From web development to web design, check out our blog posts that are designed to help you navigate this ever changing landscape and stay in the know about all things web.

Google-analytics

Google Analytics is a very valuable tool for business owners. More than just numbers, here are some ways you can enhance your campaigns by using analytics.

Get to know your web visitors

Enhance user experience by understanding who is visiting your website. By monitoring who your customers are, you can adapt your site to match their needs. If you find that most of your web visitors are visiting on mobile devices, then you can make sure your site is more mobile friendly, so these visitors are more likely to convert. You can also view reports for age and interest categories, a useful tool as you can use this data to adapt your site to make the content more relevant to these users.

Understand your best content

Viewing metrics such as bounce rate which shows how many people left your site after viewing only one page, page sessions and seeing which individual pages have been popular can really benefit the overall usability of your site. If you are finding that certain pages are less popular, you can adjust the content so they mirror the more popular pages and therefore generate a better response. Understanding how your content works will really help to improve site engagement.

Helps with SEO

Google Analytics can help you to understand where your audience is coming from. You can link your account to Google Search Console which will show you what your audience is searching to get to your site. This data will allow you to adapt your content to include these terms.

To Check you are achieving goals

Goals are something that every business owner wants to establish in order to know they are making progress. Without data, you cannot tell if you meeting those goals. You can set goals directly in Google Analytics and measure how you are performing against them. It is also possible to track conversions so you can see how many newsletter signups you have as well as the results from your e-commerce store. If you have linked your Analytics account to your Google AdWords account, you can directly measure the return on investment you are getting from your ads by comparing your ad spend to your conversions.

It’s Free

You don’t have to pay anything to use this service. Collect all kind of data which will make your business more profitable and it’s totally free to use.

Want to monitor your Google Analytics data but don’t know how? Fear not, here at Cloud9 we have experts who can help you analyze data and meet your goals. Contact us for more info.

 

 

If you have a website, you’ve probably heard of SSL certificates, but are you actually aware of what they are and why they are important?

If not, keep reading…

SSL is an acronym for secure sockets layer. SSL certificates are the backbone of website security, and are vital for any business with an online presence, especially in 2018. SSL certificates allow someone’s browser to bridge a secure connection to your server, ensuring that the information is securely transferred.

You can tell if a website is SSL secure by looking at the URL structure. If a website’s URL starts out with “http,” it is not SSL secure. If it starts with “https,” then it is secure. Some browsers will also display a small lock icon to indicate you are browsing a secure website.

Here are a few reasons why all of this is important.

1. Stops Information Theft

When information is submitted on a website, it usually goes through a channel of computers before it reaches the intended party. So the chances of that information being stolen along the way are higher if SSL is not applied. SSL encrypts the information so that it’s readable only to the party it is intended for. It does this by adding random characters to the submitted information, which can only be accessed with an encryption key. The information is useless to anyone who doesn’t have that key.

With identity theft on the rise, information security is more important than ever. SSL ensures you keep everyone’s information safe, which builds confidence in people who are visiting your site.

2. Provides a Sense of Security to People Visiting Your Website

With identity theft on the rise, information security is more important than ever. SSL ensures you keep everyone’s information safe, which builds confidence in people who are visiting your site.

3. A Necessity for Online Payments

An SSL certificate is a requirement for any website that accepts payments with an encryption of at least 128-bit. So, if you have an ecommerce site, you have to have an SSL certificate installed if you plan on taking credit card payments.

4. It’s Mandatory in 2018

To ensure safer browsing in 2018, Google flagged any website that doesn’t have SSL certification by the end of 2017. It’s important to note that this change will affect all websites and not just ecommerce sites. So, if you’re a restaurant owner, lawyer, dentist, realtor or consultant, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this change doesn’t apply to you. It does.

Now that January 1st has passed, when people try to access a website without a SSL certification, a ‘Not Secure’ message will appear, which will more often times than not prompt them to leave.

