Alt Tags

When I was in college, one of my classmates was a guy named Brian. I remember that Brian did everything online. He bought his clothes online before most people would even think about it. He was an early Facebook user while most of us were still figuring out MySpace. He purchased his groceries online long before COVID made that the thing to do. Brian did everything online. Everything. One other thing I remember about Brian – he was nearly completely blind. One thing that helped Brian out considerably when he does things online, is the image alt tag. 

The image alt tag is the alternative text for that image. It describes what that image is. Simply put, if a user can’t see the images on our websites, their screen reader programs will be able to read off the alt tags to help provide a reference of what the photo is. Some people have a crazy idea that the alt tag is for Google and search engines. Let me be crystal clear on this – the alt text is for users with visual disabilities first and foremost. The alt text is there to make our websites as user friendly and accessible by as many people as possible. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to fill out the alt text for an image and provide the description of what is happening.

When you’re entering the text for the alt tag, if you can, use a keyword. Yes, having the alt tag filled out with keywords can be helpful from an SEO standpoint, but it is a distant second compared to making the site user friendly. It is one more chance to help spell out to Google what the keywords for the page are. Not just that, but it’s that extra step of work that Google likes to see. As site owners, if we take the time to provide quality alt text that can explain the image, and not game the search engines, we increase our chance of getting a better search ranking. Again I cannot stress this enough – the alt text is for users with visual disabilities first.

As I mentioned, including a keyword in your alt text, if it makes sense, can help your search ranking. But like so many other black hat seo tactics, if you are attempting just to game the search engines, they will sniff it out from a cyber-mile away and your site will suffer the consequences. Simple stuffing the alt tag with your main keywords and your company name likely won’t provide much to a user with visual disabilities. Simply explain the photo in a few short words and include a keyword if applicable. If there is no way to really work in a keyword, it might pay to ask if the question is really needed or if it’s the best photo available for the page. If a keyword for the page doesn’t fit in the photo, that might be a good indication that you aren’t using the right photo for that page and for the users, whether visually disabled or not. 

The alt tag is an incredibly important part of the images we have on our website. For users with any visual disability, it can make our site so much more welcoming and engaging. A site that is more user friendly and engaging tends to equal better conversion rates and successes. Whether we are selling clothes, groceries, or offering a cool social network, we never know exactly the abilities our users will have. Taking the extra time to fill out simple things like alt text, can mean all the difference in the world to users like Brian. Let me reiterate one more time: alternative text is for users with visual disabilities first, search engines come in at a distant second. 

Don’t buy backlinks

Answer: A Rolex for $10, a $2 steak, Enron stock.

Question: What are 3 things I would buy before I bought a backlink for my website?

One thing I can promise you with SEO, is that Google is not going to pay any attention to the 10,000 backlinks you bought. In fact, buying backlinks is considered Balck Hat SEO. So instead of buying backlinks, what should you do? 

The simple answer, really, is anything. The $10 or $100 you would have spent buying backlinks would be much better spent on things like hiring a copywriter to write 2 or 3 great blog articles, boosting a couple great posts on Facebook, or taking a client out to lunch and having a great conversation with them. Heck, even buying a phonebook ad would be better use of the money. 

Not only will buying backlinks not get your site ranking anywhere, it could very well set you back. Realistically, it could set you back in a couple of different ways. The time you spent, and we all know how valuable time is, could have been better spent on any other task. Literally – any other task. Not only is it a waste of time and money, but Google can sniff out those purchased backlinks from a cyber-mile away. Google has stated that they are opposed to the ideas of purchased backlinks – and we never want to do anything to upset Google. Simply having those purchased backlinks could knock your site down in the rankings. 

That said, proper backlinks are very helpful. Instead of buying them, focus on ways to earn quality backlinks. Links to your site from quality, reputable, and authoritative sites can have a huge impact on your sites ranking. Work to get an article published in your local newspaper. Join trade associations who can add a link to your site on theis. Identify your key referral partners and share links to each other’s site. Any of those links will have a considerably better impact on your sites ranking than even 100,00 purchased backlinks. All it requires is a little bit of leg work on your part. 

Backlinks are a key part of the SEO puzzle. But they need to be quality links, not the cheap rubbish ones you can buy for a nickel. Google will know the difference and rank your site accordingly. Buying 10,000 backlinks for $10 might seem like a tempting offer, but it won’t get you anywhere you want to go. Focus on getting quality backlinks, and use that $10 for just about anything else. Even Carnac the Magnificent wouldn’t buy backlinks.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

The common phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, is often attributed to Aristotle. Aristotle, a philosopher born in 384 BC, had a knowledge and expertise on subjects such as physics, biology, economics, and politics. One area that he doesn’t get much credit for, is being a great philosopher of SEO in 2021. I get asked often by clients and prospective clients, “what is the single, #1, most important, biggest thing I can do for SEO on my site?” With SEO, the truth is, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

With SEO, there is no single silver bullet idea or technique that will get you to the number one spot on Google. SEO has evolved to a much more throughout and strategized puzzle than it was in the early days. Back when SEO was first a thing, 1,000 backlinks from a random source was a sure fire way to the top. Today, even 10,000 backlinks from a random source won’t do a ton of good. SEO in 2021 is all about focusing on and improving a wide list of things on your site – over and over and over again. The tricky part today, is that any one of those things isn’t a huge deal in itself. But when they are all tied together, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. 

