Category Archives: Small Business Marketing

Buffalo SEO Company

Make sure your website designer or SEO guy has a face

Post by Roger Firestien of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the State University of New York- Buffalo State.

Earlier this year I decided to update my website. It had gotten pretty stale. Because my old website was dated and because I wasn’t keeping up with my web presence, I decided to find a company that could optimize my web presence for my new website. I didn’t know anyone locally at the time so I did some research online and came across a company in Orange County California that looked like the people who could enhance my presence on the web.

I sent the company an email on a Friday afternoon and to my surprise the president of the company called me two days later on a Sunday afternoon. We had a lovely talk and he assured me that his company could help. Later that week, I had my “on-boarding call” with one of the account representatives who got all of the requirements for what I wanted them to accomplish, along with my credit card information so that they could charge me monthly for their services.

At first, I started to see some results in how my site began to rank. I also received monthly reports from the company detailing all of the technical data that told me how many links they were creating. Several months into the campaign I emailed the president asking to schedule a conversation with him. Four days passed and I didn’t get a response back from him. When I called the company asking to speak to him I was told that he was on vacation and that he would be on vacation for two months. I did however speak to my account representative who assured me that things were going just as planned.

Early last month, I sent an email to my account representative and didn’t hear anything back from him. When I called the company, I was told that he had left the firm. When I asked to speak to the president I was told that he was on a leave of absence… INDEFINITELY. I was assigned to another account representative.

Two weeks later, nothing had changed with my rankings and I noticed on my September report from the company that they were sending me results of work they had done in July. Not good!

During the time I was working with the California folks, I began to teach some creativity workshops at DIG at the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Sam Insalaco attended a number of my workshops and I got to know him. I later found out that he did website design and search engine optimization (SEO).

Several weeks ago I decided to do some further research on the California SEO company. I typed in the president’s name, the name of the company and the word “scam” in Google. Sure enough, there were several scam reports on him and his company. When I looked up his company on the Better Business Bureau web site, I found that the BBB had assigned his company an “F” grade. Really not good!

Last week I got in touch with Sam and explained the problems I was having with the SEO company. I met with Sam the following Monday, hired him to do my SEO work and fired the folks in California.

When I started writing this blog my intention was to write about creativity and how you can apply creativity methods to make your website more appealing. I decided instead to pass along some things that I learned about the SEO process and how important it is to have a good relationship with the person who is helping to represent you on the web.

Here is my advice.

First, there are lots of companies out there that claim to be able to boost your web presence or get rid of items on the web that might be damaging to your reputation. I am not an expert, but in doing some research on these companies it looks to me that most of them don’t do what they promise.

Second, get recommendations from folks in your area that have worked with SEO firms. Unfortunately when I started working with the company in California I didn’t know anyone that could direct me toward a reputable company, so I was stuck with someone who I had never met face to face, that was eager to take my money, show me bogus linking reports and assure me that they were doing a good job.

Finally, and this is the most important part, make sure that your SEO person is someone you can meet with in person. That person should be willing to sit down with you face-to-face and talk to you about your goals for your web presence, which is exactly what Sam and I do.

email marketing

Don’t do these 4 things when sending marketing emails

I don’t know about you, but I am on more email marketing lists than I remember signing up for. If I find the guy that sold his list… anyway! I wanted to just drop a quick few notes of advice when it comes to sending out emails on behalf of your organization.

