graphics. There, you’ll have a chance to donate whatever you’re comfortable with – and you can make the donation anonymously if you desire. Think is aiming to raise $50,000 with the GoFundMe page.

If you’re a local artist and you want to contribute to the fundraiser in another way, you can submit a “Think Phoenix” design to art@thinkpro.com for the chance you see your handiwork on a custom T-shirt.

To learn more about Think Graphics & Printing Solutions, visit the company’s main website.

Thanks for your consideration in helping out a Phoenix business that would truly appreciate your support in 2017.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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More Big-Box Retailers Bite the Dust: What’s to Blame? (Besides Online Shopping)

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , on by .
RoomStore Sports Chalet Phoenix - Big-Box Retailers - Eminent SEO

A Sports Chalet and The RoomStore are situated next to each other in north Phoenix, and both franchises are in the process of going out of business for good. (Eminent SEO Photo)

It’s always sad to see a business close its doors and leave behind a vacant storefront.

Well, almost always – depending on if the shuttered business personally wronged you in any way.

Over the last couple of months, multiple big-box retailers with a once-prominent presence here in Arizona announced they would be closing all of their locations. The notable closures include Southwest-based sporting goods franchise Sport Chalet and the Arizona-only furniture chain The RoomStore.

So, what caused the demise of these long-standing retailers?

Was it online shopping (ecommerce) options? Too many direct competitors? Failure to distinguish themselves from similar franchises? An economy that simply refuses to kick into the next gear?

It’s likely all of the above, plus another, less-talked-about factor I’ll examine a little bit later. First, let’s look at the particulars of these franchises’ final days, as well as some of the main influences that put them out of business.

Details on The RoomStore’s Closing

The RoomStore is currently having one of the more spectacular going-out-of-business bonanzas I’ve ever seen. Around the metro-Phoenix area, shopping center signs and cargo trucks have unabashedly been heavy on terms like “Liquidation” and “Going Out Of Business Forever.”

RoomStore Liquidation Truck - Eminent SEO

A semi-truck parked near The RoomStore in north Phoenix advertises the furniture retailer’s going-out-of-business sale. (Eminent SEO Photo)

The company’s website impresses the sense of urgency even further, encouraging you to negotiate the price you want and that nobody beats The RoomStore’s going-out-of-business sale.

RoomStore Going Out Of Business Sale

Um, are they excited to be going out of commission? The company even appears elated to point out that several locations have closed and the rest are shutting down soon.

RoomStore Homepage Locations Listings

The Room Store was actually founded in Texas in 1992, and it opened its first Arizona location a year later. When all of the Texas RoomStores began closing down in late-2012, the Arizona locations were immune, since they were owned by a separate company: The RoomStores of Phoenix, LLC.

At its height, The RoomStore owned 12 locations in Arizona, primarily in the greater Phoenix region. The company was perhaps most recognized locally as a long-time sponsor of the Phoenix Suns.


When The RoomStore filed for bankruptcy protection last December, it was a definitive sign that the local furniture empire was on its last legs.

Details of Sport Chalet’s Closing

Sport Chalet’s wind-down process has been much more somber. In April, the company sent an email to all of its subscribers announcing the end of the franchise. A version of that email is currently on the homepage of the website, which appears to be the only page on the site anymore.

Sport Chalet Homepage Closing

You can’t even find which stores are still open through the website. The company has sent several follow-up, matter-of-fact emails that announce extensions of honoring customers’ gift cards and other similar notices. The retailer doesn’t appear to have any sense of urgency in enticing the consumer to visit a store and buy an item on discount before the place closes.

Founded in 1959, Sport Chalet at one point had more than 50 locations in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and, especially, California, where it was headquartered. The sporting goods chain is part of the Vestis Retail Group, which also owns Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and Bob’s Stores, all located in the Northeast. Vestis has filed for bankruptcy, but it is keeping most of its EMS and Bob’s Stores open while cutting out the fat that is Sports Chalet.

Too Much Competition for These Big-Box Retailers?

The RoomStore and Sport Chalet were both plagued by lukewarm and negative online reviews. For The RoomStore, complaints mostly concerned returns, refunds, sales tactics and even deliveries and the quality of furniture. For Sport Chalet, sky-high prices and poor customer service appeared to hamper the business most forcefully.

As a significant side note, if you’re going to survive as a brick-and-mortar store in today’s environment, you’ve got to offer an experience, not just lay out merchandise and hope somebody buys it. If you want to look within The RoomStore’s industry, it’s easy to see that the home furnishings giant IKEA offers a distinct shopping experience. Did The RoomStore offer a discernible experience, or did it simply (haphazardly) sling furniture?

If you’re looking at Sport Chalet’s industry, you can see that Dick’s Sporting Goods at least somewhat offers an experience, as each store maintains a locker room feel. Did Sport Chalet offer an experience? Do large photographs on the walls of various sporting activities make for an experience? The franchise initially started out with a focus on skiing equipment and later expanded to scuba gear, but after that, it tried to appeal to a wider audience, and it ended up throwing aside its unique selling proposition in the process.

Also, Sport Chalet wasn’t on its email and ecommerce game the way that Dick’s is. Personally, I was buying online from Dick’s Sporting Goods way back in the early 2000s. Lo and behold, several physical locations started cropping up around town just a couple of years later.

It’s obvious that Dick’s has a two-fold strategy to grow its business. Even if Sport Chalet’s ecommerce sales were vibrant, they weren’t enough to salvage the entire company, and apparently not even worth keeping as an online-only business.

Also of note is that Sports Authority recently filed for bankruptcy and later announced it is closing all of its stores. Same concept here: What was the Sports Authority Experience? Anybody? Bueller? Sports Authority was once the country’s largest sporting goods retailer, but like Sport Chalet, it will soon be no more.

What do these major setbacks mean for the great American sporting goods store going forward?

Did a Sluggish Economy Kill These Franchises?

Well, even if the economy is hurting – which it no longer seems to be, by most indicators – the furniture and sporting goods industries aren’t currently feeling the pain. Here are a few stats that tell the tale, as provided by the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Retail and food service sales are up 3.5 percent in Quarter 1 of 2016 from the same time period last year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings store sales are up 5.6 percent in Q1 of 2016 compared to the same period last year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales are up 7.4 percent, one of the largest jumps in any retail and food service niche from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016.

So, even if retail is up this year and the furniture and sporting goods sectors are particularly doing well, those factors apparently weren’t enough to save franchises like The RoomStore, Sport Chalet and Sports Authority. You would think that even a higher-priced store like Sport Chalet, for example, would be able to survive as long as the economy’s in good shape and there’s enough consumer spending to go around, but alas, some businesses are still going under.

Truth be told, these franchises were hemorrhaging profits for years prior to the economy righting itself, but by the time it got better, it was too little, too late – and the writing was on the wall for these once-prominent retailers.

Did Ecommerce Sales Play a Role?

It’s always the elephant in the room every time a big-box retailer goes under: internet sales. Yes, online sales are becoming more and more common as the checkout process continually gets easier, but ecommerce still doesn’t take up as big of a chunk of the market as you’d think.

According to the chart below, ecommerce sales comprised only about 2.5 percent of all U.S. retail sales (adjusted) back in Q1 of 2006. The market share has continuously grown since then, rising to nearly 8 percent of all retail sales in Q1 of 2016.

Yes, 8 percent doesn’t really seem like that much, but that still represents more than $92 billion in transactions in just one quarter of the year. It’s decisively large enough to play a role in putting brick-and-mortars out of business.

Overlooked Factor: Reluctance of Dealing with Sales Associates

Although online shopping is more convenient than ever, I think the issue goes much deeper when it comes to why big-box retailers are hurting. When shopping online, you can line up dozens of items side by side, check out their specs and then make your purchase with one or two clicks of a button, all without having to deal with a salesperson.

While it’s hard to beat physically trying out an item in the store, some might still say, “Why deal with a potentially incompetent, unhelpful or pushy sales associate when I can just buy the merchandise online.”

To some shoppers, it might be a diagnosable social anxiety disorder that keeps them buying their furniture, clothing and other merchandise from a distance. To others, it might be a conscious decision to avoid the hassle and wait that is latent every time you walk into a store – especially one like The RoomStore or Sport Chalet, according to many online reviews.

Many people spend more time with their face buried in their phones or computers than they do interacting with others face to face, so it’s no wonder ecommerce continues to grow. You could argue we’re being conditioned to do more interaction online than we do in “the real world.”

According to a 2015 eMarketer forecast, Americans spent an average of 2 hours and 54 minutes each day on their mobile devices last year, and that doesn’t even count phone calls. That number equates to 44 days out of the year just spent on a mobile phone or tablet. The 2016 average is expected to jump to 3 hours and 8 minutes per day – again, not counting using a phone the old-fashioned way.

Learn More About Internet Addiction

While some can juggle face-to-face interaction and heavy internet usage well, others cannot. If those who struggle with it are able to simply buy merchandise remotely, even if it means the item’s size or color might be askew once seeing it in person, then that’s a risk they’re willing to take. And let’s be honest, you can find some great deals online. Also, the online checkout process is usually easy and you’ll save gas by not having to drive to a store.

It all adds up to a significant threat to big-box retailers, which need to make sure their online sales process is as good or better than their in-store operations.

Conclusion

So, ecommerce sales, stiff competition and possibly the economy are all going to weigh heavily on brick-and-mortar retailers going forward, but I also think we shouldn’t discount the ever-increasing reluctance to social interaction. If someone can buy the same item online that they would otherwise have to walk into a store and deal with sales associates, especially a place that’s not known for its customer service, how can you convince them to buy from you on location?

We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on why big-box retailers are going under as well as your ideas to keep them afloat. Comment with your opinions below.

Oh, and R.I.P. Sport Chalet, Sports Authority and The RoomStore.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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What Are the Consequences and Prevalence of Internet Addiction?

This entry was posted in Health and tagged , , , on by .

Do You Have Internet Addiction - Eminent SEO

On this Eminent SEO blog, we generally offer marketing advice, website and social media tips, as well as SEO and tech news. On this go-round, however, we’d like to slightly deviate from our usual offerings and talk about an issue that more closely relates to something many of our clients would usually cover: addiction.

