Everything You Know About SEO is Wrong

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

By Dave Flomberg 

Well, it may not be wrong now. But it will be. In 12 minutes or so, give or take. It’s hard to tell where Moore’s Law and SEO meet, but we’re pretty sure 12 minutes is a good over/under.
We may not know what’s going to happen in the future, but we have some educated guesses, and either way, what we’re saying here will only help you optimize your website for search.

Google is what matters.
Can we just agree on that point now? Regardless of preference, it would take a collapse heretofore unseen in the business world to see them lose this market. And we’re saying that AFTER the collapse of some of the biggest financial companies the world has seen, too. Need proof? Despite the stranglehold Microsoft seems to still have on the office suite, Google Chrome is the runaway preferred Internet browser by everyone.

Your keywords are becoming useless.
Words themselves are awesome. They shape ideas and transform the course of human history. But the time to boil words down to a collection of coded letters that gets people to click on things has long since passed. Thinking about search in terms of a specific keyword list is like deciding on your future mate based purely on their red blood cell count.

Google is about the searcher. Not the searchee.
The goal with search is to return the right result for the person searching for something. It’s not to make sure YOUR result gets handed to someone who may be looking for something that has some connection to your product or service. Pretty much every decision Google makes is focused on the user.

Google is smarter than you.
And it’s way smarter than me, and it’s learning. The 1.21 gigawatts (or whatever the actual amount) of data Google activity generates on an hourly basis are helping Google to get better. It’s learning how to bridge the gap between what people say they’re looking for and what they actually want to see. In short, Google is evolving into a mind reader. It’s like how Google knows when you spelled something wrong, but so much more than that. Google’s taking into account the full picture of a search — all the things that go into ranking from in bound link authority to visitor traffic patterns — and using that to make search results better with each twist of the dial.

It’s not tactics. It’s strategy.
This all boils down to the fundamental shift you need to make when you’re thinking about SEO. Your core philosophy should no longer be, “how are people going to find my content,” but “why should people want to find my content?”

That’s the crux of it all. Your SEO strategy needs to no longer be about a collection of tactics strung together like a checklist, but about crafting useful, relevant content someone would want to find when it comes to the products and solutions you offer. Developing your customer/user personas is a great place to start. Even a simple brochure site should approach content from the mindset of how it’s helpful, not, “look how great our products are!”

I gotta wear shades
The upside is: The future is bright for SEO, in terms of continuing to evolve a self-correcting system that rewards good content, which means content creators remain at the core of your long term SEO strategy. Content really is the Once and Future King.

 

Read Original Blog > 

SEO for small businesses: What do you need to know?

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

An essential guide to SEO for small businesses.

If you own a small business, you’ve probably been pitched by an SEO company at some point or another. Or maybe you’ve read about the recent changes at Google and wondered how it might affect your website. Or maybe you just thought, what on earth is SEO anyway?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of making a website more visible to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. The idea is to “optimize” your site so that it shows up more often, and more prominently, in search results for topics that are important to your business. For example, if you own a store that specializes in purple laminated widgets, you’d ideally like your website to pop up when people search Google (or the others) for “purple laminated widgets.”

That’s the basic purpose of a very complicated, and ever-changing, enterprise. Fortunately, you don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of SEO because there are a gazillion SEO companies out there vying for your business. To help you choose the right option, here is our essential guide to what small business owners need to know about SEO.

SEO is all about making your site user-friendly.

This may be dumbing it down a bit, but at its core, SEO is all about making your site a better, easier-to-use source of information on a particular topic. This means improving things like navigation, website coding and the content on your site. Essentially, if Web users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily on your site, then so can Google and the other search engines. There’s a lot of art and science that goes into it, but that’s what it boils down to.

SEO is built on a foundation of quality content.

SEO is about making your site easier to use, including smart design that directs users to your core content quickly and easily. Make it easy for people to find what they need.

