One Secret Weapon You Didn’t Know Your Site Needed

If you’re a fan of our blog, you’re already familiar with the basics of a great website. But there’s one secret weapon that can have a huge impact on your site – both immediately and long term.

Hosting your website on a high-quality, dedicated server helps increase your site’s speed, SEO ranking, security, and up-time. It can be one of the biggest factors that will give you an edge over your competition.

Here’s how hosting your website on a top tier server can help:

Instant Speed Boost

When you switch from a heavy, weighed-down server to a more efficient, well-maintained one, your site’s speed can increase overnight! And not just increase a little bit – our private server averages a 38% bump for our clients. Since most users bounce off a site that takes longer than 2 seconds to load, every little improvement matters.

To understand what a high-quality server does to make sites work faster, let’s dig into the technical details…

  1. They have a dispersed content delivery network (CDN) – this means web traffic can be routed to a server near the user, no matter where they are. That will keep requests local and prevent unnecessary travel
  2. They’re prepared for large amounts of traffic – on a cheap server, if one site gets a lot of traffic at once it can decrease the performance of the rest. A good server will have multiple caching layers to best serve all users
  3. They let you know when your site needs an update – things like outdated plugins and WordPress versions can seriously slow down your site. A quality host will recognize when your site is behind so you can address the issue and get back up to speed

Long-Term SEO Improvement

Your website’s search engine ranking is based on how helpful search engines like Google or YouTube think your site is, based on a user’s inquiry. The most important factor is whether or not you provide helpful, informative content. But search engines also weigh things like your site’s speed, how well-maintained it is, and even what kinds of sites share the same server. That’s right – a site that was randomly tossed onto the same server could be dragging your SEO ranking down without you ever knowing it.

When a site is hosted alongside low-quality websites (like gambling, pharma, or online scams), it’s referred to as a ‘bad neighborhood’. And much like a real bad neighborhood, it can have a damaging effect on your home even if you keep everything in tip-top shape.

There’s a fascinating study that measured the SEO movement of thousands of sites from different quality servers, including ‘bad neighborhood’ servers vs. their higher quality counterparts. The study definitively showed that sites on the shared IP address ranked less strongly than those on the dedicated server, and the difference continues to grow over time.

Top Notch Security

One unfortunate side effect of the pandemic has been unprecedented levels of cybersecurity attacks. Thousands of sites are hacked every day, which results in leaked customer data, ransomware attacks, site takeovers, and plenty of other nasty things that can bring a business down. Here are a few ways a high-quality server plus regular maintenance can help:

  • Includes an SSL certificate, which shows your site can securely process data transfer, authentications, credit card purchases, and more
  • Alerts you when plugin updates are available, so you can avoid out-of-date and potentially vulnerable versions on your site
  • Keeps you out of ‘bad neighborhood’ IPs, making you less vulnerable to attacks
  • Provides regular backups and/or a backup environment, so you have a version of your site saved in case it needs to be restored

Signs You Might Have a Cheap Plan

Not sure how your current hosting arrangement measures up? Shopping around for better service? Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • They offer a ‘free domain’ with your hosting package – often these programs will buy a your domain themselves, and essentially rent it to you as long as you continue paying for hosting. If you ever cancel your contract, they usually take your domain with them or sell it back to you at a premium.
  • No staging site/test environment – before you roll out major site updates, new features, or plugin versions, you should test for issues on a backup version of your site. Many cheap providers forgo this, leaving you to make risky updates directly on your live site.
  • Tons of add-ons and extra expenses – Some companies offer a cheap rate for hosting, but then charge you extra for things like your SSL, disaster recovery, space usage, and more. Before you know it, you’ll be paying five times the sticker price you budgeted for!

4 Keys to a Great Website (in 2021 and beyond)

A quality website can be one of the greatest assets you can invest in. It helps recruit new business, answers your clients’ questions, and teaches people more about your brand and what you’re all about. 

But the most important word in there is a quality website! Here are the 4 keys to make sure your website is truly working for you and your business: 

1. Lightning-Fast Site Speed

Bad news: The average person will bounce off a site if it takes 2 seconds or longer to load. 

Worse news: When they bounce off due to speed, people often return to their Google search and select the next site on the list – so not only do you lose them, but they probably end up on your competitor’s site!
The speed of your website is arguably the most important factor in starting the virtual conversation with your visitors. Here are a few things to pay attention to that will help you keep your site quick and light:

Image sizes – this is the #1 culprit we see when someone comes to us with site speed concerns. Did you post headshots straight from the photographer’s ultra-high-def files? Are your decorative background photos taking up a disproportionate amount space without providing a ton of value? A simple reduction in size or quality can often provide an instant speed boost (and is often not even noticeable to your users!). 

Plugins – plugins are a great way to introduce new features and functionality to your site without the cost of custom builds. But too many can really weigh your site down! Do a quick audit to make sure all of your site’s plugins are (1) actively being used (2) being properly maintained and regularly updated.

Server Quality – even if you have the fastest, most well-designed site in the world, if you host it on a subpar server your speed will be affected. While those cheap monthly GoDaddy plans might be tempting at first, the security and speed you receive on a higher end, private server can’t be beat.  