But we’re not here to talk about addiction to drugs, alcohol or other harmful habits that quickly come to mind. Instead, what we’d like to look more into is excessive online surfing, aka internet addiction.

Internet addiction is real, and it’s not spectacular. Studies show that it’s not all too prevalent now, but given the web-usage habits of millennials on down, it will likely become more common in coming years.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • The characteristics of internet addiction
  • How common this type of addiction is
  • The risks and consequences of excessive web usage
  • How alleviate one’s own internet addiction

What Characterizes Internet Addiction?

Couple On Couch With Smartphones - ESEOInternet addiction isn’t yet considered an official disorder, but it’s listed in the U.S. as a condition that warrants further study. This condition is characterized by spending too much time on a computer or web-enabled device to the point where it starts to affect an individual’s relationships, finances, employment, health and more. People with “addictive personalities” are at-risk for becoming a little too attached to their internet-connected devices.

Like many other forms of addiction, internet addiction can cause excess dopamine in the brain, meaning it can give the user a sort of “high” when online. But once the person goes offline, he or she may feel withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, when away from the computer. When an internet-addicted individual is not on the computer, he or she may spend most of the time itching to get back online again.

Not only is an internet addict’s relationships and job and school performance suffering, but the individual will likely lose interest in non-online hobbies or pursuits. Additionally, the internet addict may become defensive or angry when someone else comments on his or her behavior. Internet addicts may even go out of their way to hide the extent of their usage.

Which Online Activities Are They Addicted To?

Certain online activities are ripe for becoming a timesuck. If one is not careful, one or more online pastimes may become the centerpiece of a person’s life.

So what are the activities that internet-addicted individuals are spending so much of their time on? It could be one or more of the following:

  • Online gaming
  • Social networking
  • Gambling
  • Trading stocks
  • Online forum and chat room usage
  • Reading and leaving comments on favorite blog and news websites
  • Dating site interaction
  • Online shopping
  • Pornography

How Widespread Is Internet Addiction?

Despite the increasing exposure to the internet and the ability to get online from virtually anywhere, internet addiction doesn’t appear to be an epidemic … yet.

It’s hard to gauge how common internet addiction is, and how to measure it, but here are a few stats that attempt to paint the picture:

  • A 2010 study in “The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse” found that the prevalence rate of internet addiction was as high as 8.2 percent among Americans and Europeans.
  • “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment,” published in 2010, estimated that more than 18 percent of college-aged internet users may be addicted.
  • In 2010, the University of Leeds in England surveyed people between the ages of 16 and 51 and found only 1.4 percent of respondents were bona fide internet addicts.
  • According to Daily Mail, data published in late-2014 said that 7.1 percent of the population in Asia is addicted to the internet, a figure which includes 24 million children in China.
  • According to a 2014-15 survey in Taiwan, the prevalence rate of internet addiction among 1,100 respondents (mostly female) was 10.6 percent.

Drawing from all of the studies above, it’s probably safe to say that internet addiction affects less than 10 percent of people worldwide. However, you can also estimate that a reasonably higher percentage of young people would qualify for being internet addicted.

More on China’s Internet Addiction Problems

China is particularly seeing an affliction of internet addiction, especially among young males. In 2008, the most populated country declared internet addiction a clinical disorder, becoming one of the first nations to do so, according to Voice of America. Three years earlier, China had already begun combating the problem, opening its first of many military-style internet rehabilitation camps.

China’s threshold for what qualifies as internet addiction might seem quite low to some. When it was first categorized as a disorder, internet addiction in China meant someone spent more than six hours online (not work- or study-related) each day and felt bad when unable to access a computer. While that may seem like a low benchmark, China is nonetheless not joking around when it comes to the problem. It is just one of many countries that has been taking steps to curb heavy web usage, with South Korea being another prominent example.

Risks and Consequences of Internet Addiction

Although the internet offers ways to connect with people all over the world, the interactions are often superficial and rarely a substitute for real-life relationships. Besides potentially hurting relationships, finances and job status, internet addiction can negatively affect people in other ways, such as exacerbating or giving rise to mental health issues.

Back in 2008, Dr. Jerald J. Block conducted a study that concluded that 86 percent of internet-addicted individuals exhibited other mental health disorders. The mental health conditions that are sometimes linked with internet addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Psychosis
  • Hostility
  • Insomnia
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Substance use disorders, such as abuse of alcohol or prescription and illegal drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts

People who are addicted to the internet may also become malnourished due to poor eating habits, such as not eating often enough or consuming unhealthy snacks and meals that don’t take too much time away from the web and can be eaten while sitting at a computer. As you can imagine, since sitting or lying down is the most common position for internet surfing, someone who spends hours and hours online each day will see their physical health start to slide as well.

More on Depression and Internet Addiction

Medical experts have had trouble determining if depression leads to internet addiction or vice-versa. Either way, the worse the addiction gets, the more one’s depression is exacerbated, in most cases.

This can become a vicious cycle. Depression can tempt someone into retreating to a computer or internet-enabled device and staying there for hours on end. In other cases, the allure of the internet can keep a newer user online for hours to the point where they’re doing it every day, but as their connections and relationships with others start to fade, depression can begin to seep in. If a person’s internet usage is making depression worsen, it’s time to pull them out of the cycle and begin some form of therapy.

More on Suicidal Thoughts and Internet Addiction

You don’t have to search too hard on the web to find stories of people wearing diapers (especially for gaming) to keep their internet usage uninterrupted and others who have physically harmed themselves to try to pull themselves out of the digital timesuck.

These are unfortunate situations, but they hint at something direr than simply depression. Not only does web addiction closely relate to depression, but it gets even more serious: suicidal thoughts and actions.

The aforementioned Taiwanese study looked closely at the link between suicide and internet addiction. When comparing the internet-addicted respondents to the non-addicts, researchers found that internet addicts have:

  • A 47 percent higher rate of suicidal thoughts within a week
  • A 23 percent higher rate of lifetime suicide attempts
  • A 5 percent higher rate of suicides attempt within a year

Unsurprisingly, the same study also found that web-addicted individuals have a 65 percent higher rate of psychiatric morbidity, which means both physical and psychological decoration due to a mental condition.

How to Get Help for Internet Addiction

Couple Hugging Each Other Looking At Smartphones - ESEO

You’d be surprised at the number of ways you can treat internet addiction now, whether at home or in a professional environment. You don’t even have to fly to China to enter one of its rehabilitation boot camps!

If you know someone who exhibits many of the signs of internet addiction, don’t be shy in trying to redirect their attention to other hobbies or to help them seek professional treatment. As you just read, the consequences can even be fatal, in rare cases.

At-Home Options and Strategies

Software is available to help keep internet usage to a certain time constraint. Most of it is available for download online. It’s usually intended for parents and schools, but it will work for you if you’re trying to help a loved one with his or her web usage. Just do a search for “software to limit internet usage,” and you can read reviews and choose a product that works with your budget.

Also, if you’re a close friend or family member of someone who’s addicted to the web, it helps to model a healthy internet behavior to them. If you are on the web for several hours in a row too, or if you can’t finish a conversation with your loved one without checking your phone, it’s going to be hard to convince him or her to cut back. So, not only model appropriate web-usage behavior, but also try to encourage the person to frequently join you for social events, physical activities, etc.

Medical Treatment

Depending on the situation, a doctor or psychiatrist might prescribe certain medications to treat web addiction, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Prescription drugs such as Lexapro, Vivitrol (an extended-release injection), Wellbutrin, and a Celexa-Seroquel combination all are options for treating internet addiction.

Counseling and Therapy

The internet addict should go through his or her insurance in order to find and start seeing a licensed psychiatrist. The struggling individual could also join a therapy group. Some 12-step programs do accept internet and tech addicts, by the way. Of course, group sessions should take place in person, rather than in chat rooms or other online areas.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has proven to be very effective when treating this type of condition. Led by a therapist, CBT helps replace addictive behaviors with something more positive and healthy. CBT can change thinking and behavior patterns, as well as give the patient some tools that will be useful throughout life.

Inpatient Treatment

If the situation is that grim or if group therapy isn’t working, you may want to look into residential treatment. Some hospitals and drug rehab centers offer programs for internet addicts. It’s still a relatively new process, but there should be a residential rehab center that will offer a little getaway from the digital world as well as expert guidance toward a healthier lifestyle.

Please share this article with your friends and loved ones to help spread awareness of the dangers of internet addiction.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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How to Find a Qualified Content Marketer to Add to Your Team

This entry was posted in Productivity and tagged , , on by .

Qualified Content Marketer - Eminent SEO

Effective content marketing can take your entire company to another level. It can spread awareness of your brand, as well as create a following that’s hooked on the material you release and eager to consume your future offerings.

Content marketing that is done well should lead indirectly to more sales for the company that produces it. However, many businesses are lagging behind when it comes to actualizing the power of this type of marketing.

According to a recent Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs survey, although 88 percent of the business-to-business companies that were surveyed said they use content marketing, only 30 percent of them considered their organization effective at it. Additionally, only 44 percent thought their company was clear on what a successful content marketing program looks like.

The same survey revealed that companies that excel the most at content marketing use an average of 42 percent of their total marketing budget on this particular strategy, which is much higher than the current norm. These proficient companies also use a higher number of content marketing tactics and social media platforms on average than businesses that are struggling with this discipline.

One of the most critical steps in boosting your company’s content marketing game is to find a competent and qualified content marketer. This means looking for someone who can bring more to the table than just copywriting competence. Hiring a qualified content marketer can be a time-intensive process, but it will be worth it if you find the right individual.

Before we get into how to find a qualified content marketer, let’s back up a bit and make sure we’re on the same page about what content marketing is.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing aims to educate or entertain consumers in hopes of retaining customers or attracting new ones. This type of content eschews a sales pitch and makes little-to-no mention of the company behind it. It also has the potential to change or enhance consumer behavior, according to the Content Marketing Institute. This material hasn’t always been free to the consumer, but as it has reared its head in the online world, it more commonly appears at no cost to the public – or even to its subscribers.

Content marketing was actually known as “branded content” for several years before marketers started to glom onto the newer term. What we now know as content marketing has existed since before the 20th century. Its origins are often traced to John Deere’s creation of “The Furrow” agricultural journal for consumers.

