Core Values of Effective Web Development in Minneapolis, MN

If you’re building a brand, you need to have an online presence for long term success and audience growth. Ideally, that would include a website and social media presence on multiple platforms, as well as digital marketing and ad placement, but at the very least, your online presence should include a website. Building a website can be intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the tools, but with the right support systems, you can put together a quality site that meets your needs and holds space in search engines. Many popular website builders available today make putting together a website easy, but to create a well-designed site that increases user engagement and accessibility for a diverse audience, it’s important to understand core values that make up good web development. At MLT Group, we specialize in SEO-based designs for websites with quality content that users will respond to positively. When you work with us to build your website, you benefit from our extensive understanding of effective web development in Minneapolis, MN and across the country.

Web Development

It doesn’t matter if you own a business, manage a nonprofit organization, or are a public figure, you will benefit from a quality website. As soon as you establish a website that operates as your own platform, you can start to grow your brand with search engine optimization, digital marketing campaigns, and more. Your website will be the central component of your digital marketing. Quality web development for your website should be guided by four core values in order to achieve the best site possible for your brand and users.

Design

You probably have something in mind for the aesthetic design of your site, but remember there are other aspects of design that are critical for making an effective website. These design aspects don’t have anything to do with the superficial “look” of your brand, but they are key in formatting a site that makes your ideal aesthetics work for you in other ways.

When you design your site, you want to make it as user-friendly as possible. First of all, this means a fast loading time is a must. A slow load time causes significant bounce-back results, meaning users immediately go back to the search results page. About 50% of users report bounce back if your site takes longer than two seconds to load. Additionally Google penalizes sites that take more than two seconds to load, negatively impacting search rankings. Make your site design load quickly by reducing cluttered code, eliminating media that slows things down, creating caches, and implementing technical SEO tactics.

If you’ve got a fast load time down, make your site user-friendly by reducing cognitive load without compromising key information. This essentially means relying on a standard of simplicity. Have a well-organized site with pages that each have information easily available. Text content should be written concisely and plainly, however word counts are important to Google and other search engines so don’t skimp on text… just be sure it reads well and is visually pleasing in the way it is displayed. For many sites, that text should also use objective language. Making use of the negative space will also help break chunks of information apart to be more easily digestible.

Another way to design a user-friendly site is by using convention without compromising your design aesthetic. There are certain conventional design standards used on the internet, and users are accustomed to those standards. Drop down menus, contact forms, tags, and having a home button in the top left corner of a page are all examples of conventions you can use to make your site easy to navigate.

When you design your site, think about how you operate as a user. Think of some of the most confusing and difficult websites you’ve come across and avoid the things that you didn’t like about them. Even some large companies with plenty of access to quality designers have been called out for their poor site designs like RiteAid (poor use of negative space and difficult to find what you need) and the Yale School of Art (confusing graphics, unreadable overlays). If you sacrifice good design for your aesthetics or if you have too much information on your page, users are less likely to enjoy interacting with your website.

SEO

Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) is how users find your site through search engines. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use algorithms to find sites and display them in a specific order. Using SEO will increase your chance of your site ranking highly among those results.

There are many ways to implement SEO, such as including keywords in your text content, creating meta descriptions and title tags, and using geo-locations in your H1 and H2 tags. Combining all of these SEO techniques is important to a comprehensive search engine optimization of your site. On social media platforms, for example, hashtags are a basic SEO-like tool. Building SEO into your site takes work, but it’s worth it because it will exponentially increase your audience over time.

One example of effective SEO is building a blog or news page into your site and posting new content regularly. Google and other search engines favor fresh, original content in their algorithms, and you can incorporate keywords frequently and with variety in blogs. Additionally, blogs give you the opportunity to give more information to your users and increase the nuances of your brand.

MLT Group offers comprehensive SEO services for many aspects of your site, including onsite SEO, content development, link building, and search engine marketing. Incorporating SEO into your site yourself is doable, but it does take time to do the research and build the content. Getting help from a professional like MLT Group lifts the majority of SEO from your shoulders and helps you enjoy a better, more effective website.

Adaptability

You never know what device someone will use to interact with your website. Smart phones, tablets, PCs and other screens all have different dimensions and they handle code slightly differently. Because of this, it’s important that your website is adaptable to all kinds of device displays.

When you’re building your site, keep in mind it’s easier to optimize a site for mobile, tablet, and computer screens from the start, rather than after it’s been built for one type of screen. To alter your site’s designs to fit smaller screens, think about how to shrink a page down without making text and images microscopic. Make sure the page will still load quickly (you can test load times with Google’s speed tester), and ensure your content is reorganized and resized appropriately instead of having text and media jumbling on top of each other.

If possible, the ideal solution for mobile optimization is to build your site using responsive coding. Ask your website professional how this works.

Accessibility

Most brands make it their goal to cater to a diverse audience, but to do so, you need to make your website accessible to people with different abilities and needs. This includes people with hearing, vision, cognitive, and processing impairments. That poses some challenges because a website is often a fully visual resource. However there are many ways to create accessibility in your site.

MLT’s site, for example, has several installed profiles that make it possible for people with disabilities to interact with our content. Users can adjust the profile of our site to be seizure safe, have enhanced visuals, make it easier to focus on information, and eliminate potential distractions. We also have keyboard navigation and screen reading options for blind users. For even more customization of our site profiles, users can adjust content such as resizing font, letter spacing, alignment, contrast, and text colors. Click the blue circular button in the bottom left corner of our website to learn more.

