Non-Keyword Related Things That Hurt SEO

A graphic of a smartphone and laptop with with analytics on their screens.

For many non-search engine marketing professionals, they’re often told keywords are the most important component of SEO. But over recent years, having a website that offers a positive user experience has been proven to be more important than relevant keywords. There are many things that impact positive user experience and below are twelve things that hurt SEO.

The Site Isn’t ADA Compliant

ADA stands for The Americans with Disabilities Act. The act was established in 1990 and it prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including the Internet. 

For a website to be ADA compliant, people with disabilities must be able to read and understand the content on the site. This means a transcript for audio-only media and closed captions on videos. Website ADA compliance also includes page contrast, the placing of descriptive text behind images, and organizing the site in a way that is easy for screen readers to access the content in a logical way. A site that isn’t ADA compliant hurts SEO because the site isn’t accessible to everyone.

If you want to learn more about ADA compliance, be sure to check out the seminar we are presenting in October at the Enterprise Center.

There’s No Blog Or Blog Posts

A blog is another thing that provides sites with a positive user experience and by not having one can it can hurt SEO. 

Blogs provide  positive user experience because they help build brand trust. Regular blog posts give sites fresh content, and by not utilizing one, it can give users the impression your site hasn’t been updated in a long time. 

Another way blogs improve SEO is you’re able to rank for long-tail keywords. Longer, more specific keywords are good for businesses that are small and have big name brands as competitors. Half of all searches are for terms that are four words or longer.

Thirdly, a quality blog gives sites more reasons to link back to your site.

No Social Media Posts

Just like with blogging, by not being active with social media you are hurting your SEO. An active and engaged social media presence sends search engines the signal you have good authority. Additionally, social sharing drives traffic to your website and social media profiles rank in search engines.

Slow Page Speed

With positive user experience in mind, slow page speed greatly hurts SEO. In today’s instant gratification world, people are impatient and want information fast. A slow page speed also means search engines can’t crawl as many pages.

Technical Errors

Technical errors like broken links and missing pages hurt SEO. You don’t want people coming to your site only to find the thing they need is broken.  You can use Google Search Console to see if there are any technical issues with your site.

No SSL Certificate  

Naturally, Google prefers sending users to trusted sites. Standing for secure sockets layer, an SSL certificate creates higher consumer confidence and encrypts form data. You can tell your site has an SSL certificate by looking up at your address box and seeing if you have ‘https’ in your URL. Last year, Google started labeling HTTP sites as “not secure.”

Spam Comments

Spam comments are something every blog deals with, and unfortunately it can hurt SEO. Spam comments hurt SEO because Google considers where your site links to as a strong indication of what kind of site you are. The comments discredit you and impact your site’s authority. Be sure to always monitor your comments so you can avoid looking spammy. And remember, it’s your site and you can decide whether those comments appear. 

Poor Spelling & Grammar

You know how you can tell you’ve received a spam email by its poor spelling and grammar alone, well search engines are also wary of sites with these mistakes. According to Search Engine Land, sites with higher ranked pages tend to have less spelling mistakes and grammatical errors than lower ranked sites.

Too Many Page Links

Pages with too many links are not user-friendly. When you have too many links, you give Google the impression your content isn’t valuable and you’re trying to stir users to somewhere else. Always make sure your links are relevant and are not going to distract users from the content on the original page.

Duplicate Content

Google loves original content and sees duplicate content as a shortcut. When updating your site or adding new pages, double check that a significant amount of content is not anywhere else on your site. If you have some duplicate content on your website because it is useful for users, put ‘no index’ or ‘no follow’ on those pages so that they don’t hurt your SEO.

At Sperling Interactive, all of our work is aimed at creating positive user experiences. Whether we built your website or not, we can optimize your site for search engines and provide positive user experiences. To learn more about the work we do, give us a call at (978) 304-1730.

How To Optimize Your Landing Page

I spoke to a colleague recently that works for a corporate company as a loan originator. They mentioned having a landing page through their company and were looking for ways to better optimize their page, both from a conversion perspective and an SEO perspective. In today’s blog post, we’ll be breaking down what a landing page is, what  landing page optimization is, and how to optimize your landing page for both conversions and SEO.

What Is A Landing Page?

Sometimes referred to as a capture page, destination page, or a static page, a landing page is a standalone page web users are brought to after clicking on a search result, online ad, or the link in an eblast, newsletter, or social media post. Landing pages educate, encourage, and attract. Lead generation is the most common goal of a landing page.

Below are screenshots of landing pages we’ve created.

The landing page for Destination Salem's free travel guides.

The Cape Cod landing page for SunPower by BlueSel.

 

The contact section from BlueSel's landing page.

 

A landing page for the nonprofit, Bridgewell.

 

The section of Bridgwell's landing page that describes their services.

 

The 'Request More Information' section from Bridgewell's landing page.