The content on your website matters, now more than ever. Google, who dominates the search engine world, has repeatedly updated its search algorithms to eliminate many of the SEO tricks of yesteryear. They were tired of people gaming the system with sneaky, techy workarounds, rather than optimizing their sites with information that was truly relevant. With each update, Google is essentially telling website owners, “Make your site relevant and helpful to your target audience, and we’ll take care of the rest.” So, yeah, your content really matters. Small businesses could invest in much worse things than professional copywriting for their websites.

SEO constantly evolves.

SEO has changed dramatically in recent years—so much so, in fact, that many of its central concepts have become known by new names, or rolled into new processes with different focuses. You may have heard the terms “inbound marketing” or “search engine marketing.” Processes that incorporate other elements, like social media, may be called “social media optimization” or “social search optimization.”

Regardless of the name, the job of getting more potential customers to your website changes by the day, sometimes by the hour. For that reason, we recommend that small businesses embrace a fundamentally sound online marketing and communications strategy. Emphasize things like good content, good Web design and architecture, and good outreach through social media, blogs and other tools. Stay out in front of the evolution by speaking to your target audience directly and genuinely.

SEO is linked to social media.

The connection between SEO and social media is for real, and it’s increasingly important. This connection is called “social search,” and it’s an progression from what search engines have always done—try to find relevant, authoritative content to match online searches for particular topics. There are boatloads of stats demonstrating the correlation between social media and website traffic. For small business owners, the key is to maintain an active social media presence on a few key services, and to make sure those social media accounts are well branded and connected to your professional profile and website.

SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it activity.

Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving enterprise. Yes, there are best practices for setting up your site and your social media accounts, but you can’t simply set these things up, leave them alone and expect to get results. At SMO Pros, we like to say that’d be like building a house but never maintaining it. If you don’t fix the little cracks that pop up, then eventually things will start to fall apart.

SEO and online marketing work the same way. Yes, you build a solid foundation, but that foundation needs to be maintained to keep pace with the changing world of commerce. Good SEO requires constant updates, monitoring and adjustments based on changing analytics, search engine algorithms and Web usage trends among your audience. If you neglect these updates, your foundation will crumble.

SEO is not just about getting ranked #1 by Google (or by any other search engine).

For years, SEO companies sold clients on the idea of ranking #1 for particular search term. Everything revolved around that goal. The problem was that a #1 ranking didn’t necessarily translate into results for the clients’ businesses.

We could get into a lot of confusing metrics about conversion rates and click-through rates and keyword search volume, but we won’t, because no one likes to slog through those figures, even people who work in this world. Instead, here’s the summary: Being #1 on Google, or another search engine, is great. Does it help? Yes. Is it the be-all and end-all of online marketing? No. For small business owners, delivering relevant content, a good user experience and a targeted marketing program will serve your objectives much better than topping the charts on Google for a particular search term.

SEO is part of a bigger process.

SEO doesn’t work in a vacuum. It’s part of a larger system of online marketing, customer communications and website optimization. Ultimately, success in today’s market requires a comprehensive online marketing program that integrates SEO, social media and a strong Web presence. Everything is connected. As a small business owner, it’s time to get connected and get busy.

By Jeff Kent, S.M.O. Pros 

 Read Original Article >

Don’t Let Your Nephew Design Your Company’s Website & Other Helpful Tips

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

By Megan Moye Zacher, Designer/Founder of Zebra Incorporated

Your website is arguably your most valuable marketing tool, and there are many common mistakes you can avoid with these helpful tips for making the best impression online.

Use Captivating Imagery

Comprised of nothing but code, websites are inherently antiseptic and two-dimensional. They're basically a white color field with black characters, and they even lack the tactical benefits of a book or magazine. But well-designed websites leverage original, captivating images to communicate your value proposition quickly and powerfully. Infographics can be a very effective way to describe a complicated concept or process, and they're a great way engage and educate your website visitors.

