Affordable SEO for Small Businesses

Does affordable SEO for Small Businesses mean cheap?

The simple answer is “not always.”

Affordable SEO for small businesses is available but in my experience there’s a wide gap between how one company might approach SEO versus another.

As you’ll see below, the value of those services will vary greatly and results will too. This reminds me of the lecture I received from my buddy who trades stock for a living; a cheap stock is not always an affordable stock, because ultimately you’ll lose money on them.

Affordability truly does draw in the client-variable, and what their pocketbook looks like. Living in a small town and working with a lot of small businesses, we find ourselves confronted with this reality frequently; companies just don’t make as much money and thus don’t have thousands per month to spend.

There are a few simple principles that we live by when performing SEO services for small business clients. We are 100% that those principles are correct and that when done properly, Google looks with favor when ranking those websites. Thus far, the results are unmistakable.

When taking into account cost, small business owners should take inventory of the process that is being proposed – if that process doesn’t mention some form of content and backlinks, there’s really not a price that would make the proposed SEO service affordable.

Factors that Affect SEO Cost

There are many variables that can affect outcomes in search ranking and likewise, there are factors that your SEO service provider will use to determine your services cost. Generally as a company, everything boils down to time with some caveats.

Quality of the Product

What SEO companies are doing for you means something, especially if it results in better ranking, but that is a bi-product. The real product, if you’ll allow us, is the content that gets written and structured on your website. That’s the meat and potatoes of any good website and the most efficient of all SEO efforts.

Google recognizes that not every business on earth can afford a high-end SEO company, but there is something to be learned from the fact that every major company deploys a substantial SEO effort to rank their website higher.

It means small businesses ought to participate to some degree. Many don’t, and this is someday going to come back to haunt them.

Participating in the online-world would vastly change many small businesses, whether through selling online or carving out a wider swath of future customers to come visit your business.

As consumers are provided easier online research tools and as phone books get repurposed, merely being present online is not enough.

When deciding on what SEO Company to go with, consider the value of what you’ll be left with when you are done working together. Will the results last? Will their work continue to yield value? If the answer is yes, you’ve found a more quality product and if compared apples-to-apples, a more affordable one.

Time and Effort

Solid Small Business SEO requires time and effort – the higher the quality the higher the rate AND the more time it takes. Now, this isn’t to suggest that there aren’t ways that companies can be more efficient, it’s just that each client comes with a unique need in a unique niche.

As in any business, good work generally takes more time because of intricacy and precision. When looking for a good content writer, we find that they can actually type incredibly fast – so that isn’t the time-suck.

What takes the time is the part where we ask them to research multiple sources, sometimes interview clients (if we’re writing content for them), perform SEO research, then do what they do best: write…(then edit).

I would venture to guess that low-end services would look the opposite direction and that eventually, Google is going to figure out the difference. This may come through intelligence (AI) or user engagement; either way, higher quality and more informative content is going to be a more effective strategy.

The more effective, the more cost-worthy. One approach, which very few businesses actually take us up on, is for content to be written internally. We have one client-partner who did this and made up for all the rest that turned us down for the opportunity.

The result for her was exponential growth on the website we created. You just have to be willing to put in the time and if you’re willing to work odd hours and after the store closes down, you can get a serious leg up on your competitors and this might be the most affordable SEO for small businesses

Value of the Results

Another factor that affect SEO cost is the end-result or value of the “final” product. I quote final because there really is no such thing – it’s an ongoing deal.

But over some period of time, your website will grow in both keyword volume, keyword ranking and traffic. Some industries are just not that competitive – especially in small towns. Users rarely go to the internet to find them. Searching for “candle maker in Walla Walla” will not produce much, but doing so in New York City actually reveals quite a bit of competition.

If you’re a candlemaker in New York, ranking higher among your competitors will mean market share and there’s probably quite a bit to be gained. A lone candlemaker in Walla Walla might find just a having a quality website with a few pages of good content and a sitemap submission will do the trick.

Having a really clear idea about what you want to gain from your SEO initiative will determine how affordable SEO for small businesses actually is. If you’re looking to expand your online presence to account for thousands of relevant keywords related to your business, plan on paying more for that, but value shouldn’t be overlooked.

You should simply see a scaled up version of what a smaller business would pay with consideration to competition. Higher ranking among competitors is simply more valuable.

Ways to Produce Affordable SEO for Small Businesses

There are several ways we approach SEO for small businesses and affordability is a factor, though it isn’t the first thing we consider.

If we as an SEO company approached it from a cost-first mentality, we simply couldn’t deliver anything meaningful. What we try to do is look for the opportunity, then effort, then evaluate cost.

What you can assured of is that when we provide an estimate, we’re confident in what’s available.

Sometimes that means that we feel a content-led approach will produce the needed results and other times we determine that internal content, site restructuring and backlinks are all needed to hone in on a pile of available users searching for a businesses product or services.

Now, I’m all about efficiency and as I mentioned above, having a client write content is certainly something I’m open to, so long as we get the final pass in editing. If a client is willing to produce on a timeline that helps also – it allows us to perform our tasks on a reliable timeline and keeps pace for future ranking.

I’ve also had clients who are willing to reach out to partner organizations, especially in the non-profit world, to see about gaining links to relevant pages of their website. This is awesome. If you’re able to do both while also evaluating search opportunities, and already have a well-structured website, there’s no need for us. This is the ultimate in affordable SEO for small susinesses

How a Winery Can Get the Most Out of Their Website

Opening and operating a winery suggests a life wandering among the vines and sipping your latest vintage. However, running a winery is a tremendous amount of work that requires passion and knowledge. To assist in the business of a winery, an effective website can act as your online sales representative. Continue reading for ideas on how to get your website to work for you.

Creating a Distinguishing Homepage

Your homepage or landing page is the first impression a potential or returning customer will have of your winery. If the information and layout of that page does not immediately engage your guest, their visit to your website will be brief. Your homepage must be designed to captivate and engage the viewer. The content and format should invite the visitor to stay on the page.

Your website and its design should match your branding, so you have a consistent message. Showcase your brand through your logo, the winery itself, and your wines. Use fonts and colors on your website that complement the typefaces and hues on the labels on your wine bottles.

The visuals on your landing page should clearly tell the story of your winery. Focus on showing what makes your winery and wines different from your competitors. If your winery is informal, you want a relaxed and welcoming selection of graphics. Your homepage needs to represent your brand ideals.

Be sure to understand your target audience and customers. This will help you with creating your design. The basics for a website should include – our story, the facts – location/hours, merchandise, events, and buyers’ club. Consider adding a newsletter and/or blog to your website or other social media avenues.

Sharing Your Story

Your story should be included as part of your website’s homepage. Think about starting with the seeds of the idea for the winery. Capture the human essence of your winery’s journey. Link how your path to start or purchase the winery created the vision for the brands and types of wines that you produce and sell. Focus on what makes you, your brand, and your winery unique.

This story should complement or create the business niche that you occupy. Since the beginning of time, people have told stories as part of the human experience. Stories are how we connect with each other. Each of us has a chapter or two that we contribute to the whole of the thread of our humanness. Use this powerful emotion to relate to your customers.

Your voice should emerge and distinguish you from your competitors.

Utilizing Video and Imagery

While words are an essential element of your website, they need to be reinforced and enhanced with visuals. Include videos and images on your website that will connect you to your viewers. Include

  • views of the vineyard.
  • harvesting time.
  • videos of the winemaking process.
  • images of the tasting room (if you have one).
  • photographs of events held at your winery.
  • the labels created for your wines.
  • pictures of your wine cellar.
  • copy created to describe your winery and wines.

Branding and labeling do influence customers purchasing decisions. Use a mix of artistic mediums to bring your brand to life.

Update Your Content

To ensure customers will return to your website, it is important to continually refresh and add content. Any new wines should be showcased on your website. When you introduce a new wine, providing details about the formulation of the wine will entice customers to purchase the latest addition to your line. Include ideas of foods with which the wine would pair well. Invite customers to a wine tasting.