 

The landing page for Be Better Now.

 

The testimonial and special offer from the Be Better Now landing page.  

What Is Landing Page Optimization? 

Landing page optimization is the process of enhancing or improving each element on your landing page to increase conversions and improve SEO. The biggest reason why landing pages fail is they don’t meet their audience’s needs. Unintuitive design, non-descriptive or misleading headlines, unrecognizable calls-to-action are all contributing factors. 

To work effectively, landing pages need to be curated for a specific audience and have a clear call-to-action. In today’s digital world, landing pages are often the first exchange people have with a business. They most often offer users something in return for their contact information, and we highly recommend businesses apply that to theirs to offer value. These offers are usually ebooks, subscription to the organization’s newsletter, or a free trial of a product.

If a landing page is meant to be read or convert, a good bounce rate is 60%-80%. If your goal is to drive traffic or have the user visit multiple web pages, a healthy bounce rate would be between 30%-60%.

Optimized landing pages can improve the overall ranking of the website they are on and can give more insights to Google on what your organization is about.

How To Optimize Landing Pages For Conversions 

Use Your Data

As we said before, the biggest reason why landing pages flop is they fail to meet their target audience’s needs. Design your landing pages based on the information you already have about your audience. Be sure to use the information you have of your audience from your website. It’s important to note that you make the most improvements to your landing pages by pushing them live and then making tweaks as insights and data come in about your audience.

Limit the Number of Calls-To-Actions 

You don’t want to overwhelm web users. Stick with one call-to-action and keep your text limited. People only read 20% of the content on a webpage so long sentences and paragraphs don’t work well. Just have the bare necessities.

Have Consistency

You need to make sure the messaging, design, and tone matches the search result, ad, social media post, or newsletter that brings visitors to the landing page. You want your page to match the expectations the visitor had based on their previous interaction.

Write A Catchy Headline

The amount of time it takes you to create a landing page is the amount of time it  should take you to think about the headline. Your headline is just as important, if not more important, than your landing page itself. Because no one’s going to click to your page if there’s no incentive to leave the page they are on. 

Keep The Most Important Information Above The Fold

The term ‘above the fold’ comes from the newspaper world. Digital folds are the points at which the user must scroll to gain more information.

Put In Testimonials

Testimonials help build trust. They are proof people love your business and they can also let visitors determine if they are the right fit to work with you.

How To Optimize Landing Pages For SEO

Have A Custom URL

A custom URL containing certain keywords can make the page more alluring for search engines. Make sure the main keyword for your page is in your URL.

Determine Relevant Keywords

Keywords are the words that you want search engines to rank your page for. You can do a Google search or use Search Console to determine the best keyword for your landing page.

Strategically Place Your Keywords

Once you determine your keywords, you’re going to want to place them strategically on your landing page. The areas you should consider are title tags, meta description, and your copy.

Have A Fast Page

Page speed has never been more important. We see fast page speed as one of the six pillars that makes up SEO. People will X out of your landing page fast if the page load is slow.

Don’t Do Once & Forget


SEO requires ongoing work. Check out this blog post we published back in May to learn why. As such, you want to make sure you use Google Analytics and Google Search Console once a month to see how your landing page is performing and how it can be better optimized. These two tools can inform you what people are searching for to find your landing page, how long users stay on the page, and if there are any technical issues with the page that need fixing.

At Sperling Interactive, we are masters at crafting optimized landing pages for conversions and SEO. We’d be happy to perform an audit of your landing page and give you feedback on how to improve it. We can also create a landing page for you and run a campaign around it. Give us a call at (978) 304-1730 to learn more about us and how we can serve you.

Website Launch: Topsfield Fair

We are so lucky! A couple of months ago, we blogged about redesigning the website for our existing client, Pest-End Exterminators, and today we are happy to announce that we have redesigned another website for an existing client, the Topsfield Fair

Known as America’s Oldest County Fair, the Topsfield Fair is an annual fair that takes place in Topsfield, Massachusetts. It’s a ten day extravaganza that ends on Columbus Day. Started in 1820 by the Essex County Agricultural Society, the Topsfield Fair was once a one-day cattle show. Today, the fair draws 450,000 to 500,000 visitors each year and has carnival rides and food, farm animals, live entertainment, and of course the Great Pumpkin Weigh Off!

Their Old Site

We designed their previous website back in 2014. Below are some screenshots from the former site.

The homepage of the Topsfield Fair's last site.

Another screenshot of the Topsfield Fair's old site.

The facility section of the old Topsfield Fair site.

The admissions section of the Topsfield Fair site.

Given their old site was made five years ago, it was time for a new one. The Topsfield Fair wanted a refresh as well as increased user experience and usability with their new site.  Ultimately, they wanted to make it easier for people to find what they were looking for without having to scour the site or Internet for answers.

