Uncategorized

Have you ever searched a product on Google and then 5 minutes later ads start popping up on Facebook or Instagram for the exact product you were looking for? Targeted ads is a whole separate topic…

But has it ever worked on you?

 

74% of consumers rely on social networks to help with their purchasing decisions.

 

The reason it may have worked on you is because, many consumers (including myself) prefer to stay within a social media platform to complete a purchase. The ease to click a few buttons and viola *order confirmation* pops up in your email while you casually continue scrolling, is what gets us.

online shopping

In addition to this, did you know 54% of social media browsers use social platforms to research products (guilty as charged).

Surfing comments gives a great idea of what people are saying about the brand/product, how the brand responds to these comments (positive and negative) and if this product or service is a good suit for me, the curious consumer. A consumer simply searching these things can also determine if they will become a fan.

If your brand is practicing good social listening, interacts with your customers and shows appreciation for customers, then I, as a consumer, will be more likely to first of all, purchase your product, interact with your content, re-share your content (or tell my friends), leave a review, and maybe even create some content for you! Which means I am officially a fan of your brand.

social listening

Going hand in hand with this, some brands encourage their customers to leave reviews, and don’t shy away from a bad review every now and again. This helps consumers searching for their product to make a more informed decision and become a more loyal customer.

Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest now all have shopping options, making it much easier for your customers to buy from you. The process to set these up is quite straightforward and simple. If your business offers products, social media shopping is a great option for you.

Social media marketing is a much cheaper option for your business when advertising compared to traditional.

Cheaper, yet effective.

You are able to make connections with your audience and address questions and comments as they come, making you more authentic and appealing to your audience.

How does this actually look for your business?

Let’s take a look.

In order to calculate ROI you need to set goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness, business conversions, improve customer service, etc? Setting goals determines which statistics you want to focus on.

return on investment

For example;

When looking to increase brand awareness, here’s some things you want to track:

  • Followers/fans
  • Impressions (combined with engagement)
  • Identify the number of impressions for a given post, on a given platform
  • Identify the reporting period to measure, like a week, month, or quarter
  • Compare to previous periods to see a trend
  • Share of voice
  • Audience Growth Rate
  • What’s the rate of growth for your social media followers? 
  • And, was it faster than the previous months?
  • Post reach
  • Amplification rate
  • Virality rate

 

Hope I didn’t lose you!

It’s okay if some of these don’t apply to you. The good news is you don’t need to track them all. Choose what is most important for your business to track and follow those stats.

The list looks different for business conversions, customer service and so on. So often we get lost with having too much information we don’t really know what even applies to us. There’s lots to track, some business goals are more difficult to track than others. But at the end of the day, you get an idea of how social media is working for you by monitoring your numbers.

In The Long Run:

Remember, it’s a slow game. You can have your strategy set, and it can still take some time to see improvement. The key is consistency.

slow results

Aligning your social media strategy with your goals, and keeping track is how you will really begin to see the benefit of social media for your business. Social media offers many great opportunities to reach your customers. Your customers are already searching for your business, creating a strong online presence will ensure they find you before your competition.

 

Hearing what I’m saying but still stuck how to put these points into action? Contact us today to see how we can make social media bring in business for you.

 

BusinessMarketingSocial MediaTechnologyUncategorizedWeb Development

5 Words I Would Use To Describe Panda Rose

If you’ve known us at Panda Rose for a long time, you know these 5 words fit us well, and if you are just getting to know us or want to know more, here are some things you can expect!

Knowledgeable:

I often hear people use this word to describe us at Panda Rose. Every employee is extremely knowledgeable, and quite multi-talented. If one person is ever stumped on a project, we collaborate and brainstorm with each other to reach a solution. This method is quite effective for us at Panda Rose, as so many employees are talented and knowledgeable in areas above and beyond their job title. Something really cool about us, is we actually train you how to manage your website on your own! We find it valuable for our clients to have control over their website and know how to run/oversee things.

Creative:

(Or as some might say: quirky!) When I think of creativity, I think of Ms. Frizzle, the teacher on Magic School Bus! Her dress had different shapes and colours, her hair bright red and a little crazy sometimes, and her personality was always adventurous! And didn’t she have a pet lizard?

Ms Frizzle
Yup, she has a pet lizard!

Anyway, while none of us drive a magic school bus (sadly, cause what a fun commute that would be), I would say this creative description suits us well! Most of us have quite adventurous personalities (and if you don’t believe me, watch a few of our YouTube videos and you’ll see what I’m talking about!) I would say our work matches Ms Frizzle’s outfit: it’s eye-catching, leaves a lasting impression, and displays your businesses personality perfectly (minus the tackiness)! Plus if you have glowing planet earrings you can believe we’re going to highlight it! In other words, whatever makes your business unique, we pay attention to the details and will design your website, mobile app, social media pages, etc. accordingly!

Upbeat:

We like to have a good time at Panda Rose, and love to connect with people and network! If you are local to Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, and Saint Albert you have probably met someone from Panda Rose! We all love to laugh and have a good sense of humour, making us easy to get along with. One of my favourite social media posts we did was Father’s Day 2019. We sent out a bunch of dad jokes from people in the office, and you guys loved it! Creating an office and business atmosphere where people feel comfortable to express some of their biggest ideas, comes down the people. We are excited about your business and your future and our attitudes sure show it!

joyful jumping panda-man

 

Supportive:

Panda Rose is located right here in Spruce Grove, and if you know anything about Spruce Grove, you know that we love to support each other’s businesses! Am I right, or am I right? This stretches as far as Stony Plain, Edmonton and surrounding areas. Good chance that if we work with you, we also look for any way we can support your business, such as buying your products because we genuinely love them or using your services! We are in the business of helping businesses, and we honestly want to see your business thrive.

Spruce grove

 

Profitable:

We know how to work hard! We put in the time and effort it takes to generate results for your business so you see a profit. Your success = our success! Not sure if digital marketing, web development or any variety of things we offer will help your business thrive? We’ve seen time and time again that it does! But don’t just take my word for it, you can see for yourself! Check out our testimonials section on our website, and send us an email to see what we can do for you!

