musings,web development

Top 10 signs your developer is an asshole

  • Jason
  • ON
  • February 5, 2019
There are amazing web developers out there but there are also a ton of developers who act like assholes. It’s part of the reason I started Brain Bytes Creative. For years I had clients of my video production agency complaining about the poor customer service and stress that their web developers web and software developers made them endure. After hearing it for over three years I decided to do something about it.
Through the experience of starting my own website design and development agency, along with hearing horror stories from hundreds of clients, I have compiled a list of the top ten signs your developer is an asshole.

10. Your developer won’t pick up the F&%^ING phone!

You tried to contact your web or software developer by email multiple times and have decided it’s time for a chat, so you do the logical thing and you pick up the phone to give them a ring. The first few times it rings and eventually takes you to voicemail. Then, at call five through ten, you can tell you are being sent immediately to voicemail. Talking on the phone would likely ease your anxiety, and it would keep you updated on milestones and deliverables… but that’s not happening. You’ll have to wait until your developer is ready to chat.

9. Your developer is obviously way smarter than you… Duh.

During communications your developer often gives dismissive sighs or is extremely condescending to you. They can’t believe that you don’t understand the simplest things even though they have explained it five times. They wish you’d stop being so dumb and go pick up the latest Development for Dummies book. Oh, and whatever technology you are using is out of date and stupid.

8. Your developer can’t hit a deadline but can play Fortnite for 18 hours straight.

Deadlines are apparently “suggestions” for when things can be completed. It does not matter that your boss or your business has a very important event or presentation, all that matters is that your developer got to kill a record number of zombies while drinking Monster Energy drinks and staying up till 5AM. Your project can wait…THERE ARE ZOMBIES TO KILL DAMMIT!

7. Your developer refuses to speak like a normal human being.

During conversations with your web or software developer, you often feel completely lost as they ramble about things you don’t need to know as they duck the main questions.

Client: When will the Facebook login functionality be completed?

Developer: We decided to code the site in REACT which means that we need to refactor our current code. We thought we could keep coding in Python but when we got to this task we realized that the connections could be simplified for better speed optimization and better security. Based on the new algorithms Google just released, our concern now is the page speed, so if this doesn’t work we will need to try something completely different.

Client: I don’t follow.

Developer: (Sigh) Your old codebase is not working. We should probably just start over.

Client: This was due last week!

Developer: It’s gonna be at least three more weeks.

6. Your developer won’t give you the code.

You got through your project and have decided to take your site to another host and developer. Even though you paid for the code and technically own it, your developer is trying to slow down the process or not give you what is rightfully yours.

5. Your developer doesn’t wake up till 1PM.

No communications start until 1PM unless you schedule the meeting in advance and often you feel panicked they won’t show so you give them a wake up call.

4. Your developer holds you hostage.

Your developer layers your project in complexity so they are the only ones who can understand the code or work on it. They also happen to be the only people with the logins, passwords and other vital information that you would need to break free of them. You are stuck. You feel trapped. They like it that way!

3. Your developer always points the finger back at you when something breaks.

When something goes wrong with your development project, it’s never the developers fault. It’s always something you did in the past or something you suggested in the build at the start of the project.

Client: The push notifications in the app are firing at the wrong time and the text is wrong. Did you get the updated text?

Developer: They are firing when you said they should. What new text?

Client: In the requirements we noted that the notifications are triggered one month after enrollment and the new text was sent out three weeks ago.

Developer: Weird, I remember you saying two months and I never got the text changes. Maybe your email is coming through as Spam. I’ll check in a few days but send it from another email if you want me to review sooner.

2. Your developer loves to make you their guinea pig.

Your developer tells you about a brand new code base or extension that is supposed to be revolutionary, even though it’s untested. But they guarantee that it will make your product better. They fail to mention it’s only being used by a few developers who are big on Reddit.

1. Your developer is not aligned, nor willing to be aligned, with your goals.

Your developer refuses to try and understand your goals and keeps pushing their own agenda. Their agenda is typically based around what tools they want to play with and not what is going to help you be successful. This is the most egregious offense an “asshole” developer can make because they are using your money to fund their education and waste your time.

content marketing,conversion rate optimization,design,musings,search engine optimization,user experience,web development

How much does a website cost?

  • Jason
  • ON
  • January 25, 2019

If you are asking this question you are likely trying to determine what you will need to budget for a website for your business. You have come to the right place.

So how much do your websites cost?

Knowing how a great website is created can help give you a better understanding of the cost. Websites, like cars, have a wide range of pricing options. You can get a website for $50,000 or $50,000,000 — it all depends on its features. Keep in mind that building a truly great website is a big task. I always equate building websites to building a brick-and-mortar store location, except it’s somewhere people around the world can visit 24/7/365. Today we will go over each stage of website development and the potential cost involved.

LET’S DIVE IN!

Website discovery

Price depends on a number of factors: the size of the website, the number of competitors, the complexity of the sales funnel, and the depth of research areas the website team explores during discovery. For example, one client might need a discovery into their website’s conversion rate optimization, possibly including a deep dive into performance analytics and session records to determine how visitors are using the current website. Other clients during discovery might simply need us to become familiar with their business and their goals before we begin work. Ultimately, discovery comes down to how able you can specifically identify your website’s problems to solve. The more gray areas, the more a discovery phase can help.

Website discovery cost:
Simple: $500.00 – $1,500.00
Moderate: $2,500.00 – $4,000.00
Complicated: $5,000.00 – $20,000.00

For most businesses, a moderate discovery will suffice. At that rate your website development team should have a firm understanding of most aspects of your business and can apply . If you are skeptical about the need for a discovery, talk it over with your website team and see why they think it’s important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; most web design agencies are flexible and willing to figure out the most cost-effective way to solve problems.

Flow mapping

Website flow mapping is all about thinking of how users will navigate through your site. You add on layers of complexity as you think through how a user will navigate through every page of your website. Many website companies and their clients believe that people go to your homepage first. That could not be more wrong. People arrive on your site by searching Google for a specific keyword and land on a related page. This is why at our agency we see every page as its own “homepage.” By looking at your website holistically, we can control what happens when someone lands on any page and push them into a sales funnel where appropriate so they convert. The next time you are doing a web search, think about where you are landing. Take note. You’ll see that understanding how users navigate though the site is critical to conversions, goal completions, and revenue.

Website flow map cost:
Simple: $200.00 – $1000.00
Moderate: $2,000.00 – $4,000.00
Complicated: $5,000.00 – $20,000.00

Every business needs to keep flow mapping as a consideration. If you choose not to do a flow mapping exercise, you will lose potential business. Moreover, Google won’t trust websites whose pages are not organized optimally or do not relate to each other in a way that makes sense. What’s important to Google’s advanced algorithm are the page relationships uncovered in flow mapping exercises. Flow mapping connects pages’ subject matter and establishes you as the expert around those specific subjects. That’s huge for both Google and your visitors.

Site architecture

Site architecture is essentially mapping out the navigation of your website. And if you do a flow mapping exercise, it will be clear what pages you need on your website. We use a program called Slickplan to create our site maps. A robust site architecture gives your users and search engines an easier time getting the information they need. Google loves a great filing system. It makes their job easier. By having an easy-to-digest site map, Google rewards you with higher rankings in the SERPS and users reward you with more conversions and goal completions.

Website Site Architecture Cost:
(If you skip flow mapping, this price will likely be very different.)
Simple: $200.00 – $1000.00
Moderate: $1,500.00 – $3,000.00
Complicated: $4,000.00 – $7,000.00

You really can’t get away from this step. Yes, you can do it yourself, but it’s always better to have a team of trained experts by your side because, over and over again, we have seen what works and what does not.

