Don’t be Blockbuster. Be David Bowie.

In 2008, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes said that “Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar in terms of competition.” Oops. Less than 2 years later Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy. As business leaders, we need to keep an eye open, to not just our competition, but new opportunities. Instead of being stuck in a rut like Blockbuster, we need to be more like David Bowie. We need to evolve. 

When David Bowie first broke onto the scene it was with a space-glam-folk fusion style of music and the hit song “Space Oddity.” Before long we met Ziggy Stardust, and were gifted one of my favorite albums of all time. Soon was Pin-Ups, The Thin White Duke, Tin Machine, a collaboration with the mighty Queen, and more. Never once, in all of his various incarnations, did David Bowie ever sell out. Listen to any David Bowie album and you’ll know it’s David Bowie. As business owners and leaders, we need to be prepared, ready, and willing (Jim Keyes, I’m talking to you) to evolve, grow, and change. 

This evolution for a business could be anything from completely reshaping the company to offering additional services. Take Darwin Smith of Kimberly Clark for example. Shortly after being named CEO, Smith sold off much of Kimberly Clark’s interests in coated paper and shut down less efficient mills. He then began to move the company into new products, particularly the Huggies brand of diapers. Kimberly Clark was still a manufacturing company, but focused on a new product line.

Full Scope Creative has gone through various steps of evolution in our 10 years as well. We started as a web design agency that did a little website hosting. In 2015 we branched out from focusing just on being a web design company to include graphic design and branding services. Soon after we added copywriting services. The evolution continues into 2021 with adding in social media management and SEO services. It’s all part of a healthy evolution for a business. We never changed who we were as a company. Our focus has always been to equip small business owners with the tools to promote their business, but how we do that has evolved and grown.

As business owners, we can’t allow our businesses to be stuck in a rut like Blockbuster. We need our businesses to grow and evolve. We need to keep an eye open to new competition, and more importantly, new opportunities. So whether you’re facing new competition or seeing new opportunities, don’t be afraid to evolve as a business. Embrace it. Jim Keyes may not have seen RedBox or Netflix as competition back in 2008, but 2 years later, he sure did. If you’re looking for new ways to help your company break out of any rut or tackle new marketing goals, reach out to Full Scope Creative today.

And do yourself a favor, and go listen to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, you can thank me for that recommendation later.

Don’t forget your company branding

A couple weeks ago, I saw a presentation from a well respected business in my area. The information was great and the presenter was fantastic. One thing that definitely bothered me, however, was how little the business used their brand in the presentation. As business owners, we have a lot on our minds. WIth all the balls we’re juggling, it can be easy to forget things at times. One thing we can’t forget, is to use our company banding in every opportunity we have.

In this particular presentation, the powerPoint was clean and sleek, but the design and colors used (the brand) didn’t match any of the businesses other marketing material. I had a presentation I was giving a few weeks later, and I was certainly not going to make the same mistake. My design put together a great PowerPoint template that included the Full Scope Creative color scheme, fonts, and tagline. A presentation in front of an audience of any size is simply too big of a spot to not use your company branding. 

There are some other key places that I have seen businesses miss a chance to use their branding. It’s not uncommon to see a brand not fully utilized on a business card. Yes, the logo is there, but the fonts used are different from that which are on their brochure or letterhead. I especially notice this on cards that are printed from Vista Prints. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re getting something printed for free, odds are it isn’t going to use your company branding to its fullest extent. 

I again hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you hand out pens that simply have your company name printed on them, you’re missing the mark. Countless times I’ve had a business professional hand me their business card and the logo is fantastic. Only for the same business professional, to moments later hand me a pen with the company name simple printed on it. In some cases, I get that the logo might not work well on that particular product, but that is part of what should be addressed in the brand design. A well designed logo, for example, should work in full color or in a simple all white design. For example, look at the Full Scope Creative logo on our business cards. It is very much our logo, but simply done all in white. By having the logo flexible enough to be full color or all white, it allows us to use the logo and full brand on a much wider range of promotional products, like pens, mouse pads, and more. 