BusinessMarketingProductivitySEOShoppingSocial MediaWeb Development

build your own ecommerce website, be your own boss

I’m going to spoil this whole blog by telling you the three reasons you should build your own eCommerce website in this very first sentence: eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. That’s it, there you have it, that’s why you should build your own eCommerce website.

I know what you’re thinking: “Deborah, you’ve gone completely bananas. I couldn’t possibly independently compete with those three!”

Brick laughing with a banana
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a little bit off my rocker.

Well I hate to break it to you folks, but I went completely bananas years ago. You should know that by now. But that’s completely aside from the point and unrelated to anything I’m saying here. Just let me continue, and stop mentally interrupting me, OK? Thanks.

Even when you list your products on those sites, you are still competing with all of them. But let’s take a closer look.

Amazon

Xena, Warrior Princess
Darn it you guys, STILL not that Amazon.

Of these big three sellers, Amazon.com was founded in 1994. Who even remembers having the internet in 1994? My family had an Apple computer back then, but eventually switched to a PC. I think we got dial-up in 1995:

beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep ccccccccchhhhhhh doooooo-dee-doo000-beepbeep-boop-beep-dooop cccccccchhhhhhhhhh

dial-up internet
You know what I’m talkin’ about.

. . . and then that sweet sound of connection. It wasn’t long before I discovered Amazon.com. It used to be all books, all the time, and soon after, I could also get CDs and DVDs, and better yet, I could soon buy them used from other sellers! I’ll admit, I have Amazon Prime membership in both the USA and Canada. As a buyer, Amazon is pretty great.

But what about as a seller?

Amazon is complicated. Their fees are high. You’ve got a huge amount of competition, including people who buy and bulk, which isn’t great if you’re a smaller business. Not only that, but you are also in direct competition with Amazon itself.

Take for example the issue of AmazonEssentials products. Despite claims to the contrary, Amazon employees have used what is supposed to be private information about independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products, going directly against their own company’s policy.

Speaking of competing products, several major brands have refused to sell on Amazon because they don’t police the grey market well enough. One brand even preferred to sell exclusively on Walmart instead. Not to dis Walmart or anything (loyal shopper here), but I kinda think that says something.

people at walmart crashing balls
Am I a Person of Walmart? That’s for me to know and you to find out.

eBay

cat selling a cat in a box
I’ve tried this with my children, but apparently it’s “against the rules”.

Ah yes, the wild west of online sales. Or so it seemed to be back in those first few years. eBay was founded only a year after Amazon, in 1995. It started simple enough. The first sale was a broken laser pointer to a fellow who collected broken laser pointers, who would’ve thought? Initially, listing an item was free, but the founder’s internet services bill got too high, so he had to start charging a listing free, which people found pretty reasonable.

(As an aside, my first year of high school, my school’s principal, Tom Sawyer (yes, that legit was his name, no relation to the real fictional Tom Sawyer, though), was an expert at calling auctions. You know, that really fast-talking thing. Everybody in town would get him to do live auctions. Pretty amazing. eBay should have hired him for . . . something.)

Thousands of people have found success on eBay, but more and more, people have become increasingly frustrated. In the words of one former seller, “eBay sacrifices its sellers to its buyers”. I know that “the customer is always right” is a good general policy, but eBay appears to take this a bit too far. According to this same seller, “eBay ‘insures’ purchases by resolving all disputes in favor of the buyer, and then forcing the seller to cover the costs. Paypal helps them by seizing the seller’s funds.”

So eBay runs on a guilty-until-proven-innocent-system where the seller can almost never prove themselves innocent. It also leaves the seller open to buyer fraud.

guilty!
Even if you’re innocent, you’re still guilty.

eBay can limit your sales very arbitrarily, despite your good record (and bringing in lots of income to eBay itself). An ill-intentioned person can give a seller a bad review, a postal strike causing a delay in shipment, or any other little fluke can lead them to limit how much a seller is allowed to sell. One seller whose whole business. You are subject to eBay’s whims. You may feel like your own boss, but you are at the mercy of buyers and eBay’s poor customer service.

Etsy

Etsy, the newest to the market. Launched in 2005 on the east coast, it’s the indie girl’s heaven for vintage, handmade, and craft supplies. Yes, I’ve purchased all of the above on there. Etsy has been great for sellers of these things, but in recent years, Etsy’s policies have changed for the negative.

where do you even find a a gold coke straw? etsy.
Seems legit. In a not really legit sorta way.

Etsy is no longer friendly to small business, you are literally competing with huge shops in China. It’s sad really — you see someone has designed something creative and lovely, and within a few months, other people are copying that design and it’s all being shipped from China. Sure, maybe it was handmade, but do you really think the worker got fair pay for the work they did?

Not only that, but because of Etsy opening up their policy to this type of business, small business owners have faced lower sales volumes and increased competition due to the sheer volume of shop owners on the site, and it’s not exactly easy to differentiate your own shop from all the rest. You get a name and you get a logo. That’s about it. It’s very difficult to truly build your own brand.

On top of this, Etsy has their own weird SEO algorithms that work completely differently from most ordinary search engines, and at the same time, Etsy items don’t rank well in Google searches. And then there are the fees. They can arbitrarily hike the fees whenever they please, cutting into the profit margin of small businesses as well.

At the end of the day, is it really worth all this trouble?

Who are you really working for?

All three of these platforms make it somewhat easy to list your products in an online shop, but is it really worth it? How does it really benefit you as a business? Perhaps early on it might have been easy for people to search and find your products, but now they’re so over-saturated that it’s difficult for people to find you. You can’t truly build your own brand.

At the end of the day, with having to follow someone else’s ever-changing policies, very little control over how operations are run, and the inability to truly build your own brand while paying someone else fees, it sure sounds a lot like you’re doing a lot of work for someone else. You may have more flexibility than a typical job, but you’ve still got someone bossing you around.

But what else can a small business do?