Following ADA compliance guidelines for website accessibility can give you a good starting point for making your site useful for all kinds of users. Making your site accessible is not only an ethical decision, it avoids potential fines from legal action, and it gives your audience a better opinion of your brand. Making  this an important part of web development.

Design is the main component of core values for website development, and with it comes SEO use, adaptability, and accessibility. With these in mind when building your website, you’ll be on the path to establishing and improving your image, growing your audience, and making a space for your brand.

To learn more about web development in Minneapolis, MN with MLT Group, contact us at (507) 281-3490, sales@mltgroup.com, or online today.

Why Understanding Marketing ROI is Important

For any kind of business there are many tools that can be used to calculate projections in expenses, revenue, investments, growth, and many other aspects of the bookkeeping and budgeting process. One of the most useful tools for determining marketing expenses and the return on those costs in the form of a broadened company audience and income is a “return on investment” (ROI) calculation strategy. ROI calculations can be applied to business operations outside of the marketing sphere, but because marketing costs and successes can be difficult to put on paper, an effective marketing ROI measurement system is often the best solution for building marketing budgets. When it comes to determining if your search engine optimization (SEO) or other online marketing costs are worth it, which aspects are working the most effectively, and how long expenses take to build a return, understanding how to calculate your marketing ROI is key. MLT Group offers guidance and support for businesses developing digital and social media marketing strategies. Our goal is to help you boost your ROI and implement long term, smart marketing performance indicators.

Simply put, ROI is a tool that is used to determine the profitability of a marketing expense. For example, it can be applied to see if the cost of an online advertisement is justified by the growth of your company’s customer base when new users are led to your business through that ad.

These ROI calculations can vary depending on the marketing strategy and your goals as a company, but they are all used in the same way to take the guessing out of that part of your business.

Taking Out the Guesswork

Unlike calculating profit, baseline operational costs, inventory, and other simpler parts of a company budget, it can be difficult to predict the impact of new marketing investments. Likewise, predicting which ventures are going to be the most effective and how potential customers will interact with marketing endeavors can be tricky. Because of the many factors in a marketing plan, it can involve a lot of guesswork. Implementing effective marketing ROI will significantly impact the guessing part of developing a marketing campaign.

ROI calculators measure conversion rates, traffic fluctuations, sales, followers, and overall engagement from customers and audience members and compare the revenue from all that engagement against the cost of each marketing strategy.

Because each marketing strategy can vary greatly in format and cost, it can be difficult to build a universal ROI calculator. The most effective way to use ROI calculators to determine which marketing techniques are returning your investments is to build multiple measurement systems that can be applied to each category of digital marketing.

Some companies, for example, designate different ROI calculators for the social media aspect of marketing, Google Ads, pay-per-click ads, blogs, SEO strategies, and other types of paid advertising. Understanding the basic format of most ROI calculators will help you learn to adapt different versions to begin measuring your investment efficacy.

How to Calculate It

One of the simplest ROI calculators measures the financial gain after an investment minus the cost of that investment. Then it divides that number with the cost of the investment. If an ad costs $50 and sales worth $100 can be traced back to customers that found your company through that ad, your calculator will look like this:

(100 – 50) / 50 = 1

On paper, you would have broken even on this investment.

This calculator is very simple, but it can be applied to help you make preliminary decisions about many kinds of investments. In reality there will be other costs involved in all investments. Even when purchasing a $50 ad, there are additional costs in the time spent making graphics and communicating with ad platforms. Additionally, even if that $100 in sales can be linked to the ad, complex factors like what was purchased, who the customers are, and where they are located can alter that number.

The type of investments also matters when building an ROI calculator. Is the investment a one-time fee or a recurring cost? Will that cost increase or decrease over time? Will a higher initial cost bring more ROI in the long term and vice versa? These are just some questions to consider when you build a calculator for specific marketing investments.

Even though ROI calculators for marketing can be challenging to build because of unpredictable factors and hidden expenses, there are many tools available to help you better determine starting points, measure patterns, and overall gain better footing for your marketing strategies. Some useful tools many of our clients use to target marketing ROI include:

● Google Analytics: Especially when paired with Google Ads, Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring traffic, digital ad campaigns, and SEO quality. This software system will gather data and organize information about your online audience. You can even build your own ROI system from the information Google Analytics provides.
● CRM Software: There are several sources for CRM (customer relationship management) software, such as Hubspot and Salesforce. CRM software is designed to keep track of customer interactions and information. This information can be gathered from each of your platforms separately or together in a single report.
● Call tracking: For both digital and off-line marketing strategies, call tracking software can gather information about phone calls and conversion rates. This provides data on which of your campaigns led to phone interactions with customers that, in turn, led to a sale.

No matter how you build your ROI calculation tactics, there might be some trial and error, but an effective system will provide multiple benefits, and it’s an important part of a successful marketing department in today’s digital world.

Marketing ROI Benefits

Implementing an effective marketing ROI calculator will give you valuable information about your efforts, including:

● Which digital platforms are bringing the most traffic to your site and leading to the most conversions
● When you should spend money on a campaign versus utilizing free marketing tools
● Where you should spend money and which third parties work best for your company
● Which marketing strategies to eliminate
● Who your customer base is, including their age range, location, spending patterns, and other demographics
● How customers interact with different marketing strategies
● When and why that interaction can shift over time
● How to adapt to those shifts in customer behavior
● What tools work best for your brand and company

In addition to advertising, SEO tools, and marketing overall, your ROI calculations can be used to build your company in other ways. It may give you information that will guide you in rebuilding your website, generating graphics and media, hiring new employees, increasing the diversity of your products, improving your business’s accessibility, expanding to a global audience, consolidating debt, and much more.

