seo and communication

How to Make Communication a Hit for Your SEO Strategy

Everyone knows that talking out issues is one of the easiest ways to get from point A to point B in any project. 

The same adage applies to search engine optimization (SEO). Without proper communication throughout a project, confusion arises and you could easily end up an unhappy client.

How Do Communication and SEO Go Together?

Your SEO project is a machine full of cogs that require the right lubrication to move its goals forward. When it comes to SEO success, the lubrication your project needs is expertise and positive communication.

While the team at Atlantic Digital Marketing has the experience to make your website climb its way to the top of search engine results pages, it’s up to everyone involved to ensure the right communication measures are taken to keep a project moving smoothly.

6 Ways to Use Communication to Boost Your SEO

There are several ways to use communication to put some power behind your SEO. Here are six of our best tips to use month to month during your project.

1. Understand Expectations From Both Sides

At the start of your project, it’s crucial to lay down your expectations as a client and remain open to the expectations of your SEO team.

Some expectations you should communicate include, the keywords you’d like to rank for, an estimated timeframe for your desired rankings, and who your point person is for the project.

This initial kick-off is also a great chance to express your concerns over your project and listen out for how your SEO team can help out.

Once you’ve set your expectations, let your SEO team fill you in on their process. While they will be working on your project on a month-to-month basis, it’s critical to know that SEO is a long-distance race and not a sprint.

So, expectations on timely results may not always line up. However, once they communicate why SEO success movies slowly, you’ll be able to adjust expectations to a more realistic timeline.

2. Become a Meeting Master

It’s not always fun to have planned monthly meetings, but sometimes, it’s a must for an SEO project. SEO meetings provide an outlet for you to communicate concerns, celebrate successes, and review the analytics of your project with your account manager.

Keep in mind that if you set a meeting, please bring questions. When communication falls behind, your project may come to a standstill.

3. Stay Open to Learning About SEO

You are the expert of your industry and SEO professionals are the experts in theirs. Part of your project’s success is you learning about the inner workings of SEO.

If you are open to learning about the process and letting your account managers do their job, you could find out about some new SEO tricks that could help you in the success of other websites you may have.

4. Review Monthly Progress Reports

Letting your SEO project move on its own without reviewing monthly analytics only leaves you in the dark regarding your site’s success. You want the ultimate ROI on your project, so taking some time to communicate monthly reports like organic site visits, bounce rates, and keyword rankings, is only in your best interest.

5. Stick to Your Approval Process

If you have content or web design work on your project, you’ll likely have an approval process your SEO team follows. No matter what the approval process is, it’s there because it works for your SEO team.

Following your approval process is its own form of communication that helps items get approved, up on your site, and ranking faster.

Keep Your SEO Successful With Atlantic Digital Marketing

If you’re ready to communicate with an SEO team that can help your website outrank the competition, it’s time to reach out to Atlantic Digital Marketing.

We are a premier choice for SEO services and can help your brand with everything from content creation, backend optimization, and onsite cosmetic improvements, all in an effort to drive business growth.

Every consultation is free. So, reach out to us today to schedule yours!

We’re ready to meet you and show you how together, we can make your brand the best in its industry.

Is Your Digital Marketing Agency Underperforming? 5 Things to Look At

[feat-text]Whether your team already uses a digital marketing agency or you’re thinking about bringing one in to help shoulder the load, there are a few questions you need to ask to measure effectiveness and evaluate performance (ahem, ROI) objectively.[/feat-text]

It’s the time of year again, my friends. That beautiful changing of seasons. It’s a time of holiday cheer, football games, and DayQuil. It’s also the time of year when many companies evaluate their current marketing agency and, when necessary, consider a change for the coming year. We would know: as a digital marketing agency, our Q4 is almost always full of conversations with prospective new clients.

Their complaints about their existing agencies usually fall into one of four buckets:

  • Doesn’t communicate well
  • Reporting kind of stinks
  • Feeling ignored or underserved (no new ideas)
  • Want more of a strategic partner committed to growing business

A lot of this comes down to the agency-client relationship. The strength of that relationship, which we’ll elaborate on shortly, will be your pathway to a reliable evaluation. Are they truly meeting your needs and expectations? It’s exactly as described in a recent Forbes Agency council article:

“You want an agency that aligns with your business vision and has the same goals in mind when creating a digital plan that works. You also want to make sure the agency has a personality that you can appreciate, so you can actually enjoy the work that you do with them now and into the future.”



1. Transparency That Moves the Relationship Forward

Transparency is the number one thing on our list of five things we wish our digital marketing clients knew.

In particular, there are three areas of transparency that you should insist on without hesitation:

  • Reporting: frequent, accessible, shareable reports on the KPIs you care about
  • Communication: prompt, proactive availability from your agency contact(s)
  • Accountability: what’s the way forward when change is needed, and who will take the lead?

That last one tends to be a real thorn in my side. Throughout an engagement, mistakes will happen. There will be underperforming campaigns or ideas that don’t pan out. But, if you’re afraid to try new things, you’ll never discover innovative ideas or outpace competitors.

However, it doesn’t serve to hide mistakes or misrepresent performance. Instead, you want an agency that’s willing to reflect on performance, give you the truth, and then offer possible solutions.


2. Promises, Commitments, and Feedback that Actually Go Somewhere

I don’t know what it is, but some folks just love to shoot off quick email responses before losing stuff in the void for eternity. Guess where that absolutely does not fly? During client communications. In my dealings with a third-party provider for Atlantic, I get one whiff of “yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it,” and we’re gone.

We adhere to the same high standard with our own clients, and it’s one you yourself should insist on. In terms of sniffing out what’s what, here’s a few questions to ask:

  • Do you keep getting false promises?
  • Do they follow through on their commitments, including the timelines they set for them?
  • Do they set realistic goals for performance and growth?
  • What is their definition of success, and does that definition match your expectations?
  • How do they respond to your feedback, especially when you’re looking for something more?

Finally, can and will your agency answer these questions in their own words (with receipts)?


3. Non-Negotiable Core Competencies

Numbers one and two in this list are more on the qualitative end. They’re indispensable intangibles, to be certain, but they’re intangibles nonetheless. In terms of more tangible core competencies, here’s where a good digital marketing agency ought to shine:

Lead Generation Expertise

The question here is not only, can you get me marketing leads, but can you get me high-quality leads in the channels that make the most sense for my business. In our world, quality means a person with intent—a person that’s likely to turn into a purchase, opportunity, and so on.

While there are lots of ways to generate leads, you’ll want an agency with a track record (show me the numbers and case studies!) of generating leads through search engine optimization (SEO), paid media, and conversion rate optimization (CRO). My pro tip: look for an agency that has the know-how needed to constantly improve performance through data-backed testing.

Audience Intelligence

There are lots of gains to be had through a deep understanding of your audience. But, unfortunately, there are a lot of potential missed opportunities, too. Today’s best agencies insist on conducting deep audience research and targeting through the lens of reliable data. They’re buyer-aware, so to speak, with a close pulse kept on your particular industry.

Reporting Capabilities

Flat, generic PDF reports sent by automated email don’t always cut it. Look for an agency that has the wherewithal to deliver custom reporting around the performance indicators you care about. Beyond that, look for an agency with a culture of data transparency—they don’t hide performance data, even if it doesn’t bring the best news. The ability to not only draw lines between data and organizational objectives but to make those insights accessible to various stakeholders is essential.

Driven By Performance

Clicks, impressions, views—what do they really mean? Can your agency contextualize those vanity metrics? And do they go deeper into the performance indicators that “move the needle” and impact your bottom line?

In my experience, those agencies are very interested in how marketing impacts revenue. As a result, they push for close integration with your CRM and/or revenue cycle management software. They insist on closed-loop reporting, too. They come to you with new marketing ideas. They’re always looking for ways to enhance performance through testing, new campaigns, etc.

I’ll note here that some clients aren’t quite prepared to put closed-loop reporting into practice. At Atlantic, we advise those clients on what’s needed. We help with integrations and, in some cases, do manual data dumps/uploads to get insight into marketing’s impact on revenue.

I’m a hardliner on this one. Avoid agencies that don’t discuss marketing attribution or strive for closed-loop reporting.