Other Non-Digital Examples of Content Marketing

Did you know soap opera got its name from the soap manufacturers such as Proctor & Gamble that used to exclusively sponsor this type of radio and television content?

Content marketing really started taking off in the 1980s, led by Hasbro and Marvel’s creation of a “G.I. Joe” comic book. LEGO launched what is now known as the “LEGO Club” magazine a few years after. These were indirect methods of trying to boost the sales of certain action figures and kids toys.

Other industries have followed suit, such as Red Bull launching “The Red Bulletin” magazine roughly 10 years ago. Meanwhile, beer manufacturer Leinenkugel’s has included a self-published newspaper in every 12-pack of its product for several years now.

There are countless other examples across almost every industry. For an example local to us here at Eminent SEO, the renowned “Arizona Highways” magazine is actually operated by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

What are the Main Channels for Content Marketing Distribution?

Mail Notification - Eminent SEOContent marketing online is generally cheaper to produce than past print- and TV-based material, and the barriers to entry are lower than they used to be. However, this content has to be released at a much faster rate than before. Online content marketing material almost always involves some amount of writing, but it goes well beyond just the company’s blog.

The most common digital content marketing channels include:

  • Social media
  • Blogs and other website articles
  • Videos
  • Email
  • White papers and eBooks
  • Infographics
  • Webinars, webcasts and podcasts
  • Online presentations, such as through SlideShare
  • Research reports

Many businesses that are committed to content marketing have also cited in-person events as an effective outlet for expanding their message.

According to the aforementioned Content Marketing Institute-MarketingProfs survey, the most effective social media platforms for B2B content marketers are (in order):

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • SlideShare
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

What it Takes to Find and Hire a Qualified Content Marketer

Now that we’re clear on what content marketing is, let’s explore the process you should put in place in order to find a highly qualified content marketer. The right candidate is going to need a mix of skills that goes beyond copywriting. You should probably establish this process as more of an audition rather than a series of interviews.

Start by Writing a Targeted Job Posting

Help Wanted Sign - Max - Eminent SEOGet the ball rolling by writing a strong job ad. This posting needs to catch a content marketer’s eye, and it needs to be clear and specific to the open position.

Using boilerplate language about your company will hurt your chances of finding the perfect candidate. You need to tailor the job posting to the specific tasks involved as well as the skills and qualities you’re looking for.

Don’t overwhelm the job seeker by listing every minute responsibility they would have. Nonetheless, you still don’t want your posting to be overly open-ended regarding which tasks they would be doing and which programs they need to know.

As far as where you should post your job ad, here are a few ideas:

  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Inbound.org
  • Glassdoor
  • We Work Remotely (if it’s OK for the marketer to not come into your office every day)
  • Your own blog or eNewsletter

What to Ask For

For your job posting’s submission requests, here’s what you should ask for:

  • A resume (not a C.V.)
  • Three links to exemplary online writing samples
  • A sample pitch email for three topics that would mesh with your company’s existing blog

On your end, the resume doesn’t need to have as much emphasis as it would for most other positions. However, it’s still important to receive one so you can see if the candidate’s history of achievement in academia and the workforce translates well to your open content marketing position.

With your candidates’ writing samples, you need to look for someone whose writing isn’t dull and who can handle relaying high-brow or technical information in an engaging way. You also want to see if they can handle writing longer pieces, such as 1,000-1,500 words or more. And finally, if the samples they gave you have social signals, take a look at those to make sure the writer has been able to reach a sizeable audience.

In the pitch email, the candidate should feature three ideas for your company’s blog. In this email, you should also look for an engaging hook, and an overallmessage that’s concise and in line with the style of communication in your industry.

Going Beyond the Resume: Putting Their Writing to the Test

For the candidates that pass your initial assessment, you should put their writing to the test with an assignment. This will give both parties an idea of what it’s like to work with each other.

Choose one pitch for each candidate and ask them to begin bringing the idea to fruition. It’s best to pick one of the pitches that’s a little out of the candidate’s wheelhouse – judging by their resume – so that they have to do some research in order to return with the first draft. Give the candidates a few days (maybe even a week) and ask for about 1,000 words.

For each applicant, if you see potential in their first draft, give them feedback and suggested revisions. Once they have acknowledged receiving your suggestions, give them two hours to return with a revised piece. This step is crucial to see if they can work on deadline. If the applicant has incorporated your suggestions to your liking and the piece meets your company standards, then he or she gets to move on to the final evaluation.

Interviewing In-Person or via Webcam

Webcam Interview - Eminent SEONo, you don’t need to wait until this far into the process to conduct the first interview. You can actually do it right before the revision deadline if you want, as it will be clear when the two-hour deadline starts – when the interview concludes or as soon as they get home. Otherwise, you can just schedule the interview sometime after the applicant submits his or her revised written assignment.

You should block out an hour for the interview, at minimum. Ideally, an interview for a qualified content marketer would last 2 to 2.5 hours. The first half should consist of you asking them questions, while the second half should be their questions for you. As you’re probably aware, if the candidate isn’t asking very many questions about the job or the company, he or she will have a harder time earning the job offer.

As you interview the applicant, you’ll get a better idea if his or her personality will mesh with your company’s culture, which will be important in a position that usually involves a lot of collaboration. You’ll also want to ask about which platforms and digital tools the candidate is comfortable with, as well as what ideas he or she has for raising brand awareness beyond simply writing a good blog post.

Making Your Final Decision

A qualified content marketer will not only be able to write for various platforms, but will also need to possess the following qualities:

  • Networking skills (online and in person)
  • Research skills
  • Basic design knowledge (image and web page)
  • An idea of which topics can generate interest
  • Basic SEO knowledge
  • Familiarity with multiple digital tools
  • Willingness to learn new programs, platforms and methods
  • Forward-thinking ideas on how to boost your marketing efforts

Interview Candidate Checklist - Eminent SEOIt can be hard to gauge each candidate’s competence in those areas based on their writing samples, the writing exercise and an interview, but you should be able to come pretty close. Some of these skills can be acquired along the way if you find an applicant who is flexible and astute enough. Once you’ve aligned all of the variables and decided on the right person, try to make your offer within a couple of days.

Also, don’t forget to notify the candidates who didn’t make the cut. They longer they made it through your process, the more detailed of an email they should receive. Tell them where they impressed you and where they could have improved. The ones who went through the ringer to land a job with your company deserve at least that much.

Now That You Have Your New Content Marketer

With your new content marketer on board, make sure to give the individual the support they need and be open to hearing their ideas on where to go next. As you read earlier, effective content marketing involves allocating a reasonable portion of your marketing budget to this area.

Even great content marketers won’t succeed if the company doesn’t have a solid strategy in place. The B2B companies that excel the most at content marketing meet weekly to discuss their strategy (not daily, not monthly, etc.), according to the CMI-MarketingProfs survey.

What are your goals with content marketing: Brand awareness? Lead generation? Engagement Boost? Customer Retention? It’s going to differ by the industry you’re in and the existing resources you have within your company. No matter what your strategy is, it’s going be much more successful if you’ve chosen the most motivated and proficient content marketer that replied to your job listing.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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Why You Shouldn’t Neglect to Optimize Your Website’s 404 Page

Neglecting To Optimize 404 Page - Eminent SEO

A 404 webpage is returned whenever a user mistypes a URL, follows an errant link, or lands on a page that has moved or been deleted.

This type of page is only returned in the event of an error, so there’s little point in putting effort into your website’s 404 offering, right? Won’t users just hit the back button if they see a 404 page, whether they were on your website immediately prior?

Well, the answers to those two questions are no and not necessarily.

Companies who take the time to fill out their website’s 404 page can demonstrate the three following characteristics:

  • Their personality
  • Their level of creativity
  • Attention to detail

Filling out your website’s 404 page signals to your existing and prospective customers that you’re thorough and that you care about your website’s user experience. There’s also some strategy involved in how you attempt to direct visitors from your 404 page. And ultimately, there’s SEO value in how you handle your 301 redirects and when the 404 page actually appears. If numbers like 404 and 301 don’t really ring a bell, learn about all of the HTTP response codes in this comprehensive list from Mozilla.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Why 404 pages appear
  • How to lay out your website’s 404 page
  • Some top examples of 404 pages across the internet
  • When to redirect 404s and when it’s OK to leave them be

Why 404 Errors Happen

Ideally, a user would never land on a 404 when trying to access any area or any file of your website. But it’s going to happen eventually. Your domain doesn’t cover every imaginable combination of letters, numbers and symbols past your .com (or whichever top-level domain extension you use), so 404s are bound to happen every once in a while, no matter how well you cover your bases with 301 redirects.

404 pages aren’t the end of the world. Someone either just flubbed a character or two in manually trying to reach a page on your site, or maybe another website or social media user tried to link to your site but errantly copied the URL. Anyone who tries to follow a faulty link will land on a 404 under your domain.

Thankfully, Google doesn’t penalize your site for returning a 404 page here or there. But if you have an inordinate amount of 404 errors on your hands, then you have a problem. Running a site-wide crawl and then 301 redirecting any broken links will fix that issue right up for you.

Besides deleting a page entirely or slightly tweaking an existing URL, 404s can also happen when you move your entire website to a new domain. You need to 301 redirect every single old URL to the equivalent version on the new site. Links to your old address will get broken if you don’t redirect them to the new domain. Think of it like forwarding your snail mail to a new address.

404 Page Optimization

While you don’t want the search engines to index your website’s 404 page, your objective here is to entice users toward another section of your site.

Besides some snappy graphics and language that makes it clear that there’s a problem with the URL, your 404 page should also maintain the same menu layout as the rest of your site. This includes an easily identifiable button (usually your logo) that takes the user to your homepage.

Here are those strategies in action, as seen on our 404 page:
Eminent SEO 404 Page Screenshot

Our error page also includes a search field so users can type in a term if they’ve deliberately landed on our website expecting to read about a certain topic.

Google itself has a few suggestions for creating 404 pages, including the idea of adding links to your most popular pages, blog posts, etc.

Adjusting URLs and Redirecting

And finally, when it comes to optimization, there are two steps you should take that don’t deal with the 404 on-page content itself, but instead concern URLs.

