Sharpfish Freelance Marketing + Design Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:42:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Duplicate Website Content: It’s hurting you in the search engines Thu, 05 Jul 2012 14:51:49 +0000 Google loves original, fresh content.  And it should.  Isn’t that what Google is all about?

Think about it.  You love to get relevant results when you search.  And Google wants to keep you happy.  Therefore, they are constantly working on their algorithm to make sure that happens.

What constitutes “original, fresh” content?

Original means you wrote it.  Fresh means you add new content often.  (We’ll save the “fresh” discussion for another day.)

Today, let’s talk about original content.

If you are “renting” your website (paying a monthly fee to keep your website live) and it came with free content, you have duplicate content.  Years ago this was a common practice by industry specific website design companies.  And even today, I see website design companies who are serving the same content for hundreds of other businesses.

Google sees this duplicate website content and penalizes it.  Meaning, you rank lower than you could if you had original content.   That is, content YOU wrote.

Not sure if your website content is duplicated?  You can use CopyScape to check your website for duplicate content.  You’ll be surprised to see how many other websites are using the same content.

So what can you do about it?  Check your rankings.  If you need that extra boost to jump ahead of your competition, change out the duplicate content for new, original content.  It really is that easy, but you would be surprised to know how many professional websites have duplicate content.

Until companies wise up, this is an easy way to rise to the top of the search engines.

Website Design: Why should I include a blog on our company website? Mon, 05 Mar 2012 23:29:00 +0000 When thinking about website design, most just want a website that looks good.  And you should want this.  This is important.  You only have 5 seconds to make that first impression.

Is this company professional?  Do they have what I need?  Can I trust them?  These are just a few of the questions that run through a potential client’s mind.  Design is a make or break issue.

We can agree that design is important.

But blogs don’t necessarily add to the appeal of the design, so what’s the big deal about blogs? And why should you include a blog on your website? Great questions.

Before I try to persuade you to include a blog on your website, I want to give you a word of caution.  Don’t add one without understanding the commitment that comes with blogging.  The worst thing you can do is start a blog, have no understanding of WHY you’re blogging in the first place, and stop blogging after five months.  If you and your staff don’t have the time or desire to see it through the long haul, don’t start. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a website that appears outdated and stale.

But for those of you that are considering the time investment and want to develop a strategy to make this work, here are some ways a blog can help your company:

  1. Rise in the search engines.  It’s great to have a website that looks beautiful, but who cares if no one ever sees it.  Blogging helps you rise to the top of the search engines. I could go on and on about how this happens, but we’ll save that for another blog post.  Just know that blogging helps your website rise to the top, and that translates in more potential customers visiting your website.
  2. Ability to micro target keywords.  When designing a website, it’s best if each page is optimized for one keyword.  For example, suppose your keyword is “cherry tomato recipe book.”  You can optimize your home page to this keyword, but what if you begin to see a trend for “tomato pie”?  You can quickly write a blog post to target this keyword with a blog post.  And if you’re on page one of the search engines for this keyword, you’ll get more potential customers visiting your website.
  3. Create freshness.  Potential customers don’t want to visit a website that is never updated.  An easy way to show that your website is still current is to feature your most recent blog posts on your home page.  And since the search engines know that people prefer an updated website, updating your website (blogging) tends to help you rise in the search engines. (Hint: This is one of the numerous reasons blogging helps you rise to the top of the search engines. See #1.)
  4. Show your expertise and passion.  You have the ability to show your potential customers that you’re an expert and that you’re passionate about your product/service.  Do you think more highly of a person who tells you they are an expert (arrogant) or when you find out yourself (humble)?  Of course, you would rather discover for yourself that they are an expert. Blogging is an easy way for someone to see/experience your expertise.
Is blogging right for everyone?  Of course not.  However, for those that choose to add a blog to their website, you’re website can end up being your best sales generator. But before you start, you just need to make sure you understand the time commitment and benefits. Weigh out the pros and cons.  Take a deep breath.  Then go for it.
It’s not a good fit for every business, but it may be for yours.
Facebook Advertising: Sponsored Stories Fri, 27 Jan 2012 18:39:12 +0000 Savvy web designers recognize how social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can influence the traffic of a website.  You run a compelling campaign on Facebook, interact with followers on Twitter and, before long, you can start seeing results.