  1. Don’t be too wordy. Today, nobody wants to read a long email – especially not a long marketing email – that goes on and on about the service or event that you’re trying to sell them. Just give them some enticing details and send them over to your website using some very clear calls-to-action (links) to the page on your website where they can learn more.
  2. Do not use comic sans as the main font in your newsletter. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t use a font that they use in comic books. If you like the font, use it in your signature at the end of the email, or somewhere less pronounced. Pick a clean, easy to read font that is a web-safe font.
  3. Don’t just send your emails out via Outlook, or any way directly from your email program on your computer. Why, you ask? Because permission marketing is smart. You give your audience the choice of whether they want to receive your messages. When you use a program like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, etc… they have built in controls that allow people to say whether or not they want to continue to receive your emails (unsubscribe buttons). These are important. And maybe for a reason you haven’t thought about. When someone gets an email directly from you, that is obviously just a mass-email that you’re sending out to everyone in your address book, there’s a good chance a few of them are going to want to STOP receiving those emails from you. Maybe it’s an old customer who no longer does business with you. Maybe it’s a failed prospect. Or, maybe it’s even a former coworker that doesn’t really want to hear from you anymore. Let’s face it, this stuff happens. Well, how are they going to let you know that they want to stop receiving those emails. Here’s some scenarios:
    1. Scenario 1: They receive your email and then email you back and say “Please stop sending me these emails, thanks.” – that’s fine, and nice enough of them, but you’d put them in a weird/uncomfortable place. They are put in the spot where they need to tell YOU to stop. Not where they are given the power to choose, without having to contact you directly. You know what I mean? Don’t put people in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you directly to stop emailing them.
    2. Scenario 2: They really don’t want to talk to you, or email you, so they click the Mark as Spam button on their email program. Uh oh! What? You’re a spammer now? Yes, you are. You’re emailing people without their permission. So, people are going to mark you as spam. When that happens, you get flagged. And if you get flagged enough, you’re going to get blocked from sending ANY emails. Yes, that means you can’t even send your coworkers photos of your cat because your ENTIRE domain is blocked and listed as spam. Yeah, you don’t want that. So don’t send emails from Outlook, gmail, whatever. Set up an account with an email marketing system like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor (my two favorites) and use their professional services for sending out your marketing emails. If you need help setting this up, let me know.
  4. Use high quality graphics, and make them the right size – but don’t make your entire email an image. Don’t leave it up to the user’s screen or the email program to display the images in the email the way that you want them to be displayed. If your graphics are too big, or too small, then you’re putting at risk the level of professionalism that you’re hoping to show when you’re sending your email. And please, whatever you do, do NOT stretch an image (distorting it) just to make it fit the open space within your email.  If an image needs to be 600px wide by 250px high, then resize and crop it down to that. Don’t take a 2000px wide by 1000px high image, stick it in there and expect it to fill the space correctly. The ratio is not the same, and it will either look distorted (depending on how you put it in there), or it will be too tall for the space, and possibly push some things out of place. Even worse, don’t take an image that is already smaller than the area you want to fill and make it stretch. It’s going to look terrible, trust me.If you make the entire email an image, then only some of the people who get the email will even see it. Some email systems block embedded images entirely within emails. This happens often at offices and inside corporations who take hacking and virus checking pretty seriously. Gmail even does this by default. Use images to support the text in the email. Yeah, I know that an image can look prettier, but what’s the point of pretty, if not that many people are even going to see it? And ALWAYS include the text version of the email message when you create it in your email marketing system. Then those of your subscribers who have chosen to receive the text version will actually see something. MailChimp has some great resources on email design best practices. You should read them.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you need help with your email marketing campaigns. I’d be happen to take a look at what you’re doing now and suggest ways we can work together to make it better. If you’re doing any of the things I mention above, stop. You’ll thank me later.

Social Media Marketing

How To: Simple Social Media Posting

This is going to be a quick and painless posting about the simplest things to do when you are posting on social media for your business.

Here are some quick how-to pointers:

  1. Don’t post as your personal account.
  2. – If you are posting for your business, then you should be using your business’ social media account. You can always share your business posting via your personal account once you put it up on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

  3. Use an image in your post.
  4. – People are more likely to see and engage with your posting if it includes an image. Embed the image right in the post, or make sure that your website is set up to display the images from the page when a page is shared on social media. If you don’t know how to do that, let us know.

  5. Include a link to the content that you want to promote.
  6. – If you’re promoting a product, piece of content or something else that you talk about on your website, link to the actual page of content. You ultimately want to drive people to your website, right?

  7. Use no more than three #hashtags in your post.
  8. – Don’t clutter things up. Use up to 3 appropriate and meaningful hashtags in your posts, should you have the character limit space to do so.

  9. Don’t tag yourself in the post.
  10. – You are already posting the social media update, so people will already see that it’s from you. You don’t need to tag yourself in the post.


