Hop Skip makes Clutch.co list as top marketing and advertising agency   At Hop Skip Marketing we’re not just a digital marketing agency, we’re a marketing consultant team. The difference might be subtle, but our approach is successful enough to have landed us top spot on the Clutch.co list for marketing and advertising agencies.  Clutch.co is a third-party B2B review site that reviews a company’s website, portfolio, case studies, and awards—and most importantly, it conducts client interviews.  This means that it was the feedback from our clients that secured us this recognition.   “Overall, [Hop Skip’s] efforts improved our position as a leader in the market. The launch of a thought leadership program, a re-brand, video and digital marketing have helped us penetrate new market segments… Hop Skip’s team has taken the time to understand our business and specific challenges, so they can provide customized, creative outputs.” – Jeff Sommer, Vice-President of Business Development, Lorpon Labels   What’s the secret to our success? We make life a little simpler for our clients. We take marketing tasks off our customers’ desks and deliver proven results that improve business and increase engagement while taking advantage of the newest trends and tools of the trade in our industry. From our  PPC management services  and branding chops to web design and media planning strategies, we know the ins and outs of marketing like the back of our hand. Of course, no amount of leading edge jargon can replace hard numbers.    “Hop Skip’s efforts have almost doubled our sales each year and set a record last year. The website they built has become one of our greatest tools… They’re extremely organized, proactive, and always meet their deadlines. There are no excuses; it’s all results-driven.”  – Domenic Sgambelluri, Sales Manager, iCapital, Co-Founder   In addition to this acknowledgment from Clutch.co, sister companies The Manifest and Visual Objects also recently recognized our work. The Manifest, a business news and insights website, named us one of the  top digital marketing agencies in Toronto , while Visual Objects, which showcases the industry experience of top creative agencies, now features our  portfolio  on its site.  We are very proud to have earned these accolades, and we look forward to continuing to build our legacy of success through more successful collaborations. Interested in hearing more about our previous work or have a project that you need a hand on?  We’d love to help!

Hop Skip makes Clutch.co list as top marketing and advertising agency

At Hop Skip Marketing we’re not just a digital marketing agency, we’re a marketing consultant team. The difference might be subtle, but our approach is successful enough to have landed us top spot on the Clutch.co list for marketing and advertising agencies.

      Want more leads? Try sales and marketing alignment  To be successful in business, you must understand the buyers’ journey—that is, the steps a potential customer takes from awareness of your product or service through to eventual purchase. Typically, the marketing team is responsible for generating leads and the sales team for turning these leads into clients. Using this model, the teams work on separate tasks at different times. Key to this, though, is that the sales and marketing teams collaborate. Take a look at how these two departments should work together to ensure on-going success.   The marketing-sales funnel     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The easiest way to map your buyer's journey is by plotting it along  the marketing-and-sales funnel . If you follow our blog you'll know this funnel is fundamental to B2B marketing. Each step to eventual purchase is represented as a layer of the funnel. Generally speaking, marketing is responsible for the early steps—the lead generation and nurturing—and sales takes the lead role in converting the lead to a deal. Let's look at the six steps in the funnel and how alignment between departments tends to happen during each.   Awareness: How to raise awareness of your business   Marketers use advertising, PR campaigns, social media and other tactics to make people aware of the company and its products/services, and once aware, keep it top of mind.   Alignment is collaborating on the buyer targeting for the campaigns, and keeping the sales team informed of the campaign activity. For small and mid-sized B2Bs this can happen during a standing monthly meeting.   Interest: How to nurture relationship so that people might buy from you in future   Leads that show interest need good information to learn more. It's the marketers' job to provide this, and typically it happens through a nurture process. This is where a drip (aka automated) campaign can be very useful. At this stage, marketing is developing a relationship with the potential buyer.  Alignment at this stage is working with the sales team (or at least informing them about) the development of educational content and the touch points, including lead capture (getting someone's name and email so you can stay in touch).   Consideration: How to interact with potential buyers as they research the best solution   The potential buyer is actively considering making a purchase. At this stage, the lead is usually thought of as a sales-qualified lead and the sales team takes on the responsibility of nurturing the relationship.  Alignment is ensuring a smooth hand-off and marketing supporting the sales team with ongoing touch points, events or collateral.   Intent: What marketing and sales can do when it’s clear a purchase is imminent   Marketing and sales are looking for signs that a purchase may happen. The buyer is still conducting research, so providing content is key here, as is communicating reasons to buy from you.   Alignment is typically communication about the content being provided, ensuring both departments are using the same key messages about the company and product/service strength.    Evaluation: How to help close the deal when buyers are down to the final decision   The potential buyer evaluates the product, price, and offer. This is the final stage before making a purchase and there could be a few decision makers reviewing the information.   Now the sales team is likely taking the lead, but alignment ensures both teams use the same messaging, collaborate on content and collateral, and everyone knows what touch points are happening when (should marketing send that person a mass email, or leave them to personal touchpoints by a sales person, for example).    Purchase: What communication needs to happen when the deal is closed   The result—a sale! The sales team gets the customer across the line, but marketing may be supporting with a welcome package or other new customer information.   The teams align by communicating anticipated and recent deals, and continued joint communication to that person.    Steps toward alignment   When marketing and sales are aligned, the conversion happens more easily because both departments are making a joint effort, and sales can have more meaningful, impactful conversations because they are equipped with better information and tools. Also, there is more transparency surrounding lead and deal tracking so the team is able to be more effective in the future.   Getting your sales and marketing departments aligned requires its own strategy. Consider these best practices.   1. Create top-down involvement   It’s crucial that your alignment goals come from the teams themselves, and possibly with some of the executive team. It may also be worthwhile to hire an intermediary to bridge the two departments.   2. Foster collaboration and document processes   Traditionally kept separate, your sales and marketing departments need to learn to work in an open, transparent, and collaborative environment. Document your hand-off process from marketing to sales. Anticipate sending leads back up the funnel to marketing and document the process.    3. Define leads and focus on quality   It might seem obvious but both departments need to be on the same page. Go back to basics. Standardize jargon. What exactly is a lead? A market qualified lead? A sales-qualified lead? Some see sales as a numbers game, more concerned with quantity over quality leads. But when departments are aligned, marketing can hand off leads to sales along with a deep profile about their needs that helps get the purchase result.    4. Rethink ROI   Once the funnel numbers are being tracked the teams can improve the rates of conversion from stage to stage. It's a great starting point to tracking marketing effectiveness, which we find most companies we work with haven't ever tracked.   5. Use a CRM and leverage dashboard reporting   A busy sales and marketing team will have numerous projects moving up and down the marketing funnel at any given time. Consider using a CRM to track projects, and build a dashboard for real-time reporting. This will give you access to data about what’s working and what isn’t.   Although their work is inextricably linked, marketing and sales teams often work in silos. This is an outdated structure. And it’s a mistake because it’s better for your buyers—and your business—to have an allied, collaborative marketing and sales team. Luckily, it’s not that difficult to make the shift. At Hop Skip Marketing we do this for many of our clients and it is typically up and running well within six months. With a few tweaks, you can streamline your internal processes and be on your way to lasting marketing and sales success.

Want more leads? Try sales and marketing alignment

In B2B companies alignment between sales and marketing is a continuous process of growth, communication, and commitment that will generate high-quality leads and sales. We’ll walk you through the benefits of aligning the two departments in each of the six steps of the funnel and how to get your two teams working closer together.

      Lead generation ideas for B2B tradeshows  You may not know this, but marketers are one of the toughest buyer groups to reach. So when vendors spend thousands to have a booth at a marketing conference, they’ve got to bring their A-game.   Looking for an idea to get show attendees to your booth? We’ve got your back: here are exceptional booth experiences we saw recently at a big North American marketing conference. And best of all, these ideas are simple and inexpensive to repeat, yet they increase traffic, create buzz and result in qualified leads.   Candy store  Everyone loves giveaways especially when they speak to your sweet tooth. This clever vendor included a postcard with an empty treat bag inviting attendees to visit “Candy Lane”. At the booth you could peruse the colourful candy buffet while chatting with the vendor.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Mystery key  Sometimes it’s not the location of the booth that drives traffic but the a clever pull strategy that attracts them, like a mystery key in the attendee bag that literally makes you go out of your way to find out what the key is for. Here’s how it worked: in our  conference bag we found a key with a note attached. The note directed us to a tiny, simple booth at the back of the hall where we inserted our key in hopes that it would open the box. If it did, we could take one of the juicy prizes inside, like an apple watch or tablet.   Of all the small booths, this one definitely saw more traffic because this activity piqued people’s curiosity. Our keys didn’t work, but Liz was there when an attendee’s key opened the box. She literally jumped up and down screaming. How’s that for drawing attention to your booth?! Plus, the vendor rang the bell so everyone in the hall knew there was a winner, then they took pics with her and posted them to the conference app and their social media. Well played, right?!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Hashtag photos  Everyone who posted a photo on social and used the conference hashtag had a shared destination: Lustre’s booth. The Lustre sales people printed off the photo  (with their branding and the conference name at the bottom) and attendees could take their photos home. Months later, Liz still has her pic in her wallet. #NailedIt     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Interactive pixel board  Interactive elements capture people’s attention as they move through the hall. This live pixel board was a great conversation starter. The pixels move with you as you move in front of the tiny camera. Check out this outline of Liz. It isn’t the  best   rendering of her, but it caught her attention and was a conversation-starter.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The Ball Pit  We’ve saved our favourite for last. Those of us with kids are all too familiar with ball pits. But when it’s just for adults, it’s a lot more fun. Here’s how this one worked: attendees got a ball in their conference bag, which piqued their curiosity (what could it be for?). When they entered the vendor hall the ball dropped (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves). Front and centre was a ball pit in the brand colours, orange and white. Attendees wrote their name and company name on the ball and threw it into the pit for a draw at 6pm that day. Those who wanted more entries could answer a short survey or take a photo of themselves inside the ball pit and share it on social. At draw time a huge crowd formed around the booth.  The biggest influencer at the conference dove into the pit to select the first winning ball. Then, the vendor drew several names and those people took home prizes like a Nintendo gaming system, Apple watch and other tech devices. This booth drew the largest crowd in the vendor hall and was undeniably the most fun. They also built a solid list through their survey.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Many companies question the value of attending tradeshows. But like any tactic, you don’t know if it will work until you try it. Shows are a good place to connect with clients and past clients, too. Setup one-on-ones or offer them a VIP gift for popping by the booth. Even a simple email to your list telling them you’ll be at X conference keeps you top of mind. Plus, there are follow-up opportunities to your broad list such as a show synopsis or a value-add blog like “3 takeaways from XXX show”.  Whatever you do, go with a well-thought-through plan to generate easy conversations with attendees, capture leads, qualify them, and follow-up.