In many ways, ROI calculations for your marketing strategies are not just an important part of building your brand and saving money, they are often a vital aspect of being able to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions of the digital and physical consumer world.

To learn more about marketing ROI and how you can integrate it into your digital and social media marketing strategies with the help of MLT Group, contact us at (507) 281-3490, sales@mltgroup.com, or online today.

ADA Compliance for Web with Responsive Web Design

In 1990, the US signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into civil rights law. This act makes discrimination based on disability illegal and overall provides the same protection of rights for people with disabilities that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides for people of all races, religions, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin. Title I of the ADA covers employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Title II of the act enforces compliance to ADA policies in public entities and public transportation. These regulations are detailed in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations and commercial facilities to adhere to regulations, guidelines, and other code requirements. When it comes to website design, businesses, public figures, nonprofits, and all other independent parties must comply with the ADA’s accessibility laws. With the help of MLT Group’s design team, you can build profiles and adjustments into your site that help you meet ADA compliance requirements via responsive web design. Additionally we offer a powerful menu of onsite tools to make websites fully ADA compliant while providing adaptability control directly to the user.

 

Not only will having an ADA compliant website help you avoid a lawsuit or court judgement, it also protects and supports everyone who may wish to interact with your site and improves experiences with your brand for persons with disabilities. This in turn expands your audience and increases site traffic.

 

One of the most direct and surefire ways to build ADA compliance into your website is by following the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level.

 

WCAG 2.1 AA (released in 2018) is the most current edition of the most widely accepted web conformance to ADA guidelines. In WCAG 2.1 AA, there are 50 criteria your site should incorporate to ensure best ADA compliance. Checklists for these criteria can be found relatively easily online. For example, through this resource, you can find thorough guidelines and checklists in digital or downloadable PDF formats. In addition to these WCAG 2.1 AA criteria, there are many other ways to build ADA compliance into a responsive web design that site owners can include on a case-by-case basis.

 

The most powerful of these solutions is the accessibility control menu which allows users of different adaptabilities to adjust their experience with a site’s content to fit their specific needs. An example of this solution in action can be found on this site by clicking the blue and white person icon in the lower right corner of your screen. The menu allows users to choose from a list of adaptation to customize their experience with the site. Fully ADA compliant, this website solution is also updated every 24 hours so that new content is quickly made compliant as well.

 

While digital ADA compliance can get very detailed, there are common problems website designs often have that limit content accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

Common Problems with Content Accessibility

  1. Images: Frequently, websites that aren’t ADA compliant will feature images without text or verbal content equivalents. For visually impaired users or users with other disabilities that impact their ability to read image displays, an image that isn’t paired with text or verbal descriptions is inaccessible.

 

Fixing this issue requires the integration of technologies that improve access for disabled users, such as screen reader programs that translate text into auditory content or Braille display systems that turn digital content into refreshable, physical characters. Programs that speak or translate caption text into touchable displays can be easily installed into most website designs, and they go a long way in improving your site’s ADA compliance.

 

Adding text equivalents to images is also simple, typically through generic HTML code adjustments or tags. Because screen readers, Braille, and similar programs can’t translate from an image, adding text captions to pictures on your site is an ideal starting point to improving image accessibility.

 

  1. Videos: Like images, videos and multimedia content have accessibility issues for visually impaired users. Videos also pose access problems for hearing impaired users because they often introduce auditory content in addition to their visual components.

 

To make a video or other type of multimedia that combines visual and auditory aspects more accessible to disabled users, there are two solutions you can integrate into your site. First, adding text content equivalents/descriptions paired with the same screen readers and Braille systems that give visually impaired users better access to images will help bring video and multimedia content up to better ADA compliance. Secondly, incorporating captions that narrate the video into text as it plays will help hearing impaired users interact with multimedia content.

 

Today, there are reliable programs that auto-generate captions for auditory components throughout a video. While many of these caption-generator tools are useful and save content creators time, including more precise subtitles that have been accurately translated and well-placed as a video overlay will make your website’s multimedia easier to access for hearing impaired individuals. It might take more time to incorporate non-automated subtitles and other carefully built features, but it will improve your ADA compliance and make your brand more attractive to users with disabilities.

 

  1. Documents: If you’re following common internet standards, many documents, forms, text displays, and even images on your website might not be in an ADA compliant format. For example, if a document is available to users only in a PDF (portable document format), then visually impaired users will have low accessibility to that information.

 

If you translate a document’s information into a text-based format rather than just in PDF, JPEG, PNG, GIF, or other image-only format, it will increase disabled users’ accessibility to that content. This is because text-based documents like HTML or RTF (rich text format) can be processed through screen readers and other disability assistant programs. RTF documents are generally the most compatible format for the majority of translation technologies.

 

If your site requires users to fill out forms, read contracts, or interact with documents in any legal ways, it’s critical to improve accessibility for disabled users by providing those files in text-based formats as well as visual formats.