4. Tangible Indicators that Your Investment is Paying Off

This will require that you ask the tough questions both of your agency and yourselves. Your agency should be damn good and damn transparent about measuring their performance against your agreed-upon goals. They should be hitting monthly, quarterly, and annual KPIs, too. Some of this hearkens back to a culture of curiosity and an insistence on demonstrating performance and results.

Digging deeper, though, ask the tough questions: is campaign funding adequate to get the results you want? Is the fee structure appropriate? Square your internal team’s answers against the agency’s and see what shakes out. You’ll learn a lot, I promise.


5. Signs that Things Are Going South

Start by addressing the issue of consistency. It’s not terribly difficult to deliver splashy results in the first month of the engagement. However, over a longer period of time, you’ll quickly recognize the difference between a hit-or-miss agency and one that delivers consistent results.

I opened this blog post talking about the companies that come to me complaining about their current situation. Often, they want a clear sign that things are headed in the wrong direction. So here’s what I tell them: think about the past three to six months of the engagement. Does your agency consistently take control or regularly follow your lead? Do the results mirror what others have experienced?


Lastly, Go Atlantic Digital Marketing or Go Home

What kind of agency leader would I be if I didn’t at least show you some of the ways that Atlantic Digital Marketing embodies the characteristics I’ve outlined above? Across various industries and verticals, including healthcare, education, and private equity, our team has a track record of marketing strategies that deliver results.

Why? Because of the one trait of a good agency I’ve yet to mention: specialization. Sure, you can find ten dozen SEOs that know how to get the job done. But what about an SEO that specializes in your particular industry? Different story. That’s part of the reason we only partner with companies where we’re confident that we can make improvements. We don’t make false claims or upsell just for the sake of it.

Which, by the way, is another red flag to look for.

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Digital Marketing & Cybersecurity

Digital Marketing & Cybersecurity

What is the most valuable asset of your company, the one you need to protect above all else? You might think that the answer to this question varies by company or industry, but it doesn’t. Your most valuable asset is your customers’ personal information.

How can digital marketing help protect your customer?

  1. Reputation management
  2. Secure your website

Reputation Management

Monitoring reputation digital is about more than sentiment and reviews. Using social listening can monitor for cybercriminals stealing your content and posing as your business in a lookalike account. Cybercriminals use these social accounts to lead your current and potential customers to websites that contain malware, gather their data in messages or comments or otherwise compromise your customer data, all while posing as your company. Therefore, protecting your social content protects your customer data and your reputation.

There’s an SEO factor to reputation management, as well. Search engines have improved over the years at pushing down nefarious websites that pretend to be legitimate. However, the risk of stolen content used on a domain that looks similar to your own is still a risk. Keeping an eye on sites that begin ranking for your brand keywords can help find and remove the stolen duplicate content with a DMCA request. Set up Google alerts for your brand name and content, search using Copyscape to find plagiarized content, and use Google Search Console to submit takedown requests when you find duplicate content.

Secure Your Website

There are multiple ways to secure your domain. The first and most important way is to keep your site updated. The easiest way for your site to be compromised is when there is a known security flaw in your CMS. As soon as updates are released, install them. Include any plugins used on the site in the updates. Once a patch is released, the vulnerability it fixes is widely known, and cybercriminals take advantage of those sites that do not promptly update. Depending on the security flaw, infect your customers’ computers with malware, stealing sensitive information entered on the site to take over your entire site, causing downtime where your customers can’t reach you.

There’s one other important aspect to securing your domain. Regularly search for lookalike sites where the hostname is nearly identical to your company’s with either common typos or foreign characters that look indistinguishable from the actual characters. There are two main dangers from lookalike sites:

  • These sites can be used to gather customer data and for financial gain by pretending to legitimately sell your products or providing the same services your company does, using content stolen from your site.
  • The second is through email phishing using the lookalike domain email address. With a lookalike domain email server, phishing emails are sent to your customers or your employees, putting both at risk for data loss. Since the domain looks like your own, it can be mistaken for a legitimate email, making the phishing more likely to succeed. Phishing email content can vary, but the end goal for each is the same: to gain access to customer or financial data, compromise systems through ransomware or other types of malware, or otherwise damage your reputation or systems for financial or personal gain by the cybercriminals.

There are many aspects of cybersecurity to use in your day-to-day life as a digital marketer. Everything from password management to restricting access to sensitive data impacts your ability to keep your customers safe. Reputation management and securing your website are just two tools to help secure your reputation and data.

Google I/O Developer Conference 2021: The Future of Conversational Search

[feat-text]Summary: We peek behind the scenes at Google’s latest demos at its I/O Developer Conference. By analyzing their latest technology breakthroughs, we can derive an educated guess at where the future of search will be, and apply that to digital marketing.[/feat-text]

If you want to cut to the chase and find out what to do about digital content marketing immediately, it’s quite simple. Ringo Starr’s hit song said it all: “Act Naturally.”

The big picture for Google search is that it wants to understand and respond adequately to natural, normal, everyday human conversation. Google doesn’t want users to have to type in specific queries with carefully-chosen keywords. Google wants you to be able to ask it anything the way you’d ask any person standing next to you. It wants to be human-like as possible. Google often states their Search mission statement as “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”

What this means for your content, is that you don’t need to do anything special for your content in order to rank highly. Just talk about the topic naturally, the way you would read in any magazine or newspaper article.

Even though we’re not quite there yet – true conversational AI is an ever-escaping horizon – Google is honing in on that target year by year, and so should we be adjusting digital content marketing efforts to be more in line with Google’s intent. But first, let’s unpack our new Artificial Intelligence toys.


Introducing Two New Google Technologies

The 2021 Google I/O Developer Conference included updates to its mobile Android operating system, updates to Workspaces to integrate Docs and other desktop office tools, and several other sundry bullet points relating to its many products. But the big news was two innovations that will impact Search:

  • LaMDA – “Language Model for Dialogue Applications” – To help bots better mimic human dialogue.
  • MUM – “Multitask Unified Model” – Gives Search AI more ability to understand complex search queries and discover intent (what you *really* wanted even if you were struggling to ask for it).

Neither of these are implemented in an official Google update yet. The point of a developer conference is to showcase upcoming innovations and especially to get all developers up to speed on new technologies and platforms.

On a side note, part of the MUM model project scope is to develop “multimodal models” of understanding queries and responding to them. This is so the perceived intent and response changes with the context of the medium, producing different interactions applied to text, audio, image, and video.

What Could This AI Model Look Like?

This stuff can get confusing for those who aren’t used to thinking in semantic, linguistic, and neurocognitive terms. Let’s stop here and try to define: What are we trying to do? The best example of an ideal level of human-computer interaction we can think of off the bat is the computer-human conversation from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bear with us, it’s geeky sci-fi, but there are important lessons here.

Think about how you’re used Google and other technologies this past month, and then think about this interaction between the Hal 9000 and an astronaut in the movie. Notice the things that Hal does which our best computers still don’t do:

  • Initiates the conversation with a greeting
  • Reports “everything’s running smooth” without being prompted for a status report
  • Inquires about the human’s artwork and asks to see the drawings
  • Recognizes the sketches as portraits of other astronauts and compliments their rendering
  • Asks politely to “ask a personal question”
  • Expresses an almost emotional state of paranoia about the mission

Notwithstanding the eventual outcome of this fictional story, we do see where there is room for improvement in human-computer interaction, even given as far as we have come. Moreover, the computer in the movie is showing agency – it has its own drives, goals, ambitions, concerns, and desires. We may never see that part happen at all, since we’re content to have computers remain passive servants. But we want them to have enough agency to be good servants.


