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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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Industrial SEO requires more finesse

Search engine optimization has become increasingly important for industrial companies as prospective customers eschew trade magazines and trade shows for information-gathering from the comfort of their own offices.

But, that doesn’t mean that SEO is a simple matter for very traditional businesses. Convincing an industrial business owner that his company should be on Facebook and Twitter is a tough sell. But, without some methods for building good quality back links, any effort to optimize the website will fall short.

Pilot Fish specializes in working with industrial businesses and, as such, has developed a custom approach to SEO for these types of businesses. Inbound links are acquired by a number of methods and, yes, social media does play a role, but we carefully select the media that best suit the client.

Take Mid-American Machine & Equipment, a new and refurbished machinery supplier that also provides equipment rigging and machine repair services. The company recently added laser alignment services and promoted this expansion through several online and off-line marketing initiatives executed by Pilot Fish. Among these is an active presence on Google+:

A sister company, Madison-Smith Machine & Tool Co., which provides custom fabrication, precision machining, and onsite services for plant maintenance, equipment rigging and more, launched a new website last year and is now in the process of establishing itself across the web, including on Google+:

Each of these businesses is engaged in a carefully crafted program that will help promote their services to the audiences they want to reach and improve their ability to compete on the web.

To learn more about SEO for industrial businesses, call 877-799-9994 ext. 2104.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Want effective SEO? Be a good SEO client

It’s not uncommon for members of our team to take a break from their work to share their tales of success or angst in working with various website design and SEO clients.

After listening to a few of these conversations, it struck me that being really successful in SEO has less to do with the size of your company, website or marketing budget, and more to do with how your company approaches SEO. Do you consider it a necessary evil that you do once in a while, like going to the dentist? Or, is it a valued activity that you work into you daily routine, like brushing your teeth?

Two SEO clients that we work with couldn’t be more different in size, budget and capabilities, but share some commonalities in how they’ve handled SEO that make their SEO efforts effective and both websites successful.

The first one, ProVia, is a manufacturer of entry doors, windows, vinyl siding and stone veneer. The company recently developed a series of stone installation veneer installation videos and asked for our assistance in promoting this effort.

The second client, Express Furniture, is a furniture store that specializes in home entertainment, office and commercial furniture. The business recently added a line of Amish-made furniture to its product lineup and asked us to add this Amish furniture to its website and help promote this product expansion.

These two businesses couldn’t be more different in size of business, staff and budget, but they share a few traits that make them great SEO clients:

1. Involve the SEO firm early on – Instead of waiting until the project is fully complete and the website has already been updated, both businesses contact us early in the process to give us a heads up on business activities that might be buzz-worthy. Not only does this give the SEO firm some additional lead time, it also enables us to be involved in execution strategy to be sure that the web pages being developed have the right SEO-friendly structure.

2. Trust the SEO firm’s advice – What both ProVia and Express Furniture do well is recognize their areas of expertise and their limitations. They’re proud of their respective expertise in entry door, window, siding and stone manufacturing and furniture sales, but quickly acknowledge that they don’t have time to learn the ins-and-outs of best practices SEO.

3. Stay involved – Despite being busy doing their everyday jobs, our contacts at both companies make themselves available when we need them. E-mails are answered within hours or a day and phone calls are returned. Generally speaking, a good SEO firm can do much of the work it needs to without too much input, but there are times when we need to brainstorm a bit with the folks that know your products and services or get an OK on a specific tactic or idea.

4. Accept the process – You may want instant ranking results for your website, but SEO doesn’t work that way. SEO is more about brushing your teeth every day – employing promotion techniques on a regular basis that maintain or improve your ranking over time, rather than a quick visit to the dentist twice a year.

Adopting these traits not only will endear a company to the account managers at its SEO firm, but they also provide a roadmap to an effective SEO campaign.