SEO (search engine optimization)

A mistake I made early in my career was not including SEO at the beginning of a project. I’d finish a website and then bring it to an SEO specialist. All it did was frustrate them. Why? Because it turns the website into a game of “What keyword are you trying to rank for?”, a lot like putting the cart before the horse. If I build an entire site with, say, forty pages and every page lacks a keyword focus, several things can happen:

You build pages that rank for zero keywords.

You have multiple pages with the same keywords, therefore cannibalizing your own pages. Google then has to make a decision about which page to serve in its result pages, and if there are a ton of pages with the same keyword, it causes Google to say, “I’m confused. I’m not going to serve any of these pages because it’s unclear what is the best page to serve.”

Google’s job is to serve the best result for any given query. Keep that in mind always, and then common sense comes into play. (If you have pages with the same keyword, make sure to put a rel:canonical tag on the one with the best content.)

You miss keywords that are critical for your business. Missed keyword opportunities mean missed business.

So what will an SEO team do at the beginning of a website project?

  1. Keyword mapping: Keyword mapping is the process of researching the search volume and intent around relevant keywords. Typically our keyword maps start with 300 to 600 keywords, but we quickly expand to tens of thousands after site launch with an important, ongoing SEO retainer. Building a site is just the start. You must think of your website as an evolution. If you don’t you are wasting money!
  2. Content assignments: Our team creates in-depth content assignments for our content creation team and/or your team’s content writers. These assignments list out the main keyword focuses, synonyms of those keywords, and break down each page by <h> tags (header tags) so it’s easy for Google to index and crawl.
  3. Site architecture recommendations: Words matter in search; so does the structure of the website. SEO specialists are always looking for ways to optimize. Having a keyword in your navigation is great, but how it connects to all relevant content is even more important.

Website SEO pricing:
Simple: $1000.00 – $2,000.00
Moderate: $2,500.00 – $4,500.00
Complicated: $5,000.00 – $20,000.00

Website SEO monthly retainer cost:
“I want to play the game and have an internal team”: $1,000.00 – $2,000.00
“I want you to do my SEO and I just want to be relevant in search results”: $2,000.00 – $3,000.00
“I want to win SEO and get to page one in SERPs within the next 6-12 months for specific keywords”: $4,000.00 – $14,000.00

Choosing not to do SEO at the start of your website is a horrible mistake. Trust me! I already told you I’ve skipped it once, and we have the occasional client that decides to skip it even after all my warnings. They all pay the price — retroactive SEO fixes and changes are expensive!

Website content development

Content is king, queen, and everything in between. Search engines rely on content to decipher what is on your website. There are a ton of best practices prescribed to content creation. If you want to be a player in the SEO game, then you must have the content to back it up. Great content (like this amazing post you are currently reading) is critical to website success. A quality content team will write with SEO in mind… ALWAYS.

Did you know that Google wants you to write like a 5th grader? We use the Hemingway app to ensure we deliver content that’s easy to consume. Google also wants your content to be above 300 words. They like 500 better but if you look at pages that rank in the number one position they are typically over 1500 words. My top ranking articles are often over 7,000 words like my article on “Music Video Costs” that ranks #1 or #2 for the keyword “Music Video Cost” since 2013! I beat Wikipedia. That’s how important great content is. Great content helps the reader by supplying them with solid, trustworthy information.

Don’t write your own content? Want to know why? Because you won’t. The majority of clients who say they will write their own content won’t actually do it because it’s hard and requires a dedication that most people don’t have time for. (This blog for example has taken me five airplane trips between Atlanta and Boston.) It’s beyond a simple matter of convenience. Content is not easy to do the right way. Hire an expert. It’s worth it.

Website content development cost per blog article or standard page:
(Depending on the writer and word count.)
Simple, using freelancer: $50.00 – $700.00
Moderate using an agency’s content team : $500.00 – $1000.00
Complicated using an agency: $1,000.00 – $1,.500.00

Website content development cost per in-depth resource (i.e., e-books, white papers, case studies):
(Depending on the writer and word count.)
Simple, using freelancer: $1,000.00 – $1500.00
Moderate using an agency’s content team : $2,000.00 – $3,000.00
Complicated using an agency: $4,000.00 – $6,000.00
*Case studies can be very dense and require a ton of research.

The great thing about creating quality, evergreen content is it has value year after year. I tell clients to think about it like compounding interest. I write articles every year that drive revenue for my business each year after I wrote it, as long as I keep it up-to-date with new information, or if it receives a decent amount of attention online. You can’t just let a piece of content sit stagnant. You need to keep it fresh and accurate.

Website design

Website design is critical to the success of your site. It’s not only the first impression, it’s the full user experience. You’ll hear the term UI/UX thrown around a lot these days because understanding how people use a site is paramount to its success. A good website design team understands user flow and conversion rate optimization — it’s critical to the success of a project. For exceptional and thoughtful website design, you can plan on spending a decent amount of cash; however, that kind of design is critical to helping drive conversions and revenue for your business. Good design is even more critical to e-commerce sites as it helps to reduce checkout friction — from selecting products, to entering payment and shipping details, to confirming purchase.

You can find designers online from $25.00/hr all the way to $150.00/hr depending on experience, but in my opinion a dedicated design team is the way to go. A website design team will produce much more powerful work than a single person building a site. Primarily, there is no diversity in thought with one designer, so you often get opinions rather than decisions based in facts and data. You see, today’s modern design teams don’t just design things that look good. They understand the reasons why websites should be designed a particular way. They have data to back up why sliders usually don’t work, or that you need multiple calls-to-action on a page. They know that anticipating how a user will use a site is more important than how pretty it is. They know that if a visitor doesn’t see what they need in 5 seconds, then they are likely to bounce off the site.

If you are only concerned with how your website looks, take a step back and think about how you use websites. Rarely are you concerned with design aesthetics over practicality. Of course, you won’t trust a site that looks like it was coded in 2008, but you also want a site that gets you the information you are looking for quickly and easily.

Website design cost: homepage
(The homepage is always more costly as it’s the website’s anchor.)
Simple, using freelancer: $300.00 – $700.00
Moderate using an agency : $3400.00 – $4,800.00
Complicated using an agency: $7,000.00 – $10,000.00

Website Design Cost: key pages
Simple, using freelancer: $150.00 – $300.00
Moderate using an agency : $2400.00 – $3,800.00
Complicated using an agency: $4,000.00 – $6,000.00

Website design cost: simple pages
Simple, using freelancer: $100.00 – $200.00
Moderate using an agency : $675.00 – $800.00
Complicated using an agency: $1,000.00 – $1,500.00

Most designers and design agencies will work to get you the most cost effective quote based on the effort involved. It’s likely that the cost of design varies even more deeply than I have laid out above. It’s also important to note that there are a ton of amazing page builders like Elementor and Octane that exist. These page builders allow designers to work within a drag and drop framework allowing them to build custom graphics and build out beautiful pages quickly. The website world is changing and there are a ton of options. A great digital marketing agency will work with you to decide what the best path forward is to you.

Website development

Website development is an area where you don’t want to cheap out. You can do every other step correctly, but this is where the rubber meets the road. The way your website is developed will affect everything from the user experience to the way Google and other search engines index your website and its pages.

In other words, if you take the cheap way out and skimp on development, you are likely to accumulate what we call technical debt. And technical debt is expensive. Technical debt refers to the shortcuts and their bad coding which cause the need for future code fixes (which cost money). You can also go into technical debt from your website going down or a hack caused by poor security measures. Technical debt can be avoided by hiring trusted developers or trusted agencies to code your website. In development you will always pay a price. The question is how much risk you want to take on. Do you pay upfront and know the cost, or do you cross your fingers and deal with the technical debt when it comes out?