Better Interaction Applied To Google

Presently, we still have to think in terms of keywords when we make search queries. For example, say you wanted a way to animate simple shapes and images in order to capture them for video, with the intent of making this part of a branded intro for your YouTube channel. We can go out and buy Adobe AfterEffects, but think like a “work-from-homer” on a budget here – surely there’s an inexpensive shortcut? Maybe we can just animate stuff in a web browser like we used to do with now-defunct Flash? Don’t we remember something about animating in XHTML / Canvas? So we type in:

  • XHTML animation – This doesn’t seem to get us far, but we do see a new acronym…
  • SMIL – We discover it means “Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language,” but we have to skip past other expansions of that acronym
  • SMIL animation – At last we peep at a developer page at Mozilla called “SVG animation with SMIL” – hey, that sounds like close to what we intended!
  • SVG SMIL – Finally we get a free, easy way to write a little bit of code, render it in a browser, capture it with Kazam, and we got a video clip! Now compose a simple tune in Music Maker Jam, pair them both up in OpenShot video editor, and we have a whole video intro ready to tack onto the beginning of videos on our channel.

You can see where we had to dodge several false leads, and rephrase our query carefully. We know better than to say “free video” to Google, that will get us nowhere. “Video editing” isn’t specific to what we want to do – we can already draw SVG in Inkscape and record it with Kazam, we just want a shortcut for moving SVG graphics around. If we tried to “make animations for free,” we’d end up with proprietary apps buying ad placement to promise us free trials before paid subscriptions, but we’re not ready for that kind of commitment.

Imagine phrasing this whole search to a human: “So I can draw graphics in SVG, and I want to animate them for video clips for YouTube videos. Is there a free, open-source way I can do that? Sort of like Flash?”

That would be an example of a complex query. It ties together knowledge of some graphics technology, and a sharp focus on intent – if you Google Flash and SVG long enough, you’ll get bogged down in discussions about compatibility across web browsers, because normally these are discussed in the context of publishing a web page. But no, we want to open an SVG doc on our own computer, there’s our spinning logo, capture, close.

Simple queries like “recipe for hummus” are far easier to derive intent. But we all know the frustration of having to rephrase a query over and over, because we don’t know the magic keywords that will give us the right answer. This pops up all the time in our day-to-day work, especially when we’re trying to discover something that may or may not even exist.

MUM, the Multitask Unified Model, will attempt to better understand these complex queries and arrive at what the user is trying to ask. It’s also intending to incorporate 75 different languages, hoping to remove international language barriers. It’s a lofty ideal that is still in the future, but close to BERT, which we mentioned before. “BERT” stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers,” which was technical talk for “trying to understand natural language queries,” first introduced in 2018. BERT is one of many transformers, an AI method that aids in Natural Language Processing (NLP).

As for LaMDA, “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” this is aimed more at chatbots, virtual assistants, and voice-activated systems like Alexa. While it doesn’t impact text-based content queries, Google and other tech giants have been working on voice-search for years. The difference is that, instead of typing in queries and clicking on links, the voice assistant would work more like a concierge, offering to book your appointments, make reservations, or purchase tickets when you ask it about relevant topics.


Future Conversational Search Applied To SEO

As we said up at the top, “act naturally” is the key takeaway to be ready for new, AI-conversing search trends. As long as you clearly outline your web page’s purpose and format your information with prudent use of headers, Schema, and UX design, your content will be there when Google needs to lead somebody there.

In fact, this is even better news for long-tail, niche SEO. One of Google’s stated objectives is to better serve the large volume of one-time queries from all us unique snowflakes. Even though common queries are something Google can serve by rote every day, it still sees highly specific, one-time queries which require a unique parsing and hopeful guess at the correct response.

There is no predicted timeframe for when LaMDA will be fully implemented. And rest assured, some skeptics wonder if we will ever get there. After all, Google’s answers are only as good as the information it finds. If that happens to be bad information, well, “garbage in, garbage out,” as they say. This 2017 video shows Google’s home assistant confidently giving “fake news” answers to several unlikely queries.

Our Director of SEO, John McAlpin, gave us his own summary:

“The key for marketers is to not optimize for current algorithm tech, but instead to optimize for where Google’s trying to go. Last year it was all about BERT and now it’s LaMDA and MUM. All of this tech is focused on improving search results for long-tail queries that Google hasn’t seen before.”

“Once our SEO fundamentals are set up on our clients, we need to focus on expanding our content towards the questions that aren’t showing up in our research tools. We need to focus more on the true user experience and ensure that the path to action is as streamlined as possible. Whether that’s improving site UX, or creating new content for mid-funnel and top-funnel searchers.”

Bottom line: Content marketing, which has already been focused on “write for people, not machines,” can expect to keep on doing more of the same. While keeping an eye on the same metrics and SEO objectives as before, we can afford to take a more human-focused tone with our content than ever before.

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7 Best Practices for Creating User-friendly Websites

[feat-text]Summary: Despite 30 years of having the World Wide Web, designing a user-friendly website in the 2020s is still challenging. Since the advent of mobile browsing and new web vitals standards, “user-friendly” is an ever-changing target. Here are the latest best practices in website UX design.[/feat-text]

What is a good user interface design? That question has been the subject of heated debate on many web design forums since there was a web. There are several subjective interpretations of a design idea, but we can cut through this confusion to focus on the objective best design. What makes the most sense to the most people? Web design is only 50% technology; the other half is human psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and a touch of sociology when you examine conventional standards we’ve all been trained to accept.

Not only does good web design get you more visitors and hence more potential customers, but Google wants good web design too. This is why Google has begun the big push for Core Web Vitals, a set of standards concerned not with SEO content and keywords but how the buttons, images, and links behave on a web page. Core Web Vitals focuses on website speed and efficiency for mobile users. With a well-designed and user-friendly website UX, you’ll be able to score higher rankings, attract more visitors, and lower your bounce rate (which is the number of people who visit a page and then leave right away).

In this article, we’ll talk about the 7 habits of highly effective websites…


#1: Speed Counts

Nobody wants to wait for websites to load. We’re all digitally plugged-in hotheads in the 21st century. We have social media feeds to check, items to purchase online, co-workers we have to email back, and a Zoom meeting scheduled for 10 AM. What’s taking so long? Years of steady improvement in web performance have raised the bar regarding what to expect in a web page’s loading time.

Action point: Check your website on Google Page Speed Insights. With some fudge factors taken into consideration, you should have your page speed score be >=80. Remember that if your website has different versions for AMP, check that version too. It’s also a good idea to test multiple pages within your site since this diagnostic tool measures just one page, not a whole website. Analyzing the performance of different pages, such as a product page compared to a single blog post, can help you identify bottlenecks.

Is your site failing the speed test? Here are a few things to look at:

  • It might be time to upgrade your server, host, or hosting plan.
  • Excessive Javascript from plug-in bloat might be dragging your WordPress down.
  • Your images might be too big (data-wise) or use web-unfriendly formats.

#2: Responsive Design is Smarter Design

“Responsive design” means that your website works equally well across all sorts of devices, including desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile phones. It even has to work right when a user turns a tablet or phone from landscape mode to portrait mode and back. It also has to take into account different browsers and platforms across Chrome, Firefox, and Edge running on Apple, Android, Windows, and who-knows-what.

Through all these iterations, the web design should be fluid, taking the shape of whatever container it is poured into. The idea here is that the interface has to be clearly visible and easy to use without making users scroll endlessly or struggle to tap a flyspeck text link.

Action points: Luckily, most default web design templates, such as skins for the major CMSs (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla), have responsive design built in up to a point. You should either be sure your site meets Core Web Vitals standards or uses AMP for its mobile visitors. Most of the rest are details like setting viewports for images, avoiding fixed-width interaction elements, and other back-end website developer issues.

It’s a good practice to test your mobile web pages and ensure that issues haven’t crept in that would frustrate users.

#3: Mobile is Mandatory

We don’t mean to harp on the same point over and over around here, but more than 90% of your website visitors are on mobile. It is easy to forget about the mobile experience when we spend a lot of our work life on our laptops or desks, with big monitors and keyboards attached. When you see the world through a laptop screen, it’s hard to think about pocket-sized phone screen parameters. But even us web nerds, off the clock, browse on the phone too.

Not only should your site work for mobile, but it should have extra features that come in handy on mobile.

Action points: Look for opportunities to include these features in your UX design:

  • A “call now” button to direct dial your customer intake line.
  • A Google Maps insert for directions.
  • Have pop-ups minimized by default, and make sure they don’t block the whole screen even when summoned.
  • For important action steps, use big, chunky buttons that are easy to hit with a thumb.
  • Keep content to a minimal volume, broken up into sections, and easy to digest in small bites.
  • Keep the size of text and UX elements sensible for a phone screen.