    Like I said, these are just some simple tips to get you started posting the right way. If you want more help with your social media marketing, let us know.

    Do you have more simple suggestions for people? If so, post them below!

What Target Teaches You About Advertising

I am not afraid to admit that I love Target.  It combines so many wonderful things in one clean, bright space.  I know, this is the suburban equivalent of hanging out at Wal-Mart, but bear with me.  Inspired by a post I wrote for myself at syntaxxerrorr.com,Mt Nebo Target I’m bringing you a list of things that Target can teach you about advertising.

Highlight your best features – Target knows what it does right.  It’s clean and bright and (aside from the makeup section) surprisingly well-organized.  Target goes so far as to recognize in its 2012 Annual Report that cleanliness is one of the factors that affects guests’ perceptions of the store and is a factor in its competitive ability.  It’s kind of like an it’s-so-obvious-you-may-forget-about-it point, but let me state the obvious.  Be obvious about your positive attributes.  Focus on what makes your brand the best – that’s your unique selling proposition – and then don’t let people forget that your coffee shop uses all-natural everything or your agency has worked with X company with Y results.

Take it as it comes or roll with the punches – On a rainy day, Target brings up that rolling cart full of umbrellas.  They know that some people forgot theirs at home or haven’t replaced an old one. Timing is everything, and so is embracing what comes your way.  While any advertising/PR person worth their beans will tell you that you need a plan, you also must be flexible when unforeseen circumstances come your way.  (I touched on this in 7 Things To Remember When Posting for Your Business.)  Consumers can tell if you’re not being genuine, so if something happens, make sure your customers are aware of it rather than sweeping it under the rug.  They will appreciate that you’re being proactive and working with what comes your way, and you’ll be able to build a trusting relationship with those customers.

Broadcast your goods and services – Here’s another it’s-so-obvious-you-may-forget-about-it point.  Target sends out almost-daily emails with compelling reasons to click through to their site; once you are on the site, they’ve got you.  Sometime they’ll just send a snippet of their online exclusive offers, other emails will contain a link to the weekly ad.  Make sure you let customers know what you are offering and if there are any perks for being a loyal customer.  In any event, let your customers know what you can offer them.

Change is good – Target constantly rotates their stock. This is most notable in clothing (obviously enough).  But even if your business is not a clothing company, you need to change; maybe a better word is evolve. If you haven’t taken a look at your website with a critical eye recently, now is the time to do so.  Is it static or is it dynamic?  Are you displaying current information such as location, contacts, hours of operation, goods/services provided, and up-to-date links?  If you need help, contact theBrewRoom for a hand.  Sometimes its best to have an impartial person with whom to brainstorm and get a fresh perspective.  Make sure to update your social accounts along with your website!

Just because it’s a deal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or you should offer it – Sometimes Target has too much to pick from.  This can get overwhelming, especially when clearance-time hits.  You just want ALL the clearance things.  So try not to pile on the specials or offer them constantly.  If you’re always offering a 20% off special, why don’t you just reduce the price by 20%?  Otherwise, it’s like the shopping equivalent of the boy who cried wolf; your customers are just building up an immunity to your deals.  Sure, there are certain buzz words that whip consumers into a frenzy, like “sale” and “just reduced,” so use them for their intended purposes.  It’ll make it more effective and have more of an impact when you have a sale (for real!) in the future.

So I want to know: what do you love (or hate) about Target (or another establishment)?  And more importantly, what do you learn from your shopping trips?

Cool Tools on the Web

Since we do a lot of stuff online, we thought that we might share some information on products that we like to use.

Dropbox

DropboxDo you share files between multiple computers at home, or at work, or at both? Do you ever find that it might be useful to be able to access certain files on your table or mobile phone, but they’re on your computer, and you don’t know how to get them over to your device? Well, Dropbox is perfect for that.

We use Dropbox to share files with clients. Throughout our project process, we share files and information with our clients via a shared Dropbox folder. It’s ridiculously easy to set up, and it gives you a good amount of space for free. If you refer additional people, you get even more free space! Give Dropbox a try, and explore more of the cool features that come with this tool.

