How a Salesman Grew a B2B Social Media Following to Over 670K Through Comedy

Social Media Platforms

Social Media Expert Shares His Story of Building a Community of Over 670K on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram

Building a social media brand is tough for all industries.

Which platform is best for your company’s digital marketing and promoting your brand? Where does your target audience hang out?

Not to mention, there seems to be a new platform or app every day. It’s a constant challenge determining where to devote your time and resources.

Then you need to factor in content marketing: Which type of content is best for your audience on each platform?

Social media marketing and building a brand takes careful strategizing and research but Ken Kupchik makes it look easy.

He founded Sales Humor as a meme page on Facebook in 2014.

Now, it has over 350k likes and Ken has used it to successfully develop his social media brand.

Websauce recently interviewed Ken and he told us how he did it.

How Ken Used a Meme Page to Build His Social Media Brand

In 2014, Ken was working for a startup in the automotive industry.

He was in charge of the company’s contact partnerships and reaching out to influencers. He told us that’s when he discovered a Facebook page called Mechanic Memes with over 400k followers.

He thought about his background in both sales and humor writing and said to himself “Hey, I wonder if there’s a sales page like this.”

There wasn’t.

Ken was always looking for new opportunities to expand his reach and decided he would start one. That’s when Sales Humor was born.

Four years and thousands of memes later, the Sales Humor Facebook page now has over 350k likes and Ken has used it to build his digital marketing brand.

The Importance of Community in Social Media Marketing

According to Ken, community is really the bottom line when it comes to social media marketing.

Without a loyal and motivated online community, you don’t have much.

He decided building his online circle should be paramount, and figuring out what to do with that audience further down the road would come second.

Ken’s content marketing strategy focused on creating relevant and consistent material for his audience before anything else. In Ken’s case, that material mainly consisted of memes.

That’s right: Just a few words over an image. It worked.

His strategy worked because he started by creating content his audience would enjoy, could relate to, and want to share with their friends.

Digital Marketing 101: Understanding Your Community

Ken told us he creates most of the content and manages the page himself but occasionally posts user submissions as well. When he’s not posting memes, Ken works as a sales and marketing consultant with multiple startups.

An important part of building a social media brand is understanding how to create interesting content for your community.

1. Utilizing Strategic Partnerships for Creating Content and Monetizing Your Audience

Ken told Websauce that Spiro Technologies has helped tremendously in this respect.

Spiro is a customer relationship management software. They help companies interact with current and potential customers by building positive relationships.

Not everyone gets sponsored by a CRM company, Ken says Spiro found him. He had about 150k followers at the time between his accounts when they reached out to him for an influencer arrangement.

This mutual partnership is what helped build his online community with quality content that he could monetize. Influencer arrangements are still somewhat of uncharted territory – lots of companies aren’t sure how to utilize it properly. Luckily, Ken already had a background in social media marketing, particularly Facebook, so he was able to use his experience to work with Spiro and develop a mutually beneficial partnership where they helped him create and monetize his content while he gave them access to his community.

Having already worked with KPI’s (key performance indicators) and startups, Ken had the knowledge he needed to help both himself and his sponsors reach their goals.

2. Selecting the Best Platform for Content Marketing

Ken told us he started with Facebook.

Why?

It’s the platform he was most familiar with, so he knew how to leverage it in the most beneficial way. When Ken started his Instagram account, he didn’t even know where to begin and had to ask a friend for help with setting up his account. Now, the Sales Humor Instagram account has over 100k followers.

(This seems like a good point to reiterate that just about anyone can do this stuff with the right tools and determination.)

He also likes Facebook’s external linking potential. On Instagram, for example, you can only link to external sources in your bio. It’s much easier to create shareable – and potentially viral – content on Facebook.

Ken said that in his personal experience, growth potential is much better with Facebook and LinkedIn than Instagram.

3. Harnessing Your Community to Move Forward

There isn’t any one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to content marketing and monetizing your audience.

Every community is unique.

Ken used his Sales Humor community as leverage for landing a book deal. He says that’s probably his biggest success so far.

Next, Ken wants to focus on developing a software platform for his audience. He’s also helping to manage a new meme page: Marketing Humor.

Ken’s Top 3 Tips for Building a Social Media Brand

If you’re thinking of starting a page, Ken has three tips:

  1. Do something different. Don’t copy what others are doing. That won’t get you anywhere. You need to be original.
  2. Create amazing content. You need to have good taste and a thorough understanding of what’s good versus what’s bad.
  3. Be consistent. Update your page on a regular basis.

Ken’s final piece of advice: Stay laser-focused on one or two platforms. You simply can’t do everything or be everywhere all the time. Instead of stretching yourself too thin, put your effort into one or two channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube.

Once you get those built up, you can figure out how to apply other methods for expanding and building your social media brand.

You can get Ken’s book, The Sales Survival Handbook on Amazon.

Avoid These 8 Bad Web Design Mistakes

Web Design Bad Practices

Whatever constitutes good web design is a very subjective matter. Some people think that for a website to have good web design, it must have an incredibly sleek and modern look. Others want the web design to be as simple as possible as long as it’s functional and serves their business’ purpose.

Regardless of the business owner’s preferences, there are certain things about web design that web designers should know better than to incorporate into their work.

1. Bad navigation

Navigating a site should always be easy for the user. Messy navigation is bound to frustrate anyone who visits your website, and leaving it for another site—your competitor most likely—is not going to be a problem.  If you organize the navigation bar and sitemaps better, your visitors will not get lost while exploring your site, and they will stay on your page a little longer.

bad navigation web design

2. Cluttered design

This becomes a more common scenario when SEO is a part of website design. Because Google’s number two ranking factor is content, the philosophy of some is, “The more content, the better!” However, when this takes away from the user experience you may lose visitors which could result in losing leads and customers.

Don’t be afraid to use white space. This makes it easier for visitors to scan your website and find the information they’re looking for.

website cluttered web design

3. Splash pages

Splash pages aren’t all bad, but the cons usually far outweigh the pros. If someone has come to your site, it’s to access your content. A splash page interrupts them from doing so and causes friction which will inevitably result in some users bouncing. Not only are you providing a poorer user experience, but an increase in bounce rate can hurt your SEO.

One use case where a splash page may be helpful is when you’re doing a website launch countdown. In this case, the splash page provides the user with useful information. You may also be able to collect their email if they wish to be notified the day the site launches.  

splash page website

4. Auto-playing music

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web and notes, “…we discourage the practice of automatically starting sounds (especially if they last more than 3 seconds), and encourage that the sound be started by an action initiated by the user after they reach the page, rather than requiring that the sound be stopped by an action of the user after they land on the page.”

If you’ve ever navigated to a website where sound automatically played, then you know what a surprise it is and how annoying it can be.

Why do you think Facebook videos have the sound turned off as the default setting? With around one third of the world on their platform, they probably have a pretty good understanding of what makes a good user experience, and clearly automatically playing sound is not one of them.

5. Ad overload

Ads are alright, but when they’re crowding the site you’re designing, they become downright irritating, especially when they’re of the pop-up variety. Keep in mind ad overload depends on your audience and context.

The chart above by Ezoic shows that sitewide on the website they ran the test against, users started bouncing significantly more after six ads. The article goes on to show that if the traffic comes from organic search then users would bounce significantly more after just two ads.

website ads study

6. Tiny fonts

There was a time when fonts as small as 12 px were essentially the standard for websites. With the evolution of screens turning to smaller mobile devices this consideration becomes even more important. Size 16 font seems to provide the best reading experience.

web design mobile font size

7. Too much color

Web designers have a lot of color choices today, so you can’t blame them if they decide to play with them in their work. The problem is, some of them go to town on the colors they use and end up with a garish-looking website. Ideally, a website should have two to three colors, maximum. Anything more than that and the page you’re working on would be splattered with color combinations from hell.

web design too much color

8. Zero Mobile-Friendliness

Attention has shifted to mobile devices and years into this shift users expect mobile-friendly sites. Not catering to the mobile crowd is not a good idea because a site with zero-mobile friendliness means you won’t get any business from the hordes of smartphone and tablet users out there.

Web designers today should make the websites they work on easily viewable on mobile devices. And if their clients don’t want their sites to have mobile versions, they should at least remind them gently of a little thing called Mobile-First Index, which Google rolled out in March of 2018.

mobile friendly web design

We may differ in our ideas of good or bad web design, but the poor designs mistakes listed above will, in most cases, lead you down a path of much better design and improve your users’ experience.