Development costs vary greatly depending on the project and the language you are coding in. For example, a WordPress website will be far less to code than a .NET or Node.js website. Another variable is the development team. A younger and less experienced development team might be less money per hour but they will likely take longer to do the work or the quality might not to be as good. That said, there are a ton of really bright young developers so just do your research. An older and more experienced website development team is likely to have a higher hourly rate but also move faster. Again, every situation is different so do your homework.

Website development will affect the following:

  1. SEO indexing in the SERPS
  2. Page speed
  3. User experience
  4. Conversions
  5. Your overall stress levels

Look, #5 on the list is no joke. Worrying about your website can be very stressful and time-consuming. As many of you know, your website is the backbone of your business, and when the website goes down, business is affected. Worrying about the health of your website is a big distraction from running your business operations. It’s always best to hire a reliable team of experts to back you up.

Website development cost: homepage
(The homepage is always more costly as it’s the website’s anchor.)
Simple, using freelancer: $500.00 – $100.00
Moderate, using an agency : $3,600.00 – $5,000.00
Complicated, using an agency: $7,000.00 – $20,000.00

Website development cost: key pages
Simple, using freelancer: $150.00 – $300.00
Moderate, using an agency : $2,600.00 – $4,200.00
Complicated, using an agency: $5,000.00 – $7,000.00

Website development cost: simple pages
Simple, using freelancer: $100.00 – $200.00
Moderate, using an agency : $1,000.00 – $2,000.00
Complicated, using an agency: $3,000.00 – $4,500.00

The cost to develop a website could be expensive, but going back to my aforementioned car analogy… you can get an 1988 Ford Escort and it will get you there, but a new BMW is going to be a better ride and is less likely to breakdown because it’s better engineered and newer. Don’t be cheap. You will pay for it! Technical debt is very real. In 2010 I built a social network for a specific sport. The project went so far over budget that we were pushed to take shortcuts when the client refused to recognize major issues that would come back to haunt their website and severely complicate it down the road. One year after launch the company was out of business because of those issues that were skirted over.

Opinion: Outsourcing the code for cheap, with a company you don’t know, in some faraway place is not a viable option. For example, early in my career I worked with several small development companies in India that promised $12.00/hr for web development. Although they were friendly, I got exactly what I paid for. The point is this: If you are paying anyone $12.00/hr for web development, you can count on the end result being garbage. Don’t learn the hard way.

Disclaimer: I am speaking from my own experiences with developers. This is not a knock against any of the fantastic Indian development companies out there — my point is they likely don’t charge $12.00/hr and I’ve never had the chance to work with them. I’m always open to working with great people so if you have a international team you trust please share them with me in the comments.

How do you choose the right website design and development company?

Choosing a website design partner is not easy. Use these steps to evaluate prospective web dev partners:

  1. Know your budget. Don’t go in blind. Map out your spending threshold and give a range to your prospective web development partners. The saying “the one who says the first number loses” does not apply to the web development world. A budget helps the team building out the website proposal come back with a realistic solution to your problem.
  2. Figure out how much time you can realistically commit to working your website, and determine if your internal team will provide the content. If you don’t have free time, tell the prospective website partner. It allows them to understand how much of the mental load they will hold, which affects the pricing and the process.
  3. Review your website development partner’s portfolio. The portfolio and client list will tell you a ton about your potential partner. Note that just because they have not done something exactly like your project does not mean they can’t do it. Many teams are very agile and can adapt to different businesses and needs. But a good team will be open and honest about their capabilities.
  4. We started our website design and development agency when clients from one of my other businesses kept complaining about their web team’s response times and communication skills. When evaluating a web partner and their proposal, keep an eye on their responsiveness and when they deliver. If they are slow to respond in the sales cycle, think about how their responsiveness when it’s time to deliver a design or a build. Think about how long it will take them to respond if your site goes down or is hacked. Digital marketing moves fast and so should your agency.
  5. Once you get the proposal, make sure that that partner truly understands the project, deliverables, and timeline. Building a website is not easy, so make sure the team pitching truly gets it. Call out things they missed and ask them to make sure those things are considered. However, website designers and developers are people, too, and everyone makes mistakes, so don’t necessarily ditch a great vendor over a missed detail. There are a ton of details with every website, so the occasional oversight shouldn’t take anyone by surprise.

What happens after my website launches?

What happens after you launch is 100% up to you and your budget. The most important thing to remember is that a website is an evolution. With today’s advanced data collection tools, businesses have real insights into how people use their websites. This is an opportunity to dial up your website to boost conversions and revenue. Below are common website questions I get asked after launch:

  1. Do I need to keep doing SEO after my website launches? You should! SEO is a never-ending game, one that most of your competitors are playing. And if you’re not playing, you can’t win. Websites gain authority in the SERPS by creating trustworthy content that’s optimized for specific keywords. And those websites are shared because they provide value. Look at this post. I created this in the hopes that it would help people answer a question I hear all the time: “How much does a website cost?” If it’s truly useful, people will share it and other websites may link to it. This will add value to our entire website.
  2. How much content do I need to create monthly for my website? My opinion is you should be putting up a new article every week at a minimum and you should be editing old post to make sure they are relevant every quarter.
  3. Are blogs important for SEO? Yes. Blogs are one way to stay relevant, and search engines like blogs because they want to see that a website is active, not stagnant. Blogs are also easy to write if you are actually writing about something you know and about which you’re passionate.
  4. How important is social media marketing for my website? Huge. Social media sites and apps are, ultimately, how your content is shared. Although most social network links are opaque and considered “no follow” within website analytics, search engine algorithms still consider social signals as a big trust factor, and will rank your website better because of them.

How much does a Brain Bytes Creative website cost?

Our website costs span a massive range depending on the project. Most sites are between $30K and $60K, but there are many outliers from $15K to $400K. If you’d like to get a quote it’s as easy as clicking here or calling me right now (yes, really).

Good luck!

musings,search engine optimization

8 common misconceptions about SEO

  • Christine
  • ON
  • January 4, 2019
Oh, SEO. If you have not dipped your toes into Search Engine Optimization before, it can seem like quite the beast. Especially when the world of SEO is constantly changing with new discoveries and updates. This in itself can be challenging to keep up with. But when you also throw in all the myths that can direct you away from the true facts, that takes learning SEO to a whole new level…
Don’t freak out!
We are going to get you on the right path by setting the record straight on some common SEO misconceptions. So buckle up, Buttercup! We are about to take a cruise down Truth Street.
Questions and answers on SEO

The misconception section

1. SEO is a gimmick

Let me start off by saying that SEO is not a trick, scam or scheme. It’s pretty legit and can get you the results you’ve been dreaming of… with the right SEO strategy, of course. Honest search engine optimization isn’t about trying to swindle Google’s algorithm to get to the top of search results. Instead, we try to construe which website features and content are most important to users as well as search engines and provide it to them.

CAUTION: Although SEO is not a gimmick, there are sketchy practices out there. There are some “marketers” who use what we call in the biz “black hat SEO”. If someone tells you to use tactics such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and/or using private link networks, run away! These unethical practices are against search engine guidelines and don’t solve for the searcher. Often times, black hat techniques end in a penalty from search engines. So do yourself a favor and stick to honorable SEO practices.

2. You’re going to see immediate results

*Facepalm* As an SEO Agency, we come across this misconception all of the time! SEO is a long-term, never-ending process. Think of it more as maintenance than a single task you can check off your list. How long does it take to see results with SEO? The short answer is “it depends”. Lame answer, but a specific timeframe for SEO results simply doesn’t exist. You might begin seeing progress in organic ranking and an increase in traffic for keyword topics with low competition in just a few weeks. On the contrary, moderately competitive topics might take months, while highly competitive phrases could take over a year to see desired results!

Morale of debunking this myth: Patience is an SEO virtue.