The Creative Process

According to designer, Brady Hall, the challenge with this project was serving the site’s multiple audiences. “We hypothesized the target audience is parents, grandparents, nannies, and babysitters. Essentially, parents or guardians from the ages of 25 to 70. But ultimately, I wanted to design the site as if the kid is there, looking over the parent or guardian’s shoulder as they plan their trip to the fair. So as much as I had to make the site informative and user-friendly, I also needed to make sure the site had a fun look for kids and adults alike.” 

To help him, Hall looked at the websites of other state and county fairs. Then he looked at giant fairs and festivals like Six Flags and Hershey Park to see how they displayed information. “I really took a lot from their usage of hierarchy in font weights, color coordinations with specific pages, and the flow of the pages,” Hall explained. He incorporated a mega-menu to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for. 

When a user hovers over the mega menu, the various pages turn yellow, Topsfield’s other brand color. “The yellow is such a classic color of the fair-but it is an accent color and should be used as such-to highlight parts,” Hall informed. The use of yellow certainly helps users with seeing where they are on the site.

The new homepage for the Topsfield Fair site.

Another screenshot of the new Topsfield Fair homepage.

The new navigation for the Topsfield Fair site.

The education section of the Topsfield Fair site.

The Great Pumpkin Weigh-In section of the new Topsfield Fair site.

While our agency has become known for web design and development, photography is what grew our business. Founder/director Mike Sperling photographed events when he started Sperling Interactive in 2008 and one of his earliest events was the Topsfield Fair. With the new website, we incorporated photography from recent years. 

Our project manager/photographer, Lauren Termini, stated “the fair itself is highly visual – with lights, sounds, animals, food – so we were able to get really creative with the new site. With their new online presence, I am looking forward to photographing this year’s fair with their new site in mind.” 

Not only is the site playful and informative, it’s easy for the Topsfield Fair to use. Developer Mark LeBlanc shared, “the organization of the content management is easy enough for people to make edits. So the client can edit on their own.”  We developed the website in WordPress. Not only is WordPress easy to build websites with and edit content through, you can design customizable sites through it. 

If you haven’t been to the Topsfield Fair before, you don’t want to miss this upcoming season. Click here to purchase your ticket!

 

Interview With Our Project Manager, Lauren Termini

This year we hired our second project manager. Her name is Lauren Termini. You may been greeted by her either at our front door or over the phone. Lauren procures, plans, and executes website projects and advertising collateral. Not only that, she also photographs all our clients’ photographic needs from events and meetings to head shots. Lauren is hard-working, organized, and super friendly. We are so glad Lauren joined us in January and are excited for her to tell you more about herself today.

A head shot of Sperling Interactive's account manager/photographer, Lauren Termini.

Where are you from?

I always find this to be a tricky question because I have lived in many different places throughout my life. I was born in Las Vegas, and before my family settled in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania in 1997, I lived in San Antonio, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Avondale, Pennsylvania. Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania is located in the northeastern part of the state just outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

What is being a project manager like?

Being a project manager is fun, challenging, and full of variety. I really enjoy that every day is different, and I think my favorite part is immersing myself in, and learning about different industries in order to help each one of our unique clients.

What has been your favorite Sperling project to date?

Lauren: The Topsfield Fair’s new website. While overwhelming, the site has been really fun to recreate. The fair itself is highly visual – with lights, sounds, animals, food – so we were able to get really creative with the new site. With their new online presence, I am looking forward to photographing this year’s fair with their new site in mind.

Where did you fall in love with photography?

I cannot remember exactly where I fell in love with photography, but it was around sophomore year of high school when I enrolled in the Intro to Photography class as an art elective. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be an artist, and after taking all three photography classes my high school had to offer, it was an easy decision to apply early action to RIT’s Photographic Illustration program, specifically majoring in Photojournalism with a minor in Journalism.

What are your favorite things to shoot?

Wow, tough question. I love to travel, so I would have to say that photographing while I am traveling is the best, because it’s all new and exciting. As I have gotten older I have become more confident in photographing people, and I feel I do a great job at making people feel comfortable. While fun, people are a challenge!

How do you manage to run a successful photography business alongside a project management role?

Coffee, at least seven hours of sleep a night, and when I have a day with nothing on the calendar, I make sure to take full advantage of it. I rarely think about work and emails on those days as otherwise I’d burn out!

What do you like to do for fun?

Travel is near the top of the list, but I also enjoy running, eating/trying new restaurants (I am a huge foodie), visiting breweries, reading and I recently have started archery.

What is something no one knows about you?

I can walk on my hands and I used to be a competitive gymnast. Not many people in my adult-life know that about me because I ended my career when I was 17, but I still very much view myself as a gymnast, and probably always will.

We have done two other employee spotlights this summer. Be sure to check out our interview with our COO, Rachel Grubb, and our lead web developer, Phil Condon.

