How To Build An Agency: An Interview With Mike Sperling, Founder of Sperling Interactive

Mike Sperling, founder of Sperling Interactive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 15, 2008 was a big and scary day for Mike Sperling. That day was his first day working full-time for himself after working at the Eagle Tribune for a number of years. Not only that, but that was the day the Lehman Brothers collapsed, causing the great recession of 2008. It was time of uncertainty, and Mike knew then he’d have to give his new business his all in order to flourish.

Mike’s business has come a long way in ten years. It’s no longer a one-man business. It’s now an agency located in a beautiful office on Derby Square in Salem, Massachusetts with 20 employees and 500 clients. With 98% of businesses failing within 10 years, Mike knows a lot about what it takes to make a business work so today we decided to interview him on how to build an agency.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

I wish someone told me the importance of setting boundaries. When you’re a business owner, you could literally spend all your time working, but it’s not healthy. Setting boundaries ensures you don’t burn out and have a better work/life balance.

What’s the hardest part about running Sperling Interactive?

Dealing with the anxiety of running a business. There are hundreds of decisions to be made everyday, some large and some small, and it can be overwhelming.

How do you provide good customer service to your clients?

I believe customers should feel important and have their needs listened to and acted on as soon as possible. I always try and hear my clients out. I think another way my company exhibits good customer service is we answer the phone when it rings as opposed to a computer. I feel this adds a nice human and personal touch for our clients.

What is your biggest tip for how to grow an agency?

I believe in slow calculated growth. There is no reason to take on debt or additional risk to scale the agency quickly.  Slow growth enables sustainability.

What’s something everyone should know about owning an agency?

While owning an agency is a lot of hard work, it is also a lot of fun. I get to think creatively and analytically all the time. If you’re someone who likes thinking these two ways, owning an agency might be a good fit for you.

A lot of people start an agency after having some success freelancing, how can one transition their solo career into a full-blown agency?

I would tell someone who is interested in starting an agency to take their time and to evaluate who they want to serve and what they stand for. The biggest difference between a freelancer and a business is a business has a targeted audience and a mission statement.  At Sperling Interactive, our targeted audience is businesses and nonprofits who want to reach and retain their targeted audience through custom marketing that speak to their brand. Our values are creative excellence, always going the extra mile for our clients, working like a family, and being accepting of others.

Click here to learn more about our staff.

Sperling Interactive's office.

Common SEO Myths Debunked

The word 'SEO' spelt out in Scrabble tiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do search engine optimization (SEO) for your business, then you’ve probably discovered that it’s constantly changing. It can be hard to keep up with what’s going on and there are a lot of companies out there claiming they’ve got the shortcut strategies (aka blackhat techniques) that can help you rank well. Today we’d like to debunk the most common SEO myths to bring you some clarity and help you properly optimize your site.


Myth #1: Keyword optimization is the most important part of SEO.

When we look at SEO, one of the key components we look at is keywords on site. So, yes, keyword optimization is important, but it’s also important to know that there are four types of keywords and, because of them, you don’t have to be so heavily optimized for exact target keywords anymore. New developments have been helping search engines understand synonyms, context, and relevance.  

Myth #2: More web pages will help rank better.

At Sperling Interactive, we always encourage our clients to blog. Blogging does, after all, give you more web pages and chances to rank for relevant keywords. But it’s important to note that your blog posts these days need to be of rich content and not thin content. Google is the most used search engine in the world and, as such, it wants to show its users the most relevant and rich content possible. Check out our blog post on how to optimize your blog posts.

Myth #3: Link building doesn’t matter.

Link building has changed a lot since SEO was invented. It used to be that you could get backlinks by putting your business’s information into business directories. Today, Google and other search engines value those links a lot less. To create effective links these days, you want to reach out to other industry publications and ask if you can be linked on their site. A good way to go about this is to ask them to a link a blog post you wrote to a similar blog post they have up on their site.