First, cover your bases by directing any logical misspellings of your site’s main URLs to the correct address. What this means is if you have a Services overview page, your URL will probably will look like “www.example.com/services/.” If somebody just types in “service” at the end of that string, you should have them redirected to your Services page, rather than returning a 404 for such an innocent mistake.

Another example is if your About page is structured as “www.example.com/about-us/,” make sure you have “www.example.com/about/” redirect to the correct URL. Take time to do this for every major page of your site, rather than leaving your 404 page as catch-all for common misspellings or variations of primary URLs.

Second, although your 404 page will show up for every errant URL related to your domain, make sure it actually shows up if a user searches for it directly, such as if they type in “www.example.com/404/.” You’d be surprised how many websites with even the best 404 pages have failed to get this right.

Speaking of the best 404 pages, let’s look at some shining examples across the web that may give you a little inspiration on how to flesh out your website’s error page.

Awesome 404 Page Examples

You can tell that many companies and individual website owners have fun with their 404 pages. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a chance to show off your creativity and even the personality of your business. It’s also just one more place where you can reiterate your brand strategy, as you can see in our 404 example above.

While no 404 page category has been created yet for either The Webby Awards or the American Advertising Awards (fka the ADDYs), there seems to be a healthy competition on the internet for who can serve up the greatest 404.

Beware that if you try to use copyrighted material on your 404 page, you may get sued or at least asked to remove the content in question. Two sites on this TIME “Web’s Best Error Pages” list from 2014 have found out the hard way, as you’ll no longer see images from “Dumb and Dumber” and “Jurassic Park” if you click on the links provided in the TIME article.

Here are some exemplary static and interactive 404 pages that you can find across the internet currently:

Stellar Static 404 Pages

Heinz Error Page Ketchup BottleUniversally recognized ketchup-maker Heinz could probably use an update of its website, but its error page has been catching eyeballs for years, and is still top of the line. Not only does Heinz feature its iconic ketchup bottle in a metaphorical way, but the page is optimized in a manner that lets visitors easily navigate toward other parts of the overall site.


eHarmony 404 Page Screenshot
When you land on this page, it’s readily apparent which site it belongs to. The broken heart image easily ties into eHarmony’s overall brand. The page also gives you clear options on where to go next.


Mashable 404 Page Screenshot
Awesome. Mashable’s toe-ripping-through-a-sock image on its 404 page is unforgettable. A search field is also provided and the main navigation is right at the top. This media company certainly put much more effort into its 404 page than most other national news-related sites have cared to.


CSS-Tricks 404 Page Rip
CSS-Tricks is an online community for web developers, and its 404 page plays right into its audience. The only problem here is the page offers no links to the rest of the site, or anywhere else, for that matter. Great image, though. If you look at the meta title, it explains the concept of this 404 page: “You’ve ripped a hole in the fabric of the internet. Love, Chris from CSS-Tricks.”


Impressive Interactive and Non-Static Pages

Blue Daniel 404 Page Screenshot
There’s a lot to see but not a lot to do on BlueDaniel.com, home of Daniel Karcher Film Design Studios. The homepage is just one full-browser video with audio and no clickable buttons or text. The 404 page, however, is as great as any you’ll find. It takes place in a subway station and has a moving passenger train. The motion image features posters for the TV series “LOST” and film “The Missing,” and a subway sign that reads, “Please proceed to the main level.”


Tripomatic Desert 404 Page Screenshot
Online itinerary maker Tripomatic can also make a case for best 404 page on the web. This page features a full-browser scene of a sun and moon setting over a desert landscape. The scene goes from dawn to twilight to dusk, and it loops endlessly. The website’s navigation is not featured, but there is a large button to go to the homepage.


Blue Fountain Media Pacman 404
Can’t find a page on BlueFountainMedia.com (a digital marketing agency)? No problem. Just play “Pacman” instead, as featured on the website’s popular error page. The average time on page must be insane for this creative offering.


Hot Dot 404 Page Screenshot
Hot Dot Productions, a digital artistry firm, offers an error page that features a large “404” made out of tiny, pulsating dots. The page interacts with your browser as well, changing your vantage point of the manic dots.


MailChimp 404 Page Screenshot
Email service provider MailChimp serves up a 404 page that features its recognizable mascot in an eerie forest setting. Fog slowly creeps across the frame, adding to the uneasiness. If this scene creeps you out too much, you can easily access MailChimp’s navigation at the top or search the site using the field right above the green-looking monkey.


Tinsanity 404 Page Screenshot
This error page is currently the best thing about Tinsanity.net, which has no content at the moment and a homepage that only links to two other sites. This 404 page features a panicked cup-and-straw beverage that skips frantically across the screen. There’s also some (very loud) audio to go with it.


When to Redirect 404s

Some websites are coded in a way that any time a visitor prompts a 404 error code, he or she is redirected to the homepage. This is known as a global 404 redirect. Although this seems like a viable way to keep visitors on your site when a 404 is served, it actually frustrates many users. They might think it’s a glitch, or because they came to your website looking for specific information, showing your homepage instead does nothing for them.

Instead of employing a global redirect, just take the time to spruce up your 404 page and run a site crawl to help you mitigate how many times users are receiving this error code. If some of the 404s keep coming from in house (meaning you have a navigational or other internal link that is broken), make sure you fix the error right away.

But What if I Have Backlinks to a 404 Page?

A backlink audit will tell you if other websites are still linking to a deleted or moved page within your domain. For a refresher on backlinks and to see which tools you can use to run this type of audit, click here.

If any external sites are linking to what is now a 404 page on yours, you should be choosy about which links you want to keep. If the page has simply been moved, you can 301 redirect the broken link to the new address, but it’s actually better to contact someone affiliated with the site linking to you and provide them with the new URL for the link. Links that pass through a 301 in order to reach their destination lose a little bit of power in Google’s eyes.

The above tactic should only apply if it’s a link you want to keep. If a low-quality site is linking to what is now a 404 page on your site, it’s actually not detrimental to your SEO to let the link stay as is. Backlinks from highly authoritative sites are the ones you want to uphold. Low-quality inbound links that produce a 404 error can remain in limbo.

If you’ve deleted a page that still has a link you’d like to keep, try to find the most relevant content on your site to redirect it to, or you may even want to create a new page that features the information that inspired the link in the first place. From there, you’ll either 301 redirect the link to the new page you’ve created, or you’ll reach out to the webmaster of the other site to give them the URL for your new content.

Have Fun with It

Spend some time and have a little fun with fleshing out your 404 page. Granted, you don’t want your site to return a 404 response too often, but it’s not catastrophic to have it show up once in a while. Plus, some users might get a kick out of how much creativity you put into it.

If you’d like a custom 404 page built for your website or if you need help with redirecting 404s and seeing how often they’re showing up for your visitors, contact the digital marketing and design experts at Eminent SEO today by calling 800.871.4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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How Easy Website Builders like Wix, Muse and Weebly Hurt Your SEO and Growth Efforts

Easy Website Builders - Eminent SEO

Websites today are getting easier and easier for the average user to create.

You don’t even have to be a programmer or web developer to see a website come to fruition. Some website-building services don’t even require you to know a lick of code in order to launch a new site. You can just pick a design template, drag and drop content, write a little copy, and then it’s up and live in a matter of minutes.

Because of the low level of technical skill, you’d think such a site would look pretty basic. However, some of these properties actually look pretty good on the surface, boasting modern layouts and large, high-quality images. And that’s a good portion of the battle right there when it comes to having a successful web presence.

While it’s nice to be able to put up a presentable site quickly for your customers or just anyone following you closely, these types of websites struggle with long-term growth. Such a shortcut can only get you so far.

When it comes to complying with the latest SEO developments, most easy website builders get left behind – or at best take months or years to catch up. Let’s take a look at why codeless website builders like Wix, Muse, Weebly and similar services aren’t built to help businesses scale.

How Easy Website Builders Struggle with SEO

If you’re using your website to try to reach new markets and build your clientele, using a codeless website builder is going to make that task difficult for you. This is because it’s going to be a battle to get (and keep) any page from your website to show up on the first page of search results.

Even though these easy website builders allow you to type in your own meta tags for each page, and they offer proprietary SEO-related plugins, they still fall short in many ways when it comes to helping your rank higher in search.

Here’s why:

Poor URL Categorization and Structure

When you’re organizing the navigation of your website, it’s best to keep the URLs of your main categories and sub-categories clean and succinct. The homepage and the main menu items are all considered Tier 1 pages. If you have any categories that have drop-down options beneath, those are Tier 2 pages.

In short, it’s best to not have any Tier 2, 3, etc. pages branching right off the homepage, URL-wise. For examples, for our site you will see the URL of our Services pages as https://www.eminentseo.com/services/. We then have three Tier 2 options (not counting Service Overview) that stem from our Services page (and even some Tier 3 pages not shown in the main navigation).

Eminent SEO Services Page

If you visit our Website Creation page, you’ll see this URL:

Eminent SEO Website Creation URL

It’s very important to have the main page of the “silo” in the URL before “website-creation/.” Otherwise, everything just looks like it branches off from the homepage, and Google’s web crawlers will have trouble understanding how your site flows and which pages deserve more emphasis than others.

With a Wix-created website, any page other than the homepage starts with a “#!” (sometimes referred to as a hashbang) right after the main address. Not only does this make for a messy URL, but it looks to Google like every page is just a direct extension of the homepage. Thus, it’s going to be hard for the website to rank for any of its Tier 2 or 3 pages – unless you search for the site name and specific service directly.

For example, we’ll look at one of the featured Wix sites: Butcher & Sons, a restaurant chain in Mexico.

Butcher And Sons Homepage

This site has a main menu category called “Sucursales,” which basically means “branches” or “locations” in English. The URL for the Sucursales page is:

Butcher And Sons Sucursales URL

And if you click on any of the six drop-down items under the Sucursales category, the URL will be structured as such:

Butcher And Sons Polanco URL

Notice how the top-level category, Sucursales, is disregarded when it comes to these Tier 2 pages.

Not good. And that’s no fault of Butcher & Sons.

With Tier 2 items branching right off the homepage, it’s like telling Google that all Tier 1 and 2 content is equally valuable. And for most websites, this is not the case.