It is tough to optimize for the phone on the same page that you want to display on a laptop too, which is why AMP is a thing. Previously, sites had a special mobile version, typically designated with an “m” somewhere in the URL. Compare Wikipedia’s AMP listing with the mobile version of the same page. The same idea is back with AMP, and Core Web Vitals is the standard that expects the mobile-first design to be the default.


#4: Information is Useless If You Can’t Find It

Small retailers and personal portfolios have it easier because they can get away with just a few pages, a blog, and perhaps a shopping cart app. Add “about us” and “privacy policy” links in the footer and call it a day. For larger organizations, the challenge becomes a dual mission of providing a lot of information and organizing it in a sensible way that’s easy to navigate.

Action points: This time, you get a whole checklist:

☑ Use multiple methods of website navigation for large blogs or complex websites. This can include:

  • menu navigation
  • breadcrumbs
  • a search box
  • an archive listing

☑ Keep your most important content “above the fold” in the upper half of the web page. For landing pages (especially those fed by ads):

  • Have the CTA highly visible and present on the first screen without scrolling
  • Include the pitch and a value proposition to inspire the user to action
  • Convey with visuals that the user is in the right place (after clicking on the visually matching ad)

☑Design your website and compose your text keeping the user in mind.

  • Avoid using jargon or industry in-jokes that the user might not be familiar with.
  • Try to think like the user and anticipate what actions they will take most often, then make those the most focused navigation.
  • Make the home page the central hub of starting points for users to complete tasks.

For a complete refresher on website structure, check out our Information Architecture 101 piece.


#5: Be Considerate of the User’s Time and Attention

A potential customer has followed the trail to arrive at your site, and they’re on the cusp of becoming a sales lead. You should treat them as honored guests and accommodate them. Now, we would all like it if website visitors practiced patience as they fully digest all of our content and listen to our value proposition.

But the reality is that your users may be pressed for time, distracted, or just not very adept with this modern technology. They might not be familiar with your industry and its complexities. You can’t always count on users to be functioning at the top of their cognitive abilities every second of the day. They likely want to get through this process with as little bother as possible.

Action points: A checklist for the “skimmable” website:

  • Convey the most significant information and actions by size, position, and focus
  • Make it easy to understand what the site is about immediately and your unique selling proposition
  • Keep information concise wherever you’re leading the user to a CTA
  • Have a good balance of content and white space on your website so it doesn’t look crowded
  • Use headers, bullet lists, and small paragraphs to keep the information bite-sized
  • Anticipate the questions users will have and add an FAQ section

Some business website layouts still suffer from not being able to adapt to a web-use paradigm. They think more in terms of a sales circular, brochure, or magazine layout. Perhaps that word “page” in “web page” confuses people into thinking in terms of print media. Anyway, here’s a refresher course in UX design and how it impacts your sales.


#6: Conservative Layouts Sell More

Everybody loves a wild, wacky, creative genius. You just don’t want them in charge of the grocery store or highway infrastructure. When it comes to your business, fight the impulse to strike out in bold, original directions on your website interface.

People have come to expect a logo in the upper left corner, a search feature in the upper right corner, a navigation menu bar at the top, the “about us” and site policy pages to be in the footer, a sidebar on the right with more navigation elements, and buttons to perform an action such as “buy,” “call,” “schedule an appointment,” “subscribe,” etc. Use these design conventions to your advantage, and give the user what they’re used to when it comes to business UX.

It may be boring, but it’s practical. Save the creative visionary inspiration for places where it will be appreciated.

Action point: Pass the “grandma test.” Have a user unfamiliar with your site check it out for you. Interview them afterward. Could they understand what your business does? Could they find out how to take essential actions? Did they have questions, such as what forms of payment your digital storefront accepts? Did they understand what your offer is and what the terms are? Could they navigate around without too much trouble?

Lacking that, every business website should have a contact form, preferably from a page linked from the footer with the conservative title “contact us.” You will likely get surprising insights into what your users expect and how they are thinking over time.

Learn more about conducting UX interviews and research.


#7: Business Websites Should Be For Everyone

By “everyone,” we mean “think inclusively” by following web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG). This way, we can accommodate the vision, deaf, and hard-of-hearing users where applicable. Keep up with those guidelines and look for opportunities to adjust your UX for people at all levels of ability.

Action point: Some standard accessibility practices include:

  • alternative text for images
  • text subtitles and captions for video and images
  • text formatted with screen readers in mind
  • use periods in abbreviations (a screen reader won’t recognize “USA” as an acronym)
  • use colors and icons to make actionable tasks clearer

Remember also that some people are differently-abled in ways not easy to recognize. The word to know here is “neurodiversity,” which encompasses the different ways people think. Give some thought, where possible, to making things easier to understand for people with ADHD, mild autism spectrum, color-blindness, and other needs.



Lest we forget, your website’s UX should support your SEO strategy and vice versa. As Google has updated its algorithms, it seeks out sites that are useful to users, working the way users expect them to work. Making things easy for users often makes things easy for Google’s website indexing as well, even if some elements only apply to one or the other.

Bottom line: if you want to increase your visibility on Google, you need to prioritize UX.

Check out our handy article on 3 ways to ensure your website supports your SEO strategy.

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digital marketing company

Why Digital Marketing Cannot Be Overlooked

Most businesses aim to emphasize their expertise, though how this is communicated online is critical to success. There are thousands of businesses operating without the marketing expertise they need to help their companies succeed. It is why so many businesses struggle and are not as successful as they could be.

Marketing is often either taken for granted or overlooked. Even when it works well, the marketing activities themselves are often not given adequate attribution due to a lack of data and it is often subject to a reduction in budget. Understanding the purpose and goals of each digital campaign and accurately measuring the impact is critical to the success of every business.

Here are just a few of the reasons your marketing, and specifically, your digital marketing deserves your attention. 

Market Share Does Not Remain Stagnant

Even if you are seeing success now, that is no guarantee it will remain that way. Every day, your business either gains market share or loses market share. The forces of competition, changes in consumer behavior, and changes in online marketing platforms could quickly be working against you if your strategy is not constantly evolving. The status quo often results in movement in the wrong direction.

Are you gaining market share at a satisfactory rate?

Momentum Is a Force

If you are not paying attention to marketing, you risk losing forward momentum. Once marketing campaigns have been established and results are achieved, there is a process of continual improvement based on accurate data that is required to maintain your edge. There is no such thing as a successful “set it and forget it” strategy. Commit to building momentum over the long term and become unstoppable. 

Digital Marketing is Accountable

If you tend to ignore your marketing because you are not sure how to measure it, you may be about to have your world rocked. Digital marketing is not only measurable and accountable, it provides an exceptional ROI. A solid plan should provide measurable results and a winning return on investment. 

Consumers Are Performing Due Diligence Online

Before a consumer even contacts you, he or she may have already researched your product, services, company history and checked online reviews. What are they seeing, and what are they learning? What is your website or social meeting telling them? Is your message consistent and believable? Are you received as an expert in your industry? A comprehensive digital marketing plan is vital in presenting your brand as you want it to be perceived. What are the misperceptions about your business? Digital marketing can help you correct them. 

Ignoring Marketing Can Make Matters Worse

Like your health or financial situation, ignoring issues rarely results in a positive outcome. The same is true with your digital marketing. Marketing should be an ongoing, consistent and persistent effort. It is why many businesses find professional assistance so valuable. Few business owners are equipped to be their own marketing directors. In many cases, we are augmenting the efforts of the marketing business owner or a single internal employee with an entire experienced team at a fraction of the cost to hire an internal marketing staff. We offer digital marketing services and consulting to businesses across the United States. 

Don’t Allow Someone Else To Tell Your Story 

In the case of your competitors, it will not likely be a pleasant message. Controlling your marketing allows you to funnel potential customers to you and your message. You decide what you want that message to be and how you want to represent your business online. With our expertise, you can improve and maintain your brand reputation online.

You Don’t Have To Go It Alone

The odds are you didn’t create the sign outside your business. You may not file your own business taxes or do payroll. The reason is some professional services pay for themselves and allow you to focus on what you do best. What could be more valuable than a service that is designed to bring customers to you?