Provide visitors to your website with information about upcoming events at the winery. Different seasonal activities should be included, so customers visit throughout the year. You want customers to visit your website when they are looking for something to do. Being known as the winery with ever-changing and exciting events will continue to draw viewers to your website and winery.

Consider adding a blog to your website. However, with a blog you need to commit to regular updates. These updates can include informational postings about wines in general. You can wrap-up the posts by showcasing your own products. Blog posts can discuss storing wine, best glasses in which to serve wine, etc. Brainstorm a list of ideas of what novice and experienced wine enthusiasts would like to know. Use this list to write entries to post at least once a week on the blog section of your website.

You can seek feedback from your customers via your blog. This will enhance your relationships with your customers and develop a loyal group of wine devotees. Continually adapt your website to meet the requests of your customers. While updating your content, ensure you are including search engine optimization terms to connect with new customers.

Ease of Shopping

Your goal with an effective website is to increase sales. This should include customer purchases of bottles or cases of wines. It might also consist of tickets to events at the winery. Perhaps you will expand your business and incorporate complementary items.

You want a clear link to making purchases available on each page of your website. Pages that contain items to buy, should have a distinctly created access button to commence shopping. When customers are toggling between screens on your website, make sure their cart is always easily accessible. The cart or purchase button should be readily visible from each of your other pages.

Mobile Access and Formatting

Today’s lifestyle lends itself to mobility. Using Smartphones for communication, shopping, news, etc. dictates that your website must be readily accessible via a phone. When designing or revamping your website, ensure that your pages adapt to the size and functions available on phones.

Often referred to as user experience, or UX, customers’ ability to easily navigate your website is crucial to making sales. You need your website design to let your customers effortlessly maneuver from one page of your website to another. If they started a shopping cart, then the customer wants to view your tasting room hours, they need to be able to pop back and forth and not lose their place.

All the functionality that a laptop provides needs to be mirrored in an app used on a cellphone.

5 Helpful Strategies for Small Business SEO

5 Helpful Strategies for Small Business SEO

The internet opens a world of opportunities for small businesses. Connecting with potential customers around the globe is only a few keystrokes away. With so much information streaming from the internet, how can you ensure that your business stands out? SEO or search engine optimization is a key component of the answer.

What Is SEO?

All of us search the internet for answers to just about everything. We type in a question or a few words to help narrow in our search. Even focused searches can result in hundreds of thousands of matches. Not all the results can appear on one page. Search engines sort through the requests and rank what they find. Those rankings are displayed on the searcher’s screen.

As a small business, you need to find ways to ensure your website appears in the first few pages. Most people do not scan beyond page 3 of their results. Search engines can use up to 200 factors to rank their search findings. While that seems daunting, concentrating on the factors that earn the most credibility with search engines is critical to increase your website’s visibility.

You do not need a huge budget or an IT department to enhance your SEO. Some tools are available through search engine companies and your company’s website builder. Many changes can be completed by following a few steps.

Small Business SEO and Keywords

When each of us begins searching on the internet for a product or service, we try a mix of keywords. As a small business, one of your first steps is to identify the keywords that you think prospective customers would use. Brainstorm all terms that connect to your business.
During this process, do not self-edit or judge any of the words. The idea is to flush out all options. Continue brainstorming until you have exhausted all your thoughts. Then you can access an online keyword tools search. These websites will assist you in analyzing the strength and “searchability” of words on your list.

Another step is to take your brainstormed list of keywords and search the internet. Check the results that are ranked to appear on the first couple of pages. These are your competitors. View their websites and the keywords that they are using. This will give you other ideas of keywords and phrases to add to your website.

While you want to infuse your top keywords into your website, you still want your website to be beneficial to your users, not just search engines. Add keywords in titles, headings, and meta summaries on your pages.

You want your content to flow and make sense to your readers. Do not add so many iterations of keywords that the meaning and message of your website and business are altered.

SEO Strategy and Page Format

Another component of SEO and search engine rankings include the format of your website pages. Once visitors have found your page with the keyword search, you want it apparent that they have reached the right place.

Most viewers will be accessing your website from their smartphones. Setting up multiple headings with keywords in those headings makes navigation easier and adds to your SEO rankings. Search engines are expecting easy mobile displays, or your ranking will suffer.

Formatting of your site and its contents should include titles, snippets or meta descriptions/summaries, and headings. Page titles are clickable links that appear below your URL on the search results page. Snippets or meta descriptions are shown on the same results page. Headings will be displayed on the webpage once the viewer has accessed your website.
For each of these important components, there are suggested guidelines. These recommendations will improve the clarity of your business and its purpose. Titles should have keywords in them to draw visitors to your business.

The snippet or meta description needs to be clear and concise. You want people to understand why they should visit your page. Meta descriptions should not be longer than three lines of text. Keywords should be woven in the description as well, without being redundant to the title.
Headings are employed to make the page content easy to read. Once people have arrived at this part of your web presence, you are writing for your potential customers not for search engines. Depending upon the length of the page is the number of headings you should have. Each heading will frame out the next section of text.

SEO and Page Content

Now that you have the structure of your page, it is important to ensure your content is relevant and current. Brainstorm ideas about the information that you want your customers to know about your products and services. This will provide a great list of ideas for content.
Think through how your business improves the life of your customer. Provide information to educate readers about your product. Show why you are the business to choose. Ensure that your content assists customers. These steps will draw more views to your site. Content clarity provides search engines more information about your company, increasing your ranking.
Measuring SEO Success

Now that you have improved your website visibility, how do you know if you were successful? SEO rankings and the criteria used are continually evolving. Continue to post new content and adapt to any other changes in SEO rankings. It can take a few weeks or months for your rankings to change dramatically.

There are tools available that will track the number of visitors to your website, how long they stayed on your site, and their geographical location. Some tools are provided by search engine companies or your website builder. Some of the tools available to analyze the effectiveness of your SEO are costly. Others are free of charge.

The best measure will be an increase in customers and revenue.

Seo Services for Small Businesses

I had a friend approach the other day and ask for my opinion on SEO services for small businesses. He read an article that proclaimed SEO was dead, and that small businesses should really focus their resources on building a social media presence, rather than, more or less, chasing unicorns.

Google has moved the target dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past two decades, and they aren’t always forthright about what the moves means for small business SEO efforts. For better or worse, it’s hard for small business owners to keep up with changes in SEO best-practices.

It’s hard, frankly, for marketers to keep up thus, all things tried and tired, are useless – “dead,” as they put it.

Plus, with all of Google’s updates and guidance, it’s still not exactly clear how their algorithm works and weighs varying rank-signals.

The personal opinion as I shared, was that businesses should use their financial and personnel resources on what works for them and that “continually improving their website, should be a part of that.”

I know, that’s a bit vague – let’s see if I can clear that up a bit.

For starters, “doing what works” should be measured objectively and done with some level of consistency – I wrote about that so am not going to spend a moment on that here.

“Improving a website,” also has a ring of uncertainty to it until we break down what that means.

Google does provide pretty decent guidance on the structure of a website, and I think a lot of business owners would do well in spending a half a day per month looking at their site with their team and figuring out ways to make seo services for small businesses more effective.

Today, let’s focus our attention on SEO services for small business websites.

On-Page SEO and Website Structure

When we structure a site for SEO purposes, it basically means we build each page in simple form – one page heading (h1) for your page title, a few subheadings (h2), some sub-sub-headings (h3-h6’s), some body text (p), images and/or videos that are properly named, titled and optimized.

There’s really not tons-more to it.

Google crawls your website and depending on a number of factors, it can take a few days to weeks to actually gather all of what it needs to index and delineate where your site fits in search. When it does crawl your site these markup tags guide its bot through the structure of the site and tells it the sequence of which information should be considered.

SEO Titles and Meta Data

SEO titles probably fall into the same category of “structure,” and you could make a case for the next point I’m about to make too, regarding keywords, but there’s a bit of a nuance to each of these.

If the sequence the bot follows is guided by markup tags like “h1,” then the actual material or content itself, is shared with the bot via markdown and meta data.

You’ll see on most site builders, or SEO plugins in WordPress, will have room for optimizing titles and meta descriptions – do it. These are important.

