The Beginner’s Guide to Off-Page SEO

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Web Services

Welcome back! We took a little break from talking about SEO, we didn’t want to overload you with information. In Part I of the guide, we talked mostly about On-Page SEO and why it’s crucial to optimize your content. In this article, we will cover Off-Page SEO and how creating killer content can boost your rankings.

What is Off-Page SEO?

Off-Page SEO is everything that happens outside of your website. So, social media content, links, blog, podcast, etc. This type of SEO attracts potential customers in other ways that your website can’t. And if you lead them to your website, your On-Page SEO and well-designed website will win them over.

Your Content Matters

So, it’s all about quality over quantity when it comes to your content. Think about your brand, you want people to trust it, right? Creating trust usually happens outside of your site, whether it’s through social media or a Google review. All of this matters when it comes to your rankings. Of course, you want to rank high for your searches, but don’t sacrifice the quality of your content to achieve it. Building links is at the center of doing Off-page SEO well, so we’ll focus on that first.

Link Building

There are 3 types of links: natural, built, and created. A natural link is exactly what it sounds like, it happens naturally. But, you should still pat yourself on the shoulder because that means someone decided to link to your site because of your content. A built link most likely happens from an outreach campaign. It provides exposure for your business. There are also created links, but that’s connected with the bad kind of SEO and we don’t want that. So, just focus on natural and built links.

Social Media Marketing

This can sound overwhelming since there are so many social media platforms out there. But, just start small and focus on creating quality content and go from there. Hey, maybe we’ll even come out with a guide that covers the basics of social media marketing. Using social media is the easiest and quickest way to share content & gain exposure for your brand. Focus on creating interesting content and you’ll be on your way to building a great social media presence.

Conclusion

When it comes down to Off-Page SEO, you want to focus on getting your name out there. You want to leave digital footprints that will lead potential customers to your website. That’s why it’s important to create killer content consistently, so people will connect trust and authenticity to your brand. It can be a lot of work but don’t worry we’ll try to help you out as much as we can with our blog!

Data Collection Essentials: Online Forms

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By now, most of us are familiar with online forms as we need to use them for almost everything we do online. Forms are a central part of the web as data collection has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Whether an eCommerce website or a simple sign-in to your favorite streaming service, almost every major application requires you to input data in a form to be stored in a database or cloud-based data system. Forms have long been the main feature of websites and web applications. Fortunately, JDR Web has years of experience implementing successful forms to companies large and small.

Most web developers know that forms are a lot more complex than simply providing a place for users to enter some data. Forms have moving parts as they interact with a database, sending new data into the database that has been submitted by a user. This creates opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of security flaws that may exist in the form. If the form has not been developed properly, a bad actor could use an array of different attacks that could damage the database of the application. This can cause damage to systems and cost companies millions of dollars.

Secure Online Forms

At JDR Web, we have made security a high priority, providing our clients with top-notch products built to withstand online attacks. This is one reason we partnered with Formstack, a secure online form builder. With Formstack, you can build a form yourself even if you have limited programming knowledge. The technology behind Formstack allows users to implement secure online forms without needing to worry about backend programming and security. All data that is provided to Formstack is secured with the highest standards of security, including 256-bit SSL, data encryption, PGP email encryption, password protection, invisible reCAPTCHA, and more. This means fewer headaches, less time building, and more time to spend growing your company.

Form Builder

With Formstack, there are a robust array of features that you can implement in your form. It’s easy to add new fields and customize them to your needs. This is a user-friendly way to build forms that require only some passing knowledge of how the software works. Once your form fields are in place, you can add conditional logic to different parts of your form. This allows your form to react to a user’s input. With this feature, you can easily show or hide sections of the form to personalize the user experience.

Each year, more and more web traffic has been attributed to mobile devices. Formstack forms are mobile-friendly, which makes the forms automatically adjust to any device and give mobile users a better user experience. This will help with mobile accessibility and with marketing. Formstack also provides analytics to gather actionable insights from your form data. As a result, you can improve conversion rates and help with your marketing strategy.

