Tuesday, January 2, 2018

S-E-Uh Oh – Why Ongoing SEO Matters

Set it and forget it may be a life hack for a lot of things but – SEO isn’t one of them. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a must-have when you launch a website, but what you may not know is that the best SEO takes some care and maintenance to keep it robust. Did you know the top spot in Google results gets over 36% of all clicks, but number 2 only gets 12.5%? SEO matters, and you can’t stay at the top without it. SEO is your site’s 24-7 sales rep!

When you start your website, hopefully you optimized your SEO with items like keywords, meta tags, meta descriptions, search engine submission, directory submission. But don’t stop there. You want to monitor and nurture your SEO on an ongoing basis to see how it’s performing. Look at search results to see where your site is standing, and tweak from there. Bing, Yahoo and the big daddy, Google, are constantly changing their algorithms and web ranking strategies, so it follows that to be successful, your SEO must evolve too. Studies show that companies who didn’t continue SEO saw their page rankings decrease by as much as 30% - and those who invest in ongoing SEO activities increase theirs by 18%.

The fact is, SEO drives 75% of web traffic – and impacts both online and brick-and-mortar purchases. Yep, you read that right: More than three-quarters of us hit the web to find a physical place to make a purchase or fulfill a need. You wouldn’t let the grass grow over your front door, so why would you let your SEO go unattended?

We know it can be intimidating to jump into the sea of SEO without a net, so we suggest taking a few smaller steps to start. Here are four of our favorites:

Google Analytics is a great place to start for ongoing SEO. With it you can see where traffic comes from, who your visitors are, where they go first, which pages they spend the most time on – and focus your efforts there.

Reassess your keywords. Those keywords were great when your site launched, but a year later how people search may be different. Take a hard look at the words and phrases you’re focusing in on, especially when you run campaigns.

Optimize your content. What does that mean? Write for the algorithms. That means including target keywords, adopting a conversational style and asking (and answering) lots of questions by anticipating your visitors’ needs. In addition, add new content regularly – that shows search engines that your site isn’t stagnant, which also contributes to higher page rankings.

Build your links. Incorporating a number of external links also contributes to your page ranking. Choose carefully, and select sites that are rich in valuable, well-trafficked content. You’ll also want to review and update these links regularly because penalties for broken links are severe. And don’t forget cross-linking within pages on your own website!

We could talk SEO all day, and by the time we finish a sentence, it all could be different. It’s a mad, mad worldwide web out there – and one that’s always changing. We use the word “dynamic” to describe tech for a reason. Content, language, algorithms – they all play into how your SEO pings. Luckily we speak the language – and we’re ready to translate for you. Reach out to Tony Oedewaldt at [email protected] or 309-346-6974.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

McD Team Design and Builds Welcome Center Kiosk for Visit Mason City, Iowa

The Music Man panel features a real snare drum with the Mason City logo on it and a real trombone.

Old display
The old Visit Mason City Welcome Center display was informational with some interactive displays. However, it didn’t really stand out to guests passing through the center. 

The area in the Welcome Center where the display was placed had no access to electricity limiting the interactivity within the display. The option of moving the display was considered, but the decision was made to leave the display in its current location and develop a more creative display that would be more interactive and attention-grabbing.

Mason City called McDaniels Marketing for help. After our discovery visit, we were able to design a new kiosk that incorporated a variety of different interactive options and we were able to streamline the interchangeable display for photography and information for the Mason City area.

The new kiosk is three-sided and hollow. Each panel pays homage to the main draws of Mason City - The Music Man and Frank Lloyd Wright; as well as local attractions, events, restaurants and accommodations. The fourth ‘side’ of the display allows visitors to actually enter and view a plethora of Music Man artifacts. Visitors can even play a few notes from 76 Trombones, one of the most iconic musical numbers from the musical, on a scaled down piano.