While Titles are an important ranking factor for SEO, they essentially tell Google bots what the page should be about and provide a clue to what can be expected in forthcoming text.

Meta descriptions, however, are not necessarily required ranking, but would likely be included in SEO services for small businesses or any other size of business. Meta descriptions are the preview text you see in Google Search results. While they don’t have a direct effect on your site’s ranking, they may help users determine the relevance of and article or page they seeing in search results – so they’re good to manage.

We’ll discuss what makes up a good meta description in another post.

Are Keywords An Important Part SEO Services for Small Businesses

One of the most well-known initiatives a small business can take on for improving the SEO of their website is though the use of keywords. Keyword ranking is at the core of Google becoming the single most valuable connection created on the internet.

It was also the source of the most abuse.

I think when Google made corrections – yes, corrections – to their algorithm in (2010) to crack down on “black hat” SEO techniques, the average layperson, who’d found ranking online easy prior, found ranking on the search engine much harder.

Many previous marketers who built an entire industry around search ranking, quit. “SEO’s” were quick to dismiss the practice as being “dead,” after.

Earlier, small businesses could compete at-scale for highly searched keywords because basically all that was necessary to rank high on search engines was an adequate keyword distribution.

Keyword Stuffing, as it was called, was all-of-the-sudden not-so-effective.

That, however, is not to say that a small business can’t compete.

Building Quality Content Around Highly-searched Terms

We wrote an article making the case for content as a primary means of growing ranking.

I still stand by this, and I think as we move further and further down the road, we’ll find that search will get smarter and smarter – thus making content more and more important.

Google’s objective after all, is to connect its search users to information that they are after – which in essence means “relevant” search results.

It’s so easy today to publish garbage content – you find a low competition keyword, do a bunch of research, then publish 10th grade-level writing that regurgitates something you found on the web, then point a bunch of links to it. The result with todays algorithm is generally speaking, a move into search rankings.

It seems at every turn and for every topic, people have found a way to circumvent the intended purpose of ranking factors.

It’s my belief that Google will eventually sort out what it means to produce “quality content” that is well-written and informative.

Link building for Small Business SEO

Link-building is (roughly) the process of having “authoritative” sites, link to your site as a means of earning online credibility.

So, if I ran a baseball blog and had ESPN and MLB linked to it as a form of reference, they’d pass along their authority to me – telling Google that my site is legit.

If my site is authoritative, I will generally rank higher for what I say on my website. Higher ranking = more traffic…. you get the drift.

There is an entire economy built on backlinks – not necessarily monetarily, though there is some of that. Folks from foreign countries for example, essentially figured they could build a website, crowdsource a bunch of content from desperate American SEO’s, while simultaneously passing authority back and forth to their millions of sites.

This strategy can work, but it’s not a welcome approach by Google and it’s not necessarily reliable over time if those foreign site’s get dinged down the road.

Mostly, good SEO’s work at capturing meaningful backlinks – which are actually difficult to come by. Good backlinks pass good and meaningful authority, which give them value – like getting a personal reference from an industry expert.

The difficulty here, is that we once again return to a haves and have-nots. People who operate higher-end sites have the resources to perform tasks like genuine outreach. They can also maybe hire expert writers, and possibly have relationships that are difficult to generate in the startup phase for a small business or website.

This is why sometimes it’s sometimes easier to outsource SEO to a company that can do a lot of this for you. If complete services aren’t affordable and you have someone on staff that’s able to create solid content, there may be some efficiencies you can find that make the services both effective and affordable.

At the very least, focus on frequent, quality content on the spine of a rock-solid website. While Google tries to build a smarter search engine, SEO for your small businesses can position your website for future growth in building better authority and ranking.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Small Business Ad Campaign

Too often, businesses, even big ones, are unaware of how customers find them; lots of intuition, without a shred of actual data.

This, in my opinion, is why the Yellow Pages still exists in printed form and local radio stations are still able to pay rent; people continue to believe they are an effective method of advertising without having actual data to demonstrate this.

Most small businesses lack budgets to advertise with and so they rely on ‘ol tried and true known quantities. “The last time we advertised on the radio, we sold 16 sandwiches” or another might say, “we got lots of phone calls on Monday after we ran the newspaper ad on Sunday.”

Maybe…. or maybe not.

Too many Small Business Ad Campaigns Fail to Objectively Measure Their Efficacy

True objectivity, would have them count the number of coupons from their special ad or use a call-tracking software, dedicated only to that ad campaign.

The math thereafter, is aimed at defining customer acquisition cost and perhaps an isolated look at net revenue per campaign.

Let’s say your dental office spent $300 per month for 6 months on a radio campaign that offered a free consultation and teeth cleaning with the mention of “such-and-such radio ad” – So, $1800 spent on the dental radio ads.

At the end of the six months, you averaged 1.5 new patients per month – so, in total, 9 new dental patients who mentioned your ad.

Each cleaning and consultation you pay your hygienist about $50 per hour and you take some of your own time, a receptionist to coordinate things, some overhead in there and voila – $65 in cost for each new patient x 9 = $585.

Add to this the dental radio ad costs and $2385 in costs…

Now, the hope in these circumstances is that your newly acquired patients turn into longtime recurring revenue opportunities as a result of rescheduling. The remaining math would allow you to evaluate the annual or lifetime value of a customer.

In the dental industry it’s quite good, so there while you’ll still have those cleaning and overhead costs, you’re in a position to re-market through email and phone channels, rather than have to re-acquire every single month.

Don’t Fly Blind, Track Online!

Flying blind, however, is a bad strategy. We’ve learned tons from having the ability to track data online, on our websites and across various digital ad channels.

We also have a really great idea of how people search, the frequency and volume of those inquiries and we can get really specific about their journey to conversion.

Another advantage of digital marketing is that we can catch people at what we’d call their “moment of intent.”

When your dental office advertises on the radio, you have great intentions; after all, (almost) everyone has teeth.

What we don’t know, however, is of those listening, how many are actively searching for a new dentist? How many perhaps aren’t looking, but could be persuaded by your offer; is what you’re offering ‘enough?’

Finally, maybe they aren’t in the market now, but when they are, will they remember you or are there avenues they might pursue that uncovers a competitor?

So, overall, it’s not that your small business shouldn’t advertise on the radio or any other antiquated medium; it’s that when doing so, you should go to equally great efforts to measure the effectiveness of your small business ad campaign.

Wine Websites: Keys to Grow the Value of Your Winery Online

Wine Websites

Being in Walla Walla and also in the business of building websites as part of a larger marketing mission, we’d be remiss not discussing some things that can help wineries grow their presence online.

While pretty pics are one element, they aren’t the only element of building a great website.

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s important to differentiate your winery from the neighbor down the road.

There’s not a clear road map to what that looks like in practical terms, but know there is a lot of room for growth online in the wine industry.

A simple Google search for “walla walla wineries” demonstrates the openings that exist from an SEO perspective.

As of this writing, there is not a single winery listed (except in Google locations) in organic search results until halfway down on page two.

Thousands of people are looking for Walla Walla Wineries each and every month and no one is to be found – only directories and articles from major publications.

Perform a similar type of search in any other industry and see if the same holds true…

With that, we hope to lend a little insight into how wine websites can be made effective.

Invest in a Wine Website that Works

When it comes to building a website you may as well build something that sits on a foundation of functionality.

Even when we first started designing websites our hope was to build things that no one had seen before – crazy features, lots of css, and an experience that would make visitors say WOW!

While it all sounded really cool (and there is certainly a place for some of that), we found out a few things.

Among them, only a small handful of users appreciate the aesthetic, but most are there for the information.

Considering how most people find websites, it should come as no surprise that the information it contains is the most important part.

Think about it, when you go to read an article about wine or any other topic, are you interested in fancy effects?

Or, are you mostly paying attention to the content and imagery that helps tell the story you’re hoping to read?

In order for all of this to work, your site should be relatively easy to navigate, be responsive and structured for SEO.

Content is Critical

Come up with a great story to tell that’s different than your peers.

There is something unique about your winery that your tribe of wine lovers enjoy and it’s up to YOU to figure out what that is.

