Blue background with white computer monitor displaying the word "SEARCH" in primary colors.

SEO Is for Everyone

You don’t need to be a techie to improve your website’s ranking and increase its traffic.

Your website is your business’s front door. But before you can harness your site to promote your business or connect with potential customers, people need to be able to find you online. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. While this can sound like a subject meant exclusively for a serious techie or marketing professional, the opposite is true. Everyone can implement basic SEO steps and start bringing more people to their website.

What is SEO?

SEO is designed to increase the quantity and quality of organic website traffic. Consisting of tactics employed both on and off your site’s pages, SEO allows you to achieve a better ranking for certain keywords that users type into search engines like Google and Bing. For example, if you are a company that sells birdhouses, SEO techniques can help your ranking for keywords related to birdhouses and similar products. If optimized correctly, your site will rank higher on search engine results pages. The higher rankings you have, the more traffic you’ll enjoy and the more sales you may potentially close.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO starts with keyword research. Think about the terms for which your site needs to rank. Use a paid or free keyword research tool. Pay attention to each keyword’s competition ranking as well as its total monthly search volume. The goal is to find keywords that have a modest amount of competition and a high amount of search volume. That’s the sweet spot.

Now pepper your keywords throughout your site. Include a primary keyword in the title and headline of each page, and ideally in the “alt” descriptions for any imagery. Next, include secondary keywords in the body of each page’s content that complement the page’s primary keyword. Don’t stuff keywords into your site, however! Weave each word naturally into your site’s content. Keyword stuffing can lead to consequences being imposed by the search engines.

SEO also involves improving the site’s technical performance. Start by investigating the load time of each page. A slow site will drag down your rankings. Additionally, a site that is not mobile responsive or one with broken links will harm how a search engine perceives your content. Search engines want to provide the most helpful content to their users. They do not look kindly on websites that cannot deliver content quickly and efficiently.

Lastly, don’t forget about the importance of your actual content itself. Develop clear, concise and most of all helpful content assets that are easy to read and provide robust information. Google can read all your content. Make sure it likes what it sees!

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO largely involves link-building. Links are important to search engines like Google and Bing, which perceive them as seals of approval from other websites. Of course, not all links are created equal. Some convey a greater sense of authority than others. Prioritize quality over quantity. Gaining a few links from popular and credible sites will help your rankings far more than having scores of links from lesser-known domains.

How can you best collect links? You could become a guest blogger for another site and include a link to yours in your blogger bio. You can get active on social media. While social media links do not impact SEO directly, by being active on social, there is a higher chance that more people will be exposed to your content and share it on their respective sites. You could even seek out notable websites that have broken links that overlap with content you own and offer a replacement link to the website administrator.

Take it one step at a time

You may feel overwhelmed at this point – and that’s ok. While the principles of SEO are straightforward, they require time to master. Take it one step at a time. Implement these basic steps to make tweaks to your website and collect some high-quality links. Additionally, never stop learning. There are abundant resources online that explain nearly every aspect of SEO. Keep moving forward, and before you know it, you’ll be looking at your very own optimized site.  

Different colored silhouettes with talking bubbles.

Three Cs of Communication during COVID

How to appropriately address clients amid the pandemic

The pandemic has changed almost every nuance of our lives; however, it shouldn’t change your communication with customers. Now — more than ever — is a critical time to reach out to your clients, family and friends, and effectively show compassion and interest in them. Many individuals have more time than ever before to reflect and communicate.

Be authentic in your approach and seek creative ways to safely stay in touch with your clients. People appreciate the reassurance of being connected to familiar networks. Just because many aspects of life have stopped, do not let your connection to customers falter.

There are three key components of empathetic and appropriate communication during Covid. A genuine approach that is on target for your intended demographic is a thoughtful and ideal bridging of the lack of in-person communication. This effort also helps to maintain existing online and virtual relationships.