As for Weebly and Adobe Muse websites, they don’t suffer from having hashbangs show up in their addresses, although many sites contain URLs ending in “.html” for their non-homepage content. This isn’t necessarily an SEO-killer, but it makes the URL longer and less eye-appealing. The best practice is to end your URLs like such: “services/.” Yes, ending with a forward slash is ideal.

Weebly sites appear to not be able to structure URLs optimally either. Tier 2 pages all seem to stem right off the home address. As for Muse, I had trouble going through its “Site of the Day” list and finding any website that even had Tier 2 pages visible from the main menu. Many of them had a menu that just directed to an anchored section of the homepage below the fold. In fact, I only found 2 out of the first 16 featured sites that had navigation that went deeper than the first tier. And when I did find such a site, all Tier 2 pages, you guessed it, branched right off from the home address. Tsk tsk.

Excessive Code

With the rise of codeless website platforms, many web developers noticed that excessive code was needed in order to make creating a website easier, particularly in Muse. In other words, lines and lines of code were used to offset the user’s lack of HTML knowledge.

Codeless website creators will have a hard time getting their content pages to rank well because search engine crawlers often have difficulty sifting through all of the extra code and figuring out what each page is about.

Excessive code also can lead to slow loading times, especially in the ever-growing world of mobile search. It should be noted that a site with slow loading times will prompt many visitors will bounce rather than wait for the entire page to load. Both slow loading times and high bounce rates cause rankings to suffer in Google Search, and people who use codeless website builders should be aware of these potential risks.

SSL Certificate Difficulty

If you’d like to upgrade the security of your website, obtaining an SSL certificate can be problematic with Weebly and impossible with Wix. SSL certificates create trust with your visitors and customers, and they’re projected to become a ranking factor in Google Search in the near future.

More on SSL certificates here.

With a Wix-created website, you actually don’t own your own content. They do. And since they basically own your website, you can’t add an SSL certificate whatsoever.

If you decide to add Wix’s shopping cart to your website, that will be SSL-protected, but otherwise, you’re out of luck with adding a site-wide security certificate. I’ll further explain the pitfalls of not being the sole proprietor of your website in a moment.

Weebly and Muse both allow you to add an SSL certificate to your domain, with some stipulations.

  • Weebly highly encourages you to purchase your SSL certificate through them. However, what they offer isn’t among the strongest types of such certificates on the market.
  • For an SSL certificate on a Muse-created site, you’ll have to go through your website host and a third party.

From looking through the featured websites on Weebly and Muse, it’s noticeable that most site owners aren’t utilizing an SSL certificate. Perhaps quite a few in the bunch don’t even know what an SSL certificate is – speculation of course.

You’re Not in Full Control of Your Content and Website

With Wix, you’re actually not in sole control of your own website. It may appear that way, but that’s all smoke and mirrors. While Wix’s Terms of Use says that you own all rights to any content you upload to your site, there’s this stipulation:

Wix Terms Of Use Ownership

This means Wix can modify the content on your site, remove it, or even feature or reuse it elsewhere. Your entire site could even be included on the platform’s featured websites page. But what if you don’t want to shout to the world that you’re using the Wix platform?

Wix Example Websites - ESEO

Other codeless website builders don’t infringe on your submitted content as deeply as Wix does, but they still retain to right to move or delete your material, especially if it’s copyright-protected, indecent or spammy. These platforms make it clear that you’re on your own if material you upload gets you into legal trouble.

Also, if you try to move your codeless-created website over to another content management system, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible. With Wix, you can pretty much just copy and paste what you have, but you can’t download a page into a file that can be uploaded elsewhere.

As far as all Wix, Weebly and similar codeless website builders go, don’t even think about taking any of their graphics, templates, proprietary stock images, etc. over to another site. Only your original content can be taken and reused if you decide to create a website elsewhere.

The Times When Codeless Website Builders Can Work

Looking over the featured websites on Wix, Weebly and Muse, I see a lot of small restaurants, web design agencies, architecture firms and individual actors, pastors, public speakers, local bands and the like. Basically, these sites are like a slightly bigger about.me page.

You can think of a codeless-created website like a starter home. It’s affordable, it’s manageable, it works for the time being, and it allows you to get a sense of what you like and don’t like before you upgrade your space down the road. It’s also better than not having any site at all when it comes to handing out business cards or imploring your social media followers to visit your personal online space.

Like I mentioned earlier, many of the sites created this way actually look pretty good, as they are heavy on the visuals. Most codeless website builders even support shopping cart integration, so you can get a small ecommerce business off the ground. Overall, these types of sites are decent if you’re a one-person business or a startup with no coding experience and a tight budget.

Other popular easy website builders that require little to no coding include:

  • SiteBuilder.com
  • WebsiteBuilder.com
  • Web.com
  • Webs.com
  • Sitey.com
  • Sitelio.com
  • eHost.com
  • Squarespace.com

But You Want to Grow, Don’t You?

If you want to use your website as a means to help your business grow, relying on a codeless-built site is going to make that mission difficult. This is because an SEO strategy is hard to execute with these platforms. You saw that not only does Wix produce messy URLs, but Weebly and Muse both struggle with proper URL structure. That’s just one of many drawbacks.

Although Wix had the most minuses in the SEO analysis above, a common theme among all easy website builders is they seem to lag behind when it comes to Google’s changing standards, such as algorithm updates and ranking factors.

For example, Wix and Weebly didn’t jump into the responsive design game until somewhere between late 2014 and early 2015. Adobe Muse’s homepage didn’t tout the platform’s responsive capabilities until late 2015, and it still advertises this feature like it’s a new thing.

Adobe Muse Homepage Responsive Design

Your best bet at long-term growth is to find a digital marketing company that can not only create and host your website, but also implement a sound SEO strategy so your content ranks high in the search results. Eminent SEO has a team that excels in these and related strategies in order to help clients large and small succeed with their online presence. Click to learn more about our Website Creation services, or call 800.871.4130 today.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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Like It or Not, Vertical Video is Here to Stay: How Marketers, Brands Can Adjust

Vertical Video - Upright Or Sideways - Eminent SEO

Trying to watch an entire video that was shot vertically might be like nails on a chalkboard to a design expert or videographer. However, much to their chagrin, vertical video has expanded well beyond Snapchat and isn’t going away anytime soon.

It seems to fly in the face common of sense, but a market has emerged for vertical video. Just a few years ago, most of us were making the switch from 4:3 monitors and television sets to widescreen versions. Now, a significant amount of the media we watch and interact with is being presented vertically, not horizontally.

How did this happen? You can credit (or blame) mobile devices for this movement. As our smartphones have gotten more powerful and as most families own at least one tablet device, we are quickly moving toward a mobile-first world.

Let’s take a look at the arguments for vertical video, why the format will likely be around for years to come, and how advertising and marketing departments can capitalize on the movement. But, before we do that, let’s look at why vertical video gets the goat of so many who claim to be experts in the aesthetics of moving imagery.

Why Vertical Video Sucks

You may have thought we’re living in a widescreen world, but the vertical video movement is pushing back at that notion.

How did this happen? A common complaint about trying to watch a video in this format goes to the effect of, “My eyes aren’t stacked vertically on my head!”

Yes, we naturally see the world horizontally. We generally like to see the full context and background of whatever subject on which we happen to currently have our focus. This explains why television screens and computer monitors have evolved to replicate, as closely as possible, our natural field of vision.

Yet, more and more people are serving up video in a vertical format. You can thank apps like Snapchat and Periscope for this phenomenon, or maybe just blame the orientation of smartphones and perhaps sheer laziness by their owners.

Vertical video has been getting on consumers’ nerves for several years now. Some even claim that the format is evidence of a rise of narcissism in society, since it’s usually one person filming themselves. In 2012, a popular video was released that claims to be a public service announcement on “Vertical Video Syndrome.”

“Vertical videos happen when you hold your camera the wrong way,” the lighthearted, humorous video says. “Your video will end up looking like crap,” it adds.

This so-called PSA came out about a year after the creation of Snapchat. Even then, its creators recognized that too many smartphone users were forgoing turning their devices sideways when shooting video. Today, vertical video is even more prominent, and many former horizontal advocates are finally giving in.

Perhaps the reason vertical video gets on the nerves of so many is quite a few of us think in terms of YouTube when consuming and producing visual content. A vertical video might play well on a phone, but once if it gets uploaded to YouTube, an excessive amount of pillarboxing (empty, black bars on the left and right) accompanies the footage inside the video player.

Why Vertical Video Does Not Suck

Let’s put aside any personal distaste for vertical video for a moment and take a level-headed look at why the format is excelling and why it legitimately has a place in today’s digital world.

Cellphones are getting larger and larger, and they’re getting harder to hold steadily in one hand, even for those of us with large hands. Turning the phone sideways to shoot video almost always takes two hands to operate the device, and there are certain times where that’s a luxury some users just don’t have. Shooting a video with the phone held upright can usually be accomplished with one hand, so there’s little reason to fault people for not being gung-ho about turning the phone horizontally.

Also, sometimes framing a video vertically just makes sense. It works for certain photos, after all. If you really want to get a tight focus on a single subject – a person or an object – then a vertical orientation could work really well. And it’s not just that it can work really well, it is working really well in the current smartphone- and tablet-laden environment, as more and more users are feeling comfortable with watching and shooting such videos.

This tweet sums up the best situations in which to shoot a vertical video:

Several Signs that Vertical Video Is a Legit Movement

You don’t have to look too far to see that vertical video is a viable movement and isn’t going away any time soon. Here are a few examples that extend beyond the realms of Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat, etc.:

Vervid

Vervid is a website and iPhone app that allows users to create and share short videos with an aspect ratio of 9:16 (as opposed to the widescreen dimensions of 16:9). This company appears to be on a mission to make vertical video a mainstay.

Verly

Verly is an online marketplace for stock vertical imagery, with video clips available across 30 different categories and ranging in price from $15 to $79.

Verly Vertical Video Screenshot

Vimeo

You will see pillarboxing around a vertically-shot video on the desktop version of Vimeo, but the video controls actually fit inside the narrow frame with the actual footage, rather than spread across the entire media player, as seen on YouTube.

