As a small business owner, you keep a business insurance policy that covers certain aspects of your business from theft, vandalism, etc. It might cover your commercial fleet and your workers and reimburse you in the event something bad happens. A WordPress maintenance plan is sort of like insurance for your small business website. That’s because a WordPress maintenance plan is different from something like regular automobile maintenance. For example, you get your oil changed every 5,000 miles or so. With website maintenance, you get monthly tune-ups of your website. But you also get protection from harm. There are two main benefits to having a WordPress maintenance plan: cybersecurity benefits and user experience benefits. Let’s take a deeper dive into that.

Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is the business of protecting websites, networks, computers, and data from unauthorized use or criminal use. You probably have some sort of security software on your personal computer or laptop, in addition to getting automatic updates from your operating system. When it comes to your WordPress site, WordPress support does issue automatic updates, but implementing them automatically can have unintended consequences, depending on the plugins and theme you are using. That’s why getting a WordPress maintenance plan is essential. A maintenance team is experienced in all things WordPress, and can implement security patches and other updates without compromising your website.

Failure to implement security updates leaves your website especially vulnerable to hackers, who use bots to scour the web for vulnerable sites. When a hacker finds one, they inject malicious code that can do any number of bad things, including take down your website or steal payment information from your customers. In addition to regular security updates, your website maintenance plan should include monthly scans for malware. And if any malware is found, your plan will include removal.

Off Site Backups Protect You in the Event of Ransomware
You may backup your website on a regular basis. You might even do daily backups. There’s actually a plugin for that (more than one, actually.) But it’s also important to do a monthly backup to an external location. This protects you in the event of a ransomware attack, because that backup can’t be touched by the bad actor. You’ve probably heard of ransomware attacks on big corporations and hospital chains. All it takes is for someone to click on a malicious link or visit an unsecure website to fall victim.

The ransomware is then launched. It’s a software that essentially encrypts your entire system, making it useless until you pay the ransom to decrypt everything. But if you have a website backup stored in a secure, external location, you can restore your systems without paying the ransom! It will still result in some downtime, but not a huge loss of money.

User Experience (UX)
Up until now we’ve focused on security, which affects you, the business owner. Now let’s turn to the most important people in your business life – your customers, or potential customers. A WordPress maintenance plan can help you keep them happy and improve the user experience (UX). How you may ask? Let us count the ways. Your WordPress website has a lot of moving parts. A website maintenance plan helps all of the parts work together, to keep your website running smoothly. For example, your WordPress maintenance plan can include:

• Plugin updates to keep the various plugins playing nicely with each other
• WordPress core updates as needed
• Theme updates
• Fixing broken links
• Improving page loading speed

When it comes to visitors to your website, having a WordPress maintenance plan is sort of like having a janitorial staff keep your brick-and-mortar business clean, and keeping aisles from being blocked. It’s also comparable to making sure you have enough staff on site so no one has to wait too long. If customers to your storefront or your website have a bad experience, they aren’t likely to give you a second chance. They may just head on over to your competition.

Opportunity Cost
As a business owner, you’re probably familiar with the term “opportunity cost.” In a nutshell, opportunity cost represents the profit or benefit your business misses out on by choosing one alternative over or another. For our purposes, choosing not to have a WordPress maintenance plan can come with a high opportunity cost. For example, the ransom you might pay to get your site unlocked is much higher than the cost of doing regular off-site backups. You could use those backups to restore your website and systems without paying the ransom.

Another example is the cost of losing potential customers because your website is slow, glitchy, and hard to navigate. When a visitor to your site has a lousy user experience, do you know where they go? To one of your competitors. A monthly WordPress maintenance plan is relatively cheap, in the scheme of things. For instance, here at Coastal, our WP maintenance plan is only $60 a month. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a great user experience!

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WordPress Maintenance 101: Everything you need to know

Choose Coastal for Your WordPress Website Maintenance Services
We hope you’ve learned a bit about why WordPress maintenance is a critical component of your online marketing strategy and your overall business strategy. A smooth-running and fast website presents your business in the best light, and regular maintenance helps protect you from hackers and ransomware attacks.

Our WordPress maintenance services are available to existing clients only, at a very affordable monthly rate. If you’re in the market for a website redesign or SEO services, adding in WP maintenance is easy to do. Use our contact form to request a quote, or call us at 410-420-9390 to get the conversation started.

Maintaining your WordPress website is just as important as locking the doors of your business when you leave for the day, or maintaining your fleet of commercial vehicles. Your business website is a key part of how you market your business and attract customers, so it stands to reason you should keep it secure and running smoothly. That’s where regular WordPress maintenance comes in. WordPress maintenance Includes a number of tasks that should be performed at least monthly. They include:

Performing Regular Website Backups
A regular backup of your website to an external location protects you in the event that you fall victim to a ransomware attack. In case you’re not aware, ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts your system files and makes them useless. It essentially takes your website hostage until you pay the ransom, often demanded in Bitcoin. Ransomware is on the rise, with individuals, companies, and corporations all falling victim. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 2020 Internet Crime Report, 2,474 ransomware incidents were reported in 2020. That’s nearly 7 cases a day. And not everyone reports falling victim – they just pay the ransom.

You can fall prey to an attack simply by clicking on a link in an email or visiting an unsecure website. Failure to download and install security updates and patches to your operating system also makes you vulnerable. While you may have set up automatic backups with a WordPress plugin, those backups are useless if you are locked out of your website. But a monthly external backup allows you to restore your website and avoid extended downtime, without paying the ransom.

