Is your data in danger?
When we think of a digital marketing agency you don't think necessarily think of data issues. But when it comes to small business marketing, an agency like ours holds a lot of valuable sales and marketing data on behalf of our clients. Responsible for e-commerce and sales activities, in addition to processing payments a credit card information for goods purchased through the website; there is a lot of valuable data out there that could be lost or fallen into the wrong hands.
Most agencies especially rely on partners and 3rd party vendors to manage and handle that data. Much of the time that data is located in the cloud, but occasionally that data is stored on individual solid state hard drives. What we do know is that hard drives can fail, and sometimes people drop laptops by accident or even encounter water damage. Its important to have a data recovery team that you can trust to do that job properly and quickly in case of an emergency.
Banyan Creative trusts Carolina Data Recovery for all our data recovery needs. Owner Ron Davis and his team have been locally owned and operated since 1999. They specialize in recovering data from hard drives and other media that have failed, malfunctioned, deleted, dropped, burned or had water damage.
The team at Carolina Data Recovery is prompt, transparent and often able to recover data that larger firms would merely send away to a third party in hopes of a quick fix for a high price. In an era of outsourcing and passing the back, Ron chooses to do the work in house because of their expertise.
And that's why we would like to highlight and recommend Carolina Data Recovery as a trusted small business, who does things the right way.
Honest answers. Top notch expertise. Fair prices. Integrity.
Well done Carolina Data Recovery.
Blog post writing is an essential element of having your website show up in Google. Whether you have a large or small marketing budget blogging with keyword rich content with topics your audience actually cares about is one of the best long term strategies a business can have in place. So how do you make sure your blog posts are effective for SEO? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. This is one of the top questions we are asked by our clients and partners.
How do you optimize a blog post?
1. It starts with Keyword Research
Keywords research should be the first step in your blog post strategy. Figure out what terms you want to rank for and also what your competitors rank for today. This can be a bit of a daunting process, so we recommend you really try to get into the head of your audience and why and how they would try to find services your offer. Besides the right keywords you need context around those keywords. What is the intent of the user initiating that search. The more you can drill down on long tail phrases the better to ensure intent is there, not just traffic.
2. Use that Keyword
This may sound straightforward but most people forget to mention that target keyword beyond the title or first few sentences of the post. Using (not overusing) the target keyword will help Google "get it". Avoid spammy posts or keyword stuffing. Right naturally and to your target audience. Focus on the user first and Google second. If it doesn't read well to a potential customers, don't write it...No matter how much you think it will help your SEO efforts. Overzealous SEO is just bad marketing. We shoot for a keyword density of around 2-3%. So mention that keyword once in every
3. Optimize Your Headings
The title of your blog post is extremely important to the performance of that post. Make sure your target keywords are mentioned in the titles, headings and sub-headings. Google takes a close look at these to make sure they are relevant to your overall post.
4. Snippets Matter
The snippet is the thing that Google will show in the natural search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO is the most common plugin that we use with Wordpress websites to optimize posts and create snippets. If you have a Wordpress website we highly recommend you download it. The difficult to tell whether or not Google will show that specific snippet that you pre-select. However, creating a top notch snippet preview should a very important part of optimizing a blog post. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again.
*See Yoast SEO example screenshot
Optimizing blog posts is absolutely essential to gaining more qualified traffic to your website. Have more questions about SEO and content optimization for your website? Contact Banyan Creative today to schedule a strategy discussion on how to drive more revenue through your website.
Michelle Perelli is Client Services Director at Banyan Creative and focused on SEO strategy and production for small to mid sized businesses.
For our SEO insights this month, we’d like to discuss SSL hosting and its impacts on your SEO. Over the last few years, Google measures a website by the overall user experience to determine several ranking factors. Translation, the better your website is according to Google, the better chance you will have to be higher up the search results.
