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Voice search asks, can you hear me now?

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

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We’ve all been there: you ask OK Google to find a great restaurant, or Siri to find you a spot to buy some new shoes. In this new digital age, we’re finding it more convenient and fast to ask your phone to find your favorite “sushi spot in palm springs with WIFI” rather than typing in “sushi Palm Springs”. This change in the way we see and use search with our voice hasn’t gone unseen. In fact, according to KPCB there has been a 35x growth in voice search since 2008. Wow……… that’s a real game changer!

This could really shake up the way we do things day to day, and search to search. Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve just put “dogs” into your keywords and content to target potential customers. What if, instead, you had “Place to get your dog cleaned” or “over-night stays for dogs near Palm Springs”? As the number of voice-searchers continue to increase, so should our habits when creating quality content for clients. Remember, the customer always OK Googles best.

Google’s Mobile Search Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Friday, April 17th, 2015

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Move over Penguin and Panda, here comes – you heard it here first – Manatee!

Well, maybe not. But your mobile web presence should be prepared for something big.

Last November, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time, according to IBM.  And nearly 28% of all online sales came from mobile devices.

Is your website optimized for mobile and ready for Google’s next update?  While there’s no appropriate animal moniker for the update yet, this one will likely have more of an impact than Panda or Penguin. And it’s only impacting the mobile results.

Google’s official announcement:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What you need to know:

  • The algorithmic change will take effect on April 21st.
  • This affects organic searches that are performed from a mobile device.
  • The algorithm changes will focus on a number of key areas, including rewarding sites with text that can be read without the need to zoom and appropriately sized content that eliminates the need to scroll.
  • This is at the page level, so pages will get promoted for being “mobile-friendly”.
  • Google has created a Mobile-Friendliness tool that will give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on a per-url basis.
  • If a mobile search query is highly correlated with mobile app listings (in the Google Play and iOS App Stores), your app could see significantly more visibility within mobile search results pages.
  • Google has expanded the types of information that they scrape and pull from a site, especially in mobile. Whenever you see a little grey ‘i’ in the upper right hand corner of a mobile search result, it means that Google is probably getting a small portion of any related transaction.

How much traffic do you get from mobile?

The image below shows us how much organic traffic is coming from a mobile device. Then go to Audience > Mobile > Overview > Secondary Dimension drop down > choose Source / Medium.

MobileGoogleArticle-AnalyticsMoz believes that Google will launch a new mobile crawler (probably with an Android user-agent) that can do a better job of crawling single-page web apps, Android apps, and perhaps even Deep Links in iOS apps.

How much will it affect your traffic?

Here’s what Google has to say about it (full story here):

“The mobile-friendly algorithm is an on or off algorithm, on a page-by-page basis, but it is not about how mobile-friendly your pages are, it is simply are you mobile-friendly or not.

But as we mentioned earlier, there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking so we can’t just give you a yes or no answer with this. It depends on all the other attributes of your site, whether it is providing a great user experience or not. That is the same with desktop search, not isolated with mobile search.”

Here are some helpful steps to test your site’s mobile capacity:

  1. View your site on various mobile devices including Apple & Samsung.
  2. Review if the links and buttons on your mobile device are large and easy to find, and spaced properly from other elements of the site.
  3. Evaluate page load time. Limit the number of images.
  4. Test your eCommerce, mobile checkout.  It will convert more if you keep your number of clicks down.  If you have a small e-commerce site that processes payments with PayPal, also consider using Amazon Payments (or an API w/ PayPal) which allows customers to login with Amazon and pay with Amazon while never navigating away from your website.
  5. Show the most important & relevant content.  Content is not necessarily king, when it comes to mobile. Pair it down to the most important information. Make sure to insert a button on the bottom right that allows mobile users to go back to the top of the page instantly.
  6. Make sure there is a visible click-to-call button.  These buttons are designed to call the number, when clicked on a mobile device.
  7. Make the content, products and/or services on mobile sharable: Optimizing for social sharing standards is key.

SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) are changing all the time. Knowledge graph has jumped from 17% to 27% of Google’s queries, according to Moz’s Dr. Pete Meyers.

