When you run a business, you’re always looking for new ways to increase brand awareness and drive sales. Typically, the industry turns towards advertising to achieve these goals. There are alternatives. Recently, we spearheaded a social media marketing campaign to grow brand awareness for the throwback, classic cocktail bar, Franklin Hotel Bar, in Kent, Ohio.
Franklin Hotel Bar’s social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) was updated on a semi-regular basis to fair-sized following, but we thought we could differentiate FHB from their competitors by fine-tuning their brand through social media. Their photography was stale, posts needed to be delivered consistently, with a voice that spoke to their market.
Franklin Hotel Bar’s photos were grainy and non-professional. We felt that by professionally photographing their handcrafted cocktails and gorgeous small plates in their natural setting would be more enticing to social media users, while visually representing what FHB has to offer. We turned to our photographer to shoot photos of FHB’s food, drinks, and handcrafted cocktails.
We immediately saw an increase with social media interactions once we started managing and populating FHB’s social media accounts with fresh imagery. We also wanted to deliver content to potential customers in a way that didn’t seem ad-driven, so we came up with a strategy to deliver content in the form of blog posts. These posts would be centered around FHB’s classic cocktails and written specifically towards FHB’s market. Our first post written for Franklin Hotel Bar – Old Fashioned – gained over 3,000 organic impressions in the first six hours.
Rust Creative’s social media management, website redesign, and photography delivered immediate results within days of launching. All traffic and engagement was organic.
Bullocks. If you’re using a pre-made theme that proclaims, “Built with SEO,” you may be up the creek without a paddle. If you don’t have the acumen to decipher the template files and coding, or have a learned and trusted developer with SEO experience in your pocket at all times, you won’t be able to determine whether or not the cheap investment in a pre-made template is SEO compliant or not. Your awesome, pre-made theme will probably be outdated or just plain non-compliant. You see, the SEO world is made up almost entirely of snake oil salesman. In common tongue, they’re better known as liars and thieves.
The same is true for many e-Commerce platforms. Shopify, Etsy, Squarespace, WooCommerce, Magento…the list is exhausting. We can help with a free audit. Just contact us below.
And so does everyone else, Google included. Keyword stuffing is an outdated, obtrusive tactic that will get you sent to Google purgatory. Your developer knows how to develop popup windows and masonry effects using jQuery. They don’t know about SEO. It isn’t their fault. Don’t ask a developer to handle your SEO and don’t expect a designer to be able to setup your email.
SEO development and strategy starts at the beginning, like laying a foundation for a house. Want to build it on a sacred Native American burial ground? No. That’s just wrong. Let Rust Creative audit and repair your website now!
Rust Creative started building websites in 1995. We started building websites with one objective: find people to browse them. We did this by following standards, research, and developing SEO strategies for the long term. We’ve never practiced snake oil, black hat, or faulty SEO practices and we never will.
If you ever find yourself in a meeting with a self-proclaimed SEO expert who says he can help you rank higher and faster, run. Run far, far away, and don’t ever look back. Rust Creative will help you build a long-term strategy with quantifiable data.
Here’s the biggest SEO misconception: secrets. There are no secrets. Search engine rankings are built on quality coding first. Then they’re built by writing quality copy, developing content, and following trends, analytics, and published data. An SEO expert will follow your progress painstakingly, creating new content, developing new strategies, and making recommendations for new developments in the SEO stratosphere.
Google AMP is a new technology Google and others have been pushing recent months. With an increase in mobile web users, Google and other, mostly European, developers have created AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google says, “The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is built on top of existing web technologies to enable blazing-fast page rendering and content delivery.” Right now, news sites and blogs have no choice but to implement it. Google is giving prime search results to AMP pages in all mobile searches, and if you don’t have AMP on your site, you won’t see any of that traffic.
What Does This Mean?
Mobile web is still relatively slow for most people living in the United States, often on a 2G or 3G connection. In order to make web pages load instantly, AMP restricts what we can do with HTML pages. Design is stripped away in favor of speed. AMP is a perfect example of function over form.
What Do AMP Pages Look Like?
AMP pages are stripped down versions of normal web pages, but they do display the important content.
As with any new Google updates to search engine crawling and protocol, we’re highly recommending that clients adopt AMP as quickly as possible. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, this process can be done quickly. If you’re still using static HTML we’ll have to duplicate every page on your website. So, if you’re using static HTML, now is the time to start considering a web re-design!
1. AMP restricts what we can do on the web.
To make web pages load faster, AMP restricts and modifies many HTML features. AMP basically delivers a 1997-era web page. While this does increase the load times, it restricts many design features like user experience. We code using CSS3 – which is standard – but AMP removes many CSS selectors that were introduced a decade ago. As we have been saying for years – Google cares more for speed!