How to Have Brand Consistency

Work space with laptop, coffee, smartphone, and phone. The laptop is open to a graphic that reads 'brand.'

The more consistent you are with every aspect of your brand- messaging, style, colors, fonts, offerings, etc.- the more likely you are to build and maintain brand trust because consistency makes you look professional, authentic, and dependable. You don’t want your brand to be to your audience’s interpretation. You want everyone in your target market to have a clear idea of you, and not only that, be excited about your offerings! In today’s blog post, we will be covering four ways to have brand consistency.

Have A Brand Guide 

Every major brand has a brand guide and so should small and midsize businesses. A brand guide is a guide that dictates how branding elements should be used internally and externally to maintain brand consistency. Sections you want to include in your brand guide are voice and tone, brand colors and fonts, media formatting, and photography and graphic styles.  You want every time your brand is on display- be it your website, business cards, email signatures, letterheads, brochures, social media, blog, or signage- to be in sync.

Create Brand Consistency With Content Marketing  

Studies show that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates approximately three times as many leads. With statistics like that, it’s impossible to ignore content marketing as a marketing strategy. Not only that, content marketing is a chance to have brand consistency because you’re able to educate your audience and discuss your brand values. 

If you’re new to content marketing, here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you generate content:


Who is my audience?
What is my audience’s pain points?
How can I help my audience? 

Don’t Forget Your Brand Personality 

Your business is a living, breathing thing, and as such, it has a personality like any living being does. Be sure your brand personality comes alive in your logo and messaging.

Even though every marketing outlet has a different personality, as this article from ClearVoice states, “your messaging on LinkedIn may be less casual or more professional, but it shouldn’t sound like it’s coming from a different brand altogether. Think about it this way: There is the ‘at work’ you and the ‘at home or with friends’ you. Your personality is the same, but your mannerisms adjust to the context.”

Don’t Try Everything

In our last blog post, Marketing to Different Generations, we mentioned how every generation (Baby Boomers, Gen Xs, Millennials, Gen Zs) are all a bit different, and as such, how they are marketed to should be different. Don’t feel pressure to try every marketing outlet. We’ve all got marketing budgets. It’s important to pour your marketing efforts and energy into the outlets that make the most sense for your brand.

If your primary audience is baby boomers, don’t feel guilty if you’re not on the Instagram train. That platform draws younger audiences, and as such, would not make the most sense for your brand. If you’re feeling stuck on where to put your marketing dollars, ask yourself: does it make sense for my brand to hang out here? Remember what we said above brands being living, breathing things. Think of marketing outlets as places your brand hangs out. 

Have A Brand Experience 

Brand consistency isn’t just the marketing department’s responsibility. These days branding is also the customer’s experience. Or should we say the ‘brand experience.’ Every department in your company from upper management and marketing to sales, HR, and customer service should know and understand your brand’s values and mission. They should make sure their performance reflects what your brand is about. This integrated  branding approach can ensure you’re providing a positive and authentic experience to customers. 

At Sperling Interactive, we work hard to make sure our clients have brand consistency. From the content on their website, the layouts in their print collaterals, to their graphics on and offline, everything should be consistent. Call us at (978) 304-1730 to learn about the brand guides we create for businesses and nonprofits. 

 

How to Market to Different Generations

Graphic of four different age generations; baby boomers, gen x, gen z, millennials

As the world of marketing continues to expand, the ability to market to distinct niches is increasing. While everyone is unique and has their own preferences, research has shown that generational groups have a lot in common. This helps with marketing. By focusing on the different generations, a lot can be taken away for marketing. Having certain generations as target markets can save money and time by knowing the kind of people who will be receptive to particular ways of marketing. 

Target marketing is beneficial for learning about which specific customers the marketing should be aiming for. By choosing people with a shared factor, such as by location, gender, or interests, marketing can be more effective by focusing efforts only on those demographics. When thinking about the marketing, two important questions businesses should ask are “Who are the current customers like?” and “Who would you like your customers to be like?”. If there is any difference between the two answers, target marketing can help to get them more aligned together.

Different age groups can be a great place to start. The four main generations are Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964),  Generation X (born between 1965-1981), Millennials (born between 1981-1995), and Generation Z born (between 1996-present). Each generation is examined to see how they compare with particular marketing styles.

Baby Boomers

Of the generations, this group is the oldest in age and can be the least technology savvy. They can be found reading print more than any other generation. Thus, marketing in newspapers and magazines can best be applied to this age group. They also can be big fans of guides, catalogs, and books. Major pieces of technology, such as the internet and smartphones, were developed later in their lives. This explains why it took longer for Baby Boomers to overcome the learning curve and to implement gadgets into their everyday lives.

Still, Baby Boomers are emerging online and their online presence is on the rise. Many have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends online. Facebook and LinkedIn are the top platforms to find this age group. Baby Boomers emphasis on relationships can also be linked to how they like to have brand trust and brand loyalty with companies. Content with clear and brief information are delivered best over desktops and tablets. 

