how to market your branding tell story calgary

Top 10 SEO Marketing Strategies for your Business

What is SEO and How Can It Help My Company?

As a business owner, you need to at least be aware of how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can affect your business’ success online.

SEO is an industry to itself, as it involves all of the ways a brand can naturally (organically) gain visibility online without running paid advertising.

The goal of SEO is to get your business ranking at the top of page 1 of Google so your customers (audience) can easily find you.

For those people looking for your service, the fact that your website is ranked at the top alongside your competitors, tells them straight away that Google has determined that your site is an authority and can be trusted. In many ways this can go much further than buying ads.

From an even wider perspective, SEO is part of UEO (User Experience Optimization), which again focuses on providing the best online experience for your customers, an experience that should naturally reflect your company’s high level of service and goal of customer satisfaction.

To simplify the focus of SEO, it can be divided into a strategic combination of On-Page and Off-Page SEO techniques to help your business get higher visibility in Google and other search engines. This article outlines the top 10 areas that are needed to not only make your website stand out on top but provide a professional, effective and consistent web presence.

how to market your branding tell story calgary

1. Tell Your Brand’s Story, Make the Customer the Hero

Forget about SEO for a minute and focus on some core questions about your business:

What is the essence of your unique business? Think about your visual identity, character, culture, mission and vision, successes (and failures), and which values you uphold – basically who is your company, what is your expertise and what can you offer new and existing customers?

What is your niche?

Who is your target audience?

What are their challenges?

How can you help them solve these challenges?

Once you have a better understanding of your company and your customer, you can start to build a compelling brand story for your target audience (customers, suppliers, team members) to engage with, make them the hero in this story, help them to their success.

Marketing in the social media influenced world is more about story telling these days than selling. While advertising still plays a role in this picture, it is perhaps driven by deeper values than before. People don’t want to be sold to, they want to connect, be heard and guided to the best solution to their problem.

Google and other search engines are focusing more and more on ranking those sites more highly that deliver a superior user experience. If you have a value-based website that delivers great content, has great reviews and a strong social media following, you will naturally rank well.

how to make a seo content strategy

2. Build a Content Strategy

Your content strategy is again to focus on creating targeted, relevant and useful information for your audience. This applies to your written content, videos, pod casts and PDF downloads. When using photos, use professional custom photography if possible, as that is unique to your brand, or at least, use a higher quality stock photo that has a more natural look that engages your audience. Make sure all of your content creation supports and deepens your Brand story.

Here is one specific strategy for ranking in Google, that you can start applying today:

It is now best to optimize keywords for a page’s topic, not just its target phrase. To do this, use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords. These are natural alternative search phrases of your target keyword.

Google is focusing more on semantic search to provide a more natural and accurate search results for its users. This means less focus on keyword density and more focus on producing natural, accurate and context-based content. By doing so, you are actually reaching more users outside of your keyword targeting range because LSI focuses on the topic of the page’s content rather than the keywords themselves. This is not to say keywords are thrown out the proverbial window, rather they become the topic, rather than the focus.

An easy way to determine some popularly searched LSI keywords is to search for your main topic in Google and analyze the “Searches related to” suggestions that Google offers. This is a great way to get ideas for writing relevant content and reach your target audience who are looking for those answers. A similar technique is by typing your target keyword into the search bar and review the autofill suggestions it provides.

Once you have your list of LSI keywords, you can focus your content generation around these refined searches and blend them into your Brand’s storyline.

how to use social media for best seo calgary

3. Get a Handle on Social Media

Social media is constantly changing. It is hard for business owners and marketers to keep up. Social media channels are always improving and changing their platforms, updating algorithms and increasing the pressure to promote content and ads. Brands and businesses have to keep up with these changes, or be lost in the crowd. In addition, a brand must continually be working to build an audience of fans and followers, finding relevant content around trending topics and hashtags to be seen as an authority and influence in their niche.

Some authorities say that social media has become the “great equalizer” for marketers because your can build a great brand simply by being creative and knowing your audience. However, I would argue that being “creative and knowing your audience” is essentially what marketing is, so larger companies who have time and resources to be creative by hiring brand managers, marketers and designers and “know their audience” through hiring a professional team of SEO experts who have the time and know how to mine through competitor analysis and historical search data, will generally come out on top.

So, I see this as one of the biggest challenges that small businesses are having online today. These challenges are from both an SEO and business management point of view. Since Google and other search engines use social signals as part of determining a brand’s influence and authority in their search results, all businesses should at least have a social media presence established to allow for this factor.

This presence is the extension of the Brand and its story. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest have billions of combined users, many of them on some or all of these top channels. So, your brand and its story need to be professional, consistent, engaging and useful to your audience. Your Social Media audience is interactive, opinionated and reactionary, so you need to be ready to respond quickly and politely when they reach out.