Want to become a good SEO client with Pilot Fish? Contact us at 877-799-9994 ext. 2104, or fill out this form for an assessment of your SEO needs.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

B2C E-commerce Case Study -- How Internet will Save a Furniture Store

Although we work primarily with B2B companies in redesigning websites and providing search engine optimization services, we have, on occasion, taken on a few B2C projects that seemed interesting to us.

What made them interesting? Usually an existing relationship with the client that would provide us with a great deal of latitude in using their site as an experimental tool to continue developing our knowledge base in SEO and social media marketing. That was the case recently, when we decided to take on the project of building a new website for Express Furniture, an Akron, Ohio, furniture store. The company had the ability to ship its products nationwide, but its old website was presenting some major obstacles.

Here's a rundown of some of the problems we saw and how we solved them to deliver a site that's now generating sales on a nationwide scale.

Obstacle #1 -- Custom CMS

Express Furniture launched its first website approximately eight years ago as part of a consortium of independent Sauder Furniture dealers around the country. One of those dealers offered to spearhead the website effort and had a site built that all the dealers could use. The only problem was that because it was a common site, there was little ability to customize to each dealer's tastes or for them to be able to easily create their own sales and specials. Additionally, as the site became outdated (new products need to be added and old ones needed to be deleted), the dealers had to go through their dealer friend to get site changes, and it became more and more difficult to get those changes done in a timely way. Because the site was built in a proprietary platform, the only way to fix the situation was to build a brand new site.

Obstacle #2 -- Defined Territories

When the dealers agreed to enter this arrangement for their websites, they also agreed to have their territory assignments applied to online sales. What that meant was that any Internet sale outside of a dealer's 70-mile radius territory would automatically be filtered to the dealer who set up all the websites. So, in essence, the dealers were limited to selling online to their current local customer base.

Obstacle #3 -- More Competition

The independent Sauder dealers for many years had enjoyed exclusivity rights within their territories that would have enabled them to continue flourishing had the manufacturer not decided to expand its distribution base. Office Max, Staples, Target, etc. were added as Sauder sellers, thus increasing the local competition for the dealers. Combine that with the fact that their websites could only physically sell in a 70-mile radius, and you have the recipe for financial doom.

Obstacle #4 -- Reduced Effectiveness of Traditional Advertising

As newspaper readership has continued to decline, so has the impact of local print advertising. For Express Furniture, a Sunday insert 10 years ago was golden in terms of bringing foot traffic to the store. Today, the value has significantly diminished, save for some major holidays that still generate high-volume traffic.

Fortunately, the Express Furniture owner saw how these issues could have a terminal effect on his business and he set out to make some big changes.

Change #1 -- Build/Own his Own Site

Express Furniture recently launched its new website, built in a portable, open-source content management system, and structured it so that he could accept and ship orders anywhere in the continental United States.

Change #2 -- Expand Product Base

With increasing competition from big box stores for the Sauder products, it became imperative that the business add additional product lines. The company has now forged relationships with a number of commercial office furniture manufacturers to balance out its offering.

Change #3 -- Change his Marketing Mix

Recognizing that print advertising was no longer working, Express Furniture made the decision to divert much of its print ad budget toward building and marketing its new site. The company began realizing dividends within the first week of launch, when site traffic climbed an amazing 30% in the first week. The business has begun to receive regular orders on its site, both within its original footprint and beyond, as well as a rash of new phone orders.

So, what was the magic formula? A comprehensive approach to Internet marketing, planned in concert with the site's construction, enabled the company to rush out the gate at a galloping pace.

Elements included:
  • A well-optimized site
  • Online and offline site promotion via press releases and social media
  • Content marketing on third-party social media sites

None of the elements are revolutionary, they're just coordinated and customized to fit this particular client.

What we found with this client was nothing out of the ordinary among businesses trying to navigate uncharted waters. The key to success is having a client that is willing to jump in those unfamiliar waters and begin swimming alongside his appointed guide.

Visit Express Furniture's new website.

