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SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a term you have probably heard at some point over the last few years. Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, is much more than an industry trend or buzzword. SEO is a powerful strategy for web development which helps a website rank better on Google search results pages. Wouldn’t you want your business to come up when potential customers search for terms related to your industry? This is where SEO comes into play.

Black Hat vs. White Hat

While many agencies offer SEO services, it is essential to understand that not all SEO strategies are created equal. There are two schools of practice when it comes to SEO: Black Hat and White Hat. Black Hat refers to methods which Google does not approve of, while White Hat refers to working alongside the Google algorithm ethically.


Black Hat SEO can deliver incredible results, often very quickly, but these results often come with a price. Google regularly checks websites that are ranking-highly, and if they detect Black Hat tactics, they will penalize rankings and sometimes remove a site from their search engine entirely. So the question that remains is: how do you know if an agency uses black hat tactics? Below is a list of red flags you should watch out for when choosing a Search Engine Optimization provider.

Red Flags To Look Out For When Choosing An SEO Provider

1. An Agency Should NEVER Promise Specific Rankings

As a Google Partner, GriffinWink Advertising follows the policies put in place by Google. One of the most strict policies Google requires is not promising specific ranking position when offering SEO services. If an agency approaches you with promises that they will get your website  “ranking #1”, this is a major red flag.

Not only does this go against the policies which Google has in place, but it is also impossible to guarantee a ranking position. When an agency promises a specific page rank, they are most likely using Black Hat tactics as that is the easiest way to move up the rankings fast. Beware though, while your website might move up quickly, your site will be penalized, usually resulting in a lower position than where you started.

2. An Agency Should Always Provide (At Least) Monthly Reports

Since SEO can be a complicated subject, many companies attempt to skirt around providing regular reports and hope you take their word for how you are improving. While other software exists, at GriffinWink we use the undisputed leader in SEO technologies, Moz.

Moz can generate reports at any time that provide rich details about your website’s search engine optimization. You should be able to see how your site ranks for specific keywords by location. Reports can also include data such as the amount of traffic that has been earned through organic search queries, and the amount of sites that link back to yours.

If an agency does not have data and analytics to provide whenever you ask, this is a major red flag.

3. Look Out For Dummy Pages Used For Link Farming

No matter who you choose to work with for SEO services, it is important to stay involved in the process. Before deciding on an agency, gain a basic understanding of how your website runs and be able to login to the “back end” of the site. The front end of a website is what the public sees and what search engines refer users. The back end of a website is where edits are made, and only you and your digital advertiser should have access.


Having a basic understanding of how your website operates helps you look for potential Black Hat tactics. For example, upon looking at a new client’s website, we discovered several pages the client was not aware existed. These pages were not linked to any menus on the site and contained information and links to companies not related to the client. These were masked as “Resource Pages” when in reality they were a Black Hat tactic. The client’s former agency used their website unbeknownst to them to advertise other client’s sites and build backlinks.

The other agency did this because a significant ranking factor in SEO is the number of other websites that link back to your site. The proper way to do this is through working with directories like Yelp! or producing content that is so excellent other websites choose to refer back to it as a source.

4. If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

When you hire an agency to optimize your site, it is essential to pay attention to your rankings. While it is entirely possible to make big jumps quite quickly in some markets and industries if you are all of a sudden ranking #1 for every single keyword related to your business, chances are something is fishy.

Search Engine Optimization is a long-term strategy for your business. It takes time and includes creating new content, filling in the proper metadata and alt-tags, altering existing content, building backlinks and optimizing how your site loads. Since there is so much that goes into a coherent SEO strategy, when a site jumps very quickly overnight, it can serve as a red flag for potential black hat tactics.


Google does not detect black hat SEO immediately. After all, the internet is a large place, with billions of pages. Even Google cannot regularly police every corner. But eventually, Google always detects when a site is trying to cheat the system. Many times when a website jumps to the front page for multiple terms overnight, it is because of link stuffing.