Finally, Formstack provides a cloud-based database to store your data. This can make automation of certain tasks like email lists simple and fast. The secure database is accessible to your web applications and only authorized users. The ease of use and robust security features feels like a luxury. Therefore, Formstack can give you peace of mind while providing infrastructure for your customer data. JDR Web provides services to implement Formstack on any size project for any type of business.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO Part 1

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Backlinks, crawling, indexing, SERP, algorithms… are you lost yet? Don’t worry, this is what tends to happen when one begins their journey into the world of SEO, or search engine optimization. We talked a little about SEO in this previous post, but we worked hard to come up with a beginner’s guide about SEO that’s as easy as following a LEGO kit or IKEA directions.

The Basics

So, imagine you’re planning a trip to a new and foreign place. Naturally, you want to have great food and find out what are the best things to do there during your trip. You buy a travel guidebook that lays out everything you would want to experience from food, shops, attractions, etc. All the information is organized, so you can find the best results in the least amount of time.

This is basically describing a web search except the guidebook is Google, you are the user, and the food and attractions are the web pages. Google sends out a program called a crawler that basically goes through all the content on a web page, extracts all the data, and then stores it in an index that shows up as the search results.

But, just like it takes time and energy to prepare for a trip, SEO isn’t any different. So, take the time to learn the basics of SEO and come up with a strategy that’s sustainable for you and your business.

Time to Optimize

Next, let’s talk about optimizing your content, so a search engine like Google can easily read your content and users can find your business quickly and efficiently.

On-Page SEO

This is basically any content that anyone can see on your web page. So, title, headings, text, links, images, etc. With this type of SEO, you want your words to be relevant to what the user is searching for. We’ll go over two simple ways to boost your On-page SEO

1. URL Optimization

Here are 4 ways to optimize your URLs:

Make sure your URLs are readable

If a reader can’t tell what the URL is about then don’t expect a search engine to figure it as well. Don’t use generated URLs, but customize them to provide clarity of your content.

For example, instead of http://yourdomain.com/index.php?=34568.

You can use http://yourdomain.com/learn-seo

Add target keywords in URLs

Once you have your target keywords, try your best to include them in your URLs. Focus on including your target keywords related to your product or service pages.

No capital letters in URLs

This addresses the readability problem as well. Capital letters can confuse readers and search engines and it doesn’t help you achieve the goal of creating content that is clear and easy to understand.

Always use underscores, never hyphens

So, to be clear these_are_underscores and these-are-hyphens. If you need to separate words, don’t try to use spaces or combine all the words together, like this alwaysusehyphens. Using hyphens is the best way to optimize URLs and it also helps with readability. Always-use-hyphens, see so much better!

2. Keyword Optimization

So, this step can take time, but it’s well worth it. Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. Here are 3 basic steps to go about figuring out your keywords: think about relevant keywords that your website should be found for, know your target audience, and be familiar with your competitors.

Relevant Keywords

Take some time to brainstorm keywords that relate to your content, product, or services. For example, a coffee shop would have words like espresso, latte, etc. If you need help some help use a keyword generator, like this one. You can also use this tool to look at the analytics to see which ones have the most searches & best conversion rates.

Know Your Target Audience

It’s vital that you know your target audience, so you can create content that best fits their needs. You shouldn’t optimize a page for the sake of optimizing it, you should do it first and foremost for your customers. Take your list of relevant keywords and refine it, so that it will attract your target audience.

Be Familiar with Your Competitors

You may think you know who your competitors are, but you may be surprised to find some new competition out there. The easiest way to do this just enter one of your keywords in Google and see what domains come up and how they rank. Also, check out your competitor’s website. Maybe they have a blog or other content that is fueling their web traffic which your site might be lacking in.

What’s Next

Now, it’s time to add those keywords to your site. The most influential place to have your keyword phrase is the page title. Remember to keep it short and specific! Below is an example (the page title is the one in blue):

Next is the page description, which is under the page title. This is your chance to market to your target audience and the keywords you choose will influence who clicks and who doesn’t.