Lead generation ideas for B2B tradeshows

When vendors spend thousands to have a booth at a marketing conference, they’ve got to bring their A-game. Here are the booths experiences we loved the most right now.

      The ins & outs of brand architecture  At its simplest, brand architecture is the way that a company presents its products/services. Selecting the best architecture for your company's offering is a strategic move. So understanding your options and the strategic reasons for choosing one over another is an important part of your overall marketing strategy—and, it’s not just for big business. We've helped several clients figure out their brand architecture. For the most part, this question has arisen when we were launching a new product/service. Here are the basics we have shared with our clients as we worked through their brand architecture.  Brand architecture and how it affects your business  Brand architecture is the strategy behind and implementation of a structure for a company’s products and services, brands and sub-brands. It creates the structure of your offerings, which can affect practical concerns like whether a service or product can be sold without changing the name, and the story, which will be a key part of how you communicate to your customers and potential customers. More on this to follow, but first, let’s look at why brand architecture is so important:    Builds general awareness and clarity of your offerings    Allows you to segment messaging    Anticipates and prepares for strategic growth    Anticipates eventual sale/acquisition of that service/product    Can reduce (or increase) marketing costs    Let’s look at the three major ways brands are structured.    Masterbrand, endorsed, or freestanding: Which works best for you?  There are three common ways companies build their brand architecture, each with their own pros and cons.  Masterbrand  Also referred to as "corporate" or "branded house", this structure can be understood as one main brand that contains many sub-brands or products. For example, Volvo's truck offering organizes each model with Brand + series number. Compare this to how it brands its consumer car lines like VW, Jetta, Tiguan and Passat.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     GE is another great example of this architecture.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     With this masterbrand approach, each product/service is inextricably linked to the main company (in brand-speak the "parent" brand). This is a good structure for those who want to build on the cache of the parent brand, existing customer relationships and loyalty. We find this approach works well for SMBs in B2B because it is much more cost effective than needing to develop unique brands (and collateral, websites, etc.) for each product/service. Also, because budgets are small we can achieve better results with this architecture.  Endorsed  This model associates a sub-brand or product with the main brand without completely linking them. Quite literally, the product appears to be "endorsed" by the main brand, which gives it some credibility and name recognition, but it maintains its own profile. PlayStation by Sony or Speed Stick by Mennen are two consumer product examples. Leveraging the reputation of the main brand is valuable, but it can give the product a lot to live up to.  Freestanding  In this brand structure products/services don't have any discernible connection to the parent company—they stand on their own (have their own website, marketing strategy, budget and tactics, etc.). Obviously this architecture foregoes leveraging the power of the main brand, but on the plus side it is extremely flexible, allowing, for example, for a product to be sold without having to change much of the customer-facing messaging. This approach costs a lot more, but it works great when you have a few products in the same category, or if you have many products and each targets a wholly different audience. Proctor & Gamble is a perfect example. They're one of the largest corporations in the world, but their products stand on their own. You wouldn’t know they own Crest, or Always, or Mr. Clean by looking at the packaging or marketing of those products. A local SMB example is Barrie-based  product design company Humanscope . They are the whole owner of  Menopod , which is a freestanding brand with its own website, sales and marketing strategy. This architecture poises the products for acquisition, and also fits well because of the drastically different markets their products target, and how these products are sold.  As you can see, your brand architecture clarifies how much or little you want to leverage your parent company’s name and reputation.  What brand architecture is best for your company?  Understanding how brand architecture works is one thing, but strategizing and implementing is another. Most SMBs don't have the in-house expertise to determine this, so they bring in a marketer with experience in brand architecture. They analyze the offering through questions about your existing brand architecture, target market, price points and business objectives. By understanding what you have, they can determine where you might need to make changes. They'll show you the architecture by sketching it out like an org chart.  When your brand architecture is complete, you can begin to implement the elements of your brand—taglines, logos, colours, and so forth—across all products and services.  Building your company’s brand architecture requires thought, research, and planning, but the results will serve your company’s—and your customers’—interests now and into the future.

The ins & outs of brand architecture

Building your company’s brand architecture requires thought, research, and planning, but the results will serve your company’s—and your customers’—interests now and into the future. Here are the nuts and bolts of different brand structures and the importance of choosing the right one.

       Is your brand messaging in need of an update?   Your brand messaging is directly linked to lead generation. Wondering how? Your messaging helps prospective buyers figure out if your product and company is the right choice for them. This is why most businesses spend considerable time pinpointing the exact messages they will convey.   Once the messaging is set, a business can move on to other issues, right? Wrong. There are situations—perhaps more than you’d expect—when your brand message deserves an update. Let’s dig in.   What is brand messaging?   Brand messaging refers to a set of phrases that communicate what you’re offering. In a quick scan, they articulate product/service category, points of difference and key benefits. In a nutshell, this messaging helps buyers understand why they should choose to buy from you rather than your competitors.   Taglines or slogans are one of the most obvious aspects of brand messaging. When you hear the phrase, “Just do it.”, you think of Nike. Taken a step further, you might think about dedication, ambition, and competitive spirit. These associations are intentional. Similarly, 3M’s slogan is “Science. Applied to life.” and their personality traits are  reportedly : free thinking and creative; sharing and trusting; fascinating; high-energy, optimistic and confident.     According to recent research  , messaging that’s focused on features, functions and business outcomes results in a 21% increase in perceived brand benefits, on average. Compare this to messaging focused on social and emotional benefits, which boosts results by 42%.   It may surprise you to hear that new messaging can be developed pretty quickly. At Hop Skip Marketing, we get all of the key stakeholders together in front of a whiteboard and develop it as a group in a few hours. The beauty of this type of approach is that you have buy-in, and the leaders of all the impacted functions appreciate how the messaging was developed.   Do’s and Don’ts of developing your brand messaging   DO: Convey what you offer and which category you are in.  DO: Articulate what makes it different (better) from the other options buyers will be considering.  DO: Compare your draft messaging to that of your competitive set to ensure you aren’t saying the exact same things they are. (Remember, you are trying to help buyers understand why they should choose to buy from you.)  DO: Quantify your messages to make them more believable. For example, citing “deep experience” is not as compelling as “25 years’ experience and 22,000 customers served”.  DO: Test messaging with a sample audience before launching.  DON’T: Promise things about your product that aren’t true today. Misleading promises can quickly tarnish a good reputation.  DON’T: Hang your hat on things that your buyers don’t value.  DON’T: Launch your messaging without first introducing it internally and explaining why you have settled on this particular set of messages.   Rolling out brand messaging   Brand messaging goes well beyond your website. It should be used frequently and consistently inside and outside of your organization. And it should be known by everyone at the company from your CEO to your front desk employees. Seem like overkill? Not at all. We just finished rolling out brand messaging for a client. During the workshop to develop their messaging, the management team agreed that their overall customer service and production process are par-none. We explored all the ways this is true throughout their process, including a 10-step quality program. In the end, we landed on the tagline “Exception. Every step of the way.” with sub messaging such as having a 10-step quality program for product excellence. Before taking this messaging public, we first rolled out with the sales and production teams, then to the entire company in an all-company townhall. Not only did we explain all of the messaging and how each department would ensure it is living up to these public promises, we also showed them how it would position us ahead of the competitors who had nothing like this. Just last week, the production team started moving a 10-step checklist along with each unit to ensure the team signs off on each step as it is completed.  Once internalized, it’s time to take your messaging public. Plan to update as much (if not all of) your public-facing collateral as you can at launch time. If this isn’t feasible, create a rollout plan.   Reinforcing your messaging with imagery and colour   Visual elements like images, colours and fonts are often used to reinforce brand messaging. For instance, many companies whose Canadian ownership is a key differentiator include “100% Canadian” or “Canadian owned and operated” into their messaging. This is often reinforced by Canadian imagery or symbols, and a brand colour palette that includes red. This is the approach we took with one of our clients who is in a category alongside many US-owned companies.  Messaging should be reinforced through experiential aspects too, like customer service, hiring, and corporate policies. For example, if a company hangs its hat on being the category leader for innovation, a slick up-to-date website designs with best-in-class user experience would make their messaging much more believable. Or, if a company says they treat customers like gold, all departments should have set ways that make that happen, like responding to inquiries within 15 minutes, or sending a gift if the service is in some way sub-par (ever received a free Starbucks drink because they messed up the order or took too long?).   Does your brand message need a review?   Once rolled out, a brand message can seem immovable—and indeed, a great message will resonate over time. But there are several events in the lifetime of a brand that should trigger a message review.   Introducing a new innovation   When there are new innovations in your sector you should schedule a messaging review to ensure that you remain relevant and at the forefront.   When you do a rebrand or refresh   Brand elements like design and logos should be refreshed periodically. If you are shifting to demonstrate new personality traits or to resonate with a different buyer group, your messaging may need tweaking.   During a new product launch   When introducing a new product, you will need to develop messaging for the product line and buyer. This work should include an audit of the competitors’ product messaging.   Entering a new market or when there’s a shift in the market   Reviewing your overall messaging when entering a new market is crucial. Perhaps less obviously, it’s a great time for review if there has been a change in competitor activity, an economic shift, or a change in consumer buying behaviour in your existing market. If you are in an industry that’s growing, you’ll have to revisit messaging and position frequently.   When developing your annual marketing plan   Times change, which is why each year you need to engage in strategic marketing work. Consider a messaging and brand review (your messaging and that of your top competitors) as part of that work.   Your brand messaging checklist   There are numerous opportunities throughout the year to check your messaging, but what should you be looking for? Here are the three important questions to ask:   1. Does your core messaging offer anything different from your competitors?   Be honest! If your messaging has become repetitive or indistinct, it’s time to reach for something new to differentiate yourself.   2. Do your messages reflect reality?  Your brand messaging might be excruciatingly clever, but if it doesn’t reflect reality it won’t land the way you want it to. Make sure your communications are grounded.   3. Do your messages still resonate with your target audience?   Changes in products or price point, new competitors, or shifts in customer behaviour can all affect your business landscape. Review your target audience, and make sure your messages still resonate. A customer survey is a great way to do this.  Your company works hard to create relevant, resonant brand messaging. Don’t let the effort go to waste. Keep an eye on industry trends and take advantage of the natural opportunities for review that arise throughout the year. Regular brand messaging checkups can help you grow and prosper.