Myth #4: Having a mobile-friendly site isn’t that important.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website already, you should really hop on that now. In March, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. This means that it now prioritizes indexing the mobile version of a website over the desktop version. Google has started doing this due to the large spike in mobile search queries over the years.

 

Myth #5: Having a secure website isn’t an essential.


The newest component that Google takes into account when listing out results on search queries is security. Last month, Google began labeling sites that are not HTTPS as “not secure.”

At Sperling Interactive, we offer SEO audits. Contact us today to learn more about what you can do to better optimize your website.

Content Ideas for September

Autumnal props around a board that reads 'September. To Do:'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September is a favorite month for many people. Although it might have been years since you were a student, September may still symbolizes a fresh start for you. With it comes the return of crisp weather, school, and time to prep for the fourth quarter. It’s a month that comes with a lot of material, so here are our favorite September content ideas.     

Labor Day

Labor Day is September 3rd this year. Wish your community a Happy Labor Day and take this holiday as a time to talk about your company’s work environment.

Back To School

Use back to school as a time to offer value to students. Share the lessons you learned in school and how students can end up working in your industry. If your targeted audience is students, this is a good time to offer special deals to them.

International Day of Charity

September 5th is International Day of Charity.  Has your company donated to a charity or done any volunteer work? If so, why did you do it? Did the people in your company feel a connection to the organization’s mission? Did you want to help out a local charity? Or did you simply just want to do something good with your time? Unpack your reason(s) why on this day.  

National Day of Encouragement

There’s no denying all the negativity on social media these days. Why not add some positivity by sharing your favorite quote on September 12th in honor of National Day of Encouragement?! Quotes are great because they’re bitesize, to the point, and elicit an emotional response.

First Day of Fall  

Fall is one of the more popular seasons out there. Who doesn’t love foliage, pumpkin spice, and sweater weather? Go outside with your camera and take some photos of autumnal sights near your workplace. If you’re a product-based business, be sure to promote your seasonal products, if you have any. If you run a clothing store, put together some outfits with your inventory and post fall Outfits Of The Days (OOTDs). On the first cool day of September, you could take a photo of a white long sleeve shirt, black vest, black pants, and brown boots and say Han Solo season is here!

World Tourism Day

At Sperling Interactive, we’re lucky to be based in a historical and tourist-y city, but even if you don’t work in a city like Salem Massachusetts, you can still participate in World Tourism Day on September 27th. Make a list of your favorite things to do in your city and share it with your audience so they will want to visit. This can also be an awesome opportunity for you to shout out your clients and help them gain some business, too.

Holiday Season

September reminds us that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays are all on the horizon. Use the middle-to-end of September to promote any deals or special offers you will have in the last quarter of the year.

Having trouble coming up with content ideas? Contact us today to book a content brainstorm session.

Questions To Ask Your Web Designer/Developer Before Hiring Them

A group of people sitting at a desk having a meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Are you ready for a new site? Here are the best questions to ask a web design and development company to get the best feel for them and to see if they’re the right fit for your business.  

What services do you offer?

If you’re having a meeting with an agency, there’s a strong chance they offer more than just web design and development. They probably also offer branding, search engine optimization/search engine marketing, social media, link building, and blogging. At Sperling Interactive, we offer all those services, as well as photography and video. Websites and search engine optimization go hand-in-hand so, after you find out they do SEO, you should then ask them what kind of work the SEO team will do to help optimize the new site.

Most sole prioperitors who do web design and develop websites only offer website work, but it’s still worth asking them if they offer any other services.

Do you do custom websites or do you use a template?

Every company is different. Generally speaking, larger agencies do custom websites, but some do offer templates, while still others do a bit of both. Companies that find most of their business through the Internet should opt for a custom website as it will help them stand out among competitors. Templates are a cost-effective solution for businesses that don’t rely so heavily on their online presence.  

What is your policy regarding building websites for competitors?