If you have a WordPress site, consider using the Yoast SEO plugin. It will basically be your SEO assistant, so you won’t get overwhelmed.

Stay Tuned

How about we take a break? We don’t want to overload you with this information, so next time we’ll go over Off-page SEO and you’ll be on your way to becoming an SEO wizard.

What Makes a Great Website?

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So, last time we talked about why your small business needs a website? If you missed this post, then feel free to read it here. Hopefully, we convinced you enough that you’re ready to make a website for your business. So, let’s talk about what makes a great website and why it matters? A recent study found that 94% of users mistrusted a website because of web design elements, while only 6% referenced specific content. 89% of consumers shop with a competitor after a poor user experience. So, most problems revolve around design and user experience. Let’s break these principles down and by the end, you can go on and start making a great website.

Good Design

So, design is the overall look of your brand. Your website should reflect your company and the products/services you provide. Don’t overcomplicate things and just keep it simple. Let’s break it down: layout, color, type, and imagery.

Layout

When it comes to layout, stay within the norms. A header, content, space, and footer. Your company logo on the top-left corner, the navigation menu at the top, the contact information on the right. Make sure your content has room to breathe, so the reader isn’t too overwhelmed with information.

Color

Color communicated messages and evokes emotional responses. If you have a logo, make your color palette from that. Keep it simple and limit your color palette to less than 5 colors.

Type

Typography plays a crucial role on your website. Like color, it can command attention and represent your brand. Just look at Google, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, their iconic logo is the type. Make sure your typefaces are legible and limit your selection to a maximum of 3 different fonts.

Imagery

This can range anywhere from photography, illustration, to video. Make sure their high-quality and optimized for web usage, so it doesn’t take a long time for your website to load. And, a pro tip here, illustration and video are the latest hype in website design.

So, there you have it, all the basics of designing a website.

User Experience

So, if the design is the look of your brand then user experience is the overall feel of your brand. Is your website easy to use, does it build trust for the user, and most importantly does your content make the time spent on the website worth it? The website is for your business, but remember you should always design it with the customer in mind. So, let’s talk about a few ways about how you can improve the web experience for your customers.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization or SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. Trying to understand SEO can be overwhelming, so we’ll start with the basics.

The goal of SEO is for your website to show up as a top result when a user searches relevant keywords. Let’s say you own a bakery, you want the search engine, most likely Google to show you as a top result to anyone who searches for “bakeries” or “pastries”. You’ll need to focus on your audience for this to happen.

Keyword Research & On-Page Optimization

In order to optimize your website, you have to figure out what keywords people are searching for when it comes to your area of expertise. This is where knowing who your customers are come in handy.: what problems do they have, what are the solutions they’re looking for, etc. The better you understand them, the easier it’ll be to come up with a list of keywords.

Once you have your keyword list, it’s time to implement these keywords into your site’s content. Each page on your website should be targeting relevant keywords, while at the same time engaging the customer. Make sure your content is providing the answers to the questions your customers are asking.

This is a lot of work, but trust us it will pay off dividends in the end. You’ll create a sustainable online presence, build trust and credibility with your users, and most importantly a better user experience.

Mobile-Friendly

Considering that over 50% of all website traffic is generated from mobile phones, you need to consider how your website appears and functions on mobile devices. The easiest way to do this is to make sure your website is responsive, which basically means the way your content is displayed changes based on the size of the device screen. Next, make information that people look for easier to find, such as an address, phone number, or email. Most importantly, make sure any buttons on your website are large enough to click on with the press of a thumb, and be thoughtful about where you place them on the screen. There’s nothing worst than trying to click a button with your thumb at the top of your phone screen.

Optimize Your Page Speed

47% of customers expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds. If you think about it, waiting for anything to load can be a frustrating experience. You can use this service by Google to get information on your page speed and find out ways to improve your loading time. The culprit is most likely the images on your site, so start by compressing them before loading them onto your website.

Closing Thoughts

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to building an enjoyable experience for anyone that lands on your website. Remember that your website represents your brand, so make sure it’s visually cohesive and reflects the core values of your company. Design and build your website with the customer in mind and you will reap the benefits!