Is your brand messaging in need of an update?

Your company works hard to create relevant, resonant brand messaging. Regular brand messaging checkups can help you grow and prosper. Whether it’s new innovation, shift in industry trends, or creating your annual marketing plan a review of your brand messaging should be on your checklist. Let’s dig in further….

      How a 30-year-old manufacturer solved its market share problem  Every company wants more market share. What many struggle with is how to get it. In the face of fierce competition and other internal and external challenges, figuring out how to grow market share can feel daunting. It’s a beast of a question. What helps—a lot—is having an experienced marketing team at the table. We say this from experience.   There is no one way to gain market share. It is commonly done by innovating, improving customer experience, strengthening brand, and making acquisitions. Today we’ll shed light on how we helped a manufacturer increase its market share and enter two completely new markets resulting in bottom line growth, as well as the growth of its sales and customer service teams.  Updating a tired brand can create a high ROI   When we first started working with this B2B manufacturer, their top priority was reducing risk by diversifying their client base. They aimed to go from a few very large accounts to multiple small and mid-sized accounts. They were in a position to service new clients well, and their product was solid. The main issue was attracting leads and getting them to a point where they were ready to speak with sales.       
   
     “ 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy. ” 
   
   — Gleanster Research 
 
     Our marketing team had one big goal: to resonate with and convert new buyers. We also had one big problem: the main reasons to buy from this company were their innovative solutions and top-quality service, but these were not reflected in their dated brand and vanilla website copy. It’s hard to claim you are innovative and committed to quality when you look like a relic from bygone era. And potential buyers look for a certain amount of product information before they are willing to speak with sales. The company needed a virtual rebirth to achieve their goals.  Over six months, we completed a comprehensive rebrand, including a new logo, tagline, photography, messaging and website. We carefully crafted the website to provide detailed product information potential buyers were looking for, and communicate the company’s strengths so that buyers were able to understand the benefits of working with this manufacturer over the others. We also produced a video and created basic sales collateral, to further help educate buyers and assist the sales process.  The change was drastic. And the industry and buyers took notice. Their website traffic grew from 1300 website visitors in 2013/14 to 14,400 visitors over the same 12-month period in 2015/16.  By fall 2017, two years into working with us, the company had to increase the sales team’s headcount to respond to the requests for quotes and manage the additional jobs. The customer service team also expanded. The company, which had long prospered thanks to a few large clients had now acquired dozens of small- and mid-sized accounts within the same industry. We were growing market share!  Bottom line growth by entering a new market   With our first big goal achieved, it was time to set new marketing and sales goals. We agreed to expand into the craft beer and distilling industries, which were booming and a great match with their fortes.   The launch involved two large initiatives: tradeshows and direct mail. We also wrote monthly articles, daily social media posts and ran Google Ads. These all fit neatly into a trademarked umbrella campaign we called Own the Shelf. (Search the #owntheshelf hashtag to see the social media rollout!)  This campaign further increased the website traffic and earned the company some headlines, too. As for bottom line growth, the direct mail campaign was a major contributor. The mailer was sent to decision makers of 70 Canadian distillers. A whopping 68% of them engaged in the campaign, and 7% converted into net new customers.  Our multi-faceted multi-year marketing work yielded excellent results for this B2B company. The website doesn’t just look and sound (way) better—it has become a lead-to-conversion machine. Today, a whopping 40% of web leads convert to clients. And we’re continuing to bring in new clients, in old markets and new.  Don’t shy away from a goal of increasing market share. It is complicated and won’t happen overnight, but equipped with a strategy, tactical plan and experienced marketing team, it is definitely do-able.

How a 30-year-old manufacturer solved its market share problem

One of the most talked about challenges today in business is gaining market share. We shed some light on how we helped a manufacturer increase its existing market share and enter two completely new markets— resulting in bottom line growth, as well as the growth of their sales and customer service teams.

      Why you should never choose between brand awareness and lead generation  Much has been said about brand awareness and lead generation as they relate to marketing, but we find the two are often framed as competing imperatives. In truth, they’re both necessary for healthy sales and growth. In this article, we’ll look at these concepts and explain how—and why—a sound strategy includes both brand awareness and lead generation.  Brand awareness vs. lead generation  In its simplest term,  brand awareness  is recognition of your brand or products and services.  Lead generation  is the initiation of a potential buyer’s interest in your product or service. Often we hear people suggest that a focus on one necessitates the expense of the other. The reality is they are both essential to maintaining a healthy stream of business. Without brand awareness there are far fewer leads. Without a proper lead gen process, fewer potential buyers move from the awareness stage to making a purchase. They are both steps in  the marketing-sales funnel .   At Hop Skip Marketing, we break down the marketing and sales process into a series of steps. Brand awareness and lead generation are two of several steps, and they have to happen simultaneously to keep sales flowing. Here's an example:  An example of increasing brand awareness  A few years ago we were approached by an interior design and decorating business looking to set up shop in northern Ontario. They were entering an already competitive marketplace. Luckily, we found that none of their competitors had invested time or money in marketing, so it was easy to show how they were different—and better—than all the other well-established businesses in town. This was our starting point.  We created imagery that looks distinctively theirs and messaging that explains how they’re different from the other businesses in town. Then we spread word about them far and wide through social media, digital advertising, signage, event sponsorship, Chamber of Commerce emails, and more.  The beauty of operating in a small community is advertising is inexpensive and very effective. For this client, it wasn’t long before the website’s traffic grew substantially and they had people entering their lead generation process.  An example of increasing lead generation  When potential customers are starting to do their research, your lead generation process should kick in to answer their questions, help educate them, and get them ready to speak with your salespeople.  For our design client, we wanted to pinpoint that moment when people in our database began preparing to renovate or build their home. We looked for signs like someone visiting the services page of the website to see the pricing and service offering, downloading an ebook or read other material on the site. At that point we start to follow up with relevant educational material and encourage them to book a consultation. This is when the sales conversation begins. For this client, the lead gen process is pretty simple, but for others it is far more complex. This is where marketing automation software can be a huge help.   So now you know that instead of worrying about whether to put your marketing resources into brand awareness or lead generation, you need to ensure your strategy fosters both. Neither need to be overly complex, but the work hand-in-hand to drive sales. 

Why you should never choose between brand awareness and lead generation

Brand awareness and lead generation are often framed as competing imperatives. In fact, they are both necessary for healthy sales and growth. In this article, we’ll look at these concepts and explain how—and why—a sound strategy includes both brand awareness and lead generation.

      Hop Skip Marketing named leading agency on Clutch.co  Clutch.co, an on-line data driven field guide for B2B buying and hiring decisions, recently named Hop Skip Marketing one of the leading  digital marketing agencies in Canada . It’s always great to have our work recognized, but this is an extra-special acknowledgment. Clutch arrives at its rankings through in-depth research of a company’s website, portfolio, case studies, and awards—and most importantly, it conducts client interviews. This means our clients’ feedback is directly responsible for our success on the Clutch list.  So just how did we manage our success on Clutch? There was a clue—even for us—when we looked over our clients’ responses. Consider this feedback from the president of Backbone Technology: “They provide good results, and we have a good working relationship. They understand our business well, which can’t be said of all marketing firms. They’re responsible and professional, accomplishing all of the work given to them. They keep us up to standard and ensure our software and tools are working properly.”  Though we’re listed under “digital marketing agencies,” at Hop Skip we consider ourselves to be a marketing consultant agency. The most pronounced difference is that we act as your company’s marketing department. That means we're in your office weekly to look after your entire marketing strategy and implementation, just like an in-house marketing department would. It's a model that offers companies like Backbone Technology the best of both worlds: the scalability of outsourced marketing, with the deeper relationship and familiarity of in-house staff.  Of course, it’s all just semantics unless you can prove results. Look at what the sales manager at iCapital had to say to Clutch: “Hop Skip's efforts have almost doubled our sales each year and set a record last year. The website they built has become one of our greatest tools; we receive lots of applications through the site and clients are actively enjoying its features.”  You can see these and all our reviews, as well as our 5-star ratings on  our Clutch profile . And while you’re at it, surf over to Clutch sister site The Manifest, where we’re listed as one of their  top digital marketing agencies in the world .  These accolades are awesome, but more importantly, they set us up for success in our growth goal. Next up, we’re looking to be the go-to marketing solution for B2B companies in Toronto, GTA West, and the Halton/Hamilton region.   

