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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.