 

Another way to increase the accessibility of documents for visually impaired users is to provide tools that allow them to enlarge text, change font and display colors, and alter other font settings. These text-adjustment technologies help users quickly change a document display to read it right on your site. If making those small changes provides document content access for some visually impaired users, they may not have to spend the time to translate a text-based document through another system. This also increases your ADA compliance and provides accessibility for users that might be visually impaired for many different reasons.

 

  1. Design: Last but not least, the design of your website is a large part of building a foundation for comprehensive ADA compliance through the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. While aesthetics, formatting, and the general design of your site can be a key part of building your brand, keep in mind how all users, including those with a broad range of different abilities, will interact with and react to components of your site.

 

Take into account font, colors, brightness, size, and layout. Some users might have a hard time seeing small text and images, react negatively to certain colors and sounds, or find it difficult to focus on the information you’re providing. Additionally, many sites that aren’t ADA compliant don’t have seizure-safe designs or don’t provide warnings of potential bright lights, animations, or colors. All of these issues are addressed by the powerful adaptability solution used on the mltgroup.com site.

 

The best way to make your website accessible to all users without giving up the aesthetics and designs you want to build into your brand is to provide tools that let users make adjustments when they need to. Tools that let users change display designs without sacrificing the informational content will help visually and hearing-impaired people interact with your site, but other adjustment tools can make your content more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities, ADHD, or autism, as well as many other neuroatypical users.

 

To improve your website’s ADA compliance, these are some general issues to address. At MLT Group, we follow WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines in our site design. This includes seizure safe, vision impaired, cognitive disability, ADHD friendly, blind users screen reader, and keyboard navigation motor profiles. We also offer the adaptability menu solution found on this site which automates formatting for compliance when new content is added to the site.

 

It’s easier now than ever to incorporate tools for responsive web design that people with disabilities can interact with and use to navigate and process your site. By following WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, making a proactive checklist, and integrating even the simplest ADA compliant tools, your website will become more accessible to all users and your ethical practices as a content creator, company, or other website provider will improve.

 

To learn more about incorporating ADA compliant designs into your website, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490 or sales@mltgroup.com today.

Franchise SEO & Website Design – The Big Fix

Everyone in America is familiar with franchises. They are represented on street corners coast to coast; McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Dunkin’, Great Clips, and hundreds more. From fast food to haircuts, and commercial cleaning to glass repair, franchises help meet a need for almost everyone at one time or another throughout each year. Their economic impact is fantastic, with those in the United States alone producing an output of nearly 800 billion dollars annually. In fact, franchises made up 10.5 percent of all US businesses in 2020 and employed over 8.5 million Americans.

Among businesses, franchise organizations have a unique component structure; a central licensing organization – the franchiser, often a large company with an entrenched corporate mentality, which supplies, supports, and collects fees from much smaller local businesses – the franchisees. The success of franchises across 295 industries attests to the benefits of this structure. In at least one area of the franchise world, however, there is an intractable struggle between franchiser and franchisee that often leads to marketing issues and lost opportunities.

That’s where we come in. At MLT Group, we have spent the last decade specializing in website design for franchise organizations and have become franchise SEO experts. In the process, we have assisted several national franchise companies to improve their digital marketing and have achieved outstanding ranking results for a plethora of franchisee sites. Now, for the first time, I’m about to tell you what we’ve learned, the not-so-secret problem in franchise SEO and marketing and the Big Fix that’s needed.

Number One: It’s important to recognize that franchise organizations want their franchisees to be successful. This desire is driven by economics and pride. Successful franchisees pay more fees to the franchiser and promote more interest among other potential franchisees. It is equally important to recognize that franchisers and franchisees don’t always share the same priorities. A franchisee sees business success as primarily defined by profit. The more business the better. A franchiser considers both profit and brand image to be paramount concerns. Which makes sense– the brand they have built is the foundation of their entire franchise organization.

Number Two: This misalignment in priorities frequently leads to problems for both franchisees and franchisers in the realm of digital marketing, with both groups struggling against one another rather than working in cohesive and collaborative harmony.

Concerns of the franchiser:

  • We need everyone to represent the brand consistently and accurately across all digital platforms. This is important to consumer confidence in the brand.
  • We worry that some of our franchisees lack the expertise in digital marketing to deliver our brand and messaging appropriately on their websites or on social media.
  • Even though digital marketing is most effective for service businesses when geo-targeted to the appropriate service area, our ability to assist hundreds of franchisees in producing digital marketing unique to their area and offerings is limited by budget and time.
  • Digital is more complicated and changeable than print, radio, or TV ads, making it harder to control from one central source.
  • Even though unique content is essential to search engine optimization, it is not feasible for corporate to write unique content for 400 or 1,500 separate sites, all explaining the same services.

Due to these concerns, franchise organizations often take the following actions which directly harm the digital marketing of their franchisees:

  • To control brand and messaging, they do not allow each franchise to have a unique “local” website and/or social media presence.
  • They do not allow each franchise to have its own unique domain name, preferring to house information about the franchise under the corporate “our locations” page or a URL like Bigfranchiseco.com/location_2463.
  • They may insist on franchisees using duplicate “boiler plate” marketing text for their websites, which is an SEO killer.
  • They do not accurately inform franchisees that the most effective way to rank on search engines is to have a unique local website with original content that is SEO’d and updated regularly.