Hop Skip Marketing named leading agency on Clutch.co

Clutch.co recently named Hop Skip Marketing one of the leading digital marketing agencies in Canada. It’s always nice to have our work recognized, but this is an extra-special acknowledgment.

      How Does Google Rank You, Anyway?  You don’t need a marketing diploma to know that where you rank in Google's (or Bing's) search results matters. In fact, over 50% of people click on the first listing Google serves them, according to these  2018 stats from Smart Insights . This varies by industry and how many words someone uses to find what they're looking for.  If you want to get the coveted top spot, you need to do some work to reach—and stay—in that first Google search position. This article will help you understand how Google ranks sites and how you can improve your position.  Understanding Google's algorithm  No doubt you’ve heard the word "algorithm" in reference to your web presence. And you may have some sense of what it does. But, really, what  is  an algorithm? Simply put, a search algorithm is a set of factors (more than 200 of them, in Google's case!) designed to establish two things: authority and relevancy of your website. Though human-made, the algorithm is computer-run, and it is also constantly changing in an effort to improve results. We should also tell you that Google's exact algorithm is a closely-guarded secret; akin only to KFC's chicken recipe (which, btw, may have been  accidentally revealed  last year).  The reason Google’s algorithm (and that of other search engines) is so often talked about is that it determines how you rank in search results. The algorithm decides who is listed first—you or one of your competitors. And  as Neil Patel points out , "Given that Google handles over  2 trillion searches  per year (that's about 40,000 every second), even the smallest changes to their algorithm can have a massive impact on any given site."  How can I make my website rank better?  Entire careers are built on this question. Even though we don't know the recipe for their secret sauce, we do know the key ingredients. While no one knows Google’s exact algorithm, we have a good sense of how to get a site ranking better. We’ve had several clients come to us who were concerned about their poor ranking. Fixing this problem isn’t rocket science, you just need to roll up your sleeves and give it at least a few months to take effect. Here’s how we’ve turned around poor rankings for our clients:   1.    Evaluate your website  Before you can improve your site, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Be sure to document this baseline so you have a comparative later. Bearing in mind that whatever the algorithm, Google is searching for sites with authority and relevancy, take the time for a comprehensive review. This article can help you  assess your website’s performance and correct weaknesses .     2.    Is your content comprehensive?  For some time, in an effort to beat the algorithm, people infused their content with specific keywords that were alleged to drive traffic. Over time, though, this resulted in the web being over-run with poorly written, difficult-to-understand or off-topic articles. It became clear that what reads well for computers doesn’t necessarily work for human users.  More recently, Google tweaked their algorithm to measure content more qualitatively. Using keywords in your website copy is still very important but first and foremost, your site needs to work for your customers and buyers. So think about the keywords your audience uses to find you, and ensure they are included in the headlines of your website.   But it doesn't end there. It's also widely known that Google favours websites that are regularly updated with good quality content. For this exact reason, we produce blog posts for 100% of our clients. Generally speaking, we aim to publish a monthly post, which even the smallest of companies can pull off. Not only does the blog tell Google you are a subject matter expert, it's also instills a greater sense of credibility to buyers visiting your website. Plus, it gives you something to talk about on social media. Win-win-win!   3.    Check your metadata  This one’s a bit counter-intuitive. Metadata doesn’t directly improve your rankings anymore (it used to). What it does do is help others, both robot and human, find and navigate your site. And the resulting traffic (ie. people visiting your site) contributes to your ranking. So it's a round-about thing.  What you should do is check your the page title and description you have for each page, all image descriptions for visually-impaired site visitors and robots, and the content structure to make sure you’re in tip-top shape for your visitors. To check your website's page titles and page descriptions (or lack thereof) simply enter your URL.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Here is an example of a good listing:     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      4.    Increase the number of sites linking to your website  Inbound links—especially from reputable websites—tell Google that you are an authority on that subject matter. The more "referral" links from reputable sources on that topic, the better you’ll rank for that very subject when people search for it. Another thing that can improve your ranking is to get highly regarded websites to link to your site. The higher their domain authority, the better the juju they'll give you. You can  find out a website's domain authority using Moz's awesome free tool . (See what we did there? We just gave Moz a little juju by linking to them—not that they needed any more.) Just beware that savvy websites use something called a "no follow" link, which gives you zero juju. If you suspect they are sufficiently advanced, ask that they give you a "do follow" link. There's no harm in asking, right?  Unfortunately, even being the best in your category isn’t going to attract these sweet inbound links. Just like in the real world, you’re going to need to do a bit of networking and sales. Note that the emphasis is on quality, so skip the link farms and look into outreach, targeted PR and offering to pen guest posts for industry blogs (perhaps for an industry association or digital publication).   5.    Take a look "under the hood" of your website  Though this is probably the least sexy task of the bunch, it’s crucial that your site is technically up-to-snuff. Do your pages load quickly? Are you optimized for mobile browsing? Is your site up-to-date with the latest Google guidelines so it can be crawled and properly indexed? Search engines like Google want to give searchers a great experience. If your site doesn’t deliver because it is frustratingly slow, or isn’t optimized for mobile, they won’t send traffic your way for long.     Now that you have an overview of what it takes to woo the algorithm, dig a bit deeper starting with our blog  5 ingredients for ranking first on Google . And if all this seems a bit overwhelming, we can help you. Improving your website's ranking is definitely do-able—it just takes some strategic TLC.

How Does Google Rank You, Anyway?

You don’t need a marketing diploma to know that where you place in a user’s search results matters. In fact, a full 95% of people click on the first listing Google serves them. This article will give you the basics to understand how Google ranks your site and how you can improve your position.

      When your business needs deep understanding of human factors, turn to the robots  What is s entiment analysis & how does it relate to artificial intelligence (AI)?   Mention artificial intelligence (AI) in a business setting and you’re likely to send your staff into a panic fostered by decades of speculation about robots making human labour obsolete. To be sure, the potential range of applications is enormous and indeed, some eagle-eyed folks may have already noticed AI and robots showing up in some industries to handle menial, repetitive, or promotional tasks. A new trend in human resources (HR), however, may have identified the best use yet for AI—sentiment analysis. Here’s why in this case, the robots may well be the best people for the job.  Sentiment analysis is a jargony term that refers to a type of contextual data mining intended to get at subjective thoughts or feelings. By measuring positive and negative language in a survey, from call centre agents, on social media, or from any other source, sentiment analysis can provide deep insight into how your audience truly perceives your business or product.  The collection, measurement, and analysis of enormous amounts of data is always more efficiently handled computationally rather than by hand, but resource allocation is not the most compelling reason to bring in the AI. Indeed, it is the very fact that the intelligence is artificial that fosters an environment of anonymity and veracity.  B2B use of sentiment analysis and AI  There are multiple ways B2Bs can use this type of data. Consider an employee satisfaction survey. Having a deep, rich, and detailed sense of what does and does not work in your workplace culture is extremely valuable to any business owner. After all, satisfaction is connected to productivity and growth, and a lack thereof can be extremely costly. Satisfaction surveys are intended to address this by uncovering problems, but they are less effective if they don’t include sentiment analysis. After all, how can an employee speak out about something that bothers them, especially when they suspect it is their employer who will analyze the results? Most hesitate to be the squeaky wheel for fear it might impact their chances of advancement. Would you be prepared to speak candidly about your workplace experience under these same conditions? And even if you could capture the true opinions of your employees, would you trust human operators to properly interpret the data?  For businesses, there are also external applications. Customer feedback forms or surveys are one great example of this. The real, unedited thoughts and feelings of a customer toward a business or product are extremely valuable as they can identify trends, drive improvement, and help foster deeper engagement.  However, in addition to the problems identified above, companies struggle with low response rates and with uncovering the true root causes of customer issues. This is where AI comes in.  Let’s return to the issue of staff surveys. A business owner looking to capture employee sentiment has a few options. You can use traditional methods but even at best, results will be limited by the closed, cursory responses of the survey design. You can offer anonymity and encourage participation by outsourcing survey management to an external outfit, but this will not eliminate human operator bias or failure in interpretation. Or, you can work with sentiment analysis where respondents can give long-form feedback, and look to AI—robots—to collect and interpret the data, thus closing  the major gaps in your existing process .  The benefits of sentiment analysis in a nutshell  Using AI for sentiment analysis can be a great value. You can realistically foster trust around anonymity, as literal robots are reading the responses—the results of individual staff members never need cross management’s desk. This encourages more participation, which gives the AI more data to analyze. Increased data points translate to better analysis of the true meaning—the sentiment or opinion—being expressed, which will result in more specific, actionable strategies for management. Best yet, these benefits apply whether you’re surveying employees or collecting feedback from customers.  There is some irony in the situation—that AI may well be the best way to access the most human of emotions—but isn’t this the kind of improvement the technology was built for? If a robot analyst is what it takes to make workplaces happier, healthier, and more profitable, I’d say AI is living up to its promise.

When your business needs deep understanding of human factors, turn to the robots

A new trend in marketing communications and market research is the use of sentiment analysis, powered by AI. Here’s the scoop on how B2Bs are putting this new technology to use.