Figure out the questions that people frequently ask you and answer them in the form of stories, or an FAQ section.

These stories should be told continuously on your winery’s website.

Believe it or not, people will read it!

Not long ago, I met with a “marketing consultant” who represented a new wine-related business in Walla Walla.

They were looking for a long-term website solution where they could display images while using minimal text.

Not a great plan, unless you have a network of authoritative backlinks and referrals driving business your way.

Even then, you better have something to write about in order that you capture some traffic from key terms related to your business.

‘Wine’ as a search term is highly competitive – the rest of the industry, however, is up for grabs.

So… three suggestions.

1. Begin by talking about wine, winemaking processes and the varietals you sell.

2. Talk about the place, the terroir and the vineyards where you make wine – easy pickings.

3. Talk to the people who make your company tick.

Maybe your winemaker is from a cool faraway land and has a unique perspective and great story.

There are some wineries who have tremendous people working in the tasting room and amazing people managing them.

In addition to great demeanors, they’re well-educated and care deeply for the place they work.

In fact, it is more than just a place of employment to them – it is a home away from home.

If you’re thinking, “when will we have the time to do all this?”

I say, “get creative!”

Enlist the help of your staff and split up writing duties on the cold Monday in January; or whenever.

Look, you have some really sharp people working for you… utilize their skills.

Also, let people hear from your winemaker online… even if this means someone is ghostwriting for him or her, their story needs to be told.

Use Great Imagery and Video

A lot of wineries have gorgeous views and are set in unique places.

In addition to talking about the views, show them off with great photography.

Website photography is important as both a Google ranking factor, but also to establish your website aesthetic.

Even downtown Walla Walla Wineries have their own beauty.

Wine websites should showcase the ins and outs of your property and tasting room.

The imagery that you use to tell and sell your winery’s story is far more valuable than any number of effects you could add to a wine website.

Display your grounds, show photos of the people that work there and the bottles you fill.

Make your website easy to look at and get it up to date with a design that is generally accepted as somewhat modern.

Website photography should be done with purpose, which makes me think we should designate blog space for that topic alone.

If you’ve moved to greater heights and have the resources, hire a videographer to put in motion the same beauty that makes up your winery.

Video is an important element and has become an integral part of the information gathering experience.

Many outlets combine the written word with video to appeal to an even larger audience.

Something to think about as you look to grow your base.

Share, Share, Share and build your online tribe of readers

If you have friends in the media industry, send content directly to them, or make a case for why they should feature you and your wine in their publication.

While you establish your domain and page authority, strategically utilize social media as a means to gain site traffic.

Wine is one of a few special industries where a topic people like (wine), doubles as a consumable good and allows wineries to target with direct marketing material.

In other words, their declaration of interest also happens to be a product that you can ship directly to their door.

Create opportunities for people to opt-in to your newsletter

As you build a steady flow of traffic to your site, also build in a mechanism that allows you to capture leads.

There are tons of integrations that make this really easy and chances are, the email service that you use, has an opt-in lead capture for the web platform you use.

As always, if you have questions and want to discuss wine websites, marketing or anything else we’re always available to chat!


J.C. Biagi is a partner with Wonderboy Creative and has a passion for family, faith, the Outdoors and SEO. Drop him a line at: [email protected]

Helpful Tips to Grow Your Website Search Engine Ranking

We’ve been having this discussion more and more recently with clients and friends as they tune-in to terms like “SEO” and “search ranking.”

‘Content Marketing’ is also a term that comes up, though I think a lot of different people mean a lot of different things when they say it.

We’ve also listened to others who have heard SEO is dead, as though there are other non-objective forces that determine a website’s ranking for certain keywords on Google.

Today, I’d like to touch on a few ways to improve search ranking. They’re simple, effective, and most importantly they’re sustainable.

In other words, it’s hard to imagine search engines completely abandoning these principles anytime soon – because they’re practical.

What is the Purpose of a Search Engine

Before getting too far down the road, let’s talk about a search engine’s basic premise:

A search engine’s fundamental purpose is to connect its users with the most relevant web resources that it has indexed.

For you as the website owner, there are a couple of quick takeaways…

1. Your website needs to be indexed – in short, you have to submit an xml sitemap through Google Search Console and make sure your site is set to be indexed. This function varies on different CMS’s.

2. Your website should contain relevant information (content, video, etc) for your audience. It helps to know who those people are, what they might be interested in, and what they’re searching for when you’re building your website content.

Right out of the gate there are a couple really clear keys – if you haven’t yet taken care of these two points above, start with that – input relevant info on your website, then make sure to submit it to search console.

I might also say, I am seeing web development companies who are still selling “responsive websites” – this is an automatic today. If you were sold a website that doesn’t render on your smart phone, demand that it does or get your money back.

Assuming all of the above components are in place, we can begin discussing things that will gradually move you up search rankings.

improving your website search ranking

Understanding Unbranded v. Branded Search

Before diving in, it’s important to understand, we’re mostly focusing on ‘unbranded search,’ meaning we’re trying to rank for search terms that are beyond the use of a company’s name.

For example, we just completed a website for Walla Walla Fit Connect– Ashley wanted a website that could help her small-business grow.

So, people who know her and her brand, “Walla Walla Fit Connect,” could type that into a search engine and her website will begin in short order, to rank for those basic terms related to her company name, with a few variants.

But, if someone is looking to grow their online presence, doesn’t it make sense to drive traffic that ISN’T related to their brand?


So for Ashley and Fit Connect, it makes sense to rank for terms that are more broadly related to fitness, but localized to the area her business serves.

Think “fitness walla walla” or perhaps “fitness classes walla walla.”

And because she focuses on mothers with small children, there might be some terms that are searched for related to things like, “fitness classes for moms.”

These are examples of unbranded search.

There is a misconception that Google just automatically and magically elevates your website to the top.

In some cases, website owners view the task of climbing the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ladder as an impossible one, or one that takes tons of time and money.

Sometimes this is the case, other times it is not – it all depends on how competitive the search term is which requires some tools to analyze.

In most cases, if you are marketing in small towns like Walla Walla, you might find the lack of competition allows you to climb rankings faster.

If you are trying to scale a large business on a national level, with lots of competition, you will need greater resources.

understanding the difference between branded and unbranded search

How to Rank Higher on Google and Other Search Engines

1. Structure your Website Properly
Search engines send ‘bots’ out daily to crawl websites. Their sole job is to navigate through the databases and files on a site for the information store there. The bots use the structure of your site to decide where to go next.

This means that your website should have a clear structure and be interconnected with logical navigation. In other words, your menu should link to the primary pages of your site and each page of your website should be linked from somewhere, be it the footer or within the content of your pages.

The absence of this navigation creates what are called orphan pages. Google and other search engines like to see that users can navigate through your site with ease, in a manner that makes sense.

In addition to navigation, your site should be set up in a hierarchical fashion. Each page should contain proper titles and page structure – each page should have a title and that title is most often reflected in your ‘H1 Tag.’

Sub topics of each page should be wrapped in h2’s and h3’s, depending on how you are trying to categorize info on your page.

You should also make sure there are no 400 errors on your site, and each page that should exist actually does. Where you have made changes to urls, your site should utilize 300 redirects to point to the new url.

If you aren’t sure on how your site stacks up, run an audit, then simply fix the problems cited in the report.

check your websites health by running an audit

2. Speed, Speed, Speed
Google has long-indicated that page speed will play a role in its ranking algorithm. This means that site owners should heed their advice. The absolute best thing a company can do to help this cause is to make sure images are compressed.

It can be done a number of ways, but we recommend the old fashioned methodical approach of sending each one through Photoshop and then ‘Save For Web.’

This allows you some flexibility with each image but most importantly, will allow you to shrink the size, thus loading speed, of your website’s pages.

There are tons of other, more technical measures, that can be performed to speed up your website as well. If you’re working with WordPress, there are plugins that make things like javascript, html and css minification a snap. Likewise, some plugins allow you to leverage browser caching and your hosting provider might be connected to a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

For now, get your images compressed for a quick speed boost, then look into some of the other measures that will impress search engines, but most importantly will provide a solid user experience for people visiting your website.