Several factors contribute to that ranking including:
Secure (SSL) Hosting
In October 2017, Google announced they would be giving preference to secure SSL website vs non-SSL websites. We strongly encourage business owners to move to secure SSL hosting. Also we have be contacted by many businesses have not moved their websites to secure SSL hosting and their customers and prospects are seeing warnings to individuals are visiting non-secure websites. Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari have begun to show more their warnings. Nothing reflects more poorly on your business to see your website is threat to people visiting it. We recommend that you suggest you contact web host or web design company to implement SSL hosting as quickly as possible.
If your web host or designer is unable or unwilling to comply, there are a few options to consider:
1) Banyan Creative can help. We can take over hosting and implement SSL. However, we can only support hosting for WordPress websites or static sites like HMTL and PHP. Banyan Creative SSL hosting solution starts at $35/mo and it also includes the cost of the security certificate,which must be renewed annually.
2) Website Redesign: If the website is too difficult to move, and if it is a low quality website, we recommend your redesign your website website. We can deliver you a fresh new, mobile responsive design and moving to SSL, which could lead to a significant increase in search engine rankings and sales conversions if your business is now more visible. Banyan Creative specializes in well designed websites that are built to convert. Not just be a beautiful online brochure.
3) Word of Warning: If you aren't able to remedy your website hosting situation, search-based rankings will be more difficult for you to capture in the future. There can still be some SEO success, but it will not be a as great as if the website was securely hosted.
4) Be Realistic: Moving to HTTPS secure hosting doesn't automatically improve your ranking. It also may not make economic sense for your business. But over time Google has repeatedly told web hosting and SEO's that secure hosting and information security will also be a ranking factor for websites moving forward.
But the Stats Don't Lie for our Clients: See Chart here
Other Ranking Factors
Website user friendliness, mobile friendliness, aesthetics are also extremely important. The fact of the matter is that all these issues cannot be corrected unless the website is redesigned. If your website is old and clunky and you expect to get more customers from the web this year, it might be time to redesign.
Redesigning an a poorly performing or outdated website has been shown to boost search engine ranking capability, while improving overall sales conversion rates. Depending services provided most businesses, generally recoups their expense through a better designed, more efficient and productive website. If you have questions about anything mentioned above we can help. Contact Banyan Creative today.
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative. We help businesses find their place on the web. When not behind a computer screen, you can find him up on the Blue Ridge Parkways cycling with Yellow Bike Tours or making pancakes on Saturday morning with his kids.
On Feb 10th, Bless Back Worldwide will be hosting their annual Chili Cookoff at Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte. This is a great mission with a great cause and we are proud to work with awesome nonprofits like Bless Back Worldwide for their marketing communications and web strategy. Check out this awesome feature in Fox 46 News Good Day team with Page Fehling.
You can register for the event here and enter the Chili Cookoff content. To enter you need to make 3 gallon (1 large crockpot) of chili. Prizes will be awarded for best chili and the competition is fierce!
We just celebrated 5 years in business at Banyan Creative. Its hard to believe how quickly it has flown by. One of our long time partners asked me how I felt about it. I first said, "Has it really been 5 years?" I suppose time flies when you are having fun. (or when you are bootstrapping a business and have two kids under 5 years old). Its been a whirlwind. I'm thankful for the 5 years that we have had so far and look forward to the years ahead. In some one ways I feel like I'm already in the bonus.
Only about 20% of businesses survive their first year. And only half of those make it to the 5 year mark. So I suppose the next big goal out there is the 10 year mark.
Its been an unlikely journey to say the least. Businesses get started for all kinds of reasons. And our story is no exception. We don't necessarily have some rags to riches story. But it has involved a lot of hustle, setbacks, failures and victories. Looking back over the past 5 years, its been a joy and a sense of accomplishment to push through the challenges to meet the goal.
It seems as though the days fly by, because of so many varying activities from sales, client work, billing, accounting, travel, conferences and creative sessions. While its not for everyone (and even my head spins some days), I love the variety of it all. I love learning about our clients businesses's from manufacturing to healthcare and how we can drive results for them on the web.
Personally, its allowed me to shape how my days look and step into a creative role that previous jobs had not allowed me. I started this business because I wanted to bring all of who I am into my daily work. I didn't want to drive to work everyday and have to leave that at home in the car, because it didn't fit.