Every Website Is a Target
If you think that you’re just a small business owner with a small website and hackers or other bad actors wouldn’t target you, think again. For ransomware bad actors, it’s all about the money and the ransom they expect to get. For hackers, it’s not necessarily about the money they can get from you. They want to hijack your website to use its server as a hosting environment to send spam emails or attack other servers. Or they may inject code to harvest email and credit card information from your customers. In both situations, the bad actors may create bots to scour the internet for vulnerable websites. Once they find one, they launch a stealth attack, or a brute force attack.

Running a Website Malware Scan
Another WordPress maintenance task is running a regular website malware scan. Remember when we talked about hackers? They can inject code into your site that runs in the background, stealing visitor’s information, or infecting their computers. If we find malicious code, we will remove it. We will also suggest changing your admin usernames and passwords to something stronger and add password protections such as two-factor authentication and limiting the number of log-in retries.

Implementing WordPress Updates
WordPress rolls out updates for themes and plugins on a regular basis. Automated updates can sometimes cause problems. That’s why we recommend manual plugin updates, which helps ensure no WordPress plugins interfere with another aspect of your website. We can also update your WordPress theme manually. You can set up automatic updates, but don’t let them give you a false sense of security. And be aware that new releases of plugins can contain bugs or errors, which can impact site functionality. Major core updates should be implemented ASAP to keep your WordPress site secure and running at optimal performance. You should always be running the latest version of WordPress.

For Most Business Owners, WordPress Maintenance Is NOT a DIY Job
Most small business owners are crazy busy keeping customers happy, deliveries on time, and projects moving forward. It’s also unlikely that you have an IT department that can make the needed updates and perform the maintenance tasks. That’s why it’s a good idea to outsource your WordPress maintenance. Doing so gives you peace of mind that your website will remain fully functional and secure, while you focus on running your business. It’s the same idea as taking your car to a mechanic rather than fixing it yourself, or hiring a plumber to fix a burst pipe. You let the professionals handle the stuff that isn’t in your area of expertise. That makes good business sense.

Sign Up for a WordPress Maintenance Plan
If you’ve tried to do your own WordPress maintenance and broke something, or you can’t spare the time, we can help. And if your current website maintenance service leaves something to be desired, we can do a better job.

Related Reading:
Why You Need a WordPress Website Maintenance Plan

We offer WordPress maintenance services to existing clients only, at the affordable rate of $60 a month. So, you may want to look into our SEO services and website design services while you’re here. We work with small business owners mainly in Harford County, Baltimore County, and Cecil County. Fill out the contact form or call us at 410-420-9390 to get started.

Small business SEO (search engine optimization) doesn’t need to be a mystery. It’s part science, and part art. Just like your small business has its own jargon and operating procedures, so does the SEO industry. In this article, we hope to break small business SEO down for you to make it easy to understand the value of it, and why harnessing the power of local SEO can increase your brand awareness as well as increase sales.

Local SEO vs SEO
Both local SEO and standard SEO are designed to get your website into the top search engine results (SERPs) pages. Standard SEO is all about ranking in search results that aren’t necessarily connected to a specific location (think of national search results). Local SEO, on the other hand, is all about optimizing your website and content for city, county, and state-specific local search results. You want to dominate the “near me” or Service X in MYTOWN local rankings. Since most small businesses want to attract local customers, local SEO is what you need to focus your online marketing efforts on. We’ll go over the basics of small business SEO, which are included in local SEO, and also go into the extra information that’s specific to local search.

It All Starts with Your Small Business Website
We’re writing this guide assuming you already have a small business website of 30 pages or less (not including blogs). If you’re a start up business and don’t have a website yet, or you’re a small business that now sees the need to finally get a website, this guide is for you as well. It’s much easier to build a website with local SEO in mind than it is to go back in and change things. First, you need to make sure Google knows your website exists. The person or company who developed your website should have taken care of indexing your website. But if you built a simple website yourself using a free tool, it’s up to you to let Google know your site exists. You’d be surprised how many small businesses never take this step. And they wonder why no one can find their website! The easiest way to check if your site is indexed, and to submit it to Google if you find it isn’t is to follow the directions Google lays out in this Google for Small Business lesson.

Website Ranking Factors: Improve Your Website
Let’s assume your site is indexed. Next, you need to take a good, hard look at your website to see if it will do well based on search engine ranking factors. Since the vast majority of web users use Google, we’ll focus on their ranking factors. There are more than 200, but we’ll look at the most important ones. Some SEO firms will give a different order for these in terms of which is most important (Pro Tip: they are all intertwined), but we all agree that these are the top-ranking factors. They include:

• High-Quality, Informative Content
Write high-quality content utilizing relevant keywords that describes what your business does, and how your products and services can solve a customer’s problems, or satisfy their needs. Don’t start writing content until you have done keyword research and determine what words your customers use to find you. There are various keyword research tools and analytics you can use to find these answers. Content includes web pages, landing pages, blogs, videos, and infographics. Try to target key phrases that have a high search volume and lower keyword difficulty (KD) rate. The most popular key phrases are very difficult to rank for, but variations of the same phrase are easier to rank for.

For example, let’s look at Harford County Local SEO Agency vs Harford County Local SEO Company. We put the geographic location in there because this is local search, after all. According to the SEMrush keyword tool, local SEO agency has a search volume of 1,000 and a KD of 41. Local SEO company has a higher search volume of 3,600, but also has a higher KD of 53, making it harder to rank for. And polish your content. Make sure it’s grammatically correct, with no spelling errors. If you’re not much of a writer, consider hiring an SEO content writer. Many SEO agencies have one on staff or work with an independent contractor.