That is what we do at Atlantic Digital Marketing Company. We provide a range of valuable, creative digital marketing strategies and tactics that are designed to drive leads for companies just like yours. Our services are accountable and measurable.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your marketing. Make the decision to become proactive and take control. Contact Atlantic Digital Marketing Company to discuss your company and your goals. Let’s work together in creating marketing strategies that drive results.

Are you ready to give your marketing efforts the attention it deserves and move your business forward? Let’s talk and set some exciting, actionable goals for your business. 


integrated marketing campaigns

Why You Need Integrated Marketing Campaigns

While figuring out how to best advertise your products and services, you undoubtedly feel like you’re being pulled in every direction. Your marketing channels may look disjointed as a result, leaving your brand without a clear focus and voice. As your flurry of campaigns fail to hit the mark, it becomes clear that you need to bring it all together to improve your results. Thankfully, you can do just that with integrated marketing. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Integrated Marketing?

Integrated marketing coordinates all of your channels and campaigns to deliver the best possible results as a combined effort. Through all your campaigns, we create consistency in messaging and imagery, right down to your fonts and color scheme as well as leveraging different channels to fill any gaps in online visibility and lead generation.

This creates a unified approach that better resonates with your target audience and quickly draws interest to your brand. Through every touchpoint, your potential and existing customers know what to expect from your company and look forward to hearing more about your products and services.

Ideal Integrated Marketing Campaign Strategy

With integrated marketing at the forefront of your advertising program, you use the same slogans and messaging while changing up the content. Your business purpose and mission doesn’t change with each campaign, just how you tell your story.

With that in mind, every integrated marketing campaign strategy starts with looking at your customer’s pain points, needs, and preferences. Beyond that, you need to use your brand values to generate ideas that align with the personality and voice of your company. Then, we leverage ads on the platforms used most by your target audience to meet them where they are most often.

Key Benefits for Your Business

Here are just a few of the benefits when you put integrated marketing to work for your business.

Reach Your Target Audience

Through integrated marketing, you gain a better idea of what your customers want from your brand and how to deliver it directly to them. You can use each channel to your advantage to meet them where they spend time online and deliver timely brand messages on a regular basis. Beyond that, you can act as a key player in resolving their pain points as you present your products and services as ideal solutions.

Leave a Great Impression

As your campaigns reach your target audience in their preferred online space and deliver solutions to their daily challenges, your brand makes a great impression. Your target audience can start to view your company as an asset on their consumer journey. Each time they start the buyer’s journey, they will eventually learn to look to your brand first for the info and solutions they need.

Get Fantastic Results

Your marketing effectiveness will undoubtedly increase by leaps and bounds as you integrate your campaigns. Your brand messaging will stay on point and lead people intuitively to a buying decision. With that, you can enjoy higher conversion rates while putting much less effort into developing disparate marketing strategies.

Save More Money on Marketing

Integrated marketing allows you to promote brand loyalty and increase conversion rates without spending a ton of money on each lead. In fact, this approach has the lowest cost per lead once you have a custom strategy working overtime for your brand.

With integrated marketing campaigns on your side, you can enjoy better results with every campaign and feel certain about the results through integrated campaign data as your strategy boosts the success of your business.

How to Get Started with Integrated Marketing

If you’re ready to tap into the power of integrated marketing, partner with our team at Atlantic Digital Marketing Company. We offer all the marketing services you need to reach your target audience and get them excited about your brand. All you have to do to get started is fill out our online form to request a free consultation appointment and marketing audit. We’re excited to get started!


Google Winter Updates and Features: What You Need to Know

[feat-text]Summary: Over the Christmas-to-January season of 2020-2021, Google surprised everyone with a massive update that threw web traffic into brief turmoil. Here’s a look at the fallout, recovery, and new features recently released.[/feat-text]

From roughly December 3, 2020 through the end of January 2021, webmasters all over the web had one question: “What happened to the traffic?” The answer is that Google launched a massive core update in early December 2020. Normally, Google tries to avoid these during the busy holiday shopping season for obvious reasons—they disrupt the flow of online commerce. COVID-19 delays and other complications pushed the core update to early December, so many business owners and marketers had an unpleasant surprise this holiday.

To get an idea of how drastic the December 2020 core update was, take a look at the chart below showing the average change in website position on a search engine results page (SERP):

Compared to the May 2020 update, the changes were drastic. This is just the average, which means some websites might have seen a change as great as going from position #1 on the front page to dropping back to page 2 altogether, or vice versa. Due to the timing, webmasters were not happy overall, with a few of them delivering harsh words to the search powers-that-be.


Google Core Updates and Search Volatility

So, we know that Google returns search results based on a set of rules for ranking websites for that query. When Google makes a big change to those rules, it’s called a core update. To implement these rule changes, their entire search index needs to be torn down and rebuilt. This takes time. Imagine reorganizing your bookshelves, where you start by sweeping all the books off the shelves and then put them back one by one according to your new system.

So search volatility is the index by which website rankings rise or fall during this process. Some sites see their ranking sink, others rise. Furthermore, how much volatility a site experienced partly depended on its category.

We see here that websites were mostly shuffled around across all rankings, but the volatility was felt most in the retail category, followed by finance, health, and travel. However, those are fairly broad categories and there is much more to the story besides. Another analysis ranked site volatility in some 38 categories, starting from mid-December 2020. Here are a few short charts from PathInteractive that describe changes to visibility:

It becomes tougher to sort rhyme or reason from these results. For example, got a visibility index increase of 97.51, while had a decrease of 97.7. Both of those qualify as retail sites. (US Center for Disease Control) sank 38.2, but rose by 25.43. Both of those are obviously related to health information. So the search index movement is not determined just by category.

Google’s search central blog gives us the greatest clue to these recent core update ranking changes. In their guide to Google core updates, they first caution that there might be nothing a website can change to address a ranking change. They then provide a checklist for determining search ranking factors, which is highly focused on content rather than technical specs. Some example questions:

  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

The same page closes with an in-depth guide to Google’s “E-A-T” quality standard, short for “expertise, authority, and trust.”

Previously, we’ve covered the “E-A-T” standard and noted that it mainly applied to content that had to do with “your money or your life” (YMYL). The more important the information is to quality of life, the more Google wants the information to pass its quality standards. Conversely, unimportant “fluff” content would presumably not be so scrutinized. However, here we see the impact on categories that do not qualify for a “YMYL” ranking, such as arts and entertainment, movies and streaming, or sports.

If all categories across the board are now being held up to an E-A-T standard, this could spell deep trouble. Celebrity news, movie reviews, video game ratings, and other content like this has a casual, more relaxed tone. Things like recipe websites are notorious for sharing all kinds of colorful anecdotes and cultural history along with a dish’s recipe. If Google holds us all to an E-A-T standard, this could kill some industries until they learn to adapt, and could lead to a very dry and academic web.

As late as Christmas week 2020, Google’s John Mueller was defensive about Google’s most recent core index dance. He concedes that “punished” sites that saw rankings drop were not spammers or even doing anything wrong, but that site ranking is not always an exact science. At the end of the day, every topic has more than ten websites talking about it anyway; some sites have to live with not being at the top.

Bottom lines:

  • We likely don’t yet know the full story behind Google’s 2020 core updates.
  • Some of the volatility could be corrections for sites that lost ranking during the May 2020 core update.
  • It still appears that “YMYL” content is held to a higher standard of quality.
  • The only strategy that makes sense is to strive for your website copy to meet the highest possible quality standards, no matter the category.
  • Not even Google says that they’re perfect!

It might be the case that the next core update will re-balance site rankings to a different metric. Let’s not forget, being at the top of search results is still awesome, but even links 5-10 get a share of traffic. Of course, as we always conclude, there is a winner for every loser when it comes to a search index re-build. So if you’re one of the lucky sites which got a boost from December core 2020: Enjoy it while it lasts!


New Google Features

The flip side of every Google update is the updates to all the Google tools and features. Here we’ll cover a few prominent changes. At the very least, Google Analytics can help trouble-shoot websites that aren’t doing so well after a core hit.