Classic Communication

Now is the time to engage and reaffirm relationships with customers. What worked in the past with you and your clients? Was it a phone call, in-person, a facetime call, email, text, or even snail mail? Whatever was working, never abandon that line of communication. Don’t suddenly start texting a client who up till now only communicated with you in person. Rather, educate your clients on the many options they have for engaging with you.

If your client base is on a newsletter system, this is an excellent source to reiterate ways to get in touch with you. Create a menu of options for clients and let them pick the communication method that is best for them.

Consistent Communication

Don’t recreate the wheel. Use the same information on all the types of communication that you have available, and make sure it is up to date on your website. If you have a physical address, you can always check in with Google address, Yelp, Yahoo, etc., to make sure all of your information is up to date.

You need not wait for a website to fail or a phone line to go down for a client to become extra stressed. Create multiple means of communication to ease your clients’ potential stress. This way, there is a consistency to your relationship and they will have numerous ways to get ahold of you in emergency and non-emergency scenarios.

Clairvoyant Communication

Customers have been inundated with robotic communications, automated messages, spam phone calls, excess emails, random texts, etc. Make your communication channels honest and simple. A customer in crisis does not want to wait on hold for 20 minutes only to be connected to another operator for assistance. Be extremely up-front and honest about how you want people to communicate with you during business and non-business hours.

Society is stressed. Individuals are stressed. Now is not the time to add to your customers’ agendas. When you reach out to communicate needs, wants or even future plans, be clear about timelines and expectations.

Communication is how we maintain human relationships. While in-person meetings and group sessions are not possible, clients still want to communicate. Use your existing resources like eblasts, newsletters, phone calls, and social media to reiterate the numerous ways you want to engage with your audience. The result will be that when the pandemic passes — and it will — you and your company will have maintained a seamless and helpful communication line with your clients. They will be happy and you will too.

Ceramic piggy bank with autumn leaves in the background

Businesses: Consider Preparing Financially for Fall

Along with change in season comes change in spending habits

The beginning of this decade has taught us that nothing is and will ever be as predictable as life before COVID. This holds true for every characteristic of personal habits, including finance. What people once valued and invested in quickly shifted in spring 2020. Family, money and where time is spent become the three most popular priorities in American lives.

Undoubtedly, how cash reserves are managed in the office has changed as well.

Fall always signifies a time when individuals and businesses rethink finances and begin to prepare, much like other mammals, for the long winter. Do you need to hold onto money for holiday, family reunion or home/office improvement? COVID has altered most plans for typical autumn and winter activity, so how does one prepare financially for fall during the pandemic?

Here are four steps to review, plan, and hopefully successfully achieve during these uncertain times.

Pay Off Debt

This is always the number one piece of advice a financial expert will give you if you come into funds and have debt. If you have any surplus of money from lack of vacations, going out or get togethers, look at refinancing or paying down debt. Rates are extremely reasonable and many banks and credit unions are willing to work with individuals.

For small businesses there are numerous debt relief programs that are now more critical than ever during COVID. The top tips to pay off debt for a company — create a monthly budget, decrease spending, consolidate debt, negotiate with lenders and increase business (if possible) — are still the same, pandemic or not.

Load the Emergency Fund

In the most uncertain of times, prepare for the most uncertain of experiences. That vacation that didn’t happen, the summer wardrobe that wasn’t purchased; use these types of funds to now fund your emergency fund. If it’s $100 or $10,000, it’s always usable. Then, set the goal for each quarter during the pandemic to grow the emergency fund. This will leave you with less stress which could help keep you healthier.

Reorganize Holiday Plans

There is a good chance that you might not be able to visit family for the typical Thanksgiving, Christmas and Winter Holiday. Instead of flying, you might be driving. Instead of a racking up a large bill at the grocery for the 30-person New Years’ Eve dinner you usually host, reprioritize your holiday plans and spending.

Make a target goal of saving 10 to 15 percent of your usual holiday travel and food budget for emergency funds. If you are longing to travel, but know you cannot fly or drive to your destination this year, look into booking discounted travel for the future with refundable deposits – scooping up numerous COVID offers from airlines and hotels in the process.