• Search Intent
Search intent is a measurement of how closely your website content matches what the searcher was looking for. If your web page matches search intent, a site visitor is more likely to stay on your site longer, increasing what’s known as dwell time. The longer a visitor is on your site, the greater likelihood that they will contact you or show up at your physical location(s).

• Website Loading Speed
How fast your website loads is a part of Google’s Core Web Vitals. How fast your site loads is a key part of a good user experience (see #10). If you’ve ever clicked on a website and it seems to take forever to load, you’ve probably backed out and gone to the next option. You just increased that website’s bounce rate. To decrease your bounce rate, you want your web pages to load within 2-3 seconds. You can increase page speed in a variety of ways, explained in this Moz article.

• Mobile Friendliness
This is another big ranking factor. Mobile friendliness means your website is easy to see and navigate on a mobile device, with no pinching, swiping, or zooming to see the content. With 52% of all searches being mobile searches, you don’t want to alienate potential customers with a hard-to-use site. The good news? Simply by using a responsive web design platform like WordPress, you make your website mobile friendly from the beginning.

• Backlinks
Backlinks (also know as inbound links) are links to your website from another website. The more reputable backlinks you have, the more likely Google is to rank you higher in the SERPs. Good backlinks are like a vote of trust in your website. The easiest way to start getting backlinks is to get listed in various business directories and to claim your business on various review sites. You can also ask for backlinks from businesses you work with – suppliers, vendors, customers. But don’t buy backlinks. It goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Google will slap you with a strong penalty.

• Domain Authority (Showing Your Expertise)
Domaine authority (DA) is a ranking factor that measures your website’s expertise on a topic (your industry products or services). The easiest way to increase your domain authority is by creating original, informative content that your site visitors can use to help them solve a problem or make a decision. (See #1).

• Keyword Optimization
We touched on this in #1 where we talked about writing content. In addition to using relevant key phrases in your content, you will need to take advantage of keyword optimization. This means creating unique Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Image Alt Text, Anchor Text, Semantically Related Keywords, Using Keywords in H2 and H3 Tags, and Using the Key Phrase in the URL for each page.

• Website Structure
By this we mean pay attention to how your site is organized, and how easy (or not) it is to navigate. Your main pages should be listed in the top navigation, such as Home, Services, About, Contact, Blog, or something like that. Then you can have a drop-down menu under Services with links to each of your service pages. You can also have a sidebar menu to those pages. A solid site structure helps Google crawl all of your pages, and helps create a better User Experience (see #10).

• Website Security
You know that little padlock you see when you visit a website? That means a site is secure, and is using hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS). This is a secure way to send data from a web browser and a website. This is especially important if you have a contact form or a payment option through your website. And in fact, if you don’t use HTTPS on your website, Google will give a warning to someone that your site is not secure, and might not display it at all.

• User Experience (UX)
User experience, or UX is a measurement of how fast your website loads, how easy it is to use your website, how long a user stays on your website, as well as how relevant your website is to user intent. Google uses an artificial intelligence system to measure the click through rate (CTR), bounce rate, and dwell time. The higher the click through rate, the higher you move up in the SERPs. Your bounce rate may be high if your content is not relevant to what a user was searching for. The higher your user’s dwell time, the more Google likes it. In addition to making all sorts of improvements in your website to hit all the ranking factors in local SEO, there are a few more things you can do. Keep reading to learn what they are.

Google My Business
If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business (GMB) account, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity in local SEO. The best part? It’s free. Your GMB account allows you to post a business description, your location(s), phone number, other contact information, images, link to your website, and much more. Having an active GMB account increases the likelihood that your business will appear in the 3-pack, or Map Pack, where Google shows the 3 businesses closest to the location of the person searching. Sound good? Go claim your account right now.

Use Social Media
Chances are good that you have a personal Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn account. Create a business account on all of those platforms as well. This will allow you to promote new products, specials, advise your targeted audience of business news, and more. Be sure to post multiple times a week. There are ways to automate this process. Do you send out email newsletters or officers? Include links to your social media accounts in the emails. And of course, include links to your accounts on your website.

Reviews Matter
Both Google My Business and Facebook, as well as Yelp and Angie’s List and a host of industry specific websites allow your customers to rate you and leave a review. Pay attention to these sites, and monitor your reviews. Respond to negative reviews (hopefully few and far between) by attempting to remedy the situation. Thank users for positive reviews. Not only is this good customer service, but reviews and ratings build trust in your company. With 93% of customers reading online reviews before buying a product or hiring a service provider, it’s important to continually increase the quantity and quality of your reviews. Google places similar companies with more and better reviews higher in the SERPs. In addition, according to ReviewTrackers, 94% of people say a negative review has convinced them not to do business with a company.

A Few Other Things
Local SEO involves a lot of moving parts. It’s important that you keep your website and your GMB account up to date. Make sure your address, hours, and contact information are always accurate. Fix broken pages (404 errors) and links on your website as soon as they happen. Remove outdated content, for example, if you no longer offer a product or service, delete any mention of it. Maintain good website security through regular website maintenance and using strong passwords.