"I started this business because I wanted to bring all who I was into my daily work. I didn't want to drive to work everyday and have to leave that at home, or in the car, because it didn't fit."
Not everyday is a bed of roses. There is always something to learn and there are plenty of setbacks. In digital marketing, if you don't keep a posture of learning, you will be out business or irrelevant before you know it.
Here are a few reflections, I've learned over the last 5 years in business for those either running a business or thinking you want to start you own business.
1. Its going to take longer than you think
Building a business from the ground up takes awhile. Don't rush the process. Everyone thinks that once people find out about your services you will be in the money. While that might be true for some, for most its not. Marketing can't fix a bad product. You need to have a great product, solve a real problem and be able to communicate that clearly to your target audience.
2. Cash is the lubricant of business
Think of a rusty old wheel that is creaking and grinding just to turn. Think of cash as the grease on the wheel to get things moving. Cash flow is always a battle in a business of our size. Make sure you build up a cash reserve as soon as possible and it will allow you to hire when you need to, and sustain yourself through the slower times.
3. Work like a Farmer. Spend like a Pauper
Running a small marketing agency feels a bit like being a farmer at times. You have to work the land, churn the soil, know when to plant, when to harvest and when to ask your neighbor for help. And also like a farmer, you have an advantage if you wake up early. Cash is precious, and its important when you are starting your own business with your own cash you keep expenses as low as possible. I'm in the services business so I was able to keep expenses low as we built the business. Not everyone can do that, nor do I recommend this for every business. But the point is, be frugal and always ask yourself: do I really need this?
Its no secret that I am a man of faith. Nothing has strengthened my prayer life quite like the pressure of running a business. I believe God cares about our daily work. I believe he cares deeply about the details of it all. We have had our ups and downs Allowing God to be an anchor in all of it to sustain through the emotional mental, physical and financial waves has been so important. Waking up early and planning my day, my week and my year is so important. But even more important, praying through the day has helped me not only keep a sound mind, but make better business decisions based on my faith and my values, not just about money.
5. Hire for Your Weaknesses
No one can do everything themselves. Thats the surest way to burn-out. Make sure you find good help that you can trust from employees to contractors. You can't do it all! Let me repeat that. No really, you cannot do it all and expect to grow your business in any meaningful way. (Learned this one the hard way.)
6. Find Another Business Owner You Want to Be Like in 5 Years
There is has nothing that has expedited our growth like meeting more experienced business owners who you want to emulate. It can be isolating at times and you can get stuck in a rut. You have to be able to find another business owner or multiple owners that you can reach out to for ideas and decision making. For me I was thankful for Xan Hood over at Buffalo Jackson. Not only was he one of our first key clients, but he also provided some valuable transparency to help us avoid some big mistakes we would have made early on.
7. Stay Humble
We live in a culture that is quite self-absorbed. Social media, txt messaging the ability to self-publish to thousands or millions of followers from our iPhones. It seems like everyone is building their own platform megaphone and yelling through it as loud as they can as often as they can to be validated by "followers" who could care less about you or your product. As marketers we are judged on performance metrics at the outset of a campaign. There can be high turnover in our business across the board. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail. Let the work speak for itself. Let the message resonate with integrity. One day you will be on top of the world. The next day you might be kicked to the curb.
Stay humble. Your day will come.
Thank you to all our friends, family and all our current and previous clients that have partnered with us. Its been a real privilege. And thank you to my loving wife, who has sacrificed and believed in me through thick and thin, and through all the ups and downs that come with running a bootstrap-underdog-marketing agency.
Here's to the next 5 years..... Lord Willing.
Sam Casey is the founder and owner at Banyan Creative LLC based in Matthews, NC.
SEO Update - Google Announces Expanded Length for Meta Descriptions and Why It Matters for Your Website
Late in 2017, Google announced that they were increasing the length of meta descriptions. And its a good news for SEO, for those who take advantage of it.
Marketers who leave their meta descriptions unchanged should see improved web presence on the SERP. Snippet size was also increased.