Concerns of the franchisee:

  • Our local franchise needs to rank highly in search engines for the services we offer within our service area.
  • We need help to design, build, and populate a professional website and/or create an effective social media marketing campaign.
  • Our digital marketing efforts are limited by budget, available time, and lack of expertise in digital marketing.
  • We need a local web presence that is not owned by corporate.
  • Even though regularly posting unique website content is essential to search engine optimization, we do not have the time or expertise to create this content.
  • We want a robust social media campaign but do not have time to maintain it.
  • We want leads to come directly to us when potential customers find us online, not directed to us by corporate with fees or strings attached.

“Due to these concerns, franchise owners need their own unique local websites.”

Due to these concerns, franchise owners need their own unique, local websites. Many would also benefit from independent social media campaigns as well. Corporate can do a lot when it comes to buying online ad space for multiple locations or establishing a robust social media presence for the whole organization. Many franchise organizations maintain impressive social media campaigns, and for some, it can be enough for a franchisee to piggyback on these efforts. However, in terms of traffic and lead generation from Google and other search engines, there is no substitute for a robust local website for each franchise or major franchise market.

There are exceptions. Fast-food franchises, rapid oil change locations, car washes, and similar businesses do not need local websites. Due to the nature of their offerings, a central corporate website with locations pages is sufficient for these sorts of businesses.

“It is imperative for businesses to be  easy to find and easy to do business with.”

Companies providing services in people’s homes and businesses (cleaning, repair, remodeling, lawn care, pest control, etc.) need independent, local websites optimized effectively for Google and other search engines in order to achieve the best rankings possible. Solid rankings on search engines are the gold standard for being found, and the surest way to drive relevant traffic and leads. With an increasingly savvy consumer market, it is imperative for businesses to be easy to find and easy to do business with.

There are multiple benefits of an independent local website for a franchise. These include:

  • A unique domain name – important to franchise SEO and local marketing
  • A platform for unique content specific to the franchise’s services and service area
  • Ownership of the website for both control and as a valuable business asset
  • Results – a well-built and optimized local website will get better rankings and more traffic, leading to more leads and better ROI

“Corporate franchise organizations want their franchisees to succeed, however they have legitimate concerns about brand image and control.”

The Big Fix: Corporate franchise organizations want their franchisees to succeed, however they have legitimate concerns about brand image and control. The fix is to allow individual franchise owners to have their own local websites and to offer them trusted vendors who can provide quality digital marketing services that meet corporate brand expectations. Moreover, putting some money into the solution via co-pays helps the franchisees feel they are not bearing the burden alone. Additionally, the big corporate sites often have a good reputation with the search engines, so making sure to link from the corporate site to each independent franchise site provides powerful link juice. All of which lends itself to better franchise SEO, better Google rankings, more traffic, more leads, and better ROI. It’s a win-win that corporate franchise organizations need to understand and implement in the increasingly competitive world of digital marketing.

To learn more about professional franchise SEO services, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490 or sales@mltgroup.com today.

About the Author

Theo St. Mane is a partner and director of operations for MLT Group – Creative Solutions in Rochester, Minnesota. He has over 30 years of marketing experience and has spoken at national and regional conventions of franchise groups. He has also consulted on digital marketing for a variety of national franchise organizations since 2012.

 

The Design Connection Launches New Website

the-design-connection-website

 

MLT Group is happy to announce the launch of a new website for The Design Connection! The site showcases The Design Connection’s residential and commercial building designs and outlines their services with user-friendly pages that efficiently inform visitors. Content within the site explains the company’s process, services, and their extensive experience with residential and commercial designs while ensuring a positive user experience.

MLT Group’s search engine optimization (SEO) professionals worked directly with our team of content creators to optimize the site for search engines. These optimization procedures and the original, key phrase rich content on the site, will help the site rank well in search results. A solid onsite SEO strategy and ongoing SEO marketing techniques will help potential customers find The Design Connection site more readily.  After all, getting found online is important to being able to supply people with the kind of skilled design capabilities that create dream home spaces. Having an SEO enriched website that’s easy for visitors to navigate and take in the information about exactly what services The Design Connection provides is a critical marketing tool. Not only does a well-built website impart professionalism and expertise, it’s a marketing expense that is always justified by its return on investment (ROI).

Websites and ROI

“Return on investment” is a term that describes the justification of expenses from any type of marketing practices by attributing increased sales or income to those expensed techniques. Simply put, ROI is making money back on any marketing expense because the marketing technique led to more revenue. A website is a common kind of marketing expense that is justified by the ROI it provides.

There are many tactics for online marketing, such as pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, and search engine optimization. When it comes to effective ROI marketing for websites, one of the most proven methods of increasing revenue and traffic is SEO. Largely driven by the need to adapt to Google’s search engine algorithms and those of other search systems, SEO utilizes careful research into relevant search terms or key phrases, location targets, original content, and other factors important to attaining high ranking in search engines.

With the launching of The Design Connection website, and an effective online marketing strategy, The Design Connection will likely see effective ROI created by increased visibility on search result pages, more traffic on their user-friendly pages, and more website visits that convert to sales and customers.

Ready to Make Your Site Work for You? Contact Us Today!

To learn more about professional SEO services, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490, sales@mltgroup.com, or online today.