3. You have to be #1

The infamous Ricky Bobby summarizes the next SEO misconception right up, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”. There’s still a lot speculation around having to be in the #1 position on the first page of Google to be successful. While it’s true that part of the goal of SEO is to get on the first page for your target keywords, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re number one or not. Just being on the first page alone can cause your organic search traffic to skyrocket!

Search engine optimization is so much more than ranking in the top spot. Ranking fluctuates, but the most important thing is that you’re bringing the right people to your website. So here’s a pro tip, free of charge: Instead of focusing on getting your site to rank #1, redirect your focus on who you’re targeting.

4. Set it and forget it

Wouldn’t it be nice to clean your house one time and NEVER have to do it again? Why yes, but sadly this is not the reality. This is the same case with SEO. Simply put, SEO is never done. It’s a continuous process and you should always be monitoring your progress. Even when the clouds part, a ray of sunshine peeks through and you’ve finally hit your SEO goals, you still need to keep at it. If you don’t, you will lose the top spots to someone else.

So instead of “set it and forget it”, change the SEO mantra to “set it, revisit it and repeat”.

5. Keywords are all that you need

Keywords definitely play a large role in SEO, but they are not the end-all factor. Google uses about 200 various factors to rank a site. That’s a crazy amount of components at play! If you just focus on keywords, you are missing out on loads of opportunities to get better SEO results. So spend a proportional amount of your time making sure multiple elements such as content, website architecture, HTML, trust, and social reputation (just to name a few) are also in good order. Doing this as well as having solid keywords and links will give you the results you are looking for.

Does learning about the importance of keywords tickle your fancy? If so, you should check out our “Are Keywords Still Important for SEO?” blog. It’s pretty rad if I do say so myself. 😉

6. Content marketing is the “new” SEO

Word on the street is content marketing is replacing SEO… if you’ve heard this, please ignore! The people saying this are obviously SEO n00bs. Let me break it down for you: engaging content does indeed keep users on your page, but it’s SEO that brings them to your page in the first place.

The meat and potatoes: Content and SEO go hand in hand and need each other to be effective.

7. SEO is too complex

There’s a lot that goes into SEO, but you don’t have to be an expert to give it a go on your own. With the right sources, SEO is quite learnable. Below are a few amazing resources we recommend to help get you started on your journey to understanding and practicing SEO:

Don’t have the time for DIY SEO? Try working with an agency! They should be able to break it down for you in a way that makes sense. If this is not the case, this is not the search marketing agency for you and you should definitely check our What to look for in a search marketing agency blog to aid you in your search.

8. You don’t really need it

Psshhhhhhh… you absolutely do! Especially if you want to be competitive and successful online. Just look at the facts!

Organic search is a great source of traffic and brings in leads. The first page of organic search results has a 71% click-through rate (CTR), while pages two and three have a combined CTR of only 6%! If your not on page 1 you’re missing out on a hell of a lot of opportunities.

This is also a biggy: SEO builds trust and credibility. With SEO, your brand will become harder, better, faster, stronger (just had to through in some Daft Punk for you!). The end goal should be that, when customers search for relevant keywords and phrases, they should find your site at the top of the search results.

Ultimately, SEO should be considered an investment as opposed to a cost.  With a high ROI nonetheless! Lifting your rank to the first page of search results is where most of the clicks go. Be where the people are and the returns can be truly mind-boggling (in a good way)!

Black and white mehaphone

The moment of truth…

If you have fallen for any of these 8 misconceptions, I can’t blame you. With all the information buzzing around the internet, it is easy to have a distorted view of how SEO really works. Even when you think you have it down pat… WHAMMY… here comes something new to learn!

Just be sure to keep these lessons in mind when you are practicing SEO. Also, don’t believe what every Joe Shmoe has to say. Do your research and use reputable SEO sites/experts.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article! Feel free to comment below with any questions/comments.

Need help with SEO? We got you!

Brain Bytes Creative is an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency with a passion for search engine marketing. Want to learn more? Get in touch.

content marketing,musings

Is content still key in 2019?

  • Kristina
  • ON
  • January 1, 2019

For years, marketing professionals have abided by the axiom that content is essential to success. But successful marketing is a moving target. Does this idea still hold true in 2019?

YES! Content is everywhere. A truly massive force in all our lives. It’s reported that 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing! But still, so much content marketing is just… really bad. People fail to market themselves or their products because of bad content all the time.

No one tries to make terrible content, so we have to assume that most people just don’t know how to do it right. Making good content, it turns out, is hard. But when it’s done right, the ability to create good content is the most valuable skill a company can have.

So my goal is to parse the details that separate good and bad content so we can see the impact of great content, and understand what bad content is, and why it fails.

What is content?

There’s a good chance you see the word all the time, but what does “content” really mean?

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “The material dealt with in a speech, literary work, etc. as distinct from its form or style.”

To use an analogy, “content” is the wine in a glass of wine. The glass represents the form or style. You could use any type of wine – or something else, I’m not judging – in any glass. Whatever’s in the glass is content.

You might have a really nice glass, but bad wine. You might fool some people, but your bad wine won’t catch on like a good wine. To really become a hit, chances are your good wine is going to have to be served in the right glass, at the right time. This is the content that often “goes viral.”

What does good content look like?

“Good” is a subjective term. Content doesn’t have to be tied to a quality product to be good content. The content provides the story of a product, but you can have a good story without a good product. To refer back to my wine analogy; a really good wine can sell even if it comes in an ugly glass.

Beats by Dre are a pretty perfect example. They aren’t good headphones. Yet, they are insanely popular and cost a ton of money. Why? Because

consumers buy into the narrative surrounding them. The success of the headphones is built on their brand story – you’re not buying headphones, you’re buying Dre.

So what’s the message? People are fickle and content is just a strategy to manipulate them? No. The message is it’s often easier to engage consumers with a story than it is with a list of qualities.

But it can’t just be any story. It needs to be a story that relates to people’s lives. The secret to successful content is predicting what kinds of stories people are looking for, and linking them to your brand.

How do I know what content people want?

How do we figure out what stories people are interested in? The same way as almost all our other questions: Google. It’s impossible to totally ignore other search engines, but Google holds the largest search engine market share overall, and dominates the market share with regard to mobile devices.

How many Google searches does that equal worldwide? Try 3.5 billion per day, and 1.2 trillion per year. That’s a lot of searches, and a lot of questions to answer.

The searches we make, and the questions we ask Google reflect our interests and desires. If there’s a question about any topic worth asking, someone has asked Google, and if the question is worth asking, it’s worth answering.

When you know what people are asking about, you can be the one who knows the answers, and that’s the basis for your content. The questions could be anything! What’s the healthiest dog food? What’s the most popular movie right now? What kind of headphones does Dr. Dre use?

Become an expert in an arena about which people are asking questions, then produce content that answers those questions. If you find that no one’s asking the questions you’re answering, then you’re either 1,000 years ahead of the curve, or you’re wasting time creating bad content.

I’ll let you decide which is more likely.

So, Google is the key to content creation?

It’s certainly a major factor. Google has changed the way companies interact with consumers. They’re increasing the value placed on answering queries as content by enabling companies to answer questions with specificity, good timing, and, as a result, gain fluency with the public.

Specificity

The internet allows marketing to be specific. Very specific, and in a couple of ways. First, companies can use Google to look at your posts and your searches. They populate your Facebook page, your Reddit account, and your Instagram with information they think you’re most likely to want. Are you a baseball player? There’s an ad telling you what the best new glove on the market is. Maybe you are looking for a new glove, maybe not. But either way, that ad is targeted at you based on queries you made.

