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These are my top SEO Questions

What is SEO and Online Marketing?

SEO stands for search engine optimization.  As a subset of SEM, SEO means that your website has been optimized to appear at the top of the free, or organic, section of an online inquiry. When you are looking for a product or service, the websites that do not say sponsored are there through work from SEO research and work behind the scenes. For example, if you are a photographer based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and you shoot weddings, you want to rank higher than everyone else for for DC Wedding Photographer in the search engines.  What SEO specialists do behind the scenes to get you to rank is many things, but the basics include making your website title "DC Wedding Photographer", or even "Wedding Photographer" and then letting the search engines discover your location through other pages.  Making sure your description tag has a story about WHY the person reading your snippet should even contact you, and including some basic key word tags to help you compete with the other millions of people vying for the number one spot too. Your whole website theme should center around being a professional photographer in the DC area, and about shooting weddings.  It takes a lot of time, and hard work and dedication to rank high in the search engines.  Because it is labor intensive, it is expensive.

Why IS SEO SO Challenging?

SEO is challenging because it is time consuming, and it has many technical difficulties. What a business hopes to gain from an SEO specialist is to out rank its competitors.  Meanwhile, all the competitors are trying to outrank you.  To add to the competition and the complexity, the algorithms keep changing how they rank you, leaving all the experts scrambling, reverse engineering what they think is happening, and reading each other's expert opinions to try to determine the best strategy to keep your business ranking.    Because it's laborious, it gets very challenging and complicated. An SEO expert is paid to keep your online business ranking at the top, to read and interpret the analytical information about your business, and to research the best online search terms so your small business can sell your widgets or service.  Let's go back to our wedding photography example. As a new wedding photographer entering a competitive market, how do you compete with all the existing big boys? Because it's difficult to compete with the search term  "DC Photographer" given the millions who are already competing, an SEO specialist knows how to dig deeply to research other ways (and online search terms) to help your small business compete.  Maybe a new trend is just starting that no one is really paying attention to called "Industrial Wedding Photographer".  Your SEO professional knows how to market you on that term before it goes big with blog posts, videos, and web pages all around that central theme.  Suddenly you are the expert on "Industrial Weddings" and everyone else follows you.  Understanding is only one piece of the puzzle. Online SEO specialists analyze the research and incorporate what we've learned into the marketing messages of your website. SEO is not simply create it and leave it. If you do that with the constant evolving online community, you will begin to loose your ranking, and consequently your money.  It's constantly evolving, and if you want to stay competitive you need to evolve with it. Strands Designs have built in SEO that come with the website design, for pricing that fits small business. You don’t break the bank with Strands Designs to get website design with built in SEO. All our websites come with the basics included in the design.

What Can You Do To Increase Website Speed? And why should I care about speed?

If you’ve ever looked for a business only to wait forever for the website to load then you will jump off and look for someone else. Not only do you need to have a website that loads quickly, but you need a marketing message that grabs your viewer’s attention right when you open. One of the biggest website design elements that contribute to slow speed is image sizing. This is particularly important for heavy graphic websites like photography sites or design sites. All Strands Designs images are run through a shrinking JPEG program without loss of image quality. This helps your site to load faster as the browsers are processing your site with smaller image sizes. Faster loading sites mean a greater chance for conversion because your site will actually be read, and faster loading sites rank higher in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page). We like to use Tiny PNG to shrink your image sizes.

Why Do You Stress Online Marketing more than Web Design?

The messages your company says are very important.  With design themes (Wordpress, Squarespace) in today's market, the laborious html coding is already done and has been tested.  This allows Strand’s Designs to focus on what we do best, which is to find your voice and optimize your website to convert and to rank high in the search engines. Getting your sales message created, researched, and optimized, is where the most time is spent.  We need to examine the demand and the competition to help your business rank well and sell.  I am a firm believer in that all that is needed to make a great website are three components: People Need To Find You, People Need To Respond To Your Well Thought Out Marketing Messages, and People Need To Respond To Your Professional Design.  Those three components give you a better shot at competing with all the noise (your competitors who want the same thing) out there.


Why Do You Get  Small Business in Local Directories?

Small business directories help your business compete locally. Many of them offer a free listing.  The more directories you get into who promote you, the more signs there are to the search engines about the legitimacy of your business.  It can take awhile to fill out all the information on each directory, get your post card or text, confirm your identity, and then get a live listing.  Doing this is all part of SEO, and all your competitors are doing it too. I call it plug and chug.  Create your spreadsheet, submit your listings, and follow up. You need to be in as many local directories as you can so when the search engines look at you, you have greater authority in their eyes that you are a real business, and not some spammer.  Having a consistent local business listing across many different local directories is important so you get the SEO credit. My websites come with 5 free directory submissions.


What Are SEO Search Terms and How Do They Work?