2. It benefits a select group of larger e-Commerce, blog, and news sites.
Right now, if you have a blog or news site, you should be running AMP. We’re still unsure how this will effect product pages, category pages, etc., but we can guarantee that the move over to AMP will be coming in the next few months. Depending on the number of pages you currently have, this could be costly and time-consuming. This is not something a mom-and-pop shop should attempt to do on their own. If you are running a website without a CMS (using just HTML), you’ll have to re-create your entire website with duplicate AMP pages, all properly coded.
Rust Creative combs through an endless amount of SEO news and updates so you don’t have to. We find the most relevant and pertinent changes taking place across the internet so we can make informed decisions and relay that information to you. Here are a number of critical SEO development solutions required by Google to keep your rankings up:
4. Schema Data
We recommend AMP integration for all websites. Contact us and we’ll get you started.
Recently, Amazon topped over $1K in shares and now represent 47% of all online sales. Amazon is expected to surpass 50% of all online sales by 2019. What does this mean? Amazon has created an extremely competitive market where sellers and box stores alike are making pennies above cost. While this is great for the consumer, the seller is at a competitive disadvantage.
There are many keys to a successful ecommerce website: design, development, SEO, user experience, ease of checking out, shipping, trust, etc., all play a role in successful ecommerce. However, we have seen a steady rise in niche markets throughout the internet and believe that these niche markets – if done correctly – are a direct response to a number of topics.
1. Cheap is Not Good
2. Bespoke Design and Manufacturing
3. Recognition and Brand (knowing who is making your product)
Ancestory.com recorded a 7% positive rise in conversions after improving the render time of web pages by 68%, reducing page bloat by 46% and reducing load time by 64%. There are a lot of worse things than website load times – the impending heat death of the universe is one of them – but while we’re around, pecking away at mobile devices, iPads, and laptops (while sipping $6 lattes), lets talk about website load times. Improving render time, reducing page bloat, reducing load time. What are these? How do you do it? First, let us look at what makes a website.
Let’s make this simple. You see a beautiful person, man, woman, alien. Whatever floats your boat. You happen to get significantly beautiful’s number and set up a date. You’re sitting across the table from each other at a 3-Michelin star restaurant. They serve the first course. You and beautiful have said nothing to each other aside from where you went to college and what happened on The Bachelor last night. There’s nothing there. Beautiful is just beautiful. What should you do? What any self-adjusted human would do. Leave. You see, there’s no content there.
Strip away the frontend – all the good-looking stuff. Strip away all the HTML and CSS. Take out all of the images. What are we left with? Content. Copy. If you don’t have much content or copy, we can equivocally say that you are losing the SEO battle. The internet is, after all, about content. It isn’t about making things “pop” or putting things “above the fold.” Imagery can certainly help, when you’re dealing with humans. But computers aren’t as superficial as we are, yet. Search engines don’t care about images. I mean, they do, if you want an image to be found, but they’re not important if your website is a hipster outdoor bikepacking blog or an ecommerce site peddling hand-cobbled, organic leather boots. Search engines want to know that you have original content & copy. Period.
First things first. There’s the front end of a website (what you see), and a backend (what we code). Somewhere in between, these two coexist together in what we term the “firmament.” Yeah, its biblical in origin but bear with us. The firmament is the area that bonds the front end and backends. It also separates the two. Its a constantly flowing and evolving yin and yang of design & development. It can also be called user experience. But we hate that word. Its too…market research-y.
It is a challenge to design simple websites.
Business (corporation, ecommerce, etc) web design is largely driven by people that don’t understand web design. Many of these people still think “above the fold.” They want carousels, images, banners, ads, all above 600px in height. They detest scrolling. With the rise of mobile use, scrolling is a necessity.
To design a simple website, we have to reduce the content down to its essence. To do this, we need to ask a few questions from the perspective of the client and the user. Here are a few questions to ask:
No matter who the client, you’ll be sending design mockups to somebody. Could be a board, marketing team, could be a sole proprietor. Either way, it is best to send mobile first. This will provide them with a framework to view their information in the simplest form available. Build small, scale up. The diversity of platforms, browsers, and web systems continue to grow and get more complicated. We believe minimal is best. It speeds up load times, delivers the content first.
Most people define design as “making things pretty.” Pretty is subjective. People want to design things first then plug in content. This is disastrous from design and development perspectives.
Main Street Kent is a non-profit organization that focuses on the promotion, beautification, and revitalization of downtown Kent. The City of Kent, Kent State University, local businesses, and community members support Main Street Kent. Main Street Kent has 12 board members and many volunteers working to improve downtown Kent. Since Main Street Kent’s formation in 2006, dozens of new businesses have opened in downtown Kent, and a hundreds of new full-time and part-time jobs have been created. For every dollar Main Street Kent spends, $27 is returned in private investment.