For more information on how Pilot Fish can help your website become a true sales tool for your business, call 877-799-9994 or fill out this form.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who says American innovation is dead?

American innovation. What’s that mean? Does it have the same significance today as years gone by?

I grew up in the heartland of American innovation. My dad, now long retired from General Motors, worked for many years for their Terex earth mover division before it was sold to a Scottish company. He finished his career at various auto plants in Northeast Ohio.

I remember as a child the Christmas display that Terex would erect in the expansive front lawn of their facility in Hudson, Ohio. Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, created from various types of the company’s machinery. It was a visible reminder to the community each year of the American innovation occurring behind the doors of that massive plant.

That plant occupant is long gone from Hudson and has been replaced by a variety of smaller businesses. Whether they’ve succeeded to fill the hundreds of thousands of square feet of manufacturing space, I don’t know.

Just 20 minutes south of there, lay the reminders of similar stories in downtown Akron, the former Rubber Capital of the World. General Tire, gone, bought by Germany’s Continental and moved to North Carolina. Firestone, most operations moved out, bought by Japan’s Bridgestone and moved to Nashville. B.F. Goodrich, gone, acquired by France’s Michelin and moved to South Carolina. Even the lone remaining original Akron rubber tenant, Goodyear, long ago shut down most of its local production. Some of the buildings that hosted all those operations have found a second life as the home to newer, smaller businesses. But, there’s no question the hangover of all that consolidation in the 1980s and early 1990s still haunts Northeast Ohio today, especially after the latest recession.

And, I’m sure that story is replayed across the country in various industries.

But there are bright spots. Perhaps losing some of those manufacturing giants has given all of us a greater appreciation for the businesses that remain and continue to push American innovation. I look at our clients and I see a high level of innovation and craftsmanship that many have assumed was shipped overseas along with so many jobs.

Companies like ProVia, a manufacturer of entry doors, replacement windows, vinyl siding and manufactured stone, whose home base is in Sugarcreek, in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country. They create and manufacture their products at facilities in Ohio and Mississippi. This month, they launched a web-based home remodeling tool that enables homeowners to sample ProVia products on photos of their own homes. That’s innovation.

Another client, T.O. Plastics, in Clearwater, Minn., manufactures custom thermoformed plastic packaging, housings and products for a variety of industries, including medical, electronics, food packaging, consumer, industrial and horticulture. Last month, they debuted two new plant tray products, produced at their plant in Clearwater, in partnership with their customer Plant Pie. That’s innovation.

And, another client, Industrial Service Solutions, which recently acquired and owns seven industrial service companies around the country, oversaw the redesign or expansion of several of those firms’ websites: Bay Valve Service, Inc., of Seattle, which provides valve repair services for customers in 17 western states; Mid-American Machine & Equipment, of LeRoy, Kan., which sells refurbished, reconditioned and used industrial machinery and equipment; and Madison-Smith Machine & Tool Co., of Glasgow, Ky., which provides machining, fabricating and field services. That’s innovation.

Innovation comes in many forms across a wide variety of industries: One of our Akron-based clients, Union Process, just collaborated with a Pennsylvania company to incorporate UP’s particle size reduction equipment into a lime slaking to produce high-quality lime slurry and eliminate grit disposal and its associated problems.

Wilmington, Mass.-based Metrigraphics LLC, a leading designer and manufacturer of micro flex thin film circuits, recently delivered its 15 millionth sensor substrate to a major medical device OEM. That milestone is just one point in a six-year relationship during which Metrigraphics has collaborated with its customer to develop and qualify a growing number of variants for new applications.

ATL, a Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based maker of flexographic labels, is at the forefront of innovation in anti-counterfeiting packaging – helping other manufacturers protect their own innovations and securing the intellectual property rights of American industries.

All smaller than the industrial giants I remember as a kid, but American innovators nonetheless and the type of businesses all around us that will continue to create opportunities for homeland workers and define American greatness for years to come.