Gosh, I’m sure glad you asked! The truth is, building your own eCommerce website isn’t that complicated. There are lots of options out there, though our two favourites are WooCommerce and Shopify. The great thing about your own site is you are in charge. You decide what your website will look like, your branding, everything. Nobody will tell you what kind of payments you will take, you get to decide that. You get to decide what shipping options you will offer, and where you will ship.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m pretty stubborn and don’t like being told what to do. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being able to control every aspect of my business (or delegate to people whom I trust) is right up my alley. Both of these platforms offer countless tools to make it easy to do.

Zoolander like a boss
You can be really really really really really ridiculously good looking AND be your own boss at the SAME TIME.

How will people find me if I’m not on one of these big sites?

Google.

OK, that’s the easy answer, but not the only one. Look at it this way: you’re not just selling stuff, you’re building a brand. Do you have a Facebook page? Instagram? Most of these eCommerce platforms have integrations with both Facebook and Instagram (WooCommerce: Facebook, Instagram; Shopify: online sales channels).

Honestly, lots of the new stuff I discover is through social media, so build a following! Write blogs about your products, get other people to share your products and how great they are! Get in people’s heads. Build your brand. If you need any advice on SEO, social media, or digital marketing, talk with us. We are more than happy to help!

Back to Google though — this year they announced a new feature they are making available on their shopping search results. Currently their Google Shopping search results are all sponsored products, but this spring, in the US, they opened it up so that people could list their products for free (there would still be sponsored listings, a bit like regular search results).

This isn’t available in Canada yet, but one article suggests it will be quite soon for Canada, and another says that it will be global before the end of the year. I find this pretty exciting, as it’s another SEO opportunity for our eCommerce clients. It appears that already there are integrations for WooCommerce and Shopify.

OK, but what about the cost?

I’ll admit, there’s a bigger up-front cost with building a site yourself.

I take that back. Shopify isn’t all that bad, although they have monthly fees, because it is hosted, although the monthly fees might add up, but it comes with everything all-in-one full-meal-deal if that’s what you like. You can pay to have someone set it all up for you, have it match your branding and whatnot, or you can set it up yourself and you’ll probably get by either way. It’s a great option for someone who wants a store. Some pretty big brands use Shopify, including Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Penguin Books.

WooCommerce is my favourite though. It’s a great option if you want a full website, more than just a shop. From what I understand the API is easier to work with, so if you like doing your own coding . . . stuff (sorry, I stick to html and css, disturbingly so), it’s a better option. I like that you can use their official plugins or third party plugins  to make it do whatever you darned-well please. Many-a-time a client has asked “but can you make it do this?” and I’ve said “of course we can!” then gone to one of our developers and said “so . . . they asked me if we can make it do this” to be told “weird but . . . I guess so?”

Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?
Right?!

As for cost, WooCommerce itself is free, though if you purchase it with a theme, it sometimes comes with other paid upgrades. There are paid and free plugins you can get for WooCommerce. Your main cost will be building the website, and then the monthly or annual fee of hosting it varies from provider to provider.

I may or may not be the Yes Girl, much to the chagrin of our CEO. (Sorry Kelly.)

Let’s do it!

So now that I’ve given you all the reasons why you really ought to have your own website instead of working for someone else, why don’t you give us a call, send us an email, or contact us through social media and let us help you get your business online! We can offer advice on what platform is best for you, or we can do all the work for you. Whatever level of service you need, we’re here for you.

Doctor Who: Just do it!
Don’t take my word for it. The good Doctor says you should too.
BusinessFutureGovernment

Thank you for shopping local sign

This is based off of a Facebook post I made over the weekend:

Let’s go over some of the things that the federal government has promised to help small businesses and the arbitrary restrictions they have put on it, likely to prevent abuse, but in reality those arbitrary restrictions prevent businesses that actually really need the money from getting it. Please note, I am glad these efforts are here, but they are nowhere as much as is necessary to help small businesses.

First, the Canadian Wage Subsidy: Covers 75% of salaries for up to 3 months of business.

However, you need to have a 30% drop in revenues from your business. So companies like Perks, which are working night and day to keep their revenues up… well they get screwed. Worse, they actually end up worse off because they hired someone to provide the new service (delivery) so they are spending more on employees, and with the new delivery service they were able to keep their revenue drop from going as high as 30%.

delivery

So a business, that needs that subsidy the most, which is actually doing things to adapt to the economy, and could use it and is CREATING JOBS ends up worse off. While a business that has a 30% drop and isn’t doing anything at all to try and stem it, would be able to get 75% of their salaries paid for. So, if their salaries are 40% of their expenditures (which is a really low amount), it is 100% in their interest to ensure they keep that 30% drop in revenues. Do you not see how this causes more problems than it solves?

Second, the Business Credit Availability Program is basically a free cheque to the banks.

The banks get to decide who gets it, and they have tightened up, not loosened their lending standards. Especially since, in the words of a banker I spoke with recently, we are expecting most businesses applying for loans to fail, so we are going to end up rejecting the majority of them. Literally does nothing for the small businesses on Main St.

working

As well, it requires your NoAs and your tax returns to be completed and up to date and _no taxes owing_. Which completely counters the governments’ program of allowing businesses to not pay taxes for the next while to keep their cashflow up.

So, basically a cheque to the banks with absolutely no assistance to the businesses that need it most.

Third, the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

Unfortunately I cannot completely speak to this one that much. However, the restriction that payroll needs to be 50k-1mil actually kills it as a useful loan (assuming, of course, the banks don’t add more restrictions) for most small businesses. Many business owners pay themselves outside of payroll, and try to keep their payroll as minimized as possible. So while there may be 100k+ in revenues in any given year, it wouldn’t be hard for them to keep their payroll below 50k, especially if they hire subcontractors. Commonly these businesses are also the most agile, so yeah. Sucks to be them.

So, again… useless. This time for businesses that are best suited to try and weather this type of disaster.

All 3 programs, while they work for some, so many will slip through the cracks by the arbitrary restrictions that they really don’t do what they are supposed to do.

My advice:

  • Make the 75% for all businesses that are equal to last years, or have reduced revenues. A company could be equal to last March’s revenues, but had expanded employment to compensate. Punishing those companies is literally punishing the successful companies, it’s absolutely stupid.
  • Force the banks to remove restrictions on the small business lines of credit (under 100k) or at least to severely dial them back. Possibly by offering some form of loan insurance.
  • Open up the CEBA to all businesses that have above 100k revenue, regardless of payroll.
  • Open up tax credits for businesses that are implementing unique technological or other solutions to provide their services in this time. Such as Perks adding delivery to their system, or an art gallery finding a way to offer their art online, or a private school developing online learning tools. Similar to SRED, but more broad-based.