Generation X

As one of the middle generations, this age group is an assortment of people. As a result, the ways Generation X likes to be marketed can be comparable to Baby Boomers and/or Millenials. Although they are the smallest age group of people, Generation X should not be overlooked. They have the highest average income on the national level, which is reciprocated in their top-tier purchasing power

They use tablets, desktops, and mobile devices. Videos can be a nice interchangeable medium to use in this instance since it can show well on all devices. Additionally, blogs can be sought after for an organized and interesting application of information. Generation X still likes to rely on email to stay updated. 

Millennials

This generation is at the heart of the smartphone craze. They have the highest percentages of smartphone owners with 92% and laptop owners with 70%. Millennials have been the trendsetters for everyday technology, especially known for using phone apps, for anything from using social media to checking their bank accounts. Their ease with the constantly changing technology causes this generation to be able to learn and adapt quickly. The fast-paced environment is what they are used to. 

On the other hand, they are used to seeing a lot of media, so they can require more to entice them in comparison to the other generations. Thus, they want to be able to get information concisely. Information should be directly to the point. Still, Millennials often like to see creative and/or interactive media. Imagery can help attract their attention. They also engage with incentives, such as sales and offers. 

Don’t consider calling this generation because it is likely they will not answer the phone. Although they can often be found on their phones a lot, they still will not pick up calls. Texting or emailing are preferred in order to have clear and concise correspondences. 

Generation Z

As the youngest of the four generations, this group has grown up around technology. By being the generation to which it has become second nature to know how to navigate technology, they are most likely to catch up to Millenials with their mobile and online trends. Generation Z has another world available to them through technology, as seen through their vibrant social media presence; Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok, Twitch, and Musical.ly. are among their top mobile apps. 

Generation Z can work well with more creative content, such as through social media, quizzes, memes, and other graphics. They also are the most likely to make purchases from their mobile devices, such as from food apps or online clothing sites. It is important to stay up to date with popular trends in order to keep up to date with Generation Z.

Always Have a Plan

Target marketing to any of the four generations offers a concise plan to work with. Each of these generations’ expectations, likes, and dislikes provides information to strategically use for marketing. Considering the different elements of the generations makes sense based on how they behave and navigate life. It is important to realize who you are marketing to through different advertisements. Digital pieces will attract different people than those that gravitate to print pieces, which is what generational marketing is all about. The goal is to better end up understanding the connection between both the marketing and the customers.

 

This is the second blog post by marketing intern Maura Honan. The first blog post was about brand trust, you can read it here.

Brand Trust as Seen with 5 Companies

TOMS shoes on chalk

Just like it sounds, brand trust is all about establishing trust in a company’s brand. While this may sound simple, trust in a company can take years to build. Brand trust considers companies in a holistic manner. Consumers want to believe in a company they are about to buy from. Everything from their mission statement to their product information matters. Honesty and transparency are huge components in building strong relationships between companies and consumers.

Having trust in a brand leads to consumers continuously returning to the company’s goods or services. The connections that develop between businesses and consumers can also help long-term through a domino effect of positive outcomes, such as customer purchases, recommendations, and referrals. Brand trust allows for there to be a base of followers to maintain and grow the company.

Five companies are further explained below to provide a better understanding of what brand trust is about and how small businesses can take a page from their book. Although the companies range in how they function, they have great insights on how brands can develop better brand trust.

L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean prides itself in its heritage. The company began in 1911 with Leon Leonwood inventing the Maine Hunting Shoe.  Although L.L.Bean sells outdoorsy products, such as camp equipment, travel gear, and clothing, the brand focuses more on the social aspects of outdoor activities. The company’s marketing often shows families and friends happily engaged in a variety of activities. L.L. Bean’s passion for bringing people together can be seen in their outdoor programs, which are free outdoor courses for people with an L.L. Bean Mastercard. Through integrating the company’s own family stories, and also that of its customers, L.L. Bean has created strong brand trust.

Being a family-owned business or a family values business can be an easy element for a business to focus on in terms of their marketing. Similar to how relatability is imperative to building trust with people, the same goes for building brand trust. Being a company with family values tags along with ideas of teamwork, commitment, thoughtfulness, and responsibility. This can be shared through stories of the company’s history, or photographs of family members working together.

While a company may be family-owned, if that does not mean much to your business, then it does not have to be stressed in your marketing. There is not a straightforward plan that fits exactly with every company. The best way to decide on a direction to emphasize on for furthering brand trust is through taking the time to figure out what is worth focusing on both internally and externally. Being on the same page with everyone on a team is what makes a difference in being consistent and authentic. Ultimately, ask yourself what are your brand values and from there you can touch upon them in your marketing.