      Why You Should Refresh Your Marketing Annually  For better or worse, the business world changes constantly. Your company goals shift from year to year. And your marketing strategy should change along with them. The same plan of attack just won’t work year-over-year, because every year you’re marketing a different version of your company to a different version of the marketplace.  In fact, since a good marketing strategy is specific, this is  even more true  if last year’s marketing was excellent. The specificity that gave it power won’t apply anymore. You’ll have new growth goals to attain. And maybe a new product, or initiative to launch, too.  So, what do you need to remember when you’re refocusing your marketing?   Keep track of the state of marketing today, both in form and function    In the past, the methods of B2B marketing were completely different, because people chose their suppliers differently. Consumers gathered information primarily from brochures and trade shows. Their sales relationships started earlier, and they were more loyal to the brands they selected.  Potential buyers don’t speak with sales until they’ve done their online research. So you have to provide the lots of information up front. This has made more intentional, active marketing a necessity. Gone are the days when marketing was a cost centre; today it’s a revenue centre.  Customer relationships are affected by marketing, too. Customers are more fickle when it comes to brand loyalty.  Simultaneously, there are changes in what buyers expect aesthetically and function-wise on your website. Perhaps we need to count the life of a website in dog years! If your site is more than 5 years old, it isn’t impressing anyone. If you are claiming to be innovative and your site is old ... well, as Donny Brasco says fuhgeddaboudit.     These changes don’t happen instantly—they’re composed of micro-trends that come and go. Faster than you can say fugazi, buyer expectations, new competitor tactics, and linguistic tics sweep the market and then disappear. Keeping abreast of these developments can be the difference between your brand dominating, and your brand falling to the back of the pack.   Responding to environmental shifts and positioning against competitors   Different market conditions can call for completely different approaches to selling the same product.  Let’s say you’re selling video conferencing equipment, and you’re advertising at a time when the economy is booming. Given the economic abundance, it might be the time to sell your equipment as a prestige good. Focus on the lustrous quality of your images, your comprehensive feature set, and so on.  But then, the market takes a downturn. Even prosperous companies are tightening their budgets. What do you do then? Focus on the budgetary advantages of your product. Talk about how it facilitates more efficient meetings, which will save companies money. Share statistics about its reliability, making it clear that you’re offering a sound investment.  And this is just one example of the kinds of change that you need to navigate. New innovations, political shifts, and regulatory changes can all be a big deal. For example, in our past work with Canada Cartage part of our marketing strategy and plan focused on attracting and retaining drivers because of the shortage of truck drivers in Canada.  Accounting software company Auvenir, which we built a strategy for in 2017, needed to covey its know-how in machine learning and AI in order to prove it is the most innovative, progressive brand in its saturated category.  This brings us to the fact that you’ll have to plan around competitors, too. Obviously, you’re better at some things than they are, but your customers don’t know that—unless you communicate these differences. Every single company we’ve worked with has needed to better articulate how it stands apart from the competition.  This involves studying your competitors—knowing about their brand, messaging,  marketing tactics, and more, so that you can actively differentiate from them, and achieve your goals.   Alignment and goal setting are crucial to ensuring your marketing pays off    But hey, what are those goals again? Surprisingly, some companies ignore this question. The reality is most companies we work with don’t have the expertise or bandwidth to develop a marketing strategy and plan. So any marketing they are doing is off the cuff.  Marketing should always align with goals, priorities and what departments like sales and customer service are doing. Marketing is a function that supports most functions in the business: product innovation, regulatory compliance, sales, customer service. Even the front desk staff.  At Hop Skip Marketing, we insist on refreshing the marketing strategy, tactics and budget annually. And every year we update the key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing too. These goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For more on this,  read this blog we wrote  about how to set relevant and SMART goals every time.   The Upshot   It might seem like a chore to revisit your marketing plans on an annual basis. But it’s the only way to avoid wasting money and falling behind competitors.  Refreshing your marketing every year is how you maintain your brand’s relevance and success in a fast-changing world. Ultimately, it’s the way into your customers’ hearts—and, of course, their wallets.

Why You Should Refresh Your Marketing Annually

For better or worse, the business world changes constantly. Your company goals shift from year to year. And your marketing strategy should change along with them. The same plan of attack just won’t work year-over-year, because every year you’re marketing a different version of your company to a different version of the marketplace.

      The benefits of outsourcing your marketing  As recently as a decade ago, only a few services were likely to be outsourced. Indeed, the very word—outsourcing—was sure to evoke enormous impersonal call centres. Suffice it to say, things have changed. Due in no small part to the advent and improvement of internet tech, the popularity and diversity of outsourced services has grown. According to  data recently published by Statista , in 2010, the global market of outsourced services represented just over 45 billion U.S. dollars; seven years later, it has nearly doubled, amounting to $89.9 billion.  Now that outsourcing has become a viable option for IT, finance, and sales services, it’s worth asking whether your marketing should be done in or out-of-house. The  website Entrepreneur  lists content marketing as one of five tasks for small businesses to outsource. Hop Skip takes this a step further. We believe that no matter the size of your shop or the services required, you can benefit from outsourcing your marketing. Here’s why.   Benefit #1: More time to run your business   We often see marketing sitting with the company admin person or (following off) the desk of the VP of sales and marketing. VPs cobble it together as time allows (which it usually doesn’t). Admins, on the other hand, have time and interest, but lack the strategic insight to get tangible results.  In  a report  on content marketing based on feedback from 600 respondents, 51% listed finding the time to produce quality content as a challenge, and you can add to that the time necessary to strategize and plan, build budgets, execute, and report. Let’s look at an example. For every client at Hop Skip, we build an updated marketing strategy annually. This work is necessary for an informed and effective strategy, and has to be done prior to writing articles, creating sales collateral or posting to social media. Marketing is not a side-project, and successful marketing takes time.  When it comes to marketing staff, outsourcing is obviously not the only solution. Your business might hire an in-house marketer. This brings us to the second benefit.   Benefit #2: Cost-effectiveness    If you’re thinking of making a hire, your first choice is probably a mid-level or senior marketer. This will cost you, not only in salaries, but also in recruitment and interviewing, benefits, and signing bonuses. On the other hand, cutting costs by hiring a junior marketer will necessitate training, daily directions (i.e. strategic and tactical know-how by their manager) and oversight. And they may well move on in a year or two, taking your investment with them. Salary-wise, in Ontario a mid-level marketer as a small company will be paid between $50K and $70K, plus benefits, whereas a junior hire will range from $35K to $50K, plus benefits.  It’s for these reasons that hiring a fractional marketing department becomes even more attractive. An outsourced team is scalable, doesn’t need direction or oversight (it’s our job to report to you) and generally costs the same as a junior-hire.   Benefit #3: As-needed expertise    An internal marketing team may well be expert in your industry, products, or services, but are they up-to-date with the latest trends? Do they come with breadth of experience and lessons learned from other sectors?  When you outsource your marketing, you’re gaining access to a team that has worked for multiple clients across sectors—and they have knowledge of best practices, industry trends, and proven results to show for it. When you outsource your marketing, this means that there’s no oversight required from you, and you will always be kept up-to-date through frequent reporting including data on return on investment (ROI) derived from your key performance indicators (KPI) and focused on business growth.  A solid, actionable marketing strategy is integral to the health of your business. If you are looking for cost-effective ways to engage top experts who can take your marketing plan from concept to completion and save you time in the process, outsourced marketing may be the right option for you and your business.   

The benefits of outsourcing your marketing

We believe that no matter the size of your shop or the services required, you can benefit from outsourcing your marketing. Here’s why.

      Ready or not, GDPR has come; here’s what Canadian B2B business owners need to know  As a Canadian business owner who depends on B2B interactions, you probably remember the commotion surrounding  Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)  coming into effect in 2014. Those four letters had many B2B businesses in a frenzy as they tried to understand the rules and update their communication consent practices.  Just when you thought you were in the clear, you have four new letters to worry about. You’ve likely heard received several emails from other companies about GDPR compliance in the last month or so. But do you have you considered the impact it could have on your business? Are you in compliance?  The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents a huge shift in the way businesses are required to handle customers’ data. It came into effect May 25, 2018. And, unfortunately, doing nothing is not an option. If your business isn’t compliant with the new regulations, you could face serious consequences, such as a fine of up to $20 million Euros or four per cent of your annual global turnover.   How does GDPR compare with CASL?   This European legislation was designed to harmonize data protection laws across the European Union (EU). It wasn’t intentionally designed to make a business owner’s job more difficult. Instead, it was created to enhance consumers’ rights regarding their personal data. Here’s how it compares to CASL:     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        How do I ensure my business is obtaining proper consent?   Under GDPR, it’s not enough to just claim that individuals have given you their permission to be contacted and/or collect their information. Instead, you must prove it. This involves keeping a detailed record of the following:    Who consented? What is their full name, company name and job title?    When they provided consent? Record the day and time.    What information was provided by your company? This should include a copy of your data-collection form, as well as your privacy policy.    How did they provide consent? Be sure to retain a date- and time-stamped copy of your data-collection form.    In addition, should a person request that their personal information be deleted from your database, it’s imperative that you keep a record of this request along with its completion date.   How do I create a compliant opt-in process?   Under GDPR, you need to present information clearly to individuals when inviting them to opt in and give you their consent to be contacted or have their data collected. Here are a few tips to remember when writing copy for your opt-in web pages and documents.    Use simple language.    Avoid technical words or jargon.    Write concise statements without ambiguity.    Under these new regulations, people will no longer be overwhelmed with unwanted communications materials. Instead, they’ll receive only the content they opted in to receive. This puts greater control in the hands of consumers, and confirms that every interaction with your business is a desired one.  For more information on GDPR, and to view the legislation in full, visit the  EU GDPR Information Portal

Ready or not, GDPR has come; here’s what Canadian B2B business owners need to know

Just when you thought you were in the clear, you have four new letters to worry about. You’ve likely heard received several emails from other companies about GDPR compliance in the last month or so. But do you have you considered the impact it could have on your business?