One spot I see a brand not being used, and one that pains me to see, is a company not using their branding on their website. Part of developing a brand is making sure you are using fonts that are unique, but also easy to use in a number of places, such as on your website and email newsletter. Along with identifying the fonts to use, your brand should also identify the colors to use. I always find it so odd to be handed a business card with a blue background and black text, only to go to the website and see a green background with gray text. Both might look great – but the branding was not connecting between the two.

It might sound obvious, but it can’t be overstated how important it is to use your company branding whenever given the chance. As business professionals, I know we have a ton of things to keep track of and keep on top of. But we need to be mindful to use our company branding to its fullest extent, whenever we have the opportunity. If you have any limitations or issues using your company brand, we’d love to help! Contact us today and we can go over options for designing a modern and usable brand for your business.

What is a style guide?

I love cooking. I love experimenting with new flavors and combinations and finding new ways to combine ingredients. The freedom I have when cooking is one of, if not my main, creative outlets. There are times however that call for me to return to cooking basics and to use seasonings that I know work well together. When it comes to marketing my business, getting creative with my brand is never something I want to do. I lean heavily on my brand style guide instead, confident that it exudes my exact brand strategy. We did all the creative fun up front in the brand design, and now we use that brand design over and over again in our marketing. My mood board and brand style guide make up my trusty “basic seasonings” that I turn to over and over again for my marketing. 

The brand style guide is a carefully thought-out set of visual styles that communicate and articulate a business’ defined marketing strategy. It covers things like typography, color palettes, icons, font styling, and more. When we work with a new business or help a business through a brand redesign, creating a brand style guide is always our first recommendation. The reason for this is twofold: first, when we set out to create a style guide, we invest ample time researching our client’s industry, competition, and business goals. We get to know the client in-depth to design  a custom brand that will be the most strategic for their company. Second, any and all branding we do after that point will all be based on the initial style guide. The hard work is done, and we have simply to apply the new branding to every aspect of our client’s business. The guide will influence the logo design, business cards, letterhead, and website design. 

A style guide will also set the brand style for images and any stock photography we need to use. Recently I was putting together an email newsletter for Full Scope Creative and wanted to use a second text color. Being as I’m not a designer by trade, choosing text color is not my strongest skill. Having a brand style guide, I was able to simply look and see what the recommended secondary color for fonts would be.

I keep the style guide for Full Scope Creative not only on my computer as a PDF in an easy to find location, but also printed off and right next to my desk. By having the guide so easy to access, I can quickly reference it and keep my company branding on point and consistent. 

When it comes to marketing, having a brand style guide and mood board is as essential as salt and pepper. All the creative guidelines are set when the brand is developed, with the intent to use those standards over and over again. While I love the freedom I have when cooking to experiment with new flavors and combinations, your company branding needs to stay consistent and on point. If you don’t have a style guide or mood board for your business, contact us today!

Before Running a Facebook Ad

There’s no doubt that social media can be a powerful tool for any business. I’ve heard from some business owners who just can’t wait to start running a Facebook ad. Before you jump on board with that plan, there are a few things to make sure you have in place first. 

The first thing to do before you run your Facebook ad, is to make sure your site is worth going to. I’ve seen ads on Facebook that I’ll click on, and the site I’m taken to is just simply bad. If your site has a dated design or isn’t responsive, you have to question if it is really going to convert many sales for you. It would be comparable to running an ad on TV to get people to come to your store, only for them to find the store to be messy and disorganized. Facebook itself likely isn’t where the main sale is going to happen, so if your site isn’t ready to make that sale or conversion, hold off on the ad until you can get your site spruced up a bit.