Patagonia

Patagonia has developed strong brand trust through their environmental activism.  They are thought leaders on sustainability. Patagonia has made many strides to be as eco-friendly as possible through their production standards, scientific research, and their Fair Trade certification. Some of their work practices are also sustainable, such as their excellent benefits for employees and promoting a Drive-Less program, which provides alternative commuting options to driving.

Their progressive social and political pieces have been able to spark conversation and bring added awareness to the issues they stand for. They dedicated their $10 million in tax cuts to environmental charities in protest of Trump’s tax bill and supported two U.S. Senate candidates based on their conservation stances. Patagonia is continuing to find ways to improve the environment and their efforts certainly make them stand out amongst other sustainable brands.

A takeaway from Patagonia’s brand trust can be how the company takes the time to try to better the environment. Both small and large companies can take action to help change the world. Positive impact can be as simple as people only using reusable water bottles at work. Or on a larger scale sponsoring a running race and only using paper straws and no plastic take away.

Other ideas could include taking a few minutes each week to pick up litter or making sure to turn off everything at the end of the day. A big part of sustainability is realizing that every action ends up being beneficial. Not every company has the resources to do extravagant environment campaigns, but any difference can still be made.

TOMS 

TOMS is a company that mainly sells lightweight cloth style shoes, but has recently added other clothing and accessories to their repertoire. For each pair of TOMS shoes that is purchased, another pair is donated. For every pair of sunglasses of theirs that is purchased, TOMS helps to restore people’s eyesight. As a result of this system, TOMS has been able to change the lives of millions of people. TOMS has been able to make a fortune for itself, while also spending and donating a fortune to people in need around the world.

Businesses have the opportunity to help their communities by giving back in a variety of ways. They can donate money, shoes, food, or even volunteer their expertise pro bono. Businesses can use their resources (consumers, connections, time, and money) to aid their community. Often, it feels good for businesses to give back to the local area that helps them do their work. Helping the community is something that is praised, so it is often not hard to promote it. While information should be shared on the company’s own website, email, and social media outlets, it can also be communicated to others through different local providers, including newspapers and radio. Marketing a company’s efforts for helping out the community can be beneficial on so many levels. One of these being brand trust because it shows the company is not just focused on themselves, but those around them too.

Ramblers Way

Ramblers Way is a company in Kennebunkport, Maine and Portland, Maine that makes sustainable clothing. Their sheep, garment production and retail are all contained within the United States, which the founder Tom Chappell felt was important. Ramblers Way is very detail oriented. Anyone is able to know what is happening at every step of the way as the company expertly describes it online. The company’s conscientiousness is also apparent in what they sell. With a smaller array of options, Ramblers Way can focus on what they believe in, creating clothing pieces in a sustainable manner. Together with Ramblers Way’s transparency, they are able to have excellent brand trust.

The clarity that Ramblers Way offers its consumers is impressive. Their website and social media platforms make it clear exactly how the company runs, such as explaining in detail the specific types of wool they use and the money they spend on donations. This can be also be reciprocated through other companies. Sharing information about the company’s past and present all work to aid brand trust.

Another part of transparency can be taking responsibility for previous wrongdoings, such as poor customer service because then the issue can be viewed as something which has since been improved upon. The more that is shared about a company, the better reputation and brand trust it will have.

Facebook

Contrastingly, Facebook is an example of an organization that has weak brand trust. The popular social media site has been caught in multiple controversies since its birth, but most recently regarding its privacy with user information. Yet, the company seems to have put minimal effort into taking any responsibility or making changes. Unfortunately, brand trust can be taken away from a company in minutes, while it can take years to build brand trust. Facebook has a lot of work ahead of itself if it wants to gain more brand trust again.

Companies that have gotten into controversial messes often lose a lot of their brand trust since there is no longer a strong relationship. Facebook has had recurring issues regarding their use of private user information. In response to these matters, the leaders of Facebook tried to sell excuses, but the lack of transparency caught up to them and people did not want to hear it. While sometimes certain problems cannot be avoided, what has been frustrating about the Facebook fiasco is that it could have been avoided. Even after the issue came to light, the company should have done a lot more.

Bumps in the road are inevitable, but knowing how to handle a crisis can change the situation. A key factor is communication. Sometimes that may be talking directly with a single consumer, but other times it may be sharing information with all consumers. Marketing can help to smooth out issues. Taking a moment to consider how best to approach the issue can be worth it in the long run. People are quick to remember negative things, but with the right plan of action it will all work out.

This blog was written by our marketing intern, Maura Honan. Maura is a communications studies major at Saint. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. 

 

Interview With Our Lead Developer, Phil Condon

Portrait Photograph of Lead Developer Phil CondonThe lead developer at an agency doesn’t just create websites to meet clients’ needs. They also serve as their team’s mentor, oversee how the development of projects is going, and contribute to the biggest web and/or app products. Our lead developer, Phil Condon, has mastered all of these responsibilities along with picking the best songs to listen to and cracking the funniest jokes throughout the workday.  Since Phil has a lot to offer, we decided to chat with him so our audience could get to know him better. 