DIY Small Business SEO or Hire a Pro?
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re an expert in your field. You spend all your time and energy on customer service, providing quality goods and services, and pursuing new sales leads. You could try and handle your local SEO efforts yourself, but you most likely would be getting in above your head, or not making the most of all the opportunities. That’s because there are a lot of technical aspects to local SEO, and a lot of tools of the trade you may not have access to. If you’re serious about harnessing the power of local SEO, we would humbly suggest that you interview at least 3 local SEO companies to see who you’d like to work with. And remember, seeing results from your local SEO strategy can take weeks, and even months, depending on how competitive your industry is.

RELATED READING
How to Choose the Best Local SEO Agency for Your Business
Google Page Experience Explained

Contact Us for a FREE Small Business SEO Analysis! Coastal Web Marketing has provided small business SEO services to Harford County, Cecil County, Baltimore County area businesses for the last 10 years. We know the area, and we know SEO. If you’re looking for a local SEO company with proven success, we would be happy to provide you with a FREE SEO analysis of your website and make our recommendations. We can also help you with a website redesign or brand-new small business website built with SEO in mind. Just call us at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form to get started.

First of all, when we say local SEO agency, we’re not talking about someone who is local to you, although that can be a good thing. We’re talking about an agency specializing in local search marketing. It of course is part of the larger search engine optimization known as organic SEO. The two go hand in hand. When it comes to choosing the best local SEO agency for your business, you want to treat it the same way you would when hiring a new employee, or hiring a service provider to work on your home. Do your homework. Learn what makes a good SEO company. Get multiple quotes. Then choose a provider who checks all the boxes. Keep reading to learn how to get it right.

Set Goals and List Desired Outcomes
When you decide to hire a local SEO agency, it’s a good idea to set some realistic goals and make a list of your desired outcomes. You may have just heard that SEO can help you get more customers. Or you may want to see your business name in the first spot of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Let’s take a look at some of the metrics you can use to keep track of your desired outcomes.

Improved Google Rankings
The higher you rank in the SERPs, the more traffic you generate for your business. It’s important that you get on that first page. And if you optimize for local SEO, you can increase your chances of a high CTR by appearing in the local pack on Google Maps. Why? Because:

  • 5% of people click through the first result.
  • 15% of people click through the second result.
  • 11% of people click through the third result.3 times higher than the CTR for position #6,
  • The click through rate (CTR) for position #2 will generate a CTR
  • Users rarely click through to the second page of SERPs.

Source: SISTRIX

Increased Organic Search Traffic
If you’ve made it this far, you know that organic search traffic is the traffic you don’t pay for through a pay per click program, Facebook ads, or other paid advertising. Organic traffic includes website visits originating from your search engine rankings, online reviews, direct visits, and other earned sources.

Increased Leads/Inquiries
More high-quality leads give your business breathing room. If you have a healthy number of leads coming in, you’ll be able to invest in your business, increase your prices, test new products and services, and identify which offers work best for you.

Increased Conversion Rate
Increased website traffic and increased traffic to your brick-and-mortar location should lead to an increased conversion rate – turning a lead or visitor into a customer. Local SEO can help you stand out from the crowd of competitors for the limited set of customers in your area. If you can dominate local search, you can close the deal with new customers on a consistent basis.

New Reviews (and Why They’re Important)
And of course, with each new customer, you’ll encourage them to post a Google review, right? Most satisfied clients will take a moment to do so, but you have to ask. And good reviews are more than just flattering. With local, or “near me” searches, a small number of reviews can indicate you don’t get a lot of business. A large number of reviews can help build trust. A low star rating (3 or less) can indicate you’re not good at what you do. So, your goal is to increase the quantity of reviews while increasing the overall star rating to a 4.5 or a 5.

You don’t pay people to do these reviews, but you certainly do encourage every customer to give a review. And be sure to respond to reviews in your Google My Business (GMB) account, whether they’re good or bad. Seek to resolve complaints, and thank customers for positive reviews. If you don’t already have a GMB account, a local SEO agency can help you get it set up and take advantage of all the FREE advertising it can provide. Increased performance across these metrics should be a major part of your goals and expected outcomes. A good local SEO agency should be able to help you improve across the board.

Look for These Characteristics in a Local SEO Agency
So, now that you know a bit about what a local SEO agency can help you with, it’s time to start seeking out companies to interview. To narrow down your search, look for these characteristics. Then choose the top contenders who have all of the qualifications you’re looking for.

Agency Focus
Within the world of SEO, there are two types of agencies: the SEO Specialist, and the SEO Generalist. Both can help you generate increased leads and sales through the power of a local SEO campaign. An SEO Specialist may be good at SEO, but they may not be able to help you other areas of your marketing. If you have a limited budget and need help with a lot of areas, this may not be the best choice for you.

An SEO Generalist can help you see the big picture and help connect your website SEO strategies to other areas of marketing, including web design, social media marketing, content marketing, blog writing, video production, etc.

SEO Industry Expertise
Look for a local SEO agency that’s been in business for at least 5 years. That indicates that they know enough about what they’re doing to stay in business. But beyond that, ask if they have experience in SEO strategies for your industry. Are you a dentist? Ask if they have ever worked with another dentist. Are you a home builder? Ask about their experience in that area. But don’t rule an agency out if they haven’t worked with someone in your exact field. A good agency does the research to become knowledgeable in every client’s field. They may be able to show you case studies for similar clients, as well as anonymized data for Client X, for example. Oh, and the other thing about this – you’ll want to ask if they currently work with one of your direct competitors. That’s pretty much a no-no.