If your site is all ready to go for running a Facebook ad, the next thing to look into is making sure you have the Facebook pixel set up. Setting up this Facebook pixel will allow you to track and monitor how many users are coming to your site from Facebook and from the ads you are running. You might have Google Analytics set up on your site (if you don’t, you should), but this tracking pixel from Facebook will allow you even more details as towards how well the ad is performing. Setting up a Facebook pixel can be a bit of a goofy process, so it might pay to have your web developer help with this.

Finally, once you’ve made sure your site is worth sending users to and you’ve set up the Facebook pixel, I’d recommend doing some ground work on Facebook first. Use Facebook for what it was designed for – building a community. Make some posts on your business page, get some likes, get a few comments. If you run an ad, do you really want to bring users to a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in 6 months? Not only will regular posts help your business marketing by just being active on Facebook, but if you run an ad and a user goes to your Facebook page, it won’t look abandoned. I’m not saying you need to post for a year before you can run an ad, but at least give it a month or two of regular posts and activity before you run an ad. 

Before you run your facebook ad, take the time to make sure your website is worth sending people to, be sure that you have the Facebook pixel set up and ready to track information, and make some regular posts for a while. By following these three simple pre-ad steps, you can make Facebook and social media a powerful tool for any business.

Direct Traffic

When you look at the analytics reports for your website, you will see a number of different traffic sources. Along with organic, referrals, social, and email, one that is sometimes overlooked is Direct Traffic. That direct traffic to your site is extremely important, as it helps to establish your domain authority. 

DIrect traffic is the users who, in a nutshell, go directly to your website without Googling for your business or following a link from one of your social media channels. Oftentimes, the users are manually typing in your domain name or clicking on a link they have bookmarked. One of the things Google is looking at when putting together their search rankings, is domain authority. By having more direct traffic to your site, Google will view that as having more domain authority since users are going to your site on their own with no referral source. The goal for Google all along, has been to provide search results to users with the best sites and accuracy. One of the ways to weed out the less helpful sites, is by looking at the amount of direct traffic that a site gets. If a site has no problem getting a large number of users to the site on its own, that’s a pretty good clue that it’s a quality site and worthy of a high ranking for the given keywords. 

So knowing what Direct Traffic is and why it’s important, the questions must be asked: How can we increase the direct traffic on our site? Unfortunately there is no simple snap of the fingers trick to make that happen. However, doing things like including your domain name on your business card or brochures can help point more people directly to your site, without needing to go through Google. I’ve seen success with my elevator pitch when talking to people by simply encouraging them to learn more about us at fullscopecreative.com. I recently ran an advertising campaign with a local radio station, and made sure that when we were writing the script that we included the domain name. In fact, when recording the domain name, we probably did more takes of that, just me saying fullscopecreative.com, than anything else. This is where the branding of your business really comes into play. How many times can you say www.mydomain.com to as many people as possible and get them to your site. Again it may not sound like much with getting people to check out your site, but it’s building up the direct traffic. The higher that number is, the more domain authority you have and the higher ranking you can get. 

Direct traffic is one of the most common sources of user acquisition a site can have. Having more direct traffic, will help to increase your domain authority in the eyes of Google. When you look at your analytics report for your site, you’ll see a range of traffic sources. Taking the time to boost your sites direct traffic, can have a significant impact on the other traffic sources as well. 

Does your site need a Firewall?

It can’t be said enough – it’s 2020 and cyber attacks and attackers are everywhere. Attackers can do a range of evil things to a site, from adding malware to crashing the site or even holding the site hostage. One easy to install tool that will help thwart these attacks is a firewall. 

A firewall is kind of just what it sounds like – a wall. It is a cyber wall to place between your website and an attacking user or hacker. A firewall will use a combination of advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to spot attacking users and stop them. Think of it as putting your website in a protective bubble, where the bubble controls who is able to interact with your site and it’s code and database structure. 