Where are you from?

Salem, MA. 

What inspired you to go into web development? 

I originally got my Associates in Graphic Design from North Shore Community College and wanted to be a designer. Then as I was going for my Bachelors I decided I wanted to learn to code. I’ve always been interested in the Internet and spend a lot of time online so I eventually got interested in how websites are made. When I started at Sperling Interactive, I was a designer/developer but over time decided development was my strength.

Where did you learn how to develop websites? 

I am primarily self-taught having used various paid and free online resources like Team Treehouse, YouTube, and Google but I got my Bachelors of Art in Interactive Multimedia from Salem State where I took a few HTML/CSS classes.

What is your favorite Sperling project to date? 

It’s hard to pinpoint one single project. I enjoy working on sites that involve creating interactive elements that drive a better User Experience. Some websites I had the privilege of working on that have great UX are Bluesel, the campaign for the Concord Museum, Harbor Tours, Bridgewell, and Brunswick School’s admission site

What is your favorite part of the website building process? 

I really like creating something from nothing. At Sperling Interactive, we start with an empty text editor and over time we eventually have a fully functional website.

What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I can juggle! 

What do you like to do for fun? 

Play sports with friends, play video games, and develop my coding skill further. 

What’s your favorite thing to do in Salem? 

Live here. I’ve lived in Salem my entire life and have seen it evolve drastically over the last 27 years. I also enjoy being near the water and it’s interesting living and working in a huge tourist destination.

What is your key to success?

Having a clear plan from the beginning and persevering through any challenges that may arise.

Thank you Phil for all of your work at Sperling. To learn more about our team members, check out the interview we did last month with our COO, Rachel Grubb, here

School Marketing Tips to Elevate Your Institution

 

Photo of Three Boys at School

Private schools are just like businesses. For a school, enrollments are the equivalent to a service- based business acquiring clients. So in many ways, it can be helpful for a school to view themselves as a business, their students as their clients, and the other schools in their district as their competitors.

Though your students may not be around, you know there is still plenty of work to be done. Because as we argued you’re a business, and businesses can’t get complacent with their marketing and business development as clients come and go. As such, here are our top school marketing tips for those of you needing some inspiration.

Know Your Audience

You can’t attract your ideal student if you can’t describe them. The most effective school marketing campaigns work because the marketers behind them know and understand the target audience. To get you going, create a profile of your ideal student based on their demographic. To get you started on that student profile, ask yourself what are your ideal students’ gender, age range, and economic background? What are their parents’ priorities? APA classes, dual enrollment, career and technical education? Answering these questions will help you write better copy and know how where to delegate your efforts.

Identify Your Marketing Goals

Besides your target audience, another thing you need to identify is your school marketing goals. Every marketing campaign needs a goal as it guides what kind of content you produce and the category of your paid social media advertising efforts if you go that route. Some common school marketing goals are enrollment, donations, event attendance, and after-school programs.

Content Marketing

A blog is not only a great way to improve your SEO, but it can also provide valuable content for prospective students and their families. Your blog could be used as an outlet to spotlight students, special events, and school awards.

Another avenue you can explore with your blog is tip-based articles. You don’t want to post just content that is just there to sell your school. Families will crave informative based content too. As you know, your school isn’t just there for its students, it’s there for the parents and guardians too. Check out the blog posts we write for North Shore Christian School for some inspiration. On their blog, we not only write posts about school happenings, but we also have articles that help parents support their students with their schooling.

Newsletters are another excellent way to communicate with your target audience. Consider doing a monthly newsletter if you’re not doing that already. Like your website, make sure the format of your emails is meeting the needs of the growing number of mobile email users. Your newsletter can include recent blog posts, new hires, and upcoming events.

Have A Great Website

Your website is the hub of your online presence and as such needs to be great. It is often the first impression prospective students and parents will have with your school. Your website should be responsive (this means it appears nicely on every screen be it a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or TV screen), easy to navigate, professional, and personable.

The website should also be ADA compliant. You may have heard the word ‘ADA’ be thrown around a lot recently. It stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It became an act in 1990, and last year the state of New York saw 1,564 ADA cases. A portion of these cases were for websites. Every type of website over the last couple of years has been targeted by ADA lawsuits, both small businesses and big name brands. With that said, it has become increasingly important for all websites, especially school websites, to be accessible.

20% of the population has a disability of some sort and one in ten people have disabilities that present obstacles with using computers.

Do Press Releases

Developing relationships with local newspapers and journalists is an awesome way to get the word out about your school to the community. You want to make sure major school events like tournament wins, the opening of the school play, prom, and honor roll are documented in their publications.

