seo

Wix vs Squarespace vs WordPress

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WordPress

About 3 years ago I made a controversial call at our agency. I pulled WordPress as a platform to build websites. This was controversial for a few reasons:

  1. 75,000,000 websites are built on WP. That's a large share of the market.

  2. WordPress is a buzz term. A lot of clients know it and request it because WP is all they know.

  3. My staff were concerned that if we didn't offer WP sites we would get less business.

All are legitimate concerns, however, I didn't make the call lightly. When I looked at the 500 most recent websites we had built at the time, 180 were on WordPress. Of all our support requests for anomalies over 80% were on sites that used the WP platform. Once those websites were swapped with Wix, Squarespace, or custom code, those websites joined the 20% of anomalies support. This means we had had an 80% drop in website related issues since switching away from WordPress. That's a huge decrease!

I, personally think using WordPress for a website is like going to look for a new car in 2019 and leaving with a 2001 Hyundai Accent passed off as a 2019 Audi R8. The platform is bloated, many of their updates have been compiled on top of each other, plugins are only as reliable as the third-party developers, and unless you are excellent with code, you know a WordPress site when you see one. I had other, more technical concerns, but I felt those points were enough alone to switch.

So, let's remove WordPress from the equation and talk Wix vs Squarespace. Before I do though, it's important that you understand I'm talking web design on this post. We offer full-service web development with custom code. Those sites are in the league of their own. Let's keep things on a level playing field.

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Wix Pros

Wix is a great platform when you have no idea how to build a website. If you've ever used Word or Photoshop, Wix works similarly. You start with a template, you drag and drop, and in a matter of days, you can have a professional-looking website. I love their image libraries and access to stock images. Other highlights include their Wix Apps which are kinda like WP plugins but vetted and completed by the Wix team so you know they'll be stable. Wix also offers a cleaner process for edits than WordPress. The Wix mobile editor is aces! It's actually my favourite pro to the Wix platform.

Wix Cons

There are a few big items that really bug me about Wix. Their developer tools are absolute garbage. Custom coding in Wix is kinda like asking your partner for a favour on the same day they learned you cheated on them—just don't do it! Wix is also limited in some functionality that they should have updated forever ago: full-width layouts, eComm first sites are clunky, and no ability to export.

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Squarespace Pros

Squarespace is a modern website builder with incredible templates and an excellent system for custom coding. Most of our SS sites have a lot of custom code and as such, they rarely look like a SS site. Coding in SS is a breeze. The editor is easy to use and the guided block approach will keep even the least organized designer on task (unlike Wix). I absolutely love how they've organized their menus (except code and CSS, which I'll get to) and I'm a pretty big fan of how modern a SS feels. You can build nearly the exact same site on WP, Wix, and SS ... SS will feel the most modern every time. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a fan of spacing out blocks of content equally. SS makes this easier and I think it goes a long way to understanding why SS sites just look awesome no matter what.

Squarespace Cons

While I love SS, there are a few ridiculous limitations. Little things like adding drop shadows or backgrounds to text need to be coded. You can't really scale menu items, which is frustrating. The big piss off with SS though is the mobile editor—there isn't one. That's right, they use automation to create your mobile site, which rarely ever gets it right. Every single SS site we host has custom code to get the mobile layout right. With mobile being incredibly important today it seems absolutely insane to me that they haven't released an update with a mobile editor.

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But What About SEO?

I recently had an instructor for a course I took state that "Squarespace and Wix aren't good for SEO like WordPress is". This statement is flat out wrong. A lot of people believe that WP is better for SEO because of Yoast, a plug-in that walks you through the process. There were several years there when WP was better but that is a thing of the past.

Wix has a great step-by-step SEO guide. Start there. Then optimize your content. After that, make sure you submit your site to Google Search Console and start on off-site SEO.

Squarespace buries their SEO tools a bit more as they automate most aspects. However, at the page level, you can click on the cog and edit SEO settings. Then, just like with Wix, optimize your content, submit to GSC and get to work on off-site SEO.

We have rigorously tested whether WP, Wix, or SS are better for SEO. In the end, we found equal results across all 3 platforms when taking the same actions on each.

And the Winner is ...

If you're comfortable with code and a rigid block approach to editing then Squarespace is hand's down the best host and editor. If you're looking for something easy that makes mobile editing a breeze, Wix is the winner. It really comes down to priorities in your design process.