Maintaining an online presence can be tough, so don’t make it any harder for yourself than it already is. If you don’t already have an SSL certificate on your website, NOW is the time to do so. If you would like to speak with a Cloud9 hosting specialist about making your website secure, contact us today.

google-search

Google has just made a big change to the way it displays search ads which could have significant impact on your business. The right hand side of search results will no longer display search ads and will only display Product Listings Ads (PLAs) on highly commercial searches. Find out what this could mean for your business, and how you can utilize these changes to your advantage.

In the past a search engine result page (SERP) would show three paid advertisements above the organic listings, a handful on the right hand side and some underneath the organic results. With the new changes, up to four advertisements will be displayed above the organic search results and there will be no ads shown to the right of the results, except for PLAs in highly competitive commercial searches (such as insurance or airfares). According to Google, the click-thru-rates (CTRs) of ads on the right hand side was poor and this new change is expected to benefit advertisers in the long run, while creating a more user friendly search experience for browsers.

The biggest change this will have for advertisers is unless you are in the top four positions- it is very likely your impressions and CTRs will diminish. Competition for the top four spots will increase resulting in higher bids needed to obtain these spots. Those businesses who do manage to snag a spot in the top four ad results will likely see an increase in impressions and CTRs. Businesses who don’t have a budget to position in the top four will need to be more selective with their keywords and compete on words with a lower CPC or will face being buried underneath organic search results.

These changes will also affect organic search results as an additional ad displayed above organic results will limit the space for organic results on each page. This and the increase of ad extensions will encroach on dwindling organic search result space. Some experts believe the new changes may actually increase the CTR of organic results on the first page as the portion of web traffic that click on right hand ads (5.61%), may now click on organic results instead. Either way vying for that sought-after first page of Google will be more difficult for organic and paid results alike.

The new changes will take on the same layout as mobile searches and will affect advertisers across all languages and around the world. The changes were rolled out on February 18th 2016, and were some of the biggest changes Google has made to the SERPS in years.

So how can you use these changes to your advantage? Paid advertisers need to be selective on their key words and bid competitively. Maintaining a high quality-score through relevant ads, keywords and landing pages, using ad extensions and maintaining strong click thru rates will help secure a top spot. Those selling products can take advantage of the product listing ads to the right and top of the browser. Businesses relying on organic search results need to ensure their SEO strategy is rock solid to compete for a first page rank. As users become more sophisticated and business categories become more competitive it will take expertise and strategy to be displayed on the coveted first page of Google.

Need help with your Adwords (PPC) or SEO? Cloud9 Marketing creates and implements results driven digital marketing strategies using the latest trends and innovations in online and search engine marketing. Contact us today and see how we can help you.

build-a-website

Previous So You Want To Build A Website? Part One.

If you’ve bought a domain and have registered for web hosting the next step is to decide how your site will be built. Do you want to build it yourself with a simple drag and drop site? Would you prefer great customization with a theme? Or would you rather have the entire site coded from scratch? Web design is the most costly part of creating a website so it’s important to understand your options and be realistic with your skill level and time constraints. Having a set of goals and a budget on hand can determine which direction to go. Below are the different methods of building a website, theirs costs, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Building a Website

DIY

You don’t need any technical aptitude or coding experience to build a website these days. Web design platforms like Wix and Squarespace make web design accessible to even the most computer illiterate souls. These websites are essentially free to build and have some customizability enabling you to realize your creative vision with little or no expenditure. They are considered closed source platforms so don’t allow a lot in the way of flexibility and customization. The ease of use and affordability make sites like Wix and Squarespace great for Blogs and basic websites, but poor for sites that require customization.

Use a Theme

This is a relatively affordable way to build a website and offers great customization and support. WordPress is an example of a platform which features thousands of pre-coded themes ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. WordPress is an open-sourced platform allowing customization and flexibility. This is where it’s handy to know some html and css, or have a web designer on board that does.

Relatively web savvy people can create a website with WordPress, however the learning curve is steep and you’ll need to weigh up the cost of your time building the site versus hiring someone to do it for you. Hiring a web designer to build a WordPress site or similar is common. This can cost you between $500- $10,000 depending on the complexity of your site (pages, functions, additional coding/CSS).

It is worth mentioning that many people struggle with the decision to find someone local our out-source overseas (this can cost only a few hundred dollars). While it’s true you can get a website made relatively cheaply in countries like India, I think most people would agree if something were to go wrong, a local face and name to support you is invaluable. I’ve heard numerous stories of people getting their websites designed off-shore who live to regret it!