3. Write with Google in mind
So maybe you don’t actually write for Google, but you for sure should edit for the tech-giant.

See, there are certain things that users are looking for when they search online. The only way for Google to connect them to a site is through its words – its content.

Using the Fitness Walla Walla example above:
Fit connect needs people, specifically moms, who are interested in fitness.

Say moms are using search engines to find places to work out, specifically for moms and babies.

Search terms might sometimes include fitness classes for moms, but the volume is so low that you’d want to build a more broad topic that encompasses that term.

It turns out that walla walla fitness centers has about 20 people per month who search for it, and a whole slew of other terms that are related to fitness. Probably all-told, there’s about 100 relevant, non-brand searches per month.

Fit Connect, in order to rank for those terms, simply needs to build content around those topics; specifically those keywords and key phrases that people are looking for.

4. Backlinks
Easily the single most important factor in building your search ranking online is related to your website’s authority.

There are a number of tools out there that classify each website’s comparative authority, but the gist is – you need to have a website that is more authoritative than your competitors.

The only way to do this is to get what are called ‘backlinks’ from other websites.

And you guessed it, the higher those website’s authority, the more “juice” they provide your website when they link to it.

Those important links are like the other site giving your website a vote of confidence for subject matter.

If you operate a wine website and have a really terrific Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Seattle Times writes about it, then links to your cabernet sauvignon webpage, Google sees this as a specific vote for “Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Theoretically, if all else is well established, this will give your website and section on Cab Sauv a boost.

I don’t want to oversimplify, but build links like this over and over and over again, (intentionally) and you have a recipe for growing a very authoritative website related to wine.

Wrap Up

One of the issues I find most common throughout our discussions with clients is that people don’t actually know what it takes to rank higher on search engines. Most know that it’s important and want to give it a go, but aren’t sure where to start.

While the list we’ve compiled above is by no means comprehensive, they’re a great place to start. Little tweaks and adjustments and a little effort and your website will rank higher.

If you rank for the right terms related to your business and what you sell, your chances of changing your bottom line improve – and that is what we’re all after.

J.C. Biagi is a partner with Wonderboy Creative and has a passion for family, faith, the Outdoors and SEO. Drop him a line at: [email protected]

Aim Your Habits at Greatness and Start by Getting Tougher

“Be grateful for adversity, for it forces the human spirit to grow – for surely, the human character is formed not in the absence of difficulty but in our response to difficulty.”
– Jim Rohn

There’s been an uptick in our blog posts – the new frequency is admittedly a new thing even for us.

I read an article recently from a Catholic podcast personality that I follow who suggested rather than resolutions in 2020, aim to change old habits.

The idea is basically that resolutions aren’t sustainable – I’ve found this to be true over the years.

So, pardon as we work to change our old habits.

I reflect back on my own year personally, and have to admit to making a pity case of it.

Things went different than I expected and for some time, my year was defined by the absolute worst part of it.

We do this often as people, right?

Find the worst thing that happens and spend a lot of time dwelling on it rather than committing to improvement and being thankful for all that went right.

I also had a lot of things go well and have much to be thankful for.

By this standard, I cannot think of a recent year that hasn’t been just awesome!

The problem with the former approach is that it lays the groundwork for doing just a little better than the last.

That is generally how we operate.

We take baby steps to improve upon a crap circumstance and come out of the hole quietly as to not be too disruptive.

To hell with that

Look, there is nothing wrong with looking back and acknowledging something that sucked or reviewing where life fell short.

In fact, it’s critical that we do this to keep growing.

Being defined by it, though, can have tragic consequences.

As a baseball coach, I used to remind players that they are at our community college because of some inadequacy – not the inverse.

Sweets players received similar reminders.

Now, on the surface this sounds terribly harsh, but we’re just making way for a change in habits.

After all, it was something greater that we all sought.

If you meet a solid young ballplayer you see a high level of aspiration.

These aren’t kids usually kicking the tires on whether they’d like to play beyond high school; I am talking about young men in junior college who aspire to play at the Division I level, or a DI guy that wants to be big leaguer.

That level of aspiration, if genuine, should be met with a commensurate level of expectation.

This is coming back now, right, former-athlete friends?

Not a former athlete? Stay with me…

High expectations, whatever that means for you, should be accompanied by responsibility.

We’re also not just talking about expectation of outcome, it also includes our work… the process.

Results are a bi-product of your work.

Expectations without taking responsibility to fulfill, are generally led by the word “Unrealistic.”

Let’s dive into that for a moment – Unrealistic for whom?

If you expect a lot of yourself, but don’t take on the responsibility, and fail – you personally have unrealistic expectations.

Not by someone else’s account, but your own.

If you don’t take responsible action, you don’t deserve to be great (and you know it.)

This isn’t personal… this is reality and it reminds me of a poem…

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Man in the Glass – Peter Dale Wimbrow

Look, if you continue to bypass the driving range on the way to the first tee box, you know what I am talking about.

Now, do you want to be great or like everyone else?

Well, I suppose it should depend.

We’re not all necessarily out to be great at golf, and when it comes to grilling a burger, a lot of folks are cool being just ‘as good as everyone else.’

Heck, I’m even okay with being a touch worse at shopping.

But when it comes to being a dad or husband, or a friend, or a marketing entrepreneur, I want to be GREAT.

While I have a clear vision of what this looks like for me today, I know two things –
1. I’m not it
2. When I do become ‘it,’ I’ll have a new vision of greatness for my future self.

Being ‘great’ constantly needs to be defined and in defining we can establish a system of measurement for our own greatness.

It helps to have an example, mentor or teacher, perhaps many – someone you trust.

In short, we could define greatness as ‘extra-ordinary’ – that is, above and beyond the best in a respective space.

Knowing that ‘the best’ is always changing…We’ll save that for another time.

Some might suggest that you just “do your best” and don’t worry about what other people think or say.

Yes, the Wimbrow poem above even leans that way.

Wanna know a secret? It’s a big box of brown BS.

You, and I, (and them) are capable of SO. MUCH. MORE. and we don’t know what we don’t know.

So, sometimes we don’t even know what our best is…and that’s why everyone, and I mean everyone, needs someone to look to.

Maybe that person is dead, but we still have a vision of what our future greatness looks like.

When I was playing baseball I had the amazing blessing of having examples in many mentors, leaders and former coaches who paved the path I wanted to be on as a future coach.

Coach Kim Cox, in high school, was the first to provide this for me.

He demanded our effort, as a team and as individuals in both baseball and football be technically precise with intense physical effort.

This made us tougher and also fundamentally sound.

Coach Chad Miltenberger at Walla Walla Community College taught me to appreciate the intellectual and psychological aspects of baseball.

He demanded a totally new level of tolerance for the difficulties that baseball brought.

I was also really fortunate to view from afar, Coach Ed Cheff at Lewis-Clark State.

His baseball program was perhaps a culmination of everything I learned to be true about what it means to be a ‘ballplayer.’

Their combined forty-some championships were a result of the work that they demanded of their players and their teams’ response.

Their players and their teams collectively, were great.

Their players would run through a wall for cause.

When it comes to evaluating my success as a coach, the only opinions I really cared about, on top of my own, were those of my mentors – some beyond those I mention.

A mentor, leader or example is the one who will be straight with you and point you in a direction that you haven’t been.

They’ll help shape your definition of what it means to be great and also push you to be better than you currently are.

Your ‘very best’ is a stopping point… their very best for you will take you to places that you didn’t know you needed to go.

By the time I made a comment about inadequacy to our community college ballplayers, I had seen many examples of greatness – those players I was talking to had not (yet.)

While they could become (or might already be) a ‘great’ community college player, that isn’t what any of us were aiming at – that was in large part due to the head coach I worked for.

Consider that Felix Hernandez and Bryce Harper were in the big leagues at 19, the same age as our college players.

Our guys were capable of some form of greatness, and becoming so requires improvement, some sort of change.

Change for the better implies a previous and relative inadequacy.

This isn’t just about athletes, baseball, or sports, either… I am talking to anyone who expects ‘more.’