But, it takes a news-junkie-marketer to keep up with how these social outlets are constantly evolving.

Facebook, for example, is slowly reeling in companies to use their most profitable platforms for advertising—those methods that keep the user within Facebook—as opposed to banner ads that take the user to a company’s external website (see TBG Digital).

These profitable methods, like “sponsored stories” and “like buttons”, are actually 29% lower in price according to TBG, but anyone can understand how the long-term payout is in Facebook’s favor.  If a user continually stays within Facebook while on the web, that’s more opportunity for advertisement exposure and more opportunity for Facebook revenue.

It should be said that sponsored stories are certainly beneficial to a company’s brand.  Whenever a Facebook user comments on the XYZ Company Facebook profile, that comment will later appear to that user’s Facebook friends.  This creates a buzz about XYZ Company without any person actually speaking directly to another.  This, my friend, is a great thing for XYZ.

However, marketers and designers would be wise to use a balanced approach when running a Facebook campaign.  It’s true that sponsored stories appear more naturally to a user than a banner ad and they cost less, but those users who are truly interested in a certain brand will get more in-depth information from a company’s website than a Facebook profile.

So give Facebook users many options to discover who you are.  Sponsored stories are still relatively new and, before long, users will recognize that those links lead to less information than a banner.  Some users will prefer this, but there will always be others who want to actually leave Facebook and visit a company’s website.

Photo by Thos Ballantyne

Website Design: Think of every page as a home page Thu, 12 Jan 2012 04:08:43 +0000 What I’m going to say may seem a bit crazy at first, but hear me out.  You need to think of EVERY page as a home page.  And here’s why:

Most searches in Google are for specific things.  For example, say you live in Boston, Massachusetts and you just bought a new car.  You spent too much money on this new, shiny toy, so you want to save money on your auto insurance.

So, you go to Google and search “auto insurance, boston ma.”

The more specific the webpages are about “auto insurance, boston ma,” the better chances you’ll find them interesting.  In this case, you will end up on a page devoted to “auto insurance, boston ma.”  To you, this IS the home page.  And chances are, the only page you’ll see.

You’ll either find what you want or hit the back button to find another website.  Occasionally, you might search around the website to verify this is a credible source.  But chances are, you won’t invest that much time.

This is why you need to think about ALL your pages as the home page.  You will probably only have one shot at engaging that customer.  The page he/she lands on will make or break your chances of doing business with that customer.

So what can you do to make your pages more effective landing pages?  Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t assume.  Most people won’t find your internal pages through the home page, so you can’t assume they know who you are and why they should choose you.  Tell them.  Walk them through a sales process in a casual way.
  2. Include a call to action. Ask yourself, “What’s my ultimate goal for someone interested in this page?”  In the above example I gave you, the goal is to get the prospect to get a quote for their auto insurance.  Therefore, the page should include a “Get a Quote” form  AND your contact number. (It’s advisable to give them options.)
  3. Make it appealing. Most web designers spend their time making sure the home page looks great.  And it should.  But as your traffic begins to grow from search engine referrals, you may find that most your traffic is landing on you secondary pages.  Make these pages look good too.
  4. Optimize it.  You know that people are searching for specific things, so why not increase your chances of being found. Make sure you’re using a website designer who understands search engine optimization (SEO).
When you begin to think of every page as a “home page,” you’ll find that you’ll get more traffic and sales.
Photo by Aunt Owwee
A Map for Your Insurance Clients Wed, 04 Jan 2012 02:51:28 +0000 If you haven’t already noticed, terms like “SEO” are becoming more and more prevalent among independent insurance agents.    Obviously, this is because they all want their website to rank at the top of search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.  After all, top-rated rankings bring in more clients.  More clients equal more money.