There are probably other ideas a well, but the current plan looks good on paper, but fails almost everyone who needs it and who would be the best businesses to succeed at this time.

CommunicationMarketingSEOSocial Media

Medical masks

Things sure happen quickly, don’t they? Right now in Alberta “mass gatherings” can’t have more than 50 people attending it, unless it’s for an essential service.  Lots of companies, especially tech companies like ours, are having their staff work remotely.  No one has any idea how long this will last either.  Two weeks?  Two months?  Longer?  With that in mind, it’s time to dive into the options you have for marketing when more and more things are cancelled and shut down.

Advertising

a billboard advertisement

Depending on the form of advertising you’ll see different results.  As people drive less and self-quarantine more physical and radio ads will have less impact since the most common place to listen to the radio is in the car and obviously someone who’s staying at home isn’t going to see your billboard.  But if a form of advertising is likely to be seen by those trapped at home, then it will definitely still be as effective as normal, or even more effective in some cases.  If you provide something that people are still likely to search for, Google Ads are a good idea.  So a restaurant that does delivery?  Definitely a good choice.  But there are other searches that are less likely to have great results.  I need some car repairs done.  But at least until I’m done quarantining myself I’m not going to bother Googling my options.  In short, if you provide something people need, putting your extra marketing budget into advertisements can be a smart choice.  Otherwise there’s probably a better option for where you can put that extra cash.

Social Media

What better time to build a social media following then a time when pretty much everyone is stuck at home?  especially when over 50% of people using social media to check the news.  Putting in the effort to boost your social media following now means that you’re likely to see results immediately.  Even better, as you increase your following you’ll see more increases both short term and long term as your social media presence snowballs.  And unlike advertising, you aren’t just putting yourself in front of someone who you hope wants to make a purchase right then and there.  So if you provide a service that people aren’t really looking for, but you’re engaging with potential customers on social media, they’re more likely to see you on social media when they *are* looking for your services later on.

Search Engine Optimization

Google logo

Search Engine Optimization is always important, but it’s also the only option on this list that doesn’t have short term effects (normally).  That means that for a lot of businesses it has to take an unfortunate back seat to the other forms of marketing.  You want a return on your dollar now and not in several months.  So a time when you suddenly have more money to play around with in your marketing budget is a great time to finally tackle your SEO.  And the lack of short term results isn’t as important when the short term benefits for marketing are down across the board as people self-quarantine more and more.  In other words, while the downsides to putting your money in SEO are still there, they aren’t as noticeable right now whereas the benefits are still as strong as ever.

Deals on Products

Sale

Finally, depending on what you provide now might be the time to offer some deals.  A great example would be some of the phone companies in the US.  I’ve heard of several that are either increasing the data they’re giving to all their customers for free or even in some cases temporarily giving customers unlimited data plans.  Now obviously, being larger companies they can afford things like this.  Don’t run yourself and your business into the ground trying to look like a hero but it’s still important to recognize the effect that offering help in times of crisis can have.  Obviously, there’s the fact that it will certainly be easier to sleep at night.  That doesn’t really impact your business though.  What does impact you is the goodwill you create among your customers.  If you provide a service they need or one they really want right now, they’re well aware that even if you raised your prices they’d still probably buy it.  So when you offer a deal instead, while the cynical types like me will recognize it for the smart strategic choice that it is, most people will look at how it’s a gesture of goodwill.

Online Trade Shows?

photo of trade show attendees

Alright, this isn’t something that exists, as far as I can tell, but it’s an idea that I had.  And since it’s just an idea I haven’t fully fleshed it out yet so bear with me.  With conventions and conferences being cancelled, many of them are turning to online formats.  So what if there could be an online version of a trade show?  Perhaps a Facebook group, though that seems too disorganized to me.  Maybe an online forum?  Or maybe a website with information on all the various companies taking part with some sort of online version of a trade show booth.  Like I said, this is more of something that I’m mulling over.  I might even go into more detail on it next week (I make no promises though), but it’s still something to consider.

 

That’s all for now.  Hopefully these five options (well, four options and an idea in the back of my mind) will help you decide on a marketing strategy that your business can pursue in these chaotic times.  If you’re not sure what option would be best for you, or if you’d like a hand implementing your strategy, get in touch with us.  We’d love to help you out so that we can all make it out of these difficult times safely.

CommunicationMarketing

tissues and mug

The coronavirus has been pretty big in the news.  If you’re like me you’re probably already groaning about reading yet another article about it.  But I realized that there is a very important thing that businesses need to consider, regarding this pandemic.  We all know that if there’s a quarantine businesses will obviously lose sales as people stay home and only purchase necessities.  But before we even reach that point, something else will be affected first.

Conventions

If you’re a local business, your marketing plan might be about to change.  Currently, conferences, trade shows, etc. all across the world are being cancelled.  In addition to working for Panda Rose, I also do some contracting in the healthcare informatics industry and a big tradeshow coming up in Florida was cancelled the day before it was scheduled to begin.  The NBA has canceled games.  Ironically there was even a conference on the coronavirus that was cancelled because of the coronavirus.  The coronavirus is now officially a pandemic and it’s gradually spreading across the world, along with the panic and toilet paper shortages.  As it spreads, local and international events are all being cancelled in an important effort to slow down the speed of infection so that our hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.

a shopping cart full of toilet paper

What does this mean for you?  If you or a conference your business was attending are in an affected area, it means you suddenly have more money available in your marketing budget.  If you aren’t in an affected area though, it doesn’t mean you won’t be affected.  It just means you’ve got a bit more time to plan for when that happens.  But in both cases, you need to know what your options are.