Websauce Makes A Clutch Debut

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In the modern digitally-focused world, we at Websauce understand the value of a well-maintained digital reputation and a strong online presence. These factors underlie the growth of any company and are helped through effective digital marketing and web design efforts. At Websauce, based in Sacramento, California, we create and build effective, beautiful websites and
apps that are inspired by our unique clients.

Conducting business online depends heavily on traffic and conversion, which are controlled through a company’s marketing strategy and brand. We focus on this intersection of design and marketing to ensure a company’s success and satisfaction. Not only is our work excellent and effective at boosting a company’s online presence, but our service is unparalleled. As both listeners and problem solvers, we take the time to make sure we understand our clients, their industries, and their individual goals and challenges to provide them with custom solutions that work. Above all else, we complete our work with sharp insight and finesse that will help our clients stand out of the crowd.

Our clients love our work, and a few of our clients have already taken the time to speak with Clutch about our work. Clutch is a B2B ratings and reviews site based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on creating and strengthening productive business relationships. When clients speak to Clutch, they complete reviews via brief phone calls, which are then turned into online postings in a case study format. They work to provide unbiased, third-party, and informative reviews in order to aid potential clients in the hiring decision process. Their rankings also include elements specific to each company like their market presence, past clientele, and past experience, shown through case studies.

We at Websauce are delighted to be featured with a plethora of excellent digital marketing companies and web design companies. Our clients have praised not only our work but our outstanding service.

“clutch

One client, the owner of a public relations firm, revealed his excitement to see his project come to life. He commented, “Websauce did a great job of making it all come together.” He continued by discussing our flexible project management style: “I’m flexible, and I respect what [Adam is] trying to build, so I never felt pressure from either side.”

Another happy client, the CEO of a digital reviews site, discussed his happiness with our work building his online presence: “By almost every measure, our site has blown up since our collaboration with Websauce.” Even more importantly, he identified how we are unique in our approach: “They tried to understand our business, which helped them think through their designs
and how users might react to those designs. Things like that really make a difference for us. We told Websauce what we wanted and they made something better. They managed the project
rather than just the work.”

We look forward to hearing more from our clients and continuing our partnership with Clutch! Clutch continues to build and curate their database of top performing companies as they add new companies and client reviews on a daily basis.

8 Strategies For Instagram Growth Hacking: Everything You Need To Know

instagram logo

Below includes context, techniques, and strategies to organically grow your Instagram following, make the Instagram algorithm work in your favor, and drive engagement.

Some of the specific topics we’ll touch on include:

  1. An explanation of the two types of accounts on Instagram
  2. Optimizing your content for the platform
  3. How to properly use hashtags
  4. Location tagging
  5. Strategies for testing and optimizing your content
  6. Five specific tactics for driving engagement
  7. Instagram pods
  8. Account takeovers

The last section of this guide will explain how ridiculously easy it is to use your Instagram content to grow your Facebook page.

We are not going to touch on the use of bots. Although widely popular, the use of bots is banned by Instagram. If you want an understanding of bots, you can read about this guy’s two-year stint using them.

Sorry, bots.

no bots

This article also does not touch on the stories feature which Instagram has given excellent growth mechanisms to including the use of hashtags and location tagging. We will provide an equally thorough write-up on using stories at a later time.

Keep in mind, the guide below is just that – a guide. It will provide a good foundational understanding of the platform, but it’s important to not box yourself into one way of thinking. Those who take risks and lead the way with creativity will reap the rewards of doing so (see: Gary Vaynerchuk’s, 60 Second Club).

For the sake of keeping this already very long guide a little shorter, let’s jump right in.

Brand vs Feature Account

There are two types of organization related accounts you’ll find on Instagram. One is a feature account and the other is a brand account.

Feature Account

instagram accounts worldofelectricians makeupvideos carswithoutlimits
Three feature accounts from the construction, beauty, and automotive industries, respectively

A feature account consolidates content from other accounts and features the content on its own profile.

As the operator of a feature account, you have the advantage of not having to create original content which can take much more time than sourcing content.

There is one rule of being a feature account that you must follow. Content attribution. You must tag the account whose content you’re using in the caption and/or the image itself of your post.

instagram tagging creativebespoke carswithoutlimits
On the left is a feature post with attribution given in the image and the caption. On the right is the account tagged, a custom automotive business.

If you’re starting a feature account in a niche where there are already other, well-established feature accounts, then you’ll be competing with those feature accounts for followers and need to find a competitive edge.

You may do this by finding content that those accounts aren’t seeing, by being the first to post the content they may have otherwise posted, by writing the best post copy, or by doing all three.

How do you find unique content?

The same way you’ll find all of the content you’ll be featuring.

A combination of searching through hashtags, using Instagram’s “Suggestions For You” feature, and by seeing what other accounts are engaging with.

By looking through content in the Explore and Most Recent sections of hashtags related to your niche you can find related content.

You’ll want to start following some of the accounts who consistently put out quality content and who you may want to feature more than once.

As soon as you follow an account, a list of other accounts will display labeled “Suggestions For You”. You can also press the small down-facing triangle at any time to access them. These accounts will be ordered by relevance and popularity. The farther down the list you go the less relevant and less popular the account will be. You may also find accounts that are perfectly relevant but not very popular, and this is where you find your diamonds in the rough.

“instagram

On the left, you can see the “Suggestions For You” section. In the middle is the “Explore” section of the #travel hashtag. On the right is the activity of accounts

Finding “unique” content will simply mean putting in more time than your competitors are willing to find the hidden gems.

Keep in mind, if you set out to find unique content, other feature accounts can see whose content you’re using and start using their content as well.

Speed is important because it gives you the first shot at the best content before your competition sees it. Also, if users are following your account and your competitor’s account and you both post the same piece of content, then followers are likely to engage with the first post they see but not the second.

Arguably the least effective way to stand out is in the caption. A good example of an account that uses the caption to drive engagement is Beard Muscles. They’re a feature account, but use the caption to communicate their message of personal growth and with 271,000 followers it seems to be working for them.

instagram account beardmuscles
On the right is a long form caption where a user has to press “more” to see.

Branded Hashtags and Tagging

Another great way to find content is to let it come to you.

Choose a hashtag that is specific to your feature account and include it in your profile, letting followers know they can use that hashtag in their post to be discovered. Then you can search your own hashtag and see all of the posts that include your hashtag.

This also gives your account exposure as the followers of those using your hashtag see the hashtag and find your account when they follow the breadcrumbs.

Additionally, you can ask people to tag your account in their post copy or in the image itself, providing the same results as the hashtag.

instagram accounts she_said yes food_glooby
Both accounts use a branded hashtag. @food_glooby gives users the option to tag them as well.

Brand Account

When I’m referring to a brand account, I’m really referring to creating and posting original content.

One strategy to consider when providing original content is creating content with a consistent look and feel.

instagram accounts startupgrind wework accorhotels
All three accounts have their own distinct look and the consistency is clear for each.

Consistency is helpful for a couple reasons.

First, when a user is deciding whether or not to follow your account, they will sometimes look at your wall instead of each individual post. Having a consistent look to your posts can make your wall look more attractive and positively impact a user’s decision.

Second, users follow your account because they want specific content in their feed. They are permitting you to have their attention because they expect you’re going to deliver a specific type of content. When you veer from their expectations you’re providing content that they didn’t sign up for.

airbnb weaccept instagram post
Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign temporarily left their images of beautiful homes and received overwhelming positive sentiment for the brand.

Taking a chance on something different can pay off, as was the case with Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign, but if not done properly you risk losing the interest of a portion of your audience who wants to see the usual stuff from you.

Featuring As A Brand Account

instagram account acmeandco
ACME features coffee shops from around the world who use their mugs.

One great way to drive engagement with your audience is to give them the opportunity to give you content like you would a feature account.

You can either do this by following the same principles as the branded hashtag and tagging strategy we outlined earlier or by surprising followers with a feature (same tagging etiquette applies).

Getting Featured

Being on the receiving end of being featured can provide great exposure and result in big gains in followers. Use the same search tactics we laid out earlier to find feature accounts for your industry and follow their instructions to get featured.