Why You Should Change Your Passwords Right Now

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It seems like not a day goes by without news of another major corporation or government agency becoming the latest victim of cyber crime. Data breaches at companies like Facebook have exposed hundreds of millions of leaked accounts with user information including emails and passwords. Combine this with what’s known as the Compilation Of Many Breaches, or COMB, a compilation of all past data breaches (including Target and Equifax) and the number of leaked accounts gets into the billions. Now, there are free tools that you can find online to see if your email, phone number, or passwords have been leaked, but it’s better to just assume that they have and overhaul your online security for your online accounts. At JDR Web, we are focused on security for our clients and we provide solutions that secure your web applications. However, we can’t be all places at once so we put together this guide to making your online accounts safer and more secure so you can drastically improve your online security with a few simple clicks.

Your Password Probably Isn’t Good Enough

If you’re anything like me just a few years ago, you probably have a password that you’ve been using for years and use it on multiple accounts to help you remember. Sound familiar? It might or might not have special characters but definitely uses a word and some important numbers, probably a birth year. Passwords like these are pretty simple for today’s computers to crack as computing power doubles roughly every 1.5 – 2 years while the price tag for them has fallen. The best way around this is to change your password to something more complex, and even difficult or nearly impossible to remember. More on that a little later.

Some readers may argue that they have a complex password and that it isn’t leaked in any of the data breaches based on research and online tools. This may be true, but if you are still using one password on multiple accounts with the same email and user information, you could still be at risk. This is because the practice of using the same password in multiple accounts means that only one of these accounts could suffer a data breach that could expose your credentials to other accounts. Luckily, there are some great tools available to help manage your account credentials.

One Password To Rule Them All, Password Management Software

Of the many solutions available to help store and manage your passwords, Password Management software is probably the simplest and most effective. While most browsers conveniently support storing your passwords, it’s not recommended by most security experts. Password Management software on the other hand, is a separate environment that is more difficult to breach should your device ever get stolen or lost for example. The best feature is that you will only need one password, and it needs to be unique, and unused on any of your other accounts. This password opens the software, and all of your online passwords and usernames can be stored and even generated for you to copy and paste.

There are two main types of Password Management software and this is where you may want to weigh the pros and cons to fit your needs. The first type is a cloud-based Password Management system, where a company hosts your passwords online and you simply need to login to retrieve your passwords. The other type is a local application that you would need to download to your device. The cloud-based system is more convenient for most people because you can use any device and login to the service to get your credentials. But this convenience comes at a price: you are relying on the service to protect your sensitive data and if the service suffers a cyber attack, it’s possible your credentials could be stolen. Additionally, these services often have a monthly recurring fee, or they may limit your account to one device for free.

The other option would be downloadable open-source password managers like KeePassXC, my personal favorite. This is free software and it’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and there is an iOS version as well (KeePassium). It creates a database file that you can generate and store your passwords, as well as other specific account information. The database file is encrypted and unusable without having the main password you set up to unlock it. The only downside is, at this point the database is only available on the device you used set it up. If you want to have the same database file on other devices, you’ll need to manually copy the file to the other device and install the software.

In summary, most of us have some bad passwords out there and a lot of us are reusing the same password in multiple accounts. To make your online accounts more secure, consider using Password Management software or services. This will help you make unique and difficult passwords for all of your accounts without memorization. It’s also a good practice to regularly change your passwords, especially on your most important accounts. While there is no way to be completely safe from cyber threats, you can make your accounts much more secure with tools like Password Management software.

3 Reasons Why Having a Website Is Vital for Your Small Business

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Did you know that nearly 90% of people use the internet to find local businesses? It’s crazy to see how quickly the digital world is growing. But it’s even crazier to hear that less than two-thirds of small businesses have a website. We know it hasn’t been an easy time for small businesses. So, why not invest in a website that will save you time and help you bring in more revenue.