Things like image alt tags, are not a huge deal by themselves. Image file names are not a huge deal by themselves. Keyword usage, while certainly a bigger deal, won’t get a number one ranking all by itself. Page load speed, another crucial factor, isn’t necessarily a deal maker by itself. Having a minimum of 300 words of text on a page, while a great starting point, isn’t that big of a deal by itself. Having a proper page layout to improve readability and makes the users more engaged and happier, but by itself isn’t a huge deal. 

But take all of those things together – image alt tags, image file names, keyword usage, page load speed, 300 words of text at minimum, proper page layout – now the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. No one of those things will skyrocket your site to the top of the rankings. But put them all together, now we’re talking about a site that is going to be looking to move up the rankings. If you think of each of those as a separate cog in SEO, each needs to be adjusted and tightened, in unison with the others, to help your site get an upward ranking movement.

With SEO, the whole is for sure much greater than the sum of its parts. The days of a quick “get to the top” approach are over for SEO. It’s all a matter of staying faithful and diligent to making adjustments and improvements to each little cog in the SEO puzzle. Aristotle may not have had much of a clue about what Google was going to be over 2,000 years after his lifetime, but the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” certainly describes SEO in 2021.

If content is King, then layout is Queen

I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to a website, content is king. What Google and users want when they are looking at your site is high quality content. 300 words of text on a page is minimum. 2000 words of text on a page is great. But all that text simply displayed in essay form, will be overwhelming for most readers. The trick is to break up the content. 

If the content on our websites is King, the layout is Queen. The layout, realistically, is almost just as important as the content. I can’t imagine the dread my high school teachers would have when they’d have to read essay after essay that was submitted for homework. Double dreaded if they were hand written. Unlike those essays that are paragraph after paragraph, with a website there are endless ways that we can improve the layout. Adding in client testimonials, image galleries, videos, and call to actions are just a few of the easy ways to break up the monotony of plain text. 

With Elementor, Full Scope Creative’s favorite WordPress editor, it’s easy to setup these different breakout or highlight sections. In the Elementor editor, you can save a section as a template, and then easily drop it into any page where it might be needed. The great thing is, once the basic template is in place, the design will stay the same, but you can easily update the content of it. For example, on a site we’re currently building, there is a breakout section that spans the full width of the screen and has an image gallery. When that template is used on a specific page, say Window Cleaning, that gallery can be set to only show Window Cleaning images. When it’s used on the Solar Panel Cleaning page, it is set to only show Solar Panel Cleaning images. All done through the easy to use templates, but customized to the page.

If a paragraph is even running a bit long, simply adding in an image through the text editor is a great way to break up the text. Keep the image a bit smaller (no 2,000 pixel width images here) and position it to the left or the right. An image every other paragraph or so, especially on a wordier page, will help users to keep navigating the page. If it’s a sales page, be sure to include an option to buy or complete the transaction every no and then.

Not only will improving the layout of your websites pages be easier to read for users, it will also help lead to more conversions. More breakout sections or highlights means more chances for a call to action. More call to action buttons means a greater chance to bring a user to the key page to make the sale or fill out the contact form or schedule a meeting with you.

Having great quality content is key for a website. 2,000 words of quality text is great for a webpage, especially for SEO. But paragraph after paragraph after paragraph, can be an overwhelming site for most readers. Yes, content is King on a website. But while content is King, the layout is Queen. 

What should I call this blog article?

I’m a big advocate for writing blogs. I think any busienss should have an active blog. One thing I don’t always love about writing blogs, is coming up with a title for the article. One quick tip – don’t fret over it too much. 

So let’s go over two technical points of sorts on the titles. First and foremost, make sure the title makes sense. If the article is about how to build a new kitchen table, don’t name it “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Let your readers know what they can expect. Second, use a keyword if possible. If you can use one of your business or websites main keywords that would be great. SInce your blog doesn’t need to be 100% tied to one topic or area of what your business does, those main keywords might not fit. Don’t feel like you need to force a keyword into the title if it doesn’t fit. 

So that’s the technical side. The less technical advice I’d give is simple – don’t worry about it too much. It’s a title. That’s it. It’s the article that matters. Think about some other famous titles for a moment. If you think about it, a lead zeppelin is a lead blimp, and a deaf leopard is a leopard that can’t hear. But we know them better and Led Zeppelin and Def Leppard, two iconic rock bands. Not only did the names make no sense, they weren’t even spelled correctly. And even further – Led Zeppelin didn’t really name their first 4th album at all and the first three were barely titled at that. But even with band names that make no sense, they’re both incredibly popular bands. Why? Because it’s the content that matters. 

It’s simple, don’t fret over the title. Write great quality articles that people will want to read. Your blog should be about great content, not great titles. The most important part is simply having the active blog. 

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.