Instagram Best Practices

While some of these best practices aren’t directly tied to growth hacking, they can hinder your ability to grow (think: ugly images), so I’ve included some basics.

Content Is King But Context Is Queen

Since Instagram is a mobile platform, users fly through the feed quicker than they would on desktop, often stopping for less than one second to double tap and move on. For this reason, it’s important to catch their attention as quickly as possible. Because Instagram is an almost completely visual platform, your content must stand out visually.

Image/Video Formatting

instagram image size

Images should be a 4:5 width to height ratio whenever possible. This allows you to take up the maximum amount of space on the screen. If necessary a 1:1 square image is ok.

If possible, videos should be in a vertical or square format. As with images, this allows your post to take up more screen space and have a greater chance of catching the user’s attention.

Instagram limits video to 60 seconds, so your video should be optimized to fit this time frame.

Post Copy

The length of your copy depends on your goals. Both short-form and long-form copy can work. St. Baldrick’s, a cancer research non-profit uses long-form copy to tell the story of the children they work with. Their top 10 most engaged posts of all time are all long-form.

instagram stbaldricks long form copy posts

If you’re a business, tell your customers’ stories or your employees’ stories. Southwest Airlines has shared over 1,000 posts and their top two posts of all time include touching, long-form copy, with photos that are unremarkable compared to most of their content.

instagram account southwestair
On the right, Southwest’s most engaged with post of all time.

Emojis are perfect for Instagram because they can elicit emotion and inferences without words, keeping the copy shorter.

Links aren’t clickable within descriptions, but if the link is simple enough you may choose to include one. You could also use a URL shortener such as bit.ly to make a long URL simpler. Or you can direct users to the link in your profile, which is clickable.

Profile Name

You may not have realized it, but your profile name is searchable and will be connected to the keywords in it.

instagram hashtag web design

When someone searches for a keyword such as “web design”, the list of accounts that will display are those that have the keyword in the profile name. The order or ranking of these accounts will depend on how relevant Instagram determines they are to you.

If someone you follow follows an account associated with the keyword you entered, Instagram will display that account and include this information in the listing. This immediately gives the user a reason to pick you out from the crowd and builds a little bit of trust.

Since links don’t work within posts you wouldn’t include them and instead may point to the profile link if you want to drive traffic elsewhere. Emojis are perfect for Instagram because they can elicit emotion without words, keeping the copy shorter.

Hashtags

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. To avoid looking spammy you may want to include the hashtags in the first comment of the post instead of the caption.

Some studies have shown that using too many hashtags can look spammy and turn people off from engaging with your account, so it’s a good idea to test using different numbers of hashtags.

Which hashtags should you choose to use?

The main point of using hashtags is to get featured in the Explore section of that hashtag. The top nine posts, as decided by Instagram’s algorithm, get featured in this section as Top Posts for all to see who search the hashtag. This can result in leaps in your follower count and post engagement.

This is why you have to be selective about the hashtags used. You want to use hashtags that are popular enough to get you visibility (users actually search for it), but not so popular that you’ll be drowned out by other much more popular accounts.

Let’s say you run a spearfishing related account. As of this writing, the term #spearfishing has 668,176 posts which means it has attention. But the top posts have engagement ranging from 5,750 likes to 6,286 video views, so an account with a smaller following would not have a shot at ranking as a top post.

Instead, going for a hashtag such as #spearfish with 62,758 posts where one top post has only 112 likes gives a smaller account a shot at being featured.

You also want to look at hashtags of related interests of your audience. Spearfishermen may also be interested in other forms of hunting, fishing, or surfing, so it would be smart to try something like #surfcity (255,262 posts) or #huntinglife (142,288 posts).

instagram explore feature
The Explore section will also give you related hashtags which can help you find good hashtag options.

There is an exception to the rule of trying to go after the Explore section. Sometimes you won’t find 30 hashtags that are worth showing up in the Explore section of.

This is often the case with very niche industries.

In this circumstance, it’s not a bad idea to go after hashtags which are out of your range, but still have a lot of attention. This is because you’ll still show up in the Recent section of that hashtag and people browsing around may still find you.

Location Tagging

Always, always, always include a location with your posts. There is no reason not to and it gives you another way to get exposure. Just like hashtags, locations can be, and do, get searched.

On average posts with a location get 79% more engagement.

Locations have their own top posts and most recent section just like hashtags so you can get great exposure here.

You also don’t have to actually be in the location that you’re using in the post so even if you’re posting an image from one month prior, you can still use the location from where the picture or video was taken.

Also, consider choosing the location of an area you’re targeting to win new customers instead of choosing the location where the post was taken. If you’re selling swimsuits online, then you could tag the location of your product with any coastal city where users are likely to be interested in such a product.

The same strategic principles of hashtags apply to choosing a location. For example, while you may have taken an image in New York, New York, that location is incredibly popular and you may have a better shot at choosing a more specific location with less competition such as the Manhattan.

instagram location tagging
Let’s give @upscalehype a round of applause for smart location tagging.

Testing

You’re testing for two reasons.

The first is to test how many followers you’re getting based on what you’re implementing. The second is to test the engagement levels of your posts.

It’s to be expected that your engagement levels will get lower as your follower count grows, but you should still do what you can to keep them as high as you can.

In particular, the first ten minutes after posting is especially important. This isn’t a number given by Instagram, but what we do know is that the algorithm will show your post to only a sample of users to see the engagement levels before showing it to a larger audience.

The total number of users who see your post will to some degree be based on the engagement traction you’re getting shortly after you post.

This is also partly how the algorithm will decide if you show up in the Explore section for the hashtag in your post.

Testing isn’t going to be as important in the beginning as it will be once your account is popular because you won’t have a large enough sample size to test on. As you get started, you need to focus on execution and growth.

There’s no specific follower count to start testing, so you’ll have to decide for yourself when it makes sense to begin. I would suggest starting at or above 5,000 followers.

When you’re ready, here’s what you can test:

  1. Which hashtags to use
  2. Number of hashtags per post
  3. Number of posts per day
  4. Type of post (video or image)
  5. Caption
  6. Time of day to post
  7. Day of the week to post

It’s important you only test one thing at a time and for a long enough period of time that you have a good sample size for your testing.

If you test more than one thing at a time you won’t know which aspect of your testing is producing the results you’re seeing.

If you don’t test long enough then your results may be skewed by not having a large enough sample size. I suggest testing for at least one week at a time.

Take Command of Your Testing

One tool I’ve found especially helpful for testing is a mobile app called Command. It’s a straightforward, analytics tool specifically meant for Instagram that will only run you $10 per month.

There are a ton of features and metrics that it provides. The best part might be the ability to track any metrics of your competitors since no login is required to track account data.

Specifically for testing though, here’s a basic example of how to use it for testing number of posts per week against an increase in followers.

instagram analytics screenshot command app

When we export the data to Google Sheets, this is what we see.

instagram command app excel data

With some basic math we can calculate that during the first week, when only five posts were made, follower count increased by 722.

During the following three weeks, an average of eleven posts was made and the account received an additional 3,466 followers per week on average.

When the number of posts was doubled, the number of followers increased by almost five times. Posting more often is clearly worth the extra effort.

Engagement

What’s the point of having all those followers if they’re not engaging with you? The more a user engages with your content, the more likely it is they will continue to see your content.

How do you drive engagement?

You’re only limited by your creativity here, but some tried and true methods include:

  1. Engaging First
  2. Contests
  3. Questions
  4. Asking
  5. Rewards
  6. Cross-Promotion

1) Engaging with other accounts first is the most labor-intensive way to drive engagement and build your following. It’s also the most personal and can help you build a highly engaged community of followers. The point of engaging is to show up in a person’s activity feed in hopes that they notice and engage back, hopefully by following you.

You don’t want to engage with just anyone though. You want to engage with users who would be interested in your content. This way they are more likely to engage back and follow you. A few examples of choosing your target audience include:

An athletic clothing brand engaging with personal trainers. A search for #fitnesscoach will offer plenty of opportunities to find such an audience.

 instagram account i_mpossibleapparel

A restaurant engaging with people living in their community.

 instagram account mikunisushi restaurant

Mikuni Sushi in Sacramento, CA could do a quick location search for “Downtown Sacramento area” and engage with people currently or recently nearby. A restaurant could even leave a comment or DM them and offer a discount which was only good for that day to see some immediate results.

