Internet Marketing Matters
Thoughts on website design and Internet marketing for Milwaukee, Waukesha and southeastern Wisconsin.

Marketing executive Jim Gribble is owner and founder of Javelin Communications. He blogs on Milwaukee web design, search marketing and all things Internet.

SEO Secret Sauce: The Famous Family Recipe Revealed

A Pinch And A Dash

seo secret sauceGrandma never measured anything when she baked an apple pie. This is kind of like that. From client to client, the proportion of ingredients always varies. You may not even need all the ingredients, if you are operating in a low-temperature competitive environment. Two or three might do the job. That's important for you to understand, because professional SEO can get really, really expensive.

You will need all the ingredients if you are fighting for supremacy in a hotly competitive space. You can bet that your competitors are using the full-on, unadulterated SEO Secret Sauce. It's why they're at the top of page one in Google in your category, and you're on page two.

Propagate Keywords Effectively

To find you, what terms do they type into Google's search bar? These must be deployed across your website in a series of key elements.

• Page URLs

• Page titles

Page meta descriptions

• Image alt text

• Body text

Each instance must be unique. Using the same verbiage repeatedly will gain you nothing. You may even be penalized for duplicate content. Keyword propagation is part science, part art. Science helps us choose which words to use. Art comes into play when we embed the words in our content. The search engines don't mind - and even welcome it - when it's done organically, fitting seamlessly, naturally into context. Because Google often publishes keyword snippets verbatim, they need to be endowed with what webmasters call "clickworthiness." There are best-practice technical guidelines for how many characters you can use and how best to deploy keywords in page titles, meta descriptions and content. Think ot it as injecting search terms into your website's DNA.

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Upscaling Web Design

Follow The Money

Be prepared for the reality that high-end clients and customers will be reading your website on a bigscreen HD monitor, not an iPhone 5.Today let's turn web design upside down. I'm going to talk about what often seems to be the forgotten half of the viewport family - bigscreens and large laptops. Their pageview share approaches 50 percent, among all Internet-capable viewing devices. But they are rarely talked about nowadays in my circles, in the mad rush to scale websites down to fit little tiny phones.

The second half of the 2010s brought about a mania for mobility. Google gave it a big shove with it's declaration of "mobile first" as the prime metric in its site-ranking algorithm. But not everybody got on board. There are still millions of non-mobile websites out there.

Their owners have a theory that if people want to visit their site, they should use "a real computer," as one gentleman put it to me. He had a giant, insanely complicated homemade site built almost entirely with raw PHP blocks. When he learned what it would take - and how much money - to convert that antiquated behemoth to a modern CMS-based responsive website, he said no thanks.

It was not an insane point of view. He had his reasons. For surfing the Web many folks in fact prefer their big laptops and desktop monitors to a tiny smartphone only 350 pixels wide. Viewportshare data bears that out. Snapshots of global website traffic reveal that phones account for about half of all pageviews. But bigscreens come in a strong second at about 46 percent. Tablets claim a very small segment at just 4 percent. These proportions appear to have attained long-term stability.

The very strong and resilient showing by bigscreens will surprise a lot of people reading this, but it's well known by industry insiders. If so, the question becomes: Why do so many websites look terrible on modern HD flatscreen monitors?

It's all about shortcuts. The easiest way to mobize a website is to center all your content in layout, including (and especially) any images, eschewing the use of tabular columns. With the aid of some elementary media queries and CSS code, websites designed this way are simple for browsers to squish down.

But when you scale them way up, it ain't pretty. Now you know why you see what you see when you encounter all these sites which are hard to read on your desktop monitor and generally resemble child's toys. The developers did it the cheap and dirty way.

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How To Fix Those Pesky Mixed-Content Errors

No 'Unauthorized Scripts'

How to fix mixed-content errors on your WordPress or Joomla website.