Source: Completely fabricated, but we got your attention! See how well infographics work? 

Source: Completely fabricated, but we got your attention! See how well infographics work? 

Showcase Only Your Best Work

Sure, your website should communicate a breadth and depth of work, but keep in mind potential clients are often looking at your website for reasons not to hire you. If your project photography or case studies are older than five years, they'll start to look outdated which implies your business is slow. It's better to feature only your best and most recent work, even if it means you show only a few examples.

Register Your Domain Name & Protect It           

Your domain name or website address only costs about $10 a year, but it's one of your most valuable business assets.  Don't let someone else (like your website designer) register it for you. Set up an account at Network Solutions, Godaddy or another provider and maintain control of this account. Keep your username or password in a safe location and make sure your contact information is always updated to ensure the domain name won't accidentally expire. If it does, you'll have to wait 90 days to re-register and someone else could beat you to it!

Don't Do It Yourself

These days, everyone and their brother think they can design a website. There's a good chance someone you know has offered to design your website for free (or you're thinking of building it yourself), but you'll get what you pay for.

 Websites are extremely cost-effective marketing tools and offer a significant return on investment (ROI). For example, a professionally designed website costs about the same as designing and printing a thousand brochures, but it can reach hundreds of thousands of people around the world. And what a targeted audience! Your visitors have opted to seek you out and you should reward them with a high quality, professional, and thoughtful website (not one designed by your nephew over winter break).

Zebra Infographic highlight.jpg

Be Original

Your competition may have a slick website with lots of traffic, but you should avoid the temptation to plagiarize it. The finished product might look as polished as theirs, but nothing else will set you apart (and you might get sued). Instead, create your own memorable identity by defining and expressing your key differentiators. If you don’t know what they are, chances are your audience won't either, and you have bigger problems than your website design.

Less Is More

Crowded websites with lots of text, key word "stuffing" and other outdated marketing techniques just confuse your visitors and leave them questioning what you actually do. A well designed website frees up white or negative space and features more graphics, links to downloads, and dynamic content like embedded videos.

Update Regularly

In today's business environment, it's more important than ever to have an active online presence. Make sure to pay attention to the details - old copyright dates in your footer or outdated announcements are clues your website isn't regularly maintained.

Luckily, Content Management Systems (CMS) like Squarespace.com make it easy make website updates without technical expertise, and search engines will actually reward you with improved search results when you update your website regularly.

In conclusion, your website should reflect the very best of what you do, inviting visitors to peruse your expertise, contact you for more information, and ultimately hire you!

Contact Megan at Zebra Incorporated today at 720.891.1442 or megan@zebraincorporated.com for more information or a free estimate for website design services. 

 

New Luxe Cards from Moo.com

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

Transient

First impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important. So, whether they are in your career or social life, it's important to make a good first impression, and your business card is a great way to start.

Check out our new favorite "Luxe" cards from Moo.com. At triple the thickness and weight of most ordinary cards, Luxe boasts a rich seam of color within the layers of paper, and a stunning, tactile quality that you won’t find anywhere else on the web. And the price isn't going to break the bank either:

50 cards = $34.99
100 cards = $69.98 

200 cards = $109.88

Call Megan at 720-891-1442 to get started on a design for your new business cards today! 

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

I recently found this excellent diagram from Colin Harman that sums up a lot of the challenges graphic designers encounter on a regular basis. Many clients want a bargain, but bargain design looks cheap, and you get what you pay for.

Transient

Zebra works with our clients to develop strategies based on their specific goals, timeline and budget so our clients always get great graphic design at a reasonable price.

Call Megan at 720.891.1442 today to discuss your marketing goals.

Denver's Public Art: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted on by Zebra Incorporated

I recently returned from the Downtown Denver Partnership's Urban Exploration trip to Philadelphia, and I was particularly impressed with Philadelphia's public art (this photo is "Crystal Snowscape," just one of the hundreds of breathtaking murals in the city). Philadelphia has a long tradition of investing in public art, and there are exquisite examples around every corner.