A skateboard company engaging with followers of a skateboarding feature page. A feature page like this one likely has followers who are also skateboarders, @bdskateco’s target market.

instagram accounts bdskateco theworldofskateboarding

If a user follows back, you could direct message them with a promotional offer. Because they’re following you, you’ll get right to their inbox, which likely isn’t cluttered with a bunch of other messages…*cough, email.

The more you engage with someone, the more space you take up in their activity feed, the greater the chance that they take notice.

There are three actions you can take to engage first:

  1. Like
  2. Comment
  3. Follow

Liking older photos takes more time because you have to scroll through a person’s feed to reach these photos, but allows you stand out more because most people (or bots) only like the most recent one to three posts.

Leaving a (genuine) comment is a great way to stand out because after a user has checked his or her feed and all “likes” have been lumped together, your comment will continue to stand alone. Also, a genuine comment from an account is rare these days in a world of bots.

instagram bot comments
Having a hard time believing our post about a website design made @jsherm’s day…

The final way to engage is with a follow. Because of Instagram etiquette, this might be the most touchy way to engage with someone because if you later unfollow them it can have the opposite effect you’re looking for and hurt your brand.

Some people find the follow-unfollow tactic rude or simply annoying and there’s a good chance you’ll turn some people off completely by doing this. Also, if you rack up a high follower account, you’ll likely be seen as spammy.

2) Running a contest is a very common way of driving engagement and adding to your follower count at the same time. In exchange for your prize, you can ask your followers to engage with your post by liking and commenting something specific on your post (such as why they deserve the prize). To grow your follower count you can ask that they tag a certain number of their friends.

instagram giveaway contest gdomeglobal chrisrogersza

In the contest shown above (right), Chris Rogers, co-founder of GDome, a GoPro accessory company, gave away a GDome (valued at $99 on their website) to one person.

In order to enter, users had to tag one friend and follow both Chris and GDome on Instagram.

Normally he receives 100-200 comments. For the contest, he received 1,516 comments and some users tagged multiple friends in hopes of increasing their chances of winning. It was also his second most engaged with post ever. Not bad for the cost of one GDome, plus shipping.

What Chris did really well here was give away something of great value to his followers. His total cost was probably only $50-$80, but it was something his followers really wanted, so they happily engaged their friends.

Offering a $10 Starbucks gift card probably isn’t going to cut it. Users are often reluctant to bug their friends, so the prize has to provide enough value to overcome this reluctance.

Make sure you stay within Instagram’s guidelines when running a competition.

3) Asking a question is a free and easy way to drive engagement, but will usually only be effective if you have thousands of followers.

instagram post hubspot
Hubspot keeps it simple by asking for an emoji response.

4) Asking is as straightforward as it sounds. Simply ask your followers to like and/or leave a specific type of comment such as an emoji. You can do this in your post caption or in your Instagram stories.

One form of this can include offering to check out and engage with followers who do this for you. If you’re a feature page you can also let followers know that you’ll be checking profiles of those who engage for feature posts.

5) Rewards can require smaller asks from your followers and therefore smaller rewards than competitions. The best example I’ve seen of rewarding followers has been by Gary Vaynerchuk who runs a “60 Second Club”.

garyvee instagram 60 second club

The rules are simple. Like and comment #60secclub within 60 seconds of the post going up. From the pool of followers who do this, he chooses one to reward. The reward is usually something small like a free signed book or a free t-shirt. But once in awhile, he gives something big away, like a 30-minute meeting with him.

Of course, to know that he’s posted within 60 seconds of him doing so requires that followers have their push notifications turned on.

This strategy works brilliantly for a couple reasons. The first is because it plays perfectly into Instagram’s algorithm which rewards immediate engagement. The second is because even if followers aren’t engaging with every piece of content, they’re constantly being reminded of your brand. In Gary Vee’s case, this happens multiple times per day.

6) Cross-promoting can be a very fast and powerful (and free) way of increasing your following. You’ll want to cross-promote with a profile who will have followers that will be interested in what you’re posting and vice versa.

Cross-promoting could be as simple as a post with a caption such as “If you like our content (which we know you do;), then you’ll love our friends over at @taggedprofile. Go check them out for some awesome stuff.”

Also, consider combining the above tactics. Using a competition in your cross-promotion can supercharge a boost in engagement and following.

Instagram Pods

Pods are groups of accounts and the people behind them who join forces to hack Instagram’s algorithm. Their main purpose is to drive engagement quickly after you’ve posted in order to give it that initial traction we discussed earlier.

Each pod has different rules and if you start your own pod, you make the rules. If you don’t follow the rules, you may get the boot.

As soon as you post, you’ll send a message to your pod and they’ll engage – hopefully quickly.

One very common rule is that you have to engage with a post within 24 hours of it going live. For this reason, pods will typically stay small (10-30 accounts). With too many people, keeping up could be daunting.

Because pods are necessarily kept small, you will (hopefully) outgrow them.

Takeovers

A takeover is when you allow a guest to take over your Instagram account at a specified time or period of time. They may make one or multiple posts during this time frame or they may take over your Instagram stories. This is a great way to engage with a new audience and integrate influencers into your growth strategy.

Each account gets to exchange exposure as the person taking over your account will let their audience know about the takeover and vice versa.

One takeover strategy is to do it with someone your audience is familiar with and would be excited about. For example, a photography brand could have a well-known photographer take over for the day. The photographer could post his or her own images that are exclusive to the takeover and wouldn’t be found anywhere else. Followers who are fans of said photographer would pay special attention to your account for the time and are more likely to engage.

This engagement will benefit you beyond just the initial attention you get because the algorithm is more likely to put your content higher in the user’s feed when they engage multiple times in one day.

Another strategy you can take is partnering with another brand your audience may be largely unfamiliar with, but who is highly relevant to their interests.

The same photography feature account could allow a new company offering a really cool photography related product to take over. Said company may post a few images throughout the day that shows how well their product works when used.

As long as the feature account was smart about the context of the takeover and the company doing the takeover provided a highly relevant and highly valuable product, the audience shouldn’t mind that it’s a company hoping to sell something doing the takeover.

Facebook Growth Hacking Using Instagram

Some of what I outline below assumes you’re not using a third party social media management tool such as AgoraPulse, Buffer, or Hootsuite.

If you are using one of those platforms, you can skip the Cross-Promotion section.

Cross-Promotion

Since Facebook owns Instagram, they’ve made sharing from Instagram to Facebook seamless and the cross-posting is hardly noticeable except for the subtle “Instagram” text in the post.

What is noticeable are the hashtags and any tags you include in the copy. Whether or not you should care depends on your brand and your goals. One could argue it looks less professional, but that may not matter depending on your brand image.

There are also a couple workarounds for this.

The first is to add your hashtags as the first comment on your post instead of in your caption and if you’re tagging an account, only include the tag in your image.

The second is to not include your hashtags or tag and then go back and edit the post to include the hashtags and/or tag. Once you’ve made the initial post, your edits on Instagram aren’t going to change your post on Facebook.

Video Is The Way To Go

Cross-promotion from Instagram to Facebook is especially powerful when you do it with video which is the most viral form of content on the platform. Because Instagram limits its videos to 60 seconds, you’re automatically fitting right into a sweet spot of video share length.

The graph below shows the average length of the top 10 most shared videos in September 2015 for some of the most successful media publishing companies on the Facebook platform. None of them is greater than 90 seconds.

news whip facebook video graph

Spearfishing Reviews is a great example of this cross-promotion in action. They don’t tweak any of their posts when they share them on Instagram and even with the non-native appearance of their posts, they’ve been able to grow their Facebook account to over 120,000 fans.

spearfishing_reviews facebook video

Some would argue that promoting the same content on Facebook doesn’t incentivize followers from Instagram to follow you on both platforms. And to a degree, they’re right.

To fix this, you can provide exclusive content, rewards, discounts, or contests on Facebook.

Also, the virality of Facebook video allows you to reach an audience that otherwise would not see your content at all, so while the content may not be original to your Instagram audience, it is to everyone else.

Additionally, when you’ve optimized your image for Instagram, it’s also optimized for Facebook, which now allows vertically oriented images to take up the most amount of space, just like Instagram.

At one point this wasn’t the case, forcing everyone to create two separate images. Since 56.5% of Facebook users only use the platform on mobile now, they decided to optimize the feed for mobile users, saving marketers some time.