Google Aps for Business

Google Apps for Business

Our email, documents, calendar, etc all run on Google Apps for Business. This makes it very easy to access our emails from anywhere. It also syncs your emails, calendars and files across lots of devices. There are tons of applications that integrate with Google Apps for Business that can help you run your business as well. We use several, such as invoicing software, project management software, crm tools, etc!

IFTTT.com (If this, then that)

IFTTT.comNow this is a cool tool! You can integrate lots of “channels” that you might have, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Tumblr, etc… and when you do something on one of those, it can trigger something on another “channel”.
We have some “recipes” set up to automatically publish certain things that we do on Twitter to our company blog. Pretty neat stuff. It basically helps you automatically publish things across lots of different platforms (what they call channels). It’s a good way to keep all of your different channels active and updated on a regular basis.

Feedly

feedly feed readerOur #1 Favorite replacement for Google Reader. Lots of people were terribly upset about Google Reader being given the axe this year. We, on the other hand, were PSYCHED because it forced us to find something better. And something better we found, indeed! There’s even a really nice mobile app version.

Search for, or plug in your favorite blogs and news feeds and organize them. It also gives you lots of sharing options.

Hint: you can integrate Feedly with IFTTT.com – so when you tag something in Feedly, it automatically shares that article with the channel(s) of your choice. So cool!

OK, that’s enough for you to take in for now. Hope you find this helpful. If so, please share it!

What tools do you like? Want advice on other tools? Let us know in the comments below!

Most Effective Way to Advertise

effective advertisingThere are so many different ways to advertise your business today. Just from sitting here in front of my computer, I can: send out email blasts, start ads in Google AdWords, Yahoo/Bing Ads, Yelp, Yellowpages.com, Citysearch, Facebook Ads, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other website that I want to pay to promote my business. That’s basically limitless! You would never run out of places to put your ads. But what is the most effective way to advertise for your business?

Is there really anything better than a happy and satisfied client that is willing to tell all of their customers about you and your business? Is there anything better than knowing that you have a small army of many of these individuals that are willing to spread the word about how awesome you are? This is living, breathing, perhaps traveling, free, and ongoing advertising for your business! If this is happening for you, then it also means something bigger. It means you are doing something right! #mustbedoingsomethingright It means that you built something, created something, or helped someone so much that they are willing to turn around and help you!

As an example, here is one of our happy customers that I check in with personally all of the time:

 Words from a happy customer of theBrewRoom:

As a new doggie daycare and overnight boarding business owner, I needed a website that was not only eye catching, but user friendly as well. Not knowing a lot about websites and how they work “behind the scenes” I needed someone that could help me think on a business and creativity level the best way to run and design my website to maximize on the visibility of my site over my competitors. I could not be happier with Sam and all of his help, input and most importantly patience. He paid attention to my goals and came up with extremely thorough solutions until we found the perfect fit. He provided ideas and feedback, met with me on a regular basis constantly ensuring we were both on the same page and was EXTREMELY prompt with completing tasks and responding to my questions. I definitely would not have been able to do this without Sam. He was awesome to work with and my website hits have increased tremendously in just a couple of months!

~Courtnay Rowan – Friendly Paws Pet Resort, Robinson, PA

Well, Sam, what if I haven’t received any happy-customer feedback like you did?
Well, “insert your name here“, you can just ask! I actually sent out a nice little email asking my clients if they would be willing to write up a testimonial for me and my business. It was really simple. I have a MailChimp list of all of my clients, and I email them once in a while to update them on what I am doing, and to see if they have any needs. You never know when a past client is going to need something more from you, so stay in touch!

Now, we know that all of your clients won’t be willing, or able to do this for you. Heck, you might not even want certain clients to speak on your behalf! 🙂 But, if you do have a few, that you know are happy, and you know would be willing to be an evangelist for your brand and your work, then let them know, and show them that you appreciate it.