Full Scope Creative can easily add Astra Security to any of the sites we host. Along with bad bot detection, blacklist monitoring, and suspicious login alerts, Astra Security also provides an artificial intelligence powered firewall with automated malware scanner and malware cleanup. With a firewall like that provided by Astra Security, you can control things like whitelisting or blackinglistng IP addresses, block specific counties, and block certain actions a user may make that appear suspicious. And best of all – it does all these things without you needing to do anything.

Hackers are a constant threat with any website. It used to be that only sites that had incredible amounts of traffic or online stores needed to worry, sadly those days are long gone. Today, hackers and spammers will target any site, for any reason. Adding a firewall is a great way to keep your site, your users, and your business safe. Contact Full Scope Creative today foto get set up using Astra security and firewall for your site. 

XML Sitemaps

Back in the good ol’ days, when there was a new site, or even new pages, developers would manually enter the new site info to a search engine via a submission form. Not only was that time consuming, and an easy way to miss content, it was easy for spammers and hackers to sneak their way into search results pages. Fast forward to today, and we can use tools like Google Search Console and XML sitemaps to achieve those same results. And best of all – more effectively. 

The easiest way to make a sitemap, at least for a WordPress site, is to use the Yoast SEO plugin. After installing the plugin, you can generate the sitemap in a few clicks. One of the great things with a Yoast sitemap, is that it includes the date that the individual page or post was last updated. This helps to give Google as much data as possible to crawl your site as often as needed or possible. If you add a new section of content or pages, the sitemap will be updated automatically. 

You can also submit multiple sitemaps to Google Search Console. For example, if you have an active blog, you can submit one sitemap for the pages on your site, and a second that lists your blog posts. A sitemap is limited to 50,000 URLs (such as domainname.com/page-name or domainname.com/blog/great-article), so if you have a larger site it would be beneficial to split pages and posts into separate sitemaps. While we don’t have 50,000 URLs on the Full Scope Creative website, we still split our sitemaps that are submitted to Google by pages and blog posts. 

When I talk to clients about sitemaps, one of the questions I often hear is “Does my site really need a sitemap?” Google does give some guidelines for which sites should use one based on site size, size of site archive, and how recently the site was published. To keep it simple, I would say that if your goal is to be found in a Google search, your site is definitely in need of an XML sitemap that can be linked to Google Search Console. 

What used to take time and lead to possible mistakes, we can today use an XML sitemap for. Gone are the days of needing to manually enter new sites and pages to search engines. While there are times I’d love to go back to “the good ol’ days,” this is not one of them. 

Updating WordPress

There are a lot of things that I really like about WordPress. One of the things at the top of that list, is how easy it is to keep it updated. We recently took over hosting for a client who hadn’t updated their site for many years. We ran all the updates for the core system, plugins, and themes. All those updates were done in about 3 mouse clicks. And best of all, the site worked after all the updates were done. This is by no means saying that updating your WordPress site isn’t important – IT IS BEYOND IMPORTANT. There were obvious security issues with the old site, but updating to the newest versions was fairly simple. Before making a big update like that, however, there are a few things to do.

The first thing that should be done, is to make sure you have a backup of the site. The more recent – the better. We had a site we updated recently, and while there was a backup of that site from a week earlier,  just to be safe, I made a backup from that day. If anything were to go wrong in the updates, I could simply upload that backup and have the site up and running very quickly. It can’t be stated enough how important backing up a site is. Whether it is to your server, local systems, or a remote option (such as AWS), there is considerable security and peace of mind with knowing there are backups available. 

Another step to take before running a big update, whether you have backups or not, is to document important things like your Google Analytics code and what pages are on the main navigation. Yes, it’s rare, but updates can go wrong Elements, such as the Google Analytics code, can sometimes be erased. While that code would be in your backup, if you save a copy of that code, you can simply copy the code from a backup file (like a Microsoft Word file) and paste it back into your site coe. Some updates can cause site navigation to get deleted or changed as well. So documenting the order that pages were listed in the main navigation, can save you the time of having to reload the backup.