SEO Local Pack Baltimore MD

They Practice What They Preach
When you’re searching for a local SEO agency, you want one that practices what they preach. In other words, they keep up with SEO efforts for their own website. For example, when our content writer searched Harford County SEO, Coastal Web Marketing came up as the top result in the 3-pack, and individual pages came up as the top 2 SERPs. (use screenshots) Coastal Web also ranked high for Bel Air SEO and Harford County SEO services.

They Have a Stellar Reputation
You also want a local SEO agency with a good reputation. Check out their Google reviews. Do they have at least 4 stars? Of course, you have to realize that clients who leave reviews are either very pleased or very displeased. A better way to get a feel for the company’s reputation is to ask to see examples of their work, and get a list of references. Some of this may be accessible through the Portfolio section of their website. If you can’t find out much about their current or past clients, and they won’t provide you with references, step away. That’s a huge red flag.

They Have Experienced SEO Staff
At the very least, you should expect a local SEO agency to be headed by someone with years of SEO experience. Ideally, they have a staff member who builds websites with SEO in mind, someone who can translate Google Analytics for you to make needed adjustments in your SEO strategy, and an SEO content writer who can help write web pages, landing pages, blogs and more that are SEO friendly. Keep in mind that a lot of local SEO agencies only have a few full-time staff, and other people working on your account are freelance workers, or independent contractors.

They Value Ongoing Education
You want a local SEO agency that stays on top of industry trends, and prepares for changes in Google’s algorithms well in advance. It’s also a good idea to ask about any courses they have taken or certifications they have earned, such as Google’s SEO Certification, Yoast Academy, or SEMrush Academy. The rules for SEO change quickly, and you want a local SEO company that has the agility to meet every challenge.

They Communicate Clearly and Help You Manage Your Expectations
If a local SEO agency promises to move you to the #1 spot in the SERPs, run. The same thing goes if they tell you that they can triple your traffic in a month. No one should be making promises like that. Implementing and tweaking an effective SEO strategy can take weeks, if not months, to see real results. Depending on how competitive your industry is, there may be hundreds of large businesses fighting to rank for the same key phrases that you are. But rankings aren’t everything. Your agency should be helping you increase conversions and revenue. They should be able to provide you with regular reviews and analytics to show what they’re doing, what’s working, and what changes they would recommend. SEO is not a set it and forget it type of thing.

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Quick Tips to Boost Your SEO Results

Coastal Web Marketing has provided local SEO services to Harford County, Cecil County, Baltimore County area businesses for the last 10 years. We know the area, and we know SEO. If you’re looking for a local SEO firm, we would be happy to provide you with a FREE SEO analysis of your website and make our recommendations. We can also help you with a website redesign or brand-new small business website built with SEO in mind. Just call us at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form to get in touch.

You may or may not have heard of Google Page Experience. But in the SEO industry, it’s all a lot of us are talking about. It’s our business to keep up with everything Google, or search engine related, and act preemptively so that your SEO strategy continues to be successful. Failure to keep up with Google’s changes can cause your ranking in search results to plummet, which is why we are already at work for our clients, updating their websites as needed. SEO, or search engine optimization, is both an art and a science. With the Google algorithm update rolling out in mid-June, we’ll be focusing on the science/technical end of things. And by the way, if your web team hasn’t already mentioned the Google Page Experience changes to you, ask them why not. They should be on top of this.

What Is Page Experience and How Do You Measure It?
Page experience is a group of signals that Google uses to measure how a visitor to your website perceives the experience of interacting with a web page. This goes beyond whether they find your content informative. These signals include the new Core Web Vitals, as well as the existing signals of mobile friendliness, HTTPS security, Safe Browsing, and no Intrusive Interstitials. As for how to measure page experience, Google will create a Core Web Vitals report and a Page Experience Report as part of your Google analytics. We apologize for all the jargon, and will try and explain things more simply, below.

Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals measure metrics affecting the user experience (UX), including page speeds, interactivity, and visual stability.

LCP
Largest contentful paint (LCP) measures how fast your web page loads. A user should not be met with a page where they can see portions of the page loading bit by bit. In fact, your site should have LCP within 2.5 seconds of when the page starts to load. And keep in mind, according to Google, 53% of mobile users will abandon your website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. 53% of mobile users will abandon your website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

First Input Delay
First input delay (FID) measures the responsiveness / interactivity of your website. In addition to the LCP, FID measures things like how long after the click of a mouse or tap on something new does the form pop up or the new page appear. Again, speed matters. Your FID should be less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative layout shift (CLS) measures the visual stability of your website. You may have had the experience of reading an article online when something unexpectedly changes. The text moves and you’ve lost your place. Or you go to click or tap on a link and it moves, and you end up tapping on an ad instead. You want your page layout to be extremely stable, and have a CLS score of .01 or less. So that’s what the Core Web Vitals are all about. If it sounds confusing, that’s because addressing them is a highly technical task best left to experienced web developers and SEO experts. This is not something the average business owner is capable of doing. Next, we address a few signals that factor into page experience that your web team should have already addressed.

Mobile Friendliness
For a while now, Google consistently ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). According to Statista, 90% of internet traffic worldwide originates from a mobile device. In the United States. 43.89% of total web traffic originates from a mobile device. The vast majority of Americans research online before hiring a service company or making a purchase, so you want to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Make it easy for people to find what they need. Use this tool to see if your website is mobile-friendly.