Google Analytics 4

The latest version of Google Analytics has an increased set of features and overall functionality, along with some AI-powered enhancements. View the tutorial video at Google’s own Google Analytics channel to get an overview of the interface. Here are some highlights:

  • Adjust how events are tracked without having to alter website code
  • Data can be ported from non-website sources, such as apps
  • A “life-cycle report” tracks the users’ journey through your site
  • More focus on marketing purposes, sales funnels, commerce
  • Uses machine learning for data measurement, with an AI-powered ability to highlight relevant info

Considerable changes were also made to the interface. Notably, the data is event-driven rather than merely traffic-driven, so you can track not just visits, but actions involving the shopping cart, sign-up form, review dialog, and other interactions. The data is also presented in more detail with more charts and graphs.

Google Maps and My Business

No stranger to updates lately, Google has continued its ambitious work on Maps and My Business for local search. In whole posts we’ve done on Google My Business (GMB) listings, we’ve noted how this is becoming a sophisticated 21st-century replacement for the old Yellow Pages. Here’s a breakdown of the latest features:

  • Instant Messaging from Maps: Users who find your business through search can now pop up a message feature from the Google Maps app.
  • Business Profile Performance: On the business side, you can now access a mini-analytics console that tracks user queries, interactions, and other data.
  • Local Community Feed: Any area will now show the most recent reviews, photos, and posts added by users on a community blog-type feed.
  • User-contributed Street View: Users can now snap photos with their phone and upload them, contributing more data to the Street View app – this is a pilot program Google is testing out.
  • New Street View Detail: In select cities, Google Maps is adding more detail to certain areas, such as scaled road widths, sidewalks, crosswalks, medians, and other pedestrian-level features.
  • Years in Business Label: On February 10, Google officially launched a new label that allows businesses to show how many years they’ve been in operation.

As a business, you can take action for the first feature by having a system in place for your sales or reception staff to interact with the public through Google Maps messaging. Regarding the community feed, perhaps encouraging as much engagement from your users as possible will help your name stay fresh in the feed. For the rest, it’s just good to be aware of the growing importance Google Maps and GMB have relative to your business success.

While other Google products have varying track records, count on Maps and GMB to stick around! This wing of Google is pushing some cutting-edge functionality. Google Maps has gone from a simple street atlas to finding a business by category, letting you chat with the shop owner, and directing you to the handicap ramp when you get there.


Coming Up Next: Core Web Vitals!

Unlike the December update, at least we can say that this update has had plenty of advance notice. Google’s Core Web Vitals update is still due to become official in 2021. As opposed to the core updates, Core Web Vitals is a tech-focused update that is predicated upon your website’s performance on a cell phone.

You might also benefit from a technical website audit to assess whether it is updated for Core Web Vitals compliance. The WordPress community is also gearing up to support the update. Here’s WordPress plug-in star Yoast with a tip list for Core Web Vitals performance.

All of the above catches us up to speed on Google’s latest, which in turn should make us all better prepared for the rest of 2021.


The Essential Tools of Successful Lead Generation Programs

We talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing a lot around here. It’s a popular topic, and most online entrepreneurs are focused on just getting that sweet traffic. But what happens after the traffic gets to you? You can’t just assume that you can plop down a landing page with a shopping cart app and expect the magic to happen from there.

The Internet being the carnival of distractions that it is, casual browsers are prone to breeze by your site, glance through it, and then move on to something else. It’s called “web surfing” for a reason, after all. Nailing down that interest into a converted sale is another matter.

It may feel like only small and fledgling businesses struggle with lead generation, but in fact it’s a concern at every tier of business. In this Forbes’ UK study hot off the presses, 74% of large firms report a challenge with lead generation, as opposed to only 49% of small firms. Large companies are also 63% more likely to use artificial intelligence (AI) to find or market to potential leads. Of those companies, 86% also use advanced data analytics software to shape their marketing. Small firms use these technologies far less.

What’s going on here? Does it seem like small companies actually have an easier time closing sales than large companies? There might be several factors creating this effect. Modern consumers might be more eager to support small businesses rather than dealing with a larger firm. Smaller businesses might also be more nimble and limber, able to pivot quickly to new market opportunities while a big firm has a bureaucratic overhead.

But the bottom line is that every business wants leads. Today, we’re taking a look at the framework for building a lead generation strategy, with the most popular programs used to maximize conversions. Most of these will be SaaS (software as a service) programs, all within the budget of small businesses.


Your Website’s Content Management System

Consider your website and an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) the foundation of your lead generation program. While WordPress began as a platform for blogs, it’s evolved as the Internet has grown. It is now the standard CMS tool for many businesses, powering 33.6% of the top million websites online. The other two-thirds of the top million websites either use a custom CMS or another mainstreamed option like Drupal or Joomla.

WordPress can be outfitted to be much more than a blog. Thanks to its popularity and open source customization, plugins for WordPress offer just about any functionality you can imagine.

Sidebar: What do we mean when we say “open source“? We mean the source code for the application is published and accessible to the general public, which can adapt and customize it to suit their needs. The opposite is proprietary software, whose program code is compiled and released only as an executable binary, with the source code kept secret in-house. Microsoft and Adobe are two examples of proprietary software. The Linux operating system, the Apache web server, and the Firefox web browser are all examples of open-source software.

This matters because we, the people, get to democratically customize our digital marketing stack to suit the needs of the common good. Think of it the same way businesses cooperate to run a Chamber of Commerce. Just in case you’ve read the term “open source” enough times that you were afraid to ask at this point!

Anyway: there are a dozen or so lead generation plugins that will help you build an email list for your business. No doubt you’ve encountered a few of these plugins in the wild. You visit a site off a search or social media link, and a popup offers you the opportunity to sign up for an email list.

Because these pop-ups are so ubiquitous on the web, you might think users are going a little “popup blind,” dismissing them by reflex, the way we were worried users would go “ad blind” not so long ago. But the fact is, email lead generation works! It’s a small enough commitment to push that casual browser just over the edge into long-term interest.

This fresh HubSpot report is sure to make an email-marketing believer out of you:

  • 59% of consumers say email marketing influences their buying decisions
  • 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the past year
  • Marketers who use email campaigns report a 760% increase in revenue!
  • 73% of the younger generation say they prefer business communication in email as opposed to other mediums

Considering that you can run an email campaign for the cost of nothing but a few team-hours worth of labor, does a 760% increase in revenue sound good to you? Wow, no wonder those newsletter-signup popups are everywhere!

Check out those WordPress plugins and browse this tutorial on WordPress lead generation at WPBeginner to start cashing in this goldmine.


Website Pop-Up Managers

Riding piggyback on WordPress and email lead generation, OptinMonster is the leading traffic converter on the web, deployed at over a million sites including Fortune 500 enterprises. It makes creating a pop-up as easy as setting up a Canva template. OptinMonster is a highly specialized tool that does one thing very well. Its pricing is well within the budget of a mom-n-pop shop.

OptinMonster allows you to customize the behavior of pop-up windows. It can delay the popup until the user has been on site for a set amount of time or has scrolled down the page a set distance. It can set the popup to trigger only after a set number of pages have been viewed or when the user gets to a certain page on your site.

Lastly, there’s the classic popup behavior that most sites use: triggering only on exit intent. It detects visitor behavior such as moving the mouse towards the top navigation buttons on the screen, then fires off the popup right when they were leaving. It’s your way of offering the user an incentive right when their interest was waning.

You should do some A/B testing with your site, so you’d be testing one option or another and tracking the results. Then use that data to fine-tune your popup behavior. Be mindful that you want to present opportunities for the user to convert into a lead, without annoying them or seeming too pushy. Usability Geek has an in-depth study of popup effects on user experience. It’s a fine art to balance lead generation without making your site too “busy.”


Landing Page Builders

The landing page is the most basic digital sales tool and also one of the earliest strategies deployed on the web. Times used to be that landing pages had a terrible reputation on the web because they were designed in blocky HTML from scratch, were ugly as sin, and drove users away with a hard sales pitch.

Oh, you modern web users have no idea what used to pass for a landing page! The garish colors, the angry chopped font salad, the screaming shill pitches! We still have nightmares about this era of the web.