When purchasing and shipping presents (still sending office gifts?), don’t forget to send in bulk and do it in advance to save even more money. Things will be surcharged and possibly shut down. Reorganize when you do things and do not waste money on last-minute items.


For a small business, the holiday party was often a year-long highlight with significant others even joining in on the cheer. Don’t forget to reprioritize office holidays as well with restrictions in place. Invest in employees and their needs this year, whether that is more family time, flexibility or a monetary bonus. Open the lines of communication about this season to help understand the needs of the business and its employees.

Home Improvement/Business Office Projects

HGTV has turned everyone into a DIYer (Do it yourself-er). In summer 2020, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes, etc., were running out of spray paint, brushes, etc., due to the home improvement surge.

Now is the time to be financially responsible with home projects or business office upgrades. Don’t invest in something that might be trendy during COVID but would serve no other purpose once life returns to a normal pace.

Be thoughtful in your approach. What is a good value and what could detract from your home or office? It’s always a good idea when thinking of undertaking a major DIY project to consult your real estate agent.

Adding an outdoor grill and patio area is lovely, but you don’t need to go overboard and buy three types of smokers and enough seating for three dozen. Be reasonable and appreciative of the renovation or addition.

Likewise, office spaces need less space in 2020 and likely beyond as workers adapt to working from home, a trend likely to stick around post-pandemic. Is it really necessary to invest in office art, new chairs or an upgraded kitchen? Likely not. Maybe a new espresso machine is more in the budget and realm of reason.

Spending and financial habits were drastically changed upon the emergence of COVID. Don’t fall victim to a personal financial pandemic as well. Prepare for the change in season with a change in financial attitude.

back of man looking at a dozen drawn "thumbs up"

Effective Uses of Testimonials

Testimonials are an often overlooked, yet effective marketing tool. They can be helpful to gain new customers and keep potential return customers.

Think of your own experience making purchasing decisions. Do you go to a restaurant based upon a recommendation from family or friends? Before making major purchases, do you research and read reviews from people who have experience with the product or service?

Testimonials work because they aren’t strong sales pitches and they come across in an unbiased voice and establish trust. You’re using real people to show success in your product or service. In the end, your testimonials will be there to convert more prospects into customers as long as you use them correctly.

If you’re selling a product or service on your website, customer testimonials can be a key content element because they are unbiased comments that prompt visitors to buy. By using testimonials in text, audio or video formats on your site, you introduce content that will promote your product in convincing fashion.

Here are some tips for effectively using testimonials to convert more leads on your website:

1. Be Selective

A key to using testimonials is to choose the ones that work best. Instead of direct recommendations of your product or service (“I think it is great!”) – find testimonials that provide details that explain how it satisfies a consumer need or tackles a pain point. Testimonials that provide specific product benefits will induce sales.

2. Show Face

Make your testimonials eye-catching by adding an image next to your customer’s statement. Research has shown that adding a picture increases your click-through-rate by a significant amount.

Prospects like to put a face to a name. It helps them feel more secure and confident in what you’re claiming. It shows that the testimonial is coming from a real person. Adding an image is a simple addition that will increase your trust factor.

3. Show Them Everywhere

Once you get great testimonials for your website, it’s important to show them off.

Make sure to add them across your website wherever appropriate. Add them to your homepage, contact page, case studies page or even create a dedicated testimonials page. Use in ads, on social media and other materials.

You might try a web application that allows you to set up a testimonial page or a plugin that will allow you to post different testimonials on each page of your site. There are a number of possibilities, so determine what works best and incorporate testimonials all over your site.

4. Remember Your Buyer Personas

When gathering your testimonials it’s important to make sure you’re hitting all the pain points of every one of your buyer personas. Many of your prospects are looking to see testimonials that they can relate to; stories that show others like them being successful.

Be sure to feature customers from all the demographics and buyer personas that you’re trying to attract. Focusing on just one in your testimonials will limit your reach and value.