However, it is interesting to note that the two most iconic and photographed pieces of public art in Philadelphia are arguably their least attractive.

The "LOVE" sculpture, while certainly an optimistic addition to the once-dreary and dangerous downtown, is grossly out of scale for the prominence of its location. Its garish colors are dated, and the sculpture is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings and the Avenue of the Arts. I couldn't help but think how this impressive vista deserves something more GRAND! I just didn't feel the LOVE.

The second most famous sculpture in Philadelphia is the Rocky Balboa sculpture at the art museum. The bronze statue of Rocky was briefly located at the top of the steps for the filming of Rocky III, but was removed when city officials argued that the statue was not "art" but a "movie prop," and it was banished to South Philadelphia. The statue returned to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2006 simply because tourists kept looking for it, but the museum insisted on placing the sculpture at the base of the steps to maintain the "design integrity" of the art museum plaza. Ouch!

I started thinking about Denver's public art, and how our least attractive examples also garner the most attention. Some examples for your consideration:

The Blue Stallion

Nicknamed "Blucifer," the Blue Stallion at Denver's International Airport is easily our most famous example of bad public art. Most people already know this sculpture actually killed the artist, Luis Jimenez, who was crushed by the horse's torso while hoisting it for final assembly in his studio. But few know that the red glowing eyes were in honor the artist's father, a neon sign manufacturer in Texas. The effect, while well-intentioned, is really quite disturbing and rivals the stallion's giant phallus for reasons it's one of Denver's most despised, and discussed, sculptures. Did I mention the sculpture took 14 years to make and cost taxpayers $650,000?

National Velvet

Located on the 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge, this sculpture was unveiled in November 2008. During the ceremony, then Mayor John Hickenlooper, couldn't help caressing it. "This is a piece of art that begs to be touched." He paused thoughtfully. "I suspect the mayor’s office may get a few calls."

When I first saw this sculpture, I hated it immediately. I despised it so much I didn't think I could hate something more, until I learned its name. "National Velvet" conjures all kinds of images - a youthful Elizabeth Taylor on horseback, our forefathers draped in luxurious fabric, etc. - but not bulbous red spheres.

Here's an excerpt from Denver's Westword article, 11-18-08:


Even the work’s sculptor, John McEnroe, seemed unconvinced about the title. “'Velvet' implies something suggestive,” he said with a sly grin before the ceremony. “And the word ‘National’ speaks for itself.” Whatever you say, John.

Many nicknames have been suggested for this sculpture including "Wet Salami," and "Kidney Beans" but my personal favorite is Westword's "Saggy-Boob Electric Penis." Regardless what we call it, this $50,000 sculpture was fabricated from resilient plastic and is impervious to the elements. So whether we like it or not, Saggy-Boob Electric Penis is here to stay. 

The Dancers

I would be remiss if I did not include The Dancers in our exploration of really bad public art in Denver.

Most often referred to as the "Dancing Naked Aliens" this 25-ton steel and fiberglass eye sore by Jonathan Borofsky was chosen by former first lady Wilma Webb, against the wishes of many on the public art selection committee.

The City and County of Denver eventually paid a whopping $1.58 million for this monstrosity, including five speakers at the base of the sculpture that play a continuous recording of an original song called "Let's Dance." With that kind of budget, couldn't we get more than one song?

 

Honorable Mention: All Together Now

I actually love this sculpture, recently added to the corner of 14th and Curtis street. As part of the redevelopment of 14th Street (now "Ambassador Street") All Together Now is a playful, optimistic addition to an otherwise dreary street-scape. It gets honorable mention only because when I first saw it, I thought it said "All To Get Her Now." Now, that's all you'll see, too.   

In conclusion, I postulate that our reaction to "bad" art can be just as meaningful and valuable as our reaction to "good" art. I'm just grateful we have public art to ponder.