Speaking of competitors, you should also ask the question outlined above. This question is important for two reasons: you can find out if the company

you’re speaking to works with your competitors, and if the company has experience working within your industry.

Do you have any case studies?

This is a must if you want to see if the company will give you a good return on investment. You should find out if the websites this company has built have seen changes in their conversion rates and increased online sales.

What is your website process like?

A company’s website process says a lot about them. It can give you insight into how long the website will take to make, who from the company will be involved in the project (sometimes you can find out the staff’s experience), and how much input you will need to give.

Who will write my content?

Every company is different, just like every business owner’s preference on this question. At Sperling Interactive, we have writers on staff who can write your content for you, if you’d so prefer. These writers have knowledge of SEO so they can ensure the content on your site is optimized.

What support do you offer after my website goes live?

The thing about websites is they’re never truly “done”. There’s always security and maintenance to look after once the site goes live. When you ask this question, you should also ask about hosting. Do they offer hosting? Who do they do hosting with? Read more about the hosting service we use here.

Interested in hiring us to design and develop a website for you? Contact Sperling Interactive today at (978) 304-1730 to schedule an appointment.

The New AdWords Interface

The word 'Adwords' spelt out in Scrabble titles.

 

 

 

 

 

In a few days, it’ll be July (can you believe that?!) and with that we’ll be in the third quarter. You’re probably thinking now about third quarter goals for your business, and one you should add, is monitoring your Google AdWords account to see if it’ll be switching to the new interface next month.

According to a recent article from Search Engine Land, there’s a chance that the new AdWords interface will be coming to your account this July. Google first announced the new interface two years ago. The Search Engine Land article reports some advertisers have already received notifications from Google that their accounts will switch to the new interface next month. Once the new interface is here, advertisers will not be able to switch back, and some features and reports will not be available in the new AdWords experience. Google will send email notifications before they switch over accounts.

Search Engine Land writes that this switch will not happen overnight, but by the end of the October everyone will be on this new interface. Google has promised it will not change people’s interfaces during November or December.

The article advises that users should learn the new interface as soon as they can. Although Search Engine Land writes that the new interface will be intuitive, it will still be learning curve either way.

Don’t be afraid to contact Sperling Interactive with any of your AdWords questions. We’re available at (978) 304-1730 and info@sperlinginteractive.com.

Why ADA Compliant Websites Are So Important + How To Make Your Site Compliant

Physical handicap symbol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADA is an acronym that stands for Americans With Disabilities and it became a law in 1990. This act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in any area of public life. In January 2018, new federal regulations were put into effect requiring all federal institutions’ websites to be meet AA compliance on all items.

Even if you aren’t a federal regulation, It’s been that more and more ADA compliance lawsuits are winning in court. With most people owning a smartphone and other mobile devices, it’s not a surprise that many of today’s discrimination cases are trickling into the digital world.

Today, any business that is considered a “public accommodation” must have an ADA compliant website. The most common types of businesses people considered to be a “public accommodation” include B2C businesses, retail, or any type of business the public could easily access. We at Sperling Interactive believe that even if you have a B2B business, you should still have an ADA compliant website. This will make you more SEO friendly, and also, who doesn’t want to accessible to all web users?

Other Reasons Why You Should Care

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 1 in 8 Americans have a disability, making them the largest minority group in our country. We’re in the era of the Internet, but that doesn’t ensure everything online is user-friendly for those with disabilities. Another fact from the Pew Research Center is disabled Americans are less likely to be found online. About a quarter of Americans with a disability say they never use the Internet. Disabled adults are 20% less likely to own a traditional computer, smartphone, or tablet. Groups of people who will be impacted by a non-compliant website include but are not limited to  individuals who have impairments with visuals, motor skills, hearing, communication, learning, and cognition.  

How Do I Make My Website ADA Compliant?

Your site probably already has some of the items for an ADA compliance website checked off, but here are some important fixes to make that are a bit more complex .