Network And Partner With Other Schools

Networking is a must for small business growth and since we’ve already agreed that schools are businesses, you should be sure to network like businesses do. The relationships that are worth building with are counselors at lower schools since they often give referrals to students. Local chamber of commerce events are also worth checking out. You could make your school more marketable if your students are able to job shadow or intern at local businesses.

Get Testimonials From Alumni

Testimonials are powerful. They are more persuasive than any sales pitch. Getting testimonials from alumni can help build trust and credibility for your school. Not to mention everyone loves a good story about how somebody was transformed by a school. Consider taking your testimonial to the next level with a video.

We hope you found this article helpful. Sperling Interactive has worked with many schools in its eleven years in business. We would love to help yours if you need to outsource any work. We can be reached at (978) 304-1730.

Interview With Our Chief Operating Officer, Rachel Grubb!

A photograph of Sperling Interactive's chief operating officer, Rachel Grubb, with her dog, Dakota.
Chief operating officers are often the unsung heroes of corporations. They are oftentimes the glue that holds some companies together during periods of rapid growth or transformation, such as turnover or staff promotions. A good chief operating officer needs to be a person of the people: she must be organized, able to mediate and communicate effectively, possess attention to detail, and have the ability to put out fires.

Our chief operating officer, Rachel Grubb, has all of these necessary skillsets and then some. We are extremely lucky to have her, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t grateful for her dedication, commitment, and expertise.

Since Rachel is constantly working hard behind the scenes to ensure that operations run smoothly, we chose to interview her as a way of bringing her tremendous insight and skills into the spotlight for today’s blog post.

Where are you from?

My dad was in the Navy so we moved around a bit when I was younger.  I spent most of my childhood in Rhode Island, Florida, and Connecticut. After college, I moved to Boston and eventually made my way to the North Shore.

What got you interested in project management?

What got me interested in project management is how complicated the creative process is. At Sperling, I think what helps differentiate us from other agencies is our ability to help clients visualize their projects and offer exceptional project management from start to finish. It’s a complex process, but I enjoy being a part of that process with clients. We really strive to be available to answer questions and adapt, and ultimately deliver a quality product. A lot of companies are getting more automated, but we work closely with our clients so that we can make sure the project is moving in a good direction.

What is your favorite thing about Sperling Interactive?

Working with our team. We have a talented team of writers, designers, and developers and that collaboration is the best part of the day. Whatever the project might be, I’m confident that we can turn it around on time and on budget. And they’re just a supergroup of dedicated and fun people. We ask a lot of them every week and they deliver.

What is your favorite Sperling project to date?

We’ve completed a lot of projects. It’s hard to choose one. Overall, I enjoy working with local nonprofits and helping in a small way to make their work easier, whether it’s revamping their websites or providing more online tools to ease their administrative responsibilities. I had a great time working with the people at Lifebridge and Bridgewell on their websites and I admire what they do every day, so those were gratifying projects. But, it’s really hard to pick a favorite project. I’m just thrilled when we wrap a project or launch a site, and clients send a kind note to say thank you. That’s always a great email to receive.

What have you gained from working at Sperling Interactive?

I’ve gained more insight into what it takes to maintain a business – and the amount of endless work that it requires. It’s been amazing to work with Mike and sort of glean his work ethic—which knows no bounds. I’ve been very grateful for the opportunities that he’s given me at Sperling. As challenging as our days can be at times, it’s satisfying and rewarding to help guide complex projects to the finish.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I was born in Naples, Italy. Or that I’m a whiskey fan. Recently, I got to taste an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B517. Tasty stuff.

What do you love about Salem?

Salem has it all. It’s a beautiful coastal town with an amazing museum, Peabody Essex. I also like to run and bike, so being able to leave my house and hop on a bike or take a run isn’t something that I’ve always been able to do. I had to drive everywhere. Now, the car stays put. It’s great not being reliant on a car.

What also pulled me to Salem was its diversity. Here, there are people in their 20s but also people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. I like going out here and seeing a mix of people.

Salem is also a city that embraces its diversity.  When Mayor Driscoll terminated the contract with Gordon College, the City got national attention. But it’s important to call out discrimination and work to create a more inclusive city. And it’s evident that the Mayor and many people here work hard every day to keep Salem growing and thriving. It’s an exciting time to be living in Salem.

What is your key to a happy life?

Not sweating the small stuff. Not letting daily work stress interfere with enjoying time with family and friends. I can be better at this, but life is too short to be all about work. It’s important to unplug and unwind.

What do you like to do for fun?

Simple things. I like taking long bike rides. Reading books and listening to records with friends who have much better systems than I do. But the best fun is coming home after work and hanging out with my dog, Dakota. She’s just so happy and all she wants to do is to hang outside and watch the sunset. It’s a good way to end the day.

Our last employee interview was with our chief executive officer, Mike Sperling. If you’re a budding entrepreneur with agency dreams, you’ll love the tips he gives. You can read it here