What is a Meta Description? And why it matters in SEO
A meta description tag appears in <head> section of HTML on your web page. Simply put it provides more information to both Google and to the user, as to what your page is about. While Google does not necessarily use meta descriptions to rank your website, it does still parse it. Google also does not always show the meta description in the snippet, but it will sometimes show content that is relevant to the users query. That way, what the user actually sees is relevant to their keywords in the search.
So what is the new length?
Meta descriptions have normally been up to 160 characters. With the recent change Google is allowing up to 320 characters. Google recently released the following statement:
"We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average."
So practically should go through and updated every single meta description? Not so fast. Google says that you don't need to do that, but we actually disagree and see that as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. We will address this in a later post or read more about Moz recommendations for 2018.
If you choose to not lengthen your meta descriptions, we do recommend as you are blogging and build content that you take advantage of writing up to 320 characters to provide Google and the user more information in the search results.
For Content Marketing and digital marketing purposes thats good news because there is a lot more you can do in those meta descriptions. However, like always don't view the additional space as opportunity to stuff keywords. Focus on good content that matters to your users and to your target keywords.
Got more questions about what this change means for your website? We can help.
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC.
Sterling Technology CEO Tom Blanchard discusses Cyber Security and the Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Hack with Spectrum News
Cybersecurity is not a topic that most small businesses are concerned about when it comes to digital marketing. But here is why you should care and how it can impact you business. Since we deal with a lot of our customers websites and occasionally their sales and marketing data and customer inquiries, we see this topic as very relevant and should be top of mind for all businesses. Having a secure web host is just one of the many things you should be evaluating as a business.
Spectrum News Charlotte recently featured Sterling Technology CEO, Tom Blanchard as a situation matter expert on Cybersecurity and spike in recent inquiries due to the recent Mecklenburg county hack and data ransom situation.
“Some of our clients in the past could have gotten away with free anti-virus software,” Blanchard said. “But the risk is getting too high so they need paid enterprise-level software."
As a business we are noticing more and more that even small business websites are becoming more prone to hacks and its important to have a strong local IT partner who uniquely understands how to mitigate your risks, prevent downtime for your business, loss of money, and in the case of Mecklenburg county, risk having your data at ransom.
The easiest way to sum this up: "if you aren't actively trying to protect your data, just know someone else is always trying to hack it."
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative, a digital marketing agency based in Matthews, NC.
I have a favorite pair of leather desert boots that I have owned for the last few years. Well worn, broken-in, stylish and comfortable. There is just something right about slipping them on and heading off to work. But after a while of wearing them, these once sharp looking boots begin to look dull and dry. They require some polishing to get them back up to snuff.
Oftentimes the same thing can happen with your website copy. Once it was newly written and something you were very proud of. But after awhile, without proper care that web content can start to look plain and worn out. For most small business owners, unless you are copywriter by trade, you probably don't enjoy updating your website copy to make sure its SEO friendly.
But if you want your website to remain visible and looked at favorably by Google, you need to freshen up your content from time to time to keep it relevant.
Here's Why Updating Your Website Copy is Important to Your Customers
Businesses are constantly evolving and services are always changing. Do you have services listed on your website that you don't offer anymore? Are there others that are missing. If this is the case you are missing out on opportunities. Here are few places to start:
Here's Why Updating Your Website Copy is Important for SEO
Its a time consuming process to create copy for your website that is also friendly to the search engines. But if you don't do it, or pay a professional to do it, your website won't perform well on Google. Also if your copy is outdated it won't have the proper keywords to drive more search traffic. Or even worse maybe you have old copy on your site that ranks well but its a service you no longer offer.
Google values fresh content. Every time you add new content Google needs to index that content on your website. Fresh content = more indexing opportunities. Don't feel like you need to update your site every second of everyday, or make unnecessary changes. But you should update your site with valuable and helpful content. Add an image or two to each post to increase your chances of getting noticed.
Need Help with your Website Content?
New customers are searching for your services today. Will they find you or a competitor with better content? If you aren't really sure if your website copy is helping you drive the right kind of traffic to your website, contact us today for a free evaluation.