Your Options

This brings us to my main focus today.  Marketing is about putting yourself in front of your audience.  That’s why tradeshows can be so effective.  You are physically in front of them interacting with them.  But when people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and it becomes impossible to be physically in front of your audience, what can you do?  Not too long ago, your options were radio and television ads.  That was it.  And even then, if your audience didn’t want to stop self-quarantining they weren’t going to go in to your store anyway.  But the internet has created a much different world.  You can show up on people’s computers through their searches on search engines and on social media, both of which are much more personal than a tv spot.

Ultimately, your main options are

  • Ads in various formats like radio, tv, Google, and YouTube
  • Focusing on social media
  • Optimizing your Search Engine Optimization
  • Some combination of the above

Next week, I’m going to do a deep dive into the pros and cons and associated costs associated with all your options if the tradeshows and conventions you planned to attend get cancelled. I’ll also give you some tips that your marketing department can implement to improve your online presence that won’t cost a cent, but for now I want you just to start thinking about it.  I’m not telling you to cancel all public appearances and hide in your house for two months, but you should start thinking about contingency plans in case your marketing strategy needs to make a sudden u-turn.

EducationSEOUncategorized

Understanding Local SEO

Local search engine optimization is a tool for local small to medium businesses that want to target a regional market.  The goal of local SEO is to make it that when somebody is searching for services you provide, you’re the one that shows up first.

Note: If you’re more of an auditory learner, you can also take a look at our Youtube video on this subject.

You’ve probably heard of local search engine optimization because you’ve received *that email*.  You know which one I’m talking about.  The one that says “I took a look at your search engine optimization and I’ve attached a report for you.”  It has performance, search engine optimization, and a variety of other different rankings and under SEO it usually says something like C- or D, sometimes it even says F.  Unfortunately, this is usually true because most people’s search engine optimization is not optimal.

example rankings from SEO reports
You’ve probably received a view reports that have something that looks like this…

However, the person who sent you that report doesn’t know much more than you from that report because he used an automated online search engine optimization report such as SEOptimer to generate the report quickly, print it out, and send it to you. He probably hasn’t even reviewed the report. In fact, when you look at the second page of the report, you’ll see a section that usually says keywords and in that section, you’ll see something like ‘5 PM’ or ‘clock.’ Now, unless you’re actually making clocks or watches, I’m pretty sure these are not your keywords. But when you run an automated report and it is not being reviewed with your business in mind, those would be the keywords that you would see. So, what does this all mean?

Well, for one: He’s right, your search engine optimization needs work. So you need to take a look at your website to make sure that the technical details there are correct so that Google properly ranks you for your business in your region. But you don’t want to spend your time on somebody who doesn’t care about your business or simply doing keyword stuffing to fool Google into putting you first.

Google wants your site, or anybody’s site, to show up first when it is the correct site for the search that is being done. So if somebody’s toilet is overflowing and they have a bit of an emergency on hand, and they search for “plumber my toilet is overflowing.” Google does not want to be showing them YouTube videos of hilarious toilets overflowing. What Google wants to show them is a local plumber they can call right away so that their toilet can get fixed.

sandbox with toys
It’s not quite as fun as when you were a kid

There is a type of SEO out there called Black Hat SEO, where the goal of it is to fool Google into putting you at the top regardless of whether you are credible or authentic to that industry. These are the people who recommend things such as keyword stuffing, paying for backlinks from blogs that have nothing to do with you, and investing in “link farms”. Sometimes these methods work for a while. That’s why black hat SEO exists. But in many cases once Google finds out that you are implementing these methods and trying to find a way around their system, you get penalized.  In the worst case you can get what’s called “sandboxed” in which case you don’t show up on Google at all until you can go through an appeals process.

So how to you show up on top legitimately?  Well, there’s over 400 different factors that we’re aware of that Google considers to determine its page ranking. This is why there are many SEO firms out who can help achieve these high rankings. That being said the three factors we’ve discovered over our many years of doing SEO are:

  1. How authentic are you?
  2. How credible are you?
  3. How appropriate are you to the keywords that are being searched for at that time?

Authenticity

If you are doing it correctly and since all of you probably own legitimate businesses, this would be the obvious way of doing it. You want to target both the authenticity and the credibility side as well as all those technical aspects. Now, what is authenticity? It’s things like:

  • How long has your business existed?
  • How can we know that your business is a legitimate business in the region?
  • Where is your business located?
Toy robot
Google’s a bit fancier than this robot though…

Google’s a robot. They’re not hiring people to go and check every single business, call every single number. They’re looking at existing directories and then from those directories determining whether or not the business has been around for a while, determining whether or not the business is established, and determining whether or not the business is well known. So if you want a good ranking on Google, you need to make sure your Google Business page is set up correctly. You need to make sure that you go through the verification process, where they send you a little postcard with a little code on it, you type in the code and now Google goes “Okay, you exist and you exist at this address. Awesome.” Sometimes Google actually will call you too, but that’s a different edge case.

Google also looks at these aggregators who look at all of those directories online to try to generate which companies are out there. These aggregators pull from other map sites. So once you have your Google business site set up correctly and verified, then make sure you have a Facebook page set up with the exact same address as your Google business site. That means if your address is 123 Someplace Street and you spell it out S T R E E T, then your Facebook page should say the exact same thing. It should not say St. It should say S T R E E T because while Google can compensate for minor differences, we have found that the closer to an exact match everything is, the better your ranking will be.  It makes sense.  Because if you care about your business, if you’re authentic, you’re going to make sure that all of your directory listings are the same.  This is especially important if you’ve moved because from Google’s perspective if it sees two completely different addresses, it doesn’t know which one is correct. You need to spend the time to make sure they match.

Once you have your Facebook page set up then I would recommend you set up a Bing Places page, which sounds silly. Why would Bing influence your Google ranking?  Because Bing gets picked up by the aggregators and the aggregators feed Google.  So it’s very important to make sure that page is set up correctly as well. It’s also worthwhile getting a Yelp page setup if you can.  They will call you endlessly trying to sell you advertising. You don’t need it for most industries. It’s not worth following through on. that’s just their business model. It’s a perfectly reasonable business model but just being listed on Yelp is the important thing.

