When Solamar started, we were completely virtual. In those days, the decision was made both out of necessity and a desire to escape from the confines of the traditional corporate environment. For five years we stayed that way, but as we grew, we wanted to have a place to call home, so we opened a fantastic space in Birmingham, AL, in which those of us who live there have been happily working away for the last four years. Now, with nine years of business under our belt, and a staff that’s grown to around 20 people, we’ve decided to return to our roots and go virtual once again. Continue reading
Nurturing the correct business voice for your brand is imperative, if you want to speak to your target market in a language they can relate to and clearly understand. Your online voice gives your brand a personality on your landing page, website, social media pages, blog posts, and any other place you interact with customers, fans and prospects.
With so many people trying to engage the same customers, your voice is what helps you rise above all the chatter to build trust and an emotional bond with your peeps.
According to CBS News MoneyWatch, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” The article says that you can have innovative ideas, but if you can’t deliver them in a way that connects with your target prospects and customers and relates to them in a meaningful way, you won’t get long-term results.
So, how do you go about cultivating a voice in your market? It’s a whole lot easier if you follow these 11 simple steps: Continue reading
Many small business owners believe that building a brand is only for the big guys with mega-bucks. That is so not true! According a recent article in the Arizona Republic, “Small business owners often discover—sometimes the hard way—that branding is a surefire way to make or break a product, service, or company.”
Creating a clear and powerful brand is the first step toward success. Then, the next (and even more important) step on the way to generating a lasting impression is to reinforce your brand with consistent communications and messaging across all online content, including your website, landing pages, social media, blog, email, and online ads. You need a steady, dependable platform for your passion that’s relevant and meaningful to your target audience, if you want them to believe in you and your business, as pointed out by Chelsea Berler, Solamar’s Founder and CEO.
Inconsistent brands dart around here and there…and confuse people. Whereas, consistent brands solve problems, reinforce positive experiences, and make people trust a business. According to Yahoo Business, “Part of optimizing your web presence is to ensure that you are consistent across your various web properties so that no matter where someone finds your business, they are left with a compelling, lasting impression.”
That’s why it’s so important to recognize the many and varied benefits to a having a consistent brand. Continue reading
You have a passion for a specific niche, one that is waiting to be tapped (or so you think). You quickly jump into opening your own online business to break into that niche. You spend a ton of money, time and sweat to open an office, have someone develop a professional-looking website for you, pay for web hosting the site, and hire an assistant.
But unfortunately, the customers are not knocking down your door, and your income is marginal, at best. Even after a year or two, it’s more of a hobby than a real business.
Is it worth saving? What could you be doing better? Continue reading
It’s easy to tell when berries go bad…they get fuzzy coats. When fish spoil, they stink. When bread gets stale, it grows blue-green mold. But, how do you know when a brand gets stale? And more importantly, what should you do about it?
Is your brand getting stale?
“Brands are organic,” says Huntington Post. “It takes time to create one worthy of your company, but by the time you launch it takes on a motivation and an existence of its own. The brand becomes bigger than the company itself, or any individual within the company.”
But unfortunately, brands deteriorate over time. Usually it doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. According to the blog on Huntington Post, “Colors, fonts, styles, and voices come and go like fashions over the years, and what was relevant for your brand ten years ago may no longer be worth pursuing.” In other words, it’s time for an update if your brand feels and sound like bag phone from the 1980’s instead of a 21st century iPhone 6!
Keep in mind that your brand needs to stay clear, relevant, and consistent across all communications from your website to social media to customer communications. You need an obvious platform for your passion, if you want others to believe in you and your business, as pointed out by Chelsea Berler, Solamar’s Founder and CEO. But if the words that originally described your brand no longer carry the powerful message they once did, no longer stand out to grab your customers’ attention, and/or no longer describe your business today, it may well be time to take a new look at your brand.
Another reason to refresh your brand is when sales begin to taper off and are underperforming. Updating your brand with new focus may be what it takes to boost sales. That refresh can also help you target an added market segment. And create new, exciting markets into the future.
Symptoms of a stale brand
Overhauling your brand image can be tricky, since you don’t want to alienate your current customers. So you don’t want to take it lightly. That’s why you need to watch for the symptoms warning you that it’s time to refresh your brand, says Rob Bloxham:
- A crowded and competitive marketplace—A strong brand helps you cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace, giving potential customers a reason to choose you and current customers reassurance that they have chosen the best.
- The market has grown but your market share hasn’t—If your sector is surging ahead but your bottom line isn’t, warning bells should be going off. A stronger brand and its continued promotion are powerful tools defending your market from the competition.
- Marketing is falling flat—Similarly, if you are spending on marketing materials and promotion, from sales pages to Google ads to social media to web content and PR, and they are not converting into sales, the problem may be your brand that is failing to hit the mark.