Why Blog Consistency is Crucial for an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy

If you are a blogger or have a company blog or news feed set up on your website, you know that publishing content regularly is an important part of brand recognition and an effective SEO (search engine optimization) tactic. Not only does Google look for and reward new content, seeing it as a sign of an active site, but you simultaneously grow your digital footprint as the blog posts add static pages to your site. Whether you use your blog as a platform to promote your goods or services, offer news about your company, or provide informational articles that will help users interact with your website, products, and company overall, consistent blog posting is an effective digital marketing strategy. While its effectiveness is undeniable, blog content producers face the facts that it is also a digital marketing strategy that takes dedication and hard work.

blog-digital-marketing-strategy

Researching topics and writing clear, concise, and interesting blogs consistently takes time and effort. Because of that, it is important for content creators to understand where the balance is between not creating enough and over-creating to the point of time wasting. To discover that balance, creators need to ask how long their blogs should be and how often they should be posting content.

Some companies only need to post one or two 200-word blogs monthly to meet a happy balance. Others may need to post 2,000+ word pieces several times a month in order to achieve their visibility goals. While it can be difficult to find your own middle ground between those dramatically different scenarios, doing some research and comparing your company size and specialty to blogs of a similar operation can help. Most bloggers will find that trial and error is the best way to find their own sweet spot in content creating schedules.

What Counts as “Consistent?”

Consistency is a variable term. What is best in your situation depends entirely on your ability to create content at the scope and frequency that will benefit your website traffic and company, without overdoing it, wasting valuable time, or falling short of your goals. For many small to medium companies, producing 300–500-word blog posts once or twice a month is an ideal consistency. At MLT Group, we have the capabilities to consistently create content, from one blog per month to six or more, for a variety companies ranging from freezer warehouses to bankruptcy firms and disaster restoration companies.

The level of consistency that is right for you also depends on the type of content. If you have in-depth information to provide your audience, longer blogs will be required. Longer blogs might limit your bandwidth for frequency. A manufacturing company with detailed information to provide might spend more time writing each blog, requiring a lower frequency of posting for time management purposes. On the other side of that coin, a company like a clothing store, with simpler information to provide, may be able to post 100-word blurbs daily.

This is where social media in your digital marketing strategy can pair nicely with consistent blogs for even more effective digital media marketing results. In the example of a company positing lengthy informational blogs infrequently, they might also use social media to post shorter notes with a higher frequency. These could be designed to drive more traffic to their deeper ‘on-site’ blog posts.

Because social media does not require a bevy of information on each post, you can supplement a lower rate of blogs with a higher rate of more superficial social media content. Even if it is superficial, frequent social media posting, and a company’s consistent blogs with rich information, will help get the attention of Google’s SEO algorithm.

Likewise, with the clothing store example, social media can still be paired effectively with blogs. Linking social media to the daily blog post will increase audience range and website traffic, resulting in more sales and more recognition from the Google algorithm.

Overall, no matter what content creating schedule you determine to be the best fit for length and timeline, sticking to it and keeping consistency at the forefront will help you utilize your blog page as a powerful (and virtually free!) digital marketing strategy.

What Does Consistency Do?

So how does consistent blogging as a digital marketing strategy work? There are two main effects that consistent content creating will have on your brand and website.

1. Brand Trust

The more content you create, the more information your audience will know about your brand. Understanding breeds trust, and brand trust is the number one benefit of consistent blogging. If your audience has trust in your brand, you have a stronger opportunity to gain their loyalty. Loyalty means repeated interactions and increased traffic either through marketing promotion or word of mouth.

Consistency in creating content will grow your audience and help you gain the trust and loyalty of customers and supporters. Imagine if the New York Times did not give a daily email update to newsletter subscribers. Those subscribers would be less likely to turn to the Times daily. Providing an update on stories, news snippets, crosswords, and more each day for years has established the New York Times as a go-to email news source for many people.

Additionally, creating content while sticking to a consistent schedule will help your company and blog become authority figures over time. If your audience knows you will be posting on a regular schedule, they can go there for related information and find new content when they expect it. Creating content over time will also help you establish a backlog of blogs containing even more information than just the new content you released that week or month. Becoming an authority on your own brand and the industry you are in through consistent content creating will show an audience that you have integrity and quality. Google and other search engines will notice too, which is why gaining brand trust through consistent content creating is a key SEO tool.

2. SEO

Search engine optimization is a term that describes work done to move your website or blog up as much as possible on the list of search results that Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other search engine provides users. SEO tools like pay-per-click advertising, keyword targeting, and blogging/content creation are today’s most effective digital marketing strategies.

New content is attractive to the Google algorithm, and since Google is the most utilized search engine, it is a no brainer that establishing and maintaining consistency in your content creation to help your site catch Google’s eye is an important SEO tactic that can drive traffic to your site. Google is so interested in new content partly because it signals an active and authoritative site. Just the kind of site that Google wants to return as a search result for users. Additionally, new content helps keep users on sites for longer, an indicator for user satisfaction in search results.

Not only does consistently created new content get Google’s attention and approval, but it can also help you target which keywords are interacted with the most around content related to your company. User interaction with some blogs over others might help you recognize that one key phrase is bringing in more search traffic than another key phrase, helping you to better target future blogs. Integrating new keywords into blogs will help you continue to discover more keywords that you can incorporate into newer blogs and so on.

Using brand trust gained through a history of continued, consistent content creation to bolster your SEO abilities is the proven effect of making and sticking to a blog schedule. Blogs produced frequently are a digital marketing strategy that can keep your website and company in front of a growing audience and help you grow as a brand.

Contact the Digital Marketing Experts Today

To learn more about consistent blogging as a digital marketing strategy contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490, sales@mltgroup.com, or learn more by spending time on our site.

Unpacking Google’s Guidance for the New Mobile-First Index

There’s been a significant development in today’s internet. While it looks the same, how we find and access the billions of pages on the internet has changed.