Outside of that. There are hundreds of other directories that get picked up by these aggregators, including your local Chamber of Commerce, which, if you’re not a member of, I highly recommend you pick up your phone and give them a call. Join Chambers of Commerce, they’re awesome organizations. Once you have all that together, Google can go, “this is an authentic site..” for a lack of better words for that

Credibility

Next Google looks at your credibility. This is your Google reviews, your Yelp reviews, and your reviews on your Facebook page. Google aggregates all those and goes, “Is this a good business? Are a lot of people going to and reviewing it positively?” Interestingly, having a couple of negative reviews can actually help you a bit in this case, because there are a lot of people who will review stuff., that will give an unusually high number of stars for their review and Google goes, “well, that looks a little iffy. Maybe we’ll dial them back a bit.” If you have a couple of lower reviews, it looks more natural. Google isn’t worried about spam.

How do you get reviews?  In this case, it’s really simple: every time you do business for one of your clients, you can write them afterwards with the invoice and go, “Thank you for your business. Please, we would love it if you would review our business.”  You can put a little link to your Google page and allow them to review quickly.  If you want, you can contact us and we’ll show you how you can get that link quickly to send with your emails. This will allow you to naturally and organically get those reviews and help build up the credibility side of your page ranking.

Keyword Targeting

archery target

Now on the third side, keyword targeting, there’s a whole list of ways.  It’s a very intensive environment. But the most important thing to get everything working correctly, is to make sure your site is accessible by as many different devices to as many different people as possible.

If you have images on your site with text, Google doesn’t read that text because Google is programmatically going through your site.  So make sure those images with text either have proper alt tags so that the text has a programmably readable version, or you get rid of those images and make sure you have just plain text on your side at that point. This is very important, not just for Google, but for any potential customer you have because if, for example, you have a blind customer visit your site, they won’t be able to see that image either. So it’s absolutely imperative that you concentrate on making sure that your site is accessible by as many different people as possible, which will also boost your ranking.

Google also takes into consideration how well your site runs on a mobile app, on a mobile phone, which means you need to make sure that your site is responsive so that when somebody goes to your site on the phone, it’s readable, it’s usable, it works well.  Since so many people these days use their phone to look up a business; if they get to your site and they can’t find your phone number because it’s in tiny little text, it’s of no use to them.  So Google is not going to promote that site. Once you get these things done, there’s all sorts of other factors. But just those three things will make such a difference for your SEO that you’ll probably actually notice an increase in your organic traffic if you do this correctly.

However, you have a business to run. You don’t want to be spending all of your time doing the technical work. If that’s the case give us a call. We can sit down with you and figure out something that works within your budget so that you can concentrate on growing your business and we can concentrate on helping you.

Mobile AppsProductivityTechnology

IPhone with apps

Mobile apps can make your life easier in a lot of ways.  Here are ten great apps I personally use to simplify and improve my life.

1. Feedly

feedly logo

Feedly is a news aggregator.  That means it allows you to see all the articles related to different topics or from different sources all in one place.  We’ve got ours set up to show us all the things related to Blogging, SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc.  Ultimately, which news aggregator you use is up to personal preference, but I find that Feedly is sleek and easy to use.  The fact that it’s also available on the web helps since I can always switch over to the desktop too.  The only downside is that since their logo is a rounded square with one corner missing, it drives me crazy.

2. Teams

Teams logo

Microsoft Teams is an alternative to texting, like Telegram, What’s App, and all of those, but in addition to chatting with contacts or groups of contacts, you can also set up teams where people can post and reply to updates and attach files.

3. Everhour

Everhour logo

Time tracking is obviously important.  Everhour makes the process simple and straightforward.  They have a free plan that allows up to 5 users though if you need more users or integrations you’ll have to go with one of their premium plans.  It works in your browser, as a browser extension, and as a mobile app, which means that you can track your time while you’re in or out of the office with a few clicks or taps.

4. 1Password

1Password logo

Did you forget your password again.  Well, it’s not too hard to remember it.  It’s one of the 1,000,000 passwords you use so that should be easy to remember.  Or you could just use 1Password.  If your phone has fingerprint detection capabilities you can fill in all your passwords just with your fingerprint.  And since you don’t have to worry about remembering your passwords (except for your 1password password.  Don’t lose that one.) you can go with those passwords that were written by 10000 monkeys on typewriters.

5. Kitchen Stories

Kitchen Stories logo

Kitchen stories is a cooking app with a major advantage.  In addition to the free recipes  in the app and added to it by users, it also includes free instructional videos on various cooking techniques making it easy to follow along while you cook.  I used it to learn how to make the perfect poached egg and now my eggs benedict is to die for.

6. Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive

Google Drive logoDropbox logoOneDrive logo

It’s hard to pick a favourite between the big three in cloud storage and file sharing.  Dropbox has the least free storage but it still has its benefits.  It would be a lot longer of a blog post if I went into which one you should go with and why.  I just think you should go with at least one of them.  That way you can easily access important files on any of your devices.

7. Overcast

Overcast logo

Apple’s built in podcast app is alright, I guess.  But Overcast is where it’s at.  It’s ridiculously easy to sort podcasts from newest to oldest, oldest to newest, or even sort the unplayed episodes one way and the other episodes another.  More importantly, since Apple removed their playlist feature, it’s easy to create playlists and smart playlists for yourself.  It’s only for IOS, but there are free apps out there that do similar things for Android if you can’t stand android’s built in podcast player.

8. Duolingo

Duolingo logo

I’m probably not telling you anything new for this one, but Duolingo is definitely one of the most fun ways to learn a language.  I’ve been doing their Russian course and I’ll probably try out their new Latin course too.  If you haven’t heard about Duolingo before, they are

9. Scannable

Scannable logo

A few years ago, the scanner attached to my printer stopped working.  While trying to repair it I discovered Scannable.  To this day, my printer’s scanner still doesn’t work.  Scannable is an app that allows you to scan documents using your phone’s camera.  You’d expect a low-quality scan, but I’ve been able to get better quality scans using Scannable than I get from the office printer.

10. Every Dollar

Every Dollar logo

My wife got me hooked on budgeting.  Our life is so much easier to manage now that we’ve budgeted it.  The app we used to help us manage that budget is Every Dollar.  If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, you’ve probably heard of Every Dollar since it’s his app.  It’s great.  It’s easier to use and gives a clearer picture of your budget in my opinion than Intuit’s Mint which is the most popular budgeting app.