Ideally, when doing any big or significant updates like this, especially if you’re not sure of how they’ll go, move a copy of the site to a testing environment. By doing this, you’ll be able to run all the updates, confirm that the site works well, and then move the site back to the live environment. You’ll also be able to fix any issues that came up, before moving the site live. At Full Scope Creative, when we take over the hosting of a website, we first launch the site in a test environment, and perform any needed updates there. By doing that we can be sure that the site will be up to date when it is launched, and that the client experiences as little downtime as possible. 

When running updates on your site, especially any significant updates, it is always helpful to make a backup of the site and copy any important code. If possible, move the site to a testing or development environment before running any updates as well. Running updates in WordPress is fairly easy to do. Adding in these couple steps can make the process that much easier. While other content management systems can be difficult to update, updates to WordPress can be done in just a few clicks. And that’s one of the main reasons we use WordPress.

Getting the most out of images

It can’t be stated enough how important good images are on a website. They can make pages more inviting, easier to read, and play a key role in SEO. When it comes to getting the most out of the images on your site, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

I’ve blogged before about optimizing images, and some tools available on the web for that. But another key aspect to go along with that, is sizing images to fit what they are going to be used for. For example, if an image is going to be displayed at a size of 100×100 pixels, there’s no need to have that image be 1000×1000 pixels. Even if the larger image is optimized through tinypng.com, it will still be considerably larger in file size than needed. Whether you are using a program like Photoshop or a website like resizeimage.net, sizing the image closer to the actual size that it will be used on the site is the first step. 

When you are saving the image through Photoshop, be sure to select the correct file format. Odds are, you will use either JPG or PNG. The key determinant in which to use comes down to the image background. Do you need to maintain any areas of transparency in the image? If so, you will need to use a PNG. While PNG will provide transparency, it is also a larger file size. So if there is no need for transparency, a JPG will work perfectly. 

A third point to be mindful of is the name you give to an image. An image might have a name like img123.jpg from the camera, but that says nothing for what the subject of the image is. This is a great chance to use your site keywords as part or all of the image name, and paint a sort of word picture for what the image is of. For example, img123.jpg says nothing about an image, but jane-doe-ceo.jpg will tell that it is a picture of the company CEO, Jane Doe. The same can be applied to any keyword on your site or subject of the photo.

There’s a lot that can go into getting the most out of the images used on your website. But being mindful of the image size, the file type, and the name of the image, will help get the most out of your images. Good images will make your website that much more approachable, and give you the best results possible.

Google Search Console

There are any number of amazing tools available on the web to help improve your website, and make it as efficient and profitable as you can. One of my favorite tools is the Google Search Console. Originally built as Google Webmaster Tools, the Google Search Console is a one-stop place to make a wide variety of key updates for your website and Google ranking.

One of my favorite tools available in Google Search Console, is the ability to submit a sitemap for your website. A sitemap is a list of a website’s pages, or most important pages, that will help Google crawl and index those pages. In WordPress, you can quickly and easily make this XML sitemap by using the Yoast plugin. Yoast will create the XML sitemap and provide a link that you can easily copy and paste into the sitemap settings on Google Search Console. It may take a little time for Google to first crawl based on the newly submitted sitemap, but once it’s submitted you’ll be able to verify if Google was able to successfully crawl the sitemap, as well as the date it was added and the last date they crawled the site.

Another very handy tool available in Google Search Console is the ability to remove a page from the Google listings. There are times that a page might not be important or desired to have indexed any longer. While there are options to do this through either the sites .htaccess file or Yoast, it may be advantageous to remove it from Google directly. Whether it was an old sales page, old marketing, outdated verbiage, you can remove those from showing up in Google with the Removals page. Simply add in the link and allow Google to do the heavy lifting. 

Google Search Console is an amazing tool that any site owner should be using to help get the most out of their site. Afterall, over 90% of all searches are done on Google. Even though Google is an incredibly advanced algorithm, providing the search giant with as much input as we can will only help our results.