Modern landing pages use software to generate a sensible design from a template. Thanks to generations of A/B testing, the designs are simple and appealing. We now know that a landing page works best when it doesn’t have the aesthetic of an air-horn going off in your face.


Unbounce has risen to the top of the market as an excellent landing page creator. It works within WordPress, and it has extensions to work with popular digital marketing platforms like PayPal, Slack, Twilio, MailChimp, and more.

You don’t have to be a developer to create beautiful, well-optimized landing pages. Unbounce has customizable page builders and has over 100 landing page templates to choose from, all of them modern and attractive. This makes creating a landing page an easy “set and forget” experience.

It is a paid service, but well within the budget even for a micro-business. It’s trusted by over 15K online retailers.

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is a popular choice for simple form generator software without generating a landing page too. As opposed to Unbounce, Gravity Forms is a simple form generator, which can create a form that you can embed in your own landing page’s custom design or anywhere else on your site.

Gravity Forms also integrates with digital marketing tools like MailChimp, PayPal, Freshbooks, and Dropbox, and also works from within WordPress. Be sure to check the list of community-created add-ons. There are several bright ideas there such as locking down permissions to only allow access to certain users or an integrated plug-in to invite users to a Slack chatroom.


Marketing Automation Software

Using a marketing automation platform is one of the hottest trends in digital marketing, operating like an automated sales manager on your desktop. You use it to collate multiple marketing channels like email, social media, and organic website activity into one oversight panel, while also providing insight into sales engagement. These platforms also use tracking codes to keep tabs on users, and workflow automation to set up error-free repetitive tasks. Think of it as project management just for your sales department.

The three top platforms are all pricey, but robust and capable. We’d probably recommend them for midsize businesses or larger.


Since 2006, HubSpot has been one of the leading inbound marketing software products. It’s a full-service marketing and customer support package. Hubspot has a nice balance of being user-friendly together with a powerful set of features and great data visibility. It’s a good mid-range option with an economical lower tier for the basic package.


Founded in 2003, ActiveCampaign is a cloud-based platform for small-to-medium sized businesses, focused on marketing and customer relations management. The pricing structure goes all the way down to the lemonade-stand tier, so it’s a thrifty choice for those seeking the most basic package.


Practically the Walmart of digital marketing software, Salesforce needs no introduction here. It has acquired and merged its way into every associated market. The Salesforce Marketing Cloud encompasses the acquisitions of former Pardot, CoTweet, iGoDigital, and Keymain Marketing to provide a full-menu customer service package. Their tiered pricing model lets you pick and choose the features you want, packaged as “studios.” As you would expect, Salesforce is practically a career in itself and is priced for the enterprise tier almost exclusively, but there is no feature or service on the planet they won’t either support or acquire.


Social Media Management Platform

Ten years ago, we never thought “social media manager” would even be a job title, let alone a software category. But then social media came to dominate the world. Literally, as of August 2020, Facebook has 2.7 billion active monthly users. The world population is only ~7.6 billion, so 36% of the entire human race is an active Facebook user. We’ll go out on a limb and forecast that social media is here to stay for a while.

Besides Facebook, there is of course Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and all the rest. Western users take note: QQ AKA Tencent QQ has 860 million users, but you might not have heard of it if you’re not familiar with the Chinese side of the Internet.

Marketing on a consistent schedule to all the different social media platforms is a process crying out for automation, and there are two SaaS (software as a service) apps that specialize in this necessary function. Both of them allow you to set up scheduled, automated social media posts to the various platforms. Posts can include video, image, links, tags, and work within each social media platform’s own quirks.


Hootsuite is the bigger, more enterprise-focused social media management platform, with some 16 million subscribers. It’s the more expensive option, although the pricing tiers scale well for any size business. Hootsuite brings a huge feature package to the table, but might seem a bit overkill with its complexity.

Buffer is the runner-up for social media management, with 4.5 million subscribers. It’s a slightly more economical option, but it’s also a bit more stripped-down in features. However, you might find Buffer to be the right size solution and a lot easier to use.

Ad Managers

You can probably guess what we’re going to recommend for an advertising platform. Google has completely owned this market to the point where it’s hard to believe that the search engine is only 23 years old as of this writing. What did people do to advertise before Google? I think we just painted ads on rocks or something.

Google Ads has a rich suite of features that allows you to plan your keyword strategy, focus your ad’s reach, add useful extensions, and remarket through specific audience targeting. Using pay-per-click (PPC) ads is an integral strategy in lead capture, since anybody who clicks on an ad is obviously interested in your product, service, or industry already.

You should aim your PPC strategy towards high-intent, transaction-oriented keywords. These are keywords like “price,” “near me,” “buy,” “best,” “sale,” “deals,” etc., along with your market’s usual keywords. These searches show high intent to buy, as opposed to idle browsing.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in talking about Google PPC ads before. Here’s just part of our handy tips on using Google ads to generate leads in digital marketing. We have more articles that are focused on specific industries and using Google ads too.

There, you have almost a complete course in our Google Ads university!

Remember that Google Ads also run embedded within web pages too, not just in Google’s own search results and other properties. This is called the “Google Display Network,” and you can use contextual keyword targeting to introduce readers to your product on relevant web pages referencing your industry. You can end up converting someone who never knew your industry existed.

Final Thoughts on Lead Generation

Sometimes the best technology is your own wits! There are some general lead generation practices that you should keep in mind as a cohesive focus, throughout your marketing toolchain:

  • Educate your customers – At least half the attraction of the web in the first lace is plain old monkey curiosity. Give information away for free in your content marketing, and then your grateful audience feels like it has already had a profitable transaction with you.
  • Keep it simple! – The path of least resistance should be between users discovering your site and your lead funnel. Make your site easy to navigate, anticipate every click they’ll want to make and put a button there to land it, and make doing business with you the easiest, most pleasant thing in the world.
  • Remember to include persuasive calls-to-actions (CTAs): “Act now to redeem this coupon in the next 24 hours!”
  • Be sure your website follows best practices, loads at a decent speed, and is mobile-friendly. Check out these site analysis tools to check your site for issues.

Digital marketing has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades. The process is streamlined now with so many software tools, which eliminate redundant work. At the same time, digital marketing is a more refined science than it was at the turn of the century, so we have some feedback about lead conversion to go on. If we’re still going strong after this much time, we must be doing something right!



Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies That Deliver Big Results

The COVID-19 pandemic touches every part of our lives, and it is rapidly changing the way that we do business. If it’s left your reeling, know that you’re not alone. Marketers everywhere have had to shift gears and adapt to these extraordinary times. While it’s tempting to step on the brakes, now is not the time to halt your marketing activities. It is time to pivot to cost-effective marketing tactics that deliver results now and in the future.

With stay-at-home orders in effect across the U.S., digital marketing is more relevant than ever before, as people are staying indoors and on their devices. Nielsen reports that there’s been a 60% increase in the amount of content consumed. People are online and your business needs to be there too.

Following the 2008 recession, Harvard Business Review research showed that those businesses that invest during economic downturns recover more quickly than their counterparts. They share reassuring advice that:

In recessions, marketers have to stay flexible, adjusting their strategies and tactics on the assumption of a long, difficult slump and yet be able to respond quickly to the upturn when it comes.”

Of course, it’s not business as usual either, and it’s up to you as marketers to determine the correct balance. How do you manage costs, honor and answer your customers’ changing needs, and prepare to respond when the economy begins bouncing back? How do you do all this while still remaining sensitive to the state of crisis so many are in?

The marketing strategies below provide practical answers to these questions. They’re not new, but they have been framed to respond to our current reality. As you implement the strategies that are right for you, always remain empathetic to your customers’ needs and the global crisis. Consider how to relate to your customers and determine what it is they need from you. And, as always, be helpful.

Now, let’s dive into how you can implement cost-effective customer acquisition strategies like SEO, email marketing, and social media.


Create Content for SEO and Lead Generation

Content is the foundation of an effective SEO strategy and investments now will pay off in the future.

Focus on content for both the COVID-19 pandemic and your customer’s journey. What’s useful right now? The first priority is addressing your customers’ current concerns about how to do business with you. How have things changed since the COVID-19 pandemic? What questions are your customers asking?