-The text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background.
-Website visitors must be able to navigate the site through their keyboard only.

-Those with a visual impairment must be able navigate with a screen reader software.

-Your website must handle text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout issues.   

Contact Sperling Interactive today to see how we can make your website accessible for anyone!  

Why Call Tracking Is Important

A person holding a smartphone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think phone calls are passé in today’s digital world? Think again! These days, marketers are relying on call tracking to optimize their digital advertising efforts.

What is calling tracking?

Call tracking, also known as call analytics, call attributions, and call intelligence, is a form of marketing analytics technology. It helps businesses measure the calls they receive from their websites and pay-per-click campaigns.

Why call tracking works

Phone calls lead to buys. After people engage with a business’ online content, what can push them to buy from that business is a phone call with them. It makes sense. When people make a call, their intent to buy is generally higher and they’re typically further along in the customer-purchasing journey.  Phone calls give them a chance to interact with the company, gain more information from them through asking questions, and ultimately determine if they trust the company.

Call tracking can teach you what keywords are working. The phone calls you receive will tell you a lot about how your campaign is going. If people start calling, asking for a service or product you don’t offer or make, you’ll know that you’ll have to add some more keywords to your negative keyword list and re-adjust your landing pages so you don’t misrepresent your business. In turn, this can improve your search engine optimization.

Call tracking can let marketers know when people are calling. By knowing what times people are calling your business, marketers can better run campaigns and divy up their budgets better so more clicks lead to phone calls.

Call tracking records phone calls. This can be beneficial for businesses as it lets them know how they’re communicating with potential clients and customers and ways in which they can approve. It also teaches them more about their target audience so they can continue to better their marketing and sales tactics and evolve their business.

Call tracking can track outbound calls, too. Outbound calls are just as important as inbound calls. Calling tracking can help you see how your correspondence with a potential customer or client is panning out.

Call tracking can help you see how your marketing efforts are going. With call tracking, you can really see how your marketing efforts are working and what marketing tactics are bringing in leads and conversions because of the data it provides. From there, you’ll know what marketing efforts to spend less time and money on.

Are you interested in installing call tracking for your website and digital marketing campaigns. Call Sperling Interactive today at (978) 304-1730.

The Four Types Of Keywords

The word 'search' in Scrabble letters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to successfully nailing organic search and paid search is keywords. Bidding on the right keywords will allow you to pop up in the search queries your target audience is using. Google and SEO professionals say there are four different types of keywords, and they are worth checking out as they can boost your traffic and relevant clicks.

Broad

Broad keywords are considered by many as the default keyword type. Broad keywords will give you the widest reach. They will match to search queries that have misspellings, synonyms, related searches, words out of order, and anything else that Adwords deems relevant. You want to be careful with broad keywords, though. While they can help you receive a lot of clicks, you want to make sure you’re not getting irrelevant clicks. Always monitor your campaigns and analytics, and make a list of negative keywords as you go along.

Broad Match

Broad match modifier are keywords that have a ‘+’ in front of the keyword. Important to note – you don’t have to put a ‘+’ in front of every word in the query, and the order of the words does not matter. Broad match are right in the middle when it comes to the four types of keywords and can perform pretty strongly. Through the plus sign, you can have better control of where your ads pop up by locking individual words.

Phrase

Phrase keywords are keywords that are put in quotations. For a search query to match a phrase keyword, it must contain all the words, or at least close variants, in the same order without any words in between, with additional words before or after. Close variants include misspellings, singular and plural words, acronyms, stemmings, abbreviations, and accents.

Exact

Exact keywords have the lowest reach, but the highest relevance. Exact keywords are put in brackets. Only ads that match the keywords exactly will pop up.

Need help choosing keywords for organic and paid search? Sperling Interactive would love you to identify the right keywords for your organization.

What Is Market Segmentation

A plant, smartphone, glasses, coffee mug, and keyboard on a white table.