If you own a Joomla or WordPress site, and you have an SSL certificate, it may be displaying this error message in Google Chrome and some other major browsers. You'll see a tiny little icon at top right in your browser bar. Does it signal a breach? No. Does it pose a gigantic security risk? Usually not. Is your website broken/infected? Not at all. But, is it something you need to address?

Yes, and soon. Why?

1. We don't want to scare visitors away.

2. We need to keep Google happy.

What Is It About?

It's called "mixed content." Your website has a proper SSL certificate, which encrypts all transactions between the user's device and your server. Thanks to SSL, your pages load as "https" (hypertext tranfer protocol secure). All good. However, buried within your website are plugins and apps which might not be current. They might be referencing old resources around the Internet which are not connection-encrypted. Quite often the problem is an archaic path to a Google font. So although your website serves up to browsers via https, it may well contain a lot of garbage http links.

That's one reason why you need to keep all your extensions, components, widgets and plugins updated. Those updates gradually clean up big messes - until finally eliminating all nonencrypted server connections, thus minimizing your risk of being hacked.

Do "unauthenticated sources" really pose a danger to users? Very, very, very rarely. That's why Chrome shows users a discreet little warning, instead of actually blocking the site from loading. I'm a longtime user of Malwarebytes Pro. Not even that has ever blocked me from opening a site which bore this little caution flag. While we need to fix it, this is nothing that needs to keep you up at night. The only pain it's causing is some harm to your Google ranking.

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Don't It Yourself

'Im Kicking Myself Now'

Should you build your own website?

Should you hire a web design agency or should you attempt to build your own website with one of the cheap template systems out there? Here are my top ten reasons to go with a pro.

1) You have no idea what good looks like. You haven't studied web design. You have no professional experience and no clue how to tell an effective website from an ineffective website.

2) You're not creative. Creativity is an innate gift which can be cultivated but not taught. You don't have it if you didn't gravitate toward one of the creative professions.

3) You don't know anything about marketing and branding unless you've studied it rigorously or have acquired training on the job. You have no idea how to most effectively position your product, relative to the competition, and sell it to customers. That you think you know, when you have zero distance from the problem, ought to give you a heart attack.

4) You don't know anything about SEO and digital marketing unless, again, you've studied it rigorously or acquired on-the-job experiential training. After you've built your website, you have no idea how to rank high in the major search engines. You also have no idea how to leverage social media to get found.

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"Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride"

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

You should know that

The quote is from Hunter S. Thompson, who felt an ironic contempt for our propensity to complain about the consequences of our own bad choices (a topic he knew well). Which brings me to the latest Facebook uproar. People are so shocked  - SHOCKED! - to learn that Facebook was gamed by a digital agency working for Donald Trump.

My take is that it's far from shocking. Something like this was bound to happen. In using Facebook and other social media sites, you should know that you are taking on a high degree of risk. I do know it, which is why I use Facebook sparingly and selectively, with my eyes wide open.

Nothing that you do or say there is private. Everything is catalogued by the site owners for the purpose of creating a consumer profile. Having millions of consumer profiles on inventory gives Facebook the ability to narrowcast ads based on user affinity. It's all about precision delivery. That's what Mark Zuckerberg is referencing when he uses this vague term "your data."

You pay for the use of Facebook with what I'll call your retail identity. It's an in-kind transaction in which you participate - wittingly or not - in the creation of your individual consumer profile. The profile is based on your posts and your clicks, plus any personal details you may choose to reveal in your account settings. And now it's also going to include dating profile information volunteered by millions of users participating in the company's new hookup service.

So in this sense Facebook is the most sophisticated surveillance system ever built. But no you musn't compare it with Big Brother, because you are surveilled only if you opt in. You have to open the door and invite Big Brother into your house. Facebook is actually fairly transparent about all of this. The Terms of Service which you didn't read tells all about it.

This system allows Facebook to serve you ads based on your logarathmically modeled profile affinities - including your political leanings and hot-button passions. Hence Facebook can efficiently target you for political ads which challenge your views or reinforce them, depending on the needs of the advertiser.