      Is your website's performance holding you back?  Enhancing the performance of your website can have a direct impact on your traffic, leads and revenue. If your site isn’t “performing” well, it's probably negatively impacting user experience, customer adoption, brand perception, search engine ranking and lead conversion.  Many organizations (even experienced marketers) ignore performance because it feels too technical. This is a costly mistake. If your site takes more than three seconds to load, for example, you’ll lose 40% of your visitors, says  KISSmetrics .  To help you out, we've put together this simple, short SEO cheat sheet to help you gain a better understanding of what makes a site perform well. Read through them, then run your website through our favourite SEO analysis tools to see your your site rates and what, if anything, needs to be fixed.   Demystifying common SEO terms   SEO whaaat? Fear not! Here are some of the most common terms you should know, explained in plain English:   Page requests  You page will slow down with every HTTP request your website makes. You can combine files to reduce the number of requests. This will optimize your page load time, and ultimately improve your user experience, bounce rate and more.   Page speed  The best websites load within three seconds. Slow loading times can lead to reduced visitors, sales and revenue. The biggest factor that contributes to speed is your page size. Again, aim to keep all page files less than 3 MB.   Browser caching  This speeds up your website by storing repeatedly used content in local memory. Enabling browser caching allows you to temporarily store data on a user’s device so they don’t have to wait for it to reload every time they visit.   Page redirects  In simplest terms, a 301 redirect can be compared to the mail forwarding service offered by your local post office. Unfortunately, online, these add an additional loading cycle to your website, and increase the time it takes to display your page.   Compression  If your images, JavaScript and CSS are properly compressed, your website will run much quicker. Here, there’s no magic number, all page elements considered, just aim to keep your page sizes as low as possible.   Render blocking  This means removing or deferring JavaScript and CSS that interfere with loading your above-the-fold content.   How to tell how well your site is performing   You might think you have great SEO, but the only way to know for sure is to use site analysis tools. We think these three are some of the best free website analysis tools out there:   Google Sandbox and Penalty Checker  i.e. are you in the dog house with Google? This tool gives more of a sniff test than anything. If you get a "possible penalty" you'll know to dig deeper.  > Try the Sandbox tool    Moz's Open Site Explorer  Your site's "domain authority" is an important factor in how well you rank for particular keywords. This tracks your site's link profile. You'll see that each site that links in to you have a domain authority and spam score.    Google Search Console Search Analysis  Analyze your performance on Google Search by seeing what people are typing into Google and what is making people click through to your site. You can event filter and compare your results to better understand your user's search patterns.      This blog is a DIY starter kit for improving your SEO. Between understanding the most common SEO terminology and using tools to diagnose where your site is strong and where it's weak, you'll get clarity on what you need to focus on for the next several months. Start by fixing glaring problems (i.e. if you've been "sandboxed" or if your site speed is slow), then dig in to generate incremental improvements that will pull up your ranking. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, so take it one step at a time and you'll get there!

Is your website's performance holding you back?

This blog is a DIY starter kit for improving your SEO. We demystify the most common SEO terminology and give you our favourite free tools so you can see where your site is strong, and where it's weak.

      The truth about mobile-friendly websites in B2B  In our work with mature small B2Bs we sometimes find ourselves debunking myths about the role of mobile in lead generation. We also hear horror stories about attempts to build mobile-friendly sites that went terribly wrong. If you are a B2B, here are some important truths and nuances about mobile.   Myth: lead generation doesn't happen on mobile   Forget investing in a comprehensive mobile strategy, some B2Bs strongly believe having even a mobile-friendly website isn't important for their business.   Could they be right?   The answer is best found in their website data. For our clients, visitors viewing the website on a mobile device ranges between 10% and 40% of their total traffic. Across the board, this traffic source has consistently grown over the past few years, and we can confidently predict traffic from mobile will continue to grow as a percentage of overall traffic. But even considering the low end, 10% of visitors is too large a number to ignore when you calculate how much goes into attracting these visitors in the first place.  Some people have expressed to us that people coming to their site through mobile aren't "real" buyers. But the stats say otherwise: not only are people doing their work at all times of day and night, they are also using their phone to conduct their buying research.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In 2015, Google reported that 49% of B2B buyers who are using their mobile devices to do product research are actually doing so while at work. What's more, if you increase your marketing activity, this number is likely to lift.   One of our clients has gone from 10% of traffic coming in via mobile in 2012 to 42% in 2016 as a result of publishing more content, being more active social media and running more digital ads. And, of course, we have to account for the change in buyer behaviour that everyone is seeing as being a factor too.  At Hop Skip, we build mobile-friendly sites for all of our clients, no matter how big or small they are. If you are not well versed in website development, you may not know the difference between a mobile website and a responsive website. This nuance was the downfall of a B2B owner we spoken with a few weeks ago. He hired a web designer to create a mobile site as part of his website refresh, when what he wanted was a responsive site.    What is the difference between a responsive website and a mobile website?    A responsive site  is a website that's coded to  adapt  to the viewer's screen size (desktop, tablet, and mobiles of all sizes). Most, if not all, of the site content and functionality are available to the mobile visitor.   A mobile website  is a distinct copy of your website that is slimmed down for mobile users. When someone looks at your site using a mobile device, the server will show them the mobile website rather than the desktop version.  Mobile sites are becoming a thing of the past because responsive sites are more user friendly for visitors and administrators. Also, having a responsive site increases the likelihood that your site will be included in search results when someone is Googling on their mobile device because search engines are rewarding companies that have responsive sites.    Responsive sites are a must-have for selling in B2B. If your current site isn’t responsive, it’s time to change that so that you don’t miss out on leads or opportunities to engage customers and re-engage past customers. When working with a website designer, be clear about what you want, and make sure your designer is following  the latest mobile-friendly site recommendations  released by Google.  

The truth about mobile-friendly websites in B2B

The facts don't lie: B2Bs need to pay attention to their mobile traffic. Here are some of the latest stats and terminology you need to know.

      2 website security basics every B2B should know  Website security breeches are on the rise in Canada. Thirty-three of 125 Canadian companies who took a recent Malwarebytes survey had paid ransoms ranging between $1,000 and $50,000 to have the cyber attackers release their data; 11 of them temporarily closed down to cope with the breech.  Regardless of whether you store data such as customer contact info and credit card information, you should be doing everything in your power to secure your site because downtime while you try take back control of your site, and fix the mess the hacker may have made, is costly.  Here are two easy ways you can enhance security of your website:  Get an "SSL" certificate for your website’s URL  A cheap and easy way to add a level of security is to buy a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for your website domain. An SSL helps protect your website from attacks, and lets your visitors know your content is reliable and secure. Here's how it works: when you add an SSL to your website, a user’s connection to it will be encrypted, which prevents hackers from intercepting any data.  It's possible you already have an SSL; here's how to tell: rather than your website address beginning with http:// it will begin with https:// and you will see a padlock icon in the URL bar.   And some good news: an SSL is easy and cheap to set up. Contact the company you buy your domain (URL) from and they'll have pricing and setup instructions. To give you an idea of the price to expect, Go Daddy currently offers an SSL for under $100 per year.    Choose your CMS carefully  Security is a huge pro for building your site on a closed-source platform such as Squarespace or Shopify. These platforms have professionals responsible for keeping the system safe. Plus, they are liable if a security breech happens. If you build on open source platform like WordPress then security is your responsibility to setup and maintain.   You likely already have a site, so if it is built on open source, you'll want to ensure you are protected by working with a professional who understands security. They will likely keep a close eye on your login page, PHP code, temporary files, plug-ins and old web applications (all the places hackers usually find their way in).     This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to web security, but get an SSL and do your best to secure your CMS, and you'll be well ahead of many other B2B companies. Once you have taken care of these two steps you'll be ready for more advanced security measures.

2 website security basics every B2B should know

Two ways you can enhance the security on your website. And some compelling reasons to do so.

      When will we see leads?  Many organizations making their foray into a formal marketing program aren’t sure what to expect in the way of leads and ROI. Recently, two separate CEOs we spoke with talked about requiring an 800-point return on marketing in year one. What’s realistic?   Most companies we speak with have a sales function, so their expectations for lead gen are informed by what is already happening in sales. This is good, but paints only a partial picture. If you are trying to estimate the number of leads you’ll see from marketing, try the formula below.    Start with what you know now: sales to deal time   Even if you haven’t been keeping track of your lead-to-deal numbers, you will probably have a good sense of how long it takes to go from the first sales call to closing the deal. During this point in the buying process people have done a lot of research and are posing unanswered questions, and possibly feeling you out for personality fit or requesting a demo. While this stage can be broken down further, for the sake of simplicity we leave it as one big chunk of time that we refer to in our formula as “S” for sales time.   This if the final stage in the marketing-sales funnel; now let’s look up-funnel.   How long is the buyer’s research period?   Over the last 10 years we’ve seen a massive change in buyer behaviour. The latest stats show that a lead will visit your website several times before they’re open to speaking with a sales person. Because the buyer is in the driver’s seat, every company needs marketing in place to ensure the buyer gets every bit of information they need to make an informed decision on which vendor to do business with.   Coming back to the lead gen calculation, the question is in your industry how long does the typical person take to do their research? Let’s call this amount of time “R” for research. If you don’t have tracking mechanisms in place to give you this data, an unscientific way to measure this is to ask leads you speak with, or clients who sign on with you, how long they spent researching.   Accounting for stages of buyer readiness   According to Vorsight, at any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% are poised to begin. This means we have to market to people at the three stages of readiness.   To engage active buyers, marketing’s job is to ensure they discover your company during their research, then provide them with the information they need to be open to speaking with sales.   For the remaining buyers, marketing must nurture them in a way that is relevant and beneficial to them today, to increase their likelihood of buying from you when they are ready.  Marketing will have to have several tactics in play to make this happen, likely including running digital ads and producing and disseminating content through social media and email, all of which sends people to your website.  Consider this the quiet period of lead generation, or “Q”. How long does Q take? Different tactics take different amounts of time to have effect, and some will be more effective or have better ROI than others. The name of the game is to put your eggs in a number of baskets to reduce risk, and to optimize for better ROI over time. You should expect ROI reporting from your marketing team so you can understand what effect each tactic is having. In the meantime, you can try setting up goals in Google Analytics to get a rough idea of Q (Google will cookie visitors to track how many people came in from your various types of marketing, and how many times they returned before calling or filling out your lead form).      A simple formula to estimate time to move a lead through your funnel   Most companies can take an educated guess at the durations for Q, R and S, which together amount to the time it takes to move someone through your funnel, aka “T”. Q might be a rough guess for now, but that can be resolved in time by implementing a lead tracking tool such as Hubspot.    Q + R + S = T    Quiet phase + research phase + sales phase = total time in funnel      Here’s an example:  Q: By your best guess, people not ready to buy today will buy within the next three years, and past clients tend to return within two years. Q=3  R: Your buyers currently spend four months actively researching their options before they speak with you. R = 4 months  S: On average, sales take 2 months to convert buyers. S = 2 months  3y + 4m + 2m = 3.5 years  In this scenario, on average a new lead today will turn into a deal in 3.5 years; however, those who find you when they are already in their research phase will convert in six months.  If you need a new website or marketing collateral before going to market, be sure to add time to develop those assets.   If you are wavering as to whether to make the investment, these three stats make a compelling case:      
   