So yes, it is possible for a small Brand to build up a massive following and become an influencer. However, for a small business, it is yet another thing to have to worry about building up and maintaining.

Social media, like all online experiences is about relationship. Yes, that is a broad term, but that broadness reflects the massive potential of the online world.

Every business should at least:

  1. Make sure you have these key social channels set up, branded and optimized properly.
  2. Then make sure they are connected to and from your website. Marketing studies, such as this one on Social Sprout, have shown that a customer is more likely to choose a company that has a responsive social presence over one that does not.
  3. Be realistic and focus on two factors, this is the quickest way to get going on Social Media: consider which platform you are familiar with and use most often. Then determine if that same platform is where your customers are. If you use Facebook and are a B2C, then yes, it is very likely that you can successfully reach your customers through Facebook, as you can target your local audience and demographic. If you have a LinkedIn profile and deliver B2B services, then it makes sense to focus there.

By focusing on one social media channel, you can build up confidence and audience. However, I would still recommend getting all other key social channels set up properly. Once you have gotten comfortable with that one channel, you can then easily start to share the same content (with minor revisions) to all of your channels.

how to use press releases for seo calgary

4. The Many Benefits of Press Releases

While the traditional newspaper industry is overshadowed by online news publications, the equally traditional press release continues to be a great marketing and PR tool for all sizes of business. Specifically, a well-crafted press release will give your website a nice boost in rankings!

Keep your marketing strategy research and brand story in mind when you approach an effective press release for your business.

The fastest and easiest way is to hire an expert to write and distribute your press release using a paid release distribution service. This ensures that your release will get picked up quickly by authority news sites across North America.

From an SEO point of view, you have to be careful with SEO keywords in a press release, keep wording objective, natural and focused on a news worthy item. If you are a local business then working in an event that is happening in your area will help you naturally reference that keyword. Using an appropriate topic is essential to keep it objective and timely.

If you are stuck for where to start, a company like BlindDrop can help you determine your topic, write the release and distribute it.  Such press release topics include the announcement of a:

  • Brokerage
  • Contest
  • New Article
  • Case Study
  • New Album
  • Charitable Donation
  • New Product
  • Reputation Management
  • Free Webinar (Pre-recorded)
  • Book Launch
  • New Service
  • Company Wins Award
  • Free Report
  • Upcoming Webinar

The press release can also be sent directly to local papers; however, they will require more lead time (3 to 6 weeks) than doing an online distribution (3 days to a week).

Even as a local business, using a country-wide online distributor can still help boost visibility with local rankings, if you write and optimize the press release correctly for SEO.

When done properly, a press release can help your business to:

  1. Gain more targeted traffic to make more sales.
  2. Gain more credibility online to increase traffic.
  3. Increase your authority with Google and customers by outranking your competitors (or at least appearing side by side with them in search results).

As you can see, a press release offers often overlooked benefit, however when done correctly, they will help you:

  • Gain new backlinks
  • Build instant authority through association with well known news websites
  • Create buzz around your business.

On top of the benefit of a short turnaround in gaining exposure on dozens of news websites, your press release will often stay live and ranked well for months at a time. So, there is a long-term benefit to a press release aimed at a short-term topic.

If you don’t have a product-based announcement, you can focus instead on doing a value-based announcement. For example, a survey or report-based release that provides valuable information to your customers or suppliers will increase the perceived value and authority of your company. Look back to your Brand Story’s values that you have already determined to ensure that every press release you create embodies those same values.

calgary seo how to backlinks

5. Yes, You Still Need Backlinks

Getting backlinks to your business website is still part of the bread and butter of SEO. Aim to build links naturally across a wide range of domains in a natural way.

The types of backlinks you can get will vary in impact on your SEO, the higher authority sites that are more popular, higher domain link authority and trust will be worth more than a multitude of lower valued links. From my experience, having an SEO team to help with this one factor is worth the investment. Link building can be a challenging task, so hiring an expert can be the best answer to the conundrum of trading your own time for the dollars spent on hiring someone else.

A good starting point for building backlinks to your site can include (but is not limited to):

  • Directories
  • Review sites
  • Social Media profiles
  • Social bookmarking sites
  • Guest blogging on other’s blogs
  • Other 3rd party sites who have complementary services or products
  • Forums related to your services
  • File sharing sites
  • Search Engine submissions
  • Video channels and sites
  • Infographics as link bait

Getting a diverse source of links is critical – so getting lots of links from lots of different referring domains is best.

Link building is a complex subject far beyond the scope of this article, but this list is a good place to start exploring the best options.

how online reviews help seo for business

6. How to Manage Online Reviews

Customer reviews and ratings are an important part of how people (and therefore Search Engines) view your brand. And those 5-star ratings can definitely affect your bottom line. Reviews are a key asset when it comes to your reputation. So, it may seem like common sense that business owners should be up to speed on this topic, but many still aren’t. Some businesses understand and take this responsibility seriously enough that they have integrated this part of their customer service into their daily online activities.