The Bottom Line:

If you have happy customers that are spreading the word about you and how great you are, you have done something right, and you have free and credible advertising sources. There is nothing more effective than that. They may not tell 100 people a day. But, they are telling another living human being about you – directly. And they may even be able to answer some questions. That’s a heck of a lot more than a text add can do!

Define, Focus and Execute

Define Your Goal
Focus on Strategy
Execute the Tactics

This really applies to any project or activity that you want to do. This is not just for web projects. If you think about these easy and clear steps to take, you can help give yourself the best change at being more successful with whatever it is you want to do!
Please let us know what you think by commenting, or sharing.

Goal:

  • What do you ultimately want to accomplish? What do you want to get out of this exercise/project?
  • What should you and/or your target get out of this project?

Strategy:

  • What do you need to do in order to achieve your goal(s).
  • Who is your target?
  • What tools resources do you HAVE in order to accomplish your goal(s)?
  • What tools and resources do you NEED in order to accomplish your goal(s)?

Tactics

  • What tools will I be using for this project/exercise? If I need new tools, how do I obtain them? DO NOT fit the tactic to the tools that you have at-hand. Your tools should allow you to execute your tactics, not restrict them.
  • Who will be performing what tasks? Please, please, please use the right people for the right task.
  • When is all of this happening?
  • How will I measure my success? (this might even be a whole separate section outside of tactics – but it’s really situational depending on your goals)

Example Situation:

Goal:

You want to grow your Twitter following and want more people to re-tweet what you post.

Strategy:

  • You don’t currently have a blog section of your website. Only tweet twice a week. You only follow local sports icons on Twitter.
  • You need to add a blog section to your website. You will use this new section of your website to create new content that can be shared on Twitter as well as on other social networks and websites.
  • You need to look for people on Twitter that would be interested in your content and what you have to say and follow those people.
  • You need be more active on Twitter.

Tactics:

  • Add a blog section to your website.
  • Start to write some content that is relevant to you or your company/brand. This content should be planned and developed with your ultimate goal(s) in mind – not just content for the sake of content.
  • Use tools (like Followerwonk) to find people on Twitter that you want to follow, and that you want to follow you back. Oh, and follow them.
  • Start re-tweeting some of the interesting and relevant things that these people are posting. Or better yet, reply back to them with comments or questions. Engagement is Good!
  • Start posting some of your content to Twitter. Don’t just post the link! Write a very short sentence that describes the content, then paste the link after that. You may even choose to use a #hashtag that matches the topic/subject of the post.
  • Twitter now allows you to see how your tweets are performing. Check out your analytics on Twitter.

 

Small Business SEO Tip #2

This is the second in a series of posts about Search Engine Optimization for

In case you missed the first post, you can find it here: Small Business SEO Tip #1.

Tip #2 – Use a Content Management System

What is a Content Management System?

Small Business SEO TipsA content management system (CMS) is exactly as it sounds. It is a system that you use to build the structure and content of your website. It consists of at least a few components: a database, page format template(s), and a back-end management tool. There are a lot of moving parts and details that I didn’t list here, as I don’t want to make this an overly technical piece. Basically, you use a CMS to build the structure of your site, and to add/edit the content of your site. This includes text on the pages, media storage (images, video, documents), user access and so much more!

Why is a Content Management System Important?

A content management system allows you to maintain your website more easily than if your site were to be developed from scratch using static HTML or another web programming language. Meaning, you don’t need to know a programming language in order to edit the pages of your website. You won’t need to know how to create a new page from scratch, upload it to your server and add it to your menu/navigation. There are tools within the CMS that do this stuff for you.

You can even give multiple people access to your CMS to perform different tasks for you. This can be anything from Administrative access to the full system, the ability to add new content, just edit existing content, or just view existing content. There are LOTS of options here if you aren’t able to constantly maintain a site yourself.

Say you wanted to move some things around on your main navigation of your website. This would be VERY easy using any of the top CMS tools out there. If you wanted to do this on a static HTML website, then you would have to edit the code yourself, assuming you even have access to do that.

What are the best Content Management Systems?

In our opinion, WordPress is the most versatile, user-friendly, as well as feature-rich CMS out there. You can run anything from a simple blog about your morning coffee, to a full e-commerce site on WordPress. There are also thousands of plugins and themes that you can use to make your site look more unique and to add functionality that you would otherwise need to hire someone to develop for you.