Vimeo Vertical Video Screenshot

Vertical Film Festival

The Vertical Film Festival takes place in Austrailia and features short, 9:16 submissions. The festival is actually coming up on its second annual celebration, which will take place on May 21, 2016.

Vertical Film Festival Australia

Photo from the 1st annual Vertical Film Festival in Australia. (Facebook Photo/Vertical Film Festival)

Vertical Video Trailers

A YouTube account named “Vertical Video Trailers” has emerged, where it appears the account creator has just taken the traditional trailers of movies and cropped them to fit a vertically oriented device. These clips will have pillarboxing when viewed on a desktop, but if you take them full screen on your phone, they will fill out the available space.

The Stats Back it Up

If the above examples are a little too anecdotal to convince you of vertical video’s newfound prominence, let take a look at a few statistics provided by Snapchat and Verly:

  • Vertical video ads are watched all the way through 9 times more than horizontal video ads on Snapchat.
  • Smartphone users hold their phones vertically about 94 percent of the time.
  • Brands that are producing vertical video are seeing a 73 percent average completion rate.
  • Viewing of vertical content has jumped 600 percent over the last five years.
  • More than 7 billion video clips are viewed daily on Snapchat, a majority of which are vertically filmed.
  • Consumers use vertically oriented devices 30 percent of the time, up from just 5 percent in 2010. This means desktop, laptop and television screens aren’t dominating consumers’ attention the way they used to.

What About YouTube?

Last year, a Business Insider video producer created a vertical video about vertical video and embedded the YouTube version on his company’s website without any pillarbox showing.

Business Insider YouTube Vertical VideoHowever, if you click to see the video directly in YouTube, a significant amount of pillarboxing fills the widescreen frame.

This indicates that Business Insider must have adjusted the video embed code so the clip shows up perfectly on the page with its accompanying article. In fact, if I dig into the source code of the page, it looks like the width of the video player was changed to 400 pixels and the height changed to 711.

So, while you can manipulate the code of a vertical YouTube video to display correctly on your own site, it won’t look all too great on the popular video platform itself unless you’re viewing it on a phone and you make it full screen. If vertical video creators can eventually convince YouTube to fully cater to their 9:16 content, there’s no telling how far the format will continue to go. But, so far, YouTube is still a little behind the curve, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

How Advertisers, Marketers Can Capitalize on Vertical Video’s Success

Although you can certainly find examples of vertically-shot video and content pre-2010, the format’s viability is currently undeniable in today’s digital climate.

It’s still a rather fresh trend, so brands are still trying to figure out how to capitalize on the format’s success. If you’re in advertising or marketing, keep reading for a few ideas on how to get you started with creating and leveraging vertical video.

Leveraging Snapchat

Many media companies are on Snapchat Discover to provide video and photo content for users on this platform. Your company can try to get on Snapchat Discover, or if you’re a smaller business, you’ll just make a pleas for your Facebook or Twitter followers to find your Snapchat business account. Be sure to hide your phone number, as it will likely be one person whose personal phone will be logged in as the business.

However, make sure your business’s Snapchat Stories can be viewed by the public, not just “friends” of the company. If you can see Stories and individual snaps by users who have friended the company, feel free to interact appropriately and keep your brand on the mind of these users.

Shooting Other Vertical Content

Perhaps, your company periodically shares video to its social accounts, just maybe not vertically oriented clips. You can start changing that today.

Videos shot vertically will play well in Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram. You don’t always have to shoot such videos with a phone, either. You can use a higher-powered camcorder and just turn the device 90 degrees, or find a tripod where the camera mount can tilt and still hold the device sideways.

Better yet, use your camcorder to shoot a video with a landscape orientation. And when you have a single subject within a certain shot, just keep it in the focal point in the middle of the frame. This way, you can always crop the footage to a vertical orientation using video-editing software.

You can then share that video to Facebook, Twitter and such, but you have options if you want to use the widescreen version for other platforms, such as YouTube. Companies like Mashable, Vox and National Geographic are known for shooting videos horizontally but cropping some of them down to appear vertically on certain platforms.

Video Length

Vertical video seems to work best for brands when clips are short – as in 1 minute or less. If you look at the submissions to last year’s Vertical Film Festival, most of those “films” didn’t even linger past 3 minutes. While more content consumers are opening up to vertical video, the clips are still difficult for the average viewer to watch for long periods of time.

If you don’t shoot video too often, you can get started by purchasing vertical content from the aforementioned Verly and then adding graphics or a few seconds of your own footage to the mix. Producing high-quality vertical video can help your company succeed on mobile and open itself up to new audiences.

It’s Good to Have Options

Personally, I find vertical video hard to take in, other than on Snapchat and maybe Twitter. However, after digging deeper into the trend, it’s not hard to see the value and the opportunity the format provides, even though it does take some getting used to.

Are we going to start seeing tall, narrow movie theater screens, desktop monitors and TVs? Not likely, although monitors that can rotate 90 degrees may start gaining popularity.

Now that we know vertical video is viable, it’s just another tool in the arsenal when it comes to how to shoot and produce footage that can be used on social media, a company’s website, a presentation, etc. Whether a video needs to be vertical comes down to:

  1. The device you’re using,
  2. The type and number of subjects you’re recording, and
  3. How you want users to view the final product.

A general design rule applies here: If it’s the right format for the right context, it’s usually a success. User experience can go well beyond a website and now apply to the format of videos as well. Whether you personally like vertically filmed video, as marketers and video creators, it’s time to adapt or get left out of the frame.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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To App or Not to App: Should You Put More Resources into a Mobile Site or Mobile App?

Mobile Site Or Mobile App - Eminent SEO

“There’s an app for that.”

There’s an app for almost anything now. And this might be a problem.

If your business is ready to ramp up its online and mobile marketing, it may be enticing to jump into the app game. But, before you do that, let’s temper that excitement a bit and take a hard look at exactly the market you’d be getting into.

Smartphone usage continues to climb, but the app craze of the early 2010s appears to have died down to an extent. That’s not to say smartphone users aren’t still loading up their hard drives with apps and that some businesses aren’t excelling on the app front, but your company should be cautious before making the leap into the marketplace.

An alternative to entering the app field is to upgrade your existing website’s mobile experience. In a recent blog post, we explained the rationale and logistics of making a website mobile-friendly. Now, we’ll look at what’s worth more of your time and resources in 2016: a mobile app or your mobile site?

The Mobile Web Landscape

Mobile traffic and search queries began overtaking their desktop counterparts in 2014. It’s worth noting that desktop traffic continuously grew from 1990 to about 2010 and has since leveled off, although it remains consistent.

So, while internet usage via desktop has remained steady over the last few years, mobile web traffic is on a meteoric rise. When comparing mobile web browser traffic to app traffic, mobile websites are seeing more than 2 times the number of unique visitors, according to a 2015 Morgan Stanley report.

However, loyalties to mobile websites aren’t as strong as they are for apps, and that’s both a good and a bad thing for the mobile internet. Smartphone users spend a great amount of time in their apps – 87 percent of their total time on a smartphone, to be exact, according to a 2015 comScore report. This means individual sessions in an app are usually much, much longer than they are on a specific mobile website.

The Mobile App Landscape

Phone Apps - Eminent SEOAlthough mobile apps comprise most of the time we spend on our smartphones, a majority of users aren’t just seeking out the latest and freshest apps to download. Here are some sobering facts to keep in mind as you consider jumping into the app market:

  • Separate reports from Forrester Research and Nielsen over the last couple of years have found that while smartphone owners use an average of about 25 different apps each month, only their top five apps (which differs by person) are getting a lot of love – more than 80 percent of a user’s total time in any app, in fact.
  • As of late 2014, according to Forrester Research, users spent a disproportionately high amount of time in the five following apps: Facebook, YouTube, Maps, Pandora and Gmail. You may have noticed that Google owns three of those properties.
  • The app market is only seeing serious download activity from the top 7 percent of all smartphone owners who download and use apps. This small demographic of serial app downloaders is actually responsible for 50 percent of all download activities.
  • A strong majority (65.5 percent) of smartphone users don’t download a single app over the course of a month, according to a 2014 comScore report. Of those who do make a download within a month’s time, most are only adding 1-3 apps in that span.
  • According to Forrester, social media and communication (WhatsApp, etc.) apps consume 21 percent of all smartphone minutes, not counting phone calls and text messaging. Gaming, streaming video, news, weather, music and sports apps also take up large chunks of smartphone owners’ time.
  • Apps tend to keep much of their traffic contained. This means that smartphone users are generally more hesitant to click a link and leave an app than they would be when on a mobile site, or even the desktop version of a site.

Analyzing Mobile Apps vs. The Mobile Web

You may have seen that apps beat the mobile web by a landslide when it comes to what takes up a user’s time on a smartphone. However, you also learned that mobile websites see much more traffic as a whole than apps do.

There is a quasi-monopoly on the app market. Google and Facebook mobile programs are dominating the competition. Other apps have found success, but they don’t account for nearly the amount of usage that Google and Facebook properties do.

On the other hand, the mobile web seems to be fostering healthier competition. Mobile web users appear to spread their attention over a wider range of properties, and they’re more likely to find a site they’ve never visited before.

Mobile web looks like the clear winner here going forward, but before we discuss how you can get a leg up on the competition with your mobile website, let’s look at a couple of cases where an app might still be worth your time.

Where a Mobile App Would Make Sense

If you run a small local business or a B2B type of company, putting your money and time into an app this year will likely be a waste of resources.

However, for certain businesses, a mobile app could be a great way to extend the experience for someone who has interacted with the company before. This means that the individual has walked into your store or is well acquainted with your website.

A mobile app could enhance the experience a customer has already had with your business. For example, many sandwich and coffee shops have moved from punch cards to an online app when tracking customers’ visits. It’s a sensible upgrade, and very helpful to the customer, when done right.

Schlotzsky’s Lotz4Me app records how many sandwiches you have eaten until you’ve earned a free one, and you can use the app to see the sandwich chain’s menu and all locations.

Schlotzskys Lotz4Me - Eminent SEO

The app also features company news and offers, some of which can get pushed to alert your phone. Mobile websites lack the latter capability. As you might imagine, some of the information from the company’s website (locations, menu and even news) has been repurposed to fit in the app, but it all helps build a better experience than simply seeing how close you are to a free sandwich.