For those that are not yet convinced, here are some things to remember when it comes to online reviews and how they can affect your online business:

  1. Why customers buy – studies have shown that nearly all (93%) of customers buying online are influenced by online reviews. Even if they are only scanning review scores and number of reviews, that can be enough. Of course, many will go deeper and read the reviews before making their decision.
  2. Determining search results – Reviews help to determine which search results are visible and therefore get clicks and traffic through them.
  3. Your website rankings in local search engines – Google takes third party reviews and reviews on its own platforms (Google My Business and Google Maps) into consideration when compiling its Local pack of listings and featured snippets. From an SEO point of view, this is an area that your SEO expert can make a difference by optimizing and properly coding the site for Open Graph and other meta data that can help Search Engines further define a website and its rankings.
  4. Reputation management – If you haven’t taken control of managing your reviews, now is the time. Whether you have reviews or not, if you have not connected with these review sites to manage them, then you need to be proactive. One negative review can go a long way to harm your business, especially if you do not respond to it quickly enough to minimize the damage the review will cause. Since review sites (including Google) want to provide an unbiased review process, they will not usually remove negative reviews unless they breach their terms of service. Customer reviews are a double-edged sword for business owners, especially those who are in niches where customers take their services to heart. Great reviews can put them on top, while negative reviews can cause a lot of stress and be disheartening to a business owner who really is trying their best to make their business work and give the highest level of customer service.

Here are some easy steps to managing your online reviews:

  1. Determine where your company has reviews – this will take some digging through Google and other search engines if you are doing this manually. But look for review sites in your niche (primarily your location and service) and then see if you have a pre-existing listing and if your competitors are listed. If your competitors are listed there, then get a listing. If they don’t have a listing there, and it makes sense to you to get one, then be the first to get one! If you can find a review site in the top ten search results for your keyword, that is a higher priority listing to get. A review site on the first page of Google gives you the chance to be one click away from first page traffic.
  2. Sign up for Google My Business and claim your listing – This is another area often missed by new and established businesses. These listings are important for all businesses who want to increase visibility in Google’s search and improve communication with Google’s services. These listings are particularly important to local brick and mortar businesses as Google provides input of business description, physical address, website, hours of operation and of course review management. Once you have access to your reviews you will be able to respond to any existing reviews (it is good to reply to both positive and negative reviews) and monitor any new reviews.
  3. Once you have your key review site listings claimed and optimized, make it part of your daily or weekly tasks to manage any new reviews that come in. If you don’t have any reviews then guess what your task is? Simple, you need to evaluate your sales cycle and look for opportunities to request reviews from your customers (without offering them incentive). Also, add a page to your website that offers your customers links to your claimed listings. This way you have better control and influence in the natural building of reviews. Google also prefers to see reviews being added in a consistent manner, so keep that in mind too.

If this feels like a daunting task, or if you would prefer to have a professional help, I would highly recommend you do so, at least to do the proper research of the best review sites to align with for your niche. A professional service will also get them properly branded and optimized for you and offer a training session on managing the account once complete.

calgary directory listings citation building seo calgary

7. The Importance of Citations & NAP

Citations are basically another term for directory listings. And many directory listings now have a “leave a review” feature. So, now you can see the strong connection between a Review site and a Citation. For example, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Urban Spoon, Cylex, TrustedPros, HomeStars, etc. allow you to create or claim listings. However, in some cases, your company’s info may have already been scrapped and an automatic listing may have been created on your behalf. In this case, it should just be a matter of claiming the listing and fleshing it out from there.

Directory listings that do not have review functions are still worthy of consideration since they list your NAP. NAP stands for Name Address Phone and is the bread and butter of your business information that is scraped and shared across the public domain. Services like WhiteSpark are a great way to find these citations and those of your competitors, so you can locate and create listings to surpass them.

how to use seo for business blog calgary

8. Blog Posting Methods for Your Business

Your blog section of your website is your active hub. It is the easiest and most efficient way to publish new content and share it to your audience. Blogging is a massive industry, however for most companies it remains an untapped opportunity. There is definitely merit to just having a blog set up on your website. Search Engines like to see that a blog is part of the website’s features, which is another reason why WordPress is a great option on which to build your company Website.

Having a blog opens the door to many specific methods of traffic generation and SEO benefits. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Service Highlights
  • Product Showcases
  • Case Studies
  • Company News
  • Guest Blogger Posts
  • Curated Blog Posts
  • Information & Tips
  • Local & Niche related Events
  • Sales & Promotions

All of these opportunities should be explored from the perspective of your Brand’s story, culture and niche. This not only helps to gain the best search rankings and targeted traffic, but also eases overwhelm of entering into this daunting process. By reviewing your own day to day business processes, insights, products, customer service, events, sales and promotions, you can more easily build a realistic and successful strategy.