We at SyncDS love Squarespace and whenever we can, we will use the platform as our #1 choice.

Need help with your website? We can elevate your build above the obvious features of these platforms or get you a custom coded site that meets your wildest expectations. Let's talk.

The Journey to the Perfect Website

If you're thinking about building a website, get ready for a mental overload. First, you have to decide whether you’re going to build it yourself, or get someone to do it for you. Then, you have to find someone that can take the project on. At that point, you have to decide what kind of website you want built.

There are literally, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of “website developers” out there in the world today, and they will present you with a plethora of options. 

So, how do you make decisions regarding your new site? Here’s a SyncDS cheat sheet.

To Build, or To Let Someone Build

If You Build It

You have full control. You have no middle man to execute changes. You’re working on your timeline, not competing with other outside projects. You’ll get to learn a new skill. You must now take time out from your business to build. There are endless choices in technology. You won’t be able to keep up. Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts will surely be negligible. 

If Someone Else Builds It

You can run your business while the site is being built. You’ll have a wealth of knowledge working for you. You’re paying for results, which means you’ll get them. Your site will [should] be optimized for SEO. An organized workflow, and trackable results.

Now, let’s assume, someone else builds it:

Who Will Build Your Site?

Someone You Know

Examples: Uncle, Friend, Cousin, Nephew, Employee, etc. They will be fitting your site into their daily lives. This is likely someone at a small scale operation with limited resources. You’re probably looking at mixing business and pleasure at this point, which you have to take into consideration. This is almost always, you’re cheaper option.

Someone You Don’t

Examples: Agency, Firm, Web Designer by-trade, etc. You’ll be presented with a proposal, and given options. There will be a structured timeline for completion. All of the latest trends and tech will be taken into consideration. This will cost a bit more, but you’re likely to get a greater deal of satisfaction.

What Kind of Site Should I Get?

Your Options

Examples: Custom, Template, Custom Code, Animation, Graphical, etc. TIP: You probably won’t know what your web dev contact is talking about. Instead of jargon, think about your commitment to long-term online strategy. Most analysts say a website should cost around 2% of your gross annual profit, if your business makes less than $5-million, per year. That’s a part of your overall suggested 7 - 8% marketing spend. You may be scared of the word template. In the 90′s, it suggested that someone was buying a design that would not be reserved exclusively for your site. Essentially, you could end having a site that looks just like your competitors. Today, templates are starting points to get the project launched quickly. If you have a limited budget, ask to start there.Websites have come a long way. Every quote should contain a CMS system (a way you can make small edits), design, options to add 3rd party video, content drafting, and a responsive site (no matter what screen size someone is on, the site is designed for them to view it).

Don’t Get Caught in the Hype

It’s easy to get lost in the words of a developer, but tell them to stop, and consider your industry, your budget, and your timeline. Even if you’re taking percentages into account, you should never spend less than $1000 on a website, before hosting. You want to motivate developers to do a great job for you.

Now, what does a good job look like? 

http://www.newinc.org/

http://darrenbooth.com/

http://lukeslobster.com/

http://live.wired.com/

http://www.innovationme.com/

These are just some examples of quality websites that incorporate the latest trends, and that you can get done within that budget outlined above. Of course, it’s but 5 examples amongst thousands.

I hope this has helped you make a decision. If you need help with your website, let’s talk.

Blog Your Way to Success: 5 Ways Blogging Helps You

Being in business is hard work, and I don't mean to add yet another item to your to do list but alas you should be blogging. Now, some of you might say that you've seen so many "experts" say blogging is a waste of time. Well, here's a real world example for you: We have 58 clients, and of those 11 came from conversations started by a blog. Full disclosure, we sell blogging services but it's only because we believe in the task itself based on our experience.

With a constant stream of new online and technological advancements, an online presence becomes increasingly important. Sure, you're on Facebook, you have thought about an app, there's your branding package, and of course you dust off that trusty LinkedIn account once in awhile. But, blogging can compliment all of your efforts and actually enhance them.