There are short tailed search terms, and long tailed search terms.  Using our wedding photographer as an example, typing in "Photographer" is a short tailed search term.  In general, the shorter the search term (the more general it is) the more traffic you will get, but the less likely you are to convert because they may or may not be searching for what you have to offer.  If you work really hard for a year to rank for photographer, but you only shoot weddings, someone landing on your web site or a web page who is looking for a "Food Photographer", or "Corporate Portraits", or "Newborn Photos", may land on your website, but you do not offer what they are looking for, so they will jump off. Some people think, yeah but at least I will be getting my name out there.  Trust me, with all the noise out there no one is remembering your name without a $100,000+ advertising budget, and years of promotions. It's better to be more strategic and narrow down precisely what you do and where you do it. You love to shoot weddings in an "Industrial, Urban Setting" in and around Baltimore, MD.  Ok, good. An SEO professional will nail down the search terms for you that are the best bang for your buck so you can compete.  Maybe through research we decide that "Industrial Wedding Photographer Photo Journalist Style" is what you should aim for.  Then your entire overall website theme, marketing messages, meta data, photos, and online business directory messages will all be about Industrial Weddings shot in a photo journalist style in and around Baltimore, Maryland.   So again, In general, the shorter the term, the wider the net is cast for more people to find you, and the harder is is to get ranking.  But, with long tailed search terms you are more likely to get someone looking very specifically for what you offer.  Back to our photographer example.  A long tailed search term is something like this. "Baltimore Industrial Wedding Photographer"  If you type that in Google (or any other search engine)  you will see a number.  That number today (in Safari - browsers can vary too) is 294,000.  That 294,000 number represents the number of websites competing for that search term, "Baltimore Industrial Wedding Photographer"  But, comparing that to "Photographer" who today gets 386,000,000 which one do you have a better shot in?  Especially given thats exactly what you do.   When you are new, your best online advertising method is to go for long tailed search terms and expand out generally over time. The goal is to have an overall business theme with cohesive pages that become a semantic website. To learn about semantic websites, please read understanding semantic search.

 How long does it take to begin ranking in the search engines?

It usually takes a minimum of at least 6 months to a year before you begin any kind of ranking on Google, Bing, or MSN, the top three search engines with SEO only techniques. If you combine SEO with SEM (PPC ads) you rank immediately, but it costs money for the advertising.  I did a website for SciCo Products and they rank #1 for many google search terms in only 6 months. Check out their ranking!

What is A/B Split Testing and Why Do We Need It?

A/B split testing measures two similar pages with similar messages.  The measured differences can be minor such as moving a contact me button from the front right to the front left and then calculating how many people click on the front left, verses how many people click on the front right. The tests need to keep all the variables the same, such as when the pages are displayed and where. It takes time to get the results.  But once you get the results you can have the best optimized page up for converting to sales, and sales is the ultimate goal. I try not to change too many things at once because we don't know which change it was that really caused the increase or decrease.  Sometimes change is complicated and needs entirely different copy for comparison.  The bottom line is that the A/B split testing takes time, and once you arrive at the best converting page, you will increase your sales. 

Why Should We Create Professional Social Media Pages?

Social media presence is a must have for your small business, especially if you want to sell to the largest growing market, The Millennials.  Television, radio, and newspaper advertising just don't work like they used to. Everyone uses their cell phone to search for whatever product, service, or help they need.    Mobile marketing is becoming the next huge wave in marketing strategies, and I believe, will surpass TV and Radio as the medium for marketing.  One way to compete in the mobile sector is through social media, and that means you will need professional looking social media pages to drive mobile traffic your way. You need professional looking Social Media Pages.

Why Do You Stress The Importance of Professional Images?

A visual image communicates your idea much faster than text.  

Your website will not look professional or enticing without real professional photography.  You need a professional photographer who can take a concept and create an image that works.  You want your products or services to sell.  We must have professional photos of your products in order for them to sell. Remember, when someone buys your product online, they can't touch it, or experience it like they can in a retail store.  The quality of the photography can make or break your sale.  If you want to sell your products, then be serious about your professional photography.  We can't have your sister's second husband shooting the photography for your new website. Think big.  Think professionally.  The one area we cannot save money on is the photography.  If you want to use your photographer, please make sure they have quality photos, and are a real professional.  Remember, we are a partnership.  I need to be proud of the website I design, and I need to be able to sell you.  How can I sell you if the photography doesn't show professionalism?


What Is Responsive Website Design and Why Should I Care?

Responsive website design means your website will scale down from a desktop size to a laptop, to a notebook, and down to a mobile phone.  Each device is a different size, so your website should look the same in each size.  Google and other search engines consider responsive web design a necessity for ranking, yet many small businesses are unaware that their old web template is not fully responsive.  Not having a responsive website will hurt your ranking. All Strands Designs include responsive website design.

What Is a Linking Strategy?

The world wide web is all about linking from one page to the next. To increase your ranking you need an internal and external linking strategy. The internal is easy. Your pages are all interlinked methodically and with purpose. It is not a random act without thought. Your anchor text (what you name your link) should be precise and relevant to the article or page you are linking to. External linking happens naturally in time but there are many strategies to get inward bound links to your website.

How does the shopping cart work?

Our e-commerce website design supports every phase of the check out cart experience.  The features include the following:

  • Website design with product tags and categories for your customers to find your business

  • Ultra reliable web hosting services

  • Easy to use tools that allow you to manage your shopping cart

  • Ongoing support to help you maintain your shopping cart

  • You can manage your online store with only a web browser

  • You can group and display your products by categories and subcategories

  • You can control where your products are displayed on your page

  • You get access to upload, display, and replace your product photos

  • You have control to add, modify, and delete product categories and sub categories

  • You have control to put your products on sale.

I hope my FAQ have helped you understand the basics of web design and online marketing concerns. 

If you have any questions, or need a quote, please shoot me an email or give me a call.