Remember to develop blog categories and sub categories and research and include relevant tags.

Longer blog posts of quality content will gain better rankings than shorter ones and include mixed media too, including videos.

Include a mix of external links to other related websites and also internal links to other pages and posts on your own site. Do this all with moderation and purpose in providing the best information to your reader.

Once you have any blog post published, make sure to share the content out through your social media channels and also make sure that the content itself is shareable, so those people who find your blog post useful can easily share it to their own channels.

seo web design usability how to make the best user experience

9. Create the Best Website Experience You Can

When you consider that your website is often the first impression of your brand, you enter the world of UEO (User Engagement Optimization) also known as User Experience Optimization. This includes SEO, so ranking highly so your website is found easily – think of having your brick and mortar business located on a bustling high street full of customers (i.e. page 1 of Google), versus being hidden away on a desolate backstreet where no one even knows you exist (i.e. pages 3 or deeper on Google).

Being found easily is part of the best positive customer experience. You need to be accessible in search, social and in popular directories.

But once they have found your listing and clicked on your link to visit your website, what will they find? What they should find is a website that:

  1. Is properly branded – this includes adherence to visual branding guidelines and engaging content (text, image, video) that relate to your brand story
  2. Has easy to use navigation on all pages – this includes properly developed main navigation that is ideally universal (access to all pages of the site) and supporting navigation in the content area and footer to make for an easier and more relevant journey through your site.
  3. Has a home page that highlights important areas of the site, including products, services, specials, recent blog posts, etc.
  4. Is relevant to the listing that they had clicked on – there is nothing like a mis-represented page to increase its bounce rate.
  5. Is mobile friendly – having a responsive website design is essential these days as more and more of your audience embraces mobile technology.
  6. Builds trust by using such features as a secure connection (https://) using a valid SSL certificate and any industry or association seals that instantly show credibility.
  7. And is focused on fulfilling their needs, including what problems your brand solves for them. This is a shift from the more traditional focus of telling customers how great and different your services and products are. Products and services solve problems, so what are the problems your customers face and how can you help them get there?

To sum up, your website visitor’s experience is about sharing and engaging on a value level rather than an information level. In this way, your company can more quickly connect with your customers needs, build trust and authority and reflect the level of customer service you deliver in other business channels.

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10. Why Managed Hosting is Worth Every Penny

Last, but definitely not least, on the list is web hosting. A good host is critical to your site’s uptime and it is also an important factor in your search engine rankings and trust scores. From a performance side, Google looks at page speed as a ranking factor, as a page that loads quickly provides a better user experience. Page speed is ultimately a combination of server side, website software and content optimization factors. However, as your hosting environment is the very foundation on which your web presence rests, it is a critical component to your site’s success and is worth the investment.

If you are running a WordPress website, I highly recommend using a Managed WordPress Hosting solution. A premier managed host for the WordPress platform will deliver exceptional service and support in these areas:

  • The server will be specifically optimized for WordPress
  • Ensure automatic updates of WordPress core software
  • Have bullet proof, real-time Security to block hackers
  • Deliver fast server speed for quick page loading
  • Daily automatic backups, plus an option to do manual backups and have restore points to return your website to an earlier version
  • 24/7 support including live chat, phone and support ticket options
  • Flexible & scalable platforms
  • Multiple datacenters, preferably in Canada if you are a Canadian-based business
  • Free SSL Integration
  • CDN (Content Delivery Network) control and integration
  • Staging sites for web development
  • Advanced server-side caching
  • Server-based content performance tracking – so you can review and improve your site performance via WordPress-focused analytics
  • A unique user-friendly control panel to manage your server settings

If you are looking for the best WordPress hosting, I can personally recommend WP Engine for all of the above. They have been our Web hosting partner for 6 years and the service and support has been excellent. We have never had a site hacked or had any downtime. WP Engine guarantees that it won’t happen, if it does, they will fix it for free – a promise I did not find on any other competitors. They are always forward thinking and have expanded all areas of their hosting environment and support, yet have kept the user interface easy to use. You can read more about managed WordPress hosting or sign up for your own account on WP Engine here.

In the end, doesn’t it make sense to choose a managed hosting service for your WordPress website that the experts use themselves?

These top 10 SEO strategies are key to your company’s success online. Each strategy has an entry point and some top-level actions that every business can and should make if they want to succeed online. My company has been helping businesses since 2001 and we can help you with any of these strategies, from online marketing strategies, to branding solutions, WordPress hosting and custom development including E-commerce solutions and all off-page SEO and social media tasks to improve your visibility and activity online.