“Google is essentially competing against us with our own information, and I think that’s a turning point in the relationship between Google and webmasters.” -Dr. Pete Meyers, Moz

Don’t risk a continued drop in rankings, make sure your site is engaging, creative, optimized and mobile friendly.

Make sure your mobile site is nimble and a hell of a lot faster than a manatee.

Google is taking a mobile first mentality. Get on the same page.

We can help.

Jump Start Your Business: 10 Steps to Engaging User Experience

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

“A UX designer is coordinating, orienting, helping all of the other folks [designers] achieve some common goal, a singular intent… UX designers lead organizations to ensure that great experiences get out into the world.” – Peter Merholz, author of Subject to ChangeUser Experience

User experience design (UX design) has become the key to successful websites and businesses alike. 2014 was an amazing year for experience design, embracing minimalism and imagery. (more…)

Twitter & Google Reach Deal To Put Tweets in Search Results

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

If you didn’t think it was important to be on Twitter for your business, then this should change your mind. The constantly moving social network will start to roll out tweets in the place we search for everything: Google.Twitter Google Search Results

According to Bloomberg, Twitter reached a deal with Google that will make your tweets searchable.  Twitter is expanding its already massive reach and your tweets will have a larger audience.

Real-time tweets from Twitter will appear in the largest search engine “in the first half of this year.” Google currently displays tweets in its search results but it crawls the site for content.

Twitter and Google struck a similar agreement back in 2009, but it was not renewed in 2011. Terms of this apparent new deal will make tweets visible inside Google’s search results immediately after they are tweeted out.

Tweets coming from Twitter’s 284 million users could very well be more prominently featured by Google.  Twitter’s hope? To serve those beyond its registered users, drive more traffic and ultimately increase new users.

Twitter has indeed been busy. Twitter also recently announced plans to sell ads outside of its own platform for the first time, striking deals with news-reading app Flipboard and Internet portal Yahoo Japan to show promoted tweets.

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The Plus in Google is a Plus for Search

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Back in the old days (the 90s), there were about 20 different search engines, and it wasn’t all that difficult to rank a website.  Oh, how times have changed. Now, because of the massive increase in people on the web and the technological advances and advent of social media, there are numerous factors to consider when trying to rank on the Internet.thumb---google+_infographic

The only thing that’s certain in life – and in Google search results – is change.

Owned by one of the most powerful brands in the world, Google Plus is the second largest social network, after Facebook.  Or, as it likes to describe itself, this “Social Layer” enhances your other online properties and helps build an excellent reader base for your content.

In other words, Google Plus is not just a social networking site but it can give good results in search. When you think about posting on Google Plus, you should think about how it relates to your search efforts.

Alternatively, Facebook is more and more controlling who sees our posts, our interactions and the engagement of potential customers. With Google Plus, there’s more potential to control your own destiny.

Google Plus is a social platform that connects all of Google’s services together. Google+ is a content marketing machine. It’s also a social network.Google Plus + Infographic

Many businesses are utilizing the awesome features on the network. Your business’s activity on Google+ is tied to your website, your Maps listing and your YouTube channel.
And it’s also a very visual platform. The tools and features within Google+ make it an ideal platform for local businesses and companies using visual content.

It recently reached more than 2 billion registered user accounts, according to Greg Miernicki.

You can create a live hang out with friends or customers easily and it works similarly to a TV live broadcast.

What are some of the basics to get you started?

  1. Start with a Google+ personal profile and then create your business page from there (similar to Facebook).
  2. Follow people & brands. Follow people and pages that are interesting to you.
  3. Look at your settings. To keep on top of a conversation, adjust your settings to receive a notification every time someone makes a new contribution.
  4. Be human. Be helpful.
  5. Join a few “Communities”. These are places where like-minded people seek help & find vibrant discussion around specific topics. Here, you can humanize your brand.
  6. Check out CircleCount. It gives great analytics and is a fantastic discovery tool.

As of Dec. 3rd, you can pin a post to the top of your Google + profile or business page. To pin a particular post, open the drop down menu on any public post. When someone visits your page, they’ll see the pinned content first above the rest of your posts.

Google+ and social media on a whole is an opportunity to elevate a conversation, foster community and expands offline activities into not only a vibrant online space, but a vibrant and successful business.