Second, when your company has developed a lot of content–writing, video, or otherwise–on a subject, there’s more chance that someone with a question will find that answer they’re looking for when they come to your site. For the consumer, that’s a satisfying end to the story of their journey to find an answer to their query, and your company helped them get there.

Good timing

A relationship forms between a consumer with a specific question, and the company with content that enables them to quickly answer that query in search. Consumers feel that the company is both knowledgeable and, thanks to their fast answer, attuned to the searcher’s needs. They feel the company relates to the issues they care about. Cultivating these relationships is the mark of a successful company.

Trust

Basically, when a company provides timely and specific answers to queries, they prove themselves as the authority on that subject. Every time a person has a query about that subject, they trust the company with the best content to provide the answers.

That brand becomes synonymous with customer satisfaction.

How do we separate good content from bad?

Content may be vital, but you want to be able to pick out what works and what doesn’t.

The marks of bad content

Bad content means you’re telling stories no one cares about, or making them difficult to access. You might be spouting answers to questions no one asked, yelling facts into the endless void of the internet. It’s also possible you’re providing a service no one wants. Remember when Apple decided to put U2’s new album on all our iPhones without asking? People were annoyed. They never asked if they could download U2’s new album for free, so when it happened anyway, it felt forced and unnecessary.

Identifying good content

Easy. You’re talking about it, or your friends and coworkers are. Good content makes up so many of our conversations because it’s relevant to public interests. The most popular, most relevant content becomes part of our culture. This can happen when marketers successfully identify a gap and fill it.

Case in point, this World Series ad that Budweiser aired right after the Chicago Cubs won for the first time in over one hundred years. Their broadcast announcer, Harry Caray, had been with them for a lot of that time. Unfortunately, he died before the team finally won. Budweiser figured that Cubs fans would want to hear their iconic announcer call the end of the game, so they found a way to make it happen. People loved it. It was heartfelt and unexpected. That kind of timely, well-thought-out content builds a kind of favor that companies can’t generate any other way.

Quality content

Budweiser didn’t force their content. They put it out there, believing it would be successful because they worked hard to find “the right moment, the right opportunity.” And they did.

In 2019, content marketing is ridiculously important, and it’s only going to get more important. The internet gives companies the tools they need to make their marketing more individualized, more applicable, and probably more effective than ever before.

Still, don’t think that creating great content is easy. It takes work, timeliness, and sometimes a bit of luck. There is so much content out there. Capturing attention can be near impossible even when you have a great story to tell.

musings,search engine optimization

What your bad website says about your business

  • Jess
  • ON
  • December 4, 2018

Running a business is hard. There’s a lot to stay on top of, and your website might not make it to the top of your priorities list. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work to build a great site, to keep it up to date, and to make sure it’s working properly. But as long as you have something there for people to go to you’re okay, right? Let’s take a look at why that’s not the best idea.

How you’re hurting yourself

First of all, if you haven’t put at least some effort into your website to optimize it for SEO, then it’s unlikely you’re ranking well in search. So you’re already missing out on a ton of free traffic you could be getting. Ranking well for relevant keywords drives more traffic to your site, and 75% of people never scroll past the first page in search results. The more traffic you have coming in, the more opportunities you have for visitors to convert. This could mean a purchase, signing up for your newsletter, or whatever action you’re trying to get them to do. But if they aren’t finding your site, they can’t convert. End of story.

What about those people that are finding you? Maybe they’re going directly to your site or being referred from somewhere else. Despite your poor search rankings, they’re somehow still finding their way to your website. If what they’re seeing is less than impressive, your website isn’t doing you any favors.

You should absolutely give a damn about your bad reputation and the message you’re sending to site users. Let’s look at what you’re telling your customers by sending them to your bad website:

  1. You don’t care about their experience. Your visitors took the time to find your site and were interested enough to click into it. But they aren’t going to stick around if the user experience is terrible. Are your pages taking forever to load? They aren’t waiting around. Your navigation buttons aren’t working? They’re gone. With the number of excellent websites available making it super easy for people to find what they need, anything that slows them down is going to make a bad impression.
  2. You don’t pay attention to detail. Everyone coming to your site has the potential to want to do business with you. Whether you’re selling a product or service or just providing useful information, you need your visitors to trust you. Spelling and grammar mistakes, poor design, and illegible text all show that you aren’t putting much thought into what you’re showing them, and it’s going to shake their confidence. Who wants to do business with someone they don’t trust?
  3. You’re out of touch. If you want your visitors to believe that you’re an expert in your field, you can’t serve them up outdated info. If the site is showing straight up wrong information like old business hours or outdated pricing, it’s going to cause frustration. If you haven’t posted new content or updated your blog since 2017, you look like you don’t stay up to date on industry trends.

These things certainly can’t be true! Of course you care about your customers’ experience, and yes, you’re up to date on current happenings in your industry. But your website visitors don’t know that. All they know is what you’re showing them. If what you’re showing them isn’t good, why would they think otherwise?

Should you delete your bad website?

Don’t do that. I’m not saying you need to get rid of your website. We live in a digital age, and the average American spends almost 24 hours a week online. Having a website for your business is absolutely the right move. I’m saying you need to put in the effort to make it a great website if you want to see the best results in building brand loyalty, bringing in higher traffic, and increasing your conversions.

A better plan for a better website

Hopefully, by now I’ve convinced you that your bad website is bad news. But don’t panic! Here are some main areas to focus on fixing if you need to turn your site around.

  • Navigation. It should be easy for visitors to get around your site. They’ll spend more time exploring if it isn’t a hassle. Make sure all of your buttons are working correctly and are easy to click on both desktop and mobile. You’ll also want to look at how buttons are labeled and ensure the text is relevant to the page visitors will be taken to.
  • Page speed. If it takes more than 3 seconds for your page to load, you have a problem. After that, you’re going to start to see your bounce rate increase. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how you’re doing. If you need improvement, try compressing your images, removing render-blocking JavaScript, and minifying CSS, JavaScript, and HTML on your site.
  • Content. Content is key to a great website. You want to have relevant content that completely answers visitors’ questions and keeps them engaging with your site. Great content builds trust, and you diminish that by making silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Even if your content is solid, the way you display it is important. Make sure it’s displaying correctly on both desktop and mobile, and take advantage of white space so it’s easy to read.
  • 404 errors. Nothing looks worse than a site that is actually broken. 404 errors not only look bad, but they can be really frustrating for visitors who are trying to find something on your site. Any pages with 404 errors should be redirected to relevant pages so you’re not just leaving people hanging.

Now get out there and fix that website! Implementing these tips is a great start improving your overall website quality and improving your site’s SEO. If you’re looking for recommendations to solve problems specific to your website, check out Brain Bytes Creative’s SEO consulting services. Our SEO experts coach you through the process of building your online strategy, help you identify areas of weakness and opportunity, and track your progress. Contact us today to get started!

agency,musings

Be a thought leader in digital marketing

  • Jason
  • ON
  • November 14, 2018
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What is a thought leader? It sounds nebulous; a kind of vague term that we assign to the individual at the head of the table in a conference room stock photo.

To set the record straight, here are two undeniable truths I know about thought leaders:

  1. The definition of “thought leader” is vague. There’s no set amount of thoughts you need to have to qualify as a leader. Basically, you should have more knowledge about a specific subject than 90% of the population, and use that knowledge to become a trusted guide for others. You don’t have to know everything, especially if the public is mostly ignorant. You just need to know more than most people.
  2. They are one of the most important drivers of marketing trends in the world today. There are a million examples. I’ll get into some of them here, but for now, I’ll say that digital marketing revolves around a person, or business, being able to to answer questions quickly and accurately. This is what a thought leader does. What’s more, a thought leader tries to predict (as best they can) what questions the public will be asking next.

The obvious question is why, right? Why does answering questions matter? Why is being a thought leader so important?