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. We specialize in SEO search friendly website and web marketing strategy designed to educate and engage your customers.
Content has become an extremely important strategy in online marketing so its natural for a lot of small businesses to ask how content can help their overall strategy to produce the desired results. Here are a few of the top questions we are often asked here at Banyan Creative about content marketing.
1. What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of producing useful or helpful information to your target consumer's, rather than just sharing all about your product or service. The purpose of producing that content is to build trust and authority on a specific topic. This hopefully builds trust with the consumer and eventually entices them to buy.
2. Isn't content just a blog?
Most people think of content marketing as regularly updating your blog. And thats a great place to start. But content marketing could include PDFs, Slideshares, Video, Social Media posts, whitepapers, infographics, ebooks, webinars. It can be be any medium used to distribute your content and message to your audience online.
3. Where do I start with content marketing?
It can be a temptation to just start blogging without any strategy. But the most important part at the outset of content marketing is to develop an overall plan and goal for why you are doing and what you hope are the desired outcomes.
4. How do I define my content strategy?
Like any form of marketing, the most important questions we ask our clients over and over is "who is you are target persona", and "what are the problems that they have that you are solving." Using these two questions we can reverse engineer the types of content we are writing about. For example: If our target is realtors, and we are offering a software that saves a realtor time and money, we want to lead with topics about "how realtors can better manager their time to make more money for their business." We want to stay away from leading with our solution at the outset, and offer helpful tips before just selling product or solutions at the outset. Be helpful and interesting. Not so salesy.
5. How often do I need to be putting out content?
It depends. I know most people don't like this answer, but there is no universal answer here. Putting out fresh content all the time is extremely valuable to your business but it does take time, energy, resources, and a good plan for it be successful. Your strategy will help dictate how often you are putting out new content. For most local businesses, it really can depend on what your competitor's are doing. We always say here, if you aren't putting out content at least 1-2 times a month on that topic, its difficult to say you are an authority online on that subject. While we don't necessarily know that posting twice a week vs multiple times a week to have a proven impact in terms of percentage of growth, we do know that Google clearly prefers websites that update their content on a regular basis and helps with the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts in showing up in the rankings on the search engines.
For a great example of a great case study and long term content marketing strategy that has had a huge impact on the bottomline, check out our friends over at https://buffalojackson.com/. They have committed to weekly blogs and monthly helpful tips to their target audience for several years running. And the results are quite impressive helping boost their online sales through their website.
Blog: Sharing Branded and Unbranded Topics Valuable to target audience with Keywords
Knowledge Centers: Offering Helpful Tips
Sam Casey is the owner at Banyan Creative, an online marketing agency focused on small businesses with a focus on long term results.
As a small business owner your website is one of the most important tools you can have. It does 3 really important things for you.
1. It can add value - You want to educate your customers and your prospective customers on what the value of your product or services. Keep in mind, a website has little value without business goals, objectives, or a solid marketing strategy behind it. Does your website add value to your business today?
2. You can collect data - Its a wonderful tool to figure out what their needs are so you can meet those needs. Its all about having the relationship with your clients and understanding how to enhance those relationships. Using a proper website strategy, it allows you to collect the right data you need to drive business decisions and grow relationships with your customers.
3. You can conduct business 24/7 - In the middle of the night, someone can click, put their credit card in, and guess what, you have made a sale! A great website is your frontline sales force. It helps quantify, qualify and for e-commerce business close the sale without any human interaction. Check out buffalojackson.com and see some of our recent work to help grow their online business ten-fold using this 24/7 strategy.
4. It can be found head of your competitors - What good is a website if your customers can't find it? Its like having a billboard in the middle of a desert. A well optimized site using (SEO) Search Engine Optimization. When people don't know who to call for services the first place for most people is to "google it". Are you able to be found for services you offer? Or are you competitors showing up ahead of you? If thats the case you are losing sales.
Need help with your small business website strategy? Contact us at Banyan Creative. We love helping small businesses grow!
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner and Founder at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. We are leaders in digital marketing strategy for small businesses with over 25 years of combined experience.
Sam Casey is the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at Banyan Creative.