One major difference between Instagram and Facebook is the ability to link out from the Facebook post. For this reason, it sometimes makes sense to provide a native post on Facebook or edit an Instagram repost with a link in the text.

In It For The Long Haul

It takes years to become an overnight success.

Whether you’re attempting to grow your personal brand, increase your businesses’ presence, or build a business from the ground up using Instagram, it all takes time, work (emphasis on the work), and a little bit of luck.

Your numbers will likely be abysmal at first. Then less abysmal six months in. Then, eventually, with some patience, persistence, and skill, your numbers will grow and you may just find the success you’re looking for.

Sacramento State Web Design Scholarship

Sacramento State University Web Design Scholarship

At Websauce Studio we believe in giving back to our community. So far, we’ve done this by volunteering with a local non-profit, Campaign One At A Time, and speaking about web design theory with students in a classroom setting at Sierra College.

We’re excited to announce that we will be expanding our community involvement with a scholarship exclusively to students attending Sacramento State University and pursuing a career in web design or web development.

college student writing essay

Scholarship Award: One student attending Sacramento State University will be awarded $200

Award Date: December 31, 2017

Enrollment: Open to high school seniors and or students enrolled in an undergraduate program by December 11, 2017 at Sacramento State University and pursuing a career in web design or web development.

Application: Must submit an essay of 250 words or more including:

  1. Applicant’s name, address, phone number, and degree being pursued.
  2. An essay of how web design must adapt to a mobile world. Provide an example of a website that works well on mobile and why it’s a good mobile experience.



Where to Apply: Email [email protected] Submit your application via direct message on our Facebook page. Or mail your submission to us.

How will the winner be chosen?
Each essay will be read by our Creative Director, Adam Weil, and yours truly, Andrew Peluso, Marketing Director. The winner will be chosen based on how well thought through the reasoning provided for your arguments are. Your logic may be based on data, culture, anecdotal evidence, or any other means of reasoning you see fit.

Application Submission Deadline: December 11, 2017

Our Address:

Websauce Studio
2100 K St #1
Sacramento, CA 95817

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Filtergrade, Mike Moloney

filtergrade lightroom presets

Aspiring entrepreneurs are everywhere and practically shout it from the rooftops to let you know it.

They tout a #hustle lifestyle anywhere someone will listen on social media, slap the letters CEO on their Instagram profile, share every cliche quote that comes across their Facebook feed, and it often amounts to nothing.

desk of a wantrepreneur

Credit: Entrepreneurfail.com

The term wantrepreneur, as Mark Cuban would say, is usually much more fitting.

But then there are those who are actually doing.

You often don’t hear from them because they’re busy working. They are focused. They are driven. They are sacrificing, executing, and building.

They lay one brick at a time, day in and day out, with an understanding that there are no shortcuts when building a business.

One such budding entrepreneur is Mike Moloney, founder of FilterGrade, an online marketplace of high quality Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets.

filtergrade website

Together with his brother Matt, Mike has built FilterGrade into a fast growing and successful business.

But you won’t hear Mike brag about the success he’s had so far. He speaks humbly and with gratitude for where he is on his journey of entrepreneurship.

Like many entrepreneurs Mike felt the calling of entrepreneurship as a kid, starting when he and his brother would offer snow shoveling services after big storms in his hometown of West Bloomfield, Michigan.

At 16 Mike founded FilterGrade to scratch his own itch.

Mike loves photography and hopes to one day travel the world making a living from it.

But when he first discovered this passion he couldn’t find the answers to questions he had about editing and improving his skills.

So in true entrepreneur fashion, he started a company to provide a solution.

FilterGrade’s early investment in high-quality blog content played a big role in the site’s popularity, driving tens of thousands of users to the website for articles covering topics such as how to pose male vs female models, fonts for photographers, and Photoshop tutorials.

But it took three years for FilterGrade to take its current form as a marketplace.

“It started as just a little shop where it was FilterGrade’s branded software and we just sold our Photoshop actions. After doing that for a year I noticed there was also a Lightroom preset market, so I started getting into that with our own products. And then this past Summer [2016] is when we really transformed it from being more than just filter products and into a full marketplace. That started from one product [a Lightroom preset] from a photographer on Instagram, and so we launched it. It did OK, but it was just another product on the site. It wasn’t until we started recruiting more partners that we saw real traction.”

A perfect example of how timing is everything in entrepreneurship.

Let me explain:

FilterGrade sat (and still sits) perfectly at the intersection of three booming markets.

A new wave of aspiring photographers stemming from improvements in smartphone camera technology.

The boom of Instagram from 100 million users in 2013 to 600 million users in 2016.

The subsequent Instagram influencer market where photographers on the platform have become micro-celebrities.

instagram user growth 2010 2017

Credit: Techcrunch.com

FilterGrade’s blog was already driving traffic to the site, but it was the partnerships that Mike and his brother Matt established with popular photographers on Instagram that led to the rapid growth.

instagram influencers

Instagram accounts of some of the most popular influencers on FilterGrade

Of course, it was Mike’s years of hard work and dedication to FilterGrade that put him in this position of opportunity in the first place.

And the continued success of FilterGrade will be predicated on a lot more than smart marketing and good timing.

Mike, now 20, has an understanding of customer service and business savvy well beyond his years.

“I always try to build creative things into the brand that give a little fun or happiness to the user, or joy, because I think that lasts longer than some of that superficial stuff that people try to put in products. Solid customer support is really the biggest thing though. I think a lot of companies don’t understand how valuable support is to the growth of a company. Word of mouth marketing will start from good or bad support. And if you get good support you’re going to have a lot of good word of mouth marketing. But if you have bad support, it’s going to be the opposite.”

Mike attributes his knowledge of business to his own intuition, knowledge from mentors, and reading books. But mostly he credits the process of trial and error.

“You have to know you’re going to fail a thousand times but that one time you get it right is going to be good because you’re going to learn something from all 1,001 experiences.”

Mike now lives in Boston but hopes to plant his roots in San Francisco in the next few years.

And we’re sure the West Coast would welcome a person of Mike’s caliber with open arms, whenever he is ready.


Follow Mike on Twitter or Instagram

Web Design Scholarship

iphone 7 dark

2017 is the first year Websauce Studio is offering the Web Design Scholarship. The purpose is to see how the next generation views the shift to a mobile first world and how web designers will need to adapt their design and user experience to smaller screens and different expectations from users.

A 250-word minimum essay is required outlining how web design must adapt to a mobile world, an example of a website that works well on mobile, and an explanation of why it’s a good mobile experience.

college student writing essay

Scholarship Award: One student will be awarded $300

Award Date: December 31, 2017

Enrollment: Open to students enrolled in an undergraduate program by December 11, 2017, at any accredited U.S. college or university.

Application:

  1. Applicant’s name, address, phone number
  2. College or university of attendance in December 2017
  3. Degree being pursued
  4. A 250-word minimum essay of how web design must adapt to a mobile world. Provide an example of a website that works well on mobile and why it’s a good mobile experience.
  5. There are no other requirements including GPA requirements



Where to Apply: Email your application attached as a word document to [email protected] Submit your application via direct message on our Facebook page. Or mail your submission to us.

How will the winner be chosen?
Each essay will be read by our Creative Director, Adam Weil, and yours truly, Andrew Peluso, Marketing Director. The winner will be chosen based on how well thought through the reasoning provided for your arguments are. Your logic may be based on data, culture, anecdotal evidence, or any other means of reasoning you see fit.

Application Submission Deadline: December 11, 2017

Our Address:

Websauce Studio
2100 K St #1
Sacramento, CA 95817

Local Search Engine Optimization

Local SEO Graphic

WHAT IS LOCAL SEO?

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) results display on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in the local 3-pack and the organic rankings.

These display when the search is for a local business near the person doing the search or when the search is city specific. The local 3-pack is the map that displays with three business listings.

For example, if you had a boat in San Francisco and someone shot a cannonball through it, you might search for “boat repair near me” which would result in this:

San Francisco Boat Repair SERP

Local results can also display when the search is city specific.

If someone shot a cannonball through your computer it probably wouldn’t survive, but in case it did you might search “computer repair San Francisco” which would result in this:

San Francisco Computer Repair Google SERP

If you were unfortunate enough to be in the way of one of these cannonballs there’s a chance you’ll need a dentist. Here’s what the entire SERP looks like when you search “dentists in San Francisco”:

Dentist in San Francisco Google SERP

Much of local SEO is aimed at those coveted three spots in the local 3-pack. Ranking organically and in the 3-pack have overlapping ranking factors so they often go hand in hand.