And it can apply to all aspects of life.

As a dad, I have a contingent of men who I greatly admire for various purposes and reasons.

In addition to my own dad, both of my father-in-laws have traits that I try hard to emulate.

Like a typical son though, I begrudgingly, humbly (and secretly) heed all advice that comes my way from this group – sometimes it just takes a while for me to come around.

As a marketer, I have a friend and mentor down south, who by no coincidence had a successful Division I baseball career at the same college I attended.

He founded a company called Digital Logic, and has literally been there for anything I need in business.

He’s built a successful and growing marketing company and has vast knowledge of the world we play in.

He, and my ultra-smart sister are my marketing mentor go-to’s.

Bottom line, we need a star to shoot at if we want to be great; someone who can provide us meaningful critique, assistance and also demonstrates the greatness that we seek.

And that ‘athlete’ is in all of us; the worker, the grinder, the survivor.

It’s important to evaluate where we are and what is needed to grow; sometimes it is wisdom, sometimes its physical grit.

A person who I follow a little on the investing front and whose career fascinates me is Ray Dalio.

Long ago, I read an essay (now book) that he’d written called ‘Principles.’

In short, he first suggests that you have them.

As a coach I had adopted three really basic ones that I felt could help players.

While it’s interpretation is a work in progress, these still resonate for me as an entrepreneur.

So, this year will mark the first that I change the habit and direct my efforts to those same principles that I preached to the players I coached.

1. Appreciate the level of intellect required for greatness in your industry

Become smarter and grow in wisdom. One way to separate yourself from your peers and competitors is to know more than they do.

Unfortunately, we sometimes spend more time trying to convince people of our knowledge rather than make an effort to learn more.

Guilty as charged.

Sometimes the content is boring and excruciating, but if we can learn one new important and relevant thing today we’re making progress.

2. Become physically great at what you do

This was really easy to define in sports, as you could imagine. Equally, many trades might offer a more clear picture of what this looks like.

This is less-clear if you are a real-estate agent or a lawyer, but what I would say is this:

Change the habits that physically keep you from being the absolute best.

That means that if you have a real hankering for staying up til 1 am drinking Mountain Dew or find yourself in a local pub five nights a week having one-too-many, remove yourself.

Remember what mom said; little good takes place between 11 pm and 4 am (pick your time).

Likewise (and this one sings to me), get physically fit… ugh. Lots of benefit to making this a priority.

3. Get tougher

As we told baseball players – become more resilient.

Coach Milt, by way of Coach Cheff used to define mental toughness for their players as I will for you:

Respond positively to perceived adversity

Positive does not always mean happy – it just means productive for the longterm improvement.

It may hurt in the short term, but in the long term it will drag you in the opposite direction of your personal hell.

Perception is important as part of this definition because we all have differing thresholds for what we deem adverse.

Sometime this is waking up an hour earlier, maybe demanding three days next week of exercise, or reading time.

Our greatest progress in toughness will happen when we least want to do the work or perform the task.

Whatever your adversity is – identify it! Then get better at dealing with it.

As always, conduct honestly, work at a pace that’s faster and more efficient than those around you and understand it’s not too late – in fact, you’re right on time if you start today.

Last, be grateful for those who help pave your way – for us, that is a long list of many; family, friends, business partners and clients.

To beyond!

How to Choose a Web Design Company

So, it’s time for a new website and you’re wondering how to choose a web design company?

This should be an exciting time for you and your business.

Whether you’re dealing with an existing site that falls short representing your brand, or you’re stuck with a well-past-prime non-responsive mess, choosing a web design company is an important project in itself.

Heck, maybe you’re even new to the entrepreneurial game and you’re thinking about building a company website for the first time.

Building a new website is important. It requires at least a brief understanding of what your options are and the many possibilities that exist.

It’s also important to distinguish that web design doesn’t always mean web development. We touch on that topic HERE.

For now, I am going to assume that part has already been figured out – most companies that design websites should have solution for web development.

If you’re working with a freelance web designer, that isn’t always the case…

I am also going to assume you’ve done a little bit of research on the web design and web development process.

Maybe you’ve even got a list of companies that you’ve engaged and are in the deciding phase.

Hopefully we’re able to help you answer the question how to choose a web design company.

Your prospective web design company should know what the site is for.

As a web design company ourselves, the first thing that we need to know is what the purpose of the website is.

Even the most basic of web designers will want to understand this.

Websites have a lot of different purposes but as a general rule, all websites are going to at minimum, display basic information about a respective business.

While most industries could benefit from website features like custom contact forms, calendars, chat functionality and detailed product or service sections, they aren’t critical to every websites basic needs.

Likewise, a small percentage of companies are selling things online through ecommerce.

For you as the client – make sure that those basic needs can be met by your prospective designer and they fully understand the purpose of your website.

Your web designer needs to be up-to-date on best practices

While a good designer shouldn’t be overly pushy, you should want to work with someone who understands modern website capability and best practices.

We had a web client who launched a previous site in early 2015, after Google had announced “mobile-friendly” rankings boost for sites that were optimized for mobile.

Their newly designed website was not responsive.

pinch and zoom mobile not responsive

Working with a web design agency that kept up with such things, they could have maybe held out for another year or two with the older version.

The desktop design itself wasn’t bad, it just looked terrible on a phone.

Your prospective web design company should be thoughtful

When you do run into an educated web design company it’s equally important that you listen to their suggestions.

A couple things that can happen through this:

1. You might learn something that you wouldn’t have otherwise – this could be about literally anything…

2. You might be inspired to employ one of their ideas in the future and your decision to make room for it later could save you thousands of dollars when you decide to pull the trigger.

3. You might actually save money or grow as a result of a suggestion that you decide to implement.

If they don’t offer anything by way of ideas or insights and want to shove you in a box with their other bamboozled clients, look elsewhere.

Several years ago, we built a wine website in WordPress where the client requested that only a few wine varietals and a couple blends be included in their new build.

We implored them to consider utilizing custom post-types to make the process of adding additional wines in the future super easy.

They reluctantly went for it and it worked out really well!

It cost them a little more up front, but saved them big time in the long run.

We also trained them (also easy) on how to utilize the new system.

They were able to add wine varietals rapidly after their winemaker notes were completed and the wines displayed by category automatically.

Had they opted for only the few wines as individual or separate pages it would have taken a bunch of time and cost a lot of money to achieve the robust online collection of wines they displayed.

As an added benefit, they crushed (no pun intended) Walla Walla wine varietal search rankings (Not difficult to do in Walla Walla, but awesome nonetheless).

The worst thing that can happen is that your potential web designer goes through an exhaustive list of features and possibilities and you consider them all and say ‘No.’

No sweat! Big Deal…

Will the site be difficult or expensive to maintain

If your web designer is building a custom WordPress site, that may cost more to maintain than if you were deploying a much less expensive existing theme.

If someone asked me one of the most important things in how to choose a web design company, transparency on site maintenance requirements might be near the top.

Your designer should be up front about this without prompting, especially if you’re building a custom website.

Ask your designer how much you should expect to invest in future changes.

If you decided to add a new section, how much they’ll charge.

If you needed a page removed, how much that will cost.

In addition to these, how much will the site cost on a monthly basis to just live on a server and receive traffic? Do you have hosting arranged or will they?

WordPress requires updates to PHP, plugins, themes and the platform itself. These happen constantly, every month.

Are these things that can be done internally, or is this something that will be part of an ongoing maintenance package?

Also, will they train you on how to use the site (if that is your arrangement)?

Consider how much the site will cost upfront, but compare evenly

Most people want to go right to upfront website cost as their lone litmus in choosing a web design company.

While I understand the logic, consider that fact that your website will have the ability to introduce your company to many more thousands of people daily, than you could personally of in a lifetime.

When comparing cost between design companies, also make sure that you are reviewing apples to apples and also comparing website features.

If one company is proposing a 100 page custom solution and another is proposing a 10 page retail theme with no functionality, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board with one or both.

There are so many differences in websites that it’s important to evaluate proposals on a feature-by-feature or page-by-page basis.