2.   Mobile-First Optimization

Since late 2019, over half of web traffic has come from mobile devices – and that percentage continues to climb every year. Gen Z is positioned to be the most mobile-reliant generation yet. Even Black Friday, once an in-store frenzy, has lost about 40% of its sales to mobile devices. So yeah, mobile-friendly sites are a pretty big deal!

A lot of the traditional web development best practices hold true for mobile development – in fact, often they’re just magnified. Here are a few keys for mobile-first optimization:

Prioritize readability over design – you may need to customize a version of your site specifically for small screens

Create clear, easy to click call-to-actions – make it easy for users to engage and take the action you want them to take

Cut the fluff – no one wants to scroll through tons of unnecessary content on a tiny screen. Give them what they’re looking for, and cut the rest

Avoid click-to-open features – some people think this makes for a cleaner interface, but more often than not, it just hides your content 

Take care of your hyperlinks – click-to-call, online scheduling, linking to supplemental resources, and click-to-email should all be linked to open with the press of a button

3. Top-Notch Security

As the owner of a website, it’s your duty to keep your visitors and their information safe. Cybersecurity attacks have been on the upswing, and even a minor attack can devastate businesses of any size. Protect yourself and your clients with the following:

  • SSL certificate (that padlock icon you see before your URL)
  • RECAPTCHA and other form security (reduces spam submissions and emails)
  • Private server (reduces the risk of being housed with low-quality sites) 
  • Regular password updates (and skip the obvious ones like [Hometeam][Year])
  • Minimize admin accounts (you’re only as secure as your least secure admin!)
  • Include a Privacy Policy (and make sure your team adheres to it)

And finally…

Protect client information at all costs! When someone fills out a form online, they’re trusting you with their personal information. Be sure your website follows all legal compliance regulations within your industry, and you store user info in a secure place.

4.   SEO Optimization

To get any real benefit from your website, people need to be able to find it! SEO, or ‘search engine optimization’, describes the way your website communicates with search engines like Google, Bing, or YouTube, and lets them know what kind of content lives on your site. This helps them know when you’re a relevant result when someone is searching for a business like yours.

A well-organized, SEO optimized site will have the following:

  • Helpful, unique content with keyword-friendly copy
  • Quality user experience and great site speed
  • Compelling title tags and meta descriptions
  • Pages full of great copy, but not too full (somewhere between 300-1500 words per page should be a good place to start)
  • Internal links (linking to other pages in your own site) and external links (linking out to other high-quality resources)

Try this: to figure out which direction your SEO should go, put yourself in your customers’ shoes! What kind of things would they Google to find you? What kinds of questions to they have about your product or service? Do they know your industry lingo, or should you stick to language the average person would know? This will help you develop a keyword list you can stick to while writing content and page descriptions.

Is your website due for a makeover? Get in touch for a complimentary website audit and discuss how to make your site best work for you!   

Afflecto Honored as ‘Best Marketing Firm’ Second Year in a Row

For the second year in a row Afflecto Media Marketing has been named one of the Best Marketing Firms in St. Louis, Missouri, by Small Business Monthly’s ‘Best In Business’ awards.

The award states, ‘these days you can’t succeed in business unless customers know who you are and how you can help them. Finding the right marketing firm can be integral to your success.’ Winners were nominated by readers from around the St. Louis area, which makes this an especially exciting designation for our team.

Client Nomination says Afflecto Exceeded Expectations

This year, we were nominated by two clients who feel like our partnership has been an integral part of their success. One of those clients is Jason Krazer, owner of 1st Choice Construction. He had all but given up on digital marketing after years of disappointing attempts.

Krazer’s company provides roofing, roof repairs, siding, and construction services for residential and commercial buildings. Their business is heavily dependent on the weather. Lead generation for their industry depends on timely, agile marketing since St. Louis weather can turn on a dime. Our team put together a combination of search, social media, Google My Business, and SEO work to help all parts of his business work together better. The results were immediate! In the first month they drove 37 leads and converted 11 of those to clients for a 288% return on investment.

“Afflecto Media Marketing is the best advertising agency we have ever worked with. They are the only advertising agency that not only followed through on what they told us they would do, but exceeded expectations,” said Krazer in his nomination of Afflecto.

“Jason is a good guy who genuinely cares about his clients and the quality of work he and his team provide,” said Michael Rose, President of Afflecto Media Marketing. “Helping them formulate a plan and seeing it through was our pleasure.”

Afflecto’s Award Winning Approach

Afflecto operates from a place of treating their clients’ businesses like their own. Rose believes this has been an integral part of Afflecto’s success. “We don’t just want results that look good on paper. Our goal is always to generate high-quality new business leads,” said Rose. “That’s what we want for our own business, so we go out there every day and make it happen for others as well.”

Thank you to Small Business Monthly for selecting us as one of the top marketing firms in St. Louis for the second year in a row – we look forward to many more!