It’s Google’s world

This is a critical fact. Everyday, people say, “It’s amazing how much information is available just on our phones!” If you have a query, you’re probably Googling the answer. Google uses an algorithm to try to find the site with the best answer. Then they ensure it’s the first one you see. In both paid and organic search, the best answers get the best spot. Period. At least, that’s Google’s goal,but as we all know the first results are not always the best.

The algorithm isn’t constant. It’s always changing, trying to provide the best result. That means businesses have to always be changing, too. That’s what’s cool about digital marketing: it’s a constant war of clicks, fought in nonstop daily battles. You can’t ever lose track of it, or you fall behind. If you fall behind, you’re irrelevant.

Google recently changed the landscape of the war in a big way. They changed the meta-description length from 165 characters, to 300 characters. Why? They want to give people answers in the “search results” page. They don’t want people to have to click into a website to answer their questions.

Making the best answers readily available to searchers is a hard task. To do it right, Google crawls the internet. They look for sites with a lot of content centering on whatever question is being asked. The more content you have around a particular subject and keyword, then the more likely you are to rank in search for those topics. That’s where being a thought leader comes in. When you’re providing the answers people are demanding, and people look to you as a resource, that makes you a thought leader.

Provide answers

Marketing is about consumers. It’s about planting an idea in a person’s head. It stays with them and they associate the idea with your brand. One of the best ways to do this, and build trust with a prospect base at the same time, is by providing answers to questions. That’s why Google is on top.

Here’s where businesses get mixed up: they don’t share information. There’s no one who understands more about a product than the company that makes it. If you’re not providing the answers people want about your product, your prospects will find (and trust) another company that does.

To be a thought leader, you have to be willing to give away your knowledge.

Think about it like this. When people want to see a movie badly enough and they can’t find a way to watch it (no theater near them, or lack of money), they’ll pirate it. The internet finds a way. If people are searching for information, they will find a way to retrieve it. But if you can make that process easy, then why wouldn’t you? There’s so much value to be had by making knowledge available. And yet, some people shy away from it. That’s crazy!

I mean, don’t share your proprietary secrets. But aside from that, consumers are begging for information. That’s not something to fight against. Shouldn’t you be the one providing the answers?

Learn the questions

Being a thought leader in terms of digital marketing means even more than answering questions. You can have the information and be willing to share, but you can still fail to increase business if you don’t transmit and share it the right way.

To answer questions, you have to know what the questions are. And I don’t mean generally. I mean you want to know EXACTLY. What words are people using to ask their questions?

These are keywords. They’re vital. Say you write an article. You answer millions of people’s questions perfectly, but you don’t include the right words in the title or meta-description. You just release some valuable information into the endless vacuum of space.

Seem harsh? Some analysts speculate that each one of us is hit with between 4,000 and 10,000 messages every day. You need to cut through the fluff. You can’t become lost in the shuffle. But that’s what happens when you’re not leading your field.

Website flow mapping is all about thinking of how users will navigate through your site. You add on layers of complexity as you think through how a user will navigate through every page of your website. Many website companies and their clients believe that people go to your homepage first. That could not be more wrong. People arrive on your site by searching Google for a specific keyword and land on a related page. This is why at our agency we see every page as its own “homepage.” By looking at your website holistically, we can control what happens when someone lands on any page and push them into a sales funnel where appropriate so they convert. The next time you are doing a web search, think about where you are landing. Take note. You’ll see that understanding how users navigate though the site is critical to conversions, goal completions, and revenue.

Lead, don’t follow

I don’t want you to lose track of how important being a leader is. Marketing is a constantly changing game. What is and isn’t valued content changes day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour.

Google will inevitably reward sites with a wealth of information on sought-after subjects. If you have the most search-relevant keywords, and a lot of content, you’re in good shape. It will be difficult for the competition to catch up if they have to generate 9,000 posts of content just to catch you.

BUT, they will catch you if you don’t keep learning, keep growing. You have to stay on top of trends, events, fashions. A true thought leader is going to identify consumers’ needs, and move to fulfill them. Then, they’re going to be there to answer questions about their business moving forward. Always.

These things add legitimacy to a business, and cultivate trust in their customer base. That’s a path to long-term success.

agency,musings

Seven reasons why digital agencies get fired

  • Savvy
  • ON
  • November 6, 2018
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BBC is known as the agency for clients who have been burned by other agencies.

But the truth is that we weren’t always so great. In fact, early in our lifecycle, we got fired… a lot.

This created the impetus to learn everything we could about why companies fire their agencies. Over the last 7 years, we have collected information from former clients, current clients, and employees to figure out why companies fire digital agencies.

Website flow mapping is all about thinking of how users will navigate through your site. You add on layers of complexity as you think through how a user will navigate through every page of your website. Many website companies and their clients believe that people go to your homepage first. That could not be more wrong. People arrive on your site by searching Google for a specific keyword and land on a related page. This is why at our agency we see every page as its own “homepage.” By looking at your website holistically, we can control what happens when someone lands on any page and push them into a sales funnel where appropriate so they convert. The next time you are doing a web search, think about where you are landing. Take note. You’ll see that understanding how users navigate though the site is critical to conversions, goal completions, and revenue.

1) Agency fails to drive results that matter to the client’s business.

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We’ve all seen the pretty powerpoint decks showcasing impressions, bounce rate improvements, and other up-pointing green arrows promoting metrics that don’t drive revenue.

The problem with these types of “results” is that eventually someone from the top of the company will ask, “So how is this work impacting our business?” And the relationship unravels from there.

We also know that vanity marketing like pretty redesigns, clever tagline development, and web features that make a site feel “slick” will not survive the digital age.

At BBC, we work very hard to gain alignment on the metrics that matter and to pursue engagements that are more about solving quantifiable problems than pursuing vanity activities and metrics.

For example, if a client hires us to do Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”), the first thing we do is create a broad baseline of metrics we plan to increase, and then gain agreement with the client on their importance.

Then, every quarter, we identify the specific metrics we plan to tackle over the subsequent three month period and align all activities around them. At the end of every quarter, we report on the metrics we promised to tackle across all previous quarters.

This ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction and helps clients and agency employees maintain accountability for driving the right results.

Our favorite tool for measuring baselines and uncovering shared SEO priorities is something we built called an “Advanced Organic Opportunity Tool.”

Want us to make you onefor free? Shoot us a message and we’ll craft one for you.

2) Agency lacks responsiveness.

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You can mess a lot of things up and be forgiven as long as you always respond as soon as humanly possible.

Responsiveness builds a lot of trust with clients and helps them relax, especially those relying on us for their technology.

On the flip side, digital agencies who are slow to respond to clients create feelings of uncertainty and nervousness. Eventually people have to correct things that make them feel uneasy, which means firing the agency that contributes to this discomfort.

One of the first values we instill in new employees is the importance of responsiveness.

At BBC, our standard is to reply to as many client emails as humanly possible within 24 business hours of receiving them — and a large percentage of queries get someone’s attention within an hour.

Even if we don’t have the answer, we let eager clients know that we hear them and are working to resolve their query.

3) Agency overcomplicates technical issues to avoid accountability.

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Some agencies convey a lot of jargon, especially from their development team.

On occasion, this jargon is appropriate.

But sometimes the jargon is used to intimidate clients — or worse, cover up mistakes. (Turns out “propagation” can’t be used to excuse every website failure. Who knew?)

The problem is that clients will eventually resent an agency they don’t understand.

When you purposefully try to intimidate a client with tech talk, they may back down the first few times. But eventually they will overthrow you. Why? Because relationships that rely on confusion cannot create value.

Our job is to create clarity, and to ease the flow of information between ideas and technical implementations. Not add to the confusion and chaos.