While one client we have worked with at GriffinWink was using a different agency for SEO, they saw their backlinks jump from a reasonable level of a few hundred to 35,000 overnight. Needless to say, after a few weeks Google detected this anomaly and wiped all of their backlinks clean, leaving them in a worse position than when they started.

5. An Agency Should Always Get New Content Approved Before Posting

In the early days of SEO, one of the most critical aspects of the strategy was including keywords in various places around a website. While keywords do carry some weight in SEO, they are not the magic bullet they used to be. This is because Google searches have become more sophisticated over time. Google no longer searches only for the phrase you search but instead tries to determine the intent of your search query.

What this means, is that Google wants to provide you with the best possible information you may be looking for, not just a website that has the terms you used in your search. For this reason, keywords are slowly becoming less effective. Many agencies still rely on keywords as the cornerstone of their SEO strategy, and this results in many copywriters writing content that reads very unnaturally.

Let’s say for example you selling candy in Austin. Someone searching for your business might Google: “Candy Shop Austin.” Many agencies will try to include that exact phrase into your website’s copy thinking it will have great results. They might write something like this:

“We are the number one candy shop Austin. We carry all major brands from Hershey to Godiva. So do not delay, stop in and visit your local candy shop, Austin.”

That sounds pretty bad, right? We think so. That is why we choose not to ignore a keyword strategy but instead, write rich and colorful content that checks all the boxes of Google’s algorithm while still sounding as natural as possible. You always want to read and approve any new content that an agency wants to put onto your website. If it looks unnatural, clunky, or seems stuffed with keywords, you should send them back to the drawing board.

Conclusion

SEO is a compelling strategy in web development and digital marketing. It can make the difference between nobody finding your business and generating thousands of leads. Over 90% of online sessions begin with a search engine query, and more than 70% of Google users never click past the first page. In short, SEO should be the cornerstone of any digital advertising strategy.

SEO is a continually evolving school of thought. Google will continue to update its algorithms to return the highest quality results for their users. This is why it pays to work with an agency like GriffinWink, who not only follows best practices but adapts their approach overtime to return the best possible results for your website.

To learn more about our SEO services, or to get started, visit our SEO page here.

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E-Commerce

E-commerce will forever be one of the hottest topics in digital advertising. More sites than ever before have started to sell merchandise in some capacity. Becoming an online retailer can be complicated though. There are a lot of great tools out there to help with e-commerce, but choosing the best option for your business can be tricky. Below we have outlined the pros and cons of the two most popular e-commerce platforms used today.


Before we get started let’s outline a few terms that might be jargon to those not familiar with web development and design.

SSL: SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. In the most basic of terms, it creates an encryption layer from your computer to the website you are using so any data that transferred is protected from potential hackers.

CMS: CMS stands for Content Management System. It is a system that manages the content of your website. WordPress is an example of a CMS.

SEO: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of using linking strategy and keyword placement to help your website rank higher on Google, and other search engines when users search for words related to your business website.

SEM: SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing. It is using services such as Google Adwords which allow your business to host ads on the results pages of Google searches.

WYSIWYG: WYSIWYG (pronounced WIz-EE-Wig) stands for What You See Is What You Get. It is web design jargon for the ability to edit your website (or in this case, your online store) from the perspective of a customer. WYSIWYG editors are helpful for those not familiar with coding or the backend set up for content management systems like WordPress.


WooCommerce vs. Shopify

WooCommerce and Shopify are the two most popular E-commerce resources that exist today. But depending on your needs as a retailer, one can make much more sense than the other. So how do you choose? It can be hard to determine relevant information when visiting the sites for each service, as they are arranged to be a sales pitch. To make it easy for you we have extracted precisely what you need to know to make an informed decision that best fits your needs.


WooCommerce

Many developers know WooCommerce for being the go-to WordPress plugin for online sales. It is the most popular shopping cart system in the world. It unbelievably serves over 30% of the stores on the web! It comes standard with almost all WordPress themes. But WooCommerce might not be the best fit for your business depending on your web development skill set. Let’s take a look at the specifics.