The question then becomes, how do you get your business to show up on the map and in the organic search results?

WHAT DOES GOOGLE SAY ABOUT LOCAL SEO?

Google My Business

According to Google, the foundational piece of showing up in local results is signing up for and filling out your Google My Business (GMB) profile.

This service is free and once you’ve created your GMB listing Google will even send you a postcard to “verify” that you are located at the address you provided them.

“google

Taking the last step to “verify” makes your business eligible to show up in searches and on maps.

Fill out and update your GMB listing.

Google also allows you to add photos, and relative business information such as your hours, phone number, and website URL.

Adding photos in the beginning and again over time is a good way to show Google that you’re active and keeping your information up to date, an easy way to improve your SEO.

Google My Business Dashboard

Google also favors those who respond to customer reviews because it means you value your customers and the feedback they are giving you about your business.

Google Review Responses

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

The three most important pieces of information about your business that must be accurate and consistent across the web are known as your NAP, or name, address, phone number.

A reference to your business’s NAP on a website is known as a citation.

Citation Yelp San Francisco

Your Yelp profile is an example of a citation.

In addition to the information provided by you directly to Google through your GMB profile, Google also pulls information from these citations on other websites.

These include directories (i.e. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List), social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Google+, Twitter), and major data aggregators (Localeze, Infogroup, Acxiom, and Factual).

If Google finds that your information is different on the other sources it’s pulling data from it can hurt your rankings.

THREE SEARCH ENGINE RANKING FACTORS

Google breaks down its ranking factors into three different categories; relevance, distance, and prominence.

Local SEO Diagram

Relevance

Relevance refers to how well a local listing relates to the search query.

Using our earlier example, if someone were to search for “dentists in San Francisco” a search engine will work to find websites which relate to dentists.

You make your site more relevant by making sure you’ve provided Google enough accurate information about your business and the products or services you offer.

How much is enough?

Search engines will determine how relevant you are by looking at things like your GMB listing, your citations, social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), on-site signals, and off-site signals.

Local SEO Relevance Diagram

There are hundreds of ranking factors. The ones in the diagram above list a handful of them.

Distance

Distance is exactly what it sounds like – the distance of a business from the searcher or center of the location being searched.

However, a business that Google determines is more relevant to a user’s search query but is not as close as other businesses may show up before the business that is closer.

Prominance

Prominence is how well known a business is and is determined by factors such as links, articles, and directories.

Google also takes into account your review count and review score from Google reviews and other sites such as Yelp.

Knowing what Google suggests is a good start, but they don’t tell us all of their ranking factors, and they don’t tell us how heavily they weigh each factor.

Thanks to a recent study of 30,000 businesses we can make some educated guesses.

TESTING SITES FOR LOCAL SEO

According to the study, the most important factors are:

  1. Links
  2. Website Factors
  3. Google My Business

Links (aka SEO Juice)

Links are links to your website from other websites.

In Google’s eyes, a link to your website from another website is a sign of trust.

The website linking to yours is saying, “I trust you enough to send my audience to you. I vouch for you.”

To Google, this is a pretty big deal and they reward you with a boost in the rankings.

Not all links are created equal though.

A link from an industry related website that is well regarded in the industry is the perfect link.

The opposite, a link from an irrelevant industry that no one knows about, could actually hurt your rankings.

High-quality links are the most powerful way to boost your rankings.

They also take more time and effort to get than any other ranking factor.

Depending on how competitive your market is you may or may not need many or any links in order to rank.

Website Factors

Website factors include the type of content and quality of content on your website.

Keeping your website simple is important for a good user experience.

For local SEO it’s also important to provide a good amount of high-quality content for your audience (customers and potential customers).

Google rewards websites that do a good job of providing valuable information.

What information should you provide?

Answers to potential customers’ questions.

After all, if someone is on a search engine it means they have one or more questions they want answered.

If your website answers those questions better than anyone else with descriptive and in-depth text, helpful visuals, or videos then Google will answer their questions with your answers.

This article is a perfect example.

We know business owners want to know more about local search engine optimization because they want to rank their website higher.

Our aim is to provide the most thorough and helpful answers to some of the questions related to ranking your website higher.

Hopefully, we’re doing a good job so far. 😉

GMB (Google My Business)

Reviews and photos showed strong positive correlations with sites that ranked well, illustrating the importance of keeping both up to date.

Adding photos is as simple as busting out the smartphone and snapping nice shots of your products, services, team, and office.

REVIEWS, REVIEWS, REVIEWS

Reviews are worth their weight in gold.

88% of consumers trust reviews as much as they do a friend’s suggestion.

When the keywords “best” or “highest rated” are added to a search, Google weighs reviews more heavily.

Relevance, distance, and prominence still matter, but volume and quality of reviews are given priority.

San Francisco Best Lawyers

Check out the comparison above.

The local 3-pack was completely reordered when the keyword “best” was added to the search.

You’re probably wondering why the firm with fewer ratings is ranking higher than the firm with more reviews and a higher star rating.

Upon looking into it further I found that many of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, and Schoenberger’s reviews were 5 years old.

Summit Defense Attorney’s reviews were all within the last two years.

Moral of the story – don’t rest on your laurels.

Offense vs Defense

The least you should be doing is consistently making your customers aware of which review websites you’re on.

There is also excellent reputation management software available with conversion rates of 20-25%.

That means for every 100 customers you could collect as many as 25 reviews. 1,000 customers – 250 reviews.

Which of your competitors can say they have 250 reviews?

Likely, none.

The sooner you get a head start the longer you’ll be able to stay ahead and dominate the local 3-pack.

PRIORITIZE YOUR LOCAL SEO EFFORTS

With so many ranking factors to consider how do you know which to prioritize?

All of the basics regarding your Google My Business profile, creating citations, and reviews can be undertaken by anyone with or without SEO knowledge.

Reviews should be especially emphasized.

The rest depends on three things:

  1. Competition
  2. Time
  3. Budget

If you’re in a market that’s not very competitive then you may be able to do some of the basics listed in this article and rank in the local 3-pack or in the top three organically.

Local SEO competition continues to heat up, but we still find markets in smaller cities where not much SEO work is being done.

Without experience and the right tools, assessing the competition can be difficult though.

You have to decide if you want to take a chance by giving SEO your best shot and hoping you rank or you may want to have someone else (a freelance search engine optimizer or an agency) assess the market for you and tell you what to do.

The lower the competition, the less time it will require of you to optimize and the quicker you can rank.

Of course, if you have more money than time then hiring and an agency is your best bet.

It’s not uncommon for business owners to hire and fire SEO companies, especially if you go with the cheapest solution.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to hiring an SEO agency.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Look for reviews from their customers.
  • Ask for references.
  • Request proof of their success ranking their clients’ websites.
  • Make sure they’re going to provide you with updates on your rankings so you know what they’re doing is working.

How much does local SEO cost?

This depends on what your goals are and who you’re hiring.

More keywords, more cities, and greater competition all require more time.

Typically SEO is done month after month and costs hundreds or thousands per month.

For those gawking at these numbers, think about it for a moment.

Ranking #1 or even in the top three spots is often worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per month in revenue.

To rank high you either have to know what you’re doing or pay someone who does.

Conclusion

Everything in this article just scratches the surface of what goes into ranking your website.

Local SEO is complex.

However, the basics are simple and anyone can do them.

Reviews should be priority #1.

If you have the funds and want to move quicker, find an agency, protect yourself, and let the right one go to work for your business.

What Does NAP Stand For And How Does It Affect My SEO?

Nap Local SEO

NAP stands for your business’s name, address, and phone number. Some SEO experts also add a W at the end of NAP to make NAPW. The W stands for Website.

How does NAP affect your local SEO?

According to Google:

“Local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

For this reason, it is important to have your NAP information accurate and consistent across the web.

Having inaccurate NAP information is bad for SEO. This is because it’s a negative ranking factor, meaning your rankings in the local 3-pack and in the organic search results can suffer.

How accurate does your NAP need to be?

There is no straightforward answer here, but I’ll give a couple examples on a scale from “obviously needs fixing” to “not going to kill you.”