Google Search, Then & Now

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Google.  For many, it’s the big abyss: a sea of nearly an endless amount of information, products and ways to improve our lives.thumb---googleSearch-infographic

Have you ever wondered how the websites, blogs or news stories appear after typing in a few words?

While it may seem magical at times, it’s actually carefully crafted algorithms that help Google deliver the best results for what you’re looking for.

When you’re searching Google, you’re searching Google’s index of the web – you’re not actually searching the web. The company that has become a verb – when searching for anything your heart desires – is the most effective search engine and a part of our daily lives.

So, how does it work?

A couple years ago, Google put together a helpful 8 minute video. While there have been some updates between then and now, the majority of it holds true.

Step 1: Searching the web.

Google navigates the web by crawling. The building blocks of their search functionality is known as “Googlebot”.  Google keeps track of it all in the Index.

Step 2: Organizing the informationGoogle Search - Then & Now

Google has written intelligent and complex programs and formulas to deliver the best results possible.  As you search, algorithms go to work to better understand what you’re looking for. Relevant data is then pulled from The Index.

While their algorithms are constantly changing, the heart of their software is PageRank ™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But it also analyzes the page that casts the vote and the popularity and importance of that page. It basically tell you how important a page is, compared to other pages.

If you’ve installed the Google Toolbar, you may have the PageRank meter installed.

Step 3: Delivering the results

Your search results can take a variety of forms, from the knowledge graph and snippets to the news and images.

The knowledge graph provides results based on a database of real world people, places, things, and the connections between them.  The news results include results from online newspapers and blogs from around the world. Google loves this because of their relevance, link value and because they are constantly getting updated.

Google takes the following into account when delivering pages in a particular order:

  • Content relevance
  • Content quality
  • Content freshness & updates
  • Users geographic region
  • Site legitimacy
  • Popularity of the site (how many links are pointing to the site)
  • Value of the inbound links
  • Social media popularity & promotions

Links remain the most important external signal for search rankings.  But with this, link quality is also important in determining the search results. An inbound link from a large and reputable website is going to count more than a link from a smaller and less respectable site.

At this point, Google search has become more fresh and current, and crawls very frequently, catching updates and new content. It’s with the amazing amount of content and Google’s “secret sauce” utilizing over 200 different ranking factors that it delivers the best pages that match the search query acroos the entire index.

What’s next?

Google is looking more into artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help computers think like humans. Google purchased DeepMind Technologies and seven other robotics companies to aid in this next breakthrough in technology.

According to Larry Page, many of these breakthroughs are crossing computer science and neuroscience to understand what it takes to make something smart.

Check out the year in search, 2014:

Search on.

Unbounce CTA conference – September 2014

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Unbounce put together their first kick-ass Call-to-Action (CTA) conference (cussing really got the point across in a ‘no-bullshit’ kinda’ way) in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was in Vancouver that we learned how to create a successful landing page and post-click experience for our clients.

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 Behold 25 Tweet Takeaways ~

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Google Launches New Pigeon Update

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Google recently pushed out a new algorithm update for local search, which Search Engine Land dubbed the “Pigeon” update.

Why “Pigeon”?

Depending on how your site has been affected and your recent SEO efforts (or lack thereof), some might argue it’s the proverbial kaka that you may have to deal with in the local search results.

But more likely, it’s based on the heart of Google’s search technology, PigeonRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. PigeonRank’s success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon used for thousands of years to carry brief written messages.

But, I digress.

Google confirmed that the update started to roll out on July 24th for US English results. The aim of the update is to provide a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results, with enhanced distance and location ranking parameters. Google also said there were relevancy improvements to distance and location ranking. And unlike Penguin and Panda updates, this is not a penalty-based update, but a core change to the local search ranking algorithm.

  • Local listing packs disappear for a large number of keywords
  • Local rankings are expected to depend more on website authority
  • Local carousel stays as a way to gain extra exposure

Google Pigeon UpdateSEO expert, Mike Blumenthal, noted that 7-local listing packs have disappeared, many real estate related searches have dropped out, while SEO and web design local packs are back after being dropped in 2009.

Search Engine Land reported that the Pigeon update solved Google’s “Yelp problem”:

It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefiting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.

In a sense, this update has reduced organic duplicate results, and while the overarching impact is still unclear, there’s speculation that Google is attempting to better align desktop and mobile results.