5. Never Fake It

The most important rule in sharing testimonials is to use real testimonials from real customers. It’s not worth the risk to fake anything on your site, especially testimonials.

Testimonials are there to provide credibility and establish trust. If you’re faking them, how are your prospects supposed to build a healthy relationship with your company? Faking testimonials can put your reputation on the line and even if you do win some business, your customers are likely to go in with unrealistic expectations.

6. Get Video

Creating a video testimonial isn’t a must, but it’s something you definitely should consider. Seeing and hearing a customer talk about your product or service resonates more than just reading about it.

Get some of your more personable customers to create a short 30 second to 1 minute video testimonial sharing how your company has helped them. Your prospects will be able to really see the appreciation and emotion from your current customers. 

Reach out to your current customers who you know are happy with your company and ask them to share their success story. By showcasing these powerful feelings and stories about your product or services, you’re creating another tool to get prospects to trust your brand and commit to it.

Computer is the winner an online award

It’s a New Day: Digital Marketing Moves to First Place

Recently, a lot of marketers have found themselves playing in a different sandbox than the one that they may have been used to in the past. The old sandbox consisted of a hybrid kind of marketing, one that relied on both digital and physical platforms. As our world continues to shift for the foreseeable future, more and more of that physical marketing becomes irrelevant and marketing teams find themselves competing in a digital landscape.

There are a lot of benefits to shifting focus to digital. While there are still costs involved in online marketing, they’re often less. However, it also means competing with literally everything else on the internet at any given time. What we present to our target audience has to be put forward in an interesting enough manner that their attention can be pulled from the thousands of other options calling for them at any given time. That’s a tall order!

Shifting your marketing behaviors can be a difficult pill to swallow, but remember that it doesn’t all have to happen overnight. It’s also important to remember that this might not be forever. Right now, we’re in a constant state of adapting. Here are some tips for taking the plunge into this new landscape.

Focus on Engagement

We’re not just talking clicks here. Right now, one of the best things you can do for your marketing is to keep yourself accessible. Schedule live chats or seminars, or even create an online forum. These things may not have been considered to be standard marketing in the past, but right now it’s all about getting that attention. Accessibility will go a long way to set you apart from the rest of the pack.

Keep Your E-Blasts Interesting

You know what’s exhausting? Endless mailers. You know what’s even worse? Endless cookie-cutter mailers. Cutting and pasting information into the same email format you’ve sent forever might be the easy route, but it’s not going to get you the engagement you want – especially not right now. Give your audience a reason to click on your newsletter! You can utilize anything from small giveaways to something as simple as a snappier intro. Make your readers feel like you’re making an effort to connect.

Avoid Platitudes and Watch Your Frequency

We’re all getting inundated with marketing from across industries telling us that everything’s going to be okay and that our best interests are being looked out for. You don’t need to be that person. No one wants to hear platitudes all day long. We’re far enough into our current global situation that we’ve all pretty much figured out what we need on an individual basis. Focus on what you’re bringing to the table, and don’t overwhelm your email list with correspondence.

If you find yourself constantly digging for information to include in your marketing or other digital correspondences, lower the frequency of your newsletter. The people you’re reaching will appreciate that a lot more than a halfhearted information aggregate.

Keep on your Toes

As things change, change with them. There’s no sense in wasting your money on ad space or physical marketing that isn’t working for you. The future’s more uncertain than it has been in several generations. While it can be hard to accomplish, do your best to just go with the flow. Keep with the digital marketing while it makes sense, but be prepared to incorporate the physical back into rotation if the marketing landscape calls for it.

Focus on What Works Best You can read all the advice columns out of Forbes you want, but no one knows better than you do about what you and your audience are looking for. Use the advice of the experts as a spring board, and then do your best to make something unique out of your marketing. Not only will this set you apart from the crowd, it will also give your audience more of a reason to engage.

Let’s Connect

Discover more stories and conversations on our social media networks,
or drop us a line on our contact page.


The Independent Underwriter for
the Independent AgentSM