Costs

WooCommerce is advertised as a free plugin on WordPress. To get a store up and running there are no fees. Some additional features you might be interested in do have built-in costs though. So what is the breakdown of WooCommerce expenses? You just might be surprised.

If you want to set up shop with absolutely no costs, WooCommerce offers quite a bit for free. Without forking over any cash, you can:

  • Sell goods and services

  • Calculate flat rate shipping to any location

  • Calculate taxes based on your location or the buyer’s location

  • Accept payments through PayPal

  • Accept credit card using the Stripe gateway (more on that in a moment)

  • Customer account area; where customers can see their orders and processing status.

Now, WooCommerce does offer a fair amount of premium services as well which you can receive by paying annual fees (all fees listed are for single site annual plans). These include:

  • Groups for WooCommerce: $79
    • Allows you to grant memberships based on products


  • WooCommerce Subscriptions: $199
    • Allows you to create recurring subscriptions for customers


  • WooCommerce Memberships: $149
    • Similar to groups but allows deeper control of content stream and membership options


  • Table rate shipping: $199
    • Allows for much deeper control over shipping options and can calculate rates based on weights, location, and delivery service.


  • Product Add-Ons: $49
    • With Add-Ons you can add offers such as laser engraving, unique embroidery and so much more for your products.


  • Bookings: $249
    • Offer the ability to book specific time slots for your business

Payment Processing and SSL Costs

WooCommerce can be free to set up a basic online store, but they do make money through their payment processing options. Their free Stripe credit card processing will take 3.0% of the costs as well as 30 cents per transaction.

If you plan on using WooCommerce, you will also need an SSL to make sure your site is secure. Depending on what service you use for your SSL the price can range from $49 to $300. Keep this in mind when tallying up the costs for a WooCommerce storefront.

Set Up and Themes

WooCommerce is convenient as the plugin is compatible with most premium WordPress Themes. Therefore, you have a wide range of options to choose from when designing your store. The WooCommerce storefront will match the overall look of your website, making for seamless navigation for your customers.

WooCommerce directly connects to your website which allows for a few added benefits. Your store will be in the same domain as your website. This is crucial for some digital advertising techniques such as SEO and SEM.

Conclusion

WooCommerce is a powerful tool that will allow your online store to be incorporated into your current website’s domain. It will also give you complete ownership of your online store. It has several free options that will allow you to sell products for no added costs outside of credit card processing fees (at rates similar to Paypal). It also has many paid options that grant you the ability to offer subscriptions, memberships, and added product offerings to your customers.

While WooCommerce has a lot of great offerings, it is important to remember that with Woo you will be responsible for the security of your website. While WooCommerce includes many themes for free, it can be difficult to customize these themes for those who are unfamiliar with web design.

WooCommerce gives you great control in some areas but limits you to others. Overall, it is one of the most trusted online store platforms that owns the majority of the market share of online storefronts.

Shopify

Shopify is an online store platform that is great for individuals who do not know about web development or design. Shopify has hundreds of customized templates which allow users to edit the front end of their online store. In the web design industry this is known as a WYSIWYG (wiz-ee-wig), or “what you see is what you get,” as when designing your storefront you see precisely what your customer will see – no messy code or backend complications. Shopify does require an annual subscription to get up and running though. These plans increase in price usually related to the amount of inventory you want to sell.

Costs

Basic Plan

The most basic Shopify starter plan is only $14 a month. This allows you access to a majority of the themes, free email support, a custom domain name (usually “store.YOURSITE.com”), 1GB of storage space (for pictures of your products) and the ability to sell up to 25 products. The fees for credit cards on a basic Shopify plan are 2.9% with a 30 cent transaction fee.

Mid-level Plan

For $29 a month, Shopify offers a mid-level plan. The most significant difference from the starter plan is that it allows you to use the Shopify Point of Sale system in a brick and mortar location as well as online. Shopify will send you a card reader and offers fraud analysis. The mid-level plan also lowers the credit card fees to 2.7% with the same 30 cent transaction fee.