The assumption of local intent has now been dialed back in a number of cases, so local companies that were experiencing good local pack rankings – despite having a poor SEO website presence – will likely have to step up their game.

Tips:

1.    Create a Google+ Local page for your local business so that you’re included in Google’s local index.
2.    Use a local area code on your Google+ Local page. It should match the area codes traditionally associated with your city.
3.    Make sure the website URL, name, address and phone number of your business match your Google Places/Google+ Local page. Google cross references this to verify everything matches.
4.    City or state should be included in your website’s title tags.

One could speculate that Google *might* be doing what another web powerhouse did recently, working out to their financial benefit. Facebook just experience its biggest financial quarter to date. Did Google just pull a “Facebook”?

Time will tell, but let’s hope not.

Someone once said (attributed to Scott Adams but most likely originated elsewhere), “Accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days the statue.”  Keep up with your site’s SEO, local search and updates to make sure you don’t get – you guessed it – pigeon-holed.

Don Draper Marketing: Mad Men, Then And Now

Monday, July 7th, 2014

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.” ~ Don Draperthumb---don-draper

We all know Don had his issues, but marketing and branding a company certainly wasn’t one of them. While the advertising and marketing landscape has changed drastically since the Madison Avenue days, Don had some pearls of wisdom about branding, promoting, marketing and sometimes (NOT all the time), even humanity.  Viral posts didn’t exist during the real Man Men days, but these marketing cliché’s are still relevant in the inbound age.

But first, let’s go back to his musings on advertising and happiness.

Sure, billboards still exist. And occasionally those ‘Next Exit Gas/Bathrooms’ signs do capture my attention after two bottled waters. But we all know great marketing includes gathering data, testing and optimizing. And it’s a helluva lot easier and cost effective to edit a landing page or Facebook ad than it is to create a new billboard.

While there have been somewhat recent studies suggesting that billboard advertising is still effective, this is dependent on several factors and “studies” are just that, studies. These are usually smaller investigations or analyses of a subject or product. Digital marketing is inbound marketing, which allows those looking for what you’re selling, to find you.  With Google Analytics and numerous social media software insights, we can capture ALL the data.  After analyzing this data, we can find out what’s working and what’s falling short, tweak the campaign and come through with higher conversions/sales.

But what the anti-hero’s point was that when done well, marketing and advertising gently suggests what to buy, making you feel – on some level – happy. The advertising business is about people and shared values, now more than ever.  Smart businesses today find a way to connect with that passion and that happiness.

The brooding character also said, “Even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary.”infographic---don-draper-200px

While this is slightly antagonistic, there’s truth in the statement given the increasing competitive landscapes. The focus has to be on tomorrow. With this way of thinking, it urges those marketers to continue to research, observe, strive, measure, test and optimize – ensuring more success, longer.  Your competitors are constantly thinking of new promotions and trying to capture your audience. It’s vital to stay on your toes, constantly learn and engage your audience with interesting, educational and valuable information.

“You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do, and the hate us for it.”

Consumers are making purchases based on how the product makes them feel about their identity. Sell more than just a product.  And to do that, it takes a village.  Advertising, web design and digital marketing agencies are no different.  Even creative genius, Don, didn’t act alone. He often relied on his advertising protégée, Peggy.

Together, we are creative. We create ideas, promotions and reasons that your product is different. We find ways to have potential customers view your service as if they didn’t know how they lived without it. Our programmers are constantly navigating the changing technical landscape and absorbing the latest updates, ensuring your online presence will pop and entice savvy consumers.  And don’t hate us because our designers rock. It’s what they were born to do.

“Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”

If Don only knew how irrefutable this statement was. Well, in a way he did…because the writers did.

Change is the only constant in the digital marketing and advertising world. Within marketing, lies branding and good branding must appeal to human nature. Marketers use stories and images to evoke emotion and build relationships, while aligning with the brand.

It’s human nature to want to connect. And everyone loves variety and adventure, to some scale. Consumers are using a slew of social channels today not only to connect, but to grow and to contribute. We want to feel like we’re making a difference. Today’s competitive landscape requires that digital marketers stay ahead of the curve and often, designing the curve itself. We’re all publishers to some degree and this helps incite change. It just is.