According to recent inbound marketing report, nearly 80% of companies that use blogging as a part of their marketing strategy reported acquiring customers through their blogging efforts. Additionally, 82% of businesses admit that blogging is critical to their business.
— http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

So let's talk benefits:

1. Exceptional Boost To Search Engine Optimization

All of the major search engines are looking for fresh, relevant content. Blogging is one of the most straightforward and inexpensive methods for offering this content. When a business creates blog posts consistently, they are constantly providing Google, Bing, and the others with fresh content to index. This is also an opportunity for businesses to insert those relevant keywords that consumers will use to search for the types of products or services that the business offers.

2. Develop And Strengthen Relationships With New & Existing Customers

Customer engagement is an immensely important element of online marketing and branding. Blogging provides the opportunity for you to connect with your existing and potential customers. Blogging is a good way to build trust with your target audience through high quality content that they find relevant. With an active comment section, you will also be able to follow the visitors' responses to your posts, and you will be able to respond directly to their comments, which is huge in building trust and relationships.

3. Establish Your Business As An Industry Leader

It doesn't matter how small your business is, blogging is a good way for your business to build trust and establish clout in your industry by providing content that will be viewed as valuable, expert information. In time, posting blogs that are helpful and informative on a regular basis can make you the "go to" resource in your particular niche within the industry, subsequently increasing leads and conversion rates.

4. Connect People To Your Brand

Brand awareness is an immensely important element of marketing and blog posting will allow you to show your followers a personal side of your business that existing and perspective customers will not readily recognize with outbound marketing mechanisms and techniques. Blogging will give others a lucid sense of the corporate standards, business character, vision and the personality of your company.

5. Create Opportunities For Sharing

One of the most powerful benefits of blogging is the opportunity it creates for others to share the link to your blog, creating the potential for viral traffic and exponential market growth. With so many different sharing platforms available, visitors can share the direct link to the blog, tweet it, or email it to a friend. This is the epitome of free marketing.

If you are interested in increasing your online exposure, while establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, then you will definitely want to take advantage of blogging as a marketing strategy. Just blog, and if you need help, let's talk.

The Pros vs The Fair-Weather Agencies

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The Pros vs The Fair-Weather Agencies

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So, you're thinking of having a website developed, potentially get onto social media, and you're looking for information about this thing you keep hearing about; SEO. The next step is to meet with "pros" about how you can implement these changes in your business. So, you take some meetings. Perhaps you Google "digital marketing agency" or you go old school and ask around. Eventually you get a list of 3 to 5 agencies and freelancers you'd like to meet with. Now what?

We have come up with a list of 5 things you should pay attention to when taking meetings with agencies and freelancers. These are important, because they will weed out the pros from the fair-weather marketers.

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01. Websites: Show Me Some Samples

Whomever you are talking to should be able to show you samples of desktop and mobile sites on the spot. Ask for 5 samples of various designs. Those designs should include; informational, graphical, advanced coding, mobile adaptation, and eCommerce. Now perhaps you're wondering why you'd want to see all 5 samples when you don't need a few of them. This is a sure shot way to see how experienced the website developer is. If they have samples of all 5 chances are they have the experience necessary to move forward.

02. SEO

Here is where a lot of agencies and freelancers can prove their honesty. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's the art and science of ranking high on search engines like Google. When you meet with someone about SEO you should ask them a few key questions:

  • Who have you worked with, and can you show me their rankings?
  • How do you charge? TIP: SEO should not be charged monthly. Any SEO company in 2018 and beyond that knows what they are doing should charge based on the goals and tasks regardless of how long they take. Don't get trapped into monthly SEO charges.
  • What is the most powerful tool in your SEO toolkit? Sync's is the execution of connecting through .EDU sites.
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03. Ads

Many of the most popular platforms have become pay-to-play environments. Any online strategy needs to involve an ads campaign. Be weary of anyone that says otherwise. There are exceptions with small tasks but if your strategy is broad then ads need to be a part of the plan. Make sure you are billed directly for your ads. This way you can guarantee that the marketer is not taking points on your ads that you haven't agreed to. Here's another great test for your marketer. Ask for an honest assessment of when you can expect to see results from ads campaigns. TIP: It won't be right away. The marketer needs to do several tests to figure out optimal ad output. Without those tests you WILL spend money unnecessarily.