Apps such as these are a logical extension of a business’s normal offerings, whether they usually take place online or face-to-face. A supplemental asset like this helps lead to more purchases down the road, while also building more loyalty to and appreciation of the specific company.

The national sandwich chain example might not be the best one if you own a restaurant or other type of local business with only one physical location. Asking your customers to download an app when you only have one locale might be a stretch, but perhaps you now have a few ideas on what makes for an effective app for the average business.

SaaS Success

It’s worth mentioning that software as a service (SaaS) companies can excel on the app platform, too. If they can get their product in an app form to work as well as their desktop version, then it’s a win for them and their customers. Even so, you’ll notice that this situation still only applies to users who have had prior experience with the company behind the app.

Apps aren’t generally a great way for an existing brand to grow its audience. Users either download your app because they’ve done business with you in some other setting, or they just never even find out or care about your app. The average smartphone user isn’t scrolling through Google Play or the App Store just looking for another app to download. Many have phone storage limitations to worry about, anyway.

If you do go the app route, you may not put up Facebook- or Google-like numbers, but you can still find success on the platform if you’re able to create a worthwhile experience – one that differs from your website – for your existing customer base.

Making Your Mobile Site Competitive

Eminent SEO Mobile ScreenshotCreating a mobile app only works in specific circumstances, so if those conditions don’t apply to your business, take the resources you were going to put into an app this year and direct them toward your website.

This starts with infusing your website with responsive design. How to test your site’s responsiveness and how to get started on making it mobile-friendly were previously covered in one of our recent blog posts. See here.

Having a mobile-friendly site helps with search engine rankings, and it helps you better compete on the mobile web, where many big opportunities await. From there, it’s all about employing the best SEO practices and keeping your site replenished with plenty of appetizing, worthwhile content.

Instead of spending time having a developer create an app, go back and evaluate how your site looks and functions on various screen sizes. What needs to be present? What can be condensed or hidden? Your content team should get together with your developer and make sure your site is providing the best possible user experience on devices of all sizes.

And finally, your site’s pages need to load fast. Even a 2-second delay can make all the difference between a bounce from your site and a conversion. Google’s PageSpeed Insights will let you know if any pages on your site load slowly and what you can do to speed them up.

Google PageSpeed Insights - ESEO

Speeding Up Your Website

Here are some quick steps you can take to get your website running more smoothly and quickly, especially on mobile devices:

  • Reduce scripts and move them to the bottom of the page.
  • Mitigate the number of plugins your site utilizes. Deactivate and delete any plugins you no longer need.
  • Compress entire pages with tools like Gzip.
  • Enable browser caching, which benefits return visitors.
  • Crop your images to the exact size they’ll be displayed in a desktop browser. Remove any image comments in the file. Reduce the color depth of all images to 150 dpi or lower. Never use BMP or TIFF files.
  • Make sure you don’t have pages using more than one external CSS style sheet. To see if you have more than one external style sheet on any given page, use this tool.
  • If you have any elements that load slowly but are must-haves, consider moving them well below the fold, so at least the top of the page loads quickly.

Conclusion

Although Google has begun indexing content from mobile apps  meaning it can show up in the search results, mobile web still appears to be the clear winner when it comes to where you should invest your marketing dollars in 2016. It behooves you to put your focus into competing on the mobile SERPs (search engine results pages) rather than in the App Store or Google Play.

If users aren’t as loyal to individual websites as they are to their top five apps, that means there’s a good chance they’ll eventually turn their attention to your site and see what you have to offer them. You’ll have a better chance on that front than you will with trying to woo new customers in the app marketplace.

There are some instances where an app makes sense, as mentioned earlier, but in most cases, mobile web appears to be the way to go.

To get help from a team that can make your website mobile-friendly and more competitive in the world of mobile search, talk to the Eminent SEO team. Just call 800.871.4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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What is an SSL Certificate and Why Should Your Website Make the Upgrade?

What Is An SSL Certificate - Eminent SEO

Going off our last post on responsive design, another area where you should try to upgrade your website in 2016 is security.

Just as you likely enjoy logging into certain websites and knowing that your information and passwords are kept secure, so should you try to foster the same experience for each of your online visitors. Especially if your website has a shopping cart, you need to make sure that the sensitive information your customers enter doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Not only could you lose visitors by not having a secure site (even if they only log in to post comments), but many SEO-related ramifications are latent for websites that have yet to upgrade their security.

In this comprehensive blog post, we take a closer look at:

  • What exactly is an SSL certificate
  • The different kinds of security certificates
  • The rationale behind upgrading your site’s security
  • How you can approach the upgrade process

SSL Certificate Definition and its Usefulness

SSL stands for “secure socket(s) layer.” It’s a type of technology that establishes a secure connection between a user’s browser and the hosting server of the website he or she is visiting, so long as the website has a valid SSL certificate. The certificate is made up of a digital computer file or small piece of code. Generally, SSL certificates are only valid for one domain (web address) and corresponding server at a time.

When someone is visiting an SSL-certified website, they are essentially handed their own personal key to unscramble the content of the site and view it normally for the entirety of their desired session. All communication between the user and the website (or the hosting server, more specifically) during this time is encrypted, meaning hackers can’t spy on the user’s session, insert malware and steal personal information.

Besides individual websites, SSL is also valuable for sending and receiving secure email, files, instant messages and other forms of sensitive information.

How to Look for an SSL Certificate

To see if a certain website has an SSL certificate, open up the site and look to the left-hand side of the address bar. Look for a padlock icon and possibly some other information that precedes the actual URL of the site.

Take our site, for example. Your browser should show you the padlock icon and our full company name before the URL. Below is what it looks like in the Firefox browser. The way Chrome displays it is not much different.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

If you actually click in that area, you will be given even more information about the company that operates the website as well as the third-party Certificate Authority (CA) that verified and approved the site’s security.

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how that information is shown in Chrome:

Eminent SEO SSL Certificate Chrome Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On some websites, you may only see the padlock icon to denote an SSL certificate. This icon is still clickable and can show you the issuing certificate authority. Take one of our favorite websites for SEO-related news and advice, Moz, for example.

Moz SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

There’s a reason the business’s name doesn’t show up in the address bar ahead of the URL. I’ll get to that phenomenon later.

Another attribute to look for in a secure website is an “s” in the protocol of the URL. In other words, look for “https” instead of the previous standard of “http.” You’re probably seeing dozens, if not hundreds, of sites slightly updating their addresses in this manner. All the HTTPS stands for is “secure hypertext transfer protocol.”

You also might see HTTPS called one of the following:

  • HTTP over TLS
  • HTTP over SSL
  • HTTP Secure

What is Transport Layer Security (TLS)?

SSL has actually long been phased out by a similar technology called transport layer security (TLS). However, it’s still common for techies and certificate authorities to say SSL when referring to either technology. For some reason, the term “TLS certificate” never really caught on.

Both SSL and TLS are also known as cryptographic protocols. If you’re wondering, the internet is now actually up to TLS 1.2, while version 1.3 is supposedly in the works.

Different Types, Strengths of SSL Certificates

Not all SSL certificates are created equal. Some companies can even sign their own SSL certificate, although this isn’t the recommended route. Below is an overview of some of the most common SSL certificates on the market:

  • Self-signed certificate: A basic certificate generated for internal purposes and not issued by a certificate authority. This type of certificate obviously isn’t fully authenticated nor as strong as an SSL certificate issued by a CA.
  • Domain validated certificate: A quick verification check is performed to ensure the applicant owns the domain for which he or she wants an SSL certificate. The applicant can get away with not even being a valid business entity, however, which is why this kind is considered an entry level SSL certificate.
  • Fully authenticated SSL certificate: The business needs to pass a number of validation procedures and checks to receive this type of certificate for a domain. These certificates take longer to obtain, but they denote a stronger level of online security.
  • Wildcard certificate: For websites with several subdomains, a wildcard certificate is a sensible option to secure the entire collection. For example, Yahoo’s subdomains show up as sports.yahoo.com, news.yahoo.com, etc. Yahoo is secure domain, and may very well be utilizing a wildcard certificate.
  • SAN (subject alternate name) certificate: This kind of certificate is similar to a wildcard one, but it allows more than one domain to be included in a single SSL certificate. This type works for websites with one or more microsites, but it takes time for each domain to be verified and authenticated before a CA issues the certificate.
  • Extended validation (EV) SSL certificates: Websites with this type of certificate have met the highest standards for authentication. The address bar turns green in most browsers when a user visits an EV SSL-certified website. The true owner of the domain and its country of origin will be displayed in green in the address bar. For reference, check out our site, which recently received its EV SSL certification.

The SEO Value of SSL Certificates

Google is continually making moves to make the web a more secure place. And, by golly, what Google wants, Google usually gets.

HTTPS Pages First

In 2014, websites and individual web pages an HTTPS prefix began to get a leg up in the search engine rankings. Near the end of 2015, Google announced through its Webmaster Central Blog that it will start to index the HTTPS version of web pages first, as we wrote about in our January newsletter. Several websites have HTTPS and HTTP versions of the very same page. Even if a site’s navigation directs a user to only HTTP pages, Google will still soon take the HTTPS version of those pages, if available, and feature those in the search results.

Flagging Unsecured Websites

As reported on Motherboard last month, Google appears set to flag unencrypted sites as insecure in the near future. Presenters at the Enigma security themed conference in San Francisco postulated how this might look on Chrome browsers. As you may have seen on HTTPS sites that are actually not secure, Chrome will display a padlock icon with a red “x” over it to the left of the URLs of unsecured websites.

Here’s what the icon looks like if you enable higher security settings in Chrome.

CNN No SSL Certificate Icon

 

 

As speculated, Google may soon deploy that icon on all HTTP sites across the web for Chrome users.

Motherboard noted that Mozilla and Apple have also jumped on the web encryption train, and that the U.S. government has called for all .gov sites to be upgraded to HTTPS by the end of 2016. Ironically, Motherboard itself is not an HTTPS website, but who’s counting?

Upgrading Your Website to HTTPS

So, all of the big players on the internet already have their sites upgraded to HTTPS, right? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

News organizations seem to be lagging behind when it comes to obtaining their SSL certificate. Big names like CNN, The New York Times, USA Today and more all still have non-secure protocols – as of this writing, at least.