That change is “mobile-first indexing,” and Google’s been testing and slowly rolling it out for a few years. Now, finally, mobile-first indexing is being applied across all of the webpages that Google indexes. Because Google is BY FAR the most common starting point for consumers on the internet, it’s a tectonic shift in access.

Unless you already pay attention to trends in search engines, this might be the first time you hear about mobile-first indexing.

Read (or scan!) on for a jargon-minimum unpacking of this big change in the internet.

Here’s What You Need to Know

Later on, we’ll explore what Google’s mobile-first index means in more detail. Here’s what you need to know right away:

  • If your website is newly created since July 1, 2019, you’ve started out under Google’s mobile-first indexing.
  • If your website is older than July, 2019, then if you haven’t already been added to mobile-first indexing, you will be this month (September 2020).
  • If your website is not optimized for mobile access, you absolutely must update your website. You’ll be left behind in the dust of search results if you don’t (not to mention the website will simply not be easily usable).

Many sites have already been added to mobile-first indexing – including ours, which was integrated to the new system in 2018. The system’s been slowly rolling out for a few years now.

You can confirm your site’s indexing crawler on your site’s page on Google Search Console.

 

But now it’s here for everyone, regardless if you pay attention to the Google webmaster and developer guides or not.

Mobile-first indexing will be old news for some, but if you’re a business owner or otherwise run a website and you’re NOT familiar with the latest developments, scan this post! We’ll break down the need-to-know info about mobile-first indexing for the non-developers of the world.

What Is Indexing?

“Indexing” is one part of the process Google undertakes to organize and present to you the billions of pages of content on the internet. The process goes like this:

  1. Crawling: A Google program, affectionately named “Googlebot,” scours the internet by hopping from link to link to link. Googlebot finds pages on the internet.
  2. Indexing: Once found, a page will be indexed. That means Google stores information about that page: what’s on it, what’s it doing, etc.
  3. Ranking: Based on all the information gathered, Google’s algorithms rank the pages in the index whenever you enter a search term. These are your search results.

The above are the basic workings of Google’s search engine.

 

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Previously, Google looked at the desktop version of your website when it crawled and indexed all the pages on your website. (Special aside: Google does not index and rank websites; Google indexes and ranks webpages.)

Now, Google is indexing the mobile version of your webpages and using that information to rank your webpages.

That means if you haven’t paid much attention to your mobile site, then you need to now—because that’s the one Google is paying attention to!

Real quick – why make this change? Since October of 2016, most internet traffic has originated from mobile devices. Sound surprising? It did to this humble writer, but think of all the simple questions you ask Google, or how often you’re waiting for some appointment and you’re browsing Facebook or (like me) reading obscure corners of Wikipedia. Or you’re out and about (in that pre-pandemic world) and searching for a place for lunch or dinner. Much of the casual queries and social media use and shopping occurs on mobile. That all adds up.

Because the internet is mostly accessed on mobile devices, and Google has an all-important directive to provide useful search results, Google now effectively ranks mobile sites rather than desktop sites. Google wants to provide the best internet experience possible, and that won’t happen by pointing someone on a phone to a site that can’t run well on their device.

 

Why Should I Care about Mobile-First Indexing?

OK, so the nerds at Google have shifted around how their internet-sorting thingamajigger works. Who cares?

Here’s what’s most important to understand and why you should care about this process:

Google controls your internet.

Google and its related properties receive over 90% of internet traffic.

Google has decided that it’ll use the mobile version of your site to rank search results. If your mobile site is clunky, un-usable, or even just under-optimized, then you’re starting the race for search traffic about a mile behind your competitors.

Essentially, if you don’t play by Googles rules, your site will not be easily accessible in search results. If you care about search at all, you need to care about the mobile version of your site.

Is My Site Ready for Mobile-First Indexing?

Unless your site is older than a few years, it’s pretty likely you’re already under mobile-first indexing. Regardless, you need to make sure you’re adhering to the best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Simple details follow, but here’s the big picture for what you need to do:

  • Ensure your website is uniform no matter what platform it’s accessed on (whether desktop, mobile, or tablet).
  • Ensure that your website is functional and easily usable no matter which platform it’s accessed on.

These are the main principles of the best practices as given by Google themselves.

A lot of their best practices can be boiled down to have a responsive design for your website. “Responsive design” means your website’s design adjusts itself depending on the size of the screen accessing it—so it’ll look uniform and coherent whether it’s a smart phone or a desktop connecting to your site.

There are also some more in-the-weeds aspects of web development and design that should be attended to. For example, the meta data and descriptions must be consistent between the mobile and desktop versions of your site. Other more technical parts of your site like structured data must also be consistent.

There’s a lot that needs to be checked if you’re trying to ensure your website is ready for mobile-first indexing. The easiest way to give a general check-up might just be to pull up your site on your phone or tablet:

  • Does the website still load quickly and smoothly?
  • Is the content (the text) all the same as the desktop version, and is it easy to read on a small screen?
  • Can you easily interact with the different menus and buttons?
  • Do images and videos still load effectively?
  • Are any ads on the site integrated without being too in-the-way?
  • Can you still find parts of the site easily?
  • Do all the links still work?

That’s a quick and dirty check-up on the mobile health of your website—a very important check-up under the new Google indexing system.

Ensure Your Site Is Usable and Beautiful on Mobile

Want to learn more about responsive design for your website? Need a check-up to ensure your website’s good to go for the future? Contact MLT Group today!