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04. Social Media Networks

Social Media Management or SMM is a juggernaut job. A total strategy involves content, ads, multimedia, network growth, interaction management, and analytics. Once again, ask for samples. There should be 5 to 8 samples given for various networks. Ask what the goals for each network is, and which you should be involved in. Find out exact parameters for each of the tasks and also ask why. Lastly, you need to find out how the SMM strategies will fit seamlessly with your existing offline measures.

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05. Analytics/Reporting

Take a look at the reporting structure of the marketer. Ask for custom elements if something is important to you. Also, establish frequency. Reporting more than once per month is likely ineffective and micro-managing, but any less than once per month and you'll be in danger of not understanding where you sit with your efforts.

Okay, Seriously ... Does SEO Actually Work?

Does SEO Actually Work?

I’ve continually had to defend Search Engine Optimization (AKA SEO) as of late. Before I get into exactly what you should expect from SEO, I thought it would be wise to look at what the end game is.

As a whole, the entire practice of SEO is meant to get your brand ranking high on search engines. I say “your brand” because there is misunderstanding amongst many business owners, that SEO is meant to make your website rank higher exclusively. In either low search or highly competitive markets, that singular focus can crush an SEO campaign.

SEO Explained

So, in point form, here’s what you should expect from those providing you with SEO services:

  • After accepting terms of contract, your SEO should learn as much about your industry as possible, dive into the data about your brand, and be able to make recommendations regarding the next 12 - 18 months worth of work. The person you’re working with should also be well versed in the changes to algorithms taking place at Google, Bing, and other big search.
     
  • Your SEO company should work with you to optimize your website. This can be a long process, but is crucial. Now, you’ll likely never hit 100% on-site SEO optimization because various platforms have different rules and languages, but all of the essentials should be covered.
     
    • Those essentials include: content optimization, proper tagging, proper headers, ensuring your site has no penalties or error codes, ideal meta descriptions, keyword/phrase consideration, optimized image handling, site speed, no AJAX issues, and connectivity to external services that help track your site.
       
  • After your site is optimized, it’s time to pick the low hanging fruit. Your SEO company should be listing you on as many relevant directories and sites as possible. This goes for general directories, such as Yellow Pages to niche industry directories.
     
  • If you’re a local business, then local optimization is key. Having a location properly optimized can mean a huge difference on mobile, when someone looks up “XYZ near me”. 
     
  • Then, it’s time for back linking power. You should be looking at who currently links to you, and more importantly, who’s hurting your positioning. Spammy ad networks, sites with penalties, and other low quality websites may link to you, bringing you down. At that point you need a cleanse.
     
  • Once you’re clean as a whistle, it’s time to build backlinks. Old school guys will tell you this is all about quantity. However, GOOGLE (they kinda know some stuff) has openly said that back links are about quality. Essentially, the link should make practical sense. If it doesn’t, then Google may look at that link as unfavourable. For example: if your run a car dealership, your link should not appear on a magicians resource site.
     
  • Social media is important as well. Make sure you have optimized profiles, that are posting, and that your fans/followers are continually engaged. The more people are willing to share your content, the more likely it is to be seen as credible.
     
  • Another often overlooked piece to the puzzle is media. You need to expose your brand to media sites such as the local TV station, or credible blogs. In 100% of cases, I’ve seen a properly handled media release boost rankings nearly overnight.
     
  • Blogging and guest blogging are aspects of SEO that only stable campaigns with highly engaged staff should be getting involved in. This requires a great deal of time, but will make a difference.
     
  • After that, there are certain tricks that SEOs have picked up along the way. Those tricks will be deployed on your behalf, but it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be shared with you. Consider these trade secrets.

Long-Game SEO Strategy

It’s important to remember that this is all ongoing work, and that you won’t rank overnight. You must also be realistic. If there’s giant brands in your industry, without some serious dollars, you’re unlikely to beat them site vs site. That’s where the directories and real world involvement proves valuable.

Your brand should rank, and eventually, so too should your website. That should turn into more clicks, and if you are good at what you do, more sales.

Now, for the frustrating news. This is all long-game, and setting expectations to see results and changes in your rankings in the first year is unrealistic. So, how do you gauge success? The best way, is to get confirmation that work is being done your behalf. If your SEO company can show that the above points are being worked on, then they are worth your time. However, if your SEO company is engaging in black hat SEO techniques it is truly time to move on. 

It all come down to this—you should be able to see the work being done through reporting.