Obviously Needs Fixing

To conduct this research and find a good example for you I decided to search “Sacramento dentist” and skip back to page 9 in Google’s local finder where I was lucky enough to find “Prosthodontic Dental Group: QuincyLGibbs,DDS.”

Local Finder Sacramento DDS

Before I dive into the many fun and interesting mistakes made by QuincyLGibbs,DDS, I’d like to first mention that he’s probably a great dentist and a nice guy.

Facebook Reviews Quincy Gibbs DDS

In fact, his Facebook page has a few rave reviews where he even took the time to reply to his patients (something I recommend all of my clients do).

So this investigation is nothing personal – he just happens to be a great example of what not to do when it comes to NAP and your local SEO.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

Google Local Finder Sacramento Dentist

Error #1: Misspelling your business name (no spaces in between his name).
Error #2: Although not technically part of the NAP, make sure to list your business hours.

Next, a few different citations of our friend, Dr. Gibbs.

In case you don’t know, citations are a reference to your business on another website and often lists your NAPW.

Citation #1 – Yelp

Yelp NAP Citation Gibbs Quincy

Error #1: Inconsistent business name.
Error #2: Inconsistent address.
Error #3: Inconsistent phone number.

Citation #2 – Facebook

Facebook Local SEO Citation Quincy Gibbs

Error #1: Inconsistent business name.
Error #2: Inconsistent address.
Error #3: Inconsistent phone number.

So far we have three different business names, three different addresses, and three different phone numbers. Yikes!

I also found Dr. Gibbs listed on two different dental practice websites which are likely where these inconsistencies stem from.

The first website is where his Sacramento NAP comes from.

NAPW Prosthodontic Website

The second website is where his Walnut Creek NAP comes from.

NAPW Implant Center Website

What’s the result of this jumbled mess?

“Google

A very confused Google. And likely, very confused patients.

When we search for Quincy L. Gibbs, DDS we notice a few things.

His first organic result is his Facebook page with his Walnut Creek, CA office.

His third organic result is a directory with a Sacramento, CA address.

And his fifth result is a dentist directory with a Fallon, NV address.

His knowledge graph (the box of information about him in the lower right corner) says he’s moved. It lists the Sacramento address we first saw in the local finder, but the pictures are of the Fallon, NV address.

With this amount of inconsistency, Dr. Gibbs has no chance of ranking on the first page.

Not Going To Kill You

Garden of Eat’n is a restaurant with two locations. Each location has its own NAP information. A key part of their local SEO success is making sure each location’s NAP is consistent and accurate and not confusing Google with overlap from one to the other.

Website NAP Restaurant

This can become tricky since they want to list the contact information of both restaurants on their website.

This provides their customers with a better experience so all information is in one place, but they also don’t want to confuse Google.

The way they handle this is by having separate Google, Yelp, and Facebook pages with accurate information on each.

Google SERP Restaurant Roseville

When we search their location in Roseville, CA we see that their NAP is accurately listed on their knowledge graph.

Google SERP Restaurant Auburn

When we search their location in Auburn, CA though we notice a couple inconsistencies.

First, they’re missing their suite number on their knowledge graph. They should be able to fix this quickly through their Google My Business dashboard.

Second, the fifth listing down is their Foursquare listing which says they’re closed.

Fousquare NAP

When we take a look at their Foursquare page we see their logo is a Quiznos logo and their NAP information is different from what’s listed on their website and their knowledge graph.

As it turns out Garden of Eat’n used to be a Quiznos until the owner sold his Quiznos to open his new restaurant.

Because they are consistent in all other places this Foursquare listing isn’t causing enough confusion for Google to change information listed on their knowledge graph (which Google will automatically do sometimes as we saw in our previous example).

However, Foursquare has over 55 million users.

Regardless of the confusion they may or may not be causing Google, they are certainly causing Foursquare users confusion and may be losing customers because of it.

What To Prioritize

As you can see there are a handful of places where your NAP can be found. In order of importance they are:

  • Your Website
  • Google My Business (GMB) Landing Page
  • Primary Data Aggregators
  • Citations

 

NAP On Your Website

The first place Google will look for your NAP is on your website.

If it’s not there or it’s different from what you’ve entered into your GMB listing or different from the other citation sources it may work against your local SEO efforts.

And not only is Google looking for your address and phone number but so are potential customers.

According to a recent study, your business address is often the primary piece of information local searchers are looking for when they perform a search, followed by your phone number.

We suggest putting your phone number and address in multiple locations on your website. At the very least you want it in in your footer and on your contact page.

VP Marketing is a local printing business in Modesto, CA. Their phone number is placed above-the-fold on the home page.

SEO NAP Above The Fold

The phone number and address are in the footer.

SEO NAP Footer

On a mobile device, it’s also on the menu.

SEO NAP Mobile Device

In 2017 I almost feel like I don’t have to mention this since it should be obvious, but you also want to make your NAP easily viewable on a mobile device.

According to a study by Neustar Localeze 63% of searchers use multiple devices to find local businesses.

And according to Nectafy 88% of consumers who search for a local business on a mobile device call or go into that business within 24 hours of their search.

People want smooth and easy. If you’re making it difficult for the majority of people to find and read your NAP you raise the chances of losing business.

The website for EcoGuard Pest Management in Folsom, CA has a responsive website.

When the user is on a mobile device instead of displaying the phone number a phone icon is displayed which the user intuitively knows to press in order to call the business.

Mobile NAP EcoGuard Pest Management Home

The header is what’s known as “sticky” so even when the user scrolls down the phone icon scrolls with them making it as easy as possible for the user to call as soon as they’re ready.

EcoGuard Mobile NAP Contact Page

If the user goes to the contact page the address is easily visible and includes a map which the user can interact with.

Google My Business

Your GMB listing is a primary source of information for Google and is what they will use to display in your local knowledge graph.

I’ve listed it second because if you’re trying to rank on Google they’ll need the correct information. The easiest and quickest way to provide them with your NAP is on your GMB landing page.

Setting up your Google My Business listing only takes ten minutes.

To verify your address Google mails you a postcard with a verification code. You’ll need to enter this verification code on your GMB dashboard.

GMB Verification Postcard

Primary Data Aggregators

Data aggregators are local search data collectors and providers. They scour the internet for local data about your business and all other businesses.

They then provide this information to organizations such as CitySearch, Mapquest, Showmelocal, and others.

Data Aggregators Citations

If they find old or inaccurate NAP information about you then without you knowing it and without them realizing it’s incorrect they may spread that information causing confusion for Google.

This is how one piece of incorrect information can get amplified beyond the initial mistake.

Citations

Citations are mentions of your NAP on other websites. Typically, but not always, these citations link to your website.

Some of the most popular websites for citations are directory or review sites including Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, and others.

Not all citations are created equal though. A citation from a very popular site such as Yelp or YellowPages is going to bring you more exposure and carry more weight in Google’s eyes than a citation from an unknown directory that few people use.

There are hundreds of directory websites you can get citations from.

That doesn’t mean you need to or should spend your time getting your information on everyone.

Focusing on the top ten directories in your city is a good start.

If you’re in a competitive industry and area then you probably need to work on the top fifty or more.

Whitespark Top Local Citations US

Putting your NAP on your website, setting up your Google My Business profile, and creating citations are all foundational to local SEO, but are not going to give you a competitive advantage.

If you want help getting your citations setup you can turn to sites like Whitespark, Brightlocal, or Moz. Each has its own pros and cons.

You can also go through an agency who should take care of these and other important local SEO factors.

Whatever route you take make sure you get it done to set yourself up for the best chance at SEO success.

Search Engine Optimization Guide

SEO Computer Screen On Desk

Why Is Search Engine Optimization Important?

81% of shoppers now conduct online research before buying.

When users enter a query into Google and other search engines they trust that those search engines will deliver the most relevant and useful information first. For this reason, as much as 33% of people click on the web page ranked number one when performing a search with the percentage going down from there, the far majority being attributed to the top three spots.

If you’re not ranking on the first page of search engines (Google is by far the largest) your website is essentially irrelevant when it comes to people searching online. A search engine optimization service like ours helps you become and stay relevant.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) is the optimization of a website and the pages within that website to be easily found and crawled by search engines and the improvement of the user experience of said website and web pages.

The purpose of a search engine is to index and organize the web in order to deliver the best answers to users search queries.