 

By the way, the answer to the riddle in my last post Game-ing the System is: The man had the hiccups.  So the bartender pulled out the gun to scare his hiccups away.

ProductivitySelf-ImprovementUncategorized

Habits to keep you organized at work

A tidy work place not only looks good but actually helps you stay focused and productive. We’ve all spent time looking for things that get lost in the mess, so keeping a tidy desk will help reduce clutter which in turn reduces stress. Did you know that a clean desk actually saves you time, spurs on creativity and communicates professionalism. That’s right, it might actually have more of a benefit than just looking neat. These are some ways I like to stay tidy in the workplace.

What I organize constantly:

My deskDesk

I have a specific place for my bags when I come into the office at the beginning of the day. I keep one water bottle or glass of water on my desk, during the day, there’s no need for more than that really (unless I’m drinking coffee, then you can find my coffee cup as well.) I keep only one pen, and one highlighter along with my daily planner on my desk. Anything that comes out of my desk goes back right after I’m finished with it. My biggest tip is to clean off your desk at the end of the day so you have a fresh start the next morning. Keeping only the things you need on your desk eliminates unnecessary clutter.

 

 

My daily planner

I like my day to be planned out in front of me on paper. Once a task is completed I check it off or highlight it. This helps me balance my work load throughout the day. At the end of the week I make a plan for the next week (so I don’t forget tasks over the weekend) and when I come in on Monday I eliminate the ‘Monday fog’ and have my day already planned for myself. I update my planner frequently during the week and balance out my work load if any new tasks arise.

My Computercomputer

Instead of keeping all tabs and programs open, I like to filter through the things I am absolutely finished with, save and close them. If I have a few things on the go I simply minimize the programs until I am actually working on them. This way I don’t tempt myself to jump back and forth between projects. But can focus on one thing at a time and close projects when they are completed. I go through my emails/voicemails (like most people) at the beginning of the day and throughout the day I reply to the ones that require my attention as well as delete any junk mail that may come through.

 

What I organize occasionally:

Files

My whiteboard

I have a whiteboard on the wall by my desk and this is where I jot down things that I need to look at daily. I don’t update this as often as some things are analytics, strategies and reminders. I do however make sure that when I jot down things on my whiteboard, since they will be there for a while, that I keep it looking neat and legible.

Computer Files

This is something I will admit that I need to be more organized with. I have a tendency to save documents or pictures in the ‘all files’ or ‘all pictures’ category. I do however still go through and move files and pictures into their correct places. Just like your paper documents this keeps the clutter out of your computer files.

Desk Drawers

Desk drawers are sometimes a dangerous place! If you want something off your desk it gets thrown into a drawer as fast as possible, out of sight out of mind right! Cleaning out your drawers may be more rewarding than you think! You may find your favorite pen that you were sure was lost to the darkness behind your desk. I’m curious what the craziest thing was that you found in your desk drawer you didn’t even know was there!

Organization bonus:

Since I am the social media specialist at the office, I definitely organize my social media accounts. Going through your social media and cleaning up old tweets, Facebook posts or Instagram photos is a great habit to get into. Keeps your accounts looking fresh and professional. Once a year I go through the accounts that I follow, and I unfollow accounts that no longer serve purpose to me, are spam, or accounts that hinder my mental well being.

 

Share some things you like to do to keep organized or if you have some tips for me leave a comment below!

CommunicationSelf-Improvement

What place do personal beliefs and opinions have in an office?  On the one hand, conversations around the water-cooler about politics or religion can lead to tense working relationships to say the least.  On the other hand, conversations about the weather aren’t conducive to building strong friendships.  The heated nature of political and religious discussions arises because those beliefs are fundamental to who we are.  We have an emotional investment in them and when the topics come up we start speaking with our emotions.  So instead we discuss the regular small-talk and keep our work-life and our private-life as far away from each other as possible.

Nuclear Explosion
Don’t let your workplace conversations turn into this…

Now, personally, I think this is a fine status-quo for a large company.  Each employee represents the company first and foremost.  You aren’t going to be friends with the CEO so the office small-talk when you’re stuck in an elevator with him makes sense.  But I’m not so sure it’s the best way for a smaller business.  The biggest advantage of a small business is the personal connection between the company and the customer.  The most important tool in building that personal connection?  Seeming like a person.

The human connection is an amazing asset for small businesses, but it doesn’t come out of thin air.  It comes from building friendships between you and your coworkers and between you and the customer.

 

Donair
Now I’ve done it. Now I want a donair,

When I go to a big box retailer I’m not there to say hi to any of the staff, I’m there to get what I want and get out as quickly as possible, I’m polite to the staff of course but I don’t want to hear their life stories.  But when I go to a small family-run business like my local donair restaurant I want to know if the owner’s car got fixed, how is kids are doing, if his wife got back from her trip, etc.  Sometimes it seems I stop in because I want to catch up, rather than because I really want a donair.  Why?  Because, since he doesn’t have to represent a faceless corporation, he’s free to chat about life while he prepares my donair and to infuse his workplace behaviour with his personality.

Not to blow our own horn, but Panda Rose is another great example of that personal connection.  The other week I was sitting at my desk when the boss came over and said, “I need to see you in my office.”  A single sentence that is able to put the fear of God into any employee.  When he said it to me all I could think was, “What have I done now…”  I walked into his office, gingerly sat down in the chair facing him, and prepared myself for the worst.  “I need your help finding a Catholic priest to bless our offices.”

It goes without saying that I was taken aback ever so slightly.  This wasn’t quite the phrase I was bracing myself for.  But I rallied myself sufficiently to manage a simple, “Uh… what?”

Panda Rose Office Blessing
Even the server room got a blessing.

Because our office is such a tight-knit community, the boss knows that I’m Catholic.  We’ve seen each other at different Catholic events and I met him through a mutual Catholic friend of ours.  He also knows that I’m good friends with a lot of Catholic priests in the area.  So when he wanted to get a Catholic priest to bless our offices, he figured he could let me handle it.  I got my parish priest to drop by and bless the offices and as you can see, things went very well.