What is market segmentation?

Market segmentation is a type of marketing where you target specific groups of people. When you do market segmentation, you essentially put your target audience into groups and create specific campaigns geared towards each group. There are four types of market segmentation: geographic segmentation, demographic segmentation, psychographic segmentation, and behavioral segmentation.

Why is market segmentation important?

When you use market segmentation, you show your diverse audience that you respect them because you’re coming at them with marketing that they resonate with. You’re showing you know that even in subgroups, not everyone in your target audience is the same and you hear all of your target audience’s needs and concerns. You basically win over people by not generalizing groups of people.

Geographic segmentation

Geographic segmentation is when you create a specific marketing strategy for people within a certain area. Businesses that really benefit from using geographic segmentation are ones that serve a specific community, sell seasonal products, or companies that just opened a store in a new territory.

Demographic segmentation

Demographic segmentation is a hyper-focused approach. It’s when you target people based on their age, gender, race, religion, family size, ethnicity, income, and/or level of education. This type of market segmentation is favorable for businesses where their audience is a certain demographic.

Psychographic segmentation

Psychographic segmentation is when you market to people based on their personalities. Our personalities are influenced by our values, morals, interests, hobbies, and lifestyle. Psychographic segmentation is another hyper-focused market segmentation. Retail, publishing, and travel are three industries that should use psychographic segmentation.

Behavioral segmentation

Behavioral segmentation deals with consumers’ buying habits. Consumers’ purchases, money, time, and lifestyle all make up this marketing strategy.  With this market segmentation, get into your consumer’s head before you take action. When does your target audience most need you.

Let’s say you own a card company, for instance. You’re most profitable during Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the holidays. The slowest time of the year is August as it’s summertime and there are no holidays. You want to make sure you’re doing the big bulk of your behavioral segmentation marketing during the end of January, the beginning of May, the beginning of June, and the end of November. You don’t want to wait to close to these holidays to start your marketing campaigns as you’ll lose people. With behavioral segmentation, it’s all about reaching your target audience before they make a decision.  

After reading this blog post, do you feel you need help marketing to your target audience? Contact Sperling Interactive today for a plan of action! At Sperling Interactive, we’re all about stretching your marketing dollars further.

 

How To Eliminate Click Fraud In Your PPC Campaign

A deck with a laptop on it open to Google Analytics.

 

 

 

 

 

Spam or fraudulent clicks can be a leading reason why businesses and nonprofits don’t utilize Google Adwords to promote themselves. It’s an understandable reasoning for a organization to have if they don’t have much knowledge of pay-per-click campaigns. Spam and fraudulent clicks can occur, but they can also be avoided. Continue reading to learn solutions on how to cut down on the amount of spam and fraudulent clicks you receive.

 What are fraudulent clicks?

Fraudulent clicks generally come from competitors and ad publishers looking to get something from your ads. Competitors will repeatedly click on ads to cap out your daily budgets and ad displayers are clicking on ads to give themselves more money. For years, search engines didn’t do much about this, but now they are.

What Google is doing

Of the search engines, Google is doing to the most to decrease fraudulent clicks. Google has created filters to detect fraud and prevent advertisers from wasting money. Google also has Google’s Ad Traffic Quality Team, which manually analyzes clicks before the advertiser is charged, and they investigate when you file a report of invalid clicks. If you use Google Adwords, you can block IP addresses with their feature, IP Exclusions.

How to run your own investigation?

Three things you’ll need are the IP address, click timestamp, and action timestamp. If you see a lot of clicks from a particular IP address and no conversion, there’s a high chance they were fraud clicks.

It might not be fraud

It’s important to note that not every questionable click is fraud. You may just need to adjust your ad targeting. Your targeting could be so broad, which is why you’re receiving a lot of clicks but not a lot of conversions.  

Do you need help running an effective pay-per-click campaign? Call Sperling Interactive at 978-304-1730. We can help stretch your marketing dollars further.