Develop from Scratch

The third option is to hire a web developer to create you a website from scratch. Unless you are a Fortune 500 company or require complicated functionality not supported by pre-existing themes, this is probably not required. Web developers are professionals who build the bones of the website using coding and PHP to create a site from scratch. This can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 depending on the site.

Get Noticed

There is no point having a website sitting on a slice of cyber real estate unless people can find it. Many would agree, getting noticed is the most important part of being online (you’ve worked so hard to hang the streamers, blow up the balloons, and bake the cake- now you need people to actually come to the party!).

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the art of getting found online and Search Engine Optimization is the science behind it. The complexity of SEM and SEO is far beyond the scope of this article but essentially involves building links, creating and optimizing content and installing proper codes into the back end of the site. This is just the start of what it takes to have your website get noticed online.

Building a website may be one of the biggest decisions your business will make and is the most pivotal aspect of your online strategy. There are over 3 billion internet users around the world. If you want a share of the online market place, a well built and optimized site that is in alignment with your online goals should not be overlooked.

Need more information on building a website? Contact Cloud9 Marketing and let’s discuss your brand’s online strategy and web design goals.

build-a-website

Building a website can be an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know the first thing about web design. Like many people, web design may be a mystery to you- you can appreciate the final product but how the heck did it get there? You aren’t alone in your perplexity. Although building a website is becoming easier today with pre-coded themes, templates and drag and drop sites; these conveniences in some instances actually make it harder to accomplish your online goals in the long run.

So where do you start? It is important to ask yourself the following questions which will help determine your goals and the best direction for your website project.

  • What will be the main purpose of my website? (Convert sales, make advertising revenue, brand awareness)
  • How will people/ customers find it? (Social media, Search Engines, Yellow Pages)
  • Do you have any online competition?

A business without a website is an anomaly these days. However a business with a well-built and properly optimized website is just as rare. That leaves a lot of middle of the road, poorly designed sites that are doing a heck of a lot of nothing out there in cyber space. A website is the first step to a presence on the internet, and an important anchor for the rest of your online efforts. For this reason, it is essential to build a website that will get you where you want to go- as quickly as possible.

Buy a Domain

This is the easiest step. You probably have some idea as to what you want your domain to be. It could be your business name www.mikesplumbing.com , a set of keywords describing your business, www.whistlermaintenanceplumbing.com or another combination of words that relate to your business, brand or product offering.

Once you have an idea of which domains you like, go ahead and register them on sites like www.godaddy.com or www.domain.com. You will need to select your extension (.ca, .com, etc.), and have a list of alternatives to avoid disappointed when your #1 choice is taken.

Domains are pretty cheap these days and you can expect to land one for $10 to $20 a year.

Host your Domain

Next you’ll need to arrange web hosting. This is essentially the server where you will park your domain. Besides providing a place for your website (and all of its contents) to reside, web hosts ensure the website is running smoothly, updated properly and that the bandwidth and data transfer are performing as they should. They will also provide customer support if you are experiencing technical difficulties. A poor web host will neglect your site which can result in it being offline or not operating effectively for periods of time, with no support when you need it.

You can expect to pay between $10 and $100 dollars a month for web-hosting depending on the nature of your site and the level of hosting you require.

The next step, Building Your Website, is the most costly and time consuming part of the process. With your website goals in mind, let’s move along.

Next: So You Want To Build A Website? Part Two.

pay per click advertising

If you’ve been looking into increasing your web presence as a company you’ve probably encountered the phrase “pay per click.” Well this very vague title is exactly what we are going to explore in this blog post. What exactly is this so-called “Pay Per Click Advertising” and how does it work? Lets find out.

 

What is it?

Pay per click advertising is a form of web based adverting that helps with search engine optimization. Search engines like Google and Bing have designated spots on their search result pages, usually along the side or in the first 1-3 search result lines. These prime locations are reserved for paying clients who have pay per click advertising with key words relative to the search. Every time someone uses the ad by clicking on it, the paying client is charged, because it has proven to be a successful advertisement placement and search result combination.