“What you call love was invented by guys like me…to sell nylons.”

Don’s just a ray of sunshine, isn’t he? But seriously, let’s think about how the ability to construct objects of desire affects business. The wide-ranging power of effective branding campaigns can propel a business by making it recognizable and trustworthy. A brand carries meaning and associations, like love or family. Remember the ‘A diamond is forever’ campaign?  Of course you do.

Today, marketing is more truth telling and educating than convincing.  And with more information in the hands of the public, the more enlightened consumers will be.  Don and the crew at Sterling Cooper told consumers what to buy. Today, consumers want to know why they should buy it.

Unlike Don, consumers aren’t jumping into bed with the first shiny product or sexy commercial they see. Content and engagement is the ‘getting to know you’ phase. And consumers are getting to know brands and products through Google and social media. They are getting in committed relationships with brands.  Be the educator and project an image of transparency and humanity.

“Nostalgia: It’s delicate but potent.”

Ever cried at a commercial or an image on Facebook? Come on, I know you have. The theme song to ‘Cheers’ used to get me every time. Emotion is an important component in moving people to become advocates of your brand.  Use powerful storytelling and case studies to foster emotions. Add nostalgic posts and remind your audience of things that care about and love. Social media is visual, so use quality and eye catching imagery whenever possible.

“If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.”

Today’s marketers can create a dialogue by utilizing digital and social media channels. Smart digital marketers listen and respond to negative press. Blogging and bloggers are a huge part of the web conversation; they are thought leaders. Understand your audience and their issues. Facilitate the creation of genuine content that they will find valuable. Don’t just contribute to the noise.

While work-day binge drinking may be out, it’s not only okay to bring a little marketing “madness” to your business, it’s crucial in standing out above the rest.

Kate Spates steps away; Nicole Middleton named new director business development at Graphtek Interactive

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Kate Spates has resigned her position as president of Graphtek effective June 20, 2014 to focus on family and philanthropic activities, announced CEO Mike Cheley.  Spates’ role in the company since Image Marketing Concepts merged with Graphtek in November 2011 focused on business development. She will remain a trusted advisor and continue to be an active supporter of the firm’s efforts. Nicole Middleton, account manager, has been named director of new business.

“One of the motivating factors for the merger was ultimately to allow Kate to gradually phase out of the day-to-day activities of the business.” said Cheley.  “With the school year ending and Kate’s increased involvement in Children’s Discovery Museum, College of the Desert Foundation and the Warburton Golf Tournament, now just seemed like the right time.”

Spates noted, “I found a great partnership with Mike Cheley and his team at Graphtek Interactive. We merged the companies because it was such a natural fit. IMC’s strength in customer service and business development and Graphtek’s powerhouse technology and creative teams combined to create one of the region’s leading and largest web development companies. My three-year commitment has come to an end and I am pleased to have been part of merging these two companies together.  I’ll always care about Graphtek and will continue to root for the success of the company and its clients.”

When asked about her future plans Spates replied, “I plan to spend time with my girls. They’re at an age where ‘mom time’ is important and I want to be there for them. I’ll continue to work with the charities I have grown close to and may do a little consulting, but I am at a point where family is going to be my top priority.”

Middleton joined Graphtek in 2013 after working with Lamar Advertising for six years. A University of Tennessee-Knoxville graduate, she holds a degree in business administration. Middleton is known for nurturing long-term relationships with clients and using emerging technologies to market businesses to varied audiences. She is a board member of the Indio Chamber of Commerce and is active in Leadership Coachella Valley, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Junior League and the American Advertising Federation – Palm Springs, Desert Cities chapter.

“It’s an exciting time at Graphtek,” Middleton said. “We’re in an expansion mode, hiring more account managers and production coordinators. I look forward to working with Mike to help grow the business.”

Established in 1998, Graphtek Interactive is a Palm Desert based web development and digital marketing firm providing local, regional and national clients with design, development and marketing services.
Graphtek employees

Pictured (left to right; standing to kneeling): Ed Lowell, Howard Johnson, Erin Peters, Nicole Middleton, Kate Spates, Mike Cheley, Jamie Steinberg, Jay Sant, Michelle Levine, Alan Schmidt, Sarita Serup, Tammy Garcia, Cole Slankard, Paul Hasas