- Customer confidence is waning—If customers don’t trust your brand, they won’t trust or try your product or service.
- Your brand is outdated or irrelevant—It makes your business look just as passé. A current, clear, professional, exciting, and confident brand speaks volumes about the company behind it.
- Business is good, but you want to get to the next level—At first, you might even think “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But a refresh can help you sustain and even accelerate the next phase of growth.
A few cures for SBS (stale brand syndrome)
A brand refresh isn’t just about updating your logo or tweaking your website. It’s about defining what you offer as a company that makes you stand out and gives customers a reason to choose you over the competition. And that makes it vital to the growing small business and entrepreneur to find a cure for SBS:
- Review your brand strategy—Take a fresh look at it every 6 to 8 months and rethink all the elements in light of what’s going on in your industry and in the world. Do the language and words that describe you need tweaking?
- Keep it relevant—Watch trends, stay informed, and keep a finger on what your market wants and needs now, as opposed to what it wanted a few months ago. For something really new, you might want to think about trying a podcast
- Keep it buzz-worthy—You can’t allow your brand to get boring and dull. So, keep it buzzing with relevant content, events, launches, announcements, contests, social media, and innovations. (FYI, it really works…just ask the ALS folks about their ice bucket challenge!)
- Keep it trendy, but true—A recent Solamar post explains the importance of keeping your marketing fashionable…maybe even ahead of the trends, “…when it comes to marketing, your success depends onyou keeping your finger on the pulse and your ear to the ground of what works for your market. You need to recognize what’s hot and what’s not, and understand what might be making your marketing passé. But above all, keep it true to who you are and what you do.”
- Tell them what’s new—Whether you’re launching new products, just wrote a book, or are giving a speech, tell your audience all about it.
- Keep your online presence and print materials fresh—When customers keep seeing the same old stuff year after year, customers start to tune it all out. Or worse, they will start to hate it. For tips on keeping your website up-to-date, check out our recent post.
The best cure for a stale brand is the easiest. Simply give a shout out to the rock star brand building pros at Solamar.
When you run a small to mid-sized business, getting top results in search engines such as Google is critical to being successful. After all, people who want to work with you need to be able to find your business website on the Internet.
For tips and observations, I personally recommend that you take a look at the recent SearchMetrics 2014 ranking factors report, which points outs that:
- Quality content
- Key phrases are important in theTitles, H1, description and body copy.
- The quantity and especially the quality of backlinks remains important.
No surprises here. This is the stuff that smart SEO writers have always been advocating. Sure, it’s important to use an active voice, write intriguing headlines, include links, use meta tags, etc. But there are other important SEO considerations, as well.
“Keyword” research is important…but now, so is LSI
Contrary to popular opinion, you should continue to do some keyword research. Keep in mind, though, that a keyword search looks for a specific word that is either there or isn’t. There is no middle ground or gray area. A piece of content is evaluated solely on keywords and phrases, especially headlines and phrases that are keyword rich.
That said — the focus now is leaning more and more to LSI, otherwise known as semantic searching. This involves using more synonyms and related words in your web content than simply one word or phrase repeated again and again. LSI can be used in conjunction with a regular keyword search, or in place of one, with good results.
Length doesn’t matter as much as you think
SEO gurus used to think that long content came out better in searches. However, sometimes a short article or post will still generate a lot of shares or comments, which does affect placement. According to representative John Mueller, Google doesn’t count words on a page to determine ranking; in a comment thread, he cited the fact that Google also searches 140-character Twitter posts.
The key is to make sure your SEO content is unique and compelling, and that’s the long and short of it.
Link up with stronger links
Entrepreneur, in a quote from the book Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website, said, “To get high search engine rankings, you should be providing quality inbound links to related, quality page contents… Use the competition in your niche to figure out which links are high-quality and where they link to and from. Studying the competition will help you get a higher ranking faster, and you won’t be doing it blindly.” (Entrepreneur delivers more tips on how to do this.)
Add new content to social bookmarking sites
Basically, social bookmarking sites allow users to post their favorite websites, using tags (or keywords) to categorize and organize them. Then, other users can take these bookmarks and add them to their own collection or share them with even more users. Some of the most popular social bookmarking sites are:
And, be sure to add social sharing buttons (for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) to your content, blog and site to make it really easy for people to share.
Stop spending a lot of time on image tags
Some sources keep telling you that descriptions and ALT tags for your images are important to ranking. But the simple truth is that image tags do not greatly affect ranking. They may make it easier for users to get your images to appear in Google results. But according to the Open Algorithm Project, this often recommended SEO copywriting tip doesn’t dramatically lead to a better listing of your web page or site.