How did this happen?  Because in our office environment we’re comfortable talking about our opinions and beliefs.  They don’t dominate the discussion, and it’s never in an argumentative or confrontational way, but because we know we can have conversations on the stereotypical taboo workplace topics we’re able to understand each other and work as a team better than if we felt we had to walk on eggshells when talking about our personal lives.

One important thing to emphasize is that I’m not telling you to be obnoxious about your beliefs.  Don’t yell at your coworkers because they voted for someone else.  Don’t make every single conversation about your religion.  Don’t be annoying about it.  What I am saying is that if you are able to have friendly conversations about controversial issues where both you and your coworker walk away understanding each other better, you’ve strengthened your team, not hurt it.

Social MediaTechnologyUncategorized

geometric panda head

The office has two 3D printers, not just any 3D printers, these were built by our CEO himself. We decided we wanted to print everything we could think of. We wanted to see how the printers would hold up, how successful the outcome was and what kind of things we could make!

A Phone Stand

Phone standphone stand with phone

The phone stand took a total of 6 hours to print. This is super functional if you are a frequent Facetimer and constantly find yourself propping your phone on a pillow. You can use it to watch movies on your phone, or keep your phone in a super functional position while at your computer.

Geometric Wall Hanging

geometric panda head

The sky’s the limit when it comes to 3D printing. Next we printed a cool decoration to add some life to the office. This also took a total of 6 hours to print. If you’re looking to add decorations to your house 3D printers are an amazing tool, you can print out exactly what you like, the color and size, depending how big the printer is. Which brings me right into our next print job.

Dog Figurine

dog figurine Dog figurine

This one quickly became a favorite. Anyone would love having a super cute dog to look at while you work! If you’re not a dog person, a cat can be printed up just as easily and as cute. Even though it may not look like it, the dog is actually quite small for size, standing only a little taller than the phone stand, it fits nicely into anyone’s hand, even small children.

A Cookie Cutter

cookie cutter

The cookie cutter has been printed many times by us before and for good reasons! It takes about the same time as the others to print, and is a great gift to give to others. If you’re wondering if we’ve tried it out, we have in fact and it worked just as expected, perfect. The last, but definitely not least print job is by far the most ridiculously fun.

Finger Soccer

finger soccer

Yes, you can in fact 3D print games! Who would have thought? While a tournament has yet to be played we pulled the finger soccer fresh off the printer today just to get amazing pictures of it. It’s super fun and comical.

3D printers have so many uses, from pure entertainment, to super handy, to adding life to your office. Next to be printed is Barbie furniture, more pandas, of course and definitely more games. We are proud to say the printers haven’t had trouble, yet (the Barbie furniture itself will test new limits on the printers) and the outcome of each job was better than expected. Follow us along on Facebook and Instagram  to see new projects and how our journey continues.

BloggingEducationMarketingSEOUncategorizedWeb Development

Today when people are searching for your business they are mainly going to their phones or computers to find you. Google is the biggest search engine out there, and if you aren’t on board, people may be missing you. Starting a Google My Business account or optimizing your existing one is vitally important for your business and how it appears in searches.

Setting Up a Google My Business Account

Google My Business listings

If you haven’t set up a Google My Business (GMB) account yet, you’ve got one mission for today…set up a GMB account! No seriously, it may seem like just another place to add your business to but this one is important and here’s why. When people are searching for a product or service they jump onto Google. For example, searching “office supplies” pulls up the Google accounts of places that offer these supplies. This image is what your GMB account will show up like. You will see the rating of your business, location, some images and much more as you go in further. If you have a good GMB account, this may even show up before your website listing. The initial set up is straight forward, but it’s the actions you take in each of those steps and after your account is set up that makes or breaks your account.

Images Are Everything

images are everything

When you have the option to add pictures of your business, always, always do it. You don’t want to resort to stock images because Google will find them and remove them. Take this chance to show off your business, inside and out. Take multiple pictures of the front and inside of your building. People feel comfortable when they can see different aspects of your business. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer either. Take clear, well lit images of the first place you see when you walk in, the staff and definitely your products. Don’t make people feel like they are going on a blind date when they are coming to you. If a business adds stock images as their product photos or avoids images of their building, I usually question why their products weren’t deemed “good enough” to make it to the front page. Or what the building looks like so I wont drive past, or wonder if I’m at the right address. Including these images shows you are proud of your work and prepared. Add pictures of the people working there, recognizing a face when walking into a business, even if it’s just from a picture, helps puts people at ease and builds trust.

Take advantages Of Features

using features

Just recently, Google made it available to get a short name for your business. Creating a short name makes it easier for people to send links to others to leave a review. When adding a logo to your profile be sure corners aren’t being cut off and it is a good quality image, a square usually works best. Choose a header that represents your business well and be creative when writing your business description. Please don’t copy and paste directly from your website, make your description unique.

Post regularly

Post regularly

Be active on your Google My Business account, post every week about new features or products. Bring to life aspects of your business that go unnoticed. Posts will expire so keep your account updated for the best reach. Regularly check your categories because they are often updated and new categories are added that you may want to be found under.

Reviews

reviews

Reviews aren’t as scary as they seem. We have an entire blog post about how to manage bad reviews. So when it comes to Google reviews, don’t be afraid to ask customers to leave a review after their visit. It’s a great way to hear about their experience and gain exposure! Although in the event that a bad review pops up, don’t take it personally. Be professional, address the issue, create a solution, if it hasn’t been solved already, and apologize for their experience. Keeping emotions out of it is the best way to professionally solve a problem. Since you can’t control the actions of others, it starts with you. Don’t become aggressive or invalidate their experience. Accept it and always apologize, then respond to them in a positive way. This is important. Always respond to reviews, good or bad, in a positive manner. Recognize that some bad reviews are good. Many people want to look at bad reviews just like they want to look at good reviews. They take note of how you responded and what your solution was to the problem.

Creating a Google My Business account increases the amount of people you reach. It helps give more information about who you are and what you do. It encourages people to find you in other areas, like Facebook or maps. You don’t want to skip on an opportunity for people to see your business and to gain more customers.