One way to do this, is to come to the table with a list of features and a list of pages that you want.

The more detail you provide web designers, the more accurate they can get their bid or estimate.

How long will the web design process take?

We’ve had websites take as little time as one month, to sites that take nearly 12 months to launch from the time we sign an agreement.

Large websites with lots of complexity and many pages can take a long time to build. Are you prepared for this and has the web designer been up front about their anticipated timeline?

As is often the case, clients can be responsible for as much as 75{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of the timeline. This typically means that a client has opted to write content and furnish images.

Both great things that can save a lot of money up front, but it will fall somewhere on the priority list, and not always the top.

When figuring out how to choose a web design company, make sure you’re clear with how long they expect to take designing.

There are tons of factors that go into this, but be realistic and compare timelines at your discretion and be reasonable.

What does the proposal look like?

Is there room for design modification or contingency work and is that important to you?

In reading through the proposal is everything clear or does it sound like a used car salesman and you need to have your lawyer review?


Review their work and ask for references or testimonials

Chances are good that there are websites out there just like the one you are requesting and your web project is well within the bounds of what is possible.

If you’re working with an experienced web design company, they probably have performed work at least as complex as you are requesting.

They should be able to sneak you a peek at their previous work and a lot of clients are willing to provide references.

If something smells fishy, go a different direction.

If anything along the way sounds off or looks strange, our best recommendation is to run for the hills.

We may not have exhausted the list, but hopefully you have a little better grip on how to choose a web design company for your upcoming project.

J.C. Biagi is a partner with Wonderboy Creative and has a passion for family, faith, the Outdoors and SEO. Drop him a line at: [email protected]

Marketing in a Small Town… Like Walla Walla

Small-Town Marketing

Marketing in a small town presents challenges.

Marketing in general has shifted dramatically over the past two decades from one of valuing things like “impressions” and “visits” to zeroing in on more tangible and scrutinizing metrics like “conversions.”

Antiquated media like banner signage, newspaper, magazine and radio ads seem to have a stronger staying power in smaller communities, but they all rely on the former.

Marketing in a small town is thought to lag behind large metropolitan areas because of demand and competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this is bad (in fact, we produce a lot of these) – I am saying that its efficacy is difficult to measure; you don’t always know how well it works.

It’s difficult because your clerk, front office attendant, or secretary has more important things on their mind than the radio ad you ran this week.

And the only way for them to figure out where the customer came from is to ask.

There are certainly ways to gather some data (like call analytics) through these advertising channels, but it’ll never be complete.

This is because we can’t review the activity and behavior of people who almost purchased, called or brought in the coupon.

All of these things are measurable if you advertise through digital channels.

I would guess that a lot of local advertisers participate in “old-school” advertising for a few reasons.

Tradition: We’ve always advertised this way – think of the local ads you hear on the radio… do you even listen to the radio??

Competition: Our competitors’ ads are present on these channels/mediums – this is actually super common in the wine industry. Just look at the sheer number of wineries advertising in the latest local wine publication.

Effectiveness: While it’s difficult to call “empirical,” being able to say “our sales increase when we run print ads” is a wonderful thing.

Can you think of more?? Drop us a line at [email protected]

With the continuation of traditional advertising, the utilization of digital marketing efforts naturally takes longer to materialize in small communities.

Obviously, local businesses in places like Walla Walla have limited marketing resources.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Larger corporations understand this conundrum for small businesses, and they exploit it.

They deploy marketing in a small town the same way they do so in a big city; Targeted, conversion-oriented and efficient.

In industries that don’t require specific locality, they’re able to poach prospects, leads and ultimately customers who are looking online for things you sell.

Small-town customers are simply part of a larger cohort that they use to analyze and entice.

Take for example a very specific and common online Google search for ‘tires walla walla.’ The above-the-fold results display ads from massive national companies but none of the local guys.

Walla Walla digital advertising on google ppc

The ads above those are big companies too.

Why is this important?

Because somewhere between 50-90{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of clicks on search engine result pages happen in the top three positions.

Some of the local tire shops even sell one of the brands listed here. Instead of supporting their Walla Walla wholesale account, they’re trying to sell over local companies.

But hey, if the local companies fail to advertise where the national chains do not, it’s fair game, right?

We could go on-and-on, finding examples in a lot of different industries.

Google search your industry and see what the results look like.

There was a somewhat recent study that Inc magazine published demonstrating trends of today’s consumer shopping behavior.

The focus was mostly consumer packaged goods (CPGs) where the US is one of the final frontiers where most people prefer shopping offline (though that was only 52{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437}).

I’d love to say this is alarming, but it seems right in line with what we’ve witnessed over the years in many industries.

People, especially our younger generation of consumers, are finding the convenience of shopping online appealing.

Advertising online to millennials is increasingly important

You already know this.

What is alarming, is when we begin to look at the depth of research that a consumer engages in prior to a purchase.

According to iResearch, about 80{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of consumers are likely to visit a local store that is selling something that they find online.

This, rather than just purchase the same item online.

According to, about 88{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of consumers research products prior to buying them, either on or offline.

So… what can we gather from all of this?

1. Being available online, as a company, is important

Walla Walla Website
Having a website that functions is a good first step. Also, your Facebook page does not count as your “website.”

2. Your website should be visible to search engines

SEO Walla Walla
(SEO) is NOT dead despite what your friends think.

I would go as far to say, unless Google can figure out a way to objectively rank the zillion pages online by hand, it will always exist.

Methods for improving rankings has certainly changed over the past twenty years, but opportunities await – ESPECIALLY in small communities. Your customers should be able to find your website using common search terms – not just your company name.

If they already know your company, theres a good chance you’re advertising to an existing customer.

3. Allocating some ad dollars to digital marketing is increasingly important

It doesn’t mean that you should dump all your advertising dollars in Google PPC, but certainly figure out the most effective way to attract customers to your business online.

This could be Facebook, Google Display Network, Instagram or any other.

4. Figure out your content marketing strategy

Like we just mentioned, people research and need reliable information to read.

If you just list your services or miss opportunities to show off products you will find difficulty finding consumer trust. Make it informational; something people would find interesting and would want to share.

5. Continue investing in what works

But be objective… There are lots of tools that could offer insights into your business, your customer demographics, and industry.

Keep a close watch on this stuff and see if there are things you can do to put your great products, rather than your name or brand in front of customers.

6. Invest in Analytics

Walla Walla analytics company
If you haven’t installed analytics or don’t utilize call analytics software, find something. The important thing is knowing where your customers come from so you can do more of it.

Rather than looking at the sheer cost of something, maybe evaluate how cost effective it is.

Maybe something costs you more in the short-term, but has a high upside and opens you up to sales in places like Tri-Cities, where billboards and radio ads could put you out of business.

If you have a small town business with some level of scalability, or if you don’t feel you’ve reached your customer threshold, so to speak, the future is in digital marketing.

J.C. Biagi is a partner with Wonderboy Creative and has a passion for family, faith, the Outdoors and SEO. Drop him a line at: [email protected]

Five Ways to Make Your Existing Website Not Suck

Websites have grown to become foundational items for businesses. Small, medium and large corporations enlist the help of the internet to express ideas, discuss problems, sell items and share information – we’ll get into the many purposes of a website at another time.

It’s hard to imagine that just two short decades ago the internet was used by only 5{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of the world’s population. Today, that number has grown to well over 50{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437}.

90{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of people in North America use the internet – no wonder everyone has a website.

We’re here to discuss some important keys to a website, not why it is important to have one.

Frankly, some businesses, like a local wheat farmer, for example, won’t find much benefit from having a website. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it just means that their bottom line is unlikely to change with their hanging a shingle online.

Some companies, like Amazon, live and breath upon their web presence.

It’s also important to note that the following information is by no means exhaustive. There are tons of elements that can help a website be successful (and not suck) and many metrics that can be viewed as a means of defining the very word, “success.”

Our vision of success looks something like, “keeping up with the times,” and grasping the authority that is rightfully yours. We also like websites that aren’t wasteful and instead, bring value.