Other major websites are part-HTTP, part-HTTPS. If you type “Amazon.com” in the address bar in Firefox (or if you just search Google for “Amazon”), you will be taken to an HTTP homepage. All navigational and product pages are also non-secure from there.

Amazon HTTP No SSL Certificate

However, as soon as you try to log in or view your shopping cart, you will be taken to an HTTPS page.

Amazon Sign In Security Icon

Amazon actually does work it you type “https” at the start of its URL in Firefox, or if you type just “Amazon.com” in the Chrome address bar, so the company must be in the process, however long, of fully securing its massive site – or at least making sure the user only gets directed to HTTPS pages.

If your website has a shopping cart or any page that asks to user to log in and give some amount of personal information, then you need to look into get those pages secured right away. Users will flee if they can’t trust your website to protect their personal info. A 2014 survey in the U.K. found that 85 percent of online shoppers avoid unsecured websites when making a purchase.

Certificate Authority Options

Now that you’re surely convinced your website needs its SSL certificate, let’s look at some reputable CAs that can vet your company and issue the most reliable seals of approval.

Symantec, producer of the popular Norton AntiVirus software, claims to have secured two-thirds of all websites that have an extended validation SSL certificate. The annual price for Symantec to be your CA is quite high, though. Below are some other CA options, ranked by highest to lowest annual fee for a starter certificate:

Website Security for 2016 and Beyond

While Google has yet to announce that it will no longer feature any HTTP content in its search results, I wouldn’t put it past the web leaders to make such a move in the far-off future. Start upgrading your site’s security today so it won’t get left behind in search if Google ever decides to make such a drastic move.

A legitimate SSL certificate for your website not only helps with organic search engine rankings, but it also lets your visitors know that they have found the authentic domain for your business, rather than a specious alternative that scammers often like to create.

If you’re short on time to undergo the often arduous, long-winded task of receiving an extended validation SSL certificate, Eminent SEO can find and work with a trusted CA on your behalf, as part of our Website Development Services.

In our next post on developments to look for in 2016, we’ll explore the difference between mobile websites and mobile apps and let you know which one is more worthy of your investment going forward.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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What Is Responsive Design and Why Your Website Should Have It in 2016

What Is Responsive Design - Eminent SEO

What Is Responsive Design?

C’mon, it’s 2016. Time to get with it already. If I land on your website from my smartphone and I have to “pinch to zoom” to read some of your text or see images in their entirety, I’m bouncing off the page.

Also, if the only suitable mobile representation of your company is an app or mobile-only website (such as m.website.com), I’m probably not going to be too happy either.

Robert Downey Eye Roll - Eminent SEO

This is because your website needs responsive design, an ability to deliberately adapt to screens large and small. Websites across the internet have been making the upgrade over the last few years, and just last year Google puts its final say on the matter by de-emphasizing sites that aren’t responsive.

Wait, doesn’t everybody have a responsive design? You’d be surprised. Take Reddit, for example. Other websites utilize responsive design but aren’t all too happy about it.

If your website is a little older and not optimized for mobile devices, 2016 is the year you should make the upgrade to responsive design. No more excuses. You owe it to your company and your website visitors to make your site responsive. While you’re at it, you might as well revamp the appearance of the site and its navigation, while also reviewing your current content and then cleaning it up and making it better.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what responsive design is and how you can go about implementing it in the near future.

‘Mobile-Friendly’ vs. ‘Responsive Design’?

The terms “responsive design” and “mobile-friendly” are close to being synonyms, and they’re often used interchangeably on blogs, web forums, social media, etc. Responsive design means the website can shrink or expand to fit all devices, whether a smartphone, tablet, monitor or even a TV screen.

A responsive website is mobile-friendly, but not all mobile-friendly sites are responsive. Some mobile-friendly sites simply shrink to fit your smartphone, appearing just as their desktop equivalents, only smaller. This isn’t true responsive design.

Responsive design also means that elements of the website will condense or disappear from the page as the device gets smaller and smaller, yet the layout and organization still makes sense to the user. The horizontal navigation on responsive websites usually gets condensed into a drop-down “hamburger”-style menu (although some designers are now advocating against the icon), as you can see with the green button below..

Mobile Eminent SEO Screenshot

Responsive design isn’t just about making a website look pretty no matter the device. It’s about fostering a great user experience no matter the device.

Many companies used to get around upgrading to a mobile-friendly website by building a separate phone app that looked and functioned very similarly to the desktop version of the site. Others created sub-domain sites with an “m” right before the website’s name, and these such sites featured either standalone mobile pages or stripped-down versions of the desktop equivalents.

Mobile IMDb Screenshot - Eminent SEO

You don’t have to go either route anymore. Some businesses still have legitimate reasons for creating a separate mobile app, but we don’t recommend doing this in lieu of making the main website mobile-friendly.

Google Rankings and Users’ Habits: The Importance of Responsive Design

SEO analysts disagree on the exact month when mobile search first began to overshadow that of desktop, but it looks like it happened somewhere between mid-2014 and early 2015. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous now, and users are becoming more and more comfortable with turning to their phones first, rather than their desktop or laptop computers, to search the web, use apps, go on social media, etc. Mobile usage, including mobile search, is only going to continue to get more dominant in 2016.

Another game-changer that happened around the same time as mobile search’s rise to the crown was a Google algorithm update that began to accommodate mobile-friendly sites. This means that sites that weren’t responsive saw a dip in their search engine rankings. When you’re searching Google from a smartphone, you’ll even see the term “Mobile-friendly” show up before the meta descriptions of the applicable pages.

I searched for “Flower Store Phoenix” on my smartphone, and here are my results:

Flower Store Phoenix Mobile Search

There actually are some slight variations between the results after searching for the same term on a mobile phone and a desktop computer. Here is my search for the same term, but this time from a desktop:

Flower Store Phoenix Google Search

What’s interesting to note is that tablets don’t count as mobile searches, according to Google. The mobile-friendly algorithm update of 2015 only impacted searches via smartphones, not on tablets, laptops or desktops. Even if having a non-mobile-friendly site doesn’t negatively impact your rankings in mobile search, you’re missing out on scores of additional visitors because smartphone use is so prevalent now.

If users can’t find your site in mobile search and smartphones are the No. 1 device for search now, how can you expect your website’s visitation to grow?

Responsive Websites are a Part of Branding, After All

Making a website mobile-friendly is actually a component of a strong brand strategy. How? If somebody happens to have visited your site from a desktop before, they might land on your site on mobile search one day and say, “Hey, I’ve been here before.” But, if you’ve built a mobile site that looks and operates much differently than your primary site, then you have a disconnect in your branding.

Also, those who have visited your website via desktop and are familiar with the breadth of your content and navigation should have no trouble accessing your site with their smartphone and finding their way around, even if the navigation gets condensed into a hamburger menu. Making your site adjust easily to all screen sizes is a good strategy for keeping your longtime visitors around, as well as inviting and retaining new ones.

How to Test for Responsive Design

Not sure if your website already has responsive design? Not to worry. There are several free online tools you can use to give you the answer.

First, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your homepage or any sub-page of your website is responsive. Just type in any URL from your site, and Google will analyze it and provide you with the answer.

Second, you can go to ResponsiveTest.net and play around with different dimensions of your website. Just type in your URL at the top of the page. If elements of the site rearrange themselves, grow, shrink, etc., then you’ll know you have responsive design.

Eminent SEO Responsive Test Screen Size

A way to test your site without visiting another website is to take your browser out of full screen. Hover your cursor over the bottom-right of your browser and then shrink the window slowly. Shrink and enlarge it as much as you want, and see if elements of your website rearrange, compress, disappear and reappear. If so, great! Your work is done (unless you notice that the website could look a little better at certain sizes).

Difference Between Responsive and Adaptive Web Design

You may have heard the term “adaptive web design” as well. This has to do with coding the website for pre-defined dimensions and deciding what to fit on the screen and what to leave out. For example, the developer would have to code the website differently for smartphone, tablet and desktop/laptop monitor sizes.

In short, adaptive design takes more work than responsive, and you end up spending more money because your developer will need more time to complete all of that work. It also could put you in a bind as new devices with unique screen sizes hit the market in the future.

Some say a responsive website takes a little longer to load than a site with adaptive design, but pretty much everybody is focusing on responsive design right now. In fact, some developers would argue that adaptive design is a component of the responsive process, since you still want to test the look of your website at some of the more common screen sizes, even though responsive allows the site to adjust to any device.

The aforementioned ResponsiveTest.net gives you options for viewing your website at the screen sizes of dozens of the most popular devices on the market. Just look to the upper-right corner of the page for these icons:

ResponsiveTest Screen Size Icons

How to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Now that you’re likely convinced to implement responsive design on your old, static website, let’s look at some ways you can make the upgrade.

If your website is coded by hand, this Google Webmaster Central Help Forum thread will give you a good start on how you (or your programmer) can make the site mobile-friendly. A high level of technical expertise is required if you want to go this route.

A more recommended direction is to migrate your site to a content management system (CMS), if you don’t utilize one already. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are some of the most popular CMS’s on the market. If you do decide on this option, we’d highly recommend reworking and redesigning your website in general, since it’s likely outdated.

Redesigning Your Website While Making It Mobile-Friendly

Redesigning your site entails looking over your navigation and all of your content to see what needs to be included on the new site and what can be dropped for the best user experience. For example, if you have service pages that only have a couple of paragraphs of copy and nothing else, you’re probably either going to want to add much more content or just work that copy into a larger service overview page.

It’s going to take a few, long hours with your programmer and/or web developer, and even your content team, to decide on the final look and navigation of your new, responsive website, all controlled by the CMS of your choice. Brace yourself.

We Can Help

If upgrading your website with responsive design sounds daunting and you’re not sure if you have the team or resources to make it happen, outside help is always available. Eminent SEO can help you strategically build and design a new, responsive website, and we’ll set you up with an easy-to-use CMS if you don’t already use one. To learn more, see our wide range of Website Creation services.

If you’re ready to get started now on making your current website mobile-friendly, contact Eminent SEO at 800.871.4130.

Andrew Gilstrap

Content Manager at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. I'm here to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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