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Sometimes, You Want Professionals

Hire A Web Pro

Sometimes you need an Internet marketing professional.

With all the cheap options for building template-based do-it-yourself websites, why have it done professionally? I'll boil it down to just two words: "distinctive" and "effective." Those 20 total characters are the difference.

Let's take on Wix websites for a moment. To my eye they all share a generic look. You don't have to look inside the source code to know that you have landed on a Wix website.

As opposed to that paradigm, a custom website will look "distinctive," conveying the idea that your company offers a completely unique value-added proposition. There's no one else quite like you. You are in a class by yourself. Your competitors? A bunch of third-rate wannabees.

You're a future Milwaukee web design customer of ours if you place a value on distinctive. If you don't think that being distinctive matters enough that you are willing to pay for it, you'll go to Wix.com right now.

Be aware though that their websites are not free, as the ads tout. You'll be paying $50 a year for a site that's wallpapered with Wix ads. So really, at the low end of the price range, you are renting space on an Internet billboard. Ad-free Wix websites start at about $110 per year.

Right now, the only add-on app is an e-commerce module. Serious business users will go with the so-called "unlimited" plan at $150 per year. First-year domain fees are covered, but you will pay for subsequent renewals.

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Relativity Theory of SEO Purchasing

SEO Hustles

A relativity theory of SEO investment

These days anybody who owns a website is going to be besieged by aggressive SEO sales pitches. You'll be told that your SEO pretty much sucks, and it's damaging your business. Let's get a few things straight.

SEO is an advertising tool which exists alongside and complements all your other marketing channels. Your investment in SEO needs to be apportioned relative to all your customer engagement strategies. The level of investment also should be apportioned relative to measurable traffic goals which you set.

Those goals in turn have to be set relative to other related goals in the arenas of revenue and profits. In other words, investing in SEO needs to be contemplated relative to the entirety of the puzzle. Salespeople shoving this one piece in your face and telling you that you need it are just blowing smoke.

Making SEO decisions rationally is a challenge for many companies because SEO often resides in the domain of IT and is hidden in the budget of IT. Things get done just because they're possible, wasting time and money.

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SEO Optimize Your Page Titles

Less Is All

Website owners who sell online rely on web surfers finding their pages through organic searches. The title of a page is less important nowadays with the advent of structured-data markup But it still matters a great deal, and the rules have changed. The so-called "long-tail title" clings to a stubborn fanbase among many SEO consultants. My own experience leads in the opposite direction.

Whenever I build a new site with the SEO built in from the ground up, I closely regulate title length and I check it in Google Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools will list all pages that have titles Google regards as too long. When Google flags something, Google means business. This system is their way of discouraging brazen keyword stuffing. It's not possible to stuff a mile of keywords into 55 characters. Those 55 characters are now the optimal length of a page title, for the purposes of organic SEO.

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How Branding Informs Web Design

Why Not 'Web Branding?'

'Web design should be thought of as part of brand development.'

People in my business talk about web design as if it were a separate, distinct, stand-alone profession. One that invites wild, almost garish creativity. To the point that you see crazy calls to action such as "Let's get funky." It's true that today the graphic possibilities are limited only by the developer's creative imagination.

But here at Javelin we believe that raw creativity must be rigorously disciplined. Because "web design" in fact belongs to a long-established, mature marketing discipline called branding.

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How Much Is Enough | Milwaukee SEO Services

Buy Smart

Buy SEO with your eyes wide open.

Seems like everybody is selling SEO. You wake up one morning, and your dog has a new gig selling SEO door-to-door. He's partners with a pony. You're already getting robo e-mails from SEO companies. Soon they'll be robo-calling you 24/7. I haven't yet seen my first SEO billboard. It's coming.

But really, do you need it? Not necessarily. If I were you, I'd look at this just like at any decision to put money back into the business.