 

Use Responsive Web Design for Conversion Rate Optimization

The conversion rate of your site is a measurement of how many users interacting with your web pages take the next step. Whether that means signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, sharing a post, or any other engagement, an optimization of your conversion rate is a goal every website owner should have.

The most practical way to optimize your conversion rate is to build a responsive web design with user friendly interfacing tools and a clear-cut aesthetic. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) starts with a strong, simple website foundation that easily integrates the tools you need.

 

While everyone can benefit from conversion rate optimization, there are specific types of user engagement that website owners can generate with effective CRO tools. Common goals of engagement that website owners want to “convert” users to take the step into doing include making a purchase, signing up for a mailing list, following on social media, sharing information on social media, contacting your business, and even just clicking to another page. There are two main types of CRO that you can utilize to meet these goals of engagement with your site: primary CRO and secondary CRO.

Primary CRO: Direct interaction with your site

When users interact directly with your website, the factors that guide their interaction depend on how you build your site and the tools you provide to them. Much of this depends on design, comfort, and information.

Visual Interest

The visual features of your site are the first and foremost aspects of your website that users will engage with. Because it’s your front line of interaction, it’s very important to have a clear design that showcases your brand’s aesthetic

Gaining the interest of your targeted audience is the initial step to increasing conversion rates. Appealing visuals is part of that, but it’s also very important to build your site with a simple, intuitive design. Information should be clear to users about your site, products, and purpose, and it should be a natural experience for them to move from one page to the next. Piquing user interest and keeping it is the first step in increasing conversion rates with responsive web design.

Trustworthiness

The internet can be a dangerous place. Users want to feel safe when they interact with a website, and it’s up to the website owner to ensure that trust. Things like pop-up windows, obscured links, and ads can severely reduce conversion rates and damage your website’s relationship with users. Building in links, windows, buttons, and other design features that are transparent in their motives, easy to understand, and show they are secure is a sure way to increase conversion rates.

CRO doesn’t mean tricking users into engaging with your site. It’s a way to open the door for new and return users to build trusted relationships with your website and everything else you offer.

Accessibility

A big part of supporting your website’s trustworthiness is making it as accessible as possible to users. This means having a fast load time for all pages, a clean build without errors, high resolution, and a logical structure of information. It also means your website should have all the information your users need to know, from contact information to details on where materials are sourced and what other parties you work with.

Improving conversion rates depends on users being able to use your site as the tool you want it to be used as. Keeping a perspective on how accessible each new part you integrate into your site is key in supporting CRO.

Navigation

One way to better understand how accessible your site is to users is by considering the way they will navigate through it. Supporting CRO requires a good navigational system that lets users click through your site and find exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible. However, it can also provide room for exploration through other parts of your site that could lead to another conversion rate different from a user’s initial search goal. Exploration with your site’s navigation system can happen before or after your user makes their first conversion.

Practically speaking, this can mean a suggestion for another product after a user puts an item in their cart, or it may be an opportunity for users to perform a broad search on your site that brings up many products meeting the search term.

Secondary CRO: General interaction with your brand

While the majority of the conversion rate analytics come from direct user interaction with your site, secondary reactions also play a big picture role in CRO for your brand. Interactions external from your site, such as social media and press, often lead to a more direct conversion in the future.

Social media

If you don’t have a social media presence on popular platforms, you are significantly limiting your conversion rate potential. Not only is social media a source of free advertising exposed to a global audience, it’s also a tool for you to build a community around your brand.

For many site owners, too, social media is a way to humanize a commercial enterprise while showing constant news updates that may otherwise be unworthy of a full press story. For example, many use social media to show the staff involved, processes used, and other “behind the scenes” information.

Implementing all of these uses of social media for CRO and saturating multiple platforms with your brand profiles creates countless opportunities for backlinks to your website. Links directly from your profiles or from followers and similar brands are a large contributor to direct website traffic and increases in conversions.

Newsletters

Another common secondary interaction with your website and brand is a regular newsletter. Establishing a mailing list sign-up option on your site will let you collect a fan base that includes users who do not use social media or who want more in-depth information and updates about your business. Links through your newsletter bring users to your site where direct interaction and conversions occur.

Targeted Ads

As a website owner, you know what types of users your audience includes. An effective way to spread your website’s presence to new users is with targeted ads. Targeted ads are especially useful for finding new users on social media. In fact, many targeted ads are only activated through social media platforms.  Users clicking on targeted ads are more likely to lead to a conversion because those users are open to interacting with an advertisement in the first place. Ads can seem untrustworthy, and users tend to stay away from them unless there is genuine interest.  Be smart with your ads!

Community

Depending on your brand, you may be able to generate a real community around what products or services you offer, nonprofit actions you perform, or whatever else your website showcases. This community is built on various tools including social media, newsletters, and ads. Bringing together people who support what you do builds a natural support system for CRO. For many website owners, testimonials and anecdotes are some of their most persuasive elements for conversion. If you see a community forming around any aspect of your site, no matter how small, don’t underestimate disregard it. Foster community with interaction and content.

Build a Responsive Website

Implementing some or all of these CRO tools is an option for many website owners. These tools provide a standard for responsive web design formulated around CRO, but there may be other techniques unique to your own website you can use. MLT Group LLC can help you generate new ideas while utilizing tried and true methods for CRO and responsive web design.

Contact us today!