Here are some examples of what this means at BBC:

  • Sales people refrain from using jargon and one-solution-fits-all language in project briefs. Instead, they are responsible for clearly articulating the problems we are trying to solve and the activities/deliverables we intend to pursue in solving them.
  • Developers are interviewed based on their experience but hired based on their culture fit and communication skills. Divas, ego maniacs, and golden basement builders do not make it past the first round of our interview process.

4) Agency fails to uncover and disclose issues in a way that builds trust.

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Failing to solve and disclose an issue as soon as it’s discovered can mean big trouble for digital marketing agencies.

Sitting on issues or mistakes can cost you the trust you’ve spent months or years trying to build. By contrast, being transparent and solution-oriented about problems builds character within the agency and can bolsters trust with clients.

Even if the issue isn’t your fault, you should always try to be the party who finds the mistake first. Try setting up alerts (e.g., Pingdom, WP alerts) and regularly checking your analytical tools to make sure you always know if something is off.

Then, try something bigger: Build a company culture that promotes fearlessness and ownership, and show agency employees that there is no “punishment” for honest mistakes.

Brain Byters are programmed not to protect weaknesses. Most of us strive to call out any cover-your-ass techniques or language that might keep us from taking accountability and becoming better marketers (and humans).

Owners, leaders, and employees company-wide challenge themselves and each other to reward risk-taking and owning failures (and subsequent learnings).

As a result, clients get true transparency and benefit from everything we are learning along the way.

Agencies that don’t make mistakes are not trying hard enough. And agencies that hide their mistakes are denying clients the precious gems that come from failing up.

5) Agency holds clients hostage.

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A successful client relationship should be built on the mutual desire to work together, not on the fear that everything will fall apart if the agency leaves.

An agency that employs rhetoric or policy to force or pressure a client to maintain a relationship will eventually get the axe.

This includes agencies who demand long contracts with stiff penalties, mystify SEO processes and approaches, set up and hijack paid search, social media, and Amazon accounts, and don’t disclose information to partnering agencies.

Agencies can’t and won’t keep clients by handcuffing them, but rather by constantly pushing themselves to add more value.

6) Agency fails to clarify the problem that needs to be solved — from the start.

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It can be eye-opening to look through the scopes your sales team has sent out in the last few years.

We did this, and discovered that several doomed relationships started with gobbledygook scopes covered in jargon sauce.

These insufficient scopes had one commonality — they failed to distinguish the problem that needed to be solved. As a result, the work we prescribed failed to solve the most important problems first, which led to slower results and eventual parting of ways.

At BBC, we will not take on new work until it is hyper-clear what problem(s) we are trying to solve.

The first step we take in our sales process is seeking alignment on a project brief that articulates the problem as we understand it, including data points to prove it is actually a problem.

Once the work is sold, our employees align proposed tactics with the problems identified, and choose activities and experiments that will have the most significant impact on the problem. And we specially train account management to evaluate plans and raise flags when they do not see a clear connection between the problem and the proposed activities.

This approach helps each of our clients to more accurately assess their marketing tactics, set the right priorities, and demonstrate the value of their marketing work all the way up the ladder of their own organization.

7) Agency doesn’t solicit regular feedback and make steady improvements.

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The only way to know what you could be doing better is to ask — ask your clients – and ask your agency employees.

We have detailed processes for making sure we understand what is going well and what could improve from the client’s perspective, and we have a shared commitment internally to address issues in a logical and systematic way as they are uncovered.

Our employees are also very keen on broadcasting concerns and issues as they arise, and letting us, the owners, know when a process or standard needs to evolve internally to meet upcoming challenges.

But beware. Becoming a feedback-persistent company may require a culture shift.

In an industry where egos run high and employees can be laid off anytime a big client leaves, employees can easily become more focused on how they are perceived than on becoming the best version of themselves.

At our agency, the first thing we ask new hires to do is to read three books: Lean In, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and A New Earth. Then we keep cultural learning going through regular book clubs.

We find that these books set the foundation for a culture that values the greater good more than being right and helps people get past their own bullshit to see the world and themselves from a cleaner, more objective lens.

Do you own or work for a digital agency? If so, I hope this list helps you as you strive to continually grow and evolve your team. Brain Bytes Creative has been around for almost a decade, and we’ve made just about every mistake imaginable along the way. So, yeah, we know that losing a client hurts. But to ignore the opportunity that it offers for reflection and improvement would be the worst mistake of all.

Want to learn more about the Brain Bytes way? We’d love to meet you. Contact us!

agency,musings

Five ways to have a successful digital marketing agency in 2019

  • Jason
  • ON
  • November 2, 2018
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2018 has not been the best year for advertising agencies. To expand on that fact, agencies did not deserve the best year in 2018. There hasn’t been a significant shakeup in agencies’ MO since the 1950’s and that leads to complacency. What happened in 2018 was client pushback against a system that didn’t work for them.

The landscape of marketing is changing more rapidly than ever before. Digital is a huge part of that. So, how do you learn from the mistakes of the past and become a successful digital marketing agency in 2019?

1. Be nice.

I almost called this tip something else, but it wouldn’t have fit the theme. When I say be nice, I mean you can’t treat your clients like dirt. Don’t be elitist. You can’t be hard to reach, you can’t be inattentive, and you can’t be rude. The fact is, this is how agencies have come to be perceived over time. Clients aren’t going to tolerate that anymore. They’re going to turn to internal marketing teams, for better or worse, and your agency will lose that business.

You need to be honest, first and foremost. As radical as it may seem, you need to do everything you can to actually help your clients. Do away with the stereotype of the sleazy marketing executive. Clients won’t pay for him anymore, assuming that kind of interaction is just part of the deal. Which leads me to my next point….

2. Be transparent.

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If a client asks you why they’re being charged for a service, you should be able to tell them exactly what that service is and why it costs what it does. Some people reading this might be thinking, “Well, yeah, obviously.” But as crazy as it sounds, there are a LOT of agencies – and other businesses for that matter – that can’t or won’t do this.

In 2019, itemizing the costs of your services, and being able to back them up with data, is going to be a major point in your favor. Luckily, that data is available. When you build a site, you can track conversion rates, you can make sure your client sees how much of a difference your services make. That’s not something to shy away from; it’s a major advantage.

At Brain Bytes, we make it a point to use all the data we have at our disposal, and share it with our clients. Not everyone may understand what a benefit having a good agency in their corner can be, but everyone’s heard of of agencies swindling huge fees out of clients for nothing in particular.

Build trust with your clients and let them know what you bring to the table. Honesty will be rewarded.

Do your research.

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Remember all that data I mentioned? You should be using all the tools at your disposal to do your job better. Stay up late and read books. Read articles, and learn more about the business of digital marketing and branding. You should be a thought leader in the space. Not only will Google rank you higher in search, but you’ll be more equipped to help your clients.

Good ideas don’t come from nothing. They take work.

For example, you can learn the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Bea marketer. That’s what Google wants, and it’s clear that winning search means great things for your agency and your clients. Supply reports and plans that have strong KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and track them. Measure everything. Use analytics tools. These are things that a digital marketing agency can provide that an internal marketing team can’t.

Living in 2019 means you have an absurd amount of scientific information available to you. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and your clients by failing to make use of it.

4. Be proactive, not reactive.

The lessons of 2018 are out there for anyone. There are already agencies that are doing things right, and there will be more. Don’t wait and learn the hard way that the status quo is shifting. Be proactive and start making the changes.

However, being proactive refers to much more than changing the way you engage clients. Trends come and go overnight, and you need to know what’s popular, what’s relatable. You need to know what content has the best chance of being successful.

Content is a moving target. At the same time, it’s deeply ingrained in our society. Whatever your clients are trying to sell, you need to push them towards being thought leaders in their space, because that will drive the most relevant and useful content. To do that, you need to be a thought leader in your own space.