A lot of business owners hire someone to build a website or build one themselves, and do so on the principle of having one, because that is what the world tells them to do. But that is where their effort ends.

Our five important keys are for that business owner – take the next step.

Maybe you are a small-town insurance agent, a local grocery store, restaurant or perhaps an accountant or bookkeeper. Your business relies on the quality of your work or products and you might even have a steady stream of income that comes from long-loyal customers.

For whatever reason, you have a website. You know having a site is important and you know that you get some traffic to it. People call or stop by, and certainly purchase from you, so something is working.

You’re just not sure what.

We’re not here to judge any of that – we’re just going to assume that by virtue of owning a website, you recognize some value in having ‘something’ online. You also recognize that if not today, some day it will be more important than before… how much?

Time will tell.

The keys that we’re not going to discuss are how to rank on search engines like Google – totally different topic.

Our aim, is to share some basic ideas; concepts that if you abide by, will set a solid foundation for you to have a reliable and scalable tool that can help your business grow – whenever you need it to.

1. Update your Website regularly

Updating a website is critically important

“Wait,” You ask. “Do you mean I need to update content regularly? Or do you mean that the site itself, like plugins, PHP upgrades and themes need to be updated?”

The Answer: YES!

Updating site content goes without saying. Times are a changing and your business does too.

Maybe employees listed on the site have changed or even your address – those are obviously important to keep up with.

Some of your business’s services have evolved – I know ours has a great deal over the years.

Most important, your products and principles constantly change. Tax laws change, prices go up (or down), your reasons for doing business and your mission – all sorts of stuff.

Make sure it is on your website – someone might actually read it!

Upgrades to your actual website are critical too. For example, PHP is the server side language that seems to change as often as most people change underwear.

As PHP code evolves, older versions fall out of favor and content management systems are not as compatible. Not keeping up with these updates can cause your site to break, or be susceptible to hacks and infiltration by brute force attacks.

Updates to plugins, WordPress and PHP will help keep many unneeded problems from happening and allow you to keep working at what you are good at.

Keeping up content, will help your website users find useful and relevant information related to your business. We’ll talk a little more about what this means below.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Mobile Site

“Huh?” You wonder. “You say this as though the mobile version of your site is different than the desktop.”

It is!

In fact, in many ways it is much different. Even the user-demographics can be way different.

Worldwide mobile web usage topped desktop browsing somewhere around 2015. Google recognized this trend early on and even built an algorithm to offer more credibility to responsive websites.

That is, if all else were equal between two competing websites and one was optimized for mobile viewing and the other was not, the optimized site would rank higher.

Ranking higher simply means more traffic and, as is often the case, more business.

If you have yet to jump on the (mobile) train, and still force your website visitors to pinch and squint – stop reading and call us…

Assuming you’ve remedied your mobile situation and are allowed to keep reading, take some time and give your mobile website a look over.

Examine a few basics:

  • Can you read your text without straining?
  • Are images visible?
  • Does anything fall off the screen or appear ‘unoptimized’?
  • Do all of your links work in mobile?
  • Does the logo in your header render clearly?
  • Does the information important to your business appear in the proper order?

Making sure your site is dialed in on phones and other devices will help your customers and avoid annoying them.

3. Make Your Content BOLD

I had a book publisher give me this advice with regard to writing a book: “Write boldly,” he said.

He didn’t mean bold… He meant BOLD… as in courageous and confident. Take ownership and authority over your subject matter.

So many people go into business as a newbie and feel like they need to excuse their messaging as a matter of their own opinion.

I see websites all the time, and have done it myself, that use words like ‘I think’ or ‘we feel’ or ‘our experience,’ as a means of writing something that may be controversial or could even be refuted.

Visitors to your site – or better yet, customers that buy from you – want to be sure that this is the best product or service they can buy.

How often do you search for something online and add – “The best {insert search term}. Maybe you’re looking for the best chainsaw, or you need a new printer…” Imagine if Hewlett-Packard and Stihl wrote, “We feel our chainsaw is best,” or “we have the best printers in our opinion.”

Dammit, If you are the best personal injury attorney in town, say it!

This doesn’t mean you should be an overconfident idiot – stay in your lane and don’t make false promises.

But, you are in business for a reason – write with authority.

4. Share information that your visitors want to see

I giggle a little bit when I look on sites that are selling cars and boats with the “Call for Price” next to each of what are obviously the expensive listings.

Gone are the days of hiding information from people looking at your website – especially when that information is super cut and dry, and doesn’t require custom pricing.

The marketing industry is tough to get really specific with details because different websites have many different needs. Think about building a website: Some are one page sites but with a thousand words and 12 pictures.

A different one-pager might be a custom-designed 1200 pixel landing page; Another yet, like a site we are currently working on, has 1200 pages.

It is really tough to throw out a price that’ll cover all the costs associated with building or modifying the various sizes above.

What we can do however, is explain everything that goes into our pricing model. In addition to this, we can provide some basic tenants that we build our pricing from. For us, those tenants are somewhat market driven; what will the market bear for the products and services we sell.

Other information that is import is that which might save your customer in the long run. Pricing could fall into this too.

Maybe there are dreaded hidden fees, or expenses that aren’t within your control.

The old thought was – give people enough info so that they’ll call, “then we’ll sell ’em.” And in doing so, we can put those fees in fine print so they don’t see them until the first bill arrives.

Bad business…

Another irritant is the newsletter sign up.

Look, if you send marketing emails every single day good for you, just tell the people signing up…

Yes, you will lose people, but the ones that still sign up are either fools or incredibly dedicated customers: Genuinely part of your tribe!

Just make an effort to be straightforward. Perhaps the best way to do this is to recall all of the questions you get asked from customers – collect them on paper as they come.

Then go one-by-one and answer them, the same way you do when someone  is sitting across the desk from you.

Ultimately, your effort in doing so will refine your website visitors and improve your online conversions.

Sometimes this takes shape in eliminating the bad or boring and doing more of the good.

Elimination of waste is something most don’t even hesitate about in our normal lives, but when it comes to our website the concept is widely neglected.

Likewise, having someone click on a webpage that displays your services, but provides no explanation or detail of what those services are is a total waste of everyone’s time and effort.

People want detail. In fact research shows that 82{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of smartphone users consult their phones before making a purchase in-store.

45{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of people read reviews before purchasing off-line.

5. Add an Interesting Feature to Your Website

The easiest thing to do is to add a blog to your website. There are many benefits to this and chief among them, improved SEO – we’ll talk more about that later.

The hardest thing about managing a blog is continuing to write, especially if it isn’t something you do regularly.

If this is a challenge, call on employees, friends in the industry or people that you trust to provide 750 words per week or even every two weeks, to write about topics your customers might benefit from.

If you are in the insurance industry, there are a thousand different questions you could answer for your customers long before they come calling.

Another great thing about a blog is that they are highly shareable. Think about how often you scroll through your ‘news feed’ (There was no such thing as a news feed 15 years ago, btw) and read an article with an interesting headline… You get sucked in, then realize that your friends might be interested too, so you share it.

Next thing you know, you’ve got 35 visitors to your website who have never heard of you before. One of them might even be looking for the widget you sell, or a personal injury attorney, or new car insurance because Geico just dumped them.

You’ll benefit from a blog

Another interesting idea is to add a local event calendar for your work place or even the community that you live in.

Maybe there is a great download or “Guide to {Whatever}” that your users could make use of.

Vivid imagery is awesome too – just make sure it is relevant and well-titled, so it too, can show up in search engines.

Does your office create videos?? Here’s an idea – embed the video on your site, then share from your site to facebook, with a great headline.

Facebook videos are great, but we really like to see social media as a tool to draw people toward your funnel. Tools like social media are at the very top of your funnel, which is important to have, but it generally represents a very surface level, non-committed relationship.

Some of (a lot of?) of your Facebook followers have never been to your website, maybe they just like your cheeky posts…

If you’re a dentist or orthodontist, you could gather a crowd around your clever video – maybe hundreds or thousands. What if we could get them to your site to watch and they could see all of the other wonderful things you have going on!

Have more ideas on what makes a website awesome? Email us at [email protected]