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Monday, June 15, 2015

Celebrating 20 years of Internet Marketing Excellence

The launch of Google.   Alta Vista falling into oblivion.  Meta keywords becoming important and then not important at all.  Google algorithm changes occurring in relative anonymity outside the SEO community and then suddenly hitting widespread mainstream media with “Mobilegeddon”.
Those are just a few of the changes that the long-time staff at Pilot Fish have experienced during our 20 years in Internet marketing.

Our parent company, Polysort, launched in 1995 as the first online plastics and rubber industry portal, founded by former staffers, myself included, from leading industry trade publication Plastics News.  I spent my first days on the job at a plastics industry tradeshow, handing out disks for an ISP to help company’s get on board with the Internet.  We answered a lot of questions about how to set up e-mail and why businesses should consider building a website.  And, we built a lot of websites.

Internet marketing back in those days entailed making sure that a company added their website address to print collateral.  We were among the first web developers to start adding business websites to Yahoo’s directory.

When Google launched in 1998, it created a whole new industry – SEO (search engine optimization) – that required marketing knowledge specific to the Internet, but that couldn’t be learned in traditional marketing courses – only on the job.

And we were right there with it.  Our expertise in positioning our plastics and rubber clients generated inquiries from companies outside our core industries.  We knew that what we were doing could be applied to any industrial business, so we expanded our services with the launch of Pilot Fish, which became Polysort’s website development and Internet marketing division.

Today the two entities work side-by-side.  Polysort continues to offer one of the largest plastics and rubber industry directories online, and Pilot Fish provides SEO,website design and other Internet marketing services.  Combined, we’ve developed unparalleled experience in industrial SEO and Internet marketing that yields tremendous success for our varied lot of industrial clients.  We understand why SEO works the way it does because we were there when it was first developed and have been part of it every step of the way.

And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Industrial Website Design with a Purpose

It had been seven years since its most recent website redesign, and ATL (Ad, Tape & Label Co.) knew it was time for a fresh look.

The design was not only dated but it also failed to reflect changes in the Wisconsin-based company’s business. Founded in 1951 as a flexographic label manufacturer, ATL had expanded its services over the years to include medical tapes and foams, as well as security labels and disposable medical devices.

ATL knew the redesign had to reflect the company’s increasing focus on medical markets, but the project needed to achieve several other goals as well, including:
  •  Establishing the image of a professional, engineering-based solutions provider
  • Increasing readability
  •  Providing user-friendly navigation
  • Affording easy access to site visitors’ favorite content
  • Still highlighting ATL’s leading role in the security and industrial label markets
Layered on top was a desire for the website to continue to perform well on the search engines and to drive additional leads to the company.

ATL tapped Pilot Fish, its longtime Internet marketing partner, for the redesign. Employing extensive interviews with key staff members, comprehensive keyword research, proven content writing strategies and the most current web design principles, Pilot Fish delivered a website that met all of ATL’s goals and more.

With the redesign’s original goals achieved, ATL could concentrate on its ultimate goal: increasing sales and boosting its bottom line.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Simple Case Study of SEO Success

When Becker Pumps decided in the late summer of 2011 that it was time to take a hard look at its website with an eye toward increasing traffic and leads, it took the sensible approach and hired Pilot Fish to:
  • Perform keyword research
  • Identify the best keywords to drive additional traffic to the site
  • Rewrite the main pages of its website with those keywords in mind
  • Incorporate a strong call to action at the end of each product page
  • Add appropriate SEO-related titles and meta tags to the coding of its web pages
  • Acquire additional back links and create new content on a monthly basis

In the 3.5 years since then, the Ohio-based pump and compressor manufacturer has seen a steady increase in both key performance indicators and actual site performance, including:
  • A 90%+ increase in the number of times appears on the first page of the major search engines
  • A 73% rise in the number of visits the site receives each month
  • A 47% hike in the number of visits to the website’s contact form
  • A 91% increase in the number of visits to its Dealer Locator page

With Pilot Fish’s help, along with a good dose of foresight, dedication and hard work, Becker Pumps achieved its goals and set the foundation for continued success far into the future.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is Google Overreaching in Dinging Sites that aren’t Mobile Friendly?

We’ve noticed over the last few weeks an increase in the number of “friendly” e-mail reminders from Google that certain client websites aren’t mobile friendly and will likely not rank as high in Google Search for mobile users.

The question is: Should it really be up to Google to decide whether being mobile friendly is an important attribute for a business website?

Pilot Fish works primarily with B2B companies in the industrial space. The companies to which we provide web design, SEO and content-marketing services generally do not have e-commerce sites and their customers are attained through a lengthy sales cycle involving direct interaction with a salesperson.

Their websites are viewed by these companies as a lead-generator, not a deal-closer. As such, they typically just provide enough information to get their prospects to pick up the phone or fill out a contact form. Additionally, the target audience of these companies typically is a purchasing manager or product engineer, someone who will invest a fair amount of time researching vendors and solutions from the comfort of their office before actually asking anyone to quote them on a product or service.

Many of these companies provide machinery or parts, or other products used in the production of something else, like these:
  • GCH Tool – manufacturer of new, spare parts and components for centerless grinders, ID grinders, OD grinders, surface grinders and double disc grinders
  • item North America – manufacturer of custom aluminum structural framing, linear motion products and machine safety guarding
  • Chemical Associates – U.S. supplier, marketer and distributor of natural oleochemicals used in a variety of industries and applications
  • Total Grinding Solutions – manufacturer of centerless grinding machines, serving the global industrial marketplace
  • T.O. Plastics -- manufacturer of custom-thermoformed packaging and product solutions
  • ATL -- flexographic label printer, manufacturer  of disposable medical devices and complex multi-panel booklet labels
Companies like these don’t really need or want mobile sites and asking them to invest in a mobile site to accommodate Google’s whims seems wholly unnecessary when marketing budgets are limited.