You need to be the one with the answers, and that means doing your best to know the questions. You can’t perfectly predict what the next hit will be, but you give yourself the best chance when you monitor keywords, stay on top of social media trends, and pounce on opportunities when they show themselves.

I should note you need a great team of people working tirelessly to make this happen. Work hard, be bold, and be topical.

5. Build long-term relationships.

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Agency employee turnover rates are really high, around 30% in recent years.

The average person stays at their job for five years. There’s no way agencies are close to that, since agency turnover rates are second only to the tourism industry. This creates a major problem for both agencies and clients. Not only are agencies working to get used to new people every few months, but clients aren’t sure who they’re talking to. They used to talk to Patti? Too bad, Patti’s at a different agency now. Here’s Kevin.

It’s a bad look, and it reinforces this notion that agencies are faceless, soulless organizations worth avoiding. You should want your clients to feel like you have a relationship, and you should want to have a relationship with your employees. A positive work environment makes people want to work harder.

When I look to hire people, I want people who are willing to go the extra mile. They want to do it because they want to be here. Not for six months, or a year and a half, but for five years or more. It’s about fostering an environment where everyone’s pushing each other to be better all the time because they enjoy their work and they like their coworkers.

I look for shared goals with my employees because we all work better when we’re all working towards the same thing. I don’t just ask them where they want to be in five years, I tell them where I want to be. The best results come when we have common ground, because we know that when one of us pushes in a certain direction, we’re doing it because we really believe it’s getting us closer to our goals.

That team mentality is so key for building relationships with clients, too. All these tips point towards the idea that a client should feel like their agency is working for them. When we go really hard for our clients – and have the numbers to back it up – they appreciate what we’re doing.

Website flow mapping is all about thinking of how users will navigate through your site. You add on layers of complexity as you think through how a user will navigate through every page of your website. Many website companies and their clients believe that people go to your homepage first. That could not be more wrong. People arrive on your site by searching Google for a specific keyword and land on a related page. This is why at our agency we see every page as its own “homepage.” By looking at your website holistically, we can control what happens when someone lands on any page and push them into a sales funnel where appropriate so they convert. The next time you are doing a web search, think about where you are landing. Take note. You’ll see that understanding how users navigate though the site is critical to conversions, goal completions, and revenue.

The upside for agencies

I believe companies can really only have these types of relationships with independent agencies. Relying on an internal marketing department means relying on people who have no extra incentives to do great work. They have the same vacations, work the same hours, and only really need to work hard enough to keep their jobs.

When a company hires a digital marketing agency, they should do it knowing that agency is invested in the success of their clients. They can find people at the right agency, who are striving to be great because they a) love what they do, and b) are invested in their own success too.

As agencies, working with clients to the best of our ability should be mutually beneficial. 2018 showed that companies are tired of agencies that don’t care about them, that won’t be open with them, that shroud their activities in mystery.

Clients want expertise with simplicity and openness, and agencies can find the most success by providing those things. It’s weird they weren’t doing that all along.

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Driving traffic to your website is key to your success

  • Savvy
  • ON
  • March 10, 2018

At Brain Bytes Creative we talk a lot about that dreaded “billboard in the middle of the desert.” Cue creepy music. This concept (that you want to avoid) is pretty simple. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, bright, colorful, or well-intentioned that billboard is. If it isn’t drawing in viewers or catching people’s attention, it isn’t doing its job. Driving traffic to your website is all that matters. Driving the RIGHT traffic matters even more. No one cares about a billboard in the middle of the desert!

Stop being a billboard in the desert

Let me ask you a simple question: Which of the following would you be more inclined to spend marketing budget dollars on… A billboard sitting on the roadside of route 66 in the middle of the New Mexico desert or a billboard in Times Square that can be seen on Good Morning America and is viewed by thousands, if not millions of people everyday? Clearly they don’t come with the same price tag. But one of these will actually have an ROI. The other is a complete waste.

We see websites all the time that may look great but just aren’t being seen. No one is visiting them. Therefore they aren’t as useful as they should be. We have had prospects turn down our full service, revenue generating approach only to sign with a company that constructs a low budget website that no-one will ever see, except maybe existing clients. They just flushed money down the toilet. Shouldn’t the goal of any marketing venture be to obtain more clients and grow revenue? Yes! So, if you intend on spending money on a website you need to do it in the right way and invest in something that will in turn, work for you. Driving traffic to your website needs to be a priority.

How to avoid being the billboard in the desert

Digital marketing of course! More and more marketing spend is going towards digital every year. In fact, projections show that digital marketing will soon outspend TV advertising. That’s pretty incredible to think about.

Here are 4 simple reasons digital marketing is so effective:

  1. It’s much more measurable
  2. It provides you with greater insights into your customers
  3. It has an ever increasing market
  4. Digital marketing just plain works!

In using digital marketing you can follow your customers and prospects through their entire sales journey.

Digital Marketing encompasses several areas. It’s goal, and all the aspects it encompasses, is driving traffic to your website. This is a SUPER high level list. So don’t send me any notes about how much I missed or how basic this is. There is much, much more to it than the below. Clearly, if it were as easy as what I am about to describe everyone would be on top. But, then again, not everyone can be on top! So, it isn’t simple! This isn’t meant to be a tutorial on how to conduct top-notch digital marketing. It’s just a simple outline and the beginning of making it happen.

Social Media – Social media channels should be used and used often. Use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and SnapChat. Each social media channel has a different focus. So learn the focus and how to use it to maximize the results you get. The ultimate goal of using so much social media is driving traffic to your website and to get your products and company name, values, and benefits out there. Post often and have fun with it!

What would you say if I told you I could help you increase clicks on a button on your website 71.2% simply by editing the copy? Or increase clicks on a link 24.93% by changing the formatting of the text? Better yet, what if I told you I could increase conversions by 46.95%, making the page 19.99% more valuable?

Digital Marketing Delivers

Keyword use – Your content should be rich with keywords that are relevant to your company. This means that if your company sells beer, the word ‘beer” should appear often on your website. Also use other words that are relevant to your subject matter. In this case, “hops”, “barley”, and the types of beer your company sells might be other things to think about.

Site architecture – Google and other search engines read and study your website in a very specific method. Designing and setting your site up to succeed with these rules is very important. If your site is set up improperly, search engines can miss key information that it contains. Therefore, it wouldn’t really matter if the information is there or not. Google might just miss it. Properly set up your website with intentional, smart site architecture.

Paid search – When keywords are very competitive a PPC campaign can be a great way to get your company’s website to the top of the list. These campaigns charge a certain dollar amount each time your URL is clicked, based on the keyword search the user submits. For instance: “Company A” sells athletic shoes. They have started a PPC campaign in which they agree to pay $X each time someone types in the phrase “running shoe” and then clicks on their company page. A potential customer runs a Google search for ‘running shoes”, Clicks on “Company A’s” site. Google charges $X for the click.

Organic search – All sites are ranked in search based on specific algorithms. This is the best use for long tail keywords and keywords in which less competition exists. This basically comes together when the above are all working together. So, The better your site architecture, the better your organic search results will be. The better your content is, the better your organic search results will be. The more a searched keyword appears on your page, the better your organic search results will be.

Driving website traffic is very important

Again, the above list is overly simplistic. One article couldn’t even come close to encompassing everything one needs to know in the world of digital marketing. This certainly doesn’t cover it all. But, it is a good start. So, the key here is to do whatever you can to get the word out about your company, and get as many eyes on your company, its products, and your site as possible. When all of the aspects of digital marketing come together you will be on your way toward achieving your goals and raising your revenue. Don’t be a billboard in the middle of the desert!