The only problem is that many insurance agents have no clue how to implement such a strategy.  While there are a myriad of methods and tips to offer regarding this, one crucial feature to implement on your website is the site map.

Your website MUST, and we mean MUST, be searchable in order to stand a chance of being discovered by prospective clients!  Site maps help your website accomplish this by giving search engines a “table of contents” to go by as they read your nicely laid-out website.

Your site map can be a document all of its own, or simply a text version at the bottom of your homepage.  An example of a clean, well-designed site map can be found at the bottom of myStarke’s homepage.

Yes, this site is our handiwork and we are a little biased here at Sharpfish.  But anyone would agree that this site map provides a clean, attractive design complete with company logo and social media referrals.  What more could you ask for?

And when you realize that many web surfers zip straight to the bottom of your homepage for quick directions to your content, you can understand why search engines prefer websites with site maps.  Search engines like to provide their surfers with web pages that are easy to read and navigate, and nothing helps navigation like a map!

Contact us if you need direction or advice on how to create an insurance website—we enjoy serving the insurance community and will get back with you promptly.

Photo by Brett Jordan

Do You ‘Own’ Your Market Position? Fri, 09 Dec 2011 03:28:42 +0000 Most service firms and businesses have never considered their “position” amongst competitors. They want to stand out to their clients, but end up telling them, “We’re the nice, knowledgeable, jack-of-all-trades agency that can help you with anything you want.”

While this statement may be true to an extent, it’s really an effort to appeal to everybody and, by doing so, the business appeals to nobody (or only a select few). So how can your agency or firm become unforgettable in its appeal to clients?

The answer is in positioning.

First, consider what your competition is doing. What is their “position,” or the way in which clients perceive them compared to others in the industry?

For years, Detroit automakers were all selling the same, long, spacious cars and raking in the dough. Then one day Volkswagen came along with the Beetle and an unthinkable campaign that read, “Think small.” With that effort, Volkswagen not only challenged their competitors’ position, but also carved out their own position as a very unique automaker with lots of personality.

So what about your competition?

Do they all look alike and give the same, boring message? Then be the renegade agency that comes across as something different, fresh, and extraordinary. Seek out a strong marketing agency to do a little market research for you (or do it yourself!) and start asking the question, “What does my target market want out of this type of service?” Also ask, “How do they perceive my competitors?” When you discover these answers, formulating a unique position becomes much easier.

Just remember that we live in an over-communicated society where your potential clients see and hear hundreds of messages every day! So develop a distinctive marketing plan and stake out your own position. It will be an investment in the future of your business.

Photo by Michael Gil

Claim your Google Places listing to help your insurance agency get more leads Sat, 26 Nov 2011 16:59:12 +0000 I’m amazed at how many independent insurance agencies haven’t claimed their Google Places listing.  These insurance agencies are giving up the potential of reaching hundreds of new clients.

Google Places is particularly beneficial to the independent insurance agency competing for personal lines business.  These potential customers are searching “auto insurance, city state,” “car insurance, city state,” “life insurance, city state,” “home insurance, city state,” etc.  Google Places will typically show up first in the organic results when you add a city + state to your keyword.

That’s really good news for the independent agent because the national insurance companies (All State, Geico, etc.) do much better on “head term” keywords. Keywords that aren’t specific.  Keywords like “auto insurance quote.”  On the other hand, it’s a level playing field when it comes to “long tail” keywords such as “auto insurance, city state.”

Research shows that the more specific the consumer is, the closer he/she is to a purchase.  By the time the potential customer types in “auto insurance, city state,” he/she is looking for an agent your town to quote his auto insurance.  Are you going to be the one he calls?

Try typing one of those keywords in Google.  Where do you show up?

No where to be found?  No sweat.  Claiming your Google Places listing is an easy way to be found on the first page of Google.  And even if you don’t have a website, you can show up in the Google Place listings.  Although having a website will greatly improve your conversion ratio.