HTTPS Security
See that little padlock in the search bar at the top of this page? That simply means that we are using the best internet security protocol. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s a combination of the old HTTP and the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) / Transport Layer Security (TLS) internet protocols. Put simply, it encrypts information to keep sensitive information like names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, etc. from falling into the wrong hands. If you don’t have HTTPS on your website, Google may post a warning page telling a visitor to “go back to safety.” Or it may say Not Secure in the search bar. You don’t want either of those things to happen.

Safe Browsing
Safe browsing is related to security, but rather than an internet protocol, this means your site is not infected by malware, for example. Keeping your website security up to date is crucial, in more ways than one.

No Intrusive Interstitials
Intrusive interstitials are something on your website that is annoying, or blocks/disrupts a user’s ability to read the page content. Examples include large pop-ups, banners, and overlays promoting your business. Make them difficult to close by hiding the little x, and they’re an offense Google may penalize you for. You can still use smaller pop-ups for your cookie policy, small chat pop-ups in a lower corner, age verification popups, and legal pop-ups or site agreement pop-ups.

Content Is Still King
With all of these highly technical measurements of page experience, solid, informative content is still the major ranking factor. According to Google, “Google will still prioritize pages with the best informative content. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”

Partner with a Maryland SEO Company You Can Trust
We know you have choices when it comes to choosing between SEO agencies. We think you’ll find we are uniquely qualified to provide you with local SEO services that deliver a good return on your investment. You see, we’ve been helping small business site owners with search engine optimization since it first became a thing. We stay up on all of the latest changes so we can help keep you ahead of your competition. Contact us today for a FREE SEO analysis by calling 410-420-9390 or using our contact form.

The Importance of Good Web Design
Design has had many trends which now may be obsolete or, some of them still exist. The ones that have survived did so because of recurring indicators that have manifested as good web design in different styles changes, internet changes, and of course, web development changes.

As time passed, CSS, HTML, and Javascript frameworks evolved. In terms of front-end development, these frameworks have come a long way. We now also have different tools that help us with implementing modern, artistic, minimal, and beautiful websites. But, how do we differentiate a good design from bad design? This is what we are going to explain now by commenting on the challenges designers face when they have to come with good ideas for their web pages.

Using WordPress
WordPress is now the main format used to create websites as it has made life easy for people who want to update their own page content and allows BLOGs in their architecture. There are free sites and there are sites that you pay a company to build.  The free sites are fine if you have no budget to market your site. If you plan to market your site with organic SEO Marketing, those free sites will probably not work for you.

Navigation in Your Website
When you design your website, you need to think about how the users are going to navigate through all your content. Navigation is one of the most important elements when we speak about good web design, and it’s also good for user interaction statistics with your website. You be very organized with your content and how the user navigates through it, in order to give an optimal experience to users when they explore your website.

Good navigation is usually a clean navigation bar. Sticky navigation bars are the most used nowadays. This bar should blend into the site, so it does feel natural when you see it. Do not forget about the mobile version. The design should always be mobile-friendly. We live in the smartphone age, that is why having a mobile-friendly site is very important. Your site should accommodate smaller screen sizes, and also it should be able to replicate functionalities from your website in your mobile device.

The Use of Images
Images can make a difference in your website. The first thing you are going to see on a website is going to be the banner, so having the perfect image is what is going to give that impact you want. You can have a great layout, but without the correct images, you won’t put the full potential of that layout to use. Your blogs, your products, and more, all those elements need to be accompanied by the perfect images to make a great impact on the user. Always use high-quality images. You don’t want a bad image resolution to mess with your site, so be sure to use the best photos you can find.

Know Your Icons
Do not underestimate the power of a good Icon. Knowing how to use these elements will play a favorable role in your site. They can change how your website looks. These elements can make your site look more professional and interesting, giving a sleek touch to them. They are not as powerful as images, of course, but every single element in a web page will make a difference when you group them together.

In conclusion
There are many things you can do with your site. Of course, the first thing you need is for you to be happy with it. Explore the market, look at how other people do things, see what works and what doesn’t. Design has one special function, and that is to let design function. Use your imagination and use all the tools you have at your disposition to make something amazing for your users.

The Importance of Good Web Design
Just call us with your questions at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form.

Technical Questions When Creating Your Business Website
The process of creating a website for your business can be an exciting time. But beyond deciding on the overall look of your website, and what the content will be, there are a lot of technical questions to answer when creating your business website. Coastal Web Marketing has been building small business websites since 2007, and over the years, we have heard some of the same technical questions over and over. These are some nuts and bolts questions that go beyond web design and SEO services.  We address some of them here.

Do I need web programming for my business website?
Some sites do and some sites don’t. For example, if you wanted to feature a calendar on your business website, you can very easily create it without web programming. However, if you desire a programmed calendar on your site, you will have many features and display options that may benefit you. For instance, if you want a user from your company to update your calendar quickly, easily, and on a regular basis, a programmed calendar is most likely your best option. A website with a “shopping cart” feature such as Amazon.com would also require programming.

Can you tell me how to register a domain name?
Your domain name is your web address. For example, www.mycompanyname.com. But you can’t just pick a name and put your website out there. First, you have to make sure the domain name is not already registered. This can be an issue if you are in a competitive industry. There are several free tools out there to check domain name availability. Once you have settled on a domain name, then you have to purchase it and register it with a company known as a “registrar.” There are many such companies, and you can do your web hosting with the same company, if you choose.