Here are some popular content management systems:

Popular CMS Tools:

  • WordPress
  • concrete5
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • Expression Engine
  • Orchard Project

Popular e-Commerce CMS Tools:

  • Prestashop
  • Magento
  • OpenCart
  • Shopify
  • ZenCart

Here is a more expanded list of content management systems, should you need more information.

How do I Know Which CMS is Best For My Needs?

There are several factors that might influence your choice in content management systems. Sometimes, you are locked into a web hosting agreement that requires you to pick a CMS that will work on that hosting environment. You would need to check with your hosting provider and see which operating system and software their web servers will support – Apache, PHP, Microsoft, Java, etc…

You may also be previously familiar with a CMS and want to stay with it, since you’re most comfortable with it.

Your choice in web design and development companies will also have a lot to do with what CMS you end up using. Some companies will prefer one system over another. theBrewRoom prefers WordPress, for the reasons listed above.

That should cover it for today. We hope that you find these tips to be helpful! If there is something that you have a question about, or if you have a suggestion for a future Tip post, let us know.

Thanks for reading!

Not Showing Up In Google Search?

Are you part of one of the FAR TOO MANY businesses that are not showing up in Google searches? Have you tried Bing and Yahoo with the same lack of results? Well, guess what? Chances are, there is something wrong with your site that is causing the issue.

What can be wrong with my site that causes it to not show up in searches?

  • Poor HTML Structure
  • Lack of Basic SEO Elements
  • Slow/Cut-Rate Hosting Provider
  • Blacklisted/Penalized Site
  • Lack of Content
  • Content Not Indexed

We can go on for a LONG time about the different reasons that your site may not be performing well.
seo and content

Well, what can we do about it?

I’m glad you asked. Give us a call, or email us and we can help you diagnose your problem. Once we figure that out, we can also help you fix it. Search Engine Optimization is a process, not a one-time fix. Often times, we will work directly with our clients for months in order to develop a plan as well as execute that plan on how to drive up their search engine rankings. This is something that we will do together, and you will learn a lot about how the web works, and how to make it work for you and your business. We hope to hear from you today.

Have a great week!

Celebrate Small Businesses and Independent Retailers

Since this week is Small Business Week, we thought that it would be a perfect time to post a quick mention about some of the great local businesses that we have had the pleasure of working with over the past few years.

Celebrate the Independents in Shadyside

Shadyside PittsburghPittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood is one of the greatest locations for shopping local. There are so many small businesses in the area that you probably don’t even know about. They even have an annual event to help make you aware of the fact. Did you know that?  Check out the “Celebrate Your Independents” event in Shadyside from June 29th through July 3rd.

Doggie Daycare and Dog Boarding in Robinson PA

We are pretty blatant dog lovers over here at theBrewRoom. Our personal Instagram, Facebook, Google+ accounts are littered with photos of our two beloved creatures. But, did you know that there is a great small business in Robinson PA that can take care of your dog while you’re at work, or away on vacation (should you choose not to take them with you)? Friendly Paws Pet Resort has multiple play yard areas, clean kennels and a dog-loving staff that will make your furry friend feel at home, while they aren’t at home. You should check them out if you feel you might need to send the 4-leg friend somewhere for a day or more.

We Love Thai Food!

Thai Food in PittsburghI mean, who doesn’t love Thai food? Ok, I know some people that don’t. Just a few. But anyway, there is a FANTASTIC Thai restaurant in Regent Square in Pittsburgh. For those of you that are familiar with the area, there used to be a Green Mango restaurant in the spot. It is now called Thai Cottage, and the food is just as good, if not better than it was with Green Mango. We actually think it’s better, and we ordered from both restaurants quite often. Love the Crab Fried Rice!!!! Give them a try. The owners are fantastic people. The weather is perfect for eating outside these days also. They have space out in front of the restaurant, so take advantage of that!

 

Happy National Small Business Week! And go out and celebrate your Independents!

Thanks for listening…