Update your homepage with a company statement, for instance. If your consumers are asking a lot of the same questions, answer them upfront. Provide as much information as they need. If operations have changed, add a pop-up with that information, linking to any relevant blogs, news products, or services that your business is providing. Make sure all of the information that your customer needs is right at their fingertips.

Now, let’s look beyond COVID-19.

If you’ve had content on the back burner, now is a great time to create it. Start by conducting an audit of your existing content and create an inventory list. Then, ask yourself:

  • What am I missing?
  • Do I have content for each step of the customer’s journey?
  • Do I have content for keywords that I want to rank for?
  • Are there frequently asked questions that I can respond to right now?
  • Do I need to promote a specific product or service line?

Once you’ve identified the gaps in your content inventory, you can start filling them in with fresh, high-quality content. You may think that creating content costs a lot of money or takes a lot of time. Instead of starting from scratch, use your inventory list for inspiration. Can you combine old articles into a new eBook? Or maybe take a conference presentation and create a new blog series? What about an existing technical manual that can be parsed into an FAQ?

If you don’t have in-house writing capabilities, you can use freelancers from UpWork or WritersAccess.

Here are a few types of content that you can start on:

Comprehensive eBooks:

Like I just mentioned, now is a great time to create eBooks, white papers, and webinars. If you have an active blog, you likely already have the information you need. Take a look at your blog and see if you can combine articles around a common theme. With a little elbow grease and fresh information, you can create a high-quality eBook that you can use as a lead magnet.

Start building a pipeline now to capture and nurture leads, then you will be ready to meet the demand that is sure to come.


Everyone loves a good checklist, especially if someone else is creating it. You likely already have checklists that you use in your business. Talk with your customer service and account representatives to see if they have documentation or checklists that they share with new customers. Or perhaps the sales team uses a checklist while they’re discussing product or service benefits.

Use this information to create checklists that make your customers lives’ easier. This doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, just make sure that you’re adding value. Checklists also make great content upgrades. You can “upgrade” a blog post by adding a call-to-action to download a relevant checklist. Use the blog post to rank for target keywords and then convert the visitor with the content upgrade.


Now, more than ever, people have questions. Lots of them. Like I mentioned above, you first need to create an FAQ page or website section that addresses COVID. Communicate how the pandemic has impacted your business’ operations and what that means for your customers.

After your COVID-19 FAQ is live, spend some time thinking about other questions your customers frequently ask.

  • Do you find yourself always answering the same questions on social media?
  • Can your customer service representatives identify information gaps?
  • What questions are people searching for?

Create FAQs to answer these questions so that website users can easily find the answers they need. FAQs can be standalone pages or they can be sections added to the bottom of related service or product pages. Make sure that you add FAQ schema code to your webpages. If you do, you may be able to snag a rich snippet, which dominates the search engine results page and can increase traffic to your website.

FAQs also improve your website’s user experience, which ultimately helps you convert more visitors into customers. Right now, you need to make every visit count.

Case Studies and Testimonial Pages:

If you haven’t created any case studies, now is a great time to do so. Showcase how you helped your customers achieve incredible results. Considering highlighting customers that didn’t buy your premium product or top-tier service. People are price-sensitive right now, so show how small investments can make a difference.

Once your case studies are live, reach out to your featured customers and request that they share the case study across their channels. This will help increase brand awareness and could help generate backlinks, which are critical for SEO success. Content and link building go hand in hand; now, let’s dive into what you can do to generate more backlinks.


Increase Link Building Efforts

Now is a great time to bolster your SEO strategy and build links to the existing (or new) evergreen content you want to rank well in search engines. With most physical locations shuttered, it’s more important than ever that your online content ranks well and attracts productive visits

People still need to solve problems, and the first place they go to is their search engine. Search engines use incoming links to determine a web page’s position in its results. The more high-quality links that you have from respected websites, the better a given web page will rank.

Here’s are three straight-forward approaches to build links:

Write Guest Posts:

This is a tried-and-true method of building links. Businesses are looking for ways to support each other during this difficult time. Write a guest post for your vendors or suppliers. Or ask loyal customers if you can write a guest post about how you helped them. Offer your expertise and support to their audience.

Write a Joint Press Release with Fellow Business Owners:

COVID-19 is impacting other businesses in your region. Work with other business owners to post a press release that discusses how you’re navigating this situation, the impact on business operations, and how you’re contributing to your local community. In addition to being posted on the wire, each business can post the press release to their website with links to the other businesses.

Write Op-ed Pieces:

If you have a unique perspective related to COVID-19 or can offer expert advice, write an opinion piece. People are looking for information and solutions. Remember, this isn’t about being promotional. It’s about helping.

These link building strategies serve two purposes. In addition to building backlinks and strengthening your SEO strategy, you’re communicating to your customers and community what you’re doing to address the COVID-19 pandemic.


Get Social with Online Video Content

People are spending more time than ever on social media channels. According to an InMobi study, people are spending 73% more time on their mobile devices, and 29% of that group reported that they are spending more time on social media apps.

If you want to connect with your audience that’s online, you need to ramp up your social media activity. People are looking for educational and inspirational content, and video is a great way to deliver both. Video receives more engagement than any other type of post on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Through video, you can show that you understand their needs, are empathetic, and ready to help them get through these difficult times.

Videos don’t have to be high-budget, either. If you have a smartphone, you can start creating low-cost videos for social media platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and LinkedIn Videos right away, usually of fairly decent quality. Make sure your video content checks at least one, if not more, of the prerequisites below:

  • Informs
  • Connects
  • Entertains
  • Helps

Here are three tips for creating effective video content with your smartphone:

  1. Keep it short and simple. As a general rule, shorter, more concise videos perform better, especially in social channels.
  2. Record in a quiet environment to eliminate background noise. If you’re outside, reshoot if it’s too windy or a vehicle goes by. If you’re inside and your family or dog is making a lot of noise in the background, wait until a quieter time to reshoot.
  3. Buy a tripod or invest in a cellphone gimbal stabilizer. This will reduce camera shake and make your videos more professional.

Looking for more tips? This Content Marketing Institute article shares more information on how to create effective videos with your smartphone.


Build Email Marketing Automation Workflows

Marketing automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of your email communications. While it takes time upfront to build automated workflows, they’ll serve you for a long time. Plus, you probably have more time to do it now than you have in the past!

There are low-cost automation options that are fairly intuitive including MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit. And there are many ways that you can use marketing automation, as follows:

Simple Email Marketing Automation

  • Create a blog subscriber welcome series. If you don’t have a blog welcome email, make sure you create it now! It can be as simple as one email that welcomes new subscribers to your blog. Or, you can build a multi-email campaign that shares relevant resources and encourages engagement.
  • Enhance your confirmation emails. You likely already send order confirmation emails, but think about how you can make them more productive and useful. Include links to relevant information, how-to articles, or case studies. Use them as an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell. Showcase other products your customers might be interested in.
  • Implement a customer anniversary email. Show your customers you appreciate them and their loyalty. Thank them for being a customer and consider offering a special discount for your products.

Sophisticated Automation

  • Integrate email marketing with your website. Email marketing automation software, like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot, can integrate with your website and trigger email campaigns based on specific website activity. For example, if someone visits a product page but doesn’t place an order, you can send them an email that explains the benefits of the product or addresses potential purchasing barriers.
  • Revive abandoned carts. Marketing automation is extremely useful for getting users back to their abandoned carts. When integrated with your website, you can use marketing automation software to send website visitors a follow-up email with a coupon to entice them to complete their purchase.

Email is still one of the most effective digital marketing tactics available. Use this time to review and overhaul your email marketing program so you can communicate with users when they’re most likely to respond.


Marketing in the Time of COVID-19

None of us have ever faced a global pandemic this massive before. Remember that we’re all in this together, and all customers and marketers are generally in the same boat. Now is the time to listen to your customers, team up with your fellow business owners, and create helpful content that is empathetic to our shared situation.

Just because everyone is at home does not mean that business has to shut down. And there are ways to move the needle through smart, strategic digital marketing without being opportunistic. The tips above are practical, sensible places to start.

Stay well and feel free to contact me to discuss how you can implement these digital marketing strategies.