     “ 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that ‘Provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.’  ” 
   
   — [Source: DemandGen Report] 
 
     
   
     “ When sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies became 67% better at closing deals. ” 
   
   — [Source: Marketo] 
 
     
   
     “ Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. ” 
   
   — [Source: DemandGen Report]  
 
      The appetite for immediate return on marketing in year one is understandable, but a quick analysis of your lead gen funnel will tell you how realistic this is. Plan to invest in getting up and going, and rest assured that the reward will come.   

When will we see leads?

Many organizations making their foray into a formal marketing program aren’t sure what to expect in the way of leads and ROI. What’s realistic? The answer lies in this simple formula.

      Why emerging technology has us so excited about the future of marketing  As modern-day marketers, we currently rely heavily on social media, advertising,  SEO , direct mail,  content ,  videos , podcasts and more to create winning connections with potential customers. But, what’s modern now, may be passé tomorrow. It seems that with each day that passes, a new trend and a new way of reaching clients emerges. As much as we need to stay up to date with current trends (#priorities), we can’t help but look ahead to what technology has in store for 2017 and beyond. At HSM, it’s got us crazy excited! #NerdAlert  While some trends may seem like elements of a sci-fi movie now, building them into our future marketing strategies is what will propel our skills from good to great, and give our clients that competitive advantage over their closest competition. #Winning! Below are just three of many  emerging technologies  on the horizon in the marketing world.   Virtual reality immerses us in a whole new world (magic carpet not required)   Let’s admit it, we’ve all been at a trade show where you see “that guy” wearing giant googles, wobbling from side to side, and flailing his arms about. OMG, he looks ridiculous. With your head down, eyes averted, you pass on by. Am I right? …or are you, in fact, intrigued? Umm, we are! On second glance the man is at a travel agency’s booth that has a promotion on all-inclusive trips to Hawaii this month. With the goggles on, he’s trying out one of the resort’s surf lessons—something that intrigued him from the brochure. Next to him, his wife (also wearing goggles) is smiling ear-to-ear and slowly spinning in circles. She’s standing on a beach in Maui taking in the sights and sounds of her dream vacation.  With its high-quality video, virtual reality goggles capitalize on the “show; don’t tell” method of marketing, by creating a three-dimensional, immersive experience. Virtually transporting these customers to Hawaii created a state of “try before you buy,” and showcased to them an interactive vacation that no brochure can compete with.  Consider other marketing in other industries: hotels allowing brides and grooms to visualize their weddings, instead of touring an empty banquet hall; sports teams sealing trade deals by allowing players to immerse themselves in the experience of a locker-room victory party or walking out onto the field amid the cheers of thousands of fans. Allowing prospective buyers to come as close as they can to experiencing a reality and create an emotional connection, without actually being in it, is introducing a whole new wave of marketing. We think virtual reality may have only scratched the surface in 2016; we can’t wait to see how immersive this technology becomes in the months ahead!   Augmented reality adds a new layer (literally!) to digital marketing   Have you ever wandered through a busy shopping mall with a to-do list in hand, plus screaming children and hefty shopping bags in tow? You need sunglasses for your upcoming vacation, a bold lipstick for tomorrow night’s gala and—eventually—you and your spouse need to agree on a sofa set. Your hands are full, your mind is preoccupied; you can’t try anything on, let alone visualize various furniture configurations for your living room! *Deep breaths*  Augmented reality (AR) is on the rise in a number of marketing sectors, including cosmetics, eyewear and—yes—furniture, just to name a few. AR enhances what you currently see by overlaying virtual elements over it using something as basic as your smartphone’s camera. Imagine being able to point the camera at yourself and swipe through various sunglasses or lipsticks until you find the perfect fit. Or, point the camera in your living room and swipe through furniture sets. (O.K. that last one was a little boring, but you get the idea!)  But, as marketers, we need to remember that AR is not based on creating a completely new reality; it’s about enhancing what already exists, and creating value from it. In 2017, we don’t expect to see a world where customers are scanning every product in the cosmetic aisle to see how it would look on them. Instead, as marketers embracing AR, we must focus on the value of adding another layer of information in an already saturated digital marketplace. At HSM, we’ll be considering the contexts in which B2B customers can leverage this, and where it will enhance a customer’s experience with ease, enjoyment, convenience and—of course—fun!   Artificial intelligence unlocks deeper marketing insights…and robots, too?   When we first mention artificial intelligence (AI), it’s hard not to think of a future where human activity has been completely replaced by machines. We’ve already seen the rise of automation in the automotive industry (and thank goodness for that, because if a computer doesn’t parallel park my car, I don’t know who will!) But what about other industries? Could you imagine this article being written entirely by a robot? Would his writing be any good? Would he understand SEO? Would he work so fast and so diligently that he’d put us all to shame?! Okay, okay, let’s slow this down.  AI is about supplementing our knowledge and experience, not completely replacing it. Phew! Here’s an example… Every customer in the marketplace can be identified with a cluster of data (age, gender, location and about 100 more characteristics that we won’t list here). Data is everywhere, and while we love analyzing it, the problem is there’s so much data for us to sort, process and act upon that it can be oftentimes overwhelming. Instead, imagine a world where intelligent marketing software could analyze data sets for us, and then provide us with real-time updates, recommendations and appraisals for campaign success. Now we’re talking! With this type of up-to-the-minute data, we could spend less time turning numbers into words, and more time acting upon them to create personal, relevant connections with your customers. Robots FTW!  Our goal at HSM, is to end 2016 with a solid strategy for capitalizing on these digital technology tools of 2017. The three trends above are just a few that we have on our radar, with many more to be discovered. With any new form of technology, some may or may not reach their full potential in the next year, and some may fizzle out completely. Unfortunately, while we can’t predict the future, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t plan for it. So, as  B2B marketing consultants , we’re keeping our clients in mind by gauging the effectiveness of several new technologies and how they can fit into our  marketing programs .

Why emerging technology has us so excited about the future of marketing

While some trends may seem like elements of a sci-fi movie now, building them into future marketing strategies will be part of your competitive advantage. Here are three emerging technologies you should be keeping your eye on.