 

How does it work?  

First things first, you’ll have to choose a keyword or phrase that you’d like your page to be associated. The process of determining which keywords you should apply to your business page requires a thought out approach. You’ll need to consider how generic or specific you’d like your results to be. Keep in mind what phrases your competitors might be using and always remember your target audience. Lucky you for, Cloud9 has marketing gurus available that do exactly that. We can help you determine what keywords would benefit your business, reach your target audience and achieve web presence goals. Working with a budget in pay per click advertising can work multiple ways. Sometimes it is a bidding war on the price per a click for a desired spot and search combination. Whoever is willing to pay the most per a click gets the spot. You may want to top out at a certain budget each month or after achieving a certain result. Almost all web presence goals can easily be reached by utilizing per click advertising as it increases traffic to your page, or even a sub pages of your website. Each click will take the searcher exactly where you’d like to be on your website. It’s the most ideal way for getting a searcher to find your page rather than your competitors and increase over all SEO.

 

Is it right for me?  

Sounds pretty peachy so far doesn’t it? Well the truth is, pay per click advertising is phenomenal; it is an incredible tool for your webpage. There aren’t many drawbacks for pay per click advertising unless the keywords and target audience don’t match. As mentioned before, this is a crucial step and needs some serious brainstorming. It can also be expressive and competitive to land your page in the top results section. If you’re considering using pay per a click, give us a call at Cloud9 and we can weight out the pros and cons for your company specifically and decide on the right marketing combination for your business. Pay per click isn’t for everyone or every business, but when it is fully understood and used correctly it can take your SEO to a whole new level.

blogging blog posts SEO website

Blogs are often misunderstood. They require a fair bit of work, and business owners can’t help but wonder if they really make an impact.

The short answer: yes, they do.

The long answer goes something like this: blogs can help your business in more ways than you might think. We’ve rounded up some facts to help convince you that a well-written blog can do wonders for your business.

And if you still need convincing, consider the fact that you’re reading a blog post right now!

It Helps Drive Traffic to Your Website (Hubspot)

There’s lots of buzz about SEO, or search engine optimization, and guess what: blogging and SEO go hand in hand. New, original blog posts can drive more traffic to your website, and not just because visitors want to imbibe in your knowledge and wit (although that happens, too).

On the more technical side of things, a frequently updated blog signals to a search engine that your website is active, which can be an SEO booster. Your blog also adds a significant amount of content to your website, increasing the opportunities to pop up in search engines.

It Helps Establish You as an Expert (About.com)

Your blog is just one more way that you can reach out directly to your existing clients and prospects. You can choose to be silent (by posting nothing at all), or you can harness the opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

By posting accurate, informative, and original content, you’re proving that you know your stuff and that you’re good at it. Your website’s visitors are often seeking additional information related to whatever it is you do, and providing them with helpful blog posts is a major plus – one that can translate to conversions.

It Gives Your Brand Personality (Bloom Tools)

Blogging and social media are excellent ways to build that coveted brand loyalty. Use your blog to let your brand’s personality shine, showing the world that you’re more than a logo on a computer screen. Develop a voice and stay true to it. The result: customers will have no trouble differentiating you from those other guys.

It Keeps You on Top of Your Game (Social Media Examiner)

Whether you post once a week or once a month, coming up with relevant, informative blog content can challenge you to become even better at what you do.

Knowing that you have a blog post to produce will encourage you to stay on top of the latest industry news, technology, and developments – everything and anything is potential material for your blog!

Even more importantly, you’ll learn how to communicate your business concepts to your clients. Writing succinct posts in a compelling matter is great practice for organizing your thoughts and sharing your knowledge in a way that’s easy for others to understand. This will help improve your broader communication skills.

 


 

Blogging isn’t always easy, and we’ve heard the common rebuttals all too often. “I’m so busy and don’t have time to blog!” “I’m useless with computers!” “I always forget to post!” Cloud9 offers customized blogging packages: we’ll work with you to develop an optimal blogging strategy, and we’ll create posts using your brand’s language to keep customers coming back for more. Contact us, and we’ll help you get set up!