Another difference between the lowest level plan and this one is that with the $29/month plan your store space goes from 25 products to unlimited. It also includes 24/7 support instead of just primary email and chat support.

Professional and Unlimited Plans

Shopify offers even more extensive plans, but be warned the price jumps drastically. The Pro plan is $79 a month, further lowers transaction rates to 2.5% and gives you the ability to create gift cards and recover abandoned shopping carts.

The unlimited plan is $179 a month, drops credit card rates to only 2.25%, and offers infinite storage space. One of the most significant bonuses of the unlimited plans is that it allows for real-time shipping updates from a variety of carriers.


Go Big With Shopify Enterprise

Shopify does offer a service even higher than their monthly plans. This is known as Shopify Enterprise. You must contact Shopify to obtain pricing, though they tailor plans for your business’ needs. While the enterprise level plans are costly, they come with great options such as a staggering 0% transaction fee, a dedicated priority support specialist, a dedicated SSL (vs. the general Shopify SSL of other plans), early access, and beta testing of new features and much more.

Set Up and Themes

Shopify has hundreds of customizable themes for each pricing package that they offer. As noted above, the shop set up is much easier for those not familiar with web design and development as templates and front-end editors are available. This makes setup much more manageable than WooCommerce.


It is important to know that when using Shopify you do not own your storefront or domain. Instead, you are more or less renting that digital space through Shopify. This is convenient as you do not have to worry about obtaining an SSL, but can be troublesome as you will not be able to migrate your store in the future. You will have to start from scratch.

Conclusion

Shopify is a great platform for those not too familiar with web design. It allows for anyone to jump on online and create a store in a few hours, with all the essential options. Their pricing plans are affordable, but over time they can get expensive. It is crucial that you work out the numbers and see if the higher level plans are worth the added expense based on how much product you are selling online, in short – will the transaction fees for credit cards outweigh the price of the higher level plans?


Since Shopify will host the website, they supply you with an SSL. This is a considerable expense that is spared compared to setting up an online shop through WooCommerce. It is crucial to remember that when using Shopify – they own your store. This means that if in the future you want to set up your shop through WooCommerce or have a web developer build one from scratch – you will have to start from the beginning.


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) What Should I Pick?

Why You Should Pick WooCommerce

WooCommerce is great for individuals who have some experience with web design and development and for those who want the most control over their online store. WooCommerce the best option for those who already have a website using the WordPress CMS.


  • Allows for more customization

  • Overall more affordable (unless you are creating subscription/membership service)

  • You will own your domain and storefront

  • Seamless integration with your current website

  • Will be hosted under the same domain as your website, allowing for seamless SEO and SEM.

Why You Should Pick Shopify

Shopify has more additional costs than WooCommerce but is much easier to use for those inexperienced with web design and development. It is the best option for merchants who want to set up an easy to use online store and are okay not having total control over the backend of their site. When choosing to use Shopify, make sure you are OK using Shopify for the foreseeable future.

  • More intuitive set up than WooCommerce

  • Several monthly plans available for different needs

  • Easier customization

  • Included store security such as SSL

  • Ability to use Shopify as a brick and mortar POS

If you have more questions or want to talk to a professional about which option might be the best for your online store we can help. If you have made your decision but are not sure how to get started, we can help as well. Contact us today to start the process of your getting your online store live!

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GriffinWink Albuquerque
There comes a time in the life of every business when the topic of expansion comes up in conversation. Whether in a board room while reviewing last year’s numbers or in a two-person office that just became home to a third desk, the idea is introduced in hushed tones and a tingling of excitement at the possibilities; the possibility of moving to a larger office, or even the possibility of opening a new branch in a budding market.
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Marketing
When GriffinWink made the decision to launch Warehouse 75 in 2013, we did it with one goal in mind: to offer our clients the most diverse and effective suite of digital products and services. We aim to accomplish this by aggressively pursuing a strong knowledge of digital marketing concepts, strategies, and trends. Earlier this year, our team of dedicated digital marketers earned a recognition that even surprised us.  
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