      Does investing in digital strategy pay off for small B2B businesses?  If digital is not part of your B2B’s current marketing strategy, you definitely need to read this. Like right now.  Today we are functioning in a world of commerce that puts mobile first. And for good reason; according to a recent  Google report , in an average day, more than 27 per cent of mobile users  only  use a smartphone to connect. 27 per cent!  Are these people  your  buyers? Maybe. Maybe not.  But the fact is consumers spend nearly 170 minutes on their smartphone each day while working, eating, commuting, lounging and every micro moment in-between. All of these people (and this includes you and me) demand pain-free web surfing. (What do you do when you can’t quickly find what you’re looking for on someone’s site? You leave!)   The silver lining: massive opportunity!   When the wall between physical retail stores and online sellers came crumbling down, along with it came buyer behaviour as we knew it—and old methods for marketing and sales. Digital has changed everything: how businesses advertise, how buyers find and assess businesses before engaging with a sales person, how buyers comparison shop, their level of price awareness, and so on. The list is long.   On the bright side (we’re glass half full people) this has created opportunities galore for companies to differentiate and grow. Amazon is a perfect example of this. It came out of nowhere and in just a few short years ascended to top dog among online retailers thanks to an incredible digital strategy that includes an excellent experience for shoppers (one click to buy, free same-day delivery, etc.).  And even brighter: in B2B we have a lot of wall flowers, so our digital party is just heating up. This is the time to get out ahead of your competitors and become the dominatrix you’ve always wanted to be. Err, you know what we mean.   The importance of making your website display on all devices   Here’s where things get a tad more complicated, but stick with us. Think about the devices you and your family use in a given day. Google reports that more than half of users rely on more than once device on an average day. It’s likely you have a tablet, in addition to a phone and desktop. And do you expect to be able to navigate websites using all three devices? Of course you do! You didn’t spend all that money on a  schmancy  ipad for nothing!  If your site doesn’t work well on all types of devices, you’ve got a gaping hole in your mobile presence. To further complicate things, each of these devices presents a very different user experience, with varying screen sizes, layouts and interactive touch points, so we can’t stress enough the importance of working with pros when you design your digital strategy.   The difference between mobile and responsive websites   Let’s dig a little deeper into screen sizes. If you aren’t well versed in all things digital, here’s a brief on the difference between mobile websites and responsive websites:  A thing of the past,  a mobile website   is a condensed version of your desktop website designed to be viewed on a smartphone. They work by auto-detecting if the visitor is on a phone or desktop, then sending mobile visitors to the mobile version of the site (for example, “m.yourdomainname.com,” rather than “www.yourdomainname.com”). Mobile sites tend to have smaller images, thumb-friendly buttons and links, and content delivered in a stacked format so it is easy to scroll and see. And they don’t usually have as many pages as a desktop site. But again, they are a thing of the past. Today the only way to go is responsive.    A responsive website  is designed for use on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Instead of creating a separate version of your website exclusively for smartphones, the content on responsive sites adjusts to fit the screen dimensions of the device. If you are on a desktop and reduce the size of the browser window by dragging the corner, everything on the page resizes and shuffles around automatically. This is the rich uncle of the mobile site.  So in a nutshell, your site needs to work on all visitors’ devices—responsive is the only way go. Do you have a mobile site, or a responsive site? If your site isn’t responsive, Google won’t like you very much. And trust us, you  want  Google to like you.   Content is crucial for B2Bs   Chances are, when a mobile consumer searches for a business, product or service, they’re looking for one or two pieces of information and they make their selection in mere seconds. They might be looking for a product price, a review, or article on a particular subject matter. Just like mamma always said, your words matter, so pick them carefully; ie. you have to be deliberate in the words you use on your web pages because if you haven’t included the words your buyers are searching for, you won’t be among Google’s chosen ones for page one search results. (How often do you go to page two, let alone page four or five.)  If you haven’t done much in the way of search engine optimization (SEO), we can pretty much guarantee you that you can increase the number of potential buyers who find your site by including key terminology about your product or service and your industry expertise in your website. If you want more info on how to optimize your content for search engines,  read this article that we wrote .)  We don’t mean to over simplify things. There’s a lot to SEO: keyword strategy, where and how to use keywords on your site, descriptions you write for photos and to describe what’s on each page), and so on and so on. It’s basically a luddite’s worst nightmare. That’s why you hire a marketer who knows SEO (most don’t) or an SEO specialist (good ones are hard to find). Our advice: ask us to introduce you to our favourite SEO vendor—he’s a gem.   Give context to your content   Ready to take it to a whole new level? Provide your content in the correct context. The marketing terminology for this is “personalized content”. Are you providing your content at the right time, on the right channel and on the right device for each consumer? Is the context curated based on that person’s preferences or browsing history?   Yes, personalization is for the pros, but there are tons of tools out there that make this happen. Picture this:  Your company, ABC Company, sells safety helmets for mining, construction and fire.   Scenario one: a lead interested in buying your helmet returns to your site for more information. The homepage has a photo of a fireperson wearing your helmet, and a generic headline about job safety. You have a testimonial from a mining company, and a case study about a construction company.  Scenario two: the potential mining buyer lands on your site. Because we got their information when they downloaded our ebook during their last visit, the photo we show them is of a miner wearing our helmet; the headline says: “Welcome XR Mining Company! Did you know our helmet reduces injury in mines by 25%?”, and the case study is about another mining company we’re already working with.  Which site will have a better chance of converting that lead? Investing in personalized content increases stickiness with contacts, leads and clients. #NailedIt   Have an authentic voice   From simple business listings on Yelp and Google My Business, to active social media profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, your company has a lot of arms. While sales is typically one-to-one, marketing is one-to-many and reaches far and wide. This is a good thing—who doesn’t love engaging contacts, leads and clients—but it requires forethought to be done well. As you extend your company digitally, consider how to portray the company uniformly. All the arms are attached to the same body, after all. How will you respond to customers’ comments and questions? What if they voice a concern in a public forum? Your digital strategy should include how you’ll embrace your online audience.   The bottom line for B2Bs  If you don’t have a digital strategy, it’s too late. Just kidding! But seriously, you need one ASAP. Having a strong, well-thought-through digital presence is necessary for B2Bs to thrive. But be prepared: digital requires ongoing work. As consumer expectations, and ability for businesses to deliver, advance, so too should your digital approach. At the risk of sounding ominous, fail to adapt and you’ll find yourself in your competitors’ shadows.

Does investing in digital strategy pay off for small B2B businesses?

Today we are functioning in a world of commerce that puts mobile first, so if digital is not part of your B2B’s current marketing strategy, here's what you need to know:

 

      5 ingredients for ranking first on Google  One questions we often get from new clients is how they can rank first on Google, just like their competitors.   They ask because they know that showing up on Google's first page of results makes a big difference to the numbers of leads and deals they get.   Here's what we tell clients about search engine optimization (SEO)—including what we steps we take to improve our clients' search engine ranking.   What are keywords?  The starting place to ranking on Google is thinking about the words people type into Google (or other search engines) when they're looking to hire a business like yours. These words are referred to as keywords. In competitive industries you'll likely focus on a phrase or multiple words; for example rather than "widget supplier", "+widget suppliers in Toronto" or "aluminium widget suppliers".  When search engines crawl your site, they pick up on commonly used words as a way to rank your site pages. So, when crafting new content for your site, consider the phrases associated with your business, and the keywords that people are already using to find you. These can be obtained with free website analytics tools.  After identifying your priority keywords, integrate them into your web content. Then, when a user searches for a phrase that includes these words, the search engine will look for pages that include prominent mentions—like yours. Where should you include these key words to ensure your content is seen? Headings and section titles, link text, page titles and descriptions, image files names, throughout the page’s written content and in the URL. With regards to written content, make sure the keywords fit naturally within your text; avoid "stuffing" and overusing them.  How to use content marketing  Producing high quality content on your site can result in many positive SEO improvements: your site will be useful to readers, generate repeat visitors and other sites will want to link to you. Key to this is keeping your web content fresh. Search engines love new pages! Try to add new articles, photos and videos regularly; frequently updated sites are more often indexed by search engines. Without fresh content and updates, it could be months before search engines find you. And if you continue to produce content that people read, your web traffic will be quickly recognized. Search engines strive to provide quick, quality results to users. So, if you’re already making headlines, you’ll be rewarded in the rankings.  What kinds of content resonate best? Aim for web pages with at least 300 words, but 500 or more will rank you better. Even though some content is better than none at all, pages with fewer than 100 words won’t gain much traction. Further, having two or more pages on your site with identical content (or close to it) isn’t valuable for users, and search engines will filter this from their results.  The role of pay per click ads in B2B marketing  In #1 keywords and #2 quality content above, your work will generate traffic naturally or "organically". But if you are paying attention to the results shown when you search for something, you'll notice there are also a handful of "ads" that come up. In addition to ranking organically, it's wise to pay for ads too. In the beginning when you aren't ranking for particular keywords, your ads will ensure your business is coming up on the first page. Later when you are ranking you may still want to come up twice to increase the likelihood that a potential customer will pick your link over your competitor's.   With pay per click ads, the idea is to write ads that will tempt someone to click and also ensure that they are reflecting what you're selling so that you don't pay for their click and loose them the minute they get to your website and realize you don't offer what they're looking for. Just think of the number of times you have searched for something, clicked on one of the search results and immediately realized it was not what you wanted at all.   Why links are important to your search ranking  Backlinks, or links that redirect from other sites to your own, can greatly improve your SEO. A few backlinks can assist the search engine in finding your site, but numerous links will indicate that your site is an important resource. The more incoming links you can obtain from pre-existing high-ranking organizations, the higher you’ll be listed in search results. Consider your stakeholders, professional organizations and business directories; is there an opportunity to bounce links off each other?    While backlinks from other websites are integral to your SEO strategy, they’re not the only type of link that matters. Links on your own website make a difference, too. If you have an underperforming page on your website, drive more links to it from other sections of your site to gain more traction.  If you already have existing social media accounts for your brand, add your URL to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to enhance your link trail. Then, when you add new content or pages to your site, be sure to Tweet them and share them with your social networks. “Search crawlers” visit these sites, too, so this can further increase your ability to obtain a higher search ranking.  How the design of your website impacts your search ranking  The detailed structure of a website can also affect your search engine rankings. Ensuring a responsive design, one that is optimized for smartphones, tablets and PCs—as well as various web browsers—is rewarded by search engines. A responsive website has the same URL for both the mobile and the main site, which avoids the confusion of separate URLs depending on a user’s device. This can greatly improve and simplify your external backlinks, as discussed above.  With regards to your site’s coding, ensure it’s as clean as possible for the spiders to crawl through. If you're not familiar with coding or HTML, consult web developer.  How page layout influences your search ranking  The actual content on your site can be optimized in a way that will also enhance your SEO. While images and graphics can make your page pop, keep the file sizes less than 100 KB with a resolution of 72 dpi. Large images will make your site load slowly, which won’t resonate well with users. In each image’s alt-text, include your identified keywords.  Ensure your content is logically organized for the user. Break up long blocks of text into bulleted lists and smaller paragraphs, and incorporate headings and sub-headings. Tag your headlines appropriately, using <H1> for titles and <H2> for subtitles, to maintain structure.  When laying out your content, ensure it starts above the fold (the point on your screen where a user has to start scrolling down to see more content). If your website dedicates a lot of space above the fold to ads, users may not scroll down to get to the good stuff.     After all your SEO work, stay on top of your efforts by monitoring your results. Google Analytics can track your page views for free, along with other useful SEO statistics. Be sure to monitor items like bounce rates and the amount of time users spend on your site(s) to measure the effectiveness of your content. High drop-off rates combined with little time spent on your page could be a sign that your content isn’t relevant or engaging. Evaluate your metrics to see what's working (and what's not), then revisit your content and design strategies to make adjustments. A winning combination of quality content plus logical design is sure to get you noticed

5 ingredients for ranking first on Google

Here's what we tell clients about SEO—and what we do to improve their search engine ranking.