Main Street Kent works to strengthen and beautify downtown Kent while fostering economic development, historic preservation, and a sense of community.
Main Street Kent’s old website was in need of revitalization. They needed a new, responsive website with ecommerce functionality. This required design & development as well as server, data & email migration.
Website Analysis and Information Architecture
We began the process by analyzing all of the content and copy and search engine analytics. We eliminated all redundant or buried pages, scraped all content from the old website, and constructed a more organized site structure by defining strict categorization rules. Once we developed the new sitemap and structure, we wrote SEO rewrites for old pages (either ones that were eliminated or ones with messy URLs) to the new, SEO-friendly URLs. This would be integrated at the very end of the project.
When the client first approached us, they considered using Squarespace for the website. After reviewing analytics, we noticed that Main Street Kent received a great deal of unique daily visitors to the website. Using this data, we decided early on to use popular CMS, WordPress and WooCommerce for shopping cart functionality. WordPress and a dedicated server would allow more control of SEO and would improve site load times due to the amount of traffic they were already receiving. We chose WordPress for a number of other reasons: client familiarity played the largest role, but so did cost. Rather than develop a CMS and/or a theme from scratch, we could begin rapid development from a skeleton theme. This saved a substantial amount of money and time.
With information architecture and the sitemap laid out, we started front end design on the website. Since we used a responsive skeleton theme to save cost, we already had a baseline responsive grid to from which to design. It was important to have a seamless user experience between pages, categories, and product pages. The homepage needed to direct the user to popular pages for dining, shopping and event destinations. The client also asked that fundraising pages were placed prominently in the header, body, and footer.
CTRL Eyewear is a new brand of smart wearables aiming to change the landscape of the wearables industry. CTRL Eyewear is specifically founded to create the consumer version of innovative eyewear created for the U.S. Special Forces. CTRL is established in 2015 in the Netherlands as a subsidiary of AlphaMicron Inc, Kent Ohio, USA. CTRL Eyewear aims to design, develop and market the world’s most innovative eyewear, powered by AlphaMicron’s vast experience in adaptive military lens technology.
CTRL Eyewear approached us shortly after the company changed ownership. They wanted to migrate entire website under a new company name. Doing so posed many problems. First, there had to be no loss of SEO, emails, or sales during the process. The criteria for the job was twofold: We had to design and develop an ecommerce website quickly, and set up a Customer Support center for users and the CTRL sales team.
We start every project with research. What is the market? Who does it consist of? What markets could we develop that aren’t currently being acknowledged? How do we do that? Magic sorcery. We knew immediately that CTRL’s product line was sleek, minimal, and technologically impressive. We didn’t want the user interface or design of the website to interfere with strong product photography or video. So, we decided on a minimal grid system and limited color palette. We would use this approach for all digital and print design.
Because CTRL is an international company with many storage facilities, we needed to streamline the ecommerce experience. Instead of sourcing a different website based on location, we moved all of the shipping and purchasing options into the hands of the consumer. One website, one experience, all managed from the backend of the website.
Customer Support Forms
The sales team requested a detailed customer RMA form. The functionality included a form with multiple questions that – once filled out by a customer – would be auto-fed into an XML spreadsheet that logged the answers to the questions, generated a unique return number, auto-saved as a PDF, sent an automatic notification to both customer and the CTRL sales/support team.
The Speedbumps are an indie rock band from the great state of Ohio. Americana-UK calls their carefully orchestrated music “wistful acoustic Folk pop” led by the soulful and rootsy crooner, Erik Urycki. Because their songs are filled with intelligent lyrics underneath complex instrumentation, the band has won Relix Magazine’s JAMOFF!, earned an IMA Award, and received Best Band recognition more than once within their region.
Poster Design & Social Media Cover Photos
Rust Creative develops tour poster concepts and social media marketing materials for the Speedbumps. We derive design concepts and marketing material by listening the the band’s release, then design posters and cover images from those concepts.
Rust Creative has worked continuously with the Speedbumps on concert posters, promo, advertising, and t-shirt designs.
Last Chance Records is a Little Rock, Arkansas-based, independent record label specializing in Americana and indie-rock. They are home to some of our favorite songwriters, including, John Moreland, Tim Easton, American Aquarium, and more.
Website Design, Migration, and SEO re-directs
Last Chance Records asked us to design and develop a website that highlighted the label’s extensive roster of some of Americana music’s most talented songwriters. Their old website was static with sloppy url structure. There were many dead or missing links. LCR already set up an ecommerce solution so we needed to integrate shopping functionality into the new design. Since all orders were handled off-site, we simply added add-to-cart functionality to the new design.
Every artist page needed to have a catalog of their available records through LCR, as well as tour dates, press photos, social media contacts, and contact information.