The River City panel features interactive trivia cubes that rotate; as well as a photobook of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
The three outside panels have interactive features to draw visitors in to experience the display, and will attract those in the area simply by the activities of other guests. On one corner rotating blocks were installed that feature trivia, giving guests the opportunity to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and Meredith Willson. A photobook was installed on another panel featuring hotels, restaurants and other local attractions. The pages of the photobook can be interchanged as needed and allow for more space for displaying photos of the area.

We wanted the display to stand out in the Welcome Center so we incorporated the colors of the Visit Mason City logo, yellow and red and included the logo on each panel. We were even able to feature the logo on a salvaged snare drum on the Music Man panel. Additional musical instrument were attached to the display drawing attention to the display.

Due to the size of the final piece, the display was developed by our creative team and built under our watchful eye by a local sign builder. The pieces were broken down for transportation and then rebuilt onsite in Iowa. The final display is four feet around and 11 feet tall. The tremendous attention to detail is evident on every panel, inside and out.

Inside the display you can learn to play a tune on a real miniature piano.
The new display now gives Mason City a more striking and interactive Welcome Center that comes alive and is visible as soon as you enter the Welcome Center.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What’s all the hype about HTTPS?

Decisions, decisions…

What the heck is HTTPS – and why should I care? It’s a question our clients are asking more and more, thanks to more and more buzz across the web.

Much like English is the international language, HTTP and HTTPS are the international languages of the world wide web. Most websites are built with HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). Think of it like an ATM without a password. You can get in and see whatever you want, read through any page you want to, even take anything you want, with nothing to stop you. No big deal right? Until you start collecting sensitive information like credit cards, passwords or personal data.

That’s where HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) comes in, with another layer of encryption that prevents unwanted viewing and data theft. That encryption uses yet another protocol called SSL/TSL (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security). You can spot an HTTPS connection by the green lock symbol that appears next to the URL in your browser bar. HTTPS has been around for a while – some say since the mid-90s – but the recent trend toward more secure site viewing has put the spotlight on it.

Google is driving it (of course), and if visitors are using Chrome (owned by Google) or Firefox to view your website, they’ll see a warning about viewing a webpage that isn’t secure. Google started flashing the alerts in January of this year, and it’s catching on. Not all sites are experiencing this yet, but they could by the end of the year if they don’t have an SSL in place. You’ll definitely see a benefit to going SSL, as it ensures your site is secure in the areas of ownership, content and transactions (if applicable).

The effort was supposed to initially target sites that require visitors to submit sensitive or personal information but has now spread to all websites. The momentum actually started back in 2014 when Google made https sites a signal that could raise your search engine ranking. But it really didn’t gain traction until this year when Google began putting warnings out when visitors tap the URL.

While most sites haven’t converted to HTTPS yet (30 to 50% depending on which study you read), we do know usage has tripled since 2014, on both mobile and desktop. Not surprisingly, shopping, healthcare and finance rank in the top 10 of industries with the highest HTTPS usage. And there’s no doubt having that extra SSL impacts your ranking – half of the first and second position sites in a random sampling of 100,000 keyword results were HTTPS.

Why make the move to SSL? Our top four motivators:

  1. Security – as we said, protect your users’ privacy and their data. 
  2. User confidence – especially as time goes on, users will be conditioned to trust sites with HTTPS, and turned away by Google’s security warning message. 
  3. Analytics – when you get a referral from another site through HTTP your analytics report simply says “direct.” When your site gets visits from other HTTPS sites, you’ll see the traffic from each referral. 
  4. Because Google says so – history tells us when they drive a change, sites that don’t conform steadily drop in rankings. 

The good news: It’s not terribly complicated for us to put the SSL in place. We handle it all behind the scenes. When applied, it covers your entire website as well as future pages and content you add. You won’t notice an impact on page load times or server resources, and visitors may actually notice that your site moves faster, thanks to ramped up browser speed only available when you activate HTTPS.

Bottom line: There’s just something about the little green padlock that provides big browsing benefits. We’re ready to help you turn the key. Contact our Digital Director, Susan Crisler at [email protected] or 309-346-4230.