The registrar will collect your contact and technical information and submit that information to the central registry. You will be required to sign a registration contract that lays out the terms of your registration acceptance and maintenance. Your registration needs to be renewed every year. Your contact information will be publicly available on the WHOIS site.

Which server/web hosting company should I use?
We recommend GoDaddy. However, it all depends on your wants and needs. You can either use one of the larger web hosting companies or a small, local company. Of course, both options have their advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of local companies is they can easily be reached by phone to answer your questions or make corrections, whereas a larger web hosting company may take a bit longer to get back to you! If you are using a specific platform, such as WordPress, some companies do not handle the files well or have a very slow loading response time. Contact our office for your specific needs to determine what the best solution is for your website.

Should I host my site on a Windows or a Linux server?
Use a Linux based server to host your business website. Linux servers have many advantages over Windows Servers. Linux servers are:

  • More stable
  • More secure
  • Cheaper
  • Supports WordPress and other CMS systems

Technical Questions When Creating Your Business Website
We hope we’ve answered some of your questions. If you’re interested in getting a new business website, complete with SEO services, we would be more than happy to talk with you. Just call Coastal Web at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form to get started.

Web Design 101 – Images for Your Website
Once you and your web design team have selected the look and feel of your website and settled on the navigation, you need to think about images for your website. The best web designs use photos – a variety of high quality photos that reflect your brand and what you do. Choosing photos for your website is extremely important to complement the look of your overall design. Photos help define the look and feel of the website and also show the personality of your business. From a design perspective, photos also help to move your eye around the page, which in turn causes consumers to stay on your page longer and see more information. People would much rather look at a web page that has pictures, something to keep their eye entertained, rather than just a page full of text.

High quality photos and logos enhance the look of your website, while dated photos and logos do the opposite. Here are 3 types of photos we will put on your website:

  • Pictures you have taken or have paid a photographer to take for use on your website
  • Pictures your manufacturers or suppliers have given you permission to use on your website
  • Stock photos you purchase from a photo website

NOTE: Stealing pictures from the Internet is not acceptable as you do not want any legal issues with your website! Saving a few bucks is not worth the potential legal trouble.

Digital Image Formats
Did you know using the right digital image formats can help optimize your website for both speed in loading and search engine optimization (SEO)? How do you know if you’re using the right types of image files across your website? Below, we’ll explain the differences between the major image file types and when it’s best to use each. Your web design team at Coastal Web Marketing will help you choose images for your website.

JPEG
Main features:

  • 16 bit data format
  • Can display millions of colors
  • Common, and compatible across most platforms and displays
  • Uses a compression algorithm to sacrifice some image data to reduce file size

JPEG’s use of compression is great for most webpages because it reduces page load time – which is a search engine ranking factor. Use JPEG files for real-life photos of people or products (digital cameras save their images as JPEGs by default), as well as images that contain lots of color and light/dark shading.

GIF
Main features:

  • Uses 256 indexed colors
  • Can utilize progressive loading (a low-quality version is loaded first, then more details are filled in)
  • Can be animated

Since GIFs use a limited color range, their file sizes are generally small and don’t require compression. However, this means they are not the optimal choice for displaying details. Use GIFs for simple images with few colors, small icons, and of course, animation.

PNG
Main features:

  • Capable of displaying more than 16 million different colors
  • Supports transparency settings
  • Uses what is called lossless compression, which means no data is lost when saving
  • Two types: PNG 8 is similar to GIF, and even smaller file size than GIF. PNG 24 is similar to JPEG, but lossless compression means larger files than JPEG

Because they display so much detail and use lossless compression, PNG 24 files tend to be large. They are best used for logos that use transparency and fading effects, or for other complex images. Just be aware that the larger file will take longer to load. Another digital image format is PDF. The PDF format is usually a document, such as a warranty or owner’s manual. Once we have worked together to decide which image file types to use for the various parts of your website, we can improve their SEO performance by optimizing the metadata for the images. If you’ve signed up for our SEO services, we will create an image sitemap to help search engines index the images on your website. This step is increasingly important if your site is an E-Commerce site with photos of your products.

Illustrations in Web Design
Illustrations have a place in web design. Sometimes, a photo just doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s where illustrations come in. Illustrations are perfect if you’re trying to describe or show a process or even explain something a little more complicated. Our graphic designer can create unique, custom graphics for your website. If you’re interested in having custom vectors created for your website, contact us today.

Infographics and More
Illustrations for your website might include infographics, diagrams, decorative designs, hand lettering, etc. Most illustrations in web design are computer generated, but hand drawn lettering and artwork is also used, depending on the website’s feel and purpose.

Web Design 101: Images For Your Website
We can create custom infographics for your website. Illustrations can be stand alone or work together with photos and videos to explain a process or otherwise help you get your message across. We offer video services, so if you’re interested in having a custom video for your website, contact us today at 410-420-9390 and we can get started.

Much like a burglar tries to break into your home, there are hackers who may try to take advantage of known website security issues to break into your business website. Why, you might ask? Well, if you have an e-commerce website, they may be looking to steal customer credit card information. Or they may be a so-called “hacktivist” who doesn’t like what your company stands for. And then there are the hackers who break into a website because they can, just for fun.

Website Security Settings
Just like your home WiFi network router, your website comes with default usernames, passwords, and authentications. Make sure you or your web developer changes all of those to something secure. You should also disable guest accounts. Want to increase security? Use HTTPS and SSL.