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Organic Food for Your Google Ranking | Milwaukee SEO

Slow-Cooked Feast

Organic SEO nourishment for your Google ranking.To hell with it if it's not instant. So goes the mantra of this our brave new world. That's why it's always a bit of an uphill battle to sell something that by definition takes its own sweet time: organic SEO. Whereas PPC is fast food cooked in a fryer, you cook organic SEO slowly in a crock pot. Takes way longer, but the nutritional value is so much higher. And the health benefits so much longer-lasting.

"Organic" Google listings are much more credible to users - three times more credible than paid PPC search results, in fact. But it's neither cheap nor fast. Success requires time, dedication and patience. Think of PPC as a battle-winning strategy, and SEO as a war-winning strategy.

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Linked Up | Milwaukee Social Media Marketing

Advertise On LinkedIn?

We go to Google, Yahoo and Bing to shop. We go to social media sites to network and wise off. So here's the 500-lb. gorilla question. Why would you ever pay to advertise to people who by definition are neither shopping nor primed to purchase?

Most of them are going to just shut out the message. Or, if they notice the message, it will make the shallowest of impressions. The message blends into the background noise of the mind, becoming invisible in plain sight.

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The New Mandatory: Responsive Design

Get Mobile Or Go Home

Worldwide sales of tablets will top 100 million this year. Next year, if the trend continues, tablet sales will surpass notebook sales for the first time. Right now among US mobile subscribers, smartphones outnumber cell phones. With young people leading the way, the way we use the Internet is changing at lightspeed.

Enter the new "mobile-responsive" web design. Pioneered by Twitter, this amazing new technology allows construction of websites that work equally well on all handheld Internet devices. By automatically detecting which kind of device is querying the site, the site cleverly resizes the layout. It's based on a dynamic grid system operating behind the scenes of the desktop view of your website.

We're talking universal optimization of the viewing experience. On any device, wherever there are bars, the site will be easy to use with a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling. The secret? A fluid layout system which sizes elements proportionately, in percentages, rather than absolute pixel measurements. As an added benefit, pages load faster, and overall functionality improves.

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Normalizing The Vocabulary of Web Design

No Geek-Speak

Jargon-free website design services.

You're in business, maybe shopping for a Milwaukee web designer. You don't speak a word of Geek. Why, then, are people like me talking Geek at you on their websites? I really don't know. It doesn't make sense. They must be assuming that you're a marketing director or IT person from a big company. Folks like that do at least know enough Geek to pay the rickshaw boy and order the Ming Chau Singha Dofu.

At www.javelincommunications.com, we never assume any insider knowledge on the part of visitors. Sitewide, we bend over backwards to avoid Geek speak. If there's absolutely no way around it, we try to explain it in clear, simple terms. See, just like you, I gag on jargon. My eyes are just as apt to roll back into my skull. I've always had this violent reaction when people make things more complicated than they need to be.

Exalted Internet Babble: No Way to Talk to Web Design Customers

There's a lot of that in this industry. Sometimes it's deliberate. Using exalted babble is a time-tested strategy for putting forward oneself as a brilliant sage who possesses infinitely valuable secret knowledge. If you make what you do sound magical and mystical, won't people pay more? And is it not also a means of gaining and holding power over others? Think back in history to all the secret technical societies, starting with alchemy.

Most of the time, though, I suspect the failure to communicate is unintentional. People are trying hard; they just don't know how. They have advanced technical training, but little training in how to effectively communicate their knowledge to people from other walks of life. Nobody ever taught them the art of translating. On top of everything else (forgive me) they may have an autistic streak.

I know how frustrating this can be for you the customer. There's no easy way to address it industry-wide, however. I suppose I could offer a class in people skills for geeks. Lord knows where that would lead. As the proverb says, the longest journey in the world begins with one step.

Alas no, this little rant of mine can't change the world. But maybe I can improve our little corner of it. When Javelin strays off-course and inadvertently starts talking Geek to you, do us a favor and call us out. Help us stay true to our commitment to always give it to you straight, in plain English.

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