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Verification

The Theme of Location in Web Design

Web design covers the full gamut of elements that comprise a Web presence. One interesting theme that ties design together is location. Location, location, location – we hear this phrase ringing across the Web when talking about Web sites, especially when it comes to search engine optimization or advertising space. However, there is very little in your Web site that does not relate to location. It is a critical element in everything from hosting to web design, from social media, to advertising.

1. Domains – Location plays an important role in domains. If you have a website hosted as a subdomain with an existing domain (e.g. blogger.com) then you are in close proximity to some potentially major Web real estate. Being tied into a larger community or network in such blogging sites will help people find you and you find them. The other side of real estate is real, real estate – the kind with bricks and mortar – where you can get a domain that has your region in the domain name, for example, we could build a site around the keywords “Calgary web designer”. If you service only one area or region then this can help you brand your site to show your dedication to this region, be it a town, city, state or province or even a country. You can even create multiple subdomains for each region that you serve, under a main domain, if you have a business that has multiple offices or locations across the country or around the world. It shows your customers that you serve their local needs.

2. Web Hosting – This is a lesser known factor that is often overlooked by people looking for Web hosting packages. Find out where your host has their host servers located, most people do not take the time to do this step. They only look for the lowest price and best deal. For example, we use servers that are located in Calgary, Alberta. IP addresses are taken into consideration in some search engines’ indexing, so having a local host can help a bit with your search engine ranking. It can also be easier for you to get support if your Web host is located nearby.

3. Web Design – Location in Web design focuses on the visual real estate of any given Web page. Generally speaking, the highest valued areas should be dedicated to logos, advertising space and featured content. The top left or top center is the standard place for the Web site’s main logo, which is accompanied with key navigational elements, such as the main menu and login forms. Advertising space can also appear along the top, sides or bottom of the Web design. If, for instance, you dedicate the right column of your Web design to show Google Adsense advertising, then you will see that Google will provide targeted ads that, yes, are determined by your location and/or the location of the user viewing the ad. So if the user is in Calgary, Alberta, then they may well see ads posted for “Calgary Web designers” as a key word, based on their IP address. The location of content might seem like a given, but it is important that the main content, and any highlighted content, be placed in clear and easy view for the user to scan quickly.

4. Web Content – When it comes to your main content you need to consider the location of your content on the page, so it is prominent and easy to read. Location is also important for titles and contextual links. For any content generated for articles and article spinning, location is also key, first for adding in your keywords but also to the location of the backlinks to your site. Search engine spiders will prefer to see your links at the top and bottom of the content.

5. Search Engine Optimization – Google and other search engines now display results based on the viewer’s location (e.g. Google Local), so it is important that your Web site be properly optimized and submitted to the main search engines. Create a business profile that defines your location. This will ensure that your listing will appear along with your local competitors and above those who are not located in your region. Defining your location in your search terms will immediately help to funnel local, targeted traffic to your site.

6. Bonus tip – Web Advertising – Paid advertising is related to search engine optimization. The two big hitters Google Adwords and Facebook ads both provide powerful tools to define and track your campaigns. You can specify the regions and specific locations that you’d like to target with your ads, thereby providing you with targeted hits to your Calgary website.

Location, as an element of Web design, needs proper attention at all stages of Web development. Keep location in mind from the domain registration down to post-launch search engine marketing and Web advertising campaigns. Whether you are located in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, location will play a critical role in the success of your site.

Is SEO Actually Web Design?

Is SEO Actually Web Design?
By Lucas Arnatt, Calgary Web Designer

Most clients and designers alike tend to think that the first step of building a Web site is creating or choosing the graphic design and layout of the site, or perhaps planning the site using a flow chart or site map. But the first step of design is not the graphical design, nor the overall functional design of the site.

Rather, it is the essential task of defining the core Search Engine Optimization needed for the site. This is the nucleus of design, since it establishes niche, targeted audience, tone and intensity of presence. This starts with assessing the prospective client’s business goals and determining how to best illustrate these goals and their unique online presence by something as simple as their domain name. The domain name is a great example of SEO as design since it is the key to attracting and illustrating a company on the Web, even before the actual site design is seen or a menu button has been pressed. Whether or not the domain is even full of relevant keywords, the more essential nature of the domain name is that it is there to attract and deliver a message – just as design does.

So, when has SEO ever been seen as actual design? SEO is usually discussed in terms of bots and directories, meta tags, keyword density and search engine ranking. But seeing SEO as an integral part of design, rather than just its tools and methods, helps us to move more into the creative nature of the Internet and Web design.

Generally, a designer will start to integrate SEO at the initial stage of graphic development; how a website is built graphically can affect the overall effects of its organic search results. That is, the natural result of the Website being indexed by search engines and the consequent flow of visitors to the site. So, in the same way that SEO is part of design, design is also part of SEO.