There are lots of bells and whistles available when designing a website. The key, for any company, is deciding which ones are most appropriate for the audience they need to reach.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why it Might be Easier for Smaller Companies to Earn Higher SEO Rankings

As a website design and SEO firm specializing in B2B industrial websites, it’s common for us to work with businesses that are concerned that their small- or medium-sized status won’t be able to compete with much larger players in their field.

And, that concern is not without legitimacy. One of the factors in Google’s algorithm is website size. Theoretically, what that means is that the bigger the website, the better the chance for that site to show up on Page 1 of search engine rankings.

SEO, when done the right way, can make small- and medium-sized industrial companies just as fierce competitors online as their much larger brethren.

However, in our experience, in the B2B industrial space, Google rankings don’t quite play out that way. With approximately 200 factors contributing to Google’s algorithm, website size by itself won’t vault a site to the first page. To earn top placement for important keywords, a number of on-page SEO factors need to be in place and the website needs to have built up a good backlink profile.

For instance, our client Chemical Associates, for whom we developed a new, optimized website in late 2013, now far outranks its larger competitors for important keywords in their industry. Its website, with 550 pages, has earned 25 first-page positions on Google compared to its largest competitor, Company X, which has 78,600 pages indexed in Google, but only 3 Top 10 results.

The same is true among other Chemical Associates competitors that have larger sites.

The difference among these sites is the attention given to other on-page SEO factors, and that’s where smaller sites may have an advantage.

Consider that Google recommends websites have unique page titles and meta descriptions for all their pages. That’s not difficult to do with a smaller site, but what about one that has 78,000 pages? Certainly, sites that big typically rely on database-generated content, with automated page-building functions. That makes building the site easier, but it becomes much more difficult to optimize those sites.

Now consider all the other on-page elements that require someone to make a conscious SEO-related decision, including:
  • Page URLs
  • H1 tags
  • Alt image tags
  • Page content
  • Inter-page linking

Off-page linking also is affected. It’s more difficult to build a strong link profile to each of 78,000 different pages vs. 500 pages, so someone needs to make a conscious decision which pages will get off-page link attention.

The upshot is that SEO, when done the right way, can make small- and medium-sized industrial companies just as fierce competitors online as their much larger brethren.

Learn more about Pilot Fish’s SEO and web design capabilities by viewing our client testimonials.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What you should know about open source vs. proprietary CMS systems

We began our relationship with one of our best clients by helping them with a big problem.  The web design firm that had originally built their site had become increasingly difficult to work with, requests for site changes were being ignored and the client was having trouble managing the site themselves using the fancy proprietary content management system (CMS) the web designer had built.

They asked us to take a look at the site to see if we could provide the programming support and SEO that they needed.  What we discovered was an overengineered CMS that likely had been built as a common platform for all the web designer's clients.  The CMS was unwieldy and difficult to work with and lacked the necessary SEO tools to optimize much of the site.

Because the new site had been an expensive and recent investment, the client preferred that we work with the existing, proprietary CMS rather than start from scratch with an open source platform.  We were able to fix a number of issues they were having with the site and recommended a full redesign of their product section to make it more user- and search engine-friendly.  The result is a whole new product section that touts ProVia's entry doors, replacement windows, vinyl siding and stone veneer products.

Fortunately for ProVia, they had enough money budgeted to make the necessary investment to fix the problems with their proprietary CMS.  But, most companies don't.  For that reason and others, we typically recommend building a website in an open source CMS.  It's faster, cheaper and more flexible than using a design firm's custom built platform.

Read about the major differences between open source and proprietary CMS before you begin your next website project.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When an SEO expert shouldn't push SEO

Not every web design decision needs to be or should be SEO-related.   One of the results of businesses becoming much more aware of how search engine optimization plays such a critical role in the performance of their websites is that we often receive calls or e-mails from clients asking whether this action or that activity or promotion of their website will help SEO.

While I certainly appreciate our clients’ having “bought all in,” it’s important that we not allow SEO concerns to dictate every web decision.

For example:  Our client ProVia Products is in the process of a much-need redesign of its products section (the company manufactures entry doors, replacement windows, vinyl siding and manufactured stone for the building products industry).   Many of the recommendations we made regarding how the section should be redesigned did in fact relate to SEO.   But as we continued refining the design, user accessibility to a wide range of information about ProVia’s products became a priority as well.   A number of the recommendations we ultimately made had nothing to do with SEO, but rather making the site a more useful tool to homeowners.   After all, once a search engine has delivered a prospect to your site, you want to be sure that your site lives up to their expectations in delivering enough information for them to want to contact you.  See ProVia’s newly redesigned entry doors and replacement window sections.

Likewise, Pilot Fish just completed a full redesign of its website.  As we approached the project, our design goals had less to do with improving SEO than to make a statement that connects us to the industrial clients we serve.  In the end, we chose a design that we felt enabled us to deliver a significant amount of information about the best way to design and optimize your website with a design that would feel comfortable to our target market.   We expanded sections about industrial website design, with samples of our work, and custom B2B SEO services.   We’ve also redesigned our blog with articles offering SEO and web design tips.

Even though we incorporated SEO throughout the planning and execution of our new website, the real driver behind the redesign was a need to deliver graphic integrity for the customer and prospects who view our site. 
The role of an SEO expert shouldn’t always be to hawk the services they sell – it also should be to provide valuable consultation that helps their clients succeed in generating good quality traffic and convert prospects to customers.

Find out how Pilot Fish helps its customers by reading our clients' SEO testimonials.