Search engines rank web pages based on hundreds of ranking factors some of which carry much more weight than others in search engine algorithms.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines use bots to crawl the code of every accessible website on the internet and then use algorithms to decipher what information the website is providing and the quality of the information being provided.

Search engine companies like Google then store all of this information on servers around the world to make the information instantaneously available when someone performs a search.

How Does Websauce Help Your Website Rank Higher?

Because of the large percentage of people who rely on search engines to find solutions to their questions, ranking on the first page has become incredibly competitive.

Think about it.

As an organization, you’re competing with every other organization relative to your category of product, service, or information being provided. As a local business that means you’re competing with every other local business and often with many national brands.

For example, if someone searches “pest control company in Sacramento”, you’d be competing with not only other local pest control companies, but also the larger regional and national brands such as Terminix, Clarks, and others. Those companies have millions of dollars to spend on marketing and you bet they’re competing for that number one spot.

As a national brand, your competition is even greater.

As we shared earlier there are hundreds of ranking factors search engines take into account when deciding how your website is going to rank. As an agency, it is our job to understand where your dollars and our time are best spent so we have the greatest impact on increasing your rankings.

Depending on your budget and the level of competition we choose what to focus on and then watch your rankings change based on the implementation of our strategies.

As your rankings change we analyze what’s working, how well it’s working, and keep an eye on the competition to see if they’re implementing any strategies we can mimic.

We also report back to you to keep you informed of the work being done and the results of that work.

Key Search Engine Ranking Factors

Some ranking factors are far more important than others, but no one ranking factor will have you ranking high.

Some ranking factors are easy to tackle but can be highly effective in laying the proper groundwork for your SEO success, and depending on the competition, a proper implementation of these SEO strategies alone could have you ranking on the first page. When this is the case it often means you’re a local business. If that’s you, you may check out our page on local SEO.

Below are some of the main SEO considerations we often focus on which we’ve organized into on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

On-Site Ranking Factors

The beauty of on-site SEO is that it is within your control. You can change anything on your own website as you please. This is important and great news for you because certain on-site SEO factors are some of the most important that Google and other search engines take into consideration.

Content Is King

You may have heard the term “content is king” before, but what does that mean exactly?

The answer is multifaceted but at its core, it means that search engines rank web pages in large part based on the quality of their content. Things like word count, using pictures and videos, bullet point lists, bold lettering, and an overall nicely organized structure to your content all play into a search engine’s consideration.

Additionally, search engines will try to understand how satisfied users are with your content based on their interaction with it when they land on the page. If a user goes to the web page and within a few seconds leaves, that tells Google that the user had a poor experience or probably didn’t find the answer they were looking. This serves as an indicator that this web page should not rank high for the phrase (also known as keywords) they looked up.

If the opposite happens and the user stays on the page for a longer amount of time or goes to others page on the website before leaving that tells Google that the user likely had a good experience and found what they were looking for thereby indicating that they should rank higher for the keywords.

Also as a byproduct of high-quality content, you raise the chances of your web page being linked to by other websites. Being linked to by other high-quality websites is currently the greatest factor Google takes into consideration when ranking web pages. This is an off-site factor we’ll dive deeper into further down this page.

Technical SEO

In order for a search engine to rank you, it first must be able to read the content provided on your website.

Search engines have specific types of code and a certain organization to the code which make it easier for their bots to understand the information provided on your website. There are specific best practices which enable a bot to quickly and accurately understand what your website is about.

When a bot looks at your website it doesn’t see what we see. For example, a bot can’t see an image and know what it is. It can, however, understand what the image is if we give the image a description.

A bot reads a web page from top to bottom and assumes that the most pertinent information is at the top. However, it also relies on us to label content in a way that communicates the organization and structure of the content. For example, one of the first things a bot looks for is known as the H1 header tag. This header tag tells the bot what the main focus of the web page is and is crucial to ranking for your targeted keywords.
Mobile Friendly

More and more people are using their smartphones and other mobile devices to conduct searches. Google has recognized this and ranks sites which are not mobile friendly lower. In the same way that the desktop version of the site must provide a good user experience, so too must the mobile version.

If your website isn’t optimized to work on mobile devices then users will grow annoyed and impatient and leave quickly, resulting in poor experience signals being sent to Google and other search engines. Google has even gone so far as to penalize non-mobile friendly sites by ranking them lower than sites that are mobile friendly.

We have clients who have 50% or more of their website users coming from mobile devices, and in these cases, we pay special attention to customizing the interface so that the experience is seamless and intuitive. All websites and apps that we build are made with a responsive design, meaning the website automatically responds to the size of the device being used to visit the website.

Build With Your Customers In Mind

On-site SEO is the first step to building a strong search engine presence. The main focus to keep in mind is providing high-quality information to your targeted website visitors. This means putting yourself in their shoes and asking, “What information is going to be most helpful to them when looking for what we offer?”

As an agency, this is always the first step we take before building a new website or improving the website content. We take our clients through a 2-3 hour discovery process which helps bring clarity to what will bring the customer the most value.

Off-Site Ranking Factors

Now that you’ve laid the foundation for SEO success, the next step is to look at factors a bit more out of your control, but no less important. The off-site SEO factors range from low hanging fruit such as setting up a Google My Business page to link building.

We know that search engines use your content to understand how relevant your content is to a given search query, but the other piece of the puzzle is how authoritative or trustworthy your website is.

Link Building

Google determines the authority of your site by taking votes in the form of links. When another website links to yours they’re saying, “I trust this website enough to vouch for them and send my users to them.” Google considers these votes a signal of trust and studies have shown that Google weighs these most heavily when considering how to rank websites.

Not all votes are treated equally though. The types of links that are most valuable come from websites that have higher authority (many links pointing to them), industry related websites, and if you’re a local business, links from other local organizations are weighed more heavily.

Link building is the hardest form of search engine optimization and takes the most amount of work, but like most things in life hard work pays off and you get to reap the greatest amount of reward from it.

Getting links from other websites can come from already established relationships with your customers or vendors or new relationships through outreach. At Websauce we use multiple strategies to generate links for ourselves and our clients.

Reputation Management

85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a friend’s suggestion meaning reviews are worth their weight in gold. If a consumer is researching services or products you provide and they find no reviews, they quickly assume no one uses it. Even worse, if they see poor reviews they assume you provide a low-quality product or service.

Often we’ve found this not to be the case, but because clients are afraid of receiving bad reviews they go on the defense by not playing the review game at all when they should be going on the offense and asking their happy customers to leave reviews.

Search engines make similar assumptions when they find reviews of your business. If you have no reviews they don’t have much to work with and if your competitors have positive reviews then they take this into consideration when deciding which of you to rank higher. This also works in the opposite. If you have bad reviews search engines will rank you lower.

At Websauce we have software that enables us to reach out to your customers and route bad reviews into feedback that goes directly back to you and guides happy customers to leave good reviews on a review website of your choice. This eliminates business owners’ biggest fear of receiving bad reviews when they ask for them.

Social Media

Social media has exploded since 2007 and shows no signs of slowing down.

At Websauce we theorize that eventually, search engines will begin to take into consideration your friends’ online activity and preferences, identify who the influencers in your social circle are and take this into consideration when showing you search engine results.

(Update: We were right.)

Currently, Google does not take social media signals into account as a ranking factor.

Google does, however, take your website traffic into consideration, so if you’re able to send traffic from your social media channels to your website, Google will see your website is popular and rank it

Blackhat SEO

The worst strategy you can take with your SEO is known as blackhat SEO. This strategy bends and breaks the rules and guidelines search engines lay out and eventually results in being penalized. Sometimes these penalties come in the form of being taken off of search engines altogether. Google is known to kick websites off of their rankings for years for those who take this strategy too far.

The Bottom Line

Realize that SEO best practices can result in short term gain (think weeks or months), but are truly rewarded in the long term (think years). And this is as it should be. Ranking on the first page and in the top three spots generates billions of dollars in business every year, so of course it’s hard and of course it requires an investment of time and effort.

There is massive ROI for those who rank up there. The beauty is you’re not renting space like you would be with pay-per-click advertising. When you provide the best value to users the return is a free spot at the top. You never pay to rank!

We’ve only scratched the surface of search engine optimization in this writing. SEO is complex and competitive. At Websauce we understand the ranking factors and know how to prioritize your money and our time so you get the most value out of the work we do for you.