HTTPS and SSL
Implement hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) on your website. This tells website visitors your site is secure, and you are protecting their information. Users will see a lock in the url. Sites without HTTPS show the words Not Secure next to the url. Yikes! In addition to HTTPS, you can add another layer of website security with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This encrypts any communication between the server and the web browser. So anytime someone fills out a form with name, address, phone number, credit card number, etc., the information is encrypted. Another security setting to watch out for is the directory listing. Make sure you disable the directory listing on the server, as it can leak valuable information.

Plugins or Outdated Software
You will want to use as few plugins as possible. Each additional plugin increases your vulnerability to attack. The more code you run, the odds of someone exploiting website security vulnerability go up. With plugins, there are several things to keep in mind for security purposes.

  1. Delete plugins when you don’t use them anymore.
  2. Keep your plugins up to date. Do this manually if you can. The auto update feature can sometimes cause issues with your website.
  3. Don’t run plugins that haven’t been updated in more than 2 years.
  4. Use a firewall to protect you against Cross Site Scripting (XSS), SQL Injection, Malicious File Uploads, and Directory Traversal

If you use WordPress or another Content Management System (CMS) you will need to update the software whenever a new security update comes out. Failure to do so leaves you vulnerable.

Your Personal Computer or Laptop is Not Secure
You need to make sure your personal computer or laptop has antivirus software. Not only is this common sense to protect your personal device, but if you use your personal device for work, you can inadvertently transfer malware from your device to your website.

Not Backing Up Your Website
You back up your smartphone. You may or may not back up your laptop, but you need to be sure you perform a periodic website backup. It’s relatively easy to do, and it gives us a full version to restore, in case of a website security breach.

We Can Help You with Website Security
For the average business owner, all of this seems like a bit too much to handle, along with running your business. That’s where Coastal Web can help. Ask us about monthly monitoring of your website to ensure everything is up to date. Closing security loopholes, updating plugins and software, and performing a website backup are all important to maintaining your website security. Call us at 410-420-9390 or use our contact form to get started.

Utilizing social media marketing has a huge potential to increase your sales. Let’s talk about Facebook, specifically. And no, we don’t mean Facebook ads. Your business Facebook page helps you increase brand awareness, improve brand loyalty and get better ranks in SERPs. And know that when we say “brand awareness” we are just saying make people more aware of your company and what it has to offer.

Did you know that 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy from brands/companies they follow? And did you know 47% of Americans say Facebook has a greater impact on their purchasing behavior than any other social network? And this is especially true since Facebook added the widget for asking for recommendations. Besides having a Business Facebook page with your address, hours, location and the basics, what’s a business owner to do? We have some suggestions that relate to updating your Facebook page as a whole, and with posts:

    1. Place keywords in strategic locations. Facebook limits where you can write large amounts of text, so if you want to use key words and phrases, you should use them on every post. The About section allows you the greatest opportunity for a large amount of text that explains who you are and what you do, and allows you to use your key phrases and related phrases to your benefit.

 

    1. Optimize Facebook status updates for SEO. Every time you post an update on a project, talk about a special, wish your Facebook fans Happy Holidays, create an event or share cute photos, it’s an opportunity to improve your SEO. Take advantage of the descriptive fields to add keywords because even if it takes only one minute to fill in everything, it can make a difference in your SERPs ranking. Keep in mind that this text will become the SEO title of your Facebook post.

 

    1. Include your address to improve your local SEO. This one is pretty simple. And if you want people to know you’re in their part of town, why wouldn’t you include your address? Even if you run your business out of your home, you need to include something.

 

    1. Link to your business Facebook page from your website. This is a no brainer for whoever built your website. If you don’t already link to your business Facebook page, get that done ASAP. Many people who visit your website will click on the Facebook link to see reviews of your company, and to see if they can get a discount or special offer by “liking” your page.

 

    1. Use the Notes feature on your business Facebook page. You can post Notes to update your fans and customers on important news, or update them in a crisis. This is different than just writing a post. And assuming your business page is public, Google will search and index the Notes section on business pages. This is not true of personal pages. So, this is another chance to write keyword rich content on your business Facebook page. Be sure you include relevant keywords in the title of your post. And yes, it should have a title.

 

    1. Post direct links to your website on your Facebook page. Every post should have a link back to your website (backlinks). Post links to your blog on your Facebook page. Post something about a recent job you completed and link to the relevant Services page. You get the idea.

 

    1. Engage with your reviewers. Thank people for good reviews. Publicly offer to work things out with people who left negative reviews. Visitors to your Facebook page will appreciate that you didn’t just ignore the person who left a negative review.

 

    1. Above all, post frequently and post content that will engage visitors. Post about something good that happened that day. Post about a new service. Post about a special offer. Post pictures of your employees on the job. Ask questions. Take a poll. The more engaged people are on your Facebook page, the more visible it becomes to Google. And the more engagement you get on positive posts, the less likely that negative review is t stay at the top of the page.

 

    1. Use calls to action (CTAs) and ask people to like and share posts. Consider offering a chance to win something or get a discount.

 

  1. Have fun with it. Use your own voice, and be real. Of course, always be professional.

If you as a business owner take a little time to review your Facebook page and make sure it gets new posts on a regular basis, you should start to see some results. If you feel you have the time or computer savvy, hire someone to do it for you, whether that’s a company employee or an outside firm.

If you need help keeping your business Facebook page up to date and adding new and engaging posts, Coastal Web Services can help. We offer SEO consulting services, social media marketing services and web design services to small businesses in Multiple States.  Call us at 410-420-9390 for information about Facebook Marketing.