Comparing Google Results

I know long-term marketing work with little, to no, ROI can be frustrating for businesses; especially when you see companies that haven’t had any SEO work done and they’re ranking. You must take a few items into consideration when comparing search engine results:

  1. Have they actually spent any money on SEO? Are you sure you know the answer? There’s apps to determine how much work has been done on a brand’s behalf.
     
  2. Did they enjoy fantastic critical acclaim?
     
  3. When were they established? Timeline matters, as SEO has become quite strict in the last couple of years.
     
  4. Did the media run stories on this business?
     
  5. How’s their social media campaigning?
     
  6. Is the owner well known, and has he/she enjoyed media coverage in the past?

Summing up SEO

So there you have it. You know what your SEO company should be doing for you. You also know how to track ROI. You even know how to critically look at your competitors online. That’s a great start.

We hope that clears up some of the ongoing confusion. If you need help with your SEO,  let’s talk.

Written by:
Jay Hall - Chief Strategist

 

"But I Saw An Article on Facebook ..."

But I Saw An Article on Facebook

The Opinion

We live in the information age, so naturally there is a ton of data coming at us on a daily basis. Some of that info is interesting, and helpful. Then there’s trolling articles, aimed at getting as many shares and hits as possible to bolster their ad revenue through sensational headlines.

Case in point: This article.

I’ll say this out of the gate. We provide SEO services to clients, so at first glance, this blog could be perceived as me scrambling to keep business. However, dig deeper. The above linked article is dangerous for many reasons.

1) Some of Us “Hang” With Google

Just last week, I was on a call with Google. They outlined that 30,000,000 sites would take a ranking hit in the next few months. They’re cleaning up, and are kicking sites with grossly misleading content to the curb. While it is true that no search marketer has access to Google’s code, we do have access to their people. Through years of communications and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, we have built relationships with those people. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to build relationships with the right people at Google.

2) His 6 Points are Valid

Jayson talks about 6 important points of SEO, and he’s right. These elements of SEO are important. However, they’re 6 of 205 points identified as an SEO priority by us at Sync. Simply put, there’s steak sandwiches, and then there’s prime rib. Steak sandwiches are fine, but for that top tier experience, you want prime rib. SEO functions the same way. There are shortcuts, but ultimately if you’re taking SEO seriously, you need to cover all of your bases. Eventually, one day SEO might boil down to 6 core principals, but that day is not today. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to figure out what’s happening in SEO on a daily basis.

3) No Technical Expertise Needed

How interesting that Jayson wrote this article, when his company itself, offers technical SEO services. Google has stated in their official SEO guide that technical aspects are important. While content plays a huge role in this, you have a business to run, and don’t have time to deal with sitemaps, canonical data, W3C errors, titles, URL optimization, staying on top of the latest website trends (*cough frames anyone?), and the perfect text to graphics ratio.

4) What’s in a Strategy?

We can’t speak to other companies, but our overall SEO strategy includes on-site optimization, off-site optimization, back linking, content, and directories. We have a full-time department dedicated to these strategies. If, it was at all possible to stay ahead of the SEO game with a more simplistic process, thus saving us time, money, and further streamlining our workflows, we would be all over it. Think from the stand point of a business owner. If something came along to make your life easier, wouldn’t you institute the policy? Of course you would. I’m a business owner and I think the same way. What Jayson is talking about is not an industry killer, but rather an industry optimization shift. His article doesn’t take a client’s industry into consideration, or any other factor. He’s just highlighting what we already know. After all, you have a business to run, and you don’t have time for his core principals (never mind the over 199 points to SEO).

5) What about “The Other Guys”?

Lest we forget, Bing, Yahoo, and the other search engines. While Bing swallowed up Yahoo, there’s still factors for those search engines that don’t resinate across to Google. While Google is the most popular search engine, it’s not the only provider. Concentrating solely on Google is like a social media strategy that ignores Twitter and Instagram. Only in select cases is this not a mis-step. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to worry about all these search engines.

I could go on, but I don’t come off as a bully picking on Jayson. Ultimately, what you want out of SEO will be in direct proportion to the effort. Sound familiar? It should, because that principal is relevant to everything we do in life. Think about it this way; you have a business to run, and barely had time to read this blog.

Looking to expand your brand online? Learn more about how SYNC can help get you on track online. 

Written by:
Jay Hall - Chief Strategist