Keep checking your ranking… algorithms change
Being at or near the top doesn’t mean you’ll stay there. That’s because the “engine” for searching is constantly evolving. For example, Google changes their algorithm 500-600 times per year. And, as Google spokesman, Matt Cutts, explains in this video, the results are always in flux.
But there is the one thing about search engine results and SEO that will never change: Well-written, original, informative content will always be rewarded and in the long run, perform best in searches.
It boils down to quality content
According to the tips and infographic from Bit Rebels, “In the end though, it boils down to the content you share, the keywords you use, and the way you promote your content…Stay true to your passion, good content always draws visitors…”
It’s not sexy, but according to Heather Lloyd-Martin, “Writing…without at least an inkling of solid SEO writing knowledge can hurt you. It’s cool if you want to write your own content. Just know that someone will need to add some SEO sizzle when you’re done.” And the bottom line is that getting more traffic is what’s really sexy, right?
For that kind of real SEO sizzle, talk to the experts at Solamar.
No matter how good looking your website is, if the design has stayed the same for a little while one of the best things you can do is give it a refresh. In fact, even if you have a brand new design, it is still important to track its performance and evaluate exactly how well it is performing. If any part of your site isn’t meeting expectations, than a refresh of that section could turn things around. One of the first things you need to do is make sure that you have decent analytics (such as the free Google Analytics) set up for your site, and that you view regular reports on traffic and other metrics. Remember that it can take 6-months to a year to gain enough data to have a good understanding of how you are performing, so give your self at least that much time in between redesigns. Performance will fluctuate, and it’s important to appraise it over time.
Once you have enough data in hand, you will be able to decide if refreshing your website will mean working on a complete re-branding, or just changing the layout of your home page or the language you use in your messaging. Either way, it can breathe new life into any existing site, simply by providing your visitors with something new and unexpected. Even a tiny adjustment to layout can increase engagement with even semi-regular visitors, as people will indulge their natural curiosity just to find out why things have changed.
And hey, we lead by example! The design team at Solamar has just finished a refresh of our own website, and we’re super stoked to show it off to the world. You should totally click through and check the whole thing out, but stay tuned here, I’m going to go through some of the changes, and why we made them. Weeeeeeee!
Adjusting to the Landscape
One of the things that you need to be constantly aware of when doing any online work is that the internet is a moving target. The moment you commit to a design, the technology and aesthetic of that design begin to become outmoded immediately. Here at Solamar, we pay attention to trends in design internationally, and we are always trying to make sure that our site (and our clients’ sites) are always on the forefront of what’s cool and what’s possible. We’ve taken inspiration from emerging trends all over the web and molded them together into a new vision for our site.
Our new homepage continues a movement toward the heavy use of big, attractive images, and we’ve embraced a longer style of page design that understands the fact that people are willing to scroll a lot more on their touch devices. To accommodate that choice, we’ve adjusted our design to more clearly delineate between different sections on an individual page. We start with a big ol’ team picture (I’m the silly one all the way on the right), followed by a quick description of what we do best. Following that, we’ve split our work showcase into two sections, and given them as much screen real-estate as possible, so we can really show off our work!
In addition to looking fabulous, this new “edge-to-edge” type of design makes it even easier to make the site responsive across all devices and screen-sizes, as well as making the design pop even more on really small screens.
The Team Behind the Screen
With any refresh, you also need to focus on making sure your personality, or the culture of your business, come through. At Solamar, we’re really proud of the work we do for our clients, and part of that work is the people that do it. Our personality infuses the design that we do, the way we interact with clients and each other and it is a fundamental part of Solamar and why we do things the way we do. Our team is distributed across the country, but that only means that it’s been even more important for us to build a group of people we all really trust and love. We work hard at keeping everybody tight-knight, and we want to show that off to the world.
To that end, we’ve redone our “What” and “Who” pages to bring even more light to them. On the “Who” page, we use the new “edge-to-edge” design aesthetic to make sure everyone’s smiling face gets as much space as possible, and we changed the portraits to color! Yay, color!!
Even on the “What” page, which is about the services we offer, we’ve included a bunch of photos, not just of some of our work, but of the team being all full of togetherness and kindheartedness and such. Oh yeah, and of course a picture of me being silly.
Sweat the Details
We’ve made a host of other small tweaks and adjustments throughout the site, too many to get to here, but you should be sure to poke into the corners of your site and make sure it hasn’t gotten too dusty, or broken down where you haven’t been looking. Do your research before you commit to any refresh. Make sure you have the data concerning it’s performance necessary to make informed decisions. Find inspiration out there in the internet wilderness. There are so many people doing so many cool things, and you won’t know about it until you search for it.
And as always, if you’d like a little help refreshing your site, give the team at Solamar a shout, it’s what we do, baby!