6 Reasons Why You Should Bid on Your Branded Search Term

Why Bidding on Branded Search Terms is a Best Practice

There are many reasons to bid on your branded search terms and we consistently get the question “Are you sure we need to?” Yes! Why should you spend money to bid on your branded terms? Consumers know your brand, right? And if someone is looking for your brand your information will show up regardless of if you pay for ads or not, right? Wrong! Read on to find out six reasons why Afflecto Media Marketing believes bidding on branded search is the right move for your PPC spend.

1. PROTECT YOUR BRAND:

It is important to always protect your branded terms if you are running any other type of advertising to ensure that your site is coming up first when consumers search for your brand after hearing/seeing another ad. When you pay for radio or TV advertising consumer’s path to conversion often includes a follow-up search online. You need to be the first in both paid and organic results, not your competitors. Otherwise, you are paying to drive exposure for your competitors. Even if you are a generous person, you probably don’t want competitors capitalizing on your investment.

2. OWN THE FIRST PAGE:

Well, we can’t guarantee this, but bidding on branded terms, combined with excellent SEO can make it possible. At the very least, dominate the SERP (search engine results page) with your paid and organic listings. Giving consumers more ways to click to your brand increases the likelihood that they will click. This works the same way that having more links in an email increases the chances of a higher click rate. Giving users multiple ways to click on your brand increases the likelihood they’ll click to your site. People like options, which leads us to our next point…

3. CREATE CONFIDENCE AND CREDIBILITY:

When your site appears in both paid and organic results it adds credibility to your site. It means you are for real. The more users see your brand on that SERP – paid and organically – increases their confidence in your brand. And bonus, this usually results in higher visits to the site organically as well.

4. PROTECT YOUR BRAND FROM COMPETITORS:

If any of your competitors are savvy marketers they are likely bidding on your branded terms. That means users searching for your company will likely be presented with an ad or two from your competitor(s). Translation: your competitors might be detouring your consumers to their website…and possibly winning them over. When bidding on branded terms search engines give you more authority and that factors into your result rank…often putting you ahead of your competitors even if they are bidding on your search terms.

Paid Search Opportunity Example
Example of search results when brand isn’t bidding on their branded terms

5. EASY ON YOUR WALLET:

Looking for magical search terms that have high volume and don’t cost a ton? They’re right under your nose! Branded search terms tend to be the least expensive because of the authority they carry. Don’t just stick with your name – be sure to use products, services and even your own URL. These terms tend to have the highest click-thru rates and carry a very strong quality score.

6. CONTROL YOUR MESSAGE:

You can’t control what shows up in organic results, but you can control what you use in paid ads. Get clever and test a variety of options to see what works best.

At the end of the day, each search account is different and we encourage all of our clients to test, test, test. We think that supporting brand terms is a good practice, but not a rule. Find what works for your brand and go with that. Or, call us and we’ll figure it out for you!

Afflecto Media Marketing named agency of record for Amazing Smiles Orthodontics.

Amazing Smiles, LLC., has selected Afflecto Media Marketing to lead strategic marketing for their network of orthodontic offices in Missouri and Illinois.

Afflecto Media Marketing LLC, a St. Louis-based, full-service marketing agency, has announced that it has been named the agency of record across multiple marketing service disciplines by Amazing Smiles, LLC., an orthodontic network in the bi-state area. Afflecto Media Marketing will lead marketing strategy, website design and development, digital and social media, and creative design for the entire Amazing Smiles orthodontic network.

“From the moment we were introduced to the Afflecto team, it was clear that they had made a huge effort to get to know our brand before ever meeting with us,” said Ashlie Pinson, Director of Operations at Amazing Smiles. “They tailored a value proposition that was directly fitting of our business needs, and were able to create a customized relationship that speaks directly to the goals we hope to accomplish.”

Amazing Smiles Orthodontics is the kind of business every advertising agency wants to work with. They are passionate about providing quality care for their patients, employ the best and most recent technology and have a desire to continue to grow their network. Working with them makes us smile every day,” said Michael Rose, President of Afflecto Media Marketing. “We look forward to partnering with their team to tell the story of how they help their patients and support the communities they serve.”

Afflecto was founded on the premise to do business in a better way – for their employees and clients. By treating employees well, putting client’s needs ahead of their own and being a company people want to work with they have experienced unprecedented 150% increase in new clients in the 12 months and have a 94% client retention rate. They are quickly becoming a force in the St. Louis advertising community. “We attribute this growth to a combination of effort, experience and knowledge,” said Rose.

Amazing Smiles Orthodontics provides child and adult orthodontic care in the St. Louis and Metro East area. Their mission is to provide a top-notch experience and excellent care to anyone who desires a beautiful smile. They accept insurance, Medicaid and offer a variety of payment plans. They are also a leader in clear aligners and have been recognized by Invisalign as only one of three Platinum Providers in the area.

ABOUT AFFLECTO MEDIA MARKETING

Afflecto Media Marketing LLC., is a full-service advertising agency based in St. Louis, Missouri that was formed in 2006. Annual agency billings were over a million dollars in 2018. Growth is also attributed to a focus on driving sales and brand value through expertise in traditional and digital media, online marketing, website creation, social media, affiliate marketing, PR, creative and branding.