At the core of this pairing are two values: Attraction and Delivery.
SEO and Web design can easily seen as separate since they involve different terms, tools and techniques to implement them. However, they ultimately play the same roles – to attract and deliver.


ATTRACTION

Attracting a visitor, whether it is human or an algorithmic robot, takes research and skill. To make attraction as inherent within the site design and SEO results as possible we need to connect with both sides of the “Internet coin” – say heads for the public, viewership side and tails for the back end development. The value of any successful website is the continuous ability to remain visible and attract visitors to the site. This is achieved by the initial work of the focused development of the Website to be as attractive as possible (in word and image) with following, responsive development to how the public side of site is evaluated by search engines and visitors. The two sides of a coin create a unity of value, one side inherently needed by the other to hold value.


DELIVERY

But like a shiny coin given a pre-defined value, a website ranking on the first few pages of Google pre-supposes a level of success over those sites back on the 100th page. The value of a coin is only ever experienced when it is transferred from one to another. Having a million dollars is great, but it is only of value to those who can exchange it for something else they value more. It is the same for any Web site, it is the nature of a successful Web site to deliver something of value to its audience (and by extension, its creators) otherwise it is deemed worthless.

Design and SEO both are crafted to equally create a Web site’s value, since they are equally responsible for delivery of information. As a Web designer I have increasingly become aware of how important it is to have a strong attractive design, but the strongest design is one that surrounds and supports the content and helps delivery of information. This has more value than design that is just eye candy, which may help the attraction factor but does not necessarily help the final goal and richest value found in information delivery.

Is SEO actually Web Design? I believe it is…sure, we can separate the two during the development process, since they require different production methods and analysis, but the essential, integral nature and end goal of both processes joins them together, like the two sides of a coin.

Lucas Arnatt is the lead designer at BlindDrop Design Inc. and has been producing Web sites since 1997. BlindDrop Design serves many local Cochrane and Calgary, Alberta businesses and organizations. BlindDrop offers a wide variety of services that include Web design (and SEO), Graphic Design and Photography.

The Temptation of DIY Web Design

When the seemingly inevitable point comes when your Calgary business cannot do without a website, when people wait with baited breathe and poised pen for your lips to start “double-u, double-u, double-u” or for those living in the fast lane “dub, dub, dub…” you may well be tempted to go the DIY route and whip something together over the weekend or during the evenings when the house has become quiet – just to relieve that mounting pressure.

Or, if you have a young employee with fingers blazing away at text-lightning speed, you might naturally assume they know what PHP, MySQL, and DNS mean because they apparently were born without umbilical cords (ever since pregnancy went “totally wireless, dude”). This is not to say that today’s youth are not skilled in technology, since we all know that a toddler’s knowledge of home theatre often stumps the thirty-something cable guy, but it is to say that successful technology is based on pairing geeky science (the language of the introverted) with the fleshy test ground of the general masses (the dance of the extroverted).

The Web didn’t wait long to look us dead in the eye and say, “Web 2 point what?” and then grab its long board made up of forums, chat rooms and membership sites and go for a new ride by turning into a more business-savvy entity, now known as “Social Networking.” Okay, this to me sounds like the geeky science guys went to a party and met some inauthentic marketers and they all got whacked out on a couple of six packs of those Energy drinks that come in lady-finger thin cans with logos done by a tattoo artist – so it’s cool – and they ALL decided in between slurps and tweets that it was time to “Network Socially.” This is akin to the brain thinking about emotion and deciding it’s the same thing as emotion.

Whatever “Social Networking” is or what emerging Web trends afflict on you, whether you’re an entrepreneur, dedicated employee, Fortune 500 owner or someone unemployed and on that vacuous Web treasure hunt on EBay or looking to “Make $10,577.98 per month with no effort whatsoever” (that includes the effort to use discernable common sense), the Web can be daunting wherever you are in the world. So to begin the task of stepping into this full spectrum virtual reality takes more than just exporting your site from Publisher or getting your Graphic artist to create your site from JPG images cut up in ImageReady.

Websites often seem to be singular entities and still look like electronic versions of a 3 panel brochure, but they really do rely on multiple strata of technology and human interaction.

A basic Website now needs the following support:

  • A well-chosen, not too long, but definitely relevant, domain name registered to you.
  • A loving and supportive Web host that provides all email and Web services 24/7.
  • An attractive Web design (either pre-fab or custom) to wrap around the content
  • The most intuitive and clearest navigation possible, including a planned site structure
  • Unique, accessible, informative and/or entertaining, Search Engine Friendly content
  • A doting audience of actual people, not just Search engine bots.
  • Advertising support provided by links, banner ads, Adwords, print advertising, etc.