I’ll walk you through claiming your Google Places listing:

  1. Start here and create a username.
  2. Put in your Phone Number.  This needs to be your main number, a number you don’t plan on changing.  If you change your phone number in the future, you risk losing your reviews and ranking.  And trust me, the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your rank in Google after putting in hours of time optimizing your listing.
  3. Enter your Basic Information.  One major thing to point out here.  Google is looking for what they call “citations” to verify that your business is real. Each time your business is listed on the internet, you need to make sure your business name and address match what you enter here.  The more times other websites and directories have an exact match of your business name and address the higher you will rank in Google Places. These are called “citations.”  These citations build credibility with Google.
  4. Fill in the rest of the information.  The more complete your Google Places listing is the better it will rank.  This means, link to your videos if you have a YouTube account.  Upload photos. Enter your hours. Choose categories. Choose payment options. Etc. Etc.
  5. Validate your listing. Google used to let business owners validate their listing by phone, but now, Google only allows validation by post card.   You’ll have to wait 2-3 weeks to receive a post card with a pin.  When you do, log back in and enter your pin.

Once your listing is active, the fun part starts.  You need to start optimizing your listing.  That is, you’ll need to invest some time to see your listing rise to the top of Google for your select keywords.  There are numerous tricks of the trade and Google is constantly changing how they rank a business, but here a few basic fundamentals:

  • Send your customers to your Google Places listing to get reviews.  Google knows it’s hard to get reviews, so they consider this one of the top credibility factors.  Also having reviews will help your conversion rate.  If you do nothing else, do this.
  • Make sure your Google Places listing is complete.  Anything missing?  Fill it in.  A complete listing will show Google that your aren’t a fake listing. Also, Google knows that people want to see businesses with accurate information.  If you do this, Google will eventually bump you up.
  • Do a search on your business name to find directories and websites where your business is listed.  Make sure your data on other websites and directories is accurate. Unless there is an exact match of your business name and address, Google won’t consider it a citation.

If you do these few things, you’ll see your listing rise in the search engines.  Be patient.  It may take a month or so to see results.  But before long, you’ll begin to see your listing rise to the top and you’ll see more leads.  And you’ll wonder, “Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Customer Survey: What are they really thinking? Wed, 09 Nov 2011 13:21:42 +0000 If your customers (and ex-customers) told you what they really thought, what would they say?

You’ll probably never know.

And here is why.  Your customers have too much to lose by telling you the truth.   The below video by Link & Rhett is hilarious because Rhett actually tells the truth about his friend in a job reference interview.  This rarely happens.  People have too much to lose by telling ALL the truth.

People won’t tell you the truth in a job reference interview, and they certainly won’t tell you the truth about your company.

As long as your asking, they’ll say you’re great.  You’ll never know what they really think.  But maybe that is the way you prefer it.  Who really wants to hear, “You’re just not that great.  The only reason I’m still with you is that I’m too busy to switch to your competition.”

Sure, it’s not fun to hear bad news.  But if you knew what you weren’t doing well, you could change.  You could save clients before they leave.  And you’ll learn things you do great that can be used in your marketing communications.

You need an outsider to ask.  It could be us, or it could be another marketing agency.  Bottom line, someone else needs to ask.  Your customers have too much to lose if they told you the truth.  No one wants to be mean or seem like they are being critical.  So instead, they stick with you until they find someone better.

Here is how it might play out if an outside company calls your customers:

“Hi this Daniel Souers from Sharpfish Marketing.  We were hired by XYZ Firm to see what they could be doing better.  Any feedback will be anonymous and greatly appreciated. You’re feedback will be used to change the firm.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

At this point the customer is thinking, “Wow!  My opinion really matters. XYZ Firm really cares about what I think. And since this is anonymous, I can be honest without social repercussions.”

Your customers can give you constructive criticism without fear.  And the complements they say won’t be flattery.  It will be the truth since no one will ever know it was them who said it.

You’ll be surprised what you learn, and you may just wonder why you didn’t do this a long time ago.