Now you might be asking yourself, why do I need a website if my business has been successful without one? Well, here’s a stat to consider: the average revenue for a small business is $3.6 million, but the average revenue for a small business with a website is $5.03 million. A well-designed website offers a wide range of benefits, but most significantly these benefits will increase the value of your business exponentially over time. Now, emphasis on the well-designed part because let’s face it, we’ve all been to a website that’s been made us frustrated because literally nothing made sense! You want your website to be working for you and not against you. But we’ll get to what makes a well-designed website in a later post, so stay tuned for that!

Now getting back to a website, here are 3 reasons why having a website is vital for your small business.

1. Creates a lasting first impression

As, a business owner you know how vital it is to create that memorable first impression with your customers. It shouldn’t be any different with your website. 84% of customers think a website makes your business look more credible and professional than companies who only have social media profiles. A website is the hook, line, and sinker to catching potential customers. The home page communicates your purpose, the about pages tells your story, and the contact us page informs how to get in touch with you. It legitimizes your business and makes you look more professional compared to your competitor that only has a Facebook. And, if you really want to be impressive, be active on social media and your website. Use social media to get your name out there and attract customers and then direct them to your website and win them over with what you have to offer them.

2. Promotes Your Brand

Customers love convenience, so they want to be able to find information about you from your company website. 81% of consumers research their product/services online before purchasing. So, it’s safe to say that customers now expect businesses to have websites, especially now during a global pandemic. How often do we google or ask Siri to look up business hours, products, menus, services, etc.? And, if you only have social media, your potential customers won’t be able to find that information or may not choose to move forward with you because your competitor had a website, so they looked more credible and professional. To put it simply, by choosing not to have a website, you could be missing out on opportunities every day to increase your visibility and presence to potential customers.

A website will always be there to promote your brand, so let it do the talking. A website provides you the opportunity to create the online presence that you want for your company. Don’t depend on other websites to speak for you. Take control and show customers why they should choose you over your competitors. A website is a great way to share your story and information with your potential customers. Now’s the time to showcase what you offer, so bring out those awesome reviews, awards, etc. Consumers patronize brands that they can align with their personal values.

Think of a website as 24-hour sales & marketing staff that can make sales even when you’re not working, or when your business is closed. You can add an e-commerce component, so customers can visit your website and directly make purchases from your brand. It acts as a marketing and sales tool. Even if you don’t have products to sell and are a service-based business, you can have your website help customers take the next step towards doing business with you by letting them schedule an appointment. Again, customers love convenience, so make the scheduling process easy for both of you.

This is also your chance to create the experience you want the customer to have with your brand. You can clearly communicate your brand values, so you’ll be able to create brand loyalty without any distraction since it’s all on your space. The goal of the website is to keep customers engaged, informed, and well served so they will keep coming back to you. Just be intentional about the design aspect of your website here because 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive.

3. Sets you up for long-term success

Like we discussed, a website helps build credibility and over time this will convert to brand loyalty, which will set you up for long-term success. On top of that, website will also let your small business compete with those big brands. Search engines prioritize local search and will rank the results according to location. It will show relevant local businesses that are related to the customer’s search, but if you don’t have a website you are missing out on the opportunity to connect with local customers. A website creates an online presence that makes your business stand out because it makes your brand look authentic. And, when your products and/or services make a customer happy, they will share with their friends and all they have to do is search your business on the internet and your website shows up. It’s no wonder why companies saw an increase in revenue when they chose to invest in a website.

A website will also save you time, so you can spend more time on what really matters, your customers. An effective website answers all the important questions that any potential customer may have, so you’re not spending time answering them yourself. The information on your website should inform the customer enough that they will buy your product or want to book your services right away. A website can be a time-saver and an efficient and effective way to offer your product and services.

So, closing thoughts: a website becomes the ultimate sales and marketing tool for your small business. It will make your business more credible and trustworthy; it gives you the ability to promote your brand the way you want and sets you up for long-term success. A website is also super convenient to your customers and as a small business, it’s always important to keep the customer’s needs front and center. Things have been out of the normal for a while now, so why not make a website to create a digital experience for your customers when we’re all looking for some sort of connection and familiarity.