Before plunging into building your own website, you do need to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have the time and patience to learn about: domain registration, domain name server IP switches, hosting account set up, email account and email forwarding configuration, fundamental website design, GUI design, ASP or PHP, DHTML or XML? Browser compatibility, Content drafting, revisions and changes based on recent SEO trends, how to set up Google Analytics, what Content Management solution works for you, if your images are to be stock or custom, if those images are copyright or royalty-free, whether you write promotional articles yourself, if you want a blog fully integrated or if you have to set up one on ANOTHER server at ANOTHER web address, or find a 3rd party e-commerce shopping cart to “somehow” fit into your html site, what GUI means, how to run adwords, adbrite, overture, how to add in a multi-page “sticky” form, or upload a file for your visitors to download, custom MX records, A records and just for fun, how to write your very own SPF records.
  2. Were you born without an umbilical cord? If the answer is yes, indeed, you were born “cordless”, you’re in luck, since you should know all of the above anyway, so no problem, right?

There are so many facets to building a successful Website that really; the Web designer is only part of the equation. A good Web designer will provide you with a good looking, functional site. A great Web designer will do their best to create a site geared to bring abundance to you, to plan for the future, to work in organic SEO at every level possible, build toward expansion in content and traffic and provide a look to the site that will not become dated as fast as you can say “drop shadow” or “3D bevel”. A great Web designer will do whatever you choose not to do, and do it better than you could. So keep your weekends free, spend evenings with family and friends and when you’re ready to say “dub, dub, dub” give us a call and we’ll take care of the rest.

How to Prepare for Your Web Design Project

Is your company or organization starting the process of getting your Web site made by a professional Web design team? If your company is in Calgary, Alberta or elsewhere, you can help your Web design team, and your company, if you do a bit of preparation before you go seeking Web design quotes and buying domain names. You will save time and money in the long run, since you will be clear on what you want and where you feel comfortable in letting the project go in the hands of the Web design team.

Consider these tips before contacting Calgary Web design firms:

  1. Know your business niche. If you are starting a business or in business already, it is critical for you to know your business niche. Think location, your specialties, and areas you want to focus on in the future. Are you tied to one location, like Calgary, Alberta? Or can you run the business globally? Defining the scope of your targeted audience goes a long way in knowing what keywords and search terms to use on the site and in paid advertising online.
  2. Take a look at your current marketing material and how it is branded such as logo, slogan, stationary, business cards, posters, signage, etc. All of these may need to be redone if you don’t have the domain name already on them!
  3. Search out your competitors, both local and global online. The best Web design attracts local and global audiences and will be accessible to as many visitors as possible, although your focus is more local than global.
  4. Search the Web for half a dozen websites that you like for one or more reasons. These websites may be in your niche, but they might be from an entirely different niche. Take note as to what it is you like about that site, is it design, layout, content or some function, such as a blog or gallery?.
  5. Choose if you want a dark web design (light text on dark colored field) or a light web design (dark text on a light colored field. Review your business branding and decide what you think will fit your unique situation best. If you are unsure, make a note to discuss this further with your web designer when you meet.
  6. Think about what you want the Web site to do: will it be a simple static website? Or will it be interactive? Or is it going to be an e-commerce website?
  7. How deep are you willing to go into the development of the site? Will you be able to provide professional, edited copy for the website? Getting a new web site designed is great, but if your content is poorly written then the web design won’t matter! Content is King, so make sure you invest properly in this area and consider hiring a professional Web copywriter for the job. Hopefully your design team also offers writing and editing services, but if they don’t or you need a different writing style, find a professional who can produce what you need.
  8. Create a hierarchy of sections, pages and subpages. An easy way to do this is to look at websites in your niche who have a very similar navigation structure. This will help your Web designer define a realistic timeline for development.
  9. Get your logo and any branding elements you use for print onto a disc or ready for emailing.
  10. Organize any digital photos that you’d like to see on the website and if you know which page you want them on, list that too. If you need stock or custom photos provided, make sure you note this in your requirements when talking with your Web designer.
  11. Define your budget. Consider that a professionally built website will be good for a minimum of three years. Also make room in your budget for hosting, security needs and ongoing marketing for organic SEO and paid advertising.

You can save yourself time and money and provide clear communication with your Web designer if you take a couple of hours to plan out your ideas for your new site. You will be more confident and happy with the final outcome.

11 Advantages of Web Revitalization

Is your website ready for rebuilding?

Sure, a few years ago your website had all the bells and whistles that your Calgary Web designer could offer. But now, the site is beginning to show its age. The Internet lives in dog years more than it does in human years, things change quickly, evolution and revolution go hand in hand.

So, what can you do with your aging site? Scrap it and start again? Well, it depends. When you start thinking about rebuilding your website, it is as good a time as any to review your entire Web presence. You need to consider how your needs have changed, how Web culture has changed and how your goals for your website have changed too. If you need to look further than that, you will be considering your business model, your business niche, your marketing strategy and budget and your corporate identity. These need to be secured before you move into any new or revitalized Web project. Being secure in these key areas allows you to confidently consider the options for your Web site redesign. Consider everything from the domain to hosting, the script/database platform the site is built on, the functionality of the website (do you want to move into e-commerce, if you haven’t already?) the look of the web design and how relevant is your content to today’s visitors?

Here are the top 11 advantages of Web redesign:

  1. Domain and hosting re-considerations – you can look at more relevant domains for your Web presence and redirect your old domain references using a 301 redirect to ensure all of your search engine results find their corresponding link on your new site.
  2. Fresh overall look – has your company’s image been updated? Or does your current Web design carry obviously old design trends? Looking established is one thing, looking passe is another! Keep the site design clean and simple to ensure its longevity.
  3. Expand your Web site design – many older sites were built to the past standard of 800px wide screens. Now the standard resolution is 1366×768 (reference), which makes narrow screens feel constrained.
  4. Funnily enough, we have gone back to having to accommodate small screens again as we are now the mobile generation. If your website structure does not adapt to the different screen sizes it is not considered “mobile-friendly.” Improving the user’s experience is a key part of the design and re-design process and integrating the “responsive design” that adapts to your laptop, tablet and mobile phone.
  5. Update and reorganize content – A redesign gives you permission to turf old news, or at least move it to an archives area, and rewrite your content with content that is freshly enriched with up-to-date search terms and keywords.
  6. Navigation and Menu improvement – A key aspect of redesign is a full review of the menu systems and supporting navigation.
  7. Refresh photos and images throughout the site – get rid of that old stock photo and add in some custom photos of your own.
  8. Update your website’s platform to a CMS. If you have a CMS already, make sure it gets updated to the latest version to ensure compatibility, security and functionality.
  9. Updated SEO techniques – if you don’t keep your search engine optimization up to date, you will lose out to competitors who do.
  10. Add video – get rid of that flash intro and put those development funds into adding a custom video clip to your revitalized site.
  11. Consider adding ties to Social media – like Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Just make sure you are prepared to update and maintain these other media sites in the future.

A redesigned website can be even more powerful than a new website. When done correctly, your Web designer can make sure that the momentum carried by the old site fuels the redesigned site – even if this means a new domain or updated web page addresses.

A final reason for Web site redesign, whether you are in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, is to spread the news to clients, friends and everyone else! A Web redesign will get people talking and re-ignite their interest in your company and services.

We specialize in Web site revitalization and can meet your graphic design and web design needs serving Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane & Okotoks.

Five Key Ways to Market Your Calgary Business

Here are five fundamental ways to market your business on the web and on the street:

1. Get properly branded – getting a professional logo design is a great start, but it is also critical to plan your branding, which is based on the customer experience and how your company is interpreted by the customer from near and afar. Get a logo and business card at the minimum and during this process work through basic marketing factors such as demographics, culture, sales region and budgeting for advertising.

2. Develop a custom Web presence – Once you have the branding planned and established you can move this onto the Web by getting a custom site that supports your branding and business model. Ideally, you will secure  a domain, website and domain-based email addresses. The site should reflect the corporate identity, provide essential information about your company and also provide service to generate sales. If e-commerce is not a suitable fit for your company’s services, you can use a custom form to direct and define sales, or use an online chat system to connect with your customer directly.

3. Market your Web presence Online – this includes having an active website, email list and any active submissions to groups, help sites or forums. You can also increase traffic and sales by actively managing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaigns each week. Examples of this are commenting on blogs, getting back links to your site and running paid advertisements in search engines and directories. The more focused and niche-based your campaigns are online, the better results you will have. But, keep in mind that you need to research what people are looking for and balance those results with what you’d like them to see.

4. Market your Web presence Offline – this is the only way you can attract people to your online business when they are not at their computer. Look at any magazine from the early 1990’s (if you can find one) and I wager it will be nearly impossible to find ads with web addresses in them. These days classified ads, newspaper ads, posters, uniforms, video, tv, vehicle signage, stationary and pretty much any media channel is used by businesses to promote their Web presence. If your website is e-commerce enabled, then your offline marketing efforts can drive direct sales to your company just by handing out a business card. The customer may never call your number, but they may well purchase something from you with nothing more than a good first impression.

5. Be Consistent and be Professional
– in all cases, whether online or offline, be consistent with your branding and communications. Being professional does not mean being overly conservative, but it does require conscious attention to details. For example, simple typos in an introductory letter or a broken link on your website can detract from the overall image of your company. Make sure you follow your initial branding plan and mission statement and triple-check any published items that cannot be easily changed.